Mackerby Scandal - Extract
Haywood was destined to make an excellent marriage. This was spoken
of as a certain fact everywhere she was known, which so far encompassed
only Farringdon, the small parish in Hampshire in which she lived.
Her father, a Mr Charles Haywood, was not a wealthy man, but by
dint of careful saving, had early settled the sum of five thousand
pounds on his favourite child. Catherine, at nineteen, was extremely
pretty, with wide blue eyes and dark brown, naturally curly hair.
She had a very lively, playful spirit and a sweet temper, qualities
that ensured she remained high in the estimation of all the worthy
young men in the neighbourhood.
two other Haywood children, an elder boy of five and twenty, named
Charles after his father, and Emma, who was fifteen and, much
to her dismay, not yet out. Their mother, fond of idle pleasures
and easy distractions, had been used to let them go very much
their own way, but she had died when Catherine was still only
ten years old. Mr Haywood, who had a rather soft disposition and
had been really fond of his wife, took many years to recover from
the shock and grief. Catherines naturally happy disposition
had often been the sole relief to her fathers heavy heart,
and thus it was with some surprise that his neighbours saw how
eager he was for this beloved daughter, almost the sole pleasure
of his advancing years, to marry now that she was of age. Yet
Mr Haywood was most earnest in speaking this wish.
centred on his own delicacy, which had frequently been offended
by Catherines vivacious, open character. It led her to be,
on occasion, more concerned with her own immediate wishes, and
less with the impositions of polite society, than befitted the
behaviour of a well brought-up young lady. As Catherine had no
mother to guide her, Mr Haywood was certain that, chosen carefully,
a husband would be ideally placed to temper that want of propriety
he had gravely witnessed on many a social occasion.
the gentleman concerned must live within the environs of Farringdon,
that Mr Haywood might take as much pleasure from Catherines
company as he did at present. He must also be a sensible man with
a sober manner, if he was to be of any use and, in order that
the gentleman might inspire the desired respect, he ought also
to be as wealthy as possible.
for Mr Haywood, there was no such gentleman living in Farringdon
and, indeed, Catherine seemed so far from wishing to be married
at present as to have declared on more than one occasion, I
do not think I shall ever marry, Papa. How could I ever bear to
leave you and my dear brother and sister at Redlands? He
was resolved, however, to pursue his aim and, to this end, inspected
every new gentlemans arrival into the neighbourhood with
an anxious curiosity.
As the family
were all seated together one afternoon at cards, Sarah Beckindale,
a fair-haired, freckle-faced girl, who was Catherines closest
friend, was announced and came rushing in.
day, Mr Haywood, Mr Charles, Emma. Catherine, you must come at
once, for I have got a new pony that goes like the wind and a
new stable boy to teach me and, oh, do hurry and come along, for
I told Mama it will be no fun at all if you are not there!
who had started up at her friends hurried entrance, now
laughed with delight and, quickly gathering up her bonnet, exclaimed,
A new pony! You know how I love to ride, Papa! I shall be
sorry to break up our game, and just when I was winning so many
fish, but, well, Papa, may I go?
shook his head, but could not avoid a little smile escaping his
lips. Good afternoon to you, Miss Beckindale. Very well,
then, child, for I suppose I am to have no peace if I do not allow
you to go? Catherine took Sarahs arm before bending
down to kiss her fathers cheek.
should have no peace at all, Papa.
It was a fine
spring day and Catherine found she was very glad to be out of
doors. She and Sarah soon walked the half mile that separated
their two homes. Mrs Beckindale was waiting in the lane to greet
them. With Sarah and Catherine she shared a lively temperament,
although her understanding could not be said to match theirs.
along, girls, you have kept poor John waiting long enough. He
has had Chestnut saddled up and ready to go this half hour!
All three hurried to the stables, where Sarahs pony was
being led in a wide circle by John, the new stable hand. Catherine
could see at once that Chestnut was an excellent thoroughbred
and sure to allow Sarah many hours of spirited riding.
a fine animal! Sarah, how good of Mr Beckindale to be so extravagant
in his choice of horse!
tush! Sarah replied, with a careless wave of her hand. It
is of no consequence. I have been haranguing him about it these
last weeks so, ever since Elizabeth got her new pony, I dare say.
Elizabeth was Sarahs elder, more reserved, sister. With
a nod to John, Sarah mounted Chestnut and led him into a swift
canter, to prove, no doubt, that he did indeed ride like the wind.
She pulled up breathlessly almost at Catherine and Mrs Beckindales
feet, but when John suggested a gentler handling of the animal,
she would not hear of it. Dont fret so, John, for
I am sure he is very pleased to meet with a rider who knows how
to have some fun! Then Catherine took her turn and she was
glad to listen to Johns advice on one or two points, for
the stables at Redlands were too small to admit of a pet pony
of her own, so that, as she freely acknowledged, she did not as
yet make a very elegant horsewoman.
brief trial, Sarah suggested taking Chestnut a little further
afield, on a ride across the country. Catherine may take
Elizabeths pony, you know, she said carelessly. Mrs
Beckindale nearly swooned at the idea of trusting her daughter
on so new a horse, but seeing the girls were really determined
to go, she relented, only adding, John, now I am trusting
you to take good care of Miss Beckindale and Miss Haywood, as
they will not listen to my advice and wait until the animal is
truly broken in.
you worry, Maam, Ill look out for the ladies, and
if that new horse dont mind his manners, hell feel
the touch of my whip.
They set out
and were soon galloping through the surrounding fields and woodland.
Chestnut was as good a mount as he looked, and the conversation
was entirely taken up with eulogies as to the wonderful addition
he must be to the Beckindale household. Catherine was in high
spirits, for riding most gratified her impetuous nature. She had
discovered that her father, who truly hated to criticise her in
any way, was always most stern just after a ride, when her excitable
mood would lead him to reflect more seriously than ever that it
was high time he found her a suitable husband.
was but two miles from Portsmouth and, as they neared the town,
the trees gave way to cottages and then townhouses. They slowed
their pace and trotted as far as the ramparts, where it was the
custom to stop and admire the view. It was quite spectacular.
The port was busy with boats and ships of every description. The
sea was dazzlingly bright in the sunshine, while seagulls flocked
above. Persons of fashion were taking their daily stroll along
and, on Catherine exclaiming that the boats were being caulked,
Sarah confessed that she very much looked forward to the summer,
when there would be picnics and cricket for the gentlemen. I
should like to play cricket myself, Catherine declared,
and when Sarah looked at her in astonishment, she hastily added,
if propriety permitted ladies to play the game. John
appeared interested and asked if they had yet seen the vast lake
on the grounds of Ellis Park, which was certain to be the scene
of some fine picnics and outdoor games when the weather improved.
Sarah smiled indulgently. What can you possibly mean, John?
There is no-one to give a picnic at Ellis Park; why, it has stood
empty since the Mackerbys quitted it eight years ago at least.
Is it not so, Kitty?
were intimately connected with the Mackerby family. Mrs Beckindales
sister had chosen a much older man for her husband and moved to
live with him in London. Unfortunately, Mr George had not lived
to see the third birthday of their only child, a son. Mrs George
doted on this boy and, when the young Mr George came of age, and
was paying a visit to his aunt in Farringdon, he happened to fall
in love with the eldest and prettiest Miss Mackerby. As is usual
in such cases, he promptly asked her to marry him. She accepted
and the match was considered a happy, though not a very prudent,
one on her side. They then settled in Lyme, where they were able
to indulge their mutual love of society.
near connection, however, Sarah rarely spoke of her cousin, for
he and his fair wife were no longer invited to Beckindale Hall.
Catherine did not fully comprehend it. In the eight years that
had passed since the Mackerbys left their ancestral home, few
had been able to discover the truth as to why they had gone, but
there were whispers about an upstart servant and some gross misconduct
on the part of the youngest Miss Mackerby.
always felt rather awkward when the subject came up, for she knew
Sarah was forbidden ever to speak about the case. She found she
must make some reply, however. They went off to Northumberland
in a great hurry, I believe. But Ellis Park is the finest estate
in all Hampshire, and it is indeed a pity that there is no-one
to give parties or picnics there now.
park alone is six thousand acres at least, with no-one but the
old gamekeeper to tend it. It must be quite overgrown. And the
stables, Sarah continued, for her mind could not stray long
from the subject today, are quite the largest I ever saw,
possibly larger than any in England.
of Ellis Park had dominated Farringdon for generations; the prize
of the Mackerby family as far back as could be traced. The main
house was a masterpiece of early Georgian architecture, with its
carved Doric columns and grandiose symmetry. It was ideally situated
to overlook the lake, in a park that boasted many acres of lush
woodland. Several pretty paths wound their way among the herb
and rose gardens, and a little brook, with a footbridge at its
widest point, ran through the whole.
of the Mackerby ancestral line graced the stairwell, while the
adjoining rooms enjoyed high ceilings and sash windows with charming
views. The splendid library with its well-stocked shelves of leather-bound
volumes had once made Catherines eyes as round as saucers,
for she was a great reader. She had often been to tea there with
her mother as a young girl and her memories of playing on the
estate were among the most treasured of her childhood. It was
now so long since she, or indeed anyone in Farringdon, had set
foot in the place that she dearly wished to see it again.
there is to be a master at Ellis Park, said John, as soon
as he was able, for my brother James has just taken the
post of head groom there and expects the master any day.
master at Ellis Park! Why did you not tell us at once? I wonder
my mother did not know of it! What is he like? Does he look well?
He must certainly be very rich! Sarah could hardly contain
her excitement at the news, for she was always keen for more beau
than Farringdon could well afford. Catherine exclaimed, Now
what a summer it will be! We shall sit beside the lake and do
nothing but laze in the sunshine!
master is quite a young gentleman, John told them, who
inherited a good deal on his fathers death. My brother James,
who knows about such things, tells me that Mr Larkin is an excellent
rider and means to profit from the vast grounds of the estate.
James is a well-known horse-breeder in that part of town where
Mr Larkin used to stay, and no-one can handle a horse as he can.
But Sarah was far too eager to speak of Mr Larkin to care for
Johns brother, and she interrupted him with, Quite
young! And an excellent rider! This is good news indeed! Catherine,
we must hurry home, that we may tell Mama! The conversation
on their return journey did not hold nearly so much interest for
Catherine as that of their outward one, for Sarah would talk of
nothing but Mr Larkin and his stables. However, she had much to
think on herself, as she envisioned the reanimation of the magnificent
estate that was Ellis Park.
(UKA Press, 2004)
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