A Death in Sheffield
The local posting house at Sheffield was the Green Goose Inn, and as the carriage clattered to a halt in the yard, Artemis couldn’t help but think of the last time she’d been here, in this very yard. After her uncle disappeared, Lord and Lady Stanhope had come to fetch her, striking quickly to take custody of the presumed heiress, and returning to London with all speed so as to apply to the Court of Chancery for her guardianship.
At the time, Artemis made no demur to this unlooked-for godsend, due to the plates hidden in her doll, and her uncle’s corpse hidden in the mines. Vaguely, she held an idea of striking out on her own—if matters did not work out—but at the time, she was grateful for any form of escape, particularly since she’d no money, and she shrank from the idea of having to steal some—although needs must, when the devil drives.
And now—through an extraordinary turn of events—she’d returned in triumph with a very useful husband who would—hopefully—resolve all problems. If anyone had told me what was to happen within the next month’s time, she thought with some bemusement, I would have thought them stark, raving mad.
Droughm dismounted from Trajan to give instruction to the post-boys, and then came around to help her step down from the carriage. With a great deal of relief, Artemis discreetly stretched her back, grateful that the miserable journey had finally come to an end. “I hope they’ve water on the boil, Pen; I’m longing for a bath.”
She turned to accompany him to the Inn’s entry doors, but her husband took her elbow to retain her for a moment. Meeting her eyes, he said, “I’m afraid I must give you unwelcome news. Artemis.”
Surprised, she asked, “What is it?” Hopefully, it was not going to involve any more time in the wretched carriage.
“I have arranged for Lady Tallyer to stay here with us, for those times when I must necessarily leave you alone.”
Artemis stared at him in astonished dismay, and, reading her aright, he continued in a low tone, “She works with me—as you know—and understands the enemy, and what is at stake. There is no better candidate to attend to you—to keep you safe.”
“I am well-able to keep myself safe,” she retorted.
“Do you think you can you be civil?”
He asked it in an even tone, and she was immediately contrite; she shouldn’t allow him to think her a sulker—she detested sulkers.
“I can. I am sorry, Pen.”
He tucked her good hand into his arm and escorted her across the yard. “Try to avoid shooting her between the eyes.”
No, I cannot engage in a battle with her, thought Artemis as they entered the common room. There is no point, and it would only make me appear petty. Besides, I’ve carried off the palm, and therefore I can afford to be gracious.
This time, Droughm used his title, and the Innkeeper could not scramble fast enough to appoint servants to attend to them, and to prepare the best suite of rooms.
They were asked to wait in the private parlor, and as she accepted the man’s bowing offer of tea and cakes, it was suddenly brought home to Artemis that there was nothing for it; she’d now stepped into Droughm’s world and the old Artemis—the one who was a simple soldier—would have to be let go. Instead of speaking her mind and living by her wits, she was now slated to become a completely different person—one with whom she was not yet familiar. I must become accustomed, she thought, struggling to maintain her poise as she sipped her tea. He is who he is, and as I intend to be with him, I must learn how to go on; we are not bivouacking across the countryside anymore, and I must give him no opportunity to harbor regrets—I’ve brought enough problems as it is.
Her husband’s voice interrupted her thoughts, as he set down his own tea cup. “I may have to leave you to do a bit of reconnoitering, I’m afraid. Will you be comfortable, here?”
“Of course, Pen,” she replied, and hoped that it was true.
Fortunately, a welcome surprise was in store; upon entering their suite of rooms, Artemis was treated to the unexpected sight of Katy, who rose to bob a curtsy—hiding a grin with only limited success—and saying “My lady,” in a self-conscious voice.
Artemis did not hesitate to fold the former ʼtweenie in a one-armed embrace. “Katy; thank you for saving me from the odious Torville.”
“It was Cook who twigged it,” said Katy modestly. “I only helped.”
Artemis released the girl. “Whatever became of everyone? Did Lady Stanhope ever return to the house?”
“I don’t know, miss—I mean, my lady.” With a self-conscious glance at Droughm, she added, “Me and grand-dad went straightaway to Somerhurst.”
Artemis turned to smile warmly at Droughm. “I’m so glad, Katy. And Cook?”
Droughm responded, “She is our new pastry cook.”
Paying no mind to Katy, Artemis walked to him and clasped her good arm around her husband’s neck. “Thank you,” she said quietly into his neck cloth.
“It was I who owed the thanks.” He returned her embrace and kissed her brow. “Now, if you would like to rest for a bit, I will make my presence known to the local authorities. We will reconvene for dinner.”
Rather surprised by this abrupt announcement, Artemis nodded, remembering her new role and fighting the urge to ask to go with him; they hadn’t parted in a over a week, and it seemed very strange to watch the door close behind him.
On the other hand, the sooner he could lay claim to the mines and thwart the enemy, the sooner they could put all this behind them and settle-in at Somerhurst, wherever it was. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be as daunting as it sounded.
“Oh, miss,” exclaimed Katy. “Your poor arm.”
Artemis shook herself out of her abstraction. “I’d rather have a hundred broken arms than marry Torville, Katy. What’s happened to him, do you know?” Artemis was curious, herself—she was vaguely aware that he would not be thrown in prison like a common criminal, but surely he’d be punished for his actions.
Katy began to unpack the saddlebags, shaking out the much-creased nightdress with a dubious eye. “I don’t know, miss; we were escorted back to the house to fetch our things the next day, and Torville was not there. No one was.”
“A good riddance; if fate is kind, I’ll never see him again.” Not to mention that she couldn’t vouch for her temper, if such an event were to occur.
Katy shook out the remaining contents of the saddlebags onto the chair. “You’ve no other dress, my lady?”
“I’m afraid not—and I am heartily sick of this one.” Artemis sighed with resignation. “I suppose we’ll have to do some shopping.”
But Katy was enthusiastic. “May we, miss? His lordship must give you a lot of pin money.”
Artemis blinked, as this was another topic she hadn’t seen fit to even think about. “We haven’t discussed it—not as yet.”
But Katy was happily calculating the purchases that would be needed. “Day dresses—and under-things, and stockings. Another nightdress—something pretty, this time. Another cloak—a bit heavier. Will ye—you be attending parties, d’you think?”
“I doubt it.” With a small sigh, Artemis sank into the other chair and tucked-up one leg beneath her. “Mine uncle is missing, after all, and I am burdened with this wretched splint.”
The maid made a sympathetic sound. “Does it hurt very much?”
“Not so much, anymore—only when I accidentally jar it. The doctor gave me a dose of laudanum, but I haven’t used it—I hated being drugged.” She made a face, and Katy nodded in remembered sympathy.
At this juncture, a knock sounded at the door, and Katy opened it to reveal Lady Tallyer, who approached Artemis to sink into a deep curtsy. “Lady Droughm.”
With a smile, Artemis held out her hand to lift the other woman up. “I am Artemis, and never do that again, if you please.”
The lady rose and removed her gloves, smiling as Katy took them. “Then I am Carena. I was sorry to hear of your injury—beyond vexing.”
Artemis paused, and managed to keep her countenance only with an effort. I‘ve been an idiot, she realized grimly. Whilst Droughm could have arranged for Lady Tallyer—and Katy—to meet up with them in Sheffield before they’d left on the elopement, he wouldn’t have been able to inform Lady Tallyer of Artemis’s injury unless he’d told her since Dunby. So; the lady and Droughm had been in very recent communication, and this fact had been kept from Artemis. Something is afoot, she realized, suddenly on high alert; and I had best discover whatever-it-is.
With this in mind, she indicated the poor heap of belongings that Katy was now clearing off the other chair so that Lady Tallyer could sit. “Would you mind helping me shop for clothing tomorrow, Carena? Your pretty green dress is the only one I have, and I’m afraid your riding habit was ruined.” Charitably, she did not mention that Droughm had been so eager to take her to bed that he’d ripped it to pieces.
Lady Tallyer sank gracefully into the other chair and asked Katy to ring for tea. “With pleasure; although it will be nothing like London, I’m afraid.”
“I cannot hope to match your taste,” Artemis admitted generously. “And so I imagine that whatever Sheffield has to offer will be more than adequate.”
But the lady would not allow Artemis to defer in such a way, and leaned forward to say with all sincerity, “Nevertheless, we must make try to make appropriate choices; you must dress in accordance with your new station, after all.”
Artemis nodded, thinking with reluctant admiration that there were all variety of subtle insults contained in that last remark.
Oblivious to all undercurrents, Katy offered brightly, “Grand-dad and Cook are to be married, miss.”
Artemis turned to her with genuine pleasure. “Are they? How wonderful—did he succumb to her brisket?” To include her in the conversation, Artemis explained to Lady Tallyer, “The cook and the butler, at Stanhope House.”
With a smile, Katy shook her head, “I don’t know anything about briskets, but Grand-dad thought it best, if they were going to be spending their evenings at cribbage together. He didn’t want the Somerhurst folk to think the worst.”
Artemis offered, “I am so happy for Cook—she’s carried a torch for him, I think.”
“Truly?” asked Katy, who paused in her sorting-out with a dubious expression. “She was always so unkind to him.”
“Sometimes, that is the first clue,” Lady Tallyer observed with a smile. “It showed she was not indifferent.”
“But love shouldn’t be unkind, my lady,” Katy insisted. “It should be kind, and giving.”
“I suppose it should, but sometimes it does take a very strange turn.” Artemis couldn’t help but think of Lady Macbeth, from her mad uncle’s favorite play. “Lady Stanhope is a good example.”
But Katy disagreed with a little shake of her head. “I think that one’s never loved anyone, miss—I mean, my lady.” With a fond smile, she carried Artemis’s rag doll across the room, and propped her up on the window bench.
“Sometimes, love is very hard to fathom,” agreed Lady Tallyer absently, her sharp gaze following Katy’s actions.
Ah; another subtle insult, thought Artemis; and I believe it was not Droughm who re-stitched my doll, after all—something is indeed afoot. Whilst Katy poured out the tea, she smiled brightly, and resolved to stay sharp.