Page 54 of The Husband Season

‘I hoped he would join us in our box and have supper with us afterwards.’

 ‘No doubt he has business to attend to. I believe his visit to London is not all pleasure.’

 ‘You are doubtless right,’ Cassandra said after a little thought. ‘Everyone is returning to their seats. I must go. Will I see you tomorrow?’

 ‘I don’t know, Cassie. I will have to see what my aunt has arranged.’

 Cassie left with her parents and Sophie resumed her seat to see the second half of the performance, but her mind was not on it. Her whirring thoughts went from her missing brother to Viscount Kimberley. Teddy, who in every other way was a well-balanced, sensible young man, was weak as water when it came to gambling. It was his only vice, but what a vice! Ought she to warn Lucy? Or Lord Martindale? But she knew she could not be so disloyal to her brother.

 And there was Viscount Kimberley. Cassie was determined to catch him and seemed to think fluttering her eyelashes at him and talking nineteen to the dozen would win him. Sophie was sure it would not, unless the gentleman himself wanted it. Did he? Who was the mare for, if not for Cassie? Jealousy was something Sophie had never felt in her life before, but it was taking hold of her now. Her situation was hopeless, and Teddy’s predicament was making it ten times worse. Could she marry without love? Could she marry for money to help her brother? If she could, then she ought to choose the richest. Lord Gorange? She shuddered at the idea, but was it any worse than Jane agreeing to marry Lord Bolsover to save Greystone Manor?

 She became aware that the curtain had fallen and everyone was applauding. Not a word or a note of the opera had made any impression on her poor, tired brain. She clapped with everyone else and watched several curtain calls before leaving with her aunt. They had arranged to have supper with the Malthouses and she had to endure more of Cassie’s chatter before they could politely take their leave and go back to Mount Street.

 Teddy was not there and, according to the servants, had not been back in their absence. Neither had Viscount Kimberley. It was going to be a long, long night.

 * * *

 Apart from the gentlemen’s clubs there were coffee houses for the middling sort and even humbler gambling dens where Teddy might have gone to play and where he was not so well known. Adam spent the rest of the evening and most of the night visiting as many of them as he could. No one had heard of Edward Cavenhurst. He could have used a different name, so Adam fell to describing him. ‘Young, clean shaven, fair haired, a gentleman in his attire, though I cannot tell you exactly what he was wearing,’ he said. ‘So tall.’ He indicated Teddy’s height with his hand.

 ‘Too much the toff to come here,’ they said. Or, ‘I doubt he’d find the play deep enough here. Will we tell him where to find you, if he comes in?’

 ‘Tell him his sister is worried by his absence. Send him home.’

 They laughed. ‘We will that.’

 Some of the coffee houses were also debating societies and here the arguments could become heated. He was detained in one after the other until they paused long enough for him to ask his questions. In one he was dragged into a debate on the franchise and could not resist giving his opinion, which set them arguing again, and it was some time before he could broach the subject of Teddy. It was after he had left there and was wondering whether to go on with the search or go home to bed, that he realised he was being followed again. He deemed it wisest to seek more busy thoroughfares and go home to Wyndham House.

 * * *

 The next morning he called at Mount Street at the early hour of nine o’clock where he found Sophie sitting over breakfast alone. She should have called Bessie or one of the other servants to chaperone them, but they had gone beyond the need for such niceties. She bade him be seated and poured him a dish of hot chocolate. He noticed her hand was shaking and, judging by her pale looks, her brother had not come home.

 ‘What have you discovered, my lord?’

 ‘I regret to say nothing. I must have visited half the clubs and coffee houses in London. No one has seen him.’

 ‘Something dreadful has happened to him. He said something to me about being found in an alley with his throat cut.’ Her voice broke on a sob.

 ‘I can’t believe it has come that.’ He reached out and put his hand over hers. ‘Why did he say it, especially to you?’

 ‘He meant Captain Moore would do away with him.’

 ‘That is nonsense, Sophie, and you know it. Captain Moore is not a murderer. Why would he be? He has nothing to gain from such a cowardly act. Your brother should never have frightened you like that. It was very unkind of him.’ Her given name had slipped out without him realising it, but she didn’t seem to notice. He decided not to apologise for it.