Page 7 of The Husband Season

‘Storm,’ her ladyship repeated. ‘Oh, do not say there is to be a storm. We cannot go out in wet weather, it brings on my rheumatism.’

Mark patiently explained to the lady what he had meant while Teddy and Sophie tried not to laugh.

‘Oh, I understand,’ the old lady said. ‘I did not perfectly hear you. To be sure Sophie will shine. My friend Mrs Malthouse has a daughter of Sophie’s age. Cassandra is a dear, sweet girl and is coming out this year, too. I am sure you will be great friends. She is to have a come-out ball later in the Season and I have no doubt you will be invited. In the meantime there is to be a dancing party at the Rowlands’ next week, which is a suitable occasion for a young lady not yet out to practise her steps and no doubt Augusta will procure an invitation for you if I ask her.’

This sounded more like it, and Sophie thanked her aunt prettily and began mentally deciding what she would wear.

At this point, having agreed to dine with them the following evening, Mark took his leave, and as the evening was yet young, Teddy decided he would go out. Left to the company of her aunt and Margaret Lister, her aunt’s companion, Sophie decided to write to her parents and Jane, as she had promised, to tell them of her safe arrival. After that she went to bed to dream of the pleasures to come.

* * *

A few years before, the arrival of Adam Trent, Viscount Kimberley, in town would have caused a stir among the young single ladies of society and some married ones, too. He had been reputed to be the most handsome, the most well set-up young man to grace the clubs and drawing rooms of the capital for many a year. His arrival had sent all the debutantes’ mamas into a twitter of anxiety and rivalry and their daughters sighing after him and dreaming of being the one finally to catch him.

‘Twenty-eight and still single. How have you managed to resist wedlock so long?’ his cousin Mark had asked him.

‘Easily. I have never met the woman I would want to spend the rest of my days with and, besides, I’m too busy.’ At that time he had recently inherited his father’s title and estate at Saddleworth in Yorkshire, which had undoubtedly enhanced his attraction.

Then he had done the unpardonable thing in the eyes of the ton and married Anne Bamford, the daughter of a Saddleworth mill owner. Whether it was a love match or done to enhance his own wealth no one could be sure, but after that no one had much to say for him, thinking of him only as the one that got away.

His father-in-law had died soon after the wedding, leaving him in possession of Bamford Mill, and in the following year tragically his wife had died in childbirth along with his baby son, and he was once again single. To try to overcome his loss, he had thrown himself into his work, both at the mill and on his estate, which was considerable. He was rarely seen in London.

On this evening, he was striding down South Audley Street towards Piccadilly when he encountered his cousin. ‘Mark, by all that’s wonderful! Fancy meeting you.’

Mark, who had been negotiating a muddy puddle, looked up at the sound of his name. ‘Adam, good heavens! What are you doing in town?’

‘Urgent business or I would not have bothered.’

‘I was sorry to hear of your wife’s passing.’

‘Yes, a very sad time. The only way I could go on was to throw myself into work.’ This was a gross understatement of how he had felt, but he was not one to display emotion. It was easier to pretend he did not feel at all.

‘All work and no play is not good, you know. And you are no longer in mourning.’

‘Mourning is not something you can put a time limit on, Mark.’

‘No, of course not, clumsy of me. I beg your pardon.’

‘Granted. I was on my way to White’s. Do you care to join me?’

Mark agreed and they were soon seated over supper in that well-known establishment. ‘How is married life?’ Adam asked his cousin. ‘I am sorry I could not attend your wedding, but at the time I had only recently taken over the running of Bamford Mill and there was a great deal of resentment that had to be overcome. There was, and is, much unrest and I needed to persuade my people not to join the Blanketeers’ march.’

The march to London from the industrial north, which had been organised by the Lancashire weavers two years before, had been for the purpose of petitioning the Prince Regent over the desperate state of the textile industry and to protest over the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, which meant any so-called troublemakers could be imprisoned without charge. They had carried blankets, not only as a sign of their trade, but because they expected to be several days on the march. It had been broken up by the militia and its leaders imprisoned. None of the marchers had reached his goal and the petition was never presented.