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Authors: Marjorie Farrell

Tags: #Regency Historical

Jack of Hearts

BOOK: Jack of Hearts
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JACK OF HEARTS

 

Marjorie Farrell

 

Chapter One

 

September 1815

 

“I can’t believe you are set on doing this, Anne.”

Anne Heriot completed another entry in her ledger before giving her companion a quizzical look. “And just what is it that strains your credulity, Sarah?”

“You know perfectly well. Your stubborn determination to martyr yourself to your father’s wishes.”

Anne placed her quill in the inkstand, carefully blotted the account book, and closed it. “I assure you, Sarah,” she replied calmly, “I don’t have the temperament for martyrdom, as you are well aware, having known me these last ten years. Please, sit down and join me in a cup of tea.”

Sarah Wheeler took one of the comfortable wing chairs by the fire, leaving the other for Anne. A pot of tea and a plate of crumpets sat on the table between them.

“Shall you pour, Sarah? My fingers are all ink-stained,” Anne complained, holding out her left hand.

They sipped their tea quietly for a few moments, and then Anne broke the silence.

“Do you think I am going to London because of my father?”

“Why else? Surely you don’t wish it for yourself?”

“But I do.”

“You wish to
sell
yourself to the highest bidder?”

“Ah, I see why you are upset. You have got it backward. I am not selling but buying,” Anne replied with a twinkle in her eye.

“How can you joke about it, much less contemplate it? Marriage is not a market transaction. We are not speaking of buying a mill, Anne, but a husband!”

“But that is exactly what marriage is, my dear friend. An exchange. ‘Your daughter for my son, and the fact that our estates run together, well, all the better.’ ”

“But that is only how it is with the nobility.”

“Oh, come now, Sarah. Even a farmer’s daughter knows that her father is looking out for a good match. It is always a matter of money, whether the dowry be five sheep or five thousand pounds.”

“Marriage is a matter of the heart!” protested Sarah.

“Well, that is one of the many ways in which we are different,” said Anne with an affectionate smile. “I look at the world practically and you, you see itwf.”

“Through rose-colored spectacles! I think not!”

“Of course not. But you are a romantic, Sarah.”

“Anyone is a romantic compared to you!”

Anne laughed. They had argued this point so many times before, but their arguments had usually concerned the fates of fictional maidens, such as Marianne of Miss Austen’s
Sense and Sensibility.
“I am afraid my mind will always rule my heart, Sarah, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have one.”

“Of course you have a heart, and a most affectionate one where friends are concerned. So why can’t you develop an affection for someone in Yorkshire, someone more…appropriate?”

“You mean more appropriate for a wealthy mill owner’s daughter than an earl or a marquess?”

“You know I don’t mean that. Someone who would care for you for yourself, not for the fortune you would bring him.”

“And who might that be? Sir Francis Cooper?”

“No, though his fortune is almost equal to yours. But he…”

“Is fifty-seven, gout-ridden, and has such pride in his family name that he would never besmirch it with the dust or lint of trade.”

“Perhaps Sir Francis was not the best example,” Sarah admitted with a rueful smile. “But what of the squire’s son?”

“Adam Wentworth? He is three years younger than I, is horse and hunting mad, and hasn’t a thought in his head.”

“Your cousin?”

“Second cousin. Joseph? My father gave me a choice, you know. He said if I liked Joseph well enough he would not think of going to London. But I don’t! And neither do you, Sarah.”

“I confess I never have.” Sarah hesitated. “Your father was a reserved man, but I would call Joseph Trantor a harsh one.”

“I’m not sure I agree with you, but he reveals even less of himself than Father did.” Anne dipped her crumpet into her tea and smiled as she watched the edge of it dissolve. “I suppose if I marry an earl I won’t be able to dunk a biscuit or a scone.”

“If you marry an earl, you will never know what it is to lose your heart to someone, which is more to the point.” Or to find it, Sarah added to herself.

“If I marry an earl or a viscount or a baron or a marquess…or even a duke,” listed Anne teasingly, “I will have a family and children of my own, and my children will know just where they belong.”

“I didn’t think you cared that much about rank.”

“I don’t. But I do know what it is like to fit nowhere, Sarah. I am only the daughter of a manufacturer—but I am as rich as Croesus. And educated way above the others of my class.”

“You are likely better educated than most young ladies also!”

“Yes, well, that is the point. I am too smart and too rich for those of my station and yet only a Cit’s daughter to the
ton
.”

“Yet you are willing to submit yourself to a year among them?”

“Only a part of the Little Season, to get the lay of the land, as it were. We will be home for Christmas, and if I am lucky, in the spring I will make my choice.”

“But…”

“ ‘But me no buts and uncle me no uncles,’ ” Anne scolded. “I want children, Sarah, and the only way to have them is to marry. And the only men available to me are those who are high in rank but lacking in funds.”

“Well, you may be right, but I don’t like it.”

“Trust me, Sarah. I am nothing if not a good mathematician. I have weighed the debits and the credits, and I will order my life as neatly as I order my accounts!” Anne fell into broad Yorkshire: “Tha knows I am nothing if not a practical Yorkshire lass!”

* * * *

They were to leave for London in less than ten days, and Anne was praying she would be spared a farewell visit from Joseph Trantor. Her prayers mustn’t have been loud enough, she thought as she watched him ride up to the door two days before her departure.

Joseph handed the reins to one of the footmen and strode up the stairs of Heriot House while Anne watched from her bedroom window. She tried to look at her cousin as a stranger might, to see him dispassionately, as a possible husband. He was of medium height and slender without being unmanly. His face was pleasant enough, although his expression was always shuttered. His hair had begun to thin early, and Anne smiled as she saw the sun shining on his balding head and glinting off his spectacles.

Surely a bald head and spectacles should not determine her feelings about a man, she chided herself. For all she knew, her best candidates in London might be bald and myopic.

No, it was something in Joseph himself, though she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. She sighed when one of the maids announced him.

“I will be right down, Mary. Have Peters bring us some sherry and biscuits, please.” As Mary turned to leave, Anne reconsidered. “On second thought, never mind.” I don’t want him staying too long or getting too comfortable, she added to herself.

* * * *

Joseph was in the morning room, looking out the window.

“Good morning, Joseph. It was kind of you to ride over to wish me a pleasant journey.”

As he turned and smiled, Anne realized that one reason she wasn’t overly fond of Joseph Trantor was his smile. It was as though someone had pasted it on, for nothing of himself was in it. There was no energy in his face, though she knew he was a most energetic worker.

“Tha must have known I would not let tha leave without wishing tha a comfortable journey, Anne.”

“Still, you are a busy man and it is a kindness.”

“Th’art still determined on this mad idea then, lass?”

Anne hated it when Joseph called her “lass.” It was a common Yorkshire expression, but while she felt cared about when her head shepherd or a shopkeeper used it, with Joseph she felt like protesting that she wasn’t his “lass.”

“You know it is what Father wanted for me.”

“I am not so sure of that. Your father…” Joseph leaned forward, and the expression on his face was determined. Anne knew he was going to try and broach the subject she had successfully kept him from raising this past year after her father died.

“How are the mills doing, Joseph?” she interrupted quickly.

He sat back. “All is going well, and as tha could see from the latest figures, our profits are up this last quarter.”

“My father chose well when he brought you into the business, Joseph.” Anne was glad that at least on this subject she could speak warmly and sincerely.

“It were good of him to do so.”

“Nonsense. You were his only relative except for me.”

“Aye, and he treated me almost like a son, tha father. I am sure he would have welcomed me as a son-in…”

“I noticed that the returns from one of the mills—Shipton, I believe—were a little less, though balanced well by the others,” Anne interrupted again, to keep him away from the subject.

Joseph frowned. “Aye, Shipton has been a bit of a problem.”

“And why is that? It is one of the oldest. In fact, it is the second mill my father purchased.”

“It was also the one most influenced by the followers of General Ludd.”

“I was away at school when they marched on William Cartwright’s mill, but Father sent me the newspaper account. He said we had nothing to worry about, and indeed, by the time I came home that summer we must have had more soldiers billeted here in Yorkshire than on the Continent! I have never understood the workers’ dissatisfaction. They earn as much as thirty shillings a week, and they act as though they are superior to other trades,” she added indignantly. “Father was always a fair employer, I know.”

“Indeed. But there is a young lad now who seems to think he invented Jacobite rhetoric all by himself. He has been influential in slowing down the work.”

Anne frowned. “Perhaps I should delay my trip a week, Joseph, and come and see for myself.”

“No, lass, ‘tis but one troublemaker. I can take care of him.”

“Thank you, Joseph. You’ve become indispensable over these past ten years. I know how fortunate I am to have you.”

“I would be nowt but a small farmer were it not for tha father, Anne.”

“Nonsense. I cannot see you being satisfied with anything less than an empire, Joseph, albeit only a cloth-making one,” teased Anne.

“I’ll be on my way, then. Have a safe trip south and don’t stay away too long.”

“I will be back before the holidays. I wouldn’t miss Christmas in Yorkshire.”

After her cousin left, Anne walked over to the window and gazed out. Stretching back behind the house was a small expanse of lawn that ended in a stone wall. Beyond that was rougher ground sprinkled with rocks, and the land rose steadily. Only a few sheep were scattered over the hill, for the rest of the flock were still up on high ground for summer grazing. Her father had insisted on raising sheep, though they certainly had no need of the income. “Just so tha and I don’t forget where we came from, lass.”

Where her father came from was a small town in the West Riding. His mother, a widow with seven children, had sent him off to a factory in order to help support the family. It was a combination of hard work, a shrewd head for business, and a wise marriage that had gotten him all of this.

Robert Heriot had married above his station, for Anne’s mother was the daughter of a wealthy farmer. He had made up his mind to have her when he realized she could bring him a decent dowry, one he invested wisely, but he grew to love his wife very much. He had raised himself from very little, her father, and some of it was due to his choice of mate. It seemed fitting to Anne that she continue her family’s rise to success in the same manner.

A frown flitted across her face, however, as she thought of the Shipton mill. She had visited only one of her father’s factories, and that was just over in Rawley. He had taken her twice, once when she was twelve, and again at sixteen, just before she went off to school. “Tha should see where t’shillings and pence come from that tha’rt so good at counting, lass,” he’d told her. But she hadn’t really seen much. Just walked down a long room filled with machines, which were silent in tribute to her presence while the men and women who ran them stood at attention.

They had seemed content. As they should be. Her father paid them fairly, after all, and kept the machines in good repair. Well, she couldn’t worry about one rabble-rouser, she decided. She had too much to do in the next few days, and if she worried about Joseph from time to time, it was certainly not his ability to deal with the cloth workers that concerned her.

* * * *

September continued to be a warm month, and Anne and Sarah’s trip to London was a pleasant one. They traveled in easy stages, stopping at the most comfortable inns. The roads were dry and smooth, so they made good time despite their leisurely pace and arrived in the city almost a full day before they had expected to.

Anne’s first few days were spent getting the London house in order. Her father had purchased a small town house on the edge of Mayfair years ago for his business trips to London. There was always a skeleton staff in residence, but Anne needed to see to the hiring of extra maids and footmen, as well as check the state of the stables. She had not wanted to drag her elderly groom down from Yorkshire, a decision that she regretted when she discovered that the London groom had resigned.

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