THE LOVEDAY HONOUR (extract)
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June 1794

'If a man does not have honour, he has nothing,' Edward Loveday declared to his wife. 'I will never sacrifice my honour simply to make life more comfortable, Amelia.'

Amelia ignored him and stared out of the window of the orangery at Trevowan where they had taken their afternoon tea. Her auburn hair was coiled at the nape of her neck and partly hidden under a lace cap. The tilt of her chin was stubborn and the set of her shoulders uncompromising. There had been too many strained silences in recent months.

Edward had hoped that the birth of their daughter three months ago would heal their differences. He tried again to ease the tension between them. 'It is time to put the past behind us, my dear. Are you not allowing your recriminations to mar all that has been good in our lives?'

'Scandal is eroding the good name of the Loveday family. How can you make it seem that I am the one in the wrong?'

She kept her face averted and her chest rose and fell in growing agitation. 'Since our marriage your family has been linked with one scandal after another. Even you have not spared me. Where is the honour in that?'

'You twist my words. Have I not asked your forgiveness for the pain I have caused you? Are these times not difficult enough without your censure?'

'I cannot condone….' She broke off abruptly and took several deep breaths before resuming in a martyred tone. 'My daily prayers are that all members of this family will bring no further shame to our door.'

Edward suppressed a sigh and picked up his newssheet. Where Amelia saw shame in the actions of members of his family, Edward was worried that fate and fortune had conspired against them, and that their lives were in jeopardy. These were ruthless and uncertain times.

The strident tapping of a teaspoon against the bone china saucer soon made it impossible for him to read. He folded the newssheet and put it aside and studied the tense figure of his wife. Amelia was staring across the grounds of the estate, her eyes focussed upon the spire of Trewenna church. In her late thirties she was still lovely; her hair, though streaked with grey at the temples, was thick and luxuriant and her complexion creamy without the necessity of powder.

The tinkling peal of the spoon against the cup tested Edward's patience to its limit. He was relieved when a maid entered to clear the crockery and tea tray and Amelia relinquished her spoon with a terse sigh.

The afternoon sun dappled the leaves on the hawthorn, oak and elm trees on the hill behind the house and its rays slanted through the panes of glass of the orangery. The sunlight turned the white marble floor golden, and the leaves of the orange bushes in their stone urns cast shadows across the carved wood of the chairs and low tables. Edward squinted his blue eyes against the brightness of the glare. His heart was heavy, weighted by worries. He feared for the lives of his son, Adam, as a prisoner of the French; and also his nephew, Japhet, accused of highway robbery and who was now awaiting trial in London's most notorious prison Newgate.

He reached out to touch a lock of Amelia's hair but she pulled back from him. This coldness between them was hard to bear. He was a passionate man and he did not want a loveless marriage. Honour bound him to the obligations of his past as well as the present. Yet if he had not yet won Amelia's understanding how could he hope for her forgiveness? He could not put honour aside but he loved his wife, and was determined that his marriage would not be sacrificed on the altar of family duty.

With so many problems threatening the welfare of his family his sense of honour and duty would be stretched to its limits in the coming months.

Edward lost patience with his wife's manner. The gentle, loving woman of their first four years of marriage had changed into a bitter, judgemental woman in the last year. This Amelia was a stranger to him. Edward did not condone Japhet's conduct or the circumstances that had led to his eldest son's, St John's, trial last year for murder - another scandal that had almost brought the family to ruin although St John had been innocent. It had been a testing time, stretching loyalties to their limit. And now this episode with Japhet…

He ground down his fears for his nephew. He did not believe Japhet was a thief. He was wild, headstrong and reckless but a he was not a hardened criminal, of that Edward was certain. Edward accepted the frailties of others. He was fiercely loyal to his family and he expected no less loyalty from his wife.

A fit of coughing made him turn away from Amelia. Pain lanced through his chest and sweat stippled his upper lip and brow. He led a far from conventional life himself. His health had suffered from a recent run in with excise officers on Loveday land, when they had found contraband hidden by a local smuggler. In the confrontation Edward had been shot and the wound was slow to heal.

'I have duties on the estate that must be attended to,' Edward announced.

He stood up too quickly, pain shooting through his chest. Momentarily, the room spun around him. He dragged in a deep breath and caught sight of his reflection in the window. His chiselled features were leaner and his tall, slender figure was slightly stooped. He straightened his spine. The movement sharpened the pain in his chest and he clenched his jaw to overcome it.

'You do too much, Edward,' Amelia scolded. 'You must put your health first.'

He stared at her lovely face taut with her unhappiness and fears and his love for her overrode his anger. Amelia had endured much in the last two years, and her sensibilities had often been offended. Even indiscretions from his own past had returned to put a further trial upon his marriage. But those indiscretions had been many years before he had met Amelia, and he refused to be judged by her because of them. There was no reasoning with Amelia at the moment and he prayed that in time she would be more charitably disposed about the tribulations they had faced during their marriage. He loved her deeply and wanted the rift between them to end.

'You should be resting. Edward.' Her tone sounded more condemning than compassionate. 'You were coughing through the night again. Dr Chegwidden says you do too much. There is cold wind off the sea. You will get a fever if you go out.'

He disregarded her advice. He could not afford to pander to the pain in his chest and the bouts of weakness that struck without warning. Too much depended on him rebuilding the reputation of the shipyard that had been damaged at the time of St John's trial. They had lost several customers and once the trust of customers were lost it was hard to win it back. It was Edward's reputation for integrity that had kept the remaining customers loyal to him.

'I am well enough,' he responded, tersely. 'You worry too much. And my dear, you must try not to dwell upon the misfortunes and trials that have beset us. It is the future that is important.'

He bowed over her hand and lifted it to his lips.

'I will never abandon my duty or loyalty to any member of my family, but your happiness is of great import to me. You were my rock in the first years of our marriage and have blessed me with two wonderful children. My feelings for you have not changed, my love. I esteem you above all women. It has been nearly a year since we have truly lived as man and wife. A family is only strong when it is united. Is it not time to put aside differences?'

Her hand was cold and she redrew it to link her fingers firmly in her lap. Her eyes were filled with tears and pain as she held his stare.

'Whilst your illegitimate daughter continues to live at the shipyard I feel humiliated and shamed. Send her away and I will be a true wife to you again, Edward.'

Her conditions were unacceptable. The weight of his burdens pressed down on him. A sharp pain shot through his chest each time he drew a deep breath. Amelia's stubbornness was a bitter betrayal. He knew he was pushing himself past the limits of his endurance, but he had never turned his back on his family or duty and whatever the cost he would not fail them now.

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