The Martindale sisters are about to embark on a reckless journey of deceit, rivalry and betrayal that reaches a thrilling and romantic climax as the Titanic sails for New York... At first, handsome, freewheeling Clive Cavendish does not appear to be an ideal catch for Julie. But when a whirlwind seduction leads to love and marriage and Clive's ambitious schemes begin to pay off Julie is more than happy to be the wife of an up-and-coming painter and the mother of his children. Anna's suitor, Howard Buskin, is rich, moody and reclusive. He prefers painting Dartmoor's brooding landscapes to courting the beautiful young woman his mother has chosen to be his bride and from the first their uneasy, loveless marriage totters on the brink of crisis. Only when American art collector Teddy Norris enters their lives with a proposal that Howard cannot ignore, and an easy-going charm that sweeps Anna into a tempestous affair, do the sisters begin to question their loyalty to their husbands and to each other. A loyalty that will be tested to the limit on the first, and last, Atlantic crossing of the White Star's new super-liner, the unsinkable Titanic - a voyage not all of them will survive.
Release date: December 8, 2011
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Print pages: 323
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The Last Voyage
The moor drowsed under a hot August sun, as shabby and tawny as the flanks of an old lion. The wavering haze suggested that it stretched to an infinite horizon but Julie knew that if she climbed the half-mile to Bishop’s Tor the green and golden pastures of the river valley would open before her, pricked by the landmark tower of Widecombe church. It was far too warm to go exploring, however, and she had seen the view before.
‘Has he gone?’
‘No, you can still see his dust,’ her sister answered.
‘He has a cheek, you know, leaving us here.’
‘He’s bored, that’s all,’ Anna said.
‘He’s not the only one who’s bored,’ said Julie.
Sitting up, she caught a last glimpse of the pony-trap heading for the inn at Storr where Papa would down a pint or two and, if luck was on his side, find some male company to engage in conversation.
She unbuttoned her blouse, fanned air on to her breasts, then, hitching herself round on her bottom, opened her knees to catch any hint of breeze that might stray up from the valley.
Anna looked away. ‘I wish you wouldn’t do that.’
‘Oh, don’t be such a prude.’
‘It isn’t decent.’
‘A glimpse of my frillies is hardly going to frighten the horses.’
‘What horses? I don’t see any horses.’
‘Must you be so literal, Anna? Why don’t you get on with your work?’
‘Work!’ Anna said scathingly. ‘I wish Papa would admit that we haven’t an iota of talent between us. He pats our heads and says, “Very good, very good,” when even a blind man can see how awful it is. I mean, look!’ She lifted her sketch book from the grass and held it up as if she were holding a rat by the tail. ‘Four years of lessons with Mr Rodale and this is the best I can do. And don’t look so smug. You’re no better at drawing than I am.’
‘I’d be the last to deny it,’ Julie conceded.
Only Uncle Otto, her mother’s brother, had ever confronted Papa with the truth. ‘Put them into service, Stanley,’ he’d said. ‘Sign them on at the pickle factory but for heaven’s sake stop trying to turn them into something they’re not. They’re no more artists than I am,’ then, pinching Julie’s cheek, had added, ‘No offence, my dear, no offence.’
Papa had persisted in dragging them round London’s picture galleries and had stubbornly enrolled them for lessons with Mr Rodale, who advertised himself as a master of the art of drawing. And as if that wasn’t enough ‘art’ to be going on with they were forever being subjected to the stuff, good and bad, that poured through the shop in Ledbetter Street where the Martindales had operated a picture framing business for going on half a century.
Pampered by nannies, spoiled by a succession of cooks and housekeepers, Stanley’s little darlings had sailed through day school and had returned home each evening to tea, toast and seed cake and as warm a welcome as any girl without a mother could wish for. The only fly in the ointment was Papa’s determination that they would become artists in their own right and make the name of Martindale famous for something other than mounts and mouldings.
Anna tossed aside the sketch book and rolled on to her stomach.
‘I suppose we’d better do something before Papa comes back.’
‘Like what?’ said Julie.
‘We could draw each other.’
‘Oh, no,’ Julie said. ‘Please, no, not again.’
She propped herself on an elbow and looked down at her sister who, at seventeen, was threatening to blossom into a beauty. Dark eyes and a pouting rosebud mouth had already ignited the interest of young men in the workshop, not to mention the gentlemen who bobbed in and out of the front shop – the gallery, as Papa called it – to discuss how best their latest acquisition might be displayed. There had even been offers, politely put, from several ageing disciples of Rossetti to have Anna model for them. Papa, of course, would have none of it.
Anna raised her head. ‘Listen.’
‘What is it?’
‘Someone’s coming. Cover yourself, Julie. Please cover yourself.’
Julie smoothed her skirts and fumbled with the buttons of her blouse.
She could hear voices now and – was it her imagination? – smell cigar smoke.
A small boy, no more than six years old, dashed out of the bushes. He was naked to the waist, barefoot and bare-legged, and had a feather stuck in his hair. He skidded to a halt, eyes round and mouth open.
‘Squaws,’ he said at length. ‘I found squaws.’
A man appeared from behind the gorse bushes and gave the girls the eye.
‘They’re not squaws, Toby,’ he said. ‘I do believe they’re Martindales.’
Anna was embarrassed by the tray of pastels, the water bottle, the satchel of pencils and the bone-handled penknife that Uncle Otto had given her for her seventeenth birthday, all the paraphernalia of an amateur dabbler that the great Edgar Banbury could hardly fail to notice.
In a light falsetto at odds with his burly frame, he said, ‘What are you doing alone in the wilds of Dartmoor? Where’s your father? No, don’t tell me. He’s sloped off to the pub in search of grog? Am I not right?’
‘You are, Mr Banbury,’ said Julie. ‘And you, sir? Are you lodged nearby?’
They had first encountered Edgar Banbury at last winter’s Royal Academy exhibition when he’d broken away from a crowd of acolytes to chat with Papa and Uncle Otto and, more particularly perhaps, with the flame-haired girl who’d been Uncle Otto’s companion for the evening.
‘We’re camped over at Foxhailes,’ Mr Banbury said. ‘We’ve been sketching too. Haven’t we, Toby?’
‘I made a painting with Pappy’s big brush,’ the boy informed them.
‘And a very fine painting it was,’ Mr Banbury said. ‘Now why don’t you pop back uphill, Toby, and find the rest of our expedition? Will you do that for me?’
‘Yes, I will,’ Toby said obligingly and shot off around the bush.
Edgar Banbury blew out his cheeks. ‘I fear I’ve reached an age when coping with young children is well nigh impossible. May I sit?’
‘Please do,’ said Julie.
Anna watched her sister plant herself on the turf close to the artist’s big brown boots. Everything about him was brown, brown and hairy. In spite of the heat he wore a heavy Norfolk jacket over a woollen cardigan and the sort of shirt you only saw on woodsmen. With his long legs drawn up and the stump of a cigar smouldering between his fingers he looked a deal less dashing than he did in the famous self-portrait in the Millbank gallery.
‘On holiday?’ he asked.
‘Yes,’ Julie answered. ‘A week in my uncle’s rustic retreat.’
‘Otto? Is he with you?’
‘No, he’s in London attending to business,’ said Julie. ‘It’s a very small cottage. There really isn’t room for all of us.’
‘You must forgive me.’ Edgar Banbury blew smoke. ‘I’ve rather forgotten your names.’
‘Julie.’ Julie touched a finger to her chest. ‘And Anna.’
‘We met,’ said Anna, ‘at the winter exhibition.’
‘That much I do recall,’ said Edgar Banbury. ‘While I may have forgotten your name I certainly haven’t forgotten you, Miss Martindale.’ He hoisted up a knee and cupped a hand over it. ‘Has anyone ever told you that you’re the image of your mother?’
‘My mother?’ said Anna. ‘I hadn’t realised you were . . .’
‘So old?’ said Edgar Banbury. ‘Well, I am – of an age with your uncle, in fact. Your mother was a very lovely woman. We were all struck with her beauty but she, unfortunately, didn’t think much of us.’
Toby reappeared. He was accompanied by a young man in a collarless shirt, cotton trousers and a straw hat that looked if it had been chewed by cattle. Slung across the young man’s shoulder was a little girl of three or four, her face pressed shyly into his neck.
‘Is she asleep?’ Edgar Banbury said.
‘No such luck,’ the young man said. ‘She’s sulking. Too much sun, I think.’
‘Here, let me take her.’
Edgar Banbury detached the child from the young man’s arms.
The little girl looked up. ‘Where’s Howdard?’
‘Yes,’ Edgar Banbury said. ‘Where is Howard?’
‘He’s coming,’ Toby said. ‘He wouldn’t let me help him.’
‘Wise fellow,’ Edgar Banbury said. ‘By the by, Clive, these charming young ladies are Stanley Martindale’s daughters. Allow me to introduce you.’
‘Allow me to introduce myself.’ Stepping past Anna, he shook Julie’s hand. ‘Clive Cavendish. Perhaps you’ve heard of me?’
‘I can’t say I have,’ said Julie.
‘He’s far too modest,’ Edgar Banbury said. ‘He’s the chap who painted The Best of Friends which created a minor sensation at Maule’s last summer.’
‘I certainly recall the painting,’ Julie said. ‘A very nice dog, if I may say so.’
‘The dog gave me a great deal of trouble,’ Clive Cavendish admitted.
‘If you insist on painting huge shaggy Newfoundlands,’ Edgar Banbury said, ‘what do you expect?’
‘They sat well enough for Landseer,’ Clive reminded him.
‘Not with naked girls perched on their backs.’ Edgar Banbury looked round. ‘Ah-hah! Stirring in the undergrowth. Could this be our Howard at last?’
‘Howdard.’ The little girl dropped to the grass and threw herself on the newcomer. ‘You found us.’
He was, Anna thought, less than charitable towards the child but she could hardly blame him for being brusque. He was burdened with two bulging canvas satchels, two stiff cardboard folders and a wooden easel and juggling the equipment required his full attention.
‘Good man,’ Clive Cavendish said. ‘Now we can be on our way.’
‘Come along, ladies,’ said Edgar Banbury. ‘Pack your kit and join us for tea. We’ll pick up your father from the pub en route.’
‘I’m not sure we should impose on your hospitality, Mr Banbury,’ Julie said.
‘Impose on me then, Miss Martindale,’ Clive Cavendish said. He swung the little girl on to his shoulders and called out, ‘All set?’
‘All set,’ Toby shouted and scampered off downhill.
The massive feather-hoofed mare had a bell on her collar and wild flowers in her mane, flowers, Anna guessed, that the child, Phoebe, had put there.
At the field gate at the bottom of the hill, Mr Banbury harnessed the mare to the shafts of a farm cart with the skill of a born countryman which, Anna knew, he most emphatically was not. He was the third son of a builders’ merchant from Manchester who had run off to London and so impressed the powers that be with his precocious, not to say ferocious talent that he’d been granted a scholarship at the recently established Slade School of Fine Art; an honour that even his strait-laced father had been unable to ignore.
According to Uncle Otto, a fount of salacious gossip, Edgar Banbury had been among the first of the school’s rapscallions, disciplined in the classroom, disordered without and with a string of female conquests longer than the Palace Pier. His marriage to the daughter of a humble greengrocer from St Albans had broken many a heart. Driving a farm cart with his son on his knee, he didn’t look much like a heart-breaker, Anna thought, nor like the noble figure at the centre of his gigantic ink and watercolour study, Caesar Entering Rome, that hung in the New English Art Club.
‘And what do you do, Mr . . .’
Howard stared at the dusty road and pointedly ignored her. Anna had no clue what position he held in the great man’s entourage, for no one had seen fit to introduce him. Behind her Julie reclined on a bale of sweet-smelling hay, Mr Cavendish’s arm hovering about her shoulders, the little girl curled on her lap.
‘I said’ – Anna raised her voice by half an octave – ‘what do you—’
‘Oh, you perform for money in the street, do you?’
‘My name: Buskin.’
‘Like Shakespeare’s shoe?’
‘No, it’s not. I do happen to know the difference between a sharp-pointed implement and a boot worn by tragic actors.’
‘Good for you,’ Howard Buskin said. ‘You’re right, of course.’
He wore stained grey flannels, a shirt with a soft collar and rolled-up sleeves; no waistcoat, hat or cap. His dark hair was already beginning to recede which made him look older than he probably was. He had a square face, grey eyes, and a mouth not so much pugnacious as petulant. He continued to stare down at the white dust of the country road, as if, Anna thought, he’s afraid to look at me.
‘Are you a painter, too, Mr Buskin?’
‘I paint,’ he admitted reluctantly, ‘on occasion.’
‘Do you exhibit?’
‘Why is that?’ Anna said. ‘Don’t all painters long to be hung?’
He turned on her abruptly. ‘Look here, Miss Martindale, you’re under no obligation to make conversation. You’re Edgar’s friend, not mine.’
At least he knows my name, Anna told herself; that’s something.
She said, ‘Very well. If you prefer silence, so be it.’
Huffily, she folded her arms but when the cart lurched and Mr Buskin stuck out a hand to steady her she did not draw away.
‘Careful,’ he said. ‘Be careful,’ then, a moment later, ‘Anna, is it?’
‘You may call me Howard if you wish.’
The inn at Storr was small and shabby and, at that hour of the afternoon, deserted. There was no light within the building; no sign of life save for a few hens clucking on the step. The pony was tethered to a rail and Papa sat disconsolately, all alone, on a bench by the inn door. He was bent over like a man with stomach ache, a tankard clasped in both hands. His hat was tipped over his eyes and his nose – quite a prominent nose – had already begun to peel.
The farm cart was almost upon him before he looked up.
‘Banbury! What the devil are you doing here?’
‘I might ask the same of you, Mr Martindale.’
‘As you see’ – Papa waved the tankard – ‘I’m partaking of refreshment.’
‘While your poor daughters languish on the moor.’
‘Ah, I see you found them.’
‘I did,’ Mr Banbury said, ‘and it’s not my intention to release them until they’ve been stuffed with bread and butter and bathed in tea.’
Julie clapped her hands. ‘Please say we can, Papa.’
‘Go to Mr Banbury’s camp for tea.’
‘Camp?’ Papa stepped forward. ‘Where is this camp?’
‘Foxhailes,’ Edgar Banbury told him. ‘Are you coming, or not?’
‘Am I invited?’ Papa said.
‘Of course you are, man, of course you are,’ Mr Banbury said and, flicking the reins, set the cart in motion, leaving Stanley to settle his bill and follow on behind.
There was no lodge, no park and no long view to take the breath away. You turned off a back road between two stone gateposts and there it was in all its glory – Foxhailes House, a huge picturesque mock-Tudor villa bristling with brick chimneys. Behind the house the moor reared up like a tidal wave. It reminded Julie of a Doré engraving in one of the books in Uncle Otto’s library and even bathed in sunlight retained an aura of windy nights and scudding cloud.
‘Welcome,’ Clive Cavendish said as if he’d read her mind, ‘to Baskerville Hall,’ and let out a soft little howl that tingled in her ear and made her shiver. ‘Have no fear, Miss Martindale, the only hound in these ’ere parts be Howard, and we keep him locked up after nightfall. B’ain’t that right, Howard?’
‘Very funny,’ Howard said sourly.
The cart drew to a halt on the rutted gravel. Clive lowered the little girl to the ground and offered Julie his hand.
‘Whose house is it?’ she asked.
‘It belongs to Verity Millar,’ Clive told her. ‘Howard’s mother.’
Phoebe trotted off into the ornate porch from which, at that moment, a woman emerged, her arms spread wide in welcome.
‘Talk of the devil,’ said Clive.
It was typical of the hoi polloi to assume that Verity Millar was a lady by disposition if not title but no one who worked at Foxhailes suffered from that illusion. Even loyal Mr Moss, her steward, considered his employer ‘showy’, which was really no more than you might expect from a woman who had married an American thirty years her senior who’d made his pile by striking gold in the Klondike.
The Klondike story was nonsense, of course, as a little elementary arithmetic would have shown. Clarence Millar had been no nearer the Yukon than Ohio where he’d earned a fortune quarrying vast quantities of sandstone to build the cities of the plains. Some months short of the financial crisis of ’93, and recently widowed, Clarence had sold his stone pits and had shipped out for England in search of cultural enlightenment. What he’d wound up with was a spirited new wife, a moody stepson, a town house in London, a modest estate in Devon and more cultural enlightenment than his ticker could cope with.
After five years of marriage to Verity, he’d keeled over late one night in the arms of his sweetheart and was dead before sunrise. The fact that the sweetheart was a buxom young thing he’d met in the Rising Sun and that the keeling over had occurred in a basement in Paddington had somewhat assuaged Verity’s grief, that and a fat packet of gilt-edged investments which, there being no other heirs that the lawyers could unearth, fell uncontested into her lap.
Howard Buskin was not overjoyed at his mother’s good fortune.
Nothing, it seemed, brought Howard joy. He’d always been dour and solitary even when they’d lived in rowdy Hoxton and his mother had eked out a living modelling at the Fulham Polytechnic and singing bawdy songs in a velvet dress at the Empress Variety Theatre when the management were light on programme fillers. From whom Howard had inherited his incredible skill with pencil and brush was a mystery, one to which Verity, in that wonderfully vague way of hers, refused to furnish an answer.
‘He was no one, Howard,’ she’d say. ‘No one of any consequence.’
‘His name. For God’s sake, Mama, at least tell me his name.’
‘Do you know, I don’t think I even knew his name?’
‘Liar, you liar!’
‘Jim – yes, that was it. Jim somebody. You can’t expect me to remember everything that happened thirty years ago.’
‘What about my grandfather; your father? Surely you remember him?’
‘Dead these many years.’
‘But who was he? Who the devil was he?’
‘He sold boots and shoes.’
‘What? From a stall?’
‘Hush now, darling. Don’t excite yourself. It’s all water under the bridge.’
If Howard had been more of a reader and less of a brooder he might have fancied himself the offspring of a convict or perhaps a peer of the realm. But Howard had never acquired the reading habit and preferred to visualise his father as lean, bearded and effete, like Zurbaran’s painting of St Francis, and his grandfather sad-eyed and dignified, like Whistler’s portrait of Carlyle.
Three years back, in an attempt to bring her son out of his shell, Verity had paid her friend Banbury to accompany Howard to Paris, ostensibly to look at the Rembrandts in the Louvre but mainly to introduce him to sights of a more intimate nature in those big dark houses in the heart of the Ile where the most beautiful young immigrant girls were to be found.
The trip had turned into a disaster when in the house of a certain madam well used to the English and their ways, Howard had punched a pretty little Jewish girl in the face and had broken her nose; a fit of something more than pique that had cost Edgar every sou in his wallet.
Whatever happened in Paris had put Howard off women for ever.
Verity was therefore astonished to see her son seated on the tailgate of Edgar’s hired cart with his arm around a pretty, dark-haired girl and, before she could help herself, rushed out into the sunlight to bid the little charmer a very warm welcome. ‘And who’s this, darling? Who is this lovely creature?’
‘Oh, God!’ Clive said. ‘She’s doing it again.’
‘Doing what?’ said Julie.
‘Scaring off the competition.’
He led Julie across the lawn where a lad was vainly attempting to erect a wooden table while another struggled with poles and a canvas awning. A maid, not much older than a child, darted out of a side entrance with a huge teapot in both hands and, catching sight of Mr Cavendish, squealed and vanished indoors again.
Clive groaned. ‘Rustics, you can never really train them, can you?’ He looked down at Julie. ‘You’ll find the cloakroom at the end of the corridor, left of the door.’
‘Oh, yes, thank you.’ Julie made no move towards the house. ‘Why did you refer to my sister as the competition?’
‘Edgar’s convinced that Mother Millar is desperately seeking a wife for her son. I’m a little more sceptical. I think she wants to keep him to herself,’ Clive said. ‘Of course, I’m only a simple-minded painter of pictures and know nothing of female psychology. Edgar has much more experience in these matters than I have.’
‘So I’ve heard,’ said Julie. ‘Does he not also have a wife?’
‘Clara, yes, but she’s in a delicate condition again and has been packed off to spend the final few weeks of her confinement with her mother in St Albans.’
‘And you, Mr Cavendish, do you have a wife?’
‘No,’ Clive answered, with a lift of the eyebrow. ‘No wife. Would you like to see the rose garden, such as it is?’
‘Indeed,’ said Julie, ‘I would.’
Shadows were lengthening before the awning was erected, the table made steady and tea brought out. An elderly countryman with side whiskers drove the horse and cart away and returned to fetch Papa’s hired pony and lead it off to be watered. It was still very hot, so hot that sandwiches curled at the edges and the icing on the little sponge cakes melted, neither of which disasters seemed to bother the hostess who, throwing up her arms, announced that she had done her best and if they didn’t like it they could lump it.
She dumped herself on a wicker chair in the middle of the lawn and summoned Anna to sit by her. Howard served them tea and sandwiches, then, to Anna’s surprise, drifted off to join Mr Banbury and her father who, shaded by the awning, were stuffing food into their mouths while the little boy, Toby, and his sister played beneath the trestle.
The tea was too strong and the sandwiches – boiled ham – rather salty. Anna juggled plate and cup while Mrs Millar stroked the back of her neck as if she were a cat who might be persuaded to purr. ‘So,’ the woman said, ‘you’re Otto Goldstein’s niece, are you? I wonder why he hasn’t brought you to visit.’
‘We haven’t been in Devon much since we were children,’ Anna replied.
‘You’re hardly more than a child now, my dear. How old are you?’
‘Howard is twenty-nine.’
‘Really?’ said Anna.
‘I think,’ the woman said, ‘Otto deliberately kept you from us.’
‘Why would he do that?’
‘My reputation for one thing.’
Putting down her cup, Anna glanced round in search of Julie who, together with Mr Cavendish, seemed to have disappeared.
‘Why, Mrs Millar, I didn’t know you had a reputation.’
‘Has Otto never mentioned me?’
‘No, actually, he hasn’t.’
‘How remiss of him.’ Verity kicked her heels as if confessing gave her pleasure. ‘Howard is my secret shame, you see. He was born out of wedlock. It’s best you hear it from me and not some scandalmonger if Howard’s going to be your friend.’
‘Is Howard going to be my friend?’
Verity ignored the question. ‘How is your uncle? Does he still have that marvellous moustache?’
‘Does he have a lover? Of course he has a lover. Several, I expect.’
‘I – I really couldn’t say.’
Embarrassed, Anna scanned the lawn once more but saw no sign of her sister or Mr Cavendish. She wondered if they had gone into the house and if Julie was locked in the handsome painter’s arms, kissing and being kissed. She had never been kissed by a grown man and wasn’t entirely sure she wanted to be.
‘You see,’ said Verity Millar, ‘he can’t take his eyes off you.’
‘Howard: he’s been staring at you ever since we sat down.’
‘Why would he stare at me?’ said Anna.
‘He’s admiring you from afar. That’s his way.’
Anna resisted the temptation to turn her head.
‘Howard tells me he’s a painter,’ she said.
‘Oh, he is. Quite brilliant. Even Edgar says so.’
‘But he doesn’t exhibit.’
‘No. He says he won’t inflict his work on the public until he’s learned how to put the bloom on the peach – whatever that means.’
It was on the tip of Anna’s tongue to tell the woman what it meant but she thought better of it. Knuckles touched her neck again and a finger brushed the coil of hair that stuck out from under her bonnet, a gesture far too intimate for short acquaintance.
‘Howard’s father,’ Anna said, ‘was he a painter too?’
‘He was nothing,’ Verity Millar said, ‘but a ship that passed in the night. Oh, look, I think your papa is making ready to leave. I’ve so enjoyed our conversation, Miss Martindale. I hope we’ll meet again soon.’
‘I hope so too,’ Anna lied politely.
The cottage in the lane just outside Brampton was very small and very clean. The stone walls were whitewashed every spring and the wooden floors regularly scrubbed by a woman from the village who also made the beds and prepared an evening meal when Otto or his guests were in residence.
There were two small rooms on the ground floor and a single bedroom tucked under the sloping roof. It was all very quaint, Julie said, but just a little too cramped to be cosy. Papa had the bedroom downstairs next to the parlour and Anna and she shared the wooden bed upstairs; all very different from Ledbetter Street with its spacious apartments, tall curtained windows and the growl of London traffic to send you to sleep.
‘Did he kiss you?’ Anna asked.
‘Of course he didn’t kiss me,’ Julie answered. ‘Mr Cavendish may be an artist but he’s also a gentleman.’
‘He’s a protégé of Mr Banbury and we all know what he’s like.’
‘Mr Cavendish wants me to pose for him.’
‘I thought as much,’ said Anna. ‘Does he want you to take off your clothes and sit astride a big black dog?’
‘He’s moved on since he painted that picture.’
‘What is it now? Tigers?’
‘Why, I do believe you’re jealous,’ Julie said.
‘Not me,’ said Anna. ‘In any case, Papa won’t let you sit for anyone.’
‘I’ll bet he’d let me sit for Edgar Banbury.’
‘You have to be careful of Mr Banbury,’ Anna said. ‘He’s a little too fond of young girls.’
‘I’m not as young as all that,’ said Julie. ‘Besides, it isn’t hairy old Edgar who’s asked me to pose for him.’
Anna was propped up in bed. In the light of the oil lamp her hair looked like a huge black ink stain on the pillow. Her breasts filled the front of her nightdress and lacy frills couldn’t quite hide the swell of her nipples; a sight, however familiar, that never failed to rouse a pang of envy in Julie. She had no chest to speak of and her nipples were as flat as carpet tacks.
Seated on the ledge by the open window, she brought her knees up to her chest and cupped her shins. She had long, slender legs – which was more than could be said for Anna – and perfectly formed feet; mythical feet, Uncle Otto called them, like those of a Botticelli Venus.
The bed was large enough to accommodate two in comfort but the mattress was lumpy and the blankets heavy. Anna was a restless sleeper, forever twitching and flailing, as if she were drowning in her dreams. It was bad enough having to share a room with her sister at home, Julie thought, but sharing a bed and calling it a holiday was really too much.
‘Are you going to sit there all night?’ Anna said.
‘Put out the lamp if it bothers you.’
‘What bothers me is you perched at the window where anyone can see you.’
‘Anyone?’ said Julie. ‘Like who?’
‘He’s not down there, is he?’
‘Your Mr Cavendish.’
‘Do not be ridiculous. Besides, he isn’t my Mr Cavendi. . .
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