Engaged to the Earl

Prologue

In later years Gwendolyn would look back to the moment she fell in love with the Earl of Westenbury, and smile.

“He was the handsomest man I’d ever seen,” she would say. “When he walked into Almack’s that evening, I was dancing with someone else and nearly stopped dead in my tracks. But I did see that he was looking at me too, and my heart seemed to lift, and soar—oh, like a bird in flight!

“After the dance was over, my partner—whose name I could barely remember, I was so giddy—he took me back to my relation the Duchess of Egremont. Standing next to her, it took all my self-restraint not to stare around the room, to search with my eyes for the handsome stranger. She was talking about horses, I think, but I couldn’t tell you for sure. My mind was, well, elsewhere.

“And then Mrs. Drummond-Burrell—the haughtiest, most minutely correct of the Patronesses—came walking—no, gliding toward the Duchess and me, with him at her side, as if by magic, it seemed to me. A wish made manifest with all the incredible dreamlike logic of a fairy tale.

“He smiled, and I felt so joyful it was as if a thousand lanterns within me were lighting all at once. And I smiled back.

“‘Your Grace,’ Mrs. Drummond-Burrell said to the Duchess, in that cool measured way of hers, ‘here is, as you see, the Earl of Westenbury. He has just yesterday arrived in Town, and wishes me to present himself to you as a desirable partner for Miss Penhallow.’

“The Earl bowed, and oh, he was even more handsome at close range! He was wearing the dark knee-breeches considered de rigueur for Almack’s back then, with a dark long-tailed coat and a beautiful snow-white cravat tied just so. And I could see that his eyes were a lovely deep green, flecked with gold, and that his hair was a tawny light-brown, cropped à la Brutus—also very fashionable at the time—and his shoulders were wonderfully broad, and—well, it was all a dazzling jumble of impressions and I’m not sure I was even breathing!—and then he was saying ‘How do you do, Miss Penhallow’ in that marvelous deep voice of his, and that was that.

“Love at first sight.

“Inexplicable, indefinable, practically indescribable.

“Yet there it was.

“It nearly hurt me physically to tell him that all my dances were taken, but, feeling myself very clever, I added, as casually as I could, that the next evening I was to attend Lord and Lady Mainwaring’s ball.

“Imagine my happiness when the Earl immediately said that he was going as well, and might he secure two of my dances. I would have given him all my dances, but he could only ask for two, you see, because any more would have been considered dreadfully risqué. And then I had to wait twenty-three hours—yes, I counted them, I really did!—until I could see him again. And he danced so beautifully. He didn’t step on the hem of my gown, or try to squeeze my hands in a vulgar way or bring me too close during a waltz as some other gentlemen tried to do and which made me absolutely furious.”

Here Gwendolyn would pause, and into her eyes would come a look of warm nostalgia.

“The Mainwarings’ ball took place two weeks after I arrived in London for the Season. After that, the Earl and I met at other gatherings, at assemblies and art galleries, at Vauxhall Gardens and Venetian breakfasts—every day, sometimes more than once!—and he would smile at me, and I’d fall in love with him all over again.

“And then suddenly the Earl disappeared. He was seen heading north in his curricle and four, traveling fast. I hardly knew what to think. He left no message for me. Where had he gone, would he come back, had he left me forever? I was beside myself with anxiety.

“Then, after what felt like the longest fortnight of my life, Hugo, my dear older brother Hugo, arrived! The Earl had traveled to Whitehaven, and formally requested from Hugo—he was my guardian, you know—my hand in marriage.

“‘Is this what you want, Gwennie?’ Hugo asked me.

“‘Oh yes, oh yes,’ I answered firmly. Rapturously. The Earl, I’d come to learn after our first meeting, had been for well over ten years one of the ton’s most eligible gentlemen, but hadn’t found anyone he liked well enough to even consider marrying. And now he wanted me—as much as I wanted him! I didn’t know whether to dance around the room like a zany, or collapse in a chair to try and take it all in.

“‘You’re sure?’ Hugo said.

“‘Yes, I am.’

“‘It’s all happened rather quickly,’ he observed.

“‘Yes,’ I said. ‘But Hugo, sometimes one just knows.’

“And of course Hugo had to agree with me, having been so fortunate in his own marriage. To have found his own true love.”

Gwendolyn would nod wisely, and then go on:

“And so, in April of 1818, the Earl and I were officially betrothed. He gave me a ring, too. It had been in his family for generations—it was a gift from Queen Elizabeth to a previous Lady Westenbury who served as her Mistress of the Robes. Oh, it was so beautiful! It was made of gold, with a large, milky-white pearl in the center. Around the pearl were tiny, perfect rubies which made it seem to absolutely glow.

“When I was alone, I’d hold up my hand and stare at the ring. A symbol of my future happiness. No—my present happiness. I was engaged, I would tell myself over and over, and to the most wonderful man in the world.

“Engaged to the Earl.”

Gwendolyn would look down at her left hand, and smile yet again.

 

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Chapter 1

Whitehaven, England
Autumn 1811

“Christopher, may I talk with you, please?” Gwendolyn Penhallow said, and Christopher Beck, irritated at the interruption, brought his axe down with a thunk into a fat yew log and split it in two.

They stood in the long yard to the back of his house, where he’d come to chop wood—over Father’s objections, who said it was a servant’s job, not that of a gentleman—and all he wanted was to be left alone after yet another of Father’s long-winded lectures.

So what if he’d been sent down from university? For “vulgar and pernicious conduct,” according to the Chancellor, which was a high-minded way of describing the fights with his fellow students: those, that is, who objected to attending classes with a person of what they considered inferior birth, and who made their views known publicly and repeatedly.

As far as he was concerned, they deserved the black eyes and bloody noses. The damned haughty bastards. Who, incidentally, had not been sent down. He rolled another log into place with his boot and lifted his axe high.

“Christopher, please,” said Gwendolyn, and with a scowl he lowered the axe and looked down at her. Gwendolyn lived next door and was his younger sister Diana’s friend. She was just a girl, as uninteresting and annoying as Diana; he supposed they’d hardly spoken twenty words between them over the years. Which was fine by him.

“Well?” he said curtly.

“You see, I’ve had an idea.”

“Bully for you.”

“Will you listen to me?” she demanded.

“Apparently I must.” He leaned on the axe handle and eyed her sardonically. “I am, as they say, all attention.”

Gwendolyn, clearly deciding to take him at face value, said: “I must say I think it’s quite a brilliant idea. You know, of course, that we’re dreadfully poor?”

“No.”

“Well, we are, and Mama’s very worried, though she never says anything. But I can tell. And I do want to help! Diana says that an uncle of yours left you a great fortune, so I thought that you and I could get married, and then you could give Mama some of your money. I’m not asking for all of it,” she added reassuringly, “just enough for our debts, and perhaps a new gown for Mama, and a horse for Percy, and some books for Francis, and something for Bertram’s laboratory—oh, and Cook would absolutely love to have a new stove, and I do wish we could give more to the indigents’ charity. Also—”

“Get married?” he interrupted. “Are you mad?”

“Of course I’m not mad,” she replied, indignant. “It seems to me a wonderfully clever plan.”

“In case you hadn’t noticed, you’re a child.”

“I’m not. Girls do get married at fourteen.”

She was looking up at him and suddenly it struck Christopher that her eyes were like great deep sapphire pools, sparkling with summer light. It also struck him that Gwendolyn Penhallow was, in fact, beautiful. Tall, willowy, with delicate features and bright golden hair and a mouth the color of a ripe peach. She was right: girls did get married at fourteen. To cover a rush of confused—confusing—emotions, he said sarcastically:

“I thought girls were supposed to wait for a proposal.”

She waved a delicate-looking hand in the air. “Oh, who cares? Besides, wouldn’t it be a splendid adventure? We could leave in the dead of night and slip away to Scotland! Gretna Green’s only fifty miles away. I checked in our atlas. Just think of it,” she went on, dreamily. “Married over the anvil, just like a hero and heroine in a romantic story.”

Revolted, he said, “It sounds ghastly.”

“I’d have to leave a note, of course.” Gwendolyn’s expression was still dreamy. “The heroine usually does. She leaves it on her dresser, and sometimes it’s all splotched with her tears. Although you’d think the ink would run and make the note difficult to read, wouldn’t you? I won’t cry, naturally, but I do think a note is important. I’d hate for Mama and everyone to be worried about us. Would you leave a note for your father and Diana?”

Christopher straightened up, his mind racing. A note. What would he say? Take that, you old windbag. Father was always prosing on about university, the importance of getting good marks, the need to be prudent and cautious, how he was looking forward to Christopher joining him in his offices (a damned horrid stuffy place filled with people who sat around shuffling papers back and forth), and on till Christopher all too frequently felt as if he would explode with anger and impatience.

Now, picturing Father’s reaction upon discovering that his only son had, at seventeen, embarked on a runaway marriage—a decidedly imprudent, incautious act—Christopher felt defiant glee overtake him. Ha! How furious Father would be. He tossed his axe aside.

“Let’s do it.”

Gwendolyn laughed and gave a little bounce on her toes. “Oh, Christopher, that’s wonderful! It’ll solve everything. Thank you very much. By the way, did you know we have a cousin in Scotland? He’s a chieftain named Alasdair who lives in the Highlands. We’ve never met him but I’m positive he’s one of those fierce, bloodthirsty sorts, so we’d probably better avoid that part of Scotland. Although wouldn’t it be a lark to meet a real Scottish chieftain? Do you think he wears kilts every day? Will you start wearing kilts? I wonder if your knees will get cold.”

Revolted all over again, Christopher said, “Focus, for God’s sake. When shall we leave?”

“Oh, the sooner the better! And at night, don’t you think? The moon will be full in a few days, which means we can travel more quickly. Also it will be more romantic that way.”

Romantic or not, she was right about the moon making it easier to travel. And that it would be better to leave under the cover of darkness. What else? He’d need to pay for their coach fares, and for lodgings and food also. After they were married, they could travel further north, up into the coastal wilds of western Scotland (and, he supposed, bypassing her unsavory relation Alasdair). How much money did he have on hand? He thought about it. Probably thirty pounds or so. It was enough to get them away from here. And gone forever. No more useless arguments with Father, ever again. No more university, either. Freedom beckoned—

Then he remembered something.

A small, minute, critically important detail.

Oh, bloody hell, but he was fortune’s fool.

He told her, “I won’t come into my money till I’m twenty-one. You can have it. You can have all of it. But not now.”

Even as he said it, he saw the happiness fade from Gwendolyn’s exquisitely pretty face.

“But that’s years from now. That won’t do at all. Oh, Christopher, we need it right away.”

Well, that was that, then. His world closed in upon him again—his many failures, Father’s disappointment and disapproval, Diana fluttering around him like a small maddening moth in a house far too big for just the three of them—and Christopher could feel his scowl returning, his brows drawing together, the quick downturn of his mouth. He shrugged, turned away, picked up his axe. “Sorry,” he said, and didn’t wait for her to leave before he brought the axe down into another yew log and sundered it in two.

As it turned out, Gwendolyn’s brother Hugo arrived in Whitehaven a week after that and within a matter of days was betrothed to a fantastically rich heiress who lived just outside town, thereby neatly solving at a stroke all the family’s money problems. Which was just as well, Christopher thought, because Diana had come trailing after him with the news of Hugo’s engagement, and added in a low voice trembling with excitement:

“And Gwennie told me that her mama said that Papa asked her to marry him!”

He paused just outside the stable, stupefied all over again. The things girls said! “What the devil are you talking about, you nitwit? Father wants to marry Gwendolyn?”

“Gwendolyn? Oh, no, Christopher, how could you think such a thing? Papa asked Gwennie’s mama to marry him! But she said no. Even though she’s a widow, and Papa’s a widower. Oh, Christopher, I do wish she’d said yes, she’s the nicest, kindest lady in all the world! And then Gwennie and I would be sisters! And you would be her brother! We’d all live together in the same house, and maybe, someday, I could marry Percy—or Francis—they’re so very handsome—though I can never tell which is which. I do wish they weren’t identical twins! But then they wouldn’t be themselves! They’d be somebody else. And then I wouldn’t want to marry them.”

“O God,” said Christopher, nauseated to his very soul, then took one long step inside the stable and slammed the door in Diana’s face. He brushed aside the groom’s offer to saddle his horse and did it himself, doing his best to keep his hands gentle despite the anger firing up inside him again, and within five minutes he was on the wide sandy beach, bent low over his horse’s neck, riding hard, half-wishing he could plunge straight into the turbulent blue-green waves and ride, like the mighty Poseidon in his mythical chariot, to someplace far, far away.

 

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A few years after that . . .
Whitehaven, England
Winter 1815

“Oh, Gwennie,” exclaimed Diana, “isn’t this the most beautiful gown you’ve ever seen?”

The two girls were sitting close together on a sofa in the large, comfortable drawing-room of the Penhallow house, poring over the current issue of La Belle Assemblée, all around them the cheerful sounds of a convivial holiday gathering.

Gwendolyn studied the illustration of an improbably elongated lady wearing an elaborate dress of striped silver gauze, its glossy silver-edged hem drawn up to the knee (boldly displaying the white satin slip beneath) and ornamented with a large cluster of artificial flowers. She was also wearing a gauzy silk headdress, a low-set wreath of brilliants, enormous ruby ear-bobs, half a dozen bracelets on each wrist, and had wide silver ribbons dangling negligently from her bodice—these additional adornments praised in the caption as the height of modish elegance. They may well have been, but to Gwendolyn the lady looked more like an overdressed actress in a bad play than anything else. But of course, taste was a subjective thing, and so to Diana she only said:

“Yes, very pretty.”

“Do ask your mama to have it made for you! And you must wear it to Almack’s! Everyone will be looking at you!” Gwendolyn was sure they would, but perhaps not for the reason Diana imagined, and wondered, not for the first time, what it would be like to step into the hallowed halls of Almack’s, that exclusive and supremely fashionable London institution. What it would be like to have her Season at last, after years of waiting. There was a time, before Hugo returned from the war, when the idea of a Season had been an impossible one. How different things were now—how infinitely better!

A burst of laughter near the mantelpiece interrupted Gwendolyn’s musings, and she glanced over to see Hugo laughing at something his business partner, Mr. Studdart, had said. She let her gaze sweep around the room. It was lovely having her three other brothers home from Eton—and how tall they’d become, too, though they hadn’t quite yet reached Hugo’s great height. Percy stood next to Hugo, and Francis was talking to Grandpapa; Bertram, two years younger than herself, sat next to Hugo’s wife Katherine on a sofa, his hand on her rounded belly and on his face a look of deep interest.

“Did you feel that, Bertram?” asked Katherine, and he nodded.

“It feels like an elbow, or a knee, kicking at me. How curious to think there’s a person inside you, Katherine. Do you want a girl or a boy?”

She smiled at him. “I’ll be happy with either.”

“That’s how I felt, Katherine dear,” said Mama, who sat nearby with Mr. Studdart’s new wife, Céleste, who had once been his housekeeper. Mrs. Studdart looked at Katherine, smiling a little, and Gwendolyn saw how her gaze went thoughtfully to Percy and Francis, and then to Aunt Verena and Aunt Claudia. Two sets of twins. Gwendolyn stared at Katherine wonderingly, then glanced over at the wide doorway as a movement there caught her eye.

It was Christopher Beck, coming into the room but only barely; he went directly to the nearby window and stood with his back to them all. He too had gotten taller in the past few years, and his hair was longer than when last she’d seen him, brushing dark and glossy against his white shirt-collar.

“Christopher didn’t want to be here, you know,” Diana whispered. “Father made him. He only got home today in time for supper, and already they’ve quarreled! Father asked why he couldn’t be more like Francis and Percy and Bertram and do better at school, and then Christopher swore he wouldn’t go back to university, and after that Father said he was slothful and undisciplined—oh, Gwennie, it was dreadful! They were positively shouting at each other. I was crying like anything and I could barely finish my dessert!”

Diana’s eyes filled with tears and Gwendolyn patted her arm, though a little absentmindedly; she was seeing all at once how Christopher’s shoulders had a rigid set to them, and how very still he stood, as if the subject of a portrait enclosed by the wooden window frame. If she were to sketch him she would use white paper and black charcoal, and the mood of the drawing would be . . . bleak. How lonely he looked!

Impulsively she got to her feet and went over to Christopher. “Hullo,” she said with a smile. “I haven’t seen you in ages. I’m so glad you could come.”

He glanced down at her, his dark eyes resting briefly upon her face before turning away his gaze, out into the snowy, inky-black night. “Yes, it’s always nice to have a guest who makes your brothers look yet more saintly in all their many accomplishments.”

She nearly leaned away from the low, savage-sounding resentment in his tone, but replied stoutly, “Nobody thinks that, at least not in my family.”

He shrugged. “If you say so.”

That seemed unanswerable, so Gwendolyn turned her head to look out the window as well. How beautiful it was outside with the snow falling in great lazy flakes. How mysterious. Half-mesmerized, after a little while she said, “Christopher, do you remember the time we nearly ran away together? This would be the perfect sort of night to do it.”

“In this weather? Don’t be ridiculous.”

“How odiously practical you are.”

“More to the point,” he went on, relentless, “even if we’d gone through with it, you still wouldn’t have the money. My birthday’s not for six months yet.”

Gwendolyn was still watching the flakes descend. Dreamily she said, “I wonder what would have happened if we had? Do you suppose we’d be living in a snug little cottage somewhere up in Scotland?”

“If by ‘cottage’ you mean ‘hovel,’ then by all means. We’d be poor and unwashed, at each other’s throats, and with two or three babies squalling at our knees. Very romantic,” he said sardonically.

“Well, what a dreadful husband.”

“Without a doubt.”

At this surly reply Gwendolyn almost caught the black tenor of Christopher’s mood, wanted to snap back angrily, but then, looking up at him, saw in his dark eyes a kind of remote desolation. And she realized, with a sudden sharp ache of sympathy in her heart, that he was hurting.

How could she help him?

Words wouldn’t do much, she guessed, and might only make things worse. She wished she could brush aside the dark shaggy lock of hair that fell low onto his forehead, or even put her arms comfortingly around him, but instinctively knew that his pride wouldn’t permit it—here in this room filled with other people.

So instead, she took a slow sideways step closer to Christopher, until her skirts brushed up against him, and using this proximity as a kind of concealment, she slid her hand into his and gripped it tightly. She felt him react with a kind of startled ripple throughout his body, as might a wild animal unused to a kind touch.

But he didn’t pull his hand away.

They stood there in a silence that felt oddly easy and companionable. It was interesting, Gwendolyn thought, how merely clasping hands could create an instant connection between two people. Maybe, maybe, she and Christopher could become friends now. For years he had merely been Diana’s aloof, irascible older brother, and then, during that time of the Penhallows’ deep financial distress, someone she’d turned to for help. And he would have, if not for the issue of his age. That alone spoke to an essential kind of goodness within him, didn’t it?

Gwendolyn didn’t know when he’d have to go back to university—or if he was going back—but now, all at once, she was determined to make the most of his time here. Perhaps they could go riding together, or walk over to the harbor and see Hugo and Mr. Studdart’s newest ship, or simply talk. She wondered if Christopher liked poetry.

She was just about to ask him when, from behind them, came a loud, long, shrill cackle.

Their hands came apart as reflexively they both turned to look over toward the perch where the Penhallow parrot sat, comfortably near the hearth and the recipient of its pleasant warmth. Aunt Claudia stood near, talking to him in her vague, amiable way.

“Do try, Rodrigo. Say ‘I love you.’” Aunt Claudia held out a sweet rolled wafer and Señor Rodrigo only cocked his sleek green head and looked at it with visible contempt in his beady eyes.

“I love you,” cooed Aunt Claudia.

Señor Rodrigo gave another loud extended cackle, then said, “Blimey.”

“I love you.”

“Blimey.”

“I love you.”

“Blimey.”

Finally Aunt Claudia gave him the wafer, which he accepted in an outstretched claw. Greedily he ate it, scattering crumbs below him with total nonchalance, then fixed her with his gimlet eye. “I love you.”

Gwendolyn smiled, and glanced up again into Christopher’s face. He might have been looking at Señor Rodrigo but she was quite sure he wasn’t seeing him; his expression was intent, arrested, inwardly focused. She said, curious: “What are you thinking about?”

He didn’t respond and Gwendolyn had to repeat her question. Finally he looked at her and slowly answered, “I hadn’t thought about our silly little plan in years. But now I’m glad you did.”

“Why?”

“Because you’ve given me an idea.” He sketched her a rough little bow. “Thank you—and goodbye.”

Something about this last word caught at her and quickly she said, “Where are you going?”

“To see an old friend.”

With that, he was gone. Through the window Gwendolyn watched as his tall dark-coated figure disappeared all too rapidly into the black night, then she went over to Señor Rodrigo and held out her hand; he stepped onto it with the utmost affability and said, “Kiss me, you saucy wench.”

Gwendolyn laughed, but still she wondered to herself: where exactly had Christopher gone?

 

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A few years ago, Hugo Penhallow had let him work in his shipbuilding firm in the Whitehaven harbor, and now, with swift steps Christopher went to the house of an acquaintance he’d made during that time, an older, rather disreputable man who ran a collier-boat back and forth to Liverpool (and, possibly, also smuggled French spirits). A good-hearted fellow, Barnabas asked no questions and cheerfully agreed to take Christopher along on his next run which, as luck would have it, was slated for the very next day.

In the morning Christopher told his father that he was shipping out to Liverpool and from there to parts unknown, then endured with unusual forbearance the storm of paternal dismay and wrath which, predictably, broke over his head. When finally Father sat down in a chair, nearly gasping from the violence of his outburst, he said, “Don’t go. Wait until June, and you’ll have your money.”

“I don’t care about the damned money.”

Father seemed to grow a shade paler. “You’re a fool.”

“I’m sure you’re right. Well, goodbye. I’ll write and let you know how I’m getting on.”

“You needn’t bother,” said Father bitterly.

Christopher only shrugged, packed a few things in a valise, said a brief and hasty goodbye to Diana who, also predictably, burst into noisy tears, and made his way back to the harbor. He boarded Barnabas’s ship, the grandiosely named Golden Hind, and took his place among the other sailors who, as uncurious as their captain, accepted his sudden presence without comment.

They sailed away.

 

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“I would have liked to say goodbye to Christopher,” Gwendolyn said to Diana, who, still with swollen eyes and a reddened nose, had rushed over to relay the stupendous news. “But I suppose,” she went on thoughtfully, “he did say goodbye, in his own way. Oh, Diana, what a marvelous adventure! I do envy him.”

Envy him? Gwennie, how could you? Think of all the dangers! The discomforts!”

“I am,” said Gwendolyn, a little wistfully, and Diana only stared at her, uncomprehending.

A week or so later, Katherine got a letter from their relation Henrietta Penhallow, the elderly, indomitable family matriarch in Somerset, who, along with other news, let fall the interesting tidbit that her former companion, Evangeline Markson, and her husband Arthur were planning an extended tour of Europe now that the war was finally over. They were looking forward to taking in the art and culture of France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the German states, and—because Arthur was a Shakespeare aficionado and wanted to take his Evangeline to Kronborg, to show her the famous castle thought to be the model for the one in Hamlet—Denmark also.

“Oh, I’d absolutely love to see the castle,” Gwendolyn said with longing in her voice. “Do you suppose it’s a great dark hulk, very brooding and ominous? And I’d love to visit the Louvre—see the Rhine—go into Saint Peter’s Basilica. Everything. Oh, Mama, do you think I might go too? May I write to Mrs. Markson, and ask? I won’t beg, of course, or demand in a stupidly forward way—I’ll just ask very, very politely.”

Katherine lowered the letter which she had been reading out loud to the family, and looked curiously at Gwendolyn. “But Gwennie, what about London in the spring? You’ve waited so long.”

“Yes, and I could wait some more,” Gwendolyn answered, her enthusiasm for this new idea sweeping over her. “It’s such an opportunity, Katherine! Only think of the museums—the galleries—the monuments—all the art I’ll be able to see!”

“You could go another time,” Bertram pointed out. “After your Season.”

“Yes, that’s true, but war could come again, couldn’t it?”

“Here’s hoping,” said Percy, the future soldier, with a martial gleam in his eye.

Gwendolyn paid no heed to this unhelpful divagation. “Katherine, Hugo, you met Mr. and Mrs. Markson, didn’t you, on your honeymoon trip to Surmont Hall? What are they like?”

“They’re splendid,” answered Hugo, as Katherine nodded agreement. “Very kind, and absolutely stuffed to the brim in the brain-box, both of them. Mr. Markson was at Oxford with Grandpapa, you know.”

“There, you see?” Triumphantly Gwendolyn turned to Mama. “They’re practically another set of grandparents! Oh, please, Mama, do let me write!”

There was more discussion, and in the end, her mother agreed, and Mrs. Markson graciously said yes, what a pleasure it would be to have a lively young person accompanying them, and so in the spring, instead of going to London, Gwendolyn—without a single pang of regret for the Season which had launched without her—was on her way to Europe.

Everywhere she went, she looked, fancifully, for Christopher, but of course wasn’t surprised not to see him—although she would have been astonished to know that at one point, while traveling in Italy, she and the Marksons passed, all unknowingly, within a mere ten miles of him.