At Bowerly Hall – 06

YOU must come and visit me at the vicarage,” Sarah said. “I would be glad of your company. My father is very busy, particularly now with the problems at Whitehaven Castle. It’s rather lonely without him to fuss over and when he comes home he’s so tired he doesn’t wish to talk.”

I warmed to her. It was nice to be invited out somewhere and I knew I would visit her.

“What has happened at the castle to keep him so busy?” I asked.

She frowned and I thought she wouldn’t answer. She spent a minute gazing at the two children who were skipping together through the long grass.

“Forgive me,” I said quickly, “it’s none of my business. I wasn’t meaning to be


“It isn’t that.” Sarah smiled apologetically. “I’m not saying anything that isn’t known around the county, though. There was a theft at Whitehaven Castle last week and the culprits made off with a large hoard of the family’s valuable paintings and jewellery. The family is naturally very upset and my father has been supporting them.”

“How awful!” I said, thinking of the chatter and rumours voiced by the travellers on the stagecoach.

It was true, then. Thieves were at large in the countryside around Bowerly Hall.

I felt a prickle up my spine. Then I shook myself mentally. Goodness, it wasn’t as if we were going to be attacked in broad daylight. Besides, what did I have that a thief would want? I had very little in the way of worldly goods.

Uncle Timothy and Aunt Lucy had made sure of that.

Anything of value at Chelmley Wood had gone with the house itself to pay my father’s debts. I was left with my clothes, my mother’s small pieces of jewellery and few of my father’s books that I had managed to sneak into my bag.

They were worth nothing but for me they were of priceless emotional value. I could see his fingermarks on the pages and his scribbled notes in the margins querying a plant name or a geological fact.

“It is awful,” Sarah was saying in agreement. “It isn’t the first in the county, either. They brought a detective all the way from London to investigate but he’s gone back down south now. He found no clues or suspects at all.”

I took a deep breath. It was too nice a day to dwell on dark subjects and fears, especially when in reality they had nothing to do with me.

“Goodness, it’s getting late,” Sarah said. “I must take Charlotte home. It’s been lovely to meet you and please do come and visit with us. Promise me?”

“I promise,” I told her warmly.

Mary and I waved as Sarah and Charlotte left the meadows. Mary was excited and flushed.

“Charlotte is two months older than me. She knows all the names of the birds in the trees! Isn’t that marvellous?”

“That is indeed marvellous. But you could learn them, too, if you want to. We can bring a notebook next time and write down what we see on our walk. Would you like to do that?”

She nodded vigorously.

She chattered at my side as we walked further on and I hid a smile. I hoped very much that a friendship would develop between them. Mary was as isolated as Bowerly Hall itself and I wanted to change that for her.

Besides, hadn’t I also made a friend that day?

Sarah was a friendly, warm person and I was looking forward to meeting her again. I, too, was happier.

First Peggy and then Sarah had been kind to me. My life at Bowerly was looking more positive.

“Are we going on to the beach?” Mary asked.

I looked ahead. Sarah was right. The meadows with their softly waving grasses and seed heads came to a stop as if a line had been drawn between the green grass and the blue sky. It was impossible to see the drop off the cliffs.

“I’m not sure we can get to the beach,” I said, “unless we can find a path down somehow. Let’s go and see. Keep a very good hold of my hand, Mary, and don’t let go.”

The breeze was growing stronger as we approached the cliff edge. It was blowing directly off the sea. I felt an autumnal chill.

I didn’t want to approach too closely. The grass was slippery and the whole edge dangerous. As we walked, I searched for a path or a set of steps to the beach.

Ahead of us I saw a break in the grass and a block of chalky white grit. Could this be the path?

Before we had time to investigate, there came the thudding of hooves. I pulled Mary round with me to face the rider.

It was Charles, Lord Bowerly, on the back of a great, black horse. Mary pressed right into my side.

I opened my mouth to greet him but he spoke first.

“What the devil do you mean by walking here?” he said, his voice raised and stern above the sound of the breaking waves nearby.

“Why should we not?” I replied, failing to keep the indignation from my tone.

He looked surprised that I should answer him so.

I was a little surprised myself. I knew that I should have given in to him politely, yet my anger rose at his rude arrogance.

“You will take my daughter home immediately,” he ordered.

“She is not in any danger,” I said. “We were merely trying to find a way down to the beach.”

His heavy brows met and my heart raced. He was not a man to be trifled with. He was my employer and an earl. I was simply the governess.

“I do not wish either of you to come here again,” he said. “The cliffs and the beach are out of bounds. Now, Miss Thorne, you will do as I wish and return to the Hall.”

He did not wait for an answer but turned the great black horse and galloped off across the meadows.

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!