I must apologise to anyone wanting to read this taster for my new novel, because you will have realised that you have to scroll back 2 weeks for the beginning of it, but thank you for the many encouraging comments you have sent me. I expect the book to be out later this summer but will keep you posted.
The following morning I was up early and dressed in my coat and boots, with the carpet bag at my feet. I waited at the gate, holding MumMarch’s hand, for the coach to arrive. When it did, I was surprised that it was not Mrs Gosling sitting in it, but a lady that I didn’t know. She jumped out came across to me.
“You must be Daisy? I am Emma. Mrs Gosling sent me to bring you home.”
I opened my mouth to say that I was home already, but then I caught the slight shake of her head that MumMarch gave me, so I just said, “Thank you.”
‘Come on, then. Oh, is that your bag? How pretty it is.” And without pausing for breath, she picked it up and put it inside the coach. Then she turned and saw that I was clutching MumMarch tightly.
“Oh, Daisy, I am sorry. Do you want me to get back inside the coach while you say goodbye?”
But there was nothing more to say. I squeezed MumMarch’s lovely warm, comforting hand and then reached up and kissed her cheek. Then I jumped into the coach and flopped down beside Emma. She banged on the window just like The Posh Lady, and we were off, trotting into another world. I stared out of the window, willing myself not to cry.
Her voice was gentle and concerned. I turned to face her. She was not old like The Posh Lady, and for the first time I wondered about her. She seemed to understand the question in my head without me asking.
“I work for Mrs Gosling.” She giggled in a way that made her seem much more like Alfie and Georgie than a proper grown up. “I am what they call a ‘maid of all work’. That means there is only me, trying to do everything. Well, except the cooking. Mrs Grant does that. That’s why I stay there really, because she’s teaching me how to do all sorts of stuff, and when I know enough, I’ll be off. I might even be able to go and work in America.”
I stared at her in awe. I knew America was another country, because Georgie had learnt about it at school. But I suddenly felt I didn’t want her to go away.
“But you won’t go yet?” I asked.
She laughed again, and bending over, untied my bonnet and laid it on the seat opposite us. “We’ll put that back on when we get there. No, I won’t go off yet. My young man is at the war, and I’m waiting for when he gets back, and then we’ll be married and go together. He’s from Ireland, and his Auntie is out there already. He says it’s a fine place and we’ll get very rich.” She paused as if she was not quite sure of this, and then she laughed again, shrugging her shoulders as if to say that she knew it would all turn out well.
I decided she was very pretty, with her reddish brown hair and dark eyes. I had dark eyes, but my hair was very fair, which I thought made me look a bit odd.
She smiled at me. “Now, Daisy, tell me about you. Mrs Gosling told me yesterday I had to go and fetch her daughter, and you could have knocked me down with a feather. So where did you spring from?”
I had no idea how to answer her question any way but truthfully, so I replied, “I don’t know.” How could I explain that I had even less idea what I was doing, or where I was going, than she did? I felt that I should offer something more, as she had told me so much, so I added, “My mother says I must be very good.”
Misunderstanding, Emma laughed, “Well, I suppose that is what she is hoping.”
“Oh, no, I meant my real mother, MumMarch, she …” I caught the look of bewilderment on her face and realised that I had said the wrong thing. I frantically tried to put it right, babbling, “No, sorry, I, um, I mean my other mother, I mean, oh…” It was all too much; I put my face in my hands and was unable to stem my tears.
Emma drew me close and put her arms round me. “You poor little mite. Here, let’s dry your tears. Come on.” She wiped my face with a soft handkerchief, which she tucked into my coat pocket. “There, that’s in case you need it again. But I don’t think you will. She’s a nice enough lady, Mrs Gosling. You’ll be alright. She’ll look after you. And, so, Daisy-pops, will I.” She began to hum a little tune around my name, which made me laugh through my tears.
“Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do, look up and smile – there that will do! Come along then, join in!”
And I did, tremulously at first, but we sang it more and more lustily, till she changed it to Little Miss Daisy and we both tried to think of something to rhyme that was like tuffet, and that made us laugh even more. And then the coach stopped, and Emma looked out of the window, and reached for my bonnet and tied it back on.
“We’ve arrived, Daisy-pops. Now, big smile. I can’t see Mrs Gosling waiting, but she said to take you through to the drawing room as soon as you got here, so that’s what we’ll do.”
“Can I have my carpet bag, please?”
“Don’t worry, I’ve got it.”
She opened the door and jumped out, taking my bag with her. Then she waited while I climbed out, a bit stiff from sitting so long. The coach pulled away, and we walked up a short path through a pretty garden with lots of trees. The house in front of us was tall, I could see four lots of windows between the black front door and the roof, but it was not huge. We went past the front of the house and through a door at the back which led into a large kitchen. It felt cosy, not unlike the one at home, only bigger. It was warm but there was no-one working there.
“I’ll take your bag up to your room. No – don’t look so worried,” she held up her hand to stem my embryo protest, “I won’t let any harm come to it and I won’t open it until you are there. I just don’t want you having to drag it around, right?”
I didn’t want to be parted with this precious gift, so I hesitated, but her smiling face convinced me. “Right,” I agreed.
She led me along a passageway and then up a short flight of stairs. At the top of these was a small room with a chair in it and an umbrella stand. I would later realise that this was the front hall and that the kitchen was in the basement. Emma knocked on a door, and I heard The Posh Lady’s voice calling me in. I swallowed hard as Emma gave me a gentle shove which propelled me into the room, before disappearing with my bag