The Ladies Of Eastgarrow – Episode 08

“I can’t believe that Patrick’s gone!” Victorine Benson sat on a chaise longue in a lofty reception room, her brow furrowed with regret. “My husband brought the news home the day after it happened. Patrick was the best of men, the most good-natured and open-hearted.”Em wondered why Mrs Benson had not questioned why Thomas Meredith had brought a servant with him. But Victorine Benson had begun her adult life as a barmaid in a London club, where Mr Benson, an up-and-coming surgeon, had fallen in love with her. The lady barely noticed Em’s clothes, absorbed as she was in the death of her friend.“And how is Louisa?” she said, leaning forward. “My coachman is taking me to Eastgarrow on Tuesday. Lou hasn’t let me visit since that terrible day. She’s confined to bed, my maid said, though I’d attend her in any state she might be in, the darling woman!”“She is not well, Mrs Benson,” Em said carefully, rather awed to be in a lady’s sitting-room. “Her cough, combined with her despair, have ”“You must find out what happened, Mr Meredith,” Mrs Benson interrupted. “I know it will help a woman like Louisa, a woman who likes to understand. Without knowledge resolution she must suffer!”Thomas took a deep breath. Em could sense that he was preparing his speech. “Mrs Benson, we the friends and servants of Lady Louisa know very little of her fianc.” He coughed. “Before we continue trying to find out who might have done this terrible thing, we must understand his . . . ” He looked at his boots and Em felt his confusion.“His background,” Mrs Benson supplied firmly. “Why, of course you must. It’s quite all right, Mr Meredith; I understand. My husband met Mr Delaine in London. Patrick was training to be a gunsmith, with the best company in the city. He advised my Joseph on all his hunting equipment, and Joe was impressed with the man’s skill and dedication. A gentleman must have a good relationship with his gun-maker, you know. Joe likes to joke that one never knows when weapons for a duel may be required.” She smiled faintly.“So, Joe had Patrick travel down to Sussex and come along on a hunt upon our land. I suppose you could say he was my husband’s protg, and in the end Joe took the man into his permanent employ as master of the hunt and gun warden, which is an exalted position. Patrick has no family; let us be frank here. His father was . . . unknown, and his mother died when he was an infant. Patrick worked his own way up from orphanage to errand boy to sweeping the floors at Kilkenny’s Gunsmith’s in High Holborn. He made no bones about his origins, and my husband holds him in high regard.” A stifled sob broke from Mrs Benson. “I mean, held him in high regard.”


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