Read an Extract
against Thomas’s mare over that distance? You
must be all about in your head,’ Major Hal Carlow said
to the young man at his side who was earnestly explaining
the merits of a chestnut gelding belonging to a certain Lieutenant
Captain Gregory launched into details lost on Hal as he watched
the young woman on the upper walk - the apparently respectable
young woman who had been staring at him as though she knew
him. He had never seen her before, so far as he knew,
although, as she could hardly be described as a diamond of
the first water, it was possible she had escaped his attention.
In which case what was so attracting him now?
‘Carlow?’ He ignored his companions, still
watching the young woman. She had been joined by an
officer in a scarlet coat. Foot Guards. He narrowed
his eyes: 92nd Foot and not someone he recognised. And
not someone she wished to recognise either, judging
by her averted head and her stiff body. The man put
a hand on her arm.
‘I’ll see you back at the Hôtel de Flandres,’
Hal said abruptly, abandoning his plans to go and catch
up on his sleep. He took the steps up to the wide lawn
at a stride and strode off to intercept the small boy with
the ball. ‘Good morning.’ He hunkered
down to eye level, managing the unwieldy length of his sabre
without conscious thought. ‘Is that your governess
in the green pelisse?’
‘My sister Julia.’ Big brown eyes stared
back solemnly, grubby hands clasped his toy. ‘Are
you in the cavalry, sir?’
‘Yes, 11th Light Dragoons. My name is Hal Carlow.’
Hal scooped the child up in his arms and began to walk towards
the path. ‘And what is your name?’
He liked children - well enough to ensure his frequent adventures
left no by-blows to haunt his somewhat selective conscience.
‘Phillip Tresilian and I’m four.’
‘A big boy like you? I thought you must be six
at least.’ Hal stepped over the strip of marigolds
and walked up to the couple on the path. Close-to he
could see the flush on her – Julia’s - cheeks
and the distress in her eyes, large and brown like her brother’s.
The other officer still had his hand on her arm.
‘Miss Tresilian! You must have quite given me
up, I do apologise,’ Hal said cheerfully as he came
up to them. Her eyes widened but she did not disown
him. ‘Shall we go on to the pavilion for tea?
I expect Phillip would like an ice as usual.’
‘Not in the morning, sir! You know he is not
allowed ices before luncheon,’ Miss Tresilian said in
a rallying tone.
Good girl, he thought, as he extended his free arm
for her to rest her hand on, then feigned surprise at seeing
the other man was holding her. He let the good humour
ebb from his face and raised one eyebrow. ‘Major?
I believe I have the prior claim.’ Now what had
he said to make her blush like that?
‘Miss Tresilian was walking with me, sir.’
The infantry officer bristled. He outweighed Hal by
about a stone and had a good three inches of height on Hal’s
Hal met his eyes and allowed the faintest sneer to cross
his features. ‘And now, by appointment, she is walking
with me.’ The small boy curled an arm around his
neck in well-timed confirmation of his friendship with the
Tresilians. ‘I believe I do not have the pleasure
of you acquaintance, Major? Nor, I suspect, have my
friends.’ Hal let the slightest emphasis rest
on the last word and saw his meaning go home.
The other man released Miss Tresilian’s arm.
‘Frederick Fellowes, 92nd Foot.’
‘Hal Carlow, 11th Light Dragoons.’ That
went home too. Something of his reputation must have
reached the infantry. ‘Good day to you.’
Miss Tresilian rested her hand on his sleeve. ‘Good
day, Major Fellowes,’ she said with chilly formality.
She waited until they were out of earshot before she said,
‘Please, sir, do put Phillip down, he is covered in
Hal put the boy on his feet and threw the ball to the far
end of the lawn for him to run after. ‘Are you
all right, Miss Tresilian?’
She looked up at him, her face still flushed beneath the
brim of her plain straw bonnet. He studied big
brown eyes and a nose that had just the suggestion of a tilt
to the tip, a firm chin and a neat figure. No great
beauty, but Hal had the sense of a vivid personality, of intelligence
and humour. He felt a desire to make her blush again,
she did it so deliciously.
‘I am now, thanks to you, Major. I do not know
what I would have done if you had not rescued me - hit him
over the head with my parasol, I expect - and then what a
figure I would have made of myself.’ Her eyes
crinkled with rueful amusement as he smiled. ‘And
how clever of you to get our names from Phillip. Did
you really mean by that reference to your friends that you
might call Major Fellowes out?’
She was quick on the uptake, this young lady. And lady
she was, for all her lack of maid or footman and her simple
gown and spencer.
course. Fellowes lacks address: it really is not done
to persist where one is unwanted, even when a lady is so temptingly
She ignored the automatic compliment. ‘Not with
discreditable offers it is not,’ she said with feeling,
then blushed again. ‘Oh dear, I should not
have mentioned that, should I? But I feel I know you,
‘Is that why you were looking at me just now?’
he asked ‘I hoped you wanted to make my acquaintance.’
She bit her lip in charming confusion. ‘I really do
not know. It was very brassy of me, but there was something
about you I thought I recognised.’ She recovered
her composure a little and her chin lifted. ‘And
you stared right back at me.’
‘True.’ Hal stooped to pick up the ball
and sent Phillip chasing towards the fountain in its octagonal
basin. ‘But then, I am a rake and we are supposed
to stare at ladies and put them to the blush.’
‘You are? A rake I mean?’
‘Indeed. I am precisely the kind of man
your mama would warn you about and, now I think on it, you
may have leapt from frying pan to fire. I am absolutely
the last man you should be seen walking with in the Parc.’