Read Songs of Love and War Online
Authors: Santa Montefiore
Also by Santa Montefiore
The Italian Matchmaker
The French Gardener
Sea of Lost Love
The Gypsy Madonna
Last Voyage of the Valentina
The Swallow and the Hummingbird
The Forget-Me-Not Sonata
The Butterfly Box
Meet Me Under the Ombu Tree
The House by the Sea
The Summer House
Secrets of the Lighthouse
The Beekeeper’s Daughter
First published in Great Britain by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2015
A CBS COMPANY
Copyright © Santa Montefiore, 2015
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
® and © 1997 Simon & Schuster Inc. All rights reserved.
The right of Santa Montefiore to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act,
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A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Hardback ISBN: 978-1-47113-584-2
Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-47113-585-9
Australian Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-47114-281-9
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-47113-587-3
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual people, living or dead, events or locales, is entirely coincidental.
Typeset by Hewer Text UK Ltd, Edinburgh
Printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY
To my dear friend, Tim Kelly,
without whose guidance and support
I would never have had
the courage to write this book.
Is mise Peig Ni Laoghaire. A Tiarna Deverill, dhein tú éagóir orm agus ar mo shliocht trín ár dtalamh a thógdil agus ár
spiorad a bhriseadh. Go dtí go gceartaíonn tú na h-éagóracha siúd, cuirim malacht ort féin agus d-oidhrí, I dtreo is go mbí sibh gan
suaimh- neas síoraí I ndomhan na n-anmharbh.
I am Maggie O’Leary. Lord Deverill, you have wronged me and my descendants by taking our land and breaking our spirits. Until you right those wrongs I curse you and your
heirs to an eternity of unrest and to the world of the undead.
Maggie O’Leary, 1662
Co. Cork, Ireland, 1925
The two little boys with grubby faces and scuffed knees reached the rusted iron gate by way of a barely distinguishable track that branched off the main road and cut through the
forest in a sleepy curve. On the other side of the gate, forgotten behind trees, were the charred remains of Castle Deverill, once home to one of the grandest Anglo-Irish families in the land
before it was consumed in a fire three years before. The drystone wall that encircled the property had collapsed in places due to neglect, the voracious appetite of the forest and harsh winter
winds. Moss spread undeterred, weeds seeded themselves indiscriminately, grass grew like tufts of hair along the top of the wall and ivy spread its leafy fingers over the stones, swallowing entire
sections completely so that little of it remained to be seen. The boys were unfazed by the large sign that warned trespassers of prosecution or the dark driveway ahead that was littered with mouldy
leaves, twigs and mud, swept onto it season after desolate season. The padlock clanked ineffectively against its chain as the boys pushed the gates apart and slipped through.
On the other side, the forest was silent and soggy, for the summer was ended and autumn had blown in with icy gales and cold rain. Once, the drive had been lined on either side with
red-rhododendron bushes but now they were partly obscured by dense nettles, ferns and overgrown laurel. The boys ran past them, oblivious of what the shrubs represented, unaware that that very
drive had once witnessed carriages bearing the finest in the county to the magnificent castle overlooking the sea. Now the drive was little more than a dirt track and the castle lay in ruins. Only
ravens and pigeons ventured there, and intrepid little boys intent on adventure, confident that no one would discover them in this forgotten place.
The children hurried excitedly through the wild grasses to play among the remnants of the once stately rooms. The sweeping staircase had long gone and the centre chimneys had fallen through the
roof and formed a mountain of bricks below for the boys to scale. In the west wing the surviving part of the roof remained as sturdy beams that straddled two of the enduring walls, like the exposed
ribcage of a giant animal left to decay in the open air.
The boys were too distracted to feel the sorrow that hung over the place or to hear the plaintive echo of the past. They were too young to have an awareness of nostalgia and the melancholic
sense of mortality it induces. The ghosts who dwelt there, mourning the loss of their home and their brief lives, were as wind blowing in off the water. The boys heard the moaning of the empty
windows and the whistling about the remaining chimney stacks and felt only a frisson of exhilaration, for the eeriness served to enhance their pleasure, not diminish it. The ghosts might as well
have been alone for the attention the boys paid them.
Over the front door, one of the boys was able to make out some Latin letters, tarnished by soot, half-concealed in the blackened lintel. ‘
Castellum Deverilli est suum regnum
,’ he read out.
‘What does that mean?’ asked the smaller boy.
‘Everyone around here knows what that means. A Deverill’s castle is his kingdom.’
The smaller child laughed. ‘Not much of a kingdom now,’ he said.
They went from room to room in the fading light like a pair of urchins, excavating hopefully where the ground was soft. Their gentle chatter mingled with the croaking of ravens and the cooing of
pigeons, and the ghosts were appeased as they remembered their own boyhoods and the games they had played in the sumptuous gardens of the castle. For once, the castle had been magnificent.
At the turn of the century there had been a walled garden, abundant with every sort of fruit and vegetable to feed the Deverill family and their servants. There had been a rose garden, an
arboretum and a maze where the Deverill children had routinely lost themselves and each other among the yew hedges. There had been elaborate glass houses where tomatoes had grown among orchids and
figs, and yellow cowslips had reflected the summer sun in the wild-flower garden where the ladies of the house had enjoyed picnics and afternoons full of laughter and gossip. Those gardens had once
been a paradise but now they smelt of decay. A shadow lingered in spite of the sunshine and year after year bindweed slowly choked the gardens to death. Nothing remained of the castle’s
former beauty, except a savage splendour of sorts, made all the more arresting by its tragedy.
At the rattling sound of a motor car the boys stopped their digging. The noise grew louder as the car advanced up the drive. They looked at each other in bewilderment and crept hastily through
the rooms to the front, where they peered out of a glassless window to see a shiny Ford Model T making its way past the castle before halting at the steps leading up to where the front door had
Consumed with curiosity, they elbowed each other in their effort to get a closer look, while at the same time careful to keep their heads concealed behind the wall. The boys’ jaws fell
open at the sight of the car with its soft top and smoothly curved lines. The sun bounced off the sleek green bonnet and the silver headlights shone like frog’s eyes. Then the driver’s
door opened and a man stepped out wearing a brown felt hat and smart camel coat. He swept his eyes over the castle, taking a moment to absorb the dramatic vision. He shook his head and pulled a
face as if to acknowledge the sheer scale of the misfortune that had destroyed such a beautiful castle. Then he walked round to the passenger door and opened it.
He held out his hand and a small black glove reached out and took it. The boys were so still that, were it not for their pink faces and black hair, they might have been a pair of mischievous
cherub statues. With mounting interest they watched the woman step out. She wore an elegant dress of a deep emerald green and a long black coat, with a black cloche hat pulled low over her face.
Only her scarlet lips could be seen below it, somehow shocking against her white skin. Glittering beneath her right shoulder was a large diamond star brooch. The boys’ eyes widened for she
looked as if she came from another world; the sort of world that had once inhabited this fine castle before it was swept away.
The woman stood at the foot of the darkened walls and lifted her chin. She took the man’s hand and turned to face him. ‘As God is my witness,’ she said, and the boys had to
strain their ears to hear her. ‘I will rebuild this castle.’ She paused and the man made no move to hurry her. At length she returned her gaze to the castle and her jaw stiffened.
‘After all, I have as much right as any of the others.’
Co. Cork, Ireland, 1910
Kitty Deverill was nine years old. For other children, born on other days, turning nine was of no great significance. But for Kitty, born on the ninth day of the ninth month in the year 1900,
turning nine had been very significant indeed. It wasn’t her mother, the beautiful and narcissistic Maud, who had put those ideas into the young child’s head; Maud was not interested in
Kitty. She had two other daughters who were soon to come of age and a cherished son at Eton who was the light in his mother’s eyes. In the five years between Harry and Kitty’s births
Maud had suffered three miscarriages induced by riding hard over the hills around Ballinakelly; Maud did not want her pleasure halted by an inconvenient pregnancy. However, no amount of reckless
galloping managed to unburden her of her fourth child, who, contrary to expectation, was a weak and squeaking girl with red hair and transparent skin, more like a scrawny kitten than a human baby.
Maud had turned her face away in disgust and refused to acknowledge her. In fact, she had quite rejected her child, declining to allow her friends to visit, donning her riding habit and setting off
with the hunt as if the birth had never happened. For a woman so enraptured with her own beauty an ugly baby was an affront. No, Maud would never have put ideas into Kitty’s head that she was
in any way special or important.