Aldridge, impatient now that they were back at the little girl’s house, hurried her into the parlour where he’d left the twin dolls and presented them to her. She, beautifully mannered as she had been all evening, curtseyed her appreciation, then hugged him and kissed his cheek. “Thank you, Uncle Aldridge. They’re so beautiful. Look, Mama. Look how beautiful they are.”
Hugh looked. The mother, bending over her daughter who was excitedly showing the dolls’ wardrobe and their articulated arms and legs. And the child, her mother in miniature. Identical heart shaped faces; identical dark hair tied back but with tiny curls around their forehead, identical porcelain skin and cornflour blue eyes fringed with dark lashes.
So intent, like the statues of the madonna he had seen in Catholic Portugal before he sold out, her eyes full of love for her daughter.
God, he needed a drink.
“Aldridge?” Aldridge was smiling fondly as he watched his mistress and her child. “Aldridge, is there any brandy in the house?”
“Not here, Overton.” Aldridge was impatient. “Just wait a bit, can’t you?”
Of course he could. It didn’t worry him at all to see this kept woman, this harlot, bent lovingly over her daughter; standing up to him—a head taller, a man, and an aristocrat—to protect her daughter. When his wife, damn her, had ignored her daughters; had regarded them as disposable pawns in her campaign to be the mother of a peer. It didn’t worry him. It didn’t.
“I’ll walk,” he said. “Miss Winstanley, my felicitations on your birth anniversary. Mrs Winstanley, my thanks for a pleasant evening. Aldridge.”
Hadn’t they passed a tavern two streets back? Surely they had.
Whatever they sold, he was drinking it.