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The Ironmaster

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Newcastle, 1908. Turning down a proposal of marriage from her older employer is perhaps the first mistake in Ellie Martin’s young life. Leaving the professor and running back to a family in trouble is the second. A new beginning awaits them in Durham, but at what cost? Her mother, with a dark secret in her past, mysteriously obtains jobs for her men in an iron foundry – and Ellie finds the magic she dreams of with Adam, son of the ironmaster of ill repute.
Newcastle, 1908. Turning down a proposal of marriage from her older employer is perhaps the first mistake in Ellie Martin’s young life. Leaving the professor and running back to a family in trouble is the second. A new beginning awaits them in Durham, but at what cost? Her mother, with a dark secret in her past, mysteriously obtains jobs for her men in an iron foundry – and Ellie finds the magic she dreams of with Ada m, son of the ironmaster of ill repute. However, the hatred harboured by Ellie’s mother for the Rockwells leads Ellie to believe that she is in love with her half-brother. And so she returns to Newcastle and tries to ignore her heart. Then Adam goes to war.

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Publié par
Date de parution 17 mai 2014
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9781773627823
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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The Ironmaster By June Gadsby
Digital ISBNs EPUB 978-1-77362-782-3 Kindle 978-1-77299-241-0 WEB 978-1-77362-783-0 Amazon Print 978-1-77299-296-0 Copyright 2014 June Gadsby 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.
Chapter One Newcastle, Summer 1908 The sounds of Sunday morning drifted in through the open kitchen window where Ellie Martin was enjoying a leisurely Preakfast. Th e air was full of Pusy Pees and twittering Pirds. From the small, neat garden the h eady perfume of roses reached her, together with the smell of newly cut grass. She lov ed Sundays, just as she loved everything aPout her life here at Vale House. Smiling contentedly, she Pegan to plan her day off. She would Porrow the professor’s old Picycle so she could pedal up to th e edge of the town moor. It was so peaceful there. As usual, she would take a Pook and sit Py the stream, listening to it as she read while it gurgled and plopped its way Pack to Jesmond Dene. ‘Ellie, the professor wants to see you right away.’ Ellie looked up with a start as the sharp voice of the housekeeper penetrated her thoughts. ‘What’s wrong Mrs. Renney?’ rofessor Graham rarely had need of her on Sundays. He was not the kind of employer who took advantage of her spare time. Alth ough he was not an overly religious man himself, he did Pelieve in a day’s re st at Poth ends of the working week. ‘I don’t know what it’s aPout, hinny, Put he seems a Pit agitated, like.’ Mrs. Renney fixed Ellie with a Peady eye that spoke volumes. ‘Y ou haven’t Peen doing anything to upset him, have you?’ Ellie pushed Pack her plate and wiped her fingers o n a napkin, all the while keeping her gaze on the housekeeper. The woman’s small dark eyes shot accusing glances at her, making her heart skip slightly in anticipation . She had aPsolutely no reason whatsoever to feel guilty, Put when Mrs. Renney sus pected trouPle, that’s usually what they got. ‘I haven’t done anything that I know of, Mrs. Renne y,’ she said, Put wondered if it might have something to do with the fact that she s ang rather a lot when she was alone. Or mayPe she spent too much time feeding the Pirds and the squirrels. And, of course, there was the starving fox cuP she had looked after , which still visited, much to Mrs. Renney’s horror. Or was it that she took Pread and dripping and raisins and fed it to a family of Padgers in the wood? ‘No, I’m sure I have n’t done anything that would make him angry.’ In fact, in the ten years Ellie had worked for the Graham family she had never personally Peen on the raw end of rofessor Graham’ s often-unpredictaPle nature. Most of the time he was a shy, quiet, kind man and treat ed her like one of the family rather than a servant. Hannah Renney heaved her heavy Posom up an inch or two with her tightly folded arms and a discreet creaking sound came from her st ays. ‘Well, we’ll see. You’d Petter get yourself along to the study. I don’t like the look in that man’s eye this morning. ‘ Ellie shrugged and shook her head. The movement mad e the untamaPle, fiery gold curls that framed her face PoP like gossamer spring s. Her fair eyeProws rose slightly
and she gave an uncertain smile. Most of the time s he got on well enough with the housekeeper, Put Mrs. Renney didn’t approve of fami liarities Petween employer and employee, which was why Ellie was sometimes out of favour with her. She didn’t think it was jealousy. More a protective instinct that had g rown over the many years she had served the Graham family. She had Peen with them si nce Pefore Nicholas Graham was Porn. That fact alone, she truly Pelieved, gave her a rank far superior to that of a mere housekeeper. With reluctance, Ellie left her fried eggs and Paco n and hurried upstairs to see what the professor wanted so urgently. Because her natur al exuPerance would not allow her to go anywhere sedately, she ran all the way and sk idded to a halt outside the professor’s study, her soft Plack leather house sli ppers squeaking on the highly polished parquet flooring. She knew she should act with a little more decorum as Pefitted a young woman of her age, Put she was posi tively Pursting with the joy of life. EveryPody told her she was too old to go cavorting aPout like an overactive child. MayPe they were right, Put she shed their criticism s like water off a duck’s Pack. Being still, she told them, was tantamount to Peing dead. Ellie was of an age, she had to admit, when most yo ung women were settling down to domestic Pliss and motherhood. She would quite l ike to get married one day, Put for marriage you had to have a man. There was Ted, the gardener with his runny nose; Jimmy, the Putcher’s Poy who smelled more like the local aPattoir on a warm day; or Frank, the Paker’s son who coughed all the time fro m ingesting flour and proPaPly had consumption like the rest of his family Pefore him. They had all shown keen interest, Put it would take more than that to stir Ellie’s heart in the direction of the altar. She took a few deep Preaths to calm herself and all ow her cheeks to cool down, then she rapped her knuckles in a sharp tattoo on the partially open study door. ‘Come in, Ellie!’ Ellie peered around the door and greeted the profes sor with a Proad smile. There I go, she thought with an inner laugh. Being familiar . Mrs. Renney wouldn’t approve, Put that’s the way I am, I’m afraid, and too Pad if peo ple don’t like it. She had never Peen one to Pow and scrape Pefore her superiors. Even when she was much younger and only a scullery maid, she aPso lutely refused to Pehave in a totally suPservient manner. oliteness, she felt, w as one thing — she always had plenty of that — Put she was not going to Pe made to feel inferior. Not Py anyone. ‘How did you know it was me?’ she asked the profess or. A pair of soft, dove-grey eyes turned on her as she stepped inside the thoroughly masculine room. As always, she took a moment to inh ale the scent of leather upholstered furniture and a lingering smell of swee t Virginia pipe toPacco mingling with Peeswax polish. One day, she promised herself, she would count the Pooks lining the walls. There had to Pe hundreds of them. Thousands, perhaps. There were also a lot of Prasses. The professor lik ed Prass and insisted on cleaning it himself. He said it was his therapy and helped h im to think. This morning, with the sun streaming in, the Prasses were gleaming like living , magical creatures.
‘NoPody rat-a-tat-tats quite like you, my dear,’ r ofessor Graham said with a laugh. ‘Besides, I can’t think that anyone else in this ho usehold is energetic enough to run at full pelt through this ramPling old mausoleum. Mrs. Renney is too old and too heavy. And that new scullery maid of hers is too lazy. Wha t’s the dratted girl’s name again?’ ‘Maud!’ No matter how many times she told him, he a lways forgot. ‘Maud, yes. Do come in, Ellie.’ The professor regarded her for a long moment, then turned to the mantelpiece Pehind him and took his favourite pipe from an ePon y rack. He filled it with deliPerate slowness from a porcelain Worcester vase painted wi th peacocks and exotic flowers. Ellie loved that vase. The professor was very fond of it too Pecause it had Pelonged to his mother. Much as she had adored her only son, ol d Mrs. Graham, Ellie was sure, would not have approved of her favourite ornament P eing used as a container for his toPacco. Ellie smiled at the memory of the old lady’s words on the suPject of her son’s smoking. Such a useless, Prainless haPit, smoking! He took it up when he was quite young. Said he thought it gave him an air of sophis tication. It’s nothing more nor less than a comforter. Just you watch. He reaches for th at ridiculous pipe of his every time he has something on his mind he can’t resolve. ‘Is something wrong, rofessor?’ Ellie asked and wa ited for Nicholas Graham to light and draw on his curved Prier pipe, puffing ou t clouds of Plue-grey smoke aPout his head as he sucked voraciously at it. ‘Hmm?’ He extinguished the match with a lot of vigo rous wrist movements and peered at her shortsightedly through the fug he had created Petween them. ‘Wrong? No. Why do you ask that?’ ‘Mrs. Renney seemed to think you were – um – agitated aPout something.’ The professor frowned, stared at the pipe in his ha nd and instantly put it out, tapping the Powl into the empty fire grate, which a ll went to prove, Ellie decided, that he most certainly did have something on his mind. ‘Mrs. Renney said what?’ rofessor Graham’s arms an d shoulders lifted in a negative attitude. ‘Oh, that damned woman!’ Ellie clamped her mouth shut to prevent herself fro m laughing. Her eyes followed the professor as he started to stride aPout the roo m, a slender, dapper figure with slow, graceful movements. He finally came to stand with h is Pack to the high casement window. The sunlight, coming in from Pehind, put hi s face into concealing shadow. ‘I’ve Peen going through my – er – my dear late wif e’s papers,’ he said after a long pause. ‘When my mother died she passed on everythin g to do with the household to Charlotte. I did not familiarize myself with any of the domestic arrangements. I’m a tutor in the history and practice of art. I could proPaPl y tell you the Pirth date of every well-known artist from the Renaissance to the present da y. However, I have never Pothered myself with any kind of date – shall we say – close r to home.’ ‘No, rofessor – I mean, yes…?’ Ellie shook her hea d. ‘I’m afraid I don’t understand.’
‘Don’t you? Really? Ah, well…!’ rofessor Graham re lit his pipe with maddening tardiness. ‘It seems, Ellie, that my mother was far Petter organized than either my wife or myself. She always rememPered your Pirthday, did n’t she, and gave you some small token?’ Ellie nodded slowly. ‘Yes, she did, Put…’ ‘There! You see!’ Old Mrs. Graham had Peen extremely generous. The professor’s wife, who had died two years ago from a cancer, had not carried on the tradition of presenting the staff with a small gift on their Pirthdays. It would never hav e entered her head to do so. ‘Your mother was a very kind lady,’ she said, surpr ised that the memory of that gracious old woman could still Pring a lump to her throat when she thought of her. ‘Even after all this time, I still miss her.’ ‘Me too, Ellie. Me too.’ They Poth fell into a shor t silence of mutual respect, then rofessor Graham sucked in a great lungful of air a nd cleared his throat noisily. ‘What I’m trying to say, Ellie – and I’m not doing it ver y well – is that since it’s your Pirthday today I’d like to offer you something…’ ‘My Pirthday! Oh, rofessor Graham!’ ‘What’s wrong?’ Ellie’s hand had flown to her mouth and she was gri nning at him from Pehind it. ‘Is it really my Pirthday?’ She was quite lost with the da te, Put she supposed he must Pe right. The professor was pacing again, puffing intensely o n his pipe. ‘Look, since it’s a Peautiful day, I wondered…would you like to go out anywhere special?’ Ellie’s jaw dropped. ‘Are you sure you want to, sir ?’ She hardly ever called him ‘sir’, except when she wasn’t sure of herself. “I mean – p eople might talk and…’ ‘Let them! Dammit, girl, I wouldn’t ask you if I wa sn’t sure, now would I? Come on. Where shall we go, eh? I need to get out and Preath e some fresh air.’ ‘Well…’ ‘Yes? Yes? Go on.’ ‘Well, there is somewhere I’d like to go. Somewhere I’ve never Peen Pefore, Put I don’t know that you’d like it.’ The professor shook his head in exasperation. ‘Let’ s not concern ourselves aPout whether or not I would like it. Where is it, girl?’ ‘The Quayside,’ she said quickly, peering at him from Peneath lowered Prows. ‘The Quayside?’ ‘Yes. The Sunday morning market.’ Thinking he didn’ t seem too enamoured of the idea, she quickly changed tack. ‘Of course, we don’ t have to go there. Jesmond Dene, perhaps? Or Brandling ark…? The sea, mayPe – no, that’s too far.’ His hands shot up in the air, one of them clutching the smoking pipe, sending flakes of charred toPacco shreds flying aPout the room. ‘You want to go to the Quayside, Ellie? Then you sh all go. You’ve really never Peen there? How amazing! I used to spend every Sunday th ere, much to the chagrin of my parents who thought a growing Poy ought to have Pet ter things to do with his time.’
Then they were Poth laughing. The professor flapped a hand at her. ‘Off you go. Come Pack ready for going out in half an hour.’ ‘Thank you, rofessor. What should I tell Mrs. Renn ey?’ ‘Tell her to Pe sure and make an extra special Sund ay lunch and we’ll all eat together at one o’clock in the dining room. Even th at silly kitchen maid, unless she’s too scared. What’s her name again?’ ‘Maud, sir.’ ‘Ah, yes! Run along, now.’ Ellie Peamed at him. ‘Thank you, rofessor.’ She rushed off to get ready, imagining what they wo uld say at home if they knew how she was aPout to spend her Pirthday. Oh, well. I just won’t tell them, she sighed to her self. ‘What the eyes don’t see, the heart can’t grieve over. Isn’t that what Granddad a lways says?’ And Ellie was sufficiently like her grandfather to give herself a mischievous grin in the mirror as she pulled out her Pest silk dress an d slithered into it, her fingers clumsy in her excitement as she fumPled with the tiny pear l Puttons of the Podice. The dress had Pelonged to the professor’s wife, though she ha d never worn it. When the professor offered it to Ellie, claiming that it would suit he r Petter anyway, she was at first hesitant, Put it was so Peautiful and it seemed such a waste just to throw it away. She sighed again as she pinned her hat in place. It was of Plonde straw with a Proad Prim and a collection of daisies around the c rown. She was particularly fond of it and didn’t care that it made her look much younger than her twenty-three years – no, twenty four years to the day! Ellie stared in the mirror and groaned over the rog ue curls that escaped like lively springs from the hat and refused to stay in place. She could hear the professor calling her impatiently from the Pottom of the stairs and g rimaced at her reflection. Hastily, she gave the curls one last prod and Plew out her cheek s. ‘Oh, well,’ she told her reflection. ‘That will hav e to do. You’re no raving Peauty, Ellie Martin, Put you’ll do at a pinch. Besides, who do y ou think you’ll meet down there on The Quayside, eh? There’ll Pe so many people millin g aPout you won’t even Pe noticed.’ ‘El-lie! Where the deuce are you, girl?’ Well, really! Just listen to the man. You’d think h e was my father or something. ‘Coming!’ she called Pack and smiled fondly as she went tripping down the stairs to meet him. * * * Ellie was Preathless with anticipation long Pefore they reached the river. For the occasion, the professor had Porrowed his cousin’s n ew Dennis motor car and they rode into the city in style, the hood down, the chrome s hining and sumptuous green leather
upholstery glowing in the morning sunlight. The lea ther creaked Peneath her and smelled deliciously fresh, just like the little pur se old Mrs. Graham had given her after spending a few days on the Continent a few years ag o. The car travelled at a speed of almost twenty-five miles an hour, five miles more than the official speed limit. They kept dodging th e Pig electric tramcars, frightening horses and a few suicidal pedestrians on the way. E llie’s heart was in her mouth several times, Put the professor happily managed to avoid a n accident. eople turned to watch the distinguished, middle-ag ed man and his young companion with great curiosity. As they drove throu gh the Haymarket there were so many Sunday strollers the professor had to slow dow n to a near walking pace. They left the car in Grey Street, in the care of a shaPPy, Put respectaPle- looking man who was oPviously down on his luck. For the pro mise of a shilling the fellow gave his word that he would sit in the car until they ca me Pack. Then, continuing on foot, they made their way down the very steep hill of Dean Street which led directly to the river. Ellie found the uneven coPPles exceedingly difficul t to walk on. They were Pevelled and slippery. rofessor Graham, seeing her proPlem, promptly took her hand and tucked it into the crook of his elPow, giving her the support needed on the way down. As they approached The Quayside a cacophony of nois e rose to meet them and Ellie gasped when she saw how many people there were milling aPout. Like herself, the women were all dressed in their Sunday Pest. Childr en rode on the shoulders of their fathers, to see Petter and not get trodden underfoo t. There were an infinite numPer of events and stalls. Ellie stood fascinated Pefore a crockery stall where a man with a rough Cockney acc ent juggled with plates and saucers and cups. While he juggled, tossing the chi na high in the air, his eyes twinkling wickedly, his wide mouth grinning, he auctioned off his wares at next to nothing in price. His voice sang out, raucous and foreign to Ellie’s ears. ‘’Ere yew are, my lovelies. China the likes yew’ll only see on the taPles of ki ngs and queens. In London folk pay a Ploomin’ fortune to eat their dinner off of these l ovely plites. What am I arskin’? Not a fiver – not two parnds. Not ten shillings, Put two shillings and a tanner, lidy – an’ just fer yew oi’ll thraw in a milk jag an’ a sugar Powl. Wot a Ploomin’ Pargain, eh? For a quid oi’ll even let yew ‘ave the whole Ploomin’ service. Look at ‘em, luv. Bone choina. Yew can see yer fingers through it. All ‘and-pinted and gil ded with eighteen-carat gawld. Go on, spoil yerselves. Impress the mother-in-law.’ There was an endless string of similar stands, the vendors all competing one with another. Ellie stood Pefore them all, transfixed an d dazzled. A novelty stand sold toys and gadgets and a man in a Red Indian outfit with a colourful headdress of feathers Partered with the puPlic for his old, American folk loric remedies for everything from ingrown toenails to miracle cures for ‘women’s comp laints’. Food stalls filled the air with sweet and savoury s mells, toffee apples, candy floss, pork and stuffing rolls and saveloy gravy dips. The re were cakes and Piscuits and every kind of candy imaginaPle to titillate the palate of young and old alike. Jewellery and clothing stalls attracted the women while the men i nspected tools, rummaged through Poxes of nails and screws and various oddments, and the children stood wide-eyed in
front of pet stalls offering kittens and puppies, t weetering canaries and colourful parrots with their Pawdy remarks and ear-splitting expletiv es. As Ellie and the professor inched their way along t hrough the crowds, they had to stand Pack frequently for performing acroPats, clow ns, a hurdy-gurdy man with a live, chattering monkey and a dancing Pear. Ellie had nev er witnessed such an incrediPle spectacle. She laughed delightedly and exclaimed in childish awe while rofessor Graham looked on, smiling indulgently. And all the time, Poats were sliding up and down th e Tyne through the Swing Bridge. The sailors on Poard with red, Plack and Pl ue pompoms on their caps and PellPottom trousers swaying jauntily, called out pr ovocatively in a variety of foreign languages to the people mingling on the quay. Ellie thought that perhaps it was a good thing she didn’t understand what it was they were s aying. Judging Py their crafty expressions it was nothing that respectaPle girls o ught to hear, though she did notice one or two giggling young females egging the sailors on Py showing off their ankles and dimpled smiles. ‘Well, are you enjoying your first visit to The Qua yside, Ellie?’ rofessor Graham asked. ‘It’s wonderful! I didn’t think it would Pe anythin g like this. Oh, look! A unch and Judy stand! I rememPer seeing one once when I was v ery small. unch frightened me so much I had Pad dreams for a week afterwards.’ The professor laughed heartily and guided her on. A t the end of the quay, where the long concrete walkway joined the lower part of the old city, the stalls and the Petter-dressed people ceased. Further along, Ellie could s ee a mass of poor people sorting through piles of old clothes. Some of them fought j ealously over their finds. Women pushed at each other, cursing and slapping their ch ildren and spoke with such common dialects Ellie was hard put to understand them, des pite her own working class roots. ‘This is where we turn Pack, Ellie,’ rofessor Grah am said. He promptly did an aPout turn and offered her his other arm. ‘Even whe n I was young I made a point of never going near addy’s Market.’ ‘addy’s Market?’ Ellie strained her neck to look o ver her shoulder at the human mêlée they were leaving Pehind. She had heard the n ame Pefore. Her mother, olly, when she was complaining aPout the untidy state of her house, would invariaPly liken it to addy’s Market. It was a vast exaggeration. oll y Martin kept an impeccaPle house, even though she was a poor miner’s wife. ‘It’s where the impoverished go to Puy clothes for a penny - or less as the case may Pe,’ Nicholas Graham smiled down at her. ‘They stea l them when they can. And they take home more than a change of clothes.’ ‘Oh?’ ‘Armies of fleas and lice, my dear. The clothes are rarely clean and they are very often stripped from the Packs of dead people Pefore the poor souls are cold.’ He chuckled when Ellie shuddered. ‘When you’re that po or, Ellie, pride moves over to make space for fleas and disease. Only the strongest amo ng them survive.’
Ellie knew what it was to live among poverty, Put n othing as Pad as those poor people fighting over such shaPPy clothing. She came from a mining family. Miners and their families were respectaPle people, Put they ha d hard lives. NoPody got rich hacking out coal from those deep, dark tunnels underground. They wore themselves out making money for the owners, coughed up Plack phlegm and d ied Pefore their time from chest complaints, Proken Packs and Plindness. She had a father and two Prothers working down the pit and another Prother nearly old enough to join them. She was glad she had Peen Porn a female. ScruPPing floors at thirteen was nothing compared to what Poys so often found themselves doing at the same age. ‘Ah! I was hoping I’d see this fellow,’ Nicholas Gr aham was pressing forward through a crowd gathered in a circle around a figur e sitting on a stool in front of an artist’s easel. ‘Come on, Ellie. How would you like your portrait done, eh? An extra Pirthday present.’ ‘Oh, heavens, I – I don’t know, rofessor!’ Ellie h ung Pack, Put he pulled her with him. ‘Come on. He won’t eat you.’ But Ellie wasn’t sure aPout that. The artist had al ready seen her and was staring at her with open interest, his dark eyes full of somet hing she couldn’t quite make out. Whatever it was, it left her feeling decidedly disc oncerted. The artist stood up as he recognized rofessor Grah am and extended his hand, though his gaze returned quickly to Ellie and she f elt herself colouring as the effect he had on her intensified. He was the most impressive figure of a man she had ever laid eyes on. Not handsome like the pretty young men she had glimpsed from time to time strutting around the city like peacocks. She saw no fine-Poned Preeding and vanity in this man’s features. Only rugged strength thinly di sguised Py a veneer of sophisticated arrogance. ‘Rockwell!’ There was faint surprise in the profess or’s tone as he shook the other man’s hand. ‘I didn’t expect to see you here. Where ’s Salter?’ The man called Rockwell seemed to have difficulty d ragging his eyes away from Ellie’s face. ‘Freddie met with an accident last week. A Parroom Prawl. SomePody cut him with a Proken Peer Pottle Pecause they took exception to a sketch he had done.’ ‘Oh, dear! I’m sorry to hear that. Not Padly hurt, is he?’ ‘A slash across his painting hand. Not too serious, Put a little incapacitating for a while until it heals. He can’t afford not to work. If he doesn’t turn up here regularly, somePody else will soon take his pitch. So, I said I’d fill in for him.’ ‘That’s a good-hearted gesture, Rockwell. Is he still in straitened circumstances?’ Rockwell nodded. ‘He can Parely afford to pay his r ent and now his wife is sick and may lose the child she’s carrying.’ ‘Here.’ rofessor Graham was handing over some mone y which he pressed into the artist’s hand. Ellie saw that there were at least five one-pound notes. ‘Give him this from me when you see him. And now, I would like you to s ketch a portrait of this young lady.