Page 52 of The Husband Season

Adam left them to set about his errand. Ten to one the young man was at one of the clubs getting more heavily into debt. He had had an uncle on his father’s side who had the gambling fever and he knew what unbridled gambling could do to a family. They had lost their house and all their assets, and in the end the man had killed himself. Adam had been looking after his wife and daughter ever since. It was the innocent who suffered most in such circumstances. He didn’t want Sophie to have to endure anything like that, though how the fever could be cured he had no idea.

 Deciding he would do better on foot, he left both horses at the livery stables and made for St James’s where most of the gentlemen’s clubs were situated. Teddy was not at any of them. Toby Moore had not seen him and he was as anxious for him to be found as anyone. ‘He owes me and I would have my money,’ he told Adam.

 ‘You’ve no idea where he might be?’

 ‘No, and so I told the filly when she came here.’

 ‘The filly?’

 ‘His sister.’

 ‘She came here?’ He could not keep the surprise from his voice.

 ‘Yes, dressed in her brother’s clothes and her hair pushed under one of his hats. Very fetching she looked, too.’

 He was shocked. Were there no lengths to which she would not go? Everyone knew that ladies—real ladies—did not go to St James’s and certainly did not try to enter the clubs. Whatever had she hoped to achieve? He pulled himself together. ‘She was looking for her brother, no doubt.’

 ‘No, she came to plead with me to give him time to pay his debts.’

 ‘I doubt you agreed.’

 ‘On the contrary, I said I would waive them—for a consideration, of course. She declined.’

 He could only guess what that consideration might be. The thought of it sent his mind in a furious whirl of frustrated anger. ‘What do you take her for, Captain? She is a lady born and bred...’

 ‘Ladies have been known to fall from grace.’

 ‘Leave her alone. She cannot help you recover your debt.’ He paused. ‘How much is it, by the way?’

 ‘Five thousand seven hundred and sixty guineas.’

 ‘You fleeced him.’

 ‘Yes, I did, didn’t I?’ He was smiling with satisfaction, which made Adam want to punch his face. Brawling was not permitted in the environs of the club or he might have given in to the urge. ‘But then he deserved it. He was instrumental in severing a very lucrative partnership with my friend, Lord Bolsover. It lost me thousands, that did, and cost his lordship his good looks.’

 ‘That has nothing to do with Miss Cavenhurst.’

 ‘No, nor you, neither. I’ll thank you not to meddle in what don’t concern you.’

 ‘It does concern me.’

 ‘Oh-ho, that’s the way the wind blows, is it? I wonder what little Miss Malthouse will say to that.’

 ‘I will send a money order to your lodging tomorrow.’ His voice was clipped in an effort to remain civil. ‘Five thousand seven hundred and sixty guineas, I believe you said.’

 ‘Yes, but tomorrow it will have gone up another ten per cent. Interest, you know.’

 That was extortionate, but he was not going to argue about it. ‘I will add another five hundred, but I shall require a receipt from you and an undertaking never to game with Mr Cavenhurst again. It would be better if you left town.’

 ‘I am not the only one. Teddy will soon find someone else to play with. There’s Reggie and Dick and Bertie Gorange. If you look in the betting book, you will find their wagers in there.’ He was grinning mischievously as Adam called for the betting book, which was brought swiftly to him by the manager.

 He opened it and read: ‘Mr Edward Cavenhurst wagers one thousand guineas that Sir Reginald Swayle will not become affianced to Miss Sophie Cavenhurst before the end of July. Mr Cavenhurst undertakes not to try to influence her decision in any way.’ It was dated the first of May, well before Sophie came to London. Both men had signed it. There was another one relating to Richard Fanshawe and another with Lord Gorange.

 He shut the book with a snap and handed it back. ‘How did that come about?’ he asked the manager.

 ‘They were playing cards and bemoaning their disappointment at being turned down. Each was sure they could make Miss Cavenhurst change her mind. They were making bets on it. It was then Mr Cavenhurst intervened to say his sister was too stubborn to change her mind and he would wager they would not succeed. They all took him up on it.’