Authors: Barbara Cartland
Tags: #London (England), #General, #Romance, #Historical, #Platinum Mines and Mining, #Large Type Books, #Fiction
Marcus Logan was fast asleep.
Belinda was breathless as she touched his shoulder, saying,
“Wake up! Wake up!”
Marcus Logan awoke instantly as a man would who was used to danger.
“What is it? What is happening?” he asked. Belinda replied in a low voice,
“There are – two men – coming up the stairs to – k-kill you!”
THE famous legend of the Golden Fleece was based on the expedition in about 1200 B.C. to seize gold being washed out of the river sands with the aid of sheepskins in the region known as Armenia.
Rich deposits were known in Lydia and the lands of the Aegean besides Persia, India, and China.
Russia became the leading producer of gold in 1823 and for fourteen years provided the majority of the world’s supply.
Copper, the most useful of metallic elements was discovered first in 8,000 B.C. during the Stone Age.
Platinum received little recognition in ancient times, although deposits in heavy river sands were uncovered in the sixteenth century after the Spanish Conquest of South America.
Carl Claus in Russia was the first person to demonstrate the existence of this rare metal in 1844.
It became important to the manufacture of jewellery, and dental alloys consumed large amounts of platinum which, to the ordinary purchaser, was exceedingly expensive.
Walking back home through the woods, Belinda tried not to be enchanted by the sunshine coming through the leaves.
She tried not to think of the small animals scuttling through the undergrowth.
It was something about which she often told herself stories at night and which became almost real.
Today, however, all she could think of was that there was no money and the servants were wanting their wages.
But her stepfather had not returned from London. She had been expecting him for nearly a week. That week had passed, but still there was no sign of him and she was becoming apprehensive.
After her mother had died, everything in Belinda’s life had changed.
Up until then she had been very happy, even though she missed her father desperately.
Sir Richard Wyncombe had been a brilliantly clever man who regretted having only one child. However, he was determined to make her, not only the daughter he loved, but also the son he had never had.
He had married late because he had led such an interesting life travelling about the world.
He had enjoyed meeting people from many different countries and being admired and listened to by them all.
Sir Richard had, in fact, been one of the world’s greatest experts on Oriental languages.
He had always hoped that he would have a son who would follow in his footsteps.
He had translated into English some of the most interesting and unusual books that had ever been written and he had visited places where none of his contemporaries had thought of going.
Then he had fallen in love.
He was forty when he met a beautiful woman, who was entranced by his handsome looks and mesmerised by his brain.
It seemed to his friends amazing that Sir Richard should have waited until that age before he lost his heart.
But when he saw Virginia Shelborn for the first time, he knew that nothing else in the world was of any importance.
They were married with what their relatives considered unseemly haste and were blissfully happy.
Virginia was unusually intelligent and, although she had been a great Social success since she grew up because of her outstanding beauty, many of the men she met were alarmed and put off by her brain.
She was too clever for them, but she was exactly what Sir Richard Wyncombe required.
She listened and learnt from him.
At the same time, she stimulated his mind in a way no other woman had ever been able to do before and so for the first time in his life Sir Richard settled down.
He had been left an attractive house by one of his relatives who had no children, together with a small estate in Hertfordshire.
He and his wife both rode, but they were not interested in the rather fast set of people who hunted. The Master of their local Hunt was a Duke, and his followers were all part of the Social
Instead, they enjoyed the beauty and quiet of their garden and Virginia helped her husband with his latest book on Oriental languages.
When Belinda was born, Sir Richard knew he had another pupil.
His daughter was to say later that almost before she was out of the cradle she was learning to speak to him in Urdu and in Persian.
He was certainly an unusual and exciting father and Belinda could hardly believe it was possible when he died unexpectedly of a heart attack on his sixtieth birthday.
Her whole world seemed to fall to pieces.
Her mother felt the same and she wept bitterly until she seemed gradually to fade away, day by day.
At fifteen, Belinda found she had to cope with the household, the estate and the horses.
She tried to keep up the standards set by her father.
First of all, there were the lonely evenings, when in the past she had sat and talked to him. Sometimes it was the early hours of the morning before they went to bed.
Her mother had encouraged her to duel with her father in words.
Now that she was widowed, she seemed to have nothing to say, unless they were talking about the past.
Then two years after her father’s death, Captain D’Arcy Rowland came unexpectedly into their lives.
Belinda met him first when she was out riding, accompanied by a groom.
They found him in one of the nearby woods.
He was looking ruefully at the hoof of his horse, which had dropped a shoe.
Belinda had to draw her own horse to a standstill because he was blocking the path and she said politely,
“Good morning! Is there anything we can do to help you?”
The gentleman, who was bending down, looked up.
She thought he had the most raffishly handsome face she had ever seen.
She did not know that Captain D’Arcy Rowland was one of the most sought-after men in the whole of London.
He came from a good family and in his own way had taken London by storm.
Because he was amusing, original, and somewhat outrageous, every Hostess was eager to entertain him.
The men who frequented Whites and Boodles found him good company.
It was impossible for D’Arcy Rowland to resist a pretty face.
At the same time, he was an undoubted sportsman.
No Englishman could ignore a man who was an outstanding athlete and he was a superb horseman and a champion card player.
When D’Arcy Rowland heard Belinda’s soft voice, he had looked up expecting to see a young country wench and was astounded by her beauty.
She was very lovely in the fresh unspoilt manner of a spring flower.
While her groom took his horse to the blacksmith, Belinda invited D’Arcy Rowland back to her home.
There he met her mother.
As the acknowledged
Knave of Hearts
in London, D’Arcy was not interested in young unfledged girls.
But Virginia Wyncombe was a very different matter.
She was sitting in the drawing room surrounded by flowers.
She had arranged them to try to cheer her up. She was wearing an elegant muslin gown, which revealed the grace of her figure and her tiny waist. Her fair hair was glinting in the sunshine coming through the windows.
Because she had grown thin from unhappiness, her huge grey eyes seemed to dominate her lovely face.
She had always been beautiful and now she had reached the full bloom of her beauty.
D’Arcy Rowland found his breath taken away.
He was staying with a Duke who lived only a few miles away.
Now he spent almost every hour of the next few days with Virginia Wyncombe.
He flattered her, flirted with her and eventually made love to her.
Virginia Wyncombe seemed overnight to be lifted from her depression.
She became in Belinda’s eyes somebody very different from the mother she had known before. Belinda was too inexperienced to realise that for the first time in her life, her mother was with a man of her own age.
She was no longer sitting at the feet of one who was older and wiser than herself.
Belinda quickly realised she was not wanted when D’Arcy Rowland was there.
She would leave them alone together as soon as a meal was finished and would then occupy herself either in the garden or in the house.
Sometimes she would hear the lilt in their voices and their laughter.
Even when she was present she was aware that their eyes seldom left each other’s.
Three weeks after D’Arcy Rowland had first come to The Gables, he and Virginia Wyncombe were married.
It was a very quiet wedding in the village Church. It was where Belinda had been christened and confirmed and where she and her mother worshipped every Sunday.
In a whirl of excitement, the newly married couple went off to Paris for their honeymoon.
Belinda was left feeling that once again her world was shattered.
It had never entered her mind that her mother would marry again.
However, because she was extremely intelligent, she understood. It was not an insult to her father’s memory that her mother should have fallen in love.
It was a case of two people each finding the other part of themselves and it would have been impossible for them to go on living without each other.
They came back from Paris glowing with radiance.
It made the whole house, Belinda thought, vibrate with love.
Then D’Arcy Rowland wanted to introduce his wife to his friends in London and almost immediately they left again with the many trunks that her mother had accumulated on her honeymoon.
They contained, Belinda discovered, a great number of gowns.
Each one was so beautiful that she felt it was almost wrong for them to be worn.
Her mother looked so exquisite in them that she was like a fairytale Princess and it was impossible for Belinda not to accept that her stepfather was a real Prince Charming.
“I like him, Papa,” she said to her father’s portrait after they had gone, “and I know you would like him too. He is witty and makes one laugh and, what is more important than anything else, he has made Mama happy again.”
She felt somehow her father would understand.
She then asked herself what was going to happen to her.
It was quite obvious that D’Arcy did not wish her to accompany them and in any case, she was still too young to be a
During the next year she saw very little of her mother.
She and D’Arcy would come back occasionally, often bringing a party with them and Belinda had to make a tremendous effort to have the house ready to receive them.
She would engage help from the village and fortunately there was an older woman in one of the cottages who had been a maid in an aristocratic mansion and Belinda would hire her to come to maid the lady guests.
The men were all rather like D’Arcy – dashing and raffish.
Some of them, Belinda thought, were like the heroes she had read about in her books.
One reminded her of Charles II, another the Earl of Rochester and a third, she suspected, but was far too polite to say so, was a Casanova.
They teased her and paid her compliments and undoubtedly they all overwhelmingly admired her mother.
But every time she returned home, Belinda thought that she had changed more and more.
She looked different with her face powdered and rouged and her lips reddened with a salve and she talked in a different kind of way that Belinda could hardly believe.
She was flirtatious, and, at the same time, so attractive that Belinda could understand why the men found it impossible not to keep gazing at her.
Belinda thought some of the women who came to the house parties were outrageous.
It was the way they talked and the manner in which they seemed determined to hold a man’s attention.
They would touch him with their long thin fingers and they would look at him provocatively from under their mascaraed eyelashes.
D’Arcy Rowland was in his element.
He was an excellent host – Belinda could see that, but at the same time, he made certain it was he and his wife who held the stage.
Everybody else was the audience.
Champagne flowed and the dishes at dinner and luncheon were the best and most expensive obtainable.
Her mother and stepfather brought a great deal of it down from London – paté, caviar, truffles and other delicacies.
Then utterly unexpectedly, so that it was a shock that stunned both her husband and her daughter, Virginia died.
They had come down from London for Christmas and it had been bitterly cold on the journey.
When her mother arrived, Belinda could see that she was shivering and she had a cold.
She had helped her to undress and looking at herself in the mirror, her mother said,
“How can I have a cold just when I have a party arriving tomorrow. Nothing can be more unbecoming!”