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One Morning in Melrose

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'Strange sounds they were, Mrs Quiggs,' said Jenny, as she and her mistress bustled about the small kitchen, readying the breakfast. 'Specially coming from a room containing two gentlemen.'

'Never you mind about that,' Mrs Quiggs admonished the young maid-of-all-work. 'Noises or not, they need breakfast before they set off, so keep your mind on that toast.'

Inwardly, she sighed. Like as not, this meant she'd have to do the linens today, just to avoid any more questions. She was a widow trying to keep a respectable lodging house, with an unmarried farm girl as a maid. Last thing she needed was Jenny getting any ideas about the two young men who'd stayed in her best room the night before.

Upstairs, in Mrs Quiggs' best bedroom, Jeremy Carling was undertaking yet another of the herculean tasks Fate had thrust upon him in the last four days. This time he was holding the end of the silk band that Eliza had been using since they left Edinburgh to bind her breasts flat, while Eliza settled it in place. 'I had Meggie to help me when I first put it on, of course,' she said.

It wasn't that Jeremy minded helping. Nor was it that he didn't understand the need for Eliza's disguise as a young lad: it was he who had come up with the idea in the first place. It was simply that, having seen Eliza's beautiful body as it naturally was the night before, he didn't like the thought of her being once again so tightly bound. Sooner than Jeremy would have liked, the deed was done. Over the silk went the shirt and vest, then the jacket. Finally Eliza tucked her golden hair back into its cap, and the 'young lad' stood in Eliza's place. They breakfasted quickly and were soon on their way, well-provisioned for lunch by Mrs Quiggs and her comments about growing lads needing to eat. Nevertheless, the assessing, wary look in Mrs Quiggs' eyes told Jeremy that he'd be best not to return to Melrose for some time, as he might be misremembered.