Caution’s Heir

1) Chapter One

St. Oswald’s church was bleak, yet beautiful all in one breath. 13th century arches that soared a tad more than twenty feet above the nave provided a sense of grandeur, permanence and gravitas. These prevailed within, while the turret-topped tower without, once visible for miles around now vied with mature trees to gain the eye of passers-by. 

On sunny days stain-glass windows, paid for by a Plantagenet Baron who lived four hundred years before and now only remembered because of this gift, cast charming rainbow beams across the inner sanctum. And on grey overcast days ghostly shadows danced along the aisle. 

As per the custom of parish churches the first three pews were set-aside for the gentry. On this day the second pew, behind the seat reserved for the Marquess of Hroek, who hadn’t attended since the passing of his son and heir, was Louisa Booth his niece and her companion Mrs Bottomworth. 

Mrs Bottomworth was a stocky matron on the good side of fifty. Barely on the good side of fifty. But one would not say that was an unfortunate thing for she wore her years well and kept her charge free of trouble. Mrs Bottomworth’s charge was an only child, who would still have been in the schoolroom excepting the fact of the death of her mother some years earlier. This had aged the girl quickly, and made her hostess to her father’s household. The Honourable Hector Booth, third son of the previous Marquess, maintained a modest house on his income of 300 pounds. That was quite a nice sum for just the man and one daughter, with but five servants. They lived in a small, two floor house with four rooms. It should be noted that this of course left two bedchambers that were not inhabited by family members. As the Honourable Mr Booth saved his excess pounds for certain small vices that confined themselves with drink and the occasional wager on a horse, these two rooms were seldom opened. 

Mrs Bottomworth had thought to make use of one of the empty rooms when she took up her position, but the Honourable Hector Booth advised and instructed her to share his daughter’s room. For the last four years this is what she had done. When two such as these shared a room, it was natural that they would either become best of friends, or resent each other entirely. Happily the former occurred as Louisa was in need of a confidant to fill the void left in her mother’s absence, and Mrs Bottomworth had a similar void as her two daughters had grown and gone on to make their own lives.

The Honourable Mr Booth took little effort in concerning himself with such matters as he was ever about his brother’s house, or ensconced in a comfortable seat at either the local tavern or the Inn. If those locations had felt he was too warm for them, he would make a circuit of what friends and acquaintances he had in the county. The Honourable Mr Booth would spend an hour or two with a neighbour discussing dogs or hunters, neither of which he could afford to keep, though he did borrow a fine mount of his brother to ride to the hunt. The Marquess took little notice, having reduced his view of the world by degrees when first his beloved younger brother who was of an age between the surviving Honourable Mr Booth had perished shortly after the Marquess’ marriage. Their brother had fallen in the tropics of a fever. Then the Marquess had lost his second child, a little girl in her infancy, his wife but a few years after, and most recently his son and heir to the wars with Napoleon.

This caused the Honourable Mr Booth to be heir to Hroek, a situation that had occurred after he had lost his own wife. With that tragedy, Mr Booth had found more time to make friends with all sorts of new bottles, though not to a degree that it was considered remarkable beyond a polite word. Mr Booth was not a drunkard. He was confronting his grief with a sociability that was acceptable in the county.


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© Regency Assembly Press 2014