For Caroline, a woman whose very identity is a mystery, nothing is certain-except the love she and Dashell share. Now that crucial missing documents have been found, she has the answer to one of her biggest questions: her name. With that information in hand, she and Dashell can now begin to plan their wedding and her future as Lady Lonsdale. Dashell and his youngest brother, Maxwell, travel up to Yorkshire to find out what they can, and what they do discover greatly saddens them. Another search commenced by Dashell’s aunt, Lady Smythe has uncovered one more surprise for Caroline-a blood relative. It’s a shocking revelation for both Caroline and her new family member. Once the man recovers from his surprise, he shares information that may hold the key to the truth. As answers emerge, it seems that every mystery of Caroline’s past will be revealed. But within the joy of discovery lies the heartbreaking story of how one person cruelly deceived Caroline’s mother, Isobel. Will the truth set them free-or will the lovers find themselves ensnared in a bigger mystery than they imagined?
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Dashell and Caroline
By ELIZABETH CHANTER
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Elizabeth Chanter
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCaroline Learns Many Things
It was quite late when Caroline awakened, slowly at first, as though the sleeping potion was reluctant to let go. She lay in a state of confusion of strange dreams and hazy recollections, and it was some minutes before she realized she was not in a familiar room. She stirred anxiously and cried out for Hannah, who came at once.
"Miss Caroline! Oh, thank goodness you are awake. How do you feel?"
"I'm not sure. My arm aches. My face feels stiff one side. And my mouth hurts. I don't know where I am, Hannah, but I am glad you are here. What room is this?" Her speech was slurred and slow because of her injuries.
"We are in the house of Lady Smythe, Lord Lonsdale's aunt, who kindly gave us shelter."
Caroline stared at her, still not comprehending. She tried to speak again but could only cough because her throat was so dry. Hannah fetched some water in a cup from the ewer on the washstand, and began to give her sips to help ease her throat.
"Thank you, Hannah," she managed to say.
Hannah put the things back on the washstand, then came and sat carefully on the bed. "Now, Miss Caroline, I don't really want to push you, but I must ask you this: What is the last thing you remember?"
Caroline leaned back on her pillows and tried to think, passing her right hand over her forehead only to wince when she touched it. "The last thing I remember?" she repeated slowly. Gradually the horror came back. "Papa. Oh, yes, I remember. I was going downstairs and he was coming up. He waved a newspaper about and was very angry about something. He—he taunted me about Lord Lonsdale. Oh, it was horrible. May I have a little more water, please?" After a few more sips, she continued. "I saw him raise his cane and then I felt pain in one arm. Then he seized my other arm and dragged me into my bedroom, at least I think it was, and I remember crying out again and I think I remember falling to the floor." She carefully touched her bandaged arm. "Is that how it got hurt? Papa did it, but why? I don't remember what happened afterwards."
Hannah could have hugged her. "Yes, he did, dear. But oh, thank goodness you can remember even that. It shows you will get better. I know you will. And do not worry any more about your Papa. Lord Lonsdale would never let him hurt you again; he doesn't even know you are here."
Caroline felt relieved about that, and asked, "How long have I been here?"
"Two days!" she echoed. "But how did I get here?"
"It's a very long story, dear, far too much to tell you now. I sent Johnny to find Lord Lonsdale, and he came, and Dr. Meldicott came and bound up your arm and soothed your other hurts. Then we all left the house. Lord Lonsdale carried you downstairs and into the cab and upstairs here when we arrived."
"He carried me?" echoed Caroline in wonder.
"Yes, dear, just like you were a feather. And then when in the cab you regained consciousness for a few moments. Do you remember?"
"No, not a thing."
"Well, you did; and when you lapsed back again he gently kissed your face, your hair. Oh, I'm sure he loves you, Miss Caroline," she concluded, beaming happily at her. "Oh, mercy me, here am I talking away to you when I should be telling Lady Smythe you are awake and almost yourself again." With that she bustled away.
Caroline rested on the pillows again and held the top of the bedsheet to her with her good hand as though holding something precious. What were those dear words Hannah said? He carried you. He kissed you gently. She gave a little start when the door opened and Lady Smythe came in, followed by Hannah.
"Caroline, my dear, I am so pleased to hear you have regained your senses and that you can recall things. I know of one person who will be very pleased,"
"Thank you, Lady Smythe. You are very kind to take me in, and Hannah also," replied Caroline slowly and carefully.
"Tush, girl. What else could I do when Dashell asked me to do so? There was nowhere else you could go." Caroline could think of nothing to say to that but still felt she was imposing upon Lady Smythe's goodness. "Now, I can see it pains you to talk so I will not stay. I will have my cook bring you some nourishing soup. You must be feeling quite hungry."
While the two of them waited Hannah smoothed out the sheets and plumped up the pillows, as Caroline carefully asked, "Did Dashell—Lord Lonsdale—come into this room at all? I thought I heard him speaking to me, only a few words I think. I don't know what he said. Or was it just a dream? Perhaps it was. I don't remember."
"Yes, he did," replied Hannah, as she tenderly brushed out Caroline's hair, "but I am not sure how long he stayed. Lady Smythe may know, for they came out together, I believe."
Caroline did not like the idea of asking Lady Smythe so let the matter drop. Instead she asked, "Where is Johnny? Is he all right?"
"Yes, he is. Lord Barrandale kindly allowed him to stay with the stablemen at Barrandale House."
"So that means no one is at Becket Lane at all, except Papa?"
"Yes, that's right, dear. Well, I suppose he's there, though I don't know who will 'do' for him." Nor did she care.
"I seem to have caused a lot of trouble," said Caroline with a sigh.
"It's not you that has caused any trouble," Hannah reminded her grimly.
The soup had been brought up and Caroline had managed to swallow some carefully, which pleased Hannah. Another sign she was going to get better. Hannah gathered up the dishes and took the tray downstairs to the kitchen. On her return she found Caroline sitting up expectantly.
"Hannah, you must tell me more. Please."
"Oh, my. There is so much to tell you but I don't think you are strong enough yet."
"Whatever do you mean?"
"Just that, Miss Caroline. But there is one piece of wonderful news I must tell you, and that is birth certificates have been found for you and Miss Maude."
"Birth certificates found!" Caroline's voice cracked in her excitement. "You mean Mother hid them away, like all those jewels?"
"Well no, not exactly. Your Papa had them, and we think he stole them away from her. So after a lot of searching Johnny found them in a secret cupboard in your Papa's room downstairs. I must show them to you for they are now here in a drawer for safe keeping."
Caroline looked at the two certificates in wonder and joy as Hannah handed them to her. "How I wish Maude had seen these. What a difference it would have made to us. And Mother was going to tell us in her own good time. I wonder why. Oh, Hannah, will we ever understand what really happened? Look at my name: Caroline Diana Waterton. I like the name Waterton. And my father was Sir Arthur Waterton, just some country gentleman. And look, there's that name which you could never recall—Sutherfield—a village in Sussex; and we were planning to go to Sussex, weren't we?"
"And now you need never use that name Wardlock again," Hannah pointed out.
"No, never again," repeated Caroline slowly. She laid the documents down and thought for a moment. "You know, Hannah, even if Lady Smythe allows us to remain here, we cannot do so indefinitely. What are we going to do? Where can we go, for did you not tell me that Lord Lonsdale said I was not to set foot in that house again?"
"We cannot worry about that just yet, Miss Caroline, for it is more important for you to get better. Anyway, I haven't finished yet. You will never guess what else Johnny found; I'll go and fetch it." So saying she went away, leaving Caroline in a state of wonder. What other surprise could there be?
Hannah came back carrying the portrait with a joyful look on her face. "Johnny found it in a room right at the top of the house. Here you are!" She turned it round for Caroline to see, and Caroline, confused by the youthfulness of the man, thought it was a brother. "No, dear, this was painted years ago by your mother. This is your father."
Caroline gave a little scream. "Another one of Mother's secrets?" she faltered. "My father?" and collapsed back on her pillows.
A conscious-stricken Hannah hastily put the painting down. "Miss Caroline, what have I done! I should never have told you in such a fashion. I only wanted it to be a surprise."
Caroline, her thoughts in a whirl, could only repeat, "I don't understand."
A few minutes later a more composed Caroline sat up in bed again, hardly able to take her eyes off the portrait which Hannah had left propped up on a chair for her to see. She had requested to be left alone to rest and to think.
In truth Caroline was still in shock from being assaulted by her stepfather. She could feel her face was swollen on one side and one eye was closed, and one side of her mouth hurt. She went over again in her mind what Hannah had just told her. Round and round it went like a windmill. It terrified her that but for Hannah's intervention Papa might have killed her and she could not imagine why he would want to do so, anyway. She had been told briefly of Johnny's part and doubtless she would hear his full story later.
Her mind dwelt mostly on her mother, the strong and courageous one, to whom her daughters had always turned. And the question that always worried them, why she never told them who their real father was, when all the time she had those documents in her possession and had hidden that portrait at the top of the house. And the time when they had spoken to their mother and she had run from the room, and when she returned she begged them to say nothing more. Only shame or fear would have driven to her to such silence. And why did she keep all those jewels secretly hidden, preferring instead to struggle along as best she could? A feeling of desolation began to appear and she tried to control the tears that wanted to come.
Caroline looked again at the portrait, and on impulse slipped out of bed, but felt shaky on standing up. Carefully she made her way to the chair and picked up the portrait and sat down. After studying it for a while she held it as close to her as she could, putting her arms round her father in the only way possible. How different their lives would have been with him instead of the strange, cold substitute they had. She read what was written on the back. "To my darling Arthur". Yet Hannah had said no death certificate for him was found; and Caroline was sure Mother would never have remarried if he had still been alive.
How she wished Maude had been able to see this portrait! They had both loved being at the Academy and Mother would have been so proud of them. Now she was gone. Maude was gone. Only she was left. All Mother's struggles seemed wasted. What now all that education? She must think of her future and find some means of support, but all that came to mind was opening that tea-shop somewhere in Sussex. But wait! She could write to Miss Osgood at the Academy and ask if she had an opening for a teacher, or did she know of one. But that might mean leaving her dear kind Hannah. Once more the sails of the windmill turned.
She could not possibly marry Dashell even if he still wanted her to. What had she to offer him? She had no dowry. And had he not said his family had suddenly lost their wealth because of the foolish actions of one of his brothers? Brother! That was why Papa was so furious, waving that newspaper at her. There must have been something printed in it and he used it as an excuse to quarrel with her. She was glad she had stood up to him in spite of the consequences. Dashell had helped her so much. The forget-me-nots and pansies he had sent her, and the roses given to her earlier. She hoped Hannah had remembered to pack the sachet of dried petals and flowers; her precious keepsakes. She would never, never forget him. He had to marry some heiress or other to save his family. She wondered who her next-of-kin were, and how could she find them. Would they be kind to her? She would sell some of the jewels and go to her birthplace and make some enquiries. Again the windmill turned.
Those jewels! Her heart almost stopped and she turned cold as yet another thought came to her. Had her father stolen those jewels and died afterwards? Was Mother too terrified to say anything? Perhaps she did not know how to return them, even if she had dared. She looked once more at the painting. That kindly looking man whom her mother had loved and who reminded her of Maude—a felon? There was no stopping the tears now and there was only one eye open to release them.
By now Caroline had a splitting headache, her thoughts unstoppable, making her injuries throb. Suddenly she put the portrait down and hastened blindly and shakily to the basin on the washstand and thankfully reached it just in time. She poured herself a little water and swallowed a little, easing her throat. Then she poured a little onto a washcloth and tried to cool her face, and then to her embarrassment had to use it as a handkerchief, not knowing where her own were packed. Such humiliation. Feeling somewhat more at ease she covered the basin with a towel, and as she turned to go she caught sight of herself in a mirror and gave a cry of horror at her reflection. Her swollen face was now made worse from weeping.
The gentle sounds of sleep that had been coming from Hannah's room suddenly stopped; and there were sounds of movement. "Miss Caroline? Did you call?"
Caroline turned quickly away still horrified at her reflection. She made a little run to her bed, but not being able to see properly she knocked into it and slipped to the floor, and cried out once more.
"Miss Caroline, whatever are you doing out of bed? Here, let me help you get up." Her strong arms soon had Caroline onto her feet and into bed. "Now move your feet over and let me tuck you in."
"I am so sorry, Hannah," Caroline managed to croak. "I had to get to the basin and I saw my reflection in the mirror. I feel so ashamed."
"Hush, now." Hannah put her arms round her young mistress and comforted her and then felt her burning forehead and feared she could be getting feverish. Her sharp eyes had noticed the altered positions of both chair and portrait and guessed what had happened. She chided herself. "I am the one who should be sorry, dear, for telling you things too soon. I should have waited until you were stronger."
"The basin," Caroline croaked again.
"Don't worry, dear. I will put everything right. Just lie back and close your eyes and I'll be back as soon as I can. I'll close the curtains a little to shield you from the sunlight."
On her way downstairs, she had in mind to make them both a nice cup of tea, and realized she would have to ask the cook first. Although they were glad to be away from Becket Lane, living there did have its advantages. The cook was slightly put out when Hannah asked where she might rinse out the basin and the washcloth, and when she begged a little barley water to settle Miss Caroline's stomach.
Once back in the bedroom Hannah deftly wrung out the cloth in some water and moved over to the bed. "How are you, Miss Caroline?" she asked gently in case she was asleep.
"About the same," came the weary reply. "My poor face aches."
"Here is a cold compress for you," said Hannah, as she laid the cloth on Caroline's forehead with a practiced hand, "and I have also requested a little barley water for you."
"It sounds just like when we were children," remarked Caroline, "but that reflection shocked me. I did not know I looked so awful."
"Now, dear, stop fretting. With rest you will get better. I know you will. And I blame myself too for you have had so much to contend with lately."
"Hannah," persisted Caroline, "please promise me you will not let Lord Lonsdale see me like this. I should be quite mortified."
"Of course I will. He will understand. He is a gentleman."
There was a knock on the door from the maid who brought up the barley water, which Hannah answered at once. She did not wish Miss Caroline to be seen by any of the servants.
"Now, Miss Caroline, try some of this; it will help to settle you. And when you have had enough I must inform Lady Smythe."
"Need you? She will think me quite foolish."
"I am sure her ladyship will not. We must remember we are guests in her house, and at very short notice, and I did ask her servants for things without her prior knowledge."
"Yes, of course you are right," sighed Caroline. Drinking slowly by the spoonful was tiring and after a while she put the bowl to one side. "Thank you, Hannah."
"All right, dear. I'll leave it there and you can have some more later." She laid her hand on Caroline's forehead and thought it felt a little less feverish. "I will give you a fresh compress before I go." A minute or two later the door closed behind her.
Caroline looked quickly for the portrait but Hannah had wisely moved it. Of course she had been upset over everything. She must learn to be strong and to have faith. One other thing she resolved to do was to stop calling her stepfather "Papa", for he was not. From now on she would refer to him, if she had to at all, as her "Step-papa".
Excerpted from Dashell and Caroline by ELIZABETH CHANTER Copyright © 2012 by Elizabeth Chanter. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Caroline Learns Many Things....................1
Chapter 2 Happenings Continue....................11
Chapter 3 The Next Day....................17
Chapter 4 To Return to Johnny....................22
Chapter 5 The Two Ladies Leave for St. Albans....................32
Chapter 6 The Rector of Sutherfield Receives a Letter....................42
Chapter 7 Maxwell....................46
Chapter 8 More About Maxwell....................53
Chapter 9 Walden....................57
Chapter 10 More About Johnny....................65
Chapter 11 Happenings Continue....................73
Chapter 12 Dashell Receives a Reply to His Letter....................77
Chapter 13 The Brothers Set Off On Their Journey....................90
Chapter 14 What They Learn Astounds Them....................97
Chapter 15 Caroline at Farling House....................109
Chapter 16 Dashell Calls at Farling House....................116
Chapter 17 The Next Day....................122
Chapter 18 Enter the Admiral....................127
Chapter 19 The Next Day....................136
Chapter 20 At Becket Lane Again....................149
Chapter 21 The Irvings Are Greatly Astonished....................154
Chapter 22 To Return to Caroline....................164
Chapter 23 The Last Two Days At The House....................177
Chapter 24 Maxwell's Progress....................185
Chapter 25 At Windsor....................189
Chapter 26 At Grosvenor Square....................194
Chapter 27 Father and Son Return From Windsor....................198
Chapter 28 The Meeting....................201
Chapter 29 Dashell Speaks To Caroline....................215
Chapter 30 The House Inspection—And More....................221
Chapter 31 Johnny Continues To Be Helpful....................228
Chapter 32 The Admiral Receives A Reply To His Advertisement....................231
Chapter 33 The Situation Is Explained To The Websters....................234
Chapter 34 The Websters Tell All They Know....................238
Chapter 35 Kidd and FitzHerbert Tell All....................253
Chapter 36 Caroline Is Told Everything....................257
Chapter 37 Enter The Duke....................260
Chapter 38 The Duke Calls At Bretherton Hall....................264
Chapter 39 The Unwelcome Outcome....................270
Chapter 40 An Unwelcome Caller....................274
Chapter 41 Preparations—and More....................280
Chapter 42 To Return to Johnny and Becket Lane....................286
Chapter 43 The Wedding At Fulham Church....................290
Chapter 44 At Barrandale Park....................293
Chapter 45 The Next Few Days....................297
Chapter 46 The Carriage Ride—And More....................300
Chapter 47 Sir Ryder Returns To London—And More....................311
Chapter 48 The Visit to Sutherfield....................315
Chapter 49 The Return to South Kensington....................327
Chapter 50 New Beginnings....................332