The wisteria along the new west front of the house was at its finest, great swathes of fragrant mauve blossoms hanging from the thick branches that grew profusely almost up to the roof. It had been Demelza’s idea to plant it – she had seen one at Kew Park, and had exercised all her charm to obtain a cutting from the head gardener.
When Ross had finally decided that they needed to extend the house, adding more bedrooms and a larger parlour to accommodate the increasing number of visitors they were entertaining, they had both been concerned that it should be in sympathy with the existing rambling farmhouse that they both loved.
So they had used the same killas and granite for the walls, and Delabole slate for the roof, and had had it left slightly rough-faced. The windows were large and well-proportioned, and the new front door wide and welcoming, but they had chosen just a simple stone porch only one story high, rather than the lofty Grecian-style columns of many of the grander houses.
It had taken Ross and Demelza rather longer to get back from the church than many of their guests. There had been so many people to stop and speak to – it seemed as though half the county was there.
And now they were all drifting back along the path from Sawle in chattering groups, to find tables set up in the garden, laden with food – there were partridge pies and quails eggs and salmon tarts, and saffron cakes and seedy cakes and giant buttermilk cakes, and casks of brandy and ale and crates of canary wine.
Demelza gazed around, wide-eyed. “Judas! When did you arrange all this?”
“I really did very little, after firing off the first suggestion,” Ross confessed. “Most of it was arranged between Rachel, Harriet and Amadora. The food was cooked at Trenwith and Fernmore, and brought over by the servants while we were in church.”
“But all the invitations! And where will all these people stay? There are people from London, and all over the place!”
“Ah – that was Clowance and Caroline’s job. Wellington himself would have been proud of their military operation. They’ve billeted people on every house in the district.”
“There must have been some persuasion required in that!” she remarked.
“Persuasion was ever Caroline’s forte, and Clowance runs her very close. Now come and play the bride with all your guests.”
“Oh Ross, thank you so much.” She hugged his arm. “It was such a lovely surprise.”
“Then kiss me.”
“What? In front of everyone?” she protested.
He gave her no opportunity to argue, sliding his hands around her waist and drawing her against him, and kissing her with a lingering tenderness which made her forget why she had objected, even though there were upwards of a hundred people watching and applauding them on.
“And tonight,” he murmured just before letting her go, “you can play the bride again and thank me properly.”
He loved that he could still make her blush.
It was a wonderful afternoon. The sun shone brilliantly from a clear blue sky, and the garden was bright with flowers. Demelza had learned to improve the thin sandy soil with pilchard scraps from Sawle - although they smelled appallingly for the first few days, they certainly made a difference once they had been dug in. And the wall she had had built around it sheltered it from the worst of the gales blowing in from the sea, which used to regularly ruin her beloved hollyhocks.
High in the upper air a lark was trilling his musical song, a counterpoint to the excited squealing of the children who were playing a game of hopscotch drawn in the sands of Hendrawna Beach – Clowance’s younger daughter, the niece of a Marquess, happily romping with the children of the local miners.
Among the older guests, though there was a natural tendency for the social levels to flock with their own kind, there was no tension in it and they mingled happily enough around the food and drink. Indeed, the only person to remark on it was Ruth Treneglos.
“My dear, what a wonderful occasion,” she remarked, sailing up to Demelza like a ship of the line, her substantial bosom encased in satin of a startling shade of cerise which was cut – as always – low enough to display an acreage of leathered flesh. “Fifty years – who would have thought it possible?”
“Indeed,” Demelza responded with a bland smile. “It do seem to have gone by that fast.”
Her slight lapse into a richer Cornish burr than could usually be detected in her voice was quite deliberate. She was well aware that Ruth was not referring to the passing of the years, but of the strangeness of the match in the first place – a Poldark, marrying his kitchen maid! And particularly when Ruth herself had set her cap at him.
“This reminds me a little of that first party you gave. You remember, for your first child’s christening. I don’t recall its name…”
“Julia.” Demelza’s lips thinned.
“Ah – of course. Though I’m pleased to see that… those people are keeping more to themselves. Did you advise them? I recall that on that occasion there was one… person who intruded somewhat rudely where he wasn’t welcome.”
“Ah yes, that was my father,” Demelza responded with false sweetness. “He did have rather over-particular views on ladies’ fashions. But sometimes I think perhaps he was right.”
Since the subject of that long-ago argument had been Ruth’s generous display of bosom, she didn’t miss Demelza’s subtle barb. With a brief show of somewhat yellowed teeth she dipped her head and sailed away.
“What was the formidable dowager of Mingoose talking of?” Caroline slipped up beside her.
“Oh, just trying to be spiteful, as usual. I feel sorry for poor Horrie’s wife, being saddled with such a mother-in-law about the place, and no sign of her ever moving to the Dower House.”
“And taking up so much space, too,” Caroline murmured mischievously.
Demelza laughed. “Oh, but Caroline, I’m so happy you came. I can hardly believe you’re really here. Where are you staying, and for how long?”
“I’m staying with you, my dear. If you’ll have me.”
“Of course – for as long as you will stay. But surely you didn’t arrive just today?”
Caroline shook her head. “I got here on Thursday. I came down with the Somersets, and we all slept two nights at Trenwith. We were very crowded, but it was all rather fun. Amadora was in her element, the dear. Do you remember when Geoffrey Charles first brought her home, what a shy little thing she was?”
“She’s certainly blossomed as the years have passed,” Demelza concurred, glancing across at her Spanish cousin-in-law, who was chatting animatedly to Richard, Marquess Wellesley, with whom Ross had become friends during the last years of the campaign for Catholic emancipation.
“But I have a confession to make,” Caroline added, taking her arm and leading her to stroll around the garden. “I haven’t only made this journey for your party – though that was very much the main reason. I have come to make the final arrangements for disposing of Killewarren.”
“Oh?” Demelza studied her friend’s pale, fine-boned face.
“I’m gifting it to the Cornwall Infirmary, to be used for people suffering from disorders of the mind. The girls have both married well, so they don’t need it. And a place for mental patients was something that… Dwight always wanted.” Her voice still broke slightly when she said her late husband’s name. “It will need quite a lot of work to make it suitable, but Ross has decided to allocate some of the money from the Trust he set up with old Hubert Trencrom’s legacy. It should be opened sometime next year.”
“That’s wonderful,” said Demelza. “Dwight would be so proud.”
“It’s going to be called the Dwight Enys Clinic.” She closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them and took a sip of her wine. Then she smiled. “Come on then, I know you’re dying to introduce me to the new generations of Poldarks, though you know I was never one to coo over babies. But the next-but-one Viscount Poldark, and your first great-granddaughter – that’s not to be missed!”
The two babies were very much the centre of attention. They had been christened together after the marriage blessing – little Charlotte, now six weeks old, had slept peacefully through the whole thing, but JayJay had screamed in protest when the Reverend Profitt had held him over the font, and wriggled so hard that Demelza had feared the vicar would drop him.
He was pacified now. Harry was playing the proud father with the baby laid against his shoulder, bouncing him gently and chuckling to him. One small pink fist was clutching resolutely at his silk cravat, but Harry didn’t seem to mind at all that his carefully tied Osbaldeston was being destroyed.
“Here’s your grandmama,” he informed the infant, who was gazing around at the company with wide, slightly puzzled blue-grey eyes. “And your great-aunt Caroline.”
“I’d rather you left the ‘great’ out of that,” Caroline protested. “It makes me sound as if I should take to a Bath chair and an ear-trumpet!”
Harry laughed. “Ah, you’re well short of that, dear Aunt Caroline.” He leaned over and kissed her cheek. “So what do you think of my boy? Almost as handsome as his Papa, isn’t he?”
“And just as much trouble,” said Rachel, coming up with her mother. “Honestly, the way he goes on, you’d think he was the only man who had ever become a father.”
The two of them exchanged a look that struck a note of recognition in Demelza – it was a look she had often exchanged with Ross. A look of trusting affection, of a sharing of thoughts. It was something she had known she was lucky to have, and now her son and daughter-in-law had it too.
“And here’s my little Charlotte.”
The tiny lace-wrapped bundle had woken and was making her disapproval of the situation known at the top of her voice.
“Well, she certainly has a healthy pair of lungs,” said Harriet, laughing.
“Oh dear – I’m so sorry,” Noelle apologised anxiously. “She’s been fretful ever since we got back from church.”
“Don’t worry,” Demelza said with a reassuring smile. “I’ll tell you what, let’s take her indoors. It’s cooler in there, and quieter. Here, give her to me for a minute.”
As soon as the baby was in Demelza’s arms she quieted. Noelle’s eyes widened in surprise, tinged with a little hurt.
“How do you do that?”
“Long practice,” said Demelza. “Six younger brothers, five of my own, and four grandchildren, as well as dozens of neighbours in the villages around here.”
They went in through the side door of the house and into the old parlour – most of the guests would be keeping to the newer wing if they came inside at all. Sunlight streamed in through the window, showing up the slightly shabby but much-loved furniture.
Demelza sat down in her rocking chair with the baby on her lap – if she was absolutely honest, she was glad to have a moment’s rest, though she would never admit it.
Noelle sat opposite her. “I love this room,” she said. “I loved to play in here when I was little. And we used to paddle and swim down on the beach, then come in here to dry ourselves in front of the fire.”
Noelle glanced out of the window at the guests strolling about the garden. “It’s a wonderful party. So many people.”
Demelza laughed. “And everyone knew about it except me. What an idiot I must seem.”
“Oh no, Grandmama. I’m so glad it was such a surprise for you.”
“And there I was thinking it was just a christening. I never thought Ross would even remember - he's never been one for that sort of thing.” She hesitated. “How did you feel about Harry and Rachel calling their baby after your Papa?"
The young girl smiled, a smile so like Jeremy’s that it tugged at Demelza’s heartstrings. “I was so pleased. It will be like keeping his memory alive. Though I have no memory of him, of course.”
“No…” Demelza glanced at the old stool beside the fireplace, where once Jeremy’s widow had sat, four months forward with the child who was now a woman with a child of her own, and wept her heart out.
“And… your mother?” she asked carefully.
Noelle shook her head. “It’s always difficult to know what Mama is thinking. But I think… I’m sure she liked it. When she read your note, she was smiling. And she’s kept it in her box.”
“Yes – you know, that inlaid wooden box she has. It once belonged to Papa, when he was in the army. I don’t know what’s in it – she always keeps it locked.”
Demelza nodded in understanding. “Memories,” she said. “It’s her box of memories.”
Out in the garden, the subject of their conversation was chatting to Clowance and an old friend of hers, Tom Guildford. After a while Clowance excused herself and drifted away to talk to Ben and Essie Carter, leaving the pair alone. Tom had returned almost two years ago from a long and very prosperous career in India, and had been rather hopefully pursuing Cuby ever since.
“Demelza’s looking well,” he remarked.
“She is. It’s hard to believe she’s a great-grandmother.”
“Indeed. And you a grandmother – it can scarce be credited.”
Cuby glanced up at him, her fine hazel eyes smiling in that way which transformed her rather solemn face. “What a flatterer you are, Tom.”
“Not at all. You know how I feel about you.”
She shook her head. “Tom, please don’t.”
“Oh, I know this is not the place or the occasion. But seeing Ross and Demelza so happy together, after so many years, made me think… made me wonder… Why could not we be happy too? You only have to say the word, dearest Cuby.”
She sighed. “I’m sorry, Tom. You know I’m very fond of you, but… I won’t ever marry again.”
“But it’s been so long,” he pleaded.
“Not to me. To me it seems like but a few short weeks. No, Tom – I treasure your friendship, but there can never be anything more. Please don’t mention it again.”
He nodded, his face registering his disappointment. “Very well, I won’t. But if you should ever change your mind…”
“I won’t. Now please excuse me, I must go in to Noelle and the baby.”
It was late afternoon when Cuby and Noelle, with her husband Peter and the baby, left to return to Cuby’s pleasant cottage on the edge of Bodmin Moor. Noelle and Peter were staying for a few more days before returning home to Plymouth.
It was dusk by the time they got home, and they were all tired as they alighted from the carriage. Cuby took a moment to glance around with pleasure at her garden.
She had caught the love of growing things from Demelza, and many of the hollyhocks and roses had come from the garden at Nampara. Now as the quiet evening breeze drifted in from the moor their fragrance filled the air.
Dorry, her housekeeper, had lit candles and was looking out for them, and had a pot of tea and a plate of freshly-made scones ready as soon as they had shrugged off their travelling cloaks.
Baby Charlotte had slept for most of the journey, lulled by the movement of the carriage, but she had awakened and was now grizzling to be fed.
“I think I’ll go straight to bed, Mama,” said Noelle. “This little Miss won’t settle until she’s had her dinner.”
“I’ll come with you,” said Peter. “We can both take our tea upstairs.”
“Of course. Goodnight, my dears.” She put up her cheek as they both kissed her goodnight. “I’ll be up myself in a little while.”
Left alone in the sitting room, she took her tea and a branch of candles over to the writing desk. Opening the lid, she took out a sheet of her best writing paper, and set out her inkstand and a new quill – she still preferred those to the new steel nibs, though she would use one for simple notes. But for letters – no, it had to be the quill.
Dipping it carefully into the ink, she shook off the excess and began to write in her clear, flowing hand:
Well, we are home safely. It has been a wonderful day, though I confess a little tiring. Fortunately the weather has been very good, so we were most of the time in the garden.
Your mother looked absolutely radiant. It really was all a complete surprise to her – and so clever of your father to keep her from knowing a thing. She’s usually so sharp-witted!
There were so many people there – many of them you would know, of course. Fitzroy Somerset, who has become quite a firm friend of your father’s, and Richard Wellesley – you know, he does look quite like his brother, but not nearly so formidable. And some of our old friends from Brussels – you remember Harry Beauchamp and Tom Gregor?
Little Jeremy is a very sweet baby, though I do believe our Charlotte is the sweeter. But then I would say that, of course, being her Grandmama. Does it seem as strange to you as it does to me to think that we are grandparents? It seems so little time since Noelle was a child herself, in short frocks with her hair in ribbons!
Sadly we could not stay for the bonfire, as we had to bring Charlotte home. And in truth I think Noelle was more tired than she would say – it has been only a short time since she gave birth, after all.
Of course I have seen it lots of times before, but it’s always such fun. Though it would have been even more fun if you could have been with us. You know that I miss you so, and will remain always your loving wife,
She sat for a moment reading it through again, then sanded it dry and folded it carefully. Then she drew a slim silver chain from around her neck, with a small key, and bent to the cupboard beneath the writing desk.
Opening the door, she drew out a wooden box, of the sort that army officers would often use to store their small personal effects while in the field. She put the key into the lock and opened the lid, and tucked the letter into its place alongside all the others she had written – hundreds of them, the older ones now yellowing with age.
Then she closed and locked the box, and put it back into the cupboard, and snuffed out the candles.
“Goodnight, boy,” she whispered, and went quietly up to bed.
The long summer evening was lingering over Nampara. In the shadowed valley the birds were beginning their late song; the blue of the sea was fading to a misty grey, the waves long and lazy as they whispered up over the sands of Hendrawna Beach.
At ten o’clock, a long torch procession began to wend its way up the hill from Nampara Combe - several dozen of the younger people from the villages around, singing loudly as they went, accompanied by a scratch orchestra of two fiddlers, a flute and a drum.
Everyone followed the procession, the grander visitors as interested to see the spectacle as the locals were eager to take part. Some of the young men were waving their torches in wide circles, tracing great cartwheels of fire against the deepening blue of the sky.
On the crest of the hill a huge bonfire had been built beside the last remains of Wheal Maiden - the old mine that had been played out long before Ross was born, its stones used for the Methodist meeting house built on the site by Demelza’s brother, Sam.
Sam had been gathered to his Maker - as he would have put it - several years ago, and it was his successor, Joe Billings, who offered the prayer. This had become part of the tradition of what was essentially a pagan festival - the Midsummer bonfire.
Joe had been regarded as one of the most shiftless, dishonest men in the village as a youth, one of the ringleaders in the bullying of Music Thomas. But marriage to Hannah Carne, the daughter of Demelza’s brother John, had tamed him as effectively as marriage to the devout Widow Chegwidden had once tamed Demelza’s drunkard father.
The end of the prayer was the signal, and the torches were plunged into the bonfire. With a little encouragement it sprang into life, the flames lighting up the happy faces gathered around it.
The bonfire had been built of old pit-props and driftwood washed up on Hendrawna Beach below, and covered with green branches of hawthorn and sycamore. As the flames soared, Milly Martin’s little red-haired daughter stepped up to Demelza and held out a bouquet of flowers and herbs.
“If ye please, ma’am, you’re to be the Lady of the Flowers,” she said, bobbing the curtsy she had been practicing all week.
Demelza smiled, and took the bouquet – good herbs of St.John’s wort, elder and clover, and bad herbs of nettles and ivy. She had watched this ceremony almost every mid-summer for many years, and had been the Lady of the Flowers several times before, so she knew the ancient Cornish doggerel well, though she had little idea what it meant:
Otta kelmys yn-kemysks
Blesyow, may fons-y cowl leskys
Ha’n da, ha’n drok.
As she finished reciting the words, she tossed the bouquet into the heart of the bonfire. Then the children, who had been allowed to stay up, and the young people in their best clothes joined hands and began to dance around it, breathless as they sang the old folksongs – Sweet Nightingale, An Awhesyth and Medhel An Gwyns.
As the evening wore on there was a continuous circulation between the bonfire and the remains of the feast, which had been brought up from the garden. And as the ale and wine was sunk, some of the local gentry and then even some of the grander folk began to join in the dancing, good-natured and a little tipsy, and were welcomed in the same spirit.
“Tired?” Ross asked, slipping his arm around Demelza’s waist.
“Not a bit.” She let her head rest on his shoulder.
“Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. The fireworks will start in a minute.”
The fireworks were bought every year by Edward and Clowance, as a gift to the local villages. Lighting them was in the charge of Aaron Nanfan, who was usually in charge of the engine at Wheal Leisure. Soon the sky was lit up with rockets and serpents and gerbs and Catherine wheels, purples and pinks and greens and yellows, as the dancers stilled to watch and gasp in wonder.
And finally, as the moon rose like a silver shilling into the night sky, the scratch band of musicians struck up the irresistible jig of the Furry Dance, and soon almost everyone was drawn into the procession around the bonfire.
The steps were simple enough – three times a hop and a skip, then twirl three times with your partner, then three hops and skips again. It started quite sedately, but that was deceptive – on and on it went, faster and faster.
Ross could manage only one circuit before his ankle forced him to sit out, and Demelza was glad enough to join him. She had grown breathless very quickly – something that seemed to be happening a lot since that bad cold of last winter, though she wouldn’t dream of mentioning it.
At long last the fire began to sink, until it collapsed in a shower of sparks. As the glowing embers slowly faded, people began to disperse – the locals in families and small groups to the surrounding villages, other guests to their temporary lodgings in the finer houses of the district.
It seemed to take hours to say goodbye to everyone, but Demelza was determined not to miss anyone out after they had come all this way. By the time she and Ross set out to stroll together back down the valley she was yawning behind her hand.
Nampara looked peaceful beneath the stars. Candles were glowing invitingly in most of the windows as they walked through the garden. The scent of her roses filled the air, and as they neared the house another perfume came to them, sweet and intoxicating, faintly reminiscent of vanilla.
“It’s grown well,” Ross remarked, gazing up at the healthy evergreen shrub growing against the south wall of the library, bearing its waxy white flowers almost up to the level of the roof.
“At last. I never thought it would survive.”
“It took a while to establish itself.”
“I think it was the poems,” she mused, tilting her head against his shoulder.
She hesitated, drawing in a long breath. “Hugh Armitage sent me poems.” It was a secret she had kept for half her life. “I kept them – I kept them for a long time. But then one day… I just decided that I’d kept them long enough. So I tore them up and buried them among the roots here. After that, it started to grow much better. They were beautiful poems,” she added, a wistful echo in her voice that tugged at his heart.
“I know.” He too hesitated. “I saw one.”
She glanced up at him, a startled question in her eyes.
“The day we went over to the Boscowans, just before he died. Do you remember how it rained, and we had to leave our clothes to dry before the fire? I went up before you to change, and as I turned your skirt over the poem fell out of your pocket. I didn’t intend to read it, but…”
For a moment the only sound was their breathing, and the trilling song of a nightingale somewhere nearby.
“I never wanted to hurt you, Ross. It wasn’t even…”
“You don’t have to try to explain. It was all over long ago. In a way, I suppose it made us equal.”
She raised her eyes quickly to his face. “Oh no, Ross – it wasn’t because of…”
He silenced her with a gentle finger to her lips. “I know. That wasn’t what I meant. But you had forgiven me, and I had to forgive you. It took me a little longer, perhaps – but in the end I came to realise that the depth of a love is in the ability to understand and forget.”
They turned into each other’s arms. Maybe they were a little too old to be kissing in the moonlight on a midsummer’s night, Demelza reflected briefly. But then maybe you were never too old.
The news of the death of the King reached Cornwall the day after the party. Many of those who had planned to stay a little longer and enjoy the beauty of the county in summer hurriedly changed their plans and made ready to depart for London immediately.
Caroline was not among those who left. "I'm afraid all these kings and queens will just have to manage without me," she declared. "I've things far more important to do with my time."
She stayed for two weeks. A couple of times Harriet came over to tea, and the three of them enjoyed a thorough gossip, but on most days she was wise enough to leave these two oldest of friends to spend time in each other’s company.
The weather stayed fine, and they were able to spend long afternoons walking on the beach, as they had done many times over the years. They sat down on a rock, and let the sun warm their faces. The tide was far out, and the sky was reflected in long streaks over the wet sand.
Caroline drew in a long, deep breath. “Ahhh… There’s nothing quite like Cornish air – it tastes like champagne straight from a cold cellar.”
Demelza slanted her a questioning glance. “You sound as if you miss it.”
“Of course I do. I lived here most of my life.”
“But you always seemed to prefer London.”
Caroline laughed without humour. “Ah, that was the other Caroline. The one I was brought up to be. The silly, superficial female who was only interested in fashion and parties. The one who was supposed to marry a rising man like Unwin Trevaunance, or Lord Coniston, or any one of a dozen other suitable gentlemen who were presented to me in various unsubtle ways. Sometimes she made me so angry, that Caroline.”
“But she wasn’t the real Caroline,” said Demelza.
“No she wasn’t. The real Caroline was inside, but she didn’t know how to get out. And the other Caroline was winning – until I met Dwight.”
She picked up a pebble and tossed it slantwise into the sea so that it bounced over the waves – she had always had a knack for skimming pebbles, a knack much-envied by Harry as a boy.
“Dwight saw me, the real me, and he understood. Of course the other Caroline wouldn’t give up without a fight. Every so often she would pop her head up and demand that I give her what she wanted. Fortunately Dwight was very good about that – there aren’t many men who would let their wives go gallivanting off to London for weeks at a time.” She sighed. “He was a bit special, my Dwight.”
A curlew was exploring for worms along the water’s edge, spiking its long beak into the wet sand as it strutted along. Further along the beach a quarrelsome flutter of seagulls were skimming the waves, flashing their white wings. Demelza watched them for a while in silence.
“You know, sometimes we wondered, in those early days, if we had done either of you a good turn in persuading you to come back,” she said. “You seemed to have so little in common.”
“Oh, nothing at all,” Caroline agreed readily. “He wouldn’t hunt, and I wouldn’t visit the poor. And he had no interest at all in running the estate, so he happily left me to get on with it, which I found I thoroughly enjoyed. And if I hated his experiments and dissections, he kept them well out of my way. And if I was always anxious that he would pick up some horrid infection and bring it home, I was forced to admit that he never did. In fact the brats were the healthiest children I’ve ever known. They barely even caught a cold.”
“It’s good that you can talk about him again.”
Caroline smiled crookedly. “It doesn’t really get any better, but after a while you learn to live with it. I suppose… it’s the price you pay for love.”
Demelza nodded slowly. “That’s a right brave thought. I just hope… If anything happened to Ross, that I could remember it.”
Caroline turned to her with an anxious glance. “Ross? Is he ill?”
Demelza shook her head. “Oh no – no. Not that he’d tell me if he was. As he would never tell me if he was going into danger. When he goes down the mine… Well, I always worry, of course, but at least I know what it is. When he used to go off on those missions for the government, during the war… Do you remember that time he went to Portugal? Oh, it was ’10 or ’11, I don’t quite remember. When they met up, he and Geoffrey Charles?”
Caroline nodded. “Yes, I remember. Wasn’t it while he was away that Stephen Carrington first showed up?”
“Oh yes. Then it would have been ’10. Clowance was sixteen. Anyway, he was only supposed to be an observer. But he got right into the battle, alongside Geoffrey Charles and his men. He had a rifle, and he borrowed a uniform, and he was right in the middle of the fighting.”
Caroline began to laugh.
“But he was fifty!” Demelza protested.
Caroline laughed even more. “Oh, that is so Ross! Can you imagine him getting that close to the fighting and not joining in? He wouldn’t be Ross if he’d stood tamely on the sidelines and just observed.”
“Well, but I wish…” Reluctantly Demelza shook her head. “No, you’re right,” she conceded. “I’m just glad that he really is too old for that sort of thing these days. He finally seems content to sit by the fireside and smoke his pipe.”
Caroline said nothing, but gave her a sideways look. “Do you feel like walking again?” she suggested. “I’m getting a little stiff sitting here.”
Neither of them spoke the words which were in both their hearts. Tomorrow morning Caroline would be leaving to return to London. It was likely that there would be no more walks like this, arm in arm along the water’s edge.