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Gosford's Daughter

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Gosford’s Daughter

 

Mary Daheim

 

 

Seattle, WA

 

 

Camel Press

PO Box 70515

Seattle, WA 98127

 

For more information go to: www.camelpress.com

www.authormarydaheim.com

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be
reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic
or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any
information storage and retrieval system, without permission in
writing from the publisher.

 

This is a work of fiction. While parts of the story
deal with actual events, occurrences, and historical figures, it
should in no way be construed as factual.

 

Cover design by Sabrina Sun

 

Gosford’s Daughter

Copyright © 1988, 2015 by Mary Daheim

Originally printed by Avon Press under the title
Passion’s Triumph

 

ISBN: 978-1-60381-963-3 (Trade Paper)

ISBN: 978-1-60381-964-0 (eBook)

LOC Control Number: 2014957746

 

Produced in the United States of America

D
ear Reader:

 

Why does any author write a sequel to a story that
appears to have already been told?

The characters, that’s why. At least in my case. Over
the course of what was originally 850 manuscript pages and I don’t
know how many years to create them, I became so immersed in
Dallas’s and Iain’s Frasers that I couldn’t get them out of my
mind.
Love’s Pirate
(reissued last year as
The Royal
Mile
) was my first published book. In fact, it was the first
book I’d tried to get published. Frankly, I was curious to see what
happened to them—and to their family—in later years.

Quite a lot, it seemed. The Frasers lived in perilous
times, especially for the Catholic minority. When we left them at
the end of the first book, they’d sought sanctuary at Gosford’s
End, in the far north of the Scottish Highlands. To be candid, I
wanted to find out how Dallas and Iain had fared during those
turbulent years of James VI’s minority. All things considered,
they’d done rather well, mainly by keeping a low profile.

But that couldn’t last forever. Not with the
turbulent Scots and their history of clan feuds. As with all my
historical books, I stayed closed to fact. Oh, yes, some of the
real figures would get involved with my fictitious characters. If
they didn’t, there wouldn’t be a story to tell. And I assure you
there is. I hope you enjoy going along for the ride in the Frasers’
later adventures.

 


Mary Daheim, 2014

Author’s Note

S
ince Mary, Queen of Scots,
clung to her French heritage and used the French spelling of
Stuart, I’ve followed suit. In the case of others connected with
her house, I’ve used the more familiar Scottish spelling of
Stewart.

PART ONE
1585-86
Chapter 1

T
he pebbles at the bottom of
the burn glinted copper in the afternoon sun; the silver flash of
the salmon broke water. Sorcha snapped her fingers in annoyance.
She knew she should have come prepared to fish. The salmon going
upriver from Beauly Firth were of a good size and wholesome
color.

Tucking her faded serge skirt beneath her, Sorcha
knelt at the burn’s edge, savoring the dark earth’s peaty smell,
letting her heavy black hair swing free a scant inch above the
rippling water. Two more salmon darted by, swimming effortlessly
against the current. The pair must weigh at least a stone, she
calculated, enough to provide supper for her parents, two brothers,
and her sister.

Not that Iain Fraser’s family would go hungry without
the fish. Lord Fraser of Beauly had made a comfortable fortune from
his seafaring enterprises, both legal and otherwise. Though it was
whispered that Lady Fraser had done her best to spend his profits,
they lived an affluent life in a fine home near Inverness. Too
affluent, Iain Fraser often reminded his offspring; it was well for
all of them, including Sorcha and her sister, Rosmairi, to learn
survival should it ever be necessary.

The lessons were lost on Rosmairi, however, whose
gentle nature precluded fishing or hunting. As second son, Rob felt
compelled to keep up with his adventuresome older brother, Magnus.
Yet Rob’s heart never seemed quite in league with his arm when he
sent the arrow soaring into a fine stag’s neck or was asked to
deliver the dagger’s death blow to a wounded boar.

But Sorcha had taken to the hunt like a hound to the
scent of fresh meat. “ ‘Sons of the hounds,’ ” her
mother, Dallas, had often quoted, “ ‘come and get
flesh.’ ” It was her MacKintosh clan motto, and Dallas Cameron
Fraser often recalled it to her elder daughter. But Lady Fraser’s
tongue also had a sharp edge that was as legendary in the Highlands
as the voluptuous attraction she retained into middle age and as
acclaimed as the book learning she’d passed down to her children.
Sorcha loved and admired her mother, but at seventeen, it was
embarrassing to say so. Indeed, only that afternoon, Lady Fraser
had lectured her daughter on her unkempt appearance. Still smarting
from her mother’s rebuke, Sorcha thought of reprisals.

By chance, another silver flash cut through the
water, giving Sorcha inspiration. Her green eyes glinted as she
stood up quickly, reaching under her serge skirts to rip off her
tattered petticoat. The fish was only a few feet away, moving
smoothly over the copper-colored pebbles. Timing her movements
perfectly, she leapt into the rippling burn, plunged her arms into
the cold water up to her elbows, and ensnared the salmon in the
folds of white cloth.

Sorcha staggered in the water, her feet slipping on
the pebbles; the fish fought for its life inside the lace-edged
trap. It was of handsome size, and fought fiercely, tail thudding
against Sorcha’s thighs, head trying to force its way back under
water. Sorcha dug her heels into the peat between the pebbles and
gritted her teeth.

The fish’s obstinacy matched her own. Its lurching
movements became more frantic, and Sorcha almost lost her balance.
“God’s teeth!” she swore under her breath, but at last she managed
to wrap the salmon securely in her petticoat. Its movements slowed
at once. Sorcha caught her breath, regained her balance, and
carefully made her way out of the burn and onto the rock-strewn
verge.

Weary from her exertions, she collapsed on the damp
ground, hands still clutching at the heaving fish. Through the
flame-colored leaves of the plane trees, she could make out the
chimney pots of Gosford’s End some three hundred yards away. She
wondered if she could haul the fish that far, but the ominously
slow pace of its breathing told her it was too late to put it back
in the burn. She had no cudgel, but a jagged rock lay within reach.
Sorcha grasped the stone and, summoning all her waning strength,
dashed it against the bulge in her petticoat. The salmon quivered
and went slack. Sorcha let out a heavy sigh and pushed the thick
black hair from her face. The sun was beginning to set behind
Gosford’s End, out over the great green glens to the west, and the
air had suddenly grown chill. Sorcha got to her feet, bent to pick
up the fish, and, with caution, carried it toward her family
home.

Dallas Fraser was seated in her favorite armchair, a
French import with ivory brocaded cushions. At her feet were three
of their servants’ children, two boys and a girl, all about ten
years old, receiving instructions in grammar. All four stared at
Sorcha as she entered the room with her muslin-wrapped burden held
out like a sacrificial offering.


Pray excuse my interruption, Lady
Mother,” Sorcha said with unwonted deference, “but I’ve brought
fish for supper.” Without preamble, she marched to her mother’s
chair and unrolled the muslin, dumping the bloody salmon at Lady
Fraser’s pearl-gray hem.


Good God Almighty!” shrieked
Dallas, leaping to her feet as the three children yelped in
astonishment. “Get that wretched thing out of here! Sorcha, are you
daft?”

Sorcha gave her mother the most innocent of
limpid-eyed gazes. “I merely wanted to make up for my
contentiousness this afternoon.”

The honey-voiced assertion scarcely deceived Dallas.
Her full mouth, so like her elder daughter’s, set in a grim line as
she eyed the slimy salmon and the murky puddle of water. The three
children had begun to snicker behind their hands, further inciting
Dallas’s wrath. “Oh, hush. Hasn’t any of you seen a dead fish
before? Here,” she said to the children, “remove this piscatory
pest and take it home to your families. They can share it for
supper.’’

Sorcha stood aside as the three children wrestled
with the slippery salmon. At last, the two boys managed to carry it
between them, and doing their best to salute Lady Fraser with
brief, clumsy bows, left the sitting room, with the little girl
trailing behind.

After the door had closed with an irritating creak,
Dallas turned to her daughter. “I suppose you think I’ve lost my
sense of humor?” But Sorcha noted that her mother’s anger was
waning. Though she was at least an inch taller than Lady Fraser,
her mother seemed to tower over her, an intimidating silver-clad
figure not unlike an ancient image of Saint Margaret of Scotland in
the chapel at Beaufort Castle. Yet there was nothing saintly about
Dallas Cameron Fraser. If ever a woman seemed rooted firmly in the
rocky soil of Scotland, it was she. And like the native heath,
Dallas seemed to thrive on adversity.

For a brief moment, Sorcha saw Dallas not as just her
mother, but as a woman. Reflecting on her parents’ past, Sorcha
considered how Lady Fraser had grown up as a tutor’s daughter, and
had been left impoverished upon her father’s death. She had been
determined to provide a living for herself, her two sisters, and a
pair of young nephews. Dallas had made a strange bargain with a man
named Iain Fraser, whose dual role as courtier and pirate had been
matched only by the mystery that had shrouded his birthright.
Dallas had parlayed her knowledge of Fraser’s piracy into a
profitable if seemingly loveless marriage. But what had begun in
brazen blackmail had ended in mutual passion. And Fraser had
finally learned that he was the son of King James V of Scotland,
the first of that profligate king’s bastard sons, and thus a rival
to the ambitions of James Stewart, Earl of Moray, and acknowledged
illegitimate half brother to Mary, Queen of Scots.

After Mary Stuart had been deposed by James of Moray,
Iain and Dallas and their two sons had moved north to Inverness to
escape the vicious intrigues of the court. They had also fled from
persecution of the Catholic minority. While Iain was not a
religious man and Dallas was more worldly than devout, both held
fast to the old faith that had been uprooted by James of Moray and
other staunch Protestants. For the past eighteen years, Lord and
Lady Fraser had lived in relative peace at Inverness, bringing
their two daughters into the world, creating a gracious home
overlooking the River Ness, and only occasionally venturing south
to Dallas’s beloved Edinburgh. Fraser had given up piracy for
commercial trade. Or so he insisted, though Sorcha knew from her
mother’s ironic glances that perhaps not every cargo had been
secured by honest means.

Still, such allusions only added to Iain Fraser’s
mystique in the eyes of his eldest daughter. And lawful or not, the
lengthy trips at sea had bequeathed the burden of raising their
family to Dallas. While quick tempered and sharp tongued, she was
essentially not a disciplinarian. It had been left up to Fraser to
restore some semblance of order to his unruly brood between
voyages. But to be fair, Sorcha also knew that it had not been easy
for her mother to carry a disproportionate share of the children’s
upbringing.

BOOK: Gosford's Daughter
10.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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