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Authors: Angel

Carola Dunn (6 page)

Satisfied with her arithmetic, she did not return to the subject even when Catherine and Lord Welch strolled off together, leaving her alone with Beth. Instead, after privately congratulating herself on the beginnings of a rapprochement between that couple, she encouraged reminiscences of Lord Dominic Markham, which Lady Elizabeth was happy to indulge in. Her father would not hear his only son’s name spoken in his presence, and for fear of offending, Mrs Daventry extended the ban to her own conversation, so that only with Sir Gregory could she talk of her beloved brother. And since Sir Gregory disapproved almost equally of his cousin’s behaviour and his uncle’s reaction, he was small comfort.

“He did have friends in Dom’s regiment who sent news of him,” she admitted as Angel waxed indignant, “so he was able to tell Mama and me occasionally that Dom was still alive at least. But there has been no word for a long time now, since the battle of Ciudad Rodrigo.”

“That was just after Christmas, was it not? It does seem a long time.”

“I am glad that Mama died before we ceased to hear of him. She had enough sorrow to bear without that.”

“Tell me about your mama.”

“She was over twenty years younger than Papa, and she was always frail. When Dom ran off, she took to her bed and gradually faded away. If there had been any hope of seeing him again—but Papa was quite adamant. And then he was taken with a fit of apoplexy, soon after Mama was buried, and now he is practically an invalid himself. At least it means that Cousin Gregory comes more often. He is the heir, you know, if Dom never . . .” Suppressed tears stole her voice.

“I can see that you miss Lord Dominic quite dreadfully. If it would help to talk about him, I should like to hear about when you were children together. I never had any brothers or sisters.”

Beth found that there was indeed relief to be found in communicating her memories, and as they sketched she waxed eloquent upon the subject of her brother’s endless talent for mischief, becoming cheerful and animated.

Meanwhile Catherine and Lord Welch were strolling along a gravel path around the tarn, whose banks were overgrown with bulrushes and yellow flags.

“Drawing is not one of your chosen pastimes then, Miss Sutton?” enquired his lordship.

“As I have no aptitude, I choose not to display my lack of skill, my lord.”

“Very wise, no doubt. Lady Elizabeth is an accomplished artist. I daresay your cousin is likewise?”

“Lyn has more enthusiasm than ability, I believe, but you must judge for yourself. If it were not for the opportunity of exercising the critical faculty, I am sure that gentlemen would find little amusement in ladies’ sketching parties.”

“You have found me out, Miss Sutton, though I do not presume to criticise. The least sign of talent is worthy of admiration, and I am willing to pay it homage.”

“Sir Gregory is not an admirer of art, I suppose, or is he occupied about affairs of more weight?”

“Oh, Markham has gone into Derbyshire, I believe. There’s no knowing where the fellow will be from one day to the next. A regular here-and-thereian, I assure you.”

“His home is in Derbyshire?”

“Yes. A nice piece of property, I’ve heard, though not to compare to Grisedale. He’ll have the lot, you know, if Dominic does not turn up.”

“Is not Lord Dominic with the army in Spain?”

“Everyone supposes so, but he’s not been heard of since he left, four years ago. Devilish bacon-brained thing to do, begging your pardon, ma’am. He always was ripe for mischief, and the earl kept him tied to his apronstrings up here with nothing to do. Only if he’d thought, he’d have realised that there was a good chance Sir Gregory would inherit.”

“He cannot have known that his father would turn him off. It is a most unnatural act! And even then he must have had the title, and I expect the house and park at least are entailed, so it was just a question of the farms and money. A boy mad for the army cannot be expected to consider that.”

“I bow to your judgment, ma’am. But soldiering is a chancy occupation, and he never had any love for his cousin. The one a care-for-nobody and the other a prig.”

“I do not know Lord Dominic,” said Catherine coldly, “but by my first impressions of Sir Gregory I should not describe him as a prig.”

“Believe me, prosy as a parson!”

This remark was hardly calculated to win over a parson’s daughter, and Catherine had to turn the subject and make a determined effort to be civil as they wended their way back to the artists’ station.

On their arrival, Lord Welch pronounced a panegyric on the work of both young ladies. Catherine decided that Lady Elizabeth’s picture had considerable merit for an amateur. Angel, however, had always had too many amusements available to apply herself to her pencil, and in this case she had not even been thinking about what she was doing.

“This should be published as a lesson to artists in what to avoid!” commented Catherine tartly.

“I shall give it to you to send to a publisher,” offered Angel, unoffended. “It was not at all difficult. I’ll do you another one day.”

His lordship begged for Lady Elizabeth’s sketch, which she unwillingly gave him, and they packed up their tools.

“Shall you come tomorrow?” her ladyship asked Angel hopefully, as they strolled back towards the house.

“I do not know if we will have time, Beth. My uncle wishes us to pay a call with him.”

“Never fear, I shall come to keep you company,” declared Lord Welch gallantly.

“Pray do not trouble, Francis. I have just remembered that I promised to visit old Mrs Wharton, so I will not be at home.”

His lordship looked most disconcerted, being used to have things all his own way. Angel was sorry to see him suffer, though pleased at her protégée’s small show of independence. To salve his wound, she chattered to him the rest of the way, and he appeared happy to flirt with her, with many a sidelong glance to see what Lady Elizabeth made of his defection.

Escaping from Mrs Daventry with considerable effort, Angel and Catherine walked homeward along Grisedale Beck.

“I greatly fear that he is still in love with her,” Angel confessed.

“You must not expect to accomplish miracles. It will take time to wean him from her,” soothed Catherine. Not knowing her cousin’s plans on her behalf, she hoped Angel was not herself falling in love with Lord Welch, for she found him less and less amiable.

Angel was glad she took the reflection so calmly. Perhaps the ramble around the lake had assuaged the worst pangs of jealousy, she thought. She must endeavour to throw them together often.


Chapter 5


Clouds gathered that night, and by the morning Helvellyn was invisible again. However, John Applejohn prophesied that there would be no rain before evening, so the Suttons and Miss Brand set off in the gig for Upthwaite.

The valley in which the small village lay ran roughly parallel to Grisedale, from which it was separated by the imposing steeps of Dowen Crag. One branch led to Upthwaite Park, seat of the Viscounts Welch, and the other to the hamlet.

The vicarage turned out to be on quite a different scale from that of Barrows End. It was a pleasant-looking house, facing down the valley towards the lake, and almost large enough to be described as a manor. As Mr Sutton stopped the gig, a lad who had been clipping a hedge came over to take the reins.

“This is much nicer than ours,” approved Angel. “Front gardens are supposed to have flowers, not vegetables.”

A maid opened the door to them, and as they entered, the vicar of Upthwaite came to greet them. He was a tall, grey-eyed young man with clear-cut good looks and a gentlemanlike manner. Angel approved him at once as precisely right for Lady Elizabeth, for among other advantages his calm, composed demeanour would not intimidate that bashful creature.

Introductions were performed, and Mr Leigh ushered his visitors into a delightfully cosy front parlour, whose large windows admitted ample light in spite of the dull day. A second young gentleman, short and dark, was standing at one of them, gazing out at the gay flowerbeds and the long view beyond. He turned on hearing their entrance.

“Allow me to present my friend Mr Marshall,” said Mr Leigh. “He is staying with me at present. Donald, this is Mr Sutton, who is taking Barrows End parish for the summer. Mrs Sutton, Miss Sutton, and Miss Brand.”

Mr Marshall bowed, and Angel saw that a thin white scar ran down the left side of his pale face. She was not sure whether it looked romantic or sinister, but it was certainly interesting. Though he did not speak at once, she felt a kind of inner tension in him, like a tightly coiled spring, and when he moved forward she saw that he limped. Sinister, she decided. How exciting!

When he did speak, it was to ask Mrs Sutton, in a perfectly normal way, whether she had had a pleasant ride from Barrows End.

“I hope you are not too uncomfortable in the vicarage, ma’am,” he added. “It is a cramped little house . . . or so I have heard.”

After a quarter of an hour of polite conversation, Mr Sutton requested a word with the younger vicar on church business.

“By all means, sir,” said Mr Leigh. “Marshall, you will entertain the ladies for me? Perhaps they would like to see the gardens.”

“If it would not be too much trouble,” agreed Mrs Sutton. “My niece was admiring the flowers when we arrived.”

“You are fond of flowers, Miss Brand?” asked Mr Marshall, leading the way outside.

“Oh, yes,” Angel replied. “They are so much prettier than vegetables.”

He laughed, and as his rather sombre face relaxed, she thought that perhaps he was only

“Undeniable, ma’am,” he said.

She hastened to explain about the Barrows End vicarage garden being full of spinach and sprouts.

“Detestable,” he agreed solemnly. “It is bad enough to find them on the dinner table, without being faced with them every time one leaves the house.”

“Do you think so too? Cousin Catherine
vegetables. Until I found out, I did not suppose that any person under forty ate them voluntarily.”

“I’ll wager you do not feel the same about raspberries. Shall we see if Gerald’s canes are ready to be harvested?”

“Do let’s. Aunt Maria, Mr Marshall will take us to pick raspberries!”

Mrs Sutton and Catherine were admiring the view.

“Do you go ahead, Lyn,” she said. “We will follow shortly.”

They found the kitchen garden, and soon Angel’s fingers and lips were stained with raspberry juice.

“Your name is Lyn, Miss Brand?” enquired Mr Marshall, filling her cupped hands. “That must be why you remind me of a linnet.”

“It’s really Evelyn, only I prefer it shortened. A linnet is a bird, is it not?’’

“A little grey bird with an unexpected voice and a fondness for fruit. Have you never heard a linnet?”

“I have lived a great deal in London,” Angel explained.

“Judging by your sweeping comparison of flowers and vegetables, you are equally ignorant about flowers, Linnet.”

“I know roses and violets and . . . and daffodils.”

“It is too late for daffodils, but I should like to show you the place where Wordsworth composed his poem. It is by Ullswater, you know.”

“That would be delightful. Perhaps Catherine and I can ride over one day. Lady Elizabeth Markham has said that we may borrow horses whenever we wish.”

“You have met Lady Elizabeth already?” he asked eagerly.

“Yes, and we are dearest friends.”

“Is she well?”

“I believe so, though not in good spirits. You are acquainted with her then, sir?’’

“I am, and I must see her. I don’t suppose you would be willing to arrange a meeting, Linnet? There are reasons why I cannot go to Grisedale.”

“Pray do not call me Linnet, Mr Marshall. It is most improper, and my aunt is coming.”

The young man groaned and abandoned the subject. When Mrs Sutton and Catherine arrived, he set about picking berries for them, agreeing in an absentminded way to their remarks upon the beauties of the surrounding country.

They returned to the house to find that Mr Leigh had provided a sumptuous luncheon. Angel wished aloud that she had not consumed so very many raspberries, but the others noticed no visible diminution in her appetite.

She was filling her plate for the second time, when there was a deep barking in a distant part of the house. A moment later Mr Leigh’s cook-housekeeper flung open the door of the dining parlour.

“Yon dog’s ta’en the mutton and willna’ gie it up,” she announced, very red in the face and flustered. “I’ll no hae the baist in my kitchen anither minute! Beggin’ your pardon, sir.”

“The devil!” exclaimed Mr Marshall, jumping to his feet. “My apologies, Mrs McTavish. She can go outside now. I’ll come and rescue the mutton if there is anything left of it.”

“Is it your dog?” asked Angel. “I should love to see her.”

“She is very large. I shut her in the kitchen lest she should alarm you ladies.”

“What is she called? Is she not friendly?”

“She adores people but tends to become overexcited. She is not yet two years old, you see. I call her Osa, which is Spanish for ‘bear.’ Excuse me, I must go to Mrs McTavish’s aid.”

“I’ll come too,” decided Angel. “Catherine, won’t you come with me?”

Sighing inaudibly, Catherine rose and followed her cousin to the kitchen. They arrived to find a huge, white, fluffy monster grovelling guiltily on the floor at her scolding master’s feet. Seeing them, Osa wriggled towards them, tail wagging madly, and rolled over on her back to have her tummy rubbed. Angel obliged, and after a few blissful moments the dog sat up and licked her face gratefully. Mr Marshall hurriedly produced a handkerchief.

“What kind of dog is she?” asked Catherine. The sound of her voice reminded Osa of her presence, but she escaped with only a wet hand.

“A Pyrenean Mountain dog,” her master replied. “They are sheepdogs like our collies, but rather than herding the flocks they guard them from bears and wolves.”

“If I saw her coming with belligerent intent, I’d run,” confessed Catherine. “She is beautiful though. How fortunate that she likes people!”

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