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Libby 4-6

May 17, 2018 12:08PM
Chapter 4

Woodhill Hall
Hobbeshithe St Martin
July 3rd 1812

Dear Sir Henry,
Under due consideration and after consulting with my brother, I am going to let you know that I overheard Tom Brock and Michael Pole laughing over having switched signposts around in the South Elmhams, and if they had seemed distressed to hear how that may have led to the death of your lady wife and child, for which I also offer deep condolences, then I should not have been writing to you. However I think they feel no remorse as they were hoping to have someone end in a ditch.
I am not, I think, a coward, but with my brother away, I will be leaving forthwith, as I would not like to think what Brock and Pole seniors might do if it becomes known that I have ratted up their sons. In your shoes I’d pay someone to pick up Tom and Michael and leave them for the press-gang in Yarmouth rather than directly confront those families. Lucius suspects Pole senior of having murdered Widow Cubitt by burning her in her cottage for having thrashed Michael for stealing her apples.
Do not reply to me, as I shall be gone.
Yours sincerely,
Marcus Belvoir.

“Jed, if Lu thinks I am leaving our horses for Brock and Pole to hurt he has to have rats in his attic,” said Marcus Belvoir to his man of all work in the stable.
“Well they be-ant broke to carriage, Master Mark,” said Jed. “Not that your granfer’s owd carriage ood be good fer a long journey, nowise.”
“I thought we could ride,” said Marc.
“Yew du be the one with rats in the attic,” said Jed, with the familiarity of an old retainer. “Them ow’ hosses moight be stuffed with hay, but that do-ant make them the softer fer sittin’ on fer long.”
“Jed, I am more comfortable in the saddle than in a coach; you know I like to ride into Norchester even if Lucius takes the carriage.”
“Ar, but thass a long way off of roidin’ clear across the country to Richmond,” said Jed. “Yew know wass said about the east, they du say, ef Oi was yew, bor, Oi wouldn’t staart from here.”
“Well, that’s mostly Ipswich,” said Marc. “I thought we might cut across country on the huh, as you might say, and pick up the Great North Road around Bishop’s Stortford, and then skirt London via Windsor. We might even see some of the Royal Family.”
“Yew know foine well Master Lucius do-ant let yew use local expressions loike ‘on the huh’,” said Jed, sternly.
He would do what Master Marc wanted of course; he always had done since the crippled lad two years younger than him had insisted on fighting him. Game as they came, Master Marc! And as stubborn as old brocc, guarding his sett.

“Woodhill Hall
Hobbeshithe St Martin,
July 3rd

Dear Lu,
I have come up with a way to bring Jed with me. I trust Jed, we have been friends forever, and he knows my constitution and he recognises when I am tiring, and damn you for smiling complacently that I have to admit to it.”

“Oh, Marc, if only you knew,” murmured Lucius. “Not smiling complacently at all, just satisfied that you will be properly looked after.”
“Is your brother joining us?” asked Libby.
“Yes, he is, I trust you have no objection?”
“None at all; he is Graeme’s guest, and I have no objection to him sitting in on lessons with the older girls, and if he finds himself much more advanced, I will happily advance him a nominal wage to coach, so long as there is proper chaperonage”
“Please make it clear to him that you will insist on proper chaperonage, otherwise he is likely to take umbrage, and lose his temper and say things he does not mean, believing that you do not believe him capable of behaving improperly with a girl because of his disability.”
“It appears that the temper runs in the family. I would most certainly not believe a gentleman likely to behave improperly with any of the girls, but it is for his protection as well; I would be careful that the reputations of all should be protected.”
“You are right, we have a cursed nasty temper, the both of us, but unlike our father, it goes up and comes straight down. Neither of us has been known to hold a grudge,” said Lucius. “But he’s touchy about people making assumptions about him.”
Libby nodded.
“Poor little boy, I can understand that.”
“And do not ever call him a poor little boy!”
“Put that rising tone back under your tongue, Mr. Belvoir, I would never call him so to his face, no young man likes to be called a little boy. As to why I call him ‘poor’, I fancy my reasons are not those you assume.”
“Really? I would have thought you would pity a cripple.”
Libby laughed.
“How little you know me! I cut my eye teeth on making sure my first pupils, Elinor and her sister Arabella, were not allowed to wallow in self pity, and to find things they might enjoy, despite being said to have heart disease,” she said.
“Is Arabella also here?”
“Arabella died when she was thirteen. It seems likely that she was, like Elinor, misdiagnosed simply because heart disease was in the family, and that she died of inappropriate use of digitalis,” said Libby, with a bleak look in her eyes. “Elinor refused to take the medicine, and survived. Please don’t mention it to her, she is quite as capable as you of losing her temper if reminded in the wrong way. I tell you only to explain that I pity your brother not for his diseased hip but for the diseased minds of those surrounding him, which make much of his small physical deficiency.”
“I think he will enjoy himself here if that attitude prevails all the way down the school.”
“If it does not, there will be trouble,” said Libby. “I will tell the girls that he is coming, and that they are to be aware not to overtax him, but that as many of them know how capable Daisy can be, they should not wrap him in fine linen either. Has he left, or will you be able to write to him?”
Lucius scanned the letter.
“He says not to write,” he said.
“Ah, well, then I will make sure to be careful in how I speak to him; he will doubtless be prickly after a long journey. Daisy’s manners are atrocious when she is overtired.”
“Thank you for understanding that, and forgiving.”
“I will not let him speak out of turn, but I will permit more leeway before I consider it out of turn.”
Lucius nodded, and turned back to read the rest of his brother’s scrawl more carefully.
“Don’t bother to write to me, I will probably have left by the time you get this. Jed and I have worked out a route which will tax me as little as possible, and he is the only person besides you to whom I would admit needing such care, and we will take several days over the journey. I will be damned if I take the Ipswich road, local legends aside, Black Chuck and fairies would be the least of our worries on that road, if one may call it a road. Jed says that after you pass through Saxmundham, the road vanishes utterly in places, and I have no desire to be found wandering vaguely in the direction of Little Glemham crying ‘Ariadne, the thread, the thread!’. “
Lucius laughed at that. The boy was right, the Ipswich to Norwich road was a disgrace, although at least there was no need for a lighthouse in Norwich nowadays to guide travellers, as he had read that there had been, several hundred years before.
“We plan to strike west first, and then come south on a decent pike road, and it is most providential that you got the latest edition of Cary’s roads, with its excellent maps. We’ll pick up the Lowestoft to Bury cross-road , and from Bury St Edmunds there is a good road all the way to London, without having to go as far as the Great North Road, which I had thought we might need to do. We propose to skirt the northern edge of the metropolis rather than deal with the noise and bustle of the city, even if it means another day of travel. I am bringing the book with me to refer to, for although I have made a note of the inns we hope to use on that route, sometimes plans go awry.
I raided your strong box, by the way; I have no intention of leaving anything for Brock and Pole to steal. I’ve paid off Cocker for three months, in full, not board wages, and seen him on his way to his daughter in Yarmouth, Jed borrowed Rev. Pender’s gig to take him all the way, so you need feel no apprehension on his behalf. She will exploit him, of course, to have care of her numerous brats, but I have no doubt he will enjoy it. He was making noises about how the eldest girl would be ready to go into service if Master Lucius brought home a bride, but I told him you planned to breed by vegetative propagation . I added that if he put a gown on a fine vegetable marrow, we might come close. He called me a ‘ketty little tyke’, and was moved to quote something about man leaving his father and mother and becoming one flesh with a wife, which is Genesis I think and actually sounds rather disgusting, like that sheep-goat foetus we saw at the fair in Bury, though the thought of you becoming one with a tree and growing leaves was funny enough for me to sketch below, which will take the rest of the paper.
Your loving brother,

“He is a ketty little tyke,” said Lucius, laughing.
“What on earth is a ketty little tyke?” asked Libby.
“Ketty has some relation to carrion, and a tyke is a runt mongrel,” said Lucius. “My man of all work has some colourful local expressions, as well as a tendency to turn to the scriptures when he remembers he is a good Methodist. Here,” he showed her the letter with its sketch.
Libby laughed.
“He is very young, isn’t he?” she said.
“Too young for his age in some things and too old for it in others,” said Lucius. “It is a pity that the only local boys of our class nearby are rather unsteady characters, and with all the will in the world, he is unequal to the rigours of a normal school.”
“I will speak with Chisterley about him,” said Libby. “He has two older boys at the moment, besides Richard, but Richard is ... perpetually a little boy, inside his own head, and the older two are working to catch up for university. Of the younger ones, Tom and Harry are clever boys, they are Kitty’s brothers, and the oldest O’Toole boy is, according to Abigail something of a hellion, but good-natured enough. Brian O’Toole and Tom are twelve, and Harry ten, but Harry surpasses Brian at schoolwork, as does Tom though he does not consider himself academic. His main ambition is to be Chisterley’s chief groom. I suspect Chisterley will set him and Brian up in business breeding horses.”
“He sounds a generous man.”
“He has recouped a family fortune which was squandered away; he likes to offer a hand up, not a hand out, to others,” said Libby.
“I honour him then; I have clawed back a squandered family fortune myself, and it is not easy. Cocker is butler and housekeeper both, he and Jed were the only servants to stay with us when my father died and we found how things were. And I could not deprive Marc of his freedom by selling his riding horse, which meant I needed another for Jed or for me to ride with him, and I must have a pair to pull the carriage. I turned my avocation for horticulture to good use, and have been selling bulbs and roses for three years, and taking paid work to design and lay out gardens for others. I wager the landscaping here was done by ‘Capability’ Brown.”
“It was, I believe,” said Libby. “And you will not touch the front lawn, however much you may itch to do so, since the girls play ball games there, and may be watched discreetly whilst doing so, in order to intervene when quarrels get out of hand.”
“You don’t believe in the principle of ‘little birds in their nests agree,’ even though you hope to create a second family?”
“Oh, Mr. Belvoir, whatever gave you the idea that such a foolish aphorism has any truth in it?” said Libby. “Why, nestlings fight each other for the best food from their overworked parents, and of course a cuckoo in the nest kills all the others. Families never get on all the time, even if amicable most of the time. Girls, even more than boys, go through tremendous changes as they become women, and it would be wonderful if they did not feel sufficiently overcome by the sensibilities of such momentous occurrences and release pent-up emotion in a less than agreeable way at times.”
Lucius was startled.
“Once again, you surprise me with your wisdom,” he said. “Boys are certainly full of themselves one minute and terrified of being laughed at the next, I had not thought of the bodily changes being responsible. My goodness, what a conversation to have!”
“Oh, educators, like doctors, must cultivate some professional detachment in subjects which would not be fit for the average parlour conversation,” said Libby. “There is no point having some romantic idealised image of ‘the child’, whether educating ladies, gentlemen, or those destined for service. It is one of the matters I have against many asylums, that they make the children suppress their emotions and individuality, which to my mind is more likely to foster a slyness in a future servant, or a resentment which will emerge in an inappropriate manner, giving rise to the lurid stories of maid servants murdering all of her master’s family. And such stories lead to more repression. Permitting healthy outlets like sporting games is far healthier.”
“Ah, that explains much about the obsession with sport at public schools like Eton,” said Lucius.
“Exactly. Did you go there?”
“No, I went to Wolsey’s old school, the Ipswich School,” said Lucius. “It was on the old Blackfriars Monastery site in the middle of town, so the sports were a little cramped unless we went out of town. I escaped a thrashing for breaking the window of the Spread Eagle Inn when playing cricket, because the landlord said it was a magnificent stroke, and stood us all beer.”
“Fortunate,” said Libby.
“Your front lawn is safe from being landscaped; I’d have given a lot to have had such a splendid place to play,” said Lucius.

Chapter 5

`”Why are we staying at the ‘Greyhound’ in Bury, sir?” asked Jed “Ut be coaching inn, and dew ut ain’t buzzin’ loike a skep, Our’ll be whoolly surprised.” He dismounted from his horse, which gleamed with damp from a summer storm in which both young men had been caught on their journey to Bury St Edmunds.
“Because of that blasted thunderstorm,” Marc replied. “I’ve been shivering for hours and I’m afraid I may be laid up more than the one night, and do you want to wager that my brother doesn’t know which inns are coaching inns and wonders why I am in one which isn’t?”
“Ar, that be daft enough tu maerke some sense,” said Jed. “You’ll whoolly curse about the noise.”
“No I won’t Jed. I always planned to stay at the Greyhound anyway, in case we ran into anyone we know. And that’s why we set out today, it being Friday. There won’t be any arrivals from London until six of the evening tomorrow, and then it’ll be clear until Monday evening. Anyone travelling at the weekend is likely going to be trying to get home before the Sabbath, so I doubt they will trouble us much. Besides, most people taking the stagecoach on that road will be heading for Newmarket, so they’ll have stopped there. Some of the other coaching inns have a daily service, which would be a lot more noisy.”
“Well, I bean’t about to argefy with you, Master Marc, le’s hoope yew dew be roight.”
“Well, I am glad to be away from the house, but taking a few days over travelling won’t matter, and I confess I’d like to rest. We need to stay until Monday morning when the stage goes, so Lucius thinks I’m on it, but that won’t matter nowise.”
“No, sir,” said Jed, reflecting that Master Marc was not, at least, likely to kick up a ruckus in an inn, and would probably spend his time, if he felt energetic, sketching the ruined abbey.

The Greyhound Inn
Bury St Edmunds
Evening, 3rd July 1812.

Dear Lucius,
I am sure you are wondering to get another letter from me so soon, but the truth is, I got wet through and have decided to rest up for the weekend here in Bury. I have had a hot bath and Jed has induced the landlord to feed us both in my room, where I intend to stay for most of my sojourn, or at least until the pain in my hip eases enough to give it gentle exercise. You see, I am taking care of myself. I wouldn’t write though, if I was you, I might get it before I leave, but I might not, and it would be bound to arrive on Monday after the stage has left.
Your loving brother,

“Not such a damned young fool as I thought,” said Lucius. “He’s resting up in Bury, and will leave on Monday morning. Even Marc can’t get into trouble in Bury, though I do wonder if he’s resting up in the hopes of spending some time at Newmarket.”
“Is he then a gambler?” asked Libby, concerned.
“Eh? No, he would read you a lecture about how it demeans the horses. He’s just horse mad, and would attend to see the animals.”
“He’ll probably find a willing convert with regards to gambling in Philippa, then,” said Libby, dryly. “Had you made up your mind whether you are prepared to be a trustee or not?”
“Oh, had I not said?”
Libby mentally counted to ten, and smiled, sweetly.
“No, Mr. Belvoir, you had not,” she said.
“How extraordinary! I was convinced that I had told you yesterday that I was prepared to do it.”
“No, Mr. Belvoir, you burst into my office and demanded a greenhouse, threw some sketches at me, and burst out again, whilst I was trying to tell off Emmie Hasely about bursting into rooms at people without knocking. You entirely ruined my homily.”
“I did? I am sorry. The conservatory you have is all very well but it will not do for bringing on seedlings, and I was in a bad mood because I found your gardener obstreperous.”
“He is afraid you are planning to replace him, which is another bone I have to pick with you, because I spent half of yesterday afternoon pacifying him and explaining that anything you do, and anyone you choose to hire as a result, will be in addition to him and his efforts, since it is for the education of the young ladies, not the general landscaping. I had to assure him that his efforts have not displeased, and that his job is secure until his promised retirement into a cottage. I was going to ask you to explain yourself but I did not like to interrupt your reading of a letter from your brother.”
“Dear me, is that why he was so obstructive? I thought he was resistant of all change.”
“No, Mr. Belvoir, Finch is not resistant of change at all, and has been trying to persuade Elinor to have a shrubbery in the middle prospect, moving into an arboretum. He has a passion for shrubs.”
“He does? I wonder how he feels about hardening off Camellias to grow outside as they may do naturally in Cornwall. I must speak to him about it.”
“Mr. Belvoir! What you must speak to Finch about is an apology to him for letting him think you planned to run roughshod over him, and have him replaced. You are welcome to discuss, and I mean discuss with him, not lecture the poor man, with regards to a shrubbery and arboretum. You will also be aware that such a project must necessarily take the girls into account, and provide them with a place where they might play, with paved pathways for them to pass dry-shod in inclement weather, and places to play hide-and-go-seek rather than some romantic wilderness. Finch is, on the whole, only opposed to girls if they stand in his flower beds, and pluck flowers without proper scissors or take a load of blooms from one place and spoil his display. We generally humour him, and he has taught Hannah how to prune roses properly, since she asked nicely how to keep them nice. He does not like Rocinante, however.”
“Rocinante? What a name, I have not met her,” said Lucius. “How old is she?”
“Oh! Forgive me,” Libby dissolved into laughter. “Rocinante is the ass who was rescued by Philippa, she is not a scholar, though she has been known to join sketching classes when she has escaped from her stall again,” she added.
“Good G-d! You have a donkey here?”
“Oh, she does to start the smallest ones riding, and on the whole she is very good natured, but she has a wicked sense of humour, and a taste for brightly-coloured flowers,” said Libby. “Philippa would have it that she has goat in her ancestry, but I fear original sin is the cause, not an unfortunate forebear.”
“Well I never! Philippa appears to be more than horse mad.”
“Philippa is kind to all animals, including small boys on the run from the parish,” said Libby. “She has a number of pets which somehow have not tried to kill each other, despite including a robin, a rat, a cat and a dog. The doctor treats a fairly endless stream of injured animals she has found, and fortunately she was persuaded to let the fox go when its leg healed. We are not popular with the local hunt because dear Elinor gave the Master a regular blistering about the dangers of a group of over-excited and overstuffed ruffians riding without any care across lands frequented by children. They were after that dratted fox, and Philippa grabbed it and ran like the wind for Graeme, whilst Felicity, Hermione, Kitty, Hannah, Rachel and Cleo set about preventing the hunt from coming onto our lands. One of the hunt lashed out with a whip at Cleo and another managed to knock Hermione over, and Elinor came out and proceeded to read a lecture and garner names for prosecution with regards to actual bodily harm to minors.”
“Well, yes, I should think so; I take it they decided that a pack of orphans did not count?”
“So they tried to say, and Elinor pointed out that they counted to her, and she could afford to ruin the lot of them. The hunt is not allowed on private land without permission, and they had neither sought nor received it, but made assumption as some of these arrogant gentry do.”
“Dear me! I have to say I have banned the hunt from my lands too, as I have too many tender plants which may be ruined by the careless hoofs of, er, over-excited and overstuffed ruffians. A nice description. Very well, I will go and make my peace with Finch, and take him down to the inn for a heavy wet, whilst we discuss shrubs. I was going to ask if he had any relatives he would recommend to help out, until he got too truculent to talk to.”
“I think it an excellent idea,” said Libby. “I will also write to Chisterley, with regards to a gentleman to come in to teach, we can build any such man a cottage so there is no problem regarding propriety.”
“Oh, you do not want me to teach?”
“I would be very happy for you to teach, but I assumed you would want to return to your own lands.”
“To be honest, I was considering looking for a property in the vicinity and moving lock, stock and barrel. Marc has no friends in Suffolk whom he would miss, my man of all work is really due a pension, and I am sure Jed would be happy to move with us, though if Marc goes to Chisterley’s school, he would likely go with him. If I might stable my horses with you and make use of your coach house, there are a number of properties set about the neighbourhood, including a pleasing messuage next to the church. So long as a I have enough land to raise the bulbs which bring an income for Marc and for me, I am content. And the soil is better here.”
“Oh, as regards land, I am sure Elinor would be happy for you to use some of the park. Indeed, if you would care to expand your plans for a greenhouse to include a cottage and greenhouses for your own use, that would be in order.”
“Really? I would like that. Some of your girls have a good eye for flowers, I am finding young Penelope a very apt pupil and she does not stutter at all when she is speaking about plants. Cleo knows a considerable amount about herbs, so I shall be seeing if I might learn more of the apothecary’s art to teach her.”
“There might be the opportunity for her to learn as an apprentice from Lord Hasely’s doctor, whose father was an apothecary and raised his son to know the art,” said Libby. “He has raised no objection to his sons playing with Eliza, the daughter of their schoolmaster, and passing on what they know, so he is a progressive man.”
“Excellent, a year in his household will be advantageous if she wishes to pursue the skill,” said Lucius. “And I’ll take on any student Chisterley wants to send me, or for that matter, this doctor’s sons, if they want to learn ways to grow herbs as well as use them.”
“It is a shame, in a way, that we are not closer to Chisterley, to share tutors,” said Libby. “However, the problem of making sure that the older ladies and gentlemen were perfectly chaperoned and kept from being too much in each others’ company would be a veritable nightmare.”
“I shudder to imagine. Well, I am off to make my peace with Finch.”

Swanley Court School for Impoverished Gentlewomen
4th July, 1812

Dear Abigail,
Lucius Belvoir has agreed to both be a trustee and to teach the girls horticulture. He is speaking of removing to Richmond permanently, which would be convenient, if long term close proximity does not lead me to strangle the man.
He is very enthusiastic about his subject, but he has already upset Finch, though he seems willing to make amends. He has suggested taking any lad whose bent is for horticulture as an apprentice of some sort, so I pass that to you to tell Chisterley.
Mr. Belvoir’s much younger brother, Marcus, is coming to us for the doctor to look at his diseased hip, and may be coming to you for schooling. He will need careful handling, I suspect, but you are so very good with boys, dear Abigail, I am sure you will put him at his ease. He can hardly be more prickly than his brother.
Kitty and Amelia are doing well, although Kitty is currently engaged on filling her leisure hours writing out one hundred times, ‘I must not disrupt the maids when they are working.’ I have to point out hastily that it was not Kitty’s intention to disrupt the maids when they were working, and she meant well, but it was an ill-conceived idea and not well executed to try to cheer up one of Penelope’s rather old gowns by dyeing it, using alkanet root. She had read somewhere that it produces a pink dye, but unfortunately she threw dress, roots and all into the washing copper, and made the most unholy mess. Mrs. Baxter forbade her to help clear up, for fear of worse mess, though I suspect it would have been a better lesson than merely doing lines. As it is, the only red dye to be found went into Kitty’s hands; the gown stayed stubbornly greyish white with age, once it was rinsed. We had made plans to get Penelope a whole new wardrobe , as her own is not fit for a beggar, but such things take some time, and Kitty jumped in, in her usual impulsive kindness, without consideration for consulting any adults.
I know this is born of her having had to take care of her siblings, and I hope you do not think me too harsh, but she is quite old enough to think before she acts.
Your affectionate preceptress,
Libby Freemantle.

Chapter 6

Red Lion, Newmarket
6th July 1812

Dear Lucius,
I have a pretty pickle here.
I knew you would guess that I would look on the prospect of visiting Newmarket with enthusiasm, with the chance to look in on the July Meeting. You know me well enough to anticipate that I might dally overnight despite having travelled only twelve or thirteen miles from Bury this morning. However, I have to say that I was not expecting what happened.
Lucius, I am puzzled about how to explain this without it seeming shocking, and it is shocking in some respects but I am going to ask you to be calm, and keep an open mind.”

“Dear G-d, what has he done?!” cried Lucius.
“May I?” Graeme reached for the letter, and Lucius made no protest at him taking it to see what had so disturbed the new trustee.
“By all means,” said Lucius, with some irony.
“Ay iphm, maybe ye should read the whole before ye exercise yer mind, forebye,” he said.
“What am I to think when he tells me to stay calm?”
“Maybe that ye should stay calm?” said Graeme. “Rrread it through and then spend several minutes breathing slowly through your nose, then read it again. Then ye may panic.”
Lucius gave a shaky laugh.
“Did you see what he has done? I have not dared read it yet.”
“Aye, and it’s no’ sae bad. Ye’ll approve of the boy, forebye. And my apologies for rreading your letter.”
“Oh, forgiven. I was afraid I was going to have to drive to Newmarket and bail him out of trouble, but he is writing from an inn, so perhaps I am over-reacting.”
He read on.
“I do not feel that I had any choice but to do as I have done, Lucius, and I think you would have done the same.
I am making a real bumblebroth of this, am I not? But I am truly nervous of explaining how it comes that I am travelling with a young girl without a duenna. And she is a lady, Lucius, but she has been beset by the most unfortunate circumstance.
I think I would do better to tell her story rather than explain it from my point of view.
Alice Dewell is fourteen, a little girl more than a lady, I assure you, but she is very self-possessed. She was recently orphaned, and felt herself equal to maintaining her own household, and indeed managed to do so.
Unfortunately, she was unaware that the house in which she had grown up was some kind of copyhold , not owned outright, and the passing of the copyhold had to be ratified by her landlord, a Lord Hatherley. Obviously, although she was raising vegetables and had hens and a cow, she had no monetary income to pay the rent, and the lord’s bailiff suggested a most infamous way in which she could pay the rent. Miss Dewell was overcome with horror when she understood what he suggested, and she packed all her belongings, and dressed in her brother’s clothes , a lad who had died at the age of 10 years. She took her horse, and left, riding to Newmarket in the hopes of securing a job as a jockey, to allow her to keep her horse. She had no luck so she entered herself and her horse in a fifty-guinea race.
She had too much faith in the abilities of Bucephalus, a good name for a horse of spirit, but alas, not trained to run races the way race horses run races.
This is where I came in.
I came upon Miss Dewell, sobbing her heart out, just outside Newmarket, and apologising to her horse that she was going to have to sell him. I divined immediately that she was a girl, and I’m afraid I blurted it out. Miss Dewell then threatened me with a kitchen knife, and I informed her that my disability would make ravishing a woman who was determined to resist essentially impossible, even if I were not a gentleman, and she said how glad I must be that such a disability did not affect my seat, so I knew she was a right one, and no mimsy little girl to shriek over disability.
Anyway, we talked, and she told me her story, and I told her that she was on no account to reveal that she was a girl to anyone until we reached our destination. She was scared of the idea of a school for orphans at first, but once she understood that it was a superior establishment, she was happier. Now I need you to tell the Freemantle woman that I am bringing her an orphan who isn’t dressed respectably. I have no intention of risking Miss Dewell’s safety by putting her in female garb, and I have been teaching her more boyish mannerisms.”

“Good grief!” said Lucius. “What a silly boy Marc is, to be sure; why on earth did he exercise my mind so with his first few sentences, when what he has done is quite admirable?”
“May I ask what he has done?” asked Libby.
“Indeed, I think we are all interested after your initial reaction,” said Elinor.
Graeme smirked.
Lucius grimaced.
“He has rescued a very young orphaned gentlewoman who found out ... I will read that portion of the letter out loud, which will explain it better,” he said, and proceeded to do so, hastily changing ‘the Freemantle woman’ to ‘Miss Freemantle’ as he read.
“My goodness, what a display of pluck from the poor girl,” said Elinor. “Yes, Libby, I know it is a trifle colloquial, but the word is appropriate, for is not the derivation of the slang the heart, liver and viscera? Queen Elizabeth said ‘I have the heart and stomach of a king, and a king of England, too.’ Thus, I hold pluck to be be an appropriate word.”
“Oh, my dear Elinor, I was not going to argue on your choice of language,” said Libby.
“You are unperturbed, I note, that she is going to arrive dressed as a boy,” said Lucius.
“I am just relieved that your brother shows a calm good sense not usually shown by lads of sixteen in insisting that she remain clad as a boy,” said Libby. “I approve his choice wholeheartedly; she cannot gallivant across half the country in petticoats with a man who is no relation to her, and if they claimed to be siblings, even if there is any co-incidental likeness through colouring, such lies always fall apart with relative strangers.”
“He remarks next that they are not in the least alike,” said Lucius. “I am glad that you are satisfied that he made the right choice, though I would have argued had you disagreed with him. Well, she will have to cope with sharing a room with him, for I wager they’ll not get two rooms at any inn in Newmarket right now.”
He went back to the letter, continuing to read aloud,
“Had Miss Dewell been blonde, I might have suggested we travel as brother and sister, but she has brown hair and eyes, and is as unlike me as may be. She tells me her family was from Shropshire originally, but her father travelled to the east as a tutor, and settled down after he met his wife, writing history books for a living. He will have royalties, but Miss Dewell has no idea how to get hold of them.”
“Mr. Embury will sort that out,” said Libby. “It is one reason we have a solicitor as a trustee; he is able to untangle any inheritance there might be, and sort out legal problems. I will write to him immediately, for there may have been some mistake with regards to the cottage, and the bailiff merely an opportunistic fellow hoping to intimidate an innocent and relatively ignorant maiden into giving him what he lusted after, the lewd fellow!”
“Well, that description fits whether he was legally correct about the cottage or not,” said Lucius. “I will give you the letter when I have finished it, to copy out such as is necessary for the solicitor.”
“Thank you.”
“We are lucky to have a room for the three of us, which is inconvenient for Miss Dewell, but the bed at least has good curtains, and Jed manufactured a kind of screen on one side to it that goes into the corner, so she might have somewhere to use the utensil and wash, and Jed and I will use the window for our needs and will scrub under the pump in the morning. If anyone asks, we are returning to school after illness, which is as close to the truth as anything and closer than some of the wilder stories Miss Dewell came up with. I fear she may make a novelist when she is adult. I mean, honestly, claiming that we are cousins and are travelling to rescue our other cousin who is an heiress, who has been abducted by a fortune hunter. Do people even abduct heiresses these days?”
“I’m afraid they do,” said Elinor. “I was briefly abducted, and Daisy suffered an abduction only a few weeks ago, from the doorstep of the church where she was about to be married.”
“Good grief! I shall have to apprise Marc that his companion’s story was not so far-fetched after all, but I cannot see it readily being believed in an inn,”
“No, indeed,” agreed Libby. “I am sure she will enjoy composition classes, though. I look forward to teaching her.”
“If I had not already secured a room, I would have taken us all out of Newmarket to some less famous village, so we should have had somewhere to sleep.”
“I have had a sudden revelation,” said Lucius, grimly. “I was wondering how they planned to deal with the girl’s horse, but he has not even wondered how to bring it, nor has he spoken of selling it. He hasn’t been travelling on the stage at all, he’s riding.”
“It’s a long way to ride,” said Libby.
“And that’s why he’s taking it slowly,” said Lucius. “And he is more comfortable in the saddle than in a coach. Little tyke to conceal it from me! I wish he had confided in me, but at least I know now, and will be easier in my mind about him travelling at his own pace. Jed is a good man and will not let him overtax himself. And he is sensible of the idea of staying in inns which are not coaching inns, in villages where the coaches do not normally stop, so he is not constrained by another’s decision. I believe I am relieved, though I would have hesitated to suggest it to him.”
“Yes, indeed,” said Libby. “It may take him longer, but if it keeps him from pain, it is sensible.”
“We shall continue at a pace which may not discommode Miss Dewell, so do not look for us for several days.
Your loving brother,

“How did you come to be orphaned, anyway, Miss Dewell?” asked Marc, idly. “You are not very old, were your parents older parents?”
“I am not sure I am fully orphaned, as it happens,” said Alice. “You see, my mother thought that being married to an archaeologist would be exciting, and that we should visit exotic places like Egypt or Rome, but although Papa would have loved to have seen such things, his books have never brought in enough to travel so extensively. He has made a name for himself amongst other antiquarians in investigating earthworks and the like, mostly in East Anglia, but he was never as ... as important as Mama hoped.” She sighed. “You have to understand, Mama ran away from her family to be with him, but she was a sensitive woman, who needed to be feted and admired all the time. She suffered much from birthing Theo, him being a big baby, and she felt as though Papa did not appreciate her in any way but as the mother of his children. She stayed until I was eight, and left me some letters to read on each birthday after that, until I was thirteen, and then she ran away with a very dashing fellow who promised her balls and fetes and soirées. Papa shut himself up for nearly a week, and then he said that we should all do everything together as I had no Mama to be with.”
“Good G-d, I hope you don’t mean he took you to his bed!” said Marcus.
Alice burned.
“No, certainly not!” she said. “ And he meant my brother, too. I am not a stranger to boys’ clothes, for Theo was six when Mama left, and he was always big for his age, so I wore his clothes to go and look at earthworks which were further away, and Papa let people think we were twins, and it was a most enjoyable childhood. But Theo died, suddenly, two years ago, and the doctors said he outgrew his own strength. He was always sickly, despite looking so big and stout. Papa was devastated, and we stayed in Suffolk after that, , but he would go to look at local tumuli, and he was walking a dyke when he got wet through, and took no account of it. I nursed him as well as I might, but it turned to pleurisy and he died.”
“I am so sorry,” said Marcus. “Perhaps Mrs. Freemantle in the school will be able to find your mother, if you want her to do so.”
“I’m not sure if I do or not,” said Alice. “My mother was a delicate, fairy creature, and she is nothing like me at all. I do not think she would like to have an almost full-grown young woman foisted onto her, especially one who is quite well built and sturdy, rather than being ethereal like her. She used to call me her dear ugly little changeling, which is silly, for I look like Papa, but I think she hoped I would be blonde and pale and slender like her, and I am not.”
“You’re a fine figure of a young man, anyway,” said Marcus. “No surplus flesh, and ethereal women scare me.”
Alice laughed.
“Well, that is all to the good, then,” she said. “And besides, I did not like the fellow she went off with; he called me a changeling too, but he meant it as an insult. I put the hairs off rose seeds in his cravats to itch his neck because he was so vain about his high, intricate neck cloths.”
“A jolly good thing to do,” approved Marcus. “He don’t sound much of a stepfather.”
“It might be a good idea to find out what we can about her, though,” said Alice. “If only to avoid her.”
“I am sure my brother, Lucius, will know what to do,” said Marc, optimistically.

I finished writing Libby's Luck this morning, and I am going back to the people we met at the house party in Anne's Achievement, possibly in between writing the Jane and Caleb spinoffs, another Jane and Caleb and the sequel to Rookwood. I am in a writerly mood so I will take advantage of it

Libby 4-6

Sarah WaldockMay 17, 2018 12:08PM

Re: Libby 4-6

Agnes BeatrixMay 18, 2018 08:09AM

Re: Libby 4-6

Sarah WaldockMay 18, 2018 01:06PM

Re: Libby 4-6

LilyMay 17, 2018 04:29PM

Re: Libby 4-6

Sarah WaldockMay 18, 2018 12:03AM

Re: Libby 4-6

EmelynMay 18, 2018 03:26PM

Re: Liking that ... thank you (nfm)

Sarah WaldockMay 18, 2018 10:58PM


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