From The Manse Window
is Rishton Place!
“The library and Adam’s study are on this floor,” she went on, sweeping through the front door and across the entrance hall. “And that’s my morning-room.”
Amaryllis started into the pretty room, but her sister was already on the stairs.
“I must show you the drawing-room.” She turned along the landing into a room with a pianoforte.
“After dinner, we ladies retire here and leave the gentlemen to their port, cigars and conversation.
“We frequently entertain dinner guests. Simon dines regularly here.” Dorcas paused, considering Amaryllis scathingly. “You were a fool letting Simon go. You’ll never get anybody of his calibre to –”
“Is Adam at home?” Amaryllis asked, keen to change the subject.
“He’s in York on business. This is the dining-room,” Dorcas went on, flinging open the door. “Next month, Adam and I are having our first dinner party. Cook and I are already planning menus.”
Amaryllis’s head was spinning by the time they reached the third floor.
“Adam is such a generous husband. Look what he’s had delivered for me.” Dorcas laughed, catching Amaryllis’s arm and ushering her through to a lady’s sitting-room where several packages lay.
Their contents were spilling out in an abundance of vivid handpainted chintz, pastelstriped ginghams, floral sprigged muslins, fresh white cotton, silk and lace.
Dipping into one of the parcels, Dorcas withdrew lengths of material, allowing the folds to tumble across her arms.
“Look at these glorious silks. Did you ever see such delicate lace?”
Next morning, Noah brought the Bell’s flour from his family’s mill and helped Sandy heft the sacks indoors.
Pausing before clambering on to the mill-cart, he stood gazing along the beach to where Amaryllis was sea-weeding.
“If you’ve time,” Sandy called, “go and try cheering the lass up a bit.”
“Why?” Noah turned sharply. “What’s wrong?” Sandy shook his head. “Yesterday, she visited Dorcas at Rishton Place. We’ve hardly had a word out of her since.”
Noah lost no time joining Amaryllis.
“Is it true that ordinary, honest folk,” she began, repeating the words Simon had once used, “have dealings with smugglers?”
“It’s true many folk buy contraband,” Noah replied, considering his companion. “But most don’t have dealings with the smugglers themselves. Folk buy their goods from a middleman.
“What’s this about?” he queried. “Have you seen something about the smuggling that’s going on up-coast?”
Amaryllis shook her head, explanations coming in a rush.
“Adam’s bought Dorcas material for dresses – chintz, muslins, gingham, all sorts. But there were lengths of silk, too, Noah! And the very finest lace!
“Dorcas told me Adam and Simon are friends and Simon’s frequently at Rishton Place. What if . . .” She broke off.
Noah wasn’t listening. He was staring far away along the low shore.
Someone – for even from this distance, there could be no doubt it was a person – was washing up into the shallows.
Noah raced over the wet sand, lest there be a chance the soul could be saved. Amaryllis ran after him, slowing when she saw Noah drop to his knees at the water’s edge, the lifeless figure sprawled before him.
She rested a hand upon Noah’s shoulder, feeling his body shudder.
Slowly, Noah raised his face.
“This man didn’t drown, Amaryllis. He’s been murdered!”
To be concluded.