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Libby nineteen to twenty-one

June 01, 2018 12:39PM
My computer has lost its number key function, I will be getting a new keyboard next week, in the meanwhile, life is a little challenging


Chapter 19

The plants were loaded to both Lucius’ and Partridge’s satisfaction, and the cart ready to depart, when Lucius spied a gig tooling up the driveway towards Brexhay House, with a pair of ladies in it. One lady held a large parasol to protect both of them, whilst the other drove.
He frowned, wondering who might be calling on Sir Henry in his bereavement, and wondering which of the local harpies considered that a baronet would be a feather in the cap of her daughter.
The tones of one of the ladies declaring excitedly that there was Mr. Belvoir himself, reminded him that they were expecting Libby Freemantle and Julia Spencer. Mr. Belvoir found himself unaccountably suddenly quite happy to realise that this was no local visitor, but was Miss Freemantle, though he was certainly surprised that she had driven herself, such a long distance. He had assumed that she and Julia would be brought by John Coachman in the chaise, but seeing the pretty way Miss Freemantle looped and caught her whip end, he could see why she relished the chance of driving for herself.
He realised he was gaping like a yokel, and hastily stepped forward as Miss Freemantle brought their vehicle to a halt.
“Miss Freemantle! Ju ... Miss Spencer, I should say! You see me quite improperly clad, in assisting the loading of my plants.”
Libby regarded him in approval, clad in shirtsleeves, though with his waistcoat on, of course, and his sleeves tied up with binder twine to keep them out of the way, he was a find figure of a man.
“Oh, one’s dress must be appropriate to one’s task,” she said. “You may fold the parasol, now, Julia, and I believe we shall permit Sir Henry’s grooms to take over, as it has been a long drive.”
“Miss Freemantle is a famous swordswoman with a parasol,” volunteered Julia. “She poked a nasty fellow in his manhood for trying to kiss me.”
“I’d not want to tangle with a well-wielded parasol myself,” said Lucius.
“It is a skill girls need, as well as where to put a nice sturdy folded fan,” said Libby, serenely.
Lucius winced, but concurred that it was a lesson girls who were destined to be governesses probably needed. Neither family nor servants, governesses were in a difficult position, and there were plenty of young men who would offer insult to a young woman who had no family to protect her.

Brexhay House
1st August 1812

Dear Penelope,

Sir Henry wished us all white rabbits when we came to breakfast for it being the first of the month, which is a local custom done first thing in the morning. I thought it rather sweet. I was going to write last night, but I fear I fell asleep before I might do so.
Talking of sweet, did you know that Mr. Belvoir is sweet on Miss Freemantle? When we arrived, he was gapesing like a hayseed and gazing on her as though she was all his dearest delight. I noticed that Miss Freemantle trembled slightly when he took her hand to help her alight. Which is all well and good, for it would be sad if he adored her and she disapproved of him as much as her words sometimes seem to do. After all he is a big enough man to apologise, even to schoolgirls, and he has been very kind in teaching us about planting. I am a little concerned, however, for he had said he meant to build a house near the new greenhouses to live in, and continue to teach us. But do you think if he marries Miss Freemantle he will take her away somewhere? Mrs. Macfarlane gives some lessons, though she is wed, but it is not normal, is it, for women to continue to work if they have a husband. Mrs. Garrard was no such thing as a Mrs., anyway, it was a courtesy title, for I doubt anyone would have had her. And the thing that gave that away was that her sister was Miss Garrard.
You are agog to hear about the ‘belles’ I am sure. Mr. Belvoir is droll, when he refers to them, you can just hear that he means ‘bells’ without an ‘e’, as he talks about them chiming in unison. I do not think he approves of women having a baby every year.
Isabella is the oldest, she is five, and I am glad that she can chime boisterously with her papa, for when she is speaking to visitors she is quite distressingly precocious. She sits with her ankles crossed and her hands in her lap like ‘Patience on a monument’. I know she is bereaved, but she is altogether too sedate, and pleased with herself for being so. She reads fairly fluently, which is useful, so I must introduce her to more exciting books rather than improving ones.
I was a little taken aback to see them all, well, the four who are able to walk, line up when Sir Henry shouted ‘Attention!’ but they were still giggling happily so it has no harm to it, I think. I will have to be careful not to confuse small Annabella with Arabella, though I suppose at least none of them are called Dowsabella or worse, Blowsabella from that awful restoration thing Daisy found. Anyway, Annabella is free from all padding, and the nursemaid, a superior sort of woman with supercilious eyebrows, informed me that the mistress did not approve of letting children get into the habit of being wet. Consequently, they are all toileted with regimental regularity until capable of discerning for themselves when they have needs. The vision of them sitting in a row to attention on utensils has, unfortunately, entered my mind, and I felt I should share it. It seems that Sir Henry is not a military man, but his wife was the daughter of a colonel and as daughters go was an excellent son to him. Sir Henry has toy soldiers, which he showed off to us eagerly, and makes up for not being military by fighting every battle on the Peninsula he may by proxy. He demonstrated Wellington’s actions at Salamanca, which I have to say made more sense than we were able to extract from the newspaper, when seen on carefully recreated scenery, using sand and moss, and wooden walls for the fort. I asked when Isabella would be permitted to play with toy soldiers , and he spluttered a little, and said that she needed to better understand military matters first.
I was half joking, Penelope; I had no expectation that he would encourage his daughters to play with toy soldiers!
The schoolroom is well-appointed, but to my mind a little bleak, having come to expect more since we have been at Swanley. I will, I think, see if I may persuade Sir Henry to obtain some dissected maps, which will be more use to little ones than globes. They also need more story books which do not tell a moral story, though ‘Little Fanny’ has the advantage of including a dressing-doll in paper, despite the moralising in the story, none of which adheres in any respect to common sense.
I was telling you about the ‘belles’, or possibly the ‘bells’ when I got sidetracked. Next down from Isabella is Arabella, who is the harum-scarum of them. Where Isabella smooths down her frock, Arabella gets mud on hers [I am not sure how, indoors, but I was not about to ask] and ten minutes after her hair has been combed and plaited, her plaits are coming undone as though she has been through a hedge backwards. I confess to liking Arabella more then the pluperfect Isabella. Then there is Rosabella, who is indeed a rosebud cherub of a little girl, solemn and quiet, perhaps too quiet, and I think she may be the most intelligent of the girls, and is more aware of the loss of her mother than the nursemaid would have it that she is. Annabella I have mentioned, and Maribella is no more than a baby, and no responsibility of mine, any more, really, than Annabella will be for a year or so. I have taught the three older ones ‘Upon Paul’s Steeple Stands a Tree’, for it amused me to teach some bells to sing the Westminster chimes. Sir Henry laughed most heartily when I lined them up, and each sang a line. Isabella sang “Upon Paul’s steeple stands a tree,’ Arabella followed with ‘As full of apples as may be’, and Rosabella, with a little help, ‘And all the boys from London Town’. The song was finished by all of them in chorus, as Annabella is too small, ‘They come with sticks to knock them down.’
Those children need more nursery rhymes, they do not appear to have been taught any, though Isabella can quaver a few verses of ‘Over the hills and far away’. She also sings something I eventually identified as ‘The British Grenadiers’ sung with most muddled words, for not having any understanding of them. She rendered ‘Hercules’ as ‘circle knees’, followed by ‘the rector and my handle’. I have decided to try to let her forget this song entirely, and teach it anew when she has had the chance to hear stories about Hercules, Hector and Lysander. I suspect she only got Alexander because it is also the surname of one of the maids.
I do not even want to speculate what images that song puts in her head. Probably Alexander on her knees scrubbing in circles whilst the rector cranks a street organ. There! I did speculate when I said I did not want to do so, but the imagery would not stay out. I am sure it all makes sense in her infant mind.
I will stop now before I have to recross the page.
Your friend,
Julia.


“It’s a fun idea to get the little ones to sing a line each of ‘Upon Paul’s Steeple,” said Philippa, once Penelope had read it out. Philippa held that if Penelope read out loud, very slowly, it would help her stammer, and Penelope was finding that this was so.
“I’m not doing it with the O’Toole twins,” said Felicity.
“We don’t have to, we can do it with Amelia, Eva, Jane and Amanda, and they can all sing the other lines, ‘and then they run from hedge to hedge until they come to London bridge’ together,” suggested Philippa.
“Th-the O’Toole twins w-will like to join in, th-they can sing the l-last lines with the older ones,” said Penelope.
Philippa and Felicity exchanged a look.
“I know what you’re thinking, Fee,” said Philippa, “That, if left out, they won’t half create.”
“Just so, Phip,” said Felicity.
“I don’t like that shortening,” said Philippa.
“I think Fee and Phip go better together than Fee and Pippa,” said Felicity. “And goodness knows, we’ll be parted soon enough when we have to go out into the world, and I want to be close while we can.”
Philippa considered, and nodded.
“Then I’ll accept it,” she said.

It might be said that the remaining preceptresses were much relieved that the oldest girls were doing something constructive with the little ones, rather than letting a lack of guidance from the Head Preceptress lead them into trouble, or at least, laxity. Elinor heard more of their lessons in Libby’s stead, but acknowledged her old governess’s superiority in such matters as the classics.

Swanley Court School
2nd August

Dear Julia,
We older ones thought it such a good idea to teach ‘Paul’s Steeple’ to the little ones in parts as you describe, we proceeded to do so with the younger ones here, and to include the O’Toole twins. It went off very well, as we had the other two lines sung by everyone, including the O’Toole twins. At least, it went well until Kathleen decided to inform Deirdre that scrumping was a sin, and she would go to hell for it. Deirdre said that she wouldn’t and that Kathleen’s [imaginary] scrumped apple had a big fat maggot in it which would eat through her insides. Then they started fighting.
The Goyder twins tried to sneak out at this point, but they were caught by Miss Joliffe who told them unsympathetically that they had got into this mess, they could end it.
I had the happy idea of bribing the twins with real apples, which they munched whilst the older girls managed it beautifully without them. We then fed them apples as it seemed mean not to let them have some too. Is it not fortunate that there is a tree of St John’s apples so there are early ones available!
If this had been all, we should have been in good odour with the staff, rather than in some trouble.
It was, of course, Eva O’Toole’s idea.
Somehow, those four youngsters, Eva, Amelia, Amanda and Jane, managed to get a tub of earth and a sapling apple tree destined for the shrubbery onto the roof by the cupola, where they were caught as a result of a shrill argument about how they might get it on top of the cupola, of all things, by the doctor, who heard ghostly voices floating down from on high which were, as he said, ‘nae angel voices ca’ing’.
Fetched down, apple tree and all, they declared that they were only trying to recreate the song they had sung. Dr. Mac declared that ‘sich havers’ was born of eating apples too late at night, and nothing would they have for supper but bread and milk for a week.
I managed to speak to the doctor! I said that I didn’t think withholding food for punishment was good, and he told me they would have extra bread and milk, and would never be stopped from eating fruit from the fruit bowl in their common room, but that not having raisins or dried apricots in their bread and milk would make it plainer and that was the punishment, not a diminution in food. I was much relieved, and he told me I was a ‘braw wee lassie’ to bring concerns to him when I found it so difficult to stand up to men. He said he was pleased with me, and proud of me, for I was upset, which generally makes me stutter, but I got through it without stammering much.
I do think I might lose it eventually; or at least reduce it greatly.
Your friend,
Penelope”


Chapter 20

Libby saw Lucius Belvoir slip out onto the terrace after dinner, and after a moment’s hesitation, she followed him. He was looking over the decorative balustrade, staring into the distance, a look of deep sadness on his face.
Libby hesitated, uncertain whether to join him, or tactfully withdraw.
“You may as well join me rather than hovering,” said Lucius.
“I was not sure whether you sought solitude or whether you just wished to escape from a rather hearty host and would not despise other company.”
“Hearty, a good word for him. I did wish to escape him, and reflect on the thoughts, most of them dark, regarding the loss of my home. But I don’t mind you talking to me. You mostly have good sense, and you don’t gabble. Talking about it to you might help, though I’m damned if I know what to say.”
“I cannot imagine how hard it was coming back to your land and seeing the destruction, even though you had heard of it,” said Libby.
“It was harder than I realised it was going to be,” said Lucius, honestly. “I thought I had dealt with it, and got over the shock, but I suddenly remembered irreplaceable things, like the master bed pegged into the walls in the corner of the room. There was a cupboard in the panelling, and when I was a very little boy I used to creep into it first thing in the morning while Mama had a cup of tea before rising. It is not so much the bed, though it was a finely carved piece of Jacobean furniture, it is the memory of the time Mama had just for me. And looking out from the observatory, out over the sea, waiting for my Uncle Jack, who had a yacht, and he would sail right into Monkshithe, a hotbed of smugglers, to come and visit us. When war broke out with France, he joined the Royal Navy, and died somewhere off Jamaica. And the wide window sills and fine oriel windows were all manner of things in play, the prow of a ship, or a prisoner’s outlook in a castle, or a magician’s tower, and I would gaze out onto the heathland, when the weather was too inclement for me to be out on the heath playing, imagining fighting with such local bogeymen as Black Shuck, the hell hound. Or in a fit of fellow feeling with dragons, I might plan to rescue the Suffolk dragon from the Essex dragon, they being supposed rivals which fought on the borders of those counties. As I got older I might consider it not a waste of time to rescue damsels from the Orford Sea Dragon, supposedly fished up as recently as the 1740s. I forget when exactly; it was doubtless nothing more than an eel dressed up with extra wing-like fins by some opportunistic fisherman, but which fired my imagination.”
“You must have been a delight to your schoolmasters for such a fine and vivid imagination.”
“Alas, I fear I was a disappointment to them for daydreaming of derring-do, instead of knuckling down to arithmetic, Latin, geography and grammar. I believe my history master had a fondness for me, as did the master who taught botany. He never let on who it was who had grown enough senna to make some of the bigger bullies too busy with their own worries to pick on the younger boys.”
Libby laughed.
“I am sorry that many of them did not appreciate you; you sound as though you would have been a most entertaining little boy to teach. If your masters did not contain the bullying it is scarcely wonderful that you would put your mind to a solution for yourself.”
Lucius shrugged.
“I think that we were supposed to become manly by stoically accepting it, or fighting back in a more normal way. Fighting back in a more cerebral way was frowned upon, however. I did own up to getting Hayward Major the cane for clutching himself most inappropriately when the governors were visiting; I had introduced some rose seeds to the front of his underwear before we were told the governors were to be visiting. Funnily enough, he was pretty decent to me after I got my stripes as well as him for being the cause. Last I heard, he fell, leading a cavalry charge at Badajoz, not long before you wrote to me. We weren’t close, but I kept up with him. He was well suited as a cavalry officer; plenty of bottom but very few brains.”
“An unusual bully, then; many are cowards.”
“Hayward bullied because he did not know how else to get anything he wanted,” said Lucius. “He wasn’t a typical bully, just outstandingly brash.”
“As you say, a perfect cavalry officer,” said Libby. “Did he leave family?”
“Two younger brothers, but I do not believe he ever married,” said Lucius, hesitating, then going on, “it was one of the things that confused him, he ... preferred other men.”
“Ah, I see, and not an easy thing to come to terms with when during the school years,” said Libby.
“And what did you get up to in your school years, Miss Freemantle? Were you so happy at your school of day pupils that you were as good as gold, and never said boo to a goose? For I’m not sure I believe it.”
“Well, not a goose, but our schoolmistress kept chickens and ducks, and she would have it that we must learn to tend them, for if any of us married a country gentleman, we must expect to be in charge of any animals he might keep. I hated those ducks, they were almost as vicious as geese. And one day a couple of us smuggled a couple of them in, and we stripped the mistress’ bed down to the base, removed the base, and placed her bath inside the frame, and arranged the sheets and coverlet to look as though the bed was now a pond with the ducks in it. She had one parlour boarder, who took no part in it, but she relayed to us how the mistress shrieked!”
“Were you found out?”
“Yes, she examined our arms for duck bill sized bruises where the brutes had pecked us,” said Libby. “She made us do our lessons with our feet in bowls of cold water, obviously without shoes or stockings, and it was February. I had chilblains for a month on my feet as well as on my hands for tending the wretched beasts.”
“That was an unnecessary cruelty.”
“It fitted the crime, so we did not question it at the time. I never interfered with the ducks again though. I also refused point blank to feed them or look for their eggs.”
“I’m not surprised. Well, I am glad you were not Goody Two Shoes.”
“Perish the thought! It was merely that in general, the idea of doing anything unlawful did not cross my mind. It was only that I was so sick of the ducks, I thought if she was so fond of the ducks she should have a closer acquaintance with them.”
“And do your pupils ever take you by surprise?”
“Oh, frequently. I was used to say that the Goyder twins would turn my hair white, but they have settled down considerably of late. Finding that they are the two oldest girls in school bar Julia has had a salutary effect upon their natural effervescence. And it has been a year or more since Philippa turned up with some waif or stray, animal or human, in need of care and nurture. Jem the stable boy is one of her refugees, as is Rocinante, the ass. Philippa has been known to voice the opinion that the incorporation of the girls from Garrard’s school in Oxford is merely the good influence of her own waif-collecting tendencies rubbing off on Dr. and Mrs. Macfarlane. The doctor called her a ‘wee sumpf’, but he is very fond of the twins, if only because they accidentally poisoned a couple of fortune hunters who were trying to make up to dear Elinor. Then ... no, if I catalogued all the twins’ misdeeds we should still be here at midnight. Are you feeling less melancholy than you looked when I found you here?”
“Somewhat. I keep telling myself that things are only things, that it is people who cannot be replaced, but I also resent the burning of my memories.”
“Oh, but Mr. Belvoir, they have only burned the things around which your memories were made; you still have your memories, I am sure you made yourself a fortress in those great gorse bushes and sallied forth with a wooden sword, doing battle on foes, such as you had planned indoors, sitting on the window sills. Why, I could see the inside of the house when you described features of it to me, so that has kept the memories alive.”
He stared at her.
“Why, yes, I suppose so,” he said. “Nothing can take that from me. And Marc shall learn to call somewhere else ‘home’ so that it is less of a wrench when, or indeed, if, he ever visits the site of Woodhill Hall.”
“Were you sorry to have visited?”
“Yes, and no. I am glad to have rediscovered all those memories, even though they are now bittersweet. But seeing the house as a sad wreck was ... hard. And I should like weeds to have grown over the black scar before Marc sees it. Not that he has any need to do so.”
“He may feel he ought to.”
Lucius ran his hand through his immaculate silver-gilt hair, making it tousled.
“And he is likely to do so, feeling responsible for it happening, since it was he who informed on Pole and Brock for indirectly causing the death of Lady Harkness. He has an over-developed sense of responsibility.”
“I wonder where he gets that from,” murmured Libby.
“I have no idea,” said Lucius, having missed her heavy irony. “But I think it will not trouble him until he has been at school, perhaps, for a while. And a romantic ruin overgrown with ivy, grass, fireweed and so on is a less pathetic object than the blackened flags and broken, charred stumps of old cruck-beams looking like so many rotten teeth in the mouth of an old man.”
“A pathetic sight indeed. Mr. Belvoir, Sir Henry is having the lights lit; and I must point out that if there is a villain in the neighbourhood, as has been intimated, you are a target, thrown into relief as a silhouette against the lighted windows. Let us go in, and let them draw the curtains.”
“Indeed, and you should not underestimate the danger Brock the younger may pose, if he is at large,” said Lucius. “He is possessed of a kind of low cunning which circumvents any sensible action.”
“I hope he would not be so depraved as to try to burn a house with small children in it,” said Libby.
“I doubt he would care, but Sir Henry’s old soldiers, who are not tinplate cutouts, watch the house most carefully,” said Lucius. “I would not have countenanced you and Julia coming had I had any reason to suppose Brock was still abroad. However, it is too late now.”
“Indeed, and with luck he will soon be caught.”
Libby led the way back in.
“What, Belvoir, you sly dog, dallying on the terrace?” said Sir Henry, playfully.
Lucius got out his quizzing glass and peered through it, as Libby looked at Sir Henry with shock.
“Harkness, that was a joke in extremely bad taste,” said Lucius, coldly. “Especially in front of Miss Freemantle’s charge. As a trustee, I’m not sure I want one of our girls subjected to someone who considers such heavy, lewd humour to be appropriate. And I had thought you a gentleman.”
Sir Henry blushed, remembering that Lucius was his senior by a considerable margin, and suddenly wondering if he had been the subject under private discussion between trustee and head preceptress, over whether Miss Spencer might be permitted to come here for his little belles.
“I ... I do beg your pardon, Miss Freemantle, Belvoir. Not good taste at all, most inappropriate, I am so very sorry,” he stumbled through an apology. “Thing is, Miss Freemantle, everyone around here has been trying to get Belvoir married off forever, and one is accustomed to joke and ...”
“You are digging yourself a hole, Harkness,” said Lucius, but he had at least put away that accusing quizzing glass, and Sir Henry breathed a bit easier.
“Deeper than for planting a tree, wot,” he said.
“Somewhat, yes,” said Lucius, speaking in a bored sounding drawl. “I have to back Sir Henry’s explanation, Miss Freemantle; the local women, in particular, have been trying to marry me off since I first recouped my father’s losses, when I was an eligible bachelor of five-and-twenty. I am not sure if I am a more eligible parti now, for having turned the losses into something of a fortune, or less, for being older, or whether being older means I am more likely to leave a wealthy widow as an addition to my charms.”
“Dear me, how very distressing,” said Libby. “We are, I suppose, immured from such venal tendencies in the world of academe, striving for ideals beyond the daily round of gossip. Not that it stops the school gossip from running rife, alas,” she added ruefully, unable to continue the act aspersions to higher things. “I fear the girls were planning the wedding for Dr. Macfarlane and Miss Fairbrother well in advance of either party being aware of it. But I have to say, I would have thought that my age and the dignity of my position would protect me from innuendo.”
“I ... dash it, Miss Freemantle, you hardly look any older than Miss Spencer!” said Sir Henry.
Libby laughed.
“Merci du compliment, monsieur, but I cut my eye teeth a long time ago, and I know Spanish coin when I hear it. You dug a hole; let us admit it, and we will fill it in quietly by not referring to it again, hmm?”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Sir Henry, feeling as though he was twelve summers old and had been caught flying his kite when he should have been studying Latin declensions.

“I beg your pardon, Mr. Belvoir, it was foolish of me to come onto the terrace like that,” said Libby, quietly, as they walked towards the stairs to go to their respective rooms. “I did not intend to compromise you; I am accustomed to have private speech with any of my staff or advisors, without thinking of it in a social setting, or in terms of innuendo. Thank you for rescuing my reputation by cowing Sir Henry so startlingly magnificently.”
“I usually use my quizzing glass on young women on matrimony bent, and their obnoxious mothers,” said Lucius. “I am well aware you did not follow me with romantic intentions, and I appreciate your help in letting me speak about the heaviness in my heart. You helped me a great deal, and I should be a boor indeed if I permitted the least hint of impropriety to be attached to your name. I know you are used to speaking to those you consider part of your school, and I have become one such. I won’t force you to marry me, even if I felt we were compromised, which I do not consider that we are. Who, after all, would consider it romantic to compromise a woman with three gardeners, a stable hand and a couple of guardian soldiers looking on with interest? And those were the ones I noticed. Though it would not be in any way a hardship on my part, I think,” he added.
Libby flushed.
“Why, Mr. Belvoir!” she gasped.
“Oh, I will speak no more of it, do not be concerned,” he said, bowing before leaving her for his own bedchamber.


Chapter 21

Brexhay House
2nd August

Dear Penelope,
Dear me, I may have made a mistake in thinking that Miss Freemantle and Mr. Belvoir are spoony about each other. Miss Freemantle went onto the terrace after Mr. Belvoir, and I hoped he might kiss her, but he came in with his closed face, though his hair was all on end, but as Miss Freemantle was not in the least bit mussed, I cannot think that she was responsible, he does run his hand through his hair sometimes if faced with a tricky problem [usually surnamed O’Toole].
Anyway, Sir Henry made a rather overly-jocular comment, apparently Mr. Belvoir is the butt of jokes here regarding his avoidance of matrimony, or he might not have been so forward, and Miss Freemantle was most put out. Mr. Belvoir, however, looked through his quizzing glass as though Sir Henry had given him a cockroach on a plate, and spoke to him the way he spoke that first day, all drawling and condescention condessention looking down his nose. Dear me, how can I be a governess if I cannot spell? And from what I understand, they were deciding if I might work here or not, and Sir Henry subsided before Miss Freemantle’s quelling comments quite as well as Eva when caught out at mischief, which was quite funny really. One should not laugh at one’s prospective employer for looking like a little boy ticked off by his governess! But it is a manner which I should do well to cultivate, for if even a grown man may be made to mind, it is indeed a powerful tool against juvenile miscreants.
I do not recall, by the way, being such a small demon of mischief as Eva is, even when Mama loved me and Papa was alive. I have heard stories from Kitty as well about Eva’s brothers, so I think it is just the family which is as full of original sin as an egg is of meat.
However, I am sorry to report that I must have been mistaken in my observations when we first arrived, for nothing could be more correct than the manner between Mr. Belvoir and Miss Freemantle.
It would be nice to see real romance not just the way a man uses a female, it might restore my faith the way Mrs. Macfarlane says it will be one day.
However, I am sorry those little monkeys got you into trouble trying to plant a tree on the roof. I wager it was Eva’s idea.
Your friend,
Julia.


“Oh b-bother,” said Penelope.
“Not at all,” said Felicity. “If they were being spoony at each other and are now being all that is proper, it’s plain that Sir Henry’s jocular comment made them be more careful because they were embarrassed, and even if they were discussing school matters, being together on the terrace is a bit compromising.”
“Not for people that old,” said Philippa.
“Talk sense, do, Phip,” said Felicity. “Mr. Belvoir might be fairly ancient, but he still has a full head of hair which hasn’t a thread of grey, and all his teeth. And Miss Freemantle isn’t even thirty yet. And they might have been discussing school things, or they might be more embarrassed because they weren’t. Discussing school things, I mean.”
“You mean they were getting spoony and were cross at being caught out at it?” said Philippa.
“You have no romance,” said Felicity.
“No, thank goodness, and no sensibility either,” said Philippa.
“When you look for a man, you’ll check his teeth, look at his hoofs, and squeeze his weasand to check he hasn’t got glanders,” said Felicity.
“Talk sense,” said Philippa; “Men wear their neck clothes tight enough it would be obvious if he had glanders.”
Felicity sighed that her twin had not denied checking teeth and hoofs.
“Well, p-perhaps it-it-it’s as well, b-because we d-don’t w-w-want to l-lose M-Miss Freemantle,” said Penelope.
“We wouldn’t,” said Felicity. “She loves teaching; you can see it in her eyes when she’s torturing us with something obscure about the exports of Hindubakhstandu or whatever.”
“F-Felicity, th-there’s no such place.”
“No, probably not, but why should I care what the stupid places are called? I’m not a sailor and I don’t have to go there, all I need is for the products to arrive so I can make them into gowns,” said Felicity.
“This is why you find it a torture and I’ve actually started enjoying it,” said Philippa. “And you don’t call it torture when she’s reading with us and talking about literature, and you’re also competent at Latin.”
“Well, yes, and she enjoys those too, but I swear she enjoys more the fiendish use of exports and firing pointed algebra at us in arithmetic.”
“You fraud, Felicity, I caught you using trigonometry to use a piece of cloth more economically,” said her twin.
“Hush! If you let the babes know, they’ll think arithmetic is a desirable skill, not something designed to torment them, and that would never do,” said Felicity. “Why, I managed to get Cleo and Eliza to behave themselves by threatening to set a dozen simultaneous equations for them.”
This occasioned a moment of respectful silence.
“Now that is a very cunning plan,” said Philippa. “I claim twin power to steal it.”
“I c-claim friend’s rights t-to steal it,” said Penelope.
“Oh, feel free; it worked a lot better than setting the little perishers lines,” said Felicity. “They were setting up a deadfall for someone; I didn’t ask who, but I remembered the debacle of our deadfall of flour, and how lucky we were that Abigail was such a good sport. I also remembered having to go without cake for a week as we had used our share. And with it hitting the wrong person, it wasn’t worth it. So I choked off the little monkeys before they got fairly started, especially as they had pond sludge in a bucket. And yes,” as Philippa opened her mouth, “I did read them a lecture on what harmless creatures live in the mud, and said that they might look them up and write out three of them for me, before threatening the equations if they didn’t cease forthwith.”
“Goodness, Fee, you wouldn’t make a half bad governess,” said Philippa.
“What, deal with those horrors all day, every day for the rest of my natural life? You have to be joking,” said Felicity. “I have my career lined up, thank you! It’s just with Miss Freemantle away, we older ones have to be more responsible for the younger ones, even the younger ones who aren’t much younger than us.”
“We ought to involve Hermione and Kitty, then; they are the same age as us,” said Philippa. “Obviously Frances can’t manage it.”
“I always forget that those two are our age,” said Felicity. “Kitty still likes to be a bit wild at times, which I can understand, after having to be a mother to two brothers as well as Amelia. And Hermione isn’t that good at taking initiative or responsibility.”
“Which is a bit odd in a vicar’s daughter,” agreed Philippa. “You know, Fee, I’d as soon involve Hannah and Rachel, which is quite funny seeing how badly we hit it off with Hannah at first, but she’s become pretty serious and helpful.”
“And they are the same age as Eliza and Barbara and Alice,” said Felicity. “Well, Alice would be fine if she weren’t so new that the little ones don’t know her enough to respect her. Eliza is wilder than Cleo, which is saying something, she still regrets having to be a girl, and I’m jolly glad she rooms with Alice, who has sense, not Cleo, who doesn’t lack sense, but she is fond of a jape.”
“Th-that’s r-rich c-c-coming from y-you, with all the s-s-stories I’ve heard,” said Penelope.
“Isn’t it?” agreed Felicity. “No zealot like a reformed sinner, you know! And it’s nice that Cleo feels accepted enough to join in playing pranks. It’s why she rooms with us twins, because we don’t turn a hair at her background, and we like her a lot. But she is two years younger than us. And the other one the same age as Alice and Eliza is Barbara.”
“She’s settled down very nicely since Miss Tissot arrived,” said Philippa. “I don’t think it hurt that she seriously irritated Mr. Belvoir, who can’t half wax irritable if someone gets him going.”
“Like Sir Henry,” giggled Penelope. “Y-yes, it w-would m-make him p-poker up, if r-roasted about M-Miss Freemantle.”


The objects of this discussion were being very polite to each other over buttered eggs. Julia had elected to eat nursery breakfast with the children, and Sir Henry was not yet abroad.
“Would you pass the coffee, Mr. Belvoir?” enquired Libby.
Lucius did so, morosely, then burst out,
“Oh, this is ridiculous!”
“What is ridiculous, Mr. Belvoir?”
“You! Me! Us! Behaving like strangers, all because Sir Henry chose to twit me about pursuing a flirtation. Believe me, he never meant it to be taken seriously! He was just twitting me because I never get into a position which could be loosely taken as compromising! And it’s silly, because we are friends. We are friends, aren’t we? We can quarrel and then go back to working together, which is what friends do.”
“I ... suppose we are friends,” said Libby. “I found your manner brusque at first, and you are more pugnacious than I am used to, but since I have found that you are a man who is quick to anger and quick to be over it without holding grudges, I am inclined to be happier to clear the air with a frank exchange of opprobrious opinion which is soon cleared up, than if you sulked.”
“I have never sulked,” said Lucius.
“No, it is not a fault one could accuse you of. You are overbearing, but that is quite understandable in a man who has been left to rear his infant brother with no income.”
“You do a good job of cutting me down to size when I try to go too far. Marc does the same, he laughs at me. But you see, Miss Freemantle, you are not afraid of me, as many people are, you have conversation which is interesting, which for me is a novelty in a woman. You are happy to state your own views and stand by them if they differ from mine rather than tittering and saying that you must have misunderstood and been mistaken.”
“Good grief, are there women so gooseish?” asked Libby, revolted.
“All the ones not reared at Swanley Court, so far as I can gather,” said Lucius.
“Now that is an unkind exaggeration; I, for one, was not reared at Swanley Court, and there must be other young ladies brought up on the principle of thinking for themselves,” said Libby.
“Well, if there are, they haven’t entered my orbit yet,” said Lucius. “And the thing is, I’d be very happy to be married to a woman like you, but I won’t be driven to it by some fool, however amiable.”
“No, quite,” said Libby, feeling unaccountably short of breath. “Mr. Belvoir, was that a backhanded sort of proposal?”
“Yes,” said Lucius.
“I won’t give up teaching after marriage,” said Libby, daringly.
“I wasn’t asking you to. Was that a backhanded sort of acceptance?”
“Yes,” said Libby.
“Good. I’ll find somewhere to kiss you to seal the bargain where we won’t be brayed at by the resident ass or chimed at by any of his bells,” said Lucius.
“Or, being adult and able to contain our feelings, when we return to Swanley,” said Libby.
“You might be able to contain your feelings until then but I can’t,” said Lucius. “Come here.”
Libby followed him as he led her over to the door, picking up the poker on the way to thrust it through the handles.
Libby raised an eyebrow.
“Butler ain’t due to clear for at least ten minutes and if Harkness tries to get in, I can fob him off with a Banbury tale while you hide behind the door, or go sit down,” said Lucius, pulling Libby firmly into his arms.
This kiss was beyond any sensation that Libby had ever experienced. Expecting it to be pleasurable, she leaned into the masterful embrace of the man she had been wanting to kiss into submission for some time, but it was beyond expectation! Every sense reeled and her knees gave way as their mouths joined.
“Oh my,” said Libby.
“Oh, mine,” said Lucius, giving her a predatory smirk.
“No, Lucius; mine,” said Libby.
“We’re going to have a lot of fun arguing about that one,” said Lucius.
The door rattled.
Libby glided off to sit down, and regard her now cold buttered eggs with some distaste. Lucius made a show of walking on the spot, calling,
“Just coming, what is the problem?”
“The door won’t open,” said Julia’s voice.
Lucius pulled out the poker, thrusting it into a potted palm, and rattled the handle.
“It got stuck,” he said, pulling the door open. “I must speak to Sir Henry and see if he is trying to matchmake by locking us in the breakfast room together, though I must say it would have been a better ruse if we had known about it.”
Julia regarded him thoughtfully.
“You are spoony about each other and your lips are swollen and your eyes have that look in them,” she said. “You should be very pleased it was me, not Sir Henry.”
“We are, my dear, and we know you will be discreet in front of him,” said Libby.
“Oh yes, he is a nice man, but not of superior understanding,” said Julia. “I will learn how to keep him obeying nursery rules,”
Libby laughed.
“Well, my dear, I cannot think you will have any trouble here. Why, here is Sir Henry!”
“Ah, Miss Freemantle, Miss Spencer, Belvoir, all having breakfast together?”
“Yes, Mr. Belvoir has just joined us,” said Julia, sliding into Lucius’ place with its used cup and plate.
Libby felt a pang for the poor child that she had needed to learn to be duplicitous, and was simultaneously proud of her for managing to be pleased for them and to recognise that the sexual act was not supposed to be unpleasant. Julia was a very sensible girl.
SubjectAuthorPosted

Libby nineteen to twenty-one

Sarah WaldockJune 01, 2018 12:39PM

Re: Libby nineteen to twenty-one

LilyJune 02, 2018 11:57AM

Re: Libby nineteen to twenty-one

Sarah WaldockJune 02, 2018 04:47PM

Very well said. (nfm)

KarenteaJune 02, 2018 06:35PM

Re: Libby nineteen to twenty-one

KarenteaJune 01, 2018 07:22PM

Re: Libby nineteen to twenty-one

Sarah WaldockJune 01, 2018 10:52PM



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