‘Lingering? Lingering kisses? In public! There’ll be a scandal! This I have to see. Help me up.’
‘Help you up?’
‘I want to stand on a chair.’
‘How can you possibly be so vulgar, Leonora? You musn’t.’
‘And miss the happening of a lifetime? Give me your hand.’
From her elevated viewpoint Charlotte’s mother saw the scandal with her own eyes.
‘Did I beg Tristan not to set her up in her own establishment in London and look what it’s brought us to, to say nothing of the expense of a whole house just for her. The scandal! It’ll be all over London by the end of the week. I shan’t know where to look. She’s turned this way a little! Why! Why!’ Leonora drew in a sharp disbelieving breath. ‘She looks. . . . . .beautiful! There’s a glow to her face and her eyes are shining, what is going on? He must be taking advantage of her. That’s it, she’s behaved like a whore.’
‘Like mother like daughter, then.’ Cousin Juliana commented wrily
Leonora was so angry she ignored Juliana’s acid remark,. ‘My daughter! How dare he?’
‘Bit late to begin taking an interest in her, Leonora. When she was four years old, you met her with her mursemaid in Turnham Woods and asked her who she was. No point in getting on your high horse now.’
‘I was only teasing her.’
‘No, you weren’t, you genuinely didn’t recognise her. You never have.’
‘I wanted a boy. I knew it was a boy on the way and when it arrived it was a girl and well, I couldn’t love her. It was all her fault.’
‘And look what smothering Bernard with mother love has done to him?’
Leonora pouted. ‘He’ll turn out all right, believe me, in the end.’
‘He’s already twenty eight, he’d better hurry. . . . .’
‘My God! They’re heading for the garden! He’s taken her by the hand and the pair of them are positively galloping towards the garden door! They’ve got to be stopped!’ Using Juliana’s shoulder to steady herself, Leonora clambered down from the chair and set off in search of Charlotte’s papa.
Sir Tristan Templeton was more aware of what was going on than his wife Leonora could possibly imagine. He’d been instrumental in inviting the Major to the Christmas Ball, knowing as he did from the Town grapevine that the Major was paying court to his daughter with remarkable enthusiasm and he wanted to see the situation for himself.
Not that he had any hope of stopping Charlotte from doing anything at all if she’d made up her mind to do it. She should have been born a boy for she had all the attributes he would have liked in a son of his. Moral strength, intelligence, tenacity, and courage; every one of which qualities his son Bernard was lacking.
He’d seen the two of them greet each other, then watched as they left the music room for the garden. But it was a cold night and she needed her shawl. He knew exactly where she’d left it and scooped it up on his way to the garden. If only Leonora had bothered with Charlotte then perhaps she wouldn’t have been still unmarried at thirty.