Violetta Denver and her twin sister Dorabella are inseparable—until Dorabella falls in love with Dermot Tregarland. The newlyweds settle in Dermot’s isolated ancestral home along the Cornish coast, and Dorabella soon has a little boy. But Violetta can’t shake the terrible foreboding she’s felt since her sister’s marriage. When she hears that Dorabella went swimming one morning and was swept out to sea, she refuses to believe that her beloved twin is really gone, so a grief-stricken Violetta travels to the Tregarland estate. There, against the terrible grandeur of sea-swept cliffs, Violetta learns that Dermot’s first wife also drowned under suspicious circumstances. When death claims another victim, Violetta knows the answer lies in the history of the Tregarlands—and a haunting legacy of madness and bad blood. With the help of Jowan Jermyn, Dermot’s neighbor, Violetta moves closer to the truth . . . and closer to a murderer whose long-awaited revenge is about to come full circle.
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The Gossamer Cord
The Daughters of England
By Philippa Carr
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1992 Philippa Carr
All rights reserved.
Incident in the Forest
When I look back I can see that it all began one morning at breakfast in our home at Caddington Hall when my mother said casually, looking up from the letter which she was reading: "Edward has asked that German boy to stay with them for a holiday in England."
"I expect he will bring him over to see us," replied my father.
I was always interested in what Edward was doing. I thought he was such a romantic person because of his origins. My mother had been at school in Belgium when the war broke out, and she had had to leave that country in a hurry because of the advancing German armies. Edward's parents had been killed by a bomb when it fell on their house which was close by the school, and the dying mother had extracted a promise from my mother that she would take the child with her to England; and this had been done.
Edward was always full of gratitude to my mother—understandably so, for what could he have hoped for from an invading army or fleeing refugees with themselves to care for and who might not have had much time to spare for a helpless baby.
He lived usually with my maternal grandparents at Marchlands, their estate in Essex, or in the London family home in Westminster. My grandfather had been a Member of Parliament—a tradition in the Greenham family—and now my uncle Charles had taken over the seat.
Edward was about twenty-two years of age at this time; he was going to be a lawyer, and he was, of course, just like any other member of the family.
My young brother, Robert, was saying that he expected Edward would pay a return visit to his friend in Germany.
"I wish I could go," he said. "It must be wonderful. They have Beer Gardens and they are always fighting duels. They don't think much of men until they have a scar received in a duel, and it has to be on the face so that everyone can see it."
My mother smiled at him indulgently. "I can't believe that is so, darling," she said.
"I know it is because I heard it somewhere."
"You shouldn't believe all you hear," said my sister Dorabella.
Robert grimaced and retorted: "And you ... you're such a know-all."
"Now," put in my mother, "don't let's quarrel about it. I hope we shall see Edward and this ... er ..." She looked at the letter. "... Kurt," she went on. "Kurt Brandt."
"It sounds rather German," commented Robert.
"What a surprise!" mocked Dorabella.
It was the summer holidays and a typical morning and the family was all together for breakfast.
I can picture that morning clearly now that I know how important it was.
My father, Sir Robert Denver, sat at the head of the table. He was a wonderful man and I loved him dearly. He was different from any man I had ever known. There was not a trace of arrogance about him. On the other hand, he was rather self-effacing. My mother used to chide him about it; but she loved him for it all the same. He was gentle, kind, and I think, best of all, utterly to be relied on.
He had inherited the title on the death of his father not long before. My grandfather and he had been very much alike—entirely lovable—and it had been a great blow to us all when my grandfather died.
My grandmother Belinda lived with us. We always called her Grandmother Belinda to distinguish her from Grandmother Lucie. She did not come to breakfast but took hers in her room. She was quite different from my grandfather and father. Autocratic in the extreme, she demanded attention and took a mild yet cynical interest in family affairs, while being completely absorbed in herself; but at the same time she managed to be very fascinating. She was beautiful, still with magnificent black hair which had miraculously—or perhaps cleverly—not lost its color, and deep blue eyes which invariably seemed amused and a trifle mischievous. Dorabella and my brother were a little in awe of her; and I know I was.
So on this occasion there were only Dorabella, my brother, myself, and our parents.
Dorabella and I were twins and between us there was that special bond which is often there with such people. We were not identical, although there was a close physical resemblance. The differences had been brought about by our characters, because my mother said that when we were babies, it was difficult to tell us apart. But now that we were sixteen—or should be in October—the resemblance had faded.
Dorabella was more frivolous than I; she was impulsive, whereas I was inclined to pause for thought before I took action. She had an air of fragility, whereas I was sturdy; there was a certain helplessness about her which seemed to be attractive to the opposite sex. Men were always at her side, wanting to carry something for her or look after her in some way, whereas I was left to care for myself.
Dorabella relied on me. When we were very young and first went to school, she would be disturbed if we did not sit together. She liked to sidle up to me lovingly while she copied my sums. And later, when we went away to school, we were closer than ever. There was no doubt that there was a deep affinity between us.
Immediately after the war had ended, my father had come back from France; that was in 1918. He and my mother were married and in the October of the following year Dorabella and I were born.
At the time my mother had been fascinated by the opera. It must have been exciting when they came to London after four years of restrictions and privations and constant fear for their loved ones, and used my grandparents' house in Westminster as their home. During that time they wanted to relish all that they had missed. My mother had always loved the opera; it became a passion of hers during this time, and she had the romantic notion of naming us after characters in two of their favorites. So I became Violetta from La Traviata and my sister, Dorabella from Così fan tutte.
My grandmother had once laughingly said that she would have protested at Turandot.
Our brother, who was born about three years after us, had to be Robert, because there was always a Robert in the family, which did make it a little difficult at times to know which one was being referred to. But tradition had to be obeyed.
True to our expectations, Edward came to visit us, bringing Kurt Brandt with him.
It was a lovely summer's day in mid-August when they arrived. We were all waiting for him and when we heard the car come into the courtyard my mother, with Dorabella, Robert, and myself, ran down to greet him.
Edward leaped out of the car and I saw his eyes go to my mother. They embraced. I guessed that when he met her after an absence he thought of how she had brought him out of danger when he was a helpless baby. It had made a special bond between them, and I believe my mother thought of him as one of her children.
A young man of about Edward's age got out of the car and came toward us.
"This is Kurt ... Kurt Brandt," said Edward. "I have told him about you all."
He looked slight beside Edward and very dark because Edward was so tall and fair. He stood very straight before my mother, clicked his heels, took her hand, and kissed it. Then he turned to Dorabella and me and did the same. He shook Robert's hand, which rather disappointed my brother who would have liked the clicking of heels, if not the hand kissing.
My mother said how delighted she was to see Edward and his friend and she led them into the house, for which Kurt Brandt expressed his admiration in good but accented English. The house was very ancient and dated back to the fifteenth century, and people were often impressed by it when they first saw it—so there was nothing unusual about that.
My father joined us for luncheon. Usually he was busy on the estate, but this was a special occasion and my mother had asked him to make an effort to be there.
Kurt Brandt told us that his home was in Bavaria. There was an old schloss which had been in the family for years.
"Not so big ... not so grand as this house," he said modestly. "Schloss sounds grand, but there are many such in Germany. Castles ... but very small. Ours is an inn now—and has been for some years. Then there were bad times ... the war ... and after ... it was not easy ..."
I thought of my father, who had been decorated for bravery during that war, and remembered that he would have been fighting against Kurt's father. But it was all over now.
"Tell us about the forest," said my mother.
How glowingly he spoke of his homeland! I could see how much he loved it. We listened entranced and, seen through his eyes, the forest seemed an enchanted place. He told us how, during the autumn, the mists arose suddenly—bluish mists which shrouded the pine trees suddenly without warning so that even those who were familiar with the place could lose their way. About the necks of the cows which belonged to the few farms scattered on the wooded slopes were bells which tinkled as the cows moved, and so the sound gave their owners an idea of where they were.
He was a fascinating talker, and Edward sat back smiling because his guest was a success. It was an excellent beginning, not that the rest was disappointing.
Edward was eager to show him something of our country and, as one of his passions at the moment was his new motorcar, he insisted on driving us somewhere each day.
We went to Portsmouth so that Kurt might see Admiral Nelson's battleship; we explored far beyond our neighborhood; then Kurt must see the New Forest, where William the Conqueror had hunted; and after that to Stonehenge, which was of an even earlier period.
We would return each day and chatter over dinner of what we had seen.
During that time we had come to know Kurt very well. We used to sit for a long time over dinner because the talk was too interesting to be cut short. If the weather was hot, we ate out of doors. We had a courtyard shut in by red brick walls with creeper climbing over them and a pear tree in one corner. It was an ideal place for an alfresco meal.
I think Kurt enjoyed that visit as much as we did. He told us a great deal about the difficulties of life in his country after the war. There had been great struggles. The inn had had to be closed for a time and it was not very long since it had been reopened.
"Visitors come now," he said. "They did not come during the bad years immediately after the war."
"It is the people who have no say in making wars who suffer most from the consequences of them," commented my father.
We were solemn for a while and then were laughing again.
We made Kurt tell us more about the forest, his home, and his family.
He had a brother Helmut and a sister Gretchen. They helped his parents manage the inn.
"Helmut will have the inn in due course," he added. "For he is my elder brother."
"And you will be with him?" asked my mother.
"I think perhaps it may be necessary."
No more was said on the subject. My mother probably thought it would be prying to ask too many questions.
It was the last night. Dorabella, Robert, and I would be going back to school in two days' time. Dorabella and I were in our last year.
We were in the garden and there was that air of sadness among us as there can be when something which has been enjoyable is coming to an end.
"Alas," Kurt said at length. "Tomorrow I must say goodbye. It has been delightful. Sir Robert and Lady Denver, how can I thank you?"
"Please don't," said my mother. "It has been an enormous pleasure for us to have you here. I should thank Edward for bringing you."
"And you will come to the Böhmerwald one day?"
"Oh, yes please," cried Dorabella.
"I'll come," said Robert. "The trouble is there is this beastly school."
"There will be holidays," Edward reminded him.
"I wish you could come back with me," said Kurt. "This is the best time of the year."
"I'd like to see that blue mist," said Dorabella.
"And the cows with bells," added Robert.
"It would be wonderful," I added.
"Next year ... you must come ... all of you."
"We shall look forward to it all through the year, shan't we, Violetta?" said Dorabella.
Kurt looked at me and said: "She speaks for you both?"
"She usually does," I said. "And on this occasion ... certainly."
"Then it shall be," said Kurt. He lifted his glass. "To next year in the Böhmerwald."
It was an exciting year for Dorabella and me because it was our last at boarding school. We should be seventeen in the coming October and that was certainly something to set us thinking, so that we forgot about our proposed visit to Germany until at mid-term. Edward was at Caddington and one of the first things he said was that Kurt hadn't forgotten that we had promised to visit him in the summer. Then, of course, we remembered and it seemed an excellent idea.
We said goodbye to our friends at school, and looked round the tennis courts and the assembly hall for the last time without too many regrets; after all, we had become adults and ahead of us was the prospect of going to Germany.
Robert had been invited to spend the holidays with a friend in Devon, so that disposed of him. This was a relief to my mother who had felt that it would be quite enough for Edward to look after us without having to watch over a high-spirited boy.
My parents drove us down to the coast, and in due course we embarked on the Channel steamer and arrived at the port of Ostend. Dorabella and I were in a state of excitement during the long train journey through Belgium and Germany. Edward, who had done it before, pointed out places of interest as we passed along. We wanted to miss nothing. It grew dark and we slept then, but fitfully, waking now and then to be aware of the movement of the train.
When we finally reached Munich, we were to stay a night, as the train to the small town of Regenshaven would not leave until the next day.
"Then," the knowledgeable Edward informed us, "we have another long journey, but not, of course, like the one we have just experienced. We should get to Regenshaven before dark and there Kurt will be waiting to take us to the schloss."
"I can't wait to get there," said Dorabella.
"That is something you will have to do," Edward retorted. "So don't say you can't."
"I mean, I'm just longing to be there."
"I know," he replied soothingly. "So are we all."
It was exciting arriving in the great City. We were taken to the hotel where two rooms had been reserved for us—Dorabella and I sharing.
"Perhaps you would like a rest first," suggested Edward.
We looked at him in amazement. Rest! When we had come to Munich—a town which had been but printed letters on a map until now!
"All right," he said. "We'll have a look round. Just a quick one ... because I shall be hungry and looking for sustenance."
The middle-aged woman at the desk was very affable. She smiled benignly on us and said in deeply accented English that she hoped we should enjoy our stay in Munich.
Edward, who spoke some German and liked to make use of it, told her that we were leaving the next day for Regenshaven.
"Ah," she cried. "In the forest. That is good ..." She pronounced it "goot." "Wunderbar ... wunderbar. You have friends there?"
"Yes, someone I knew at college."
"That is goot ... goot ... this friendship. But you must see something of München ... only a little, alas ... but the goot things. First it is the Cathedral ... the Frauenkirche ... then the Peterskirche ..."
We asked directions, which she gave, smiling benevolently while we thanked her.
It was certainly a fine city and very busy. There were several museums, I noticed, but there was no time to explore them. Edward said we had the afternoon and referred once more to that necessary sustenance.
Everywhere we were met with friendliness. It was fun to ask the way and receive instructions, and in high spirits we returned to the hotel for lunch.
The dining room was full and there was only one table available; this was for six and we were given that.
Hot soup was put before us and, while we were consuming it, the waiter appeared with two young men. He asked our pardon. Edward was concentrating hard to understand him and, with the help of a little miming, we discovered that the young men wanted a meal; there was no place for them, so should we mind if they shared our table? So it was amicably arranged that they should sit with us.
They were tall and blond and we prepared ourselves to enjoy their company and they ours, it seemed. They were interested when they heard we came from England.
They lived on the outskirts of Munich, which was a very big city—they added proudly, in Germany second only to Berlin.
We looked suitably impressed.
They were in the town on business. Things were different now. They had changed since the Führer came to power.
We listened attentively. There were questions I wanted to ask, but it was a little difficult because of the language problem, though they spoke some English and, with Edward's German, we could reach some understanding.
"We like the English," they told us.
"We have found the people here very helpful to us," Edward said.
"But of course."
I put in: "And we like all we have seen."
Dorabella was a little silent. She was hurt, I thought, because they did not pay her the attention she was accustomed to receiving from young men. These two seemed to me too earnest for frivolity.
"It is good that you come here," said one of the young men whose name we discovered was Franz. The other was Ludwig.
"It is good that you see we are now a prosperous people."
We waited for him to go on.
Excerpted from The Gossamer Cord by Philippa Carr. Copyright © 1992 Philippa Carr. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsIncident in the Forest,
The Cornish Adventure,
The First Wife,
The Cottage on the Cliffs,
Rescue on the Rocks,
Tragedy on the Beach,
The Open Window,
Death in the House,
The Ghost on the Cliff,
The Watchers in the Night,
Preview: We'll Meet Again,