It was a fair day but cool in the deepening autumn, as Charlotte Greaves, the Duchess of Hartmoor set out in a carriage for a leisurely ride to a neighboring estate for luncheon with three other ladies of high breeding. It had been but a fortnight earlier that Charlotte and her husband, Sir Robert, Duke of Hartmoor, had been in attendance during the coronation of King George III.
In private, Robert confided that he thought this new monarch was a pleasant chap if somewhat too retiring. But the king was only twenty-two years of age and had to emerge from the temperamental shadow of his little-mourned grandfather.
Charlotte held no doubt as to what the main topic of discussion would be this afternoon at Lady Whitebow's estate. Their new ruler was a bachelor and the hunt for a suitable bride was underway in great force. Tongues were wagging as to whether the wife would come from the bloodlines of English nobility or draw from the stock of the "Teutonic lot".
But Charlotte's thoughts about the upcoming gossip were sidetracked as she looked out from the carriage. A small crowd of people were gathered in front of the one of the small stone houses that was home to one of the estate's employees. Noticing two of her housemaids among the group - an odd thing for them to be away from the main house at this time of day, Charlotte called for the carriage to stop. Seeing the duchess' carriage, the two maids hurried to it and curtsied.
"What is this, then, Fanny?" Charlotte called to the elder of the two.
The woman made a small bow again before answering.
"'Twas Edward Beecham, ma'am," the servant replied. "His Grace's gamekeeper. He'd been ill for some time and young Jack Carstairs had been filling in for him. But now he's passed on these two nights ago and leaving a daughter behind him. She's no place to go seeing how her mother died giving birth and there's no relations hereabout. But she's got to clear out now as this is the gamekeeper's house and Jack will be moving in as proper."
"And this Jack is throwing her out?" Charlotte asked.
"Oh no, ma'am. He's been patient about it - quite a gentlemen, really. But the girl has to go and we are trying to see who will take her in. Widow Hensley likely will and-"
"Is that the girl, there?" Charlotte interrupted, pointing to a young girl whose reddened eyes were not quit as vibrant as her flaming locks.
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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Changes last made on: Tuesday, January 17, 2017