Christopher Hartleigh is the 21 year old heir to his father’s brother, the Duke of Somersham. Because the present Duke has no sons, only three daughters, and their mother is determined that the estate stay with her own bloodline, the Duke tells Christopher that he should marry his cousin, Susan, the eldest of those daughters.
Christopher initially finds the idea amusing. Susan has been like a sister to him all his life and he tells his uncle he has no intention of marrying her.
However, wanting to discuss the matter with Susan, and perhaps enjoy a joke with her about the suggestion, he seeks her out. When he sees her going into the woods, dressed in peasant’s garb, he follows her to the cottage of an old wise woman, the local herbalist and seer, and his curiosity is piqued.
He waits outside the cottage for Susan to emerge and there he discovers a secret to make his amusement turn quite sour.
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