Authors: Winston Graham
Tags: #Fiction, #Sagas
'You cannot eat us all,' said Clowance.
He laughed. 'M'ambition is strictly limited.'
There was still no one about. Long pale shadows moved with them over the fields.
They reached the cliffs again. Three fishing boats had appeared, punctuating the misty sea.
'Let us stay here awhile,' she said.
'Never mind.' She knew that her face still gave away the emotions she'd been feeling, and had no relish for arriving at Nampara until she had quite recovered.
'Shall you care,' he said, 'whether I go or stay?'
'So many questions, Stephen, so many questions . . . Now may I ask you one?'
'How many girls have you left pining for you in Bristol?'
He laughed, pleased with the question. 'How can I answer that? There are girls - have been girls - I'm twenty-eight, Clowance - how could there not have been? Only one was important, and that ended five years gone. That was the only one that was important - until now.'
She looked at him very candidly. 'Are you telling me the truth?'
'You must know I am. Me dear. Me love. Me beautiful. I wouldn't - couldn't deceive you in this.'
She turned away from him, aware that the emotions she had sought to subdue were returning.
'Then,' she said, 'if you would be so kind, Stephen, would you walk on ahead of me? I will follow you
in a little while.'
Ross reached Chatham early on Saturday morning, the 12th January, 1
11. He had survived the bloody encounter at Bussaco with no more than a scratch on his shoulder, but had caught the influenza which was raging in Lisbon when he got there and so had missed the early ships home. He posted at once to London, and his first act when he arrived was to send off the letter to Demelza he had written while lurching in the wind-blown waters of Biscay.
Having slept nine hours in a comfortable bed, he breakfasted and went through drifting snowflakes to see George Canning at Brompton Lodge, Canning's new house. It was in the village of Old Brompton, less than half an hour's walk from Hyde Park Corner and set among orchards and market gardens; though the fields and lonely lanes in between were much infested by footpads and highwaymen. Canning was in and received him eagerly, listened to his report, and at once asked Ross to repeat his account to the Foreign Secretary, Lord Wellesley, and the War Minister, Robert Dundas. This Ross agreed to so long as it was done quick; his only wish now was to rejoin his family.
His friendship with George Canning had ripened through the years, until Ross now accounted him his best friend in London; and he knew it was Canning who had been behind most of the later missions he had been invited to undertake. At present Canning was in the wilderness, out of office and out of favour both with his own party and with the opposition; but no lack of immediate popularity could prevent him being a power in the land, both as an orator and as a statesman. Ten years younger than Ross and coming from a quite different background, he had a political genius that Ross could not hope to match but none of Ross's military training (when fighting a duel with Lord Castlereagh recently his second had had to cock the pistol for him because he had never fired one before).
Yet they had much in common; the nonconforming, scarred, bony Cornishman and the part-Irish, witty, sharp-tongued statesman. They each had a certain arrogance -neither suffered fools gladly or even silently, so they made enemies; they both had an intense, almost obsessive loyalty to friends that persisted through all vicissitudes; they were both reforming radicals by temperament yet Tories of necessity. They had both been staunch followers of Pitt; they both believed in Catholic Emancipation and both had rejoiced when three years ago slavery had been abolished throughout the British colonies. Particularly and absolutely, they both had a great sympathy for the lot of the common people but a conviction that the active prosecution of the war must for the time being take precedence over all.
That was Sunday. Canning's beautiful wife was at their country home in Hinckley with their ailing son, so he insisted that Ross should spend the day with him. He told Ross of the King's insanity, of the fact that on December 19th - over a month ago - Spencer Perceval had at last been forced to introduce a Regency Bill. Although people always said the King was improving, the fact remained that the government could not pass a single measure without his consent, and it was difficult to get a rational signature from a man who fancied himself an animal out of Noah's Ark.
Since then there had been bitter disputes and wrangling both in and out of the House because the Tories wished to restrict the Prince's powers, at least for two years. It all confirmed the Prince's bitter hostility to his father's government, and he had been heard to say after receiving one communication from them: 'By God, once I am Regent they shall not remain an hour!' So the Whig party was coming in on a four-fold platform: Peace with France; the surrender of the dispute with America; the Emancipation of Ireland; and the abolition of tithes. Samuel Whitbread, the_ brewer's son turned statesman, was likely to become Foreign Secretary, with powers to negotiate the peace, and Lord Grenville was almost certain to be Prime Minister.
So would come peace, said Canning bitterly, another patched-up peace like the peace of Amiens ten years ago, a pact which had given the French back half their colonial empire and allowed Buonaparte just the breathing space he needed before setting out on his next round of conquests. So must come the withdrawal of a discredited Wellington from Portugal and the abandonment of that country to the French.
not happen,' Canning said. 'But I do not know how it may be stopped from happening
I saw Perceval only yesterday. He still puts on a brave face about the King, but, in confidence
'D'you think the Prince immovable?' Ross said.
'Immovable in his detestation of the present government, yes. I had hopes for a while of Lady Hertford. She is, I believe, leading him to a soberer way of life. As you know, I am
with the Prince; but I took an opportunity and spoke to Lady Hertford on this subject. She feels there is nothing she can do for the present government, for it has been denounced past recall.'
'And the Prince is in favour of all the policies the Whigs are in favour of? Even peace?'
'So it would seem. Apart from the Whig party itself, all his personal advisers, Adams, Moira, the Duke of Cumberland, Sheridan, Tyrwhitt
'There perhaps lies a faint hope. As you know, he is one of my oldest friends, but of late we have seen little of each other. He is the Prince's most intimate friend, but he is not popular with the Hertfords and they may well have influenced the Prince against him. Also, of course, he is now seldom sober
There was a pause. Ross eased his ankle.
Canning said: 'You must not go home yet, Ross.'
'It is past time.'
'Not, at least, until this crisis is past. It has been the very devil keeping members of all persuasions in London this fine frosty winter when hunting conditions have been so good. The severer weather that you see today has but now struck us. If-during the next few weeks -
can count on your vote in the House, this will bring those I can absolutely rely on to fifteen. Where many issues are delicately balanced, such a group can wield a deal of influence.'
'Influence to what end?' Ross asked impatiently. 'It cannot turn an issue which will be decided entirely by the King's illness and the Prince's
whim. If I could see a way where, by staying at Westminster, I could influence the question of peace or war, I would stay. But it is out of our hands.'
'Well, stay a week. Two weeks. Stay here with us. Joan would wish it if she were here. To see the Bill through. And to tell your story to those in high office. Please. It is your duty. Otherwise the purpose of your mission is unfulfilled.'
George Warleggan had agonized his way through Christmas and the New Year. It was not in his nature to gamble - except on near certainties - this was the problem. Yet if he waited much longer the opportunity must surely be lost. Others could see as clearly as he, others would step in and snap up the Manchester properties if he did not. They might already be gone. In London there was no way of knowing one day from the next what might be happening in the northern cities.
The official reports of the doctors were still hopeful. Spencer Perceval had announced only that week in Parliament that he had just been to see the King himself and that they had conducted a perfectly normal conversation with no sign of mental alienation or confusion on the King's part. Yet the Regency Bill was making slow but inevitable progress; the politicians could not wrangle for ever. Nor could they wait. Nor could George.
And then by chance one day he heard of someone who might help him to decide, who might be induced to advise him without knowing he was doing so; a Cornishman -very unexpectedly in London at this time. Even that unexpectedness was significant.
Ever since his imprisonment in a French prisoner-of-war camp soon after the outbreak of war Dr Dwight Enys had made a particular study of mental ailments. Having seen the effect of starvation and vile conditions on many types of healthy men, he had been struck by the wide differences of stamina between them, the strange ability some had to rise above their privations and the equally strange incapacity of others. Many apparently of the strongest went under; others of greater obvious frailty lived through it all. And he had come to the conclusion that it was the mental approach that made the difference: the essential determination of the mind to dominate the body. When he had been rescued Dwight Enys had practised this discipline on himself, much to his new wife's indignation, since she saw him constantly over-taxing his strength.
All that was now past, but in
during the brief peace, he had gone to France with his great friend Ross Poldark, who was trying to trace any surviving relatives of Charles, Comte de Sombreuil, who had been killed in the abortive landing at Quiberon in 179 $; and while over there Dwight had met a Dr Pinel, the director of an asylum called Bicetre. Dr Pinel told him that in 1793, being then strongly imbued with the new principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, he had decided to release a dozen madmen from their filthy cells and see what happened to them. Two died because before they were released their feet had been gangrened by frost, the other ten gave no trouble at all and six of these finally went back into the world quite cured. Since those days Dr Pinel had given the inmates as much freedom as possible and nowadays regularly dined with them. It was a new approach to the treatment of lunacy, and when he returned to England Dwight published a paper on his experiences and what might be learned from them.
As a result of this publication, he learned of the existence of Mr William Tuke, a Quaker merchant of York, who had opened a mental home ten or more years ago and, though pursuing a different and more Christian path than Dr Pinel, had arrived, as it were, at the same door. Restraint was reduced to a minimum, the patients were f;iven work to do and healthy outdoor exercise. Dwight went up to see him and toured the madhouse. He was enormously impressed. Two years later he met the Doctors Willis and inspected th
ir asylum. He was now pressing, as George very well knew, for some reasonable hospital for the mentally deranged to be built in Cornwall, perhaps in Truro next to the Royal Cornwall Hospital which had been opened in 1799.
But why was he in London now? That was what George wanted to know. Dr Enys was notorious for the reluctance with which he left Cornwall and his village patients. It might be he was here in deference to his wife's wishes, since Caroline always spent a part of the autumn in London staying with her aunt, Mrs Pelham. But this was January. Unless he was doing something in some medical capacity Dwight was always a fish out of water.
ge's relationship with the Enyse
s had been fairly good but never close over the years. He had disliked Dwight thoroughly in the early days when the young man, without a practice or money, had unhesitatingly taken the poverty-stricken Ross Poldark as his personal friend when the Warleggans had made it clear to him that he must choose between them. But Caroline had always been friendly with Elizabeth, and after her marriage to Dwight the couples had often met. Caroline, with her usual charming arrogance, had completely failed to accept that her loving friendship with Ross and Demelza should in any way constrict her social visits to Trenwith, and it was Dwight who had been summoned to Elizabeth's bedside on her premature confinement, had delivered Ursula, and later, along with Dr Behenna, had watched helplessly while Elizabeth slipped away.
In the intervening years George had occasionall
y been invited to dinner at Kill
ewarren. Now and then they met in Truro. Once, when Ursula broke her pattern of abounding good health, Dr Enys attended her in the absence of Dr Behenna. It was the sort of relationship which in no way inhibited George from calling at Mrs Pelham's house. If the fact that it had never in all these years happened before made the visit unusual, that was a small point to set beside his need.
By a fortunate chance as George clopped into Hatton Garden a chair was drawing up outside the house, and Caroline got out with her eldest child, Sophie. George quickly dismounted and flung the reins of his horse over a hitching post. The street was crowded and for a moment Caroline did not notice the caller.
When she turned and saw him she raised an eyebrow and said: 'Sir George, what a surprise! To what do we owe the honour? Is there an R in the month?'
'My dear Caroline, I called to see if Dwight were in; but it is the more pleasure to find you and looking so charming. And your daughter . . . She's well, I have no need to ask.'
'Well, thank you. As are we all. But can it be your visit means you are not? Otherwise
Once again he avoided the irony. 'No, no. Passing. Just passing by.'
They went in. Dwight was in a small study off the main parlour and was reading a medical pamphlet. They all talked for a while, and Caroline ordered tea. She also invited George to sup with them, which he accepted. Over tea they discussed the constitutional crisis, the progress of the war, the latest plays, the iniquities of recruiting sergeants, the heavy frosts of the last two days, and the need for increased cleanliness in London's streets.
Caroline's invitation gave George time, and he was grateful not to have to bring up too soon the real object of his visit. But when they went into supper there was a horrid complication. Not only. Caroline's aunt, Mrs Pelham, was there but another man, tall and ramshackle, called Webb, and two young soldiers (whose names George instantly forgot) yellow-skinned as Chinamen from their fevers in the Indies. And also there was a girl
the last time he had seen her
'Have you met Miss Clowance Poldark?' Caroline asked him. 'Ross's daughter. She came up with us for a few days.'
'I - er
George said. 'Yes, briefly, once.'
'We almost quarrelled over some foxgloves,' said the girl, smiling.
'Indeed.' He bowed stiffly and went to his place at the table.
Over supper conversation was casual, and he wondered by what pretext he might afterwards get Dwight alone. The girl was in grey, looked paler than he remembered her; but the long fair hair was the same, the grey eyes, the young high bosom. She was not unlike in build, though better looking than, that other girl he had once had suppressed feelings for: Morwenna Chynoweth - then Whitworth - now Came,
'Do you know the Duke of Leeds?' he asked Caroline in an undertone,
while his other partner, Mrs Pe
lham, was talking to Colonel Webb. It was a sudden impulse of his to ask this; though contrary to his nature to betray his inclinations on any subject to more people than was vitally necessary, it did seem to him that disclosing the one interest might cleverly mask the other and real reason for his coming.
'I would not claim to know him,' said Caroline, in a louder voice than he would have liked. 'I've met him once or twice. My aunt probably does.'
'I met his sister in Cornwall recently.'
Caroline looked at him over the tip of her wineglass.
'Harriet Carter, d'you mean?'
so you know her?'
'Oh yes. Passing well. We've hunted together.'
'She's living near Helston now, since her husband died.'
'I didn't know that. I knew she'd been left badly off.'
'Yes,' said George.
A footman refilled their glasses, and then Mrs Pelham broke with her neighbour and conversation became general - chiefly on how Prinny would measure up to his responsibilities when he became Regent. But later Caroline returned to the subject herself.
'Is Harriet Carter the Duke of Leeds's sister or half-sister? I never remember.'
'Nor I,' said George, knowing nothing about it.
'Oh, I expect they're of the same marriage. Willy's only about thirty-five. But there are younger ones about.'
'Indeed,' said George.
Caroline considered the heavy, formidable man beside her. It was quite difficult actively to
George, but she found him interesting; and there was sufficient of her uncle in her to appreciate what he had done, how far he had climbed, the extent of his achievement. She had never actually witnessed that side of his nature which could be ruthless and vindictive; and sometimes she thought there was a better man inside him struggling to get out. Even when Elizabeth was alive he had seemed to her a lonely man, though no doubt it was a loneliness brought about by the sourness of his own humours.
He and Ross, of course, could never mix; even with the abrasive element of Elizabeth gone, they were oil and water. Sometime, she thought ironically, when she was far gone in drink to give her courage, she would chide Ross on his dismissive attitude to money, which went in her view too far the other way.
She said: 'So you wish to meet the Duke, is that it?'
A faint flush showed on George's neck. 'Oh? Well. . . You think your aunt knows him?'
'Yes, I believe she does.'
'Then I should be honoured
Caroline waved away a plate of sweetmeats that had been offered her. 'You like Harriet?'
find her agreeable.'
'She rides like the devil, George. Did vou know that?' 'Yes.'
'Are you serious?'
'Serious? I don't know what you mean.' 'Never mind. It was a light-hearted question. You have other reasons for wishing to meet the Duke?' 'No,' said George.
admire honest answers,' said Caroline.
Supper ended and the ladies retired. Clowance had been very quiet, answering only with quiet modesty the gallantries of one of the anonymous young soldiers, but occasionally she glanced across at George, as if assessing his person and his presence there. In return he looked at her but in such a way that he hoped she did not notice, taking in her fresh young looks, the roundness of her arms, golden in the candlelight, the heavy, firmly shaped lips that some young man no doubt was already tasting, the ripe young body.
The men drank port and talked about the wagers that were being laid at Brooks's as to the constitution of the new government. After a long time they rose to join the ladies. George let the other three men move off and then called Dwight back.
'That Clowance is with you - does it mean something has happened to Ross?'
'No, he is on a mission to Portugal.'
'That I know. But not back yet?'
'Not back yet. There can be many reasons for a delay. Caroline thought it would be good for Clowance to see a little society.'
'Is her mother or brother
'No. She came with us.'
'And are you staying long?'
'Perhaps two weeks.'
George said: 'Is it true, Dwight, that you came to London to see the King?'
Dwight raised his eyebrows but for a moment did not speak. 'I cannot imagine what may have given you that idea.'
'My informant said he had it on good authority.'
'You must know, George, that London is a hot-bed of rumour. Especially at a time like this.'
'All the same I was surprised to hear you were in Town, knowing how you dislike it - and January is not your usual month.'
'Well,' George said, 'it is none of my business, but if you have seen his Majesty I hope you receive due recognition. It could help towards setting up your Cornish mental hospital, if it were to be known.'
'If it were to be known
and if it ever happened.'
'Of course. My friend told me the Willises are close friends of yours.'
friends? Hardly. Colleagues at the most. I don't approve of their methods.'
'But you may have discussed the King's condition with them?'