The Spare Room...
Where I keep snippets and extracts, spin-offs, short stories, and other random stuff that has no official home!
**NEW** A Tooth For A Tooth A short story for the festive season! Joe has an unusual job, and when a former colleague goes rogue he is called in to prevent worldwide disaster....
Sneak Previews - Soon to be showing; a preview of A Cornish Inheritance, book 1 in the Fox Bay Saga and due for release in paperback and e-book on 5th December 2019
Oaklands Extras – three short pieces, not extracts, written for Maid of Oaklands Manor
“Easter Eggs” – *spoiler heavy* - just some of the ways you might not have noticed, in which all three of Terri Nixon's current series are connected. Available soon.
Path of Thorns (opens in a new page) – a novelette-length Victorian interpretation of the classic fairytale: Hansel and Gretel (Featuring a character from The Lynher Mill Chronicles) PDF download
Jacky Greencoat (opens in a new page) – a standalone short story based loosely on The Lynher Mill Chronicles and featuring one of its most beloved characters. PDF download.
The Guardians (opens in a new page) - a standalone short horror story, again based on events that eventually shaped The Lynher Mill Chronicles Available soon. PDF download
Who is Jack Carlisle?
Maid of Oaklands Manor extra #1
It was no good, there was something about him ... Mrs Cavendish tried to keep her attention on Lady Creswell’s instructions, and her pen made the necessary notes, born of long practice and an innate awareness of the household’s needs, but more than half her attention was on the man sitting quietly in the corner of the room. Why did he insist on spending all his free time here? His promise to Lord Henry had been honoured; he’d taken good care of the family after His Lordship had died in ’02, but it was past time to be getting back to his own life, surely?
She was well aware that most of the younger ladies were happy to ignore his rather shady behaviour; those dark blue eyes and strong features made willing fools of them, but not her. A smile, a friendly word from his quiet, northern-accented voice, and silly girls came over all blushes and chattering, but Jack Carlisle’s undeniable charms only made the housekeeper more suspicious; why had he no wife, no family? And where did he go, when he left Oaklands for long stretches at a time, if he’d no home of his own to tend to?
‘So that will be four extra for dinner,’ Lady Creswell was saying, and from the the corner of her eye Mrs Cavendish saw Mr Carlisle’s dark brows draw down in a frown; no love was spared between him and the obnoxious Wingfields, which should have gone some way to soothing her mistrust of the man, but it didn’t. And his reaction proved he was always listening, whether he appeared to be or not. She gave a little shiver.
‘Four,’ she repeated, noting it down. ‘Will that be all then?’
‘Unless you have any business you’d like to discuss?’
Mrs Cavendish put down her notebook. ‘Aye, well, it’s only that we’re still short-handed in the scullery. Is there any word on a replacement yet?’
‘Ah!’ Lady Creswell opened her desk drawer and pulled out a letter. ‘I have withdrawn the advertisement, since I received a rather fortuitous message from Jane Parker, who worked here a good while ago.’
‘I don’t remember the name, Your Ladyship.’
‘She left shortly before you came, I think. She married a miner and moved to the West Country. Anyway, her daughter is looking for a position, and Jane’s work was exemplary, so I have agreed to take the girl without interview. She arrives next week.’
‘What’s her name?’
‘Well we’ll have to change that, can’t have two Marys running around,’ Mrs Cavendish said, scribbling down the name. ‘I’ll arrange that with her when she arrives.’
‘Very well, thank you.’ Lady Creswell closed her accounts book and the daily audience was over. ‘Good morning.’
Mrs Cavendish rose. ‘Thank you, Your Ladyship.’ She turned to leave, and Mr Carlisle raised his head from his book.
‘Good morning, Mrs Cavendish,’ he said, and smiled. Mrs Cavendish nodded, but didn’t return the smile; he would bear very close watching. She pulled the door closed behind her, and stood in the great hallway, her eyes roving over the paintings of former lords and ladies of Oaklands Manor … they looked down at her with tranquil familiarity, but Mrs Cavendish had the unsettling idea that a dark change was coming, and that Mr Jack Carlisle was going to be at the heart of it.
A Short Prequel
Maid of Oaklands Manor extra #2
‘Getting off at Breckenhall?’ the woman asked me, her voice cutting easily through the rising din of excitable children. The train carriage was packed, with the youngsters climbing all over each other and their luggage, and this woman clearly had no intention of taming their behaviour. Why would she, when she was able to ignore them with such practised ease?
I nodded. It probably looked rude, but my grainy eyes just wanted to close, and open again to find myself back home in Plymouth. Instead all I could see were bobbing heads, and the rapidly flashing tops of trees through the window. It was starting to make me feel sick.
‘Going into service?’ the woman persisted.
I nodded again, and managed, ‘Oaklands.’
Immediately the woman’s mouth tightened. ‘Hmm. Them up at the manor… They’re ones to watch, if you ask me.’
I hadn’t intended to do any such thing, but now she had my reluctant attention. Ma had worked at Oaklands for years, and been very happy doing so; she’d never once suggested the Creswells were anything but a normal, if extraordinarily wealthy, family. Cheshire royalty.
‘What do you mean, ones to watch?’ I could have kicked myself, but it was too late to take the question back now.
The woman sniffed, and shifted her position in her seat so that her back was turned to the only other adult in the carriage. I leaned forward, forgetting my queasiness and tiredness for a moment, and her eyes narrowed. ‘Lord Henry Creswell. Him that died in Africa?’
The woman paused with her mouth slightly open, then shook her head. ‘No. It’s not for me to say.’
‘I’m sure you’re going to, nevertheless.’ The words had popped out before I had chance to bite them back, and I saw her plump face darken. She abruptly remembered she had the care of six children, who were currently entertaining themselves by pinching one another to see who could elicit the loudest shout, and she turned to admonish them. They paid as much attention to her as she had so far been doing to them, and I looked away, suppressing a smile.
‘I’m sorry,’ I said after a moment, ‘I’m just a bit tired. It’s been a long journey.’
The woman thawed slightly, and nodded. She abandoned her charges to their own devices once more, and settled back in her own seat. ‘I understand, pet. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll be right as rain. Oh, but watch out for their kitchen maid, Ruth. She’s no better than she ought to be.’
‘Thank you, I’ll remember that.’ It seemed the right thing to say.
‘What’s your job to be? Lady’s maid?’
I shook my head. ‘Nothing so grand, I’m afraid. I’m replacing a girl called Mercy, as scullery maid.’
‘Well, she’s always had her nose in the air when it should be in the grate,’ the woman opined. ‘Scullery maid was never good enough for her.’
‘So, that’s the Creswells, the kitchen maid and the scullery maid,’ I mused. ‘Is there anyone there I might like, do you think?’
The woman eyed me sharply, and didn’t answer. This time I made no apology, although I did feel a glimmer of guilt for the way I’d spoken. My tiredness returned with a crash. All I wanted was to get off the train, and leave this woman and her squabbling brood; she was clearly nothing more than the local gossip, and knew far less than she pretended to.
The train rattled into Breckenhall station and I took my leave with a polite smile – which wasn’t returned – and a huge sense of relief, as I stepped onto the platform and the noise faded into the background. But as I turned my feet towards the road leading out of town, and towards Oaklands Manor, I saw that sudden tightening of the woman’s face again, and heard her words of warning. And I wondered…
What became of Lizzy Parker: what do the other characters think?
Maid of Oaklands Manor extra #3
Ruth Wilkins, Kitchen Maid:
‘Well, I dunno what you want me to say! Nosy Parker turned out to be something none of us expected, din’t she? Quiet as a little mouse, on the surface at least. That’s what happens, see, when you start diggin’ into stuff you should stay out of. First day she got here I knew she was bleedin’ trouble. I never expected this, though. Blimey.’
Mary Deegan, first housemaid:
‘No. I refuse to believe it. Not Lizzy.’
Mrs Cavendish, head housekeeper:
‘Well now you’ve asked something! The wee girl seemed so … well, nice! A trifle clumsy, aye, but for all that, she was a hard enough worker and tried really hard not to break quite so many plates. Pretty thing, but she never let that go to her head, and I never heard of her getting up to any shenanigans with any of the local lads. Not like Ruth, the little madam. I don’t know, I just don’t know.’
Clarissa Wingfield, house guest:
‘No doubt at all in my mind; the girl was rude, opinionated and greedy. I’m only surprised it didn’t happen sooner.’
Will Davies, butcher’s apprentice:
‘I can’t believe this. Lizzy is one of my dearest friends, and a sweeter girl you couldn’t hope to meet. I know there are some people who will turn their noses up, and say they knew all along, but they’d be lying. Lizzy just isn’t like that.’
Inspector Bailey, Breckenhall Constabulary.
‘I can’t comment.’
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