'I can't take you no further, lass, seein' as I'm bound for Wicklethwaites Farm and you're wantin'Rawlesden,' the carter informed Marianne in his broad Lancashire accent, as he brought the cart to a halt at a fork in the rutted road. 'You must take this turning 'ere and follow the road all the way down to the town. You'll know it before you gets there on account of the smoke from Bellfield Mill's chimneys, and then you keeps on walking when you gets to the Bellfield Hall.''Why do you say that?' Marianne asked the carter uncertainly.She needed to find workand quickly, she acknowledged as she looked down into the too-pale face of the baby in her arms. A lone woman with no work and a baby to care for could all too easily find herself in the workhouseas she knew already to her cost.The rich might be celebrating the Edwardian era, and a new king on the throne, but nothing had changed for the poor.'I says it on account of him wot owns itaye, and t'mill an' all . There's plenty round here who says that he only come by them by foul means, and that the Master of Bellfield wouldn't think twice about ridding himself of anyone wot was daft enough to stand in his way. There's one little lass already disappeared from these parts with no one knowing where she's gone. Happen that's why he can't get no one working up at the hall for him. No one half decent, that is...''He doesn't sound very pleasant,' Marianne agreed as she clambered down from the cart, and then thanked the carter as he handed her the shabby bundle containing her few possessions.'I still dunno wot would bring a pretty lass like you looking for work in these parts.'Marianne could tell that the carter was eager to know as much about her as he couldno doubt to add to his stock-in-trade of gossip. He had already regaled her with several tales of the doings of those who lived in the town and the small farms on the moors beyond it, with a great deal of relish. Marianne suspected it was an enclosed, shut-off life here in this dark mill town, buried deep in a small valley between the towering Pennine hills.Her large brown eyes with their fringing of thick black eyelashes shadowed slightly in her small heart-shaped face. The carter had referred to her as a 'pretty lass,' but she suspected that he was flattering her. She certainly did not feel like one, with her hair damp and no doubt curling wildly all over the place, her clothes old and shabby and her skin pinched and blue-looking from the cold. She was also far too fine-boned for the modern fashion for curvaceous womenthe kind of women King Edward favoured.'It's just as I explained to you when you were kind enough to offer me a lift,'she answered the carter politely. 'My late husband's dying wish was that I should bring his son here, to the place where he himself was born.''So you've got family here, then, have you?''I haven't.' Marianne forced herself to sound confident and relaxed. 'My late husband did have, but alas they, like him, are dead now.''Aye, well, it's natural enough that a man should want to think of his child following in his own footsteps. Dead now, you said?''Yes. He...he took a fever and died of it,' Marianne told him. It would not do to claim too close an acquaintance on her late husband's part with anything that might enable others to ask her too many questions.'Well, I hope you manage to find yourself a decent place soon, lass. Although it won't be easy, wot with you having the babby, and you don't want to find yourself taken up by the parish and put in t'workhouse,' he warned her, echoing her own earlier thoughts.'They don't suffer strangers easily hereabouts. Especially not when they're poor and pretty. T'master, is a hard man, and it's him wot lays down the law on account of him owning t'mill.'Despite her best intentions Marianne shuddered but then who would not do so at the thoughtJordan, Penny is the author of 'It Happened At Christmas', published 2007 under ISBN 9780373837175 and ISBN 0373837178.