Excerpt from WHITE HEAVEN WOMEN debut, set close to Scotland in North West Cumbria, England 1899 - 2001.
Constance whispered, "They seem frightened of you."
"Aye, they had better be or their portions will become even littler."
She giggled quietly at his words, and whispered, "Thank you for the extra food, Patrick, although I'm not yet sure if I can trust you. We've been ill-treated so much here and I don't want to receive anymore offensiveness from those boorish people."
"Lassie, it was me who gave ye the extra food, not them. Sure ye can trust me. It looks like you could do with a sincere friend and ally."
Beth liberally nodded her head with a big grin spread across her face and said, "Yes―yes."
Constance looked into his soulful green eyes and saw tenderness there so she believed him.
"Alright Patrick. Except please don't think I'm being priggish when I tell you that people here already know we're not from the same background as them, so I will just tell you a little."
He settled comfortably into his high backed chair to hear her tale.
"We lived in a large old manor with my husband, Sir Mathew Vermont and his family a few miles outside of town. After about five years had passed by, he deserted us to live with another woman, Beatrice Bunting, who is nothing more than a common harlot. The worst thing was Mathew took my twin boys with him."
"Oh dear, ye poor wee thing ye. Why didn't ye stay at the manor then?"
She sighed and said, "Well, I didn't know it would be this bad here. Besides, my husband's relatives are heartless greedy people, especially his ghastly mean mother, Lady Gretchen. I have my pride and didn't want her insidious charity, even if she‟d offered. Which she didn't. It's because I'm a Witherspoon, Patrick. Her kind do not like my royal lineage. They're covetous of it."
"Anywhere would be better than 'ere, lassie."
His green eyes opened wide displaying immense curiosity.
"Patrick, if we had continued living at the manor without Mathew his ghastly natured mother would have sneered at us daily. That would feel much worse than anyone's jeers inside these walls. So we left. I'd already asked my own family to take us in. They said yes to me and didn't want anything to do with Beth, my first child."
Sympathy welled in Patrick's eyes as he softly said, "Constance, ye are so different frae the other women here. Will ye let me be ye friend and guardian within these grim walls? Ye and Beth will ha' nothing tae fear in here ever again."
"Will the others not persecute you for being friendly toward us Patrick? I think they would, going by their attitude toward us they appear to show true hatred."
"Ock, nae, lass. They would nae dare say anything tae me, or I'd give them smaller portions o' food. They barely get enough nosh as it is."
Patrick heard sarcastic moans from the opposite side of their long wooden table. He turned and eyed them, like a lion about to sink its fangs into its prey. Two people muttered under their breath before looking away red-faced. Patrick knew they'd received his fierce message because the food hall emptied quickly to the sound of chairs scraping loudly on the floor, as they pushed them out of the way to escape Patrick's leonine roars.