, Historical fiction
, Domestic Fiction
, Great Britain
, Napoleonic Wars; 1800-1815
, Aristocracy (Social Class) - England
, Great Britain - History - 19th century
, Morland family (Fictitious characters)
situation as the rest of us?' Héloïse went on.
‘ I'm afraid so. My family are all dead, my estates confis cated. I am fortunate to have many friends in England, as well as some relatives on my mother's side. The English are all kindness, but now that war has been declared I hope to do something positive to remedy my situation.’
The Duc was about Héloïse's own age, very handsome, tall and well-built, with chestnut hair and blue eyes, and beauti ful teeth which he shewed in a most attractive smile. His manners were open and pleasant, and as they talked, he looked at Héloïse with frank admiration which she found unexpectedly pleasant, and a balm to her sad heart. She found herself hoping he would not too soon go away to join the fighting.
‘ You are staying nearby?' she asked when the opportunity arose.
‘ With Colonel Spencer, madame. The friend of a close acquaintance of mine.'
‘And do you stay long?' she asked casually.
‘ Colonel Spencer has asked me to stay for the summer. I had not formed any definite plans, but I must say that my inclination for staying is increasing all the time. It seems a most pleasant neighbourhood.’
Héloïse found herself pleasantly flattered by what was evidently meant as a compliment to her. 'Then you must do me the honour of dining with us one day,' she managed to reply.
A sharply indrawn breath from beside her made her glance towards Mathilde, to discover that she was not the only person to have succumbed to the young duke's charm. Mathilde's face was pinker than usual, and her eyes were very bright, and she was gazing at the visitor in a way which suggested that, had Mr Antrobus entered the parlour at that moment and proposed marriage to her on his knees, she would not even have known he was there.
At the end of July, Roberta, widow of Charles sixth Earl of Chelmsford, arrived at Shawes to prepare for a large party she was expecting for race-week. With her was her son Bobbie, the seventh earl, her father Colonel Taske, her son's tutor Mr Firth, and her friend Lady Aylesbury. Shawes was about half a mile from Morland Place, and the walk to it across its beautifully laid-out park was a pleasant one even for lightly-shod ladies; so a party at Shawes had always meant a good deal of coming and going between the two houses.
James was the first visitor from Morland Place to arrive to pay his respects.
‘ No Fanny?' Lucy asked him at once. 'I'm surprised she let you come on a visit to Shawes without her.'
‘ She didn't see me go,' he answered succinctly. 'I might equally well ask you where your children are, my dear sister, but unlike you I'm too polite.'
‘ Fustian!' Lucy retorted. 'My children are at Wolvercote of course. Nobody wants them here.'
‘ That's not quite true,' Roberta's gentle voice made itself heard. 'I did say that I thought it would be nice for Bobbie to have his cousins to play with.'
‘ If you wanted Bobbie to pay with his cousins, you should have left him at Wolvercote, as I suggested,' Lucy said firmly. ‘The business of removing six children and all their attendant nurses two hundred and fifty miles is beyond anything.'
‘Six children?' James queried.
Lucy made a face. 'Lady Barbara found it convenient to leave her two at Wolvercote for two months while she went to Belvoir with Horatio. The Duke of Rutland's got a large house-party there for the summer. He's raising his own troop of cavalry — the Belvoir Volunteers — and naturally he wants his old friends from the Dragoons as officers. He's made George Brummell a major, of all things! Well, of course, Rutland wants his company, or he'd never have done it, because nothing will ever get Brummell out of bed at dawn for inspection —'
‘ But what's Horace doing there?' James interrupted. 'He can't hope for a commission — he's already got one.'
‘What a foolish question! Rutland is amazingly rich and good-natured, and keeps the most expensive table in England,' Lucy said. 'And