Chapter 4 - "SUSPECT"
It was hard to believe that it had only been two days since Katy had left Ashdowne Manor but in that time everything had changed drastically in the household. It was dark and depressing now, everyone wore only black as the Mistress was still officially in mourning for her husband. There was no general chatter, no fun-filled pranks as their once had been and no laughter, only a cold, depressing silence. No one had any inclination to try to cheer up the Mistress after the unspeakable cruelty she had rained down upon poor Katy. Life in the Manor had quickly become just a dreary and mundane routine of fulfilling their daily duties in silence, apart from the sound of the occasional quiet sob from Alice.
Alice’s unending quiet sobbing was, however, beginning to wear Mable down. Living in a fog of permanent misery was bad enough but Alice’s incessant sobbing was becoming irritating. Each time another sob broke out, Mable would take a deep breath to stop herself from berating the poor girl, after all, she thought, this was the first time she had experienced death so close to home and she was also missing her closest friend.
Another monotonous sob broke out. Mable carefully placed the pairing knife onto the table, wiped her hands on her pinny then turned to Alice and sighed deeply. What was she going to do with the girl? She couldn’t carry on like this forever. Alice wiped her tired eyes. What was she to do? She couldn’t help it if she felt so useless. Alice began to talk and soon Mable realised the real problem. Alice was bereft with guilt. She had promised Polly, as she lay dying, that she would look after Katy, but how could she look after her when she didn’t even know where she was or what had happened to her? Mable sat beside her and took her hand. Now she understood. It wasn’t just the loss of the Master and Polly and Katy that was tearing at poor Alice’s heart, it was guilt and a very heavy guilt at that. She had made Polly a solemn promise and she felt as though she had let her down.
Mable thought for a while. There really was only one answer. If Alice wanted to keep her promise then she would have to try to find Katy and make sure she was all right.
After supper that evening, Mable talked to the other servants and they all agreed to pool whatever money they had and give it to Alice so she could go in search of Katy. The next evening as they sat down for supper, William told Alice of their conversation and handed over a purse full of money with the instruction that she was to take leave from the Manor and not come back until she had found Katy.
“But what about my job?” Alice had asked. Though she dearly wanted to go, it seemed impossible that the Mistress would allow her to.
“Don’t you worry about the Mistress” William replied “I’ve already told her you’ve been called home because your father is very sick and we won’t be expecting you back for a few weeks at least”.
“But I’m not sure”, she stuttered nervously, “I’ll be lying to the Mistress. What if she finds out? I haven’t seen my father since I was two years old”. She looked around the table at the kindly faces smiling reassuringly at her. She was overcome with gratitude at their generosity. For the first time in days her tears subsided and she smiled.
“Thank you” she said. “I’m not sure where to start but I will find her, you have my word on that”.
“Start with Penderley Castle” offered Dawson “that’s where she was headed, to see a woman called Tiggy”.
“Right then, Penderley Castle it is. I’ll leave first thing in the morning”.
In the grounds of Penderley Castle, Katy hid in the edge of the woods. From behind the trees she watched the frantic activity at the front of the house. People were dashing about in a frenzy. Three ambulances arrived and three stretchers were carried down the steps of the castle, Katy’s heart ached with worry for Jameson and Lady Catherine. A commotion at the stables caught her attention, two police officers were heading across the fields and making their way towards the woods. They were searching the grounds. For what? For her? No more time for curiosity, with Lady Catherine’s warning ringing in her ears, Katy lifted her skirts and fled blindly into the depths of the woods.
Broken sunshine dappled through the tree tops above as Katy stumbled over protruding roots and broken branches on the woodland floor. Deep in the wood, a derelict cottage came into view. From behind her, Katy could hear the voices of the policemen as they searched. She headed for the cottage and tried the latch. The door creaked open. She stepped inside and closed the door behind her. They would surely search in here, but she needed somewhere to hide and there was no time to waste. She looked about. Across the room a smaller door stood ajar and she could see stairs behind it. She tiptoed across the floor, trying not to disturb the dust and debris laid about and stepping through the door she climbed the stairs which led into a large bedroom with an old wooden bedframe and a chest of drawers. Across the room a door led to another room beyond. Inside that room Katy spotted a cupboard built into the wall, the bottom of which stood about three feet from the floor. She opened it. It was small and dark inside but, she thought, she was small and nimble and it was a possible hiding place, if needed. Suddenly the voices outside were louder, she had no choice. She scrambled up and squeezed herself into the cupboard, trying to repress the need to cough from the billowing dust inside. She pulled the door closed just as the policemen burst open the front door of the cottage. There was no room to spare inside the cupboard, an unseen piece of jagged wood poked into her shoulder, she leaned away from it and hit her head on the edge of a small shelf. She pulled her knees up, hugged them tightly to her chest, praying that she wouldn’t be found. From the sound of their steps and voices, Katy heard one policemen head towards the back of the cottage and the other climb the stone staircase towards her. Footsteps crossed the first bedroom. He was closing in on her now. Her heart beat so heavily in her chest she was sure he might hear it. She held her breath, trying to suppress her heartbeat. The door handle rattled and the door to the second bedroom creaked open. Katy was hiding so close that she could almost hear the policeman breathing. She held herself in frozen silence, not daring to breath. She heard his footsteps cross the room and then a squeak as he rubbed at the dirty window to look out. She took a small breath and held it again, praying for him to leave. More footsteps as he came back towards her. Would he notice the cupboard? Would he even think to look inside? She prayed not. Silence!!! The door creaked and he left the room. Relief! She exhaled and relaxed, thanking God under her breath.
The policemen’s voices continued downstairs.
“She’s not upstairs”, said one.
“She’s not down here, either” replied the other.
With a bang, the front door closed behind them as they left the cottage.
With dread, Katy realised that they were definitely searching for her. Her stomach churned with fear. She needed to gather her thoughts. Suspecting they might be looking for her was one thing, but knowing was something else. Her mind began to cloud in panic. She needed to think clearly. Staying hidden long enough to be sure they’d gone, her thoughts replayed the terrible sequence of bad fortune that had led to her being hidden away in a dark and dusty cupboard. If they’d found Jameson in the attic, they would have realised someone had been hiding there. She had no doubt Mrs Carter would have worked out who it was and set the police after her.
There was no sound from outside, it seemed that the policemen had definitely gone. Katy sighed and cautiously pushed open the cupboard door, stretching out her aching limbs. She climbed down and sank to sit on the floor, listening again for any signs of danger. There was nothing, only the peaceful sound of birdsong in the distance. Katy crossed to the window and peeked out through the gap cleared by the policeman. There was no sign of anyone outside. They’d gone.
Looking around the room, she decided she was probably safe to stay here for now as they’d searched it already and were unlikely to return. She needed the time to work out what to do next.
As the darkness fell that evening, Katy still had no idea what she was going to do. She pulled the old mattress from the bed and beat it to get rid of as much dust as possible. She beat the pillows too and shook the counterpane cover with as much force as she could muster before laying it back on the bed. It wasn’t ideal but at least she had a roof over her head and somewhere to sleep for the night. Tomorrow was another day.
Back in the castle, Lord Penderley’s two children arrived back from the hospital. One look at their ashen faces foretold of bad news. Phyllis threw her gloves aside and rushed up the stairs in tears. George lowered himself into a nearby seat, not knowing how to break the news to the staff. Tiggy Carter wrapped a comforting arm around his shoulders.
“Jameson is dead” he announced quietly. Tiggy stepped away, nodding her head, she had feared as much from the expressions on the faces of the ambulancemen as they had carried him out.
“and what of his Lordship and Lady Catherine?” she ventured.
“Both still unconscious” he replied, then following after her he asked “Tiggy, what happened up there? I know I found them but I have no idea what happened. Have the police said anything?”
“They’re looking for that young girl who turned up off the streets last night. It seems she didn’t leave when I turned her away. She’d been hiding in the back attic, where Jameson was found. He must have found her there” she suggested.
“A young girl? How old was she? Attacking all three of them, like that! It hardly seems likely” he mumbled. “Are they sure it was her?”
“They found her handkerchief in the attic, which gave her away”.
“But why? Why would she do it? It doesn’t make sense”
“All of Her Ladyship’s jewellery has gone. Stolen by the girl it seems.”
A shocked Phylis called out from the stairs.
“Mother’s jewellery stolen? By Polly O’Brady’s daughter? Why would she do that?”
Confusion turned to anger and Phyllis hastened back down the stairs.
“George, take me to the police station at once. I have to see this madwoman who murdered my dearest Benjamin”. Tears streamed down her face as she pleaded with her unmoving brother “Just give me five minutes with her. Five minutes that’s all. My God, I will kill her for what’s she’s done”.
George remained seated, confused.
“But I thought she was little more than a child, 14 or maybe 15 years old?” he looked at Tiggy suspiciously. He’d heard the rumours of what had happened the previous night and how she had been chased off so harshly. “You, yourself, described her as a waif”, he continued “how do you suppose she overpowered all three of them? It doesn’t make sense”.
The maid flushed momentarily and turned her attention to Phyllis but George was not convinced.
“Who found the handkerchief?” he asked
“It was just under the edge of the bed” she replied.
“So you found it? But that room is full of mother’s old things, how do you know it wasn’t one of hers?” he queried.
“It had Polly’s initials on it, and someone had clearly been in the room. It had to have been her” she replied defensively. There was something in Tiggy’s expression that concerned him.
“So I suppose it was you who sent the police after her” George’s tone was almost accusory.
“There was fresh bedding on the bed and there was a pillow under Benjamin’s head. He was dying, he didn’t put it there himself. Maybe she attacked Benjamin when he found her in the attic, then the Mistress caught her stealing the jewellery and the Master heard the commotion”.
“My father had his shooting rifle in his hand and Jameson had been shot, how do you explain that?”.
“With respect, Sir, it’s not my job to work out what happened, it is a matter for the police. I was as shocked as everyone else at what happened. I was just offering whatever help I could. If it wasn’t the girl, I’m sure they will find whoever did and if it was her, then I’m sure they will find her and make her pay. Leave it to them, that’s what I say”.
George watched as Tiggy led Phyllis back up the stairs. Who was this girl who had turned up out of the blue and why was Tiggy so determined to be rid of her? A young girl turning up like that wouldn’t normally be sent out alone into the night, as she was. His curiosity about the girl was deepening.
Phyllis was led back up to her bedroom. She felt as though her heart was breaking. Jameson had been a trusted companion since she was 4 years old and she had loved him dearly. She couldn’t believe he was gone. Murdered by an evil girl who had turned up uninvited and taken advantage of his gentle nature. So cruel, so terribly cruel. How she wanted to get her hands on that girl. Tiggy watched the uncontrollable anger rising in the grieving girl and smiled wryly to herself. She had her father’s temper, of that there was no doubt. She helped the sobbing girl into her nightgown, reassuring her that if the girl wasn’t already in custody, the police would surely catch her by morning. Phyllis’ eyes blazed with fury as she promised over and over that she would make her pay for what she had done.
Later that night, as Tiggy sat at her dressing table brushing her long hair out, she pondered her reflection in the mirror. Some might think she was a lonely spinster with no family other than an unforgiving brother that she had never liked, but she disagreed. She may be a spinster but she wasn’t lonely, the Penderley’s were her family and had been for the past 15 years since she became Lady Catherine’s Chamber Maid. Not long after her return from Scotland, all those years ago, Lady Catherine had confided in her about the baby and the letter she had given Polly, and Tiggy had always known that there was a chance that the girl might turn up at their door one day. She also knew that if his Lordship ever found out about the girl there was no doubt that Lady Catherine would be thrown out of the Castle, Chamber Maid and all. Tiggy was very content with her life in the Castle and being older than Lady Catherine, had assumed she would see out her days there. She wasn’t about to allow some young girl to walk in and take all of that away from her now. Of course, for the briefest moment when she had turned up, she had felt fleetingly sorry for her, she was sorry that Polly had died and all, but life in the Castle was much too precious to Tiggy to allow anyone to put it at risk, no matter who the girl really was
A cockerel crowed at Ashdowne Manor as Alice and Dawson left the house. For the second time in just a few days, Dawson was driving another member of the household to the station, wondering if he would ever see her again.
At the station, the train hissed as it waited. Alice grabbed her bag and kissed Dawson on the cheek.
“Promise me that you and Peter will look after Mable and William. Don’t let that evil witch work them into the ground”. Dawson promised as he waved her off, not showing any sign of his concern for how they would manage without her. They were already two down, with the loss of Polly and Katy but with Alice gone too, there would be even more to do.
Alice settled herself into her seat as the train pulled away. If it hadn’t been such a sad and serious business, she would have been excited. Travelling to London on her own was almost exhilarating. She checked her travel plans. When she arrived in London she would need to change trains and then take a carriage to the Castle. She thought about Katy working in the castle. How lovely, she thought. She imagined Katy falling in love with the Lord’s son and living a luxury life as a Lady. Alice felt privileged that she would be the first one to see Katy in her new role. Excited by the expectation of seeing her best friend again she laid her head back and closed her eyes
But the reality of Katy’s new life was very different from Alice’s expectation. She awoke in the dark, shivering, in a strange and bitter cold bedroom. She pulled the threadbare counterpane cover up under her chin in a feeble effort to protect herself from the damp, musky air in the room. Too cold to go back to sleep, she lay staring at the beams above, trying not to think too deeply about her predicament. Throughout the night and even through daybreak, the temperature outside and in had continued to fall until a heavy snowfall began to drift to the ground outside. Katy sat up and hugged her legs close to her chest again. Her stomach rumbled with hunger but before she could think of food or anything else she needed to find some warmth.
In her haste to escape the Castle, Katy had failed to collect her suitcase from the broom cupboard where she had been hiding, so she had no extra clothing to wear. She searched the cottage for anything she could wrap around her shoulders. The counter pane cover was too big and there was nothing else, not even an old tablecloth to hand. In desperation, she pulled old curtains from the kitchen window and fashioned a double shawl for herself, but it still wasn’t enough. She needed the heat of a fire. She checked the hearth. With a bit of cleaning it might work but outside the woodland was wet with snow, there would be no dry kindling to collect. The freeze had been sudden and unexpected. She rubbed her arms trying to keep the blood flowing and pulled her makeshift shawl tighter around her shoulders. There was nothing inside the cottage that burn long enough to make a decent fire and nothing outside that was dry enough to use. Building a fire was out of the question. What Katy needed was more clothing. It seemed she had two choices she could go into town to buy something to wear or she could go back to the Castle for her case. Both options were risky but to buy something she would need money and that meant pawning some of Lady Catherine’s jewellery. There was little doubt Mrs Carter had realised the jewellery box was missing so the police would be watching the local pawn shops. The only thing she could do was go back to the Castle to retrieve her own belongings.
Katy checked the sky, the sun had not fully risen yet, it was still very early. It was unlikely that anyone would be up and about in the Castle yet. If she was quick, she could get back and grab her bag before anyone realised.
The Castle grounds were quieter than the previous day, a young stable-hand, Tom, was working hard clearing the snow away from the stable yard and adding extra hay bales for the horses. He glanced out towards the Castle, thankful that it was unlikely anyone would want to ride out today. The cold was hard enough on the horses without them having to suffer a rough ride as well. He finished loading the extra hay and stopped to check his favourite horse. Seeing Martha May always cheered him up, no matter what the weather. Now fourteen hands high she was a true beauty, he took up a brush and began grooming her shiny coat. She had such a gentle nature, he patted her neck and she snorted affectionately in response.
Everyone in the house knew Tom preferred horses to people. The other servants teased him about it, but they were right, he generally disliked people but he particularly hated those who were cruel to horses. He stroked Martha May’s face, he would never let anyone hurt her.
The sound of footsteps approaching on the pebbles pulled Tom from his thoughts. Not expecting anyone at this early hour he looked to see who it was. Phyllis stopped and looked directly at him but without saying a word. Tom could see the grief in her eyes. Jameson’s death had hit everyone hard but none more than Phyllis, she and Jameson had been very close and he knew she would miss him badly. Tom felt his cheeks blush under her gaze, although he disliked people in general, that didn’t include Phyllis. She may have been Lord Penderley’s daughter but she was beautiful and his heart skipped a beat each time he saw her. Everyone knew how he felt about her and he was teased constantly about that, too. Who did he think he was? Why would she be interested in someone like him? He agreed. Phyllis was the apple of her father’s eye and had been given everything she wanted, her whole life. She would never look twice at someone like him. Unlike her brother, George, who had been a really good friend to Tom over the years. Everyone thought it was their shared love of horses that made them friends but Tom knew better, it was their shared suffering at the hands of George’s brutal father that they shared.
Phyllis approached Martha May’s stall. “I couldn’t sleep” she explained “I thought I’d take Martha May out for a gallop and blow some of the cobwebs out of my head”. Tom was sympathetic but galloping out in this weather was not good for Martha May.
“If I may be so bold, Ma’am, the weather’s not good for taking her out this morning. There’s too much snow underfoot and it’s not good for her hooves. And if she slips, you might fall and be hurt. Could you delay your ride, for both your sakes?” he asked nervously.
Phyllis sighed. “Well, when you put it like that, how can I not?” she replied. “Maybe later then, when the sun has melted the snow?”
“Certainly, Ma’am! I will make sure she is ready for you”.
Phyllis forced a smile and turned back towards the house.
Tom petted Martha May on the neck and whispered “Don’t you worry, lass. I’ll always look out for you”.
He gave the horse a quick hug and left her stall, rushing to watch Phyllis as she walked away across the lawns.
As Tom watched her go, Katy slipped silently into an empty horse stall at the back of the stables and hid out of sight. She felt safe in the stables, they reminded her of school and the years she spent with the horses there. In the safety of the stall, nestled in between the hay bales, she relaxed and planned her next move. If she could keep close to the hedge she should be able to make her way over to the coal bunker by the west wing door and then it would just be a case of waiting for the right moment to sneak inside and grab her case from the cupboard at the bottom of the back stairs. Katy waited until Tom moved back inside, then, with no one in sight, she tiptoed out and made for the gardens. As she passed one of the occupied stalls she heard what sounded like a horse thrashing about and struggling with fast, rasping breaths. Instinctively, she knew something was wrong. She glanced inside. The horse was down. Katy hesitated. She looked towards the house. She needed to get to the west wing now before the servants started to rise but she couldn’t leave a horse down like this, he was clearly in trouble. She opened the stall and stepped inside.
“You poor boy” she whispered, trying to reassure him, “What’s wrong with you, eh?”
She watched his body language closely, quickly assessing his condition. He was sweating and tossing his head in pain. Fearing it might be an attack of colic she knew he needed to be on his feet or he could be in real danger. Continuing to talk soothingly at him, she approached him slowly and slipped a harness lightly over his head, then, moving even more slowly, she placed her fingers gently over his nostrils, making him jump to his feet. Despite her intrusive actions the horse was comfortable with Katy and allowed her to lead him around the stable until his breathing returned to normal. Confident that he was out of danger, she removed his harness and quietly left the stall. She looked out towards the house. By now, she could see people beginning to move about. She was too late, her chance was gone, she would have to try again later. She turned back and returned the way she had come, only stopping to take a quick drink and a handful of apples from the stable barrels as she passed them by.
From his hidden vantage point, Tom had watched the whole thing and from the description the police had given him earlier, he suspected this might be the girl they were looking for. He stepped back out of sight as she passed him by and then followed discreetly in her wake. Unaware that she was being followed, Katy made a dash across the field and back into the woods beyond. Tom followed and watched from a distance as she unlatched the derelict cottage door and stepped inside.
So, that was where she was hiding. Tom made his way back to the stable yard, elated with the knowledge of the girl’s hiding place. He had a plan. He would tell Phyllis where she was. That would surely impress her and she would see him in a different light then.
As the day wore on the sun began to melt the snow on the ground. By the middle of the afternoon, although the air was bitter cold, there was little sign of the snow that had fallen the previous night. Tom was busy tending to Starburst in his stall when Phyllis returned to the stables to take her long-awaited ride on Martha May. She could see no sign of Tom. She was stressed and impatient. With no sign of the lad about, she decided to prepare the horse herself. She fastened the harness around the horse’s head and threw the saddle across its back, pulling the straps far too tightly around the horse’s girth, so tight that the horse suddenly reared up on its hind legs. Phyllis was shocked by the horse’s behaviour and instinctively took her riding whip to the horse’s side, to force it down. The horse, in pain from the leather straps that were cutting into its skin, and suffering a beating with a whip, squealed with fright and lashed out with its forelegs. Phyllis was in no mood for disobedience and this was now a battle of wills. She was determined the horse would submit to her commands. Already filled with rage at the loss of Jameson, she beat continuously at the horse as she yanked at its rein, trying to pull it back down. Hearing the commotion, Tom dashed from Starbust’s stall and was horrified at the sight before him. His beloved Martha May was in distress, being cruelly beaten by a whip in the hands of …, in the hands of who? And then he saw who and he was doubly shocked. He knew Phyllis was grieving but no amount of grief justified the way she was beating any horse but this wasn’t just any horse, she was beating his precious Martha May. Suddenly he saw her in a whole new light, she was no better than her father.
He yelled at her to stop and threw himself between Phyllis and Martha May. Phyllis threw the reins to the ground.
“That animal is wild” she screamed angrily. “I will not have a wild horse in my stables”.
She stormed off, struggling to control her temper.
Tom was too shocked to respond. He tried to settle Martha May but she continued to rear up in distress. She was clearly terrified. Time and again he tried to settle her, it was so unlike her, normally it only took a soothing word from him and she would nuzzle up to him but not today. He checked her over, looking for lesions and bruising, as he ran his hand over her belly he realised her saddle was too tight. He struggled to loosen the straps as she continued to kick out in pain. It took all of his strength to hold her steady enough to free the straps and yank the offending saddle from her back. Free of the pain, she began to settle. Tom stroked her and reassured her until she calmed down. The cuts on her belly looked sore. Tom was furious. He would be making a serious complaint to his Lordship about this, grieving or not, there was no excuse for what Phyllis had done. He knew he would never be able to look at her in the same way again. Clearly, she had inherited her father’s evil streak.
Later that night, with the horses settled, Tom went to join the other servants in the kitchen for supper. Talk around the table was all about the events of the last 24 hours but Tom was so disturbed by the events of the day that he never spoke a word. It was so unlike him that the other servants watched him closely, conscious that something was wrong with the lad. But Tom’s mind was distracted. There had been two women who had visited the stable yard that day, one was wanted by the police, the other was a respected member of the family. One had tended a suffering horse skilfully and caringly, the other had cruelly taken a whip to his beautiful Martha May and made her suffer badly. He knew which one of the women the police should have been after, but it wasn’t the right one. Tom could not imagine that someone as loving and caring as the girl in the woods could have committed the crime she was accused of. He shook his head, and to think, he was about to tell that horrible woman where she was hiding. Tom decided a great injustice had been done and that the girl could not be guilty. He thought of how she helped Starburst earlier that day and determined to help her however he could, in return. Pushing his dinner plate away, unfinished, he made his excuses and stood to leave the table. He planned to check on Martha May and then check on the girl. He reached over the table and picked a couple of buns and some cheese from the plate and then left the kitchen under the curious gaze of the other staff.
As the door closed behind him the servants burst into conversation, in their view the lad grew odder by the day. Emily reported that he gave her the creeps, always hanging about behind walls and hedges spying on people, the way he did. Tom could hear them from outside the door, but he didn’t care, he had more important things on his mind. He was starting to put two and two together. He’d overheard the conversation between Lady Catherine and Jameson in the garden yesterday and he was pretty sure he knew who the girl really was.
In the darkness of the night, Tom headed into the woods and made his way to the old cottage, carrying the bread and cheese inside a blanket slung over his shoulder. The night air was bitter cold and the ground still wet from the melted snow underfoot. He approached the cottage quietly, for fearing of scaring the girl. Through the window he could see her curled up in a chair, pulling a wrap around her shoulders in an effort to stave off the cold. She needed more than food. He placed the blanket of food beside the cottage door and headed back to the stable block where he collected some winter clothing from the office, a woollen jumper, an overcoat, some thick socks and a pair of wellington boots.
Checking that no one was watching he returned to the woods and the girl in the cottage. The bundle of food was still where he’d left it so Tom laid the clothing beside it and knocked quietly on the door. Katy jumped with fright when she heard the knock at the door. She crept to the window and peeked out. No one was there. She was certain she had heard a knock but she couldn’t risk opening the door. Instead she crept back across the room and through the kitchen to the back door. Quietly and carefully she pulled the back door open and checked outside. With no sign of anyone about she stepped out and crept around the side to the front corner of the cottage. She hid herself back against the wall then took a quick peek around the corner. There was definitely no one there. She looked again, checking the treeline nearby. There was no sign of anyone. And then she saw a large bundle outside the front door. Thinking it was someone hiding out of sight, she immediately withdrew, breathing heavily with fear. She listened intently, unsure what to do. A moment later she heard a quiet whistle, and then a voice calling out her name.
“Don’t be afraid” the voice said “I know who you are and I want to help you. I’ve left food and clothes by the door for you. I promise I’m not here to trick you, I only want to help”.
After a moment, Katy cautiously stepped out from the side of the cottage and slowly made her way to the front door, keeping a keen eye on the treeline as she went. As she stooped to check the bundle of clothes a figure took one step out of the shadow of the trees, waiting for a signal to move closer. Katy lifted the bundled blanket and opened it, to find bread and cheese inside. She looked towards the figure in the treeline.
“Thank you” she whispered.
Tom took a step closer, reaching a hand out towards her.
“Let me help you” he called.
Grateful for his kindness, Katy stepped inside the front door and left it open for Tom to follow. As the moon rose up in the night sky, Tom updated Katy on what had happened and how the police were searching for her. Katy was devastated to hear that Jameson had died. He had been so kind to her. She felt guilty for leaving him as she had. She explained what had really happened and how Lady Catherine had made her take the jewellery.
Tom listened and began to understand. He had an idea. If he took the jewellery box back to the house he could try to convince the police that Tiggy was wrong and it wasn’t Katy who did it. She didn’t need to sell Lady Catherine’s jewellery, he could help her instead and keep her safe until Lady Catherine recovered. Katy, agreed and handed over the jewellery box.
Tom returned directly to the Castle, sneaked the jewellery box back into the house and retrieved Katy’s suitcase from the cupboard at the bottom of the back stairs. Later, with the suitcase hidden safely in the stable yard, he returned to the kitchen and waited about aimlessly until Emily, who was watching him curiously, discovered the jewellery box amongst a pile of washing.
As soon as George heard the news of the find he wasted no time confronting Tiggy.
“I’ll wager you’re not so quick to tell the police you were wrong about the girl” he said.
“Just because the jewellery box has been found, doesn’t mean she didn’t do it” she replied.
“She didn’t do it though, did she?” he argued “and you know it”.
Tiggy hissed her retort through gritted teeth “well your father didn’t knock himself out, did he?”
George was furious. She was determined to blame the girl even when the jewellery box had been found, and furthermore, she seemed to have forgotten who she was talking to. Uncharacteristically, he pulled himself up to his full height and asserted himself as the person he was, in his father’s absence, the head of the household.
“Have you completely forgotten yourself Mrs Carter (he addressed her formally)? How dare you back-chat me in such a fashion?” he yelled.
Tiggy stuttered, shocked by his response. Realising she had pushed things too far, she gathered her skirts in a curtsy-like manner, lowered her eyes and apologised.
“I am so sorry, Master George, I don’t know what came over me. I’m afraid I’ve allowed the upset of losing Mr Jameson to overcome my senses, please forgive me”.
“I will forgive you if you drop all this nonsense about some poor waif of a child being responsible for a vicious attack on three grown adults”
“Consider it forgotten” she muttered.
George was shaking with rage.
“Now, concern yourself with your proper duties and see to it that her Ladyship has clean nightgowns delivered to the hospital. Take yourself there and care for her, as you should be doing”.
“Yes sir, of course. I will go at once”. Embarrassed, she apologised again and took her leave, secretly seething inside that somehow the girl had managed to wriggle out of her liability. Nevertheless, she doubted the girl would dare to return to the Castle after all the trouble so, one way or another, she should be gone for good.
The house was just quietening down for the night when another tired and long-travelled young girl knocked on the West Wing door of the castle.