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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Perry Anne
 

«The Sins of the Wolf», Anne Perry

Иллюстрация к книге

The fifth book in the William Monk series, 1994

To Kimberly Hovey for her help and friendship

 

Chapter 1

Hester Latterly sat upright in the train, staring out of the window at the wide, rolling countryside of the Scottish Lowlands.

The early October sun rose through a haze above the horizon. It was a little after eight in the morning, and the stubble fields were still wreathed in mist, the great trees seeming to float rootless above it, their leaves only beginning to turn bronze on odd branches here and there. The buildings she could see were of solid gray stone, looking as if they had sprung from the land in a way the softer colors of the south never did. There were no thatched roofs here, no plaster walls pargeted in patterns, but tall chimneys smoking, crowstepped gables outlined against the sky, and broad windows winking in the early light.

She had come home when her parents had died at the close of the Crimean War, nearly a year and a half before. She would like to have stayed in Scutari until the bitter end, but the family tragedy had required her presence. Since then she had attempted to put into effect some of the new nursing practices she had learned so painfully, and even more, to reform England’s old-fashioned ideas of hospital hygiene in accordance with Miss Nightingale’s theories. And for her pains, she had been dismissed as opinionated and disobedient. There really was no defense against either charge. She was guilty.

Her father had died in social and financial disgrace. There was no money for her, or for her brother Charles. He would have provided for her, of course, out of his own salary, and she could have lived with him and his wife as a dependent, but that thought was intolerable. Within a short space of time she had found a position as a private nurse, and when the patient recovered, she had found another. Some were agreeable, others less so, but she had never been more than a week without some remunerative employment, and so she was her own mistress.

This summer she had taken another hospital appointment briefly, at the urgent request of her friend and frequent patron Lady Callandra Daviot, when the death of Nurse Barrymore had threatened Dr. Christian Beck with arrest and prosecution. When that matter had been finally resolved she had found another private post, but that too was at an end, and she was once again seeking a place.

She had found it in the form of an advertisement in a London newspaper. A prominent Edinburgh family was seeking a young woman of good birth, and some nursing background, to accompany Mrs. Mary Farraline, an elderly lady of delicate but not critical health, who wished to make the journey to London, and back again some six days later. One of Miss Nightingale’s ladies would be preferred. All travel would naturally be paid for by the family, and there would be a generous remuneration for the duties required. Applications were to be sent to Mrs. Baird Mclvor, at 17 Ainslie Place, Edinburgh.

Hester had never been to Edinburgh before-indeed, she had not been to Scotland at all-and the thought of four such train journeys at this time of the year seemed most agreeable. She wrote to Mrs. Mclvor stating her experience and qualifications, and her willingness to accept the position.

She received a reply four days later, and enclosed with Mrs. Mclvor’s acceptance of her application was a second-class train ticket for the night journey to Edinburgh on the following Tuesday, leaving London at 9:15 in the evening and arriving in Edinburgh at 8:35 the morning after. A carriage would meet her at Waveriey Station and take her to the Farraline house, where she would spend the day becoming acquainted with her patient, and that evening she and Mrs. Farraline would board the train and return to London.

Hester had made some inquiries, out of interest, even though she would barely arrive in Edinburgh before she left it again, at least on the initial visit. Perhaps when she returned with Mrs. Farraline after her stay in London she would have the opportunity to remain a day or two. Her time would be her own, and she could see something of the city. She had been informed that in spite of being the capital of Scotland, it was a great deal smaller than London, a mere one hundred and seventy thousand compared with London’s nearly three million. Nonetheless it was a city of great distinction, “the Athens of the North,” renowned for its learning, most particularly in the fields of medicine and law.

The train rattled and lurched around a curve in the tracks, and when the air had cleared Hester could see in the distance the dark rooftops of the city, dominated by the crooked skyline of the castle perched on its massive rock, and beyond them all, the pale gleam of the sea. In spite of all common sense, she felt a thrill of excitement ripple through her as though she were at the outset of some great adventure, not a single day in a strange house before a very ordinary professional task.

The journey had been long and uncomfortable, there being no privacy in a second-class carriage, and very little room. She had naturally sat upright all night, so she was stiff, and had only the occasional snatches of sleep. She stood up and straightened her clothes, then, as discreetly as possible, redid her hair.

The train finally drew into the station amid gushing steam, clanking wheels, shouting voices and slamming doors. She seized her single piece of luggage, a soft-sided valise large enough for only a change of underclothing and her toiletries, and made her way to alight onto the platform.

The cold air struck her sharply, making her draw in her breath. Everywhere there was noise and bustle, people shouting for porters, newsboys calling out, the clatter of trollies and wagons. Cinders shot out of the funnel and a grimy stoker whistled cheerfully. Steam belched and billowed across the platform and a man swore as smuts descended on his clean shirt collar.

Hester felt wildly exhilarated, and she strode along the platform towards the stairs and the exit with most unladylike haste. A large woman in a stiff black dress and poke bonnet looked at her with disapproval and remarked ring-ingly to the man next to her that she did not know what young people were coming to these days. No one had any sense of what was proper anymore. Manners were quite shocking, and everyone was a deal too free with their opinions, whether they had any right to them or not. As for young women, they had every kind of unsuitable idea in their heads that one might imagine.

“Aye, m’dear,” the man said absently, continuing to look for a porter to carry their very considerable baggage. “Aye, I’m sure you’re right,” he added as she appeared to be about to continue.

“Really, Alexander, I sometimes think you are not listening to me at all,” the woman said testily.


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