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Authors: Winston Graham

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The Stranger From The Sea (45 page)

BOOK: The Stranger From The Sea
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Of course she was very young; if nothing came of this, the present alternatives at Nampara need not be the be-all and end-all of her choice. But Caroline had been right, she must be shown more of the world.

Demelza came to herself to find a grey-haired handsome man bending over her.

'A delightful interlude, ma'am. And you are to be congratulated on your charming daughter.'

'Thank you, Sir John.'

'May I venture to remind you of a promise you made last evening?'

'What was that?'

'You have so often sworn to tear the cloth if you were once given a billiard cue, that I suspect you of being an expert who fears to shame us with her knowledge of the game. Colonel Powys-Jones and Miss Carlisle are willing to be our opponents, if you would honour me by becoming my partner.'

Demelza had a soft spot for Egerton.

'Sir John, I
I am a beginner. If you have money on this I earnesdy would like you to find some other partner. What about Lady Isabel?'

'She could not hear the score.'

'Do you
to hear the score? Isn't it more better to hit the balls into the right pockets?'

"There, I told you, you have the essence of the game! See, our opponents are waiting for us at the door.'

So she went to play billiards, a game at which she showed more proficiency than with bows and arrows. For one thing she did not have Colonel Powys-Jones squeezing her into the wrong frame of mind, for another, having mastered the bridge on which her wobbly left hand had to support the cue, she found that by closing one eye like an ancient mariner peering through a spy glass, she could focus her attention so successfully on one ball that she more often than not hit the other ball in the direction intended. This did not always achieve the desired result, but it seemed to please Sir John Egerton and to confound Colonel Powys-Jones and Miss Carlisle often enough to achieve some sort of victory for her side.

In a warm glow of acclamation the game ended, and Powys-Jones said damned if he didn't believe Mrs Poldark didn't have a table of her own down in that oudandish peninsula where she made her home; and he was returning to Radnorshire next Tuesday, and he'd be glad to see as entertaining a game at Clwyd Hall, if the opportunity could come his way. It seemed that Sir John Egerton was returning with Colonel Powys-Jones and spending a few days there on his way to his own home in Cheshire.

Demelza escaped upstairs ahead of Clowance, who came in half an hour later, elated in spite of herself by the way the evening had gone. In the business of learning the. lines and dressing up and being rehearsed and the interchanges that went with it there had been more genuine fun and a closer harmony of spirit among the young ladies than before. Even Miss Florence Hastings had been heard to laugh, a means of expression which she normally looked on as bad form.

'I think I may go more often to the play,' Clowance said. 'The trouble in Truro and Redruth is that there are so many melodramas of blood and slaughter. I much better prefer such a social comedy as we have done tonight.'

'Perhaps you should have gone more frequent to London,' Demelza said, 'but often you seemed not to want to.'

'Is there not just as much blood on the stage there?' Clowance asked.

'Every bit. Folk who don't want to bother to go to Tyburn dearly like to see mock hangings instead.'

Clowance unpinned her hair and shook it out. 'I wonder what they are doing at home now.'

'Abed, I would suppose. Unless they are up to some mischief. You know Colonel Powys-Jones and Sir John Egerton want us to go on into Wales with them when this party breaks up on Tuesday.'

Clowance laughed. 'Do you think we should ever come back safe?'

'It depends what you mean by safe,' said Demelza.

'I don't think Papa would approve.'

'Sometime, though, you must listen to Colonel Powys-Jones on the subject of husbands. He sees them as a very unnecessary nuisance.'

'I don't think I should ever want my husband to be that,' Clowance said.

'Nor I for you,' said her mother.


It was planned on the Sunday that after church they should all go on an expedition to Bath to see the Abbey and to drink the waters. The weather had turned fine and warm again, and this would be a final expedition before the house party broke up.

As it happened Demelza, thought looking forward to this outing, was not able to go on it, being attacked by one of her megrims in the early hours of the morning. So she spent the day in bed.

It was while they were in Bath that Lord Edward asked Clowance to be his wife. With as much grace and delicacy as she could muster she refused.


The house party ended as arranged on the Tuesday morning. Colonel Powys-Jones, having made a final but abortive effort to capture Demelza for his Welsh fastness, rode off sorrowing with Sir John Egerton. The Hon. Helena Fairborne, accompanied by her maid and groom, left shordy afterwards in her own carriage for the family seat in Dorset. Miss Hastings likewise, though she shared a carriage with a Mr and Mrs Dawson who also had been there. Mrs Poldark and Miss Poldark were a litde later, the post-chaise that was to take them to Bath being tardy in arrival. At the last there had to be haste, for the coach leaving Bath for Taunton would not wait for them; this haste was perhaps fortunate, for there was short enough time for leave-taking. At the last Demelza bent and kissed Lady Isabel Fitzmaurice's cheek; the others had all been kind but she had given that extra warmth that was endearing. Very politely but with a litde tautness in his manner, Lord Edward came down the steps to see them off. The coach crackled and crunched on the loose gravel as the coachman made a turn, his horse providing a staccato of hooves and snorts as they got under way. As they left, bowling along the fine avenue towards the far distant gates, Edward turned and went up the steps again
and walked thoughtfully through the great house. It seemed very quiet after the fuss and bustle of the last two weeks. On Thursday the family would begin to assemble themselves for a Friday departure for Scotland. They would arrive in good time for the twelfth.

In his spacious bedroom looking out over the ornamental gardens Edward went to his desk, opened it and took from a drawer a letter he had written last Friday to Captain Ross Poldark. He read it through a couple of times before tearing it across and across and dropping it into the wastepaper basket. He blew his nose and walked to the window to see if the chaise was out of sight. It was. He went down to rejoin the others.


BOOK: The Stranger From The Sea
5.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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