Book - The Quiet Gentleman




Georgette Heyer - 1951
Pan Books
ISBN: none
The Quiet Gentleman
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Gervase Frant, 7th Earl of St Erth, returns to his family seat at Stanyon, having inherited from his father while abroad with the army against Napoleon. Also residing at Stanyon are his stepmother the Dowager Lady St Erth, Gervase's younger half-brother Martin, his cousin Theo and his stepmother's young friend, Drusilla, who is on a long-term visit. Lady St Erth and Martin rapidly make plain to Gervase, in ways verging on the highly anti-social, that they are rather disappointed to see him home. They had expected him to die, as the officer death rate was high, and had wanted him to die, as Martin would have inherited instead. Gervase had not spent much time at Stanyon as a child; his maternal grandmother had taken him in instead; Theo, his cousin and the steward, is therefore the only person at Stanyon with whom he has had much contact. The two are good friends. Out riding one day, Gervase happens upon an extremely beautiful young lady who has fallen off her horse, and discovers her to be Marianne, the daughter of another member of the local gentry, Sir Thomas. Sir Thomas is a Baronet who inherited unexpectedly from his older brother; he had been sent to India to seek his fortune and achieved success. Consequently, he is called in the area the Nabob. Gervase being rather taken with Marianne finds that Lady St Erth is less impressed with his new acquaintance; while she is extremely fond of Marianne in her self-centred way, she had hopes of her making a match with Martin. Having made Marianne's acquaintance, Gervase resolves that there should be a Ball, an idea which Martin throws himself into with enthusiasm, although it falls to Drusilla to organize it. Martin's older sister arrives with her husband and two children to attend Gervase's first big function at Stanyon; so too does "Lucy" (short for Lucius Austell, Viscount Ulverston), an old Army friend of Gervase's who is heir to the earldom of Wrexham. The ball is a resounding success; particularly successful is the meeting between Lucy, Lord Ulverston and Marianne. This upsets Martin, although Gervase receives it with equanimity; his passion for Marianne was short-lived, despite her charm and beauty. Lord Ulverston and Marianne later become engaged. After the ball and as life settles back into a routine, however, more alarming things begin to happen. Gervase, who sleeps in the panelled and ancient master bedroom at Stanyon wakes thinking someone is in his room. Someone appears to have sabotaged a bridge he is about to cross which has been damaged by flooding; someone sets up a tripwire for his horse. The person who is behind all these incidents appears to be Martin, whose handkerchief is found after Gervase wakes up, and who also attempted to fight Gervase without a button on his fencing foil. Later someone shoots Gervase. The injury proves not fatal, but dramatic, and Gervase is laid up for some time. Meanwhile, Martin disappears, and people assume he fled to avoid the shooting. When he reappears, he does so with a fishy story about being attacked and tied up in a ditch. Everyone is sceptical about this story except for Gervase. As soon as he is fairly well recovered, Gervase rides out to see Theo, but he is hotly pursued by Martin. Martin tells Gervase that he believes Theo is behind the attempts on both their lives, and Gervase agrees with him; he had figured it out some time before. Theo finally admits it, and Gervase sends him to manage Martin's plantation in the West Indies rather than calling in the law and causing a scandal. All ends happily as the unromantic, practical Drusilla and Gervase become engaged.