The Nursemaid and the Stoic Duke – Extended Epilogue


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Clumber Estate, Nottinghamshire May 2021

The Duchess of Newcastle was sleeping soundly, dreaming about when she had frolicked amongst the apple blossom that first time, not long after she arrived at Clumber two years earlier. As though it was yesterday, she could still feel the spring sunshine gently whispering against her face and the sweet smell of the flowers tickling at her nose. Indeed, she was enjoying herself so much that she smiled. And then she giggled.

“Happy first wedding anniversary, my love,” said her husband’s voice into her ear. Then he dropped a light kiss on her forehead.

Anna stirred. Blinking once, she gazed happily into her husband’s bright blue eyes. There was a sight she would never tire of first thing in the morning. “And the same to you,” she replied sleepily. She yawned, blinked her eyes again, and sat up in the bed, propping herself against the soft pillows.

“You were having a dream,” he said with a smile. “You were laughing.”

Anna’s mouth dropped open in surprise. “Surely I did not laugh out loud?”

“You most certainly did, my love,” he replied.

Anna felt her face flush with embarrassment, but her husband simply looked amused.

“What is the plan for today?” he asked, looking towards the window. Sunlight poured into the room. For this reason, Anna always insisted that the curtains were opened last thing at night, before they fell to sleep, so that the morning sun could wake them, and she would not miss a single moment of every day in this wonderful place.

Matthew climbed out of bed and started to dress himself. Without waiting for her reply, he continued. “I should like to check that the marquee is still standing,” he said. “Do not let this fine weather fool you. We had some terrible winds during the night. I am only surprised that you managed to sleep through it.”

“I always sleep well, my love,” she reminded him. Even when she had been a servant at Clumber House, she’d had to train herself to listen out for the baby’s cry in the night. Otherwise, she would have slept right through it.

Matthew finished dressing and came and planted another kiss on her mouth. “You also snore well!” he reminded her with a laugh.

“I do not snore!” she replied. Then, in answer to his question, she said, “Isabelle is bringing Elaine over later on this morning. Maeve and Lawrence should also be arriving at around the same time.”

“And they are bringing the baby?”

“They are.” Both Anna and Matthew were looking forward to meeting their new nephew for the first time, but Anna was also looking forward to spending some time with her sister-in-law, her niece, her sister and her brother-in-law.

“And what of the guests?” he asked. “What time do we expect the others to arrive?” He fastened his cufflinks and tied his cravat, giving himself a quick once-over in the floor-length mirror. Then he quickly brushed at his hair with his hands.

Anna sighed. “How easily you seem to forget things!” she teased him. “I told you all of this only yesterday.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I will have to check with Mrs Yates,” she said. “The housekeeper has organised everything. However, I believe that the first guests will be here at around three o’clock.”

“That is late,” said Matthew, frowning. “Are they not coming in time for luncheon?”

Anna shook her head. “Mrs Withers has arranged a kind of tea, with sandwiches and cakes, to be served at around four o’clock. The musicians will be here by then as well, so we can have an early evening dance.”

“You seem to have everything in hand,” he said.

“It is what I am here for,” she said from the bed, still smiling.

He came towards her once again to claim another kiss. One of the things she loved about him was this apparent inability to get up in the morning without kissing her at least half a dozen times.

“And I must go and check that marquee,” he said, finally tearing himself away.

As he left the room, Pauline the maid came in, carrying Anna’s breakfast tray. She placed it across the duchess’s lap and turned to look out of the window. “It is a lovely day for your celebration, Your Grace,” she said.

Anna smiled and nodded. “Every day is a lovely day at Clumber.”

Since Nellie had gone to Lennox House with Isabelle as her official lady’s maid, along with the formerly disgraced Ursula, whom Isabelle had agreed to take back, Pauline was now the most senior of the household maids, and she took her responsibilities very seriously indeed.

After she had gone, Anna looked down at her food. Her appetite had strangely deserted her. But with a busy day ahead, she needed to eat, if only to keep up her strength. And so, she forced the first bite down and slowly followed it with another, and another. When she could stomach no more, she pushed the tray away. I do hope that I am not coming down with something, she thought to herself. Not today, of all days.

***

By the time the Dowager Countess of Lennox arrived with Lady Elaine, an hour later, Anna was up and dressed and in the midst of finalising preparations for the party. Her arms were filled with flowers that the gardener had brought to the house at the same time that Isabelle’s carriage arrived.

The door to the carriage burst open, and the footman only made it just in time to catch the toddler as she tried to jump to the ground. He placed her carefully on the ground, and she rushed towards her Aunt Anna. When she fell over, Anna dropped the flowers to the ground and rushed towards her, at about the same time that Isabelle did the same. However, little Elaine got to her feet, wavered for only a moment, then was holding her arms out for Anna to pick her up.

“Hello, my sweet,” said Anna, lifting the child into her arms. She rubbed at a graze on the girl’s chin, but all Elaine did was pull her face away and chunter something in her own private language.

“She is a handful,” said Anna to Isabelle.

“She is that,” replied her sister-in-law.

“She does look well, though,” said Anna, ever the nursemaid. “You both do.”

“Thank you,” smiled Isabelle.

The two women brushed the other’s cheek with their lips, then Isabelle relieved Anna of her charge, placing her carefully back on her feet. “She is old enough to walk,” she said, holding her daughter firmly by the hand.

As they went towards the house, Anna stooped down to pick up the flowers that she had dropped. But as she went to stand upright again, the mighty front garden at Clumber became a blur, and she almost fainted.

Isabelle held firmly onto her arm. “Are you all right, Anna?” she asked. “You just turned as white as a sheet.”

“I am a little dizzy,” replied the duchess. “I did not manage to eat all of my breakfast this morning, and now I believe that I am paying for it.”

“Oh dear,” said Isabelle. “That does not sound very good. Does Matthew know?”

“No, he does not,” Anna replied quickly. “And I would prefer it to remain that way, for today at least.”

“But if you are ill, dear….”

“No,” she replied. “I insist.”

Isabelle pressed her lips together. However, she kept hold of her sister-in-law’s arm with one hand and her daughter’s hand with the other.

Once they were firmly ensconced in the red drawing room, with a pot of tea on the table, Isabelle looked around them with pleasure.

“It is much brighter in here,” she said. “And yet I do not see anything missing.”

Elaine played with a doll on the floor and chortled happily.

“We simply painted over the red walls with this pale pink,” said Anna, flapping her hands at the room in general. “Oh, and Matthew removed most of his books to either the library or his study. Many of them went upstairs into the attic for storage. However, all of the furniture is the same.” She rubbed her hand on the soft red upholstery of the settee that sat behind the door screen.

Isabelle looked at the screen. “You have whitewashed this too,” she pointed out.

“Oh yes,” said Anna, remembering how dark and dour everything had been before. The room had always been cosy, though, and she had managed to retain that at least. “Do you like it?”

“I do,” agreed the dowager countess, nodding her approval. “It is my own favourite room in the house. I particularly like to look out at the lake at the end of the promenade.”

“I think that it is one of my favourite spots at Clumber too,” agreed Anna, following her sister-in-law’s eyes to the vista at the rear of the house.

Elaine pushed herself up from the floor and wobbled over to the window. However, she was still too small to look out, and she turned to her mother, holding her arms out to be picked up. Isabelle did as she was bid, and the child pointed at the ducks.

“She does like to see the ducks,” laughed her mother.

There was a commotion from the hallway, and before Anna knew it, her sister Maeve breezed into the room. Everyone greeted each other, exchanging kisses and laughter, and Maeve picked Elaine up and whirled her around over her head before placing her back down on the rug with her doll. It was all getting a bit much for Elaine, though. She stopped laughing, pouted, and her face threatened tears. Anna was quick, and she scooped her up onto her lap, where Elaine instantly reached out for her beaded necklace.

Over the top of her niece’s blonde, curly head, Anna said to Maeve, “Where is my nephew?”

Maeve dropped down into an armchair and huffed out a breath. “He is with his father and his uncle. They are looking at the marquee together, inspecting something or other. Though why he thinks that a newborn would be remotely interested in such things is beyond me.”

Anna filled her in on Matthew’s worries about the marquee following the previous night’s winds.

“I missed it all, apparently,” she said.

“I did not,” said Maeve. “I could hardly sleep a wink at the inn, between the howling wind and a howling child.”

“Do you have a name for him yet?” asked Isabelle.

Maeve met her eye. “We are calling him George Arthur,” she said proudly.

Anna felt a tear prick at her eye. “You have named him for our father?” she asked, feeling weepy all of a sudden.

“We have named him for our father, Anna,” she agreed, “and for Lawrence’s father, Arthur.”

“Oh,” said Anna, unable to quell the flow now. “That is so… so… lovely.” And she sniffed.

Maeve frowned at her sister and then threw a querying glance at Lady Isabelle. The latter, however, shrugged her shoulders and placed a finger to her lips for Maeve to not mention it. Anna watched it all through blurry tears, and she smiled.

“I do n-n-not know w-w-what is w-w-wrong w-w-with me,” she gulped. Then she spotted the knowing looks between her sister and her sister-in-law. And then something clicked inside her head. The other two women noticed that too, but it was Anna’s sister who was brave enough to say something.

“Honestly, Anna. And you being a nurse too.” She tutted and rolled her eyes.

“D-d-do n-n-not tell M-m-matthew…” she stammered.

Maeve looked at Isabelle and raised an eyebrow. Isabelle said, “I already have my orders!” And she ran a finger across her lips, miming that she was to keep quiet.

“Please,” said Anna, beginning to compose herself again. “Do you have any gossip? I find I need to have my mind otherwise engaged.”

Maeve took a deep breath and sat back in her chair. “Well…Victoria is getting married.” She turned to Isabelle to explain. “Victoria Plummer. She is my business partner.”

“I remember,” said Isabelle.

“Oh yes, we were all supposed to be coming here for a holiday,” said Maeve.

“That is good news at least,” said Anna, smiling now and wiping her eyes with a handkerchief. “Is that all you have?”

“Lady Clara Whitman is apparently married,” continued Maeve.

“To her baron?” asked Isabelle. “I cannot remember the last time I heard her name.”

Anna preferred to remain silent on the topic of Lady Clara.

Maeve nodded. “Yes, they had a long engagement. Rumour has it that she was waiting for a better offer.”

“Or waiting for my brother to come to his senses and change his mind about her again,” said Isabelle with a laugh.

“It would have required a divorce first,” said Anna snarkily. Then she clamped her mouth shut as she saw that look between the other two women again.

“I apologise, sister,” said Maeve. “I should not have mentioned her name.”

Anna flapped a hand. “It is of no odds. I understand that the man is somewhat smitten.”

“I have heard that too,” said Maeve. “However, I cannot think of anything else…” She racked her brains for a few moments and hummed as she did so.

It mattered not, for Matthew appeared at the screen in front of the doorway, accompanied by Lawrence Young, his London agent and Maeve’s husband. And the latter was carefully carrying a bundle of swaddling in his arms.

Anna jumped to her feet, in part to greet her brother-in-law, but in truth to see the baby. Lawrence turned to greet her, pride all over his face and a big, wide smile that almost went from ear to ear. He started to hold the child out for her inspection when the smile froze on his face, and Anna crashed to the floor, feeling a sharp pain in her temple as her head connected with a table leg.

And then it all went dark.

***

“Mr Gordon!” Matthew shouted into the corridor. “Mr Gordon!” Within a moment, the butler arrived, shuffling his feet in his haste. “Send one of the boys to fetch the doctor,” said the duke, kneeling on the floor now and lifting his wife’s lifeless body in his arms. He touched her temple where an open wound was bleeding. Then he touched her face and her lips, spreading the blood as he did so.

“Matthew, I…” said Lady Isabelle, rushing to pick Elaine up off the floor.

Matthew held out a hand to silence her. Whatever she had to say, he was not interested. He glanced around the room at the others.

Poor Lawrence simply stood there for a moment, still holding his arms out slightly with the baby in them. Maeve got up out of her armchair, relieved her husband of his burden and cradled the infant in the crook of one arm.

“She was so happy,” said Lawrence. “And then she turned white. She literally turned white.”

“Lawrence,” said Maeve gently, touching his arm with her free hand. She shook her head slightly.

“But her head?” he said.

“She will be fine,” she replied. She and Isabelle locked eyes, and Matthew wondered briefly what they were trying to convey to Lawrence. To Isabelle, Maeve said, “Perhaps we should take the children upstairs to the nursery.”

Isabelle nodded her head and led the way. Lawrence remained with Matthew, who was now trying to lift his wife whilst at the same time clambering to his feet.

“Let me help you,” said the agent, but Matthew pushed him away and struggled on.

He carried Anna in his arms out of the room, up the stairs and into their bedroom, where he laid her gently on the bed, with Lawrence close behind for fear of Matthew slipping and falling himself. Now Matthew knelt on the floor and picked up one of Anna’s hands in his, staring at her face, willing her to open those beautiful grey eyes.

***

The two men waited in the front parlour whilst the doctor examined the duchess. Of the ladies and the children, there was no sign.

“He is taking so long!” declared Matthew, pacing up and down, his heels clunking on the floorboards one moment, and thunking on the rug the next. “What on earth is he doing up there?”

“She is in safe hands,” said Lawrence, patting his friend on the shoulder. “At least she regained consciousness when he arrived.”

Matthew stopped his pacing and looked at the other man. “Yes, yes! She did.” He ran a hand through his hair, stared unseeingly out of the front window, and resumed his pacing. Thud! Thud! Thud! Thunk! Thunk! Thud!

Behind them, at the door, a man cleared his throat, and the two gentlemen span around on their heels to face him.

“How is she?” asked Matthew, noting a slightly amused expression on the doctor’s face.

“She has a slight concussion,” he said at last, coming into the room.

“But why did she fall?” asked Lawrence.

Now the doctor nodded, and Matthew started to get cross. “I must say that you do not seem at all concerned, sir,” he said with annoyance.

The doctor addressed the duke. “And I must say that there seems to be an awful lot of fuss—”

“My wife collapsed, doctor,” said Matthew through clenched teeth, also clenching his fists as he did so. He felt Lawrence shift by his side and step a little closer. “She hit her head and… the blood?” He looked at Lawrence. “There was so much blood!”

The doctor coughed again. “As I say, she has a slight concussion, and I would prefer it if she was not allowed to fall asleep. At least not for a good two hours, if possible. However…” he cleared his throat.

“Oh, do get on with it, man,” said Matthew. He was growing more and more impatient by the second.

“Well,” said the doctor, pausing yet again, this time for dramatic effect as he arranged the words in his head. “The former nursemaid will very soon be caring for a child of her own.”

The statement was met by stunned silence. Then Lawrence barked out a laugh. “Why, that is splendid news!”

Unfortunately, Matthew was a beat or two behind him. And then it dawned on him what the doctor had said. “She will?” he asked. The doctor nodded and wrung his hands together with glee before picking his bag up from where he had dropped it on the floor. “When?” asked Matthew.

“Oh, I would say in approximately… six months’ time.”

Matthew did a quick calculation. “A November baby?”

“A November baby,” agreed the doctor.

As Lawrence congratulated Matthew and patted him on the back again, Matthew’s impatience turned to joy, and the doctor quietly left the two gentlemen to their celebrations.

THE END


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59 thoughts on “The Nursemaid and the Stoic Duke – Extended Epilogue”

  1. This was such a great story that I could not stop reading. All the ups and downs and the misunderstandings really keeps one on edge. I do have one specific note: the date at the top of the extended epilogue is about 200 years off – lol. Instead of 1821 is shows 2021 (this current year) and I had to read it several times to make sure I had read it correctly. This is another great book and I thank you so much for it, Bridget Barton.

  2. Awesome book Bridget Barton, I loved reading Anna and Matthew’s story. The twists and turns kept me turning the pages. Only thing that really surprised me was the extended epilogue’s date of 2021. Great book and well written!

  3. I truly enjoyed this novel. It was well written and filled with sweet emotion. I love thses books with just pure love

  4. Thank you Bridget for another wonderful story, I do enjoy your books, they are full of such realistic characters and their lives that you are drawn into their world from beginning to end. I think the extended epilogue are wonderful too, they give a lovely sense of completeness to the story, leaving your readers happy knowing the characters are continuing their lives once the final page is turned

  5. Another delightful story of rambling suspense and joyful romance. I’ve read all of the author’s book, and this one in particular is in the top 10 percent for sure.

    Thanks for entertaining me so thoroughly, Bridget Barton!

  6. This is another wonderful book by Bridget Barton A love between Anna and Matthew is heartwarming I enjoyed reading

  7. I wasn’t all that impressed as other readers. The book dragged on and on. I jumped to the epilogue, meh. Then read a waste of time extended epilogue.

  8. I hope you do a sequel for Izabel to find a new love.

    This was very good story that I didn’t want o end.

  9. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, & I did love the fact that they both came out & expressed their feelings of love to each other, albeit by mail. I must say that I was disappointed that Matthew chose to propose by mail, maybe it wasn’t so uncommon then but I think a marriage proposal should always be in person!
    I’d have to say this was one of the nicest & easiest books I have read in a long while. Thank you so much.

  10. I absolutely loved this book. I couldn’t wait to see how it ended and if Matthew ever got rid of Lady Clara. Thanks for allowing me to read this book and evaluate it.

  11. Thank you for the extended epilogue. My favorite kind has toddlers, or the expectation of toddlers.

  12. Sitting here with a big smile in my face despite an aching broken ankle This is a lovely story. It’s so nice to be transported to another world and time when our current reality can seem a bit grim. Thank you Bridget.

  13. This was a great find! Thoroughly enjoyed this historical novel! The back and forth and up and down of the story plot kept me finding it hard to lay it down. I would enjoy hearing how Lady Isabelle’s future turns out, but maybe there isn’t enough for a full blown novel there…

  14. This enthralling, entertaining, poignant Romance is sure to please lovers of sweet and clean Regency historical romances Loved the Extended epilogue too.

  15. I loved this story about Matthew and Anna, really well written and kept me wanting to keeping reading, which is a good gauge in my opinion, many thanks

  16. This was a great novel that I couldn’t put it down . Lived through it with Anna and Mathew…
    Thank you so much Bridget Barton..
    I am a big fan of yours. Hope to read more of your novels all the time .
    Yours truly,
    Asti Gulbey

  17. A lovely sweet and clean story with lovely characters to read about,what more can you ask .Thank you for the lovely story

  18. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story of Anna and Matthew. I loved that even though society would not have accepted their relationship, Matthew and Anna remained true to themselves and married for love. Lady Clara was such a mean and vindictive woman. I can truly say that I disliked her very much and was pleased that she was unable to snare Matthew no matter what she did. Thank you for the extended epilogue. It’s nice knowing what happens next in the lives of the characters.

  19. I loved the story, but expected a confrontation & set down of Lady Clara by the Duke. I felt that was skipped over. I also wished the extended epilogue had ended with the Duke & Anna, rather than how it ended.

  20. The story of Mathew and Ana was lovely and I really liked it. However, I didn’t like the beginning of the book. The trip from London to the dukedom was too detailed. The actual story begins when they first meet and from that point on it flows well. One thing I thought was confusing was how you talked about the hardship Isabella went through to get to safety at her brothers estate which implied distance but then you tell us the estates are neighboring and share a chapel. Perhaps you changed your mind but you should have revised what you wrote previously. I also didn’t like the proposal in a letter. The date on the epilogue is obviously wrong but you should be able to go back in and fix it. The rest of the epilogue is fine but instead of the doctor telling him that Anna is expecting a baby, you should have let Anna tell Mathew that. The announcement of the pregnancy should have been a special moment between them.

  21. A great book. Loved the twists and tangles in the relationship between Anna and Matthew. Very sweet.

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