Cover image for The homecoming
Title:
The homecoming
Author:
Chesney, Marion.
Personal Author:
Edition:
[Large print edition].
Publication Information:
Thorndike, Me. : G.K. Hall, 2000.

©1997
Physical Description:
226 pages ; 22 cm.
Language:
English
Geographic Term:
ISBN:
9780783889825
Format :
Book

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Status
East Aurora Library X Adult Large Print - Floating collection Floating Collection - Large Print
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Summary

Summary

Lizzie, the youngest of the six haughty Beverley girls, has seen each of her sisters nearly marry for Mannerling, not for love. All were obsessed with regaining the exquisite seventeenth-century ancestral mansion that had been gambled away by their now-deceased father. In the end, each girl followed true love. But Lizzie has always been different from her sisters. Red-haired and saucy, she has never cared about Mannerling -- or marriage. Unfortunately her mother, Lady Beverley, knows that Lizzie is her last chance if she ever hopes to preside over Mannerling again...


Author Notes

Born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1936, Marion Chesney has written over a hundred books under her own name and the pseudonyms Ann Fairfax, Helen Crampton, Jennie Tremaine, Charlotte Ward, Sarah Chester, and M. C. Beaton. She started her writing career while working as a fiction buyer for a bookstore in Glasgow.

Working at one time or another as a theater critic, newspaper reporter, and editor, she used her British background to write a series of regency romances set in England and Scotland. Some of her regency romances include The Folly, Colonel Sandhurst to the Rescue, and Regency Gold. In 1986, she was awarded the Romantic Times Award for Outstanding Regency Series Writer.

She has also written two mystery series under the pseudonym M. C. Beaton: The Hamish Macbeth Series, which became the inspiration for a television show in England, and The Agatha Raisin Series, about a retired advertising executive.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Mannerly mishaps, matrimonial intrigues, outrageous social climbing and flashes of Austen-like wit mark the sixth and concluding volume (after The Banishment) of Chesney's Daughters of Mannerling series. The Duke of Severnshire moves into Mannerling intending to find a bride, to which end he throws a house party. A "fine figure of a man," the Duke nonetheless shares the great flaw of his literary predecessor, Mr. Darcy: it takes young, pert Lizzie Beverly to cure the Duke of his repellent haughtiness. Of course, Lizzie falls slowly for his grace, but here Chesney's tale takes a turn toward the gothic, as Mannerling House itself throws up paranormal obstacles to their union. The house, indeed, broods over all‘even casting a shadow on the inevitable happy ending. Winning, quirky secondary characters (among them two respectable farmers' daughters whose families have outlandishly high sights, the Duke's lovestruck young secretary, two silly society girls who spring a wacky plot to steal the Duke from Lizzie's clutches) help make this one of Chesney's best. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

What's the good of a home if you are never in it? --George and Weedon Grossmith Brookfield House, home of the Beverleys, was an unassuming place, nothing like their previous grand property, Mannerling. It was a square country building of grey stone with neat sash windows and a plain front door without pediment or portico. It was hardly the setting for the dramatic scene that was taking place in front of it. The great Duke of Severnshire stood there, tall, haughty and every inch the aristocrat, from his tall beaver hat and proud nose to his glossy Hessian boots. Standing in front of him was the Beverleys's governess, elderly but fashionably dressed and with clever sparkling eyes in a wrinkled face and, under a modish cap, brown hair which did not show a trace of grey. The youngest of the Beverley sisters, Lizzie, stood defiantly beside her governess, her green eyes blazing, for this haughty duke had found her visiting Mannerling, her old home, told her it was now his property, and had told her to get off it. Lady Beverley was all amazement, her pale eyes goggling. For the Duke of Severnshire, whom she had often longed to meet, was actually here on her doorstep and claiming that the governess, Miss Trumble, was his aunt! "I repeat my question, Aunt Letitia," said the duke frostily: "What are you doing here?" "I wish to speak to my nephew in private, Lady Beverley," said Miss Trumble quietly. "Of course. By all means," said Lady Beverley, shaken to the core. "Pray use the parlour, Miss Trumble." Miss Trumble and the tall duke went into the house and into the parlour, and the duke firmly closed the door behind them. "Come away, Mama," hissed Lizzie as Lady Beverley pressed an ear against the door panels. At that moment, the duke jerked open the door again. Lady Beverley jumped back. "Oh, Your Grace," she cried. "I was just about to enter and ask if you desired any refreshment." "No!" he said, and slammed the door in her face. "Insufferable," said Lizzie, taking her mother's arm and guiding her into the drawing-room across the hall. "I do not understand," wailed Lady Beverley. "Our Miss Trumble aunt to the duke? There must be some mistake." "I do not think so," said Lizzie. "There was always a mystery about our Miss Trumble. You always said her gowns were too fine for a governess. And if she had to escort us to a function in London, she always disguised herself in a dreadful wig." Lady Beverley sat down. "Perhaps he might buy Mannerling." Time and again Lady Beverley had been thwarted in her schemes of regaining her old home: plots that had been built around one of her six daughters marrying one of the owners. But owners had come and gone and Lizzie's five elder sisters had all married other men, much to Lady Beverley's chagrin. With the exception of Lizzie, damned with a fey appearance and unfashionable red hair, the Beverley sisters were all famous for their beauty. "The duke has already bought Mannerling," said Lizzie. "But he has a great palace of his own," exclaimed Lady Beverley. "What can he want with Mannerling?" "I neither know nor care," said Lizzie. Lady Beverley focused on her youngest daughter. "Tish, what is to be done with you, Lizzie? You look like a schoolgirl. Severnshire is unmarried still, I believe. If only one of your sisters were still unwed! What hope is there with the runt of the litter?" This last was said in a low voice, not really meant for Lizzie's ears, but Lizzie heard it and flushed miserably. "How did you know he had bought Mannerling?" demanded Lady Beverley. "I heard it from Barry." Barry was the odd man. Lizzie decided she must warn him that he was supposed to have told her, for she did not want her mother to know that she had gone for a look round her old home and had been told to leave by the duke. "Imagine Miss Trumble being his aunt. Dear me, she cannot possibly stay with us now. I wonder what her real name is? Lady Something, and she will exceed me in rank! I wonder what they are talking about? I wonder why she decided to become a mere governess? Scandal. It must have been because of some dreadful scandal. I wish I could hear what they are talking about." The duke was pacing up and down the small parlour. "Do sit down, Gervase, and stop towering over me," begged Miss Trumble. He sat down in an armchair and stretched out his long legs. "Why Trumble, of all stupid names?" he demanded. "It was the name of my old nurse. I was very fond of her." "You had no need to go out and find employ." "Can you not understand that I was bored, Gervase? A spinster lady, a tiresome relation, not really wanted anywhere. I have been needed here, am still needed here." "You cannot possibly stay here now you have been discovered!" "But only by you. A few of my old friends, Lady Evans, for example, who lives on the other side of Hedgefield, know of my true identity, and they will not speak of it, so why should you?" "Such a position with such a family!" "What is up with them?!" "I have been long enough in the neighbourhood to pick up the gossip. Sir William Beverley lost everything at the card tables and so had to sell up, and ever since then the Beverleys have done nothing but plot and scheme to find ways of getting Mannerling back." "The five elder Beverleys have all married well, and to gentlemen they love. There is only little Lizzie left and I intend to stay in my post until she is wed." "That odd, rude little girl! I found her wandering about Mannerling as if she owned the place and sent her to the right about." "Oh dear." "Besides, it harms my dignity to have you here." "Oh, Gervase, that wretched family pride. I once shared it and it destroyed my chance at happiness." He raised his thin eyebrows in query. "I was courted by an army captain. This is very old family history. I was very much attracted to him. But I was persuaded by my father that he was an adventurer, only interested in my money. I was taught to rate my looks very low, rather like poor Lizzie, and so I let him go. He was killed in battle. How I mourned! But"--she gave a little smile--"that is surely of no interest to you. I became interested in learning and then, as the years passed, I had a hunger to pass that learning on. I am persuaded that had the Beverley girls not had a good education and well-trained minds, then they would have succumbed to disastrous marriages." "But you must remember you are Lady Letitia Revine, my late father's sister, and your situation here is a scandal and a disgrace." "No worthwhile work is a scandal or a disgrace. I promised Lizzie I would stay until she was wed, and so I shall. Until that time I am Miss Trumble, governess." "That little redhead will not take. Too farouche." "Lizzie has character and charm. You have not seen her at her best." "How old is she? Sixteen?" "Nineteen now and of an age to be wed." "That is Lady Beverley's concern, not yours." "I have made it mine, Gervase. I suggest you go away and forget you have found me. Why did you buy Mannerling? You have no need of the place." "It is a fine place and I always increase my holdings and property when I can. I thought it might be a fitting property for my son when he comes of age." Miss Trumble blinked. "I did not even know you were married. I heard nothing about it." "I am not married . . . yet, but I plan to change that situation as soon as possible." "You have found someone?" "No, but I shall. It is difficult to find someone suitable to my rank." "Oh, Gervase, I despair of you!" "To my rank," he repeated firmly. "Mannerling is a pretty setting. I shall invite some suitable prospects from time to time. I desire a son." "There are a great number of so-called ordinary people who are well worth knowing, Gervase, and by armouring yourself in rank, you are cutting yourself off from them." "I am become expert at cutting myself off from adventuresses, toadies, mushrooms and counter jump-ers," he said coldly. "Do you really mean you wish me to help you prolong this masquerade?" "I do not need your help. Simply do not talk about it and I will persuade Lady Beverley to do the same." "I never knew a woman yet who could keep a secret." "You are looking at one. And be assured that neither Lizzie nor Lady Beverley will speak of it." His odd silvery eyes under hooded lids looked at her cynically. "But Lady Beverley will no doubt see it as a means to push that dreadful little daughter of hers in my direction." "I think Lizzie has taken you in dislike. I will not be encouraging any matchmaking. I am very fond of Lizzie. She is too good for you, and too young. How old are you now? Thirty-four?" The duke nodded. "Nearly twice her age. But, Gervase, as your neighbours, Lady Beverley and Lizzie should be invited to dinner or to one of your parties." "I do not see why I should." "Because if you do not, I will make it known I am your aunt." "You are blackmailing me, Aunt Letitia!" "Yes, I suppose I am. Shall we join the ladies? And do address me as Miss Trumble. I am accustomed to the name and by virtue of its long use, it has become my own." He wondered briefly if madness ran in his family, but the eyes surveying him were bright, intelligent and mocking. His aunt, he realized ruefully, was managing to make him feel like a pompous fool. "Very well," he said with a sudden charming smile. "I shall summon them." Miss Trumble rose to her feet. "Ring the bell for a servant." "You forget, I am a servant." It was as well for Lizzie that her mother was nonplussed. Her own governess outranking her! Lady Beverley entered the parlour very subdued, and curtsied low to the duke. Then she turned to Miss Trumble. "I do not know how to address you." "I shall be remaining in your employ, my lady," said Miss Trumble. "And Miss Trumble is my name." "But His Grace said--" "We will forget what my nephew said. I promised Lizzie I would remain until she was wed." "Oh, my best of governesses," said Lizzie, her eyes shining. "I thought you would leave me." "Make your curtsy to His Grace, Lizzie, and be seated." Lizzie gave a bob of a curtsy and sat down. Lady Beverley ordered tea. Her mind was beginning to race. Here was the Duke of Severnshire in her parlour, the unwed Duke of Severnshire, and his aunt was Lizzie's governess. She glanced impatiently at Lizzie. The child ought to have put her hair up. But still trying to assimilate the fact that Miss Trumble was an aristocrat kept Lady Beverley quiet and correct where normally she would have bored the duke to flinders with apocryphal tales of the greatness of the Beverley family and she would have made her great ambition to possess Mannerling all too clear. Out of courtesy to Miss Trumble, Lizzie was polite and respectful to the duke, although privately she considered him cold and haughty. Because he was a duke, most ladies would immediately think him handsome. But she found his great height and cold silvery eyes unnerving. His hair was worn long and confined at his neck with a ribbon. His clothes were impeccable and she wondered why he wore his hair in such an old-fashioned manner when most gentlemen now wore a Brutus crop or the Windswept. "Why are you looking at me so curiously, Miss Lizzie?" asked the duke suddenly. "I was wondering why you bought Mannerling when you have no need of the place," said Lizzie, startled into saying the second thing in her mind, not wanting to ask him about his hair. "As I have already explained to my aunt, it struck me that the place might do for my son." "Your son!" exclaimed Lady Beverley. "His Grace is a trifle premature," said Miss Trumble. He smiled and Lizzie thought that his smile altered his whole appearance, making him look almost approachable. "I do not understand," wailed Lady Beverley, overset by the idea that this duke was already married. "I plan to become married soon," said the duke patiently. "I would like to secure an heir." "I hope you find a suitable lady to breed for you," said Lizzie. There was a shocked silence. "The weather has been very fine for the time of year," said Miss Trumble, after casting a chilly look in Lizzie's direction. The duke, Miss Trumble, and Lady Beverley began to converse about the English weather. Lizzie wondered whether it might be possible to die from shame. What had prompted her unruly tongue to make such a remark? She could feel herself blushing hot and red, hear a roaring in her ears through which the polite conversation of the others came faintly. At last, she could bear her shame no longer. She rose and curtsied to the duke. "Excuse me, Your Grace," she muttered and fled the room. Inside, Lady Beverley felt she should apologize for her daughter's rudeness but then, because the duke appeared calm and pleasant, decided hopefully that he had misheard Lizzie or had not heard her at all. But when he had taken his leave of her, the duke stopped outside his carriage, turned to Miss Trumble and said coldly, "The bad behaviour of your charge does you no credit at all, Aunt. I am shocked." "Lizzie is an independently minded young lady and you shocked her." "Indeed. What on earth did I say?" "It was your statement that you were looking for someone to bear you a son. Such is the way of the world, we both know that. But to any intelligent and sensitive lady, the idea of being married simply to bear children, no question of love and affection or even respect, must appear repugnant." "If you had perhaps not addled your brain with romances at an early age," said the duke waspishly, "you might not be a spinster." "That remark, my nephew, was worse than anything Lizzie could come up with. Had I addled my brain with romances at an early age rather than being wrapped up in pride and consequence, then I might have known some happiness before my captain was killed. Good day to you." Miss Trumble turned and went in search of Lizzie. Lizzie was in the small stable with Barry Wort, the odd man, when she heard Miss Trumble's voice. "Do not betray me, Barry," she whispered. "I am in the suds." "Lizzie? Where are you?" Miss Trumble again. Like conspirators, the odd man and Lizzie waited in silence until they heard Miss Trumble's voice again, but fainter this time and going away towards the house. "Now, miss," said Barry comfortably, "what have you been and done now?" "Such news, Barry. Our Miss Trumble is actually the Duke of Severnshire's aunt." "Never!" "True, Barry." "My, my. I always suspected she was a great lady. I'm fair stunned, miss. How is her ladyship taking it?" "Mama is a trifle dazed." "Miss Lizzie, does that mean Miss Trumble will be leaving us?" "Oh, no; she said she would stay until I was wed." "Doesn't make sense to me. Great duke like that won't want his auntie working as a governess." "He has bought Mannerling." "So I heard only an hour ago. Why?" "He says he wants it for his son. He is not even married. He said he would find a suitable woman to bear him one and I opened my mouth and said I hoped he would find someone to breed for him." Barry clicked his tongue in an admonitory way. "That was not good, miss." "And that is why Miss Trumble is looking for me. Oh, and Barry, I lied and said you had told me he had bought Mannerling, so you must back me up." "Best go out there and get it over with." "I suppose so. Barry, how are we to treat Miss Trumble now? Miss Trumble is gone. We now have the duke's aunt. Will she move to Mannerling, think you? Will he really let her stay here?" "I do not see how she can possibly stay here," said Barry sadly. "Nothing will be the same if she goes." "I cannot hide here," said Lizzie. "I will be brave. I will go and see her." Barry has turned suddenly old, she thought as she left. His round face, usually cheerful, looked wrinkled and careworn and his shoulders stooped. "Lizzie!" cried Miss Trumble, coming out of the house as she approached. "I would speak with you." Lizzie walked forward and dropped a curtsy and said, "My lady?" "I am still Miss Trumble, Lizzie, and until I finish my employ here, you will address me as such." Lizzie's face brightened. "You are really to stay with us?" "I gave you my promise, did I not? Now, is it necessary for me to give you a jaw-me-dead over your remark to the duke?" "No, Miss Trumble. I am deeply ashamed. But he humiliated me." "Meaning he found you in Mannerling where you had no right to be and told you to go away?" "Yes, but he was so contemptuous, so haughty and cold." "He finds a young trespasser who looks like a school-girl and who is wandering about his home without an invitation. What would you do if you found someone in Brookfield House, walking about the rooms and looking at everything without a by your leave?" Lizzie hung her head. Miss Trumble put a hand under the girl's chin and lifted up her face. Wide green eyes stared at her. Lizzie's eyes were pure green without any trace of brown and framed with thick black lashes. That red hair of hers, damned as unfashionable, was thick and with a slight curl and shone with health. "Yes," said Miss Trumble, half to herself, "you might do. But come indoors and let me arrange your hair. It is time to try out a new style." "I told Barry who you really are," said Lizzie. Miss Trumble paused on the threshold. "Indeed! Then go to your room, Lizzie, and look out curling tongs and pins and I will be with you quite soon." Miss Trumble turned and hurried back round the side of the house. Barry was just emerging from the stable. He bowed low when he saw her. "Well, Barry," said Miss Trumble, "are we still friends?" "You are no longer a servant, my lady." "I am until I finish my work here, Barry. And as I have explained to Lizzie, until that time, Lady Letitia Revine does not exist. I am Miss Trumble and still a servant like you." "I never really thought of you as a servant. But what made you stoop so low?" "I considered it a step up from being an unwanted maiden aunt. I enjoy teaching. It gives me a purpose in life. Lizzie must be married before I go." "Miss Lizzie told me she had been rude to the duke." "Very rude, Barry." Miss Trumble sighed. "At least it might do him some good. No one is ever rude to Gervase. As a result, he is too wrapped up in his own consequence. He wishes to find a bride and it amuses him to invite prospects to Mannerling. Mannerling is his latest toy." "He will have no difficulty, him being a great duke." "No, he will not, and that will be very bad for him." Barry scratched his head. "Reckon Miss Lizzie is too young for him." "Oh, much too young." "And yet her sisters married men older than themselves." "True, but Gervase is set in his ways and arrogance. I would see Lizzie with someone nearer her own age. But he is to entertain and I have made sure that Lizzie and Lady Beverley are to be invited. I shall call on him in a few days' time and persuade him to invite some suitable young man." "So how is Lady Beverley taking the news of your status?" "I do not know. I have not yet spoken to her." "She will not know how to go on." "I think she will forget very quickly who I really am. Otherwise she might have to concern herself with the welfare of her own daughter, and also with the running of the house. Now, I must go to Lizzie." "I'm right glad you are still to be with us, miss." "Oh, you will not lose me, Barry. Do not tell anyone my real identity." Barry stood and watched her as she crossed the lawn. Then he began to whistle cheerfully as he returned to his work. The Duke of Severnshire's secretary, Mr. Peter Bond, stood respectfully to attention beside his master's desk three days later while the duke mused over several names he had written down. Peter was a tall, thin, awkward man who came from a good but impoverished family. He had not been able to believe his luck when he obtained the post as secretary to the duke only a year ago, the previous secretary having left to take holy orders. But sometimes he felt it was like working for a machine. The duke never seemed aware of him as a person. "There are two here I might begin with," said the duke. "Lady Verity and Miss Celia Charter. We will write and invite the young ladies and their parents for a visit. Well, Lady Verity is past the first blush of youth, but the family is good, as is her dowry. Miss Celia Charter is young but that has the advantage that she can be schooled in our ways. As to the others, the Chumleys, and . . . What is it, Palk?" His butler had entered. "A Miss Trumble is called, Your Grace. She is only governess to the Beverleys, so I told her you would not be available." To Peter's surprise, the duke said, "On the contrary, Palk, I am always available when Miss Trumble calls. Show her up. That will be all, Mr. Bond." Peter bowed and made his way out, but was longing to stay and see what this governess had to say to his master. "Aunt Letitia," said the duke, rising. "Pray be seated. Tea, some wine?" "Tea, I think," said Miss Trumble, drawing off her gloves. The duke rang the bell and ordered tea. They talked of general matters until the tea was served and the servants had retired. "How go your plans to wed?" asked Miss Trumble. "I have selected two initially to see how they go on. Lady Verity and Miss Celia Charter." Miss Trumble searched in the files of her capacious memory. "Lady Verity is not yet wed, daughter of the Earl and Countess of Hernshire; matches you, Gervase, in pride and arrogance. Well enough in looks, as you probably know." "I have never met either lady." "You amaze me! Did you not see them at a Season?" "I do not visit the Season. I have spent many years travelling." "Miss Celia Charter made her first come-out this year. She is fair and flighty." "From my researches I gather she has a good dowry." "And what is that to you, rich as you are?" "It saves me from the perils of being trapped by a fortune-hunter. I do not want to be married for my money." "Really, Gervase! And yet you cold-bloodedly select two ladies because you know they are comfortably endowered!" "May I remind you, Aunt, you are not my governess." "And more's the pity. I would have schooled you better." "As you schooled Lizzie? I should be sitting in drawing-rooms by this time making impertinent remarks to my betters." "Lizzie probably does not see you as her better, but she is suitably contrite. I wish you to invite Lady Beverley and Lizzie tomorrow to take tea." "This is ridiculous. Oh, very well." He rang the bell and asked the footman who answered it to find his secretary. Peter came in and stood humbly to attention. "Mr. Bond, be so good as to send a footman to Brookfield House directly inviting Lady Beverley and Miss Lizzie Beverley to tea on the morrow at four o'clock." "Very good, Your Grace." Peter bowed low and went out. "I hope that young man eats enough," said Miss Trumble sharply. "And he does not look happy." "He does his job well, Aunt, so what is it to me if he is unhappy or not?" "Are you never moved by ordinary human kindness, Gervase?" "I pay my servants well and they are housed and fed. Your descent to the common state has made you common, Aunt." Miss Trumble raised her brows and studied him. "I beg your pardon," he said stiffly. "It is not only my Lizzie, you see, who has a wayward tongue." "Will you accompany the Beverleys?" "Of course. I am also chaperone to Lizzie." "May I point out that such a chit as Lizzie Beverley needs no chaperone with me around?" She smiled. "Nonetheless, I shall come. Which brings me to the second reason for my visit. When you invite your guests, could you include a suitable young man of good family for my Lizzie?" He sighed but rang the bell and summoned his secretary again. "Mr. Bond," he said, "be so good when you invite the others to include an invitation to some suitable young man. We are desirous of finding a husband for Miss Lizzie Beverley. Does she have a dowry?" "She will have a fair one," said Miss Trumble, privately thinking that she would do all in her power to shake a good one out of the cheese-paring Lady Beverley. "Then see to it, Mr. Bond." "Very good, Your Grace." "Mr. Bond!" Miss Trumble summoned him back as he was about to bow his way out of the room. "Madam?" "We wish someone of spirit and intelligence and good humour." "Very good, Miss Trumble." "You know who I am?" "I made it my business to find out everyone who resides in the neighbourhood of Mannerling, madam." "You are an excellent young man. Do you eat enough?" Peter blushed and looked towards his master but the duke had crossed to the window and was staring out. "Yes, madam. His Grace has the best chef in the country." "Do not eat too much rich food, Mr. Bond," said Miss Trumble, "and go for walks in the fresh air." "Yes, madam." "When is your day off?" "I get one day off every quarter-day, madam." "Tisk. You must find time for yourself." He bowed out again. The duke swung round angrily. "You forget yourself, Aunt. He is my servant and he will work any hours that I choose." "He does not look strong," she said mildly. She drew on her gloves and picked up her reticule. "Until tomorrow, Gervase." Lady Beverley accepted the invitation to tea as her due. She had decided that Miss Trumble must have committed some grave scandal to have reduced her to her present lowly position and therefore there was no need to treat her any differently. To Miss Trumble's relief, Lizzie showed no joy at the prospect of a visit to Mannerling. The governess was always frightened that the old Beverley obsession with getting Mannerling back would rise again in Lizzie. But Miss Trumble was irritated, when they climbed into the small carriage driven by Barry, that Lady Beverley did not even seem to notice her daughter's new modish appearance. The day was sunny and warm. Great clouds like galleons under full sail moved in stately procession across a blue sky. Lizzie's red hair was dressed in one of the new Roman fashions and curled and pomaded so that it almost seemed to shine with purple lights. She was wearing a light leaf-green muslin gown with a broad green silk sash. A little straw hat was perched at a jaunty angle on her curls. Lizzie felt strange and not quite like herself. Clothes were a comfort, she thought. In such a modish gown and with her smart new hairstyle, she was sure she would behave like a lady. "When in doubt, only speak when spoken to," Miss Trumble had warned her. So Lizzie was determined to behave. There would only be herself, Lady Beverley, Miss Trumble, and the duke. Her mother would prose on about the great days of Mannerling when the Beverleys were in residence and Miss Trumble would supply her usual tactful conversation. There would be nothing for her to do but listen and nod from time to time. But at that moment, the Duke of Severnshire was ringing for his secretary. When Peter came in, the duke leaned back in his chair and surveyed the young man as if seeing him for the first time. Thin sensitive face, clear grey eyes, fair wispy hair, he was correctly and neatly dressed in black coat and black knee-breeches and square-toed shoes with modest metal buckles. "Mr. Bond," began the duke, "as you are aware, the Beverleys are expected, and Miss Trumble." "Yes, Your Grace." "Miss Lizzie is a tiresome little minx and apt to open her mouth and say the first thing that comes into her head. Very fatiguing. You are to join us and entertain Miss Lizzie. You are to take her away and show her the gardens." "Very good, Your Grace." "And you may get some of that fresh air Miss Trumble thinks you need so badly." "Thank you, Your Grace. I will do my best to entertain Miss Beverley." "Ah, so good to be home again!" cried Lady Beverley, sailing into the drawing-room at Mannerling. "I was under the impression it was my home," said the duke drily. "You must forgive me," said Lady Beverley, settling herself on the sofa and looking about her with a complacent air. "Such happy memories." The duke introduced his secretary. He had been a little taken aback by Lizzie's appearance. Quite the little fashion plate, he thought in surprise. "Perhaps Miss Lizzie would care to see the gardens, Mr. Bond?" "Certainly," said the secretary. The day had become warm and Lizzie would have liked a cup of tea but she saw the warning flash in Miss Trumble's eyes and rose obediently to her feet. She and Peter walked down the great staircase. Lizzie looked up at the chandelier. "Does it still move?" she asked curiously. "Move, Miss Beverley?" "A previous owner, a Mr. Judd, hanged himself there. Sometimes the chandelier would move and the crystals would tinkle although there was no wind or even a draught." "Not that I have heard, Miss Beverley." "Strange," mused Lizzie. "There is no atmosphere anymore. This house used to feel like a live thing, and sometimes when I entered it seemed to welcome me and from time to time the very walls exuded an air of menace. Now I feel nothing." Peter remembered his master's remark that Miss Lizzie came out with whatever happened to be passing through her mind, but he said politely, "His Grace is so very grand that perhaps his presence has tamed the house." "Perhaps," said Lizzie, as they went out together into the sunlight. "Do you miss Mannerling very much?" "I used to," said Lizzie. "Yes, very much. But now I think I am quite reconciled to my new home, and it is about time." Her green eyes flashed with amusement. "What are you supposed to do with me? Walk me about like a dog?" Peter suppressed a smile. "Oh, no, His Grace is all kindness." "Do you think I look very fine?" "Yes, Miss Beverley, very modish." Lizzie gave a sigh. "So let us walk in the gardens. Here is the little lawn at the side where we used to play battledore and shuttlecock." "I found bats and shuttlecock in the little cupboard in the Great Hall, and the net." "We could play," said Lizzie eagerly. "See, the posts for the net are still here." "May I point out you are not dressed to play?" "All I need to do is take off my hat. My kid slippers are perfectly suitable for running across the grass and the modern fashion for loose gowns means I am not constricted in any way." "Then we shall play, Miss Beverley." They returned to the house, where Peter summoned footmen to put up the net and carry the bats and shuttlecocks round to the side lawn. Lizzie unpinned her little hat and stripped off her gloves. "I must warn you, I am a very good player," she said. "What about you?" "Fair, Miss Beverley." "I think it would be perfectly in order for you to call me Lizzie when we are not in company since we are destined to be friends." Peter looked down at her elfin face and suddenly smiled. "You may call me Peter, but not in front of my master. He is very strict on protocol." "Pooh to your master. Let's play." It became all too clear to the duke as Lady Beverley spoke on that she was still determined to get Mannerling back. "Such a pity a fine gentleman like yourself is unwed," she said coyly. "What you need is a young girl who knows the tenants and the neighbouring aristocracy and gentry." "Why a young girl?" "You will wish to school her in your ways." "What a truly dreadful idea," he said acidly. "Indeed it is," put in Miss Trumble maliciously. "I heard someone else say that just recently." "Do you not think we should summon Lizzie?" asked Lady Beverley. "I know you meant well, Your Grace, but a Beverley does not consort with a mere secretary." Miss Trumble raised her eyes to heaven. "Peter Bond is from an excellent family," said the duke harshly. Through an open window of the drawing-room which overlooked the side lawn came the sounds of shouts and laughter. The duke frowned suddenly and went to the window and looked down. Hatless, her red hair glowing like a flame in the sunshine, Lizzie Beverley ran energetically hither and thither. "I am still better than you, Peter," she cried gleefully. And a new Peter, in his shirtsleeves, laughed back. The duke had meant to punish Lizzie by banishing her from the tea-table. He had not for a moment expected her to look so free, so happy, to have forgotten the very existence of the great Duke of Severnshire. Nor had he expected her to get on such easy terms immediately with his secretary. "Miss Lizzie, I am sure, would welcome some tea," he said. He rang the bell and told a footman to tell the young lady that her presence was required. Lady Beverley had begun to prose on again about Mannerling under the reign of the Beverleys. Miss Trumble watched her nephew curiously as he went back to the window. The duke waited. He saw the footman call out to Mr. Bond. The couple stopped their game. He heard the footman say, "Your presence is requested by His Grace." He quite clearly heard Lizzie say, "Oh, fiddle, and just when I was beginning to have some fun," saw the way his secretary's face fell, how he quickly struggled into his black coat and smoothed down his hair. The duke had never thought about his age before, always somehow thinking of himself as being still a young man. For the first time he felt old and cold and stuffy. At last he heard them mount the staircase. Lizzie entered, her gloves once more on her hands and her hat on her head. Her face was flushed from the exercise and her eyes shone, but she went meekly to the sofa and sat down primly by her mother--who had not paused for breath--crossed her hands and bowed her head. She accepted a cup of tea from the footman. Peter bowed to the company, then his master, and made his escape. The duke sat down and studied Lizzie. She must have been aware of his steady gaze but she calmly drank tea, her long gloves unbuttoned and rolled back over her wrists. The duke cut right across Lady Beverley's droning monologue. "Did you enjoy your game, Miss Lizzie?" he asked. "Yes, I thank you, Your Grace," said Lizzie meekly. "The last ball we had here," said Lady Beverley, ploughing on, "was a magnificent affair. The footmen had gold swords. I always wondered what happened to those gold swords." "They probably went to pay off Papa's debts like most other things," said Lizzie. "My dear child," said Lady Beverley with an icy glare which did not go with the fondness of the words. "Always funning." "My secretary kept you amused, Miss Lizzie?" pursued the duke. "Yes, I thank you, Your Grace." Green eyes met silver ones. "He is most assiduous in attending to his duties, I believe. Does he walk your dogs as well?" "I did not send you away like a dog," said the duke sharply. "I do beg your pardon," said Lizzie sweetly. "You were being most kind in thinking I would prefer young company." "Yes, my dear," gushed her mother. "His Grace is kindness itself. But I always think a young lady needs an older man to guide her." "How strange, Mama. I would not have thought that at all. Papa was only a year older than you when you married." "Ah, but I was old beyond my years. Now you, my dear, are a trifle wayward and flighty, but some gentle-man older in years would be able to school you." "You forget, Mama, I have the benefit of a superior governess." Lady Beverley gave her tinkling laugh. "Such an innocent!" She smiled at the duke, who gave her a stony look. "No, no, a husband is something different." Lizzie was experiencing an odd feeling of excitement. Mannerling had lost its hold on her. She did not care a whit what this rude duke thought of her. She had forgotten all her good intentions of remaining silent. "You do not need to worry about a husband for me, Mama, for I am much too plain to fetch one, old or young. As you said yourself, it is a pity I am the runt of the litter." The duke covered his mouth with his hand to hide a smile. "I said no such thing." Lady Beverley raised a thin white hand to her brow. "I declare I am feeling a trifle faint. Perhaps some fresh air . . . ?" Miss Trumble rose to her feet. "Yes, we must return immediately. I will make you one of my possets, Lady Beverley." She took Lady Beverley's arm and guided her to the door. Lizzie curtsied low to the duke. Once more their eyes met and held. Lizzie's green eyes held a mocking, challenging look. Peter was waiting at the foot of the stairs. "If you are ever allowed some free time, do call on us," said Lizzie. The duke caught the remark as he followed them down the staircase. He was displeased. Lizzie Beverley was a forward, unruly girl. After Barry had helped Lady Beverley into the carriage, then Lizzie, the duke took Miss Trumble aside. "Even you, Aunt, must admit your pert miss should have watched her tongue." "You did, however, send your secretary to take her away for a walk, just like a pet dog," said Miss Trumble. "You are annoyed because she dared to enjoy his company. Your trouble, Gervase, is that no one has ever given you a set-down. But what is a little miss like Lizzie to you? You will invite your ladies here to look them over and no doubt you will select one who is as little capable of love and laughter as you are yourself." The duke turned on his heel and walked back into the house. "Your Grace," said Peter. "Yes, Mr. Bond?" "The chandelier has begun to move although there is no wind, and I feel a strange air of menace, of threat that seems to come from the very walls." The duke stared up at the chandelier as it turned first one way and then the other. "Vibration from somewhere," he said curtly. "And exercise has made you fanciful. I feel nothing." He marched up the stairs with his dutiful secretary at his heels. If a ghost confronted my master, thought Peter, he would probably just order it off the premises! Excerpted from The Homecoming by Marion Chesney All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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