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Shadow of the Moon
By M. M. Kaye
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1979 M. M. Kaye
All rights reserved.
"'Winter"! Who ever heard of such a name? It is not a name at all! Do pray be sensible, my dear Marcos. You cannot call the poor mite anything so absurd.'
'She will be christened Winter.'
'Then at least let her have some suitable second name. There are so many pretty and unexceptionable names to choose from.'
'No. Only Winter.'
Kindly Mrs Grantham threw up her arms in a gesture of exasperation. 'But my dear boy, only think how absurd it will sound! - Winter de Ballesteros de los Aguilares.'
'Sabrina wished it,' insisted the distraught young father stubbornly.
Mrs Grantham knew when she was defeated. There was no arguing with Marcos in his present frame of mind. If only the christening could be postponed he might yet be brought to see reason. But the baby was a sickly infant whose chances of survival appeared to be so slight that it had been considered expedient to baptize her without delay, and Marcos, who was a Spaniard and a Catholic, had even agreed to allow the ceremony to be performed by an Anglican parson; cholera having struck down the only available priest, and the child's mother having belonged to the Anglican Church. Marcos had been sufficiently distraught to agree to almost anything, but he remained adamant in the matter of his daughter's baptismal name.
'Winter!' repeated Mrs Grantham, dabbing ineffectually at her swollen eyes. 'Poor 'Reena must have been out of her mind.'
But Sabrina - poor pretty Sabrina - dying in childbirth in the merciless heat of an Indian May, had not been out of her mind. She had been thinking of Ware ...
Sabrina's paternal grandfather, Henry John Huntly William, Fifth Earl of Ware, had married Selina Emily, youngest daughter of Sir Arthur Wycombe, Baronet, in the early summer of 1788: the year in which the Young Pretender - 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' of song and legend - died miserably in exile.
Their union had been a fruitful one, and punctually each spring for five successive years the dutiful Selina had presented her husband with a lace-swaddled bundle of squalling humanity. Herbert, Charles, Ashby, Emily and John had followed each other into the world in swift succession. But their mother's constitution, never robust, had proved unequal to the strain, and shortly after the birth of the last-named she had fallen into a decline and died.
The Earl, a hasty-tempered and autocratic man, had been sincerely attached to her, and though still not thirty at the time of her death he did not remarry; announcing instead that his daughter Emily could take over the management of his household as soon as she was old enough to leave the schoolroom. That day being a long way off, he installed an elderly female relative to see to his offspring's welfare and engage such nurses, tutors and governesses as she considered necessary to deal with their upbringing and education. Children, decided the Earl, were not only a dead bore but a confounded nuisance, and as his own grew up he saw no reason to revise that opinion; with one notable exception. His youngest son, John.
His first-born, Herbert, Viscount Glynde, had been a stolid child both in build and temperament, and grew up to be a stolid and silent young man. Charles early displayed a taste for cards, horseflesh and the society of opera dancers, and Ashby - bookish, nearsighted and interested only in the vanished civilizations of Greece and Rome - bored and irritated his father. Emily was more to his taste: she had failed to inherit her mother's beauty, but that she possessed more than a dash of his own firmness and character was proved by the fact that she left the schoolroom while still only fifteen, and having consigned the elderly relative to a position of comfortable obscurity, took over as chatelaine of Ware. She was a plain girl, kind-hearted and capable, but lacking in the charm that might have earned her a higher place in her father's regard; and like her three elder brothers she had always been more than a little afraid of him. It was only John who was not afraid.
Only John - Selina's last child, who had cost her her life - had inherited both his mother's beauty and his father's spirit, and the Earl loved him as Jacob loved Benjamin.
Johnny was everybody's favourite. A beautiful boy. Bold, bright and filled to the brim with the joy of living. Almost any other child would inevitably have been ruined by the spoiling he received, but there was something in Johnny's character that was pure gold without a trace of alloy. In him his father's quick temper and tyrannical disposition were transmuted to a high spirit and complete fearlessness, and though his less favoured brothers and sister might have been expected to resent the open and unblushing favouritism shown him, he was their darling.
"'The dearest of them all, my handsome, winsome Johnny,"' their old nurse would sing. And it was true. There was never such a boy. By the time he was fifteen he could out-ride, out-shoot, out-fence and out-box any young man in the county under twenty, and his father frequently found himself regretting, with a shamed feeling of baffled resentment, that Herbert and not Johnny was the heir.
Johnny, had he thought about it, would probably have chosen the younger of his two elder brothers for that role, for the dashing Charles had always been his hero, and when Charles received a Commission in a famous regiment, and rode to Ware for the first time in all the bravery of scarlet, gold-lace and a clanking sword, Johnny felt that he could hardly wait until he too would be old enough to hold the King's Commission.
But Charles rode away to the war, and to his death on a bare, stony Spanish hillside at the battle of Barossa.
Two years later, in 1813, Herbert, with an unhumorous recognition of his duty as the heir, married Lady Charlotte Frisby, a distant cousin of his mother's. The young couple did not set up a separate establishment, but remained at Ware, and it was here that the Earl's first grandchild, a boy, was born in the following year: an event somewhat overshadowed by the fact that Johnny had obtained the coveted Commission, and been gazetted a cornet of horse.
A year later, writing from Brussels less than three weeks after his twenty-first birthday, Johnny had announced his marriage to Louisa Cole:
'You must not think,' wrote John to his father, 'that because this news is unexpected, and comes to you in this manner, there has been anything clandestine about my marriage. But Louisa's father died very suddenly last week, and since her mother wished to leave Brussels immediately, there was nothing for it but to marry her out of hand.'
The Earl could not be expected to feel anything but dismay at the news, but his wrath was somewhat mitigated by the fact that he knew the bride's father by reputation. Mr William Cole was on the Board of Directors of the Honourable the East India Company, of which the Earl was a shareholder, and Louisa, being his only child, was a considerable heiress.
'I know you will love her,' wrote Johnny to his sister Emily, 'for she is everything that is sweet and gentle. You do not know what a lucky fellow I am. I can hardly wait to bring her home and show her to you all - and you to her. What a day that will be!'
But it was a day that was destined never to be realized.
Perhaps there is some truth in the saying that those whom the gods love die young, for certainly Fortune had done nothing but smile upon Johnny Grantham. But now the sands had run out. At the Duchess of Richmond's ball in Brussels he danced for the last time; tall and gay and laughing, outrageously handsome in his scarlet and gold uniform as he moved through the quadrille with his pretty young bride. Two days later he was dead, killed in the bloody shambles of Hougoumont on the field of Waterloo.
For a time life lost all meaning for the Earl of Ware.
When he had first heard the news he had raged furiously and futilely against fate. Why Johnny? Any one of his children - all of his children - but not John! He had turned his face to the wall and cursed God. But the days passed and the weeks lengthened into months, and the first frenzy of grief gave place to a dull resentment and then to numb acceptance. No one could ever take Johnny's place in his heart, but life had to go on and there was work to be done.
But there was one who lacked the Earl's resilience, and for whom the mainspring of life had been irreparably broken - Johnny's wife, Louisa, who had come to live at Ware: a shadow of the pretty young creature who had danced with her handsome husband at the Duchess of Richmond's ball.
Johnny's daughter, Sabrina, was born on the first day of the New Year, 1816, and by the evening of the same day Louisa had gone to join her young husband. There had been no particular reason why she should have died; except perhaps, quite simply, that she did not wish to live. And now that she had gone her sister-in-law, Emily, constituted herself foster-mother, guardian and protector in her stead to the baby Sabrina.
'Why Sabrina?' inquired the relations and connections. 'There has never been a Sabrina in the family before. Not one of our names at all.'
But it was Ashby who was responsible for that. Ashby the bookish, standing awkward and embarrassed by the lavishly trimmed cradle in the green dusk of a January evening. The tiny creature, not yet a week old, had already lost the crumpled redness of birth, and in the cold dusk she appeared unbelievably fair. Milk-white skin and hair the pale gold of early primroses - her father's hair. Grey eyes the colour of water on a winter's day - Johnny's eyes ...
Ashby, his awkwardness changing to half-awed admiration, had quoted a line of Milton: "'Sabrina fair - listen where thou art sitting, under the glassy, cool translucent wave." We ought to call her Sabrina.'
Sabrina grew quickly. Too quickly, mourned Emily. And every day she grew more like Johnny. Her grandfather, who had imagined that no one could ever take his youngest son's place in his heart, discovered that his son's child occupied it as if by right. All the love and pride and affection that he had lavished on her father he transferred to Johnny's daughter: to the unconcealed resentment of Herbert's wife, Charlotte, who considered it a piece of shocking injustice on the part of Providence that the good looks of the Granthams and the Wycombes should have passed her own children by, only to be lavished upon the daughter of the youngest, and therefore (in Charlotte's view) the least important son of the house.
Sabrina had been nine years old when she was taken on a lengthy visit to her mother's relations. Emily took her, and it proved to be the turning-point of both their lives.
England was changing. George III, the old mad King who had lingered on so long, a living ghost in a wing of Windsor Castle, had died at last, and the gross and scandalous 'Prinny' was King. The Regency was over, and Regency England with its bucks and beaux, Corinthians and Macaronis already fading into history and legend.
Emily was thirty-three, and by the standards of the day, middle-aged and doomed to perpetual spinsterhood. 'Such a pity dear Emily never married,' said the various aunts, uncles and cousins: 'She could have made some man an excellent wife. Of course she will never marry now.' But Emily surprised them all.
Louisa's father, Johnny's Louisa, and his father and his grandfather before him, had been rich merchants, engaged in trade with the Far East - 'nabobs' the popular press termed them. And it was at the house of Louisa's Aunt Harriet Cole that Emily met Sir Ebenezer Barton of the Honourable the East India Company, home on leave from his vast palace on the banks of the Hooghly.
Sir Ebenezer was then forty-five. A tubby little man with a choleric blue eye, mutton-chop whiskers and a face tanned by the suns of the East to a rich shade of mahogany. No one could imagine what Emily saw in him or he in her, but see something they did. Something that was hidden from other eyes. Emily the cool, the efficient, the dependable, blushed under his gaze like a girl fresh from the schoolroom, and Ebenezer, a singularly untalkative man, took her for walks in the park and found himself talking to her of India and his work; of the strange, brown, treacherous river beside which he lived. Of tiger hunts and elephants, and oriental princes and potentates, glittering with fabulous jewels, who lived in medieval state in fantastic marble palaces.
Emily was no Desdemona. It would not have made the smallest difference to her had he talked instead of stocks and shares or indoor plumbing. She was not interested in the East; only in Ebenezer. She found him lovable and dependable and knew that she could love him and mother him and lean upon him. She even thought him handsome.
Ebenezer, twelve years her senior and recently returned from a considerable spell in India, found in her his ideal woman. To him she appeared young without being 'missish': a poised, serene Englishwoman. He had always been ill at ease with women, but not with Emily. With her he was at home and at rest. He actually thought her beautiful.
They were married from Ware in the autumn of 1825, and Emily drove away with her Ebenezer to a honeymoon tour of the Lake District, leaving Charlotte to take over the duties of hostess and chatelaine of Ware, and charge of Sabrina's education and upbringing.
Sabrina did not welcome the change. True, her grandfather continued to pet and spoil her, but she was unable to spend more than a small portion of her time in his company, since the larger part of her days was spent, of necessity, in the schoolroom and under the eye of nurses and governesses selected by her Aunt Charlotte.
In 1830 'Prinny' died; unregretted by his people and unmourned save by his stout and grasping inamorata, Lady Conyngham. William IV, 'Sailor Bill', became King. And in the draughty Palace of Kensington a small, prim, composed little girl played with her dolls and went for walks with her German governess, still unaware that she was heiress-presumptive of England and destined to lift the Monarchy out of the mud and ridicule to which her uncles had reduced it, to unbelievable heights of popularity and prestige ...
When Sabrina was seventeen her grandfather gave a ball to mark her debut, and immediately Ware became the lodestone for every young gallant in five counties. Sabrina could have taken her choice of a dozen eligible offers, and Charlotte was not pleased.
Charlotte had seldom been pleased with Sabrina, and now she found it intolerable that her own plain, prim, well-mannered daughters should be entirely cast into the shade by her niece's golden loveliness and gay, inconsequent charm. To make matters worse the girl refused every offer made her in the course of the next two years; though this was not because she had never fallen in love. Indeed she fell in love only too often, but to her aunt's indignation and her grandfather's relief, she appeared incapable of remaining in love with the same man for longer than a week or so at the most.
To get Sabrina married and removed from Ware became Charlotte's relentless objective, and in the end it was Emily who unconsciously assisted her to attain it. Emily and the Earl and a certain Captain of Hussars ...
The Lady Emily Barton, home on a visit to her father's house, was about to return to India to rejoin her Ebenezer - now a baronet and appointed to the Governor-General's Council. She had begged to take Sabrina with her for a year, and though at any other time the Earl would undoubtedly have refused, it so happened Emily's request had coincided with the appearance upon the scene of the first man in whom Sabrina had taken an interest that outlasted three weeks.
Captain Dennis Allington of the Hussars was handsome, dashing and experienced in the matter of women, and Sabrina, who found him dangerously fascinating, continued to allow him to dance attendance upon her, and treated him with more favour than she had previously shown to any of her suitors.
The Earl had become seriously alarmed. He knew Captain Allington to be a gambler and a spendthrift, with a reputation, where women were concerned, that would not bear investigation, and such a man was no suitable husband for his favourite grandchild. But when he attempted to take Sabrina to task she had been pert and saucy. Emily's invitation had therefore come at a propitious moment and the Earl grasped at it as a way out of his difficulties. He would send Sabrina away for at least a year: Emily could be trusted to take the greatest care of his darling, and Captain Allington out of sight would soon be out of mind.
Charlotte gave the project her enthusiastic support, but Sabrina herself was in two minds upon the matter. She was devoted to her Aunt Emily and found the prospect of a voyage to India both exciting and agreeable; on the other hand, there was Dennis Allington. She was not at all sure that she was not in love with Dennis, and she suspected that the whole idea of a year's stay in India was solely designed to part her from him.
While she wavered, Captain Allington himself decided the matter; and with it her future ...
It had happened at a ball at Ormesley Court where Sabrina, having torn the lace flouncing of her dress during a country dance, had retired to get it repaired. Hurrying back to the ballroom she had taken a short cut through a side corridor and come suddenly upon Captain Dennis Allington kissing Mrs Jack Ormesley.
Excerpted from Shadow of the Moon by M. M. Kaye. Copyright © 1979 M. M. Kaye. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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Table of Contents
BOOK ONE: THE SHADOW BEFORE,
BOOK TWO: KISHAN PRASAD,
BOOK THREE: CONWAY,
BOOK FOUR: MOONRISE,
BOOK FIVE: THE HIRREN MINAR,
BOOK SIX: THE GULAB MAHAL,
Also by M. M. Kaye,
About the Author,