Authors: Maggie Hope
Torn between love and duty...
After the birth of their son, Eliza naively hopes her husband Jack will put his gambling habit behind him and become more responsible. But then he loses their home and abandons her, leaving Eliza with no choice but to return to her parents' house.
She inadvertently attracts the attention of the ruthless mine owner Jonathan Moore. But can she sacrifice her reputation to protect her son?
Maggie Hope was born and raised in County Durham. She worked as a nurse for many years, before giving up her career to raise her family.
A Wartime Nurse
A Mother's Gift
A Nurse's Duty
A Daughter's Gift
The Servant Girl
A Daughter's Duty
Like Mother, Like Daughter
To my father, a miner all his life, and his father and grandfather too.
stared down at the necklace she was holding in her hands. The blue-red stones glinted in the candlelight and reflected on the silver-coloured setting. âIt's not silver, it's gold, white gold,' said Jack.
Eliza sighed and put the necklace back in its case and the case on the table. She gazed at the blue leather with the name of a prominent Newcastle jeweller tooled in gold leaf.
âYes, yes, we can. I can always afford to buy beautiful things for you, hinny,' Jack said softly, tenderly. He put his arms around her and held her unyielding body to him. âHoway, man, Eliza, don't look like that. I've had a grand day at the races. My luck was in and I doubled up twice and won both times on the nose. I'm telling you, my luck has changed. We're going to be fine; just you wait and see.' He gazed at her face for any sign of her relenting but she showed none. âDon't spoil it now, hinny,' he coaxed. âLet's away to bed, I've missed you, pet.'
Eliza sighed. What was the use of talking, of trying to make him see what he was doing to her and the bairn she carried in her belly? Besides, already she could feel herself weakening. The old magic he raised in her when he touched her was dimming every other thought and she gave herself up to it.
When his father found out he had taken money from the business to go to the races they would be thrown out. John Henry Mitchell-Howe hated gambling. Gambling had been the thread running through his family that had ruined them. His great-grandfather had been gentry, a respected man, but with a son who was a gambler, a man who would bet on anything and everything. The family had ended up with nothing except for their name, Mitchell-Howe. John Henry's father had been a gambler too and he had ended up in the gutter, shunned by his fellows. By his own efforts, John Henry had built up his business.
It was a warm June night but Eliza shivered. She put a hand on her belly; what would happen to the babby? It was almost dawn before exhaustion caused her to drop into a disturbed sleep.
Eliza woke suddenly and sat up in bed. âJack? Jack?' she called, and put out a hand to him but he was gone; his side of the bed was empty. What time was it? She climbed clumsily out of bed and went to the window to draw the curtains. Blinding light flooded in, the sun was high in the sky; it must be well into the day. Hastily she poured water from the china jug on the washstand into the matching bowl and splashed her face and arms, gasping at the coldness of the water. The baby moved inside her as though joining in the protest and she put her hand on the bump caressingly.
There were sounds from downstairs, voices and small thuds, but the house was too solidly built for her to hear much. She paused in her dressing and listened, thinking she had heard a note of anger, but no, it would just be Annie, her mother-in-law, cleaning the stair carpet with tea leaves and berating her little thirteen-year-old maid, Bertha, for something or other. Annie liked to do most of the work herself for she didn't trust anyone else to do it properly but all the same she would be annoyed that Eliza had slept in. She took it as a sign of sloth. Eliza was expected to do her share of the housework even though she didn't do it well enough for Annie either.
âExpecting a babby is not an illness,' she would snap at any sign of weakness on Eliza's part.
Annie was not on the stairs and the hall below was deserted. As Eliza came out of the bedroom she shared with Jack she saw the stairs were already cleaned and not a speck of dust dared to dance in the sunbeam that came through the tall window on the bend of the staircase wall. Lordy, Annie would be mad. She was halfway down the stairs when the door to the study burst open and Jack came out, followed by a roar of anger from his father.
Jack took the stairs two at a time, barely pausing as he passed Eliza to say, âCome back upstairs, we have to pack.' His face was white and his lips set in a thin, hard line.
Eliza's anxious âWhat?' was drowned out by her father-in-law's shouting.
âGet out of my house, you limb of Satan, get out and don't come back! I have given my orders and if you ever try to get into the workshop or my office again I'll have you charged with trespassing. You will not get the chance to rob me again, I swear by all that's sacred you will not! Now, you've got ten minutes to pack your bags and go.'
âJohn Henry! What are you saying? What about Eliza? The lass is almost ready to drop her bairn!'
âShe'll be all right, remember where she came from,' John Henry snapped. âHer folk live in a hovel up by a pithead down Durham way. Any road, I'll not have your thieving son in this house nor in my workshop, I'm telling you I will not.'
Eliza missed what else was said between her parents-in-law as Jack grabbed her arm and dragged her up the stairs and into the room, banging the door behind them. Eliza stumbled a couple of times, once tripping on her skirt, but he had such a hold on her she couldn't fall. She felt the baby move within her as if in protest and she held a protective hand over it for a moment but the movements subsided.
âYou took the money from the office,' she said flatly as she turned to face Jack. âYou promised me, Jack.'
âStop whining, woman,' he snapped. âIt came out all right, didn't it? You got your bauble, didn't you?' He smiled cruelly, wanting to hurt her as he was hurting. âIt's more than your da could ever buy for your mam, isn't it?'
Eliza shrank inside herself for a minute only before remembering, of course, she had the necklace. She could sell it and it might be enough to pay John Henry back and then maybe he wouldn't throw them out. It was as though Jack had heard her thoughts.
âGive me the necklace,' he demanded.
âNever mind why I want it, just get it.' Jack was impatient; he held out his hand and wriggled the fingers. Eliza gave an involuntary glance at the drawer of her dressing table, where she had put the necklace. Jack saw and strode to the dressing table and took it out and slipped it into his pocket.
âIt's mine, you gave it to me!' cried Eliza.
âDon't be stupid,' he snapped. âI need it, don't I? Now get my stuff packed, we'll go down to the inn for now. I'm going out, I'll be back when I've finished the bit of business I have to do.' He swept out of the room and she heard his footsteps as he ran downstairs and the bang of the front door as he went out. Crossing to the window, she saw him walking jauntily along the road in the direction of Alnwick. She watched until he turned the corner then turned back into the room and started to pack their belongings.
Two o'clock, dinner time and Jack had not come back. Eliza sat by the bed with the luggage on either side of her and waited. Though her stomach rumbled she did not go down to the meal and no one called her to it. It was as though the household had given up all thought of her or Jack.
It was only when she heard the clanging of the front doorbell, followed by a loud hammering on the door and his voice shouting, that she realised he was back and the door was locked against him. Inside her the baby jumped as though in alarm. Eliza stood up hastily and went to the bedroom door and out on to the landing. Jack continued to ring the bell and shout through the keyhole but no one answered him. The noise stopped and he ran from the house, and after a moment she heard him trying the back door but it was locked too and no one let him in.
Eliza's stomach churned; she didn't know what to do. She couldn't even reach the top bolt on the front door so she couldn't let him in. And even if she could, what good would it do? His father would simply send him on his way again. No, she would have to go down with the luggage and get his father to let her out. Perhaps that was the way: John Henry might take pity on them when he saw her so far gone with the babby and let them stay. She picked up the bags and began her descent of the stairs.
The bags were heavy and because of them she couldn't hold on to the balustrade. She leaned over to one side, using the rail as a support. Pain shot through her back and she gritted her teeth and forced herself to put one foot in front of the other. She felt for the edge of the carpeted riser but she was too far to the side and her foot met the newly polished wood at the side and slipped. She was holding on tightly to the handles of the bags and the weight of them went forward and dragged her with them, and her foot lost the stair altogether and she fell heavily, banging her head on the ornate cast-iron post at the bottom. The bags thudded against the floor of the hall, skidded a few inches and stopped. Eliza lay in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the staircase. The cut on her forehead where she had hit the post oozed a little blood. Blood also began to stain the seat of her dress a darker brown against the light brown serge but a startling red against the white maternity smock she wore over it. She was spared the shame and embarrassment of having her father-in-law see what was happening as she had lost consciousness. She wasn't even aware that John Henry and his second son, Henry, had carried her back up the stairs and laid her on the bed she had shared with Jack.
âYou see? You see what's happened now?' Annie cried. âWhat are you going to do?'
âAw, see to the lass and shut your mouth, Annie Mitchell-Howe,' snarled John Henry. âI'll away downstairs and tell that young hellion to hadaway for the midwife. Henry, get back to work, we're behind on the orders any road. This has nowt to do with you.'
Henry looked affronted. âAye it has, Da. An' the way I look at Eliza here, she needs a doctor, not just the midwife.'
âAye well, get the doctor then. But mind, don't you let your brother in, do you hear me? I'm behind you, I'll get the midwife.'
âYes, Da,' said Henry, and went out.
âBy, John Henry, you'll rue the day, you will an' all,' said Annie. She was leaning over the bed, trying to help Eliza. âThe bairn's on its way, tell Bertha to put water on to boil and bring it up. A full kettle, mind. That newfangled doctor is forever washing his hands.'
John Henry paused with his hand on the door. âAs soon as the lass is over this she can be on her way an' all. She's no responsibility of mine.'
âAye well, let's see if she does get over it, John Henry,' said Annie. She lifted Eliza by the shoulders to take off her dress and the girl's head rolled and she moaned. Annie hastily laid her back on the pillow.
âMebbe I shouldn't have moved her,' Annie said anxiously.
âShe'll be all right,' said John Henry. âShe's off tough stock.'
Annie glared at him, her anxiety making her shout at him. âAre you still there? Will you get away for the midwife or have I to go myself? Do you want the lass to die here and the babby, our grandbairn, with her?'
âNo, no, I'm going now,' said John Henry. âIt's not but a cock's stride to the midwife's place.'