“There’s more,” Piers said. “Miss Vessey, I reckon you’ll find this hard, but it needs to be known.”
From the pocket of his coat he withdrew a trinket, holding it up so that the gold caught the rays from the sun shining in through the diamond panes.
A cry escaped Nan’s throat. It was her papa’s four-leaf clover charm! He’d had the jeweller at Whitchurch attach it to his watch chain.
Her face crumpled and she was overtaken by such a storm of weeping that she felt she would never stop.
But words of comfort murmured in her ears and strong arms enfolded her, drawing her close to the man she had come to love.
It seemed right that he should hold her, and when the weeping subsided he did not take his arms away.
It was Nan who made the first move for release. She took a step back and accepted the kerchief he handed her.
She unclenched the hand that held the charm.
“Poor Papa. It didn’t bring him luck, did it?”
“In a roundabout way, it has proved its worth,” Piers answered. “I saw Seb Wilkes trading this in at the market. It struck a chord; yourself telling me of such a trinket worn by your sire.
“I’d long smelled a rat over the manner of his demise, and this was the evidence I needed. I bought it off the trader then told the police of my suspicions.”
“So you were the one to bring attention to what really happened!”
“Slipped up there, did Wilkes. He had foresight not to take your sire’s other possessions, but couldn’t resist that little geegaw. It seems to me we owe much to your lucky clover.”
We. He had said we, as if they belonged together.
Piers was now gazing at her with an unfathomable expression in his eyes.
“Miss Vessey . . . Nan. Feel at liberty to see me off if you must, and I’ll never bother you again.”
He took a breath.
“I’m not much of a catch for the likes of yourself. But I’ve a sound knowledge of agriculture and a tidy bequest waiting to be invested in a worthy cause.
“I love you, Nan. Will you wed me?”
There was a brief silence during which Nan thought the room had suddenly been covered with shimmering fairy dust.
“I’m a farmer’s daughter, no more, no less. Look at me! Covered with horse hair and smelling of the stable . . .”
“You look grand to me,” Piers said, and she smiled.
“Yes, I’ll wed you. Oh, yes!”
Again his arms came round her, and as she lifted her face for his kiss, there was a hammering on the door that reverberated through the house.
“Miss! You’s wanted. Both of you!” Mercy shouted from the kitchen.
Nan and Piers obliged.
On the threshold stood the Cross Lanes staff: Logan Brassey, Shepherd Skelland, Bob Trimelow and Geoffrey Penk, together with the two dairymaids.
Shepherd Skelland shuffled forwards, a sheepdog on either side.
“Piers, man. Tes glad us all are to have you back. You are biding? Us reckons two gaffers has gotta be better’n one.”
The shepherd offered his hand in welcome, and Piers took it, knowing he truly was accepted at last.