My dear Mr. Clement,
I have become aware the Honourable Lady S— of the wilds of the Scottish Highlands has been keeping rather to the drawing rooms and balls of London lately. It seems there has been some discontent in her lands far to the north by some people who cannot see the forest for the trees.
Lady S—, in her goodness, has offered to many of her very own clan, from tacksmen through to the lowest sub-tenant, fine land and a good livelihood fishing and kelping. All they had to do was pick up their belongings and stroll to the coast, where this easy living awaited them.
But no, the more short-sighted them, they fussed and dragged their feet. Her new factor, Gellar, had to encourage them to leave. He lightened their load (so they wouldn’t have to carry their roof poles all the way to the coast) by a few small fires. I’m told it was cold at the time, so the fires should have helped them. A few of the miserable villagers refused to go and were unfortunately burned inside the dismal hovels they called their homes. A few died soon afterwards. One can but try to assist them; they must be expected to make some effort.
Surprisingly, there has been some evidence of unrest from these villagers. It is unfortunate they could not just trust in the benevolence of their clan leader, Lady S—. She means only the best for them.
There has been talk she means to replace the villagers with sheep. Sheep give a much better income per acre than the villagers and their motley cattle. Unfortunately, some of the ingrates have been heard to mutter comments like “your sheep won’t protect you when the French invade your shores,” and other things—much too crude to repeat here. Sheep which have already been placed upon lands have been stolen in large numbers—they were returned, but only after large numbers of Redcoats were dispatched. The rude people have also have been complaining about the factor’s earlier setting of controlled (well, mostly controlled) fires to clear the hills of brush and scruffy vegetation. The dry, useless greenery had to be eliminated so as to improve grass growth before the arrival of the eagerly-anticipated sheep.
With the extra money generated by the sheep, Lady S— will be much better able to assist her clansmen in their lovely new villages by the sea—when they get over their temper tantrums and learn to be grateful.
But all this will have to wait until it is again safe for the good Lady S— to return to her birthright. I, for one, cannot wait to see what these “improvements”, for that is what they certainly are, will be.
An Admirer of Civilized Economics
Whatever can be going on?
This little bit of dirt comes your way compliments of Bluestocking Belle Lizzi Tremayne. Sofia and Robbie’s story, called Somewhere Like Home: The Novella is part of the upcoming Bluestocking Belles’ Christmas anthology! The full novel is expected six months after the release of this boxed set! Watch for it!
You’ll find Lizzi’s details beneath the Bluestocking Belles’ Welcome menu item at the top of this page or find her at the links below the Extract!
Somewhere Like Home: The Novella*
From the Highlands to Waterloo—
can love prevail over fate?
1813, Scottish Highlands
When Robert refuses to become clan tacksman after his father, he is disowned and off down the road to build a life for himself and his beloved Sofia.
Sofia’s waiting turns to despair when her mother buys safety during the clearance of their village at Sofia’s expense, leaving her to the lusts of the laird’s son.
Rob emerges from the hell of Waterloo wanting only to see Sofia again…and his father.
Sofia turned away from the window as heavy footsteps sounded down the hall. “He’s gone, sir,” came a voice from the room next door.
She clamped her jaw tight at the voice of Gellar, the laird’s new man.
Sofia tuned her ears to listen as she drew back the bed curtains and pulled down the rumpled covers, then began to dismantle the bed-makings while trying to remember their replacement order.
“Are your men ready?” The laird said.
“Ready and keen, waiting with metal bins for their hot coals.”
Sofia tried to focus on the unfamiliar bedding while still listening. Her heart grew chillier by the word. The bed not only had a straw mattress, all she’d ever known, but a canvas sheet, topped by a feather mattress. Which to tuck the sheets under?
“I don’t expect trouble. There should only be one able-bodied man in the whole village—the rest are off with the cattle. We needn’t worry about Gunn—he won’t be back until tomorrow.” Sofia stopped short, along with her heart.
Gunn? Did she hear correctly?
Then came the fat bolster at the head of the bed. She tossed it into place and fluffed it while she strained to hear.
“So, after we torch the village, we just stand back and wait or leave them to it?” Gellar’s voice grated as Sofia scarcely breathed.
“Just in case any of the tenants have the brains to remember,” the laird said, his voice dripping with sarcasm, “you need to make sure they don’t take their roof timbers. They need to burn. I want the tenants gone and they can’t carry their timbers all the way to the coast. They can build with what they find there. Of course,” he chuckled, “there isn’t any wood for miles.”
Gellar laughed, and Sofia gritted her teeth to keep from shrieking.
She finally laid the sheet over the top of the bed, hands shaking so badly she had to walk around the bed several times to straighten it while the men continued.
“The crofts I’ve set aside on the shore won’t let them grow enough food to survive without working the beds and processing the kelp. At least they’ll stay warm while they’re burning it. The market for it isn’t as good as it used to be, but it’s still worth a lot to us. Certainly, more than the tenants and that blasted tacksman are paying in rents here. They won’t have the faintest idea how to fish, but they’ll figure it out if it keeps them from starving. Sheep on the hills instead of my erstwhile ‘clansmen’ will make us a fortune. As my dear lady believes, it will be a better life for them as ‘crofters’—an improvement.”
“For all of us,” Gellar said with a snort. “So, we start an hour before sundown?”
“Ideal,” said the laird. “Get cracking. You’re now my new factor. Make the most of it, ‘Factor Gellar’.”
Sofia flinched at the sound of clinking glasses, then somehow got the blankets on all anyhow and draped the elaborate tapestry ceremoniously over all. Standing back, she surveyed her handiwork, waiting for her heart to stop racing after the heavy footsteps left the way they’d come.
She found another way back to the servants’ quarters, not daring to pass the open office door.
Want to read more?
You’ll find the rest of the story in Somewhere Like Home: The Novella, part of the Bluestocking Belles’ next collection, to be published in November. Come along to our Facebook Event on 8 September to find out the title of this exquisite boxed set by eight of our Belles! We’ll be telling you more about each story and revealing the cover! We’ll see you there!