To Pat Wallace with Love One The library at Fontley Priory, like most of the principal apartments in the sprawling building, looked to the south-east, commanding a prospect of informal gardens and a plantation of poplars, which acted as a wind-break and screened from view the monotony of the fen beyond. On an afternoon in March the sunlight did not penetrate the Gothic windows, and the room seemed dim, the carpet, the hangings, and the tooled leather backs of the books in the carved shelves as faded as the uniform of the man who sat motionless at the desk, his hands lying clasped on a sheaf of papers, his gaze fixed on a clump of daffodils, nodding in the wind that soughed round the angles of the house, and passed like a shadow over the unscythed lawn. The uniform showed the buff facings and silver lace of the 52nd Regiment; it was as threadbare as the carpet, but for all its shabbiness it seemed incongruous: as out of place in this quiet room as the man who wore it felt himself to be. He should not have done so: the Priory was his birthplace, and he owned it; but his adult years had been spent in very different scenes from the placid fens and wolds of Lincolnshire, and his transition from the grandeur of the Pyrenees had been too sudden, and attended by circumstances of too much horror to make it seem to him anything other than a bad dream from which he would presently be awakened by a call to arms, or by a stampeding mule brought down by the guy-ropes of his tent, or by the mere bustle of a camp at first light.
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Georgette Heyer 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 Meanwhile, she was making plans for her own maintenance.
She thought it only right to inform Adam that Mama, after calculating ways and means, had come to the conclusion that although no one must doubt her readiness to stuff her last crust into the mouth of a famished daughter she would be wholly incapable of providing for this damsel out of the miserable portion which was her jointure.
With a sinking heart Adam picked up the second sheet of this missive, and discovered that Mama had formed the intention of seeking an asylum in Bath, with her sister, Lady Bridestow. This, Lydia wrote, could never prosper, since Aunt Bridestow was a widow of much longer standing than Mama.
The precise significance of these words eluded Adam, but he gathered that they were ominous. Whatever might be the issue the younger Miss Deveril had realized that she was unlikely to be a comfort to Mama, and had therefore decided to seek her own fortune, since nothing heavily underscored would prevail upon her to be a charge on her brother. It was just possible that her new scheme might not win his approbation, but she had no doubt that his commonsense would rapidly enable him to perceive all the advantages attached to it.
And let not Adam doubt that she could do this! At Christmas, when a large party had been entertained at Fontley, theatricals had been the order of the day. Twelfth Night had been the chosen play; and by the greatest stroke of good fortune the lady selected to enact the part of Maria had been struck down at the eleventh hour by a sudden indisposition and Lydia had taken her place.
Everyone had declared her to be a Born Actress. Comedy was her forte, and although this might entail the playing of some breeches-parts she was persuaded that Adam would see no real objection to that, whatever Charlotte might say.
In short, she would be very much obliged to him if he would approach whichever of the theatrical managers he thought the most respectable, and represent to this magnate that a rare chance was offered him of engaging the services of a young actress perfectly ready to take the town by storm, and not at all afraid of challenging comparison with such experienced players as Mrs Jordan, or Miss Mellon, or Miss Kelly.
He gathered, with a grin, that the appearance on the boards of Miss Lydia Deveril or Lovelace would be the signal for these ladies to retire into chagrined obscurity. It distressed him to know that she was scheming how to support herself when she should have been thinking of her coming-out, and drove to the back of his tired mind his own trouble. It was a rather larger card than was usually carried, and the name on it was inscribed in extremely florid script. Mr Jonathan Chawleigh ran the legend.
It was followed by an address in Russell Square, and by another in Cornhill. This seemed very odd. It was brief, merely requesting him to receive my good friend, Mr Chawleigh, and to give careful consideration to any proposition which that gentleman might lay before him.
That Lord Oversley had some scheme in mind for his relief was plain enough, but in what way the unknown Mr Chawleigh could contribute to it he was quite unable to imagine. In a few minutes the waiter returned, announcing Mr Chawleigh, and into the room stepped a very large, burly man, who halted on the threshold, and favoured Adam with a fierce stare, directed from under a pair of craggy brows.
The stare was at once suspicious and appraising. Adam met it tranquilly enough, but he did not entirely relish it. There was amusement in his face, but a faint hauteur too: what the devil did this fellow, who looked like a tradesman, mean by glaring at him?
Mr Chawleigh was a middle-aged man, whose powerful frame was clad in an old-fashioned suit of snuff-coloured broadcloth. Unlike his host, who wore a close-fitting coat of black superfine, with cutaway tails, pantaloons, and Hessian boots, Mr Chawleigh favoured a mode that had been for many years worn only by respectable tradesmen, and perhaps a few country squires who had no ambition to figure in the world of ton. His coat was full-skirted, and he wore knee-breeches, with stockings, and square-toed shoes embellished with steel buckles.
His shirt-points were no more than decently starched, and his neckcloth was tied with more neatness than artistry; but his waistcoat relieved the general drabness of his raiment with broad, alternating stripes of grass-green and gold.
The most henhearted member of the dandy-set would have died at the stake rather than have worn such a garment, but it was certainly magnificent. He was plainly a man of substance, but he reminded Adam of nothing so much as a belligerent bull, with his great, muscular shoulders, his short, thick neck, and the habit he had of champing his jaws, as though chewing the cud of his ruminations.
Jonathan Chawleigh: no more and no less! You are the Viscount of Lynton? No one under the rank of an Earl may use of! I take that kindly in him. You want to remember that! A friend of my Lord Oversley! I thought he would — though he did say he would leave me to lay to you my own way. He tried, therefore, to look as if he were interested.
You might say I was an India merchant, which is how I began in trade. Suppose I was to thrust my whole hand in? Setting aside what his lordship says of you, I like the cut of your jib, my lord — no offence meant or taken, I hope! But what is it that you do want of me? Dukes are above my touch, and no need to tell me so!
I fear I misled you. I asked the question — oh, for quite another reason! This seemed to please Mr Chawleigh, for he nodded, and smiled affably. There were plenty that set their caps at me, mark you, for I was a pretty warm man then, but I never could fancy putting anyone in her place.
She was a grand lass, my Mary! Sound as a roast, and came of good stock, too: yeoman-stock, and proud of it! Mind, no expense was spared on her rearing! And this I will say, I got her turned out in prime style!
Every inch a lady she is! She had all the extras: pianoforte, singing, dancing, French and Italian, watercolour painting, use of the backboard — everything! I sent her to school in Kensington, you know. Which is what she has done, make no mistake about it! Held up her long nose at my Jenny she did, until I let her know how full of juice I was. Which I did, I promise you. Ay, that was the one friendship Jenny struck up at school that did make me feel hopeful. That was how I came to be acquainted with my Lord Oversley.
Well, I was able to do him a good turn at a time when he was in bad loaf, which put him, as you might say, under a bit of an obligation.
Lord Lynton was what he called you, and, barring that I knew your pa was a member of what they call the Carlton House Set, and a buck of the first cut, by all accounts, I was none the wiser. But, of course, as soon as he disclosed to me that you were Captain Deveril — well, that put a different complexion on the matter!
A Civil Contract
Before starting work on it, Heyer wrote to a friend that she wanted to write a new kind of novel that would be neither farcical nor adventurous. Kloester p To be honest with you, I do not want to write this book. Or any other book. All of this means that Adam cannot marry his beloved, Julia Oversley.
Georgette Heyer 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 Mr Wimmering looked rather struck. Well, never mind! In a flash of enlightenment he had recognized his late patron in the present Viscount, and his heart sank like a plummet. He shuddered to recall the number of times the Fifth Viscount had yielded to the compulsion of an inner and too often lying voice, how many times he had been confident that his luck had changed. He sank into despair, knowing from bitter experience how useless it would be to attempt to bring his lordship to reason.