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"The Clearances"

"The Clearances"

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Published by Sabrina Der
This novel is dedicated to
thousands of Scottish Highlanders
who lost their homes, their heritage,
and oftentimes their lives
during the period of time known as
"The Clearances"

~

And for Diana,
Princess of Wales,
and what might have been
This novel is dedicated to
thousands of Scottish Highlanders
who lost their homes, their heritage,
and oftentimes their lives
during the period of time known as
"The Clearances"

~

And for Diana,
Princess of Wales,
and what might have been

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Published by: Sabrina Der on Feb 04, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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02/21/2014

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This novel is dedicated tothousands of Scottish Highlanderswho lost their homes, their heritage,and oftentimes their livesduring the period of time known as"The Clearances"
~
And for Diana,Princess of Wales,and what might have been
Yet where so many suffered one more wail Of anguish scarce was heeded! Rang the daleWith lamentation and low muttering wrath, As homestead after homestead in the strath, As hut on hut perched tip-toe on the hills,Or crouched by burn-sides big with storm-bred rills, Blazed up in unison, till all the glenStood in red flames with homes of ousted Highland men.
From
The Heather on Fire: a Tale of Highland Clearances 
 by Mathilde Blind (1841-1896)
 
 Part One
 No bird soars too high,if he soars with his own wings.
 — William Blake
Chapter One
 It is a truth universally acknowledged,that a single man in possession of good fortune,must be in want of a wife.
 — Jane Austen,
 Pride and Prejudice
 London, 1820
Lady Grace Ledys stood in the midst of her uncle's study, a room so scarcely used that thenewspaper sitting on the desk was dated six months earlier. The servants, underpaid as they were,rarely bothered dusting the place and had even taken to using the room for storage, knowing it wouldnever be noticed. For this occasion, though, the draperies that were usually closed had been drawn back and a fire burned happily in the hearth that had previously been home to a family of house mice.Appearances, after all, were everything to the Marquess of Cholmeley.He sat before her now, her uncle, looking quite at ease in this place he never frequented. His hair had been styled a la Brutus, brushed carelessly forward and curled over his forehead. His boots wore afresh polish and his waistcoat was one she'd never seen before. He'd summoned her there a quarter hour before, but his attention wasn't focused on her. Not at all. Instead, his entire focus was whollytaken up with the man sitting beside him.The renowned Duke of Westover was a man who must surely have already known his sixtieth year.His
 
thinning hair, pulled back in a waspish-looking queue, showed white against the darkness of hiscoat. His fingers held loosely to the golden knob atop his polished Malacca cane and the fourth finger of his other hand was adorned by a ruby the size of a small walnut. Two gold fob watches hung over the top of his breeches and he was grinning at her—more precisely he was grinning at her breasts, as if the dark mourning silk that covered them had suddenly grown transparent."Tell me, girl, are your breasts genuine?"He was trying to unsettle her, she knew, and if he had directed such a question at her just six monthsago, he would indeed have left Grace wide eyed and gasping with astonishment. Adversecircumstances, however, often had a way of dulling one's sensibilities.Before coming to live at the London home of her uncle and guardian, Grace had known a blissful,refined existence at Ledysthorpe, her family's ancestral estate in Durham. She had been raised theresince a babe under the gentle care of her grandmother, the Dowager Marchioness of Cholmeley. Her life had been touched only by softness and light. She hadn't yet seen the smoke-clouded spires of London's churches, had never known the noise and stench and filth of living amongst the other millionor so souls in England's capital city. The farthest she had ventured had been the short, tree-shaded buggy ride to the village of Ledysthorpe where everyone knew her and greeted her with waves andsmiles and inquiries after her health.On her first day in London, Grace had nearly been run down by a passing carriage and just missedhaving the hem of her skirts spat upon by a strange little man selling brick dust.The duke's voice came again then, returning her from her thoughts to the unavoidable here and now."Did you not hear me, girl? I asked if that is your true bosom."
 
Grace stared at the duke, determined not to allow him the satisfaction of her anger and said calmly,her voice as chill as a winter wind, "Would you have me open my bodice to prove it, Your Grace?"The duke looked momentarily taken aback. Her uncle's voice, however, came sharp as a rap on theknuckles."Grace!"Grace turned to where the Marquess of Cholmeley sat in his carved chair just the other side of theAxminster carpet. The Irlandaise knot on his cravat looked to have slipped a degree off center and hismouth was fixed most unpleasantly amidst his bushy side whiskers. But instead of directing hishostility at the man who had just insulted her, his only niece, he was staring with displeasure at
her.
Surely even Uncle Tedric must recognize the impropriety of this interview. But he wasn't moving.He wasn't even speaking. In fact, he was smiling, damn him, smiling at her in the same way that wilyclerk at the glove-maker's shop had when he'd tried to fool her into buying that pair of gloves with theoverlong pinky fingers.
They'll shrink with age,
the clerk had said—as if he had actually expected she'd believe him. Grace frowned again, looking from her uncle back to the duke;
 shrunken with age,indeed.
Suddenly the clerk's words couldn't have rung any truer."I assure you, Your Grace," her uncle said, giving Grace a smile that held so little warmth it madeher shiver, "there is no artifice. Everything you see of my niece is indeed what the good Lord endowedher with.""Indeed," the duke repeated as he shifted from one buttock to the other in his seat, "although shecertainly wouldn't be the first chit to have puffed out her bodice with a wad of stuffing to wheedle aman into marrying her."With a sniff, he returned his attention to her. "Walk here to me girl."Grace shot one last look at her uncle, silently begging him to stop this unprincipled humiliation. Butinstead of speaking out and protecting her as he should in his role as her guardian, he simply nodded,his eyes telling her his thoughts more clearly than any words.He was determined that the duke should offer for Grace's hand and bless them all with his guineasin the process.How had she never before realized the truth of her 
 
uncle? Grace could remember as a child how her grandmother had
tsk'd 
and shaken her head over her youngest son.
Self-indulgent,
she'd called him.
 Anepicure.
But to Grace, from the time she'd been old enough to walk, her "Uncle Teddy" had beennothing short of the most handsome, most distinguished man she'd ever known, the closest thing onearth to his elder brother, her father.Until now.In the time since she had come to live under his guardianship, Grace had come to see Tedric Ledys,Marquess of Cholmeley, undistorted by childhood adoration. In reality, her uncle was everythinganyone else had ever termed him. It was he and no other who had brought her to standing as she was before the Duke of Westover, feeling like a mare on the block at Tattersall's."Take a turn now, my girl."Grace lifted her chin, fixing on the stare she'd seen her grandmother employ so many times duringher childhood, most often whenever Grace had misbehaved. It seemed to succeed, too, this particular look, for the duke actually knit his brow in a moment of confusion. Bolstered by his reaction, Gracetook a short turn, then stood stiff as a lamppost before his chair.At this nearness, she could see that the duke was even older than she'd first thought, perhaps nearinghis seventieth year. He stood nearly half a head shorter than she, cloaked in the heavy clove scent of his cologne. Grace closed her eyes.
Good God, in the name of all that is holy, please do not allowUncle Tedric to marry me off to this man.
"You've spirit," the duke said on a half smile that revealed decaying teeth. "I like that."Grace swallowed, calling on every ounce of fortitude she possessed to remain still and hide her revulsion at the mere thought of sharing any form of marital intimacy with him. She schooled herself to hold her tongue until after the duke had gone, when she would inform Uncle Tedric as firm as shecould that no amount of wealth was worth having to wed the Duke of Westover."Thank you, Your Grace," she said, fighting to keep her voice cold and detached.The duke took her chin between his fingers, turning it to stare at her profile.

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