Authors: Margaret Addison
Rose Simpson Mystery
Copyright 2014 Margaret Addison
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be
reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or
mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage or
retrieval system, without prior written permission from Margaret Addison except
for the inclusion of quotations in a review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or used
fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or
dead, is coincidental.
Rose Simpson Mysteries in order
Murder at Ashgrove House
Murder at Dareswick Hall
you sure about this?’ asked Mrs Simpson, perched on the edge of her daughter’s
bed, watching as Rose packed her suitcase. Her daughter had her mind set on the
task at hand, going backwards and forwards laden with clothes, first from her wardrobe,
and then to her pale green-glazed chintz covered bed, where her suitcase lay open
invitingly. As she looked on, it seemed to Mrs Simpson that a great many items
were being packed for just a weekend in the country.
do you mean, Mother?’ enquired Rose, her mind only half listening to what her
parent was saying, being more concerned in packing her case as quickly as
possible, so that she would be ready in time to catch her train. What a pity
that the Simpsons’ finances did not stretch to employing a servant. How much
more convenient it would have been to have had a maid make sure that all her clothes
were freshly ironed, and to pack her case for her.
you know what happened last time, my dear, when you attended a house party at a
country house hosted by the gentry,’ Mrs Simpson said, quietly.
Mother, you mustn’t worry so,’ said her daughter, abandoning her task and
flopping herself down on the bed next to her mother. ‘It’s hardly going to
happen again, now is it? It was all very sad and unfortunate, but really,
there’s absolutely no reason to think there’s going to be another murder, now
is there? I mean, what are the chances of it happening again?’
suppose you’re right,’ admitted her mother, rather grudgingly. ‘But that won’t
stop me worrying about you all the same. I know I’m just being silly, but I
can’t help it.’
might have added that she was equally worried about her daughter meeting up
with the new Earl of Belvedere again, but decided it was wise to refrain from
comment on that matter. She reminded herself that Rose was a sensible,
level-headed girl, after all, but it did not lessen the reservations she had
concerning her daughter mixing with the aristocracy. Her daughter worked in a
dress shop after all, as a result of the family having come down in the world.
For both Rose and herself, working for a living had become an unwelcome
Simpson sighed. It was true that she wished her daughter to aspire to greater
things, but surely entering the British aristocracy was beyond her reach. She
had refrained from prying into her daughter’s relationship with Cedric, because
up until now it had consisted mainly of written correspondence. But now her
daughter would be seeing him in person again, the first time since the
disastrous events that had occurred at Ashgrove House some two or three months
previously. She wondered whether it could be considered wise or responsible of
her to allow her daughter to go unaccompanied for a visit to Dareswick Hall,
although Rose had assured her that there would be at least two other young
where did I put my tea dress with the blue flowers on it?’ enquired Rose,
rummaging through the clothes in her wardrobe, oblivious to her mother’s
concerns regarding Cedric and the company she kept. ‘Don’t tell me that it’s
gone for the wash? Oh, if only Madame Renard had allowed me to take today off
work so that I could have sorted out my clothes and set off earlier. As it is
I’ll be lucky to arrive at Dareswick Hall before dinner is served. But I
suppose I should be grateful that she let me leave work early today and is
allowing me to take the day off tomorrow, especially as she considers me
responsible for Lavinia not going back to work in her shop. As if she really
would after everything that happened.’
had first met Lady Lavinia Sedgwick some seven or eight months earlier when Lavinia
had taken up a bet made with her brother Cedric that she could not earn her own
living for six months. Lavinia had chosen to work in the dress shop where Rose
herself was employed and for a time, despite their very different backgrounds,
the two girls had been inseparable.
Lavinia be there this weekend?’ asked Mrs Simpson, tentatively.
know very well she will not, Mother,’ replied Rose, sadly. ‘She holds me partly
responsible for what happened at Ashgrove. Cedric seems to think that she will
come round eventually, but I’m not at all sure that she will. And I’m not sure
that I blame her. I feel some responsibility myself.’
at the front door drew Mrs Simpson’s attention away from the activities of her
daughter and caused her to hurry back downstairs. Rose, in turn, having
finished her packing, or at least given up hope of finding any more suitably
clean and ironed clothes to pack, closed her case and collapsed on to her bed
to abandon herself to her thoughts for a few brief delicious moments, before
necessity dictated that she set off to catch her train.
not seen Cedric since that last fateful day at Ashgrove House, when he had told
her that as far as he was concerned nothing had changed and he still loved her.
She remembered, her cheeks glowing red with the recollection, that she had cut
his speech short by flinging herself into his arms. Then, promising to write,
she had gone out into the day, a beautifully bright and sunny day if she
remembered rightly, which had contrasted sharply with the sorrow in the house.
And since then Cedric had been so engaged with everything, with sorting out the
affairs of the estate, arranging the funerals and communicating a version of
the tragedy to the world as a whole, that they had not had a chance to meet up
in person, making do instead with hurriedly scribbled notes and letters to each
come as something of a pleasant surprise when Cedric had suggested that their
first meeting after Ashgrove be at a house party at Dareswick Hall, hosted by
Baron Atherton, an old friend of the Belvedere family. She remembered how she
had felt when Lavinia had first mooted the idea of going to stay at Ashgrove
House, a mixture of anticipation, apprehension and excitement. She felt
something similar to it now. Then it had been because she was anxious at the
prospect of being a guest of the local gentry and wondering if she would pass
muster with Lady Withers and, perhaps more importantly, with her servants. Now
she felt those same emotions, but this time it was due to the prospect of
meeting the man she loved, the man she had been prepared to protect and keep
quiet for, in order to save him from the gallows. She suddenly felt a sharp
stab of sorrow to know that Lavinia would not be there. It had been her
erstwhile friend who had introduced her to her brother in the first place.
realised now, as the reality of the situation dawned on her, that she had been
living in an almost fairy-tale stupor, hardly conscious of the mundane everyday
activities of living, instead dwelling in her daydreams so that they became her
sense of reality. And tonight she would discover if reality successfully
mirrored her rose-tinted recollections.
sighed and made her way down the stairs, her case banging awkwardly on each
stair due to the weight of the clothes, accessories and toiletries within. If
her daydreams were about to be dashed then so be it. After all, she was a
sensible girl really, she had needed to be due to the deteriorating financial
situation of her family that had forced her to seek employment. If she found
now that she was required to put her own personal dreams aside then she would
but, and she crossed her fingers tightly, how much more wonderful would it be
if she did not have to and her wishes could be realised.
Honourable Isabella Atherton regarded her reflection in her dressing table
mirror. She smiled briefly because what she saw pleased her, for there was no
doubting by anyone’s standards that she was a beautiful young woman.
her mood darkened, as swiftly as a cloud passing over the sun, and she
shuddered and clutched on to the dressing table, as if to give herself courage.
Suddenly she could not bring herself to study her own refection too closely. If
she looked into the mirror too intently now she would be able to detect every
flaw and she was afraid of what she would see. She would catch glimpses of the
character of the woman behind the superficial beauty. Her eyes, she knew, would
be cold, her lips thin; her mouth downturned. Above all, though, she could not
bear to see the misery that would be etched on her face, for with no audience
present there was no need for pretence. Her face would reveal the wretchedness
of the position in which she now found herself.
could she have been so impulsive and reckless? How could she not have thought
about the consequences of her actions before she had done what she had done?
And now she was trapped as surely as a bird in a cage. She would never be free,
she knew that. He would never allow her to be free. And the worse thing of all
was that it was all her own fault. She had no one else to blame. She had
brought it all on herself. She stifled a sob. She mustn’t cry. She mustn’t let
herself lose control and go to pieces. It would be so easy to do that and yet
too dangerous. She took a deep breath. She would have to decide within the next
few days whether she was capable of gritting her teeth and going through with
it. If not, then she must find a way out of her predicament. Instinctively she
looked down at her hands, now sitting demurely in her lap. She watched in
horror as her hands slowly began to shake of their own accord, as if they knew.
Of course there was only really one satisfactory way out. She studied her
trembling hands and wondered whether, if the time came, she would find the
courage required to see it through.
what did Isabella say exactly, Hallam?’ asked Josephine, standing over her
brother as he sat on the sofa in the music room at Dareswick Hall, idly
flicking through gramophone records.
told you already. She said that she would be bringing someone down with her
this weekend and I just got the feeling that it would be her latest beau,
that’s all,’ Hallam replied, somewhat irritated by her refusal to leave the
subject alone. If he had realised that she was going to go on so about it, he
would never have mentioned it. ‘I could have got it completely wrong. She could
be bringing down one of her girlfriends. I say,’ he frowned suddenly as a
thought struck him, ‘I hope it’s not Celia; I can’t stand the way she laughs
like a horse at simply everything as if it’s all a joke. And do sit down,
Josephine. It’s very off putting having someone loom over you, don’t you know.
It’s bad enough when Crabtree does it, without you doing it too. Of course, I
expect it of him, I mean, it’s what butlers do, isn’t it? But the least you can
do is to sit down if you are intent on questioning me.’
perched herself reluctantly on the arm of the sofa. She felt too agitated to
sit down properly, and longed instead to pace the room. But then even her
brother, who could never be accused of thinking too deeply about anything that
was not directly related to his own entertainment or amusement, might guess
that something was wrong. And she couldn’t have that. Really, Hallam was too
irritating for words. Why couldn’t he remember his conversation with Isabella
word for word? She would have done, she knew, but then she would have been
listening carefully, which she supposed he had not been doing.
tell me one more time, Hallam, there’s a dear, and then I’ll leave you in peace
to peruse your gramophone records. Mrs Hodges will need to know so she can
arrange the bedrooms. If it’s a man she’ll put him on your corridor. If it’s
one of Isabella’s girlfriends, then she’ll probably put her in the Pink Room
next to mine.’
wasn’t so much what she said,’ admitted Hallam. ‘It was more the way she said
it, as if she was nervous and she’d hardly be nervous if she was just bringing
down one of her girlfriends with her, would she? I say, do you think it would
be quite the done thing to put on the gramophone and have dancing this weekend,
what with Cedric still being in mourning and everything?’
not. Although I suggest we just play it by ear,’ replied Josephine, distracted,
‘you know, see what he’s like.’
Hallam really had very little basis for his impression that Isabella was going
to be bringing a man with her; that was interesting. For a moment Josephine did
not know whether she was disappointed or relieved. If she had been close to her
sister, then no doubt Isabella would have confided in her. But they were very
different in both appearance and character. Her father was always likening them
to chalk and cheese; beautiful, outgoing Isabella, the belle of every ball who
simply had men tripping over themselves to adore her and be entranced by her
sparkling conversation; and Josephine, plain, quiet, studious and rather timid,
more at home clad in a sensible tweed skirt and plain blouse, poring over books
in the family library than dressed in the latest Parisian fashions attending
society parties. As a consequence, Josephine had stayed at Dareswick Hall to
keep home for her widowed father while Isabella resided most of the time in a
service apartment in London, only deigning to come home for special occasions
and house parties, declaring that she found country life dull and backward
compared with the bright lights and delights London had to offer.
rather thought that the reason Isabella might be coming back this weekend was
to see Cedric,’ Josephine remarked, trying to appear nonchalant. ‘I thought she
might want to try and get her claws into him, what with him having come into the
earldom and everything.’