London to Luton, 1819
The stagecoach was leaving so early from the White Horse Tavern in Fetter Lane that Anna Carter had had no option but to take a room at the inn for the night. She did not live too far from the central London coaching house, but to get there in good time to join the carriage would have meant leaving the home that she shared with her sister at midnight. And even then, she would be pushing it a little.
It was the first time she had ever stayed in a public house, obviously, as she had been properly brought up. She had arrived the previous evening, as late as possible so that she would not have to use the inn’s public rooms, with trepidation to say the least. However, she was surprised at how comfortable it was. The innkeeper’s wife had turned out to be a cheerful, rosy-faced soul who did her best to make Anna feel welcome. She did not seem to make presumptions about why Anna might be travelling alone in the first place.
“I expect that you have a lot of single ladies travelling from here,” Anna had said to the kindly woman upon registering her arrival, who had boomed with laughter.
“To say we get all sorts is putting it mildly,” laughed the matronly woman, patting Anna on the back of her hand, looking her up and down. “I can see what kind of lady you are, and no mistake,” she continued, taking in her well-made and not too shabby travelling outfit. “So, stop your worrying and try and get a good night’s sleep. Where are you travelling to in the morning?” she asked, glancing down at Anna’s luggage of two travelling satchels made from carpet, one large and one small.
Anna pressed her lips together. “Tomorrow, I go all the way to Luton. But my ultimate destination is a little place called Clumber in Nottinghamshire. Have you heard of it?”
The innkeeper’s wife frowned and shook her head. “Never been outside of London,” she said. “But Nottinghamshire sounds like a long way away.”
“It is apparently five days,” said Anna, causing the other woman to whistle in a most unladylike fashion, which made Anna smile. “I am taking the stagecoach to a place called Worksop where, I hope, my new employer will send a carriage to collect me.”
“Ah yes,” said the woman. “I have heard of Worksop. So, it is work you are going for?” asked the lady, glancing at Anna’s travelling credentials. She raised her eyebrows in surprise as she read the words. “And for a duke, no less.”
“That is correct,” said Anna, signing the piece of paper the woman had given her at the bottom. “The Duke of Newcastle has very kindly covered all of my travelling expenses.”
The landlady nodded. “Well, the knocker-upper will tap your window in good time for you to get washed and dressed. You have a seat inside the coach, so try not to keep the driver waiting.”
“Thank you,” smiled Anna, gathering up her luggage.
“You are in the room directly above the front entrance,” said the innkeeper’s wife. “Would you like some supper?”
Anna shook her head. “No, thank you. I have already eaten.”
“I will make a food parcel up for you and leave it outside your door,” she said, tapping Anna’s travel itinerary with a finger before handing it back to her. “Instructions from His Grace,” she winked.
Anna thanked her and made her way up to the room, which was clean and warm. However, she spent a restless night worrying about missing the coach in the morning.
She need not have worried at all, of course, for the knocker-upper did not simply ‘tap’ at her window, as the innkeeper’s wife had suggested he would, but had instead hit it so hard that Anna feared the glass might fall in. And the knocker-upper continued to knock until Anna herself appeared at the window and waved her thanks. She had hardly slept a wink, though, and had listened to the sounds of the city for most of the night with her blanket pulled right up to her chin. She quickly made herself presentable for the journey ahead.
True to the landlady’s word, there was a small parcel outside Anna’s door wrapped in brown parchment and tied with string, along with a fat-bellied bottle that was sealed with wax at the top. She tucked them into her smallest satchel and found her way outside, where she also found her fellow passengers. All eleven of them! A small crowd had also gathered to see them off or perhaps to see if there was any last-minute room. Two scruffy boys played with a hoop and a stick on the other side of the street, even at such an early hour.
The large blue and black stagecoach with big red wheels was already there too, standing at the kerb, along with four horses and one driver. The driver doffed his hat at her and took the larger of her two bags from her. Nodding at the smaller one, he said, “You will have to take that one inside with you, miss.”
Anna nodded back and squeezed into the carriage with four other passengers who had paid for the luxury of not travelling on the outside of the stagecoach. Two rather plump ladies squashed onto one of the seats, leaving Anna to wedge herself in between two gentlemen opposite. Fortunately, the three of them were not as large as the women travellers. But it was still a tight fit. Anna did not yet know whether or not the middle seat was the best, but at least she was facing the direction of travel. She did not know how she would fare if she had to sit with her back to the front of the carriage. Anna would have liked to have sat beside a window and watched the countryside roll by on her journey north, and she hoped that all of the passengers would not be going all of the way with her. Perhaps they will alight at Watford, she thought, for she had studied her route, and Watford was just under halfway between London and Luton.
Anna shivered as it started to rain big fat plops, and she felt sorry for the poor unfortunate passengers on the outside of the carriage. She could feel the difference as each one climbed aboard, for the entire coach ducked and bounced beneath the additional weight, and she wondered how seven people would distribute themselves on the outside of the vehicle. There was room for four or five of them to face each other on the back of the coach, above the luggage, but the others would no doubt have to sit next to the driver at the front.
She glanced at the gentleman on her right, who was an elderly chap with long white whiskers on his face and a large, veined nose. He nodded and smiled before pulling out a large newspaper and flapping it around. Anna flinched for fear of the paper whipping at her, and she shuffled a little closer to the other gentleman on her other side, who was still wearing a tall hat. This man gave her a sideways look before also shifting a little closer to the door, and he fixed his stare firmly through the window, resting his elbow on the door and his chin on his hand.
Anna sighed and looked across at her other fellow passengers. They looked as though they were mother and daughter. The older woman pulled out some knitting, resting her hands on her ample bosom as she began to click her extremely fine needles. It looked as though she was making a delicate christening gown. The younger woman simply stared at Anna. Anna gave her a little smile and was rewarded with a quick, pinched smile back. But the woman did not break her stare.
Anna shifted her position again slightly and pulled the small travel satchel closer to her stomach. She truly hoped that the other bag had been safely stowed beneath the seats at the back of the coach. Patting at the carpet material on her bag as if to reassure herself that her personal belongings, as well as the parcel from the inn, were safe, Anna tried to relax a little for the journey ahead. It was going to be a long day at this rate and a long week.
The carriage lunged forwards and then backwards, and it shook from side to side as it rattled over the cobbles. Anna had hoped to write a letter to her sister from the coach, but there was simply no room. So she clutched her satchel instead and tried not to make eye contact with either of the ladies seated opposite her.
They had not been travelling long when the older of the two portly ladies yanked down the window.
“It is so hot in here,” she complained, by way of explanation, before resuming her knitting.
While she was quite correct, the open window now let in not only an icy blast of cold air but also some of the rain. And Anna was grateful that she was safely tucked away from it in the middle of the coach.
Roughly four hours after departing from London, White-Whiskers and Tall-Hat did indeed leave the carriage at Watford during the one and only break in the journey, and no one replaced them. Anna thought that one of the outside passengers might like the seat, but then she remembered that they would not have paid enough to sit inside the carriage. In any case, she did not see how many of the outside passengers were remaining. They could have all alighted at Watford for all she knew. The stagecoach had stopped only briefly in Watford while the horses were given water to drink and for those who were leaving the coach to do so.
When they were on their way again, Anna opened her parcel from the innkeeper’s wife at the White Horse Tavern. Carefully untying the string and unfolding the parchment, she was delighted to see an apple, some cheese, a hard-boiled egg, and some bread. She offered the ladies some but was secretly relieved when they both declined. Self-consciously, she nibbled at the cheese before wrapping it all back up again and putting it back in her bag. Her stomach gurgled with hunger, but she did not want to be the only one eating.
Taking a pencil and a piece of writing paper from the bag, she leant on the back of the travelling satchel and began her letter to her sister, hoping that the carriage would not lurch too heavily to one side and cause her pencil to slip. Once she had her rhythm, though, she wrote in time to the sway of the stagecoach, in her smallest, neatest handwriting.
My dearest darling Maeve,
I am sorry that I did not manage to see you before I had to leave. I hope that you were not too late returning home from your work. I did leave you some supper in the kitchen. I trust that you found it and it had not spoilt.
I walked into town and made it in good time to the inn, where I spent a comfortable night, even if I did not get very much sleep.
A letter arrived yesterday from His Grace, the Duke of Newcastle, in which he explains that the family will not be returning to London this year and may not for a while to come. I am so disappointed, for I did think that I might find time to come and see you on my days off. As the country estate is five days away from London, I will not even manage a few days’ break. Not to worry, though. I am lucky to have found the work.
The duke gave me some more information about the position. I understand that the lady I am being hired to help is recently a widow with a newborn child, and she is struggling to see to the infant all by herself. His Grace is worried about the level of assistance that the lady requires. As it is, the lady in question is the duke’s own sister, his younger sister, which I was not aware of until now. For some reason, that makes me very nervous.
Anna was umming and ahhing about what to write next when the carriage bounced over a particularly large bump, the younger of the two portly ladies let out a little squeal of shock, and the coach ground to a halt, listing alarmingly to one side.
The older of the two portly ladies dropped her knitting on the floor of the carriage and craned her neck so that she could see outside the window. The younger of the two ladies clung to her seat, and her face and the knuckles on her hands turned white. If Anna had not seen this phenomenon with her own eyes, she would never have believed it. Anna herself slid along the seat and was able to push the door open.
“What has happened?” she asked, climbing out of the carriage. This was not as difficult as it should have been, for that was the direction in which the carriage was listing, and she did not need to jump very far to the ground. The road beneath her feet was drenched through, although the heavy raindrops had turned into a fine drizzle. She pulled the collar of her coat up around her ears, tugged her bonnet down a little tighter over her golden curls, and hitched up her skirts slightly so that they would not trail in the mud. Her hair would turn to a frizzy mess if she was in the rain for too long.
All of the outside passengers except for one, or what was left of them, all men now, were milling together on the roadside while the driver and one of the passengers were bent over the front of the carriage, examining what appeared to be a broken wheel. The horses stood patiently, with only the occasional whicker or stamp of a hoof.
She glanced along the road behind them and saw immediately the cause of their predicament: a giant puddle in the middle of the road. “I expect it was deeper than it looks,” she mused out loud. “Can it be fixed?” she asked then, turning back and stepping closer to the two working men, but trying not to get so close as to hinder them.
“It can,” said the driver. “But it will take about an hour.” He stood upright and stretched his back, looking around them. “We are in the middle of nowhere,” he said, pushing his hat to the back of his head. Clearly, he did not mind the rain, but he was wearing a big overcoat.
“We did pass a coaching house not long ago,” said the chap who was helping him. The others had gone to shelter beneath a nearby oak tree while the Misses Portly remained firmly inside the carriage.
“By the time one of you has walked all the way there and come back with help, I will have repaired it,” said the driver. “Or another coach will have driven by,” he added.
“Is there anything I can do to help?” asked the helpful man.
“Is there something I can do?” asked Anna, wishing that she was a man and could also help.
The driver responded to Anna first.
“Thank you kindly, miss. If you could take the ladies,” he nodded at the carriage, “over to that tree with the others,” he nodded at the tree, “that would help no end,” he said. To the man, he said, “You will find a box of tools beneath the seat in the rear.”
Anna nodded and set to work straight away, pulling the door open again and addressing the two women. “Please, come with me so that the men can repair the carriage,” she said. At first, they were reluctant and simply exchanged a look. And so, Anna added, “They will not be able to do a thing with the two of you in there.”
The daughter caved in first and climbed slowly out of the carriage, while her mother looked as though she was going to stay in there forever.
“Come along, Mother,” said the daughter eventually. “The sooner we leave them to it, the sooner we will be back on the road. I am sure that your knitting will be quite safe, however.”
At last, the older of the two portly ladies climbed out of the carriage, and the three of them joined the others beneath the tree, from where they watched the two men start to toil over the carriage wheel.
Anna tapped one of the gentlemen on the shoulder. “I am sure that if you all help, the work will be done much more quickly,” she said. Reluctantly the three of them went to see what could be done, muttering as they went. She did feel sorry for them, for they were already quite wet from the journey. She tried to make conversation with the two ladies, but it was like trying to draw blood from a stone. If she was lucky, they would answer with one word.
“How far are you travelling, madam?” she asked.
They looked at each other, waiting to see if the other would reply first, then the mother said, “Northampton.” Anna’s heart sank a little. She would be with them for another day at least, and they had not turned out to be the most lively or amusing of fellow passengers.
“Are you visiting family?” she asked.
“No,” said the mother.
“Are you visiting friends?”
“No,” said the mother.
It would be far too impolite to ask them for what reason they were travelling in that case, even though they were both already being quite rude themselves by not answering her questions.
“I am going to Worksop,” she said proudly.
Neither of the ladies replied, and Anna gave up, turning her attention instead to the men who were all now wet through to the bones, for it was the kind of rain that did indeed soak right through even their heavy overcoats. I hope that they will not catch a chill, she thought to herself.
Standing around beneath the tree, which was not giving a great deal of cover from the rain, meant that Anna soon started to feel cold. She walked up and down a bit, and round in a circle around the tree, holding her thumbs in her palms to warm up her hands. She did not know why this worked, but it always seemed to. The Misses Portly simply huddled together in a bid to keep each other warm, giving Anna the opportunity to notice the clothes that they wore. The fabric looked expensive but old and faded, and she wondered if perhaps they had fallen on bad times recently. She hoped that she had not insulted the women by addressing the mother as ‘madam’.
Suddenly, it stopped raining and, for want of anything else to do, Anna approached the driver.
“Do you have any blankets on board the carriage, sir?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said, not even looking up from his work while three of the men took the weight of the coach and the other, the original helper, held out his tools. “In the luggage compartment at the back. But it will be beneath all of the bags,” he added.
Nevertheless, Anna went to see, and she eventually pulled out not one but two woollen but lightweight plaid blankets. When the men finally finished their work, she handed the blankets to them so that they could at least dry themselves a little as well as the outside seats.
When they were safely back on the road, and the male passengers were all back on the roof of the carriage, Anna shuffled into the corner of her seat as far as she could and resumed her letter-writing, hoping that neither of the ladies travelling with her was able to read upside down.
Forgive me for changing the subject, but we have just had an interruption to our journey. We had an accident on the road between Watford and Luton, our second leg of the day. There was a big hole in the middle of the road, which the driver could not see because it was full of rainwater. The carriage bounced and clattered through it and knocked a wheel off its axle, apparently.
The male passengers eventually helped the driver to fix it. I thought the wheel was broken, and we would have been truly stranded until another carriage came along. But the wheel survived, which is fortunate because another carriage did not come along. It was all very exciting, though, and fortunately, no one was hurt. The horses were very well behaved and did not skitter or take fright. Perhaps they were glad of the respite.
I fear that I may have offended two of my fellow passengers, for they have hardly said more than two words to me for the entire trip. They do look as though they may have fallen upon hard times, for their coats and dresses, or what I can see of their dresses beneath their coats, are very well made, if a little faded. I am afraid that I addressed the older of the two ladies as ‘madam’, and from the look that I had in return, I do wonder if she is, in fact, a titled lady. How rude of me! Still, if they will not tell me anything, then I am not to know, am I? And they are travelling on the public stagecoach instead of in their own private vehicle, so perhaps my mistake, if it was indeed a mistake, is understandable. Or perhaps I should err on the side of caution and at least address them both as ‘my lady’.
As it is, they will leave the stagecoach at Northampton—I did at least manage to wrench that information from them. And it means that I will have the pleasure of their company for another day. But I doubt that I will see them ever again, so I suppose that it does not matter a great deal.
It has done nothing but rain since we left London, that is almost eight hours now. It did stop raining briefly while the men got the carriage back on the road. But it soon started up again.
I think that we will be late arriving at our accommodations in Luton. I presume the gentleman travellers will be leaving us there as they do not seem to have brought very much luggage with them at all.
Anyway, back to the letter I received from His Grace. He has confirmed my salary—the position does indeed pay very well—and he has covered all of my travelling expenses in advance. There was a travel itinerary enclosed with his letter. It is fortunate that it arrived in time, for otherwise, I might have had to pay for my lodgings myself, although he did say that he would reimburse me should that happen. It is a good thing that I have some savings with me. As it is, he has arranged for my meals to be provided also, even on the journey. He must be a very wealthy man.
I worry about Clumber House and the park. I am certain that I will get lost in such a place as I am sure that it will be a huge and sprawling estate. I will definitely not fit in at all, of that I am convinced.
I also worry about leaving you on your own, dear sister. I know that you have not had one of your turns in recent years, but I do not like being so far away from you should another occur. However, you must let me know as soon as you think that you need me, and I will return to you. I promise you. If you should ever fall ill again and need me, I will be there. And you must promise me that you will send for me.
As I write, it is getting dark outside the carriage, and therefore quite dark inside the carriage too. I will not be able to write for very much longer. I can hear more traffic on the road outside now. Perhaps we are drawing nearer to Luton.
I will write again tomorrow.
With much love from
Your sister, Anna
As quickly as she could, Anna folded the large paper into squares so that she might post it from Luton, and she tucked it inside the small travel satchel that now lay on the vacant seat beside her. The carriage slowed down to a walking speed, and she peered out of the window at the streetlights that were slowly being lit. They rocked to a halt outside the next inn, just in time to have something to eat, by the smell of it.
“That smells like pies,” she said to the other occupants, and her stomach grumbled again. The other occupants did not reply.
Worksop, Nottinghamshire, four days later
Anna felt strangely bereft as she stood on the side of the road and watched the stagecoach that had been her home for the past five days continue on its journey north. At least it was not raining now, and in fact, the spring sunshine was most welcome as she turned her face up to greet it.
The Misses Portly had indeed alighted the carriage in Northampton and had been replaced by two more ladies, sisters this time, who were altogether much more friendly and sociable. Occasionally they were joined by another gentleman or two, and the outside passengers seemed to change at every stop. But Anna was still the only female passenger travelling on her own. Nevertheless, her newly acquired fellow female travellers, the Bollinger sisters, seemed to do their best to not make her feel awkward or different in any way. They even shared their food parcels with her, and she with them.
Anna found herself telling them all about her forthcoming employment in Nottinghamshire whilst they told her that they were returning to Yorkshire to look after their mother, who had taken ill. They had been visiting relatives in Northampton when the letter had arrived summoning them home.
On the last morning, as the carriage had trundled away from Nottingham and towards Worksop, the two sisters, who were almost the same age as Anna, insisted that they exchange addresses so that they might write to each other.
“Oh, I am afraid that I am not sure of the actual address,” admitted Anna to the younger of the two sisters, who was called Daphne.
“I expect it will be on your travel itinerary,” said the older sister, Rachael, kindly.
Anna felt her face flush stupidly. “Of course it is,” she exclaimed, digging in her travel satchel and retrieving the now dog-eared papers.
When she climbed out of the carriage outside the coaching house in Worksop, Anna called out, “I do hope that your mother makes a speedy recovery.”
The sisters exchanged a sad look, and Anna had the impression that perhaps a recovery was not even expected. She would find out more when they got around to writing their letters, no doubt.
“Thank you,” said Daphne. “Good luck with the duke’s sister!”
“Yes,” echoed her sister. “Good luck. Write as soon as you are settled.”
Anna thanked the driver for looking after her, who doffed his hat. And then, with a crack of his whip and a click of his tongue, he was gone.
Not at all sure what she should do next, Anna turned and looked up at the shingle outside the coaching house. It was called the Duke’s Arms, no doubt as a nod towards the several ducal estates that the area was apparently known for. The inn looked presentable, so she pushed her way through the big double doors, glancing nervously through an open door to her left that led to a public barroom as she passed on her way to a large desk in the middle of a square hallway, behind which stood who she assumed to be the innkeeper polishing some mugs with a ragged cloth.
There was a good quality carpet on the floor of the main foyer in a bright, geometric pattern. But the barroom floor was bare floorboards. Through the haze of cigar smoke, she could see that the bar was crowded, even at this time of the day, and she could smell the strong smell of ale wafting from within.
“My name is Anna Carter,” she said to the chap behind the counter. “I am expecting a carriage to come and take me to Clumber House.” She placed the larger of her two bags on the floor and was about to start riffling through the smaller one for her travel documents when the man curtly replied.
“You will find the duke’s man in the public bar,” he said, waving the polishing cloth at the open doorway.
Anna glanced over her shoulder at the barroom. Surely he did not mean for her to enter the bar?
“Oh,” she said, turning back to him. “I do not know the gentleman and will not recognise him.”
“He will see you,” said the man licking his lips but not moving from his spot behind the big desk.
Anna looked about her. “You are not busy out here,” she said, jutting out her chin. “Would you mind letting him know that I am here, please?”
The man looked her up and down, and so she returned the action, taking in the brown apron that was tied about his vast waist. He was tall and plump with a shock of messy red hair and a large nose that almost matched. Here is a man who likes his drink, she thought.
“Will you be requiring a room for the night?” he asked her at last, stepping towards the table, running a fat and grubby finger down the page of a large ledger that lay open on the countertop.
“How far is it to the Clumber estate?” she asked.
He rubbed at the whiskers on his chin and thought about his answer for a moment. “About an hour by coach, quicker by horse,” he said at last.
“Then no, thank you. I will not be requiring any lodgings for the night.”
“Then you will find the duke’s man in yonder room,” he said, snapping the ledger shut in a faint cloud of dust.
“Are you saying that you will only go and fetch him for me if I am paying for a room?” she asked, aghast.
“I doubt you will be buying any ale,” he said. “So yes, I suppose that is what I am saying.”
“Honestly!” said Anna. “In the time it has taken you to stand here and argue with me, you could have been and brought him out here yourself.”
“Likewise, miss,” he said. “But aren’t you the little firecracker?” he added, looking her up and down with a leer.
Anna felt as though he could see right through her clothes. Had she not felt so uncomfortable, so violated, she would have gladly continued to argue with the man until the duke’s coachman came looking for her. But this man made her feel dirty, and she found instead that she could not wait to get away from his gaze.
She took a deep breath, picked up her luggage and stomped over to the barroom door, where she hesitated and glanced back at the innkeeper, who was watching her with interest. Then she threw her chin into the air once more and marched into the barroom. As she did so, the buzz of conversation in there died immediately, and all eyes turned to her. Even the woman behind the bar stopped what she was doing to see who had just walked in.
“I am looking….” she squeaked. She cleared her throat and said much louder, “I am looking for the Duke of Newcastle’s coachman.”
After a beat, most of the men in the room resumed their conversations, but the woman behind the bar pointed to Anna’s right.
“Looks like your luck’s in, Henry!” she called out, laughing. Then she turned back to address Anna. “Sorry, duck. Only teasing.”
“Don’t ya worry about our Fanny, dearie,” said a deep and booming voice from behind Anna. “She’s only jealous.”
“You are a Londoner?” said Anna, turning to face the giant of a man coming towards her.
“Born within the sound of Bow bells,” he agreed with a big, cheery smile.
“Oh, I am so glad to hear a familiar accent,” she said, putting the small bag on the floor and holding out her hand to shake his.
He wiped a palm on his breeches and took her hand, surprisingly gently for such a large man. “Yer from London too, then?” he asked.
“Holborn,” she replied.
“Know it well,” he said. “Come on then, dearie. Let’s get you back to the estate.”
“Please, finish your drink first,” she said, pointing at the mug he had left on a small table that was still half-full.
He picked it up and downed it in one gulp, slamming the cup back down on the table, smacking his lips, and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
As they emerged into the foyer, Anna glanced at the innkeeper behind his counter and thought she caught him smirking. Loudly, she said to Henry, “That man was very rude to me.”
Henry did not give the chap a second glance. “He is rude to everyone,” he said, and Anna wondered if that was supposed to make her feel better.
The carriage was a two-seater with a hood that lifted up or down, depending on the weather. Anna was able to sit in the back like a lady with the hood down as Henry pointed out the various landmarks between the town and the Clumber estate from his high seat in front of her. His loud voice did not get lost in the breeze and it began to sound almost poetic to her. She closed her eyes, turned her face to the early evening sunshine, and listened to him as the carriage rocked her gently from side to side.
“Wake up, Miss Carter!” said a friendly voice. “We are almost there.”
“Oh,” she said. “Did I fall asleep? I am so sorry. It is very rude of me.” She sat up straight, smoothed down the creases of her skirts, and wiped at her mouth with her hand, looking about her in surprise.
“Rubbish, dearie,” replied the friendly coachman. “You have had a long journey. I expect that you are exhausted.”
“I did not think I was tired, for I have slept well ever since the first night on the road.”
The big man chuckled. “Travelling does that to folk,” he said.
The road followed the line of a continuous stone wall with sprawling fields opposite. Anna could see trees everywhere. But when they left the road and turned into the main drive, her breath was taken away. For there, before her, was a gloriously ornate gate with three arches, a gatehouse attached on one side, and a hunting lodge attached on the other.
Henry drove the carriage expertly through the middle arch, the largest of the three. The walls were several feet thick, and Anna could not help but stare up at the construction with awe as they passed beneath the arch that was almost a short tunnel.
The driver of the coach did not bat an eye as he urged the two horses onwards. No doubt he was accustomed to travelling this very route and no longer noticed such things.
“What a beautiful gate,” Anna breathed, at last finding her voice again.
Then Henry did glance behind them. “You have never been to the estate before?” he inquired over his shoulder.
“No, this is my first time. His Grace’s representative interviewed me in London.”
Henry laughed that great booming laugh of his. “Then you are in for a treat, dearie,” he said, cracking the whip slightly. “This is the new lime avenue,” he added, leaning sideways so that Anna could see the entire stretch of track with young saplings on either side. She knew that in a few years’ time, this avenue would look like a magnificent tree-lined tunnel.
“What is the fencing for?” she asked, seeing the new barriers on the other side of the trees.
“To keep the deer off the drive,” he replied. “Otherwise, they would nibble at the young trees, stunting their growth and making them look ugly.”
“Deer?” asked Anna. “Are they wild?”
“No, the land you can see all belongs to His Grace.”
Anna widened her eyes and looked from side to side. “But there is nothing else for miles,” she said, and Henry laughed again.
At a small junction in the track, he turned the carriage to the left and she could see a red brick wall now. “That is the walled kitchen garden,” he said. “You can just see the orangery at the far side.”
“All of this belongs to the duke?” asked Anna, still completely awestruck.
“And more,” he replied.
After a few more minutes, he took another turn, this time to the right. The estate seemed to go on forever.
“Why, it is like its own county!” she said.
Henry laughed once more. “It is at that,” he agreed.
And then suddenly, up ahead, the great house loomed into view, and Anna felt her mouth drop open.
“The Nursemaid and the Stoic Duke” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Anna Carter travels to Worksop to take up her new position as a nursemaid in the estate of the Duke of Newcastle. While the caring nursemaid is focusing on her role by teaching the Duke’s sister how to look after her infant, she is still dreaming of marrying a good man and having a household of her own. With the passing of time, her heart will start beating for the charming Duke, and she will realise that this encounter will prove to be the most fateful one in her life…
Could Anna dare to fall for someone she knows she could never have?
Matthew, Duke of Newcastle, is a stoic, scholarly man, who has set aside all of his dreams to bow to his duty. Prior to the loss of his brother-in-law and best friend, he was courting Lady Clara Whitman, but his family tragedy led him to an emotional withdrawal. Everything changes though as the enchanting nursemaid brings light not only in his shadowy estate, but also his broken heart… Will the kind hearted Duke find the loving wife he has always wanted and lead a fulfilling happy life or will the heartache continue?
Needless to say that giving up on your dreams for the sake of duty threatens to throw you into a deep sorrow…
Anna and Mathew soon find their hearts entrapped by the presence of each other. However, the combination of Lady Clara’s jealousy and society’s rules will jeopardize every chance at happiness they could possibly have. Will the two of them manage to go against the norms and defend what their hearts desire? Or will duty and manipulation make their love feel like an elusive dream?
“The Nursemaid and the Stoic Duke” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.