The newly opened observatory was the pride of their little town. Bookings were full through the rest of the summer and well into 1902, and Patrick desperately wanted to go back for another visit. Last night had been magical. That huge telescope up in the dome allowed them to explore the mysteries of the night sky and Daphne had been delighted by the views of the harvest moon.
‘It was perfectly splendid, darling, thank you for taking me,’ Daphne enthused as they strolled around the garden of her childhood home whilst her mother chatted with the gardener. ‘I only wish I could have left my sour-faced chaperone behind. Miss Murgatroyd never took her eyes off us.’
‘There’s an easy solution to that, you know, sweetheart,’ Patrick told her, unable to hide his smile.
‘Oh, tell me, quickly,’ Daphne implored, bending to sniff one of the fading red roses before perching on a cushioned wrought-iron seat and inviting Patrick to sit beside her. ‘I so dislike the feeling of being spied upon. It’s as though Miss Murgatroyd knows we just want to be on our own.’
‘Well that’s true enough, isn’t it? We do want to be on our own.’ ‘I can’t even peck you on the cheek without her making some ridiculous comment about propriety.’
‘So… what’s this solution you mentioned?’
‘My darling Daphne, we’ve been walking out together for almost a year, and I can say in all honesty that I love you with all my heart and want to spend the rest of my life with you. And I think you feel the same way about me.’
‘You know I do. I couldn’t bear to go on if you weren’t here with me.’
Patrick retrieved a small, red-velvet covered box from his pocket, sinking to his knees as he flicked it open to reveal a magnificent, diamond ring. ‘Will you do me the honour of marrying me, Daphne? We could have a short engagement of six months at the most, after which we’ll marry and visit the observatory as often as we wish without Miss Murgatroyd’s company.
‘Don’t worry,’ he said, smiling at her small frown, ‘your father has given his permission and his blessing. And your dear Mama keeps flashing me little looks, as though urging me to get on with it.’ He laughed. ‘I imagine she’s run out of things to say to the gardener by now.’
‘My love, I thought you’d never ask,’ Daphne gushed as Patrick slipped the sparkling ring on her finger. ‘Let’s go and show Mama.’
Patrick smiled to himself as they headed across the garden. All was going to plan, and once they were married, and had a decent enough time together to make it appear a successful and happy union, the flat roof of the observatory would make a very convenient place from which Daphne would fall to her death.
Yes, Cynthia was good at devising plans. Utterly bored with the role of Miss Murgatroyd and babysitting Lord Barraclough’s spoilt and frivolous daughter, his sister was itching to get her hands on some of the family’s money. Then the two on them would move far away, where they could dupe another unsuspecting family with their talented dramatics.
How else were the offspring of an infamous pair of murderers expected to make a living? Left on their own after their parents had danced the gallows jig, they’d had years of drudgery in that measly workhouse. Still, it had taught them to live on their wits, and playacting had simply been a part of it. And very lucrative it was proving to be.
The observatory in this story is at the top of a low, wooded hill in the lovely Hesketh Park in my hometown of Southport on the Lancashire coast. The observatory is still open to the public today but only at certain times and mostly for previously booked visits.