As promised, the next instalment of SLoM :) For those of you following WLMC, I'll update the next chapter tomorrow- upon my honour! Have been very busy this weekend, social creature that I am. xxx
Joscelin Rosse paused at the wrought iron fencing that flanked a small, meticulous garden in front if the resplendent townhouse in East Sussex. It stretched up into the mournful sky at least five stories high, white and pristine.
She fought down a wave of nervousness and clung to her daughter possessively. Josceline had never seen the likes of such a house before. She’d always been poor and lately poorer than poor and a deep-rooted unease unfurled in her gut whenever she had to associate with the wealthy. In her experience, she found them mostly greedy and mean-tempered, always ready to lift a hand in anger rather than extend one in hospitality. Which is why she wasn’t yet ready to trust the regal old lady who’d invited her around for tea and taken such an avid interest in her daughter.
Her daughter… she’d been through hell and back to protect Emily and she wasn’t about to back down now. No one would hurt her. No one.
But there had been something different about the lady’s offer of tea, a sort of amiability that Joscelin found altogether strange and appealing. So she had come for tea and it had been easy to locate the Dowager Duchess’ regal London townhouse.
“Mama,” Emily whispered, her arms tightening around Joscelin’s shoulders, “I want to go home. I don’t like this place.”
Joscelin sighed at her words, knowing the child meant Ireland. Here, they did not have a home to return to, another reason which prompted her into accepting the Dowager Duchess’ offer. “One day, my love, we will go home,” she murmured soothingly. “Let’s first see what the old lady wants with us.”
“I don’t like her,” Emily remarked, her small nose wrinkling with distaste. “She smelt like prunes.”
Joscelin chuckled and pressed a kiss to that puckered, freckled nose and strode up the stoned path that guided them to the lacquered front door of the opulent townhouse. She shifted Emily onto her hip and rapped twice on the brass knocker. Almost immediately the door swung open and an aged man glared down at her and the child. “Servants,” he drawled disdainfully, “go round the back of the house.”
“For heaven’s sake, Jasper!” A cane whacked the butler on his temple. The sneering man flinched and gave the owner of the bejewelled cane a glower.
“Madam, I must protest to this abuse!”
“Pah!” Sophie Weatherly shoved him out the way and peered curiously at her guests. Filthy and bedraggled, sallow-cheeked and a wariness glinting from the depths of the woman’s green eyes, they stood clinging to each other on the threshold and an insurmountable wave of pity slammed into Sophie. “These are my guests, Jasper.” Forcibly, she dismissed the butler and ushered them inside.
Joscelin glanced around and swallowed at the extensive riches surrounding her. She’d never seen the likes before, had never fathomed that people actually lived in such luxury. Belatedly, she realised she ought to be following the Dowager, who was bustling down the hallway with such agility Joscelin could scarcely believe that she was the little old lady she perceived to be.
Sophie guided them to a parlour room on the left. The pinnacle of attention seemed to come from the hearth, encrusted with gold leafing and flanked by two shelves that stretched to the ceiling. They were flooded with books, green, gold, blue, red spines lined up flawlessly for perusal. An elegant gold chandelier hung from the centre of the ceiling and enormous rectangular paned windows stood in pairs against the length of the room, looking down onto the bustling street. Placed strategically to capture the most sunlight and the best views were various wooden and cushioned chairs of various sizes. A chaise longue lounged elegantly in one corner, near the hearth and the shelves of books. It was undoubtedly the most splendid room Joscelin had ever seen.
“Take a seat, my dear,” Sophie Weathery said, gesturing to the chairs in the room encouragingly. “I’ll just ring for tea.” Having done this she spied where her guest had placed herself and decided upon a chair close to Joscelin and her daughter. “Now, I suppose you are curious indeed as to why I have asked you to come here today.”