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Authors: Santa Montefiore

Sea of Lost Love

BOOK: Sea of Lost Love
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A
LSO BY
S
ANTA
M
ONTEFIORE

Last Voyage of the Valentina

The Gypsy Madonna

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2007 by Santa Montefiore
Originally published in Great Britain in 2007 by Hodder & Stoughton

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Touchstone Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

T
OUCHSTONE
and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-6494-2
ISBN-10: 1-4165-6494-2

Visit us on the World Wide Web:
http://www.SimonSays.com

For my brother James,
with love

Acknowledgments

When I was deliberating where to set this book, I had the good fortune of being invited to stay in Puglia, southern Italy, with one of my oldest friends, Athena McAlpine, who, together with her husband, Alistair, has made the most enchanting home and bed-and-breakfast out of an ancient sanctuary once inhabited by monks. I was immediately captivated by the magic they have made of their small corner of Italy and set about basing much of the book there. I extend to them my deepest gratitude, for without II Convento di Santa Maria di Costantinopoli this book would never have been written.

I would like to thank my sister-in-law, Sarah Palmer-Tomkinson, and her mother, Christina Millard Barnes, for answering my questions on Catholicism, but I'd like to make it quite clear that they are in no way responsible for what I have written! I also thank Victor Sebestyen, author of
Twelve Days—Revolution 1956,
for helping me on the small Hungarian section; my friend, the psychologist John Stewart, for helping delve into the minds of my characters; and Jayne Roe, Karen and Malcolm Weaving, and Dorothy Cosgrove for inspiring in me a love of Yorkshire and Lancashire. I thank my mother, Patty Palmer-Tomkinson, for taking the trouble to read the early drafts; her comments were invaluable.

I especially want to thank my U.S. editor, Trish Todd, for her guidance, enthusiasm, and faith in my ability. The Simon & Schuster team is a class act and the support they give me is invaluable.

As always, superlative thanks to Sebag. I wouldn't be writing without him.

Part One
1

Cornwall, August 1958

A
s Father Miles Dalgliesh cycled up the drive towards the Montague family home, Pendrift Hall, he took pleasure from the golden sun that filtered through the lime trees, casting luminous spots of shimmering light onto the gravel and surrounding ferns, and swept his bespectacled eyes over lush fields of soft brown cows. A fresh breeze swept in off the sea and gulls wheeled beneath a cerulean sky. Father Dalgliesh was new in town. Old Father William Hancock had recently passed away to continue his work on the Other Side, leaving his young prodigy in the hot seat rather sooner than anticipated. Still, God had given him a challenge and he would rise to it with gladness in his heart.

Today he would meet the Montagues, the first family of Pendrift.

Pendrift Hall was a pale stone mansion adorned with wisteria, tall sash windows, and frothy gardens that tumbled down to the sea. Pigeons cooed from the chimney pots, and every year a family of swallows made its nest in the porch. The house was large and somewhat shabby, like a child's favorite toy worn out by love. It had an air of contentment, and Father Dalgliesh's spirits rose even higher when he saw it. He knew he'd like the family, and he anticipated an enjoyable afternoon ahead.

He stopped cycling and dismounted. A sturdy, white-faced Labrador bounded out of the front door, wagging his tail and barking excitedly. Father Dalgliesh bent to pat him and the dog stopped barking, sensing the young priest's gentle nature, and proceeded to sniff his shiny black shoes instead. The priest raised his eyes to the butler, who now stood in the doorway, dressed in a black tailcoat and pressed white shirt. The man nodded respectfully.

“Good morning, Father. Mrs. Montague is expecting you.”

Father Dalgliesh leaned his bicycle against the wall and followed the butler through a large stone hall dominated by a sleeping fireplace and a large set of antlers. The air in the house was sweet with the memory of winter fires, cinnamon, and centuries of wear and tear. He noticed an open chest beneath the staircase, full of tennis rackets and balls, and an old grandfather clock that gently ticked against a wall like a somnolent footman. Classical music wafted from the drawing room with the low hum of distant voices. He took a deep breath.

“Father Dalgliesh, Mrs. Montague,” the butler announced solemnly, indicating with a gesture of his hand that Father Dalgliesh should enter the room.

“Thank you, Soames,” said Julia Montague, rising to greet him. “Father, welcome to Pendrift.”

Father Dalgliesh shook her hand and was immediately put at ease by the warmth of her smile. She was voluptuous, with soft white skin, ash-blond hair, and an open, gentle face. Julia Montague radiated so brightly that when she was present it was always a party. Wearing large beaded necklaces in pale greens and blues to match her eyes, with a laugh so infectious no one was immune—not even that sourpuss Soames—and a sense of humor that always made the best out of the worst, Julia was like a colorful bird of paradise that had made her nest in the very heart of tweedy Cornwall.

“The family are waiting to meet you on the terrace,” she continued with a grin. “Can I get you a drink before I throw you to the wolves?”

Father Dalgliesh laughed, and Julia thought how handsome he was for a priest. There was something charming in the lines around his mouth when he smiled, and behind his glasses his eyes were deep set and intelligent. He was surprisingly young, too. He couldn't have been more than thirty.

“A glass of water would be fine, thank you,” he replied.

“We have some homemade elderflower cordial; why don't you try some?”

“Why not? That would be very nice.”

“Soames, two glasses of elderflower on the terrace, please.”

Soames nodded and withdrew. Julia slipped her arm through the priest's and led him through the French doors into the sunshine.

 

The terrace was a wide York stone patio with irregular steps descending to the garden. Between the stones wild strawberries grew and tiny blue forget-me-nots struggled to be seen. Fat bees buzzed about large terra-cotta pots of arum lilies and freesias, and drank themselves dizzy in a thick border of lavender that grew against the balustrade lining the terrace. In the garden a gnarled weeping willow trailed her branches into a decorative pond where a pair of wild ducks had made their nest.

The family fell silent as Father Dalgliesh emerged with Julia. Archie Montague, Julia's husband, was the first to step forward. “It's a pleasure to meet you,” he exclaimed heartily, shaking the priest's hand. “We were very sorry when Father Hancock died. He was an inspirational man.”

“He was indeed. He has left me with the unenviable task of following in his footsteps.”

“Which I'm sure you will do valiantly,” added Archie kindly, running his fingers down the brown mustache that rested on his upper lip like a neatly thatched roof.

“Let me introduce you to Archie's sister, Penelope, and her daughters, Lotty and Melissa,” said Julia, still holding on to Father Dalgliesh's arm because she knew her husband's family could be a little overwhelming. Penelope stepped forward and shook his hand. He winced as she squeezed the life out of it. Large-boned and stout, with an arresting bosom and double chin, she reminded him of one of her brother's Jersey cows.

“Very nice to meet you, Father.” Penelope's voice was deep and fruity, and she articulated the consonants of her words with relish, as if each one were a pleasure to pronounce. “You're a great deal younger than we expected.”

“I hope my age does not disappoint,” he replied.

“To the contrary. Sometimes the old ones have had too many years listening to the sound of their own voices to be sensitive to the voices of others. I doubt you will fall into that trap.” She turned and ushered her daughters over to meet him. “This is Lotty, my eldest, and Melissa, who has just turned twenty-five.”

She smiled at them proudly as they greeted the priest. Dressed beautifully in floral summer frocks, with their long hair pulled off their faces and clipped to the tops of their heads, they were pleasant to look at and very presentable. However, they were vapid girls, their heads full of frivolities, encouraged by their mother, whose main concern was marrying them off to well-bred young men of means. According to Penelope, they were two of the most eligible girls in London, and nothing less than the very best would do. She scoffed at the idea of marrying for love. That was a highly impractical notion, not to mention foolish: one's heart could not be trusted to fall in love with the right man. She, herself, was a prime example of her theory. She had grown to love Milton Flint over time, though she secretly hoped her daughters would make better matches than she had made. She might have married a Flint, but she remained in her heart a Montague.

“This is Milton, Penelope's husband, and David, their son,” continued Julia, leading the priest farther onto the terrace. Milton was tall and athletic, with thick blond hair brushed back off a wide forehead and lively blue eyes.

“Good to meet you, Father. Do you play tennis?”

Father Dalgliesh looked embarrassed. “I'm afraid not,” he replied.

“Dad's obsessed,” interjected David apologetically, “though he does put the racket down for Mass!” David laughed, and Father Dalgliesh was reassured by the presence of a young man of his own generation. Julia let go of his arm and sat down.

Father Dalgliesh took the seat beside her and crossed one leg over the other in an effort to look casual. He felt a little nervous. His conviction was as solid as rock, his knowledge of the scriptures and philosophy unsurpassed, his command of Latin exceptional. His Achilles' heel, however, was people. Father William Hancock had once told him:
“It's no good being so heavenly minded as to be no earthly good. You have to learn how to relate to people, Miles, on their level, otherwise you might as well become a monk.”
He knew the old priest was right. The bishop had sent him out to be among the people to spread the word of God. He pushed his glasses up his nose, determined not to let him down.

“Our young sons are out in the woods with their cousin, Harry, setting traps for vermin,” said Julia. “The gamekeeper gives them sixpence a rat, if they bring it to him dead. They're getting rather rich, I believe. My three-year-old son, nicknamed Bouncy because his feet are made of springs, is down on the beach with Nanny. They should be up soon, and Celestria, my niece…” Julia looked around. “I don't know where she is. Perhaps she's with her mother, Pamela, who's married to Archie and Penelope's brother Monty. She's in bed with a migraine. She suffers from them, I'm afraid. She might come down later. She's American.”

Julia hesitated a moment, for Pamela Bancroft Montague, as she liked to be called, was extremely pampered, often spending whole days in bed, complaining if the light was too bright, moaning when it was too dark, insisting on being left alone with Poochi, her powdered Pekingese, while at the same time demanding as much attention as possible from Celestria and Harry, and constantly ringing the bell to summon the staff. She doubted whether Father Dalgliesh would meet Pamela at all, as she wasn't Catholic and abhorred the Church, which she thought a waste of time. “Monty arrives this evening on the train from London. He's a wonderful character, and I hope you'll meet him. You'll certainly meet Harry and Celestria, their children. Harry sings rather beautifully and is in the choir at school.” Julia lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply. Soames stepped through the doors with a tray of drinks. When he handed Father Dalgliesh a glass of elderflower, Julia noticed that the young priest's hands were trembling.

 

It wasn't long before Wilfrid and Sam, Julia and Archie's elder sons, returned from the woods with Harry. Exuberant after a morning building camps and setting traps, they were ruddy cheeked and sparkly eyed. “We found three dead rats!” exclaimed Wilfrid to his mother.

“How wonderful!” she replied. “Darling, I'd like you to say hello to Father Dalgliesh.” The three boys fell silent at the sight of Father Dalgliesh's white Roman collar and held out their hands cautiously.

“What did you do with the rats?” Father Dalgliesh asked, endeavoring to put the boys at their ease.

“We hung them on the door by their tails!” said Sam, screwing up his freckled nose with delight. “They're enormous—the size of Poochi!” he added.

“You better not hang him up by
his
tail!” laughed David.

“You'd have to hang Aunt Pamela up with him,” added Archie with a smirk. “She never lets him out of her sight.”

“Oh, you are wicked, darling!” said Julia, eyeing Harry. It was all too easy to make jokes about Pamela without considering her children.

“Where's Mama?” Harry asked.

“She's in bed with a migraine,” Julia replied.

“Not again!”

“I'm afraid she does suffer from them.”

“Not when Papa's home,” said Harry innocently. It was true. When Monty was there, Pamela's migraines miraculously disappeared.

 

Amid the idyll that was Pendrift, Monty came and went, arriving on the 7:30
P.M
. train from London, in time for a whiskey and a smoke and a set of tennis with Archie, Milton, and David. He'd arrive smiling raffishly beneath the brim of his panama hat, his pale linen suit crumpled from the train, a newspaper clamped under one arm, carrying only his briefcase and all the cheerfulness in the world. Pamela's moods would lift like the gray mist that sometimes hung over Pendrift before the sun burned through, but she behaved as badly as ever, making demands, swinging the conversation around to herself at every opportunity. She was spoiled and self-centered, being the only daughter of wealthy American businessman Richard W. Bancroft II.

 

The boys took Purdy the Labrador down to the beach to play cricket just as Nanny returned up the path with Bouncy and Celestria. Father Dalgliesh's lips parted in wonder as he watched the celestial figure of the beautiful young woman walking towards him. To his shame his heartbeat accelerated and the color rose in his cheeks. He hoped it was the midday heat that had caused his sudden agitation. Celestria wore a short red-and-white polka-dot skirt and a halter-neck top that exposed her midriff. Her blond hair was loose, falling in waves over smooth brown shoulders, and she walked as if she had not a care in the world. He could not see her eyes, which were hidden behind large, white-framed sunglasses.

“Ah, Celestria, come and meet Father Dalgliesh,” Julia called out as she approached. When Bouncy heard his mother's voice he let go of Nanny's hand and ran up the path, squealing with excitement.

“Mummy!” he cried.

“Hello, darling!” Julia replied. When the little boy realized he had an audience he put his hands on his hips and began a funny, jaunty walk, wiggling his bottom and grinning, peering up from under thick lashes. Everyone clapped and roared with laughter. Bouncy was the child who united them all. His mischievous smile, inherited from Julia, could melt an entire winter. He had thick sandy hair and soft brown eyes the color of homemade fudge. He loved to show off and was encouraged to do so, though it exasperated Nanny that he tore his clothes off at any opportunity and ran around naked. He spoke with a lisp that was irresistibly sweet. Julia and Pamela, who had little in common besides the fact that they had married brothers, had discovered a bridge in Bouncy. “Darling, you're so adorable!” enthused his mother, pulling him onto her knee and nuzzling him lovingly. Celestria followed, still laughing and clapping her hands. Father Dalgliesh stared at her as if bewitched.

BOOK: Sea of Lost Love
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