A Nursemaid’s Fairytale Begins – Extended Epilogue

The Hartford Estate

Spring

Lord Charles and Lady Arabella Handrich leaned on a fence and watched their daughter Rachel help Beth La Roche feed the orphan lambs. Henri La Roche was chatting to a neighboring farmer who had found two more lambs without a mother and had brought them to the La Roche farm.

“I know you already have a half dozen, Henri,” said the neighbor. “But when I found them, I could not leave them there alone. My wife told me that Beth has been raising orphan lambs almost as successfully as those that still have their mothers.”

“Beth would be offended if you did not bring them to her,” said Henri in his deep, French accent.

Arabella had thought Henri’s accent was fading. However, whenever she overheard him speaking with a stranger, he seemed to find it again. And when Henri got together with Leonard Dupont, the two of them chattered non-stop in their native tongue. She started to pick it up herself now and was able to understand more than basic exchanges now. She had yet to summon up the courage to try verbalizing the language for herself, though.

“My wife would keep them all herself,” continued the neighbor. “But we do not have the equipment for livestock.”

Charles leaned across to Arabella and whispered in her ear. “I would wager I know another who would like to help feed those little fellows,” he said to his wife, making her blush a little.

“You know me too well,” she replied, turning her attention from Henri and the farmer back to Beth and Rachel. “Rachel is having such a lovely time. I would not want to deprive her of helping every single one of them.”

Henri waved the farmer off and carried the two new orphan lambs in his arms over to the small paddock where the cades lived. Beth pulled a face at first, pretending she was not sure she could manage another two. However, her features softened as she took the baby animals from him into the barn, where several pens had been set-up and filled with straw and hay.

Satisfied that the lambs had a new home, Henri returned to Charles and Arabella.

“Will the other lambs not reject the newcomers?” asked Arabella, shielding her eyes with her hand against the early spring sunshine so she could meet the Frenchman’s gaze.

“Beth will try them with one of the ewes that lost their lambs first. If they bond, then she will not have to hand-rear them. If they do not bond, she will keep the new lambs in a separate pen until they all get accustomed to one another.” He turned and looked towards Rachel, who was still sitting on the stool nursing one of the lambs.

“Where do they all come from?” asked Charles.

“Some of them are our own, either rejected by their mothers or the mother died for whatever reason. Most are brought to us by farmers like Will Smith there,” he tipped his head in the direction the farmer had gone. “They find them on the roadside, make sure they are orphans, and then bring them to Beth.”

“Is it the foxes that get them?” asked Arabella. She did not have any liking for fox hunting, but she was aware that the animal was a predator.

“No,” said Henri, shaking his head. “Not really.”

“A fox will take the lambs as well as sheep,” added Charles.

“Only they do not take them,” said Henri. “They kill as many as they can and leave the carcasses behind and come back with their cubs.”

“Then what happens to the mother sheep?” asked Arabella, looking every so often at Rachel in the distance, cheerfully feeding lamb after lamb.

“Dogs will take them,” said Henri. “They will kill one and take it away. They do not come back and kill them all.”

“I am glad that you do not get many foxes or dogs on your land,” said Arabella with some relief.

Henri’s face broke into a smile. “The geese and the cockerels will see them off if they do!”

Rachel came running towards them, having finished feeding the lambs. “Papa! Mama! Did you see the new baby lambs?” she cried.

“We did indeed, poppet,” said her father.

“They are called kay-dees,” said Rachel, as though she had not already told them a hundred times before. “Can I go and help Beth collect the eggs now? Please? May I?”

Charles ruffled her hair. “I am afraid that we have another visit to do today,” he said fondly.

With wide, excited eyes the eight-year-old said, “Where are we going?”

“We are going to see Auntie Jocelyn and Uncle Leonard,” said Arabella with an indulgent smile. She pushed herself away from the fence. “Thank you for letting her come and help today, Henri,” she added, remembering the time it had taken all of her efforts to convince Beth to allow her to help out on the farm.

“She is a good little worker,” he said, backing away from them towards the lamb barn. “She is welcome any time.”

Charles and Arabella set off towards the cottage he had built for Jocelyn and Leonard as a wedding gift. Rachel was happily walking in between them holding them both by the hand.

“Why are we going to see Auntie Jocelyn and Uncle Leonard?” she asked, looking up at them.

“Auntie Jocelyn has had her baby!” said Arabella, and we are going to meet her.

“Hooray!” shouted Rachel, letting go of their hands and running ahead. She knew the way to the Duponts, but she did not wander far without her mother and her father.

“I am so happy for Jocelyn,” said Arabella quietly, blinking away tears that suddenly pricked at her eyes. She wiped them away before they had a chance to fall. It was not like her to be so weepy. “I have become broody,” she said with a forced laugh.

Charles reached over to take her hand and lifted it to his lips. “When the time is right, we will have a brother or a sister for Rachel, my darling.”

Six months later

Charles paced up and down the landing outside Arabella’s bed chamber.  His cousin and steward Simon Andrews were there with him. There was plenty of room for them all, and bumping into furniture was not a worry of his. However, bumping into furniture was the last thing on his mind, anyways.

Earlier that morning, Arabella fainted while walking in the garden and picking apples. It was Simon who had found her and carried her back to the house before sending one of the hall boys to find his cousin. It had not taken the boy long, for Charles had been in his study, where he usually could be found.

“I told her not to go out into the garden on her own,” muttered Charles. “Not in her condition.”

“You know the baroness, Charles,” Simon replied. “Tell her not to do something, and that’s the very thing she will do.”

“She said she was restless and needed to walk!” said Charles, still astonished at what had happened.

“Well, she certainly did that,” agreed Simon.

“She could have walked up in the gallery!” said Charles. “What is wrong with promenading in the gallery like a normal lady?”

The ‘gallery’ had once been the ‘forbidden chamber,’ but after the room had been emptied of all its furniture and stripped bare, Arabella supervised the redecoration. With the help of her cousin, Jocelyn, they had fully recommissioned the room. They had talked in-depth about what to do with the space before coming up with a solution. It was a strange room, long and narrow, and Arabella decided it would be the perfect place to showcase her husband’s collection of oil paintings. Bookcases flanking the fireplace were filled with an assortment of literature with comfortable seating placed around for anyone who wished to linger and read a while.

It was also perfect for promenading, especially when the weather was cold or inclement.

“She should have satisfied her restlessness by walking in the gallery,” Charles stated.

Simon shrugged and repeated, “You know the baroness, Charles. You know how much she loves to be outside in the fresh air, close to nature. We have had so much rain lately, she probably felt stifled and cooped up inside the house all the time. The first sign of sunshine and, well…”

“But picking apples!” said Charles, coming to a standstill and staring at his cousin and best friend. “As you say, after all the rain we have had, the grass was treacherously slippery. And you said there was a step ladder lying on the ground beside her as well?” Simon pulled a face and pushed a hand through his hair, blowing out his cheeks. “Who even took the ladder out for her?” continued Charles. “That is what I would like to know.”

“It would not surprise me one bit if she took the step ladder out there herself, Charles,” said Simon truthfully. Charles knew that was most likely the scenario; his wife rarely allowed anyone to do anything for her.

“Nevertheless!” the baron snapped back. “Someone gave it to her, even if they did not carry it out for her. What did they think she was going to do with it?” He grasped for some unlikely answer. “Paint a picture?”

Simon said nothing. “I hope she does not have a serious injury because of this,” muttered Charles, pacing again.

Simon joined him in his pacing, keeping step right beside him. Both men walked up and down the length of the room with their hands behind their backs. “She is in good hands, Charles,” said Simon. “You must try not to worry.”

Charles came to a standstill again. “Where is Rachel? Who is looking after Rachel?”

“I believe that Mabel has been keeping an eye on Rachel for much of the day,” replied Simon. He coughed quietly into his hand. “In fact, I do believe that they are painting, ah, a picture.”

Charles shot him a sharp look. “Now is not the time for jesting, Simon,” he said.

“I think you will find that I most certainly am not jesting,” said Simon.

“No,” said Charles with a sigh. “I do not suppose that you are.” He took a deep breath and started to march back and forth once more.

Tired of pacing, Simon chose to drop down into a leather armchair in the hallway outside the bedchamber, next to the grandfather clock. Charles glanced at him, and then at the clock.

“It has been three hours,” he said. “How much longer?”

“These things take time, Charles,” said Simon. “Perhaps we should go have a drink.”

“There will be time enough for that later,” said Charles.

“At least sit down a while,” said Simon. “You are wearing the carpet out.”

Charles stopped at the window that overlooked the side of the house. Inside the deep casement was an upholstered window seat. He looked down at it, sighed, turned and sat down just as the door to the bed chamber flew open. Both men were on their feet again in an instant, staring at Jocelyn, and Charles could hardly contain his concern.

“Well?” he asked, anxiously. “How is she?” Jocelyn had her sleeves pushed up above her elbows, and she looked hot and flustered. The white apron she had put on over her black dress was soiled. Charles looked at the apron and back at her face and held his breath.

“You may go in now, my lord,” said Jocelyn with a smile. To Simon she added, “The baron is now the father of a beautiful baby boy.” Charles hesitated, for Jocelyn had failed to mention that which was of more concern to him. “Mother and baby are in good health,” she said, putting him out of his misery. “Marvelously good health.” That last statement she made to no one, for Charles had already ran into the bedroom to meet his new son.

Arabella refused to stay in bed for longer than a day after the birth, and she only conceded to the day because she truly was tired. Far more tired than she would ever have expected. And sore. She was so sore. “Never again!” she said to anyone listening. She was also sore from her fall. Charles was right. It had been very thoughtless of her to go around climbing ladders on the slippery grass to reach the best apples in the tree. Thoughtless and foolish. She was almost nine months’ pregnant, and she had Rachel to consider too. What would Rachel have done if Arabella had a very serious injury? And what of the baby? Would he have survived had Arabella not?

She shook her head and felt the stiffness in her shoulder. The physician had warned her that she had almost pulled her arm right out of the socket. That would have been when she reached out to stop herself from falling as soon as she felt the step ladder give way beneath her. She had landed on her bottom and as she remembered, her hip started to ache. After the baby had arrived, Jocelyn had slipped something into her tonic to make her sleep. She definitely needed the rest due to the baby and the fall.  It had taken a toll on her body.

“Never again!” Arabella replied, but Jocelyn paid her no heed.

Now she was sitting in a wicker arm chair piled high with soft cushions in the orangery. It was early autumn, and the glass structure still captured and retained heat from the sun and the warm, moist air was soothing to Arabella. In the summer, the orangery doors were usually wide open to let air in. Now they were closed tight to keep the damp air out. Now, the sun shone down and Arabella felt warm and cozy sipping hot tea freshly brewed.

Over the top of her teacup she watched Rachel, now almost nine, sitting in the other wicker arm chair opposite her. Instead of cushions, though, Rachel favored softly woven blankets. She had crocheted an adorable blanket for her new brother, in which he was now wrapped. She cradled him in her arms, rocking him gently, and not taking her eyes off him as she hummed a lullaby. Arabella smiled, for it was a lullaby she had hummed to Rachel.

As though she felt Arabella’s eyes upon her, Rachel glanced up, and gave her the most beautiful smile.  It was clear she was enamored with her baby brother.

The door that led to the house suddenly burst open and in walked Charles. First he placed a kiss on Arabella’s forehead, then his daughter, but he simply touched the head of his son softly, so as not to wake him. He smiled down at the little boy’s face, then he sat down on the settee.

“Is there any tea left in that pot for me?” he asked quietly.

Arabella started to lean forward, but he got there before her, lifting the lid of the teapot and peering in. Satisfied, he helped himself and poured himself a cup.

“It may be a little strong,” said Arabella, sitting back on her cushions, grateful for them for helping her sit more comfortably, but making sure not to say so to anyone.

“I prefer it a little stronger than you do, my dear,” he said, taking a sip and smacking his lips.

“Have you finished your work?” she asked him.

“I have been forced to finish my work,” he said, taking another sip.

“Really?” asked Arabella. “Why is that?”

“Have you not heard?” he said. “Mother is here–“

“Oh…” said Arabella a little flatly. Then, remembering Rachel was in the room, she said with an artificial grin, “Oh! How nice,” Charles smirked into his teacup. “To what do we owe the pleasure?” asked Arabella, still forcing herself to sound more cheerful than she felt. The dowager baroness’s attitude towards her baroness daughter-in-law had thawed considerably in the past three years. But it had been so icy from the beginning, and there was still a long way to go.

“She has come to meet her new grandson,” said Charles, draining his cup and pouring himself another. “And if we do not agree on a name before she joins us, I fear that she may make that choice for us.”

“It will matter not what we name him as far as your mother is concerned,” said Arabella through a smile of gritted teeth, for Rachel’s benefit of course. “She will still call him whatever she wishes.”

“Of that there can be no doubt,” he replied. After a beat he added, “And have we decided what we will call him?”

Arabella glanced across at their son and daughter and said, “I think it might be nice if Rachel decides.”

Rachel looked up and said, “Thomas. I think he will be called Thomas.”

Arabella noticed that Charles raised an eyebrow and said, “It was on our list, darling.”

“I know,” he said with a shrug. Then he stood up, took his son out of his daughter’s arms and said, “Hello Thomas.” Cradling the baby in one arm, Charles started to plump up the cushions behind his wife’s back. “Do you know,” he said with a proud smile. “I feel like the luckiest man alive surrounded by the three people I love most in the world.”

“And I feel like the luckiest woman alive,” said Arabella, locking her marble-gray eyes with her husband’s honey-colored eyes.

The door flew open again, but this time it was Lady Matilda who came bustling in. Arms outstretched, she took her grandson from her son and said, “Hello Freddie.” Charles, Arabella, and even Rachel, all started to laugh.

THE END


Readers who read this book also liked

21 thoughts on “A Nursemaid’s Fairytale Begins – Extended Epilogue”

  1. Wonderful story! Arabella was so good with Rachel, so sweet and caring and Rachel was a delight. It is such a joy to read stories like this that just simply make you feel good all over.

  2. Such a lovely story. I truly loved it. It was a great story about new beginnings and family love.

  3. This is a good reason to never say never. I enjoyed this tale of lives crossed on an unexpected journey. Miss Rachel was a little character it who was easy to love. Arabella was a delight as well. Charles was a lonely man hiding from the world. Arabella brought him back to life. I really enjoyed this story.

  4. This was quite a nice soothing story. I love stories like this one. I read this story just before bed. The extended ending gave me a feeling of comfort and contentment just like a warm cup of cocoa. It helped me to sleep deeply with pleasant dreams. Well done!

  5. A very sweet story. How to make a happy family could be the whole idea behind it. I really enjoyed this story.

  6. I so enjoyed this story. It was a beautiful and calming story that took my mind off things going on around me. Love your stories!

  7. I enjoy everything I read of your excellent story telling books. I would have liked finding out who Arabellas’ father was and what happened to Charles “ best friend”? I liked her cousin very much and her chef husband. As I said all your books are delightful and fun to get “ lost “ in. Thank you for keeping them clean as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *