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Where Love Restores, Book 4 Where There is Love

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Where Love Restores

Book 4, Where There is Love series

By

Donna Fletcher Crow

Where Love Restores

Copyright © 2016 by Donna Fletcher Crow

All rights reserved as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976.

No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy recording or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

Publishing history

Published as To Be Worthy

1986

By SP Publications Inc

Victor Books

Wheaton, Illinois 60187

Published as To Be Worthy

1995

By Crossway Books

A Division of Good News Publishers

Wheaton, Illinois 60187

Published as To Be Worthy

2000

Large Print edition

By Thorndike Press

P.O. Box 159

Thorndike, Maine 04986

Where Love Restores

By Verity Press

an imprint of Publications Marketing, Inc.

Box 972

Boise, Idaho 83701

Cover design by Ken Raney

Layout design by eBooks By Barb for booknook.biz

This is a work of fiction. The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or used fictitiously.

Published in the United States of America

Contents

Dedication

Series Books and Characters

Epigraph

Map of England

The Somerset and Ryder Families

Map of Cambridge

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Afterword

Time Line for the Where There Is Love Series

Word List

Bibliography

The Complete Where There is Love Series

About The Author

   

For My Friend and First Editor

Carole Sanderson Streeter

Who had faith in me and in this project

And who shares my golden memories

Of an August research trip in England

…so many years ago…

The Where There is Love Series

Where Love Begins

(1749-1750)

John and Charles Wesley

George Whitefield

William Law

Countess of Huntingdon

Where Love Illumines

(1772-1773)

Charles Wesley

John Berridge

Rowland Hill

Countess of Huntingdon

Where Love Triumphs

(1824)

Charles Simeon

Robert Hall

Where Love Restores

(1823-1825)

Charles Simeon

William Wilberforce

Earl of Harrowby

Where Love Shines

(1854-1856)

Florence Nightingale

Lord Shaftesbury

Charles Spurgeon

Where Love Calls

(1883-1885)

Dwight L. Moody

Ira Sankey

The Cambridge Seven

Hudson Taylor

   

“There are so few people now who want to have any inti­mate spiritual association with the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries…

“Who bothers at all now about the work and achievement of our grandfathers, and how much of what they knew have we already forgotten?”

—DIETRICH BONHOEFFER,
Letters and Papers from Prison

With Appreciation to:

The Flavell family, my friends and hosts in Cambridge;

Alan Kucia, Trinity College, who unearthed Granville Ryder’s signature in ancient tomes in the Wren Library;

David Smith, Domus Bursar at King’s College, who showed me Charles Simeon’s rooms and took me out onto the roof of the Gibbs Building;

Michael Halls, King’s College archivist, who brought me original sermons and letters by Charles Simeon;

Jane Waley, Harrowby Mss. Trust archivist, who organized material from Sandon Hall’s five muniment rooms, which led to finding Granville’s love prayer in his own hand;

The King’s College Archives and The Harrowby Mss. Trust for permission to use extensive materials;

Stanley Bywater, secretary to His Grace, the Duke of Beaufort, who gave unstintingly of his time on our tour of Badminton House, of whom the Compass innkeeper said, “The finest of English country gentlemen, the kind they don’t make anymore”;

Lady Frances Berendt, Lord Harrowby’s daughter, and Lord Harrowby, the sixth earl, who both took a personal hand in my research efforts;

Their Graces, the eleventh Duke and Duchess of Beaufort, who received us in their home and took gracious interest in the book;

The wonderful staffs at the British Library, the Guildhall Library, and the London Library;

My many friends on that “sceptered isle set in a silver sea” to whom gracious hospitality is a way of life.

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One

Lady Georgiana Somerset, younger daughter of the sixth Duke of Beaufort, frowned into her gilt-framed looking glass. “Agatha, you may remove these odious feathers from my hair.” She pointed at the three ostrich plumes adorning her shining gold Apollo’s Knots.

“But, milady, you know Mr. Agar-Ellis is particularly fond—”

“If George Agar-Ellis is so fond of feathers, he should undertake to escort an ostrich to the hunt ball. I have no intention of playing the role for him.” She plucked the feathers from the elegant topknot. The maid replaced them with a pearl ferronniére. The delicate gold band encircled Georgiana’s head, and a cluster of lustrous pearls ornamented the center part over her forehead.

Then because she was not a young lady given to frowning, Georgiana smiled, picked up her sarcenet shawl and lace fan, and swept from the room in a pale blue cloud of French silk and a delicate mist of rose petal water. As she made her way to the ballroom, thoughts of George Agar-Ellis brightened her smile with humor, if not exactly with fondness. Really, although a good friend, George was such a clodpate to insinuate that fate had destined them for each other because of their similar names—as if half the babies born in England weren’t named George or Georgiana in honor of His Majesty, King George IV. And as if that weren’t enough, George insisted on effecting an excessive admiration for Horace Walpole, going to great lengths to memorize Walpole’s witticisms in order to regale his friends with them.

Still smiling, Georgiana swept into the great drawing room where the family was gathering to greet their guests. The green damask walls were hung for the occasion with midnight blue and golden buff draperies, the colors of the Beaufort Hunt, to which many attending the ball had ridden that day. Her eyes sparkled at the feast laid before their guests. There was nothing her father, the duke, loved more than extending the amenities of Badminton House to all his acquaintances. As she walked through the softly lit room, the candles in the three-tiered Bristol chandeliers threw back multiple reflections of light and color.

“Oh, Mama, how charming you look.” Georgiana kissed the duchess and stepped back to admire the soft rose gown with its off-the-shoulder neckline and tight band just above her mother’s natural waistline. “The new styles do suit you.”

“Yes, my dear, but it does feel so odd to have a gown banded at the waist; however, I daresay we shall all become accustomed to it.” Then she added in a lowered voice. “I must confess, though, I am not so certain about the tight lacing underneath.” She smiled at her daughter.

“If it is to become fashionable, we shall all have to become accustomed, Mama. And it was clever of you to have your hair dressed with fans; it sets off your earrings most elegantly.” The duchess turned her head, causing her diamond and pearl earrings to sparkle with fire like the chandeliers.

“You shall put all your daughters in the shade, Mama.” From long habit Georgiana raised her voice for her slightly deaf mother.

Her father overheard and joined them. “No one puts my daughters in the shade—nor my wife, neither.” The duke kissed his wife’s hand.

“And how was the hunt today, my dear?” the duchess inquired.

“Satisfactory. Most satisfactory. We ran the cub to earth near the Cricklade covert. I daresay we should have had him sooner, but that fool of a lawyer from Chipping Sodbury halloed us onto a fresh fox, and it took Payne nearly half an hour to get the hounds onto the original scent again. But altogether it was excellent sport, excellent.”

Smiling to herself, Georgiana moved quietly away. Her father’s fox-hunt stories could run on rather, even though she loved the sport well enough herself. The room was rapidly filling. The duchess’s guest list included a large segment of the Gloucestershire gentry, members of the Beaufort Hunt, and leading members of the various compassionate societies Her Grace patronized. The evening should not lack for variety.

Although she never lacked for partners, Georgiana soon found the ball beginning to pall—sufficiently so that when George Agar-Ellis made his bow to her, she accepted his hand with a ready smile.

George had a reputation for being one of the most conspicuous young men of the day—much of which could be laid to his tailor’s credit. The padding added to the chest and hips of his claret evening coat made his waist appear smaller and enhanced its close fit. His striped silk cossack trousers, tapering narrowly to the strap beneath his instep, stretched as he bowed over Georgiana’s hand.

“Your absence in the field today distressed us all greatly.” He led her to the floor where a new set was forming.

“Why, sir, you surprise me. I understood you had excellent sport.”

“Ah, yes, excellent sport indeed, but it lacked that luster your presence alone can give to any activity.”

Fortunately the set divided just then, or Georgiana would have laughed out loud at such extravagance. By the time they came together once more at the end of the room, she had quite regained her composure, although her bright blue eyes continued to sparkle mischievously. The lines formed, and the gentlemen bowed to their partners. The quadrille continued with the ladies’ stiffened skirts swinging gracefully like bells across the polished wood floor as they went through the intricate figures of the grande ronde.

“May I bring you a glass of ratafia?” George asked leading Georgiana to a gilt and brocade chair as the music came to a close.

“Lemonade, if you please. And pray let us find chairs closer to a window.”

As George moved through the crowd, Georgiana glanced around the room. She smiled with pleasure when she spotted her brother, Lord Worcester, leading a lady to the floor. Henry is always the first crack of fashion, and yet he never looks overdressed, she thought as she surveyed his Beaufort Hunt evening coat of dark blue lined with buff, worn over a white embroidered silk waistcoat, light blue silk-web pantaloons, white silk stockings, and shoes brode à jour. Understated elegance when worn without any parade—and so good to see him out of black at last.

A small sigh escaped her as George reappeared. “Do you have the headache?” he inquired solicitously, seating himself next to her on the green striped sofa.

“Pray, do not be absurd, sir. I never have headache. I was just wishing Henry would take another wife now that his mourning is past.” Her eye strayed to Sir Thomas Lawrence’s elegant portrait of her deceased sister-in-law hanging on the east wall. “He is only at Badminton for a week, and then he goes back to London. It distresses me to think of him living alone in that great rambling residence.”

“Indeed, yes,” her companion agreed. “A most melancholy affair for your family to have Lady Worcester snatched from this life so suddenly—dancing at a ball at court one day and only seven days later to be no more. But you must take great comfort that she died a heroine, full of cheerfulness and courage to the last.” Warming to his topic, George turned to Georgiana and seized her hands, almost causing her to spill her lemonade into her lap. Undaunted, he continued, “She was snatched from life at a time when she was becoming every day more fit to live, for her mind, her temper, and her understanding were steadily and rapidly improving.”

Retrieving her hands, Georgiana agreed softly. “We all miss her.”

“Oh, yes, yes! You speak for all her friends. Long, long will it be before I forget her, the lively impression of her virtues and of our mutual friendship.” Before Georgiana could reply, her companion went on. “But then in the words of the incomparable Gray: ‘Full many a flower is born to blush unseen and waste its sweetness on the desert air.’”

Since her late sister-in-law, Georgianna Fitzroy, a favored niece of the Duke of Wellington, had lived most of her life in the social whirl of the London ton, had reveled in having her engagement announced at a ball at Carlton House, had been given away at her wedding by the Iron Duke himself, and then had honeymooned in Paris, the quotation struck Georgiana as hardly apropos. She chose not to mention it, however. It was simpler to agree to George’s offer to fetch another glass of lemonade.

She sat back against the cushions of the sofa and fanned herself lightly, surveying the whirling dancers reflected in the floor-to-ceiling gilt pier glass between the windows. Until her attention was caught by the mirrored image of a tall young man with tanned skin and striking military bearing striding into the room at the far end of the hall. Georgiana turned from the glass for a direct view, but the dancers on the floor momentarily blocked her line of vision. The set parted, and she caught sight of him again. Even from that distance Georgiana could appreciate the trim cut of his dark blue coat, his high stiff collar tabs, and meticulously tied white neck cloth. The newcomer frowned slightly as he surveyed the room. His air of detachment seemed to speak of a sense of superiority.

Caught between admiration for his appearance and dislike of his aloof bearing, Georgiana continued to watch, wondering who he might be. She thought she had at least a passing acquaintance with all their family connections. The man seemed vaguely familiar. She wondered whether he was a member of the hunting set or one of the compassionate society members. Neither seemed to fit him. Her curiosity increased.

Georgiana followed the newcomer’s progress across the room and saw to her surprise that he approached the duchess. But just as the stranger bowed over her mother’s hand, George returned, followed closely by Frederick Calthorpe. Georgiana rose. “Poor George, you have gone to the trouble of securing me a lemonade, and now here is my partner for the next dance. Pray excuse me.”

With a swirl of her silk skirt Georgiana moved onto the floor on the arm of Fred Calthorpe, brother of Lord Calthorpe, an old family friend. George was left to drink the lemonade himself.

When the set came to an end, Georgiana glanced around, but she could not locate the mysterious newcomer. He did not appear to have danced and too many people were in the way for a view of those standing at the bottom of the room. “It is an unaccountably warm evening for September. Would you like to take the air on the terrace, Lady Georgiana?” her partner inquired.

“Indeed, it is warm. But I should prefer you to take me to my mother, sir.” Georgiana smiled and flipped her fan with a touch of coquetry that she did not feel. Indeed, all she felt now was overwhelming curiosity. And the more elusive the stranger, the stronger her desire to have her curiosity satisfied.

When they arrived at the side of the duchess, the young man with black locks had departed. Georgiana longed to enquire after his identity, but the Honorable Frederick hovered near making small talk. Georgiana was just on the brink of sending him off for yet another glass of lemonade when her partner for the next dance claimed her and she was obliged to take her place in the set for the pas de Zephyr with her curiosity still unsatisfied.

When doing a turn around the floor, she caught a glimpse of the inscrutable visitor standing near the fireplace with his hands behind his back in his detached manner. It appeared that he did not mean to dance even though several most attractive young ladies were sitting out. In spite of his good looks, he must be proud and unpleasant. Georgiana decided. In that case she should give him no more thought. With a toss of her head she laughed at a mild witticism from her partner and was swept around the floor.

For some time Georgiana saw no more of the stranger—which was just as well since she had decided to dislike him. Then just before time to go in for supper, she paused to chat with her elder sister, the elegant Lady Charlotte Sophia. As they talked, Georgiana saw George Agar-Ellis approaching, and turning slightly, she saw herself approached from the other side by the stranger. Unlike his earlier air of hauteur, he was now looking at her with unseemly familiarity. Lady Georgiana lifted her pert chin, took the arm of Lady Charlotte, and turned sharply.

“Lady Georgiana, may I have the honor?” George bowed over her hand with a flip of his tails.

In spite of the injury another dance with George was sure to do to her slippers, Georgiana accepted. They moved to the center of the floor just before the stranger reached the spot where she had been standing. A quick glance over her shoulder revealed a dark head bowing over her sister’s hand and Charlotte smiling radiantly in return. Georgiana caught only one further glimpse of the couple during the dance. She had a strong impression of Charlotte’s blonde, beflowered hair and white gauze dress next to her partner’s handsome darkness.

Having partnered George for the supper dance, Georgiana was obliged to accompany him into the dining room where the gentle strains of Pandean pipes floated lightly on the air. Georgiana tried to match the festive mood in the room. Candles burning in the crystal-draped chandeliers turned the fluted columns amber gold and caused flickering shadows to play hide-and-seek among the fruit, flowers, and game birds of the Grinling Gibbons carvings. But she felt her spirits oddly sagging. More than once her attention wandered from her escort as she sought the stranger she had determined to ignore.

The supper table held a fine assortment of dishes and Georgiana discovered that the dancing had sharpened her appetite. She accepted servings of haricot of mutton, veal, olives, brown soup, and macaroni pie. She was, however, just about to refuse the ragout of pullet and sweetbreads when George tugged at the narrow frill on his shirt cuffs. “I advise you to refuse the ragout, my dear. Taken at a late hour, it can be quite as unsettling to the digestion as a fricassee.”

Georgiana allowed the footman to place a serving of ragout on her plate. “Jensen, after you’ve served this around, I should like a portion of the fricassee of chicken.”

“Very good, milady.”

Georgiana refused the fish, the almond pudding with coconut, and the blancmange; but she accepted the floating island after George turned it down.

“I understand it was always the habit of the excellent Walpole to retire at an early hour,” she chided her partner, knowing George sought to copy the Earl of Orford in all things. “I’m surprised you stay so late.”

“If the author of The Castle of Otranto had had such inducements as your fair self at Strawberry Hill, he might have found himself with greater stamina,” George replied gallantly. And then he added with just a touch of archness, “But because one admires a man’s literary taste and style, one need not go to extremes.”

“My sentiments precisely, sir.” Georgiana winced at her own words. In spite of his taste for the overblown, George was a pleasant companion. She wished he didn’t bring out such contrariness from her. She resolved to behave in a more ladylike manner henceforth.

Tea would be served later in the drawing room. Now the strains of the orchestra announced that the ball was resuming with a country dance, and Georgiana was certain that George was considering the impropriety of asking her for a third dance. “Oh,” she cried suddenly, “I see Mama and my sister just going into the garden to take the air. Pray excuse me, sir. I must speak to them.”

Not waiting for a reply and hoping fervently that the duchess was not standing somewhere in plain view of Mr. Agar-Ellis, she slipped quickly through the open French door. Just in case George might be thinking of following her, Georgiana sidestepped from the light of the long windows into the shadows. Instead of the open space she expected, however, she collided soundly with a solid muscular chest. Two strong hands gripped her arms firmly to support her. “Steady as she goes, Georgie.” A deep masculine voice with a hint of a smile in it spoke near to her ear. “In the old days you were always throwing yourself at me as I recall but I hadn’t dared hope for as much after all this time.”

Georgiana pulled away. “I fear you mistake, sir…” She stopped mid-turn. “Georgie? No one has called me that for years.”

“Indeed, not for nine years I should hope. Not since I went off to serve His Majesty in the Royal Navy.”

With an almost audible click, memory slipped into place. “Gran! How extraordinary! Imagine you the scrawny boy who lashed me to the cherry tree and then forgot to come back until after luncheon.”

“Not at all! I’m certain I couldn’t have done that. I may have lashed you to the cherry tree, but I would never have forgotten you. And I was not scrawny. I do, however, possess distinct memories of Miss Primrose repeatedly scolding you for smudges on your face and rips in your lace.”

“A gentleman would not recall such things, sir.” But she said it with a smile in her voice as she placed her hand on the arm he offered. “But how extraordinary of you to show up out of the blue like this. Do tell what brings you here.” They began strolling along the garden path.

“I found life in the navy didn’t suit. So I sold out.”

Georgiana gave a gasp, followed by a small trill of laughter. “You sold out, and here you are? Just like that?”

“More or less. Yes.” He paused. “No, there’s more to it than that. Ever since the defeat of Napoleon, naval work has been largely a matter of patrol duty. I didn’t want a job that was just putting in time. But worse, I found that I had exchanged an exacting father for an exacting superior officer. The final straw was realizing the pointlessness of promotions that weren’t really earned.”

“And only something you’ve earned yourself has value?” She didn’t mean to argue with him; she was just trying to understand.

“I have been taught that one must strive for things of true value, unlike the simple inheritance of money and title so natural to our rank.”

“Yes, but—” Light from a flaming torch lighting the path fell across his face. His stormy countenance made her change what she was about to say. “But fancy Mama not informing me of your homecoming. Surely your mother would have written the news to her.”

“Perhaps my mother thought to bring the news herself. My parents are to arrive tomorrow. I came directly here from Southampton after only a brief stop to visit my tailor in London.”

“And now that you’ve sold out of the navy, what will you do?” Georgiana remembered to speak a bit more loudly as her cousin shared his aunt’s tendency to deafness. They turned their steps back toward the house, the light falling from the long dining room windows making golden stripes on the lawn.

At her question Granville seemed to withdraw from her. For the first time since their abrupt encounter, Georgiana saw the aloofness that she had interpreted as arrogance earlier. “That remains to be seen. With Sandon having taken his seat in Parliament now and our honorable father serving as President of the Council, our family is not lacking for useful employment. There may be no place for the younger son.”

They strolled in silence for a few moments, Georgiana wondering at the sharpness of his words—so unlike the Granville she had known as a boy.

“Well, if you find life too tedious, there’s always compassionate work.” She spoke lightly, although the interest both of their families took in religious and charitable activities was hardly a matter for frivolity.

To her surprise, her attempt at lightness seemed to darken her companion’s mood even more. “And just which one would you suggest I put my energies into?” His tone was very near a taunt. “Let’s see, I might turn my talents to The London Orphan Asylum for the Reception and Education of Destitute Orphans, Particularly Those Descended from Respectable Parents; or The General Benevolent Institution for the Relief of Decayed Artists of the United Kingdom; or The Association for the Refutation of Infidel Publications. Or perhaps I could use my naval training in The Institution for the Cure of Various Diseases by Bandages and Compression. Or maybe you could recommend The Cloathing Society for the Benefit of Poor Pious Clergymen of the Established Church and Their Families?” The list had taken them to the top of the path. He turned sharply. “Or better yet, why not The Friendly Female Society for the Relief of Poor, Infirm, Aged Widows, and Single Women of Good Character Who Have Seen Better Days?”

Hearing the aversion in his voice, Georgiana held back her laughter. “There is certainly a variety of possibilities,” she managed with only a hint of the humor his list of inflated titles aroused. “But you must allow that many of them do accomplish their purpose.”

“Perhaps, but I can’t help wondering how many are subscribed to by people who are as destitute, decayed, and infirm spiritually as the people they try to help. That would certainly be the case if I were to add my name to the lists.”

At these words, Georgiana’s desire to laugh died. What did he mean? Spiritually destitute—Granville? Perhaps she had misunderstood. But it was obvious that he was deeply troubled. And that troubled her.

There was no opportunity to explore Granville’s quandary further, however, as Lord Lauderdale, her brother’s closest friend, appeared in the entrance. He caught sight of the strollers and came to claim Georgiana for the dance she had promised him earlier. “Lord Lauderdale, I believe you know my cousin, Granville Ryder, newly returned from service in His Majesty’s Navy.”

The gentlemen exchanged bows. “I ride out before breakfast,” Georgiana said over her shoulder to her cousin as she moved back to the music and lights of the ballroom.

When the dance ended, she rapidly surveyed the room for Granville. Since his height placed him several inches above every other man in the room, it should not be difficult to see him.

But he was not there. And she had not had a dance with him yet. His final words to her continued to plague her—did Gran truly feel himself spiritually inadequate? She had never known her cousin to be inadequate in anything, nor had she ever had reason to think any member of the earl’s family lacking in spiritual commitment.

Could something have happened in the navy to turn him from his faith? The thought depressed her. Not Gran. Not the dear companion of her youth to whom she could always turn… Childhood memories flooded back. Life was at its best when her mother’s sister Aunt Susan visited Badminton bringing her sons with her. When Gran was there, Georgiana had no worries; if she skinned her knee, he would bandage it for her rather than make her face Miss Primrose; if she was late for luncheon, he would make an excuse for her; if she was afraid of a jump, he would take it first or find a way around it for her. And always he could make her laugh. There seemed to be no laughter in him now.

Surely those days weren’t gone forever. The harshness and self-recrimination she had glimpsed in him tonight were unbearably out of place in her Granville.

Tomorrow most of the guests would be gone, and she would have a proper conversation with him. She must understand what had happened. She must help him.

Two

The air was crisp and golden with September as Georgiana walked to the stables the next morning. Although she could have made her way inside the house directly to the stable yard behind, she preferred to use the east exit and walk across the great green expanse of lawn. Capability Brown, the most fashionable landscape architect of his day, had laid it out in the time of the fifth duke. The golden Cotswold stone of Badminton House reflected the rays of the early morning sun. It was going to be a glorious day. If Georgiana had been a few years younger, she would have skipped, but the duchess’s well-drilled lessons on proper decorum for young ladies had done their work.

One other thing kept her feet from springing. She still worried about Granville. Would he accept her implied invitation from the night before? Did he even hear her? Perhaps his hearing had worsened. If he did come, would he tell her what troubled him? Would she be able to help if he did?

She did not see him yet, but she would delay her ride a few minutes to give him time to arrive. If he were going to. She turned her steps up the hill toward the kennels. Waving to the children playing in the lane beside the servants’ stone cottages, she continued along the stone-walled walk between the twin fox statues at the entrance of the kennels. A riotous yapping told her the Beaufort pack had spotted her approach.

“Good morning, Payne,” she greeted the new huntsman who was preparing to walk the hounds in the park.

As he returned her greeting, Will Todd and Will Long, the two whippers-in, appeared with leashes. Payne turned sharply to the servants. “What are those for?”

“To put on the ’ounds, sir.” Will Todd held out a leash. “We allus couple up the ’ounds when exercisin’ in the park fer fear of their runnin’ riot amongst the deer.”

“Stuff and nonsense,” the huntsman replied. “They won’t run the deer while I’m with them.”

“Quite right, Payne,” Georgiana agreed. “If the hounds aren’t obedient to your voice in the park, I can’t imagine the chaos there would be during the hunt.”

She moved into the pack to be greeted by her favorites. “Good morning, Flyer.” The sturdy Belvoir tan hound returned her greeting with a lively wagging of his tail. Whirlwind, a badger pie, received a brisk scratch behind his ears. Potentate, the most famous of the Beaufort Pack, stood a little aloof from the pack, waiting for the young mistress to come to him rather than vying with the others for her attention.

“They’re looking fine, Payne,” she said.

“Yes, miss. Powerful, full of bone, and with ready tongues, just the way the duke likes ’em.” The pride in his voice was clearly justifiable.

After watching the pack head for the park under the huntsman’s competent command, Georgiana turned toward the stables. The stone buildings were ornamented only by a fox weather vane on the small Wren cupola, but the soft cooing of doves in the eaves and the scent of new-mown hay added their own embellishment.

Georgiana stepped from the bright early morning sunshine into the cool dimness of the stone-floored building. She walked down the row of mahogany stalls where a leather halter hung by each gate. The sounds of horses rustling and munching their hay and the smell of clean straw, horsehide, and leather never failed to evoke memories of her childhood—and especially this morning, memories of rides with her cousin Granville.

Her white Arabian mare greeted her with a soft whicker. Georgiana drew a sugar lump from her pocket, and the horse nuzzled her outstretched palm. “Hello, Mayflower.” She ran her hand over the mare’s satiny neck. “Are you ready for a run?”

“She’s everything she should be, miss, in fine mettle. You’ll be wantin’ me to accompany you?” The groom stepped forward and led Mayflower out of the stall and into the cobbled yard before tossing a gleaming leather sidesaddle on her back.

“Not this morning. Thank you, Dick. Has Mr. Ryder been down yet?”

“Would that be Mr. Granville Ryder? That young scamp what was al’ays tearin’ off on my ’orses a few years ago?”

Georgiana laughed at the apt description. “The same, Dick. But you’ll find him much changed, I believe.” She placed her foot in the groom’s cupped hands, and he tossed her into the saddle. “If Mr. Ryder puts in an appearance, you may tell him I’ve gone into the park.” She spoke briskly as if it were a matter of indifference to her, but she couldn’t ignore the weight of disappointment in her chest. It was such a beautiful morning. Where was her cousin? Why had he refused her?

Well, she didn’t intend to allow him the satisfaction of spoiling her morning. She hooked her leg firmly over the saddle horn, smoothed the gores of her Clarence blue riding skirt, and adjusted the veil floating from her narrow-brimmed top hat.

She had merely to raise the reins in her hands and apply the slightest pressure of her heel for Mayflower to move briskly across the stable yard and through the ivy-covered entrance into Badminton Park. Once inside the park, one of the largest in England, Georgiana gave Mayflower free rein. Almost before she was bidden, the little mare broke into a smooth, flowing canter over the brown earthen trail between beech and lime trees turning gold and orange under a bright autumn sky.

After several minutes of exhilarated flying through the woods, Georgiana checked her mount. At a more leisurely gait she took in the beauty around her. The grass still grew a rich summer green. Clumps of Michaelmas daisies burst forth in lavender and yellow mounds, and wood doves cooed from the trees. It would be perfect if only Gran had chosen to join her. The fact that he hadn’t was, indeed, worrying.

Georgiana’s mind drifted back to the evening before, but she staunchly refused to let her cousin’s odd behavior depress her. With a lift of her chin she lectured herself: If it pleased the Honorable Granville Dudley Ryder to spurn dancing with all the guests except Lady Charlotte and to be moody in my company and to disdain my invitation to ride this morning it is nothing to me I’m sure. No matter how much I had determined on a tête-à-tête with him. With each thought her nose lifted a tilt higher into the air.

“Hullo. How about a race to the lake?” A voice from just beyond her on the trail broke her reverie.

“Granville! How did you get ahead of me? Dick said he hadn’t seen you in the stables.” She sternly commanded her voice to sound more surprised than pleased.

“I shouldn’t think he saw me. I saddled up myself. You know, I believe old Tom Thumb remembers me.” He patted his mount’s glossy chestnut neck.

“Saddled up yourself? What a singular thing to do when Papa employs thirty-three stable men.”

“I wanted to be sure I still remembered how. Nine years is a long time to be away from horses. How about that race? I never knew you to refuse a challenge!”

She didn’t bother replying, just gathered her reins and pressed her heel against Mayflower’s side. They were off at a gallop, their horses’ hooves striking the firm earth solidly, patches of gold and shade flying by. At the edge of the lake, they pulled up sharply.

“I won,” Granville announced triumphantly, “as usual, if memory serves.”

“Memory, sir, does not serve. And no gentleman would defeat a lady anyway.”

“Oh, bosh! You didn’t have to be treated like a lady when I last knew you.”

“Need I remind you that was nine years ago? I was a mere schoolgirl then. It has been three years since I made my come-out. You would think me very ramshackle indeed if I had not grown up in that time.”

“And you have become an elegant young lady.” His grin was the most like the old Granville she had yet seen. And his mild compliment gave her a pleasure she didn’t wish to contemplate. “Shall we dismount and walk a bit, or do you want to ride further?”

“It was my intention to ride to the end of the lake,” she replied.

Granville expressed his agreement with the slightest nod of his curly beaver, and they moved ahead together. Here the path was wider and permitted riding side by side. Georgiana surveyed his dark brown frock coat and white Marseilles waistcoat above fawn knee smalls and gleaming black leather-top boots with dark brown turnover cuffs. How could anyone dressed so perfectly possibly feel the doubts he had expressed last night? Surely she had misunderstood.

The willows bordering the lake were turning yellow. Their graceful branches lapped the water, repeating the arch of the long necks of the swans gliding near the shore. The sun sparkled on the water, fish jumped at low-flying insects, and waterfowl called to each other at the far end of the lake. The two rode in silence broken only by the soft plod of hooves and the chirping of sparrows in rustling maple leaves overhead.

“You must tell me about your life in the navy,” urged Georgiana. “It was as if you dropped from the earth when you went to sea. We have had no communication from you.”

“Surely you didn’t expect any.”

“Oh, not to myself, of course, but through our mothers.”

“I daresay with all the honors heaped upon Sandon and Father and with all her compassionate work to see to, Mother could have had little to say about a younger son at sea.”

“Do you mean to say that you didn’t communicate with your family?”

“Oh, certainly my mother and I exchanged regular missives. I even wrote to my father—with regularity at first, until I realized how deficient he found my efforts. When I wrote home as a middy, I was informed upon receipt of the next mailbag that my letters were badly formed. Learning my lesson well, I awaited a settled day before attempting another so that no swelling wave would damage the precision of my penmanship. Unfortunately, perfection was beyond my reach. I was warned by reply mail against blotting my page.”

“But you were so young.”

“No excuse, my dear. Imperfection is not to be tolerated in the young, or it will grow into evil vice in adulthood.” She heard the bitter note she had detected the evening before.

“But surely things got better as you grew older.”

“What became better? My penmanship? Ah, yes, I fancy it did—I sweated over it enough. But I never managed to please my father, if that is what you imply. When I wrote to inform him that I had received my lieutenancy, the reply was, ‘Fine, fine, but why did it take you so long?’

“Not that I ever held my father to be unfair,” he added quickly. “He was always quite right—I cut a poor figure in comparison to his goals for me.”

Georgiana wanted to argue that Granville had never cut a poor figure in comparison to anything, but she knew her defense would be meaningless to him. Instead she said, “Well, now you must tell me all. You surely must have encountered some fine adventures since you distinguished yourself by becoming an officer.” She expected to see Granville’s warm smile and to be regaled with stories of drama on the high seas, but instead the shuttered, withdrawn look descended like a shroud.

Perplexed over how her intended compliment could have gone awry, she tried again. “I didn’t mean to imply that it was all a lark but that you obviously did well in difficult circumstances. Won’t you tell me about it—such a life is so far removed from anything I know about.”

“Your servant, madam. No gentleman could refuse to grant such an earnest request from a lady. But if she is looking for tales of valor, I fear she will be disappointed.”

“You are too modest. But if you wish to speak of sea life in general rather than of personal experience, pray do.”

Then her carefully held pose collapsed, and she burst into tinkling laughter that made Mayflower prick up her ears and toss her head. “Easy, girl.” Georgiana patted her mare’s neck. “Oh, Gran, don’t be so high in the instep. You dropped out of sight as completely as if you had been dead for nine years. Now you simply must satisfy my curiosity over what it was like. Were you beaten?”

“No, no, nothing like that. Nelson’s humanitarian example has much transformed life at sea for the volunteer. I never saw a serious flogging. Running the gauntlet and starting were both abolished before I joined up.”

“Starting?”

“Beating with a cane or rope end by the bosun’s mate.”

Georgiana shivered. “I am glad you didn’t have to suffer that, Gran.” Then she placed her hand on her stomach. “But tell me true—were you ever seasick?”

In the bright September sunshine with a fine mount under him and his cousin’s charming companionship, Granville seemed to relax. “Not in the way I’m sure you mean; but whenever bad weather required sealing the gun ports on middle deck, bad ventilation would cause weakness and sometimes putrid fever among the crew. Fighting the enemy is not the worst part of navy life—the war of the elements is.

“It’s well known that the man who faces a Frenchman or Spaniard with intrepidity does not always encounter rocks and shoals with the same feeling. And the entrance to the English Channel is one of the most hazardous landfalls in the world.”

Georgiana nodded, trying to apply these impersonal words to what must have been his daily existence. What had so changed the carefree young man she remembered? Certainly, simply growing up was part of it, but she felt it went much deeper than that. “Do you think it was because you went in at such an early age?”

“Was what because I went in at an early age?” He drew back as if she had touched an open sore.

“Oh, I meant, was life in general harder?”

“I think I should have preferred it to be harder than it was. When the sons of noblemen—lads of the ruling class, as we were called—are put into the profession, their paths on the whole are made easy for them in the way of advancement. To become a lieutenant, one must spend three years at sea—two as a volunteer, one as midshipman—pass an examination in practical seamanship, attain the age of twenty, and have an appointment bestowed upon him. It’s all very natural and orderly and seems in no way connected to personal ability—it happens whether one has earned it or not.”

Georgiana gave a puzzled laugh. “But, Gran, why must everything be earned? Why can’t one simply accept the good with the bad? Besides, no matter what you say about automatic promotions and the navy’s humanitarian reforms, I’m sure you worked very hard and acquitted yourself superbly as well as submitting to some harsh discipline.”

“Perhaps, but I was well prepared for living by regulations. The number of times my father called me to task for failure to replace a book on its proper shelf or for wearing my jacket crooked or for giving a mumbled reply—I must say there were times when navy discipline seemed almost lax by comparison.”

They rode for some time in silence as Georgiana tried to extract the meaning under her companion’s words. “But maybe it just seemed that way because you started it all when you were only thirteen.”

“That, dear coz, was rather a late start. Nelson went in at twelve. But I will say that of all the ordeals the naval officer faces throughout his career, joining his first ship is probably the sternest. Nelson’s father took him as far as London and put him on the Chatham coach to face it alone. At least my father accompanied me to Portsmouth.”

Then for the first time Georgiana saw the flickering smile of amused remembrance that she had been hoping to evoke. “I will admit that of all the trepidations of my first night on the Malta, the greatest challenge was mastering the complicated business of sleeping in a hammock. But one soon learns that a hammock is by far the most comfortable of all sleeping berths on board ship. And, of course, I received the usual christening of having a plate broken over my head and being cobbed for having the impudence to bring my name to sea.”

“Cobbed?”

Granville shook his head. “Forgive me for mentioning it—not a proper subject for the ears of a young lady.”

“Oh, good. Now you’re getting to the interesting part. Tell me what cobbing is, or I’ll, I’ll—”

“Yes?” he challenged with an upraised eyebrow.

“I shall tell my papa about your leaving me tied to the cherry tree.”

“And he will order me cobbed again, no doubt, by the head groom.”

“Most assuredly.”

Granville returned her mischievous smile. “In that case, milady, I submit. Cobbing consists in stretching the victim over the edge of the table and vigorously applying a dirk scabbard, a long ruler, or a knotted napkin to the part of the anatomy thus exposed.”

“Oh, my!” Georgiana giggled at the picture drawn so vividly in her mind. “I think I should consider the slate wiped quite clean for any mistreatment I received at your hands.”

They had now reached the end of the park. Ahead were the thatch-roofed stone cottages of Little Badminton covered with rambling red roses in late bloom. On the stone wall bordering the park was the round ice house with its cupolaed roof and stone walls so thick that the ice kept all summer.

Georgiana noted the height of the sun in the sky. “It must be past ten o’clock. Breakfast will be served soon. Let’s hurry.” She turned toward the top of the park and set Mayflower at a canter.

When they arrived back at the house, the grooms were just pulling an empty traveling coach bearing a familiar coronet into the stable yard.

“The Earl and Countess of Harrowby have arrived.” Granville’s comment was unaccompanied by a smile.

Seeing the shuttered look on his countenance, Georgiana rode near her cousin. “Gran, assuredly my Uncle Harrowby is not an easy person, but why do you hold him in such dread?”

Granville gave her a stiff smile. “Coming into his presence is always something like being doused by a sudden, cold shower or brushing unawares against a hedgehog.” He paused to look at his cousin. “Georgie, don’t look so stricken! What a fool I am to distress you with my petty complaints. Don’t pay them any heed. And be assured I meant no disrespect to my father. He is one of the most highly esteemed men in the nation.”

She forced a smile. “I am not distressed, Gran. Just very interested. I feel as if we need to get entirely reacquainted, as if we met as strangers only last night. Pray, do go on.”

He sighed. “The prospect of meeting my father makes me feel like a small boy again. Weekly I was required to present myself and stand rigid before him while Nurse reported on my behavior, my progress in lessons, my duty in prayers. When she said that I had acquitted myself satisfactorily, my father would demand, ‘Satisfactory? I do not want to hear of satisfaction; I want excellence! Your charge is a Ryder. Why does he not excel like his brother?’

“There was never an answer to that. I still don’t have one. Worst of all was when she would try to excuse me for something on the ground of my deafness. I didn’t want excuses; I wanted to earn his favor.” Granville was silent for a moment. “That is, when I wasn’t vacillating between determination to succeed and the decision to give it all up for lost. Mostly, though, I was determined to be worthy of my father’s approbation.

“But I never was.”

Three

Georgiana and Granville entered the dining room where the family was serving themselves breakfast from a lavish assortment of covered dishes on the sideboard. The duchess, looking fresh and radiant in a chintz morning dress with a wide white-work collar, came forward. “Good morning, my dears. Don’t bother changing from your riding dress. As you can see, my sister and her husband have just arrived, and we shall be all family at breakfast. I trust you had a pleasant ride?”

“Quite delightful, Mama,” Georgiana replied, and Granville gave a small bow in assent, then straightened to military standards as his parents entered the room.

“Granville, how tanned you are!” After a brief welcoming kiss, Lady Harrowby held her son at arms’ length and looked him up and down.

“Yes, ma’am. No matter how unfashionable, it’s entirely unavoidable at sea.”

“But it is quite handsome on you, my dear boy.”

“And you look no older than you did the day I left.” He stood back and surveyed his mother, who was obviously pleased by her son’s words. “I think perhaps you look younger. It must be the relief of not having had me to plague you all these years.”

The countess laughed. “My dear boy, you will turn my head. Now I shall surely blossom with my son at home.” She looked around. “But come now, here’s your father.”

Lord Harrowby turned from his conversation with the duke and Lord Worcester to approach his son. The earl’s hair was as dark as his son’s with only touches of gray at the temples. His forehead was creased in a perpetual frown from his almost continual headaches, his mouth drawn tightly at the corners, making his features appear even sharper than they were.

“It is good to see you, Granville. I trust you had a pleasant journey from Southampton.” He shook hands with his son.

“Yes, Father. Thank you, sir. And your work is getting on well in Parliament?”

“I have been constantly in London for the last seven months doing nothing. Events there have been none.” The earl frowned even more and then turned to take his seat at the long table where a footman had already placed the plate Lord Harrowby had directed him to fill from the sideboard. Others followed his example and moved to the table.

Georgiana was seated next to Lord Harrowby, who resumed speaking. “They continue to foment controversy over the elevation of my brother Henry to the bishopric of Lichfield and Coventry. And Lord Liverpool continues to hold back on the Congé d’élire.”

“But on what grounds does the Prime Minister refuse to grant the royal permission to elect a bishop? Liverpool has always insisted that ecclesiastical appointments be justified by merit rather than by influence, and who could possibly merit the position more than Bishop Ryder?” Worcester asked.

“I cannot understand Liverpool’s position. As I said last week in the House of Lords, ‘If Dr. Ryder is not fit to be a bishop; Lord Harrowby is not fit to be Lord President of the Council.’”

“And how was that received?” The duke raised one eyebrow.

“As was to be expected, a chorus of ‘Hear! Hear!’ from our supporters and a rumble of grousing from the opposition.”

The duchess set aside her piece of toast spread with marmalade. “And has His Majesty taken a position?”

Harrowby guffawed. “How can a man who can’t decide which suit to wear for the day determine who is fit to be a bishop? Especially since so much of the dispute centers on such things as Bishop Ryder’s public reading of prayers—as if it is a shocking lowering of episcopal dignity for a bishop to approach his God in humility.”

The acidity in the earl’s outburst left the party concentrating uncomfortably on their breakfast plates until the duchess observed, “From my earliest youth I have been admitted a good deal behind the curtain and have known the motives of those active in politics. I have seen that something done on right principles was often misunderstood and misrepresented. From such experiences I am led to believe that people in different parties may have differing views of a thing without their being either knaves or fools.”

“Doubtless you are correct, sister.” The countess handed her teacup to the duchess for a refill from the silver urn in front of her. “But I must share my husband’s sentiments. Just look at what Bishop Ryder has accomplished in the dioceses of Gloucester. He has faithfully served a population of over a million souls, and his church-building society in Birmingham gained fifteen thousand pounds in subscriptions.

“But far beyond his material accomplishments is the fact that he has truly experienced the redeeming power of Jesus Christ—such a shocking thing for a bishop to believe in a personal God, of course.” Her voice was heavy with irony. “And then when his opponents discovered his readiness to set forth the great fundamental doctrines of the gospel—well, it is all quite an impasse.”

The duchess handed the refilled cup back to her sister. “I do pray that he will receive the appointment. No one could deserve it more. Bishop Ryder was the means of bringing me on in the path of life. It seems that of all the Christians I have known, he is the most Christlike.”

As the conversation continued among the older generation Georgiana’s attention strayed to the far end of the table. Her sister Charlotte, seated next to Granville, was breakfasting in a fetching morning dress of sprigged muslin. Georgiana was too far away to catch the conversation, but she could hardly miss the private look that passed between them as Charlotte laughed at something Granville said. Why had not Gran chosen to sit beside her? The thought brought a frown to her forehead.

Then Harrowby’s voice returned Georgiana’s attention to the conversation at the far end of the table. “Wellington spoke to the king concerning Beau Brummell’s consulship in France, and the king objected, abusing Brummell, saying he was an abominable fellow who had behaved very ill to him.”

“The old story, always thinking of nothing but himself—moi, moi, moi.” Worcester shook his head and spoke with disgust.

“True, but after having let His Majesty run out his tether of abuse, Wellington at last extracted his consent,” Harrowby concluded.

“Excellent!” Worcester replied. “The Beau is a deserving fellow—there is much more to him than the dandy his detractors make him out to be. Making cleanliness fashionable was no small accomplishment in itself.”

“I fancy you also deserve credit for the decision,” the earl told Worcester. “The duke said he had no acquaintance with Brummell and only entered into the proceedings to oblige you, my Lord.”

Georgiana heard the news with great satisfaction. Her brother, who had served as aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington on the Peninsula and was now a Member of Parliament for Monmouth, was establishing himself in the world of politics as well as in the family tradition of country sporting life. If only he would take a wife she could consider him thoroughly set up.

Another conversation was in progress at the women’s end of the table. “…and what of your sponsorship of The Society for Promoting the Enlargement, Building, and Repairing of Churches and Chapels?” Lady Harrowby asked her sister.

“Funds to build the chapel in Wales are lagging sadly.” The duchess shook her lace-capped head. “But we have had our greatest success with the local chapter of Mr. Wilberforce’s Society for Promoting the External Observance of the Lord’s Day and for the Suppression of Public Lewdness.”

“That is a victory indeed, and it prospers in London as well,” Lady Harrowby added with obvious pleasure. “Only last week we were at dinner with Mr. Wilberforce, and he recalled that when the society was founded, a friend laughed in his face, agreeing that there was indeed a great deal of debauchery and very little religion, but that in a wealthy nation it would never be otherwise. The only way to reform morals, his friend contended, was to ruin purses. He said he could promise a speedy return of purity of morals if no one had a shilling to spend in debauchery. It seems that Providence has seen fit to grant that it be otherwise.”

Georgiana’s plate had long grown empty and her coffee cold when Nixon, the butler, appeared to inform the duchess of the arrival of the Honorable Mr. Agar-Ellis. She looked at her daughter for guidance. Georgiana started to shake her head and then looked across the table where Granville and Charlotte were deep in conversation with their heads bent together. “Please ask him to wait in the octagon room. I will join him shortly.”

The duchess nodded at Nixon, who departed with a bow.

Georgiana ran quickly to her dressing room where Agatha helped her change from her riding habit into an afternoon dress of soft lavender gray with a padded rouleau at the bottom. A few moments later she entered the octagonal vestibule.

George, who had been waiting in the company of the footman on duty, rose from the sofa and bowed deeply over her hand. “Lady Georgiana, may I beg you to be so kind as to permit me to say that even in so light and charming a room as this, where nothing distracts the eye from the proportions and the beauty of the plasterwork, you are the finest ornament.”

Georgiana smiled at his flowery speech, but had to struggle to contain her amusement at his florid attire of belcher tie, striped waistcoat, and yellow pantaloons. “Thank you, George. I see you are in fine mettle today. My mama is engaged with her sister’s family, so I am receiving you for her.”

“I am disappointed to hear that your mother is occupied. I had hoped to invite Her Grace and yourself to take the air in my carriage. I am greatly pleased with my new pair of matched grays. I’ll wager you’ve never seen a pair of sweeter goers. May I hope to prevail upon you to accompany me?” George bowed deeply again.

With a fleeting thought of Granville’s head bent attentively toward Charlotte, Georgiana consented and even allowed her maid to fetch her poke bonnet trimmed with ostrich plumes.

They drove through Badminton Park where a few hours earlier Granville and Georgiana had ridden, then out into the ancient village of Little Badminton with its dovecote dating back to the Battle of Hastings. The road wound between cottages of Cotswold stone, their floral-riot gardens enclosed by low walls at the very edge of the narrow road. As soon as they were clear of the village, George dropped his hands, and the grays sprang to a sharp canter beneath the leafy trees vaulting the road. They drove under an ancient arched bridge built by the Romans and along the road to Acton Turville. Cows lay contented in green pastures near stone barns ringed with trees.

Here and there they caught glimpses of the narrow Avon River as it wound through green fields beginning to show their autumn hues. Overhead lacy branches dropped an occasional golden leaf on them, inspiring George to break into a poetic quotation:

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade…

Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield…

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,

Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;

Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile

The short and simple annals of the Poor.

Georgiana surveyed the trees that had called forth such transports. “I believe they are oaks and beeches, sir.”

He ignored her comment. “Such lines can never fail to move the hearer. It is little wonder that Gray was Walpole’s favorite poet.”

Georgiana deemed it best to allow her escort to continue his poetic meditations as she settled into the corner of the seat and studied the driver while he concentrated on handling the reins in his expert way. George James Welbore Agar-Ellis, in spite of his exaggerated affectations, was a kind and considerate companion. By his frequent attentions, he seemed to be making it clear to her that she would soon be called upon to voice her opinion of him—of her willingness to accept him as something far more than a companion.

She had no doubt as to his suitability as a husband in matters of family and class; and even though his appearance and conversation seemed to place him in that group of acquaintances Georgiana censured for their shallowness, in truth he erred on the side of earnestness. Besides his study of Horace Walpole, he was compiling a historical monograph on Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, Lord Chancellor of England. At the same time he was writing a fictional work which he called The True History of the State Prisoner, but most often he referred to it as The Iron Mask. Further, his Catalogue of the Principal Pictures in Flanders and Holland had been published the year before, and, so successful was it, that his publishers were already talking about bringing out another edition.

No, she couldn’t fault his family or his mind or his manners—at least the sincerity of them. Still, Georgiana could not feel happy at the prospect of receiving an offer from Mr. Agar-Ellis. Whatever her answer, the results would be unhappy. Giving a final blow to his feelings seemed almost as unpleasant as the thought of spending the rest of her life with him.

Ultimately, her decision would rest on the fact that George lacked the one quality absolutely essential for her in a life’s mate. For all his outward adherence to the doctrines and practices of the established church, he did not share her faith in a personal God. Georgiana had often seen the pain her mother had endured when members of their social circle snubbed her for her evangelical activities and labeled her an “enthusiast” behind their fans.

No, Georgiana could not settle for a husband who did not share her beliefs. But that did not mean they couldn’t share a pleasant ride.

“How is your work on the letters of Horace Walpole progressing?” she finally asked.

“How obliging of you to inquire.” Georgiana felt certain that if it had been possible to do so on the seat of a phaeton, he would have made a deep bow. “Collecting the letters of one who carried on so wide a correspondence is no small task, but I am determined to prevail. I have recently acquired a delightful missive which the Earl of Orford wrote to Miss Mary Berry and another in his own hand to the Countess of Upper Ossory; but I fear the task is far, far from complete. I am determined, however, to bring to the world a complete edition of the incomparable letters of this prince of epistolary writers. I am persuaded that when presented in chronological order, the series shall form a lively commentary on the events of the age.

“Those are admirable goals. I heartily wish you well.” She spoke sincerely.

“My Lady is too kind. Your regard is one I hold near to my heart. As for my humble literary efforts, I attempt as always to do my part diligently, judiciously, and without the slightest ostentation.”

“Your sentiments are indeed worthy.” Georgiana was pleased that she had managed to conduct the entire exchange with a perfectly straight face. Hurting the feelings of one so sincere in his efforts was a thing she would never wish to do.

Four

At the same time George’s matched grays were stepping through Badminton Park, breakfast ended in the dining room inside Badminton House. The company rose. The duchess led the way from the room to take her sister and elder daughter for a turn around the gardens where the younger Somerset daughters were enjoying a break from the tyranny of an aging Miss Primrose and the schoolroom. Granville was handing Lady Charlotte her light cashmere shawl and receiving a pretty smile in return when the earl approached his son. “I shall await you in the library.” Harrowby turned on his heel and left the room by the side door.

Feeling like a small boy called on the carpet, Granville escorted the ladies to the terrace, then made his way through the Red Room to the library. Beneath the portrait of John of Gaunt, fourteenth-century founder of the Somerset family, a fire burned on the grate. No dampness could be permitted to damage the extensive and valuable collection of the Badminton library. The polished dark woodwork and the richly embossed leather bindings of the books glowed from the sun shining through the beveled glass of the long eastern windows. But the glow failed to reach Granville’s spirit.

The earl, dressed conservatively, as befit his age and position, in a frock coat with a velvet collar, black knee breeches, silk stockings, and buckled shoes, sat in a high-backed Chinese Chippendale chair at one side of the fireplace. Granville felt uncomfortably out of place in his riding attire. He stood stiffly before his father, his hands clasped behind his back, a level gaze focused just above his father’s eyes.

“Sit down, Granville.” The earl rubbed his temple briefly with the fingers of his right hand.

Granville would have preferred to stand, but he sat. “Have you a headache, sir?”

“It is nothing.” The earl hastily removed his hand from his brow and cleared his throat “Well, you are no longer in His Majesty’s Navy. What do you propose to do with yourself now?” The fire chased any hint of chill from the room but not from the earl’s voice.

“I do not know, Father,” Granville answered levelly, refusing to avert his gaze.

The earl drummed his fingers on the arm of the chair. “You do not know what you wish to do?” The tone was tart. “You were in a position where you could be sure of employment, and you could be sure of rising high. I do not understand how you could turn your back on this. It is as incomprehensible as if Sandon had suddenly resigned his seat in Parliament.

“It is indeed heavy to me that my son should have failed to uphold the tradition of young men of his class who enter the navy and show themselves to be of good stuff, who bend to the task with a will, contrive to master the intricacies of their profession, and win credit both for themselves and for those humbler officers who taught them. You have failed to prove yourself worthy of your class and of your office.”

“Perhaps, sir, the problem lies in striving to prove something that doesn’t exist.”

“Nonsense. You are a Ryder. Now what do you intend to do about it?”

“I had thought of taking on some of the estate duties. With Sandon occupied in London—” The mention of his brilliant older brother now filling the seat for the family borough of Tiverton in the House of Commons was a misstep.

“And do you intend to take your proper place as a member of the family in compassionate work?”

“Sir?” The earl had lowered his voice, causing Granville to lean forward.

Replying in considerably greater volume than necessary, Lord Harrowby thundered, “Compassionate work. What do you intend to do about your responsibility there?”

Granville paused so long the earl started to repeat the question, but Granville held up his hand. “I heard you, Father. I have given the subject considerable thought—perhaps the Duke of Gloucester’s Marine Society. I understand there is interest in founding a Royal Lifeboat Institution to improve safety at sea. But…”

“But?” Lord Harrowby cut impatiently into the pause.

“But I should like first to feel that I am, as you say, worthy of doing religious and compassionate work, sir.”

A long silence declared the conversation at an end. The earl rose silently, as did his son. The men exchanged brief bows and the earl strode from the room. Granville sank into an armchair near a window. It was not the curt tone of his father’s words that stung him to the quick, but their truth.

By choosing to leave the navy, Granville had admitted to yet another failure. Since his earliest days, he had been surrounded by people who shone like stars in the firmament. His father, as President of the Council, was one of the most influential men in England. His Uncle Henry, the first evangelical clergyman to be appointed to the bishopric, was now stirring the nation in controversy over further elevation. His elder brother, Dudley, Viscount Sandon, who had always been able to outrun, outride, and outfight him, was making such a success of his career in Parliament that he was being talked of as the next First Lord of the Admiralty. His cousin, Henry, the Marquess of Worcester, had earned a special place in Wellington’s affection as aide-de-camp and was now serving in Parliament.

And this list didn’t begin to touch on the renowned charitable work of both families, but it was all that he could cope with. He had little doubt of his ability to carve a niche for himself in the everyday world. The thing he found overwhelmingly deflating was the spiritual confidence of those around him. How could they be so sure they were right with God—sure of their acceptability to Him?

From earliest days Granville had tried to be a good, obedient son, to do all that man and God required of him. But how could he ever know when he had done enough—when he was good enough for acceptance by God? When could he know if he merited salvation?

He had found no answers in the navy. Where would he seek them next? Almighty God, if You are here and deign to hear me, show me how to find You. I am groping in the dark; give me the light of your assurance.

He sat long gazing across the lawn toward the park until he heard the sound of carriage wheels on gravel. He stepped to the window admiring the matched grays pulling the phaeton into the drive; but when he saw the elegant young man Georgiana had danced with the night before escort her from the carriage with an air of great solicitude, a frown creased his forehead.

Georgiana glimpsed her cousin in the library window and saw his troubled look. All pleasure she had felt in the ride with Mr. Agar-Ellis vanished. She took hurried leave of him and went in search of her mother. The duchess was just entering the yellow drawing room that served as her private parlor.

“Are you occupied, Mama?”

“Never too busy for you, my dear. Come in.” They sat in a pair of yellow upholstered chairs before a carved mahogany cabinet made by Thomas Chippendale. “My sister has gone for a short lie-down. I thought I might attempt a bit of correspondence. I am always so far behind with it. But I would much rather talk with you. You look uneasy, dear. What is it?”

Georgiana sighed, as much to express the comfort of being able to bare her heart to her mother as to show her concern. “It’s Gran. We were such close companions as children, and now I find I hardly know him. He seems troubled. This morning we rode in the park, and he said all manner of nonsensical things to me about his inability to please his father. But the worst was last night when he hinted at feeling spiritually inadequate. How can that be? He is everything that is most amiable. Can’t he see that he has no need of improvement to be acceptable to God or to his father—or to anyone else?”

“Even the vilest sinner has no need of improvement to be acceptable to God.”

Her mother’s theological answer irritated Georgiana. “Yes, yes. I know! But why can’t Gran understand that? Oh, I most desperately want him to be happy. He was such a lighthearted boy. We had such fun together—why cannot life remain so? Why must everything get so complicated?”

“One cannot forever remain childhood friends—no matter how dear. And irritations that seem small at the time, when often repeated, can add up to a powerful influence—a harsh, demanding father, a brilliant, overshadowing older brother, a difficulty in hearing that puts one at a slight social disadvantage… as I so well know.” The duchess opened the hand she held to her ear to exhibit the small, shell-like hearing device that had been invented for her by her friend Charles Simeon. It was a great convenience because it could be held in her palm and put to her ear whenever needed.

But Georgiana wasn’t interested in Mr. Simeon’s inventiveness. “Oh, I’d never thought of all that. It must be awful feeling you are never quite—well, quite up to snuff.” She rose and began walking around the room with small, jerky steps. “But that’s ridiculous! Can’t he see what an absolutely superb person he is?”

“No, my dear. None of us can truly see ourselves. Your cousin sees himself in the mirror his father has always held up to him and measures himself by his brother’s achievements. Even before you were born, I recall seeing Granville toddle along after Sandon absolutely adoring him. But Sandon had no time for him, found him irritating, especially since Gran’s slight deafness obliged him to repeat things.”

“But Gran is worth a dozen of Sandon in so many ways!” In her agitation Georgiana’s voice rose to a high pitch.

“Yes, Georgiana, you and I know that, but Granville does not. Of course, the fact that he is so oblivious to his charms is one of the most winning things about him, but it leaves him even more vulnerable.”

“I still don’t understand why this should cause a spiritual problem. Gran has been raised in the way of true Christianity as carefully as I…” She choked and turned her back to her mother. “I couldn’t bear to see Gran…” She was unable to finish.

“It must be very difficult to feel accepted by one’s Heavenly Father if one doesn’t feel satisfactory to an earthly father. Georgiana, you need to realize that spirituality doesn’t come as easily to everyone as it does for you. I thank God that from your youngest days faith has been your gift—for yourself and to help others. But many people, like Granville, have to struggle to find their own place. If you would help your cousin, you must have two things.”

“Yes, Mother?”

“Faith and patience.”

Georgiana grimaced. “Patience?”

The duchess smiled. “Ah, you noticed that I did not say patience was your gift. Calm waiting is never easy, especially in youth. But I have never forgotten the lesson I learned from Mr. Simeon when I was tempted to impatience with the behavior of others: ‘Let us sit upon the seat of love instead of judgment,’ he said. Can you find it in your heart to do that, daughter?”

“Oh, yes! I shall most assuredly try.” Georgiana gave her mother a brilliant smile. “Things are always so much clearer after I talk to you. It’s no wonder life has been uncomplicated for me with a mother like you.”

The duchess returned her daughter’s kiss on the cheek. “Now run along and dress for dinner.”

While at Badminton House, the Beauforts compromised between country and city hours and dined at six o’clock in the evening. Georgiana dressed for dinner in a pale green percale dress with bouilloned sleeves which were puffed to resemble the surface of a simmering pot. “Aggie, you may do my hair with the green grosgrain ribbon and yellow crepe flowers.” Georgiana sat on the small bench before her dressing table and dabbed a breath of Hungary water on her white shoulders.

Awhile later, after turning this way and that before a tall pier glass to observe the effect of the scallops of Mechlin lace on her gored skirt, Georgiana left her room. She smiled, her mind focused on all the good she would do for her cousin.

Her campaign was hampered, however, by the seating protocol that placed the eldest Ryder son present, Granville, next to the eldest Somerset daughter, Charlotte. So throughout the first course, Georgiana attended to her brother, who was her partner. But her mind was fixed on the couple across the table. And the more Granville and Charlotte laughed and chatted, the more Georgiana’s irritation rose. If her cousin preferred Charlotte’s light banter, then perhaps she wouldn’t tell him what was on her heart. She turned her attention to her food.

Since they were dining en famille, there were only three courses. The first course of soups at the head and foot of the table was being replaced by fish and saddle of mutton when Granville turned from Charlotte to Georgiana. “And did you have an agreeable afternoon, Georgie?”

Her irritation at him showing only by the tilt of her chin, Georgiana forced her brightest smile. “Quite delightful, thank you, sir. Mr. Agar-Ellis’s new grays are high-steppers, indeed, and he is a whip of the first rank. And our Gloucestershire country-side is incomparable.” If Granville found solace in Charlotte, she should do the same in George.

Charlotte then required her partner’s attention, and Georgiana turned back to her brother, Henry, who was speaking to Lord Harrowby. “It is Wellington’s judgment that the fact that the people of England are very quiet may explain the character of English religion.’’

“Do you take that to mean that the duke believes the English are religious because they are quiet and not quiet because they are religious?” The earl’s perpetual frown accompanied his words, and at first no one ventured an answer.

“I could wish some of the dissenters a little quieter in their religious enthusiasm,” replied the duke from the head of the table. “But it does seem that the democratic character of the nonconformists trains their members in administration and public speaking.”

“Indeed, I have observed that also,” the earl agreed. “But, fortunately, it is not necessary to go to the extreme of dissension for those happy effects. I find that those holding our Anglican Evangelical beliefs within the established church maintain serious and unselfish attitudes toward public affairs, which makes them valued public leaders. They use their wealth conscientiously to good and noble purposes, and they care nothing for popularity but strive without fail to do what is right.”

The duke motioned for the footmen to clear away the second course before continuing. “Quite right. Our friend William Wilberforce is a case in point. I suppose it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that no Englishman has done more to wake the conscience of the British people and to ennoble our public life.”

“You are quite right, my dear.” The duchess smiled at her husband. “I certainly feel for Mr. Wilberforce a deep affection and gratitude for his unstinting labors.”

The earl accepted a slice of gabena fowl from the footman. Then with one bite held on his fork, he resumed speaking. “Exactly right, my dear. As should all right-minded people. Just last night I finished reading Wilberforce’s Appeal in Behalf of the Negro Slaves in the West Indies. If it can receive a wide readership, his efforts to free these downtrodden people will surely succeed.”

The earl paused for a sip of wine, but no one ventured to interrupt his discourse, so he continued. “I’m no Bible thumper, but I do believe the most important fact of his work is that he builds it solidly upon the firm foundation of Scripture: ‘Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbor’s service without wages, and giveth him not for his work.’ And ‘Do justice and love mercy.’ Surely no thinking person of any faith could take exception to that. But you must read it for yourselves to savor its power and rightness,” he admonished the whole table.

“Yes, but Mr. Wilberforce is getting much opposition from his old friend Canning,” commented Worcester. “The Foreign Secretary repeatedly warns him to stay silent for fear of upsetting the delicate balance in the West Indies. Wilberforce, of course, refuses to be warned.”

“Yes, I am certain opposition only makes him speak more forcibly,” the Earl of Harrowby agreed.

Worcester continued, “But Wilberforce needs a clearer strategy. Canning is sure to outgeneral him in Parliament.”

Harrowby cleared his throat. “Indeed, I hope not. Quite apart from the right of the matter, Wilberforce takes everything too much to heart. He once told me he believed that but for the all-atoning blood of Jesus Christ, he would be condemned everlastingly for his failure to rescue the slaves from bondage.”

“Nonsense!” Worcester said with vehemence. “He hasn’t failed. The fight continues.”

“Yes,” the earl agreed. “But when poor health strikes his frail constitution, he tends to become depressed.” The footman offered mashed potatoes trimmed with small slices of bacon, broccoli, and Jerusalem artichokes, and the earl turned to his food.

While the conversation continued at the other end of the table, Georgiana took a serving of carrots and turnips and of light suet dumplings. Then because she was feeling a twinge of remorse for the abruptness of her earlier reply to Granville, she turned to speak to him. Her softened feelings were short-lived, however, when she found him absorbed in a tale Charlotte was recounting about Fred Calthorpe’s new hunter.

So Georgiana spoke instead to Lord Harrowby, asking him about the achievements of The British and Foreign Bible Society of which he was a member.

“The work progresses, my dear, but it is hindered by rigid churchmen who fear that the circulation of the Bible without the prayer book will encourage dissent.”

“What we need are more Evangelicals like Bishop Ryder in high church office.” Worcester returned to a favored family topic.

“With men like Wilberforce and Simeon urging the appointment, it should happen soon,” Lord Harrowby replied.

“If Simeon is supporting him, surely the Duke of Gloucester is too?” the duchess enquired.

“Indeed, the entire Cambridge group is active in Ryder’s support,” the earl replied. “But many high churchmen are skeptical of giving him this greater scope for his energies by agreeing to translate him to a more prestigious dioceses.”

“The bishop’s best recommendation is his own attractive personality,” Lady Harrowby said. “As well as his keen mind. I’m assured the clergy of his present diocese did not welcome him warmly at first, but many of the prejudices against him vanished when they discovered he was a better scholar and divine than they themselves.”

“Excellent fellow,” agreed the duke, “and thoroughly loyal to the church even if he is a low churchman.”

Several footmen entered the room bearing silver salvers displaying a variety of ices.

“I suspect his vigor may put fear into some of his peers that similar dedication might be expected of them.” Lord Harrowby selected a raspberry ice. “He rarely preaches less than twice, often three times on a Sunday, besides weekly church lectures.”

“How true!” Lady Harrowby spoke with enthusiasm. “Oh, I am sorry, my dear, did I interrupt you?” Before the earl could reply, however, she continued, “As well as spending his Sunday afternoons instructing the children in the Gloucester National School.”

“Well,” the duke added with a nod to the Earl, “coming from one of the best families in the nation doesn’t do him any harm either.”

The Earl of Harrowby raised his wine glass in acceptance of this tribute to his family. “I suspect, however, that his support from Cambridge will be decisive.”

“When I was a young man at Oxford, that was the center of evangelical activity; but due largely to Simeon’s work, the focus seems to have moved to Cambridge,” the duke observed.

“If I were a young man today, Cambridge is where I should wish to be,” the duchess said. Her warm brown eyes shone in the candlelight as brightly as the stones that adorned her amaranth pink turban. “Think of coming under the tutelage of Charles Simeon. What splendid young men he is instructing! I almost believe I’m sorry you didn’t go there, Henry,” she said to her eldest son. Then she turned to Granville. “Have you thought of going up to Cambridge?”

Before Granville could reply, his father spoke. “I shall secure a position for Granville in the Home Office.”

Granville slowly raised his white linen napkin to his mouth and regarded his father for several moments. No one spoke. Granville lowered his napkin. “I thank you for that suggestion, Father, but I shall go to Cambridge.”

Five

In spite of the skiff of late January snow covering the college courts and clogging the traffic in the narrow Cambridge streets, Granville was settled in time to matriculate for Lent term. His second floor rooms in G staircase were just to the right of the gate of Trinity College inside the Great Court. A visit to Elliott Smith’s furniture establishment close by Trinity Gate had yielded in a few hours’ time a bed, sofa, chairs, tables, and carpets. The furniture, sturdy if well-used, had served many a gownsman before Granville, as it would many after him, with each turnaround securing a tidy profit for Mr. Smith.

Granville crossed the larger of his two rooms, furnished as a parlor, and pulled the deep red moreen curtains across the window looking out on Trinity Street. The curtains’ color told their age since, as all college curtains, they had begun life a soft gray. When that shade was faded beyond recognition, they were dyed scarlet. As their age advanced, the shade of red deepened and darkened. The price of the draperies was thirded down from tenant to tenant at two-thirds cost until, in due time, it reached zero. Where, by rights, Granville had argued unsuccessfully, the price should have remained. But no. It then took an upward course, and the process began all over again at the seller’s valuation.

Granville shook his head at the dilapidated condition of his window hangings, then turned toward the dressing room where his gyp, the college-provided servant, had laid out the black satin knee breeches and white silk stockings that were de rigueur for dining in Hall. He made a move to begin the dressing process, but a knock at his door interrupted him.

“Hullo, Andy,” he greeted the gownsman who occupied the rooms just above his. Andrew Anderson was a Sizar, an impecunious scholar working his way through Trinity. Although Granville found his stairmate to be abnormally studious, his company was not unpleasant. “Come in. I’m just getting ready for Hall, although I must say eating dinner in midafternoon is something my stomach is not yet accustomed to.”

“Yes, I found that difficult at first, too. I won’t come in. Must change for dinner. Just stopped by to ask if you’d care to attend Simeon’s conversation party tonight? Now that everyone’s getting settled into term, there should be a good group of Sims on hand.” He referred to the followers of Charles Simeon.

“Very thoughtful of you, Andy. I might just do that. Been intending to drop in one night anyway. Perhaps I’ll see you after Combi.” That would give him more time to decide whether to go. But Combi must come first. The double flow of wit and wine in the combination room was a necessary conclusion to Hall.

Anderson’s visit made Gran reflect on his early weeks in Cambridge. Although he had come here determined to solve his spiritual dilemma, he had allowed the time so far merely to slide by. It seemed that each day offered a new amusement with lighthearted friends which he had yet to refuse. When he thought about his problem in moments of introspection, he found that, on the whole, it was much easier simply to put it aside for later.

Now he argued with himself. Perhaps attending Simeon’s group was what he needed. On the other hand, if he found no answers there, he would be more depressed than before. He shied from taking the risk, yet he did need to put it to the test. Maybe tonight.

Granville had only removed his jacket and boots before the next knock came at his door. His gyp answered and ushered Freddie Perkins into the room. Frederick Oswald Perkins sat next to Granville in Hall, and they had become good friends through sharing the long hours of boredom in the formal service.

“Somerville’s turn to host Club tonight. Should be good sport.” Freddie threw himself into a soft chair, doing violence to his formal attire and knocking his stiff, flat hat askew. “Just laid in two dozen more port. Told me so!”

“I’m thinking of giving it a miss tonight, Perkins. I’ve been invited to attend Charles Simeon’s conversation party.”

Freddie sat bolt upright, his face looking thunderstruck. “Shouldn’t do that. Not the thing at all. You’ll find it devilishly boring. Bad ton.”

“I wouldn’t be going for the purpose of raising my social standing.” Granville achieved a perfect crease in the waterfall he was tying with his stiffly starched cravat.

“You can’t be thinking of doing it for amusement!” Perkins looked even more shocked. “It really won’t do. They drink tea. And talk—” He stole a quick glance upward as if to see if he was being overheard. “—about God. Oh.” His face broke into a wide grin. “Bamming me, ain’t you?”

“Not at all, Perkins. I had thought of attending for purposes of enlightenment.” Ryder slipped a black academic gown trimmed with gold lace over his other garments and donned the soft cap that proclaimed him to be a nobleman before moving to the door.

“Sounds cork-brained to me.” Freddie shook his head as he followed his friend out the door. “You’d best come to Somerville’s with me. He serves the best claret at Trin.”

Granville laughed off his friend’s protestations and strode along the path beside the green grass of Great Court, past the Renaissance fountain, and into Hall. He paused to inscribe the Buttery Book, “The Hon. G. Ryder,” and tossed his gown and cap on a table provided for that purpose. Then he took his seat at the far end of the long room with Freddie and other friends.

At the table he found Meredyth Somerville, the Hon. Francis Molyneaux, and Lord William Hervey in conversation. “…this evening? The usual, I daresay—whist to ten, a moderate supper. Then we’ll declare Club officially closed and allow deeper gaming—more to the sporting taste.” Somerville raised his eyebrows in something approaching a leer.

As Granville tried to determine his course for the evening ahead, he surveyed his surroundings. The Hall of Trinity could easily have modeled for an ornate version of Beowulf’s mead hall with its high, dark, beam-vaulted ceiling and long rows of benched tables—or so it seemed to Granville. But no ancient Danish king could ever have dreamt of the intricately ornate carving enriched with deep red, blue, and gold paint at both ends of the room. Nor could Beowulf’s Heorot Hall have boasted the glories of stained glass that filled every window.

From the top of his long table beneath the blazoned arms of Trinity supported by rampant gold lion and silver unicorn, Granville looked out across the warm glow of candles lining the tables. The bay alcoves to either side of the fellows’ dais gave the room the proportions of a cathedral—or more precisely, the shape of a cross. And the image brought forcefully to his mind his own spiritual turmoil. The introspection he had avoided by concentrating on new friends and new experiences suddenly pushed its way to the forefront, and he knew he would have to deal with it soon. Why did even the shape of the room have to mock his quandry? Couldn’t he at least eat his dinner in peace? Surely Beowulf’s Hrothgar had the better part—to be haunted by Grendel, a monster of form and substance, rather than by the specter that followed him.

In the interval between terms, a pair of blackbirds had made their nest atop the ornamental carved screen at the far end of the room. Attracted now by the crumbs dropped by the dining gownsmen, the small dark birds fluttered about in the alcove windows and flew to the top of the wainscoting behind the fellows’ table. Then the braver of the two birds hopped onto the table right in front of Granville. But in his present mood, even this failed to amuse him. In the stained-glass window to his left, a white dove descended to announce Christ’s acceptance by His Heavenly Father. Why was it a black bird approaching Granville?

All right. I will go to Simeon’s party. It seemed unlikely that any counseling could help him find solace, but he would hear what the venerable man had to say. After all, Simeon was a particular friend of Granville’s aunt, the duchess, so it would be churlish of him not to pay a call.

At the end of Hall, gownsmen strolled back across the court to the social room they called Combi. “Draw the curtains,” Lord Hervey called out to the porter on duty in the room. “We don’t want to attract the attention of the townies on the street.”

“Those stones they threw last time came devilishly close to shattering the windows.” Frank Molyneaux tossed his cap and gown on the table near the door.

“Hope they try it, maggoty lot. I’d like to draw their corks!” Freddie flung himself into a chair with a force that moved it at least two inches closer to the wall. He took a glass of the heady port wine that was being passed around. “Hear, hear.” He raised his glass. “Drink to gown.” He put his glass to his lips, then stopped. “I say, Ryder, you ain’t got a glass.”

Granville shrugged, picked up a glass of the fiery Black Strap port, and joined in the toast to the superiority of gown over town.

The bumpers were refilled, and toasts went around again, this time drinking the health of everyone present—some twice. A large bowl of creamy milk punch had just been presented to the company when Granville’s stairmate appeared at the door.

Granville groaned and shook his already light head. He couldn’t meet Charles Simeon reeking of port. Besides, he didn’t want to break up Somerville’s party now. “Thank you for coming by, Andy, but I’m sure you shall get on very well without me.”

“Well done, Ryder,” Freddie said when Andrew Anderson’s back disappeared down the hall. “Rackety notion, that. Knew you didn’t mean it.” Granville gave Perkins an ambivalent smile.

The party moved on to Merry Somerville’s rooms where they were joined by a number of other guests. For a couple of hours, a sedate game of whist occupied the gownsmen, interrupted only by the occasional call for breaking out one more cool bottle of port from the sawdust-packed locker under the window.

“Ah, now that’s port, alcoholed and talkative.” William Hervey laid his cards on the table to savor his drink more fully.

From an adjoining table Frank Molyneaux raised his glass. “Port—the Englishman’s wine. Else, how could we have beat the French?”

Granville sipped his wine. No one commented on his silence. Even in his short time at Cambridge, his reputation was established—older, quieter, more contemplative, inclined to take life seriously. Although not popular qualities, they were accepted in a nobleman’s son returned from service in the Royal Navy.

Somerville’s gyp announced that supper was laid out in the next room. Their host, who made no secret of the fact that his kitchen bills were frightful, had provided roast lamb and salad as the centerpiece, and down the table were as many dishes as Lawrence, their cook, could crowd in from the college kitchen. A fine Stilton cheese crowned the repast.

At ten o’clock Club officially ended. Now the serious gaming could begin. Two faro banks offered play, and six or seven gownsmen at each table began placing their bets, some with carefree insouciance and others with earnest solemnity. Granville took a place at the nearest table. “Stakes, gentlemen,” directed Somerville, presiding as banker at this table since he had put up the largest stake.

The players signaled their bets by placing chips on the layout of the spade suit across the table. For a moment Granville sat abstractedly as the question flitted through his mind, What am I doing here?

“Come on, Granny. You playing or not?”

Hastily Granville placed his chips on the six and waited for the dealer to turn up his cards.

“Two of hearts,” Somerville announced. This card was soda and had no bearing on the bets.

Somerville turned up another card and placed it face up on his right. “Jack of spades. Jacks lose.” He triumphantly scooped Lord Hervey’s chips into the bank.

The next card would win the turn. Granville glanced carelessly at the table. Not a gamester at heart, he found the whole thing a bit of a bore. “Ten wins.” The banker handed a stack of chips to the grinning Frank Molyneaux. Since neither card turned up had been a six, Granville’s bet stood. He could let it ride or cancel it by placing a copper on top of his chips.

The deal continued. Granville had not coppered his bet. He lost on the turn of the second card. The gyp was handing around drinks again, somewhat unsteadily, Granville noticed, as if he had already handed rather too many to himself. His bald head shining with perspiration seemed to wobble precariously on the thin neck sticking out of his high, stiff collar.

With studied casualness, Frank staked two rouleaux of guineas on the turn of the next card. Granville would have liked to decline hazarding anything. He was not a lucky punter and was already feeling a bit dipped. Though high in social status, the Earl of Harrowby was not a wealthy man, and the large sums he donated to worthy causes diminished his own bank account. His son’s allowance was not large.

“Dash it all, I’m no gamester.” Granville spoke almost under his breath, wondering briefly what was taking place now in Mr. Simeon’s rooms in the Gibbs Building. Still, in response to a sharp nudge from William seated next to him, Granville placed his bet.

He continued to play cautiously for a while and then grew bolder. Finally, the atmosphere captivated him, and he began to relax. He won a little, lost a large bet, refilled his glass. As the fumes of cheroots mingled with the claret, his absorption increased, and so did the size of his wagers. “Ten chips on the queen.”

Money and chips clinked metallically. Occasionally a player’s dog, lying obediently at its master’s feet, would growl as a scraping chair disturbed his sleep. There were sharp cries of “Split” as a dealer took all the bets on a rank, or moans of “Dipped again. Gyp, refill!” as an unlucky player drowned his disappointment over losses.

Dawn had rimmed the sky with gold by the time Granville and Freddie made their way to their rooms. “Pockets to let, and the quarter ain’t half over!” Freddie laughed loudly in the still morning air.

“Perkins, you’re foxed.” Granville attempted to quiet his companion.

“No, I ain’t. Trifle bosky maybe. That don’t signify. Thing is how I’m to get more of the ready from my trustees.”

They parted company at Freddie’s staircase. Granville tiptoed on so as not to disturb the elderly John Henry Rennard, the bachelor clergyman, Trinity fellow, and vice-master who occupied the rooms below Granville nor to let the devout Andrew Anderson upstairs know the outcome of his misspent evening.

Too far gone to engage in conscience-searching, Granville pulled off his boots and rolled into bed without a thought of the harsh looks he would draw from his gyp on the morrow. Or, far more serious, the harsh scolding he would give himself.

Six

The sun was at its apex when Granville awoke to the certainty that he had never before known what a headache was. At his rather unsteady ring, Creighton appeared with what should have been his master’s morning coffee and, as silent witness to the late hour, the post.

Granville picked up the letter and blinked to clear his vision. A London postmark. Ah, yes, his aunt had promised to send him an account of their move to town. But the handwriting did not belong to the duchess.

January

Dear Coz,

I think it very uncivil of you not to write to me first. As you never do anything I like, however, I should not be surprised at your not beginning our correspondence.

I am depriving myself of a walk to write to you, but you must not become puffed up taking the credit to yourself. As my mama is engaged in making calls, I sat down to fulfill her promise of writing to you, though I fear I shall not entertain you half so well as she. I will only say that I have grown to be quite a fine lady, for I have been out almost every evening of late—we have seen The School for Scandal and Robinson Crusoe; and to complete all, I believe that soon I shall have the honor of admiring the much celebrated dancing of La Trainon at the opera.

But, alas, I have no ball to give you an account of. Monday evening when I thought myself secure, I received a note from Lady York to say that Lord York was taken so ill of a fever that she was obliged to put off the dance till the twenty-second, when most probably Papa and Mama will be out of town, so my expectations on that side are disappointed.

But you mustn’t think me all frivolity. I am reading a most excellent volume published by J. Downing in Bartholomew Close entitled Acquaintance with God. I should be happy to send it on to you, but as you are already in the saintly company of such men as Charles Simeon, I refrain from sending coals to Newcastle.

Papa & Mama send their love to you.

My pen is so bad that I absolutely cannot write anymore, and if you are not satisfied with this, you are an ungrateful and perverse boy, however, at all events I am

Yr. affect cousin,

G. Somerset

P. S. I wish you would send me word soon how you are.

Granville sipped his cooling coffee as charming images of his cousin flitted before his vision. He examined his unaccountable pleasure in remembering her voice and his inexplicable, if churlish, pleasure in hearing that she had attended no London balls. The thought of Georgiana dancing in the arms of London’s society bucks and various pinks of the ton disturbed him more than he wished to contemplate.

But what would she think if she knew how he was spending his time? “Send me word soon how you are.” She expected to hear of his studies and his fellowship with godly men. What could he possibly reply to her?

He stared long at the letter, his mouth tightening like a man in pain. Even if he had abandoned his halfhearted attempts at gaining merit in God’s eyes, perhaps he could at least gain esteem in his cousin’s.

On the following Friday, with the vision of Georgiana fixed firmly in his mind, Granville determined to attend Mr. Simeon’s party—in spite of Freddie Perkins’s protests.

“But, Ryder! You can’t have considered. Never know what you may come to. Look at me! Always swore I’d join a regiment rather than go to Cambridge, but I passed those cursed smalls. Can’t think how I did it. Careless of me. So here I am with a deuced crammie on my back hounding me to study all the time. Now what if it’d been religion?” He shook his head at the thought. “No. It really won’t do.”

Once firmly resolved on a course, however, Granville was unshakable. He had been told that all who accepted Mr. Simeon’s invitation should arrive punctually directly after dinner so as to avoid commotion in the room after Simeon had taken his seat. Indeed, when Granville arrived at ten minutes of the hour, sixty-nine gownsmen were already seated on chairs and benches arranged around the parlor. Some guests even found seats in the recesses of the windows.

When Granville was introduced to the venerable minister, Mr. Simeon bowed cordially. Simeon had just written, “The Honorable Granville Ryder, Trinity,” in the little black memorandum book in which he recorded the introduction of any stranger, when they both became aware that Granville had stamped his bootprints in fine ochre sand upon Mr. Simeon’s dark carpet.

Simeon led the offender back into the passage and asked with twinkling eyes, “Mr. Ryder, what more could I do than put down such an array of mats as you here see in order to give a hint or to offer a way to preserve my carpet from the yellow gravel which my visitors’ shoes catch up?”

Granville smiled and returned Simeon’s slight bow. “Sir, I do apologize for my unthinking slovenliness.” He scraped his boots with vigor.

Simeon’s famous affectionate smile appeared more in his eyes than on his lips and seemed to soften even his pointed nose and chin. He offered his hand and spoke with courtly polish. “My brother, I do love to see a clean carpet.”

When Granville’s footwear was sufficiently free of the bright buff gravel, he took his place on a bench near the door, which was cleared for him when Andrew Anderson motioned for several gownsmen to move closer together.

Mr. Simeon sat on a stool by the right side of the fireplace in full view of the young men around him. He rubbed his hands together like a child clapping in glee. Two servants began handing tea around, and the conversation party was officially open. Gownsmen on the crowded benches quietly sipped their tea as every eye turned to Mr. Simeon and every ear tuned with expectancy.

Granville soon realized that the questions came from only a few of the guests. By a kind of tacit understanding, it seemed that the conversation was to be as much as possible left to Simeon himself. Also, one or two members served as spokesmen for their more nervous friends.

Granville noticed a thin-faced young man tug at the sleeve of a questioner and whisper in his ear. The question dealt with the place of exercise and recreation in a serious student’s schedule.

“I always say to my young friends that your success in the Senate House exams depends much on the care you take of the three-mile stone out of Cambridge. If you go every day and see that nobody has taken it away and go quite round it to watch lest anyone has damaged its farthest side, you will be best able to read steadily all the time you are at Cambridge. If you neglect it, woe betide your degree. Yes, exercise—constant, regular, and ample—is absolutely essential to a reading man’s success.”

The guests laughed appreciatively. Most of the gownsmen who filled the room were candidates for holy orders—younger sons like Granville whose older brothers would be inheriting the family estates. For them the church would provide a living. They were sent up to Cambridge to prepare for the ministry with classical studies and mathematics. From a fellow-feeling for these young men who, like himself in 1782, were put into the pulpit without the remotest idea how to set about preaching, Simeon had conceived the singular notion that ministers of the Word of God needed spiritual grounding. He took it upon himself, at first much to the consternation of the fellows of the university, to provide this instruction.

The questions turned theological. Granville, listening earnestly, found much to think upon. “How long and uphill and often very bewildering is the road to God in most men’s experience,” Simeon said. Just then the sound of carriage wheels on the cobblestone street beyond the screen of King’s courtyard reminded Granville of his friends gathered tonight in Frank Molyneaux’s rooms. He wondered if his struggle was not up a steeper hill than most because of his repeated failures to please God and man.

He looked at the others in the room, contrasting them with his livelier friends. Which did he want to be like? Which could he be like? He didn’t seem to fit in either group, just as he hadn’t truly fit in the navy—in spite of his outward success there. Nor did he fit in his family’s circle of political and compassionate achievement.

Simeon’s gentle voice penetrated Granville’s thoughts. “We may as well try to examine microscopic insects with the naked eye as try to see divine truth without faith. Men see themselves too near; they see divine truth too far.”

True thought Granville, too far for me to reach.

“Our best works afford cause for humiliation; all our actions afford this. But our worst deeds afford no ground for discouragement in seeking mercy. No, not our mightiest sins.”

No discouragement? Easy for him to say. He doesn’t know how many times I’ve failed.

“But he who believes in Jesus Christ shall be saved by grace.” Mr. Simeon accompanied his statement with an animated gesture which, though somewhat exaggerated, compelled attention and respect.

One clever young clergyman talked dogmatically, trying to set everybody right. He asked flippant questions. “Mr. Simeon, Christ told the rich young ruler to sell all he had and give to the poor. Do you teach this?” He directed his gaze at the delicate gold marble-topped tables, prized possessions bequeathed to Simeon by a deceased friend.

Mr. Simeon spoke quietly. “Young man, have you learned the difference yet between the spirit of wisdom and the spirit of knowledge?”

The challenger was silenced.

Granville allowed his mind to wander as the company explored a theological technicality. Then his attention came sharply back when Simeon said, “The truth is, we will be seeking for some goodness in ourselves or for less sin in ourselves as a ground of hope with which to come to Christ. We think we must do something for salvation. That is but the spirit of pride. We will not allow ourselves to be saved by Christ alone.

“But remember, it is not what you do yourself. ‘It is God who works in you, inspiring both the will and the deed, for His own chosen purposes.’

“And now may the grace of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord go with you.”

The hour was up. Granville would have liked to hear more, but Simeon was on his feet. “I love these little conversation meetings; they diffuse a spirit of love amongst us. I would that I could have them oftener, but I must be glad to do just what I can. These meetings seem to me somewhat a foretaste of Heaven.” He dismissed his flock.

It was said of Simeon that all Cambridge was filled with the belief and love of the truth that he preached. Although Granville knew many an exception to that statement, he examined its application to himself. After some thought as he walked slowly back to his rooms, he concluded that the closest he could come would be to say that he would love to believe that what Simeon preached was the truth. But he knew such halfhearted acceptance wasn’t enough.

Later when he tried to pen an answer to Georgiana’s letter, he knew that would not be enough for her either. He crumpled his blotted writing paper in disgust.

Why should it matter so much? None of his friends worried about such things. Freddie Perkins, Merry Somerville, Frank Molyneaux, William Hervey—none of them wasted time in despondent soul-searching, and they seemed to be better off for it. What he needed was to relax, forget the standard set by his family, forget the expectations of his golden-haired cousin, forget the dejection in his own soul, and enjoy his university days as they were meant to be. After all, he didn’t feel any better after the evening at Charles Simeon’s. If such a virtuous act as spending a whole evening talking about religion didn’t help, what would? Why should he bother?

The relief of this thought flooded his tense body. A smile crossed his face. Relax. Give up the struggle. Accept things as they are. That was the ticket.

Seven

Georgiana sat at the writing desk in the yellow parlor, the morning sunshine flooding through the long windows and filling the room with a cheer she did not feel. Summer was now past, and she had received no reply to the letter she had sent Granville months ago. Through all that time she had suffered many emotional ups and downs, wavering between compassion for his struggles and pique at his ignoring her. And always came the slight fear that his silence meant he didn’t care. At the times when that emotion controlled, she saw again his tanned darkness bending toward Charlotte’s ivory paleness. Though she dearly loved her sister, she knew the bitter taste of jealousy.

And the fact remained that whatever Granville might or might not feel for her, she cared deeply for him. No matter what the future might hold, even if they were destined never to be more to each other than dear friends, she longed for his happiness and spiritual wholeness.

“Oh!” With a cry of frustration Georgiana looked at the blot of ink she had allowed to fall from her quill onto the piece of parchment stationery. Crumpling the crisp paper and determining to keep her mind on the task at hand, she bent over her letter. Since she had no idea how Granville felt about her, it was imperative that her tone be light, that she make it clear she was writing as her mother’s emissary, and that she impart her information as briefly as possible.

It took two more sheets of the duchess’s costly paper before Georgiana was pleased with her efforts. She read it over once more, then sat considering, a frown creasing her forehead. She couldn’t sign a letter to her Granville with nothing more than her name. Memories of that evening almost a year ago brought back his troubled countenance, and she longed to offer him solace. But at this distance in time and space, and with so many uncertainties…

At last she penned a final line, dusted it with sand to dry the ink, folded the paper, sealed it with a wax wafer, and entrusted it to the Royal Mail.

Several days later Granville and Freddie were taking morning coffee in Granville’s rooms when they heard a loud knocking on the outer oak door. The gyp crossed the room quickly and opened the portal to admit Revesby, Freddie’s tutor.

“Come along. Time for chapel, Perkins.” The intruder held out Freddie’s academic gown.

“Dash it all!” Freddie ran his fingers through his tousled locks. “When’s a fellow supposed to relax? Bad ton, getting out early. Deuced unfair. Ryder don’t have to.”

“As you well know, sir, Mr. Ryder is the son of a nobleman, therefore exempted from attending lectures, exercises, and examinations. None of which applies to you, Mr. Perkins, who are required to earn your degree.”

“Afraid he’s right, Perkins.” Granville grinned.

“That’s fine for you to say! Your crammie ain’t encroaching.” Freddie shot Revesby a baleful look.

“I flatter myself that Mr. Peacock knows his place,” Granville replied, then smiled. “Not that he wouldn’t bearlead me if he could. Now be a good chap and go along, Perkins.”

“Well, I don’t like it above half.” Freddie grumpily shrugged into his academic robe. “Tell Somerville I’ll work on the bonfire before Hall.” With that parting shot he was shepherded off to compulsory chapel and lectures.

As the door closed behind them, Granville gave a silent cheer for the Elizabethan code that allowed the university to confer the MA degree upon the sons of peers who met the sole requirement of six terms of residence. In the navy he had rebelled at the automatic advancement for sons of noblemen; but now that he had decided to relax and abandon his efforts at earning his way—in the spiritual realm or the secular, he was willing to accept the privileges of his rank.

He had, however, put his name down for several lectures on philosophy, mathematics, and the classics. With the beginning of Michaelmas term he resolved to attend enough of them to be able to follow their content, yet not with such slavishness as to cut up his peace.

And since his decision to give up his spiritual struggle last term, his days had been filled with a sort of peace—or at least enough activity to keep him from worrying about the condition of his soul.

As in the spring, the days of the new term were filled with sporting events and the nights with card parties. One day Hervey accepted a challenge to race his tilbury pulled by a high-stepping bay against Somerville’s blood gray along the narrow roads crossing the fields outside Cambridge. Another day everyone drove to Royston to view a mill between a prize student of Gentlemen Jackson and the Champion Molyneaux. As well as attracting gownsmen, the event drew all the Corinthians from as far away as London. Then there was a cockfight in Wellingborough between a noted Wednesbury gray and a much-touted red pyle. Somerville declared the pyle “not nearly up to snuff,” but Frank Molyneaux favored it because of the similarity of its coloring to his own. That outing required an overnight stay and drove Freddie’s conscientious crammie nearly to distraction. And, of course, at the end of each event, in the best tradition of sportsmanship, the defeated team stood drinks for everyone.

It all left very little time for serious endeavors at academia or for spiritual development. And except for an occasional strained look about the mouth or an unaccountable furrowing of the brows, there was nothing to show that Granville Ryder had a care in the world.

Only in times of quiet contemplation when he returned tired and empty after an evening’s revel did Granville acknowledge any spiritual struggles. Then he often found himself comparing his present state with the contentment and assurance he had known as a boy. Once in a book of religious poetry he came across lines by his mother’s favorite poet William Cowper that sent him into long moments of soul-searching.

Where is the blessedness I knew

When I first saw the Lord?

Where is the soul-refreshing view

Of Jesus and his word?

What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!

How sweet their memory still!

But then a new amusement would require his attention and the spiral would begin again.

Currently, the passion gripping every loyal Trinitarian was the determination to win St. John’s challenge to see which college could build the biggest bonfire in a practice run for Bonfire night just over a month from now. Today the victor would be proclaimed. The gregarious Merry Somerville had taken the lead in defending Trinity’s honor, and for several days crews had been at work scouring the surrounding countryside for firewood. Since early morning sentries had stood guard at the selected spot to protect Trinity’s mountain of wood.

By noon Freddie’s enthusiasm reached such consuming proportions that Revesby threw up his hands in despair and joined in the scramble for firewood, theorizing that the sooner the wretched pile was built, the sooner he could get his charge back to his books.

Feeling uneasy about the wasted time, however, Granville attended his early afternoon lectures and then translated two poems of Hesiod, so that after Hall it was with the exuberance of a clear conscience that he joined in the bonfire festivities. The sun was setting, leaving only a thin ring of orange light at the edge of the darkening sky over the fens, when Granville arrived in his phaeton.

Cries of “Sear and scorch!” rang around the pile as Merry approached with a blazing torch. He circled the huge conical pile of wood three times before he stopped, bowed low to the company, and with dignity due the occasion, touched the torch to the base of the pile. A great cheer rose as the flames crackled, blazed, and then soared upward through the wood.

Across the fields dots of blazing light rose where Caius, John’s, King’s, Peterhouse, and the other colleges had chosen to meet the challenge. Sounds of clinking glass and boisterous laughter mingled with the snap and crackle of the flames as the gownsmen passed around flasks and bottles. In several small groups ringed around the light of the fire, gamesters began rattling the ivories.

“A pair of sixes!” Merry called to those in his circle, their faces lighted by the wavering orange light. Bets were placed and the ivories rattled again. Granville’s slow smile parted his lips. This was like many a night spent in his early days at sea when the sailors gathered around the light of lanterns on deck and the roll of dice provided one of the few entertainments available. He could almost feel the sea swell below the boards as he placed his bet.

The punters became more and more engrossed until the cry of “Town!” brought them to attention. In the constant state of warfare between town and gown, the bonfires provided a perfect occasion to test the relative strength of their forces.

“A mill!” shouted Freddie, who was no more than two sheets to the wind from the liquor he had consumed. Others joined the cry and set on the advancing townsmen. Granville had no desire to take part in a fracas he considered to be inelegant at best and childish at worst. But no such considerations held his friends back. Caps flew in the air, and the sound of running feet signaled the arrival of gownsmen from other bonfires.

Granville stood aloof surveying the affray much as he had surveyed the duke’s ballroom less than a year ago. And now, as then, his appearance of austere hauteur was due not to any inherent snobbery, but rather to the intense inward struggle from which he could never truly escape. The longing for inner tranquility that he had for several months kept subdued now surfaced with a raw ache as the scene before him suggested an image of hellfire to his tender conscience. The flames leaped ever higher, belching clouds of black smoke. Whenever the hungry tongues reached a branch filled with pitch, a small explosion would fill the night with a shower of sparks, causing Granville to flinch as if he had been burnt.

As the mayhem increased, the brawling figures were silhouetted against the orange flames like grotesque demons in a ritualistic coven… like Granville’s own demons that taunted him—You’ll never be worthy. Every time you try to master virtue, you slip further into weakness and vice. You came to Cambridge hoping to gain merit, but you’ve lost self-respect in a constant round of gaming and brawls. Look at you! Imaginary fiends leapt at him from the fire.

The blazing fury beckoned him to join in the revel, to abandon restraint, to embrace the freedom of the moment. He took a step toward the flames, then paused. The choice was clear: The frenzied figures beckoned. The flames leapt. He could go forward or turn away. Submit or escape.

The scene for Granville was no longer a simple college festival but the embodiment of the struggle he had waged for years. How simple it would be to surrender, what a relief to join his friends, how easy to give up the contest…

And then he thought of Georgiana—her caring, her faith in him. He turned his back on the flames and focused his thoughts on his cousin. All desire to join the carousing evaporated.

A sharp cry made him turn again to the fire just in time to see a burly townsman break a heavy cudgel over Freddie’s head. His friend sank bleeding to the ground. As the assailant raised his weapon for another blow—which would likely be fatal—Granville rushed toward him. Moving with the speed and grace gained from years of military training, he caught the man’s raised forearm and brought it down hard across his own upraised knee. The cudgel dropped from the ruffian’s hand, and he howled, “Broke me arm ’e ’as! What’s a swell like you doin’ interferin’ in a man’s sport?” The man lunged at Granville. Ryder sidestepped neatly, tripping the attacker.

Before the man could right himself, Granville grabbed Freddie by the lapel of his coat, pulled him from the mill, and shoved him into his phaeton. In the relative quiet of his carriage, Granville hastily staunched Freddie’s bleeding wound by making a compress of a handkerchief. Then he drove back to the college, leaving the roaring fire and violence behind.

Hauling the semiconscious Freddie up the dimly lit staircase, Granville gained his room without attracting the attention of the vice-master living on the ground floor or of the college porters who would no doubt make their way out to the fields soon to break up the fight. By the time Freddie began coming around, Granville had him propped in a chair before the fire, had rung for Creighton with orders for hot water and bandages, and was removing Freddie’s cravat.

Mistaking Granville for his assailant, the rummy Freddie surged unsteadily to his feet, flailing with his fists. “Come on. Raise your maulies!”

“Perkins, please try not to make more of a cake of yourself than necessary.” Granville pushed his friend back into his chair.

Freddie flopped heavily into the cushions. “Gran?” He blinked to clear his vision. “I say, what happened?”

“Some people have strange notions of what constitutes an evening’s pleasure.” Granville dabbed at the cut still oozing blood on Freddie’s head. Creighton, holding the basin of water, began to turn gray as the water in the basin grew increasingly brighter red with repeated dippings of the cloth.

“Give me that before you fall into it.” Granville took the basin from the gyp. “See what you can do about repairing Mr. Perkins’s coat. I hardly dare hope his neck cloth can be rescued. Then I think some strong tea would be in order.”

The gyp gathered up the ravaged garments and bowed his way out of the room.

By the time the bleeding stopped and the tea had restored Freddie’s equilibrium, the night was far spent. Rather than take Freddie across the court to his room, Granville tucked him in his own bed and stretched out on the sofa himself. It seemed little more than a matter of minutes until the bell of St. Mary’s tolled six times, sounding surprisingly close in the heavy morning air.

“Can’t they muffle that thing? Deuce of a headache.” Freddie sat up and moaned, holding his head.

“Well, we aren’t likely to get any more sleep now. Let’s go for a walk to clear our heads,” Granville proposed.

Freddie rose somewhat unsteadily to his feet. “Come on, Boy,” he called to the drowsy spaniel who had stayed by his master’s side throughout the fracas. Boy crawled out from under the bed in an attitude of sorely-put-upon obedience.

Granville stared at the dog for a moment. “Why you don’t keep that mongrel in the stables I don’t understand.”

“It won’t do. He worships me. Sulks when I’m gone,” Freddie protested. Then he brightened as Granville grinned at him and his dog. “Oh, you’re roasting me, aren’t you?”

The two early morning strollers were the only moving figures about as they crossed Trinity Bridge. All of the previous night’s revelers were sleeping off their overindulgence. Granville and Freddie paused to watch the Cam’s slow, smooth waters flowing inkily beneath them in the predawn light. A lone duck glided past in search of an early snail.

As they reached the footpath beneath King James’s elms along the Backs, they quickened their pace. They continued in silence, breathing deeply of the fresh, moist air that still retained a slight smokiness from last night’s bonfires. The fallen leaves were damp from autumn rains, and a thin mist clung to the ground. Tree branches over their heads took on a delicate beauty as the gray sky gave way to the spreading pink glow of dawn. It would be a fine day. Granville stopped and held up his hand for silence. Freddie put his hand on Boy to silence him likewise. For some moments they stood listening to the tiny rustles and scurries among the leaves and branches—small animals hurrying to gather their autumn food stores before winter.

If life could always be pure and clear and simple like this moment, Granville thought. He felt he could stand there for hours, just listening as he so often had on board the Glendower. But the fresh air and exercise had cleared Freddie’s head and awakened his appetite. They retraced their steps more briskly than they had come. Boy, now fully awake also, bounded ahead of them, a russet streak among the brown and amber foliage.

Back in his room, Granville gave two sharp pulls on the bell cord hanging by his bed. Creighton entered bearing brass cans of hot water and steaming pots of coffee with milk. He then exited with equal equanimity, carrying two pairs of boots, their shine dulled by the recent excrusion through damp grass and leaves.

The young men washed quickly in the hot water and then turned to the coffee awaiting them on the small, round table in the middle of the room.

“My gyp’s stealing again,” Freddie commented as he poured coffee and milk simultaneously into his cup. “Sack of coals a week, regular as can be… tea, sugar, pocket handkerchiefs. Caught him red-handed. Said he was taking ’em to the laundry, but I knew better.”

“Why don’t you change gyps?” Granville poured his coffee.

“No odds at improvement. All alike.” Freddie shrugged.

“Literally a den of thieves, huh? I suppose they’re only living up to their name.”

Freddie took a sip of coffee and scowled. He didn’t understand the allusion.

Gyp—from a Greek word signifying a vulture.” Granville stirred a spoonful of sugar into his cup.

“Well, Creighton’s the best of good fellows. You’re lucky to have him. Still, don’t hurt to keep one’s valuables tucked away.”

As if on cue, the rotund form of the good fellow Creighton returned with the morning post. On top was a letter to Granville bearing a ducal crest and franked by the Duke of Beaufort. As Freddie was occupied feeding snips of toast to Boy, Granville opened the letter straightaway without apology.

September

My dear cousin,

I shall endeavor not to be angry at you for your lack of communication as I am sure you must be much occupied by your studies. But I must say I do not think it very obliging in you not to inform my mama of your health.

However that may be, as it is Wednesday morning, I am faithful to my promise to my mama to help her with her correspondence and have got my pen in hand to write to inform you that we shall descend upon you in a fortnight. We shall stay at The Rose where Mama and Papa are to attend a meeting of Mr. Wilberforce’s Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions. Their daughters are longing for some stimulating society, which I trust Cambridge might supply. Cannot you round up a simple country ball or rustic fair for our entertainment?

Which is the earnest request of (if she may presume to call herself so),

Your ever-affect. cousin,

G.S.

The letter fell to the table, its reader torn between despair and delight. Only hours before he had been longing for the quiet joy of his cousin’s companionship. Now the pleasure of her approaching visit dimmed as he thought of how much she would disapprove of his way of life.

Eight

No matter what his internal conflicts, when Granville went to The Rose the following Friday, his spirits climbed at the sight of the duke looking so sedate—exactly as a duke should look, as was often said of him. And the warm greeting Granville received from the duchess and her daughters was pleasant indeed.

The Rose Tavern, frequented by Pepys in the previous century and now often host to foreign royalty visiting Cambridge, was a center of gossip and political intrigue. But this evening it had come alive with anticipation as it prepared for the speech William Wilberforce was to make from its balcony. Even in the Beauforts’ private parlor, the bustle of preparations could be heard from the courtyard below.

“Thank goodness, we have seats reserved for us on the dais,” Her Grace said, observing from the window the crowds beginning to gather. “It’s going to be a terrible squeeze. Of course, that will make it more of a triumph for Mr. Wilberforce—and for our cause.”

“What of tomorrow—have you arranged any entertainment for us, Gran?” Georgiana offered him a biscuit to accompany the tea he was drinking. “Mama and Papa are obliged to attend their Abolition Society meeting all day. Charlotte and I shall be frightfully bored if you don’t rescue us.”

“I have procured an invitation to the concert at the Black Bear to be given by its Music Club. They are famous for their performances of Mozart, Haydn, and Purcell.”

“I’m sure that will be quite delightful for mama and papa.” Charlotte spoke up. “But Georgiana and I are thoroughly sated with formal entertainments. I’m longing for more rustic pleasures.”

Granville frowned, at a loss as to what to suggest that would comprise suitable rustic entertainment for ladies. A cockfight or prize mill would hardly do. “Well, perhaps a drive in the country, and, er, a picnic?” He offered after some consideration.

“That would be just the thing. We could drive into the fields and watch the harvest—with your permission, Mama?”

“Certainly, my dear. I’m confident Granville will provide the necessary escort.” She glanced out the window. “But the courtyard is filling rapidly. Perhaps we should make our way downstairs before it becomes impassable.”

The ladies retired to gather their shawls and gloves. The duchess donned a fashionable tartan turban while Georgiana and Charlotte tied on straw bonnets with gauze ribbons.

When they were alone, the duke turned to Granville. “And how is your reading progressing, nephew?”

Granville hesitated. Should he put a good face on it for his uncle? “I’m afraid it is rather, er, uneven, sir.”

The duke laughed and slapped his knee. “Well-chosen word, my boy, if it’s anything like it was in my day. I quite concur with the idea of encouraging young noblemen to attend university to set the tone for the lower orders. But it seems that the policy of conferring degrees without requiring examinations is an open invitation for young men to be fast.”

The entrance of the ladies rescued Granville from the need to comment.

By the time their party was seated on the raised area reserved for members of the Abolition Society, the gathering crowd reached beyond the inn and was filling the street. They were none too early, for only a few minutes later Mr. Wilberforce appeared on the balcony. He was flanked by Charles Simeon, the spiritual founder of the Evangelical party, and Isaac Milner, Wilberforce’s spiritual father and old schoolmaster who had become the intellectual chief of the movement. After preliminaries Wilberforce took the platform.

His small frame clad in black knee breeches and frock coat seemed like the slender but bent cylinder of a candle supporting the flame of his lustrous face with its bright eyes and shining white hair. But when he began to speak, even his striking appearance was overshadowed by the charm of his voice. Years ago it had won for him the title of Nightingale of the House of Commons. The appeal of his smile, the music of his voice, and the intellectual and spiritual force of his words produced an impact that his hearers could never forget.

“Let me declare to you at the beginning that the mainspring of our philanthropic movement is faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ which proclaims liberty to the captive and the opening of the prison doors to them that are bound.”

Granville’s mind turned in upon itself as Wilberforce’s words burned his conscience and forced an application to his own life. The gospel of Jesus Christ proclaims liberty… As yet he had found nothing but bondage in his own strivings. Each time he had determined to turn his back on what his uncle had so rightly termed a fast life, he had found himself a captive in his prison of pleasure. He longed for freedom from guilt. Was he so unworthy that Christ wouldn’t open the doors of his prison?

Wilberforce continued, “The Abolition Society has sometimes been criticized for being as much religious as it is political, but I declare to you that England’s destiny lies safest in the hands of men of clear Christian principle and that submission to Christ is a man’s most important political as well as religious decision.”

Applause resounded from the courtyard led by the Society members. This man’s single-minded efforts had led Parliament to abolish the slave trade seventeen years earlier. He continued to work for the abolition of slavery itself and now sought an interim measure to better the condition of the slaves to keep their hopes alive until abolition could be accomplished.

“And so we must follow our call to right wrongs and establish justice in the name of Jesus Christ wherever our destinies take us. At this hour in history, it is incumbent upon us to fight against the degradation of that odious state of slavery, which not only corrupts everything it touches with its plague spots, but also taints everything within the reach of its very atmosphere…”

Each word drove Granville lower as he considered the degradation of his own personal slavery. It was useless to argue that he was not as dissipated as his friends, that he was drunk less often, that he gambled less deeply, that his association with lightskirts at Newmarket never went past flirtation. Granville knew that a God who said, “Be ye perfect, even as I am perfect,” would never find him acceptable.

“Let our exertions in the cause of the unfortunate slaves be zealous and unremitting,” continued the orator. “Let us act with energy suited to the importance of the interests for which we contend.

“Justice, humanity, and sound policy prescribe our course and will animate our efforts. Stimulated by a consciousness of what we owe to the laws of God, and the rights of the happiness of man, our exertions will be ardent, and our perseverance invincible.”

The speaker’s voice was bold and impassioned with the inspiration that deep feeling alone could breathe into words. Although his health was failing, his power to move an audience was not. “Our ultimate success is sure. Ere long we shall rejoice in the consciousness of having delivered our country from the greatest of her crimes and rescued her character from the deepest stain of dishonor.”

The Society members were on their feet. Those in the courtyard tossed their hats in the air, and all within the reach of Wilberforce’s voice cheered and applauded. Granville, standing with them, wished that success in his own struggle was as sure. But one thing Wilberforce’s words had convinced him of: he could no longer turn his back on the conflict.

He must postpone dealing with his own concerns at least temporarily, however, for the next morning he had promised to take his cousins into the country. Enlisting the help of Freddie and of Meredith Somerville with his tilbury, Granville stowed a hamper filled by Lawrence from the college kitchen in his phaeton, and they called for the young ladies at The Rose.

Servant lads were sweeping the courtyard, clearing away evidence of last night’s meeting, as Georgiana and Charlotte joined their escorts. The sisters looked fresh in simple gowns of printed cotton and natural straw bonnets. Granville presented his friends to the ladies, then frowned at the long time Somerville spent in bowing over Lady Georgiana’s hand. But Freddie spoke for him. “I say, Merry, you planning to dawdle here all morning?”

“No, indeed. I intend to escort this lady to a view of the fairest fields the county offers.” Offering his arm to Georgiana, he led her to his two-wheeled gig. “The finest the carriage shops of Tilbury could produce, but none too fine for milady.” He handed her into the vehicle.

As Granville’s phaeton was larger, the remaining three rode in it. They were quickly clear of Cambridge’s narrow streets and into the fresh, bright countryside where they saw golden fields of ripened grain rimmed with green and russet hedgerows interspersed with clumps of autumn-hued trees.

Near the tiny village of Haslingfield, they pulled to a stop beside a “fair field full of folk,” just as might have inspired Langland’s Vision of Piers Plowman in medieval times. The field of wheat, tossed by the breeze, rippled in waves. Except for its color Granville could have thought he was on the quarterdeck on the open sea. The wheat was being harvested by a crew of laborers hired for the season to aid the men of the farm. Working beside them, with skirts tucked into their apron strings, were the laborers’ wives and older children, bundling the freshly scythed stalks and tying them into sheaves. Younger children romped and chased across the stubble, playing hide-and-seek behind the sheaves. Sharp peals of laughter mingled with the songs of birds in the hedgerows beneath the bright blue sky.

When the tinkle of harness bells and the heavy plod of workhorses’ hooves signaled the arrival of the flat wagon, several harvesters left their cutting to walk beside the wain and toss the golden bundles of grain onto its low bed. Then one worker began singing an ancient song of harvest.

Come, sons of summer, by whose toil

Wear the lords of wine and oil.

Others around him took up the melody, and soon the whole field rang with song.

By whose tough labors and rough hands,

We rip up first, then reap our lands.

Crown’d with the ears of corn, now come,

And to the pipe, sing Harvest Home.

Her face shining with delight, Georgiana clasped her hands and cried, “Oh, they’re far finer than any choir I’ve ever heard! Let’s eat our picnic in that shaded spinney so we can watch their progress.”

Making their way to the small woods, the picnickers worked in rhythm to the harvesters’ song as they spread their rugs on a carpet of leaves and unpacked the hamper. Georgiana exuberantly quoted from Gray’s elegy:

Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield…

How jocund did they drive their team afield!…

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,

Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;

Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile

The short and simple annals of the Poor…

Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,

Their sober wishes never team’d to stray;

Along the cool sequester’d vale of life

They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

Merry Somerville’s attentions to Georgiana reminded Granville too much of the ingratiating George Agar-Ellis. And now Georgiana was quoting the favorite poet of Horace Walpole, Ellis’s idol. A cold light filled Granville’s eyes. For one of the few times in his life, he issued a set-down. “I didn’t know you had a turn for the sentimental, Georgie.”

“Oh, but what appealing sentiment she expressed—and so charmingly spoken.” Merry leaned forward and lifted her hand lingeringly to his lips.

“I’ve had quite enough to eat. Would you care for a stroll, Charlotte?” Granville got to his feet and held out his arm.

“I should like it above all things.” Charlotte rose gracefully. “But pray save some of those delectable jam tarts for my return,” she called over her shoulder.

Georgiana gave her sister a frown that clearly said she should do no such thing for anyone who smiled so beguilingly at her Granville.

Granville and Charlotte walked to the edge of the wood where they stood watching the harvest scene. “How very curious! What can they be doing, all gathered in the center of the field around that last little patch of wheat?”

“I’ll tell you,” Freddie said as he and the others came up behind them. “Ain’t lived in Kent all my life without learning a few rustic Banburies. It’s unlucky to cut the last sheaf—final refuge of the Grain Spirit and all that. He’s likely to get a duster up over having someone hack about at his domicile.”

“Surely they don’t believe that. This is the nineteenth century, not the ninth,” Georgiana protested.

Freddie shrugged. “Maggoty idea, but there it is. Probably some cork-brained notion of the Romans. When country folk take something into their heads, it stays there.”

“But surely they aren’t just going to leave the wheat. That would be so wasteful.” Charlotte moved closer to the field for a better view.

As the harvesters encircled the standing wheat, the picnickers also moved into the field to see what was happening. A tall, muscular man walked to the center of the circle, grasped the stalks with one arm and whipped a cord around them to form an uncut sheaf. Then as he stood back, a group of harvesters, gathered in a wide half-circle before the sheaf, threw their sickles at the standing bundle, and it fell to the ground.

The tall man then jumped forward, held the sheaf of wheat above his head, and shouted at the top of his voice, “I have’t! I have’t! I have’t!”

From all around the harvest ring came the cry, “What hav’ee? What hav’ee? What hav’ee?”

“A neck! A neck! A neck!” Cheers and shouting followed, for with the cutting of the final neck of wheat, the harvest on that farm was finished.

The enthusiasm was irresistible. Georgiana led her friends in rushing forward to join the festivities. The neck, whose communal cutting could now bring bad luck to no one, was tossed on top of the load. The women and children dashed off to the woods and hedgerows to gather flowers and tree boughs to decorate the last load of the harvest.

Georgiana and Charlotte ran with them and began making garlands of fall crocuses and Michaelmas daisies. The men followed a bit more slowly, but soon they too had shed their coats, waistcoats, and cravats and in rolled-up shirt sleeves were cutting branches of oak and ash.

His arms full of green branches laden with bright orange berries, Granville strode across the stubble field, oblivious to the fine golden dust dulling the polish of his boots.

“Gran, wait!” With a yellow and purple garland looped around her neck and another held aloft in her arms, Georgiana ran to Granville. “Isn’t this famous? I’ll remember this day all my life.”

Granville’s slow smile came from deep inside him. “Just a few days ago I was longing for a simpler, purer life. It seems I’ve found it—at least for a day.”

Georgiana grinned at him saucily. “So do you apologize for calling Thomas Gray sentimental?”

“Certainly not. Gray is sentimental, but I will allow him perfectly appropriate for the occasion.” He grinned back at her.

“That’s much better. I can’t bear to see you sunk in the dismals. You’ve been quite out of countenance ever since we arrived. I thought perhaps you didn’t like our coming.”

“What a fiddle, Georgie. You’re just trying to get me to tell you how happy I am to see you looking so beautiful.”

“Oh, are you? Am I? How very delightful to hear!” She skipped a few strides ahead. “Still I think something is amiss. She paused to consider him, her head tilted to one side. “Never mind. I shall worm it out of you later.”

Georgiana stood on tiptoe and tossed her garland around the neck of the lead bay horse. He shook his head, making his harness jangle like a bell. The women now produced scarlet ribbons from their apron pockets and tied them to the harness and the frame of the flower-decked wagon as the men, Granville with them, began climbing atop the load. When the men were settled on the wain, the laborers lifted the small horns they had brought for the occasion.

With a triumphant shout and a blast from the horns, the wagon moved ahead. The women ran and danced alongside, singing and laughing. The children, with cups of water from a nearby stream, began showering wagon and revelers alike, showing their appreciation to the rain that first watered the crop, then held back to allow them to harvest it.

Across the field and a short distance down the road, the wagon lumbered to a stop before the barn that had been cleaned and adorned with garlands of flowers for the harvest supper. “Will ye join our horkey?” The man who had led the cutting of the last sheaf approached Granville with an open smile, offering an invitation to the harvest supper.

“Is it all right? We didn’t do any work to earn our supper.”

“Oh, aye. I’m the lord of the harvest, and what I say goes. I bid ye come and eat.”

While Granville and Merry went back to the woods to bring their carriages around, Freddie joined Georgiana and Charlotte and some of the younger men in carrying victuals from the laden wagons sent down from the squire’s house. Crisp brown sides of roast beef and mutton, trenchers of sausages and buns, steaming platters of green, gold, and orange vegetables, and an endless number of plum puddings and apple pies covered the long tables inside the barn.

Near the door of the barn, several of the women were gathered around the neck of wheat, fashioning it into the shape of a doll with hair and hands made of wheat ears.

“’Ere, now, is the frock we used last year.” A woman produced a slightly tattered white dress that would have fit a young girl. The doll was stuffed inside the garment, and other women decorated its hair and wrists with colored ribbons.

As the first red streaks of sunset marked the sky, the completed kern-baby, symbol of the wheat spirit and guarantor of good harvests to come, was hoisted on a pole by the tallest and strongest men of the party. All followed it into the barn where the feasting officially began.

As Granville worked his way through a plate heaped as high as that of the hardest-working laborer, washing it down with mugs of cider, his mind took a serious turn, calling to mind Jesus’ Parable of the Harvest: Some had worked all day; some had worked half a day, and some had worked for only one hour before sundown. Yet all received equal wages from the Master, the same Master who later, as the Lord of the Harvest, invited His friends to “come and dine.”

Granville looked at his companions—Georgiana, Charlotte, Freddie, and Somerville. None of them had worked for even an hour before sunset, and yet they had been graciously invited to come and dine. Perhaps not all rewards had to be earned…

Just then the musicians struck up a merry tune. A bonfire had been set in the paddock to provide light for the country dancers. They whirled and clapped in its golden light to the simple melodies provided by two fiddles and a mouth harp.

“Sir, I refuse to stand upon points and allow you to snub me at yet another dance,” Georgiana accosted her cousin.

“Did I do that?”

“You most assuredly did. I’ll admit to having been quite outshone by my sister, but you should have taken pity on a wallflower and done the polite at any rate.”

“You a wallflower?” Granville grinned and held out his hand. He led Georgie into the set, spun her around, then bowed to the lady behind him, and danced around the circle before the steps brought him back to Georgiana. “What a bubble! I couldn’t get close to you for your admirers. And you were far too occupied with your beaux to notice what I did.”

“I noticed enough to know that you danced with Charlotte twice.”

“So I did.” He grinned at her with a twinkle in his eye. “And a very graceful lady she is too.”

Just then the music came to an end, giving Georgiana an opportunity to stamp mischievously on Granville’s toe before she gave her hand to Meredyth Somerville for the next set.

The pleasure of her minor triumph was destroyed, however, as Georgiana saw the hurt look on her cousin’s face, the same look she had seen earlier when Merry Somerville had kissed her hand, spurring Gran to invite Charlotte on a stroll. And then her conscience stung her even further when she saw that Granville had not turned to Charlotte this time, but chose instead to bow over the hand of an awkward country lass thus far left out of the festivities. The maid blushed with pleasure at his attention, and her plain face broke into a smile that made it almost pretty.

Georgiana became so engrossed in watching the small scene on the sidelines that she missed a step and had to apologize to her partner. But then her thoughts returned to earlier times. That was so like Gran. He would always do or say something to make another person feel good—no matter how much he might be hurting himself. She recalled childhood scenes when he had received such severe set-downs from his father or rebuffs from his older brother that it brought tears to her eyes. But seeing her hurt, Granville’s concern would be all for her. “Pray don’t let it distress you, Georgie. I shan’t make such a muddle of things next time, and it will all come quite right.”

And no matter how many times such occasions were repeated, he never lashed back, but kept trying to please.

A short time later, with her softened feelings glowing in her eyes, Georgiana saw to it that she was in a position to be handed into her cousin’s carriage. And when Freddie, taken by the charms of one of the country girls, elected to remain behind, Georgiana smiled with pleasure at this opportunity to be alone with Granville. Perhaps at last they could have the serious talk she had desired for months. She was tired of the cousinly banter they always seemed to fall into as a carryover from earlier days.

The carriage moved quietly down a country lane flooded with silver light from the harvest moon. After a few moments of casual chatter about the day’s activities, she came to the point. “Granville, you must forgive my directness, but you know I’ve never had any patience with roundaboutation. I told you earlier I believed something to be amiss with you. I am determined to know what it is.”

“Why do you say that?” he hedged.

“Gran, don’t tease me. I told you I have no patience for it. I’ve been in your company very little since you returned, but even on those few occasions, I can see that you are unhappy.”

He made no reply to that, but she needed none. The look in his eyes spoke clearly.

“Gran…” It was hard to put her feelings into words, and she was afraid of seeming prying or pushy.

He turned to her. That simple movement gave her courage. She took a deep breath and plunged. “Gran, do you have faith?”

He turned away, and Georgiana held her breath, fearful of having shut the door that had just opened between them. Then he spoke, and she saw that he had turned away to concentrate on her question, not to dismiss her.

“Faith? You mean, do I believe in God? As certainly as I believe in life.”

Relief flooded over her. “Oh, Gran, that’s wonderful! I was so afraid… But if that’s firm, nothing can be really hopeless.”

But his next words shattered her joy. “It’s me I don’t believe in. How can I ever be good enough? What is enough? Must I live forever on the brink, looking to Heaven but never able to reach it?”

“Oh, Gran…” The pain and hollow desperation in his voice choked her. She longed to have answers for him, but none came.

“Georgie, I’m sorry.” He squeezed her hand briefly. “Don’t let it distress you, please.”

She managed a smile, but couldn’t get any words past the lump in her throat. All she could do was place her hand in his and pray that the specters be kept at bay.

When they arrived back at The Rose, it wasn’t a specter that came between them, but the thoroughly solid pair of hostlers leading away a shiny black carriage with a familiar pair of matched grays.

“Groom!” Georgiana called out. “Is that Mr. Agar-Ellis’s carriage?”

“Yes, ma’am. ’E arrived ’ere not more’n ’alf an hour ago. Must of cantered ’alf the way from London. ’Is ’orses are in a fearful lather.”

“Well, see that you cool them properly then.” Georgiana dismissed the stable hand and turned to Granville. “Isn’t that famous! I haven’t seen George for donkey’s years.”

Georgiana more sensed Granville’s frown than saw it. “Don’t be silly. George is just an old friend.”

At first she was hurt by Granville’s failure to reply to her soft words, but later in her room she realized he hadn’t heard them.

Nine

As determinedly as if he had heard that the captain of his ship were considering replacing Lt. Ryder’s command with an upstart, Granville strode into the vestibule of Holy Trinity Church the next morning at the hour appointed to meet the duke’s party. It was his full intention to wrest Georgiana from the clutches of that mushroom Agar-Ellis if it meant breaking his arm.

Fortunately for the sake of propriety in the house of God, Granville was outflanked by the duke himself, who was listening intently to George report the latest word from London that Wilberforce was toying with the idea of Britain buying the slaves’ freedom by a treasury grant. And Georgiana, her hand resting on her father’s arm, was hardly in a position to be forcibly removed.

At the opening strains of organ music, Granville bowed stiffly to Charlotte and escorted her to the second of the two front pews reserved for the Beaufort family. They sat right behind Georgiana who was between her father and Mr. Agar-Ellis. Of course, it could as easily have been said that Georgiana was sitting with her father as with Agar-Ellis, but Granville did not see it that way.

The elegance of the white sanctuary with its rows of pillars rising to sharply apexed arches and its Gothic stained-glass windows looking like bejeweled hands pointed in prayer was entirely lost on Granville. His strong jaw line was set even more rigidly than usual, and his eyes were like steel.

Even the animated preaching of Charles Simeon from the high pulpit, the full sleeves of his robe flowing majestically as his gestures gave emphasis to his words, made little impression on Granville.

“‘While ye were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.’”

At the last word Granville’s cold stare and wrathful thoughts focused on the carefully pomaded head of the young man in front of him.

“Are we in a state of guilt? God has provided a substitute and a surety for us in the person of His dear Son. Are we in a state of weakness? God has provided all needful strength for us in the operations of His Holy Spirit.

“If ever we have access to God, it must be through Christ and by the Spirit. It is for this end that the Spirit is given, and this end He will accomplish in all who implore His aid.”

The preacher, fully into the power of his message, removed his pince-nez and leaned forward over his tasseled pulpit cushion. He made a sweeping gesture that arrested even Granville’s wandering attention.

“The first thought that occurs to men is that they must do something to merit and to earn salvation.” At that moment Georgiana turned her head slightly to look at George, and Granville failed to hear the rest of the speaker’s words.

“But if we consider the condition of our first parents after the Fall, we shall see how vain must be such a conceit, how fallacious such a hope. What could Adam and Eve do to recommend themselves to their offended God?”

Simeon paused, the absence of sound again focusing Granville’s mind on the speaker. Then Simeon gestured with a long, thin finger that seemed pointed straight at Granville. “What could you do to merit the gift of God’s only dear Son and the influences of the Holy Spirit?”

The question was enough for Granville. The anger he had directed at George Agar-Ellis he now turned on himself. Indeed, he knew himself to be in a state of weakness and guilt, just as the preacher had said. And he recalled those phrases that his distracted attention had caught: Men… must do something to merit and to earn salvation. What could you do to merit the gift of God’s only dear Son…? Caught up in repeating to himself the few phrases that had penetrated his consciousness, Granville failed to hear the concluding answers.

“God of His own mercy and grace has given us a Savior, and without Him we can do nothing acceptable to God. We must be indebted altogether to the sovereign grace of God which first gives us to will and then to do of His good pleasure. Just as the gift of a Savior sprang altogether from the sovereign grace of God, so must salvation in all its parts.”

The duke and his party had been invited by Christopher Wordsworth, Master of Trinity and brother of the poet, to dine at the Master’s table before leaving Cambridge. But the classical proportions of the richly paneled room and the gleaming elegance of crystal, china, and silver on the long polished table made no impression on Granville. Mr. Agar-Ellis held forth on the scholarly work he intended to accomplish at Cambridge, researching the years Horace Walpole spent there “holding fellowship with her venerable books,” as the poet said.

Granville, however, was certain that what had brought George to Cambridge in such a lather was not the venerable books read by Mr. Walpole, but the presence of Georgiana Somerset. And he would have been willing to wager a pony that George would not remain long once she had departed.

Easily stirred by his topic, George continued, “It is remarkable how nothing that transpired in the great world escaped Walpole’s knowledge or the trenchant sallies of his wit, rendered the more cutting by his unrivaled talent as a raconteur.

“Oh, how piquant are his disclosures! How much of actual truth do they contain! How perfectly his anecdotes trace the hidden and often trivial sources of some of the most important public events!” In an excess of emotion, the speaker waved his napkin, narrowly missing a long-stemmed wine goblet.

“Indeed. To be sure,” the duke replied calmly, and then turned to their host. “And what of the progress on your new court?”

Since becoming Master, Wordsworth had fervently campaigned for more accommodations for students, thereby reducing the number of students living in lodgings in town free from college discipline. “Ah, you mean King’s Court, as it is to be called, for His Majesty has generously contributed one thousand pounds to its building. I wish Your Grace could have been with us last month when the cornerstone was laid on the king’s birthday.”

The duke raised his glass to the Master. “A most happy occasion, I am certain.”

But George, not to be long deterred from his topic, turned to Georgiana and Charlotte. “As great beauties yourselves, you ladies will assuredly agree that if the irresistible court beauties of the first three Georges have been compelled to yield to the ungallant liberties of time and to the rude destruction of death, it is a delight to us to know that their charms are destined to bloom forever in the sparkling graces of the patrician letter-writer.”

He turned from one lady to the other to collect their smiles. “In Walpole’s epistles are to be seen, in even more vivid tints than those of Watteau, those splendid creatures in all the pride of their beauty, pluming themselves as if they could never grow old—”

At the far side of the table, Granville was having a quiet conversation with the duchess. “And what is the news of your family, Aunt Charlotte?”

“The news most likely to make you stare comes from your cousin Worcester. He has informed us of his intention of offering for Lady Jane Paget.”

Granville was puzzled at the tone in which the duchess gave this information. “Am I to understand that you wish them joy?”

“Assuredly, I do, most heartily. We all do. Worcester’s happiness is among my fondest wishes and deepest concerns.”

“Then why do you speak with such a lack of enthusiasm?”

“Precisely because my son seems to lack enthusiasm.” She sighed. “I had thought he was developing a tendre for another. Ah, well…” Her voice trailed off.

“But what of you, Granville? We have had no opportunity to talk, and I had so hoped for a quiet coze. I shall, of course, report to your dear mama and papa in my next letter. They will be delighted to hear that you are looking so well. In fine fettle, I suppose you young people would say, although in my day we would have blushed to use so vulgar a phrase. But enough of that. Have you found what you came to Cambridge for?”

Granville met his aunt’s searching gaze levelly. It would be useless to try to cut a wheedle with her; he could feel her penetrating blue eyes reading his mind. “I have not. But I am determined yet to do so.”

“Indeed, I am assured you shall.” The duchess gave him an encouraging smile. “When an officer of His Majesty’s Navy has set his course, he is not easily deterred.”

Monday morning Granville stood waving as the Beaufort coach rumbled out of the cobblestone courtyard of The Rose. “Don’t forget—you promised to come to us at Christmas,” Georgiana called out the window just before one of the liveried outriders cut her off from Granville’s view.

He had two months before the Christmas hols, and he was determined that not a moment would be wasted. Any attempts he had made at gradual reformation had failed; nothing less than a revolution was required. Already a plan was forming in his mind. He would put himself into the hands of his tutor for reading. He would attend chapel every day. He would give one hour to Bible study before breakfast and another after Combi—or should he refrain from attending the easy joviality of the combination room? And prayer—how much time should be given to that? How much time could be after one had read the daily allotment from the prayer book? Mr. Simeon’s conversation parties and services at Holy Trinity—of course, he would attend. Compassionate work—well, after its hotly contested beginnings, there was an auxiliary branch of The British and Foreign Bible Society at Cambridge…

He walked slowly back to Trinity through its Great Gate, along Great Court with its clock tower on the right by the chapel and the Nevile Tower and statue of Queen Elizabeth on the left, and through the arch to Nevile’s Court with its loggia running around three sides. It reminded him of the long, columned walkways in the cloistered monasteries he had visited in Italy. For a moment he imagined himself walking there in sandaled feet, his hands clasped devoutly, his head bowed in prayer.

With a thoroughly unmonastic stride, he crossed the court and bounded up the stairs of the Wren Library. In all his months at Trinity, he was still something of a stranger to the long narrow room with its tall windows and pale wood pendants of Grinling Gibbons carvings ornamenting the dark paneling of the room. But now he was determined to develop more scholarly habits. He browsed for some time in the stacks running along both sides of the room until a small volume bound in gold leather took his eye. He drew it out and held it in his hand—Acquaintance with God. Where had he heard of that? Perhaps his father had a copy? He started to replace it on the shelf, then remembered. Georgiana had mentioned this in one of her letters. She said she was reading it with great enjoyment. He took the book to a small table in a private alcove.

As he scanned the chapter headings, the title “Impediments to Heavenly Mindconcepts” caught his attention. If there was anything he needed, it was a heavenly mind, so he might as well be forewarned of the impediments. He began reading.

God says, “Hear today”; we harden our hearts and say, “Tomorrow.” Neither Time nor Grace are in our Power, yet we often act as if we could command both. This is our way, our Sin and our Folly.

Granville sat up straighter and squared his shoulders. Well, he was done with saying tomorrow. He was determined to face the problem today. His features set, he read on:

Worldly-mindedness is another great enemy to acquaintance with God. The world is God’s grand rival for our Hearts, therefore the Love of it is called Enmity to Him. If then we would cultivate friendship with God, we must not hug His Enemy in our bosoms.

The faces of Granville’s friends rose before him; the tall, lanky Merry Somerville with his easy smile and gregarious manner, who seemed villainous only when he competed for Georgiana’s favors; Frank Molyneaux and William Hervey, their red and black heads close together as they sang slightly off-key in Combi; the sometimes caper-witted Freddie Perkins who was his closest companion. Certainly, his friends lived carelessly, but it was difficult to cast them in the role of God’s enemies. Well, they should have to be made to understand. Somehow they must understand the fault was his, not theirs. He wouldn’t have them hurt by his reformation.

Carefully avoiding contact with anyone who might be passing through the courts, Granville made his way back to his rooms. Relieved to find them empty, he flung himself on his bed. The gloom that his new resolution had held at bay now overtook him. He had always failed before. He would fail again. So why try?

But before he could sink any further in the dismals, the door flew open. He had forgotten to close the heavy outer oak door. A jovial voice broke into his solitude. “Famous mill on Pease Hill. Shame you missed it, Ryder. I’d have come for you, but wasn’t time once it got started.” Freddie flopped into the nearest chair and propped his feet, muddy boots and all, on a small spindle-legged table.

“It was top-of-the-trees. Caps flying everywhere, women watchin’ from second-story windows. We put on a good show for ’em. Handy with my fives if I do say so.” He held up his slightly bruised fingers and paused long enough in his narrative to look at his friend. “I say, you in the sullens?”

“Precisely. I am determined to extricate myself, however—from the sullens of sin.”

“I knew it. You shouldn’t have gone to church yesterday. Wrestling with your soul depresses you every time. Won’t do.”

In spite of himself, Granville grinned at his friend. “That’s easy for you to say, Perkins. You haven’t a soul to wrestle with.”

“Have too.” He moved his hand around searchingly on his chest. “Right here somewhere—sure of it. Just more concerned with my stomach right now, that’s all. Late for Hall.”

Granville was quiet during the meal, gathering his willpower for the task he had set himself. The prospect was not pleasant, but surely the most arduous effort would seem as nothing once he had earned his way into a state of grace. At the conclusion of Hall, force of habit carried Granville toward the Combination room with his friends until his conscience smote him. Before turning away to his own room, he made one last attempt to explain to Freddie.

How far short of success he fell became evident when he heard Freddie tell Moly, “Ryder ain’t cornin’ to Combi. Gone off after some female.”

“Female? You mean a lightskirt? That doesn’t sound like Ryder. He’s not in the petticoat line. You must be mistaken.”

“No. No mistake. Her name’s Grace.”

But two who did understand were those who shared his staircase—Anderson, the impecunious but scholarly divinity student upstairs, and John Henry Rennard, the elderly bachelor clergyman whose presence downstairs had more than once curbed Granville’s activities. He now turned to them repeatedly for counsel, and they were unflagging in their encouragement.

“You judge yourself too hard, Ryder.”

Rennard seconded Andy’s statement. “My thought precisely. You see yourself much too low. Now have some more coffee, and let us begin again on this passage.”

Obediently Granville took a sip of the weak coffee and applied his attention to the open Bible before him. Three nights a week, for three weeks in a row, the stairmates had met in Rennard’s rooms after Hall to study God’s Word. The flame of the oil lamp flickered, then burned more steadily as Rennard turned it up. The study continued to the end of the chapter.

“Excellent.” Rennard closed his Bible and reached for another volume. “My brother has sent me a book of sermons by the American preacher Jonathan Edwards. I want to read a bit to you that you may be thankful that your mind and your steps have been turned to spiritual things. Edwards gives a stirring picture of what the godless have in store for them.”

He increased the oil flow to the lamp one more turn so that it sent long shadows across the room. Then he began reading in dark tones that surely could not have been exceeded by the Puritan preacher himself: “‘Your wickedness makes you, as it were, heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell. If God should let you go, you would immediately sink, swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf. Your healthy constitution, your own care and prudence, your best contrivance, and all your righteousness would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell than a spider’s web would have to stop a falling rock…’”

Granville shifted in his chair. Was this meant to comfort him? Comfort one who was already so painfully aware of his own unworthiness in God’s eyes? Comfort one who knew how little progress he had made on the path to righteousness?

Rennard looked across the table at his two listeners, curled his thin lips in a half smile, and continued with a slight nod: “‘The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire… looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the fire. He is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in His sight…

“‘O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in. ’Tis a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of condemnation, that you are held over in the hand of that God whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you as against many of the damned in hell…”

A log in the fireplace snapped and sent a shower of sparks onto the hearth, causing Granville to start in alarm. The reading continued, but Granville needed to hear no more to be convinced of God’s displeasure with him.

Late that night after a painful time of tossing and turning, Granville finally fell asleep only to find his dreams filled with the images Rennard’s voice had invoked. Granville saw himself hanging by a slender thread with flames of divine wrath flashing about it, ready every moment to singe the string and burn it asunder. The heat of the flames scorched him. The acrid smell of smoke filled his nostrils and stung his eyes. As he looked upward at the unraveling cord, his mind filled with terror. Only one thread, as frail as a spider’s web, held him from eternal doom.

A cry tore from his throat as a flash of lightning leapt at the thread. Sweating profusely, Granville sat up in bed clutching his bedclothes. Then with a great rush of released breath, he realized that the rumble shaking his windowpane was the thunder of a November storm, not the voice of divine judgment.

But as he crossed the room to shut his window against the coming rain, he knew that someday, however far distant, he must face the eternal Judge. And he knew with equal certainty that there was nothing he could lay hold of to save himself—nothing to keep off the flames of wrath. Nothing that he had ever done or could do would be enough to persuade God to spare him for one moment.

Ten

The next morning in chapel, however, it was not the heat of the flames of hell that enveloped Granville, but the numbing coldness of a universal void. He shivered in the frigid iciness of a world without God. The rain outside made the chill of the cheerless chapel even more penetrating as Granville took his seat. He looked down the long, narrow room with its black and white marble floor and the indistinguishable picture above the altar. Even the stained-glass windows high in the white walls were dim and obscure, for they received little illumination today from the gray sky behind them.

It was all as cold as Granville’s heart, and it matched the sterile words of the devotional being delivered to the sleepy, sullen gownsmen. All was meaningless ritual. If there was a personal God, why would He hide Himself? Of all places, He should be in chapel. But if this cold ritual of religion was God, or if the vengeance-seeking, flame-throwing figure of his last night’s dream was God, Granville could well do without Him. He could find more meaning in a good horse race.

And a few days later, that is exactly what he set out to do. The frost-tipped, sun-gilded air made his horse step higher and pull his perch phaeton more briskly than usual as Granville joined his friends en route to Newmarket. At the junction with the London road, the carriageway was choked with traffic.

“Whole world going racing.” Freddie, beside him on the carriage seat, flashed his open smile. “Glad you are, Ryder. Missed you. Not cut out to be a monk. Told you so.”

“Yes, you did, Perkins. Who are you backing today?”

“Merry says Rubini. Won a pot at Epsom. You thinking of havin’ a flutter?”

“I might hazard a bit if anything takes my fancy.”

Then a familiar tilbury pulled alongside them, and Freddie leaned out to pass a flask of Black Strap to Merry and Frank. When they returned the drink, Merry raised his ribbons and left Granville and Freddie in the dust.

“I say, you gonna take that?” Freddie cried.

Gran took up the challenge and sped his chestnuts forward, the many capes on his dun-colored driving cloak rippling in the breeze as he dodged the heavy traffic on the narrow road. Frank Molyneaux looked back and waved his curly-brimmed beaver hat with a shout just as Somerville cracked the whip. His horses shot forward with a jerk that almost unseated Molyneaux.

If Granville’s way had not been blocked by a large barouche carrying two elegant ladies, he would have given Merry a good race. Instead he accepted defeat gracefully and raised his hat to the young women who appeared to be escorted only by their groom.

The irrepressible Freddie went further in his greetings. Holding to the side of the phaeton, he stood and executed a deep, sweeping bow, much to the amusement of the ladies.

The little town of Newmarket was so packed it was nearly impossible to negotiate their way up High Street toward the clock tower. “Bad ton—all the hoi polloi these races attract.” But Freddie didn’t seem to be worrying about his social standing as he waved again to the ladies in the barouche. “Would you ladies care to join us for some liquid refreshment at The Bushel?”

Granville raised his eyebrows at such forwardness, but the ladies showed no inclination to stand on points.

“I’ll take the one in yellow if it’s all the same to you, Ryder,” Freddie said, hopping down from the phaeton as soon as they pulled up in front of the inn.

Granville gave instructions to the stable lad and then joined Freddie. On closer inspection he doubted the correctness of the term “ladies,” but the women were extremely pretty. Clad in a peacock blue pelisse with an openwork white ruff accenting her blonde curls, the female Freddie had just handed down from the barouche approached Granville.

“I’m Clarissa. It’s very kind of you and your friend to invite us to take lunch with you. We brought a hamper for later. You must let us return the favor.”

Granville extended his arm. Freddie’s invitation for a cold drink had suddenly expanded into a meal. But Granville was rather hungry, and it was still two hours till post time.

Unfortunately, all the private parlors were already taken, so they were forced to eat in the public rooms. But the inn offered a fine cold collation of meats, cheeses, and jellies, and their companions didn’t seem to be the least dismayed at the prospect of dining in such a squeeze.

“I say, this is Fifi.” Freddie introduced his dark-haired companion who, Granville discovered, was not so young as a first glance at her ruffles and curls would lead one to believe. Nor, he suspected, was her French lisp genuine.

“I’ve just had a grand idea.” Clarissa fluttered her eyelashes at Granville, who preferred not to look much lower since the removal of her pelisse had revealed a shockingly low-cut gown. She reminded him of the women who had thronged the port cities.

“Well, don’t you want to hear it?” Clarissa’s slightly nasal voice and a touch on his arm brought Granville back to the present.

“Yes, yes, of course.” He wasn’t as sure as he sounded, but innate gallantry forbade insulting even one of low station.

“Why don’t we all go to the race course in my barouche? There’s plenty of room, and it’s nonsensical to take an extra carriage.”

Granville would have declined, but Freddie immediately accepted. So shortly after luncheon the party made its way across Newmarket Heath where Clarissa’s groom wrestled with the Herculean task of parking the barouche amid the crush of revelers, picnickers, and sporting men thronging the track side. “Oh, good, Jason. Just a little farther up if you can. I simply must see my favorite win.”

“You ladies planning to sport the blunt?” Freddie examined his racing card.

“I’m seemply wild about ze races!” Fifi’s pink feathers and yellow flowers bobbed atop her high poke bonnet. “Zey are so exziting, non? And so much more exzitement if one has ze small wager, are they not?”

“Well, come on then. Let’s go have a flutter.” Freddie led the way to the betting post where wagers were struck. It was obvious the ladies had no intention of wagering any of their own funds, so Granville and Freddie did what was expected of them and placed their companions’ bets with their own money.

“All mine on Gimcrack!” Clarissa ordered. A few minutes later Granville handed her a ticket and pocketed one of his own.

“I shall take Rubini az you suggested, Freddie.” Fifi was all smiles and flutters.

They were returning to their carriage when Merry and Frank hailed them. “There you are! Thought we’d lost you.”

Clarissa and Fifi were delighted to have their party enlarged by two more handsome young men, especially since they had brought a large hamper of port, and Moly was offering a share all around. He was pouring while holding spare glasses under his arm, when a trained dog act caught Fifi’s attention. “Oh, ze darlings!” Three French poodles in little pointed hats rolled balls and jumped through hoops to the delight of a circle of viewers.

The dog act was followed by a strolling band going in the direction of Clarissa’s carriage. They followed the musicians back to the barouche where the holidayers watched a pair of jugglers in red and yellow striped costumes with red pom-poms on their shoes and bells on their hats.

The first three races drew little attention as none of their group had money on any of the horses running, and the band, jugglers, and port provided plenty of entertainment. But Rubini was running in the fourth.

“Oh, pull ze carriage closer! I must see everything!” Fifi clutched her racing ticket to her ample curves.

The starting gun fired, and the thoroughbreds sped down the field in a pack on the far side of the ring before the grandstand. “Oh, which one ez he? Ze glasses, where are ze glasses? Oh, Freddie, eezn’t eet fun?” As the horses pounded around the field, Fifi stood up in the carriage and clung to Freddie. “There, zat one—ze jockey with green silks! No? Yes! Yes! Zat ees Rubini!”

By the time the horses reached the curve at the top of the field, Rubini’s jockey made his move. The gleaming chestnut horse began to move ahead, passing one, then another of the leaders. “He’s doing eet! He’s doing eet!” A flash of green silk crossed the finish line ahead of all the rest.

“I won! Oh! I won!” French accent forgotten, Fifi hugged Freddie with such force that he lost his balance. They both tumbled from the carriage in a pile of yellow flounces.

“Are you hurt?” Freddie scrambled to his feet and tried to help Fifi up. “Most awfully sorry and all that. Afraid you caught me off balance. What?”

Fifi took his hand, then plumped down again with a sharp cry. “Oh, my ankle—eet eez in pain!” She raised her skirt to reveal a shapely leg.

“Any trouble here?” A man in a brown and yellow checked suit who had been standing nearby approached them.

Clarissa answered him. “Nothing we can’t handle. Thank you.”

The man looked at her for a moment and then turned away.

“Shall we fetch a doctor?” Granville asked.

“Oh, no, I beg you, please. I do not weesh to spoil ze party. I will just sit here until eet eez better. I know! Get out ze hamper, and you weel all sit weeth me and celebrate zat I won.” In a few moments rugs were spread on the grass, and the party dug into the roast chicken and veal pie. Fifi’s appetite was undiminished by her misadventure, but the ruffled skirt remained just below her knee so as not to put any undue pressure on the injured limb. Granville noticed the loudly dressed stranger eyeing them once more.

The highly favored Gimcrack was to run in the final race of the day. Although Fifi didn’t have any money riding on him, she insisted on being lifted back into the carriage to watch the race. Clarissa, clutching her ticket for good luck, sat on the top of the seat back with her feet on the cushions for a better view. Granville, who also had money riding on the horse, stood beside her with the glasses to his eyes.

From the moment of the starter’s signal, Gimcrack showed that he was in every way a champion. “Magnificent piece of horseflesh! Look at the flow of those muscles,” Granville said to Freddie, who had mounted the box by the driver.

“Champion. Sure thing. Shoulda put a monkey on ’im.”

The horses swept around the first curve of the long oval track. Already the front runners were beginning to edge ahead, Gimcrack among them.

“Absolute perfection. Never saw a horse run so well.” Granville watched the horses pass in front of them shaking the ground with their pounding hooves. The cheers of the grandstand reached them from across the track. The shouts from their own side of the course were equally loud, vibrating painfully in Granville’s sensitive ears.

“Gimcrack!”

“Come on now!”

“Make your move!”

The band played, dogs barked, carriage horses stomped and whinnied, banners fluttered in the air—all mingling with cries, shouts, and laughter.

At the top curve Gimcrack moved to the front of the lead pack. The roar of the crowd was deafening. In the home stretch, three horses from the front group moved ahead. Gimcrack was not among them. For a moment it was impossible to distinguish what was happening. “Your whip! Use the whip,” Granville growled between clenched teeth.

The cheers of the crowd turned to an angry rumble as a furiously spurred and whipped black took the lead, followed closely by a gray who seemed to emerge from nowhere. Gimcrack and a long-legged bay went nose to nose over the finish line for third place.

“Can’t be.” Freddie shook his head. “Don’t believe it.”

“He was pulled.” Granville sat down heavily.

“Pulled?” Clarissa tossed her ticket to the floor of the carriage. “How can you tell?”

“Did you see the jockey? He was riding with his whip in his mouth! Can you credit it? I’d like to ram it down his throat.”

Granville regretted the money he had lost, but he regretted even more allowing himself to be in a situation where a fool and his money were so soon parted. If the wages of sin weren’t immediate death, they were possibly financial ruin. He wanted to be rid of Clarissa and Fifi and get back to the quieter scenes of Cambridge. But Fifi’s agonies over her sprained ankle made it difficult to abandon them.

“Better go into town. See if we can find a sawbones,” Freddie said.

Granville helped the groom Jason stow the picnic hamper and rugs in the barouche, and they drove back to town. “Stop at the chemist’s,” Granville ordered the groom. “He should know of a doctor.”

The chemist knew the location of Dr. Aspery’s surgery. He also knew that the doctor had been called out early that morning to attend the birth of twins and had not yet returned.

Upon leaving the shop, Granville raised his hat to a group of distinguished gentlemen gathered on the sidewalk. But he froze as he turned into the direct gaze of Lord Calthorpe, one of his father’s close evangelical friends.

“How do you do, sir? Ah—er, um, pleasure to see you. I trust my father was well when you left him.” Granville tried to put the best possible face on it.

“I believe he was tolerably well. Suffering from his headaches as usual, unfortunately.”

“Yes, to be sure. I look forward to seeing him and my mother at Christmas. Will you be at Badminton, sir?”

“Not I, but I believe my brother Frederick is going for the hunt.” Then Lord Calthorpe’s eyes narrowed in scrutiny of Granville’s sporting attire. “And what brings you to Newmarket, Ryder? Haven’t been to the races, have you? Such worldly amusement is not consonant with an upright life. Let the experience of Scrope Davies stand as a warning to you.”

Granville’s blank look encouraged Lord Calthorpe to continue. “Davies was a great and liberal favorite at Cambridge in my day, but he was a betting man. He fattened his pockets to the sum of twenty thousand pounds at Newmarket. But, driven by greed and addiction to gaming, he sought to double it and plunged. Then came the evening when he hurried into his rooms and requested his bedmaker’s help in packing. ‘What is it, sir?’ she inquired. ‘Ruin!’ he replied. ‘I’ve just lost all I had and as much more. I must leave tonight. Tomorrow will be too late.’ He died abroad.”

Clarissa chose that moment to call from the carriage in her shrilly nasal voice, “Darling Gran, do hurry! Fifi here’s in excessive pain.”

Granville took refuge in a deep parting bow and turned from his father’s friend.

Ever since the mention of Lord Harrowby’s headaches, Granville’s own head had begun to ache abominably. He longed for a quiet drive back to Cambridge in his phaeton. But Fifi cried once more that her ankle was hurting her severely. It seemed that the slightest jiggling caused pain to shoot clear to her knee.

“Freddie, darling, you must zecure rooms for Clarissa and me at ze inn for ze night I cannot possibly travel in so much pain. I know you would not want me to; you are zo thoughtful.” She waggled a gloved finger under his chin.

So Jason drove to The Bushel where Freddie engaged a room for the night. He and Granville carried the injured woman between them up the narrow, curving stairway to the private parlor. Clarissa lagged behind for a moment, but she soon appeared leading a serving wench carrying a tray of cheeses and biscuits with several bottles.

“Put them by the fire,” Clarissa directed. “I knew you wouldn’t want to set out without some refreshment.” She smiled at Granville with half-lowered eyelids.

“Thoughtful of you, but I’m not really hungry. If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll see if Merry is below.”

A quick survey of the public rooms, however, told Granville that no help was available from that quarter. The only familiar face he saw was the man in the checkered suit who had parked near them at the race course. Granville was just debating whether or not to summon a stable lad to ready his phaeton when the arrival of Lord Calthorpe’s carriage sent him back inside. He could think of nothing worse than meeting his father’s close friend in an inn where Clarissa was sure to come and fetch him at any moment.

“Not a sign of Somerville. Might as well join you.” He accepted defeat as Freddie, who was drinking wine from the glass Fifi was holding to his lips, obviously already had.

The next morning neither Freddie nor Granville could recall any events beyond drinking the spicy, heady wine. Indeed, through the blur of his fuzzy vision and aching head, Granville could barely gather his wits to remember where he was.

Then as the scenes of the previous day made their way to his consciousness, he knew. “The deuce! Rolled like a chuckleheaded flat.” That he should have been suckered by one of the oldest tricks in the book was doubly humiliating and infuriating.

“Been made a cod’s head of, that’s what,” Freddie muttered.

Granville didn’t have to check his pockets to know that his purse was gone. But a greater loss was the pocket watch his father had presented to him on his twenty-first birthday. He swore under his breath, too angry even to give vent to the words.

“Thing that’s worrying me—’’ Freddie made his way unsteadily to the window and opened it for a breath of fresh air. “—is how we’re gonna pay our shot.” He started to leave the window, then turned back sharply. “Oh, there’s a piece of luck. Fellow we can borrow from—friend of my father.” He stuck his head out the open window and yelled loudly, “I say, Lord Calthorpe!”

Eleven

Everything must be simply perfect, Nixon.” Georgiana swept into the great drawing room ahead of the butler who had been following her all morning practically at a run, making careful notes of all she desired in preparation for the Christmas holidays.

“That medallion will be the perfect place to hang the kissing bough.” She stood in the center of the room, craning her head backward to view the large plaster centerpiece symbolizing her father’s title of Knight of the Garter. “It will give excellent balance to the room.” She held a slim white finger to her cheek, considering. “Yes, that’s it. Make it in three tiers just like the chandeliers, only slightly larger. I want it to be the most elegant possible. And when the basic structure is ready, I shall take a hand with the boughs and ribbons. Have you got all that?”

“Yes, milady.”

“Good.” Georgiana whirled around to consider the rest of the room. “It must be decked with greenery—holly and ivy over all the portraits.” She paused to look at the imposing naval officer in the gilt frame over the fireplace. “Make certain you find branches with especially nice berries for Admiral Boscawen; we must do honor to the heroes of His Majesty’s Navy.”

“But what of the late Lady Worcester?” She considered the portrait of the elegant Georgiana Fitzroy. “If Worcester is to bring his new fiancée with him for the holidays… Nixon’s impassive face and poised pen implied that he would in no way allow himself to have an opinion on a matter of such delicacy. “Perhaps if we choose boughs with profuse foliage, it might just shadow the picture a bit.”

“Very good, milady.”

“And then we shall require garlands of laurel and bay in festoons from the cornice and mantel. And the other rooms and chapel in a similar motif—but no mistletoe in the chapel.”

“Yes, milady.” Nixon’s stiff back showed that under no circumstances would he allow so much as one berry of that pagan foliage to desecrate the family chapel.

“Now we must check with Cook to make sure she has all the ingredients for the Christmas pies. If everyone comes, we shall be twenty-some at table. There must be no shortages.”

“No, milady.” Even Nixon’s impassive face registered the horror of such a thought.

“Pheasant, duck, quail—Papa said they have all been in good supply this season.” She ticked them off on her fingers. Then she paused to lift her printed muslin skirt as she hurried down the scrubbed wooden stairs to the kitchens. “Venison, swan, bustards, peacocks—the gamekeepers have been notified, have they not?”

“Yes, milady.”

“Good. And, of course, the boar’s head.” Her quick steps led them into the vast white culinary center already bursting with scents of baking gingerbread and mincemeat, of roasting pork and beef, and of simmering apples and cinnamon.

Cook was able to reassure her about the food preparations and put both her mind and appetite at ease with samples of jam tarts, chess pies, boiled sweets, and steamed puddings.

Still sucking on a Jordan almond, Georgiana left Nixon to expedite the plans on his pages of notes while she went to the yellow room to report to her mother. The duchess sat at a tall marquetry escritoire, her soft green dress and the coolness of the Dutch paintings on the walls setting off the warmth of the yellow flocked wallpaper and yellow striped upholstered furniture.

“Well, Mama, I think we can plume ourselves that our Christmas celebrations shall be complete to a shade.”

“I do appreciate your instructing Nixon for me, my dear. Worcester has me all at sixes and sevens with the pother over his engagement. I no more than have the announcement written for The Times than I receive a note from London scribbled post haste that it is not to be announced yet. Then I receive a long letter telling me about all the fine qualities the lady possesses. This is not like your brother. You don’t think the lady has cried off, do you? I cannot bear to see my children hurt, and he did suffer so over his wife’s death.” The duchess put her hand-held reverberator to her ear to hear her daughter’s reply.

“The lady would need to have more hair than wit to cry off an offer from my brother. He’s the prime prize in the marriage mart.”

Georgiana kissed her mother and then sat down on a tall-backed, petit-point-covered chair. “Don’t worry, Mama. I am certain everything will be perfectly unexceptional when they arrive.”

“Well, I trust you are right.” The duchess picked up a letter from the pile in front of her and sighed. “But I am fearful I shall have to abandon my scheme for building my chapel in Monmouthshire. The subscriptions have fallen off shockingly, and I don’t know what to do about it. One doesn’t want to be in a position of actually begging from one’s friends, and yet I did have my heart set on the chapel. So many people in Wales are without spiritual guidance.”

“But what of the local vicar?”

“Alas, it is a plural living. The vicar is there no more than three times a year, and the curate is very idle. I had hoped to supply the district with a young man of energy and vision.” She picked up another note, the one informing her that Lord Berry regrets that circumstances do not allow his renewing his subscription.

“Would Papa…?”

“Perhaps he would. He is always most generous. Only at the moment all his attention to our duties in Wales is going to the clearing of Raglan Castle. He feels he owes it to our ancestors as well as to our national heritage. I really don’t think this is quite the time to distract him with my project. But my own income is quite depleted. I can lay my hands on nothing without touching my capital. ‘Pockets to let,’ as your brother would say.”

“Mama, are you still feeding and clothing your two hundred poor families every year?”

“I fancy it was nearer three hundred this year, my dear, but it wouldn’t do to bandy that abroad.”

“Keeping your light under a bushel, Mama?” Georgiana smiled, then shook her head, thinking of all the misery her mother had relieved in ministering to both the physical and spiritual needs of these people.

“You are too good, Mama. I’m confident something will turn up for your chapel. You won’t be obliged to abandon those souls in Wales. Perhaps The Society for Promoting the Enlargement and Building of Churches and Chapels? After all, Uncle Harrowby is its vice-president.”

The duchess shook her head and picked up another missive. “I’ve contacted them. Their funds are fully committed for the next three years. Unless, of course, I could see my way clear to increase their subscription rolls.” She dropped the paper with a wistful smile.

“But I am gratified, my dear, to hear that everything shall be precise to a pin here.” She held out a note, its red wax seal broken to reveal a fine copperplate hand. “Your cousin Granville informs me that he shall be with us the first of next week in time for the hunt.” She held the letter out to her daughter.

The duchess laid her hearing aid aside and returned to her correspondence. Georgiana sat back in her chair holding Granville’s letter between her fingers, remembering the night more than a year ago when he had reentered her life. What delight it had brought her to discover that Granville, the companion and idol of her youth, had become the handsome man of the world she had always known he would be. Though unaware of it at the time, she realized now that she had always been waiting—waiting for her childhood comrade to return. Granville was the touchstone she had held all her other escorts to—and they had all fallen short.

She sat long, a soft smile playing around her lips. But then the smile faded. What of the other side of the question? Had she been the image he had carried in his heart for nine years? Or was she merely a juvenile playmate, amusing but outgrown like his other toys, to be replaced by more sophisticated companionship?

From that uncomfortable question she shifted her thoughts to their long talk after the harvest festival. She had prayed daily that he would find spiritual solace; but as no letters had passed between them, she had no idea if that had happened. She must try to discover the answer. That would mean contriving to spend time alone with her cousin this holiday. Something must be done.

Three days later when Granville arrived bringing his much-neglected tutor, Mr. Peacock, along with all his baggage, Georgiana perceived that her cousin was still troubled. The deep furrows in the high brow and the self-contained silence of the man who had replaced the open, laughing boy she once knew wrenched her heart. She breathed a prayer for him.

The morning of the Christmas hunt all was astir in the servants’ hall long before daybreak. Georgiana wakened to a great commotion of barking and yapping from the kennels. This would be a special day. She tugged impatiently on her bell pull. She was determined that today would mark a new beginning in her relationship with her cousin. “Agatha, lots of hot water.”

The maid disappeared as quickly as she had appeared.

Georgiana picked up her hairbrush and began pulling long strokes through her golden locks. Frederick Calthorpe would be here to occupy Charlotte. George Agar-Ellis was staying in London for the season. Neither Merry Somerville nor any of Gran’s Cambridge friends were coming, so there should be no interruptions.

Agatha entered with a brass can of steaming water and turned to attend the fire. Georgiana shivered as she dropped her flannel chemise around her ankles and began splashing herself with warm water. She donned her best riding dress of Beaufort Hunt blue and buff. The finely tailored jacket with sleeves puffed from elbow to shoulder and the long skirt cleverly divided in the back to accommodate the side saddle horn showed off her slim form. “Just a bit more forward, Aggie,” she directed as her maid placed the narrow-brimmed polished beaver hat atop her curls.

“Ooh, milady, you look just as elegant as Countess Kaunitz what cut such a figure when she hunted here last month.” Georgiana’s abigail sent her off with a smile.

Her first goal would be to cheer her cousin up. It promised to be a perfect day in the field. If her best efforts and a day of running the Beaufort pack couldn’t raise Granville Ryder’s spirits, then he must be past hope.

Family, guests, Beaufort Hunt members, grooms, and horses filled the courtyard. Dick, who had been waiting for her appearance, brought Mayflower forward and lifted her into the saddle. Georgiana could see her father mounted on his favorite hunter, Free-Martin, a highly prized animal for which he had recently refused an offer of five hundred guineas. And there on Tom Thumb was Worcester wearing green plush and carrying the horn, which signaled that he was serving as Master of the Hunt today. Near him on a small brown mare was Jane Paget, the woman whose unclear place in Worcester’s affection had all their family astir. Georgiana had met her only briefly the night before upon the couple’s arrival from London and did not yet feel she could form an opinion of her.

Georgiana guessed there must be upwards of eighty in the field, most of whom the duke had granted the privilege of wearing jackets of Beaufort Hunt blue with buff lapels and brass buttons. Some from other hunts added a dash of scarlet in their traditional pinks. Others, not members of official hunts, wore riding habits of black or brown. The hunt servants were in green velour.

The pack would be taken in the mule-driven van to Worcester Lodge three miles away. But the terriers and small dogs who followed the pack and were so useful in case the fox went to ground in a hole, milled around at the horses’ hooves, adding their excited yaps to the snorting of horses, crunching of gravel, and the happy calls and laughter of the hunters. The weather was keen with an easterly wind, and there had been frost over the night—conditions that should insure a strong scent for the hounds.

The duchess and several non-hunting guests took their places in the Badminton coach which led the way out the arched stone entrance into the park. The company, ready for their breakfast, followed apace. The morning was complete except for its most important element to Georgiana—where was Granville? Georgiana reined Mayflower into step beside Charlotte. Her sister was listening to Frederick Calthorpe’s rather involved but apparently amusing story.

“…And you can imagine my brother’s shock when he went into the parlor and found Granville had also spent the night with, er, ah—” Here Mr. Calthorpe turned as pink as his jacket and suffered an alarming coughing fit.

Charlotte laughed. “Never mind, Fred. I am no schoolgirl to be shocked by the mention of a bit o’ muslin. But Granville? Are you certain?”

“Oh, yes. My brother’s a high stickler. He’d never have lent money to that loose screw Freddie Perkins. But, of course, the son of Lord Harrowby was quite another matter.”

Georgiana checked Mayflower to a slower pace. The beauty of the day suddenly clouded for her as if a thick gray fog had settled over the park. Well, if that was what he’d been about, the Honorable Granville Dudley Ryder deserved to feel troubled. She wasn’t about to lift a finger to soothe his feelings.

At the lodge Georgiana joined her mother in playing hostess to their guests, seeing that the servants kept everyone amply supplied with platters of roast ham, game pie, broiled tomatoes, mushrooms, sausages, and glasses of punch.

“Would you care for another slice of pie, sir?” Georgiana asked a pale, gaunt young man in an ill-fitting habit. She hoped he’d accept—he looked as though he needed it. The young man reached for the pie and gave her a kind, intelligent smile.

“I say, Georgie, I don’t believe you’ve met Mr. Peacock, my crammie. Cock, this is my cousin, Lady Georgiana Somerset.”

The lady whirled to face the speaker. “Granville! You surprised me. I thought you had forsaken the field.” She made her tones as frosty as possible. Turning her back on Granville, she extended her hand to the new man. “So you are my cousin’s tutor, Mr. Peacock? Indeed, you have my condolences.”

Mr. Peacock flashed the smile which so transformed his impoverished appearance and made Georgiana think that his name might not be quite such a misnomer after all. “Not at all, Lady Georgiana. Your cousin is a most courteous charge with a very fine mind.”

“And so studious as to give you cause to worry for his constitution, to be sure. We must have a long visit later, Mr. Peacock.” She changed to a less sarcastic tone. “I trust you will enjoy your day in the field.”

“I look forward to it most heartily. I understand this is considered to be among the finest fox country in the land with some of the best natural fox coverts in all England.”

“That is what we are often told by those from other hunts. I believe there is no country like it for long, fast runs. It’s often said to be the wildest and roughest of the shires. And did you know that fox hunting began here?”

“Here? At Badminton? You astound me.”

Enjoying the full back she was giving to Granville and aware that he could hear little of what she said, Georgiana prolonged the conversation. “That is the tradition. It seems that my grandpapa, the fifth duke, was returning after a disappointing stag hunt when he threw his hounds into Silk Wood for a last run. There he found a fox that gave them such a good run that thereafter the duke decided to hunt the fox exclusively.”

“I am entranced to find I shall be walking in the steps of history—or my horse shall be, at any rate.”

“Georgie, could we—”

Georgiana laughed and continued talking to Mr. Peacock as if Granville hadn’t spoken. “Popular belief, of course, is not always strictly accurate. But it is a charming story, is it not?”

“As charming as the storyteller. Have you hunted all your life, Lady Georgiana?”

“From my earliest days. But Papa was strict. We could not hunt more than three times a week until we were five years old.”

“You astound me. And is there no controversy over the—ah, fierceness of the sport?” Mr. Peacock was obviously enjoying the lady’s attention and was in no hurry to relinquish it.

“None raised by well-informed people, sir. Indeed, fox hunting became popular just in time to prevent the extinction of the breed, rather than the reverse. Foxes are so well thought of on my papa’s lands that servants who sight any on the estate are required to raise their caps or touch their forelocks in respect.”

This time Mr. Peacock had nothing to reply to her answer, so Georgiana turned away. “You must let us know if you wish anything. Papa wants his guests to have everything they desire.” Giving a final smile to Mr. Peacock, she turned her attention to other guests until the barking of the pack gave notice that it was throwing-off time.

When Georgiana was mounted, she moved forward into the riders and suddenly found herself between her father and her cousin. The duke leaned forward jovially to address them both. “If you won’t ride more forward than twenty paces behind the hounds, I think I may promise you something like a good day’s sport.”

Georgiana laughed at what her father intended as a witty comment. “Indeed, Papa, you outdo even yourself in such moderate demands. But I have no intention of being one of the thrusters in the field.”

“Don’t worry, sir,” Granville replied, “I shan’t override your hounds.”

The duke laughed. “I credit your good intentions, but I well remember what it was to be young and eager in the field on so fine a morning.”

Georgiana was relieved to see her mother approach. She had no desire to be thrown together with a “young and eager” man who entertained members of the muslin company—after winning her sympathy by expressing deep concern for his spiritual condition. The duchess, smiling warmly at horses, riders, and dogs alike, made her way through the throng to bid her husband farewell. “Pray think of me when you are hunting that I may be a preservation against your taking dangerous risks.”

The duke guffawed. “Have no fear, my dear. I am well past the age of showing off. It’s these young thrusters you need have a thought for—or rather for my hounds that they won’t ride over ’em.”

“I pray you are right, but my blood is chilled when I think of the hazards of the field. Take all imaginable care of yourselves, my dears—all of you.” She stepped back and waved them away.

Payne released the hounds, who replied to Worcester’s opening cheer with a challenge. In a moment the famous badger pies were throwing their tongues with a charming chorus. The music of the hounds, which has no equal for those who love the chase, rang through the wood and told of a good scent. Georgiana’s spirits soared afresh even though her cousin’s chestnut mount stayed close to Mayflower.

Within a few minutes of entering the field, the cry that all huntsmen wait for rang out on the clear air: “View halloo!” The duke himself was the first to sight fox.

Worcester sounded the horn, and the hounds flew to its signal. The moment the hounds were thrown in, the fox was off running in gallant style across the open country. In a few minutes Georgiana, riding midfield, caught sight of it taking a flying leap, clearing the fenced brook at the bottom of the field, its bright red brush describing an arc against the green expanse. “Look!” In the enthusiasm of the moment Georgiana turned to Granville and pointed. “Oh, that’s the prettiest thing I ever saw!”

She spurred Mayflower to a full run, and the field of hunters flew forward urged by the duke’s cry, “Hold hard!”

It was a run of the kind huntsmen dream of and talk about long after, and Georgiana knew the day would live long in her memory. The sharp air flew past her, her horses’ hooves striking the frozen earth in rapid rhythm, the blur of frosty green fields and stretching horses streaking past her vision. Granville stayed close beside her as if in the midst of the racing field they were alone together. Unable to hold ill humor in the face of such exhilaration, even against one so deserving of her bad graces, Georgiana gave her cousin a smile.

It seemed that everyone in the field sensed that they were in for a great run. All were riding resolutely, silently, making every effort to save their horses. Silently the pack swept onward; silently the field followed. In the intensity of the run, Georgiana looked straight before her, her vision limited to the eager white ears of Mayflower pricked forward for the slightest signal and, between the frame of ears, the fleeting piebald mass of the hounds.

The pack flew over a fence of bramble hedgerows. A few minutes later Georgiana lowered her hands holding the reins and leaned forward in the saddle. Mayflower took the fence as lightly as if she had wings. As soon as Mayflower’s feet were on the ground, she was off again. Georgiana turned her head just enough to her left to receive a salute from Granville who had jumped alongside her. She smiled with pleasure, knowing that he appreciated the fact that she had not moved in her saddle.

And then with a yip of confusion, the hounds slowed at the edge of a wood and began running about sniffing the ground.

“Stand still, gentlemen!” the duke called.

“Lost him in the gorse,” Granville said to Georgiana, the first words they had exchanged in almost an hour of riding together. “He’s a stout runner, but a fox like that always makes his point. He’ll double around in some clever way to show the hounds he’s up to snuff.”

Then the splendid chorus of the hounds rang through the covert and put the riders once more on terms. This time the fox was fairly away, but there lay before the pursuers the Brinkworth Brook. Some charged it, some refused, and some went in. Some, their horses nearly spent, dropped out. Lord Worcester and a few followers saved their horses by going over the bridge. Georgiana was among those, her mind too occupied by other thoughts to choose the stiffer going.

She had exchanged few words with Granville and those on perfectly neutral subjects—the sentences could have been spoken to anyone in the field. Yet they were enough to quicken her heart. She could not remain shut to him no matter how callous his behavior. Feeling a warm glow of righteousness, she determined to adopt the pious position of hating the sin, but loving the sinner. She urged Mayflower forward.

Sun sparkled on small remaining patches of frost, adding to Georgiana’s virtuous satisfaction—a glow that lasted until Fred Calthorpe cantered by and greeted Granville who was riding just ahead of her. Fred’s salute and bold wink told all that was in his mind as loudly as if he had publicly addressed Granville as a care-for-nothing.

Too late Georgiana realized that a stone wall loomed right before her. With no time to gather her mount or even adjust her reins, she closed her eyes momentarily and clung to the saddle. Mayflower landed steeply off balance, took one stride, and then almost toppled over. Georgiana’s heart thudded wildly in her throat. She was sure Mayflower would fall, but she sat tight while the mare somehow managed to find her feet.

Georgiana eased their pace and patted her little white mount. “That was very clever of you, girl. Very clever.”

At the village the hounds threw up their heads. Giving them time to make their own cast, Lord Worcester watched closely. Then with a low whistle, he quietly urged them on. Steadily and without flash, they settled on the line again like the serious, working dogs they were bred and trained to be. Riders followed hounds, running hard for the common. There the pack never paused or wavered, for the fox had gone right through.

But on the other side of the common, either because it felt the hounds too close or perhaps because it met some obstacle, the fox twisted about and sought the shelter of a thick covert. The confusion among the foxhounds required the riders to pull up. By this time many had fallen back to ease their horses, so that there were fewer than twenty still with the huntsman.

Among the stout ones was Lady Jane Paget, but she had had enough sport. “Henry, I simply cannot go on. I am not one of your tallyho sort! I am not an accomplished fencer! And I hate drop fences! And furthermore I have mud splattered all over my skirt!” She finished on a high-pitched note nearing hysteria.

Worcester, whose mind was clearly more on his hounds than on his intended, spoke off-handedly. “Quite right, my dear. Will Long will see you back to the house.”

“But, Henry, it’s miles. Surely you aren’t so heartless as to send me all the way with a servant?” The others turned away, uncomfortable at being forced to hear a private altercation. But Lady Jane’s high-pitched voice had great carrying power.

Henry?” she persisted, forcing him to break off just as he was about to give a signal to the hounds.

“Then stop at the inn for refreshment. I can’t be bothered right now,” he snapped without looking at her.

The lady was visibly near the exploding point, but whether in tears or in angry words, the company was saved from finding out. Fred Calthorpe rode forward and begged the privilege of escorting the lady himself. The relief of those remaining was almost audible as Fred and his charge left the field.

“The longer I hunt, the more I value silence on the part of everyone in the field except the huntsman,” the duke said not quite under his breath.

Then Worcester’s arm flew up with a jerk in a signal that the hounds were running on. Just one faint whimper, then not a tongue was heard. Only the shrill whistle of the huntsman told that the pack was away and stealing over the turf at a pace that challenged the fastest to catch them.

Because the wind had chopped round to the southwest and was blowing fresh, however, comparatively few people heard the whistle. So as Georgiana sped across the field, wishing to outrun her troubled emotions as much as to keep up with the hounds, she was almost alone. But not quite. As if to tease her with the fact that she couldn’t outrun herself, Granville pulled alongside her. “Must you be such a hard-goer? I want to talk to you.”

“Well, I don’t wish to talk to you. You—you—rake!” She dug her heel into Mayflower’s side.

Unfortunately, she had to slacken her pace as they entered a spinney, giving him another chance. “Georgiana—”

She hardened her heart against his downcast look. “I heartily hope you are feeling as miserable as you deserve, sir. I have nothing to say to you.”

At that moment they broke from the small wood and were greeted with the beautiful sight of the fox crossing in full view ahead of them by the river. Taking the little red streak as an excuse to escape the emotional turbulence she felt, Georgiana spurred the wearying Mayflower forward.

This time Granville’s voice was not a plea, but a demand. “Georgie, stop!”

But she was too set on her own course.

“Don’t! That bank is hollow!”

The words were no more flung on the air than the ground broke away beneath Mayflower. Horse and rider slipped into the icy flowing water.

In a second Granville was off his horse and running down the crumbled bank. Mayflower churned and floundered, seeking her footing in the slippery streambed, spraying water over the already soaked riders as Granville struggled to pull Georgiana from the stream.

“What were you thinking of?” he growled, standing knee-deep in the water beside her.

“I was thinking of putting distance between us, sir!” she sputtered.

“But didn’t you hear my warning?”

“I did not. Nor do I wish to hear anything else you have to say.” She shook his arm from around her waist and waded toward the shore, the water pulling heavily at her skirt.

She stumbled on a rock, and he reached for her. “I do not need your help!” Her words failed to have their intended effect, for she slipped again, this time on the muddy bank, and she had to allow him to help her onto the grass. Mayflower was already shaking herself vigorously, flinging icy drops in all directions.

“Here, let’s get this off you.” Granville reached for the brass buttons of her drenched jacket.

She pulled back sharply. “I will thank you to keep your hands off me, sir! I am not one of your—your pamphylians!” Much to her horror, the angry words came out with a strangled sob.

“Have some sense,” he ground at her through clenched teeth. “I’ve no desire to ravish you. I’d far rather throttle you. But I’ve no desire to see you take a fever either, so put this on.” He stripped off his relatively dry coat and thrust it at her. “Now get that skirt off and wring it out!”

“Sir—”

“Don’t get missish with me. I’ve seen you in your shift more often than your brother has, and if you don’t do it, I will.”

The sound of the hunting horn reached them from a distant field. A short, sharp yapping of the hounds told Georgiana that the hunt was over—she couldn’t look for help from any of that party. She obediently unfastened the band of her skirt, but suddenly she found herself incapable of wringing it out as her knees gave way beneath her and she sank to the ground.

“Georgie!” Granville was beside her in a second. “Are you hurt?”

Even through the coat, his hand on her arm felt warm. For some reason that made her cry. All she could do was shake her head.

“You’ve had a nasty shock.” His tone was understanding and reassuring. He picked up her soggy skirt and twisted it until the water ran out in a stream. “Here. That’s the best I can do.” He handed it back to her. “Can you manage to get it on?”

She nodded, but after a moment’s struggle found that her fingers were so numb she had to let him do the fasteners. “I’d give my quarter’s allowance for a dry blanket,” he said. “Blast this wind. We’ll take you to The Compass, and I’ll ride to the house for dry clothes.”

“We’ll do no such thing. I can ride home as quickly as to the inn. If you will be so good as to give me a leg up.” She suppressed a shiver as the chill breeze overmatched the sun’s efforts to provide warmth.

Granville made no attempt at conversation on the ride home as all his efforts seemed bent on covering the ground in as short a time as possible. Georgiana, content to let him choose their course, gritted her teeth to keep them from chattering and concentrated on the muddled thoughts that scampered through her mind like a fox chased by hounds. For all of his yelling at her and pulling her clothes about, it was clear that Granville was concerned for her welfare. So why did his avuncular attitude—I’d far rather throttle you; I’ve seen you in your shift more often than your brother—make her want to cry again?

And what of the deplorable behavior reported by Frederick? Why was she so much more deeply hurt by that than if it had been her brother? What difference would this knowledge make in her relationship with her cousin? Could they ever return to the lighthearted companionship they had shared at the harvest festival? Could she forgive him? Did he want her forgiveness?

A chimerical fox waved his red brush in derision, and her thoughts went yapping after it. She stretched to understand why this was such a personal affront to her. Then she recalled thinking a few days earlier of how Granville had always been her ideal. That was it. Her idol had crumbled, and she felt bereft. There was no one to take his place. She was left with an aching, unfillable void.

A tearing sneeze scattered all her thoughts and turned her mind only to the warmth of her room.

Twelve

When Georgiana awakened late the next day, on the morning of Christmas Eve, it seemed that the worst fears of the duchess that her daughter would take a severe chill were proved wrong. The combination of Cook’s hot broth, a well-warmed bed, Aggie’s recipe of volatile salts in syrup of balsam with oil of sweet almonds, and Georgiana’s strong constitution worked wonders during a good night of sleep. She woke with only a slight scratch at the back of her throat and a mild sniffle.

This was fortunate because even had she been running a high fever, she would have insisted on taking part in the day’s festivities. Aggie was full of news when she brought Georgiana’s breakfast tray in. “Such comings and goings, milady.” She fluffed the pillows at Georgiana’s back, helped her sit up, and put the tray on her lap. “Lord and Lady ’arrowby arrived before breakfast, and their coach ’ad no more than pulled back to the stables than that there Lady Paget ordered ’is Grace’s coach—ordered it ’erself, mind you. Well, I can tell you that put Nixon’s back up a bit, it did. But then Lord Worcester came in and said to give the lady anything she wanted, just so she left—”

“That will do, Agatha. It’s most improper to be gossiping like that.” Although Georgiana was careful not to issue her rebuke until she had heard all the news.

“Yes, miss. I forgot myself. But there is a message for you.”

“Well?” Georgiana set her cup of hot chocolate down and reached for a piece of toast.

“Mr. Granville. He begs to visit you at your earliest convenience.”

“My, that’s very formal of him. I’m surprised he doesn’t just barge in without a by-your-leave. Well, then, bring me my morning dress with the whitework collar and help me arrange my hair.” She was irritated at herself for her lack of resolution. Yesterday she had been furious with Gran and told herself she would be happier never seeing him again. Now she couldn’t get ready quickly enough to receive him.

The wide sleeves of the printed cotton dress emphasized Georgiana’s small waist, and it was apparent that the effect was not lost on Granville when he was admitted to the dayroom off her bedroom. “They said you were unharmed, Georgie, but you look so frail.”

“Thank you, sir. It’s all the fashion.” Then she turned more serious. “But I am perfectly well. I must thank you for your quick action in fishing me out and, er, wringing me dry.” She sat on the sofa and indicated he might sit beside her.

“Georgie, I can’t tell you how I felt when I saw you take that dunking. I’m convinced a good share of the fault is mine. If I hadn’t shouted at you, you wouldn’t have crammed Mayflower—”

“I beg your pardon. I did not cram my horse. That bank crumbled. It was no one’s fault.”

“As you say. Yet I feel…”

She held her breath at the intensity of his voice. Never a person to do anything lightly, he seemed to be on the brink of revealing a new depth of himself to her.

“You feel…” She encouraged him to go on. Sensing the hesitation in him, she breathed a prayer that at last he might be open with her.

He stood up and ran his fingers through his locks. “Hunted. I know how that fox felt yesterday. But I am hunted by hounds of failure, profligation, sin. You must think me mad even to talk like this, but I have wanted to talk to you again ever since we began our conversation after the Harvest Home… Why can’t I find peace? Why is it so easy for everyone else—my aunt, my brother, my—father? Will God never grant me the peace of knowing?

“Granville, your conscience is too tender; you judge yourself too harshly—”

“But that’s just it. How does one ever know? Rennard and Anderson tell me I must do more; others, that I do too much. Then I abandon hope of ever knowing, and I do something unspeakably stupid like…” The words trailed off, and he turned away from her. “Georgie, I’m sorry. That’s what I came to say. I felt that your accident was a kind of punishment—on me—for things I deeply regret.” There was anguish in his voice.

Standing with his back to her, he couldn’t see the radiance on her face. If he was repentant, then all could be freely forgiven. Her hero had risen from the dust, perhaps less heroic, but more vulnerably human and therefore more dear. She went quietly to him and put her hand over the ones he held clenched at his back. “Then, sir, you must ask forgiveness and mend your ways.”

He grasped her hand tightly as he turned to her. “But that’s just it—I have. So many times. And each time the failure is worse.”

“I know.”

“You know?”

She nodded. “I heard Freddie Calthorpe say… his brother—”

“Oh, of course. That’s what you meant about pamphylians yesterday. Georgiana, I swear to you—”

“It’s all right, Granville.”

“No. It is not right at all. I have never been a bigger fool. But it’s not what it looked like… not what you’re thinking.” He dropped her hand and turned sharply away. “Not that it makes much difference.”

“Well, it makes a difference to me.” Her words came out on a rush of air as if she had been holding her breath for days. As, indeed, she had.

“It does? You care?”

His eyes burned into her. She returned his gaze levelly, looking directly at him. “Yes, Gran, I care. I care very much.”

He drew a long breath, held it, and released it with something like a shudder before he spoke. “Then I shall try again. Harder.”

“Good. You might start by attending to that poor Mr. Peacock. You didn’t intend to study over the holiday, did you?”

“Certainly not.”

“Then why did you bring your tutor? Not that he isn’t perfectly welcome, of course.”

“It’s customary. Everyone takes his crammie home.”

“But you weren’t obliged to?”

“No.”

“Then you didn’t really want to get away from your responsibilities, did you?”

Granville was silent a long time. “No, I didn’t.”

Georgiana smiled. “That’s a good sign. Now you must leave this slough of despond and come help me stir the plum porridge.”

She led the way to the bustling kitchen where throughout the day every member of the family would put in an appearance to take a hand in stirring this traditional Christmas dish. The big pot of spicy meat broth with raisins, fruit juice, and brown bread crumbs was simmering beside the open hearth. Georgiana took an enormous wooden spoon and gave it several vigorous stirs. “You must make a wish while you stir. If the pudding cooks without lumps, your wish will come true.” She spoke lightly, but then her face turned serious as she formulated her wish.

Discarding several attempts at being more specific, she finally returned to the theme she had determined on before the hunt: I wish Granville to be happy. She gave a final vigorous swirl to the savory pudding and handed the spoon to her companion. He regarded the contents of the pot for a serious moment. Then he gave Georgiana such an intense look as the spoon circled the pot that she was compelled to ask, in spite of knowing that wishes were never to be told, “What did you wish?”

Granville gave her his slow smile and raised one eyebrow. “I’ll tell you at Easter… if you’re very good.”

She started to protest, but just then Nixon appeared at the kitchen door. “Milady wished to be notified when the kissing bough was ready to decorate.”

“Oh, indeed. Thank you, Nixon. You must help too, Gran.” And she took off almost at a skip for the servants’ hall.

The vast room hung with copper pans and lined with antlers was a hive of activity centering around the construction of the magnificent Christmas centerpiece. It hung in the middle of the room suspended by ropes running from the fireplace mantel to one of the windows that extended from wainscot to ceiling. One long oak table held a stack of small gaily wrapped packages supplied by family members. Another was rapidly being covered with red satin rosettes formed by maids cutting and tying lengths from bolts of ribbons. Three footmen cleared away the trimmings of yew boughs, ivy runners, and holly branches that had been used to cover the three concentric circles forming the structure. “Where are the apples and candles, Nixon?”

“Just coming in now, milady.” As he spoke, a kitchen maid entered carrying a wooden bowl filled with red apples, followed closely by a footman bearing racks of newly made candles.

“Perfect! Gran, you attach garlands of apples with those wires, and I’ll tie the presents on with these streamers.” She picked up a long, shiny red ribbon.

“Yes, milady,” Gran replied with a perfectly straight face and a twinkle in his eye.

They had worked companionably for some time amid the bustle of servants and the giggles of maids when Georgiana remarked, “Mama told me that two years ago a member of Queen Caroline’s court did the most remarkable thing at a children’s party. She had a fir tree brought inside the hall and attached candles and presents to it. Princess Frederica had told her they always do that in Germany. It was quite the nine days’ wonder. But I don’t think I should like it half so well as an English kissing bough.” She completed fastening a festoon of rosettes around the large top ring.

Granville laughed. “If the truth were known, Queen Caroline’s lady-in-waiting probably didn’t have a staff she could bludgeon into all the work of erecting such an elaboration as this. Chopping down a fir tree sounds infinitely easier.”

“Do I detect a note of complaint?” She looked at him severely.

“No, milady. Your humble servant begs forgiveness.”

“Well, I should hope so.” She stood back to admire their labors. “Excellent. Just one thing missing.” She selected the largest, most elegant rosette and used it to hang the final piece of greenery from the very center of the small bottom ring—a large green clump of mistletoe heavy with clusters of waxy white berries.

“Quite the most perfect kissing bough I have ever seen,” she announced with triumph. “You may hang it, Nixon.” The footmen all blanched at the thought of carrying that magnificent creation to the Great Drawing Room and suspending it from the ceiling, but Georgiana didn’t notice. She turned to her cousin. “And now you must excuse me, sir. I have one more duty to perform which is of a private nature.” She turned with a secret smile and hurried to her room.

But Agatha didn’t seem entirely pleased to see her. “Are you feeling just the thing, miss? You look tolerably pale.”

“I’m feeling top-of-the-trees, Aggie. But I think I took the stairs a bit too quickly. My head is spinning. And now that you mention it, my throat is rather dry too. I should like a tray of camomile tea. I have some writing to do.”

“Very good, miss. And a dose of my recipe too, I should think.”

“Oh, very well, if you insist, Aggie.” Georgiana laughed at her maid’s concern and dipped a freshly trimmed quill in ink. Then she sat considering for some time before putting pen to paper.

When they were small, the Somerset children had all been directed by their tutors in the composition of Christmas pieces which they laboriously copied onto sheets of decorated paper in their best handwriting. The polite greetings were then presented to their parents on Christmas Eve. Georgiana had long outgrown the tradition, but she now had a new application for the custom.

Her pen moved slowly over the paper, then went back to scratch out and make an insertion. There was another long pause before she dipped her quill again. But she dipped far too deeply and blotted her paper. After some time of uneven effort, she laid down her quill with a sigh and took a sip of the tea Agatha had quietly placed on her writing table.

Georgiana’s forehead wrinkled in furrows as she read the results of her labors:

A Christmas prayer I wish for you,

Of peace and joy the whole year through;

Of laughter, love, and much content,

That all may be from Heaven sent

G.S.

Embarrassed that such a simple rhyme should have cost her so much effort, she started to crumple it up. Then with the gloomy certainty that another attempt would fail to produce much improvement, she took a final sip of tea and recopied the couplets on a piece of parchment elaborately ornamented in scrolled designs of red, gold, and green. When it was finished, she sprinkled it with sand, rolled it into a cylinder, and sealed it with a gold wax wafer.

She rose wearily and rang for Agatha. “Aggie, please take this to the drawing room and place it in the small drawer on the lower right of the Pietradura cabinet.” She handed her the parchment.

“Yes, milady.” The maid bobbed a curtsy and left Georgiana alone.

If she didn’t change her mind, she would give the poem to Gran tonight. But for now her head was aching, and she felt she must have a nap before the evening’s festivities…

“Most sorry I am to disturb you, miss, but there won’t be time to do a proper job of dressing if we don’t start soon.”

Georgiana opened her eyes. The lighted candles in the room told her that it was indeed time to be about her toilette. “Yes, Aggie, thank you. You know which dress.”

“Yes, indeed, milady. It’s the most beautiful one you’ve ever worn, if I may say so.”

The deep rose silk gown that so perfectly displayed Georgiana’s own delicate pink and gold coloring was cut low on her shoulders, with softly puffed sleeves balancing the ornamentation of plush and silk roses and tuberoses arranged in rows around the bottom half of the skirt. In addition, the dressmaker had supplied extra matching flowers, which Agatha cleverly arranged in a pyramid behind Georgiana’s high golden curls.

Agatha administered the finishing touches by fastening on the opal, pearl, and diamond earrings and necklace that had belonged to Georgiana’s grandmother, the fifth duchess. Georgiana pulled on her mitts of Brabant lace and picked up her fan.

Apparently the duchess had been waiting for her daughter’s appearance. As soon as Georgiana entered the Great Drawing Room with its green silk walls and crystal chandeliers shimmering in candlelight, the duchess signaled Nixon to begin. The cheerful buzz of conversation from the assembled company quieted as the musicians struck up a merry tune and four liveried and powdered footmen entered the room bearing the wassail bowl decorated with standing sprays of evergreens. They paraded it around the room so that all could be enticed by its pungent aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.

When the bowl began its second circle around the floor, the duke took up the musicians’ tune and burst forth with the traditional Gloucestershire carol. The entire company immediately joined him.

Wassail, wassail, all over the town;

Our bread, it is white and our ale, it is brown.

Our bowl, it is made of the white maple tree;

With the wassailing bowl we will drink unto thee!

Amid laughter and applause, the bowl was set in front of the fireplace to keep it warm, and Nixon served the spicy drink.

“I brought you a cup with bits of apple in it. I hope you like it that way.” Georgiana turned to see Granville before her.

For a moment she stared. It had been so long since she had seen him in formal evening attire that she had forgotten how he stood out from all those around him. His exquisitely cut black evening clothes and gleaming white pleated shirt with a fluted ruffle between collar and waistcoat were the perfect accompaniment to his military bearing and strong features. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t see you approach.” Georgiana gathered her wits and accepted the proffered cup. “Yes, by all means, we must have bits of roasted apple—that’s much the best part of a wassail bowl.” She raised her cup to him before she drank. Then she looked around the room. “Your parents are looking well. I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting with them since their arrival.”

“It is a pleasure I have indulged in only briefly myself.”

His slight emphasis on the word pleasure made Georgiana raise her eyebrows, but the sight of her brother bowing over the Countess Susan’s hand and then leading her to the floor with a flourish made her choose another subject. “There is Worcester dancing with your mama. I’m happy to see that he doesn’t appear at all blue-deviled over Lady Jane’s departure.”

“If the truth were told, I should say he looks quite relieved,” Granville said. “I only hope poor Freddie Calthorpe doesn’t have too ramshackle a time escorting her back to London.”

“Oh, is that where Fred is? Dear, faithful Calthe. How gallant of him to do escort duty.” Then she smiled. “And I shouldn’t wonder if you were relieved to see the back of him.”

“The harm has already been done in that quarter.” His dark tone made Georgiana regret having mentioned it. “When I have a serious talk with my father, I fear I shall learn the extent of the harm. Ah, but here’s old Peacock come to wish us merry, haven’t you?”

The tutor gave a slight bow. “Indeed, I have. The very merriest felicitations of the season, Lady Georgiana.”

“Thank you, Mr. Peacock. Oh, here is my sister. Have you been introduced?” Georgiana waved to Charlotte, who joined them in a shimmering dress of green and silver shot India gauze, its white mull skirt embroidered in green and silver flowers to match her diamond and emerald jewels.

Georgiana wasn’t quite sure how it happened, but after a few moments’ conversation among the four of them, she found herself being led to the far end of the room by Mr. Peacock to dance a lively country reel. Her suspicion that it had come about because Granville had first bowed over Charlotte’s outstretched white hand did nothing to put her in humor.

Her unease increased when, at the end of the air, Charlotte and Granville concluded their dance directly beneath the mistletoe center of the kissing bough, and Granville did a rather more complete job of the gallantries than tradition required. Well, she reminded herself, you wanted him to be happy.

“I should like to join my mama now, sir,” she said to her partner, who appeared to be on the brink of requesting another dance.

The duchess was standing near the fireplace conversing with her brother’s wife, Harriet, Lady Granville, newly arrived for the festivities. Harriet was saying, “I am indeed relieved to see that you have not discontinued dancing and all entertainments as some who follow your persuasion have.”

The duchess gave her sister-in-law a patient smile. “I’ll allow the question did trouble me severely at first, Harriet. As soon as I saw the Light, I introduced family prayers into our home, a valued custom that still continues. I used for that office a handbook edited by Mr. Charles Simeon; so when this troubling question arose concerning entertainments, it was natural that I should turn to the reverend Mr. Simeon for advice.”

“And he no doubt told you to discontinue them at once for your soul’s sake?”

“On the contrary. He did his best to help me see the difference between Christian liberty and Christian duty. He said that although he himself possessed no talent and felt no inclination for worldly pleasures, he realized that the position of Christians in high society is far different.”

“My, my. How encouraging to learn that even the holy Simeon is capable of thinking in shades of gray.” light strains of music and the soft swish of dancers’ feet accompanied their conversation.

“Pray do not be hard on him, sister. He has been of great help to me. He wrote me a most well-reasoned letter to guide me through my dilemma. ‘What would be wrong if done from choice might not be wrong if done for fear of offending others, or of casting a stumbling block before them, or with a view to win them,’ he said.”

“And so you chose to continue dancing. Very wise of you, Sophia.”

“Yes, I did, and I trust it has been the right decision. At things sinful in themselves, such as card parties and races, I requested the duke to excuse myself and our daughters; but as to balls and rout parties, I assured him we were ready to go whenever he wished it. It has been a happy arrangement.”

“Well, I am pleased to hear it.” Harriet waved her purple satin fan. “Still I cannot but think, sister, that this evangelical life is a very melancholy one for the maiden Ladies Somerset. Only think, the eldest must content themselves with court balls, and the prospects of those remaining in the nursery grow darker still—why, just look at dear Georgie.”

“Shocking, isn’t it, Auntie?” Georgiana good-humoredly kissed her Aunt Harriet. “Quite upon the shelf, I know. And then there’s poor Charlotte, five years older. Why, she’s been at her last prayers for ages.”

“You may mock me, miss, but you’ll find to your discredit that not every man wants to marry into a family of enthusiasts, no matter how high the rank. Why, I don’t mind telling you that if it hadn’t been for the inducement of seeing his dear sister to whom he’s devoted, my husband should not have been above half pleased to come here.”

At that moment they were joined by Lord Granville, for whom his sisters had each named their second sons. “Now, now, my pet, that’s doing it much too brown. Mustn’t be so hard on my sister, although I will say, Sophia, things have much improved here. Why, I remember when we used to occupy ourselves, all of us, the whole evening in playing chess. Our days were all alike—breakfast about twelve; then the post would come in about two; then Harriet and I would read the Nouvelle Heloise together till time to dress for dinner; after dinner we would play at chess and go to bed between one and two.”

“What a shocking bore, Uncle! How did you ever manage to bear with us?” Georgiana’s eyes sparkled in the firelight.

“Fond of my sister. My only excuse. But the place was always so full of children. Children everywhere, Sophia. Can’t imagine what you were thinking of. Much better now that some of you are grown up, Puss.” He tweaked Georgiana’s cheek. “Do you remember the lessons your Aunt Harriet used to give you and Charlotte upon the harpsichord?”

“Indeed, I do, Uncle. But I fear Charlotte’s produced more lasting results than mine. I am a sad duffer at the instrument.”

“Your talk of children reminds me of my duty, brother,” the duchess said. “It’s time for the younger ones to bid our guests good night. Come with me, Georgiana. They’ll be none too anxious to leave the party.” She gathered the gray and silver skirts of her dress and turned in the glowing light of the festive room.

“Who would ever think you the mother of twelve children? You’re quite amazing, Mama. I only hope I shall do as well—unless, of course, my aunt’s gloomy predictions come true.”

“I have no doubt of your doing far better, my dear.” Her mother smiled as they walked under one of the dazzling crystal chandeliers.

“Mama, I’m so glad you chose to wear those earrings.” Georgiana admired the long pearl and diamond pendants that shone like the chandeliers themselves. She recalled that her mother had worn them at the hunt ball the night Granville returned.

“Yes, they are my second best, but quite my favorites. I did want to wear them this one last time.”

“Last time?” But Georgiana’s question went unanswered as they had reached her little sisters Blanche and Mary Octavia.

“Girls, you must find your sisters. I believe they are playing blindman’s bluff in the yellow room. And bid your papa good night now. We shall be up early to go to church in the morning, and I won’t have you falling asleep.” With only the briefest demur, the girls kissed their mother and went off to do her bidding under the eye of their nurse. “I do wish Granville Charles and Elizabeth Susan could be here too. It has been so long since we were a complete family.” The duchess watched Susanna, Louisa, and Isabella join their younger sisters in kissing the duke. “But now,” she turned to Georgiana, “you have spent enough time doing the polite. Go join the young people. I do hope your brother Worcester isn’t taking the departure of Lady Jane too much to heart. Do see if he’s in want of cheering up.”

Georgiana kissed her mother and joined Henry just in time for them to make up a set in a country dance. Afterward he served her from the sumptuous supper buffet set up in the dining room.

“Shall we sit in the red room with these?” He did a valiant job of balancing two plates piled high with cakes, jellies, creams, and fruit.

The warm red-flocked wallpaper, the family portraits brought from Raglan Castle and now draped with Christmas greens, and the glowing flames in the marble fireplace painted by Angelica Kaufman welcomed them as they settled on a red leather sofa. “Not suffering any ill effects from your dunking in the field yesterday, are you, Georgiana?”

Ignoring the soreness of her throat that refused to go away, Georgiana swallowed a bit of smooth lemon cream. “Not the least, Henry. But if I may inquire without prying, what about the results of your day?”

“You refer, I assume, to the hasty departure of Lady Jane after our public tête-à-tête in the field? What a wet goose—demanding that I leave my duties as hunt master to ride home with her.”

“You were lucky to find out now.”

“Dashed lucky! Can you imagine being leg-shackled to such a creature? But, Georgiana, it’s more than that. If she’d been the hardest goer in the field, I knew it wasn’t right. Do you know what I’m saying? Marriage is more than catching the prime prize in the marriage mart.”

“Which you are, Henry!”

“Don’t I know it—with half the mothers in London throwing their daughters at my head.” He shook his head ruefully. “I won’t go to Almacks anymore—it’s a veritable onrush. But that’s by the by. I didn’t wish to discuss my own situation. What I want to say, wanted you to remember, Georgiana—for yourself—is that there will be someone who is right. And don’t settle for less just because it’s convenient.”

“Do you, er, have any ideas who might be right for you?”

Worcester laughed. “Not a word of this to any of those prying London mamas—but, yes, I have an idea. I should have realized it before.”

The sound of voices at the door prevented Georgiana from questioning her brother further. Charlotte and Granville appeared in the doorway, then momentarily checked their entrance uncomfortably at the sight of Georgiana and Worcester. “Come, come.” Lord Worcester indicated the empty sofa facing them. “Season’s felicitations and all that. Join us in celebrating.”

“Don’t want to interrupt,” Granville said.

“Nonsense. We’re all family,” Worcester insisted.

Georgiana’s mind faltered at the words. Then she reminded herself that her brother was right, but it was impossible for her to think of Granville as just a cousin. As he handed Charlotte her plate and attended to her bright chatter, Georgiana wondered how Charlotte regarded their cousin—and, more importantly, how he regarded her.

Then Georgiana thought of the Christmas piece she had tucked in one of the drawers of the Florentine cabinet in the Great Drawing Room. Would she find a chance to give it to Granville?

Well, she thought, as she looked across at the couple facing them, not if he continues to dance with Charlotte the rest of the evening.

As Charlotte’s flow of chatter continued (much to Granville’s apparent amusement), Georgiana became convinced that, indeed, that was what was going to occur. She mentally assigned her carefully composed note to oblivion.

Then her brother spoke. “Well, Char, the musicians are beginning their racket again. What do you say we take a turn around the floor before toddling off to bed? Mama will have us all up while it’s still dark in the morning—must set the right example for the village folk by filling the family box. Thank goodness the rails are high enough no one can see if we fall asleep, especially since the Bishop of Gloucester is to preach. Sorry, Gran. I know he’s your uncle, but what a man to prose on.”

On this note of slander against a man often declared to be among the best preachers of the day, Lord Worcester swept his sister from the room. Georgiana and Granville faced one another across the expanse of Persian carpet.

“Worcester said the most brotherly things to me. I am quite astonished,” Georgiana mused softly.

Granville leaned forward at her soft words. “What did you say?” Then he put a hand to his ear in irritation. “What a blasted nuisance! I hope you do not find it—” He hesitated with a diffidence she had never before seen in him. “—annoying.”

“Oh, Gran, you silly!” She crossed the room to him, then could say no more as their eyes held.

“Would you care to dance, Georgiana?”

Georgiana caught her breath at his purposeful use of her full name. Meeting the serious look in his eye, she took his hand.

At the end of the next tune the company thinned noticeably as their elders took to their beds. Now the dances changed from the lively country airs where couples stood in two rows and worked their way up and down the line in intricate patterns to the more gliding waltz where couples danced in pairs.

Georgiana expected Granville to release her at any moment and bid her good night. Instead, when the musicians slid easily from one melody into the next with barely a pause, he continued to turn her around the floor without even requesting her permission.

Finally, when the room was all but deserted, the musicians began folding their music and wearily putting their instruments in their cases. As the steps of the dance had led them to the north end of the room, Georgiana found herself standing directly in front of the Pietradura cabinet where Aggie had secreted her Christmas greeting. Georgiana looked up at the stupendous piece of ebony furniture rising almost to the ceiling, knowing that now was the time to make her presentation if she was ever to do it.

Granville caught the drift of her gaze. “It’s a magnificent piece of work, isn’t it?”

Georgiana ran her finger over one of the bird and flower designs fashioned from inset marble and semiprecious stones. “Yes, the third duke purchased this on his Grand Tour a hundred years ago. Many of his treasures were lost to Spanish pirates on the way home, but I’m glad this one survived.”

“Perfect for the display of objets d’art as well as being one itself.”

Granville’s remark was off-handed, but it gave Georgiana the lead-in she needed. “Well, there’s one thing in it that isn’t exactly art.” She pulled open the drawer on the lower right. “But I thought it might interest you.”

He peered into the small drawer with a quizzical look and drew out the cylinder of paper. “For me?”

She nodded and looked shyly away before he broke the wafer. He read the small verse three times, each time the look of wonder—and of something else—deepening on his face. At last he folded the crisp parchment and slipped it into his inside coat pocket over his heart.

His hand on Georgiana’s shoulder, he drew her wordlessly to the center of the room beneath the kissing bough. The room was deserted now except for a few servants cleaning up. But Georgiana wouldn’t have noticed if there had been a roomful of guests as Granville pulled her into his arms.

Thirteen

The next morning as the family walked to the chapel well before the first light of dawn, Georgiana’s way was lighted for her not by the candle she carried but by the glow Granville’s kiss had ignited in her heart. Since the family pew in a gallery at the back of the church was reached from a passage through the library, it wasn’t necessary to go out into the chill morning—a circumstance for which Georgiana was grateful as her scratchy throat and drippy nose persisted.

As three bells in the tower rang changes, the high wooden pews below, running between walls lined with monuments to all the previous Dukes of Beaufort, filled rapidly with villagers. The church was both family chapel and parish church. In the gallery the families Somerset and Ryder settled into large leather armchairs beside a splendid fireplace. The local vicar led their presiding guest, Henry Ryder, Bishop of Gloucester, to the altar. Then those in the gallery gathered around the large prayer books at the front of the box for the only time their presence would be visible to those below and joined the congregation in the Christmas Day Collect.

“Almighty God, who hast given us Thy only begotten Son to take our nature upon Him and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin…”

Georgiana looked across the bowed heads of her family to Granville. His dark curly hair fell forward on his brow bent over the prayer book. His face was sober, his attention focused on the words he was saying.

“Grant that we being regenerate and made Thy children by adoption and grace may daily be renewed by Thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.”

They then sang all nine verses of the Charles Wesley hymn, “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.” Georgiana’s heart swelling as she sang “Glory to the newborn King!” from the depths of her heart. At the conclusion of the song, the men in the gallery resumed their seats rather than sneaking out before the sermon, as her father and brother often did. But then they didn’t often have the opportunity to hear so noted a speaker as Bishop Ryder.

In spite of his eloquence, however, Georgiana had some trouble focusing on his words. Her mind and heart kept repeating the words of the carol:

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!

Hail the Sun of Righteousness!

Light and life to all He brings…

As if he were recalling her prayer for his own peace, Granville smiled at her across the balcony. In an attempt to focus her thoughts on the service, Georgiana looked at the Christmas crib by the altar. Such a scene was common only in Roman Catholic homes, but these china figures of the nativity had been in their family since the time of Charles I when the Somersets were Catholic. This year, however, there seemed to be something new. Georgiana puzzled over it for some time. Perhaps it was just the streaks of light beginning to come through the leaded-glass window behind the altar, but it looked as if something shiny nestled in the straw beside the baby.

Georgiana’s mind could have continued to wander throughout the service had she not ventured another glance at her cousin. His intent interest in the sermon finally led her to the bishop’s words.

“We must, then, embrace our own thorough sinfulness and helplessness and our unqualified need of the atonement of Christ and the renewing influence of the Holy Spirit…”

Apparently, even on Christmas morning, the bishop was preaching salvation. But then, Georgiana considered, when could it be more appropriate? Especially as the church was filled with those who would only come again at Easter and Harvest Home.

“Eternal life, therefore—not only forgiveness, but also acceptance as righteous, not only acquittal from guilt, but also title to a gracious recompense—is to be ascribed to the mercy of God, to the sacrifice and righteousness of Christ, and to faith only as the instrumental cause.”

The light outside the window grew stronger, and Georgiana looked again at the crib. It looked for all the world as if someone had scattered diamonds among the figures.

But then the bishop’s closing words drew her back. “Come in true repentance and lively faith to the Savior and receive your portion of His meritorious atonement, prevailing intercession, efficacious grace, and unspotted righteousness if you would be converted and saved.”

And then in the full glory of a Christmas morning sunrise, they sang the final hymn:

O Christ, Redeemer of our race.

Thou that art very light of Light,

Unfailing Hope in sin’s dark night,

Today, as year by year its light

Sheds o’er the world a radiance bright,

One precious truth is echoed on,

’Tis Thou hast saved us, Thou alone,

And gladsome too are we today,

Redeem’d the new-made song we sing;

It is the birthday of our King.

They left the service accompanied by that most English of sounds, pealing church bells, which would continue to ring in Christmas throughout the day and on to the New Year.

Breakfast followed immediately, served from a sideboard sagging under the weight of its bounty. Beside the more usual breakfast foods were miniature mince pies, which would be served at each breakfast throughout the season. As the little pastry “coffins” of minced chicken, neat’s tongue, mutton, eggs, spices, and raisins were passed around, Georgiana raised hers to Granville sitting across the table from her. “Eat one on each of the twelve days of Christmas and have twelve happy months ahead,” she quoted the traditional proverb.

He smiled at her, but the smile did not reach his somber eyes. Granville returned his attention to his father beside him who was saying, “But enough of that today. We shall talk more tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir.”

Georgiana hoped that she and Granville might talk more later as well, but the schedule was very full. After breakfast the family gathered around the kissing bough where the duke mounted a stepladder held by three footmen and cut the presents from their ribbons. The duchess distributed the packages—to exclamations of delight from each recipient.

She handed Granville a four-inch square package wrapped in white paper and tied with red ribbon. His face registered amazement when he read the attached card and discovered that the gift was from his father.

Withdrawing from the jovial group, he was undoing the ribbon when Georgiana joined him. “A present from my father. Can you credit that?”

“Well, pray hurry up and see what it is!” Georgiana was holding a velvet case containing a string of pearls from her father.

Granville tore the rest of the wrapping off. There, looking like a cockleshell in a nest of white tissue paper, was a hearing device like the one Charles Simeon had invented for the duchess. Still thunderstruck, Granville held it out to Georgiana. “My father had this made for me.” His tone of voice rather than his words spoke his amazement.

“How very thoughtful of him! Mama finds hers a great convenience; I’m sure you shall too.”

“Yes, quite,” Granville said slowly and turned to find the earl. Lord Harrowby was standing near the fireplace. “Father, I… Thank you, sir. It’s very thoughtful of you.”

“You are quite welcome, Granville. I thought you might find it useful.” That seemed to be all the earl had to say. Then he added almost gruffly, “And Happy Christmas.”

“And Happy Christmas to you too, sir.” Granville shook hands with his father. Then he went to wish his mother a happy holiday and see if she liked the small volume of poems he had given her.

Georgiana had to spend the next few hours conversing with various visiting family members. It was midafternoon before she left her Aunt Susan with Lady Granville in the library and went in search of her cousin. But when she looked in the Octagon Room, her twelve-year-old sister Blanche had a request. “Georgiana, it’s so cold outside Primrose said we might play shuttlecocks in the Entrance Hall, but we need one more. Will you help us?”

Not wanting to disappoint the youngsters, Georgiana agreed. For the next hour she and her younger sisters knocked the shuttlecock about beneath the magnificent hunting scenes lining the walls. They had been painted by John Wootton out of gratitude to the third duke. The duke had spotted remarkable talent in a servant’s child and paid for the boy’s art training in Italy.

“Louisa, mind the clock!” Georgiana cried as her sister’s shot landed on the Renaissance clock brought from Raglan Castle.

Georgiana failed to return the next serve. The feathered missile fell unnoticed to the stone-and-slate floor as the sound of carriage wheels on the drive sent them all to the windows. But before anyone could decipher the crest on the carriage door, Lord Worcester hurried through the hall and down the steps in time to hand the ladies out of the carriage himself.

“Who is it, Georgie?” Mary Octavia, the youngest of the brood, pushed Georgiana aside for a better view.

“It is Charles Culling-Smith, his wife, Lady Ann, and his daughter Emily Frances,” she said as matter-of-factly as she could manage.

“But that’s—”

“Yes, dear.” Georgiana began herding the children away from the windows. “It is the mother and stepfather of the late Lady Worcester and her half-sister. Now pray do not be so rag-mannered as to stand here gaping at your brother’s guests.”

Georgiana led the retreat from the room in some confusion. Could this be what Henry had in mind when he said there was someone who would be right? If so, they were sure to be in for some stormy weather. What a duster an attachment to his former sister-in-law would raise. Could such an attachment be right? Let’s see, the Table of Kindred and Affinity forbids a man to marry his wife’s father’s mother. Could he marry his wife’s father’s daughter? Well, it was too much for her to puzzle out. Worcester must settle his own affairs. At least there is no prohibition against marrying one’s mother’s sister’s son. She smiled.

There was, however, no sign of anything but general good will and holiday merriment two hours later when all the company gathered in the dining room. In the best old English style that could not have been outdone at Raglan Castle, the boar’s head was brought to the table, heralded by trumpets, garlanded with herbs, and borne by two footmen carrying the silver basin between them. The entire company sang the traditional song.

The boar’s head in hand bear I,

Bedecked with bays and rosemary;

And I pray you, my masters, be merry…

“Our steward hath provided this

In honour of the King of bliss

Which on this day to be served is

In Reginensi atrio.

The dish was set before the duke who, to the applause of the guests, removed the orange from the boar’s mouth and presented it to Nixon. The duke then presented sprigs of bay and rosemary from the dish to the principal guests, which he diplomatically chose to bestow upon the head of each household. The last one, again to the approval of the company, he presented to his wife. “Happy Christmas, my dear.”

The duchess thanked him prettily and signaled Nixon that he could begin serving the family-stirred plum porridge.

Eating her porridge, Georgiana remembered the wish she had made the day before and smiled. Circumstances had seated her next to the very person she had been longing to talk to all day. “I have been singing that carol since I was out of leading strings, but I have never understood why we sing part of it in Latin.”

Granville returned her smile. “The tradition is sacred—from the hallowed halls of Oxford where it all began.”

“Yes, but why?

“Because a scholar at Queen’s in the murky days of the fourteenth century was walking unarmed in the forest with only a Latin text of Aristotle when he was attacked by a wild boar. The nacky student thrust the volume down the boar’s throat crying, ‘Swallow that if you can,’ to which the boar replied, ‘Graecum est,’ and died. And Latin students have continued disrespectful of the subject to this day.” He turned to his tutor on Georgiana’s other side. “Right, Peacock?”

“I believe there are many who contend that boar hunting is the only proper use for a Latin text.” The tutor wrinkled his forehead at the thought.

“But I hope, sir, that my son is not among them,” the earl said drily.

Fortunately, the discussion was interrupted by footmen serving the next course. A train of servants circled the table presenting roast goose, Westphalian ham, turkey garlanded with sausages, stuffed pike and oysters, fricassee of turnips, vegetable pie, boiled beet root, carrots, and roast potatoes. The Christmas feast emphasized quantity rather than diversity.

Georgiana followed the footman’s progress to the end of the table where the duchess accepted a slice of ham. Georgiana noted with surprise the topaz and filigree jewelry her mother was wearing with the brocaded gown. Since the others seated nearby were engrossed in conversation, Georgiana leaned toward her mother. “You look perfectly beautiful, Mama, but you always used to wear your pearl and diamond drops with that gown. I wonder that you changed.”

“My dear, I haven’t had a chance to tell you my news. Did you notice anything unusual in church this morning?”

“Apart from the fact that all the men stayed through the service?” She grinned at her brother. Then she remembered. “Yes, I did. It looked like diamonds in the crib. But what…”

The duchess laughed. “A very silly piece of sentiment, I fear, but since it was Christmas and all, I am selling them to build my chapel in Wales.”

“But, Mama, they were your second-best pair.”

The duchess sighed. “Yes, and my favorite. I would much rather have sold my best, those odious blue diamonds that are so large wearing them gives one a headache. They would have fetched at least two hundred pounds more. But they belonged to Mary, the first duchess, so parting with them was unthinkable.”

“Have you told Papa? What will he say?”

“I daresay, so long as no one asks him to contribute his second-best hunter, he will be content.”

The conversation next to her concluded, so Georgiana turned to the bishop and commended him for his sermon.

“Thank you, my dear.” He smiled kindly at her. “It gives me great pleasure to hear one of your tender years say that. We must reach our young people.” And then in his humble way he inquired earnestly, “But I hope I did not speak too harshly?”

“No, indeed, my Lord Bishop. Your tone was just right. It is easy to see how you have accomplished so much in your ministry.”

“Any little good I may have done has been entirely owing, under God, to my preaching the fundamental doctrine of the gospel—Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

From the other side of Georgiana, Granville joined the conversation, giving Georgiana a chance to savor a tender morsel of braised turkey. “Your sermon was excellent, Uncle, but what of the good works without which we are told faith is dead?”

“Indeed, my boy, much good is accomplished by works. Just thinking of the compassionate work represented by those sitting around this table quite overpowers one. But good works cannot be the means of justification. They are, rather, necessary accompanying fruits or evidence, and that is the point so often missed by some of my High Church brethren.”

“Yes, yes, Uncle, to be sure. But that some in high office who have neither justification nor good works on their plates should oppose your elevation is past enduring.” Granville brought his fork down with a far louder crash than he intended. He looked at his plate to be sure the china wasn’t chipped.

“I agree,” Georgiana said more quietly. “It seems quite wicked in them.”

“No, no, my children,” the bishop said in his gentle voice. “These men do intend to act for the good of their country. Being in opposition brings out in a peculiar way the worst in human nature. We must watch and pray against an uncharitable view of the action of public men. You must not only abstain from evil speaking, but also refuse to entertain evil thoughts of others. Keep looking forward that increased means of good may be abundantly blessed and may bring forth fruit to God’s glory.”

“I am assured you are correct, sir. But to my mind, one way to bring fruit to God’s glory will be in your translation to a wider field of influence,” Georgiana insisted.

“Thank you most kindly, my dear.”

“I cannot for the life of me think it right that such a thing should be held back by Parliament—as if you were a piece of legislation!” she continued.

The bishop smiled at her. “Persevere in your prayers for me that I may ever have inward peace—peace by the blood of the cross applied by the power of the Holy Spirit. I shall treasure your remembrance.”

The conversation moved on to other topics as the footmen passed everything on the sideboard around a second time. It was considered minimal to eat at least two servings of each dish at the Christmas feast.

At the head of the table, Georgiana’s father was discussing his new interest in his role as Hereditary Keeper of Raglan Castle. “It’s a beautiful old place and should be open to the public. My father had all entrances blocked up and ordered that not a stone should be touched. Utter nonsense! The place was so covered with ivy you couldn’t distinguish it from the rest of the countryside. I’ve ordered the rubbish taken away and the briars and thorns cut from the bulwarks. And I hired a resident warden. Don’t suppose they’re making much headway this winter—bitterly cold in Wales this time of year. But next spring I shall go see their progress.”

“Amazing fellow, the first marquess.” Lord Worcester referred to the first bearer of the title he now held. “He was eighty-five when he defended Raglan for the crown against Cromwell’s men. Almost beat them too. He held out eleven weeks with the enemy chipping away at the tower with pickaxes. But Cromwell’s guns finally breached the eastern wall, so he consented to treat.”

“What a marvelous heritage. You must be very proud. I think opening Raglan Castle to the public is a splendid idea, Your Grace.” Emily Culling-Smith addressed first Worcester and then his father, leaving them both beaming at her.

The duke then turned to his brother-in-law. “And what news do you bring of our friend Wilberforce, Harrowby?”

“Unfortunately, Wilberforce has been unwell,” replied the earl, “and unable to attend regular sessions in the Commons. But I presented a petition in the House of Lords on behalf of the Free People of Color in Jamaica—a large, wealthy, loyal class of people of good conduct, themselves owners of the whole pimento plantation—who desire simply that degree of consideration to which wealth and talents in other parts of the world are entitled.”

“Such as, sir?” Granville asked with open interest.

“Such as eligibility to serve in parish vestries or in the General Assembly or to serve in any public office of trust, to hold commission in the regiments, to serve as jurors, and to have free admission to schools for their children.” The earl’s voice took on a ring, almost as if he were speaking again in Parliament.

“But for what purpose did you bring the petition forth?” the bishop asked.

“At that period of the session it was, of course, impossible to introduce a measure. Because of the extreme difficulty and complicated nature of the subject, I wished it to be understood that if ever it should be taken up by Parliament, its introduction must be committed to an individual with far more ability than I can pretend to.”

“Wilberforce, do you mean?” Worcester waved away the footman offering a third round of roast goose.

“Quite likely—if only his health will permit. I am satisfied from the respectful nature and moderate terms of the petition that its prayer must one time or another be granted.”

Worcester threw down his napkin with some asperity. “Moderate terms! That’s precisely the problem—and with Canning doing all possible to block the Amelioration measures we are to consider this session, all we’ve gained so far might be lost. What is needed is more sweeping measures. Wilberforce himself will be the first to tell you so.”

“Emancipation, you mean?”

“Indeed, I do.”

“Yes, certainly. In due time. But for the moment it was something for the petitioners of that unfortunate and degraded race to know that the peers of Great Britain consider them brethren. I agree with Wilberforce that it is essential to keep hope alive in these downtrodden peoples. If they feel forced to take up desperate measures, it could prove fatal to their cause.”

“I say, Father,” Worcester interjected, “I failed to mention that I received a letter from Fitz yesterday.” Lord Fitzroy Somerset was one of the most noted members of their family. The youngest son of the fifth Duke of Beaufort, Lord Fitzroy had gone to Portugal with Wellington where he served as aide-de-camp throughout the peninsular war.

Peacock, sitting next to Georgiana, looked up. “Fitzroy Somerset? Isn’t he Wellington’s secretary, the one who lost an arm at Waterloo?”

Georgiana touched her napkin to her mouth. “Yes. It was near the close of the day, and my uncle was standing beside Wellington when his right elbow was struck. It’s one of our favorite family stories that he bore the operation without a word, but when it was ended, he called to the orderly, ‘Hallo! Don’t carry away that arm till I have taken off my ring.’ It was one his wife had given him. She is a niece of Wellington, you know.” She looked across the table at Emily Culling-Smith. “I believe my aunt, Lady Emily Harriet Somerset, Lord Fitzroy’s wife, is a relation of yours also, is she not?”

Emily bobbed her soft brown curls and gave a nervous smile. “I daresay she is, but the connection is far too convoluted to untangle.” Her final words brought a rising blush.

“Well, Henry, what of my famous brother?” inquired the duke.

“He reports that he has returned from his mission to Spain as Wellington’s envoy. He says Wellington’s views upon the constitutional crisis in that country were well received, and he has every hope that French intervention on the Peninsula may have been averted.”

As the conversation continued, Georgiana puzzled over Miss Culling-Smith’s embarrassment at her connection to the Duke of Wellington. Then Georgiana realized—Worcester’s first wife had also been a niece of Wellington, and that possibly stood in the way of an attachment between Emily and Henry. If the Iron Duke should take against the match…

Horrified at her want of tact, Georgiana turned to say something to soothe Emily’s feelings, but found another had accomplished the task for her. Granville was showing Miss Culling-Smith his new miniature hearing device. When Emily held the tiny cockleshell to her ear and gave a light trill of laughter, Georgiana knew that any earlier embarrassment had vanished. How like Gran to expose his own vulnerability to bring another comfort. It was as if his having been hurt in the past made him more attuned to the needs of others.

The company ate sparingly of the milk and fruit puddings, cheesecakes, and currant cakes with Cumberland sauce that comprised the final course of the meal. And Georgiana, who was feeling a little sick to her stomach, declined even a small serving. Then because of the family nature of the festivities, the men didn’t linger in the dining room over the duke’s fine old brandy. Instead, all returned to the Great Drawing Room to drink tea and witness the burning of the ashen fagot.

Nixon oversaw the bringing in of the fagot, a large bundle of green ash sticks bound together with bands of ash and hazel saplings. “This band is mine.” Charlotte touched a slim shoot wrapping the end of the bundle. “You must each choose one—Emily, Mr. Peacock, everyone. If yours is the first to break in the fire, you will be the first to marry.”

Each unmarried person among the company claimed a band, and Nixon set the bundle ablaze on the wide, deep hearth. The green branches snapped and crackled in the heat of the blaze, sending a shower of sparks up the chimney. But the bands held.

“I declare,” Charlotte cried, “we shall all be left upon the shelf. Can you credit it?”

No sooner had she spoken than, with a small snapping sound, the first band gave way and fell into the flames. “Well, that settles it—it’s yours, Char.” Granville raised an eyebrow at her.

“Shall we wish you happiness?” her brother teased.

“Perhaps not quite yet,” Charlotte replied as Georgiana caught her breath at the smug gleam in her sister’s eye.

“Oh, listen. How charming!” Emily held up a quieting hand. When the chatter ceased, the high, sweet sound of carols sung on the clear air came into the room.

“It’s the waits.” The duchess set her cup aside and rose. “Shall we go into the hall so we can hear them better?”

Good Christian men, rejoice

With heart and soul and voice;

Give ye heed to what we say:

News! News! Jesus Christ is born today!

The rustic serenaders accompanied themselves on hand bells as they pealed forth the good news.

Only Georgiana and Granville remained by the fire. “I have hoped for a few moments with you all day,” she said softly.

“And I with you—to thank you for your Christmas piece.”

“You did that very adequately last night.” She smiled at him in the glow of the fire.

Love and joy come to you,

And to your wassail too,

And God bless you,

And send you a Happy New Year.

The carolers provided a private serenade for the pair sitting in the great empty room.

“And God send you a happy new year.” Georgiana laid her hand on her cousin’s arm. “He’s going to, you know.”

“Yes. I am determined.” Granville’s words carried a quiet emphasis. “When I heard them discussing matters of such import tonight at dinner, I decided I have wasted far too much time. I shall join Lincoln’s Inn and become a barrister as soon as possible. Then I’ll stand for a seat in Parliament. When emancipation is voted on, I want to have a part in it. Sandon shall soon want bigger fish than the family borough. Then I shall hope to represent Tiverton.”

He paused to regard her intently. “And when I do, Georgiana…” He seized her hands, then dropped them in alarm. “Georgie! You’re burning up!”

He crossed to the bell pull in two strides and yanked it vehemently. “Send for the doctor!” he barked at the footman as only an officer of His Majesty’s Navy could.

When he returned to Georgiana, she was shivering. The waits were singing an old Sussex carol, “When sin departs before His grace, then life and health come in its place.” But neither heard them as Granville cradled the trembling Georgiana in his arms.

Fourteen

Boxing Day brought another round of activities. Her Grace gave gifts to all the servants and assisted as the vicar opened the alms box in the church and distributed its contents to the poor. A steady stream of dustmen, postmen, lamplighters, turncocks and errand boys came round for their Christmas boxes. Then the children gathered in the hall for the Punch and Judy show. Later Worcester got a party up to go into Gloucester to see a monkey and bear troupe.

But two people were absent from all the festivities. Georgiana was confined to her room under strict orders from Dr. Milkwood, and Granville, who had received a summons from his father to meet him in the duke’s study after luncheon, was left to cool his heels with nothing to do but worry about Georgiana until time for the interview.

Granville sat staring at an open book, then closed it in irritation and strode across the room to give two abrupt jerks to the bell pull. “Send Agatha to me,” he ordered when the under footman appeared. “No, wait. Don’t interrupt her. Just bring me word of Miss Georgiana’s health. That sawbones has been with her above an hour. What can he be about so long? If he doesn’t know his business, I shall ride to Harley Street for Dr. Knighton. Well, what are you standing about gawking for? Bring me word!”

The servant departed, and Granville paced the length of the room, alternately running his fingers through his hair and making a shambles of his formerly crisp white neck cloth.

A few minutes later the harried servant reappeared.

“Well?” Granville demanded before the young man was across the threshold again.

“The doctor has just left, sir. He says the case is serious but not dangerous. Her Grace asked me to say that she will bring you a full report soon.” The footman bowed and departed, leaving Granville to continue his pacing. He felt he had been waiting an eternity when the wheels of the physician’s departing carriage sounded on the gravel and the duchess’s footsteps announced her entry into the room.

In spite of having stayed up with her daughter most of the night, she maintained the hopeful disposition and fresh enthusiasm that marked her special charm. “Granville, I am sorry to keep you in suspense so long, but I simply couldn’t leave until Dr. Milkwood was finished with his examination.”

“No, most assuredly not, ma’am. I thank you for coming now. How is she?”

“She is resting easy with a kettle of water boiling on the hearth. Aggie is to administer two grains of tartar of emetic in water every two hours until the fever passes. Dr. Milkwood feels we have every right to hope that it may not develop into pneumonia.”

“Pneumonia!” Granville’s ashen face showed the terror of the word. “But how is that possible? She seemed recovered from her chill.”

“I fear she was not so fully recovered as she led us to believe.”

Granville turned his back to the duchess and, his arms braced against the mantelpiece, lowered his head. “It’s my fault. I was with her when it happened. I should have prevented… I should have insisted she go to the inn rather than ride home. I should have—”

“Nonsense!” The duchess cut through his self-incrimination. “That ditch bank is notoriously dangerous. She has hunted that field since she was a child and should have known better. If anyone is at fault, it is I. As her mother I should have been more attentive.”

“But you don’t know the worst. I had behaved abominably. She had just learned of it and was angry and upset—she was racing to escape me.”

“Now, no more of your fustian.” The duchess spoke with the energy and firmness for which she was famous. “We must place her in the hands of our dear Heavenly Father and trust in His mercy.” Then she laid her hand on his and spoke more quietly. “Granville, you are very special to us.” And with a soft swish of her cambric skirt she was gone. He was alone.

Alone with his self-accusations. It was easy enough for the duchess to tell him not to blame himself, but it was quite impossible for him to follow her instructions. Would God punish him for his transgressions by taking away the dearest thing in his life? Dearest person in the world. He resumed his pacing, but after one turn around the room, he stopped again before the fireplace. Moments of agonized turmoil passed. Then he struck his fist against the cold, hard marble. All right, God. Let Georgiana recover, and I’ll make myself worthy of Your grace.

He stood there for some time sunk in a brown study until the entrance of his tutor made him look up. “Hullo, Peacock.” His voice was grim.

“I have just come from an interview with your father.”

“The devil,” Granville muttered.

“Oh, he’s not that bad.”

“Confounded time for you to develop a sense of humor,” Granville growled. “What did my father want of you?”

“He wanted to know my duties to the university—regarding my position as a tutor.”

“And you told him—”

“I informed His Lordship that the requirement for your degree was that you explain the ground of your claim to it by a writing to which I subscribe and then send to the Master of Trinity. I explained that in the paper you will set out your pedigree in full, and I am required to shoulder the responsibility for its accuracy.”

“Senseless procedure, conferring academic degrees because of who one’s father is with no requirement of earning it. And was he satisfied with your answer?”

Peacock raised his thin eyebrows. “How could he be otherwise? The answer was quite precise.”

“But did he quiz you on my attendance at chapel and lectures, upon my reading habits and, er, pastimes?”

“I told him there were no requirements for you to attend to a daily schedule and that you did more reading than most of your rank. I have no personal knowledge of your other activities.”

“Quite so. And he informed you, I have no doubt, that my brother, who is naturally of higher rank than I, applied himself so studiously as to obtain a double first at Oxford. And that while serving in Parliament, he continues his literary and scientific pursuits as well as working toward becoming an accomplished French and Italian scholar. And that this paragon has married the daughter of the first Marquess of Bute, a lady of great beauty and character.”

Peacock paused, apparently choosing his words. “He mentioned that Lord Sandon is spending the holidays in Switzerland with the marquess’s family.”

“Don’t spare my feelings, Cock. I can well imagine the homily he treated you to. Don’t mistake me. Sandon is a fine fellow, much deserving of our father’s approbation. I like him myself in spite of having had him thrown at my head since I was in leading strings. I just can’t live up to his pattern card.”

“There is no need for you to do so.”

Granville snorted. “Tell that to my honorable father!”

“You’d best tell him yourself. He said I was to send you to him.”

Granville strode through the Red Room and entered the East Room, which the duke used as his private study. The room was so filled with family portraits that Granville felt as if he were on public trial. He stifled the thought, knowing that a public trial could be far preferable to a private interview with Lord Harrowby.

“I wish to inform you first, Granville, that I have discharged your debt to Lord Calthorpe.”

“Confound it, Father! I pay my own debts!”

“Not when they are contracted with my friends under dishonorable circumstances. Sit down, Granville.”

Granville sat. “I wish you to understand, Father, that the circumstances were the height of folly, of which I am profoundly ashamed, but they were not dishonorable.”

“Indeed. It strikes me that you have a remarkable sense of honor. To spend the night in the company of what is generally known, I believe, as a bird of paradise is sufficiently debased in itself, but then not to be able to settle your account—”

“That is not how it was, Father. But if you wish to take Lord Calthorpe’s word over mine, there is nothing I can say to it. I shall send you a draft to repay your outlay on my behalf.”

“That will not be necessary. We shall consider the matter closed between us. What concerns me far more than the money is the behavior. How a son of mine—a Ryder—could be such a wastrel, so prodigal of the talents the Lord has given him…”

“Are you quite sure He has endowed me with any, Father?”

“Nonsense, Granville. All that is required is to cease these coltish indulgences and set yourself a worthwhile course.”

Here was more than Granville had hoped for in this interview—a chance at least to mollify, if not actually satisfy, his father. “I have, Father. I am determined to serve in Parliament.”

But this announcement did not draw the hoped-for response. “Poppycock! You young cub, do you propose to prepare yourself to serve God and country in that high position by playing at cards, drinking to excess, and attending horse races with fashionable impures?”

Granville stiffened, his hand tightening on the arm of his chair until his knuckles whitened. For a moment his eyes blazed. Then with barely controlled effort, he lowered his gaze and unclenched his fingers. “You quite mistake the matter, sir.”

Lord Harrowby rubbed his forehead with the knuckles of his left hand, closing his eyes briefly. “I spoke too harshly. It is a failing of mine.”

Shocked at what almost amounted to an apology, Granville remained silent as his father massaged his head again.

“If you think to fill Sandon’s shoes, you must depress your animal spirits, attend to your studies no matter how little the university requires of you, cease your indulgence in worldly amusements, and fraternize with friends of higher mind.”

Granville jumped to his feet, barely able to keep his clenched fists stiffly at his side. “I have no desire to fill Sandon’s shoes. It is my own shoes I wish to fill.”

“I can see that I have angered you, and that was not my intention. But there is one more matter I must mention, of more import than all others. I would be unfit to call myself a father if I did not adjure you to look to your soul. If you are thinking of being worthy of public service, as indeed I hope you are, I should remind you of what Wilberforce has said: ‘Submission to Christ is a man’s most important political as well as religious decision.’”

“Thank you, Father. I am not likely to forget it.” Still white around the mouth, Granville bowed and left the room.

His tutor was waiting in the library. “How soon can you be packed, Peacock? I would like to leave within the hour.”

In less than sixty minutes, after thanking his hostess, penning a short farewell to Georgiana, and taking affectionate leave of his mother, Granville tossed his luggage into his phaeton and sprang his pair toward the gatehouse. Only once did he pause—to look up at Georgiana’s rooms where the half-lowered curtains looked back at him ominously.

He clutched the reins, recalling the times in recent days when he had longed to take Georgiana into his arms and tell her all he felt. Even now he yearned to turn his team and go to her. Yet he knew he must restrain himself. He had no assurance that her feelings toward him matched his. And even if he could be sure, he wasn’t ready to receive her affection. Until he could be assured of God’s acceptance, he could seek no other.

Behind her half-curtained windows, Georgiana sat propped up in bed, still holding Granville’s farewell note. Looking out the window at the driver below, she wished she could read his thoughts. She followed him down the lane with her eyes. Then as he turned through the gate, she followed him with her heart.

Where was that faith her mother said had always come to her so naturally? Yes, Lord, I do believe that you are above all, that you will make everything turn out right. Only help me to do what pleases you.

Fifteen

The skiff of snow on the frozen quad of Trinity College and the barren branches of the trees on the Backs matched Granville’s icy determination as he crossed the path to attend his maths lecture. The fact that a solid classical education had produced England’s greatest lawyers spurred him on. He had declared himself to his father and had bargained with God for Georgiana’s health—two acts that precluded any possibility of his going back to his former lifestyle.

“Ryder!” Freddie Perkins’s jovial voice rang on the frosty air. “Missed you at Combi. Strange notion you’ve taken—all this studying. Club at Merry’s tonight.”

The thought was tempting. Granville hesitated. “Sorry. Need to read.”

“Peacock on his high ropes again? Shouldn’t let him bear-lead you.”

“No, it’s not my crammie. I, er, promised someone else.”

“Rich aunt threatened to cut the purse strings?”

Granville shook his head. “You’re out there, Perkins, but I can’t explain now.” He strode on with the chill wind whipping his black academical about his knees, leaving Freddie looking perplexed. It was several weeks into term now, and he had not missed a lecture or a chapel service. Nor had he found peace or contentment in his new regimen.

So why not just one night with his friends? Surely God didn’t require that he become a hermit—a recluse with no friends or pleasures. It often occurred to him lately that perhaps the fault was not with himself but with God—the divine requirements were simply unreasonable. Depressing thought because logic dictated that if unreasonable, then unreachable.

Later that night, however, when he finally surrendered to Freddie’s urgings and went to Merry’s, he found that the scene, so like that of the numerous nights he had spent in the preceding terms, offered little satisfaction. “What you need, Ryder, is more port. Loosen you up. Relax you,” Freddie said.

“Gloucestershire must be excessively cold country. You haven’t thawed out since you came back from holiday.” Merry sloshed a bit over the brim as he refilled Granville’s glass.

“Want to play for pound points?” Lord Hervey called them back to the whist game.

Badly dipped from unlucky punting, as the cards never did fall out for him, and with an aching head from the unaccustomed amount of strong port he had consumed, Granville sat in morose depression in chapel the next morning. The fact that the sermon was to be preached by his old acquaintance, Charles Simeon, was Granville’s only inducement to stay awake. Furthermore, Simeon’s announced title, “Despondency Reproved,” had a certain autobiographical appeal to Granville.

Simeon’s opening statement startled Granville. “Nothing is more common than for men to cast reflection upon God when the fault is wholly in themselves. The ungodly world, when urged to devote themselves to God, will allege that those commands are themselves unreasonable because it is not in their power to obey them. Thus they cast the blame not on themselves for the inveteracy of their evil habits and the alienation of their hearts from God, but upon God Himself as requiring too much at their hands.”

Granville sat forward. Not twenty-four hours ago those very thoughts had entered his mind.

“We withdraw from a belief in God for fear that our sins will be exposed. Doubt becomes the defense of a guilty, non-trusting soul.”

Yes, Granville thought, that is what I have been doing—doubting God’s willingness or ability to perform His good pleasure. I don’t trust in myself or my friends or God. Did Simeon have an answer? But then Granville’s shoulders slumped. If the answer was that he must work harder, he was beaten already. It was impossible. He could toe the line no closer than he had in the past weeks.

As if the speaker had read his mind, Simeon continued: “There is no condition that can justify a despondent inactivity. The Word of God is full of exceeding great and precious promises, which shall all be fulfilled in their season to those who rely upon God. These we should contemplate; we should treasure them up in our minds; we should plead them before God in prayer; we should expect abundantly the fulfillment of them. However long or dark our night may be, we should look with confidence for the returning light of day. We should know that the goings-forth of Jehovah for the salvation of His people are prepared as the morning and that He will appear at the appointed hour.”

Granville listened solemnly, neither rejecting the words nor accepting them without thought, but taking them to heart for consideration.

“However frequently vanquished by our spiritual foes, we should return to the charge, ‘Strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.’ We should never for a moment suffer the thought of our weakness to discourage us. We should rather make it a reason for exertion in the full confidence that, ‘When I am weak then am I strong,’ and that God will perfect His strength in our weakness. ‘It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.’

“We should expect everything from God as if there were no need of personal exertion and then go forth to do His will in His strength.” Simeon reached out to his listeners and then folded his hands as for prayer, a characteristic gesture of his.

His mind on the speaker’s words, Granville was leaving the chapel when Simeon approached him. “I have received a letter from your father and my friend, the Earl of Harrowby. He is much concerned for you.”

“A letter from my father, sir?” Granville was astounded. With all the activities of a newly convened Parliament and the pressures of his office as Lord President of the Council, Lord Harrowby had taken time to write to Charles Simeon concerning his younger son?

“Yes. Arrived not above five days ago. I have been hoping to see you. Please call on me in my rooms at any time if I may be of service.”

The men bowed to each other, and Granville returned to his rooms determined to struggle on in his resolve. Now he had a new impetus. As he looked at the small hearing aid on the table beside his books, Granville smiled. Two times in as many months his father had shown thought and care for him. Was it possible that he could have misunderstood his father’s feelings in the past?

Putting the question aside for more pressing concerns, Granville called to Creighton to bring coffee and another log for the fire. Then he settled down to read.

But the Latin ode fled from his mind when the coffee Creighton brought was accompanied by the post—a letter franked by the Duke of Beaufort but unmistakably written in his daughter’s hand.

January

My dear cousin:

This is only the second time that I have taken up my pen, and I am assured I cannot make a better use of it than in thanking you for your many kind inquiries about me and in assuring you I have now no remains of pain or illness left. I am eating and exercising at such a rate that I astonish our little family circle.

The hard frost we have had lately has delighted my papa as it enabled him to have his ice house filled. I was allowed a little airing in the carriage and went to the bottom of the park to see the ice house filling and thought it very curious. It contains fifteen feet deep of ice and requires some time and trouble to beat all that quantity into small pieces. The ice house called to mind our riding around it when first you returned from the sea. May I flatter myself that you remember it as well?

Our Worcester has refused to return to London and is sunk in the mopes because he is certain that Mr. Culling-Smith is trying to keep Emily away from him. There is great concern over the question of whether an attachment between them would be within the prescribed degree of affinity. Poor Henry, I am persuaded that he is quite in love with the lady and am certain they should suit. If only it can be brought about. Henry has applied to his friend Lord Lauderdale for advice. This must be a very trying time for Emily too. My Aunt Harriet saw her in London and said her appearance was most touching. She looked careworn and her eyes sad.

But enough of my tittle-tattle. My mama desires my pen to send you a few lines herself, so I shall yield.

Adieu, dear Gran. I could willingly chatter a few pages more with you, but my foolish head will not let me.

I am yrs. ever,

G. S.

Granville sat perfectly still and read the missive through again. His impassive face gave no clue to the tumult the words stirred inside him. The relief he felt at Georgiana’s own account of her recovery fought for supremacy over his joy at the tenderness hinted in her closing. It gave him hope. He could ask for nothing more.

After his second reading he turned the letter sideways and read the brief note penned by the duchess.

Dear Granville:

After the very deep concern you expressed for our dear Georgiana’s health, I think myself indebted to scribble a few lines to tell you that nothing can equal my joy at seeing her look so well. Really, miracles are growing common again.

C. S. S.

The duchess’s light words brought Granville bolt upright. If there had been any question of his going back on his resolve, now there could be none. He had offered God his service in return for Georgiana’s recovery. He now had a debt of honor to fulfill. He regretted more than ever his lapse of the night before, but it would not happen again.

And it did not. No one could have been happier with the Honorable G. Ryder’s academic performance than Mr. Peacock. He suddenly found himself that most fortunate of crammies—tutor to a nobleman who chose to study.

Sharing that joy were Granville’s spiritual supporters and fellow stairmates, Andrew Anderson and John Henry Rennard. They smiled and never failed to give thanks each time they saw Granville sitting stiffly upright in chapel that their prayers had been answered.

If his reformed lifestyle brought joy to his associates, however, it brought none to Granville. He thought frequently of his greatest treasure, Georgiana’s Christmas prayer for him. Often he would unfold and reread it, not because he didn’t remember the words, but because seeing them in her handwriting so vividly brought back the moment she gave it to him.

A Christmas prayer I wish for you,

Of peace and joy the whole year through;

Of laughter, love, and much content,

That all may be from Heaven sent.

The memory of Georgiana warmed him, but the words mocked him. Peace, joy, laughter, love, contentment—all were conspicuously missing in the cold, dark barrenness of his rigid days.

And counterbalancing, sometimes even blotting out the endearing image of his beloved was the vision of his scowling father, impatient over his lack of progress. The vision bore even more weight now that the earl had written to Charles Simeon. As Lord Harrowby loomed before him in memory, Granville recalled the words of the clergyman inviting him to visit. Yes, perhaps he would do that—someday. But for now he must read until time for Hall.

The daily grind continued. The snow melted from the quad, to be replaced by sleeting rain driven by a merciless wind. If Granville had not felt that his obligation to God was one no gentleman could turn his back on, he would have abandoned it many times over. After all, one had as well be miserable from an excess of revelry as from an excess of piety.

On the last Friday of February, Anderson was awaiting Granville’s exit from Hall to inquire if he planned to attend the conversation party that night. Granville started to decline, but then was struck with a desire to see the kindly counselor who exuded such joy with his religion. “Crammie’s coming over tonight, but tell Mr. Simeon I shall accept his invitation to call on him. Tomorrow afternoon if that is convenient for him.”

Simeon sent a reply with Andy, saying that he would be delighted to receive Mr. Ryder the following afternoon any time between two and three o’clock.

At 2:15 the next day, Granville donned his fur-lined Polish coat, wrapped a muffler around his neck up to his nose, and made his way down King’s Parade to the Gibbs Building. He climbed the four flights of stairs to the door on the right and rapped lightly.

“Ah, my young friend, how I have longed for a visit with you. Come, come. Sit by the fire,” Simeon greeted him.

The servant poured tea from Simeon’s much-used black Wedgwood teapot and then departed. A few moments later Granville was telling his story to his venerable host, who seemed to become increasingly disturbed. “A bargain with God! Earn grace? Sir, that is an oxymoron, a contradiction of terms, a thing impossible.… A debt of honor, you say? Consider it paid! Eighteen hundred years ago by Christ upon the cross—paid in full. Yours is but to be grateful and say, ‘Thank You, Lord. I accept.’”

Granville, who had expected a strict lecture on the things he must do and refrain from doing if he hoped to reach his goal, sat speechless.

“I see that my words confound you. But only consider how great a sinner each of us is, how bent to worldliness and selfishness. Is it conceivable that any of us should make ourselves righteous? No, no. See here, let me show you the words of another.” He turned to a low bookshelf and drew out a small leather volume that Granville recognized instantly as Acquaintance with God, a twin of the one he had read in the library last fall. But this one he saw was inscribed and underlined in Simeon’s own hand. Opening it to a page past the middle, Simeon said, “Ah, here is the part I find so heartwarming. Allow me to read it out to you.”

If we grow acquainted with God, we make sure of a constant, loving Friend, as able as willing to direct and succor us in every difficulty of life.

He admits, nay, invites the worst of men to His fellowship, even publicans and sinners of the greatest size. This is a vast encouragement to all, to any, even to the vilest, seek after Him. However miserable they have made themselves in this world, or unworthy of a better, yet He calls and encourages them, though they so long despised and provoked Him.

Marvelous Condescension! Boundless Love and Compassion!

Press on into His presence.

Simeon punched the air with his fist to emphasize each of the final words. Then he closed the volume and wiped his brow, which was shining from the fervor with which he had read the final passage.

“If you have not found joy in your heavenly friendship, you have not found your heavenly Friend, my son. If you, like Bunyan’s Mr. Fearing, are always afraid you shall come short of where you desire to go, if you carry a slough of despond in your mind, you need to hear the words of the Master, ‘Come in, for thou art blessed.’

Simeon regarded his guest’s thunderstruck countenance. “You feel you are not good enough to approach a holy God? You are a sinner. ‘How can you approach a holy God who hates sin and punishes sinners?’ you ask.

“By coming before Him as a sinner—coming to Jesus Christ who is intent on loving sinners, who offers you a love that asks no questions about worthiness.

Your answer was to become a perfect person by your own will. God’s answer is Jesus Christ who is perfect and shares His robe of righteousness with us—to drape our shoulders with His garment of grace so that we can walk into the presence of God. We are then treated like a perfect person even though we aren’t, for the righteousness of Christ is credited to us. We are accepted as members of God’s family.

“Our hope is not perfection but reconciliation.”

Granville’s mind was so taken with these revolutionary statements that he had no reply.

The preacher was on his feet. “But come back, come back any time. I flatter myself to be counted among your earthly friends. Do not stay away long.”

Granville left the Gibbs Building, whipped by the wind blowing damp and chill from the river. But in a protected, sunny corner, he saw a bright yellow crocus blooming.

At Badminton Georgiana sat at her writing desk looking out the window toward the park with its masses of yellow and purple crocuses. She held her pen above the inkwell, daydreaming of riding in the park with Gran. Then her thoughts moved on to their riding together at the hunt and to her own foolishness that had led to her accident and illness.

She smiled as she recalled his careful concern for her. Even if accompanied by curt words to compel her to obey, his actions had been all gentleness as he helped her with her waterlogged clothing and wrapped her in his own coat. Such kindness was born of qualities one could build a lifetime together on—no matter what the years would hold. She smiled and amended her thought—that is, two could build a lifetime together on. She wanted nothing more than to go through life the recipient of Granville’s courtesy and love.

With another smile, she dipped her pen.

By the following week when Georgiana’s letter arrived, the Backs were also carpeted with early yellow and lavender crocus. But Granville, cloistered in his room inside Great Court, had not seen them yet. Indeed, if Creighton had not taken it upon himself to draw back the dark red moreen curtains when he brought in the post, Granville would have read his cousin’s letter by candle light rather than in the soft spring sunlight touching the windowsill.

February

Dear Coz:

My mama wants me to begin by making her apology for not writing to you. She had promised herself to write to you today to give you a long account of all our transactions. I assured her, however, that I would be happy to do that for her. Although I know you will be downcast to find that you must read a missive from my pen rather than hers, I beg you to bear it in the best of heart.

First let me inform you that I have had the happiness of riding twice in the past week and have felt not the least bit the worse for it. Further, I have aired in the carriage several times on purpose to accustom myself to the motion, as a kind of preparation for our great removal to London, although I do not know when we shall set out. I should like to inquire if we shall have the pleasure of seeing you there when we arrive; but as I am unsure of the date of our arrival, the question would not signify. But your father assures Papa that Mr. Wilberforce will present a measure in Parliament in March, and Papa is determined to be there for the occasion before we journey to Wales for Easter. Such rackety gadabouts you must think us!

What charming, delightful weather we have had for these few days past, such bright sunshine with a pleasant bracing air. We have all enjoyed it to the utmost degree. I have basked on the south side of the house as if I were a newborn butterfly laid on the sweetest flowers, but the extent of my excursions has been four times back and forth along the length of the house. Although I am persuaded I am capable of doing far more, Aggie will cosset me.

Then yesterday the rains returned to dash all our spirits. The infants were so moped at being required to stay indoors after their days of sunnier frolics that I joined them in the Entrance Hall to watch them play shuttlecocks and battledores. We increased the skill required for the game by stringing a rope across from the fireplace to the door for the shuttlecocks to fly over. Our games-mad friend John Baldwin was visiting us from Oxford, and he wrote down all our rules and even directed the servants to measure the hall for what he called “the precise size of the court.” We were all so delighted with our sport that we have decided to name it Badminton.

I long to see you again. Do not think me a sad baggage for saying so.

Yr. ever affectionate cousin, Georgiana Somerset

The teasing tone of his cousin’s letter delighted and stung Granville at the same time. His feelings for her were deep and confused. They shared so many childhood memories, so many family experiences—but the memories he wanted to make with her, the experiences he now wanted to share, were of an entirely different variety.

An insistent knocking at the oak door prevented Granville from rereading the letter, but he was not displeased to see Freddie. “Windmills in your head, must have. Only a gudgeon would stay indoors on a day like this.”

Granville smiled. “Just give me time to pull on my boots, Perkins. What do you say to a walk to the three-mile stone? I have heard it is much in want of care.”

“You foxed? Ain’t seen you smile this term. Tell you what, Granny, you worry too much. Ain’t healthy. Make an old woman of you. Becoming prim and prosey, that’s what.”

“No. You slander me.” Granville led the way out the door. “I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, that’s all. And no, I’m not foxed; I haven’t had anything stronger than coffee.”

But that night in spite of the salubrious effect the walk and Freddie’s company wielded on his spirits, Granville found himself out of sorts after a session of Bible reading in Rennard’s rooms. “You need to apply yourself more rigorously, Ryder,” the elder man said. “Have you undertaken a schedule of visiting the gaol or the sick yet?”

Granville blanched, but remained quiet.

“I myself am going to the Spinning House and to Addenbrooke’s Hospital tomorrow morning. Shall you accompany me?”

“I’ll let you know.” Granville took his leave quickly.

Was Simeon right? Or was Rennard right? Their approach to “true religion” seemed miles apart. Things had improved somewhat since Granville’s visit to Simeon. If he hadn’t exactly found peace and joy, there had been pleasure—pleasure in Georgiana’s letter and in Freddie’s company. But the promised joy and pleasure in heavenly conversation still eluded him.

He shivered at the thought of undertaking a round of visits with Rennard. He would far rather trust Simeon’s counsel.

Granville hesitated to knock on the preacher’s door at such an early hour, yet he had been awake since before dawn. He felt he could wait no longer. Simeon opened the door himself, and Granville sighed in relief to see that his host was dressed and not averse to receiving an early morning caller. “Come in, come in. You have arrived at precisely the appointed hour—in the fullness of time, eh? It is my custom to spend some time in meditation each morning upon the roof. You must accompany me.”

Somewhat shocked at so singular an invitation, Granville followed the portly man through his sitting room, up a flight of stairs, through the servant’s room with its small rose window ornamenting the central pediment in the roof line, then on up a tiny, winding staircase, and out a small window opening onto the roof.

Although only blowing a light breeze in the courtyard, the wind here was strong, bringing with it sounds of the splashing fountain and light strains of organ music from the chapel. The sun was bright and clear in the blue sky. Behind them the chimney-lined roof rose steeply, and two feet in front of them the stone parapet ran along the edge of the building. Simeon opened a small hatch and pulled out two folding stools.

“I always feel this is as close to Heaven as I shall get in this life.” Simeon gazed upward at the uncluttered expanse between them and the firmament.

Finding the noises outside a little distracting, Granville took his reverberator from his pocket and held it to his ear. “Ah,” Simeon cried, “I am delighted to see you are using my little deaf aid. Do you find it helpful?”

“Exceedingly.”

“Yes, I was certain you would. Nice that you can carry it in the palm of your hand without its being seen, eh? I do enjoy my experiments. I have very nearly perfected a cure for smoking fireplaces also. Thought I had done it, but applied the process at a friend’s house the other day, and I blush to admit that the room was worse after my efforts than before.” Simeon shook his head and clucked his tongue. Then he changed the subject. “But what of your spiritual journey, my son?”

Granville gave a rueful smile. “I’m afraid I have come to you as sanctuary from being pressed into visiting the sick and imprisoned.”

Simeon nodded, a twinkle in his bright eyes. “Ah, yes. Noble work for those called to it, but perhaps not your calling?”

Granville smiled his agreement.

“Piety, you will discover, is not always accompanied by discretion, and you may be sometimes urged to things which, though desirable in themselves, are not expedient. And people may constrain you to seek your comfort in the testimony of your own conscience rather than in the approval of God.”

“My friends assure me my soul-searching is superfluous.”

Simeon nodded. “Indeed. You see yourself guilty of sins which preclude hope of forgiveness. Your friends have endeavored to show you that you judge yourself too harshly. Be glad they have erred, for if they had succeeded, they would have given you a peace founded on your own worthiness, a peace that would last no longer than the next temptation.”

Granville’s penitent expression gave silent witness to the truth of the speaker’s words.

“Since they have not succeeded, they have only confirmed you in your views. I say to you the very reverse. Your views of yourself and your own sinfulness, though they may be erroneous, are not one atom too strong. Your sinfulness far exceeds all that you have stated or have any conception of.”

At these alarming words, Granville lowered his head into his hands.

“Your heart is ‘deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?’” Simeon quoted in the tones of an Old Testament prophet.

Then his face was transformed with a smile of true radiance. “But I have an effectual remedy for them all—the blood of Jesus Christ which cleanses from all sin. I grant that you are lost and utterly undone. So are all men, some for gross sins, some for impenitence, some for other faults. You are lost for the very sins you mention: hardness of heart, indifference, overindulgence.

“Do this then. Take a book as large as any that is in the Bank of England. Put down all the sins of which either conscience or a morbid imagination can accuse you. Fear not to add to their number all that Satan himself can suggest.

“And this I will do. I will put on the creditor side, ‘The unsearchable riches of Christ.’ I will leave you to draw the balance.”

His head still down, his words barely audible, Granville said, “It is so beautiful, so glorious. But I am not worthy—”

“Worthy!” Simeon struck the parapet with his open hand. “Haven’t you heard a word I’ve said? Of course, you’re not worthy! None of us is. But ‘worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His blood.’” The words, spoken with vibrant faith, were accompanied by strains from the chapel organ.

“In the light of God’s love, the concept of worthiness loses its significance—the whole idea becomes almost laughable since no one could ever by himself be worthy to be loved by such Love. Until this understanding is brought to light by divine mercy, man is imprisoned in hopelessness.

“The root of Christian love is not the will to love, but the faith that one is loved—the faith that one is loved by God.”

Granville raised his head. The light dawned inside him. He understood. It was wonderful. “It was there all along, wasn’t it? But I didn’t see it. My eyes were too much on my weakness and unworthiness to see His strength and sufficiency.”

“Your error was in keeping control of your own life—in not turning it with all its problems over to God. So peace with God and a sense of self-worth evaded you. The level of the lordship of Christ in a life can be measured by the level of self-worth because it is He who gives it to us. All else is vanity.”

“I see it now. I must have heard similar words dozens of times, certainly every time I heard you preach and from my Uncle Henry. Why, even my father—” At those words he stopped. In his mind his father was before him, exasperated at the son’s failings, stifling his new-found joy.

Simeon nodded. “Yes, I believe I see what I suspected all along, but I hesitated to advise a son concerning a father of such distinction.”

“Please go on, sir.”

“Estrangement from your earthly father has kept you from accepting reconciliation with your Heavenly Father. Because you felt your father judged you harshly, you believed God also judged you harshly. Because of your lifelong need to earn esteem before the earl, you tried to earn esteem before Christ. Salvation—like your advancement in the navy and your academic degree—is conferred on you because of who your father is. In this case, however, it is the person of your Heavenly Father.”

“Yes. I see that now.” Granville nodded slowly, then with increasing vigor.

“Through our relationship to the Heavenly Father, our humility is assured even while our honor is established. If your worth as a person is rooted in your relationship as a son of the Almighty, then a high sense of self-worth based on the fatherhood of God gives you the deep foundation for human dignity.”

Granville nodded as his mind kept pace with Simeon’s words. Only reconciliation with his Heavenly Father could teach him his worth—and now he was free to seek reconciliation with his earthly father.

And he understood as Simeon explained to him, “We are not to imagine salvation is either the reward of our merits or the effect of our exertion. We do not save ourselves by our hard work or by our good deeds. Nevertheless, we have a work to do, a work of infinite importance, in the performing of which we are not mere machines but voluntary agents.”

A slow smile lit Granville’s face. Now he was free—free of the burden of feeling rejected by his father and rejecting his father in return, free of having to measure every action by his father’s yardstick, free to set his own goals. His first task would be to bridge the gap between his father and himself.

With a rush of excitement, Granville realized that all the energy he had formerly put into worry and guilt he could now put into creative effort to reach his goals. Not because they were expected of him or because he needed to prove something but because he truly wanted to.

And best of all, he could love and serve God freely. Now that the barriers he had erected in the names of remorse and unworthiness had crumbled, he could be the man he had always wanted to be.

But before Granville saw his father again, another reconciliation needed to take place. Granville considered writing to his brother, recently returned from vacationing on the Continent to resume his parliamentary duties. But each attempted letter sounded either stilted or maudlin. So Granville gave up in disgust, determining to wait until he should see Sandon in person.

That opportunity came sooner than he expected. Two days later Granville returned from a lecture to find his brother awaiting him in his rooms. “Sandon! What a surprise! I’ve been thinking of you.” He grasped the viscount’s hand warmly. “What brings you to Cambridge?” Then a look of alarm crossed his face. “Our parents—”

“No, no. Everyone’s fine. Nothing like that. Fact is, might as well come straight to the point. I’m a bit dipped. Thought you might be able to help.”

Granville couldn’t prevent his mouth falling open. Sandon needed help? His help? “What! You in dim territory?” He put his hand to his ear. “Or did I hear you wrong?”

Sandon ran his fingers through hair a shade lighter than Granville’s. “No, little brother, although I could wish you had. Expenses ran higher on the Continent than I expected. Couldn’t expect Frances to go to Paris without ordering new gowns—not that she’s really extravagant—but there it is. I didn’t like to appeal to our father.”

“No! I should think not. How much do you need? Glad to let you have what I can.” Granville was thankful he had stayed away from card tables and racetracks recently, so he was not faced with any shortages himself. He turned to his desk and wrote a draft on his bank.

“I’m exceeding glad to see you,” Granville said when the monetary matter had been settled. “I’ve been trying to write, but some things look so dashed awkward on paper.”

“Write to me? I should be very glad to receive a letter from you, but is something amiss?”

“Truth is, I need to beg your pardon. I always resented you. It really won’t do. Can’t have such feelings between brothers.” It came out in jerks, but it was said.

Now it was Sandon’s turn for his mouth to fall open in surprise. “What! You astound me! No need to beg my pardon. It’s I who should beg yours. I can’t fathom why you should have resented me, though, since the shoe was rather on the other foot.” He paused to give a forced laugh. “Afraid I couldn’t accept the fact that my little brother was quicker, better looking, and that Father preferred him.”

Granville gasped in amazement. “What a hoax!”

“It’s the truth. I don’t wonder that he never let you know, but it was always, ‘Granville this’ and ‘Granville that’—so proud of your accomplishments in the navy. He always said you were the best of the lot. But I will admit it did spur me to work harder.”

Granville opened his mouth, but no words came out—only the laughter building inside him. The two brothers clasped hands, beat one another upon the back, and laughed until tears ran down their faces.

At Granville’s order Creighton brought coffee and cold meats. After a further hour spent sharing childhood memories and plans for the future, Sandon left for London. He promised to repay the debt when they met again in London, but Granville knew that his brother could never give him anything of greater value than the lightness of heart he now felt.

Sixteen

Leaving Cambridge and the end of Hilary term behind him, Granville joined his family in London. His first step in reaching his new goals was to present himself in chambers at Lincoln’s Inn, an exclusive society through which he hoped to gain admission to the practice of law. Following a closed meeting by that body, his sponsor informed him that he had been elected to membership. He could now pursue his legal training along with his academic education.

Elation at this success spurred him to attempt that hardest-of-all step—bridging the gap between himself and his father. The opportunity, however, was difficult to find.

Granville had tried once for an interview with the earl. But as Parliament was sitting late almost every night, it was after midnight when Lord Harrowby returned, clearly exhibiting the strain of great weariness and an abominably aching head. Granville merely informed his father of his acceptance at the Inn of Court and retired.

The next morning the inhabitants of Harrowby House in Grosvenor Square received news that the Duke of Beaufort and his family were in residence across the Square and would be attending the parliamentary debate that day.

So it was that the first time Granville would see Georgiana since Christmas was to be in the long, stone-vaulted St. Stephen’s Chapel of Westminster Palace. As Granville made his way into one of the pillar-supported galleries added by Christopher Wren to provide additional seating, he heard a peal of familiar laughter behind him. He turned with a glad smile and offered his hand to help Georgiana climb the last of the steep stairs.

With blonde curls peeking from under the brim of her crepe hat banded in lilac satin folds, and her slim person clad in a lilac redingote of gros de Naples trimmed with braided satin, Georgiana was a sight to turn heads. But her manner was almost demure as she withdrew her hand from Granville and passed on into the gallery, allowing him to hand Charlotte and their mother into the balcony as well. They exchanged no more than murmured greetings. He took his seat next to Charlotte, the curly ostrich feathers on her wide-brimmed yellow straw hat blocking Georgiana from his view.

But then all attention focused on the event unfolding on the floor below. Secretary Canning rose to address the House of Commons on the substitute measure that Canning’s forces hoped would delay Wilberforce’s Amelioration Bill for bettering the condition of the slaves in the West Indies. Canning had been one of Wilberforce’s closest personal friends; but recently in the battle over the slavery question, he had turned against Wilberforce politically. It was with a great sense of personal loss that Wilberforce had remarked to Lord Harrowby only the day before that he feared George Canning was becoming more their enemy every day.

Granville, listening intently from the gallery, shook his head as Secretary Canning argued that the colonial government—rather than Parliament—should alleviate slavery. And he winced as the secretary adjured Parliament not to let their judgment be misled by anger and fear, calculated by Mr. Wilberforce to lead them to less temperate action “through the indulgence by my right honorable friend in the brilliance of his talents and the exuberance of his fancy. I tell you, my friends, if we act precipitously on this, we may kindle a flame that is only to be quenched in blood.”

Then it was Wilberforce’s turn to reply. Sunlight shone through the jewel tones of the arched stained-glass windows lining the room and warmed Wren’s oak paneling and green-cushioned benches. All in the room seemed to hold their breath as the little giant, who for almost twenty years had borne the title “The Arbiter of England,” stood to his feet. It was common knowledge that throughout the past winter Wilberforce had suffered severely from chest colds and that overtaxing his strength could bring on pneumonia. The House leaned forward to hear what might well be Wilberforce’s last speech.

“Gentlemen, if I had come into this House for the first time and heard the beautiful and flowing language of my right honorable friend, Mr. Canning, I should no doubt have rejoiced. I would have rejoiced that through my right honorable friend’s plan, the blessings he outlines are about to be extended to so large a portion of the human race. But, gentlemen, I did not just come into this House for the first time, and any feelings I have to rejoice are overborne by the knowledge that the measure passed by this House in the last session has not been carried into effect. In the light of this consideration, I am determined that much stronger action is needed.”

Even from the gallery, Granville could see the piercing blue eyes and the high wrinkled forehead of the man God had called to stand against the entrenched evils of his day. Wilberforce had so lived his conviction that true Christianity must not only save but also serve that all England now honored him.

“After the long experience which I have had of colonial assemblies, it would be criminal on my part to deceive either myself or the House with any idle hopes that humane measures will emanate from those local bodies.

“The question we face is of awful magnitude, for it is not the limited interest of a few individuals that we must consider. The question concerns the temporal and eternal happiness of hundreds of thousands of immortal beings like ourselves.

“We stand now on a precipice, and if we do not take great care, we shall find that the more we pause—the less energetic we are in the pursuit of right—the greater is the danger likely to become.”

The famous voice, undimmed by age and illness, reached every corner of the room. The walls of the chamber rang in response, “Hear, hear.” Granville cried with Wilberforce’s other supporters, stirred to pledge himself anew to such service.

“Let the House only consider what a terrible thing it would be for men who have long lived in the state of darkness, and just when the bright beams of day begin to break in upon the gloom of their situation, to have the boon suddenly withdrawn, and to be afresh consigned to darkness, to uncertainty—nay, to absolute despair!

“Let every man present appeal to his own feelings for the truth of the position. Does not every one of you know that an evil is much more easily borne before temporary hope has been excited in the breast of the sufferer? If an effort to alleviate the suffering proves unsuccessful, is not your anguish redoubled? Is not your misery rendered nearly insupportable? When hope has been once suffered to beam upon the heart, does it not set the whole man in a fever? And when that hope is destroyed, does not desperation result?”

Granville noted Sandon, seated with other members on the benches below, following the speech with fixed concentration. The thought that in a few years he too might sit in that room and work with his brother exhilarated him.

Then because he was leaning forward, he was now able to see the object of his dearest hopes, the one he wanted by his side when he undertook such service. Wilberforce’s graphic picture of ruined hopes brought forcibly to him the desperation he would feel if he failed to win Georgiana.

His attention returned to the floor where it seemed that the hopes of the antislavery leaders were to be dashed. The House voted to postpone further consideration of the measure, simply directing the chairman to report progress.

A short time later, Granville’s more personal desires also ran into an obstacle when he invited the Somerset ladies to attend a concert with him.

“I am sorry, Gran, but we are already engaged to make up another party.” Georgiana’s sweet smile was his only reward.

“And are you engaged for a drive in the park tomorrow morning?”

“I sadly fear, sir—” Georgiana did her best to look crestfallen, but her eyes twinkled. “—that my sister is indeed engaged. Would you be too cast down if I alone were to accept your kind offer?”

“I should contrive to make do with so sadly diminished a company.” He bowed over her hand. But the smile left his face as he saw the carriage of Mr. Agar-Ellis waiting for her beyond the gardens of the Palace of Westminster. He knew whose party Georgiana would be attending that night.

The next morning, however, it was Granville’s turn. Georgiana sat beside him in his carriage, wearing her blue satin bonnet with clusters of white silk mignonette, ribbon bow knots, and floating streamers as Granville’s chestnut pair stepped smartly over the golden sand of Rotten Row. The trees overhead showed just an etching of the green leaves they would soon unfurl, and the sunshine sparkled on the blue waters of the Serpentine beyond.

Their progress was slow and conversation difficult because the Row was jammed with elegant carriages at that hour, and they met many acquaintances, all requiring an exchange of greetings. It seemed that every carriage contained at least one passenger who was a friend or connection of either family, and it would not do to cut anyone.

For a time, however, Granville found it pleasure enough simply being in his beloved’s company and chatting briefly. “And are you truly recovered, Georgie?”

“In absolutely fine feather, quite the top-of-the-trees, I assure you.”

“I cannot tell you how I condemned myself for allowing you to expose yourself to such danger.”

“Fustian! How could you possibly be to blame because I was such a cawker as to cram my horse at a jump—as you told me at the time.”

He wished to say more, but a carriage driven by Worcester’s friend Lord Lauderdale pulled alongside. Georgiana exchanged a few words with the driver. “Is your brother in town?” Lauderdale inquired.

“I believe he arrives tomorrow.”

“Fine. Tell him I expect to have some good news for him.”

Georgiana sighed. “I do hope so; my poor brother has broken his heart quite long enough over this matter.”

Lauderdale’s carriage pulled ahead, and Georgiana explained to Granville her brother’s dilemma regarding his desire to marry his beloved Emily and that Lauderdale had undertaken to lay Worcester’s case before her family.

At the end of the Row, Granville turned into the less fashionable and less crowded carriage drive which would take them to the top of the park. He lowered his hands to allow his horses to walk at a more leisurely pace.

Georgiana leaned back against the cushions of the phaeton. “And what of your affairs, Granville? You are scandalously uncommunicative. After the lovely letters I put myself forth to write to you, all I receive are a few scribbled notes. You are fortunate, sir, that I am of such a sweet and forgiving nature that I continue even to speak to you.”

He opened his mouth to protest, but his companion, much flown with her flummery, continued, “But then if you prefer your musty Latin and maths to communicating with me, I shall endeavor to bear up under it.”

“Now that is doing it too brown,” he protested.

Then she turned suddenly serious. “Oh, Gran, I have heard that you are making remarkable progress at your studies, and Mr. Simeon wrote Mama a most charming letter about your advancement. May I hope that it is not presumptuous in me to think that my Christmas wish for you may be coming true?”

“There was a considerable time when I doubted it, but I’m beginning to think… Georgiana…” Thoughts of George Agar-Ellis came to him, and fear made him pause. Now that he was free before God—now that he could speak—what if he were too late?

Georgiana turned to him with a look of solemn intensity in her clear blue eyes that required him to swallow very hard. But before he could continue, the sound of a rapidly approaching carriage took their attention. Granville inclined his head stiffly and muttered under his breath when he saw that the other driver was no other than Agar-Ellis himself.

After the prescribed exchange of pleasantries, Granville wished the driver to move on, but George seemed fully determined to divulge all of the news that had brought him out at such a puffed pace. “Have you seen The Times this morning? I always peruse it with my morning coffee—my man has strictest orders that it is to be brought to me the moment it arrives. It doesn’t do to go about uninformed, you know.”

“Then pray hasten to inform us, sir, that we may be redeemed from our ignorant state.” Georgiana spoke with a perfectly straight face.

“The king has finally taken a hand in the bumblebroth over the elevation of that religious enthusiast… Oh, I say, Ryder, I beg your pardon. He’s some connection of yours, isn’t he? Afraid I wasn’t thinking.”

“That’s quite all right. I’m most interested to hear the latest word of my uncle.”

“Yes, well—” Mr. Agar-Ellis quickly regained any composure he might have lost or feigned losing. “It seems His Majesty has consented, although with quite understandable reluctance—forgive me, Ryder.”

“Speak your mind. Take no notice of me.” Granville waved the matter away, fervently wishing the speaker in Jericho.

“By your leave, I will then. Mr. Walpole knew him as a young man, and you know his insight was always remarkably reliable. He found Henry Ryder shockingly without parts or knowledge. He declared him to be with no characteristics but a sonorous delivery and an assiduity of back-stairs influence.”

Agar-Ellis turned sharply to Granville as if the thought had just struck him. “I say, Ryder, you don’t suppose you might drop a hint, being family and all. This religious enthusiasm really doesn’t do. What does a bishop want with being religious? And a friend of that dowdy Hannah More—perhaps he could urge her to temper her pen.”

“You do me too much honor,” Granville said tightly. “I am not in a position of so great an influence with my uncle, nor would I presume to remark on his choice of friends any more than he would on mine, although, unlike myself, he possesses the right to do so without gross impropriety.”

“Yes, yes, I quite take your point. Indelicate of me to suggest it. I just thought though—well, one’s family connection can be a bit of an embarrassment.”

“I have never found it so. It has always been my concern that my family not be embarrassed by me.”

“I daresay. Quite so.” Mr. Agar-Ellis took his leave with a tip of his curly beaver to Lady Georgiana.

“Oh, well done, Granville! I never knew you to be such an admirable fencer. You had him at point non plus.” Georgiana giggled. Then she continued, “But the king has really consented to Bishop Ryder’s elevation to a more prominent dioceses! That’s famous! Everyone will be so happy.”

“This was the first I’d heard of it—shockingly ill-informed, you know. Shall we go see if my father’s newspapers have arrived?”

Granville and Georgiana found the family in the breakfast room at Harrowby House. The Countess Susan was presiding over the table with her open, natural love of conversation. “Oh, I am so happy for it. If the church doesn’t appoint more men of true religion, in a very few years it will truly be in danger. People will grow tired of paying so dearly for so bad an article.” As she addressed her husband, she tucked a stray brown curl back into a very fetching lace cap adorned with ribbons.

“Quite right. It’s about time King George took the matter in hand. Ridiculous to make such a mull of what should have been handled in a routine manner. Can’t abide such dillydallying. Ah, Granville, here it is: ‘King Confirms Ryder.’” The earl held out The Times to his son who was helping Georgiana with her chair.

“Thank you, Father. We were just told of this in the park.”

“Read it out, Gran. What did His Majesty say?” Georgiana turned to the footman at her elbow. “Just some toast and an egg, please.”

Granville seated himself next to Georgiana, opened the paper, and read: “‘The King consents, though reluctantly, to the offer being made to the Bishop of Gloucester for his translation to Lichfield and Coventry. The Bishop of Gloucester is no doubt a pious and good man, and the King is acquainted with many acts of his life which bespeak it.’”

“And I should like to ask His Highness to his face,” the countess interrupted, “why his consent was reluctant if he is so well acquainted with my brother-in-law’s worth?”

“True, but it is settled satisfactorily,” Granville said. “We must congratulate my uncle.”

“Yes, indeed. I shall send out cards today to a rout in his honor. A week from Wednesday, don’t you think, dear, so that it might be done before Holy Week? This Friday we are to have that cabinet dinner.”

“Whatever you think best,” Lord Harrowby consented.

“Well, it certainly couldn’t be any sooner. You know how volatile Jean-Luc is. I wouldn’t dream of suggesting a change in kitchen plans until after the cabinet dinner.”

“Why do you put up with such a tyrant?” the earl snapped. “To have one’s social schedule dictated by the cook is the outside of enough.”

“Hush, sir. You mustn’t let Jean-Luc hear you refer to him as a cook—he is a chef.”

“Hmph, and a pretty price I pay for his fancy title.”

“Yes, dear, but you must admit he does produce the most elegant food. And when one entertains the prime minister and the entire cabinet—”

“Yes, quite. By the by, a most singular event occurred yesterday. I was riding in the park when a man came up to me and asked, ‘Are you one of the ministers?’ I replied that I was. ‘Are you Lord Castlereagh?’ he asked. When I denied the honor, he held out a sealed paper and asked, ‘Can you give this letter to him? It conveys information of a dreadful conspiracy.’”

“Oh, my dear, what did you do?” The countess held her hand to her throat.

“I took the letter and proceeded on to Carlton House, but thought so little of it that no one bothered opening it until Lord Castlereagh arrived from St. James Square.”

“What was in the letter?”

“Oh, some confused bumblebroth agitated by malcontents, I daresay. Shouldn’t have mentioned it.”

“But, as you say, a most singular event. Did you recognize the man who gave you the letter?” the countess persisted.

“I have a notion I might have. Think it was that fellow who brings the milk around—or someone who looks very like him.”

But Granville had another topic he wished to discuss. “What is to become of the Amelioration Bill, Father? Can something be done to bring the parties together?”

The earl pressed a finger against his temple and moved it in a circular motion. “I’m sure I can’t. I’m the worst person in the world to conciliate and do the civil—especially on a matter of such clear-cut right and wrong. Wilberforce has every right to feel sadly betrayed by his old friend Canning. Yet I hope the bill may pass unamended in a few days’ time.” The earl pushed his chair away from the table and stood so rapidly that the footman was unable to draw the chair for him.

“My laudanum drops,” he ordered the servant.

“Is it very severe, dear?” His wife held a glass of water out to the earl.

“My head aches so as to make me unable to see my paper or guide my pen. Would to God they were over or I out!” He placed the drops on his tongue and then drank the water. “At least this dose Wilberforce recommended gives some relief.”

“Are you going to Westminster now?” the countess asked. “I wonder if you might take a note to Sandon for me?”

“Send a servant with it—I haven’t time.” Harrowby left the room.

The countess smiled pensively. “My poor dear. What he says about his pacificatory powers is quite true, but he has the highest reputation, and his opinion is of immense value. If only he had not taken that fall. He was of much more amiable temper before that.”

“Fall?” Granville and Georgiana asked together.

“Yes, my dears. You were both in leading strings then, and he doesn’t like to have it talked of, so I daresay you may not know the story.”

The blank looks on their faces gave her their answer.

“He had just become foreign secretary under Pitt, and we rejoiced at the good he should be able to accomplish. But then he was helping old Lord Eccles down the stairway at the Foreign Office—such dreadfully slick marble there. Lord Eccles lost his footing. Your father succeeded in righting him, but tumbled on his head himself.

“I thought we might lose him. He had to leave office for almost a year. But the prayers of faithful friends and a stay in Bath restored him.”

Granville shook his head slowly. “I never knew.”

“No. I don’t suppose you did. It is a melancholy story, is it not? I’m sure that’s why I never recounted it—He doesn’t like to have his infirmity made much of, and he always works so hard. But many nights he returns from Westminster half dead with headache and terribly irritable.

“I suppose I should have mentioned it sooner to help you understand his snappish ways. When he is curt with the younger children, I often recall how it was when you were little. But I hope you know your father has always loved you dearly and has been very proud of you. If he has been overly harsh, it is only his extreme concern for your welfare and his anxiety for your success.”

“Yes, Mother. I have only recently come to realize… I do know he cares.”

“Your father’s greatest fault is that he cares too much—and then expresses his concern sharply. But his heart is all goodness.

“And now I must go see Jean-Luc about the fish for the cabinet dinner.” She raised her hand in signal for the footman to hold her chair. “Your father is quite right, you know. Jean-Luc is frightfully overpaid, but what am I to do? I cannot have it said that the Countess of Harrowby keeps a poor table. How would it look if the cabinet refused my invitation to dine because they knew the beef would be over-done?”

Granville stood till his mother left the room, then resumed his seat. He sat quietly, considering his mother’s story. It certainly made it easier to understand his father. As he pondered, a wider, disconcerting realization dawned on him—He must forgive the earl, just as his Heavenly Father had freely forgiven him. But that resolve left him with the uncomfortable conclusion that he could therefore no longer blame his parent for the lack of understanding between them.

Putting that aside for the moment, he turned to Georgiana. “Will you be attending Lady York’s ball on Friday?”

“Yes. I have ordered a new gown since we are to go early to dine. I am relying on Worcester to escort us as Papa is suffering from the family enemy.”

“Oh, has he the gout again?”

“Yes, and he simply must be recovered before we remove to Troy House. We always do so much tramping about there in the beautiful Welsh countryside.” She recited her week’s agenda of at-homes, concerts, and dinners, as well as attending meetings of two compassionate societies with her mother. Granville could see that such a schedule would leave little time for him, and he would not be satisfied with a few moments squeezed between appointments. What he wanted to discuss with Georgiana would require her undivided attention. He must wait.

“Then I look forward with great pleasure to seeing you at Lady York’s. It is the night of the cabinet dinner, so I shall remove myself from Harrowby House with alacrity.” Their breakfast over, he escorted her around the Square to the duke’s house.

On Thursday Granville again took a seat in the House gallery to hear the third reading of the Amelioration Bill. However, the man who had labored the hardest to bring it about was absent. True to the fears of many of his friends, Wilberforce had overtaxed his strength and suffered a physical collapse. Now that Canning’s attempts to delay the measure had failed, the secretary rose to move the third reading of Wilberforce’s bill, carrying out the wishes of his party. “My honorable friend, the member for Bramber, Mr. Wilberforce, is prevented from attending this august body due to an indisposition he has suffered. He asked me to state, however, how much he regretted that he could not be present on this occasion to express his joy at what he considers a major step toward the accomplishment of the great object for which he so long has labored. His presence shall be sadly missed today.”

The chamber rang with hearty cries of, “Hear, hear!” In the mood of conciliation now on both sides of the House, a member rose and, rightly forecasting the outcome, congratulated the House and the friends of abolition on the success of the measure so long opposed. “Looking back at the difficulties with which its friends have had to contend, I would not have thought it possible that these could have been overcome in such a comparatively short space. It is also a source of great satisfaction to me to perceive that by the treaty about to be finally concluded between the two British nations, on both sides of the Atlantic, we shall shortly enter into arrangements that will shame mankind out of this horrid traffic. It is—”

“I beg to remind my learned and honorable friend that the other chamber is waiting to have this bill sent up to them.”

The speaker yielded to Secretary Canning’s stern reminder. “Thank you, Mr. Secretary. In that case I will not delay the House any longer.” He sat down.

The bill was read a third time, and to a resounding acclamation of “Aye!” the measure was passed.

The House then turned to consideration of the treaty with the United States. Sandon rose, and in the fluid voice that had earned him so much success as a public speaker, he introduced the measure to which the earlier speaker had referred. “Mr. Speaker, sir, it gives me great pleasure to inform this House that the American Congress has ratified the treaty proposed by this kingdom to enforce the abolishment of the slave trade on the open seas.”

Shouts of “Hear! Hear!” interrupted the speaker.

“And that country has taken independent measures to ensure that the slave trade will be dealt with as piracy according to the laws of both countries. Further, there is in the treaty a stipulation by which the United States and Great Britain pledge themselves to invite other powers to accede to the same measure. Gentlemen, I urge our ratification of this treaty.”

“Hear, hear!” Again the chamber rang. The bill was read a third time and passed. It had been a great day of victory for the forces of abolition in the “two British nations on both sides of the Atlantic.”

It, as well, was a major personal victory for William Wilberforce who for fifty years had led the antislavery movement without faltering. There remained but one last step—abolition. And I will be here to work for it, Granville vowed.

Leaving Westminster, Granville turned his steps toward Travellers, the Ryder family’s club, thinking that perhaps Sandon would be there to discuss politics with him. But as soon as he got to St. James Street, he was hailed by a familiar voice. “Ryder! Fancy finding you running tame around town.”

“Perkins, I didn’t know you were coming to London.” He offered his hand to his friend.

“Lot you don’t know. Remember Fifi at Newmarket?”

Granville’s eyes narrowed. “Indeed I do.”

“Rum thing. Saw your watch in a pawnshop window—least, thought it was. Went in to check. That man was there, the one that hung around them. Wouldn’t have recognized him, but he had on that awful check suit. He and his tailor should be arrested for bad taste. At any rate, told him what I thought of his piece of work. Couldn’t prove it against him, of course, but I put a flea in his ear. Told him he was a rum cove to use females to run his rigs. Told me he wouldn’t use Fifi anymore. She’s in St. Bart’s Hospital with consumption.”

“What? Is it possible?”

“’S fact,” Freddie declared. Then, apparently exhausted from the effort of making such a lengthy speech, he walked quietly for several moments.

“Oh, almost forgot.” He put his hand in his pocket. “Here’s your watch.”

“Thank you, Perk!” Granville was highly pleased to have his watch returned—before his father noticed its absence. “What did you pay to redeem it? I’ll give you a draft.”

“Not me. Made that bawd do the pretty.” Freddie looked pleased with himself.

They entered Travellers’ exclusive portals, and Granville paused in the cloakroom to draw out his pocketbook. He scribbled a note and folded several large bills inside it. “Do you have a wafer, Hansard?” he asked the porter.

“Certainly, sir.” The servant produced the requested bit of wax.

Granville affixed it and dashed an address on the outside. “Can you have this taken around?”

The servant produced a silver tray to receive the note. “Certainly, sir. Very good.” He pocketed his tip. “Thank you, sir.”

Granville and Freddie went on into the coffee room. “What you about, Gran?”

“A note and subscription to one of my mother’s charities, The Forlorn Female’s Fund of Mercy.”

Freddie laughed. “You’re bamming me. You sending a fistful of flimsies to Fifi?”

“To the society. For her care—and Clarissa’s too if they can find her.”

Freddie was speechless for a moment. Then he said, “Better to call out Bow Street than some Friday-faced almsworker. Not to say that Fifi ain’t plenty forlorn, of course.”

Granville smiled at his friend’s sentiments, but spoke seriously. “I’ll admit my first impulse was to call out the runners, but a recent experience of mine made me think mercy is more appropriate than judgment.”

Freddie’s eyes got large. “You been messing around with that lightskirt Grace again?”

Granville was too thunderstruck at Freddie’s misapprehension even to laugh. “Yes, Perkins, grace is the word, but you’ve got it all wrong—I’ll explain sometime.”

A waiter arrived to take their orders. The refreshment brought a new topic to Freddie’s mind. “Merry’s coming to town Wednesday. Want to make up a party to the theater?”

Granville started to agree, then stopped. “Sorry, I shall be required at a family gathering that night—in honor of my uncle. He’s finally been translated.”

Freddie stared. “Translated? Don’t mean to say he’s become French, do you?”

Granville threw back his head in an open, carefree laugh, something rare in his recent months of struggle.

Freddie regarded him thoughtfully. “I say, Ryder, thought religion would ruin you. I was wrong. Like you better this way.”

Granville wiped his eyes with his napkin. “I like me better too, Freddie. That’s the whole thing.”

The following evening the crush of elegant carriages outside Lady York’s house in Berkeley Square was only a prelude to the multitude thronging her Georgian mansion.

Granville presented his card and was announced by the powdered and liveried butler. Then he strolled through the flower-banked reception rooms filled with people and music. It seemed that he saw everyone he knew in London—except the one person he sought. And when he did encounter a daughter of the Duke of Beaufort in the long gallery, it was Lady Charlotte Somerset who came to him smiling with outstretched hand to be bowed over.

Charlotte was radiant in an evening dress of figured ivory silk with gauze insets. The jewels entwined in her hair sparkled under the chandelier as she danced the Boulanger with Granville. When the music ended, Granville offered to get a glass of ratafia for her. Instead of answering his question, she looked across the room and cried, “My, doesn’t George look splendid tonight!”

It wasn’t the flamboyant Mr. Agar-Ellis in his high-cut waistcoat of French silk enriched with silver thread and embroidered in silver purl and spangles that captured Granville’s attention, however. It was his partner—Georgiana in a pink satin dance dress cut low on her white shoulders, its bell-shaped skirt adorned with appliqued trimming and padded rosettes. A fillet of pink French roses nestled in her blond curls.

“Shall we join them?” Charlotte asked.

Granville was about to suggest an alternative when the couple spotted them and moved forward. Before Georgiana and George could cross the room to them, however, their hostess hurried in.

“Granville, I am so pleased I have found you. You haven’t heard, have you?”

Granville’s reply was lost when a woman nearby gave a muffled scream. Servants rushed to fold the shutters across the windows. All dancing stopped as a buzz of gossip flew around the room.

Lady York grasped Granville’s arm. “I don’t know how accurate the report is, but we’ve just received word that there has been an attempt to assassinate the cabinet. Is it true that they were dining at your father’s house tonight?”

Granville stiffened to attention as if his captain had just brought word of an enemy attack. “It is true. Tell me what you heard, madam.”

Charlotte seized Georgiana’s hand and pulled her into the circle to hear Lady York.

“Indeed, I am not confident what I have heard; the reports are so garbled—twenty to thirty conspirators, the foot guards ordered out to support the police, shots fired—oh, my dear, I hardly know what to tell you. Indeed, it could be nothing, but it does sound very bad.”

“Very bad, indeed. I know you will excuse me, milady.” Granville bowed and turned toward the door, his mind filled with gory visions of his parents’ blood staining the pale blue walls of their dining room.

Seventeen

“Wait, I’m going with you, Gran.” Georgiana grabbed his arm.

“Certainly not. I have no idea what the situation is, but if one-tenth of the report is true, it is not a circumstance I wish to take you into.” He hurried on toward the entrance hall barely ahead of numerous other guests preparing a hurried exit. But Georgiana matched her step to his.

Granville had to wait for his carriage to be pulled forward. “Georgiana, we have no idea if the conspirators have been apprehended. They may be lurking about anywhere, lying in wait outside our house. Or the scene may be—” He spoke the word through clenched teeth, “—grisly.”

“Precisely why I am going. You may need me.”

Further argument died with the simultaneous arrival of Granville’s phaeton and a breathless servant running from the house with Georgiana’s evening cloak. Granville sprang into the carriage, leaving the servant to hand Georgiana in.

The short drive from Berkeley Square to Grosvenor Square provided evidence of the incredible alarm that had spread through London—troops from the Hyde Park Barracks struggled to keep order in streets choked with traffic as dinner parties, assemblies, and balls quickly dispersed. Passersby called to one another for news. Each report grew more alarming as snatches from passing open carriages reached them.

“How many killed?”

“Nine, I heard.”

“Yes, and Liverpool.”

“Liverpool? They’ve killed the prime minister?”

“The king? An attempt on the king?”

Granville set his features and looked straight ahead, driving his most skillfully in impossible circumstances. Beside him Georgiana sat very still, her hand tucked gently under his arm.

“It will be all right, Gran. I know it will.”

One of the officers stationed outside Harrowby House recognized Granville and sprang forward to hold his horses as Granville leapt from the carriage. Another officer handed Georgiana down. At the doorway they were joined by Sandon, who threw the door open and rushed ahead, calling over his shoulder, “Glad you’re here, Gran. I heard the news at Almacks. Got here as soon as I could.” He threw the door to the dining room open and stood frozen, blocking Granville’s view.

Certain that he was to be faced with the reality of his blood-spattered visions, Granville attempted to shield Georgiana.

Sandon exclaimed, “What the deuce!” and moved on into the room. “It’s all over London that the whole Square has been blown sky high and the government with it—a real Guy Fawkes… officers filling the street. Could hardly make my way through the cordon outside—and here you sit sipping coffee!”

The enormous flood of relief at the placid domestic scene—the earl and countess dining quietly alone—brought them near to hysterical laughter.

“I told you of the warning I’d received,” the earl said calmly. “Most of the ministers treated the matter lightly, but Wellington and Bathurst had heard previous rumors and insisted we formulate a plan.

“The duke brought forth a noble scheme worthy of the hero of Waterloo with two hundred men from Portman Street on alert. The moment they saw the gang assemble for action, they were to approach double-quick. The Life Guards were to gallop across the park and occupy the surrounding streets.

“Since that scheme entailed the cabinet members actually dining here, however, we decided that the members’ carriages should pull up at their doors and drive here as if all were going forward. The carriages actually arrived empty while Bow Street constables and a piquet of foot guards went to Cato Street to apprehend the conspirators on their home territory.” The Earl concluded with a satisfied smile.

Granville, still unable to rid his mind of the horrors it had conjured up, shook his head. “And absolutely nothing happened here?”

The earl shrugged. “I observed men watching the house front and rear all day, but I ordered dinner to be served as usual.”

The countess gave a small gurgle of laughter. “Well, there was one casualty. Jean-Luc threw his hat on the floor and trampled it in a rage when he heard his dinner was to be canceled.”

Sandon laughed. “There’ll be delicacies in the schoolroom for weeks. I envy my smaller brothers and sisters.”

Granville, however, did not appreciate the humor of the situation. “But, Father, did it not occur to you to remove to another place? It’s all very well for the other ministers to stay at home, but here you sit at the center of the bull’s eye. If the conspirators had escaped arrest, they might well have come on here and blown you to eternity. After all, the arrival of all those empty carriages gave the impression that they could accomplish their ends. And what of Mother’s safety?”

“He did think of that, dear. I don’t think he took a single thought for himself, but he did urge me to order dinner served in the upper sitting room. I thought that quite nonsensical—which, as you can see, it would have been. Would you care for some coffee?”

Granville shook his head. “Pluck to the backbone, both of you.”

“Anyone?” Lady Harrowby touched the coffee urn. “It may yet be a long night.”

Before she had finished pouring a cup for Georgiana, the butler opened the double doors and stood aside. “Sir Richard Birnie,” he announced as the police magistrate entered. “And, er, Mr. Lavender.” Although service in a house that was the focal point of the most audacious assassination plot in British history had not ruffled this worthy servant, the necessity of announcing the most felonious-appearing of the Bow Street Runners very nearly overset him.

“Thought you’d want to know as soon as possible, my Lord, so I came around with the news myself,” Sir Richard said. “We got the ruffians in the Cato Street stable, just like your informant said. My first man in was shot in the head, but it’s only a wound. The one who followed, though, was stabbed and killed. The conspirators put out the light and attempted to escape, but by that time the soldiers had arrived. We took nine prisoners. Thistlewood and the rest escaped, but we’ll soon get ’em, don’t you worry. Have ’em strung up for treason quicker ’n you can say, ‘Jack Spratt.’”

“But what was their object? What can they possibly have hoped to gain by such an act?” The earl’s overriding reaction seemed to be perplexity.

“Near as we can make out, yer Lordship,” Lavender replied twirling the hat he had refused to surrender to the footman, “the ideer was to fire a rocket from the ’ouse soon’s they’d completed their work of destruction. That was to be the signal for the risin’ of their friends. There was some notion of settin’ an oil shop on fire to increase the confusion and then throw open the bank and Newgate.

“The ’eads of the ministers, beggin’ your pardon, me Lord,” he nodded to Lord Harrowby. “Was to ’ave been cut off and put in a sack, but we got the sack all right and tight.” He finished with considerable satisfaction as if securing the sack had been the coup de grace to the conspiracy.

“Those poor, misguided creatures.” The earl shook his head. “Did they actually believe they could pull off such a thing?”

“The plan does seem remarkably disorganized,” Birnie said. “The mob might have created confusion and made havoc, but it would have been quite inefficient for a regular operation. It would never have worked.”

“All that for some vague notions of revenge, liberty, and instant prosperity by a band of desperate destitutes.” Lady Harrowby leaned her forehead against her hand. “And now I suppose they will be executed. Do they have families?”

“Don’t be wastin’ no sympathy on them, ma’am. Their notion was to stick the ’ead of your murdered ’usband and ’is compatriots on staves and carry ’em through the streets of London to rouse the mob. Beggin’ your pardon, ladies.” Lavender nodded to the countess and Georgiana. “But you’d best know the truth.”

“And to think that was all prevented by the pure chance of a member of the conspiracy knowing and liking you, Father—our milkman, no less.”

“No, Granville. I don’t believe it was chance,” the earl replied.

“The Honorable Mr. Frederick Calthorpe and Lady Charlotte Somerset.” The butler might have been announcing late arrivals at a formal ball.

“Where is my brother? They said he’d been murdered!” Fred looked quite distracted.

“Georgie!” Charlotte flew to her sister. “Are you all right? You can’t imagine the stories flying everywhere. The whole town is in an uproar. Lady York’s guests were barricading her house with arms when we left.”

After the essence of the matter was reported to the newcomers, the men from Bow Street left to escort the Somerset sisters to their father’s house. Lord Sandon suddenly remembered his wife whom he had left in the care of their party at Almacks.

“I know you’ll do better for our parents’ comfort than I, at any rate.” Sandon clapped a hand on Granville’s shoulder and then hurried off.

“The town will be abuzz till long past daybreak, but there is no need for me to be. If you will excuse me, my dears.” Granville and his father stood and saw the countess out of the room.

While all London surged outside, father and son faced each other across the tranquil room. “Father, I—” Granville could find no words to express his relief at finding his father unharmed. He suddenly realized how much this man meant to him.

“Sit down and have a drink, Granville.” The earl handed his son a glass and resumed his seat at the table. “We have needed to talk for some time. I apologize for allowing my parliamentary duties to get in the way of my duties as a father.”

“No, sir, it is I who must apologize. But I won’t embarrass you by speaking of what should never have risen between us.”

“I appreciate that, Granville. Allow me to say only that I now realize I was far too impatient in pressing you to develop the abilities I knew you possessed. I received a very fine letter from Charles Simeon. He had some superior things to say to your character.”

Granville grinned. “Doesn’t know me well, huh?”

“On the contrary, I should say he knows you better than your own father. But I think we might remedy that in future.” The earl extended his hand, and Granville clasped it warmly.

“The prodigal has returned, Father.” Granville exchanged the handshake for an embrace.

“Shall we kill the fatted calf?”

Granville chuckled. “I fancy that won’t be necessary with all Jean-Luc has prepared.”

The earl gave him a final slap on the back. “Now to bed with you, you young scapegrace. Have you no compassion for a tired old man with an abominable headache?”

But in his room the image that filled Granville’s mind was not his newly sympathetic vision of his father. He now saw pictures of Georgiana that his mind had captured all through the harrowing evening, but had found no time to focus on: Georgiana insisting on going with him to face possible murderers or rioters because “you might need me.” Georgiana, all delicate pink, white, and golden as the street lamps lighted her, enveloped in a long rose cloak with a shoulder cape, the whole garment edged with the softest fur. Georgiana sitting beside him with her calm support while panic ruled in the streets.

He picked up his pen. The letter he wrote, however, was not addressed to Georgiana, but to God:

O Lord God, the great and merciful God, You have caused in Your good providence that I be companion with one whom You have richly endowed with charm of person, mind, and disposition, and above all, with a heart desirous of loving and serving You.

O Lord, it seems to me that she is particularly suited to me as a helpmeet above all others—that her character, by its strength and decision, by its gentleness, purity, truth, and conscientiousness is one calculated to be most useful to mine.

Therefore, O my Lord, I pray that I may love her more faithfully and truly and, above all, unselfishly, so as to desire her happiness in preference to my own…

He held his pen poised above the paper. His next thought brought an agony he could hardly bear, but it must be faced. What if his great desire for her was not compatible with her happiness—with God’s best plan? He dipped his pen in the inkwell and resolutely continued:

…even if that be inseparable from that which be most painful to me.

But, O Lord God Almighty, if it be possible, consistent with her best interests here and hereafter, turn her heart to me, to love me above all others…

He was suddenly struck with the audacity of what he was asking, what an incredibly precious prize he sought—next to the gift of salvation—the greatest life could offer.

Eighteen

Many weeks later, however, at Troy House in the lush green Welsh mountains, it was not Granville’s letter that Georgiana was reading with her brow knit in thoughtful furrows, but one from George Agar-Ellis:

My dear Georgiana,

My very, very dear Georgiana, my heart’s desire—but more of that anon. I am torn with regret over my misfortune which prevented me from speaking with you and unveiling what is in my heart before you left London. But for that dreadful Cato Street affair—but enough of that.

What I wish to communicate to you most particularly is that affairs require that I should journey into Yorkshire and stay a few days with Lord Carlisle at Castle Howard. From there I propose to journey to your side in Wales where I shall have something most particular to say to you which—I take great leave to flatter myself—I do not believe you shall find unpleasant.

Yr. most humble and devoted servant,

G.A.-E.

“Well, that is rather pot-sure of him.” Georgiana smiled and placed the letter on her writing desk. And yet, as she so often reminded herself, George was not an unpleasant companion. In spite of his puffery, he was never vicious or profligate, and he was entirely free from anything like severity or austerity. But if she were to accept his offer—and she had no doubt that was his allusion—there would never be a less romantic or more businesslike attachment. In spite of his protestations, she did not flatter herself that his heart was seriously engaged. She felt, however, that she might contrive to rub along quite well with a man so active and ambitious in his pursuits and magnificent in his tastes. He is devoted to literature, politics, society, she coached herself, and since the one of whom you think tenderly considers you only as a cousin… Yes, George Agar-Ellis might do. If only her heart were not already engaged.

She sat long thinking of Granville, of their last dramatic night together in London and of the other times they had spent together in town. All through the dismal months of January and February, she had hoped that when she saw Granville again, he might give her some indication that he reciprocated her feelings. But no such declaration had come.

She sighed as she tossed George Agar-Ellis’s missive onto her desk and thought how far different her reaction would be if the letter bore a different signature.

She had also hoped that Granville would join them at Troy House for Easter. But that day was long past, and still there was no word. Had all she thought Granville felt for her been only wishful thinking? Had her judgments been colored by the strength of her desire? What should she do if Granville had no more to communicate to her and George sincerely sought her hand? Did Granville think of her at all?

In London Granville was, indeed, thinking of his fair cousin. His thoughts took the form of wondering if he would ever be able to leave town and seek his cousin’s companionship. The demands on his time following the uncovering of the conspiracy left him no leisure even for writing to Georgiana. He had barely managed to scribble a hasty note to Peacock in Cambridge and inform his crammie that events in London would delay his return to Trinity for Lent term. With the earl and Sandon busy in Parliament from morning till night, family responsibility for assisting the officers and responding to the public fell on Granville.

Although nine of the conspirators had been apprehended in the Cato Street stable, several others, including Thistlewood and Edwards, the ringleaders, were still at large. Two days after the alarm, Lavender called at Grosvenor Square and asked Granville to accompany him to view the evidence Bow Street was collecting for the trial.

The sight there was alarming. Granville contemplated what might have been the result had this arsenal been put into use by an unruly mob. There were piles of muskets, carbines, broad swords, pistols, blunderbusses, ball-cartridges, and gunpowder—then in another room, a bundle of singularly constructed stilettos, pikes, pike handles, and hand grenades.

Granville shuddered as he viewed the pikes, recalling the reported plan of the gang to put the heads of the cabinet on pikes. He turned to Lavender. “It makes one extremely thankful to Providence.”

Lavender wiped his forehead with an ample handkerchief. “Aye, that it does, sir. And now if you would be so good as to accompany me to the ’Orse and Groom. Beggin’ your pardon, but it seems only fittin’…”

“Yes, of course.” Granville went out the door Lavender held for him. “I should be most glad to pay my respects to the officer killed while saving our country from this terrible affair.”

Pending the inquest, the body of Officer Smithers was laid in a first-floor room of the public house across the street from the stable. The slain man was still in the clothes in which he had been killed, his chest and neck covered with blood. Granville took a brief look. As so often in the last two days, he breathed a prayer of thanks that it was not his father’s body he viewed.

“What of this man’s family?” he asked Lavender. “Has anything been done to see to their needs?”

The runner wasn’t aware that any action had been taken, so Granville set about to initiate a public subscription for the support of Smithers’s widow and children and also a fund to reward the officers who had apprehended the conspirators. He also endorsed Sir Birnie’s plan to offer a thousand-pound reward for information leading to the arrest of Thistlewood.

Meanwhile, each day’s post brought another stack of letters to Harrowby House—congratulations on the narrow escape, anonymous threatening letters, unwelcome offers of help. Granville sat at the desk in Lord Harrowby’s study shaking his head over yet another public-spirited proposal:

My Lord:

If you will enclose in a letter the sum of two or three pounds to enable me to act with certainty, I will write you by Friday next with information of the utmost importance. If you do not comply with my mode of information, no other will be noticed, and I shall seal my lips forever.

Your Lordship’s humble servant,

John West

Granville tossed the note aside and turned as the butler opened the door.

“Sir Richard Birnie.”

“Sir Richard, it is a pleasure to see you. Please sit down.” Granville pointed to a chair across from his desk.

Birnie sat on the edge of the wing chair. “I don’t know what to expect next, sir. We’ve uncovered another plot—”

“What! More conspirators?” Granville jerked to attention.

“In a manner of speaking, that is. A couple of ‘public-spirited’ radicals have formed a committee for conducting the prisoners’ defense.”

“Surely that isn’t out of order. They are entitled to a fair trial.”

“Right you are. But it seems they aren’t willing to take their chances with justice. They meet every other evening at the Crown and Anchor in Shoe Lane—where we are careful to see that two spies meet with them.” He said the last with a note of conspicuous pride.

“Well, what have you learned?” The strain of the last days showed in the impatience in Granville’s voice.

“We have secured a paper from one of our spies containing a list of the men eligible for jury duty who have been canvassed in the interest of the prisoners. The names of those found to be favorable to them are marked with an X, very favorable XX. Those they are afraid of are indicated with an O, very fearful OO. They feel if they can secure jury seats for only two of their men, they can prevent a verdict of guilty.”

“But surely you can prevent such tampering with justice now that you are alerted.”

“Indeed we shall. You may rely on it, sir.”

The next day brought still more dramatic events as Edwards, the chief conspirator, gave information on the whereabouts of his friend Arthur Thistlewood for the promised thousand pounds. Edwards collected the reward and then disappeared. But Thistlewood was captured and, after a visit to Bow Street for the usual formalities, was taken off to be examined by the Privy Council.

Since Thistlewood was the son of one of Lord Harrowby’s Lincolnshire tenants, Granville accompanied his father to the Home Office for the hearing. The room was filled with those from the highest ranks of society and government.

Thistlewood, led in by strong guards, wore shabby clothes apparently unchanged for days. His features looked emaciated, and he sat with his eyes gazing only at the floor.

A Bow Street Runner by the name of Westcott identified Thistlewood as a conspirator. “Yes, my Lord, that’s the man. He put a pistol to my head. I raised my arms to defend myself.” The witness folded his arms over his face to demonstrate. “He fired at me. The gun made three holes in my hat. I tried to run and received a blow on the right side of my head. I fell with it. He was out of sight before I could get at him.”

“I won’t miss next time, guv’nor,” the prisoner muttered.

Under questioning, Thistlewood admitted to being influenced by the ideals of the French Revolution. Then he told how the plan took form. “’Bout ’leven or twelve of us was gathered to talk over what we could do to stir up the people when Edwards bursts in with the newspaper. ‘There’s to be a cabinet dinner tomorrow at the Earl of ’Arrowby’s!’ ’e said. Then I declared, ‘Now I’ll be dashed if I don’t believe there is a God. I’ve prayed that those thieves be collected all together in order to give us a good opportunity to destroy ’em. God has answered my prayer!’ President of the Provisional Government I was to be.” Being in the dock didn’t prevent his puffing out his chest.

The questions continued, but Granville had heard enough. “Send the chaplain to them,” he ordered Birnie as he exited the courtroom.

Back in Grosvenor Square Sandon met him in the entrance hall. “What’s the news of the interrogation?”

Granville tossed his hat and gloves to the butler and led the way into the sitting room. “Poor devils. Such ignorance, such discontent, such desperate idealism. They have no notion of what they’ve done. Or by the grace of God were prevented from doing.” He paced the floor. “And I can’t get away from the feeling that in some horrible way they’re a symbol of what any of us might be capable of if we were bereft of money, friends, education, family, God.”

“It sounds as if you’ve been listening to revolutionaries yourself.”

Granville gave a tight laugh. “Maybe I have. No, don’t worry, I’m not about to lead a revolution. But when I get into Parliament, I do mean to work for reform. There has to be a way of alleviating the desperation of such poor creatures. What Wilberforce has done for the blacks in the colonies is all very well, but there are those on our own doorstep whose situations are equally desperate.”

While the brothers were still talking, the earl entered rubbing his forehead. With a hint of amusement in his eyes, he said, “Well, it seems that at least one person has profited from this sorry business. Some fellow quite unauthorized has taken possession of the Cato Street stable and demands a shilling from each person who desires admission. They tell me thousands surge through Cato Street to see the site of the drama.”

A few days later the trial began. The Earl of Harrowby was one of the first called to give evidence regarding the council’s prior knowledge of the conspiracy and the warning delivered to him by Hinden, the milkman.

Hinden was called next. He told of meeting one Wilson at a shoemakers’ club. “Wilson asked me if I would be one of a party to come forward to destroy ’is Majesty’s ministers. ’E said they ’ad some such things as I never saw, which ’e called by the name of ’and grenades. ’E said they was to be lighted with fuses and put under the table. All that escaped the explosion was to die by the edge of the sword or some other weapon.” An audible gasp in the courtroom followed his words.

“On Wednesday the twenty-third, did you see Wilson again?” the attorney general asked.

“I did.”

“You were going with some milk?”

“No, sir,” Hinden corrected. “I was going ’ome with one of my little girls in my ’and.”

“And what did Wilson say?”

“’E called me by name and said I was the very man ’e wanted to see. ’E said there was going to be a cabinet dinner at Lord ’Arrowby’s and that I was to go up to Cato Street and meet the others by the stable.”

“But instead you took word to Lord Harrowby?”

“Yes, Guv’nor, I did.”

Granville was certain his wasn’t the only prayer of thanks breathed at that declaration.

Then Arthur Thistlewood took the stand. He was defiantly proud of his plan as he told it in detail to the court. “I proposed going to the door with a note to present to ’is Lordship. When the door was open, we would rush in directly, seize the servants what were in the way, and threaten them with death if they resisted.

“This done, a party would rush forward to take command of the stairs. The man ’aving firearms would be protected by ’olding the ’and grenade. When the ’ouse was secure, those to do the assassination were to rush in directly after.”

His tale was continued by Ings, another conspirator, in a likewise defiant and excited tone. “I was to enter the room first with a brace of pistols, a cutlass, and a knife in my pocket. After the swordsmen ’ad dispatched those ’igh and mighty rascals, I would cut every ’ead off and bring it away in a bag.”

A shiver of horror went through the courtroom as the plan unfolded—one conspirator to throw a fireball into the straw at the King Street Barracks to stifle man and beast, others to capture the cannon. The Royal Exchange to be set on fire. Next the Bank of England to be attacked and plundered of all they could get, but the books preserved to provide evidence against others to be assassinated throughout the country.

Day after day more bloody details emerged. Granville’s gratitude for God’s protection increased, as did his desire to have the appalling affair ended. It was clear that the conspirators would be hung, but Granville determined to be out of London when it happened.

Nineteen

Far from London as she was, Georgiana heard little of the stirring events gripping the city, and the verdant beauty of the Welsh countryside offered few distractions to aid her in her determination not to think of one who had obviously forgotten her. She was in her room studiously not thinking about Granville when suddenly Charlotte flew into the room in a welter of sprig muslin skirts and beribboned curls. “Georgie! Hold my hand. I’m in such a flutter I can’t contain myself.”

“Char! Whatever is wrong?” She flew to her sister’s side and grasped her trembling hands.

“Wrong? Nothing could be more right! Frederick Calthorpe has just made me an offer—and, and I have accepted. He has gone now into the Oak Room to Papa. Oh, Georgie, Papa won’t refuse, will he? He’s normally the most amiable of men, but the gout sometimes makes him crotchety and—” She squeezed her sister’s hands. “Oh, Georgie, I can’t bear it. My whole happiness depends on it.”

“Charlotte! I had no notion you had a tendre for Frederick. Indeed, I had thought—”

“Oh, yes! For some time I have considered him the most amiable of men and the handsomest, of such superior manners and breeding. And then that dreadful night when those ruffians tried to blow up London and Fred was so distracted, not knowing what had befallen his brother… Georgie, he turned to me for support—to me! Then I knew that there was no other way I could spend my life but in supporting him in everything.”

Georgiana’s smile was wistful. “Yes, I know exactly what you mean, I had a similar experience…” Then a more practical consideration struck her. “But, Char, you say you have been with him just now? When did he arrive? I thought him in London with Henry and Lord Lauderdale.”

“Yes, yes, he was. He has driven directly from London to bring Papa a letter from our brother. Oh, Georgie, you don’t suppose it’s bad news, do you? If it is, Papa will be all out of sorts and not at all ready to hear Fred’s suit.” She clasped a hand to her mouth. “Oh, I didn’t think of it! What could be so particular that Frederick should be obliged to bring a letter from Henry? Why couldn’t he have sent it by post? Oh, Georgie, I’m worried to distraction. Hold me!”

Agatha found the sisters locked in one another’s arms when she entered the room a few minutes later. “His Grace is asking for you, milady.”

“For me?” Charlotte cried. “Oh, how did he look? Was he smiling? Oh, say he was. He must have been smiling.”

“For both of you—Lady Charlotte and Lady Georgiana.”

“Both of us? How very singular. Georgie, I’m glad you are to come with me. I’m all in a quake.” Charlotte practically pulled her sister down the stairs, barely pausing to catch her breath and smooth her hair before entering the Oak Room.

The room, named for the black oak Jacobean paneling brought to Troy House for safekeeping from Raglan Castle when the castle was threatened by a Roundhead siege, was already occupied. The duke sat with his left foot elevated on a stool. The hurriedly summoned duchess sat in a chair near his, and the Honorable Mr. Calthorpe stood before them. Charlotte squeezed her sister’s hand until Georgiana winced.

The duke cleared his throat and waved a piece of paper with a broken red wax seal before them. “Mr. Calthorpe has been so good as to bring us word from your brother. My dears, prepare yourselves for a shock.”

Georgiana squeezed Charlotte’s hand tighter yet. What could it be? Could Henry have died? She held her breath and looked at her father.

“He was married three days ago at a private service in St. George’s Church, Hanover Square.”

“Married!” Georgiana cried, her pent-up breath rushing out with the word. “To Emily? Did they find a way around the degrees of affinity?”

“Your brother was advised that since the connection was within the proscribed bounds, the match would be voidable but not void. Therefore, he thought it best to make the object of his heart’s desire a fait accompli and trust that no action would be taken by an ecclesiastical court to set it aside. Since the lady’s stepmother supports the match, it seems that Culling-Smith will not take steps to overset it.” He turned to Frederick. “Sir, will you ring for some port that we may felicitate them in absentia?”

The duchess wiped her eyes. “Oh, I am so happy for them. I knew at Christmas that she was the right one for him. It was clear he was head over heels in love with her.

“And it was certainly time he should be married in order to put a stop to the reports and stories. My sister Granville informs me that the town gossips have married him to three different women since Christmas.” When the ordered tray arrived the duchess held her glass before her and said, “Joy to them.”

“And progeny,” the duke added bluntly. “That young Corinthian had best remember his duty to the family and produce an heir.”

The family laughed and sipped the deep red liquid. But Charlotte, who had not let go of Georgiana’s hand through the entire proceeding, whispered, “Is that all? Hasn’t he anything to say to my happiness? My fagot band was the first to break.”

“Hush,” her sister whispered. “It’s unlikely Fred has had opportunity to speak to him on the matter.”

“Oh, I shall die if I’m obliged to wait longer.”

Such a dreary circumstance was not to arise, however, because the Honorable Frederick had indeed spoken on his own behalf as well. “Fill ’em again, Burton,” the duke ordered when he had emptied his glass. “We have another matter to toast as well.” He looked at the duchess. “Seems our Charlotte has given her heart to this young scalawag here. I told him we might abide him in the family if you think you can bear it, my dear.”

The duchess embraced her eldest daughter, who at last dropped Georgiana’s numb hand. “Oh, my dear, I am so happy for you!” Then she dabbed at her eyes again. “My cup runneth over. Two in one day! I don’t know that I can bear it.” She released Charlotte who flew to her betrothed’s side.

Georgiana, observing the scene, smiled to herself. It wouldn’t do to speak of it now, but she too just might have an announcement for them as soon as Mr. Agar-Ellis arrived. If only she could be as thoroughly enveloped in the joy of it as her sister was.

Three days later Lord and Lady Harrowby arrived at Troy House to attend the stone-laying ceremony of the duchess’s chapel. Georgiana greeted her aunt and uncle and staunchly assured herself that she was not in the least disappointed that their second son was not in their party.

“And where is Charlotte?” the countess asked. “I understand that we may wish her happy.”

“She must not be aware that you have arrived, Aunt Susan. I’ll go find her.” Georgiana kissed her aunt and fled, glad of an excuse to escape before she betrayed her dejection over Granville’s absence. She had held to just the tiniest shred of hope. Now she must abandon all.

Charlotte stood in the upstairs front drawing room looking out the window.

“Lord and Lady Harrowby have arrived, and our aunt is asking for you.”

Charlotte gave the dreamy smile characteristic of her these past days. “Yes, I know. I’ll go down soon. But I want to see who that is approaching. Can you make out the carriage crossing the bridge?” She pointed to the high curving lane that spanned the river on the main road to Troy House from Monmouth. “Fred said he would return as soon as he had informed his family. I suppose it’s too soon to expect him. Still…”

Georgiana could see nothing but the thick, verdant foliage lining the road. “You’ll know soon enough. Come greet—” At that moment a pair of perfectly matched grays turned into the private lane that led up the hill. There was no mistaking that pair of high-steppers. “Oh, I do see them. Yes, those are the horses George calls his sweet-goers.”

“Mr. Agar-Ellis? What, pray tell, is he coming here for?”

Georgiana gave her sister a mischievous grin. “Do you think you’re the only sly one in the family? He’s coming to offer for me.”

“No! Oh dear, how awkward. Shall I tell Mama to send him away?”

“Indeed you shall not! I intend to accept him.”

“Accept George Agar-Ellis! But, Georgie, I thought you and Gran—”

“George always said we were eminently well suited—destined even—because our names are the same. I am of quite the same mind.”

“But Granville—”

“Granville Dudley Ryder is quite the handsomest man I have ever seen, with charm of manners, person, and address, but I fear we have no tendre for each other.”

“No tendre? What a whisker! I’ve seen you look at each other. It’s been all midsummer moon with you two for ages past.”

“You quite mistake the matter, sister.” Georgiana turned away from the window so that Charlotte couldn’t see what her admirable control cost her. “George is a remarkably agreeable man. He is hospitable, courteous, and cordial. He collects about him the most distinguished persons in every rank and condition of life. He has a constant flow of high spirits, much miscellaneous information, an excellent memory, a great enjoyment of fun and humor, a refined taste, goodness of heart…”

Charlotte exploded with laughter. “In short, he would make an excellent host for a weekend house party! Oh, Georgie, don’t be an idiot. Go send him packing.”

Georgiana’s spirits were dampened by her sister’s unvarnished words, but she was determined on her course of action.

“I wish to be useful, to be needed, to make someone happy. It is true, I had hoped—” She choked, then tossed her head bravely. “But never mind. As our cousin doesn’t have need of my affection to complete his happiness, I must find another who does. Mr. Agar-Ellis has made it plain that I stand able to make him the happiest of men. It would be selfish in me to refuse when the happiness of another is in my power.”

“Georgie, that’s so like you! So sweet and giving. And so wrongheaded.”

Afraid her own resolve would weaken under the onslaught, Georgiana pushed her sister out the door with the reminder that Lady Harrowby wanted her. Then she went down the stone steps, across a small stretch of green lawn, and stood beside the gravel circle drive just as the carriage rounded the last curve and swung into full view.

The horses came to full stop. The driver dismounted. Georgiana couldn’t believe her eyes. But it was true. “Gran!” Only with the greatest restraint did she resist throwing open her arms to greet him.

And he seemed in danger of the same unseemly conduct as he tossed his reins to a groom and jumped down. “Georgie! I would have been here sooner, but one of my pair threw up lame outside Bristol. I had to talk like the Dutch to make the hostler at The King’s Head allow me to hire the pair Agar-Ellis keeps there. I assured him we were friends and had to quote my pedigree, but in the end it was the color of my coin that carried the day.”

Then Georgiana’s younger sisters spilled down the stairway to greet their cousin, followed by the duchess and countess.

It was considerably later when Granville found a quiet moment to ask Georgiana, “Would you care to go for a drive—to Raglan perhaps?”

Georgiana didn’t even bother saying yes. “I’ll get my bonnet.”

As they drove through the sweet, green countryside, Georgiana thought of the generations of her ancestors who had made similar journeys when Raglan Castle was their home, of the lords and ladies of Worcester who had lived there in a castle that provided manorial elegance and comfort inside medieval defense requirements. Then of the Cromwellian troops marching in determination to conquer the earl’s defenses in what proved to be the final battle of the Civil War, earning Raglan the title of The Last Castle. Soon afterward the same ground was covered by Lord Worcester’s garrison in retreat, which, in spite of defeat, marched out with horses and arms, colors flying, drums beating, trumpets sounding, and bullets held in their teeth. It must have been spectacular, even though the terms of capitulation were shamefully broken and the aged Worcester taken prisoner and kept in confinement until the end of his life. And still Raglan stood, broken but unbowed, a symbol of devotion to duty, loyalty to friend and king, and determination to do right—no matter what the personal cost.

“So quiet, my dear.”

She caught her breath at Granville’s use of the familiar term of address. “Oh, I was thinking of the men and women here before us—as real as we are today, with their own thoughts, their own feelings, but now all gone—one generation vanishing into another.”

He nodded. “I was thinking of similar things, how someday we shall be gone, and our ch—, er, others will take our place. I only hope our family motto may be true, that ‘As they increase, so shall they shine.’”

Then the ivy-mantled towers rose into view before them on the terraced green hill. They ascended a gentle drive to the gatehouse. Granville tied up the horses and helped Georgiana from the carriage. They crossed the drawbridge high above the moat and went through the entrance protected by a double row of portcullises.

Granville looked around him. “Isn’t this where some forebear of yours is supposed to have invented the steam engine?”

Georgiana had hoped to talk of things nearer her heart, but answered in good grace, “Oh, yes, it’s a rather unsubstantiated claim, I fear, but Lord Herbert, the second Marquess of Worcester, was fanatically interested in scientific research. He set up a laboratory and workshops here for his experiments in the time of Charles the First. His pride and joy was his ‘Water Commanding Engine.’”

“Does the machine still exist?”

“No, but his hydraulic machine, which he claimed solved the problem of perpetual motion, is said to have been buried with him in Raglan parish church.”

“What a pity. It would be most interesting to see it operate.”

“I fancy that wasn’t the general reaction to his inventions.” She laughed and pointed toward the Great Tower. “He contrived some waterworks in there by which water poured from the top through artificial channels causing reverberations all over the castle.

“One of his favorite jokes when escorting guests to the castle was to send a servant ahead to set the machine in motion. When Lord Herbert approached the drawbridge with visitors, suddenly the deafening roar of the waterworks would come from the castle. A servant would rush up shouting, ‘Look to yourselves, my masters! The lions have got loose!’”

They laughed together, then walked on in silence. As the quiet deepened, Georgiana sensed that Granville was holding something back.

Without conversation but with hearts in tune to the history and beauty around them, they climbed to the top of the hexagonal tower and looked across the countryside. A patchwork of spring-green wheat fields bordered by darker hedgerows and clumps of trees spread before them. Over all stretched a gentle blue sky with mounds of white clouds. They looked down on the broken arches of buff stone covered with gold and green moss, patches of grass and purple wild flowers blooming in the windows, and everywhere a riotous growth of ivy.

Granville took her hand to lead her down a corkscrew of stone steps to the walk along the moat filled with bright green moss and gold and black fish. Shafts of sunlight pierced the water as precisely as Cromwell’s arrows must have in an earlier time. But now there were no stirring battle cries, no clash of arms, no snorting, stamping war steeds—just the pounding of Georgiana’s heart and the singing in her ears that closeness to Granville was wont to produce.

Then they entered the Great Hall and sat on a bench provided as part of the duke’s restoration. From their seat in the bay of an oriel window, they could see the hints of former splendor remaining in the castle’s finest apartment—mullioned and cross-beamed windows, molded roof, corbels projecting from the walls, and a huge fireplace. Georgiana hoped she could think of something to say before the silence became awkward.

But Granville spoke first. “I believe the usual opening is, ‘I have something of a particular nature to say to you.’”

And then he fell silent. “I guess the reason I can’t find any words is that I’ve already used them.” He drew two folded sheets of paper from his breast pocket and handed her the love prayer he had written long weeks ago.

With trembling hands she unfolded the papers and began to read:

…That we, loving each other above all things else on earth—but loving You above all—may, by Your great mercy in Your own dear time, have a way made for us that we may marry and enter upon that holy estate with a deep sense of our responsibility to You and to one another, and with the firm determination of being helpmeets to each other, of uplifting one another, and being to one another the cause of as much earthly happiness as You know to be compatible with our heavenly welfare.

Georgiana couldn’t believe it. The thoughts so precisely paralleled her own—her feelings for Granville, her dreams for their future. Her eyes misted, but she read on.

All this I dare only pray in the humble hopes that You, having caused me to be so long with her, thereby learning to know thoroughly her character, to appreciate its excellence, to believe her to be peculiarly suited to myself, and to love her very tenderly, would in Your great goodness grant me this rich gift, utterly unworthy of it though I am.

But, my Father, You can make me worthy of more, even of heavenly gifts, through Christ Jesus. Oh, I pray, above all, that You do so; and then I shall be worthy of this earthly gift, great though it be!

But, O Heavenly Father, I pray especially that I may more than all desire Heavenly kinship. And should You decide to deny me this greatest earthly blessing, enable me in this and all trials to submit humbly and cheerfully to Your divine will, saying from the bottom of my heart, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” Amen.

By the time Georgiana finished reading, tears were streaming down her radiant face. “Granville—” Her voice choked. “If I hadn’t loved you before, I would now.” She handed the papers back to him. “You must put these away very carefully. I am afraid any woman who read them would tumble into love with you, and that could prove most awkward because I intend to make a very absolute piece of work of our marriage.”

But in the logic of things, it was necessary that first Granville should make a very absolute piece of work of kissing his beloved in the hall where her ancestors had lived and loved since the fifteenth century. And she knew that in at least one way, the Harrowby motto was already fulfilled—her love for Granville was increasing to a brilliant shining.

They drove through the soft spring evening back to Troy House, Georgiana bursting to share their secret and at the same time savoring it and hugging it to her heart. But a look of dismay crossed her face when they pulled up to the house. Another carriage had arrived just ahead of them. Oh, no, not George. This could prove very awkward.

The slash-up-to-the-mark Mr. Agar-Ellis, however, would have been highly insulted had he known the lady had accused him of owning such an old-fashioned equipage as that driven by Lord and Lady Granville Levenson-Gower.

Before Georgiana could remove her bonnet or give her Aunt Harriet a proper greeting, Lady Granville began regaling her with the latest on dit gripping London by the ears. “And, my dear, the tittle-tattles are saying that Mr. Agar-Ellis intended to end his tour here and offer for you. Of course, we know that’s quite absurd. At any rate, after a short time at Castle Howard, he found that Lord Carlisle’s second daughter suited his purpose very well and would confer upon him an agreeable family connection without the trouble of going any further. So after three or four days, he proposed to Lady Georgiana Howard.

“It seems that the lady was not less surprised than pleased and proud at the conquest she had so unconsciously made. She immediately accepted him.”

Georgiana couldn’t contain her amusement at the account. “Oh, Aunt, I do believe that’s the most diverting story I ever heard! Do you suppose they’ll suit?”

“The reports are that the lady is mild, gentle, and amiable, full of devotion to and admiration for her betrothed—qualities which should blend very well with his vivacity.”

“Yes, Aunt, but you omitted the lady’s most outstanding mark of eligibility.”

“What is that?”

“Her name is Georgiana—proof that they were destined for each other by a kind Providence.” Laughing with delight and relief, Georgiana took the arm of the waiting Granville. Leaving her baffled aunt, she led him into the garden. “And what do you say to so famous a romance?”

“I wish them joy. But I believe we have a much surer basis for building a happy marriage.”

And as Granville very scandalously kissed her for the second time that day, Georgiana thought so too.

Afterword

The major events of the book are all recorded history, and the characters (including most of the servants and animals) actually lived. To the extent that they have been recorded, I have used the characters’ own words.

With one exception the events all occurred between 1820 and 1825, although not necessarily in the order presented here. I have taken the liberty of rearranging and condensing occurrences: The Cato Street conspiracy took place before the Amelioration of Slavery debate. The rainy afternoon that gave the world the game of badminton was in 1863.

In 1835 on the death of his father from the “family enemy,” gout, Lord Worcester became the seventh Duke of Beaufort and was succeeded in time by the son born of his marriage to Emily Culling-Smith. Frederick Gough Calthorpe succeeded his brother as the fourth Baron Calthorpe. He and Lady Charlotte had four sons, three of whom succeeded to the title, and six daughters. George Agar-Ellis, later the first Baron Dover, and Lady Georgiana had four sons and three daughters.

The Slavery Abolition Act to which William Wilberforce dedicated his life was passed in 1833, one month after his death, although he lived to see the successful second reading of the bill.

True to his pledge, Granville Dudley Ryder was elected Member of Parliament for Tiverton in 1831 and for Hertfordshire in 1841. The Table of Kindred and Affinity did not prohibit marriages between first cousins. Granville and Georgiana made their home at Westbrook Hay, Hemel Hempstead, in West Hertfordshire. They had three sons and five daughters.

Badminton is still the seat of the Dukes of Beaufort, and the Beaufort Hunt continues today, pledged to carry out only activities in accord with the laws which have changed substantially since the sixth duke’s day. The Earl of Harrowby, at the time of my research, lived at Sandon Hall, Staffordshire. He authored England at Worship.

Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge, carries on Charles Simeon’s heritage of an alive, Spirit-filled ministry to students and community. The church maintains an active vision for world missions.

Time Line[
**]Where There Is Love



^.
p. ENGLAND
^.
p=. 1738
^.
p. John Wesley’s Aldergate experience
^.
p=. 1756
^.
p=. 1760
^.
p. George III crowned
^.
p=. 1760
^.
p. Lady Huntingdon opens chapel in Bath
^.
p=. 1766
^.
p. Stamp Act passed
^.
p=. 1773
^.
p. Rowland Hill ordained
^.
p=. 1776
^.
p. The American War
^.
p=. 1787
^.
p. Wilberforce begins antislavery campaign
^.
p=. 1788
^.
p=. 1789
^.
p=. 1799
^.
p. Church Missionary Society founded
^.
p=. 1805
^.
p. Lord Nelson wins Battle of Trafalgar
^.
p=. 1807
^.
p. Parliament bans slave trade
^.
p=. 1812
^.
p. Charles Simeon begins Conversation Parties
^.
p=. 1815
^.
p. Waterloo
^.
p=. 1820
^.
p. George IV crowned
^.
p=. 1825
^.
p=. 1830
^.
p. William IV crowned
^.
p=. 1835
^.
p. William Wilberforce dies
^.
p=. 1836
^.
p. Charles Simeon dies
^.
p=. 1837
^.
p. Queen Victoria crowned
^.
p=. 1848
^.
p=. 1849
^.
p=. 1851
^.
p. Crystal Palace opens
^.
p=. 1852
^.
p=. 1854
^.
p. Florence Nightingale goes to Crimean War
^.
p=. 1860
^.
p=. 1863
^.
p=. 1865
^.
p. Hudson Taylor founds China Inland Mission
^.
p=. 1869
^.
p=. 1877
^.
p. D.L. Moody and Ira Sankey London revivals
^.
p=. 1879
^.
p=. 1885
^.
p. Cambridge Seven join China Inland Mission

Word List

Ashen fagot—a bundle of ash sticks burned in the west of England instead of a Yule log

Bosky—tipsy or drunk

Bow Street Runners—London police before the Metropolitan Police

Boxing Day—day after Christmas when boxes are given to servants and the poor

Bumblebroth—situation that has been bungled

Buttery Book—signed by gownsmen before dining in Hall

Corinthian—fashionable man-about-town, sportsman

Dipped—short of money

Double first—first-class honors in two different subjects

Drop-fences—the ground is lower on one side of the fence

Fistful of flimsies—handful of paper money

Fives—fist

Haricot—lamb and vegetable stew

Lent term—second academic term, from mid-January to Easter

Kern-baby—doll fashioned from kerneled wheat stalks

Knee smalls—tight-fitting breeches worn above stockings

Master of foxhounds—guides the hounds and followers in the field

Mill—prize fight or free-for-all fistfight

Neats—cows

Oak—heavy outer door for extra privacy on university rooms

On dit—gossip

Pamphylians—prostitutes

Perch phaeton—a light four-wheeled carriage with the seat perched over the wheels

Pietradura—a style of cabinetry made of ebony inlaid with polished semiprecious stones, developed in Florence by the Medicis

Pockets to let—pockets empty of money

Punting—gambling or betting; a play against the bank in faro

Ratafia—a fruit juice liqueur

Reverberator—Charles Simeon’s name for his hearing aid

Rouleau—a roll or fold of something, such as a ribbon, used as trimming

Roundaboutation—beating about the bush

Sarcenet—soft, thin silk

Sizar—student who acts as servant to other students in return for an allowance for his college expenses

Smalls—short for examinations required for matriculation

Sprig muslin—a plain-woven cotton fabric patterned all over with sprigs of flowers

Tilbury—a light two-wheeled carriage with an elaborate spring suspension system

Ton—(pronounced tone) style; the fashionable world; smart set

Treat—to negotiate a settlement

Waits—rustic serenaders who sing for small gratuities, carolers

Whippers-in (whips)—master of the hunt’s assistants who whip the hounds

Bibliography

With my deep appreciation to those who have walked this ground before:

Agar-Ellis, George James Welbore, Baron Dover. The Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford. Vol. 1. London: 1840.

Brown, Ford K. Fathers of the Victorians: The Age of William Wilberforce. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961.

Brown, MA, Abner William. Recollections of the Conversation Parties of the Rev. Charles Simeon, M.A. London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1863.

Dale, MA, T. F. The Eighth Duke of Beaufort and the Badminton Hunt. Westminster: Archibald Constable and Co., Ltd., 1901.

Durant, Horatia. Henry, First Duke of Beaufort and His Duchess, Mary. Pontypool: Hughs & Son, 1973.

Charles Simeon, Preacher Extraordinary. Brancote Notts: Grove Books, 1979.

Raglan Castle. 2d ed. Great Britain: The Starling Press, Ltd., 1980.

The Somerset Sequence. London: Newman Neame, 1951.

Edwards, Jonathan. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Preached at Enfield, Connecticut, 1741.

Hansard, Parliamentary Debates, new series, vol. 10 (3 Feb-29 May, 1824).

Hole, Christiana, English Traditional Customs. London: S. T. Batsford, Ltd., 1975.

Hopkins, Hugh Evan. Charles Simeon of Cambridge. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977.

Letters Between the Hon. Elizabeth Ryder and Her Brothers. In the British Library, London. Privately printed, 1891.

Lewis, Michael. The Navy of Britain: A Historical Portrait. London: 1948.

Meade, D.D., William. A Faithful Servant: The Life and Labors of the Reverend Charles Simeon. Selected from the larger work of the Reverend William Carus. New York: Depository of Protestant Episcopal Society for Promotion of Evangelical Knowledge, 1853.

Pollock, John Charles. Wilberforce. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1977.

Pugh, R. B., ed. The Victoria History of the Counties of England. London: University of London Institute of Historical Research, 1970.

Strachey, Lytton and Roger Fulford, eds. The Greville Memoirs, 1814-1860. 8 vols. London: Macmilliam & Co., 1938.

Trevelyan, G. M. Trinity College, An Historical Sketch. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Walker, R.N., C. F. Young Gentlemen, the Story of Midshipmen. London: 1938.

Wilberforce, R. I. and S. Life of William Wilberforce. Vol. 3. London: 1838.

Wilberforce, Wiliam. An Appeal to the Religion, Justice, and Humanity of the Inhabitants of the British Empire in Behalf of the Negro Slaves in the West Indies. 1823.

Winstanley, D. A. Unreformed Cambridge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1935.

From King’s College Archives,
Cambridge University, Cambridge:

Acquaintance with God. Printed and sold by J. Downing in Bartholomew Close, 1726.

Scholar of the period [i.e., by Wiliam Hill Dicker, 1803-1901]. King’s Old Court, 1822-1825. Typed transcript, formerly owned by M. R. James.

Simeon, Charles. University Sermons on the Law and Gospel in Kings College Chapel. London: 1828.

From The Harrowby Mss. Trust (The Ryder Papers),
Sandon Hall, Staffordshire:

Anand, V. S. and F. A. Ridley. The Cato Street Conspiracy. London: Medusa Press, 1977.

h1.

Read the complete Where There is Love Series:

Where Love Begins

Catherine Perronet’s world is shaken when she learns Charles Wesley is engaged to marry another. After all, Catherine’s initials were on the list John Wesley gave to his brother listing acceptable matrimonial candidates.

And that’s not all that’s wrong in Catherine’s world. As teacher at a Methodist Society school in London, she sees her brother beaten while preaching in the open air, her favorite pupil forced to leave school because of his family’s poverty, and a prisoner receive his death sentence in Newgate Prison. Catherine undertakes the joys and hardships of a circuit-ride preaching tour to Canterbury where a French invasion threatens then must face the terrors of the Great London Earthquake before coming to an understanding of the gentle calling God has for her.

Where Love Illumines

Mary Tudway is forced to choose between two worlds: the pleasurable life of her high society friends Sarah Child, heiress of Osterley Park, and the Bishop of Raphoe and his dashing Nephew, Roger; or the life of faith and service represented by the Countess of Huntingdon, her lovely daughter Selina and the witty but devout Rowland Hill.

The story moves through the fashionable worlds of London and Bath as the death of one friend, the elopement of another and the startling unveiling of the Highwayman of Hampstead Heath play their parts in Mary’s finally making a choice of lasting value.

Where Love Triumphs

Brandley Hilliard, baronet’s son, brilliant classical scholar and cripple finds his carefully ordered world turned upside down by the delightful Elinor Silbert, daughter of the Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge. And his conflicts increase when Elinor’s head is turned by the debonair Marquess of Widkham.

Brandley’s search takes a destructive turn until Charles Simeon, Fellow of King’s College, takes the young gownsman under his wing and shows him a life beyond any his academic pursuits had taught him.

Where Love Restores

The disapproval of Granville Ryder’s father the Earl of Harrowby leaves Granville believing he cannot be accepted by his heavenly Father or accomplish anything of worth. Even his special friendship with Georgiana, daughter of the Duke of Beaufort, is almost destroyed by Granville’s conflicts.

In a story that moves from Cambridge to the Midlands, to London to Wales, the counsel of Charles Simeon, the example of William Wilberforce and the terrors of the Cato Street Rebellion (more dangerous than the notorious Guy Fawkes Plot) lead Granville to reconciliation and love. This is the most entirely historical of the series. Even the animals are a matter of record.

Where Love Shines

“Half a league, half a league/ Half a league onward, All in the valley of Death/ Rode the six hundred.” Lieutenant Richard Greyston seeks heroic glory in the Charge of the Light Brigade. Jennifer Neville goes to Scutari as one of Florence Nightingale’s nurses dreaming of wiping the brows of the wounded. Richard winds up blinded and Jennifer spends her days carrying slops as mice fall from the walls of the hospital.

Back in London Jennifer throws herself into charity work under the leadership of the Earl of Shaftesbury. She is delighted to reconnect with the convalescing Richard until she learns that his family’s wealth is built on the potteries where children are subjected to unimaginable brutality. Richard eventually joins Shaftesbury’s fight for social justice but must find a way out of the darkness to deal with his feelings for Jennifer.

Where Love Calls

Hilda Beauchamp believes that God guides the life of every believer—and that it is her job to guide God. Hilda’s plans meet many complications, but at least one of her prayers gets answered when the winds of spiritual revival sweep England, stirred by the great evangelistic campaigns of D. L. Moody and Ira Sankey. Word of Hudson Taylor’s mission to China fires imaginations and missionary fervor within the Cambridge community.

But Hilda and the charming Kynaston Studd—whom Hilda has slated to marry her sister—find their plans sidelined. Kynaston was the leader, the first within his circle to catch the vision of going to China. But God seems to be calling his friends there instead of him and Hilda is horrified to find herself falling in love with the man she had intended for her sister.

About The Author

Donna Fletcher Crow brings a lifetime love of English literature and history as well as intensive research to the Where There is Love series—her historical series on the work of the Evangelical Anglicans. She is the author of 45 books, mostly novels of British history. The award-winning Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England, an Arthurian epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work. She also authors The Lord Danvers Mysteries. A Tincture of Murder is her latest in these Victorian true-crime novels. The Elizabeth and Richard Mysteries are her literary suspense series of which A Jane Austen Encounter is the latest. An All-Consuming Fire is the fifth of Felicity and Antony’s adventures in the Monastery Murders. Donna and her husband of 50 years live in Boise, Idaho. They have 4 adult children and 14 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener.

To read more about all of Donna’s books and see pictures from her garden and research trips go to: www.DonnaFletcherCrow.com

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Where Love Restores, Book 4 Where There is Love

Georgiana is intrigued by the handsome stranger who appears unexpectedly at the hunt ball—then amazed and delighted to discover he is none other than Granville Dudley Ryder, dearest playmate of her childhood. The specter of Granville’s harsh father, however, shadows all that Granville strives to achieve until the terrors of the Cato Street Rebellion lead Granville to reconciliation and love. An entirely historical story that moves from Cambridge to Somerset, to London to Wales and includes many of the most famous people of the day, the letters they wrote, and the words they spoke—even the animals are a matter of record. This is a love story for all time.

  • ISBN: 9781311651310
  • Author: Donna Fletcher Crow
  • Published: 2016-07-07 00:52:16
  • Words: 72636
Where Love Restores, Book 4 Where There is Love Where Love Restores, Book 4 Where There is Love