Wednesday, November 6, 2013


It's Wednesday -- time for the HUMP DAY HOOK, a weekly blog meme where authors post a tempting portion of their writing.
Follow this link for a complete listing of this week's participants: Hump Day Authors. And you can find links to these posts on twitter using the hashtag #HDH. This week I offer an evocative portion of a novel based upon a folk tale -- soon-to-be-released ~ The Changeling.

First my hook, then details follow:

Osgood sat at the table in the butlery decanting the Oloroso sherry when he heard voices coming from down the hall. Not expecting any delivery at this hour of the day, he poked his head through the doorway to see who had come to call. He found Mrs. Comstock, paring knife in hand, addressing an apple seller who had come around to the service entrance to sell her fruit. Seeing it didn’t immediately concern him, he went back to his work. Though a peddler selling wares at the service entrance was a common enough occurrence, he was compelled to listen to the exchange.

Gesturing with her paring knife, the cook said, “I’ll have you know, I’ll not be spending her ladyship’s good coin on apples before their season.”

Her rheumy eyes apprehensively lingering on the small steel blade, the old woman took a step backward and dug into her burlap sack and withdrew a perfect apple. Displaying several long teeth, she smiled, and in a Welsh accent, said, “Oh ye won’t ever find better. Here, taste fer yerself. Take a bite o’ the most delicious apple this side o’ the Garden o’ Eden. From what I hear, th’ young master is verra fond o’ apples, aye? He’s sure t’ love these!”

Mrs. Comstock told her dismissively, “Well, the master is in Scotland now, and will be for some time. But even if he were standing right beside me, your apples will have to please me first.” Taking of offered apple, she sliced the fruit in two and took a loud bite. Juicy words followed, “Ooh this is good, not too sweet. Yes. I’ll take the lot. Her ladyship might enjoy a nice apple tart and custard for tea.”


Listening to the exchange, a niggling recollection stayed just out of Osgood’s reach. What is it about that peddler’s voice? Awash with a sense of familiar and feeling unaccountably unsettled, Osgood corked the wine and left the butlery to join them in their transaction. Nearing, he saw the peddler woman was old and crabbed, and looked to be in advanced age. His brows drew downward as the elusive memory popped into his mind. That old peddler had been here before -- twenty years before! Nearly twenty years had passed but she’d hadn’t aged a day, in fact she looked exactly the same. He hurried down the corridor, shouting, “Stop madam! Stop right there!”

Too late, the cook turned in surprise. Her apron full of fruit emptied across the floor when the head butler bumped into her in his haste. Mrs. Comstock’s called after him. “Mr. Osgood! What in heavens are…”

Osgood called over his shoulder, “Pardon me, Joanie!”

He threw open the door and dashed outside. There was no one in the service yard. He ran around to the front of the building. No one. Coming back he quickly apologized then went to find Fanny.

The lady’s maid was in the laundry where he found her sewing a button on a riding glove. Checking down the hall in both directions to see if they were alone, he closed the door as a precaution. Still winded, he asked, “Fanny, do you remember the old apple woman?”

She shook her head confused, “I’m sorry, Mr. Osgood, what…?”

He snapped before he checked himself, “The old apple woman! Twenty years ago in the hedge…”

Recollection coming, Fanny gasped. “The old peddler who tried to kidnap Master Lenox?”

Taking out his handkerchief, he blotted his brow. “The same.”

Her hands went to her cheeks. “Oh I remember it, Mr. Osgood. If Arthur Brookes hadn’t been trimming the verge that day, she might have taken the lad.”

Osgood nodded. The gardener charged after the old woman as she pulled the struggling five-year-old behind her. Brookes had the iron hedge sheers in his hand and explained how when the old woman saw them, her eyes went round as saucers with fear. She released the boy and ran around the hedge. Brookes had been right on her heels, yet the moment he rounded the corner, she was nowhere to be seen.

Since the babe came to the household, Osgood had read everything he could lay hands on regarding the Fae and their ways. He found folklore mostly, but he was of opinion that the old legends held truths. One thing came to light again and again – the Fae did not like iron whether in the form of horseshoe nails, hedge clippers or steel paring knife. Oddly, Master Lenox with his mixed blood held no such aversion to metals. Lacking understanding of the complexities of it all, Osgood frowned.

Fretting, Fanny asked, “Why are they coming now? Our Master Lenox is a man full grown.”

He shook his head grimly. He’d been in service to this family since he was a boy of twelve put to work beating rugs and sweeping floors. He wasn’t much older than Masters Evan and John when he rose in rank to become Lord Rupert’s man. Having recognized his keen head for numbers and an ordered mind, their father made him head of the household staff at age thirty-two. All three Pendry men were cut from the finest cloth, and young Master Lenox, with his astounding physical similarity to Masters Evan and John, was as good and noble as the rest.
He’d do anything for this family, as would Fanny. 

Osgood looked at Francis March, his accomplice in the deed that brought a changeling babe here to be raised an earl. They would need to be vigilant, for apparently this drama had not come to a close twenty-four years ago. He said, “It’s obvious Fanny. They want him back.”

Behind the scenes: Amelia Pendry's baby was born within weeks of his father's death. Sadly, the baby died shortly after birth, and with it the Pendry name. Meanwhile in the village, another newborn was taken and an unwanted changeling left in its stead. The panicked midwife tells her sister -- a devoted lady's maid to Lady Pendry. Fanny tells the head butler and the three conspire  to sooth a widow's already broken heart by secretly replacing the mix-race infant for the baby who died. Little do they know, greater secrets than theirs surround Lenox the 10th Earl of Pendry.

The Changeling ~ Coming early 2014!


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