Home for Christmas

Home for Christmas by Lizzie Lane Read Free Book Online

Book: Home for Christmas by Lizzie Lane Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lizzie Lane
Nice dress. You’re even beginning to look pretty.’
    Agnes didn’t like being reminded that she was a girl and had to get used to wearing dresses with lace and frills and bobs and bows; even being called pretty irritated.
    ‘I am not a child and I hate wearing dresses.’
    He laughed as though she were even younger than she actually was which irritated her even more.
    ‘Well, I think you looks lovely. If you keeps on going as you are, I might even ask you to marry me when you grows up.’
    Agnes was speechless. She eyed the fresh-faced boy with his glossy hair and happy countenance. She should feel flattered but instead felt even more irritated.
    ‘Oh no, you will not! Whatever makes you think I would marry a stupid boy like you?’
    Her mother sighed with exasperation. ‘Would you like a slice of chocolate cake and a cup of tea, Harry?’
    Agnes was in no doubt what her mother was up to; Harry liked her and was available. But she didn’t want Harry. She wanted Sir Avis’s nephew, Robert. She’d known him since they were both two lonely children, one without a father and one whose parents spent their time overseeing a sheep station in Australia or touring the world with a fashionable set.
    Robert was the love of her life and if she couldn’t have him, she’d never marry.
    Harry accepted the cake and tea, his eyes hardly leaving her face as he pulled a chair from beneath the kitchen table and sat down.
    ‘There’s one of them picture houses opened down Lambeth way. How about I take you there?’ He turned abruptly to Agnes’s mother. ‘If you’ve no objection, Mrs Stacey.’
    Agnes cringed when her mother answered that she had no objection at all.
    ‘I think you’d enjoy that, wouldn’t you Agnes? They’re so modern, these moving pictures.’
    ‘I don’t think so,’ Agnes replied tartly. ‘Watching a stage in the dark gives me headaches. I think I’ve got one coming on now what with the travelling and the cats. I itch you know,’ she said to Harry. ‘I itch because of the cats and get rashes all over me. Quite ugly rashes in fact. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m quite tired. I need a lie down.’
    Aware of her mother’s harsh looks, she took the creaking narrow stairs that led to her grandmother’s bedroom two at a time. Once there, she flung herself on to the patchwork quilt that smelled of stale snuff and damp.
    Cradling her hot cheeks in her hands, she stared out of the window: not that there was much to see; just the window of a room much like this and roof after roof and chimney after chimney beyond that.
    To think that Harry Allen entertained the idea of marrying her! What a silly idea that was. It was Robert she loved; Robert she would always love.
    They’d come across each other in the orchard at Heathlands, a shady place of gnarled old fruit trees and long grass.
    Robert had been riding Copper, his chestnut pony, and had almost trotted over her until she’d popped up out of the grass in front of him.
    The pony had shied and Robert had ended up beside her in the grass.
    Footsteps pounded up the stairs. The smell of violets came into the little bedroom along with her mother. Her mother closed the pine plank door tightly behind her. Her expression was tense, the little cameo brooch at her throat moving in time with nervous swallowing, as though she were rehearsing the words she wanted to say.
    ‘Agnes Stacey, you were rude to that young man. Harry likes you. He’s always liked you. I think you should go down immediately and apologise.’
    Agnes sighed and cupped her face in her hands.
    ‘I wouldn’t want to lead him on. He’s not the one for me and …’
    ‘Don’t say that you’re not curious about the picture house. I know my own daughter. I know you’d love to go.’
    ‘I don’t want to go with him. I don’t want to build up his hopes. I won’t ever marry him. I’m going to marry Master Robert. I think I’ll ask Lydia if she’d like to go to the

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