All I Want Is You


By Elizabeth Anthony

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An innocent girl 1920. Seventeen-year-old Sophie is a scullery maid at a large country house, Belfield Hall, but what she truly desires is to dance on stage in London.

Caught up in a dangerous game

Glamorous Lady Beatrice offers her assistance, though not without an ulterior motive. A new heir — the seductively handsome Lord Ashley — is about to arrive at the Hall: a man that Beatrice will do anything to ensnare. . .even if she has to exploit her young maid.

Of forbidden passion

What she doesn’t know is that Sophie has met Ash once before. And as Lady Beatrice’s devious plan unravels, Sophie has two choices: refuse to be a mere plaything for the man she loves so desperately, or give in to the thrill of unimaginable sexual pleasure. . .

Set in a country house in the 1920s, this tale of forbidden love between a kitchen maid and her aristocratic master is perfect for fans of Downton Abbey and E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey.


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Chapter One

My name is Sophia, though most people call me Sophie. My father Philip called me his little sparrow, because I was always chattering and singing, he said. He worked at the village smithy, and sometimes, when there was a house party at Belfield Hall, the grooms would bring the fine horses down to him for shoeing. Will and I would run to peep at them, marvelling at their beauty.

My mother worked four days a week as a laundrymaid at the Hall and I remember that I used to be upset by the soreness of her pretty hands. But she would smile and shake her head and say there were servants there who had to work seven days a week, from six in the morning until half past ten at night.

'Imagine that, Sophie,' she would say, brushing my long fair hair as I sat on her knee. 'Imagine that.'

I was born in 1903 and when I was five I started at the village school. Every day on my way there and back I would gaze at the gates leading to the Hall, though of course you couldn't see the building itself because of the woods. But sometimes in summer I would run to the top of Win Hill nearby, so I could see the windows and turrets all gleaming in the sun, and to my mind it was a fairy palace.

Will Baxter was my best friend. He was two years older than I was, but the Baxters were our nearest neighbours and because I was an only child he was like a brother to me. He and I would run races on the way to school and he would do things like hop on one leg so he didn't beat me. Will was kind and made me laugh. And in class I would help him with his letters, because I was quicker than he was at learning, and sometimes he minded it.

My father didn't see much need for learning, not in our kind of lives, he said. But my mother owned a few treasured books and often, when I was small, she used to read to me from The Tales of King Arthur. As I listened to her calm, clear voice, I would look at the pictures, and I used to imagine that people at the Hall must be like that, the ladies beautiful as the princesses, the gentlemen as brave as King Arthur's noble knights.

One hot June day when I was eight, the Duke of Belfield gave a party in the Hall's gardens, because the new king had been crowned in London. All the servants and their families were invited, and I still remember the trestle tables laden with food set out on the lawns in front of the Hall, while the men were given free beer. A band played music for dancing, then the Duke, a whiskery man, made a speech of which I don't remember a word because I was watching the butterflies dancing in the herb garden, and I danced too, thinking no one could see me there amongst the lavender bushes. But a gardener's boy chased me, and I ran into a thicket of trees and got lost.

I was a little afraid, I remember, and the scent of the herbs my skirt had brushed against seemed suddenly too strong in the heat. Then I heard a man's voice, softly calling nearby. 'Where are you? Where are you, you mischievous thing?'

I shrank back behind a tree, thinking he was calling to me; then I saw that the man was the Duke's son, Lord Charlwood. People said he was very handsome, but I didn't like his black moustache and his shiny black hair. Then he laughed and said, 'Ah, there you are, Florence. You little tease, to run from me just when I was getting to know you.'

And I realised that he was speaking to my mother.

She was in her prettiest white blouse, and her long hair, as fair as mine, was falling a little from its pins. I thought she was the loveliest person in the world, but I was confused. She did seem to be running from Lord Charlwood, but it was obvious to me that she wanted him to catch her, and even as I watched she stumbled slightly and Lord Charlwood caught her in his arms.

He was kissing her on the mouth, and then he was putting his hand between the buttons of her pretty blouse. When she laughingly pushed him away, he stooped to lift her skirt and started running his hand up her leg.

I was frightened because, young though I was, I knew I was seeing something I ought not to see. He was pushing her back against a nearby tree, then kissing her again. I squeezed my eyes shut, but I could still hear my mother making strange sounds at the back of her throat, and though she'd put her arms around him, I was afraid he was hurting her. His lordship was breathing hard and calling her his sweet Florrie, his lovely Florrie.

I thought, Her pretty blouse will be all spoiled by the bark of the tree. I ran blindly to get away from that place and Will Baxter found me. 'He's hurting her, Will!' I sobbed. 'It's my mother – Lord Charlwood is hurting her.'

Will's face changed – I think he must already have known about Lord Charlwood's pursuit of my mother that summer. He put his hand awkwardly on my arm. 'It's all right, Sophie. It's just a sort of game – a secret game, that the grown-ups wouldn't want us to know about, do you understand?'

In those days I didn't understand at all, but Will's mother gave birth to a new baby almost every year, so he was bound to know more than I did about such things. Will's father was a farm labourer and he hated the rich – the toffs, he called them. Sometimes, when I knocked at Will's door on my way to school, I could see that their cottage, as well as being full of children, was dirty, which embarrassed me; I couldn't help but notice the grubby floor and the broken windowpanes that never got mended.

Will's father used to say everything would change soon, and I wondered how. I imagined a great storm, I think, like in the Bible, perhaps blowing all the rich people away, but I knew it couldn't really happen, because the rich owned the world, and the vicar preached to us in church every Sunday that if we honoured and obeyed our betters we'd get our reward in heaven.

There were a lot of funerals at the church, often of small children, and the vicar said that they were going to paradise. But I used to think they would be happier by far playing in the river meadows on a sunny day, like me and Will.

When it was time to bring in the hay harvest, my father would drive me out with him to the fields in the blacksmith's old cart, and I would carry the canvas bag with our lunch of bread and cheese. I was given a switch to keep the flies off the horses' heads as they stood so patiently, while the men and boys, shirtless in the heat, loaded the sheaves on the wagons.

Will would come to me to talk every so often – to stop me feeling lonely, I think – but I was never lonely in those days. Once, when I was stung by a wasp, Will ran home and came back with a small jug of vinegar, which he poured onto my clean handkerchief and pressed to my skin. 'Brave lass,' he said. 'Brave lass, not to cry.'

I think the war began with me hardly noticing it. I was eleven, and everyone said it would be over soon; besides, I had other matters on my mind, for my mother had started to look ill and I was terribly worried about her. She always used to wear a black dress to go and work at the Hall, and she put her lovely fair hair under a cap. But I could see that her dress was too big for her, and the black of it suddenly began to frighten me, because it reminded me of the funeral services at church.

'Don't wear that dress,' I used to beg her. 'It's ugly.'

'Sweetheart,' she would say, kissing me, 'I have to wear black for work. All the maids do.'

My father was quieter than ever, and often in the evenings he would just sit outside our cottage, smoking his pipe.

One autumn day we heard that the Duke had given permission for the Hall grounds to be used for army training, so my father and I hurried with the other villagers to the top of Win Hill to see the cavalry galloping across the fine lawns, and the gun carriages being pulled by strong horses.

The men were so smart, in their red uniforms. The Duke had given thousands of pounds, it was whispered, so their outfits and horses would do the county proud. And that day we heard that Lord Charlwood, the Duke's heir, who was riding about amongst the cavalry men looking very pleased with himself, was going to the war in France with the soldiers. He had married recently; the wedding had been in London, and there'd been no great party at the Hall, because of the war. I wouldn't have gone to the party anyway; I hated him, because of that time I'd seen him with my mother in the garden.

My mother hadn't been well enough to climb the hill and watch the cavalry parade, but when my father and I got back she was sitting eagerly waiting for us outside our cottage door. It was a warm day in October, with some late roses still blooming in our small front garden, but I remember she was wrapped in a thick shawl. 'How was it?' she asked. 'Did you see the soldiers, Sophie darling?'

I told her all about them. But my father, though he listened, didn't say a word.

When I was twelve, my mother lost her job at the Hall, and because my father didn't earn very much, she took in washing at home. I helped, because I'd left school by then, but my mother grew paler and was always coughing, though not when she thought I could hear her. As the months passed I became more and more afraid of her illness.

The war didn't finish in months, as everyone had said it would, and one day the following spring, soon after my thirteenth birthday, my father told us he was leaving. 'I'm going to join up,' he announced. He said it as if he was proposing to do a little work in our small vegetable garden, or to take a stroll to the village alehouse. 'They're recruiting in Oxford. I'll pack a few things and leave tonight.'

I remember that he held me tight and gave me a quick kiss on my forehead before leaving us. I never saw him again. My mother said nothing, did nothing; I wanted her to plead with him to stay. But her face was white, and she was shivering badly.

His going shook my world. I remember I made my mother some tea, but she didn't want it. 'Read to me, sweetheart,' she whispered, so I did; I read her a story from The Tales of King Arthur, but grief was choking me because my father had gone – didn't he love us? Didn't he love me? I wondered if he knew about my mother kissing Lord Charlwood at the summer party years ago. How would we manage, without him?

'Tomorrow, Sophie,' whispered my mother, 'we'll go into Oxford, you and me. We'll buy you some pretty things: some ribbons, perhaps, and some new lace-edged handkerchiefs.'

'No, Mama,' I pleaded. 'You're not well enough.'

A tight cough racked her body. She squeezed my hand. 'Please, Sophie.'

The last time we'd gone into Oxford we'd seen a gypsy girl dancing for money while a man played wild, whirling music on his fiddle. I'd longed to dance as that girl did, with her full red skirts flying, and I hoped she'd be there again. But instead in the market square there was a man playing on a flute, and while my mother queued at a stall to buy some ribbons, I went to listen. Finding a sunny spot a little away from the flute player, I began to dance, and soon people were watching, I realised. Some of them were smiling, and a few even dropped coins by my feet. What the man playing the flute thought I don't know, but I danced on to his tunes, humming under my breath and letting my feet lightly follow the rhythms.

Then I saw my mother, watching.

She was smiling proudly, but I was suddenly very frightened because she looked so ill. Her cheeks had red spots on them, her eyes I thought were feverish. I hurried to find her a bench to sit on, but though she was clearly struggling for breath, she sat only for a matter of minutes. 'We must carry on with our shopping, Sophie,' she said, putting her hand on my arm. 'I want to buy you some more pretty things.'

She got to her feet, but almost immediately she collapsed to the ground. We were in the market place surrounded by crowds, and she lay quite still on the cobbles with her eyes closed. I called out to the people around me, 'Please. Please help my mother.' But no one did. I crouched at her side, and I could see she'd coughed up some dark stuff, like blood; it had got onto her white cotton gloves, which she kept for best to cover her poor chapped hands.

The flute player had gone by then, but suddenly I could hear more music, the sound of a band, for some soldiers were marching through the town in their splendid uniforms, and everyone had gathered to watch. People were saying that the Duke himself was in Oxford as well, to welcome the troop's officers to a grand reception. As the soldiers went by, the crowds cheered, and some well-dressed women walked around the square carrying baskets full of white feathers which they were handing out to all the young men who weren't in uniform. I thought these women might take pity on me, and I ran in desperation towards them. 'Please, will you help my mother? She is sick, and I don't know what to do. Please.'

I was so frightened. I pointed to my mother, still lying on the cobbles; but a woman with a stern face who carried a Bible as well as a basket of feathers said to me, 'Child, you're hampering us in our work. God punishes those who break His divine laws.'

I couldn't believe her cruelty. I ran back to my mother, who had opened her eyes and was trying to get up; I struggled to get her seated again on the nearby bench, but I was really shaking by then. A couple of men walking by looked at my mother and me as if we were part of a sideshow.

'Blow me if it ain't Florrie Davis,' one of them said to the other. 'She used to be a bit generous with her favours when she was a lass, didn't she?'

'Aye. She caught poor Phil Davis right and proper.'

I didn't understand what they meant. All I knew was that they peered at us once more without pity, then they moved on. I had my arm round my mother's waist but her eyes were fluttering shut again and I really didn't know what to do. Then I saw that the crowds had parted to let a man in a smart grey coat walk past.

To this day I don't know what made me do it. What made me think that he of all people might help me. But there was something about him, something I later tried and failed to put into words; certainly a kind of desperation overwhelmed me as I called out to him, 'Sir! Please will you help us, sir?'

He turned and looked at my mother leaning against me on the bench, her face deathly white. 'Surely she needs a doctor,' he said.

Something in me broke then, I was so frightened. I cried out, 'Do you think I don't know it? All these people, I've asked them to help. I've begged them to help. Would you let this happen to your wife or your sister, sir? Would you?'

He'd drawn closer now, frowning. 'Are you her daughter?'

I was trying hard not to weep. 'Yes, sir. My name is Sophie.'

'Has she been sick for a while, Sophie?'

She had but, oh God, she knew she couldn't afford what a doctor would cost, and that was the truth of it. Instead she'd been saving up so she could buy things for me. So she could buy me ribbons.

The rich man looked grave. 'Come,' he said at last. 'We'll take her to the hospital.'

He was younger than Lord Charlwood. He had thick dark brown hair and blue eyes, and I thought his eyes were sad. I remember that one of the women thrust a white feather at him saying, 'Call yourself a man, and not in uniform?'

Everything happened so quickly after that. He had a big shiny motorcar parked on the far side of the market, with a driver waiting in it; he must have been walking towards it when I stopped him. He ordered two bystanders to carefully lift my mother and put her into the back seat, then he sat in the front while I sat next to my mother and held her hand, which felt cold, so cold. 'It's all right, Mama,' I whispered. 'It's all right.'

That was my first time in a motorcar. At the hospital my mother was taken away, and we waited in a green-tiled corridor that smelled of antiseptic. I've never afterwards been able to breathe in that smell without feeling utter dread.

Then the doctors came back and said to me, 'We're sorry, but your mother's died. She was very ill, didn't you know that? She should have seen a doctor long ago.'

In that moment my whole world came tumbling down. The rich man with the blue eyes grasped me by the arm because I was trying to run to where they'd taken her. I was saying to him, to all of them, 'She couldn't afford a doctor. She couldn't afford to stop work, even though she was so ill.' My eyes were burning with tears; I tried to punch his chest. 'Didn't you see her hands? Her poor hands, they were red and rough from working for people like you, and she had no money to see a doctor.'

The rich man held my shoulders as tears poured down my cheeks. I remember his hands were beautiful; I remember the faint lemon scent of soap on his skin, when most men I knew smelled of sweat. 'You must go home,' he said. 'To your family.'

My family? My mother was dead; my father had gone to the war. 'I've no one,' I told him. I felt bitter grief. 'No one else.'

'How old are you, child?'

'I'm thirteen,' I whispered.

The man with the blue eyes told me to wait for him, then went away to speak to the doctors again. I found out later that he paid for everything so that my dear mother wouldn't have a pauper's burial but had a small carved headstone in our village churchyard, but I didn't thank him for what he did that day. I didn't know how to; besides, I thought I'd never see him again. He led me outside to his motorcar and he said, 'You can't live by yourself. I'll get a letter sent to the housekeeper at Belfield Hall. Her name is Mrs Burdett and the letter will explain that you need a job.'

I shook my head. 'My mother worked in the Belfield laundry. They sent her away because – because—'

He interrupted, 'Mrs Burdett will take care of that. You'll be safe there, at least until you're old enough to decide what you want to do with your life. Is that all right, Sophie?'

I thought of my hands, getting as red and raw as my mother's. I thought of Lord Charlwood pursuing my mother in the gardens. But I nodded because I could think of nothing else to do, nowhere else to go.

The tears rolled down my cheeks. 'I loved her so much.'

He bent down so that his head was level with mine, his blue eyes searching mine. 'I can see that,' he said gravely. 'Save your love, Sophie. Remember that people judge you by the value you place on yourself. Work hard at the Hall and in a few years you can start making your own plans, living your own dreams. Do you understand?'

I scrubbed away my tears and gazed up at him. 'Yes, sir. I understand.'

'Good girl. Now – ' he straightened up – 'have you a friend or neighbour? Someone who'll look after you for a few days before you go to the Hall?'

'There's Mrs Baxter,' I whispered. 'And Will. Will is my friend.'

'Then go to them,' he said. 'I have to leave you now, Sophie, but remember what I said, won't you?'

I suddenly didn't want him to leave me. 'Do you live at the Hall, sir? Shall I see you there?'

'You won't see me there, no.' Bitterness suddenly filled his eyes. 'But listen.' He got out a sheet of paper and wrote down a London address. 'Write to me, will you? Even if it's only every few months or so, send me a letter to let me know you're all right.'

'You haven't put your name,' I pointed out.

'My name is Mr Maldon.' He scribbled that too, beneath the address. 'Now, do you promise to write?'

I knuckled the tears from my cheeks. 'I promise.'

His driver took me to our village in the smart motorcar, which caused a great commotion. I told Will's mother what had happened and she hugged me tightly while all her ragged children clustered round, wide-eyed.

Will walked with me to our cottage, where I packed up my few possessions and my mother's half-dozen books, and I gave Mrs Baxter the white blouse my mother had worn for that party at the Hall. I didn't cry again.

But I never forgot a single thing that happened that day and, years later, when I knew what I know now, I remembered that they gave him a white feather. I couldn't get that from my mind. They gave him a white feather.

Chapter Two

'If you please, I've come to speak to Mrs Burdett.' My voice faltered as the stern housemaid looked me up and down.

My mother's funeral had taken place three days before, with myself and the Baxters and a few of our neighbours gathered at the local church. It had been cold and raining and the birds had stopped their spring song. I had thought that no one could see my tears, but Will had touched my hand in silent sympathy.

Now I stood at the back door of the Hall, lonely as could be beneath the gaze of the housemaid who glared at me so. I was a scrawny little thing in a patched-up brown dress, and the housekeeper Mrs Burdett, when I was taken to her sitting room, looked disapproving also. 'Are you Sophie Davis?'

'Yes, ma'am, that's to say—'

'I've received a letter,' she interrupted.

'From Mr Maldon?'

'Mr Maldon?' She appeared puzzled. 'No,' she went on, 'from the bank manager in Oxford, Mr Isherwood. He says you're of good character and I'm to find you a place if I can.'

My fear gave way to confusion – why hadn't Mr Maldon written to her himself? But I thought it better to keep quiet, especially as Mrs Burdett's face didn't look particularly kind to me.

'Your mother Florence Davis used to work here in the laundry, didn't she? Thinking of using her name, were you? Well, don't,' she said. 'You'll be paid ten pounds a year, you'll start as a scullery maid, and we'll call you Sophie Smith.'

I think the colour flamed in my cheeks, because I was remembering my mother and Lord Charlwood that day in the gardens long ago, and guessing this woman knew of it too. Mrs Burdett was eyeing me sharply. 'Do you want the place, girl? Or don't you?'

'Yes, ma'am. Thank you, ma'am.'

'Then I'll take you to the kitchen and introduce you to Cook – she'll be glad of an extra pair of hands.'

This meant I had somewhere to stay at least, and the chance to earn my living, however pitiful the pay. I followed Mrs Burdett to the door, eager to please, but I couldn't help stopping by a black-framed photograph on the wall, which was a portrait of a man in army uniform.

Mrs Burdett saw me looking. 'My brother Wilfred,' she said. Her voice was suddenly different. 'He was killed in the fighting in France last year.'

So I was set on as a scullery maid, lowest of the low, and told I would sleep in the attic dormitory with six other maids, all older than me. I was told I had to get up at five to clean the kitchen and scrub the range every single day and, apart from giving me orders, most of the maids never troubled to talk to me at all, except to tease me.

Though if Mrs Burdett overheard she would speak to them sharply. As Mr Maldon had implied, she did, despite her brusqueness, take care of me in her way. I found out years later that she and her brother had been raised in an orphanage, and that perhaps gave her some sympathy for me. But apart from Mrs Burdett, all the upper servants – Mr Peters the butler, the Duke's long-serving valet Mr Harris and the Duchess's personal maid Miss Stanforth – took no notice of me at all.

After my first week there I wrote to Mr Maldon. In the servants' hall after our supper we sometimes had a little free time before the evening chores started, so one night I sat at the table with my pen in my hand, but I didn't know what to say. In the end I wrote, Dear Mr Maldon, I am working at Belfield Hall now in the kitchen. I am very grateful to you because I know I owe my position here to you, though I am a little confused because Mrs Burdett says it was a Mr Isherwood who recommended me. I trust this finds you well. Yours sincerely, Sophie Davis. I paused, with a lump in my throat. I scrubbed out Davis and put Smith – I was Sophie Smith now.

Carefully I copied his address – Wilton Crescent – from the sheet of paper he'd written it on, and I tried to imagine him in London, a city that sounded like a far-off magical place to me. Would he even remember our meeting? I posted it on my next afternoon off and to my surprise the following week I got a reply. The post was always handed out by Mr Peters the butler at breakfast, and I think I blushed bright red.

'Our little Sophie's got an admirer,' sneered Betsey, one of the maids whom I didn't like.

I opened it with fumbling fingers. His writing was beautiful and even, in black ink.

Dear Sophie, Mr Isherwood is a bank manager in Oxford, and a friend of mine; I asked him to write to Mrs Burdett. Are they feeding you well? Is Peters still a tyrant, and do the Duchess's cats still drive everyone to distraction? Tell me more next time. Yours, etc, Mr Maldon.

I folded the letter in some consternation. He knew the Hall, though Mrs Burdett had not even recognised his name! He knew Mr Peters the butler, and he knew that the Duchess's dozen or so cats – which were truly a law unto themselves – annoyed the staff exceedingly with the hairs they left everywhere.

I wrote back to him that very evening, telling him how Cook had chased two of the Duchess's cats out of her kitchen with a broom only yesterday – they'd licked the cream off a trifle and she was furious. I wrote, Please tell me about London.

In his next letter he described some of the fine shops, and also told me about the cavalry that rode up and down Horse Guards Parade. I wrote eagerly back, and for many months his replies to my letters came regularly. I kept them all. I still have them.

Of course the war was darkening everyone's world by then. So many men were being lost in the fighting, and in the autumn of 1916 Will joined up too, my good and dear friend Will, who had been working on the home farm since leaving school. He came to tell me he was off to France and talked eagerly of being in the army, but I think he was also hoping I'd beg him to stay. Lord Charlwood was still in France; he was a captain, aide-de-camp to a general, they said, and covering himself with glory. The Duchess loved to talk of her war-hero son, but it was muttered often in the servants' hall that his was a safe job, well away from German guns and gas.

Sometimes I heard the servants talking of London: of the fashions, and the wonderful parties the rich people still gave in spite of the war. I listened to every word. There was a footman called Robert, who hadn't joined the army because he had a weak chest – asthma, he said. Sometimes Robert would sweet-talk Mrs Burdett into letting him carry an old gramophone she owned into the servants' hall, and he would wind it up so we could listen to her records of Caruso and Nellie Melba while we ate our supper. The music filled me with pleasure, but Robert would croon the songs in a mocking sort of way once Mrs Burdett and the rest of the upper servants had retired, as they usually did, to her private sitting room.


On Sale
Oct 22, 2013
Page Count
336 pages

Elizabeth Anthony

About the Author

Elizabeth Anthony discovered historical novels early in her teens. After graduating from university she worked as a tutor in English Studies, but always dreamed of writing. Her ambition was fulfilled with the publication of an eighteenth-century thriller received with great acclaim in the UK and US and translated into nine languages. She has also written several historical romances. Elizabeth lives with her husband in the Peak District.

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