The Young Ladies' Parlor, Worthington House,
Mayfair, April 1821
Lady Madeline Vivers stared at the list of requirements for husbands she and her sisters-by-marriage, Lady Alice Carpenter and Lady Eleanor Carpenter, had written and, remembering her mother's pointed remarks about expecting her next daughter to marry appropriately, sighed. As tempted as she was, Madeline would not add her mother's demand that the gentleman be a peer or an heir to a peer. If either of her sisters saw it, there would be a conversation she did not wish to have. If she did not marry "appropriately," what Mama could and would do was engage in strong hysterics. And after witnessing what her second eldest sister, Augusta, had gone through, Madeline would be happy to keep the peace, as it were. Aside from that, the chances she would be introduced to anyone her mother thought unsuitable was unlikely. All the gentlemen presented to her, and her sisters had met Mama's requirements. What Madeline really must do was be clear, at least in her own mind, what she wanted from a marriage. Charlotte and Louisa, Madeline's eldest sisters, were as involved in politics as their husbands. Augusta and her husband had no interest in politics but were involved in academic studies. Grace, Madeline's brother Matt's wife, ergo Madeline's sister-in-law, were the linchpins of the family. They kept all the members, both by marriage and by new births, and their dependents together and moving forward. To Madeline's mind, that was just as important as politics. Then again, the combined Vivers-Carpenter family was quite large and, at times, took up a great deal of time and energy. The only problem was that she must first meet a gentleman who was interested in her and vice versa to be able to do anything. And there she went, off on a tangent again, before she even addressed what she wanted personally from marriage.
A knock sounded on the door, and Madeline sighed again. Her question would not be answered today. "Come."
Roberts, the footman assigned to her, stepped into the room. "My ladies, I have been sent to tell you that Lady Merton and her brother, Mr. Henry Stern, are in the morning room."
Well, that was much more interesting than what Madeline was currently doing. She knew Dotty well, but her older brother was almost a stranger. "Thank you, Roberts."
Alice suddenly looked up from her book. "We will be there directly."
The footman bowed. "Yes, my lady."
Madeline followed her sister out of the room trying to remember what Harry Stern looked like. She had a vague memory of a gentleman a few years older than Dotty, but that was all.
"I wonder what he is doing in Town?" Alice asked.
Now that she mentioned it, Madeline thought it was odd as well. He was a barrister in Bristol. "Especially because he did not even go to Dotty's house for Easter."
Ignoring any sense of decorum, they rushed out of the door and down the stairs, and almost literally ran into Eleanor.
She moved quickly out of their way. "What is going on?"
"Dotty is here, and she brought her brother Henry," Alice said. "We have not seen him in years."
Eleanor frowned. "Was he not home for Christmas last year?"
"Only for a day, and 'we' did not see him," Alice huffed. Eleanor joined them as they went to the morning room.
"What is he doing in Town?"
"That is what we are going to find out." Madeline almost rolled her eyes. That was the question they all had. "I think I have only met him once, and for a very short time."
Eleanor glanced into the parlors they were passing. "Where are they?"
"In the morning room," Alice said over her shoulder. Madeline took Eleanor's hand and hurried after Alice.
Until they were twelve, when Matt married Grace, Eleanor and Alice's elder sister, the twins had grown up not far from Dotty and her family.
They reached the morning room, and a gentleman rose. One could immediately see the resemblance to his sister. Both had black curls and green eyes, but while Dotty was feminine, he was decidedly masculine. His nose was straighter, and his jaw was almost square, with a dent in it.
When he smiled, his eyes smiled too. "You grew up."
Alice gave him her haughty look. "And, apparently, you did not."