Chapter One: An Introduction to Miss Warwick

On the road to Nottingham, a man dressed smartly in brown rode towards the Weaver manor on a large grey pony. He pulled the horse to a careful halt in front of the door, where a butler was waiting, mopping his brow with a grubby handkerchief.
‘Thank goodness you’re here doctor; the lady is in a fair deal of distress.’
The doctor took out a pair of spectacles from his greatcoat, before following the butler inside.
‘Forgive my impertinence, but I wasn’t aware that the lady of the house was expecting a child.’
The butler hesitated, before leaning in close to the doctor, which almost resulted in him head butting a vase as they walked.
‘It’s not Lady Weaver who’s …in distress sir.’
The doctor paused mid-step and motioned to speak.
‘But his Lordship specifically requested your assistance… it’s a… special case.’
‘I see.’

The two men made their way to the servant’s quarters, where they found the heavily pregnant Erica Warwick lying on the bed, screaming in agony. She was an attractive woman, her features sharp and elfin, but the pain had contorted her face and sent her dark locks into disarray. Lord Weaver was standing over her with several of the household staff; trying to keep her in as much comfort as possible. The Lord walked over to Doctor Emerson and embraced him.
‘Do the best you can for her Doctor.’
‘I will Daniel. Where is the child’s father?’
Weaver frowned, as the mother-to-be gave out a great scream.
‘Dead, and all the better for it. Please…’
The doctor immediately began preparing for Erica to give birth, while those assembled did the best they could to assist. Towels and hot water were brought in by the multitude, as well as an empty bucket for Lord Weaver, who had turned rather green as Miss Warwick’s screams got gradually louder and the activity around the bottom end of her bed became more frantic.

Erica Warwick had been maid to Lady Persephone Weaver ever since she was eighteen years old, just as her own mother had done a generation before. The Warwicks had served the Weavers for years, ever since moving over from Ireland to serve the first Lord a century before. Erica had always been a friend as well as a servant, and the Weavers had cared for her deeply.

But one night several months ago, Sidney Nueuse, a traveller from the American colonies, had arrived and had humbly requested shelter from the torrential rain. Lord Weaver agreed, giving him a guest bedroom, as well as sending Erica to his chambers with a sizeable supper. The traveller had forced himself upon the young maidservant before fleeing into the night, taking Lord Weaver’s own stallion with him. The Lord set out in pursuit, a great uncharacteristic fury driving him to hunt down Nueuse on the forest road before decapitating him, leaving his body for the carrion birds. However, back at Weaver Manor the damage had already been done, and Erica Warwick was soon heavy with child.

Eventually, the newborn girl emerged after a fair struggle. She was then washed and gently placed into the arms of an exhausted Erica Warwick, who managed a tired smile. Lord Weaver walked up to her and asked softly:
‘Erica… considering the circumstances of… well…we were wondering if you were going to…’
‘Going to keep it?’ The mother rasped, whilst softly stroking the girl’s head. ‘Of course, my Lord….’
‘Even after….’
Erica’s eyes flashed and she clutched the girl to her breast protectively.
‘It is not the child’s fault who her father is…or how…’ Erica hesitated. ‘How she was conceived. She’s still a child of God and… .’ Erica rasped again. ‘She’s still my daughter.’
‘Very well.’
Erica gently cradled her child, cooing her to sleep.
‘How could such a devil sire an angel like this?’
Weaver smiled warmly. The baby had stopped crying and had quickly drifted off to sleep. Dr. Emerson placed a reassuring hand on the mother’s shoulder as he readied to go.
‘Try to rest now Erica. It’s over now.’ He embraced his friend the Lord of the manor, gave his regards to the butler before departing, still in disarray after his night’s work.
‘I shall have to inform the notary of the birth … have you decided on a name yet?
‘Miranda. Her name is Miranda.’

That was 1846


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