The Ghost of Christmas Past

The Ghost of Christmas Past by Sally Quilford Read Free Book Online

Book: The Ghost of Christmas Past by Sally Quilford Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sally Quilford
when the men had
joined the women in the drawing room for after dinner coffee. She stood by the
window, looking out at the falling snow, letting the draft through the panes
cool her flushed cheeks. The fact that he stood so close to her did not help.
    “I'm
really rather fond of him myself,” said Elizabeth. Liam did not know it, but he
had just paid her the highest compliment he could.
    “And
have you inherited his fearlessness?”
    “Oh
no, I'm afraid of everything.”
    “I
don't believe that. There's been a murder, talk of ghosts, people seeing things
that aren't there, and yet you still stride through Midchester, helping others,
and bringing light in the darkness.”
    “I
suppose I believe, perhaps a trifle arrogantly, that Midchester belongs to me,
and I refuse to let any murderers or ghosts steal it from me. Besides, most
murderers only kill once, I believe. Whatever reason poor Mr. Sanderson was
struck down, I think that reason probably died with him. Don't you?” She looked
at him intently, trying to read his mind.
    “I
hope so, Miss Dearheart. I … I would hate to see any more trouble brought to
this wonderful town of yours. Midchester is like a haven in the storm. All
around us there is an industrial revolution taking place. Railways, factories,
and one day they say man will take to the skies. Yet this town remains
oblivious to all that.”
    “And
you think that's a good thing, refusing to move with the times?”
    “I
always think it's better to let the times come to you, Miss Dearheart, not to
chase after them. I did too much of that. I wanted to be a pioneering doctor. I
travelled the world in pursuit of that, learning from the best. But do you know
what being a real doctor is?”
    “What?”
    “It's
doing what John Wheston does. Sitting at peoples' bedsides, listening to their
worries, assuring them they're going to pull through. A man loses that when he
chases after the glittering prizes. He forgets that there are human beings at
the end of those pioneering treatments.”
    “But
surely if there were no pioneering treatments, they would not have found the
cure for smallpox.”
    “It
wasn't the medical men who found that cure, Miss Dearheart. Oh they took credit
for it. But it was the milkmaids and dairy farmers who first discovered it.
Simply by being among cows that had cowpox and realising that unlike their
neighbours, they were free from the disease. It is that quiet discovery, a
realisation formed over decades, which really matters. Not the big 'let's rush
this through and make a lot of money out of it' discoveries of the men of
science.”
    Elizabeth
felt confused. As far as she was aware, Albert Sanderson had no medical
training, yet Liam spoke like a man who knew what he was talking about. On the
other hand, she had learned about the discovery of the smallpox vaccine by
reading books and newspapers. Was it not just as likely that Albert Sanderson
read the same books? Or even more likely that being in a sanatorium would put
him in the way of much medical talk.
    “It
is a pity that Lady Clarissa could not join us,” said Elizabeth, watching him
closely.
    “Lady
Clarissa?”
    “My
aunt's step-daughter.”
    “What?”
Lady Bedlington's voice rang out imperiously across the room. She was involved
in a game of bridge with the sisters and Mr. Jenkins. “What was that about
Clarissa?”
    “I
said it was a shame she could not be here.”
    “She's
down on our estate in Devonshire, I should imagine.”
    “Oh
no,” said Mrs. Chatterbucks, who sat by the fire, her eyes gleaming, either
from the heat or the glass of port she had just finished. “I saw her in town
only this morning. She is staying at the Blue Peacock Inn, I believe.”
    “Why
has no one told me this? Really,” said Lady Bedlington, “it is coming to
something when a girl does not come to see her dear step-mama.”
    Though
it was well known that Lady Clarissa and Lady Bedlington had never been dear to
each other, no one

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