Thank You to the kind people who downloaded e-book versions of my stories yesterday. It was good to see a nice little spike on my sales graph. I promise I won't spend all of the royalties at once.
Since becoming an Amazon author I have only published my writing in e-book format, I have been a bit too lazy to go through everything that is needed to sell hard copies. Also most of my writing is too short to be a full length novel, my tales are what the industry calls novelettes.
I have been a bit quiet in recent days about my writing, there has not been a lot to report while I have been working on my new story The Bridge House. This is probably going to end up with something between 150,000 and 250,000 words so will become quite a weighty book. Eight thousand words into things and I am still only part way through the introduction.
A couple of weeks ago I popped a survey on to Twitter asking what genre people liked most to read. Overwhelmingly the answer was HISTORICAL DRAMA. That is what The Bridge House is - historical drama.
Below is the text I have so far written. It is unedited and complete with spelling mistakes, grammar errors and typos of every kind. What I am asking friends to take a look and let me know what they think of it so far.
Remember there are TWO B's in ruBBish !
My grandmother features in my schoolboy autobiography, she was a major influence on my early life.
Then her oldest son, Billy, is the subject of my story - An Interview with Flight Sergeant Billy.
My grandmother was already sixty years old when I was born so, as I grew up, I only knew her as an old lady. My family research revealed a lot of her younger life but there were gaps amounting to several years where I could find nothing.
As I started writing The Bridge House I intended to skip over these times but a thought came to me that I should not do that, I have allowed my writer's imagination to fill those years so my story is a mixture of fact and fiction. I hope my grandmother approves.
The Bridge House is the name of my grandmother's childhood home, let's use her name shall we - Lily, Lily Bedson. The picture I have used for the book's cover is not The Bridge House, nor is the lady holding the lavender Lily. This is a print which always hung in Lily's home when I was a child. When she died I came to me, her oldest grandchild. We always knew it as The Lavender Lady, I have since found out that it previously belonged to her mother-in-law.
I have no idea at all if it is worth any money but would never, ever part with it. It is listed in my will to be passed to my daughter with the strict instruction it must be willed to future generations and must never pass out of the family.
As a child I read, as did everyone in my generation, the stories of Enid Blyton - Noddy In Toyland, The Secret Seven and The Famous Five. Enid was a prolific writer and much loved by her readers yet she was not respected in the adult community. People said her books did not stretch the minds of the children. Today she is accused of being sexist, racist and writing too much for the middle-class. I do not agree.
Enid Blyton did something no other writer, before her or since, has achieved to the same degree. She inspired her readers to write their own stories. In the 1950's and 1960's children made up their own stories after reading the adventures her characters had.
If you have read any of my writing you will see I am not William Shakespeare, I am not Charles Dickens, I am not even Jeffrey Archer ! I write for my own enjoyment, it is a hobby. If nobody ever reads what I have written then that does not really matter and will not stop me writing. If someone does read my words then that is a bonus, if they enjoy my story that is a double bonus. Bonuses I can do without, it is the jackpot I am aiming for. That jackpot is for someone to read my scribble and then be inspired to write their own story.
As you read The Bridge House ask yourself who from your own family's history has a story that needs to be told. When you sit down and write your story I win the jackpot and I emulate Enid Blyton so go for it !
Joseph Bedson called all of his family members together for an important meeting. The Bridge House, as a name, sounds, very grand but when every member of the family was at home its modest proportions became only too apparent.
Emma, Joseph's wife, knew of the announcement and the gravity of the news he husband had within his duty to share. She would have to make an announcement to the school the next day and would have to decide how the children in her charge would mark the country's loss. How her family would do this was husband Joseph's responsibility.
Cecil and Olive, the oldest of the Bedson children, may have heard the news but would never have thought to talk about it until their father gave his permission. As significant as the happening was, the younger children probably would not have comprehended its meaning. Lily, however, was different.
At eleven years of age, Lily Bedson was single minded beyond the station of a female and a child in Victorian Society. She had opinions and would voice them when she so chose. Although Joseph made every possible effort to treat his many children equally Lily was his favourite. Even if pressed he would never have admitted to this. Emma could see his preference but would never have challenged her husband. Lily took after her in so many ways, perhaps as the years went by time would mellow the daughter as it had the mother.
It had been many years since Joseph had returned home from work with his clothes dirty. the family members did not think anything of the fact that he had a smell of smoke about him. In the winter with The Bridge House never short of open coal fires to keep everyone warm and cosy this side effect of Joseph's profession could not be detected. That day, even though it was January, Joseph would not speak to his family until the bath had been set in the kitchen, water boiled and his body scrubbed. He would wash his hair and shave his face. Only when done and dressed in his best suit was Joseph ready.
"Members of The Bedson Family," Joseph began, "it is with much sadness I have to tell you her Majesty Queen Victoria, Empress of India, passed away yesterday at Osborne House on The Isle of Wight. Please stand and bow your heads in silent prayer to remember the life of our Sovereign."
Everyone did as they were instructed, keeping their eyes tightly closed and heads bowed until Joseph spoke again.
"Our thoughts must be with the Royal Family and our new King, His Majesty King Edward. God save the King."
Joseph had never known a monarch other than Queen Victoria and wondered what the future held. The new king was sixty-nine years of age, how long before he too passed away ? Queen Victoria's children had married into the royal houses of Europe, she maintained a position as matriarch over them all. What would now change with her death ? How would the Empire be without Her Majesty ?
"Father," It was Lily who spoke, "If Queen Victoria is dead does that mean I am no longer a Victorian ? Am I now an Edwardian ?"
"You were born in the reign of Her Majesty so will always be a Victorian."
Not given to any display of emotion, Joseph kept the feelings his daughter's question generated close to himself.
"The Bridge House will now go into mourning until the day of Her Majesty's funeral. Olive, Doris, Lilly you can all go and change out of those dresses you are wearing, put on something darker. For you boys Mother will sew black armbands you can wear."
"Will your train puff black smoke instead of white ?"
"Do not be silly Gladys."
The Bedson Family was highly respected in the community. Emma had been in charge of the school for the past two years so held the future of all the village children in her hands. As a train driver Joseph was at the very top of the ladder for a working man. he had risen from being an engine cleaner, through the role of fireman to become the driver. It was so very important for The Bedson Family to set an example for the rest of the village to follow.
"That horse is back again Father." Cecil said. "It's in your potato garden."
No matter how great his respect for its owner Joseph was not please, not pleased with the horse and not pleased with the seriousness of the moment being interrupted by such an annoyance.
"I'll take him back," Lily made to leave the gathering. He is only in the potato ground, you've not planted anything yet so no harm done. If he has manured the soil so much the better. I'll change my clothes when I return."
"Lily !" Joseph frowned at his daughter. Manure was not a word he wished to hear her speak. "Take the animal back to its stables then hurry home. If it happens again I am afraid I will be having words with Her Ladyship."
The Dowager Countess Lady Wilton did not live in the Dower House, when her husband died and her son became The Fifth Earl Of Tadwell she saw jo reason to lower her status in the aristocratic order. Her daughter-in-law had died in childbirth so the house needed her to remain in residence.
"Do not ride the horse," Joseph ordered, "Lead it. Cecil find something your sister can use as a halter."
Eleven year old Lily had no intention of obeying her father.
The Bedson family did not use cars, few did, and they did not ride horses. of Joseph and Emma's children only Cecil had ever been outside the village. Joseph traveled with his engine as it pulled a train of trucks loaded with coal from the Wilton Mine but his twice daily journey to Stoke on Trent was more than he needed by way of travel.
Lily was different. There was a world out there she wanted to explore. there were people she wanted to meet. She was not content being a part of the village's most prominent working family. She may not have been born into society but knew that was where she belonged. Cecil worked as a junior clerk in the Wilton Mine office but had no ambition to see anything further away.
The Fifth Earl of Tadwell had a car and a full-time driver but his mother flatly refused to ride in it. For her benefit the old coach and horses were retained. Lord Henry Wilton, her grandson, looked forward to the day when he could won and drive a car of his own. Lord Henry was three years older than Lily and was in the stable yard when she trotted in and dismounted.
"I have brought your horse back," she said then added the words - "for the second time !"
"Miss Bedson, how can I apologise ? Is your father angry ?"
"No," she smiled.
"I think he may be angry if he knew his daughter had ridden the beast, ridden in all her finery and ridden without a saddle."
"You are not going to tell him are you My Lord ?"
"No, I would not do that Miss Bedson and it's Henry, not My Lord."
Lily smiled. "And I am Lily, not Miss Bedson."
"I will make certain it does not happen again."
"Oh please do not do that, let it happen again please. I'll ride and return him back to you."
"If you like to ride you can come here and I will arrange for you to ride. Come when ever you wish. Dress a little more suitably and I will find a lady saddle for you."
"I don't think I could ride side saddle."
"That is how ladies should ride."
"Who says I am a lady ?"
"Miss Bedson !" Henry smiled. "What a terrible thing to say. Perhaps you and I could ride together some time."
"Lord Henry what a terrible thing to say but thank you for the invitation."
"I have to return to school next week so let's make soon. Tomorrow. I will send a car to collect you. half past ten, would that suit you ?"
Lily smiled. "I will consult my diary."
Lord Henry Wilton, son of the Fifth earl of Tadwell did not attend the village school run by Lily's mother. As had his father and grandfather before him, even his great-grandfather, he was a pupil at Rugby School. Tom Brown's Schooldays was published thirty years before he was born but things had not changed.
It was not the car that pulled up at breakfast time, it was not Lord Henry Wilton who descended the steps of the carriage and walked to the front door of The Bridge House. It was The Dowager Countess Tadwell. She nodded to her maid as an instruction to knock on the Bedson's front door.
"Your Ladyship," Emma curtseyed, surprised to see who was standing at her door.
"Is your husband at home Mrs Bedson ?"
"He is My Lady. Do you wish to speak with him ?"
"Indeed I do, if that would be possible please Mrs Bedson."
"Dawson," she said to her maid. "Fetch the basket from the carriage."
"Yes, My Lady."
Joseph was as surprised as his wife to see who his early caller was. "My Lady."
"Mr Bedson, my apologies for troubling your family so early but I wished to speak to you before you left for work and your wife for school."
The children were ushered away leaving Joseph, Emma and The Dowager Countess Lady Wilton of Tadwell alone together.
"I understand that one of my horses found its way into your garden. I am told this was not the first time it happened. Mr Bedson, Mrs Bedson I am very sorry for the trouble the animal may have caused. I have spoken to the stable staff and can assure you this will not happen again. Your daughter so kindly returned the horse and I would like to thank her personally."
"It was not a trouble My Lady," Emma said.
"Perhaps I can see her in a moment but first Mr Bedson, I am aware that a vacancy has arisen at Wilton Mine for am manager to oversee the transport of the coal. I have told my son that if you wish to fill that position it should be yours."
Joseph was aware of the need for a manager, Cecil worked as a junior clerk at the mine and had brought the news home, but had never considered it would be a role he could fill. He could, of course, undertake the duties but moving to management was not something he had considered.
"Thank you My Lady. What does His Lordship have to say ?"
"My son agrees with his mother of course."
"So should I instruct my son to tell the mine manager you will take up the duties ?"
"Yes, My Lady. Thank You."
"Now Mr Bedson, Mrs Bedson, to the second reason for my calling. Lord Henry tells me he has invited your daughter to go riding with him today. A little presumptive on his part, I hope you will excuse his youthful exuberance, I am here asking permission on his behalf."
"Which daughter has he invited My Lady ?"
"Lily, of course."
"But Lily can not ride My Lady."
"I think," Mr Bedson, that you will find she can."
Joseph knew, of course, that his daughter could rind a horse but did not care to admit it either to himself or to the Dowager Countess.
"Does your daughter have your permission to ride today with my grandson, Mr Bedson ?
"But we are in mourning."
"I doubt Her Majesty would have wished two young people not to have a ride out because of her indisposition."
"Will there be a chaperone ?"
"Mr Bedson they are children. Lord Henry is thirteen, how old is Lily ?"
"Just passed her eleventh birthday My Lady."
"I think they will be alright on their own don't you ?"
Without waiting for a reply the maid was called to join them, "Sullivan !"
I timid girl of no more than sixteen years knocked hen entered the room.
"Time to ask Lily to join us Mr Bedson, can you call here please ? Sullivan go and fetch the basket."
Joseph fixed his eyes on his daughter as she joined the group, his will attempting to control anything she would say. Lily probably would not oblige him.
"Lily, your father has given his permission for you to take up my grandson's invitation to ride with him later today."
"I know that you have more than once had to return one of my wandering horses to the stable."
"It was not any trouble," Lily interrupted and Joseph glared.
To oblige her father Lily added the words, "My Lady," to her original sentence.
"I have brought you a gift, Lilly, to say thank you. My little dog, Lucy Locket, has given birth to puppies. I have to find homes for them and thought you may like to have one live with you."
Sullivan, the maid, raised the cloth cover from the wicker basket and lifted out a small black puppy. Lily's eyes were wide with excitement while her smile stretched wide across her face. She avoided her father's glance just in case he did not approve,
"I thought you may like to call her Victoria in memory of Her Majesty."
Joseph managed to catch Lily's glance and gave her his approval.
"Oh thank you Your Ladyship, you are so kind. I promise I will care for her and lover her to bits. Thank you, thank you."
"I am sure you will my dear."
"Thank you My Lady, thank you so very, very much."
Joseph's family was large and filled The Bridge House, now they had to find room for a dog. The Dowager Countess lived in a vast and grand home with an army of servants to look after her, her widowed son and grandson. She had just the one son, his wife had died in childbirth so Lord Henry was the only grandson. With Henry away at school for most of the year there was just the two of them at home. Two people attended to by more servants than she had ever taken time to count.
There were no servants in The Bridge House but they lived well. There were two incomes a d now with Joseph's elevation to the middle class there could be a few more luxuries to enjoy but there would not be any servants. The Wiltons was one of the wealthiest aristocratic families in Britain. As well as the land surrounding Tadwell Hall, some of which was farmed and much let to tenants, there was Wilton Mine which was one of the most productive coal seams. Much of the original wealth came from plantations in the Caribbean. When slavery was abolished sixty-eight years previously the family retained its lands and profited. More recently the Wiltons had acquired banking shares both in London and New York.
The Dowager Countess lacked for nothing, nothing money could buy but for every day she longed until her heart ached for something she would never be able to have. She had just the one son and had wanted so much to have a daughter. When Lord Henry's mother became pregnant it had to be a boy to maintain the line of succession but a girl, a grandchild, next time would have been so lovely. When her daughter-in-law died in childbirth it would not happen. the Dowager Countess had watched the Bedson family from a distance, envious beyond measure of Joseph and Emma, they had four daughters, Olive, Lily, Doris and Gladys. Lily was the one she lkiked, if there had been a granddaughter it would have been nice had the child been like Lily Bedson.
"She should not be mixing above her station."
"They are only children Joseph."
"I was at work when I was Lord Henry's age, I was cleaning engines. Cecil started work when he was not much older and the other boys will soon follow. Lord Henry is the son of an earl and will take the title himself one day. Lily is the daughter of an engine driver."
"A manager now," Emma dared to contradict her husband. "We have become middle class. We own The Bridge House, we are not tenants."
"Lord Henry is aristocracy, he will be attending Her Majesty's funeral while we grieve here in the village."
Lord Henry did not attend the funeral although The Earl and the Dowager Countess took their seats in Westminster Abbey.
Lily had a good time riding with Henry and looked forward to more times with her new friend when he was not away at school. Her Ladyship decided Lily needed to ride properly before half-term so instructed her chief groom to make sure it was done. She sent to London for the correct dress a lady should wear in the saddle. Joseph did not approve.
Puppy Victoria was a delight, even Joseph was fond of her. He did not think that anyone noticed but all knew he slipped her the odd morsel from his dinner plate.
Joseph missed his time on the footplate of a steam engine but found the challenge of his role as head of transportation for Wilton Mine very fulfilling. Six months later when the mine owner in person walked into his office Joseph was to understand just how much his efforts were appreciated.
"My Lord." Joseph stood up behind his desk.
"Hughes, the mine manager needs an assistant, a deputy, I want you to take it on."
"That is a yes ?"
"Yes My Lord, of course."
"I do not know what the pay is but I am sure it will be right."
"Of course My Lord."
"One other thing. My mother has taken a bit of a shine to your daughter Lillian."
"It's Lily My Lord, not Lillian."
"What ever. She would like Lily to spend time with her as a companion, would that be in order ?"
"Of course My Lord, if that is what Her Ladyship wishes."
But it was not alright with Joseph, not alright at all.
"Does your daughter work ?"
"No My Lord, she helps run the house."
"Do any of your children have employment Bedson ?"
"My son, Cecil, is a clerk here in the officers of Wilton Mine. Olive helps her mother run the school."
"Yes, ofcourse, Mrs Bedson is the headmistress isn't she ? Well if you could see your way to allowing Lily to spend some time with Mother it would be appreciated."
Where was this going to end up ? Friendship with Lord Henry, riding the horses at Tadwell Hall, a puppy as a gift, riding clothes from London and now a companion to the Dowager Countess. This was not Lily's role in life but Joseph was almost powerless to stop it.
"Oh Lily you have no idea how much I have longed for the holidays and to see you again."
"I have missed you Henry but now it is Easter you are home again."
"I hate school, it is quite beastly. The masters are so stupid and cover their ignorance up by being cruel, the higher up social ladder you are the harder they beat you."
"Oh Henry do they beat you ?"
"Of course they do."
"That is terrible."
"I know but I can take it. I am fourteen now, that's practically a man. Four more years, three at Oxford. 1912 when I am twenty-four years old and you are twenty-one do you know what is going to happen ?"
"I have no idea Henry."
"I am going to marry you. I will make you Lady Lily Wilton then when I inherit and become the Earl you will be my Countess."
"Henry you should not make jokes like that."
"Lily Bedson, the future Countess Wilton of Tadwell I am not joking."
Lily thought he was joking but perhaps he was not.
As a companion to the Dowager Countess Lily was not a servant, indeed she had her own servant while in Tadwell Hall. The Dowager's assistant maid, Sullivan, was assigned to care for Lily's every whish. Lily was not paid for her time but Her Ladyship was generous in every other way. She taught Lily how to sew. She brought in a teacher and Lily began to play the piano. lady Wilton took absolute delight in her adopted granddaughter, one day she would become her proper granddaughter when grandson Lord Henry took her hand in marriage. She knew nothing of Henry's words to Lily on the subject but Her Ladyship had every intention of living long enough to attend their wedding and to enjoy her great-grandchildren. The Earl of Tadwell knew nothing of his son's adolescent affections for Lily not of the scheme within his mother's mind, Lily was a nice enough child and if it kept his mother happy then that was fine by him.
When Henry returned to school he wrote every week to his new and special friend Lily. He always sent the letters to her by way of Tadwell Hall knowing the butler would discretely give his letters to her keeping both families in ignorance. In his letters he did not say much about the day to life at Rugby School which were either far too uninteresting or the kind of thing not to be shared with a delicate young lady.
I am going to save with care all the buttons as they come off my clothes so when we meet at Christmas you can sew them back for me.
Dearest Lily, I am not a poet but I have decided to perfect the art so I can write something beautiful for you.
My Dearest Special Friend Lily, do please write and tell me how Puppydog Victoria is. I think of her often and envy her being with you every day.
My Dear Friend Henry, Victoria is very well and growing by the day. I have taught her to fetch a ball when I throw it for her. She can now sit up and beg for tit-bits of food. She is a delight, even my father is fond of her. I am so grateful to your grandmother for giving her to me.
As Christmas approached Henry wrote to his grandmother.
Dearest Grandmamma, I need your help.
I have seen a beautiful gold locket on a chain which I would so much like to buy as a Christmas present for Lily. It is in a jeweller's shop in Rugby and priced at seventeen which is a very fair price. I have that much remaining in my allowance for the term so the cash is not a problem. What does worry me is the way my gift may embarrass Lily.
I do not know if Lily intends to give me a gift this Christmas, perhaps she does or perhaps she does not. If she does then certainly I doubt she will have seventeen gunnies to spend.
Dearest Grandmamma would you help Lily select a suitable gift to give to me ? Could you then possibly, please, find you way to help her accept some money from you to pay for it ?
Lady Wilton's heart fluttered as she read the letter her grandson had so carefully composed. Lily and Henry's childhood friendship must have been developing, could it be that her much hoped for plan may in time come about without the need for intervention.
On Christmas Eve the two exchanged their gift, Lady Wilton had prepared Lily who gave Henry a pair of cufflinks and was speechless when Henry gave her the locket. Eventually she managed to say, "Oh Henry that is so beautiful."
"Not as beautiful as my Lily. Thank you for these cufflinks, do you know what I would really like for Christmas ?"
"What is that ?"
"To kiss you."
"Why Henry I am only eleven years old !"
"Twelve in a few weeks time."
Lily smiled. "You may kiss me but only on the cheek."
Joseph and Emma had not real idea of the affection Lily was held in by the Wiltons and certainly had no understanding of the friendship between her and Lord Henry. They were grateful for the prosperity Joseph's senior position at the mine had brought to The Bridge House. With the family growing older there would soon be a need to add an additional room or two, a builder would need to be engaged.
On a cold February morning breakfast time was again delayed when the carriage drew up outside The Bridge House and Her Ladyship asked to speak with Joseph and Emma.
"My son and I will, of course, be attending the coronation of King Edward VII, Lord Henry has been invited and I would like your daughter Lily to join our party. His Majesty's invitation will extend to four."
Neither Joseph nor Emma could believe what they were hearing. The coronation was to take place on 9th August, six months away, Lily being invited ? An honour but not an event people from their class would be attending. Of course they would celebrate but to actually be there ? Lily's parents could not deny her the chance to be a part of history and they were so proud but Joseph had his concerns.
"It is not right Emma," he said when The Dowager Countess had left. "Lily is moving way out of her class."
"You began life as an engine cleaner," his wife smiled, "now you are Deputy Mine Manager. We are middle class."
"That may be but Lily is not a member of the aristocracy, she never will be, now to be associated with royalty !"
"She will only be sitting at the back of Westminster Abbey with Lord Henry, you heard what Her Ladyship said."
"That's another thing, her friendship with Lord Henry."
"Oh Joseph it is harmless."
Only Lily and Henry knew the depth of their friendship and the young lord's declaration that one day he would marry Lily Bedson. Even The Dowager Countess lady Wilton of Tadwell did not know this even if it was her intention to engineer such a union.
As the coronation approached there was great excitement throughout the country. Every city, every town and every village was planning a party. Madeley where The Bedson family lived was no exception. The Bridge House was the nerve centre for the children of the village while Tadwell Hall was the operations room for the entire area. The day after the coronation the earl was hosting a huge party in the grounds of his home for every family from miles around. Wilton Mine had its own brass band which would be performing to entertain guests. Emma had a group of children in training for a country dancing display. Lily would take families for rides in a pony and trap. She had been busy making bunting to hang round the sides of the trap and special coats in the form of the union jack for the horses to wear. She and The Dowager Countess had been busy with their needles and cotton.
Lily's mind was only partly on Madeley's plans, most of it was in Westminster Abbey. Tzar Nicholas II from Russia would be there. the German Kaiser Wilhelm II and his family were coming. President Roosavelt and America's First Lady would be in attendance. Prime Minister Arthur Balfour would be one representative of the government. Twelve year old Lily Bedson from the Staffordshire village of Madeley was also to be a guest.
"When the Dowager Countess tires of our daughter we will be left to pick up the pieces, you wait and see."
"That isn't going to happen Joseph."
"She is getting on in years, she can not live for ever then what happens ? To you think the Earl will pamper a commoner ?"
The Bedsons were the envy of the village, Lily walked tall and enjoyed the status although she would never have admitted it to her father.
"Mr Bedson, Mrs Bedson." Another early morning visit to the Bridge House from Her Ladyship."
"Yes, My Lady."
"I think perhaps Lily should come to stay at The hall for the week before the coronation. We will be travelling to London two days before the event and will be staying with The Duke and Duchess of Bedford at their Town House in Tavistock Square. Lily will have her own maid while she is with us and in London, Sullivan will attend to her."
"Yes, My Lady."
"Lily to have her own maid !" Joseph said to Emma the moment the carriage left with Her Ladyship onboard. "Have you ever heard anything quite so ridiculous ? A twelve year old girl from a working family with her own maid."
"I was thinking," Emma changed the subject ever so slightly, "that now you are the deputy mine manager we may have some staff at The Bridge House. Perhaps a maid of all work."
"We have daughters to run the house."
"A family of our standing in the village should have at least a maid of all work, it is expected of us."
Joseph did not agree.
"Now that Lily has a maid at The Hall it would not be right if there was not staff in her home."
"I have given my opinion on a child having a maid of her own. A twelve year old working girl with a maid, what ever next ?"
You own this property Joseph, The Bridge House, we are not tenants. We are middle class."
"We only own it because I inherited it."
"Joseph in all the happy years we have been together you have been a kind and loving husband, I could not have wanted better in a man, I hope that I have been the loyal wife you needed. I have never said this Joseph but you married above your station and look how happy we have been. If Lily moves up into society at any level then we should be pleased for her. She is not going to marry an duke or an earl but if she can find a wealthy husband when the time comes then we should be happy for her. The Bridge House needs a parlour maid, a cook and a housekeeper, I am asking you my dearest husband to agree to my finding the right people.
"Three !" Joseph said with a note of incredulity in his voice. "A moment ago you were asking for a maid of all work, now you want three ! Are you sure you do not want a butler and two footmen as well ?"
"A butler and footmen will not be necessary."
"Are we going to have servants ?" Gladys, the youngest Bedson child asked excitedly.
"Yes," Joseph said.
"How exciting. Can I have a maid the same as Lily ?"
"I am not supposed to know know this," Henry said. "and Lily I am not sure you are old enough for me to tell you."
"Lord Henry Wilton, I am twelve years old. What is it you think you can not tell me ?"
"Oooohhh, Lord Henry. You have not called me that for a long time. Stop messing about and tell me your secret."
"It is not my secret, it is my grandmother's secret."
"So what is it ?"
"When she was younger my dear old grandmother and the Prince of Wales were lovers."
"No. You should not say thins like that."
Henry shrugged his shoulders then said. "It is true. I do not think I want to picture the events my mind but it is true. She was his mistress."
At twelve and a half years of age there was no childhood naivety in Lily's character, she knew what a mistress was and although she was denying what Henry was saying she knew very well that it was probably true.
"The coronation in the Abbey will go on for hours," Henry smiled, "and I am told the seats are hard on the bottom. It is my plan to pass the time by observing Grandmamma and the King, I am going to watch and see how many times their eyes meet."
"You are a very naughty man," Lily giggled. "If you do not behave yourself this instant I will tell The Archbishop of Canterbury everything you have said."
"My father calls him a pontificating vicar. Who is to say that dearest Grandmamma was not one of his mistresses as well ? The church people are the worst."
"I would not let my father hear you say that. He is a very religious man."
"I am not. Fortunately I am the oldest son. In families like mine the oldest inherits, the second son goes into the army and the third has to go into the church. There is only me so I have been spared that misfortune."
"What about the girls in families like yours ?"
"What about them ?"
"What do the girls do ?"
"They become mistresses of the Prince of Wales."
Lily giggled. "I am glad I was not born into the aristocracy."
"But you will be marrying into it."
The Earl and Lord Henry would wear their formal robes for the service at Westminster Abbey, Lady Wilton commissioned a London fashion house to design her outfit and so prepare something fitting for Lily.
Henry was right about the ceremony in the Abbey and was certainly right about the hardness of the seats. No matter the duration of His Majesty's big day Lily was happy to sit and soak up the atmosphere. She pretended she was a great lady from one of England's oldest aristocratic families. Her father, Joseph, was a Duke and mother Emma his Duchess. Lily did, however, allow herself a momentary glance in the direction of The Dowager Countess to see if there was eye contact between her and the newly crowned monarch.
Bedford House was very grand, a Duke being higher up the aristocratic ladder then an Earl. Maid Sullivan was very attentive and treated Lily with the respect normally accorded to someone from a much higher station while at the same time offering friendship. Lily was introduced to the Duchess as My companion and surrogate granddaughter. Lily did not know what surrogate means.
Leaving the Abbey the chauffeur drove them all back to Tadwell. The invitation of the Duke and Duchess of Bedford extended o staying overnight but all four had to be home for the village's celebration the next day. It was dark when the car pulled up at Tadwell Hall.
Lily was beginning to feel that Tadwell Hall was home for her, The Bridge House was still her real home but Lily was able to adapt to the atmosphere and situation which either of the two demanded. She became an expert at adapting to which ever she was living in. Monday morning, all day Tuesday and Wednesday, Thursday afternoon and Friday morning Lily spent with The Dowager Countess. She was looking forward to many times that summer with her friend Henry. It was at the Madely party that Lord Henry broke the news.
"My father has a plan," he began. "I am to spend my school holidays with the family's interests here and abroad, he considers it to be a part of my education. I am to spend the rest of this holiday rotting away in a dusty old bank. I am so sorry Lily."
"Does that mean we will not be able to see each other ?"
"I am afraid so Lily dear, I can not argue with or disobey my father. I think I will be able to get home one week-end before the new term starts."
The Fifth Earl of Tadwell had his son and heir's future mapped out for several years to come. The Christmas holiday period for 1902 would also be spent at the bank i London. Every holiday, Easter, Summer and Christmas, in 1903 would see Lord Henry in New York. 1904, the year when Henry would be seventeen years old, would be spent on the family estates in the Caribbean. The Earl had 1905 in his mind but was bit ready to share that part of his thinking with his son.
It was not the Earl's intention to prevent his son from seeing his friend Lily, he did not know of the depth that friendship had achieved, but to prepare his son to beocme the Sixth Earl of Tadwell. A role he would need to take up sooner than anyone had that far realised.
"I did not think the Earl looked well," Joseph said to Emma at the end of a very busy day as Madeley celebrated the coronation of King Edward VII.
"He will have been tired after all the festivities."
"It is more than that," Joseph observed.
One week before Christmas The Earl visited Joseph in his office at the mine.
"Bedson, I have acquired a large manufacturing plant in Birmingham, Tinnings Linited."
Joseph had heard of Tinnings, they supplied the mine with many of its needs.
"I need to appoint a new managing director to run the company. I have two options Bedson."
"You do My Lord."
"You can either take the position yourself which would mean moving to Birmingham, or I could appoint the mine manager then make you the new general manager of Wilton Mine. The choice is yours."
Joseph knew the Earl had been having talks in Birmingham but did not know what they had been about. It came as a total surprise to him that he was part of it in the earl's mind. There were aspects of Birmingham which could be an advantage to the Bedson Family and to be a managing director was tempting but Joseph could never leave his beloved Bridge House. The Wilton Mine would have a new general manager.
The Wilton Mine would have a new general manager and The Bridge House would have its housekeeper, maid and cook. No matter how much Joseph's fortune advanced he would never, ever employ a gardener. Land around the family home had its lawn and flowers but most of Joseph turned most of it over to growing vegetables. Cook never had to source fruit and vegetables from anywhere but Joseph's garden. He kept hens who generously kept the kitchen supplied with eggs.
Now and then a horse from Tadwell Hall would find its way into the garden. If Lily was at home she would ride it back, is she was already at the hall the animal would be tied up to await her return.
Every week while he was at school and every week while he was away on his father's programme of education within the Wilton Empire, Henry would write to Lily. With each letter she looked more fondly towards the next.
The days went by and turned quickly into weeks. The weeks turned into months and would soon turn into years. For everyone life settled into a routine. Joseph was a highly effective general manager for Wilton Mine who was respected by its owner and workforce alike. Emma continued as the village schoolmistress and enjoyed having three servants to support her running The Bridge House. All three did not live in but had their own homes in the area, The Bridge House was getting too small for the family as everyone grew up. Joseph decided extending the property and so losing some of his precious garden was not worth the cost, eventually all would fly the nest leaving just Emma and himself at home. Lily did not sleep at Tadwell Hall, returning home to The Bridge House on the days she spent as companion to the Dowager Countess. Lily Loved her family but would have liked to live the life of a grand lady, she wondered from time to time if Lord Henry would indeed take her as his wife or if it was just a friendship game.
"I am worried," Joseph said when he returned from the office one evening. "His Lordship came into the office today and I thought he was quite unwell."
"You said that before, just after the coronation," Emma replied. "Is he still poorly ?"
"His face was hollow and I did not like the colour of his skin."
"Oh dear, I hope he gets better soon."
"Consumption," Joseph said. "I have seen it before. His Lordship is showing all the signs. Where is Lily ?"
"She is in the garden feeding the chickens."
"I am going to speak with her."
"Father," Lily said when she saw him approaching. "I have been wondering if we should keep bees in the garden. They would pollinate everything and we could have our own honey to eat."
"Please," Gladys added, "I love honey."
"Gladys would help me look after them," Lily assured her father.
"I would, I would." Gladys jumped up and down excitedly.
The age difference between Lily and Gladys was nine years yet of all he brothers and sisters it was Gladys Lily felt the closest to.
"Go away and play Gladys, I want to speak with your sister."
Gladys skipped off leaving Lily to feed the chickens. She threw her arms out and made a buzzing sound. "I am a bee, a busy, busy bee."
"Perhaps having some bees would be a good idea," Joseph began. "Lily when you have been up at The Hall have you overheard any of the servants saying anything about His Lordship being unwell ?"
"No, Father. Nothing. is he unwell then ?"
"Her Ladyship has said nothing ?"
"No." Lily shook her head.
"Please do not pretend otherwise, I know you receive letters every week from Lord Henry, has he said anything ?"
Lily blushed. How did he know about the letters ? "No Father, he has said nothing."
"Lily, you are not to say anything of this conversation. Not to your Mother, your brothers and sisters, not to anyone at The Hall and most definitely not to Lord Henry. I need you to listen and tell me immediately if anyone makes any comment about His Lordship's health."
"Is the Earl sick ?"
"I think so Lily, yes. You must give me your solemn promise not to speak of this but I need you to listen. The fortunes of The Bridge House are dependent on my job as manager of Wilton Mine, it would be difficult for us all if that were to change."
"I promise father."
The change her father spoke of would be the death of the Earl. If that happened, when it happened, Henry would become the Sixth Earl of Tadwell. Surely nothing would change, he father's job would be secure.
Time moved on and Earl Tadwell was still head of the family, Lily heard nobody say anything about his being ill. She forgot the conversation she had with her father.
Lily missed spending time with lord Henry Wilton, in four years she had seen him only five times. The letters came every week and re replied at length to them all.
January 5th 1916
My Dearset Lily - I miss you so terribly. never is there a day when I do not think of you. I imagine you are here with me by my side.
The Wilton estate here on the most beautiful island of Barbados is large. I am staying in the estate's house which is called Sam Lord's Castle. It is not really a castle. Let me explain. It is not a castle like those in England, it is a large house made of wood. It was once owned by a pirate. Can you imagine that, Lily ? Pirate Samuel Hall-Lord. He was a cruel and evil man. Some of the estate workers here are descended from the slaves Samuel Hall-Lord once owned.
The King sent a ship full of troops to arrest the pirate, the First Earl of Tadwell was in command. The King gave him the estate, the house and all the slaves as a reward for capturing the pirate.
This is a beautiful place Lily and I promise I will bring you here one day after we are married and you become Lady Lily Wilton. Just five years to go now before I can ask your father for your hand.
The negro people here, Lily, are special. They are so kind, loyal and wonderfully friendly. You should see how hard they work. I will bring some of them back to England with me. We will have some black men in The Hall as servants. How grand will that be ?
Lily had never seen a black man.