Page 26 of The Husband Season

The moment passed and everyone drank their tea and talked of the dance and how many people they thought would be there. Sophie sent messages to her parents and sister for Mark to deliver, and then Mark and Adam took their leave.

 * * *

 ‘You old rogue,’ Adam said to his cousin as they walked. ‘You let me in for that very neatly, didn’t you?’

 ‘Why?’ Mark feigned innocence. ‘Didn’t you want to go?’

 ‘Not especially. I have a feeling I am being set up for one of the young ladies, and that appals me.’

 ‘I am sure you can let them down gently, cousin. And an evening out will do you no harm. Chasing about town looking for someone who clearly does not want to be found must be very frustrating. Give it a rest.’

 He sighed. ‘It seems I must. Do you have to go back to Hadlea so soon?’

 ‘Yes, I must, but you are welcome to stay on at Wyndham House.’

 ‘Thank you.’

 ‘But there is something that is bothering me. I fear Teddy is slipping back into his old ways, especially since he spends so much time with Toby Moore, and I shall not be here to keep an eye on him.’

 ‘You mentioned Captain Moore before, Mark. What is the story behind that?’

 ‘Captain Moore was in a card-sharping partnership with Lord Bolsover and together they made a great deal of money. They were very clever. No one was able to prove they connived to cheat. They swindled Teddy out of several thousand pounds, which he could not pay, and Lord Bolsover nearly ruined Sir Edward by buying up all his debts and then demanding payment with sky-high interest. Teddy went out to India to escape and made enough money to save the estate. Bolsover was eventually discredited and had to retire to the country, his face badly scarred by fire, which happened when he tried to abduct Jane...’

 ‘Your wife?’

 ‘Yes, but we were not married at that time. Moore is blaming the Cavenhursts for severing a lucrative partnership. I have no doubt he is intent on revenge. How he has won Teddy over, I have no idea, but most of the trouble with Bolsover happened after he had gone to India, and he may not have known of the captain’s involvement.’

 ‘That is quite a tale. Have you warned Cavenhurst?’

 ‘Yes, but he chooses not to listen.’ He paused. ‘I would deem it a favour if you could watch out for him and let me know if anything happens that requires me to intervene. I’ll come back at once if you send for me.’

 ‘Mark, it is hardly your responsibility, and it is certainly not mine, to oversee what your brother-in-law does.’

 ‘I know, but for Jane’s sake and his parents’, too, I would like to keep him out of trouble if I can. He is supposed to be looking out for Sophie, and if he falls by the wayside, goodness knows what she will do. She is not one to sit about meekly doing nothing. You will do this for me, won’t you?’

 Adam could easily imagine the lively Miss Cavenhurst getting into mischief if not carefully watched. The way she had been seen riding unchaperoned in Sir Reginald’s phaeton was an instance of it, but he did not know what he could do to stop her, short of squiring her himself and acting in loco parentis. He did not think she would stand for that, and he did not feel a bit like a parent. After all there were not so many years between them—ten at the most. On the other hand, Mark had been generous to him, letting him stay at Wyndham House, and Captain Moore sounded like a real villain. ‘I will do what I can, but I shall have to go back to Yorkshire myself before too long,’ he said. ‘George Harcourt, my mill manager, is very competent, but what he will do if there is trouble, I do not know.’

 ‘You won’t go without coming to Hadlea to meet my wife and son, will you? After all, you may be worrying for nothing and there will be no uprising.’

 ‘I hope you are right. Will you come and hear me speak in the Lords tomorrow? Perhaps that will persuade Hunt that I am not against him and he will come out of hiding.’

 ‘I wouldn’t miss it.’

 * * *

 The House of Lords was packed to hear the debate. Peers who had not attended in years arrived to listen and perhaps speak. Adam, not normally a nervous man, felt his whole raison d’être was on trial and, when called to make his speech, felt his notes fluttering in his hand. He knew what he wanted to say and abandoned them. ‘My lords,’ he began as the murmur of voices stilled to listen. ‘I am here to expound the cause of the workingman. Times are changing. The men who work in our mills and manufactories, who stand at their benches and looms, know that without them our businesses cannot survive. They are skilled men and hold the key to our prosperity, the prosperity of the whole nation, and they deserve to be adequately recompensed. Cutting their wages when profits are down is not the way to treat loyal workers, especially now with the price of bread so high...’