I am biting the bullet and committing to publishing The Realm of Silence in May. The book blurb is now up on my book page, and in the next couple of days I’ll set up a preorder through Smashwords for iBooks, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble. Too early for Amazon, but that will come later in the month.
So go take a look (by clicking on the link), and see what you think. Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt and the cover.
Gil was as quick to understand her now as when they ran wild over the lands around Longford. Susan made short work of discovering what Clementine didn’t want her aunt to know, and re-joined Gil by the stables.
“This governess. Was she slightly built, of below average height, and dark haired?” she asked, then, at Gil’s nod, “We need to find out whether a boy hired a post chaise, or possibly a young woman with a French accent. I have no idea whether there is a connection, but apparently the French music teacher is also missing, and she fits that description.”
She had thought he would take over the questioning, but he seemed content to allow her to coax answers out of the stable master, confining himself to looming at her left shoulder.
Looming was unnecessary, however. The stable master remembered the French lady on Saturday morning. “Just the lady on her own, ma’am. She wanted a post chaise for Newcastle, but I told her we didn’t go no further than York. She could get another there, I told her.”
“What of other travellers that same morning? Was there a boy, perhaps around fifteen or sixteen? He may have had a young lady with him of a similar age? Perhaps also travelling to York or Newcastle?”
The stable master was shaking his head when another ostler spoke up. “I saw the boy. With a girl, he was, but I didn’t see her proper. The boy came in and rented the post chaise while the girl waited out the front. It was while you was with that dook’s party, Ben. For York, but they only took ’un as far as Stamford. Joe—he’s the post boy, ma’am—he came back last night.”
The stable master nodded once, a swift jerk of the chin. “Right.”
“We will speak with the post boy,” Gil decreed. But the post boy was out on a job to a nearby town. He would return within the hour, and the stable master would keep him against Susan’s return.
“I will be back in one hour,” she said. “Thank you for your help.” She repeated the thanks to Gil before setting off at a brisk pace for the school. The fear jittered inside, but she quelled it. She had a lead, which was more than she’d had half an hour ago. If the French lady was the music mistress. If the boy was Patrice in disguise. If the two young people the ostler saw were her runaways. The whole trail of ‘ifs’ depended on Gil’s observation. If the girl in Stamford was Amy, the rest fell into place.
This time, she would demand to see Amy’s room and to talk to some of the other girls. She also had questions to ask the head mistress about the French music teacher.
The presence at her elbow impinged on her conscious mind. Gil, still looming, his long stride easily keeping pace with her rapid steps.
She stopped. “Did you want something, Lord Rutledge?”
Grave brown eyes met her glare, dark brows meeting above the straight aristocratic nose in a return glare. “I am helping.” Not an offer or even a request. An obdurate statement. Arrogant male.
Susan fought to keep her irritation from showing. “You have been helpful. Thank you. I can handle it from here.”
Gil lifted one shoulder and dropped it again. “Undoubtedly. Nonetheless…” A second shrug, as expressive as the first. She didn’t have time to argue; not that arguing ever changed Gilbert Rutledge’s mind once it was made up.
He had clearly decided his participation was a foregone conclusion. “What did the Foster chit tell you?”
She would be a fool to refuse him information that might make his help useful. “The Grahame chit,” she corrected. “Clementine Grahame said that her sister and Amy were always whispering together, and would not tell their secrets, so when Amy arrived at their house before breakfast and she and Patrice went up to Patrice’s bedroom, Clementine put her ear to the door to try to hear them or, failing that, spy on what they did next.”
He did not ask the obvious question; just waited for her to continue.
“They talked too low for her to understand. But Patrice left her room dressed as a boy and she and Amy caught Clementine in the hall. They threatened her with retribution if she told anyone what she had seen, and instructed her to tell the aunt they had left for the exhibition together. The rest of Clementine’s story is true, or so she assures me. She followed them here, and actually waited until they left in the post chaise. She then went off to school and pretended the whole thing had not happened.”
Exasperation coloured the last sentence. Susan understood the child’s fear of her unyielding aunt, and her jealousy of the friendship between the two older girls. But if Clementine had spoken earlier, Amy would be safe now.
“Come then, if you must. I am going to the school. You can question the headmistress about the French woman while I talk to Amy’s friends and check her room.” And if Susan weren’t so worried about her daughter, she might be amused at the thought of the coming confrontation between the haughtily disapproving educationalist and the grim uncompromising soldier.