‘Does it matter?’
‘Not to me.’
‘When will you speak to Papa?’
‘No time like the present. Is he at home?’
They looked up as someone came into the parlour. It was Lord Gorange, and he was hobbling and cradling one elbow in his other hand. His coat was covered in mud, his breeches were torn and he had lost the heel of one riding boot. They both burst out laughing.
‘You may congratulate me, Gorange,’ Adam called out to him. ‘We are to be married.’
‘Huh.’ He turned on his heel and went out again, slamming the door behind him.
‘Come on,’ Adam said, standing up and holding a hand out to her. ‘I want the next bit over with, then we can tell everyone our good news.’
They walked to Greystone Manor, not touching because there were people about, but they could not help looking at each other and smiling broadly. Anyone with eyes to see could guess what was afoot.
They found both her parents in the drawing room. Sophie, holding tight to Adam’s hand, led him forward. ‘Mama, Papa,’ she said, eyes shining, ‘Adam has asked me to marry him and I have said yes.’
Her mother gasped, then smiled. ‘Oh, Sophie...’
‘Sophie,’ her father said, pretending severity. ‘You are doing this all the wrong way about. It is for Viscount Kimberley to come to me first and obtain my permission to speak to you.’
‘Oh, Papa. I know that. But you would not have withheld it, I know you would not.’
‘This is very sudden,’ her mother said. ‘I understood Lord Kimberley was leaving us today.’
‘He changed his mind.’
‘Sir Edward,’ Adam put in, ‘I realise this is a little unconventional, but perhaps you would grant me an interview now?’
‘Of course. Let us go into the library and leave the ladies to talk of weddings.’
The two men left the room and Sophie turned to her mother. ‘Oh, Mama, I am so very, very happy.’
‘Then, I am pleased for you. But how did it come about?’
‘I was going to see Jane and he was about to board the stage when he saw me and realised he did not want to leave me, so he came after me and missed the stage. He took me into the parlour at the Fox and Hounds and proposed.’
‘The inn? Oh, Sophie, how improper.’
‘Mama, I did not care where it was, so long as it happened.’
‘I think he will make you a very good husband, Sophie, and I could not be more pleased for you, except...’
‘Except what, Mama?’
‘His home is such a long way off.’
‘I know, but we shall visit often. Adam has promised me that. Of course he still has to go home tomorrow and leave me behind, but he will be back for the wedding and then he will take me back with him to Blackfriars.’
‘And do you think you will mind that he has been married before?’
‘He asked me that, but I said I would not attempt to make him forget Anne, but I would try to make him look forward to a new life with me. He seemed very pleased by that.’
He mother laughed. ‘Sophie, sometimes I think you have never grown out of being a schoolgirl, but there are other times when I think you are wiser than your years. What has made you like that, I wonder?’
‘I do not know, Mama. All the people around me, I suppose. You and Papa, Jane, Issie and Teddy. I am sad about Teddy.’
‘So am I, child, but your papa is right. He has brought his troubles on himself.’ She looked up as her husband and future son-in-law returned. Both were smiling.
‘Is it all right?’ Sophie asked Adam. ‘Papa could find nothing against it?’
‘Nothing at all,’ Sir Edward put in. ‘Now I am going to find the butler and order champagne so that we can raise a toast.’
‘Then we must go and tell Jane and Mark the news,’ Sophie said. ‘They will not know that Adam did not go on the stage and they will have their boarder for another night.’
* * *
The next twenty-four hours passed in a blur for Sophie. Everyone was pleased for her. They hugged her and cried with her and wished her all the happiness in the world. They shook Adam by the hand and called him a lucky dog. The dowager Lady Wyndham smiled complacently, sure that it was her homily that had brought it about.
Practical arrangements were discussed, too. Adam would go home and see to his business and prepare his household staff for the arrival of a new mistress. Then he would return for the wedding in September, which would be conducted by the Reverend Caulder at Hadlea church. It would give Sophie time to send out invitations, for Jane to make her wedding gown and her mother to organise the breakfast feast.