The Ladies Of Eastgarrow – Episode 03

One afternoon in the late summer of 1793, Em heard animated discussion in Lady Louisa’s salon. She had been sent to bring tea in the absence of the housemaid who had a holiday. She knocked on the door as she always did, with the silver tray.“Come in,” Lady Louisa’s faint voice said through the door. Em entered and began to lay out the tea things.“If you have some claim to this title, Patrick,” Lady Louisa was saying, “then all well and good. But it matters not a jot to me: I’ve title enough for both of us, and frankly I don’t really care about titles anyway.”Em bent over the table as Mr Delaine waved a stiff lawyer’s letter in the air. “I know, Louisa, but I can’t help but be fascinated at the possibility. I have always known that I am part French, and now this comes to me from Paris . . .” He laid the letter down and took a long look at the lady to whom he was now engaged. “You know I am illegitimate, and that this has always made me ”“Don’t speak of it,” Lady Louisa interrupted quickly. “I am no longer young enough, poor enough or foolish enough to care. You are my Patrick and that is all I need to know.” She broke into a fit of coughing and Mr Delaine kneeled at her feet to calm her. He kissed her hands as Em placed cups on the table, and she saw the love shining in his eyes. “If I could make you fully well just by loving you . . .” he said. “Louisa, what higher power brought me to you, to the kindest and best in England?”“I could say the same,” Lady Louisa said, smiling. “But now you threaten to go to Paris and leave me miserable.”“Perhaps I will write to this lawyer, and thank him, and say that I am content as I am.”


The house buzzed with talk of Mr Delaine’s letter. His surname, the Parisian lawyer had apparently written, was in fact a remnant of his family’s French origins. The De Lains of Clermont, in the fertile central plains of France, had been a notable and wealthy clan. Their fortunes declined during massive speculation in spice trading at least a century before, and Patrick’s mother, now long dead, bestowed on him the surname of the man she spent her life with, the last of the De Lain line and holder of the name.“It’s fascinating,” Celestine said to her mother and Mr Delaine.They were in the central hall of the house, and Em had brought a cloak so that Celestine could join the couple in a carriage ride. “I think you should care about this title, Patrick. I know there’s no money to go with it. That fact makes it, somehow, all the more suitable that you should, because nobody will call you a fortune-hunter! Just think, my mama and her new husband, both with pretty titles before their names!”Lady Louisa smiled at her daughter, her face pale after a bad night. “I am delighted, Celestine,” she said, “that you think of Patrick.”Celestine smiled and arranged the folds of her rose-coloured cloak. “If I am to have a new papa, then of course I think of him.”Patrick was still in two minds about the letter. The lawyer had written again and explained that his presence was required to prove identity, and that the papers awaited him in an office in the centre of Paris.“But you can’t just go to France,” Louisa said. “I’ve heard there is danger brewing there. Some of the nobility are even leaving France.”“The silly ones are running away,” Celestine said. “I’m sure it’s quite safe.” She laid a small hand on Mr Delaine’s arm. “Of course you cannot take Mama she’s too delicate just now.”“I wouldn’t think of it,” he said. “I may still make the journey. Mrs Benson talks of Brighton being awash with French aristocracy landing in boats, escaping from Calais. I am fond of Victorine, but she exaggerates.”


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