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Authors: Catherine Winchester

Hope for Tomorrow

BOOK: Hope for Tomorrow
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Hope
for Tomorrow

by

Catherine Winchester

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents, other than those clearly in the public domain, are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 by C.S. Winchester. All rights reserved.

 

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

 

Cover copyright
© CS Winchester 2012. All rights reserved

Other Books by Catherine Winchester

 

Northern Light

What You Wish For

 

 

Past Series

Past Due

Half Past

 

 


Learn from yesterday, live for today
, hope for tomorrow.
” Albert Einstein

Chapter One

Lucian reeled backwards as though Martha had struck him.


No,” he told her, his usually robust colouring turning ashen. “You can't be, it's not possible!”


I can assure you it is!” Martha said, her previous dreams of everything working out for the best crumbling before her eyes. The pain his denial caused burned deep into her soul and her fiery temper began to assert itself, as it usually did when she was hurt. “It took two of us to make this baby and you were there!”


But... a baby! I can't have a baby with a housemaid!”


A housemaid? After everything you said, all those dreams you shared with me, is that really all I am to you?”


What?” Fear was now causing his own temper to rise. “You thought that I would marry you? Me, the son of the Earl of Marchwood marry you, a servant in my father's home?” He laughed but was it cold and brittle, far from the warm laugh that she loved.


Well maybe you should have thought of that before you started to pursue me!” she snapped.


How do I even know it's mine?” he asked in his most autocratic voice, as though she were his subject, not his lover. “If you'd sleep with me, you'd sleep with anyone!”

Martha's anger suddenly fled as she realised that the man she had fallen in love with wasn't real. The man who had held her, comforted her and listened to her dreams was just an actor. Those beautiful blue eyes that had once seemed so understanding were now ice cold and full of hatred. This was the real man, and she was ashamed to have been associated with him in any way, shape or form.

And here she was, in a smelly old stable with hay and horses for an audience. Until this very moment she had always considered the stables a romantic setting but now all her romantic notions were being stripped from her and she felt bereft.


You know, I was prepared to face any amount of scorn,” she said. “I could live with the gossip and the stigma because no matter what people say, I couldn't see anything wrong with what we did. We loved each other and we expressed that love. Now though, I can see that I was fooled good and proper. I've never felt so ashamed of myself as I do right now because you, Sir, are scum! I can't believe I ever fell for your lies and pretty words. You disgust me.”

She turned and left the barn with her head held high, her back stiff and upright and her steps as slow and even as she could make them.

She didn't look back; she couldn't afford to.

As she approached the house she felt the sting of tears in her eyes and paused for a moment on the back step to take a few deep breaths. When she was certain that her tears would not start to fall, she pushed a stray strand of her chestnut hair behind her ear, took a deep breath and went inside.


Martha! Where the 'ell have you been?” Cook asked her. “We've been lookin' for you for a 'alf hour or more!”


I'm sorry, I was feeling unwell.”


You do look pale. You all right, lass?”


No. I need to speak with Mrs Lassiter; where is she?”


In 'er sitting room, I believe.”

Martha nodded and left the kitchen. The housekeeper's room was next to the kitchen and she knocked softly, almost hoping that Mrs Lassiter wouldn't hear.


Come in!”

Martha took another deep breath and went in. Mrs Lassiter was sitting at her desk writing in her accounts ledger and when she had finished the entry she put her pen down and looked up.


Martha, good, I've been looking for you. I-” she suddenly realised how ashen Martha looked. “Are you all right, dear?”


No, Mrs Lassiter.” She felt the dreaded sting of tears again, for Mrs Lassiter had been like a mother to her since she had come to this house. She was a stern and proud woman but she was also fair and encouraging to those who showed initiative.

Mrs Lassiter had taken Martha under her wing, so to speak and when Martha showed an interest in improving her reading and writing, it was she who schooled her. It was she who helped Martha to improve her language and lose most of her northern accent so that she might improve her position in life. Martha had proven herself both a quick study and a hard worker and had come a long way since she had been taken on at just ten years old to work as a scullery maid. Now aged sixteen she wore a crisp black uniform and worked in the family rooms upstairs.


I'm afraid that I have no choice but to leave, Mrs Lassiter. I realise that this puts you in a very awkward position and if you ask me to, I will work out the week, however I think it's best for everyone if I leave now.”

Martha could tell from her expression that Mrs Lassiter had guessed the truth.


Oh, my dear, I blame myself for this. I saw the signs; I should have said something.”


The blame lies firmly with me,” Martha insisted. “You have shown me nothing but kindness in the six years since I came here and this is how I repay you.”

Mrs Lassiter got up and came around the desk. She took Martha's hands and guided her to a seat by her fire, taking the other one for herself.


I almost cannot believe this of you, Martha. You have always been such a sensible girl, older than your years.”


I'm sorry.”


This isn't only your doing,” Mrs Lassiter said kindly. “I can't believe that he would want you to leave though. Master Lucien always seemed so...” she sighed. “I suppose it just goes to show what I know.”


Please, don't reproach yourself. I fell for the charms of a very skilful liar and am paying the price.”


Have you told him?”

Martha nodded, her tears finally falling as she remembered their confrontation.


He said that he doubted that the baby was his.”


Oh no, I can't believe that.”


I assure you, they were his words.”

Mrs Lassiter handed Martha her handkerchief and waited until her tears had dried before continuing.


What will you do with yourself?” she asked.


I will try going home, though I am not at all certain that I will be welcome.”

As the eldest of thirteen children only eight of whom were still alive, Martha had always felt like a burden to her parents. Her mother tried to love and care for her children but her father preferred to drink most of his wages, leaving her mother in a perpetual state of worry over feeding and clothing her family.

If only they would stop having children, then her mother might be able to find her own employment but it seemed that her father would not be denied his pleasures after a drink and there were many nights when she and her siblings had been thrown out of the bedroom so that he might have a little 'wifely lovin'. Of course they could still all hear what was happening but it wasn't until she was older that Martha really understood.

Mrs Lassiter nodded sadly, for everyone knew of the Dawley family and what a waste of space the father was.


Do you have anything put by?” Mrs Lassiter asked. Martha's wages were not high since room and board were included and she sent her mother what money she could.


I have some savings,” she said. “If my family won't help me then I thought that I might try Manchester. They say that wages are higher there.”


I'll give you a good reference,” Mrs Lassiter assured her. Her biggest fear was that she or the baby would end up in a workhouse.


Thank you. I should go and pack my things,” Martha said getting to her feet.

Mrs Lassiter looked hesitant but finally she nodded. The girl couldn't stay here, she was already showing a little and if the Earl got wind of his son's activities, there would be hell to pay for everyone involved.


Barry's heading into town soon to get the Master's saddle repaired; I'll ask him to take you and I'll get working on your reference. Don't go without saying goodbye, will you?”

Martha shook her head, afraid that if she spoke, her emotions would overcome her once more. She made her way up the servant's stairs to her room in the attic. She quickly changed out of her uniform, into one of the dresses that she had made for herself and then she packed her few belongings into her large bag.

She heard hoof beats on the yard and went to the window in time to see Lucien galloping out across the fields on his beloved black stallion, Midnight. She thought that neatly summed up the situation; people like him got to run away from their problems while people like her had to live with the consequences.

She didn't know what would become of her, for her father was unlikely to welcome her return, let alone another new mouth to feed. Still, she had little choice but to try. She headed back down to Mrs Lassiter's sitting room and took the envelope that the housekeeper handed her.


Thank you, Mrs Lassiter, not just for the reference but also for being so kind to me.

Mrs Lassiter took her shoulders and tried not to let her emotions get the better of her. The Mrs of her title was a courtesy, for she had never married and had her own family. This young slip of a girl was probably the closest she would get to having a daughter and she would miss her sorely.


Will you write when you're settled to let me know that you're all right?”

Martha nodded and tried her hardest to smile. Quite on impulse she pulled the older woman into her arms and hugged her tightly, then kissed her cheek.


Goodbye,” she said, quickly turning from her and running out into the yard where Barry was waiting with the horse and cart. She climbed up beside him and seeming to realise that she was distressed, he urged the horses on without talking to her. As the horse made its way down the lane towards the town, Martha couldn't help but look back at the house.

Once that house had seemed like her salvation, now it felt like the cause of her doom.

 


What's you doin' back 'ere?” Jim Dawley said when he came in from work to find his eldest daughter sitting at the kitchen table.


She's come 'ome!” his wife Lizzy said with a smile. “Ain't that grand?”


No it ain't grand!” he yelled. “We need her wages!”


The house is cutting back on staff,” Martha said with as much dignity as she could muster. “There is no longer a job there for me to do.”

Jim sneered and sat at the head of the table. He hated it when she visited on a Sunday afternoon, with her good manners and hoity toity accent, he felt that she looked down on him even more than she used to.

She was growing into a fine young woman, as pretty as her ma used to be, which wasn't something that he wanted to remember. After thirteen children, and a fourteenth on the way, his wife was aged far beyond her years and her beauty was long gone, buried under years of drudgery.


You steal sommat?” he sneered at Martha.


No.”


You musta done sommat to make 'em fire you!”


Leave 'er, Jim.” Lizzy tried to placate him. “Can't we just have a nice meal? I'm sure Martha will get more work soon.”


You better, you can't stay 'ere, lass.”

Martha hadn't even told either of them about her pregnancy and now that she knew she wasn't welcome, she was determined not to. Tomorrow morning she would catch the stagecoach to Manchester and see about getting work and accommodation there. As soon as dinner was over, her father headed out to the Sun Tavern. Martha knew the drill, he would roll in at closing time, too drunk to walk in a straight line.

Once he was gone the atmosphere in the small house lightened considerably and Martha tried to enjoy her last evening with her family. She insisted that her mother sit down while she and the children cleaned up after dinner. It was a cold evening and as usual the family couldn't afford a fire so they bundled together under blankets while Martha told them a story from one of the many books she had read.

The children were tired after that and although they protested, she helped her mother tuck them in. There was only one bedroom with a bed for her parents and straw filled mattresses on the floor which the children shared. She and her mother then returned to the kitchen and Martha made them a pot of tea, though the tea leaves were probably on their third use and it was horribly weak.

Lizzy filled Martha in on James, Sally and Dan, the next three eldest children. Sally had been taken into service at the mayor's house while James and Dan were working as labourers for a local farmer. They slept out there over the spring months while they ploughed and sowed the fields, to save the daily walk.

Martha could see how life was wearing her mother down and anyone looking at her would never have guessed that she was only 34.

BOOK: Hope for Tomorrow
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