Authors: Ann Barker
His Lordship's Gardener
The Grand Tour
The Squire's Daughter
The Wild Marauder
The Squire and the Schoolmistress
The Other Miss Frobisher
A Gift for a Rake
Lady of Lincoln
Â© Ann Barker 2010 First published in Great Britain 2010
Robert Hale Limited
London EC1R 0HT
The right of Ann Barker
to be identified as author of this work has been
asserted by her in accordance with the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1
Typeset in 10/13pt Sabon
Printed in Great Britain by the
MPG Books Group, Bodmin and King's Lynn
For my own Michael, without whose encouragement and support neither this book nor the others that preceded it would have seen the light of day.
Once again, my grateful thanks to Sir Richard FitzHerbert for his fine stewardship of the delightful village of Tissington and Tissington Hall.
ell sir? I understand that you wish to see me on some â¦
matter.' Michael, Lord Ashbourne sat easily in the chair behind his desk, rocking backwards gently. His expression as he stared at his sixteen-year-old son was completely unreadable. Most men would have looked upon such a young man with pride. He was an exceedingly handsome boy, tall and upright, his shoulders already broadening into manhood. His straight black hair was gathered into a queue, and his regular features were finely marked. In appearance, he was very like the earl had been at that age.
âI do, my lord,' Raphael replied. He had never called this man father. Such intimacy had not been encouraged. Nor had he ever approached him upon any matter if he could possibly help it. On this occasion, however, the case was urgent, and concerned his whole future happiness. He swallowed. âI would like to inform you â¦ that I wish to be married.'
To his surprise, his father smiled. It was not a pleasant expression. âExcellent,' he said. âIt is what I have been planning for you myself.' He stood up. A full head taller than his son, he was very lean, and still a handsome man, although his dark hair was now grey, and there were deep lines riven upon his face. âMy negotiations with Clement Vyse have been concluded and now that I know how eager you are, your engagement to Miss Vyse can be announced immediately.'
The expression on Raphael's face changed from relief at his first words to consternation. Lord Ashbourne turned away to take a pinch of snuff. He smiled maliciously to himself. âIs that idea to your liking?' he asked, his tone deceptively mild.
âI â¦ I â¦' To be in his father's presence was so acutely unpleasant that for two pins, Raphael would have ended the interview there and then. He remembered in time that another person was affected. He straightened his shoulders. âThe announcement of an engagement I welcome, my lord,' he said. âIt is the identity of my bride on which we differ.'
âIndeed?' Lord Ashbourne's tone remained utterly calm. âMay one be so bold as to enquire the identity of the young lady who has caught your eye?'
âHer name is Dora Whitton,' answered Raphael.
âI see. Is she perhaps the sister of one of your fellow pupils at school? I should like to know her lineage.'
âHer family is perfectly respectable,' Raphael answered.
There was a long silence. Lord Ashbourne sighed. âYou mean that her family is quite impossible.'
âHer father is a farmer,' said Raphael hastily, then coloured.
âI see. So we are talking about a farm wench, are we? I fail to see the purpose of this conversation. If you want the wench, go and make use of her. That is what such girls are for. But pray do not confuse a roll in the hay with a suitable marriage alliance. Now take yourself off, sir. You are beginning to try my patience.'
âNo, my lord.'
Very, very slowly, the earl turned his head to look at his son. On his face was an expression of icy cold rage mingled with contempt. âWhat?' he whispered. Ashbourne never raised his voice. He made his anger felt in other ways.
Raphael was as white as a sheet, but he did not lower his head. âI am pledged to Dora,' he answered. âI love her and â¦ and she is carrying my child.'
The earl laughed unpleasantly. âThen she's clearly a slut. I suppose I should be glad that you have proved your manhood; but this is where it ends. You will not see the creature again, you will not marry her, and your engagement to Laura Vyse will be announced immediately.'
end here,' Raphael answered. âI
marry Dora with or without your permission, and Laura Vyse can go hang!' He strode out of the room, banging the door behind him.
Lord Ashbourne rang his personal bell, not the one which would summon a footman, but one which brought a burly, brutish-looking individual into his presence. âMy son needs to be taught some manners,' he said. âFlog him within an inch of his life, but don't spoil his pretty face, or his â¦ ah â¦ equipment. We don't want his bride disappointed.'
Half an hour later, he wandered down to the stables where his son lay sprawled in one of the stalls, his clothes ripped, his back a bloody mess. âI hope you have now learned obedience,' he said calmly, his expression quite unmoved. âIf not, I will make sure that your â Dora, was it? â gets the same treatment.'
âBastard,' Raphael croaked.
âPerhaps; but I'm not a fool. To prevent you from making some futile, gallant gesture, I will make sure that
bastard is provided for; but from now on, you will do as I say.' He walked out and left his son bleeding on the ground.
Dora Whitton did not much care what happened to her after Raphael had deserted her. She had half guessed what must have happened when he failed to communicate with her as he had said he would. A short time later, a message was delivered to her father's farm by a groom in livery. It informed her that Raphael had just become engaged to be married. There would be an allowance provided for the child she was carrying until it reached the age of majority. She would not see Raphael again. She must not attempt to seek him out, or she would lose the money.
This was the first that her parents had heard of her pregnancy and they were outraged. A respectable family, they had hoped that she would enable them to move up in the world, perhaps by marrying the son of the local squire. Now, the danger was that they would all be dragged down by her disgrace. Carefully they made plans and, in a very short space of time, before the pregnancy had begun to show, Dora was sent to stay with distant relatives, with the instruction that she should be taught to behave herself. The consequence was that she found herself little better than a skivvy.
It was late one Sunday afternoon when the vicar, The Revd Paul Buckleigh came to the house to find out why the family had not attended church. Approaching from the side entrance, he found an enchantingly pretty but heavily pregnant young woman struggling with a bucketful of scraps for the pigs, and he hurried to relieve her of her burden. Kindly brown eyes met weary hazel ones and the vicar was filled with compassion. Just a few short weeks later, not long after her son had been born, Dora Whitton became Dora Buckleigh.
vangeline Granby was in disgrace and, on this occasion, she really did not think that it was her fault. She had never enjoyed visiting her uncle's family in Sheffield, because odious comparisons were always made between herself and her two cousins, Phyllida and Deidre.
âYou never saw such obliging, obedient girls,' her aunt, Mrs Frean, was often heard to remark. Then she would turn to Evangeline's mother and add, in pitying tones, âWhat a shame that you cannot say the same. It is your own fault, I fear. You spoiled that girl, now look at her.'
In her most honest moments, Evangeline was prepared to admit that she had been spoiled, but when such spoiling resulted in pretty dresses, outings to places of her choice, and petting and fussing, she would have been a fool to object. An only child, she had almost died in infancy and, as a consequence, had been indulged ever since. Her father called her his angel and thought that nothing was too good for her. Her mother was not strong enough to exert her will against her daughter. As for her aunt's opinion, it mattered to her not one whit.
Phyllida's engagement had brought about another set of comparisons. âWhat have you been about, Matilda, to allow that girl to be so indulged? How many London seasons has she had? Two, or is it three? And not an engagement to show for it. Phyllida has secured an eligible match without even leaving Sheffield. It is time you put your foot down and insisted that she make up her mind. How old is she now? Twenty? Twenty-one? I'll not deny she's a beauty, although perhaps a little too overblown, but she'll be on the shelf before you know it.'
To such comments as these, Evangeline affected an air of carelessness, but in fact she was deeply annoyed. What business was it of Aunt
Frean's whether she was married or not? The silly woman only wanted to compare her unfavourably with her daughters.
Inevitably, the day of the wedding arrived and Evangeline, effortlessly exerting her own will as usual, contrived to appear in a stunning gown of shimmering pink silk which cast the apparel of every other lady present into the shade, including that of the bride. Even the bridegroom stared at her with his eyes nearly out on stalks. Mrs Frean's disapproval was obvious, but tempered with satisfaction, since at least she had one daughter safely married.
âAnd good riddance too,' Evangeline muttered to herself, as the wedding barouche carrying Mr and Mrs Vernon Battle disappeared out of sight. From now on, they would be living upon Mr Battle's estate in Wiltshire. As far as Evangeline was concerned, Cornwall, or the Outer Hebrides, would have been even better, but at least she would no longer be within easy reach for purposes of comparison.
Once the bride and bridegroom had gone, the guests settled down to further conversation, and Evangeline soon found herself being monopolized by a slim, olive-complexioned young man with a ready wit and sparkling brown eyes. They managed to disappear into a corner for a desperate flirtation, which raised Evangeline's spirits considerably. Unfortunately, the young man in question was the Honourable William Jaye, of whom Mrs Frean had had hopes concerning her younger daughter. Thanks to Evangeline's behaviour, Deidre was now in her room, crying her eyes out. What did Evangeline intend to do about it?
âI shall go out for a walk,' Evangeline replied. âIf I am not wanted here, then I shall take myself off.'
âEvangeline, dearest,' murmured her mother in harassed tones.
âYou are forbidden to go,' said Mrs Frean sternly. âYour place is here, with your family. You will apologize to Deirdre
to Mr Jaye, and then you will go to your room.'
Stamping her foot at Mrs Frean would not yield positive results, as Evangeline had learned from experience long ago. She was beyond that now. Instead, she executed a demure curtsy and went upstairs. She did not go to Deidre's room, however. Instead, she went to her own chamber and rang the bell for Elsie, her abigail. She was not quite sure what to do, but as she had been told to go to her room, she was determined that she should not remain there.
While she was waiting for Elsie, she picked up a book which she had been given by her friend Lady Ilam at the last wedding celebration that she had attended. This had been the party that had been held at
Ashbourne Abbey following the private wedding of Lord and Lady Ashbourne in London. Evangeline had made friends with Lady Ilam when, as Miss Eustacia Hope, she had come to stay in the village of Illingham near Evangeline's home. It was here that she had met her future husband, Lord Ilam, whose father was the Earl of Ashbourne.
At some point during the festivities, Evangeline had evaded her usual string of admirers and found a quiet place where she sat in rather wistful thought. She was younger than Lady Ashbourne by ten years, and prettier than Lady Ilam; yet they were each married to the man of their choice whilst she remained single. Would there ever be the right man for her?
Lady Ilam had interrupted her reverie by coming to sit next to her, a book in her hand. âI've something for you,' she had said, holding it out to her friend.
Evangeline had taken it, pulling a face at the title. â
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
. Sad stuff!'
âScoff if you like,' Lady Ilam had replied, âbut I met and married Ilam soon after it came into my possession. Then I passed it on to Jessie, and shortly after that, she married Lord Ashbourne. She's given it back to me, so I am passing it on to you. Who knows what may happen?'
Evangeline opened it now and idly began turning the pages. Most of it seemed to be saying how silly women were on account of their upbringing. âSad stuff,' she said again out loud. She was about to lay it down again when her eye lit upon the following lines:
English women whose time is spent in making caps, bonnets, and the whole mischief of trimmings, not to mention shopping, bargain-hunting, &c. &c.
âExcellent!' she exclaimed, as Elsie came in. âThat book has some sensible observations to make after all. We'll go shopping.' With Elsie's help she donned the pretty bonnet and pelisse that she had been wearing earlier, and slipped out of the house with her maid in tow.
âWhere're we going, miss?' Elsie asked. She had been Evangeline's maid ever since the young woman had had an abigail of her own and was her regular co-conspirator.
âAnywhere but here,' Evangeline replied. For a time she walked briskly, leaving the elegance of Paradise Square and heading for the main shopping thoroughfare. She was furious at the injustice of her aunt's accusation. She had had no idea that her cousin was interested in Mr Jaye. Had she known she would have kept away from him, for
although spoiled, she was a good-natured girl, but the alacrity with which he had born his part in the flirtation led her to believe that the interest was probably one sided. âIn which case, I have done her a favour,' she said, speaking her thoughts out loud.
âPardon, miss?' asked Elsie, a little out of breath. Evangeline was taller than she was and had almost left her behind.
âNever mind,' Evangeline replied, slowing down. âLet's look at the shops, shall we? If you see a ribbon you like, then you may have it.'
Elsie smiled. People might say that Miss Evangeline was spoiled, and perhaps they were right, but she had a kinder heart than some. She'd been shopping with Miss Phyllida â Mrs Battle as she was now â and Miss Deidre, and neither of them had ever thought of getting her anything, or considering her wishes in any way.
It was not long before Evangeline realized that she was attracting some attention. This was partly because she was still clad in her silk dress, a gown that was not entirely suitable for shopping. It also had a good deal to do with the fact that she was a remarkably pretty young woman who would look attractive whatever she was wearing. She was too used to her rather exotic good looks to find the attention disturbing. It was while she was looking at bonnets in a milliner's window, however, that she felt a prickling sensation in the back of her neck and, turning round, she saw that she was being carefully observed from the other side of the street. A tall, broad-shouldered man with ash-blond hair and rather startling black eyebrows was watching her. He was in black coat and breeches, his shirt open at the neck, the whole covered with a drab grey greatcoat, and with his hat tilted rakishly to one side. As she looked at him, he grinned, took off his hat, and bowed slightly. She had never seen him before, yet there was something about his graceful stance that put her in mind of the dissolute Earl of Ashbourne, with whom she had briefly been infatuated a few years before.
Evangeline was a well-brought up girl, if over-indulged, and she knew that for this unknown young man to acknowledge her in the street was an impertinence which she should most certainly ignore. No doubt she would have done so, had her mind not still been full of resentment at the way that her aunt had assumed the worst of her. With a fleeting thought in her mind that if she was thought to be badly behaved, she might as well be so, she directed a smile at him from under her lashes, looked down, then turned back to the window, to all intents and purposes once more absorbed in the wares on display. Moments later, he was at her elbow.
The Revd Michael Buckleigh had come away from the bishop's palace in no good mood. He had been summoned thither to explain himself, and was now obliged to kick his heels until sent for.
It had all started so well. The parish to which he had gone as curate two years before had been one to which he had been recommended by his stepfather, The Revd Paul Buckleigh. The vicar under whom he was serving had been pleasant enough, but he never seemed to be available when advice was needed. Michael could certainly have done with some help with regard to young women in the parish, who were rather prone to take a fancy to the striking young curate.
The local squire's daughter was already engaged, but, without the slightest encouragement, she had conceived a passion for the new clergyman. This had resulted in her fiancÃ© picking a fight with him, undoubtedly expecting that he would enjoy an easy victory over his rival. Had that happened, perhaps he would have let the matter rest. Buckleigh, however, was proficient in boxing, for he had been coached by a fellow student at Oxford in return for help in learning Greek. The young lady's fiancÃ©, therefore, had been laid out unconscious on the grass, his father had complained, and Michael had been removed by his bishop.
The second curacy had seemed to be going so much better. He had now learned how to be friendly whilst at the same time keeping a careful distance, and he had thought that his troubles were over. As time had gone by, Michael had become aware yet again that women, particularly the younger ones, were choosing to see him, the curate, rather than to see the vicar. At first, he had thought that this was simply a recurrence of what had happened before and he redoubled his efforts to be courteous, if a little distant. It was not until one of the young men had confided in him that the vicar, a married man with a family, had become over-familiar with his sweetheart, that he realized, with a sinking heart, that there was a serious problem. With considerable trepidation, Michael had attempted to approach the matter tactfully with his vicar, but had met with a cold response. Eventually, he had found the older clergyman forcing his attentions on a young woman, and he had lost his temper, going so far as to bend the vicar over his own desk, and tan his backside with a yard rule.
The consequence was almost inevitable. The bishop had sent for him and given him a good dressing-down. âIt is not for you to take the law into your own hands, Buckleigh,' the bishop had said, swelling with
indignation. âThis is not proper behaviour for a clergyman. You have been very much at fault in this matter! Very much at fault! Now, it falls to me to consider what to do with you. Who will have you now, do you suppose? Very few vicars will relish the prospect of having a curate who may lay violent hands upon them. Remember that this is not the first time that you have blotted your copybook through violence. I shall have to weigh this matter very carefully. Very carefully. As for you, you had better wait at your lodgings so that I may consult with my chaplain and others. Whilst you are waiting for me to send for you, I suggest you pray that I do not have you unfrocked!'