Lord Harry's Daughter

Lord Harry's Daughter by Evelyn Richardson

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Authors: Evelyn Richardson
such a ridiculous figure. When his gambling debts swallowed up his promises of new clothes, when he came home smelling of another woman's perfume, she swore she would never let anyone down as her father had let them down. She would always be dependable, someone who could be counted on no matter what. And the erratic nature of their slender income had taught both Sophia and her mother to scrimp and save, and plan. She had witnessed all too often how an impulsive burst of generosity on her father's part would affect the quality of their meals for months afterward, not to mention lessening the number of rooms that could be warmed by a welcoming fire.
    Until this moment, Sophia had always thought that the discipline she had acquired over herself and her emotions, her skill at organizing and planning, were good things. But now she began to wonder. Had she missed something by always thinking before she responded? Had she sacrificed her enjoyment of life by trying to avoid its excesses? Could it be that what she considered to be her responsible, dependable nature was in fact cold and calculating, and that in seeking to be serious and trustworthy she had succeeded only in being less lovable and less creative?
    Certainly Lord Harry Featherstonaugh had been a trial to his wife and daughter, but to the rest of the world, the world that did not depend on him for food, clothing, or support, he was the best of good fellows. As far back as Sophia could remember he had been a universal favorite, and the men in his regiment were forever bragging to their brothers-in-arms of Captain Lord Harry's incredible feats of horsemanship, his bravery, and the crazy risks he took in order to be the first into battle, to push the furthest into the French defenses. No one Sophia could think of would understand that for his wife and daughter at least, life was a good deal calmer and less upsetting without the wild Lord Harry, who was genuinely missed by his comrades in the Twenty-third.
    Sighing, Sophia picked up her brush, hoping to push all these disturbing thoughts from her mind as she concentrated on her painting, but she was only partially successful. Every once in a while the thought would intrude that maybe if she were not so aware of the time and not so busy helping her mother with household tasks she would paint better and more easily; she would be able to express the wild beauty of the scene instead of the pale imitation she seemed to be producing now.
    At last she gave up in disgust and, packing up away her supplies, trudged slowly homeward, still asking herself if the major's comments were really true or if they had been inspired by his frustration at having been beaten by a woman.

Chapter 12
    Sophia was left to ponder this problem on and off for several days as Mark, busy carrying messages to and from the besiegers of San Sebastian, had no thought for anything except accomplishing his mission until General Graham remarked late one evening as he unfolded Wellington's latest instructions, “The duke is fortunate to have you as his messenger, Adair, for there is not a better or faster horseman to be had in the Peninsula."
    Even as he thanked the general and turned Caesar around toward Lesaca, Mark pictured a slim figure in a slate-colored riding habit bent over the long slender neck of a swift bay mare. What would the outcome of the race have been if their course had been a few hundred yards longer? Who was the better rider? Sophia's slow start was a natural consequence of her horse's lack of stature, but her catching up to him so quickly was ample proof of her skill. And he had rather churlishly refused to acknowledge that skill. Would he have been such a dog-in-the-manger if he had been competing against a fellow officer? Mark snorted in self-derision as he bent over Caesar's neck and galloped along in the waning twilight. No. He would have scorned to demonstrate such a paltry attitude to another officer, and he would have been punctilious

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