Back cover of book with synopsis
The Quest of Miss Postlethwaite
Arabella Postlethwaite did not cry as she stood with the vicar and a few kindly neighbours that accompanied her at the graveside in the tiny churchyard at Golborne, where she had been born eight years before, in 1889. She felt a deep, saddened loss for her mother, and now felt quite alone.
A tall slender woman with dark hair and equally dark-brown eyes, dressed rather grandly was unfamiliar to Arabella. She'd never set eyes on this lady before and wondered why she was squeezing her gloved hand in her own bare one, so tightly.
Arabella stared up into the dark eyes, which seemed to penetrate straight through to her broken heart. She turned towards the hole in the ground where they had put the heavy wooden box and let out an almighty screech, as she saw the men with huge shovels throwing earth on top of it. 'No-o,' she screamed, 'don't do that,' she sobbed, 'Mummy won't be able to breathe.'
The lady held the child's hand firmly pulling her further away; ignoring the protests and screams of terror. Elizabeth Worthington a childless widow was Arabella's father's sister. She had not seen her brother Henry Postlethwaite since their parents had ordered him from the family home when he had brought disgrace on them with his gambling and debauchery. The final blow was when Henry decided to marry a shop girl who was carrying his child.
'Come along,' Elizabeth bid pulling the child from the graveside.
As they approached the big iron gates leading out of the cemetery, Elizabeth motioned to Perkins the livery driver. Touching his cap in respect when he saw his mistress, he quickly brought the carriage forward and helped them up into the covered interior, placing a thick woollen blanket over their laps to keep out the cold.
A heavyset man with ruddy complexion, Joseph Perkins had worked for Elizabeth since he'd left school fifteen years before. The previous driver who retired soon after had taught Perkins how to drive the livery, and he had become quite adept at the task.
The weight of his body as he climbed into the driver's seat caused the carriage to sway slightly, giving the child a sense of comfort as she briefly recalled the gentle movement of the pram when her mother pushed it.
Arabella sat silently looking out of the window. Elizabeth observing the mood of her niece made no effort to converse. She would have enough time later to explain to the child, why she would be living with her Aunt, in a different place.
Elizabeth's dead husband, James Worthington, the son of a prominent lawyer had taken over the thriving practice when his father had suddenly passed away just two years after James and Elizabeth had married. Three years later, James lost his own life when he suffered a massive heart attack, leaving his devastated wife to cope alone. She eventually moved back to the family home, with her parents, grateful to have returned to her childhood surroundings, until they tragically met their deaths in coaching accident whilst on holiday in Europe. As a morose widow of thirty-one, Elizabeth found some solace in returning to Holden Hall, a large rambling imposing red-bricked house standing on top of Westleigh Hill overlooking the market town of Golborne, an old mining town in Lancashire, North West England.
Perkins skilfully drove the carriage along the tree-lined driveway, which swept up towards the main entrance. A large oak door opened. Claude Watkins the elderly butler, who had been with the family for many years, came out to greet them. Bent almost double with arthritis Claude could barely walk, but his outlook remained cheerful. 'Good afternoon ma'am,' he said welcoming Elizabeth, 'did everything go off well?' he asked looking down at the young girl who was standing beside his mistress. Arabella looked bewildered and upset by the unfamiliar surroundings. Shaking his silver locks, he nodded his approval as he smiled broadly at her.
Polly Smith, Elizabeth's' maid appeared in the great hallway, bobbing a courtesy to her mistress. A slight girl in her mid-twenties with mousy brown hair and sombre dark eyes looked curiously from the child to Elizabeth as she waited instructions.
Removing her outdoor clothing, Elizabeth addressed the maid. 'Polly this is Arabella, would you see that she is given a hot drink and taken upstairs to her room.' Turning to the confused child, she added, 'Go with Polly dear she will look after you, I shall come up shortly.’
Polly led Arabella away. Elizabeth gave instructions to Watkins to inform the under maid to lay the table for two that evening. 'We shall start as we mean to go on,' she added brusquely.
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© Jenna Hines