The Pride of the Peacock

The Pride of the Peacock by Victoria Holt Read Free Book Online

Book: The Pride of the Peacock by Victoria Holt Read Free Book Online
Authors: Victoria Holt
Tags: Fiction, General, Romance, Historical, Paranormal, Fiction in English, Victorian
flies in the heat of the sun, wading through the mud and panning in the creeks. I could feel all the frustration of failure and the wonderful excitement of success. But that was gold. It was opal that I should look for. I could picture myself holding my candle, peering into crevices, gouging out the opal-the beautiful iridescent stone, the lucky stone which gave the gift of prophecy and which told a story, nature’s story.
    I never stopped congratulating myself on being at the stream that day when the chair came hurtling along and I had been able to save Ben Henniker from an accident which I had already convinced myself would have been certain death. I could have liked him for that alone and he would have liked me for saving his life, but there was more to it than that. There was something in our natures that matched each other.
    That was why it was so irksome to wait.
    I would sit by the stream and hope he would come in his chair.
    “I know it was next Wednesday we were to meet,” he would say, ‘but to tell the truth I thought it was too long to wait. “
    Then we would look at each other and laugh.
    But it didn’t happen like that. I just sat at the stream and nothing happened. I could see him so vividly, for his conversation had conjured up one image after another; I thought of the sun’s beating down on him and what would have happened if the rock which had fallen on him had been a little heavier and had killed him.
    Then I should never have known him.
    That started me thinking of death, and I was remembering the graves in the churchyard and they reminded me of the raised earth in the Waste Land where the archangel grew. Was it really a grave, and if so, whose?
    It was no use sitting and staring across the stream. He wouldn’t come.
    He had visitors who would perhaps be people who had come to buy or sell opals. I pictured them with a decanter of wine or whisky between them, filling then-glasses as soon as they were empty (for I was sure Ben Henniker drank heartily). He was the sort of man who would do everything with a special gusto. They would talk together and laugh a great deal and perhaps discuss the opals they had found or bought or sold. I wished I were with them. But I had to wait until next Wednesday and it was a long way off.
    Sadly I stood up and wandered, aimless, along the stream and so I found myself in the Waste Land kneeling by the grave.
    Oh yes, it was a grave. There was no doubt of that. I started to pull up the weeds which grew there and after I had worked for a while it was clearly revealed. It was not a dog’s grave. It was too big for that. Then I made a startling discovery. A stake protruded slightly from the earth, and when I seized it and pulled it up, I saw that it was a small plaque and on it was a name. I knocked off the earth and what was revealed made me feel as though icy water were trickling down my spine, for on that plaque was my own name-Jessica-simply Jessica Clavering.
    I sat back on my knees studying’ the plaque. I had seen such used before on the graves in the churchyard. They were put there by those who could not afford the crosses and angels holding books on which were engraved the virtues of those who lay beneath them.
    In that grave lay a Jessica Clavering.
    I turned the plaque over and there I could just make out some figures.
    ‘1880’ and above it “Ju …” the other two letters were obliterated.
    This was even more disturbing. I had been born on the 3rd of June, 1880, and whoever lay in that grave not only bore my name but had died at the time of my birth.
    Momentarily I had forgotten Ben Henniker. I could think of nothing but my discovery and wonder what it meant
    I found it impossible to keep this to myself and as Maddy was the obvious one to approach, I waylaid her as she was going into the kitchen garden to cut curly kale for dinner.
    “Maddy,” I said, deciding to come straight to the point, ‘who was Jessica Clavering? “
    She smirked. Tou

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