‘I do not know, but I sense something is. Did you meet someone in London, a young gentleman perhaps, that you are not telling us about?’
‘No, Mama. The only men I met were Sir Reginald, Mr Fanshawe and fat Lord Gorange, none of whom I was pleased to see. They hung round and spoiled everything.’
‘Oh. What about Viscount Kimberley?’
‘What about him?’
‘Have you developed a tendre for him? From what I gather you were in his company frequently in London, and then to have spent nearly a week together...’
‘Viscount Kimberley is a widower, Mama, and he has vowed never to marry again. He loved his wife so much, you see...’
‘That does not answer my question.’
‘Yes, it does.’
The sound of wheels on gravel alerted them to visitors and Sophie’s heart leaped. A minute later he was there with Mark and Jane and little Harry and everyone was greeting everyone. Jane hugged her, Mark kissed her cheek and Adam bowed stiffly, called her Miss Cavenhurst and asked her how she did.
‘I am well, thank you, my lord,’ she answered, matching his formality with her own by bending her knee and bowing her head. ‘How are you?’
‘I am well,’ he said.
Lady Cavenhurst ordered tea and cakes, sent a servant to find Sir Edward and bade them all be seated. They distributed themselves on sofas and chairs. Sophie took Harry onto her lap and cuddled him.
‘We have been showing Adam round the estate,’ Jane said. ‘He was interested in the Hadlea Home, so we have been to Witherington, too. The extensions are coming on well and we will be able to admit more children very soon. We decided to call here before we went home. Adam was anxious to find out if Sophie had any ill effects from her journey and, of course, I was longing to hear all her news.’
Sophie glanced at Adam, who was seated some distance from her. Whether he had done it on purpose or that was the only chair left, she did not know. ‘What did you think of Jane’s project?’ she asked him.
‘It is impressive. The children seem so happy and sturdy. They are not shy, either. I found talking to them a real pleasure.’ Seeing her nuzzling her face into her nephew’s soft curls made him almost emotional enough for tears. If Anne had lived...
‘Has it given you any ideas for your own schoolroom?’
He pulled himself out of his reverie to answer her. ‘Indeed, it has.’
‘Sophie, tell us all about London,’ Jane put in. ‘Did you meet anyone exciting?’
Sophie did not know how to answer that with Adam in the room, not without giving herself away. ‘I met a great many people, but not the husband I went looking for.’
‘Miss Cavenhurst had her admirers,’ Adam said with a wry smile. ‘But none that suited her.’
‘It was only Sir Reginald, Mr Fanshawe and Lord Gorange,’ Sophie added. ‘They would not leave me alone. I swear they came to London because I was there.’
‘You mean they have not given up? None of them?’
‘No, and try as I might, I could not convince them. Thank goodness they have been left behind in London.’
The refreshments were brought in as Sir Edward arrived and seated himself in a wing chair and surveyed his family. ‘How pleasant it is to have you all here together,’ he said.
‘All except Teddy,’ Sophie said.
‘We will not speak of him,’ he said.
‘Oh, Papa!’ she exclaimed. ‘You know he cannot help himself.’
‘I said we will not speak of him, Sophie.’
She subsided into silence, her face red with mortification.
‘Adam is going to stay with us for a few days,’ Jane said quickly. ‘Why don’t you all come over to Broadacres for supper tomorrow night? I will ask Cook to make something special. It is my birthday.’
‘We had not forgotten,’ Mark said, laughing. ‘You have made sure of that.’
* * *
They stayed another half hour, chatting about London, Aunt Emmeline, the picnic in Richmond, the opera and the Malthouses, in which Adam took only a minimal part. When the visitors took their leave, he was as formal as he had been at the beginning and barely managed a smile. Sophie was miserable. He seemed to have gone back to the reserved, proud man he had been at the beginning of their acquaintance. Had he forgotten how they had been at the farmhouse, how easy with each other? Had it meant nothing at all to him?
She remembered with a wry smile how she had once insisted she would not marry a widower because she would not be a replacement wife. Now if she were given the opportunity, would she jump at it? Even if she knew he still loved and mourned the wife he had lost? ‘Damn you, Anne Kimberley,’ she muttered.