Susan Barrie

Return To Tremarth

First published in 1969 by Mills & Boon Limited,


CHARLOTTE stood listening to the silence in the house, and it was the most impressive silence she had ever heard in her life. If the house had been empty for centuries it could not have been more deathly still and waiting for something to shatter it. If one cocked one’s head one could hear the solemn booming of the waves on the beach at the foot of the cliff on which Tremarth had been built, but this was purely background music… a serious dirge that went on and on and changed its tempo only with the changing of the weather.

Charlotte looked up at the portrait of Great- Aunt Jane above the fireplace in the hall. Great-Aunt Jane must have been painted at the phase of her life when she was abandoning all thoughts of getting married and sampling the wilder delights of living, and the grimness of her shapely lips indicated not so much resignation as a painful acceptance of an Unkind Fate. Undoubtedly Jane Woodford had been designed for matrimony, for she had an excellent skin and slightly sensuous curves, and her beautiful big brown eyes fringed with long and luxuriant eyelashes were the eyes that had been passed on to her great-niece.

Charlotte moved closer and looked up at the portrait intently. She could only very dimly remember Aunt Jane, but the little she did remember made her wish she could remember more. Aunt Jane had smelled of lavender water and had seemed amiable and indulgent enough to a five-year-old, but always unapproachable. She had bestowed sweets and a pat on the head occasionally, but had frowned at a raised voice and the sudden slamming of a door. She lived in a world where the carpets were thick and the long velvet curtains that hung at most of the windows imprisoned a good deal of the sound that went on around her, and fortunately for her there were no such things as motor-car exhausts in her day, or holiday-makers trailing caravans over the cliffs.

She would probably have protested violently at the sight of a party of holiday makers sunbathing at the foot of the cliffs if she had come upon them by accident; but again, fortunately for her, the beach below Tremarth was sacrosanct in her day. The only people who ventured near it were collectors of fossils and those interested in marine life- cultivated dilettante types who went on walking tours, and occasionally stayed at neighbouring houses.

But now Tremarth had been handed down to Jane’s great-niece, Charlotte Woodford… and in addition to the house Charlotte had inherited her jewellery and her trinkets, and indeed everything she died possessed of. The very gold cross she wore in the portrait – a gold cross studded with fine-quality pearls – was held close in Charlotte’s hand as she looked up at her.

Poor Great-Aunt Jane, she thought. For years she had lived in a kind of private nursing- home-cum-guest-house, owing to failing health, and Tremarth had been shut up and had stored away the silence that so impressed the new owner.

She walked swiftly through the house and returned to the great kitchen, where the enormous dresser was stacked with some very handsome china. It was all so vast and in a way pretentious that she wondered what she was going to do with it. There were so many rooms, and they were all filled with extremely valuable furniture, and most of those rooms had wonderful outlooks over the sea. Tremarth would undoubtedly make a wonderful hotel or guesthouse, but she couldn’t see herself running the place as a guesthouse. She had no experience, for one thing, and she had a kind of feeling that Aunt Jane would object very strongly.