Read Lucky Logan Finds Love Online

Authors: Barbara Cartland

Tags: #London (England), #General, #Romance, #Historical, #Platinum Mines and Mining, #Large Type Books, #Fiction

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BOOK: Lucky Logan Finds Love
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“A party, Mama? But you did not tell me!”

“Only four people, darling,” her mother replied, “and another two will be arriving the day after.”

Belinda hoped that the people from the village who always helped would not refuse to come, but they might want to spend Christmas at home.

She did not say anything and only assisted her mother into bed.

She was thinking how beautiful she looked with her fair hair falling over her shoulders.

She was wearing a diaphanous nightgown that was almost transparent.

“Would it not be wise, Mama, to wear something warm over your shoulders?” she asked. “I have had a hot warming pan in the bed all day and the fire was lit first thing this morning, but it is still very cold.”

Her mother shivered.

“I am freezing!” she complained. “At the same time, D’Arcy does not like me to wear wool or anything stuffy like that. I will be all right.”

She climbed slowly into bed and pulled the linen sheets up to her chin.

“I will go and fetch you a warm drink of honey and lemon,” Belinda said. “I am sure that will help you.”

She had then left her mother.

In the morning D’Arcy Rowland woke Belinda to say they must send for the doctor.

When the doctor came, he shook his head.

“Your mother has a very high temperature,” he told Belinda. “You must keep her warm and I’ll send you some medicines that I hope will help her.”

He walked to the front door and as he reached it, he added,

“I’ll call in again this evening. I am worried about her, very worried!”

Belinda looked after him in consternation.

She could hardly remember when her mother had last been ill and it was not like the doctor to sound so anxious. He had always been a cheerful man who told his patients to forget their ailments and laugh at their pains.

Meanwhile Captain D’Arcy had to be busy entertaining his guests and Belinda had to do her best to try to take her mother’s place.

“In another year you will be the belle of every ball in London,” one man told her.

“Of course she will!” D’Arcy Rowland added before Belinda could reply.

“How could I possibly introduce you to anything that was not the top of her class and, of course, an undoubted champion!”

They all laughed at this.

But while Belinda blushed, she only hoped that what they were saying was the truth.

The next morning while she was still asleep her stepfather came into her bedroom.

He had woken her by opening the door.

“What is it, Step-Papa?” she asked. “Does Mama want me?”

For a moment it was impossible for D’Arcy Rowland to speak.

Then he said in a strangled voice she could hardly hear,

“Your mother – is
dead
! She died in her sleep.”

Virginia Rowland left behind her two people who were stricken agonisingly because they had lost her.

The villagers who attended the funeral wept because they had lost the person they referred to as “The Pretty Lady”.

When D’Arcy Rowland and Belinda came back to the house, it seemed empty and even eerie.

It was impossible when she went into the drawing room for Belinda not to expect to find her mother sitting in her favourite chair.

Or running down the stairs to greet D’Arcy Rowland joyfully when he came back from riding. Or moving about the garden looking like a flower herself as she picked the blooms to bring into the house.

D’Arcy Rowland put up with the situation for two days, but then he left for London.

“I will be back at the end of the week,” he promised Belinda.

It was, however, a month before, at last, he returned.

Belinda knew as soon as she saw him that he had been drinking too much and having too little sleep.

His raffish appearance that had made him so attractive had gone and he looked dissolute.

She was not really surprised when he told her that he had come home only to collect some clothes.

He returned to London almost immediately.

He was away this time for three weeks and Belinda was incredibly lonely.

She had, several months ago, become too old to continue being taught by a Governess., as, although Miss Dawkins was an exceptionally well-educated woman, there was little more she could teach her.

The same applied to the Vicar, who had tried to carry on some of the lessons her father had taught her. His knowledge, however, was limited to Latin and Greek and Belinda was already proficient in both those languages.

She was now eighteen.

She knew that if her mother had been alive, they would now be planning her debut in London.

Then she would have been presented at a Drawing Room in Buckingham Palace, but now she was in deep mourning and there would be no presentation and no balls.

Nor were there the invitations she might have had from her mother’s and D’Arcy’s friends in the County.

To be in deep mourning was a fashion set by Queen Victoria and Belinda looked dolefully at her black gowns and longed to throw them away.

She did not realise that they accentuated the whiteness of her skin and the gold of her hair, but all they did was to remind her that she had lost both her father and her mother.

She was now all alone, day after day, week after week.

Then D’Arcy came back.

She thought he seemed much more like his old self, being witty and making her laugh.

He told her stories about the parties that were taking place in London and he told her of the plays being performed in the theatres and who were the latest beauties to captivate the Social world.

However, he did not stay long.

Before he left, although he said nothing to Belinda, she was aware that he had taken her mother’s jewellery from the safe.

The day he was leaving she said to him,

“I hope, Step-Papa, you will give me some money before you go. The servants have not been paid their wages for two weeks.”

She paused a moment and sighed before continuing,

“There is also a very fine horse for sale that I would like to buy to replace Rufus, who is getting old. Perhaps you could have a look at him before you leave tomorrow?”

For a moment there was silence.

Then D’Arcy Rowland replied,

“I realise Rufus is getting a bit long in the tooth, but frankly, my dear, we cannot afford to buy any more horses at the moment.”

Belinda looked at her stepfather in surprise.

She had never worried about money.

She had always known that her father was well off.

They could have anything they wanted, although their tastes were certainly not extravagant.

She did not speak, but she guessed that her stepfather guessed what she was thinking.

“I have been going through a rather bad patch lately,” he said as if he must explain. “I lost a packet on several dead certainties and I have not been particularly fortunate with baccarat just when it is essential that I should be!”

“But surely there is money in the bank?” Belinda questioned.

There was an uncomfortable silence before D’Arcy Rowland replied,

“Actually we are overdrawn, and the Bank Manager has written to ask me to put things straight as soon as possible.”

It was then, like a flash of lightning, that Belinda knew why her stepfather had taken her mother’s jewellery from the safe.

She had not liked to ask him the reason, although she knew he had taken it. She had thought that perhaps he intended to have it reset for her to wear.

Without stopping to think, she said the first words that came into her head.

“And so you are selling Mama’s jewellery? Oh – no!
No!
You cannot do that!”

Her stepfather went to the window and stood with his back to her.

“I am sorry, Belinda, but I
have
to. It is not only the bank, but I also owe money in the Club which, as you know, is a debt of honour.”

Belinda drew in her breath.

Her father had explained to her a long time ago what a debt of honour meant to a gentleman. Most important was that he should never owe money to a fellow member of his Club or to a brother Officer.

Then neither of them spoke for a long time.

Then Belinda asked in a frightened whisper,

“W-what are you – going to do?”

Captain D’Arcy turned round and he was smiling.

“You are not to worry yourself,” he said. “I will see to it. I shall have some money by next week and I will come back here. If the horse you want is still for sale, I will buy it for you.”

He paused before he added,

“You might tell the owner that is what I intend to do.”

“You are sure you will be able to do that?” Belinda asked him eagerly.

“Of course I am sure!” he answered. “Has my luck ever failed me?”

He put his hand on her shoulder and kissed her cheek.

“You are a good girl,” he said. “Once you are out of mourning and don’t have to look like a dismal crow, I will see that you are asked to all the smartest balls and that all my friends in London give dinner parties for you.”

Belinda knew that the friends to whom he referred were the women he had spent his time with before he had fallen in love with her mother.

Once or twice Virginia had mentioned it to her daughter.

“All your stepfather’s lady friends are jealous of me,” she had sighed, “and I find it very flattering that he should have left them for me.”

“He loves you, Mama!” Belinda said softly.

“Yes, I know,” her mother answered, “and I am very happy. At the same time, darling, you must understand that I miss your father and I loved him too. He was a very wonderful man.”

She did not say the actual words – that he was really too old for her.

However, Belinda knew perceptively that she was thinking it.

She had been interested in the women her stepfather had known previously.

Her mother had showed her sketches of them in
The Ladies’ Journal
and she described to Belinda how lovely they were. One had dark hair, one red, but the majority of them were fair.

“Your stepfather loves fair-haired women,” her mother had added.

As she spoke, she looked at herself in the mirror and Belinda also learnt that the beauties accepted very expensive presents.

Only gloves or fans were conventionally accepted gifts, but she had the feeling these women usually expected something far more extravagant.

Now, for whatever reason, the money that had been in the bank had gone and she had no idea how they could possibly manage without it.

Captain D’Arcy did not return the following week as he had promised.

In fact, several weeks went by, and Belinda was becoming frantic.

She knew the name of his Club and she contemplated writing to him there, but then she was afraid he would think it insulting if she suggested that he should return home.

But the servants were complaining that they had received no wages and the shops in the village and the nearest town were asking for their bills to be paid.

‘I shall have to write to him – I shall
have
to!’ Belinda thought, as she came round the side of the house.

Then with a leap of her heart she saw in the distance coming up the drive there was a chaise drawn by two horses.

She recognised the horses.

They were the pair her stepfather had taken when he had first left for London after her mother’s death and they were undoubtedly the best horses in the stable.

Now they were bringing her stepfather home. That was what she wanted more than anything else.

She hurried round to the front of the house and onto the steps.

As the chaise drew up outside, she was waiting to greet him.

The groom jumped down from the box to open the door and her stepfather, looking very smart and exceedingly handsome, climbed out.

Belinda ran down the steps and kissed him on the cheek.

As she did so, she knew before he could say anything and before he had even entered the house, that everything was wrong.

She felt her heart sink.

“How are you, my dear?” he asked. “I am sorry that I could not come any earlier, but I was prevented by a great number of different problems.”

“You are here now, Step-Papa, and that is all that matters,” Belinda replied. “I was hoping and praying you would come soon.”

She spoke urgently.

She saw by the expression in his eyes and the tightening of his lips that it was something he did not want to hear.

He walked into the hall and put his hat down. When Bates, the butler, appeared to welcome him home, he merely said sharply,

“Bring me a bottle of champagne to the drawing room!”

Bates hurried to obey his order.

D’Arcy Rowland walked into the drawing room, and Belinda followed him.

He walked to the window to stand with his back to her.

She knew that what he was about to tell her was something disastrous, something that struck her with terror even before she had heard it.

Chapter Two

THE door opened and Bates came in with the champagne on a silver tray and he put it down on a table in the corner of the room.

He poured a glass of the sparkling wine from the bottle.

As she watched, Belinda realised that the ice bucket was missing and she had the idea that her stepfather had taken it back to London with him.

Bates offered the glass of champagne to D’Arcy Rowland and he drank it down as if he were very thirsty.

When the Butler had withdrawn, Belinda asked,

“Tell me what is wrong, Step-Papa. I know there is something you have to tell me.”

D’Arcy Rowland turned from the window when he had finished the champagne and without speaking, he walked across the room to fill his glass again.

Then, as if he had to answer Belinda’s question, he cried out,

“I am finished! Completely finished! I have not a penny left in the world!”

Belinda could hardly believe what she was hearing.

Then, because her legs felt suddenly as if they could no longer support her, she sat down rather heavily on the sofa.

“W-what do – you – mean?” she asked.

“Exactly what I have just said,” her stepfather replied. “I told you the last time I was here that things were difficult. Now they are so bad that it means I shall be sent to prison.”

BOOK: Lucky Logan Finds Love
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