فصل 07

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فصل 07

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Chapter seven

It was late October and at Little Priors, George Barton’s country house, Lucilla Drake was busily organizing the family’s return from Sussex to London for the winter. As she considered the many housekeeping matters that must be managed, she looked worriedly across at Iris, who was resting on a sofa. The girl seemed pale and tired.

‘My dear, you look as though you haven’t slept. You’re black under the eyes. I think the air here is unhealthy. This house is in a hollow. If George had consulted me instead of Miss Lessing… It’s a great mistake to encourage her to think herself one of the family.’

‘But Aunt, Ruth is practically one of the family.’

Mrs Drake sniffed. ‘She intends to be, that’s quite clear. But that’s unacceptable. George must be protected, and I think you should tell him that marriage to Miss Lessing is out of the question.’

Iris was surprised. ‘I had never thought of George marrying Ruth. Wouldn’t it be rather nice? I think she would make him a very good wife.’

‘George is very well looked after already! I am perfectly able to see to his comfort and his health. What does a young woman out of an office know about housekeeping? ‘ Iris smiled. Poor Aunt Lucilla. Romance was so far back in the past for her now that she had probably forgotten what it meant - if indeed, it had ever meant much.

Lucilla had been the half-sister of Iris and Rosemary’s father, Hector. She was nearly forty when she met and married the elderly Reverend Caleb Drake, who died two years later, leaving her with a baby son. Being a mother had been the greatest experience of Lucilla Drake’s life. Her son Victor had turned out to be a problem - but she refused to see anything wrong in him except a slight weakness of character. She thought her dear boy was too trusting, too easily influenced by bad friends. He was unlucky. He was too innocent and therefore deceived by wicked men. She knew how much Victor hated asking her for money. But when the poor boy was really in trouble, who else could he ask?

George’s invitation to come and live with him and Iris had come at a moment when she had been in danger of real poverty. She had been happy and comfortable with them and did not like the thought of being replaced by a young woman, who, she believed, would only be marrying George for his money. Thank goodness there was at least one person who could see what Ruth Lessing was planning to do!

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