Read Not by Sight Online

Authors: Kate Breslin

Tags: #FIC042030, #FIC042040, #FIC027200, #World War (1914–1918)—England—London—Fiction

Not by Sight

© 2015 by Kathryn Breslin

Published by Bethany House Publishers

11400 Hampshire Avenue South

Bloomington, Minnesota 55438

www.bethanyhouse.com

Bethany House Publishers is a division of

Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan

www
.
bakerpublishinggroup
.
com

Ebook edition created 2015

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

ISBN 978-1-4412-6524-1

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
www.zondervan.com

This is a work of historical reconstruction; the appearances of certain historical figures are therefore inevitable. All other characters, however, are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Cover design by Kathleen Lynch / Black Kat Design

Front cover photograph of woman by Susan Fox / Trevillion Images

Author is represented by Hartline Literary Agency

Praise for Kate Breslin

Not by Sight


Downton Abbey
meets
The Scarlet Pimpernel
in Kate Breslin’s wonderful historical novel set amidst the drama of England’s WWI home front.”

—Elizabeth Camden, RITA and Christy Award-winning author


Not by Sight
will sweep you away with romance and intrigue to WWI England, where a spirited young woman seeks to live out her patriotism and faith in challenging times. Well researched with captivating characters, Kate Breslin brings us another story that will touch our hearts and lift our spirits.”

—Carrie Turansky, award-winning author of
Surrendered Hearts
and
A
Refuge at Highland Hall

“In her sophomore novel, Kate Breslin continues to define excellence in storytelling with complex characters and deeply researched themes, firmly rooting the reader in the vivid landscape of WWI-era Britain.
Not by Sight
held me spellbound by Jack and Grace’s emotionally engaging journey from loss and pain to eventual restoration. It’s a tender story of love and the enduring power of faith to guide us—even when the road to healing remains unseen.”

—Kristy Cambron, author of
The Butterfly and the Violin
and
A Sparrow in Terezin

For Such a Time

“I absolutely loved this book.
For Such a Time
kept me up at night, flipping the pages and holding my breath wanting to know what would happen next.
 . . .
The story is gripping, compelling, and I dare anyone to close the cover before the last suspenseful page.”

—Debbie Macomber, #1
New York Times
bestselling author

“When I finished Kate Breslin’s novel for the first time, I had an urge to flip back to page one and start reading all over again. It’s that good.
For Such a
Time
is an intimate portrait painted on a grand scale, bringing to life the drama and pain of suffering with the triumph and joy of freedom. This book deserves a wide audience, and newcomer Breslin has a bright future.”

—Susan Wiggs, #1
New York Times
bestselling author

“An engrossing and inspiring story from a talented new writer.”

—Sheila Roberts, bestselling author

To Marjorie

A woman who lives by faith,
and a mother who taught her daughter
to become whatever she could dream

For
we live by faith, not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:7

1

C
HETFIELD
H
OUSE
, M
AYFAIR
L
ONDON
—A
PRIL
1917

Her father would never forgive her.

Grace Elizabeth Mabry stood in her flowing green costume on the steps outside the grand London home of Lady Eleanor Bassett, Dowager Countess of Avonshire, and clutched a tiny gold box to her chest. She knew the “gifts” she was about to bestow on the unsuspecting cowards inside would ruin Patrick Mabry’s hope that his daughter would ever gain acceptance into polite society.

All those months at finishing school, destroyed in a single act.

“Are you ready with your feathers, miss? No second thoughts?”

Grace tightened her grip on the gold box and glanced at the costumed sprite beside her. “I am committed to this cause, Agnes. ‘For King, For Country, For Freedom.’ Didn’t Mrs. Pankhurst say those very words at our suffrage rally yesterday?”

Agnes nodded. “And for Colin?”

Grace smiled. Agnes Pierpont was more a friend to her than lady’s maid. “For my brother most of all,” she said. “And the
sooner we get inside and complete our task, the quicker we’ll help to win this war. Then Colin can come home.”

And Mother would have been so proud, had she lived. Grace blinked back unexpected tears. The year since Lillian Mabry’s death from tuberculosis had been difficult. Colin’s enlistment had only aggravated their gentle mother’s condition. Yet Grace was proud of her brother. He did his duty for Britain. Just as she must do hers, in any way possible—including today’s scandalous act.

Three Rolls-Royce automobiles drew up the street in front of the mansion. Pressing a gloved fist to the bodice of her gown, Grace watched a boisterous crowd of costumed men and women spill out of the cars.

“Ready?” Agnes looked equally anxious. A burst of hyena-like laughter escaped before she could cover her mouth. “I am sorry, miss,” she said, blushing. “When I’m nervous . . .”

“It’s all right.” Grace took a deep breath. “I’m ready.”

For Colin
, she reminded herself. Thoughts of her twin fighting in the trenches of France lent her strength. Surely God was on her side. Grace imagined herself a modern-day Joan of Arc about to rally her countrymen to battle. She hoped to write and submit an article about the night’s experience, especially after having received her latest rejection from
Women’s Weekly.

The partygoers ascended the steps, moving toward the front door. Grace and Agnes clasped hands and rushed to join them, slipping into the house amid the crush. They pressed on through the foyer and then down a lushly carpeted hall to finally arrive at the ballroom.

The rest of the company dispersed while Grace paused with Agnes to ogle the sumptuous décor. Her father, a tea distributor and owner of London’s prestigious Swan’s Tea Room, ranked among the city’s wealthiest tradesmen, yet she had never before seen such opulence.

Four table-sized chandeliers hung from the high-coved ceiling, their crystal drops as large as tea balls and glittering like jewels beneath the lamplight. Along one rich mahogany paneled wall, swags of red velvet draperies showcased enormous windows, each pane the size of the entire glass frontage of Swan’s.

Grace barely heard the sprightly notes of Mozart floating over the throng as she gaped at the endless supply of champagne bubbling in delicate glass flutes, carried on silver trays by black-and-white-liveried footmen. Men who certainly looked able-bodied enough . . .

Recalling her purpose, she scanned the room. Lady Bassett was sponsoring the ball, a costume affair, for the British Red Cross Society. Agnes had dressed as a winged wood sprite, the earthy tones of her outfit accentuating her fawn-colored hair. Grace, for her part, chose the fabled guise of Pandora.

Such waste, she thought. Hadn’t the dowager seen the posters warning against extravagant dress? It was positively unpatriotic.

Grace glanced down at her own beautiful costume and felt a stab of guilt. Still, the disguise had been necessary in order to gain admittance to the party. She and Agnes had a higher purpose, after all.

The newspaper had reported the benefit would aid wounded soldiers. Several “conchies”—conscientious objectors against the war—would be here tonight, performing their community service by supporting the festivities.

It was the reason Grace and Agnes had chosen this particular event.

Edging open the small gold box that completed her ensemble as the mythical troublemaker, Grace withdrew her contraband and hid it against her gloved palm. “For King, For Country, For Freedom,” she murmured to herself.

“Miss?”

She turned to Agnes. “I’ll meet you back here when we finish, agreed?”

Agnes pursed her lips and nodded. Grace watched her mill through the crowd toward the opposite side of the room before she scanned the guests on her own side, seeking her first target.

Jack Benningham, Viscount of Walenford and future Earl of Stonebrooke, stood directly ahead. Grace ignored the racing of her pulse, telling herself it was simply nerves as she stared at the tall, broad-shouldered man she recognized only from the photographs she’d seen in the society pages of the
Times
, and from his scandalous exploits recorded in the
Tatler
.

His objections to the war were well publicized, though he certainly seemed fit enough for duty. At twenty-eight, the handsome Viscount Walenford was but eight years older than Colin and herself. He held a long-stemmed red rose and wore black velvet from head to toe. With his clipped blond hair tied off in a faux queue at his nape, he looked every inch the eighteenth-century Venetian rogue, Casanova.

Her mouth twisted in scorn at seeing two women in daring costumes clinging to either side of him—Cleopatra and Lady Godiva. Grace watched as he settled an arm possessively over Cleopatra’s shoulder while bending his head to smile and whisper in Lady Godiva’s ear.

“Jack Benningham is a
playboy, a gambler, and stays out until dawn.”
She’d heard the gossip, spoken in tones of mixed censure and titillation by several of the young ladies who regularly took tea at her father’s establishment. And it seemed true, if Lady Godiva’s blush and tittering laughter were any indication.

At the moment Grace didn’t care if he was the biggest profligate in London. The only moral flaw concerning her was the fact he was
here
while her dear brother was in France, fighting the “Boche.”

Moving toward him, she glanced at the others in his party.
A portly man in laurel wreath and a white toga made the quintessential tyrant, Julius Caesar. The tall elderly woman beside Caesar was Lady Bassett herself, wearing the unmistakable sixteenth-century headdress, ruff collar, and damask gown of Queen Elizabeth.

Hearing a burst of hyena-like laughter rise over the buzz of conversation, Grace paused to glance toward the other side of the ballroom. Agnes must be at work distributing her feathers.

Grace turned back to her quarry and met with Casanova’s deliberate gaze. His sudden, teasing smile caused her heart to race a staccato beat to the lively music.

Jack Benningham was a coward, she reminded herself. Yet he was also a viscount, his father an earl of the realm. Grace took a moment to consider the full impact of her actions. Once the deed was done, there was no going back. And Lady Bassett, who happened to be her father’s chief patroness at Swan’s, would surely recognize her and toss her out.

She thought of her father’s reaction. Da might go through with his promise to marry her off or send her to live with Aunt Florence. She wet her lips. Escape was still an option. She could turn around and leave . . .

———

Jack Benningham stifled a yawn, resisting an urge to check his pocket watch. He smiled, pretending interest as his father’s friend, Lord Chumley—Julius Caesar—regaled him with another pointless anecdote.

Patience, he told himself. It was imperative that he keep up pretenses. Although tonight, for some reason, Jack chafed at having to be here. Plucking another flute of champagne from a passing footman, he took a sip, then looked over the rim of his glass at his target. The man standing across the room disguised as the American film star Charlie Chaplin hadn’t yet moved.

Surveillance was tiresome. It made one’s mind wander, like
musing for the umpteenth time over the latest lecture from his father just hours prior to the ball. It was always the same: Why did Jack continue to embarrass him with his pacifist views? Why couldn’t he have been more like Jack’s brother, Hugh, God rest his soul, who took up the battle cry when war was declared?

Ironic how, after Hugh’s death, it was Jack’s power-wielding father who obtained for him a written exemption from the fighting. No doubt a gesture meant to salvage the Benningham line. Duty was paramount to the hard-nosed earl, who had carped on all afternoon about Jack’s consummate philandering and irresponsibility, and how he must start thinking about his duty to family instead of himself all of the time.

All the while, Jack could hear his mother’s quiet sobs in the background.

“I say, Walenford, you seem a bit distracted tonight. I suppose it’s an intolerable bore listening to an old man prattle on when you have two pretty birds beside you, eh?”

“Not at all, Lord Chumley, just feeling a bit stifled in this cape.” Jack smiled at the man in the toga before turning to his hostess. “You’ve managed quite the crowd tonight, Lady Bassett.”

“Indeed.” The old woman adjusted her ruff, then narrowed her gaze on Caesar. “And I’ll have you know, Lord Chumley, those ‘pretty birds’ you speak of are my granddaughters.”

She turned an indulgent smile on Cleopatra and Lady Godiva. “I’ve employed them at the behest of Miss Violet Arnold, Lord Walenford’s bride-to-be. They are here tonight to keep an eye on him while she visits Edinburgh with her father.”

“Ah, yes, someone must keep me in check,” Jack drawled. Violet’s command no doubt stemmed from a wish to avoid scandal rather than any jealousy on her part.

“I do feel for the young woman,” Lady Bassett went on. “Miss Arnold has been through so much.” She made a
tsk
ing
sound. “But a year is more than enough time for her grief.” She nodded at Jack. “And you have met the challenge admirably, Walenford. I’m certain your good father the earl is pleased. Stonebrooke will have its young countess, after all. An August wedding will be just the thing.”

“Just,” Jack echoed with a forced smile. Again he sipped at his glass of champagne. Contrary to his father’s opinion of him, Jack
was
doing his duty—in fact, going so far as to take up his brother’s place at the altar. When the American heiress, Violet Arnold, first became betrothed to Hugh, money exchanged hands—from her father to his. Hugh would provide a coronet in payment for shoring up Stonebrooke’s flagging coffers.

Then his brother had died, leaving Violet unmarried. Without the promised title, the Benninghams owed the Arnolds quite a sum.

It was still difficult to grasp that after months of fighting at the Front, Hugh had returned home unscathed . . . only to drown in a freak boating accident weeks later. A shock not only to his family but also to Violet’s. Yet it didn’t change the financial arrangement. Jack had no wish to marry; however, he knew what was expected. Stonebrooke must be saved at all costs.

Of course, he would have to change his ways, but only for a time. The earl did promise that once Jack married and produced an heir, he could go to the devil if he pleased.

The notion enticed him, as he had little use for a wife. Yet . . . in the back of his mind, disquieting thoughts of settling down had already begun to take root. Jack caught himself thinking less about living in the moment and more about his future.

He discarded the consideration and instead gazed at the beautiful young women on either side of him—off-limits, of course, as he hardly wished to tangle with their lioness of a grandmother.

Still, the scenery was pleasant enough. Raising an arm to rest against Cleopatra’s shoulder, he winked at his hostess’s look of
reproach. Lady Bassett’s charming granddaughters served to enhance his romantic guise at the party tonight, without any emotional entanglement.

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