Now I have another extract from The Dark Marshes to share with you. I really enjoyed writing this bit. The elderly twins, Molly and Dolly turned out to be such fun!
I can also reveal that the beautiful model on the cover of the book is called Sanja Balan. She sent me a lovely message last night, telling me that the picture was taken by her boyfriend. She is as lovely in person as she is on the cover!
It's available for Pre-Order from Amazon and will be out on 1st March 2015
Testimony of Molly and Dolly Marsh
To think that a Servant like Nan Bradley would have the Audacity to ask us to write down our account of the Tragedy that befell our Family. We want to make it Clear that if His Grace had not then visited to insist, we would Not do be Doing this at all. There was little Need for him to be so Brusque about it.
We are Christian women and speak Nothing but the Truth. Neither will we be Bullied into writing Separate Accounts. What, we ask, is the point? Molly and Dolly Marsh are never apart and we always speak as one. Whilst we may take it in turns to write parts of this Testimony – for our poor old hands do ache so on cold days – One Account is all they shall Receive.
We are the daughters of Sir Peregrine Marsh and the sisters of Lady Henrietta’s father, Julius Marsh. May God forgive him for his Wicked ways? For most of our Lives we lived at Marsholm Manor, the family home in Derbyshire.
Julius was Twenty years younger than us, from our father’s Second Marriage to a Miss Dunfree. We still call her Miss Dunfree, because she died in childbirth, hardly having time to become our stepmother. God rest her Degenerate soul.
Father had Always wanted a Son, and Miss Dunfree left him Twin boys. We have been asked who was Born first. We were told it was Julius, and that Alexander was Born ten minutes Later. We were Not in the Room at the time, as it would not have been Fitting for Spinsters to be Present at the birth of a child, so we Do Not know that for Certain.
Despite what has been said About us, We were Happy to have Brothers, because at least it stopped our Home being Entailed away to some cousin, who we gather was Born in a Slum. It meant that We would Still have somewhere to Live when our Father died.
We were Fond of our Brothers, particularly Alexander, who was such a Spirited child. Julius was quieter, but we Distinctly remember the Madness in his eyes. Of course We did not Know how things would Turn Out, but Looking Back the Signs were there. When the Tragedy involving our Brother and his Wife took place, we said to Each Other ‘It was Always going to Happen’.
When Julius Married, not long after Father’s death, we Stayed on at Marsholm Manor and we must Concede that Julius was always very Gracious to us. It Must be said that he Sometimes expressed Impatience with us, not that we Gave him Any Cause.
He married Miss Charlotte Portland, an Heiress in her own Right, with a Fifty Thousand Pound fortune. When they Married, he put all that Money into a Trust Fund. He said it was so that if they Only had Daughters, the young Ladies need not worry about their Future as we had worried about Ours until our Brothers were Born.
He left such a Strange last Will and Testament. The estate would, as was Custom, be given to the Next male in the Family line. This was a Distant Cousin whom We did not Meet for a very long Time. The money in the Trust Fund was left to Henrietta, with the Proviso that even when she Married, the Money remained Strictly under Her control. If she Died, then the money would go Directly to her Children, or in the Event of her having No children, back to the Marsholm Estate.
If you Ask us, It was Scandalous. A Woman should never be Responsible for that Much money, and a Wife should always Defer to her Husband in matters of Finance. We wonder that Sir George took an Interest in her at all. A Man needs to feel that he is the Master in his own Home.
Of course we expected to Marry, so we did not Expect Julius to Provide for us. We were not Unattractive as young Women, but neither did we want to be Separated, so Both of us Turned down Several Suitors. We Refused so many, that eventually they stopped Asking. Julius did leave us the Lodge in which to live and Five Hundred pounds a year each. One would have Hoped for more. But we were not Bitter, as some people have suggested!
Our other Brother Alexander joined the Army and we did not see him for Many years. He died Overseas, as did his Wife, and young Cora was brought to Marsholm Manor. Of course we took the Darling girl to our hearts. She was Ten Years Old but already a beauty, with such Nice manners. And how she loved her little cousin, Hetty – which was what she called Henrietta. Even though very Young herself, Cora Insisted on Helping the Governess to Care for Hetty.
We Believe it was Also around this time that Nan came to work at Marsholm Manor. We have No idea from whence she Came, or how Old she was. We do Not concern Ourselves with the Details of Servants.
She was in the kitchens, but Succeeded in fooling Dear Julius and Charlotte into letting her Help to care for Hetty.
Nan was a Sullen girl, especially when Cora was Nearby. This was Undoubtedly because Cora was so Beautiful. We still remember her Golden curls and Cornflower Blue eyes. Nan was pretty enough, we Suppose in that Lower Class way that tends towards fatness in middle age, but she would never be Feted as a Beauty in society and I think she Hated Cora for that.
We don’t say that the Maid was not Devoted to young Hetty, but it sometimes Seemed that she thought the child Belonged to her. If the Child so much as cried, Nan would Snatch her from dear Cora’s arms and take her from the Room. We spoke to our Brother about it Several times, but he Refused to let the girl go.
“Nan’s doing the job she’s been employed to do,” was all he would Say, before Shutting his Study door on us. It was No good Speaking to our sister-in-law. She spent Much of her time in Bed with Megrims, only Rising to spend a couple of hours each Day with her Daughter. She did Not take as Much care of poor Cara as she Should have. We Weep to Think of the Loneliness that child must have Suffered but We did not Fail in our Christian duty to Make her feel a Part of the Family even where Others have Failed.
What must we Discuss now? Oh yes, the Dark Marshes. We have been Asked to clarify some of the Information about the instances of Insanity in the Family. Personally we see no Reason why we Should air the family Shame, but His Grace is insistent and as we now rely on his Charity to keep a Roof over our Heads, we have no Choice but to Comply.
We grew up on the Stories. Our Mother used to Love to tell them, especially on Cold, Dark nights. Mama had a Great sense of the Dramatic. We Disapproved of course, but One did Not argue with One’s Mama.
The girls used to Ask us About it, and whilst we Believed it was wrong to Fill their young Heads with such Tales, we also Believed it was our Duty to tell the Truth about the family History.
As Spinsters, we were used to People not Listening to us, so we Suppose it was Nice when we were asked for our family Expertise. To say we Embellished is a very Cruel charge indeed, but what can one Expect from a Girl like Nan Bradley?
The first to go Mad was Percival Marsh, way back in Henry VIII’s time. He was a Parson of the Brimstone and Ashes ilk. Some say he had Catholic leanings, but of course the Marsh family are, and Always have been, good Protestants. It might Explain his Descent into Madness. Too Much Communion Wine. We have always Abstained from alcohol, Preferring to keep our bodies Pure for when we Meet our Maker.
Percival Marsh had a particularly Devoted congregation, whom he Persuaded to join a Community that lived within the grounds of Marsholm Manor. It was he who Built the moat and drawbridge, so that they could Cut themselves off Completely. The Happenings at the manor were of the most Profligate type.
Being good Christian ladies we have No idea what that can Mean. It makes the Blood run cold just to Think about it, so we Try very Hard not to Think about it at All. Needless to say, we are Sure the events were very Depraved indeed.
They have All gone to Hell since Percival persuaded them to take their Lives, before taking his own. It is said that his Ghost haunts Marsholm Manor. We have Never heard it, but Hetty always felt a Presence. When they took her to the Asylum, we realised that it was her own Sick mind.
Then there was Sir Kenneth Marsh. He lived during the Civil War, and was a staunch Royalist, which is as it Should be. When Roundheads came to the District, he had them all arrested and then put their heads on stakes all around the estate. We hear it was very Gruesome and set the Royalist cause back somewhat even if we Believe that the Roundheads deserved it.
We must not forget Father’s brother, Uncle Horatio. He did not Kill or Maim anyone, thank goodness. He would Disappear from the dinner table, saying “I’m going to see Rodney.” Mother and father would Roll their eyes, and when we asked who Rodney was, they would reply “Rodney is no one.” We were not Permitted to ask anymore.
Horatio used to say that he Wanted to Die in Rodney’s arms. As it Happened, he was Crushed under a horse when coming back from the tavern one night. It seems, looking back, that Uncle Horatio’s friend, Rodney was purely Imaginary. Just like Hetty’s young man. Things might have been Better there if Nan had not lied for her. We still do not Understand why Julius and Charlotte trusted a Serving girl.
We have been called to Dinner so we will finish our Testimony at some Other time.