Straw in the Wind

Straw in the Wind by Janet Woods

Book: Straw in the Wind by Janet Woods Read Free Book Online
Authors: Janet Woods
when he allowed his gaze to linger on her breasts. He smiled when she clutched her tattered cape against her bodice. ‘My pleasure, my dear.’
    It was a relief to get away from him. When she entered the kitchen, Maggie’s lips tightened. ‘I imagine you’ve just met Mr Frederick Milson and his sister? They came bowling up in the station cab about an hour ago. What did you think of them?’
    She managed a wry smile.
    â€˜Well, all I can say is, thank goodness the master will be arriving tomorrow.’

Six
London
    Dear Mr Chapman,
    We met recently at the opening of the Thornton emporium. I’m acquainted with your delightful sister, Miss Chapman, who was a gracious guest at an afternoon tea hosted by my sister and me.
    Yesterday, I came across a small notice in the local paper requesting information about a certain infant who was left at a certain orphanage on a certain day, and mentioning a certain reward. I would be grateful if you would keep the following information confidential.
    A dam winced. Did Lucy Stanhope need to dramatize her prose by the use of verbal dittos?
    Celia smiled at him and raised an eyebrow.
    â€˜Lucy Stanhope is being a bloodhound,’ he told her, and dabbed his mouth with a napkin.
    â€˜Ah, one of the dreaded gossip sisters,’ Celia said with a grimace.
    â€˜Hush, Celia. How can you be so mean about them when they inform me that you’re a gracious and delightful creature.’
    Celia grinned at him. ‘That was a state that was unbelievably difficult to achieve and maintain at the time, believe me. Does Miss Lucy have any information? As I told you, her sister was reluctant to say anything, though they were as nervous as hens and you could see they were dying to lay their eggs and cluck loudly.’ She sighed. ‘Failing to get them to talk proved to me that my detecting abilities are without merit at present.’
    â€˜Marianne was of the opinion that it was because her husband had put Agnes and Lucy Stanhope firmly in their place, and had been rather forceful about it.’
    â€˜What does the woman have to say for herself?’
    Adam quickly read the rest of the letter, then his eyes sharpened. ‘Apart from what we already know, she says that when Constance Jarvis was taken ill and it became apparent that she wouldn’t survive, her coachman and his wife moved to a farm in Gloucester. She writes:
They already had two children of their own, a girl and a boy. But a former maid who visited her there told Lucy that she saw two girls living with them
,
and they were of a similar age
.’ Taking his eyes from the words he gazed up at her, smiling. ‘This is progress, something you paved the way for since your presence at their tea party gave them the means to approach me.’
    â€˜Perhaps the person who told Lucy Stanhope made a mistake.’
    â€˜You mean the maid might have been cross-eyed and saw the same girl twice?’ He laughed. ‘That’s possible, but not many people are unable to count past two. The maid also told her that the girl looked like Constance Jarvis’s young ward. The couple denied it though, saying she was their niece.’
    â€˜Isn’t it possible that she
was
their niece?’ Celia laughed when she saw the gleam in her brother’s eyes. ‘I can see that the letter has piqued your interest, since your nose is twitching, as Marianne once pointed out. Out with it then, Adam.’
    â€˜It was rumoured that the farm was bought with a legacy from Miss Jarvis. She believes the place was called Tumblesham, and it was situated in the Forest of Dean area.’
    â€˜Are you going there?’
    â€˜I most certainly am. You can handle the office for a short while, and if you can’t, you have plenty of competent help at hand. I shouldn’t be more than three days.’
    â€˜What was the name of the coachman; did Miss Lucy say?’
    â€˜Christopher Fenn. His wife was

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