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Authors: Janice Robertson

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EPPIE

 

I AM THE GIFT, I
AM THE POOR

 

 

 

BY

 

JANICE ROBERTSON

 

 

 

Text copyright ©
2012 Janice Robertson

 

Cover photograph
© 2012 Janice Robertson

 

All Rights
Reserved

 

JANICE ROBERTSON
graduated from the University of Cambridge and has written for national country
homes magazines. She lives in a cottage in rural Shropshire, England, which she
shares with Whizzy, the West Highland terrier, Muffin - the miniature silver-dapple
dachshund, who once won a prize for the oddest dog, and Merry, the disabled
dachshund, who spends his days dashing about in wheels.

 

DEDICATION

 

In memory of Pippin,
the rescued, long-haired dachshund, who kept my lap warm whilst I was writing
this story. She now slumbers beneath the holly tree at the bottom of my garden
- and in my heart.

 

TABLE
OF CONTENTS

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

I AM THE GIFT, I AM THE POOR

 

CHAPTER TWO

COCKCROW

 

CHAPTER THREE

A GIFT TO TREASURE

 

CHAPTER FOUR

WRATH OF A DEMON

 

CHAPTER FIVE

REQUIEM

 

CHAPTER SIX

WILD AND FREE

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

FIRST LOSS

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

THE WHITE ROBIN

 

CHAPTER NINE

CRUSADER OAK

 

CHAPTER TEN

THE UNEXPECTED GUEST

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN

IMPRISONED FOR LOVE

 

CHAPTER TWELVE

ARSON IN THE POORHOUSE

 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

FOWL GOINGS ON

 

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHOKING ON SOOT

 

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

STICKING UP FOR MARTHA

 

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

STOKING UP TROUBLE

 

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

SLICK’S FINEST LICK

 

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

A FEEBLE WEAPON WITHOUT A THRUST

 

CHAPTER NINETEEN

A STUFFED RABBIT

 

CHAPTER TWENTY

POISONED HEART

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

SHADOWS FROM THE PAST

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

TROUBLED MINDS

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

A STAKE THROUGH THE HEART

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

THE CHURCH CONCERT

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

A PLACE TO BELONG

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

THE FAIR

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

RECKLESS RIVALS

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

STUCK UP A CHIMNEY

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

SO FAR APART

 

CHAPTER THIRTY

SOMETHING CAUGHT

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

HALFWAY TO HEAVEN

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

TALIA’S GARDEN

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

CUT OF THE AXE

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

QUARTER OF A WISH

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

A MEMORY REKINDLED

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX

PIKING AT THE WINDOW

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN

THE ARSENIC PIT

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT

A SHORT SPRING

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE

SUPERSTITIOUS NONSENSE

 

CHAPTER FORTY

A CHILL IN THE AIR

 

CHAPTER FORTY-ONE

FLYING BLADES

 

CHAPTER FORTY-TWO

DEVIL’S KNELL

 

CHAPTER FORTY-THREE

SIBILANT WHISPERS

 

CHAPTER FORTY-FOUR

FIELD OF BOULDERS

 

CHAPTER FORTY-FIVE

THE PUMPING MILL

 

CHAPTER FORTY-SIX

TRESPASSER

 

CHAPTER FORTY-SEVEN

LOST IN THE DARKNESS

 

CHAPTER FORTY-EIGHT

THE PITS

 

CHAPTER FORTY-NINE

ROTTEN MEAT AND SOGGY CABBAGE

 

CHAPTER FIFTY

NOT MUCH TO LOOK AT

 

CHAPTER FIFTY-ONE

GRIP OF IRON

 

CHAPTER FIFTY-TWO

TIME WASTER

 

CHAPTER FIFTY-THREE

DREAMER

 

CHAPTER FIFTY-FOUR

THE HAUNTED WATERWHEEL

 

CHAPTER FIFTY-FIVE

PILFERING

 

CHAPTER FIFTY-SIX

RULE TWENTY-ONE

 

CHAPTER FIFTY-SEVEN

ROTTEN YARD

 

CHAPTER FIFTY-EIGHT

ROWAN

 

CHAPTER FIFTY-NINE

THURSTAN’S DISCOVERY

 

CHAPTER SIXTY

MUTTON STEW

 

CHAPTER SIXTY-ONE

VOICES RAISED IN ANGER

 

CHAPTER SIXTY-TWO

A FAITH UNWAVERING

 

CHAPTER SIXTY-THREE

CRUSADE FOR THE POOR

 

CHAPTER SIXTY-FOUR

A TENUOUS THREAD SNAPPED

 

CHAPTER SIXTY-FIVE

THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD

 

CHAPTER SIXTY-SIX

MESSAGE IN A WATER PITCHER

 

CHAPTER SIXTY-SEVEN

THE BODYSNATCHERS

 

CHAPTER SIXTY-EIGHT

NIGHTMARE BEASTS

 

CHAPTER SIXTY-NINE

THE ARMY OF REDRESSERS

 

CHAPTER SEVENTY

THE WRECKERS

 

CHAPTER SEVENTY-ONE

SPELLBOUND THROUGH THE STORM

 

CHAPTER SEVENTY-TWO

BETWEEN TWO WORLDS

 

CHAPTER SEVENTY-THREE

POLITE SOCIETY

 

CHAPTER SEVENTY-FOUR

INFURIATING REMEDIES

 

CHAPTER SEVENTY-FIVE

SHATTERED WINGS

 

CHAPTER SEVENTY-SIX

A DREARY AFTERNOON

 

CHAPTER SEVENTY-SEVEN

DANCING WITH THE DEAD

 

CHAPTER SEVENTY-EIGHT

THE BALL

 

CHAPTER SEVENTY-NINE

THE DREADFUL AVENGER

 

CHAPTER EIGHTY

WHEN ALL HOPE IS LOST

 

CHAPTER EIGHTY-ONE

TRAPPED IN THE TUNNEL

 

CHAPTER EIGHTY-TWO

BEDEVILLED

 

CHAPTER EIGHTY-THREE

GILLOW’S WELCOME

 

CHAPTER EIGHTY-FOUR

SPRING OF LIFE

 

CHAPTER EIGHTY-FIVE

THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES

 

 

 

EPPIE

 

 

CHAPTER ONE
I AM THE GIFT, I
AM THE POOR

 

TUNNYGRAVE
MANOR, 1799

 

Wakelin hated his father with a passion.
He remembered a night, a few months ago, when he had had a fierce argument with
him. Gillow had accused him of stealing from the money jar. Wakelin was
outraged. Well, yes, he had taken the coins, but so what? Although only nine-years-old,
he got a thrill out of watching champion bare-knuckle prize-fighters pulverise
their opponents in the ring. A fight had been organised in a field just outside
Litcombe, the nearest town. Wakelin was determined not to miss out on the fun.
He had needed the cash to place bets.  

He
had often thought that Martha, his mother, must have been infatuated with his
father when they wed, but guessed that her ardour had waned over the years. That
was not surprising as Gillow often treated Martha like a mop in a bucket of
dirty water - indispensable only for practical reasons. Was his mother aware of
the shallowness of her husband’s affections? Maybe, but she had a tendency to
be blinkered. Or perhaps she thought herself lucky to be married to the village
weaver. At least Gillow earned a little more from his work compared to the farm
labourers employed by Lord Robert du Quesne, the local landowner.

The
argument about the disappearance of the coins had riled Wakelin. Although it
had been dusk and pouring with rain, he had furiously stomped into the woods.

Reaching
the waterfall, known locally as Shivering Falls, he had spotted Robert du Quesne
crouching beside the pool, his hands in the icy waters. He had listened to his lordship’s
curses and wondered at his curious actions. Only when the man marched off,
muttering angrily, did Wakelin approach to see what he had been up to. Two kittens
struggled in the water. Du Quesne must have been trying to drown them.

The
kittens, Ophelia and Prince Ferdinand, belonged to Talia and Gabriel, du
Quesne’s children. Once, whilst he was supposed to have been scaring birds off
corn in a field, Wakelin had watched the children playing with their pets on
the lawn.

Grabbing
a stick, he prodded the nearest kitten and steered it towards the edge of the
pool. He was about to rescue the other creature when a woman startled him.
Dressed in a shabby gown, her skull ravaged with torn hair, she ran past, shrieking
‘Ghosties! Ghosties!’

She
was Zelda du Quesne, Robert’s crazed sister-in-law. A few years ago, she and
her son, Thurstan, had come to live at Tunnygrave Manor after Charles, Robert’s
brother, had committed suicide. Thurstan was an arrogant youth who revelled in
making life miserable for almost everyone, in particular, for Wakelin.

Zelda raced on, heading towards the cottages in the village
of Little Lubbock.

Imagining Thurstan’s embarrassment if any of the cottagers
spotted her, Wakelin sniggered.

A movement to one side of the natural stone bridge at the
top of the waterfall caught his eye. An arm pushed through dripping leaves. Not
knowing quite what was going on, and not wanting to be caught and accused of
being up to mischief again, he thrust the trembling kitten beneath his shirt
and dropped out of sight. Talia du Quesne emerged from what appeared to be a
secret tunnel that led beneath Tunnygrave Manor.

Arms thrown wide in an attempt to keep her balance, she
stepped cautiously across the bridge.

He watched her clamber down the boulders.

Anxiously staring around, she spied the other kitten. It was
being borne rapidly away by the brimming stream.  

‘Miss!’ Wakelin shouted, watching Talia race along the bank
in pursuit of her pet.

‘Miss! He desperately wanted to attract her attention so
that he might give her the other kitten.

That was the evening Talia had drowned.

Wakelin had taken the rescued kitten to Samuel Cobbett.
Samuel was Wakelin’s grandfather, and du Quesne’s shepherd. The old man had
cared for the creature and, the following morning, returned it to the manor house.

Lady Constance du Quesne told
Samuel that, despite the objection she expected from her husband, she was
determined that Gabriel should be allowed to keep Prince Ferdinand. That was
what Talia would have wanted.

If Talia had known about a secret way
out
of the manor, there was obviously a secret way
into
the house. Even
Wakelin could work that one out. It was worth a try.

Now
he was running.

Running
because he was afraid, running because he had to get there quickly. He had to
gain access to the manor house before dawn broke.

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