Beth Emmerson may be rich, but she doesn't have everything; her father thinks she's proud and her distant cousin, Gordon Banks, clearly hates her enough to appear cold and distant. But when a strange poem is presented, written by an apparent admirer, Beth's entire world is flung upside down and she must venture to find out more about her family than she has ever known before. To do this, however, Miss Emmerson must first hear the tragic story of two lovers; one player and one young lady, who is dead and has been for five years. As the past and present collide, the nasty intentions of the mysterious poet are revealed and Beth must, and will, make her decisions.



1. 1.

It was yet another rainy morning and, accordingly, Beth Emmerson remained inside, occasionally glancing out of the window, the seat of which she was sat upon. Despite the heavy torrent, Miss Emmerson could perceive in the distance the forms of Eddie, her elder brother of two years, and her father, both whom were shooting at game and whom had been for the past three hours. They were both, Beth could tell, soaked to the skin and were, as a result, likely to catch a cold. However, if her brother did become ill, then she thought, with some satisfaction, perhaps her father may be taught not to be so presumptuous in future, nor so adamant. It would serve him right, Beth thought privately, and so much more the better would it be if he indeed caught a cold himself. Her mother had told both gentlemen that it would rain - and heavily, too - but Mr Emmerson had, desiring not to go back on his word and make a fool out of himself, gone out anyway and had, to boot the affair, dragged his son out with him.


Now Beth watched, unnoticed by either of her male direct relations, as they finally gave up the amusement of shooting and trudged, inch-deep in mud, back up to the house. Beth turned away from the window and back to her book but, before she could dig properly into the story, there came a gentle tap at her bedroom door and her mother, also with the name Elizabeth, although she, unlike her daughter, mostly kept to her full name, swept in. She was an elegant woman, of no older than one-and-forty and she still, after seventeen years, had retained all her former glory. Beth, herself, took more after her father, her temper, although pleasant, being more or less like his, and her hair was darker than her mother's and brother's as well as being rather springier.


"Beth." her mother now said, coming only a little way into her daughter's bedchamber. "Your father and brother are, I believe, back from their-" she paused delicately for a moment, a slight smile playing at the corners of her lips. "-damp jaunt. I have also had it that the Fitzwields are coming this afternoon and I have some more news for you, dear girl."

Beth at once put aside her book. "News?" she asked, intrigued, for, despite the fact that they lived in a very superior society, most of the news, of which she was informed, was not much to her taste. It was either too formal or too silly to be taken seriously and, no matter which it was, Beth would laugh at it; she was a witty, spirited female and adored the idea of anything considered by her as even the tiniest bit ridiculous.

"Indeed." replied her mother. "And of the sort you shall like, too: Hardon estate has been bought at last!"

"By whoever whom?" cried Miss Emmerson eagerly.

"By a gentleman!"*and her mother's eyes sparkled. "Wait untill your father and Eddie are back and then I shall reveal to you everything."

But it turned out, almost immediately, that there was no need to wait, for Mr Emmerson and his son appeared.

"Father!" beamed Beth as soon as they were inside the door. "And Eddie!" she added. "Mamma has some news for us all! News of Hardon Hall being purchased!"

"By whom?" asked Eddie, uncharacteristically grumpily; his hair stuck in dripping clumps to his damp forehead.

"By a gentleman!" squeaked Beth excitedly, quite ignorant of the snappiness in her brother's tone.

"Indeed?" ventured their father. "And which gentleman is this?"

"I only just found out all the particulars myself." answered his wife happily. "His name is Mr Miles and, with him, he brings two of his friends and one of their sisters. I know not of anything else - only that it is such a fine thing to have happened! Fitzwilliam, you and I met under these very circumstances!"

"We did." agreed Fitzwilliam Emmerson equally as fondly. Then his tone returned to serious. "When are they to arrive?"

"Perhaps this Monday, or the day after that."

"Well, that is news indeed. Pray, how old are these people?"

His wife sighed. "I know not all that, I told you. However, I believe that none of them are more than thirty."

Imagine if they are but a little older than me..." mused Eddie, crossing the room over to his little sister. He sat down squelchily on the window seat and she pulled her skirts away from him, looking disgusted.

"I should imagine not." replied his father shortly. "I should think that they shall at least be four-and-twenty. You are but nineteen."

Mrs Emmerson shook her head, a somewhat exasperated expression upon her face. "Do not be ridiculous, Fitzwilliam! That is a perfectly fine age to become acquainted! In fact, you and I have the exact same age gap!"

Mr Emmerson said nothing.

His wife continued. "And what a fine thing for Beth, too! If there are three gentlemen than there shall be plenty of chance that one shall choose her as a wife!"

"Is that there design in settling in our neighbourhood? How is it so?"

"Think logically, father." said Eddie. "They are all carefree, spirited young men. Why should they not wish to seek a wife?"

To this, nobody had any answer.

Beth then remembered yet another thing her mother had told her, of the Fitzwields coming to stay. This, of course, aroused still greater excitement.

"Golly! Really?" was Edward's response. "Why, it has been an age since I last saw cousine James! And uncle Edmund, too!"

"And since I have seen Kitty and Rose!" added Beth cheerfully, for it really had been more than a year. "Do you think that Kitty will be much grown since the spring? Will she be as tall as Rose and me?"

Her mother laughed warmly. "I do not know." she said. "But how I long to see Janet."

This was a point on which everyone agreed.


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