Reluctant Wife(5)

By: Lindsay Armstrong





‘Never,’ Adam had said to her once, ‘allow my family to get to you. They’re all mad, on both sides, and I disregard them.’



He might disregard their opinions, Roz had decided, ‘but he certainly provided for them very well, which probably accounted for their eagerness to meet under his auspices despite their sometimes acute differences. And she often wished she’d known Adam’s father, Charles Milroy, not only as a clue to his eldest son but as a guide to this melting pot of a family which he had instigated by marrying Adam’s mother.



In fact the sheer weight of numbers had made Roz, an only child herself and an orphan, dizzy at first, until Adam’s cousin Margaret had taken pity on her and drawn her a family tree, Margaret was widowed with two children, Amy and Richard, eighteen and twenty.



But Margaret had gone further, in her forthright manner,and said, ‘Now, there’s one tour de force in this family, and that’s Adam, as you might have gathered. Anyone who can make himself a million from nothing before he’s thirty has to be someone to be reckoned with, but then even when we were all kids Adam was a force to be reckoned with. But there are several minor forces too, and it might help you to know about them. Aunt Flavia is one. She runs an unparalleled spy network and knows everything that goes on. Don’t ask me how, but she does.’



‘Even in your side of the family?’ asked Roz,



‘Even there,’ Margaret said ruefully, ‘You see, when Charles married her, he and his two sisters, of which one was my mother and the other Aunt Elspeth, had inherited Werrington jointly. They all lived there and worked it together—that’s what Charles brought Flavia home to after a whirlwind romance in Rome, and that’s how we all grew up together and became so engrossed in each other.’



‘That must have been rather hard for her.’



‘It had to be. She could barely speak English when she got tossed in with the Milroys, she had no relations of her own to fall back on, she must have been homesick, not to mention … other obstacles,’ Margaret smiled.



‘Oh?’



‘Mmm … my mother got on well with her and personally I’ve always admired and liked her but Aunt Elspeth—well,let’s just say they took an instant dislike to each other and used to have some jolly old dust-ups. But to get back——the second minor force is Lucia, Adam’s sister and the eldest daughter.’



‘I… ’ Roz stopped.



‘Find her hard to like?’ enquired Margaret ‘Don’t worry, we all do. Although I must say——-or perhaps I shouldn’t—but as a girl she wasn’t quite so…’ she gestured. ‘But anyway,’ she went on after a moment, ‘she gets around now as if she was the supreme arbiter of all the taste and elegance in the family, not to mention. its first lady—by the way, that’s your role now, and don’t let her tell you any different. But she really likes to think she has great power of influence over us and she’s not always terribly ethical about it, I’m afraid. And the third force,’ she said slowly, ‘is about to be born. Well, she’s already born, but I don’t think anyone has realised her potential yet. I’m talking about Nicky.’



Nicola, universally known as Nicky, was Adam’s youngest sister and the baby of the family at nineteen. ‘But. she’s a honey,’ Roz said bewilderedly.



‘I’m not disputing that. I’ve just got the uncomfortable feeling that Nicky will move heaven and earth one day to get what she wants whether it’s what she should have or not, and that even Adam will find her hard to control.’



‘I think Adam’s really fond of her. He sort of stands in as her father.’



‘That might be the problem—how fond he is of her,’ Margaret said cryptically, but then she had shrugged and gone on briskly, ‘I hope you don’t mind me filling you in like. this but you looked totally confused at the last family get-together,and not only about who was who but all the cross-currents as well.’



‘I was,’ said Roz. ruefully, then a thought struck her. ‘isn’t it odd that all the minor forces, as you call them, are female?’



Margaret had smiled with genuine humour. ‘There’s at least one more, and she’s on our side of the family. Wait until you see Aunt Elspeth in action! But I can tell you one other thing, when you produce a son and heir for Adam, they’ll not be able to hold a candle to you, Roz …’



The irony of that last remark was to stay with Roz over the ensuing months, and not only because she had no desire to be first lady of the family. And when Margaret had made her disclosures, Roz had, been tempted. to ask her about Adam’s first wife, but found herself unable to broach a subject that seemed to be totally taboo. She’d also treated Margaret’s confidences with some wariness and tried to stop herself from making judgements based on them. But it was obvious that Adam liked and respected his cousin Margaret, and he certainly did everything he could for the fatherless Amy and Richard, even to employing Richard. But she’d gradually, grown to see the truth of Margaret’s assessments of the family, except for one. For the life of her she couldn’t imagine where Nicky fitted in as a minor force.

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