London, late March 1848
Kate tried not to rattle the strainer on the cup, but did, and spilled a couple drops off the spout of the teapot, again. She found her bodice a bit constricting, which wasn’t helping matters.
“You’re trying too hard,” Jane said, judging Kate’s efforts out of the corners of her eyes.
The ladies were seated at a little round table with a silver service and fine china. A maid had laid everything out, now Kate tried to act as hostess. Her step-mother coached, pointing out errors, while also being prim and proper. She was joined by her sister, Lady Gordon, clothed in an exquisite visiting suit, having arrived by carriage. Kate wore a silk house gown,…
Quantock Hall, early March 1848
“It’s your old dog, my lady.”
From her position at the threshold of the front door, Kate looked fireside, Cinders’ usual spot of repose. She knew something was amiss as she entered from her morning ride, by the upset expressions of Smythe, the butler, and Wade, a young footman. A sour and pungent odour filled the air. Kate thrust her riding cane at Wade and strode to the hound.
“What’s the matter, boy?” Kate asked, kneeling beside the dog on the hearth rug.
Cinders whined and struggled to rise, his hind legs apparently paralysed, a puddle of urine soaking the rug.
“He’s going to make a mess of it,” Smythe warned, wrinkling his nose.
“He wants to…
Farleigh Castle, Part II, mid February 1848
“The ginger beer should be settled by now,” Kate said as they climbed from the crypt and into the churchyard. “Would you like a drink, and a sandwich? Are you hungry?”
“Yes, almost always,” Hugh replied with a wink.
“Me too!” Kate exclaimed cheerily, then rued her indelicacy. That sounded unladylike. I must be more thoughtful. She felt and heard her stomach grumble. Oh no! I hope Hugh doesn’t hear!
Hugh extinguished the lanterns and left them on the top stair. They checked the horses, collected their various saddlebags, found a spot in the sunshine, protected from the wind by crumbled walls, and spread out a blanket. Hugh warily uncorked the bottles while Kate…
Farleigh Castle, Part I, mid February 1848
Kate slid the toe of her left boot into the stirrup, stepped off the mounting block, hooked her right leg on the top pommel, settled into the saddle, then twisted around to recheck her various leather bags while quickly arranging her skirt and petticoats. The chestnut mare she had selected stood patiently, a groom at her head. Hugh walked his selection, a tall dark bay mare, in a slow circle. Both horses were thoroughbreds, and guaranteed by the riding school to be reliable hunters.
“Thank you,” Kate said to the groom as she gathered her reins.
“Muh lady.” He knuckled the peak of his cap and strode away, dust rising from his worn…