The Devil and Drusilla

The Devil and Drusilla

by Paula Marshall
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The Devil and Drusilla by Paula Marshall

The Devil and Drusilla by Paula Marshall released on Aug 01, 2008 is available now for purchase.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781426820656
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 08/01/2008
Series: Harlequin Historical Series , #241
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
File size: 275 KB

About the Author

Paula was born in Leicester and grew up in Nottingham. Her father, a mathematician who was gassed in the First World War and never really recovered his health, introduced her to a great many things. He taught her chess, cards, and painting, and had her reading Dickens and Thackeray by the age of 10.

Her great loves at school were history, English, and art; she found it difficult to decide whether she wanted to become the world's greatest novelist or the world's greatest painter!

After finishing school, she was employed as a research librarian, and studied for her library examinations after work. She spent many happy days among old works and papers, and remembers with affection working with the Byron collection at Newstead Abbey. This reading stood her in good stead when she began writing Regency romances--she had actually handled Byron's letters and possessions.

While working in the reference library, Paula met her future husband. He was also a librarian, and he returned to complete his fellowship after he was demobilized from the RAF. They were studying the same texts and decided to work together. The result was that he got his fellowship--while she got him!

Paula began a secondary career writing and lecturing on local history. Amongst other things, she lectured on Robin Hood and wrote a paper wherein she identified the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham.

Paula has three children, and when the third started school, she returned to work, beginning a new career as a part-time lecturer in English and general studies. After four years of teaching, it became necessary for her to gain a degree, and Paula did just that. She enrolled in the open university and spent the next four years earning a first class honors BA in history.

On retirement Paula took up painting again and even managed to sell a portrait of the popular soccer player Stuart Pearce, to Nottingham Forest Football Club. While on holiday in Arizona, Paula was finally urged to write the book she had been threatening to write since she was a child.

Paula gets great pleasure from writing historical romances where she can utilize her vast historical knowledge. She has lectured on everything in English history from the Civil War onwards, as well as U.S. and Russian history, 1760-1980, and the psychology of war and revolution. Paula and her husband have spent their holidays traveling the world, from the Arctic Circle, Scandinavia and Russia, around Europe, to the U.S.A. and New Zealand. She finds that nearly all of the romance novels she writes draw on this wealth of knowledge.

Read an Excerpt

'It's true what they say about you, you have no heart at all, Devenish. None. They rightly nickname you devilish. You fleeced that poor boy at Watier's last night as cold-bloodedly as though you were shearing a sheep!'

The subject of this tirade, Henry Devenish, Fourth Earl of Devenish and Innescourt, raised his fine black brows and said in a voice indicating total indifference, 'The boy of whom you speak is twenty-two years old. He was gambling with money which he does not possess and he needed to learn a quick lesson before he became a gambling wastrel for life.'

'But did you need to ruin him? I had thought better of you, Devenish.'

'Oh, never do that, George. Most unwise. You should know by now that I have no better self.'

George Hampden, who sometimes (wrongly) thought that he was Devenish's only friend in the world, gazed at his distant cousin hoping to see some softening in his coldly handsome face. He found none. Devenish might have the golden good looks of an archangel in a Renaissance painting, but they were those of an avenging one, all mercy lacking.

'So you intend to call in his IOUs. Including the last one when he bet the family home—and lost.'

'He took that risk, not I.' Devenish's tone was almost indifferent.

'And if you can ruin someone so easily, do you expect me still to remain your friend?'

'I never expect anything of anyone, least of all one of my relatives. And the choice is, of course, yours, not mine.'

How to move him? George said impulsively, 'I don't believe that even you will do such a thing. You don't need the lad's money, he's not your enemy—'

'And it's not your business what I do with my winnings— or how I gained them. Forgive me if I decline to pursue this matter further. I am due at the Lords this afternoon: they are debating this matter of the Midlands frame-breakers and I mean to put my oar in.'

George sank into the nearest chair. They were in the library at Innescourt House, off Piccadilly. It was a noble room, lined not only with books, but also with beautifully framed naval maps. An earlier Devenish had been a sailor before he had inherited the title.

His great-grandson was standing before a massive oak desk on which lay the pile of IOUs which young Jack Allinson had scrawled the night before.

'I shall never understand you, Devenish, never. How you can be so heartless to that poor lad and in the next breath dash off to the Lords to speak on behalf of a pack of murdering Luddites is beyond me.'

'Then don't try, dear fellow. Much better not. You'll only give yourself the megrims. Come to the Lords with me, instead, and enjoy the cut and thrust of debate.'

'Sorry, Devenish, I've had my fill of cut and thrust with you today. I'll see you at the Leominsters this evening, I suppose. They say that the Banbury beauty will be there. The on dit is that she's about to accept young Orville. Everyone thought that you were ready to make her a Countess yourself.'

Devenish laughed. He picked up the pile of IOUs and riffled carelessly through them before he spoke.

'Never believe on dits about me, George, they are invariably wrong. Besides, I could never marry a woman who has no conversation, and the Beauty is singularly lacking in that. Unfortunately in my experience the beauties have no conversation, and the conversationalists have no beauty, so I suppose that I am doomed to bachelorhood.'

'My experience, too,' returned George gloomily. 'Look, Devenish,' he added as he turned to leave, 'you will think of what I said about young Allinson, won't you? It cannot profit you to ruin him: your reputation is bad enough already without his committing suicide. He was threatening to shoot himself after you had left this morning.'

'Oh, as to that,' riposted Devenish, raising one quizzical eyebrow, 'it is also my experience that those who talk loudly and dramatically in public of such an extreme measure rarely put it into practice. No, he'll go and get drunk first and when his head's cleared he'll visit me to beg for mercy.'

'Which you will grant him?' said George eagerly.

'Who knows? It depends on whether my chef is on form at dinner that day. I really do have more to do than think about young Allinson, you know. My speech, for instance. Do be off with you, George. Go and visit the Turkish baths or lose a few hundred yourself somewhere.'

'Oh, I never gamble.'

'Yes, I know. It's a weakness of yours not to have any weaknesses!'

George's shout of 'Devenish, you're impossible,' floated through the double doors as he left.

Devenish raised his eyebrows again and laughed. However much he grumbled, George would be back again to reproach and chivvy him. He threw the IOUs on to his desk, and debated whether to send for his secretary, Thorpe.

At least he wouldn't have the impudence to complain about his non-existent moral sense as George always did. He noted idly that Thorpe had been in earlier and had left a small pile of correspondence on his desk for him to deal with.

Devenish picked up the first letter. It was from his agent, Robert Stammers, who ran Tresham Hall, on the edge of Tresham Magna village in Surrey, and the estate around it. He had never been back there since he had succeeded to the title ten years earlier when he had just turned twenty-three. He had preferred to go instead on a belated Grand Tour of Europe, even though Great Britain was in the middle of the war against Napoleon.

Robert had accompanied him as his secretary, and twice a year he visited Innescourt House as a favoured guest, somewhat to George Hampden's bemusement.

That the Grand Tour had turned into something more exciting and important was known to few—and certainly not to George. Even after that, when he had returned to England Devenish had never revisited Tresham Hall: it held too many memories which he had no wish to awaken.

And now Robert was urging him to go there. 'Your presence is needed at Tresham, m'lord,' he had written, 'and for more reasons than I care to commit to paper.'

Now that was a remarkable statement from an underling, was it not? Calculated to rouse a man's curiosity—which was doubtless why Robert had so worded it! If anyone else had written him such a letter Devenish would have dismissed it, but he had appointed Robert to be his agent because he had the best of reasons to trust him.

Devenish sighed. He sighed because Robert was one of the few people in the world who had a right to make a claim on him, so he must agree to what Robert wished. He did not call Thorpe in to dictate the letter to him but began to write it himself.

'Damn you, Rob,' he began without preamble. 'You, of all people, must understand how little I wish to return to Tresham and therefore I have to agree to what you ask, if only because, knowing you, I must believe that you have good reasons for making such a request of me—'

He got no further. There was the sound of voices in the corridor outside, the door was flung open, and Tresidder, his butler, entered, but not in his usual decorous fashion. He was being pushed in backwards by, of all people, young Allinson. He was not only shouting in Tresidder's face but was also threatening him with a pistol.

'M'lord,' gasped Tresidder, made voluble by fright, 'I dare not stop him. He insisted on seeing you, even when I told him that you had given orders not to be disturbed, and then he pulled out a pistol and threatened me with it if I did not do as he wished.'

'Quite right,' raved Allinson, releasing him. 'And now I am here, you may go.' He waved his pistol at Devenish who had risen, had walked round his desk and was advancing on him.

'Tell him to leave us, damn you, Devenish. My quarrel is with you, not with him. And if you come a step further I'll shoot you.'

Devenish retreated and leaned back against the desk, his arms folded, the picture of undisturbed indolence.

'Yes, do leave us, Tresidder,' he drawled. 'I am sure that you have no wish to take part in this unseemly farce which Allinson thinks is a tragedy! Really, you young fool, you should be writing this fustian for Drury Lane, not trying to live it!'

'Damn you, Devenish,' shrieked Allinson, waving the pistol dangerously about. 'First you ruin me, and then you mock me. I came here to make you give me back my IOUs, but I've a mind to kill you out of hand if you don't mend your manners to me! You've ruined me, so I've nothing to lose.'

If he had thought to frighten the man before him by threatening his life, he was much mistaken. However dangerous the situation in which he found himself, Devenish was determined not to allow the young fool to intimidate him.

'Oh, I might take you seriously, Allinson, if you were prepared to admit that you ruined yourself. Do stop waving that firearm about. Did no one ever teach you that it's bad form to point a loaded pistol at people? I suppose it is loaded—or did you forget before you embarked on these histrionics?'

Devenish's insults set Allinson choking with rage. He recovered himself with difficulty and ground out, 'Of course it's loaded—something you'd do well to remember. So, do as I ask, hand over my IOUs and I'll not shoot you, although it's all you deserve—'

'Oh, very well. Anything to oblige a man who's threatening my life. I've no desire to bleed to death on my best Persian carpet. It came from Constantinople, you know. It's supposed to be nearly five hundred years old. My heir—God knows who he might be, I've never taken the trouble to find out— wouldn't like it to be ruined,' Devenish remarked chattily, making no move to do as he was bid. 'It's one of the house's greatest treasures, you know.'

His frivolity nearly had Allinson gibbering. 'Stow that nonsense at once, and give me my IOUs. I mean it.'

Still waving his pistol about, he advanced on his enemy until they were almost face to face.

Devenish said with a weary smile, which merely served to enrage Allinson the more, 'Bound and determined to swing for me, are you?'

To which Allinson made no answer: only bared his teeth at him, and waved the pistol about threateningly.

'Oh, very well,' Devenish drawled, 'I see that I shall have to oblige you. Needs must—if only to save the carpet.'

He slowly turned toward his desk as if to pick up the IOUs lying there. And then, like lightning—or a snake striking— he swung round with the heavy glass paperweight he had snatched up in his hand, and struck Allinson full in the face with it before his tormentor could grasp what he was doing.

Startled, and letting out a shriek of pain as he threw his arms up in an instinctive gesture to ward off what had already hit him, young Allinson's finger tightened on the trigger so that he fired his pistol into the air.

The ball made a neat hole in the face of a bad portrait of the Third Earl which had been hung considerately high.

Between fright and pain Allinson dropped the pistol before falling to his knees, and protecting his damaged face by clasping his hands over it; blood was running from his nose.

Devenish picked up the pistol and laid it carefully on his desk before pulling him roughly to his feet.

'You incompetent young fool,' he said, still chatty. 'You are as inconsiderate as I might have expected. I don't object to you ruining a damned bad painting, but I don't want your blood all over the carpet. Here.'

He handed the moaning boy a spotless handkerchief, just as the library door burst open and a posse of footmen entered led by his chief groom, Jowett.

'A bit slow, lads, weren't you?' was his only remark. 'I might have been cat's meat by now.'

Jowett, who knew his master, grinned, and said, 'But you ain't, m'lord, are you, so all's well. That ass, Tresidder, beggin' your pardon, m'lord, was so frightened out of his wits it took some time for him to tell us what was to-do. I see you've got things well in hand, as per usual. Send for the Runners to deal with him, shall I?'

'By no means. A mad doctor to treat him might be more useful. On the other hand, I think you can safely leave this matter to me to clear up. Let me think. Hmm, ah, yes, Mr Allinson discharged his pistol whilst inviting me to admire it. Why call the Runners in for that? Crime, not incompetence, is their game, eh, Allinson?'

'If you say so, m'lord,' came in a muffled wail through Devenish's ruined handkerchief.

'Oh, I do say so, and more beside when my belated saviours depart. You may go, Jowett. Oh, and take the pistol you will find on my desk with you. I don't think that Mr Allinson will be needing it again. It's quite safe. It's not loaded now.'

'I know, m'lord.' Jowett was cheerful. 'I heard the shot just before we came in. Knowing you, I couldn't believe that aught was amiss.'

'Your faith in me is touching—and one day may be unjus-tified—but not today. Silly boys are fair game for a man of sense.'

Allinson raised his head. His nose had stopped bleeding. He said mournfully, 'I suppose that you are right to mock me.'

'No suppose at all. Had you succeeded in killing me, you would have met a nasty end on Tyburn Tree. Had you made me give you back your IOUs, you would have ended up a pariah, gambling debts being debts of honour. Think yourself lucky that all you have to show for your folly is a bloody nose.

'And do stand up straight instead of cringing like a gaby. I've a mind to lecture you, and I want your full attention.'

'You have it, m'lord. I must have run mad to do what I did. But to lose everything—you understand—'

'Indeed, not. I am quite unable to understand that I should ever gamble away money which I didn't possess and a house which I did. As for compounding my folly by threatening to commit murder! No, no, I don't understand—and nor should you.'

Allinson hung his head. Whether coming to his senses had brought him repentance was hard to tell. He muttered, 'And after all, I am still ruined. I cannot expect you to show me any mercy now that I have threatened your life.'

Devenish sat down and motioned to Allinson to remain standing. 'Before you came in enacting a Cheltenham tragedy, or rather, melodrama, one of my more sentimental relatives was begging me to spare you."

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