Victoria Holt

Kirkland Revels

Chapter 1

I met Gabriel and Friday on the same day, and strangely enough I lost them together; so that thereafter I was never able to think of one without the other. The fact that my life became a part of theirs is, in a way, an indication of my character, because they both began by arousing some protective instinct in me; all my life up to that time I had been protecting myself and I think I felt gratified to find others in need of protection. I had never before had a lover, never before had a dog; and, when these two appeared, it was natural enough that I should welcome them.

I remember the day perfectly. It was spring, and there was a fresh wind blowing over the moors. I had ridden away from Glen House after luncheon and I could not at this time leave the house without a feeling that I had escaped. This feeling had been with me since I returned home from my school in Dijon; perhaps it had always been there, but a young woman senses these emotions more readily than a child.

My home was a sombre place. How could it be otherwise when it was dominated by someone who was no longer there? I decided during the first days of my return that I would never live in the past. No matter what happened to me, when it was over I should not look back. Early in life—I was nineteen at this time—I had learned an important lesson.

I determined to live in the present—the past forgotten, the future left to unfold itself.

Looking back I realise now that I was a ready victim for the fate which was awaiting me.

Six weeks before it happened, I had come home from school, where I had been for the past four years. I had not returned home in all that time, for I lived in Yorkshire and it was a long and expensive journey half-way across France and England; my education was costly enough.

During my school years I had dramatised my home to some extent, so the picture in my imagination was different from the reality. Hence the shock when I arrived.

I had travelled from Dijon in the company of my friend, Dilys Heston-Browne and her mother; my father had arranged that this should be so, for it was unthinkable that a young lady should travel so far unchaperoned. Mrs. Heston-Browne had seen me safely to St.

Pancras Station, put me in a first-class carriage and I had travelled alone from London to Harrogate, where I was to be met.

I had expected my father would be there. I had hoped my uncle would be. But that was ridiculous of me, for if Uncle Dick had been in England he would have oome all the way to Dijon for me.

It was Jemmy Bell, my father’s stable-man, who was waiting for me with the trap. He looked different from the Jemmy I had known four years before, more wizened, yet younger. That was the first little shock, discovering that someone whom I thought I knew so well was not quite what I had been imagining him.

Jemmy whistled when he saw the size of my trunk. Then he grinned at me. ” By gow. Miss Cathy,” he said, ” looks like you’ve grown into a right grand young lady.”

That was another reminder. In Dijon I had been Catherine or Mademoiselle Corder. Miss Cathy sounded like a different person.

He looked incredulously at my bottle-green velvet traveling coat with the leg o’ mutton sleeves, and the straw hat which was tilted over my eyes and decorated with a wreath, of daisies. My appearance startled him; he did not often see such fashionable clothes in our village.

” How is my father?” I asked. ” I expected him to drive in to meet me.”

Jemmy thrust out his lower lip and shook his head. ” A martyr to gout,” he said.

“He can’t abide the jolting. Besides …”

” Besides what?” I asked sharply.

” Well …” Jemmy hesitated. ” He’s just coming out of one of his bad turns….”

I was conscious of a little tug of fear, remembering those bad turns which had been a feature of the old days.

“Be quiet. Miss Cathy, your father’s having one of his bad turns …”

They had descended upon the house, those bad turns, with a certain regularity, and when they were with us we tip toed about the place and spoke in whispers; as for my father, he disappeared from view, and when he reappeared he was paler than usual, with deep shadows under his eyes; he did not seem to hear when he was spoken to; he had frightened me. While I had been away from home I had allowed myself to forget the bad turns.

I said quickly: ” My uncle is not at home?” Jemmy shook his head.

” Tis more than six months since we’ve seen him.

Happen it’ll be eighteen more afore we do. “

I nodded. Uncle Dick was a sea captain and he had written to me that he was off to the other side of the world, where he would be engaged for several months.

I felt depressed; I should have felt so much happier if he had been at home to welcome me.

We were trotting along roads which stirred my memories, and I thought of the house where I had lived until Uncle Dick had decided it was time I went away to school. I had endowed my father with Uncle Dick’s personality; I had swept away the old cobwebs of time and let in the bright sunshine. The home I had talked of to my companions had been the home I wanted, not the one I knew.

But now the time for dreaming was over. I had to face what was not quite what I wished it to be.

” You’re quiet. Miss Cathy,” said Jemmy.

He was right. I was in no mood to talk. Questions were on my lips but I did not ask them because I knew that the answers Jemmy would give me were not what I wanted. I had to discover for myself.

We went on driving through lanes which were sometimes so narrow that the foliage threatened to snatch my hat from my head. Soon the scenery would change; the neat fields, the narrow lanes, would give way to the wilder country; the horse would steadily climb and I should smell the open moors.

I thought of them now with a burst of pleasure and I realised that I had been a little homesick for them ever since I had left them.

Jemmy must have noticed that my expression brightened for he said: “

Not long now. Miss Cathy.”

And there was our village it was little more. Glengreen a few houses clustered round the church, the inn, the green and the cottages. On we went past the church to the white gates, through the drive, and there was Glen House, smaller than I had imagined it, with the Venetian blinds drawn down, the lace curtains just visible behind them. I knew that there would be heavy velour curtains at the windows to shut out the light.

If Uncle Dick had been at home he would have drawn back the curtains, pulled up the blinds, and Fanny would have complained that the sun was fading the furniture, and my father . he would not even have heard the complaint. As I got out of the trap Fanny, who had heard us arrive. came out to greet me.

She was a round tub of a Yorkshire woman who should have been jolly, but was not. Perhaps years in our house had made her dour.

She looked at me critically and said in her flat-vowel led accent:

“You’ve got thin while you’ve been away.”

I smiled. It was an unusual greeting from someone who had not seen me for four years and who had been the only ” mother ” I could really remember. Yet it was what I expected Fanny had never petted me; she would have felt it ” daft,” as she would call it, to give any demonstration of affection It was only when she could be critical that she believed in giving vent to her feelings. Yet this woman had studied my creature comforts; she had made sure that I was adequately fed and clothed. I was never allowed any fancy frills and what she called falderals. She prided herself on plain speaking, on never disguising the truth, on always giving an honest opinion which often meant a brutal one. I was by no means blind to Fanny’s good points, but in the past I had yearned for a little show of affection however insincere. Now my memories of Fanny came rushing back to me. As she studied my clothes her mouth twitched in the way I well remembered.

She, who found it difficult to smile in pleasure, could readily smirk in contemptuous amusement.

” Yon’s what you wear over there, is it?” she said. Again there was that twitch of the lips.

I nodded coolly. ” Is my father at home?”

“Why, Cathy …” It was his voice and he was coming down the staircase to the hall. He looked pale and there were shadows under his eyes ; and I thought to myself, seeing him with the eyes of an adult for the first time: He looks bewildered as though he does not quite belong in this house, or to this time.

” Father!” We embraced but, although he endeavoured to show some warmth, I was aware that it did not come from the heart. I had a strange feeling then that he was not pleased that I had come home, that he had been happy to be rid of me, that he would have preferred me to stay in France.

And there in our gloomy hall, before I had been home five minutes, I was oppressed by the house and the longing to escape from it was with me.

If only Uncle Dick had been there to greet me, how different my homecoming would have been I

The house closed in on me. I went to my room, where the sun was shining through the slats of the blinds. I pulled them up and light flooded the room; then I opened the window. Because my room was at the top of the house I had a view of the moor, and as I looked I felt myself tingling with pleasure. It had not changed at all; it still delighted me; I remembered how I had exulted to ride out there on my pony even though I always had to be accompanied by someone from the stables. When Uncle Dick was at the house we would ride together; we would canter and gallop with the wind in our faces; I remembered that we often stopped at the blacksmith’s shop while one of the horses was shod—myself sitting there on a high stool, the smell of burning hoofs in my nostrils while I sipped a glass of Tom Entwhistle’s homemade wine. It had made me a little dizzy and that had seemed a great joke to Uncle Dick.