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Libby 16-18

May 29, 2018 09:30AM
Chapter 16

“Swanley Court School
25th July 1812

My dear Mr. Belvoir,
Apparently the battle of Salamanca is not the only place where one might be wounded. We are hearing word of it having been fought, and certainly of initial great success at the outworks, but not much about the final outcome other than that the fort is taken. We are not sure of the cost. You may imagine the matter is of some interest now at the school, since Miss Tissot’s brother is involved, and the twins, bless them, have taken over reading the papers quickly first to check the lists of killed and wounded, so that it should not come as a shock if Captain Tissot is amongst those who fell, for they will inform me, and I will be able to break it more gently to Jane and little Jane.
However might I express my deep relief that your own little war has not proved to be worse than what sounds, thankfully, like a relatively superficial wound. Which is not to say that you should be in any way blasé about it, or try to ignore it now that it is dressed.”

“The wretched woman knows me too well,” commented Lucius. “I thought for a moment she was going to be out of sympathy for me when she said it was relatively superficial, but no, it was just a prelude to ringing a peal over me for getting up this morning as if she knew I was going to do so.”
“I did say I thought you ought not to, Lucius,” said Mr. Spurgeon.
“I’ll call you ‘Uncle Edwin’ if you fuss,” said Lucius.
“So long as you remain alive to do so, I shall not mind,” said Mr. Spurgeon. “Is this the ‘Pretty, Prideful Preceptress’ you mentioned?”
“Yes,” said Lucius, shortly, and returned to the missive.

“Naturally you will not wish to be entirely idle; I cannot abide being laid up, myself, but you will have to find a balance. Perhaps you might lay some blankets in the carter’s cart, you have been to Alice’s house already, I am sure she will be happy for you to make a pile of her bedlinen, quilts and so on, so that you might be carried without being jolted, as the cart has to go there in any case, and you might have a chair to sit upon to supervise the removal of such items as have survived. You said that Sir Henry offered the services of his gardener to help with the removal of plants, so you can send a boy from the inn to fetch him. You have the assistance of both Mr. Embury and Mr. Spurgeon, and I may attest to the efficiency of the first at least. He does need some direction when thinking along unconventional lines is called for; however. I know you reside every trust in Mr. Spurgeon.
I have the impression that you were not expecting this Mr. Pole, and as you have neglected to fill me in on the reason he should be finding any despite for you, I fear I cannot comment. I cannot think that you have managed to make yourself obnoxious enough purely with ill-considered comments to attract the attentions of a knife-wielding maniac. Although at times I have wished to strangle you, naturally I would not follow that thought to its ultimate conclusion.”

“Uncommonly good of you, Miss Freemantle, your own neck has its attractions with regards to strangling at times,” said Lucius.
“I thought you fancied her?” said Spurgeon.
“You thought wrong; she’s a bossy schoolmarm,” said Lucius.
Spurgeon chuckled, and Lucius ignored him.

“Please take care, in case he has accomplices,
Elizabeth Freemantle.”

“Back to semi-formality,” said Lucius. “I presume Sir Henry did follow up on Marc’s idea; I think I’d better send a note to him,”

“Seven Bells Inn

27th July 1812

Dear Sir Henry,
You should know that, assuming you did engineer the pressing of the younger Pole and Brock, Pole at least is ‘run’. He has attacked and wounded me, and I lie here in some irritation, fighting off both fever and the doctor. I have not yet had to deal with the local parson, since I can adequately say that if I need one, I will send for Reverend Pender. I am not, after all, at death’s door,
However, it has been pointed out to me that if Pole managed to escape the Royal Navy, Brock might have gone with him. Which being so, your own life is in danger. Please take care.
I should, by the way, be very pleased to take you up on your offer to loan me your gardener.
Lucius Belvoir.”

“Brexhay House
South Elmham St Peter
Noon, 27th July 1812

My dear Belvoir,
You cannot possibly stay in an inn when you are wounded, you and anyone you have brought must remove directly to Brexhay House, and I will hear no argument to the contrary.
I have spoken to the magistrate who says that Pole admitted to being ‘run’, so he is to be handed over to the Navy for their brand of justice, and I cannot say I am sorry for him. He and Brock jumped ship and swam ashore further down the coast, but he lost contact with Brock, who may, with luck, have drowned, but I fear that he may not have done. I did as you suggested in hiring on wounded soldiers as extra eyes and ears, and they have proved so generally useful, I have not disbanded them. They are eager to be about a campaign, even if it only involves the capture of a single enemy.
My landau will collect you shortly, it is the best sprung of my vehicles and of modern design, with a much lower step than many carriages.
You need have no apprehension with regards to your plants; Abel Woollard is a capable man. He has already removed all of your bulbs and what he calls ‘chittings’ from the greenhouses, and has installed them tenderly in a corner of our own greenhouses. Abel has also lifted your prize bulbs from the garden to store in the cellar, along with the corms of your Georgianas. Your best roses, peonies and camellias are potted ready for moving, and I have vailed him three guineas for his extra work on your behalf. I trust that is the sort of sum you had in mind.

Your ob’t etc

“You’d better pack, Edwin, and have Embury do so too; apparently we are being removed to Brexhay House,” said Lucius. “As well, in a way, I was feeling too rough to go out, even with the carter, who is happy enough, I believe, to be paid to do nothing for a few days. He’s a good man to sleep in his cart to guard the goods, I think I’ll drop him a bonus when we eventually get to Richmond.”
“You’d better write to that head preceptress of yours, she’ll worry if there’s a delay in the letters,” said Spurgeon.
“So I had,” said Lucius.

“Seven Bells Inn

27th July 1812

Dear Miss Freemantle,
I haven’t seen a paper in days, other than the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine, which Mine Host, who is both a dissenter and personally teetotal, takes. He fails to see a paradox in serving liquor whilst personally eschewing it, but declares that each man’s conscience is his guide. But then, that’s a Suffolk man for you.
You should know that I am removing to Brexhay House, at South Elmham St Peter at the insistence of Sir Henry Harkness. He is a baronet of frustrated military ambition, having been forbidden by his father to join either the regular army or the militia. By the time he reached his financial majority, at the age of five-and-twenty, he had acquired a wife, who ruled him well enough for any regimental soldier. The poor man will be at a loss without his wife, who presented him with a daughter every year with military precision for the last five years, and ruled her husband and the nursery with the eye of a colonel. He is a convivial young man, with the air of a man much older than himself, but I am certainly concerned for him. Having the care of a neighbour will doubtless be good for him. He has already put his energies into organising his gardener to do pretty much everything I intended doing here.
As Sir Henry is also at risk from Brock, if he survived escaping the navy, we will be able to support each other, now Pole has been handed back to the navy. I confess I am not displeased, an inn is not the best place in which to be indisposed.
Lucius Belvoir.”

“Belvoir, my dear fellow! Splendid to see you, and able to walk on your own, even better!” Sir Henry wrung Lucius’ hand warmly. “Your friends, excellent!”
“Sir Henry, it is a trifling wound, not deep, but it’s left me with a slight fever,” said Lucius. “Mr. Embury is the solicitor for Swanlea Court School, he has been engaged in sorting out the affairs of a pupil whose direction is close to mine, Spurgeon, my man of affairs, I think you have met?”
“Yes, of course, knew Edwin Spurgeon from your father’s time, Mr. Embury, good to meet you,” Sir Henry nodded appropriate greeting. Lucius suppressed a grimace for an unpleasant duty.
“May I pass my personal commiserations with regards to your wife, your daughters must find it hard too,” he said.
“By Jove, yes, they are devastated, of course,” said Sir Henry, leading his guests tenderly in. “Of course, none of them are really old enough to understand completely, Isabella and Arabella are taking it hardest, of course, being old enough to recognise that something is wrong, but Rosabella, Annabella and Maribella are a little too young to do more than cry for their Mama.”
Lucius blinked. He had thought there were four little Harkness girls, but apparently he had miscounted, or lost track of time. The names were .... well, presumably the long awaited heir who had died would have been Bellamy to remain within the theme.
“Were you able to christen your son?” he asked.
“Yes, fortunately Pender is quite flexible, and we buried Bellamy Henry with his mother.”
Sometimes, reflected Lucius, being right in a wild guess was disconcerting.
Sir Henry had adored the fair Bella, and the ravages of grief on him were quite clear, though he was plainly making an effort.
“They are not old enough for a governess, I suppose,” said Lucius. “Isabella must be five?”
“I ... yes, I suppose I should think of a governess for them,” said Sir Henry.
“I will see if one of the older girls at the school would consider coming to you,” said Lucius. “As you have no older boys in your household, you will not mind a very young governess, will you? The one I have in mind is also pretty, and would be pleased to be safe from unwanted attention, as she has also suffered at the hands of her stepfather.”
“There are some men who should be shot,” said Sir Henry. “Poor girl, certainly, if she’s competent.”
“She’s a bluestocking and musical,” said Lucius.
“Sounds ideal!” said Sir Henry, rubbing his hands together. “Give them time to come to terms with things, though; I don’t want to spring a governess on them right away.”
“Indeed, they have suffered enough changes,” said Lucius. “I will write to Miss Freemantle to speak to Julia about it, however, and give her the offer of a job if she feels able to take it up.”
“Not been left with her own bun in the oven, has she?” asked Sir Henry.
“Not as far as I know, but I know you are a good and charitable man who would accept her anyway,” said Lucius, firmly.
“One more wouldn’t make much difference,” said Sir Henry. “As long as it’s understood it wouldn’t be a child of mine, even if reared with mine.”
And at that, it was a more charitable response than most, thought Lucius.

“Brexhay House
South Elmham
Later, 27th July

My dear Miss Freemantle,
I am installed in an excellent room, very comfortable, where I have taken a brief nap subsequent to the exigencies of removing here. I will have more fellow-feeling rather than just sympathy with Marc in the future. I am not usually of valetudinarian habit.
Something which had not occurred to me before is that the late Lady Harkness is survived by five daughters, ranging from the age of 6 years down. They need a governess, and I thought to suggest Julia, if she is willing, as she is a sensible girl, and will be not easily intimidated by Sir Henry’s rather military manner. She will also be absolutely safe as Sir Henry was so enamoured of his wife he will not even notice she is female. His wife was known as Bella, and every one of his daughters is named after her, with different prefixes, and their dead son was to have been Bellamy. I confess I asked if the boy had been baptised before burial, having thought to myself it would be amusing if the naming theme was taken so far, and was shocked to find my whimsical thought to be quite correct.
Sir Henry, however, is a kindly man, and intimated that if Julia was with child he would permit the said child to be raised in his nursery providing it was clear that it was not his child. I said I believed this was not a problem, which I hope was correct. I presume that fellow took measures to reduce the likelihood of having his perfidy on display by actually impregnating his step daughter.
I hope you will not think it heavy-handed to have tentatively arranged this, but I thought it was worth while striking whilst the iron was hot as you might say.
However, Sir Henry is desirous of waiting for his daughters to get used to the loss of their mama, so there is no hurry, and if Julia is not interested in a position, then this is quite understood.

Lucius Belvoir.”

“Silly man,” said Libby, tossing the letter to Elinor. “He has forgotten that Julia has official guardians, one of whom is the said stepfather, though being in gaol for attempting to interfere with Hermione when he came visiting I think obviates the obligation to ask him. I am disappointed that Mrs. Whoever-She-Now-Is has not taken this attack as being a sign of his predilections, and has not sent for Julia.”
“She is one of these silly people who will not think ill of her man, in the light of all the evidence, including that of her eyes,” said Elinor. “I will write to her, asking why she has not written to her daughter to beg forgiveness for miscalling her when her husband’s proclivities are now proven in law. I will also ask if she prefers to sign her daughter’s care to those who consider protecting their charges to be more important than retaining loyalty to a man who has shown himself not to be worthy of it.”
“Oh, undoubtedly,” said Elinor. “I have Graeme’s example. Aye Iph’m.”

Chapter 17

“Swanley Court School
28th July

Dear Mr. Belvoir,
It is with great relief that I hear you are in the hands of a neighbour, and no longer at the mercy of an innkeeper who sounds a trifle strange even for a Wesleyan. Doubtless Sir Henry will bring his pseudo-military tactical skill to bear in helping you uncover such of your goods as have survived. I doubt he would want to be left out.
You have forgotten that Julia is a paying student and would need the consent of her guardians to be a governess. However, Julia is willing, so long as her past will not be held against her. The doctor and Mrs. Macfarlane have gone forth to reason with her mother. The wretched woman has shown no inclination to apologise to her daughter, even though her revolting husband was caught with his hands on another little girl. None so blind as those who will not see, as they say.
You are correct in believing that Julia has never conceived. Her stepfather used a cundom. How on earth the poor child’s mother thought her little girl would get hold of a high class prostitute’s stock in trade I cannot fathom, for they are not cheap items, I think. I personally believe that he scratched an acquaintance once he found there was a widow with a daughter the right age for his perverted lusts. He was well served when Julia was put beyond his reach, and it is a mercy the household did not have a very young tweenfloors maid. Consequently, assuming that the Macfarlanes are able to induce Julia’s mother to capitulate, I would like to escort Julia to meet her potential charges, as she is still nervous of the whole affair. I have enclosed a brief note for Sir Henry, asking if he is willing for us to visit. You will be able, I hope, to escort us home at the conclusion of your own business.
Pray continue to take care of yourself. Penelope informs me that as the seedlings are now up, we shall shortly require your expertise in demonstrating how to ‘prick them out’, which I hope is the correct term. Your interest in Penelope and Frances has brought them both on well. Both have been able to speak to me in coherent sentences, which they have hitherto found difficult, though admittedly from different reasons. Frances informed me firmly that she might not be clever but she’s not stupid enough to try growing babies in pots! She informed me that even if babies are found under gooseberry bushes, it stands to reason that someone puts them there. Her understanding of anatomy is vague, but runs along the lines of something alchemical done to the monthly flux to turn it into babies, which, I suppose, is sufficient. It is better than a cousin of one of our former girls, who had a child with an impudent groom, since she had less idea about how to go on than a kitten. Poor Hortensia has been found a home by Anne with other girls who need protection from men, and is a pensioner of Anne’s husband, Wroth. Frances knows, at least, that a man must not touch her inappropriately. If you were married, I would ask you to adopt Penelope and Frances to give them some stability, but of course, it is out of the question for a bachelor to do so. And I am sure you are fanning yourself in relief that I may only say such a thing in jest, though to be honest, I wish there was someone special for those to fragile maidens.
Alice sends her thanks to you and to Mr. Embury for sorting out her affairs, and hopes that the bailiff is transported. He won’t have any sympathy from his new employer, Daisy writes to me how appalled she is, and she has sent the Bow Street Runner she has on retainer to check on the doings of other bailiffs on her new holdings. Daisy is buying out all the land she can formerly owned by Lord Hatherbere. Don’t ask, it’s a long story, which I will tell you at some point, but let us just say that dear as Daisy is to me, she is a trifle vindictive if anyone offends against her.
I hope to see you again soon, and in better health than you are at the moment,
Libby Freemantle.”

“I’m back in favour,” murmured Lucius. “Managing wench, thinking of me adopting two of her wretched charges!”
Sir Charles looked up from the note enclosed with the letter to Lucius.
“I think it an excellent idea for this Julia Spencer to visit, don’t you?” he said. “If the girls don’t like her, it ain’t like having to turn a governess off, which is a deuced difficult thing to do. I’ll write to her right away.”
“Embury can carry it; he wished to go ahead and speak to the girl whose business he is on, and to get back to London, so he’s going post,” said Lucius. “Silly fellow, he could have enjoyed a few days in your most excellent house in the country, but there, no accounting for tastes.”
“Some people enjoy being in the thick of things in town, I believe,” said Sir Henry. “Not to my taste at all! However, as you say, it’s his loss, and I am glad to have you and Spurgeon as guests. The house is very empty without Bella, and though part of me would be happy to let Brock kill me, if he is still alive, in order to join her, it would be unfair on my little belles. Unfair too, to risk the servants.”
“Indeed,” agreed Lucius. Bells, he thought, was a good name for the juvenile Harknesses. They pealed fairly constantly in the time Sir Henry insisted of having all of them about him, asking questions in the case of the older ones, and snivelling rather in the case of the younger ones. The one in the middle was the quietest, buried in her own woe.
“Formidable woman, this head preceptress, is she?” asked Sir Henry.
“Extremely formidable,” agreed Lucius. “She’ll stand up for her girls no matter what, and woe betide anyone who upsets them.”
He could see Sir Henry forming a picture in his own head of some middle aged gorgon, and grinned to himself. It would be amusing to see his shock at how young and pretty Libby Freemantle really was.

“Brexhay House
South Elmham St Peter
29th July

Dear Miss Freemantle,
I should be delighted to invite you and Miss Spencer to visit my house for a few days to see how well Miss Spencer gets on with my five little ‘belles’. I know Mr. Belvoir disapproves slightly of me playing boisterous games with them before they have their tea, but I feel they need to have some compensation for losing their mother, and my dear wife and I would always play with them in the afternoon. I am not a believer in leaving children to servants, and my wife planned to teach them all they needed herself, without resort to a governess. Isabella and Arabella already read, and Rosabella knows most of her letters. Annabella and Maribella are too young, of course. However, as the two youngest are definitely still under the nursery maid, managing the older three should not prove a difficulty, they know how to obey, my dear wife was the child of a military man, and they will form into line if you shout ‘Attention!’ at them.
Looking forward to meeting them.
Your ob’t &c
Henry Harkness.”

“I confess, Miss Freemantle, I now want to flee,” said Julia.
“I can see your point, my dear,” said Libby, “But it is worth meeting them. He is at least taking the sensible path of providing a governess for them, not leaving them to run wild like the parents of some of your fellows from the Oxford school.”
Julia shuddered.
“I am glad Barbara and Georgiana have settled down,” she said. “It was extremely difficult at times, though I confess we were all secretly delighted when they joined forces to get up in the dead of night to cut up all the straps and tawses and burn all the rulers and pointers, and managed not to get caught, either. And none of us said a thing, though we were all on bread and water until someone told. But you got us out,” she said, with a sigh of relief. “I could never be as angry with them for thinking them quite heroic in so doing.”
“Indeed, and it was an excellent act of rebellion against a harsh regime,” said Libby, who was thankful that Elinor and Graeme had acted when they did, since she would not have put it past the two rather ebullient misses to have led their fellows in a riot before long. Such an act could have had awful consequences for all. She thought of the mutiny of the crew of the ‘Hermione’ in 1797, something Libby had read about shortly before she had joined Elinor’s household as her governess. The reaction of the men to the excessively harsh conditions had made a great impact on her, one of the reasons Libby eschewed corporal punishment, and had so hated using a humiliating and tiring discipline on Barbara. Anyone pushed too far could riot in such a fashion, and with spirited leaders not yet cowed ... she shuddered.
“I am sorry it affects you so much,” said Julia.
“I am upset that any of you had to endure so much, but most of what affected me was the thought that if you had all decided to follow those two as a mob, you might, as mobs can, have behaved in a way you would have later been ashamed of,” said Libby.
“You mean we might have ripped them limb from limb like the mob of the French Revolution,” said Julia. “I am sorry to say, I am not sure if we should have been ashamed of it. We fairly hated those two women and the fat greasy brother of the head preceptress. He talked about tightening belts when his own belt would have gone happily around the lot of us. I think we should have regretted it, as I am sure we should have been found out, but regret is not the same as shame, is it?”
“It is not, my dear, and I am glad you have not had to find out.”
“We were extremely pleased with how nicely Dr. Mac humiliated them all, anyway,” said Julia. “Even me, and I found it preferable to being used by him. I managed to do enough not to be punished, the invisible one. And to be honest, I had been there long enough to have forgotten what normal girls looked like! The healthy girls here were almost a shock, for even when we had new girls in, they were usually truculent, and so punished before we met them.”
“I cannot understand how people can behave so to children,” said Libby.
“Oh, but we were not children, we were commodities,” said Julia. “We were there to bring in the pay of those parents who wanted their offspring out of the way, and punished for real or imagined transgressions. We also spent the afternoons sewing on the sort of gowns we were no longer permitted, to be sold by the brother’s wife in her millinery and haberdashery shop.”
“That, I did not know, and nor, I think, did the doctor and Mrs. Macfarlane,” said Libby.
“Well, Dr. Mac needs an avocation, he can amuse himself ruining her,” said Julie. Libby laughed.
“Naughty puss,” she said.

Swanley Court School
30th July 1812

Dear Sir Henry,
Thank you for permitting me the chance to see whether I will be acceptable as a governess to your little girls. I look forward to meeting them, and you, when we come. We have been awaiting for permission from my mother for me to take a job, but she has agreed.
Yours sincerely,
Julia Spencer.”

Julia did not feel it necessary to write that the doctor had thoroughly intimidated her mother into signing over all rights for her to the orphanage. The woman was still convinced that there had been some misunderstanding probably engineered by her whore of a daughter.
It had been those words, Mrs. Macfarlane had said, which had precipitated the doctor into a tirade of Scots idiom. He declared that any woman who called a little girl of twelve a ‘whore’ was plainly nothing but an Abbess herself and had likely pimped the girl on the understanding of getting a marriage out of the arrangement.
This was quite unfair, but then, as Dr. Mac had said, so had the infamous suggestion that an innocent little girl would lead on a grown man.
Nobody had told Julia that Dr. Mac had threatened her mother with having prostituted her minor daughter, unless she either opened her eyes, apologised and behaved as a proper mother, or signed her over.
The stupid woman signed her over.
As no rape had been proved, her husband did not recieve a harsh sentence, and she was looking forward to having him back.
There would be no more fees for Julia, but none of the staff of Swanley Court cared, as she was now safe.

Chapter 18

Jack Partridge, the carter was happy enough; he was paid for his time, and that included time not on the road. It was bad luck for his client to be set upon by some footpad, but he hadn’t stuck his spoon in the wall, so Partridge wasn’t going to be out of pocket for losing a client in the middle of a job. It was, indeed, getting money for old rope, as the saying went. Partridge had occasionally got money for old rope, having been paid to carry used rigging to furnishers who used it to rope bed bases, it being ready stretched. Smart people, sailors, getting money for something which was now useless to them. The footpad was a less clever sailor, having ‘run’, which likely meant he dangled at the yard arm by now. The fellow had a friend, who might, or might not, be a problem. Likely he had drowned, but Mr. Belvoir had warned Partridge about the man, and Partridge had no intention of being lax. Lacing the back of the cart’s cover and hanging the usual bells on the lacing to alert him if anyone touched it, Partridge climbed onto the top of the tarpaulin over the cart, a more comfortable place to sleep in the heat of summer than in the cart.
The bells awoke him at around two in the morning, and Partridge yelled and grabbed his blunderbuss.
The shadow was uncertain, but Partridge decided to fire anyway. He still had a pistol as well.
The explosion of the blunderbuss split the night, the flash half-blinding Partridge, so he could not get a clear shot at the figure which was now running off. Candles were being kindled in the inn, and shouts demanding to know what was going on came out of open windows.
“Excoitement be over, bor,” said Partridge. “Thass jest some blurry thief.”
Everything quietened down, and Partridge reloaded the blunderbuss, and went back to sleep. It was just another night in the life of a carter.

“Reckon them ow’ villyun di’n’t drown, bor,” said Partridge, when he was summoned to the burnt out shell of Woodhill Hall.
“Indeed?” asked Lucius.
Partridge spat.
“Ar, he reckoned he moight be aerble tu git into moi cart last noight,” he said.
“I assume you saw him off?”
“Ar. Oi do-ant know as I hit the ketty little tyke, moind,” said Partridge. “Shot at un, but boi hecky, bor, reckon he moight of bin skinny enow tu dodge the shot. Whoi, thank you koindly, milord,” he added as Lucius vailed him for his trouble.

Lucius was feeling very much better for a few days rest, and Sir Henry’s motherly housekeeper had re-dressed his wound, and used comfrey and honey rather than brandy and basilicum powder. Lucius was considerably more comfortable.
“You’ll be sitting as an onlooker, however, Belvoir, whilst Spurgeon and I do the work,” said Sir Henry, gaily. “If Marc and his man managed to get it down there, I’m sure the two of us will manage to get it up again. Then Partridge has only to pick up your plants and may be on his way.”
Lucius sighed. He felt quite able to help move small pieces of furniture, but Sir Henry was probably wise to tell him not to do so. It was galling that he was a good ten years older than Sir Henry, but then, Lucius conceded that five daughters might well have an ageing effect.
He reflected maliciously that the troubles would really begin in about a dozen years time when Isabella was seventeen. Doubtless by then, the girls would also have decided on ugly nicknames like Izzy, Arry, Rosie, Annie and Mari. Not that it was his problem, unless Sir Henry got himself killed and the girls ended up in Swanley Court.
Lucius decided that if young Brock was abroad, sitting around might serve a useful purpose, as he could keep a watch out, and have a brace of pistols by him, to make sure that Sir Henry lived to deal with the ‘belles’ growing up for himself.
Of course, it might not have been Brock who had made an attempt to rob what had looked like an unattended cart, merely some other unattended cart thief. But then, preparing for the worst never hurt.
Lucius blinked in surprise at the plethora of furnishings which were fetched up from below. Marc had said he had taken down a few of the better pieces, but Lucius was touched and amazed by how much he and Jed had managed to save. The silver was wrapped up in the best quilts, as was the best china, his chess set, the long-case clock, the inlaid tables and the Jacobean chests. And of course his books and papers, bundled up in pillow slips for ease of carrying, or tied in sheets. It even meant he and Marc would have some bedlinen for starting out in a new house, even if they had no beds to put it on. Lucius regretted the bed in the master bedchamber, but Marc could never have removed that, even had he been hale. It was not, like Odysseus’ bed, built around a tree growing when the house was built, but two sides of it were formed by the corner of the room, and it had been built out of the very walls. Lucius felt a pang, deep in his chest.
His childhood had been burned to the ground, and it could never be regained, the house he had loved without realising how much he loved it was gone. He blinked hard on tears recalling sitting on broad, oak windowsills in mullioned windows, looking out over the heath towards the sea; and of being able to see the sea from on top of the astronomy tower, a conceit added some time in the sixteenth century. It was all gone.
And only Marc’s caution had meant that he had not lost his brother and his servant as well as the things Marc and Jed had saved.
Lucius knew that if Brock lived, and came for him, he would have no compunction in killing him, as surely as the two families had planned to kill him and Marc, and Sir Henry and his children too.

Julia tried to suppress a sigh.
“Tired, my dear?” asked Libby, with sympathy.
“I was not complaining, Miss Freemantle,” said Julia.
“I know, but sometimes tiredness is enough to make your own body betray you. Only another four miles to Newmarket, though to be honest, I am wondering about stopping outside the town, and breaking for the night in a quieter inn than one of the main coaching inns.”
“I think it might be less uncomfortable,” said Julia.
“Fewer lewd fellows out for the racing or training or whatever may be going on at the moment,” said Libby. “I fear I take no interest in racing.”
“I am not even that interested in riding,” said Julia. “I should not mind learning how to drive, though, it is a useful accomplishment for a governess to have.”
“Indeed, and it seemed silly to take John Coachman and the chaise when I might drive us both in the gig. I will ask Philippa to teach you to drive, before you leave to teach the, er, ‘belles’, if you find the position convivial.”
“And if Sir Henry does not dislike me.”
“I imagine he will be very pleased to have anyone to occupy the minds of the older ones, whom I suspect of being in need of diversion before they become spoilt,” said Libby, dryly. “There will be nothing to stop you from studying further lessons yourself, if you wish, and you might write to me for guidance, and send me lessons to correct.”
“Oh, may I? Thank you! I know there is so much more to learn, but to have the opportunity to earn my own way and to be independent, it is not an opportunity to pass up,” said Julia. “I was wont to help little Amanda Baswin, so she was kept out of trouble, but she is older, and besides they are all so very well read.”
“It is a situation the little ‘belles’ might also find themselves in, also, in a few years,” said Libby. “We may suppose that Sir Henry was a fond enough husband not to go courting for a while, but who knows what maggots get into the heads of men? I do wonder if Mr. Baswin went looking originally for a mother for his daughters, before he was entrapped by what Mrs. Macfarlane calls ‘a pretty butterfly with the soul of a wolf spider’. The doctor called her a few words he should not have even used in front of me, and which I will not repeat, as I hope I don’t understand them. But Sir Henry is a young man, much the same age as I am, I believe, around thirty, and it would be wonderful if he did not seek for another companion. I consider that it will be part of your duties to promote any romance with a suitable and motherly woman, and use guile and duplicity to get rid of one like the second Mrs. Baswin.” It angered Libby that a man who had been happy to read with his three daughters, and show them every indulgence without spoiling them should so readily listen to his new and very young wife. It was iniquitous that she had made him believe that they were unmarriageable and should be packed off to school. How he countenanced her calling them ‘ugly red-haired bluestockings’ Libby could not fathom. That he did not check that the school his new wife had chosen was about the worst school possible was unforgiveable.
“Dear me, and to think I thought being a governess was about teaching!”
“Being a governess is about being a second mother to your charges,” said Libby. “And we will stop here, I think.” She pulled into an inn yard.
“My goodness! You have quite distracted me from my tiredness; thank you.”
“Well, it is easier and more convivial with older students than with fractious tots, but it is another thing governesses are supposed to be able to do,” said Libby, with a twinkle at her charge.

“The dirty boar of indeterminate colour
Just outside Newmarket.

July 30th 1812

My Dear Penelope,
I have to say I do not like travelling. The road was very busy, even though we left at an early hour, and we were passed a dozen times by young men in sporting vehicles of one kind or another, and Miss Freemantle most skilfully used the drag to brake when one seemed intent in serving us most unkindly by what Miss Freemantle says is called ‘hunting the squirrel’, to tip other road users into the ditch. It is not, in general, accounted at all a sporting thing to do so to women, but then, some young men are very foolish. He received some comeuppance, for he had tangled with something larger than himself and we passed the site of his wreck. Oh, Penelope, Miss Freemantle has quite as reprehensible a sense of humour as any schoolgirl, for with one accord we turned to him, bowed, and waved our hands like one of the royals out for a drive from Windsor. He threw his hat on the ground and jumped on it.
Of course, had he not been such a ruffian we must, of courtesy, have offered him a ride to the next village on our rumble seat, but he had forfeited the courtesy of the road in his own bad manners.
We stopped to fortify ourselves with a few slices of bread and cheese and pickles at an inn in a place called Stansted Montsomething, before pressing on. I was impressed by Miss Freemantle’s driving, she had to overtake one or two slow moving vehicles, and she looped the whip and caught it without seeming to look at it at all once we were past, indeed, a young gentleman driving the other way rose and bowed to her, and doffed his hat, calling ‘bravo!’. Miss Freemantle blushed, but inclined her head politely in return.
We had another boor here, who put his arm about me, but Miss Freemantle had told me I was not to go to the usual offices by myself. She had accompanied me, so though I froze in terror when he said ‘how now, pretty wench, what about a kiss?’, I was soon free! And there stood Miss Freemantle, with a martial light in her eye, twirling her parasol. She had plied the ferrule where it would do most good, and whilst he rolled on the ground, clutching himself, told him he was a lecherous beast who should not assault schoolgirls. Just think if I had been travelling alone to take up a position! I will always carry a parasol. I said, rather inanely, ‘Oh, my, is that not the one with the metal ferrule?” and Miss Freemantle smiled her gentle smile and said ‘Why, so it is.’ It was immensely funny afterwards, though at the time, most unpleasant.
We are to share a bed, and Miss Freemantle has showed me how to use a chair to jam the door handle, and we have, between us, secreted a chair upstairs from the private parlour, since there was none in our bedroom. The sheets at least do not seem to be damp, and although it is early, we have retired here immediately after eating, to avoid any other inmates of this establishment. I will drop this letter in the bag on our way out tomorrow, for it would not reach you any quicker now if I dared go downstairs again.
The meal was indifferent compared to what we eat at Swanley Court, but princely compared to Mrs. Garrard’s. There was mutton and what was called a haricot of vegetables, which was nothing more nor less than beans, peas and onion all steamed together, most unappetising, but the mutton at least was well cooked and lean. There had been pea soup, but the colour suggested it may have been reheated more than once, so we decided to eschew it. If it goes round many more times, it will be old enough to demand the key of the door. Equally we decided not to touch the raised pies, for fear of what might be inside the pastry. Miss Freemantle apologised to me for choosing an inn of such poor provision, but as I said to her, we were both tired, and it seemed better not to go into Newmarket where we might both have had to dodge even more lewd fellows! Tomorrow night, G-d willing, we shall be in South Elmham St Peter, and if we become confused in the ‘saints’ I am sure Mr. Belvoir will have someone sent out to look for us. Mr. Marc Belvoir drew us a most creditable map for when we got there, and told us an amusing story of how a visiting parson could not find the right church where he was to preach, and cried out, ‘damn all the saints!’ whereupon he was thrown in the duckpond by the people of South Elmham All Saints, thinking he was impugning them.
My head is still going round like the wheels, but I am tired, so although it is still daylight, I am off to bed. I can hear some villagers managing to ring triples on what must be an unusual peal, for a village church, of five bells and it is very soothing.
Your friend,

Libby 16-18

Sarah WaldockMay 29, 2018 09:30AM

Re: Libby 16-18

KarenteaMay 30, 2018 06:20PM

Re: Libby 16-18

Sarah WaldockJune 01, 2018 12:35PM

grinning smiley nfm

KarenteaJune 01, 2018 06:43PM


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