The Adultress

The Adultress by Philippa Carr Read Free Book Online

Book: The Adultress by Philippa Carr Read Free Book Online
Authors: Philippa Carr
room which I remembered we used for meals when there were a few of us. Yes, they had called it the winter parlor.
    I sat down uneasily. It was all so different from what I had expected.
    Of course, I told myself, it would all have been so different if that horse had not cast a shoe and we had arrived at a reasonable time. Then Lord Eversleigh would not have gone to bed. He would have given me the welcome I was expecting. After all, it had been his idea that I should come. Delays on the road were frequent—any little mishap could mean delay. I guessed he had thought we would arrive tomorrow. It was odd, though, that, he had had no preparations made for our stay.
    I sat down and one of the maids came in to light the candelabrum.
    I said to her: “Have you been here long?”
    “About two years, my lady.”
    “The same as Mistress … Stirling.”
    “Yes, soon after her. We were most of us new then.”
    She looked at me apologetically and hurried out. All new when Mistress Stirling came. This was becoming a rather strange situation.
    A maid, accompanied by Mistress Stirling, came in bringing a tray on which were cold venison and a piece of pie.
    Mistress Stirling, whom I had begun to think of as Jessie, laid the tray on the table; I was very hungry but ever more curious. When the maid had gone Jessie sat opposite me and, leaning her arms on the table, stared at me while I ate.
    “When did his lordship write to you?” she asked.
    “Some weeks ago. It was to my mother that he wrote, as a matter of fact.”
    “To your mother … asking for you to visit.” She gave rather a nervous giggle. “Did he say what for?”
    “Oh well … we are of the same family. I suppose he felt it was a pity we did not meet more often.”
    A man put his head round the door.
    “You’m wanting me, Mistress Jessie.”
    “Oh, Jethro,” she said. “This lady’s come a visiting his lordship. One of his relations, she says.”
    “I am one of his closest living relations,” I said. “My name is Zipporah Ransome … Clavering, that was.”
    “Why, bless me,” said the old man, “if it’s not Miss Zipporah. I remember you well when you used to come to Eversleigh. Christmas, wasn’t it? … and sometime there be summer holidays and winter ones too. I can remember you, miss, as a little ’un. Good little thing you was.”
    I was more relieved. The situation was becoming more natural. I remembered him now. He was Jethro, who had been in charge of the horses—head groom, I suppose one would call him. He had always been a favorite of mine because I had loved horses.
    “Why, Jethro,” I cried, standing up, and we clasped hands.
    “Ah, ’tis good to see you here, Miss Zipporah. It must be years … And you a married lady now. Well, time do fly … and no mistake. And you’ve come to see his lordship?”
    “Jethro,” said Jessie. “I think you should go and make sure those grooms are settled. Have you given them something to eat?”
    “Well, there’s naught but bread and cheese and ale at this time of night. But they’m having some of that in the kitchen.”
    “And you can find somewhere for them to sleep.”
    Jethro nodded.
    “I’ll see ’ee tomorrow, perhaps, Mistress Zipporah.”
    He was looking at me earnestly and I, because of the strangeness of my reception, had the notion that he wanted to tell me something.
    He went out.
    “Gives himself airs because he’s been here so long,” said Jessie. “Some of them old codgers do. They fancy you can’t do without them. Well, his lordship for some reason thinks a powerful lot of Jethro.”
    “We all did … I remember. So much is coming back to me now I’m here.”
    “Well, get a good night’s rest, eh. I popped in to see his lordship but he’s sleeping like a baby. Once he wakes he’d never get to sleep again and then we’d have a fidgety old man the next day, I can promise you.”
    “Is he … very much of an … invalid?”
    “Lord bless you, no. Just feeble. Needs

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