The sound of the drapes being pulled back, and the sunlight brightening the room, aroused Sarah. Blinking at the light, she started to turn over when she felt the soreness in her back. With a gasp she opened her eyes wider, and surveyed the room, recalling the events of the previous night. She watched a maid walk away from the window, pick up a tray from a nearby table, and approach the bed. Still groggy from sleep, Sarah scooted into a sitting position.
"Good morning, milady. I've brought you some hot chocolate and toast. The doctor has arrived and will be up shortly," she said cheerfully, adjusting the tray on Sarah's lap.
"My name is Emmy, and Lady Lyndmere had requested I act as your abigail while you are here. She had the modiste deliver some clothes for you, and I have laid out the blue and cream striped morning dress . . . it is lightweight and will feel more comfortable against your back," she waited expectantly, with her hands folded against her skirt, for Sarah to approve her choice.
Sarah stared at the pretty, tawny-blond haired girl, with the anxious, hazel eyes. My abigail? New clothes?
"Oh . . . I had forgotten that everything was lost in the fire," Sarah answered bewildered at this new dilemma. Before she could question the maid further, the door opened and a smiling, tall, elderly man entered.
"Ah! I see you are looking better this morning. Did you sleep well, my dear?" he asked, setting a small black leather satchel on the chair.
The maid quickly removed the tray from Sarah's lap, and moved to the side out of the doctor's way.
"I'll only be a minute, then you can continue with your hot chocolate," the doctor said apologetically. "I want to see how your back looks this morning, and make sure you do not have a fever, or infection. If you will just undo the buttons at the neckline . . . yes, that's enough," as he loosened the material, he bent over and peered down the back of the gown, then gently lifted the cloth bandage wrapped around her wounds. "Good, good," he murmured, then adjusted the cloth and her gown, and stepped back away from the bed.
Taking a jar from his bag he turned to the maid, "If you will change the bandage every day, putting on this balm, her back will be healed enough in a few days, to leave unattended. I doubt you will be needing me any longer, but if you should develop an infection, you can send for me. Now, I will take my leave so you can enjoy your hot chocolate," he said, smiling at Sarah, as he picked up his bag and left the room.
Sarah sat dazed, while the maid readjusted the tray on her lap, thinking of all that had happened in the short time since she had awakened. She had acquired an abigail, received new clothes, and had a doctor's visit. Shaking her head to clear it, she sighed, took a sip from her cup, and picked up a slice of toast. Hearing a light tapping on the door, she looked up as it opened, and Adam's mother, Lady Lyndmere, peeped in.
"May I come in?" she said, then entered without waiting for an answer. "The doctor informed me you are doing quite well this morning. Do you feel like coming down to breakfast after you are dressed?"
Sarah put down the cup, and smiled at Lady Lyndmere, "Yes, I do feel better, and I understand you furnished me with some dresses to wear. I truly am grateful, and I do appreciate your kindness, I had forgotten that I had left the burning building in a torn chemise."
"That torn chemise, my dear, was beyond repair so it was used as a sample for your size. I hope the modiste had judged correctly, when she picked out a few dresses for delivery. She invariably manages to have a few, in various sizes, and style completed for emergencies, and this certainly was an emergency!" she said cheerfully.
"I am sure they will be most satisfactory, Lady Lyndmere. I feel fortunate to have been so well taken care of during this disaster. Is Lord Townsend here? I would like to ask him if he has heard what had happened to everyone after we had left," she said, sitting the tray aside. Emmy quickly picked it up, and quietly left the room.
"Well, as to that, everyone had found a place to stay. Adam's friend, George Penthill, had settled them into an unoccupied estate his family owned. Oh, and Adam will see you at breakfast, he left earlier to see George, and to offer his assistance, if necessary," she said, sitting in the chair near the bed.
After arranging her skirt she leaned forward, and said confidentially, "Actually, I believe he is offering assistance to George personally, in fending off his father's wrath when he learns of George's generous action. Never have I seen a man so parsimonious as Lord Penthill . . . poor, sweet George, having to put up with a father like that . . . and now married to a domineering woman," she sighed, sitting back again in the chair, then added, "I told him to tell George to mention the name of the modiste to your friends, in case they may need help in acquiring new clothing."
"Do you think his father will make them leave?" Sarah asked anxiously.
"No, no, dear," Lady Lyndmere said. "Lord Penthill could not risk the probability of society's censure! Think how it would look if he turned them out after his son was congratulated on his benevolent gesture. That would be very bad ton," she said, shaking her head in disapproval.
The maid tapped on the door, before entering. Glancing at her over her shoulder, Lady Lyndmere said, "Well, I better let you get dressed. I do tend to rattle on when I once start," she rose from the chair, walked to the door, then turning, said, "Come down to the morning room when you are ready, my dear."
Sarah smiled as she watched the Countess leave, thinking what a lovely woman she was, and so thoughtful. But she did not want to be obligated, she will have to find away to pay her back for the clothes. She looked at the dress laid out for her, and hastened out of bed.
Emmy helped Sarah with her toilette, her clothes, and her hair. She used a little rice powder to cover the faint bruise mark on her cheek. After finishing, she stepped back to look at Sarah.
"Oh milady, the dress fits perfectly. You are beautiful!" she said admiringly.
"Thanks to you, and the way you fixed my hair. It is a lovely dress,
isn't it?" Sarah agreed, viewing herself in the full length cheval mirror.
A lovely and expensive dress, she thought, feeling the material.
How am I going to pay for this, and the other clothes, if I no longer had
a job . . . or a place to live? It will be months before Lilly will be
able to start her business again . . . if ever, now that she is married.
Perhaps I should write to the Vicar and Mrs. Hartley, to see if they will
have me back for a while. With a despondent sigh, she headed for the
door, leaving Emmy to wonder why she had become so melancholy after looking
at the dress.
The butler was waiting at the bottom of the stairs when Sarah descended, and guided her to the morning breakfast room. Adam rose from his chair as she entered, giving her an appreciative look.
"This certainly is an improvement over the way you looked last night! Are you feeling better?" Adam inquired, as he held her chair for her to be seated, then he motioned to the servant to serve Sarah.
"Yes, much better . . . thanks to you. I owe you so . . . "
Adam held up a hand, "No, you don't owe me anything. It is enough to know that I was able to help you, and you are safe," he said, smiling. His smile faded as he looked into her green eyes filled with anxiety. "What is the matter? You look worried. Are you sure you are feeling better?"
Looking down at her plate, she said blushing, "It is only that I am worried about my future. I...I have no home or work.
His mother, who had been watching her son's obvious concern for the girl, interrupted, "My dear, you know you are welcome to stay with me at our Kensington home. I would be happy to have you . . . Lord knows, I could use the company! My husband is busy with politics and is never home, and as you see, my son has his own place." Lady Lyndmere was determined to bring about her matchmaking plan, and getting Sarah in the family home was a step in the right direction.
"Yes, Sarah, you know I have asked you before to stay with my parents," Adam said, as he thought of how and when he would propose marriage. Last night he wanted to marry her right then, when she looked so vulnerable, but now she was thinking of her work, and he was reminded, unfortunately, of her independence. Well, in the meantime, she would be in a safe place.
Sarah looked at both of them. His mother was so kind, and generous to offer her home, but to be put in a position where she would constantly be in contact with Adam, seeing his handsome face, those mesmerizing grey eyes, and remembering the way he kissed her last night, was more than she could take, since this morning he behaved as if that kiss never happened.
The way she felt about him, she couldn't stand it, if while she was at his mother's place, he would show up escorting some other woman. Also, by living there, she would be a burden, unable to pay for her expenses . . . she did not want to be an obligation to anyone.
"I do appreciate your offer, but I . . . do not know how to say this . . . I want to be able to afford my own upkeep, and I would like to reimburse you for the clothes you so generously provided. I thought I might return to the Vicar and Mrs. Hartley's home, at least until I find other employment," Sarah said.
"Why not stay with me while you look for other employment? I'm sure it would be more convenient," Lady Lyndmere asked.
"I'm sure it would be, but if I return to the Vicar's, at least I can earn my keep. I would help with the cooking, sewing, and the care of the needy in the village. I would not feel useless," she answered, and I do not need an expensive wardrobe living in the village, Sarah thought to herself.
Angrily, Adam shoved his chair back and stood up, glaring at Sarah with steel-grey eyes.
"This is ridiculous! You are supposed to be a. . . . a lady! That's what you were born to be . . . what your parents had trained you to be! You were not brought up to work in a village or a gaming hell!" he said in exasperation. Abruptly he turned and walked away to stare out the window, standing with his back to the room.
Stunned at the outburst, Sarah looked at him wide-eyed. She had never expected he would be so upset over her plans. He doesn't realize how it feels to be without an income. Oh, why could they not understand how she felt?
"Your right," Sarah said softly, "They did train me to be a lady . . . and I would probably be one now . . . a married lady . . . if my mother had not died at the time I was to have my come-out during the London Season five years ago . . . but she did die, and father became sick. Our thieving estate manager was ruining us financially, and I had no choice but to learn to manage the estate . . . there wasn't any time to be a lady."
Adam turned to look at Sarah's bowed head, as she stared at her plate, and felt like an utter fool for yelling. She was not to blame for her circumstances, and he admired her courage for making a life for herself the best way she knew how. He wanted to take her in his arms and hold her . . . to protect her against life's misfortunes.
"Now, Adam," his mother said smoothly, breaking the long silence, "if Sarah wants to do something useful, why, that is only to be commended," then turning to Sarah, she said, "I belong to many charitable organizations, where the volunteers donate their time aiding the poor and homeless, especially the children. We certainly could use your help. We're always short of volunteers. That is, if you would like to contribute your time. It would justify your sense of earning your keep, would it not?"
Feeling trapped, Sarah blushed, not knowing how to respond. It still did not answer her need to earn an income, or afford the type of wardrobe she would need to live with the Countess. She did not want to hurt Lady Lyndmere's feelings, or continue being the cause of Adam's anger.
"May I give you an answer later? I am so confused in my thinking," Sarah, answered putting a trembling hand to her forehead.
"Of course, my dear. You have had too many traumatic happenings in such a short time. Now, drink your tea, it will calm you," Lady Lyndmere said solicitously.
Adam took a deep breath, to calm his inward turmoil of guilt for his outburst. This was not the way to act toward the woman he planned on making his wife.
"Please accept my apology for my rude behavior, Sarah. I had no business yelling at you. I hope you forgive me . . . and if you feel up to it, perhaps you would like to drive out with me to see how the others are managing at George's estate," he said gently, looking intently into her anxious green eyes.
"Oh, yes! I would very much like to see them!" she answered eagerly. At least, she might learn what Lilly planned on doing about rebuilding her business, she thought.
Adam relieved, at her change in attitude, smiled and came back to his chair to return to his breakfast. Sarah, too, was relieved that he was no longer angry, but it hurt to know she could not be the type of lady he admired.
"Tell us Adam, how George is doing, after confronting his father," his mother said, anxious to change the subject.
"Amazingly well, Mother," he said chuckling. "George looks like a different man . . . no longer the shy bookworm, and seems very confident when he speaks. He assured me that he had no trouble in getting his father to agree to their using the vacant estate."
"Your joking! Tight-fisted Lord Penthill? Why, I never would have believed he would agree without putting up a fuss," she said astounded.
"Not even an argument, George tells me. Of course, George's mother and his new wife were shocked at the idea, resorting to swoons and their vinaigrette, but since Lord Penthill and George were in agreement, the ladies had no choice but to abide their husbands' decision," Adam answered, still wondering how George had accomplished it. He knew that George's cheerful mood was due to Sally, but the change in his demeanor was miraculous. When he had asked George the reason for it, his friend just smiled and said it was something confidential that he could not disclose.
"It is a relief to know that they will have a place to stay," Sarah added.
"Yes, they are very fortunate that George happened along at the right time," Adam said, thinking it was also fortunate, that George liked Sally enough to make the offer.
Lilly sipped her coffee, admiring the view of the gardens from the window. She was among the first to arise in the morning. It had been a long night with the move to the estate and assigning rooms for everyone. They had removed the holland covers from the furniture, and found the linen closet filled with clean sheets and bedding for the rooms. Now she would have to look into hiring some servants, perhaps there were some girls available in the nearby village who were looking for work.
George was due back this morning to let her know how his father had taken the news of their moving into the house. She did not expect any problems in that regard, as she knew too many secrets that Lord Penthill would rather not have revealed. Lilly liked the house. It was peaceful and secluded. Her mind began to toy with the idea of purchasing the house, with it's surrounding acreage, when Jacques came into the breakfast room.
"Good morning, love," he said, bending to kiss her cheek, before fixing a plate at the side bar, and returning to sit across from his new wife.
"My dearest, darling, Jacques. What would you say to our buying this place?" she said sweetly.
Jacques, raising his cup to his lips, paused in surprise. "Are you serious?"
"You do not like the idea?" she asked anxiously.
"It is not that, it was just such an unexpected question . . . although you are always full of surprises, my dear," he said smiling warmly. "Whatever you wish to do, I will more than willingly back you up in any venture."
"That is one reason I love you! You always are so willing to please me," Lilly said, laughing, reaching across the table to touch his hand.
"I do hope that is not the main reason you love me," he said seductively, lifting her hand to his lips.
"Mais non, my darling, every night you confirm the real reason I love you," she whispered.
"If we keep this subject of conversation going, I will insist we return to our room," he answered with a wink.
Lilly smiled, and after a sip of her coffee, returned to the original topic.
"Tell me honestly what you think about purchasing this estate. I think it will give us a good working base, while we decide what to do about rebuilding our business. Besides it would be a very good investment."
"I told you, whatever you want to do, I'll agree. You are the one in this family with the good business sense, and I am happy being just a dealer. I have always admired you for that, Lilly, and I wouldn't change you for the world."
"Oh Jacques, you are not just a dealer! I have always looked for guidance from you, and I want us to be partners now . . . not employer and employee," Lilly implored.
"We are partners, love, partners in marriage where I will always protect you and keep you safe, but I will always have faith and trust in your business decisions. If you think we should purchase this place . . . then by all means that is what we will do."
"Perfect! As soon as George comes by today, we will do some negotiating," she said brightly, reaching across the table to refill her husband's cup.
"At least if we own the estate, it will ease the mind of the others as to their situation. I am sure they are all anxious as to what will become of them," he answered.
"I know, but I've told them that they should not worry. We are all family, at least, that is how I look at it," Lilly said.
"True, I doubt if blood relation would get along as well as we do. In fact, I would much rather have this bunch living with us, than some of my own relatives," Jacques laughed.
"I should mention to you that long ago, I had informed Mrs. Kirby, Enrique and Karl, that they have a place with me until they decide to retire, and when they do, I promised them an annuity for life," Lilly said.
"I am sure they appreciate it, my dear. You never cease to amaze me with your kindness," Jacques answered with a smile, taking her hand again with a gentle squeeze.
A loud crash, a child's cry, and angry cursing, brought Jacques to his feet and rushing out of the room with Lilly on his heels.
In the library they were greeted with the sight of soot billowing from the unused fireplace, and a man, presumably the chimney sweep, beating his very young frail helper that laid crumpled on the floor at his feet.
"Bloody Hell! What is going on here?" yelled Jacques as he intercepted the man and flung him away from the child.
Lilly hurried to the child, helping him up, and sat him on a chair to inspect his injuries. The boy had a gash on his leg, and his bleeding lip was swollen where the man had struck him.
Holding the short stocky man by the front of his grimy shirt, Jacques repeated his question.
"Me naime is Wilkes. Oiym the sweep, wot's been 'ired by Lord Penthill! Oiy tykes care of this 'ere place un keeps the stacks clean from birds nests un the likes. Oiy comes 'ere twice a year, Oiy do, but this 'ere li'l bugger haint worth wot hit tykes to feed 'im!" Wilkes, the chimney sweep, complained, glaring at the boy.
"That gives you no caused to beat a child!" Jacques said angrily, as he looked at the small undernourished boy, that couldn't be any older than seven or eight. Jacques seethed at the thought of anyone abusing such a poor child.
"How old is the boy? Where are his parents?" Lilly asked, using her handkerchief to blot the blood from the boy's lip.
"Haint got none. Oiy don't know 'ow old 'e be, 'e haint nothin but a Lunnon stew brat Oiy picked up wot's supposed to work fer 'is keep. Haint been no use to me cuz 'e keeps messin up," Wilkes grumbled.
"In that case, I see no reason to let you abuse the child any longer. We will take him off your hands," Jacques said.
Lilly looked up in surprise and smiled at Jacques. She knew how much he had always loved children, and never had any of his own. Jacques had always been good to her son, and shared in her grief at his death.
Looking now at this boy, she realized how much the child looked like her own son at that age, except that this boy was dirty from head to toe, his clothes were ragged, his dark hair was tangled as if it's never been combed, and his big brown eyes were filled with tears. What a terrible life this poor child has had. Nothing like the happy one her son was accustomed to before he died. Maybe she and Jacques could help this boy and give him a better future.
"I think that is an excellent idea, Jacques," Lilly agreed, smiling at the boy reassuringly.
"Now jest a minute 'ere! Oiy haint givin 'im up fer nothin! Oiy wants to be paid fer 'im!" Wilkes cried.
"I doubt you have any choice. Either that, or I will call the authorities and have you charged with child abduction and slavery along with abuse charges," Jacques said coldly.
"Oiym goin' ta Lord Penthill un sees wot 'e sez bout hit! Un don't ye be a spectun me to clean yer chimneys e'er agin!" Wilkes said belligerently as he headed for the door.
Mrs. Kirby had escorted George Penthill to the library to meet with Lilly, and they had been standing in the doorway listening to the altercation. When Wilkes came toward them, George stepped in his way.
"I am Lord Penthill's son, and I can tell you now that you will no longer be cleaning chimneys on any of our properties. As of now you are fired, and I will inform my father of the matter, also I will bring to his attention your abuse to children, and how you obtain them."
"Oiy say, gov! Ye haint got tha right ta fire me! Oiy been workin' fer 'is lor'ship fer years!" he cried.
"Well, now you are not," George answered firmly.
Karl, who had also heard the argument, said, "Would you like me to escort this man from the property, sir?"
"Yes, please, and he is never to step a foot on it again," George said to Karl, ignoring Wilkes' muttered protest.
Mrs. Kirby hurried to Lilly's side, and exclaimed at the condition of the child.
"I'd like you to take him to the kitchen and fix his injuries, then feed and bathe him," Lilly said, "I guess we should send one of the grooms to the village to buy some decent clothes until we can shop for him," glancing at the bare feet that were severely calloused, she added, "and he'll be needing shoes too. Also, see that he gets some rest in a nice soft bed. Not only does he look half starved, but I fear this poor child hasn't had much sleep anywhere let alone in a bed!" Lilly said, then added in a softer tone to the boy. "What is your name?"
"Oiy haint got one. Me mum called me laddie a'fore she died, un Oiy haint got no pa. Thems tha's on the street calls me Pacer," the boy mumbled, still frightened.
"Pacer? Why do they call you that?" Jacques asked, stooping down next to the boy.
"Cause Oiym all tha taime pacin' along with the 'orses beggin fer sumsin from the owners. 'tis 'ard to get them to stop fer me so's Oiy faller along side tha 'orse 'til theys throws me sumsin.....well, tha's what Oiy did 'til ole Wilkes nabbed me."
"No wonder you're so thin! You must be worn out running all of the time!" Lilly exclaimed. She shuddered when she envisioned this young child running alongside a horse in the busy streets of London.
Pacer nodded, ducking his head. The lady was so pretty with her smiling eyes, and the man so kind, he wasn't used to being treated like this. He hoped they meant it when they said he could stay here.
Mrs. Kirby reached out for the boy's hand, and asked if he thought he could walk.
"I'll carry him, Mrs. Kirby. You lead the way," Jacques said. He lifted the boy from the chair placing him on his arm, then brushed the child's hair from his sooty forehead with his other hand. He was amazed at how light the boy felt in his arms. Jacques smiled at the boy encouragingly, and the boy arms slipped tentatively around Jacques's neck. Jacques felt a lump in his throat at the boy's display of trust.
"Come on Pacer, we'll get you back in shape in no time," Jacques said, as he followed Mrs. Kirby out of the room. "Then you can practice your running in fields while you play, rather than on the streets! There will no more of that for you! Maybe we can buy a puppy to run with you. Would you like that, son?" The boy nodded eagerly and tightened his grip on Jacques's neck.
Lilly watched in admiration as Jacques carried the boy to the kitchen. When she heard him call the boy "son" she knew that was exactly what Jacques had in mind for the child, and she couldn't have been happier. She turned to George, who also watched the display of affection between the boy and man.
"Well, mon cher, I am pleased you were here to take care of that odious man, Wilkes! Won't you sit down? I have a proposition to make to you regarding this property," Lilly said to George, as she went to sit behind the desk.
"What have you in mind?" George asked, as he sat down.
"I would like to buy the property since it is for sale," Lilly answered.
"Purchase it? That would be wonderful!" George answered elated. This would solve all his money problems, since his father had told him he could keep the profits from the sale of the property. Now he would be able to take care of Sally without worrying about the expenses.
"Yes, and if our negotiations are agreeable, I will write out a draft
for the purchase amount, then you can give me a receipt of acknowledgment
until you can have your solicitor draw up the papers," Lilly said. She
was as elated as George at the transaction. Even though she had been upset
over the fire, she felt that everything was going to turn out for the best.
Her marriage to Jacques and the purchasing of the estate will begin a new
chapter in her life.
* * * *
[Chapter 16] [Back] [Menu]