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Heiress in Hiding 13-15

January 06, 2018 02:53PM
Chapter 13

If Sir Nathanial had but known it, he passed Adam going the other way on the road, as the Bow Street magistrate rode back to London. Edward and Beth rode in Adam’s very comfortable carriage, while their children and servants rode in their own, so there was no need to hire a job carriage. Adam saw them to their own abode before continuing on to Darsham.
When he alighted, a small missile toddled as fast as she could to hurl herself into his arms, and Madelaine was scarcely far behind her.
“Papa,” said Lydia, firmly.
“It appears she has chosen to be my adoptive daughter,” said Adam.
“Then she will have to learn to call me ‘Mama’,” said Madelaine.
“Indeed she will, my lily-maid. I had Beth buy you fabric for a bridal gown; she is coming to visit shortly, in order to help with the sewing and I will be engaging one of Mrs. Eade’s inestimable nieces as well. Was that too high-handed of me?”
“Oh, Adam! I had expected to wed in my plain evening gown or my black crepe, I am sure Beth has chosen wisely, she knows what suits me.”
“Yes I got her to buy a selection of colours suitable to a young matron too,” said Adam. “I doubt you look your best in the expected white muslin, or did your mother have the sense to dress you in that dark yellow I can’t recall the name of?”
“Jonquil? No, I have a jonquil petticoat under a sheer muslin gown, and some gowns with yellow stripes, but other than the darker day dresses I brought, most of my gowns are white muslin.”
“You will, I hope enjoy cherry, coquelicot, jonquil, apricot, a selection of pinks and something I’d describe as pigsty roof red.”
Madelaine laughed.
“Now that is a comedown for what I think must be aurora,” she said. “Unless it’s either cinnamon or Egyptian brown.”
Adam shrugged.
“It’s a fine enough colour but I think better teamed with a lighter colour, one could have too much of a good thing. There are stripes, muslins and calicos. I told Beth to get you enough for a year, and send me the bill, we can always get extra lengths to go with anything you want later.”
“Adam, you are good to me.”
“I want to see you dressed to your best advantage, my dear.”
“I want to look my best for you.”
He kissed her swiftly.
“You are lovely.”
“Oh Adam, not that I don’t appreciate compliments, but what about my mother?”
Adam laughed.
“I saw Knightley before I left this morning, and he is to take a formal letter to Child’s bank, meaning that your mother should get word of your impending nuptials on the morning of your birthday. Sally Jersey was very accommodating. And Knightley told me that Sir Nathanial was in so much of a hurry to get to Norwich to rescue the more inoffensive of his men that he quite forgot that he knew your name, assuming even that your mother went to Bow Street. He did remember to pen apologies to us both on behalf of Bow Street, and mine was couched in sufficiently grovelling terms that I will hold no grudge, and I hope yours is too.”
“You did not read it?”
“Certainly not; it is the height of discourtesy to read someone else’s mail.”
“Mother always read mine, and if she did not think it suitable, she would not let me have it. I did not know until Beth once taxed me with not replying to her, and I had never had it. I do not know how many friends I might have lost through that,” she added sadly.
“I will never read your mail, or censor it, unless you are so ill, someone might need to make reply on your behalf,” said Adam. “I do not approve of husbands who read their wife’s letters, it is rude and implies a lack of trust.”
“And I will most certainly share letters with you, or those parts I think you will find amusing, and any I think improper so you will know how to deal with them,” said Madelaine.
“But only if you want to.”
“I will almost always want you to read any letters from my mother,” said Madelaine. “If only to keep me from panicking.”
“In time, my dear, you will stop panicking that she can do anything to you,” said Adam.
“I hope so. I am much relieved that she will not be here in time for the wedding,” said Madelaine. “I cannot think that she can come up with any valid just cause or impediment, for I recall her telling me how awkward I was to be born in the small hours, so by the time we are wed, I shall definitely be of age, and no technicality like having been born in the afternoon or evening to be called into account. But even so, I fear what she might say.”
“I think the day counts not the time, but it is good to know that no quibbles may be made,” said Adam. “And though she will likely want to say much the same whenever she arrives it will be too late. And I will not offer her a room for the night, but will direct her to the nearest inn, if the hour is too late for her to return to London.”
“Good, thank you, Adam,” said Madelaine.

The next two days passed in a welter of sewing, though Madelaine spent time with Lydia.
“I can do fancy Hardanger work and that’s the limit of my knowledge,” she admitted.
“Well, someone has to take care of Lydia,” said Beth. “Don’t worry, Madelaine, with several of us working, it will soon be done.” She had brought her little maid, Molly, and Mrs. Eade assisted, along with two of her nieces from the village, and every time Madelaine came into the parlour which Beth had commandeered as a sewing room, she gasped to see how much further on the dress was from last time.
“I hate working with net,” said Beth, ruefully, from where she was hemming net, “But was it not fortunate that I found this silver net? I was going to get white and sew silver spangles into it, but the silver net is much better.”
“It is beautiful, and I thank you all so much,” said Madelaine. “Those silk lilies for the corsage are a wonderful touch, how clever of you, Beth!”
“Oh, when Adam referred to you as ‘Elaine’, knowing his literary preferences, the rest was obvious,” said Beth.

Sir Nathanial Conant decided that rather than inform Mrs. Vardy where her daughter was, it would be better to get a deposition from Miss Vardy as to why she felt she had to run away. He sent one of his better spoken officers, who had a wife who sometimes acted as wardress with female prisoners, and gave them precise and pithy instructions, including a warning that the lady they were to question was not a criminal and was not suspected of any criminal acts, but who might be a witness.
Ned and Ellen Coate were very nervous, perched on the edge of the rather spindly chairs they had been asked to take.
“What is it that you want to know?” Madelaine sat down opposite them, with Adam lowering protectively behind her.
“Please, Miss, we’ve been sent to ask why you have felt a need to run away from your rightful guardian,” said Ned.
“Oh, that’s easy enough,” said Madelaine. “I believed I was about to be forced into a fraudulent marital arrangement connected with malfeasance over my inheritance.”
“Uh, right,” said Ned, staring at his notebook in some confusion.
“Would you like me to write that down for you?” said Madelaine.
“Uh, yes, please, Miss, if you would be so kind,” said Ned, who had only the faintest idea of how to spell ‘fraudulent’, never mind ‘malfeasance’. Madelaine wrote it out.
“Why did you think that?” asked Ellen.
“Well, you see,” said Madelaine, “When my mother started thrusting her own cicisbeo at me as a suitor, I was alarmed, and when she told me to dress well to meet him for a particular event, I believed I was in danger of being married without my consent, so that my mother would have control of my fortune through her lover, as my husband. I found the idea quite revolting.”
“Ugh, yes, dearie, as anyone might,” said Ellen, whose expression displayed her disgust. “Oh, Ned, just write down that the mother was forcing the girl to marry her own fancy-man to get a hold of the loot.”
“Right,” said Ned.
The couple left, having been fed well in the kitchen and agreed that Lije Larkin was a damned fool to antagonise a family who did the honours for people who were properly respectful. As for that Charlie Wright, why, he needed glasses seemingly, if he thought that Miss could be mistaken for a man. They came to the conclusion on the way back, having been taken to the staging post in my lord’s carriage and a hot brick and a rug for Ellen which she might keep, the month still being chill, that not only had Charlie been to too many melodramas in illegal unlicensed theatres but that he had also been drunk as a lord on the job.

Mrs. Vardy was much relieved to receive a letter telling her to attend upon Sir Nathanial Conant at Bow Street; presumably they had found her daughter. Adjuring the comte to go and get a special licence, in case they had to travel to find the girl, she hurried to the magistrate’s office.
Here things did not go as she had expected, since she was on the receiving end of an interrogation regarding the misuse of her daughter’s inheritance. Mrs. Vardy tried to intimidate the magistrate and found herself threatened with serving time for being obstructive. Sir Nathanial asked her over and over whether she had touched her daughter’s capital, and what it had been used for, and what her relationship was with one Louis Fournier, slipper maker, and how she planned to force her daughter to agree to her plans. Mrs. Vardy managed to avoid saying anything incriminating, once she realised that browbeating the magistrate was not going to work, and was most confused to the references to someone she strenuously denied knowing at all.
“Pardon me, ma’am, but you were seen to meet this person outside the residence of Lord Arvenal,” said Sir Nathanial “It was the day after you reported your daughter missing.”
“You must be mistaken; and so must your informant,” said Mrs. Vardy. “I know nobody of that name, and if you are basing your assumptions that I have been guilty of any wrongdoing on knowing someone of poor reputation, then you are mistaken.”
“Oh, I do not think I am mistaken, Mrs. Vardy,” said Sir Nathanial. “You might also know him by his alias, or assumed name, which is the Comte de Boisvallonné.”
Mrs. Vardy gasped.
“How dare you say that a gentleman like the comte is this ... this Louis Fournier?” she demanded.
“Oh, I have it on good authority that the so-called comte is no gentleman,” said Sir Nathanial. “I have been given examples of his behaviour which preclude him from having the knowledge that a gentleman has. I grant you, he is very smooth. I trust you have not given him any gifts?”
Mrs. Vardy stared, speechless.
“You cannot be serious,” she said.
“Alas, madam, I am quite serious,” said Sir Nathanial. “And I have ascertained that your daughter fled because she feared being forced into a marriage with her mother’s lover, as such she named the so-called comte, and believes that you wished to use your lover to retain control of her fortune.”
Mrs. Vardy fell back in her seat.
“I have been used,” she said. “I ... yes I agreed, but it seemed a good idea, as Madelaine has less idea than a day old kitten of how to manage money.”
“And you did not spend your own settlement inside a year of your husband’s death?” Sir Nathanial had his own sources and had not had to rely on Sally Jersey.
Angry and bitter tears stood in Mrs. Vardy’s eyes.
“I learned a lot since then,” she said in a hard voice. “Madelaine needs an older husband to look after her; she is quite hopeless on her own.”
“She managed an escape and to take up work quite well,” said Sir Nathanial.
Working? She is demeaning herself working?” shrieked Mrs. Vardy.
“Some of us find it rewarding, you know,” said Sir Nathanial, dryly.
“Where is she?”
“She is quite safe,” said Sir Nathanial, “And I believe that if you tried to take her away, she would only run away again. And if you confined her past her majority, why, that is illegal.”
“Somebody is guilty of kidnap of a minor,” said Mrs. Vardy. “I want to prosecute whoever she is living with.”
“You have your own money with which to go to law?” asked Sir Nathanial. “No? Well do bear in mind that you will not have access to Miss Vardy’s money in two days time. I believe she plans to get married on her birthday.”
“Aren’t you going to do anything to help me out?” demanded Mrs. Vardy.
“Oh, yes; I’m going to give you some very specific advice,” said Sir Nathanial. “I am going to advise you to give your cicisbeo his congé, and then write to your daughter, apologising to her for permitting him to fool you and to force his attentions on her. Tell her that you will always love her. That way, you might manage to retain some kind of relations with her and may even find that she pays you an allowance when she is wed.”
Mrs. Vardy stared.
“But ....”
“There is no but about it, Mrs. Vardy,” said Sir Nathanial. “Unless malfeasance can be proven, that you gave gifts to Fournier from your daughter’s monies, there is no legal case to answer. If you have a case to bring, of him gaining money from you under false pretences, then I will file that on the books and issue a warrant for his arrest.”
Mrs. Vardy groaned.
“It is too nebulous,” she said. “Introductions to people, jewellery exchanged as a love-token, dinners .... but to apologise to her? Do you think me so weak?”
“Madam, I wrote a grovelling apology to your daughter because one of my men manhandled her and tried to arrest her.” He thought it best to let the woman think that an officer had made a mistake when looking for a missing person; the truth was too embarrassing. “It is the height of courtesy to know when to apologise, and to do so gracefully. Not to apologise when an apology is called for is not only weak, it is ill-bred and vulgar.”
Mrs. Vardy jerked back as though slapped.
“I see,” she said, tightly. “Very well, I will take your advice.”
“It was a pleasure to be able to reassure you of your daughter’s safety.”
“May I ask ... what idiot does she think she is going to marry?”
“I don’t believe Miss Vardy believes that her betrothed husband is an idiot at all, Mrs. Vardy,” said Sir Nathanial, repressively. “She is marrying Adam, Baron Darsham, a steady, older man, who is also very adept at making his money make more money.”
Mrs. Vardy gaped in a most ill-bred way.
“Why the sly puss!” she cried. “I would never have dreamed of setting her expectations so high.”
“Quite so, madam,” said Sir Nathanial. “And you will be able to display perfect nonchalance when the wedding is announced.
She nodded. It was a favour she owed the magistrate, if he had been feeling awkward, he could have left her to be wrong-footed when the announcement was made in the newspapers.
Sir Nathanial saw her out with some aplomb.
Adam Brandon owed him one for having reconciled the besom, so that she would not go straightway to spoil the wedding.

Chapter 14

The sewing was completed just in time, and Beth made some last minute adjustments with pins in the morning of Madelaine’s birthday.
It was a cloudy day, and threatening rain, the clouds sullen and heavy.
It did not matter; she would be a married woman, soon, and safe from her mother and the comte. Her dress was lovely, and if some of the stitching in it was a little large, owing to being finished rapidly, it did not show. Beth had promised to finish off the seams, which were open and not properly French-seamed, while Adam and Madelaine enjoyed their honeymoon, which must of necessity be at home, in case Marjorie had need of Adam’s aid.
The morning opened with the wedding of Daphne to her Giles; and this took place in the parlour in the Hall, since both bride and groom eschewed a church wedding, in favour of one which was quick and quiet. They would be returning to the village of Deepwells, where they would live in a farmhouse on the Farringdon estate, which Adam had bought for Marjorie.
“What happens if Marjorie doesn’t marry her rector?” asked Daphne, once the vicar had left to prepare for the bigger wedding.
“You and Giles will have to live in the Farringdon house and bring the estate into good heart,” said Adam. “You’re doing that anyway from the farm house of the home farm.”
“Some honeymoon,” joked Giles.
“You’ll enjoy every minute of putting things right; and Daphne will love interfering” said Adam.
“You know us too well,” said Giles. “Thanks for everything, Adam.”
“You’re welcome. Any man who makes my sister happy is my friend and brother,” said Adam.

“Adam, why did we not marry here?” asked Madelaine.
“Because I married in St George’s in London when I married Tiffany, and I have always regretted it,” said Adam. “The villagers expect and deserve a show, and so we are going to give them one.”
It was another lesson for Madelaine, whose mother would never have considered that her dependents deserved a show, even if they expected one.

Madelaine held herself tall in pride as she entered the old church, dedicated to all the saints, and built after the Suffolk manner of knapped flints with pale stone at the corners and edging the windows. Adam had told her there were Roman tiles and bricks in the walls as well, supplementing the flint in the earliest parts of the church, which was largely Norman. She went through the teaching porch, and through the Norman arch of the main door, where she was startled by a tall figure leaping up to kiss her on the cheek.
“Yew’l pardon the liberty of an owd man, I’m sure,” said that wight, wrinkled like an apple but still upright and limber.
“Why, you must be Gaffer Pirate!” said Madelaine.
The old man grinned. He still had all his teeth; no false teeth, even those taken from the dead, could be so even.
“Ar, moi mauther, yew hev heard of me! Oi be roight flattered!”
“No, it is I who am flattered to be greeted by the oldest man I’ve heard of,” said Madelaine. “Will you give me away as I have no father to stand for that office?”
“Ar, moi liddle ow’ mauther, I be whoolly glad ter du so, and bless yew for yore courtesy tu an ows man,” said Gaffer, taking her arm and making a most sprightly way up the aisle with her. “And when yew hiv toime arter pleasurin’ of each other, yew must come tu moi cottage, and I’ll tell yew taerles o’ the hoigh seas as ‘ood maerke yore hair curl.”
“Most of which are fabrications, but indulge him if you will, my dear,” whispered Adam, as they drew level with him.
“I’d be delighted,” said Madelaine.
Gaffer Pirate beamed.
The service proceeded. The vicar preached earnestly, and a trifle embarrassingly, on fruitfulness in marriage, and the importance of the marriage bed, and Madelaine blushed.
“It’s not as if I don’t have plenty of male relatives, that getting an heir is so important, so get on with it,” said Adam, loudly.
The vicar glared at him, but got on with it.
And then they were walking out between lines of villagers, throwing rice and flower petals, and shouting their good will.
“Cheated we wuz when he married thet ketty little whore in London,” remarked Gaffer Pirate, who had managed to remain at Madelaine’s side.
“I made a fool of myself, Gaffer, but her daughter is a delight,” said Adam.
“Ar, and du yew bring Miss Lydie tu hear moi taerles too, moi laerdy,” said Gaffer, giving Madelaine another resounding kiss on the cheek before departing.
“He’s an insolent old man, but I like him,” said Adam.
“He’s clean and he doesn’t smell, which makes him preferable to many,” said Madelaine. “What has he fabricated in his tales?”
Adam laughed.
“Well, he will have it that he sailed with his natural father as a cabin boy, but it’s all nonsense, since Peter the Pirate was home from the seas when Gaffer was born. But I think the old man made much of him, he took him as a personal servant when the boy was about 12, his mother having died, and gifted him his cottage for his lifetime and for the heirs of his body in perpetuity, so I think many of the tales may be true. The old man certainly told him enough that the tales have some authenticity to them, but he tells them as though he was there. Lydia will take no harm listening to his stories.”
“And we must read the stories your secretary wrote down,” said Madelaine.
“Indeed,” agreed Adam.
The tenants of the estate had their own celebration wedding breakfast, with plenty of food in a big marquee; the married couple returned to their own quieter wedding breakfast.

Edward had stood as best man for Adam, and Beth as a supporter for Madelaine, and they were all the family Madelaine felt she needed.
She might be thrown into the throes of meeting the large and extended Brandon family at a later date.
Adam managed to gracefully extricate Madelaine from the others, and drew her away upstairs.
“There’s a suite for Lady Darsham as well as for Lord Darsham,” he said. “And what I should have ascertained long since is whether you preferred to have a marriage of convenience in order to have your inheritance protected, or whether you prefer to have a marriage in all the particulars the reverend was busy embarrassing you about.”
Madelaine blushed.
“I was under the impression we were going to have a real and full marriage,” she said. “Why, sir, if you have been kissing me so passionately and do not intend to fulfil the promise of your kisses, I shall feel cheated!”
Adam laughed a little shakily.
“My Elaine, I ... I was afraid you might be indulging my feelings. But I ... I love you well enough to have let it remain a marriage in name, and let it be said that I am merely unable to father a child.”
“I want your children, if neither of us is barren,” said Madelaine. “And if either of us is, why then, there is always Edward.”
“There is always Edward, but I think if my wife was willing, we should continue to try in any case,” said Adam, picking her up and carrying her into his bedroom.
“Mind the pins!” Madelaine giggled. “I’m held in with more pins than usual to a costume.”
“Then you’d better stand still while I undo them all,” said Adam.
“At least modern gowns are easier than when you were married to Lucy,” said Madelaine.
“I wasn’t going to mention Lucy.”
“I know you still love her. I would like to know more about her; because I’m an extra, and not her replacement,” said Madelaine. “You found one the hard way?” as Adam sucked a finger.
“Yes, but it’s of no consequence. You are jewel, my dear, in wanting to know about Lucy, and you shall. And thank you for accepting that I will not forget her. But this day is all yours, and so will be the future of our marriage. You are yourself, you are not your mother, and you are not a substitute for Lucy.”
“Oh, Adam, thank you!” Madelaine’s eyes filled with happy tears.
The undressing may have been a little awkward, but they managed it with good humour, and if Madelaine was a little embarrassed, she reminded herself that Adam had seen much of what there was to be embarrassed about when Wright had ripped her gown and shift.
And then Adam was kissing her, the gown pooled, forgotten, at her feet. Kisses moved to caresses, and then onto the bed.
Much of what happened in the next hour or so came as a surprise to Madelaine, who did not have the knowledge that a country girl might have, but Adam took things very slowly, and showed her how much pleasure it might be possible to have in the marriage bed.
A long time later, Madelaine said,
“You know what you said earlier?”
“What about, my dearest dear?”
“About continuing to try even if we cannot make a baby.”
“You were quite right. It is a process which should be practised frequently.”

Madelaine felt so confident in being loved that when a letter in her mother’s forceful hand arrived on the morrow, she opened it with hardly a grimace and read it through.

“My dear daughter,
First, let me congratulate you on your nuptials. I would have liked to have been there, but since Sir Nathanial Conant has explained some matters to me I have been brought to realise why you fled, and why you did not trust your Mama in this matter. Indeed, you will stare that your Mama was quite taken in by the soft words of the so-called Comte de Boisvallonné. I am given to understand that the fellow’s real name is Louis Fournier, a slipper-maker. His suggestions, which seemed so sensible to protect both you and me, are now exposed for the fraud they truly were, and Mama is proud of you for having seen what Mama did not. I have to confess that I would not have listened to you, had you exposed the fraud, and as I understand you believed me to be a party to it, I can see why you would not have done, even if you thought I would listen. I am a little hurt that you might believe that I did not have your best interests at heart, for I truly thought that a marriage in name to a father-figure might prove more to your tastes as you had not shown any partiality to any man even that fellow who jilted you. Indeed, I was beginning to wonder if you might prefer the pleasures of Lesbos.

“Adam, what are the pleasures of Lesbos?” asked Madelaine. Adam choked on his morning coffee.
“Who on earth is writing to you about such things?”
“My mother.”
“Demme! Er ... what we do in bed is love between a man and a woman. There are some men who prefer to take their pleasures with other men, which is illegal, so I refuse to notice it if I see it, and there are some women who prefer to take their pleasures with other women, and that is what is referred to as the pleasures of Lesbos, or Sapphic love.”
“But how ...”
“Everything but.”
“Oh. I will pass you the letter presently, but I would like to finish reading it first?”
“Certainly, my dear. Though I have to say I am consumed with curiosity.”
Madelaine giggled.
“You will probably be disappointed; Mama was just despairing of me finding a man and wondered about my, er proclivities.”
“She wasn’t in bed with you this morning,” said Adam cheerfully, reaching for more toast.
Madelaine blushed, and resumed reading.

I see now that you had not yet found the right man, and I was correct in thinking that an older man would suit you very well, not an idea I had thought of until that fellow made me think of it. You should know that I taxed him with being Louis Fournier, and the insolent creature shrugged, and said ‘what of it? Does it make me less skilled as a lover, less amusing as a companion?’ I was so shocked! Naturally, I have given him his congé, and I do not care even if he is, as he says he is, the rightful heir to the title, for he is the illegitimate son of the previous comte, or so at least he says.
I understand he is now trying to persuade the court of the French King in exile that he is the heir, and that he took the name of an illegitimate son purely to escape. And if he does so, and becomes part of the new aristocracy when Wellington drives that Nasty Little Man out of France again (for I cannot see that Wellington will fail, whatever some people say, and very unpatriotic of them it is to do so) then it is not my problem.
I have washed my hands of him.
My dear Madelaine, I do love you as a Mama should, and I am sorry that we should have become estranged. I hope you will find it in your heart to forgive me.
Your loving Mama,
Arabella Vardy.

“I never knew Mama’s name was Arabella,” said Madelaine, tossing the letter to her husband, and gloating on the thought that she had a husband to show her letters to. He read it through.
“I thought he sounded fake. A comterfeit if you will,” he said.
Madelaine giggled.
“What a dreadful pun!”
“Yes, wasn’t it? She wants a stipend from you, or rather, me, of course.”
“Does she?”
“Well, I don’t think she’d apologise quite so graciously if she wasn’t hoping to be sufficiently reconciled with you to have an allowance. But I may be being too cynical. Do you wish her to have one?”
“I ... I think I do, Adam. She is not used to being poor, and she might meet someone worse than this Louis Fournier to try to hang upon.”
“Very well; I will arrange for her to have a stipend of £1200 a year, which should be enough for any woman, however extravagant. That leaves you with pin money of £2,300 a year, since I am planning to invest half your capital, placing the rest into a trust fund, and paying you the interest from that. I am sure I will do at least as well as your father did,” he smiled encouragingly.
“I am sure you will, Adam, but if it all turns into whatever the South Sea Bubble did, which I do not understand but have heard about, it does not matter.”
“I will not sink it all into one investment, never fear,” said Adam. “Though I confess, I used some to purchase government bonds, or rather, asked Knightley to do so on my behalf, at the last minute, while everyone was spreading gloom that Wellington had lost; like your mother, I had rather more faith in him than the pessimists. And have you seen the papers?”
“No, Adam, I was more interested in looking at my husband’s face.”
“Elaine, my dearest dear! Have you any idea how fatuous that sounded? Not that I mind the compliment, and at least you do not have the rather mindless look of the wife who has no opinion her husband has not told her to hold.” He was laughing tenderly at her.
She laughed.
“Adam, I will not be the sort of wife who will declare that her opinion is that of her husband. I will respect your opinion and be guided by you, but I will keep my own mind. I think that entitles me to sound fatuous occasionally, especially on the first full day of being a married woman, who is still glorying in learning every portion of her husband’s countenance.”
“That was a lot more cogently put. And I’m still enjoying basking in your approval. Wellington beat Bonaparte at a place called Waterloo, and as a result the bonds have shot up and won you a considerable increase to your capital. I expect my nephew in law, Val Braidwood, managed to get more but then he’s a canny investor even by Brandon standards.”
“It was a good risk to take, and I am glad you did so, and even if Wellington had lost, the government would have needed the money to defend our shores,” said Madelaine.
“I approve of the way you think. I am glad, too, that your mother has had the grace to write in so conciliatory a way, she is more of a lady than I thought her.”

Chapter 15

It was not to be supposed that newly married people would wish to have as much to do with a small child as they would normally give, and Mrs. Eade supported her niece Polly for a few days.
“We really need a governess,” said Adam.
“So long as you don’t go marrying her too,” giggled Madelaine. “I won’t have time if I am doing all the things the mistress of a big house is supposed to do, which Mrs. Eade has been teaching me, but I will not give up all my time with Lydia, I enjoy it too much.”
“You can employ a secretary at some point as well,” said Adam. “But a young lady to be available for her amusement would be useful, even if not well educated enough to be a governess, since the continuity of a mother figure is fulfilled by you being here for her.”
“We could see if my old governess is available,” said Madelaine. “Merry, Miss Merritt, that is, was dismissed by Mama last year, since she said it was ridiculous for me to still have a governess. She hired a dresser instead, whom I loathed.”
“Do you have her address?”
“Yes, I do, for she gave it to me. I have written a few letters, but have received no replies and I wrote last that I found out how mother intercepts my letters, so I knew it was not that she was not writing. Dear me, despite that conciliatory letter I cannot like my mother, for she has done her best to isolate me from anyone I love.”
“That’s why we’re paying her off; so she won’t come and visit,” said Adam. Madelaine chuckled.
“Adam, you are a bad man!”
“Why, yes, I believe I am! Let me have Miss Merritt’s direction, and unless it be in the wilds of Derbyshire, I shall set out after breakfast, and if she is so inclined, I will deliver her as soon as I may.”
“You are very high-handed at times, Adam.”
“It comes of being head of the family, but people generally seem to find my plans worth falling in with,” said Adam.
“I expect it’s because you usually plan well, but I shall make a point of arguing the point with you, so you do not become as high-handed as Mama. I will not exchange one tyrant for another.”
Adam was much struck.
“And I do not wish to be like your managing mama, my love, so I will endeavour to be less high-handed. I was going to ask Miss Merritt, not tell her,” he added, and Madelaine laughed at his expression.
“You look like a small boy explaining that he had asked permission to go fishing when he turns up wet,” she said.
“Apparently there was a pike.”
“Oh, I see.”
“He said you would, if it came to your ears. I’m not sure what difference there is between the small boy of thirteen and the small boy of fifty-seven.”
“More dress coats for the latter is about the only difference I should think,” said Adam, cheerfully. “Where does Miss Merritt live?”
“Why, we may be back in time for afternoon tea, if she comes. I certainly shall.”
“Take care,” Madelaine kissed him. She went to tell Mrs. Eade all about it, and take a turn playing with Lydia. It would not do to offend Mrs. Eade by bringing another woman into her domain without persuading that worthy that it was a good idea. Madelaine was learning!
Mrs. Eade had heard enough about Madelaine’s mother to have a shrewd idea than any instincts of a lady had come from her ladyship’s governess, and to have done so good a job despite the interference of Mrs. Vardy argued well, in her opinion, for Miss Merritt. Lydia would come to no harm, and milady would be happy with what Mrs. Eade privately referred to as a real family member in her household.
“Ar, we’ll do a baking tu welcome her, and Lydie is old enough to have her own piece o’ pastry,” said Mrs. Eade.
“I’ve never done any baking,” said Madelaine.
“Well, yew ‘oon’t learn any younger, milady dearie,” said Mrs. Eade. The time flew, and if Lydia’s little raspberry tarts were rather grey, well, she would eat them happily herself, and they did not have to be offered to anyone else. Madelaine learned happily how to make cheesecakes, tarts and macaroons, and if she doubted whether she would remember everything without help, at least working under the direction of another would help. Apparently the lordly cook stood back for Mrs. Eade when she was baking, which was a relief. Having ordered one meal so far, Madelaine was trying not to be in awe of him. Hopefully being a partner to Mrs. Eade in her baking endeavours would enable her to issue orders to him without quailing. She tried it.
“Had you any suggestions for dinner, Gaston, for I would like to ask your aid, in making it light for a lady of uncertain years who will have travelled all day,” she managed without a flinch.
“Milady may rely on me! Let me see, what about a watercress soup, removed with salmon cooked in butter with cauliflower florets, mushrooms and shallots, a green goose served with gooseberry sauce, asparagus, parsnip, spinach and creamed potato and turnip, and a pear syllabub to follow?”
Madelaine considered.
“I should think that will serve. If there are any left over vegetables, will you serve them all mashed together in the little cakes you served for breakfast the other day?”
“Milady is pleased with the local dish? It is called bubble-and-squeak, and in Mrs. Rundell’s book it is cooked with slices of beef, but Mrs. Eade recommended it cooked and served with the sliced cold meats partaken at breakfast.”
Gaston did not disparage English food; he had a French mother who had taught him enough cooking to pass as a French chef, but he had learned most of his cooking in his father’s inn, in Putney. Adam had broken him of bothering with a false French accent save to impress visitors, when Gaston, whose real name was Jack Higgins, might be permitted to display Gallic histrionics. It pleased him and amused Adam.
“I liked it very much, thank you, Gaston, I am glad that you are thrifty in your use of the leftovers.”
“Indeed, milady, and the remains of the goose will go in with sundry other fowl and leverets for a raised pie to go with grass lamb tomorrow, removed from pea soup and cod in cheese sauce.”
“Excellent,” said Madelaine. Her heart had slowed now, and she managed a genuine smile of pleasure. “Thank you for arranging your plans around the delicate stomach of my old governess.”
Gaston bowed; milady was going to work out just fine, he had not been sure when she had been so hesitant the other day, but she had not let him permanently intimidate her.
“It is my pleasure, milady, and if milady’s governess has anything she desires or needs, you have only to let me know, and I, Gaston, will contrive tout de suite.
“I knew I could rely on you,” said Madelaine, feeling half guilty that it was a phrase Mrs. Eade had recommended to use with any servant when she had asked them to do something out of the ordinary.
Gaston beamed.
Having milady want to come and bake at times would be less onerous than he had feared. He had conceded the right to Mrs. Eade largely because his baking skills were indifferent, outside of a plain water pastry for pies. And those he did well enough that Mrs. Eade left him to it. They had come to a rapid truce when he had been engaged, in which he pretended to do her a great favour in permitting her to bake, and she pretended to accept it as a favour. Milady had every right to be in her own kitchen, but if she confined her efforts to baking, and the occasional broad instructions, Gaston was not about to complain.

The arrival of Adam’s carriage had Madelaine clenching and unclenching her fists in her lap to force herself not to run out to the door. Moyse would be most put out if my lady answered her own front door. She did jump up the moment Moyse opened the parlour door, however, and ran forward to embrace the little lady whom Adam ushered before him.
“Merry! Oh I am glad you could come, and were not put off by my lord being managing!”
“My dear Madelaine, Lady Darsham, I should say, you should never call a gentleman managing, but instead refer to them as masterful,” said Miss Merritt.
“Merry, Adam is killing himself laughing at us,” said Madelaine.
“Not at, my dearest dear, never at,” said Adam. “Miss Merritt, you should know that Elaine has promised herself never to be bullied again as her mother has bullied her, and I have promised never to turn into Mrs. Vardy.”
“Oh, no indeed! Your lordship could never be compared, so kind, so alert to every comfort, nobody could fault your attention towards ....” she tailed off, aware that she was criticising Mrs. Vardy in praising Adam.
“Merry, dearest, we both know that poor Mama is not really a lady, and that she falls short of proper care for her dependents, you do not have to fear I will take offence,” said Madelaine. “I can feel more loving and charitable towards her, however, when I am not in the same house.”
“Oh, my lady, it hasn’t been easy for you,” said Miss Merritt.
“But easier than for some who have parents who don’t love them, even if their love is a little forcefully and oddly expressed,” said Madelaine, who had come to appreciate that her lot in life was better than Marjorie Braithwaite’s had been.
“Well, my dear, I do think your mother has always had your best interests at heart, though I was most shocked to learn how she had been so deceived, leading to you taking such drastic action as to flee to Lord Darsham in disguise!”
“I gave Miss Merritt a brief résumé of how you came to be here,” said Adam.
“Such adventures!” gasped Miss Merrit. “How scared you must have been by those Bow Street ruffians!”
“Actually, I was more furious than scared until it was over,” said Madelaine. “Beth and her adventures must be rubbing off on me! I was scared they would hurt Lydia.”
“I am looking forward to meeting my charge, it has been a long time since I have cared for a child so young,” Miss Merritt looked apprehensive.
“Oh, Polly is a good girl, who will help, and I do not intend to give up time with her, either,” said Madelaine. “Her speech is becoming clearer. Or am I just learning to understand her, Adam?”
“A little of both, I think, my dear. Miss Merritt, do not ever feel that you are failing if Lydia is a little too much for you at times, she is a lively child, and Polly is there to help you. She has younger siblings so she is well-versed in the care of infants. Your role, at least at first, is to be an adult Polly can turn to, a mentor if she wishes to know more, and to relieve her. I do not think that my lily-maid has thought it through, but assuming we have more children, you will one day doubtless wish to retire as my pensioner before they are grown, and Polly is a clever girl who has received a basic education. I have ascertained that she is willing to learn more, so in many ways, your job is as governess to Polly as well as being an extra pair of hands to help with Lydia, essentially training her to be your successor.”
“You ... you are offering me a pension when I am too old to teach? Oh my lord!” Miss Merrit was overcome.

Tea was brought, and Miss Merrit sighed in happiness to drink tea and eat the food Madelaine had helped to bake. Her future was assured! She would have a home without having to live with her sister and brother-in-law on sufferance! And to have a pension, rather than just her meagre savings. Miss Merrit was of the opinion that Lord Darsham was the most wonderful man in the world, and that dear Madelaine was the luckiest girl, however shocked she had been at first over the age difference.
And when Polly brought Lydia in, she fell in love with the little girl, just as Madelaine had done. Madelaine was soon learning new nursery rhymes, and Adam looked on happily. Madelaine had been too old for nursery rhymes when her mother had deemed it necessary to engage a governess, so Madelaine had only learned the few her nurse maid had taught her. Madelaine and Polly taught Miss Merrit ‘Old Roger is dead’, which had her exclaiming over the morbid imaginations of children.
“For I remember you, my love, asking all kinds of questions about heaven and hell and death when a next door neighbour died, and why there were mutes at the door, and your mother did not wish you to know anything, but for once, I had my way, for I said to her, what happens if someone close to her dies, if she has no idea what is happening? And your mother conceded that it was as well for you to know. Of course the next person to die was your grandfather, so it was as well that you knew enough not to find all the obsequies as frightening.”
“I expect Mama had an inkling that he was not long for this world and wished to hide it from me, but of course she must have realised that having me ask questions over her father-in-law would have been more distressing.”
“Indeed, my love, and I am sure she missed him, for he welcomed her to the family as courteously as if she had been well-born. Indeed, before he died, she was softer-spoken and less contentious about many things, taking his lead in matters. But your father was never a forceful man himself, and I think she felt she had to be the .... dear me, I forget what I was going to say.”
“We tacitly agree with what you did not say,” said Adam. “Children are gruesome little ghouls, providing nothing of a morbid situation touches them too closely. I played the same ring game with my brother and sisters, and you will never persuade me that ‘oranges and lemons’ can be considered a nice, peaceful game.”
“All that chip-chop business, indeed, not very pleasant,” said Miss Merritt.
“No, indeed, my nurse told me it was all about Henry VIII and chopping off the heads of his wives,” said Adam. “We have an early copy of ‘Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Songbook,” though I must say I learned them at my nurse’s knee and taught them thus to Lydia. She’s not really big enough to play ‘Oranges and Lemons’, and besides it is better with a large number of children. When I hold a Christmas party and all the family come, perhaps she will be ready.”
“And another few months will make a world of difference to how steady she is on her feet, and less likely to be scared by it.”
Miss Merrit was happy.
She appreciated a dinner arranged to be light for her convenience, and when she went to bed in Madelaine’s old room, she thought she was in heaven to find a hot brick in it, and a fire, because of the most unseasonal weather.

Heiress in Hiding 13-15

Sarah WaldockJanuary 06, 2018 02:53PM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 13-15

AlidaJanuary 08, 2018 03:02AM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 13-15

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Re: Heiress in Hiding 13-15

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