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Libby 10-12

May 23, 2018 09:58AM
Chapter 10

“Barbara,” said Libby, “I believe your father whipped you before he packed you off to school.”
“You aren’t going to whip me are you? I’ll complain, I haven’t done anything to be whipped for!”
“Bullying another child is contemptible enough for many people to consider it worth corporal punishment, but no, I do not whip,” said Libby.
“I wasn’t bullying her! I was doing her a favour to get up and enjoy the morning!”
“Barbara, I want you to remember when your father whipped you.”
“Why?” Barbara asked, rudely with a sneer. Libby frowned; it was not the first time Barbara had talked back in a way which clearly displayed that she considered her preceptresses beneath her.
“What a nasty little girl you are to answer back in that rude way. Do you remember?”
“I can scarcely forget it,” said Barbara, sulkily.
“And did you want to get up bright and early next morning, and go riding?”
“Of course not! I was stiff and my backside was too sore to even sit on a chair.”
“Then you know how Alice feels for being in the saddle for days on end,” said Libby.
“But it can’t feel like that! Riding isn’t painful, it’s glorious!”
“Well, then, Barbara, I fear I may have to take some of Philippa’s idea and demonstrate to you the ridiculous nature of that comment,” said Libby. “I will show you to your new room, and you can be taking off your habit while I fetch your other clothes. You are banned from the stables for a week, but don’t worry, you will be riding.”
Libby took Barbara to the rather bleak little room which had been used before when girls had been too difficult to leave with other children. She asked one of the maids to take Miss Ainsworth’s clothes up to the solitary room.
“Aye, Miss Freemantle, I heard her bullying the new girl, but then I heard Miss Philippa. She’ve turned out right enough when you think what a little limb she were.”
“A little limb, Pollock, but with no vice in her, and with a respect for both the truth and for the point of view of other people,” sighed Libby.
Pollock had already reported Miss Ainsworth for hitting Dolly, the tween-floors maid, and lying about Dolly cheeking her. Dolly had been cleaning when Barbara wanted to be in her room, and had been told to get out. Dolly had curtseyed and said she had her orders and orders were to clean now.
A politely worded request would probably have seen Dolly complying, but that was immaterial.
Barbara was a problem.
Libby sighed. The girl was not amenable to having an explanation with a comparison of relative discomfort; she seemed unable, or perhaps unwilling, to put herself in the place of others. She had to be curbed before she really harmed someone, or got herself into the sort of trouble a rich, but socially not especially elevated, father could not get her out of. Emmie Hasely’s father for one would have no hesitation in prosecuting for assault any bigger girl who hurt his daughter if there was nothing to be said in mitigation. Libby had seen the way Barbara just pushed the little ones out of the way, and seemed amazed to be censured for it. It would have to be a case of fitting the punishment to the crime, and being cruel with the intent of being kind in the long term by making an object lesson. At least she could be more creative than the other school which seemed to resort to floggings, a bread and water diet, or total withholding of food, none of which were good for growing bodies, but which were punishments used freely enough in many schools, if not as extensively as in the school in Oxford.
Libby took herself down to the stables, calling,
“Lady in the stable yard!” before she did so.
The stable hands bathed nude under the stable yard pump first thing in the morning, which was one reason on the ban on the girls coming down before seven; the other was to permit the men to get the horses fed, or turned out to pasture, before mucking out.
A pair of bare legs attached to naked man scuttled out of sight behind a stable door as Libby walked into the yard. He was clutching his most precious possessions protectively, and had forgotten his clothes. The man would have been more embarrassed if she had not called out, however, so he could make a run for it.
“Miss Freemantle, what may I do for you?” asked John Coachman, who was essentially in charge of the stables.
“Somewhere in one of the stable lofts there is a tilting horse,” said Libby.
“Aye, and it’s in working order, Miss Freemantle, I was thinking you might use it with some of the youngest we have to teach them to sit a saddle,” said John, pulling his forelock. “I even got a liddle saddle for it.”
“I want a full size lady’s saddle on it, secure so it can’t slip off,” said Libby. “Send it up to the atrium when it is ready.”
“Yes, Miss Freemantle,” said John, wondering what that was about. Maybe the new little miss only knew how to use a man’s saddle, but she wouldn’t have ridden so far if she needed to practise on a wooden horse.
He shrugged and got down to fulfilling his orders.

Barbara came sulkily down to breakfast. She was surprised to see a tilting horse in the breakfast room with a side-saddle on it.
“Ah, Barbara,” said Libby. “You are very fond of the saddle; hurry up with your breakfast, coaching inns do not hold meals for anyone. You will want to get into the saddle, where you will be spending the next three days or until you apologise to Alice, which you may do at any time once you recognise that you have wronged her. You may get off for meals, and those sanctioned breaks for the call of nature, and to go to bed. Otherwise, this is your seat. You will be able to use a lectern to write at, which will be the right height.”
“That’s not like a real horse though, it will be uncomfortable,” said Barbara.
“That’s the general idea,” said Libby. “But the saddle is a proper saddle, so it is as padded as you are used to. And of course this horse is not jogging up and down all the time, which I am given to believe is very uncomfortable after a while. You apparently need some education in long rides andthe point of view of others.”
Barbara sniffed and tossed her head. It would be easy. She had no intention of apologising to Alice.
By mid afternoon of the second day, Barbara was changing her mind. It was not easy.
It did not help that her classmates did their best to surreptitiously kick the wooden legs of the tilting horse to add vibration when they might. Barbara had not endeared herself to the rest of the middle school, and if Alice, Hannah and Rachel left her alone, Hermione, Eliza, Cleo and Kitty were not backward in making their feelings known. Barbara was stiff and weary. After she had been allowed off the horse for milk and biscuits, and to use the usual offices, she felt that she hated the wooden horse. She had been in the saddle for half a day at a time, hunting, but had never been allowed out longer than that.
And they made her mount it again.
She fell into the narrow, hard bed in the solitary room that night and fell asleep before she could even cry.
She was too stubborn to apologise to Alice, even though Libby had asked her every time she took a break, every two hours, if she had anything she wanted to say to Alice.

Meanwhile, Graeme had been getting acquainted with Marc.
Graeme came into Marc’s room with a tray, loaded with all kinds of good breakfast viands, a pot of coffee, and two of all the chinaware and cutlery. Graeme set up a card table next to Marc’s bed and proceeded to set out the food.
“Help yerself; I imagine after a decent night’s sleep you have a good appetite, forebye,” said the doctor.
Marc smirked.
“Hungry as a hunter, sir,” he said. The two men ate in convivial silence, and since it seemed a shame to leave anything to get cold, cleared most of what Graeme had brought. Which had been Graeme’s general idea.
“The guid news is that your hip is no’ diseased,” said Graeme.
Marc stared.
“But they always said ...”
“Unfortunately, the havers they a’ways say is whit causes the damage,” said Graeme. “The guid news is that it won’t get worse, it is no’ degenerative as it would likely be sine it were diseased. The bad news is that sine ye had had a competent dochther frae birth, ye’d no’ ha’ ony trrrouble the noo. For ye’ve a displaced hip, and where it’s ground bone on bone where it shouldnae be grinding, it’s made its ain kind of socket wi’ bony growths. If it were a simple matter o’ breaking and resetting it, I’d offer it, but a’ I can do is gi’ ye an oil to rub it with, and tak’ ye to the saddler tae mak’ a guid boot with a raised sole so walking isnae sae painfu’.”
“It should have healed?” Marc stared in horror.
“If yon hip had been straightened at birth, ye’d walk straight, like as not,” said Graham.
“Please go away so I may indulge in a fit of temper,” said Marc. “I will take in the good news better when I have stopped wanting to kill old Granger.”
Graeme nodded, and picked up the tray to take with him.
There was no point leaving the boy china to break, the ewer was full of water, and the utensil was yet to be emptied, so he had only the washing basin which was too large and heavy to readily hurl in a temper.
There was a crash.
There went the boy’s dressing table set.
Graeme passed over the tray to a waiting maid, and waited outside the door until the muffled crashes were replaced by sobs. He gave the boy a few minutes to cry and then went back in.
Lucius had told him how his brother was likely to react when Graeme had told the older man what he had discovered from examining Marc. Graeme could scarcely blame him; sixteen years of pain which must endure in some measure all his life was not easy to reconcile with the alternative of sixteen minutes of agony as a baby and a year or so of being kept immobile.
Graeme went in, and put his arms round the boy.
Marc turned and clung to him.
“Does Lucius know?” he asked.
“Aye iph’m. I towd him before I towd you, tae see if I’d need tae give ye laudanum or no.”
“I don’t need laudanum.”
“No, ye’re stronger than that.”
“Tell me what can be done.”
Graeme took a flannel and wiped the boy’s face with cold water, and handed him a towel to dry it.
“I’ll no’ talk tae a snotty face,” he said. Marc chuckled, weakly. Graeme went on, “A built-up sole will mak’ walking easier. Ye’ll maybe no’ need a stick forebye, and ye’ll mount yon horse easier for it. Oil to rub in will ease the joint, and the pain. Exercise tae keep the movements ye have will prevent more calcification.”
“Thank you, Doctor. It isn’t fair, but I won’t let it spoil my life, I suppose. It’s been spoiled enough. It’ll be hard, though.”
“Be happy that ye’ll not be in a bath chair in ten years time as ye micht hae been had it been diseased,” said Graeme, roughly. “Yon bawheided shilpit wee naïf has aye robbed ye of a boyhood, but hoots! Dinnae permit the wee sumpf tae steal yer adulthood in gall and wormwood.”
“I didn’t understand half of that, but I suspect I agree with the sentiments,” said Marc. “I shan’t let him steal the rest of my life, Graeme, but at times it will be hard.”
“Ye’re a strong man, Marcus Belvoir,” said Graeme. “Ye’ll weather it.”
It would get worse when he was older, of course. He would suffer rheumatism in the joint. But he might have some time with a built up sole in which he could at least do more.

The visit to the saddler went well, and Marc was interested to hear stories about Daisy’s special boot, the fitting of a hook for a Captain Sanderville, and the braces and attachments for other prosthetics which the saddler now specialised in.
A sole making his right leg as long as his left did indeed make a world of difference! Indeed, Marc even slept better for having spent the day under less strain on his hip, and was able to sleep through the night.
Marc awoke in the morning refreshed and considered going for a ride, or even a walk, in the fresh morning. He opened the curtains, only to gasp to see his brother’s distinctive black horse, the one Jed had ridden here, being urged out of the stable yard by some girl.
Marc ran next door to his brother’s room and hammered on the door before going in.
“Some girl has taken out Lucifer to go riding,” he said.
“Hellfire! Stupid wench, She won’t be on him long,” said Lucius. “If the brat breaks her stupid neck I suppose I’d better not say it serves her right, though. Miss Freemantle would have my tripes for trimming, even if she agrees. It wasn’t your friend Alice, I suppose, thinking it to be Jed’s horse?” he was dressing swiftly as he spoke.
“No, this one was a bit overstuffed and overdressed,” said Marc.
“Well, go and get dressed and come downstairs. I’ve a horse to rescue,” said Lucius, grimly.

The horse Barbara had chosen to take out was more mettlesome than she had realised.
She was stiff from the wooden horse, which did not help, but the big black stallion was not behaving the way he should. Horses when broken did what you told them!
It did not occur to Barbara that her saddle, her seat, and her way with the reins were entirely alien to a horse used only to men; and that Lucifer was not best pleased to be under a strange being.
Lucifer was furious. He was also hungry, as he had not finished his breakfast.
He had one desire, and that was to get this thing off his back.
To this end, Lucifer went through every hedge which had no thorns in, through the river rather than over the bridge, and finally dumped Barbara in the ha ha as he sailed over the top of it.
Barbara, half dazed, was brought roughly to her senses to be heaved out of the ditch by her collar, and to find the man named Mr. Belvoir, who was some sort of schoolmaster, snarling at her,
“Well you little horse thief, I think I’ll see you transported for this, and if you’ve caused my horse any harm, you’ll be lucky if the magistrate gets you, for I saw you sawing on his mouth!”
Barbara fainted.

Chapter 11

She awoke through being slapped.
“If you think I’m going to carry you, you stupid, idiotic horse-thief you can think again!” shouted Lucius.
“I’m not a horse thief!” Barbara was indignant.
“Oh? What do you call taking away a horse belonging to someone else then?” demanded Lucius.
“The horses belong to the school, so there!”
“You lying little baggage, nobody will believe for one moment that you would believe anything so stupid when I and my brother are visitors to the school, not to mention the other personal mounts in the stables!” snarled Lucius.
“But you’re only a teacher so you ride a school ....” for once she actually quailed before his thunderous grey eyes.
“Even if I were a master at the school, not teaching as a favour, and I owned my own mount, it would still be stealing to take it as much as if you came into my room and stole my clothes,” hissed Lucius. “As it is, I am a trustee of the foundation, passing on a skill I have. I own my horse and my young brother’s horse. Miss Dewell owns her own horse. Dr. and Mrs. Macfarlane all own their own horses, and if you have ruined my horse’s mouth sawing at it like I saw you doing, your father will be paying me two hundred guineas for a new riding horse, because I only ride quality steeds. Are you beginning to get into your feather-filled head that there are consequences to your actions?”
“Please, you can’t really have me transported can you?” Asked Barbara in lively terror.
“Well, you know, I am sorely tempted,” said Lucius. “Because if you had stolen the horse of a visitor, come to look for a governess, or to donate money, or just to look at the establishment, it would mean the closure of the orphanage because it would soon get about that Swanley Court School breeds ill-conditioned little thieves. Nobody who ever went here would ever be able to marry, or get any kind of employment. And if you are transported, the danger of that is then removed from the nice, well-behaved, obedient girls who don’t tell lies, steal horses and bully younger ones. Yes, I’ve heard about you,” he added.
Lucifer was in a copse, cropping grass, which was a relief, but turning this into a homily of how things could go was too good an opportunity to miss. He hoped she would be too scared to pick out the logical fallacy in his threat, in that dragging her through the courts would be equally bad publicity for the school.
Barbara was crying in earnest now.
“I was only borrowing your horse to ride!” she wailed.
“Hmm, so if one of the maids borrowed one of your gowns to wear to a dance, and didn’t even bother to ask first, you consider that perfectly acceptable?”
“Of course not! It’s not the same!”
“It is exactly the same, Miss! You took the property of someone else without asking permission. You are extremely lucky, since Lucifer don’t like females, that you are actually alive and he didn’t see fit to throw you over his head into a brick wall. Good grief, girl, even if you are so full of moral turpitude that you consider the stealing of other folk’s property is acceptable, don’t you ever stop to wonder whether there are dangers involved? Or are you really as stupid as your innocent act seems to suggest? How do you manage to walk and breathe at the same time?”
“How dare you make me out to sound like Frances?”
“Oh, you’re not a bit like Frances; she’s cleverer than you, she’s also honest, and she’s a nice little girl,” said Lucius.
Barbara began to flounce back towards the school.
Lucius took her by the collar.
“Magistrate is this way,” he said.
“But ... but...”
“Don’t think you can get out of this by pretending to be a goat either,” said Lucius.
“I won’t do anything like it again!” wailed Barbara.
“Indeed? Well, my girl, I know Miss Freemantle likes second chances, but I am going to write you a contract of behaviour, and that contract will state that if you transgress against it three times, I will lay information before the magistrate regarding your theft of my property. And regardless, I will be sending your father a bill for any veterinarian bills or the replacement of my horse, as needed,” said Lucius.
Barbara sobbed all the way back to the school. She did not even notice Lucifer ambling behind his master, to where Jed might catch his bridle and lead him back to his stall for his interrupted breakfast.
Barbara having sobbed herself into a fever, she was put to bed, whilst Lucius laboured on a contract. He showed it to Libby.

“I, the undersigned, Barbara Ainsworth, do hereby recognise and accept that I took unlawfully the property of Mr. Lucius Belvoir, gent., trustee of Swanley Court School, to whit, one stallion, named Lucifer, ill-treating the aforementioned beast, to the detriment of its value.
In admitting that I am a thief and a liar I pledge to overcome my perfidious behaviour and undertake to never again tell a lie, other than those lies of tact needed for social intercourse, nor take the property of others without asking, nor fail to obey the rules of the school and the orders of my preceptresses; nor will I act in an overbearing or bullying way to my fellows. I am to be allowed up to three transgressions deemed to be accidental breaking of this contract, since I acknowledge that I have very little self control or ability to think in a reasoned manner, but if I transgress a fourth time, then I accept that information will be laid before the magistrate against me as a horse thief and that I will be pursued by the full vigour of the law.”

“Mr. Belvoir, this is not a legally binding document, and you know it,” said Libby. “I have grave concerns over it.”
“Madam, the girl is a brat. If something is not done to curb her, either she or her father will find themselves in serious trouble. She stole my horse. Suppose you had been entertaining Lord Chisterley, or worse, one of his friends looking into endowing the school, and she had stolen one of a matched pair, ruined its mouth, and scarred its flanks? She did use her crop on Lucifer, it’s why he dumped her in the ha ha. She did not ruin his mouth, but it’s sore. I won’t be able to ride him for a week. He also has a strained hock. I will be writing to her father, and sending him the bill for the treatment of Lucifer. She was scared at the idea of the law being enacted on her as a common horse thief. This contract could save you a lot of trouble. I won’t ask you to be present when she signs it, so you aren’t complicit. But she should read it and sign it to make a solemn undertaking not to misbehave so badly again.”
Libby frowned.
“Only if you write to her father exactly what you have done and why,” she said. “Then he can choose to take her away instead.”
“Very well,” said Lucius.

Swanley Court School for Impoverished Gentlewomen

12th July 1812

Dear Mr. Ainsworth,
Permit me to introduce myself. I am Lucius Belvoir, gentleman, and a trustee of the school. I am visiting, along with my brother, to impart some skills and to inspect the school.
You may imagine my irritation when my brother saw out of the window my valuable riding horse, for which I paid 210g, being ridden off by a girl.
I set off in pursuit, confident that no brat plying a whip to my horse would stay on long.
Unfortunately the horse thief was alive and scarcely hurt when I caught up with her. And no penniless orphan, but the child of a wealthy man, indeed, sir, your daughter.
I was inchoate with fury at the way she treated my horse, indeed any man must be angry at so unhandy a rider as to leave a horse with a sore mouth and pulled tendon. You may be assured that my veterinarian will be sending you the bill. You may consider yourself fortunate that it is not a bill for a replacement stallion of equal quality.
I managed to make some impression on your daughter, who disregards any attempts to reach her by the exercise of logic, by explaining to her that I would be justified in taking her before a magistrate for horse theft, when she would likely be transported. I am a trustee, and would not wish such to happen, but what if it had been the horse of a benefactor, like Lord Chisterley?
I have written your daughter a contract, a copy of which I enclose for your perusal. It is not legally binding, but I hope that she believes that it is, so that her fellow students and preceptresses might have some surcease to behaviour normally found only in the Tower menagerie amongst the apes.
You, sir, are responsible for letting this behaviour get so far out of hand that you found it necessary to try to curb her by physical punishment and by sending her to school. Had you done your duty to her as a father in her earlier years you would not now find yourself in a position where you are in very real danger of being subject to law suits engendered by your daughter.
If you prefer to remove her from the school, whilst I am sure the student body would raise three hearty cheers, you are on your own. If you choose to leave her, then I will expect you to respect my use of a contract to bind her over to good behaviour. Might I point out that her tender years would not protect her from the hangman or transportation if she managed to irritate anyone less forbearing and forgiving than I am.

Lucius knew that any man who read this letter carefully should realise how lucky Barbara was in having taken the horse of someone who cared about the reputation of the school, who would actually cover up what in law could lead her to the gallows. After all, the notorious Margaret Catchpole, who had also borrowed a horse, belonging to her employer, to go to meet her lover, had initially been sentenced to hang. Her exploits, riding 70 miles to London in nine hours, her subsequent escape from Ipswich gaol, and the good character given to her by the employer she had stolen the horse from had made her fame enough that the sentence was commuted to transportation. There had been recent moves to have her pardoned, but even so, when theft of property costing more than a shilling could lead to execution, a magistrate would not turn a blind eye to anyone, even a young girl of some pretension to gentle birth, who stole a valuable riding horse, which might be expected to, and indeed did, bring in income in stud fees. Lucifer was from the locally well known Danforth stables.

Heatherly House
Nr. Bicester

14th July 1812

Dear Mr. Belvoir,
I will of course meet your veterinarian’s bill, however, you may make what contract you will with a girl of no surname. I have no daughter, and therefore will consider myself exempt from any other bad behaviour the girl enacts.
I am remarrying, and hope to have an heir to my property soon.
As I no longer have a daughter, I will not, of course be paying any further school fees.
Yours sincerely,
Richard Ainsworth.”

“Now I call that downright evil,” said Libby, when Lucius read the letter without comment and passed it to her. “No letter came for her; he’s going to let us break it to her.”
“Well since her behaviour is his fault, it’s a damned cheek,” said Lucius, “And I do not apologise for my language because I used the word in its purest sense, that his impertinence is truly damned.”
“Indeed,” said Libby. “Did not the Good Shepherd go out of his way to find the straying sheep? Your use of the word was nicely balanced and suitable, not a swear word.”
“I suppose as I started it, I had better explain it to her,” said Lucius.
“No, Mr. Belvoir, I will explain,” said Libby.

Barbara sat on a chair in the Head Preceptress’s office, trying to take in what Miss Freemantle was telling her.
“Mr. Belvoir wanted to be above board with your father as regards the contract he made with you,” said Libby. “But I am afraid that your father, who is in my mind an absolute villain to permit you to learn such bad behaviour, and then expect harshness to correct it, has decided that he has no daughter. He has disowned you, my dear.”
Barbara gaped.
“So I am a penniless orphan too?” she whispered. “Does ... does Mr. Belvoir want to prosecute me now you aren’t going to get school fees for me? Are you throwing me out?”
“Mr. Belvoir desires to sink his fist so far into your father’s face his nose turns inside out, judging by what he was muttering when I had you sent for,” said Libby. “He considers, as I do, that it is lack of correction when you were young which has led to your behaviour in later years. As for your father washing his hands of the matter by disowning you and declaring an intention to remarry, Mr. Belvoir was scarcely sure whether to quote the Scriptures, or Daniel Mendoza’s book on prize fighting.”
“Well both were Jews,” said Barbara.
“Well done, my dear, a concept not many people grasp readily,” said Libby.
“Hannah mentioned that Jesus was a Jew, and of course, he had to be,” said Barbara, who could manage analytical thinking about such subjects as history and theology. “What is to happen to me?”
“We will keep you, of course,” said Libby. “You are now in the situation of having to learn to earn your living, which I hope will make more poignant to you the need to be obedient to the really very few rules we have here.”
“I .... it is a shock,” said Barbara.
“Of course it is,” said Libby. She sighed. “I hope the other girls will be kind to you, but I fear that very often one gets from life what is put into it.”
Barbara flushed.
She knew she had sneered at the girls who were orphaned, and had not treated them well. She could not expect to receive much kindness in return.
“I will try to do better,” she said.
There was, after all, a big difference between a rich man’s daughter behaving outrageously, and his wealth making trouble go away, most of the time, and a poor girl with no family who had nobody to get her out of trouble.
Barbara ran off to her bedroom when released and cried herself to sleep.

Chapter 12

Barbara was not the only one to cry.
Lucius intercepted Libby on her way to her own room, tears running down her face.
“Now then, Miss Freemantle, solitary tears don’t help,” said Lucius. He led her back into her office and rang the bell. When Baxter answered, he asked Libby, “Brandy or hot chocolate?”
“A cup of tea, please, Baxter, and whatever Mr. Belvoir wants.”
“I’ll have a coffee, if you please, Baxter; it is a trifle too early for brandy.”
Baxter bowed and left.
“Trust you to be awkward, woman, and pick a beverage I hadn’t suggested,” said Lucius. Libby managed half a smile; his own smile demonstrated that he was teasing her.
“Tea settles irritated nerves,” said Libby. “That poor child, she is an unmitigated nuisance, but really, I think she is more sinned against than sinning. I have on her records that her mother died birthing her, and she had a governess until she was almost seven, and the governess then left to nurse her ailing mother. Reading between the lines, Barbara has been spoilt and ignored in turns by her father, who has permitted her a great deal of licence in riding about the countryside without anyone in attendance, and has not thought to have a replacement governess to teach her. She has learned embroidery from the housekeeper and from books, and is actually quite good at it, she reads enough to have obtained an education of sorts, but the child might as well be a Hottentot for all the social graces she has been taught. Mr. Belvoir, I hated sentencing her to that humiliating ride, but I felt I had no choice, given that she refused to accept Alice’s long ride as an ordeal, however gently your brother treated the child. And of course it was an ordeal for him too, but Barbara has not encountered him.”
“In a way, that is unfortunate; Marc can be quite uninhibited when he is in pain, and if she had plagued him to ride he would have told her off in no uncertain terms,” said Lucius, dryly. “Probably with forays into Latin and Greek to make his point.”
“And I fear she would have written off his comments as those of a feeble cripple, which would have irritated him the more, and rightly so,” said Libby. “I am glad she has not encountered Marc. I would doubtless have had to discipline him for behaviour unbecoming to a gentleman.”
“What, and heaving the chit through the park by the collar is not?”
“It made the point to her, and you did not swear at her, which I fancy Marc might have done if pushed far enough,” said Libby. “Young men have such a wide command of language, which is not always appropriate.”
“Fair point,” agreed Lucius. “What are you going to do with her?”
“Keep her, of course; this school is here for gentlewomen with no other means of support, which she does not,” said Libby. “I might want to send her home, but I fear that now I have no option. It’s a nasty blow to the child, worse, perhaps, than Anne’s shock. You do not know Anne, she is married and living in Yorkshire, but when she was orphaned, she found out that being adopted did not count for inheritance, without specific provision being made in the will. She did, at least, have the knowledge that her father loved her, and was merely an improvident fool. Anne was his illegitimate daughter. He had no other children, and a cousin inherited.”
“That would be a shock, as of course would it be to daughters who find themselves homeless because of an entail, or like Alice, find their house is not owned freehold.”
“Indeed. However, Alice never expected to be a wealthy heiress; Anne did, and so did Barbara. And justly so, in both cases. Losing all that is a greater shock than knowing that you will have to continue to be careful with money.”
“And I need to get probate sorted out for Alice, which you have reminded me about, and look into the cottage, and how it is owned,” said Lucius. “I will write to my man of affairs, however, rather than abandon you; I appear to have made Barbara respect, or at least, fear me enough to make her mind, and while she shakes down into her new role, it might be as well if I stayed here.”
“If you would stay for a few days, I would be grateful. I had hopes that you had hit on a good solution in that contract, and with support from her father not attempting to overthrow it, that she would finally learn to think before acting or speaking, However, I am not about to be sanguine that a further shock will improve her, because I could hardly blame her if she railed against her father, and determined to be as bad as she could be, to drag his name through mud. A spirited girl is not going to accept it quietly, however cowed she may seem at the moment.”
“I’ll talk to her.”
“Do I want to know what you plan to say?”
“Possibly not, though you should be there, for propriety’s sake. I’m going to offer her a deal. If she tries to be a lady, I will take her father down, and set what property I can win from him in trust for her, so long as she is able to support the position of a lady in order to claim it.”
Libby considered.
“Vengeance is not very nice,” she ventured.
“Nor is disowning your daughter whom you have failed in the first place by not teaching her right from wrong, and if you ask me, his failure with his daughter is the greater sin, and she is well shut of him as a father.”
Libby sighed.
“I am afraid I agree with you,” she said.
“The world won’t end if you do so,” said Lucius. “It’s not the first time we’ve agreed, however momentous Marc might think that.”
“Marc appears to think that you quarrel with everyone.”
“I do. You’ve heard the phrase that someone cannot tolerate fools gladly? Well I cannot tolerate fools at all. I acknowledge that I am abrupt in my speech and give offence where it is not intended. This is a fault, because it is better only to offend on purpose. I intend to offend Ainsworth, by the way.”
“He is nothing to do with me, so what you do is your own business. He has paid for the term in advance, and I will not refund it, he will find on the contract that the term’s fees are to be paid in advance, in full, and no refunds are made if a parent decides to remove their child from the school. He has not even decided to do that,” said Libby, grimly.
“No, and you should not refund it,” said Lucius. “Ah, and here is Baxter.”
“Thank you, Baxter,” said Libby.
Baxter pushed in a dumb waiter with coffee in a pot and tea making paraphernalia. Libby busied herself with the comforting ritual of making tea.
“Your tears were over that silly child’s plight?” asked Lucius.
“Alas, not so noble,” sighed Libby. “It was a mix of self-pity over having to deal with this whole mess, and sorrow for having failed to reach her. Even with the use of a drastic measure to try to get her to understand her own bad behaviour, I failed, or she would not have run off to take Lucifer. I haven’t even dared ask her if she was just out for a ride or if she was running away.”
“She was out for a ride; she saw it as her due,” said Lucius. “I disabused her of that notion.”
“Well, thank goodness I had not driven her away by a harsh lesson,” said Libby.
“Good grief, woman, you think that harsh? You didn’t go to school yourself?”
“Yes, I went to a school with four other girls, and we shared a preceptress as day girls, and it was very convivial,” said Libby.
“Not like the schools which cram in children until they have three in a bed, left to pass smallpox, measles and typhus between them as readily as sharing such items of clothing as are necessary to evade a whipping; if girls do such things, I know boys hold some items in common to avoid punishment. A school cap in good repair was once passed from one end of the dormitory to the other by a chap wriggling under the beds as the housemaster inspected kit, so each boy seemed to have one.”
“Really? You would be whipped for failure to have a cap?”
“A school cap. And yes, it was a matter of ‘being properly attired’ you see. I am sure there must be girls’ schools which would cavil against stockings with holes in, not yet darned. At least we had our stockings darned for us, but I suspect girls have to do their own.”
“I certainly expect our girls to do their own, and they lose leisure if they have not bothered,” said Libby. “I have certainly heard of rulers across knuckles for untidy writing or badly played music, which is counter-productive, but I fear many women forced into teaching by circumstances are not very imaginative or flexible. But I still feel bad that I failed, having found myself out of options and resorting to a physical and humiliating object lesson.”
“I suspect if the silly chit had not got herself into trouble with me, she might have been willing to admit the fault,” said Lucius. “I’ll ask her when I speak to her.”
“Thank you,” said Libby. “I thought it best to leave her to sleep, I will, of course, check on her from time to time.”
Lucius nodded.
“Then it is time to be politely rude to Mr. Ainsworth,” he said.

Swanley Court School for Impoverished Gentlewomen
15th July 1812

How readily apparent it is that you are not a gentleman. If you were even a man, I would consider calling you out, but you do not even aspire to that estate.
A fellow who has permitted his daughter to run wild as the unfortunate Barbara has done is a sorry excuse of a human being, and I cannot but wonder where you were dragged up yourself. After all, it is usually the criminal classes which abandon their children upon the parish.
The school solicitor will serve you with papers to sign over the guardianship of your former daughter to responsible adults, though I am amazed that you are permitted the right to sign documents for yourself , since I would have thought you would need your keeper to do so for you.
Please be aware that I despise you from the bottom of my heart, and I hope never to have to soil my pen in correspondence with you ever again. I had to wash my hands thoroughly after reading your last missive, to remove any taint your touch might have left upon it.
Lucius Belvoir, gentleman.

He tossed it to Libby, who read it, laughing and putting her hand to her mouth in shock.
“Surely you cannot send anything that rude?” she said.
“One of the things an English gentleman learns, is when to stop being one,” said Lucius. “Assuredly I can send it. I have not sworn, nor called him offensive names, which I believe the Royal Mail forbids correspondents to do. I have merely dissected his character, according to my own opinion. If he wants to call me out, he may; I am an excellent shot, and accounted an adequate swordsman by Angelo, who is not readily given to praise.”
“I hope it will not come to that. Indeed, it will not, for as you say, he is no gentleman and would be as scandalised as any grocer over the concept of settling a dispute or matter of impugned honour through a duel. And you are correct, there is nothing in the letter which might be taken to court as slander, since you have said that it is usually the criminal classes who abandon their children ,without saying outright that he is criminal. Very clever.”
“I will take a copy of it; will you witness it as a true copy, and perhaps I should ask the doctor as well,” said Lucius. “Seeing how little his daughter loves veracity, it would be as well, in case he decides to lie about what I wrote. If he makes trouble, I shall publish his letter and mine in his local rag, and watch him squirm.”
“Mr. Belvoir, are you used to provoking litigation?”
“By my devastatingly charming manner, you mean? No, but I am not afraid of it. There were plenty of my father’s creditors who thought to bully a relatively green young man with a sickly baby in his care. We lived with bums in the house for a while, bum bailiffs, that is, a corruption, I believe, of ‘bound bailiff’. I have to say, one of them was a very good nurse to Marc. But I spent three years fending off debtor’s prison, which would have killed Marc, in finding legal ways to stall, and paying out just enough to remain on the right side of the prison walls, until my avocation started to pay off as a business. I know how to make that class of man so apoplectic with fury that they do something which gets them into trouble with the law, to grant more time. I am a gadfly, Miss Freemantle, and proud of it.”
“I cannot approve of the habits of some gentlemen to fail to pay off merchants, whilst insisting on paying so-called debts of honour.”
Lucius shrugged.
“I don’t gamble, because it is not, in my opinion, honourable in the least. And I might sympathise with shopkeepers losing money, but Marc came first. It wasn’t my debt, and it wasn’t my fault the estate could not pay for it. I was not permitted to sell any of the property until I was five-and-twenty years old, and most of them were waiting, like carrion crows watching for a dog struck by a cart to die, to get their hands on the sale of the hall. I paid them off before then, just! And I pay all my bills promptly, too,” he added.

Libby 10-12

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