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Libby 13-15

May 26, 2018 10:57AM
Chapter 13

Lucius groaned when raised angry voices reminded him that a school rarely had only one problem at once. Libby shut her eyes and winced at the shrill and far from dulcet tones.
“One of our other spoilt brats from the high discipline school,” she said. “Georgiana Throgmorton. She and Augusta Crookshank are inclined to put on their parts, though Augusta seems to be knuckling down. And do you know, Mr. Belvoir, I might almost have guessed that it would be Barbara who had a problem with her father, who basically said to Graeme that we could do as we wished to her so long as he didn’t have to deal with her. Messers Throgmorton and Crookshank were both horrified at the treatment their respective daughters had received and asked me to be as kind as possible to their daughters.”
“Doesn’t sound as though they are going to abandon them, anyway,” said Lucius. “That girl has a voice like a saw in a mill.”
“Alas, yes. Well, I will go and deal with it, as it shows no signs of abating on its own.”
She stepped out into the hall to see little Amanda Baswin being held in a head lock by Georgiana, who was screeching at the child and slapping her ineffectually, whilst the child’s sisters, Nancy and Mimi, properly Anne and Amelia, tried to rescue their little sister. Emmie Hasely was hitting Georgiana and Eva O’Toole was apparently biting her.
“What is the meaning of this unseemly brawl? Cease immediately! Georgiana, let Amanda go, Eva, animals bite, not young ladies, Emmie, I pray you to remember that whatever your brothers teach you, you are not a pugilist.”
Everyone stopped except Georgiana, who kept hold of Amanda.
“Miss Freemantle, she ...” Georgiana began. Libby interrupted.
“’She’ is the cat’s mother; let go of Amanda, and all of you into my study and line up in order of age, and I will have the story from you, youngest to oldest. March!”
Georgiana reluctantly let go of Amanda and went into the study, looking nervously at Lucius, who was still drinking his coffee by the fire.
Libby sat down at her desk.
“Eva, you are the youngest.”
“Wirra, and wasn’t it jest awful! Amanda and Emmie and me were coming in from the garden, and doesn’t this harridan grab Amanda ....”
Libby had raised a hand.
“Not a pretty name for a lady to use, Eva, and please try to get to the point without telling an Irish tale of it.”
Eva flashed Libby a beaming smile of confidence in being an innocent party in the matter.
“Sure, and wasn’t I gettin’ t’ the meat av it all,” she said. “Georgiana wis screechin’ loike a banshee and hittin’ out at Amanda, so didn’t Emmie and me try to stop her, so we did, and along came Nancy and Mimi, and seein’ their sister in dire straits, didn’t they join in t’help.”
“And what was it that Georgiana accused Amanda of doing?” asked Libby.
“I didn’t accuse her as if she hadn’t, I know she had!” screeched Georgiana.
Libby put her hands to her ears.
“Please, Georgiana, some of us are ladies and the sounds of the gutter are unpleasant to our sensibilities. Pray try to remember that you are supposed to be learning to be a lady too; and like a lady, wait your turn. You will have a chance to have your say.”
Georgiana flushed red. Libby had soon discovered that the only way to make her moderate her tones was to suggest that she was not a lady, despite her mother’s status.
Eva continued.
“Sure, and I’m not sure whit she wis accusing. Amanda av, for it wis all noise and no words ye could make out, t’be sure.”
Libby looked at her long and hard. Eva looked as innocent as a new born kitten, but that did not necessarily mean a thing.
“Amanda, can you tell me what you were accused of? And also, if you were guilty as charged? It does not excuse Georgiana’s behaviour if you did do whatever it was, but it may prove some mitigation to her.”
“I am not sure, Miss Freemantle,” said Amanda, frowning. “You see, she wasn’t making any sense, and she was already cross with me because of falling over me yesterday when she came out of her room so fast and I was there. I don’t think she hurt herself though, and Mrs. Ashley put arnica cream on my elbow where I fell over.”
Libby turned a hard gaze on Georgiana.
“She was loitering,” said Georgiana, sulkily. “She did it on purpose.”
“She let you knock her over on purpose? Well, I am sure Mrs. Ashley has already had plenty to say on the subject of supposed young ladies hurling out of their rooms like mohocks, so fast they bowl over smaller children.”
“I didn’t tell Mrs. Ashley, I just said I fell,” piped up Amanda. “And I got the telling off for being careless, but I wasn’t going to rat up a big girl who is mean if you tell the truth about her.”
“Dear me, a picture of a most unpleasant child is emerging,” said Libby.
“And that’s why she did awful things to my bed, for vengeance!” said Georgiana.
“Well, now we know the accusation,” said Libby. “And no more, Georgiana, until I get to you. Amanda, did you do anything to Georgiana’s bed?”
“No, Miss Freemantle, why should I? I don’t care enough about her to worry about doing anything back, she’s just one of life’s ....” she struggled in thought, “One of life’s little vicissitudes.”
“An excellent word and well remembered,” said Libby, detecting the words of Nancy in that phrase. Doubtless it was how the three sisters had survived the school in Oxford, as well as Nancy taking the brunt of it for the two younger ones. “Very well, I see no reason to doubt your word.”
“She must be lying!” cried Georgiana.
“Georgiana, a lady does not doubt the word of another lady,” said Libby. “If you were able to say ‘I know she is lying because she was seen leaving my room,’ then that would call Amanda’s word into some doubt. But to say, ‘she must be lying,’ shows that you have no evidence to the contrary. You three younger ones may leave.”
“Please, Miss Freemantle, it was me who made an apple pie bed for Georgiana,” said Emmie.
“Very well, Emmie, you shall stay, and Eva and Amanda may go. Pray take Amanda to Mrs. Ashley for more arnica, Eva, and explain that I have the matter in hand.”
“Yes, Miss Freemantle,” said the little girls, escaping gladly.
“Nancy, Mimi, you were looking out for your sister, I understand that, but would it not have been better to have run for a teacher?” asked Libby.
“We aren’t used, yet, to that doing much good,” said Nancy.
“Hmm, well, I suppose that is a good excuse,” said Libby. “However, I think I would like you both to look up the word ‘decorum’ in the dictionary, and copy out the definition. Once will suffice. You need to learn that the staff are here to help you, not hinder you.”
“Yes, ma’am,” they chorused, and curtseyed before leaving.
“So we are left with two culprits,” said Libby.
“I’m not a culprit, I’m a victim!” said Georgiana.
“You are a culprit,” said Libby. “You are convicted from your own mouth of jumping to conclusions, and I saw for myself how you were whacking poor little Amanda, who had done nothing to deserve it; and to be frank, even if she had been responsible for making you an apple pie bed, the level of response from a girl of twelve years old, old enough to be out earning her living, is quite disgusting. Amanda is barely nine, and not a big sturdy child like you. Georgiana, do you even know why I am cross with you?”
“No, not really,” said Georgiana. “It wouldn’t be any point bringing the brat to you to whack because you never whack any of them.”
“I do not ‘whack’ any of you,” said Libby, sharply. “And what, in any case, would be the point of punishing a child who was innocent of the very minor trick played on you?”
“You’re going to let that Emmie get away with humiliating me, aren’t you?” said Georgiana.
“My dear child! Humiliating? Really? For a simple apple pie bed? That’s a thought melodramatic for a trick most of us have suffered at one time or another,” said Libby. “Emmie will not get away with it, no, which is why she is waiting for me to issue punishment. As I am seeing it, Emmie played a trick on you in retribution for hurting her friend. Is that right, Emmuska?”
Emmie winced at being addressed by her full name.
“Yes, ma’am,” she said. “It was a nasty crack to the elbow, and Amanda wasn’t loitering, she had stopped to hitch up her stocking which had fallen, and Georgiana shot out of her room like a coney out of a burrow with a ferret after it.”
“I was late for a music lesson, how was I to know there would be someone outside?” demanded Georgiana, crossly.
“Most people with any pretensions to gentility would look before leaving a room, especially on a floor where there may be expected to be a lot of coming and going,” said Libby. “You might have knocked into a preceptress looking for a particular girl, or one of the maids, who would probably have had her arms full, possibly with hot water for a bath for the younger Mr. Belvoir who is not too stout at the moment. Then you might have been scalded with hot water, as well as scalding any servant carrying it, which would be a serious matter. Obviously you would apologise to a teacher or to a servant; did you apologise to Amanda?”
Emmie opened her mouth, and Libby held up a hand to her. Georgiana had flushed crimson when Libby had said that obviously she would apologise to a servant. Apparently that was still something which was not obvious.
“I did not apologise,” said Georgiana. “I thought she was mucking about so I shouted at her.”
“My dear, I am glad you are honest,” said Libby. “If you are honest, we really can make a lady of you. You know what I am going to require you to do, don’t you?”
Georgiana flushed deeper.
“Apologise to Amanda for knocking her over,” she said.
“And for falsely accusing her,” said Libby, “and for hitting her. I think it would be nice if you could ask her if there was anything you could do to make amends, don’t you? Like helping her to make her bed in the mornings for a week or so.”
Georgiana nodded, a little sullenly, but it was a nod of agreement.
“I am also going to require you to turn in thirty lines to me, of ‘her voice was ever soft, gentle and low; an excellent thing in woman.’ It may prompt you to moderate your tones rather than, ah, screeching like a banshee, in Eva’s colourful idiom.”
Georgiana bit her lip. Miss Freemantle might have likened her voice to that of a Billingsgate fish wife; the comparison to some Irish fairy was relatively kindly in comparison.
“Yes, ma’am,” she said.
“Emmuska, I understand your frustration on Amanda’s behalf, but you would have done better to inform Mrs. Ashley why Amanda had fallen over, rather than taking revenge unto yourself. I will expect an essay from you on where you believe the term ‘apple-pie bed’ to have originated, as I have no doubt your brothers have told you anything they know, as well as showing you how to do it. I expect Eliza may be able to advise you on that,” she added.
“Yes, ma’am,” said Emmie.
“Very well; barring apologies to Amanda, I expect no more to be said on this subject,” said Libbie. “You are both dismissed.”
She heaved a deep sigh of relief as they went.
“No rest for the wicked, eh?” said Lucius. “Justice tempered with mercy. That girl would not have apologised to a servant.”
“She would have been told off, if she had not, and Mrs. Baxter would have had the dealing with her,” said Libby. “She knew that I considered it important to apologise to a servant, and she has taken that idea on board. She wants to be a lady, like her dead mama, and she is willing to listen and learn. She’s just rather self-willed and unwilling to see herself in the wrong if it is not pointed out to her. She will make an adequate apology, not a half-hearted one, because one of her good points is that when she is in the wrong, and understands why, she is ready to admit it. I have no real worries about Georgiana. She is merely a little out of hand and rather hasty in her judgement.”
“Needs to be broken to the bridle, as you might say,” said Lucius.
“Well, as you said, anyway,” said Libby. “Her father regrets losing his temper with her, but he has given us free rein to school her as seems fit, so long as it is not harsh. As for our third spoilt child, Augusta, she has quietened down no end since she discovered that she is not as good a poet as she thought she was, for not knowing anything about the theory of writing poetry, and not having the depth of knowledge of some of her fellows to make literary and classical allusion in her work. She writes pretty rhymes, which could be very good with a bit of polish and a bit more understanding of how to use words, rather than just making sure she has rhymes.”
“I leave that to you, Miss Freemantle. Leave me propagating cuttings from a fuchsia, and I am quite capable; tell me to poetise, and I fear I run screaming in horror. The nearest I have come to poetry is being required to translate some of Horace’s ‘odes’ at school and place them into meaningful rhyming stanzas. I recall doing one of them, which is seven or eight stanzas in the original, as a couplet,
“As everyone is going to die
It is a waste to even try.”
Libby laughed.
“I’ll show you Daisy’s translation of ‘Eheu Fugaces’ some day,” she said. “Your couplet, if terse, is a rough free translation.”
“I didn’t mind the translation, it was making it rhyme,” said Lucius. “I got three whacks for that, but it was worth it because I got a good laugh, and even the Latin master almost cracked a smile. I think he was as sick of bad poetry as I was of trying to write it.”
“I’d have given you good marks for brevity, and made you copy out a non-rhyming translation three times,” said Libby.
“Whew, I think I was lucky in only having the whacks,” said Lucius.

Chapter 14

Lucius was glad to go to a class in which he instructed those who were making gardens in how to prepare the ground. Rather than have four separate plots, Cleo had a single large plot, which she was to cultivate, according to her own negotiations. She was engaged in taking softwood cuttings from lavender plants, to attempt to grow them into lavender bushes, and as they would take over the winter to be ready to plant out, those few which ‘took’. Cleo was also growing some from seed, to try both methods. She elected to lay down her plot for the time being to grow Swedish turnips.
“You can eat the greens, and the root can be mashed like potato, and horses can eat it too, but Philippa says not too much or they have the runs,” said Clio, seriously. “It’s related to cabbage.”
“It is indeed a brassica, and there is nothing to stop us from eating the greens instead of cabbage,” said Lucius. “It is a good choice. You may wish to sow some onion seed as well, to deter some of the parasites which can attack the root. As to the snails and slugs, we may hope that the gravel paths about the various plots will deter them, and you girls will have to check for any such unpleasant visitors and evict them.”
“Finch said we could have beer traps to drown them in happy drunken stupor too,” said Cleo.
“It is a way of dealing with them,” said Lucius. “Does anyone need any help?”
“Please, sir, we aren’t sure what to grow,” said Amanda.
“You will get a crop of lettuce, if you plant it now, or you might plant some bulbs for the autumn and spring,” said Lucius.
“Bulbs, please!” said Amanda.
“Lettuce for me, and I think we grew winter spinach and winter onion,” said Eva.
“Very good, and winter onion is called leek, as well,” said Lucius. “It’s a little later in the year than is ideal to start a garden, but I am sure you will all have some results.”
“I’d better learn to grow vegetables too, hadn’t I?” said Barbara, rather bitterly.
“It will give you pin money in the short term, certainly,” said Lucius. “I was left penniless by my father, with my young brother to rear, however, and I turned my hand to raising bulbs, and propagating them for sale. It was something of a struggle, but I succeeded, and now my bulb business pays well enough for me to take time out to educate you girls and spend time with a trustee’s duties.”
Barbara flushed.
“Thank you,” she said, rather gruffly.
“I’ve an idea to talk through with you later,” said Lucius. “Come to the head preceptress’ study after cleaning up when we finish, and I’ll lay it out to you.”
“Yes, sir,” said Barbara. She had not wanted to leave her room to come to a lesson with Mr. Belvoir, but Libby had been insistent, and the fresh air was pleasant. It was less pleasant being mostly ignored by the others, and Barbara was not aware of the fact that this was partly because Libby had told the other girls that Barbara was now essentially an orphan and needed to come to terms with that, and that she was not to be ragged.
As nobody knew what tremendous row Barbara had landed herself in, getting out of the third day of riding the tilting horse, most people kept their distance, but Alice had received a brusque, but fairly genuine comment from Barbara;
“I didn’t know what I was talking about. You aren’t feeble or lazy. You’re pretty brave,” which was as close as she was going to get to an apology. Alice was moderately generous of spirit, and was civil to Barbara, and spoke to her without being spoken to, which Barbara appreciated.

“I’ve a mind to make an agreement with you, Barbara,” said Lucius, having got her sat down in Libby’s study, whilst Libby sat to one side. “I think you are a proud girl, and I suspect that once you are over the shock of being disowned, you are the sort of girl who would consider doing all she could to drag her father’s name through as much dirt as she could, in order to make him pay for disowning you.”
Barbara had the grace to flush.
“Well, why shouldn’t I?” she said.
“Because the way I am fairly sure you are planning it, it wouldn’t work,” said Lucius. “By misbehaving here, you hurt nobody but yourself, in cutting off your nose to spite your face, and refusing an excellent education and the chance to learn how to be the sort of real lady you want to be. You will anger your preceptresses and your school fellows, which will get you nothing but being packed off thankfully into the only sort of position you could support, a slavey to a milliner, as soon as possible. You embroider well, but you have to admit, it is your only real skill. You don’t have the skill and erudition to be a famous courtesan to flaunt your name and his in his home town.”
“Mr. Belvoir! How can you suggest such a thing?” demanded Libby.
“I didn’t; I said she doesn’t have the skills to carry it off,” said Lucius. “And if she buckled down to learn to be a lady of education, she wouldn’t want to.” He gave Libby a limpid- eyed look, and she sighed.
Barbara looked from one to another, puzzled.
“Well, how can I get back at him?” she asked.
“It’s more a question of what I can do on your behalf if you make an agreement with me to learn how to behave,” said Lucius.
“I’m not used to being trammelled,” said Barbara.
“I wasn’t enamoured of having to be mother and father both to a sickly baby whilst working like a labourer to reverse our fortunes,” said Lucius. “But I did it, because it had to be done. A strong person does what has to be done. Surely you are not a weakling?”
“No, I’m not,” said Barbara. “Very well, explain the agreement, please.”
“I will bring my own wealth and contacts to bear to ruin your father, whom I despise for failing to be any kind of father to you ever, by failing to see you were taught as a small child the lessons you must learn in a harder fashion now. I will attempt to get hold of his assets, and I will place them in trust for you. When you are of an age to be out, the trust will pay for that, if you have shown you can be trusted to behave in company, and like a young lady. Assuming you continue to behave in an exemplary fashion, the trust will be wound up when you are of age, at twenty-one. Serious transgressions, such as eloping, will have the trust extended. As the money will be essentially mine, I can word the trust however I want, and I can break it early if I feel it is warranted. Then you will be your father’s heiress despite him. It will not be as much as you might have expected, but I will do what I can.”
“What of the poor woman who marries him?”
“My dear girl! That question alone makes me feel very optimistic that you are indeed a lady underneath your spoilt exterior,” said Lucius, delighted. “I am hoping to ruin him before anyone is fool enough to accept his suit. However, I will not see an innocent suffer. I am very pleased that such a thought occurred to you and that you are not wholly selfish.”
Barbara burned red, and tears leaked from her eyes.
“Tissy – my Miss Tissot – said I had a generous nature when she left me, and bade me be a good girl and keep my nice nature, and be kind to the next governess, but there was no next governess, and I had to fend for myself, and I sort of forgot not to please myself. Papa never seemed to care. Mrs. Branch, the housekeeper, she made me behave, and taught me more sewing stitches, but she died suddenly, and the new housekeeper was sharp and not kind, so I just did what I wanted.”
“You poor child,” said Libby. “A child cannot be expected to bring herself up without some help, and you were fortunate to have had a good grounding with Miss Tissot. I will make enquiries into her direction, for if her mother was ill, it might be that she is herself without family.”
“She will be ashamed of me!” Barbara was sobbing in full earnest now.
“No, she will be disappointed in you, but not half so much as she will be ashamed of and disappointed in your father for failing to make proper provision for you,” said Libby, coming round to cuddle the child. She met Lucius’ eyes and they shared a look of deep relief and satisfaction, and the warm look in his eyes made Libby unaccountably colour up.
If Miss Tissot might be found and brought to Swanley Court, Barbara’s behaviour would probably be assured.

13 Henrietta Street
17th July 1812

My dear Lucius,
What are you up to now? I feel I must write to you more as a dutch uncle than as a solicitor. I have performed some strange commissions on your behalf, but looking into ways to ruin a man has to be the strangest. I have found the governess for you, by the way, living in blighted penury and eking out a living based on the sale of her late mother’s small house by teaching, for a pittance, a group of girls not really of the class to attend schools in the general way. I have forwarded the letter you asked me to send to her, and will forward any reply she might send.
As you surmised, the copyhold of the property lately occupied by Miss Dewell passed without quibble to the young lady, and the rent was paid by her father’s man of business from her father’s royalties, before they were banked. The man had no idea his client was dead as the girl had not communicated with him, but he conceded that it was quite likely that she had no idea of his existence as her father was vague in the extreme. He passed everything into my hands in deep relief, and I have been working with Mr. Embury who is solicitor to the Swanley Court School to sell the copyhold, as it seems unlikely that the poor girl will wish to return to the site of such an humiliating experience. Such proceeds of the sale as there are will be placed into an account for Miss Dewell , and her father’s royalties as well. The furniture in the house must either be brought to her, or disposed of, perhaps you will find out her wishes in this matter.
You own house is fully assured, by the way, and the matter of malicious arson has been uncovered to the satisfaction both of the local magistrate and the Norwich Assurance company. It seems two local men were shot, believed to be poachers, and were carrying incendiary equipment on the premises of another man in the neighbourhood. I anticipate a visit from you, prior to a foray into Suffolk, as you will doubtless wish to wind up all matters yourself.
Yours faithfully,
Sidney Spurgeon.

“Alice, your father’s royalties were covering the rent of your house,” said Lucius, having asked Libby to summon the girl to her office. “I believe, however, you would be nervous about returning there?”
“I certainly would, sir,” said Alice. “I am quite self-sufficient on the whole, but I would be afraid that man would come and take what he wanted.”
“Good. Then the copyhold might be sold, and the money put aside for you,” said Lucius. “The furniture will either have to be brought here and stored for you, or sold. What do you want to do?”
“I would like Papa’s books, notes, and writing desk, it is a davenport such as those which are used at sea,” said Alice. “There is a painting of Mama, and it would be nice to have all my clothes, and there is no reason why the good bedlinen should not come here and be put to use as extra linen. Otherwise, I am happy to have it all sold. Mama took her own jewellery and favourite pieces of furniture when she left, after all, so I have nothing of her but the painting.”
“I will see to that, then,” said Lucius. “I will be transporting those pieces of furniture of my own which Marc and Jed stored in the cellar, so I may as well hire a carter who is capable of rigging cart hoops and a tarpaulin to protect our goods from damage. I will personally oversee the removal of your own furniture, Miss Dewell, to make sure that it is exactly what you want, and I will use my judgement if I see a piece I think you would regret losing. I will also do my best to round up and coop your hens.”
Alice had explained that she had led the cow over to a neighbour and left her, and released her cooped hens and hutched rabbits to fend for themselves. She had elected to turn her plot of garden at the school to the rearing of rabbits for meat and fur, being accustomed to cure the skins of those she slaughtered to sell to a furrier, and she might also sell the rabbit droppings as manure to Lucius. Alice was a smallholder for necessity rather than by inclination, but she was a capable girl.
“If I have some money, I should like to invest in black rabbits; they raise them in Norfolk,” she said. “That way I can sell the skins for a higher sum to the girl who left, who owns a millinery shop, for tippets, collars and muffs.”
“An excellent idea,” agreed Lucius.

Chapter 15

The Red Lion
20th July 1812

Dear Mrs. Freemantle,
As you have doubtless surmised, Spurgeon, Embury and I have laid up for the night at Newmarket. I would have pushed on to Bury St Edmunds but there is no hurry, and I had to pick him up in town in any case. As luck might have it, Miss Tissot is living in Slough, so we went north by way of Slough, where we ate, and I spoke to her. She is very willing to be a permanent governess at a school for orphaned ladies, and to put her attentions into being a mother for Barbara at first. She is a good plain sewer as well as knowing some embroidery , and is ideal to help Miss Joliffe with the little ones, as she finds teaching reading and writing to be most rewarding. She advocates starting teaching as young as three, in an informal setting, when she maintains that children learn without even realising that they are doing lessons. I thought you might let her loose on the little O’Tooles, and maybe she can talk Barbara into helping.
I plan to hire a carter in Bury,so we may be messing about there for a while tomorrow, however, I do hope to get Alice’s things packed up.
Did I tell you that I wrote to Lord Hatherley through Spurgeon with regards to the bailiff on one of his lesser estates? He wrote back and told me that the land was no longer his and that I should apply to a Mrs. Nettleby. Mr. Embury chortled happily and told me that as he was Mrs. Nettleby’s solicitor and man of business he would deal with the bailiff, if I would be ready to do any violence that was needful.
I may send Spurgeon on the stage to Bury to hire a cart and carter, and go straight to Alice’s former home, the better to start sorting, indeed he can also get out a carter from the auction house. Knowing that the property is now owned by one of our own [I had to be told that this was the inimitable Daisy] there is no hurry, as Mr. Embury assures me that Mrs. Nettleby would be lenient in such matters, but I think Alice would be easier in her mind if it was sorted out.
Tomorrow evening should find me at the Seven Bells, in Monkshithe, but if you wish to write to me there, it will find me eventually, even if I stay with Sir Henry in South Elmham St Peter.
I am turning in early, I confess that even in the chaise it has been quite a journey with the side-trip to Slough, and what a Slough of Despond it was for that poor woman. She is by no means old, being perhaps some fifty summers, but it is older than many people would wish when hiring a governess for the first time, and one has to be lucky to find a girl in her teens, say, who has lost a previous governess to some circumstance, when an older governess might be acceptable, or even advantageous if there are older boys and young men in the family. I told Miss Tissot that you would send John coachman for her, I hope I did right, but I have seen the tender care you and Mrs. Macfarlane offer to your staff, so I thought it would be forgiven that I was my usual heavy-handed self in that matter.
Yours sincerely,
Lucius Belvoir.”

“Well, that’s a heavy-handedness I can live with,” said Libby. “Now has he ... oh, excellent, yes, he has included her address. Unworthy of me to suspect him of expecting me to know by some form of magic.”
“He is a little more efficient than some men, even as Graeme is,” said Elinor. “I suspect it’s why Daisy decided that Julian Nettleby was worth keeping; unlike many who fancy themselves as poets, he is actually capable of hiring sailors for a river exeat, and procuring food for the girls at a moment’s notice.”
“Apparently he’s also good at knocking down bullies, helping wounded soldiers and rescuing abducted maidens,” said Libby. “I think they will do very well together. Very well, I shall ask John to go and collect Miss Tissot. Should I warn Barbara, or let it be a surprise?”
“I’d warn her, if I were you, she’s a volatile piece,” said Elinor.

“Oh, Miss Freemantle, so kind of you, every courtesy extended to me, I am so grateful,” said Miss Tissot, who had a small girl by the hand as she came into the house. “Mr. Belvoir was all that was kind, but he did not exactly give me time to explain about Jane, and I hope it will not alter matters.”
“Oh, he is a most impossible man at times,” said Libby. “Pray tell me about Jane.”
“She is my baby brother’s daughter,” said Miss Tissot. “He is away on the Peninsula, with General Wellesley. He was last home after Corunna, and Ellen, Jane’s mother, brought her to me and to mother, because she was having trouble with her own pregnancy. Poor Jane lost her grandmother, her mother and her baby brother all in the space of a couple of weeks, and there is nowhere else for her to go; but if you need me enough for Barbara, then I am hoping you might fit her in.”
“Most certainly we can,” said Libby. “Let me show you to your room, and Jane shall sleep with you tonight, before I introduce her to Eva O’Toole, whom I suspect is much the same age. There will then be four of them to share a room, which is a nice number. I will send up a tray for you, and Barbara shall bring it and may eat with you this once. Did Mr. Belvoir explain the problems we have had with her?”
“Indeed, and I could strangle that stupid man who sired her,” said Miss Tissot.
“You did not consider asking if you might take Jane and return to him as Barbara’s governess, when you lost your mother?” asked Libby.
“Plainly you do not know Mr. Ainsworth well,” said Miss Tissot, dryly. “Apart from the fact that he would never take on a governess with what he would call a liability, he would probably make insinuations about me leaving to give birth, because he cannot count if it does not involve money, and would also tell me that I had chosen to leave, and those things he discards are gone for good. If I had known he did not intend to get another governess for my poor little Babbette I don’t know what I would have done, but family does come first.”
“Of course it does,” agreed Libby. “I hope you will both feel that you have gained more family here.”

Barbara brought in the tray, set it down carefully, and then flung herself into Miss Tissot’s arms.
“Oh Tissie! I have missed you so, and Oh! You will be so disappointed in me!” she cried.
“There now, my Babette, if you know what you have done wrong, I will be proud of you for putting it right,” said Miss Tissot. “That man wasn’t fit to have charge of a pack of rats, never mind a daughter. Will you meet my niece, Jane? My brother is away fighting under Wellesley, and her mother is dead.”
“Do you remember your mother?” asked Barbara, curiously. Jane nodded.
“I don’t remember mine,” said Barbara.
“Was Aunt Jane a mother to you?” whispered Jane. Barbara blinked, as she realised that her Tissie had other identities to other people, and nodded.
“Yes, she was the only mother I knew,” she said.
“Perhaps we can share her?” said Jane wistfully. “And then you will be like a big sister?”
Barbara opened her mouth to deny the urge to have any siblings, and shut it again. She wanted to become again the girl whom Tissie had praised for generosity.
“I will be your big sister and I will ask Miss Freemantle if I may change my name to Tissot, so I don’t have to have my father’s name at all,” she said.

Swanley Court School

July 21st

Dear Mr. Belvoir,

It is late at night, and I have been running about sorting out the extra bed for Miss Tissot’s young niece, whose existence, I gather, you did not give the poor woman time to explain.
The child is seven years old, has lost her mother, and her father is away at war. Fortunately, Barbara has decided to behave well and adopt her as a little sister or cousin, and has demanded of me that she be permitted to change her name to ‘Tissot’ to be Miss Tissot’s daughter, not her father’s. I want her to think about this, not choose on a whim, but if she is adamant, I will see if Jane Tissot, the older one, that is, which is confusing, wishes to adopt her. I am not sure how the law stands with regards to a maiden lady adopting. Poor Barbara, even when she is trying to behave she creates problems!
I am not sure that I am going to survive another lot of twins, I fear we were all distracted by the new arrivals, and Frances wandered out of the nursery to see the newcomers too, and Kathleen and Deirdre O’Toole ‘borrowed’ Ruth and Naomi Knollys from their cribs, and planted them up to the necks in your best compost and watered them ‘to make them grow big and strong’, which was all very well intentioned, but those poor little girls are sickly enough without being composted and watered. Oh, Mr. Belvoir, the mess! Penelope and Cleo are clearing up, while the rest of us bathed and got babies into clean clothes, and Miss Tillot, bless her, stepped in and handled bathing and putting the O’Tooles to bed, and I fear I was left speechless by Felicity, who said to Philippa, ‘I am glad I am going to be a modiste and will be away from here before they are in the middle school, for I couldn’t have coped with us, let alone the O’Tooles.’ Philippa’s response was to poke her twin, I’m afraid. I sometimes despair of the Goyders managing to be grown up.
Libby Freemantle.”

“Well, she’s not that cross with me if she’s signing her name Libby, not ‘Eliz.’, said Lucius.
“What did you do?” asked Spurgeon.
“I didn’t ascertain that the governess woman has a dependent niece,” said Lucius. “I cannot, however, be held responsible for the perfidies of the O’Toole twins, thank goodness.”
“Are you going to tell her all about what happened?”
“I’d better.”

The Seven Bells

My dear Miss Freemantle,

I am glad to hear that Miss Tissot arrived, I apologise for not ascertaining whether she had any dependents, time was limited, and it did not occur to me to think that a maiden lady might have youngsters. I admit the error.
I also apologise for not making it clear enough to the younger ones that compost and water for good strong growth was meant only for plants. It would not have occurred to me to think that they might interpret that more ... liberally. I hope the younger twins have taken no serious hurt, though at least the warmth from the compost must have had some mitigating effect upon being watered. I am glad I was not there, but I am sure you dealt with the matter in your usual competent fashion.
I’m afraid I laughed, until I remembered that there had been some question regarding the survival chances of Ruth and Naomi. Still with such Quakerish names, I’d say they were bound to survive on the grounds of sounding virtuous [yes, of course I know the Biblical story of Ruth andNaomi, but they sound Quakerish to me.]
So, you will be wondering how things are going.
We found Alice’s house without difficulty, she gives excellent and minute directions, a woman Marc would do well not to lose sight of! The problem was that it appeared to have been broken into, but fortunately, the prowler was still on the premises. It turned out to be the self-same bailiff, and I took some pleasure in knocking the fellow down. He claimed he was entitled to take goods in lieu of rent, and I put him right about the rent being up to date, and Miss Dewell being aware of that now, and we proceeded to turn him over to the magistrate as a common felon.
The carter turned up, eventually, after the auction-house cart, and we sent the auction cart on its way, and brought the carter to Monkshithe, which at least has an inn, unlike Hobbeshithe St Martin which is basically two large houses, a few shepherds, and a paper mill, and the shepherds and the millers walk into Monkshithe, it being no more than half a mile. The Hithes, like the South Elmhams and the Ilketshalls sprawl into each other rather after the fashion of a group of drunken sailors in the lock-up, too tangled together in a pile to be entirely sure where one leaves off and the next begins.
It being rather late in the day, I did no more than walk over to the remains of my house, to look at the lie of the land, as you might say, and I was fortunate that Spurgeon, who had caught up with us by riding with the carter, came with me.
You may imagine my shock when a figure arose from a ditch and attacked me! It turned out to be the younger Pole, who looked much the worse for wear but quite demonic in his rage. He had a quite wicked-looking knife, but fortunately I do not travel without my sword-stick, and I was readily able to parry it after the first, surprise blow. Spurgeon wisely hit him on the head with a branch whilst I fended him off, and we sent for constables after leaving him tied up with his own braces. Spurgeon helped be back to the inn, and sent for a doctor, who wanted to bleed me. I ask you, I had lost enough blood to the knife cut, why would I want to lose more? I sent the doctor away and asked for the local midwife, who drinks too much but is at least competent. She washed out my wound and her stomach with equal amounts of brandy, a rare treat for her, and packed the wound with basilicum powder and bound it up. She’s clean, which is her main advantage, and she used fresh laundered linen on it. I will doubtless have a scar, but the knife skated over the outside of my ribs without penetrating anything vital, fortunately, though I suspect not for want of trying, and I was saved by my reflexes from getting it in stomach, heart or lungs. However I will be a trifle hung up here, as such a wound is likely to cause some fever, and I am stiff and sore.
Don’t tell Marc.

Your obt. Servant,
Lucius Belvoir.”

Libby 13-15

Sarah WaldockMay 26, 2018 10:57AM

Re: Libby 13-15

AlidaMay 27, 2018 03:55AM

Re: Libby 13-15

Sarah WaldockMay 27, 2018 10:47AM

Re: Libby 13-15

AlidaMay 27, 2018 10:05PM

Re: and it's appreciated (nfm)

Sarah WaldockMay 28, 2018 10:20AM

Re: Libby 13-15

LilyMay 26, 2018 12:53PM

Re: Libby 13-15

Sarah WaldockMay 27, 2018 10:46AM


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