The Bartlett Residence, London, March
The heavy and blustery wind that had done its best to clear the London gutters of any leftover litter and debris had nevertheless failed to rid the city of its heavy pall of grey fog. Even though the weak winter sunshine had burnt through whatever cloud there had been first thing in the morning, that too could not penetrate the thick and sooty atmosphere. Welcome to London during an English winter.
A fine carriage pulled up outside Lady Bartlett’s townhouse, who was hosting a parade of the latest ball gowns and accessories. Three ladies alighted, a mother and her two daughters, the older of whom glanced around, peering into the gloom and pulling the collar of her coat up about her ears. She shuddered. Oh, how she detested these society events.
“It seems that we have left the sunshine at home,” said the mother to nobody in particular.
When neither of her daughters responded, the footman muttered, “Yes, My Lady,” as he helped her step down onto the street.
“At least it is not raining,” said the oldest of the daughters, waiting patiently for her mother to join her on the footpath. For the dry weather she was thankful at least, even if the wind was whipping at her bonnet.
“Oh, do hurry up,” said the younger daughter. “We are missing everything.” She was already halfway up the stone staircase and did not wait for the other two to catch her up.
“I am not as young as I used to be,” complained the older woman. “I cannot keep up with her.”
“We will catch up with her inside, Mother,” said the older daughter. And they followed her up the steps and into the grand house.
A servant relieved the ladies of their outer clothes, and the footman tasked with announcing the guests cleared his throat. “Lady Teresa Rutledge,” he began, “and her daughters, Lady Grace Rutledge and Lady Cynthia Rutledge,” quite rightly naming the older daughter first.
Nobody paid them any attention, much to Lady Cynthia’s obvious annoyance. She did, however, seem delighted to see that there were still plenty of seats left, despite the ballroom being packed almost to the rafters, and she rushed to claim three of them that were together.
“Oh, do come on,” she insisted over her shoulder. “We have probably missed most of the gowns by now.”
As she sat down on one of the red upholstered chairs, a bejewelled lady next to her leaned over and whispered, “They have not yet started.”
“Well, thank goodness for that!” said Lady Cynthia. “Mother, Grace, do hurry up and sit down!”
Lady Teresa sat down on the middle chair and leant on a cane. She did not need the cane, but she was attached to it all the same. Lady Grace, her older daughter, sat on her other side. A footman bearing a tray came up to them, and they each helped themselves to a glass of wine. Soon afterwards, the curtains were drawn, and a hush fell upon the room.
“It is starting,” Lady Cynthia hissed, her eyes bright as the first of the ladies paraded along the red carpet before them and those remaining guests still standing seated themselves. A string quartet up in the minstrels’ gallery played some popular tunes, to which the ladies on the red carpet walked in time.
“It is almost as though they are marching,” commented Lady Teresa quietly. She did not require a reply, and so none was forthcoming from either of her daughters.
Instead, Lady Grace Rutledge sighed heavily and looked around the room as best she could. The thick window curtains made a good show of blocking out almost all of what daylight there was on such a day. But a double row of candles in tall candlesticks flanked the red carpet, leading from one set of double doors at one end of the ballroom to another set at the other end. Indeed, Lady Grace was far more interested in how the room had been presented than in what was being displayed. She truly could not be more disinterested in the pale blue silk or the deep pink lace that many of the dresses seemed to be made of. Nor did she care for the high waists, for she thought they made every woman, old or young, look as though she were with child. So she did not pay the allegedly pretty gowns sufficient attention.
At the ‘entrance’ to the red carpet was a slightly raised and fully carpeted dais with one step down onto the dance floor. The floor-mounted candlesticks were as tall as any male servant in the room, but at least there was plenty of room in between them for the audience to have a good look at the new dresses on show. These candles did nothing to illuminate the proceedings, so it was fortunate that the chandeliers in the ballroom had also been lit.
Not at all interested in the parade of ball gowns, Lady Grace glanced at the guests, from face to face, to see who she recognised. She sighed again when she realised that almost all of polite society were present.
She was not looking forward to the upcoming season in London. At twenty-five years of age, the entire series of events had long ago lost its shine for her. Even her sister, at only twenty, was on her fourth season. Neither of them had yet found a suitor, and Lady Grace had all but given up any hope of ever finding a match. At least her sister still believed, and even if Lady Cynthia did not find her beau again this year, she would thoroughly enjoy every single aspect of the London season and all of its gossip and sparkle regardless.
“Do stop sighing like that, my dear,” said Lady Teresa softly when Lady Grace huffed out another lungful of breath. “It is most unladylike.”
“But it is all so dull, Mother,” she whispered back.
“Nonsense!” hissed Lady Teresa. “I have already seen three dresses that would suit you perfectly for the upcoming season, my dear. Especially the lavender one with the white lace.”
Lady Grace had not noticed any thus far. Then again, she had not really been paying any attention.
“Three?” said Lady Cynthia quietly, from Lady Teresa’s other side. “I have seen at least a dozen!”
“Simply because we can afford to buy you a dozen does not necessarily mean that we should buy you a dozen, Cynthia,” said her mother. “And besides,” she continued, “the more that we buy from today’s event, the higher the chance of you turning up at a ball wearing the exact same dress as another. We cannot have that.”
“Oh,” sighed Lady Cynthia dreamily. “But any dress would look so much better on me than any other lady in the room. I particularly like those of the ivory silk. And I am certain that the lavender one with the white lace would also suit me too,” she added.
Lady Grace tutted. Her younger sister was so conceited. Unfortunately, however, she was also most probably correct. Lady Cynthia was always one of the most beautiful belles at each of the balls. It truly was a wonder that she had not yet found a match. Perhaps all the eligible gentlemen fear she is out of their reach, thought Lady Grace to herself. Or already spoken for at any rate. Out loud she whispered across their mother’s lap, “You are not having your début this year, sister. You must choose one of the coloured gowns and not any of the white.”
“But I want at least one of the ivory dresses,” Lady Cynthia replied with a pout. So her sister gave up trying to get her to see sense.
When the last of the ladies had waltzed along the carpet and out through the double doors at the end of the room, their hostess, Lady Bartlett, rose gracefully from her seat and took her place on the raised dais.
“I do hope that you have enjoyed our demonstration today,” she announced, using the acoustics in the room to their best effect. “Please join me in thanking our ladies for showing us the gowns and dresses,” she added, clapping her hands in soft applause. Slowly, the applause rippled around the room, and all the ladies who had modelled the dresses appeared on the dais behind the hostess.
After the clapping had finally subsided, Lady Bartlett said, “If you would all care to retire to the drawing room, we will clear the ballroom, and in approximately fifteen minutes, we will reconvene in here where a demonstration will be given of the latest dance steps to arrive in London.”
The guests nodded their heads and rose from their seats and, murmuring between themselves, no doubt comparing opinions of the latest fashions they had just seen, they followed a footman from the ballroom into the drawing room. Lady Cynthia grabbed another glass of wine for herself, but her mother and her sister both declined.
“Do not drink too much of that,” chided Lady Teresa.
“We do not wish you to make a fool of yourself,” added Lady Grace.
“Oh, pooh!” said Lady Cynthia, and she downed the wine in almost one gulp. When she spied another servant passing by, her sister had to pull her away before she picked up another glass. “You are such a spoilsport!” hissed Lady Cynthia.
“You must remember that you are a lady!” replied her mother.
Less than fifteen minutes later, a little handbell tinkled, and the guests made their way back to the ballroom. The two older Rutledges had managed to keep the younger one away from the wine, but it was clear that two glasses were already enough for the young lady. She gushed and oohed and ahhed a little too loudly, and Lady Grace wondered if perhaps she had discovered the reason why her sister had yet to find a husband.
“Let us watch the dancing,” she said to Lady Cynthia as their mother went to the edge of the room to sit on another chair, leaning once more on her cane.
“Let us join in with the dancing, you mean!” exclaimed Lady Cynthia, and Lady Grace turned and looked to her mother for support.
“You must both practice your social skills,” Lady Teresa called out to her above the music, pointing with her cane at the dancers.
Lady Grace sighed and turned to face the dance floor once more. But even she began to feel the excitement of the music as she swayed and tapped her foot in time.
“Come on, Grace!” said Lady Cynthia at last, dragging her sister onto the dance floor.
Lady Grace started to protest, but then she was caught up with the other dancers. For a moment, she forgot her shyness, how plain and awkward she was, especially when compared to her pretty little sister, and she danced with Lady Cynthia with gaiety, feeling the happiness of the dance and forgetting her looks. For only a moment, at least. For as she arrived at the edge of the dance floor and paused to catch her breath, she overheard two older ladies who had been watching her with almost disgust.
“She is so gangly when she dances,” said the one.
“Like an ugly duckling,” agreed the other.
“No wonder she is all but on the shelf,” finished the first.
And Lady Grace had to concede that they were quite correct. She was gangly and awkward and ugly and plain. And, of course, practically an old maid.
Lady Cynthia came to drag her back into the middle of the dance floor, but Lady Grace snatched her hand away. “I am out of breath,” she said. “I will go and sit with Mother for a rest. Keep her company.”
Her sister poked out her tongue but did not try to change her mind. In a swirl and a rustle of silk, Lady Cynthia was gone, enjoying herself, dancing around the floor with the other lovely ladies. Lady Grace had no desire to spoil her sister’s fun or the fun of anyone else in the room. And so she sat down heavily next to her mother and watched without joining in any further.
The rest of the time dragged for Lady Grace, and she found herself continually looking at the large, round ornate clock hung on the side of the minstrels’ gallery. The second-hand on the clock seemed to be moving backwards, if at all, and the minute-hand clunked loudly with each minute that eventually passed.
At last, the party was over, and the mother and her two daughters were once again in their carriage going home. Lady Grace could hardly wait. She wanted to get out of her fancy clothes, throw a pinafore on over a plain day dress, and then sit and read or sew if the fast-receding daylight allowed for either. At least it would be brighter outside the city, but it was still winter.
She sighed again and stared out the carriage window.
“I do wish you would stop doing that, my dear,” said Lady Teresa, banging on the floor of the coach with her cane.
A little voice called from outside. “Yes, My Lady?”
“No, not you!” said Lady Teresa, frowning up at the ceiling. To her daughters, she added, “You would think they would be able to tell the difference between a knock on the floor and a bang on the ceiling.”
Lady Grace stifled a giggle. Her mother went to bang the floor again but, glancing up at the ceiling of the coach, she changed her mind.
“It is time that you found a husband, Grace dear,” she said.
Lady Grace rolled her eyes. “I think you will find it is the other way around,” she replied. “It is time, perhaps, that a husband found me.”
“I hope that I will marry soon,” Lady Cynthia said with a sigh.
Her mother glared at her. “Do not start with that sighing nonsense, Cynthia,” she admonished. But Lady Cynthia appeared to care not. Lady Teresa turned her attention back to her older daughter. “You must marry first, Grace,” she persisted. “It is what your father wanted, what I want, and what society expects. You are the oldest and, therefore, you should marry first.”
Lady Grace sighed again and continued to stare out of the window.
Rutledge House, Outskirts of London
Lady Grace rocked backwards and forwards in a rhythmic movement while her younger sister brushed her hair. She always found it quite hypnotic and relaxing, apart from when there was a tangle. Fortunately, there were no tangles this evening, and she almost dozed off.
“You have such lovely hair,” Lady Cynthia remarked as she brushed it with long, smooth downward strokes.
Lady Grace was seated at the table with a mirror on with her sister standing behind her. It was a daily ritual for the two of them to take it in turns to brush the other’s hair at least a hundred times with the large hairbrush with the soft white bristles.
“Pah,” snorted Lady Grace. “What is so lovely about it? It is of such a nondescript colour and already there are threads of grey in amongst it.”
“That is not grey!” admonished Lady Cynthia. “It is a beautiful ash blonde.”
“It is mousey brown with grey streaks,” argued Lady Grace.
Lady Cynthia hit the top of the table with the hairbrush. “I do wish that you would not run yourself down so, sister,” she said, resuming the brushing. “It is no wonder that you do not attract a partner when you lurk in the corners of rooms or remain at the side of the dance floors like a plain and boring wallflower.”
“That is because I am plain and boring.”
“You are so not!” said Lady Cynthia. “When you smile, your whole face lights up. Your eyes are a most unusual shade of grey. I wish my eyes were the same colour. And your hair, it is so thick and shiny. Your hair is most definitely your crowning glory, and you should make the most of it. But when you cower in the background, no one else has a chance to see it all.”
“It is unlike you to point out my so-called better attributes,” said Lady Grace suddenly, narrowing her eyes and peering at her sister’s reflection in the mirror. When Lady Cynthia blushed slightly, Lady Grace knew that she was on the mark. “Come then, sister,” said Lady Grace. “Do tell.”
“Ninety-nine,” breathed her sister. “One hundred. There. Now it is my turn.”
“Do not change the subject,” said Lady Grace, swapping places with her sister. But Lady Cynthia said nothing more until she had made herself comfortable and Lady Grace was now sweeping the brush through the younger woman’s hair. “Tell me,” nudged Lady Grace.
Lady Cynthia took a deep breath. “Well,” she began, drawing the word out for as long as she could. “Mother made it most clear in the carriage on our way home today that I will not be married until you are. Who knows how many offers she has received from men who wish to court me, but she has had to turn them away because you are not yet settled?”
“I am certain that this is not true,” said her sister. “I could understand her refusing a proposal of marriage, but not an intention to court.” She remembered her sister’s unladylike appetite for the wine earlier. “There is probably more to it than meets the eye,” she added.
“But if you would at least try to look attractive and make the most of what God has given you,” said Lady Cynthia, “we would have more chance of you finding a beau, and then it being my turn.”
Lady Grace sighed. “Thirty-two, thirty-three,” she counted, pulling the hairbrush down her sister’s rich chestnut locks. “I suppose that I should really put more effort into finding a husband,” she admitted at last. “For I should hate to have your own unhappiness on my conscience too.”
Lady Cynthia poked her tongue out at their reflections in the mirror.
“If you continue to do that, you will stick like it,” reprimanded Lady Grace, remembering what their nanny used to say to them whenever they pulled a face.
Lady Cynthia smiled sweetly at the mirror as if to prove that she had not, in fact, stuck like it at all.
“And you are a lady who is twenty years of age,” continued Lady Grace. “You are not a child of ten.”
“I may as well be for as long as I am not allowed to marry.” Lady Cynthia turned around on the stool and faced her sister, causing her to stop brushing her hair for a moment. “Please will you give it some thought?” she said. “We do not want two Rutledge sisters left on the shelf.”
Lady Grace winced at the comment, and she wondered if her sister had heard it at the party earlier. “I suppose that I can at least try. Perhaps then we could convince Mother that there is no hope for me, and she should pin all her attempts at a son-in-law and grandchildren on you.”
Lady Cynthia turned to face the mirror once again, and her sister resumed brushing her hair. “You must at least give it one more push,” she said. “The upcoming season is the perfect opportunity. We can get you some pretty dresses that accentuate your hair colour, and we can create some wonderful hairstyles for you. And then you must practice smiling. You must practice holding yourself upright instead of slouching everywhere. And you must throw yourself into the entertainments instead of lurking in the shadows all the time.
“If you do give it this one last effort, and you are still to attract a beau, then we will call it a day, convince Mother to do the same, and concentrate on my own efforts instead. I will help you as much as I can. What do you say?”
Lady Grace puffed out another sigh.
“And you must stop doing that!” cried her sister.
“Seventy-six, seventy-seven,” said Lady Grace. “We cannot conjure these gentlemen out of thin air,” she added.
“But we have cousins who need wives, and if we make it known how generous our dowries are, then surely you will be spoilt for choice. The first ball is back at the Bartlett residence. Say that you will come, and you will enjoy it.”
Lady Grace shuddered as she remembered the two ladies and their spiteful comments. As friends of Lady Bartlett, surely they would also be at the ball?
“I do not know,” she said finally, and she saw her sister roll her bright blue eyes in the mirror.
When she had finished brushing her younger sister’s hair, Lady Grace retreated from the bedroom they still shared to the solitude of the study. Here, downstairs in the office, she felt closer to her dear departed father. The room smelt of leather, old books, cigar smoke and the fine cognac he favoured, even now. The dressing-gown he used to wear around the house still hung from a hook on the back of the door, and often Lady Grace would hold the silky folds to her face and breathe in what scent still lingered there. She wondered if her mother ever did the same.
As the eldest of the two sisters, the study was now Lady Grace’s domain. But she kept it exactly as her father had. The memories the room evoked kept him alive to her. The brass-handled seal that he would have touched almost every day. The large blotter pad that had his handwriting still upon it. A favourite book still with a bookmark marking his place. Every time she came into the room, she would run her fingers across each of his belongings, all personal to him in some way and now hers. Lord Edward Rutledge was greatly missed by his daughter.
She picked up a small family portrait her mother had commissioned from a lady portrait artist who specialised in miniatures, and she touched each of the faces in turn, carefully captured by the lady’s skill and compassion. The foursome were lounging on a picnic rug in the garden, and the artist had caught Lord Edward looking fondly at his wife, who, in turn, kept a keen eye on the two young children in the picture – Lady Grace and Lady Cynthia. It was a lovely little ornament that Lady Grace pressed now against her heart before replacing it in pride of place on the huge desk beneath the window that looked out on that very same garden.
Lady Grace closed the door firmly behind her, picked up her father’s dressing-gown, and pushed her arms into it, pulling it close around her and tying the belt around her waist. Snuggled up thus, she sat down in the leather armchair in a corner of the study and picked up a book she was reading.
An old letter marked her place. In truth, it had been marking her place for a very long time as she had not progressed beyond this point at all, for every time she picked up the book she instead read and re-read the letter over and over again until the folds in the paper had almost worn through. The letter reminded her that she was loved once by a man, even if that man was no longer with them.
The ink was starting to fade, but she knew every word almost by heart. However, that did not prevent her from reading it again.
My dearest, darling Grace.
It breaks my heart that I should be forced to leave you, but I want you always to remember how much I love you. How much I will always love you. If I could stay with you, I would, and I would never leave your side. Alas, both Fate and God have other plans for me, and – yes – duty, I suppose, and so I must go. Otherwise, wild horses would not drag me away. But always know that I leave you with my heart heavy. You have a kind soul and a good heart, and I love you very much. If you remember nothing else, always remember that.
Until we meet again.
As she read the words again, a solitary tear slid down her face and splashed on the paper, leaving a faint stain, blurring yet more of the faded ink. Frustrated that she had been so clumsy, she folded the paper back up and replaced it between the book’s pages that she would never finish reading.
She leaned forward and pulled open a drawer in the desk, placing the book carefully there amongst the rest of the detritus that kind of drawer always contained, including a large parchment wallet that contained all the letters she had ever received over the years.
Lady Grace was a prolific letter-writer. From the moment she had learnt how to read and write, she had taken great pleasure in jotting down her thoughts and sending them to her sister or her mother, or even the nanny or the girls’ governess. Every single person that she wrote to wrote back, and she kept every one of those letters in that wallet.
Amongst her most cherished letters were those she had received from her father when she was away at finishing school, learning how to be a proper lady. That was when Lord Edward’s illness had really taken hold. However, he had maintained a solid correspondence with his eldest daughter until the day he died. Lady Grace was only heartbroken that he had died while she was away from home, and she had not had the chance to say farewell to him.
She had come home for the funeral, of course, and in the event had not returned to school. Her mother, Lady Teresa, had needed a lot of support in those early days, despite knowing that her husband was dying for several months. In fact, the cane that Lady Teresa still treasured had belonged to her late husband. And while she had need of it at first, in the early days, when she was prone to collapse at any moment, it was now only a decorative reminder. Lady Grace would often catch her mother stroking the handle of the cane with a distant look in her eye, and she hoped that Lady Teresa remembered Lord Edward in her own way.
Trenowden Manor, Cornwall
The strong winds might have blown the rain clouds right away from the London skies, but in Cornwall, on the other side of the country, the population was not so lucky. It had not stopped raining for days, and the March winds only added to the misery, whipping up the waves on the Atlantic Ocean until it was far too dangerous for anyone to encroach too near to the rocks and coves and blowing tiles off roofs and doors off hinges. Everywhere, fences were blown over, trees were uprooted, even stone walls collapsed beneath the onslaught. Up and down the craggy coast, ships were beaten against the rocks, and debris, loot, and splintered timbers were washed up onto the beaches over the ensuing several days.
Underground on land and where mine shafts tunnelled beneath the sea, the water levels were rising with the incessant rainfall, meaning that all mining – copper and tin – had to be postponed until it was safe for the men to work below the surface again.
This lay-off had a two-fold knock-on effect. In the first place, the mines were not productive and did not earn an income for their owners. In the second place, the already impoverished workers were unable to earn a half-decent wage. And while some of the men pestered the mine owners to let them work on in any case, it was generally agreed that it was better for them not to earn for a few days than risk losing their lives and, therefore, their families’ livelihoods for ever.
And also, argued the mine owners, working the mines in such weather, might inadvertently weaken the infrastructure. With so much rain and wind, that could, in turn, lead to additional and irreversible accidents that would cost the mine owners even more money in the long run.
So not only was it better to keep the workforce safe; it was also better to keep the actual mines safe too.
The mine owners, though, were generally wealthy, and they could stand the interruption to production a little better than the workforce. A lot better, in fact. Or most of them could …
Plink! Plink! Plink!
Lord Lovell Trenowden groaned and pulled the knitted blanket tighter around his shoulders as the pots and pans dotted about the drawing room caught splashes of rain that dripped through the numerous holes in the ceiling. The drawing room was on the second floor of the two-storey manor house, as was often still the case, but there was an attic above, and that meant that the rain was already penetrating the roof before it even reached the ceilings, running along the joists and creeping in wherever it found a weakness.
Plop! Plop! Plop!
The wind howled too, through the gaps in the house, rattling loose window panes, constantly blowing out candles, and causing the fires to flicker where rain coming down the chimney was not dowsing the flames already.
When the gusts of wind occasionally dropped, the sound of the rain drumming on the roof and pattering against the windows could clearly be heard, causing the listener to feel the cold and damp even more. And then the wind picked up again and the sounds of waves crashing against the rocks outside added to the melee.
The Cornish coast was miserable during the winter months, and this winter was no exception.
The young lord leaned back and placed his head on the back of the chair upon which he was huddled, and he shivered. He had been trying to read, but with the candles continually being blown out and there being a limited supply of oil lamps, he had given up relying on firelight alone. The newspaper lay in a crumpled heap on the floor beside him, abandoned and forgotten.
With a little shock, he realised that he could see right through a hole in the ceiling above him, up into the rafters, and through another hole in the roof tiles to a tiny patch of clear sky that peeped out from between black and heavy storm clouds. The night sky was pitch dark, but two stars twinkled, framed perfectly by the gap in the roof.
“No wonder it is raining inside the house,” he muttered out loud, tearing his eyes away from the ceiling and looking at the fire as it sputtered in the hearth. “So much for looking towards the heavens to give me strength.”
His younger sister, Lady Hannah, who was sitting in a corner sewing by the light of one of the precious oil lamps, which was protected from the wind with a glass shade, glanced up at him. She was swaddled in a warm woollen shawl with only her arms peeping out so that she could continue her stitching.
“It is not as though you do not already know the state the house is in,” she said.
“What is that supposed to mean?” he snapped back at her.
“Well, you sit there complaining and act all surprised, when in fact the roof has had a big hole in it for several weeks. Surely it would be obvious that as soon as it rained, the rain would come in.”
“What else do you expect me to do about it?” he asked.
“You could repair it, for a start,” she replied, tying off her thread and choosing another from her sewing basket. “You have known about it long enough. Or do you expect Matthew to climb up onto the roof at his age and fix it?”
“With what?” he cried, sitting forward and throwing his hands in the air, and the blanket off his shoulders at the same time. “With what can I repair it? We cannot afford the materials to even patch the holes, and if the weather is ever fine enough to carry out such repairs, we are all needed at the mine. Including Matthew.”
Matthew was the Trenowden’s man. He helped out around the estate doing little jobs here and there. But when all hands were needed at the mine, Matthew would go along and do his bit there with all the other menfolk. Even if it was just fetching and carrying, for he did not go underground. Matthew had been with the family for as long as Lord Lovell and Lady Hannah could remember.
His sister was right, thought Lord Lovell. He jumped up and began pacing around the room, avoiding strategically placed buckets and barrels here and there on the floor that were catching the rainwater.
“It is a vicious circle,” he complained, running a hand through his thick thatch of dark brown hair before rubbing the whiskers on his face. “We can afford neither the materials nor the labour to mend this decrepit old house. Even if I were able to do the work myself, I would have nothing to work with.”
“Then complaining about it will serve no purpose, brother,” said Lady Hannah, turning up her lamp a little and returning to her needlework.
Again, he thought, his sister was right. It was down to him as the heir to the estate to do something about the state of both the house and affairs at the mine. After all, they would wait for ever if they left it to their father.
“I have a plan,” he admitted finally, throwing some logs on the fire before sitting back down on his chair and pulling the blanket around him again.
“What kind of a plan?” asked Lady Hannah, not looking up from her embroidery.
“A plan to make the mines profitable once again.”
Now she did look up, her mouth forming a silent ‘O’. But before he had a chance to explain further, the door burst open, and in blustered Lord Oliver Trenowden himself, accompanied by two boisterous pugs and a gust of cold air. The storm outside was so noisy that Lord Lovell had not heard his father come up the stairs.
Lord Oliver went straight to the fire to warm his backside on the flames, while the dogs, Wilbur and Tucker, went straight to their favourite spot on the two-seater settee.
“I do wish you would keep those animals off the furniture,” complained Lady Hannah. “You know how it annoys Mother too.”
“I do not see why,” replied her father, now warming his hands. “What does it matter if they want to sleep on the furniture?” He coughed a couple of times and spat into the fire.
“They are covered with mud for a start,” said his daughter. “And then there are the hairs. We cannot sit down anywhere in this house without standing up again and finding ourselves covered in dog hairs.”
“There is enough room for all of us,” said Lord Oliver, stretching out his hands to encompass the entire room.
“Hardly,” snorted Lord Lovell, glancing around at all the pots and pans collecting the rainwater. “In fact, the dogs have probably also discovered the driest spot in the whole of the room.”
“Yes,” agreed his father, looking up at the ceiling. “It is indeed unfortunate that the house is in such disrepair.”
“Unfortunate?” spat his son with disbelief. “It is disgusting that we live in this manner. Even the pigs down on the farm have better accommodation than we do.”
“The pigs need to be kept in good condition, or they will not sell at market,” said Lord Oliver, striding across the floor, around a bucket, and dropping down into an over-stuffed armchair next to his son. “We must keep the pigs happy, son.”
“What about us, Father?” asked Lord Lovell. “Is it not also important that we be kept in good condition so that we can work and earn money? Are we not entitled to be happy too?” He shook his head in frustration.
“Alas, you are quite correct,” lamented the older man. “We have suffered many misfortunes as far as our finances are concerned—”
“Misfortunes?” said Lord Lovell, aghast now.
“Of course,” replied his father. “But, fear not, for the tide should surely turn and be in our favour soon enough. We are due some luck.”
“One should not rely on luck alone,” said his son, shaking his head again. “Indeed, if you tried to drink less and stopped gambling away our dwindling fortune, then we might see a turn for the better.”
Without moving his head, Lord Oliver swivelled his eyes from Lord Lovell to Lady Hannah in the corner, to the dogs, and back to Lord Lovell. “I know not what you mean,” he said quietly, not moving a muscle in his face.
The young man knew that he was riling his father, but he could not seem to stop himself. The stillness and the quiet voice were only two of the warning signs. “Do not act coy, Father,” said Lord Lovell regardless. “You owe gold to every single man in London. And when it comes to the drinking houses and the gambling dens, you seem unable to keep your hands in your pockets.”
“You insult me, Lovell,” said Lord Oliver firmly, standing up again and marching to the door. “May I remind you that I am the head of this household, I am the man of the house, not you. You do not take it upon yourself to scold me,” he said, pulling the door open and letting all the heat out of the room.
“Oh, do stop quarrelling, the pair of you,” pleaded Lady Hannah. “You are no better than a pair of naughty boys. Both of you,” she added, glaring at her brother.
“Well,” muttered the older man. “He speaks out of turn. It is not his place.”
Lord Lovell tutted and looked at the fire again. He knew that if he continued to speak, he would say something further to annoy and disrespect his father.
“Do come back and sit down,” soothed Lady Hannah, placing her canvas to one side. She stood up and went and closed the door again behind her father, shooing him back to the now vacant armchair.
“Lovell, why do you not tell our father of your grand plan?”
“Eh?” said Lord Oliver. “What plan is this?”
“It is a plan to make the mines profitable again, Father,” said Lady Hannah. “Is it not, Lovell?”
Lord Lovell glanced at his sister. He had not wished to share his ideas just yet with his father, as he wanted to give them more thought. But now, his sister had put him on the spot, and their father was apparently all ears.
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Lady Grace Rutlege might not hold a classic beauty, but she is uniquely attractive in an unassuming manner. Nevertheless, she has little hope of finding true love, as it seems that no one truly appreciates her golden heart and boundless intelligence. Fate smiles on her though when she meets a dashing lord, whose presence will give her butterflies. Little did she know that her own sister would be jealous of her sweet romance…
Will the imperfectly perfect Lady capture the charming Lord’s heart?
Lord Lovell Trenowden is a man who cares deeply for his family. When their lives are falling apart along with their estate, Lovell accepts that he has no choice but to marry for money. Luckily for him, Lady Grace not only has wealth, but also the most beautiful soul from all women he has ever met. When she accepts his marriage proposal, he feels he is the luckiest man in the world. However, what Lovell hasn’t confessed to Grace, is that finding a wealthy wife was his only option…
Will Lord Lovell manage to both save his family estate and marry the woman of his dreams?
The more time they spend together, the more Lovell and Grace’s romance blossoms into something neither was expecting. Everything crashes down though the moment Grace’s spiteful sister tells her that Lovell was on the hunt for a wife to merely secure a fortune. When Grace calls off the engagement, will Lovell manage to convince her that she is the love of his life? In the end, will Grace and Lovell follow the truth of their hearts, defying anything that comes between them?
“When a Lady Says I Do” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.