A woman in perhaps her fifties, or early sixties, stepped in through the open door, dressed in a gray uniform with a starched white apron and mobcap. As Ellen turned to face her John pressed close to her side and the woman bobbed a shallow curtsy. “Mrs Harding? I am Margaret. I was asked to take the young master up to the nursery.”
“Mama?” John’s hand gripped more tightly about Ellen’s.
“Perhaps I should come too,” Ellen responded, squeezing her son’s hand in return.
In answer, drawing closer, the woman dropped into a chair, facing John at his own height. “Now then, Master John, there’s no need to bother your Mama, is there? She will want to have a bath and change after your journey too. If you come along with me we can sort out a tub for you, and I can find all of Lord Edward’s and Lord Barrington’s old toys. Then perhaps we could toast some crumpets by the fire and have some sugared tea?”
John let go of Ellen’s hand and drew away. The woman had won over her son in a moment. Warring relief and concern possessed Ellen. She did not really want to let him go, she’d only just got him back. The nursemaid stood and took John’s hand as he came to her. “No need to worry, Mrs Harding, Master John and I shall get along just fine, and as soon as you are ready you may ask Jill to show you up and pay a visit. If Master John needs you before then I will send word.”
“Thank you, Margaret,” Ellen answered, clearly requiring more reassurance than her son. She still felt bewildered, afraid, knowing she should not be here. As they turned to leave, John immediately started telling the nursemaid tales of their journey, talking of Edward. He’d spent hours riding with Edward as they’d traveled and was beginning to idolize him.