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Authors: Victoria Holt

Tags: #Fiction, #Suspense

The Demon Lover

The Demon Lover by Victoria Holt

ISBN D-00-blbfl35-b ^

9 “78000ell16825eN U.K.EL95 New Zealand $6.95* ” recommended price The Demon Lover kate collison belonged to a family of renowned miniaturists, but although she herself was as talented as any other ancestors, the fact that she was a woman in the mid-nineteenth century made it difficult for her to be recognized.

Her chance came through the tragic affliction of her father and a summons to the Normandy chateau of the powerful Baron de Centeville.

There Kate met the chivalrous Bertrand de Mortemer, Nicole, the Baron’s worldly mistress, and the Baron himself, dynamic, overbearing and arrogant, who had ordered a miniature to be painted. It was this portrait of “The Demon Lover’ which gave Kate the opportunity she had longed for; but there was a big price to pay for it. The Baron had a score to settle and he was a man accustomed to making use of people when they could serve his ends.

The story moves from an English country house to the Norman chateau with its feudal atmosphere, and then to Paris of the Second Empire and the fearful months when the city was under siege. But when later Kate went back to the chateau the dangers there seemed even more menacing than they had in besieged Paris.

Available in Fontana by the same author

Mistress of Mellyn Kirkland Revels Bride of Pendorric The Legend of the Seventh Virgin Menfreya The King of the Castle The Shivering Sands The Secret Woman The Shadow of the Lynx The House of a Thousand Lanterns Lord of the Far Island The Pride of the Peacock The Devil on Horseback My Enemy the Queen The Spring of the Tiger The Mask of the Enchantress The Judas Kiss

FONTANA Collins

First published by William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd 1982 A continental edition first issued in Fontana Paperbacks 1983 This edition first issued in Great Britain in Fontana Paperbacks 1984

Copyright Victoria Holt 1982

Made and printed in Great Britain by William Collins Sons and Co. Ltd, Glasgow

CONDITIONS OF SALE

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 For PATRICIA MYRER, to whom I want to express my deepest gratitude er care and wise guidance over more than twenty years, during which she has inspired me and never ceased to amaze me with her flair, intuition, judgement and many talents.

 

Contents

Summons to the Chateau Within the Chateau The Streets of Paris The Demon Nicole The Oriflamme Kite Paris under Siege The Loge The Way Out

To Die for Love Summons to the Chateau

-

It was inevitable that I should be the one to discover it. I had always been closer to him than anyone else even my mother when she had been alive. I understood him in all his moods. I knew the exultation of the creative artist, the striving, the frustrations. The man I knew in this studio was different from the gentle, rather uncomplicated human being he became outside it. Of course it was the studio which claimed the greater part of him. It was his life. He had been brought up to it. From the age of five, in this very house -which had been the home of the Collisons for a hundred years he had come to the studio to watch his own father work. There was a story in the family that when he was four years old they had thought he was lost and his nurse had found him here painting on a piece of vellum with one of his father’s finest sable brushes.

Collison was a name in the art world. It was always associated with the painting of miniatures, and there could not be a collection of any note in Europe which did not contain at least one Collison.

The painting of miniatures was a tradition in our family. My father had said that it was a talent which was passed down through the generations and to become a great painter one must begin in one’s cradle. So it had been with the Collisons. They had been painting miniatures since the seventeenth century. Our ancestor had been a pupil of Isaac Oliver, who in his turn had been a pupil of none other than the famous Elizabethan miniaturist Nicolas Hilliard.

Until this generation there had always been a son to follow his father and carry on not only the tradition but the name. My father had failed in this; and all he had been able to produce was a daughter-myself.

It must have been a great disappointment to him, although he never mentioned it. He was a very gentle man outside the studio, as I have said, and was always conscious of other people’s feelings; he was rather slow of speech because he weighed his words before uttering them and considered the effect they would have on others. It was different when he worked. Then he was completely possessed; he forgot meal times, appointments, commitments of any sort. Sometimes I thought he worked feverishly because he believed he was going to be the last of the Collisons. Now he was beginning to realize that this might not be so, for I too had discovered the fascination of the brush, the vellum and the ivory. I was teaching myself to carry on the family tradition. I was going to show my father that a daughter was not to be despised and could do as well as any son. That was one of the reasons why I gave myself up to the joy of painting. The other far more important was because, irrespective of my sex, I had inherited the desire to produce that intricate limning. I had the urge and I ventured to think the talent to compete with any of my ancestors.

My father, at this time, was in his late forties. He looked younger because of his very clear blue eyes and untidy hair. He was tall I had heard him called lanky and very thin,

 

SUMMONS TO THE CHATEAU I I

which made him seem a trifle ungainly. It surprised people, I think, that from this rather clumsy man could come those delicate miniatures.

His name was Kendal. There had been Kendals in the family for generations. Years ago a girl from the Lake District had married into the family and the name came from her birthplace. It was a tradition that all the men should have names beginning with K and the letters KC. etched in a corner so small that they were barely perceptible were the hallmark of those famous miniatures. It had caused a certain amount of confusion as to which Collison had executed the painting, and it had often been necessary to work out the date from the period and the subject.

My father had remained unmarried until he was thirty. He was the sort of man who was inclined to thrust aside anything that might distract him from his work. Thus, with marriage, too, although he was well aware of his duty rather like that of a monarch to produce the heir to carry on the family tradition.

It was only when he went to the seat of the Earl of Langston in Gloucestershire that the desire to marry became something other than a duty to the family. He had been engaged by the Earl to paint miniatures of the Countess and her two daughters, Lady Jane and Lady Katherine known as Lady Kitty. He always said that the miniature of Lady Kitty was the best work he had ever done.

“There was love in it,” he commented. He was very sentimental.

Well, the outcome was romantic but of course the Earl had other ideas for his daughter. He had no appreciation of art;

he merely wanted a Collison miniature because he had heard that “This Collison is a good man’.

“A Philistine,” my father had called him. He thought artists were servants to be patronized by men of wealth. Moreover, he had hopes of a duke for his daughter.

But it turned out that Lady Kitty was a girl who liked to have her own way and she had fallen as deeply in love with the artist as he had with her. So they eloped and Lady Kitty was informed by her irate father that the gates ofLangston Castle were closed to her forever more. Since she had had the folly to become Kitty Collison, she would have no further connection with The family ofLangston.

Lady Kitty thereupon snapped her fingers and prepared for what, to her, must have been the humble life at Collison House.

A year after the marriage I made my dramatic entrance into the world, causing a great deal of trouble and costing Lady Kitty her never very robust health. When she became a semi-invalid and unable to bear more children, the disastrous truth had to be faced: the only one was a girl and it seemed as though that was the end of the Collison line.

Not that I was ever allowed to feel that I was a disappointment. I discovered it for myself when I learned of the family traditions and became familiar with the big studio and its enormous windows placed so as to catch the strong and searching north light.

I learned a great deal from servants’ gossip, for I was an avid listener and I quickly realized that I could learn more of what I wanted to know through them than I ever could by asking my parents.

“The Langstons always had a job getting sons. My niece is up there in service with some cousins of theirs. She says it’s a grand place.

Fifty servants . no less . and that just for the country. Her ladyship wasn’t meant for this sort of life. “

“Do you think she has regrets?”

“Oh, I reckon. Must do. All them balls and titles and things … Why, she could have married a duke.”

“Yet, he’s a true gentleman … I will say that for him.”

“Oh yes, I’ll grant you that. But he’s just a sort of tradesman … selling things. Oh, I know they’re pictures and that’s somehow supposed to be different… but they’re still things … and he’s selling them. It never works … stepping outside. Class and all that. And there’s no son, is there? All they’ve got is that Miss Kate.”

“She’s got her wits about her, no mistake. A bit of a madam, that one.”

“Don’t really take after either of them.”

“Do you know what I reckon? He ought to have married a strong young woman … his own class … A lady, of course … squire’s daughter or something … He went too high, he did. Then she could have had a baby every year till she got this son what could learn all about painting. That’s how it ought to have been. It’s what you get for marrying out of your class.”

“Do you think he minds.” “Course he minds. He wanted a son. And between you and me her ladyship don’t think all that much of this painting. Well, if it hadn’t been for the painting he’d never have met her, would he? And who’s to say that mightn’t have been for the bes;.?”

So I learned.

At the time I discovered the secret a year had passed since my mother had died. That was a great blow to our household. She had been very beautiful and both my father and I had been content to sit and look at her. She had worn blues which matched her eyes and her tea gowns were draperies most becomingly trimmed with lace and ribbons. Because she had been a semi-invalid since my birth, I felt a certain responsibility for that; but I consoled myself that she enjoyed lying on her sofa and receiving people, like a queen at her coucher. She had what she called her ‘good days’; then she would play the piano or arrange flowers and sometimes entertain people from the neighbourhood mostly.

There were the Farringdons who lived in the Manor and owned most of the land round about, the vicar and the doctor with their families. Everyone was honoured by an invitation from Lady Kitty, even Lady Farringdors, for social status was a great concern others and although the Farringdons were rich, Sir Frederick was only a second-generation baronet and Lady Farringdon was somewhat impressed by the daughter of an Earl.

My mother made no attempt to manage the household. | That was all achieved by Evie, without whom our lives would have been a great deal less comfortable. Evie had been only seventeen when she came to us.

That was at the time when I was about a year old and my mother had by that time slipped gracefully into invalidism. Evie was a’distant cousin of my mother’s one of that army of poor relations which so often exists on the fringe of wealthy families. Some distant female member of that family had married beneath her, which meant against the family’s wishes, and so took a leap into obscurity. Evie was a bud from one of those branches, but she had for some reason kept in touch and, during family emergencies, had been called upon for help.

She and my mother had been fond of each other and when the beautiful Lady Kitty found that she would spend a certain time of her life reclining on sofas it occurred to her that Evie was just the person needed to come and take charge.

So Evie came and never regretted it. Nor did we. We depended on Evie.

She managed the household and the servants, was a companion and lady’s maid to my mother, an efficient housekeeper, a mother to me and all this while she made sure that my father was able to work without distraction.

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