Tasked by the Prime Minister himself with bringing to justice the smuggling gangs that are rife around the Kent and Sussex coast, esteemed Napoleonic war hero Lord Cheriton is surprised to find a beautiful young girl called Wivina living in his dead and deeply hated father's supposedly vacant mansion. She has no idea who he is - and when he hears his reputation as a cold-hearted Lord who would turn her out without a qualm, he tells her he is just a passing friend Nevertheless Wivina seems terrified by his presence - but why?
Realising the entire village is at the mercy of a cut-throat gang and Wivina's prey to its murderous leader, Lord Cheriton endeavours to save the young beauty who's stolen his heart while accomplishing his mission to stop the smugglers once and for all. For the first time, he is fighting not for his country but for the love of his life - and the life of his love. As well as romantic novels, she wrote historical biographies, 6 autobiographies, theatrical plays and books of advice on life, love, vitamins and cookery.
She seemed to gravitate physically towards him.
She wanted to stand touching him. She could hardly be sure he was near her, if she did not touch him. Yet she stood subjected through the wedding service. She had suffered so bitterly when he did not come, that still she was dazed. Still she was gnawed as by a neuralgia, tormented by his potential absence from her. She had awaited him in a faint delirium of nervous torture. As she stood bearing herself pensively, the rapt look on her face, that seemed spiritual, like the angels, but which came from torture, gave her a certain poignancy that tore his heart with pity. He saw her bowed head, her rapt face, the face of an almost demoniacal ecstatic.
Feeling him looking, she lifted her face and sought his eyes, her own beautiful grey eyes flaring him a great signal. But he avoided her look, she sank her head in torment and shame, the gnawing at her heart going on.
And he too was tortured with shame, and ultimate dislike, and with acute pity for her, because he did not want to meet her eyes, he did not want to receive her flare of recognition. The bride and bridegroom were married, the party went into the vestry.
Hermione crowded involuntarily up against Birkin, to touch him. And he endured it. He would enjoy playing a wedding march. Now the married pair were coming! The bells were ringing, making the air shake. Ursula wondered if the trees and the flowers could feel the vibration, and what they thought of it, this strange motion in the air. The bride was quite demure on the arm of the bridegroom, who stared up into the sky before him, shutting and opening his eyes unconsciously, as if he were neither here nor there.
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He looked rather comical, blinking and trying to be in the scene, when emotionally he was violated by his exposure to a crowd. He looked a typical naval officer, manly, and up to his duty. Birkin came with Hermione. She had a rapt, triumphant look, like the fallen angels restored, yet still subtly demoniacal, now she held Birkin by the arm. And he was expressionless, neutralised, possessed by her as if it were his fate, without question. Gerald Crich came, fair, good-looking, healthy, with a great reserve of energy.
He was erect and complete, there was a strange stealth glistening through his amiable, almost happy appearance. Gudrun rose sharply and went away.
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She could not bear it. She wanted to be alone, to know this strange, sharp inoculation that had changed the whole temper of her blood. It was a long, low old house, a sort of manor farm, that spread along the top of a slope just beyond the narrow little lake of Willey Water. Shortlands looked across a sloping meadow that might be a park, because of the large, solitary trees that stood here and there, across the water of the narrow lake, at the wooded hill that successfully hid the colliery valley beyond, but did not quite hide the rising smoke.
Nevertheless, the scene was rural and picturesque, very peaceful, and the house had a charm of its own. It was crowded now with the family and the wedding guests.
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The father, who was not well, withdrew to rest. Gerald was host.
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He stood in the homely entrance hall, friendly and easy, attending to the men. He seemed to take pleasure in his social functions, he smiled, and was abundant in hospitality. The women wandered about in a little confusion, chased hither and thither by the three married daughters of the house.
They waited, uneasy, suspended, rather bored. But Gerald remained as if genial and happy, unaware that he was waiting or unoccupied, knowing himself the very pivot of the occasion. Suddenly Mrs Crich came noiselessly into the room, peering about with her strong, clear face. She was still wearing her hat, and her sac coat of blue silk.
And she went straight towards Birkin, who was talking to a Crich brother-in-law.
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She held out her hand to him. Her son-in-law moved uneasily away. What has Mr So-and-so to do with his own name? She looked up at Birkin. She startled him. He was flattered too that she came to talk to him, for she took hardly any notice of anybody. He looked down at her tense clear face, with its heavy features, but he was afraid to look into her heavy-seeing blue eyes. He noticed instead how her hair looped in slack, slovenly strands over her rather beautiful ears, which were not quite clean. Neither was her neck perfectly clean. Even in that he seemed to belong to her, rather than to the rest of the company; though, he thought to himself, he was always well washed, at any rate at the neck and ears.
He smiled faintly, thinking these things. Yet he was tense, feeling that he and the elderly, estranged woman were conferring together like traitors, like enemies within the camp of the other people. He resembled a deer, that throws one ear back upon the trail behind, and one ear forward, to know what is ahead. It would be much better if they were just wiped out. There they are, whether they exist or no. As far as I go they might as well not be there. They come up to me and call me mother. There they are. I have had children of my own.
She looked at him, somewhat surprised, forgetting perhaps that she was talking to him. And she lost her thread. She looked round the room, vaguely. Birkin could not guess what she was looking for, nor what she was thinking. Evidently she noticed her sons. Birkin felt afraid, as if he dared not realise. And Mrs Crich moved away, forgetting him. But she returned on her traces. Birkin looked down into her eyes, which were blue, and watching heavily. He could not understand them.
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And Gerald was Cain, if anybody. Not that he was Cain, either, although he had slain his brother.
Gerald as a boy had accidentally killed his brother. What then? Why seek to draw a brand and a curse across the life that had caused the accident? A man can live by accident, and die by accident. Or can he not? Or is this not true, is there no such thing as pure accident?