My gothic romance, The Dark Marshes, is now available for pre-order on Amazon, for just 99p, and will be released on 1st March 2015. But here is an exclusive sneak preview extract from the opening chapter.
The Dark Marshes
by Sally Quilford
by Sally Quilford
Introduction by Nan Bradley
My name is Anne Bradley, but most people call me Nan. I was a maid at Marsholm Manor from the age of twelve and I was the maid of Lady Henrietta Lakeham prior to her marriage. I’ve been asked to put together all the documents pertaining to the case involving Lady Henrietta Lakeham’s incarceration in an insane asylum and the tragic events that followed.
I don’t know why I’ve been chosen to do this, though I do appreciate His Grace’s faith in me.
“You’re a clever woman, Nan,” he told me, echoing something Mrs Marsh had said to me many years before when I first came up to Marsholm Manor from the Home Farm. “You’ll be able to make short work of this.” I’m not sure about that but I am happy His Grace thinks so.
The main problem with telling the story has been knowing where to start. The beginning would be a good place, if only I knew where the beginning was. I wasn’t there for all of it, and may God forgive me for that. If I had been, I might have been able to put a stop the tragedy. There’s others, with more invested in this story, that feel the same. So many people, including me knew or suspected the truth but said and did nothing. Others were just too far away to be able to help and by the time they come back, it was all too late. I could cry when I think about it. Never mind that. I’ve got to get on and let the truth be known, as painful as it is.
Personally I’d have liked to leave out the twitterings of the Misses Molly and Dolly Marsh. It seems to me those old ladies talk a load of rubbish, but I’m told that there’s a lot of truth in their ramblings. I’m not sure I can see it myself, but there you go.
Not everyone has wanted to tell their side of the story, and that’s their right, I suppose. Not all have been able to. They did not leave any documents – that we have found – to aid our inquiries.
Something tells me that the doctor’s testimony is the right place to start, even though he didn’t come in till very late in the story. But it does explain why Miss Hetty was at the asylum.
From the notes of Doctor Herbert Fielding
St Jude’s Private Asylum
The patient is of great interest to me. Several weeks ago she was brought in kicking and screaming – as many are to this establishment – by her stricken cousin, Miss Cora Marsh. I remember that dear lady’s sad eyes even now, as she explained the situation to me.
“There will be a great scandal if anyone finds out she is here,” Miss Cora explained, her china blue eyes large and terrified. “So I beg you to keep it quiet, at least until my darling cousin is cured.”
“Have no fear,” I said, taking her hand, which trembled like a bird in mine. “We have had royalty through these doors and no one has ever known.” I was tempted to tell her how, as a young physician, I had treated members of the Royal family. I felt sure it would impress her, but I was sworn to secrecy. Of course, others took credit for helping Royalty, but I felt sure my treatment helped. If Miss Cora had known that, she might not consider me such a dry old stick.
“Thank you, Doctor Fielding,” she said, squeezing my hand. “The moment I met you, I knew that I could rely on you. The thing is that my cousin is under a rather strange delusion. Nothing we say can alter her belief that she has done this terrible thing.”
I am a great believer in the power of literature and that man – or woman – most reveals himself when he keeps a journal. So I have suggested to the patient that she write down the events that led her to this place. I suspect that Miss Cora has put her cousin here to protect her. I admire her loyalty, just as I admire her grace and beauty, but I intend to find out the truth about what happened.
Since arriving, after we had restrained and sedated her, the patient has shown all signs of regaining her equilibrium. She sits quietly in her room, looking out of the window. She submits to treatments without complaint, and she is polite to the staff. But I am mindful of the words of Miss Cora, as she left.
“Whatever you do,” she whispered to me, terror etched on her lovely face, “don’t trust her.”