The Victory
with their children living at my expense, Horace and Lady Barbara can close up their house and save any amount of money. You should be thankful they have gone to Belvoir,' she added with a stern look at Roberta. ‘Nothing else would have kept them from plaguing us here, after Roberta was so weak as to invite them.'
    ‘ I could hardly do anything else, when Lady Barbara hinted so dreadfully. And after all, Horatio is my brother-in- law,' Roberta defended herself.
    ‘ But you detest him,' Lucy said. 'You shouldn't let yourself be bound by foolish conventions. I don't.’
    James grinned. 'No, you don't, do you, Luce? Well, I'm very glad to see you both, with or without children. Young Bobbie can have Fanny to play with if he wants company — and William's boy Frederick, if you don't mind his illegi timacy, Roberta.'
    ‘And Henry?' Lucy enquired.
    ‘ No, Henry's not here. His mother's taken him to Manches ter to spend the summer with his grandpapa.'
    ‘ Oh yes, they went last year, too, didn't they?' Roberta said. ‘It must be pleasant for Mary Ann to be with her father.' Roberta was very fond of her own father, so this arrangement seemed perfectly natural to her.
    ‘ Well, yes,' James said, ‘she does seem fond of the old boy. But, to tell the truth, I think she's more anxious to get away from William and Mrs Smith. She was less than pleased when they arrived, and when she discovered they were likely to be staying for some time, she sent off word to her papa at once.'
    ‘ Mr Hobsbawn will be interested to see his grandson, I'm sure,' Roberta said tactfully. little Henry is his heir, after all.'
    ‘ And Mary Ann was anxious to keep her precious Henry from being contaminated by Frederick,' James added. ‘Not that the poor child is anything but inoffensive, but she has somewhat Gothic ideas about these things.'
    ‘ We'll all be more comfortable without her,' Lucy said briskly, shocking Roberta, ‘but you won't be able to entertain without a hostess.'
    ‘ We'll manage somehow,' James said dismissively. ‘I don't suppose we'll be doing much entertaining if you're having a large party, Roberta. Who have you invited?'
    ‘Well, there are Charles's sisters Amelia and Sophia and their husbands,' Roberta replied, ‘and Lord and Lady Tonbridge: they're just coming for race-week. But before that I'm expecting Maurice Ballincrea and his new wife — I haven't met her yet, but I'm told she's very agreeable — and Lord and Lady Greyshott. And Lord Ballincrea is bringing a widowed cousin of his, Lady Serena Knaresborough, and her son Robert. I don't know much about them — they're only cousins by marriage — but apparently he was made trustee over the boy, Robert, when Sir Henry Knaresborough died, and he feels responsible for them, so of course I told him to bring them.’
    James smiled. 'You are so kind-hearted, Roberta. You don't like anyone to be left out in the cold, do you?’
    Roberta blushed. ‘It's very hard, sometimes, when people are in conflict with each other, to do what's right by every one,' she said. ‘But one must try.’
    Neither Lucy nor James asked her what she meant by that. There were conflicts enough in the immediate family not to want to probe too deeply. With his wife away, James's thoughts turned more strongly than ever towards Héloïse; and Lucy wondered what she would do if, as was quite likely, Edward asked her to act as hostess at Morland Place after Chetwyn arrived.
    She had hoped, with a large party, including Lord Ballin crea and his sister Lady Greyshott, who were fashionable young people with lively manners, to escape notice, and to be able to spend a few more weeks in comfort and with good company before going off to her enforced retirement. It would not at all suit her to have her relationship with her husband dragged into the light by ingenuous questions from her brother Edward. She thought it would probably be necessary very soon to confide in her hostess, and to throw herself on her

Similar Books

Alternate Realities

C. J. Cherryh

The Perfect Play

Jaci Burton


Emma Donoghue

Lucky in Love

Jill Shalvis

Stone Seeds

Jo; Ely