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Authors: Winston Graham

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Demelza (32 page)

BOOK: Demelza
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'This,' he said, 'is the first time I have been sober for four days.'

It was the first time they had ever lain like this, but she did not say so.

 

CHAPTER TWELVE

 

THERE WAS NO doubt next morning that the Warleggans looked with disfavour on the end of the gaming quarrel. Constraint and stiffness was marked. Ross wondered if they expected their guests to sit down and be ruined in silence.

But he had not much time for considering the matter just then, for he had to see Harris Pascoe before they left for home.

All during these days the copper company had almost been forgotten; but there was much business now to do and much to discuss.

After a while the banker said nervously: 'I hear you have been in Launceston for a few days.'

'So you've heard.'

'It is a curious thing, you know, that I hardly ever stir from my house except now and then to walk up the hill for the good of my health - and yet all the n-news of the world comes to me. I trust you're no worse for the adventure?'

'No worse if you mean in body. Of course there is another few days for the fever to come out.'

Pascoe winced slightly. 'I - er - gather that your action in breaking open the gaol has not been a popular one.'

'I did not expect it to be.'

'Quite so. The young man died? Yes...Mind you, I don't think very much will come of it in that case. The question of whether the prison was in fact fit for human habitation would naturally come up at any inquiry on your behaviour, and it would not be in the interests of the magistrates concerned to have too much publicity given to the incident. Really, you know, almost all of them are well-meaning gentry with apathy as their worse crime. Many of them rule with admirable public spirit. And they have regard enough for what the country thinks not to wish to show up badly. I think they will decide to close their ranks and ignore your part in it. That's my personal opinion for what it's worth.'

Ross tapped his riding boot.

'It is p-perhaps a little unfortunate,' Pascoe said, looking out of the window, 'that several of your fellow shareholders on the Carnmore Copper Company should be, so to say, on the other side of the fence.'

Ross looked up. 'What do you mean?'

'Well, they are magistrates, are they not, and as such likely to see the matter in their own light: St Aubyn Tresize and Alfred Barbary and the others. However that may not at all eventuate.'

Ross grunted and rose. 'What they don't seem to see is that we shall have plenty to fight without fighting among ourselves.'

Pascoe fixed his spectacles and dusted some snuff off his coat. 'I was not at the ball last night, but I am told the Assembly altogether was most enjoyable. Your wife, I understand, was quite the success of the evening.'

Ross looked up sharply. Pascoe was not normally a man of sarcasm. 'In what way?'

The banker met his gaze in slight surprise. 'In the pleasantest way, I imagine. If there is an unpleasant way of being a success I have yet to learn it.'

'Oh,' said Ross. 'Yes. I was very much out of sorts last night. I took little notice.'

'I hope it isn't any symptoms of the fever?'

'Oh, no… You were saying?'

'About what?'

'About my wife.'

'Oh, I was merely repeating what came my way. Several ladies remarked on her beauty. And I believe the Lord Lieutenant asked who she was.'

'Oh,' said Ross, trying not to show his surprise. 'That is very gratifying.'

Harris Pascoe went with him to the door. 'You're staying with the Warleggans?'

'We could hardly refuse. I don't think we are likely to be asked again, for the news of my being concerned in the copper company can't be long in leaking out.'

'No-o. And the trouble last night between yourself and Matthew Sanson will be a further strain on good feeling.'

'You're certainly well informed.'

Pascoe smiled. 'A man called Vosper told me. But that s-sort of quarrel is soon about the town.'

'There's no reason why it should be a reflection on the Warleggans. They were not even playing at the time.'

'No, but he's a cousin, you know.'

Ross halted. 'Of the Warleggans? I didn't know.'

'The old man, the grandfather - you knew he was a blacksmith? Yes, well he had three children. The daughter married a good-for-nothing fellow called Sanson, father of Matthew Sanson. The eldest child of the old man is Nicholas, George's father, and the younger son is Cary.'

'Oh,' said Ross, thinking it over. There was a lot to think over. 'He's a miller by trade, isn't he?'

'S-so they call him,' said Harris Pascoe with a peculiar expression.

 

They took leave of the Warleggans at one, George magnanimously coming down the steps to see them off. No word more of the fracas of the night, and Sanson was as if he had never been. They separated with laughter and thanks and various insincere promises to meet again very soon, and the five Poldarks turned their horses up Princes Street. As she was about to mount, an ostler from the Seven Stars Tavern came across to Demelza and gave her a sealed letter; but with so many people about she had only time to thrust it into the pocket of her riding coat and hope that the others hadn't noticed.

They did not leave constraint behind, for Francis had not spoken a word to his sister since last night, and while they rode bunched together no one seemed inclined to talk. But when they reached the open moors Ross and Francis rode ahead and the three girls followed in line abreast, with the two Trenwith servants and the baggage on ponies behind. So it happened that Ross and Francis had the last friendly talk they were to have for many a day; and behind them, since Verity had nothing to say, Elizabeth and Demelza spoke together as equals for the first time in their lives.

Ross and Francis, carefully avoiding the subject of Captain Blamey, talked of Matthew Sanson. Francis had not known of his relationship with the Warleggans.

'Damn me,' said Francis, 'what troubles me is that I have played with the skunk for the last three years. There's no question but that he has been the greatest gainer. He used to lose sometimes, but seldom to me. It gives me to wonder how much I've been cheated.'

'Of most of it, I should guess. Look, Francis, I don't think this should stay as it is. I've no more to gain by pursuing it, but you have. And so must others have. I don't think you can afford to consider the Warleggans.'

'We might try to squeeze some of his back winnings out of him?'

'Why not? He's a miller and swimming in money. Why should he not be made to pay?'

'I wish I had thought of it before we left; I could have sounded some of those I know will be feeling sore. I've an uncomfortable feeling that before we can do anything he will clear out of the district.'

'Well, there are his mills. He can't abandon them.'

'No-o.'

Ross saw that Demelza and Elizabeth were talking, and the sound of their voices on the wind gave him pleasure. It would be strange and gratifying if those two women made up a friendship. He had always wanted that.

When they reached Trenwith they had to go in and take tea. And Geoffrey Charles had to be inspected as well as Julia, so it was late before Ross, carrying the crowing baby in his arms, and Demelza, edging up her horse to peer at his bundle, began the last three miles to Nampara.

'Verity has taken it bad again,' Ross said. 'Sitting there through tea scarcely speaking. Her expression made me uneasy. Thank God, at least, that we had no part in it.'

'No, Ross,' said Demelza, the letter burning in her pocket. (She had looked at it a moment at Trenwith).

 

MISTRESS DEMELZA
[it began]
,

Since you brought us together this second time, I turn to you for further help at this crisis in our affairs. Francis is quite impossible; there can never be any reconciliation. Therefore Verity must choose, and choose quickly between us. I do not fear her choice but only lack the means to communicate with her and make final arrangements. It is in this that I ask your help...

 

'No, Ross,' Demelza said.

As they reached the coppice, turning into their valley, the sun came out, and they stopped a moment to look down. He said suddenly: 'I dislike coming back today, to our house and to our land, because it's to the thought of Jinny's misery and to my failure.'

She put her hand on his. '
No
, Ross, it can't be. We're coming back to our happiness and to our success. I'm sad for Jinny too, shall always be; but we can't let other people's misery spoil our lives. We
can't
, for else there'd be no happiness for anyone ever again. We can't be all tied up one with another like that, or why did God make us separate? While we've got our happiness we must enjoy it, for who knows how long it will last?'

He looked at her.

'That's all ours,' she said, 'and we must cherish it, Ross. Tis no good crying for the moon and wanting everyone to be so lucky as we are. I'm content an' I want you to be the same. You were once, not so long ago. Have I failed you?'

'No,' he said. 'You have not failed me.'

She took a deep breath. 'How lovely it is to see the sea after being away for more than a day.'

He laughed a little - the first time since he had come home. The wind had been blowing from the south-east for a fortnight. Sometimes the sea had been flat and green and at others full of spumy feathery breakers. But today a great swell had developed. They could see the long lines of breakers parading slowly in, the sun-green tops breaking far out and spreading the whole bay with white valleys of glinting foam.

As they dipped among the trees Garrick came bounding towards them, froth on his mouth and his red tongue lolling with excitement. Darkie knew him and ignored the show, but Caerhays, Demelza's new horse, did not like it a bit and there was some side-stepping and head-shaking before it all quieted down. As they restarted they saw a girl's figure running across towards the rising ground on the side. Her long black hair blew out, and she carried a bag, which she swung as she ran.

'That's Keren Daniel again, ' said Demelza. 'Whenever she go to Sawle for anything she takes a short cut back across my garden.'

'No one has told her different, I suppose. By the way, I was asked this morning if Dwight Enys was going with a woman in the neighbourhood. Have you heard any such rumour? '

'No,' said Demelza, and then everything slipped into place, 'Oh.'

'What is it?'

'Nothing.'

They reached the bridge and crossed it. Ross had the sudden impulse to meet Demelza's desire for happiness, to atone to her for what had been unpleasant in last night. Why not? Strange sometimes how easy bitter words came, how hard the kind ones.

'You’ve heard me speak of Harris Pascoe?'

'Your bank person?'

'Yes. He appears to be the best-informed man in the county. He had not even been to the Assembly last night, yet he knew all about your success there.

'My success?' Demelza said, looking for sarcasm just as Ross had done. 'Yes; about how the ladies had said how beautiful you were and how the Lord Lieutenant had wished to know your name.'

'Judas!' said Demelza, going very hot. 'You're joking.'

'I'm not at all.'

'Whoever told him that?'

'Oh, it would be on good authority.'

'Judas,' said Demelza again. 'I never even knew which the Lord Lieutenant was.'

'So you see others were in good mood to appreciate you, even if I was not.'

'Oh, Ross, I can't believe it,' said Demelza, with a funny little lift in her voice. 'No one could notice anything in such a crush. He was saying it to please you.'

'Far from it, I assure you.'

They reached the door of their house. It was open but no one was there to greet them.

'I'm… It seem queer to think of,' she said. 'It must have been your lovely dress.'

'A nice frame doesn't make a nice picture.'

'Phoo… It's made me feel queer. I never thought to think…'

John Gimlett came trotting round the house, apologizing for not being there to greet them; his shining round face was good-tempered and friendly and made them feel they were welcome home. Ross was going to hand him the baby but Demelza protested and was helped down first.

She took the kicking baby from Ross and stood for a moment gathering her more comfortably into her arms. Julia at once knew who was holding her, and a grin of welcome spread across her chubby face. She crowed and put up a clenched fist. Demelza kissed the fist and examined the child's face for signs of change. Julia looked vaguely less comely than she had done thirty-six hours before. Demelza came to the view that at that age no child was tidy for long without its mother. (The ladies had said how beautiful, and the Lord Lieutenant had asked... 'Your lovely dress it was, Ross'; but, 'A nice frame doesn't make a nice picture,' he had said.) Demelza had known that when Julia grew up she would be proud of her father; it had not occurred to her that she might also be proud of her mother. A splendid thought, shining like that sun on the sea. She would do all she could. Learn to be a lady, learn to grow old with grace and charm. She was only young yet, so there was still a chance to learn.

She raised her head and looked across at Ross just dismounting. Last night and the night before she had feared for him. But today he had got back his balance. If she could persuade him to stay at home for a little now, she thought he would gain back his content. It was up to her really to see that he did.

Julia wriggled and crowed. 'Na-na-na,' she said. 'Do-do-buff-war-na-na,' and laughed at her own absurdity.

Demelza sighed, with a sense of the complexity of life but of its personal goodness to her, and turned and carried her baby into the house.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

 

KEREN HAD BEEN hurrying for a very good reason. She had Mark's supper, two salted pilchards for which she had paid twopence, in her bag, and she did not want to be late in cooking it. She reached home, running most of the way, burst into the cottage, began gathering sticks for lighting a fire. Mark had been doing a turn of work for Will Nanfan on his small holding to earn more money. All this week while he had been on the night core his routine had been: down the mine from ten until six in the morning, sleep from seven to twelve, hoe his own garden for an hour, then a mile's walk to Nanfan's, where he worked from two till seven. He had been getting home about half past seven, when he would turn in for another hour or so before it was time for supper and tramping off to the mine again. Hard going but necessary, for Keren was not a good manager. She always wanted to be buying something to eat instead of contriving something. It was an attitude of mind quite foreign to her neighbours. Down in Sawle she had stayed watching two men fight over a disputed net. Now she found she was home in good time and need not have hurried. But she did not swear at herself or inwardly rail at Mark for keeping her so tied to time - and that for another very good reason. Dwight was home today.

BOOK: Demelza
13.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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