The Shifting Fog | Chapter 33 of 50 - Part: 1 of 10

Author: Kate Morton | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 106306 Views | Add a Review

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A SUITABLE HUSBAND

Hannah and Teddy were married on the first Saturday of March, 1919. It was a pretty wedding at the little church on the Riverton estate. The Luxtons would have preferred London so that more of the very important people they knew from business could have come, but Mr Frederick was insistent and he’d suffered so many blows in the months preceding that no one had much spirit for arguing. So it was. She was married from the small church in the valley, just as her grandparents and her parents had been before her.

It rained––many children, said Mrs Townsend; weeping past lovers, whispered Myra—and the wedding photographs were stained with black umbrellas. Later, when Hannah and Teddy were living in the townhouse in Grosvenor Square, a photograph sat upon the morning-room writing desk. The six of them in a line: Hannah and Teddy at centre, Simion and Estella beaming on one side, Mr Frederick and Emmeline blank-faced on the other.

You are surprised. For how could such a thing have come to pass? Hannah was so set against marriage, so full of other ambitions. And Teddy: sensible, kindly even, but certainly not the man to sweep a young woman like Hannah off her feet …

But it was not so complicated really. Such things rarely are. It was a simple case of stars aligning. Those that didn’t being nudged into place.

The morning after the dinner party, the Luxtons left for London. They had business engagements, and we all presumed—if indeed we gave it any thought at all—that it was the last we would ever see of them.

Our focus, you see, had shifted already to the next grand event. For over the coming week, a cluster of indomitable women descended upon Riverton, charged with the weighty duty of overseeing Hannah’s entrance into society. January was the zenith of country balls and the mortification of leaving things too late, being forced to share the date with another, larger ball, was unthinkable. Thus, the date had been picked—20 January—and invitations long since sent.

One morning in the early new year, I served tea to Lady Clementine and the Dowager Lady Ashbury. They were in the drawing room, side by side on the lounge, diaries open on their laps.

‘Fifty ought to do well,’ Lady Violet said. ‘There’s nothing worse than a thin dance.’

‘Except a crowded one,’ Lady Clementine said with distaste. ‘Not that it’s a problem these days.’

Lady Violet surveyed her guest list, a thread of dissatisfaction pulling her lips to pout. ‘My dear,’ she said, ‘whatever are we to do about the shortages?’

‘Mrs Townsend will rise to the occasion,’ Lady Clementine said. ‘She always does.’

‘Not the food, Clem, the men. Wherever shall we find more men?’

Lady Clementine leaned to observe the guest list. She shook her head crossly. ‘It’s an absolute crime. That’s what it is. A dreadful inconvenience. England’s best seed left to rot on godforsaken French fields, while her young ladies are left high and dry, nary a dance partner between them. It’s a plot, I tell you. A German plot.’ Her eyes widened at the possibility. ‘To prevent England’s elite from breeding!’

‘But surely you know someone we could ask, Clem? You’ve proven yourself quite the matchmaker.’

‘I counted myself lucky to find that fool of Fanny’s,’ Lady Clementine said, rubbing the powdery rolls of neck beneath her chin. ‘It’s a great shame Frederick never took an interest. Things would have been a lot simpler. Instead, I had to scrape the barrel’s bottom.’

‘My granddaughter is not to have a husband from the barrel’s bottom,’ Lady Violet said. ‘This family’s future depends upon her match.’ She gave a distressed sigh which became a cough, shuddering through her thin frame.

‘Hannah will do better than poor simple Fanny,’ Lady Clementine said assuredly. ‘Unlike my charge, your granddaughter is blessed with wit, beauty and charm.’

‘And no inclination to use them,’ Lady Violet said. ‘Frederick has indulged those children. They’ve known too much freedom and not enough instruction. Hannah in particular. That girl is full of outrageous notions of independence.’

‘Independence …’ Lady Clementine said with distaste.

‘Oh, she’s in no hurry to be married. Told me as much when she was in London.’

‘Indeed.’

‘Looked me straight in the eyes, maddeningly courteous, and told me she didn’t mind a bit if it was too much trouble to launch her into society.’

‘Impudence!’

‘She said a ball would likely be wasted on her as she had no intention of going into society even when she was of an age. She said she finds society …’ Lady Violet closed her eyes. ‘She finds society dull and pointless.’

Lady Clementine gasped. ‘She didn’t.’

‘She did.’

‘But what does she propose to do instead? Stay here in her father’s home and become an old maid?’

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fatemeh
it's very good good luck
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