Page 62 of The Husband Season

‘Perhaps.’ She knew what he was going to say next and needed to forestall him. ‘My lord, have you seen anything of my brother?’

‘Not for several days. I expect he is lying low somewhere.’

‘Lying low?’

‘Avoiding his creditors. It is common knowledge he is in dun country and Captain Moore is looking for him.’

‘Captain Moore is a scoundrel.’

‘My dear, I could not agree more, but gambling debts have to be paid, you know.’ He paused and cleared his throat. ‘I could get Toby Moore off his back, if you would only say the word. It could be part of the marriage settlement.’

‘My lord, there is no need. Teddy’s debts have been paid.’

‘Have they?’ he asked in surprise. ‘Who paid them?’

‘Why, Teddy did.’

‘Excuse me, my dear, if I do not believe you. Everyone knows Teddy has pockets to let. My guess, it was either Reggie or Dickie, trying to steal a march on me.’

She laughed, the first genuine laugh she had managed since her brother disappeared. ‘I do not understand you three gentlemen. Why do you all persist?’

‘It is a matter of honour,’ he said, then, before she could ask what he meant, added, ‘I truly could not bear to see you married to either of the other two, good fellows though they are.’

She did not answer immediately. She had failed to sell the necklace and Viscount Kimberley had to be repaid before he, too, decided he needed recompensing for his generosity. The trouble was that it would be all too easy to give in to that particular gentleman.

‘At least say you will reconsider,’ he said into the silence. ‘If this latest escapade becomes known, you will be ruined forever.’

It sounded very much like blackmail, but it would not be wise to accuse him of it. ‘I will think about it.’

He grinned and lifted the back of her hand to his lips. ‘At least, my dear, it is a step in the right direction.’

The carriage was back in Mount Street in a few minutes and drew up outside Cartrose House. He helped her out and escorted her inside. They found her aunt in the morning room, reading a newspaper. She looked up as they entered. ‘There you are, Sophie. I did not know you were engaged to go out this morning, and so early, too.’

‘I was out walking and Lord Gorange saw me and took me up to bring me home, Aunt.’

‘Walking without me or Bessie? Tut tut, Sophie, that will not do, you know. Good morning, my lord. I thank you for rescuing her from her own folly. I trust no one saw you.’

‘No, we were not observed.’

Sophie stifled a giggle at this untruth. Half of London must have seen her running so indecorously and being bundled into the carriage. She prayed none of the spectators knew who she was.

‘No harm done, then,’ her ladyship said.

‘None whatsoever,’ he said, smiling with satisfaction. ‘I will take my leave of you now, but will call again in a few days, if I may. Good day, my lady. Miss Cavenhurst.’

He bowed and was gone, leaving her to be scolded by her aunt.

* * *

‘My lord,’ Farley said, standing before his master, who was enjoying a late breakfast in the dining room of Wyndham House and reading a letter he had just received. ‘You need a physician.’

‘No, I do not.’ Adam’s face and ribs were sore, but he said nothing of that. ‘Tell me what you have discovered. Turned up that scapegrace, have you?’

‘I believe he has been living in a low tavern down by the docks...’

‘Ah! Did you speak to him?’

‘No, my lord. He was no longer there. The tavern keeper told me he had been press-ganged.’

‘Press-ganged! Are you sure about this?’

‘Yes, my lord. When they came to take him he protested most strenuously...’

‘Well, they all do.’

‘Yes, but this young man tried to convince them he was a gentleman and gave them his name. Needless to say, they took no notice. He was, I gather, not in the best condition, having no change of raiment and in his cups. The innkeeper said he did not look like a gentleman and had asked for his cheapest room, for which he had not paid when he was taken. I recompensed the man from the money you entrusted with me. I could do nothing more because the ship had sailed.’

Adam began to laugh while Farley looked on in surprise. ‘My lord?’ he queried. ‘Did I do wrong?’

‘No, no, of course not,’ he said, wiping his streaming eyes. ‘Hard work and no money to gamble with will be the making of him, and Miss Cavenhurst can stop worrying about him.’