Hello and welcome back (finally) to a Victorian Legacy after what was a longer break than usual.The good news is that I’ve finished rebuilding the legacy neighbourhood and the dummyneighbourhood and so, apart from working on the lists of cc I would like to make for the game, Ican get back to playing and writing the story.It’s been a little while since we last caught up with the Legacy family, so I suggest you go andread the last chapter again, but if you don’t want to, the most important things to note are thatBertie and Sophia are engaged, Bethany, Christopher and Ezra have all left Simbridge for theirhomes in Simdon and Regalton, Sarah Jane attended a dinner party hosted by her parentswhere she met many powerful people, Vicky met her neighbour Owen Tudor, Stuart gave up hisdream of attending Sierra Plains University to stay with his brother in Simland and David wasalso about to start university in Simbridge.And I think those are the important points. Shall we get on?
It was a fine autumn day in Simdon. The parks were a blaze of colour as the leaves changedand started to fall and the air was starting to have a crisp quality to it that promised a cold winter,but for the moment was exceedingly pleasant after the heat of the summer. Ladies andgentlemen made their promenade in the parks, stopping often to admire the look of the foliage orto greet acquaintances. It was a day to be abroad.
There was one person though for whom the thought of enjoying the pleasing weather nevercrossed her mind. Bethany Smith was kneeling in front of the settee of the room that had been,right up until her return from Simbridge, her sister’s. Beside her on the seat one of her manynotebooks was open at a list of linens, and it was to this that she referred as she sorted throughthe pile of folded material on the floor before her.The linen, along with the contents of the trunks that were already at the foot of her bed, formedthe trousseau she would be taking into her marriage to Ezra Howard, a marriage that would takeplace in just under two month’s time.
She was just refolding a prettily embroidered petticoat when there came a knock at the door.With a soft sigh, she looked towards it. It was probably Sarah Jane. Ever since she hadgrudgingly moved her things into one of the rooms upstairs, she had been using the excuse thatshe had forgotten something to snoop around Bethany’s things. At least she was knocking thistime and not just barging in. That was something. “Yes?” Bethany called as she placed thepetticoat on her lap.
She was surprised when, instead of the dark head of her sister, her mother’s blond head peekedround the door instead. “I hope I am not interrupting you dear.”“No Mama, of course not.” Bethany hastily stood, and placed the semi folded petticoat on theedge of the open trunk before moving the folded pile of linen to one side and picking hernotebook up from the settee. She carefully placed her pen in the centre of the book and closed itbefore putting it on top of a closed trunk. That done, she sat down on the settee and waited forher mother to join her.
“I see you are checking your trousseau,” said Alexandra as she arranged her skirts.“Yes.”“I do hope that you have not found any flaws.”Bethany looked over at a small pile in front of a trunk near to the door and grimaced.“Unfortunately I have found a few. One of the tablecloths I ordered has a nasty pull in thecambric, and I do not see how it can be used for anything other than rags.”
Alexandra smiled. “I am sure that we could find some other use for it, if it was not for your newhome. I will arrange for it to be taken back to the linen outfitters today, with a note that youexpect a replacement to be provided free of charge and as soon as possible.”“Mama, that is very kind of you,” started Bethany intending to continue that she would write thenote herself, but Alexandra, taking this as assent gave a firm nod. “I will speak to Bates and getit arranged once we have finished our chat.”
Bethany gave a small smile as she decided it was probably best to leave her mother to it.Alexandra looked round the room at the piles of fabric. “This reminds me of the preparations formy own wedding. Or rather how rushed it all was.”Bethany stilled and watched her mother carefully. She had never heard her mother refer to herown wedding before, not even when they were organising the venue for the wedding breakfast orvisiting the linen warehouse to order her trousseau.“Your grandmother, Plumbbob rest her soul, was a fine woman, but she did leave the ordering ofmy trousseau right until the last minute. Of course, I realise now, that it was because she washoping that I would change my mind and not wish to marry Joseph, but that did not happen.”
Bethany stifled a gasp. It was the first time she had heard her biological father’s name.Alexandra continued without showing she had noticed. “Of course, the majority of my trousseauended up coming with me here, when I married Anthony. It was all quality linen and the dressesand undergarments had been made to my measurements and so it would have been a greatshame to give them away. All the clothes came with me, apart from my wedding dress. Thatwas turned into rags. I couldn’t bear to look at it again, you see, and then, when I agreed tomarry your father, well,” she touched her stomach, “it would not have fitted me anyway. I endedup marrying in an evening dress Mama had had altered to accommodate her own pregnancies.”
Still Bethany didn’t say anything; she didn’t know what she could say. She had, of course, beencurious about the circumstances surrounding her parents’ marriage and her mother’sindiscretion, but it was also not something she could ask about. Hearing her mother talk soopenly about it, was startling to say the least.
Alexandra glanced over at her daughter. “You think I am rambling and lost in reminiscing, but Ido have a point, I promise you.” She turned and clasped Bethany’s hands. “I remember verywell what it is like to be in love and looking forward to marriage. I have also seen how you andMr Howard look at each other. It is something I recognise, and I beg you Bethany, do not go tohim before you are wed.”Bethany felt her face start to heat up as the meaning of her mother’s words sunk in. Her eyesflickered to a pile of linen which was hiding an advice book her future mother-in-law had handedher the day before, with the fervent request that she read it. She had, and had been left with thedistinct feeling that the desire she felt for Ezra was wrong, and now, here was her mother alludingto it and begging her not to act on it.
“He loves you, this I know, and he would never abandon you as Joseph abandoned me, butdarling you have seen so much censure in your life because of my actions, I would not have yourisk any more by repeating my mistakes.”
Bethany was saved from answering by the door to the room suddenly flying open and SarahJane barging in. “Oh I do apologise,” she said feigning surprise. “I wanted to get some books Ibelieve I left on my chest of drawers. I did not realise that anyone would be in here.”“Can it not wait?” asked Alexandra. “I am speaking with your sister.”“No, I did want them now,” insisted Sarah Jane.“Hurry up then.”
Sarah Jane walked towards the chest of drawers and threw a dirty look at the mounds of fabricon the floor. “I see you are busy Bethany, but is it really necessary to leave everything on thefloor?”“Sarah Jane,” warned Alexandra, “I interrupted her. Please get your books and leave your sisterand I to our conversation.”Sarah Jane rolled her eyes, careful to make sure her mother didn’t see her, and picked up asmall pile of books from the top of the chest of drawers.
As she left the room, she closed the door with a snap and Alexandra turned her attention back toBethany. “You find my candour embarrassing, but I see a lot of myself in you Bethany, and I donot want you repeating my mistakes. Not that I regret having you or your brother of course.”Bethany coughed. “I, ah, appreciate your candour Mama, and I promise I will endeavour to avoiddisgracing myself, and our family. Now, if you will excuse me, I really must finish checking therest of the linen that was delivered yesterday afternoon.”
“Hmm.” Alexandra gave a small smile and stood to leave. As she did so, her eye was dawn tothe slim volume that Bethany had tried to hide. “Oh, is this the new catalogue from the linenwarehouse?” she asked as she picked it up.Bethany looked up before quickly looking away again. “Um no. It is an advice book on the dutiesof a wife that Mrs Howard gave me yesterday.” She could feel the heat in her cheeks as shespoke.
“How interesting.” Alexandra sat back down on the settee and started to look through it. Bethanylooked at her in consternation before gesturing at the pile of clothing by her feet. “I really doneed to finish inspecting this linen.”“Go ahead my dear, do not let my presence stop you.”
Stifling a groan, Bethany knelt on the floor again. While she had been uncomfortable with theemphasis on Boolproprian rhetoric the pamphlet contained, it had been the chapter onmatrimonial duties that had caused her to close it. Given the conversation her mother had justtried to have with her, she was sure that Alexandra would find and read it. It was not a subjectwhich she wished to discuss.
“There is some good advice in here Bethany,” said Alexandra, turning a page. “Slightly too muchemphasis on the Lord Plumbbob, for my liking, but then Mrs Howard is the wife of a minister so Iam not too surprised.”“Yes, there are certainly some items that I will have to take on board,” replied Bethany as sheshook out a pair of combinations, hoping that her mother would put the volume down and leaveher.She was to be disappointed when she heard the pages stop turning. She risked a glance atAlexandra and saw that she was looking at the pamphlet, one eyebrow raised as she read thepage in front of her.Oh no.
“Bethany, have you read this chapter on the wedding night and wifely duties?” asked Alexandraquietly.“Erm.” Bethany couldnt look at her mother.“Bethany come and sit beside me.”Bethany hesitated. She really, really did not want to discuss that chapter with her mother.“Bethany please. If you have read this, then I need to speak to you about it.”
Cheeks aflame, she put the combinations down and sat down next to her mother, not meetingher eyes.“Have you read this section on wifely duties?Bethany nodded and Alexandra sighed. “It contains no truth,” she said very quietly. “Men arenot insatiable animals with little to no self control. Intimate relations with a man you love, are notonerous or something to be feared and dreaded.”
Bethany glanced quickly up at her mother, before looking back down at her lap to avoid the lookof pity and kindness on her face.“Sexual intercourse can be and is pleasurable for both parties. I may have had only fourpregnancies, but that does not mean I have shared my bed with a man only four times.”Bethany had thought her blush couldnt get any deeper, but she felt her cheeks burn even more.She really did not want to hear this about her mother.“There are ways of preventing pregnancy, not fool proof, but they will limit the number of childrenyou have,” continued Alexandra. “And you remember how your father and I have always insistedon you knocking loudly on the door to our chambers if you need us and we are in there?”
Oh goodness, Bethany really did not want to think about that. Why wouldn’t her mother stoptalking?“You are embarrassed by what I am saying.”“I am mortified!” The words were out before Bethany could stop them.
“Nevertheless, I would be most remiss in my duties as your mother if I did not reassure you afteryou have read this tosh.” She threw the pamphlet onto Bethany’s bed where it bounced off andhit the floor. “Take no notice of anything contained within it. When it comes to your weddingnight, and indeed any other time you and Ezra are intimate, explore your relationship together.Do what feels natural, and please, please, please forget this nonsense about sex beingsomething a woman must endure under sufferance. There is nothing quite so…pleasant asfeeling completely as one with the man you love. And there is nothing wrong with desiring thatcloseness, or indeed your husband.”
Bethany thought about what Alexandra had just said before finally meeting her eyes. There wasnothing wrong with how she found herself wanting to kiss Ezra, how she wondered what it wouldfeel like to feel the touch of his bare skin on her own whenever she saw him after all. She felt herflush start to subside and gave her mother a small smile. “Thank you.”Alexandra smiled at her. “You are welcome. You can come to be me at any time if you needadvice on your duties as a wife. Just remember, do not go to Mr Howard’s bed before you aremarried, no matter how much the two of you may desire it.” She looked around at the fabric onthe floor. “Now, did you want me to help you inspect the rest of your purchases?”Bethany followed her mother’s gaze. “That would be a great help if you can spare the time.”
Alexandra slipped off the settee. “Of course I can. Where shall I start?”Bethany picked up a pile of household linens and handed them to her mother. “If you can checkthese bed sheets, I will continue with my apparel.”“Of course.” Alexandra took the pile and placed it on the settee before lifting up the first toinspect. Bethany meanwhile picked up the combinations she had put down and continued to lookfor flaws and pulls. They spent the next hour or so going through the rest of the contents ofBethany’s trousseau, the embarrassment of their previous conversation, forgotten.
Not quite two months later, Joe Grundstrom was sitting at the dinning table, his newspaperspread out before him as he ate his breakfast. It was a habit that had driven his late mother todistraction, and it was now having a similar effect on his wife.“Joe, is it really necessary to take up nearly the entire dining table with your broadsheet?” askedRachel as she buttered a piece of toast.Joe grunted, but didn’t look up.“You are setting a bad example to the children. I had to dissuade Marie from bringing her bookto table the other day,” Rachel continued.
Joe looked up at his children. The nanny had gone at the same time as the rambling mansionhis father had bought, and as such, the children now ate breakfast and lunch with their parents.“Marie, you cannot read at the table. It is uncouth.”“But Papa,” Marie started.“Do not “but Papa” me. You cannot read at the table, and that is the end of the matter. Youshould not argue with either myself or your mother.” His daughter reprimanded, he returned hisattention to his paper, missing how her bottom lip jutted out until she caught her mother’s eye.
“Thank you Joseph, but do you think you could possibly leave reading the newspaper until afterwe have eaten? I doubt there is anything so important it cannot wait.”“I have to keep abreast of certain situations, as well you know,” bluffed Joe. “The exportbusiness has been poor these last few years and any change in the political situation could spelldisaster.”Rachel shook her head and returned to her toast. The Grundstrom export business had been thedoldrums for more than a few years, even she knew that, and her dowry was long gone,ploughed into that same business to keep it afloat. She also knew that her husband had wantedto sell their previous house long before Maria had died, but her formidable mother in law had puther foot down and insisted that they stay in the house Joe’s father had worked so hard topurchase. It had been running that house for far longer than was feasible, that meant they couldonly afford a small two bedroom cottage when Maria had finally shuffled off her mortal coil. Itwas quite a nice cottage all told, but far smaller than any house she had lived in before, and theirfurniture looked out of place in it. It was unlikely that perusing the newspaper each day wouldsolve his businesss problems.
Joe spared a glance at his wife, before returning his attention once more to his paper. The truthwas, ever since he had come across Bethany’s engagement notice, he had been scouring thepaper for news that the wedding had taken place, or was about to. He turned to the societypages and began his daily search. Today he found what he was looking for. It is announced that the Wedding of Mr Ezra Howard and Miss Bethany Smith will take place this Thursday, at St Gabriel’s Simfair.
This Thursday. His daughter was getting married this Thursday. He felt the now familiar surge ofanger towards Anthony and Alexandra for not informing him in person. He read the short noticeagain and made up his mind. Anthony was not going to stop him from seeing his daughter getmarried. He would attend that wedding no matter what!He closed his paper and started to furiously cut his eggs. He was so engrossed in his task andmaking plans for Thursday that he missed the concerned look his wife gave him.
Ezra looked at the tavern sign and then at his future brother-in-law. “Welcome to the Bull!” saidChristopher before slapping Ezra on the back. “Since Regalton is going to be your new home,Bertie, Andrew and myself thought it would be a good idea to introduce you to the heart of thevillage, the village pub.”“How very thoughtful of you.”“I thought so. Come, let us go in. Your friend Edward…”
“Edward’s here from Simshire?” interrupted Ezra.“Yes.” Christopher paused as he realised what he’d said. “Damn, it was meant to be a surprise.Sorry about that. So him, Bertie, Stuart, Andrew, Peter, David, Papa and your father shouldalready be here.”
Ezra’s face fell, and he turned towards his friend. “You invited my father?”“Of course! Mine and Bethany’s father was invited, I could hardly leave yours out could I?”“…Yes, yes you could,” replied Ezra.
Christopher shook his head. “Do not be such a misery guts. Tonight we are celebrating your lastnight of freedom, before you are shackled to my esteemed sister for all eternity. Now come on. Ifear we are already falling behind everyone else with our beer consumption.” He clapped himonce more on the shoulder before heading into the pub.Ezra shook his head, and grimaced at the thought of having to spend the evening with his fatherbefore following him.
In the public bar, Eddie looked over at the sound of laughter coming from the lounge bar. “Itsounds as if Ezra’s stag night is going well,” he said turning his attention back to his companions.“Indeed,” replied Theo as he put his beer down. “You do not think that we should have postponedour usual drink until after the wedding once we found out our sons would be here do you?” heasked.Eddie thought for a moment. “No, I do not see why. Bertie and Stuart are grown men now, andwill not mind that we are in the same pub. Besides, Anthony might need a little moral supportlater. It is his daughter who is getting married after all.”
Theo snorted. “Yes. I know I will certainly need all the moral support I can get when Celestiagets married. That is if she does.”Eddie looked at him quizzically. “She has no suitors? I would have thought that she would havemany given how accomplished and beautiful she is.”“Oh she has suitors aplenty,” replied Theo after taking a swig of his beer. “I have had severalyoung men come to see me to beg for her hand in marriage, but whenever I have mentionedthem to her, she has laughed and told me she would rather gouge out her own eyes than marryany of them.”
Eddie laughed. “She was not keen on any of the young men I take it then?”“I did get that impression from her, yes. It is rather comforting in many ways. It leads me tobelieve that when she does meet the man she can countenance marrying, he will be very specialindeed.”Eddie nodded. “Yes, I can see why that gives you comfort.”Theo finished his drink and nodded. “Just think though, my friend, you will have all that to comewith Emmi.”
Eddie nearly choked on his drink. “Not for a few years yet, thank goodness. But the thoughtdoes play on my mind, I must admit. Emmi is special, and naïve when it comes to people, and Iworry someone will take advantage of her good nature.” He looked over at the third member ofthe group. “You must think yourself lucky not to have to worry about things such as this Stanley.”
Stanley started. “Yes of course. Hearing the two of you talking about your children growing upand the trials it involves, makes me exceedingly glad I do not have any. Did you each wantanother drink?”Eddie and Theo nodded and Stanley got up and went over to the bar.
As he waited for the barmaid to finish serving another customer, he let his mind drift. The truthwas that five years before, he would have meant every word of what he had just said to hisfriends. He had always been content with his string of special lady friends but just recently hehad started to feel as if his life was missing something. It didn’t help that the dreams of themysterious dark haired beauty that had plagued him for years, were becoming more frequent,and now contained, not just images of her, but images of crinkle-nosed grandchildren too. Forthe first time in his life, he was completely jealous of the lives his friends lived and the familiesthey had.“Same again Mr Legacy?” the barmaid’s voice cut through his reverie.
“Please Gwen,” he replied.“Are you feeling well Mr Legacy? You look a little pensive,” said Gwen as she pulled the firstdrink.“I am very well, thank you for your concern Gwen.”“Well, if you certain. I could help you if you are not.” She winked as she put the pint on the bar.“I am sure you could, but just the drinks please Gwen,” he slid the money for the drinks acrossthe bar, ignoring the look of disappointment on her face. Once she had finished pulling the othertwo pints, he picked up the three mugs and took them back to the table, determined to pushaside his melancholy thoughts and enjoy the rest of the evening.
Back in the lounge bar, the revellers at Ezra’s stag do were well on their way to being completelysloshed. Christopher slung his arm around Ezra’s shoulders. “Jus’ think. This time tomorrow,you will officially be a Smith!”Ezra raised his eyebrows. “That is not how it works Christopher.”“’Course it is. You are marrying my sister, who is a Smith, therefore you will also be a Smith.”Stuart, who was sitting nearby shook his head at his cousin’s reasoning and gave Ezra a ruefulsmile.
“Although,” continued Christopher who hadn’t seen this, “just because you will be a Smith, it doesnot mean that I will not hunt you down and kill you, If you hurt my sister. She never says, but shehas already been hurt enough in her life.”Ezra looked at Christopher. “If I did ever hurt her, I would hand myself over to you for you tomete out whatever punishment you see fit, but I assure you, that will never happen.”Christopher seemed to think about this for a moment before nodding. “Good. Now let me getyou another drink.”“I have not finished the one I have yet.”“Doesn’t matter. You are getting married tomorrow, tonight you mus’ drink,” and with that hestumbled off towards the bar.
There was a chill to the autumn air, but otherwise the day had dawned bright and clear inSimdon. In her bedroom, Bethany adjusted her veil, and looked in the full length mirror thatnormally stood in the dressing room. Worry crossed her features and she reached up to adjust itagain. Alexandra, sitting on her bed, noticed and crossed the room to her.“Bethany,” she said and her daughter turned to face her. Alexandra reached up and straightenthe veil. “There, it is perfect.”
“I hope so,” said Bethany. “I want it to be. I want everything to be perfect today.”“And it will be,” reassured Alexandra.“I wish I had your confidence, instead I feel so nervous.”Alexandra smiled. “Of course you are darling. You are the bride, and you are about to embarkon a new life with your husband by your side. Every bride feels at least a little nervous on herwedding day.”Bethany tried to force a smile.
“You look beautiful darling. I am sure your father will agree, and more importantly, so will Ezra.”Bethany’s heart skipped a beat at the mention of her fiancés name and she smiled. “I am reallymarrying him, am I not?”
Alexandra returned her smile. “You are and soon. Come now, if you are ready, and I think youare, we should go down to meet your father and sister. It is nearly time for us to depart for thechurch.”Bethany paused when she got to the door, to take one last look around the room. She would notbe returning here and most of her belongings had already been transplanted to her new home.Bates would ensure that the rest of her things would be packed up and sent on to Regaltonbefore nightfall. Feeling slightly sorrowful, she turned and headed for the stairs.
Anthony and Sarah Jane were already waiting in the entrance hall. “I do not see why I could notgo on ahead with Mickey and Zane, and meet Christopher and David at the church,” said SarahJane petulantly.“Sarah Jane, you are your sister’s bridesmaid, and as such you cannot arrive at the churchahead of her. Just think how that will look.”Sarah Jane pouted. “But we will all be late if she does not hurry up, and I cannot abide beinglate.”
Anthony raised an eyebrow at her and started to reprimand her, when Alexandra entered the hall,followed by Bethany. “The vicar will wait for the bride Sarah Jane, do not fear,” she said.“I only meant …”“It does not matter what you meant, Bethany is here now.”
“You look beautiful Bethany,” said Anthony, going to her and kissing her on the cheek. “Do younot agree Sarah Jane?”
Sarah Jane cast a glance over her older sister. “Yes, you do look well I suppose. The cut of thedress suits your figure.”Bethany forced a smile. “Thank you Sarah Jane. May I just say that your dress also suits you.”Anthony and Alexandra exchanged a look. Relations between their daughters had never beenwarm, but since Bethany had returned from Simbridge, they had been positively frosty. EitherSarah Jane had taken giving up her room temporarily far harder than they had anticipated or theyhad missed something important.
“You both look beautiful. Your father and I are very proud of you,” said Alexandra. “I do howeverthink that we should perhaps make our way out to the carriage. That is, if you are readyBethany.”“I am, yes,” said Bethany, a smile warming her features.“Then we shall go,” said Anthony holding his arm out for his daughter to take.
At St Gabriel’s, the wedding guests had been arriving steadily, not one of them realising that theywere being watched. Not knowing the exact time of the service, Joe had taken up his position inan alleyway between two houses opposite the church early, and as such had seen everyonearrive. He was sure he had seen Alexandra’s brother get out of a carriage with a dark hairedwoman and young girl in tow and then there had been a young man who looked to be the spittingimage of Anthony who had arrived with a scruffy looking man, huddled in a long brown coat, butthe rest were complete strangers to him. He didn’t even have a clue as to who the groom was.He thought with a pang, that this had nearly been his family. If he had stuck it out, rather thanrun away, would he be at the centre of this day?
He was so caught up in his thoughts that he almost didn’t notice the carriage as it pulled up infront of the church. It was only when he saw a familiar blond head, that he realised who must bein it, and, without stopping to think about what he was doing, he ran out the alleyway and acrossthe road.
“Bethany! Bethany!”Bethany and her parents were so preoccupied with shaking her skirts back into shape after thecoach ride, that none of them heard her name being called at first. It was Sarah Jane whoexclaimed “Who is that who keeps calling your name Bethany?”
Their attention drawn to the voice calling her, the other three looked around for the source.Alexandra paled as she saw who it was. “Oh no!” she clutched at Anthony’s arm.“What is he doing here?” growled Anthony.“He who?” asked Sarah Jane as Bethany gasped and stepped backwards.
“Bethany!” Anthony stepped in front of Joe as he made to run up to her. “Grundstrom, why areyou here?” he asked, his voice dangerously calm.“You are not welcome here Mr Grundstrom,” added Alexandra.
“I wanted to see my daughter get married, and you cannot stop me!” declared Joe boldly.
Sarah Jane looked at Joe with interest. So this was her half-sister’s father. Yes, theresemblance was clear; she looked just like him. All that mumbo jumbo Bethany had spoutedthree months ago about how she looked like their mother, was just that. Mumbo jumbo. It wasobvious to anyone with eyes that Bethany was the spitting image of this man in front of them.
“I can stop you and I will Grundstrom,” replied Anthony. “You gave up the right to call Bethanyyour daughter the day you abandoned her mother, and again the day you declared you did noteven want to meet her or her brother.
“That was not my fault! I did not want to make that decision!” protested Joe.“And yet make it you did,” pointed out Alexandra.
Sarah Jane glanced over at her sister as Joe continued to argue with Anthony and Alexandra.Bethany was looking on in shock, eyes wide and mouth agape. As she watched, Sarah Janesaw her start to sway. Their parents were too pre-occupied with the interloper to go to Bethany.Sarah Jane groaned. It was going to be up to her to comfort Bethany and see she didn’t faintand ruin her dress, wasn’t it?
With a few quick steps, she was at her older sister’s side. Bethany’s eyes widened further withshock as she realised it was Sarah Jane who had taken her arm, but she allowed her to lead herback to the carriage and up the step without a word.
The sounds of the heated altercation could now be heard inside the church.“What on Earth is going on out there?” asked David as a particularly loud shriek of their mother’sechoed through the nave.“I have no idea, but it is making my already splitting headache worse, so I intend to find out,” saidChristopher levering himself out of his pew.
“What is happening out here?” asked Christopher as he headed for the railings surrounding thechurch yard. “We can hear the com…,” he stopped abruptly as he saw Joe. It was like looking ina mirror and seeing himself with Bethany’s colouring reflecting there.
Joe seemed to realise the resemblance at the same time. “This is my son?” he croaked.
“I am not your son!” The words flew out of Christopher’s mouth. “I am Anthony Smith’s son. I donot know who you are.”
Joe blinked rapidly and took a few paces forward, pushing past Anthony and Alexandra. “I amyour father, that is who I am. Yours and your sister’s father.”
“No you are not.” Everyone turned to see a calm Bethany get up and descend from the carriage.“As my brother has already said, you are not our father; Anthony Smith is our father. It is he whois married to and loves Mama. It is he who loved nurtured and cared for Christopher and I as wewere growing up, and who loves us still. It is he who is going to be at my side walking down theaisle and who is going to give me away on this most special of days. He is the man who hasbeen a constant, loving presence in our lives and he is the one whom we call our father. Wherehave you been?”
Joe floundered for a moment. “I.I.I wanted to meet you…”
Bethany shook her head. “You did not “want” Mr, Grundstrom was it? Because if you hadwanted, then you would have done so.”
“Should have been no obstacle if you had been serious about marrying Mama and raising us asyour own, or even meeting us as children.“You are not welcome here Mr Grundstrom and I want you to leave.”
Joe looked from Bethany’s stern face to Christopher’s but he was met with an identical glare.Turning his attention to the rest of the Smith clan, he realised there would be no help from anyquarter. Dejectedly, he turned and started to walk away.
Once he was out of sight, Bethany sagged with relief.“Are you quite well darling?” asked Alexandra.“A little weak at the knees, but I no longer feel faint,” replied Bethany. “Thank you Sarah Jane fortending to me.” Sarah Jane gave an embarrassed smile.
“I had no idea he would even contemplate attending the ceremony,” said Anthony. “I would haveseen to it that he was dissuaded if I had.”“It was hardly your fault Papa.”“You handled the situation admirably. Far better than your father and I did,” said Alexandra.“I do not know about that,” said Bethany. “I merely told the truth.”
“As did I,” put in Christopher, who had walked over to join them.“You have both made me very proud,” said Anthony. Bethany smiled shyly at his words, whileChristopher looked fit to burst.“We do, however, have a wedding to attend to. That is, if you are ready Bethany?”She smiled. “I am, and one good thing about Mr Grundstrom’s appearance, is that it has at leastput paid to my nerves.”
Alexandra laughed. “I suppose it is nice that he has been good for something in his life. Shall wego in?” Bethany nodded and Anthony held out his arm to her.
Inside the speculation as to what had occurred outside, which had abated only slightly when thegroom had re-entered, having an urgent conversation with David and Edward, stopped altogetheras Christopher and then Alexandra glided down the aisle and took her place in one of the frontpews.“What was the commotion?” asked Eddie, leaving his seat to squat next to his sister. “I do hopethat nothing is amiss.”
“Everything is fine now, thank goodness. I will explain later, but suffice to say that MrGrundstrom nearly ruined another wedding.”“Oh no!” Eddie was about to say more, when the first note of the organ sounded.
Emmi winced. “Wrong note,” she muttered.“Beloved Emmi, it is time to be quiet,” murmured Carmen in Takemizu.“But Kasaan, I do not understand why cousin Bethany did not ask me to play. I would not haveplayed a wrong note in the first chord.”
“Because this is the wedding of your cousin. You are here as a guest, not a performer.”“But that wrong note has ruined the ceremony.”“One wrong note will not ruin a ceremony, but a cousin talking through it might. Emina, it is timefor you to be quiet.” Carmen’s calm voice held a note of warning and Emmi ceased hercomplaining.
“Such a beautiful ceremony,” said Miss Cee for the tenth time, as she handed her cape to thecloakroom attendant at the Assembly Rooms.“It was,” agreed Miss Di. “I am so happy for them.”
They went through to the main ballroom and she looked around at the assembled guests. “Thereis one thing I could not help but notice though.”“Oh and what is that?”“Only that not all of the guest’s on Ezra’s side are the age I was expecting. Cate, for example, israther younger than I was anticipating.”
Cee followed her friend’s gaze. “I do not pretend to understand how the portals between mini-verses work. It is possible, I suppose, that I inadvertently made a … miscalculation when Iinvited her through.”“Hmm. If one were a cynical person, then one might wonder how inadvertent that miscalculationwas.”
“It is very lucky that you are not a cynical person then Di. Besides, I notice that there is oneperson who is not complaining.” She nodded at the red-headed man who was crossing the roomtowards Cate.“Yes, I had noticed that he could hardly take his eyes off of her in the church. One wonders ifone should be cross about this.”“Of course one should not be! One cannot stand in the way of true love. And I thought you coulddo with a little cheering up. I know you have been out of sorts ever since you discovered youcould no longer divine the thoughts of your other self.”
Miss Di chewed her lip. “I am worried, I will not deny it. If she does not want me to know whatshe is planning, then it is unlikely to be good. But I refuse to think about it today. Today is forBethany and Ezra, and seeing what happens with those two.”The two simselves shared a smile and stood back to see if their first successful foray intomatchmaking would occur again.
"Bethy?" Ezras voice was gentle as he touched her shoulders. Shed left the main room in such ahurry, he was worried about her. "I will be fine. Please, give me a moment to compose myself,"she replied, her voice shaking slightly."Bethy, what is wrong?" he asked. "Please tell me my darling.""I thought I saw him again, peering through the window," she replied after a pause. "I do not wanthim here."
Erza put his arms around her, noticing that she was shaking and tenderly kissed the top of herhead. This was so unlike his calm, composed, capable Bethany, he was almost at a loss as towhat to do, all he knew for definite was that he was very angry with the man. "I will take care ofit," he said quietly. "Would you like me to send your mother in? Or your sister?"Bethany shook her head. She didnt want anyone else to see her like this, least of all her motherwho would get upset, or Sarah Jane who, despite her actions earlier, would be far fromsympathetic. "I need a moment, and then I will be fine.""If you are certain." He kissed the top of her head once more, before turning and heading back tothe throng of the wedding breakfast.
As he crossed the busy room, he was so focussed on what he was going to say or do to the manif he found him, that he didnt notice his brothers-in-law, or his father-in-law turn their heads towatch him as he walked past. And he certainly didnt notice Anthony excuse himself from theconversation he was having with Eddie, and follow him as he reached the door.
Once outside, Ezra circled the building until he came to a group of bushes by the windows on thesouth side of the assembly rooms. Sure enough, there he was, standing amongst the greenery,straining his neck as he tried to look in. Ezra got to within ten feet of him, before he stopped andstood looking away from the building, his back ram-rod straight to emphasise his height, and hishands clasped together behind his back. "My wife," he said, savouring the newness of the wordon his lips, "has made her wishes abundantly clear. She does not want you here. Leave now,before the police are sent for."
Joe straightened up. "A man is entitled to see his own daughter get married." He retorted.Ezra looked at him out of the corner of his eye. "As she told you earlier, she is not your daughter,you are entitled to nothing.""I am her father!" Exclaimed Joe."No, you are not." Replied Ezra, his voice still deadly calm.
"I am!" Joe almost screamed."What part of no do you not understand? You relinquished the right to that title the moment youabandoned her mother. You are nothing to her, you are nothing to this family, and if you do notleave now of your own volition, I will make you.""You said you were going to send for the police."
Ezra finally turned to face him. "I think we can dispense with formalities such as that, do you not?For upsetting my Bethany, I am of the mind to make you leave myself." As he spoke, Ezra wasalready shrugging out of his jacket. Joe eyed him warily as he placed the jacket on the groundand started to remove his cuff-links, but he still responded in typical fashion."You?" He blustered. "You look as if a gust of wind would blow you over!" Ezra merely raised aneyebrow at him, as he drew back his arm. The blow sent Joe sprawling.
"Leave now." Said Ezra, looking down at the prone figure at his feet. "Do not ever bother my wife,or try to make contact with her again. If you do, I will do more than bruise your jaw and damageyour pride. I trust I make myself clear." Joe managed to nod as he shuffled backwards andstruggled to his feet.As Ezra carefully rolled down the sleeves of his shirt, and refastened his cuff-links, Anthonyturned and walked away from his vantage point at the corner of the building, a smile playingabout his lips.
Vicky was returning home from a night spent investigating a nondescript warehouse on the farside of the river, when she heard the front door of the neighbouring house open and a cheerymale voice greet her. “Good morning Mrs simself.”Vicky smiled and made a surreptitious effort to smooth her hair as he headed towards her.“Good morning Mr Tudor. I trust today finds you and Mari well?”
“Aye, very well, thank you for asking. I hope you are likewise?”“I am sir. Rosie and I had rather a productive night and our investigation is progressing well,” shereplied. A few months ago she had let slip her line of business when Owen had enquired into herattire as she returned home from an investigation in the slums one evening. Much to hersurprise, he had shown an interest, not only in the fact that she was an enquiry agent, but also inher safety. Since then, she had made a point of letting him know when an investigation wasgoing well.
“I am glad to hear it.” Owen seemed to rock back and forth on his heels as if he wanted to saymore, and Vicky raised her eyebrows expectantly.“Mari and I were wondering if you would care to join us for a meal tomorrow night. Mr and MrsRoseland and their sons will be there, and she thought you might also like to join us.” He spokein a rush.
Vicky smiled. Mari was, she knew, little older than ten, and unlikely to be the one writing theinvite list to a dinner party. The invite was coming from Owen then, and the thought made herfeel warm inside. “I would like that very much, thank you Mr Tudor, and please extend my thanksto Mari for her kind invitation.”Owen’s face relaxed into a smile.
Vicky was about to confirm the time, when she noticed the postman heading towards them.“Excuse me,” he said making to go to Vicky’s door.“Do you have something for me?” she asked.“Mrs Victoria Simself?” he asked looking at the address on the letter.“Yes.”
He handed the missive to her and she took it. Whatever the letter was, it felt heavy enough to beseveral pages thick, and the envelope was of a high quality paper. She turned it over to look atthe return address, and frowned when she saw it was from a solicitor in Birsimgham. Shebecame aware that Owen was talking to her. “…bad news I hope.”
“As do I,” she murmured. She made an effort to pull herself together. “I apologise Mr Tudor, butI really must see what this contains. Until tomorrow at…?”“Eight of the clock. Please let me know if I can be of assistance in the meantime.” Vicky noddedat him. Her eyes still glued to the letter, she missed the concern in his.
Once inside, she slit open the letter with shaking hands and started to read. She had to read itseveral times before it dawned on her what her husband’s solicitor was saying. She would needto get her own solicitor to check through it, but citing her refusal to follow Patrick to Birsimghamand her failure to give him a son, her marriage was being annulled.A slow smile crept across her face as relief flooded through her. She was free.
A month had passed since Bethany and Ezra’s wedding, and Anthony was sitting in the study, abook open in front of him. He, Alexandra and their children had spent the previous evening inRegalton with the newlyweds, and they had had a thoroughly enjoyable time. It brought him a lotof pleasure to see his eldest daughter so happy, and to see that she had mostly forgotten theincident of Joe turning up before she entered the church. He was in such a good mood, hethought that nothing could dampen his spirits. He was about to be proven wrong.
There was a knock at the door, and Anthony looked up just as Bates, the butler came in. “SirHorace Penryn-Jones to see you sir.”Anthony frowned down at his book. He was a senior civil servant in the Foreign Office, and if theForeign Secretary himself was calling on him, then it must be for something of the upmostimportance. “Show him in please Bates,” he said standing up.
Bates nodded and a moment later, Sir Horace was shown in. “Sir Horace,” said Anthony,extending his hand.“Smith. I was just admiring your house. Such a good example of the design, and in a primelocation too. You are lucky to have it.”Anthony gestured towards one of the wingback chairs in front of the fire. “Thank you. My fathermay have hated the city, but he was very canny when it came to purchasing property in it.”
“You own other property in Simdon then?” asked Sir Horace as he sat down.“Several other properties, yes, but I doubt very much you are here to discuss my propertyportfolio,” said Anthony as he too sat down.Sir Horace gave a bark of laughter. “That is what I like about you Smith, straight to the point. Iwill return the favour. You are quite correct, I am here to discuss another matter entirely. Inshort, I wish to marry your daughter.”
Anthony blinked rapidly. Surely he must have misheard. “I do beg your pardon, Sir Horace, but Ifear I misheard you. I thought you said you want to marry my daughter.”“No, you heard me correctly. I want to marry Miss Smith.”Anthony cocked his head to one side as he tried to gather his thoughts. “You wish to marrySarah Jane?”“Yes. It is a very simple concept. I fail to see why you are not grasping it.”
“I apologise,” said Anthony, “but have you met my daughter at any occasion other than a dinnerparty several months ago?”Sir Horace paused. “No, but that meeting was more than enough for me to recognise her futurepotential as my wife.”Anthony tried another tack. “That may be, but she is rather young for her mother and I to startthinking about entertaining suitors.”
Sir Horace frowned. “She accompanies your wife to social functions and has her own cards.She is, to all intents and purposes, out in society, even if your status means she will never bepresented at court. That is a clear indication that you are open to negotiations as to hermatrimonial situation. I find her charming and quite beautiful. I am presenting myself as a suitorbefore anyone else does, and I miss the opportunity to wed her.”
Anthony was silent while he thought about what Sir Horace had said. Neither he nor Alexandrahad thought that including Sarah Jane in social responsibilities signalled that she was looking fora husband. Yes the season was all about trying to snare a husband, but Sarah Jane hadn’t beenincluded in the season proper. Rather she had gone on more visits and attended more functionsthan her sister had at the same age, as a way of assuaging the jealousy and resentment she felttowards Bethany.
Sir Horace clicked his tongue impatiently. “Look Smith, it appears I have caught you off guard,but I assure you, I am serious in my suit. Perhaps you should start thinking about howadvantageous my union with your daughter could be for you.” Anthony regarded him quizzically.“Not only could I help you with your career, but I will give respectability to your family name.”
Anthony’s eyes narrowed, but Sir Horace continued to talk. “Everyone knows that your wife’seldest children cannot possibly be yours. Rumours about her fidelity and what really occurredhave dogged her reputation and yours for over twenty years. If a respectable baronet, a seniorcabinet minister even, is willing to marry her other daughter, it sends a clear signal that she is notas much to blame as people say. I can even have it put around that she was attacked and takenadvantage of; that you gallantly agreed to marry her when she was in need.”
“I married my wife because I love her,” interrupted Anthony.“And you have valiantly defended her, her reputation and her children throughout your marriage.My willingness to marry into your family will aid that.”
“You would be willing to risk tarnishing your reputation by having an illegitimate sister andbrother-in-law?” asked Anthony suspiciously.“If it means I can marry Miss Smith, yes,” replied Sir Horace.
Anthony lapsed into deep thought. His initial instinct was to refuse Sir Horace’s suit. He was fartoo old to marry Sarah Jane, and had spent only a few hours in her company, hardly enough toform a lasting attachment. And yet, he was talking very earnestly. He was willing to risk hisreputation and was even offering to try his best to make Alexandra’s reputation morerespectable. That had to count for something.Then there was the question of Sarah Jane’s reaction. If she ever found out that Anthony hadrejected a suitor without consulting her, she would never forgive him. Perhaps that was theproblem with her attitude though: he and Alexandra were giving her too much control over herdecisions for one so young.
Anthony met Sir Horace’s eye. “Thank you for your sincere offer Sir Horace. I cannot give youan answer as to whether you can court my daughter or not today. It is unexpected and I mustconsult with my wife.”Sir Horace nodded. “We could perhaps discuss the dowry in the meantime.”“No, I think not. Not until I have made my decision.”
Anthony stood up, and realising that their conversation was over, Sir Horace followed suit.“Very well. I hope to hear from you on the matter soon. Remember that I mean what I say. Iwant to marry Miss Smith, very much.” He held out his hand and Anthony took it before ringingfor Bates. “I will give our conversation serious consideration, I promise you.”Sit Horace nodded before following the butler out of the room.
Bates opened the door to let Sir Horace out, only to find Alexandra on the step. “Bates, I swearyou are the most efficient butler a person could wish for.” She stepped inside and saw SirHorace standing there. “Sir Horace, what a pleasant surprise.” She offered him her hand.
“Good day Mrs smith. I trust today finds you well.”“Very thank you sir. You remember my daughter, Sarah Jane.” She stepped to the side andgestured to Sarah Jane who had followed her inside.
“How could I forget one so charming?” said Sir Horace smiling at her. Sarah Jane returned hissmile with a dazzling one of her own. “It is a pleasure to see you again Sir Horace,” she saidwarmly.
“Would you care to join us for tea?” asked Alexandra.“Ah, I wish I could Mrs Smith, but unfortunately I have pressing business elsewhere. Anothertime perhaps. Maybe you would care to join me for tea at Simbury House one day.”“That sounds delightful Sir Horace,” replied Alexandra, not seeing how her daughters face lit upat the thought.“Until then.” he bowed his head at Alexandra, and smiled again at Sarah Jane before duckingout the front door.
“Thank you Bates,” said Alexandra as the butler, after shutting the door, helped her our of hercoat. “I do hope that Sir Horace’s visit does not mean more hours at the office for Mr Smith.”
“I would not know about that Madam,” responded the butler diplomatically as he switched hisattention to Sarah Jane.“Of course you wouldn’t. Is Mr Smith in the drawing room?”“The study madam.”
“Really? Hmm. Bates can you please see to it that tea is served in the morning room in tenminutes? Sarah Jane, your father and I will meet you there.” Sarah Jane gave a little start andnodded before scurrying out the hall. Alexandra frowned before going to find her husband.
Anthony was lost in thought when Alexandra entered the study. She paused momentarily beforestriding up to him. “Sarah Jane and I have just run into the Foreign Secretary in the hall. I dohope he did not come baring bad news.” She bent down and kissed the top of his head. Helooked up at her, his eyes troubled.
“Oh dear. He did, did he not? Are we entering yet another pointless war?” She sat down on thechair opposite her husband.Anthony shook his head. “No, Sir Horace’s purpose for visiting was not as grave as that, and yetI find it more distressing.” He paused. “Alexandra, there is no easy way of saying this, but SirHorace wants to marry Sarah Jane.”
“What?!” Alexandra squeaked and rocked backwards in her chair. “How can he? Not that I donot think our daughter has many admirable qualities, because she does, but she is barely sixteenand Sir Horace is fifty if he is a day!”
“I am unsure as to his exact age, but he is certainly older than I am,” conceded Anthony.“You refused him?”Anthony paused.“You didn’t? Why?”
Anthony sighed and ran his hand through his already ruffled hair. “I am not entirely sure. I wasshocked and blindsided by him, but he is sincere in his suit, of that I am certain, and,” he pausedagain. “My dear, have you ever thought about how much Sarah Jane reminds you of yourselfwhen you were young?”
Alexandra fixed him with a stern look. “Of course I have. I can recognise myself in both mydaughters. It is unfortunate that the qualities I see most in Sarah Jane are her stubbornness andthe unfailing belief that she is always right.”“Exactly. And if an important man had approached your father for your hand and he had refusedit straight away, how would you have reacted?”“Badly,” she admitted with a sigh.
They both lapsed into a silence broken only by the crackle and pop of the coal in the grate. “Weare going to have to tell her, are we not?” said Alexandra eventually.“I do not know,” said Anthony unhappily. “If we do tell her, there is a chance that she will find theage difference distasteful, giving me grounds to refuse his suit.”“Perhaps,” murmured Alexandra, “or she may be blinded by the position he can give her.”“That is a distinct possibility,” agreed Anthony. “We cannot tell her today certainly.”
“No,” agreed Alexandra. There was a knock at the door and Anthony looked up to see Batesstanding there. “Tea has been served in the morning room, and Miss Smith wishes it to beknown that it is starting to get cold.”Alexandra and Anthony exchanged a glance. “Thank you Bates. We are just coming.”
The butler nodded and headed out of the room. Anthony got up and held out his hand to helpAlexandra up. Arm in arm, they went to have tea with their daughter.
While Anthony and Alexandra were fretting over their youngest daughters first suitor, their eldesthad settled into married life very easily. Bethany delighted in spending time with her newhusband, whether it was at a social occasion, or the two of them learning to share their passionswith each other, or spending time in the privacy of their rooms. Both Bethany and Ezra werehappier than they had ever been in their lives.
In Simdon, Victoria was also finding happiness in spending time with someone she cared about,in this instance, Owen Tudor. Since her marriage had been annulled, she found herself enjoyinghis company more and more each time she saw him. Little did she realise that Owen wasenjoying their time together just as much, nor did she know that her confidence that she was nolonger married, was one of the best pieces of news Owen thought he had ever heard.
Breakfast at the Smith house was always a quiet affair for so large a household, and that day’sstarted off as no exception. Mickey was sitting there rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, whileZane and Anthony chatted about the story on the front of the paper and Sarah Jane removed thetop of her boiled egg as neatly as possible.“The post has arrived,” said Bates, approaching Anthony. “Thank you Bates,” said Anthony as heremoved the pile of correspondence from the tray. Sorting the letters that were addressed to hiswife, he handed them to her, before starting to open his own.
Alexandra took them and examined the handwriting on the front of each envelope. Sherecognised the hand of Amelia Burrage and Isobel Hampshire and put those two aside to readlater since they were most likely invitations of some kind. There was also a letter from herbrother and one whose lettering she did not recognise. Frowning she put that one down, beforeopening Eddie’s letter.“Oh, that is a pity,” she said as she scanned the letter.“What is wrong my dear?” asked Anthony, looking up from his own letter.
“Eddie asks if he can postpone dinner on Saturday until a later date. He, Carmen and Emmihave had to move out of 1 King’s square while the building work is carried out. They arecurrently staying in one of the estate cottages and do not have room to entertain.“Perhaps I should invite them to dine with us here instead. Yes, I think I will do that.”Anthony nodded. “Sounds like a good idea darling.”
Alexandra smiled and put Eddie’s letter down, before picking up the mystery envelope. Shedeftly slit it open and pulled out the letter. She read it through and froze. “Mother, is anythingwrong?” asked Sarah Jane from across the table. Alexandra plastered a smile onto her face.“Of course not,” she said brightly. Sarah Jane narrowed her eyes in disbelief, but Alexandradeflected any further questions by changing the subject.
By the time Mickey and Zane had left the table to head off to school, Alexandra’s reaction to theletter had been forgotten by all but Alexandra and Anthony. Anthony watched Sarah Jane leavethe dining room, before raising his eyebrows at his wife. She sighed and slid the letter across thetable to him.His breath hissed between his teeth as he read it. “Sir Horace is inviting you and Sarah Jane totea,” he said flatly.“Yes.”“And we still have not decided on what to do about his suit.” He paused as he thought. “Youcould refuse his invitation and I could refuse my permission.”
Alexandra was silent as she considered this. Eventually she sighed. “No, I think we have to tellSarah Jane first. We have always been honest with our children; I do not think we should stopnow. Besides, did you not discuss Bethany’s first suitor with her, rather than flat out refusingpermission?”“Yes,” conceded Anthony, “but I found Ezra to be a very personable young man, and he had thetwin advantages of claiming to love our daughter and being her own age. Sir Horace professedhis admiration for Sarah Jane, but no more, and he is older than I am.”
Alexandra looked pained. “For such a dour man, that is praise of the highest order, and probablyall he felt he could give.“I do think, we have no choice but to at least make Sarah Jane aware Sir Horace has approachedyou. He is unlikely to give up, and if she finds out about and we have said nothing to her…” Hervoice trailed off as she imagined the explosive reaction of their daughter.Anthony nodded. “You are correct. We should tell her now.” He put his correspondence in hispocket, and got up. Hand in hand, they went to find their daughter.
“Sir Horace Penryn-Jones wishes to marry me?” Sarah Jane looked at her parents in shock.Anthony nodded as both he and his wife watched their daughter carefully. If they were hoping tosee disgust register there, they were to be disappointed.“You of course told him yes.”
Anthony and Alexandra exchanged glances. “No,” said Anthony. “I have not given him anyanswer yet.”“But why? Do not you think it is a great honour for him to want to court me?”
Alexandra sighed, and looked over at her husband.“It is indeed an honour but you have met him only the once and he is a lot older than you. It is alot to consider.” Anthony tried to keep his tone reasonable as he spoke.
Sarah Jane shook her head. “We got on very well when we met and he must like me to speak toyou about marriage. I think he is charming, and have given no thought as to his age. I do notsee what there is to consider. Tell him yes. I will marry him.”
Alexandra put her hand on her husband’s leg as she sensed him tense beside her. “Sarah Jane,darling. It is too soon for you to make that decision. Once cannot base one’s entire future onone meeting. Trust me on that.” She glanced over at Anthony. “Sir Horace has asked us to teaat Simbury House. I suggest that we put off even considering making a decision until after that.”
“When has he invited us for?”“Tuesday.”Sarah Jane mulled this over. “Very well. Was there anything else you wanted to discuss withme?”Anthony shook his head.“I will return to my sewing in the morning room then.” And with that she stood up and left theroom.
Anthony ran his fingers through his hair. “She will not change her mind on Tuesday. She isalready intent on marrying him, and she has known about his proposal only a few minutes.”Alexandra put her hand on his shoulder. “I am as displeased about this as you are, butsometimes the only way to realise one’s folly is to make one’s own mistakes.”
Anthony looked at her warily. “She’s sixteen,” explained Alexandra. “If, after Tuesday she doesdecide that she wants you to accept his proposal, we can insist on a long engagement; onewhich will give her chance to get to know Sir Horace better and give her time to think about whatshe has agreed to. The betrothal can then be broken if she changes her mind.”
“I never thought I would find myself in a similar dilemma as your father when Grundstrom askedfor your hand in marriage,” said Anthony as he drew her close.“You realise, Papa made the right decision not to alienate me by refusing Mr Grundstrom’srequest,” said Alexandra, settling against him.“Do you really believe that? After everything you went through?”
“Yes,” replied Alexandra without hesitation. “I may not have done when he left me and I foundout I was expecting, but if Papa had not given his permission, then I would not have Bethany andChristopher. I would not be married to you. I would not have the rest of our wonderful family andI would not be the person I am today. All of that was worth society’s censure.”
“I would have asked to court you anyway,” Anthony kissed her gently.She turned to face him. “But I would not have been in contact with my family. I would have runoff to be with the man I thought I loved and his family. If he would not have had me, I would haverun to Aunt Evie’s, anywhere but going home. If I had returned home eventually, I would, morethan likely, refused you. I did not realise I loved you until three years into our marriage, no matterhow obvious the signs were.”“I remember that night well,” muttered Anthony. “I had wanted you to share my bed for so long,and when you took my hand that night, and led me to your bed…it was as if all my wishes hadcome true.” Alexandra reached up and kissed him.“All my dreams came true that night too.”
“It seems I do have to be grateful for Grundstrom for and Mr Legacy for that then,” he said asAlexandra settled back down in the love seat. “I hope the situation works out as well for ourdaughter.”“As do I,” muttered Alexandra.
As agreed, Alexandra wrote to Sir Horace accepting his gracious invitation for herself and SarahJane to have tea with him. She and Anthony then spent the next few days wondering if they hadmade the right decision while Sarah Jane was beside herself with excitement. Not only did shehave a suitor so soon after her sixteenth birthday, but he was a very important man; handsome,charming and she had enjoyed conversing with him at the dinner party several months ago. Shecould not wait until she could persuade her father to say yes to him after the visit to Simford.
The morning of the proposed tea visit, she had practically bounced down the stairs beforechattering cheerfully to her brothers over breakfast. She had then barely ceased her chatter, firston the way to the railway station, and then on the train to Simford. Alexandra was wondering ifshe had ever seen her youngest daughter so animated, or heard her talk for so long, when theircarriage drew up in front of an impressive Georgian mansion and Sarah Jane rather abruptly fellsilent.
Sir Horace’s groom opened the carriage door and helped Alexandra and then Sarah Jane out.Alexandra thanked him before she started down the gravel path towards the front entrance.“Remember what I said Sarah Jane,” she said quietly. “We are here for tea. Nothing has beenagreed to yet, and you are not to mention that you are aware of Sir Horace’s visit to your father.”Sarah Jane resisted the temptation to roll her eyes. As if she would be so crass as to do such athing. Sir Horace would surely only want to marry a lady, and so she would act like one.
Alexandra rang the bell and they had to wait only a moment before it was opened by an elderlybutler. “Mrs Smith and Miss Smith.” Alexandra handed over her and Sarah Jane’s cards. Thebutler took them and stepped aside to let them in. “This way please,” he said before leadingthem into the drawing room.
Alexandra looked round the room while they waited for the butler to fetch Sir Horace. It wasrather a gloomy room; done up in fashionable if dull wallpaper, but with old furniture and a lack ofornamentation which dated it and made it feel unlived in. It was easy to see that Sir Horace hadnever married.
As for Sarah Jane, she was looking around, her lips pursed. This would never do. Everythingwas hideously unfashionable apart from the wall coverings, and as for the sporting trophies, theywould have to go. There was no way she was having those in her drawing room.
Both women turned as the door opened. “Mrs Smith,” said Sir Horace going over to Alexandraand taking her hand. “And of course, the delightful Miss Smith.” He let go of Alexandra’s hand totake Sarah Jane’s. Sarah Jane dimpled at him.“It is so kind of you to join me this afternoon. I was disappointed not to be able to accept yourinvitation the other day Mrs Smith. I hope today will make up for it.”
“I am sure it shall,” replied Alexandra as she noted how Sir Horace only now released herdaughters hand.“I thought I could give you a quick tour of the house before we sat down for refreshment,” said SirHorace.“Thank you, that sounds delightful, do you not agree Sarah Jane?”
“It does. I was most impressed by the beauty of the house from the outside. I should like to seehow the beauty of the interior matches,” gushed Sarah Jane.Sir Horace’s laugh was a deep rumble. “I am not sure the house is very beautiful in its currentcondition. My father bought it for his bride when they moved from Wales after their marriage. Iam ashamed to say that with only myself living here, many rooms have been most neglected.Only my study and the public rooms I use for entertaining have been kept up.”“I am certain that the other rooms cannot be all that bad,” said Sarah Jane with a smile.“Hah. Well let me show you, and then you can judge their current state and their potential.”
Sir Horace was charming, attentive and even witty as he showed Sarah Jane and her motheraround his home. He lamented the fact that his mother’s favourite rooms had fallen intodisrepair, while acknowledging that he had little use of those rooms as a bachelor, but he hoped,one day to take a wife who would lovingly decorate them to her tastes. Alexandra had frownedslightly at the look he gave Sarah Jane as he said this, but not as much as she frowned whenSarah Jane practically squealed when he showed them the music room.
“I take it you like this room?” asked Sir Horace amused by Sarah Jane’s enthusiastic response.“I do, very much,” she replied. “I have always been disappointed with the fact that we do nothave a separate music room at home. For such a large townhouse, it does seem to lack rooms,especially when one’s family is as large as ours, do you not agree Mama?”
“I think your father’s house is charming,” said Sir Horace, not giving Alexandra a chance toanswer. “And I know full well how it is not to have enough rooms. Since I had some of theupstairs bedchambers converted for modern plumbing, there are only three suites, a handful ofsingle rooms, the day nursery and the night nursery upstairs. When there is just me rattlingaround, it is no problem, but when I am hosting a shooting party, things feel a bit cramped.“Now, shall I show you the ballroom?”“You have a ballroom?” asked Sarah Jane faintly.“Oh yes. Let me show it to you, and then we can go back to the drawing room for tea.”
Tea itself turned out to be a very pleasant affair. Sir Horace had a taste for only the finest Assamand his cook had prepared all manner of delicious sweet treats.. Both Sarah Jane and Alexandrahad expressed their appreciation of the refreshments and the conversation had flowed freely. Alltoo soon for Sarah Jane, it was time for them to leave.
“It has been an absolute pleasure to speak to you some more Miss Smith,” said Sir Horace as hebid them goodbye at the door.“Likewise Sir Horace. I have had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. Thank you for your kindhospitality.” Sarah Jane was all smiles as she offered him her hand. He took it and held onto itfor a beat longer than was strictly proper, before releasing it and turning his attention toAlexandra.
“It is always a delight to see you Mrs Smith. I do hope you too had a satisfactory afternoon.”“I did Sir Horace, thank you,” smiled Alexandra.“I have pressing business to discuss with your husband next time I am in Simdon, so perhaps wewill have the opportunity to have tea again soon.”Alexandra’s smile didn’t slip as she inclined her head, even though she knew exactly to what SirHorace was referring.“Until next time Sir Horace,” she said before turning and leading her daughter to the waitingcarriage.
Sarah Jane had bounded into her father’s study when they got home, leaving an exhaustedAlexandra trailing in her wake. She hadn’t stopped talking about Sir Horace or extolling thevirtues of his house for the whole journey home, and she made it very clear to Anthony that shewas very willing to marry him. Anthony had given a forced smile and asked her to think verycarefully about what she was saying. Sarah Jane had just laughed at that, before bouncing outthe room to go and change, leaving Anthony and Alexandra alone to talk.
Later that night, Alexandra was sat in Sarah Janes room, waiting for her to finish getting readyfor bed. Through the door to the dressing room, Alexandra could hear her humming. Shesuppressed a sigh. She had never seen her youngest daughter so happy and it made theconversation she knew she must have with her much more difficult.
Sarah Jane gave a start as she came out of her dressing room and saw her sitting there.“Mother, you startled me. What are you doing here?”“Waiting to speak to you ,” replied Alexandra.“Well I do hope you are not planning on a long conversation with me. It has been a long day andI am extremely tired.”“I will not keep you from your bed any longer than is necessary,” promised Alexandra.
“Did you find today enjoyable?”“Exceedingly so. I enjoy being in Sir Horace’s company very much. He is a charming man andhis house is extremely beautiful. As I said to Papa, if he should repeat his proposal, I will willinglyaccept.”
Alexandra looked pained. “Are you certain of that? You have come to this conclusion veryquickly. Would you not like more time to deliberate?”“More time is not necessary,” said Sarah Jane as she sat on her bed. “Did you question Bethanylike this?”“Both your father and I did speak to her yes, but she was older than you are when Mr Howardpresented his suit and had known him longer than you have known Sir Horace.”
Sarah Jane rolled her eyes. “You believe me too young to know my own mind and heart?”
“No,” said Alexandra patiently. “I believe you think your feelings are genuine and I know what it islike to get caught up in what you think you feel. I know what it is like to throw one’s heart awayon one’s first suitor; to be impressed by a vision of the future that man seems to represent. Iknow how easy it is to fool oneself into believing that future is the future one wants.“Sir Horace is a very charming man, with a very impressive house, but he is your first suitor andhe is older than your father. You will have to care for him in his dotage while you are still a youngwoman. Is that the future you want?”
Sarah Jane seemed to shrink as she listened to her mother, until she looked younger than heryears and more vulnerable than Alexandra had ever seen her. Alexandra’s heart pounded andher mouth felt dry as she watched her daughter closely. She seemed to be getting through toher.
All of a sudden, Sarah Jane seemed to give herself a mental shake and when she looked up, herconfidence had returned. “I thank you for your concern Mother, but I am not you and Sir Horaceis not the man who showed up at Bethany’s wedding. He has made his intentions towards meclear and they are honourable. I keep telling you and father that I like him in return. I see noreason not to accept his offer.”
Alexandra wanted to say more, but she recognised the stubborn tilt of her daughters head all toowell and knew that Sarah Jane wouldnt listen so she nodded. “Very well. Just remember what Ihave said tonight and that if you change your mind, any agreement your father may make withSir Horace can be broken.”“I will not change my mind,” insisted Sarah Jane.“Then if this is what you wish.” She got up and went to kiss her daughter. “Goodnight my dear,sleep well.”
Anthony was already in bed when Alexandra entered the bedroom. Without a word, sheremoved her dressing gown and slipped into bed beside him. She wrapped her arms around himand snuggled up against him, craving his warmth and reassurance.
True to his word, a few days later Sir Horace visited Anthony and once again presented his suit.This time Anthony accepted it and the two of them sat down to work out the details of thebetrothal and dowry.
Sarah Jane was, of course, ecstatic about the whole business. The one blot on the landscape asfar as she was concerned was that when she had spoken of hoping the betrothal would not belong, Sir Horace had looked appalled. He had stated that he was the Foreign Secretary and abaronet. As his wife, she would need to be able to entertain accordingly and in order to do that,she was going to have to complete finishing school. He would not even think about the weddinguntil she had finished her education.
Sarah Jane had NOT been happy about that, and had started a campaign to get her parents toenrol her in the Acadmie as soon as possible.They had eventually relented, knowing that her education would still take several years tocomplete, and so she had been enrolled to start in a few months.
Sarah Jane’s betrothal and her education formed one of the many topics of conversation the nexttime Alexandra visited Bethany. “She is certainly very excited about it,” said Bethany as shesipped her tea. “Her latest letters have talked of nothing else.”“Hmm,” Alexandra made a non-commital noise.
“You and Papa still have misgivings.”“We worry that your sister is rushing in without thinking, and to your father, no man is ever goodenough for his daughters. He had reservations about Ezra too at first.”
“He did?” asked Bethany surprised.“Yes. Of course he no longer has, especially since it is clear to all how much married life suitsyou. You look positively radiant.”
Bethany smiled. “I am indecently happy, it is true. I had no idea married life could be sowonderful, or my husband so loving and attentive. And I wished to thank you for helping me tounderstand that the pamphlet Mrs Howard presented to me was utter tosh.”
Alexandra was about to reply when the door to the morning room opened and Ezra entered.“Good afternoon Mrs Smith,” he said on seeing Alexandra. “Good afternoon Bethy.” He kissedhis wife’s cheek as he sat down next to her.“Good afternoon Ezra. I was just remarking on how well your wife looks.”
Ezra looked at Bethany and raised his eyebrows. “Have you told your mother…?She shook her head. “No.”
Alexandra looked puzzled. “Now really, I am on tender hooks. Has Bethany told me what?”
Bethany and Ezra exchanged shy smiles. “Well Mama, you see, it is still a little early to becertain, but I believe I may be with child.”Alexandra gave a very unladylike squeal and clapped her hand over her mouth. When she hadrecovered herself she said “oh my dear, that is the most fantastic news. Congratulations.Congratulations to you both.”
She got up to hug her eldest daughter, all worries about her youngest banished for the timebeing.
And with the news that generation six is on its way, this is where I will leave you. As always,thank you for reading, and I hope that you have enjoyed it. Also, thank you for sticking with me,during the long wait for the next instalment of my legacy. I really didn’t plan on the gap betweenthis chapter and the last being as long as this. Hopefully you won’t have to wait nearly a year forthe next one.Huge thank you to Cait (Regacylady) for the (perma)loans of Ezra, Cate, Ben, Phae, Edward,Jules and her simself. Also for the amazing clothing that she has made for me, includingReverend Vicar’s cassock, surplice and stole.Thank you to Lark (Leilia) for the permaloan of Owen and Mari Tudor.Thanks to Ang (Peasant007) for the permaloan of Zane.Thank you to DocNerd for her simself, and Marina (Smoothiesims) for Elle and Azula Fitzhugh.Until next time, happy simming.
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