Romilly

Edwardian high society favourite Lady Cynthia Sheradon receives the shock of her life when she discovers the secret that her late husband has left behind ─ a love-child from a lowly background, Romilly, whose life has also been shattered by the revelation. To her dismay, Romilly has inherited a fortune from her unknown father but is now orphaned and alone in the world. Setting aside any natural hostility and risking her social position, Cynthia seeks to adopt Romilly with unforeseen consequences which threaten to destroy her. The only solution to the resulting turmoil requires her to give up the thing that she holds most precious, but the rewards for her courage are greater than she could ever have imagined. Romilly continues the story of a character from Pommeroy, although it can be read as a stand-alone novel.

A few moments from Romilly:

“Oh Ada, I don’t know how to tell you!” And as she blurted out the words, tears came for the first time.

“My child! What on earth is the matter?” She leant forward across the hearth and grasped Romilly’s hand, her honest face creased with concern. “Come, come, you can tell me,” she added, as Romilly, shaking her head as the tears coursed down, still did not speak. In a moment she had risen and thrown her arms around the girl, soothing her with murmurings like a child.

Romilly too had risen and stood in Ada’s embrace while the paroxysm subsided. “I was called to Mr Carberry the solicitor’s office on Monday, and he gave me this,” she whispered into Ada’s shoulder, taking the letter from her pocket and handing it to her.

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It made no difference to tell herself over and over that the girl must be far more nervous and fearful than she was: all her consummate self-possession was scattered to the four winds in the face of this coming interview. She stood now in her boudoir, fully dressed in her outdoor things, watching the hands of the clock edge round to the half-hour. She had promised herself that she would wait until then for a last-minute message putting her off, and not until the silvery chimes pealed would she descend to the motor. The half-hour struck, and her heart began to beat uncomfortably, though whether from relief or terror she could not tell. She thought of taking a bracing nip of brandy, decided against it, checked her elegant figure in the mirror, adjusted her veil and left the room.

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The coldness of the room awoke her. For a few seconds she could not think where she was for it was completely dark, the fire almost out. She must have fallen asleep ─ something she could never remember doing in her life apart from childhood illnesses. Watery illumination from the street gas-standard allowed her to get up and light the lamp, her stiff limbs sluggishly obeying her. At that moment the clock struck nine, and she stared at it in horror. It couldn’t possibly be right! She must have been asleep for hours, for her last memory had been of putting more coal on the fire in another attempt to get warm, and it was certainly light then. Her body was heavy and aching …

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“Did you ever hear the like! Attempting to lecture me ─ me! ─ on my duty to my brother! As if she hadn’t flouted the far greater duty she owed to him a thousand times without turning a hair. This is just the new role she fancies herself in, now she’s getting too old for lovers: Lady Bountiful. She’ll soon tire of it, you’ll see, and then what? It’s downright irresponsible, selfish, thoughtless. The girl is probably perfectly happy in her own little world. She’ll be utterly out of her depth in Cynthia’s, but quite spoilt for anything else. How can she go back and pick up the pieces when it all goes sour and Cynthia realises what she’s let herself in for?”

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He rose also, looking down at her almost fiercely. “No, Miss Vaughan, I beg you to allow me to finish. Have you seen Lady Sheradon since?”

“No ─ no I haven’t, but ─”

“Exactly! You are a plaything, a mere plaything in her hands. And do you intend to see her?”

She looked at him in astonishment. “Mr Batley, I don’t wish to be rude, but I don’t consider it to be any of your business.”

“But it is my business, Miss Vaughan. If we are to be joined in holy matrimony ─ no, please allow me to speak ─ then I must have a very great interest in the people my wife associates with. The way of life of our upper classes is, I deeply regret to say, tainted by sin and corruption. You surely cannot be entirely ignorant of that. If you are, then I apologise for shocking you, but it’s my duty to tell you that this woman is part of a circle who have the morals of the gutter.”

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