Read Deirdre and Desire Online

Authors: M.C. Beaton

Deirdre and Desire

M. C. Beaton
is the author of the hugely successful Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth series, as well as a quartet of Edwardian murder mysteries
featuring heroine Lady Rose Summer, the Travelling Matchmaker Regency romance series and a standalone murder mystery,
The Skeleton in the Closet
– all published by Constable &
Robinson. She left a full-time career in journalism to turn to writing, and now divides her time between the Cotswolds and Paris. Visit www.agatharaisin.com for more.

Titles by M. C. Beaton

The Six Sisters

Minerva

The Taming of Annabelle

Deirdre and Desire

Daphne

Diana the Huntress

Frederica in Fashion

The Edwardian Murder Mystery series

Snobbery with Violence

Hasty Death

Sick of Shadows

Our Lady of Pain

The Travelling Matchmaker series

Emily Goes to Exeter

Belinda Goes to Bath

Penelope Goes to Portsmouth

Beatrice Goes to Brighton

Deborah Goes to Dover

Yvonne Goes to York

The Agatha Raisin series

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death

Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet

Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener

Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley

Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage

Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist

Agatha Raisin and the Wellspring of Death

Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham

Agatha Raisin and the Witch of Wyckhadden

Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam

Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell

Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came

Agatha Raisin and the Curious Curate

Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House

Agatha Raisin and the Deadly Dance

Agatha Raisin and the Perfect Paragon

Agatha Raisin and Love, Lies and Liquor

Agatha Raisin and Kissing Christmas Goodbye

Agatha Raisin and a Spoonful of Poison

Agatha Raisin: There Goes the Bride

Agatha Raisin and the Busy Body

Agatha Raisin: As the Pig Turns

The Hamish Macbeth series

Death of a Gossip

Death of a Cad

Death of an Outsider

Death of a Perfect Wife

Death of a Hussy

Death of a Snob

Death of a Prankster

Death of a Glutton

Death of a Travelling Man

Death of a Charming Man

Death of a Nag

Death of a Macho Man

Death of a Dentist

Death of a Scriptwriter

Death of an Addict

A Highland Christmas

Death of a Dustman

Death of a Celebrity

Death of a Village

Death of a Poison Pen

Death of a Bore

Death of a Dreamer

Death of a Maid

Death of a Gentle Lady

Death of a Witch

Death of a Valentine

Death of a Sweep

Death of a Kingfisher

The Skeleton in the Closet

Constable & Robinson Ltd
55–56 Russell Square
London WC1B 4HP
www.constablerobinson.com

First published in the UK by Macdonald & Co (Publishers) Ltd, 1984

This paperback edition published by Robinson,
an imprint of Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2012

Copyright © M. C. Beaton, 1984

The right of M. C. Beaton to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

All rights reserved. This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated in any form
of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to
actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.

A copy of the British Library Cataloguing in
Publication Data is available from the British Library

ISBN: 978-1-84901-487-8 (paperback)
ISBN: 978-1-84901-943-9 (ebook)

Typeset by TW Typesetting, Plymouth, Devon

Printed and bound in the UK

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

For my sister, Tilda Grenier,
and her husband, Laurent, with love.

SPECTATOR AB EXTRA

Parvenant

It was but this winter I came up to town,

And already I’m gaining a sort of renown;

Find my way to good houses without much ado,

And beginning to see the nobility too.

So useful it is to have money, heigh-ho!

So useful it is to have money.

There’s something undoubtedly in a fine air,

To know how to smile and be able to stare.

High breeding is something, but well-bred or not,

In the end the one question is, what have you got.

So needful it is to have money, heigh-ho!

So needful it is to have money.

And the angels in pink and the angels in blue,

In muslins and moirés so lovely and new,

What is it they want, and so wish you to guess,

But if you have money, the answer is Yes.

So needful, they tell you, is money, heigh-ho!

So needful it is to have money.

Arthur Hugh Clough

Georgian menu used in this volume of
The Six Sisters
was taken from
Georgian Meals and Menus
by Maggie Black, published by the Kingsmead Press, Rosewell House,
Kingsmead Square, Bath, England.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

ONE

It had been a day of heavy rain, but towards sunset the clouds had broken, and an angry, yellow, glaring light bathed the village of Hopeworth and the surrounding sodden
fields.

Little choppy golden ripples danced angrily across the village pond. The sun blazed through two huge purple-and-black ragged clouds, and the rising wind sent a shower of wet brown leaves dancing
over the cottage roofs.

It was the sort of sunset which presaged a high wind; yellow sunsets always meant a wild night to come.

Squire Radford huddled his thin, old shoulders further into his greatcoat, feeling the heavy material beginning to flap against his spindly legs.

As he hurried in the direction of his cottage
ornée
, he cursed himself for having been stupid enough to accept Sir Edwin Armitage’s invitation to take tea at the Hall.

Sir Edwin’s haughty wife had been glacially aloof, as usual, and her plain daughters, Josephine and Emily, still unmarried, had giggled and pouted in turns in a most irritating manner.

The squire’s thoughts turned from Sir Edwin to Sir Edwin’s brother, the Reverend Charles Armitage, vicar of St Charles and St Jude in the parish of Hopeworth. For although the vicar was a close friend of the squire and usually came to call most evenings, Squire Radford found himself hoping for the first time that the ebullient fox-hunting vicar would
decide to stay in the comfort of his own home.

It was a sad and lonely feeling to see a dear friend so monstrous changed in character. The vicar had become so puffed up, so swollen in pride, that he seemed another man altogether.

The rot had set in, mused the squire, wincing as the first blast of windy rain tugged at his old-fashioned three-cornered hat, with the marriage of the vicar’s second eldest daughter,
Annabelle.

His eldest, Minerva, had done very well for herself by marrying Lord Sylvester Comfrey, but the vicar had accepted that piece of good fortune with a comfortable sort of gratitude. Then Annabelle
had become wed to the Marquess of Brabington and the vicar had accepted that piece of good luck with a comfortable sort of gratitude as well. But after Annabelle’s marriage when she had gone
off with her husband to the Peninsular Wars, the vicar had found his social standing much elevated by virtue of the aristocracy of his new in-laws. He began to spend as much time in Town as he
could out of the fox-hunting Season, returning to the country only to plunge into more wild farming experiments, and more expensive purchases of hounds.

He was now the proud possessor of twenty couple of hounds, a ridiculous quantity for a country parson. Two years had passed since Annabelle’s wedding; Lord Sylvester’s steward, who
had done much to put the Armitage farming land in good heart, was now back managing his master’s estates; and once more the vicar was faced with ruin.

He had been faced with ruin before, but never before had Charles Armitage ignored the fact so blatantly.

And he still had four daughters unwed, and two sons at Eton whose future was a weighty matter.

Two whole years had passed since Annabelle wed the Marquess of Brabington. How old were they all now?

The squire pushed open the tall iron gates leading to his cottage and murmured names and ages over to himself.

‘Let me see, the twins, Peregrine and James, will be twelve. Minerva will now be twenty-one! Dear me. How quickly the time flies. Annabelle will therefore be nineteen which will mean
Deirdre is just eighteen, Daphne is sixteen, Diana, fifteen, and little Frederica, fourteen.’

The squire’s soft-footed Indian servant opened the door and relieved his master of his coat.

‘Thank you, Ram,’ said the squire. ‘I am chilled to the bone. Bring some brandy to the library and if anyone calls –
anyone –
I am not at home.’

Even when the squire felt mellowed by his slippered feet on the hearth, the curtains drawn tightly against the rising storm, and the flames from a blazing coal fire sending golden flames dancing
in his brandy glass, he was relieved to be alone.

He had had his cottage
ornée
built some twelve years before to replace the old insanitary Tudor hall which had served his earlier years. He had wanted something simple, and
considered his fifteen charming rooms hung with French wallpaper and filled with fine furniture, paintings and china sufficient for his needs. His wife and his daughter had both died a long time
ago. The ceiling was low and raftered and the gold lettering of the calfbound books which lined the library walls winked cheerfully in the soft glow from the oil lamps.

Other books

The Flames of Dragons by Josh VanBrakle
The Turkey Wore Satin by J.J. Brass
Take Me Home (9781455552078) by Garlock, Dorothy
Christmas Wedding by Hunter, Ellen Elizabeth
MicroLena by Viola Grace