by Susana Ellis
Frederick Hofbauer almost did not go to church that morning.
The party at Mellowwood Manor had lasted until the wee hours and he and his brothers Fritz and Franz, as footmen, were kept busy for more than two hours after that assisting the tired and tipsy guests with their outerwear and ensuring they managed to alight their coaches without injuring themselves. He barely had time to remove his livery before falling into bed next to his brothers, who were already snoring softly.
Dawn came much too quickly, and Frederick would have quite happily snored on past breakfast except for the sound of a light tapping on the door of the servant quarters.
“Frederick? Are you awake?” He recognized the soft voice as Daniel, the steward’s son, and sighed. Fitzwilliams had passed out again at the local inn and poor Daniel had to cart him home before word got out to his employer. Frederick would be tempted to leave the drunken lout where he was and suffer the consequences were it not for the frightened lad, barely six years old. He certainly did not deserve to be thrown in the streets.
Rising reluctantly from his bed, he opened the door and whispered to the boy to wait for him in the stable as he quickly donned his ordinary clothes and departed with him and Fitzwilliams’s old nag to the Dawdling Duck. By the time they had him settled in his bed at Hull Cottage, it was full daylight and Frederick was not inclined to return to his own bed. Instead he strolled around the estate, admiring the newly planted fields watching the milkmaids lead the cows into the milking shed. This was his favorite morning amusement during his free time, at least when he managed to retire before midnight.
Upon his return to the house, he found the cook ready to leave for church, about a mile down the lane. She clucked when she saw him.
“Up with t’ roosters again, lad? After all last night’s mayhem? I slept like a log until Mary brought me coffee.”
“Fitzwilliams,” he said simply. She rolled her eyes. “I should ha’ known. ‘Bout every Saturday night now. Yer too good to ‘im. Wretch deserves ta be sacked. Sad ‘bout the boy though.”
She tilted her head to one side as she studied his face. “Come ta church wit’ me? I’ll wait for ye ta wash up.”
Frederick rubbed a hand through his hair. Well, it wasn’t as though he had anything else to do. The house was silent as a grave and it appeared as though its occupants were dead to the world after their evening of merriment.
“Very well,” he said with a smile. “I shall be only an instant, Mrs. Brown.”
Much later on, Frederick reflected that it was surely Fate that impelled him to accompany Cook to church that morning. Because that’s when he met Fiona and the scheme for his entire life was altered forever.
Meet Fiona here!
Frederick Hofbauer is the oldest (by two minutes) of triplets, his brothers being Fritz and Franz, who serve tea every Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. EST in the Tea Room, hosted by Cerise DeLand and Susana Ellis and their weekly guest authors, who come to discuss themselves and their books. If you are interested in discovering new authors and books, recipes, historical fashion, and lively conversation, please join them.
The Tea Room recently celebrated its FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY, and would love to welcome you to the festivities.