CHAPTER FOUR

 

Ross had gone with Harry up to the china-clay pit at the southern end of Nampara Combe. These past few years he had grown very close to his son. He had feared, when he and Demelza had taken the decision to send the boy to Oxford, that he would be reluctant to return home afterwards.

     But Harry had a passionate love for Cornwall, and he had mining as deep in his blood as his father. He loved nothing more than scrambling around underground with Billy Nanfan or Mark Carter, almost sniffing for a likely trace of copper or tin. And he had an instinct for it, finding several workable lodes while still in his teens.

     It had been while exploring for a new vein of tin that they had found the china-clay. A kind of decomposed granite, known locally as growan, it had been mined in abundance in the south of the county, around St.Austell, for the past eighty years or more. It was rarer here in the north, but some had been found on Bodmin moor.

     Traces of the stuff had sometimes been found in Wheal Grace in his father’s day, where it had been regarded as waste, or sometimes been sold cheaply for making bricks and fireboxes. Then an apothecary called Cookworthy had found a way to use it in making fine porcelain, as good as any from China, and suddenly the demand for it had soared, as had the price. Fine and velvety, it had been called White Gold.

     Unlike the copper and tin they mined at Wheal Leisure, it was extracted by the open-cast method. A great circular pit had been dug, funnelling down to a floor some fifteen fathoms deep. Above it a leat had been run from the Mellingey stream to direct the water down onto the greyish rock, to turn it into a slurry which was sluiced down into the settling pits below, where the attle of mica and sand would be drained out, and the pure china-clay could begin to dry.

     Father and son stood at the edge of the pit, watching the activity below. Files of men were climbing steps cut into the sloping side, carrying the partly-dried blocks up to the reeders above to finish drying out.

     “That’s nearly the last of the summer saving,” Harry said. “These are the pans we filled in July.”

     Ross nodded. “How much deeper do you think it will go?”

     “A fair bit. Some of the beds over to St.Austell are deeper than fifty fathoms. The problem is piling the attle and stent. There’s five or more tons of it to every ton of pure clay. I thought to drop some of it down the old mine workings, but it isn’t really practical.”

     Ross glanced up at the growing hill of pale rubble a short distance beyond the pit. “Well, there’s space enough – the soil here is too barren for farming. It’s a shame nothing will grow on the tip - not even grass. But at least it’s screened from the house by the trees. How many of the workers will we be able to keep on over the winter?”

     “All of the men, and most of the women. I’m thinking to set up a horse whim over there.” He pointed to the far side of the pit. “As we’re digging deeper, the labour of bringing up the blocks becomes harder. With a bucket and tackle it will be much quicker. And as the pit widens, we can use the men to open another sluice, increasing production.”

     Ross was silent for a while. Long ago, he had had a similar discussion with his eldest son, about the Wheal Leisure mine. At that time the tall, wide-shouldered young man who now stood at his side had been a bright, boisterous toddler, and he had expressed to Demelza a fear that he would never feel as close to him as he was to Jeremy.

     Instead, it had been almost the reverse. For much of Jeremy’s boyhood he had been absent, more conscientious than most about his duties as a Member of Parliament, or off on some mission abroad.

     But he had resigned his seat when Harry was just five years old, which had given him much more time to spend at home with his family. And so he had been able to teach him to ride his first horse, to row and sail, to fish, and to shoot straight.

     And Harry, with his mother’s brilliant smile and his easy air of being somehow special, could always charm the birds out of the trees.

     “There’s something I need to discuss with you,” said Ross.

     Harry glanced at him sharply, picking up the serious note in his voice. “Yes Papa?”

     Ross looked up at the sky, where a missel thrush was singing its fluting song. “You know of the Trust Fund I set up with the legacy from old Hubert Trencrom?”

     “The one that pays for the Alms Houses down in Sawle? Of course.”

     Ross nodded. “I have a notion to name you and Geoffrey Charles as co-trustees with me. I’ve been thinking of it for a while – to ensure… continuity.” He smiled suddenly. “It’s time you showed me that the money I spent on sending you up to Oxford wasn’t wasted.”

     Harry laughed a little uncertainly. “Well, if you think I’m able, I should be more than pleased. The mine and the clay-pit almost run themselves now, and I have been considering what else I could do to be useful.”

     “It would certainly be useful, and if I didn’t think you were able, I wouldn’t have suggested it.” Ross turned, and they began to walk together back through the copse of trees which sheltered the house from the clay workings. “When we were in London I spoke with your Aunt Caroline about a plan she has for Killewarren. It’s early days yet, and I haven’t mentioned it to your mother – talking of Caroline upsets her, and she’s had enough stress lately.”

     Harry nodded. “Have you spoken to Uncle Geoffrey-Charles?”

     “Not yet. I…”

     “Mister Ross, Mister Ross…” It was Betsy Martin, their housekeeper, panting up the slope to meet them.

     “What is it?” Ross demanded sharply, seeing the distress on her ruddy face.

     “The mistress…”

     “What…?”

     He broke into a rapid stride, cursing his lame ankle. Harry raced ahead, reaching the house before him, and he found him standing helplessly in the doorway of the old parlour. Demelza was collapsed at the table, her head resting on her arms, great sobs shaking her slim frame.

     “My love…” He touched a gentle hand to her shoulder. “What is it?”

     Without lifting her head she handed him the letter she had been crushing in her fist. He scanned it at a glance. From Tamsin, Andrew Blamey’s wife. Verity had had another fall, and had died before even the doctor had arrived.

     “We should have gone,” Demelza wept. “It’s no distance, with the new roads. We could have gone so easily. There was never any danger going that way. Now we can only go to her funeral.”

     Ross sat down heavily on the chair beside her, brushing his hand over his eyes. Verity – sweet little Verity. His dear cousin. Verity, who had helped him through those drear early months when he had returned from America all those years ago to a life in ruins. Who had helped Demelza find her feet as the wife of one of the landowning minor gentry of the county.

     Verity, whose own love-affair had been conducted right here in this parlour – a love-affair which had later almost destroyed his own marriage and his relationship with his cousin Francis.

     Verity…

     Demelza reached out her hand without lifting her head, her long slender fingers twining with his.  

     So, we are all growing older, he reflected, gazing into the flickering flames of the fire. Verity had been… what, just about two years older than himself? And the price of growing older is that we have to lose so many of the people we love.

     Some, it was true, had been gone many years – Jeremy, and baby Julia, their precious first-born. Francis, drowning so pointlessly in an over-enthusiastic hunt for copper. And Elizabeth.

     And one day, inevitably, the day would come when either he or Demelza would go, and leave the other behind.

     He felt a hot lump in his throat, making it difficult to breathe. Was it selfish to hope that, being some ten years older, in the natural way of things he would go first?

     To walk into the house and know that it was empty of her presence, to wake alone in their bed, knowing that the whole day would pass without the sound of her voice, without a fleeting glimpse of a slim shoulder as she vanished through a door, without glancing out of the window to see her tenderly caring for her garden...

     He couldn’t bear to think of it.

It was a bleak funeral. The sky was a stormy grey, and the wind whipped the cold rain so that it seemed to come from every quarter. Even beneath the shelter of her umbrella Demelza could feel the damp seeping into her as she stood at the graveside, and by the time they got home she was feeling thoroughly chilled.

     A good fire of Welsh sea coal awaited them in the parlour, and Betsy Martin had hot soup ready for them – Harry and Rachel had come to the funeral with them, and stayed for supper. The meal was eaten in virtual silence – nobody had the heart for conversation.

      Demelza went early to bed, and Ross sat for a while chatting with Harry and Rachel before they left to walk back to the Gatehouse, which they had made into a cosy home for themselves. Then he sat with a pipe, contemplating the flames of the fire and listening to the rain battering against the window – and beyond that, the distant roar of the sea.

     Opposite him the rocking chair made for Demelza by her youngest brother, Drake, moved slightly in a random draft. The cushion she had lately begun to place behind her back was crumpled into her shape.

     Leaning back in his own chair, he closed his eyes. So, now he was the last of his generation of Poldarks. Verity… They had been closer than cousins as children – she had been more like a sister, a friend.

     Just two years older than he and Francis, she had been their little mother, warning them not to try to jump over the Mellingey stream, scolding them for climbing the apple trees, sobbing in fear as she had watched them scrambling up the cliffs along Hendrawna Beach.

     And sitting quietly with him on the rocks up by Damsel Point when he was ten years old, and could no longer bear to be in the house where his mother lay dying. Saying not a word as he had struggled manfully not to let the tears roll down his cheeks.

     Then when she was seventeen, longing to go to the Assemblies in Truro, and her father Charles laughing at the very thought of sturdy, sallow little Verity dancing the gavotte. ‘Why do you want to go there to sit by the wall and watch ‘em all, arf!’ he had bellowed in his unthinkingly cruel way. ‘Better stay home here, where you can be useful.’

     But in the end, she had won. She had married Andrew Blamey, in defiance of her family and all society’s objections, and had had many long and happy years with him in their pretty cottage in Flushing.

     And a son – though something of a worry in his youth, now a prominent figure in the Packet service, Captain of his own ship. He and Demelza had sailed with him to New York, back in ’26, when they had gone to attend the celebrations to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. He had been impressed then by the way he had been able to command the respect of his crew, without resorting to bullying.

     The clock on the mantelpiece chimed eleven, and Ross tapped out his pipe, put the guard before the fire, and blew out the candles. At one time, on winter nights like this when the wind blew from the north-east, they would keep the fire going down here in the parlour all night rather than light one in their bedroom, because the wind would just blow the smoke back down the chimney.

     But he had had that dealt with a dozen or more years ago, when they had begun building the new wing onto the house, with its fine front door that they rarely used, and the bright parlour and large dining room that were really only for guests, like the wide front staircase and the extra bedrooms above.

     Now he climbed the narrow back stairs, with their familiar creak, to the room where he had slept for as long as he could remember, that he had shared with Demelza for almost fifty years.

     She was already asleep, her breathing a little hoarse. She rarely caught colds, but it seemed she would be in for one this time.

     Stripping off his clothes and pulling on his linen night-shirt he clambered in beside her, careful not to wake her, and sat back against the pillows, one finger idly twirling in a long curling strand of her silver hair.

     He was sad to lose Verity, but he couldn’t be sad for her life. And it was Demelza who had brought about the change in her fortunes, bringing her together with Blamey. Demelza who, knowing her for so short a time, had understood her heart so much more clearly than he, who had known her all his life.

     Demelza who had insisted that love was more important than anything else – than copper mines and family name and all the nasty gossip in the world. And she had been right, as she so often was – guided by an instinct he rarely understood but had learned early in their marriage to trust.

     There had been times when he was younger when he had felt the need to hold onto every moment of happiness, fearing that they would be too fleeting and may not come again. Maybe the result of losing his mother at an age when he was just old enough to most acutely feel her loss – and losing his little brother the following year.

     And that fear had seemed justified when he had returned from his military adventures to find that his precious Elizabeth had deserted him for his cousin.

     But for many years now he had come to recognise that happiness was always there for him, if only he had the sense to reach for it. It had swung on a chance meeting at Redruth Fair, when some impulse had caused him to rescue a dirty little street urchin and her even dirtier dog, and bring them home to Nampara.

     Why dwell on what was lost to history? He had his house, his wife, his children and grandchildren. And there was still life, a future. Harry and Rachel had tonight confided a secret, a hope – still a little soon to be sure, but something to help counter the sadness of the day.

     He would tell Demelza tomorrow – by then she might be ready to share the excitement. He smiled down at her as she lay sleeping beside him. “Goodnight, my love,” he murmured, lifting the blankets a little closer over her shoulders.

 

Usually so healthy, Demelza struggled to throw off the chill. Even by Christmas she was still coughing and inclined to tire easily. She wasn’t keen to see the doctor – had Dwight been there she wouldn’t have hesitated.

     But Ross’s strong will overbore her protests, and she finally consented to him calling in Dr.Liddicoat, who had recently opened a practice at St.Ann’s. She let herself be examined, and even swallowed a few of his unpleasant nostums.

     It had become a tradition that the Poldarks of Nampara, the Poldarks of Trenwith and the Enyses of Killewarren would take it in turns to host their neighbours for Christmas. In recent years Harriet and Rachel had joined them from Fernmore, making for an even more jolly party.   

     In the year of 1836 this happy duty fell to the Poldarks of Trenwith.

     The Enyses would be missed. But Amadora, Geoffrey Charles’ handsome Spanish wife, was a dedicated hostess and determined that her guests should enjoy themselves. She had been busy for weeks, mixing plum puddings, spicing wine and weaving festive decorations from holly and ivy and rosemary and mistletoe and lengths of scarlet ribbons.  

     Ross and Demelza rode over in the gig on Christmas Eve, early in the afternoon, while Harry and Rachel walked from the Gatehouse – Rachel insisted that the walk would be good for her, and Demelza supported her. She had walked vigorously all through her own pregnancies – and on one near-disastrous occasion had taken their rowing boat out on her own to catch fish.

     It was a bright, cold day. Thin streaky clouds hung motionless in the pale blue sky, like the sweepings of a careless broom. They drove along the old cliff path with the sea beside them.

     There was a heavy groundswell. Each long wave would roll slowly in, then its crest would begin to fluff up like the short feathers of an eider duck, growing more and more ruffled until finally it toppled over itself, and the wintry sun would cast a dozen rainbows from the mist flying up from its breaking.

     As they rode through Grambler village a streak of smoke rose from the tall chimney of Grambler mine, dancing on the lively breeze blowing in from the sea.

     It was a very different sight now from the derelict waste-land it had been before Geoffrey Charles had been able to re-open the mine, almost fifteen years ago now. Then it had been a place of rusted metal and broken windows, of roofs half caved in and rough tangles of bindweed and willow-herb growing everywhere.

     Grambler mine, on which generations of the Poldark family’s fortunes had rested, on which the welfare of the villages around had rested – until George Warleggan had forced its closure back in ‘88.

     The money for its resurrection had come from an unexpected source - the old government bonds which Aunt Agatha had left him. Though she had often spoken of them, everyone - Geoffrey Charles included - had assumed that they were of little value. He hadn’t even considered them when he had first returned permanently to Cornwall after his discharge from the army.

     They had sat in the bank until he had gone in to make an enquiry about a small loan to undertake some repairs to the tenants’ cottages in Grambler village. On reviewing his accounts the bonds had come to light, and the suggestion had arisen that he should discover how much they were now worth.

     Having sat untouched for over a hundred years since Aunt Agatha’s father, Charles Vivian, had bequeathed them to her on his death, they had been quietly accruing compound interest at a rate of three percent per year. The total came to a considerable sum.

     The money had enabled him to discreetly buy back the shares held by the Warleggan bank, and to install a modern steam engine at the mine. That had allowed them to go deeper, fully exploring the taunting promise of the eighty-fathom level, striking again the rich lode of copper that had run down from the sixty-fathom – the lode which George had ignored, preferring to close it down rather than have it compete with his other mining interests.

     For him, it had been a calculated business decision, increasing his profit margins. Less copper on the market had supported the price of ore, while closing the mine had enabled him to lower the wages of the miners elsewhere who were desperate for any work available. For Geoffrey Charles’s father, and for the village of Grambler, it had been a disaster.

     Now the mine was prospering, as was the village around it. The cottages looked to be in a good state of repair, and the people looked healthy, smiling and waving as the gig bowled past and turned inland towards the gates of Trenwith.  

     It always warmed Ross’s heart to see the old house once again a happy family home. Built more than three centuries ago by his own Trenwith ancestors, it had seen several reversals in his lifetime – the lean years when his cousin Francis’s fecklessness had brought it close to bankruptcy, the brittle gloss of the years when it had been in the hands of George Warleggan, the criminal neglect in the years after George had abandoned it to fall almost derelict before Geoffrey Charles had come home to claim it.

     The scars of those years had faded now from the mellow golden stone, the mullioned windows. As had the scars on his memory from the times he had been unwelcome here, had had the door slammed in his face – had even, on one occasion, been evicted from the premises via the parlour window.

     The wide oak door was thrown open as they approached, and Amadora and Geoffrey Charles came out to greet them, flanked by their three fine children – Juana, Carla and young Francis.

     “Quick, come inside, in the warm,” Amadora urged, taking Demelza’s arm. “Dios mío – this cold wind. I can never get used to it.”

     “The north coast is proud of its bleakness.” Harriet strolled from the parlour into the hall, elegant in a dark red riding habit. She kissed Demelza, then Ross. “But it has its charms,” she added, slanting him a flirtatious glance.  

     “And more charms in recent years,” he returned in kind.

     Demelza laughed and rolled her eyes. These two had enjoyed each other’s company for years - each had a certain degree of arrogance which created a mutual attraction. But she knew that neither of them took it seriously. Well, mostly she knew.

     They all moved into the parlour, where a blazing fire was crackling in the large stone grate, and settled themselves on the chairs and sofas as a footman brought in a tea tray for the ladies, and Geoffrey Charles poured brandy for Ross and Harry.

     “You rode over?” Demelza asked Harriet.

     “Yes. Oh, I know I could have walked this short distance, but Pasha needed the exercise so I came the long way round. I may go out with the Carnbarrow after Christmas. If this weather holds we should get a good run.”

     Rachel stretched her feet towards the fire – Amadora quickly indicated to her son to fetch a small stool for her to rest them on. “Ah – thank you.” She smiled at the lad. “That’s better.”

     “Are Drake and Morwenna not coming over?” Demelza enquired of Geoffrey Charles.

     He shook his head. “They’re spending Christmas with Loveday. The grand-children come first!”

     “I had a letter from Ursula yesterday,” Rachel remarked to her mother. “She sends her regards.”

     “How jolly,” Harriet responded dryly. “I trust you to send mine in return.”

     Rachel laughed. “Of course.”

     “I had one from Bella,” Demelza put in. “She and Chris have arrived safely in New York. She’s opening at the Park Theatre at the end of January – she said they’ve already sold out three weeks of performances in advance.”

     “That’s excellent news. And Cuby?”

     “She’s very well. She’s spending Christmas with Noelle – who will be presenting us with a great-grandchild come the summer!”

     Amid the exclamations and congratulations, Geoffrey Charles moved quietly to Ross’s side. “Uncle Ross, would you come upstairs for a moment? There’s something I need to show you.”

     Ross slanted him a questioning glance, then nodded and accompanied him back out to the hall and up the grand staircase. On the first landing, Geoffrey Charles opened a door and Ross followed him into a room that had once been very familiar to him. His Uncle Charles’ study.

     He had been in here often when he was a boy, he and his cousin Francis – to plead for a favour or to explain their latest piece of mischief. It wasn’t a large room – there by the window had been Uncle Charles’s desk, where he had dozed over his accounts, a decanter of port at his elbow, a snoring spaniel at his feet. An old worn armchair had stood before the fireplace, and one wall had been lined with books.

     He had only once had occasion to enter it since his teens – when it had been polluted by George Warleggan’s malign presence. But all trace of that had gone now. He glanced around, smiling as he absorbed the return of some of the old familiar details.

     “I see you have Uncle Charles’s desk again.”

     “Yes. We found it in the attic, among all the other stuff Step-Father George had banished up there. It needed no more than a good polish. The chairs are new, though.”

     “So I see.” On the wall above the fireplace was portrait of a lady in a blue dress. He found himself drawn to it as if by a magnet.  

     “Harriet gave it to me after George died.” Geoffrey Charles came over to stand beside him. “Rather good, isn’t it?”

     “Yes. She was… very beautiful.”

     Elizabeth – his first love, a love that had echoed so destructively down the years, even long after her death. He stood gazing up at that delicate, flawless face, at the slender white hands folded so demurely in her lap.

     So many memories…

     “Do you think it a good likeness?” Geoffrey Charles’s words cut into his thoughts. “It’s hard for me to remember – I was only fifteen when she died.”

     “I doubt that any mere painting could capture her adequately.”

     “I wish I had one of my father.” There was a sadness in his voice. “I remember him even less than my mother.”

     Ross made himself turn away from the portrait, and smiled at the younger man. “In some ways you’re very like him.”

     “Really?”

     “I see him in your eyes. And the colour of your hair – fairer than most Poldarks. And you have some of his mannerisms, his way of walking.”

     Geoffrey Charles smiled in wry humour. “I hope I’m not as foolish as him.”

    “Foolish?”

     “I’ve seen the old estate records, you know. The money that went out – so quickly, in the few years after my grandfather Charles died. It could only have been gaming.”

     “Yes,” Ross conceded reluctantly. “But never think that was all there was to him. He was clever – the cleverest of all of us at school. And witty, kind-hearted…”

     “You must have missed him when he died.”

     “We all missed him.” Ross drew in a long, slow breath. Suddenly the past seemed to be swirling around him – here in this house where so much of his own history lay. “It was such a waste.”

     They both stood gazing up at the portrait again. “I’ve wondered… Sometimes I’ve wondered why she married George,” Geoffrey Charles mused. “Was it for the money?”

     “Of course not!” He stopped, shaking his head. Geoffrey Charles was a grown man and deserved a more considered answer. “No - not the money as such. Not that degree of wealth, at least. But to be secure, comfortable. She would have been content with that.”

     “I know my father had left her in a very difficult position, with all the debts, and Grambler closed.”

     “Indeed.” He had made himself think this through a long time ago, trying to understand. “She had very little income – most of the estate had been sold off. And she had you, and Aunt Agatha, and your grandparents to think of, and this big house to run. It was a terrible burden for a young woman, and she had no-one to help her. I tried, a little, but there was not much I could do.”

     “But George? Why him?” Geoffrey Charles’ scorn was apparent – he had never liked his step-father, a hostility that had simmered since his childhood, and so far as Ross knew they hadn’t spoken to each other for years. “As you said, she was a very beautiful woman.”

     “So she could have done better? Yes – if she had had the opportunity to go out into society, to meet suitable gentlemen. But how could she? Her mother by then was very sick, quite unable to accompany her, and there was really no-one else. And besides, down here in Cornwall her choice was very limited. Hugh Bedrugan? John Trevaunance?” He laughed shortly. “Both crusty old bachelors, and mean with it. Indeed, I can think of no-one who may have been eligible at that time. Maybe if she could have gone up to London - but how could she, with no money and no relatives to sponsor her into Society? So perhaps George would have seemed to her the only option she had. And of course he adored her.” His smile was grim. “And George could be very persuasive when he wanted something.”

     He took a sip of his brandy. It all sounded so reasonable now. But that night, when he had first heard… The rage inside him had left no room for reasonableness. And the consequences… that was something he had had to live with ever since.

     He cleared his throat, pushing the memories aside, and turned his back on the portrait. “But this wasn’t what you wanted to show me, was it?” he asked.

      Geoffrey Charles walked back to the desk and picked up an official-looking piece of paper, and handed it to him. “They caught your highwayman.”

     Ross glanced at him sharply. “Jason?”

     Geoffrey Charles nodded. “The information came into the Home Office a couple of weeks ago - I had asked one of the clerks to notify me if any news of him should surface. I thought it best not to say anything in front of the ladies - I know how badly it distressed Aunt Demelza.”

     “Thank you. Where…?”

     “Pershore, in Worcestershire. He was plying his trade on the road from Wadborough. Unfortunately for him the coach-driver he stopped was an old soldier, a rifleman from the 95th, an excellent shot. He winged him. He got away, but then he seemed to wander in a circle, back almost to where he had started. Whether he became confused after being wounded, or was simply lost, we’ll never know. They came up with him at a farmstead not far from the site of the ambush, and put him under arrest.”

     “He’s stood his trial?”

     “And hanged. The twenty-seventh of November.”

     Ross raised his eyebrows. “Hanged? He was unfortunate – there hasn’t been a highwayman hung for… oh, more than twenty years, I would guess.”

     “More like thirty. But apparently a shot was fired into the coach. His victim, a burgess of the town and a magistrate, insisted that it was attempted murder. He demanded the ultimate penalty.”

     Ross shook his head reflectively. “What a sad end. I had quite a liking for the boy. But perhaps it’s not so surprising - I always feared his father was born to hang. I confess it was something of a relief when it was only a stupid riding accident that killed him.”

     “I never met him,” Geoffrey Charles said. “The one time I visited Clowance at Penryn, just before our little adventure in Belgium, he was at sea.”

     “He was… a character,” Ross mused. “I suppose you might call him charismatic. A great deal of charm, when he chose, but one always felt it was superficial. And dangerous. Not just to Clowance, but to Jeremy too – and even to young Andrew Blamey. I was always anxious of what he may lure them into.”

     Geoffrey Charles was silent for a moment. Long ago, Jeremy had told him a secret - of how he and two friends had robbed the strongbox of a stagecoach and stolen £6000. Coincidentally - or maybe not - from his own step-father, George Warleggan.

     He had scarce been able to believe the story – that a decent, well-brought-up lad like Jeremy, with a good home and loving parents, could have let himself become involved in such a thing. But under the influence of a charismatic young man such as Ross described…?

     Jeremy hadn’t told him who the other two had been, but it seemed more than probable that one was the man who had later become Clowance’s first husband.

     By some fortunate miracle they had never been found out – if they had, the three of them would certainly have been hanged. How very much worse that would have been for Ross and Demelza, to lose their eldest son like that, rather than at Waterloo, where he had died a war hero - a young man who had already been noted for promotion by Wellington himself.

     He glanced across at the tall, gaunt, silver-haired man whom he had always called Uncle, though in fact he was a second cousin. He had held Jeremy’s secret for over twenty years. Now was not the time to tell…