- 26. The Secret Of The Silver Locket – Episode 25
- 27. The Secret Of The Silver Locket – Episode 26
- 28. The Secret Of The Silver Locket – Episode 27
- 29. The Secret Of The Silver Locket – Episode 28
- 30. The Secret Of The Silver Locket – Episode 29
- 31. The Secret Of The Silver Locket – Episode 30
- 32. The Secret Of The Silver Locket – Episode 31
GRACE didn’t have the heart to argue. She knew full well how, because of her lowly status, in the wildly unlikely circumstances that she was to accept Harry’s proposal, his parents were bound to feel stunned, angry and distant. His father might even disinherit him and leave his estate to Harry’s younger brother. She couldn’t bear the thought of having that upon her conscience.
Nor could she bear the thought of the whispered comments behind hands and beyond earshot, all discussing how that nice Harry Gresham had thrown away his prospects and all for the sake of a flibbertigibbet girl he’d taken a fancy to while far from home.
With her emotions all over the place and the hectic days both at the coast and back in London, Grace had temporarily forgotten something most young women would be anticipating with excitement. She would turn twenty-one at the weekend. But that was the day Lady Cressida was hosting a party for her closest friends and Grace would be kept busy making sure both her ladyship and Rowena sparkled like superior diamonds set amongst a coronet of glittering but less precious gems.
The weekend after that was scheduled for the family weekend down at the coast. Grace had no idea whether she would be required to travel with Rowena. Fortunately, both she and Matthew were busy enough not to have time to fret about the other and revisit his idea about their futures.
Grace sensed he’d put the matter behind him. And the occasional remark let slip by Mrs Potter, in between complaining about the amount of work she had to do, made Grace wonder if Matt had indeed taken a shine to young Polly.
The evening before the party, while Grace sat like Cinderella, shortening the straps on one of Grace’s chemises, Emma came into the workroom with a strange expression on her face.
“Are you all right? You look a bit flummoxed.” Grace knotted the thread and snapped off the end, shaking the ivory silk garment so it settled ready for her to fold.
“I don’t mean to be. Have you finished with sewing?”
“Yes, thank goodness. Everything’s in order and Rowena’s gone out to a cocktail party with Lord Redvers so I’m done for the night.”
Emma held out a cream-coloured envelope.
“We’ll all be busy again tomorrow so I thought it best to bring this to you now, Grace.”
“Is this a greeting card? Oh, thank you, Emma but do you really think I should open it before tomorrow? Won’t that mean bad luck?”
“There’ll be more than one birthday card at the breakfast table, including mine and Alfred’s. This is something different. It’s not from me and I’m handing it to you now because you deserve time to think about its contents.”
Grace shook the envelope.
“This is most mysterious. Do you know what’s in it? It doesn’t feel heavy.”
“All I know is that it’s a letter given to me by your mother for safe-keeping until your twenty-first birthday.”
“My mother? Why did she not give it to me herself before she…”
“My dear, it contains information your mother decided should be kept from you until you reached maturity. I don’t imagine she’d be angry with me for handing it to you so close to your birthday.”
Grace reached for a pair of scissors and deftly sliced the envelope open. She took out a sheet of heavy white notepaper, unfolded it and began reading while Emma sank down on a wooden stool and stared at her feet, hands folded in her lap.
Grace had to read the first paragraph three times before she looked up at Emma.
“Did you know this? About the circumstances around my birth?”
“And you never thought to tell me?”
“Grace, please believe me when I say your mother swore me to secrecy. She asked me to fetch the letter from her bedroom drawer when she first took ill. Maybe she had a premonition about what was about to happen to her.
“Of course I agreed to keep the secret. She’d confided in me that you weren’t her own daughter though she and your father loved you as though you were.”
Grace nodded, her head spinning.