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Chapter 1

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"I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives." Jane Austen, Persuasion


Chapter One

Derbyshire, 1828

Bess Jones disliked many things. She didn't like being called "Elizabeth"' She didn't like conforming. She didn't like corsets or having her waist cinched. She didn't like having her hair pulled and pinned and she much preferred to wear it down. But most of all, she didn't like to, and flatly refused, to be subservient.

Which was why, at five and twenty, she was unmarried.

She liked it that way though. She enjoyed being independent and only answering to herself. She could cook and she had an income; what need had she for a husband? She'd been on her own for so long anyway. Her mother had died giving birth to her and her father had succumbed to the drink when she was twelve. Since then she'd had to find her own way in the world. She could only depend on herself. People were unreliable. 

Of course, she heard the odd 'spinster' whisper floating around her Derbyshire village of Little Cross. She didn't mind though. So long as she was happy, she ignored the gossip.

Bess lived in a small cottage on the outskirts of Little Cross. There were two rooms – a bedroom and a living room. Her living room had a small kitchen and a small wash basin as well as a settee for relaxing. 

Bess rose from her bed at dawn, like she did every day. It was time for her to go into the village and work like she always did. She washed her face and then ran a comb through her wavy, blonde hair. She wasn't an ugly woman, but she wasn't particularly beautiful either. She was tall and gangly with narrow hips and a small bust. Her almond-shaped eyes were hazel brown and her full lips were dark pink. All she knew was that she'd never been called a beauty in her life and she was perfectly fine with that.

She dressed in a plain, brown calico dress and fastened the buttons up to her collar bones. She then put on her matching coat and then tied her bonnet to her head.

Bess closed the front door of her cottage and then went around to the lean-to at the side of her cottage in which her horse, Daisy, resided.

"Good girl," Bess cooed as she stroked the nose of her black mare. Daisy was only a small horse. She wasn't built for anything except pulling a small cart. Bess supposed she wasn't completely alone. She loved Daisy. She was a sweetheart.

Bess attached her cart to Daisy's back and then took her seat.  

"Come on, Daisy," Bess urged her little mare as she pulled the cart toward the village. Little Cross was a tiny village. There were only a handful of shops and businesses and its few residents lived on the outskirts. Bess worked in the doctor's practice as a nurse. She was probably one of the few women who weren't sickened by the sight of blood. Her income was small, but it was enough for her. She didn't need much. Only ingredients to make her meals and enough to buy oats for Daisy.

She pulled Daisy to a stop outside Doctor Richmond's office and then climbed down. She placed some wood in front of the cart's wheels so Daisy couldn't go anywhere and then she went inside.

Doctor Richmond's office was in one room. He had a desk and a patient table and a few chairs. There was a staircase but that led up to his and Mrs Richmond's home. Doctor Richmond wasn't in his practice though, someone else was, and he was lying on the table with an open gash on his forehead.

Bess immediately went to him and caught the awful scent of whiskey. She knew it well. Her father had come home smelling much the same many times before he'd died. He had a note attached to his chest in Doctor Richmond's hand.

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