- 31 . At Bowerly Hall-31
- 32 . At Bowerly Hall-32
- 33 . At Bowerly Hall-33
- 34 . At Bowerly Hall-34
- 35 . At Bowerly Hall-35
- 36 . At Bowerly Hall-36
- 37 . At Bowerly Hall-37
MARY was in a buoyant mood when I went into the nursery.
“Papa has promised to bring me a new painting set back from London. Think what lovely pictures we can make together, Amelia!” She clapped her hands happily.
“When is your father going to London?” I tried to keep my dismay hidden.
My emotions regarding the viscount were in turmoil. I was deeply in love with him. I couldn’t change the way I felt.
But I knew nothing could come of it. He loved Catherine and I could not rival a dead woman. And I had to remember my place socially.
My destiny was to be a spinster. At least I had employment and I loved Mary as if she was my own flesh and blood.
“Papa’s going today,” Mary said. “He came to say goodbye and that’s when he promised me so many nice presents when he returns.”
When would that be? I didn’t ask the child. It was wrong to question her so.
I thought of all we had shared the previous evening. There were secrets now. He trusted me to keep them safe and I would.
“We will begin our lessons today with a piece of poetry,” I said to Mary. “Now be a good girl and take out your book, and open it to page four.”
I set her to learning the small poem and went downstairs. I had to see for myself that he had gone.
I was in luck. The viscount’s carriage had pulled up at the driveway. As I stepped outside, Charles arrived. The butler was busy ordering the footmen to stow the luggage.
In the middle of all the preparations, Charles took me to one side.
“I must go to London on urgent business. Will you be here when I return?”
“Of course. I will be teaching Mary as usual. She is very excited about the gifts you will be bringing back.”
“Such an easy way to a child’s heart, is it not?”
“She loves you whether you give her a painting set or not.”
I was dying to ask him what had become of Francis but could not. Lady Anne came out of the house. I moved back to give her space to embrace her son.
“When will you return?” she asked.
“I will be away no longer than a fortnight,” he said.
“I do hope the weather remains mild,” Lady Anne fretted. “Storms will only delay you.”
“There is no need to worry,” Charles said, “I will be back soon. You have Mrs Dane to keep the house in order and Amelia to keep you company.”
He met my gaze above her head. I nodded my promise. I’d look after Lady Anne and keep her entertained.
“What of Mary? She will miss you awfully,” his mother said.
“I have to go,” he repeated gently and took his arm from hers.
As he passed me he spoke in a low voice so that only I could hear.
“All is in order.”
That was it. But it was sufficient that I knew he had dealt with the problem of Francis.
I watched as his carriage went down the long driveway and around the bend. I missed him already.
“Please join me for dinner tonight,” Lady Anne said. “I will be quite lonely without him. We will talk more of your mother.”
“Thank you, I look forward to that.”
After we had learned our poetry and Mary had spent an hour with her grandmamma I helped her to dress warmly.
“Would you like to play with Charlotte?” I asked her, tying her ribbons firmly under her chin.
“Yes, please, Amelia. I haven’t seen her in ages. I want to tell her about my new painting set. Can she come and paint with us once Papa is home?”
I assured her that she could invite Charlotte to do just that.
We hurried over to the vicarage, both eager to see our friends. Sarah looked well and welcomed us warmly.
Charlotte took Mary upstairs to play with her doll’s house while I was taken into the drawing-room.
“How are you?” I said.
“Engaged!” Sarah stifled a giggle.
“Congratulations! How marvellous. When is the happy day?”
“Our engagement is not made public so far,” Sarah said. “I want to write to my cousins and their families first. James has an uncle who has been very kind to him but who is travelling in Europe, so he wishes to wait until Uncle Jeremy has the news.”
“Your father must be delighted.”
“Yes, he is very happy for us both. Oh, Amelia, I’m in seventh heaven! Is it wrong to be so happy?”
“No, of course not. You must enjoy every minute. I wish you both the best of happiness.”
“I hope you find love, as I have done,” Sarah said, giving me a fierce hug.
I had no answer to that, so I changed the subject and asked if there was any county news.
“News of the greatest importance!” She nodded vehemently. “I should have told you right away except that my own news was even more exciting. Did you know that all the stolen belongings have been returned to the great houses?”
That was news indeed. Charles had acted swiftly.
I knew that the staff at Bowerly Hall were very fond of him and it was no stretch of the imagination to think that his workers would help him in this and keep their tongues still.
“Yes, this very morning at break of dawn, apparently. All the paintings and ornaments and so forth left at their doors. Who can have done it? Perhaps the thief has shown remorse.”
And what of Francis, I wondered. Where was he? I was very certain he had not returned the goods.