The Scarred Governess
Louisa had a favourite parlor. Lady Edwina had graciously offered to share the drawing room in Alastair and Louisa’s first year of marriage, but Louisa had politely declined. Instead, she set about decorating and furnishing one of the small, rarely used parlors.
It was her favourite room in the house. Her favourite armchair overlooked the drive, offering a beautiful view of the gardens.
In one corner, she had her sketch books neatly stacked up, along with paints, pencils, and easels. In the other corner, Alastair had set up a bookcase filled with books.
Of course, Louisa rarely had time to either read or paint. Rebecca and Bridget were nearly four years old and left her with no time for such idle pursuits. If poor Anna had found Carter a challenge, Rebecca and Bridget were twice as bad. Louisa absently trailed a hand over her swollen belly and hoped that their third child would be a little less—mischievous.
She didn’t hold out much hope.
The door creaked softly open, and Louisa heard Alastair’s familiar tread. He bent over her, leaning down to press a gentle kiss to Louisa’s lips.
“I hoped you were resting,” Alastair said, just a hint of reproach in his voice.
“Hardly. Carter will be home at any moment,” Louisa answered, smiling up at him. “How is the surprise dinner coming along?”
“Ah, well, Mother is overlooking every detail, so I daresay it will be nothing short of perfection.”
Louisa chuckled. “That sounds terribly stressful. How are the others handling it?”
“Well, Christina was sent to fetch flowers from the garden, more as a way of distracting her from arranging said flowers. She really has no eye for flower arranging. Mrs. Green is marvellous as always, Kenneth is on the brink of fainting, and Mrs. Robin has given her notice not less than three times already.”
“That sounds like a recipe for a fabulous meal,” Louisa observed.
“Oh, I’m sure.” Alastair sat in the second armchair, within an arm’s reach of Louisa’s seat. Hands loosely clasped, the two fell silent, taking in the view of the sun setting over Barnshire land.
Louisa glanced over at her husband and felt a wave of affection. The last five years had been—interesting, to say the least. It seemed that Society had all sorts of opinions on how the Duke and Duchess of Barnshire should conduct themselves, from the amount of time Alastair spent playing with his baby daughters to the couple’s obvious enjoyment in each other’s company.
Louisa had come to the conclusion that Society was quite simply jealous.
At the bottom of the drive, a carriage rumbled into view, and Alastair bounced up from his seat.
“Ah! There he is, right on time!” Alastair beamed down at Louisa. “Let’s go out and greet him. I want to give him his present before he learns of the surprise dinner. Besides, the industrious workers need a few moments to perfect the food. Are you coming?”
“Certainly, if you’ll help me up from this chair!” Louisa said.
Arm in arm, Alastair and Louisa went out onto the front steps, in time for the carriage to swing to a stop at the top of the drive. The door burst open, and a young man leapt out, grinning.
Carter was clearly taking after his father in terms of height and breadth. At thirteen years old, he was already as tall as Louisa and was rapidly growing taller. His blond curls were fading to a darker shade as he grew older, but his eyes were as large and blue as ever.
Rebecca and Bridget, who had somehow escaped from their long-suffering nursemaid, burst out onto the stone steps, shrieking madly and making a beeline for their brother. Their red-brown hair, the same colour as Alastair’s, was firmly plaited, and they were in their nightclothes, leading Louisa to suspect that poor Anna had been in the process of putting them to bed.
“Carter, Carter!” the girls shrieked in union, leaping onto his back and swinging from his shoulders.
Carter rummaged in his pockets, bringing out two small, battered sweetmeats, and furtively slipped them to the girls.
Louisa caught Alastair’s eye and shook her head good-naturedly
“Girls? Rebecca, Bridget?”
The girls paused, reluctantly turning to face their mother.
“Yes, Mama?” They answered, somewhat guiltily.
“I believe it’s past your bedtime. Now, you’ve seen your brother, he will still be here in the morning. Go on to bed. James, would you mind taking them up?”
The girls shrieked with delight as James, the long-suffering footman, swooped down, scooping up one child under each arm, and set off inside at a run.
Carter stood before Alastair and Louisa, grinning widely. Alastair reached out and dragged him into a crushing hug.
“How was school?” Alastair asked when he finally released his son. “Did you miss us all?”
“Oh, terribly,” Carter answered blithely, in a happy, off-hand manner which indicated that he had been having too much fun at boarding school to miss his dull old parents at all. “I’ve got so much to tell you. I brought presents, too! Mama, I got you the loveliest shawl. It’s beautiful, you’ll love it.”
“I’m sure I will,” Louisa smiled. Carter had begun called her “Mama” as a small boy, one who had never had a mother before. The habit had continued, and Louisa’s heart secretly swelled with happiness whenever she heard it.
“I believe your father has something to show you before we go inside.”
Carter’s face lit up. “Oh, how exciting! Will supper be ready soon? I only ask because I’m fairly starving.”
Louisa thought of the veritable banquet being prepared inside the house, all to welcome home Master Carter from boarding school, full of his favourite dishes and treats.
“I’m sure there will be something.”
Alastair and Carter led the way, with Louisa walking slowly and leisurely behind. Her swollen belly, with a rambunctious baby kicking inside, forced her to walk much more slowly these days. Alastair always walked beside her, arm-in-arm, but today he was too excited.
As they passed a horse paddock, with a handful of horses gambolling around inside, one horse peeled off from the group and cantered towards her. It was a glossy, dappled stallion, with power and majesty in every inch of his large frame. Louisa stopped, and the horse poked his nose curiously at her, hoping for treats.
Louisa stroked his soft nose, and he lipped gently at her hand.
“No carrots today,” Louisa murmured. “Sorry, Newton. Perhaps tomorrow.”
She walked on, and Newton galloped over to join the other horses. The pack of horses began to gallop together, moving as one, snorting and tossing their heads with joy.
Louisa smiled to herself, gingerly stepped into the stables.
Alastair’s stables changed frequently, with horses coming and going. There were some horses which always remained. Duchess, for example, the elderly and beloved mare, and her daughter, Bessie.
Recently, there had been a newer addition in the form of Newton and Bessie’s foal.
Louisa had arrived in time to see Alastair point Carter to the last stall in the stables.
Inside, there was a young horse, a vibrant red in colour. He was beautiful, tall, well-built, and glossy. A finely embossed leather saddle hung on the door to the stall, ready for the horse to be saddled up and taken out.
Carter whistled admiringly, holding out his hand. The horse trooped over curiously, confidently nuzzling into Carter’s hand for food.
“He’s beautiful, Papa. What’s his name?”
“We haven’t named him yet,” Alastair said. “We thought we’d let you name him. I always recommend taking a horse out for its first ride before choosing a name.”
Carter’s head snapped around, and his eyes lit up. “Do you mean … is this my horse?”
Alastair and Louisa glanced at each other. Alastair’s eyes were dancing with suppressed mischief, and Louisa suppressed a smile.
“Well, we’re not sure,” Louisa said gravely. “That will all depend on how hard you’ve worked during your school year.”
“I’ve worked terribly hard! I have! Ask any of my teachers!” Carter said eagerly.
Alastair gave a slow nod. “Then in that case, the horse is yours, my boy.”
Carter hooted with excitement. “I’ve already decided what his name will be, even before we ride.”
“‘What will that be?”
Louisa smiled, leaning to rest her cheek on Alastair’s arm. “That’s perfect.”
Alastair and Louisa glanced at each other while Carter fussed over his beloved new horse—which seemed every bit as interested in him as he was in it. Alastair smiled down at her and raised Louisa’s hand to his lips.
“I love you, Lady Barnshire,” he whispered.
I hope you enjoyed my first book “Louisa, The Scarred Governess”. Please let me know your opinion!