I’m delighted to share an excerpt from The Mazzard Tree by Marcia Clayton.
The matron marched Amelia and her twin brothers down the long corridor and into a washroom, where she handed them over to a large woman.
“Here you go then, Nellie, three new arrivals for you to see to.”
Nellie took in their foreign appearance with a disapproving glance. Pursing her lips, she mumbled something to herself, about there being enough poor in the country already, without half-castes adding to the problem.
“Now, I have to cut your hair, and give you a wash, and then you’ll put on some new clothes. Don’t give me any trouble, because I haven’t the time for it. Come here, lad, you can be first.”
She sat Joe firmly on a chair and began cutting off his long curls. Tears shone brightly in his eyes, but he did not complain. When most of his hair was on the floor, Nellie took a razor and shaved his head. Matthew and Amelia stood close together and watched in horror. Their mother had loved their thick curly hair. Nellie then beckoned Matthew.
“Come on then, lad, you next. Show your little sister there’s nothing to be frightened about.”
She pulled Matthew onto the chair and he received the same treatment as his brother. By this time, Amelia’s eyes were round with fear.
“Please don’t cut off my hair. I’m a little girl, and girls don’t have short hair. Please don’t cut off my hair. My daddy loved my curly hair.”
“Now, it’s no use you making a fuss. Your daddy’s gone, and you must do as you’re told. Your hair will soon grow again, but this is the only way I can be sure you don’t have nits. We have enough trouble with them as it is, so sit still, and be a good girl.”
“I don’t have nits! I don’t have nits! My hair is clean.”
Amelia had no intention of being a good girl, and she struggled and refused to sit on the chair. Nellie smacked her legs and tried to sit her on the chair, but Amelia was having none of it and she kicked Nellie hard in the shins and bit her hand.
“Ouch, now look what you’ve done, you little devil; you’ve drawn blood.”
Nellie slapped Amelia hard across the side of the head, and she fell to the floor, stunned.
At this, Matthew and Joe leapt up and ran to her.
“Come on, Meely. It will be all right. Let her cut your hair off, then you’ll look just like us. It’s not so bad.”
Nellie was furious. She dragged the dazed child to the chair and tied her to it with a bandage.
“Right then, madam, now you just sit still and let me cut your hair, or I’ll give you such a hiding you won’t sit down for a week.”
Amelia sat still, tears rolling down her face, and decided she would hate this woman for as long as she lived. When their hair was cut, the children were taken to the pump and made to stand underneath the stream of cold water. By the time Nellie allowed Amelia to get dried, she was shaking with the cold and fright. The new clothes that their daddy had bought them were taken away, and in their place, the boys were given rough grey tweed shorts and a coarse shirt and jersey. Amelia was given a grey woollen dress with a white apron to put on. Amelia’s doll lay on the floor next to her clothes, and she eyed it wistfully, debating whether to risk picking it up. Just as she was plucking up the courage to grab the doll, another maid appeared.
“Ah, there you are, Lizzie, just in time. Take these three to the refectory will you; though this little madam is not to have any tea. Bit me, she did. She’s lucky I don’t have her beaten. Put their clothes in the storeroom; fine quality they are and should fetch a few bob. That doll too.”
Lizzie gathered up their clothes and the doll and led the children away. Amelia pulled at Lizzie’s arm.
“Please, may I have my dolly? I always sleep with her. Please, may I have my dolly? My aunty made her for me.”
Lizzie looked down at the small, tear-stained face, the bright red finger marks still vivid across her bald head and cheek, and could see what had happened.
“Well, now, little girl. You won’t be able to keep your dolly. Even if I let you keep her, the bigger girls would take her off you in no time, and you’d never see her again. I’ll tell you what though, how about if I keep her for you, and maybe, just maybe, I might be able to let you see her sometimes?”
Sadly, Amelia nodded. “Yes, please, she’s called Evie after my aunty who made her.”
“All right, now, if I do that, will you behave yourself for me? It’s not easy living here, but you’ll get on better if you do as you’re told. Here, give your dolly one last cuddle, and say goodbye.”
They entered a large room, with long tables surrounded by seemingly hundreds of children, all dressed in the same clothes as themselves. The children were sitting silently, waiting for permission to start their meal of bread and dripping with a mug of water. A few looked up when Matthew, Joe, and Amelia were shepherded to the nearest table, but most showed little interest, for they were too intent on the food in front of them.
“Sit here for today, but tomorrow you boys will sit on that side of the room, and you, young lady, will sit with the girls.”
Amelia, miserable and hungry, reached for her thin slice of bread, but Lizzie swiftly took the plate away.
“There’s none for you today, little girl. Nellie will check I don’t give you anything, so you’ll have to go hungry. The sooner you learn not to cross Nellie, the better, and don’t you two even think of giving your little sister any of yours, or you’ll be in trouble too.”
Here’s the blurb
1880 North Devon, England
Annie Carter is a farm labourer’s daughter, and life is a continual struggle for survival. When her father dies of consumption, her mother, Sabina, is left with seven hungry mouths to feed and another child on the way. To save them from the workhouse or starvation, Annie steals vegetables from the Manor House garden, risking jail or transportation. Unknown to her, she is watched by Robert, the wealthy heir to the Hartford Estate, but far from turning her in, he befriends her.
Despite their different social backgrounds, Annie and Robert develop feelings they know can have no future. Harry Rudd, the village blacksmith, has long admired Annie, and when he proposes, her mother urges her to accept. She reminds Annie, that as a kitchen maid, she will never be allowed to marry Robert. Harry is a good man, and Annie is fond of him. Her head knows what she should do, but will her heart listen?
Set against the harsh background of the rough, class-divided society of Victorian England, this heart-warming and captivating novel portrays a young woman who uses her determination and willpower to defy the circumstances of her birth in her search for happiness.
This title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited
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All the books in The Hartford Manor Series can be ordered from any bookshop.
Meet the Author
Marcia Clayton was born in North Devon, a rural and picturesque area in the far South West of England. She is a farmer’s daughter and often helped to milk the cows and clean out the shippens in her younger days.
When Marcia left school she worked in a bank for several years until she married her husband, Bryan, and then stayed at home for a few years to care for her three sons, Stuart, Paul and David. As the children grew older, Marcia worked as a Marie Curie nurse caring for the terminally ill, and later for the local authority managing school transport.
Now a grandmother, Marcia enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She’s a keen researcher of family history, and it was this hobby that inspired some of the characters in her books. A keen gardener, Marcia grows many of her own vegetables. She is also an avid reader and mainly enjoys historical fiction, romance and crime books.
Connect with Marcia
Marcia Clayton – Author | Facebook
2 thoughts on “I’m welcoming Marcia Clayton and her series, The Hartford Manor, to the blog today #romance #FamilySaga #BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub”
Thank you so much for hosting The Hartford Manor Series on your blog today; it is much appreciated.
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Thank you very much for hosting Marcia Clayton today. xx
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