My uncle returned for me a week later. In that time I was elevated in status to "lady of the manor", and the servants, who were once my gaolers, were returned to servants, complete with subservient deference. It was intensely gratifying to watch the housekeeper curtsy to me. I admit that this brought me an unholy satisfaction, and in my mind I turned over various scenarios, all ending with her on her knees, begging for her continued employment. But I was raised to be a lady for all that had gone before, and ladies did not extract petty revenge, no matter how justified.

I was ten and four, an heiress to a grand fortune although the title would be forever out of my reach ... understandably enough, I had fairly high hopes for the future. At the time I was selfishly wrapped up in my life, and though I knew that a war was on, it still seemed to me that the whole of England held it's breath with me, awaiting a glimpse into my future life. Silly me.

The first indication that my life would not be improving by much was my introduction to my uncle's new wife in London. How was I to know that his first had died in childbirth? He had remarried, only two years ago, but such things are never told to children, not even fond memories of my first aunt could prevent me from mistakenly calling his new wife by his first wife's name. The resemblance between the two women was also cause for confusion, I merely thought she had not aged well.

I called her Aunt Olivia. She slapped me, and in a frigid voice she informed me her title was Lady Berkham, and I was always to address her as such. No "Aunt" anything. 'Twas a full six months and more that I finally learnt her name, and only then because I overheard my uncle address her as "Penelope". I had a hard time associating the flowery name to the mean-spirited woman that she was. She held the reigns of her marriage to my uncle firmly in hand. My once jovial and kind Uncle Sirus had become a pale shadow of himself, helpless against her tyranny. Often I wonder, even today, what possessed him to marry one such as her.

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