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By Anne Dean

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The demands of sewing, damsons and jelly-making did not permit an earlier escape. But her determination to solve the mystery was, by that time, increased rather than diminished. For, although Penelope was recovering more rapidly than they had dared to hope, and her periods of consciousness becoming longer, it seemed that Mr Paynter had been right to doubt her memory of the accident. Questions on the subject elicited no more than a gentle shake of the head. She remembered nothing after their leaving the nave to climb the stairs.

But you cannot take all the trouble upon yourself,’ Dido protested, still holding her place beside the bed, and gazing down at the pale face, sunk deep into the pillow, and the closed eyes which had not opened again since that strange moment in the cloisters. ’ Harriet stepped back from the bed for a moment, and drew in a long, weary breath. Turning into the light which was coming through the half-closed curtains, she pushed up her large, ugly cap – and, without it shadowing her face, she looked positively young.

Dido left the sickroom and walked slowly down the elegant sweep of Madderstone Abbey’s great staircase, pausing for a moment to gaze over the curve of the banister to the pattern of coloured marble on the hall floor below. She could not help but wonder why Harriet should be so very determined to keep Lucy away from the captain … It was an odd little mystery and one which, she decided, she must get to the bottom of soon – but, meanwhile, there was something else troubling her: Harriet’s theory that an unmarried woman of more than thirty should devote herself to being useful and give up all thoughts of love.

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