Kate Malvern, rescued from penury by her aunt Minerva, finds the grand household at Staplewood very unhomelike — even family dinners are formal. When she begins to suspect the shocking reason for Minerva’s generosity, there is no one to confide in.
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Author of over fifty books, Georgette Heyer is the best-known and best-loved of all historical novelists, making the Regency period her own. Her first novel, The Black Moth, published in 1921, was written at the age of fifteen to amuse her convalescent brother; her last was My Lord John. Although most famous for her historical novels, she also wrote eleven detective stories. Georgette Heyer died in 1974 at the age of seventy-one. Also available soon in Arrow by Georgette Heyer: June 2005 A Civil Contract (ISBN 0099474441) The Spanish Bride (ISBN 009947445X) Lady of Quality (ISBN 0099474468) False Colours (ISBN 0099476339)April Lady (ISBN 0099476347) Sprig Muslin (ISBN 0099476355) October 2005 The Toll-Gate (0099476363) The Quiet Gentleman (0099476371) Pistols for Two (ISBN 009947638X) Royal Escape (ISBN 0099476398) Masqueraders (ISBN 0099476436) Jennifer Kloester: Georgette Heyer's Regency World (William Heinemann) January 2006 My Lord John (ISBN 0099476428) The Conqueror (ISBN 0099490927) Simon the Coldheart (ISBN 0099490943) Beauvallet (ISBN 0099490935).Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Excerpt from Chapter One
At no time during the twenty-four hours was the Bull and Mouth Inn a place of quiet or repose, and by ten o'clock in the morning, when the stage-coach from Wisbech, turning top-heavily out of Aldersgate, lumbered into its yard, it seemed, to one weary and downcast passenger at least, to be crowded with vehicles of every description, from a yellow-bodied post-chaise to a wagon, with its shafts cocked up and the various packages and bundles it carried strewn over the yard. All was bustle and confusion; and for a few minutes Miss Malvern, climbing down from the coach, was bewildered by it, and stood looking round her rather helplessly. Until the guard dumped at her feet the small corded trunk which contained her worldly possessions and advised her to look sharp to it, no one paid the least attention to her, except an ostler leading out two horses, and adjuring her to get out of the way, and one of the inevitable street-vendors who haunted busy inn-yards, begging her to buy some gingerbread. The guard, assailed by demands from several anxious travellers to have their bags and bandboxes restored to them immediately, had little time to spare, but Miss Malvern's flower-like countenance, and her air of youthful innocence, impelled him to ask her if anyone was meeting her. When she shook her head, he clicked his tongue disapprovingly, and expressed a hope that she might at least know where she was a-going to.
A gleam of amusement lightened the shadows in Miss Malvern's large gray eyes; she replied, with a tiny chuckle: 'Oh, yes! I do know that!'
'What you want, missy, is a hack!' said the guard.
'No, I don't: I want a porter!' said Miss Malvern, speaking with unexpected decision.
The guard seemed to be inclined to argue this point, but as a stout lady was tugging at his coat-tails, shrilly demanding to know what he had done with a basket of fish consigned to
his care, he was obliged to abandon Miss Malvern to her fate, merely shouting in stentorian accents for a porter to carry the young lady's trunk.
This summons was responded to by a burly individual in a frieze coat, who undertook, for the sum of sixpence, to carry Miss Malvern's trunk to the warehouse of Josiah Nidd & Son, Carriers. Since this establishment was situated a bare quarter of a mile from the Bull and Mouth, Miss Malvern had a shrewd suspicion that she was being grossly overcharged; but although an adventurous youth spent in following the drum had accustomed her to haggling with Portuguese farmers and Spanish muleteers, she did not feel inclined to embark on argument in a crowded London inn-yard, so she agreed the price, and desired the porter to lead her to the warehouse.
The premises acquired some years earlier by Mr Nidd and his son had originally been an inn, of neither the size nor the quality of the Bull and Mouth, but, like it, provided with a galleried yard, and a number of stables and coach-houses. Occupying a large part of the yard was an enormous wagon mounted on nine-inch cylindrical wheels, and covered by a spreading tilt. Three brawny lads were engaged in loading this vehicle with a collection of goods ranging from pack-cases to farm-implements, their activities being directed, and shrilly criticized, by an aged gentleman, who was seated on the balcony on one side of the yard. Beneath this balcony a glass door had once invited entrance to the coffee-room, but this had been replaced by a green-painted wooden door, flanked by tubs filled with geraniums, and furnished with a bright brass knocker, indicating that the erstwhile hostelry had become a private residence. Picking her way between the piles of packages, and directing the porter to follow her, Miss Malvern went to it, lifting its latch without ceremony, and stepping into a narrow passage, from which a door gave access into the old coffeeroom, and a flight of uneven stairs rose to the upper floors. The trunk set down, and the porter dismissed, Miss Malvern heaved a sigh of relief, as of one who had accomplished an enterprise fraught with peril, and called: 'Sarah?'
No immediate response being forthcoming, she called again, more loudly, and moved to the foot of the stairs. But even as she set her foot on the bottom step, a door at the end of the passage burst open, and a lady in a flowered print dress, with an old-fashioned tucker round her ample bosom, and a starched muslin cap tied in a bow beneath her chin, stood as though stunned on the threshold, and gasped: 'Miss Kate! It's never you! Oh, my dearie, my precious lambkin!'
She started forward, holding out her plump arms, and Miss Malvern, laughing and crying, tumbled into them, hugging her, and uttering disjointedly: 'Oh, Sarah, oh, Sarah! To be with you again! I've been thinking of nothing else, all the way! Oh, Sarah, I'm so tired, and dispirited, and there was nowhere else for me to go, but indeed I don't mean to impose on you, or on poor Mr Nidd! Only until I can find another situation!'
Several teardrops stood on Mrs Nidd's cheeks, but she said in a scolding voice: 'Now, that's no way to talk, Miss Kate, and well you know it! And where else should you go, I should like to know? Now, you come into the kitchen, like a good girl, while I pop the kettle on, and cut some bread-and-butter!'
Miss Malvern dried her eyes, and sighed: 'Oh, dear, would you have believed I could be so ticklish? It was such a horrid journey — six of us inside! — and no time to swallow more than a sip of coffee when we stopped for breakfast.'
Mrs Nidd, leading her into the kitchen, and thrusting her into a chair, demanded: 'Are you telling me you came on the common stage, Miss Kate?'
'Yes, of course I did. Well, you couldn't expect them to have sent me by post, could you? And if you're thinking of the Mail, I am excessively glad they didn't send me by that either, because it reached London just after four o'clock in the morning! What should I have done?'(20090527)
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Book Description Arrow Books, 1992. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 99850109