As she closed the door, Thea sank on to her bed.
“Daddy will be across the ocean by the time we return. How can I bear it? And where are my puppies? I’ll miss them terribly while we’re away. And I must have that handkerchief!”
“Yes, my lady,” Emily said, bewildered by this obsession. “I’m sure I’ll find it before you leave for your wedding journey. But here is another one, trimmed with Chantilly lace.”
“I don’t want that one!” Thea was nearly in tears, and Emily looked up in alarm. “I need the one from the Fair, to remind me of when I first met Bert. He was different then, so charming. I’ll never forget him standing there by the side of the road. He’d nearly collapsed during the race, you see – he’s no athlete at all!”
She smiled at the thought.
“A man helped him into my car, and I drove him to his hotel and ordered lemonade. Dear Bert. He was so droll – I think that’s the word.”
Emily found the handkerchief and held it up in triumph.
“Bless you!” Thea said, taking it. “Maybe the sight of it will make Bert behave the way he did then. Since we’ve been here, he’s seemed like a scared rabbit, yet pompous at the same time.” She sighed.
“I wonder, my lady, if you don’t mind my saying so, now that you’re married and Lord Witney is, well, more the man of the house rather than a son, perhaps he’ll feel differently.”
“Do you think so? Oh, I do hope so. You are a darling, Emily! I must tell you, when we were at the Fair I asked Bert if there were many servants at Farrington House. He told me about Mrs Wiggan and everyone, and then he said, ‘There’s a new girl, my sister’s maid. Most extraordinary of Mama to have hired her.’ Why was that, I asked. And he said you were just a little thing from one of the cottages. Do you know, Emily, I had a picture of you in my mind right away. I just knew I’d adore you!”
Emily flushed while Thea continued, smoothing the handkerchief between her hands.
“I remember that day so well. We were watching the aeronautics display with that boy, Bert’s valet. What was his name? Never mind, it was the day he went off, determined to fly aeroplanes himself. Bert and I were left to ourselves. It was such fun! I remember it all like it was yesterday!” She stood up, her eyes shining with the memories as she flounced toward the door.
Emily stood frozen, feeling as if her breath had been cut off. Will was somewhere across the world, soaring through the sky in a flying machine?
A soft gasp escaped her and Thea glanced round, her eyes widening at the sight of the pale girl standing motionless, her eyes stricken with anguish.
Emily’s voice was barely a whisper.
“His name is Will.”
Thea moved forward, her gloved hand tenderly brushing Emily’s arm.
“Why, you miss him very much, don’t you? I had no idea. Tell me about it.”
“But today is your wedding day. You must go down.”
“I should,” Thea admitted. “Then later, before I leave. And I want you to choose one of my gowns to have for your own. You’ll need to alter it, but we know you can do that. I always say there’s nothing like a new dress to lift a girl’s spirits.”
Giving Emily a last fond look, she floated out of the room, the precious handkerchief clasped in her hand.