Thursday, 12 November 2009

The Mistress Of Hanover Square

This is from the third in the A Season in Town trilogy, due out in January 2010


Amelia stood for a moment on the steps of her house in Hanover Square, gazing across to the Earl of Ravenshead’s London home, which was at the far side. She knew that he was not in residence and supposed that he was at his estate in the county. It was only because she had wanted to do some shopping for Christmas and deliver some gifts that she and her companion had come to town for a few days. She had hoped that she might perhaps meet the earl, at the theatre or some other affair, but it had not happened.
‘Is something wrong?’ Emily Barton asked.
Amelia looked at her in surprise and then realised that she had sighed. Her companion was a sensitive girl and always seemed to know when Amelia was out of sorts.
‘No, I was merely wondering if I had forgotten anything. I should not wish to arrive at Pendleton and then remember something I had left behind.’
‘I am sure you will not.’ Emily smiled at her. ‘I helped Martha pack your trunks and I am certain nothing was left out.’
‘Thank you, my love. I know I can always rely on your good sense.’
‘You are not upset by your brother’s visit?’
For a moment Amelia’s eyes clouded. Her brother, Sir Michael Royston, had paid her a brief but intensely unpleasant visit to complain. He always seemed to be in a temper these days and Amelia had come to dread his visits.
‘No, dearest. As you know, my brother is…difficult. However, I am not upset.’ She took Emily’s arm. ‘Come, we must not keep the horses standing. I want to make good time for the sky has all the appearance of bad weather and I would like to get to Pendleton before it turns to snow.

‘I am looking forward to spending Christmas with our friends,’ Emily said and smiled as she glanced across the carriage. They had been travelling for some time now and the streets of London had given way to pleasant countryside. ‘Before I came to you, Amelia, Christmas was always a time of regret.’
‘Was it, my love?’ Amelia Royston looked at her companion in concern. She was aware of her companion’s secret sorrow, but it was something Emily hardly ever spoke of. ‘Are you happier now that you have been living with me for more than a year?’
‘Oh yes, much. If only…’ Emily broke off and shook her head. ‘No, we shall not think of things that make us sad. Do you think that the Earl of Ravenshead will be at Pendleton this year?’
‘Susannah said nothing of it when she wrote to invite us,’ Amelia said, and a faint colour stained her cheeks. It almost seemed that Emily was reading her thoughts. ‘Why do you ask, Emily?’
‘Forgive me, perhaps I ought not to have spoken, but I thought…in the season and at Helene’s wedding earlier this year…I did think that perhaps there might be something…’ Emily broke off and shook her head. ‘It was not my place to ask…’
‘Have I not told you that you may say anything to me, Emily? We are friends and have no secrets from each other. Since you ask, I shall tell you that I did think Gerard might speak some eighteen months ago but he was called to France on family business. When we met him in London this year he paid me some attention, but…’ Amelia sighed. ‘I think now it was merely friendship. ‘There was a time when we might have married but my brother sent him away. He married some months later, which must mean that he did not suffer from our parting as I did…’
‘You cannot be sure of that, Amelia. The earl may have married for various reasons. Perhaps it was on the rebound?’ Emily frowned. ‘I think you told me his wife has since died?’
‘Gerard told me she was ill after the birth of their daughter and never recovered. I think that perhaps he is still grieving for her.’
‘He will surely wish to marry again, if only for the sake of his daughter.’
‘Yes, perhaps – though I am not sure I should wish to be married for such a reason.’
‘I did not mean…please do not think I meant that he would marry you for the sake of his child,’ Emily apologised and looked upset. ‘I believe he likes you very well, Amelia.’
‘Yes, I believe we are good friends,’ Amelia agreed.
She leaned her head back against the squabs, closing her eyes. It would be very foolish of her to give way to emotion. She had cried too many tears when Gerard went away the first time. He had vowed that he loved her with all his heart, asked her to be his wife and then simply disappeared. When she was told he had joined the army she had suffered a broken heart. She had not understood then that her brother had forced him to walk away from her – and threatened him and used violence. His desertion had left her feeling abandoned and distraught. When she first saw him again in company some four years later, she had been overwhelmed, and it had taken all her self-control not to show her feelings.

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