I’ve told Bridges that you’re in charge of gentling that stallion. Spend as much time as you can with him. I’ve also told Bridges he is to teach you to drive a horse in harness. And I’ll see … ’
    We were interrupted by a knock at the door. The footman opened it and an elderly man looked in. He was bent with age, leaning on an ebony cane, but I could see he had once been a tall, strong man. His shoulders were still broad, though stooped. He was dressed in black satin breeches, a fine embroidered waistcoat, and a green velvet coat that looked like it cost a year’s wages at least, plus a quantity of costly lace. His eyes, in his lined face, still burned bright and fierce and he wore a very grand, long powdered wig.
    The man looked past me at Mr Lawrence. ‘I say, John, have you heard that that damned fool … Good God!’
    The elderly man wrinkled his face in disgust and producing a large lace-edged pocket-handkerchief, held it to his nose. He regarded me over it with considerable displeasure. I could smell the lavender scent it was drenched in from where I stood.
    ‘What the devil is this?’ the elderly man demanded.
    ‘Our newest acquisition, my lord,’ replied Lawrence. ‘This is young Charlie. I’m planning to make him my personal groom once Bridges has trained him up. He has quite a gift with horses.’
    ‘He looks far too young to me! And what the devil is he doing in my house? Can’t you speak to him in the stables if you need to give him instructions? He reeks and I daresay he’s dirtied the carpet besides.’
    ‘I removed my muddy boots,’ I offered, then blushed, realizing I shouldn’t have spoken uninvited. ‘Sir!’ I added belatedly. It was clear to me that this was the master of the house; the owner of all this grandeur.
    ‘You are to address Lord Rutherford as “my lord”,’ Lawrence informed me. ‘He is the gentleman who will be paying your wages.’
    There was a slight laugh in Lawrence’s voice, but I didn’t dare respond to it. Instead I bowed and said earnestly, ‘I’m sorry, my lord.’
    ‘There you are you see,’ said Lawrence. ‘He’s perfectly civilized. And he took his boots off,’ He looked amused again, his eyes on me rather than his employer. ‘You may go now, Charlie. I daresay I’ll see you in a day or so. Remember to spend time with that stallion!’
    He nodded to dismiss me, and I slipped thankfully out of the room. The cooler air in the corridor was soothing to my hot cheeks. The old man stuck his head out of the door. ‘Make sure you escort him right out of the house,’ he said to the waiting footman. ‘Keep an eye on him!’
    The suggestion that I would steal valuables from the house was deeply offensive to me. But I bit my lip and kept quiet, following the haughty footman down the carpeted corridor and back to the kitchen.
    A buxom cook asked me my name on the way out. ‘I’m Charlie,’ I told her.
    ‘New are you? Here you are then, Charlie,’ she said in a motherly way, and pressed a hot bun into my hand. ‘I know boys your age are always hungry and you’re far too thin!’ I smiled and thanked her. There were distinct advantages to being a boy.
    I was eating the bun and, mindful of my instructions, heading for Pitch’s box to spend some time with him when Bridges spotted me. ‘Boy!’ he called. ‘There’s a harness needs cleaning in the tack room. Off you go!’
    I hesitated a moment, wondering whether I should remind him of both my name and the duties Lawrence had just given me. The look on his face was forbidding, however, so I turned and made meekly for the tack room instead.
    Ben was already in there, soaping the harness that had been used when the gig had been sent into the Bath for supplies. Items such as candles, sugar, oil, and wine had to be bought, but I’d learned that a great deal of the food eaten in the house was grown here on the estate. There was a thriving home farm just across the valley. The farm my mother wrote

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