Rose checked her appearance in the mirror over the kitchen fire, for perhaps the tenth time in the past half hour. “I do not even know how to address a duchess, Thomas.”
No one on the Dunstan fields moved in such elevated circles. She had checked at the little circulating library, but they had no books covering the eventuality that a merchant’s wife from New Zealand’s gold fields would be summoned to take tea with an English duchess.
An English duchess, furthermore, who had invited Rose to join her sixty years in the past and on the other side of the world, and how that was to work, Rose had no idea. But she held the scented letter in her hand, and it had been delivered by a footman, all in livery, who stepped out of her own pantry and frightened her cook almost into hysterics.
Thomas doubted the whole thing, suggesting that they had dreamt the incident, though he could not explain the note, nor the fact that they’d clearly both had the same dream. Still, he had dressed in his best church-going suit; the one he wore when he needed to impress bankers or investors.
Even after five years of marriage, Rose was still humbled and thrilled that Thomas would always support her. After her father’s neglect and her uncle’s abuse, she had never thought to find a man she could trust as she trusted Thomas.
“If the footman comes, you can ask him,” he said patiently.
And it was at that moment, the pantry door opened, not onto their shelves, comfortably stocked with all the provisions the growing family of a successful merchant might need. No. There before them was a stone-flagged terrace, looking out over extensive formal gardens filled with summer flowers.
Directly before them, not ten feet away, a table and chairs waited, and a woman elegantly dressed in the fashions of the time of the Prince Regent.
“Good Heavens.” Thomas had gone slightly pale.
“It is astounding, is it not,” said the woman. “Do come in Mr and Mrs O’Bryan. Or is it out? I am so pleased you were able to accept my invitation.”
Rose curtseyed, and led the way through the door, leaving her winter coat and shawl behind in the kitchen. And Thomas, dear Thomas, followed, as she knew he would.
“I am Eleanor Haverford, my dears. You are welcome to address me as ‘duchess’, or ‘ma’am’ is appropriate if you prefer. Please. Take a seat. We have a wonderful opportunity, and I wish to hear all about you.
Thomas and Rose are the hero and heroine of All that Glisters, a novelette in Hand-Turned Tales. Hand-Turned Tales contains two short stories, this novelette, and a novella, and is free to download from most eretailers. Read more about it on my book page, which also has download links.