Jemima Shore at the Sunny Grave

Jemima Shore at the Sunny Grave by Antonia Fraser Read Free Book Online

Book: Jemima Shore at the Sunny Grave by Antonia Fraser Read Free Book Online
Authors: Antonia Fraser
lap of the waves. After a while Jemima took off her sandals and splashed through the warm receding waters, and a little while after that Joseph Archer took her hand and led her back on to the sand. The waves grew conspicuously rougher as they rounded the point of the first wide bay. They stood for a moment together, Joseph and Jemima, he with his arm companionably round her waist.
    “Jemima, even without that new moon, I’m going to wish—” Then Joseph stiffened. He dropped the encircling arm, grabbed her shoulder and swung her round.
    “Jesus, oh sweet Jesus, do you see that?”
    The force of his gesture made her wince. For a moment she was distracted by the flickering moonlit swathe on the dark surface of the water: there were multitudinous white—silver—horses out beyond the land where high waves were breaking over an outcrop of rocks. She thought Joseph was pointing out to sea. Then Jemima saw the lights.
    “The Archer house!” she cried. “I thought it was shut up.” It seemed that all the lights of the house were streaming out across the promontory on which it lay. Such was the illumination that you might have supposed some great ball was in progress, a thousand candles lit as in the days of Governor Archer. More sombrely Jemima realized that was how the plantation house must have looked on the night of Miss Izzy’s death: Tina Archer and others had born witness to the old lady’s insistence on never leaving her house in darkness. The night her murderer had come in from the sea: that was how the house had looked to him.
    “Come on,” said Joseph Archer. The moment of lightness—or loving perhaps? but now she would never know—hadutterly vanished. He sounded both grim and determined. “Let’s go.”
    “To the police?”
    “No, to the house. I need to know what’s happening there.”
    As they walked rapidly, half-ran along the sands, Joseph Archer said only one thing further. “This house should have been
ours
.” Ours: the people of Bow Island.
    His relentlessness on the subject of the museum struck Jemima anew since her conversation with Coralie Harrison. What would a man—or a woman for that matter—do for an inheritance? And there was more than one kind of inheritance. Wasn’t a national heritage as important to some people as a personal inheritance to others? Joseph Archer was above all a patriotic Bo’lander. And he had not known of the change of will on the morning after Miss Izzy’s death. She herself had evidence of that. Might a man like Joseph Archer, a man who had already risen in his own world by sheer determination, decide to take the law into his own hands? In order to secure the museum for his people while there was still time?
    And yet … Joseph Archer to kill the kind old lady who had befriended him as a boy? Batter her to death? That was what the murderer had done … As he strode along, so tall in the moonlight, Joseph was suddenly a complete and thus menacing enigma to Jemima.
    They had reached the promontory, had scrambled up the rocks and had got as far as the first terrace when all the lights in the house went out. It was as though a switch had been thrown. Only the cold eerie glow of the moon over the sea behind them remained to illuminate the bushes, once trimmed, now wildly overgrown, and the sagging balustrades.
    But Joseph did not check. He strode on, tugging atJemima where necessary, helping her up the flights of stone steps, some of them deeply cracked and uneven. In the darkness, Jemima could just discern that the windows of the drawing-room were still open. There had to be someone in there, someone lurking perhaps behind the ragged red brocade curtains which had once been stained by Miss Izzy’s blood.
    Joseph, still holding Jemima’s hand, pulled her through the centre window.
    There was a short cry like a suppressed scream and then a low sound as if someone was laughing at them there in the dark. An instant later, all the lights were snapped on at

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