Mimi MatthewsMimi Matthews

Return to Satterthwaite Court: Sneak Peek

Somerset, England
December 1843

“Charles!” Hannah cried.

He opened the door of the carriage and climbed out, pausing only long enough to extract the little dog.

The other dogs raced around Charles’s feet in a chaos of excitement. The pug and spaniel sniffed cautiously at his trousers, while Flurry, Twig, and Ranger jumped against his legs, pawing at him and nudging him with their heads, demanding his attention

Excited by the pack of strangers converging on him, the new little dog yipped and barked, wriggling to be free.

“Oh!” Hannah said. “You’ve brought a puppy home!” She went straight for it, all thoughts of greeting her brother forgotten. “May I hold him?”

“Of course, you may,” Charles handed the dog to his sister. “He’s yours.”

“Mine?” Hannah gathered the small dog up in her arms. Her voice softened to a soothing murmur. “Poor dear. You’re so painfully thin. You must be starving.” She glanced at Charles. “Where did you find him?”

Charles briefly crouched to pet the dogs clamoring for his attention. He acknowledged them in turn, scratching ears, and rubbing backs and shoulders, murmuring their names. “How have you been, Ranger? And you, Twig? Easy, Flurry. Don’t lick me to death.” He cast a look at his sister. “He was chasing carriages in Bond Street. He’s also exhibited a fondness for attacking ladies skirts.”

An image of the blue-eyed young lady who had fallen victim to the dog’s temporary foolishness sprang, unbidden, into Charles’s brain.

Kate.

His blood warmed at the thought of her.

She’d been so bold. So singular. Any normal lady would have succumbed to hysterics at being bitten by a street dog. Kate, however, had taken the insult in stride.

A rarity.

But there was no point in dwelling on her finer qualities. He and Kate—whoever she was—weren’t likely to meet again.

“That one’s Tippo,” Hannah said, introducing Charles to the pug. “And this is Evangeline.” She urged the spaniel to hop forward for her brother to pet. “She’s shy.”

“Pleased to meet you, Tippo,” Charles said. “And you, Evangeline.” He stroked the two new dogs gently on their heads, careful not to be too familiar just yet. Many of the dogs at Heywood House had started their lives in less-than-ideal circumstances. It often took time for them to trust new people.

“What do you call him?” Hannah asked, admiring her new puppy.

Charles stood, brushing the dog hair from his trousers as his parents descended the steps to join them. “I haven’t named him yet. I’ll leave that to you.” He leaned down to drop a kiss on his sister’s head. “I’ve missed you, runt.”

“You shouldn’t have left,” Hannah said. “Though Papa says I must try to understand. Something about your having to prove yourself.”

Charles smiled. He’d long ceased being surprised by his father’s keen perception. “Something like that.”

“You’ve brought us another dog?” Arthur said. “Good God.” His gruff tone was belied by the warmth in his gaze as he beheld his son. He pulled him into a hard embrace—brief but heartfelt—just as he’d often done when Charles was small. “Is this how you make amends?”

A lump formed in Charles’s throat. “It’s a start.”

His mother came to him next. She hugged him fiercely. “My darling, how I’ve longed to see your face!”

Charles enfolded her in his arms, holding her tight. There was a different kind of strength in his mother’s embrace. One born of grace and tenderness.

She was the gentlest lady he’d ever known. Wherever he went in life, however far he roamed, her kindness and compassion had been his lodestar.

“I’m sorry, mother,” he said against her hair. His voice was for her ears alone. “I know I’ve caused you pain. I never meant to—”

“Hush, love. You’re home now. That’s all that matters.” She drew back to look at him. Her mismatched eyes glistened with tears of pure happiness. “What joy we shall have this Christmas now you’re here!”

“Grandfather isn’t joining us this year,” Hannah said. “Nor Mrs. Ogilvy.”

Mrs. Ogilvy was the longtime mistress of Charles’s grandfather, the Earl of Gordon. Grandfather didn’t like to travel without her companionship. When Charles was a boy, they had visited Heywood House often. To the outward world, Mrs. Ogilvy’s inclusion in the family was a minor scandal, but Charles had been raised to look on the lady almost as a grandmother.

“Why not?” he asked.

“They’re staying with Uncle George in Northumberland. We might have gone, but Aunt Prudence doesn’t like me to bring all the dogs.”

George Heywood, Viscount Carlisle was the earl’s heir. A former rake, known for his disastrous affairs with women, he’d long since settled down into respectable marriage and fatherhood.

“A pity,” Charles said. “I would have liked to see them.”

“You will, darling,” Philly said. “Your grandfather and Mrs. Ogilvy are coming to us in the spring. We’ll all be together, then.”

All.

Their extended family wasn’t very many in number. Though Charles’s father had relations still living, his mother had none. Philly had been raised by her beloved grandfather, Sir Charles of Satterthwaite Court in Devonshire. Both he and the estate had been lost well before Charles was born. But his great-grandfather hadn’t been forgotten. Charles was his namesake.

“In the meanwhile—” Arthur slapped his son on the back. “Come inside. You’ll be wanting your tea.”

“Sarah has laid out a feast for you,” Philly said.

“Iced gingerbread, almond cakes, and all of your special favorites,” Hannah informed him. “She means to spoil you rotten.”

Their housekeeper, Sarah, and her husband, the Heywoods’ butler, William, had been seeing to the smooth running of the household since Charles was in leading strings. Most of the servants had been in residence for decades. They were practically family.

“What tragedy has befallen Evangeline’s leg?” Charles asked as the three-legged spaniel hopped past him up the steps.

“She lost it in a shooting accident at Melton Abbey,” Hannah explained. “Lord Markham’s gamekeeper was going to have her destroyed.

Melton Abbey was a neighboring estate. It belonged to Lord and Lady Markham; an unpleasant pair, known for hosting raucous house parties that attracted the worst of London society.

“Fortunately,” Philly said, “your sister and I persuaded him to abandon the idea and give her to us instead.”

Papa persuaded him.” Hannah cast a meaningful glance at her brother. “With his pistol.”

Charles suppressed a grin. He well knew his father’s powers of persuasion. There was little Arthur Heywood wouldn’t do to ensure the happiness of his family—and nothing he wouldn’t do for his wife.

“It was all to the good.” Philly linked her arm through Arthur’s as they ascended the steps. “Evangeline has been so happy with us.”

“This dashing fellow will be happy as well.” Hannah settled the little stray more firmly in her arms. “I believe I shall call him Odysseus.” She flashed her brother another look. “He was a wanderer, too. A sailor, like you, Charles, who eventually found his way home.”

Excerpted from Return to Satterthwaite Court by Mimi Matthews. Copyright © 2022 by Mimi Matthews. All right reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author/publisher.

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