Chapter 3 - "ANGER"
As the early morning sun broke through the window of the old attic, a sleeping Katy thrashed about violently in her bed. In her dream she was desperately trying to save herself from drowning in the strong current of a raging river, grasping at anything her fingertips could reach as the angry waters dragged her back under each time she’d fought her way to the surface. At last, a branch! Her icy cold fingers closed tightly around the slippery wood, just enough to enable her to swing herself around and grasp it with her other hand, too. Exhausted from the struggle, she pulled herself closer to the heavy branch and jammed herself up against it. As the freezing water pulled at her legs underneath she clung tighter to the branch, resisting the strength of the current. With each lull in the raging force of the water she inched her way along the branch until her toes eventually touched the grasses and mud of the riverbank below. Finally, sure of her footing, she scrambled out of the powerful water, exhausted from the desperate effort she lay on the bank until a realisation hit her. Her eyes scanned the surface of the river. “Mother!” she screamed above the roar of the raging river. After a moment she spotted the top of her mother’s head in the water. A hand reached up above it, fingers splayed wide in a desperate effort to attract attention, a silent scream for help. Katy tried to rise to her knees as screamed again “Mother!” but her foot was caught in a tangle of reeds and she could not free herself. She screamed out to her mother over and over again as the bobbing head disappeared under the raging torrent and the hand finally followed. “Mother!!!”.
Katy awoke from her nightmare suddenly, sitting bolt upright, shaking and sweating with fear. For one sweet moment she realised it was only a dream but in the next moment she remembered her mother really was dead. A deep ache hung heavily in Katy’s heart as her grief once again overwhelmed her. For a few minutes she sobbed hopelessly into her pillow until her sobs finally subsided and she raised her eyes to look around the old attic room. Fear gripped her stomach. She had no idea what would become of her today. How could life be so unfair? She rose from her bed and moved across the room to look out of the window. The sun was just beginning to rise and the birds were singing their dawn chorus but there was no sign of anyone around. She could see across the grounds and the fields beyond. An early morning mist lay heavily over the landscape but Katy did not see the beauty in it, to her the view was stark and unfamiliar.
She returned to her bed and lay silently, thinking about the life she had lost, her mother, the Master, her friends. The words of her mother’s final message echoed in her head. Be brave! Face the changes head on! Eventually Katy sat herself upright. She may only be 15 but she was her mother’s daughter and adversity had never stopped her mother so it wasn’t going to stop her. She had her mother’s spirit so one way or another she would cope.
She rose from the bed, washed, dressed and brushed her hair then gathered her belongings back into her case. Fate may have left her all alone but she was ready for whatever was to come. She sat back down on the side of her bed, resolute in her determination to survive. First of all, she would wait to see what Jameson had to say this morning. Straightening her skirt out over her knees, she waited for his knock at the door.
On the floor below, Jameson was laid awake in his bed. He had been awake most of the night. Somehow, he would have to find a way to let her Ladyship know about the girl in the attic without raising the suspicions of anyone else, least of all Mrs Carter or, worse still, His Lordship. He realised he would have to wait until Lady Catherine was going out for her morning ride before he could approach her privately. He was concerned about the girl and was conscious that he would need to fetch her some fresh water and food but it would have to wait, he couldn’t risk Mrs Carter finding out that she was still here before he had chance to talk to Her Ladyship. He felt cruel but he knew he had no choice but to leave the girl unattended until later.
Katy’s fresh-found resolve was strong. She was ready to get on with the rest of her life and all the waiting around for the butler was frustrating. To ease her boredom, she began to rummage again. She took another look at the painting she had found the previous night. In the light of the day, she began to doubt her previous judgement. She decided that the woman in the picture did not look like herself at all. She had similar hair and her eyes may have been the same colour but the nose was different and the mouth was nothing like her own. She turned the picture away, rejecting the likeness. It had been wishful thinking, that was all.
Katy returned to the window. People were beginning to surface. In the distance, she could hear the soothing sound of horses’ hooves, they reminded her of home. She returned to the bed. Her patience was growing thin. If Jameson did not return soon, she would leave by herself.
Downstairs, Jameson had completed his early morning jobs and Lady Catherine was due to return from her ride so he set off to the stables to await her return. The matter at hand had to be dealt with urgently but it also had to be dealt with secretly, His Lordship had a violent temper and her Ladyship would surely suffer at his hands if he were to discover their secret.
As Jameson walked into the stables the strong smell of damp hay filled his nostrils. Unseen horses snorted impatiently from inside their stalls and bashed hooves against the wooden walls in their haste to get out into the fresh morning air. The familiar clip clop of hooves on the cobbles grew louder as a rider walked another horse back into the stable yard. A few moments later, Lady Catherine strode into view with her helmet and riding crop tucked under her arm as she tugged at the fingers of her gloves. Jameson caught her up and matched her stride.
“Ma’am, I must speak with you privately as a matter of the greatest urgency” he emplored.
“Whatever it is, will have to wait” she replied, “I have a meeting that I must attend and I am already late”.
“But this cannot wait, your Ladyship, I really must speak with you now”.
“I’m sorry Jameson but it will have to wait”. She waved a dismissive hand at him to signal that their conversation was over and strode away from him.
“It’s about Polly and Katy and it really cannot wait”.
Lady Catherine stopped and turned, her face white with shock. After a moment, she regained her composure and asked him to repeat what he had said. He did so. “Walk with me” she ordered.
Once outside the stable yard, they turned right and headed into the rose garden and after checking that no one else was around, Jameson explained about the girl in the attic. Lady Catherine was stunned by the news, devastated at the death of Polly but astounded that Katy was inside her own attic. She dashed away, hastily heading back towards the castle until Jameson caught her by the arm and stopped her, reminding her about the delicacy of the matter and the need to be discreet. Reluctantly, Lady Catherine agreed and allowed herself to be led to a garden seat, where the pair sat to consider the options. As they talked, memories of their time in Scotland resurfaced and the death of Polly hit home. Lady Catherine laid her head against Jameson’s shoulder.
“Oh Benjamin, poor Polly. I never got chance to thank her for what she did for me”.
For a moment, the pair were the friends they had been in Scotland. Jameson laid a comforting arm around her shoulder as they silently remembered Polly.
From a window in the castle, Lady Catherine’s husband had watched the interaction between his wife and his butler in the gardens below and began to question what they might be discussing that would instil such emotion in his wife that she would storm away from him in such a manner and why his butler would ever believe he had the authority to be so familiar with his Mistress that he would grab her by the arm and then put an arm around her. Maybe that was it, he thought, that very phrase – his mistress. Was it possible? His wife and his butler? His Lordship could feel the anger rising-up inside of him. This was the absolute utmost betrayal. He thought of the ultimate humiliation he would suffer when news of his wife’s affair with his butler broke! He struggled to control the anger erupting inside of him. He paced the floor, backwards and forwards, like a caged animal, awaiting her return and her explanation. Blindly, he reached into his gun cabinet and pulled out a rifle.
Outside, in the garden, Lady Catherine was struggling to come to terms with the turn of events. Her mind was too confused to be able to work out what to do. She needed to get on with her morning routine to avoid arousing suspicion so she agreed to meet up with Jameson in the back paddock later that afternoon, when they would have time to work out a plan of action.
Unaware that her husband was watching their every move, she returned to the castle, followed shortly afterwards by Jameson.
Lady Catherine was late for a charity meeting so decided to miss breakfast and instead headed straight out to her meeting. Jameson, on the other hand, unaware of his Master’s suspicions and anger, returned to the house and headed directly to his Master’s rooms. After knocking politely, he opened the door to find himself looking down the barrel of a rifle. The Master’s face was red with fury, he was foaming at the mouth with anger as he demanded to know how long he’d been having an affair with his wife. Confused, Jameson tried to calm the situation down. He raised his hands submissively and assured him that he had done no such thing and never would. The Master’s eye twitched with anger at his butler’s response.
“Liar” he accused “I saw you together. How dare you? I’ll kill you for this”.
With that he struck the butler about the head with the butt of the rifle. Jameson fell to the ground bleeding. A moment later, a foot kicked him in the ribs and a barrage of rifle butts rained down on his head and his back as he tried to defend himself. A momentary pause followed by a click from the gun filled Jameson with horror as he realised his Master had completely lost control and was preparing to shoot him. He scrambled to his feet and dashed out of the door, the Master yelling after him that he would not be humiliated by a worthless butler. As Jameson neared the corner to the left wing corridor a shot rang out behind him and simultaneously he felt a powerful punch to the middle of his back. He stumbled, in searing pain, realising he’d been shot. With his Master’s voice still raging in the distance, he fled towards the back stairs, his lungs burning and his breathing becoming difficult. He climbed the stairs and burst into the old attic room before collapsing on the floor. Immediately, Katy came to his aid, questioning what had happened as she pushed padding under his bleeding back.
“I’ll get help” she told him as she dragged a pillow from the bed to lay beneath his head.
“No!” his hand grabbed at her to stop her. “You mustn’t, he will kill you”
“Who will?” she asked, confused.
“His Lordship. If he finds out about you, he will kill you and your mother, too”
“My mother? But my mother is already dead”
“Your real mother. Lady Catherine. He must never know.”
Jameson was struggling to breath but he knew he had to tell Katy the truth so she understood the danger she was in. Between rasping breaths, he told her what had happened when she was born and how Polly had left the house to raise her as her own. Katy was shocked but she knew it was true, suddenly everything made sense, why her mother refused to tell her about her father; why her Master had paid for her education; her Mistress’s suspicions about the circumstances of her birth; and the letter her mother had left when she died.
“Go!”, Jameson was pushing her away. “Go, quickly, before they find you here”.
“But you need help”, she didn’t know what to do. If she left, would he die here, alone in the attic?
“I will get help but first you must get out of here”.
And so she left, heading down the back staircase.
As she reached the bottom of the stairs, she heard footsteps approaching the back door so she hid in the broom cupboard out of sight. The driver came in and walked directly through the back kitchen and into the main kitchen were a number of staff were busy tending to their daily duties.
“Lady Catherine was in a very pensive mood this morning” he announced “not like her at all to turn down a walk in the park with Lady Ridgewood”.
Katy froze. Lady Catherine was back. Her real mother. Dangerous though it may be, Katy needed to see her with her own eyes before she left. She waited until the back kitchen was clear and headed back up the stairs towards the first floor. She had to see her mother, if only once.
Keeping her whits about her, Katy tiptoed through the corridors of the house in search of her mother. As she turned around a corner she could hear raised voices coming from an open doorway, halfway along the corridor.
“How long has it been going on?” an angry voice demanded.
“Don’t be ridiculous George, there is nothing going on”
“I swear I will kill you if you don’t tell me the truth” the man’s voice hissed as he spat the words out.
Fear stirred in Katy’s stomach. She could hear the danger in the man’s voice. It had to be the Master and Lady Catherine.
Lady Catherine was trying to reassure her husband that the notion of her having an affair with the butler was absurd but he would not be assuaged. He’d seen them with his own eyes.
Katy heard a thud and a squeal of pain. “No, George, stop, you’re wrong”.
Katy inched closer. More thuds and squeals followed. The Master continued his rant.
“Do you think you are going to humiliate me? Me? I’ll kill you first” he threatened.
Katy reached the door to the room. Lady Catherine was curled up in a protective ball on the floor and her husband was kicking her violently. In disbelief, she watched as he reached for the rifle and drew it up to his face, taking aim at his wife. Instinctively, Katy picked up a heavy ornament from just inside the room and struck it across the back of the Master’s head. Instantly, the gun slipped from his fingers as he slumped to the ground.
After a moment, Lady Catherine released her arms from over her head and looked around to find her brutal husband lying in a heap on the floor and a young girl with red curly hair standing over him. She didn’t need to be told who the girl was, she recognised the likeness immediately.
The girl looked at her, her eyes filled with tears.
“I thought he was going to kill you. I didn’t know what to do. Have I killed him?”
She looked terrified, a terrified little girl. Lady Catherine beckoned her closer. Katy knelt beside her mother, tears now streaming down her cheeks as she apologised for killing His Lordship. Her mother tried to reassure her that he was not dead, just knocked out. She knew the girl had to get out of the house before anyone found them. No one would understand, they would think she had attacked them both. But she couldn’t risk losing her again. Lady Catherine asked for a box on a table by her bed. Katy collected it and brought it to her mother. It was her jewellery box. She lifted the jewels out and stuffed them into Katy’s hands, telling her to pawn them all and use the money to find somewhere safe to hide. She promised she would come and find her soon and bring her back home. Katy refused but her mother insisted. Not knowing what to do, she followed her instructions, stuffed the jewels back into the box and rushed out of the room with it.
A moment later, George Junior arrived in the corridor, searching for his father but instead, discovered the aftermath of his father’s violent quarrel with his step-mother. The alarm was raised and in minutes the corridors were teeming with life, with people dashing one way and another in a desperate effort to get help and to save the lives of Lord and Lady Pemberley.
Katy made her way back to the back stairs. In the flurry of panic that surrounded the west wing, the east side of the house was quiet and she was able to leave without being seen.
The police and ambulance had arrived and in the turmoil that was enfolding in the house it wasn’t long before Jameson’s absence was noticed. Where was he? Questions followed. Had he done this? No one could believe he was capable of such violence. They all knew about the Master’s temper and soon deduced that Jameson must have struck the Master to protect the Mistress. They needed to find him. The police ordered a search of the house and grounds and eventually one of the footmen discovered him in the attic.
Tiggy Carter dashed to the attic room. A pillow had been laid below Jameson’s head. It was clear he had not been alone in the room. The bed was freshly made, there was water in the pitcher and hand marks on the window where the dust had been rubbed away. Tiggy was astounded. Something had been going on here under her very nose and she had no idea what. She searched about for a clue. She found one, under the bed, a small white lace handkerchief bearing the initials P.O. She racked her brain for an explanation. P.O.? Who was P.O.? And then she remembered the previous night.
“Polly O’Brady” she mumbled. Of course, the girl from last night. The street urchin who was here looking for the Mistress. Tiggy called a police officer into the room telling him she knew who had committed this terrible crime.
Tiggy was further convinced that Katy O’Brady was to blame when later, as she tearfully cleared her Mistresses room, she noticed her jewellery box was missing. She notified the police to add Theft to the list of charges.
Three ambulances arrived at the hospital that day. A stretcher was carried from each one, two with nurses running alongside and one with a sheet over the head of the body underneath.