Cover image for Love's proof
Title:
Love's proof
Author:
Palmer, Catherine, 1956-
Personal Author:
Edition:
[Large print edition].
Publication Information:
Waterville, Me. : Thorndike Press, 2004.

©2003
Physical Description:
429 pages ; 23 cm
Language:
English
Geographic Term:
ISBN:
9780786263271
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

"When high-spirited Jane Fellowes finds her world turned upside down, she is determined to right it. First her uncle experiences periods of violent insanity, then her father is accused of crimes he surely cannot have committed. When Jane finds Sir Isaac Newton's box of mysterious scientific discoveries in her mad uncle's home, she feels compelled to analyze the information within. Can it be true that the box contains proof of the existence of God?"


Excerpts

Excerpts

EXETER, DEVON, ENGLAND Two Weeks Earlier "Faith, Jane. We must have faith." Seated in a chill cell inside the Exeter gaol, the Honorable Newton Wallop Fellowes reached across the table and patted his daughter's hand. "God is with us." "Father, how can you be so complacent?" Jane tossed her napkin onto the white tablecloth. As had become her custom, she had brought his breakfast from the inn where she was staying. At considerable cost to the Fellowes family, the Black Swan Inn provided Mr. Fellowes three good meals each day, clean table linens, and the appropriate silver. For a few shillings more, the guard on duty was happy to permit father and daughter to dine together. Jane cast a glance at the Exeter Flying Post , which lay folded beside her father's plate. "The whole world, it would appear to me, is going mad," she said. "A lack of reason and good sense is everywhere apparent, and yet we sit by and do nothing about it. We live in a realm whose rightful king is a lunatic. My sister has married a man with a fondness for traveling as far from home as possible, and consequently, she suffers the dire inability to produce an heir." Jane took up the letter that had just been brought in by the guard. "And now we learn that your brother is suffering yet another bout of dementia." "The king, Henrietta, and John may all be slightly bereft of their faculties, my dear, but they are not the whole world." "They are my whole world, Father. They ... and you. These are all I shall ever want or need." Jane studied the portly gentleman who sat across from her, his graying hair in want of a trim and the napkin beneath his chin sporting a dollop of strawberry jam. The filthy glass in the window behind him allowed only a little light to filter between the iron bars, but she knew her father was not well. How could he be healthy in this frigid stone cell with its leaky ceiling and muddy floor? "The greatest madness of all," she continued, "belongs to the unknown villain who has accused you of sedition. Thanks to him, you have stood before neither a court nor a judge. Entirely without benefit of habeas corpus, you are imprisoned merely on suspicion of a crime." "Dearest Jane, you fret too much about matters that are beyond your concern. You ought to go down the road to the library at the institution and read one of your scientific treatises. Hooke's Micrographia would do nicely. See if you can determine for us whether light is made up of waves or invisible particles." Jane closed her eyes, recalling the horror of one particular day when she and her sister had observed a hanging on the gallows that stood next to the library. She would never forget how-beckoned by the excited cries of the crowd crying out for a hanging-the two little girls had escaped from Billings, the family footman. Hand in hand, Jane and Henrietta had slipped out of the oak-paneled room with its bookshelf-lined walls. They grasped the banister and flew down the spiral staircase. And then they burst out into the hot summer air, ran past the cathedral, and headed straight into the throng of onlookers. Shivers skittered down Jane's spine as she recalled the odor of human sweat and onions and broken leather shoes that had swirled around her head. Shouts of rage and excitement filled her ears. Rough linen skirts, brown cotton trousers, and thickly muscled arms formed a maze through which she led her older sister. Oh, it had seemed so thrilling to be away from the quiet opulence of their home and out among the common people! But then Jane had fixed her eyes on the platform not two paces away. The condemned man stood just beyond her, his wooden shoes nicked and battered, his bare ankles covered with running sores, the hems of his trousers ragged and threadbare. He wore a wrinkled gray shirt of homespun wool; it was stained with sweat. His white hair ruffled in the breeze, and his blue eyes looked toward heaven. The hangman had shoved a black hood over the criminal's head, grasped a thick rope, and pulled the noose down onto the criminal's shoulders. At that moment, a cry rang out-"No! No, don't kill my papa!" It had been a girl, not much older than Jane. She broke from a small cluster of people hiding in the shadows of the library and ran for the gallows stairs, tears streaming down her cheeks. An old man turned and cuffed the child across the cheek. She stumbled, fell, and lay sobbing. Jane had started toward the girl, but a roar from the crowd stopped her as everyone suddenly surged forward. Pressed against the wooden platform, Jane had heard the latch on the trapdoor snap open. The door swung down; the man dropped; the rope jerked taut. For a moment he struggled, writhing and choking. And then he fell still. To this day, Jane could hear the gentle creak of the heavily laden rope. And she could see the dead man's daughter where she lay sobbing into the grass. Jane feared she would not survive were her beloved father to be subjected to a similar fate. "Father," she whispered, reaching out with a trembling hand. "In one short month, you must be taken before the magistrate to face a possible penalty that is unbearable even to mention. Yet you do nothing to save your life." "Now, now, my dear," he said as he cut into a crisp sausage. "Let us not recite all our woes at breakfast. If we are to have any entertainment at all, we must save a few for dinner." "How can you find amusement in this? I assure you I am greatly distressed." She poured a measure of milk into a china cup, then filled it to the brim with strong, dark tea. Though their two-hundred-year-old manor house and their complacent life at Eggesford seemed a world away, Jane realized her father was determined to continue on as though nothing had gone awry. "Vexation, dear girl," he said around a bite of egg, "has never done anyone the slightest good. Observe my poor brother as an example to the contrary. He is forever at sixes and sevens, and thanks to it, he has suffered the collapse of one marriage and great unhappiness in the second. No, I believe that a resolute, dispassionate serenity under-girded by an iron faith in God is the best way to go about one's life. Would you not agree?" Jane sighed. "Of course, Father, you are right." "I thank you, my dear, for you know it is my greatest pleasure to triumph over you in every debate." He lifted his teacup and gave her a salute. "Your kippers, I fear, are growing quite cold." Shaking her head, Jane returned to her breakfast. She loved her father deeply, and she knew that without him, her own life would have little focus. For three years, since the marriage of her older sister, Jane had been the full-time caretaker of the widower and his household. They were a wealthy family, owning three large manor houses, more than three thousand acres in the Eggesford and Wembworthy parishes, as well as several other nearby estates, but she would not think of hiring anyone to take her place at her father's side. Unfortunately, however, it was beginning to look as if Jane would be forced to marry, and the sooner the better. Although born into the Wallop family, Newton Fellowes had inherited his estates in Devon from his maternal uncle, Henry Arthur Fellowes, and he had taken on that family's surname. The task of childbearing, it seemed, must fall to Jane, for if her father died without a male heir, his entire property would be entailed upon a cousin. "Father, I am sorry I cannot let this matter rest," she said, the very thought of marriage chilling her to the core. "You must give these matters due attention. Your life is at stake!" "Yes, Jane. I know that." He set down his knife and fork. As he gazed at her, his brow furrowed with the tension that had plagued them from the moment they learned of the terrible charges against him. "I know I am accused of sedition against the Crown. I know my name is associated with those who would wish King George dead-as if his madness were not enough. I know also that I was said to be at a meeting I did not attend. As you are well aware, the Seditious Meetings Act bans assemblies of more than fifty men, and violation is punishable by death. An illegal assembly was held in Exeter for the very purpose of protesting the suspension of habeas corpus, and two witnesses claim to have seen me there." "They are lying!" "Of course they are. But how to prove it? Moreover, my family seal was set upon funds that were not taken from my accounts. These accounts are ... well, I am sorry to say, but they are in a bit of a shambles. Money has been taken from here and there for various projects." "From here and there?" she cried. "Jane, I know all these facts, but what am I to do about them? I can do nothing, my dear girl. Nothing but have faith." "What is faith, Father? Sitting here in the Exeter gaol while unknown enemies plot against you? Believing that God will send a miracle to save you at the last moment? The innocent are not always saved." "I am far from innocent, Jane." He lowered his head, shaking it sadly. "I am-I regret to say-as great a sinner as any man who has ever lived. But I am not guilty of sedition, and I believe that God will see to my deliverance." "Is this the nature of God? Is this what it means to have faith? To do nothing but idly await one's destiny? To be at the merciless whim of the Almighty?" She pushed back from the table and stood. "If so, I want no part of such a God." "How would you prefer Him, dear girl? Would you put God inside a box, neatly contained, pinned down, and labeled like one of your insect specimens? Would you have everything about Him known, even His plans for your future? Is that what would make you happy?" "If God could be contained and His essence understood, I should be very happy indeed," she replied. "I have never been fond of a mystery, as you well know. I always do my best to examine and decipher everything that is beyond my ken." "Jane, Jane," he said. "You are far too spirited for your own good. Why, my dear, must you concern yourself with my fate? You must get on with your own life. Of what great value am I? I am an old man with gout in one foot, no wife to cheer me, and one of my two dear children already married and gone away." "Father, you are everything to me." To her dismay, Jane felt hot tears fill her eyes. "If I could put God in a box and make my life turn out as I wished, I should want only to stay at Eggesford House with you." "There, there, my child. Calm yourself." He rose and searched a moment for his spectacles. Finding them in the pocket of his frock coat, he set them on his nose and picked up his brother's letter. "Now then, I feel you are overwrought on all these counts. It is true that I may go to the gallows, but you will not be left homeless. Richard Dean called upon me two days ago, and despite my troubles, his interest in you remains keen. I think we ought to get on with this marriage business." "I shall not marry Mr. Dean, Father. Not until your life is safe." She lifted her chin and looked him directly in the eye. "As God is my witness, I shall see your name cleared, Father. I shall do all in my power to save your life." "Oh, dear me." He let out a long sigh. "Dear, dear me. I can see I have nothing left but to send you to Farleigh House." "Farleigh House!" "You must go and look after your uncle." He studied the letter his brother's steward had sent. "Yes, this is just the thing to keep you occupied, my dear. Indeed, I believe your sister would be pleased to accompany you, for Henrietta always enjoys a family crisis." "Oh, Father, do be reasonable! She likes nothing more than utter stability, and I can do much to assist you if I stay here at your side!" "No, my mind is settled. Billings may go with you-he has so little to do these days, and you will need a good footman. On the morrow, Jane, you must make your way to Farleigh." "But the journey is one hundred fifty miles, and none of the family will be expecting us. No, I beg you. Please do not make me go to Farleigh. I must be allowed to stay here with you and see to your health." "Nonsense. I shall do quite well on my own, and your uncle could use your assistance. You are a steady girl when you put your mind to it. As my dear brother lacks both steadiness and an able mind at the moment, I believe you will do him much good." "Lady Portsmouth can care for her husband," Jane protested. "Your aunt has gone into London." "Aunt is in London? But how do you have this information?" "She wrote to me. A letter." He cleared his throat and waved his daughter off with a dismissive gesture. "Enough, then. I shall not be swayed. Return to the inn and pack your trunks. I shall send a servant to Calverleigh Court for Henrietta, and the two of you can set off at dawn tomorrow." "Father, I beg you to reconsider." She took two steps after him. "I shall brook no further argument, Jane," he said, turning on her. "You will obey me, and you will go with your sister to Farleigh. There you will sit with your uncle in his library and read his books and try to make some sense of his conversation. You will not return to Devon until I send for you. And you will keep your mind entirely on matters other than the troubles of your father. Do you understand me, Jane?" "Yes, sir." Though everything within her heart cried out against making this journey, she knew there was nothing to be done against it. She was intelligent and capable, but she would be prevented from acting on her father's behalf. Instead, her lot lay in embroidering pillows, decorating bonnets, and bearing the children of a man she could hardly stand. With such a future laid out before her, she could not find any purpose at all in striving for love, for hope ... or for faith. * * * "I cannot think why you must always be so obstinate, Jane." Henrietta Chichester drew a heated curling iron from the chimney of an oil lamp and clamped it on the ends of her sister's hair. "You would be much happier if you did as you were told. Leave all political matters to Father and Mr. Chichester. My husband is making every effort to find the perpetrator of these accusations of sedition. He and Father are great friends, for you know how they love to fish together for salmon in the River Taw, and there is nothing that Mr. Chichester would not do-" "Henrietta! You are burning my curls!" Jane grabbed the iron and tugged it free as the stench of singed hair filled the small room of the Black Swan Inn. "Now look. It will crumble away, and all I shall have left will be a crisp stubble around my forehead. Honestly, Henrietta." "I am sorry, Jane, but you always put me into such a stew." She turned away with a shrug. "It hardly matters how you look anyway. Continues... Excerpted from Love's Proof by Catherine Palmer Copyright © 2003 by Catherine Palmer Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.