A Time Like No Other

A Time Like No Other by Audrey Howard

Book: A Time Like No Other by Audrey Howard Read Free Book Online
Authors: Audrey Howard
becoming increasingly necessary as the good linen purchased when Chris Fraser’s grandmother was a bride was beginning to wear out. She sniffed disparagingly in reply to Lally’s question, her head bent, and when both Roly and Lally studied her with an expression on each face that told her she was expected to leave the room, she ignored it. She did not trust Roly Sinclair. She, like his brother, did not believe he would deliberately hurt her lovely lass, but his thoughtless commandeering of her young mistress when he was home was downright wicked. She was a young widow with two small children and until her period of mourning was over should keep to the seclusion of her own home and should she venture out in her carriage it should be in the company of another woman, preferably a relative, or with a family retainer. Such as herself.
    Lally was looking exceptionally lovely this evening. Her gown was of a blue so pale that it merged into smoke-grey. It was a muslin, soft and fine with flounces rippling down her body and flowing behind her in a train, totally unsuitable for a widow, as Biddy had told her as she helped her to dress but the girl had pleaded passionately.
    ‘Biddy, let me wear it, there’s a dear. There’s only you and me to see it and I’m sick and tired of this terrible black.’
    ‘But black suits you, my lamb. With your colouring and—’
    ‘Rubbish, I’m not fair enough. Only those with golden curls can look good in black. Anyway, I shall wear it this evening whatever you say and tomorrow I’m going to ride over to Harry’s mill and beg him to come and do the rounds with me on the estate. I’m sure with the money that is being put into the farms the tenants will prosper but I need Harry to—’
    ‘Let Carly ride over there and fetch him, lass. There’s no need for you to go gallivanting about the moors . . .’
    The argument had continued until Lally sat down to her evening meal, alone, for there was one thing that Biddy would not do and that was sit down with her at table as though they were equals. Miss Lally was the mistress of this house and the estate, and servants did not dine with their masters or mistresses.
    But she was prepared to dismiss this rule when it came to the period after dinner when she and her young mistress spent the hours before bedtime in a companionable ‘chin-wag’ as Biddy put it. Not that Miss Lally had much to say, for as she told Biddy you had to have been somewhere, or spoken to someone during the day and she went nowhere and spoke to no one other than the children and the servants from one week’s end to the next.
    ‘That Roly Sinclair had enough to say when he was here t’other day,’ Biddy began, but Lally interrupted her coldly, telling her it was nothing to do with her when Roly came or how many times and it was at that moment that the man himself was shown into the room.
    Lally had been playing with the boys before dinner, or rather having a rough and tumble with Jamie watched by a vastly disapproving Alec who could not see why he should be excluded from the fun. There had been a great deal of squealing, some of it coming from herself as Jamie dragged her under the red plush cloth that covered the nursery table, while Alec, who at five months was just beginning to wobble to a sitting position, fell over with a roar of rage. One of the flounces on her lovely dress was torn and her hair stood out in a halo of dark curls as a plump baby hand sank into it.
    ‘Oh, madam,’ Dora kept reiterating, ‘mind yer frock an’ watch bairn or ’e’ll get trodden on . . . oh, madam . . . now, Master Jamie, don’t pull yer mama’s frock . . .’ and soon all four were engaged in a glorious free-for-all which Dora described later to the other servants as a ‘right bit o’ fun’ but what that there Mr Sinclair would think to it, him bein’ a bit of a dried-up old stick, didn’t bear thinking about. They all knew what she meant, for though Mr Sinclair

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