The Flawed Mistress (The Summerville Journals)

BOOK: The Flawed Mistress (The Summerville Journals)
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Second Book of the Summerville Journals







Design by James,






Rachel's Journal


Were anyone to ask me about my childhood, I would have to reply that I did not
have one, at least not one that I can remember.  I was born Lady Rachel
Stewart, the child of an impoverished earl, a man who had gambled and drunk
away his entire fortune, and that of his three wives, the last of which was my
mother.  When I came along there was little left and by the time I was
ten, there was nothing.

I recall lying in bed at night and hearing the quarrel about money, Father
telling Mother that he had found a way to pay off all his debts and have a lot
left over, her protesting, begging him not to do it.  I had no notion of
what this was all about, and I did not want to know, so I buried my head
beneath the covers and stopped up my ears before the blows started falling,
before my father got his whip with which to persuade her that he was right.

All I remember of my father is that I feared him.  He had never hurt me as
never paid me that much attention, but
he was violent toward my mother on a daily basis. Whatever went wrong, it was
her fault and she took the punishment for it. I did not know then, of course,
that the beatings she took were often caused by her defence of me; to keep him
away from me she had put herself in the way. 

Children never know these things.  They just take it for granted that this
is how things are and I probably assumed that this was the way things were in
every family.

All I knew was that we were all safer if I kept out of his way.  If I made
him angry, my mother would be hurt.  He had no interest in me, or so I
believed, and that suited me well.

I was completely innocent then, knowing nothing of the world or even how babies
were born.  I was just a child and things would not have been spoken about
in front of me, not even if Mother had anyone to talk to.

She only had me and the servants, but nothing could be confided to them. 
They knew precisely what went on, as servants always do, but they feared my
father as much as my mother and I did.

My earliest memory is that of my tenth birthday, of watching my father fill
himself full of strong wine and listening to my mother’s weeping from her
bedchamber.  I had no idea why she was crying more than usual, but a huge
carriage arrived early in the morning and made her wails even worse.  It
was as if the very sight of that carriage hurt her somehow.

The gentleman who stepped out of the carriage was old, not only by my own
standards but elderly by the standards of the time.  He was, in fact, my
father’s age with similar grey hair and lined face, although without the
bloated face and body that my father had acquired through drink.

His clothing declared him to be wealthy.  He wore a doublet of red satin,
with rich embroidery and encrusted jewels.  His hose was silk and on his
gnarled fingers he wore many rings, too many for simple decoration and good
taste.  He could have done a lot of damage with those rings, should anyone
challenge him.

I was watching from the gallery when he entered, when he strode passed the
servant who stepped forward to show him in to see my father, and into the great
hall itself.  If I had known then that this man was to be the cause of all
the misery to come in my life, I would have run away and hid somewhere, never
come out of my hiding place.

But I did not know, nor could I guess at the motive for his visit.  I was
too young then to even imagine what he might want, too young to know that there
was anything more evil than my father and his whip.

“Well,” the stranger demanded.  “I have the money.  Have you decided
yet?  I cannot wait forever.”

He threw a velvet purse down on the table and my father took it and opened it
up to look inside, while his eyes grew wide and greedy.

“It is all there,” the stranger said.  “One thousand gold pieces as we
agreed, as well as all your debts paid.”  He watched my father for a few
added with a smirk of
satisfaction:  “Not bad for a loan of one day.  She had better be
worth it.”

My father nodded, then got up and came to the bottom of the stairs, calling my

“Rachel,” he called.  “I have a special birthday present for you. 
Come down here.”

I moved slowly down the stairs, not wanting to trip and disgrace myself, but
also because I did not feel very safe in the company of this man.  I had
never felt safe in the company of my father, but that was because he got drunk
and became violent.  There was something else about this man that made me
afraid, although I could not have said what.  I was too young then to
know; I would know now.

“This is Mr Carter, my dear,” my father went on.  “He is a friend and he
wants to take you out for the day to celebrate your birthday.  Is that not
good of him?”

I remember shaking my head in mute refusal.  I did not want to go with him
and even my ten year old mind could not fathom why this stranger might want to
take me out.  Perhaps he had no children of his own, I tried to tell
myself, but even as I thought it, something told me that was not the

I heard my mother crying from the top of the stairs.

“No!  You cannot take her!”

My father climbed the stairs then, faster than I thought possible in an old man
so unfit.  I turned to look, turned in time to see him strike my mother
across the face, hard, tearing her cheek with his ring.  It was not the
first time I had witnessed that particular scene and I did not know then that
it would be the last, but on this occasion that was all I saw, because Mr
Carter had grabbed my arm and was dragging me to his waiting carriage.

I tried to pull away, but I was weak and this man was strong, even for his
age.  The coachman took no notice of my screams or my pleas for help; they
went unheeded, both by him and by my father’s own servants.

Mr Carter lifted me up and pushed me inside, then climbed in beside me and
slammed the door shut.  I could still hear my mother’s screams but I was
unsure whether she was crying for me or from the beating my father was giving

I tried to push myself as far into the corner of the seat as I could while the
man ordered his coachman to drive on.  Then he turned to me and smiled; it
was not a welcoming, friendly smile, but one I could not interpret.  Now I
know it was a smile of lust, but then I had never before seen any such smile
directed at me.

“Your father told no lie,” Mr Carter said.  “You are beautiful.  Even
more beautiful up close than when I first saw you in the street.  You will
be the most beautiful little girl we have ever entertained.”

I had been told before that I was beautiful, and I had always been quite
pleased.  I had no way of knowing that those same words coming from this
man would warp my emotions every time I heard them for the rest of my life.


Mr Carter’s coachman returned me to my father’s house late that night.  He
had to climb down and carry me inside because I could not walk and I cannot
remember when I have ever been in so much pain. I remember him handing me over
to a manservant of my father’s who carried me upstairs to my bedchamber, and
every step he took brought further agony.

I have tried all my life to blot out the events of that long and painful day,
tried to forget Mr Carter and his friend who took turns to rape me, then
thought themselves generous when they produced a sumptuous meal at midday and
were angry that I could not eat.  The friend had a long and deep T shaped
scar down the side of his face that made him look like a monster out of a fairy
tale.  He had a skinny body that made his head look too big, and that made
him even more of an ogre to my ten year old imagination.  That scar
imprinted itself on my nightmares for many years to come.

I am talking now from the perspective of an experienced woman, not the child I
was.  I did not know what was
that it hurt badly and that it was wrong and embarrassing.  That was not
the way I should have learned that men are built differently from women, but
that was my father’s special birthday present.

The more I struggled, the more the two men laughed at my helplessness and I
overheard them telling each other that I had been worth every penny that I had

I was terrified by this talk, as it seemed to me that my father must have sold
me to them and that I would have to spend all my days like this one.
 Despite the terrible pain I was in, I was so relieved to be delivered
back to my home, I was sobbing with it.

I had no nurse or governess.  I had once, but that was before my father
had squandered all his money and could afford such a thing.  Any education
or care that I received was from my mother and that night she was there at my
bedside, carefully removing what was left of my clothing.

She moved slowly and I knew even at that age that it was because she was also
in pain. She moved with one arm held to her ribs, the other being the only one
she could use. I had witnessed this before; it was nothing new.  Her
bruises were angry and her eye was swollen shut, yet still she tended to my
wounds that were bleeding heavily.

“Enough is enough,” she said quietly.  “I thought I could not suffer any
more at his hands, but what he has done this day has been too much. 
Tomorrow we leave.”

I sat up as best I could and leaned against the pillows.

“Leave?”  I asked.  “Where will we go?  We have nowhere to go,
do we?”

“We will go to my brother,” she replied regretfully.

“Your brother?
  I did not know you had a

“We have not spoken for many years,” she said quietly.  “Not since long
before I married.  My father turned him out; he did not approve of the
woman he married and would have nothing more to do with him.  But my
father died before he had time to change his will, so Stephen still inherited
the bulk of his fortune.”

“But you know where he is?”  I asked.

She nodded.

"He inherited my father's house, the one I grew up in.  I assume he
is still there, at least I pray so. Sleep now,” she said, putting her hand
gently on my forehead. “We will leave in the morning and go to London to find your uncle.”

I slept fitfully for a few short hours, my dreams filled with images from the
day.  I relived every horrifying moment and when I woke in the dark, cold
room, I forced myself to stay awake, wondering if I would ever sleep again.

I was also concerned about how we would escape the house without my father
stopping us.  I could not bear the thought of my mother receiving another
severe beating at his hands and I wished I were grown up and able to defend
her.  She was too weak now; I did not think she would survive.

I need not have worried as the next day there was no sign of my father.  I
had no idea where he could be, as his usual habit was to start drinking before
breakfast.  It was unlikely that he would have gone out riding or even
walking, and besides it was pouring with rain.  He was a man who liked his

When I asked my mother she only told me that we were in luck and to hurry
before he came back.  I needed no more prompting than that.




I remember little about the journey to London
except that I was terrified every time we had to stop that my father would
appear out of nowhere and order us home.

The carriage was damp and cold and we kept the blinds down to keep out the rain. 
Every bump in the road brought me fresh agony and I cuddle against my mother
for comfort.  It was my father’s carriage and we were driven by his own
coachman; I remember being surprised about this and that my mother handed over
her emerald necklace to him before we boarded the coach.  I realise now
that was his payment for taking us and for keeping quiet about it but then I
was just scared that he would tell.

By the time we arrived at my uncle’s house, I was in a lot more pain from the
day before and I noticed that my mother was having difficulty breathing. 
It took her a long time to climb down from the
each step was agony and left her with even less breath. 

She stood still and looked up at the house before carefully moving forward.

"This is where I grew up," she said softly.  "This was my
father's house."

I did not reply as I was only surprised that she was telling me this
much.  She never normally spoke about her past or anything that had led to
her marriage to my father, who was many years older than her.

I know now that she was forced into a marriage with him because he was titled
and her family were wealthy commoners.  There was nothing unusual about
this arrangement, that an impoverished aristocrat would trade his title for a
rich dowry and all a woman could do was pray for a kind man.  My mother's
prayers had gone unheeded.

My uncle did not seem pleased to see his sister after so many years.  When
first he opened the door he just stood and stared at us, as though he had no
idea who we were.  My mother was leaning against the porch pillar, unable
to stand without support, and I wanted to scream at him to let us in. 
Even a stranger would have let us in, seeing the state of us. He took us in at
last, gave us refreshments and when he realised how bad
our condition
, sent for a physician.

My uncle assigned us bedchambers, just in time as it happens.  My mother
collapsed in the hallway outside and he scooped her up in his arms and laid her
on the bed.

BOOK: The Flawed Mistress (The Summerville Journals)
6.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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