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Authors: E.V Thompson

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BOOK: The Lost Years
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‘What do we do with him now?’

The question was put by Martin when the rescue party reached the carriage with their burden.

‘We take him to the nearest hospital,’ Perys said. ‘Is there one in Saint Austell?’

The coachman nodded.

‘Then what are we waiting for? Turn the carriage around and we’ll be on our way.’

CHAPTER 3

The carriage carrying Perys Tremayne to Heligan arrived at the great house more than three hours later than expected - and Edward Tremayne was furious!

A petulant young man of perhaps twenty-three years of age, he made no attempt to welcome Perys. Instead, he directed a tirade of near- hysterical invective at the unfortunate coachman.

‘Where the devil have you been? I was due at Caerhays more than two hours ago to partner Sir Philip Carminow at bridge. They’ll not be able to play without me. You’ll have ruined the whole evening for everyone. I’ve a damned good mind to dismiss you on the spot.’

‘That’s hardly fair!’ Perys stepped down from the carriage and confronted the second cousin he had never met before today. ‘It’s not Martin’s fault we are so late, there was an emergency . . .’

He did not feel it necessary to add that the carriage had taken Annie as far as the lane leading to her farm en route to Heligan. On the way she had tried to remove some of the mud from Perys’s coat, but without any discernible success.

‘No one is asking you for an explanation,’ Edward retorted angrily. Looking Perys up and down with increasing distaste, he added, ‘Good God, man, look at you! Has Martin allowed you inside the carriage in that state? It will need to be thoroughly cleaned before anyone can ride in it. Dammit! That’s the final straw! Martin . . . you are dismissed. Don’t dare to show your face at Heligan again.’

‘Now just a minute!’ Perys stepped forward and again spoke heatedly in defence of the unfortunate coachman. ‘You can’t dismiss him out of hand like that. You haven’t even asked him to explain why he’s late.’

Edward seemed to swell with indignant anger. ‘Don’t you tell me what I can or cannot do. I’ll not take orders from a bastard.’

Perys paled. It was a term that had not been applied to him for so long he had forgotten how much it hurt. Recovering quickly, he said, ‘I’ll not stand by and see a man dismissed for stopping to save another man’s life - especially by someone throwing a tantrum simply because he’s late for a card game.’

‘How dare you speak to me in such a way!’ Edward’s face was contorted with rage now. ‘Great-Uncle Hugh will hear of this - not that he’ll be surprised to learn you’ve taken the part of a servant. It’s in the breeding. The family has always wondered whether your father was one of the servants rather than your mother’s cousin . . .’

Perys had heard enough. Taking a couple of rapid paces forward he swung a punch that connected with Edward’s nose and sent him staggering backwards until he tripped and fell to the ground among some shrubbery, demolishing a fuchsia bush in the process.

‘What on earth is going on here?’

The shocked question came from a tall, distinguished woman. She had emerged from the house too late to see Perys strike his cousin, but had witnessed Edward’s disappearance into the shrubbery.

Clawing his way out of the bushes, Edward cried out plaintively, ‘He hit me. The b- Cousin Perys struck me.’ Dabbing at his nose, his hand came away bloody. ‘I’m bleeding, Aunt Maude. I think my nose is broken.’

Turning to Perys, Maude Tremayne looked sternly at him, taking in his wet and muddy state. ‘If you are Perys, it would seem you are already living up to your reputation, young man. I think you have some explaining to do.’

‘I can tell you exactly what happened. Mother.’

A younger and much prettier version of the older woman appeared in the doorway of the house, glaring at the bleeding Edward.

‘What do you know of this, Morwenna?’ her mother demanded.

‘I had my bedroom window open and heard everything. Edward was furious because Martin was late bringing the carriage back from Saint Austell. When Cousin Perys tried to explain that they were late because Martin had helped to save someone’s life, Edward called him a horrible name then told Martin he was dismissed. When Cousin Perys protested, Edward said some awful things about Perys’s mother. Things no genlteman could possibly accept - and no lady should overhear. Cousin Perys hit Edward, and if he has a broken nose as a result, it is no more than he deserves. Had he said such things about you I would have had no hesitation in taking a riding crop to him.’

Edward had been taken aback by the unexpected intervention of Morwenna and he now stood his ground uncertainly.

‘I think you had better go inside and have someone staunch that bleeding, Edward.’ Maude Tremayne made it sound like a suggestion, but the look accompanying her words left him in no doubt it was a command.

He obeyed without question.

Ignoring Perys for the moment, Maude said to the coachman, ‘Were you able to collect our dresses, Martin?’

‘Yes, ma’am, they are safe in the luggage box of the carriage. Shall I fetch them for you?’

‘Not in the state you are in! We will not risk them becoming soiled. I will have one of the house servants bring them inside. In the meantime I suggest you go off and get yourself cleaned up.’

Instead of hurrying away, Martin remained, looking at her uncertainly. Maude asked, sharply, ‘Is there something else?’

‘Yes, ma’am, Master Edward said I was dismissed.’

‘Master Edward has no authority over Heligan servants. I shall ask Master Perys to tell me what occurred to make you late returning with the carriage. If you were indeed delayed because you helped to save a life there will be no question of dismissal. However, you will say nothing to the other servants about what has just happened, do you understand?’

‘Yes, ma’am, and thank you. Thank you too, Master Perys.’

As Martin hurried away, Maude looked critically at Perys. ‘You need to clean up too, but first I would like you to tell me all that happened on your journey from Saint Austell. It would appear you have had a most unfortunate introduction to Heligan.’

CHAPTER 4

Later that evening Perys came downstairs to dinner. He had bathed and was wearing clothes from his suitcase, hurriedly ironed for him by the young housemaid.

When the maid had returned the clothes to him it was made clear that despite Maude Tremayne’s warning to Martin, the house servants were well aware of what had occurred outside the house. It was a lesson to him in the close relationships that existed among the servants.

After hanging up his clothes, the maid, who had told Perys her name was Polly, looked at him rather shyly before saying, ‘It was very kind of you to take Martin’s part when Master Edward wanted to dismiss him, sir.’

Surprised and a little concerned that she should know about the incident, it was a moment before he recovered sufficiently to say, ‘I could hardly allow him to be dismissed when much of what he did was on my instructions Polly. Besides, I consider his conduct warrants a reward, not punishment.’

‘He has been rewarded, sir. Mistress Maude sent for him and told him that the master would be proud of the way he had behaved, then gave him five guineas.’

Maude Tremayne rose in Perys’s estimation ‘Good! He thoroughly deserved it.’ Looking at the girl who was a pretty young thing, he asked, ‘Is Martin a special friend of yours?’

The girl blushed. ‘We’ve known each other since we were small, sir. When I lost my parents it was Martin who got me a live-in post at Heligan. We’re going to marry as soon as we’ve saved enough money.’

‘I’m happy for both of you, Polly,’ Perys said. ‘I’ve no doubt Martin will make you a very good husband.’

‘I think so too, sir . . . and thank you again.’

Perys was left with the thought that if he had made an enemy of Edward Tremayne, he had gained friends among the servants.

Passing the open door of the lounge as he sought the dining-room, he discovered that not all the Tremayne family were as ill-disposed towards him as Edward.

‘Perys! Come in here and join us.’

Morwenna called to him from the lounge. In response, Perys entered the room cautiously. Morwenna had said, ‘Join us.’ It was possible Edward was in the room with her.

He need not have been concerned. The only other person in the room was a girl of about sixteen who so resembled Morwenna and her mother that it came as no surprise when she was introduced to him as Arabella, Morwenna’s younger sister.

The young girl greeted Perys warmly, saying forthrightly, ‘So you are second cousin Perys! I expected the person who gave Edward a bloody nose to be much bigger.’

‘Arabella! We will not talk about that,’ warned Morwenna.

‘Why not? It was you who said somebody should have done it years ago. Edward is thoroughly obnoxious, as we all know.’

‘It might be as well if we make talk of Edward taboo during dinner. I am quite certain we can find many far more pleasant subjects to discuss.’ Maude had quietly entered the room through the door behind Perys. She was in time to hear Arabella’s assessment of her absent cousin.

Standing to one side in order that Maude might pass into the room, Perys asked hesitantly. ‘Will Edward be dining with us?’

‘No.’ Giving him an enigmatic look, Maude added, ‘He feels he needs to rest. He insisted that we call a doctor from Mevagissey. You will no doubt be relieved to know that, although he has bled profusely, nothing is broken. What is more, Edward has decided to return to his family home in Devon first thing tomorrow morning. He will remain there until it is time for him to return to his studies at Cambridge.’

Arabella clapped her hands in delight and Maude gave her a look of mock disapproval. It was evident to Perys that Edward was not the most popular member of the Tremayne family.

‘Shall we make our way to the dining-room?’ Maude suggested. ‘Perys must be absolute famished after such an eventful day . . .’

* * *

Perys had very little to say during dinner. In truth, he had spent little time in the company of women and felt particularly shy in the presence of these unfamiliar relatives. Nevertheless, he answered all the questions that were put to him, and from the chatter of Maude and her two daughters was able to piece together something of their lives.

Maude was a widow, her husband having been killed in the Boer War, fourteen years before, when Morwenna was six and Arabella two. She had brought up her daughters at their family home in London, helped by other members of the large and wealthy Tremayne family.

The subject of Perys’s own mother and grandparents was studiously avoided. However, he was questioned about his schooling and the career he proposed following in the army.

Unused to confiding in others, Perys replied hesitantly, ‘I haven’t discussed it with anyone yet and I first have to be accepted in the Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry. But what I would really like to do, eventually, is join the Royal Flying Corps as a pilot.’

There was a squeak of excitement from Arabella, while the others looked more doubtful.

‘Is that not rather dangerous?’ asked Maude.

‘They do seem to have a great many flying accidents,’ admitted Perys. ‘It’s a very new skill, but it must be exciting to be able to fly. What’s more, I believe it will one day prove its worth to the army - and to the navy. We had a French boy at school whose brother was a pilot. I think the French army takes flying far more seriously than we do.’

‘You know, of course, that two of your distant cousins are flyers? John, and Rupert, whose mother married a Pilkington.’

‘Yes, I was hoping I might meet one of them while I am in Cornwall.’

‘I am sure it would have proved extremely useful to you. John is a naval flyer and rather reticent about what he does, but Rupert is always ready to talk about aeroplanes and such things to anyone with even the remotest interest in flying. Unfortunately, John is in France at the moment and not expected back for a month or two. I have no idea where Rupert might be.’

Perys was disappointed. Far keener to become a flyer than to pursue a career in the regular army, he had been hoping one of the two cousin’s might be able to help him.

‘When are you attending your interview for the infantry?’ Morwenna asked.

‘It’s not certain,’ Perys replied. ‘Great-Uncle Hugh was going to leave a letter for me, telling me what I should do, together with an introduction to the recruiting officer of the regiment at Bodmin. I was hoping to find it in my room . . .’

‘Ah! That will be the rather bulky envelope that was left for me, with instructions that I should hand it to you on your arrival at Heligan.’ said Maude. ‘I had quite forgotten it until now. What a good thing you reminded me. You shall have it after dinner.’

‘I hope Perys doesn’t have to go right away.’

Arabella said. ‘I wanted him to escort Morwenna and I to some of the places of interest around here. Edward never would.’

‘I am quite sure Perys has many of his own things to do,’ said Maude.

‘I doubt whether an interview can be arranged very quickly,’ Perys said. ‘And as I have never before been to Cornwall I would welcome an opportunity to see something of the area. I’d be delighted if Arabella and Morwenna might be allowed to accompany me.’

Arabella clapped her hands in delight, then looked at her mother uncertainly as she remembered Perys’s unfortunate background.

‘That is a very kind offer, Perys,’ said Maude. ‘It would be nice if the girls were able to see something of the countryside while we are in Cornwall. I will probably come too on occasions, if I may. That is, of course, if the rumours of an impending war prove unfounded.’

CHAPTER 5

Perys spent the day after his arrival exploring the extensive gardens of Heligan House and generally familiarising himself with his surroundings. He did not have company because Maude and her two daughters were spending the day some eighteen miles away at Lanhydrock House, home of Lord Clifden and his family, prior to attending a ball at the house that evening.

Their absence suited Perys. The girls and their mother had been kind to him, but he was not yet a fully accepted member of the family. Both they and he needed to adjust to his presence in the household.

BOOK: The Lost Years
7.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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