Then a new client arrives: Soon Marlowe will find himself not only under the spell of the black-eyed blonde, but tangling with one of Bay City's richest families and developing a singular appreciation for how far they will go to protect their fortune. Black, Benjamin Holy orders s Dublin. When a body is found in the canal, pathologist Quirke and his detective friend Inspector Hackett must find the truth behind this brutal murder. But in a world where the police are not trusted and secrets often remain buried there is perhaps little hope of bringing the perpetrator to justice.
It is the middle of the s, that low, dishonourable decade; a woman he loved has died, a man whom he once admired is dying, while the daughter he for so long denied is still finding it hard to accept him as her father. The devil's bounty A blood-soaked woman stumbles into Ryan Lock's hotel, desperately seeking his help. To bring her attacker to justice, Lock will have to enter the no-man's land of the Mexican borders, where life is cheap and death comes quickly. Truth lies bleeding Four teenagers find the mutilated corpse of a young girl stuffed into a dumpster in an Edinburgh alleyway.
Where did she come from? Who killed her and why? Inspector Rob Brennan is still shocked by the senseless shooting of his brother. The case of the dumpster girl looks perfect for getting him back on track. Detective Inspector Louise Rick soon learns that Susanne met the rapist on a popular online dating site, something Susanne shamefully tries to hide. Events quickly spiral out of control as a horrified Louise realises that the rapist is using the website to target specific women for future attacks. Blair, Jessica The road beneath me When Kate Swan's overbearing father demands that she marry a man she despises, she refuses and is cast out of her comfortable home in Whitby.
Fortunately, a kindly local widow is looking for a lady companion and, for the moment, Kate's future is assured. Simon and his ship are involved in mine sweeping, Ewan joins the air force and—feeling frustrated at their helplessness—Nell and Jane join the Land Army so that they can do something positive for the war effort while remaining together.
It is only when both girls fall for the same man that the strength of their friendship is pressed to its limits. So when the UN call him in to do their dirty work, he accepts without hesitation. A suspected bomber shot by UN security staff has turned out to be a harmless old man and Tom must placate the family. In London, Tom meets the dead man's alluring daughter, and learns that her father was not as innocent as he seemed. He unravels details of a hidden brotherhood, united in a mission that has spanned the world and caused hundreds of unexplained deaths.
Pursued by those ready to kill to uncover the truth, Tom has to unlock a secret that has lain buried for more than 60 years. At the age of 16, Georgy Jachmenev steps in front of an assassin's bullet, intended for a senior member of the Russian Imperial Family and is instantly proclaimed a hero.
Before the week is out, his life as the son of a peasant farmer is changed for ever when he is escorted to St Petersburg to take up his new position - as bodyguard to Alexei Romanov, the only son of Tsar Nicholas II. Sixty-Five years later, visiting his wife Zoya as she lies dying in a London hospital, memories of the life they have lived together flood his mind.
Their marriage, while tender, has been marked by tragedy, the loss of loved ones and experiences of exile that neither can forget. Artistically talented orphan Audra Kenton leaves nursing to serve as nanny to precocious Theo Bell. Soon she meets and weds handsome Vincent Crowther, and they begin a long but unstable life together. Obsessively determined to give her daughter the best art education possible, Audra toils long and hard only to see Christina forsake painting for haute couture as a way to repay her mother's untiring sacrifice. At length Christina must allow her own headstrong daughter, Kyle, to determine the direction her own life will follow.
She is charismatic and ambitious, with the same ruthless streak. Aged just 25, she stands to inherit the family business, Deravenels, a bastion of male chauvinism. Her greatest ally is her married childhood friend, Robert Dunley. He is her match in every way - and there is a spark between them that is impossible to resist. When they begin an affair it scandalises those around them. From the family seat perched high on the Yorkshire moors to the glamour of London as the twentieth century draws to a close, Elizabeth fights for her birthright and her inheritance.
She is soon hired as a store assistant to Linnet O'Neill, Emma's great-granddaughter, who can't help but notice the American's resemblance to her own mother, Paula. Evan and Gideon Harte, Paula's cousin, fall in love amid whispers that Evan might be the descendant of one of Emma's husbands.
The truth lies in Emma's diary, but Paula is reluctant to read it. Curiosity finally gets the better of her, and the journal takes Paula to Emma's life during World War II, and at least partially answers the family's questions about Evan's heritage. It is up to Paula to figure out the rest. But once best friends, they part enemies, and after graduation they go their separate ways, pursuing careers and establishing lives in different corners of the world. For each of them, the arrival of an invitation to Paris to celebrate Anya Sedgwick's eighty-fifth birthday stirs up complicated feelings….
Valentine Denning is a courageous photojournalist on the frontline in Kosovo. Her colleagues -- Tony Hampton and American Jake Newberg -- are her comrades-in-arms, men whom she loves and trusts. One is her best friend; one her lover. In a nightmarish ambush, all three are shot, Tony fatally, and for Val an even worse nightmare begins. For there are memories and lies -- lies which force Val to find herself again by leaving her past life of heart-breaking war-danger for what seems like the gentler world of celebrity-shoots: Yet beneath the surface lies discord. Elizabeth Deravenel, his beautiful wife, is jealous and her lies and gossip damage the family name.
Worse still is Edward's brother George. His reckless behaviour and treachery lead to blackmail and betrayal. The fortunes of the house of Deravenel begin to suffer. It is up to Edward's daughter Bess, and her son Harry to secure the Ravenscar inheritance - whatever it takes. Jamie Hudson is weary but faced with prison if he refuses to re-enlist. Meanwhile, Jamie's wife Lucy is struggling to survive as a lone woman in London. Bradshaw, Rita Beyond the veil of tears As an only child, year-old Angeline Stewart is heartbroken when her beloved parents are killed in a coaching accident and she is given into the care of her uncle.
Naive and innocent, Angeline is easy prey for the handsome and ruthless Oswald Golding who is looking for a rich heiress to solve the money troubles his womanizing has caused. On her wedding night, Angeline enters a nightmare from which there is no awakening. Oswald proves to be more sadistic and violent than she could ever have imagined. On learning she is expecting a child, Angeline makes plans to run away and take her chances fending for herself and the baby. But then tragedy takes over. Break of dawn Her mother's death in childbirth leaves Sophy Hutton at the mercy of her cruel aunt and uncle.
At 16, Sophy learns the shocking truth behind her birth and escapes to London to forget her past. But life for women at the turn of the century is fraught with danger and Sophy soon discovers the darker side to the capital. Bradshaw, Rita Dancing in the moonlight On her deathbed, Lucy Fallow's mother makes her year-old daughter promise to look after her four younger siblings and keep house for her father and two older brothers.
When the Fallow men folk lose their jobs they take work wherever they can. But it's not long before they are working on the wrong side of the law and under the watchful eye of Tom McKenzie. Meanwhile, through the hardship, Lucy begins to form a relationship with Jacob McKenzie, the boy next door. However, as their love grows, so does the resentment from Jacob's older brother, Tom. Forever yours A tragic house fire kills her parents, but Constance Shelton escapes, rescued by her 8-year-old neighbour, Matt Heath.
She is brought up by her grandparents, but the two children become inseparable and these strong feelings turn into love. But Matt sees her only as a sister and Constance can do nothing when he proposes to another girl. Sarah escapes by marrying Ralph Turner, a Sunderland dock worker, but Lily doesn't trust Ralph - a dark volatile man with a hidden cruel streak.
When he tries to seduce Lily on his wedding day, her worst fears are confirmed. Ralph's younger brother John is cut from a different cloth, though, and Lily is increasingly drawn to him. But just when Lily sees a future for them, a terrible incident destroys her happiness. Heartbroken, Lily agrees to accompany the family she works for as a nursemaid to New York.
As Lily boards RMS Titanic little does she realise that her decision will change the course of her life for ever The rainbow years Born during World War 1, Amy Shawe gets off to a bad start as her unmarried mother dies in the flu epidemic and Amy is only spared the workhouse because her uncle takes her in.
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Her cousin torments her and when she gets the chance to marry a man she seizes the chance to escape a dangerous situation. These stories are amongst the best work of this prolific author. The Black Muldoon has strange cargo, an infant boy. The young and active father of three suffered a massive stroke at the base of his brainstem, leaving him totally paralysed and unable to speak.
With his mind as cognitive and as active as always, his body became his painful prison. This is Hasso's life-affirming memoir. Brockmann, Suzanne Love with the proper stranger FBI agent John Miller was on the trail of a notorious female serial killer, and he couldn't blow his cover to anyone. Not even the beguiling Mariah Carver, who had unwittingly entangled herself in a web of deadly deceit. The daring lawman couldn't deny his feelings for Mariah, but he was poised to wed another woman: Not without you Powerful and moving, this is the remarkable true story of two children who helped each other survive their cold, unloving children's home only to be cruelly separated.
Forty-five years on, they have found each other again and are happily married. Four weeks before their wedding day, he was lost to her, and in circumstances which she did not understand. If the answers lay anywhere, they lay in the West of Ireland, in that enchanting country to which he had been so devoted. She went there expecting nothing beyond finding out what had really happened; only then, she felt, could she accept the situation. By the end of the summer, a new future opened up.
None of it had been easy, but now she could put the past behind her. Somehow, she had reached the point where she could truthfully say she would not have changed places with anyone in the world. BRONTE, Charlotte Shirley Set during the Napoleonic wars at a time of national economic struggles, Shirley is an unsentimental yet passionate depiction of conflict among classes, sexes, and generations. Struggling manufacturer Robert Moore considers marriage to the wealthy and independent Shirley Keeldar, yet his heart lies with his cousin Caroline. As industrial unrest builds to a potentially fatal pitch, can the four be reconciled?
BRONTE, Emily Wuthering Heights The classic tale of the all-encompassing and passionate, yet thwarted, love between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, and how this unresolved passion eventually destroys them and many around them. Brown, Benita Counting the days After the fall of France, Hazel, Irene and Carol are sent from the east end of Newcastle to the safety of a country village. Billeted in a grand house with a spinster and her niece, the three young evacuees' futures will be irrevocably changed by their new lives.
When peace is declared, and Hazel and Irene return to the families they were forced to leave, they find Newcastle very different to the home they remembered. Mourning the people they loved, they try to leave the past behind and start again. But it's never easy to forget. Brown, Benita Dreaming out loud When Kay Lockwood is left a small inheritance by her mother's old friend, actress Lana Fontaine, she travels to London, leaving behind her Northern hometown and the boyfriend she doesn't quite trust. She falls in love with Lana's ramshackle house, and the excitement of post-war London, but soon discovers a deeper mystery - who was Lana, and why was Kay so important to her?
As she unravels the past, her handsome new neighbour Tom seems to offer her a bright future, but when his own dark secret is revealed, Kay feels hurt and betrayed. Can she ever forgive him? So when they hire her as companion to the grandmother, she's thrilled. However, when her friendship with the youngest son Florian blossoms into something more, the rest of the family are not so welcoming. While Helen is taken in by their selfish aunt, her twin brothers find themselves in a soul-destroying orphanage while their younger sister is adopted by the wealthy Partingtons.
Years later, Helen begins the long and difficult search for her lost family. Billy Brown, I'll tell your mother By the time he was years-old Billy Brown was running a successful little business on the black market: This is the entertaining and eye-opening memoir of a young boy growing up in s post-war London. The invitation appears to have come from a friend with copper-bottomed Masonic connections, Peter Solomon. But Langdon has been tricked: Solomon has, in fact, been kidnapped, and echoing the grisly opening of the last book a macabre mutilation plunges Langdon into a tortuous quest.
Accompanied by a team of experts, including the charismatic academic Michael Tolland, Rachel uncovers the unthinkable - evidence of scientific trickery - a bold deception that threatens to plunge the world into controversy Here she meets Alex Pierce, an ex-cop turned crime writer - and the first man since her surgery to see her not only as a survivor but as a woman.
Judd Mackie's job is to uncover secrets and after dogging Stevie for years, he now has the story of the year. He only has to betray her trust. Brown, Sandra Temptation's kiss Megan, young widow and workaholic at a television station, desperately tries to avoid her late husband's former boss - with whom she once shared a kiss - but Josh wants her again and will stop at nothing to have her.
The Church is scandalised. Jack Taylor agrees to help search for the killer. His investigations take him to many old haunts, where he encounters ghosts - dead and living. Everyone seems to want something from him, but Jack isn't sure that he has anything left to give.
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Then the sister of the murdered boy is burned to death. Jack knows that he must persevere and hunt down the killer, if only to administer his own brand of rough justice. BRUEN, Ken The guards Still stinging from his unceremonious ouster from the Garda Siochana, and staring at the world through the smoky bottom of his beer mug, Jack Taylor is stuck in Galway with nothing to look forward to. He is teetering on the brink of his life's sharpest edges, his memories of the past cutting deep into his soul and his prospects for the future non-existent.
Until a dazzling woman walks into the bar with a strange request and a rumour about Jack's talent for finding things.
The End and the Beginning
Odds are he won't be able to climb off his barstool long enough to get involved, but when he surprises himself by getting hired, Jack has little idea of what he's getting into. Yet on the estate of Cresswell Manor in Devon, the summer seems endless. Hannah, only daughter of the Cresswells, becomes involved with the suffragettes and dreams of falling in love; headstrong and spoiled Esmerelda deceives her husband for the strangest of reasons; Lettice longs for freedom from her brute of a husband; young Mortimer Cresswell appalls his mother by falling in love with an estate worker's daughter, while his brother, Felix, causes heartbreak in his pursuit of pleasure.
Caught up in their own lives, the Cresswells seem ignorant that war is looming, and that soon the world will alter beyond their wildest dreams - or fears Spoilt as a child in New England, emotionally crippled by marriage and motherhood, Juniper continues her frenetic search for distraction and love.
Once again, she betrays her friendship with Polly Frobisher, and threatens the fragile contentment of her remarkable grandmother Alice Tregowan. Through it all, Gwenfer, the magnificent granite house at the end of the Atlantic, endures, exerting its implacable hold on those who love and covet it, as Juniper is launched into a helter-skelter of passion and betrayal which is dangerous not only to lovers and family, but to herself.
A young girl from Devon, Phoebe Drewitt, has escaped her brutal father and a hard life on Dartmoor, her head full of dreams. She is rescued by the reclusive, middle-aged Kendall Bartholomew, whose motives may not be as innocent as they appear. For Arnold Randolph-Smythe, life is more than satisfactory. His shop is successful and his daughter adores him, though his rich wife does not. When Dulcie, his wife, meets Phoebe she invites her to their home. The arguments, hatreds and loves that follow have profound repercussions for all involved. Burnett, Frances Hodgson The secret garden A young British girl born and reared in India loses her neglectful parents in an earthquake.
She is returned to England to live at her uncle's castle. Her uncle is very distant due to the loss of his wife ten years before. Neglected once again, she begins exploring the estate and discovers a garden that has been locked and neglected. Aided by one of the servants' boys, she begins restoring the garden, and eventually discovers some other secrets of the manor. Follow your dream 'Follow Your Dream' is an enthralling saga, bringing s Southend-on-Sea to dazzling life. His neighbor is actress Stella Pinero, longtime friend, onetime lover, who runs the repertory company recently joined by TV and stage actress Nell Casey, just back from the US with small son Tom and nanny Sylvie.
Here, Coffin's problems start with the disappearance of a tour bus, passengers aboard, all of them found drugged--and one of them dead- -when the bus surfaces. The fatality is elderly loner Jim Lollard. He lived on Regina Street, whose murderous history and present-day perfidies were his life's work. Then Nell Casey's son is kidnapped, climaxing a series of chilling minor incidents, amid rumors of a known child molester in the area.
Days later, Nell vanishes--and Coffin's job is on the line. A hard look into the past uncovers a lurid secret, and teamwork does the rest. When a long-lost clue surfaces, they have a chance to decipher the final secret. But when a fellow scholar of the text is murdered for knowing too much, Tom and Paul make a frightening realization: Campbell, Karen Proof of life The girl in the foyer could not hear them, could not possibly have heard Anna, or know that she was there through two thick doors, but her pale neck flexed and her head came up, longer and higher as her profile turned, as her face took form to stare directly at the camera.
And Anna's life, her future, froze. CAREY, Peter True History of the Kelly Gang Set in the desolate settler communities north of Melbourne in the late 19th century, the novel is told in the form of a journal, written by the famous outlaw and "bushranger" Ned Kelly, to a daughter he will never see. The salty, colloquial, unpunctuated style of Kelly's journal is reproduced with great skill, as Carey recounts the outlaw's early life with a cross-dressing, Irish immigrant sheep worker, and a beautiful but headstrong mother, always on the wrong side of the law.
Inadvertently causing the arrest and death of his father, Ned realises that "there were a drought and nothing flourishing there but misery I were the oldest son I thought it time to earn my place", a decision that ultimately leads him into conflict with the law, and to form the notorious Kelly Gang. In the depths of despair, she is delighted to learn that her eccentric Uncle Joshua has left her his house in Sunderland. But it comes with a strict provision—she must marry her sworn enemy Martin, or her dangerous cousin Saul Gorman will inherit the lot.
And Saul will stop at nothing to claim inheritance. Haunted by his experiences in the trenches of World War I and recovering from a divorce, Birkin accepts a job restoring a medieval mural of the apocalypse in a church located in a remote corner of Yorkshire. It is here, however, that Birkin, though alone with only an interpretation of the world's end for company, learns to live again. Ambush Scott Nolan enjoys a flourishing career as a doctor, a rising media profile as a campaigner against drug abuse, and a beautiful new wife.
CARTLAND, Barbara Etiquette Handbook Written nearly 50 years ago, this handbook conjures up a period when addressing work colleagues by their first names was frowned upon, wives could expect to receive a weekly allowance from their husbands, and hats were ubiquitous. Laced throughout is Barbara Cartland's wit and wisdom, this is a wonderfully evocative insight into manners that have largely disappeared. Choked Detective Inspector Phil Brennan and criminal psychologist Marina Esposito have just returned from their honeymoon and are spending the Easter weekend in Suffolk.
But their rural idyll is cruelly destroyed by a devastating arson attack and a kidnapping. But nothing about the case prepares them for what happens next: The Metropolitan Police struggle to carry out their usual duties, but no one knows where or how this cop killer will strike again. While London disintegrates into lawlessness, Maeve's world starts to fall apart too.
For if the police can't keep themselves safe, how can they protect anyone else? Not knowing what happened to Charlie has ripped her family apart. Now a teacher, Sarah's back living at home, trapped with an alcoholic mother who keeps her brother's bedroom as a shrine. As Sarah becomes more involved in the inquiry, suspicions are aroused. But it's not just the police who are watching her Casey, Jane The stranger you know He meets women. He gains their trust. That's all Maeve Kerrigan knows about the man she is hunting. Three women have been strangled in their homes by the same sadistic killer.
With no sign of a break-in, every indication shows that they let in their attacker. But the evidence is pointing at a shocking suspect: Maeve refuses to believe he could be involved, but how well does she really know her partner? After all, this is hardly the first time Derwent's been accused of murder. But now, on the futuristic world of Harmony, the curse's final mystery will be unravelled. Afterward, she makes him arms tutor to her sons, the young princes. Marshal pledges his service to heir Henry and stays with the prince, out of loyalty to Eleanor, throughout Henry's turbulent manhood and rebellion against his father.
When Henry dies, Marshal swears loyalty to Henry's brother Richard, putting him at odds with his own brother, who is loyal to Prince John. When Richard leaves on crusade and John conspires to take the crown, Marshal must decide between family and honor.
A true historical hero, if little known, William Marshal served under some of England's most famous kings and proved himself again and again throughout the troubled 12th century. Matilda, daughter of Henry I, is determined to win back her crown. Adeliza, Matilda's stepmother, is now married to William D'Albini, a warrior of the opposition. How can Adeliza obey her husband while supporting Matilda, the rightful queen?
Chadwick, Elizabeth Lords of the white castle This novel is based on a true story of honour, treachery and love spanning the turbulent reigns of four great medieval kings. A violent quarrel with Prince John disrupts Fulke's life ambition and leads him to rebel.
Chadwick, Elizabeth The summer queen Young, golden-haired and blue-eyed Eleanor has everything to look forward to as the heiress to wealthy Aquitaine. But when her beloved father dies suddenly in the summer of , her childhood is over. Forced to marry the young Prince Louis of France, she barely adjusts before another death catapults them to being crowned King and Queen of France. Leaving everything behind, Eleanor must face the complex and vivacious French court.
She is only Barely out of childhood, and forced to deal with great scandals, fraught relationships and forbidden love at every turn, Eleanor finally sees what her future could hold if she could just seize the moment. When Roger Bigod, heir to the powerful earldom of Norfolk, arrives at court in to settle a bitter inheritance dispute with his half-brothers, he encounters Ida de Tosney, young mistress to King Henry II.
A victim of Henry's seduction and the mother of his son, Ida is attracted to Roger and sees in him a chance of lasting security; but in deciding to marry Roger, she is forced to make a choice. As Roger's importance as a mainstay of the Angevin government grows, it puts an increasing strain on his marriage. Against a volatile political background the gulf between them threatens to widen beyond crossing, especailly when so many bridges have already been burned.
While her husband King Henry II battles for land across the channel, Eleanor fulfils her duty as acting ruler and bearer of royal children. But she wants to be more than this - if only Henry would let her. Instead, Henry belittles and excludes her, falling for a young mistress and leaving Eleanor sidelined and angry. Frustrated at Henry's hoarding of power, Eleanor is forced into a rebellion of devastating consequences.
This may be a surprise at the first encounter with even his most famous stories, because they are rarely driven by plot or anticipation. They are often gentle in character, elusive in purpose; but they create a resonance in the imagination that rings long. Here are 12 stories, from the brightly comic to the overtly tragic, each full of the sharpest observations of personality and situation, and with implications beyond their brief form; the dying actor, the children playing a game, the cabman with his tragedy, the orator's mistake and, perhaps most richly of all, the family laid bare in 'In The Ravine'.
Who is the model and why has she been painted? What is she thinking as she stares out at us? Are her wide eyes and enigmatic half-smile innocent or seductive? And why is she wearing a pearl earring? Girl with a Pearl Earring tells the story of Griet, a year-old Dutch girl who becomes a maid in the house of a painter Johannes Vermeer. Vermeer slowly draws her into the world of his paintings and the chaotic household run by his volatile wife.
Their intimacy soon spreads disruption and jealousy within the ordered household and even — as the scandal seeps out — ripples in to the world beyond. CHEVALIER, Tracy Falling Angels [2 copies] When Maude Coleman and Lavinia Waterhouse, both five years of age, meet at their families' adjoining cemetery plots on the day after Queen Victoria's death, the friendship that results between sensitive, serious-minded Maude and narcissistic, melodramatic Livy is not unlikely, despite the difference in social classes.
But the continuing presence in their lives of a young gravedigger, Simon Field, is. Far too cheeky for a boy of his age and class, Simon plays an important part in the troubles that will overtake the two families. Other characters are gifted with insights inappropriate to their age or station in life. Yet Chevalier again proves herself an astute observer of a social era, especially in her portrayal of the lingering sentimentality, prejudices and early stirrings of social change of the Victorian age. When Maude's mother, Kitty, becomes obsessively involved with the emerging suffragette movement, the plot gathers momentum.
The affair March A woman has her throat cut behind a bar in Carter Crossing, Mississippi. Just down the road is a big army base. Is the murderer a local guy - or is he a soldier?
Jack Reacher, still a major in the military police, is sent in undercover. Once again Reacher, our hard as nails, itinerant former Military Policeman hero, gets caught up in a twisting plot involving murderous and irredeemable bad guys, a hidden conspiracy this time with links to the global war on terrorism and a mounting body count.
This time the twist is that events require Reacher to reunite and work with former colleagues from his army days; colleagues almost as hard nosed and capable as he is. Elsewhere, world-shaking events are underway, such as the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. But Jack's job as a Military Police Duty Officer has him concerned with what initially seem to be less significant happenings: Needless to say, events in another part of the globe are having fatal repercussions in the US, and Reacher is soon up to his neck, with the body count rising.
They give out all kinds of tell-tale signs. Mostly because they're nervous. By definition they're all first-timers. There are twelve things to look for. No one who has worked in law enforcement will ever forget them. Riding the subway in New York at two o'clock in the morning, Reacher knows the signs. Watching one of his fellow passengers, he becomes sharply aware: The train brakes for Grand Central Station.
Will Reacher intervene, and save lives? Or is he wrong? Will his intervention cost lives - including his own? Child, Lee, Make me Jack Reacher has no place to go, and all the time in the world to get there, so a remote railroad stop with the curious name of Mother's Rest seems perfect for an aimless one-day stopover. He expects to find a lonely tombstone in a sea of nearly-ripe wheat, but instead there is a woman waiting for a missing private investigator, a cryptic note about deaths, and a small town full of silent, watchful people. His one-day stopover looks about to turn into something more complicated He wants to meet the new commanding officer, Major Susan Turner.
He liked her voice on the phone. But the officer sitting behind Reacher's old desk isn't a woman. Reacher doesn't expect what comes next: And he certainly doesn't expect to hear these words: And your ass is mine. What are the secrets that the residents of Despair are so desperate to keep hidden? Reacher is equally determined to find out Child, Lee One shot A lone gunman unleashes pandemonium when he shoots into a crowd of people in a public plaza in Indiana. Five people are killed in cold blood, shot through the head. But he leaves a trail of evidence behind him, and soon the local police chief tracks him down.
The shooter says he wants Jack Reacher. Child, Lee Personal Jack Reacher walks alone. Once a go-to hard man in the US military police, now he's a drifter of no fixed abode. But the army tracks him down. Because someone has taken a long-range shot at the French president. Only one man could have done it.
And Reacher is the one man who can find him. The novel begins with a bang as Reacher rescues Beck's son from a staged kidnapping in order to get close to his father--and trace the connection between Beck and Quinn, a former army intelligence officer who tried to sell blueprints of a secret weapon to Iraq but was murdered before he could pull it off.
Or so Reacher thinks, until he spots Quinn in the crowd at a concert in Boston He's picked up by three strangers - two men and a woman. Immediately he knows they're all lying about something. A bus skids and crashes and is stranded in a storm. There's a small town 20 miles away, where a vulnerable witness is guarded around the clock.
There's a strange stone building five miles further on, all alone on the prairie. There's a ruthless man who controls everything from the warmth of Mexico. Once his guests have arrived, the host accuses each person of murder. Unable to leave the island, the guests begin to share their darkest secrets--until they begin to die. Fortunately for Amy, Hercule Poirot is visiting the excavation site but will the great detective be in time to prevent a multiple murderer from striking again?
What do a movie star, an archaeologist, a French maid, a prime minister, a wealthy dowager, and an Italian count have in common? Half of them have fallen victim to a terrible crime. The others have fallen under suspicion. Leave the deductions to Hercule Poirot. The evidence against Elinor is overwhelming, and she seems destined for prison until a friend and admirer engages Poirot. But what neither father nor son knows is that the political and the personal have just become equally dangerous.
Clancy, Tom Threat vector Jack Ryan has only just moved back into the Oval Office when he is faced with a new international threat. They have declared the South China Sea a protectorate and are planning an invasion of Taiwan. Deeply moving, yet light in touch, it explores the nature of loss, hope, love and identity with atrocity as its backdrop. When one of them goes missing she feels duty-bound to find out what happened. But her path leads her to more than just a missing friend.
What a perfect picture it makes, she thinks. But on closer inspection, she finds that the "perfect picture" is the dead body of local teenager Catherine Ross, whose red scarf has been used to strangle her. Suspicion immediately falls on recluse Magnus Tait, who was accused--but never convicted--of kidnapping another girl eight years earlier.
Policeman Jimmy Perez, assigned to the case, isn't convinced of Magnus' guilt. As he investigates, he uncovers a web of sinister secrets, strange superstitions, petty rivalries, thwarted love, and illicit affairs--the dark underbelly of Shetland's tight-knit community.
But first there was to be one huge celebration for the newlyweds, with the whole island present. And before the party was over, there would be a shockingly unexpected death. Somehow, in the dark of the night, Jim's young sister, Mary, slipped off Ellie's Head to the rocks below. A terrible end to a boisterously cheerful evening. But did Mary fall, or was she pushed? George Palmer-Jones, retired birdwatcher and amateur detective, suspected the latter, but proving it would be difficult: Yet those with something to hide inevitably try to hide it, and George, helped by Sarah, began to piece together a tragic story he wished he had never heard.
Kinness was a paradise lost. The Blood Royal On his return from India, Commander Joe Sandilands, now adept at the arts of dynamic diplomacy, finds himself up to his neck in a tricky political situation. A war-weary London is reeling from IRA atrocities and Joe is further plagued by the machinations of a spy-ring being run under his nose by a Russian emigree princess.
Cliff, Ann Summer by the sea When Helen Moore gets a job in a charming seaside guesthouse she expects a life of smooth domestic routine, but there is trouble in store. James is writing a book about the fishing community and he asks Helen to help him with his research. Thus it comes to pass that Helen meets some of the fisher girls and is drawn into their harsh lives. But their sixteen-year-old son Adam has been unusually distant lately, and after the suicide of his classmate Spencer Hill - the latest in a string of issues at school - they can't help but worry.
They install a sophisticated spy program on Adam's computer, and within days they are jolted by a message from an unknown correspondent addressed to their son: She thinks it is Adam Baye standing just outside the camera's range, but when Adam goes missing, it soon becomes clear that something deep and sinister has infected their community She's pregnant and now she's on her own. Her father, not a man to mess with, will see that somebody pays.
So Imelda Dooley tells a lie that literally causes murders. When Mary Dooley's husband is killed, she knows she must graft to keep the family afloat. And graft she does, becoming a name in her own right. But she still has to watch her daughter's life spiral into a vicious cycle of drugs and prostitution. Caught up in the carnage are Mary's grandchildren, Jordanna and Kenny.
Jordanna isn't yet three and she already knows far too much. All she can do is look after her baby brother, and try not to draw attention to herself. But Michael, the eldest, has ambitions way beyond petty crime. Then his little sister Maura decides to follow her beloved brother into the family firm. At 17, she's tough, clever and beautiful - a dangerous lady. And she's paid the price. Now she is being released from prison. It's time to go home. But life has moved on, and Marie has nowhere to go. Her parents have disowned her, her friends have abandoned her, even her kids don't want to know.
But some people out there are watching her, following her every move - they know that Marie Carter wants retribution. Cole, Martina The faithless To the outside world, Cynthia Tailor is a woman to envy; she has a devoted husband, a lovely home and two children. But Cynthia is deeply unhappy; she has always craved the best things in life, and is determined to get them. She will let nothing stand in her way, even if it means devastation and tragedy for those nearest to her. Cole, Martina The good life Cain Moran wanted Jenny Riley more than he had ever wanted anyone or anything before in his life.
But loving Jenny Riley was the easy part; it was telling his wife he wanted a divorce that was going to be the killer. Jenny is not just any girl. She cares nothing for Cain's hard-man reputation - she just wants to be with him. But Cain is not a free man. And he's about to find out that when his wife Caroline said 'til death us do part, she meant it. When Cain is sentenced to life in prison it seems that Caroline might have got her wish. All Cain and Jenny know is that if their love can survive such separation, then one day they will have a chance at the good life together again.
But there are greater trials ahead than either can foresee. They're about to learn the hardest lesson of all: Kate Burrows, retired DCI now consultant, has plenty of experience when it comes to murder - after all she caught the Grantley Ripper and broke the biggest paedophile ring in the South East.
She is determined to help put the killer behind bars. But when another girl's body is found, even more disfigured than the last, it's clear the killer is just warming up In a ruthless world where everyone's out for themselves, Annie and Kate must dig deep if they hope to catch a callous serial killer who knows no limits. For some, prostitution is seriously big business. But how many people will pay the ultimate price? She'd do anything to protect them, even resorting to prostitution and petty crime in order to feed and clothe them.
So when her beautiful teenage daughter is raped and murdered, only one thing will stop Joanie's pain - seeing her daughter's killer brought to justice. Joanie knows who he is and she'll do whatever it takes to nail him Cole, Martina Revenge Michael Flynn is untouchable in a world of power, money and violence. He fights for what he wants and he takes it, whatever the cost.
He learns the rules of the Life from the best and when his mentor, legendary Face Patrick Costello, is taken out, no one questions that Michael Flynn is his natural successor. For Michael, loyalty - and crime - pays. Michael rises to heights beyond anything the criminal underworld has seen.
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He owns everyone and he rules his empire with an even but fierce hand. No one would dare challenge him. Then the unthinkable happens. Cathy's miserable life as a prostitute's child changes forever when she's forced into care. The ordeal that follows leaves her with no choice but to run away to Soho, and she learns to survive in the violent heart of London's underworld. Meanwhile, Eamonn, who fled to New York, has gained a reputation as a ruthless villain.
But when their paths cross again, Cathy's an equal match for Eamonn. And he wants it all. Before long, Patrick has become a legend in his own lifetime. Lily Diamond is different from the kind of woman Patrick is normally attracted to. But together they are determined that their children will have everything they didn't. Until the unthinkable happens and Lily is left on her own to look after their family in a dangerous world.
The Brodies must stay close to survive. But as everyone knows, your sins will find you out. Vernon Coleman weaves a superb story full of humour and anecdotes transporting you back to the days of old-fashioned village life where you never needed to lock your door, and when a helping hand was only ever a moment away. Colgan, Jenny Christmas at Rosie Hopkins sweetshop Rosie Hopkins is looking forward to Christmas in the little Derbyshire village of Lipton, buried under a thick blanket of snow.
Her sweetshop is festooned with striped candy canes, large tempting piles of Turkish delight, crinkling selection boxes and happy, sticky children. She's going to be spending it with her boyfriend, Stephen, and her family, flying in from Australia. She can't wait - but when a tragedy strikes at the heart of their little community and all of Rosie's plans for the future seem to be blown apart. Can she build a life in Lipton? And is what's best for the sweetshop also what's best for Rosie?
Colgan, Jenny The Christmas surprise Rosie Hopkins, newly engaged, is looking forward to an exciting year in the little sweetshop she owns and runs. But when fate strikes Rosie and her boyfriend, Stephen, a terrible blow, threatening everything they hold dear, it's going to take all their strength and the support of their families and their Lipton friends to hold them together.
After all, don't they say it takes a village to raise a child? Lilian has spent her life running Lipton's village sweetshop. As she struggles with the idea of selling up, she also wrestles with the secret history hidden behind the jars of sweets. Collier, Catrin Bobby's girl Then Bobby's car crashes, and a bitter old woman takes control, changing the survivors' lives forever. One was killed, another damaged and a third disappeared. But as the countdown to the Big Day begins, and mother and daughter throw themselves into creating the wedding of their dreams, not everyone's prepared for the commotion this involves.
Conlon-McKenna The rose garden Molly's perfect life comes crashing down following the unexpected death of her husband David. She is left alone with a big old house to maintain, finances in disarray and her hopes for happiness in a heap. But Molly is a survivor. Despite objections from her two daughters, Molly fears that the only solution will be to sell their beloved home.
But as she finds herself drawn to the old neglected and overgrown walled rose garden and the dilapidated gardener's cottage attached, she suddenly sees a future as she decides to restore them. As the rose garden takes on a new life and starts to bloom again, Molly finds that she can look to the future with new confidence and hope.
But ancient jealousies surface as each sister confronts the past and the decisions they have made. For work-driven Kate it is time to take stock of her role as a high-flying ambitious lawyer and single parent; life is a battle between work and looking after Molly with little time for a proper relationship. Even Patrick, the man she once fell for, has ended up marrying her sister.
Beautiful and intense Moya must take a hard look at her marriage to the charming but unfaithful Patrick and consider her own worth. For wild child Romy who has travelled the world and hasn't put a foot on Irish soil for years, it is time to finally stop running and find the courage to confront her family.
A good and caring mother, Maeve Dillon has somehow over the years labelled each of her three daughters: Moya the beautiful, Kate the brains, and Romy, the bold and wild one. Now it is finally time for all three to break out of the box. When she married Liam she was happy to cook only for family and friends. But now her marriage is over, and Alice finds herself struggling not only emotionally but also financially.
She decides to open a cookery school and begins to teach a group of strangers how to create food that is tasty and delicious. Conlon-McKenna, Marita Three women Kate has kept a secret for 25 years which is about to be discovered. Erin is discovering who she really is. Nina's daughter is running off to find a woman she doesn't know.
There is no escaping the past. Kate, Erin and Nina all have to come to terms with what happened so many years before, and to find a way of dealing with it. His identification of the body begins an investigation that leads to more murder, bank robbery, heroin, diamonds, and betrayal. Connelly's descriptions of autopsies, murder scenes, and police procedure are vivid and realistic. The use of acronyms and police jargon puts readers in the middle of the action. A real page turner with gutsy realism and an unusual twist. Now, three centuries later, evil has again come to the island, a modern-day evil with strange, eerie connections to the events of the late s.
Do two police officers have even a remote chance of stopping the carnage? This is one of those novels that refuses to be pigeonholed. It's a thriller; it's a mystery; it's a tale of the supernatural sort of. At its center is Joe Dupree, the literal gentle giant of a cop, a man whose kindness and compassion would appear to make him a bad choice to defend the citizens of Sanctuary from the marauding evil that approaches. Connolly, John The burning soul Randall Haight has a secret: He did his time and built a new life in the small Maine town of Pastor's Bay.
Now somebody has discovered the truth and he is being tormented by anonymous messages. He hires private detective Charlie Parker to make them stop. Samuel's dad cares more about his car than his family, Samuel's mother is lonely, and only Samuel's dog, Boswell, truly understands him. Oh, and as if things couldn't get any worse, Samuel's neighbours, led by the villainous Mrs Abernathy, are trying to open the gates of hell. It's up to Samuel to stop them, except nobody will believe him, and time is running out Now the fate of humanity lies in the hands of one small boy, an even smaller dog, and a very unlucky demon named Nurd But the diabolical Mrs Abernathy is not one to take defeat lying down.
When she reopens the portal and sucks Samuel and Boswell down into the underworld, she brings an ice-cream van full of dwarfs as well. They are the Reapers, the elite among killers - men so terrifying that their names are mentioned only in whispers. The assassin Louis is one of them. But now Louis and his partner, Angel, are themselves targets. And there is no shortage of suspects. A wealthy recluse sends them north to a town that no longer exists on a map - a town ruled by a man with very personal reasons for wanting Louis's blood spilt. There they find themselves trapped, isolated and at the mercy of a killer feared above all others.
Thanks to former detective Charlie Parker, help is on its way. But can Angel and Louis stay alive long enough for it to reach them? His grown daughter, Rebecca, is being stalked by an ex-con whose own daughter is missing. Rebecca hires Portland, Maine, investigator Charlie Parker to protect her and dissuade her stalker, a former contract killer named Merrick who is intent on either finding his daughter or avenging her death. In vain Sigismund and George took it in turn to explore the long catalogue of legal practitioners whose names began with the letter S.
Johns and Simpsons, St. Evremonds and Smitherses, Standishes and Sykeses. There was almost every variety of appellation, aristocratic and plebeian; but the name of Sleaford was not in the list: Who ever heard of penny numbers being funny? Presently he stops himself. He regards with all his eyes the quay, nearly desert; the water, black and shiny, which stretches itself at his feet. He listens, but there is nothing.
He bends himself upon the border of the quay. He puts aside the bag from his shoulders, and something of dull, heavy, slides slowly downwards and falls into the water. At the instant that the heavy burthen sinks with a dull noise to the bottom of the river, there is a voice, loud and piercing, which seems to elevate itself out of the darkness: The combination novel enables a young author to present his public with all the brightest flowers of fiction neatly arranged into every variety of garland.
What would be the good of that? George Gilbert ventured to suggest that in the days when the Plantagenet ruled our happy isle, Ignatius Loyola had not yet founded his wonderful brotherhood; but Mr.
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Smith acknowledged this prosaic suggestion with a smile of supreme contempt. Oh, yes; I like writing for them. Say your hero murders his father, and buries him in the coal-cellar in No. You drop it in the treble, you catch it up in the bass; and then it goes sliding up into the treble again, and then drops down with a melodious groan into the bass; and so on to the end of the story. I think there ought to be a literary temperance pledge by which the votaries of the ghastly and melodramatic school might bind themselves to the renunciation of the bowl and dagger, the midnight rendezvous, the secret grave dug by lantern-light under a black grove of cypress, the white-robed figure gliding in the grey gloaming athwart a lonely churchyard, and all the alcoholic elements of fiction.
Are not reformed drunkards the dullest and most miserable of mankind? He did what it was in him to do, honestly; and he had his reward. Who would not wish to be great? He had thrown down his pen now, and was walking up and down the room with his hands thrust deep down in his pockets, and his face scarlet with fierce excitement. Primrose has his dinner, and goes out to visit his poor; and the two girls walk about the garden with Mr. And then the serious business of the story begins, and Burchell keeps his eye upon the Vicar.
Nobody else suspects good Mr. Primrose is cutting out comfortable flannels for the poor, the Vicar opens his desk, and begins to write a letter. You hear the faint sound of the light ashes falling on the hearth, the slow ticking of an eight-day clock in the hall outside the drawing-room door, the sharp snap of Mrs. He takes a mental inventory of the contents of the open desk, and he sees amongst the neatly-docketed papers, the receipted bills, and packets of envelopes—what?
I dare say some people would cry out upon it, and declare that it was wicked and immoral, and that the young man who could write about a murder would be ready to commit the deed at the earliest convenient opportunity. I am afraid there were times when his enthusiastic devotion to his profession rendered Mr. Smith a terrible nuisance to his friends and acquaintance.
The young surgeon went home to Midlandshire with his fellow-excursionists, when the appointed Monday came round. He met Miss Burdock and her sister on the platform in Euston Square, and received those ladies from the hands of their aunt. He was thinking of another face, which he had only seen for a few brief hours, and which he was perhaps never again to look upon; a pale girlish countenance, framed with dense black hair; a pale face, out of which there looked large solemn eyes, like stars that glimmer faintly through the twilight shadows.
Before leaving London, George had obtained a promise from his friend Sigismund Smith. Smith should at any time hear about the Sleafords, he was to communicate immediately to the young surgeon of Graybridge-on-the-Wayverne. It was, of course, very absurd of George to take such an interest in this singular family; the young man admitted as much himself; but, then, singular people are always more or less interesting; and, having been a witness of Mr. If these people were really gone to America, why, of course, it was all over; but if they had not left London, some one or other of the family might turn up some day, and in that case Sigismund was to write and tell his friend all about it.
Life at Graybridge-on-the-Wayverne was as slow and sleepy as the river which widened in the flat meadows outside the town; the dear old river which crept lazily past the mouldering wall of the churchyard, and licked the moss-grown tombstones that had lurched against that ancient boundary. Everything at Graybridge was more or less old and quaint and picturesque; but the chief glory of Graybridge was the parish church; a grand old edifice which was planted beyond the outskirts of the town, and approached by a long avenue of elms, beneath whose shadow the tombstones glimmered whitely in the sun.
The capricious Wayverne, which was perpetually winding across your path wheresoever you wandered in pleasant Midlandshire, was widest here; and on still summer days the grey towers of the old church looked down at other phantasmal towers in the tranquil water. George used to wander in this churchyard sometimes on his return from a trout-fishing expedition, and, lounging among the tombstones with his rod upon his shoulder, would abandon himself to the simple day-dreams he loved best to weave.
But the young surgeon had a good deal of work to do, now that his father had admitted him to the solemn rights of partnership, and very little time for any sentimental musings in the churchyard. The parish work in itself was very heavy, and George rode long distances on his steady-going grey pony to attend to captious patients, who gave him small thanks for his attendance.
He was a very soft-hearted young man, and he often gave his slender pocket-money to those of his patients who wanted food rather than medicine. Little by little people grew to understand that George Gilbert was very different from his father, and had a tender pity for the sorrows and sufferings it was a part of his duty to behold. Before that year came to a close the partnership between the father and son had been irrevocably dissolved, without the aid of legal practitioners, or any legal formulas whatsoever; and George Gilbert was sole master of the old house with the whitewashed plaster-walls and painted beams of massive oak.
The young man lamented the loss of his father with all that single-minded earnestness which was the dominant attribute of his character. He had been as obedient to his father at the last as he had been at the first; as submissive in his manhood as in his childhood. But in his obedience there had been nothing childish or cowardly.
He was obedient because he believed his father to be wise and good, reverencing the old man with simple, unquestioning veneration. And now that the father was gone, George Gilbert began life in real earnest. The poor of Graybridge-on-the-Wayverne had good reason to rejoice at the change which had given the young doctor increase of means and power.
He took an atmosphere of youth and hope and brave endurance with him everywhere, which was more invigorating than the medicines he prescribed; and, next to Mr. Neate the curate, George Gilbert was the best-beloved and most popular man in Graybridge. He had never had any higher ambition than this. He had no wish to strive or to achieve; he only wanted to be useful; and when he heard the parable of the Talents read aloud in the old church, a glow of gentle happiness thrilled through his veins as he thought of his own small gifts, which had never yet been suffered to grow rusty for lack of service.
Could the tumults of passion ever have a home in the calm breast of these quiet provincials, whose regular lives knew no greater change than the slow alternation of the seasons, whose orderly existences were never disturbed by an event? Away at Conventford there were factory strikes, and political dissensions, and fighting and rioting now and then; but here the tranquil days crept by, and left no mark by which they might be remembered. Miss Sophronia Burdock did not long cherish the memory of the dark-haired barrister she had met in Baker Street. Gilbert when she met him coming out of church in the cold wintry sunlight, looking to especial advantage in his new mourning clothes.
But George was blind to the sympathetic smiles that greeted him. He was not in love with Miss Sophronia Burdock. In the meantime he lived his peaceful life in the house where he had been born, mourning with simple, natural sorrow for the old father who had so long sat at the opposite side of the hearth, reading a local paper by the light of a candle held between his eyes and the small print, and putting down the page every now and then to descant, at his ease, upon the degeneracy of the times.
But he was very lonely now in the old house, which was a bare, blank place, peopled by no bright inanimate creations by which art fills the homes of wealthy hermits with fair semblances of life. The empty walls stared down upon the young man as he sat alone in the dim candlelight, till he was fain to go into the kitchen, which was the most cheerful room in the house, and where he could talk to William and Tilly, while he lounged against the quaint old angle of the high oaken chimney-piece smoking his cigar. William and Tilly were a certain Mr.
Jeffson, who had come southwards with the pretty young woman whom Mr. John Gilbert had encountered in the course of a holiday-trip to a quiet Yorkshire town, where the fair towers of a minster rose above a queer old street, beyond whose gabled roofs lay spreading common-lands, fair pasture-farms, and pleasant market-gardens. It was in the homestead attached to one of these pasture-farms that John Gilbert had met the bright, rosy-faced girl whom he made his wife; and Mr. I am compelled to admit that, in common with almost all those bright and noble qualities which can make man admirable, Mr.
William Jeffson possessed one failing. But then his laziness gave such a delicious, easy-going tone to his whole character, and was so much a part of his good nature and benevolence, that to wish him faultless would have been to wish him something less than he was. In the garden which it was his duty to cultivate, the snails crawled along their peaceful way, unhindered by cruel rake or hoe; but then, on the other hand, the toads grew fat in shadowy corners under the broad dock-leaves, and the empty shells of their slimy victims attested the uses of those ugly and venomous reptiles.
The harmony of the universe asserted itself in that Midlandshire garden, unchecked by any presumptuous interference from Mr. The weeds grew high in waste patches of ground, left here and there amongst the gooseberry-bushes and the cabbages, the raspberries and potatoes; and William Jeffson offered little hindrance to their rank luxuriance.
Gilbert had more fruit and vegetables than he could eat or cared to give away; and surely that was enough for anybody. He was never tired of any labour which contributed to the pleasure or amusement of Mr. It was a bitter day for him when Master Jarge went to the Classical and Commercial Academy at Wareham; and but for those happy Saturday afternoons on which he went to fetch the boy for a holiday that lasted till Sunday evening, poor William Jeffson would have lost all the pleasures of his simple life.
What could be drearier work than feeding the pigs, or milking the cow, unless Master Jarge was by to turn labour into pleasure by the bright magic of his presence? There was no storm of rain or hail, snow or sleet, that ever came out of the heavens, heavy enough to hinder Mr. What did he care for drenching showers, or thunderclaps that seemed to shake the earth, so long as the little wooden gate opened, and the fair young face he loved poked out at him with a welcoming smile?
In all substantial matters Mrs. George Gilbert taught his companion a good deal in those pleasant Saturday evenings, when the surgeon was away amongst his patients, and the boy was free to sit in the kitchen with Mr. He told the Yorkshireman all about those enemies of boyhood, the classic poets; but William infinitely preferred Shakespeare and Milton, Byron and Scott, to the accomplished Romans, whose verses were of the lamest as translated by George.
Jeffson could never have enough of Shakespeare. All that grand gallery of pictures unrolled its splendours for this man, and the schoolboy wondered at the enthusiasm he was powerless to understand. He was inclined to think that practical Mrs. The poetry of friendship was not in his nature. He was honest, sincere, and true, but not sympathetic or assimilative; he preserved his own individuality wherever he went, and took no colour from the people amongst whom he lived. Gilbert would have been very lonely now that his father was gone, had it not been for this honest couple, who managed his house and garden, his stable and paddocks, and watched his interests as earnestly as if he had been indeed their son.
Whenever he had a spare half-hour, the young man strolled into the old-fashioned kitchen, and smoked his cigar in the chimney-corner, where he had passed so much of his boyhood. Jeffson sighed, as he looked up from the mending of a bridle or the patching of a horse-cloth. He was thinking that the schoolboy had been more to him and nearer to him than the young surgeon could ever be. They had been children together, these two, and William had never grown weary of his childhood.
He was left behind now that his companion had grown up, and the happy childish days were all over. There was a gigantic kite on a shelf in the back-kitchen; a kite that Mr. Jeffson had made with his own patient hands. George Gilbert would have laughed now if that kite had been mentioned to him; but William Jeffson would have been constant to the same boyish sports until his hair was grey, and would have never known weariness of spirit. But George protested eagerly that, were he to marry the daughter of the Queen of England, which was not particularly likely, that royal lady should take kindly to his old servants, or should be no wife of his.
George further informed his humble friends that he was not likely to enter the holy estate of matrimony for many years to come, as he had so far seen no one who at all approached his idea of womanly perfection.
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He had very practical views upon this subject, and meant to wait patiently until some faultless young person came across his pathway; some neat-handed, church-going damsel, with tripping feet and smoothly-banded hair; some fair young sage, who had never been known to do a foolish act or say an idle word. Oh, no, it was impossible. He looked back to the drowsy summer-time, and saw her lolling in the garden-chair, with the shadows of the branches fluttering upon her tumbled muslin dress, and her black hair pushed anyhow away from the broad low brow.
Sigismund wrote very discursively about his own prospects and schemes, and gave his friend a brief synopsis of the romance he had last begun. George skimmed lightly enough over this part of the letter; but as he turned the leaf by-and-by, he saw a name that brought the blood to his face. She wanted me to recommend her as a nursery-governess, or companion, or something of that kind, if I knew of any family in want of such a person. Sleaford and the boys have gone to live in Jersey, it seems, on account of things being cheap there; and I have no doubt that boy Horace will become an inveterate smoker.
Poor Sleaford is dead. Isabel did not tell me this at first; but I saw that she was dressed in black, and when I asked her about her father, she burst out crying, and sobbed as if heart would break. I should like to have ascertained what the poor fellow died of, and all about it,—for Sleaford was not an old man, and one of the most powerful-looking fellows I ever saw,—but I could not torture Izzie with questions while she was in such a state of grief and agitation.
You know my uncle Raymond, and you know what a dear jolly fellow he is; so you may guess the change will be a very pleasant one for poor Izzie. I thought she seemed a little frightened at the idea of going among strangers. I saw her off at Euston Square the day before yesterday. She went by the parliamentary train; and I put her in charge of a most respectable family going all the way through, with six children, and a birdcage, and a dog, and a pack of cards to play upon a tea-tray on account of the train being slow. Sleaford dead, and Isabel settled as a nursery-governess at Conventford!
What was it to him that Isabel Sleaford was so near? What was she to him, that he should think of her, or be fluttered by the thought that she was within his reach? What did he know of her? Only that she had eyes that were unlike any other eyes he had ever looked at; eyes that haunted his memory like strange stars seen in a feverish dream. He knew nothing of her but this: George went back to the kitchen and smoked another cigar in Mr. He went back to that apartment fully determined to waste no more of his thoughts upon Isabel Sleaford, who was in sober truth a frivolous, sentimental creature, eminently adapted to make any man miserable; but somehow or other, before the cigar was finished, George had told his earliest friend and confidant all about Mr.
George shook his head. Jeffson relapsed into a thoughtful silence, out of which he emerged by-and-by with a slow chuckle. George Gilbert found it necessary to enter into an elaborate explanation upon this subject. No; Miss Sleaford was not pretty. Jeffson, looking up from her needlework. Thou knowst nowt aboot it. But nothing could be more stern than Mr. This young man discussed his matrimonial views with the calm grandiosity of manner with which man, the autocrat, talks of his humble slaves before he has tried his hand at governing them,—before he has received the fiery baptism of suffering, and learned by bitter experience that a perfect woman is not a creature to be found at every street-corner waiting meekly for her ruler.
Clipping is not a very pleasant labour: But though, the mare was ready, and had been ready for a quarter of an hour, there was some slight delay while George ran up to his room,—the room which he had slept in from his earliest boyhood there were some of his toys, dusty and forgotten, amongst the portmanteaus and hat-boxes at the top of the painted deal wardrobe ,—and was for some little time engaged in changing his neckcloth, brushing his hair and hat, and making other little improvements in his personal appearance.
William Jeffson declared that his young master looked as if he was going straight off to be married, as he rode away out of the stable-yard, with a bright eager smile upon his face and the spring breezes blowing amongst his hair. He looked the very incarnation of homely, healthy comeliness, the archetype of honest youth and simple English manhood, radiant with the fresh brightness of an unsullied nature, untainted by an evil memory, pure as a new-polished mirror on which no foul breath has ever rested.
He rode away to his fate, self-deluded, and happy in the idea that his journey was a wise blending of the duties of friendship and the cares of his surgery. I do not think there can be a more beautiful road in all England than that between Graybridge-on-the-Wayverne and Conventford, and I can scarcely believe that in all England there is an uglier town than Conventford itself.
I envy George Gilbert his long ride on that bright March morning, when the pale primroses glimmered among the underwood, and the odour of early violets mingled faintly with the air. The country roads were long avenues, which might have made the glory of a ducal park; and every here and there, between a gap in the budding hedge, a white-walled country villa or grave old red-brick mansion peeped out of some nook of rustic beauty, with shining windows winking in the noontide sun. Midway between Graybridge and Conventford there is the village of Waverly; the straggling village street over whose quaint Elizabethan roofs the ruined towers of a grand old castle cast their protecting shadows.
The surgeon gave his steed a mouthful of hay and a drink of water before the Waverly Arms, and then sauntered at a foot-pace into the long unbroken arcade which stretches from the quiet village to the very outskirts of the bustling Conventford. George urged Brown Molly into a ponderous kind of canter by-and-by, and went at a dashing rate till he came to the little turnpike at the end of the avenue, and left fair Elizabethan Midlandshire behind him. Before him there was only the smoky, noisy, poverty-stricken town, with hideous factory chimneys blackening the air, and three tall spires rising from amongst the crowded roofs high up into the clearer sky.
Gilbert drew rein on the green, which was quiet enough today, though such an uproarious spot in fair-time; he drew rein, and began to wonder what he should do. After a good deal of deliberation, George decided on going by the back way to Mr. Raymond would wonder why he called, and would think his interest in the nursery-governess odd, or even intrusive; and from that a natural transition of thought brought him to wonder whether it would not be better to abandon all idea of seeing Miss Sleaford, and to content himself with the purchase of the drugs.
While he was thinking of this, Brown Molly brought him into the lane at the end of which Mr. The country upon this side of Conventford was bleak and bare of aspect as compared to that fair park-like region which I venture to call Elizabethan Midlandshire. Raymond had resembled other people, I dare say he would have been considerably surprised—or, it may be, outraged—by a young gentleman in the medical profession venturing to make a morning call upon his nursery-governess; but as Mr.
Charles Raymond was the very opposite of everybody else in the world, and as he was a most faithful disciple of Mr. There were books everywhere in Mr. He buried the pale-faced niece in a quiet suburban cemetery, and took the orphans home to his pretty house at Conventford, and bought black frocks for them, and engaged Miss Sleaford for their education, and made less fuss about the transaction than many men would have done concerning the donation of a ten-pound note.
He had been very rich once, the Conventford people said, in those far-off golden days when there were neither strikes nor starvation in the grim old town; and he had lost a great deal of money in the carrying out of sundry philanthropic schemes for the benefit of his fellow-creatures, and was comparatively poor in these latter days. And all this time,—while he was the moving spirit of half-a-dozen committees, while he distributed cast-off clothing, and coals, and tickets for soup, and orders for flannel, and debated the solemn question as to whether Betsy Scrubbs or Maria Tomkins was most in want of a wadded petticoat, or gave due investigation to the rival claims of Mrs.
Green to the largess of the soup kitchen,—he was an author, a philosopher, a phrenologist, a metaphysician, writing grave books, and publishing them for the instruction of mankind. He was fifty years of age; but, except that his hair was grey, he had no single attribute of age. That grey hair framed the brightest face that ever smiled upon mankind, and with the liberal sunshine smiled alike on all. George Gilbert had seen Mr. Raymond several times before today. Everybody in Conventford, or within a certain radius of Conventford, knew Mr. Charles Raymond; and Mr. Charles Raymond knew everybody.
When I say that Mr. Beyond the garden there were the meadows, only separated from Mr. Charles Raymond took George into the drawing-room by-and-by, and from the bay window the young man saw Isabel Sleaford once more, as he had seen her first, in a garden. But the scene had a different aspect from that other scene, which still lingered in his mind, like a picture seen briefly in a crowded gallery. Instead of the pear-trees on the low disorderly grass-plat, the straggling branches green against the yellow sunshine of July, George saw a close-cropped lawn and trim flower-beds, stiff groups of laurel, amid bare bleak fields unsheltered from the chill March winds.
He felt that some inexplicable change had come to Isabel Sleaford since that July day on which she had talked of her pet authors, and glowed and trembled with childish love for the dear books out of whose pages she took the joys and sorrows of her life. The three pale faces, the three black dresses, had a desolate look in the cold sunlight. Raymond tapped at the glass, and beckoned to the nursery-governess.
The tears came unbidden to her eyes now with the smallest provocation. Gilbert obeyed his kindly host. He went out on to the lawn, where the brown shrubs were putting forth their feeble leaflets to be blighted by the chill air of March. George and Isabel talked a little; but the young man was fain to confine himself to a few commonplace remarks about Conventford, and Mr.
There was not much that these two could talk about as yet. She knew that Mr. Gilbert was a good young man kindly disposed towards her, and, after his simple fashion, eager to please her; but she felt rather than knew that he did not understand her, and that in that cloudy region where her thoughts for ever dwelt he could never be her companion. So, after a little of that deliciously original conversation which forms the staple talk of a morning call amongst people who have never acquired the supreme accomplishment called small-talk, George and Isabel returned to the drawing-room, where Mr.
Raymond said, as he shook hands with the surgeon. George thanked him for his cordial invitation, but he rode away from the house rather depressed in spirit, notwithstanding. How stupid he had been during that brief walk on Mr. How dismally the conversation had died away into silence every now and then, only to be revived by some lame question, some miserable remark apropos to nothing,—the idiotic emanation of despair! Gilbert rode to an inn near the market-place, where his father had been wont to take his dinner whenever he went to Conventford. He walked through the crowd, and rambled away into a narrow back street leading to an old square, where the great church of Conventford stood amidst a stony waste of tombstones, and where the bells that played a hymn tune when they chimed the hour were booming up in the grand old steeple.
The young man went into the stony churchyard, which was lonely enough even on a market-day, and walked about among the tombs, whiling away the time—for the benefit of Brown Molly, who required considerable rest and refreshment before she set out on the return journey—and thinking of Isabel Sleaford. He had only seen her twice, and yet already her image had fastened itself with a fatal grip upon his mind, and was planted there—an enduring picture, never again to be blotted out. There were pretty girls, and amiable girls, in Graybridge: Isabel came to him in her pale young beauty, and all the latent sentimentality—without which youth is hideous—kindled and thrilled into life at the magic spell of her presence.
The mystic Venus rises a full-blown beauty from the sea, and man the captive bows down before his divine enslaver. Who would care for a Venus whose cradle he had rocked, whose gradual growth he had watched, the divinity of whose beauty had perished beneath the withering influence of familiarity? It was dusk when George Gilbert went to the chemist and received his parcels of drugs.
He rode homeward through the solemn avenue, the dusky cathedral aisle, the infinite temple, fashioned by the great architect Nature. He rode through the long ghostly avenue, until the twinkling lights at Waverly glimmered on him faintly between the bare branches of the trees. There was no butter to be fetched, no mysterious errands to the Walworth Road. Everything was bright and smooth and trim in Mr. There was a middle-aged housekeeper who reigned supreme, and an industrious maidservant under her sway.
The children were rather stupid, but they were very good. They too had known the sharp ills of poverty, the butter-fetching, the blank days in which there was no bright oasis of dinner, the scraps of cold meat and melancholy cups of tea. It was not to be supposed that Mr. Charles Raymond, who had all the interests of Conventford to claim his attention, could give much time or trouble to the two pupils or the nursery-governess.
So no one interfered with Isabel or her pupils. The education of association, which would have been invaluable to her, was as much wanting at Conventford as it had been at Camberwell. She was young and sentimental, and it was not the good people upon whom her fancy fixed itself. She sighed to sit at the feet of a Byron, grand and gloomy and discontented, baring his white brow to the midnight blast, and raving against the baseness and ingratitude of mankind.
She pined to be the chosen slave of some scornful creature, who should perhaps ill-treat and neglect her. She walked up and down in the moonlight, and thought of all her dreams; and wondered when her life was going to begin. She was getting quite old; yes—she thought of it with a thrill of horror—she was nearly eighteen!
Juliet was buried in the tomb of the Capulets before this age, and haughty Beatrix had lived her life, and Florence Dombey was married and settled, and the story all over. A dull despair crept over this foolish girl as she thought that perhaps her life was to be only a commonplace kind of existence, after all; a blank flat level, along which she was to creep to a nameless grave.
She was so eager to be something. Oh, why was not there a revolution, that she might take a knife in her hand and go forth to seek the tyrant in his lodging, and then die; so that people might talk of her, and remember her name when she was dead? I think Isabel Sleaford was just in that frame of mind in which a respectable, and otherwise harmless, young person aims a bullet at some virtuous sovereign, in a paroxysm of insensate yearning for distinction.
Miss Sleaford wanted to be famous. She wanted the drama of her life to begin, and the hero to appear. Vague, and grand, and shadowy, there floated before her the image of the prince; but, oh, how slow he was to come! Would he ever come? Were there any princes in the world?
Were there any of those Beings whose manners and customs her books described to her, but whose mortal semblances she had never seen? The Sleeping Beauty in the woods slumbered a century before the appointed hero came to awaken her. Beauty must wait, and wait patiently, for the coming of her fate. There were reasons why Isabel Sleaford should shut away the memory of her past life, and solace herself with visions of a brighter existence. A little wholesome drudgery might have been good for her, as a homely antidote against the sentimentalism of her nature; but in Mr.
The hero was the veriest chameleon, inasmuch as he took his colour from the last book Miss Sleaford had been reading. Sometimes he was Ernest Maltravers, the exquisite young aristocrat, with violet eyes and silken hair. Sometimes he was Eugene Aram, dark, gloomy, and intellectual, with that awkward little matter of Mr. At another time he was Steerforth, selfish and haughty and elegant, Sometimes, when the orphans were asleep. Miss Sleaford let down her long black hair before the little looking-glass, and acted to herself in a whisper. She saw her pale face, awful in the dusky glass, her lifted arms, her great black eyes, and she fancied herself dominating a terror-stricken pit.
Sometimes she thought of leaving friendly Mr. Raymond, and going up to London with a five-pound note in her pocket, and coming out at one of the theatres as a tragic actress. She would go to the manager, and tell him that she wanted to act. Come tomorrow evening and play Constance. I shall take the liberty of offering you fifty pounds a night to begin with, and I shall place one of my carriages at your disposal. Siddons without so much as the ordeal of a rehearsal.
Sometimes Miss Sleaford thought that her Destiny—she clung to the idea that she had a destiny—designed her to be a poet, an L. The poor lonely untaught child looked right and left for some anchorage on the blank sea of life, and could find nothing but floating masses of ocean verdure, that drifted her here and there at the wild will of all the winds of heaven.
Behind her there was a past that she dared not look back upon or remember; before her lay the unknown future, wrapped in mysterious shadow, grand by reason of its obscurity. She was eager to push onward, to pierce the solemn veil, to tear aside the misty curtain, to penetrate the innermost chamber of the temple. Late in the night, when the lights of Conventford had died out under the starlit sky, the girl lay awake, sometimes looking up at those mystical stars, and thinking of the future; but never once, in any dream or reverie, in any fantastic vision built out of the stories she loved, did the homely image of the Graybridge surgeon find a place.
George Gilbert thought of her, and wondered about her, as he rode Brown Molly in the winding Midlandshire lanes, where the brown hedge-rows were budding, and the whitethorn bursting into blossom. He thought of her by day and by night, and was angry with himself for so thinking; and then began straightway to consider when he could, with any show of grace, present himself once more before Mr. Raymond when next he went to Conventford, or whether he ought to go to Conventford for the express purpose of paying his respects to Mr.
While George Gilbert hesitated and doubted, and argued and debated with himself, after the manner of every prudent home-bred young man who begins to think that he loves well, and sadly fears that he may not love wisely,—Destiny, under the form of a friend, gave him a push, and he went souse over head and ears into the roaring ocean, and there was nothing left for him but to swim as best he might towards the undiscovered shore upon the other side. So, if your patients are not the most troublesome people in the world, you can give yourself a holiday, and meet us on Wednesday morning, at twelve, if fine, at the Waverly Road lodge-gate to Hurstonleigh Park.
We come in a fly. You can leave your horse at Waverly. The young man read the letter over and over again, till it was crumpled and soiled with much unfolding and refolding, and taking out of, and putting back into, his waistcoat-pocket. Other people were to be of the party; but George Gilbert scarcely remembered that. He saw himself, with Isabel by his side, wandering along the winding pathways, straying away into mysterious arcades of verdure, where the low branches of the trees would meet above their heads, and shut them in from all the world.
He fancied himself talking to Mr. Did he love her, then, already—this pale-faced young person, whom he had only seen twice; who might be a Florence Nightingale, or a Madame de Laffarge, for all that he knew either one way or the other? He loved this young woman, and believed in her, and was ready to bring her to his simple home whenever she pleased to come thither; and had already pictured her sitting opposite to him in the little parlour, making weak tea for him in a Britannia-metal teapot, sewing commonplace buttons upon his commonplace shirts, debating with Mrs.
Yes; George pictured Miss Sleaford the heroine of such a domestic story as this, and had no power to divine that there was any incongruity in the fancy; no fineness of ear to discover the dissonant interval between the heroine and the story. Helena, and followed, perhaps liberated, by you,—are they all come to this? Are none of the wonderful things that happen to women ever to happen to you? Are you never to be Charlotte Corday, and die for your country?
Are you never to wear ruby velvet, and diamonds in your hair, and to lure some recreant Carker to a foreign hostelry, and there denounce and scorn him? Are all the pages of the great book of life to be closed upon you—you, who seem to yourself predestined, by reason of so many dreams and fancies, to such a wonderful existence? Is all the mystic cloudland of your dreams to collapse and shrivel into this,—a commonplace square-built cottage at Graybridge-on-the-Wayverne, with a commonplace country surgeon for your husband?
George Gilbert was waiting at the low white gate before the ivy-coloured lodge on the Waverly Road when the fly from Conventford drove up, with Sigismund Smith sitting beside the coachman, and questioning him about a murder that had been committed in the neighbourhood ten years before; and Mr. Raymond, Miss Sleaford, and the orphans inside. He had been home to dress, of course, and wore his newest and most fashionable clothes, and was, in fact, a living realization of one of the figures in a fly-blown fashion-plate for June , still exhibited in the window of a Graybridge tailor.
He wore a monthly rosebud in his button-hole, and he carried a bunch of spring flowers,—jonquils and polyanthuses, pink hawthorn, peonies, and sweet-brier,—which Mr. Jeffson had gathered and tied up, with a view to their presentation to Isabel,—although there were better flowers in Mr. So George was at his post a quarter of an hour before the fly drove up to the gate. He was there to open the door of the vehicle, and to give his hand to Isabel when she alighted. He felt the touch of her fingers resting briefly on his arm, and trembled and blushed like a girl as he met the indifferent gaze of her great black eyes.
Nobody took any notice of his embarrassment. Raymond and his nephew were busy with the hampers that had been stowed under the seats of the fly, and the orphans were employed in watching their elders,—for to them the very cream of the picnic was in those baskets. There was a boy at the lodge who was ready to take the basket whithersoever Mr. Raymond should direct; so all was settled very quickly. The driver received his instructions respecting the return journey, and went rumbling off to Hurstonleigh to refresh himself and his horse.
The lad went on before the little party, with the baskets swinging on either side of him as he went; and in the bustle of these small arrangements George Gilbert found courage to offer Isabel his arm. She took it without hesitation, and Sigismund placed himself on the other side of her. Raymond went on before with the orphans, who affected the neighbourhood of the baskets; and the three young people followed, walking slowly over the grass. Isabel had put off her mourning. She had never had but one black dress, poor child; and that being worn out, she was fain to fall back upon her ordinary costume.
If she had looked pretty in the garden at Camberwell, with tumbled hair and a dingy dress, she looked beautiful today, in clean muslin, fresh and crisp, fluttering in the spring breezes as she walked, and with her hair smoothly banded under a broad-leaved straw hat. Her face brightened with the brightness of the sunshine and the charm of the landscape; her step grew light and buoyant as she walked upon the springing turf. Her eyes lit up by-and-by, when the little party came to a low iron gate, beyond which there was a grove, a winding woodland patch, and undulating glades, and craggy banks half hidden under foliage, and, in a deep cleft below, a brawling waterfall for ever rushing over moss-grown rockwork, and winding far away to meet the river.
She was a Cockney, poor child, and had spent the best part of her life amidst the suburban districts of Camberwell and Peckham. All this Midlandshire beauty burst upon her like a sudden revelation of Paradise. Could the Garden of Eden have been more beautiful than this woodland grove? George was fain to confess that, although the grove was very beautiful, it inspired him with no desire to turn hermit, and take up his abode therein.
But Isabel hardly heard what he said to her. If she could meet him now, this wonderful unknown being—the Childe Harold, the Lara, of her life! What if it was to be so? The day was like the beginning of a story, somehow, inasmuch as it was unlike the other days of her life. What if Lord Hurstonleigh should happen to be strolling in his grove, and should see her and rescue her from death by drowning, or a mad bull, or something of that sort, and thereupon fall in love with her?
Unhappily she discovered from Mr. Raymond that Lord Hurstonleigh was an elderly married man, and was, moreover, resident in the south of France; so that bright dream was speedily shattered. But there is no point of the compass from which a hero may not come. There was hope yet; there was hope that this bright spring-day might not close as so many days had closed upon the same dull record, the same empty page. Raymond was in his highest spirits today. He liked to be with young people, and was younger than the youngest of them in his fresh enjoyment of all that is bright and beautiful upon earth.
They were stupid and unimpressionable; but, then, were they not the children of that unhappy consumptive niece of his, who had acquired, by reason of her many troubles, a kind of divine right to become a burden upon happy people? What could I not make of such a girl as that? Raymond only finished the sentence with a sigh. He was thinking that, after all, these bright faculties might not be the best gifts for a woman. It would have been better, perhaps, for Isabel to have possessed the organ of pudding-making and stocking-darning, if those useful accomplishments are represented by an organ.
The kindly phrenologist was thinking that perhaps the highest fate life held for that pale girl with the yellow tinge in her eyes was to share the home of a simple-hearted country surgeon, and rear his children to be honest men and virtuous women. The philosopher of Conventford had got rid of the orphans, and was strolling by himself in those delicious glades, swinging his stick as he went, and throwing up his head every now and then to scent all the freshness of the warm spring air.
Will she marry that good, sheepish country surgeon, who has fallen in love with her? He can give her a home and a shelter; and she seems such a poor friendless little creature, just the sort of girl to get into some kind of mischief if she were left to herself. I should like to have fancied a brighter fate for her, a life with more colour in it. I can see her like this; and then, when I remember what her life is likely to be, I begin to feel sorry for her, just as if she were some fair young nun, foredoomed to be buried alive by-and-by.
When did a matchmaker ever create anything but matrimonial confusion and misery? I dare say Beatrice kept her word, and did make Benedick wretched. Raymond stopped; and seeing the rest of the party happily engaged in gathering hyacinths under the low branches of the trees, he seated himself upon a clump of fallen timber, and took a book out of his pocket. It was a book that had been sent by post, for the paper wrapper was still about it. Raymond should, not open the book immediately, but should sit turning and twisting the volume about in his hands, and looking at it with a contemptuous expression of countenance.
I had a look at them this morning, without cutting the leaves. Surely no alien could have been afflicted with anything like them, unless he was perpetually eating heavy suppers of underdone pork, or drinking bad wine, or neglecting the ventilation of his bedroom. Imperfect ventilation has a good deal to do with it, I dare say. Raymond opened the volume in a very gingerly fashion, almost as if he expected something unpleasant might crawl out of it, and looked in a sideways manner between the leaves, muttering the first line or so of a poem, and then skipping on to another, and giving utterance to every species of contemptuous ejaculation between whiles.
And to think that Roland Lansdell should waste his time in writing this sort of thing! But as it is, he is nothing better than a colonel of militia, with a fine uniform, and a long sword that is only meant for show. But he had no time to waste upon any regretful musings about Mr Roland Lansdell, sole master of Lansdell Priory, one of the finest seats in Midlandshire, and who was just now wandering somewhere in Greece, upon a Byronic kind of tour that had lasted upwards of six months, and was likely to last much longer.
Raymond declared, when he rejoined the rest of the party, much to the delight of the orphans, who were always hungry, and who ate so much, and yet remained so pale and skeleton-like of aspect, that they presented a pair of perpetual phenomena to the eye of the physiologist. The baskets had been carried to a little ivy-sheltered arbour, perched high above the waterfall; and here Mr. Raymond unpacked them, bringing out his treasures one after another; first a tongue, then a pair of fowls, a packet of anchovy sandwiches, a great poundcake at sight of which the eyes of the orphans glistened , delicate caprices in the way of pastry, semi-transparent biscuits, and a little block of Stilton cheese, to say nothing of sundry bottles of Madeira and sparkling Burgundy.
Perhaps there never was a merrier party. To eat cold chicken and drink sparkling Burgundy in the open air on a bright May afternoon is always an exhilarating kind of thing, though the scene of your picnic may be the bleakest of the Sussex Downs, or the dreariest of the Yorkshire Wolds; but to drink the sparkling wine in that little arbour of Hurstonleigh, with the brawling of the waterfall keeping time to your laughter, the shadows of patriarchal oaks sheltering you from all the outer world, is the very acme of bliss in the way of a picnic.
It was so easy for them to leave all the Past on the threshold of that lovely grove, and to narrow their lives into the life of that one bright day. Even Isabel forgot that she had a Destiny, and consented to be happy in a simple girlish way, without a thought of the prince who was so long coming. She did not say very much, in comparison with Sigismund and Mr. Raymond, who were neither of them indifferent hands at talking; but when she spoke, there was generally something vague and dreamy in her words,—something that set George wondering about her anew, and made him admire her more than ever.
He forgot all the dictates of prudence now; he was false to all the grand doctrines of young manhood; he only remembered that Isabel Sleaford was the loveliest creature upon earth; he only knew that he loved her, and that his love, like all true love, was mingled with modest doubtfulness of his own merits, and exaggerated deference for hers. He loved her as purely and truly as if he had been able to express his passion in the noblest poem ever written; but not being able to express it, his love and himself seemed alike tame and commonplace.
I must not dwell too long on this picnic, though it seemed half a lifetime to George Gilbert, for he walked with Isabel through the lanes between Hurstonleigh grove and Hurstonleigh village, and he loitered with her in the little churchyard at Hurstonleigh, and stood upon the bridge beneath which the Wayverne crept like a riband of silver, winding in and out among the rushes.
He lingered there by her side while the orphans and Sigismund and Mr. George loitered on the little stone bridge with Isabel, and somehow or other, still emboldened by the sparkling Burgundy, his passion all of a sudden found a voice, and he told her that he loved her, and that his highest hope upon earth was the hope of winning her for his wife. I suppose that simple little story must be a pretty story, in its way; for when a woman hears it for the first time, she is apt to feel kindly disposed to the person who recites it, however poorly or tamely he may tell his tale.
She felt this; and with this a kind of grateful liking for the young man at her side, through whose agency all these pleasant feelings came to her. And all this time George was pleading with her, and arguing, from her blushes and her silence, that his suit was not hopeless.
I have written it over and over and over on the leaves of a blotting-book at home, very often without knowing that I was writing it. It is only today—this dear, happy day—that has made me understand what I have felt all along; and now I know that I have loved you from the first, Isabel, dear Isabel, from the very first. All this was quite as it should be. The words she heard for the first time were delightful to her because of their novelty, but they took no charm from the lips that spoke them.
Any other good-looking, respectably-dressed young man would have been quite as much to her as George Gilbert was. But then she did not know this. While the young man was still pleading, while she was still listening to him, and blushing and glancing shyly at him out of those wonderful tawny-coloured eyes, which seemed black just now under the shadow of their drooping lashes, Sigismund and the orphans appeared at the distant gate of the churchyard whooping and hallooing, to announce that the tea was all ready.
He did not ask her if she loved him; he was too much in love with her—too entirely impressed with her grace and beauty, and his own inferiority—to tempt his fate by such a question. If she would marry him, and let him love her, and by-and-by reward his devotion by loving him a little, surely that would be enough to satisfy his most presumptuous wishes.
You would not be so cruel as to let me hope, even for a minute, if you meant to disappoint me. You shall never know what poverty is, darling, if you will be my wife. He was almost startled by the intensity of his own feelings, as he bent down and kissed the little ungloved hand lying on the moss-grown stonework of the bridge.
She looked at him with a startled expression in her face. Was it all settled, then, so suddenly—with so little consideration? Yes, it was all settled; she was beloved with one of those passions that endure for a lifetime. George had said something to that effect.