The Changeling

Free The Changeling by Philippa Carr

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Authors: Philippa Carr
    “This would be different, wouldn’t it? And fancy … they have been worked by people hundreds of years ago.”
    “Yes, I know.”
    “You would be expected to stay up there while you did the work. You would need the best of light and the journey to and fro would be a little too long … there and back.”
    She nodded. Then she said: “My mother did not like my being away from home … even with you.”
    “Well, that is what I came to discuss. I promised Monsieur and Madame Bourdon that I would ask you. They would pay you very well. I imagine you could name your price.”
    I studied her. She was very pretty; and now that she was excited, this was more obvious.
    “Would you like a cup of tea?” she asked.
    “That would be very acceptable,” replied my grandmother.
    She left us. We looked round the little room and I knew what my grandmother was thinking. It had an unlived-in look. I could not imagine that this was a very happy home. There would be too much striving after what was right and proper in the eyes of that martinet Mrs. Polhenny—and little thought of pleasure.
    While we were drinking tea and nibbling homemade biscuits that lady herself came in.
    She came straight into the parlor. She was surprised. Her eyes rested momentarily on me and I wondered if I was doing something I should not and perhaps spoiling the perfection of her brown velvet-covered armchair.
    “Mrs. Hanson …” she began.
    “You must forgive the intrusion, Mrs. Polhenny,” said my grandmother. “Leah has given us tea and your oatmeal biscuits are delicious.”
    “Oh,” said Mrs. Polhenny, smiling, “I’m glad she made tea for you.”
    “How was it at the farm?”
    “Another boy.” Her face softened. “A lovely healthy boy. They’re pleased. Rather a long labor but everything going well. I shall be keeping my eyes on them. I’ll be getting back later today.”
    “I’m glad all went well. We came to talk of a rather interesting proposition. We have mentioned it to Leah.”
    “Oh, what was that?”
    “You know we have those French refugees up at High Tor?”
    “Yes, I do.”
    “And Leah made such a good job of our tapestries. When they came to luncheon with us they saw what she had done. The fact is they would like her to do the same for them. Apparently they have some valuable pieces up there and they want someone to repair them. They would like Leah to do it.”
    Mrs. Polhenny was frowning. “Leah has plenty of work here.”
    “This would be different and more highly paid, I imagine.”
    That did bring a glimmer of interest into Mrs. Polhenny’s eyes.
    “It would mean her staying up there for a week or two … perhaps even more.”
    Mrs. Polhenny’s face hardened. “Why couldn’t she go every day?”
    “Well, it is a little far … that journey twice a day … and then there is the matter of catching the best of the light. It’s intricate work.”
    “Leah wouldn’t want to be away from home.”
    “Don’t you think she would enjoy a change? She’d be very comfortable up at High Tor and they would be very grateful to get the work done. Madame Bourdon was quite lyrical about her tapestry. You can see she loves it.”
    “Leah has plenty of work here.”
    “Do think about it, Mrs. Polhenny.”
    “I think a young girl’s place is home with her mother.”
    “But she wouldn’t be far away.”
    “Couldn’t they send the tapestries here?”
    “Impossible. They are big, I expect … and very valuable.”
    “They could get somebody else.”
    “They like Leah’s work. She is especially talented. This would be good for her. People might visit them and see her work … as they visited us. You don’t know what would come of it. You know we have the Emperor Napoleon and Empress Eugenie in England now. They are friends of Monsieur and Madame Bourdon. Who knows, Leah might be working for royalty.”
    Mrs. Polhenny looked skeptical. “They’re a sinful lot, from what I hear.”
    “Oh, Mrs.

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