Three young women, linked by marriage and scandal, awaited the duchess today.
The Countess of Chestlewick had intrigued Society less than a year ago, making her appearance as a young, impoverished, and extremely beautiful widow. The much older Earl of Chestlewick had been, as far as Eleanor understood the matter, one of the few to offer her a permanent arrangement of the legal kind. Many had more illicit relationships in mind.
Gossip suggested she had chosen Chestlewick for his wealth, but Eleanor had seen them together. Yes, the earl doted on his young wife, but equally the wife looked up to and admired her husband. It was, in short, a love match, and Eleanor was confident that the robust baby the joined the household only a few months after the marriage was, in fact, the true son of the earl who claimed him.
With her was her daughter-in-law, Countess Medford. Now there was a story. The Earl of Medford had returned from a hunting trip in the Scottish Highlands with an aching heart, after a lass who nursed him through sickness disappeared without a trace. Medford’s lack of interest in his former rakish pursuits, his dogged devotion to finding his lost love, and his mournful demeanour won him the nickname ‘the Cursed Earl’.
Imagine Society’s delighted horror when the missing girl proved to be none other that the Earl of Chestlewick’s daughter by a former marriage. Lady Jane Amhurst, as she was known here in England, arrived from the Highlands with a pair of Scottish servants, a small daughter, and no husband. As Mrs Pellingham, the third guest this morning, gleefully explained to anyone who would listen.
But it turned out that the pair had married in the Highlands, and their blissful reunion was rather more than a nine-days wonder, especially when a chastened Mrs Pellingham made her first appearance with her wronged sister-in-law.
The gossip had not died down, of course, but Eleanor would see what she could do to help ease at least the way of the Countess of Medford, and the others, too, if they seemed deserving.
My Lost Highland Lass is a story in my new book of lunch-length reads, Lost in the Tale.
Other Monday for Tea posts about stories in the book are:
Tea with Mrs Markinson (The Lost Wife)
Tea with Callie (Magnus and the Christmas Angel)
Tea with Morag and Caitlin (The Lost Treasure of Lorne)