Elford Manor by Karen Blayne
Oh by the way red tape first.
Be warned these short stories contain mature content or naughty bits and as such may corrupt you if you’re under 12, 16, 18, 21 or 25 depending where you live thus they are not suitable for you so put them back on the shelf and let them age for a year or two.
They were sort of scribbled for fun. They were first posted on asstr.org. If you’ve paid money for this book just be aware the author has not received any payment. In fact no one has permission to charge money for this book and copyright is retained by the author. Asstr.org accepts donations if you’re feeling rich or even if you’re not.
As Mark walked along the London street to visit his solicitor he caught sight of one of the many unemployed ex-soldiers begging by the side of the road. “Tom?” he queried “It is really you, and what have you been up to since last we met?” Tom it transpired had taken the king’s shilling and gone to war, he hadn’t done too badly having been made up to serjeant but now with the war over times were hard. “Well I’ve a floor to sleep on if you need it.” “I’ve a mind to stay on the streets for a while, I’m living with some of the men and I’d like to look out for them.” Mark dug in his pocket and pulled out some coins. “I’ll just take the copper if you don’t mind, I’d get my throat cut if I flashed anything larger than a tanner.”
Mark was enquiring about how the London house which he was trying to purchase was progressing. At the current rate of progress it would be next Christmas before it was finally completed. Ahead of him through the open door he heard “But I need money now to invest in new improved seeds and such to get higher yields on the main estate. I don’t need that piddling little estate in the middle of nowhere but I do need that damn thousand pounds.” He heard a placating voice and then the door opened wider as his solicitor came to hold the door open. “I’ll see what I can do but I really don’t think it’s possible instantly.” “How big and where is it?” He brought Elford Manor sight unseen from the new Lord Halstead but the price was right even though the estate was neglected and had three farms untenanted, plus he still had a week or two to sow his seed in this spring.
As he left he searched out Tom and handed him a wallet containing paper money and his address. “I’ve just brought a rundown estate so take these seventy pounds and see how far you can stretch it. I’m after draft horses for the farm and if you can find a wagon as well so much the better. That way we can fill it with men to sort the farm out when we get there. It’s a full three days travel so bring round what you can to my rooms and we’ll set off at day break.”
He’d promised his next door neighbour he’d attend a ball that evening. “I’ll send round my valet with a set of evening dress. Mater wants to add a few more males for my sister’s come out ball so it’ll look like there is a bit more competition as it were. All you need do is dance with a couple of wall flowers nothing to it.” Suitably garbed he arrived at the ball and made his way to the side where his neighbour introduced him to a severe looking girl dressed in a plain gown. “Rent-a-crowd same as me are you?” she asked. He nodded and in perfect understanding of each other they took to the dance floor. “My parents felt I ought to have a season before marrying Roger so I’m here but at the end of the season I’ll go home and marry Roger. I’m Cecile by the way.” She looked rather pretty as she peered at him from under her eye lashes. “I’m just here to repay a favour, I’m heading north tomorrow away from all this.” He returned her to her potted plants and hoped to carry on the conversation when they were interrupted by a gushing matron. “Mr. Hanson, how pleased I am to meet you. Lady Thornton and this is my daughter Elizabeth.” He exchanged a puzzled glance with his late dancing partner but invited Elizabeth to the floor as expected.
At the end of the dance he returned the limp girl to her mother and found to his surprise a collection of matrons and daughters all waiting to introduce themselves. Cecile approached and standing just behind him whispered in his ear “They found out you paid cash for Elford Manor so title or not you’ve just become landed gentry and a very desirable partner. I’ve written you in for my supper dance by the way. Oh and my married cousin Lady Jennifer, the blonde on your left won’t deny that your name is on her card for the next dance.” As he danced with Lady Jennifer he asked “Why?” “Oh simple I like to put the cat among the pigeons. Cecile is arranging your dances this evening so you’ll be very exclusive tonight and I’m giving a ball in two days time. By dancing twice with you I’ll give the impression we are old friends and since you are the latest gossip everyone will come to my ball to meet you.” “But I’m heading out of town tomorrow morning.” “But they don’t know that do they, they’ll come.” She smiled at him, “Now smile back and give the impression we are very old friends.”
Cecile quietly arranged other dances for him as the pack of mothers and daughters looked ready to swoop. Supper was a table of four with Lady Jennifer, her husband and Cecile. He sat with his back to the room so he’d be less noticeable even so three women claimed to know his mother, a very unlikely event as she’d never stirred from her Lancashire village all her life. The fact his money came from textile mills didn’t seem to trouble that many.
The next morning at the crack of dawn he let himself out quietly of the front door, at the curb were two worn but serviceable wagons with a team of six horses attached to each. A large group of men were gathered around. “You’ve done better than I’d hoped.” “A pair of would be Corinthians decided to race a pair of ordinary wagons yesterday. One got sold a team of young horses that looked good but where a bit green. He managed to break his arm in two places so I got a very good price on them and the wagon. I also picked up a wagon and team of four in an estate sale for a knock down price and Ian heard tell of a team of four going as well all within budget. So I split the two teams and put the green horses in as the second set of leaders. I’ve no doubt we can sell any spares for a good price but Angus was saying that often on the farm you might only work a team for half a day so extra horses will come in handy, Ian and Angus were with the artillery by the way so are used to handling a team of four or even six horses.”
“I can live with that but we seem to have more men than would fit even on two wagons?” “Well without changing teams we’ll probably be travelling at a walk so I thought some could ride and some could walk then switch part way through the day, unless of course you don’t need that many?” Marcus looked at the expectant faces “No they’ll do but I don’t know what accommodation we’ll find.” “Hast thou told him about yon lieutenant?” “Not yet.” “Well he’s injured ye ken but he’ll soon be better from his wounds and be no trouble at all. Unlike some officers after what he did for the lads we’ll no be leaving him behind to yon pit of death of a hospital.” Mark looked on the bed of the wagon to see a mattress had been laid down and the wounded man lay on it. “Is he fit enough to travel?” “Och aye, I’ll drive gentle and slow which will be kinder on the horses besides we brought some sacks full of cloth at the auction to cushion him with underneath.” Mark turned to Tom with a raised eyebrow. “At the estate sale we were the only people bidding on the cloth so was knocked down to us on the first bid. It’s in sacking so I’ve no idea what it is but it serves as seating for the lads.”
They headed north slowly up the Great North Road singing as they travelled or sometimes John would lift his small pipes out and give them a tune until after only two very long days on the road made the Angel at Stilton in Cambridgeshire. They stopped for beer all round before turning off. They turned off into the country side and found somewhere to camp for the night. Stilton was a hive of activity with cattle being shod before they continued their drive down to London on the Great North Road.
On the third day they reached the village of Elford and Mark decided to take the first wagon on ahead to give them some warning at the house leaving the men to sup their thirst and get a bite to eat at the Spotted Pig with strict instructions to follow on later.
They drew up when they spotted an exhausted looking girl carrying a small child walking along the road. “We’re travelling as far as the manor house if that’s any good.” “I’m going there myself so yes please.” The girl gave Angus a smile of thanks as he hoisted her and her child up onto the bed of the wagon.
When they arrived Mark was surprised to find no one had opened the front door out of curiosity so he dismounted at the steps and sent Angus on round to the stables. He gave the door knocker a firm rap and waited. Eventually a butler answered the door and looked down his nose.
“I’m Hanson, the new owner.” “Yes of course, may I say on behalf of all the staff how pleased we are to see you. Have you brought any staff with you?” “No just myself, I assume there isn’t a large staff?” “Your predecessor cut back substantially on the staff numbers and more recently with the pay being some months in arrears a number of staff have moved on to other positions. There is just the wife and I left these days.” Mark entered and looked round at the dusty hall, and saw unfaded patches on the walls where pictures had been removed. The walls themselves looked to be in reasonable repair. “The stables?” “The quickest way would be via the kitchens,” Mark nodded and the butler led him across the hall and down a passage to the kitchens.
“There’ll be no work here for the likes of you.” The girl who’d been on the wagon was looking cowed and resigned. “Oh I think there will be, I’m the new owner by the way.” “If she comes I leave.” “Suit yourself.” Marcus fished out two half sovereigns and gave one to the butler and one to his wife. “I’ve owned the property for four days so that should cover four days pay.” “What about our arrears and references?” “Not my responsibility, apply to Lord Halstead’s man of business. The stage coach to London passes by this evening.” He stepped to the open door and called out “Angus come and see these two off the premises.”
The girl waited until Angus had guided the two servants out of the manor hall. “Well you rolled them up well and truly, I never thought to see the day.” “Well I don’t think I’d be comfortable with that pair but we’ll need someone to clean the house up.” “That’ll be difficult with me in the house.” “Why?” “What will your wife say for a start, and what servants will work in the house alongside with a women of loose morals.” “I’m not married and I suspect it was a lapse of some type, you don’t look immoral to me.” She looked at him. “I’m sure if you spread the word about that there will be two or three others in the same position as yourself who’d be willing to come and work here.” “Well if you’re sure?” “I’m sure. Let’s find Angus and head back to the village so you can spread the word and I can set up accounts at the local stores.”
Angus rehitched the horses so two were hitched to the wagon and the four others were loose in the paddock. “Yon stables need a mite of hard work before they’re fit for cattle. Mind they’ll do for the lads for the wee while.” He commented in his gruff voice. “I ken you’ll be off to the village now.” He took them down to the village and sat with the wee bairn as he called the child whilst Heather suggested which stores he should use.
A guarded manner greeted him when he entered “You’ve brought the manor I hear?” “Aye.” “You’ll be wanting an account then?” “Aye, I take it from your look the manor has some outstanding bills?” “Just the twenty odd pounds outstanding since the last payment 18 months ago.” Marcus took out his wallet “It’s not my responsibility but here’s eighteen to cover the outstanding account. You’ll submit an account to the new Lord Halstead’s man of business and if you get paid then I get a refund?” The owner’s face lit up. “Very generous of you sir.” “Now here’s another five pounds for my account but I’ll expect 2% discount if I settle the outstanding amount on the 20th by the 25th. Good enough?” “Good enough and bless you sir.” “We’re hiring Sam, tomorrow morning at 9 if you see Sally.” “I’ll pass the word.”
Their reception at the blacksmith was much warmer as the tale of his generosity spread. He set up accounts in a similar manner with the fishmonger, butcher leaving an order for meat suitable for two dozen men to be picked up the following day, nail and screw maker, seed merchant before collecting the ex-soldiers from the ale house and returning to the manor hall. Heather was surprised by the number of soldiers but accepted them as Angus introduced them. The lieutenant was carried carefully up the stairs and given a guest room. Two ex-soldiers attended him.
The next morning Tom was set to work to talk to the nearby bailiffs to see what they recommended for sowing and to survey the estate. He harnessed one of the shires to a dog cart he found in the stables and set off. Marcus sat down with the estate records in the study and tried to make sense of them. As far as he could see no repairs had been made for many a year.
There was a knock at the door and Heather entered. “How many can I hire?” “How many have we got? Oh best bring them in.” She entered followed by more than a dozen girls, some with children at their skirts, one or two obviously enceinte, and one or two who weren’t. “Word got out that you were buying meat for the staff so we have more than I had expected.” Well the cost of hiring them wouldn’t be that much and the house did look as if it would take an army to clean it up. “Are they all with child?” “Most are, Irene and Julia were dismissed for having an unnatural relationship.” She motioned to two pretty girls who were holding hands “As were Agnes and Emily.” She indicated two more. “Diana’s and Molly’s parents have too many children for their farm to feed.” She took in a deep breath ready to continue. “I think I have the general idea. Now do any of you have any experience nursing?”
Two of the girls stepped forward “We both have some experience and Adelaide knows about herbs.” “Adelaide?” “I’m or should I say I was a governess until I was foolish enough to scream out when a guest attempted to rape me. Needless to say I now have a reputation as a seductress and was turned off without a reference and without a reference getting another position is not easy.”
“How many of you can read or write?” Adelaide raised her hand as did Heather. “Right then Adelaide had better teach the others. There’s a nursery upstairs for the children. I want staff from sunrise to sunset.” There was an acceptance and nodding of heads at this “So Heather will split you up into those who work sunrise until noon, and noon until sunset. When you’re off duty you’ll spend two hours a day with Adelaide learning to read and write. Adelaide will be on duty five days a week as will the rest of you, Heather can sort out who will be working at the weekends. You’ll look after the children in your own time.” Does that mean Heather is housekeeper?” “It means that I expect you all to know your trade and Heather will organise who works in the kitchens etc. Adelaide can you take the two with nursing experience and have a look at the lieutenant upstairs, see if you can free up the two soldiers who are nursing him as I need them on the farm, Heather see if you can tidy up the barn for a barn dance say by a fortnight’s time?” “Musicians? I doubt any one will come.” “John plays the small pipes and I dare say we can find a few others. Order a cask or two of ale from the Spotted Pig and they’ll come. Organise a good supply of meat and potato pasties as well, homemade if we can, else see the baker. If we serve good food and drink they’ll come back and as Angus would say these bairns will do better with fathers.” “Dresses?” “Aren’t they what women and girls wear?” “Yes but the girls will want to look their best for a dance. They’ll need material and time.” “Talk to Angus I seem to recall there is some material in the back of the wagon.” He glanced at Diana and Molly, “I don’t want you two getting out of touch with your brothers and sisters so you may invite them to tea one day a week.”
He got up and walked out to get a bit of peace and quiet. Down in the stables three of the men who’d been farm workers before joining up had dragged out what the farm equipment there was and were bringing it up to working order. He had the most placid Shire saddled and set off on the ungainly animal to have a look round the estate before heading into the village to talk with the seed merchant about what crops stood most chance.
Upstairs Adelaide, Molly and Betty gathered round Lieutenant Crawford’s bed. “I think he just needs to regain the will to live.” “The poor dear, bounced round on the back of dusty old wagons without proper nursing what do you think we should do?” “Bathe him then get some food down him?” “Should we call in the doctor?” Molly ever practical came out with “Whatever for he’s not some bleeding society lady who needs flattering and bleeding him will only weaken him. No he’s my bleeding meal ticket so I’ve got enough bleeding will to live for both of us.” They settled on giving him a blanket bathe. Then they rebound his bandages. “Since he’s lost a lot of blood should we try him on liver? I’ve sometimes had good results after child birth with liver.” “My brother likes it cooked with onions.” Twelve year old Molly went into eldest sister mode and took charge of the sick room. Heather came up with a couple of bottles of wine she had found in the cellar. Molly sampled a red and a white thought the red was yuk, so they made him sip the white.
Molly chopped up and sieved his food before feeding it to him by spoon like a baby. When she thought he wasn’t eating enough she had Jenny bare her breast and offer it to his mouth covered in jam, as she said they were feeding him like a baby anyway and if it got something inside him then it didn’t matter how.
Mark came back armed with a list of suggestions about which crop would be best for which field and the comment that he should have had his main crop in already. Tom had a list of suggestions as to which fields should do best and what the crop rotations should be. Mark sat down with Tom, Adelaide and the three ex-farm workers to draw up a list of priorities to plough the fields and get some seed in the ground. Then being mechanically minded he sent off for one of the new seed drills besides two of the latest cast iron ploughs which drew much shaking of heads and comments down at the ale house as no good would come of all these new fangled things as they were a waste of money and as for the tales that came of pipe work and plumbing, why everyone knew that more than one bath a year in the spring was injurious to health and how did they expect to recover the night soil to enrich the gardens with them there water closets?
That night Mark strolled past the sick room where he heard singing. Molly was singing lusty ditties to him to encourage him to recover from his fever, heaven knows where she’d picked them up and they put Mark to the blush as he listened.
The next morning he spoke with Adelaide about the state of the children he’d seen on the estate. “I’d like to be able to make sure the children have enough to eat without it seeming to be charity. Could you find me a school teacher to teach them and we can at least sneak them one meal a day?” “My brother who’s a curate is looking for work.” “Write him a letter then and I’ll arrange his transport.” “I meant to ask you before but that idea you had of splitting the day into two parts, its working very well but where did you get the idea from?” “Oh that from the mill, the other mill owners work their workers twelve hours a day five days a week with a half day on Saturday. I work mine sun up till noon and noon to sundown six days a week. That way I get more hours out of the machinery by not stopping for an hour’s lunch and they only get half hour for breakfast rather than the customary forty five minutes and even that is staggered. I pay them the same but they have access to a library and many have taken up self education in their spare time, the best make good managers which means I can leave them to get on by themselves.”
Niamh rode up to the vicarage leading two horses and knocked on the door. “Is you Francis?” She asked and getting a positive reply thrust Adelaide’s letter in his hands. “I brung a pack horse for your things, and a spare horse for you so let’s be on our way if we want to avoid Sunday travel.” He looked at what appeared to be a pair of blunderbusses in a holster slung across the saddle and the rifle just behind. “Oh a girl travelling by herself has to be careful especially with valuable horses. I know how to use them cause my dad’s a poacher and I used to go with him and the gang at night. You’ll be safe enough from highwaymen with me but them rabbits I saw on the way here was right tempting.” There was warning growl from the dog at the side of the door. “Oh I’d better introduce you. Shep herd. Now hold out your hand so he can sniff you.” “Herd?” “Oh he’s a cattle dog so now you’re part of his herd and he’ll protect you.” Francis crossed his fingers and hoped he wouldn’t need either of his young body guard’s protection.
That Sunday Mark and Adelaide attended church with the lads where the sermon was on the lack of loyalty to servants and morals in modern times with the vicar looking pointedly at him. “Is the man a fool? Doesn’t he realise I’m his patron?” “More to the point is his dealings with his maids, we have one at the manor she was dismissed as soon as he found out she was pregnant. He’s a real hypocrite, you know he has a second living eighty miles away with an assistant curate?” He slipped her away afterwards surrounded by the ex-soldiers wanting to avoid any confrontation by the front door.
“Diana, Francis is here to teach the estate children to read and write.” “Wot fur them don’t need no fancy stuff like that to shovel muck.” “Just see that your brothers and sisters are here tomorrow at 8 am sharp.” “Dunno what Ma and Pa will say to that.”
The next morning just Diana’s youngest shyly turned up for school. “The others got chores to do.” “First we’ll go and have some breakfast.” Francis took her down to the kitchens where a plate of bacon and egg was placed before her. Her eyes widened “Both an egg and bacon? Is it all for me?” She cleaned the plate with a chunk of bread. “I likes school I do.” Francis took her upstairs and introduced her to the alphabet. At lunch time she was amazed to find she was served a bowl of rabbit stew “It’s got meat in it.” She announced. “You poor dear are you vegetarian then?” “Wot yer mean?” “Only eat vegetables?” “Dunno we usually has spud stew if that’s what you mean but this is better than spud stew, it’s got real meat in it.” She wolfed it all down and mopped up the juices with a chunk of bread. “Just wait ‘til I tell the others what they missed.” She skipped out the door a much happier little girl. Next morning nearly twenty children turned up for school.
The house slowly settled into a routine, it was still much dustier than the girls would like it to be but since they were often working in the stables or leading a fresh team out to the men ploughing the fields it couldn’t be helped. Only two of them who’d worked as maids before were slowing battling the grime and dust so when the door bell rang Alice answered with her son on her hip. “Alice what are you doing here? My sister said you’d gone off to London.” “When your sister spotted I was in the family way she had me out the kitchen door two minutes flat with no reference and Charlie and I ended up here. Best meet your dad Charlie boy. Can you hold him whilst I go looking for Mr. Hanson?” “You mean he’s mine?” “Of course he is, same way of holding his head and everything, just step into the library with him for a moment and I’ll fetch Mr. Hanson.”
“Sir Reginald what can I do for you?” “Well I’m a bit bemused at the moment I thought I was coming to greet a new neighbour but it seems I’ve just been introduced to my son. He’s the answer to my dreams but how to acknowledge him it’s beyond me.” “Couldn’t you just marry Alice and formally adopt him or some such?” “If only I could, you haven’t met my unmarried elder sister have you?” “I haven’t had the pleasure.” “Runs the house like clockwork, moved in when my wife died. Told her then me and the two girls would do fine by ourselves but got told nonsense and I’ve never been able to stand up to her.” Mark turned the conversation to breeds of sheep and Sir Reginald followed his lead. Afterwards he spoke to Alice, whom he’d always thought one of the brighter of the maids if she’d be willing to marry Sir Reginald if it could be arranged. “Why bless you sir I’d marry him like a shot but at the first reading of the banns his sister would have a fit and he’ll not stand up to her mores the pity.”
When Mark came across one she turned her face to the wall, he thought her bottom looked very tempting so gave it a fondle as he passed. She gave a little start and stepped back into his groping hand. He brought his hand up to stop her falling she skilfully wiggled so his hand ended up cupping her breast. “Mr. Hanson.” Adelaide’s voice rang out. “You’re not supposed to fondle the maids you’ll be kissing them next I suppose.” The maid twisted in his arms and kissed him lightly on the lips. “It’s all right, I don’t mind, he has nice kisses.” “But why did she present herself if she didn’t want her bum fondled.” “They’re taught to do that in many houses, staff shouldn’t be seen so if they find themselves in a room with the gentry they turn and face the wall so they become invisible.” “Sounds daft to me.” Adelaide stepped up to him and kissed him on the lips. “Why?” “To maintain my reputation as a seductress of course.” She smiled at him before turning her back on him and swinging her hips as she walked off. Mark shook his head affected more by her kiss than he liked to admit, he never would understand women.
“You know this house is so strange.” “In what way?” “Well we speaks at the dinner table without waiting to be addressed by a senior servant first. There’s no butler to put down his knife and fork so when he’s finished so we all have to do the same. It seems so odd that there isn’t family upstairs in the dining room having their meal eating, I know we have two sittings but you’re allowed to choose which one you want to eat at and we all eat the same food.” “Would you feel more comfortable if I decreed you all had to stop eating when I’d finished?” Everyone looked at him in horror. “No thank you, I said it was strange not that I didn’t like it just the way it was.” Mark smiled to himself before reaching out for a few more onions.
Adelaide decided to use massage on Lieutenant Crawford to relax him and keep his skin in better condition. Because he was physically inactive she was concerned that his wounds weren’t healing as fast as they should. They already were moving his body every four hours in an attempt to get some movement and not have the same bit of body lying against the mattress all the time. Working with Jenny whilst an exhausted Molly slept on the floor by the fire they massaged his back, his legs and feet then rolled him over to massage his chest and legs from the other side. “Ooh Miss his hands are so soft, I mean can you image them running all over your body, much nicer than one of the farm workers rough hands and just look at the way he swells as my hands grow closer to his crotch. I mean to say he won’t know if I massage him there will he and its only liking bleeding him and getting the fluids out of him.” Adelaide didn’t know what to say or where to look as Jenny wrapped her fist round the erection and ran her thumb over the top. “He’s leaking lubricating sticky stuff at the end. I can feel myself moistening up as well. This feels so naughty.” “You could stop.” “What now Miss I think it would be a kindness to continue. Whoops he’s come all over me. Still he’ll be relaxed now I should think.” They looked at their charge and he did look more relaxed. “You’d better not tell Molly what you did or the effect or she’ll want him treated the same way every four hours.” Jenny giggled, “She is a bit mother hen with only one chick isn’t she?”
“Mary had a little lamb
she also had a bear
I've often seen her little lamb
but I've never seen her bare!”
“That young lady...” Molly ran to the door and called out “Come quick his fever’s broken.” Then she turned round raced up to the bed, jumped on and hugged him. “I knew you could do it.” tears pouring from her eyes. Jenny and Adelaide soon dashed in and looked at the lieutenant who looked helpless with the crying Molly in his arms. “I’m thirsty.” he croaked Molly sat up and held a glass of water to his lips. “Niall Crawford at your service, I don’t recall how I came to be here.” He peered carefully at Jenny “I had some sort of dream?” Jenny blushed and dashed out of the room. “I’m Adelaide Beresford, your men have been carrying you around for a long time and you finally up at Elford Manor.” “Best let the family know I’m still alive then I suppose but I don’t feel quite up to them at the moment.” “Perhaps in a day or two you can write them a letter?” He nodded towards Molly, “Molly is the one who worked hardest willing you to recover, you owe your recovery to her and Jenny the blushing damsel.” She slipped out of the room and left him to recover.
“Jenny what happened when I was ill that makes you blush every time you see me?” “I might have given you a kiss better.” “Well I’m not completely better yet.” Jenny looked round to see if anyone was coming then she stepped over to him and gave him a quick peck on the lips. “Aw gawd.” She leant into him and kissed him this time deepening the kiss. “There now all better.” Niall looked at her thoughtfully “Was that all?” Jenny blushed crimson and looking down at the floor she whispered “No. I done you a back rub as well so you’d best take off your night shirt and roll over on your tummy hadn’t you.” She closed the partially open door behind her. “and don’t you go telling on me neither.” Jenny ran her fingers lightly over his shoulders before working her thumbs into his flesh in a circular motion.
“Roll over.” Niall lazily rolled over and Jenny started at his toes and worked her way up his legs one at a time until finally her hands were stroking the tops of his thighs. “It’s supposed to relax you not make you all stiffy.” She giggled, before running her fingers up his stiff cock and lightly stroking her thumb over the glistening end. Then remembering Elsie saying men preferred a firmer touch she wrapped her hand more firmly round his cock and used a milking action until he spurted. “And to think I was not with it last time. Still we haven’t relaxed you have we?” Jenny threw him a guarded look, “I’ve been in the pudding club already and once was quite enough thank you very much.” “Slip your dress off and come and lie down beside me, I’ll not harm you.” Jenny looked at him them gave in much against her better judgement. “A silk shift?” “We was given material that come in the wagon so most of us have silk undergarments, it feels ever so nice against the skin.”
He felt her young body through the silk shift, kissing her on the lips before moving round to kiss her toes. “That tickles.” He carried on, working his way up her legs slowly stroking and kissing her thighs in turn. Eventually his lips reached her crotch much to her embarrassment and his tongue started to work its magic. “You mustn’t, not there, its rude...” Jenny was totally confused, her insides seemed to pool, it was against everything she’d been taught, it was forbidden, but it was ever so nice she simply melted and allowed him to continue holding her hands on either side of his head until her world exploded and she shuddered underneath him. Afterwards as they lay together side by side she asked “Now that’s something to keep me warm at night just thinking about it. What did you do to me? Is it supposed to be like that? I mean the other time it was open your legs and it was all over seconds later. Could I use my mouth on your rude bits?” Niall nodded lazily, and Jenny descended down the bed, exploring his body with her tongue and mouth. She was taken back when he spurted and looked thoughtfully at him as he lay back and relaxed on the bed.
The next morning Jenny tipped toed in carrying a cup of coffee. “Come in, no really he won’t mind, honest and it’ll save you getting in the pudding club again it will honest. Just close the door so people can’t see.” Niall blinked and saw Jenny was accompanied by one of the other maids who was looking scared. “Come in I won’t bite you.” He smiled reassuringly at her. “You sure?” she asked hesitantly. Jenny let him have a mouth or two of coffee first before placing a finger over his lips. She undid her dress and stepped out of it and motioned to the other maid to do the same “You have to give him an eyeful.” She explained. “Two silk shifts?” mused Niall as he watched the two maids approach. Jenny eyed him balefully “Behave.” “Yes Miss.” Millie was open eyed at this insubordination. Jenny pulled down the sheets and pointed out his semi erect cock. “See the sight of you in your shift has him half hard already.” She bent down and took his rapidly hardening cock in her mouth and moved her lips up and down. “See its easy peasy, now you try.” Millie gingerly took Niall in her mouth and after a few experimental caresses seemed to pick up what was required to ensure a stream of white goo was shot from the tip. “Be careful, get that goo between your legs and you end up in the pudding club.” Millie licked her fingers experimentally.
“Now lie back with your shift round your waist and he’ll show you what havoc he can do with his wicked tongue.” Niall looked reproachfully at Jenny. “It’s good for you to exercise a bit, it’ll aid your recovery, and at the moment your tongue is about the only bit you can exercise.” Niall rolled over and ran his hands over Millie’s silk covered body. “Normally I’d kiss you first but as Jenny says we don’t want any more babies at the moment.” He nibbled her toes, Millie had very sensitive toes and giggled as he worked. She giggled even more when his tongue reached the side of her knees. She stopped when his mouth covered her crotch and his tongue started to wiggle almost inside her. Jenny had to cover her mouth as her moans grew audible. “I’d never believed it if you’d just told me.” She muttered afterwards.
After much gentle reminding or nagging from Adelaide as Niall put it he finally wrote a letter to his family to let them know he was safe and another to the horse guards detailing his ill health and resigning his commission. Fletcher arrived with his elegant town carriage barely a week after the letter had been dispatched. Eliza who opened the door to him stood open mouthed at such elegance. Fortunately Niall was passing through the hall way at the time and Fletcher dashed by her. “Master Niall you really should have let the family know you hadn’t been killed ages ago. I have the carriage outside ready to take you home.” He looked at Niall’s slow movements, “You haven’t been looking after yourself sir I can see. Take my arm and I’ll guide you to wherever it is you wish to go.” “Hello Fletcher as you can see I’m hardly in prime twig, so the carriage will have to wait a day or two. You may of course write and tell the family I’ll be along in due time once I’ve more fully recovered.” With this Fletcher had to be satisfied and Niall continued to the drawing room where he found more entertainment watching the off duty maids cut out their new dresses for the upcoming dance.
Fletcher was shocked by the idea that there was no butler or footmen available to answer the door and since the lieutenant had lost so much weight any hopes he had of dressing his master fashionably were dashed. Adelaide had the bright idea of promoting him to acting butler which seemed to please everyone including Molly and Jenny who didn’t wish to lose their patient.
Niall looked up to see the maids were flirting extravagantly with Fletcher who was trying desperately to maintain his dignity.
“Fletcher are they looking after you well enough? Is your bed comfortable?” Fletcher looked a little disconcerted at anyone taking a personal interest in him. “Everything is most comfortable sir other than the laundry maid does not understand how cravats should be starched.” He replied, Niall reminded himself to mention to the laundry maid how comfortable he found unstarched cravats.
“Heather I noticed the maids were flirting in rather a forward manner with Fletcher.” “Well they think he’s safe.” “Safe?” “Safe in no matter how hard they flirt with him he’ll never cross the line.” Niall looked puzzled, “Haven’t you noticed he’s not interested in women?” Niall looked even more puzzled. “Oh dear how do I explain this? He’s more interested in men.” Niall looked shocked and tried to change the subject. “Why would Fletcher look disconcerted when I asked if his bed was comfortable.” “We put him in the Fenny’s old room together with your coach driver.” “You mean he has to share a room?” “We didn’t change the bed either.” “That’s unnatural!” “Well if you hadn’t noticed before it doesn’t seem to have affected his work.” Niall went silent and resolved not to mention beds and such to Fletcher again.
It was pouring down with rain as Adelaide looked out of the window, she hoped it would clear soon as she had some errands to run in the village. All the recent additions to the staff meant more frequent trips for the essentials of life. “You could take my carriage.” Niall stood behind her. “But then John coachman would get wet.” “Oh he was just complaining he hasn’t much to do and the horses need a bit of exercise besides he has his full waterproofs so a bit of rain won’t bother him. Feel free to make use of it anytime you like. I prefer to ride when I can and it’ll be a few days before I’m ready to go home.” Adelaide smiled at him and dashed off to get her bonnet and half boots whilst Niall nodded to Fletcher to indicate the carriage should be brought round. A carriage at her disposal, such luxury, in her wildest dreams she’d thought about how wonderful it would be to have a small cottage and an income of £100 a year, enough to have a maid to help out and a gardener to look after the kitchen garden and buy the occasional length of dress material. She wondered how much more she’d need to have a carriage available, perhaps a dog cart she could drive herself rather than having to pay a coachman.
“I never thought to have a silk dress.” “Nor did I.” Once they discovered that the lieutenant had visited London nothing would do but to seek his opinion on every facet of their new gowns. Jenny would watch him and if his eye happened to rest on one particular maid she’d whisper in his ear “Would you like her to serve you your morning coffee in the morning?” Niall knew he really ought to resist but somehow the temptation was too much for him.
He joined in the meetings than ran the estate and remarked that according to his calculations they were going to be hard put to it to feed all the staff and the farm workers. Mark said he could afford to buy flour but the cost of transportation was higher than he’d like. Eventually they came up with the idea of using wholemeal flour rather than white to stretch the existing supplies out. Taking advice from some of the more successful gardeners the lieutenant organised work parties to dig over the cottage gardens splitting them into thirds so crop rotation could be used to raise yields. They were supplied with manure from the stables, the horses were to be fed on grass to save the precious grain for human consumption. New varieties of seed were to be tried in the gardens but only in consultation with the cottagers since not everyone liked marrows.
Mark remarked to Adelaide on the wistful looks some of the maids were languishing on Niall but she only laughed and remarked he was jealous but she’d have a word with Fletcher and ask him to give Mark a languishing look if he liked. She skipped out of the way laughing as Mark batted unsuccessfully at her backside.
Miss April heard a cry from behind her and turned to see her groom lying on the ground and his horse had taken flight. She looked down at Jed and what looked like a broken arm from the odd angle. “I daren’t get down Jed in case I have difficulty mounting again, Elford Hall is close by I’ll ride there for help. I won’t be long.”
Fletcher opened the door to Miss April, “The doctor has been called, if you’d just like to follow me.” Mystified as to how he’d known about the accident and already sent for the doctor, still the ways of all knowing butlers were strange, she allowed him to lead her through to the drawing room where Lieutenant Crawford was entertaining two prettily dress girls in riding outfits. Molly had just carried in a tray of tea and cakes. “Miss April.” She blurted out in surprise. “I didn’t think to see you wiv no groom and a twisted ankle.” “Oh I’m alright, its Jed who is injured. I left him up by the stream thinking it was better to come for help than both of us get stranded.” “I’ll see that someone gets out there right away Miss. I’m glad you hadn’t twisted yours, I was in with a good chance on the sweepstake until you turned up.”
April looked round to her neighbours who were blushing at being caught out then she turned her attention to the Lieutenant “Mr. Hanson I assume?” “Lord no Mark is out on the estate leaving me to do the pretty, I’m Niall Crawford by the way, I’m recovering from my wounds at present.” “It must be quite different from your life in the army, being attended by maids and fed strawberries.” “You’re so right, there were only senoritas and el melocotóns available, we suffered terribly.” April tried to hide her smile. She felt attracted to this self depreciating man and took a strawberry from the dish and daringly slipped it between his lips. She looked down at the latest copies of La Belle Assemblee and Ackermann’s Repository of Arts by his side, “I see you must have been bored before we arrived.” “They do contain articles of interest besides the fashion plates.” She raised her eyebrows as if to say Really. “Well if you must know I’ve been acting as fashion advisor to some of the staff, and since I really couldn’t remember what was being worn when last I was in London I had Fletcher pick up copies for them on his way here.” The two girls on the settee had been quiet up until now but they perked up realising that if he had a valet then he might even be worthy of their attention. April took a seat and picked up the latest fashion magazine which hadn’t reached her yet and turned first to read the latest poetry until the doctor arrived.
“No I can’t see anything wrong with either of you.” Fletcher stepped forward “I’ve taken the liberty of ordering the carriage round to take you home.” The girls weren’t quite certain how to take this as it would reduce their chances of sneaking back home without the parents realising they’d left their grooms behind. Fletcher had them out and into the carriage before they could even think about refusing.
“Two twisted ankles in one day?” April asked after the girls had left. “Six so far this week, Mark has managed to avoid them all. I think everyone has worked out that if the estate is run properly it could yield as much as a thousand pounds a year in income and a bachelor with a thousand pounds a year is a bachelor in need of a wife whether he realises it or not, hence the twisted ankles. I understand Mark has offered a crown as a prize to the servant who holds the correct number ticket for the week.” “That explains Molly’s comments earlier.” “Fletcher had the idea of sending them home in the carriage with outriders so it would be more obvious what they’d been up to.” April giggled, “Naughty Fletcher but probably effective. Did I hear you’re having a dance?” “Lord yes, just a barn dance though, Mark is hoping to attract some of the local farm workers with food and ale and even tempt one or two to take some of his unmarried mothers off his hands.”
The doctor returned “I’ve splinted Jed’s broken arm up for him and no doubt he’ll need a week or two to recover. Now you sir I understand have need of my attentions as well?” “No I’m fine thank you.” April looked at him “Coward, you’re just afraid he’ll find something wrong.” “Miss Adelaide has been overseeing my recovery.” Fletcher interjected “Your mother would be reassured by having a doctor examine you.” Niall could see he was about to be overridden. “Let’s just get the shirt off your back and have an inspection.” April perked up and looked interested “Yes indeed I haven’t seen a half naked man for ages.” “Well your tongue looks good enough anyway.”
The doctor pronounced him fit well not completely but fit enough. “Oh good you can escort me home then, you can’t expect Jed to protect me with a broken arm.” Said April perkily. “I haven’t even been on a horse yet.” She looked pleadingly at the doctor “He needs exercise so a gently ride will do him good.” Fletcher paid him his fee in the hall as he left.
When they reached the stables Jed was talking to Niamh who saddled up Niall one of the new hacking horses they had acquired as a more suitable ride than the heavy draft horses. She saddled another for herself saying she’d make sure that Niall was escorted on his first ride, although from the way she cast her eyes at Jed it would seem escorting Niall was only an excuse to flirt with Jed a little longer.
April glanced at Niall who was looking rather pale as they arrived at her home. “Could you do me a great favour and spend a moment or two with papa and give him some news about the war?” Niamh smiled her approval and urged him to accept “That would give Jed a chance to show me the stables.” “Show you the stables? I ought to get some rest in bed.” Niamh looked coyly at him “Whatever you think best.” Jed blushed a deep red colour and April hustled Niall inside into the drawing room where she found her parents together with the afternoon tea tray. Her mother looked up, “Mama, Papa this is Lieutenant Crawford who was kind enough to escort me home when Jed became indisposed or ex-lieutenant I should say since he has resigned his commission and is recovering from his wounds.” Her papa asked him some intelligent questions about the war and when he found out that Niall had been with the artillery began the question him about the use of mathematics and calculations in warfare. She sat next to her mother on the sofa, “Don’t get your hopes up, your father will be looking for a title at least.” April pouted “But I could use him to practise my flirting before my season with him?” “As long as it’s not more serious.” “On a more serious note Jed broke his arm close to the manor so I stopped in for help. The staff are running some sort of lottery on the number of young ladies who twist their ankle without their groom being present. Lieutenant Crawford told me they had had six so far this week and that Mr. Hanson had missed them all. Oh and they’re having some sort of barn dance for the staff. He wants to find them husbands.” April’s mother nodded sagely and looked towards her husband and guest. “Slip out and tell Hobbs it will be one more for dinner.”
Hobbs arrived at the door and announced dinner was served. Niall looked up “I’d better be getting back.” “Nonsense, your meal is on the table and since its just family none of us have changed for dinner.” “You’re very kind and we’ve been neglecting you and your daughter.” “It’s been good to see you entertain my husband, if there’s anything I can do in return just let me know.” “Well April looks as if she has a good eye for colour and the girls have been after me to help them choose their material and style for their dresses for the dance. Perhaps she could assist?” April turned to her mother, “Should I be calling on a single gentleman?” “If you were to accompany me on a call to Adelaide and we each took a maid for proprietary and you promised faithfully not to twist your ankle, I think that might be acceptable.”
The next morning Adelaide was surprised to be summoned from the nursery where she was planning her next lesson to be informed she had visitors in the drawing room. “I meant to mention they had offered to come and assist with the dresses this morning.” She glowered at Niall, “Isn’t it time for your morning ride?” Niall knew when to retreat and Adelaide stepped forward to greet her guests. “We have an odd mixture of material, some sort of estate sale that the lads brought for a song to cushion the bottom of the wagon for the lieutenant. We’ve opened two bales and have made up one or two dresses from the calico we found and some underwear from the cream silk but we haven’t even unwrapped it all from its hessian outer wrappings as yet so perhaps the first step would be to bring it all in and undo it.” The bales of material were carried in and unwrapped and to the astonishment of all much of it was silk and other fine cloths. Their maids were inspecting it closely as well. Niamh who was far more interested in her beloved horses even wondered aloud if they had enough for some split riding skirts. “I wouldn’t say no to a dress of this or that one myself mama.” April stood fingering the material and looking longingly at a second bale.
“We have more than enough.” “But I couldn’t accept it as a gift.” Mark stood at the doorway, “If you, your mother and your maids would assist the girls then I don’t see why you shouldn’t all have a dress length or two.” April’s maid turned her imploring eyes on April’s mother who nodded her agreement. “Shoo young man and send in everyone who wants a dress so we can best match up material and styles.” The coachman was dispatched on horseback to warn that April and her mother would be back very late and the sewing party began.
As Niall grew stronger he eventually took to riding out over the estate. At first one of the maids who rode accompanied him but as it became obvious he was getting stronger he was allowed to ride alone with his notebook.
When the girls had inspected the dusty barn they had decided that their new elegant dresses deserved a better setting. So now the dance was being held in the hall lined with rough benches, with the musicians on the landing on the staircase. Old carpets had been laid down apart from the stone dance floor as protection against the boots that most were wearing. Entrance was via the kitchen as it was thought that the front door really was too formal.
Mark stood watching the dancers twirling around enjoying themselves. He was astonished at how two dresses made of the same material could look so unique with different trimmings and cut. Not quite up to London’s Haute Couture dressmakers standard but certainly well above the norm for the local assembly.
Mark, Irene, Julia, Agnes, Emily, Fletcher and Niall’s coachman toiled away in the kitchen serving a buffet on the kitchen table. John and his small pipes had been joined by two or three other players armed with tabors, fiddles and flutes. April and her maids had set up court in the formal ball room where a rather more decorous group that included Niall and a number of neighbouring upper servants who had turned up. Fletcher indicated that they had the kitchen under control so Mark could go and join the dancers.
He found Adelaide sipping a drink “We have more than I expected to see, many more girls for example and April.” “After all the help that she and her mother gave the girls with their dresses the girls felt strongly she should be invited. She has her maid and her mother’s maid as chaperons though. For the others well tonight all the boys will be here, even more than we have girls so the girls came too. Besides they wanted to look over your soldiers most of them have only heard about them but not met them.” “Who’s Ann captivating at the moment?” Adelaide looked across, “Her childhood sweetheart, they’re probably making sheep’s eyes at each other.” Mark felt as if he was missing something and looked enquiringly at her “Well Ann is a shepherd’s daughter and Rhodri is a shepherd’s son. He has his own pair of dogs and he’s ripe to leave home.”
“Ann forgive me for interrupting but I need a flock of sheep to take advantage of the follow land so perhaps you could accompany me to the next market and pick some out?” “Rhodri here might be better.” “But I know and trust you. I’ll need someone to look after them as well so I thought if we built you a cottage with a barn alongside so that they can birth close to the cottage? Just mention to Niall what you’d like.” “I haven’t talked to him so far but perhaps in the morning, although I’m not certain I could handle an entire flock myself they’ll need dogs and a shepherd for some of the work.” “I can pay a wage or a third of the profits, you’ll have an allowance for the bairn as well of course. Have a think and see if you can come up with any ideas.” She looked towards Rhodri “We’ll let you know.”
“And just what have you been up to with that smirk on your face?” “One down six to go. I think we’ll see a wedding very shortly.” “What did you do, bribe him?” “I wouldn’t stoop so low, besides there’d be no guarantee he’d stay once he had the money, no Ann gets a cottage and 30% of any profit on the sheep so I get 70% that’s hardly a bribe if I’m making money out of them now is it? I think an estate cottage as a dowry may encourage one or two others as well don’t you? Now shall we join April’s gentile group in the ball room and you can tell me all about the groom with the bandaged arm that Niamh seems so interested in.”
The following morning Mark was sat alone in his library, the female members of the household were busy having a post mortem on the previous night’s dance and the announcement that another would be held in a fortnight’s time, when Niall wondered in. “What have you been up to recently? I note that you’re more active these days. Are you fit enough to go home or has Miss April caught your eye?” Niall threw Mark a speaking glance “I’m sure she’s a very nice girl but I’ve been led to believe it’s a title or nothing for her father so we’re both safe. No I’ve been day dreaming after riding over your land and thinking I could build a contour canal across it to the river.” “How much would it cost?” “£5,000 at least so it’s just a pipe dream.” “And if I could find that sort of money what sort of return would we see?”
“There’s a quarry on your neighbour’s land that has good stone but the cost of carrying it by pack horse makes it uneconomic at the moment, you are digging coal out on one of the hills that you could sell very easily. It would need an inclined plane and wagons to move it economically. Then there is the cost of carrying your produce to market and getting manufactured goods in return. You’d need engineers as well, I’m just one man and although I can survey the way you’ll need more than me.” “Plan your canal out, if we can get the other land owners whose land we need to join us that might speed things up but I can bring in engineers from the mill and from the canal we built up there to better serve the mill. Money, with luck we can use the estate’s labours for a small canal together with the labour from the other land owners so it won’t be so expensive in any case I think I can stretch to £5,000 or even a little more, and you can keep that snippet of news to yourself we have enough twisted ankles round here as it is without them knowing just how much I’m worth. Just put the numbers together with Adelaide and see what you can come up with. I’ll send for Albert from the mill to assist you, whilst he’s at it he can bring down a few bolts of cotton for the girls.”
Albert arrived in due time and was installed in the guest room next to Niall. The girls liked him as he was polite besides which his clothing might be dated in style but the material was of the highest quality. When he and Mark spoke they lapsed into a broad northern accent that was totally incomprehensible to the others. When Albert spoke to Niall though his accent softened and soon they were in deep discussion about how best to build a profitable canal for as Albert said there just wasn’t the traffic at the bank of the canal to justify building one. How should they decide if it should be for a 7 foot wide barge or to go for 14 foot wide barge which would lower transport costs but be more expensive in capital?
They were still debating the pros and cons when the next dance was held. Fletcher simply dressed Niall as he continued to debate. He found a pair of dancing shoes and slipped them on Albert’s feet in place of his slippers then steered them both down to the dance. After the success of the last one this one had drawn a wider range of dancers from the surrounding farms. April’s group in the ball room was augmented by a number of farmer’s daughters who balanced their desired for a dance against the prevailing public opinion on unmarried mothers. April’s lead plus the idea of attracting Mr. Hanson’s or even Niall’s notice, whose knowledge of London fashions had assumed outrageous heights according to the gossips besides one never knew who else might be at the dance, April couldn’t dance with all her beaus at the same time could she? Rebecca certainly had every intention of attending. As a fairly wealthy farmer’s daughter she was caught between the gentry and the workers not quite one and yet not the other. Being taller than most and clever as well she was the despair of her mother but a favourite of Aprils. Albert was asking Niall what sort of additional traffic could they expect from the farms? How many tons of wheat etc could they expect? April was more interested in dancing so suggested to Albert that he apply to Rebecca over her shoulder as she guided Niall onto the dance floor. Rebecca followed her lead and guided Albert on to the dance floor thinking he was just the right height for her. She continued the conversation that he had been having with Niall about how much traffic a typical farm would produce and being an intelligent farmer’s daughter who had been doing the farm books and haggling for the best price from the carters for many a year she was able to fill in some of the gaps that Niall had been unable to fill.
“Mr. Hanson?” Mark was distracted by the movements of the dancers so turned as Adelaide spoke to him “Yes my love?” She stopped from what she was about to ask. ”What did you say?” “I was distracted, thinking about the two of us when we get married.” “Do I get any say in this marriage of ours?” “I should imagine so, don’t brides usually organise the wedding?” He looked puzzled “I mean I don’t have a title but I’ve plenty of brass.” “I’ll have to settle for that then won’t I my love?” “What were you going to ask me?” “Oh Rebecca seems very taken with Albert but her parent’s won’t be sure what to make of him.” “You mean is he rich enough to afford a wife?” “In a nut shell yes.” “Well I pay him fifty shillings a week, and he’s a thousand pounds worth of shares in the mill that I know of.” “That’s a hundred and thirty pounds a year?” “I knew you’d save me money, I won’t need a book keeper now will I?” He beamed at her. Adelaide slipped away to discreetly let Rebecca’s maid know what to tell her mother.
Fletcher cleared his throat in the kitchen the next morning. “Ahem.” “Bad cough that try a mug of ale to ease your throat.” “I think he’s trying to get your attention politely.” Adelaide said looking sternly at her new fiancé. “That’s what I was afraid of. Last time it was a twisted ankle at the gates was it not?” “It was indeed sir. However I was going to suggest that if you were to hold a dinner and announce your engagement formally that might reduce the number of twisted ankles in the vicinity.”
Mark looked at the expectant faces around him. “You don’t think it would be too much work?” Molly looked up and scoffed at him. “We’ll be proud to make the place proper shine we will. It’ll be no trouble at all as Angus says.”
“Well if the manor is to shine I suppose we must as well. Full evening dress means a visit to London, we can go by coach and take three days or travel on horseback and do it in a day changing horses as we ride. If we need to organise something formal I think the faster we get to London then return the better, how well can you ride?” “I’m a country girl so well enough to keep up with the likes of you on horseback.” “Right get changed then and we’ll set off. I suggest we take Niamh as your maid to maintain the proprieties.” Less than half an hour later they set off and half an hour after that Niamh knew she was totally lost and further than she’d ever been from home before she collected Francis, she just hoped that Mark and Adelaide knew where they were going as they rode across country riding towards one church steeple after another. Adelaide recognised some of the village names but even she hadn’t travelled that far and she was anxious to see just what London was like and how big it was.
After some fifteen miles Mark paused at a signpost and after consulting his notes he dismounted at a scruffy hedge ale house and entered signalling to his companions to stay mounted. Niamh rested her hand on one of her blunderbusses. He came out shortly and swinging up on his mount he led the way to a farm down the lane. A silent farmer who had a disapproving look at their divide skirts helped them unsaddle their horses then saddle up three magnificent hunters who looked totally out of place on the farm and soon they were on their way once more.
The next change was at the Smuggler’s Arms in a village were once again their horses were exchanged for fresh powerful beasts. Far above the quality of steed one might expect at such a small ale house.
At Throgmorton Manor they reined into the stables where the head groom hearing Mark’s name sent an underling into the house for Sir Gerald. He addressed a young lady in a riding outfit “Miss Charlotte I’m afraid Star won’t be available to you today.” “Nonsense Fred she’s being led out now.” “That’s as maybe Miss but we’ll await your father if you please.” “Hello who are you?” She addressed her remarks to the three dismounted riders whose exhausted horses were being unsaddled by nearby grooms. “Have you come to visit?”
“Now then poppet this is business. Mark is it really you in the flesh? Have you come for a visit or are you just passing through? How’s that new machinery settling in, are the worker’s accepting it? Who are your companions?” “Passing through, meet my fiancée, Adelaide Beresford we’re off to London to buy clothes so we can do a formal announcement to the gentry of our engagement.” “Seeking to impress them are you, very sound. When and where is the do?” “I’ve purchased Elford Manor and we’ve been hard riding for three hours now on the way to London to buy clothes to impress the local gentry at a dinner to announce our engagement.” Mark explained.
“Bringing up the heavy guns are you. Good show. Tell you what take a break for thirty minutes and have a bite to eat. We’re not so far from London now and you can have the best of the stable so rest a while, the ladies could do with a break no doubt.” a sentiment that Adelaide totally agreed with. Over lunch Sir Gerald extracted more details from them about the local gentry. “I’ve a mind to come over myself and give you my support. Shall we poppet?” Charlotte had been hanging on every word spoken or not. “Is this really the famous Mark Hanson Papa?” “Well I wouldn’t say famous exactly but yes this is him.” “I think it’s the least we could do, perhaps if we took Francois with us?” “The very thing, do you have closed ovens in the kitchens, he won’t work over an open fire these days you know.” Adelaide reassured him and as the talk turned to business she turned and asked Charlotte what she knew of Mark. “Oh he saved the family fortune with some investments in wagon ways and canals. I don’t know the all details but father tells me a horse can pull a heavier load than if the wagon runs on the road. The important bit is daddy can afford my season next year so you must certainly take my personal mount Star if it will help at all.”
At Huntington house the talk was of wool and the excellent price Mark had obtained for them last year, could he manage more of the same next year? Again the best horses in the stables were brought out. Their final change was at Forty Hall in Enfield which they found at the top of a small hill shortly after Maiden’s Bridge. Adelaide admired the ducks and swans swimming in the small lake before the house. She noticed the brickwork was changing in character and becoming darker in colour. The entrance gates were becoming more ornate and the park surrounding the spacious house was of an elegance not seen in the more countrified districts. Travel was slower as they approached London and they kept to the crowded highways. Niamh couldn’t imagine where all the people had come from or where they all lived, the flocks of geese milled round as they were driven to market. The streets were incredibly noisy as wagon drivers, and pedestrians all shouted their insults at one another’s inept driving or walking, over the top of various street hawkers calling out their wares for sale. All in all it took them practically two hours to travel the last twelve miles to their final destination, a red bricked four story terraced town house on a quiet square where they rode round to the mews at the back before dismounting.
Mark led the way to the kitchen door and gave a knock. “Mark Hanson for Lady Akitt.” He stated to the round eyed tweeny who answered the back door. “I’ll be back directly.” She blurted out before disappearing into the depths. Niamh had opened the stable doors and was leading her horse in to unsaddle it and give it a groom when Lady Akitt herself made her appearance at the kitchen door. “Mark is it really you? We do have a normal front door you know.” Mark looked down at his dusty and mud splattered clothing “I thought the domestic staff would appreciate us not using the front hall since we’ve been riding hard all day. This is Miss Adelaide Beresford my fiancée and her maid is here somewhere we’re here on a flying visit to purchase evening wear for a formal dinner to announce our engagement.” “How marvellous, Adelaide, I may call you Adelaide may I not and you must call me Araminta. Now you really must come through and try out the new bathing room which is just next to the kitchen, something to do with the pipes for the hot water. My maid can attend you whilst Mark attends to the horses and can dip in the bath after you.” Adelaide found herself ushered through to a room where a soak in the hot water felt heavenly, a thought that was seconded by Niamh as she snuck into the bathwater after Mark.
Araminta was waiting for her after her bath. “Do you like the house interior?” she asked, a little anxiously it seemed to Adelaide “I went for a neutral sort of look that could be varied easily by changing the drapes etc.” Adelaide made a tactful reply saying it looked very elegant and she thought Araminta was right changing by changing a few curtains it could easily look quite different.
“Now which modiste where you thinking of using for your dress?” “I thought we might try Edna.” Lady Akitt looked taken back, “Edna?” “Well she’s using a French name these days I believe but I still think of her as Edna.” “Perhaps if Araminta accompanies us tomorrow morning to see Edna she can give us the benefit of her advice then?” said Adelaide tactfully. “We’ll take Lucille with us as well as perhaps your maid?” Pronounced Araminta “Niamh is more at home on a horse than being a ladies maid, which was quite useful considering how far we rode today.” “You must be tired out, something to eat then early to bed I suggest.”
The next morning they set off in the town carriage to Madam Fauchon’s elegant establishment. They had to walk the last few steps down a narrow lane that widened into a small court where her establishment was to be found. Madam Fauchon’s did as yet not cater to the cream of the ton, but rather to those who had a little less to spend but still wanted to present a respectable fashionable appearance although she had ambitions.
They entered the less than specious salon to be greeted by a haughty shop assistant who’d taken in Adelaide’s homemade clothes at a glance and decided there was little likely hood of money to be made here. “Are you an existing customer?” Adelaide confessed not, “We are extremely busy at the moment and it may be some weeks before we could make you anything.” Mark moved forward and called out in a loud voice “Edna its Mark Hanson, I’m after an evening frock in three days so jump lively.” “Mark how lovely to see you but I only sell evening gowns not frocks as you put it and three days is rather short notice.” “Meet my fiancée, Adelaide, we have a formal dinner in the country in two weeks but I can only spare three days in London to have a dress run up.” “Come through to my office and I’ll see what we can contrive.” She led the way into a stock room at the back and the others crowded in. “I was looking at the books and I think we can say the gown will clear your account this month.” “I’d love to help but really my order book is full at the moment, following Lady Fenchchurch’s ball last week there has been a gratifying surge in demand for my gowns.” She looked again consideringly at Adelaide, “Let’s see what Chantal can think of.”
“C’est impossible!” Lucille replied in rapid French, Edna threw in a few words of English stressing her desires. Adelaide tried hard to follow the conversation, it was easier following the gestures. Eventually some sort of agreement was reached and she turned to Lucille to find out what was happening. “Chantal says that they have no one available to sew the gowns, nor do they have any room to layout the material and cut it out, mais if you allow yourself to be totally guided by her and she chooses a simple elegant design without frills or furbelows then there might be a way.” Adelaide nodded her agreement not knowing what else to say. Lucille turned to Mark, “We need half a dozen seamstresses and Chantal will live with us for three days to design the dress.” Chantal added “But first the material must be chosen.” She picked up various bolts and held them against Adelaide putting some to one side and others back. Adelaide looked longingly at a dark green material only to be told “Non, non, it’s a gown of the evening we are making we need a white or pastel to stand out in the candle light. The green would be perfect for a morning dress but never in candle light.”
They returned home with Chantal and the chosen material. Chantal took over the small salon and laid her material out on the floor. Mark had disappeared with the carriage and every now and then he reappeared with another seamstress. Soon the room was full of chatter as the lady’s maids sewed their allotted seams. Who was enceinte, who had to stuff their dresses to get the required fullness and who required their daughter’s quim to be licked by a maid for twenty minutes before going out to ensure they were looking enticing enough. Secret recipes for makeup were exchanged, ways to keep one from getting in the club. Which debutants had to get married before they started to show.
Even Niamh was pressed into service hemming the underskirt where the size of her stitches wouldn’t be quite so apparent. Adelaide was curious as to where Mark had come by so many obviously skilled seamstresses and quietly questioned one. “Oh I’m a lady’s maid not a seamstress but I can turn my hand to sewing if need be. The master simply came into my mistress’s chamber and said a business associate had need of me for three days so here I am.” Lady Akitt slipped into the room and took up a needle and thread. At Adelaide’s raised eyebrow she whispered “My dear I couldn’t possibly miss out on the inside gossip being spread in here.”
That night as Niamh was tiding up Adelaide’s room, she might not be the most expert lady’s maid but she could tidy a room up, Adelaide asked her if she knew what the maid’s had been talking about earlier about giving their mistresses a good licking. Niamh looked at her then “Some do and some don’t it’s not quite to my taste but lie face down on the bed and I’ll try to explain.”
Niamh worked on Adelaide’s neck and shoulder muscles. “Sometimes with the horses they get a bit tense in their muscles so we give them a good rub down. It’s the same with people after a long ride you could do with a good rub down like this but the first night we arrived I was too shattered to give you one. Now just relax and think of pleasant thoughts.” Adelaide was tense at first but gradually relaxed under the massaging fingers. Niamh worked her way down her back then switched to her feet and calves. Adelaide didn’t think anything could be more delightful than the attention paid to each individual toe. “Roll over.” Adelaide lazily complied, and Niamh started on her toes again then worked her way up. She massaged Adelaide’s chest and let her fingers gradually grow closer and closer to her nipples. Finally she used her tongue on one breast and as Adelaide took in a deep breath she let her fingers move down to Adelaide’s slit where after coating with Adelaide’s own lubricant she massaged her to her first orgasm.
Afterwards Adelaide lay back in bed. “I’m told it’s even better with the right man. However to come back to lady’s maids their life essentially is to keep their mistresses happy. A happy mistress is much easier to work for. So some who are more inclined that way than I go further and will use their tongue down there in the rude bits.” “But why?” “Well a good maid can turn out a more attractive debutante who might attract someone with as much £5,000 a year rather than £2,000 and gentlemen are attracted to an aroused female whose lips are swollen and reddened. Given what is at stake a good lady’s maids can command part of the difference, so they might be paid more than a butler or housekeeper.” “So just debutantes?” “No young wives of elderly men need relief and a lady’s maid is safer than getting in the club. Same goes for wives whose husbands are off fighting or in the diplomatic corps, some even prefer females. They are also used to instruct young innocent wives in the ways of making love to keep their husband’s interest and to stop them straying when their wives are in the club.” “You mean service their husbands?” “Exactly, there are ways to keep men happy without joining the club.”
Adelaide lay back on her pillow and thought about all she had learnt today. The next morning she sat next to one of the maids and thanked her for her help. “Think nothing of it. It’s a chance to catch up on the gossip and have a good natter.” Adelaide looked puzzled. “Well normally us servants are very hierarchical. So the only people I would talk to would be the upper servants and they don’t share my interests at all but here we can let our hair down and besides after three days of missing me my mistress will be a little more appreciative of everything I do for her. Have you thought about having a lady’s maid yourself?” “I hadn’t really thought about it normally I look after my own things.” “Odette was let go without a reference when her debutante eloped in the middle of the night however she’s an excellent maid and available.”
Araminta mentioned it to Mark that evening after dinner since she was quite certain that Adelaide would never dare ask anything so expensive by herself. “If Adelaide finds her suitable then I think we can afford to add her to the establishment.” Adelaide looked questioningly at Araminta “Well let’s face it that dress will not survive being rolled up and placed on a pack horse, but a maid may pack it carefully and take a more leisurely pace.” Adelaide acquiesced gracefully.
So next morning Adelaide spoke to Odette. “I don’t think we’d be living in town but would you be interested in becoming my maid?” “Oh yes Miss, but you know I can’t provide a reference for my last post and would you have room for my younger sister as well?” “How old is your sister?” “Fourteen Miss.” “Does she know how to look after clothes?” “Certainly Miss, and if she’s with me I can guide her.” Adelaide smiled mischievously to herself “Well then I think you have a new position and since Mark doesn’t have a valet your sister can be his valet. Odette raised an eyebrow “Thank you Miss you won’t regret it but won’t he have something to say about my sister becoming his valet?” “We’ll just let her get settled in the job before we mention it to him shall we?”
Adelaide’s dress had finally been pronounced finished by Chantal. Odette and her sister were to travel more slowly by a wagon that had been filled with goods from Mark’s London warehouse and other essentials that Adelaide had searched out between being pinned up and fitted by Chantal so the three of them set off on horseback at daybreak on the fourth day. The ride back was as fast and furious as the ride to London had been except Niamh started to recognise some of the route on the way back so didn’t feel quite so lost. Back at the manor house the woodwork in the public rooms was being polished until it shone. The other rooms were raided so that the best of the furniture was on show. Down in the kitchen Francois had taken over completely and was practising his dishes so he could get to know the ranges idiosyncrasies.
The school children were quite upset when they were served croissants rather than the bacon and egg they’d come to expect. In the end Heather sneaked a frying pan from the kitchen into the tack room and cooked them bacon and egg served in fresh bread over the closed wood stove that was used to keep the tack room and stables warm. They really enjoyed sitting around the tack room scoffing their breakfast butties.
Other members of the household were in raptures as one superb dish after another poured forth from the kitchens. The only problem was that now everyone had to eat in the dining room as Francois and assistants covered every available surface in the kitchen including the table in the servants’ hall that every one ate off.
Adelaide was a little uncertain whether everyone would appreciate the French dishes that Francois served up so working with him they decided to include one or two traditional English dishes such as a chicken pie that the squire might feel more comfortable with.
The evening went off very smoothly, a few high sticklers looked down their noses at Adelaide at first but with Sir Gerald and his daughter Miss Charlotte so obviously supporting her plus the excellence of the food and wine the evening was the talk of the neighbourhood for weeks afterwards.
“You know your list of guests for the canal project has virtually all the men responsible for our unmarried mothers.” “So?” “Perhaps you’ll allow the girls to provide a little entertainment after the meal and they’ve agreed to sponsor the canal?” Mark looked at Adelaide sharply. “I just thought after a good meal plenty of wine a song or two might be appreciated and besides you never know if they’re in a good mood they might even agree to pay a little towards the cost of their illegitimate off spring, hidden in the canal costs of course.” Mark shrugged his shoulders, “If you can pull it off I’m agreeable.”
All the land owners who owned land that the canal might use were invited together with those who stood to benefit from the canal. The girls work especially hard to make the manor house glow and the food included many favourite dishes, the tastes being found out in advance by talking to various servants.
After dinner port was served and Niall took his place at the head of the dining room where two of Francis’s school blackboards had been set up and explained where he thought the best route for the proposed canal should be. “It’s all very well for you to stand there and say a canal would look pretty but who’s to pay for it all and what good would it do us?” Boomed squire Shedden’s voice, “That bit on the left there goes through my land, I’ll not be having that no matter how fancy you talk.” John Pasley joined in the comments. Albert stepped forward. “I’ve made some notes on how it will affect you. Now to take Mr. Pasley first, Niall notes you have a quarry on your land just above where we were thinking of running the canal. You’ve made a few dry stone walls from it but the cost of hauling more than a mile or two means in reality it doesn’t pay and can’t compete with canal delivered stone to the towns. Now a horse can haul thirty times more on the canal than by cart so mining your quarry will become much more profitable.” John Pasley sat back in his chair as Albert took each landowner through the advantages for each. At the end there was general agreement to proceed, Mark would provide cash and expertise for his share the others would provide labour and land, one or two would provide a certain amount of money. Albert would be in charge of the project and provide feedback as they proceeded.
As they sat round congratulating themselves on reaching a consensus to build the canal Adelaide stepped forward. “As you all know it’s traditional to allow the young ladies to show off their talents with a song or two.” There were groans for the audience, “Since we don’t have any young ladies as such with us tonight the staff have been practising hard and hope their efforts will meet with your approval.” More groans and mutterings must get back on see how the wife is was heard quietly in the background. “To those gentlemen who are thinking of leaving I would point out to you that there are another half dozen bottles of a very fine claret left sitting on the side board.” “Bribery!” “Yes but what a bribe.” “Off you go squire I’m sure we can finish the claret off without you.” Odette dressed in an immodestly low cut dress picked up a wine bottle from the side and filled the squire’s glass up bending forward as she did so to show off her best assets. “Drink up and stay a while. Listen to Molly’s first song at least.” She settled herself in his lap and held the glass to his lips.
Molly stepped forth dressed up in the finery of a society young lady and sang her first army ditty she’d learnt from the lads in the stables. To help her along Irene in dressed as a soldier in army uniform and Julia dressed as a parody of a country maid performed the actions and some of the songs were very explicit indeed.
Agnes came out dressed as a magician with Emily assisting her. The other maids had slipped out during Molly’s singing and now came back in dressed in togas. They served strawberries and cream to the guests during the Magician’s act. Jenny split some cream on her toga so Millie took a damp cloth to sponge it out rendering the damp fine muslin toga transparent over her nipples. Somehow most of the maid’s togas suddenly seemed to be damp and transparent. Odette whispered in the squire’s ear “Just remember they’ll be a price to pay for the rest so keep your hand fondling my breast and enjoy the show.” After showing the hat to be empty Agnes tapped her magic wand over a top hat then plunged in her hand to draw out a rabbit. Of course it wasn’t there and as she searched for it Molly was seen holding a rabbit and making a fuss of it behind her much to the amusement of the audience.
Agnes tapped her magic wand again and Emily’s dress pooled to the ground to much applause leaving her standing naked with her hands held over her breasts and crotch. Agnes tapped her wand once more and started to tease a string of pearls from Emily’s lips between her hips. Much of the audience were agasp at this. Even Mark looked at Adelaide who was perched in his lap. “Say nothing” she whispered to him. Togas were slipped off the shoulder and breasts covered with cream were offered to open mouths to help the strawberries that had just been fed into them. “You may want to close your eyes.” whispered Odette into the squire’s ear. The squire’s eyes opened wide as various maids knelt before the guests and lowered their lips over the guest’s erections in the manner they’d been taught by Niall. Adelaide slipped off Mark’s lap and approached each guest in turn “Would you like to sign here to say that a proportion of your share of the canal profits would pay for the upbringing of your bastard children?” Everyone signed until one declared it was blackmail and he wouldn’t sign. “Fair enough, Jenny can return to her work. I’d just like to point out that if you sign then everyone in the room has a reason to stay silent about this evening. If you don’t, well servants do chatter sometimes and the tale your wife’s maid might mention to your wife about what happened here this evening will be too good for your wife to keep to herself.” His face whitened and he quickly signed and Jenny returned to her head bopping. Adelaide continued her stroll round the table.
The squire spoke softly to Odette, “I take it that the gentlemen being administered to have already enjoyed the young ladies favours?” “You mean been responsible for them having a child out of wedlock? Well yes I suppose so. Now you just close your eyes whilst I nibble your lips with mine and let the sensations drift over you.”
The following day there was a sense of quiet satisfaction and exhaustion in the manor house when a dusty groom arrived carrying a letter for Niall. He quickly scanned the contents “There’s been a death in the family and I must dash to sort a few things out. I should be back it a couple of weeks if that’s OK.” Mark nodded his assent and Niall set off shortly with Fletcher in his light travelling coach.
Adelaide took the dog cart and visited Sir Reginald’s home. “How beautiful it is, you must work so hard supervising Sir Reginald’s home for him and the two girls to see to as well. Have you thought about visiting Bath, perhaps there might be some suitors for the girls there?” She and the girls held their breath and eventually Sir Reginald’s sister was persuaded to visit Bath with an eye to selecting a house to rent for the season.
A few days later she had barely left the house when father and two teenage daughters saddled their horses and came across to the manor house.
“Angus take John and the light carriage to collect the vicar for me. He won’t be expecting you.”
They were gathered in the drawing room when the vicar arrived “I don’t care for the way I was escorted here.” “Never mind you’re here and that’s all that matters. You’re here to join Alice and Sir Reginald in matrimony, I have the special license.” “I refuse, I’ll not be a party to such a thing, trying to do such a thing behind his sister’s back and without calling the banns.” “As you wish. Angus, show the gentleman out. He can walk home.” “So that’s that then?” “Certainly not, Francis is a qualified curate so can perform the ceremony. Francis you wouldn’t object to the living if it was available would you?” Francis smiled “But won’t he have to resign first?” “Merely a letter to the bishop pointing out that our vicar is finding running two parishes eighty miles apart too much for him and has neglected his duties in declining to perform a lawful act of marriage and visiting old mother Fox when she died. I think if we offer a position of assistant curate to his present assistant curate with an increase in income due to the additional teaching duties that should turn the trick. Add in Sarah’s child by him and collaborating details from other maids who have worked for him and forward Francis’s name as a suitable candidate I see little difficulty.”
“I don’t know quite how to put this love but your father has had a written offer for your hand. He’s sent his acceptance off to Lord Donnington so you are now formally betrothed.” “I’ve never met the man.” “Well it’s a good match, a title and money as well, I’ve his entry in Debrett’s here and I’ve written off to your Great Aunt for more information. I was hoping we might be able to afford a season for you but with the harvest down again this year it would be a problem raising the money. Still from what I gather he’s an older gentleman who is a bit of a recluse. I’m certain you’ll be able to coax anything you like out of him.”
Two weeks later April walked up the aisle on her father’s arm and peeked at her bridegroom to be. “Niall what are you doing here?” “Marrying you?” “I thought I was supposed to be marrying Lord Donnington?” “That’s me, I came into the title very recently and that’s why I had to dash off and I’ve been busy sorting out the estate etc.” April smiled at him, “You could have written.” “But I did, the letter’s here.” He pulled it out of his pocket “Oops, I meant to send it honest.”
Adelaide looked up from the book she was reading at her husband behind the desk. “You know I really miss Niall’s light carriage in the wet weather I wonder if we might afford one of our own one day.” “I think we might just about run to one, one day. Have a look through the books and see what you think.” Mark stepped back from behind the desk as Adelaide took his seat. She went through the farm ledger then looked at Mark “Next year?” “You haven’t looked at the other books yet.” She opened the next one that related to his share of the factory “Mark it values your income here at more than £22,000 a year. The factory must be worth in the order of £250,000. If I add in the estate income and value you’re probably one of the richest men in the county.” “There is always the third book, it lists the smuggling income.” “What brandy and rum into the country, how could you?” “Well no I just arrange for the smugglers to carry back wool and machinery saves their boats going back empty and it gets a better price for the wool.” “Oh so that’s why everyone was so nice to us on the way there and those magnificent horses became available to us so easily.” “And of course there is the town house of course. What did you think of it?” “You mean Lady Akitt’s home?” “She’s my caretaker, it suited us both in the past as it saves her jointure and she has hosted one or two dinner parties when we needed to influence people but it does belong to me.” “No wonder she asked me rather pointedly what I thought of the decorations. I wondered why at the time. Do you realise that if I’d known about how much you were worth and let it slip you could have had practically anyone in the land?” “I’m fortunate you didn’t know then aren’t I?” She shook her head “Well at least we can afford a light carriage.” She stepped across and kissed him on the cheek “But you know it might have been fun throwing you to the ton, just think of all the twisted ankles you’ve missed.”