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Authors: Anne Weale

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BOOK: Summer's Awakening
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'That's rather odd—don't you think?—the fact that you're an American with an English accent, and James is an Englishman with an American or Canadian accent.'

Summer's response was a preoccupied 'Mm'. After a thoughtful pause, she said, 'He didn't mention being married, or having children of his own, did he?'

'No, he hardly said anything about himself. He wanted to know all about me, and what had been happening here since he went away. He knew about Daddy and Mummy.'

Five months after the accident, Emily could speak of her parents without distress. Indeed, the nature of her relationship with them had meant that, for her, being orphaned had never been the shattering trauma which Summer had experienced at the age of ten.

Looked after from infancy until she was eight by a nanny, and thereafter by a series of governesses, she had had much less contact with her parents than children in ordinary households. They had been like an uncle and aunt to her; not the constant, loving companions whom Summer had lost and still missed, many years later.

'How did he know? Did he tell you?' she asked.

'No, but he read about Granpa in the
New York Times.
Did you know Granpa had had two wives?'

'I had no idea.'

'The first one was an American, and they were divorced. James knows her—she lives in Palm Beach. Did you ever go there?'

'No, not that I remember. Palm Beach is in Florida. We went almost everywhere else, but never to Florida.'

Summer's father had been an artist who specialised in painting murals on the walls of rich people's houses. He had worked all over the United States and in Europe as well, and Summer had hazy memories of Paris and the Riviera.

Looking back, it surprised her that he had never had a commission in Palm Beach, one of the wealthiest resorts in the United States. Perhaps he had painted some murals there, either before she was born or when she was too young to remember that phase of the happy, footloose life which she and her mother had lived with him.

One of her ambitions—really more of a pipe-dream because she had little hope of ever being able to achieve it—was to retrace her father's footsteps, taking photographs of his work to illustrate a memoir of him.

'James says it was because of Granpa's first wife being a well-known American that they gave him an obituary notice in the
New York Times,'
Emily went on. 'Otherwise American readers wouldn't have been interested in him, and he—James, I mean—mightn't have heard he was dead for ages. You see, he doesn't use his title in America. The old lady—Granpa's first wife—is the only person who knows he has anything to do with us.'

'I see. Why is she well-known?'

'I asked him that, and he grinned and said because she'd had almost as many husbands as Elizabeth Taylor. Granpa was the first one, but they didn't have any babies and they didn't get on, so after four years she ran away with a Frenchman. I wonder if Mummy and Daddy knew about her. I never heard them talking about her.'

'They must have known, I should imagine. I'd better go down to the library—Conway told me when I arrived that your uncle wanted to see me there. I don't suppose I'll be long.'

'Oh, is James up already? I thought he'd still be in bed, or I should have got up and had breakfast with him. He told me that flying through several time zones would upset his body clock; and that when he did go to bed he'd probably sleep through till lunchtime. He wasn't at all tired last night.'

'Conway said he was up early, and it's certainly high time that
were up and about, my little slug-abed,' Summer told her, with a smile. 'Come on: out you hop, or you won't be washed and dressed in time to see the programme about Vienna.'

Since becoming Emily's tutor, she had often made use of the BBC's television programmes for schools and also the more advanced programmes for Open University students.

Lord and Lady Edgedale had seemed untroubled by the fact that her tuition of their daughter inevitably was biased in favour of Summer's own preferred subjects, and lacked the balance and scope of a normal education.

Emily had never gone to school because her asthma was caused by a condition called airways irritability, and was thought to be exacerbated by frequent exposure to colds and similar infections. Summer had sometimes wondered if that diagnosis could be wrong and the asthma was actually psychosomatic; triggered by activities and people Emily disliked, such as riding and two of her governesses.

'Miss Banks was a fresh air fanatic. She was always dragging me out for long boring country walks,' she had once confided, telling Summer about her predecessor.

Summer had been sympathetic—her parents had liked sunny climates. Before coming to England to live with her mother's unmarried elder sister, her only experience of cold weather had been spending Christmas in Switzerland, in a warm and snug wooden chalet.

The memory of her first winter in Miss Ewing's cold and draughty cottage could still make her shudder. No matter how low the temperature, her aunt had insisted she must always have her bedroom window open. The only heating in the bathroom had been from an inadequate oil stove. And every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, when she would have liked to curl up by the fire with a book, she had been forced to go out for a chilly trudge round the countryside. She had no intention of imposing a similar regime on Emily.

They never walked in bad weather, and rarely and not far on fine days. They both preferred mental exercise to any form of physical exertion.

'Perhaps we should skip lessons today and spend it with James,' said Emily, as she wriggled her way from the centre to the side of the double bed.

Summer said, 'He may want you to spend the day with him. Perhaps that's why he wants to see me—to ask if you can have a holiday.'

Emily flung back the bedclothes. The winter before her mother had bought her two frilly Victorian-style nightgowns, but she hadn't liked them, complaining that they rode up round her chest during the night. She preferred pyjamas.

Her chest was still flat, her hips and thighs bony and boyish. Physically she was still pre-adolescent, but not emotionally. Already she was longing to meet a real-life person who embodied the qualities of her historical heroes.

Remembering herself at the same age, Summer thought it might be a condition common to all lonely girls. Perhaps lack of affection in childhood or, in her own case, having it and then losing it, always made girls start to dream about love prematurely.

It seemed an aeon since she had first yearned to know what one of her favourite poets, Robert Browning called 'the wild joys of loving'. But so far her experiences with men had been limited to a couple of disastrous blind dates during her time at university.

The tall double doors of solid Spanish mahogany were closed when she went to the library to present herself to Emily's uncle.

Knowing that a light tap might not be audible if he were at the far end of the room, she clenched her fist and rapped on the panel hard enough to hurt her knuckles.

As she was straining her ears to hear herself bidden to enter, both doors were suddenly swept open and she was confronted by a very tall man who, after looking her up and down, said, 'Good morning. Who are you?'

Disconcerted by the question, as well as on several other counts, she instinctively stepped back a pace.

She was tall herself, but he was taller by at least eight inches. A giant of a man, with broad shoulders, but not thick-necked with heavy jowls like his father and brother. His looks were so different from theirs that, if the butler's recognition hadn't proved him to be who he said he was, she would have thought him an impostor.

'I—I'm Summer Roberts... Emily's tutor,' she stammered.

He seemed to find this as unexpected as she had found him. His left eyebrow lifted, and his eyes repeated their comprehensive appraisal.

All over the house there were portraits which showed that, for many generations, the Lancasters had been men with a predisposition to early baldness, rather protuberant pale blue eyes, and fair complexions becoming florid in middle-age.

Their wives' looks had varied enormously; but the male line had run true to form—until it produced this startling mutation; a deeply tanned, black-haired man with strange tawny-coloured eyes under heavy lids. Or perhaps it was only because his height obliged him to look down at people that his eyes seemed narrowed and preternaturally watchful.

'You know who I am, Miss Roberts. How do you do?' he said briskly, offering his hand.

Long ago, when she was a little girl, Thomas Roberts had taught her to shake hands firmly. He detested limp-fingered hand-clasps.

The ninth Lord Cranmere had a grip like her father's; warm and strong and rather more prolonged than most people's handshakes. But her father had always smiled when he grasped the hand of a stranger —from what she remembered of him, a smile had been his most characteristic expression.

Emily had given her the impression that her uncle was also a man whose approach to life was good-humoured; a man who smiled easily and often.

Yet he wasn't smiling at this moment. His expression was rather

He let go of her hand, stepped aside and, when she had crossed the threshold, pulled the two doors together behind him.

'Come and sit down,' he invited. 'Conway has just brought me a pot of coffee. Shall I ask him to bring another cup?'

'Yes, please... if you would,' she assented.

She never felt hungry in the morning—a cup or two of black coffee was all she ever had for breakfast. It was not until nearly mid-morning that she began to feel peckish.

He moved swiftly ahead of her, making for the desk with the house-telephone. Of all the rooms in the Castle, the library was Summer's favourite. A long and lofty apartment, lit by the tall rounded windows which had been one of Vanbrugh's hallmarks, it contained half a dozen desks, several tables and two folding racks made to hold portfolios of drawings. In
between there were chairs and sofas, and a number of revolving bookstands.

However, the bulk of the books were housed on the shelves which lined three sides of the room, with more shelves up on a gallery reached by two identical circular staircases. At the far end of the room were double doors to match those he had opened for her. There was also a secret jib-door fooling the eye with rows of books which looked real but were actually painted on the wood.

Artists called the technique
and while this particular example had been painted in the early nineteenth century, it was a device she knew her father had used.

Once, in a house they had rented—she couldn't be sure but she thought it had been in Virginia—he had painted a small
especially for her.

She had been in bed, having measles or maybe chickenpox, and he had lain flat on the floor, painting something on the baseboard. Not until he had finished was she able to see what it was—a hole in the skirting with a little brown mouse peering through it.

With its beady black eyes and fine whiskers, the mouse had looked so convincing that when, later, Summer had gasped and exclaimed, 'Mommy! There's a mouse in the corner!', her mother had thought it a real one.

Now, whenever she passed the jib-door, the happy memory would bring a smile to her lips. But not this morning. This morning all her attention was focussed on the tall, authoritative man who had suddenly entered their lives, but with what effect—good or bad—remained to be seen.

Having made a brief call to Conway in the butler's
antry, he invited her to sit down on one side of a large partners' desk while he took the chair on the other. Between them, the worn leather surface was littered with interesting relics of earlier generations of Lancasters.

A malachite inkstand presented by Tsar Nicholas of Russia, with the urn on the Grand Staircase and other tokens of esteem, to the fifth Lord Cranmere. A silver wax jack once used in sealing letters. A black papier mâché folder for blotting paper with a matching pen tray holding pens of turned ivory which might have lain there, their nibs rusting, for a hundred and fifty years. A brass carriage clock... a bronze model of a mare and her foal... a round ebony ruler... the minutiae of a splendid heritage.

The first thing he said was: 'I gather you don't agree with Johnson that "nobody who does not rise early will ever do any good", Miss Roberts. My niece tells me she doesn't usually start her school work until around ten or ten-thirty. Why not at nine?'

BOOK: Summer's Awakening
14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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