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Authors: Barbara Cartland

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BOOK: The Temptation of Torilla
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For a moment Torilla saw only a blackened countryside without trees or shrubs, with the slum of the men, women and children who lived in it, almost as black as the coal they handled.

Then deliberately she made Beryl talk of her trousseau and later in the evening of her wedding.

Tentatively, because she was so afraid of saying too much, Torilla asked hesitatingly,

“You don’t – think, dearest, that if you – waited a little longer you would find someone you would – love with all your heart?”

She saw the expression on Beryl’s face and added quickly,

“You look like the Princess in a fairy story. I just want you to find your Prince Charming.”

“Wait until you see Gallen,” Beryl said complacently. “He is exactly the Prince Charming we talked about when you used to sit on my bed and we wondered who we would marry.”

She smiled as she went on,

“I always envisaged myself a Queen or a Princess. In fact I have found the next best thing in Gallen, who is far more important than most Princes and certainly far more solvent than the Prince Regent!”

“That, I imagine would not be difficult,” Torilla answered. “Even I have heard of the mountain of debts His Royal Highness owes!”

“I should hate to be so much in debt,” Beryl said. “As it is, I shall find it very difficult to spend even a part of Gallen’s fortune!”

She stretched her arms above her head as she acclaimed,

“That is why I intend to have a trousseau that will astonish everybody and you will benefit.”

Torilla knew what Beryl was going to say.

“I intend to discard every stitch that I own now,” her cousin went on, “every single thing, and they are all yours.”

“Thank you, dearest,” Torilla said. “It is very very kind of you.”

At the same time she could not help wondering what use she would have for Beryl’s lovely gowns in Barrowfield. The material would be too fragile to be cut up for miners’ wives and their children, although she was quite certain her father would have expected her to do just that if it was possible.

“I shall have new fans, new reticules, new sunshades, new slippers and new gloves!”

Beryl flung herself back against the soft cushions on the sofa, as she went on,

“I am not being extravagant, Torilla, but sensible! Gallen admires smart and elegant women. In fact I am the only girl, if that is what you can call me, in whom he has ever shown the slightest interest.”

She sat up again, rested her chin on her hand and added reflectively,

“I shall have to be very sophisticated to please him and quite frankly, Torilla, he will be tricky as a husband.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Judging from his past history he not only has an eye for a horse but also for a pretty woman.”

“Are you really expecting him to be – unfaithful?” Torilla asked in a shocked little voice.

“For goodness sake, Torilla, grow up!” Beryl replied. “Of course Gallen will have his flirtations as I shall have mine, but I have to be very careful that no one supplants me. I know only too well what women are like where a man as rich and important as Gallen is concerned.”

“Supplants you?” Torilla repeated. “Do you mean he would run away with another woman?”

“No, of course not! People in our world do not cause scandals of that sort – not unless they are crazy.”

She spoke rather sharply.

Then, as she saw the expression on Torilla’s face, she said more gently,

“You always were out of touch with reality, Torilla. What I am trying to say is that if a man is really bored with his wife he can make life very unpleasant for her.”

Beryl’s voice was hard as she continued,

“She can be left in the country for months on end with no one but the children to talk to – or he can keep her short of money like that odious Lord Boreham!”

She paused as if remembering His Lordship’s parsimony, then finished,

“In fact there are a thousand ways that a wife can be made to feel unwanted and miserable!”

She rose to her feet, as she continued firmly,

“I have every intention of keeping Gallen at my side, but I am not going to pretend it will be easy.”

“If he – loved you,” Torilla said tentatively, “it might be very – different.”

“He is fond enough of me,” Beryl answered, “and quite frankly I don’t think Gallen has ever been in love with anyone except himself and his horses.”

Again she looked at Torilla’s expression and laughed.

“Don’t look so worried, dearest! I shall have my fun too. Lord Newall is crazily wildly in love with me. Do you know the other night he produced a pistol and declared that either I must let him kiss me or he would blow his brains out!”

“Did he mean it?” Torilla asked breathlessly.

“I did not take the risk of finding out!” Beryl replied mischievously.

“You mean – you let him – kiss you?”

“Of course I did and very pleasant it was too, if you want to know.”

Torilla opened her lips to expostulate. Then she asked herself how she could criticise Beryl after what had happened on her way South?

“We had better go to bed,” Beryl said. “Papa is coming home tomorrow and after that the balloon will go up!”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Mama insisted on Papa being with her in London when the announcement of my engagement appeared in
The
Ga
zette.
They will have been receiving congratulations all today and tomorrow and make no mistake about it, the hordes of callers will arrive here.”

Beryl gave a little laugh.

“It will amuse me to see the people who have criticised me during the past few years now fawning at my feet. They will not wish to quarrel with the future Marchioness of Havingham!”

The two girls went up the stairs arm-in-arm and Beryl came with Torilla into her bedroom.

“I am longing to go on talking to you,” she said, “but I am sure, dearest, that you are tired, and I must have my ‘beauty sleep’.”

She glanced at her reflection in the mirror as she spoke as if to reassure herself that it was really unnecessary and then she remarked,

“I expect Gallen also will arrive tomorrow and then you will see that all I have told you about him is not exaggerated.”

She kissed Torilla, then opened the communicating door between the two rooms.

“Goodnight, my dear, good little Torilla. I am sorry I have shocked you! We must not forget your bridesmaid’s gown when we go to London. I want you to look very attractive, but I warn you, I brook no rivals!”

“As though anyone could rival you,” Torilla replied as she had said to Abby.

“You would be surprised how many people try,” Beryl retorted as she closed the door behind her.

*

The following day Torilla found that Beryl had not exaggerated when she had said that ‘the balloon would go up’. From early in the morning grooms arrived with invitations, letters of congratulation, bouquets of flowers and presents.

Beryl was as excited about them as she had been with her Christmas gifts as a child.

“Read the flattering things old Lord Godolphin says!” she exclaimed thrusting a letter into Torilla’s hand. “He is a ghastly old hypocrite. He has hated me ever since I was fifteen when he tried to kiss me and I punched him in the stomach.”

“It is certainly a very pleasant letter,” Torilla commented quietly.

“Toadying old fool!” Beryl exclaimed.

The presents were disappointing.

“That makes three silver entree dishes already! You would think people would realise that Gallen has the best family silver in England, most of which dates back to the reign of Charles II.”

She pushed the entree dishes aside disdainfully.

“I suppose we can always use them for the dogs,” she laughed.

There were a large number of people to add to the wedding list that Beryl had forgotten.

When the Earl of Fernleigh walked into the salon, it was to find not only lists scattered all over the floor, but also pieces of paper, boxes, presents and several bouquets of flowers.

“Hello, Papa!” Beryl called out casually.

Torilla scrambled to her feet and kissed her uncle affectionately.

“It is
very
nice to see you again, Torilla,” the Earl said with a note of genuine affection in his voice.

“It is lovely to be back, Uncle Hector.”

“Surely by now your father is tired of burying himself in the wilds of nowhere?” the Earl suggested.

“He is working too hard, Uncle Hector.”

“Then tell him to come back here. The Vicar of Wheathampstead is retiring soon. It is a good incumbency and I am quite prepared to add a few hundreds to the stipend if your father will take it on.”

“That is very kind of you, Uncle Hector.”

“Tell him it is his for the asking. I have missed you, Torilla, and you are a good influence on Beryl which is more than some people are.”

He walked from the room as he spoke and Beryl made a little grimace.

“What does he mean by that?” Torilla asked.

“He hates most of my friends. He thinks they are fast and improper, which indeed they are, but they are certainly more amusing than the old fuddy-duddies Papa likes to entertain.”

“Do you really – like
all
the people you – meet at Carlton House?” Torilla asked a little hesitantly.

Beryl smiled at her.

“Some of them are fantastic! You wonder where the Prince could find such extraordinary people. But the worst are the members of the aristocracy like the Marquis of Queensbury who is absolutely famous for his amorous indiscretions!”

She laughed at the expression on Torilla’s face and added,

“The wicked Barrymore brothers are horrors of the worst description, you would be appalled at the things they do.”

“I think I would be – frightened of people like that.”

“It will be amusing to see what effect they have on you,” Beryl laughed. “You will meet them all when we go to London next week.”

Torilla looked at her questioningly and Beryl went on,

“I have just decided, Torilla, that I shall present you to the
Beau Monde.
It will not only be fun to see what you think of it, but also to watch what they think of you! I don’t believe any of them have ever met anybody who is really
good
!”

“You make me embarrassed,” Torilla exclaimed.

“It is true,” Beryl said. “You are good – you always were – while I am the opposite. I want to be bad. Not wicked, like the Barrymores, just bad enough to enjoy all the things I ought not to.”

“You are not bad!” Torilla contradicted loyally. “And anyway, dearest, once you are married it will be very different.”

Beryl did not answer and Torilla suddenly had the uncomfortable feeling that on the contrary perhaps it would be worse.

If the Marquis was as wicked as she thought him to be, would he not drive Beryl, who had always been impulsive, into doing things that she might afterwards regret?

Torilla suddenly felt very apprehensive, then she shied away from her own thoughts.

Beryl talked a lot of nonsense, but undoubtedly she would continue to be just as sweet, kind and generous as before, although it was to be admitted, susceptible to flattery.

‘And who could blame her?’ Torilla wondered, ‘when she is so beautiful – so amazingly beautiful.’

She remembered her mother saying once,

“Beryl is like a picture by Rubens – all brilliant colours. You, my darling, are an exquisite watercolour that creeps into one’s soul so that you find it difficult to think of any other painting as being so lovely.”

Torilla thought at the time that her mother was only consoling her because Beryl attracted so much more attention than she did.

Now she thought that Beryl was, in fact, with her gaiety, her sparkle and her vivacity very like a brilliant breathtaking picture by a great master.

Then, as if she wished to change the subject, Torilla asked,

“What shall we do with all these flowers? The lilies are perfect!”

She picked up a big bunch of them as she spoke and looked down at them, their fragrance seeming to have a mystical quality about them.

“You had better have those put in your bedroom if you like them so much,” Beryl replied, “but throw the rest away. There are too many flowers in the house as it is.”

“Oh, no! You must not do that!” Torilla exclaimed.

She had always thought of flowers as being alive and liable to suffer as much as human beings could, and she hated it when the servants forgot to water them or they were thrown away before they were dead.

“I will see to them,” she said, knowing that Beryl was not listening.

There was the sound of voices in the hall and her cousin started to her feet.

“It is Gallen!” she exclaimed. “I thought he would come today! Oh, how exciting! Now you can see him.”

She rushed across the room to pull open the door.

“Gallen! Gallen!”

Torilla heard her exclaim.

“How wonderful that you are here! I have been so looking forward to seeing you!”

A man’s deep voice replied, but Torilla could not hear what he said.

Standing with the lilies in her arms she was steeling herself for the moment that made her whole body feel tense.

The horror the Marquis of Havingham evoked in her was like a live coal burning in her breast.

She hated him – she hated him so intensely that she thought if it was within her power she would strike him dead.

Last night, when she had gone to bed, she had prayed with a fervency she had never used before that something would prevent him from marrying Beryl.

How could she allow anyone she loved marry a man who would commit such crimes against human beings as the Marquis was committing against the miners and their families?

She had always pictured him as fat and gross with lines of debauchery under his eyes.

She had imagined him sitting at a table weighed down with food and drinking red wine, which was the colour of the blood of those who sweated for him in the darkness and dust of his filthy pit.

‘How can any man be so bestial, so heartless?’ she asked herself.

The miners of Barrowfield were not only overworked but also underpaid. She knew that the overseer, who she supposed had been appointed by the Marquis, also tricked them.

BOOK: The Temptation of Torilla
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