The Heiresses by Allison Rushby – Extract

The Heiresses

Mayfair, London, 1908

The doorbell at the Craven-Towneley home emitted a sharp buzz under Hestia Craven’s finger. Despite her red cheeks, hot from the exertion of running to her sister’s town house, she shivered slightly under her coat in the damp air, anticipating what she would find inside. When no one came di­rectly to answer the door, she stepped forward and pressed the buzzer impatiently once more. Still nothing.

Just as she was about to turn and make for the servant’s en­trance, the door opened. “Miss Craven.” Hobbs, the butler, did not look at all surprised to see her. Then again, if Hobbs had opened the door on the king himself, Hestia doubted he would have looked surprised.

She stepped forward to gain admittance and Hobbs moved almost imperceptibly to one side, blocking her entrance. Beyond him, she could see the vast expanse of marble floor that led to the wide staircase, which, she knew, led upstairs to Demeter, her beloved sister.

Welcome or not, she wasn’t about to let the elderly Hobbs keep her from her sister’s bedside. Nor from ejecting the odious Dr. Hollingsworth, who D’s lady’s maid, Agnes, had informed her was in attendance. Both sisters despised him and he was widely regarded by many as the most useless physician in Lon­don. That is, of course, unless you were searching for a drinking partner, in which case you would find exactly what D’s husband had found—a lifelong friend. Most likely the pair was upstairs now, enjoying an early-morning celebratory cognac or two (or five, or ten), while her sister suffered in childbirth.

Hestia pulled herself up to her full height. “I am coming in, Hobbs, whether your master likes it or not. You can either let me pass, or have me push my way inside. Whichever you would prefer.”

Hobbs paused upon hearing this and then, after a moment or two, shifted once more so that there was just enough room for Hestia to squeeze past him, but not enough to seem as if he had granted her ready admittance.

She lost no time in flying across the floor, the heels of her boots making sharp little clicks as she ran. She did not stop to take off her coat or her hat, but threw the items on a decorative marble table and then over the balustrade as she went, pulling off her gloves in readiness to help out in any way D needed her to. It was only as she put her first foot on the stairs that she felt the second set of eyes on her and looked up. It was Mrs. Blount, the house keeper.

Hobbs was one thing, Mrs. Blount, quite another.

Hestia paused for only a second before continuing to stride up the stairs, her left hand now gripping the balustrade tightly. It would be far more difficult to deal with Mrs. Blount than Hobbs. Hobbs was interested only in his duty. Mrs. Blount, however, had shown herself in the past to be both devious and sly, disobeying requests—orders even—from D, her mistress, meddling in D’s private affairs, sneaking behind her mistress’s back, questioning expenses, and whispering all manner of suggestions in the ear of D’s husband, William, about the way a house hold should be run, as compared to how D wanted to run hers. Hestia had always had her suspicions about Mrs. Blount. There was something in the way she behaved around William—something overly famil­iar, almost intimate. And, for a house keeper, she was a remark­ably fine woman. Tall, with rather striking looks and, Hestia had to admit to herself, the most exquisite cheekbones she had ever seen. Mrs. Blount had married the year before and Hestia had assumed she would leave service upon her marriage. Unbeliev­ably, she had not. Both Hestia and Demeter had hoped since that day that she would soon have a child, which would mean she would most definitely have to leave William’s employ. So far, this had not eventuated, though just last week the sisters had been avidly discussing the fact that Mrs. Blount did seem slightly more rotund of late and that their luck might be turning.

Hestia avoided Mrs. Blount’s gaze until her foot alighted on the very last stair, when a low moan floated down the corridor.

D.

She froze until the noise subsided, the light hairs on her arms standing at attention. Hestia knew her sister—she was not one to fuss. And she now knew all was far from well. “How long has this been going on?” Her blue eyes flew to Mrs. Blount’s formidable dark brown ones as she took the last stair to the landing. Dependable Agnes had come for her as soon as she was able to slip away, but Hestia feared she may have come too late.

“Since the early hours.” Mrs. Blount looked quite pleased with how long the deception had been kept up.

Staring at the woman, Hestia had the sickening feeling—not for the first time—there was something more between her and William than there should be. But the early hours! It was now past ten in the morning. “And Demeter’s own doctor?” Agnes had told her that Demeter’s doctor, chosen by the sisters after much research and known to be both progressive and respected, had been sent away, but it was difficult to believe even William could be so foolish in the face of his wife’s precarious situation.

Mrs. Blount’s expression, however, remained nonplussed. “His Lordship informed the other doctor that his services were not required and that he should not return.”

“You fool.” Hestia took a step forward now, hissing back at her. “Dr. Hollingsworth could not even fathom how to deal with a situation such as this. He was too stupid even to realize Deme­ter is carrying triplets, not twins! You’ve as good as signed her death papers, leaving her this long without decent medical atten­tion.” She had sent Agnes off to locate Dr. Russell and persuade him to return, and hoped she was able to.

Mrs. Blount made no reply.

Another moan made its way down the long corridor. “Get out of my way, you odious woman,” Hestia said as she started toward the noise, pushing the house keeper aside with her shoul­der. “And when Dr. Russell arrives once more, you see that you send him straight up to me or I will make quite sure that you are never employed in this country again.”

Leaving Mrs. Blount on the landing, Hestia flew down the cor­ridor and paused outside Demeter’s door. She raised her hand as if to knock and then decided against it. It was D’s bedroom and she knew that her sister would have wanted her—been pleading for her—for hours now. Knocking would only mean either Wil­liam or Dr. Hollingsworth would be alerted to her presence and somehow send her on her way before she could get in the room.

Holding her breath, she reached for the cold brass of the doorknob and turned it quickly, opening and shutting the door behind her as fast as she could manage while dealing with the folds of her skirt. It was only after the door was closed that she was able to take in the scene, which she attempted to absorb all at once.

Demeter lay in the middle of her elaborate gilt, four-poster bed, which resided in the middle of the large room. There was Dr. Hollingsworth, half reclined on a chaise longue, uninter­ested in his patient’s presence entirely, almost half asleep. And there, in the corner, in D’s reading chair, was William. He glared at her on entering, but Hestia knew instantly he was no threat to her. He appeared tired and rather pale and not at all up to start­ing in on one of his rages. For a moment, she wondered why he was even present, considering his squeamishness. William had never been one for the sick room. Her thoughts turned to the time he had broken his wrist while riding. What a scene that had been. He had cried out in pain like a small child wailing for his mother. Then she remembered how he had sent Dr. Russell on his way, and realized he was asserting his authority over the house hold.

“So, you have come after all,” William bothered to say, with a sigh. Hestia looked at him scornfully. Not for the first time, she wondered how her sister could have married such a man. But she already knew. Demeter’s true love match had been thwarted. Her secret engagement was broken and the man involved paid off and sent abroad. Not caring what happened to her, Demeter had simply agreed to marry the next man who asked for her hand. Her parents had not been happy about this choice, either, because William was already known to be a scoundrel, but with his title, his well-known family, and Demeter’s ready acceptance, there was little they could do without causing further embar­rassment to their good family name.

Hestia chose not to look at him, instead taking the few steps over to her sister’s bedside and kneeling beside her. “D?” She reached out to grasp one of her sister’s hands, which felt weak and clammy to her touch. Something was wrong. There was no response to her words. “Demeter?” She quickly ran her other hand over her sister’s forehead. Finally, Demeter turned her pale face toward her, opening her eyes.

“Oh, Hestia. I thought you would never come.” There was a weak squeeze from D’s hand.

“I came as soon as I had word, I promise you. The very sec­ond.” Hestia looked over at Dr. Hollingsworth, now with his eyes fully closed, then at William. “What have you given her? We had decided—no chloroform.”

“And who are you to decide what a woman requires in child­birth?” William guffawed, sitting up slightly in his chair.

Hestia’s eyes moved to the small table beside him, where several dirtied glasses had taken up residence. The room stank of cognac. “I know enough not to be attending to my patients at ten in the morning already drunk.” She noted the minuscule amount of amber liquid left in the decanter.

“Oh, now, that is unfair,” William said with a smirk, turning toward his friend. “I say, Hollingsworth. Hollingsworth!”

Dr. Hollingsworth grunted and started, opening his eyes again.

“Hestia here has the notion that you are attending to your patients drunk, at ten in the morning!” He turned back to Hestia now. “The truth of it is, he was drunk hours before that. By mid­night, I’d bear witness. Perfectly respectable time to be drunk, midnight.”

Hestia sucked in her breath in disbelief. She began to arise from her position beside the bed, but D’s grip, tightening on her hand, pulled her back. She returned her attention to her sister. There would be more than enough time to bicker with William later.

“Have you seen them?” Demeter asked her, her eyes resting on Hestia’s in a glazed and unfocused fashion. “They’re lovely. So lovely. I wish they would bring them back to me.”

At first, Hestia believed her sister to be delirious. But just then, she heard the first soft noise emanate from the next room. Like the soft mew of a newborn kitten, it was an unmistakable sound that, for a moment, made the clock in the room cease its overbearing ticking. “The babies are here? They are well?” she asked, gripping her sister’s hand tightly.

Demeter smiled a weary smile. “Two girls. Two beautiful, beautiful girls. Fair and blue-eyed and altogether the likeness of us and Mama. But the third is proving rather unwilling . . .” She stopped as her face contracted with pain, almost beyond recog­nition. D’s sudden, vicious sinking of her nails into her sister’s palm took Hestia’s breath away. “I know this one is a girl as well,” D continued. “I can feel it. And she’s as strong as the oth­ers. Stronger, even, because she’s had to wait the longest.” De­spite her slightly shaking body, D’s grip strengthened still. “I’m going to name them as Papa named us, from his love of Greek mythology. Thalia, Erato, and Clio. Three of the Muses. You will make sure of it, Hestia? You will watch over them for me? My three girls?”

Hestia smoothed her sister’s brow with her free hand. “Of course I will. As if they were my own. But you shall look after them yourself. You must believe it to be so for their sakes.”

Demeter smiled slightly and rested her head back further on her pillow. “I—” she started, before being racked with pain once more, so much so that she pushed back against the bed and cried out.

Hestia stood up, shocked, her breath quickening to match D’s, as she realized that even if Dr. Russell walked through the door at this very moment it would be too late.

“Are you leaving, Hestia?” William watched her movements carefully. “Do you have another of your amusing little rallies to attend with your good friend, Mrs. Pankhurst? Oh, dear. I’d for­gotten that was quite a secret. I’ll make sure not to mention it in front of dear Mama and Papa.”

Hestia closed her eyes for a moment, trying her very best to ignore the insufferable William. One of his foul friends had spotted her at a protest outside Parliament and had informed him. William had been threatening to tell her parents about her attendance ever since. In this moment, however, she did not care what he did. All that mattered right now was D.

Opening her eyes once more, Hestia glanced over at her sis­ter. There were obviously very serious problems with the third child. She realized D had become even more pale than she seemed minutes before. Her usually lovely, radiant face was pinched and drawn. Hestia decided then and there that she must forget everyone else in the room and concentrate only on her. Once more, she dropped to the side of the bed. “D? Deme­ter?” She brushed some wet strands of hair from her sister’s temples.

It took a few moments for Demeter to respond. “Have you still not seen them?” She smiled slightly again. “You must see them.

Go, now. Go and see. I must hear your thoughts on your beauti­ful nieces.”

Hestia paused, reluctant to leave, then decided it was best she do as she was bidden by her sister. She rose and crossed the room in the direction of the sound she had heard before. Dr. Hollingsworth’s and William’s eyes followed her, but neither came after her. However, when she opened the door to what was Hestia’s dressing room, she made sure to leave it ajar. She needed to make sure she would be free to reenter the room at will.

A woman she had never seen before was attending to two tightly wrapped, sleeping bundles in small, wooden cradles. The woman started when Hestia entered and looked confused as she took in her features. “I am her Ladyship’s sister,” Hestia ex­plained. They were often mistaken for twins themselves.

“Oh,” was all the woman said, her hand patting her chest. “You gave me quite the shock. Now, Miss, no picking them up, mind. They’ve both just gone back to sleep, you know.”

Hestia had been bracing herself to fight to see her nieces, but it seemed no force was required. “Have you come with Dr. Hol­lingsworth?” she inquired, not quite understanding the situation.

“No, Miss. I’m Agnes’s aunt. When Dr. Hollingsworth could find no other help, Agnes sent for me. I’m very experienced, Miss. I’ve delivered hundreds of babies. And none more healthy than these two. Lovely specimens, they are. Pretty, too.”

“I see.” Hestia smiled, and turned her attention to her nieces, whose small faces twitched with their dreams. “Thalia and Erato. My sister claims the third will be a girl also. Clio. They are lovely, just as Demeter said. . . .”

“Thalia, Erato, and Clio,” the woman repeated. “Beautiful names. And very like you and her Ladyship, if I may say so, Miss.”

“That you most certainly may, for I am most proud to be an aunt.” Hestia smiled again, broadly this time, barely able to re­lease her eyes from the two babes. But she was needed most by Demeter’s bedside. Just one last look and . . .

The scream ripped through the walls of the house—it was like nothing Hestia had ever heard before, or hoped to hear again—and startled both the babies, whose eyes flicked open simultaneously, revealing their deep blue color. They both im­mediately began to cry.

“Oh, dear.” The woman began to bustle about after the girls, but Hestia was already halfway to Demeter’s bedside.

In the time she had been out of the room, both Dr. Holling­sworth and William had bothered to stir from their seats. And, as she approached the bed, she saw why. Demeter’s bedclothes had been wrenched aside and she was now swathed in only a thin sheet.

A thin sheet covered in blood.

So much blood.

Despite her voracious reading over the past months since hearing of her sister’s precarious situation, Hestia felt everything she had learned suddenly flee from her mind. It was no Demeter she knew in that bed. There was nothing she recognized in the person who writhed before her, possessed. She looked on in hor­ror as her sister’s body was racked with pain once more and yet another scream seemingly shook the windows in the room.

There was another scream. And another.

Then voices. Dr. Hollingsworth’s. William’s.

Hestia took all of this in as if it were a dream playing out around her. Perhaps minutes passed, perhaps hours. And the whole time, she longed to be by her sister’s side, but found her­self frozen.

It was not until William passed by, knocking into her and forcing her to take a step sideways, that her situation changed.

This one step was all it took for her to be able to see beyond the girth of Dr. Hollingsworth.

Her sister lay, supine, staring upward, unseeing.

The blood now seeped through the sheet, flowed down the side of the bed, and dripped onto the thick, woven rug covering the floor below. The smell was overwhelming. Rich and metallic, it permeated the room.

And Demeter was slowly drowning in it. Sinking beyond reach.

Hestia began to scream then. Louder than the babies. Louder than Dr. Hollingsworth. Louder, even, than William.

Once she had begun, she could not cease. The scream con­tinued. On and on and on, without pause.

She wondered, vaguely, if it would ever end. If she would ever be able to stop.

Hestia screamed until she hit the floor and everything went suddenly black.

Buckinghamshire, 1925

There was something in the way Mrs. Turner’s eyes flick­ered over the girls in the classroom, studiously resting on no student in particular, that made Ro forget her ge­ography lesson entirely. She had seen that flickering before. It meant there had been a telegram. Telegrams for the girls of Hay-field Abbey rarely contained good news—there had been a horse-riding accident, a motorcar accident, an elderly relative had choked to death on a buttered crumpet. (Sometimes this was not such terrible news after all and the recipient would re­turn to the classroom with a down-turned expression, but a suspicious lightness in her step.)

Ro watched Mrs. Turner, fascinated. But it was not until she realized those eyes had not once come to rest upon herself, that her finger slipped off the page it was holding. The book snapped smartly shut on her desk, making her jump in her seat and at­tracting the attention of several of the girls around her. As Mrs. Turner whispered into the ear of Miss Halliday, the geography mistress, many of the other girls returned to their reading. But not Ro.

It’s something to do with me, Ro thought to herself.

Immediately, her thoughts turned to Halesworth Hall, her other “home,” and Uncle Henry. He had been in perfect health the last time she had seen him, which had been at the beginning of Michaelmas term. He had been on his way to London on business and they had spent a short teatime hour together in the local village. Granted, that was some time ago now. She had spent Michaelmas half with her friend Harriet’s family in Cam­bridgeshire, where they’d had a glorious time roaming the estate and teasing her brothers into dancing with them. Ro loved visit­ing with Harriet’s family. With six siblings, there was always something exciting going on and someone coming or going, or new people to meet. There were so many of them that Harriet’s mother found it difficult to keep track of them all and, during the holidays, when the children descended from their various boarding schools, they tended to run wild, rather like a pack of wolves.

It was brilliant.

However, there were always a few moments during visits with Harriet’s family when Ro found she would retreat within herself. She would be reminded that what Harriet had, she could not have and would never have: a big family, a large, ramshackle estate that was always there and would be there forevermore, and at least several family members ensconced within its walls whenever one felt the need to return home. A feeling of belong­ing. Then, of course, she would feel terrible for having these thoughts, because she was well provided for, not to mention well loved, by Uncle Henry.

Ro frowned slightly now, reminding herself she was sup­posed to be thinking of Uncle Henry. Poor Uncle Henry was a dull old thing, only interested in his botany, but he had always, without fail, done the right thing by her. She was fond of him in the way that she could tell him he was a dull old thing and he could tell her she was a silly young flibbertigibbet. Which was the way things should be, surely, between two people of forty years’ difference. She worried about him immensely since Aunt Charlotte’s death four years ago. Ro sincerely hoped he hadn’t choked to death on one of those buttered crumpets she had been thinking about moments before. It would be just like him if he had—reading some great tome on botany and forgetting to chew his food properly now that there was no one else at home to remind him of the benefits of proper mastication.

Miss Halliday also glanced around the classroom when Mrs. Turner completed her whispering and overt hand gesturing. She looked uncertain as her eyes fell upon Ro. “Erato Halesworth,” she said, frowning slightly. “Mrs. Turner will escort you to Mrs. Burley’s office immediately.”

Ro stood up slowly in her seat. Beside her, Harriet looked up, giving her a “what is this?” glance. Ro shrugged slightly in response. She had no idea, but she was really starting to worry about Uncle Henry now. She had no other family to worry about, after all. Ro passed the rows of girls, avoiding their stares, and made her way into the hall, where Mrs. Turner was now waiting.

As soon as the door was closed behind her, Ro could wait no longer. “Is it my uncle?” The words were blurted out, a little too loudly.

“There is no need to worry. Your uncle is in perfect health, as you shall see yourself in a moment, in Mrs. Burley’s office.”

Ro was so shocked by this statement that for several seconds she was unable to move. Uncle Henry had never called upon Mrs. Burley before. In fact, he actively disliked visiting Hayfield Abbey. “All those silly young flibbertigibbets,” he would tease. “Even sillier than you, I’ve no doubt! Go to Hayfield Abbey? No thank you!” When she came to her senses once more, she realized Mrs. Turner had already traveled halfway up the hall and was nearing Mrs. Burley’s study door. She had to run to catch up.

Running was not something Mrs. Turner approved of. When Ro reached her, Mrs. Turner’s hand was paused in midair, ready to knock on Mrs. Burley’s door. The pause was a significant one, in which Mrs. Turner gave both Ro’s hair and her tunic a pointed look. Ro smoothed her hair and straightened her white blouse and tunic of navy wool. Mrs. Turner reached out and straight­ened an errant pleat before rapping briskly on the door.

“Enter!” Mrs. Burley’s voice boomed from inside and Ro’s heart instantly jumped in her chest in the way that your heart does when you are outside a headmistress’s office. Even if you have done nothing wrong.

Mrs. Turner opened the door and ushered Ro inside. And there was Uncle Henry, as healthy as she had ever seen him, sit­ting in a high-backed chair on the opposite side of Mrs. Burley’s desk. Ro took a step toward him, relieved. “Goodness, so it is true. You are here. And you haven’t choked on a buttered crum­pet after all. I have to say I’m awfully glad!”

Uncle Henry gave Ro his “silly young flibbertigibbet” look. “As am I, dear Ro. As am I.”

Mrs. Burley coughed, rather deliberately, Ro thought. “Mrs. Burley,” she said, turning to acknowledge her headmistress with a nod, as Mrs. Turner excused herself and left the three together.

“Yes, well, Professor Halesworth, perhaps Erato would be best seated for this news?” Mrs. Burley asked. She did not sound altogether pleased by his presence.

“Hmmm . . . what? Oh, yes. Yes, do sit down, Ro. There’s a good girl.”

Ro eased on over into the chair next to her uncle. So there was news? But what on earth could it be?

Next to her, Uncle Henry shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Now, it seems, my dear, that there is some bother. Your aunt paid me a visit this morning. We must go to London for a few days. Perhaps, even, for some time.”

“London?” Ro frowned. “Whatever for? And for some time? What does that mean? Is Aunt Alice talking to you again?” Aunt Alice was Aunt Charlotte’s sister, who had always detested Uncle Henry and his scholarly ways, which meant he often paid little to no attention to guests, sometimes wandering off midconver­sation to make a note or two about some project or other he was currently working on.

“Not your Aunt Alice, Ro. Your Aunt Hestia.”

“But I don’t have an Aunt Hestia!”

“I’m afraid you do now,” Uncle Henry said with a sigh.

“Hestia is a particularly unusual name,” Mrs. Burley piped up. “Do you by any chance mean Hestia Craven?”

Uncle Henry simply pursed his lips, which Mrs. Burley took as an admission of familial recognition. “Well! I had no idea. Hestia Craven! How very . . . progressive of you, Professor Hales-worth, to have such a relation.”

Ro’s eyes darted between her headmistress and her uncle. Who on earth was Hestia Craven? And why was Uncle Henry claiming she was her aunt?

“She is no relation of mine, Madam. Ro, it is about your . . . other family,” Uncle Henry attempted to explain. His eyes flicked toward Mrs. Burley and Ro knew that he was unwilling to say too much in front of her, which was probably wise. Mrs. Burley was rather prone to gossip and her eyes had lit up now that she thought some might be on its way. Over the years, and especially since Aunt Charlotte’s death, Uncle Henry had told her dribs and drabs about her other family. She lapped up every piece of information she could, always hoping to hear of even a distant relation of her own age, rather than the five- hundred- year- old great-aunts and third cousins twice removed Uncle Henry al­ways seemed to provide. She had certainly never heard anything about this Aunt Hestia and now Ro found herself clasping her hands firmly together to hold herself back from asking more. Perhaps her Aunt Hestia had children? Even one would do. Ro smiled ruefully at this thought—the truth was, she was so des­perate for relations of her own age that she would have been happy with a dog, a cat, or even a flea-ridden orangutan if this Aunt Hestia had been able to provide one. Ro thought of Harri­et’s family, allowing herself to imagine, just for a brief moment, what it might be like to have a sister. Even Harriet did not have a sister.

“Professor Halesworth, despite your famous relation’s call to the city, I must object. This is all very sudden. Erato’s study—”

Uncle Henry simply waved a hand to interrupt. “She has completed all her examinations and has only a short time left here. I think we all know she has reached the limit of your in­struction.”

“Well, I . . .” Mrs. Burley opened her mouth in shock at what she’d just heard. But then she closed it again. Everyone in the room knew it to be true. Ro had been reading independently for some time now, guided mostly by her uncle, and was hoping to study medicine at the university after she was finished with her Hayfield Abbey schooling. There was a pause while Mrs. Burley gathered her thoughts. “This is all very sudden,” Mrs. Burley said, finishing with a huff. “Very sudden indeed.”

“Yes, it is very sudden,” Uncle Henry replied shortly, and Ro knew he had reached the end of his tolerance. “But it is also necessary and would be far easier if you would stop flapping about and making far more fuss of it than need be. I will, of course, pay the remainder of the term’s fees.” He was not the most patient of men and he could not bear dialogue to no effect. Not when he knew he could be otherwise better employed, busy classifying new species of plants, or up to his armpits in a jungle somewhere.

Mrs. Burley’s hand rose to her throat. “I am sure after the . . . situation . . . has passed, Erato will be able to return to her stud­ies. As you know she is an exemplary student and—”

Uncle Henry rose. “Yes, yes. We shall see. Now, Ro. Go and collect whatever is necessary. You will know what you need. All your silly flibbertigibbet bits and pieces, I expect. Ribbons and kirby grips and so on. Off you toddle.”

And so, just like that, off Ro toddled. Leaving Hayfield Abbey behind forever.

Oxfordshire

I’m home!” Clio announced as she kicked off her dirtied shoes and entered the warm, inviting, ivy-clad cottage in only her stockinged feet. “You’ll be pleased to hear Mrs. Thrapp’s foot is coming along splendidly. I don’t think it will need bandaging at all next week. She gave us a lovely loaf of bread, but I managed to drop it in a puddle when a motorcar sped past and . . .” Clio paused now, inside the kitchen. Her mother’s expression was anxious and her face pale as she sat at the table. “Why, whatever’s the matter? Are you feeling sick again? But you looked so well before I left.”

Her mother shook her head, silently. “It’s not that, Clio dear. There was a visitor. While you were out.”

“A visitor?” Clio didn’t think much of it. They often had visitors—with a father who was a vicar, this had been a normal occurrence ever since she could remember and had continued even after his death last year, when the pair moved out of the vicarage. Despite the fact that there was a new vicar, people still knew they could always come to the Silsbys’ home for help, or something as simple as a pot of tea and a kind word.

There was a pause before her mother continued. “You said you saw a motorcar? That was the lady who was here.”


Excerpted from The Heiresses by Allison Rushby. Copyright © 2013 by Allison Rushby.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Pan Macmillan Australia solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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One thought on “The Heiresses by Allison Rushby – Extract

  1. Pingback: Trust No One | An Adventure In Words

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