By the morning, that solitary kiss had transformed itself into one those monumental events…
The kind designed for the sole purpose of throwing one’s life off its natural axis.
Theodora was suddenly full of all sorts of doubt, questions and by the time, her parents roused the next morning she had also resolved, several times, to call off the wedding. How, she lamented, could she now marry Daniel knowing that she would be keeping them both from a life filled with passionate kisses?
Well, at least that’s what she thought at two o’clock and then again, at five but now as the sun raised over the horizon she wasn’t so sure. After all, she and Daniel had been friends their entire life and had agreed to marry due to her advancing age and his lack of fortune.
How could she now leave him in a lurch for one kiss with an unattainable gentleman who would not give her a second thought in the cold light of day? She had no delusions of her reality, she was seven and twenty and until last night, she had never been kissed not even by Daniel to whom she had been engaged for a full year.
And so, it was that at seven o’clock she resolved that she would rouse her maid and send her with a note to Daniel’s residence. She had never kept a secret from him and she wasn’t going to start now that they were to marry. She would tell him of the kiss and then ask him to kiss her… See if they couldn’t create their own passion.
She waited a full two days for Daniel to call before sending another note but he never came and then it was Friday and time for her to go with her parents to Bath in order to prepare for the wedding. She wondered what had kept him from coming but did not despair for she knew he was to follow them to Bath the following week.
Two weeks later, she was officially worried for she hadn’t heard from Daniel and the wedding guests were starting to arrive. She fretted that some ill had befallen him and went to her father with her concerns.
“Papa, I want you to send someone to London to see if all is well with Daniel,” she said frantically upon entering her father’s library. A dark oak affair with a bookcase encasing the walls all around, broken by two very large windows and a fireplace to the right of the desk at the center of the room.
“Of course he’s well my angel,” her father said without bothering to look up from his letters.
“Now, stop your worrying and come read this letter for me, see if you can make any sense of these scratches your brother has used as words in his note.”
She took the letter scanned her brother scribbling then said, “He’ll be here on the morning of the wedding but we are not to wait if he’s late.”
“And did he say why that was?”
“No, but he did say he was bringing Winnie and Jack so I can only assume they are off someplace more entertaining than Bath in the spring,” she said with a fond smile.
“I grow tired of those three and their antics,” the Viscount said irritably.
“Now Papa, you really shouldn’t allow Finn to provoke you so.”
“I know. Now come my dear, sit and tell me what’s bothering you.”
“I haven’t seen or heard from Daniel in well over a fortnight and I’m worried something might have happened to him,” she said after taking the chair across from her father’s desk.
“Your Daniel is a reliable fellow, Teddy but even he would want to have a last hurrah before settling into a life of marriage and responsibility.”
“Yes, I suppose that could well be it. Still, there was a matter I had hoped to discuss with him before the wedding.”
“Shall I send a note to have him call here the instant he arrives in Bath?”
“Yes, please,” she said with bright smile before rising to kiss her papa’s cheek in gratitude.
Three days later she was lying in bed contemplating going for a ride before the household roused to make the final preparations for her wedding day, when she heard the carriage pull into the driveway. It was the perfect time for a morning ride, but a most inappropriate hour for making social calls.
She rushed to the window in time to see her future mother-in-law, Baroness Somerset, step down from her carriage outside her parent’s front doors.
Good Lord, something had happened to Daniel. That or he’d gotten cold feet and had decided to abandon her on her wedding day. She should have guessed as much when he didn’t call after her father sent a note.
No, that’s impossible he would never do such a thing. It was more likely that he found out that she had been kissed by that rakehell, Lord Monthermer, and challenged him to a duel in defence of her honour. Yes, that was it. He was dead and she had killed him with her recklessness. She should never have left London without first speaking with Daniel.
She owed him the truth. In fact, she should have told her parents. Now all she could do was face the music.
There was a flurry of movement in the family quarters outside her parents’ doors and then the noise retreated for the stairs. Theodora said a quick prayer begging God to look after her dear friend Daniel. Then she ran to her dressing room and flung open the trunk her maid had packed for her wedding trip and dressed as quickly as possible.
She was searching for slippers in another trunk when the door to the dressing room swung open.
From the moment, the carriage pulled into her parents’ driveway, a hundred horrible thoughts had filled her mind but now as her mother stood before her, she realized that the only thing she needed to hear was that Daniel all right. She knew she could deal with anything so long as he was well. So, she asked her mother, “Is he alright?”
When her mother nodded in the affirmative, she was rewarded with a hug so fierce it robbed her of breath. When Theodora finally released her mother both their faces were soaked with tears, Theodora wept in relief while her mother wept for her sweet daughter.
Now that Theodora knew, Daniel was well she wanted to know the reason for the Baroness’ early morning visit. Before she could inquire her mother said, “Your father and Baroness Somerset are waiting for us in the library.”
She found her slippers and after a rapid descent of the marble staircase, she entered the library with her mother. Upon their entrance, her father came around his desk and took her hand before he seated her on the chair next to the baroness.
Whatever it was that brought the Baroness here now, hung in the space between the four occupants of her father’s library like grim death.
Theodora exchanged salutations with the Baroness then looked to her father for an explanation. Before he spoke, he glanced at her mother who immediately came to stand beside her then in a voice laced with such empathy for his daughter he said, “Daniel and Violet eloped a week ago in Scotland.”
It couldn’t be true.
She saw Daniel in London three weeks ago. She had been there with her mother shopping for her trousseau and he was nervous about taking his father’s seat at the House of Lords. Theodora offered him her love and complete support, and she was thrilled that she was able to practice her wifely skills before the wedding.
Besides, he was her oldest friend.
Why would he now decide to run off with Violet?
She had always been a practical sort not at all prone to hysterical or erratic behaviour. She took a deep breath, exhaled slowly then said to the room at large, “If it is all the same to you, I would prefer to hear this from Daniel,” then she stood, kissed her mother’s cheek, curtsied to her father and the Baroness then headed for the door.
“Will a letter penned in his own hand suffice my dear,” the Baroness inquired.
Without even turning around to face her, Theodora said, “No it will not, for you see, your son and I were friends before there was anything else.”
She took another step and reached for the door handle when her father said, “It’s true, my girl.”
This time she did turn around but her answer remained the same, “From his lips Papa.”
“Very well, you shall have it,” her father said in a tone so laced with menace it made the Baroness shiver.
“We still have a house full of wedding guests that must be told,” her mother said tentatively.
“What is the proper protocol in this kind of situation do you suppose?” Theodora asked, “For instance, am I allowed to go for a long ride, then have a hot bath before informing my wedding guests that there will be no wedding today?”
Her mother was the first to respond to Theodora’s query, “A hot bath is always a lovely idea.” She said this brightly, not wanting to disappoint her daughter by saying no to the ride, but feeling certain it was a bad idea for her to be alone under the circumstances.
“I shall ring for one to be brought to your chambers immediately.” Her mother said and made to match action to word when the Baroness stood, cleared her throat, apologized to Theodora once more then attempted a hasty retreat, but Theodora’s mother insisted on walking her to the front door.
While her mother was seeing to the distressed Baroness’ safe departure her father said, “If you hurry you can go for that ride before your mother is able to stop you.”
Theodora kissed him for understanding then she ran to her dressing room as quickly as her feet could take her, fully intending on dragging on her old comfortable riding habit then riding until her mind was completely at rest. But as soon as the door swung open, she saw her neatly packed trunks lined-up for what was to be her wedding trip and then onto the Somerset estate with Daniel for her happy-ever-after.
It struck her still.
She stood there for a quarter of an hour staring at the luggage before her mother came bustling in. Two hours later in the great hall of her father’s countryseat she stood wedged between her mother and older brother Henry, as her father addressed all guests present for the wedding.
After the announcement, there was an entire hour’s worth of discussion as to the best course of action to take. There were a few who believed that she should marry right away by special license and someone even suggested her late Cousin Claire’s widower as a potential groom.
In the end, the only matter they were all able to agree on was her immediate return to the ton. For a scandal of this magnitude, left unchecked could result in irrevocable damage to her reputation.
Though they needn’t have bothered for, as luck would have it, a week later when they returned to London the ton was already abuzz with some other juicy gossip. Harry Monthermer the youngest grandson of the Marquess Huntley had generated a scandal all his own.
Everybody knows the first rule of polite society is that the hierarchy rules in all things, especially in gossip. So right then, the only way Theodora could even make an imprint on the collective consciousness of the beau-monde was if she somehow found herself in an illicit affair with no less then the Prince Regent.
For absolutely no one cared that Viscount Cromwell’s daughter was abandoned on her wedding
day when there was a horse caper that nearly killed the Marquess.
Link to chapter 3 here
Part/Two of Six
by Simone Ogilvie