Hello and welcome back to a Victorian Legacy after what turned out to be a longer break than Ihad anticipated. But I‟m back and I‟m ready to get on with telling this story.As always, I recommend that you‟ve read at least the previous few chapters, but here‟s a littlerecap just in case you haven‟t. The generation five heir, Bertie is currently at New SimbridgeUniversity. There, now removed from the support of his emotional crutch, his brother Stuart, hehas started to gain confidence in his own abilities and own worth.He also met the Sartor sisters, and although Lauren was charming and engaging, her twinSophia was rude and insufferable, insisting that when it came to his father‟s music, she hadknowledge he did not. Bertie invited her to one of Eddie‟s concerts, only to humiliate her.Taking umbrage at this, Sophia vowed not to have anything more to do with that hateful man,which was just fine with Bertie, since he wanted nothing more to do with that insufferable woman.It would have been very simple, if either had been able to stop thinking about the other.There were several other important developments, but that‟s all you need to know for the start ofthe chapter. Now on with the show!
Midsummer had been and gone in Simland, leaving in its wake an intense heat which made thestudents at New Simbridge sluggish and unwilling to study. They had taken to lazing around inone of the parks or down by the river, waiting for glimpses of the girls at the Acadamie as theypromenaded in an effort to keep cool themselves.
One group of students wasn‟t quite so lucky. Bertie was determined to build on the footballteam‟s success the previous year and not just make it to the final this time, but also lift the trophy.Therefore the team was still training several times a week, despite the heat meaning that severalteam members, including Bertie, had taken to divesting themselves of part of their kits.Such a training session had just finished. “Well done everyone,” said Bertie, beaming. “Even inthis heat you are all playing and practising superbly. That is it for today, but I will see you all onThursday, when hopefully it will be a tad cooler.”
As everyone started to collect their kits and amble away, Bertie started to go through his notes.Soon it was just him and Andrew left by the side of the pitch. “We are missing Graves indefence,” said Bertie looking down at his clipboard. “I might try McMurry there until we hold tryouts in a couple of weeks.”Andrew nodded. “Good idea. Walker might be another to think about.”
Bertie was about to reply, when he saw Peter dashing towards them. His greeting died on hislips when he saw the expression on his friend‟s face. “Andrew, we have to go home at once,” hesaid going to straight to his twin. “Papa has just sent a telegram. Grandmamma died thismorning.”
“Oh no, I am so sorry,” said Bertie as Andrew gaped at his brother.“Have you told Celly?” Andrew asked at least, referring to the fact that their sister had started atthe Acadamie only a few short weeks before.
Peter shook his head. “I was going to go to the Acadamie once I had spoken to you.”“I will come with you, then we‟ll take Celly back to the Legacy Society with us and go from there.“Bertie, you do not mind finishing here?” asked Andrew.
Bertie shook his head. “Of course not. Go home, you are needed there. Please give everyonemy sympathies and condolences.”Andrew nodded once, before he and his brother headed off in the direction of Princess BeatriceHouse.
The three young men hadnt realised that they were being observed. The catcalls and stares hadfinally proved too much for Sophia to stand, and so she had suggested to her sister that they taketheir promenade along the open spaces lining the western part of the town. Lauren, ratherenjoying the attention of the university students had reluctantly agreed, knowing her sister wouldkeep on complaining until she did.What Sophia hadn‟t expected, when she had suggested their new route, was that the sportsteams would still be training, and she certainly hadn‟t expected to be confronted with a half nakedsportsman.“Lauren, is that a man in a state of dishabille over there?” she gestured to where Bertie, nowalone, was gathering everything together.
“I do believe it is,” replied Lauren, no where near as much disgust in her voice.“How despicable of him, appearing thus in public where respectable young ladies such asourselves may be walking.” She was about to say that she had a good mind to go and tell himso, when he turned towards them and straightened up. As she got a better look at him, her jawdropped. “Is that Mr Legacy?”
Lauren was also taking a good look at him. “I do believe it is.” She gave a sidelong glance to hersister. “Well, this is fortuitous. You can thank him properly for his thoughtful gift, can you not?”
Sophia‟s mouth opened and closed like a fish, before she managed to blurt out “it was not athoughtful gift as you well know. He did it to spite me and prove he was right!”“I do not believe that, and I refuse to think you do either. Not deep down,” admonished Lauren.“Well,” Sophia sought a further excuse not to approach him. “How can I speak civilly to him whenhe is in such a state of attire? It is unseemly.”
“I do not see why,” said Lauren causing her sister to look at her in amazement. “Hismusculature reminds me of one of the statues you spent so long admiring in SimFlorence, so youcan hardly object to it on the grounds you have not seen the like before.”
Sophia turned her eyes heavenwards. “But they were lumps of stone, and not a man of myacquaintance. One whom I have attended a concert and dined with.”Lauren rolled her eyes. “Really Sophia, I would never have expected you to behave in such amanner. Given that this is Mr Legacy we are talking about, and given the low opinion you have ofhim, I would have thought that you would be more likely to run over there and give him what for,for being undressed in public, not stand here exclaiming about how unseemly your behaviourwould be for speaking to him.“I feel you protest too much, and I am going to and say hello to him.” She set off towards thefootball pitch. After a momentary pause, Sophia followed.
“Mr Legacy!”Bertie looked up as he heard himself being hailed. “Miss Lauren,” he said smiling at her. “AndMiss Sartor.” His grin grew even wider as he saw the older twin join her sister. Lauren hid asmall grin of her own as she noticed.
“I hope the two of you are well?” he asked.“Very well thank you Mr Legacy,” replied Lauren. “We were just taking a stroll in order to try tofind some relief from the stuffy heat of the rooms at the Acadamie. We did try down by the riverfirst but it was too crowded there, was it not Sophia?”Sophia started as her twin spoke to her. “Yes it was,” she replied, fixing her gaze on Bertie‟sface.
In the gap in the conversation, Sophia became aware that Lauren was expecting her to broachthe next subject. She went to admonish him for his lack of clothing, but instead, found herselfsaying “we could not help but notice your companions leaving very quickly. They are CelestiaHarrisons brothers are they not? We have seen them visiting her. I do hope that nothing isamiss.”“They are, yes, and unfortunately they have just received news that their grandmother haspassed away.”
“Oh how awful!” exclaimed Lauren.“We will have to get Miss Harrison something as a token of our sympathy Sophia,” she continued,but her sister hardly heard her. She had bowed her head in sympathy on hearing about Enid‟sdeath, and was now finding her gaze being drawn to Mr Legacy‟s abdominal muscles. Laurenwas wrong, she decided. His musculature was quite unlike that of the statues in SimFlorence.Theirs had been frozen in time, whereas his moved as he breathed. She was finding it quitefascinating and was fighting the desire to touch them (strictly out of artistic curiosity of course).
“Even though you had saddening news to import, we are pleased to see you Mr Legacy, are wenot Sophia?”Sophia tore her gaze away from Bertie‟s stomach and back to his face. “We are surprised to findyou here and thus attired at any rate,” she replied somewhat snappily.
Bertie looked down at himself and looked surprised to find himself shirtless. “I apologise,” hesaid turning away and bending to retrieve his shirt, finding his watch and glancing at it as he didso, “I got so hot during practice, I removed it and then quite forgot I had.”
He turned back to them, once more fully clothed and Sophia couldnt stop the small twinge ofregret that she would no longer be able to study his musculature.“As I was saying,” said Lauren with a sidelong look at her sister. “We are pleased to see you.Sophia wished to speak to you.”
“Oh?” Bertie turned his gaze to Sophia.Sophia aimed a glare at her sister. “Oh, yes. I wished to thank you for your gift. It was very kindof you to obtain the score of A Winter’s Requiem for me, although I did wonder if you had doneso only to prove your point over the key change.”“Such a thought never crossed my mind,” replied Bertie truthfully. “I thought only that you mightlike to have a copy of the music, given how much you enjoy listening to it.”“Oh.” Sophia looked slightly abashed at his honesty. “In that case, I thank you for it.”
“You are more than welcome.” He looked from sister to sister. “Much as I would love to continueour conversation, I am afraid I have a lecture soon, and must return home in order to put on moreappropriate attire.” Lauren noticed how he looked at Sophia as he said this and wondered if shewould pick up on how he was gently mocking her, and how she would react to it. She thought bythe way Sophia slightly raised her eyebrows that she had realised, but she chose to ignore it.Instead she replied “then we really had better let you go Mr Legacy. Good day to you.”“Good day Miss Sartor, Miss Lauren.” He inclined his head to them.
He watched them until they were nearly at the park behind the Fine Arts Building before turningback to pick up the rest of the footballs. Seeing Miss Sartor had once more caused his thoughtsto become muddled, and how could he have forgotten he was half undressed? What must shethink of him? Well she must think him a boor that‟s what. And that bothered him for somereason he couldn‟t quite put his finger on.Sighing, he slung the sack which now contained all the balls onto his back and started for theLegacy Society.
The house had been empty and eerily silent when Bertie had returned from football practice, sohe was very pleased to find Ezra standing in the hall, looking through some correspondencewhen he returned from his lecture later that afternoon.“Good afternoon Ezra,” he said as he shut the door.
Ezra looked up from the letter he was perusing, before placing the envelopes on the hallsideboard. “Bertie. Sad news about Peter and Andrew‟s grandmother.”Bertie nodded. “Yes. I expect I too will have to journey home for the funeral.”“Of course,” replied Ezra. “She was your aunt, was she not?”“My great aunt, yes.” He was about to lament to passing of his grandfathers siblings, when therewas a crash from upstairs, followed by a barrage of swearing.
“Do you need assistance?” called Bertie as he looked up the stairs.“No, I am more than capable of manoeuvring this bloody trunk through this door, I assure you,”replied Christopher as he peered round the door to his bedroom. “But I have discovered that itgreatly speeds the process if I do not try to carry my easel through at the same time.”
“Trunk?” said Bertie as he watched Christopher edge said trunk through the door and down thestairs. “Are you … off somewhere?”“SimParis!” exclaimed Christopher straightening up. “It is an art trip. Or rather, mostly an art trip.We leave early tomorrow morning, and when I was speaking to Bethany about it, she begged meto be organised for once in my life, and get everything ready the night before.”Ezra gave a smile at the mention of his fiancée.“I have to say, she was making sense,” continued Christopher. “This way, I will not be rushingaround at goodness knows what time of the clock, trying to locate my second best waistcoat, orbest braces.”
“Of course she was making sense,” said Ezra. “Your sister often does, and you should listen toher more.”Christopher gave him an amused look. “But where is the fun in that? It is so much moreamusing to wind her up and pretend that she is spouting rubbish, than to agree that she issensible.”Ezra shook his head.“Bertie agrees with me, do you not? A bit of playful banter and antagonism makes life all thatmore interesting.”
Bertie blinked, astounded at how quickly the image of Sophia glaring at him, fire flashing in hereyes had come to him. “I am not sure I do, you know,” he said forcing a laugh.“Yes you do. I bet you and Stuart have plenty of arguments,” said Christopher before changingthe subject again. “I had better got and fetch my easel and paint box down. It really would notdo to forget the art equipment for an art excursion. Well, mainly art excursion.”
As Christopher trotted back up the stairs, Bertie turned to Ezra. “With Peter and Andrew goingback home, and Christopher away, it looks like it will be just the two of us here tomorrow night,”he smiled as he spoke.“Oh, sorry but I will not be here either,” replied Ezra.
Bertie‟s face fell and he tried not to let the panic he felt at those words, show in his eyes. “Oh?”“Yes, I have to travel to Regalton to speak to the architect and mason about Dargent House II. Iknow you and your father are planning on having some building work done yourselves, and all Ican recommend is that you supervise the work thoroughly. There has been some confusion withthe carriage house and where it is to be sited, and I intend to resolve it. Once I have done that, Ineed to pay a call to my parents in Simdon. I will more than likely spend the night at their houseand catch an early train back to Simbridge on Thursday.”Bertie nodded. “I certainly hope that you give the architect and builder what for and geteverything resolved to your satisfaction.”
Ezra smiled. “Oh I will, do not doubt it.” Another crash came from upstairs, followed by a violentexclamation.Ezra sighed. “I think I will go and help my future brother-in-law, before he succeeds indemolishing the wall to his bedchamber. Excuse me.”
Bertie gave a tight smile as Ezra started up the stairs, before making his way to the drawingroom. Once there, he sat on one of the loveseats, his face pensive. There was no getting awayfrom it, tomorrow night he would be in the house on his own.He felt his palms grow slick as the memories of his childhood night terrors came back to him.Running from room to room, the house and then his village devoid of all life. His breathing camefaster and shallower as the panic rose.
There was another crash from upstairs, and the noise brought him out of his panic. He wasn‟talone just yet, and he had time enough to think of a way to overcome or minimise his fear.As his breathing slowed he started to think of things he could do the next night, rather than stayin the house alone. There was always the pub or perhaps the Campus Lounge would have ashow he could attend. However, the more he thought about drinking without his best friends themore depressing the thought became. He realised that he would more than likely see some ofthe members of the football team or some students from his lectures in either place, but itwouldn‟t be the same as drinking with Andrew or Peter.Perhaps then, he should dine at a restaurant. He would still be surrounded by others, butwouldn‟t miss his friends as much, since it was something they never did as a group.Yet, did he really want to dine alone?No, he would need someone to eat with him.
Maybe it was because he had seen her earlier that day, or maybe it was due to Christopher‟scomment bringing her to mind again, but his thoughts immediately turned to Sophia.Would she be willing to dine with him he wondered, when she had still been so standoffish to himearlier. There was only one way to find out, he reasoned, and that was to ask her. The worstthat could happen would be that she would say no. He was surprised by the wave of sadnesswhich threatened to rise and he pushed it down hurriedly. Making up his mind to ask her thereand then, he went to the bottom of the stairs and shouted up that he was going out.
Ezra and Christopher watched him go from the window of Christopher‟s room. “He looked …panicked when I said I would not be here tomorrow,” said Ezra thoughtfully.“Oh that is just Bertie. He doesnt like being on his own. He never has,” replied Christopher.“He is better than he was, but still I wonder what he is going to be like when Stuart…”“When Stuart what?”Christopher shook his head. “Never mind, it is of little consequence. I need to get this blastedeasel to stay shut. That is far more important.” He stomped back over to where he had droppedit, all thoughts of his cousin gone.
In Princess Beatrice House, Lauren and Sophia were sitting in the drawing room. The Frenchdoors and all the windows had been flung open to try to let in the breeze, but the atmospherewas still stifling hot. The heat was certainly not helping Sophia‟s temper as she attempted totrudge through the anthology of poetry their aunt had given to her before the start of the newsession. “Urgh, this really is turgid dross,” she said as she gave up and threw the book onto thesettee beside her.Lauren looked up from her embroidery. “Is that the book Aunt Matilda gave to you when we sawher last?”“It is. And , may I just say, it is an excellent example of her lack of taste.”“Surely it is not that bad.”
Sophia threw her a look. “It is worse. I swear that if any man wrote poetry such as this for me, Iwould kindly inform him that his soul had all the romance of a compost heap and that I did notwish to speak to him ever again.”“That is rather harsh,” said Lauren mildly.“It is the truth,” replied Sophia with a shrug. “I have no time for insincerity.”“If you say so,” said Lauren going back to her sewing.
Sophia was about to say more, when there came a knock at the door, and one of the other girlsentered. “Sophia, there is a Mr Legacy here to see you.”Sophia shot up from the settee. “Mr Legacy?”“Yes. Shall I send him in?”“I erm. Yes,” replied Sophia as she tried not to sound too flustered. She had found her thoughtsdwelling on him in an infuriating way since their earlier meeting, and the fact that she was to facehim again, so soon threatened to break her usually calm demeanour.Lauren put her sewing down on the table beside her and stood up. This promised to beinteresting.
“Mr Legacy,” said Sophia as Bertie entered the room.“Miss Sartor, Miss Lauren,” he replied nodding at each of them in turn. Lauren flashed him abrilliant smile. “Mr Legacy.”“I am glad to see that you are more suitably attired now,” said Sophia, unable to stop herself frommaking such a comment as she noticed the warmth in her sister‟s voice.Bertie looked down at his suit and laughed. “Yes, I thought it would be best to pay a visit to ayoung lady fully dressed, rather than half naked. People might talk otherwise you know.”
“Indeed,” replied Sophia, pushing aside the image of him earlier. “Is there any particular reasonfor this social call?” She knew she was sounding brusque, but if he wasnt so vexing, she wouldbe perfectly civil and friendly to him.“Actually, there is. I was wondering if you would care to dine with me tomorrow night.”
Sophia looked slightly stunned at this, but recovered well. “Dine with you?”“Yes.” Bertie‟s grin slipped slightly at her hesitation. “Please allow me to invite you as anapology for my appalling lack of manners earlier today, when I failed to adequately cover myselfwithout your prompting.”“Oh. Then I think it would be rude to refuse your apology Mr Legacy. I would very much like todine with you tomorrow evening,” said Sophia, her heart racing as she did so.
“Your sister, is of course, welcome to join us,” said Bertie, knowing that Lauren would have to bethere to act as chaperone.“I would be delighted. It sounds like a capital idea,” said Lauren.“Then it is settled.”“I take it we will be dining in Simbridge,” said Sophia.“Actually, no. Despite living here for two years, I have a lamentable lack of knowledge withregards to the city‟s restaurants. My father, however has recommended a nice restaurant inSimdon and I thought we could dine there.”
Sophia nodded. “That sounds delightful. We will, of course, be required to dress.”“I believe that to be a good idea,” replied Bertie. “We will cause a sensation if we turn up, myselfclad in only my football shorts, while your sister and yourself are in nought but your corsets andchemises.”Sophias mouth twitched into a smile and she was surprised to realise that that had been funny.“I was referring to whether or not Lauren and myself should dress in evening gowns,” she saidtrying not to let her amusement show.“I realised that, and yes. Most establishments in Simdon expect their clientele to don eveningwear if they dine there at night.”“Then we will dress accordingly,” replied Sophia.
“I am certain you will. I will be outside with a carriage at six tomorrow night.”“We will look forward to it Mr Legacy, will we not?” said Lauren offering Bertie her hand. After amomentary pause, Bertie took it before transferring his attention back to Sophia.“Yes, we will,” she agreed. Bertie took her hand and held it for a little longer than he had held hersister‟s before saying. “Until tomorrow, Miss Sartor, Miss Lauren.” With a smile, he turned andleft the room, feeling happier than he had thought possible when he had learnt he was going tobe the only one at home in the Legacy Society.
“Well, that was a nice surprise,” said Lauren as the door closed. She looked at her sister out ofthe corner of her eye. “It should be a pleasant evening spent in his company, do you notagree?”“Scarcely. I have no idea why I just agreed to dine with him. Last time it was quitedisagreeable,” said Sophia automatically.“Ah, but unlike last time, you are not trying to prove a point, and neither is he. Besides, you willhave me there to make conversation and generally make the evening agreeable,” Lauren smiledat her sister who went and sat back down on the settee.
“Yes, I suppose I will.” She picked up the poetry anthology only to fling it down again as sheremembered the warmth of his hand as he had taken hers. Why was the hateful man making itso difficult for her to despise him?Lauren meanwhile had once more picked up her embroidery and was making plans. This was,she decided, the perfect opportunity to help her stubborn sister face up to her feelings for thecharming Mr Legacy. She smiled. She was going to make sure that it was going to be aninteresting evening.
It was just before six when Bertie arrived at Princess Beatrice House to pick up the Sartor sistersfor their meal. He had spent as much time as possible at the library before conceding that heneeded to head home to get changed. Once at the Legacy Society, he had taken his timemaking his ablutions and shaving before dressing carefully. It was only as he was adjusting hiscuffs that he became aware of the silence in the house pressing against him. Feeling his panicstart to rise again, he had taken one last look in the hall mirror before dashing out of the house tohail a cab earlier than he had planned.
Since he was early, he wasn‟t surprised when the same young lady as the day before opened thedoor and informed him that the Sartor sisters weren‟t ready yet. “If you would care to wait in thehall, I will inform them that you are here,” she said with a smile.Bertie smiled at her and watched as she headed up the stairs, before surreptitiously looking at hisreflection in the window and adjusting his tie. He was sure that it was not laying straight, nomatter what he did.
Upstairs in her room, Sophia was smoothing her hair, and making sure that there were no loosestrands, while her sister looked on. Although the sisters helped one another to get dressed,Lauren had managed to finish getting ready first, and had spent he past five minutes watchingSophia try on different earrings and necklaces in the pretence that she could not make up hermind which looked better. Both knew that she would decide to wear the cameo set which hadbeen their mother‟s, but while Lauren suspected she was fidgeting because she was dining withMr Legacy, Sophia was convinced the queasy feeling in her stomach and inability to sit still wasdue to the fact she really didn‟t want to spend the night in that vexing man‟s company and knew itwas too late to send word that she could not join him after all.At the knock at the door, she jumped before calling “come in.”
Felicity opened the door and smiled at the two young women. “Mr Legacy is here.”“Thank you Felicity,” said Sophia, keenly aware that her heart had just quadrupled its beat.“Please tell Mr Legacy we will be down shortly,” said Lauren as she stood up and smoothed herskirt, but Miss Porter made no move to exit the room.“Was there anything else Felicity?” asked Sophia, turning around.
“No. Only that the two of you are very lucky,” replied Felicity with a smile.“Oh? Really? Why is that?” Sophia frowned as she spoke to the younger girl.“Mr Legacy is looking particularly handsome tonight and …” her voice trailed off as she saw thestony look on Sophia‟s face.“I will go and tell him that you will be with him shortly,” she said instead before bobbing andleaving the room.
Sophia took a short minute to gather her thoughts before taking one last look at herself in themirror. “I do hope that we are not overdressed,” she said as she pulled on one of her gloves. “Ishould hate to be embarrassed by that spiteful man yet again.”Lauren looked up from where she was rummaging in her reticule. “I doubt we will be. Felicitysaid that Mr Legacy is looking more handsome than usual, so I am assuming that he is wearing atail suit.”
Sophia looked at her in amazement. “And why would you assume that?”“Because nothing makes a man look more pleasing to the eye than tails and a bow tie. I amsurprised you do not agree.”An image of Bertie as he had appeared the previous day, clad only in his long football shorts, hishair messy and damp at the roots rose up in Sophia‟s mind, and she quickly suppressed it. “Ihave not given it as much thought as you clearly have,” she replied instead.“Perhaps you should,” said Lauren as she pulled the drawstring of her reticule tight. “It couldopen up all sorts of possibilities for you.”
“And be labelled a flirt like you?” asked Sophia as Lauren walked over to the door knob.“There are worse things to be called,” said Lauren. “Are you ready?”“As ready as I will ever be I suppose,” replied Sophia as she wondered why her heart had not yetreturned to its normal beat.
Bertie looked up as he heard their tread on the stairs. What he saw fair took his breath away andhe couldn‟t help but say “you look beautiful.” Lauren glanced at the direction of his gaze. As shehad hoped, he was looking at Sophia and taking no notice of her. It was time to put the plan shehad formulated over the past day into action. “Thank you Mr Legacy,” she said sweeping downthe stairs. “May I say that you are also looking particularly fine this evening. Tails suit youimmensely.” She was gratified to see how startled he looked as she spoke. Oh yes. He hadn‟tbeen paying her any attention at all.
Still on the stairs, a wave of disappointment crashed over Sophia, followed immediately byannoyance as she realised she was disappointed that the compliment had not been aimed at her.She told herself that she cared not one jot about Mr Legacy‟s opinion on her looks so she had noright to feel so downcast if he praised her sister‟s beauty and not hers. Her annoyance grew asshe realised that there was a tiny, traitorous part of her which refused to believe that.
Down in the hall, Bertie was trying to recover his composure. “I meant of course, that you bothlook beautiful tonight,” he smiled at Sophia who was still making her way down the stairs. He hadhoped his remark would be greeted with a smile, but instead he got a glare which succeeded inmaking his stomach flip.
Lauren had been watching both her companions with interest and was pleased with what shesaw. She was confident that by the end of the evening, she could have them both on the vergeof confessing their feelings for one another. With a brilliant smile, she slipped her arm throughBertie‟s. “I believe that we are both ready. Perhaps we should be going.”Bertie tried not to let his surprise at her touch show, and instead turned to Sophia, still only partway down the stairs. “Are you ready Miss Sartor?”
Sophia gave a terse nod as she tried to ignore her sister‟s arm through his. She, of course, hadno real desire to be on his arm, but as the older sister, (if only by an hour), good mannersdictated that it should be her walking beside Mr Legacy, not Lauren. It was a thought whichoccupied her all the way to the waiting carriage.
Bertie sipped his sauterne and tried to look interested in what Lauren was saying. It was a taskwhich had grown increasingly difficult as the night wore on. She had been talking nonstop sincethe moment they had entered the cab and by the time they had reached Simbridge railwaystation, Bertie had been very glad of the fact that they were completing the majority of the journeyby the much faster train than by carriage. Thus far, the only time Lauren had paused in her inanechatter was to eat, and even then she took only the most delicate and dainty of mouthfuls beforedeclaring that she was quite full and starting a new topic of conversation.
He looked over at Sophia, who was currently pushing the remains of her dessert listlessly aroundher plate. In direct contrast to her twin‟s ceaseless prattle, Sophia had become increasinglysullen and withdrawn as the night had gone on. Bertie realised that he longed for an outburstfrom her, whether it was to criticise his taste in restaurants or to inform him that his tie wascrooked, anything but her sitting there in silence. He was starting to worry that she was ill, or thatshe despised his company so much that she wished she was anywhere but where she was. Herealised with a pang, that it was the second option which would cause him most grief.
He became aware of a lull in the stream of words issuing from Lauren‟s mouth. He looked backat her to see her looking at him expectantly. Drat, she wanted a response from him. He put hisglass down on the table, but left his hand resting there. “I had not given it much thought,” he saidhoping that his answer was vague enough to make sense as a response to anything she had justsaid.
Lauren smiled. Good, he hadn‟t been paying any attention to her at all, and was insteadfocussing on her twin. Now she just needed to snap Sophia out of the glum reverie she had sunkinto, and make her face the truth she had been fighting since she had first met Mr Legacy.“Oh, but you must have,” she said with a smile. “I am very surprised you have not.” She reachedacross the table and rested her hand on his, her smile growing wider as she saw the shock in hiseyes at her touch.Before Bertie could say or do anything, there was a crash of crockery and the harsh scrapingsound of a chair being pushed back quickly.
They both turned to see Sophia standing, her countenance pale and the strangest look on herface. Bertie quickly withdrew his hand from Lauren‟s and started to stand himself. “My dear MissSartor, are you quite well?”“I...I…I suddenly feel rather weak. Excuse me.” She hurriedly left the room, leaving a concernedBertie looking after her.
“Do you not think you should follow to make sure she is well?” he asked turning back to Lauren.Lauren shook her head and picked up her wine glass. “She will be quite well Mr Legacy.”“Miss Lauren, you sister has just said that she is feeling ill I really do think that you should aid herif she requires it,” insisted Bertie.Lauren leant back in her chair. “Mr Legacy, please trust me when I say, that my sister does notwish to see me at this moment, and that she will be perfectly fine,” she said truthfully.
In the lavatory, Sophia was hunched over the basin as she tried to catch her breath. She lookedup into the mirror and stared at her reflection in shock. She had long rolled her eyes at hersister‟s behaviour around their male acquaintances, but never before had she been seized withthe desire to slap her twin. To shout and scream at her to leave Mr Legacy alone, she wantedhim. The revelation had hit her like a ton of bricks. Every traitorous thought she had everpretended not to have about Mr Legacy had descended in the split second she had seen Laurenreach out to take Bertie‟s hand.She loved him.It was obvious to her now.And she had no idea what to do about it.
While Sophia was trying to reconcile herself to the revelations she had just had about her feelingsfor Bertie, the man in question and her twin were sitting in the restaurant in silence. Sophia hadbeen gone for so long, Lauren was starting to wonder if she had misjudged the situation after all,while Bertie was fighting the desire to find Sophia and make sure that she was alright.They both looked up in relief as Sophia came back to the table.“Miss Sartor, are you feeling better?” asked Bertie as he stood to help her sit.
Sophia shot a quick smile at him. “I am thank you, perhaps still a little weak,” she lied, studiouslyavoiding looking at her sister.“I will pay and then we can go back to Simbridge if you are not feeling one hundred percent,” hesaid after taking his own seat.“Thank you,” she said with obvious relief. Her mind in turmoil, all Sophia wanted to do at thatmoment, was return home.“There is no need to thank me at all Miss Sartor,” replied Bertie signalling the waiter.
The journey back to Princess Beatrice House occurred in near silence. Sophia was too caughtup in her own thoughts to notice that Lauren was no longer talking incessantly or that Bertie wasalternating between shooting her concerned looks and staring into space himself, his expressionpensive. When they arrived back at their rooms, she hardly spared Bertie a glance as sheignored the hand he offered to help her alight from the carriage. It was Lauren who thanked himfor a very enjoyable evening, and Lauren who noticed how he watched Sophia head inside.
“Mr Legacy, perhaps you would care to call on Sophia tomorrow? I am certain that she toowould like to thank you for this evening, once she is feeling better, of course,” she said turningonce more to him.Bertie gave a start. “Of course. But in the meantime, would you be so kind as to pass on myregards to her.”“But of course.” Lauren inclined her head and smiled. “Goodnight Mr Legacy.”“Goodnight Miss Lauren.”
Lauren entered the house to find her sister standing, looking blank. On hearing the door closebehind Lauren, the house mistress entered from the music room. “I hope you had a pleasantevening girls,” she asked.“We did, thank you Mrs Mead,” replied Lauren.“Good. Since you are home safe and sound, I am going to retire to bed. Goodnight. Do nottarry too long before seeking your own beds.”“Goodnight Mrs Mead,” replied Lauren.
Once the house mistress had left, she turned to her sister and asked. “That was a pleasantevening, was it not?”Sophia looked startled at the sound of her voice. “You certainly appeared to be enjoying MrLegacy‟s company,” she frowned at her sister.“Yes, he is a very pleasant man if you give him half a chance. Are you feeling any better?”
Sophia‟s frown deepened, as she realised that she wanted to get far, far away from her twinbefore she slapped her. “Actually, I am feeling in need of some fresh air. If you will excuse me, Iam going to take a short stroll.” She put her hand on the door handle“At night? Come now Sophia, surely a turn around the gardens would be just as beneficial,”started Lauren.“No I feel I need a longer walk than that. I will not be long.” She tugged the heavy front dooropen, before bolting through it.
Lauren watched her sister leave, conflicted. She hoped that Sophia was heading after Mr Legacy(that was, after all, the sort of thing she would do), but at the same time, she was desperatelyworried about the idea of her walking the streets of the city at night. Anyone might be abroadand anything might happen. Oh the other hand, she had seen the look on her sister‟s face whenshe had looked at her. Going after her and insisting on accompanying her, or even lettinganyone else in the house know, would result in Sophia losing her temper with her, and Laurenwasn‟t sure if, given her current frame of mind, Sophia would ever forgive her.Instead, she quietly closed the door, and made her way upstairs to her own room. The windowsoverlooked the direction Sophia had walked off in, and she would keep a look out for herreturning there.
Meanwhile, not that far away, Bertie was walking slowly home. He had dismissed the cabdriverafter only a couple of hundred yards, deciding that he would rather complete the rest of thejourney on foot. He thought he had had an enjoyable evening. The food at the restaurant hadbeen as good as his father had promised, and he certainly liked the company he had been in.True, the conversation had been no where near as scintillating as he had hoped it would, but thatwas, he felt, mainly due to the fact that Lauren had taken charge of that early on and notrelinquished her role all evening. If Sophia had have joined in, he was certain that the topicswould have been more interesting. Not that he disliked Lauren, but she was not as passionateSophia.Sophia.
Sophia‟s behaviour all evening had worried him, and the fact that she spent the last part of theevening looking so ill, had concerned him more than he could articulate. He didn‟t like to see herso listless and unemotional. Every other meeting he had had with her, she had been passionate,and he liked her passion. He liked it a lot. He loved to see her dark eyes flash before shelaunched into some tirade, normally aimed at him.He loved the way she didn‟t back down until she was made to, and then still held onto her beliefeven though she had been proven wrong.He loved her.
He stopped walking at that thought. He loved her. Of course he did. He had done for a longwhile, but hadn‟t admitted it to himself.He had reached the river by now, and slowly made his way to one of the benches where he satlooking out towards the water.He loved her. And she always acted as if he was the last person in the world she wanted to see.What on earth was he going to do?
Little did he know, he was the sole topic of Sophia‟s thoughts at that very moment. She wasreplaying over and over every time she had been mean or uncomplimentary to him. How wasshe ever going to be able to face him and apologise to him? Why would he even listen to her?She had to go and see him. Tomorrow. She would go tomorrow.At least she would try to go tomorrow.It had been difficult enough being in his company for the journey home, and she hadn‟t looked athim once. How was she ever going to look him in the eye and tell him she was sorry she hadsaid she thought him insufferable, but she loved him?She had no idea.She continued walking towards the river, her feet guiding her with no conscious input from herbrain.
Bertie was still looking out over the river, trying to figure out what he should do next aboutSophia, when he heard footsteps behind him. He turned and shot out of his seat once he sawwho was there.“Miss Sartor?” he asked astonished.
Sophia started. There, in front of her as if her thoughts had been made real, was Bertie. Thelight of the moon was enough to, throw his face into sharp relief and showed her that his bowtieand collar were now undone. She was seized with the desire to run her fingers underneath hiscollar and up into his hair.“Miss Sartor,” he repeated concerned by the fact she appeared to be swaying. “Are you well?What cause do you have for wandering the streets unaccompanied at this time of night?”If he was expecting a biting reply in response, he was disappointed. “I needed some air,” shesaid weakly.“So you walked across the town by yourself?”“Yes.”
She swayed once more as she spoke, and instantly, Bertie was by her side. “Come and sitdown,” he said as he took her hands. She acquiesced meekly, and then sat in silence for a shortwhile, very aware of the fact that Bertie was sitting next to her.“I feel I owe you an apology for my behaviour this evening,” she said at last. “I was rude andstand offish.”“You do not need to apologise. I had been concerned about your quietness all evening, evenbefore your turn.”
Sophia arched an eyebrow at him, some of her strength coming back as her surprise faded.“Really? You had noticed my reticence? I had thought that you were so caught up in my sister‟scompany and conversation, that you scarcely noticed I was present all evening.” She couldn‟tkeep the bite out of her voice as she spoke and it momentarily took Bertie aback.“Of course I noticed,” he replied. “Miss Sartor, your sister is a very lovely lady, if loquacious, butit was not she whom I asked to dine with me tonight. It was you, and it was your conversation Imissed.”“But, why?” she blurted, as her earlier thoughts came back to her. “I have been beastly to you onour every meeting.”
“Yes, you have,” he agreed. “You are the most infuriating person I have ever met and yet I havenever wanted to get to know anyone more. The way you constantly argue with me drives me todistraction, and yet I. I cannot stop thinking about you. Every waking moment, the thought ofyou is at the back of my mind. I see your face when I close my eyes at night, and hope that I willsee you to speak to when I wake up in the morning.” He stopped speaking suddenly as herealised what he was on the verge of saying. Sophia, on her part, didn‟t notice his suddensilence. She was thinking about what he had said, about how his words could so very easily beher own. She did however notice when he, mistaking her silence for disapproval, stood upsuddenly and walked away.
“I apologise,” he said looking out at the river. “I should never have spoken so freely. I do notknow what came over me. It must be the wine and your influence. You drive me insane.”
He expected her to be offended, to bluster and shout at him, and call him every name under thesun. What he did not expect, was to feel the warmth of her hand through her glove as she creptbeside him and took his own. He turned to face her
Sophia pulled away suddenly as the realisation of what she was doing hit her. “You cad!” sheexclaimed, causing Bertie‟s eyebrows to sky rocket. “You despicable man, you are takingadvantage of me!”Bertie watching in consternation as she started pacing. His brain was struggling to comprehendthe fact that he had gone from thinking he had embarrassed himself completely and lost thewoman he was now sure he was in love with, to being kissed passionately by her, to beingchastised by her, all within a few minutes“I took advantage of you? Sophia, you kissed me.”
Sophia‟s pacing faltered as she remembered tracing her fingers along his collar, and up into hishair. “Well, you kissed me back. A gentleman should have extracted himself from the situationas delicately as possible.” She resumed her pacing.“I have never claimed to be a gentleman,” said Bertie as he watched.“Something which you have proved time and time again when you have met me! You really arethe most despicable, irritating, vexing man I have ever had the misfortune to meet!”
Sophia turned to continue pacing, and nearly bumped into Bertie who had come up behind her.“What?”
They were both panting when they parted. “Now you can say that I have taken advantage ofyou,” said Bertie.“You hateful man!” she exclaimed but Bertie couldn‟t help but notice that this time she didn‟tmake any move to pull away.“Vexing woman,” he shot back at her“Exasperating man!”“Maddening woman!”
Lauren was getting very worried. Sophia had been gone well over an hour, and apart frombreaks to brush out her hair, and change into her night things, Lauren had been keeping aconstant eye out of her windows for her. So far, there was no sign of her, and all sorts ofgruesome scenarios were starting to run through Laurens mind.She should never have let her go out alone. She should have insisted on accompanying her, nomatter how much Sophia didnt want her company. An image of Sophia laying beaten andbloodied in a ditch rose in her mind and she gasped. She was going to have to wake the housemistress and tell her what had happened. That was not going to be fun. The local constabularywould have to be called, and a full scale search organised. She would never forgive herself forleading Sophia into harm.
She was so caught up with her alarmist thoughts that she didnt take any notice of the two figureswalking arm in arm along Princess Street at first. It was only when they passed directly under anearby streetlamp that a flash of light reflecting off the trim of the ladys dress caught her eye,and drew her gaze. She let out a sigh of relief. The lady was Sophia, and she looked to be onthe arm of Mr Legacy. She smiled, and her grin grew wider as she took in the intimate tilt of theirheads as they walked slowly along. She had found him. Or he had found her. One or tother. Itdidnt matter which since they appeared to be getting along very well.She switched windows and watched them until they were out of sight by the front door, beforeslipping out of her room and into Sophias.
It was quite some minutes before she heard the unmistakable sound of someone trying to closethe heavy front door quietly, followed not long after by the tread of someone on the stair. Sophiaentered her room, humming under her breath. She started when she saw Lauren sitting on herbed."Lauren, what are you doing here?""I was concerned about the way you decided to go wandering the streets alone at night dearsister, and wanted to be sure you returned home safely," replied Lauren.
"As you can see, I have. I ... met Mr Legacy by the river, and he was kind enough to accompanyme on the rest of my walk and home.""I would expect nothing less of him." Lauren was watching Sophia closely as she put her reticledown and stripped off her gloves. It was obvious that she was bursting to tell her something, butat the same time, was having a fight with herself. "Would you care for some assistance with yourgown?" she asked, as a way of giving Sophia some more time.
"Please. Who did you get to assist you?" asked Sophia as she turned round."Miss Fitzhugh was awake and obliging enough to help," replied Lauren.Sophia was silent as Lauren unhooked her bodice. Eventually she blurted out "I love himLauren.“Lauren didnt say a word as she finished and stepped back. Sophia, thinking about how Laurenhad monopolised Berties attention all evening, mistook the cause of her reticence as sheremoved the bodice. "I know you were quite taken with him this evening...""No!"
Sophia turned to look at her sister and realised that she was grinning. "Soph, no. Mr Legacyseems to be a very nice, personable man, but I have no deeper feelings towards him than thoseof an acquaintance.""Acquaintance?" Sophia gaped at her sister. "But you were flirting with him...""Yes, yes I was. Sophia it has been obvious to everyone but yourself that you have been in lovewith Mr Legacy since the concert."
"I have not!""You have. You are also as stubborn as a mule, and I had to do something to nudge you along,make you admit to yourself what you were feeling.""You flirted with him to make me jealous?" Sohia was indignant."It worked, did it not?"
Sophia was speechless. Yes it had worked, but she did not like the thought she had beenmanipulated by her sister. She seized a nearby pillow and threw it at Lauren. "I cannot believeyou did that," she said as she bashed Lauren over the head with another one.
Laughing, Lauren picked up the pillow by her feet and hit Sophia with it in retaliation. "I had to!You left me no choice!""I do not accept that!""It worked! Enjoy that fact!""I am enjoying hitting you more!"Both girls collapsed to the floor, laughing.
“I do apologise for causing you distress Sophia,” said Lauren. “But I believed that the endjustified the means.”Sophia took her hand. “Apology accepted, and thank you. My feelings for Bertie are now clear tome, and I have never been happier.”
With their feelings acknowledged, Bertie and Sophia started spending lots of time together. Sheeven deigned to watch the football team practice on numerous occasions, but in the end, bothshe and Bertie agreed it was probably best if she and (especially) Lauren didnt make a habit ofthat There was something about their presence which the other team members found verydistracting.
Peter, Andrew and Celestia all returned to Simbridge following their grandmothers funeral. Theywere, as expected, quieter than usual, but the two boys found themselves glad to be back livingin the hustle and bustle of the Legacy Society. As for Celestia, she started to tire of the constantround of condolences and sympathies soon after arriving back, even if those offering them wereher friends. She took solace in throwing herself into her dancing, often staying at the dance halllate into the night..
Ezra had sorted out the problems with the location of the carriage house and was nowconcentrating on his lectures for the final part of his masters degree. He was hoping to be calledto the bar after his wedding so that he could follow in the footsteps of his grandfather Thomasand become a well respected barrister, and was taking his studies very seriously.Of course, that didn‟t mean that he was also neglecting his fiancée. He made sure that he spentas much time with Bethany as was possible.
Bethany was always glad to see Ezra, but as the months wore on and she realised that herwedding was now less than a year away, she craved his company and reassuring presence evenmore. She was making frequent visits to Simdon to see her mother and future mother-in-law inorder to organise the invitations, venue and wedding breakfast. Such visits were often trying asshe acted as mediator, trying to reconcile the older women‟s ideas with her own.Then there was the decorating and furnishing of her future home to think about. While Bethanyhad very definite ideas on that matter, she was very aware that she would not be living therealone and she and Ezra would spend many an hour discussing the fundamentals of their newhome. She was especially gratified when, despite his dislike of them, she managed to get Ezrato agree to having two of their rooms and one corridor lit by gas lighting. She was always veryreticent on how she managed to win the concession.
As for Christopher, he was enjoying doing what he did best: painting, sketching, drawing andcarousing. He also spent part of his time, studiously avoiding replying to the parts of his mother‟sletters where she asked if he was stepping out with any young lady yet. The truth was that hehad shown interest in a number of ladies at the Acadamie or living in the town, but his interesthad not been reciprocated, and he was determined not to worry on it. He was, after all still youngto be thinking of marriage.
Back in Regalton, all was well, at least on the surface. Anne was putting on a brave face overthe death of another sibling, even if in the weeks which followed Enid‟s death she had brought upthe subject of her and Mathias‟s condition to her children more than usual.Theo‟s grief at losing his mother had been palpable, but with the help of his devoted wife, and hisgood friends, he had started to get through it.
While Eddie had found that his main preoccupation these days had become his ideas forredesigning the house. He wanted to stay true to his father, grandfather and great grandfather‟svisions for the family home, while at the same time taking into consideration how both he and hisson wanted to enhance it.With Bertie busy at university, and only able to make the journey down to Regalton occasionally,their main method of sharing their ideas had become by letter and he was perusing Bertie‟s latestepistle when Carmen entered the study.
“Hello my love,” he said with a smile as he turned to see who had entered.“My Dearest Eddie.” Carmen walked over and stooped to kiss him. “Was there anything ofinterest in your correspondence this morning?”“Only the letter from Bertie. The rest was mundane,” he answered, slipping his arm around herwaist.
“I trust he is well.”“He seems in fine spirits,” replied Eddie. “He seems to have been giving the upstairs of thehouse a lot of thought.”“That is good. Does he mention the nice Miss Sartor this time?” asked Carmen.
Eddie hesitated as he scanned the letter. “He does.” He paused. “Do you think he might besweet on her?”“I believe he may,” she replied with a fond smile.“But the tension between the two of them was palpable when Miss Sartor dined with us after theconcert last year,” said Eddie.“Yes.”Eddie shook his head. “I am sure I do not understand.”
Carmen gave a small smile. “I am sure you do not.”“At any rate, if Bertie is enamoured with a girl, it explains why he is suddenly concerned aboutdressing rooms I suppose,” said Eddie.
“I am sorry,” he said putting the letter down again, “but I am neglecting to ask if there wasanything you wanted to speak to me about my darling.”Carmen smiled her serene smile. “You know me so well dearest Eddie. I do wish to speak withyou.”Eddie gave her his full attention. “What about?”She hesitated. “Emmi.”Eddie‟s brow furrowed. “What about Emmi?”
Carmen sighed and sat down on the settee. Taking his cue, Eddie left his desk and sat downbeside her.“Dearest Eddie, you must have noticed how Emmi is reluctant to speak to anyone outside of thefamily, how she finds it difficult to relate to others at times.”“She is shy, I will not deny it.”“I worry that it goes beyond shyness. That if a conversation is not about music, if someone is notexact in their emotions, then Emmi loses all interest and will not participate in the discussion.”
“Emmi is not uncaring or thoughtless,” pointed out Eddie.“I agree, she is not, but I do wonder if she quite understands what others think or feel.” Shepaused as she let her words sink in. “I fear I am not the only one to have noticed this.”Eddie glanced at her sharply.“I spoke to Miss Richardson this morning, when she arrived to take Emmi‟s lessons. She wasvery forthcoming about Emmi‟s musical progress, but when I asked about her other subjects, shewas reluctant to elaborate. I had to get quite firm with her.”
Eddie fought to hide a smile at the thought of his mild mannered wife being firm with anyone, andlooked askance at her.“She said that, despite her best efforts, engaging Emmi in conversation, or trying to teach her thebasics of History was trying. All Emmi wants to do is learn about music, or play the piano.” Shepaused as she weighed up what she was about to say. “I believe that she finds it ratherfrustrating at times, teaching our daughter.”
A frown creased Eddie‟s brow at that, and he was silent as he thought about what his wife hadsaid. “Our Emmi is indeed special my love,” he said at last. “Perhaps we need to be moreunderstanding of her, and assist her in comprehending the world.”Carmen nodded. “I agree. That is why I needed to confide in you.”They spent the rest of the afternoon discussing their daughter and how they could help her.
One of the ways in which they decided to try to encourage Emmi to interact more with others,was to increase the number of times they visited Alexandra and her family. Whenever theyvisited, David was always willing to take his younger siblings and cousins to the nearby parkwhere they would meet with other cousins and friends. One such occasion found the Smith andLegacy children enjoying one of the last nice days of late summer with Harry and GregoryRoseland. Harry and Greg were the twin sons of Louisa and her husband Cyd, and thereforeAndrew and Peter‟s cousins. However they were closer in age to Zane and Mickey and it wasthose two whom they got on better with, although Harry did also admit to having a soft spot forEmmi.Gregory was laying back, watching the clouds when he sat up and asked Mickey “how are youenjoying being a teenager? You were bouncing off the walls at the prospect last we saw you.”
Mickey pulled a face. “It is perplexing. Mama treats Zane and I both as being more responsibleand as children still, often at the same time!”The older teenagers exchanged amused glances at his indignation.“Take the dinner party Mama and Papa held last week,” he continued. “Zane and I wereexpected to help with the preparations by fetching the provisions in from the delivery cart.”
“Something I did not mind doing at all,” put in Zane.“Well no. I did not mind either,” said Mickey.“And when you dropped that dozen eggs, I know that Mama and Cook did wonder if asking youto help had been a wise decision,” said David with a smile.
“That was not my fault. Next door‟s cat ran between my legs as I was walking to the door,”pointed out Mickey. “But besides, my point is that Mama wanted our help during the day toprepare for it, but we were not allowed to attend. Instead we had to stay upstairs in the oldnursery like infants, while you and Sarah Jane were allowed to mingle with the guests!” his voicerose in indignation at the memory.
“You really did not miss much,” said David soothingly. “In fact, I would rather have stayed withthe two of you upstairs than been among the guests. They were all colleagues of Papa‟s andtheir wives. The only topic of conversation the men had all evening was politics. It was mostboring and I am certain the only reason Mama and Papa wanted me there, was in order to helpme make connections of my own.”
“That is your opinion David. I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening,” said Sarah Jane. “I hadseveral scintillating conversations with cabinet ministers or their wives.”“Yes, I noticed that you enjoyed a riveting conversation with Sir Horace Penryn-Jones afterdinner.”“What are you implying?” asked Sarah Jane suspiciously.
“Nothing, I was merely admiring your ability to look interested while conversing with the ForeignSecretary. It is a skill I have yet to master.”“That is because I was interested David. Really I do not see why I am sitting here, listening tothis. I am going home in order to do something more useful and productive.” Sarah Jane stoodup and shook out her skirts before storming off in the direction of the Smiths‟ townhouse.
“Do not worry about it David,” said Mickey as his older brother watched her go in disbelief. “Youknow as well as I that Sarah Jane has been more prickly and out of sorts since Aunt Vicky movedin with us and she had to give her her room.”Gregory looked over, interested. “Aunt Vicky is living with you?”
Mickey nodded. “Oh yes. She has been for nearly three weeks now, even since Uncle Patrickmoved to Birsimgham.”“I like Aunt Vicky,” said Zane. “I like her living with us.”“You like everyone.”“Not everyone. There are one or two of the boys at school I do not like. Well one, and I‟m sure itis all a misunderstanding on my part,” Zane trailed off into silence as he thought about it.
“How long will she be with you?” asked Harry.Mickey shrugged. “I do not know. David might though.”
All eyes turned to the oldest in the group. “We are not sure,” he said at last. “Papa is helping herto look for a property. When they find a suitable one, he will sign the papers on it so that she canpurchase it and move out. No one knows how long that will take.”“If it takes many months, then you have my sympathies for having to live with a ratty Sarah Jane,”said Harry, eliciting laughter from her brothers, including Zane who had received more than onetongue lashing from her recently.
“Ah but I am lucky. I will not have to put up with her forever,” said David. “A few months moreand I will be away to Simbridge and university.“You have been accepted then?” asked Stuart.“Yes, I received the letter last week.” He paused. “Have you also heard from the college?”
Stuart nodded. “Oh yes. I have also been accepted.”“You do not sound particularly happy about the fact.”“I am,” replied Stuart unconvincingly. “But I have also been accepted at another university,reading a subject which I believe could aid me more in the future.”“Ah. Is this other university far?”“Very,” replied Stuart grimly.“Have you told Bertie?”
Stuart was silent, which David took as a no. “And you have not decided yet?”“No. Our family has a tradition of attending New Simbridge, and a degree in Maths and Physicsfrom there will stand me in good stead for the future. But so would a degree in Engineering fromSierra Plains University. I have yet to decide which one I would rather have,” said Stuart.“When do you have to decide?” asked Zane.
“I have a few weeks yet,” said Stuart, forcing a smile onto his face. He noticed a cab pull up at ahouse opposite the park and the occupants alight. Suddenly his smile was genuine.“If you will excuse me, Miss Elle Fitzhugh and her mother have arrived home. I am going to goand pay them my respects.”
He got up and trotted away, while the others watched him.“That is someone he will miss if he decides to attend Sierra Plains University,” said David with anod.“He has weeks to decide yet,” pointed out Harry.“Yes,” replied David thoughtfully.
The weeks soon passed, and Stuart still hadn‟t made his decision. He sat in his bedroom, bothletters of acceptance before him on his bed. He had come to the conclusion that there was noadvantage from one over the other with regards to the degree he would come out with, it alldepended on where he wanted to go. Did he want to stay in Simland and attend university in aneighbouring county, or did he want to leave all he knew, good and bad, and seek his educationin a new country? He would certainly miss a great many things about home if he did that, not tomention his friends and family, but the chance to experience a different culture and life, appealedto his sense of adventure. Besides it was not as if he would never see them again. He wouldn‟tstay forever, and steamer tickets could be purchased at fairly reasonable prices.
He heard the sound of a carriage rattling to a halt outside and went to the window to see themain cause of his hesitation was alighting from the cab, his brother Bertie.It was true that the two of them had adapted to Bertie being away well, and Stuart was incrediblyproud of his brother and the confidence he had gained but Bertie had been visiting home moreand more lately as the plans for the house were finalised, and when he did, it was easy for theboth of them to fall back into how things used to be. He had no idea how Bertie would react if hewere to say that he was going to live overseas for three or four years.
He was placing one of the letters back into its envelope when the door to his room burst openand Bertie bounded in. “What-ho Stuart.”“Hello Bertie. How have you been faring?”“Fine, fine. What have you there?” he asked noticing the letter in his brother‟s hand.“Oh. A letter of acceptance from university.”
“Excellent.” Bertie sat down next to him. “I have been looking forward to you attending NewSimbridge. There is much to show you, and many people I want to introduce you to.” Heglanced down and noticed the seal on the letter.“That is not the school crest of New Simbridge,” he said.
“No. It is that of Sierra Plains University. In Simerica,” replied Stuart quietly.“What?!” Bertie looked at him aghast.“I have been accepted at New Simbridge as well,” Stuart rushed to reassure him.“Then why do you even still have that letter?”
“Because it represents a good opportunity for me. The chance to gain an excellent degree froma good university and a unique cultural experience,” explained Stuart.
But Bertie wasn‟t listening. In a split second, caught in the grip of a childish fear, his shaky self-confidence had shattered. He‟d forgotten all about his achievements with the football team, andthe friends who had helped him. He even forgot all about Sophia. He had convinced himself thatthe only reason he had survived thus far at university, was because Stuart was a mere thirtymiles away. If Stuart was thousands of miles away instead, how would he cope?The answer was simple. He wouldn‟t.
Looking at Bertie‟s face, Stuart saw his fears realised. It would really hurt Bertie if he were toleave Simland. He wasn‟t sure he could put his brother through that pain. But what was it thathe really wanted? Which degree did he really want to read?What mattered to him more? His brother‟s happiness or his own?He made up his mind.
“Of course, New Simbridge is equally as god an opportunity for me,” he said. “With theadvantage of still being a reasonable distance from home and Simdon. Plus, I understand MissEllie is planning on joining her sister at the Acadamie. It makes sense for me to accept that offer,so I think I will.”
Bertie relaxed as his fears fled at his brothers words. “Ah. Miss Elle Fitzhugh. Of course.”“What do you mean by that?”“It is obvious you are sweet on her.” Stuart blushed but didn‟t deny it, making Bertie smile.
“Actually I had better go back downstairs,” he said getting up. “Papa and I are going to discusswindows. I only popped up to say hello.”He left the room, leaving Stuart to wonder if he had imagined the hurt on Bertie‟s face and, moreimportantly, if he had just made the right decision.
An hour later, in the study downstairs, Eddie screwed the cap back on his pen and laid it on thesheaf of notes he and Bertie had made. “That is decided then. I will see the architect on Mondayand give him our decision.”Bertie nodded. “I think that the old house will look very grand when we are finished.”
Eddie got up and made his way to the settee. “As do I, and yet it will hopefully still retain the feelof the house your great-great-grandfather built.”“Indeed. Building work will commence during my final year at Simbridge?”“Yes, hopefully with only the three of us living here, we will not experience as much disruption aswe would if Stuart was here too. And this way, it should also all be complete by the time youreturn from Simbridge. If the disruption does prove too much for you kasaan and sister your AuntAlexandra has offered to put us up.”
Bertie smiled. “That sounds very much like Aunt Alexandra, taking in waifs and strays, even ifher house is full to bursting.”Eddie laughed. “Yes. Such a change from when she was younger.”
Bertie hesitating before asking “did you know Stuart was thinking of going to Simerica to study?”Eddie froze. “Yes,” he said eventually. He looked over at his eldest son as he wondered howmuch to say. Bertie‟s attachment to, and reliance on, his brother had been a cause of concernfor Eddie in the past, but Bertie was now a grown man. He had been living away from home forsome time now, and was not only about to complete his undergraduate degree, but was alsoplanning on taking a masters next year. He had surely progressed beyond needing his brotherby his side constantly.“He was rather excited about it,” he said at last. “He was very impressed with the university‟sreputation and the degree it offered.”
Bertie felt a hot squirm of guilt in his stomach. He hadn‟t realised that Stuart had been excitedabout it. His only thoughts had been of himself. It was just like when he‟d insisted on going withhis parents on their trip when they had married. He felt so embarrassed by it now, but at the timehe had felt he had no control of his actions. So it had been earlier. He was just thinking that heshould apologise to Stuart, when he realised his father, deciding to change the subject wasspeaking to him again.
“I am sorry Papa, I was miles away. What did you say?”“I said that Stanley mentioned to me that he saw you and two blonde young ladies at a play theother week. I was enquiring as to whether you and your companions enjoyed it.”“They did, thank you. Actually, on the subject of Miss Sartor. I wished to ask you something,”replied Bertie, all thoughts of Stuart fading away.
“Yes?”“May I have your permission to ask her to be my wife?”Eddie smiled. “Of course you may.”
“Thank you!” said Bertie fervently. “I am not quite sure what I would have done if you had saidno, since I love her and can imagine marrying no other.”“I am very happy to hear that you have found someone to care so much about,” replied Eddietruthfully.
They were interrupted then by a knock at the door, and in came Emmi. “Kasaan said to tell youluncheon is ready,” she said.“Thank you Emmi,” said Eddie with a fond smile.
“Is it that time already? No matter, I have missed Kasaan‟s sandwiches while away,” said Bertiegetting up.“You may have to continue missing them. Recently your kasaan has started to try preparingother things to eat. She mentioned trying a dish she remembers her own kasaan making today.”
“How intriguing,” said Bertie as he followed his sister out of the study. Between the revelationthat Carmen was branching out with her cooking and happiness that Eddie had given hispermission for Bertie to ask for Sophia‟s hand in marriage, all thought that he should apologise toStuart and tell him to accept whichever offer he most wanted, was lost.
Bertie wasn‟t the first, or even the second to ask his father for permission to become betrothed.Both Peter and Andrew had made the journey home the week before, separately and without theother‟s knowledge. Theo had just finished relating his conversation with Peter to his wife, andDoc was just starting to wrap her head around the fact that one of her close friends was going tobe her daughter-in-law, when the doorbell went again. They exchanged puzzled glances whilethey waited for the housemaid to answer the door.“You do not suppose Peter has forgotten something do you?” asked Theo “Did he have anumbrella with him?”Doc shook her head. “I can‟t remember.”
The door to the drawing room opened then and their maid stepped inside. “Mr Andrew to seeyou sir,” she said with a bob.“Really, this is ridiculous,” said Andrew behind her. “I could have found my way to the drawingroom and said hello to my parents without your help.”
“You will have to excuse our son, Mildred,” said Theo getting up. “His mother and I have tried toinstil manners in him, but without success it seems.”Mildred gave another nervous bob. “Will you require tea?” she asked timorously.“Please.”“Very good sir,” she made her escape and Andrew entered the room.
“You should be nicer to her,” said Doc getting up to hug him. “I know her introducing you is silly,but she‟s new. This is her first position as a housemaid and she‟s trying to make a goodimpression. Humour her.”
Andrew rolled his eyes and collapsed onto a settee. “But this is my home.”“Yes, but you don‟t actually live here any more,” pointed out his mother.“And you will not be moving home when you graduate either,” added Theo “I am gifting both youand your sister houses as wedding presents.”
Andrew looked shocked at this, and managed to splutter his thanks before the rest of thatsentence sunk in. “My sister … have any suitors for Celly visited you? Because she has notmentioned any to Peter or I and …”“None I have considered serious,” said Theo. “And certainly none I have given my blessing to.They have all been far too concerned with her exotic beauty for my tastes.”
“Good.” Andrew relaxed and at that moment, Mildred knocked with the tea. He waited until theyeach had a cup of the comforting liquid before saying “actually, weddings are what I wanted tospeak to you about. More specifically my wedding.”Doc paused, her cup partway to her lips as she waited for her son to go on. “Yes,” promptedTheo, stirring his drink.“I want to marry Miss Marina, and I wanted to ask your permission, before I asked her.”
Theo set his tea down. “Of course you have my permission,” he said with a smile. “Your motherand I have known Miss Marina a long time. You will do well together.”“Plus possible red-headed grandbabies,” added Doc with a smile.
“Grandbabies?” Andrew looked slightly green as he spoke, the thought of being a father suddenlylooming up in front of him.“Grandbabies!” repeated Doc, a manic smile in her face.
“Thinking about grandbabies doesn‟t make you feel … old my love?” asked Theo, amused.“Nope! Immortal simself. I plan on being around to meet my great-great-great grandbabies.”Andrew groaned and buried his head in his hands.
“Really my dear, you should stop teasing our son so,” said Theo with a fond smile.“He should be used to it by now,” replied Doc. “Andrew, in all seriousness, I am very happy thatyou and your brother have both found the ones you want to spend the rest of your lives with.”
Andrew looked up at that. “My brother? Peter has asked permission too?”Doc and her husband exchanged glances. “You didn‟t know?”“No! And of course he got here first. Typical!”“More tea?” asked Theo. His wife gratefully accepted as their son ranted.
Despite Andrew‟s disappointment at the fact his brother had announced his plans to marry first,he was of course pleased for him, and it wasn‟t too long after that they both proposed to theirlady loves in typical fashion.Andrew‟s was a pragmatic, almost distracted affair, whereas Peter‟s was as romantic anoccasion as he could make it. Neither Eleanor nor Marina minded though. They were just happyto be betrothed to the brothers.
A few weeks after the Harrison boys proposed, Bertie and the Misses Sartor could be found inthe same restaurant in Simdon, they had dined at near the beginning of the school year. Sophiahad raised her brows at that, but said nothing since she was actually looking forward to samplingthe food and enjoying the ambiance without spending the entire evening jealous of or annoyedwith her sister.The food was indeed delicious, and the conversation flowed freely, Bertie having got to knowLauren well enough for her to drop the shallow façade she put on for the world. They had justfinished dessert, when Lauren caught Bertie‟s eye and excused herself from the table.
“I trust you are enjoying your evening more than you did the last time we were here?” askedBertie.“I am, cannot you tell? I have glared at Lauren only twice this evening,” said Sophia smiling.
“And me only a dozen times,” added Bertie, glad of the levity to help steady his nerves.“Indeed! That is an indication that I am having a wonderful time if ever there was one.”
“I admit that the memory of that night is the reason why I chose this restaurant tonight,” saidBertie.“The memory of me being a sullen mare is why you chose to dine here again?” asked Sophia,eyebrows raised.
“Not quite. The memory I am talking about, is the one of what happened later at the river.” Hecleared his throat nervously. “Sophia, I am my father‟s heir. It falls to me to build on everythingmy forebears have achieved, but I cannot do it alone. I do not want to do it alone. I want you,the woman I love by my side in that and all things. So I am asking you if you will consent to bemy wife.” He slid the jewellery box containing his grandmother‟s engagement ring across thetable towards her.
“You are asking me to marry you?” asked Sophia faintly.“Yes.”“Have you been to see my father?” she asked suddenly. “He has not spoken to me about this.”
Bertie blinked, thrown slightly by her question. “No, I thought we could wait until we were wed.Possibly until we were expecting our first child. Of course I have been to see him, and he gaveme his blessing.”“How did you find him?” she asked suspiciously. “And I do not mean did you ask Lauren for ourfamily home‟s address.”
“It was an … interesting experience,” said Bertie remembering. “He is a remarkable man.”“That is a polite way of putting it.”“I am asking his daughter to marry me, of course I am being polite. He gave me his blessing,even if it was plain he would have preferred my family income to come from a landed estate andnot from a business empire.”“That sounds very much like my father‟s family,” she said with a wry smile.
Bertie gave her a pointed look. “Oh sorry. Did you want an answer?” She asked innocently.“I believe it is customary for the lady to at least say she will think about the proposal,” said Bertieas he tried to surreptitiously wipe his palms on his trousers.
Sophia put a finger on the box and slid it in front of her, before opening it. She took out the ring,looked at it for a moment, before slipping it onto her finger.“As if my answer would be anything other than yes,” she said smiling at him. “Yes Bertie, I willmarry you.”Bertie‟s face split into a wide grin, one which Sophia returned.
The two of them were still grinning like loons when Lauren returned. “Ah,” she said noting thediamond ring on her sister‟s finger. “I see she said yes then.”“After a while, yes,” replied Bertie.“But of course. Miss Awkward-So-And-So here likes to make things difficult if she can.”“I will refrain from commenting on that accusation Lauren, as I am far too happy to get into anargument with you,” said Sophia.
“Good. At last someone has made you happy. I propose a toast,” Lauren lifted her glass. “ToSophia and Bertie, may you always make each other happy.”
Simbridge wasn‟t the only place where circumstances were changing. Anthony had managed tosecure the purchase of a property for Victoria, and four months after she moved in with her sisterand her family, Vicky moved into a house on her own.She stood on the pavement and smiled as she looked up at it. She hadn‟t felt so free, or sohappy since she had walked through the doors to her office the first day of opening the agency.She had somewhere which was hers and hers alone.
As she watched, David and Zane came out of the front door, having carried the last of her casesinside for her.“All done Aunt Vicky,” said David with a smile.“Thank you boys. Once I have gotten myself settled, you will all have to come round for tea.”
“Tea. That reminds me,” said Zane. “Mama said to remind you that you are more than welcometo eat with us tonight.”“Please thank your mother for me Zane, but I think I will make other arrangements for tonight.”
David kissed her cheek. “Of course. We will leave you to enjoy your new home.”“Goodbye Aunt Vicky. We are only a street away if you need anything or get lonely.”“Thank you Zane. I promise that I will not forget where you are.” She kissed him and waved asthey walked off in the direction of their house.
She smiled and walked towards the front door. She had just put her hand on the door knob,when she heard someone hail her. “Good afternoon!”
Suppressing a sigh, she turned to see who had greeted her. It turned out to be a smiling red-headed man who was standing on the path.“Good afternoon,” she replied smiling.“Forgive my impertinence, but I believe we are to be neighbours. Allow me to introduce myself.My name is Owen Tudor, and this,” he gestured to the curly haired little girl who was trying tohide behind him, “is my ward, Mari.”
Vicky came down off her front step and offered Owen her hand. “Pleased to meet you Mr Tudor.Mrs Victoria Simself.”“A pleasure to meet you Mrs Simself. If there is anything you or your husband need while yousettle into your new home, do not hesitate to ask.”Her … husband. Vicky gave a forced smile. “You are too kind Mr Tudor. I will be certain to callon you if there is anything I require.”Owen bowed to her, and she turned back to go into her new home.
She closed the door and leant against it. Her husband. Of course. It would soon becomeobvious to her neighbours that Patrick was not living with her, but she had hoped that she wouldhave time to settle into her new home before it was noticed. She looked around the hall of herhouse and smiled. She would not think about that now. Today she would revel in having herown space, without nephews rushing around, or disgruntled nieces shooting her dark looks oreven caring, if slightly overbearing sisters dogging her every move.She would revel in being happier than she had been in years.
Circumstances may have changed for some of the students at Simbridge, but day to day lifecontinued as normal, and before they knew it, the end of the academic year was nearly uponthem. The rowing squad once again defeated Simford in the annual boat race, Peter beinghailed as the member of the squad who kept them all together.
Over on the football pitch, the team lifted the inter university cup for the first time in five years.Everyone agreed that while the team had been improving for a time, Bertie‟s leadership was themain reason for their outstanding performance over the past two years.
Celestia had enjoyed her first year at the Acadamie immensely. Although she found some of theinstruction deathly boring, she had become great friends with Azula Fitzhugh, and the two ofthem had managed to get through the dullest of lessons together. It had even been decided thatAzula would move into the VPLs with Celly at the start of the next term, despite not being amember of the family.
Her dedication to her dancing at the beginning of the year paid off when she was cast as the leadperformer in the Acadamie‟s dance recital. Everyone who watched her performance found itmesmerising, but perhaps the most enchanted was Derri, who found himself unable to look awayfrom her graceful form. The time since Celly had started at the Acadamie had cemented to himthe fact that he was completely and utterly in love with her, and her performance only confirmed itmore.Unfortunately for him, Peter and Andrew were seated nearby and noticed how he was looking attheir sister. They decided that they would have a little word with him very soon.
For Bethany, the end of her time at the Acadamie was both exciting beyond belief and completelyterrifying. She was, she knew, only a few months away from her new life as Mrs Ezra Howard.She couldn‟t wait, and yet everytime she thought about making her way down the aisle of thechurch (why oh why were both sets of parents insisting on such a large venue?) she broke out ina cold sweat.She confided as to why to only two people: her twin and Ezra. Christopher‟s reaction had been atypical diatribe about how if guests drew attention to her parentage, then they were indicating thatthey did not wish to continue with the acquaintance once she was married, and she should dropthem, never to speak to them again.
Ezra‟s reaction was much more tender. He said that if such remarks were made, it did notmatter. They only thing which would matter on their wedding day, was that they loved eachother and wanted to spend the rest of their loves together. Everything else could go hang.It was not surprising that she always felt better after speaking to her fiancé.
Christopher was always glad to be able to head back to the Legacy Society after speaking to hissister about her worries. It wasn‟t that he didn‟t want o comfort her, far from it. She was his twin,and they had a deep emotional bond. It was that hearing her voice her concerns about thereactions to their parentage, made all of the feelings he kept buried, resurface. He could hearthe chants and snide remarks that had dogged him his entire life, as if someone was therewhispering in his ear, and he hated it.He hated to feel so worthless, so unaccepted. And it was then that his paintings would take onthe darker, more despairing edge, which led to the art masters noting to each other, that if MrSmith could consistently produce work of that quality, he would find himself hailed as a newmaster, before awarding him a first.All in all, it was a good end to the academic year for everyone.
Autumn was now fully underway, bringing with it unpredictable showers and a chill to the airwhich seemed to cut straight through anyone unlucky enough to get in its way. In the depths ofthe Nickel, the inhabitants shivered and pulled threadbare shawls and jackets around themselvesas they swarmed through the dark streets and alleyways, eager to get to the shelter of theirhomes.Apart from one man. John Legacy hurried along the street, not caring when he barged intosomeone as he tried to avoid stepping in the gutters. He had never been a patient man, andbeing summoned yet again to the depths of the Nickel at night, by Russ, had him seething.
He kicked out at a stray dog in his path as he made his way to their normal meeting place. Hewanted to see some progress, and he did not want to be told that Russ needed more money. Ifthat was why he had been summoned, he would make his displeasure felt.
He didn‟t spare the landlord a glance as he stomped up the stairs of the tavern, to the room thathad become so familiar to him.Russ was already waiting for him. “What is it you want Bear?” he demanded.“No proper greeting Mr Legacy?” chided Russ out of habit. “Are yer not at least going to try terkeep up the social niceties?”
“No,” stated John. “Unless you plan on telling me that you expect to complete the task I set youwithin the next few days, I doubt very much I am going to want to hear what you have to say, andtherefore, this is a waste of my time. I see no reason to be polite to those who waste my time.”
The dim lighting made it difficult for Russ to see John‟s face clearly, but there was no mistakinghis tone. He was not a completely stupid man, and had managed to survive for many years inthe Nickel. He realised that this would be the last time he could chance fobbing John off withexcuses. Time to make one last demand for money and move on.“Yeah, about that task. as I‟ve explained before, it‟s proving ter be more difficult than I „adexpected…”
“I want them dead!” exploded John. “I fail to see how that is difficult. Kill them both, before theeldest one leaves university and impregnates the bitch he marries!”
Russ was silent. John was more desperate than he had thought. When he spoke, it was veryquietly. “Killing them ain‟t difficult. A man can kill anover quite easily if „e „as the guts and mentalstrengf ter cope wiv the aftermath. Killing two men wivout implicating yerself. Getting away wiv itand making sure the Peelers don‟t ever find out „ho did it. That‟s the difficult part. That‟s the partwhich is taking time. I don‟t wanna end my life „anging at the end ov a rope, because I rushedfrew killing the grandsons ov yer father‟s bruver.”
John looked deflated for a moment. “How much do you need this time?”“Fifty should cover it,” said Russ promptly. He would have liked more, but he wasn‟t going topush.John nodded. “Fine.” He pulled his wallet out of his jacket pocket and counted out a wodge ofbank notes. Russ watched him, stunned. He couldn‟t believe that a man would walk through theNickel at night, carrying that amount of cash. He looked up as the candlelight illuminated the lineof John‟s jaw. Or maybe he could. The arrogance there was unmistakable.
John finished counting and threw the notes onto the table. “I expect progress,” he stated beforestorming out, leaving Russ to gather the money up.
It had started to rain since he had entered the tavern, and turning the collar up on his jacketagainst it, John strode away towards the main road and a cab back to civilisation. He couldn‟tbelieve that there was still no progress, and that Russ had wanted yet more money. All he everseemed to do was listen to his excuses and put his hand in his pocket.
He stopped suddenly as new thoughts crowded his head.No.That couldn‟t be right.Was. Was Russ playing him for a fool?Surely not.But now the seeds of doubt had been planted, he couldn‟t help but of over all their meetings, allthe excuses Bear had given. The doubts grew and blossomed and he was left with the sneakingsuspicion that Russ had never intended to do as he had promised.
He spun on his heel and headed back towards the pub, determined to have it out with Bear. Ashe approached the tavern, he saw the door open and Russ exit. He slowed as he saw Russcheck around before setting off towards the very heart of the Nickel. Making up his mind, Johnstarted to follow.
Russ led him through the twisting alleyways until he stopped in front of a house along one side ofa courtyard, John watched from the shadow of an alley, as Russ opened the door and wentinside.
John went to stride towards the door and knock, but stopped as he drew level with the window. Itwas slightly open and he heard a woman‟s voice say “‟ow‟d it go?”“That‟s the last time I‟m contacting ‟im.”
John crept nearer so that he could see through the gap in the curtains.“What?”“The last time. We should move on. Leave the city for a bit.”
“Why?”“‟E‟s getting impatient and desperate. „E wants the job done and I don‟t fink I can keep fobbing„im off or pressing „im for more money. It‟s time I disappeared for a bit, until „e forgets about it.”
Outside John‟s mind was reeling. Russ was fobbing him off, he was asking for more money onpurpose, with no intention of doing what John had asked of him.He had heard enough.
He hammered on the door. “What the bloody „ell?” he heard Russ say before the door opened.“Oh, it‟s you. Wot do yer want?”
John barged past him, and into the tiny kitchen. “Have you been playing me for a fool?”“I do not know what you….”
“DO NOT LIE TO ME!” shouted John. “I heard you! Have you only been taking my money? Didyou ever have any intention of doing that which I retained you to do?”
Russ eyed him warily as he slipped past him and stood by the door into the next room. “No,” hesaid truthfully. “I‟m a fief, not a murderer. I only ever wanted yer money.”“But we had an agreement!”Russ shrugged. “Fiefs, criminals. We ain‟t exactly known for our „onesty.
John was shaking with barely controlled anger. “Why did you… My father said…”
“It was because ov yer father that I did this when you found me. Did yer really fink I‟d pass up theopportunity ter get back at the man „ho robbed me ov yers ov freedom? Wot better way fer a fieflike me to take a bit ov revenge, than by relieving „Enry Legacy‟s son ov some ov „Enry‟s „ardearned money?”“And what about taking revenge on my uncle?”“Oh that I „ave wiv a few well timed fefts from „is ware‟ouses and shops. I‟m a fief!”
“You threatened violence against my family!”“A necessary tool fer my profession. I may freaten violence. I may even carry out violence fromtime ter time, but I ain‟t a murderer. And fer yer ter fink yer can waltz inter me life, and expect meter kill two inconvenient young men fer yer…” his lip curled into a sneer. “Yer deserved ter beplayed fer a fool.”
Something snapped inside John at the taunting, and he lashed out at Russ. He landed a solidblow, causing Russ to spin into the corner of the kitchen table.
Turning on his heel, John stormed out of the little house, and through the twisting, turningalleyways of the slums. He stopped and tilted his face to the rain.Two years.Two years wasted.He was now only a year, eighteen months at most until the opportunity to replace his cousin‟sson Bertie as the next head of the family cleanly would slip away, and he had no idea what to donow his plan had fallen apart.
He thought about the final line of his father‟s letter to him. Make me proud, Son.
Despair crashed down on him.He was going to fail his father, he knew it. His father had entrusted him with securing theirfamily‟s future and he had failed.
He had failed his father.He had failed his family.He had failed himself.
And here is where I leave you for this chapter. Hopefully the next one won‟t take so long to getout, but then again, I do have a lot of work to do rebuilding the neighbourhood for when Bertiegraduates and moves home.Thanks goes to all my readers for their patient support. I hope you all enjoyed it and will be backfor more.Thank you also to Regacylady for the permaloan of Ezra and for the gorgeous clothes Bethany,Sophia and Celestia wear.Derri is originally from Whedonberry by Stacielee.Thank you and congratulations to Widget and Marina on the engagement of their simslves.Widget writes the Discworld Legacy, and Marina writes a Villainous Apocalypse. Also thank youto their future mother-in-law DrSupremeNerd, the writer of the Vetinari Dualegy for the loan of hersimself, and the fact that she has to suffer being married to Nummy Theo.
Ow Russ, that must hurt.Until next time, happy simming.