Page 3 of The Husband Season

‘Now, tell me what goes on at Greystone,’ Jane said as they went to her room for her to put on outdoor shoes, a shawl and bonnet.

‘Nothing. It is as boring as ever. I want to go to London. I asked Papa for a Season.’

‘And you think that might relieve your boredom?’

‘Well, it would, wouldn’t it? And I might find a husband.’

‘So you might. You might find one here in Norfolk, too.’

‘Teddy says I have exhausted all the eligibles from here.’

Jane laughed. ‘How many proposals have you had?’

‘Well, there was Mr Richard Fanshawe, who is as ill mannered as anyone could possibly be and stormed off in a huff when I rejected him. Then Sir Reginald Swayle, who affects to be a dandy but only succeeds in looking ridiculous, and Lord Gorange, who is positively ancient and has two motherless children. I wonder at Papa even allowing him to speak to me. I can’t marry anyone like that, can I?’

‘I can see your point. What did Papa say about a Season?’ Jane had finished putting on her shoes and was looking in the mirror to tie the ribbons of her bonnet, and her remarks came to Sophie through her reflection.

‘He said no.’

They left the room and went downstairs to where the nursemaid waited with Harry, who was sitting in his carriage beaming at everyone. ‘He will soon be walking,’ Jane said as she wheeled him out of doors and down a path that led into the surrounding park and gardens. ‘He can already pull himself up on the furniture. And I heard him say papa the other day when Mark came into the nursery. Mark is a doting father, you know.’

‘Yes, I do know, and you are a doting mama. I declare that nursemaid has too little to do.’

‘I love being with my son, Sophie, and would be with him all day, but I do have duties which require me to be from him, and then Tilly has plenty to do.’

Sophie knew one of her sister’s abiding passions beside her husband, child and home was the orphanage she had set up in nearby Witherington. She often spent time there herself, helping with the children. ‘You would not leave him to come to London for a while?’

‘No, Sophie, I would not. Is that the reason you are here today—to persuade me to take you?’

‘I guessed you would not. Teddy would take me, but Papa says he is not up to the responsibility.’

‘Papa has a point.’

‘I don’t know why you are all so against Teddy. Since he came back from India, he has been the model of decorum.’

Jane laughed. ‘Hardly that. He seems to have dissipated most of the money he had left after he saved Greystone.’

‘At any rate, he has done nothing untoward, and if we stayed with Aunt Emmeline...’

‘You have worked it all out, haven’t you? What do you want me to do?’

‘Persuade Papa that Teddy can be trusted to look after me. Mama said she will do what she can, but if you spoke to Papa, too, it would help.’

‘Why this sudden urge to go to London?’

‘It is not sudden. I have been thinking of it ever since you and Issie first went, but there were always reasons why I could not. First there was that business over Lord Bolsover, and then the court was in mourning for Princess Charlotte and her baby, and last year old Queen Charlotte died, but I cannot see why I shouldn’t go this year. I have never been to London. You have been several times and Issie has been all over the world. It just is not fair. I shall end up an old maid.’

‘Oh, Sophie, that is highly unlikely,’ Jane said, laughing. ‘There are not many young ladies can boast of having turned down three offers at your age.’

‘But not from the right man.’

‘So, tell me, what would the right man be like? Bear in mind perfection is unattainable.’

‘I don’t want to him be perfect, that would be boring, but he must love me and I must love him, just as you and Mark love each other.’

‘That goes without saying, but what will make you love him, do you think?’

‘He must be tall and handsome and have a fine figure...’

‘That, too, goes without saying.’

Sophie was well aware that her sister was teasing her, but carried on. ‘He must be kind and generous and dependable.’

‘Admirable traits. I commend your good sense.’

‘But on the other hand, I should like him to be exciting, to make my heart beat faster, to take me by surprise sometimes...’

‘Surprises can sometimes not be pleasurable.’