Death and Deception

Chapter One

June, 1892

Bath, England

Lord William Wethington cringed as his wife of one year, Lady Amy Wethington glared across the bedchamber at him, her hands on her hips. “You promised I would be able to continue writing once we married. If I remember correctly—and I do—it was the one condition I insisted upon when I accepted you.”

They were preparing to retire for the night and his wife looked tired. He’d already consulted with her midwife, Mrs. Jane Fleming, who had agreed that Amy should rest more. “Yes, I did, my dear, but you are six months into your confinement, and you must cut down on your work. I feel it is taxing you. I heard you crying last night as you pounded away on that infernal noisy typing machine.”

She raised her chin. “I was not crying; I was merely feeling the pain of my main character. It is what a good author does. And furthermore, that wonderful machine cuts down the amount of time it takes to finish a book.”

William sighed, knowing this was not going to be an easy conversation. “If I remember correctly—and I do—,” he grinned as he used her very same words, “your publisher didn’t even give you a deadline since you are in a delicate way.”

Amy narrowed her eyes. “I knew I should not have told you that bit of information. However, that matters not. I have my own standards and it has always been my intention to finish this book before the baby arrives.”

“I do not agree, wife.” He walked toward her and placed his hands on her shoulders. “The last thing you need is to push yourself and put more of a strain on your body.” He kissed her forehead. “I do worry about you, you know.”

She huffed and turned to climb into bed. The fact that she didn’t continue the discussion told him much. His spitfire wife would not have given up so easily. Could it be he’d actually won the argument?

Almost as if she’d read his mind, she said, “And do not congratulate yourself on having succeeded. I am merely too tired to argue.” She shifted onto her side and watched him enter the bed.

After climbing in behind her, he said, “Aha! You see, love, that is my point.” He leaned over and kissed her cheek. “Good night.”

What he really wanted to do was retire to his country home until after the baby was born. He could easily run his estates from there and the move would get his wife out of the foul city. Fresh air, paths to walk, and good food were the best things for pregnant women. Not stress, city air, and manuscript deadlines.

In fact, he mused, a permanent move would be for the best, but Amy’s family were all in Bath now that her brother and father had moved their businesses from London. There was also her Aunt Margaret who practically raised her that Amy would most likely be loath to leave.

He was sure he’d also have to fight an additional battle with her brother Michael, whose wife was Amy’s best friend and also enceinte. Then there was their book club friends, church family, and of course, her publisher.

Maybe if he prevailed upon Lady Margaret to step in and attempt to convince Amy to work less, it might go better.

William rolled onto his back and glanced over at Amy who was already asleep. Mrs. Fleming had also assured him that his wife was in the best of health and even though at seven and twenty years was not as young as other first-time mothers, she saw no reason why things should not go well.

He’d thought about approaching her publisher to request he encourage her once again to cease trying to finish the book, but if she ever found out, he would need to move to the other side of the earth. That is if his bruised body could make the journey.

With all of that ruminating in his mind, he finally fell asleep.

* * * *

The next morning, he joined Amy at the breakfast table. She appeared a tad lethargic and kept yawning.

“Why did you leave the bed if you are still tired?” he asked as he placed the napkin on his lap. With a nod to the butler in attendance who poured his coffee, he studied his wife’s features. Yes. She was definitely peaked.

She rested her chin on her upraised hand. “Husband, you may officially congratulate yourself.”

He raised his eyebrows, hoping, but not expecting her to bow to his wishes about writing. “Why is that?”

Amy studied her plate and sighed. “Not only am I especially tired at the end of each day, but my gestating muse has apparently flown out the window. For the first time in my writing career, I cannot think of plot points, twists, and red herrings.”

“Since I assume you are not referring to food items, it appears you will set your work aside for now.”

She waved her finger at him. “Yes. For now. I fully intend to continue my current novel once the baby is born and things have settled down. Hopefully I will then regain my normal frame of mind.” She picked up her fork again. “One hopes, anyway.”

“I have a great deal of faith in you.”

“The problem is, I know without my writing, I will remain restless. I do need something to fill my time.”

“Needlepoint?”

She pulled a face. “No. That is not one of my skills.”

“Gardening?”

She shook her head. “I tried to grow some pretty flowers in the area where the gardener keeps such a lovely spot.” She shrugged. “They died, and he suggested I take up needlepoint.”

He didn’t mention knitting since she’d tried that once before and the resulting ‘item’ was eventually trashed. He still had no idea what it was she was knitting, but grateful she hadn’t presented it to him as a gift, expecting him to know what the devil it was.

“Painting?”

“That would require an investment in brushes, canvases, and paint.”

William smiled at her attempt to economize. “We can certainly afford it.”

“I will keep it in mind, but I don’t feel a strong pull toward the idea. Aunt Margaret has always been the artist in the family. Just another attribute of hers I did not inherit.”

Once he finished his breakfast of sausages, eggs and the scrumptious scones Cook produced a few times a week, he wiped his mouth and stood. “I am off, my dear. I’ve meetings with some of the other members of parliament to discuss a new bill we wish to present at the next session.”

Amy tilted her head to receive his kiss on her cheek.

William walked to the doorway, stopped, and turned. “I suggest you take a nap today.”

Amy waved him off, placing her other hand over her mouth to stifle a yawn.

* * * *

“I honestly do not understand why I keep Mrs. Fleming on as my midwife. She is rude, condescending, and unlikeable.” Lady Eloise Davenport, Amy’s sister-in-law and best friend reached for another pastry. “She even told me I needed to cut down on my eating because I was growing too large.”

Amy smiled and kept her opinion to herself, lest she hurt Eloise’s feelings. She was a good month behind Amy in her pregnancy, but she had gained about a half stone more.

They were spending their afternoon visiting, something they did each day. Luckily for Amy, when Eloise and Michael eloped last year, Michael had already moved his business to Bath, so it made sense to rent a townhouse for them to live in, near enough to Amy and William that they were able to maintain their close relationship. Michael had claimed to have no desire to retire to his country estate.

But what she said about their mutual midwife was certainly true. Amy didn’t find her very likeable herself. “I agree,” she said. “But I’m afraid I am stuck with her, though. William did quite a bit of research when we learned I was increasing. Mrs. Fleming, as she’s told us many times before, has been trained and certified as many practicing midwives have not. He said he wanted the best for me.”

“How sweet,” Eloise said, munching on the apple tart. “Michael hasn’t said that, but I know he feels that way.”

“True,” Amy nodded, sipping her tea. “He’s been my brother for twenty-seven years, and I can tell you he is not one to put his feelings into words.”

“Yes, I know,” Eloise added, “but he does have his ways to show me.” She grinned and a slight blush appeared on her face. Since they were discussing her brother, Amy did not want to continue the conversation along that line.

“Lady Wethington, Mrs. Fleming has called.” Filbert, the butler who manned the front door entered the drawing room.

Amy turned toward the door. “I wasn’t aware I am due for a visit,” she said to Eloise. She looked back at the butler. “Nevertheless, please show Mrs. Fleming in.”

The two women looked up expectantly when Mrs. Fleming entered the room. “Good afternoon, Mrs. Fleming, to what do we owe this visit?”

The midwife raised her sharp chin, as if Amy was challenging her. She really was not a pleasant person. “I know it is a bit early, but I have taken on a few new mothers and according to my list, this was the best time for me to see you.” Mrs. Fleming regarded Eloise. “Since you are here, Lady Davenport, I can take a quick assessment of you as well, since you are next on my list.”

Amy glanced at Filbert who lingered at the door. “Please have Cook send in hot tea.”

Mrs. Fleming waved her hand. “No need, Lady Wethington. I will do my exam and be on my way.” She eyed their teacups and pastry plates. “I am much too busy to spend my precious time socializing.”

Amy drew in a breath at her comment as the midwife began with a series of questions about Amy’s health and general welfare. “Any depressive or negative thoughts?”

Besides you?

“No. You might be interested to know that I put my recent book aside until after the baby is born. Lord Wethington thought the stress and strain were not good for me or the baby.”

“A very wise man, my lady. Because you tend to write dark matters, it is the general opinion among those of us who are properly trained and certified that a mother’s negative thoughts can affect the child.”

Amy and Eloise shared an amused glance. Mrs. Fleming was always very proud of the fact that she was one of only a few properly trained and certified midwives in Bath.

Once she ascertained that Amy was fit, she turned her attention toward Eloise. “I see you are still eating too much.” She pointed to a piece of the apple tart Eloise popped into her mouth.

Jumping to her friend’s defense, Amy said, “I am somewhat knowledgeable about pregnancy, Mrs. Fleming, having done quite a bit of reading on the matter. The current thoughts are an expecting mother should eat and drink whatever appeals, and as much as she likes.”

Mrs. Fleming’s face turned bright red, then she adopted a patronizing demeanor. “Lady Wethington, I bow to your superiority in matters of murder, based on your dubious hobby of writing such things, but I assure you I am thoroughly educated and well-informed on the subject of pregnancy and childbirth. It is our thoughts that too much eating makes for a heavy baby, and therefore a more difficult birth.” She began her assessment of Eloise.

Well, then.

The woman managed to insult both her clients in less than ten minutes. Rather than argue the point with the woman, once she was through, Amy merely stood and smoothed out her skirts, a signal that the midwife’s examination of the women was finished. “I will show you to the door.”

Mrs. Fleming hurriedly gathered her things, and chin thrust forward, marched behind Amy to the entrance. Amy turned to her and offered what she hoped looked more like a smile than the scowl she was afraid was all she could manage. Not waiting for Filbert, Amy opened the door. “Have a good day, Mrs. Fleming, and I wish you a pleasant day.”

Mrs. Fleming nodded and marched through the door which Amy closed with a bit more enthusiasm than necessary.

“Well, I never,” Amy said as she joined Eloise in the drawing room. “That woman might be properly trained and certified, but she certainly does not comport herself as caring and kind.”

As if to dispute the midwife’s advice, Amy sat across from Eloise, reached for another tart from the tray, and took a large bite. “Take that Mrs. Fleming.”

They both laughed as the crumbs fell from Amy’s mouth in a most unflattering and unladylike display.

2 thoughts on “Death and Deception”

  1. I thought that it was funny that Amy’s husband thought that her writing a book was too tiring just because she was pregnant and her midwife thought that writing murder stories would harm the baby. Interesting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *