Page 43 of The Husband Season

‘Oh, no,’ she murmured.

 ‘What do you mean? Is something wrong?’

 ‘That is Lord Gorange.’ She nodded in the direction of the three men. ‘I heard he was in town.’

 ‘Is he one of your erstwhile suitors?’

 ‘Yes. There is something very smoky go on. Teddy denies he has anything to do with it, but why are they here and why are they at every function I attend?’

 ‘Did you hint to any of them that you might change your mind? A word of hope perhaps, an undertaking they must complete in order to win your hand?’

 ‘Certainly not. I am not so frivolous.’

 ‘I am glad to hear it. Marriage is a solemn undertaking, not to be treated lightly.’

 ‘Those are my sentiments exactly, my lord.’

 They had reached the little gathering, who were saying their goodbyes before dispersing. Adam excused himself and went to speak to Cassandra and her mother. His going made her feel—she could not explain how she felt—a little empty, a little vulnerable. She shook herself out of it as Lord Gorange came over to her and bowed. ‘Miss Cavenhurst, your obedient servant.’

 She bent her knee. ‘Lord Gorange, how do you do?’

 ‘I am well. Who is that?’ he asked, indicating Adam with a nod of his head.

 ‘That is Viscount Kimberley of Saddleworth.’

 ‘A viscount, eh? You wasted no time, then.’

 ‘What do you mean by that?’

 ‘Finding someone new. When I heard you had come to London and Reggie and Dick were here, too, I had to come to see what was afoot.’

 ‘Nothing is afoot, my lord, nothing at all. Now, please excuse me, my aunt is ready to leave and I must not keep her waiting.’

 He bowed. ‘With your permission, I will call on you.’

 ‘Why?’ she demanded.

 ‘Unfinished business, Miss Cavenhurst, unfinished business. I cannot let Swayle and Fanshawe make all the running.’

 His talk, just like the others’, was gambling talk, bets and wagers and running. It infuriated her. ‘They and you may run as far and as fast as you like,’ she said. ‘You will not find me at the end of it, waiting to be claimed. Unless you have any other reason to be in London, I suggest you go home and spend some time with your daughters.’

 ‘That I will do when I take my bride back with me.’

 ‘Then, I wish you luck in your endeavours,’ she said. ‘Now, I really must go.’

 She escaped to join her aunt for the carriage ride home.

 * * *

 Adam had not come to the gardens by carriage and he was not going back to Wyndham House. His destination was the Belle Sauvage, one of the capital’s principal coaching inns from which coaches left day and night for all parts of the country. It was a fair walk and he ought to have hired a cab or a chair, but he was in no hurry. Alfred Farley had discovered that Henry Hunt would be there until late, talking with his cronies. The inn would be a convenient place from which to disappear if the need arose.

 Henry Hunt was a handsome man with an enviable physique, known to be good at physical pursuits, including boxing at which he excelled. Modesty was not one of his virtues. He had a voice that commanded attention and when he raised it, he could be heard from some distance. Why a man from a prosperous farming background should become the champion of the lower orders was a mystery to Adam.

 At a meeting in Spa Fields in Islington in November 1816, which attracted a crowd of thousands, he had been appointed to carry a petition to the Prince Regent, which called for parliamentary reform and help for those suffering hardship. He was twice refused access to the prince, and consequently another meeting was convened in December at which he was booked to be the principal speaker. Unfortunately he arrived too late to prevent some hotheads from taking over the meeting and marching on the Tower of London, looting a gun shop for weapons on the way. The government, terrified a revolution could happen in England as it had in France, reacted by sending troops to put down the riot. The result was mayhem, the crowd was dispersed and several arrests made, after which the rule of habeas corpus was suspended in what came to be known as the Gagging Acts and added to the popular grievances. It certainly had not silenced them, as Adam well knew.

 He walked along the Strand and Fleet Street and thence to Ludgate Hill. Even at that time of night the roads were busy with traffic and the walkways were crowded. Most of those who could afford them chose to be conveyed in carriages and chairs, and so the pedestrians tended to be workers or beggars or ladies of the night. If they noticed the well-dressed gentleman passing them at a brisk pace they appeared not to. He was not deceived, his senses highly tuned to spot trouble.