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Daisy 13-15

May 13, 2018 07:25PM
Chapter 13

Daisy was excited about the ball. She had a ball gown ready for the occasion, a cream satin slip with an overgown of gold shot gauze, open from the bust, and scalloped at the neckline above the neckline of the satin under bodice. A line of golden foiled glass beads went all around the neck and followed the open line of the overdress two inches from the scalloped edges, to give the overgown weight. The sleeves were lightly puffed in the satin, and the gauze, with the same beads as trim making up Andalusian or Tudor sleeves. Daisy had added a gathered, elbow-length sleeve below the puff, which hid the marks of the whip on her upper arms from Roger Chattaway’s attack; ridiculing him was one thing, but Daisy had her pride.
Daisy hired a hairdresser; Moira made a good enough job of brushing and arranging her hair for daytime styles, but Daisy wanted her hair up in the latest style.
“Oh, Miss Margaret, sure and don’t you look foine!” declared Moira. “Mr. Nettleby won’t be certain whether he dares t’ touch ye at all or ef he wants t’kiss ye.”
Daisy laughed.
“I’d as soon he managed to moderate himself to somewhere between the two, to dance with me,” she said, wishing her heart would stay put when thinking about the idea of Julian kissing her.
Mr. Nettleby turned up on his horse, as Saunders would be driving him, Daisy, Amelia and Moira in style in the landau. Moira was all agog to see a fine building where she would meet expensive dressers, and learn a few tricks too, she hoped, in how to look after her lady. She had her sewing hussif with her, and plenty of pins, since the usual need a lady had of her maid, Daisy had explained, was to pin back on flounces which had torn off, or mend rents in dresses.
“Begorrah! Why, doesn’t it sound more loike a free-fer-all than a dance, how can ye get yer gown torn dancing?” asked Moira.
“Because a lot of people are clumsy oafs and stand on a lady’s flounce so that it rips, and it’s why a flounce is sewn on with fewer, larger stitches than making the body of the dress,” said Daisy. “Not only is it easier to take off if styles change, to make over a gown, but also it means a flounce tears off when some addlepated subaltern with three left feet stands on the back of a gown, rather than ripping at the waist, or even in the middle of the cloth, and displaying a lady’s charms more fully than she could wish. It’s why my overgown is attached lightly at the back. The stitches will tear, hopefully, before the fabric, if I am so unfortunate as to be stumbled over by some oaf.”
“Sure, and aren’t ladies jest heroic to put up with sich shenanigans,” said Moira, big eyed.
“Oh, the ones who can dance make up for it,” said Daisy. “And Mr. Nettleby can dance.
Mr. Nettleby came in on the end of that conversation. He was clad in sober black, with black stockings as well, but with a snowy white cravat. His waistcoat was black, with a fine stripe of embroidered forget-me-nots and daisies.
“Educating Moira in the iniquities of some people who think they can dance?” he said. “As Miss Ellis says, Moira, I can dance. I would hope the military men can do so too, as General Wellesley sets great store by it, since it keeps them nimble. It’ll be the visiting gentry you want to look out for.”
“I will,” said Daisy. “It always struck me as most unfair that the squire and his girls laughed about my clumsy gait, when they were quite unhandy on the dance floor. Which should be unfooty, but it doesn’t work.”
“Oh, you invent words if you want, Daisy, I shan’t complain,” said Julian. “I know it’s bad form to compliment a lady, as if suggesting there are times when she is not in good looks, but I am sure you know how fine you look.”
“So long as you aren’t afraid to dance with me as Moira suggested,” said Daisy.
“I’ll be proud to be seen standing up with you,” said Julian.
“And I you,” said Daisy. “How very clever of you to choose to be a sober but stylish figure in very unmilitary garb. The waistcoat is a little bit contumelious however,” she added.
“I know, but as you are Miss Margaret Ellis to everyone who does not know you as ‘Daisy’, I thought if you forgave me for it, I would get away with it.”
“You are a bold rogue, sir,” said Daisy, sternly.
“Guilty as charged, m’lud,” said Julian. “I saw the fabric for this and couldn’t resist.”
“So long as you are aware I know you as a bad man,” said Daisy. “Shall we go?”

“So glad you could come!” Captain Smith was effusive. “I hope I might beg a dance with you later?”
“I will keep you one free,” said Daisy. “Though I’ve earmarked Mr. Nettleby for any cotillion or quadrille.”
“We still dance the cotillion, not the new-fangled watered down version of it,” said Smith. “If he has one, may I have the other?”
“Certainly; I know all regular officers are required to be good dancers, and as Artillery promotes on merit, I don’t need to fear your memory of the figures,” said Daisy.
“I tell you what, Miss Ellis, I’ll see if I can’t put together a six for both which will be more capable than usual,” said Smith.
“How delightful! I am used to dancing with my well-drilled schoolfellows, with the services of relatives and the like, like Mr. Nettleby, so I confess, I was nervous with regards to a public dance.”
“Never fear, Miss Ellis, you will be pleasantly surprised,” said Smith, smiling more kindly on Julian. They moved on into the ballroom.
“You implied I was a relative of yours,” said Julian.
“Or of one of my school friends,” said Daisy. “Really, do you think I want to spend my first ball with a potentially amusing partner glowering at my probable intended? It would be most uncomfortable. If he thinks you are doing duty to a sister’s friend, he’ll relax and I will have more fun. I don’t see why you are bothered, it’s no more manipulative than you can be.”
Julian laughed.
“Well, when you put it like that, Daisy, I cannot but admire your cleverness. Especially when you say I am your probable intended.”
“Which is most improper of you, Margaret,” said Amelia.
“Well, Julian knows I am exceedingly fond of him, and am only waiting to check whether my feelings are just those of a little girl with a tendre, or a woman in love,” said Daisy. “I’m cautious. However, unless someone manages to surpass the high standard Julian has set in my mind for a beau, or unless he manages to do something to give me a sudden disgust of him, really, Amelia, you may take it that he is my intended. And of course, he might fall in love,” she added.
“I did that, I think, when a little girl asked if my horses were hurt,” said Julian. “It just took me a while to realise it.”
“And part of my caution is because you are very good at saying pretty things,” said Daisy.
“And because I was part of the plot to pursue Miss Fairbrother,” said Julian.
“Although, to be honest, you were so uncomfortable in the role of a dissembler, it is a point in your favour,” said Daisy. “And you were invariably nice to us older ones and to the little ones, rather than ignoring the children as a whole like your most inadequate friends did.”
“I’m still in touch with Sin and Abby,” said Julian. “Sin has grown out of being such an awful fop, and has managed to pay off his tailor, because his father got wind of what we had tried to do and rusticated him, and made him help with the harvest in labourer’s clothing, which was worse than doing the work for poor Sin. But it gave him the sort of muscles that fill clothing nicely without having to go to excess to hide drooping shoulders. Abby, I fear, is still a gamester, so I am reducing my acquaintance with him. I don’t want him trying to hang on your sleeve.”
“I shall, however, be pleased to receive Mr. St.Clair Wincanton,” said Daisy.
“It’s odd, isn’t it,” said Julian. “I made friends first with Ned, for my own protection, and he’s the one I was first ready to lose as a friend. Abby attracted me for his witty tongue, and Sin was more or less a friend on sufferance because he begged to join our gang against bullies. And yet he’s the one who has turned out rather decent.”
“Perhaps he appreciates the help he had and is willing to be a friend to have a friend,” said Daisy.
“You are always so very profound, Daisy,” said Julian.
“I think that’s the influence of Miss Freemantle and Dr. and Mrs. Macfarlane, more than the classics,” said Daisy.
“I wouldn’t disagree,” said Julian, cheerfully. “Ah, they are striking up the band; will you have the first dance with me as well as a cotillion?”
“Certainly, Julian, but no others,” said Daisy.
Julian was most impressed by how much stronger Daisy’s foot was, permitting her to dance without any sign that he could see that she had any disability. And if he could not see it, then nobody who did not know she had a club foot would see it. He led her back to her seat, pleased to see her flushed with the exercise, her eyes sparkling.
“Thank you, Julian. Now go and do your duty with other ladies,” said Daisy. Julian smiled ruefully and went to do so. If he refused to dance with anyone but Daisy it would draw comment and reflect badly on her as well as on him.
Captain Wrenn had come to speak with Amelia.
“Oh, Margaret, dear, Captain Wrenn is not dancing with me, of course, I explained that was quite ineligible,” said Amelia.
“Why, Amelia, I believe I might sit the second dance out, so I might meet all the young men who are coming to be introduced to me; Captain Smith will introduce them, and then he is owed the third dance,” said Daisy.
“Excellent young lady,” said Captain Wrenn, leading Amelia firmly onto the dance floor against all her protests. Captain Smith, who had come to join Daisy to ask for a dance, raised an eyebrow.
“Unconventional,” he said.
“The Artillery doesn’t suddenly bow to convention, does it?” said Daisy. “Now, Captain, introduce to me this selection of potential partners for the evening, and then you may secure me for the next dance. I am looking forward to dancing with as many people as possible.”
Daisy had a queue of young men waiting to be introduced to her, militia and artillery officers as well as civilians, and Smith laughed, and performed introductions. As she had also promised him a cotillion, this almost counted as sitting out a third dance with Miss Ellis. Or it might have done if she did not laugh and chat readily with all the young men with impartial good humour. ssss
Daisy had danced three dances before she found that a pair of young ladies had simpered their way towards her.
She immediately knew who they were.
Rosalie and Lily Daventry were the daughters of the squire from the village where Daisy was born.
Anger blazed briefly; had they come to try to put her down? They would have a tough job, their gowns were not as fine as hers, and neither of them was as pretty. Rosalie might be fashionably dark, but her face already had signs of discontent on it. Lily, with nondescript light brown hair was now actually prettier than her sister, wearing an air of honest enjoyment of the ball. Suddenly Daisy realised that they had not even recognised her; that seeing her club foot as something which defined her had blinded them to her appearance.
More fool them.
“Miss Daventry, Miss Lily Daventry, what did you want of me?” asked Daisy, neutrally.
“You know our names?” gasped Lily. “Why ... but surely you are not Daisy? You are so graceful!”
“I go by the name ‘Margaret’ now I am out of my childhood,” said Daisy. “Yes, I am Margaret Ellis, and the doctor of my school has been able to cure my game foot. I am just as agile as anyone now.”
This might not be quite true, but Daisy had no intention of admitting to a weakness.
“Oh, I am glad, I was quite terrified of you when you were a cripple,” blurted out Lily.
“Terrified? Why? And why would that make you so infernally rude as you were?” asked Daisy.
“Why ... disability is frightening. One is so glad it hasn’t happened to oneself, one does not wish to think about it or see it,” said Lily.
Daisy frowned briefly in thought.
“I see,” she said. “I wish you had been honest with me about it, I would have written to you about Dr. Macfarlane’s cure, and we might have even been friends.”
“Oh, may I be your friend now? You know so much,” gushed Lily.
Rosalie scowled. It folded her face in a way that reminded Daisy of a much-read letter falling back into familiar folds.
“Lily, don’t be a fool, little Daisy Ellis is a vindictive type, she will trifle with you and then humiliate you,” she said. “I’m wondering who paid for that fine gown.”
Daisy smiled.
“Why, my father’s diamond mine paid for it,” she said. “You surely were not thinking of saying anything slanderous, were you, Rosalie? I would not want my solicitor to have to write to your father about a dirty tongue.”
“Diamond mine?” Rosalie was outraged.
“You have not spoken, then, to ... no of course, your father is a gentleman, he would have nothing to do with someone who tried to defraud Bow Street to abduct an heiress, wise of you to have nothing to do with Augustus Bennett.”
“Why, it is Augustus Bennett who has accompanied us here to Brighton, for Papa to take to the sea,” said Lily. “What can you mean about him defrauding Bow Street and abducting an heiress?”
“Why, he wrote to Bow Street, claiming to be my guardian and asking them to return me to him, ignoring the fact that I have a grandmother,” said Daisy. “You see, he planned to marry me out of hand to get his hands on my fortune. A nasty little man, and I do wonder whether he decided to accompany you because Mr. Hobson carelessly let him know where I was going to be.”
“Why, his decision was sudden,” said Lily.
Rosalie frowned again.
“You silly child, he wanted to accompany me, of course,” she said.
“Well, I hope so,” said Daisy. “I am sure you would suit each other very well.”
It took a while for that to sink in, and then Rosalie looked furious.
“Miss Ellis! Came to see if you needed anything,” said Julian. “That Chattaway fellow is here, and I’m avoiding him. Bad form to one’s hosts to knock one of their guests down.”
“Why don’t you take Miss Lily Daventry onto the dance floor? We knew each other before I went to school, and she is a silly girl but I think not the spiteful creature I used to think her,” said Daisy.
“Daisy, has anyone ever told you that you are not supposed to give a scathing and pithy account of the ladies you introduce?” said Julian.
“I am being the soul of tact; I have said nothing at all about Rosalie,” said Daisy, indignantly.
“Oh, Margaret,” sighed Amelia.

Chapter 14

“What do you mean by that?” Rosalie scowled at Daisy. Daisy replied in quiet tones, so as not to let the knot of admiring young men hear anything.
“Why, I am learning discretion and reticence as I grow older. Therefore I did not inform Mr. Nettleby anything about my opinion of you, since it is thoroughly opprobrious, and my preceptresses waged a valiant battle over my tendency to express my unvarnished opinion on people I do not like. Especially as I could think of a number of Latin tags which are not even fit for polite company. I was hoping we might pretend not to loath each other and behave in a civilised fashion, but I’m not sure if you are civilised, if you obliquely try to imply that I earned my gown on my back.”
Rosalie gave a spiteful little titter.
“What else is one to think? I always assumed you would become a whore, since you know unsavoury stories in Latin and you can’t, or couldn’t, earn a living which needed standing.”
“What a thoroughly nasty mind you have, to be sure, to make such assumptions of someone purely because you are jealous of them,” said Daisy.
“You are just a jumped-up little shop girl! Your father was in the John company, and you weren’t fit to associate with us, whatever airs your grandmother gave herself, what else can paupers do? You went to a school for paupers! I don’t believe in this diamond mine!”
Daisy laughed.
“You do show your ill breeding, you know. As of my breeding, My mother is the daughter of a vicar who was the fourth son of a baron, and my father’s people were gentry generations before your great grandfather bought the manor with the money he made making buttons in Birmingham. My father chose to go into the John Company as much because he found India thrilling as for any other reason, and because he enjoyed speculating. Mistress Pot, Miss Kettle calls you on your gentility. I am, however, a shop owner, and being considerably cleverer than you, have paid off the loan which got me started and bring in an easy competence even without my inheritance.”
“You admit to stinking of shop then!”
“Oh yes, I have no quarrel with that. However, if you repeat to anyone that you think I am a woman of easy virtue, you will find that your father is facing a law suit on your behalf for slander, since the very real diamond mine means that I can pursue him to ruination if I feel like it. Ruat justicia, fiat coelorum.”
“I don’t know what that means; something filthy, I suppose!”
“Dear me, Rosalie, you suppose an awful lot, don’t you? I don’t know why, as you have so little to suppose with. Excuse me,” Daisy beckoned over one of the young men politely waiting for an introduction.
“Sir, have you any Latin?” she asked.
“Well, enough to get through my degree at Cambridge,” said the youth.
“Good; perhaps you would be pleased to translate for Miss Daventry Ruat justicia fiat coelorum.”
“Oh, an easy one,” said the young man, looking relieved. “It means ‘let justice be done though the heavens fall.’”
“You’re lying! It’s something filthy and you’re her paramour and she told you to lie!” said Rosalie.
The young man’s eyes went flinty.
“Madam, I have met neither you nor this other young lady before this very hour, and I would suggest you are careful about what you say.”
“Unfortunately for Rosalie, her imagination is too inadequate to consider anything outside her own, limited, experience,” said Daisy, smiling sweetly.
It was probably a waste of time; Rosalie would probably miss the implication that all she could imagine a girl doing was being a whore for being one herself, but the young man picked up some of the implication and winced. He had not heard the discussion conducted in low voices between the girls, but the tone Miss Daventry had used with the word ‘paramour’ had been suggestively spiteful.
He intended to warn his fellow officers and their drinking cronies about the Daventry wench.
And then Rosalie, seeing his look, managed to interpret Daisy’s words.
She slapped Daisy, hard.
“Oh, you did get it,” said Daisy. “I am glad; there’s no fun in insulting someone when the recipient of the insult is too stupid to realise they’ve been insulted. However, now we have proof of the argument about which of us is the more genteel, for I refrained from slapping you when you made a broader insinuation earlier, because I’m too nicely brought up to slap anyone, even a filthy-tongued slanderous creature like you who has the manner of a low tavern-wench. Would you like to slap the other cheek too, to really display your vulgarity?” she presented the other cheek to Rosalie, who ground her teeth.
The squire had come over to see what was going on, with another, younger man in tow, who looked like some specie of yeoman.
“Who are you and how dare you speak like that to my daughter?” he bellowed.
“Squire Daventry, please don’t make me into a liar when I said that you are a gentleman,” said Daisy. “You know very well who I am, as you have brought the fortune-hunter Bennett to Brighton with you on pretence of accompanying you to bathe. I think you should explain to your older daughter that accusing people who inherit a fortune of being a ... woman of a certain type, and in direct language too, without ascertaining her erroneous belief that the said inheritance is a lie, is something worthy of litigation. And you, of course, are liable for your underage daughter’s slanders.”
“Miss Daisy Ellis! But damn it girl, you ain’t limping, how was I supposed to recognise you?”
“Funnily enough, Mr. Daventry, I find it easy enough to recognise people by their faces, I do not look for disabilities in them as a means of recognition. I find it most strange that you recognise young girls by peering at their ankles.”
The squire went red.
“How you take people up on things!” he said. “I didn’t mean it like that! Very glad you are free of the affliction, obviously! Wasn’t expecting to find you dancing, well, wasn’t expecting to find you at all, thought you were at school!”
Absently Daisy nicknamed him ‘Howitzer’ as he fired forth shells of conversation quite explosively.
“I am out, and enjoying my inheritance, as anyone might, in company with my grandmother, who does not attend balls, and my chaperone, who has overheard your daughter’s slander.”
“Indeed, Squire Daventry,” said Amelia. “I know Margaret can be a little acerbic at times, but your daughter was quite out of line, making quite filthy insinuations, and indeed outright calling her a word I would not wish to repeat, for the thought of it makes me blush! She also insulted a young gentleman whom Margaret picked at random to translate a Latin tag, for Margaret is fond of her Latin, as I’m sure you know! But even I know that ruat justiciam fiat caelorum is not improper, for I’ve seen it on the court houses.”
“Well, even I know that means ‘so justice be served under the heavens’,” said the squire, “or something similar, anyway. Rosalie, why on earth would you think that was improper?”
“Because she said she could think of Latin phrases which were not fit for polite company!” cried Rosalie.
“Thinking isn’t saying,” said Daisy. “I said I had enough discretion not to pass my opinion on you because I was being tactful. I trust you will be speaking to Rosalie, or I will have to speak to my solicitor.”
“You will receive a full written apology from her,” said the Squire, embarrassed. “We will be leaving now. You have to understand, she has no mother, and I have not been able to bring her up as well as I should have done.”
“If you didn’t let her bamboozle you into getting rid of governesses, she might have had a better upbringing,” said Daisy.
“You wretched charity-school cripple! You always looked down your nose at us, as if you were better than we, and you never were, you couldn’t do anything except learn filth from those musty old books at the vicarage!” screeched Rosalie.
“A question,” said Daisy, cocking her head on one side, ignoring the red hand mark on her cheek. “As you have no Latin, how can you be so certain they were filth?”
“Because you read it!” cried Rosalie.
“A circular argument, devoid of deductive or even inductive reasoning,” said Daisy.
“Rosalie! Get your pelisse! We are leaving before you embarrass me any further, and when we get home you will go into my study where we will discuss your behaviour!” roared the squire.
“Yes, indeed,” said the young man behind him. “And, Daisy, my dear, you will also be coming back with me, so naughty of you to run away from your guardian like that.”
“Don’t be a fool, Bennett,” said the squire. “She ain’t run away from her guardian, stand to reason Mrs. Ellis don’t visit balls, Daisy has a perfectly good chaperone in lieu of her grandmother, and why should she go anywhere with you?”
Daisy got her first good look at the cousin who had inherited the house she had grown up in. He was a sour-looking individual with prominent pock marks, and a purple hue to his nose which suggested too much imbibing of hard liquor. He was smiling ingratiatingly. It did not reach his rather narrow eyes.
“But my dear squire, Daisy is my ward, I am her nearest living male relative, so her grandmother has no claim,” said Bennett, unctuously.
“Stuff and nonsense; a grandmother trumps some distant cousin any day. Bennett, my Latin might not be up to snuff, but I do know the law. Stands to reason; I’m the magistrate, so stop that nonsense.”
“He tried to defraud Bow Street by setting a Runner on me,” said Daisy. “It’s called trying to abduct an heiress. Don’t do it again, Bennett, I am not alone and helpless.”
“Is that why you attached yourself to my party, you oleaginous little jackanapes?” demanded the squire. “Pursuing poor Daisy and trying to make me, a magistrate, party to an abduction?”
“I ... It is my understanding of the law that I have the claim on Daisy as my ward,” said Bennett.
“Then you didn’t listen very well to Bow Street Officer Hobson when he informed you that you had no case to answer, did you?” said Daisy. “I understand he also returned the fee since your case was not a true one.”
“And as he’d been run about, he’d have been within his rights to keep it,” said the squire. “Where’s Lily?”
“Here, papa,” said Lily Daventry. “Has Rosalie been telling lies again? I want to go home, I hate it when people look at me as though I spread spiteful gossip, too.”
“We are leaving,” said the squire.
Julian raised an eyebrow at Daisy.
“I didn’t start it,” said Daisy.
“Oh well, if she makes herself unmarriageable by screeching nonsense like a fishwife, she can settle for Roger Chattaway,” said Julian, cheerfully. “He’s already fled from the gossip.”
“I must give Minny a bonus,” said Daisy. “That oily looking yeoman farmer type with the squire is Augustus Bennett. If you see him, and can plant him a facer, I won’t be complaining.”
“It wouldn’t harm his looks, anywise,” said Julian. “No wonder he has to abduct girls with a phiz like that.”
“Julian, I couldn’t have put it better myself,” said Daisy.

The cotillions were fun to dance; true to his word, Captain Smith had managed to find three other people for each, who would make a six, who were sufficiently accomplished dancers. As one of them was his sister, she joked that at least she would dance with two men who were not related to her. The other two were a local militia captain and his wife, who greeted Daisy and Julian warmly.
“We will be considering entertainments in our own house,” said Mrs. Keynes, the captain’s wife. “It is always nice to meet convivial new people.”
“Indeed, which is why I have come to Brighton, to meet new people,” said Daisy.
“I see you met people you know whom you would rather not have met,” said Mrs. Keynes.
“Squire Daventry is a gentleman, and Lily Daventry is merely frightened of disability; when they last knew me, I had a condition which made it hard for me to walk,” said Daisy. “I fear, however, that Rosalie Daventry does not live up to her position in life.”
“I could see that,” said Mrs. Keynes. “A very unpleasant young woman.”
“She’s just a fool,” shrugged Daisy. “She hates me because I did lessons with her and Lily for a short while, and Rosalie is older than I am, and I did better at my lessons, and her governess praised me. That was the first governess she got rid of, and obviously the lessons ceased, and the next governess did not want to teach a poor little cripple because she had a horror of the retarded. Rosalie encouraged her to assume I was a drooling idiot because I had a club foot. I saw her face when I read a lesson for the vicar, she was shocked that I could read clearly and fluently and with feeling. I believe she left soon after that. I had already asked the vicar for lessons, so I was no longer dependent on the charity of the squire and the machinations of Rosalie. She took every opportunity to insult me after that, and egged on Lily to do so too. She was just jealous, and if she cannot grow past that, and enjoy whatever accomplishments she has which are her own, other than emulating a Billingsgate fish wife, then it is her loss. I have no interest in her. I have realised how shallow she is, and how much to be pitied, and I will not waste my time worrying about her.” She smiled brightly.
It would probably get back to Rosalie that the woman she had insulted pitied her.
And that meant that Daisy need not be concerned about the horrid girl ever again, for she had heaped coals of fire on her head.
The cotillion Daisy had promised to Julian was the supper dance, and he led her in to supper.
“Daisy, how can you turn passive acts like turning the other cheek and pitying someone into acts of moral aggression?” he asked.
Daisy beamed at him.
“Practice,” she said.
Julian laughed.
“Well, you won’t have to worry about that Friday faced cousin of yours trying to get guardianship of you again, not after having been slapped down in public by a magistrate,” he said.
“I confess it is a bonus. The squire should have done more to stop his daughters being unpleasant but at least he knows his law and isn’t afraid to speak up about it,” said Daisy. “Julian, would you be disappointed to see me home after supper?”
“Of course not; I am at your disposal,” said Julian. “Though I’m surprised to see the indomitable Daisy showing signs of sensibility, even over that unpleasant scene.”
“Sensibility be damned,” said Daisy. “My foot hurts abominably and walking without a limp so nobody notices sets it on fire. I could have done with a dance to sit out between the two cotillion sets.”
“I’ll ask Amelia to send Moira out for the carriage right after supper,” said Julian.
“I hope they fed her,” said Daisy.
“I doubt it,” said Julian.
“That’s not good enough,” said Daisy, snagging a bread roll and stuffing it full of meat. “If I make like I’m asking you to procure me something, can you slip out to the cloakroom and slip her this?”
“My lady, I am at your command,” said Julian, wrapping the filled roll in his handkerchief and managing to conceal it with remarkable facility. “Learned food thievery at school; once learned, never forgotten.”
It might be said that if Moira had not already liked Mr. Nettleby, she became his most partisan supporter from this point.

Chapter 15

Monday morning brought a letter for Daisy.

“Swanlea Court School for impoverished gentlewomen
June 12th 1810

My very dear Daisy,

I know you are Margaret, now, but I fear you will always be our dearest Daisy to your preceptresses! I am writing to you as to all our biggest girls with a budget of news, though yours has a little more in it.
I will be tempering sad news with good, and I thought to get the sad news out of the way first.
Mr. Everard slipped quietly out of life Thursday las. His son tells me that one of his last thoughts was of you, for you have ever been a favourite of his, as dear Mrs. Macfarlane has always been, as well. He said ‘tell Daisy I’ve drawn her up a contract all right and tight for when she gets wed to her rogue, you look after her interests, John.’ John Everard is Mr. Everard’s heir, and he has agreed to take on your finances though he does not feel equal to instruct the pupils at Swanley Court, which is a nuisance, but I suppose the poor man must make his own living as well as a stockbroker. “

“Oh no!” cried Daisy.
“What is wrong?” asked Amelia.
Mrs. Ellis looked up sharply.
“Bad news?”
Daisy blew her nose hard, and dabbed at her eyes.
“Mr. Everard has died,” she said. “He taught me all I needed to know to set up my millinery shop and helped me do so. And he has left a watertight marriage contract for me with his son for when I wed, which will have to go to Mr. Embury as my solicitor, but Mr. Everard understands – understood – every last nuance of finance law.”
“You are upset about a financial advisor?” Amelia was confused. Daisy rounded on her.
“He was family, like my preceptresses and the doctor!” she snapped.
“Daisy, Amelia does not really understand how close you are to the school,” said Mrs. Ellis. “How can she understand? She has not been in your situation.”
“Indeed, I did two years in a school for gentlewomen and was very glad to shake the dust of it from my feet,” said Amelia.
“Oh, Amelia, I am sorry, Emma, one of my schoolfriends, went to a horrid school for a while. Swanley Court is there for orphans, to give them a second family, and it really is a second family. I have been so happy there, and Mr. Everard came to teach and guide us, like a special uncle,” said Daisy.
“I see, I did not understand,” said Amelia.
“I was a beast to snap,” said Daisy, embracing Amelia, who hugged her back.
She went back to her letter.

“The good news on top of that sad piece of intelligence is that Mrs. Macfarlane has been brought to bed some weeks early of a fine boy, who arrived in a hurry and protesting at the top of his lungs about it, so nothing much wrong there. He is to be named ‘Fairbrother’ for best, but bears the middle name ‘Thomas’ for everyday, after Mr. Everard. Mrs. Macfarlane decided to use her maiden name for a first son, as is custom, especially being the last of her family but it is not a good name to shout.

With regards to babies in general, Ruth and Naomi are doing better than ever I expected, and so you may tell their mother, your maid. The doctor says they had trouble sucking for having cleft palates, and put them onto oatmeal at three weeks old, which seems shockingly early, but he said “Havers, wumman, ye cannae gae wrong wi’ guid Scots parrage.”

Daisy laughed, a little shakily.
“Now that has done me good, to have Miss Freemantle quote the doctor at his most Scots,” she said. “Nancy will be delighted that her daughters have survived against all the odds and are doing well.”
“They might not survive long,” warned Mrs. Ellis. “You were the third child and two came after you as well, and your older sister was two when she died. Both your brothers were stillborn.”
“I did not know I had siblings,” said Daisy, shocked.
“Babies die,” said Mrs. Ellis.
“I suspect the doctor will be ‘sair affrontit’ if any he takes an interest in should do so,” said Daisy. “He’s unconventional, but we’ve all thrived in his care. I wager, if he can get them to three months old, he’ll see them grow up.”
“Do not encourage Nancy to hope too much, that is all.”
“I don’t see why she should not, grandmamma; hope is what lifts the human spirit. And who knows but that her hope and prayers will not help?”
“It will hurt her more if they take a turn for the worse,” said Mrs. Ellis.
Daisy beamed at her.
“I think it’s against Dr. Macfarlane’s rules to permit his patients to do anything like that, and none of us dare break the doctor’s rules,” she said.
Mrs. Ellis murmured something about tempting providence, but Daisy was not listening; she read on.

“The other baby, Will, is a well-developed lad, and Dr. and Mrs. Macfarlane have asked Mrs. Brent to rear him as her son, with the likelihood that he will be Tom’s man one day. You recall we hired on Mrs. Brent as a nursery maid, at Mrs. Ashley’s recommendation, she having lost her own children, and she is pleased to have a boy she may call her own. Your maid, Nellie, had already told us that she was happy for him to be adopted, so everyone may be pleased by the outcome.

Daisy, my dear, I do not know how much Emma Spink told you about the school she attended before coming to Swanley Court, but the conditions there were sufficiently shocking that the doctor went poking about. He encouraged the Spinks to sue the owner for damages, and being wealthy, and Emma being an heiress, they were encouraged to settle out of court, leaving the school in a precarious financial situation, which is what he and Mrs. Macfarlane intended, for they have bought the school out wholesale, and the building too, so that it cannot be re-used by the former owner as a school. Indeed, she needed the money to settle with the Spinks’ claim, and is reduced to living in a small apartment. It might be reprehensible to deliberately ruin someone, but you know how the doctor is if anyone is mistreating children. Indeed, I applauded his efforts.
As a result, we have eight new pupils, if you please, the total number of pupils there, and it puzzles me how a pair of sisters can so mismanage things as to starve just eight girls at a time, and reduce them to miserable unhealthy little scraps of humanity. I know you and your curiosity, so I will tell you something about them.
JuliaSpencer is the oldest, being of an age with Emma. Did Emma tell you about her? She has essentially been disowned by her mother, though the doctor took great delight in knocking down her stepfather when he paid a visit, and the good doctor caught him trying to interfere with Hermione Driscoll, who was petrified. I would not have thought the doctor would have had to intervene had he attempted anything with either the twins or Kitty Walker, but Hermione is such a gentle child. And as well he did not see poor Frances. The doctor had Bow Street on him for attempted debauching of a minor. We shall see how Abigail’s mother likes finding out that it was her husband who was the despoiler, not her daughter, stupid woman.”

“My goodness!” said Daisy. Emma had asked Daisy’s advice when she had come to Swanley Court, as well as having spoken to Marianne Tempest about the matter. Hester’s widowed mother had remarried when Juliawas about twelve, and the girl’s stepfather had forced himself on the child. When Hester’s mother caught them at it, she punished her daughter for seducing her husband, something Daisy had been more shocked to hear than the iniquities of the stepfather.

“The poor child was so amazed to be treated kindly she asked me if she had died and gone to heaven. She is our new bluestocking in the making, and absorbs any knowledge like a sponge. We are more concerned about Penelope Belfield, who is a few months younger than Hester. She is a delicate child, currently almost colourless. Her hair is even paler than Hermione’s, and the doctor considered that if she had been in the other school a month more she would have died of malnutrition. He has put her on a course of iron water, and we may send her to you in Brighton, my dear, for the sea water, but only if she can be brought to be stout enough to travel. She has a bad stutter, which has only been made worse by the harsh treatment, and her idiotic aunt and uncle sent her to a school which advertises itself as a school of discipline to punish her to get rid of the stutter, which any preceptress worth her salt knows is the worst way to approach curing such an affliction. It came upon her when her parents died, and her aunt and uncle expect her to overcome it so she may become a governess so they do not have to support her. The doctor induced them to sign away her guardianship to him.”

“I wager he did,” muttered Daisy. The doctor, when roused, was a force to be reckoned with.

“Next in age is Barbara Ainsworth, she is the same age as Eliza and even wilder, I think. She is horse mad, and was sent to a school for discipline by her father, when she rode a horse she had been forbidden to ride, was almost thrown and came close to ruining its mouth. I do not want to encourage her to be too close to Eliza, as I think they will be bad for each other, so I have placed Barbara firmly under Philippa’s care. You know Philippa’s first care is always for the animals, so when Barbara found another horse-mad girl and told Philippa of her triumph in riding the beast, Philippa rang such a peal over the wretched girl which I hope and believe has taken better than the anger of her father and the harshness of the other school’s regime. Sometimes the opinions of one’s peers is a greater disciplinary measure than anything a preceptress may do. I have placed Eliza, meanwhile, into Felicity’s care to turn into a lady rather than being the little boy that she has been raised by her idiot father. It keeps Felicity from being jealous of her twin, too. As to Mr. Ainsworth, the doctor spoke to him in Scots and he meekly agreed to leave his daughter with us.
The doctor spoke in similar vein to two other fathers who lost their tempers with spoilt daughters.
Augusta Crookshank, apart from the affliction of her name, is a poet. She is not as good a poet as she thinks she is, but she does have talent which may be nurtured. However, she tried to get a book of her poems published, and the publisher she approached, being a responsible man, took her home to her parents to tell them of her iniquities. Her father wants her to grow up not to be an ‘affected little ninnyhammer’ but he was horrified that she had several untreated broken fingers for having been beaten harshly on the knuckles if caught writing poetry as well as by that awful piano teacher. (I am sure you remember the state of Emma’s poor hands when she came to us, and she is musical, which poor Augusta is not.) She is to learn poetry as part of her lessons and as an avocation as well as being taught to have fun in other respects. A thirteen year old girl who speaks as though she is middle aged is in need of help. She was reared by grandparents and an elderly governess whilst her parents were abroad, and dear Daisy, I know you appreciate the difficulties of relating to others your own age when taught by someone erudite and pedantic as you were; but at least you also read what one might describe as friskier Latin and Greek texts, and were not out of reason pompous.
I am skipping one girl the same age as Augusta to tell you about Georgiana Throgmorton. She is the child of an industrialist, I believe he is involved in canal works, and he has spoilt his golden-haired princess. Georgiana has much about her which reminds me of Emma Spink, and like Emma she is musical, so one might reach to her that way. Her father sent her away because the girl spoiled a business deal by having a temper tantrum in front of his potential business partner, and the temper runs in the family. However, he, too, was horrified at the way his daughter was treated. One wonders what goes through the heads of these men when reading that a school prides itself on discipline for difficult girls, when schools of the normal kind can often have quite harsh conditions.
Now I come to the last three. Anne, Amelia and Amanda Baswin are sisters, and range from strawberry blonde in the case of Amanda, who is just nine, through true red in Amelia, who is twelve, to auburn in Anne, who is thirteen. All three girls like to read, and are very pleasant girls with a tendency towards being bluestockings, especially Anne, who was wont to read to her father in the evenings before the idiotic fellow decided to remarry for the sake of his girls and became besotted of a woman scarcely older than they. The wretched besom refused to have stepdaughters in her household, especially not ‘unmarriageable’ ones who were both red and bluestockings, and their father caved in, and did not take any notice of the description of the school the new Mrs. Baswin chose. I personally believe Anne, or Nancy as she likes to be known, in saying that it was to punish her for the servants insisting on referring orders to ‘Miss Nancy’ as they did not like Mrs. Baswin.
I only hope Mr. Baswin realises his mistake before he loses their affection entirely, but I fear the man is too easily led by his trousers. And I know I might use such a vulgarity to you, my dear, without shocking you as I would shock some of your fellows, and it relieves my feelings about him to do so.
The only other news is that we must choose another governor in place of Mr. Everard, and we have had a Mr. Lucius Belvoir recommended by my uncle, the Bishop of Norchester. He is by way of being a horticulturalist as an avocation , which might prove interesting.
Hoping that you are keeping well, and are enjoying the seaside,
Your loving preceptress,
Elizabeth Freemantle.

Daisy 13-15

Sarah WaldockMay 13, 2018 07:25PM

Re: Daisy 13-15

ShaneeMay 13, 2018 10:11PM

Re: Hester/Julia

Sarah WaldockMay 13, 2018 10:59PM


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