Runciman closed the door of his pantry and carefully spread out the newspaper. He licked his finger and tapped it quickly against the flat iron, listening for the hiss that would promise perfection. He had never once scorched Lord Farrington’s morning paper, a point of pride that was one of the reasons he looked forward to this daily ritual.
The other was the fact that in performing this duty he was able to enjoy a quiet moment alone and have a look at the news before delivering the paper upstairs. Runciman had always secretly relished the fact that he would therefore know much of the day’s news before the marquess. Of course, he never betrayed this, always responding to any comment the lord might make on an event with a suitable “Ah! Very surprising indeed, sir.”
This morning, though, the newspaper had been delivered late, most likely due to the snow. The paper boy had appeared just as Perkins had brought the carriage round, a most irregular turn of events, as it had been ordered by Miss Allbright for the purpose of calling on the Callow household, and she had been accompanied by Emily.
Runciman shook his head. Life had certainly changed since the American lady had arrived. Still, Lord Witney had done very well to find himself engaged to such an attractive and wealthy young heiress.
As for Lord Farrington’s latest plan, well, Runciman couldn’t help but feel uneasy. He thought back to that day, wondering again what it was all about.
“Runciman, I have something to tell you. In strict confidence, you understand.”
“Of course, my Lord.”
“I have been discussing a certain business venture with Mr Allbright.”
“I see, sir.”
“As soon as Bertrand and Miss Allbright are married, I shall be travelling to America. The trip will be for the purpose of starting this venture, and I will be travelling with the young lady’s father.”
“Yes, my lord.”
There was a pause and Runciman had felt compelled to clarify a crucial point.
“If I may be permitted to ask, sir, do I assume that Lady Farrington does not know about this proposed journey?”
“That’s correct, Runciman. I shall inform her at a later date.”
Runciman imagined that the marchioness and Lady Florence would surely want to go along on such an exciting trip, but this was something he knew Lord Farrington couldn’t afford. It hadn’t been a good year for the marquess, Runciman knew, though, of course, none of the others had an inkling.
In any case, what gentleman wouldn’t savour some time to himself, without the encumbrance of his wife and daughter?
Now, as he skimmed down the pages of the newspaper, Runciman adjusted his spectacles to read a review of a new play at the Duke of York’s Theatre called “Peter Pan, Or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up”. It sounded a fanciful but charming production.
Then, as he turned to the next section, he felt a sudden lurch in his stomach. There, at the bottom of the page, was a photograph of a group of ladies sitting at a table.
The two in the centre were unmistakable – one was that dreadful Pankhurst woman, and the other, looking out with the cool gaze he knew so well, was Lady Farrington! Hardly daring to read the caption, Runciman adjusted his spectacles again as sweat broke out on his brow.
Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst and friends lunching together in Manchester after a speech given by Nellie Martel in support of women’s suffrage.
For a long moment Runciman simply stared. Women’s suffrage! In a few moments, Lord Farrington, to whom Runciman was entirely devoted, would learn that his wife had been secretly meeting with those women. And in Manchester! It seemed that, to add to this shocking deception, she hadn’t been in London at all!