Lady Elizabeth Anne Milchett was clearly not happy about something.
Screaming at the top of her voice was something she really was rather good at, when she was angered about something.
“Coming, me lady”
John Thomas was the head gardener well actually he was the only gardener at Milchett Hall.
Milchett Hall had been the family residence of the Milchett family for generations. A modest stately home, three wings and quarters for their meagre staff. Lord Milchett spent most of his time in London, deliberating over affairs of state in Parliament.
“Do something about that moss will you Thomas. It has begun to creep up the walls, and if we let it grow any further we’ll not be able to see out of the windows”
“Right you are me lady. I’ll have it cleared away in no time”
The grounds of Milchett Hall weren’t particularly extensive. A few acres of well tended lawn, some tastefully arranged flower beds, the obligatory hedged maze and a well stocked lake.
The stables held five horses, although Lord Milchetts carriage was rarely seen due to his work in London, which held him there for often months at a time. Lady Milchett was fond of riding and preferred, much to Lord Milchetts distaste, to tend to the horses herself.
Strutting back inside the manor, Lady Milchett had things to arrange. Lord Stafford was expected later that afternoon and Lady Milchett needed to make sure the kitchens had prepared sufficient fare.
There was a scurry of feet and within a flash Kate; one of the servants at Milchett Hall had appeared.
“What have you prepared for Lord Stafford?”
Kate blushed deeply and looked confused.
“Food, dear girl, what food has been prepared? He’ll be here within the hour”
“Oh, me lady, beggin’ your pardon. I’ll fetch the menu shall I?”
“Oh never mind, as long as the kitchens are ready to receive him when he arrives”
“Very good me lady” Kate curtsies and turns to leave.
“I’ll be in the stables, if Cook needs anything, or if there is something amiss with the preparations, tell her to let me know immediately”
“Very good me lady”
Lady Milchett stalks off in the general direction of the Stables, then suddenly stops and changes her mind.
“On second thoughts Kate, maybe I should go down into the kitchens and supervise myself. That way nothing can go wrong. Come along Kate”
Lady Milchett steps back inside the Manor with Kate trailing lightly behind her, affecting that curious fretting of the hands that she seemed to continually suffer with.
At precisely a quarter to two, Lord Hugh Stafford’s Carriage drew up outside the Manor.
Standing on the steps smiling as sweetly as possible, Lady Milchett is flanked by Cook, Kate and her personal maid Annabelle. They are all curtseying graciously as Lord Stafford steps grandly from his carriage. Never a dour man, he is positively gushing goodwill as he launches himself up the steps to clasp both hands of Lady Milchett in greeting.
Beaming with pleasure from ear to ear he exclaims:
“How absolutely delightful to be with you once again Lady Milchett. And I trust I find you and your household, in the very best of health”
Lady Milchett curtseys deeply once more.
“It is always a pleasure to entertain you Lord Stafford. And you are absolutely correct; our household could not find itself in any better state of health”
“And your husband Lady Milchett. What is the news from the capital?”
“Lord Stafford, I simply must insist. Our portal is no place to discuss any such matters”
“You must be hungry and thirsty after such a long journey so please, let’s go inside where we may talk at leisure”
At that, the entire entourage follow Lady Milchett and Lord Stafford inside the Manor. Once inside the various staff harry to their posts to complete the final arrangements for Lord Stafford’s refreshments. Lady Milchett turns discretely to Annabelle as they draw near to the drawing room.
“Annabelle, be a darling and lay out some evening wear for me. Lord Stafford does have a habit of, how can I put it? Drink the cellars dry? So it is unlikely …” Lady Milchett turned to check that Lord Stafford could not overhear the conversation. Finding him standing with his hands behind his back in silent admiration of a family portrait hanging in the drawing room, at a suitable distance. She turned back to Annabelle:
“It is to be doubted very much that he will be in any fit state to travel back this evening”
“There is no doubt he will require a room for the night, and for this eventuality George has already prepared one”
“Very good me lady” Annabelle curtseys’ and begins to move to the drawing room door.
Lady Milchett grasps Annabelle’s arm and draws her near to whisper:
“Oh, and one more thing Annabelle, after Dinner we will be retiring to the evening room, but please, do prepare some evening wear for yourself, and join us by the fire”
“And under no circumstances leave our company until Lord Stafford has retired for the night. By that time Lord Stafford’s grasp on appropriate decorum will have vanished I can assure you, and it has not been beneath him before to chance his hand with my husbands … malice”
“As you well know, there have been several embarrassing episodes which have led to black veil ceremonies as it were, and I fear that if Lord Stafford should fall into such disfavour, my husband may overstep his favour in the house”
“Do I make myself clear?”
Annabelle is a little startled, but is utterly devoted to Lady Milchett and so without further ado nods acquiescence and scuttles from the room, allowing herself a scowl in the direction of Lord Stafford’s back.
As the door closes Lord Stafford wheels on the spot and approaches Lady Milchett, grinning from ear to ear.
“An absolutely delightful portrait Lady Milchett. A close relative?”
“No, No, one of my husband’s colleagues in the house. He had it commissioned in London and my husband was presented with it during a ceremony at the Tower”
“How absolutely fascinating”
At this, there is a firm but steady knock on the drawing room door. Lady Milchett bade entry and the door opens to allow several trolley’s of refreshments to be wheeled into place.
“Please Lord Stafford, refresh yourself and relax, you have come a long way”
The following morning Lord Stafford is looking at his kidney and eggs as though they were about to start wriggling about on his plate.
“I’m awfully sorry Lady Milchett, but I don’t seem to have much of an appetite this morning”
Lord Stafford has no colour in his cheeks whatsoever, and it does seem as though, that if he were to attempt to even prod his early morning fare, he might lose control of some hitherto unrealised biological chemistry.
“Would you mind awfully, if I were to retire once again to my room for a short while?”
“My dear Lord Stafford why of course not”
“Please, our home is your home, and I will look forward to your re-awakening later in the day. I should prepare some horses for a ride later!”
“Maybe the fresh air will breathe new life into you”
Lady Milchett smiles sweetly and Lord Stafford rises unsteadily to his feet and bows at the waist.
Upstairs, Kate is meanwhile drawing back the bedclothes, plumping the pillows and generally tidying and refreshing the room that had been set aside for Lord Stafford.
A youngish girl, no more than 23, Kate had been in service with Lord and Lady Milchett for several years. Rather frail and timid by nature, the Milchetts had found her service impeccable, and her character charming and delightful.
Just as she was carrying fresh linen across the room to remake the bed, the bedroom door swings open suddenly and loudly.
She turns to face the Lord Stafford who has already begun to stride purposefully into the room.
Believing instantly that the handsome and aristocratic Lord has come to claim her, she faints slowly to the floor, a barely audible whelping sound escaping from her lips as she does so.
Before she can unconsciously completely pirouette to the floor, Lord Milchett reaches her and prevents her fall by clasping his arms around her.
“Oh my god” He exclaims.
“Oh my god, Oh my god”
Half dragging, half carrying Kate onto the bed, he lays her out and begins to carry out some basic checks to find out if she’s still alive.
Checking her pulse at the jugular, holding his palm on her breast to check her breathing, he begins to realise that she has not died of a heart attack, but is merely unconscious.
Stricken with concern he grabs a wet towel from the bathroom and begins to mop her brow.
There is still no sign of life and concern begins to grow in Lord Stafford’s muddled mind that he is actually caring for a girl in her dying moments, a look of utmost misery and concern wracks his features as he brushes her light blonde hair away from her face.
He is close to tears as there is a blink of an eyelash.
He has her hand in his and he is clutching it to his breast as her eyes begin to open.
“Kate, oh thank god”
Kate is blinking profusely; her bright blue eyes are struggling to cope with the proximity of Lord Stafford’s stubbly features.
She smiles and the inevitable happens.
Later that same day, Lord Stafford emerges into the sunlight to be greeted by Lady Milchett, who is clutching the reins of two full grown stallions. Both a beautiful chestnut brown colour, they are snorting and rearing their forelegs in anticipation of a long and arduous ride.
“Lady Milchett, I must apologise once again. I have only recently recalled that I have an urgent appointment, a meeting with one of the farmers who tend my land”
“He has a serious problem with his pigs, and we may need to cull several of them”
“I must leave immediately”
“That’s perfectly fine Lord Stafford; I’ll have George bring up your carriage”
As Lord Stafford’s carriage careers out of the drive of the Manor, Lady Milchett begins to muse on her next move.
Whilst perhaps not clear to Lord Stafford or Kate at the time, passion is not often a difficult music to muffle, for Lady Milchett, as she went about her business on the upper floors of the Manor earlier in the day, it can be a music that could so easily be confused with the discordant cacophony of consternation.
She smiled to herself and begins to walk the horses back to the stables.
When she arrived to tether the beasts, John Thomas was polishing the tack. Aside from being responsible for tending the gardens, John Thomas also cleaned the stables, tended the lake and made sure the horses were well fed and groomed.
“Yes me lady”
“Could you leave the tack alone for a few minutes, I want to speak to you”
“Yes of course me lady”
“Now, you have been in our service for many years…”
“Yes me lady”
At this, Lady Milchett falls silent for a while and begins staring at the floor.
“Me lady? Is something wrong?”
Lady Milchett looks up at Thomas and her eyes are smiling but still she is obviously concerned.
“It isn’t too serious Thomas, it isn’t too serious”
“Well if it isn’t too serious me lady, it isn’t only the tack I’ll be needing to do today. There’s also the fish need feeding and ..”
“No Thomas, they’ll have to wait”
Lady Milchett eyes Thomas with a firm stare.
“Thomas. The duties that I ask you to perform that you solemnly prevent my husband from finding out about”
Thomas’ expression changes; his eyes soften and there is a slight air of concern.
“Well” Lady Milchett goes on.
“Just this morning I overheard Lord Stafford and Kate”
“Ah” Thomas is no slow wit. In an instant he has weighed up the situation, the potential consequences, and also the clear and present danger.
“Thomas, I don’t want to lose Kate. She is a delightful girl and super to have around”
“Yes, me lady”
“But if Lord Stafford starts to think he’ll be unable to return to Milchett Hall, … he shot off earlier as though the very jackals of hell were after him, … my husband will blame me”
“I know Kate very well Thomas. Should she have to spend any time in the same room as Lord Stafford ever again, she’ll not be able to hide what has gone on between them. It will become as plain as the freckles on her face that there has been a scene. She’ll blush like a tomato and probably not even be able to speak coherently”
“Yes, me lady”
“I really don’t know what to do Thomas”
“It is a pickle that’s for sure me lady”
“The best thing I think, to do in this situation, and I’m relying on you to not tell Kate, or anybody else at the Manor that I know what went on, is to do nothing”
“Yes, me lady”
Lord Owen Milchett had retired for the evening. His rooms at Parliament were something to behold. From them he wrote extensive and detailed letters to his wife, Lady Milchett, relating the myriad of affairs under discussion in the house.
The matters under discussion during the day had been the enforced acquisition of land from the peasantry, and Lord Milchett had opposed the Bill to his most voluble to no avail.
He began to write.
“This one’s for Kate me lady?” Lady Milchett looked up from her embroidery with a startled look in her face and snatched the letter.
“Thank you Annabelle”
Annabelle curtseyed and turned to leave.
Lady Milchett could recognise Lord Stafford’s handwriting from a thousand others. She sat back in her chair, put a hand to her forehead and sighed.
“Yes, me lady”
“Call Thomas for me would you?”
“Yes, me lady”
Annabelle curtseyed once more and left the room to look for Thomas.
Eventually there was a knock on the door.
“Yes!” Thomas timidly came into the room with his cap in his hands. It was not often that he was summoned to Lady Milchetts presence.
“You wanted to see me, me lady” Thomas looked decidedly worried.
“He’s written to her”
“Sorry me lady?”
Lady Milchett had raised her voice slightly “Lord Stafford has written a letter to Kate” she said impatiently.
“Thomas, I need you like I’ve never needed you before. Do you understand?”
“Yes, me lady”
“What I want you to do, I simply cannot do it myself, Kate would die of shame, and worse still she might even think about leaving us. Is to explain to Kate, as gently and as carefully as you can, that I know about what happened between her and Lord Stafford, but that that is absolutely fine with me …”
“…And this is the difficult bit”
“But that she must never, ever under any circumstances make it known in any way, to me or to anybody else at the Manor that I know about it”
“She must of course realise already that she must not tell anybody here at the Manor about what happened between her and Lord Stafford anyway, she isn’t that stupid”
“But she must learn to act”
“To disguise how she is feeling in mine and everybody else’s presence”
“Am I making myself clear?”
Thomas paused for a moment, to allow what Lady Milchett wanted him to do to sink in.
Eventually he offered:
“Kate and me…”
“…Well we is good friends me lady, nothing like that you understand”
Thomas smiled nervously to accentuate his point.
“But she’ll listen to me me lady”
“Do you want me to take her letter to her me lady”
Lady Milchett was almost startled.
“Yes, yes of course Thomas, here take it”
Lady Milchett passed the letter from Lord Stafford to Kate and looked away as Thomas began to leave.
“Thank you Thomas” she said as he was leaving.
There were nearly tears in her eyes. “Thank You”
Kate sat nervously on the edge of her bed.
She held the letter in her hands. She hadn’t opened it, but Thomas had already explained who it was from.
The visit from Thomas had left her feeling dazed and confused. She had already decided that it would be wise to feign illness for the day, to escape her duties, as she had done on some rare occasions previously.
It had come as a bit of a shock to realise that Lady Milchett, whom she had admired and respected for many years, had overheard their passion, and yet had still not said anything.
Kate was no stranger to sex. She was, in no way, a ‘loose’ woman. Having spent her childhood in London, Kate was more than fully aware of how ‘loose’ some women could be.
In fact in many respects Kate was quite a shy girl. But she did realise how attractive to men she was. And she also realised that if she wanted, she wouldn’t find it too difficult to attract some male company.
She knew that Lord Stafford had not married and that he was ten years her senior. In secret she had always found his rugged, handsome features attractive.
She sat on the bed and opened the letter.
‘Dear Kate’ she read.
‘I can only hope that my writing to you does not cause offence’
‘I’m writing because it is inevitable that I will need to return to Milchett Manor and, that if I was on that occasion we spent together, in any way able to have given you pleasure, I wish that it should be possible we should again’
Kate put the letter down and walked to the window.
She was almost trembling.
This she had not expected. What had happened between her and Lord Stafford had not been planned, and having Thomas explain that Lady Milchett had realised what had taken place was a little strange, but reading that Lord Stafford was of a mind to initiate some sort of affair was positively unnerving.
There wasn’t much more for her to read. Lord Stafford had wrote that he would prefer to continue what had happened between them, but he also made clear that he was not in a position to ask anymore than that.
If anything, Kate was left with the impression that Lord Stafford was a little unsure as to whether any future advances would be welcome.
She was a little unsure how to proceed. She knew that she wanted Lord Stafford very much, but she wasn’t sure whether she could write the letter that needed writing.
If Lord Stafford returned to Milchett Manor before Kate had been able to summon whatever it took to reply to Lord Stafford’s letter, so be it.
Lord Stafford held a small lodge in Nottingham. He didn’t really approve of servants, but had no need of them anyway, his domicile was perfectly adequate for his needs, and he enjoyed cooking for himself and tending his own house.
Lord Stafford owned land.
Well, in actual fact, one would not be too far wrong in describing Lord Stafford as the owner of the entire county of Nottinghamshire.
Vast tracts of his land were given over for farming, but he also owned wooded areas and rivers and he also very much enjoyed the supervision of the construction of small villages.
He had as yet, never married.
He also knew that he had never been in love, until now.
Lady Milchett folded the letter from her husband and went out to the garden to find Thomas.
She found him in the vegetable garden and called over to him.
“Yes, me lady”
“Please prepare Moonwind immediately, right now and hurry”
Moonwind was the strongest and fastest of the horses in Lady Milchetts stables.
He was a dangerous looking black stallion, with a temper to suit.
As Lady Milchett mounted Moonwind, Thomas asked:
“Will you be back soon me lady?”
“Thomas, I will be away for days, possibly a week or more, I’m riding to Portland Lodge”
“Right you are me lady, I’ll let cook know”
“Thank you Thomas”
At this she rode off at great speed.
Lord Milchetts carriage drew up at the Manor and Lord Milchett stepped down from the carriage and walked purposefully inside the Manor.
“Annabelle!” He called.
“Lord Milchett, what a surprise. We weren’t expecting you?”
“Annabelle, could you get cook to fix me something to eat and drink, and please join me in the drawing room for a short while, if you are not too busy that is”
Annabelle hurries away.
After Annabelle has returned with victuals Lord Milchett exclaims “Annabelle, something has happened”
“Lady Milchett will be at Portland Lodge, but she will be returning shortly. With Lord Stafford and an entourage”
“Annabelle, you are in favour with the townsfolk, correct?”
“Yes Your Lordship, I do have many friends’ roundabouts”
“Well we need to arrange for a gathering. I’ll have a bill poster printed at Mac-Archers and it will need posting as far and as wide as possible”
“Could you see to that?”
“Of course Your Lordship. But can I ask. For what will the gathering be for?”
At this, Lord Milchett turns to face Annabelle, and he takes both her hands in his. He has an extremely serious look in his eye.
“Annabelle, as you are aware I hold high position at Parliament in London”
“Yes, I realise that Your Lordship”
“Well let’s just say for now that I have some grave news that will affect us all”
“Very good Your Lordship”
Later that same evening, a clatter of hooves announced the return of Lady Milchett and Lord Stafford.
Lady Milchett is more than a little angry, she is furious.
“How can they decide this?” She more or less yelled at Lord Milchett upon entering the drawing room where he was seated with a pot of tea.
Lord Stafford and Lord Milchett exchanged a glance.
“Lord Stafford?” Lord Milchett spoke rather pointedly.
“Would you be so kind as to clarify the situation to my wife”
Lord Stafford’s eyes drop to the floor, and then around the room, in a somewhat resigned tone he begins to face Lady Milchett
Lady Milchett has adopted a confused look about her, she seems somewhat puzzled.
“What do you mean ‘clarify the situation’? You know full well I know exactly what is going on, your letter made it all perfectly clear. We are to expect the Army to be marching up from London within a month, and they have been given explicit orders to throw the villagers out of their homes and drive the farmers from their fields”
“It is utterly appalling, and yes, we must stand with the farmers and townsfolk and not allow this to happen”
Lord Stafford and Lord Milchett were exchanging rather anxious glances, and seemed to have become rather uneasy.
“Elizabeth it isn’t quite as simple as that” Lord Milchett was now looking at Lord Stafford with some sense of urgency.
“Lady Milchett” Lord Stafford began. He looked anxiously at Lord Milchett and continued.
“I have arranged for a small cache of belongings, some personal effects and clothes, to be sent here from Portland Lodge”
“I have also gathered my entire wealth, and it is quite considerable, to be cased into a chest and also sent here forthwith”
“There wasn’t time before we rode to do the packing myself”
“Lord Milchett and I well, we do owe you an explanation. Lord Milchett?”
Lord Milchett seemed alarmed that he was being called on to continue the account.
A look of an almost fearful nature crossed his brow.
“Elizabeth, please sit down, this might come as a bit of a shock”
“Oh I see, continue” Lady Milchett was clearly puzzled.
“You see for quite some considerable time” Lord Milchett continued.
“I have been convincing the house that, well that the peasantry have been refusing to pay their rents and leases for the land they have been farming, and the homes they have been living in. Lord Stafford has been doing the same in Nottingham”
Lord Stafford nodded.
Lord Milchett paused, to allow this to sink in.
“And so subsequently, I have been deluding Parliament that I have been completely unable to pay any of the Royal taxes necessary to allow us to continue in our places as Lord and Lady of hereabouts. The same has been said of the townsfolk and farmers that have been paying Lord Stafford rent and lease for the land he owns”
Lady Milchett visibly paled.
“Then where has all of the money that our farmers and villagers have been paying us for rent and lease gone, if you have not been paying the taxes?”
“Elizabeth, the only reason the Army have been ordered to march, is that Lord Stafford and I, well neither of us have paid a penny of any of the taxes that have been due for quite some considerable time”
“When they arrive they will treat the villagers and farmers as though they had been committing treason, by not paying the rents they have owed, for well, years”
“I assume you two have some contingency plan?”
“Yes we do”
“Well, what is it. It had better be good. From what you wrote we have less than a month before the Army will be marching upon us with swords drawn”
Lord Milchett continued: “The townsfolk would not know of the march until it is too late. The very best we can do is to warn them so that they may ready themselves”
“I have prepared a poster bill to call a meeting. At the meeting I shall explain a change in the Royal Law of England, to the effect that the Army has been called in to requisition the farmer’s homes and fields”
“I know these people very well. There will be a call to arms and they will defend their homes and land to their last drop of blood”
“And when it comes to light that the farmers have been paying their rents. What then?”
Lord Stafford stepped in.
“It would be far wiser for Lord Milchett, your good self and some chosen companions to travel”
“That is abroad My Lady. As you so rightly point out, once the farmers and villagers are approached and confronted with charges of non-payments of rents and lease, it will be in no time at all that they will produce the receipts and tickets Lord Milchett and I have been writing for them for proof of their payments”
“The ruse will be well and truly up”
“And where do you propose we travel to Lord Stafford”
“Elizabeth, that has already been arranged. As a representative of Parliament it has been within my duties to acquaint myself with dignitaries and Royalty far further afield than you or I have ever been”
“The travel arrangements have already been made and our destination will be of the utmost haven. Our whereabouts will never be known by anybody in England”
“May I ask where this haven shall be?”
Lord Stafford began to shuffle the hand bills Lord Milchett had piled on his desk.
“Perhaps for now we should concentrate on gathering the villagers to explain the situation and prepare some possessions for the journey”
Lord Milchett was worried. Having to turn and flee from an approaching army and the consequences that held should they find him was no longer of any real concern. He had always known that should, or perhaps he should say when, this eventuality arose, it would be a matter of course to follow.
Lady Milchett hadn’t woken up yet. Maybe the drain of the past few days had begun to tell, she would normally be awake and around with the earliest of larks. Lord Milchett arranged with cook to set a light breakfast for her when she did wake up and sat in his study.
Sometime later, Lord Milchett could hear cook’s voice and the gentle tap of cutlery.
He walked out through the French window to where Lady Milchett was sat. She was still dressed in her white silk night robes and enjoying some crushed fruit.
She looked up at him and smiled. “Good morning”
Lord Milchett walked over to her and kissed her gently on the lips.
“How are you feeling?”
“I was tired. I’m feeling a little better now”
“We travel tomorrow. As far as I know we have everything packed and ready”
“You still haven’t told me where we are going”
“It’s to be a surprise. But it does involve a ship”
Lady Milchett smiled and laughed gently.
Lord Milchett sat and began to pick at some of the fruit that was laid out.
“Something is troubling you isn’t it”
“On our way we will need to travel through London”
“Is that wise?” Lord Milchett looked up from the fruit bowl and smiled.
“In many ways no, it isn’t”
“But there is someone we need to collect as we pass through London”
“Oh, one of your colleagues in the house?”
“No, a writer friend of mine. She will be in trouble if we leave her behind. She will be questioned when what we have done comes to light, and it would be unfair to leave her at the mercy of the authorities in London”
“Where we are heading for, there will be room for all of us?”
Lady Milchett continued to nibble away at the fruit.
She was watching Lord Milchett intently and he could see a sly smile playing at the edges of her lips.
“You have realised that Lord Stafford has new sleeping arrangements at the Manor”
“New sleeping arrangements? What do you mean? He has always stayed in the Green Room. It has been more or less laid out for him. Nobody else gets to stay in it”
“That isn’t what I mean” Lady Milchett sly smile had grown to a full grin.
“I’m sorry Elizabeth, you’ve lost me”
Lady Milchett seemed to be deliberately holding the conversation in mid-air.
She was enjoying seeing her husband looking so nonplussed. It was a rare pleasure.
“It’s Lord Stafford and Kate, they have been exchanging letters” She raised her eyebrows to accentuate the intimation and watched her husband’s reaction with undisguised amusement.
“For how long!”
“Oh, very recently, and as far as I can ascertain, and I haven’t pried, it all came about quite unexpectedly, for both of them. It’s very romantic don’t you think?”
Lady Milchett rose. “There isn’t much else to do before we set off tomorrow”
“Come on, let’s go back to bed”
It wasn’t long before Lord and Lady Milchett, Lord Stafford and Kate and Annabelle and Cook were setting out for London, on the first stage of their journey.
John Thomas had chosen to stay and fight with the farmers. He had on departure seemed quite excited by the prospect of taking up arms against an army.
Their carriages rumbled along well ridden highways.
They timed their journey well, and it was well past midnight as they began to travel through the capital.
“Here we are!” Lord Milchett exclaimed.
“Elizabeth, I’ll be five minutes. Catherine should travel with us”
Lord Milchett disappeared into the dark.
He leapt up the wooden staircase to Catherine’s rooms and knocked loudly on the door.
“Catherine it is Owen! Open the door!”
A few moments passed and the door creaks open to reveal a slender girl with a shock of long black hair. She was half asleep and was wearing nothing but a white cotton nightgown which covered her feet and trailed behind her.
“Owen!” She said.
Lord Milchett launch’s himself into the room.
“Have you packed? Are you ready? The carriages are parked outside and we must leave immediately”
“Yes of course. I have a case over there. It’s all I’m taking”
Catherine draped her arms over Lord Milchetts shoulders.
“I missed you”
Owen clasped Catherine beneath her legs and lifted her up into his chest.
She wrapped her legs around his waist as he carried her across the room to the bed.
The villagers had gathered en masse. They numbered two hundred or more.
Each was armed with something; pickaxe, scythe, longbow, crossbow and pitchfork.
They knew the route the Army were marching, and an approximate time they should be expected.
Lord Milchett had seen to that.
Between them, they had chosen some of the larger farmers to brace the front of their ranks.
They could hear the Army approaching from some distance.
The armour they wore made a distinctive sound and now and again an order was barked out, which carried a distance into the otherwise still night air.
Suddenly they halted.
They were some distance off and the villagers began to become restless and uneasy.
Shortly, a horseman rode towards the throng. He was carrying a Royal Standard.
As he approached the front ranks he stopped and called out.
“Who is your spokesperson?”
Several villagers moved forward but after some deliberation, one stepped forward.
“I am sire” He called.
“We have marched from London and we march on the direct orders of the King”
At this, the horseman dismounted, planted his standard into the footings of his saddle and approached the army of villagers.
Lord Milchett hurled Catherine’s chest into the back of the carriage, and opensed the door for her to step inside.
“Elizabeth, I’d like you to meet Catherine Machen”
Catherine stepped into the carriage, and took her seat opposite Lady Milchett
Lord Milchett climbs aboard and they set off.
The sound of a rough sea had become progressively louder.
“We’ll be met on the shore” Lord Milchett explained.
“When will you be springing this surprise?”
Lady Milchett and Catherine had been chattering excitedly the entire journey, and neither had thought to ask before now.
“We’re being collected by a French Naval Caravel”
“We’ll be taken to France?”
“Paris, well Versailles to be precise”
to be expanded
Lord and Lady Milchett, Catherine Machen, Lord Stafford, Kate, Annabelle and Cook arrived in France and were soon safely ensconced in one of the private quarters at the Palace of Versailles.
Kate became Lady Stafford.
Lord and Lady Milchett and Catherine Machen continue to enjoy a subtle love triangle.
The Kings Army and the villagers around Milchett Manor came to an agreement. The villagers spokesperson explained that rent had been paid in full and word was passed back to the Crown. The Army continued their march to Nottingham.
Lord Stafford had not warned his townspeople or farmers about what was about to take place, and as the King’s Army began to evict people from their homes a bloody battle broke out.