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The Twisted Sword

BOOK: The Twisted Sword
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THE TWISTED SWORD

The eleventh Poldark novel

 

Winston Graham

Cornwall-January 1815 Demelza sees a horseman riding down the valley and senses disruption to the domestic contentment she has fought so hard to have. For Ross has little option but to accept the summons - and travel to Paris with his family, as an 'observer' of the French armed forces. Parisian life begins well with an exhilarating round of balls and parties. But the return of Napoleon brings separation, distrust and danger to the Poldarks . . . and always for Demelza

: there is the shadow of the secret she does not even share with Ross.

'In the final Poldark story, 11th in his historical series of dramas, Winston Graham celebrates a magnificent conclusion'

MAIL ON SUNDAY The eleventh and final Poldark A Hero A Heritage A History

 

Winston Graham is the author of more than thirty novels, which include Cordelia, Mamie, The Walking Stick and Stephanie as well as the highly successful Poldark series. His novels have been translated into seventeen languages and six have been filmed. Two television series have been made of the Poldark novels and shown in twenty-two countries. Poldark now is back on television after twenty-one years in a special two-hour film of The Stranger from the Sea.

Winston Graham lives in Sussex. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and in 1983 was awarded the OBE.

WINSTON GRAHAM

 

By the same author

The Twisted Sword Ross Poldark Demelza

The Sleeping Partner Greek Fire Jeremy Poldark The Tumbled House Warleggan

The Black Moon Mamie

The Grove of Eagles A Novel of Cornwall 1815 The Four Swans After the Act The Angry Tide The Walking Stick The Stranger from the Sea Angell, Pearl and The Miller's Dance Little God The Loving Cup The Japanese Girl (short stories) Night Journey Woman in the Mirror Cordelia

The Green Flash The Forgotten Story Cameo

The Merciless Ladies Stephanie

Night Without Stars Tremor

Take My Life Fortune is a Woman The Spanish Armadas The Little Walls Poldark's Cornwall PAN BOOKSFirst published-1990 by Chapmans First published by Pan Books 1991

This edition published 1996 by Pan Books an imprint of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 25 Eccleston Place London SW1W 9NF and Basingstoke Associated companies throughout the world ISBN 0 330 31749 0 Copyright ©Winston Graham 1990 The right of Winston Graham to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publication may be made without written permission. No paragraph of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted except with written permission or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act 1956 (as amended). Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

For May

 

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Typeset by CentraCet Limited, Cambridge Printed and bound in Great Britain

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. PSALM 22: VERSE 20

Book One

Chapter One

It had been raining without a stop for four days when Demelza Poldark saw a horseman riding down the valley. Curtains of fine rain had fallen across the land, pushed - though not driven - by a south-westerly wind, bringing the clouds down to the level of the land, masking the sulky sea, converting the narrow lanes into chasms of flatulent mud. Demelza liked the rain when it was this sort of rain, so soft for late January after the storms of December. It didn't matter much for the mines anyway, since most of the work was done underground and the surface workers were used to being wet; but it was bad for the farm. Small though the cultivated area was, its living centre was Nam para House. Since it was not possible to go out at all without getting wet, one lived in a condition of partial dampness even indoors and in spite of the roaring fires. The stain on the ceiling in the library - which was always going to be looked at but never was - spread some inches more; ill-fitting windows leaked, carpets were damp here and there; but it was not the minor building flaws that mattered so much as the constant procession and presence of human beings:

muddy boots standing by doors, dripping stockings hung up to dry, coats and cloaks smelling warmly of damp fur and damp cloth and damp people; you couldn't keep the weather out. You didn't have to worry or fret about the house looking shabby and unkempt. One day soon it would be fine again. And out of doors it was so mild that primroses were already showing dabs of yellow in the hedges. The rain had a saltiness as it fell on your cheeks stealthily like a moist caress. It was deceitful because you didn't realize you were getting soaked. You drew it into your lungs and it felt good, cleansing, salty and pure. Deprived of her eldest children - Jeremy being in Brussels with his new wife, still in the army but mercifully out of danger because all the wars had come to an end; and Clowance, married to Stephen Carrington whom she dearly loved -- though perhaps no one else loved him quite as much as she did - and living in Penryn - Demelza had spent much time with IsabellaRose, shortly to be thirteen, and Henry, only just two. Ross had always been at her to take things more easily - 'You're the mistress, let others do the hard work' - but she had found it difficult, partly because of her humble birth, which she still could not forget and which still stood in the way of her telling other people to do something she could do more quickly, and better, herself; and partly because of her abounding energy. But the abounding energy had been intermittent of late, so in some ways she was now obeying orders. This did not prevent her being constantly active, but in occupations of a relatively unarduous nature. Such as going to see Jud and Prudie Paynter twice a week. Such as going for long walks across the beach or over the cliffs with IsabellaRose, who chirruped and bubbled with pleasure at most things - of all the children she was the nearest to Demelza in natural ebullience, though sometimes there was a harshness about her that her mother had never shown. Such as walking up to the mine with Ross and meeting him on his way home. Such as picking about in her beloved garden where not much stirred yet but where the soil was too sandy ever to become sticky or to turn to mud. Such as supervising the thrashing and the winnowing of the oats. Such as dosing her black pony, Hollyhock, with an inflammation drench of her own making for a severe cough and cold. Such as visiting Caroline Enys -- who refused resolutely to go out of doors when it was raining and taking tea with her and discussing life in general. It was a good time with Ross newly home and throwing himself into affairs of the mines and the farm with renewed interest. It would have been a better time without one ugly fact and one momentous decision that hung over her, creating tension in her, especially when waking in the dark of the dawn, listening to the drip of the rain and to Ross's steady breathing beside her. Before he left London Ross had seen the Prime Minister and they had discussed the possibility of his being sent to Paris as a liaison officer at the British Embassy, with particular regard to the disposition and sentiment of the French armed forces. The matter had been left in abeyance, Lord Liverpool awaiting events before deciding to send him, Ross hesitating whether he was willing to be sent. It had been agreed between them that they should make contact again sometime in late February. Since then much had happened. America and England had made peace, and the Duke of Wellington would be likely to remain in Paris as British Ambassador, however unpopular he had made himself - or events had made him - in that city. The likelihood of Captain Poldark being persona grata with the Duke was fairly remote, for the Duke had objected to his sudden appearance as an observer in Portugal before the battle of Bussaco. The word 'spy' had not actually been mentioned, but the Duke had written to his brother the Foreign Secretary, complaining of the presence of 'a detached observer' who had been sent, he felt, by members of the Cabinet unfriendly to him. It was not known whether Wellington had ever read Poldark's admirable and admiring account of the Duke's dispositions when he returned to England, but Ross himself certainly had no intention of going on any mission where he would be greeted with suspicion rather than co-operation; so the prospect of a summons to London and then to Paris had receded as the new year broke. And so had receded the dawn apprehensions. But here was this strange man, formally dressed, clattering across the bridge. In a moment he would have dismounted and, dripping with rain, would be appearing at their front door. You didn't have to fret about the house looking shabby or unkempt in such weather provided the people who called to see you knew you and understood the circumstances of a small manor-house that was also a working farm. With strangers it was different. In the four minutes since she had spotted him Demelza had flown about, gathering up boots and stockings and coats and kerchiefs and scarves, shovelling them into convenient cupboards; had shaken hearthrugs and carpet mats and cleared the table in the parlour by converting the cloth which covered it into a handy holdall for everything unnecessary and untidy and stuffed it into yet another cupboard containing Ross's mining books. By this time the faithful Jane Gimlett had appeared at the door of the parlour.

'If ee plaise, ma'am, there's a gentleman come see Captain Poldark. Name of Phillips. Mr Phillips.'

'Ask him in, will you. And send someone to fetch Captain Poldark. I b'lieve he's still at Grace.'

In fact Ross was not at Wheal Grace, though he had been. Yesterday he had ridden to Redruth shopping with Matthew Mark Martin and Cal Trevail. They could have done it all without him, but like Demelza he had a sense of impermanence, of uncertainty, of half-waiting, a feeling that time was not indefinite; and it induced him to take a more personal part in the farm as well as in the mine. Among other things, they had come back with three hundredweight of king potatoes to replenish their dwindling stores, a bag of guano and a bag of nitrate of soda. This last was for a field of early cabbages, and he stopped now to talk to the two men, Ern Lobb and Sephus Billing, who were scattering it and raking it in. He saw John Gimlett leave the house and make for Wheal Grace, then catch sight of him and veer over in his direction. Messages were exchanged and they walked back to the house together, master and old servant-half friend. Demelza was in the parlour making conversation with a slight young man in a dark suit of clothes which was even darker, with rain, at cuff and knee. It was not a uniform but Ross guessed his profession by his military stance when he got up.

'Hubert Phillips is my name, sir. Forgive my left hand, I am a little short of equipment in the right.'

Ross saw he had only half a hand, ending in a finger and thumb.

'Mr Phillips?' he said.

'Lieutenant to be precise, sir. Lost a few bits at Salamanca, so they won't have me now.'

'What regiment?'

The 74th. It was a glorious victory.'

'I had a cousin in the 43rd Light Division. And have a son at present in Brussels - in the 52nd.'

Conversation about the late war continued for the space of some three minutes while Demelza moistened her lips and fumbled with her hair and wondered when they would get to the point. Phillips took out a pouch, and from it a letter.

'I bring you, sir, a despatch from the Prime Minister. There was, he said, a greater degree of urgency about it than could be entrusted to the common delivery, but in faith it has taken me all of three days by post-chaise and latterly by post-horse to reach you!'

Ross took the letter and slid a finger under the seal. 'If you came overland in three days you have driven yourself hard. Some of the roads are bone-shaking. I am glad to see you have a glass. Pray sit down again. Dinner will be in half an hour. You'll join us, I hope.'

'Thank you, sir. In fact..." He stopped. Ross smiled. 'In fact what?'

'I was instructed to wait your reply, which I believe his lordship has requested you to give to me within twenty-four hours.' He turned to Demelza. 'So, ma'am, since this is rather a - an isolated district, it may be that I shall need somewhere to lay my head tonight. As a soldier I am used to simple expedients, so I trust you will not put yourself out on my behalf.'

'I shall not need to do that,' said Demelza. "You may lie here and gladly. Our house does not lack comforts and I'm only sorry you should see it in such a - such a damp condition. 'Tis not always so.'

'Oh, I'm sure, ma'am. It must be beautiful in the summer.'

She continued polite conversation scarcely aware of what she was saying. At least it was a relief that the visitor's arrival was not in any way connected with Jeremy. Although her elder and most beloved son was no longer in any physical danger from the war, she could not rid herself of ugly apprehensions of another sort on his behalf. From one day to the next you never really knew, you could never be sure. For she had the suspicion, a suspicion now amounting to certainty, that Jeremy, a couple of years ago, in company with two friends and operating in some magical fashion no one quite understood, had robbed a stagecoach and - so far - got away with it. The thought processes by which Demelza's sensitive perceptions, working on clues and little crumbs of information, had come to the conclusion that her son was one of the culprits, had led eventually to a perilous excursion on her part in the early autumn down an old mine shaft called Kellow's Ladder, where in a side tunnel she had found what seemed to be conclusive evidence of what she was seeking but dreading to find. Three sacks bearing initials painted on in black lead: 'J' and 'S' and 'P' or 'B'. And papers. And a Warleggan seal. And a lady's ring. And a little silver loving cup, with Amor Gignit Amorem engraved on the side. This loving cup now stood on the sideboard of the dining-room of Nampara. Jeremy in his last letter had asked her to put it away in a drawer in his room, and she must remember to do that. Ross of course knew nothing of all this, and never would know if she could help it. For Demelza the discovery had been a profound and dastardly shock. Raised on strong Wesleyan principles - in spite of a drunken bully of a father - she had quickly learned from Ross to treat religion lightly a visit to Sawle Church twice a year was about his limit. Indeed she had taken to his creed - or lack of it - like a duck to water; it had been no problem to her at all; and brother Sam's pleas to her to consider her Salvation had been politely and kindly set aside. Well and good. She wanted no different. But when it came to playing the footpad ... Caught and convicted you hung from a gibbet at Bargus Cross Roads, and when cut down your bones were thrown into an unconsecrated grave. And this was Jeremy, her first-born son, inheritor when the time came of Ross's estate: a hundred-odd acres of farmland, two mines, and a distinguished name. Ross was by far the best-known Poldark there had ever been, but those before him, although a fairly randy lot, had been landowners, magistrates, masters of the hunt, patrons of the church, small but fairly worthy notables in the county of Cornwall for over three hundred years. She so very badly wanted to talk it over with Ross but knew she could not. Instinctively she knew he must never know. But she wanted to say to him: is it something we have done wrong? Have we not taught our children properly? Did they never learn the ten commandments or understand that they must be treated serious? Has it all been too easy for them, too easy-going, come-as-you-please, go as you please, a philosophy of kindly liberty leading to licence? She herself had been dragged up anyhow, strapped whenever he could catch her by her drunken father. According to Ross, his father had been insensitive towards his only son, cold and rough most of the time. Compared to his parents, Jeremy had been reared in a hothouse of kindly comfort and gentle caring. And he had seemed a typical product of such an upbringing: artistic, amusing, roused only to anger by cruelty to animals, absenting himself when a pig was to be killed, highly talented in engineering - indeed something more than talented ... tall, gangling, listless at times but good tempered, witty, kind. How did such a young man step so utterly out of character?

BOOK: The Twisted Sword
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