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Authors: Barbara Cartland

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BOOK: The Temptation of Torilla
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There were many ways in which the miners could suffer so that those in charge of them could line their pockets.

There were always wage deductions to pay for the candles and the powder they used. An overseer could, if he chose, make the men buy candles from him for one or two pennies above the market price.

This, Torilla had learnt from her father, was what happened in the Havingham mine.

Payment for broken tools reduced a man’s wages and the overseer could demand a sum far in excess of the current market value of the goods.

The Vicar had been very explicit about the iniquity of this.

“They are charging a shilling for a shovel shaft,” he had said furiously one day to Torilla, “and a shovel shaft costs sixpence here, although hitherto it has cost twopence.”

“Can nothing be done?” Torilla had asked once again.

“Who cares if the men are cheated?” the Vicar had asked scathingly.

Certainly not the wealthy Marquis! He is a man with castles and houses, servants and racehorses and now he is taking an expensive wife.

She heard the voices in the hall drawing nearer to the door and she braced herself for a contact with the man she thought of as ‘the devil’.

She tightened her hold on the great bunches of lilies which she still held in her arms and her eyes were wide and dark in her pale face as she waited.

Then she could not look, it was so frightening.

Beryl came in first.

“Here is Gallen, dearest Torilla, and now you can meet him!”

A man followed Beryl into the salon, his polished hessian boots reflecting the furniture and the chaos of paper, flowers and presents on the floor.

With an effort Torilla raised her eyes, then her heart turned a double-somersault in her breast.

She thought that the ceiling fell down on her head and the whole room whirled around her!

It was not the Marquis of Havingham who followed Beryl, but Sir Alexander Abdy!

CHAPTER FOUR

Torilla walked in through the gates of the Park and saw the ground beneath the oak trees covered with a golden carpet of daffodils.

It was early in the morning because she had been to the seven o’clock Communion in the little village Church where she had been christened.

There were only half-a-dozen other people at the service and, when it was over, Torilla went to the Churchyard to stand beside her mother’s grave under a yew-tree.

She looked down at the plain headstone and found it hard to believe that her mother, whom she had loved so deeply and who had always been so sweet and understanding, had left her.

Then she had told herself this was not true.

Her mother’s spirit was alive and Torilla was convinced that, wherever she might be, her thoughts and love would always be with her father and herself.

‘Help me, Mama, to do what I can for Beryl,’ Torilla said in her heart. ‘Knowing how he treats the people in Barrowfield how can I let her marry the Marquis?’

She did not include it in her prayers, but she knew, if she was honest, that her feelings about the Marquis were conflicting and confused.

How, when she knew him to be a monster of callousness and cruelty, could he also be the man who had evoked such a Divine rapture within herself that even to think of his kiss still made her quiver?

Ever since he arrived at The Hall, she had found it impossible to look at him or to meet his eyes.

When he entered the salon, she curtsied automatically without any conscious volition on her part and her heart had been beating so furiously in her breast that she had thought he must hear it.

Her eyelashes were very dark against her pale cheeks.

Then, as she rose, she heard him say,

“Delightful to meet you, Miss Clifford!”

She told herself then that her feelings against him were no less vehement than before his arrival and yet there was an undoubted tremor in her voice as she answered politely,

“Thank you – my Lord.”

Beryl was quite unaware that there was any tension between the Marquis and her cousin.

“Come and look at our presents, Gallen,” she had said pulling him by the arm. “They are quite nauseating and the only thing we can do is to give them away to other unfortunate couples in the future.”

As she took the Marquis towards the untidy mess of presents, letters and paper, Torilla, still clenching the lilies against her, had escaped.

How could it be possible, she asked herself as she ran upstairs, that the Marquis was Sir Alexander Abdy, the man who, despite every resolution, she had dreamt about every night since she had last seen him and thought about a thousand times a day?

‘I hate him! I hate him!’ she told herself over and over again as if the mere words were a talisman that would erase the memory of that magical, inexpressibly wonderful kiss.

She had been very quiet at dinner that night, but neither Beryl nor her uncle noticed because they were so busy talking.

The Earl had plenty to relate about the congratulations he had received in London after
The
Gazette
had published the announcement of his daughter’s betrothal.

At the same time Beryl was quite determined that the Marquis’s attention should not wander long from herself. She was looking extremely beautiful in a gown that matched the colour of her eyes and wearing a necklace of aquamarines which, set with diamonds, sparkled with every movement.

She made the Marquis laugh several times and Torilla thought that no man could fail to be in love with anyone so alluring. But she was so afraid of meeting the Marquis’s eyes that she did not look at him.

Only as dinner was drawing to a close did the Marquis ask unexpectedly as Beryl was talking of the wedding,

“What part is Miss Clifford to play in all these celebrations?”

It was a question that made Torilla start and the colour rose in her cheeks.

“Torilla is to be my only bridesmaid,” Beryl replied. “I have not had time, Gallen, to tell you how much she means in my life. We were brought up together.”

“Yes, indeed,” the Earl interposed, “and we have all missed you very much, Torilla, since you left us for the far North.”

“I have missed you, too, Uncle Hector,” Torilla answered him in a low voice.

“Well, you are back now and at least we shall have you with us until Beryl is married.”

“That reminds me – ” Beryl exclaimed and she was chattering again about the wedding ceremony and the huge number of people who had to be accommodated at the reception.

As soon as dinner was over and the gentlemen came into the salon, Torilla had slipped away once again to the peace and quietness of her bedroom.

She told herself that she was being tactful because Beryl would wish to be alone with the Marquis.

But she knew in her heart that it was really because she was afraid of being near him and because she felt as if everything he was, said and did was whirling around in her brain until she was almost driven mad by the complexity of it.

She had been unable to sleep and almost as soon as it was light she knew that because it was Sunday she must go to Church.

She did not suppose the times of the services would have changed greatly from when her father was the incumbent of the small parish.

He always insisted on a very early Communion service for those who had work to do later on in the day.

When Torilla entered the nave of the small grey stone Norman Church, she felt as if she was a child again and everything was right with the world.

Her father and mother were at the Vicarage and the God in whom she had always believed so devoutly was here to listen to her prayers.

It had been hard to believe that the same God watched over Barrowfield.

Sometimes, when she heard the horrors of what happened in the mine, she had felt there was no longer a merciful Lord who her father had always said cared for all His children, wherever they might be.

The days here were so much warmer than in the North. The sun was rising golden in the sky, as Torilla, walking beneath the oak trees whose branches met over her head, pulled off her bonnet.

‘How happy Beryl and I were,’ she thought, ‘when as children we used to run and hide behind the trees.’

She could remember herself hoping that Beryl or Rodney would not find her, but she had always been too impatient to go and wait quietly and they would see her peeping out and rush upon her with whoops of joy.

If she ran away, it made it even more exciting.

She remembered all three of them running over the soft grass until they were tired and then fling themselves down by the side of the lake, panting with breathlessness and laughter.

Sometimes Rodney would tease them and threaten to throw them both into the still water.

‘Now Rodney is dead and Beryl and I are grown up,’ Torilla thought with a little pang, ‘and there are problems – terrible problems for both of us.’

As if her very words conjured up the man she was trying to avoid, she saw at that moment the Marquis riding up the drive towards her.

Instinctively she wanted to hide herself and she moved quickly behind one of the great oak trunks to stand with her back against it hoping he had not seen her.

She stood listening, thinking she would hear his horse’s hoofs on the gravel. But he must have moved onto the grass verge as unexpectedly, so that it made her jump, he appeared and looked down at her from the back of his black stallion.

“Are you communing with nature, Torilla, or avoiding me?” he asked.

She did not answer and he dismounted.

She felt herself tremble as, leaving his horse free, he came to stand beside her. She did not look at him but at the stallion that bent his head to crop the grass.

“I am waiting for an answer to my question,” the Marquis said in an amused tone.

Torilla tried to look at him but felt her eyelashes flicker and asked rather inconsequentially,

“Will your – horse not – wander – away?”

“Sullivan belongs to me,” the Marquis replied. “I brought him with me yesterday when I arrived. He comes when I call him.”

Torilla said nothing and after a moment he said,

“I have answered your question, now it is your turn.”

“I – I was just walking home from – Church.”

“You have been to Church?” the Marquis asked with a slight note of surprise in his voice. Then he added,

“Of course, it is Sunday. What did you pray for?”

“I prayed for Beryl,” Torilla answered truthfully.

As she spoke, she moved forward, walking through the grass and hoping that the Marquis would leave her alone.

But he walked beside her and, as she kept her head down, she was conscious of the brilliant polish on his hessian boots and at the same time knew without raising her eyes that he was looking at her.

“You were surprised to see me?” the Marquis asked after they had walked for a few moments in silence.

“Yes.”

“I was astonished to see you,” he answered. “Why did you not tell me where you were going?”

“You – did not – ask me.”

“I was sure you did not wish to answer my questions. In fact I knew you were deliberately avoiding them,” the Marquis replied.

She was surprised that he should be so perceptive.

“When I came into the salon and saw you standing there with the lilies in your arms,” he went on, “I thought you must be a figment of my imagination.”

He paused before he continued,

“I had been thinking about you all day, in fact ever since I left
The George and Dragon
it was impossible to think of anything else.”

Torilla told herself she must have been dreaming, that he could not be saying such things to her.

Then he asked,

“I gather you have not told Beryl that we have met before?”

“No – no!”

“Why not?”

There was a pause before Torilla said hesitatingly,

“I – I would not – wish to – hurt her.”

“Do you think she would be hurt?” the Marquis enquired. “I rather doubt it.”

Again there was that mocking note in his voice.

“It was – wrong and quite indefensible,” Torilla said slowly, “that you should behave as you did when you had just become – engaged to Beryl.”

“It was you who wished to thank me more eloquently than could be said in words,” the Marquis reminded her.

This was true, but Torilla thought angrily that he was trying to put all the blame on her.

“And after all,” he continued, “was it really such a heinous sin, if that is how you are thinking of it now?”

It had not seemed a sin, Torilla thought, but the most wonderful perfect thing that had ever happened to her.

But he was engaged to Beryl, and she knew that if she were in her cousin’s position she would think it intolerably disloyal of the man she was to marry to kiss somebody else.

“What you feel and what Beryl feels are two very different things,” the Marquis remarked.

He had read her thoughts and Torilla looked at him in a startled fashion.

“I make no apologies, no excuses for what happened,” he continued in a low voice.

It was impossible for her to take her eyes from his.

Then with an effort Torilla remembered who he was and turned her face away.

“When I came into the salon yesterday, I saw you look at me and I knew that for one second you were glad to see me. Then your eyes changed and you looked at me with what I can only describe as hatred. Why?”

Torilla drew in her breath.

How could he have watched her so closely? she wondered. How could he be so sensitive to what she was feeling?

This was the Marquis of Havingham, the man whose callousness and brutality were responsible for such crimes against nature that she had wished him dead ever since she had gone to Barrowfield.

Distraught by her feeling she found they had walked to where in the Park a tree had fallen down.

Without really thinking what she was doing Torilla sat down on the trunk, and the Marquis with his eyes on her face sat beside her.

His horse had followed them and now once again the stallion put his head down seeking the young grass.

BOOK: The Temptation of Torilla
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