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Libby 7-9

May 20, 2018 11:19AM
Chapter 7

Brexhay House
South Elmham St Peter
7th July

My dear Belvoir,
My apologies for not having communicated sooner, I had some trouble tracking down where to write to you, fortunately my butler knows Cocker well enough to suggest seeking his daughter’s house to find him, to discover your direction.
I am glad that your brother shut up the house and sent Cocker to Yarmouth.
There is no easy way to break this news to you, my dear fellow. I fear that your house is quite burned down.

Lucius sat down, white-faced.
“Mr. Belvoir?” Libby rang the bell.
“My house. Gone. Burned to the ground,” he said.
“Dear G-d! How could that happen?” asked Libby. “A lightning strike?” as Baxter entered in answer to the bell she added, “brandy for Mr. Belvoir, please, Baxter, he has had a shock.”
Baxter bowed and withdrew.
“I ... let me read on,” said Lucius.
“I know that Marc communicated with you regarding passing on to me the intelligence that two other young men had been responsible, by way of a stupid prank, for my wife’s death in childbed. I demanded some restitution in terms of punishment of the boys, and was lucky to escape both houses without suffering violence. The Poles and the Brocks think themselves inviolate, and I am strongly of the opinion that they guessed who had informed on them. Burning your house was doubtless a warning to me not to press the matter, though they could not know that it was empty, for there is no rumour to that effect in the country, as there usually is. I fear they meant cold-blooded murder.
It is of small comfort I know, but your greenhouses are untouched; they are too ignorant to realise what would hurt you the most.
I feel that I have no choice but to take the recourse your brother suggested, in a stroke of sagacity doubtless born of knowing the pair better than I do, of having the younger menaces kidnapped and press-ganged. I do not know if it is more beneficial or detrimental to the Royal Navy, but at the moment, I do not care. As to the parents, I do not know what to do, but since they laugh at the law, it appears that I can do nothing overt without risking my own household. I do not think it worth you suing them for the cost of rebuilding; I will see if I might approach a relative or two of mine to run a benefit ball for the rebuilding, but it may take a while.
I will have my gardener look over your lands and rescue anything which needs rescuing. I am not knowledgeable enough myself.
I hope Marc has reached you safely, and again, I am sorry to be the sender of such bad tidings.
Your ob’t etc,
Sir Henry Harkness.”

Baxter arrived with a stiff brandy, and Lucius thanked him, tossing it back.
“I have no house,” he said, levelly. “I planned to sell it to cover the costs of building one here, but it is gone. Burned. And at least it was empty,” he added, “And my precious botany books and commonplace books I brought with me. They thought we were in residence.”
“Who is ‘they’?” asked Libby.
“There are two families, Brock and Pole, who are nominally of the gentry,” said Lucius. “However, they are little better than brigands, and since each will swear alibi for the other, there is nothing to be done about their bullying of the neighbourhood. The burning of my house was retribution for Marc having informed on their sons to the man whose wife died because the doctor was lost, when they changed sign posts. Dear me, that sounds like a cross between ‘for the want of a nail’ and ‘the house that Jack built.’”
“Foolish actions can have far-reaching consequences, but why would they burn a house down? I presume the boys were punished, but even quite young boys cannot think that setting fire to a house is appropriate retribution for a whipping?”
“I don’t think you understand, Miss Freemantle,” said Lucius. “Tom Brock and Michael Pole are not little boys, they are nineteen, and expressed a hope that their prank would precipitate someone into a ditch. Marc said they seemed unmoved by the death of Sir Henry’s wife. They were not punished, and I suspect it was their fathers who burned my house down, as they are suspected of having burned to death a widow who thrashed the boys for scrumping.”
“Good G-d, such lawlessness in this day and age? Can they not be apprehended by Bow Street?”
“Not unless there is evidence; and most people fear them too much to swear that they saw them, even if they did. I recall an incident when I was young, that a man gave evidence that he had seen the older pair on their way to thrash someone who had inconvenienced them in some way, and they stared at the witness through the trial, and the victim declared it was not they who had thrashed him close to death, because he was afraid. The witness was found to have drowned. His wrists and ankles bore the marks of ropes but the verdict was accidental death. I confess it is another reason I was glad to move down here, but I will have less at my disposal for the house.”
“Oh, the house was to be built for you in any case, as a rent free property for your lifetime, and the proceeds of selling your own property, if you chose to do so, to be there as a legacy or for you to move if you ever wished to do so,” said Libby. “Dear me, if there is nothing that may be done about these ruffians, then that will mean less of a legacy for you to leave, I fear.”
“I will come about if permitted to grow bulbs and roses here,” said Lucius. “They call me ‘Lucky’ Lucius for a good reason; I have always anticipated the next fashion in flowers for the general public, and have invested well with any surplus. I am anticipating doing well with Nerines, and if my greenhouses are untouched, I may yet do so. But it is a blow, and a personal blow more than a financial one. I grew up there.”
“I understand, Mr. Belvoir,” said Libby.

Swanley Court School for Impoverished Gentlewomen
8th July 1812

My dear Harkness,
Thank you for the intelligence concerning my house. It is a shock, but at least nobody was in it. Please thank your gardener for me, I will reimburse you when I next see you.
Remember that the press-gang is chary of taking anyone who might be a gentlemen, so be sure that they are rendered hors de combat with Blue Ruin or some other strong liquor, well laced with laudanum, and have any coins or personal items removed from their persons, and if possible re-dressed in rough clothing. If a press gang from a ship ready to sail on the tide is chosen, they will be at sea before they are conscious. Then it is up to them; for if they continue their bullying ways, they will fall foul of the officers and their fellow men.
As to the fathers, might I suggest that there are those in the neighbourhood who might have gamekeepers they are willing to loan to you, or you might look for some discharged soldiers with minor disabilities, but who are good shots. Once the boys disappear, they will likely seek to burn you out next, and if you quietly amass more good shots, and mention to the magistrate that you have heard there are poachers in the neighbourhood, why then, any prowlers on your premises who are shot will be most unfortunate. Two are easier to handle, and to pass off as supposed poachers than four.
It is only for the sake of their servants that I do not suggest banding together with others who feel intimidated by them to serve them the same as they have served others. Those in service to them might be chosen to be of the same stamp, but are not necessarily so. However, it would be as well to hold some quiet evenings when you and those who loan you gamekeepers are busy with card games, and plenty of calculation of rubbers available for when you have to call in the magistrate over an unfortunate incident. They have got away with murder too many times. Do you wish me to return? If you do not need me, I would rather not, for Marc has not yet arrived, though I have received letters from him. He has been riding, not taking the stage, and is nursing his hip in a sensible manner. He fell in with another lad who is off to school, and is escorting him via Swanley Court, which is the sister-school of an establishment for young gentlemen.
I will return as soon as I may to arrange removal of my plants and bulbs. I have decided to move permanently to Richmond to teach part time as well as to continue raising my own plants, and though I was considering it before, the loss of my house has confirmed that. I do not wish to try to rebuild , it would raise too many painful memories.
Your very ob’t etc
Lucius Belvoir.

The Bear Inn, Stansted Mountrichet
8th July

The most terrible thing! One of the men on the stage had the Norfolk Chronicle in his pocket when he arrived, and he left it in the parlour where we ate, and, oh, Lucius, I do not know how to write this, but the Poles and the Brocks have burned our house down.
I know I expected trouble, but it was a shock to see it in the newspaper like that. It didn’t say it was the Poles and the Brocks, of course, but who else would it be? The newspaper said that it was a great tragedy and listed us as presumed dead, so I penned a quick note to Spurgeon in London to tell him that the news of our deaths was premature since we were both away from home, and no servants in residence either. I don’t want to find that we’ve had probate declared over us before we stick our spoons in the wall.
Miss Dewell has been all that is supportive, for I confess I came close to tears to think of it. However, there is a chance that not all our possessions are lost, for before I came away, Jed and I took all your books and papers down into the cellar in a trunk or several, as well as the paintings of the family, and the more valuable pieces of furniture and nick-nacks. I didn’t think I could manage any more than that, but at least the silverware is intact. Maybe we should write to Sir Henry and suggest he retrieve it, and hide it on the lands of the Brocks, and inform on them that it was stolen. If Bow Street find real evidence they will do something, and Old Man Pole is so venal, he might turn on Brock for thinking he had held out on him after a bit of independent stealing.
Anyway, I’ve written to Sir Henry with the idea, so he may like to use it.
Miss Dewell is currently living under the name of Alistair, as she pointed out that it was unnatural for two boys not to use each other’s names, and it seemed the best name in case I started to call her ‘Alice’, and then she might take mock offence if I don’t add the ‘stair’, and ask how often my brother Lucius has moaned about being called ‘Lucy’. Anyway, I’m going to write about her as Alice from now on, because she’s not a half bad little brother.
Stansted is notable only for having the stage go through it; I think there are about half a dozen residents who are outnumbered by the hogs. The cross-roads to skirt London are not convenient, so we will continue on the main road and onto the Uxbridge Road to come across the north of the city rather than crossing it. We may be with you late tomorrow, hard on the heels of the letter, but it is still five –and-thirty miles to the centre of London, so likely we shall lay up overnight on the outskirts and complete the journey tomorrow. It is something of an adventure, in any case, and if not disturbed by the perfidy of the Poles and the Brocks, I should be rather enjoying myself.
Your loving brother,

“I am glad to say that he is enjoying himself, shocks about the house notwithstanding,” said Lucius. “He is on first name terms with your newest charge, I am afraid, Miss Freemantle, and the chit is right, it would have been suspicious if two boys had called each other Belvoir and Dewell. It might be encouraged in school, but if they are good enough friends to travel together, it’s not usual.”
“Oh, I was expecting them to either end up on first name terms or to arrive hating each other,” said Libby. “If they have fallen into such camaraderie, I also suspect you will have no problems of Marcus fancying himself in love, for she will have become more of a brother to him, than an object of romance.”
“My dear Miss Freemantle, are you by some chance prescient? Marc described her as ‘not a half bad little brother’ in his letter.”
Libby laughed.
“If not encouraged to worry about being ladylike, most girls up to about the age of sixteen are agreeable to being little brothers,” she said. “Some are naturally prim, of course, but it usually takes firm training, and if she was happy to dress as a boy, I cannot think that she is naturally prim.”
“No, indeed,” said Lucius. “I thought Hannah was naturally prim until I found her with Rachel and Hermione painting red spots on the hens, to convince Mrs. Baxter that the poor things had chicken pox. The hens were not co-operating, and Hannah let fly with an oath which had me quite nonplussed until I realised that it was from Shakespeare. Not necessarily suitable reading for young ladies.”
“Don’t be a prig, Mr. Belvoir,” said Libby. “Be thankful that the language is sufficiently obscure, and has changed enough in pronunciation that most of them do not pick up on Mr. Shakespeare’s broader innuendoes and jokes. Though I wager Abigail knows them all,” she added. “Doubtless she will retain the interest of Chisterley’s boys by teaching them all the naughty words in Shakespeare. What did she say?”
“The Devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon,” said Lucius.
“Ah, Macbeth; the children do like a play with action and excitement,” said Libby.

Chapter 8

“Will we all have our own gardens, Mr. Belvoir?” Frances asked. “Penelope says we are having a silver flowery ferry, but I don’t see what a silver boat full of flowers is for.”
Lucius smiled. Frances might struggle, but she thought things through.
“A Sylva florifera is a Latin phrase, and it basically means a shrubbery with paths,” he told her.
Frances considered.
“Why isn’t it called a shrubbery with paths, then?” she said.
“Because some men like to make a mystery of their avocations,” said Lucius.
“That’s silly.”
“Frances, are you telling me that Miss Freemantle hasn’t told you that most people are silly, and one of the things you are learning here is not to be silly?”
Frances digested this and thought, her brows drawn together.
“Yes,” she said. “I used to be silly. When I couldn’t make people understand, I howled or screamed. I can try to remember now to say ‘help me, sweetie’ when I am confused or upset.”
Lucius hid a smile. He could imagine Miss Freemantle explaining to Frances to say, ‘help me’ and adding the endearment. Frances had added the endearment to what she had to ask. It could cause problems with outsiders, especially men, but that was why Frances was to be sheltered.
“Whilst I do intend to help Finch to lay out a shrubbery for you girls to walk in, with shelters and gazebos within it, for bad weather, I am very happy to set up gardens for you girls as well. What do you want to grow?”
“Flowers,” said Frances.
“Hmm, I do not think we can hope to make the flowerbeds any kind of co-ordinated whole,” said Lucius. Frances had no idea what he meant, but he had a nice voice and it was soothing to listen to it. He went on, “I think we will make the student gardens an extension of the kitchen gardens, and surround each one with box hedges as parterres so your own plots are separated totally from each other. Would you like that?”
“Yes,” said Frances, who would like anything Mr. Belvoir suggested.
Lucius smiled at her, glad he had asked Libby for some tips on how to deal with her. Marc could be tiring when he was determined to do more than he was able, but finding the words Frances would understand was three times as tiring. At least the girl mostly asked if she did not understand, but sometimes she still agreed without having any idea what she was agreeing to, just to please, and would then come out with something later which showed how little she had taken in.
Well, she was at least chatting to him. Apparently she refused to even talk to some people.
Lucius’ main pupils in horticulture were Penelope, Frances, Hermione and Cleo. However, Libby Freemantle had decreed that all the pupils would have a plot to grow what they wanted, and the school would buy cut flowers or vegetables from them to add to their pin money. Cleo had already negotiated with the twins and the horse-mad Barbara Ainsworth to tend their plots for them in return for the lavender she insisted they would grow. She was paying Barbara, who was a fine needlewoman, to make lavender bags which she intended selling on filled with lavender, to Daisy’s employees, Nest and Tilly, to sell in their shops, as well as making lavender oil and water for the consumption of Swanley Court, and hopefully beyond.
“Is it something I should nip in the bud?” asked Lucius, after telling Libby what he had overheard.
“No, though I should like all my girls to have the joys of raising plants, I am aware that many of them have brown thumbs, and will fail to do so,” said Libby. “The concept of negotiating for better incomes, or to avoid chores, is one we instituted early on, for the girls to exchange skills to better themselves. The twins will have no income from the gardens, and that is their choice. Philippa earns by doing duty in the stables, and it frees her spare time to do more; and likewise gives Felicity more time sewing, and time to go into London to work in the back room of Daisy’s millinery shop. She has some scraps as her perquisites from there, and she may sell those to Cleo for Barbara to make up as little bags. It teaches them economics in a way no lesson book can do.”
“I confess, I am impressed. I want to pay Sarah to paint the impressions of the shrubbery when I have planned it; she is keen to help, too, since I have shown her the plans in J.C. Loudon’s books on designing gardens.”
“I see no problem with that. Sarah is keen to illustrate books, but being able to interpret plans into paintings will not do her any harm, either. She is keen on botanical illustration, and to turn a gardening book into a thing of beauty would help those less able to visualise from plans. Mr. Loudon is a most excellent gardener, no doubt, and his plans are full and comprehensive, but I fear there are many people who would not be able to look at such a plan, and visualise it full of plants.”
“I do not know how good she might be at it yet, but I will help her,” said Lucius. “It is useful that you have copies of Loudon’s books in the library, and periodicals with articles in them. I do have many useful articles pasted into a commonplace book set aside for that purpose, with my own notes, but as the pages which have useful information on both sides are held in rather precariously with a strip of muslin, I prefer not to have children pull them over.”
“I would hope that none of our children would pull any books over,” said Libby, tartly. “This is a school for gentlewomen, not a bear garden! They are expected to treat all books with respect.”
“And well they might, but children are heedless and get over-excited,” said Lucius.
This might be true, but Libby was angry at his suggestions. He was like all the others who assumed that orphans would be more likely to be careless than other children, assuming that they had feckless parents not to make sufficient provision for them, and visiting the sins of the fathers on the children. She had received enough remarks from the local notables to be well aware that most people believed that orphans deserved to suffer because they were bound to be feckless themselves. She lashed out verbally, the disappointment in him making her angrier.
“I cannot help it if you have not taught your own brother to have respect for the property of others, but I think you will find that well-brought up young ladies have better manners.”
“Don’t you call Marc’s manners into account! Marc knows perfectly well how to treat my books!”
“Ah, you assume that the fact of having no relatives to care for them turns my girls into mannerless barbarians?” Libby waxed sarcastic.
“Not at all! But children together, whatever the sex, age or upbringing, can become over-excited, and pull books from one to another, accidentally tearing leaves. I would expect as much from the various offspring of royal dukes as much as anyone else,” he snarled. “I trust I might be permitted to choose when, or indeed if, I permit others to look at my own property?”
“Your own property is your own business, though the idea of expanding an article in a commonplace book is a good one,” said Libby, holding her patience in check, “And perhaps showing the children to encourage them to make their own would be helpful. I would be willing to purchase two copies of such publications as might have an article going over more than one page, so the children might paste in the pages more securely. The same might be done with embroidery patterns, and a library built up for future girls. I will ask such ladies as live in the neighbourhood if they have any back copies they would like to donate to the girls; and the ladies’ magazines will also have figures the little girls may cut out as paper dolls.”
“I grant it to you, you get a lot of education out of relatively meagre resources,” said Lucius. “I stand, however, by my statement that too many children at once are accidentally destructive.”
“Oh, I can see it happening, I suppose; you can have an unfortunate way about you over the way you word things,” said Libby. “Tossing out a phrase like ‘pulling them over’, as though my girls were guttersnipes, was too much to take.”
“I did not mean it that way, and you know it.”
“I do now, but I do not know you well enough to know when you are being deliberately offensive, or merely achieve offensiveness as part of your natural manner.”
“Now that is going too far, madam!”
“I don’t think so. I am willing to accept that this was a lapse into unintentional incivility, not a miscalling of the girls. By your own rather abrupt style, that should be more than enough for you.”
Lucius snorted, and turned on his heel to stalk out.
“You were harsh on him, Libby,” said Elinor.
“I am sick of people assuming that because they are orphans, they have forgotten how to act like ladies.”
“He never said so,” said Elinor.
“It’s his manner, it rubs me up the wrong way,” said Libby.
“You could both have been more tactful,” said Elinor.

Libby ran Lucius to earth walking in the gardens. He was on the stone bridge looking at the water passing underneath.
“I may have taken your words in more offence than was justified,” said Libby.
“I could have phrased it better,” said Lucius.
“Do we declare a truce?”
“On a lovely summer evening, it would be a shame not to do so,” said Lucius. “By the way, do you object to the children swinging?”
“On swings, or on anything more makeshift?”
“On swings. You have none.”
“An oversight; I confess it had not occurred to me. Elinor was not permitted strenuous exercise in her youth, in the mistaken belief her heart was diseased, and I have to say the thought had not crossed my mind. If you have a mind to mount swings, I am sure Graeme will help.”
“I was thinking of incorporating swings into the design of the shrubbery.”
“There will surely be no mature timber for them to depend from, how will you achieve that?”
“I was thinking of using seasoned timber frames, rather than rely on tree boughs, and use the frames as a basis to add trellis to grow woodbine and clematis and such rambling flowers. Not roses of course, lest new growth with thorns be in the passage of the swing, and found the hard way before they are pruned.”
“That sounds a most excellent arrangement to me. Perhaps swings inside what is essentially a roofed but open outdoor room? Then several swings might be hung, at different heights to allow the little ones an easy swing, from one beam, under a thatched or turf roof, onto which the ramblers may be encouraged to grow, so that even if the weather is a little inclement, they may get out of the house for healthful exercise, and a bit of privacy away from the preceptresses to chat.”
“That is a good idea. I had meant to dot swings about the place for solitude seekers, but one or two solitary swings would not go amiss as well. In a swing house, one might have, too, one of the kinds of swing boats to be seen at fairs, which will take two bigger girls or several small ones, but it will require pushing for much motion.”
“It is a most excellent idea; thank you.”
“The swing in our own woodlands is a more rough and ready affair, but Marc propels it well enough with one foot. He told me once it helps him to think, when he is finding it difficult to cope with people.”
“And goodness knows, bereaved little girls do need to have time to themselves to think, as well as having people near them to help them,” said Libby. “I see three riders at the gate; will that be Marc, Alice and Jed, do you think?”
“I think it very likely. Do you often come here to think?”
“Yes, and so does Elinor. The bridge over the stream is a very soothing place, as you have found, I think.”
“I must make sure to design the shrubbery not to occlude your view of the gate from the bridge, I think; having advance warning of visitors must be helpful.”
“It is; and thank you for taking that into account. Shall we go and meet them?”

Marc hailed his brother, as he recognised the tall, blond figure coming towards him.
“Marc!” Lucius almost ran towards his brother. Libby went towards the house, looking guiltily over her shoulder at Lucius before putting her fingers in her mouth to give a piercing whistle for the boy, Jem.
The lad came running.
“Cor, Missus Headteacher Lady, I dint know you could whistle as good as a boy,” said Jem, impressed.
“At needs, I may find unusual talents,” said Libby. “Please ask the ostlers to be ready to put up three horses, the travellers will be much fatigued so they will need their mounts to be cooled as well as the tack dealt with. Then you shall run into the kitchen and apprise Mrs. Baxter that our three looked for guests have arrived.”
“Yes’m,” said Jem, pulling his forelock.
He did a lot of running, but it beat being a chimney sweep’s boy, and he often got a vail as well as a comfortable bed, clean duds which fit him. And if the frequent baths were less welcome, well they didn’t sting for being covered in welts. Here, the worst blow he got was a flick of a piece of tack aimed at his backside or a cuff to the side of the head which didn’t even knock him sideways.
Jem thought Miss Philippa a veritable angel for having rescued him, and the lady teachers very little short of that for keeping him.

Libby came forward as Lucius walked alongside his brother’s steed to the front drive.
“Welcome, Miss Dewell, Mr. Belvoir, Jed,” said Libby, inclining her head. “The grooms will take your horses; no need to fettle them for yourselves this once after so long a journey. We have your rooms ready for you, and Mrs. Baxter is seeing to hot water so you may all bathe away the dust of your journey. Then, unless you wish to sleep, you might partake of a light dinner in private to tell your tales. Jed, there’s a heavy wet waiting for you in the kitchen before you go up to help your master bathe.”
Jed grinned and pulled his forelock.
“That’ll go down nicely, ma’am,” he said.
Marc laughed, and if the gaiety was tired, it was at least a genuine laugh.
“Well, if I am welcome still after you have known my brother two weeks, then he must have been doing better than usual. Glad to meet you, ma’am.”
“Whelp,” said Lucius.

Chapter 9

13 Henrietta Street,

9th July 1812.

My dear Mr. Belvoir,
You may imagine how relieved I was to hear from your brother that you are both from home. I presume that you are visiting the orphan asylum which you mentioned in your last letter of the 16th Ult. Though what young Marcus is doing gallivanting about Essex I am sure I do not want to know.
The news of the burning of your house made the inside pages of the ‘Morning Post’ as well as more local papers, and I would have been most concerned had not Marcus been so good as to write to me. Pray convey my thanks to him when you see him, he said a letter would not catch him.
I have communicated with the fire assurance company you use, though they may weasel out of paying if it was arson. I will do my utmost to bring such pressure to bear on them as I may, since you can hardly be held accountable, any more than if it were a lightning strike, indeed less so, since I believe you had installed a lightning conductor to avoid just such an occurrence.
I have communicated also with the local magistrate to bring any arsonists to book.
May I again congratulate you on your fortunate escape.
Ed. Spurgeon.

Lucius was reading this missive when the first of the travellers came into the private parlour which Libby had arranged to be set up as a small dining room. This was Alice Dewell.
Lucius rose, immediately.
She had been a perfect boy, riding beside his brother, but she was a moderately plain girl, with square-cut boyish features, a snub nose, a very firm chin and a sprinkle of freckles on her cheeks. She was a well-built girl with a frame which could never be described as ethereal, even though she carried not an ounce of surplus flesh.
“Miss Dewell,” he said.
“Alice, my dear, come and sit down,” said Libby. “I hope you found Cleo a suitable helpmate with sorting out your clothes and dressing; she is a little younger than you, but the girls your age are both new. However, I think you will find them convivial companions, as Eliza has been wont to dress as a boy for convenience, and Barbara is very fond of horses and riding.”
“That sounded as though you consider that a fault, ma’am,” said Alice, in a rather deep little voice.
“Anything taken to excess, and in a manner which does not include thought before actions may be a fault. You will be encouraged to ride and to care for your own horse, here, but we do not encourage the tricks of Astley’s Amphitheatre, so please be aware of that,” said Libby.
“I do not think it kind to a horse to ride it round and round in circles just to show off clever balance,” said Alice.
“Excellent, Philippa, who is our oldest horse-mad maiden, will approve of you,” said Libby, in some relief. She had come upon Philippa positively shaking the hapless Barbara for trying to provoke Mary Foley into standing on the back of one of the quieter horses. Barbara had undoubtedly deserved it, and Libby had counted to ten before interrupting the shaking before it moved from salutary to vicious. Philippa’s temper could be her undoing. Having discovered what the shaking was for, Philippa had been dispatched to write an essay of not less than thirty lines on how to control a wayward temper, and Barbara was sent to bed at six in the evening for a week for wishing to act like a child of some six summers old.
As this deprived Barbara of pleasant evening rides, it was a most poignant punishment.
“Cleo asked me if I love horses or if I just consider myself a bruising rider,” said Alice. “I told her that bruising riders are usually insane idiots who cram their horses, and she laughed and said I’d do, whatever that meant.”
“She means, my dear, that I am not going to have Philippa in my study rolling her eyes up to heaven complaining that you’ve strained the hock of one of the horses doing something silly and please will I do something about it before she strangles you,” said Libby.
“I’m assuming that has happened,” said Alice.
“You may assume what you wish, but I cannot possibly comment,” said Libby. “We have had a number of girls who consider themselves horsewomen who have come and gone since Philippa was one of the founding members of the school. Cleo is a close friend of Philippa’s.”
“I see,” said Alice. “I think I’d be with Philippa under those circumstances, unless there was a very good reason.”
“Indeed, and we have had a few reasons for slightly reckless rides, including rescuing a child kidnapped by her wicked uncle,” said Libby. “I am glad that you would want to know a reason.”
“Running Bucephalus at Newmarket was not the best thing for him, eight miles racing is not easy when not used to going fast as well as going for some distance,” said Alice. “But I could see no other way not to have to sell him, and I was afraid he would not have a loving owner. It would have been a betrayal. But then, Marc .... er, Mr. Belvoir ... rescued me.”
“And I am sure that Philippa would agree that you had to try to make sure to look after Bucephalus,” said Libby. “So you are alone in the world?”
Alice blushed, and stumbled through the explanation of her mother’s leaving. Libby frowned.
“A harsh thing for a mother to do,” she said. “I take it the letters she left you dealt with growing up?”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Alice, blushing again. “She was also quite ... frank ... about marriage.”
“And if disillusioned, possibly unduly cynical,” said Libby. “I think perhaps it might be as well if we go over those letters together, if you will care to share them; or if you prefer to speak to a married woman, Mrs. Macfarlane teaches you older girls some literature lessons. But there is no hurry.”
“Thank you, ma’am. I need to adjust to being here first,” said Alice.
“Of course you do, my dear; and we owe thanks to Mr. Belvoir for bringing you. Mr. Belvoir, might we call you ‘Marc’ amongst the adults? It will save any confusion.”
Marc smiled, an attractive, boyish smile.
“Oh, or you might say, ‘the cantankerous one’ if you mean my brother.”
“You are quite capable of being cantankerous,” said Lucius.
“And indeed, Mr. Belvoir is very patient with the girls,” said Libby, serenely ignoring how cantankerous she found Mr. Belvoir at times. Over dinner was a bad time for bickering to be permitted.
“Goodness, Lu, what came over you?” asked Marc.
“Marcus, do I have to ask a particular question?” said Lucius.
Marc flushed and looked down at his plate.
“I’ll help you to bed, lad when ye’ve a mind tae go, and I’ll bring a’ ye need,” said Graeme.
Marc shot him a grateful look.
“You know, sir?”
“Och, lad d’ye think I cut ma e’e-teeth yestereen?” said Graeme.
Lucius also looked gratitude on the doctor. Marc hated speaking openly of his diseased hip, or acknowledging pain, but trying to pick a quarrel was a sure sign that he was in considerable pain.
“Would the ladies excuse me if I retire early?” asked Marc.
“Certainly,” said Elinor. “Don’t keep Graeme up too late playing cards and chatting, will you, Marc?”
Marc flashed her his schoolboy smile, thanks for pretending he sought male company for entertainment like card games.

“I’m thinking ye do not care for too heavy a dose of laudanum?” asked Graeme, as he expertly assisted the youth to undress.
“No, I hate feeling fuddled,” said Marc.
“I’ll give ye enough tae take the edge off the pain, that ye might fa’ asleep forebye,” said Graeme. “I’ll no’ pu’ ye aboot tae examine ye until tomorrow.”
“Actually, sir, if you’d pull me about now, and give me a little more laudanum than I’d usually choose, might we talk tomorrow?” asked Marc. “I don’t want to have pain over again tomorrow if I can get it all done with.”
“Weel, lad, if ye’re sure,” said Graeme. Marc nodded his acceptance, and the Scots doctor proceeded to examine his hip, moving his thigh about to see the range of movement.
“What, you are done?” asked Marc, as the doctor pulled the bedclothes back up. “That was less onerous than I feared.”
“I’ve seen a’ I need, and we’ll talk tomorrow,” said Graeme. “But I’m no’ displeased.”
“That’s heartening, anyway,” said Marc, grimacing as he downed the draught Graeme offered him. “I think that’s dour Scots for ‘it’s moderately good news’,”
“Awa’ wi’ ye,” said Graeme.
He would find Jed and let the young man know that he might go up to his master’s room, and would provide him with a book of the turf to keep him occupied. The youth needed some time off, but Graeme liked patients under laudanum to be watched.

Alice was happy to go early to bed, and fell asleep almost immediately. She awoke in the morning to find herself being shaken by a mousey-haired girl with startlingly blue eyes. The girl was dressed in a riding habit, with a rather carelessly knotted scarf.
“Do wake up! It’s a glorious morning and the stupid rules say we can’t go riding alone. You like horses, they said.”
Alice sat up, and glanced at the clock over the mantel.
“Do they really permit riding at five thirty in the morning?” she asked, in some disbelief.
“Well, it isn’t forbidden,” said her fellow. “I’m Barbara, by the way, Barbara Ainsworth. Cleo says you are Alice Dewell so we are introduced, now get up for goodness sake!”
“Did the inestimable Cleo also inform you that I’ve been in the saddle for the past week?” asked Alice.
“So what? I’ve never had the chance to ride so far, what’s it like?”
“Sore,” said Alice. “Go away, Barbara; Cleo said we rise at half after six, and I am exhausted. Today I am going to sleep as long as I am allowed.”
“You lazy slugabed! I want to go riding!” Barbara’s voice rose, and she pulled the covers off Alice.
“What is going on in here?” a tall girl with red-gold hair stood in the doorway. “Barbara, you’ve been in trouble already about bullying other girls, and though Alice isn’t one of the little ones, she’s absolutely exhausted.”
“I’m not bullying her, she’s a lazy, feeble creature lying in on a glorious day like this! You aren’t in bed, will you go riding with me, Philippa?”
“Barbara! You know perfectly well that we are not permitted in the stables before seven without good reason. Had you forgotten?”
“Well, we wouldn’t be staying in the stable, we’d grab a couple of horses and leave.”
“That’s not the point, and you know it. Have you no honour?”
“But I want to go riding!”
“Well, you will have to wait. And for goodness sake, leave Alice alone; weren’t you listening to Miss Freemantle last night when she told you to let her sleep as long as she needed, whatever the time?”
“Well, she can’t be needing much, she hasn’t been doing much, only riding.”
Philippa sighed, loudly.
“You’ve plainly never been in the saddle long enough to be heartily sick of being on a horse,” she said. “If it wasn’t unkind to the horses, I’d ask Miss Freemantle to make you ride round and round the estate at a trot for six days, and see how you like it, rain or shine, as Alice has. She’s not lazy, she’s not feeble, she’s a heroine for keeping conscious all that time. And you are going to be moving out of this room, if you can’t behave in a civilised manner with a room mate, you can move into the disused servant’s room upstairs.”
“You can’t do that!”
“Well, if you prefer me to get Miss Freemantle involved ...”
“I fear, Philippa, you are loud enough to already get me involved,” said Libby, coming down the corridor. She was fully dressed, for Libby was an early riser. “What is going on?”
“Philippa is bullying me,” said Barbara, immediately.
Philippa gasped.
“You little liar!” she said.
“I am not a liar! You are throwing your weight around and telling me what I may do!”
“Which I was asked to do!” Philippa’s voice rose.
“Girls, why don’t we go to my study and leave poor Alice to sleep?” said Libby. “I did leave instructions not to disturb her, yet I find you both quarrelling loudly and keeping her from sleep. Alice, my dear, do not trouble to rise, I will have breakfast sent to you when you are awake.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” murmured Alice, thankful that having spent time in coaching inns had inured her somewhat to rude awakenings.

“Well?” asked Libby.
“I wish to report Barbara for bullying the new girl,” said Philippa.
“Sneak,” said Barbara.
“What, do you expect me to stand by and let you lie about me?” said Philippa.
“I wasn’t lying! You were bullying me, telling me I couldn’t go to the stables, and that I mustn’t wake that stupid weakling, who doesn’t really love horses if she’d rather lie abed than be out riding!”
“Barbara, as it was by my order that Alice was not to be disturbed, and as there is a standing order not to go to the stable before seven, what part of reminding you of my rules is bullying on Philippa’s part?” asked Libby.
“She’s just another girl, she can’t order me about!” said Barbara.
“Yes, she can, Barbara; we trust our oldest girls to help to uphold the very few rules of this school by acting as junior mistresses towards you younger ones,” said Libby. “You should not need to be supervised like a babe of nine or ten, but it appears that you cannot behave better than a child that age. You have already been under punishment for bullying a younger child and being generally childish. Do you really want to return to that punishment?”
“She said I should be put on a horse and made to trot day and night for a week,” said Barbara.
“No, I said it was a pity it would be unfair on a horse to make you do so and I never said day and night,” said Philippa. “May I go back to bed, Miss Freemantle? I only woke up because Barbara was shouting at Alice.”
“Yes, Philippa, you may do so. And I believe that you are right that Barbara is not a convivial companion for anyone else. When you arise, you may assist Eliza to move in with Alice, and Barbara will have the punishment room.”
Philippa dropped a little curtsey and left. She had left her slippers in her room and her feet were cold, and she had been hiding her feet from Libby, who was too perturbed by Barbara to notice.

Libby 7-9

Sarah WaldockMay 20, 2018 11:19AM

Re: Libby 7-9

LilyMay 20, 2018 02:36PM

Re: Libby 7-9

Sarah WaldockMay 20, 2018 06:07PM

Re: Libby 7-9

ChristinaKMay 23, 2018 05:40PM

I love your plans! (nfm)

LilyMay 23, 2018 04:56PM


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