Authors: M.C. Beaton
M. C. Beaton
is the author of the hugely successful Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth series, as well as a quartet of Edwardian murder mysteries featuring heroine Lady Rose Summer, the Travelling Matchmaker and Six Sisters Regency romance series, and a stand-alone murder mystery,
The Skeleton in the Closet
– all published by Constable & Robinson. She left a full-time career in journalism to turn to writing, and now divides her time between the Cotswolds and Paris. Visit
Praise for the School for Manners series:
‘[Beaton] displays a fine touch in creating an amusing set of calamities in her latest piece of frivolous fiction.’
‘The Tribbles, with their salty exchanges and impossible schemes, provide delightful entertainment.’
‘[M. C. Beaton] again charms and delights; a bonbon for those partial to Regency romances.’
‘The Tribbles are charmers . . . Very highly recommended.’
Titles by M. C. Beaton
The School for Manners
The Six Sisters
The Taming of Annabelle
Deirdre and Desire
Diana the Huntress
Frederica in Fashion
The Edwardian Murder Mystery series
Snobbery with Violence
Sick of Shadows
Our Lady of Pain
The Travelling Matchmaker series
Emily Goes to Exeter
Belinda Goes to Bath
Penelope Goes to Portsmouth
Beatrice Goes to Brighton
Deborah Goes to Dover
Yvonne Goes to York
The Agatha Raisin series
Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death
Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet
Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener
Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley
Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage
Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist
Agatha Raisin and the Wellspring of Death
Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham
Agatha Raisin and the Witch of Wyckhadden
Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam
Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell
Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came
Agatha Raisin and the Curious Curate
Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House
Agatha Raisin and the Deadly Dance
Agatha Raisin and the Perfect Paragon
Agatha Raisin and Love, Lies and Liquor
Agatha Raisin and Kissing Christmas Goodbye
Agatha Raisin and a Spoonful of Poison
Agatha Raisin: There Goes the Bride
Agatha Raisin and the Busy Body
Agatha Raisin: As the Pig Turns
The Hamish Macbeth series
Death of a Gossip
Death of a Cad
Death of an Outsider
Death of a Perfect Wife
Death of a Hussy
Death of a Snob
Death of a Prankster
Death of a Glutton
Death of a Travelling Man
Death of a Charming Man
Death of a Nag
Death of a Macho Man
Death of a Dentist
Death of a Scriptwriter
Death of an Addict
A Highland Christmas
Death of a Dustman
Death of a Celebrity
Death of a Village
Death of a Poison Pen
Death of a Bore
Death of a Dreamer
Death of a Maid
Death of a Gentle Lady
Death of a Witch
Death of a Valentine
Death of a Sweep
Death of a Kingfisher
The Skeleton in the Closet
Constable & Robinson Ltd
55–56 Russell Square
London WC1B 4HP
First published in the US by St Martin’s Press, 1989
This paperback edition published by Canvas,
an imprint of Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2012
Copyright © M. C. Beaton, 1989
The right of M. C. Beaton to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.
A copy of the British Library Cataloguing in
Publication Data is available from the British Library
ISBN: 978-1-78033-314-4 (paperback)
ISBN: 978-1-78033-469-1 (ebook)
Typeset by TW Typesetting, Plymouth, Devon
Printed and bound in the UK
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There is great happiness in the country, but it requires a visit to London every year to reassure yourself of this truth.
‘Going up to town, m’dear,’ said Squire Simon Wraxall.
His daughter, Delilah, looked at him, startled. ‘But you never go to London, Papa. You hate it.’
‘Pressing business,’ mumbled the squire, picking up his newspaper and barricading himself behind it.
The couple were seated over breakfast in their comfortable country mansion. Early autumn sunshine shone through the diamond-shaped panes of the latticed windows and sparkled on the silver on the table. The coffee urn on the sideboard hissed like a cat. A fire crackled in the hearth.
‘Is it something to do with that letter from London you have just received?’ asked Delilah.
‘Eh, what?’ said the squire. ‘Yes, yes. That’s it.’
‘And who was the letter from?’
‘Fellow about phosphates. That lower field down by the river is in bad heart.’
‘Put down that newspaper,’ commanded his daughter imperiously.
The squire reluctantly lowered the newspaper. He looked shifty. Delilah studied him for some moments, and then said, ‘I don’t mind, you know. Mama has been dead for some time. I suppose it was only to be expected.’
‘Don’t know what you’re talking about,’ said the squire, looking puzzled.
‘Do not tease me, Papa. That letter was addressed in a very feminine hand. Moreover, it smelled of scent. If you have a lady in London in whom you are interested, then I quite understand.’
‘I am not interested in any woman,’ howled the squire. ‘Mind your own business, Delilah. That’s the trouble with women, always gossiping and poking their noses into things that don’t concern them.’
‘Pooh! I am like a clam compared to you. You are a terrible old gossip. Still, if you wish to keep your guilty secret to yourself, then so be it.’
She looked at her father hopefully, but he merely said, ‘Good,’ and raised his newspaper again.
A small frown marred the alabaster white of Delilah’s brow. She rose and helped herself to another cup of coffee and sat down and began to wonder how she would feel with a stepmother. It took her very little time to decide she would not like it at all.
Despite her startling beauty, Delilah Wraxall was twenty-three and still unwed. It was not through lack of opportunity. She had received many proposals of marriage and had turned them all down. She assumed herself to be content with her life. She ran her father’s home efficiently. He was very rich and so she could command the latest fashions from London and every trinket her heart desired.
Her father put down the newspaper and got to his feet. ‘Better be off,’ he said.
‘Won’t you tell me who she is?’ asked Delilah.
‘Now stop that nonsense,’ he growled, dropping a kiss on the top of her head. ‘Only be away a few days.’ He strode out of the room and Delilah heard him calling for his man, John, to bring down the luggage.
The squire really did not think about women other than his daughter very much. Most women made him feel desperately shy. He had been devoted to his late wife, about whom his only complaint had been that she had insisted on calling their daughter Delilah. With a name like that, the squire often thought, one could only expect trouble. For Delilah Wraxall was a hardened flirt. Even at the great age of twenty-three, she was still stunningly beautiful with a white skin, jet black hair, and large hazel eyes fringed with silky lashes.
There was a rumbling of wheels as the squire’s travelling carriage was brought round to the front of the house. Delilah went out onto the step and watched her father as he gave orders to the coachman.
At the age of fifty, he was still a well-set-up man, six feet in height, and with a rather battered handsome face. His hair was snow-white but so thick and glossy that people often assumed it was a spun-glass wig. His eyes were very blue, wide and childlike.
After he had driven off, Delilah went back indoors to put on a warm cloak. She would go for a walk and try to think what she was going to do should her father bring home a bride.
As his carriage jolted along the road to London, the squire took out that letter and read it again. The Misses Tribble, twin sisters who claimed to be able to bring ‘difficult girls’ out at the Season and to find them husbands, had written to say they would grant him an interview. He had appealed to them in desperation after Delilah had turned down her last beau. It was not natural for such a beautiful girl as Delilah to remain unwed. The squire thought his neighbours blamed
for her unmarried state, believing him to be keeping her unmarried so as to have an unpaid housekeeper. He would have been very upset had he known that his neighbours all considered Delilah a terrible flirt, a minx, and pitied him accordingly.