LOVEDAY  LOYALTY (cont.)
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'Then I will not interfere. But I would not have Leah think that I do not accept her within the family.'

Cecily watched Hannah walk away. She had accepted Bridie as her sister-in-law without reservation. Bridie was a sweet girl and Cecily admired her for learning to read and write and then becoming the teacher at the school at Trevowan Hard. But though she had tempered Peter's pious fervour, Cecily still wondered if the marriage could be truly happy. Bridie was a child of nature, like her sister Senara. Senara had not been at church this Sunday nor did she attend regularly. Cecily suspected that Senara had a heathenish streak inherited from her gypsy father. She had been taught the lore of herbs and remedies by her gypsy grandmother which she used to tend the sick who could not afford a physician's fees.

Cecily suppressed a sigh. Adam did not judge his wife but her youngest child, Peter, was different. The Bible was his code of law and conduct. In his youth he had been a fanatic and his cousins had called him Pious Peter. Bridie had always been a challenge to her son. She had been a pure maid with an elfin beauty. There was an earnestness about her and a willingness to please. That Peter had married her was to his credit. Though Cecily doubted that Adam would have tolerated his cousin and sister-in-law becoming lovers. It worried Cecily that the couple's personalities were so different. Peter had believed Bridie to be young and malleable. But his wife had a will of iron. She had proved that by starting up a cottage lace-making industry in her husband's parish. Bridie may look waif thin and fragile, her limp from a twisted back and shortened leg giving her an appearance of vulnerability, but she had over come so many prejudices in the past it proved she had an exceptional constitution and strength of will. Heaven forfend that her son and his wife ever clashed wills! As a good wife Bridie might compromise on some issues but never on anything that questioned her integrity.

'You are wool-gathering, Cecily.' Elspeth Loveday boomed in her ear. 'Joshua gave an exemplary sermon. Kept it short and to the point - which is important. I wish I could say as much about that whippersnapper Peter. I had trouble staying awake through evensong the other week, which he virtually ordered us to attend when Amelia and I called at the parsonage. And he insisted on lengthy prayers before we partook of our luncheon. A simple grace would have sufficed.'

'He takes his role of shepherd to his flock seriously,' Cecily defended.

'A mite too seriously. Joshua keeps his sense of propriety and never allows religion to get in the way of a sensible pleasure. I told Peter, I don't need no preachifying of a weekday. I leave it to Joshua to be the guardian of my soul on a Sunday. But Amelia wished to attend. And I may add that Leah did not look too happy at being forced to join us. She never was much of a churchgoer. For all Bridie's good intentions, her mother is not happy living with them.'

'I will get Joshua to have a word with Peter. Though my son has his own idea about what is right for his flock and has lectured his father before now on what he considers Joshua's laxity.'

'Then if he does not take warning, he will end up preaching in an empty church. The parishioners will not stand for it and will go elsewhere for their service.'

'How is Amelia? She is looking pale.' Cecily changed the subject before she lost her temper with Elspeth. The older woman had a sharp and critical tongue.

'The death of a child is hard to bear.' Elspeth peered over the top of her pince-nez, her voice terse with disapproval as she continued. 'But she should not neglect her friends. I've tried to get her to hunt, but she rarely joins me, just shuts herself away in the Dower House at Trevowan.'

Cecily shook her head. 'That cannot be good for her. I should make more time to visit her.'

The men had left the women to their gossip and as the weather remained fine had walked to the wood on the estate. Joshua and Peter were soberly dressed in their clerical black. Adam looked a typical country gentleman in his cream breeches, navy cut away jacket and gold embroidered white waistcoat. His long hair was tied back with a ribbon and his dark side-whiskers emphasised his swarthy complexion. Rabbits and squirrels darted across the dirt track in front of them. Joshua was concerned to see dark circles under Adam's eyes.

'I fear nephew that you work too many hours in the yard. Is it not secure now with the order for the new merchantman?'

'Before so large a ship can be built I have to design it to suit our needs. For so long a voyage to Botany Bay, she must have ample hold space but she needs to carry cannon to protect her from privateers or our enemies at sea. I would not lose another cargo to the French.'

'I thought you said she was to be built on the lines of the Dutch East Indiamen?' Peter observed. 'I was fortunate enough to observe such vessels during my time in the navy. During a shore leave in Holland I visited a shipyard and saw the lines of a hull and could guess at her measurements. The calculations must be right for her ballast below decks to ensure she is stable in the water and she must also be fast under sail. We have laid down the keel in the yard but I am not satisfied with the interior design. We will also be carrying settlers and convicts to the new penal colony. And there is a shortage of good English oak with so many warships being built. And oak takes a hundred to a hundred and twenty years to mature for such a vessel and then when it is cut down the wood must be seasoned for several years. The large shipyards are importing oak from Russia to meet their demands. I have enough stored at the yard to complete the brigantine and build the merchantman's hull but I need hundreds of mature trees to complete her. It is a huge outlay to import the stock required. But the final payment for the Guernsey cutter will meet the cost and restock the yard.'

Adam broke off and shook his head. 'I will not bore you with the yard's problems.'

Peter had dropped back. His head was bent and his wavy hair fell forward across his face, beneath which his expression was tense as he dwelt upon some inner struggle. Peter's piety warred constantly with a wilder side to his nature. Uncle Joshua paused to pick up a sturdy stick to walk with.

'With such a ship comes vast responsibility. I know the designs for the brigantine Pegasus and also the cutters Challenger and Sea Mist were yours and they have proved most successful. But then you had your dear late father with whom you could discuss any concerns that arose.'

'I worry that I am overreaching myself and also the yard with this new project. I do not even know if Pegasus has made the voyage to and from Botany Bay safely. There are so many unknown risks in this venture to trade with the new colony. Perhaps it is madness.'

'Do you doubt your capabilities?'

Joshua studied his nephew intently. Adam shrugged, and then laughed.

'I believe she will be a great ship and become the pride of the shipyard. But much is at stake. It is not only the security of my family but vast investments of others.'

'If it was your money alone would you doubt the ship to be seaworthy.'

'No.'

'Then keep your faith.'

Adam knew his uncle was right. He had spent months working on the plans and rechecking his calculations. He must not think of failure. Too much depended on success.

A gong sounded from the direction of the house summoning them for their meal. When Hannah entered the kitchen she found the cook and maid busy serving the food into tureens. Senara was crouched on the floor bathing a cut on the paw of Adam's cross-breed spaniel, Scamp. The dog limped over to the warmth of the range and was ordered outside by the cook. Senara poured fresh water from an ewer into a bowl and washed her hands.

'Go and enjoy the company of your family, Hannah,' Senara chided. 'Everything is prepared here.'

'I find it difficult to sit with my hands idle.'

'This is your day to rest. You work too hard.'

Senara tucked a stray wisp of earth brown hair behind her ear and smiled.

'I had better tidy myself. I cannot appear before my husband's family looking like a gypsy ragamuffin.'

'No one thinks of you as a gypsy.'

Hannah sensed Senara's tension. Adam's wife was not so at ease in this grand house as she had been in the cottage at Trevowan Hard.

'You have earned your place by Adam's side. Your manners are those of a lady.'

She turned to Leah who was sitting in a chair by the window watching the cook lift a saddle of lamb from the range and place it on a china serving plate for Adam to carve at the table. Leah's face was drawn with pain, her fingers swollen and gnarled. She sipped on a mug of ale.

'You must be very proud of your daughters, Mrs Polglase,' Hannah remarked.

'Happen I be, thank you kindly, Mrs Rabson.'

Senara removed her apron. 'Are you sure you will not join us, Ma?'

'I know my place. I be content here in the warm. I wouldn't know what to say to gentry folks. And I will sit awhile in the nursery. That young Joel needs a firm eye watching over him.'

'An army of servants could not control him.' Senara returned with a laugh.

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