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Lucilla, 1-3

April 13, 2018 07:40PM
this is the second novella covering the love stories from Jane and the Sins of Society, in which the Duke of Braxstrode marries the governess to his daughters, in order to have rumours of an heir as soon as possible. It's a story which is something of the cart before the horse, in having the marriage before the romance. Fortunately Lucilla Peterson is a sensible woman.

Chapter 1

If asked, Lucilla Peterson would have said that she was very well content with her lot in life.
In many ways, it was even true.
She had been a governess since she was barely out of the schoolroom herself, but her charges were three delightful girls, Georgiana almost old enough to make her come-out, but still very much a child; Lydia, the bookish one; and Jessica, always tearing her clothes rushing about like a boy. Of course, Jessica had been very close to Stephen, their brother, who had drowned so tragically last year, being less than a year older than he had been. Lucilla pursed her lips. She had always thought it very odd that Stephen, who was used to messing about on the river, should have drowned in perfectly good weather.
His poor father was heartbroken.
At this point, Lucilla felt colour rise unbidden to her cheeks.
Michael Strode, Duke Braxtrode, was a most attractive man still, in his early forties, and if Lucilla was honest with herself, she had been attracted to him when she first came to take on the care of four children ranging in age from six-year-old Georgiana to three-year-old Stephen, scarce out of leading strings. That had been some ten years ago. Naturally, she had suppressed her attraction, for Lord Braxstrode had been devoted to his wife, and showed no inclination to remarry; and there was no reason to suppose, even if he did wish to remarry, that the governess would have a chance of catching his regard.
Lucilla sighed.
He would doubtless remarry; for the Viscount, Paul Strode, who had inherited that title from Stephen, was a most unsatisfactory young man. He had been a precocious youth, who had attempted to kiss her when he was but fifteen summers old, and she newly engaged as governess, and she had slapped his face. The Duke had backed her up, roaring that it was intolerable that a lady under his roof should be assaulted by a whelp. It had not improved matters between them, but Lucilla had been glad that her position had been upheld. His lordship looked out for the wellbeing of all his people.
“Petie? I’ve finished my list of exports,” said Georgiana.
“Bring it to me, then,” said Lucilla. The girl made her coltish way up to the big desk set aside for the governess in the schoolroom, and Lucilla scanned through what she had written.
“Largely correct, Georgie, but a little sparse in places. Where do you think we get leghorn straw from for bonnets?”
“Uh, Leghorn?” asked Georgiana.
“Yes; you can add that,” said Lucilla.
“Where is Leghorn, Petie?” asked Georgiana.
“Oh, Georgie! Surely you recall studying the geography of Italy?” said Lucilla, in gentle reproach.
“I suppose so,” sighed Georgiana. “I do not see why any of this is necessary.”
“You will need to know what products are made scarce by any wars, and you never know, you might find it needful to invest in a particular market,” said Lucilla. “You might be heiresses, and likely to make brilliant marriages, but you don’t want to bore your future husband to tears by being ninnies, and being unable to engage him in conversation, do you?”
“Men are scared of bluestockings,” said Georgiana.
“There is a very great difference between being a bluestocking and in making intelligent conversation concerning any stocks in which your husband might invest,” said Lucilla, severely.
The sound of wheels on the driveway had Jessica leaping up to see who might be calling, and before Lucilla might censure her for such a lack of manners, the child cried out,
“Papa! It is Papa!”
All thought of behaviour like young ladies was forgotten as the older two crowded to the window to ascertain if Jessica was correct.
“I wonder why Papa has left town?” mused Georgiana.
“The king is dead and he has escaped from all the brouhaha, perhaps,” suggested Lydia.
“No, for he would be bound to have black crepe on the coach door handles and around Phipps’ hat,” said Georgiana.
“He might not so, for fear of scaring us that he was dead,” said Jessica. “Papa is very considerate.”
“I suggest that the sooner you finish your lessons, girls, the sooner you will be able to go to your papa and ask him,” said Lucilla. “And the poor man will want to change, and partake of a cup of coffee and some of Mrs. Everard’s excellent Neapolitan biscuits in front of a warm fire before he will want to be bothered with a horde of monkeys.”
“Sorry, Petie,” said Georgiana. They trooped obediently back to their desks.
Lucilla also wondered why the duke had returned, but doubtless he would let her know if he felt she needed to know.


Michael, Lord Braxstrode, sat in his coach, mulling over the revelations made to him by Sir Caleb Armitage and his wife. It was bad enough that he knew his heir, his nephew, Paul, to be a womaniser, a wastrel and a gambler, but to consider that he had used the medium of a wager to arrange murder was most unpalatable. But if Paul was responsible for little Stephen’s death, Michael would leave no stone unturned in having him brought to book. And he had no intention of permitting anyone to murder him, leaving his daughters vulnerable. It was a preposterous idea, but Sir Caleb worked for Bow Street, as well as having the ear of the Prince Regent, and one could not suppose him to be a fanciful man under the circumstances.
Michael had seen an acquaintance in Horseguards’ and had asked to have some reliable old soldiers alerted to act as extra bodyguards for the time being, an excellent suggestion from Sir Caleb, as well as allowing him to give employment to men no longer needed now the war with France was long over. Collins, Pole and Snook were riding outside the coach, and would have fairly light duties, but being late of the 95th Rifle regiment would be, he was assured, excellent scouts and would make good gamekeepers if he kept them on, and would probably turn poacher if he did not. They had certainly been living in an insalubrious dive, but the name of his contact had been a talisman which had produced oaths of loyalty. Michael most make them known to Jem Simmonds, his stablemaster, Abel Courage, his bailiff, and Trehearne, the butler.
It was a relief to find himself rattling through the gates of his country seat, until he remembered the other excellent advice Sir Caleb had given him; and then his heart quailed.


Lucilla brought the girls downstairs when a footman came to tell her that the master was ‘at home’ to his daughters, and smiled fondly as they all curtseyed properly and then threw themselves on their father to embrace him. He asked each of them how she was, what she had been up to, and only after receiving assurances that they were enjoying their various avocations did he ask about schoolwork.
Georgiana laughed.
“Oh, Petie is a slavedriver, of course, but I think we are doing well enough.”
“The girls are good, hard workers,” said Lucilla.
“I am glad to hear it,” said the Duke. “Now, girls! We will all have dinner together, but for now I want to talk to Miss Peterson in private, so run along!”
There were sighs, and disappointed faces, but the girls obediently left, and Lucilla smiled to hear Lydia’s piercingly sibilant whisper to her sisters,
“You mark my words, it will be about Georgie coming out!”
“Or an arranged marriage,” worried Georgiana.
“Papa would not do that,” Lydia was adamant, and Lucilla heard no more as the door shut.
“Miss Peterson, I pray you come and sit in the other fireside chair,” said Michael. “I have some things I am finding hard to tell you, and I want to look you in the eye.”
Lucilla paled.
“Are you turning me off?” she asked, bluntly.
He stared.
“No! No, never that,” he said. “I am sorry to frighten you, though the news I have had is also frightening. Dear me, where should I begin?”
“You have found evidence that it was Mr. Strode who killed Stephen and you are concerned that he will harm the girls and kill you?” asked Lucilla.
“What I have been told seems far fetched ....” Michael screwed himself up to deliver bad news, and then realised what the governess had said. His mouth fell open.
“You ... you had already surmised that?”
“I am, after all, paid to be a blue stocking, capable of handling the small sins of the adolescent girl. It is but a small step to recognise the sins of adults.”
“My goodness! You are very astute, Miss Peterson! I confess, I was greatly shocked when Sir Caleb Armitage, the gentleman Bow Street Runner, you know, suggested that my life was in danger. And his lady wife, who is also most acute in her observations, made me feel quite concerned. I do not want to believe such a thing of Paul.”
“I doubt, sir, that he would have the courage to do such a thing himself, but is more likely to have hired someone,” said Lucilla.
“Well, it is more complex than that, seemingly,” said Michael. “There is a man or men, who take wagers; and a person wanting someone to die wagers that they will have a long life. The payment for the deed is for losing the wager since you can hardly be called a murderer for wagering that your relative will live a long life.”
“Why, how positively diabolical!” gasped Lucilla. “And you think that such a person might try to snatch one of the girls, making you go to rescue her, and you need me to make up a story about why they are to be confined indoors, without making them frightened.”
“Well, that too,” admitted Michael. “Only, I received some rather specific advice from both Sir Caleb, and his lady. Both suggested that marrying as soon as possible, and being able to announce that my wife is with child would be advisable, because there is no point in having me killed if there is any chance that an heir might be born, who will immediately oust Paul from the position.”
Lucilla frowned.
“Of course, I quite see that, though a wicked man would kill your wife and unborn child as well.”
“By that time, the number of deaths would begin to look suspicious.”
“Not if the whole household burned in their beds,” said Lucilla.
“My dear Miss Peterson! You have a lurid imagination which I fear might be only too accurate!”
“I don’t say it’s easy, because he must fear the escape of a strong man like you, but perhaps bribing one of the more bucolic servants to give the master and mistress a ... a love philtre, or fertility draught would answer, for I would swear all your servants are too loyal to be bribed. However, some of the maids are distinctly wanting, and I know they believe in witchcraft, for they all go to see Mother Titchmarsh, whose herbal nostrums are no harm, but who also dabbles in charms and philtres as well as good advice, and I suspect both contraceptive and abortifacient medicines.”
“Good grief.”
Lucilla shrugged.
“Any country girl knows what herbs to take to bring down her courses, if she is sluggish,” she said. “The herbs are the same. And I have always felt it as well not to delve too deeply into such things.”
“No, quite,” said Michael, hastily. “So long as nobody is taking advantage of the maids, and persuading or forcing them to misbehave.”
“Mrs. Forthby would not permit that,” said Lucilla. “She is a most excellent housekeeper, and tries to depress superstition where she finds it, but the girls answer glibly enough when asked, and remember what they learned at their mothers’ knees when not under the eye of someone in authority. I have, at least, prevented them from teaching their nonsense to your daughters, who might be permitted to learn about it in an abstract sense, perhaps, now they are older, but you may be certain I prevented any such nonsense as charming away warts.”
“Yes, of course,” said Michael. “You would hardly think we were almost two decades into the nineteenth century with so much ignorance! However, we are drifting off the point, even though using silly beliefs might have something to do with potential risk. My wife.”
“You will want me to be welcoming, and to make sure the children are properly respectful,” said Lucilla, wishing her heart was not made of lead. “Have you married already in London, or will you be summoning the vicar when she has arrived? You will need an ordinary licence for that, my lord.”
“I haven’t asked her yet, because she is too efficient about other things,” said Michael, a little waspishly. “Sir Caleb and his lady both recommended that my daughters would be happiest if I married their governess, since she would know their ways. But of course, I would quite understand if this was unpalatable to you. The advantages are that you would be secure for life as my duchess, able to have your own children, if you have yearned for any. The disadvantages are the danger from my nephew, and being forced into a ... hrrrrmmmm, physical relationship very rapidly, for I must have an heir.”
“Was that a proposal, my lord?” asked Lucilla, staring.
“Er, .... it was not a very good one, was it, Miss Peterson?” said Michael.
“I accept it, nonetheless,” said Lucilla. “On the condition that the girls are happy with the idea; for they must be asked! I would do anything to further your interests and those of your daughters. However, I will have to insist that the name ‘Petie’ goes, and that you and the girls will all call me ‘Lucilla’.”
The door burst open and the girls tumbled in from where they had evidently been eavesdropping.
Georgiana gave a squeal of delight as she fell through the door.
“Papa, at last you have realised what you have been missing for years!” she cried.
Lydia ran to embrace her father and Jessica leaped up and down.
“Petie is going to be our Mama!” she shouted.
Michael held out his arms for his daughters, and enfolded them all.
“I am glad you approve,” he said. “Now, away with you; and I place you on your honour not to eavesdrop on, er, Lucilla and myself again, for we must undertake a most rapid courtship, and it is none of your business.”
“We only eavesdropped in case you were marrying Georgie off, Papa,” said Lydia, kissing her parent fondly on the cheek. “We should have guessed you were too sensible.” And then they left.
“And I dread to think what their fate would be if Paul Strode were the duke,” said Lucilla, dryly.
“You really do put me strongly in mind of Lady Armitage, who said the same thing,” said Michael.
“Women realise how vulnerable they are, and hence how vulnerable other women, and girl-children, also are,” said Lucilla, dryly. She reflected that she would either never be vulnerable again as a duchess; or she would be dead at the hand of Paul Strode’s agent.

Chapter 2

Lucilla could scarcely believe that she was standing in the parlour in her best gown, a lilac satin gown which had been fashionable ten years previously and which Georgie had helped her refurbish, working all evening, to have some pretence at modern style. And the reason she was there was to get married! Lucilla had given up all hopes of marriage after she had been a governess for just a few months. She had always found the duke attractive, and had initially harboured romantic hopes that a widower would be susceptible to love for the one who cared for his daughters. It soon became apparent that Braxstrode cared too deeply for his late wife to look for another mother for his children when they had a perfectly adequate governess; and that he viewed Miss Peterson as a nursery adjunct more than as a person.
It had not killed Lucilla’s feelings for her employer; if anything, her regard for him had strengthened over the years, watching his tender concern for his children when he was at home. And now he was to be her husband! Lucilla’s heart was hammering in her chest; she must not embarrass the poor man with an excess of affection, since he was only marrying her out of expediency.
The vicar was asking her for a response.
“I do!” she said, wondering if she had said it too loudly.
And then they were signing the parish register, and she wrote, ‘Lucilla Strode, Duchess Braxstrode’ for the first time.
Being a duchess was a lot to take in.
Being Braxstrode’s – Michael’s – wife was more to take in.
His lordship, her husband that was, paid the vicar.
“Tell Jones at ‘The Feathers’ to provide free food and beer all day and send me the bill, and let it be known in the village so my people can toast my bride. I have reason to suppose that someone is trying to kill me, however, so I am not venturing outside myself. When the weather is more clement, the duchess and I will hold an open day.”
“Very good, my lord. Will that be anything to do with the suspicious fellow that Brackley mentioned was lurking about?”
“I wouldn’t be surprised at all, Dr. Felsham.”
“Dear me, how very ex ... er, regrettable,” said the vicar.
“It might be exciting to you, Dr. Felsham, and by all means use your excellent logic to find out what you may, but be careful! This fellow has killed before, and I’m here at the warning of Bow Street to take up my nuptials faster than Lady Braxstrode and I had planned.”
Lucilla reflected how typical it was of his lordship’s kindness to imply that their wedding was long planned and just brought forward.
“Well, I’m sure I wish you no more excitement than is due to any newlyweds,” said Dr. Felsham. “I suppose this is a hireling of the Viscount’s, and that it is true what the villagers say, that your poor son was done to death.”
“They say that? Then my dear fellow, of your kindness, take statements if you will, and I will send them on to Armitage, who is in charge of the case.”
“Certainly, my lord.”
The servants must be allowed to wish the happy couple well, and Lucilla found herself embraced by the little girls; and then Lord Braxstrode offered his arm.
“Shall we away to the master chamber?” he said.
She took his arm, and let him lead her to his bedroom.
It was a room which was much like its master; unpretentious and comfortable. It was panelled in dark oak, with a big, four-poster bed in it, also carved from oak, the posts made up of the geometric shapes of the Tudors rather than the more ornate fancies of the Jacobean. A commode, dressing table with a large, French-style mirror, and a padded stool, and table with a writing desk on it served by a comfortable-looking high-backed chair comprised the furnishings Lucilla first noticed. The oaken chest at the bottom of the bed almost seemed to be a part of the bed, and the linen press and wardrobe against one wall were so similar in style that they had at first seemed to be a part of the wall.
“I appreciate that this is very sudden for you, but I must be able to say that we are expecting a happy event as soon as possible.” The Duke spoke.
“My lord, what if I do not conceive right away?”
“The name is Michael, Lucilla. It does not matter if you conceive immediately or not providing that we may dissemble morning sickness and convince those who will gossip outside the house that you have done so. But the servants will know if I have not bedded you.”
Lucilla blushed.
“Of ... of course, er, Michael,” she said.
He turned to her and gave her a crooked smile.
“It is a little difficult to take in, is it not, from people who know each other superficially to being as intimate as it is possible to be. Though when I was young, that could happen often enough with arranged marriages being the norm rather than the exception. Young people nowadays have more choices.”
“Yours was not an arranged marriage, surely, sir?”
“Not as such, Lucilla; but Sally was a neighbour’s daughter, I had met her at various country entertainments any time since we were about eight, and I was one of about a dozen suitors. Her parents told her to choose between the three of us they approved for her hand, and she chose me. However, I did have the opportunity to court her, and steal kisses, which you and I have not had. I am sorry about that, and I will try to make your first time in my bed as pleasant as possible, but there is some pain for some girls the first time.”
“I see. Thank you for warning me. I ... I have some idea of the exigencies of the marriage bed; it is impossible to live in the country and be unaware of the mating activities of at least the farm animals. Though Georgiana has pointed out that hares must have their equivalent of Gentleman Jackson, as they like to box to determine which male is dominant, and dance for their ladies for all the world as though they were at Almack’s.”
Michael laughed.
“A pretty whimsy; and I suppose she is old enough to be curious about the physical side of marriage.”
“Indeed, for she will be Out as soon as you permit it, and I do not believe in keeping such things secret. Ignorance is not the same as innocence, and you have some excellent books in your library on anatomy, which I have perused with Georgiana. And, I confess,” she blushed, “We both giggled over the very dry language describing an act which stallions perform with a total lack of decorum and dignity.”
“I hope I have more dignity than a stallion,” said Michael, much struck by the incongruous contrast of teaching material.
“You could hardly have less, sir,” said Lucilla, dryly.
Michael gave a mirthless smile.
“True,” he said. “Well, we might both lose some decorum, as I have arranged to have champagne waiting for us; it’s in my dressing room to fetch when we want it. Alcohol, if not taken to excess, will relax us.”
“Are you nervous as well, then, my ... Michael?”
“Of course I’m nervous! I’m about to take the maidenhead of a respectable woman without much preamble, and I’m afraid of hurting or frightening you. The last time I took a maidenhead was Sally’s, and we were both young, enthusiastic, and ready for it.” He sounded angry.
“I ... I am sorry I am not much of a choice of bride,” said Lucilla, fighting back tears. “Perhaps you should have gone somewhere random and got to know a young lady you might find desirable.”
“Poppycock! What makes you think you are not desirable?”
“I am no longer in the first flush of youth, and you have chosen me because I was convenient,” said Lucilla. “I selfishly thought of my own feelings ... er, my security ... when I agreed, without considering how distasteful it must be to you.”
“Don’t talk nonsense, Lucilla,” said Michael. “I have no problem in finding you attractive. Always have; stood well back so as not to give offence. I wasn’t ready for anything more than a physical reaction, I missed Sally too much, and that would have been morally indefensible.”
“Oh!” said Lucilla colouring.
“I know I’m no big catch as a man without the title and wealth, so I am sorry that you don’t find me attractive, but I will do my best.”
“Michael, you are handsome and kind, and I ... I would have foolishly rushed into an affaire with you when I first came,” said Lucilla.
“You find me attractive?” he was surprised. Lucilla blushed, furiously and looked down.
“Yes, Michael,” she said, addressing her hands as she fiddled with her gloves.
“I find you attractive,” said Michael. “Come, Lucilla, this is encouraging; if we are both attracted to each other, this will be much easier than if one of us was entirely indifferent. I had been going to suggest getting it over as quickly as possible, but that would be a shame if we can both enjoy each other. In which case, let us put on our nightgowns, and drink champagne, and start exploring each other. What do you think to that idea?”
“I ... I think it sounds like a good idea,” said Lucilla. “Do ... do we undress in front of each other?”
“Would you like to undress in your room, and come through when you are ready?” he asked.
“Would you think me a total coward if I said ‘yes please’?” asked Lucilla.
“Not at all; we are still awkward with each other, and anything to give you confidence is good,” said Michael. “And so long as we both occupy the bed, and start to discover each other, it doesn’t matter if we get all the way or not. I .... there are more friendly ways to break the maidenhead than ....”
“Than being a stallion,” said Lucilla.
“Quite so,” said Michael. “Go and put on your nightgown; and your dressing gown, there may be a fire in here, but it’s deucedly chilly.”
Lucilla went through to the other bedroom. It had its own dressing room, where a ladies’ maid would sleep if she only had one, but she stared to see that her own few possessions had been brought to this room, and any signs of occupancy by the late Sarah Strode were gone. She had been steeling herself to meet signs of her charges’ mother in the room, the little personal touches which would remind her that she was an interloper. But if there had been any, and there would surely have been some, they had been removed. Her own shawl lay across the back of the soft chair by the fire, and her writing desk was on the small table by one of the two windows. Her books were arranged neatly in the bookcase she had been given for her own use in her old room, and on top of the commode was a vase she had brought with her, which had been her mother’s, filled with flowers. Lucilla detected Lydia’s hand in arranging the books, and Jessica’s rather haphazard flower arranging in the vase, and checked to make sure it had water in it. It did, but the ewer on the commode was a little low, and she smiled, picturing Georgiana asking Jessica if she had put water in the vase. Georgiana had plainly arranged and ordered the whole, bless her! And it was a definite encomium from her new daughters that they welcomed her as their new mother. Lucilla had tears in her eyes.
Her nightgown was folded neatly on the pillow of the bed which matched the one in the master bedroom, her nightcap beside it. Her dressing gown lay on a carven chest at the bottom of the bed, much like the one in the master bedchamber, and Lucilla could not resist peeking into it. It was full of extra blankets; and what a sensible place to keep them! Her slippers, slightly mismatched, were beside the bed, and she smiled at the loving, but not always identical, embroidery laid by all three girls when they had made them for her several New Years’ gifting ceremonies ago. She undressed swiftly and took her hair down, brushing it firmly and making herself not skimp. The hair receiver into which the combings from her brush must go had also been made by the girls, seeing that the one she had previously owned was worn. This one was woven from ribbons of pale blue and white, to match the jasperware powder pot and hair pin tray which had also been her mother’s. The woven ribbons had been backed onto good calico so the square bag was both pretty and practical. She had already made a pincushion each for her charges, the oils from the hair they were stuffed with making sure the pins would easily penetrate fabric. There had been plenty, for Lucilla felt no need to make herself a ratt, a cushion of her own hair to place on her head for an elevated hairstyle. She hesitated, and made the decision not to plait her hair, as she usually did for the night, nor put on her nightcap. She did put on her dressing gown; as his lordship, Michael, she corrected herself, had said, it was chilly. She was glad that the servants had set a fire in this room as well as in the master bedroom, though it seemed profligate.
But then, Michael had always been careful of her comfort, and had always made sure a fire was set in the governess’s room, a courtesy Lucilla knew was not always allowed to someone who lay between servant and household.
“I am not dithering,” said Lucilla, firmly to herself. “I am appreciating the touches the girls have made to make this my room. They are such darlings!”
She glanced at herself in the mirror, as large a piece of plate glass as the one in Michael’s room and quite capable of reflecting her from head to waist. A very expensive and extravagant thing!
She could easily imagine her reflection telling her off and saying, “You are dithering, you know! You look well enough, now get through that door!”
Lucilla took a deep breath, walked to the communicating door, and opened it.


Chapter 3

Michael smiled.
“I half wondered if you had fled,” he said.
She flushed.
“I was so moved that the girls have made the room into my room with my possessions,” she said. “They are so good!”
“I am glad that they want you as a mother,” said Michael. “It means a lot to me, too.” He held out a hand, and Lucilla took it, trembling somewhat.
He led her to the bed, to sit down. An occasional table had appeared from somewhere, presumably his dressing room, with a bottle and two glasses.
“We aren’t going to take the whole bottle, are we?” asked Lucilla. “I’d fall asleep.”
Michael laughed.
“It is not a strong wine like sherry, but I think a glass each will suffice,” he said. “You know, I am sure, Shakespeare’s comments on alcohol!”
“Yes, and I hesitated to quote the Scottish play in case you were superstitious,” she said.
“Not in the least. And it is a good observation that alcohol is an equivocator with mankind, for it putteth him on and turneth him off, and giving him the lie, leaveth him, which is an awful mangling of the quote.”
“It covers the essentials, I believe,” said Lucilla. “I am not about to make you write out the correct quote fifty times until you have it word perfect, for I have always taught Shakespeare by following the sense of the play save where there is poetry within it, when the metre counts.”
“I am glad I am not subject to the discipline of the classroom,” Michael smiled. “And yes, I am aware you were jesting. Have some champagne.” He poured a glass each, and Lucilla regarded the golden, sparkling liquid in the modern, fluted wine glass with its hexagonal foot. She sipped it, cautiously.
“I confess, I am disappointed in it,” she said. “I have heard much of this champagne since it became more popular since the war ended, but I have to say, I prefer Mrs. Forthby’s cider, and her elderflower wine, which has also been known to sparkle, though not to order.”
“Good grief, woman, if we were drinking Mrs. Forthby’s wines, I’d have no sense out of you after a glass, the stuff is stronger than a good sherry,” said Michael.
Lucilla chuckled.
“I confess, a glass at night guarantees a good sleep,” she said.
“And sleeping is not what we are supposed to be doing,” said Michael. “Do you want me to ring for something else?”
“No, it is not unpleasant, but it does not live up to the expectations I have built of it, by reading of how popular it is,” said Lucilla. “I would be happy to relegate it to the mixing up of boot blacking instead of the stale beer which I believe is what your valet uses on your boots.”
“Hush, Lucilla, the recipe of a valet’s boot blacking is a sacrosanct secret!” laughed Michael.
“Then he shouldn’t make it up in the kitchen where all and sundry might visit,” retorted Lucilla. “He takes sugar from the pantry, and begs sweet-oil from Mrs. Forthby to grind together with the ivory-black which he has to buy, for lamp-black is not good enough, and then whisks the whole with beer, and a little cider if he can sneak it from the barrel. I have seen him do it often enough I should be able to be your valet for you at need.”
“I think I prefer you as my wife,” said Michael. “I’ve never noticed my boots being any less shiny than those of fellows who boast of their valets using champagne; if you ask me, it’s in the elbow grease applied.”
“Indeed; and one cannot fault Tregarth for his industry,” said Lucilla.
“Well, I have little interest in the blacking of my boots, but I confess I am glad that you take an interest in the household’s domestic economy,” said Michael. “As a good wife should.”
“Mrs. Forthby has been in the habit of asking me to go over her accounts,” said Lucilla. “She asked if I would indulge her, there not being a mistress of the house, and Georgie too young at the time, though I make her help now. Mrs. Forthby was concerned for her own protection so a second person had seen and signed off her records as true. It is so easy to accuse a housekeeper of peculation, you know.”
“I did not know, and I confess it had never occurred to me,” said Michael. “Thank you for that, and as mistress of the house you can just continue to do so. There has been no trouble with Mrs. Forthby?”
Lucilla blushed.
“Mrs. Forthby said, ‘and about time the Master saw what is beneath his finicky nose’, which I took to mean that she considered it a solution that the servants had already considered.”
Michael laughed.
“Come and kiss me,” he said. Lucilla willingly let herself be drawn into his arms, and lifted her mouth to his. He possessed her lips with his, and as he felt her start to respond, he permitted his hands to wander.
Lucilla hardly knew what to do, but the pleasant sensations in her body drove away any thought of protest, and shyly she let her own hands run up his back, to play with the errant curls at his collar.
Michael took the seduction slowly and carefully, getting Lucilla used to the feel of his hands outside her nightgown before feeling for its hem, and running his hands up her thighs inside it. Lucilla gasped.
He looked into her eyes, and saw arousal.
That was going well. He had only to hold back while he opened her up, and showed her how to take pleasure from him.
The couple’s pleasure was enough to bring them together quite naturally in shared desire, and Michael realised, as they lay together in comfortable lassitude that he had managed to achieve the task he had almost dreaded, and had been carried away in the throes of passion to plant his seed without any of the embarrassment he had feared.
“Oh my,” said Lucilla. “I could never have divined that it would be like that, from reading books and seeing the animals.”
“I trust it did not disappoint as much as the champagne?” he was suddenly worried.
“Oh no! It was beyond all expectations,” said Lucilla. “Not the least like a stallion. I ... I will be very happy to do it again ... if you wish to.”
Michael was about to say that it took time for a man to be ready again, but he discovered that contemplating his wife’s innocent enjoyment was enough to make sure he was ready again. He smiled at her.
“Right now?”
“If you are willing.”
“Ready, willing and able,” said Michael.

Some time later, Lucilla asked,
“Will you wish me to be in my own bedchamber after I am ... when I know I am with child?”
“I do not believe that the intimacies between man and woman are ever held to harm a child in the womb, so it will be up to you,” said Michael. “Lucilla, I enjoy your body. I will be happy to continue to do so throughout a pregnancy. But sometimes women lose the pleasure for a while; I do not compare you to Sally, you understand, but she lost all interest in ... in intercourse when she was carrying Lydia. I will not think less of you if you do lose interest.”
Lucilla blushed.
“I ... was concerned you would no longer be interested when ... when I had fulfilled my ... when I have produced a son.”
“Lucilla, I find I will be happy to be a husband to you in all ways,” said Michael. “But I did not wish to force myself on you.”
“It ... is not a forcing,” said Lucilla, blushing violently. “Dear me, I cannot think why my poor mother should have warned me that the physical side of marriage was something I should have to put up with, for it is no such thing. Indeed I do not know when I have been so ... stimulated.”
“I suspect that for some brides, a younger, callow husband with very little self control might prove a ... startling ... experience,” said Michael.
“Indeed; for without the ... practising it might have been less pleasant, and something of a shock, instead of being a culmination of ... I think I am losing myself in half sentences,” said Lucilla.
“Fortunately I think we both understand what we both mean.”
“Yes, and in time I may learn not to blush as well.”
“I find it rather delightful, actually, seeing how far down it will go,” said Michael.
Lucilla blushed once again!


After the first day of marriage, the couple slipped into something of a routine, and Lucilla called her new stepdaughters to the schoolroom.
“I must not neglect your education, my loves,” she said.
Georgiana giggled.
“Mama Lucilla, you should not be teaching us! You ought to be sewing baby clothes and ordering dinners and all the things you taught me I should do, overseeing the servants and so on.”
“That’s as maybe, but I cannot leave you without lessons.”
“La, Mama, it is easy,” said Lydia. “You will send an advertisement to the newspapers asking for a governess, as the mistress of the house must, and in the meanwhile, I will study on my own and Georgie will make Jessica mind.”
“She will not,” said Jessica. “I don’t have to be made to mind, I’m old enough to study on my own. Besides, there’s nothing much else to do when we are still not permitted outside.”
“The rider to that I believe,” said Lucilla. “Well, I will read with you in the afternoons as I have always done, and we shall have that time as family time before dinner. And Papa might even come and join us as he is also confined to the house.”
“I warned him to stay away from windows too, in case anyone took a shot at him,” said Lydia.
Lucilla opened her mouth to say that this was far fetched, and shut it again. With so many men late of the army and trained to shoot, a hired man to shoot the duke was not perhaps far-fetched at all.
“Are you queasy in the mornings yet, Mama Lucilla?” asked Georgiana. “I am told it is a sure and certain sign of an impending happy event, and Papa has intimated to the servants that he is to be a father again. I would have brought you tea and toast on a tray, you know.”
“I have no symptoms as yet, but it is imperative that the man who is trying to kill your papa thinks that I do,” said Lucilla. “Because then there is no point in killing your father, in case there is a clear heir of his body.” She blushed a little at the legal phrase, thinking about Michael’s body.
“Oh, I see,” said Georgiana. “And if it is a girl, why, nobody will know that for nine months, and one would hope that Bow Street would have managed to act before then.”
“Indeed, my love, and I believe that there are moves afoot in London to undertake that matter,” said Lucilla.
“Why don’t they just arrest cousin Paul?” asked Jessica.
“It isn’t as simple as that,” said Lucilla. “You see, your cousin has laid a wager that his uncle will remarry, and sire an heir.”
Jessica frowned.
“Well, he has married and one hopes for an heir,” she said. “I thought he wanted to kill Papa?”
“Ah, but the man who takes wagers who is the one who does the killing wagered that your Papa would die before he got an heir, and the idea is that he wants to lose his bet, and paying off the wager is the fee to the man who is doing the killing.”
“It sounds very complex,” said Jessica.
“Yes; but nobody can be called to book for making a wager,” said Lucilla, dryly. “He can claim to know nothing about anyone going out of their way to make him lose.”
“Oh, so all the risks are taken by the man who makes the wagers, and being no connexion of those he kills, he is not suspected,” said Lydia.
“Precisely,” said Lucilla. “Your father has written to your cousin to apprise him that his wife is in an interesting condition, so hopefully he will call the wager off, but you never know.”
“So we have to be careful until we hear that the man has been arrested,” said Georgiana. “It’s a nuisance, but it is not as if there was anything going on, like a fair, and the weather is still cold.”
“Which is fortuitous,” said Jessica. “Though I should like to go for a ride.”
“I am sure it will not be long,” said Lucilla, firmly. “In the meantime, you girls had better help me to compose a letter to the papers advertising for a governess, because we need to decide what you need.”
“One as good as you,” said Lydia.
“That is not necessarily much help,” laughed Lucilla. “A governess proficient in French and Italian, able to teach geography with globes, ready to encourage debate on current affairs, music and dancing an advantage. Or should we consider a visiting dancing master?”
“Having a dancing master and being used to him would make dancing with men less scary and embarrassing,” said Georgiana.
“Very well, music an advantage, you are all good girls and practice your scales, but I do not think we shall be expecting you to secure husbands on musical accomplishments. Rather, we shall hope to find men who are happy to accept your intelligence and vivacity, without being scared off by it.”
Georgiana giggled.
“Lydia is a blue stocking, but I should think there must be some men who consider it an advantage.”
“Indeed, there must,” said Lucilla, reflecting that her husband had begun to discuss politics with her at breakfast and seemed so far to like her holding opinions, even if they did not always agree with his.
“Papa likes us to be well-read, and he loves you, Mama Lucilla, so I should think I might be lucky,” said Lydia. Lucilla smiled warmly at her, deciding not to explain that the duke was on friendly terms with her, and enjoyed her physically, but that it could not be called ‘love’. His warm regard should be enough for any woman.
It was remarkably selfish to wish for more.
SubjectAuthorPosted

Lucilla, 1-3

Sarah WaldockApril 13, 2018 07:40PM

Re: Lucilla, 1-3

KarenteaApril 14, 2018 08:45PM

Re: Lucilla, 1-3

AlidaApril 14, 2018 12:22PM



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