CHAPTER 1: Keeping Ones Place
Anne was determined not to lose her temper in spite of severe provocation. Her stepdaughter had always looked upon her as an interloper; not really good enough for Gordon, even if Anne could trace her family line to minor nobility. Indeed, her background had been considered good enough to raise Cassandra and her brother! Neither of her two stepchildren had dared to remind Anne of her former position as their governess while Anne's beloved husband lived. His death near the end of the Crimean War had changed everything for Anne and her sweet toddler, William.
The little fellow was only four years old when his father's diplomatic mission resulted in death so far from his much-loved Yorkshire home. The estate was small, but beautiful, with a home farm that more than met the needs of the family. Now Gordon had been gone close to two years and Richard, his eldest son, had moved his young family to the estate and assumed the role of landed gentry.
The first rule of order was to ship off his stepmother and his embarrassingly young brother to the London town home. Gordon would have hated young Will growing up in the grimy city so far from the open spaces of the family home. Anne missed what had been her home for so much of her life as well.
Now Cassandra was insisting that her stepmother and half-brother move yet again. Cass had returned from her honeymoon with grand plans for her new husband, George, to make his mark in the Capital city. A seat in Parliament and a position of importance on something called a "Watchers Council" were his by right of birth. The Travers family could trace its line from the conquest and Cass had worked long and hard to fix George's affections. Cass was ever class conscience; a snob, in point of fact.
The townhouse in Mayfair was obviously not the proper place for her father's second family. Poor daddy must have been closer to his dotage than anyone had suspected. What was he thinking, marrying the governess and siring a second son only four years older than his own first grandson? Shameful is what it was!
It wasn't as if Cass intended to ship them to the wilderness—or even to the continent—for heaven sake. After all, Cass and George needed to entertain in proper style. Anne was a quiet widow with a small son to raise. The house that George had found for them near Regent Street was charming and quite respectable. Why, there was even a lovely small garden where Anne could grow her roses and William could play. And, after all, the Mayfair house had been part of her father's estate and should stay with his first family. Richard understood fully and agreed, even paying for the new home for their stepmother and half-brother.
In time, William would be off to Eton, then probably Cambridge as Richard had done. Perhaps her smaller brother would eventually enter the Holy orders. Richard and George could use their influence to secure a decent post for him. Maybe William would follow their father's career and enter into government service; George could help there. See, Cass was a good sister... thinking of his betterment and helping to secure his future. Cass had loved Anne once, too, when she had stayed in her place... before her father had decided that he would miss having Anne in his home so terribly, once a governess wasn't needed any longer.
Oh, how the neighborhood had snickered when that wedding had taken place. Then came William. The eyebrows surely rose then. Well, he had been a sweet enough baby and he looked just exactly like their father. The gossip had died down a bit then. Besides, Gordon never allowed anything short of respect to be shown to his young wife and baby son. He had even accused Cass of jealousy at one point—ridiculous, of course. Oh, how father had doted on her new baby brother. He just could not see what a fool he looked at his age with a baby. That was the only real objection Cass had. Her beloved father being made to look a fool with his governess wife and newborn son... shameful indeed.
Anne had no desire to move her small son once again. Poor mite, moving about like a gypsy with no father there to protect and guide him. Who would have guessed that her sweet William would need protection from his own half-siblings? Surely Gordon was not resting easily. If Anne believed in the supernatural, she would expect to hear that her late husband was haunting the halls of his beloved Laurelwood trying to make Richard a better son and brother. Cass had become haughty enough to scare a ghost lately... so a haunting would have no impact on her. But, such nonsense was only found in novels like Mr. Dickens' and his wonderful Christmas ghost story. Still... Anne
sighed with guilty pleasure picturing such a haunting.
William deserved better. Such a sweet, loving child. He was a comfort and constant source of joy to her. He followed his mamma everywhere, like a small shadow. He loved to sit at her feet in the parlor while she did needlework. Anne would sing to him as she worked. Gordon would have demanded that pose for an official portrait. He had been a good husband to her, and had been beside himself with joy when William had come along. Yes, theirs had been a love match and William conceived from that love.
Gordon had been well set up even if his own father had invested poorly. William's grandfather had been a bit of a visionary with the unfortunate habit of putting money where his dreams led. They weren't bad dreams or investments... merely too far ahead of their time. Mr. Babbage's inventions, for example, should have raised the family fortune. However, machines to calculate and compute were too far ahead of their time to attract enough investors like Gordon's father. The family coffers were low, but never empty. Nonetheless, Gordon had done his duty and married well the first time, using his head and not his heart. He recouped the losses his father had incurred by following his dreams. Gordon had saved Laurelwood and had two spoiled, haughty children to show for that marriage.
His first wife had died when Cass was still quite young. Anne Howe had come into their lives then and made a family of them all. Her warmth and love had been a precious gift to them all, and the one thing that kept Gordon the kind and loving man he had been to the end.
Gordon would have done anything to keep Anne in his life. He had been happy beyond measure when she agreed to marry him at his age; and completely over the moon when she presented him with William a short year later. Richard was at University and engaged by that time, his future already secured. Cass was fifteen and already turning heads. She knew what she wanted and how to get it. Gordon had been a good father to all three children, but the spot in his heart for his youngest was a bit softer than the rest. Anne supposed that Richard and Cass had felt the difference. Now Richard was the family head, living at Laurelwood with his family while she and William were being moved yet again.
Anne sighed deeply and could only pray that her son didn't understand the cuts and slights of his older siblings. William was an especially sensitive child and fiercely loyal to his mother even at his young age. He was special and Anne knew his future would be as special as he was. He would be well known in time... a name to be reckoned with in that future time. Anne's beautiful boy; they could move them about, but they could never make them disappear!