I could tell from the look in m'lady's doe brown eyes that she didn't believe the rumors about Sir David's last wife. She doted on him; blushing when he glanced her way, and acting like a school girl with a crush rather than a woman on her second marriage.
I saw no mistrust or fear in her.
"More tea, Jane." Sir David tapped his china cup with a long, perfectly manicured finger.
"Yes sir." I poured, drizzled a hint of honey along the inside of the cup, and stepped back.
"I have made arrangements, my love," Sir David said. The ghost of old dread slip up around my heart.
"Arrangements?" m'lady asked softly, a hint of expectation in her heart shaped face.
"For the Grand Tour, of course."
She clapped her hands with delight and he laughed with pleasure. I remembered how he'd looked the same way at Lady Sarah when she was pleased, even that evening she'd told him there would be a child.
She died the same night, falling into the Old Mill Pond. Lord David married again hardly six months later. I hadn't expected it.
Lord David wouldn't take me with them. I knew that just by his look as m'lady stood, fairly dancing away from the table.
"If you have accusations to make, Jane, I suggest you take them straight to the village constabulary."
"I wouldn't consider it, sir."
"Then I suggest, missy, that you amend your attitude or start looking for a new position. And you will not receive a good recommendation from me."
I wondered if he remembered that like him, I had been born in this house. I'd spent more time here than he ever had, with his jaunts schooling and jaunts to other places
"Do we understand each other?"
"Yes, of course, Lord David."
He stood, brushing down his fine jacket, and left me to clean the crumbs of their breakfast. I went about my usual work, drawing no attention. He watched and measured my actions. I did everything according to the proper hours for the next two days.
He grew weary of watching me at my monotonous work. That evening, he and m'lady went for a walk along the cottage path.
They disappeared around the bramble bushes and past the wild roses. I saw Lord David bend and kiss m'lady on the forehead and hand her a lovely white flower. Did he remember doing that on the day his last wife died? Did he remember coming back alone, and how they found her body in the pond hours later?
I waited until I saw the pigeons start up from the old aviary. Knowing where the lord and lady went sent my heart pounding.
I dashed out of the manor and ran, though not along the cottage road. I took to the woods, darting along the old wood cutter's trail, my skirt held indecently high, my shoes scuffing in the dirt. Birds cried out and squirrels ran screaming at me.
I reached the pond before they did, the being in no hurry. She held a bouquet of flowers. He gently touched the side of her face as they paused by the water.
"I am afraid I shall have to let Jane go, my love," he said softly. My heart pounded. This was my home! I'd never been more than three or four miles from the manor in all my life!
"Oh will you, please?" the pretty little witch asked. "She glares so, David. She frightens me some days, the way she is always there, watching."
"You should have said so," David said and laughed. "I only kept her because I feared you wouldn't want to train someone new. We'll go on Tour -- perhaps we'll find you a pretty little French maid."
My hand fell to a long stout limb. Was this the one I had used when I found Lady Sarah alone, starring into the water? Perhaps. But his Lordship had gone back that time. I was able to keep him safe from the outsider who came to the manor.
But he would only bring another woman to his bed. Just as his father had, despite the pretty words he'd said to me when I was a young, naive thing. Lord David would do the same, no matter how many of them I killed.
And he would send me away from home.
He bent and kissed her.
She saw me leap out of the brush and started to scream. I hit Lord David against the side of the head and used my momentum to shove him down the bank and into the pond. He fell, his face in the water, blood flowing. He didn't try to turn.
I grabbed M'Lady and threw her as well. She hit the water by her husband, turned him over and pulling towards the shore.
That would never do.
I scrambled in after them, half-mired in muck and mud. Her face, covered in mud and muck, showed no fear.
"Why?" she said. She held Lord David, but I could tell, with the mud caking his mouth and nose, that he didn't breathe. Half the work done.
"You won't take him away." I swung the limb. Her head snapped back and she fell onto her husband. "No one will take him away again."
I held her down in the water until she gave a little cough. I remembered the feel. She went limp and I let go. They laid side-by-side, but I tore them apart, dragging Lord David to the edge of the water lilies. He looked pretty there, even with the mud.
I took the cottage road back to the manor. Oh, I knew the constabulary would come for me, but they'd never take me from my home. I set fire to Lord David's bedroom and the hall. I waited by the window while the others screamed and ran.
But no one would send me away.
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