The Ladies Of Eastgarrow – Episode 17

Thomas and Em walked out over the fields that evening for hours. They knew that, some time, they would have to ask Celestine Barnabas a terrible question. Had she murdered her mother’s fianc because she hated the idea of losing her mama’s full attention? Or was it even worse had she wanted to prevent Delaine from inheriting wealth she saw as her own? Celestine knew her mother would most probably predecease Delaine, and that he would become the holder of the purse strings.“What appalling scheming from such a child!” Thomas said.“But what if she is innocent, Thomas?” Em said as the rain began to fall. “We cannot be certain.”“Things fit together,” Thomas said, striding along. “Did she hope that he would seize the chance of a title and take himself to Paris to be captured by these republicans?”“In that case, she misjudged him. Mr Delaine didn’t care for advancement, in the end.”“That is her character. And then, when that scheme failed, she arranged to be on the cliff top yet apparently at the fair.”“How could she kill him? How would he have allowed it to happen a man and a slip of a girl?”“She could have lured him to the edge with her pretty helplesness, perhaps for assistance with reaching a wild flower. Celestine has her wiles. He would have done anything for the daughter of the woman he loved. At the edge there, and with hatred in her heart, her strength might have been impressive.”They walked around the back of the house to a side door that led to Thomas’s rooms. Both of them were silent, thinking, and their tread made no sound in the soft grass. Em stayed back on the path to tie a lace on her shoe as Thomas stepped around the corner with his key in his hand.“Thomas!” It was Celestine’s voice, and its tone was unmistakeable to Em soft, womanly and come-hither. “Thomas, I can come inside, can’t I?”Em rounded the corner and found herself looking on the girl. She was leaning against the cold wall, wearing a revealing gown, her arms and throat bare in the chilly air. For a moment, Celestine did not see Em, who had the dying sun behind her, and she reached out for the man she considered her lover. Her arms were decked with bracelets and Em smelled perfumes.“Thomas, my own,” she breathed. Then she saw Em. “What are you doing here?” she spat. “How dare you interfere with us!”“Us?” Thomas repeated.“Have her go away, Thomas,” Celestine said. “Tell her you love me, and to go away!”“I do not love you, Miss Barnabas,” Thomas said. “You were mistaken, and you are mistaken still.”Celestine stood like a statue, staring at him.Thomas, Em could see, was emboldened by her presumption in visiting him, by his disgust and by suspicion.“We need to know if you had a hand in the death of ”“How dare you?” Celestine’s spoke with a fury that Em had never seen. The light of the sunset shone into her eyes and made them look horribly blank. “A murderer! How dare you? You have plotted between you, all this time. The stupid servant and the . . . ” she fixed her eyes on Thomas. “The jilt!”Celestine pushed past Em and ran away, her skirts floating behind her, into the orange light.“Will she go to her mother?” Thomas asked Em quietly.Em watched the figure vanish round the massive stone of the mansion.“I don’t think so. What could she say? That she tried to make love to her tutor and was rebuffed? She cannot easily paint you as the villain.”“I hope that even such a girl as her would spare her grieving mother that extra pain.”“But, Thomas, did she murder Patrick Delaine? Was her denial too pat?”He shook his head slowly. “I don’t know, Emma. It’s all so confused her misjudged passions, her denial.” He gazed for a long time at the sun until it finally dropped behind the horizon. “Perhaps we should stop asking. My Lady is calmer; her son will return from Portugal soon. Her grief will subside. To accuse her beloved child, at such a time . . .”Emma put her hand in his.“I feel the same, Thomas,” she said. “It is my Lady that we must think of.”


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