Legacy of Loveby Caroline Harvey
Acclaimed and beloved on both sides of the Atlantic, Joanna Trollope earned rave reviews for The Brass Dolphin. "A true page turner . . . irresistible,"said the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "Trollope . . . can't write a dull/i>
Joanna Trollope's second Caroline Harvey historical novel traces the lives and loves of three generations of strong, adventurous women
Acclaimed and beloved on both sides of the Atlantic, Joanna Trollope earned rave reviews for The Brass Dolphin. "A true page turner . . . irresistible,"said the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "Trollope . . . can't write a dull novel."Legacy of Love unspools a thread of history, adventure, and romance that spans nineteenth-century colonial tumult to World War II as told through the eyes of three women of the same family.
Each of the women finds herself in a far more exciting, exotic world than she'd ever imaginedand each must draw on hidden strengths to survive. Legacy of Love combines Trollope's keen exploration of family life with a beautiful and complex story of bravery, tragedy, and love.
- Penguin Group (USA)
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- 4.36(w) x 7.10(h) x 1.33(d)
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Legacy of Love
By Caroline Harvey
Berkley Publishing GroupCopyright © 2001 Caroline Harvey
All right reserved.
"Praise the Lord!" Charlotte said. "George is coming tomorrow," and she threw the letter so that it whirled about the room like a seagull and then came to rest in the log basket.
Mamma affected not to notice. She was eating toast--indeed we were all three eating toast--and the morning sun was slanting into our little parlor and shining on the Bristolware teapot and the posy of primroses and the butter on a green glass plate.
Charlotte leaned forward.
"Tomorrow, Mamma! He wants to take us to ride in the park. And he is bringing a friend whom he declares you will find irreproachable."
Mamma glanced at the log basket. I knew she was in a dilemma. Like me, she could never resist Charlotte's high spirits and unlike me, she could never wholly trust her only nephew, our cousin George. I suppose she had to be careful, over-careful perhaps, bringing us up alone, a widow, in Richmond, where everybody peered and pried and respectability was nearer to godliness than cleanliness.
"I am not sure," she said.
Charlotte drummed with her fingers on the table. Mamma said, "I do not like you to go out with George. The last time there was talk. He makes you behave so foolishly."
"That was my fault!" I said hastily. "My hat blew into the pond! Someone had to rescue it--"
Mamma looked at me levelly.
"It was a new hat," I said lamely.
"Charlotte was wearing a new habit, as I recall. She came home wet to the waist and draggled with weed. It was not an episode to inspire confidence in George."
Mamma went back to her toast. I glanced quickly at Charlotte and saw, to my relief, that she was smiling and easy. She gave me a laughing look, and left her chair to stand by the window and swing the wooden acorn that ended the cord of Mamma's painted sun blind.
It was a pretty room, our parlor. It was prettier than the drawing room because it had an eastern window and a southern window and the sun poured in all day until after dinner, to such an extent that the wallpaper, a flowery stripe of lettuce green on white, was faded to beige on two walls where the light struck it. The floor was of polished boards, the color of cider, and in the middle was an Eastern rug my father had brought home from his travels, and our little round table stood in the center of it. Mamma had hung up white curtains fringed with green, and put all her pretty Chelsea plates above the picture rail. There was a little rosewood sideboard to carry our silver candlesticks, and a wine cooler inlaid with shells made of walnut wood, and above the mantelshelf hung a picture our Mamma had recently done of our young queen--only twenty and so small and neat--which Charlotte and I had framed in our own embroidery. You could tell which Charlotte's stitches were, half as many and twice as large as mine, but somehow twice as vigorous and important as well.
"You will send a note back to George," Mamma said, laying down her knife with precision, "and tell him that he and his friend are most welcome to dine with us tomorrow. But there will be no riding."
Charlotte swung round and the wooden acorn flew about wildly and cracked against the window.
"Charlotte, you are not a child, you are a young woman now. You cannot be willful and careless of opinion any longer. Quite apart from that, it is hardly kind to plague me."
Charlotte came and knelt by her chair. The sun caught her hair, her curious beautiful dark red hair, the color of a carnelian, and made it glow like wine. She put her hands on Mamma's arm.
"I do try not to be willful. I try harder than you know. And I love our life here, our quiet little life, just you and me and Emily. I don't mean to plague you. But I do sometimes long for something wild and free and--and dangerous. Surely to ride with George and an irreproachable friend is not so very dreadful a way to appease that longing?"
Mamma bent and kissed her forehead, and then shook off her hands.
"No riding, Charlotte."
She rose and moved round the table to the door. She was wearing her pink morning gown banded with brown velvet across the bodice and round the sleeves, and her cheeks were now as pink as her gown. She said, with her hand on the latch, "At twenty, Charlotte, you should be ashamed to besiege me so. There is the linen cupboard to be done before summer, and Emily, I should be grateful if you would see to the rent in my cream fichu. At least your stitches are small enough."
I looked about the room, at everything so small and trim and well cared for. When George ate dinner with us there at our little round table, it always seemed to shrink and become the size of a doll's room, fragile and female like we were. When he laughed in our parlor, you could almost feel the walls bulge and buckle at the impact of the noise, and all the furniture became delicate and miniature, as if it were made of matchsticks. He was the only man who came often, the only real, large man. His father came at Christmas of course, and once a year to wish Mamma, his sister, a happy birthday, but he was a small man, delicate like Mamma, and the house stayed quite stable in his presence.
Charlotte went back to swinging the acorn.
"What shall we do, Emily?"
"Yes, do. Do. I know today we must do the linen and that wretched fichu, but tomorrow, and the next day? And next year, when I am twenty-one and you nearly twenty? And the year after that? It can't all be linen cupboards." She turned back to me. "Can it?"
I leaned over my plate.
"What should you like, Charlotte? Should you like to be a king's mistress?"
She looked horrified, but I knew it was not at the idea. When we were small, nine and ten perhaps, we had been taken to George IV's funeral, and an old woman in the crowd had told us that his stays had measured nearly sixty inches round. Then he had been succeeded by ugly William with his plum-colored face speckled with blemishes, mulberry and meal, so we had never seen a handsome king. It was not the notion of being a mistress that made Charlotte stare at me, simply the notion of sharing the bed of any being as physically monstrous as the kings we knew. Charlotte leaned forward and put her hands on the table.
"Find me the king, Emily!"
I shut my eyes.
"Where shall he be?"
"Anywhere but Richmond!"
I opened them again. Charlotte was still leaning on her hands and her face was alive with interest. She had a beautiful face, full of life, with brilliant eyes like aquamarines and teeth that were the envy of everyone. I said, "what about the East?"
"The East? A black king?"
"Well, a brown one. Covered in jewels, emeralds, and rubies and pearls. Sitting in a tent in the desert drinking sherbet, with elephants to carry you about and barefoot servants with peacock feathers in their turbans."
Charlotte clapped her hands.
"Bring him here!"
"No," I said. "He would feel foolish in Richmond."
"Oh," she said in despair, "Richmond."
Richmond was lovely when the nineteenth century began, there is no denying it. The river so close, that beautiful park, the lovely, graceful new houses with their long windows and balconies and gardens full of acacias. There were probably exciting people there too, people who traveled and went often to London and knew people at court but we had nothing to do with them. We knew the rector and his huge family, the doctor and his, and a great many widows and daughters like ourselves all contriving to seem to be more prosperous than they really were. We were proud of Mamma because she managed it so much better than most.
Charlotte stretched her arms above her head and the blue cotton of her gown cracked at the strain.
"I am so confined!" she said. "I am penned in like a goose for Christmas. Look at this hateful sleeve, Emily, even it confines me. What a stupid, heartless fashion to have sleeves so tight at the top that one's blood can hardly struggle down. No wonder my hands are so clumsy. Now if I had my Eastern king I could be in lovely flowing robes and gallop about on a camel and never know what a tight sleeve was."
"You wouldn't," I said. "He'd lock you up in his Zenana and you would not gallop anywhere. You would still be a Christmas goose."
Charlotte sat down in Mamma's place and ran her finger round the fluted rim of the handleless cup before her.
"Does it not worry you, Emily? Do you really not mind living here always, sewing and painting and gardening and always being so good?"
"I should rather do it all with a husband and children, but I do not mind the sewing and painting in itself."
"But where do you suppose we shall find husbands?"
I said jokingly, "Oh Charlotte, what about the rector's eldest?" expecting that she would smile at me at the ludicrousness of that weedlike youth being a fit husband for anyone, but she didn't. She looked back at me with all seriousness.
"It might come to that."
"Don't Charlotte me, like Mamma. It might. We hardly meet anyone, Emily, anyone at all."
"George would marry you. I think he's admired you always. Should you hate to marry George?"
"I shouldn't hate it, but quite frankly I should be better amused here at home with you in the long run. George is perfect for short bursts of excitement, but I don't think he could sustain a steady life of it. And I am much fonder of you than I am of George. In fact, if it wasn't for you, Emily, I think I should go mad."
I blushed with pleasure. I could not help it.
"I will try and persuade Mamma about the riding," I said.
She reached out the hand that had been playing with the cup, and squeezed mine.
"You have spoiled me, Emily. You are much too kind. I don't think there's a man on earth would be so good to me."
"I think," I said, getting up, "that if half the men on earth knew you were here, they would be fighting like mad things for the privilege of being good to you."
The cream fichu was mended before George's arrival the next day, and all the hateful linen, as Charlotte called it, was sorted and smoothed. We put daffodils in the drawing room and the last snowdrops in the parlor and the whole house looked about as unsuitable for a young man's arrival as it possibly could do. We had tried to persuade Mamma to a fillet of beef, but she was convinced that there was something indelicate about red meat, so a pair of chickens were roasting in the kitchen and the air was full of the clove and onion scent of bread sauce.
"I wish we had some wine," Charlotte said, surveying the white table, and the green and white flowers, and our spoons and two-pronged forks polished like looking glass. "The table looks so--so ladylike."
"There's some port," I said. We both looked at the decanter and observed the two inches left from Christmas, that remained. Charlotte sighed.
"Poor friend," she said. "I doubt he'll come again."
George was not punctual. He had been asked for two o'clock, and came nearer three, and Mamma was in despair over the chickens. We all fidgeted about the drawing room, Charlotte banging on the harpsichord until Mamma asked her to stop because of her head, and we ran back and forth to the kitchen while the chickens shrank and the potatoes disintegrated.
"If he were not my brother's son," Mamma said, "I should not tolerate such manners. Five more minutes and we shall eat in any case. I cannot afford to waste good food."
When he marched in at last, of course she was all smiles. She was wearing her flounced lavender gown, and he held her at arm's length and said it was a downright privilege to have such a pretty aunt. He seemed larger than ever, and his hair more riotously curly. He kissed Charlotte with a great deal of enthusiasm and me with rather less, then he spun round and pulled into our little drawing room a good-looking fair young man who seemed somewhat dismayed at the combination of George's energy and our frailty. He was tall too, but slender and not solid, like George, and he wore uniform.
"A soldier!" Charlotte said in delight.
George laughed and the young man blushed.
"A soldier indeed, fair cousin! Aunt Maria, may I present Captain Hugh Connell? Hugh, these are my pretty cousins, Charlotte and Emily over there, in grey. I'm a lucky dog, ain't I, to have such deuced good-looking relations?"
Captain Hugh Connell turned to Mamma and bowed so elegantly that she clearly had no fear that he would knock something over.
"Not only good-looking, ma'am, but hospitable."
This put Mamma in a flutter because of the spoiled chickens. She took him by his scarlet sleeve and began a flurry of explanations, and Charlotte began to scold George for his lateness which he clearly relished. He stood and gazed down at her like a great pleased dog. I just watched them, and I saw Mamma begin to draw Hugh Connell toward the parlor, and as he went he glanced over his shoulder at Charlotte and his eyes had just the same doglike look in them as George's, but less assured.
In its curious way, the dinner was a success. The chickens were a little dry, but the fish was good, and Mamma had made a plum tart from the bottled fruit of our old tree by the front gate. At the beginning of dinner, when Mamma poured water into Hugh Connell's glass, he showed no surprise, but George jumped up and rushed out of the room shouting for his groom (who was flirting in the kitchen with our little maid) and came back with three bottles of claret.
"Oh!" said Charlotte, and her face lit up. "Wine!"
Mamma looked at her with the utmost disapproval.
"It was a sensible thought, George," she said, "but you know Charlotte and Emily only ever take a little Madeira."
"Nonsense!" George cried. "We won't touch a drop unless you all do!"
"Please, Mamma!" Charlotte said. "We long to try!"
"Just a little," I pleaded, though I did not much care for it.
"It is most unsuitable," Mamma said firmly.
Hugh Connell looked at Charlotte, and then he turned to Mamma. "Perhaps they may try a little mixed with water? I agree entirely that it is too strong on its own, but would you object if I were to dilute a glass for each of them?"
Mamma beamed upon him and consented. He ate two helpings of plum tart and said it was excellent, and he praised the room and said how charming her taste was.
"Is it not too small for you?" Charlotte said. She had picked all the plums out of her tart and left the pastry as she always did and I prayed Mamma would not notice.
"The house always seems to shrink when George comes in and he is eternally breaking something. I wondered if you felt as he clearly does."
Hugh Connell looked at her gravely.
"I should hate to break anything in so charming a dwelling."
"Ah!" George said, replete with food and nearly two bottles of his three. "Hugh ain't a clumsy bear like me. He's had much more polish, moved in much better circles altogether, haven't you, eh?"
Hugh looked at him reprovingly.
"Wider rather than better, I should say."
Mamma was looking at Charlotte's plate, so I leaned forward and said, "Wider?" with as much emphasis as I could muster.
"I should be in India," Hugh Connell said. "I was posted to the northwest frontier, to Afghanistan, two years ago, but my father was dying and asked me to come home. I had been four years in India. I go back this summer, to Kabul. We are an occupying force."
"Kabul!" Charlotte breathed.
Mamma asked a little timidly, "Where is Kabul?"
"In the western Himalayas, my dear aunt. It is the capital of Afghanistan, which is a very turbulent place full of extremely troublesome tribesmen."
Mamma's eyes strayed again to the uneaten pastry on Charlotte's plate. I said quickly, leaning forward in a pretense of eagerness, "Then why, if it is so troublesome, do we bother with it?"
Across the table, George and Hugh smiled at each other in male complicity.
"Miss Emily," Hugh Connell said with careful politeness, "we must keep Afghanistan neutral. If we do not, the Russians will swoop down from the north through Afghanistan and fall upon India. If we are to safeguard India, we must have Afghanistan as a buffer, we must have an Amir upon the throne in Kabul who is well-disposed toward us." He waited a moment to see if I had assimilated his information, so I smiled helpfully at him and nodded, and he turned away and said to Charlotte, "Kabul is a wretched place I am told. The Afghans are a savage and violent people."
Charlotte smiled at him. "Wonderful!" she said.
Mamma cleared her throat repressively.
"Charlotte's head is full of romantic notions, I fear," she said. "Our life is very quiet, you see, very simple, and Charlotte thinks she craves adventure."
Charlotte said directly to Hugh Connell, "I don't think it, I do."
Hugh looked across the table at Charlotte with the same expression, but more confident, that he had worn in the drawing room.
"I think you would find India very uncomfortable. The governor general there has his sister with him and I have heard her say that the only place she really cares for is Simla because everywhere else is so unlike England."
"Then I expect Simla would be the one place I should not like."
"Charlotte!" Mamma said again.
George had noticed the port decanter and had suppressed almost all his disappointment. He scraped his chair back and stood up, just missing knocking the ceiling.
"Now Aunt Maria, I'm to take this pretty pair riding. Don't look governessy at me, Aunt, for I've Hugh to keep me in order and I've asked for ponies as quiet as lambs that are used to carry ladies."
Mamma rose so that she was not at too much of a disadvantage.
"I'm afraid it is out of the question, George. After the last occasion."
George looked at Charlotte and me and burst out laughing.
"What a scrape, Aunt! Covered in weed like old men of the woods! If Emily will tie her hat on properly we will promise not to go wading, eh?"
"No, George," Mamma said firmly.
I looked at Charlotte. Her light eyes were fixed on Hugh Connell and full of pleading. He had blushed rosy red once more.
"Forgive me, ma'am," he said to Mamma, "but I give you my word no harm shall come to either of them. We cannot be long because it will be dark shortly. Just half an hour"
Mamma said, "One should ride in the morning, it is not suitable to ride after dinner." But her voice was relenting.
Charlotte flew across and kissed her.
"Darling Mamma! Bless you! Half an hour only, I promise you. Come Emily, we must hurry and change."
She ran out before me and up the narrow staircase, and as I followed her, I heard Mamma say, "You will look after her, will you not? I do not fear for Emily, she is so sensible, but you will look after Charlotte?" and Hugh Connell replied fervently, "With my life, ma'am."
The rector's wife came next morning accompanied by the two eldest Miss Adams in grey bombazine trimmed with black, and bonnets ornamented with tired black velvet flowers. They were all three gaunt and awkward, and looked as if they lived in some clammy, marshy place, as indeed they did, for the rectory was as damp as a sponge. They sat down in our drawing room like a row of grey tombstones amid our daffodils and embroideries.
Mrs. Adams unrolled from her shabby muff--"Dyed rabbit," Charlotte whispered to me--a parcel carefully wrapped in tissue.
"The rector's Lenten stole," she said reverently.
Mamma looked suitably respectful. "You will observe," said Mrs. Adams, lifting one end of the stole and signaling to her second daughter to do likewise with the opposite end, "it is quite without ornamentation. I am come to ask, Mrs. Brent, if your daughter Emily would accept the honor of embroidering the ends of the stole. It would be, naturally, to the greater glory of God. A gold cross placed centrally at either end, a formal design of leaves and scrolls in gold and violet, that is what is required."
We all sat awed by the prospect. I had a distinct impression that Charlotte was suppressing something violent because the arm pressed to mine was shaking so.
I said, "Mrs. Adams, I have no experience of ecclesiastical embroidery."
"Perhaps gold primroses would do instead," Charlotte said, and her voice was tight with restrained laughter. "You do such pretty primroses. And after all, primroses are appropriate for Lent--"
"Charlotte!" said Mamma. Mrs. Adams's presence always made her unsure what to say and anxious for our good behavior.
Mrs. Adams turned her pale cold gaze upon us, and as she did so we heard the familiar bang of the front gate, and then determined footsteps came up the path and someone hammered at the door.
Mamma was instantly apprehensive. She could not leave the room for fear Charlotte might be outrageous and yet she was highly dissatisfied with the way Annie answered the door, smearing her nose with the back of her hand and screwing her apron all about.
"Miss Emily?" Mrs. Adams said.
"I should of course be honored," I said, "but I am very doubtful that I am skilled enough."
Mrs. Adams cast her gaze toward the ceiling.
"In the eyes of God--" she began, and then Annie burst into the room without the smallest knock and said, "It's a gentleman, mum!" with as much amazement as if she had found herself announcing a dinosaur.
Hugh Connell came into the room behind her, still carrying his whip and gloves that she had obviously forgotten to relieve him of. Charlotte sprang up with a cry of pleasure.
"Charlotte!" said Mamma again.
Hugh Connell was looking very handsome. It was a fresh day and his face glowed from riding. He looked at Charlotte with undisguised delight, and then he went over to Mamma and bowed and said that he wished to thank her fervently for the most charming day yesterday and that as he happened to be passing--
"Mrs. Adams, this is Captain Hugh Connell, a friend of my nephew George. Captain Connell, Mrs. Adams, our rector's lady, and Miss Adams, and Miss Laetitia Adams."
They sat like grey rocks and held out their bony hands to him. He did very well, bending over each in turn, so elegant and slender in his uniform.
Miss Laetitia Adams said to him with disapproval, "We saw you riding yesterday in the Park. With Miss Brent and Miss Emily. You jumped a log," she added accusingly.
Mamma looked instantly at Charlotte.
"Mamma, I promise I did not jump anything. Did I, Emily? Hugh, tell Mamma how decorously I behaved."
Mrs. Adams cleared her throat and brandished the purple stole. Hugh looked at her in some surprise and said to Mamma, "Indeed she behaved so decorously that I am come to ask if I may take them both riding once more. I have called at the livery stables and both the ponies they rode yesterday are available."
"Oh, Mamma please--" Charlotte began, her face full of eagerness.
"The matter under discussion," said Mrs. Adams loudly, waving the stole once more, "is not riding but embroidery."
Hugh looked thoroughly puzzled.
"Emily," Mamma said. "Answer Mrs. Adams."
I must have looked as reluctant as I felt for Charlotte said, "Why cannot Emily do one end only, and someone else the other?"
Mrs. Adams ignored her.
"Charlotte," Mamma said, "put on your shawl and take Captain Connell out to the garden. The spring flowers are so very pretty." Then, lest he should think he was being reproved as well as Charlotte, she added, "And I hope you will stay and dine with us, Captain Connell."
This was noble of her, for I knew she intended us to eat the scraps of chicken that remained as a fricassee, and one could hardly offer a man a fricassee for the most substantial meal of his day. It seemed only fair to give her time to think over alternatives to this problem in peace, and so when the door had closed behind a jubilant Charlotte and a grateful Hugh, I said to Mrs. Adams, "Even if I did think myself capable ma'am, we are halfway through Lent already--"
"The rector is nobly resigned to his old stole this present Lent," Mrs. Adams said in the tone of one admiring a great sacrifice.
"Then--then I will try," I said.
"It is a task that many would regard as an immense--nay, sacred--honor."
I wanted very much to say that if there was a horde of eager and pious embroideresses that I was depriving by accepting, I should not dream of disappointing them so bitterly. Mrs. Adams rolled up the stole again and handed it to Miss Adams, who rose and crossed the room with a stately step and placed the parcel ceremoniously on my lap. I looked at it with distaste.
"I will do my best," I said.
Mrs. Adams seemed to feel that that was the least I could do, for she rose without a further word to me and said to Mamma, "Riding in itself may be regarded as a healthy occupation if performed moderately. However, to ride without a hat excites comment of the worst kind."
Mamma went very pink. I said quickly, "Charlotte's hat blew off in the wind, Mamma. She did not have pins long enough to keep it secure. Captain Connell had to ride some distance to retrieve it."
I did not add that Charlotte's hat had blown off half a dozen times, and George and Hugh had raced each other to recapture it, nor that when Charlotte's hair came down and flew about, Hugh said that not for the world could she have her hat back. Chasing it was like some Indian sport he knew, called pig sticking, and the reward of seeing her with her hair down was better than any prize he had gained pig sticking in India. Charlotte had laughed at him, and snatched her hat back and tied it on her head with her scarf, but she left her hair hanging down her back and the wine-red curls danced about in the wind. We pinned it up again all anyhow at the livery stables and with her hat on properly, Mamma had never noticed how disheveled it was when we got home.
When Mrs. Adams and her daughters had stalked down the path, pausing to remark that they doubted the plum tree would bear heavily this year as it had clearly not been pruned severely enough, Mamma said to me, "Emily, run and find Charlotte for me."
I said, "Oh Mamma, please not more scolding. Nobody saw us but those stuffy Adamses. Charlotte behaved beautifully. She tries so hard to be good and Richmondish. Don't scold again."
Mamma sat down abruptly in her little spoon-back chair.
"Emily, you are loyal but blind. You must see how intolerable Charlotte makes life for us here. I build up our reputation brick by brick, slowly and carefully, and then Charlotte goes romping about like a hoyden and destroys everything. It is all very well for her, and for you. You will marry and leave Richmond, but I must stay, and struggle with the ruins of our reputation. Please find her for me."
I bent and kissed Mamma's forehead and she patted me in an absent way and sighed.
"You are a good girl, Emily. At least you are--"
"Please don't say sensible."
"Oh," she said crossly, "if you only knew how I valued sense. Go and find Charlotte for me, and leave me to worry as to how I shall make a cabbage and two chicken wings into a dinner for a man."
We kept our shawls hanging in the passage by the garden door, and our bonnets as well. It was such a small house that one often felt the need to run out into the garden, Charlotte most of all. I put my shawl and bonnet on, but I saw Charlotte's bonnet, blond straw with blue ribbons, was stiff on its peg, so she must have simply thrown on her shawl and gone out bareheaded into the garden. At least nobody could see her, except the six fat Friesian cows in the meadow beyond the fence, and although they would be much interested, being insatiably curious, their opinion would hardly matter.
The garden was just beginning to wake up. The grass was still tawny and rough from the winter, but the daffodils and forsythia were bright against the leafless boughs, and among the tufts on the lawn were blue clumps of hyacinth and crocus. The birds were singing in a hopeful way although the sun was still so pale and weak and the sky was a bleached blue, as if from much washing.
I could not find Charlotte. I went up and down the paths between the hedges which checkered our garden. Charlotte always said the family which planted our garden must have detested one another because they had made the garden full of private nooks to enable them to get away from each other so that it was like an Elizabethan maze. It made lovely sun traps in summer, full of bees and butterflies, but was rather depressing and forbidding in the winter. I went up and down the hedges until my dress was entirely sodden at the hem, and just when I was wondering what on earth I should say to Mamma, I found them.
They were standing by the garden fence with an absorbed audience of cows. Charlotte had her shawl half over her head so that she looked like a very pretty engraving we had of an Irish peasant girl, and she was gazing up at Hugh with an expression of the deepest interest. He was talking, and gesturing with one hand, while his other hand was in a clenched fist behind his back as if he couldn't trust himself not to seize Charlotte with it.
I trod deliberately upon some sticks.
"Oh Emily!" Charlotte called without the slightest self-consciousness. "You cannot imagine what wonderful things Hugh has been telling me of India!"
Hugh looked confused. I said, "I am so sorry, but Mamma wants you."
Charlotte looked down at the grass and pushed a twig about with her toe.
"The riding? My hat?"
"I'm afraid so."
"Those Adamses," Charlotte said with venom.
"I shall go to your mother," Hugh said.
We looked at him admiringly. I wished he would smile more often, but smiling or not, he was certainly very good-looking.
"I don't want you to be the whipping boy," said Charlotte. "It was my hat and I didn't really try to stop it."
Hugh looked at her for a moment and said rather thickly that he doubted he could have borne it if she had. Then he bowed to us briefly and went quickly away toward the house.
"Do you mean to encourage him so much?"
Her face glowed.
"Oh, Emily! He told me such things of India! You cannot believe what things. Elephants and great dusty deserts and rivers as wide as lakes and princes and jewels and palaces of fretted marble and blazing sun and stars at night as big as saucers--"
"And probably snakes and a great many poor, starving, ragged people."
"Emily," she said in despair.
I took her arm.
"Be serious, Charlotte. What about Hugh? Not India. Hugh."
"Do you like him, Emily?"
"I think so. I hardly know. I wish he laughed more. But he is very pleasant and polite and kind and Mamma likes him."
"Exactly," said Charlotte with relief. "My feelings exactly."
"Then you are not encouraging him?" I persisted.
"Emily, he may have to do."
I said, "Oh Charlotte, think, please think. It is so important."
She put her arms round me.
"I know it is important. Of course the rest of one's life is important. That is why I cannot spend it in Richmond. Darling Emily, do not look so careworn. Whatever I do, I shall tell you of it and probably take you along too. Now not another word. Be your usual trusting self."
Then she kissed me and began to hum and I had to be content.
Excerpted from Legacy of Love by Caroline Harvey Copyright © 2001 by Caroline Harvey. Excerpted by permission.
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