Authors: Debra Brown
Tags: #Historical, #Romance, #Mystery
The Companion of Lady Holmeshire
World Castle Publishing
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, organizations, or person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
World Castle Publishing
Copyright © Debra Brown 2011
Library of Congress Catalogue Number 2011930708
First Edition World Castle Publishing July 15, 2011
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles and reviews.
Cover Artist: Fantasia Frog Designs
Editor: Teresa Welch of Wild Iris Communications
Dedicated to my Mother, who learned that my book would be published just on time.
A Servant Girl’s New and Quite Extraordinary Life
Chilly winds filled a once-shining black carriage. Over many miles and due to the dry conditions of the week, it had acquired a uniform coating of dust. Warming stones had gone cold on the journey from London to northern England, and Miss Emma Carrington pushed them from her feet. She had become exhausted from the bumping and jostling, the changing of horses and the searching for meals in frightening and unfamiliar places. What relief she felt as she traveled through the last village, Holmeshire, the center of her childhood memories and the home of her friends.
A short ride remained, though it seemed eternal, out of the town and up the hill through an intimidating, ivy-covered stone gateway. The road rose to an old masonry castle, which tonight was set beneath a large moon. Built as a stronghold in the years of Scottish wars, the fortress’ cold, formidable look was deceptive, for the warmest hearts in Britain dwelt inside.
The horses came to an impatient stop at the first edge of the house, wanting to be led to their feed. The coachman helped Emma step out of the carriage and hoisted her luggage off its top. She was in fine dress, but she approached the heavy servants’ door, turned her great key and pushed her way through. She shushed the man carrying her heavy case, as most of the domestics had gone to bed. But someone was watching from a window in an old watchtower, now filled with beds, and the sight of Emma caused excited proclamations. Numerous nightcapped revelers quickly spilled into the kitchen, stone from ceiling to floor.
Miss Emma!” squealed the scullery maid, Nora. “Are you really here? Look at you, all fancy!” Indeed, here she was with the ringlets and refined dress, the multitude of petticoats and the soft, tended hands of a London beauty. Nevertheless, a hefty man picked her up and spun the laughing girl around, below hanging tin-coated copper pots and iron utensils, until the housekeeper appeared and snapped a rebuke.
Put her down, lad, before everything comes crashing down! You have hit her boot on the table leg. Those are high-priced boots you will be payin’ for, and I’ll take the table out of your hide! Besides, the rest of us cannot get our arms around her! Emma, girl, you were gone too long!”
The butler, Barreby, was still fully dressed and standing in the adjoining pantry auditing the silverware. He closed and locked the cherry wood hutch and, quite excited, hurried to notify the sleeping Countess of Holmeshire, The Lady Winifred Bradley, that his Tiger Lily had arrived.
Even she came down to the kitchen to join in the celebration, which had produced the cake, puddings and tea prepared for Emma’s return. After all enjoyed these delights, the lady ordered that bottles of fine wine be brought out from the cellar for all to share. Tonight she sat in the kitchen, just this once, enjoying the reunion that had burst through the thick of night there, smiling as the many servants relished their first taste of such an expensive bottle and listening as they questioned Emma about her time away.
Though Winnie read the mandatory books and magazines on etiquette and lived the required leisurely life of a Countess, she had a place in her heart for humanity. She had chosen for herself a butler who would maintain order amidst laughter and look out for the welfare of the lowest maid.
She at last sent the exhausted girl upstairs, overjoyed to be home, and everyone else off to their once-again cold beds. Such midnight festivities rarely occurred downstairs in great houses, but Emma had, after all, returned. A night-robed footman, tired and tousled of hair, brought Emma’s belongings up to the elegant bedroom that awaited her. She was no longer a servant.
Emma’s shining dark hair lay against olive skin, setting off rose-colored lips. Her complexion was creamy smooth, her manner intriguing; she walked gracefully on long legs and wore her new dresses divinely. Her lengthy fingers and slender hands alone were worthy of a portrait. And her mind was her own. Whereas others loved flowers, she loved trees and their leaves. She loved autumn when the fallen leaves offered themselves up as colorful stepping stones. The oaks and yews of Holmeshire were her childhood friends. Before her need for an income required her to go into servitude, she had spent free hours alone on the hillside sketching twisted branches and their pleasing foliage.
Emma woke to see some of her works hanging on the hewn stone walls of her new room, delighted to find them framed during her absence, a gift from the lady. It touched her heart; the Countess was so good to her! She could not fathom a reason for this exceptional kindness and care given to a servant girl—was it truly just to quiet the lady’s loneliness? Whatever the cause, she appreciated it with all her heart. Emma threw open the lined velvet drapes that had blocked the light, and she looked around her too large room.
In the past, she had often cleaned the slate fireplace that now warmed her because of a silent housemaid’s early endeavor. Emma had scrubbed the wide-plank floor, oiled the four-poster bed and polished the brass in the room when guests were to be accommodated. She had washed the single leaded-glass window and had been in awe of the inspiring, misty view it afforded. An ancient monastery sat at the foot of the hill, visible through naked winter branches. She had often paused her scrubbing to absorb it all, and now it was hers to just enjoy.
She reluctantly left the warmth of the fire and hastily dressed herself in another of the lovely gowns that had been made for her new life while she was still in London. She pulled up her hair, straightened the blankets and rushed across the hall to the lady’s room to perhaps waken her. She found her up and dressed, however, the housemaid having cared for her needs with the lady’s maid gone.
Good morning, Emma! So, you are awake after that long ordeal! I thought you might sleep all day! Did you sleep well?”
Milady,” she curtsied, “in that huge bed? The whole lot of us could have slept as comfortably there as do angels in the clouds!”
I’m sure your long trip tired you out enough to render you unconscious, with or without the lot of them. Breakfast is served, and I am beyond ravenous! Let us go to breakfast.”
Woolen paths led the eagerly chatting women to the Morning Room. Breakfast had long been served in this eastern chamber, which had large mirrors to brighten the winter mornings. This was where Winnie’s Shropshire Spaniel was allowed to join her and lay at her feet every morning.
Emma poured her tea at the sideboard and watched it spin into her cup, as she reflected in awe on the changes in her life. She had been raised in the village and had arrived at the castle to serve as a housemaid eight years before. Winnie had taken a liking to her and chose her as her companion when the lady realized that she had many years of widowhood to endure ahead. Although a Mrs. Carrington had raised her to be quite proper, Emma had been sent away to London for some time to progress in cultivating the ways of gentility.
We must let the kitchen know of your preferences for breakfast and tea!” Winnie mandated.
I did create an unforgivable stir in that kitchen over foods in the past, ma’am; I'm convinced that Cook cannot forget.”
They did not give you just dry bits of bread and water, according to my orders?” Winnie feigned surprise.
Emma laughed. “No, ma’am, they do not take orders downstairs, I’m sorry to say. But I am sure Cook will never
fuss over the likes of me!”
She'll have to do her best to change her view of you, then, Miss Emma, and do her best to please. You are to be treated as a lady.”
I feel they may find it disagreeable, my elevating myself so very much, though they know it is according to your wish. I’m so privileged to be made so comfortable, ma’am! I do not know how I will ever make restitution to you for making such a lady of me!” Her face beamed as she ran her hands down her sides to display her exquisite, well-fitted dress.
You’ll keep me engaged and relieve the dreadful loneliness I’ve felt while you were in London and Wills is gone! I hope to never feel so forsaken again for the rest of my life! And Emma, Elizabeth will be returning later today and bringing her sister to become your lady’s maid. She has finished her apprenticeship with her mama now. She will be a novice of a lady’s maid.”
Ma’am!” Startled, Emma’s eyes widened, and she asked, “How could I have a maid? I am not deserving of a lady’s maid, ma’am. Even noble ladies do not have such until they marry!”
Are you saying that I should sit and wait alone every morning, while you struggle with your hair and corset like today, young lady?” She leaned toward Emma and nearly whispered, “I know it is not done. I do not always do what is done. Shhh.”
Emma loved this pampering; she pulled her clasped hands to her chest and paused to absorb the thought. She savored a sip of tea and then asked, “Which sister of hers is it, ma’am, do you know her name?”
Of course I do. It is Anne. Dear Barreby has checked everything about her thoroughly. She has an excellent reputation. AND....so that you understand, you are to treat the servants as if you were never one of them.”