Daughter Of Conwy – Episode 34

“Murder!” Rhodri stared at Sara, horrified. “Why did no-one tell me?”

“Would you have listened? And if Harris got wind of such a rumour, what do you think he would have done to those who might talk? Everyone keeps their own family safe first, Rhodri.”

“Of course.” He rose. “I must make things right.”

He shot off back through the kitchens with a sense of purpose. He paused only by Alice, who was waiting by the door.

“Is everything all right?” she asked anxiously.

She was concerned for him, he realised with a sense of astonishment.

“I hope so,” he said. “It will be.”

* * * *

As the carriage came to a halt in front of Plas Arthur, Sir Edward carefully handed out his sister, Clarice. Then he stepped down on to the gravel and offered his hand to Iona.

“Thank you,” she murmured. “And thank you for such a pleasant afternoon. Perhaps you and Clarice would like to come inside?” She glanced up at the house, which was strangely quiet and empty. “I’m sure Papa would like to see you.”

“Not today,” Sir Edward said. He held her hand a little longer than was necessary. “I have made an appointment to come and see your father tomorrow. On my own. I have a particular question I wish to ask him.” He raised his hands briefly to his lips. “I feel certain of my success.”

“Yes,” Iona whispered. “Yes, of course.”

He kissed her hand once more then released it.

“I’m glad you understand me, dearest Iona. I will do everything in my power to make you happy. Your father will be assured of that.”

“Of course,” she repeated.

She smiled at his daughter, who was watching this exchange with round eyes.

“I’m glad you enjoyed the castle, Clarice. Perhaps we will return there one day.”

“I hope so,” Clarice replied shyly.

“Good.” Iona left them, making her way inside the house.

The silence enfolded her immediately. Iona shivered. Plas Arthur had never been a welcoming house, but today there was no sign of life at all.

A murmur came briefly from the direction of the kitchens, followed by the clatter of pans. Footsteps rang down the spiralling servants’ stairs then were gone.

“Papa?” She made her way into Hugh’s study. Papers lay scattered on the desk as if he had been called away suddenly. Of Hugh there was no sign.

Iona stood for a while, deep in thought, then ran up to her own rooms.

She threw her bonnet impatiently on to the bed and sat down at her writing bureau.

Taking the key from the ribbon around her neck, she opened a small drawer, hidden away in the depths of a cleverly fashioned shelf.

Her secret store of money, her earnings from her paintings and her commission. It had felt such a large sum!

But that was when she had not had to think of her bed and board. Iona was not naïve. Out in the world that sum would not last long.

She swallowed hard. She had managed to escape the threat of Aunt Hannah dogging her every step, but only because she had shown no sign of resisting Sir Edward’s advances. She had hoped . . .

Iona shut her eyes. Hope was an illusion. Taran had made it quite plain she was nothing more to him than a client, one of his mother’s protégés. That he had never seen her in a more personal light at all.

She took a deep breath. Papa would not listen to her. And Sir Edward, though in his own way kind, would find the very thought of his wife earning her own living profoundly shocking. Besides, she had read enough to understand that any money she had would be solely under his control the day she married him.

Even her earnings would be his. He could question every move she made, every purchase she undertook.

At least Papa was, in his own way, indulgent. He had never questioned the appearance of paper and pens.

A husband might be far more eager to direct his wife’s spending to the silks and pearls and finest kid gloves that would signify his own prestige and wealth every time she emerged from his door.

He would rather his wife lived in ornate idleness than bring comment on herself by the slightest sign of an ambition for an occupation.

“I would rather die!” she exclaimed.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.