|Without a Mother's Love|
|Little, Brown Book Group (2008)|
|Tags:||Sagas, Historical, Fiction|
Olivia Copley is a feral child who has been starved of affection, but it is Miss Trent, her new governess, who has known real hunger and hardship. Meanwhile Hesley Mexton is committed to saving his failing coal mine and safeguarding his grandson’s future at any cost. As Olivia matures it seems that even her friends are conspiring to rob her of happiness. But they underestimate her courage and her determination to fight for what she wants. This gripping story follows the misfortunes of two women as they endeavor to escape the lives forced upon them in the harsh environs of 19th-century Yorkshire.
Without a Mother's Love
Table of Contents
Also by Catherine King
Women of Iron
Silk and Steel
Without a Mother's Love
Published by Hachette Digital 2008
Copyright © Catherine King 2008
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any
form or by any means, without the prior
permission in writing of the publisher, nor be
otherwise circulated in any form of binding or
cover other than that in which it is published and
without a similar condition including this
condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters and events in this publication, other
than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious
and any resemblance to real persons,
living or dead, is purely coincidental.
A CIP catalogue record for this book
is available from the British Library.
ISBN 978 0 7481 1103 9
This ebook produced by JOUVE, FRANCE
An imprint of
Little, Brown Book Group
100 Victoria Embankment
London EC4Y 0DY
An Hachette Livre UK Company
To the memories of Alice Ramsbottom Piper
and Edmund Humphrey King
I should like to thank the staff and volunteers of Rotherham Archives, especially Betty Davies of FoRA for helping me with the research for this story. A visit to the National Coal Mining Museum, once a working pit in the West Riding of Yorkshire, gave me an unforgettable underground experience. Thanks, also, to Sheila Garrity (now Whitehead), my old school friend from Rotherham High, for telling me about Epworth Rectory, the home of the Wesley family, and to the helpful staff at the museum there. Finally, special thanks to my agent Judith Murdoch, my editor Louise Davies, and all the team at Sphere, notably Emma Stonex and Alex Richardson, for their constant friendly and good-natured support during the writing and production of the finished book.
PART ONE: 1830
‘Miss Olivia! Where are you, child? Come here this minute.’
Olivia snatched at her drawers, dragged them out of a tangle of brambles and scampered away before Mrs Cookson came to look for her. She darted through the gap in the old wall, down the track and past rows of flowering bean plants on their stick supports, until she emerged, dishevelled and grubby, at the back of Hill Top House.
‘Lord above! Look at you! Filthy dirty and, oh, my heaven, are those your drawers in your hand
?’ Mrs Cookson grabbed her arm and dragged her across the yard into the scullery where she plonked her on a wooden board by a stone sink and wiped her down with a cold wet cloth. ‘There’s no time to go upstairs and change. Get into them drawers and put this cap on.’ She jammed a close-fitting white bonnet over Olivia’s straggly fair hair.‘Hurry up.Your uncle Hesley is waiting.’
They clattered down the stone-flagged passage and into the front hall. Olivia did not like it there. It was gloomy and dusty, and the beady eyes of dead animals’ heads watched her from the dark wood-panelled walls. Mrs Cookson straightened her own apron and cap, then knocked on the door of Uncle Hesley’s library.
The room had that ‘Uncle Hesley smell’ of stale spirits and tobacco. His clothes were the same, and Olivia did not like them either. He stood with his back to the fire, his straight limbs and upright stance at odds with the greying hair and lined face of his advancing years. He was half a century older than Olivia and, in reality, her mother’s uncle.
Olivia Copley could still remember her mother. Her beautiful, kind mother. She stood silently before her uncle with her eyes on the threadbare carpet and thought of her as Mrs Cookson complained.
‘I tell you, sir, I can’t be responsible for her any more. She’s wild. She was out there again today with her drawers off. Lord knows what she’s been up to at only twelve years of age—’
‘I’m nearly thirteen!’ Olivia protested, and was immediately silenced by her uncle’s stony glare.
‘It’s not right, anyway,’ Mrs Cookson continued, ‘making friends with gypsies and the like. She needs a good hiding, she does. I mean, look at her - that pinny was clean on this morning.’
‘All right, I heard you! Get back to your work.’
‘Yes, sir.’ Mrs Cookson bobbed a curtsy and left.
The room was quiet, save for the hissing of coal burning in the grate and—Olivia thought she heard a sigh or the soft rustle of a skirt. She looked up at her uncle. He was staring past her into the dimness of the book-lined walls behind her.
‘Come forward, Miss Trent.’
Olivia heard a movement and resisted the temptation to look round. She had learned to be still and silent when Uncle Hesley was cross.
‘Did you hear that, Miss Trent? She’s feral. Do you still wish to take her on?’
Olivia thought the voice sounded determined. Not at all anxious like the scullery-maid used to be. She wanted to see the face of the girl who wasn’t frightened of Uncle Hesley.
‘Well, show me what you can do.’ He picked up his walking cane and hooked a foot underneath his fireside chair to drag it forward. ‘Bend over this, Olivia.’
Olivia’s mouth dried. ‘But I haven’t done anything wrong, Uncle!’
‘Do as you’re told, or I’ll beat you myself.’
Olivia remembered the pain from when he had done so: first, she had stolen a whole game pie from the larder and given it to a passing gypsy, and again when she had tried to run away across the moor behind the house. And worst of all when, alone and frightened, she had woken him with her nightmares. That was when his cane had hurt most and the smell of whisky and cigars was strongest. She turned to obey, stealing a sideways glance at the stranger.
The hood of Miss Trent’s cloak had fallen back, revealing a pale, pinched face and fair hair that was similar to her own. Miss Trent had brushed hers, though, and wound it round her head so that she looked plain and severe. But she wasn’t very old, Olivia thought.Well, not an old woman like Mrs Cookson.
Olivia pressed her lips together, flared her nostrils and closed her eyes as she waited for Miss Trent to remove her cloak and take up the cane. When the first blow landed she hardly felt it. Surprised, she opened her eyes and examined the worn tapestry of her uncle’s favourite chair.
‘I can see you’re just a skinny little thing, but can’t you do better than that?’ her uncle snapped. ‘Hold the cane in your right hand, girl! You’re no good to me if you cannot discipline the child.’
‘I beg your pardon, sir.’ Miss Trent walked to the other side of the chair, placing herself between Olivia and her uncle. Her voice took on a sterner tone. ‘She may have a slate down her drawers, sir.’
‘The devil she has!’
‘Permit me, sir. I have dealt with her sort before.’
Miss Trent leaned over her, bunching up Olivia’s drawers and petticoats to search for protection. As she did so, she left the rolled-up undergarments to form a padding under her skirt. Olivia twisted her head and Miss Trent’s face was very close. She breathed, ‘Yell,’ and Olivia blinked to acknowledge her.
‘No slate, sir.’
‘Get on with it, then. Six of your best.’
The cane came down hard, and it hurt, even through the padding. But not as much as it might have, and certainly not enough to make Olivia cry.That did not stop her, though. Each time the cane landed, she let out a long, whining yowl, and was so pleased to deceive her uncle that, by the end, she felt hardly any pain at all. She stood up, snivelling and whimpering.
‘You’ll do.’ Her uncle nodded to Miss Trent. ‘Keep her out of trouble and out of my way. Cookson will show you to your chamber, and you’ll answer to me about the child.’
Miss Trent picked up her cloak and took Olivia’s hand, urging her out of the door first.
‘One more thing.’
‘Find out who she’s been with.’
‘Outside. In the fields.
With her drawers off, woman!
Olivia tensed and her eyes widened in alarm. She didn’t want anyone finding out where she went. It was her secret. At the back of the hall Miss Trent stopped to unbundle Olivia’s petticoats, putting her finger to her lips. Mrs Cookson did that sometimes and Olivia knew what it meant. She smiled at Miss Trent, satisfied that she already knew one of
Miss Trent’s face relaxed a little so that it wasn’t quite so pinched, and she seemed almost pretty with grey eyes, a small straight nose and a neat mouth. But her plain gown was of a coarse brown material that felt scratchy when Olivia’s hand brushed against it, like the jute aprons Mrs Cookson wore for scrubbing. Miss Trent opened the kitchen door and they walked in together.
Mrs Cookson was Olivia’s friend, even when she shouted at her for getting dirty, because she baked buns and let Olivia eat them straight away, still warm from the oven. She was very big, with wispy, grey hair and round cheeks that went red when she was cooking. But she was also Uncle Hesley’s servant and did as he said most of the time.
When they came in, Mrs Cookson stopped kneading dough and stared at the newcomer with a guarded expression in her eyes. ‘You ’aven’t come to take ’er away, ’ave you?’