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Second Chances

Chapter Text

He could feel himself fading. The promise of eternal oblivion called to him irresistibly, pulling him towards a sleep that he knew he wouldn’t wake from. It offered him an end to thought, suffering, and most of all the pain of regret. In his last moments, it was the latter of these that predominated- the accumulation of the mistakes that he had made in his life seem to flash before him almost tauntingly. He had wasted so much precious time on futile quests and petty feuds, all of which now seemed so pointless, but the damage had already been done.

He was dimly aware of the sound of crying and of a hand gripping his. It was not his wife, the thought suddenly occurred to him, she had died a few months past. Only his children were left to mourn him. As if in response to that thought, the grip on his hand tightened. He attempted a squeeze in response to comfort whichever one of his children was currently at his side, but found that he was too weak to do so. As darkness overcame him, his only consolation was that, if there was an afterlife, at least he would be reunited with his wife.  

Ross awoke with a start, his hands immediately going to the throbbing leg that was the cause of his abrupt awakening. He was surprised to find that the region was covered in tightly wrapped bandages, he could not recall any recent leg injury that might require such treatment. Looking up from the bed he was lying in, he was equally confused to see an unfamiliar ceiling instead of the familiar canopy of his four-poster bed in Nampara. Where was he?

Looking around the room to try to solve the mystery, he noted its plain appearance. It was sparsely furnished and did not look particularly lived-in, a far cry from his home. It was not totally unfamiliar though, he had the strangest sense that he had been to this place before. Putting aside such thoughts, Ross tried to make sense of why he was not in his death bed as he had been when he had fallen asleep. Only two explanations came to mind- either he was dead and this was an afterlife that was not the pearly gates or eternal hellfire that had been preached to him his whole life, or he was dreaming. Although why he would be dreaming of an insignificant room that he was likely to have visited at some point of his life, he did not know, but a dream seemed like the more likely explanation.

Pushing himself up into a seated position proved itself to be far less of a challenge than he was expecting considering how weak he had been the last few months. Examining his arms, he noticed that these were not the weak arms of an old man, but rather resembled those that he had in his youth. Wondering if the rest of him had also changed, he left the bed and limped over to a basin of water on the lone table in the room. The reflection that stared back at him confirmed his suspicions. No longer grey-haired and wrinkled as he had been the last time he faced a mirror, instead he looked as he had in his mid-twenties. Post-war mid-twenties, he amended as he noticed the scar next to his eye.

Assembling together what he had learned since arriving in this dream, he suddenly remembered when he had last been in this room. It was an inn that he had stopped at on his way back to Nampara after he had mostly recovered from his war injury. This was before he had learned of his father’s death and of Elizabeth’s engagement to Francis. What an odd thing to dream about, he couldn’t help but think. If he were to choose a setting he would have picked a moment of greater relevance to his life, a moment that had made him happy. Perhaps his wedding, or the birth of one of his children.

Shrugging off the strange location of the dream, Ross decided to explore further. He found his military uniform on the table next to the basin and quickly donned it. As he dressed, he caught a glint of silver out of the corner of his eye on his hand. The ring he had taken from Elizabeth before he had left for the war was on his finger. Unwilling for it to remain there any longer, he pulled it off immediately and considered discarding it. He hesitated though, as some strange feeling within him told him it was important that he keep it, so instead of tossing it aside as he was so tempted to do, he pocketed it.

As before, when he left the inn there was a carriage waiting to transport him and a few others. With little else to do, Ross climbed into the carriage and settled in for the long drive, wondering how long it would be until he woke up from this dream.

Chapter Text

The journey was as long and tedious as it had been originally, much to Ross’s annoyance. This time, he did not bother to interrupt his gossiping travel companions as he had before. There was no point. He already knew about his father’s death so he had no need for them to clarify their hushed discussion. Nor did he have any interest in conversing with them, particularly considering that the individuals accompanying him were the detestable Ruth Teague and her equally irritating mother. While he might have had a passing attraction to Ruth decades before, her attitude and behaviour had soured any regard he felt. He had never been able to forgive how she or her mother had treated Demelza both before and after their marriage, and he doubted he would be able to speak to them cordially.

As he feigned sleep, Ross had to admit he was a little surprised that he was still dreaming. He would have thought that the dream would have ended a while ago, but it felt like hours had passed. At times it had felt as though he had momentarily drifted off in boredom, but even that hadn’t been sufficient to rouse him from this strange experience. Was it possible to sleep during a dream? He did not know, but he felt as though he was going to slowly go mad if he had to continue to listen to the inane conversation happening in front of him.

After some deliberation, he decided that he would follow his original path and go to Trenwith. There was no particular pressing need to attend, he already knew about Francis and Elizabeth’s engagement, but the thought of seeing his cousin and uncle again after being parted for so long was enough for him to overcome any discomfort he might have felt. He had missed them both, it would be nice to be able to spend time with his family once more before he woke up. Surprising his companions, Ross gave up the pretence of sleep in order to knock on the roof of the carriage to alert the driver that he wished to stop here. He escaped from the vehicle with a sigh of relief as the stifling atmosphere was replaced by the refreshingly cool air of the outside. And with his destination in mind, he slowly began to walk to Trenwith.

The long, meandering journey along the roads of his childhood left him with little other than his thoughts to distract him, and he realised with a sudden pang of longing that Demelza would still be alive in this time. However as quickly as the idea came to him that he could switch direction and visit her instead, he was forced to dismiss it. While seeing his wife in her cross-dressing glory days would no doubt be terribly entertaining, it would probably come across as quite sinister if he sought her out at her father’s home when she had no recollection of meeting him. There was also no guarantee that he would be able to find her before this dream ended, and the hope that he might would only make his awakening all the more devastating.

With some regret, he stuck to his chosen path until he finally reached Trenwith. Upon arriving at his uncle’s home, Ross was shown to the dining room and immediately greeted by the extremely shocked expressions of both his family and Elizabeth’s. It was only now, without the haze of his obsession clouding his thoughts, that he was able to see that some of them also sported looks of horror, Francis and Mrs Chynoweth in particular. No doubt both were worried that he was going to try to steal Elizabeth away, he thought humourlessly. The estranged lover returned from war intent on receiving his prize. Gods, what a fool he had been. Even with the sudden downward turn of his mood it did not escape Ross that, unlike Elizabeth’s mother, Francis at least was quick to recover from his shock and seemed genuinely happy to see that he was alive and well.

“Are you celebrating?” He asked, once they had all recovered from the shock. He was somewhat amused to see the panicky expression on several faces as it dawned on them that they would have to break the news of the engagement. It was strange, but he had to admit to himself how odd it was that a dream would be able to show him so many subtle changes that he had missed when he had originally lived through this incident. Was his mind simply inventing these differences or had he really been so unobservant?

“Francis is getting married.” Charles responded as cheerily as he could, although Ross could still detect an anxious undertone to his voice.

“Congratulations Francis, who to?” He asked out of perceived obligation. It would be strange if he didn’t, but then again this was a dream, why did he care what these figments of his imagination thought of him? Still, he didn’t feel comfortable completely abandoning all civility, so he waited expectantly for an answer to his unnecessary question.

“Elizabeth.” The assembled gathering almost seemed to shrink back from what they no doubt believed to be the inevitable fall out from Ross discovering this fact.

“That’s excellent,” he said sincerely, “I’m very happy for both of you.” If the gathered group were surprised at his survival, they were utterly dumbfounded at his reaction.

Elizabeth in particular looked at him as though he had suddenly started speaking Latin, as though he had said something so incomprehensible that she couldn’t even identify it as English. Having her gaze upon him made the ring in his pocket suddenly feel as though it weighed a ton, and Ross found himself wanting to give it back to her immediately. Despite this, he pushed away the impulse. Even in a dream it would be too inappropriate for him to return it to her at this time, not when her engagement had just been announced.

Seeing that everyone was still too taken aback to speak to him, he decided to break the silence himself. “It was pleasant to see you all, but I will now take my leave and allow you to enjoy your dinner in peace.”

“Will you not stay and eat with us?” Verity asked, and after looking at her Ross almost changed his mind. No longer ruled solely by his emotions, he could see that she has missed him and dearly wanted to catch up, but he was growing tired of this dream. The sooner he returned to his home the sooner he would get the chance to sleep, and with that hopefully end this ridiculously long dream.

“No, I need to see how Nampara has fared in my father’s absence.” He cordially bid them farewell, and most of them managed to shake off their stupor to return the sentiment. He could feel Elizabeth’s stare on him as he left the room, but he paid it no heed. It had been a long time since her attention had held any power over him.

“He took that far better than I was expecting.” Charles said after Ross had left, still somewhat in shock.

“I was at the very least expecting some surprise, but he barely batted an eye at the news!” Mrs Chynoweth scoffed indignantly, offended that the erstwhile soldier had not taken more notice of her daughter’s engagement to another man.

“Well I for one am glad that Ross took the news so well, and if he says he is happy for us then I do not see why we should not believe him.” Francis interjected. “Do you not agree, my dear?”

“Of course.” Elizabeth replied with a smile that did not quite reach her eyes.

Eyes still heavy with sleep, Ross absently reached over across the bed, searching for the warmth that could only be provided by another person’s presence. But instead of encountering soft skin as his half-asleep-self expected, there was the distinct absence that he had been greeted by the past few months ever since Demelza had passed away.

Doing his best to push past the grief, he opened his eyes and this time was greeted by the familiar sight of his bedroom. But the more he looked, the more it seemed as though something was not quite right. None of his wife’s belongings were present, not the vanity he had commissioned for her as an anniversary gift, nor the distinctly feminine touch that she had brought to the room’s décor ever since she had taken residence.

A worrying thought occurred to Ross and he immediately jumped out of bed, only to double over in agony due to the sudden weight placed on his injured leg. This on its own almost confirmed his suspicions, but he had to be sure. As soon as the pain reached a manageable level, he limped over to a nearby mirror. He was still young. How could he still be dreaming?

Recalling the events of the previous night, he remembered that after visiting Trenwith he had returned to Nampara and repeated the sequence of events that had occurred originally. Prudie and Jud were thoroughly chastised for their laziness and as soon as he deemed the house clean enough to be lived in he had gone to bed with the full expectation that he would leave this dream and be able to spend a little more time with his children before his inevitable death. He had certainly not imagined that he would wake up still stuck in the past. The realisation that he had made a thought occur to him that he refused to entertain. It was not possible that he had been sent back in time. He could not allow himself to even hope that this was true, as it would be all the crueller when he woke up (if he woke up that is).

Firmly pushing the idea to the back of his mind, Ross decided that the best course of action would be to distract himself with work. He went to visit the miners and was pleased to see several familiar faces that had not been in his life for many years. He may have lived to a ripe old age, but life was not as fair or as kind to the working class. Renewing old acquaintances occupied his attention for a while, but in the days that he spent busily working to restore the estate he found that not even the joy he took in his returned strength could stop his earlier idea from creeping back to the forefront of his thoughts.

The more time he spent in this new, strange reality the more he was growing to accept that there was no returning from this place. Somehow it seemed that he had been granted a second chance at life and his mind was full of regrets that he now had the chance to change. While many ideas swirled around his head, most prominently he realised that this could be a chance for him to be a better husband to Demelza and a better father to their children. The future was entirely his to mould.

Caution be damned, Ross decided he would start to make some plans. There was still the possibility that this was a dream, but it was starting to seem more and more unlikely. This world was far too clear and crisp for it to be simply be conjured up by his brain and he doubted that he would have remembered in quite this much detail events that had happened to him years ago. If this was an opportunity to begin anew, he could not afford to waste it.

A few days after Ross had tentatively accepted what had happened to him, an invitation to Francis and Elizabeth’s wedding arrived, stating that the event was to take place in three weeks. The letter reminded him that he had met Demelza on a market day during one of the weeks following the marriage, although he could not specifically recall which week. That in itself was not too much of an issue, he would simply attend every market day until he found her, regardless of the inconvenience. Laziness would not come between him and the chance to give his wife a better life.

It did sting a little that he would have to wait so long until he would see her again, but he could not think of a reasonable excuse for meeting her any earlier. There was the distinct possibility that she would refuse his offer of employment if he simply turned up at her father’s home in Illugan and demanded her by name. Grudgingly, he acknowledged that the best course of action would be to meet her as he had originally.

He was so deep in thought that he almost missed Verity’s arrival on horseback. Leaving Jud and Prudie to continue working, he joined his cousin somewhere a little more private for their discussion. As they walked along the cliffs of Cornwall, Verity lightly holding onto the reigns of her horse, she told him how she had fared while he was gone and he told her about the war. In his younger years he had often been unwilling to speak of his time in the army, but time and distance had allowed him to heal and recall the events with relative objectivity. But while Verity was obviously interested in catching up, it soon became clear that there was something more urgent on her mind, and eventually she was unable to stall any longer.

“I suppose you were surprised about the engagement.” She began tentatively, but despite her tone she was scrutinising him intently, clearly looking for any false cheer in his reply that indicated the news had bothered him more that he had been letting on.

“Not particularly.” He felt no need to lie about this particular fact, but it suddenly occurred to him that if he was reliving his life then he would have to lie. Telling anyone about his knowledge of the future could potentially be dangerous, the people of Cornwall were superstitious and Ross did not want to risk accusations of witchcraft. The thought of deceiving the people who meant so much to him left a bitter taste in his mouth, but it was not something he was going to be able to avoid.

“I was surprised that you were not more upset. I thought- we all thought that there was an understanding between you before you left. You were both so besotted with each other, and yet you barely seem to care that she is marrying Francis.”

“It has been three years Verity, a lot has changed.” More than she would ever be able to understand. “My feelings for Elizabeth are not what they were, and I have no interest in coming between her and Francis.” Ross told her sincerely, hoping his answer would placate her, but she still seemed unconvinced. Knowing his own past, he could acknowledge that her attitude was justified considering how he had reacted to the engagement the first time around.

“So, will you be going to the wedding?” He could feel the weight of challenge behind her question, as though she would not believe him until he had proven to her that he had set aside his feelings.

“Of course.” He answered with a smile. He needed to fill up the time between now and when he could finally be reunited with Demelza, and attending the event would allow him to demonstrate not only to Verity, but to the rest of his family that he had set his feelings for Elizabeth aside. He had learned so much since he had first lived this life, and now he would be able to prove it.

Chapter Text

While examining the remains of Wheal Leisure in order to assess if there was a faster route to the large stores of copper, Ross realised that he had not been visited by Francis as had occurred originally. It soon dawned on him that by accepting the invitation to the wedding earlier, Francis had not felt the need to visit him. Shrugging it off, Ross continued his examination, although he made a brief mental note to remind Francis to learn how to swim. He was hoping that he remembered enough about the location of the copper that he would be able to save on both money and time to reach it. He was damned if he was going to let Demelza have money worries this time around, with his knowledge of the future it was inexcusable for him not to be able to provide Demelza and his children with financial security.

Eventually he found and noted down an alternative path, but immediately realised that there was a problem. This new path was not the obvious choice, and he was going to have some difficulty convincing the lead mining operator that it was the best course of action. He still had a while to go until he had to deal with that conversation though, and plenty of time to invent some reasoning. There was little point in raising interest in Wheal Leisure until Wheal Reath was shut down due to the current price of copper. Instead he would occupy himself with the continued restoration of Nampara, and in the meantime he also had the wedding to attend.

The ceremony was somewhat bittersweet to watch. Ross was genuinely happy for Francis and Elizabeth, he hoped their marriage fared better this time around. He expected that without him paying attention to Elizabeth, Francis would not become jealous and would never resort to seeking his pleasure outside of the marriage. The gambling and whoring had caused far too much bitterness and resentment in what should have been a happy union. But watching the exchanging of the vows left Ross somewhat nostalgic about his own wedding, and a little bitter about the comparison between the two ceremonies.

He could never give Demelza a proper wedding, it would only be years into their marriage that she would receive any kind of grudging acceptance, until then at best she would be tolerated. If he even attempted to invite any of his class, no doubt the only reply would be that everyone was ‘busy’ or ‘ill’, and if anyone did deign to attend it would only be acquire gossip. A quiet wedding with the minimum of required witnesses as guests would be the best he could offer her. Buried within his own thoughts, Ross failed to notice the glance in his direction from Elizabeth when husband and wife walked down the aisle. But while he might have been oblivious to the seemingly innocuous gesture, Francis was not.

At the wedding reception, Ross found himself in the company of his old enemy George. Ross spoke carefully to George, doing his best to neither be overly friendly nor overly antagonising. His rivalry with George had cost him much in the past, and while he was unwilling to be George’s friend he thought it would be best to avoid making an outright enemy of him. Acquiescing and backing down before someone Ross couldn’t stand dented his pride, but he was now old enough to be aware that an injury to his pride was something he could recover from, financial ruin was not so easy to remedy.

“Ross, I’ve been sent to find you.” Verity’s arrival was a welcome interruption, Ross nodded in farewell at George as he followed Verity. He was a little surprised that it was still Elizabeth who had asked for his presence, he thought that he had made his lack of intentions towards her clear and that she would have very little to say to him. Verity left them alone to discuss whatever Elizabeth had wanted him for.

“Are you settling well in Nampara?” Elizabeth asked politely. Ross was somewhat relieved, it was a perfectly normal question for a new family member to enquire about.

“The estate is faring far better now than when I first arrived.” Ross replied, he glanced around and noticed that everyone else was busily engaged in watching the fight. “I have something to return to you.”

“Oh?” Elizabeth looked at him in puzzlement. Ross fished the small item out of his pocket and dropped the ring onto her outstretched hand. She looked taken aback by the gesture and made a move to ask him something. Before she could get more than a few words out, Mrs Chynoweth advanced. Noticing this, Elizabeth quickly closed her hand around the ring, and let her arm drop to her side, concealing the exchange from her mother.

“Elizabeth, do you not remember that it is your duty to entertain your guests?”

“I cannot abide the sport, Mother.” Elizabeth’s hand seemed to clench more tightly around the ring.

“What about you, Ross, could you explain to me the details of the sport?” Mrs Chynoweth was another woman on Ross’s blacklist for slighting Demelza. He could recall that at many social gatherings, if Demelza was to inadvertently make some small mistake, like using the wrong fork for a particular course, Mrs Chynoweth was always the first to point it out, usually along with a snide comment along the lines of ‘Of course we can’t expect you to understand all the niceties of polite society”.

“I doubt there are any intricacies to combat that I can educate you on.” He didn’t bother to hide his contempt, and beside him Elizabeth started in shock at the harshness of his voice, even if her mother didn’t seem all too surprised. Turning his back on Mrs Chynoweth, Ross addressed Elizabeth again.

“I hope you enjoy the rest of your wedding.”

“Are you leaving already?” She was looking at him with an undecipherable expression on her face.

“There is still a lot of work to do at Nampara.” Ross explained, he bid farewell to her and Francis, who had just arrived to reclaim his wife, and left Trenwith with a slight spring in his step. With the wedding out of the way, he was now one step closer to finding Demelza.

It was market day. Ross was full of hope that this market day he would encounter Demelza. He had attended last week, but she had not been there so he had to assume that she was arriving today or next week, although he hoped it would be this week. He took Jud with him, he had to sell some of his valuables and buy a few more things for the land anyway.

As he finished making his purchases and giving Jud orders to take them back to Nampara, Ross heard the sound of a commotion behind him and an achingly familiar voice shouting in protest. The sight he was greeted by when he turned around made his blood boil. Despite the boy’s clothes and the hidden hair, there was no doubting that the woman being violently tossed around was his wife.

Ross moved forward, rage clouding his vision. It was only after he had struck the man in charge that his senses returned to him. The crowd around him was looking on disbelievingly at the stoic man who had suddenly leapt into action more aggressively than was perhaps needed. Ross forced himself to calm down.

“I believe we have provided enough entertainment for today.” The crowd slowly started to disperse, Ross leaned down to examine Demelza. “Are you hurt?”

“No.” She looked at him with barely concealed suspicion, Ross mentally berated himself for not being able to keep a tighter hold on his temper, no doubt it would be more difficult now to convince her to be his maid. Putting on his best mask of indifference, Ross held out a hand to help her up. She ignored it and stood up by herself, tugging at her clothes in a way he hadn’t seen her do in years. Ross gently pushed her towards the nearby tavern. “Let me buy you a meal, you look as thin as a wraith.” Demelza grudgingly agreed, shooting him another suspicious glare as she walked into the establishment.

The food he ordered was wolfed down as though it was air. Ross could not find any amusement in this though, as it was only an indicator of how food-deprived she must be. His gaze found the beating marks on her back that were revealed as the back of the shirt she was wearing slipped down. The grip on his cane tightened until his knuckles whitened, but he stayed silent on the matter.

George passed through the room, looking at Demelza curiously but did not comment this time. He nodded politely at Ross, a gesture which Ross returned before turning his attention back to Demelza.

“What’s your name?” Ross asked, he knew he had to get introductions out of the way early, otherwise her suspicions would no doubt increase if he used her name without her having told him. She mumbled an answer. “I didn’t hear that.” Ross told her pointedly.

“Demelza Carne.” Ross didn’t know why it came as a surprise but he started a little when he heard her use her maiden name, he was so used to her referring to herself as ‘Demelza Poldark’ and hearing ‘Carne’ from her lips reminded him that he had a lot of progress to make before she could agree to be his wife.

“Ross Poldark.” He replied, she nodded before returning to the meal in front of her. Ross heard the door open nearby and the sound of footsteps, he turned towards the source to see Elizabeth, in all her finery she looked terribly out of place.

“I came to see if the boy was-” Demelza turned at the interruption. Taking the time to drink in her features Ross wondered how he had ever mistaken her for a man. Elizabeth clearly thought the same as she abruptly stopped midsentence, and looked rather sheepish. Besides her, Francis also appeared, looking curiously at his cousin and the somewhat dirty girl he was with.

“Come on, I’ll take you home.” Ross told Demelza, seeing that she was done with the food. Demelza nodded and stood up, hands immediately going to her collarbone. He gently guided her out of the tavern and towards his horse.

As they road in the direction of the crossroads, Demelza absently sang to herself. Ross stayed quiet for the journey, taking pleasure in listening to his wife’s unrefined but still enjoyable singing. When they reached the crossroads between Nampara and Illugan, Ross stopped.

“If you want to go home, Illugan is that way.” He said. “But as it happens, I am in need of a kitchen maid. I can provide you with free bed and board, as well as a salary in exchange for your work.” Demelza was silent, but she didn’t refuse outright. Ross hesitated somewhat before continuing. “I saw the wounds on your back.” She adjusted herself self-consciously, avoiding eye-contact. “The work is hard, but there will be no beatings.” She thought for a moment, fidgeting nervously.

“Alright.” Ross moved the horse in the direction of Nampara, glad that the first step in rescuing his marriage was underway.

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Ignoring Jud and Prudie’s protests, Ross left Demelza to settle in at the house after she had cleaned herself up. He couldn’t bring himself to manhandle her as he had before, not trusting himself to touch her, but he firmly instructed her that she would have to be clean to work at Nampara. Spotting a letter on the counter, Ross opened it to find several notes of credit from his uncle. Ross almost groaned audibly, clearly his uncle was not convinced that he intended to leave Elizabeth alone, no doubt he would have to go over to Trenwith to clear up the matter.

In the other room he could hear some harsh whispering, no doubt Prudie and Jud were doing their best to scare Demelza off. Ross did not bother to intercede on her behalf, Demelza had always preferred to fight her own battles and if he intervened it would only invite Jud and Prudie to treat her more harshly. He was also comforted by the knowledge that the situation was only temporary, hopefully he would be able to convince her to marry him in a few months, although there were some important matters he had to settle beforehand.

After riding over to Trenwith, Ross was escorted into the main sitting room where Elizabeth was.

“Ross?” She looked startled by his presence.

“Is my uncle here?” Ross was impatient to get back to Nampara, he had picked up some fabric in town for Demelza to make herself a dress and wanted to see how she would react to the gift. True, it wasn’t the rich fabric she would eventually grow accustomed to as his wife, but it would be something serviceable she could wear in the meantime.

“No, but he should be returning soon. You are more than welcome to wait here until he arrives.” Ross nodded, pushing away his slight irritation at the delay. They waited in silence for a while, Ross amused himself by admiring the view from the window. Out of his line of site, Elizabeth carefully put down her embroidery trying to quell the shaking of her fingers. “May I ask you a question Ross?”

“Of course.”

“My ring, why did you give it back?” Ross frowned.

“I did not think it was appropriate for it to continue being in my possession.” Elizabeth did not look satisfied at the answer he gave, and she hesitated a fraction before responding.

“I could not understand why you were so harsh with my mother, I thought that maybe giving me back the ring might have had something to do with your attitude.” She was looking at him again with that expression he could not interpret.

“I’ve never particularly liked your mother, that has never been much of a secret, but I can assure you that the two incidents were completely unrelated.”

“I see.” Elizabeth looked at him coldly, but as quickly as her expression darkened it lightened again. “Did you enjoy market day? I hope the girl got home safely.”

“Actually I employed her.” Elizabeth looked taken aback.

“You should send her back to her family, people will talk.” Ross shrugged.

“Let them talk, their gossip does not concern me.”

“Well it should.” A spark of anger was visible in Elizabeth’s eyes. “You completely overreacted at market day, you were acting like a madman, and for what? Some daughter of a miner that you’ve never met before?” Her outburst startled Ross, and while her casual dismissal of Demelza did anger him, he did his best to calm his temper.

“Does it matter if I knew her or not? I could hardly stand by and allow an innocent girl to be treated so cruelly.”

“That was more than just defending an innocent, Ross.” The insinuation she seemed to be making, while not totally inaccurate, still served to push at the edges of Ross’s civility.

“I don’t see how it is any of your concern.” He replied coldly.

“What I’m quite surprised about is that you cared more about that street urchin being attacked then you did about my engagement!” The indignant snap shocked Elizabeth just as much as Ross. She immediately looked as though she had regretted what she said, and made a move to speak but Ross cut her off immediately.

“Tell my uncle that I will return at a later time to speak with him.” Ross  started walking away, ignoring Elizabeth’s desperate call for him to come back.

Arriving back at Nampara, Ross was a little surprised to see Prudie looking so flustered. “Where is Demelza?” Ross asked as he dismounted.

“I don’t rightly know sir.” Something about this situation seemed terribly familiar, but Ross couldn’t quite recall the reason for Prudie’s distress.

“Then why do you look so out of sorts?”

“It’s the girl’s father, sir, he’s here!” Ross’s eyes widened as he suddenly remembered that today was the day he ended up fighting Demelza’s father and he immediately rushed into the house.

After the fight, and after making sure that Jud and the other miners were had not been seriously hurt, Ross found himself nursing several bruises and a rather large glass of rum. Prudie was clearing up some of the resulting mess.

“Any sign of Demelza?” Ross asked.

“No sir, happen she run away sir. Probably for the best, she be more trouble than she’s worth.”

“Don’t be ridiculous Prudie, it was hardly her fault.” As Ross decided that he would have to saddle up his horse and follow Demelza, he heard creaking from behind him. Turning around, he saw Demelza emerge from the bottom of the cupboard and straighten up somewhat sheepishly. He heard disgruntled muttering from Prudie as she left the room to deal with something else.

Ross gestured towards a box in the corner of the room. “I picked up something for you from town.” Demelza looked a little surprised that he was not telling her off for hiding, she started for the box before looking at him as if in approval. Ross hid a smile, he could now see why so many people referred to Demelza as a startled fawn. He gave her a brief encouraging gesture, and watched as her eyes lit up after seeing the yellow fabric.

“If you’re going to work for me, you need to be dressed appropriately.” Ross paused. “That is, if you still want to work here.”

“Yes sir.” Demelza replied with far more conviction than she had when he first offered her the job, and with a bright smile that almost made the beating worth it.

That night in bed, Ross who had been feeling in high spirits as a result of managing to have Demelza back in his life, found himself sobering as the harsh reality set in. He would not be able to marry Demelza as quickly as he wanted, he might even have to delay the marriage until later than when it had originally occurred.

If he wanted to ensure that his family were well taken care of, that meant ensuring that he had enough funds for mining in Wheal Leisure to reach copper. While he had determined a potential shortcut, there was no guarantee that the path would be any easier than the one used originally. He would therefore have to keep his future investors happy, and that meant not making any rash decisions that would cause them to question his ability to lead the operation. He also was hoping to avoid the consequence of many of them selling their shares to George. While the two were currently cordial, George’s friendship with Francis had not prevented the latter’s near bankruptcy due to his gambling, so Ross was wary of allowing George to have any power over him.

Ross did not think marrying Demelza was a rash decision, in many ways he had now had more than enough time to consider whether or not it was the correct decision, but no doubt his investors would not share that opinion. The less than easy decision was therefore made, until copper was hit at Wheal Leisure, Ross would have to keep his relationship with Demelza strictly professional.

Despite his conviction on the matter, Ross could feel some doubt creeping in. Would he really be able to keep his distance for that long?

Chapter Text

The news finally came of Wheal Reath's closure and of Lord Bassett's tragic end. Ross wished he could have done something for the man, but he was in too deep with the Warleggans, and as Ross had come to learn that was a point of no return. On a slightly better note, the closure had allowed Ross to employ Jim again, Ross hoped that this time he would be able to prevent the younger man's imprisonment. As soon as Wheal Leisure was up and running, Ross would give him the better paid position of assistant purser, and that should prevent him from being tempted by the risky benefits of poaching.

It had been a few weeks since he had visited Trenwith and had that rather awful conversation with Elizabeth. Since then he hadn't been able to bring himself to return, and had instead busied himself with matters at Nampara. He was doing his best to smooth Demelza's transition into the household which meant hounding Jud and Prudie to perform their duties and not leave everything to Demelza. Success had been limited so far, but there was a glimmer of gratefulness in Demelza's eyes that indicated she appreciated his attempts, futile as they may have been.

The credit notes had to be returned though, and Ross soon found himself travelling to Trenwith. Having clarified his intentions to stay to his uncle, Ross had little other reason to stay and decided to return after suggesting to Verity that she should visit him. As Ross went to retrieve his horse, he heard someone calling his name. Turning back to face the estate, he saw Elizabeth walking towards him as quickly as she dared.

"I wanted to apologise for my outburst last time we spoke." Elizabeth explained hurriedly, once she had caught up to him. "I was not myself, and I dearly hope you can forgive my appalling rudeness."

"It is already forgotten." Ross assured her, unwilling to hold a grudge. Her relief was evident.

"I hope we can still be friends." Her voice was tinged with hopefulness, and although Ross doubted that they could ever truly be friends with their history, he was unwilling to shoot her down on the matter.

"Of course." Neither of them saw Francis observe their interaction from his bedroom window.

Ross was busy working around Wheal Leisure, doing his best to clear some of the debris that had accumulated in the years since the mine had been shut down, when Francis arrived.

"Are you thinking of reopening her?" Francis asked, dismounting from his horse. Ross nodded cautiously, he knew his cousin well enough to see when he was holding back, there was a tenseness to his shoulders and the slightly stilted tone he was using were all clear indicators of an as yet unspoken conflict. "How will you afford to run the mine?"

"I am going to find some investors." Ross answered calmly. "Since Reath closed I am expecting that I will be able to drum up some interest."

"I envy you sometimes." Francis said. "You know far more of these business matters than I do, my father will not even allow me near Grambler."

"I would be more than happy to show you how to run a mine, if you want." Ross offered. "Of course, presuming that I can convince enough people to get Leisure running."

"That is a very kind offer, but it is not what I have to come to speak to you about."

"Then what did you come to talk about?"

"Elizabeth." Ross closed his eyes and breathed out deeply in frustration. Was he never going to escape this constant link people drew between him and Elizabeth?

"I do not know what you think, Francis, but I have no interest in Elizabeth anymore. That stage of my life is over, and I really wish everyone would accept that fact." Ross's clear irritation at the subject seemed to both shock and made Francis feel a little guilty for bringing it up.

"I am sorry Ross, but when we thought you were dead Elizabeth was devastated. We never expected that you would return from the war so indifferent, and it is difficult to accept you have changed so much in three years, it is as though you're a completely different person."

"That's because I am," Ross told him firmly, "while I was away, I had a lot of time to think and I came to several important realisations. I could never be the man that Elizabeth wanted, not really. What would I have to offer her? She would never have been happy here because I could never provide her with the lifestyle that even she doesn't realise she expects. Do you really think she would have been able to live in a state of near poverty, constantly worrying about money and potential destitution?" Francis slowly shook his head as the truth of Ross's words sank in.

"There is another matter as well, is there not?" Francis, asked, surprising Ross. "I have known you since we were children and I can tell when you are hiding something." Ross hesitated, carefully considering whether he should reveal a particular piece of information. Francis shuffled expectantly as Ross came to the decision to tell him hoping to lay to rest any lingering fears Francis might have had about Ross whisking Elizabeth away.

"Have you had the chance to see my new maid, Demelza, yet?" Francis's face crinkled in confusion.

"I saw her briefly once, what about her?"

"I have become rather attached to her." Ross admitted, stunning Francis into momentary silence.

"But Ross, she is your maid, surely you realise that any kind of relationship with her would damn you in the eyes of society." Every word was drenched in incredulity as Francis clearly couldn't understand why Ross would risk so much for, what he saw as, a common kitchen maid.

"Of course I realise that." Ross snapped. "But once I have enough investment to reach copper in Leisure, the opinion of others will not matter to me as much." Francis shook his head in amusement.

"I think you are utterly mad." Ross shrugged. "But I doubt anything I say will change your mind, so I wish you well in that regard." Ross relaxed, glad that he already had one family member on his side when it came to Demelza.

"I would appreciate if you kept this information to yourself, I would rather avoid there being any rumours about myself and Demelza."

"Of course." Francis agreed.

Mind set on ensuring he gained the interest of investors that day, Ross left for the dance, doing his very best to avoid making eye contact with Demelza on the way out of the house. His conversation with Francis had raised his spirits about his future with Demelza, and he was all too aware how dangerous these thoughts could be if he lingered on them for too long.

Demelza herself stared at the door he had exited through long after he had gone, musing about the enigma of a man who had hired her. She could not work him out at all, there were times at which he looked at her as though reliving some memory that she was not aware of. He also spoke to her with far more respect and kindness than he did towards Prudie or Jud. But then every time, almost as though realising that he had done something wrong, he seemed to put on a mask of indifference, sometimes going as far as outright ignoring her presence.

It was enormously frustrating as she had no idea if the work she was doing pleased him or not. Although that was not the only reason she found his hot and cold behaviour irritating. She did rather like him, he was more attractive and well-spoken than any of the boys she had met in Illugan, not that the bar was very high. He was also very kind to her, far more so than any of her family had ever been.

Shaking her head of such thoughts, Demelza returned to her cleaning duties. There was no point in her thinking about her master in such a way, Jud had already accused her of trying to reach above her station and she knew that entertaining such thoughts would not help. This was a good job, she could not imagine where she would have found a better one, and she was not prepared to waste this opportunity over a silly unrequited crush.

Arriving at the dance, Ross sent Verity off to enjoy herself and settled against a wall with a drink to wait until Pascoe and his investors arrived. He was expecting relative solitude but instead his presence seemed to draw people to him as though he were a bright light and they were moths.

Ruth Teague was one of his more frequent visitors, and Ross was just as unimpressed this time as he was originally when she not so subtly tried to charm him. He did his best to remain cordial but distant towards her, as he had no interest in encouraging her interest, but he also did not want to be overly rude to her as she was not yet guilty of upsetting Demelza. When she suggested that he was engaged to her for a dance, Ross declined citing his injured leg as an excuse and sent her off towards the man he knew she would eventually marry. Hopefully that would be enough to deter her interest completely.

Having successfully rid himself of Miss Teague, Ross was soon approached by George. They stood in silence for a while before George spoke up.

"I heard that you have hired a few new workers for your household."

"I have." Ross acknowledged, somewhat worried that Francis had already spilled his secret to George.

"Do you not worry that by associating so much with the lower class that you will lose respect among your peers?" The question seemed to be more curious than openly malevolent, so Ross bit back the first retort that came to mind and instead answered more mildly.

"Not particularly."

"May I ask why?" Ross thought his answer through carefully before replying, trying to be as diplomatic as possible.

"I have a great respect for what your family has achieved, you should realise that I of all people believe that everyone should have a chance to make their fortunes. But I feel that in trying to fit in with the upper class, you disdain too much the people that your family came from. I do not find that contempt towards the working class is a strength, in fact quite the opposite. We rely on our workers for productivity, and I have found that when I treat everyone who works for me with respect and kindness, then I have enthusiastic and hard-working staff. Hard-working staff results in increased profits. Workers than feel underpaid and underappreciated will never be as productive." George did not look too offended by anything Ross had said to his relief, he looked thoughtful before replying.

"Would the threat of punishment not be a more suitable and affordable alternative to force workers to have higher productivity?"

"Potentially, but then there is an increased risk of rebellion and sabotage. Disrespect breeds resentment, and workers are people as well. They can only be pushed so far before retaliation becomes an attractive option." George seemed to consider it.

"I shall take it under advisement." Ross hoped that George was serious, he had not considered the option that he would be able to change George's outlook on life simply by speaking to him, and he still doubted that George would come to the right conclusions, but at least he had given him something to think about and if George started to treat his workers even marginally better he could consider that a victory.

The dancers in front of them moved, allowing Ross to see Verity and Captain Blamey discussing something intimately. Ross quickly looked around, it seemed as if the rest of his family had not yet noticed the couple. Excusing himself, Ross immediately walked over to Verity, doing his best not to attract too much attention.

"Ross." Verity looked surprised at the intrusion, and suddenly self-conscious of who she was with. Captain Blamey nodded at Ross and moved away to give them some privacy, although Ross noticed that he still hovered nearby, with the clear intention of returning once Ross had left.

"If I were you I would be a little more discrete." Ross nodded over to where Francis and Elizabeth were conversing. She immediately caught his meaning and nodded. Ross hoped that his warning would be sufficient to prevent the needless heartbreak that would follow. Verity left and whispered something to Blamey who nodded.

Turning away, Ross spotted Pascoe and some of his other future investors in an area that was well out of the sight and earshot of George. He went over to them and stirred up interest in re-opening Wheal Leisure, when he was finished he knew Pascoe would see him later in the week with a time to meet and pitch to the investors.

Official business taken care of, Ross was able to relax a little, at least until he saw Ruth Teague catch sight of him. Not wanting to wait to see what she had to say, Ross immediately headed towards the exit, bidding a brief farewell to Francis and Elizabeth. After an exhausting day of arranging his future, going to bed was a very attractive prospect.

Chapter Text

The house was dark, suggesting that everyone inside had already retired for the night. Ross closed the door quietly behind himself, hoping not to wake anyone. There was a dim light coming from the study that Ross noticed as headed to his bedroom which made him frown. Why would anyone be in his study at so late an hour?

Slowly opening the door, Ross realised that the culprit was Demelza. There was an intense look of concentration on her face as she examined a book, her index finger very slowly progressing along the written lines as she mouthed the words. While not willing to interrupt her activity, Ross knew that eventually she would notice his presence so he closed the door behind him a little less carefully. The sound alerted her to his presence and she jumped in surprise.

"What are you doing, Demelza?" Ross asked mildly.

"Sorry sir, I was just trying to improve my letters." She already looked fully chastised, and he hadn't even raised his voice. It occurred to Ross how much Demelza had changed throughout their marriage, she had grown so much in confidence that it was a little startling to see her so submissive. Ross approached the desk and held out a hand for the book, which she readily handed over. Examining the title, Ross spoke up again.

"Is this the only book you've been using?"

"Yes, sir." Putting the book away, Ross carefully selected a different one from the well-stocked bookshelf and held it out to her.

"Try this one instead." Her big blue eyes looked up at him in confusion, and Ross found himself breaking eye contact before he could do something stupid. "Take the book Demelza." He told her, being careful not to look at her. He felt her take the book from him, and he found himself looking at the lone lit candle that was the sole source of light in the room. He remembered that she had been squinting when he had entered the room, no doubt because she was trying to read in near darkness.

Demelza was clutching the book, as though unsure what to do with it, as Ross busied himself using the lit candle to light a few others near the desk. Ross chanced a look at her when he was done which turned out to be a mistake. Now bathed in light, her unrestricted red hair which curled freely around her face resembled a halo, making her look almost angelic.

"It is quite difficult to learn to read without opening a book." Ross told her pointedly, doing his best to ignore how lovely she looked. Demelza looked down at the book and flushed, before opening it to the first page. "This one should be a little easier to read, it is a children's story book and so will not have as much complex terminology as the book on law that you were using before."

"Terminology?" The slightly confused frown she was sporting was adorable, but Ross forced himself to ignore it as he explained.

"Terminology means a set of words that are related to a particular topic." Demelza nodded, as she examined the first page. While she was busy Ross dragged over his armchair to the desk so he could sit beside her as she was already using his desk chair. He noticed with some satisfaction that, although she was clearly still struggling, she did seem to be progressing along the lines of the book more quickly.

Ross searched around his desk drawers until he found some spare scraps of paper.

"Have you tried writing yet?" He asked as he also pulled out his quill and unscrewed an inkpot.

"No sir. I was going to try to learn to read first."

"Reading and writing tend to go hand in hand, having an idea of how to write should help you learn how to read more quickly. You can borrow that book and use this room for your studies, but you are probably going to need a little more help with writing."

Ross rolled his sleeves up to avoid staining them with ink, and carefully wrote out in lower case the letters of the alphabet at the top of a page of scrap paper. He was acutely aware of how close Demelza was, he had to tuck in his elbow a little as he wrote to avoid touching her. He didn't think he would be able to control himself if they made skin to skin contact after spending so much time apart from her. When he was finished, he pushed the paper towards her and handed her the quill.

"Try copying those letters." Taking the quill, Demelza slowly and carefully did her best to imitate what he had written. Ross found his spare quill and wrote on the other sheet of paper the upper case letters of the alphabet.

When Demelza was done with the lower case letters, he corrected her mistakes and gave her the upper case letters to do. He briefly showed her that both sheets were showing the same letters but in different forms and he told her about the use of capital letters.

They worked for a while, Ross made Demelza alternate between upper and lower case so she could get used to both styles of letter and he watched with poorly concealed pride as she grew in confidence and her eyes almost seemed to sparkle with joy. She looked breath-taking.

The letter 'f' proved to be problematic, probably in part because of the elaborate way in which Ross himself had been taught how to draw it. Whatever the reason, Demelza was struggling to replicate it. Other mistakes had proven easier to correct, and after a few tries she could eventually get a passable and legible letter but 'f' was a little different.

Demelza was now tasked with repeating the letter until she succeeded, Ross watched her movement closely, trying to see where she was going wrong. Eventually it dawned on him, and immediately he reached for her hand. Her fingers and the quill firmly in his grasp he guided her hand in the correct motion. A perfect 'f'.

Ross glanced over at Demelza and suddenly realised how close together they were. Her eyes were wide and Ross realised that he was still holding on to her hand. Her fingers were as small, warm and slightly calloused as he remembered them, his thumb absently stroked the back of her hand. Their faces were so close together that barely an inch separated them. A voice in the bank of Ross's mind was screaming that this was a bad idea and that he should pull away before he did something foolish, but she was not pulling away either.

Before he could change his mind, Ross leaned in and kissed her and was immediately assaulted with sensations of softness and familiarity, yet also distance. This was not the older Demelza he knew that was accustomed to his touch, her hesitant and tentative responses were proof of that, but she was still his wife even if they were not yet married. Eventually Ross realised with a start what he was doing and abruptly pulled back.

"I'm sorry, I should not have-" He was abruptly cut off by Demelza's surprisingly strong grip yanking him back into place. That action dissolved away any lingering resistance and drowned out what was left of the voice of caution. The quill and scrap paper were dropped, the ink left in the quill dripped out and left blotches on the paper. Leftover hands were entwined or wrapped around each each other.

Ross was the first to stand up, the arm wrapped around Demelza's waist encouraged her to join him, which she did willingly. They stumbled out of the study, only separating for air as they travelled to Ross's bedroom, too drunk on each other to really think through the consequences of their actions.

Ross woke up to the familiar sensation of a warm body beside him. Opening his eyes, he drank in the sight of Demelza, admiring the bare skin that he had barely had enough time to appreciate the night before. He was idly examining the contrast between her fiery hair and pale skin when he noticed her wake up to the morning sun.

Both of them were aware that the other was also awake, but neither of them spoke. After a few minutes of silence, Demelza sat up and made to leave, however her exit was blocked by the arm that suddenly circled her waist.

"Stay." Although phrased as a command it was clearly a request.

"I've got work that needs to be done." Regrettable but true, the empty space on her left ring finger was a somewhat painful reminder that she still was not his wife.

"Just for a little while then?" Demelza could not bring herself to refuse, and allowed herself to be pulled back and wrapped up in strong arms that had held her so tenderly the night before.

When Ross woke up again, Demelza was gone. He could hear the faint sounds of activity outside the room which suggested that the rest of the household was already up and working. Ross allowed the reality of what had occurred dawn on him. He had completely failed in his attempts to stay away from Demelza, but he couldn't marry her yet. He hadn't even met had the chance to meet his investors, and he knew that without the money to run Wheal Leisure and without the resulting copper what little money reserves he had would gradually decrease until there was literally nothing to live on. He could not marry her knowing that he would also be forcing her into near immediate destitution.

Ross decided that it would be best to stick to his original plan as much as possible, he knew that Demelza was not expecting a marriage proposal so he could afford to wait a while. If Demelza had any concerns, which he doubted, he would explain the mine situation. Coming from a mining background, he knew Demelza would understand.

Several days later, Ross was going through the notes he had written for his pitch to the investors in preparation for his meeting. He was quite proud of how much better his pitch was now that he had a lot more experience in running copper mines, and he was confident that he would be able to get more than the 50 guineas apiece he had originally asked for, which should prevent him from having to ask for money again. Leaving the house, Ross saw Demelza carrying a heavy load of wood.

"Jud!" Ross snapped sharply, the lazy servant who was sitting doing nothing, slowly got up, muttering to himself and took the basket from Demelza, clearly unhappy about it.

"Demelza, I am going to need your help in town today." She nodded, warily meeting his gaze. There was an uneasy understanding between them not to mention what had happened, and while their interactions since had been somewhat awkward, Ross considered it an improvement from their avoidance of each other in his original timeline.

Jim approached with the horse. Taking the reins from him, Ross carefully put away his pitch material into one of the saddle bags. He mounted the horse and held a hand down to pull Demelza up and in front of him. He immediately noticed how she tensed up nearly immediately and seemed to refuse to relax. He hoped that after spending more time together she would start to relax in his presence again.

"How are your letters going?" Ross asked as they travelled to town.

"Much better sir, thank you for the help." Ross wished that he could see her face, he could not interpret her actual feelings on the matter when her back was to him.

"You're welcome." Ross continued to engage Demelza in conversation for the rest of the journey, mostly to see if she was settling into the routine of Nampara well, the further they went the more freely she answered his enquiries and nearing town she even started asking him questions about Nampara's history. Ross was quite satisfied to see that her shoulders were visibly less tense.

When he dismounted and offered a hand to help her down, she accepted it with far less hesitation than when they had set off. Ross handed the reins and a coin to a nearby stable boy who would take care of the horse while he was busy. Ross pointed out to Demelza the building that he was going to be in so she could meet him later, and he handed her the money she would need to buy the fish. They then went their separate ways, Demelza to the fish market and Ross to the inn that he knew Francis was currently in.

Ross passed Elizabeth on his way to meet with Francis, he nodded politely at her but did not offer to help her with her purchases. Standing at the door of the inn, Ross waited until Francis had caught sight of him. Jerking his head towards the door, Ross left and patiently stood outside until Francis joined him.

"I am meeting with my investors," Ross explained, "if you are serious about learning how to run a mine, you are more than welcome to observe." Francis glanced back at the inn where there was the tempting option to instead play cards with George.

"Of course, thank you for allowing me the opportunity. I just need to let George know that I have to leave." Ross nodded, and told Francis where the meeting would be occurring.

Entering the building, Ross was led by the owner to the meeting room he had booked. He carefully arranged the papers he had brought with him, and briefly went over his notes one more time. His future depended on this meeting being a success, and he could only hope that he would be even more convincing than he was previously since he was asking for more money. It was a risk, but one Ross hoped would pay off. Either way, he would know if he was successful soon enough.

Chapter Text

Ross waited anxiously for the investors and for Francis. He was a little worried that the other man had changed his mind and instead decided to stay with George, which put a bit of a damper on Ross’s plans. He hoped that by teaching Francis how to better care for his own mine, he could avoid the closure of Grambler and the subsequent problems that had affected the Trenwith Poldarks.

His fears turned out to be for nothing though as Francis promptly arrived. While they waited for the investors, Ross showed Francis the documentation that he had brought with him and tried to explain to him what it meant. He could see that, despite Ross’s clear explanation, Francis was baffled by much of it, and it struck Ross just how ignorant Francis was about the mining business. Charles had done him a great wrong by not instructing him properly, and Ross was grateful that at least his own father had more foresight when it came to educating him. It seemed to Ross as though the best course of action would be to hold more thorough lessons at Nampara every so often, and he could also at some point find the time to teach Francis how to swim.

The current lesson was abruptly cut short by the arrival of the investors, Ross directed Francis to a chair nearby that made it clear that he was only observing the proceedings and not actively taking part. The investors took their seats around the table, shooting speculative looks at Charles. Ross took a deep breath to calm himself, and then with a wide smile he began his improved pitch.

The meeting had been a success. With his ability to anticipate and plan for many of the doubts and questions, Ross was able to smooth over any problems or worries. At one point Doctor Choake had asked Francis if he would be participating in the venture.

“No I will not be taking part, I will merely be observing and I expect to learn much from Ross’s wisdom.” Francis had replied. It was the perfect answer for Ross, as it clearly indicated Francis’s support and trust in his judgement, which had effectively put to rest any concerns over whether Ross would be suitable to organise the running of Leisure.

Leaving the building, Ross thanked Francis profusely for his help. Waiting outside was Demelza, looking very pleased with herself and the large pail of fish she was carrying.

“Sir.” She greeted Ross cheerfully, looking curiously at Francis.

“Francis, I don’t believe you’ve met my maid, Demelza. Demelza this is my cousin Francis.” Demelza made a somewhat lopsided curtsy, not helped by the bucket of fish she was carrying, for which Ross could see that Francis was hiding a smile. “Did you fare well with the fish?”

“Oh yes sir, they tried to swizzle me, but I beat them down.”  

“I thought you would, you are far better at bartering than I am.” Francis was looking between them as they spoke with a knowing smile.

“As delightful as it would be to remain in your company, I need to be returning home.” Francis told them.

“You should come visit Nampara soon, and we can continue our discussion on mining, if you wish.” Ross suggested.

“I will likely take you up on that offer.” Francis replied, and bid Ross and Demelza farewell.

“Your cousin seems nice.” Demelza told Ross once Francis had left.

“He is nice, mostly.”


“We all have our failings.” Ross said with a shrug.

“Even you?” There was a slightly mischievous tone to Demelza’s voice that was very familiar to him.

“Of course not, I’m perfect.” Demelza sceptically raised an eyebrow at his answer. If they were married, Ross knew that she would have elbowed him, but even though their relationship was currently in an odd limbo between professional and romantic, they both knew that they had to keep the appearance of the former in public. “Are you warm enough?” Ross asked with a frown, eyeing the thin material of her work dress critically.

“I’ll be alright sir, tis just a bit of cold, nothing I can’t handle.”

“You shouldn’t have to handle it, follow me.” She did so obediently as Ross led the way to the fabric shop. He made sure to mention within earshot of the shopkeeper that he didn’t want to risk his maid getting ill. There was no harm in doing his best to dispel potential rumours, particularly since this time they would actually be true.

Demelza was once again in childlike wonder at the cloak, he carried the fish in order to allow her to examine the cloak in detail as they went to get the horse to travel back home. The thought made Ross wonder if Demelza considered Nampara her home yet. He hoped that she soon would if she did not already.

A few weeks after the investor’s meeting, Ross arrived back at Nampara surprised to see Elizabeth waiting for him in his sitting room. Demelza was standing nearby with something smeared across her cheek. Clearly she had been preparing food when their guest had arrived. Ross was once again grateful that he had assigned Demelza to cook duty almost immediately after she had begun her time at Nampara.

The two women had been waiting in silence until he had arrived, but as soon as they noticed his presence Elizabeth spoke up.


“Elizabeth,” he greeted her cordially, “have you been offered some refreshment?”

“Your maid has done her best.” There was a slight edge to her voice that Ross did not like, but he ignored it to smile encouragingly at Demelza.

“Thank you Demelza, you can go.” She curtsied awkwardly before heading back to the kitchen. As soon as Demelza was out of the room, Elizabeth immediately spilled out her news, it seemed he was needed at Trenwith. Ross wondered if it was about Verity and Captain Blamey, it was possible that even after his warning they had still failed at hiding their budding relationship.

Ross sent Elizabeth ahead of him, promising to catch up with her. He could tell she wasn’t thrilled that he wasn’t coming with her immediately, but if the matter was only Verity’s behaviour then it could afford to wait a few minutes.

He found Demelza in the kitchen preparing fish. Dampening a clean cloth, he moved to her side.


“Yes sir?” She replied, turning towards him. Tilting her head up by the chin, Ross gently wiped away the fish she has accidentally managed to get on her face with the damp cloth. She flushed a little, although Ross could not tell if it was at the sudden contact or because she realised how she must have a looked. “Thank you sir.” Ross reluctantly let go of her.

“I’ve been asked to help deal with a situation at Trenwith, so I will probably be back in a few hours.” Demelza nodded.

“Who was the fancy woman?” She asked, Ross fancied that he could hear the faint sound of jealousy in Demelza’s manufactured tone of disinterest.

“Francis’s wife.”

“Oh.” Definite signs of jealousy there, no matter how hard Demelza tried to hide it.

“I will see you when I return, and you can show me how much you have improved in your reading.” She visibly brightened at the suggestion, and Ross had to resist the impulse to kiss her goodbye as he left.

“There are serious rumours that Verity has been seeing this Captain Blamey in secret, behind our very backs.” Charles announced thunderously once Ross had arrived at Trenwith. “However, no one can confirm that it is true. Have you observed any questionable interactions, Ross?”

“I can’t say that I have.” Ross responded mildly. “Is there anything particular objectionable about the man in question?”

“He is a murderer! He killed his own wife in a fit of rage, imagine what damage he could do to Verity.”

“That is a serious crime.” Ross agreed. “But are we sure of all the facts about the case? It is perfectly possible it might have been an accident. There is also no confirmation that Verity actually has any interest in the man, I saw them speak briefly at the dance a few months ago, but could not detect any particular partiality on either side.”

“But what about the rumours? The town is rife with them!” Ross shrugged.

“People love to gossip, they will take the slightest hint of a relationship, even something as innocuous as a conversation, and blow it out of proportion. There are even rumours that I am having an affair with my maid, but just because there are rumours does not mean it is necessarily true.” Ross explained calmly, ignoring the fact that, in this case, the subject of both rumours were in fact true. This was not helped by Francis who eyed him sceptically as soon as he brought up Demelza.

“Nevertheless we must remain vigilant, Verity’s reputation must remain intact. If you notice anything between the two you must alert me immediately.” Ross agreed, glad to see that his words had some mollifying effect. He had definitely managed to stir up some more uncertainty which might buy Verity some time.

Leaving the house, Ross encountered Verity on his way back to Nampara.

“How did the meeting go? What did you tell them?” She asked him anxiously as soon as she saw him.

“Calm down, I told them I knew nothing about you and Captain Blamey.” She relaxed visibly at Ross’s reassurances.

“Thank you, Ross. I do not know what I would do without you.” She hesitated. “I have to admit, I am not sure what to do from here onwards. I do not see how I can convince my family that he is a good man.”

“You will not be able to convince them.” Ross told her firmly. “The problem is that it is simply the wrong time for them to lose you. All of them have become reliant on your presence, Uncle Charles especially, and the mere thought of you leaving at this time is unsupportable. Captain Blamey could be the very best man in the world and they still would not support the match. With Grambler failing, they are all under a lot of stress and losing the cornerstone of their family is not something they dare think about. You hold them all together, even if you don’t realise it.”

“Should I then have no say in my own life? Live out the rest of my days only helping others and never thinking of myself?”

“Of course not, but if you both sneak around the town you will get caught and who knows what will happen then. You know Francis’s temper, and I doubt that Captain Blamey is one to take insults lightly. What do you think would happen if you forced a confrontation between them?”

“I see your point.” An idea seemed to dawn on her, and Ross not wanting to get involved did not ask her what she was thinking. Verity was more than capable of a little deviousness herself when the occasion called for it.

Back at Nampara life returned to normal for a few weeks, and Ross busied himself readying for Wheal Leisure’s grand reopening. Francis made the odd appearance for lessons on mining and Ross could see that progress was slowly being made. Francis would never be an expert in mining, but Ross was hopeful that he could help Francis to at least become competent.

During their discussions, Ross realised how much he had missed his cousin. In his first life, he had not given much thought to Francis as he was so relentless in his obsession with Elizabeth that everyone else had seemed almost irrelevant. Now that Elizabeth was not an issue that stood between them, Ross and Francis could return to the friendship that had been so dear to them when they were children. He once again felt a stab of regret for how foolish he had been.

Other visitors were not so welcome. It appeared that his attempts to deter Ruth Teague and her ambitious mother had not been successful as the two appeared to visit Nampara one day. Seeing their approach, Ross sent Demelza to work inside the house. He wanted to avoid Miss Teague or her mother from noticing her too much, or noticing his regard for her which he was aware he was not always very good at hiding. Avoiding gossip about himself and Demelza was paramount if he wanted to avoid marrying her before copper was struck at Leisure.

He politely declined their invitation for him to take tea at Teague House, citing that he was terribly busy with his estate at the current time and did not think he would have the opportunity to make such a visit in the near future. They left, clearly disappointed that he had not taken them up on their offer. Back in the house, Ross found Demelza sweeping the floor.

“Why do you get so many visitors?” Demelza asked.

“It must be my astonishing good looks.” She rolled her eyes at his mock arrogance.

“Who were they?” She asked ignoring his previous statement.

“An ambitious mother and daughter who want to convince me to marry the daughter in order to acquire my last name.” Ross told her honestly. Her face crinkled up in confusion.

“What’s so great about your name?” Ross shrugged.

“It is very old, centuries old.” Demelza frowned.

“I don’t understand rich folk.” Her simple answer was so bluntly honest that it made Ross laugh, how he could have ever wanted to marry anyone else he did not know.

Not long after the Teague’s visit, a rather distressed Verity arrived at Nampara.

“What is the matter Verity?” Ross asked, after Verity had been led into the sitting room by Demelza.

“My father has found out about Andrew, we were just about to leave together.” Verity explained in a rush. “I managed to get word to him to meet me here as soon as possible so that we can leave. I am so sorry to impose on you like this, but we had nowhere else to go.”

“It is not a problem,” Ross told her calmly, not wishing to agitate her further, “do you have everything you need?”

“I believe so.” She glanced around at the things she had brought with her, mentally checking the items against a list.

They waited in silence for a while, Verity paced anxiously, waiting for Captain Blamey’s arrival. Eventually there was the sound of impatient knocking at the door which stopped Verity in her tracks, Demelza left the sitting room to answer the door. Ross heard her soft voice speaking to whoever was at the door, but whatever she said was abruptly cut off and Ross heard a bang from the entrance.

It was not Captain Blamey that entered the room, but Charles and Francis. While also clearly as furious as his father, Francis occasionally glanced behind him somewhat regretfully. Ross left them, hearing the sound of shouting from Charles as he went to the door. Demelza was slumped, rather dazed, against the wall. Clearly she had been shoved out of the way, probably by Charles in his anger.

Ross helped her up, brushing the hair out of her eyes and pushing aside his anger until he could actually confront his uncle.

“Are you okay?” Ross asked in concern.

“I’m alright, just was a bit shocked.” She met his gaze. “I’m not sure if I like your uncle very much though.”

“I’m inclined to agree.” Now standing a little more steadily, Demelza gently pushed Ross away.

“You should go deal with your family.” She suggested. “I’ll be fine.” Ross nodded and left her side. Entering the sitting room again, Ross swiftly interrupted Charles’s tirade.

“I don’t know what you mean by barging into my home and assaulting my maid but-”

“Stay out of this, boy! This matter does not concern you.” Charles snapped back.

“I think you will find that it does concern me when you attack my maid without provocation.” Before Charles could respond, they heard a voice outside shouting Verity’s name.

“Is that the villain now?” Charles demanded at Verity, she glanced fearfully in the direction of the door. Charles and Francis both followed the shout outside to confront Captain Blamey, Francis taking two pistols as he left, and Verity racing after them.

Ross followed more slowly, gently pulling Demelza along with him.

“I might need your help if this goes badly.” She nodded in understanding. Outside it appeared that Francis had taken over the role of defending Verity’s honour, and it seemed that Captain Blamey had already insulted him as Francis was in the middle of an irate rant against the man. Ross tried to calm the situation but it was beyond intervention, Verity was just as unsuccessful.

When the pistols were pulled out, Ross felt Demelza grip tightly on to his wrist. Seeming to realise what she had done, she let go quickly only to feel Ross wrap an arm around her. Everyone’s focus was on the situation in front of them, so there was no harm in Ross providing Demelza with what comfort he could.

As the two men prepared to shoot, Demelza hid against his chest, not wanting to see the result. Over her head, Ross watched the unfolding situation with trepidation, worried that the outcome might be different than originally. When the shots fired, Demelza flinched against him before reluctantly turning to see the outcome. Captain Blamey was unharmed, but Francis had been shot.

Ross immediately went to Francis’s side, shouting orders to Prudie to go find some clean cloth and water and to Jud to help him carry Francis into the house. Verity reached him first, looking at Francis’s injury in dismay.

“Go.” Ross told her quietly, she looked at him uncomprehendingly. “If you stay here you will be miserable.”

“But what about Francis?”

“He will be fine.” Jud reached them and helped Ross move Francis, Charles opened the doors for them to allow them easier passage. As Ross entered the house, he saw Verity backing away to join Captain Blamey. Satisfied that he was not needed to deal with that situation, Ross turned his attention to treating Francis. Demelza appeared at his side, tearing the cloth that Prudie had brought into strips that could be used to stem the bleeding.

About an hour later, Ross felt ready to drop with exhaustion, but his work had paid off as it looked like Francis would recover. Charles had left to organise Francis’s transport back to Trenwith, and it looked like Verity had taken his advice and left with Captain Blamey. Ross was glad that his intervention had smoothed the path for them, even if it meant that he was unlikely to see Verity for a while.

There was a sudden banging at the door, Ross watched as Demelza headed to answer it but her movement was unnecessary as the visitor did not wait for a response before entering. It was Elizabeth, clearly having only just learned of what had transpired.

“Francis is fine.” Ross told her immediately before she could start hysterically shouting.

“Where is he?” He led her to Francis.

“He needs rest now.” Ross told her as she critically examined the bandage that was wrapped around Francis’s wound.

“Thank you for saving him.” Her gratitude was evident. “I could not bear it if he died now.” The transport team arrived, Ross gently moved Elizabeth away from the bed so that the men could pick up and carefully carry Francis. They followed the procession to the front door where Charles appeared.

“Have you seen Verity?” Charles asked, Ross shook his head. “She must have left with that villain, idiot girl will no doubt regret her decision if he doesn’t kill her first.” He looked resigned. “I was prepared to blame you for this, but Verity told me earlier that you had nothing to do with it, and I do not have enough evidence to hold this matter against you. Thank you for saving my son, and I apologise for my rough treatment of your maid.”

“It is not me you should apologise to.” Demelza was busy scrubbing blood off the floor, but she raised her head at this. Charles clearly looked uncomfortable with addressing a servant, but to his credit he did so anyway.

“I apologise if I harmed you, I was not myself.” Demelza nodded and resumed her work. Charles addressed Ross again. “I must go and see that Francis is taken care of.” With Charles finished, Elizabeth stepped up to speak her piece.

“Thank you again for saving Francis. More than ever before, I am going to need him by my side now that I am with child. It would have been awful for him to die before he could experience fatherhood.” Fully expecting the news, Ross showed no surprise at the revelation.

“Congratulations.” He told her simply. Her genuine happiness at her condition coupled with her concern about Francis was reassuring to Ross as it indicated that she may now have fully moved on from their past relationship, and hopefully they would have no further problems of that nature.

Chapter Text

For the past several months, Ross had infrequently spent the night with Demelza, rendering his previous decision to try to avoid her a colossal failure. He had to admit that the first few times were his fault, but he refused to accept responsibility as a whole, Demelza had to shoulder some of the burden as well. As innocent as she appeared she could be quite the temptress when she wanted to be.

Ross recalled one evening, when he had been working with Demelza on improving her spelling. The lesson had involved him picking out particular words in a book and asking her to spell them both aloud and on a piece of paper, to improve her writing as well as her spelling. They had worked late into the night and it was only when Demelza started yawning halfway through spelling out words that Ross suggested they stop for the night and go to bed.

She had agreed more quickly than he had been expecting, usually she would try to extend the lesson by another ten minutes before retiring. It therefore shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise when, instead of parting ways outside of the study, Demelza had made a beeline for his room, shooting him a mischievous look over her shoulder which he could not decide whether it was an invitation or a challenge. Either way it was accepted, and the squeal she made when he suddenly picked her up was quite delightful, although not quite as enjoyable as the sounds she made a while later.

With the grand reopening of Wheal Leisure to occur today, Ross counted himself a further step forward on his way to being able to marry Demelza. She hadn’t yet brought up any suggestion that she was unhappy with their current relationship, quite the opposite in fact as she seemed to be doing her best to be as professional as possible around him when others were present, which Ross hoped was also aiding in preventing the rumours about them having any substance.

Even now, while he was making his reopening speech, she was busy ensuring that all the attendees were comfortable and making sure that any mess was immediately cleared up. When his speech finished, she like everyone else clapped enthusiastically but her expression this time was carefully neutral. When everyone was done clapping, she immediately resumed her duties, this time pouring drinks for the investors.

“She’s a diligent worker.” Francis remarked to Ross, who nodded in acknowledgement. “Your speech was good.”

“Thank you, did you get any pointers?”

“A few I think.” Francis replied, then hesitated. “My father is not too happy I am here.” Ross frowned.


“He believes that my show of support for Leisure is directly acting against the interests of Grambler.” Ross shook his head in disbelief.

“Then tell him to give you some more responsibility with the running of Grambler, so that way you would not need to be learning from me.”

“I am not sure he will see it that way.” Francis sounded unusually weary and down in his spirits. Ross wondered if the situation with his father was the only thing that was bothering him, but knowing his cousin as he did, if Francis wanted to tell him about what other worries were on his mind then he would tell him. Prying would only make Francis more determined to keep his concerns to himself, so Ross decided to just offer him what support he could.

“He is only taking out his bad mood about Verity on you. I would not take what he says to heart. I am sure that as soon as your child is born, he will be in higher spirits.” Despite the reassurances, Francis did not look any more cheerful.

“I hope so.”

While busy helping at the mine, Ross was approached by one of the miners. During all of his work advising Francis and dealing with the mine, he had completely forgotten about Jim impregnating Jinny. He reassured the miner that he would sort it out, already planning which cottage he would give to the young couple.

Ross found Jim as the younger man was busy plucking the feathers off a pheasant. The spoils of poaching. “You should stop with this dangerous business.” Ross warned him.

“I need to be able to feed my mother and sisters.”

“And how will you feed them if you get caught? Poaching is a capital offence, if you get caught you could be sent to Australia, or prison. And with your lungs, how long do you think you would last in a prison?” Ross did his best to sound as serious as possible, he did not want to have to deal with the fallout of Jim’s imprisonment.

Jim did look chastised, but Ross was not sure how deeply his warning had sunk in.

“I have a new job for you,” Ross offered, “assistant purser at Wheal Leisure. It comes with higher pay and should be enough to support your family as well as yourself, Jinny and the child. I can also provide you and Jinny with a cottage free of rent until you can afford it.”

“Really Ross?” The shock and gratitude on Jim’s face was evident.

“Yes, but you need to stop the poaching.”

“Thank you, Ross. I don’t know how I can ever repay you.”

“Do not worry about that, but you should deal with Jinny soon, the poor girl is frantic.”

Arriving back at Nampara, after having shown Jim and Jinny the cottage, Ross found a letter left on the counter. He settled at the dining table, opening the letter as Demelza busied herself by placing the plates of food on the table around him. Before she could leave, Ross gestured at the seat in front of him, which she took. Since he had realised that Demelza was skipping out on meals, Ross had made sure that she ate dinner with him every night. This meant he could ensure she was well fed as well as have the chance to spend more time with her.

The letter was from Verity, she and Blamey had married and settled well into their new home. She thanked Ross for his help, and expressed her hope that the rest of her family was well, Francis in particular as she still felt responsible for his injury. Verity had attached a return address, clearly with the intent that Ross would maintain correspondence with her. She did not mention whether she wanted the rest of her family to know where she was living, but considering that the predominating tone of the letter was guilt about what she had put them through, Ross put her avoidance down to her worry of disownment rather than not actually wanting to receive letters from her family.

“Who’s the letter from?” Demelza asked.

“My cousin Verity.”

“The one that ran off with the sea captain? Is she alright?” Ross felt a sudden pang as he realised that it was unlikely that Demelza and Verity would now become such good friends as they had been before. But it was Verity’s life, and he would not be like Charles who also had his own selfish reasons for wanting Verity to stay.  

“She seems to be doing well.” Demelza might not have Verity’s support this time, but at least she would have him. He might be a poor substitute, but he could at least try to offer her as much help as he could with settling into her new life once they were married.

“That’s great, I’m glad she’s happy.”

They both ate in content silence, Demelza clearing the plates away when they were finished. She returned with the bottle of rum that Ross usually had a glass of in the evening. He pulled out a second glass from the cupboard so that she could join him.

“Have you heard news of the Jim and Jinny situation?” Ross asked, when they were both settled.

“I have, the news is all over the village. Tis a good thing you’ve done for them.”

“The wedding will be soon.” Ross commented, and hesitated a fraction. “Do you think me terribly hypocritical?” The thought had nagged at him ever since he remembered Jim and Jinny’s situation.

“Hypocritical?” Ross realised it was not a word he had taught her about yet in their lessons, and not one she would have come across in day to day life.

“For helping Jim and Jinny to get married, but not marrying you.” It was the first time either of them had openly addressed their relationship outside of Ross’s bedroom and Demelza was clearly surprised by it.

“I don’t think badly of you for it. I don’t expect nothing.”

“I don’t expect anything.” Ross gently corrected, she gave him a small smile.

“I don’t expect anything.” Demelza said, Ross shook his head a little.

“I don’t deserve you. You should be with a better man.”

“But I don’t want to be with anyone else.” She replied simply. Ross reached over and covered her small hand with his own, not needing to express in words what he thought.

Jim and Jinny’s wedding was a happy affair, the bride was radiant in her happiness. Ross was glad that it seemed as though Jim has stopped his poaching and would therefore have no reason to put a damper on Jinny’s happiness. If Jinny still wished to work in the Nampara household, that would be even more income for the young family.

Ross did not have the same conversation with the priest as he did originally, a fact he attributed to his own hard work at trying to prevent or reduce any rumours of his conduct with Demelza. But he did notice that the priest was looking between him and the joyfully dancing Demelza with barely concealed suspicion. Clearly his attempts had not been totally successful, and Ross avoided admiring Demelza too much within the eyesight of so many people.

Demelza was in high spirits when they arrived home, and her happiness was contagious. During their absence a letter had arrived from Trenwith informing Ross of the birth of Geoffrey Charles, although the child was not referred by that name in the letter. Thinking about the birth made Ross remember that his uncle’s declining health had begun at the christening, he wondered if there was really anything he could do to prevent it. Perhaps trying to lessen his uncle’s stress would help to prolong Charles’s life a little while longer.

Wheal Leisure was doing well, Ross could tell they were already close to striking copper they were maybe a month or so of hard work and explosives away from the target. Mr Henshaw had been difficult to convince of the new path, but Ross had eventually managed to get him around to the idea. The new path was still full of iron stone, but not quite as much as the original which meant that they might not need as much of the expensive explosives.

Ross’s head had been full of thoughts on the mine when he had arrived home to the sound of uproarious male laughter. He had curiously followed the sound to find Francis and Demelza in the sitting room, the former in near hysterics at something Demelza had said.

Seeing his arrival, Demelza nearly shot out of her seat, an apology already forming on her lips which Ross immediately waved off. She clearly thought he might have been annoyed at her for entertaining Francis when she should have been working, but even if he wasn’t in love with her, seeing Francis clearly in much higher spirits than when he had last seen him was more than worth the potential chance that dinner might be late.

“Francis, this is a pleasant surprise.”

“I came to personally invite you to the christening.” Francis told him, after he had recovered from his bout of laughter, still glancing amusedly at Demelza.

“How is your son?”

“He is doing well, Elizabeth already adores him and as you can imagine my father is thrilled that he has a grandson.”

“I am glad to hear of it, will you stay for dinner?” Ross quickly glanced at Demelza, who nodded in answer to his unasked question of whether she had prepared enough to feed an extra person.

“If it is not too much of an imposition I would be glad to.”

Demelza curtsied and left the room to finish the dinner preparations. Ross noted that the practice was starting to show, it was not a graceful curtsy but it was starting to look a little more professional. Too bad her practice and improvement would soon be wasted.

“I can see why you like her so much.” Francis commented after Demelza had left. “She is delightful. I almost envy you.”

“Almost?” Ross asked with a small smile.

“I do not envy the fallout you will have to deal with when you marry her.” Ross shrugged.

“The fallout will be worth it.”

Chapter Text

WARNING: There is a spoiler in this chapter about an event at the end of this season of the 2015 series. If you want to remain spoiler free then skip to the first page break. 

At the party later in the day, Ross mingled around the guests idly, stopping for the occasional brief discussion with the various people he knew in attendance.

“Uncle.” Ross greeted when Charles approached him. “You are looking a little pale.” Ross told him with a frown. “Are you well?”

“I am perfectly fine.”

“Maybe you should avoid overexerting yourself.” Ross suggested, Charles scoffed at him and left, clearly dismissing the well-intentioned advice. Ross shook his head, no one could accuse him of not trying. Should his uncle suffer a heart stroke that day, maybe he would take the advice more seriously then.

“You are looking glum, Cousin.”

“I have a lot on my mind.” Ross replied to Francis, who had come to stand at Ross’s side while Charles had gone to admire the baby. Over by Elizabeth, the baby started crying in his grandfather’s presence, clearly vexing the older man, Francis followed his gaze.

“No doubt you will have your own children soon enough.” Francis commented. Ross quickly glanced around them, but luckily no one was near enough to them to overhear Francis’s hushed voice.

“Not for a while.” Ross replied. “I have to get the mine on its feet before I can even start considering such things.” When the time came he would also have to think about what he would do about Julia, he didn’t know if he could face losing her again.

“The last reports were looking favourable.” Francis reminded him, Ross tipped his head slightly in acknowledgement.

“How is Grambler doing?” Ross asked, Francis’s expression soured.

“Not well, many of the miners are moving to Leisure.”

“The wages we are paying are higher, so that cannot be a surprise.” Francis snorted.

“Try telling him that.” Francis jerked his head in his father’s direction. “He refuses to listen to reason about the wages, he says that we cannot afford it. But how he expects us to make any money from the mine when we have almost no workers, I don’t know.” Ross nodded in sympathy.

“Ross, I was surprised to learn you had reopened Wheal Leisure.” George said as he approached the two. “The Warleggan bank would have been more than happy to assist you with the venture.” Ross had to tread carefully here, he could detect a trace of irritation on George’s face, and Francis beside him had also tensed up at George’s statements, so clearly Ross was not the only one who had noticed.

“Mr Pascoe is a very good friend of mine, I could not in good conscience betray our long friendship for such a venture, although I’m sure if I had chosen the Warleggan bank I would have received identical support.” The answer seemed to placate George, but it was never too easy to tell with him. Before George could say anything else, Charles was clearing his throat to make a speech and everyone in the gathering turned to face the Poldark patriarch.  

The heart stroke was not pleasant to watch, particularly so when Ross was expecting it. They soon had him settled and comfortable in his bed. It occurred to Ross that in Verity’s absence, Elizabeth would have to take on the role of his carer. He wondered if she was up to the task, while it was easy enough to imagine delicate and proper Elizabeth taking care of a child, it was much more difficult to picture her taking care of an old man.

Remembering that he still hadn’t sent off his reply to Verity’s letter, Ross decided that when he returned to Nampara he would attach another sheet to his letter informing her of her father’s condition. Under such circumstances a reconciliation between Verity and the Trenwith Poldarks could very well be possible.

Ross was preparing to leave Trenwith when he heard voices from near the entrance, he dropped back a little to hear what they were saying.

“Well there are rumours of course, but nothing confirmed. Still it must be admitted that it is very improper for such a young unmarried girl to be working for and living with a man that has such a tarnished reputation. One must wonder what occurs under than roof.” Mrs Chynoweth stirring up trouble as usual, although this was hardly the occasion for such gossip when his uncle lay ill upstairs.

“Mother and I went to visit Nampara a few weeks ago, but we did not even catch a glance of the girl. It does seem strange that Mr Poldark is so insistent on keeping her in the house and out of the public eye, and if she ever does make an appearance in town he always accompanies her.” Ruth Teague’s voice replied. Ross rolled his eyes in exasperation, when Demelza had been outside during the Teague visit Ruth had accused Demelza of strutting around as though she was mistress, there was just no winning with some people.

Not wanting to listen to any more of this rubbish, however accurate it may be, Ross slowly walked into the room. The women immediately ceased their conversation and looked at him as though they could discover the truth about himself and Demelza within his eyes.

“Ladies.” Ross greeted cordially, trying to hide the fact that he had been eavesdropping on their conversation. They boldly greeted him in return, trying to hide in turn that they had been gossiping about him.

Societal games were ridiculous, Ross thought to himself, as he left Trenwith.

Demelza swung the scythe around her, clearing the area and wiped the beads of sweat off her brow. Technically she was not supposed to be working on the fields, Ross had made clear to her that her duties were mostly confined to the house where she would prepare meals and clean. Jud and Prudie were meant to be clearing the fields, but Prudie was in the house no doubt drinking Ross’s alcohol and complaining about her sprained wrist, and Jud was nowhere to be found. With Jim now working at the mine, Demelza did not want Ross to arrive home to find that none of his assigned field work was done.

Demelza thought she saw someone ahead of her, but the bright glare of the sun hid the identity of the visitor. Shielding her eyes and allowing her vision to adjust, Demelza saw that it was Jinny. Demelza abandoned the work she was doing to take Jinny nearer the house where they could talk a little more comfortably.

“Is everything alright?” Demelza asked.

“Yes, I just wanted to get out of the house for a while.” Jinny said, rubbing her bump.

“You glad about Jim stopping his poaching?”

“Really happy about it, it was very generous of Mr Ross to offer Jim the work and us the cottage. I just hope Jim isn’t doing anything stupid.” Jinny’s voice dropped a little at the end, as though reluctant to voice her fears.

“Do you think he might still be poaching?” Demelza asked in concern.

“No.” Jinny shook her head, but she looked a little uncertain. “Would be foolish of him to do something so dangerous with the baby on its way, wouldn’t it?” She shook her head a little more forcefully this time. “He wouldn’t do that to us.”

Jinny’s visit ended soon afterwards as she had to go home to prepare a meal for when Jim returned from the mine. Demelza waved farewell to her retreating figure before picking back up the scythe. The tool now felt so much heavier in her hands, and it occurred to Demelza how tired she suddenly was.

She could not continue working in the fields, and then go back to the house and make a decent dinner as well. She could only do one of those tasks well in the state she was currently in, although she was a little surprised that she had tired so quickly, perhaps spending so much in the time in the kitchen had diminished her strength. Reluctantly Demelza returned the scythe to its appropriate location and went back to the kitchen.

As Demelza kneaded the dough for a pie, she began thinking about the dress she had found a while ago in the study. She wondered why Ross was in possession of such an item. It was very pretty, Demelza had thought, particularly the colour which was halfway between blue and green, although she was sure that there was some posh name for the colour that fancy women used. The thought had crossed her mind to try it on, just to see what it looked like on, but she was quick to dismiss such thoughts.

The dress was clearly made for a rich woman of the upper class and Demelza had no right to wear it. Besides, putting on the dress and seeing what it would be like to be dressed in such finery would only make her long more for the life she couldn’t have. Ross might like her, but he would never marry someone like her, he would marry someone who belonged in that dress, and Demelza refused to even hope that he would choose her instead. Wearing the dress would only make her want it more and that would make it all the more upsetting if it never happened.

Her musings were interrupted by the hand that suddenly rested on her lower back and seemed to leave a trail of heat, even after the hand moved.

“Hello sir.” Demelza greeted, before rolling the dough into a ball that she would flatten later with a rolling pin.

“You look exhausted.” Ross said in concern, eyeing her weary movements. “Have you been doing more than your allocated chores again?” Demelza hesitated, unwilling to lie to him.

“Prudie’s hurt her arm so she can’t work no more-”

“Anymore.” Ross corrected.

“She can’t work anymore, so someone had to work on the fields, and I had some free time since I finished the cleaning early.”

“What about Jud, where is he?”

“I don’t know, sir.” Ross cursed under his breath.

“You should go get some rest.” Ross told her. “We still have some leftovers from yesterday.” Demelza vehemently shook her head.

“I can finish making dinner sir, it won’t take me too much longer.”

“Are you sure?” He looked doubtful.

“Yes sir.” She told him firmly.

“Fine, finish making dinner. Then I want you to eat and get some sleep, you can use my bed so you will be more comfortable.” Demelza blushed a little.

“Thank you sir.”

A week or so later, Ross was helping his workers at the mine when Jim came down to tell him that his cousin wanted to see him. Francis looked unusually down when Ross eventually went to see him.

“My father has told me to run Grambler in his absence.” Francis told him.

“That is good news, is it not?” Ross asked, somewhat confused.

“I thought it was. I went down to the mine to try to offer my support, but I froze. I did not know what to do when I arrived there, so I just sat on my horse and greeted them as they left.” Francis violently shook his head. “I felt like such an imbecile.”

“There is no point in just waiting by the entrance.” Ross admonished lightly. “I am not suggesting that you help with the work in the mine as I do, I know your father would not approve of that, but go into the mine. You could speak with the mine operator, ask how production is going, and thank your miners for their hard work. Those kind of enquiries will at least show your interest.”

“The workers, they look at me as though I do not belong there.”

“Nonsense, you are imagining things.” Ross told him firmly. “Your family owns the mine, you absolutely have the right to be there. If anything backing down now is what will make the workers think less of you.”

“I suppose you are right.” Francis admitted.

“Try again tomorrow, and the day after that and so on. It will get easier.” Ross promised.

“How are you feeling, Uncle?” Ross asked politely, with Verity away he thought that it would be nice to visit Charles to demonstrate that he still had family around who cared for him.

“Better now that I hear Francis is taking an active part in running the mine.” Charles told him. “I suppose I have you to thank for it, Francis told me that you had been helping him.”

“It was nothing.” Ross replied.

“I apologise for thinking badly of you, I thought that you were keeping Francis away from his own responsibilities in order to hurt Grambler, but your tutelage has helped. I regret that I was not able to do the same for Francis.” Charles did look suitably repentant for his neglect.

“Some people are not suited to teaching, it is not something you should dwell on, and you will only make yourself more ill by worrying about it.” Ross reassured him.

“Have you heard any news from Verity?” There was a hopefulness to his voice that made Ross a little more confident that there would be a successful reconciliation between the two.

“She sent me a letter, she and Blamey have married.” Charles shook his head in disapproval. “I have replied to her, informing her of your illness.”

“Do you think she will come back?”

“She might.” Charles nodded, looking a little cheerier when Ross left than when he had arrived.

Chapter Text

When the news broke that Jim had been caught poaching, Ross was rendered speechless. How could Jim be so stupid? Ross had thought that, after providing Jim with a decent job and a cottage, any thought of poaching would be far from the boy’s mind, but somehow that had not been enough. Perhaps he had not been as firm as he should have been about the matter, or maybe the man who had convinced Jim to begin the risky practice in the first place had been more convincing than Ross had expected. Whatever the reason, Ross decided to take the advice Elizabeth had given him in the past, swallowing his pride he went to visit George Warleggan.

“Ross, what a pleasant surprise.” George greeted him as Ross was led into the main sitting room of the Warleggan estate. “Is there a particular reason for your call?”

“I have come to ask a favour.” Ross told him.

“A favour?” George repeated in surprise. “And if I grant you this favour will I receive one in return?” A banker to the core, George would not give anything away unless there was the guarantee of some benefit to himself. Ross nodded, already dreading to think what George might require of him. “Then how can I be of service?”

“You are friendly with Reverend Halse, correct?”

“I am.” George acknowledged.

“One of my workers has been caught poaching, he was formerly my servant and I am acquainted with his family. Transportation would not be a suitable punishment as he has a young wife who is with child, and because of his sickly constitution he would not survive even a short stay in prison.”

“I see.” George said thoughtfully. “You wish me to ask Reverend Halse to show leniency towards the boy?” Ross nodded. “I will see what I can do, it should not be too difficult to resolve the matter, although I recommend that you make an appearance at the trial to testify to his good character or some other such nonsense so his release will not be questioned as much.” George paused and considered him carefully. “The favour I ask will not be a trifling matter, are you sure that your servant’s life is worth it?”

“I am sure.”

“Very well. I can think of nothing suitable that you might assist me with at the current time, but I will no doubt think of something in the future.” Ross’s heart sunk a little, he was now in debt to George, something he had hoped he never would be. It might not be a monetary debt, but it was one that would no doubt exact a heavy price. Ross only hoped that it would be something he was willing to sacrifice.

At the trial, Ross testified as he had before. He felt dirty doing so as he knew that his words had no impact, and he was not amassing any pity for Jim’s situation. The matter was already decided and Ross’s words were a meaningless cover to hide the fact that an exchange between some members of the upper class were what was ensuring Jim’s release, not any kind of mercy. He kept his temper though, and was as polite as he could possibly be to Reverend Halse, not wanting to give the man any reason to change his mind.

When the sentence was made, Jim broke down in tears on the stand as it was announced that because of his illness, family situation and good character he was being released with a warning. Leaving the court, Ross heard the sound of footsteps behind him and turned to confront whoever was following him. It was Jim.

“Ross, I wanted to thank ye-”

“What in God’s name were you thinking?” Ross interrupted him sharply. Jim looked taken aback.

“I’m sorry sir-”

“I provided you with plenty enough to support your mother and sisters as well as Jinny, so why would you do something so stupid?”

It was the first time Ross had been able to take out his anger and frustration that had gradually been building since he had found himself in this new reality. Jim’s idiotic decision to continue poaching had pushed Ross’s restraint to the limit, and Ross could not find it within himself to regret his fury against Jim since he knew that, to a certain degree, Jim deserved the harsh admonishment. He had already tried to be firm before and that had not worked. Jim hung his head, not bothering to come up with an excuse as none would have been adequate.

“I wasn’t thinking.” Jim replied eventually.

“No you were not, and what do you think would have been the result without my intervention? Jinny widowed and your child growing up without its father?”

“I won’t ever do it again, I realise how foolish it was now.”

“Good, because if it happens again I will not intervene. You have no idea of what I had to do to ensure your release, if I find out that you wasted this opportunity-”

“I won’t sir, I promise.” Jim looked nearly on the verge of tears from Ross’s anger, and that placated him somewhat.

“If you think I am angry, just wait until you get home to your wife. Believe me, her wrath will be far greater than my own.” It suddenly seemed to dawn on Jim that he would have to face his wife after lying to her about his continued poaching. Ross did not envy him.

Ross stopped by the tavern for several drinks, hoping they would help to calm him. They did not, but Francis’s arrival helped.

“Rough day?” Ross nodded, knocking back another drink. When he was finished, Ross explained the whole sorry situation to his cousin, omitting the favour that he had promised George. The fewer people who knew about that the better. Ross hated that he could not plan for it, he was so used to having knowledge of the potential consequences of his actions that he felt oddly unprepared to deal with the matter. He dreaded to think about what George would want. Ross had been thinking about the Carnmore Copper Company recently, trying to think of a way he could ensure its success. There was the risk that George’s favour might impact on that.

Francis offered his sympathies for the situation, and Ross asked him about Grambler, not wanting to dwell on the subject any longer. The subject made Francis’s eyes light up and he excitedly explained all the work he had been doing. Francis’s clear happiness that he was finally doing something right, coupled with the pleasant buzz of the alcohol did wonders for making Ross forget his anger. Eventually Ross had to cut off Francis’s ramblings as it was late and Ross finally felt calm enough to go home.

Arriving at Nampara, Ross found Demelza in his study. She had not heard his entrance and was trying to reach for a book near the top of the bookshelf. Ross walked quietly towards her, and when he was directly behind her, he wrapped his arms around her waist. He felt her start in surprise before relaxing into his embrace.

“I heard about the trial.” She murmured. “It was a good thing you did for Jim.”

“I just do not know why Jim would do something so foolish.”

“People always want more than they got, it’s human nature. Doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, people are never content.”

“It becomes a problem when the pursuit of more starts hurting others.” Ross said into her hair.

“Jim won’t do it again, Jinny gave him hell when he got back. He’s had to go stay with his mother and sisters since Jinny’s kicked him out of the cottage.” Ross found himself smiling in amusement, the young mother who appeared sweet and unwilling to hurt a fly could muster up an awful temper when required, she would have been a fearsome sight to behold no doubt.

It occurred to Ross that there was something a little off about this situation, he wracked his brains trying to think of what happened originally in the timeline. After Jim had been sent to prison, Ross had gone drinking at the tavern, eventually he had gone home and found Demelza wearing his mother’s dress. Ross sneakily glanced at Demelza wondering if he had missed it, and saw that she was wearing her normal maid’s dress. He wondered why she was not dressed differently this time.

“How was your day?” He asked.

“Not too bad, Prudie’s arm is better so she actually attempted some work today. I think I may have got that stomach bug that’s going around, I’ve not been feeling too well.”

“Are you still feeling ill?” Ross asked in concern, Demelza shook her head.

“Tis a strange thing, it comes and goes whenever it damn well pleases. I feel fine right now, I’m sure tis nothing to worry about.” Ross hugged her a little tighter, hoping that her illness wasn’t more serious. She could have the plague and would still be insisting that it was nothing she couldn’t handle. “I did have a question for you, Ross.”

“Yes?” She shifted a little self-consciously.

“Why do you own a dress?” She asked eventually. “I found it a while ago, and I was wondering why you have it.”

“The green one?”

“I thought it was blue.” He could hear some barely concealed amusement in her voice, clearly she had spent some time trying to work out what colour it was.

“I believe it is referred to as teal or turquoise.” He felt her shake a little with suppressed laughter. “It is my mother’s dress.” Ross explained. “Have you tried it on?” Demelza shook her head.

“No, I didn’t think it would be proper to try it on.”

“Why?” Ross asked somewhat confused, it took him a moment to remember that Demelza was still his servant. He was prone to forgetting occasionally, particularly when they were in positions such as they were at the moment. “Never mind. I would quite like to see what it looks like on you, if you would not mind indulging my curiosity.”

“You mean put on the dress?” Ross nodded and released his hold on her. “Are you sure?” She asked facing him. He could tell she wanted to, but she seemed wary of it.

“I would not ask if I did not want you to.” Demelza made her way over to the chest that contained the dress, glancing back at him somewhat hesitantly. Pulling the dress out, Demelza admired it briefly before turning to glare at Ross.

“I’m not changing in front of you, turn around!” Ross had to fight back a bark of laughter at her sudden shyness, he had already seen her nude a fair few times in this lifetime so her modesty now seemed a little belated. He acquiesced with a smile, behind him he could hear the shifting sounds of fabric as Demelza changed out of her servant’s clothes and into the dress.

He felt a light tapping on his shoulder, indicating that he was now allowed to look. She stood in front of him shyly, looking as lovely as he remembered.

“You look beautiful.” He told her, Demelza face flushed pink at the compliment. Ross stepped a little closer to her, and tipped her head up for a kiss. He savoured the feeling, enjoying the warmth from her proximity. Demelza was the first to break this kiss, and she smiled up at him impishly.

“I might need some help with the ties at the back.” She told him. Ross smiled back at her, understanding her meaning. He took her hand and guided her towards his room.

“We will need more appropriate surroundings if you require my help.” That made Demelza laugh, and she held onto his hand tightly as they left the study.

“My father turned up today.” Demelza told him afterwards, when they were curled up together on the bed.

“What did he want?” Ross asked, idly playing with her fingers.

“He wants me back at Illugan, he’s gotten all religious now and thinks it ain’t right that I live here. He told me I have until tomorrow to go back or he’s going to fetch me.” She sounded oddly subdued which made Ross remember the beating marks he had seen on her back when they first met. He would not allow her to go back.

“I will think of something.” Ross promised her. “You will not have to leave if you do not want to.”

“Thank you Ross.” She yawned sleepily and abruptly changed the subject. “Do you think apples will be coming out any time soon?”

“Not for a little while, why?”

“I’ve been really wanting some for a little while now. I’ve never really liked them, so I don’t know why I want them now.” Beneath her Ross stiffened, which made her frown. “Something wrong?” Demelza asked.

“Nothing. You should get some sleep, you sound tired.” She nodded in agreement and laid her head down onto a pillow to rest. Beside her, Ross was doing his best to hide his shock. It did not take her long to fall asleep, and as soon as her breaths evened out Ross allowed himself to release the shuddered breath that he had been holding as he considered the significance of her seemingly innocuous revelation.

During the early weeks of each of Demelza’s pregnancies she had consistently craved apples, regardless of the season. She would not touch the fruit unless she was pregnant. It had become a bit of a family joke, particularly so because Demelza refused to acknowledge the truth of it. Ross also recalled that Demelza had mentioned earlier that day that she had not been feeling well, and she had tired more easily recently. Putting all this evidence together, there could be very little doubt about her condition.

Ross forced himself to relax, there was little he could do about the matter now. Frankly he should have expected such a consequence when he had started their relationship so early. In the morning he would make a quick visit to the mine to check that they had enough money to blast through the final few layers of ironstone, then he would return to Nampara and ask Demelza to marry him. Considering the priest’s suspicions at Jim and Jinny’s wedding, Ross doubted the man would have any objections to marrying him and Demelza with haste.

When morning came, Ross dressed silently doing his best not to wake Demelza. She looked so peaceful, and considering how tired she had been recently, no doubt because the baby was already taking its toll on her, Ross wanted to leave her to sleep. He tucked the sheets around her more securely before he left.

There would be even more scandal about the marriage this time when it was discovered that Demelza was pregnant, but Ross could not bring himself to care as the thought of having one of his children back more than compensated for having to deal with society’s judgement.

Chapter Text

Demelza awoke feeling more rested than she had in a while. Stretching out, she glanced at the window and nearly fell out of the bed as she realised how late it was. Usually she was up with the dawn, but judging by the bright light streaming through a crack in the curtains, it was far past that time. She must have been more tired than she had first thought.

Getting out of the bed, Demelza spotted another problem. Her day dress was still in Ross’s study. Normally this wouldn’t have been too much of a problem as when she usually awoke, Jud and Prudie were still in bed, so there was no chance that she would get caught when she left Ross’s room. But as it was clearly nearing midday, the other two servants would no doubt be up and about by this time.

Stepping into the blue dress, Demelza loosely tied it up to cover herself. The dress would do nothing to hide what had occurred, since she shouldn’t have been wearing it in the first place, but Demelza was not about the run across the hall with nothing on. As soon as she was in the study she would be able to change clothes, and put the blue dress back. Jud and Prudie would be none the wiser, and if they had any suspicions as to her absence she could explain that she was cleaning the study, and as neither of them were allowed in the study there was no way they would know she was lying.

Quietly walking to the bedroom door, Demelza put her ear against the wood. She could not hear anything that would indicate that Jud or Prudie were nearby. Hopefully they were already outside and working the fields. Carefully opening the door, Demelza stuck her head out and looked on either side. No one was there. Slipping out of the door, Demelza tiptoed towards the study.

Her hand was on the handle, and she could almost taste success when she heard a gasp to her left. Demelza cursed, she had been caught. Glancing to her side she saw Prudie looking horrified. Considering the state of undress that she was in, Demelza did not blame the other woman. Trying to ignore her burning face and the judgmental look on Prudie’s face, Demelza entered the study.

Dressed more appropriately, Demelza felt marginally more respectable. She cleaned the study for a while, not wanting to face Prudie, but the cleaning did not take very long as Demelza had the house well maintained. When she left the study again, Prudie was not there, which made Demelza breathe out a sigh of relief. She headed to the kitchen to prepare lunch, and stopped in her tracks. Prudie was sitting at the table, shaking her head in disapproval.

“Foolish girl, I don’t know what you was thinking.”

“I don’t see how it’s any of your business.” Demelza retorted, her attempt at confidence somewhat betrayed by the shakiness to her voice. Prudie just eyed her with pity.

“Don’t get mad at me child, tis Mr Ross who is using you. He’s still in love with that Miss Elizabeth what married his cousin. They had an attachment before the war, Mr Ross was desperately in love with her and there ain’t been no change. Mark my words, he’ll throw you off the minute she shows the slightest interest in him.” Demelza looked at her in disbelief.

“That can’t be true.” Prudie ignored what Demelza had said, an easy enough task considering there was not much conviction in Demelza’s tone.

“That’s the thing about rich folk, they think they are entitled to anything they want, and don’t think of the consequences for anyone else. I thought you would have more sense than to fall for such a scheme.”

“There is no scheme,” Demelza protested, “Ross cares about me.”

“Has he ever said so?” Demelza was silent. “Has he ever mentioned marriage or a future?” Still Demelza did not reply, Prudie shook her head again. “I do pity you girl, tis you who will face the fallout of what you’ve done, Mr Ross won’t have to deal with any of it. Still, I guess tis lucky your father is willing to have you back.”

Demelza could not listen to any more of this, through a haze of unshed tears she fled the house, not stopping until she was at the beach where she sank to the ground. Prudie was right, how could she have been so stupid? Beside Demelza, Garrick rubbed comfortingly against her, clearly sensing his mistress’s distress.

Demelza knew that Ross would not have considered marrying her, she had not been foolish enough to expect otherwise even though deep in her heart she always hoped that he would. It was what Prudie had said about Elizabeth that struck Demelza.

She had always thought it a little odd how Ross paid no attention to all the upper class women who fawned over him, at the time she had assumed it was because he cared for her instead. But now she realised that it must have been because he was hoping that Elizabeth would change her mind and choose him. She remembered when Elizabeth had visited, the woman had looked so admiringly at Ross, but Demelza had not paid it heed as many other women had looked at him like that as well. She had not thought to examine how Ross was looking back. Knowing now that the two had a past, and that Ross returned that regard, Demelza couldn’t help but wonder how much longer Ross would have kept up their relationship, was he just waiting for a signal from Elizabeth?

The tears were flowing freely now, but with them came a burst of anger. How dare Ross treat her so if he was going to leave her as soon as it became convenient. Asking her to put on that fine dress was just cruel, as though he was playing with her feelings, maybe it was his way of trying to mould her into someone he could pretend was the woman he really loved. That last thought made Demelza stand up and firmly brush away her tears. She would return to Nampara, when Ross returned she would give him a piece of her mind and then she would go back to her father. Her father may be awful, but at least he was honest, which was more than she could say about Ross. If Ross had truly cared for her, he would have told her about his past with Elizabeth instead of pretending that she was just Francis’s wife.

Ross returned from the mine in a good mood. They had enough money to buy some more explosives, and Mr Henshaw was confident that they would reach copper well in time for Christmas. As he rode back he was surprised to see Elizabeth’s horse being taken care of by Jud. A frown crossed Ross’s face, what reason did she have to visit? The first time it had been to offer her condolences about Jim’s imprisonment, but that matter had now been resolved and Ross could not think of any other reason why she wanted to speak to him. Entering the house, Ross found Demelza sweeping the entrance.

“Your guest is in the sitting room.” She told him coldly. Her tone took Ross aback, she had been content when he had last seen her, and he couldn’t see what had suddenly changed her tune.

“Are you-?” Ross began, reaching out for her, but Demelza abruptly jerked back out of range.

“Don’t touch me.” She snapped. Ignoring the look of hurt on Ross’s face, she continued as coldly as she had spoken before. “You shouldn’t keep your guest waiting.”

“Can I speak to you later?” Ross knew he couldn’t speak to her now with Elizabeth in the house, but after he had dealt with whatever Elizabeth wanted and she had gone, he would find out what was wrong with Demelza.

“Fine.” Ross hated to leave her while she was clearly so angry at him, but he didn’t have much choice.

Entering the sitting room, Elizabeth immediately turned to him with a small smile. She didn’t look particularly upset about anything, not that Ross expected her to be. Even at the heights of fury, Demelza was unfailingly polite to anyone who was not the subject of her ire, Ross could even see that she had remembered to provide Elizabeth with some refreshment. The only matter Demelza seemed to have refused to do was wait with Elizabeth until he arrived, which is what she did for any other guests that called while Ross was out. Ross guessed that Demelza was not in the mood to partake in any kind of small talk that might occur should she spend more time alone with a guest than absolutely necessary.

“Elizabeth.” Ross greeted cordially as he took the seat facing her. “Is there something I can help you with?”

“I was passing by and thought I might stop in, I hope I haven’t disturbed you.” She had disturbed him, but it was not her fault and Ross was not about to let his irritation at her interruption show.

“Of course not.” Ross reassured her with a slightly forced smile.

“How are matters progressing with Wheal Leisure?” Elizabeth asked politely.

“We are close to striking copper, we should be collecting it in large quantities by Christmas.”

“That is excellent news. Thank you for indulging my curiosity, I do enjoy hearing about the mines.” She hesitated a fraction. “Francis refuses to speak to me about Grambler, I think he believes it is not a woman’s concern.”

Ross found that a little odd. During Francis’s last visit, Ross had found him having an animated discussion with Demelza on the matter of mining. Clearly Francis’s reservations had nothing to do with gender, but Ross did not think that telling Elizabeth that her husband was more than willing to discuss mining with his maid would go down too well.

“I can speak to him about it, if you would like.” Ross offered.

“That is very kind of you, Ross.” She smiled at him gratefully. “You have been so good to our family, particularly with how you have assisted Francis with learning about the mining business.” Ross could tell there was something else on her mind. She paused before continuing. “Not that I am not grateful for your help, but I find that Francis has been spending very little time at home as of late. He barely spends any time with Geoffrey Charles or myself anymore.”

“Grambler has not been doing well for some time.” Ross reminded her. “Francis is going to have to spend a considerable amount of time trying to find ways to cut costs and improve how Grambler is being run. Unfortunately that means he cannot spend the majority of his time at home as he used to.”

Ross tried to be as gentle as he could with his firm admonishment. It wasn’t necessarily Elizabeth’s fault, she had been used to Francis having plenty of time on his hands, but now that he was taking on an active role at Grambler that time was reduced. She could not expect him to be both a full-time husband and father as well as ensure the mine was running correctly.

“I see.” Clearly that wasn’t the reply that Elizabeth was looking for, but if she was expecting sympathy Ross was not about to give it to her. He knew himself how much the toll of running a business could take on family life. Elizabeth stared at the gloves she held in her hands, avoiding making eye contact with Ross. “I suppose you’ve heard the rumours about yourself that have been circulating for a while.”

“I have.” Ross acknowledged, clearly understanding that she was referring to the rumours about himself and Demelza that he had not managed to completely stiffle.

“I know you were not terribly concerned about them, but people are starting to talk more seriously now about what is being said, and I worry for your reputation.” Ross stayed silent, not wanting to speak in case he was not able to contain his disdain for society. Seeing that he was not about to reply, Elizabeth ploughed on with her clearly rehearsed speech. “I would advise that you deal with the situation as swiftly as possible, for the benefit of both yourself and the girl. It would be best if you sent her away, if you give her a good recommendation I am sure she will have no trouble finding work elsewhere. She would not be so fortunate if the rumours were left to fester.”

“Thank you for the advice, Elizabeth.” Ross said calmly, even though he really wanted to tell her to mind her own business. “But I have already decided on steps to take to deal with the situation.”

“That is reassuring.” Elizabeth replied with a relieved smile. “People have already started to say the most awful things, the sooner it is dealt with the better.”

“I could not agree more.” Ross hid a smirk, he doubted she would be so cheerful when she found out what his actual solution entailed.

“I will not take up any more of your time, I am sure you are very busy and I must see to Geoffrey Charles.” She stood up gracefully, Ross walked her to the door and helped her with her horse before bidding her farewell.

He noticed that Jud and Prudie were both busy outside, working for once, which he was pleased about because he wanted some privacy with Demelza. Particularly if she was going to be shouting at him for something he had done wrong that he still hadn’t managed to work out.

Ross found Demelza kneading some pastry in the kitchen with unusual violence. She gave him a dirty look as he walked in before resuming her work, if anything even more aggressively than before.

“Whatever it is I have done,” Ross began tentatively, “I am really really sorry.” He thought that was a safe enough opening, but clearly Demelza did not agree as she snorted in derision.

“I quit.” She told him with surprising calmness, Ross expected that the only reason she was not shouting was that she was taking out the majority of her rage on the poor innocent dough. “After today, I am going back to my father. I can’t stay here no more.”

“What?” He hadn’t had much expectation of what she was going to say since he still did not know what he had done wrong, but what she had said was miles away from anything he had imagined. “Why would you leave? I thought you were happy here.”

“I was happy,” Demelza stressed the past tense, “until I found out you were using me as some sort of placeholder for the woman you really want to be with.” Ross was rendered speechless, he knew immediately that she was referring to Elizabeth, but he couldn’t work out how Demelza had come to the conclusion that she had reached. “Today I found out all about you and Elizabeth, which you clearly didn’t want to tell me about considering I already asked you who she was. I wasn’t expecting much from you, but I’m not going to wait around until you cast me aside for her.”

“That was never going to happen.” Ross protested immediately. “I would never do that to you.”

“I’m sure.” Demelza said sarcastically. “I might have even believed you if you had told me that you were in love with Elizabeth earlier.”

“What I had with Elizabeth was years ago.” Ross tried to explain. “I did not think it was important enough to tell you.”

“Not important.” Demelza repeatedly incredulously, slamming the dough onto the surface with force. Leaving it, she rounded on him. “She visits the house often, she’s married to Francis. It’s not like she’s some stranger that lives on the other side of town that you barely see.”

Having it explained to him like that made Ross realise what a mistake it was to not confide in Demelza about his and Elizabeth’s past, she was bound to find out at some point and the longer it was kept secret the more suspicious it would appear. He hadn’t intentionally kept her in the dark, it just hadn’t crossed his mind that she didn’t know. He was so used to it being common knowledge, and in his first life he had never had to explain the situation to Demelza as that time his attachment had been obvious.

“You are right, I should have told you and I am sorry that I did not. But just because I cared for Elizabeth in the past does not change how I feel about you.” He could tell that she was not convinced. “Can you honestly say that your feelings about me have changed since yesterday?”

“I can’t,” Demelza admitted, returning to her work, “but I don’t trust you anymore, and I won’t stay here.” Ross was starting to panic, he couldn’t allow her to go as he had no certainty that he would get her back.

“You can’t leave.” Ross pleaded with her.

“Why not?” She sounded angry again, probably because his plea was phrased as an order, and Demelza was clearly in no mood to be ordered around.

“I think you might be with child.” Ross blurted out before he could stop himself. Demelza stood there in stunned silence, the dough abandoned on the table as she stared at him in utter disbelief. It took her a while to recover, and when she did her reply was jerky with uncertainty.

“How on earth could you possibly know that when I even I don’t know. There aren’t any signs, you’re just making it up to make me stay.” Ross knew her accusations were not in any way serious, she was just desperately grasping at straws, unwilling to believe that it could be possible.

“Think about it Demelza, you have said that you’ve not been feeling yourself for a while.” He told her gently.

He could tell that the idea was starting to sink in and make sense. She suddenly looked so young and vulnerable that Ross felt an overwhelming need to wrap her up in his arms and promise her that everything was going to be okay, but he knew that such a gesture would not be well received in her current mood. He approached her slowly, not wanting to startle her with any sudden movements. He rested his hands carefully on her shoulders, glad to see that she was not moving away.

“I know you are still angry with me, with good reason, and I hope that you can forgive me. I did not want to ask this under such circumstances, but we are short on time as it is.” He gently took her hands, which were still dusted with flour, but Ross did not care. “Marry me?”

“Is the possibility that I am with child the only reason you want me to marry you? Because of some misguided sense of responsibility?” She sounded so defeated, Ross cursed the idiocy on his part that had led to this whole situation.

“Of course not.” Ross protested. “Even though you might not believe me, I do love you.” His heartfelt confession did seem to elicit a reaction from Demelza as she finally met his gaze briefly before quickly looking away.

“If I agree to this, I want you to know that I ain’t doing it for you, I’m doing it for the baby, if there is even is one.” She still sounded doubtful that she was indeed pregnant, but clearly she was suspicious enough that it might be true to agree to his proposal. It was the best offer Ross was going to get at this time, he couldn’t ask for anything else.

Ross was in the town, picking up a few necessities, when by chance he bumped into Francis.

“You look stressed.” Francis told him frankly. “What is the problem?”

“No problem.” Ross told him, shifting the heavy boxes in his arms in discomfort. Francis looked down at the load in his arms sympathetically.

“Are you travelling back to Nampara?” Francis asked. “If so, I can help you transport your purchases.”

“Are you not busy?” Ross questioned with a frown, Francis shook his head.

“Not particularly, I have taken a day off from working at Grambler. I am sure the mine will survive without me.”

“Then I would appreciate the help.” Ross admitted, Francis grinned and took several of the boxes off him, lightening the load considerably.

“What is all this stuff for anyway?” Francis asked, after they had piled most of the items onto their horses.

“I am getting married.” Ross told him bluntly, nearly causing Francis to drop what he was holding.

“Already?” Francis asked in surprise. “I thought you were waiting until Leisure struck copper.”

“That was the original idea, unforeseen circumstances have meant a slight change of plan.” Francis frowned in confusion.

“What kind of circumstances?”

“Demelza’s pregnant.” Ross told him simply.

“Oh, I guess that makes sense.” Francis looked rather surprised at all that had occurred in such a short space of time since he had last visited Nampara. “Are congratulations appropriate?”

“Not in front of Demelza.” Ross warned. “She is not too happy about the whole affair.”

“I thought she would have been thrilled about the wedding.” Ross shook his head.

“She found out about my past with Elizabeth.” Ross explained. “She thinks that I am using her and will leave her in an instant.”

“I see.” Francis replied awkwardly, unsure what the appropriate response was to that revelation. Oblivious to Francis’s discomfort, Ross suddenly had an idea.

“Do you want to come to the wedding?” He asked brightly. While surprised at the invitation, Francis looked delighted that he was welcome to attend what was essentially an elopement.

“Of course, when is it?”

“In a few hours.” Ross told him cheerfully, somehow managing to surprise Francis who thought that the day could not get much stranger.

“So soon?”

“We are on a bit of a time limit.” Ross reminded him. “But I’m sure Demelza would love for you to be there, you are currently one of the few people she actually likes.”

“Are you not in that category?” Francis asked with some amusement.

“Not at the moment.” Ross said with a sad smile. Francis clapped him on the shoulder good-naturedly.

“Welcome to wedded life.”

The wedding was a short affair, Ross found that he spent most of the ceremony staring at Demelza, and willing her to look at him. She did not, she was still irritated at his insensitivity and had more or less ignored him since he had proposed. She looked lovely in the new dress he had bought her knowing she couldn’t continue wearing her maid’s clothes in her new station.

Francis and Ross had headed straight to Nampara from the town, and they were greeted at the door by a discontent Demelza. Ross had to admit that he had been more than a little jealous at Demelza’s first expression of happiness in days when Francis had told her he would be attending the wedding. Demelza had immediately dragged him to the sitting room so they could talk, leaving Ross to sort out the remaining arrangements. Ross knew that Demelza still needed time and space to get accept all the new information she had been given in such a short amount of time, but he could not help but be a little envious of her easy friendship with Francis. He was glad that she at least had someone she could turn to, even if that person was his cousin.

It had taken Ross a few days to realise that Demelza’s current attitude towards him was a direct consequence of him starting their relationship in such a rush. He might know Demelza better than he knew himself, but she had not yet had the chance to learn much about him, and he had not helped much in that regard. The revelation about Elizabeth had shattered any tentative ideas she had about him as a person. Ross resolved that once Demelza forgave him, he would do better and remember that she was not his wife of many years who knew him well.

Vows made and marriage certificate signed, Ross allowed himself to relax a little. Turning towards his new wife, Ross offered her his arm. Half-expecting her to refuse, Ross was surprised when she took his arm and allowed him to lead her out of the church.

“I spoke with Francis.” Demelza told him quietly as an explanation. “I’m not ready to forgive you, but I’m done with the hostility.” Ross felt a rush of affection for Francis who had clearly tried to calm Demelza’s anger when they had spoken earlier that day. He doubted Francis had done it only for Ross’s benefit, but was no doubt trying to smooth things over for the both of them. Ross felt a renewed sense of gratitude that in this lifetime he had renewed his friendship with his cousin.

Chapter Text

The pregnancy was worrying Ross, it was not progressing as it had in the past, making him anxious for the life of both Demelza and the child she was carrying. She was incapable of holding any food down, and spent most of her time dealing with morning sickness. Although why it was called morning sickness when it happened at all times in the day, Ross did not know. Admittedly it was worst in mornings, and Ross had begun many days holding Demelza’s hair and rubbing her back.

Demelza had stopped doubting her condition once her sudden weight gain became visible, and while she had initially rejected Ross’s help due to her continued grudge over the Elizabeth issue, her exhaustion had eventually forced her to allow him to assist her. She seemed weak as a newborn kitten most days, and Ross would often carry her back to bed to get some much needed rest. He couldn’t help but wonder if Demelza might still be a little young to carry a child to full term, and the thought kept him up at night, aware that if anything happened to either of them it would be his fault.

After the usual morning routine, Ross tucked the sheets around the Demelza and went to the kitchen to find Jinny.

“Sir.” She addressed him politely, stopping her sweeping in order to listen to his request.

“Could you make sure Demelza gets something to eat when she wakes up?” Ross asked.

“Of course.”

“Thank you, Jinny.” Much to Demelza’s protests that she could still work despite her condition, Ross had hired Jinny as soon as it had become clear that Demelza was struggling to cope. He would have asked Demelza to hire Jinny in order for Demelza to experience some of the responsibility of her new position, but Demelza was unable to leave the house for very long before nausea struck, so he had done the task himself.

Leaving the house, Ross noted Prudie and Jud walking around with sour faces. They had been in this mood ever since the wedding, Prudie more so. Ross could not quite work out why they were so disgruntled, and Demelza was unwilling to tell him the cause although she clearly knew, as when she had the energy she did seem to taunt them a little about her new position. Ross did not think she was withholding the information from him out of spite, as although they were still not completely reconciled, Ross suspected that Demelza was close to forgiving him.

On his way to the mine, Ross stopped by the fields where Jim was working. After the trial, and after Ross had the chance to calm down, Jim had started working again at Nampara during his free time, free of charge, to make up for the trouble he had caused Ross.

“Ross.” Jim greeted.

“Surely you need rest, Jim, you cannot work all the time.” Ross suggested, causing Jim to shake his head in disagreement.

“No sir, tis no trouble. Besides I can’t thank you enough for helping with the trial and giving our Jinny a job.”

“I am grateful for your help, it looks like the fields might soon start yielding again.” The land looked far less barren than when Ross had first arrived at Nampara, which would mean they would soon have a little extra money that would not go amiss when they baby came. Ross refused to think too much on the idea that maybe they would not have a child.

“Aye sir.” Jim hesitated. He looked conflicted, clearly he was trying to decide whether he should broach a particular topic with Ross, and Ross waited patiently for Jim to summon up the courage to speak. “Are you planning on making an official announcement about the wedding?” Ross had not been expecting that, he thought Jim might have been wanting some extra hours at Leisure.

“I had not planned on it, it has been quite a while since the event occurred, so I thought everyone would have found out by now.” He had made no attempt to hide that the event had occurred, but it started niggling at Ross that everyone who knew about the wedding was loyal to him, and would not have gossiped about the affair, which meant there was little chance that the news had made it outside his circle of friends and family.

“No sir, there are only rumours and they’re getting more vicious by the day.” Jim confirmed Ross’s suspicions.

Ross mused on the idea, and the more he thought about it the more it made sense. He had been getting strange looks whenever he ventured into town or to the mine, and they had worsened over the past months, but he had thought it was in disapproval of his marriage to a woman with whom he had clearly had premarital relations. Demelza’s pregnancy was now clearly visible, and it was evident to anyone who saw her that the conception had occurred before the wedding. But as Demelza had been unable to leave the estate for quite some time, Ross now considered that it was unlikely her condition had been seen.

“Thank you for letting me know Jim.” Ross would have to deal with the situation as soon as he could, he suspected that asking Francis to spread the news would be for the best, and with that thought in mind he headed to Grambler, hoping that Francis would be there.

At Trenwith, the rumours that had caused Ross much consternation were under serious discussion, and Elizabeth found herself doing her best to calm Charles and prevent another heart stroke.

“I am sure the rumours are of no consequence.” She reassured him. “I spoke to Ross about it myself, and he told me that he was taking measures to deal with the situation.”

“An elopement with a kitchen maid.” Charles said in disgust. “I dread to think that there might be any truth to the matter. We should send for Ross to publicly denounce such lies.” Elizabeth agreed, thinking to herself that it was clear Ross’s efforts to control the situation had failed. Francis had strolled in at that point, hearing the last few moments of the conversation.

“Ross will not deny the rumours.” Francis told them casually, having just returned from meeting Ross.

“Why in the devil wouldn’t he?” Charles snapped.

“Because some of the rumours, while exaggerated, are based on the truth.” Elizabeth’s eyes widened in shock before she regained her composure.

“That is not possible.” Elizabeth told him calmly, unwilling to accept that Ross would show such regard to a kitchen maid.

“It is.” Francis said bluntly. “I was there at the wedding, I can testify that Ross did quite willingly marry Demelza.” His revelation was greeted by various sounds of shock and horror from all in attendance, which included Mrs Chynoweth whose disgust was the most pronounced.

“How could that boy do something so stupid?” Charles was the first to recover.

“Hardly stupid.” Francis disagreed. “Demelza is a nice girl, and Ross clearly adores her. Marriage was the logical conclusion.” While Charles and Elizabeth decried the recent development, Mrs Chynoweth excused herself in order to return home and begin the task of ensuring all her neighbours heard the news from her first. Of course that meant that before the week was up, every single person in the town would know of Ross and Demelza’s wedding.

“How could you let him go through with the marriage?” Elizabeth demanded.

“What use would that have been? You know how stubborn Ross is, and I had no particular objections to the match.”

“Then you have condemned him, society will never accept him now.” She looked overly concerned about Ross’s reputation, which caused a flare of irritation in Francis. She was his wife, not Ross’s, even if she seemed to forget that fact on occasion.

“I am sure Ross is aware of that, and cares little for society’s thoughts on the matter.” Clearly stunned that her husband was not supporting her, Elizabeth left the room shooting him a final look as she exited. Charles and Francis were left alone by Elizabeth’s departure, the former still shaking his head in disapproval.

“Are you going to persist in supporting your cousin, despite his ill-advised decisions?” There was a note of warning in Charles voice that Francis noticed and ignored. Ross had supported him, and regardless of Charles’s thoughts on the subject, Francis was not about to let his cousin down.

“Of course.” Charles let out a bark of laughter that surprised Francis, who had been expecting a harsh reprimand.

“I see you have finally grown a backbone.” Charles admitted somewhat grudgingly. “Finally you might have become a son I could be proud of.” From Charles that was as great a compliment as Francis was ever likely to get, and Francis felt a sudden surge of happiness that he was finally worthy of his father’s recognition.

Back at Nampara, Demelza had finally risen and was breaking fast at the dining room table as Jinny bustled around her.

“Was carrying Benjamin this awful?” Demelza asked Jinny.

“Twas difficult, yes, but you seem to be affected worse.” Jinny informed her, causing Demelza to sigh in frustration. “I wouldn’t worry too much about it,” Jinny did her best to reassure her, “you’ll have your babe by Christmas and it will all be worth it.”

“I dearly hope so.” Demelza replied, her tone still infected with worry.

A knocking at the door drew both of their attention, before Demelza could get up to answer it, Jinny’s hand firmly pushed her back into the seat and went to answer the caller. Demelza acquiesced and remained seated, aware that Ross had ordered everyone in the household to make sure that Demelza did not overexert herself in case the baby was harmed. She knew he was just as worried as her, even more so as he seemed to sport a look of dumbfounded confusion at times, as though he was expecting her pregnancy to progress entirely differently.

The guest was led in by Jinny, and Demelza immediately straightened up, ignoring the twinge of pain in her back, when she saw that it was Elizabeth who had entered. Jinny curtsied as she went to busy herself elsewhere in the house, much to Demelza’s disappointment as she would have liked to have an ally by her side when meeting Ross’s former love. If Elizabeth was shocked that Demelza was now being treated as mistress of Nampara, she did well to hide it, what she was less able to hide was her shock when her gaze moved from Demelza’s face to the bump that protruded noticeably from her abdomen.

“If you are looking for Ross, he’s at the mine and isn’t likely to return til late.” Demelza informed her, when Elizabeth failed to address her. The interruption regained Elizabeth’s attention and the other woman regained her composure as her gaze moved away from the sign of Demelza’s pregnancy. Elizabeth had the grace to look a little embarrassed at her rude silence.

“I see.” Elizabeth replied. “I should leave, I do not wish to intrude and I am sure I can discuss my business with Ross at some other time.” Elizabeth looked determined to leave as quickly as possible, and Demelza had no interest in stopping her. “I will see myself out, I would not want to trouble you, particularly in your condition.” The last few words sounded forced, as though Elizabeth was still in disbelief. Demelza thanked Elizabeth for her thoughtfulness, and the older woman left, Jinny appearing again to escort her outside.

As Demelza had predicted, Ross returned late from the mine, carrying a small bag and laughing about something with Francis who had joined him. Seeing their arrival out of the window, Demelza instructed Jinny to set an extra seat for dinner, knowing that if Francis was arriving at Nampara at this time he was likely to dine with them.

Entering the house, Ross greeted Demelza with a quick kiss to the top of her head and handed over her gift. Brow furrowing in confusion, Demelza reached into the small bag and her eyes lit up when she pulled out an apple. Biting into it immediately, Demelza hugged Ross in gratitude to her husband’s surprise.

“If only all women were so easily pleased.” Francis joked, which earned him a half-hearted elbow to the side from Demelza.

“Francis has been telling me about how well the news of the wedding was received at Trenwith. It seems that they were unaware of the event.” Ross informed Demelza.

“It was taken better than I had anticipated.” Francis added, his smirk indicating that his definition of ‘better’ was not necessarily the same as everyone else’s.

“I suppose you didn’t think to mention the baby?” Demelza suggested.

“I thought that added news could wait, how did you know I had not spoken of the matter?” Francis asked with a slight frown.

“The news will soon be going to the rest of your relations, your wife turned up here.”

“Elizabeth came here? Whatever for?” Ross interjected, Demelza shrugged.

“She didn’t say, she wanted to speak to you.”

Before they could speak any further on the matter, Jinny brought in dinner and the three went silent so that they could eat. Francis did not stay much longer after the meal, explaining that he was eager to see how his father would react to the latest bombshell. Once Francis had left, Demelza and Ross were left alone to enjoy each other’s company.

“How was your day?” Ross asked her.

“Apart from the visit, mostly uneventful.” She said. “Elizabeth didn’t look best pleased.” Demelza finished with a sly smile.

“Has the baby given you much trouble today?”

“Not as much, the only time I’ve felt sick today was this morning.” Ross felt a hit of relief, as he had not been expecting a positive response to his question.

“I am glad you are feeling a little better. Maybe the worst of it is coming to an end.” If it was, Ross could start to rest easily again.

“Hopefully.” Demelza agreed.

“If you are still feeling as well tomorrow, you could come down and make an official visit to the mine.” Ross suggested, noticing how uncomfortable Demelza immediately looked at the idea.

“I don’t know Ross, if people are only just finding out they might think badly of me. They might think I’m putting on airs.” Despite Demelza’s recent burst in confidence ever since she had been brave enough to stand up to him, Ross could see that her self-esteem was still not very high.

“No one will think that.” Ross reassured her. “If you are worried they will think badly of you, believe me they will not, if anything they will think badly of me for corrupting you.” Demelza smiled weakly at his attempt at levity, still looking apprehensive.

“If I feel up to it, I’ll go.” She relented.

“That is all I can ask of you.” Ross gently took her hand, before moving on to another matter that had been on his mind lately. “Am I forgiven yet?”

“Maybe.” Demelza looked down a little ashamed. “I think I overreacted, when I first heard the news about you and Elizabeth. I just couldn’t bear the fact that you might have been using me.”

“You were right to be angry, I should have been the one to tell you.” Ross said. “Do you think we can put the whole incident behind us?” Demelza nodded, and stood up.

“I’m going to bed, coming?” Her tentative invitation to resume intimacy, which they had not shared since Ross had pulled teal silk off of her, suggested to Ross that this would be the first night she would not sleep with her back to him, and was the best way she could show him that she had forgiven and forgotten his idiocy.

Demelza did end up being well enough to visit the mine, Ross kept a gentle grip on her throughout the visit, well aware that she still automatically went to curtsy after finishing a conversation. Ross could feel everyone’s eyes on them, and did his best to try to keep Demelza oblivious to the attention.

Ross was grateful that they still had allies, Mr Henshaw in particular seemed charmed by Demelza’s blunt honesty, although one or two of the investors who happened to be present appeared less impressed. He would have to keep an eye on them, and hopefully deter any idea of selling their shares to George, as at the moment he did not have enough money to buy their shares himself.

Not trusting Demelza’s current state of wellbeing to stay that way, Ross kept the visit to the mine short. After everyone had the chance to get a good look at Demelza, to confirm the rumours and see that the protective arm Ross used to guide her way was a clear indicator that he saw her as more than just a fling that went too far, Ross commented that Demelza looked tired, and used that as an excuse to leave.

They walked the short distance to Nampara, Ross holding on to the reins of the horse, as Demelza insisted the walk would do her good.

“Now that was not so bad.”

“It wasn’t.” Demelza agreed. “I’m more worried about meeting the rest of your family, I can fit in with miners, but not with gentle folk.” Ross had suggested the previous night that he might visit his uncle in the near future, to see if his health was improving, and that such a visit would be the perfect opportunity for Demelza to meet his other relations.

“You will do fine.” Ross reassured her. “Francis will no doubt be there when I introduce you, and you already know that he thinks well of you.”

“I won’t know how to behave though.”

“I might have a solution to that, Francis brought over some books from Verity’s collection that she left at Trenwith. She will not need them anymore, and Francis thought you might find them helpful. The books go into a lot of detail about how to behave in society. I am sure you would do well without them, but they might make you feel a little more confident.”

“I think that would help a lot.” Demelza admitted.

“I will give them to you when we get home then.”

“Thank you Ross, it was very thoughtful of you to think of that.”

They walked in silence for a while, enjoying the views of the Cornish coast. They paused by one of the cliffs to watch the waves crash against the walls below them, and Demelza rested a hand on her bump, which immediately concerned Ross.

“Is everything alright?” He asked. Distracted, Demelza frowned at him before noticing that he was eyeing her bump with worry.

“Everything’s fine.” She told him calmly, giving him her other hand to hold. Relieved that Demelza had confirmed that nothing was amiss, Ross apologised.

“I am sorry, you have been so ill recently and it has made me paranoid.” Demelza squeezed his hand to show her understanding.

“I was just wondering what the baby is going to be, I think it’s going to be a boy.” Ross grinned, knowing he had an advantage over her on this matter.

“I think it will be a girl.” Demelza looked a little surprised at his free admission.

“You wouldn’t be disappointed if it was a girl?”

“Of course not.” Ross told her. “As long as we have a healthy baby, I will be happy.” Ross would go to any lengths he had to in order to ensure that remained the case.

“Me too.” Demelza replied with a smile.

Chapter Text

Demelza and Ross walked back to Nampara at a leisurely pace, discussing some of the items they would have to buy in preparation for the baby’s arrival. Ross was wary of making any actual purchases so early, as he did not want to get too excited for Julia’s arrival as he was still concerned that Demelza might miscarry. When they arrived back at Nampara, Jinny came out to meet them.

“Sir, Ma’am. A Mrs Verity Blamey had arrived to see you. She’s brought bags with her, so I think she intends to stay for a few days.” Ross was quick to recover from his initial surprise.

“That is not a problem, Jinny, could you make sure the spare room is ready for her?” Jinny nodded, and headed back into the house to make the arrangements, Demelza and Ross following behind her. Ross could feel Demelza’s grip on his hand tightening, as she realised that she would have to work hard to make a good impression on one of Ross’s relatives that she had not met since before the wedding. She would have little to worry about, as Ross was sure they would be firm friends by the time Verity’s visit was over.

Entering the sitting room, Verity rose to greet them. She lost and quickly regained her composure upon seeing Demelza, who was a little behind Ross in a rather futile attempt to avoid being noticed.

“It is good to see you, Verity, I hope the wedding went well?”

“Yes it did, thank you again for your help, I dread to think what might have happened if I had stayed.” Ross knew what would have happened, and hoped that his abrupt solution would avoid the many arguments and heartbreaks that had occurred. Although there was still Charles and Francis’s reactions to Verity’s return that would need to be dealt with.

“I gather you received my letter, and the news about your father?”

“Yes I did, how is he?” Despite how quickly Verity had decided to run away from her family, she looked very worried about her father’s fate, and no doubt was feeling guilty that she may have been responsible for his declining health.

“Better than he was, Francis has taken over the running of Grambler so Charles has been able to have adequate bedrest and avoid worry.”

“I am glad to hear it, I hope it is not too much of an intrusion for me to stay here. I would like to see my father, but I do not know if he will welcome me.”

“I think he will be glad to see you.” Ross told her. “But we are more than happy to host you, as I suspect that Francis may not be as welcoming.” Francis may have been in a better mood recently, but he had confided in Ross that he was still very much angered by Verity’s attachment to Blamey, who Francis disliked more than ever. Ross suspected that Francis’s anger may have come from a place of pride, as he was still upset at having lost in the duel. Pride had cost the Poldarks much in the past.

“I understand.” Verity glanced curiously behind him, and Ross took that as a request for an introduction, and he gently pulled Demelza forward.

“I do not think you two have had a formal introduction, Demelza this is my cousin Verity. Verity this is my wife Demelza.” The two ladies curtsied towards each other, Demelza doing her best to be as graceful and failing somewhat, which Ross found extremely endearing. Knowing that without his intervention the two were likely to try to avoid each other, Ross would have to find a way to make sure that the two stayed together.

Verity wanted the chance to settle in a little before she faced her family, Captain Blamey knew of her intention to try to re-establish a connection with her family, and was not expecting her back any time soon. This meant Ross had several days with which to try to ensure that Demelza and Verity became friends before Verity met her father and possibly spent the rest of her time at Trenwith. This was easily enough accomplished as Ross quite cheerfully abandoned the two at home while he went to Leisure.

Over the next few days, Ross attempts were rewarded. As he had predicted, after an initial awkward phase, Demelza and Verity were getting along very well. According to Demelza, Verity had been very helpful in showing her certain particular passages of importance in the books she had borrowed, and had even taken it upon herself to give Demelza a crash-course in dance lessons, which was more than what Ross could have hoped for, considering Verity’s short stay.

Eventually the visit to Charles could not be delayed any further, and Verity assisted Ross in persuading Demelza to join them on the visit. While Demelza was clearly apprehensive of the meeting, she was not as bad as she had been originally, Ross attributed this to her already being well acquainted with Francis and Verity, which reduced some of the pressure. Despite this, she still gripped on to him as though she was adrift in the ocean and he was the only raft to be found.

Arriving at Trenwith, Demelza was unable to hide her awe at the beauty of the building. Verity went ahead of them, as she would have the most to deal with. Demelza and Ross stayed back a little, hearing the beginning of an argument in the house itself, Ross suspected that it was Francis who was the instigator. As they approached, Ross could distinguish both Francis and Verity’s voices loudly raised as they criticised each other, Elizabeth’s voice was fainter as she tried to diffuse the situation.

Demelza looked at Ross with a quirked eyebrow, which made Ross shrug with a sudden unexpected burst of amusement at Demelza’s bemusement.

“You have married into a strange family.” He informed her, trying to keep his face straight. By the time they entered the house, the argument had ended. It had not finished amicably, as they came upon a clearly irate Francis who was muttering under his breath. At his side, Elizabeth had her arms crossed and was glaring at him. Verity was gone, probably further into the house as she had not walked past Ross and Demelza.

“Verity’s gone to see our father.” Francis spat viciously at Ross’s enquiring look, Ross felt Demelza jerk in surprise. Ross remembered that Francis had not been this vicious in her presence before, during the duel at Nampara Demelza had missed most of the insults that had been thrown around and only observed the duel itself. Clearly she was surprised that her friend, who would joke and be the absolute paradigm of kindness to her, could also be cruel. Seeing that he had upset Demelza, Francis softened a little as he remember this was her first time at Trenwith and he was not making it easy for her as he had always intended.

“You should both go and see him, I am sure he can handle more than one visitor at a time.” Francis said a little more calmly. “They are in the main sitting room.”

His sudden change in tone, turned a disbelieving Elizabeth’s head in his direction. As though suddenly realising she was ignoring their guests, she abruptly turned back to Ross and Demelza and smiled at them warmly. Her cheeks turned slightly red as she remembered how she had treated Demelza when they had last seen each other, but Demelza did not seem to hold the grudge. As the two headed off in the direction Verity had gone, Elizabeth’s gaze fell to their entwined hands.

Entering the sitting room, Ross was pleased to see his uncle looked well. He remembered that around this time, Charles had another heart stroke which had significantly diminished his health, he recalled that the cause of the sudden attack had been due to Charles’s worry about Francis not dealing with Grambler properly, that had not been a problem this time around. Charles’s health was still not optimal, which made Ross wonder how much longer the old man would live. He was once again glad that he had informed Verity of her father’s condition as it was possible that the two might never have reconciled before Charles’s death.

By Charles’s side was Verity, and the two were speaking amicably. Charles seemed to be complaining that in her absence he had been cared for by Elizabeth, who had apparently not been a completely suitable substitute. The footsteps behind them that stopped abruptly indicated that Elizabeth had overheard the complaints. Ross felt a pang of sympathy for her, it was never good to hear yourself being compared negatively against someone else. Ross had more than enough experience of being on the receiving end of that sort of unpleasantness.

Charles was engrossed in speaking with the long absent Verity, and so it was Ross’s Aunt Agatha who called over himself and Demelza. Ross explained again about the wedding, and helped Demelza dodge all the questions Aunt Agatha had to try to establish which rich families in Illugan Demelza was friendly with.

As Demelza and Aunt Agatha chatted, Ross decided that he could leave Demelza to entertain his Aunt and he went to speak to Francis who was sulking in a corner of the room, glaring at Verity. He passed Elizabeth as he travelled across the room, she was sitting in a corner of the room rocking Geoffrey Charles. Ross felt a little sorry for her, aside from the baby she was sitting on her own as everyone around her was busy interacting with others. At least she had Geoffrey Charles, Ross thought to himself.

“How is work going at Leisure?” Francis asked, forcing himself to tear his eyes off his father and sister.

“Work is going fine, most of my concern is about the investors.” Ross admitted, capturing Francis’s full attention.

“Why would that be a concern?” Francis asked.

“I worry that some of them wish to sell their shares in Wheal Leisure.” Ross did not have to say who he was worried they would sell to.

“But why would they want to sell? I thought you were close to striking copper?”

“We are very close, but that is not the reason they might want to sell.” Ross subtly inclined his head in Demelza’s direction. Francis immediately caught his meaning.

“What does your marriage have to do with mining?” Francis asked quietly, hoping to avoid anyone overhearing their conversation, particularly as neither of them wanted Demelza to find out as the idea that their marriage was causing Ross problems would no doubt upset her.

“Nothing, but in their eyes it shows that I am rash and should not be trusted with running a mine.” Ross sighed in frustration, Francis looked thoughtful.

“I might be able to help you with that.” Francis said with a smile.

“That will not be necessary, Francis, it is my mess and I will sort it out.”

“But you are my cousin, and if I can help you after you have done so much to help me, then I will.” Francis said insistently.

“But how?” Ross asked with a frown.

“Leave that to me.” Ross was somewhat hesitant about allowing Francis to find a solution to his investor problems, particularly as it seemed that Francis was not about to disclose how he expected to solve the issue. But Ross doubted that anything Francis did could worsen the situation, so with some reluctance Ross decided to leave the matter to Francis.

“Ross!” Charles called, clearly summoning his nephew to his side. Francis’s rolled his eyes at his father’s imperiousness, but did not look particularly offended that his conversation with Ross was being cut off. Ross smiled at him apologetically as he went to his uncle’s side, Demelza joining him.

There was an initial awkward silence as Charles recognised Demelza, and Ross remembered that the last time the two had met, Charles had pushed her into a wall at Nampara. Charles was the first to interrupt the silence as his gaze fell on Demelza’s bump.

“I can see why you were so quick to marry.” Charles remarked sharply.

“Father!” Verity admonished, Charles patted her hand somewhat patronisingly to placate her.

“I am sure Ross has heard worse.” Ross smiled tightly in response, placing his hand briefly on Demelza’s lower back as a sign of support. “I do have to thank you Ross, for helping to reunite myself with my daughter before I die.”

“Do not be so melodramatic, Uncle.” Ross replied.

“I will not be able to stay for too much longer.” Verity said sadly. “Andrew will be wanting me home soon.”

“You will return for Christmas?” Charles asked hopefully, Verity hesitated.

“I do not know if I can, I cannot abandon my husband for our first Christmas together.”

“Then bring him along.” Charles responded.

“You cannot be serious, Father!” Francis interjected, having overheard their conversation. “You would allow that villain into our home?”

“This might very well be my last Christmas.” Charles said firmly. “I will spend it will all of my family by my side, regardless of who they might bring with them. I might not like the man, but I will tolerate his presence if that means Verity can attend.”

His tone made it clear that he would hear no argument, and despite the insult to her husband, Verity eyes were shining with gratitude that regardless of her actions her father still wanted her presence. Francis looked less impressed, but knew there was nothing he could do about the situation with his father still head of the household.

“Ross, I would very much like you to spend Christmas with us as well, you and your wife.” Ross’s surprised at the invitation made Charles sigh in consternation. “What part of ‘all of my family’ is ambiguous? Despite your actions, you are still my nephew and you are still family.”

“Thank you, that is most generous. Demelza and I will be happy to attend.” Ross accepted the invitation, at his side Demelza was smiling politely, but Ross knew that when they returned home, Demelza would harshly reprimand him for accepting without consulting her first. He couldn’t bring himself to mind particularly, as the idea of having Demelza, their baby, and all of Ross’s relatives around one table for Christmas was far too tempting to consider turning down.

A few weeks later Demelza seemed to have mostly recovered from her earlier pregnancy issues, much to Ross’s relief, she was still exhausted but was now able to hold most of her food down. Now that Demelza was more capable of leaving the house, she became determined to start going walking, and more often than not Ross was dragged along with her. It was on returning from one such walk that Ross found out what Francis’s solution to the investment problem was.

The letter arrived from Trenwith, addressed to both of them, and Ross allowed Demelza to open and read it. She was still rather slow at reading, but no longer needed Ross’s help with difficult words. Her writing was still progressing, but Ross was glad that his help was speeding up her learning progress. Finishing the letter with a surprised frown, Demelza handed it over to him.

The letter was not as letter as Ross had originally expected, it was an invitation. Reading over it, Ross realised what Francis’s solution to his problems was. Francis was throwing them a party to celebrate their wedding. Although Ross did not have access to a guestlist, he could assume that among the attendees were all of his investors, as well as anyone of consequence within the community. It would be the perfect opportunity to re-establish Ross as a respectable figure, and would also be ideal to introduce Demelza to the rest of the society.

Judging by Demelza’s look of apprehension, Ross realised that while the party may solve many of their problems, he would first have to persuade Demelza to attend.

Chapter Text

Demelza was not easy to convince, and this time Ross did not have Verity’s assistance as she had already returned to her husband. Ross suspected that the combination of the family visit and the Christmas invitation had put Demelza on edge, and a further social engagement was more than she could currently cope with.

“I don’t see why I have to go, surely you can go and I’ll stay at home. Most of the people won’t want me there anyway.” She said despondently, avoiding Ross’s gaze as they prepared for bed.

“It is a party to celebrate our wedding. There would be no point to the celebration if the bride herself was not there.” Ross argued, watching with some amusement as Demelza struggled to get her dress off with her bump in the way. He allowed himself a chuckle, before walking over and helping her. Dress off, Demelza stood in front of him, hands on hips, doing her best to look firm, a feat that was not so easily accomplished considering she was not wearing a stitch of clothing.

“I won’t have anything appropriate to wear, and there’s no use buying anything now because when the baby is here it won’t fit me anymore.” She lifted up her arms so Ross could help her with her nightwear.

“It is a shame you did not remind me about your size changing sooner then.” Ross told her with a knowing smile, making her look at him suspiciously.

“Why?” She asked, eyes narrowed.

“Because I already bought you a new dress.”

“Oh Ross, you shouldn’t have.” She frowned at him. “All that money will be wasted come Christmas.”

“Spoiling my wife is never a waste of money.” Ross disagreed, considering what he had put her through in the past, she deserved anything he could give her. “Besides, we can have the sizing adjusted when the baby is born.” Demelza looked less worried about the money after his reassurances. “Any more excuses?”

“They’re not excuses.” Demelza murmured, Ross’s raised eyebrow showed how much he believed her.

“The sooner you are introduced to everyone, the sooner everyone will know how wonderful you are.” Ross wrapped his arms around her, resting his chin on the top of her head. “If you can get through the party, you can handle any other social occasion. I will be at your side the entire time.” Ross had vague memories of the Warleggan Ball where he had promised her the same, but broken that promise early in the evening to drink his body weight in whisky.

“Alright.” She sounded reassured, and leaned up to give him a quick kiss on the cheek, before slipping out of his arms to get into bed. Ross followed her, confident that what he had said was true. As long as this party went smoothly, Demelza should have no further trouble with social gatherings.

At the celebration, Ross kept his promise and stayed by Demelza’s side. He was glad he had done so as there were more people in attendance than he had initially expected, and when they had first entered he had felt Demelza go stiff in fear beside him. One by one, most of the attendees came to greet them and congratulate them on their wedding. Ross mentally noted those that did not bother, as he would not forget the insult.

Demelza looked lovely in her new dress. The green material had caught his gaze in the store and reminded him of his mother’s teal gown, which meant he couldn’t leave without buying it. He had the dress specially made to accommodate for Demelza’s pregnancy, the material gathered above her bump and flowed from there to the ground. She looked every inch an upper class wife, and Ross wouldn’t be surprised if some people forgot her background after seeing her.

Despite her nerves, Demelza was on top form that day, easily charming the majority of the people that she and Ross met. The investors who had not been won over when she visited the mine, almost seem to melt in her presence this time, with the exception of Choake, but Ross suspected only large amounts of money could bring a genuine smile to that man’s face. The looks of forced politeness as the investors had approached, faded to light-hearted amusement by the time they moved on.

“You are doing really well.” Ross whispered into Demelza’s ear when they were left alone again, she grinned up at him brightly in response to the compliment. Behind her, Ross could see George Warleggan approaching and he quickly squeezed Demelza’s arm in warning. She straightened up and smiled politely at their visitor. Ross had warned her in the past to be careful around George, she had looked confused, but Ross had sincerely told her that George was not a good man, and they could not afford to get on his bad side.

“I was quite surprised to hear of your wedding, Ross.” George said, casting a cursory glance over Demelza. Ross did not like how George was looking at her, particularly how George’s gaze focused on Demelza’s more womanly attributes that had bloomed throughout the course of her pregnancy, and he could feel that Demelza was also a little uncomfortable at the attention.

“We wanted a private ceremony.” Ross explained, trying to take George’s attention away from Demelza.

“What a shame.” George said. “I hope your recent nuptials have not made you forget our bargain?” Ross forced a smile, ignoring the sudden curious look from Demelza.

“How could I forget? Have you come to any decision yet?” George shook his head.

“Not yet, nothing appropriate has come to mind.”

“Let me know when something does.” Ross told him with a thin smile.

“What was all that about?” Demelza asked as soon as George was out of earshot, Ross shook his head.

“Not now,” Ross said gently, “I will tell you about it later.” Demelza nodded in acknowledgement, and Ross was in no doubt that as soon as they returned home he would have to tell her about the deal he had made with George. The casual chatting around the room quietened as everyone heard the sound of someone loudly clearing their throat.

“I would like to thank you all for coming to celebrate the joyous occasion of my cousin, Ross Poldark’s wedding to Demelza.” Francis announced, there was a polite round of applause by all the attendees. “I hope that we will have the pleasure of seeing the both of them in many future social encounters.” Francis grinned pointedly at Demelza, receiving a dirty look for his efforts.

There was a subtle layer behind what Francis said that Ross was sure had been made clear. By making such a statement, Francis was virtually guaranteeing that Demelza and Ross would not be snubbed by the rest of society. It was a little unnecessary, as Ross was sure that neither himself nor Demelza would care if they were not invited to any more events, but he appreciated the gesture nonetheless.

“I was one of the few attendees at the wedding,” Francis continued, “and as my invitation only arrived hours before the event, I was unable to purchase a suitable wedding gift. I have since rectified the situation.” A little taken back by the gesture, Ross and Demelza moved over to Francis’s side after his beckoning.

Francis presented the small box to Demelza, who accepted it a little apprehensively. Feeling self-conscious due to everyone’s attention on her, Demelza opened the box, Ross glancing over her should to see what it was. Inside the box was a very beautiful, and clearly very expensive, necklace. Ross did not even want to think about how much it must have cost. Despite Grambler’s greater success, only so much copper could be extracted from a mine before it ran out, and money was still tight at Trenwith. Ross opened his mouth to refuse the gift, but before he could say a word, Francis cut across him.

“No arguments, just accept the gift.” Francis said firmly.

“Thank you, Francis.” Demelza said gratefully, giving him a quick hug, much to the surprise of everyone in the room. Francis looked stunned, but pleased by the sudden gesture of affection.

“I hope to see you wear it at Christmas.” Francis told her with a smile, Demelza nodded enthusiastically, casting frequent admiring glances at the lovely ornament.

Once all the guests had left Trenwith, including Ross and Demelza, Francis went over Grambler’s figures with his father. They argued back and forth over certain points, Charles disagreed with the wage increase, and Francis pointed out the wage increase was offset by the increase in productivity.

They had started having these discussion ever since Francis had a firm grasp on what he was doing with the mine, they were often quite animated but enjoyable as Francis ended up finding out a lot more about his father than he had known before. He finally felt like they were reconnecting, their father-son bond strengthening back to what it had been before his mother had died and they had become distant.

Charles even seemed as though he regretted how he had treated his children, his anger about Verity’s choice in suitor had pushed her away, and his indifference towards Francis had left them almost as strangers. Charles hoped he would have the chance to make his peace with them both.

“I am very proud of you, Francis.” Charles admitted one day. “You will make a far better master of Trenwith than I ever did.” Francis looked like he disagreed with his father, but above all he looked overwhelmed with happiness that he had earned his father’s respect.

Mid-November, Demelza found herself home alone. Jinny and Ross’s absences were accounted for, it was Jinny’s day off, so she and Jim had gone to take little Benjamin for a long walk. Demelza had sent them off with a little picnic basket she had prepared in secret, Jinny looking a little surprised at the kind gesture, but with the free work that Jim was doing, Demelza thought it was the least she could do for them.

Ross was away at Leisure as he was under the firm belief they would strike copper that day, the last few layers of ironstone had been a brute to get past but he was confident they were at the end. Of course, Demelza was happy that it finally seemed as though Leisure was going to start producing, but she did wish that Ross was at home because she had been feeling uncomfortable that entire day. The baby had been moving around enthusiastically that morning, but now seemed a little stiller. Her back was aching terribly and she was having a strange pain that came and went every so often.

Demelza did not even have the disgruntled servants for company as Jud and Prudie had vanished. Demelza had no idea where they were since they were not in the house and she could not find them in the fields either. There was a knock at the door, so with no small amount of effort, Demelza pushed herself up and made her way to the door.

“Demelza!” Francis greeted cheerily. “Is Ross home?” Demelza shook her head as another wave of pain overcame her. “Are you well?” Francis asked in concern, reaching for her shoulders to steady her. Demelza shook her head as it suddenly occurred to her what might be happening.

“I think the baby’s coming.” She admitted through teeth gritted with pain. Francis immediately looked panicked.

“Where is everyone?” He asked, looking around the room frantically as though expecting a midwife to pop out of a cupboard.

“Away or missing.” Francis immediately started back for the door.

“I will go get help!” Demelza quickly caught his arm before he could move a step.

“Don’t you dare leave me, Francis.” Demelza protested. “I can’t do this by myself.”

“Well I don’t know what to do!”

“Neither do I, but at least you’ve already got a child, surely you have some idea of what happens?” Mutely Francis shook his head, causing Demelza to roll her eyes in exasperation. This was not going to be easy.

Ross returned to Nampara with a slight spring in his step, they had finally struck copper at Wheal Leisure as he thought they would. He would have to make sure a note was sent to all the investors, informing them of the good news. Opening the door, Ross frowned when he saw Francis in the sitting room drinking Ross’s port and nursing a bruise on his head. Francis immediately grinned when he saw his cousin’s return.

“What happened to you?” Ross asked before Francis could deliver the good news.

“I fell.” Francis explained hurriedly. “You should go see Demelza, she has had the baby.” Ross eye’s widened at the revelation, and he immediately rushed to his bedroom to see an exhausted but happy Demelza clutching a small bundle in her arms.

“No one else was home so I helped!” Francis said proudly, causing Demelza to snort in disagreement.

“You didn’t help, you fainted.” That explained the bruise, Ross thought with a burst of amusement at Francis’s expense.

“I did not faint, I fell.” Francis protested.

“Of course.” Demelza said with a snicker. “He was very good emotional support.” She told Ross more sincerely.

“Thank you Francis.” Ross did not want to imagine how the birth would have gone with Demelza all by herself, Jud and Prudie would have hell to pay when they returned.

“Not a problem, I will leave you three alone so I can spread the good news at Trenwith.” Francis told them and departed from the house. Once he had gone, Ross approached the bed and sat down beside his wife. A little cry rose from the buddle that Demelza instinctively rocked in comfort.

“A perfect little daughter.” Ross commented, wishing he could get a glance of Julia’s face but could not as Demelza held her too close. Demelza turned to him with a frown.

“Not a daughter,” she corrected, “a son.” Ross was stunned, he had not even dared to imagine that it might not have been Julia that Demelza was carrying in her womb the past nine months. Still frowning, Demelza passed over the baby to him. Sure enough, the little face that looked up at Ross was definitely not Julia, nor did the baby resemble any of his other children.

Ross wondered if it was possible that Demelza’s difficulties during the pregnancy was because she was bringing into the world a brand new child that had not existed before. Seeing that Demelza was still looking at him questioningly, Ross hastily tried to explain his error.

“You know I thought that the baby would be a girl, I think I might have misheard Francis when he told me the gender.” Francis had not even mentioned what sex the baby was, but Demelza had not been in the room to hear that so Ross hoped he could get away with the little lie. Demelza did not look convinced, but another cry from the baby distracted her. Ross was not questioned further on his misstep, but he wondered how long it would be until he slipped up again.

Chapter Text

The christening was a small and private affair, with only close family and friends in attendance. Ross and Demelza had decided to call the baby William, after one of Ross’s long dead relations with a reputation for unconventionality that rivalled Ross’s own. Demelza had initially suggested a different name, but Ross had gently dissuaded her as her suggestion happened to be the name of one of their future sons. Ross clung to the hope that his other children would still be born, and even if they weren’t it would have felt deeply wrong to give the baby one of the other children’s names. Little William was his own person, and he deserved a name distinct from that of his siblings.

Ross was careful not to invite Demelza’s father to the christening, remembering the blowout that had occurred last time. Instead he invited the Carnes to Nampara on a different day to see the baby. Tom Carne still gave Ross plenty of attitude, but the situation was easier to handle without the large crowd of people. Demelza had been tense throughout the meeting, but she did not end up being as upset as she had been originally. The evening had ended with a grateful Demelza wrapped around Ross, murmuring a tired but sincere “I love you”.

Seeing Demelza as a mother, without the shadow of Julia’s death on her mind, was a joy to watch. Her complete contentment erased any lingering trouble between her and Ross, and the parents threw themselves into their new role with unfailing enthusiasm.

Prudie and Jud were severely chastised for leaving Demelza on her own so close to the end of her pregnancy, and Ross was extremely grateful Francis had turned up when he had. Francis’s assistance with the birth had an odd effect on the man, Francis seemed in awe of the experience, and the way that Francis described it made Ross oddly envious of something he had never really considered before. Ross had never been in the room when Demelza had delivered any of their children, the delivery room was not considered the place for men without medical training, and many already seemed a little disapproving that Francis had helped Demelza. Hearing from Francis about what it was like to hold a brand new life in your hands made Ross consider that maybe next time he would throw society’s rules to the wind and stay by Demelza’s side.

Time seemed to flash by as a month past and it neared Christmas day. William already looked so different from the day he had been born, and as if in direct response to the nasty rumours that were circulating the town, there could be no doubting William’s paternity as the little boy closely resembled Ross. Demelza had seemed a little put out that there was no physical sign on the child that he was hers, but Ross had simply reminded her that no doubt William would inherit her kindness and optimism about life.

Demelza still seemed a little suspicious of Ross for his slip up after the birth. It was not that she loved him any less, but when she thought he wasn’t looking she would often stare at him, deep in thought. Almost as if she could find out Ross’s secret if she stared at him long enough. Ross wondered if it might be best to tell her the truth, but if he did he knew that she would demand to know everything and he would have to tell her about all the wrongs he had committed against her. Ross knew it was selfish of him, but she saw him in such a positive light this time, and he did not want to ruin it by her finding out the truth of his selfishness. They had moved past the issue of Elizabeth so easily this time, and he didn’t want her to feel insecure from knowing that originally he had obsessed over the other woman long after their wedding.

Francis made an appearance at Nampara shortly before Christmas Day to remind them of their invitation to Trenwith. He had brought Geoffrey Charles with him as the two were planning on making a brief visit to Grambler. There had been an amusing meeting between the two children, where Geoffrey Charles had stared in bemusement at William, as though unsure what to think of the other small person. William was not yet aware enough of his surroundings to meet his older relation, and had contently stared at the ceiling for the entire meeting. Ross hoped the two would have the chance to grow up together, as he and Francis had.

“It seems so long ago that Geoffrey Charles was that small.” Francis commented, adjusting the wriggling load in his arms.

“They grow up quickly.” Ross replied. “It is best to keep an eye on them while they are young, because otherwise you will turn around and find they have become adults in your absence.” Ross himself knew how true this statement was, his grief over Julia meant that he had missed some of his other children grow up. He would not be repeating that mistake, even if history repeated itself, Ross promised he would not allow the rest of his family to suffer because of his mourning.

“Verity is home again.” Francis said. “With that man.” He scowled.

“They are married now.” Ross reminded him. “It is best to try to get along with Captain Blamey, for Verity’s sake if nothing else.”

“I know that, Elizabeth tells me the same several times a day.” There was a harshness to Francis’s voice that seemed to suggest that he and Elizabeth were arguing. Ross had thought that by preventing Francis from turning to gambling and prostitutes, he and Elizabeth would have gotten on better, but it seemed that even with his efforts there was still some animosity.

“I would not be so harsh on her, she is only looking out for you and Verity.”

“It is not just that.” Francis muttered absently. Ross opened his mouth to ask Francis what the problem was but Francis cut him off. “Never mind.” He said with a slightly forced smile. “I am sure you have better things to worry about than my marital problems. We had best be going anyway, Geoffrey Charles will need feeding after the visit to Grambler, and if we stay any longer he will no doubt be starving by the time we return home.” Dropping the subject, Ross allowed Francis to leave, Demelza moving to take his place.

“Why do you think he and Elizabeth are having problems?” She asked, causing Ross to shrug.

“Who knows? Perhaps they married too hastily, before they had the chance to really know each other.”

“We married quickly too.” Demelza murmured. “But we don’t have problems like they do.”

“No we do not.” Ross used his free arm that was not holding William to pull Demelza close enough for a kiss. Their loving moment was interrupted by their disgruntled baby who realised he was no longer the centre of attention. Separating with an amused eye roll, they decided to indulge their child, knowing that it would no doubt be a while before they would have the chance for privacy.

Their arrival at Trenwith on Christmas Day was greeted with mixed enthusiasm. The sitting room was somewhat tense because of the dirty looks Francis was sending Andrew, but aside from the strained smile Francis sent in their direction, the others greeted them amiably. Verity made a beeline straight towards them in order to admire William as she had not managed to return in time for the christening.

Charles also seemed particularly glad to see them, although he still looked wary about addressing Demelza as an equal. Luckily before that could become an issue, Verity moved out of the way allowing Aunt Agatha to catch sight of William and demand to see the child. Since they didn’t have a wet-nurse, as Demelza refused to hire one, they had been forced to bring William along with them with Francis’s blessing. Not that Ross was about to complain, Demelza tended to fret when separated from her children, and considering William was only a month old she would not have been able to relax for Christmas so far away from him.

The group mingled together as comfortably as they could for a few hours. Francis did look at times as though he was struggling to hold his tongue, but Charles had clearly put his foot down about there being any animosity while Verity was staying at Trenwith. Ross and Demelza did their best to try to make Andrew feel welcome, a welcome they suspected had been a little lacking due to Francis’s clear lack of enthusiasm and Charles’s clear preference of Verity over her husband. Verity looked as though she appreciated their efforts.

In their room before dinner, Ross helped Demelza put on her new necklace while she held her hair out of the way. She had decided to wear her newly-adjusted green dress for dinner, Ross had offered to buy her a new gown for Christmas dinner, remembering the lovely red patterned one she had worn originally, but Demelza had outright refused the offer. She had protested that she had enough dresses now so there was no point in him wasting money on any more. Ross decided not to push his luck this time, even though the money they were now getting from Leisure meant that such expenses were affordable.

As before, several uninvited visitors had arrived and managed to earn themselves an invitation to dinner. Despite her recent marriage, the former Miss Teague looked as though she had just bitten into a lemon, particularly so when she caught sight of Demelza with little William. Before dinner could start, a maid arrived to collect William, and Demelza very reluctantly relinquished him to be taken care of along with Geoffrey Charles as neither child would be at the dinner table. Societal rules usually dictated that children should not attend formal dinners due to their boisterousness which might detract from serious conversations. Ross generally disagreed with such ideas, but it was not his home so he acquiesced.

To Ross’s disappointment, the seating arrangement meant that Demelza was not sitting near him and he was instead by Elizabeth. Ross could hear Francis animatedly recounting the story of William’s birth to Ruth’s husband, Demelza slyly interrupting occasionally to correct the somewhat inaccurate version of events. Beside Ross, he heard Elizabeth sigh heavily as she heard what was being discussed.

“I take it you have already heard the story?” Ross asked.

“Many times.” Elizabeth answered quietly so the rest of the table would not be privy to their conversation. “I sometimes wonder if he prefers William over Geoffrey Charles.”

“Of course he does not.” Ross reassured her. “It is plain to see that he adores Geoffrey Charles.” Elizabeth did not look terribly convinced, and Ross wondered whether this was the cause of contention between Elizabeth and her husband. Ross could not see how it could be that, since it was a relatively minor issue, but maybe it was adding on to a larger problem that he was not privy to.

“Demelza and Francis seem close.” Elizabeth noted, eyeing the pair.

“They are.” Ross acknowledged. He would never have thought the two would get on as well as they did considering how different they both were.

“You do not ever worry that….?” Elizabeth trailed off, uncertain if she should continue. Ross stared at her blankly for a moment before he caught her meaning, and immediately had to choke back a laugh.

“I have absolutely no concerns of that nature.” He told her firmly. The idea was utterly laughable. Elizabeth seemed to relax a little at Ross’s immediate dismissal of her worries.

At the other side of the table matters were getting a little heated, it appeared that Ruth had made a passive aggressive comment about how Demelza must be accustomed to family members being present at the birth considering her background. It seemed that Ruth’s husband had been paying particular attention to Demelza, and the woman was not pleased about the fact. Verity shot her own barbed comment back, a rather masterfully hidden insult that reminded the gathered group that at least Demelza had already provided an heir whereas Ruth had yet to show any indication of potential pregnancy. Ross winced at Verity’s attempt at supporting Demelza, the rebuttal by Ruth was exactly what he had expected.

“My husband and I have of course not yet been blessed with children, yet at least I am comforted by the fact that I am still young and there is still plenty of time for me to have a child.” Verity flushed at the evident insult, but she did not look nearly as outraged as Captain Blamey who opened his mouth, clearly about to say something with far less subtlety than any of the ladies.

“I’m sure it will be perfectly wonderful when we all have children.” Demelza interceded smoothly before Andrew could utter a word. “They really do turn your world around.” Before anyone could even think of a response, Demelza abruptly changed the subject to praise the excellent meal they had partaken in. Elizabeth hastily joined it, also wanting to avert a potential crisis.

On Ross’s other side, Charles sighed in disappointment as that evening’s entertainment had been put a stop to.

“Do you disapprove of my wife’s intervention?” Ross asked with some amusement.

“I do. The least I could be provided with is some entertainment before I die.”

“You are not about to die any time soon, Uncle.” Ross told him firmly.

“Choake disagrees with you there.” Charles told him quietly, surprising Ross. His uncle still did not look much recovered from his heart stroke, but Ross had not suspected that his condition was worstening.

“I thought he said you were recovering well.”

“Yes and that has lengthened my life by a few months, but no man can halt death. I am not for this world for much longer, Choake agrees.” There was a finality to Charles’s words that suggested the older man had firmly accepted his fate.

“Have you told Francis?” Ross asked, glancing over in concern at his carefree cousin.

“No, I do not want to spoil the time we have left together with misery. I am grateful that I have lived long enough to see that he will be prosperous, and will not neglect his inheritance.”

“I am sure he will not.” Charles eyed the rest of the table with a weary smile.

“One last Christmas with my entire family. I could not have asked for more.”

Chapter Text

Shortly after Christmas, Charles passed away peacefully in his sleep. The news was delivered to Nampara by an ashen-faced Francis, Ross could distinctly remember his expression because he had never seen him look so lost before. The difference between how Francis reacted in this life compared to what Ross remembered could not have been anymore stark. Francis had seemed almost indifferent in the past, the distance between himself and Charles had meant that the latter’s death had barely affected him, but now that they had the chance to reconnect the death had hit Francis hard. Ross could not help but think that perhaps it would have been kinder to not have reunited the pair.

The funeral was a sombre affair, more so than it had been originally. As Charles had died while Verity and Andrew were still at Trenwith, the two had both been able to attend. Andrew who had only recently joined the family was dressed respectfully in black, and while he did not look particularly saddened by the event he was still clearly lending Verity his support. She was dabbing at her eyes with Andrew’s handkerchief when Ross approached the pair.

“How is Francis coping?” Ross asked her quietly, as they both observed Francis looking over the grave.

“Not well, he has hardly spoken since it happened. He has not even made any passive aggressive comments towards myself or Andrew as he has since we arrived.” She told him gravely.

“Are you going to stay for much longer?” She shook her head.

“Even though Francis is tolerating our presence at the moment, I suspect when he returns to himself we will be rather unceremoniously thrown out, I would rather leave of my own volition and on good terms.” He nodded, understanding her reasoning.

“If I do not get the chance to see you before you leave, I wish you a good journey.” Ross told the both of them.

“Give our best to your wife.” Andrew said courteously. Demelza had not been able to attend the funeral as William was ill and she had taken it upon herself to care for him. Ross nodded in response, and bid them both farewell so that he could go and speak to Francis.

“We were just starting to get along.” Francis said quietly once Ross had approached.

“I know.”

“I do not know if I can run Grambler without him.” Doubt tinged his voice.

“Of course you can.” Ross told him firmly. “You have been running Grambler by yourself for about a year, Francis, this does not change that.” Francis shrugged noncommittally, and did not seem affected by any more of Ross’s reassurances.

After Charles’s death, for the Nampara Poldarks months passed without any major event. There were a great many minor events as William grew, teething had been particularly memorable as neither Ross nor Demelza had slept properly throughout the entire ordeal. Ross had also begun the habit of reading to William before his bedtime, and Demelza had been kind enough to draw some accompanying pictures for William to look at while he listened to his father’s soothing voice.

Raising William had taken up most of the couple’s time, so neither had been able to see Francis or Elizabeth for very long over that time, and they had missed the brewing unrest that had been building at Trenwith. Charles’s death had hit Francis harder than anyone had expected, and in his mourning Grambler was abandoned for long alcohol-fuelled discussions with George.

Stumbling back to Trenwith at an unreasonable hour, a little worse for wear, Francis was greeted at the door by Elizabeth, her eyes rimmed with red. Bracing himself for the inevitable lecture, Francis let out a disinterested sigh.

“Do you have nothing else to say?” Elizabeth said incredulously, clearly disturbed by his utter lack of concern, and he shrugged in response. “This has been going on for months now, it has to stop.”

“Why should it?” He replied coldly.

“Francis, we cannot afford for you to keep gambling and drinking away our income! We have already had to dismiss some of the servants because we no longer have the money to support them. I was willing to forgive the amount you spent on a wedding present for Ross and Demelza, but I have to draw the line here. Your father might be gone, but you still have family here who need you.”

“It is my money, my inheritance and I can spend it how I please.” He seemed unaware of how petulant his words were, too busy being irritated that his wife was reprimanding him.

“And what will you leave your son? It is his legacy as well.” The point struck deeply, as Elizabeth had expected it would, and guilt flashed briefly across Francis’s face. She felt a surge of hope as she wondered whether she had finally impressed upon him the detrimental effects of his actions.

“Leave Geoffrey Charles out of this, it does not concern him.”

“Of course it concerns him.” Elizabeth tried to speak more gently. “Imagine what would befall me and Geoffrey Charles if something terribly were to happen to you, last time I spoke to Ross he told me that he was setting aside some of his income to support his family in case something happened to him.” Francis’s expression abruptly changed, signalling to Elizabeth that she had said the wrong thing.

“It really is remarkable how you can somehow manage to fit Ross into any conversation that we have.” He had raised his voice, although Elizabeth could not tell if it was out of anger or because he was too drunk to keep control of his volume.

“I am sorry that you feel that way,” Elizabeth began calmly, doing her best to smooth over the situation before it erupted into a full blown argument, “but I was just trying to illustrate how other people deal responsibly with their finances.”

“No you were not. You were trying to prove how much better of a husband and father Ross is than I am.” The accusation was so outrageous that Elizabeth could not resist the barb she shot back at him.

“Perhaps that is because he is.”

“Then why did you not marry him instead?” Francis laughed bitterly. “Oh but of course, Ross decided he would rather sleep with his kitchen maid than return your affections, so unfortunately darling you are stuck with me.” The diminutive way he treated the affectionate nickname as well as his mocking tone pushed Elizabeth over the edge of civility, and with a last look of disgust she returned to her room. Now alone, Francis seemed to consider something to himself, and grabbing a bottle of wine he returned to the town to seek the company of a woman who, in his opinion, would treat him with the respect he deserved.

Blissfully unaware of Francis and Elizabeth’s marital troubles, Ross welcomed his old friend Dwight Ennis who had arrived in Cornwall. It was good to see him again after waiting over a year for his return, but his arrival along with the presence of the acting troupe reminded Ross of what had happened with Keren. Years older than he was originally, Ross could now appreciate how tragic her end was. She was young and foolish, no different to countless men at that age, and the crime of adultery was not sufficient justification for her death.

As Ross watched the play at Demelza’s side, he cursed himself slightly for inviting the troupe in the first place. Truthfully the Keren incident had slipped his mind since it had happened so long ago and amidst a great many other more upsetting events, but seeing her when she arrived brought back the memories. Ross promised to himself that he would do his best to stop her death and thus prevent his friend from becoming a murderer.

Demelza was engrossed in the plot of the play, her knee jiggling absently to keep William entertained so he wouldn’t begin crying and disrupt the performance. Ross was glad she was actually able to enjoy the play this time, considering that last time she had gone into labour and had missed the majority of it. Suddenly catching sight of Ross, as though seeing him for the first time, William gave a toothy smile and reached for his father. Before he could disturb Demelza, Ross quickly plucked the little boy from her grasp and settled him onto his lap. Demelza briefly glanced over to him before returning her attention to the play, a small smile playing on her lips.

Looking over at Mark, Ross saw that he was equally as absorbed in the proceedings but for clearly different reasons as his eyes never left Keren. Frowning a little, Ross wracked his brains trying to think of a way he might be able to prevent the two from marrying, but no definitive solution came to mind. His best option was probably to try to dissuade Mark, but Ross knew as well as anyone that once an idea came to Mark it was difficult to convince him to abandon the pursuit.

Ross was going to speak to the mine worker as soon as the play had ended and the audience was slowly trickling away, but it seemed that William was conspiring against him as he started crying, Demelza noting aloud that he must be tired and therefore needed to go bed. Knowing that no doubt he would have another opportunity to speak to Mark before he could marry Keren, Ross returned home with his family, casting one backward glance to see that Mark was speaking to the young actress.

With William having been moved into his own room a few weeks ago, Demelza and Ross had been enjoying their newfound privacy that had been sorely lacking in the past months. There was something distinctly enjoyable about being able to speak at a normal volume and not have to worry about disturbing a sleeping baby.

“You seem stressed.” Demelza told him, moving behind him so she could rub his shoulders soothingly with her dextrous fingers, Ross sighed in enjoyment as her fingers found the spots where he felt the tensest.

“I have a lot on my mind.” He agreed.

“Anything I can help with?” He paused to consider her offer, wondering where her input might be able to contribute to solve the problem.

“Maybe. Did you have the chance to meet Keren?”

“The lead actress? Yes, why?”

“Mark is certain he is in love with her, and if he has not already proposed then he will soon enough. They need to both be convinced that it would not be a good idea for them to marry.” Demelza’s shock at his blunt statement was evident as she immediately ceased massaging his shoulders.

“Why can’t they marry?” Suspicion tinged her tone, reminding Ross that she still had her doubts about him since his slip up at William’s birth, he had hoped that time would have dimmed her distrust but clearly it hadn’t so he chose his following words carefully.

“I do not think the marriage would go well, they are not suited for each other. She is an actress, she is probably used to a far higher standard of living than Mark could provide, and if he cannot make her happy I dread to think what might happen.” His reasoning appeared to work, as Demelza’s hands moved back into place.

“But if they love each other, shouldn’t that be all that matters? People can change, she could learn to adjust.”

“What is she cannot?” Ross pointed out, causing her to sigh indecisively.

“I see your point. Do you want me to try to convince her not to marry him?”

“If you would. I will do the same with Mark.”

“I still don’t like it.” She said quietly. “I think everyone should be given the chance to be with the one they love, even if it goes wrong, but if you’re sure…” Her definition of ‘wrong’ was probably a relationship that resulted in an unhappy marriage, there was no way she could know that in this case ‘wrong’ was Keren being strangled to death.

“I am.” He told her decisively and immediately regretted his conviction as her eyes narrowed slightly. “Let’s not talk about this anymore, it is a depressing subject and I despise going to sleep in an unhappy mood.”

He changed the subject smoothly, turning around on the bed to face her, his hands finding the hem of the oversized shirt she was wearing. The raised eyebrow she gave him in return suggested that he had not been as subtle as he hoped, but she did not resist when he leaned in for a kiss.

“Are you trying to distract me?” Demelza asked, amusement colouring her tone, as his lips moved to her jaw and downwards.

“Is it working?” He murmured against her neck, hands slipping under the shirt to trace her form underneath the fabric causing her breath to catch in her throat and her reply to go on unsaid. Snickering to himself a little, Ross spent the rest of the night doing his very best to make Demelza forget his suspicious behaviour.

Chapter Text

Grambler's decline could not be hidden for long, and Ross first started to notice the effects of Francis's neglect when workers at the mine slowly started to trickle back to Leisure due a drastic cut in wages. They had been prospering well at Leisure, and having hit copper the money started to come in and he was pleased to note that only one or two of his investors had sold their shares to George compared to the multitude that had done so previously. He continue to keep a watchful eye on some of the still doubtful investors, fully prepared to buy their shares himself if it came to it. With his financial situation stabilising, Ross turned his concern back towards Francis. Riding over to Grambler, he was a little surprised by his cousin's complete absence from the mine. He called over a worker that looked fit to drop with exhaustion.

"When was the last time Mr Poldark was here?" He asked. The worker shrugged noncommittally.

"Not been for some weeks now." Ross thanked him for his time with a few coins that the worker took gratefully. "Bless ye sir."

He nodded respectfully back to him, before urging his horse to turn around and head in the direction of Trenwith, certain he would find Francis there. Arriving at the estate, he was soon greeted by Elizabeth, without the man he was looking for at her side. He frowned as he took in her unusually dishevelled appearance, there were dark circles under her eyes and the smile she sent his way looked forced.

"If you are looking for Francis, he is not home and has not been for some time." She told him.

"Where is he?" She gave him a defeated shrug.

"Town, most likely."

The admission caused her to break down a little. Seeing that she was on the verge of tears, Ross quickly ushered her into the house and sent one of the maids to get some tea. He was alarmed to see that there were so few staff present as they made their way to the sitting room, and many of the rooms which had been open at Christmas were now closed and clearly no longer being used. Once Elizabeth was seated with a warm drink she seemed to calm down somewhat and regained the composure she was known for.

"I am sorry for my condition." She said eventually.

"Do not concern yourself with that. What has happened?"

"Since the funeral, Francis has not been the same. He is drinking and gambling far more than he did before." She withdrew a handkerchief to wipe her eyes. "We had an argument about his behaviour, and since then he has only become worse. I believe he has even begun visiting-" she coughed delicately, "women of ill repute."

It sounded as though Francis had returned to his behaviour of the past, Ross nearly wanted to scream in frustration. He thought he had fixed this, he had been so certain that by reuniting Francis and Charles he would have been able to ensure his cousin would understand responsibility, but his efforts had been in vain. Francis had now become a liability, and many of his plans for the future crumbled to ash as he realised that he could no longer fully trust his cousin to play the part he had assigned to him. He had thought to include Francis in his plans to revive the Carnmore Copper Company, but that was impossible now. Ignoring this for the moment, Ross remembered that if Francis was allowed to continue on this path it would result in him loosing Grambler in a gambling game with George's cousin. His priority would now be to ensure that this did not come to pass.

"I will go to town and see if I can find him." He told Elizabeth. "I will try to get him to come home."

"Thank you, Ross." Her hand reached out to grab his, shocking him. Her touch made him deeply uncomfortable, it brought with it a sense of warmth and familiarity but also an overwhelming feeling of guilt as memories of his greatest crime against Demelza were brought to the forefront of his mind. Despite the impulse to retrieve his hand, he forced himself to remain in position, knowing it would deeply hurt Elizabeth if he rejected her need for comfort at this moment. What seemed like an age later, she removed her hand and allowed Ross to leave to continue his search.

Ross visited several bars before he found Francis in the midst of entertaining the prostitute Margaret. Seeing his scowl, she did not attempt her normal flirtation and quickly made herself scarce, much to his cousin's disappointment. Taking a nearby seat, he was unable to avoid the loud sigh of disappointment that left him and immediately set Francis on the defensive.

"Please do not judge me, Elizabeth has been so cold lately."

"Why do you think that is?" He asked exasperatedly. "From what I've heard you have barely been home or at Grambler the last few weeks."

"I'm grieving!" Francis protested, looking genuinely hurt that Ross was not more sympathetic to his problems. "Why can no one understand that?"

"We do understand, but you cannot just wallow in your grief. There is a time to mourn and a time when you have to return to your life. My father died as well, but I could not afford to dwell on it for as long as you have." Francis let out a bitter laugh.

"It is surprisingly easy to forget that your father died considering how completely unaffected you were by his death. Did you even care?" Ross hadn't been expecting the sudden attack and he stared at Francis in surprise for a few moments before spluttering out an unconvincing reply.

"Of course I cared, but there were a lot of other matters I had to deal with at the time." Technically, Francis was completely accurate in his accusations, the news had passed over Ross like water under a bridge. It wasn't that he didn't care about his father, but for him the tragedy had occurred decades ago and he had not managed to summon the same feeling of devastation as he had originally. It had not occurred to him that Francis had noticed his lack of reaction, or that he would think so badly of him for it.

"Then forgive me for not being as strong as you." Francis snapped. "As my wife constantly reminds me, I can never measure up to you."

"That is not true." He protested, surprised that Elizabeth had been singing his praises.

"You know it is." Francis said bitterly. "All my life I have had to live in your shadow. Do you have any idea what it is like to constantly be compared to you? 'Francis why are you not more like your cousin? He is so much braver than you, so much smarter than you, so much better than you.'"

"I am not better than anyone." Ross tried to placate him. "Worse perhaps, there are so many things I have done in my life that I bitterly regret, so many lives I have ruined with my selfishness and stupidity."

"Like whose?" The angry look in Francis's eyes showed that he did not believe a word of his remorseful speech, and Ross's examples died on his lips as he realised that most of the instances he could recall had not happened yet, or he had already prevented. Presented with no convincing rebuttal, Francis dismissed him disdainfully.

"You should go. Your wife will be wondering where you are."

At that moment his wife was busy trying to sort her own marital issues out. Having heard about the recent engagement between Keren and Mark, Demelza after some thought had decided to go speak to the other woman as her husband had requested. She still did not quite believe that they should stand in the way of what might be true love, but he had been so adamant about the matter that she decided to heed his advice. Arriving at Keren's temporary residence, she had to wait for some time for her knock to be answered. Greeting her dutifully, the other woman appraisingly looked over the dress Demelza was wearing, admiring the rich fabric and carefully stitched detail, only stopping once Demelza cleared her throat to get her attention.

"Can I help you?" Keren asked.

"I just wanted to talk with you if that's alright." The door was opened more widely to allow her to enter the small house.

"So talk." The actress demanded shortly, once they were both seated at a rickety table. "I have a wedding to arrange, I don't have all day to chatter."

"About the marriage-"

"What about it?" She swiftly interrupted defensively, already beginning to irate Demelza.

"I just wonder whether you thought it through, that's all." Demelza managed, ignoring Keren's attempts to intimidate her. "Mark isn't rich, he doesn't have a proper house although Ross is trying to renovate one for him. I don't want you marrying him under false pretences."

"Don't see how tis any of your business." She folded her arms and glared. "You think now that you're all upper class you can tell the rest of us how to live our lives, but you can't."

"That's not what I'm trying to do." She said, feeling a stab of annoyance at Keren's refusal to listen.

"It is. Maybe you fancy Mark for yourself, Mr Ross not doing it for you anymore?"

"I see that you are beyond reasoning." She said coldly, ignoring the crude insult. "I shall see myself out."

"Well we failed." Demelza noted quietly to her husband as they walked arm in arm, following the wedding procession.

"That we did. Mark was completely refusing to listen to a word I had to say on the matter." Ross replied, watching the newly wedded couple who were currently deceptively happy.

"You should have heard what Keren said to me when I spoke to her." At his questioning look, she elaborated further. "She accused me of wanting Mark for myself." The notion was so absurd that it caused Ross to erupt in peals of laughter, making people near them look at him strangely for his outburst.

"Am I not enough for you, dearest?" He asked once he recovered from his fit of humour.

"Clearly not." She said with a mischievous smile.

"I will endeavour to prove my worth tonight." She elbowed him for his comment, he laughed and pulled her closer to press an affectionate kiss to the top of her head.

Despite his jovial mood, Ross could not help but worry for Keren's safety. He had failed to stop them from marrying, but perhaps he would be more successful in other avenues. He could speak to Dwight and stop the affair from occurring at all. Dwight at least could be made to see sense on the matter, especially if given information on Mark's more violent nature. He knew that preventing the affair would not completely fix the marriage, but it might give Keren a better chance of survival. Ross decided to seize the opportunity as the wedding celebrations were underway, he watched with worried eyes as a clearly smitten Dwight danced with the bride. Once the song ended, he swiftly stepped between the pair.

"Dwight!" Ross said brightly, ignoring the daggers Keren was sending his way. "Can we talk? There's some private mining business I wanted to go over with you briefly."

"Surely a wedding is no place for talk of business." She said sweetly.

"I promise it will not take long." He looked meaningfully at Dwight until the man got the message.

"I'm sure I can be spared of dancing for a few minutes." Dwight said to the pouting bride. Before Keren could protest further, Ross led his friend away from the gathered group.

"What is this about, Ross?" He asked, once they were far enough away from any possible eavesdropped. "Is there something wrong?"

"Nothing major, but I am worried for you."

"Whatever for?" He asked, frowning a little in confusion.

"I saw the way you were looking at Keren, Dwight." Ross explained, noting how his friend immediately flushed in response. "Mark is a very possessive man, he will not take kindly to her having admirers."

"It was completely innocent, nothing untoward about it." The lack of eye contact suggested this was not entirely the case.

"I suggest you keep it that way, Mark can be a quite violent man, I would not want you hurt because you did not think matters through properly." He tried to make sure the warning came off as well-meaningly as possible, not wanting Dwight to react as stubbornly as Keren and Mark when he and Demelza had tried to disrupt the match.

"Is he really that dangerous?" Dwight asked, and Ross was gratified to see that his information had clearly made an impact on his friend as he now looked positively worried.

"Very. He does not think through the consequences of his actions before he acts. If he caught you and Keren, even under innocent circumstances, I dread to think of how he would react. I only say this to you because you are my friend, and I think you deserve to know this before you have the chance to get involved with her."

"I understand and appreciate that, Ross." The bad mood was banished from his face, and was replaced once more with a bright smile. "What would I do without a friend like you?"

"Get yourself into trouble, no doubt." Dwight laughed and clapped him on the shoulder as they returned to the party, Ross immediately retrieving his wife from a miner so that he could dance with her himself, satisfied that he had at least averted one disaster.

Chapter Text

Ross had been playing with William when the post arrived that morning. He had found a small wooden toy in a shop which he had been unable to resist buying and had been pleased to see that his young son took plenty of amusement in it. Not wanting to disrupt their game, Demelza excused herself to deal with the mail. Scanning through the letters, she came across an envelope with especially elaborate writing.

“We have an invitation to the Warleggans.” She informed Ross. “Looks like a party.”

“May I see?” She readily handed the letter over, and he glanced over it, trying to keep it out of the reach of William’s eager hands. He grimaced as he realised it was George’s gambling party, he would have no choice but to attend in order to prevent Francis from behaving stupidly.

“Can we go?” Demelza asked, trying to contain her near-childlike excitement at the thought of being able to dress up and go out for the day.

“It is not really the kind of party women go to.” He told her gently, trying to alleviate as much disappointment as possible. “It would not be appropriate for you to attend.” At her crestfallen expression he quickly added “Next party, I promise we will go together.”

“Are you going to go?” She asked.

“Francis is going, he tends to make mistakes when he drinks too much so I need to monitor his behaviour.” He hesitated. “They are having problems at Grambler, there is not as much money as there was, and he has a bad habit of gambling.”

“I didn’t know things were so bad.”

“I don’t think even Francis realises it.”

In the week leading up to the social gathering, Ross quietly began making the arrangements to begin the Carnmore Copper Company. His improved finances and foresight meant that he was able to avoid involving some of the investors that had greater debts with the Warleggans but there were still several who were needed. As long as their identities were kept quiet until the company was running properly, there was little that could disrupt their success and hopefully the price for copper would rise with the increased competition.

Everyone he invited to the meeting were people that he deeply trusted, those who had rarely let him down in his long life. He firmly impressed upon them the need for secrecy, emphasising the risk that if any of those involved with the Warleggans were discovered, they would all be ruined. The risk was high, but the possible rewards were even greater.

It was regrettable, but Ross followed his original decision to not involve or even speak to Francis about his plans, not that he was even on good speaking terms with his cousin at the moment. Demelza had eventually realised that there was a tension between her husband and her friend, and she had taken it upon herself to visit Francis in town. Her palpable disappointment in him had more of an effect than Ross’s reprimands or Elizabeth’s anger, and while she was unable to stop him from indulging his bad habits he was at least now being a little more discreet about it. It was not much, but it did mean that Elizabeth did not have to hear the mocking whispers between gossiping women as she travelled around.

It had been a rather eerie experience for Ross to walk into his house to see the two women sat in the sitting room, speaking amicably. He was pleased to see that while Elizabeth’s back was ramrod straight, indicating she was not entirely comfortable with the situation, Demelza looked rather relaxed and unintimidated by the other woman. He greeted both of them before retreating the documents he had returned for and once again departed, leaving the two of them to resume their discussion.

“Hasn’t Francis returned home yet?” Elizabeth shook her head in response to her question.

“He does return at night to sleep, but he leaves again around midday.”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t do more to help.” Demelza said sadly, she had hoped Francis would soon return to his formerly jovial self but her efforts had not been enough.

“I appreciate what you have managed to accomplished, he does seem to respect you and your opinion.”

“He respects yours too. He was always talking about how smart and sophisticated you are, and how he’s lucky to have a wife like you.”

“Did he truly say that?” Demelza nodded enthusiastically, a little perturbed that this reassurance was actually necessary.

“Thank you again for intervening.” Elizabeth said gratefully before making her excuses and leaving the cosy surroundings of Nampara for the cold and unwelcoming venue of Trenwith.

After handing over the reins of his horse to a stableboy, Ross took a moment to mentally prepare himself for the day ahead. He did not want to attend George’s get-together, but he was aware that he had a duty both to Elizabeth and Francis to ensure that the mine was not lost to a cheating gambler. Entering the building, he was escorted to the room that had been specially set up to accommodate for the copious amounts of drinking, gambling and whoring that would take place, it was still early so there were only a few people wandering around the room. Despite ensuring that he arrived earlier than he had done previously, he was dismayed to see Francis already at the table. From what he could see, Francis had already lost a considerable amount of money to Sanson. Compared to his total losses from before, the amount was relatively small but if given time it would no doubt escalate.

Ross had to fight to overcome the urge to immediately declare Sanson a liar. Forcing himself to calm down, he took a glass from a passing tray and sipped at it slowly, thinking of how he could best carry out his plan. He could not accuse Sanson of cheating when he had only just arrived, no one would believe him. He would have to sit through a few hands of cards first to give him a chance to pretend to notice something was amiss, and he could then declare his observation that Sanson was keeping cards up his sleeves. It did not matter particularly if nothing was proven, but it would halt the game and prevent further losses. Francis’s pride would be dented, but he would not be ruined by the incident. Maybe he would even learn from it this time.

He stood by as Francis lost more cash, eyes trained on Sanson’s sleeves for a possible incriminating glance. He was so engrossed with trying to pick the best possible moment that he did not notice George arriving at his side.

“Francis is not doing well.” George remarked, taking a drink from his own glass. Ross nodded absently, deciding he would make his move when the players were to reveal their cards. “You seem deep in thought, is something the matter?” He asked.

“I do not mean to be disrespectful, but I think your cousin is cheating.” Ross told him plainly, trying to avoid causing offence, the man did not look insulted but he did look surprised.

“Why would you think that?”

“I believe I caught a glimpse of something small and white in Sanson’s sleeves,” he looked at George carefully, trying to gage his reaction, “I have seen people play with cards like that in the past, they keep a few select cards up their sleeves to exchange with the ones they are holding at opportune moments in the game. It is entirely possible that I am wrong, but it would no doubt be best to halt the game now.” George looked thoughtful.

“You cannot save your cousin every time he does something stupid, he needs to learn from his own mistakes.” Ross looked at him in horror as he realised that George did not want him to stop Francis’s ruin, the man cloaked his desire with what seemed like good intentions, wanting Francis to learn that his actions had consequences, but how much of that was genuine he couldn’t tell.

“I cannot just let him lose everything!” Ross told him firmly. “He has lost a lot of money already, he has learned his lesson, this needs to stop now.”

“I disagree.” George gave him a knowing smile. “I believe you owe me a favour, and I would like to use it now.” At Ross’s stricken expression, he continued. “Of course, if you would rather not let this scene continue unhindered, I can always speak to Reverend Halse again…”

The implication that Jim would be imprisoned for his actions was left unsaid. George looked at him expectantly, waiting for his decision. The choice was a difficult one, his cousin and close friend could be ruined by the end of the night, or an innocent man would be in danger of death and leaving behind a young wife and child. Ross wished he had not made his intentions clear to George, and had just accused Sanson of cheating but the damage was done and he was not going to get a third chance to make this right. With a heavy heart, Ross made his choice. He grabbed another drink off a nearby tray and sat back to watch Francis ruin his own life.

After the disastrous day, Ross trudged home, wanting nothing more than to tell his wife what had transpired. He found her in the kitchen and did not hesitate to immediately wrap his arms around her and sigh.

“Bad day?” He heard her say. He nodded against her shoulder, breathing in the scent of the perfume he had bought for her. He let her guide him to the study, where she pushed him into a chair and went to get him a drink. When Demelza re-joined him, he took a large sip from his drink and told her about Francis’s losses. She shook her head in disappointment.

“Francis is an idiot.” She said bluntly. “It’s his fault for not stopping earlier, don’t blame yourself.”

“But I could have stopped him.” Ross admitted, looking at her with worry that she might judge him for his choice. “The man he was playing with cheating.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?” She looked guarded but prepared to listen to his explanation.

“I made a deal with George some time ago. In exchange for him helping Jim avoid prison, I owed him a favour. He told me that if I stopped the game, then he would go to the judge he spoke to and have Jim imprisoned again.”

“You made the right decision.” She told him firmly. “It doesn’t matter that the man was cheating or that George blackmailed you into keeping quiet, it was still Francis’s responsibility to know when enough was enough.”

Perhaps the only good that had come from the awful day was that Francis now seemed to realise the ramifications of what he had done. He had abruptly left the gambling table after losing Grambler to Sanson, and Ross had quietly joined him on his journey back to Trenwith.

“I suppose you are going to tell me that you warned me this would happen.” Francis had said glumly as they travelled.

“No, but I am sorry I did not try to intervene before you could lose Grambler.” He told him sadly, Francis shook his head in response.

“Nothing you could have said would have stopped me. I probably would have gambled it anyway just to spite you.” Ross felt another stab of guilt as he bitterly thought that what he could have said would have stopped Francis.

“It could be worse, at least you still have the house and the land.” He pointed out, trying to bring some light to the terrible situation, but Francis did not seem to be paying much attention.

“Elizabeth is going to kill me.” Ross did not respond, knowing that any reassurances would not have sounded true. “Will you stay with me when I break the news?” His cousin pleaded.

“I will.” He promised, it was the least he could do under the circumstances.

To say that Elizabeth was furious by the news would have been an understatement. Francis had broken the news after a nudge of encouragement from Ross, she had spent the next ten minutes raging at both of them: Francis for gambling the mice and Ross for failing to stop him. She was still shouting when Ross had left to return home at Francis’s brief urging between Elizabeth’s rants. He could still faintly hear her from outside.

As though reading his thoughts, Demelza spoke again. “Elizabeth can’t have been happy to hear about Grambler.”

“She was not.” He winced a little. “She was not too pleased with my inaction either.”

“Didn’t you tell Francis or Elizabeth about the man cheating?” She asked with a frown, he shook his head.

“I did not dare. George would not doubt have heard about it, and I worry that he would carry out his threat if I ever tell Francis. It would make the entire sorry affair completely pointless, at least by keeping quiet I can make sure that nothing happens to Jim. He would not last long in prison.”

“You did the right thing.” Demelza repeated. “Francis might be a lot poorer, but he’s alive.”

Her declaration reminded Ross that he had not yet managed to convince Francis to learn how to swim. Had she not brought it up again it was possible that he would not have remembered until it was too late. He thanked her for her reminder with a searing kiss and was promptly and willingly dragged to bed. His last thoughts of the night were a thanks to God for giving him such a wonderful wife.

Chapter Text

With the loss of Grambler, Ross and Demelza saw very little of Francis and his family as they were busy concentrating their attention on their lands, with the hope that the crops it would yield might provide them some income. Seeing his cousin and former love working the fields brought a lump to Ross’s throat as the situation could have been so easily avoided. Both Demelza and Francis had made it quite clear to him that it was not his fault, but with his knowledge of the future he couldn’t help but still feel guilty. He had almost offered his cousin a loan, but the words had been halted by the warning look in Francis’s eyes, and so with some reluctance he had bit his tongue. He and Francis were both proud men, and he knew that if the situations were reversed he too would have refused an offer of such help. It was a small consolation to know that their situation was not desperate yet, but if it became so he was sure that reminding Francis of his duty to his son would compel the man to accept assistance.

So distracted by other people’s struggles, it was with a start that he realised that around this time in the past he had been hatching a plan to break Jim out of prison. It was a soothing balm to his guilt to see the younger man busy working his land rather than near to death, and it reminded Ross that some good had come from his return. He had once again tried to insist that Jim had paid his debt and no longer needed to work on the fields, but he had been ignored once more, and both Jim and Jinny had separately refused to accept any extra money for the work being done. He had given up at that point.

With Wheal Leisure more or less running itself, Ross had decided to take the day off and with some work had managed to convince Francis to do the same. Demelza had been rather surprised that morning to wake up to find Ross still in bed, reading over some papers, rather than away as he was most mornings.

“Mornin’.” She mumbled sleepily, looking at him with some confusion when her eyes had blearily opened after the assault from the morning’s sun.

“Good morning.” He returned the greeting mildly, setting aside one document to examine another.

“What are you still doing here?” She asked once she felt a little more awake, shuffling to sit upright. “Are you not going to Leisure today?”

“I thought I would take the day off to teach Francis how to swim.” He said conversationally. That seemed to grab her attention and she scrambled over to his side.

“Francis doesn’t know how to swim?” Her voice was filled with malicious glee, and Ross had to hide a smile as he realised she was going to relentlessly tease his cousin for his deficiency.

“Be nice.” He told her warningly, the slight smile on his face indicating he was not being serious.

“Can I come?” Her eyes were bright and before he could give it too much thought he found himself nodding to her question, wanting to keep her happy where possible. Her immediate evil cackle made him reconsider whether that was the right thing to do, but in the end he shrugged his shoulders and was thankful that the only person who would suffer would be Francis.

As it turned out, Francis did suffer a lot as the two men stood up to waist height in the water in a sheltered part of the beach. Demelza had the bright idea of shouting out really unhelpful advice from her seated position on the sand, and Francis had taken to sending her half-hearted glares every time she did so. The admonishment had little effect and she only burst into fresh peals of laughter every time his annoyed face turned in her direction. She did make the somewhat mundane task rather more entertaining as Ross rigorously educated Francis on the correct limb movements required for remaining afloat in the water.

“This is useless.” Francis whined as Ross had to once again fish him out of the water.

“No it isn’t.” He replied firmly. “You nearly drowned when I first returned, and I cannot always be around to get you out of the water.” Even as he said it, he couldn’t help the uncomfortable shift in his stance as he knew how true his words were. Although the specific incident would not be for a while, he hardened his resolve not to relent in his teaching until Francis was a competent, if not proficient, swimmer.

“Again.” Ross said insistently, his tone broaching no further argument from Francis. Even Demelza seemed to sense something very serious in his voice and did not make another mocking comment for the rest of the lesson.

An hour or two later, they relented in the practice and Ross gratefully took the towel his wife handed over to him to vigorously rub at his sopping wet hair.

“Well that was productive at least.” Francis commented cheerily.

“Don’t get overconfident.” Ross warned. “You can just about get yourself out of the water without any help, but you’ll need more lessons before you can handle more temperamental conditions.” Francis shrugged unconcerned.

“I can always practice when I have some free time.”

“No!” Ross snapped in a panic, and hastily tried to cover it up. “What I mean is, you cannot practice on your own- it is still too dangerous.” He felt a spark of regret as he saw his cousin’s face fall, clearly disappointed that Ross did not have enough faith in him. “I am only thinking of your safety.” He said softly.

“I know.” Francis agreed, eyes downcast. He sighed. “I should be getting back. Do you think we could work some more on this next week?” Vigorously, Ross nodded. Any chance he had of avoiding a tragic death that had led to so much misery and problems was to be taken without any hesitation.

“You seemed a bit intense today.” Demelza commented to Ross when they arrived back home. They had parted from Francis at the cove and amiably walked back to the house where Ross had immediately darted off to change into something dry. He had walked into the kitchen to find her busy working on some pastry for a pie since Jinny had to stay home to look after her sick son.

“Francis has been putting off learning to swim for years.” He replied, taking a seat near her so he could watch her at work. He shook his head slightly. “With where we live that can be a deathly mistake.” At that he was surprised to see her break eye contact and refocus her attention on the preparing the meal. “What is it?” He asked, concern tinging his voice. Years of marriage had given him a deep insight into her moods, and he could tell that what he had said had touched upon something sensitive.

“There was a boy I knew when I was much younger.” She said quietly, her fingers still kneading the dough purposefully. “He fell into the sea during a storm. They found his body a week later.” She paused to take a deep breath, still refusing to look at him. “I still remember how his mother screamed.” It was not a story he had heard before, and perhaps with good reason after what had happened to Julia. It would have been even more difficult to share such a story when she had experienced an equivalent tragedy.

Standing up from his seat, Ross embraced her warmly, not caring for the flour that would inevitably end up covering his clean clothes. He felt her relax against him, and he rested his chin on the top of her head.

“Everything will be fine.” He promised vaguely. It was akin to the promise he had made to himself when he had woken up in this strange new reality and vowed that this time things would be different.

A knock at the door interrupted the moment, and Ross shot a dirty look in the direction of the door as he disentangled himself from his wife. As he had expected, there was a set of floury handprints where she had returned his hug and she seemed fairly unrepentant. Her gaze drifted to where she had marked him, and she lifted her chin up to grin up at him defiantly, her sad mood for the moment brushed aside. With a sudden surge of affection, he kissed the top of her head and left her side to greet the person at the door, fully intending to send them away.

Ross’s conviction fell away when he saw that their visitor was a miserable-looking Mark and he remembered that while his priority was his wife’s happiness, there were other events he had vowed to prevent. Pushing aside his irritation, he stepped out of the way and let the miner into the house, already anticipating that the ensuing conversation would be Mark complaining about the wife Ross had already warned him about. Demelza popped her head around the doorway that led to the kitchen and eyed Mark’s unhappy look with a raised eyebrow, turning her gaze back to Ross in expectation of an explanation but he only shrugged in reply. He felt a strangely childish urge to mouth at her “I told you so”, but restrained himself knowing that technically he didn’t already know the outcome of Keren and Mark’s marriage.

“Mrs Poldark.” Mark greeted gruffly, and she nodded gracefully in response. He shifted uncomfortably in place, and Ross hid a smile. It had taken a long time for the miners to adjust to one of their own rising in ranks so rapidly, and there was always a slight awkwardness in their interactions with his wife. None of them entirely sure about how they should treat her. Demelza had always handled it well, and usually did not take offence when one of them accidentally slipped and spoke to her as an equal rather than a woman of an elevated station.

“I’m going to head to town to pick up a few things.” Demelza said to Ross. “Do you need anything?” He shook his head and moved over to her, slipping a few coins into her hands. She smiled brightly at him, and moved past, pausing to utter a quiet goodbye to Mark.

With her gone Mark visible relaxed, probably glad that he could vent his frustrations over his marital problems without a woman being present.

“Take a seat, Mark.” Ross gestured.

“Thank you, sir.” Mark did as he was bid and sighed heavily, the self-pity evident on his demeanour and Ross struggled not to roll his eyes in response.

“What can I do for you?”

“It’s Keren.” For all his faults, Mark was at least quick at getting to the point. It probably shouldn’t have been so surprising that he jumped straight into marriage with a woman he knew almost nothing about.

“I did try to warn you.” Ross reminded him, taking the seat opposite his large friend. “Is she unhappy?” Mark nodded glumly.

“I know and you were right.” The admission while satisfying did not make Ross feel any better about the whole situation. “I don’t think she is happy.” Mark said sadly. “I can’t seem to provide for enough to keep her attention.”

“I imagine it can be frustrating.” Almost immediately, Ross realised that was the wrong thing to say as Mark shot him a near-murderous look.

“Yeah, you imagine. How could you possible know? You with your perfect life and your happy wife.”

“Don’t take your frustrations out on me, Mark.” Ross reminded him sharply, his voice thick with warning. He wouldn’t tolerate such disrespect. “My marriage is not the current topic of conversation.” Nor did he want it to be, he didn’t want to drag himself through all the painful memories of his mistakes which most definitely proved he had not had a perfect life or marriage.

“I’m sorry.” Mark said contritely, looking at the table with such a mournful expression that Ross’s irritation slowly slipped away. “I just don’t know what to do.”

“You need to talk to Keren.” Ross told him firmly. “Tell her how you feel and listen to her in turn. Maybe she can tell you what she wants, and if that is not something you can give her you can explain why that is. If you don’t discuss these matters then all that will happen is that you will grow to resent each other.”

“I guess you’re right.” Mark sighed.

“I am.” He replied firmly. “Marriages take hard work and compromise, you can’t just leave it be and assume it will get better.” He had learned that lesson himself the hard way. So many marital problems in his own life that he had just ignored in his arrogance, overconfident of his place in Demelza’s affections.

“I’ll try my best.” Mark stood up from the table. “Thank you for your advice.” The other man began to walk to the door, but before he could walk out Ross spoke up again, not bothering to turn to face his audience.

“Another matter before you leave, Mark.” He said quietly, speaking slowly and purposefully so that the impact of his words sank in deep. “I know you often deal with your problems using your strength. But if you raise one hand against that woman, it make you weak. Don’t forget that.” Mark didn’t reply, but there was a long moment of silence before the door shut quietly.

Chapter Text

Dwight often liked to think that he wasn’t a total idiot, and at time he extended the same generous courtesy to Ross, although he had to admit that the other man was often stubborn and headstrong to a fault. Ever since they had reunited, Dwight was forced to admit that something had changed within his friend. He seemed more pensive, and certainly more cautious. It could all have been down to Ross suddenly being saddled with a wife and child to take care of, but it seemed like something more than just that. Something Dwight couldn’t put his finger on exactly.

His friend had abruptly matured and gained a wisdom he had only before seen on men who had made such a colossal mess of their lives that they could dispense sage wisdom to fit almost any problem. So when Ross had warned Dwight off the Keren girl, he had listened very seriously and done his best not to encourage the woman’s blatant flirtations.

Ross’s warning resounded in his mind whenever he went near her, even now when she was trembling so temptingly near him. Her lips quivering slightly as she looked up at him, and her eyes glazed slightly with desire. It would have been so easy for him to give in- to lean down and press his lips to hers, and accept the affection she was so freely offering to him. It had been such a long time since he had been with a woman. But every time he even considered it, Ross’s serious and disapproving face came to mind, promptly killing any romantic mood.

Somewhat regretfully, Dwight stepped back from Keren and politely bid her farewell. Her disappointment was palpable, and he had to look away from her lovely pout before he did something that he regretted.

“Can I ask why?” Her voice pure and clear rang through the room.

“Why what?” Dwight feigned ignorance, and her eyes sparked with aggravation as she easily read through him.

“Why you are so insistent on pretending you don’t want me as much as I want you.” Her directness would have been refreshing under any other circumstance. So many women he had known had hidden their feelings behind a fan, wanting to be coy and demure, and he had always been attracted to women who knew what they wanted and were not afraid of saying so.

“You are married, Keren.” He told her pointedly. “No matter how I feel, I could never act on it.” The lie tasted bitter on his lips. He knew that without Ross’s warning he would have already bedded the young woman in front of him with much less hesitation.

“And wasn’t that a mistake.” Keren said bitterly. “I should never have encouraged that fool, much less married him.” He couldn’t help but agree. From what he had seen the couple was hopelessly mismatched.

“That may be true.” He said softly. “But I’m afraid that it’s a mistake you’ll have to live with.” He gave her a final nod of farewell and left the house, leaving the desperately sad and lonely woman behind.

Demelza’s excitement about the Warleggan ball was strangely endearing, and Ross found himself smiling fondly as she dressed in preparation for it. His smile did fade as he remembered how awfully the whole mess had gone first time around. He had been so miserable and drunk over Jim’s death, and so ready to hate everyone and everything in his path that he had been awful to her. He still wasn’t too pleased about going and having to associate with George but he would put up with it for her happiness and to maintain civil relations with his old enemy.

Maintaining a good relationship was even more crucial now, Ross remembered with a smirk. The Carnmore Copper Company was back in business and all the previous leaks that had led to its failure had not even been involved. There was still a risk with the project, especially considering how very unhappy George had looked at the auction, but it was a manageable risk. Now he was going to schmooze, and be as friendly as he could manage in order to hopefully deflect as much suspicion away from himself as possible.

“Do you like your new dress?” He asked, looking over her admiringly. He already knew she did, she had loved it the first time around, but it was a necessary gesture he had to make and he had to admit he did enjoy hearing her effusive gratitude.

“It’s beautiful, thank you.” He hadn’t asked about the necklace but her hand drifted to it anyway, index finger lightly brushing over the pendent. This time he wouldn’t be demanding she hand it over so he could gamble it away like a selfish fool. “You won’t leave me alone tonight, will you?” The slightly panicked eyes turned up to him filled him with pain.

“Of course not.” He promised. “But you will have to get used to these events.”

“I know.” She slipped her hand through the crook of the arm he offered to her, and smiled up at him. “Shall we go?”

The glass clenched in George’s grip seemed strained under the pressure as he imperiously glared over the crowd assembled at his home. He held these gatherings to cement his place in society, but he did find them tiresome. Recent events had not helped with his tolerance. He and his father were still attempting to decipher the individuals running the blasted Carnmore Copper Company that were forcing copper prices up.

He still didn’t have the slightest clue who it could be. His suspicions had initially drifted to Ross Poldark but he had soon dismissed him as a potential leader. The man appeared far too cowed into submission by George’s influence. He might be a co-conspirator, a potential investor, but not one of the principle leaders that George needed to crush.

Not even the common girl he had recently met had the faintest clue. She was some sort of former actress by the name of Keren. In her opinion she had been clearly destined for great things before she had ended up tragically married to some boring and dirt poor miner. He doubted it. She couldn’t have been all that great of an actress if he could easily see through her false simper and pretend innocence. She was enterprising though, he had to give her that, clearly seeking out the great things she had imagined if they were not going to fall on her lap like she hoped. He could humour her for a while, reward her ambition appropriately as well as finding himself a pleasant enough companion to warm his bed until he lost interest. He wasn’t Ross Poldark, he wouldn’t degrade himself enough to tie himself permanently to the girl, no matter what her circumstances became.

The party was as obnoxiously extravagant as Ross remembered it, but at least the whisky was good. He sipped idly at a glass as he and Demelza made their way around the room, making small talk with the other guests. It was admittedly rather dull, but he did enjoy seeing his wife effortlessly charming the usually stoic old men that often attended these parties. She was sometimes a little too successful, and he found himself shooting the odd glare at the enamoured man in question to remind them that she was in fact happily married.

She’d elbowed him the second time he’d sent one of them scurrying away with such a glare, and he’d distracted her by dragging her over to where a mixed crowd of partygoers were dancing. She had looked rather ill at ease initially, but he guided her through the steps carefully and lightly teased her when she stepped on his feet. She grasped the pattern quickly, and grinned up at him triumphantly when she managed to put her foot in the right place for the first time during a more complicated series of steps. They danced through a second song, and then Ross had to abandon the pursuit due to an increasing ache in his leg. Demelza had not minded, and had been quick to find him a seat, already guessing the reason for why he had wanted to stop.

Gratefully sitting down, Ross made a permissive hand gesture when another man appeared and asked Demelza to dance. She had turned towards him with a raised eyebrow as though to question whether he would react as jealously as he had earlier, but he ignored such feelings in favour of letting her have a good time. In this life he had managed not to give her a reason to seek another man’s company out, and he doubted she had any thoughts of infidelity on her mind. Certainly not when he took into consideration how her hands had lingered on his broad shoulders earlier or how she had impishly suggested to her husband that they could head home whenever he was ready.

As much as Ross had wanted to take her up on the offer and see her wearing that necklace and nothing else, he was willing to postpone such pleasures until after she had enjoyed herself a little more and had the chance to warm up the feelings of anyone who had not yet thawed to the idea of a miner’s daughter as one of their equals.

The man led her away and back to the crowd gathered near the musicians, and she shot one final smile at him over her shoulder. He leaned back into the comfortable chair, prepared to wait out a couple of songs since he had spotted a few other potential partners for Demelza who had clearly noticed that her husband had surrendered her for a short time. She would likely be occupied for some time, but once her feet were tired he doubted she would have any objections to the suggestion that they could head home and enjoy some time to themselves.

“I’m surprised to see you let her go so easily.” A familiar feminine voice commented near him, and Ross turned to see Elizabeth smiling at him fondly. “You’ve been joined at the hip since you arrived.”

“Demelza is still getting used to these kinds of events.” Ross explained as Elizabeth took his wife’s vacated seat. “I won’t leave her to these vultures alone until she feels comfortable enough to handle them herself.”

“That is very good of you.”

“How have you been? It seems like it has been a while since we’ve spoken.” Ross asked. Truthfully, he hadn’t particularly missed her but he did still care that she was well and as happy as she could be.

“As well as can be expected.” She replied with the smallest of shrugs.

“And Geoffrey Charles?” At that her eyes lit up and she started to discuss at length all the progress her son had made since Ross had last seen him. He occasionally interjected with William’s various exploits and found that the conversation was surprisingly amiable. Children, it seemed, was a safe topic of conversation which both of them could speak extensively enough to avoid any potential awkward silences.

Mid-way through explaining some amusing anecdote about William throwing his breakfast all over Jud, Francis arrived, slumping down inelegantly on the remaining chair.

“Well isn’t this pleasant?” He slurred drunkenly, and out of the corner of his eye Ross saw Elizabeth’s jaw tighten.

“We were just discussing the children, Francis.” Elizabeth explained, a hint of irritation in her otherwise pleasant voice indicating her true feelings about how her husband was behaving.

“Of course you were. What else would you have to discuss?” Francis pointed out derisively. “I doubt Ross cares about your latest attempts at redecorating.” Ignoring his wife’s hurt expression, Francis turned to look gloomily at Ross. “Sanson is here, boasting about his ownership of Grambler.”

“Ignore him. There’s nothing you can do about that now.” Ross advised him, shooting an apologetic look to Elizabeth. Francis’s drunken snapping was likely more a consequence of hurt pride than any actual animosity.

“If only I had some some spare money.” Francis muttered. “I could win Gramber back and wipe that smirk off his face.”

“Or you could just lose yet more money, and put us in an even worse financial position.” Elizabeth retorted drily. Ross winced, her words had echoed his thoughts but he at least had the sense not to voice it out loud. Almost immediately, Francis started turning purple with rage as he spluttered incomprehensively. Without another word, he stood up on unsteady feet and stormed away, shooting her one final venomous look.

Groaning internally, Ross made to stand up to go after him but stopped as he felt Elizabeth’s calming hand on his shoulder.

“Leave him. He needs to go cool off for a few minutes.” She wrinkled her nose slightly. “And sober up.”

“He doesn’t mean any of it, Elizabeth.” Ross told her kindly. “He’s frustrated at his own mistakes and failures, and he’s taking it out on you when he shouldn’t be.”

“Thank you, Ross. But I think you know as well as I that this whole marriage was a mistake.” Her confession caused him to freeze uncomfortably as he wished that he could be somewhere, anywhere else. “If only I had waited a few more years, all of this could have turned out so differently.” She sighed mournfully, and he desperately tried to think of some appropriate response.

Luckily he didn’t have to, as in the next moment the buzz of chatter in the room abruptly stopped as a raised voice broke through, the shouting ending all other conversations as the partygoers turned simultaneously in the direction of the disruption. Simultaneously both he and Elizabeth stood up as they noticed that the man shouting was Francis, and the subject of his irate tirade was none other than Sanson. Forgetting their awkward discussion, both of them immediately rushed over in their haste to stop Francis from doing something stupid.

“I won your mine fairly, Poldark.” Sanson said as they approached. “You can always try to win it back if you have the money.” A small crowd was beginning to gather around, but neither man seemed to notice.

“You know I’ve never heard of you ever losing, Sanson.” Francis remarked darkly. “Not then, not tonight. No one is that lucky.”

“Don’t accuse me of cheating just because you’re a sore loser.” Sanson replied, and seemed then to catch sight of Ross. “Why doesn’t your cousin try to win it back for you? I’m sure he’s a better player, and smart enough not to stake his own mine.” The look Francis sent in Ross’s direction was almost hopeful, and he hated that he couldn’t take the opportunity to show Sanson as the cheat that he was, but George’s warning about Jim still echoed in his mind.

“I don’t gamble anymore.” Ross said stiffly, relaxing a little as he felt his wife’s comforting presence at his side, one of her hands curling around his in support. Sanson looked down disdainful at Demelza, clearly blaming her for preventing him from making any more money.

“What a shame. It seems that marriage took your manhood as well as your dignity.” The crude comment earned a gasp from the assembled crowd, and before Ross even had the chance to lose his temper he felt Demelza’s grip tighten.

“He’s not worth it.” She whispered, and then pleaded. “Let’s go home.” Forcing his shoulders back down, Ross nodded and sent Sanson the dirtiest look he could before resting his hand on Demelza’s lower back and beginning to guide her towards the exit. Behind him he heard Sanson start to laugh, and closed his eyes as he did his best to reign his temper in. He did spin back around when he heard the laugh abruptly cut off with the sound of flesh hitting flesh. The sight he saw when he turned was unexpected to say the least. Sanson was reeling back from the punch Francis had landed on his jaw, and judging by the drunken anger on his cousin’s face, Ross doubted that George’s cousin would get away with a single blow.

Leaving Demelza behind, Ross quickly wove through the shocked crowd and lunged at Francis, arms quickly moving into position to prevent Francis from further attacking Sanson. Francis fought against the grip, but Ross had always been the stronger by far of the two, and eventually his cousin fell limp in his arms.

“That is enough!” George ordered as he marched between Francis and George. “This is meant to be a civilised gathering, not a drunken bar brawl.”

“I apologise on Francis’s behalf.” Ross said immediately, looking between George and Sanson. “He’s had too much to drink, I will get him home.”

“Thank you, Ross.” George said icily, glaring at Francis. “It is nice to see that at least one of the Poldark’s is still respectable.” Wincing a little at the dual compliment and insult, Ross nodded in acknowledgment and quickly manhandled Francis out of the room before his cousin could process what his supposed friend had just said.

“I hope all balls aren’t that exciting.” Demelza commented drily once they were back home. She and Elizabeth had helped him get Francis back to Trenwith and into bed to sleep off all the alcohol he had consumed. Elizabeth’s shame at her husband’s behaviour had been as evident as her gratitude to them for their help. They had headed home and to bed themselves straight after.

“Life with me is always exciting.” Ross retorted, stretching out beside her. He lightly touched the necklace she was still wearing. He had been right, it looked even nicer on her when she was devoid of clothing. She rolled her eyes at him, and wriggled out of his grasp to throw on a robe. “Where are you going?” He asked tiredly.

“I’m hungry.” She said with a small shrug and a shy smile. “I worked up a bit of an appetite. I’m going into the kitchen to get something to eat, do you want anything?”

“Bring me some of whatever you are getting.” He replied with a yawn, and waited patiently for her to return. He stared up at the canopy of their bed, his mind full of worries about Francis. The more he seemed to prosper, the worse his cousin fared. It seemed unfair that even when he had a chance to fix all his mistakes he couldn’t make things better for everyone. Elizabeth’s comment ran through his head once again, and made him frown unhappily.

His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a small weight hitting him firmly in the chest, and he looked up to see his wife innocently watching him, an apple already stuffed in her mouth. She had thrown one at him as well, and he picked it up and took a bite.

“You’re eating apples again?” He asked, and she nodded enthusiastically before climbing back into bed to given him an apple juice-soaked kiss. He kissed her back, pulling her onto his lap and slipping his hand under the fabric of the robe so that it rested on her abdomen where he knew their next child was already growing.

Chapter Text

Within a few weeks of Ross’s observations of his wife’s expecting state, her pregnancy was confirmed by the woman herself as morning sickness struck again. Predictably she had adamantly denied Ross’s suggestion that her craving for apples was indicative of another child, and it was only when she was emptying her stomach’s contents into a bucket that she acknowledged the overwhelming coincidence. Despite the annoyed scrunch to her face at having to admit he was right, there was a pleased smile turning up the corner of her mouth that told him more than words could that she was happy to be having another child.

Of course, the first person they told their joyful news to was William. The toddler hadn’t really seemed to understand what they had meant, and had looked at them with slack-jawed confusion as they tried to explain the concept of a little brother or sister to him. He was still too little to comprehend it fully, but did seem to start to get the idea when Demelza had the bright idea of reminding him of Geoffrey Charles and explaining that there would be another little person in their house soon enough.

“Baby where?” William had demanded, and had seemed mystified when his parents had looked at each other before slowly explaining that the baby was still very small and growing in mama’s tummy. William had contented himself with prodding Demelza a few times, and then had gone back to playing with some carved horses gifted to him by the carpenter Ross had hired to craft some new furniture.

With the most important person in their lives told, they had proceeded to inform the rest of the household who needed to know in order to begin making the arrangements to prepare for a pregnancy. Shifts, for example, had to be reorganised as Ross insisted that Demelza restrict herself to minimal duties. When she had protested, he reminded her of the difficulties she had experienced while carrying William and she had acquiesced with only a few minor protests.

The news had been received by the rest of the household and after many effusive congratulations, Ross had uncorked a good quality bottle of wine to celebrate. As though able to smell the quality drink from his own home, Dwight arrived just as Ross was pouring the wine into several glasses. Popping his head around the door, the medic had raised a questioning eyebrow at the informal gathering until he was told the reason for the celebration and offered a glass.

“To the newest addition to the Poldark family.” Dwight toasted, and the sentiment was echoed by those in attendance before everyone took a sip, or gulp in the cases of Jud and Prudie, of the wine. While the rest of them continued on with the merry-making, Ross quietly took Dwight aside.

“Is something the matter, Ross?” Dwight asked him, eyebrows quirked in confusion.

“Demelza struggled last time.” Ross admitted. “I know you are busy with the miners at the moment, but if you could spare some time to keep an eye on her I would be really grateful.”

“Of course, Ross!” Dwight exclaimed. “You needn’t have asked, I am always at hand to help you and your family.”

“You’re a good friend.” Ross told him, voice full of sincerity.

“As are you, and you deserve every happiness.” Dwight clapped a friendly hand onto his shoulder. “Congratulations!”

As it was, Ross turned out to have little to worry about with regards to Demelza’s health. Unlike when she was carrying William, this pregnancy was progressing far more smoothly, much to his relief. When he had first guessed that she was carrying again, he had dreaded she would suffer just as badly again but this time she seemed strangely content. And much to his happiness, as her belly grew his certainty that this time it would be Julia became more and more solid.

While before he had only suspected that the child growing in his wife that turned out to be William was Julia, something a lot stronger inside him was telling him this time it would be the baby he was expecting. The thought filled him with equal parts joy and grief. He longed to be reunited with the child he had so tragically lost, but he also felt a cold sliver of fear pierce his heart when he recalled with perfect clarity what had happened to his beloved daughter. He promised himself with renewed passion that he would do everything in his power to ensure that it did not happen again.

The good news of the impending arrival of another baby was not the only cause Ross had to celebrate. He felt a deep satisfaction at the knowledge that George was no closer to discovering the Carnmore Copper Company conspirators than he had been at the beginning of the venture. This was not due to lack of effort on George’s part. He had been breathing down everyone’s necks, trying to find someone he could cajole or threaten into giving up the names, but everyone involved was being more careful than ever since Ross insisted on giving them repeated reminders of the consequences of discovery.

The care taken was already being richly rewarded as the company began to prosper in the absence of George’s manipulation of shareholders, and it was going just as well as he had ever dared to imagine. He was building up a small reserve of dividends that he was intending to use to begin mining Wheal Grace again since he knew that Leisure’s reserves of copper would eventually dry up. And again he was hopeful to avoid the months of trial and error that had ensued in the original timeline, since he now knew exactly where the richest supplies were.

It was only the lingering worry that George might still be able to interfere in the business that stopped Ross from ploughing ahead with his plans. There would eventually come a time when Carnmore was doing well enough that George would be unable to hinder their progress, but until then Ross was intimately aware of the power he could wield and the potentially devastating consequences. At this point he would much prefer to have a safety blanket of money he could fall back on should Carnmore fail again rather than trying to increase his income.

While luck favoured Ross, it seemed that the more the Nampara Poldarks prospered, the worse circumstances seem to get for the Trenwith Poldarks. George had not taken Francis’s behaviour well at the party, and seemed to take some pleasure from snubbing the other man at every opportunity while remaining as courteous to Elizabeth as possible. The dual blow seemed to be tearing an even greater rift between the couple. Their marriage had never been particularly stable, but in recent months it had become as fragile as glass. Every conflict and argument they had seemed to send yet another crack through the poised and happy façade they presented to the public, and the loss of George’s friendship to one half of the couple appeared to have struck yet another blow.

In contrast to his treatment of Francis, George seemed to have taken a liking to Ross for some unknown reason. It had been the most surreal experience of his life when he had returned home one day to find George at his table speaking politely to Demelza. His wife too seemed a little bewildered by the whole situation, and had visibly relaxed when Ross made his appearance. She could not have been comfortable with entertaining a stranger she knew to have had malicious motives in the past, but there was no evidence from her countenance that George had been anything other than cordial and kind in Ross’s absence.

“George.” Ross greeted cordially. “To what do we owe this unexpected pleasure?”

“No particularly reason.” The other man replied casually. “I just realised I had been remiss in my duties of spending time with friends is all.” The day that George spent time with people purely for the sake of friendship was the day that pigs would start to fly, and for Ross it was a struggle to prevent the friendly look on his face from turning into one of heavy scepticism.

“Well it is good to see you.” Ross managed to say. “Demelza and I so enjoyed you ball, it was such a shame how it ended.” Aware that he was still standing, he went over to the table and sat beside Demelza, resting one hand on the table and slipping the other under so he could take his wife’s hand.

“Yes.” George said neutrally. “I am very grateful that you restrained Francis, and I do apologise for my cousin’s ill-judged comments.” At that he sent a deeply apologetic look in Demelza’s direction. “I assure you he has been strongly reprimanded.”

“I don’t doubt it.” Ross commented drily. Unless that reprimand had included a punch to Sanson’s face it would do nothing to make him feel any better. At best George had told him to keep his crass comments in private rather than in public where he might suffer some social consequences.

“I was hoping you would come to my home for dinner one evening, allow me to make amends.” George offered generously. The whole thing screamed trap, and Ross could tell that there was some unknown underlying motivation for George’s offer. Was it some plan to try to get him to divulge the names of the Carnmore conspirators? Or some sort of indirect insult to Francis? Bearing in mind his original plan to play nice with George, Ross knew he had to tread carefully.

“You really don’t have to make amends, we don’t hold your cousin’s words against you.”

“Of course, but I insist.” George smiled charmingly.

“Then we must accept.” Ross replied, forcing a smile. He felt Demelza’s hand squeeze his comfortingly under the table.

“I’m sure it will be lovely, thank you for the offer.” She added.

“Excellent!” George beamed. “I’ll have some prospective dates sent to you.”

George imposed on the Poldarks for another half an hour, pleasantly discussing business with Ross. The topic of Carnmore was not touched upon, but its absence was felt as a subtle discomfort among the three of them. Eventually he concluded his visit and excused himself, thanking Demelza for her warm welcome and hospitality as he left the estate.

“What do you think he wants?” Demelza asked Ross as soon as George and his carriage had disappeared from view. “I don’t trust him, and I don’t think he came to see us just out of the kindness of his heart.”

“Neither do I.” Ross said darkly. “I don’t know what he expects to gain from being in our good graces, but I expect we will find out soon enough.” He sighed heavily and rubbed a hand across his chin, the late-afternoon stubble lightly scratching his skin.

“I’m going to warn Francis,” he told Demelza, “I don’t want him blindsided by this dinner invitation.”

“Of course.” She agreed, and picked up a fussing William who had his face scrunched up in annoyance at being ignored. She placed him on her hip, and pressed a kiss into the disgruntled child’s dark hair. “Are you going to tell them about the baby?” Demelza asked. Francis and Elizabeth were the only important people in their lives that they had not yet informed.

“Best not.” Ross said with a wince. “They might still be fighting about the ball, and if Francis finds out you’re having another child he might use that information against Elizabeth.”

“That would be unnecessarily cruel.” Demelza remarked. “It hasn’t been that long since Elizabeth had Geoffrey Charles.”

“I know, but I worry that Francis may not be so understanding, especially when he is already angry and hurting over other matters.” Ross ruffled William’s hair affectionately. “When tensions between them calm down, then we can tell them and not worry that we are making anything worse.”

“Alright.” She agreed, and kissed him sweetly. “Send them my love.” Ross nodded and climbed onto his horse, leaving the estate to the sight of Demelza and William waving goodbye to him.

Francis did not take the news of George’s invitation well, and paced along the carpeted floor. “He’s doing this on purpose!” He declared venomously. “What on earth compelled you to accept?” He demanded, and Ross raised his hands in a placating gesture.

“He’s not a man I want for an enemy.” He explained truthfully.

“Ross is right.” Elizabeth said calmly. “You too should try to make amends with George. You did attack his family, after all.”

“You heard what that bastard said!” Francis snapped angrily at his wife, and then he rounded on Ross. “And so did you! Why was it I that had to defend your wife?”

“Believe me, I wanted to punch him as much as you did.” Ross said hotly. “But getting into a fistfight with someone at a party is not going to change anyone’s mind about Demelza, and nor was it a course of action my wife wanted me to take. If she hadn’t stopped me, I probably would have attacked him too.” Francis slumped defeated onto an armchair, and rubbed at his forehead with the tips of his fingers.

“You don’t know anything about the Carnmore business, do you?” Francis asked, suddenly changing the subject.

“What about it?” Ross asked, feigning disinterest. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Elizabeth sit forward in interest.

“George has been asking. If I can tell him anything he might forgive me.” There was an undercurrent of something left unsaid, and for a moment Ross considered the possibility that George had offered Francis money for the names of the conspirators. He felt a rush of relief that he had chosen not to include his cousin at any point in the planning and development of the company.

“I’m sorry, I cannot help you.” Ross said, trying to sound as sincere as possible and shifted uncomfortably on the spot. “I only came by to keep you informed about George’s invitation, so you didn’t think we were doing anything behind your back.”

“Thank you, Ross, we do appreciate it.” Elizabeth said kindly. “Enjoy the dinner, George employs one of the best cooks in the area. I’m sure it will be magnificent.”

“Good God, do you never stop?” Francis snapped at her. “First Ross, now George. Are you so determined to sing the praises of every man that is not your husband?”

Sensing the oncoming argument that Ross wanted absolutely no part of, he hastily interrupted. “I am going to head home, Demelza spent all day working on a new pie recipe and there will be hell to pay if I’m not back in time.”

It wasn’t actually a lie. With her pregnancy proceeding so much more smoothly, she had bounds of energy and had focussed her attention on food. Some of her concoctions were atrocious abominations based entirely around whatever insane craving she had. Jinny was a god send in that regard, as she usually had the sense to prepare something else for all the non-pregnant people in the household. But equally often, Demelza’s meals were delicious and today’s case sounded as though it would be so based on the description she had given him earlier. Her preparations had been interrupted by George’s arrival, so dinner would be later than usual but there was no need for Ross to give the feuding couple that information.

“Send her our regards.” Elizabeth said, with a tense smile. She was no doubt preparing for a loud and unpleasant fight with Francis as soon as Ross left the building, and he felt a surge of sympathy for her.

“I will.” Nodding at both of them, he made a hasty departure and returned to Nampara. Trenwith may have been a far more beautiful and expansive estate than his own, but no force on earth could have compelled Ross to trade the warm and loving atmosphere of his home for the stifling discomfort of Trenwith.

Chapter Text

True to form, George had not returned himself to inform the Nampara Poldarks of potential dates he would be available for the dinner he had invited them to, but had instead sent some sort of footman. Unaccustomed to such formality, Demelza had not really known how to deal with their visitor, and with a smile Ross had taken over to exchange information with the messenger and send George his regards.

With the date now upon them, the couple found themselves in their bedroom preparing themselves for the evening ahead. In her shift, Demelza paused over two different dresses, chewing her lip as she tried to decide which one to wear. Already dressed, Ross idly slipped his arms around her to rest them over the still small bump where their child grew and looked at her choices over her shoulder.

“I like the green one.” He suggested.

“You like them all.” She commented drily, but turned around to lightly peck him on the cheek. “Very well, the green one it is.”

With her garment chosen and donned, the billowy fabric concealing the change in her figure, Demelza moved over to her jewellery boxes and rifled through them until she found the one she had been looking for. In an almost defiant gesture she held up the clasps of the necklace Francis had bought them as a wedding present for Ross to fasten around her neck. He did as her silent command demanded with a grin, appreciating the symbolism of supporting his cousin while they dined with the man he was currently feuding with.

“How are you feeling about this?” He asked her, as she made some final adjustments to her appearance.

She scrunched up her nose. “I don’t know. I don’t like George and I don’t know what he wants.” She turned her worried gaze towards him. “You don’t think he’s looking for something to use against us?”

There was a slight tremor in her voice, and Ross felt yet another surge of anger against Sanson. She had been doing so well with her self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy, but the gross smear George’s cousin had delivered at the last formal gathering they had attended had clearly struck a chord and rendered most of her progress for naught. He had reminded her that she was not one of them, and her background would always to some extent be held against them. It made Ross’s blood boil. That pretentious cheat pathetic excuse of a man had fewer morals in his entire body than Demelza had in a single eyelash. No doubt she was worried that she would slip up or make some social faux pas, giving them a weakness that George could exploit for whatever plot he was concocting. George was not Elizabeth or Francis who would gently correct any failures on her part without allowing gossip to spread. She could not trust him as she did them.

 “I believe he may be trying to make an ally of us.” Ross reassured her. “He has always wanted to elevate himself above his family background, and if loses Francis’s friendship he will likely want to cultivate one with our family.” It was the only explanation for why George seemed so keen on cultivating their good will- apologising for Sanson’s behaviour and inviting them to dinner- and he doubted that the man would jeopardise that for the chance of some idle gossip.

She nodded, but her eyes were still downcast with doubt and she fidgeted with a decorative flower on her dress. “Everything will be fine.” He insisted. “He can’t afford to offend us any further, Sanson’s behaviour reflected badly upon him. George making this kind of gesture is to try to amend his image.” His unsaid suggestion that George would not remark on any social missteps she might make for fear of damaging his own currently fragile reputation, seemed to register with her and her composure relaxed a little.

“Shall we go?” She asked, with a determined set to her mouth and eyes.

A while later, they arrived at the Warleggan estate and by his side Ross felt Demelza draw back slightly from the intimidating façade of the brash and bold building. With a gentle but firm grip, he pulled her slightly forward so she was at his side instead of behind him. She was his wife- his equal, and he wouldn’t let anyone think otherwise. He gave her a reassuring kiss on the top of her head.

“Remember,” he said seriously and noticed her attention immediately focus on him as though the instruction he was about to give would save her from embarrassing herself that evening, “he’s more scared of you than you are of him.” His joke earned him an elbow to the side but the slight pain was worth it to see her shoulder drop from their raised anxious position.

At the door, a footman appeared to let them in and take their coats. Soon after, they were guided to a sitting room where they would remain until the meal was prepared. George was there to greet them, and he rose immediately when they entered. As though he knew it would go some way to earn Ross’s begrudging respect, the other man paid the bulk of his attention to Demelza, telling her how lovely she looked and thanking her for coming. She looked a little taken aback, but graciously accepted the praise. Personally, Ross thought he was laying it on a little thick which made his intentions crystal clear, but he brushed aside his irritation. It was harmless enough, after all.

Demelza made a polite common about the décor, specifically the rather severe-looking paintings adorning the walls. Without further prompt, George immediately launched into a lecture about when and where his family had managed to acquire them from, his tone barely concealing the slightly boastful nature of his claims. Inwardly Ross winced a little, he doubted George was aware of it but his allegations were an immediate indication of his family background. His pride about how he had acquired these items was commendable as it suggested a certain element of work, but he likely wasn’t aware that most would answer in terms of how long such a possession had been in the family, or the artist and their connected works, or who had previously owned it to emphasise the history of their line and the connections they had. 

His wife’s eyes were beginning to glaze over with boredom as George finally reached the end of his lengthy speech, just in time for one of the footmen to appear to whisper something in his master’s ear.

“The meal is prepared.” George announced with a smile. “Shall we adjourn to the dining room?”

He offered Demelza his arm, and guided them to the equally lavishly decorated dining room which was already set with an assortment of foods. Ross noticed how his wife’s eyes lit up at the sight of so many new and interesting items to try. He was in no doubt that at some point in the future she would attempt to replicate or experiment with some of the delicious dishes they experienced that evening. But despite her obvious enthusiasm, she remained restrained and seemed to take especial care with her table manners. His reassurances earlier that day didn’t appear to have completely assuaged her fears.

Everything proceeded perfectly well for the first course. Conversation was light, George explained some of the ventures his family was currently making and Ross idly commented on the potential of the next harvest. Despite the overall pleasant tone the evening was taking, a minor disaster struck with the arrival of the second course and the giant piece of fish that was placed directly in front of Demelza.

Ross watched in concern as the colour completely drained from her face and she started to turn slightly green. The smell of fish during pregnancy had always made her feel ill, and he did his best to try to discretely push the plate away from her but when he raised his eyes he realised George had been looking over at them in concern, clearly having noticed Demelza’s distress.

“Is something the matter with the meal?” George asked, eyes narrowed.

Ross’s wife shot him a worried look, even she knew that the wrong combination of words could easily offend their host, and for a moment he too felt that momentary burst of panic. The solution was obvious but not desirable, and after slightly clearing his throat he forced himself to speak.

“Demelza is with child again.” He confessed reluctantly. “Unfortunately, there are certain foods she is current adverse to.”

“Fish in particular.” She added with a small grimace. “I don’t mean any offence.”

A spectrum of emotions crossed George’s face with that revelation, beginning with shock and ending with an impressive façade of pleasure. It did not escape Ross’s notice the very brief expression of smug satisfaction that appeared once the surprise had worn away, and he inwardly squirmed in discomfort. This was not something he had wanted George to know, at least not yet. He still hadn’t told Francis or Elizabeth, and he hated that the man in front of him had been given this news before them. He only hoped that George was unaware that the Trenwith Poldarks were still unsuspecting of Demelza’s current state and he couldn’t use that information to further sow discord between the unhappy couple. He desperately hoped that this didn’t come back to bite them.

“I had no idea.” George said. “Congratulations to you both, you must be so pleased.” He called forward one of the men standing by the sides of the room to remove the offending dish and bring something else for Mrs Poldark. Demelza visibly sagged in relief when the smell was withdrawn and replaced by the savoury aroma of venison steak.

Perhaps he was unaware of his guests’ discomfort, or he was all too observant of it, because George did not allow the subject to drop. He asked them a variety of questions regarding their plans to the future, whether they had already considered possible names. He tried to prod them to find out whether they had informed the rest of their family, but both of them carefully skirted around the question and avoided giving him a definite answer.

Ross eventually managed to skilfully redirect the conversation to the accomplishment of George’s family, and the other man seized the opportunity to give another lengthy speech which proceeded all the way through the dessert course. Demelza shot him an exasperated look, she understood the need for distraction but she wished he had managed it in some other way. All he could do was subtly shrug at her as though to ask if she had a better idea.  

Their mutual boredom, however did not appear to be meant to last. After the dishes were cleared away, and they had returned to the sitting room, the boring discussion was abruptly interrupted by the sudden slam of the door opening.

Instinctively, Ross shot up and placed himself in front of Demelza to shield her from the perceived threat. Much to his surprise, the unexpected visitor turned out to be none other than Keren who was closely followed by an out-of-breath footman that she had clearly managed to evade. What was she doing there? Ross thought to himself in stupefaction. Shouldn’t she be home with Mark?

Keren was positively shaking with rage, and her furious gaze passed right over the equally baffled Ross and Demelza until she firmly zeroed in on George. She immediately stomped over to him, the perfect image of a scorned woman who had found her target. George meanwhile was too shocked to do anything other than step back in astonishment as she promptly began hurling insults at him and beating his chest with her small fists.

“For God’s sake, calm yourself woman!” George finally managed to shout at as he struggled in vain to fend off her attacks. All Ross and Demelza were able to do was look on the scene in utter bewilderment before glancing at each other as though one of them might have a clue as to what exactly was going on.

In the meantime, the footman seemed to finally regain his wits and leap to his master’s aid. None too gently, the man caught Keren’s wildly flailing fists and began the process of dragging her bodily from the room. The former actress had no intention of going that quietly as she kicked violently around herself to try to obtain her release, all the while continuing to scream her fury to everyone in the room.

Ross was unable to comprehend any of what had just happened. Glancing over at George revealed that his old rival was thoroughly dishevelled from the sudden assault and was still looking at Keren in utter indignant horror at her completely break from decorum and any semblance of civility. By this point the footman had managed to get her near the open door, and if anything her struggles had become even more frantic as she came closer to being banished from the property.

“You won’t be able to ignore me forever, George!” She shouted, her rage only thickening her country accent. “Not when I’m the size of a house!”

The size of a house? What did she mean by that? George at least seemed to have grasped her meaning as the colour abruptly drained from his face, and he betrayed his feelings by the worried glance he sent in the married couple’s direction. His abrupt change in behaviour was not out of surprise at what she had said, Ross realised, but out of fear that his guests understood what she meant. Beside him, he heard Demelza gasp suddenly as she finally managed to connect the dots, even while he was still unable to.

With an unexpected burst of viciousness, Keren bit down harshly on her captor’s hand causing him to suddenly release her with a flurry of expletives as he clutched at the injured limb. Having escaped his grip, she turned her fiery gaze back at George who seemed to have suddenly found the sense to immediately move behind a table in an attempt to keep at least some distance between him and her.

“Coward! Fool!” She screamed as she tried to reach for him in order to return to beating him senseless. Using the table as a barrier, George continued to evade her while calling for some more men to come assist in getting “this crazed woman” away from him. It occurred to Ross that he should probably do something to help as this would aid him in his efforts to maintain a cordial friendship with the man, but he still felt too confused. What on earth was going on? How did these two completely unrelated people from different walks of life know each other?

“This is your fault, George, your baby!” Keren shouted. “If you don’t help me, I swear to all the gods above that I will tell everyone about it!”

To Ross it seemed as though the world came to a grinding halt as the realisation finally hit him. George and Keren had an affair. Somehow this was even worse than what had happened in the past, now there was a child involved. After everything he had done, all the work he had put in to warn off Dwight and through Demelza try to reconcile Keren to her new life, all of it had come to naught. Mark would be beyond furious, there was just no telling just what he might do if he came to know of all that had transpired. No, Ross suddenly realised. The situation was not yet completely irreparable. Keren may have still continued with her adulterous ways but she was alive. He could still fix this.

Unaware of the turn of his thought, Demelza brave as anything and unheading of Keren’s wrath, had swept past both him and George in order to very gently take the other woman into her arms. As though exhausted from the weight of her outburst and of finally confessing aloud something that had plagued her for who knows how long, Keren crumpled in his wife’s grip. Her screams replaced by hoarse sobbing into the green material of her dress. Demelza spoke to her quietly and soothingly, lightly stroking her hair as though she was dealing with a taller and more feminine version of William after a nightmare.

Looking back over at George, revealed a different side to the man that Ross knew. He was horrified, no doubt already seeing how any semblance of a respectably reputation would go up in flames due to his misjudged dalliance with a married woman far beneath him in station. He would probably do anything to keep this news from getting out.

Ross paused as the full ramifications of this new thought occurred to him. In spite of the dire nature of this situation and of the woman crying just a few feet away, he could feel the corner of his lips start to twist into a smirk. Oh, how the tables had turned. It was now his turn to feel a very satisfying feeling of smug superiority. Perhaps it was high time for him to acquire a favour off of George.

Chapter Text

In the aftermath of Ross’s inward revelation and the colossally disastrous turn the evening had taken, George appeared to be frozen in place, mortification casting a large shadow across his face. At the moment, he was lost, clearly without a clue as to what to do. If Ross had liked the man, he would have felt sorry for him. But as much as he would have enjoyed leaving George to stew in his own mess, there was an advantage to be had that he would be loathe to miss out on. He would need to act quickly though, at some point George would snap back to reality and likely return to his attempts at removing Keren from the property.

Looking over at the woman that was the source of his current problems, Ross couldn’t help but feel a burst of irritation even though she was currently inconsolable in his wife’s arms. What on earth had she been thinking? To have an affair with George of all people. He wondered whether she had been dazzled by the grand estate and obvious wealth, he couldn’t think of any other reason why someone like her would go from Mark to Dwight to George.  Still, he thought shamefully, no matter her idiocy she did not deserve to lose her life. He would make sure she was kept safe.

As though his wife was aware of his distracted thoughts, Ross felt himself brought back to reality by Demelza’s dark glare and the way the shape of her lips changed as she mouthed something at him- do something. He gave her a short subtle nod, and swiftly made his way to George’s side.

“Keren is one of my tenants.” He brusquely informed the other man, who turned to stare at him uncomprehendingly. “So is her husband. He isn’t a very even-tempered man, I suspect he will fly into a rage when he discovers the truth.”

“He already knows!” Keren bawled from a few metres away, and George went pale. Ross wondered whether he had ever considered the threat of an angry husband when he had engaged in this badly thought out dalliance.

Ignoring Keren’s declaration, Ross continued to speak calmly to George. “I might be willing to provide some assistance on this matter, if that would be acceptable.”

“It would be acceptable.” George said immediately, barely giving him the chance to finish his sentence. “I would be eternally grateful for any help you could provide.”

Ross didn’t doubt it, he would be desperate to make this information go away. It was no wonder he was practically biting his hand off for the offer. George had no honour, he would not do as he had done all those years ago and marry a woman he had ruined. He would consider it beneath him, the cad.

Now was not the time to dwell on his dislike of the man though, he had a plan to formulate. Keren would not be able to stay in the area, that was for certain. He could not risk Mark ever finding her and lashing out in his fury as he had the last time. She would have to leave, likely to another county. Somewhere sleepy and out of the way enough that no one would ask too many questions, or think to look towards. If he recalled correctly, one of the soldiers under his command back during the war by the name of John, lived in a small rural village several hours drive from here. The ideal location to send Keren. Ross had saved that man’s life, so John owed him a favour. Perhaps now was the time to call it in, the man had always been keen to repay him.

Ross relayed this information to George. “She’ll need to be sent away. I have an associate in a different county who would probably be willing to source appropriate accommodation for her within the next few weeks.”

Far from seeming relieved to finally have some sort of plan in motion, George only looked more panicked. “But what if she comes back? She could ruin my chances of a good marriage, and my excellent standing in the community!”

Ross was disgusted. There was a woman pregnant with his child, and that was what he was focussing on?! He was worried he wouldn’t be able to make an advantageous match with some wealthy heiress, and of losing his non-existent positive relationship with his neighbours. Almost no one in the area liked George, they just all owed him money. At least that latter point reminded him of a rather important aspect of the plan that would be going ahead.

“You’ll need to send her money.” He explained. “Enough for her and the child to live relatively comfortably.” He lowered his voice somewhat so the women couldn’t hear. “If she comes back, you threaten to cut her off. Simple enough. Not that she will, I will make sure of it.” He would be having his own talk with Keren, and at the end of it he hoped he would permanently dissuade any idea she might have about returning to the town to try to extort anything else from George.

“Of course.” George said eagerly, seeming calmer now that things had been explained in nice easy terms that he could understand. Trust a banker to think of the monetary benefit to risk considerations. “Do whatever is necessary, I will pay for it.”

“You will.” Ross agreed. He caught Demelza’s eye who had been carefully watching and listening on even while continuing to comfort the other woman. She nodded to him, and seemed to quietly whisper something to Keren.

“Leave?” The distraught woman mumbled.

“Yes. You’ll come to Nampara with me and my husband.” Demelza told her soothingly, and slowly guided her from the room, succeeding where all the footman had failed, to remove Keren from the area.

With the two women now gone, George moved over to the sideboard and poured himself a large glass of whisky which he promptly downed.

“I am incredibly grateful for this.” He told him wearily.

“Goodbye George, thank you for dinner.” Ross returned, trying hard to hold back sarcasm. And without a backward look, he turned on his heels and followed the two ladies out of the manor.

Back at Nampara, he quickly got to work writing letters of enquiry both to John and a few other men he knew around the country that might be able to assist him with this delicate matter. He was being very careful regarding the details, knowing the importance of appearances, and only ever referred to Keren as a young pregnant widow who needed help with finding suitable accommodation.

Working at the dining table so he could keep an eye on the two women currently occupying his house, he kept an ear open to listen in on their conversation. Keren appeared to have calmed considerably now she realised that her situation was being taken of, and her mood had quickly turned back to anger against the man who had slighted her.

“What a fool you must think of me.” She told Demelza. “I think it often enough. I never should have taken up with the damned George, he isn’t man enough. He can’t even deal with his own problems by himself, instead leaving a lackey to clean up his own mess.”

Ross’s writing hand stilled, holding the nib of the pen poised over the paper, as her backhanded insult struck home. He wanted to be angry with her, but he knew she was only speaking the truth. He was George’s lackey, and he hated the feeling. He only hoped whatever favour he could extract from his enemy would be worth the humiliation of doing his dirty work.

As he returned to scribbling, he was faintly aware of Demelza’s voice in the background, scolding Keren for her callousness and reminding her exactly who was helping her and that they could quite easily throw her to the wolves should they be inclined to. Chastened, Keren apologised seeming genuinely apologetic. She hadn’t seemed to have realised how insulting her words would sound, surprising for someone who had so often worked with the written word and its emotional impact.

With a small flourish, Ross finished up the final touches on his last letter, and bundled them together to form a small package. He called for Jud who strangely enough turned up immediately, if looking a little bit under the weather from a heavy night of drinking the day before. Looking at him a little sceptically, Ross handed him the wad of correspondence.

“Take that to town to be delivered.” He told him, hoping that his letters would actually reach the postal service and not be lost on the way.

Jud nodded vaguely, swaying a little on the spot, before departing from the room wordlessly to do as he was bid. Ross watched him with worry, but seeing that his servant had successfully managed to make it to the front door without falling flat on his face, he pushed aside any remaining concerns. 

Moving over to the two women seated in the chairs by the fire, Ross cleared his throat in order to get their attention and end Keren’s continuing rant about George’s general uselessness.

“I’ve contacted some old military friends of mine in order to try to find somewhere far away from Cornwall for you to stay.” He told her. “There’s a cover story you’ll have to stick to. I’ve informed them that you are a recent widow whose husband died tragically, and that you want a change of scenery to raise your child away from all those terrible memories.” He recited summarily.

“Why though?” Keren asked, face scrunched up as though she couldn’t understand the need for such secrecy and discretion.

Ross resisted the urge to sigh with impatience, and instead gritted his teeth as he explained it to her. “We need to maintain some semblance of propriety. I cannot tell them that you are an adulterer that fears what your husband might do to you should you stay here, as they might not wish to help you.”

“They should meet Mark then,” Keren snorted, “they’d understand plenty fast.”

“I doubt it.” He replied drily.

“What about money?” She demanded. “I won’t be able to work with a baby on the way. Even my old troupe wouldn’t take me back in that kind of state. I ain’t leaving George to get off scot free just to end up living in poverty.”

“Money won’t be an issue.” He told her. “George will send you a regular allowance, a reasonable amount that will enable you and your child to live in relative comfort. If he ever stops making repayments, you can just threaten to return and wreak havoc on his life. I assure you, that should be enough to ensure he doesn’t become remiss in his duties.” He paused to glare at her. “Don’t expect to be able to use that to try to extort more money from him though. George is a dangerous man to cross.”

Being reassured of her financial status seemed to bring a similar change over Keren that had occurred when he had used similar tactics on George. She relaxed immediately, sinking back into the chair and resting a hand over her abdomen. She looked very pleased with how things had turned out for her, and Ross couldn’t exactly blame her. If all went according to plan, she would likely spend the rest of her days in more comfort than if she had remained with Mark. As foolish as she may have been, she at least had the sense to realise that George would never have married her and at no point had ever demanded as much. All she had wanted from this mess was to get away from Mark and be adequately provided for, and Ross would be able to obtain both on her behalf. 

“Until the arrangements are made, you will stay with us.” He told her. “You will have to remain indoors at all times, away from the windows and doors in case anyone sees you.”

“That’s ridiculous.” Keren protested. “You can’t keep me under house arrest.” He certainly could, he thought grimly, it was better than risking Mark find her.

“Fine, don’t listen to me then.” Ross said drily. “But don’t blame me if Mark sees you or hears of you staying here and comes to confront you for himself. If he does I assure you, you’ll have more to worry about than a small dose of claustrophobia.”

His words had the intended effect as they took all fight out of the small woman, she quieted immediately and looking away from him she nodded her agreement to his conditions.

Satisfied that she had been appropriately dealt with and there was nothing else he could do for her while he waited for responses to his letters, Ross put on his coat and made preparations to leave.

“Where are you going?” Demelza asked, looking up at him curiously.

“I am going to see Mark.” He told her. “To calm him down and make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid.”

Within a short amount of time, Ross arrived at the home he had let out to Keren and Mark. Dismounting his horse, he made his way to the door and raised his hand as though to knock. He paused as he heard the sounds of crashing and of wood breaking. Ignoring politeness, he dropped his hand from the door and reached for the handle to fling it open.

Inside Mark was in the midst of completely upending his home. Anything that had been fragile now lay strewn in broken fragments across the floor, and half of the furniture was either in a state of disarray or on the floor where it had been thrown. Some items looked irreparably damaged from the force that had been used, and Ross had to take a few steps back in surprise as he suddenly wished for one absurd moment that he had brought a gun. He knew academically of course that Mark had strangled Keren to death, and that he was capable to such huge acts of violence, but seeing it now in the flesh was something else.

Finally realising the presence of his visitor, Mark who had been breathing heavily from the exertion of his work, dropped the chair leg he had been holding in a white-knuckle grip, and he whirled to face him. Ross stood his ground, and with the air of disapproval he pretended to eye the carnage in front of him distastefully.

“I can’t say I approve of you destroying your own home.” Ross commented.

“You would if you knew what I know.” Mark growled. “If your wife was whoring around the town, you’d want your revenge just as much as me.”

As though he suddenly realised something aggravating, the larger man took a few unsteady steps towards Ross, eyes narrowing to a sword-sharp focus. “Of course, you knew all along what a harlot Keren was, you even tried to warn me not to marry her! Perhaps she tried to entice you with her charms as well.”

“Even if she had, I wouldn’t have done anything about it.” Ross told him levelly. “I respect you too much.” There were other reasons as well, but he didn’t think Mark would take it too well if he informed him that attached or not he wouldn’t have touched Keren with a barge pole. “I am sorry that your marriage didn’t work out.” He told him sincerely. “I wanted it to, and I wish I could have done more to help.”

“What do you know about mistakes?” Mark demanded. “I bet you ain’t ever made a mistake in your perfect life.”

“I have, Mark. I have done so many stupid things I regret.” Ross told him darkly. “I spent the longest time thinking I was in love with Elizabeth, until eventually I discovered I wasn’t in love with her but the idea of her. While I was at war I put her on this pedestal that she could never hope to live up to. You’ve made the same mistake with Keren. You saw her as this glamorous actress that would be willing to settle down for a quiet life as a miner’s wife, you didn’t see her as the person she truly was. You loved an idea, Mark, not a woman.”

This declaration seemed to take most of the rage out of Mark, but he still looked as though he was going to interject with disagreement. Ross raised a hand to silence him, which to his surprise worked.

“When I found out she was to marry Francis, I almost did something utterly stupid out of anger and jealousy. Something I would have bitterly regretted if I had ever carried it out. I don’t want you to go on that same path, it might seem as though it will make you feel better, but believe me it will do far more harm than good.”

His somewhat edited version of the events of his past seemed to be enough to finally calm Mark, who finally slumped in exhaustion against an upside-down table.

“You need some time to cool off.” Ross told him gently, coming to his side and resting a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Some time away from here to give you some perspective. I know someone who owns a mine a few hours away from here. I can arrange for you to go work for him for a while. The pay is good, and the change of scenery will no doubt help you to move on from Keren’s betrayal and see things more clearly.”

Ross knew the man through his dealings with the Carnmore Copper Company, and he knew that he had recently been considering hiring some more men to increase copper extraction. A few well-placed words and Mark would have a new place to work well away from all the terrible memories, without having to spend the rest of his life on the run for murder.

Mark nodded tiredly. “You’re right. Thank you, Ross.”

Over the next few weeks all the arrangements were made. A sad and surly Mark was sent to work at another mine, apparently with great success according to the letters Ross would receive from his new employer. With time he would begin to heal from the wounds that had been inflicted, and while he may still have been upset at least it was better than the alternative.

Shortly after, Keren too departed from his company. Her transport all bought and paid for by George Warleggan, as it ought to have been. She had been in bright spirits upon her departure, no doubt looking forward to a relatively bright future ahead of her, a far cry from her premature death that had happened the last time around.

Before Ross could truly consider the matter well and truly dealt with, there was one more thing he had to do. He made a visit to George at his estate, armed with the proposed allowance arrangement he would give to Keren monthly, as well as the channels through which it would occur. George signed it without any grumbles, seeming to be just relieved to have the matter dealt with and behind him. He had once again tried to profusely thank him for his help, but Ross had simply gently reminded the other man that this time he owed him a favour.

Chapter Text

Having now celebrated the success of putting the matter of Keren and Mark behind him while avoiding inadvertent tragedy, Ross allowed himself a rare moment of respite. His careful handling of the situation was possibly his greatest success since his return, and he was keen to continue this positive streak, starting by mending the fraught relationship between Francis and Elizabeth. He was sure that if they were given the chance to reconnect and bond again that they would be able to put aside some of the unpleasant feelings between them. Unfortunately, as it turned out, he was forced to put a temporary hold on that plan as his next few months were spent with his thought occupied with a great number of other matters.

After a year of its tenuous existence, the Carnmore Copper Company was finally expanding. While this meant that Ross’s income was beginning to increase, it also meant long hours spent negotiating contracts and many days away from home as he travelled around working for the business. He disliked being away from his wife and son for so long, but he knew he couldn’t stop now. The business would soon reach the point where even George would be unable to do anything to halt its progress, for which Ross was truly grateful. Once it reached that point, he would be able to relax a little but until then he would always feel a little concerned about its future as well as his own.

The favour George owed him still weighed heavily on his mind, and he was truly temped to ask that his old enemy never interfere with his thriving business or its investors. It would be an added safeguard and would allow him to rest more easily. But as with his goal of spending time with Francis and Elizabeth, time got away from him and he was unable to spend more than a few moments in George’s company where he could have made his request known. It did not overly concern him, the bank owner was still no closer to discovering the company’s investors so the matter could wait.  

What couldn’t wait was the rapidly advancing stage of Demelza’s pregnancy, and to Ross’s chagrin he still hadn’t informed the rest of his family of her expecting state. He hadn’t meant to put it off this long, but he had barely had time to think let alone visit his family. Demelza had been unable to make a visit and let them know herself as she had more or less been housebound, busy looking after the household and managing the mine while he was away. He had never been more grateful for the fact that he had married a miner’s daughter who had a good idea of how to handle such matters, and he had been exceedingly proud of her with every letter that reached him about current progress.

As successful as his professional life was progressing, there was a darkness just over the horizon. It had crept up on him like the slow advance of an army, and before Ross even knew what was happening the first cases of putrid throat were being reported in the area. He had been putting the whole mess off, desperate to avoid all the awful memories associated with this time, only this time he had even more to worry about. It wasn’t just Julia’s life at risk, and no doubt her death would be even more likely this time around since she had not yet been born. At the moment she still vulnerably resided in Demelza’s womb, and that alone put his beloved wife and daughter at even greater risk than before. As if that wasn’t worrying enough, he had another child to consider. William might not have existed in his other life, but that didn’t mean he cherished his son any less than his other children.

Even though he had tried to avoid thinking about it, at the back of his mind it had always lingered and some part of him had been arguing over different plans until eventually he settled on a course of action. Ross’s solution to avoiding losing anyone he loved was simple enough- a complete quarantine. No one would leave or enter the house until the sickness passed. He had been keeping money aside secretly and spending it on building a large store of cured meats and other non-perishable foods to help them last throughout the miserable period of time. With news of the sickness spreading in the surrounding villages, he knew it was finally time to enforce the quarantine on his household, but before he could do that there were a number of visits he had to make. Knowing Dwight as he did, the medic was the first person Ross decided to speak to. 

“Is that not a little extreme?” Dwight said when he explained his plans to him.

“It certainly isn’t.” Ross replied insistently. “Demelza can’t afford to become sick, she’s carrying another child. She wouldn’t survive it.”

Her condition was not yet well known by the populace. The only person that could have spread rumours about it was George, and it was a testament to the mortification the man felt in the aftermath of that revelation that he had not felt the need to spread the news, for which Ross was grateful for. He didn’t want Francis and Elizabeth to find out he would soon be having another child from someone his cousin was currently feuding with. Ignorant of Ross’s concerns, Dwight’s eyes widened in surprise and understanding.

“Of course, you’re completely right.” He shook his head slightly in amazement. “Would you like me to stay nearby, in case someone still becomes infected?” It was a very kind gesture, but one that Ross had to refuse.

“You know I would, Dwight. And I thank you for the offer, but you and I both know that you would much prefer to be trying to help as many people as possible.” The sheepish smile Dwight sent him response told Ross he had guessed correctly, and he was warmed even further by the offer his dear friend had made. “I will see you again when the sickness has passed.” Ross told him solemnly. “Take care of yourself.”

“And you.” Dwight responded, and the two men parted amicably, both concerned that there was a possibility that they would not see each other again.

With Dwight now aware of the situation, the next visit Ross had to make was to Trenwith to inform them of his plans. He knew that Demelza’s visit the last time around, when she had worked so hard to nurse the family back to health, had only really served to put her and Julia’s life at risk. He didn’t want a repeat of that awful chain of events, and while he was sure that he could convince his wife to follow his orders, he didn’t want any pleading letters requesting assistance that might weaken her resistance and compel her to sneak away.

As he was led into the parlour where Charles and Elizabeth were waiting, he was pleased to note that there did not yet appear to be any signs of sickness in the few remaining servants or on his family’s faces. He would not have been able to forgive himself if after all this preparation he was the one that ended up transferring the sickness to Demelza and William.

“Is something the matter, Ross?” Francis asked in concern, seeming to notice the stressed and grim look on his cousin’s face.

“Hopefully not.” He explained mysteriously before elaborating. “I’ve come by to let you know that Demelza and I will not be making or receiving any calls over the next few weeks, and to ask if you might let others know should you speak to anyone who might feel inclined to visit us.”

“No calls?” Elizabeth asked in bafflement, disappointment colouring her voice. “I was planning on seeing your wife next week, it seems so long since we last spoke. May I ask for the reason behind your decision?” 

“With the sickness going around, I’ve decided for the sake of William and Demelza to keep Nampara under a strict quarantine until it passes.” He explained and briefly hesitated. “Demelza is carrying another child, and William is still so young. Should any one of us become sick, it would spread through the entire household and I fear that they might not all survive.”

Ross suspected they had not heard much past the revelation of his wife’s expectant state based on the way they had both immediately stiffened as the words had passed his lips. He wondered whether the lack of a child following on from Geoffrey Charles had only worsened the existing tension between them.

The seconds seemed to slowly trickle by in silence until eventually Elizabeth remembered herself. “Demelza is having another baby? How… lovely for you both. You must be so pleased.” She congratulated him with a tight smile.

The same sentiment was shortly echoed by her less enthusiastic her husband, who took the opportunity to shoot her a dark look that she ignored.

“Perhaps we too should consider doing the same, regarding the illness.” Elizabeth suggested hastily, turning the focus of the conversation away from the difficult subject of children and back towards the reason he had stopped by in the first place.

“I would have to agree, it is a nuisance but it is better to be safe.” Ross advised. Amidst the drunken haze of his memories of that time, he faintly recalled how weak and pale Elizabeth had been from the illness. He still cared for her as a member of his family, and if he could help her avoid that fate he would. Unaware of the innocence of his feelings, any forced cheer on his cousin’s face faded as his eyes flashed briefly with anger.

“I’ll take it under consideration.” Francis said coldly. “We have several important errands we’ll need to run into town in order to sell part of the harvest we have collected. Unlike some, we can’t afford to put off work just to hole up nice and safe in our home. We are strong and healthy, I’m sure we can cope with a little sickness.”

For a while, all Ross could do was stare at him with blank bewilderment. Francis’s short speech had screamed of poorly thought-out arrogance, jealousy and pride. In that moment, he was bitterly reminded of his own young idiotic self. He had done so many stupid things in his past, barely taking into consideration his own safety, but even he knew that no matter how proud he was he would not have compromised his family’s safety. Francis had no good reason to stick to this path, and Ross could see his own concern reflected by Elizabeth and realised he would have to intervene before she could. As well-meaning as she could be, the wrong words spoken by her would only serve to force Francis to stubbornly stick by his decision regardless of rationality.

“Perhaps.” He commented calmly. He would need to tread carefully, gently guiding Francis to the right decision rather than trying to force him into a corner. “But I don’t think it’s a risk worth taking. Aunt Agatha is getting old, she isn’t as strong as she used to be and a sickness could weaken her.” He would have cited Geoffrey Charles as a better reason, but he thought that Francis might more easily see through such manipulative tactics.

“Like I said,” Francis said frostily, “I’ll take it under consideration.”

With the atmosphere turning chilly, and Ross knowing that if he pushed the matter any further it would only be counterintuitive, he wished them well and swiftly parted from the estate.

Much to his chagrin, it was now time to inform Demelza of his decision.

Demelza did not take the news nearly as well as Dwight or his cousins had, in fact to say she had taken it badly would have been an understatement. She had thrown an apple at his head, and if Ross hadn’t been so concerned over her health he might have laughed at the ridiculousness of it.

“What do you mean I can’t leave?” She cried out in outrage, only to wince in regret as William turned up a set of baleful eyes at her. He had never liked it when they argued, and she immediately rushed to his side to reassure him that “Mama and Papa weren’t arguing, we were just having a loud discussion”. Within moments she had effectively sent him away with Jinny to play in the fields so she could return her irate glare in his direction.

“It is for your own safety.” Ross told her calmly, before she could resume shouting at him. “It is just until the sickness passes.”

“I’m not an invalid, Ross!” She pointed out irately, despite the fact she was now heavily pregnant and appeared at risk of giving birth at any moment. But the look in her eyes was defiant enough that Ross suspected that without further intervention she might wilfully go out just to spite him.

“Demelza, if you go out and you get sick,” he told her seriously, “it is more than just yourself at risk.” He gave a none too subtle look outside the window at their child and then to her distended abdomen. She flushed in embarrassment as she realised that he was right, and shuffled about on her feet with her gaze fixed contritely on the ground.

“I’m sorry.” She said softly, and moved closer to him so she could lean her head against his chest.

“I know it will be difficult,” he said, securing his arms around her, “but I’m not doing this to punish you.” He felt her nod against him and he tightened his grip as he allowed his gaze to the window to focus on his son as William ran after Garrick the dog laughing happily, completely oblivious to the danger he was in.

Ross wouldn’t let any of them be taken from him this time.

Time seemed to pass at a snail’s pace as the quarantine progressed. In addition to his meeting with Dwight at the start of the outbreak, Ross had informed his tenants of the temporary self-imposed exile and asked that they inform anyone trying to reach the Nampara estate. The miners had understood and sympathised, and judging by the total lack of traffic reaching the estate, Ross had to assume they had taken the request very seriously.

He hoped that they were all coping well. He had extended an invitation to Jinny and her child to stay with them, and after a long discussion with Jim she had agreed. Jim wasn’t able to stay with them since he still needed his wages from the mine, but had agreed that for the sake of the safety of his wife and child he would stay away from Nampara until the sickness had passed. Ross had also asked him to keep an eye on the running of the mine and to make sure that any sick workers go home with the assurance that they would still receive their pay. He didn’t want his loyal workers going to work ill and potentially spreading the sickness because they feared not being able to feed their families.

At Nampara, he kept his days busy by playing with William and helping his wife prepare for the arrival of their new child. She was expected to go into labour any day now, and with the quarantine in effect it meant they had plenty of time on their hands to dust off William’s old crib and make sure they had all the provisions they needed for when the child would come.

With every day that passed it seemed more and more likely that the quarantine would still be in place when the baby was ready to be born, meaning they would be unable to summon a doctor to assist with the delivery. It wasn’t too much of a concern, Demelza had already dealt with the ordeal of going into labour by herself (Francis had been there but he had really only been emotional support rather than actually being helpful) and this time she had Jinny, who had assisted with the births of some of her siblings, who would be there to help. The alternative would have been Prudie by her side, and Ross suspected his wife was incredibly grateful that the similarly-aged woman she was close to had decided to stay with them for the duration of the quarantine.

“I hope Francis and his family are well.” Demelza commented on evening as she worked on knitting a jumper for William. The new arrival they were expecting had spurred her to make a dozen or so different clothing items for the child they were expecting. She had recently decided that their already existing child might feel left out and had turned her attention to making him garments, despite the fact that same child was more interested at the moment in running around in circles like a madman and seemed completely uninterested in acquiring a new wardrobe.

“I am sure they will be fine.” He replied. “They are strong and healthy, if they do get sick they will recover.”

Because of the quarantine they had not received any news since the outbreak had begun, so Ross was still unaware as to whether his cousin had chosen to heed his advice or whether he had ignored it outright. Still he remembered bitterly, not attempting any sort of barrier to prevent disease had not ended too badly for them the last time around. It had been Julia who had paid the ultimate price.

Demelza had begun to make some sort of reply to his comment when she had stopped suddenly and looked down at her enlarged abdomen in alarm.

“What is it?” He asked, immediately rushing to her side and taking her hand.

“Go get Jinny.” She ordered him. “I think the baby is coming.”

The new few hours passed by in a blur as Jinny upon seeing the look on her employer’s face, swiftly booted him out of the room and took charge of the situation. He had paced the hallway anxiously, listening to his wife’s pained cries, only to eventually return to her side when she demanded his presence.

At Jinny’s urging, he had gently held Demelza’s hand and done his best to comfort her which seemed only to irritate his wife and caused her to squeeze his hand to the point of pain as though she wanted him to feel at least some of the agony she was currently experiencing.

A long while later when her cries had gradually quieted, a new and painfully familiar voice filled the room with sound. Julia. The daughter he had failed, now finally returned to him. Jinny gently placed the small squirming bundle into her mother’s arms and quietly excused herself from the room to give the couple and their new child some privacy.

Even exhausted as she was, there was no doubting that Demelza instantly loved the child. It was as though she had completely forgotten the pain and struggles of the last few hours, because the outcome had been so worth it. She cooed happily over the baby, and for a moment Ross’s heart tightened with pain as he remembered how devastated she had been when he had been forced to tell her about Julia’s fate. It hadn’t happened, he reminded himself forcefully. She was here and she was safe.

Luckily, with his wife’s attention drawn elsewhere she was unaware of the distinctly unhappy thoughts running through Ross’s mind. By the time she remembered his presence, and turned to him with a bright contented grin to offer him his daughter, he had been able to empty his face of emotion.

For a second Demelza noticed his lack of enthusiasm and her smile wavered. He could easily read her worries on her face. She was scared he was disappointed that she had not given him another son. Plastering on a grin, Ross carefully took the baby from her. The smile turned genuine as he took in those small familiar features. Julia, just as perfect as the original day she’d been born.

“She’s beautiful, Demelza.” He told her in awe, and leaned over to kiss her affectionately on the forehead. He could see her relax as she realised that whatever mood had possessed him had faded.

“You’re happy, aren’t you?” She asked.

“I am.” He confirmed, angry that his own memories had soured the moment for them. With a tender touch, Ross lightly stroked Julia’s cheek and renewed his vow that this time he wouldn’t fail, he would keep her safe.

“What should we call her?” Demelza asked, gaze lovingly focussed on the child she had just brought into the world.

“Julia.” Ross said without hesitation.

“Julia.” She sounded out, the baby giving a happy gurgle at the name. “I think she likes it.” His wife said, turning to him with a grin, all worries and fears gone.

The next few weeks after Julia’s birth passed by with relative ease. The only aspect that marred the experience of having a newborn in the house, was Ross’s continued paranoia over her health which he could tell was beginning to irritate the rest of the household. They had received news that the sickness had all but faded from the surrounding areas, but much to everyone else’s annoyance he insisted on upholding the quarantine for another week just to be on the safe side.

As soon as their self-imposed exile had been tentatively lifted, Ross decided to make his way into town to see how the rest of the citizens had fared and to reassure himself that the sickness has indeed passed. As he walked along the cobbled streets, he felt a distinct sense of unease. There something very eerie about the atmosphere of the town that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. It was to be expected that the general mood of the people would be dour after the sickness that had swept through as it had no doubt taken more than a few well-loved lives with it. Still the more he searched around himself for an explanation, the more he noticed the pitying glances from people that quickly looked away from him as soon as they locked gazes.

The doubt continued to build as he walked. He was getting the sick sense that he was missing some crucial piece of information of great importance. Perhaps it would be best to return home and make discrete enquiries as to what may have happened during his prolonged absence.

It was only when he saw Mrs Chynoweth, Elizabeth’s mother, dressed in the black clothes of mourning and walking around dazed as though unable to comprehend her surroundings, that the sensation of dread that coiled in his stomach solidified to horror. Her blank stare met his and it seemed to take her a moment to recognise who he was. As soon as she did, her directionless movement changed to a more focussed stride as she made her way over to him. She did not need to dodge the people in her way, as the small crowd that divided them parted like the red sea before her.

As she reached him, Ross noticed that the eyes of that stubborn matriarch were rimmed red from an extended period of crying. Something horrible had happened, and it was the words she said next that confirmed his fearful suspicions.

“You need to go to Trenwith.” She said, trembling visibly. She looked as though she was going to say something else but before she was able to vocalise it, she was overcome with emotion and buried her face into her hands.

Ross barely noticed, already having turned around to change direction as he ran from the town in his haste to get to his cousin’s home. 

Chapter Text

Ross’s mind was racing with all sorts of horrifying possibilities as he galloped to Trenwith. Someone there had perished. Francis. Geoffrey Charles. Aunt Agatha. Elizabeth. It could have been any one of them. Maybe even more than one of them.

A thought crossed his mind. Brief and minute and harsh enough to make his heart squeeze painfully with guilt. He hated himself for ever thinking it, but in that one moment he had wished the cruel fate on Elizabeth if it had meant the illness had spared his family. It wasn’t that he wished her dead or didn’t care for her, but he remembered just how much heartache she had caused. No, he firmly reprimanded himself as his journey continued. He was trying to deflect the blame. He had been just as responsible if not more than her for the mess he had made of his marriage and life. She did not deserve to die anymore than anyone else.

As he reached the estate, the signs of mourning were unmistakable. Black fabric waved ominously in the breeze of the day from the points where it had been hung. A warning sign to visitors that death had visited recently. Except for the wind and his horse’s breathing, the atmosphere was eerily quiet. The sounds of a busy house, with servant travelling to and fro, were totally absent and only worsened the dread Ross was feeling.

A servant dressed in black with red-rimmed eyes answered the door, and without saying a word guided him to Charles’s old study. The room was familiar to Ross, and in not all together a positive way. He remembered that in his younger years, when he and Francis would get into all kinds of mischief, they were often brought here together for a stern tongue-lashing from the Poldark patriarch.

The desk that old cantankerous man had so often sat behind was now occupied by Francis. The initial rush of relief that Ross felt at the sight of his cousin, alive and well, faded as he took in his obvious grief. Francis had not even noticed their entrance, nor when the servant who had brought Ross in disappeared back into the house as quiet as a ghost.

Francis’s face wasn’t visible as his head was in his hands, supported by his elbows leaning on the dark wood of the desk. He hadn’t stirred at all. Ross would have mistaken him for a statue if it weren’t for the ever so faint sound of his breathing.

He approached his cousin carefully, wary of startling him too severely. He knew now that Francis was unharmed, but it didn’t answer the more prevalent question he had on his mind about who had passed. A part of him hoped desperately that he was wrong, that Mrs Chynoweth had been mistaken about a death at Trenwith, but in his heart he knew that this was just wishful thinking.

“Francis.” He called gently, trying to get his attention. It didn’t work, but the silence gave him a moment with which to examine him. What he saw did not lift his spirits. Francis looked to have aged ten years overnight, skin pale and clammy with distinct red patches that marked tear tracks. 

“Francis.” He called again, a little more loudly this time. He seemed more successful, as his cousin stirred briefly before slowly raising his head to meet Ross’s gaze.

What Ross saw in Francis’s eyes made him take a step back. There was something broken about him. Something strange but yet, hauntingly familiar. While he had never seen such desolation painted on Francis’s face, he had seen that same painful mixture of emotions before but on another, and for the moment it escaped him exactly who.

The creak of a door interrupted the moment. “Ross?” an unsteady voice said as a pale-faced Elizabeth emerged from the darkness of another room. Her eyes were red from crying, and from the way she gripped the wall for support, he could see that she was still weak from the illness that had ravaged the household. “Y-you heard about…” Her voice broke mid-sentence.

The horrifying realisation hit him, with all the pain of a punch to the gut and more. And then it struck Ross exactly where he had seen Francis’s expression before. It had not been on Demelza. Her grief over Julia had been immense, full of devastation and regret and a large dose of blame directed inwards towards herself. In that sense, her emotions had resembled Francis’s but there had been no anger mixed in her sadness. What Ross saw in Francis was much darker. Grief and misery, but also bitterness and anger and blame and hatred directed at everyone including himself. It had been the same expression Ross had seen on himself in the rare occasions he had looked at a mirror during the drunken daze that had followed from the loss of Julia.

Geoffrey Charles…

It was as though she read his thoughts. Elizabeth clutched at her chest and let out a heartbroken sob. “My poor baby.” She wept.

Ross moved over to try to comfort her, still struggling to comprehend that the sweet smiling little boy he had known was gone, when a loud bang disrupted the moment. It even seemed to momentarily startle Elizabeth out of her despair, she flinched as though struck by a blow and turned her watery gaze back to her husband.

Francis had slammed his fist on the desk, knuckles bone white from being clenched so hard.

“Get out.” He spoke quietly, in a deathly calm voice that Ross didn’t recognise.

A look of hurt and confusion crossed Elizabeth’s still lovely visage.

“Francis-” she implored.

“GET OUT!” He screamed at her, red faced and with any pretence of calm gone. The glass in his hand went sailing through the air, slamming with a crash into the wall next to Elizabeth. She screamed and covered her face as the broken shards of glass fell to the floor. The glass had been full when it had been flung. A splatter of whiskey had painted a wet stain across her dress, like a slash mark from a sword, while the remaining liquid had made it to the wall, and now dripped down to the ground.

Elizabeth fled the room without a second glance, tears flowing freely down her face. The door slammed behind her, leaving the two men alone. Ross rounded on Francis.

“Francis, what-”

“It’s her fault.” His cousin snapped back. “I did what you said. Quarantined the whole household, but then one of the maids snuck out and she let her back in, and now-” he stopped, so overwhelmed with emotion that he was unable to continue. He collapsed back on the chair, buried his face in his hands and cried.

“I’m so sorry for your loss, Francis.” Ross could not hold his atrocious behaviour against him, not in that moment. The pain was still too raw, he remembered it all too well from Julia’s death. Poor Geoffrey Charles. He had never deserved this fate. And because of Ross, Francis would never see his son grow up.

Hesitantly, he put an arm around the grieving man, trying to give him what little comfort he could. Francis seemed to seize on it, clutching him back as though he was a lifeline stopping him from drifting out to sea. Ross embraced him back like a brother.

Suddenly, and without any warning, Francis pushed him away abruptly.

“I’m sorry,” He said shakily, “I know you’re trying to help, but I can’t be around you right now.”

“Of course, if that’s what you want.” He could understand the need for space to mourn at this time.

“George sent word.” Francis bitterly spat out. “He came in person to deliver his condolences, and couldn’t help but mention that Demelza had given birth to a healthy baby girl.”

The blood drained from Ross’s face. He hadn’t even considered that the news could have travelled to Trenwith, but it had been weeks now since the birth.

“I would give you my congratulations,” Francis huffed a bitter laugh, “but I can’t be happy for you. Not right now.”

“I understand-” Francis cut him off.

“No. You don’t.” He shook his head helplessly. “How could you even begin to understand what we’re going through? You with your two healthy children. God wouldn’t even let me keep one.”

There was nothing Ross could say to that.

“Just go.” Francis said, turning away from Ross. He retrieved a new glass, and poured another large measure into it which he quickly downed.

Helpless and unable to do anything else, Ross left the room.

He found Elizabeth in her bedchamber. She looked as though she had finally run out of tears, and had passed out from exhaustion on her bed, still fully dressed.

Not wanting to disturb her, he made to leave the room, but some innocuous sound or another roused her from her uneasy sleep.

“I’m sorry for waking you. I wanted to make sure you were alright.”

“I don’t think I’ll ever be alright again.” She said groggily, rising to sit up and rubbing her face. “But thank you for your concern. Francis has been in a rage since… since the night it happened.” She couldn’t bring herself to say the words aloud.

“He’s hurting right now. With time, he’ll calm.”

“He’s right though.” Elizabeth said miserably. “It was my fault. If I hadn’t allowed the maid back in-”

“You couldn’t have known.” Ross cut her off before she could blame herself any more. She couldn’t have known, but he did. And he did nothing to stop it. “You were trying to be kind.”

“The maid died.” A strangely haunted look clouded her face. “The day before Geoffrey Charles. It was all for nothing.”

“I’m sorry for everything.” Ross said. “I don’t think there is anything I can say that will make you feel better. But please, try not to blame yourself. I know it is difficult, but you will get through this.”

Demelza had. She had been so much stronger than him, and with hindsight he had marvelled at her strength and resilience. Having Jeremy had helped heal the wound in her heart. The little boy had remained attached at her hip for the first year or so of her life, so scared was she to lose him. But Elizabeth had never had another child with Francis, and childbearing had eventually resulted in her own death.

“Maybe. But I don’t think my marriage will survive this. How can we go on?” She asked sadly. “Geoffrey Charles held us together. He was everything to us.”

“I don’t know.” Ross answered honestly. He could only hope they managed to get past this tragedy, as he and Demelza had.

His exit from Trenwith was much different from his entrance. He sombrely rode from the estate and in the direction of his home. The ride over had tired out his horse, which he now regretted as they slowly travelled. All he wanted was to get back to his children and hold them in his arms.

He passed through town on his way, and was so distracted that he barely heard George Warleggan trying to get his attention.

“Ah Ross,” George greeted. “It has been a while. But given your self-imposed seclusion, that should be expected. How is dear Demelza? Is she quite recovered?”

Given that this was the blow George had struck Francis with, it was miraculous that Ross managed to restrain himself from saying and doing what he really wanted.

“She is.” He managed to say through gritted teeth. “I will let her know you asked after her.”

“Of course, it is terrible to hear what happened to poor Geoffrey Charles. Have you just come from Trenwith?”

“I have.” An idea suddenly struck Ross. “And that reminds me. I wish to call in the favour you owe me.”

“Oh?” George looked surprised.

“I know you are still angry with Francis, but I ask that you stop. He needs a friend more than ever now… and I’m not best placed to fit that at this moment.”

It was not the favour Ross had wanted to ask for. He had originally wanted protection against the Carnmore Copper Company, but this was a more pressing need. Francis needed emotional support. Support that neither he nor Elizabeth could provide.

“Agreed.” George answered with a smile. “I have to admit Ross, I was expecting something far more difficult or costly. I’m almost disappointed.”

“Maybe next time.” Ross replied drily. He made his excuses, and went directly home.

Ross didn’t see Demelza when he arrived, but he wouldn’t have been surprised if after such a long period of being confined to the house, she had left to visit friends or tenants. Jinny was around, keeping an eye on the children as she cleaned the house. He lightly dismissed her and immediately went to William, sweeping the child up into his arms and holding him close. The boy had been happily playing and was a little disgruntled at being interrupted by his emotional father. He wriggled about and complained until he put him down. Ross brushed a hand through the boy’s hair as he ran back off to play.

He went to Julia next. She was asleep, and Ross didn’t want to disturb her so he settled for sitting by her crib and holding her tiny fragile hand.

All the emotions he had supressed over the day came flooding out, and he found himself holding back tears at the part he had played in this whole mess. The worst part was knowing the truth. Would he have done anything differently if he had known Geoffrey Charles would have died? Could he really have chosen to risk Julia or William or Demelza? The sad reality was that no, he wouldn’t. He would always pick his family over Francis’s, but that only made him feel more guilty.

It was during this vulnerable moment that Demelza returned.

“I just heard about Geoffrey Charles.” She said, her eyes welling up with tears. “That poor little boy.”

“It’s my fault.” Ross was so out of his mind with guilt that he was barely aware of her presence, and of what he was saying.


“Geoffrey Charles wasn’t supposed to die. I only wanted to save Julia. I didn’t realise it would cause his death.”

“What are you talking about? You sound completely mad!” Demelza snapped, inadvertently waking Julia and causing her to cry. “There was no way you could have known.”

“But I did!” And then a sudden realisation hit Ross. Something he had forgotten about that he should not have. “The shipwreck.” He said to himself, and promptly ran from the room, leaving Demelza shouting questions from behind him.  

He had completely forgotten, but now he remembered and the dates matched. He had heard the date repeated often enough in his trial, but with his worries over Demelza and the children it had slipped his mind. It was already evening, and chances were he had missed the big event.

Indeed, once he finally reached the shore the ship was already broken against the cliffs. Villagers had already arrived and started to pillage the ship. He caught one of them by the scruff of the neck.

“Have you found any survivors?” He snapped at the man. From the downward look, and guilty shuffle it was obvious that a rescue had not been at the top of the priorities.

“Well, get looking.” Ross said darkly. Then more loudly, so he could catch the attention of more of the men and women gathered. “I would certainly hope that if any of you were in a similar situation, that the people who came would help their fellow man before helping themselves.”

Sufficiently shamed, several turned their attentions to looking for survivors in the wreck. Ross joined them, using any available tools and his bare hands to try to free some of the drowning men. Most of their efforts were for naught, but they did save a few which was more than they accomplished the previous time.

Once they’d done all they could, and the wounded had been taken to see physicians, Ross finally decided to go home. If the villagers continued to plunder now, they were welcome to it. All he wanted was to save as many as he could, to make up for the one he could not help. 

By the time Ross reached Nampara, he was still dripping wet and exhausted from his efforts. Demelza had been pacing in the sitting room when he arrived. She took one look at him and immediately went to retrieve a towel. Ross sat before the lit fire, letting its heat ease his shivering. She quickly returned and put the cloth around his shoulders, her hands moving down to rub his arms.

“What on earth happened to you?”

“One of George Warleggan’s ships wrecked on the cliffs.” He explained. “I went to help.”

“You said there was a shipwreck before you left. But how could you have known?” She was looking at him with a mixture of confusion and suspicion. “You said a lot of things that didn’t make sense.”

“I’m sorry if I scared you. I was still in shock over Geoffrey Charles’s death.” He told her. He hoped she would accept this explanation and drop the matter, but a small part of him was tired of all the deceit. Tired of trying to shoulder this burden alone.

“You said that he wasn’t supposed to die. That you were trying to save Julia.”


“But that doesn’t make sense!” She was visibly frustrated. “You couldn’t have known what would happen.”

“But I did.” Ross finally said. “I did because I’ve done all this once before.”

Demelza stared at him, unable to comprehend what he was trying to say. So Ross told her everything. He told her about dying and waking up on that fateful day, decades in the past. Of being given the chance to relive his life and rectify his mistakes. He told her about Elizabeth, and about Francis. He nearly broke down telling her about Julia’s death. The crisis he had adverted by dooming a different child to that tragic fate. All the while during his explanation, Demelza only looked at him and listened. Her face was expressionless, and she said nothing. When he was finally done, she remained quiet.

“I know that you probably don’t believe me. I wouldn’t either if it hadn’t happened to me.”

“I do believe you.” She finally said. “That’s what is so difficult.” She looked hurt, and Ross could guess at the reasons.

“I’m sorry that I kept this from you. But I was such a fool back then, all I wanted was to make things right and I didn’t want to upset you by telling you the truth.”

“What truth is that? That you only married me because of the children we share?” She looked on the verge of tears, and Ross was quick to reassure her.

“No you silly fool. The moment I realised I was back, all I wanted was to be with you.” She didn’t look convinced.

“And what about Elizabeth?”

“I was an idiot.” He said. “I thought I was in love with her for the longest time. But it wasn’t real. I realised within an instant that she meant nothing more to me than as a friend. I could relive my life a thousand times, and the only woman I would ever choose would be you. I love you more than anything.”
He cupped her face, wiping away the tears she had cried.

“Truly?” She asked, voice wavering.

“Truly.” He confirmed. He wrapped her up in his arms and kissed her softly.

Eventually they pulled away from one another, but Ross continued to hold her close. There were no more secrets between them, and despite everything he truly hoped that they could look forward to a better future together.

Chapter Text

After finally telling Demelza about this past, there was an odd few days of adjustment. For the next week or so Ross had kept to himself and continued to wallow in guilt over Geoffrey Charles until Demelza had lost her temper with him. She had been very frank with him and acknowledged that a terrible thing had happened, but at the end of the day they couldn’t have known it would happen and the end result was a living happy Julia. While the guilt never fully went away, Ross found it was more bearable than before.

After helping deal with the shipwreck, Ross had worried for a while that he would be arrested as he had previously. He had done nothing wrong this time, but he still feared that he would be blamed. For one brief selfish moment he had almost regretted getting involved at all, just remembering those months of turmoil he and his family were put through during the trial. He berated himself afterwards for such thoughts. Trying to help had been the right thing to do. In the end, nothing came of the issue. George never accused him on any wrong doing. Instead, Ross had received a formal letter, likely not even written by the man himself, thanking him for his efforts in saving the men. Sampson was still found dead, but Ross was never considered a suspect so the case was left unsolved.

Aside from those few incidents, life went much more smoothly for the Nampara Poldarks. He started to let Demelza know what to expect regarding certain events, and with her help he was able to continue correcting the course of their lives. Within a few months, Ross stepped from the shadows as one of the leaders of the Carnmore Copper Company, confident that there was little George could do at this point. The venture became very profitable, giving them the financial stability that they had previously struggled to achieve. He planned to continue supplementing their income with the tin from Wheal Grace, and with other business opportunities that presented themselves.

George continued to try to befriend him and Demelza. Ross was very careful when it came to these attempts. They accepted enough invitations to remain on good terms with his dangerous opponent, but never allowed for any closer intimacy of friendship. He very politely declined George’s attempts to link their businesses, or begin new ventures together, never fully able to trust him.

As the years went on, Ross and Demelza were closer than ever as their little family continued to expand. Ross took fresh pleasure from raising and getting to know his children, particularly William and Julia who he had not known before. Telling Demelza the truth had lifted a great weight off Ross’s shoulders, but at the same time there came another burden. The knowledge that he would never be able to tell Francis. Unfortunately, while the fate of Ross’s family continued to improve. The same could not be said for the Trenwith Poldarks. As Elizabeth had worried, the couple were not able to get past the death of their son. Their relationship hasn’t been particularly strong before that tragic event, but it had now been broken beyond repair. They lived together as strangers, barely more than cordial to one another.

Just as he had promised, George had extended the hand of friendship to Francis. And with few other options, given his difficulty being around Ross and his family, Francis had accepted it. George had carefully ingratiated himself back into his life, and Ross truly believed that no matter George’s motivations, it had been of help to his cousin. Of course, that had not lasted forever. After a few months, when the searing pain of a lost child had dulled slightly, Ross had helped Francis re-organise his finances. The aim had been to help him and Elizabeth try to get back on their feet. Ross hadn’t counted on Francis using the opportunity to seek comfort from women like Margaret again. It was not a great secret, and only served to further sour things between Francis and his wife.

Much to Ross’s surprise, Elizabeth started calling on Demelza more often. He would have thought she would have stayed away, as Francis had, trying to avoid the painful reminders that the bustling house filled with children would have brought about. But perhaps she had just missed the feel of a child in her arms, a desire that Demelza would not have been cruel enough to deny, even knowing what she did now. With any intimacy between her and Francis rendered non-existent, she could not have hoped for the chance of another child of her own to care for. Or so Ross had thought.

One time, Elizabeth had come calling while Demelza was visiting friends, and only he had been home. He had been polite, offered her refreshments and cordially asked after her and Francis.

“Do you ever have regrets for decisions you made in the past?” She asked.

“Everyone has regrets.” He answered neutrally. “Why?”

“It’s silly.” Elizabeth said dismissively, averting her gaze. “But sometimes, I can’t help but wonder how everything would change, if I had the chance to do it all again.”

She was toying idly with something in her hands, and with a start Ross recognised it as the ring he had returned to her all those years ago. He had thought she would have rid herself of the thing, rather than holding on to it.

“Some events would change,” Ross acknowledged carefully, “but others would remain constant. I think that no matter the circumstances, I would always have been drawn to Demelza. A second chance is a wonderful thing, but it wouldn’t change everything.” It was a subtle put down, a way to firmly quash whatever hopes Elizabeth was alluding to. The words seemed to have the desired effect, and a light dimmed in her eyes. Perhaps now she would finally realise that nothing could or would ever happen between them.

After that day, Elizabeth remained a friend albeit a more distant one. If anything their relationship was more comfortable now that the last uncomfortable hurdle had been cleared. Over time though, Ross found new aspects of her life to worry about. George maintained his closeness with Francis, and particularly Elizabeth. It was not uncommon for George to escort Elizabeth around town, or visit her when Francis was away entertaining other women. The hurt look on her face every time George had to distract her from her husband’s actions slowly dissipated as she grew more immune to Francis’s infidelity. And in parallel, the smug and satisfied look George bore became more and more prevalent.

Ross had not forgotten that George had been infatuated with Elizabeth, but he hadn’t considered that he would be so blatant in his courtship while the woman was still married. He had always seemed to have a measure of restraint in the past, before Francis’s death. But now, with Francis set to live a longer life than before, it seemed as though the other man was starting to lose patience. When the warning signs first started to appear, like the lavish gift of dressmaking silk on Elizabeth’s birthday, Ross had tried to warn Francis. His cousin had laughed off the warning, either disbelieving that Elizabeth would betray him or uncaring.

It turned out later, that it had been the former rather than the latter.

After several months of Ross’s warnings going unheeded, a change came over Elizabeth. Since Geoffrey Charles’s death, there had been a permanent air of melancholy around her. For the first time, it seemed to have lifted. Not entirely, but she appeared more serene and started to smile more. There had been no change in Francis’s behaviour, which told Ross that there was something or someone else lifting her spirits. Much to his surprise, the visits and outings with George stopped soon after, although not for lack of trying on George’s part. Elizabeth appeared to no longer have any need of him, and had tired of his attentions. Instead she spent more time with Demelza and the children, seeming to be content with that.

Ross found out the truth of the matter a while after that, when he found Francis waiting for him at Nampara, pacing the living room in a rage. The truth and accusations came pouring out of him as soon as Ross walked in. It took some time for the unexpected barrage he was assaulted by to sink in.

Elizabeth was with child. Francis hadn’t been with her since before Geoffrey Charles’s death. Francis was certain George was the father. How could she betray him like this? Ross had betrayed him by not warning him of their closeness.

It was like a strange and twisted parody of the events with Valentine. When Ross came back to his senses, he immediately objected to the last of Francis’s accusations. He reminded him sternly that he had warned him about George hanging around Elizabeth and Francis hadn’t taken it seriously. For some reason, it was a struggle for him to reconcile that his infidelity had likely spurned hers on. That it was hypocritical for him to expect her to remain loyal when he was anything but.

Francis broke down when he realised that Ross was not on his side, and that he might have been in the wrong as well as Elizabeth. Shakenly, he asked him what he should do.

“What can you do?” Ross retorted. “You could be unspeakably cruel and throw her out, or you can do the right thing and support her.” Francis did not like either option.

“I won’t have her in my house when she’s carrying on with George.”

“She isn’t anymore.” Ross pointed out simply. Elizabeth had dropped George as soon as she had what she wanted. “Do the right thing.”

Francis had stormed out, but what Ross observed over the next few weeks indicated that he may have taken his advice. In public, Elizabeth and Francis put up a united front, diminishing the rumours of unfaithfulness that had been circling around. Privately, their relationship was still severely strained. Elizabeth’s priority was her unborn child, not her marriage or Francis’s ego.

It might have continued that way, but there were early signs that the pregnancy was a strain on Elizabeth. She tired far more easily than when she had carried Geoffrey Charles, and appeared generally weaker. Her condition melted at least some of Francis’s ire to her. As angry as he might have been about the situation, he did not want her to die. The signs only got worse as her time came nearer, and she ended up bed-ridden for the last month. Demelza had stayed by her side, doing her best to nurse and support Elizabeth, but none of her efforts seemed to work. In tandem, Francis had several doctors come and look at Elizabeth, to try to save both mother and child. All had the same grim outlook, but Francis remained in denial.

As she came closer her time, Elizabeth had summoned up as much strength as she could for a final talk with Francis. She didn’t apologise for what she had done, but she did express regret for how badly their relationship had turned. Not just after Geoffrey Charles, but also before. She admitted that they should probably have never married, because he had always been a better friend to her than a husband. She asked him now, if as a friend, he could promise to care of her baby. To forget the sinful origins of the child and raise them as his own. With some reluctance, Francis had promised. And within a few days that promise was tested. Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter, and as all the doctors had predicted, she bled out soon afterwards, leaving the world in a similar way as she had previously.

Francis named the baby girl Elizabeth, after her mother. And to his credit, he did as Elizabeth asked and claimed the child as his own. If George had tried to raise a fuss, Ross never heard of it. Perhaps it was not enough trouble for a mere girl, or perhaps Francis had outright refused to even entertain the idea of handing her over. George simply slinked away, now the father of two bastard children with no true-borns to carry on his name and legacy. It was for the best. Francis and the little girl, who became known as Beth to all close friends and family, were soon inseparable. Just as Jeremy had helped heal Demelza and Ross, so too did Beth help Francis.

Eventually Francis would confess his regrets to Ross. He regretted blaming Elizabeth for Geoffrey Charles’s death, and not attempting to reconcile thereafter. Most of all he regretted that the rift between them had started so early, even beginning when Ross returned from the war. They should have talked. Really talked. About what Elizabeth wanted, and about what Francis was worried about. Maybe then, their lives would have been better. Ross told him that it was rare for people to be offered second chances, but that he could continue take this opportunity he had been presented with to make amends for his mistakes.

Francis did his best for the child. Even when their financial circumstances worsened, leading to them losing the Trenwith estate to debts, he always put Beth and her needs first. They moved into a much more modest little cottage, but it was honestly a move for the better. The Trenwith estate had too many bad memories associated with it. Charles’s death. Geoffrey Charles. Elizabeth. The new cottage was pure and unstained by any of those events. Francis would eventually re-marry. A sweet girl called Anne with a disposition much better suited to him, who would become a wonderful step-mother to young Beth. 

As for Ross, he continued to live a happy life with Demelza and their children. He used some of his earnings to expand the Nampara estate. With two extra children, it was found to be rather necessary, especially when they started growing up and complaining about having to share. He tirelessly worked to keep everyone in his life happy. And when Ross was old and on his deathbed, as he had been once before, he had no major regrets tethering him to the world. He passed on with a smile on his face, and a legacy that would last generations.

The End