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Heiress in Hiding 10-12

January 03, 2018 09:38PM
First thanks for the oopses ladies. Sorry for the delay, I've had a migraine

Chapter 10

Lydia fell asleep on Madelaine’s lap, worn out with emotion, and Mrs. Eade made a makeshift cot for her in a linen basket to put her in. Fortified with tea, Madelaine made her way to Adam’s study and knocked before entering. Two terrified men were being torn verbally to shreds as she slid in.
“Ah, Miss Stone,” said Adam. “I would like you to write a statement in your own words of what occurred, and my secretary will take a copy for you to sign as a true copy for Sir Nathanial Conant. Do not leave out how my ward was placed in danger by these two desperate men. How is Lydia?”
“She cried herself to sleep, and I make no doubt the behaviour of these ruffians will give her nightmares for the foreseeable future,” said Madelaine. “I hope you will prosecute the one called Charlie to the full rigour of the law; his companion was urging him to caution, though he did not come to the aid of an honest woman or even an innocent infant, just hung about whining.”
“Miss!” the cautious one protested.
“Whining,” reiterated Madelaine, inexorably. “Did you stop that man from assaulting me, and suggest to him that we retire to my employer’s house to clear the matter up, for the safety of my charge? You did not. Did you ever think of picking up the child where she was in danger of being kicked by that ruffian after he had already pushed her over? The bruises on her poor little arm where she fell will hurt her cruelly for days, though Mrs. Eade has put arnica paste on them.”
“You pushed my ward over? I thought I was incandescently furious before, Charlie Wright, but believe me, you have just discovered what furious truly is. We shall add assault of a minor and attempted infanticide to the list of charges.”
“I never! I wanted the brat out of the way so I could seize the criminal ... er, the person what I fort was a criminal ... more betterer!” protested Charlie.
“I don’t see it that way,” said Adam. “I see reckless endangerment of my ward, who is of tender age. Suppose she had hit her head when she fell? Suppose that had killed her? I see a ruffian who does not care how many innocents are harmed so long as he has a feather in his cap for an arrest. You are a disgrace to Bow Street, Wright, and you should be lucky that I feel a need to recuse myself from trying your case as I am angry enough to take you outside and string you up from the nearest convenient point! I will agitate to have you transported at the least, you worthless being! And I’ll certainly see you both dismissed from Bow Street if your idiot friend, Lije Larkin, cannot even protect an infant. A fine officer that is!”
Larkin, the cautious one, wilted.
Madelaine took a seat at a second desk where the lawyer indicated, and took up quill and paper to write her deposition. She looked at the lawyer, and asked,
“Will I have to sign this by my true name, or the name I am using to avoid family trouble?”
“Your true name, I’m afraid, Miss,” said the lawyer.
Madelaine heaved a sigh.
“Oh well, I suppose it was inevitable,” she said. “And I doubt word will get to my mother fast enough for her to get here inside eight days.”
“What happens in eight days, miss?”
“I come of age,” said Madelaine. “His lordship knows.”
The lawyer nodded.
“His lordship will have it all in hand,” he said.

Madelaine was glad when everyone was ushered out of the study, and Adam motioned to her to stay.
“You are aware that if your mother has filed a complaint with Bow Street that you are a missing person that this incident must necessarily mean that you will be found not to be missing any more, aren’t you?” he said.
“Yes, my lord,” said Madelaine.
“You called for help to Adam,” said Adam, looking at her, quizzically. “Can it be that you could manage to call me that when we are alone?”
“Only if you call me Madelaine or some shortening of it as you see fit,” said Madelaine.
“I rather like Elaine if it pleases you,” he said. “Though you have more fire and resilience than Elaine of Astolat.”
“I’m not lily-maid material,” said Madelaine. “Though I confess you were a very Lancelot to my rescue. I managed to bruise that ruffian,” she added, with satisfaction.
“You did indeed, and hardly needed a Lancelot,” said Adam. “I think Lancelot might not have fled Elaine if she’d had a bit more fire.”
“He was in love with Guinevere,” said Madelaine.
“A man is always in love with his first love,” said Adam. “Sometimes it is possible to love again, though betrayal makes any man cautious.”
“I understand,” said Madelaine.
“I’m too old for you, really, my dear,” said Adam.
“You’re younger than most of my suitors in their twenties.”
“Are you sure?”
“I ... I never thought a man would turn my blood to fire and ice, as I have heard described,” said Madelaine, flushing as she raised her eyes to him. “It also helps that you are actually taller than me.”
He laughed, and drew her into his arms, watching her for any sign of drawing back before he kissed her.
Madelaine melted in his embrace, her heart hammering from the feelings he drew from her lips and sent around her whole body. He raised his head.
“My dear?” he asked.
“I .... liked that a lot,” said Madelaine. Adam chuckled. She had demonstrated by her body’s movement against him just how much she had liked it.
“I will get a special licence, and we shall be wed on the morning of your birthday,” he said. “And that will satisfy the law. And ... and if your feelings are engaged purely through having been rescued, then we may rub along tolerably well as friends.”
“Adam, don’t be a fool. I have been having most improper feelings about you almost from the first,” said Madelaine.
“I need to plant you a bed of lilies of the kind meant in the Bible, which are vibrant and bright, not the white asphodel of the original Elaine,” said Adam.
“I would like that,” said Madelaine. “Adam, you need a letter from me to take to Child’s.”
“So I do, and I also need to draw up a prenuptial agreement, in which your fortune remains in your control.”
“There is no need to do that. In fact, Adam, I would prefer that you would not.”
“But, my dear, I have every expectation that you are quite capable of managing your own money.”
“I might very well be, but I am also weak before my mother, and if I own it still, and she finds out, why then she might expect me to keep her as well as before.”
“Of course the operative phrase there is ‘if she finds out’. Well, I know you are afraid she will find out, and she is an encroaching besom who is likely to do so, so what I shall do is to put your fortune into a trust fund, and have an agreement drawn up that it is yours to use and yours to will where you wish. I am likely to predecease you, though I hope we shall have a good thirty years together, if I follow the form of my ancestors.”
“And I might die in childbed or of some disease, so it is by no means certain,” said Madelaine. “Do we have to speak about dying?”
“Unfortunately it’s one of the ultimate penalties for living, my dear. But I will leave the sad subject to my lawyer.”
“Thank you, Adam. Will Mr. Brandon be angry if I give you an heir?”
“Edward? He’ll kiss the hem of your gown and thank you on his knees fasting, I should think. He hates the idea of succeeding me. Though if we have a son, I would like Edward to be his Godfather, and legal guardian if I die before the child is of age, and we’re back on morbid subjects. But I am not young, and mortality is one of the things I have to consider.”
“I do understand that, but I think you need to pay a forfeit.”
“I do? Oh, yes, of course I do,” said Adam, who was nobody’s fool, and proceeded to kiss Madelaine again most thoroughly.

Adam’s solicitor, Mr. Knightley, was a very busy man. He was busy purchasing a dwelling and land in the village of Deepwells, from its improvident current owner, as Daphne had suggested. Mr. Knightley had no doubt that his lordship was correct in thinking that his niece, Marjorie, was likely to form a connexion to the widowed vicar who had taken her in when she had been injured in that unfortunate coach accident, and a small manor was much more appropriate as a dwelling place than an overcrowded vicarage. Mr. Knightley was also draughting documents to set up a trust fund most carefully, and had a letter from my lord to deliver to Child’s Bank on behalf of his Intended. Mr. Knightley did not thoroughly approve of fast courtships, but he had seen the way the young lady looked at his client, and was somewhat reassured. It was not, after all, as if she were a chit of seventeen. A lass who had lingered on the shelf until she was almost of age would be less demanding, as well as having had time to settle down somewhat.
Mr. Knightley would also be taking the depositions to Bow Street, to apprise Sir Nathanial Conant in person of the disgraceful behaviour of two of his men. And he had verbal orders to confide in that worthy regarding the voluntary disappearance of the heiress, and Adam’s suspicions as to why the heiress’s mother wanted the heiress found before her majority. Mr. Knightley was amusing himself on the drive back to London that there were ways to not say things which spoke far louder than words.
He also had orders to find out what he might about both Mrs. Vardy’s own financial position, and anything at all about M. Le Comte de Boisvallonné, the husband of choice for Madelaine of her mother. The comte was three years younger than Adam, but judging by the description given by Miss Vardy looked somewhat older not only than Adam but of those extraordinary embalmed bodies found in Egypt. His lordship was, in any case, a much better catch than some Frenchy, whose title did not count for anything in England. Mr. Knightley tutted to himself, having made an inadvertent pun over a comte not counting. He would have to recall it and rearrange it so as to use it for the amusement of Lord Darsham.

“I shall be following Knightley into town tomorrow,” said Adam. “I have a few things to sort out. I’d like to speak to Lady Jersey or someone in authority in Child’s itself, and I want to suggest to Edward that he and Beth and their family play least in sight, in case your mother associates them with your disappearance and harangues them or tries to put the law onto them. In their own parish, any law officer needs to persuade the local magistrate to swear him in as a constable, and you know what? That precious pair were flouting the law in trying to arrest you without being issued with a warrant by me to do so. Arrogance! And I want to talk to a few people.”
“Do you need to get a licence?”
“Oh, it only takes an ordinary licence, no need to get a special licence from Doctor’s Commons,” said Adam. “An ordinary licence will give us fifteen days in which to get wed, and we have to sign an affidavit that there is no just cause or impediment. You’ll have covered the residency requirement by the time you are of age, and it’s my parish anyway. The vicar is descended from Peter the Pirate, so by way of being a relative, so he’ll turn out at an ungodly time of the morning for us, so we may be married long before your mother can be there if she turns up on the day to make trouble.”
“What’s to stop her turning up beforehand? The letter will reach Sir Nathanial tomorrow. If he acts on it immediately she could be on the road the day after, and here later that day, four days before my birthday.”
“You have a lot of faith in your mother to get on the road quickly.”
“She can do, if enough is at stake.”
“And this is another reason I am going to London,” said Adam. “I am planning on bribing her ostlers to find ways to delay her. Knightley is going to delicately hint to Conant that it’s a matter of defrauding a minor, which should delay him, and between him and me, your mother should be tied up talking to Child’s Bank as well, since I plan to squeak beef on her to Sally Jersey. Sally is a stickler and if there is the slightest hint of wrongdoing, she will do all she can to get to the bottom of it. And when bankers start asking about malfeasance, word gets out, and believe me, it’s not the answers which do the damage, but the questions.”
“What if Mama has been above board with everything and really does have my best interests in heart?” asked Madelaine.
“Then we shall be seen with her in public, to re-establish any shredded reputation,” said Adam. “You were not entirely surprised though, when I asked if she was bilking you, so you suspect her.”
Madelaine sighed.
“Let us just say that I know that Mama loves the high life, and appreciated that Papa was able to take her dowry and make much more with it. And she always enjoyed the social events she dragged me to, and could not understand why I might not enjoy them.”
“And losing that would mean a lot to her.”
“Yes. And it may not be a monetary settlement, but a promise from the comte that he will make sure she partakes of the high life. I .... I thought he was her lover, actually, before he seemed to take an interest in me.”
“Now that’s something to ponder; if he is her lover, but marries you he could keep her as his mistress on your money.”
“How I hate money! It makes people act dishonestly!”
“Oh, there are always people who act dishonestly, money only gives them a more convenient way to keep score. And I might malign them both, you know; which is why I am setting out to find out.”
“It is true what Beth says, and what the servants say, that Adam will sort things out,” said Madelaine. Sadly, it may be said that Adam did not object to the look of fatuous hero worship she gave him, and merely kissed her again.

Chapter 11

Madelaine felt rather bereft when Adam left for town, and Lydia stood waving him goodbye with tears running down her cheeks which echoed the rain.
“Come, sweetheart, shall we go and explore the attics?” suggested Madelaine. “We shan’t get outside this morning, that’s for sure!”
Mrs. Eade was to join them, making an inventory of the attic, and Madelaine had volunteered to help, on the first wet morning, making a game of it for Lydia, while Madelaine took notes.
“And it needs looking through for a new mistress of the hall, Miss Stone!” said Mrs. Eade.
“I will know you don’t disapprove of his lordship’s choice when you start calling me ‘Miss Madelaine’,” said Madelaine.
“Well, Miss Madelaine, I didn’t hardly like to, without yew saying I moight,” said Mrs. Eade.
“Oh, Mrs. Eade, you’ve been a real mother to me,” said Madelaine.
“I’m glad yew hint about to turn round and pretend as though we hint never hed a good ow’ mardle,” said Mrs. Eade.
“Mardle, is that a chat?”
“Ar, a heart-to-heart talk, or a gossip,” said Mrs. Eade.
“I won’t be stopping coming by for a good mardle, you know,” said Madelaine.
“I’m right glad to hear it,” said Mrs. Eade.
“Mrs. Eade, what happened about Alice? I didn’t like to ask before.”
“That duzzy little fule! Well, I called her into my room, and asked her straight about the letter.” Mrs. Eade sighed. “Her denied ut, but her eyes went sideways, like they allus du with girls tellin’ lies, and she smirked. I asked her wass she got to smirk about, and she let on as how yew’d get your desserts, as the vulgar piece put it. And I says to her, Oh, what has Miss Stone done to you? And she says you are uppity and hoity-toity, keepin’ her in the nursery and not talkin’ to her, and besides you’re too tall for any woman.”
“Keeping her there? I permitted her to stay in the nursery because there was a fire, and I wasn’t sure where she might go otherwise.”
“Ar well, I niver said as how her complaints was justified,” said Mrs. Eade. “As for talking to her, I told her straight, you wasn’t employed to gossip with all and sundry but to give your attention to Miss Lydie, same as she was. I telled her straight, she wouldn’t never have been considered for the position, bein’ a higgerant little Lunnon girl, wass hardly learned her own letters, never mind bein’ able to learn them to Lydie. And then she came out and said she could write well enough to let Bow Street know about a man masqueradin’ as a governess. So I says, well, if you writ them anonymous letters to the master and Miss Stone at same time, Cubit du say he hint never sin a more illiterate hand, and wass she want to tell lies to Bow Street for.”
“I confess I am also puzzled by that,” said Madelaine. “Oh, my, Lydia, what a splendid kite! We must ask Uncle Adam to mend it and go fly it.”
“Kiy’” said Lydia.
“Yes, now put it down carefully, sweetheart, so it doesn’t get broken,” said Madelaine. “What’s in that drawer?” Lydia was diverted long enough for Mrs. Eade to continue.
“She say no woman get that tall, and I say, nonsense, Lady Daphne’s sister is taller nor you, for Miss Daffy was always the shortest of the sisters. And Miss Tiny the tallest of them all, which was why they made ‘Eglantine’ into ‘Tiny’. And her the youngest, too! And I also said, if Miss Stone was a man, why would she have bloody clouts like any other woman for the washing? Begging your pardon, Miss Madelaine, but a housekeeper knows all these things.”
“Of course you do. I suppose she would have it I’d faked it?”
“No, silly little mauther ain’t clever enough to think of a way to fake it, so she didn’t come up with that. O’course you can’t fake a real figure, nowise, but silly girls like her du read periodicals with advertisements in telling yew how to enlarge this and reduce that with their patent nonsense.” Her voice was contemptuous. “And she were pale and scared, and she said, ‘eow, what’ll they do ef she du be a wumman’,” she mimicked the unlovely vowels of Alice’s native London speech. “And I said, they’ll send you to prison, moi girl, yew bein’ a liar and a thief, accoss thievin’ people’s good name is as bad as stealing their money, and there’s a name for it. I disremember what the word is, so I di’n’t say ut too her,” she added.
“Slander when spoken, and libel when written,” said Madelaine. “Libel being the worse.”
“Ar well, she writ it, and wass to come of her is her own fault,” said Mrs. Eade. “Dew she was genuinely scared yew was a man, her shoulda come to me, private-like, and asked me to foind a way to get yew to disrobe. Ut wouldn’t be hard to offer yew a bath dew yew come in wet or dirty from riding, and tu come into your room on some pretext.”
“You are very cunning, Mrs. Eade,” said Madelaine. “Did you take her to his lordship to turn her off?”
“No, I towd her she’d better go see him for herself, and maerke a clean breast of ut. But she didn’t; she upped sticks and left over night, and good riddance to her. She weren’t none to popular with any of the servants, making like she was somebody for coming from Lunnon, and bein’ in charge o’ Miss Lydie, acting loike she wuz a governess, not a nursery maid, one step up from the tweenie. And I wager that little Megsie Down, her as is tween-floors maid, would du as good a job o’ carin’ for Miss Lydie as that Alice, and Megsie ain’t no more’n twelve summers old. You hint hed no trouble with Polly hev yew? She talks to much.”
“She also has a lovely smile and talks to Lydia as much as to me, which has to be good for her, though I don’t understand half of what Polly says.”
“There, and I thought she’d been learned not to talk local too much,” said Mrs. Eade. “Six younger ones survivin’ in that family, so what Poll don’t know about babies ain’t worth knowin’, and her main glad to get pay for doin’ wass she’d be doin’ at home and with oony one babby, not four.”
“Goodness, no wonder she’s such a cheerful girl,” said Madelaine. “I .... was I wrong not to reprove her for chattering? Mama would never have permitted it, but I find her cheering, and it wasn’t meant for cheek, I don’t think.”
“Ar, well, a real lady knows when to take snuff at wass said and when not to,” said Mrs. Eade. “Wass these here linens doin’ up here? They be perfectly good, for want of a darn or two, I wager they was put up here afore moi Ma’s time. I’ll have a quiet word with Poll not tu send yew demented with her chatter, yew moight foind ut cheerful, but yew cin hev too much of a good thing,”
It was a convivial morning, Lydia playing with fascinating fabrics of times gone by, including the pannier gowns of Adam’s first wife, which Mrs. Eade insisted be laid up with lavender bags until Adam gave an opinion on what was to be done with them. The delights of the unexpected soon took Lydia’s mind off missing Adam, and it would be hard to say which of the three had the best time, Lydia playing, Madelaine finding more about the house which had become her home, or Mrs. Eade discovering things which might be mended or made over.

“Adam! What are you doing in London? I thought you hated the place,” said Edward. “Come in, and go up to the nursery, you can work your magic on small James and see if you can get him to sleep.”
“So pleased you are glad to see me for myself, naturally I had no other reason to come to London than to pacify your offspring,” said Adam, without rancour, running upstairs to take a howling baby from Beth, while the nursery maid looked on helpless.
It was a standing joke in the family that Adam was better with babies and small children than any nursemaid, and soon James Edward Brandon was sleeping quietly in his bed.
“He’s prone to colics,” said Beth.
“Poor little man,” said Adam. “Are you two seriously attached to the idea of sitting the Season out?”
“Not really,” said Edward. “We stayed to see Swithin hang, to make sure the old bugger really is dead, and then Beth was staying to support Madelaine, and to head off that Stymphalian bird of a mother of hers. It would have been mighty suspicious had we left right after Madelaine did.”
“True enough,” said Adam. “However it’s been a couple of weeks, I think you can retreat in good order before Bow Street tells Mrs. Vardy that her missing daughter is with me.”
“That’s bad luck, how did they find her? I wouldn’t have staked a groat on Bow Street being that efficient,” said Edward.
“Oh, they weren’t,” said Adam. “A silly, jealous servant girl wrote anonymously to Bow Street, saying that Madelaine was some housebreaker disguised as a woman.”
“That’s ludicrous,” said Beth.
“Yes, but two ... fellows ... turned up and assaulted her, without a local warrant, mind, as they are required to have in order to be considered anything other than ordinary citizens, and I had them taken in charge and sent to Norwich for trial.”
Edward laughed.
“That is rich,” he said.
“Was she hurt?” asked Beth.
“A few bruises and the humiliation of having her dress ripped,” said Adam. “I also want fabric for a wedding gown for her; I was hoping you’d buy me some you think she’d like, Beth, before you leave town.”
“Wedding gown? Adam, did you fall in love with her?”
“I like her a whole lot and I think I will come to love her very much,” said Adam.
“That’s a bit lukewarm,” said Beth.
“Maybe, but it’s how Lucy and I started out, whereas I was captivated by Tiffany, so I’d as soon be friends with a wife than bewitched,” said Adam.
“Congratulations, sir! I wish you many sons,” said Edward.
Adam laughed.
“I said you would be pleased when she worried that she might have a son and cut you out of the succession,” he said. “You’ll be Godfather and guardian, however, to any son, if I die before his majority.”
“That I am happy to undertake,” said Edward. “But a bit premature before the marriage! Beth hoped she would do for you, and she’s a sensible girl who knows she has to marry someone with sense to preserve her portion, and she won’t mind the age difference if you are only a convivial husband.”
“Now who is being lukewarm?” said Adam. “Elaine is fortunately attracted to me, and likes me as well, and I think she can come to love me, which is better than the sort of marriage her mother would have made for her.”
Beth pulled a face.
“You’re thinking of the Comte de Boisvallonné, aren’t you?” she said.
“He sprang to mind,” said Adam.
“Adam, I think he’s delving the mother,” said Beth.
“Beth! How can you think that?” asked Edward, slightly shocked.
“Don’t be a prude, Edward,” said Beth. “How can I think that? Because he is always touching her, with the sort of little intimate gestures a lover gives. Like a caress to the cheek, a hand on her shoulder, taking her arm with a little caress from his thumb. And what’s more, I’ve seen her pick a thread of lint from his shoulder, and adjust his collar, and a woman never does that unless she is intimate with a man.”
“I had been going to ask if you’d met him.”
“He’s an outsider, sir,” said Edward, with dislike.
“I’m not even sure he’s a count,” said Beth. “He shows his teeth when he smiles, and surely the French are not so very different to us in their etiquette and the rules of how well-bred people behave? Besides, he also sent for a Chambertin wine to drink with his fish when we were at a dinner with him. The flunkey serving him almost had a fit.”
“Good G-d, the man’s a barbarian!” said Adam, revolted.
“I didn’t notice that, I was trying not to be anywhere near him,” Edward admitted. “Red wine with fish? Unthinkable. And the German white they had was more than tolerable, a nice, dry young hock, and did not destroy the palate for the delicate flavour of the fish.”
“I suppose he is French,” said Adam. “I believe they’ll swill any kind of red wine with anything.”
“Still, damned impolite to call for something different,” said Edward. “Well, if we partake of a light nuncheon to fortify you after your journey, I’ll drive Beth out to buy cloth and fal-lals and furbelows for a wedding dress. Do you have any more business?”
“Yes, I want to go to Child’s Bank, and see a few people,” said Adam, without going into details. Edward could be a little strait laced, and the idea of bribing Mrs. Vardy’s ostlers would doubtless shock him.
“Well then, we can come back, eat, you can stay over and we can all leave together tomorrow,” said Edward.
Adam nodded.
“It sounds a good plan to me,” he said.
He had no doubt that Beth and Madelaine had discussed favourite colours and preferences, and that Beth would choose fabric which Madelaine would like. With her dark good looks, brighter colours would suit her, but of course she would not be permitted by custom to wear most of them until she was a young matron. He looked forward to seeing the compromise Beth would choose.
“I’ll give you a roll of soft to get some nice fabrics for a young matron as well,” he added to Beth. “Cherry red merino for the cooler months, and so on.”
Beth nodded.
“Trust me, Adam, I know exactly what to get,” she said. “And I will help sew her wedding gown.”
“I am sure that will be a great help, though I did plan to get a seamstress in,” said Adam.
“Yes, but many hands make light work,” said Beth.

Chapter 12

Edward never minded shopping with his wife, and carrying her parcels, because her remarks tended to be more sensible than those of most females of his acquaintance.
“I do wonder if we should sponsor someone to set up a dressmaking establishment, not perhaps as haut ton as a modiste,” said Beth. “I could teach someone how to shop cleverly, getting the best fabrics for the best prices, and it would give employment to those girls who find themselves in embarrassing positions who do not want to be whores. If there was a girl employed to give care to illegitimate babies, then such unfortunate maidservants and shop girls who had been either deceived or ravished would not have to give them up to the terrible privations of the foundling hospitals.”
“It’s something to be considered,” said Edward, whose philanthropic instincts were well developed. “What colour are you going to get the Vardy girl married in? As well to keep your mind on the job.”
“I am, it was just a thought in passing, since clothing is such a large generator of wealth, especially if any profits were shared out a bit better than modistes do to the slaveys who do the work for them.”
“Oh, quite,” said Edward. “I think we should take some though, to be able to put it towards other projects.”
“Yes, I agree,” said Beth. “I was thinking that apricot or jonquil would suit her very well; apricot perhaps, with a sarsenet petticoat and overgown of white net, spangled with silver.”
“Not gold?”
“I think gold would argue with the apricot petticoat,” said Beth. “Madelaine has a high enough colour to be able to wear silver without it making her look pale. Silver ribbons at the breast, and for decorations on the sleeve. If she has rucked sleeves, the gathering could be tied with a knot of silver ribbons. And the hem of the petticoat can be vandyked in its own fabric and caught with silver knots at the points of the vandyking.”
“Let the girl choose her own style, do, you’re as bad as Letty,” said Edward. “Is there time to make it?”
Beth laughed.
“I’ll produce some sketches and we’ll see what she likes,” she said. “I won’t advise a train; she could carry it off without her mother there, but if she’s worrying about Mrs. Vardy turning up, she will trip over it. Besides, it’s an extra complication. With four people sewing non-stop for two days, so long as she doesn’t want anything fussy, we will do well enough. Maybe the vandyking was overly ambitious.”
“I hope Adam can give her the confidence to stand straight and move without stumbling even when her mother is there,” said Edward, compassion in his face.
“Adam would do better making sure her mother never is there,” said Beth.
“How different is that from Braithwate stopping Marjorie from writing to her family?” Edward objected.
“Vastly; Marjorie was isolated from her family, Madelaine doesn’t want to have anything to do with hers. Edward, do you see those silk lilies?”
“Yes, what of them?”
“A few white and orange ones as a corsage would be pretty, and would relate to Adam referring to Madelaine by her chosen soubriquet as Elaine,” said Beth.
“Eh?” said Edward.
“The Lily Maid of Astolat!” Beth informed him.
“You know I’m not literary,” Edward grumbled. “But you’re right, Adam is, it would please him inordinately, only you’ll have to pick an apricot colour that tones with the darker orange.”
“Yes, of course,” said Beth, patiently.

Adam spent a profitable afternoon chatting over tea with Lady Jersey. He presented her with a letter from Madelaine, asking that her betrothed husband, Adam Brandon, Lord Darsham, should be permitted to know the state of her finances.
“It’s irregular,” said Lady Jersey. “Especially in light of the girl essentially having disappeared, and now turning up in your care.”
“Sally, it’s deucedly irregular, and so is a situation where the girl disappeared because her mother told her to get up early and dress in her best for an outing with a man the girl don’t like above half, and who is, by all accounts, her mother’s lover.”
Sally Jersey frowned.
“Is that the so-called Comte de Boisvallonné?”
“Oh, you doubt his bona fides too?”
“The man doesn’t know his wines or his cheeses,” said Lady Jersey.
“Not entirely damning on its own, but another suggestion,” said Adam. “I’m told he shows his teeth when smiling, and drinks red wine with fish.”
“You should know that Mrs. Vardy, who is one of the trustees, wanted him added as another trustee, since there was a long-standing betrothal agreement,” said Lady Jersey.
“Not that Elaine, Miss Vardy I mean, knows about,” said Adam. “I have suspicions that the old besom is planning on having her lover marry the girl, take control of the fortune, and carry on as before with her swain, perhaps shuffling the girl off into the country somewhere as soon as she’s safely in the family way or whatever. Who else are trustees?”
“In a manner of speaking, I am, since the bank is,” said Lady Jersey.
“So it would be in your discretion to undertake the wishes of your client, to wit, the minor, Madelaine Vardy?”
“Yes, but I’d have to let the other trustee know.” Sally Jersey delicately bit her lip.
“How long could the information to Mrs. Vardy be delayed?” asked Adam.
“Not more than a couple of days, I’m sorry, Adam,” said Sally.
“Would it be against your ethics to give me a rough idea how she stands, and then I get my solicitor to write you a letter asking for information with the intent of placing it immediately into a trust fund which she inherits free and clear on my death, and which she can will as she chooses, the interest to go into an account which we can both use?”
“A generous settlement. With clauses to wind up the trust on the will of both the recipient and yourself?”
“Yes, that makes sense,” said Adam. “John Knightley will wrap it right and tight. I just don’t want her mother to get her hands on it. I have a fancy she has been getting her hands on too much of it already.”
“The capital has only been touched for the preparations of each season,” said Sally Jersey. “It was a legitimate expense, and no more than was reasonable was taken. The income has, of course, diminished slightly as a result. The girl is now worth some seven thousand a year.”
Adam whistled.
“Her father did well by her with his investment of the mother’s dowry.”
“Oh that’s why the woman seems to feel an entitlement to it. She was left the sum of her original dowry on her husband’s death, which I shouldn’t be telling you, and I certainly shouldn’t mention that she played ducks and drakes with it before the girl came out.”
“And I shouldn’t dream of asking you about that,” said Adam, gravely. “However, if as the husband of the heiress, I asked for a financial accounting of how the other trustee managed, I would be within my rights, if any legal issues arose?”
“I should think it would always be within your rights to examine the financial management of one who has become your dependent,” said Sally. “For goodness sake, train the girl to take care of her money better than her mother has, so she doesn’t spend it all after you die.”
“I intend to do so. She’s a clever enough girl, and she learns fast. She’s soon picked up how to be a lady and how to handle servants. Good, I’ll have Knightley write to you, which should take a day or two, and then if you can manage to have that letter kicking around and delayed, hopefully the old besom won’t find out from that source before it’s too late, and my Elaine is of age.”
“I’m always ready to help a woman who knows her own mind,” said Sally. “You will bring the baroness to Almack’s at some point?”
“I suppose I owe it to you,” said Adam, without enthusiasm. “And after all,” he brightened, “It might help her self-confidence. Reading between the lines, I don’t think some of the other girls on the marriage mart helped her overcome her self-consciousness about how tall she is, and that she went through a gawky stage.”
“No, there were a few unkind comments,” said Sally. “I have always wanted to shake the girl and tell her to stand up straight, but that wouldn’t answer as it’s what her mother was doing.”
“It didn’t help that a silly chit sent an anonymous letter to Bow Street and said she was a man disguised as a woman because of her heavy brows and height.”
“And Nat Conant swallowed that? You may be sure I shall have words with him about that when I see him,” said Sally. “Not really one of us; he’s the son of some obscure vicar. And the Runners are a disgrace.”
“Well the two who came and assaulted Miss Vardy certainly are,” said Adam, grimly. “I left Knightley filing a complaint, but it means that if Mrs. Vardy has filed a missing persons report with Bow Street, then Conant will be bound by law to tell her that her daughter has been found. Knightley is hinting at malfeasance, which might have him actually running an investigation first, so you may have a visit from Bow Street before he passes on the glad news.”
“Well I hope he comes himself; if he thinks I’m going to let any grubby-pawed cant-speaking villain dragged out of the gutter like most of the Runners are anywhere near the accounts, he can think again,” said Sally. “He can get a court order to view, and have it handled by experts.”
“I doubt he’d be fool enough to do anything else,” said Adam, “Though in his shoes, I’d ask for an informal word first.”
“As you have done. Well if he asks, I will tell him as much as I’ve told you, save about Mrs. Vardy’s own monies, he can get a court order to see that. I will tell him that justifiable draws have been made on the capital.”
“I’m glad in a way there has been no actual malfeasance, but I’m convinced the mother doesn’t want to give up the lifestyle the income gives her, and I’d wager further that once her lover has his hands on the capital, it would soon disappear.”
“I won’t say you’re wrong.” Sally Jersey pulled a face. “Brandons turn gold to more gold; you have half of it put in a trust fund which you can add to, and do as Vardy did for his daughter, so you can provide well for your daughters.”
“I will, thank you, Sally,” said Adam.

It might be said that Sir Nathanial Conant was both horrified and deeply embarrassed to receive a letter from Adam, Baron Darsham, regarding the highly irregular behaviour of two of his officers. That they had acted without petitioning the local magistrate for warrants as constables was highly illegal, and though it had been known for a thief taker to take advantage of an opportunity and talk very fast to the magistrate involved afterwards, that was not exactly the situation in this case.
Sir Nathanial groaned.
Presumably Wright and Larkin were on their way to seek an interview with Lord Darsham to get his signature on a warrant. Doubtless Wright could not manage to have the patience to wait until they had got it, nor to talk to his lordship. Had he done so, it would doubtless have cleared up the problem without an assault on a lady, and the endangering of a ward of a powerful man. Charlie Wright had no sense and he had brought everything upon himself, sailing close to the wind once again. Elijah Larkin was a good officer though, and Sir Nathanial purposed to go himself to the assizes where they were arraigned as a character witness.
He scarcely registered the name on the governess’s deposition as one he might recognise; it was nothing to him whom Lord Darsham chose to employ, and the named jogged no memory as a criminal waiting to be brought to book, female criminals who came to the attention of Bow Street being relatively uncommon.
He thanked Mr. Knightley and asked him to wait while he penned letters of apology to both the baron and his governess, and these having been passed on, he hastily made arrangements to be away for a few days, and took horse to Norwich.
He had just passed Darsham when he recalled why the name ‘Madelaine Vardy’ was faintly familiar, and mentally shrugged.
His man was more important than letting a loud mouthed besom know that her daughter was alive and well and about to enter a most advantageous union, if he read the baron’s indignation aright. If he recalled correctly, the girl would be of age shortly, and could marry or disappear as she desired. If he had a mother like that, he would also run away. Apparently the baron did not know her identity, as he had referred to her by another name throughout his deposition, and the lawyer had appended a note that it transpired that Miss Vardy was living under a false name for reasons of her own, the which was not illegal unless it was with the intent to defraud, and there was no suggestion that an heiress was trying to defraud anyone.
Sir Nathanial damned all females for interfering persons, though the terms he used owed more to the cant he had picked up from his men, and were not complimentary. He would go bail that the original anonymous letter came from a woman, and Lord Darsham mentioned anonymous letters and the belief of his housekeeper that they came from a jealous nursery maid. Well if he ever caught her, she would be charged with obstructing the law, the hussy.

Sir Nathanial’s testimony was enough to get Elijah Larkin off with a warning, and a recommendation that he not be permitted to work alone or out of London, which was better than might have been hoped. Charlie Wright found himself transported for seven years, and was taken away in horrified contemplation of what would happen if the other convicts discovered that he had been a Bow Street Runner, and wondering how his extraordinary zeal had got him into so much trouble.
Had he not been so callous towards Lydia, as made clear by both Adam and Madelaine in their depositions to Sir Nathanial as to the magistrate, he might have also been released to Sir Nathanial on his own recognisances as his friend had been, but Sir Nathanial was too disgusted at the lack of total concern shown to a barely-toddling infant that he would not speak for his former man.

Heiress in Hiding 10-12

Sarah WaldockJanuary 03, 2018 09:38PM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 10-12

Agnes BeatrixJanuary 04, 2018 07:36AM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 10-12

Sarah WaldockJanuary 04, 2018 02:13PM


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