The Goldsmith's Wife

-

Livres
193 pages
Lire un extrait
Obtenez un accès à la bibliothèque pour le consulter en ligne
En savoir plus

Description

In London,  Helena has what she always wanted, respectability and security, although her brothers remain a worry - Aaron schemes in Holland with the Prince of Orange to depose the reigning king James II, and Henry carries his own sorrow, pining for another man's wife. Prince William arrives in England to re-establish the Anglican Church, and when anti-Papist riots break out in London, Helena is forced to flee from her home – again. While Helena strives to keep what she holds dear, can she and her brothers attain what they desire and above all, will they ever learn the fate of their missing Father, who disappeared after the Battle of Sedgemoor?

Sujets

Informations

Publié par
Date de parution 01 janvier 2015
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781771458269
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0032€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.

Signaler un problème
The Goldsmith’s Wife The Woulfes of Loxsbeare – Book 2 By Anita Davi9on
Digital ISBNs EPUB 9781771458269 Kindle 9781772995022 WEB 9781771458276 Amazon Print 978-1-77299-519-0 Copyright 2015 by Anita Davison Cover art by Michelle Lee All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights un der copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any mean s (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book Dedication To the Historical Fiction Critique Group for their invaluable help in telling Helena’s story . Also, a special thanks to my editor Kathy Fischer-B rown, who did such a wonderful job polishing the manuscript.
Chapter One April 1688, London – Helena Helena sat in her private closet, a small room off the bedchamber with space enough for only a bureau and a chair, plus a small dresser that held her personal keepsakes. Guy, her husband of less than two years, had arranged the room especially for her. A turkey rug softened the polished wood fl oor and green silk-covered walls fitted with pewter candleholders provided an intimate atmo sphere. On long winter evenings, Helena imagined she inhabited her own world there. She set down the letter from her brother, Aaron tha t had arrived by messenger that morning and turned to the window, below which lay K ing Street in all its busy glory. Hooves rung on the cobblestones on their way to Pal ace Yard Gate at one end, beyond which lay the great Palace of White Hall. Pedestria ns kept close to the tightly packed houses to avoid the filth from the road and the ken nel that ran down the centre of the narrow street where household rubbish was hurled wi thout a care for who was passing by. The written word had been their only contact with A aron these last two years. Despite the General Pardon granted to all rebels wh o had survived the Battle at Sedgemoor, he chose to remain in The Hague with wha t he called other like-minded souls determined to rid England of the Catholic Kin g James the second. After so many nights filled with recurring dreams o f him lying dead on the battlefield after Monmouth’s flight, came the indescribable joy when that first letter came, telling her he had escaped and was alive and well in the Lo w Countries. Her heart thumping, she scanned the lines, noting Aaron must be low on funds again, for the page was dirty coloured paper rather than thick linen parchment. “We are confident the army officers shall refuse to obey the orders of their Catholic commanders. This cannot be prescribed as mutiny, fo r their promotion is illegal, them not having taken the Test. This will leave the way open for us to join Prince William when he invades England.” A mutiny in the army, and an invasion. She closed h er eyes briefly and sighed. How could Aaron talk of treason so lightly? She found h is vehemence baffling. England was home and no one was made to suffer for not being a Catholic as far as she could see. Londoners still talked of the Popish Plot, but the instigators were either dead or in prison where most believed they belonged. She refolded the page carefully, resigned to the fa ct that, as with the others, this missive must be kept hidden, especially from her hu sband. If Guy knew Aaron wrote such sedition, he would insist she cease their corr espondence altogether. She thrust the folded page to the back of a drawer, where her hand brushed the leather-bound journal in which she had recorded Monmouth’s progre ss in ’eighty-five. She drew the small volume out and weighed it in one hand, its le ather fastening soft and slightly greasy from much handling.
How headstrong she had been that summer, when she h ad gone chasing into Somerset with no more than a manservant as escort i n search of her menfolk. Her return with the body of Uncle Edmund had been a bitter disappointment, only to discover her mother had been killed when the militi a came to Loxsbeare. Of her missing father, there had been no news, not then or now. The slam of the front door was followed by her maid ’s rich West Country accent hailing a street hawker. Spring had finally come to London, and amongst the usual chants of the costermongers came those of the flowe r-sellers. Chloe missed their native Devon with its soft, gree n hills and open spaces; a few early blooms in the house would be welcome after a grey and miserable winter. Helena smiled, her gaze drifted to a painting on th e wall; a wedding gift from her half-brother, Tobias. Commissioned especially for h er, the painting depicted the square tower of Exeter’s north gate from the city side, it s arched gatehouse open to reveal a steep hill that dipped between rows of tightly pack ed houses, then up St David’s Hill to the Weare Cliffs. On the left, stood Loxsbeare Mano r, Helena’s childhood home, on a route she had once travelled every day of her life. The scene reminded her of a happier time, when Loxs beare used to be her family home. The estate was seized after her father, Sir J onathan Woulfe, joined Monmouth’s rebellion three years previously. Lord Miles Blande n, their erstwhile friend and neighbour, betrayed them to the authorities and cla imed the estate for himself. Sometimes, Helena’s grief was no more than a fleeti ng shadow that intruded into her day, brushed aside with ease. At others, the lo ss of half her family engulfed her with a choking sadness, her former life a place and time she preferred not to visit too often. A knock on the door made her jump, dragging her tho ughts back to the present. On her command to enter, her manservant, Glover, hande d her a folded square of parchment. Helena rose slowly as she skimmed Alyce’s handwriti ng. —Celia has begun her labour earlier than expected a nd your presence is urgently required — “Summon a hackney, Glover.” Then as he turned to go , she added, “No, wait. A sedan would be quicker.” * * * Helena fretted all the way to Saffron Hill, chewing the base of her thumb in frustration at every cart, packhorse, and carriage that impeded her chair. Cannot these chairmen run any faster? Celia had been her confidant through those first da ys in London when she and her younger brother, Henry, had come to live at Lambton s Inn with the Devereuxs. They had been light-hearted girls then looking forward t o an exciting future. Now Celia was a contented matron, married to Ralf Maurice, a goldsm ith like her own husband, Guy.
At Celia’s house, Helena pushed past the startled f ootman who opened the door, and ran up the stairs. A timid maid pressed herself against the wall as Helena sailed toward the figure of Alyce at the end of the corrid or. “I’m so glad you are here, Helena.” Alyce’s face wa s drained of colour beneath a layer of face paint. “Celia has been asking for you .” No longer the flirtatious beauty and chatelaine of one of London’s best chophouses, now merely an anxious parent. The atmosphere inside Celia’s room was hot and cloy ing, the single curtain obscuring the closed window and a roaring fire lit, though the weather was warm. With Alyce’s views on noxious London air, Helena ex pected this, but the prone and immobile figure in the bed filled her with forebodi ng. She took her friend’s limp hand in her shaking one, gazing into clouded eyes that disp layed no recognition. Celia keened in a continual, low monotone through s lightly parted lips, the mound of her swollen belly thrusting the bedclothes obscenel y upward. “She’s unaware of what is happening to her.” Alyce kept her voice low. “There is no respite to the pain. We tried to coax her into the birthing chair, but she resisted.” She indicated the ugly object that looked as if it crou ched in the corner. “Now she is beyond that, and worse, the child is not moving.” “Where’s the midwife?” Helena gave the room a sweep ing glance, but they were alone. “She left an hour ago saying there was nothing more she could do and I must send for the chirurgeon.” “And have you?” “Of course.” Alyce gaped, offended. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to imply you were not doi ng your best.” Helena did not add that in her opinion, Alyce should have engaged a Du tch midwife for Celia. They were known for their professionalism and would never hav e abandoned a woman in labour. The door clicked open and Helena glanced up eagerly , but it was only a servant with a pile of linen, followed by a second with a p itcher of water. “Leave those things.” Alyce dismissed them. Helena changed the warm, damp cloth on Celia’s brow for a fresh, cold one, though her efforts had no visible effect. At best it gave her something to do to help fight down the panic which clutched at her chest. Her restless fingers smoothed the damp hair back from her friend’s clammy forehead. Celia’s pil low was soaked and her nightgown clung wetly to her shoulders. A sharp tap came on the door that preceded the entr ance of Alyce’s younger daughter. “The chirurgeon has arrived, Mother.” Her dour expr ession lifted when she caught sight of Helena. “I’m so glad you came.” Her eyes w ere dark with fear and her lower lip quivered in response to Helena’s greeting, which on ly confirmed her impression things were dire with Celia’s labour. Phebe never cried. “Have him shown up, Phebe,” Alyce said. “And remain downstairs.” At the girl’s protest she went on, “it wouldn’t be appropriate fo r you to stay. You’re an unmarried girl.” Alyce gave her a push and closed the door, t urned round and leaned against it. “I
know you feel that was cruel of me. Phebe loves her sister, but I don’t want her witnessing—” she broke off with a sob as she gestured toward the bed. “I understand.” Helena’s admiration for Alyce incre ased. How terrible to watch both her daughters suffering. A sallow faced man in black long coat and sandy-col oured peruke was shown into the room. He went straight to Alyce and made an ele gant leg. “Never mind me, you imbecile!” Alyce slapped her sk irt in frustration. “See to my daughter!” The man stepped back, obedient, one brow raised in affront. “A difficult time for you,” he murmured in mitigation. Helena still had no idea of his name. The elderly woman who had followed him in waddled t o the bed and began palpating Celia’s belly without a word to anyone. I n her plain brown gown and white apron and cap, she looked officious enough, though she could have been a nosy neighbour for all Helena knew. “Who is she?” Helena drew Alyce away from the bed, allowing the doctor and the woman to examine their patient. “I’ve never seen her before,” Alyce replied. “I hav e an awful feeling she’s the woman chirurgeons bring in when they suspect the worse.” The grim look the doctor exchanged with the woman j ust then appeared to confirm Alyce’s impression. “Does she have a name?” Helena asked. “So I can be sure to avoid her.” “Barlow, I think,” Alyce said, twisting her hands together Her examination complete, the woman mumbled somethi ng indistinct to the doctor, who nodded, identical looks of dismay on both their faces. Helena wanted to scream at them that this shouldn’t be happening this way. Where were the gossips, the card games, and the wine? The re should be laughter and celebration. Celia should be tired, but happy, not still and white. And that awful moaning tore at Helena’s heart. She glanced at Alyce’s face, either to seek comfort or offer it, she wasn’t sure. The siren of Lambtons looked suddenly old and defeated. The midwife, if that is what she was, lifted Celia’s unresisting head and teased a few drops of liquid from a brown bottle through her sla ck lips. “It will speed up the pains, so it may be over quicker.” Mistress Barlow’s rough vo ice answered Helena’s unspoken enquiry. She prayed she was right. Minutes dragged into an hour and Celia’s groans per sisted, growing louder at times and then so soft as to be almost inaudible. Then the activity round the bed became more urgent. At a signal from the chirurgeon, Helena stepped back, firmly excluded fr om the proceedings. Even Alyce could only stand to one side looking on, with no pa rt to play. More linens and hot water were called for, and deli vered, the room filling with people and then emptying again. After a final tussl e, where the patient remained placid
and uncooperative, it was over. Celia had delivered a stillborn son. With swift, capable movements, the woman bound the tiny form in a linen cloth, then carried the bundle to where Alyce stood, hips clamped into a thin line. She gave a brief, anguished nod. Just as the midwife flicked b ack a corner of the cloth, Helena gave a sob and turned away. At the pressure of Alyce’s hand on her arm, she tur ned back, but stared at the floor as the woman covered the tiny body with a cloth. “Are you quite well, Helena?” she asked as they ste pped onto the landing. “Me?” Helena snorted. “I’m simply a coward and no h elp to you at all.” “No one could have made the outcome different but God. You are not responsible.” “I know, but… Oh, Alyce, I’m mortal sorry, but I ca nnot stay here.” Helena glanced through a gap in the door and then back to Alyce’s sad face. “You must think I’m a selfish woman, but I simply cannot bear it. Because , because—” “Because you are with child,” Alyce finished for he r. “I guessed as much.” Her kindness evoked more tears until Helena had to grop e into her pocket for a handkerchief. “It’s still early yet, but seeing Cel ia suffer in that way, when she is the kindest of souls, is so unfair. I had no idea thing s could go so dreadfully wrong.” “You must not dwell on such things. Sad feelings ma y transfer to your child. I’m very happy for you,” she said gently. “And Celia will be too when she wakes.” “She will recover?” Helena wiped tears from her che ek with a hand that trembled. “There is no fever as yet, so we must remain hopefu l.” “But her baby?” Helena’s eyes filled again. “The chirurgeon has assured me there will be more c hildren. God has his reasons for taking this one.” “Is that what you really believe?” Helena’s voice r ose. “That her child has been taken from her as some sort of divine plan?” “Perhaps not.” Alyce shrugged. “But life is cruel, and it might comfort my Celia.” “A searcher must be sent for,” the haughty chirurge on interrupted them. Then in response to Alyce’s stricken face, added, “though i n this case there is no question it was a natural death.” “I should hope not,” Alyce bridled, her chin quivering. “I’ll go,” Helena said, her gaze lingering for a mo ment on the tiny, wrapped form lying so still on the end of Celia’s bed. “I requir e an interview with Master Maurice first.” The doctor pulled on his gloves without looking at Helena. “Of course” Helena’s hackles rose at being addresse d like a servant. But then how could he know who she was. Once they were outside i n the hallway, she paused and turned towards him. “Tell me, sir. Will your patien t live?” He wrinkled his nose as if her question were unansw erable. “I’ll have to relinquish that responsibility to God.” “And if she dies, will you give your fee to God?” He blinked, his slack mouth opened and then closed again soundlessly.
Dismissing him, Helena flung away and descended the stairs, not caring if he followed her or not. In the hall, she waylaid a houseboy and sent him to fetch the searcher, before entering the salon where Ralf waited. A hopeful exp ression leapt into his face when he saw the chirurgeon at her shoulder. Helena fought her distress as the man told Ralf his son had not lived long enough to draw breath. “Mistress Maurice has not been damaged by the birth , sir,” he said with well-practiced gravity. “The labour progressed almost no rmally in its final stages. I’m confident there will be other children.” Ralf’s boyish face crumpled and his cheeks were wet with tears. “How do I tell her she cannot have this one?” Helena laid her hand on his forearm. “Her mother wi ll tell her, Ralf, if you cannot.” He gave her a look of such gratitude, Helena’s own eyes filled. How unfair life was. If ever a man was meant to be a father, it was sweet, gentle Ralf. The chirurgeon continued to offer empty condolences and unable to listen to any more, Helena retreated to the hall where she instru cted a servant to hail a sedan, and then grabbed her cloak from the footman and left. Helena sat slumped in a corner with the flaps secur ed as the sedan bumped and swayed on its way back to King Street, shame burnin g inside her for her lack of courage at not being present when Celia received the worst news given to any woman. That night Helena spent in her husband’s arms, his quiet sympathy both a surprise and a comfort, when he could be pragmatic about mos t things. “You must return to Saffron Hill tomorrow,” Guy whi spered against her hair. “Celia will be awake by then and hopefully recovering. She won’t understand why you would stay away.” “I know.” Helena whispered back. She would face tha t in the morning. For now, she just wanted to snuggle into his embrace and dream g ood dreams.
ChapterTwo June 1688, London – HeIena Helena entered a scene of bustling chaos at Lambtons Inn, wh ere patrons filled the taproom, and dining halls. They crowded the wide st aircase and spilled from the upper rooms holding loud conversations across the galleri es. The timbered building, built in old King Henry’s ti me, occupied the width of four shop fronts in Holborn’s main thoroughfare, not far from the newly refurbished St. Andrews church. Furnivals and Thavies inns lay in t he same street, but neither could match the grandeur of Lambtons, whose black-stained beams crisscrossed its wide façade comprised of pristine white painted plasterw ork and the inn sign in green and gold. During her initiation into London life three years before, Helena had discovered that society divided themselves into those who dined at Pontacks in Abchurch Lane, and the more discerning, who frequented Lambtons in High Ho lborn to partake of the best food in comfortable opulence. Lubbock, the Devereux manservant, bustled through f rom the rear and took her cloak. His periwig sat askew and he appeared more h arassed than usual, murmuring his apologies for not being there to greet her. “Has something occurred? Helena asked, but he was saved from answering by the appearance of William Devereux. He was still, without exception, the most devastati ngly handsome man Helena had ever seen. Sometimes, when she came upon him unexpe ctedly, he reminded her so sharply of the late Duke of Monmouth, she found herself staring at him in near disbelief. “I shall take care of Mistress Palmer, thank you, L ubbock. The manservant backed away and William took his place. “I’ve not decided whether you are more beautiful in the mornings, or in the evenings by candlelight. He li fted her hand and brushed his lips across her fingertips. His liquid brown eyes danced on the edge of laughter, combined with a rich, deep voice and a disarming smile disto rted by an intriguing scar that cut a straight line down his upper lip. Whether the result of a childhood accident or he ha d been born with it, Helena couldn’t tell. However, whenever she was in his com pany her gaze would drift to that slight imperfection and, like now, her heart would jump with desire. Her hand that rested on William’s proffered arm sho ok, but she tried to ignore the effect he had on her. She was a married woman and r efused to let her appreciation of William’s charm and brooding good looks detract her from loyalty to her husband. “You must be exceedingly bored, sir, to offer such transparent compliments. She cast a swift look along the hallway, but there was no sign of Guy. Helena reminded herself why she had chosen not to e ncourage William in a romantic sense during her days at Lambtons. His phy sical charms were obvious, but she doubted he could have offered the security and respectability Guy had, or his constancy. She had thought her marriage to Guy woul d make her immune to William’s charms, yet it still surprised her how his presence unsettled her.
“How cruel you are, Mistress, when I am simply an a dmirer of true beauty. She rolled her eyes in mock annoyance and made to b rush past him, but he plucked her hand from his sleeve with both of his, and lifting it his lips, pressed a lingering kiss on her fingers. Alyce Devereux bustled toward them appear at the en d of the hallway, a vision in salmon pink overlaid with black lace. William turne d towards his mother but though he dropped Helena’s hand he did not release it. “Helena, my dear, how lovely you decided to join us . Alyce caressed William’s cheek absently with one hand as she talked. “Guy ar rived this half hour since. Her speculative gaze settled on each of them in turn. “Have you heard the news? “Mistress Palmer has only this moment arrived, Mama . He winced as the hubbub in the hall rose to a crescendo. “Unless her chairmen proved unusually vocal, I assume she’s still in ignorance. Helena fidgeted, uncomfortable with his abrupt chan ge of manner, which lent their encounter an air of intrigue where none existed. Ad ded to which her hand still lay in his, though she did not know how to reclaim it discreetl y. “Come into the salon and we’ll tell you all about i t. Alyce ushered them to the private quarters at the back of the inn, where her two daughters sat with Robert, Ralf and Guy who occupied an assortment of upholstered c haises and high-backed chairs set round a marble fireplace; empty now but for a b owl of dried flowers and herbs that lent the room a country feel. Robert left his chair and advanced on Helena with o utstretched arms, kissing her soundly on the mouth. His place was taken by Guy, w ho brushed her cheek lightly with his lips then asked in a discreet murmur why she wa s late. “I was not aware I was, she responded with a bland smile, aware he would not chastise her in company. Not that he was a bully, b ut he expected his word to be taken as final between them. She took in what looked to be a new sky-blue long c oat with turned back yellow cuffs with a look that brought a slight flush to hi s cheeks, though she neither commented nor begrudged him spending money on himse lf. He worked hard and earned all he had. William stood by the chaise where Celia reposed lik e a duchess, still pale but evidently recovering from her ordeal. Planting a ge ntle kiss on her forehead, he slid his fingers along her cheek, while she gave him a sad n od in response to his enquiry as to her health. William returned Phebe’s exuberant hug and Alyce’s motherly caress, with enthusiasm; his carelessness of women excluded his mother and sisters, whom he treated like princesses. Watching them, Helena experienced a pang of distres s as she recalled her own father and how much she missed him. No one had hear d a word from him since Sedgemoor and she often wondered where he was now. When William stole Phebe’s seat, their subsequent b out of light-hearted banter attracting Alyce’s censure, watched benignly by Rob ert from his oversized chair.