Children of One Family
The world always smelled better after a rainstorm, Archie decided,
his face to the clearing sky and sniffing the air like an eager hound.
Everything seemed to have a cleaner, crisper scent than it had had before. Of
course, it also helped to be *able* to smell things again, he reflected with
a wry grin.
His second day at Keverne had been much like his first--it
had been pleasant
to watch the silvery drifts of rain and mist through the windows but he'd had
no desire to be out in them. He'd spent part of the time in the library,
part of it in the music room listening to Medora practice. She sang almost as
well as she played, her voice untrained but clear and true. The lullaby
she'd composed for Robin was finished, and she was setting down another tune,
tentatively titled "Rain." Archie had been surprised by how closely the
light, glittering chords of that piece mimicked the patter of rain on the
Today, however, he had awakened--somewhat later than usual--to
streaming through his window. After a leisurely breakfast, he'd gone
outside, taken an equally leisurely stroll around the garden, then the house.
He'd arrived at Keverne in the dark, after all--and the weather and his cold
had kept him indoors the last two days. High time that he got a better look
at the place his sister had called home for the last five years.
However rambling the interior plan of Keverne, the exterior
was a mellow
Georgian facade, clean and symmetrical. Built some seventy or eighty years
ago, at a guess, though Archie was no expert on such things. Morning
sunlight caught the panes of the tall eastern windows, turned them into
sparkling prisms. He looked as long as he could bear to, then shielded his
eyes, and resumed walking.
A house full of happy memories. Including Margaret's--or so
he hoped. Even
now he could not quite bring himself to ask.
*Faintheart.* Archie scowled, despising his own timidity.
So far he'd
ventured only the most tentative queries after his sister's health and
well-being, received only light, smiling assurances that all was well and was
there anything *he* required to make his stay more pleasant? He remembered
how relieved he had been, initially, not to have to deal with tears or
ravings; now, he found himself almost wishing otherwise.
*Why?* a disagreeable small voice in his head inquired. *So
YOU can feel
better about your presence here? More like a man, giving comfort to the
Grimacing, Archie told the voice to shut up and walked on.
But he had to
admit those questions held some validity. What if Margaret *was* coping with
the tragedy as well as her demeanor suggested? And if that was so, what
cause was served by probing at healing wounds until they bled again?
Still pondering that thought, he rounded the westernmost corner
of the house
and found himself in another, smaller garden. Except that this one was not
unoccupied. Medora sat sideways on the low stone wall, one foot tucked under
her, as she set down more notation in the exercise book spread across her
lap. The peripatetic Tin, meanwhile, stropped and sidled around his
mistress's dangling other foot, meowing plaintively from time to time.
A pleasing sight, Archie thought, smiling. The girl, wholly
absorbed in her
work, framed by earth, sky, and even a distant glimmer of sea, the cat
twining lithely about one slim ankle. The tartan shawl flung loosely around
Medora's shoulders added a contrasting note of color to the scene's blues,
greens, and greys. Remembering the lessons his father's ghillie had taught
him about plaids and clans, Archie studied the pattern and bars on the
shawl--green, white, and yellow on scarlet. Drummond. Someone in the
Tresilian family had been a Highlander then?
Medora came to the end of what she was writing, looked down
at the cat gazing
up at her reproachfully, and shook her head. "I already fed you, Tin. Don't
be such a glutton."
Offended, the cat stalked off, tail held high. The air of outraged
dignity was so comical that Archie could not help chuckling.
"Oh!" Medora glanced in his direction. "Forgive me--I did not see you."
Archie shook his head. "No need to apologize, Medora Rose--I
taking the air. If you're communing with the Muse right now, I'll make
"That's all right. I'd finished for the moment, in any
case. And that's the
second time you've done that."
"Called me by my first and second names together."
"Do you mind very much? I just think both names are too
pretty to be
separated," Archie said lightly. "Is 'Medora' Greek or Roman?"
"Greek, I think. My grandfather--on Mama's side--was an
antiquarian. He said
it meant 'mother's gift.'"
"Very suitable," Archie said gravely. It occured
to him that, after three
sons, a mother might well consider a daughter a gift.
"Fanny--my eldest brother's wife--thinks I should shorten
it to 'Dora.'" The
girl's face and voice were suddenly, flatly neutral. "But . . . I do not care
"I don't much care for them myself," Archie admitted,
walking up to the wall
and leaning his folded arms on top of it. "I only tolerate mine because the
full form is worse." He pulled a face. "It seems to be a Kennedy tradition
to saddle sons with dreadful first names. My brothers did not fare much
better--Malcolm, Duncan, and Archibald!"
The question surprised a laugh from him, especially when he
saw the glint of
amusement in her eyes. "I suppose I could have done worse at that! Of
course," he added, "I still maintain my sisters were more fortunate. There's
not much one can do to ruin 'Alice' or 'Margaret.'"
Medora smiled. "Margaret, at least, might disagree with
you there, but that
is for *her* to tell you!"
"Indeed?" Archie raised his brows. "Family secrets
abound." He turned his
gaze once more to the scene before him, of sloping hills, distant cliffs, and
the glimmer of bright blue sea beyond. "Splendid view you have here," he
remarked, changing the subject.
"Yes." It was said on a sigh, and he glanced over
at her. She'd changed her
position, still sitting sideways on the wall but with her knees drawn up and
arms clasping them loosely, as she gazed out to sea. "I love it here,"
Medora went on dreamily. "It's one of the few places I feel truly at home."
"More than at Tresilian Manor?"
She turned towards him, eyes widening. "Oh, Tresilian
Manor did not exist
until four years ago--at least, not *as* Tresilian Manor," she amended.
"But there have always been Tresilians at Keverne!"
"*This* is the family home?"
Medora nodded. "Since 1670, when John Tresilian married
Morwenna Keverne of
Penzance and built this house, with her blessing--and her dowry," she added,
with a slight, mischievous quirk of the lips. "But they were happy enough,
and so were the ones who came after. Much of the original house burned down
about sixty years ago, so the owner had it rebuilt in the style of the day."
She swept a hand towards the house. "As you see."
"I think it charming," Archie said sincerely and
was answered by another
smile. "But with this house already in good condition--?" He paused, not
wanting to ask rude or intrusive questions.
"Why build another?" she finished for him. "Fanny's
idea." Again that
studied neutrality. "After my brother Edward succeeded to the baronetcy, she
believed he should have a dwelling more suited to his new station. So he sold
Keverne to Hugh to keep it in the family, bought a property from the
Arundels, refurbished it, and gave it another name."
The aforementioned Tresilian Manor. A grander name, Archie
conceded, if a bit
pretentious. "So Keverne
can now be considered a--cadet property?"
"Yes. With the transfer of deed, Keverne became Hugh's.
And now . . .
It all came back to that, didn't it? Archie reflected sadly.
The loss of
Hugh Tresilian--husband, father, brother, landowner . . . Abruptly, he
blurted out before he could stop himself, "Were they happy, your brother and
my sister? I never met him," he hurried on, "and I wasn't at their wedding.
Nor were Margaret and I on such terms at the time that I could make such an
inquiry without sounding unforgivably impertinent. And when we began
corresponding, just a few months ago . . . well, it seemed the wrong thing to
ask under the circumstances."
Medora, who had been staring at him, suddenly closed her eyes.
It sounded almost like the beginning of a prayer; she opened her eyes again,
gave him a faint, sad half-smile. "Yes, they were happy--as my parents were,
before them. We Tresilians have been known, for the most part, as a happy
family. But not always a fortunate one." She slid from her perch, stood
with her back braced against the wall as she gazed up at the house. "How
much has Margaret told you--about us?"
"Probably not everything," Archie admitted. "She
wouldn't consider it her
place to dredge up and pick over her in-laws' past misfortunes. Especially
to someone who did not know the people involved."
"No, she wouldn't," Medora agreed. "Margaret's
loyalty is one of the many
reasons we--esteem her so."
Archie suspected she had been about to say "love"
rather than "esteem," but
the meaning was clear in spite of the substitution. "She did mention that
your parents had died, the year before she married Hugh."
"The winter of 1790. It was--the morbid sore throat;
many in the county were
stricken. Edward and Hugh were safe in London at the time, but the rest of
us all went down with it." A shadow came over her face at the memory. "It's
supposed to be more dangerous to children . . . except that Henry and I
recovered. And our parents did not."
A brief, painful pause, then Medora continued with the same
determination, "Fanny always claims that the stress of rushing back from
London for the funerals caused her to miscarry. She may have been right,
and she has not conceived since. We spent a year trying to--to piece our
lives together. We were not . . . always successful."
Archie did not know what to say. His mother's death had torn
his own family
asunder, but *this* . . . two loving parents gone, an unborn child lost, the
shattered survivors struggling to cope. No wonder this girl seemed so much
older than her years.
"And then Hugh met and married Margaret--and brought her
home to us."
Medora's grey eyes kindled into warmth, the line of her mouth lifting and
softening. "I do not know *how* she did it, sir--but your sister . . . made
things better. We did not forget our parents, but it wasn't pain to
remember them anymore. And Margaret just seemed to, to take us all in hand."
After the last few days, Archie could readily believe that.
spent her childhood nursing injured strays--it was not difficult to see how
she might lavish the same unstinting care on a grieving family and how
wholeheartedly her new charges might respond. "She took you on."
"Yes." Medora seemed cheered, even a little amused
by the thought. "And we
never thought to resent it, not when she entered so completely into our
concerns. Fanny," she hesitated a moment before resuming, "Fanny had married
Edward two years previously, but--she always held herself somewhat aloof.
Some brides do, I suppose. But Margaret . . . truly became one of us."
*One of us.* There was a potent spell in those words, as Archie
knew. He remained silent, watching the play of expression across the young
face opposite him.
"And there was music in the house at night. Evenings
reading aloud by the
fire. Meals taken together, with everyone ready to talk at once. And a
child running about, for all of us to spoil. We were a family once more."
Remembering, the girl looked almost incandescent, then the brightness dimmed,
in a way that hurt Archie to watch. "And now . . . Hugh is gone, and it's
all to do again."
The silence following that stark declaration threatened to
forever. "How did--?" Archie began, then stopped, appalled at himself.
"You're asking about the accident." It was not a
question. Medora drew her
shawl more closely about her as though the day had turned unbearably chill.
"We own two mines, sir--Wheal Fortune and Wheal Random. Fortune is by far
the older; my father started Random about twelve years ago when he thought
Fortune's lodes might be running low. There was an old mine on the
property when he bought it--Wheal Rhys--but it had been abandoned and boarded
up long ago because of flooding.
"His gamble paid off, handsomely. Fortune kept us comfortable
. . . but
Random brought us wealth. Copper instead of tin, you see--and it's still
going strong. Then, six months ago, Curnow, our underground captain, noticed
some dampness at the forty-fathom level and he asked Hugh to take a look at
it. Henry was off on an errand that afternoon--or he'd have gone down with
them. " Grey eyes turned almost black as she stared unseeingly back at the
house. "The original owner of the property told Papa that the flooding in
Wheal Rhys did not go above the fifty fathom mark. He was wrong. Our
miners--had broken through to one of the shafts, a weak spot in the wall
gave, and the water just came bursting through . . . " The recital came to a
sudden halt and she pressed her fist hard against her mouth.
*Dear God.* Again he found himself speechless, aching for them
Margaret, Robin, Henry, and this pale, rigidly self-contained child standing
"We lost ten men that day." Medora's face was very
young and bleak. "B-but at
least we managed to bring them out--for burial. They did--did not have to lie
there . . . " Her voice caught and she turned away abruptly.
*You fool!* Archie berated himself in silent horror. *You stupid,
beef-witted fool!* Helplessly he watched the girl struggle to contain her
tears, looking like nothing so much as one of the mids trying not to cry
after a beating--eyes squeezed shut, lips compressed in a thin, unsteady
line. Under the tartan shawl, the slim shoulders were shaking ever so
slightly; he wished he dared to touch those shoulders, even sling a friendly
arm around them . . . but she was fighting so hard to keep her composure and
what if his actions caused her to lose it? He tried instead to give her the
same opportunity to pull herself together that he would have given to any of
the Indy's young gentlemen; still cursing his own clumsiness, he clasped his
hands behind his back in a show of nonchalance and stared pointedly out to
sea. It seemed an eternity but at last, out of the corner of his eye, he saw
her straighten, back ramrod-stiff, fish a handkerchief from her sleeve, and
blow her nose. A prosaic action--and one that seemed to indicate that her
distress was now under control.
Soon enough, she put away the handkerchief and turned back
to him, lifting
her chin determinedly. "Your pardon, sir. I am not usually such a watering
"You have every cause to grieve," Archie said, contrite.
"I'm sorry I even
brought it up."
She shook her head. "You were concerned about Margaret;
I understand that
completely." Red-rimmed eyes--Medora was not among the fortunate few whose
looks were improved by tears--studied him somberly. "I know how she loved
Hugh, I can guess how deeply she mourns him. And yet . . . I think she's
been the strongest of us all, through this."
"No one would have blamed her if she'd cried, or carried
on, or taken to her
bed. Instead . . . she looked after everyone else--not just us but the other
families too. And if she wept, she did so in private. I wish--I could be
more like her."
"We all handle grief in our own way," Archie said
at last. A platitude, he
knew, and he was annoyed with himself for having nothing better to offer.
And he was more anxious than ever after what he had heard. He could well
envision Margaret shunting aside her own pain to help others with theirs.
Heaven only knew what that self-control had cost her--or was continuing to
And what of Medora who, thanks to him, had just had to relive
one of the
worst days of her young life? She'd been relaxed and content when he first
joined her in the garden; now she was dejected and subdued. Splendid, Mr.
Kennedy, just splendid--your handling of such situations will doubtless
ensure your welcome everywhere.
There must be *something* he could do to restore the balance,
to make her
less unhappy even if he could do nothing about the source of her sorrow.
"I think," he said casually, "that I could do
with some refreshment.
Preferably of the liquid variety. And you look as though you could too."
"Liquid refreshment?" Medora echoed, diverted.
"As in 'spirits'? They
won't let me drink anything stronger than tea, usually!"
"Then tea it will be," Archie declared, offering
his arm. "For both of us. I
don't wish to be accused of leading the young astray."
To his relief, Medora seemed willing to accept both his arm
and his attempt
to lighten the mood. "A pity," she remarked, with her crooked smile. "Under
certain circumstances, it might be rather pleasant to be led astray!"
END PART FIVE