Touch Not the Cat

Touch Not the Cat

by Mary Stewart

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Overview

'A comfortable chair and a Mary Stewart: total heaven. I'd rather read her than most other authors.' Harriet Evans

Ashley Court: the tumbledown ancestral home of the Ashley family, all blessed with 'the gift' of being able to speak to each other without words. When Bryony Ashley's father dies under mysterious circumstances, his final words a cryptic warning to her, Bryony returns from abroad to uncover Ashley Court's secrets. What did her father's message mean? What lies at the centre of the overgrown maze in the gardens? And who is trying to prevent Bryony from discovering the truth?

Tell Bryony. The cat, it's in the cat on the pavement. The map. The letter. In the brook. Tell Bryony. My little Bryony to be careful. Danger.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781444715040
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd.
Publication date: 04/28/2011
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 17,856
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Mary Stewart was one of the 20th century's bestselling and best-loved novelists. She was born in Sunderland, County Durham in 1916, but lived for most of her life in Scotland, a source of much inspiration for her writing. Her first novel, Madam, Will You Talk? was published in 1955 and marked the beginning of a long and acclaimed writing career. In 1971 she was awarded the International PEN Association's Frederick Niven Prize for The Crystal Cave, and in 1974 the Scottish Arts Council Award for one of her children's books, Ludo and the Star Horse. She was married to the Scottish geologist Frederick Stewart, and died in 2014.

Read an Excerpt

Touch Not the Cat


By Mary Stewart

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Mary Stewart
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060823720

Chapter One

It is my soul that calls upon my name.
-- Romeo and Juliet, II, ii

My lover came to me on the last night in April, with a message and a warning that sent me home to him.

Put like that, it sounds strange, though it is exactly what happened. When I try to explain, it will no doubt sound stranger still. Let me put it all down in order.

I was working in Funchal, Madeira. Funchal is the main town of that lovely Atlantic island, and, in spite of its having been a port of call for almost every ship that has crossed the ocean since some time in the fourteenth century, the town is still small and charming, its steep alleys tumbling down the lava slopes of the island's mountain spine, its streets full of flowers and trees, its very pavements made of patterned mosaic which glistens in the sun. I was working as receptionist and tourist guide at one of the new hotels east of the town. This sounds an easy job, but isn't; in tourist time, which in Madeira is almost the whole year, it is hard indeed; but what had led me to apply for the job was that very few qualifications seemed to be needed by a "Young lady of good appearance, willing to work long hours." Both these qualifications were mine; appearance was just about all I'd got, and I would have worked any hours to make some money. Whether I was the best for the job I don't know, but it happened that the people who owned the hotel had known my father, so I was hired. The old-boy network they call it. Well, it works, as often as not. You may not get the brightest and the best, but you do get someone who talks your own language, and who is usually someone you can get back at the way it will hurt, if they let you down.

It's barely a year since the things happened that I am writing about, but I find that I am already thinking of my father as if he were long gone, part of the past. As he is now; but on that warm April night in Madeira when my love told me to go and see him, Daddy was alive, just.

I didn't sleep in the hotel. The friends who owned it had a quinta, a country estate a few kilometers out of Funchal, where the pine woods slope down the mountains toward the sea. You reached the place by a lane which led off the Machico road, a steep gray ribbon of lava setts, bordered in summer with blue and white agapanthus standing cool against the pine woods, their stems vibrating in the draft of the running water in the levada at the road's edge. The house was big and rather ornate in the Portuguese style, standing in wide grounds full of flowers and carefully watered grass and every imaginable exotic shrub and flowering tree, dramatically set against the cool background of mountain pines. The owners lived there all winter, but at the beginning of April, most years, went back to England to their house in Herefordshire which lay just across the Malvern Hills from ours. They were in England now, and the quinta was shuttered, but I lived in what they called the garden house. This was a plain, single-story building at the foot of the garden. Its walls were pink-washed like those of the big house, and inside it was simple and bare-scrubbed floors and big echoing gray-walled rooms slatted all day against the sun, beautifully quiet and airy, and smelling of sunburned pines and lemon blossom. My bedroom window opened on one of the camellia avenues which led downhill toward the lily pools where frogs croaked and splashed all night. By the end of April the camellias are just about over, the browned blossoms swept away, almost as they drop, by the immaculate Portuguese gardeners; but the Judas trees are in flower, and the Angel's Trumpets, and the wisteria, all fighting their way up through a dreamer's mixture of cloudy blossom where every season's flowers flourish (it seems) all year. And the roses are out. Not roses such as we have at home; roses need their cold winter's rest, and here, forced as they are into perpetual flower by the climate, they grow pale and slack-petalled, on thin, oversupple stems. There were roses on the wall of the garden house, moonbursts of some white, looseglobed flower which showered half across my bedroom window. The breeze that blew the rain-clouds from time to time across the moonlight tossed the shadows of the roses over wall and ceiling again and again, each time the same and yet each time different, as the roses moved and the petals loosened to the breeze.

I was still awake when he came. He had not been to me for so long that at first I hardly recognized what was happening. It was just my name, softly, moving and fading through the empty room as the rose shadows moved and faded.

Bryony. Bryony. Bryony Ashley.

"Yes?" I found I had said it aloud, as if words were needed. Then I came fully awake, and knew where I was and who was talking to me. I turned over on my back, staring up at the high ceiling of that empty room where the moonlit shadows, in a still pause, hung motionless and insubstantial. As insubstantial as the lover who filled the night-time room with his presence, and my mind with his voice.

Bryony. At last. Listen . . . Are you listening?

This is not how it came through, of course. That is hard to describe, if not downright impossible. It comes through neither in words nor in pictures, but--I can't put it any better--in sudden blocks of intelligence that are thrust into one's mind and slotted and locked there, the way . . .

Continues...


Excerpted from Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart Copyright © 2005 by Mary Stewart. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Touch Not the Cat 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book! So many twist and turns - not knowing who you could trust. Family secrets, murder, romance, and strong characters. Mary Stewart is such a marvel and truly understands how to plot out a great mystery. So sit back, have a cup of tea, and relax. See if you can figure out the family puzzle.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written.
Figgles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A later (1976) work from Mary Stewart. What could just be a family saga / romance is enlivened by the supernatural connection between the heroine, Bryony, and her mystery lover (reminiscent of that in John Wyndham's "The Chrysalids", 1955). Very enjoyable, especially when you are ill, as I was when I read it!
Kasthu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mary Stewart is one of my favorite authors, and Touch Not the Cat reminds me of why I love her novels so much: she infuses her novels with romance, suspense, and a hint of the supernatural. Her novels usually take place in an exotic location, so I was a bit surprised to learn that Touch Not the Cat is set in England. It¿s a lot more mature than some of her other books.Bryony Ashley grew up at Ashley Court, ancestral home of a family that dates back to Norman times. When her father is killed in a hit-and-run accident, she returns to England from her temporary home in Madeira. She has a ¿relationship¿ with a spirit who speaks to her in a kind of psychic way. I rolled my eyes at the opening line of the novel (¿My lover came to me on the last night of April, with a message and a warning that sent me home to him¿), thinking that the novel was going to go overboard on the psychic thing; but Mary Stewart makes her reader feel as though this psychic element is completely normal. I like how we don¿t know for certain who this ¿friend¿ is, and are left guessing at his identity throughout the book.No Mary Stewart novel would be complete without a mystery; part of the mystery lies in the supernatural aspect of the story, while another mystery lies in the truth behind Bryony¿s father¿s death, and the mysterious warning he left behind him. It¿s very cleverly done and not at all expected. I¿m glad I saved Touch Not the Cat for nearly last among Mary Stewart¿s novels to read; in my opinion it¿s one of her best.
MerryMary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a terrific story. Mary Stewart's typical cool but passionate heroine is in love, in danger, and psychic. How cool is that? She can communicate with her "Love" in her mind, but doesn't know which of her distant cousins he is. And now he may have done something unforgivable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
M
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Though I read this book long ago, the story remains fresh and vital today. Mary Stewart was an incredible craftsman. Thank you for presenting her work for old friends and new readers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
No story is better. No author can match Mary Stewart!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love Mary Stewart's books. I read a lot of them when they were newer, and first published, it is a pleasure to read them again after all this time,