About the book
A daring choice between career and love that will seal her fate forever…
Emily Dunn is the star pianist in her musical family. She is surprised when Mark Linfield, the handsome and powerful Duke of Edgerton, and his Uncle Silas invite her and her sisters to supper together.
Both Mark and his uncle are smitten with the elegant, statuesque Emily, and the Duke, a patron of the arts, suggests he would like to help launch her career as a solo pianist throughout Europe.
Silas wants to help Emily too, but only if she will agree to accept his advances toward her. And not only must she contend with Silas, but there are forces within her own family that want to prevent her from achieving her dream.
Despite these difficulties Mark and Emily, are becoming intensely attracted to each other. But Emily has a beau, and Mark's family wants him to marry a woman of his social class.
Neither one is certain how to deal with these challenges by themselves. But might they succeed together, or will they be overpowered by the forces working against them?
“No, no, no… Try it again. You are rushing the adagio—lentamente, lentamente, Cara. Use the space between the notes. Make the silences an aspect of the music.”
Giles Carter paced his studio in front of the piano where Emily Dunn, his protégé, was practicing the Mozart Fantasia in C minor. Giles, while English born, liked to affect an Italian persona and often used Italian phrases when teaching. He was in his early fifties, very thin, with a prominent aquiline nose, and affected the long hair, dress, and mannerisms of a romantic artist in this year of eighteen-forty-one.
Emily had the habit of biting her lower lip when she was intensely concentrating. “Presentation, remember how you appear to the audience,” he said. Giles had been trying to break her of this habit and went over and lightly tapped her upper lip with his baton, which he carried with him at all times when he was teaching.
Emily stopped and wiped her brow with the handkerchief she kept for that purpose as it was an unusually warm May day.
“I understand what you mean about space between the notes. And now I am trying to get the feel of it into my body so that it becomes second nature. Music is not only the notes but the silences—and this piece, in particular, longs to be drawn out and flow lushly over the listener like a meandering stream. Is that not so?”
“Esattamente,” Giles declared as he threw his hands joyously up in the air.
Emily began playing from the beginning of the piece, once again. She smiled and swayed as she began to integrate Giles’s instruction into her playing.
Emily had a commanding stage presence. She was aristocratically beautiful—stately and tall. Her dark hair was pulled tightly away from her face and fastened in a tight bun at the back of her head. She had intelligent, piercing eyes and she moved with precision and grace. She generally appeared to be more mature and composed than her six and twenty years.
It was highly unusual for women to be performing music in public performances, but Emily and her two sisters, Ruth and Teresa, had become quite the London sensations—some might even say scandals. But Emily, in particular, was becoming recognized as a virtuoso, ably but, less spectacularly, supported by her sisters on the cello and oboe.
Emily finished the piece without Giles stopping her. It was a magical performance, and even Giles was hushed and moved by her exquisite rendition.
“Brava, brava, Carissima. If you perform it that way at the concert, you will have London at your feet.”
“Thank you, Giles. I must say, it did feel good.”
“And what time are your sisters coming?”
“At two I believe. We need to work on the Rameau, particularly. Ruth is too hesitant on the cello part,” Emily insisted.
Giles was thoughtful, tapping the baton in the palm of his hand. “Emily, I know your father does not want to hear this, but if you ever want to excel as a solo performer, you must break out on your own. Your sisters are holding you back. You do understand that, do you not?”
Emily hung her head, lost in thought, before saying, “I know, but we have been a family trio since we started out together. It is very difficult for me to break free. And deep down I know my father feels that, if I leave, Ruth and Teresa will be left behind with no musical careers of their own.”
“That may sadly be true,” Giles said, gathering up the sheet music and piling it neatly atop the piano while wistfully looking out the studio windows at a small park. “But you have the potential for a stellar career, Emily, and it would be a monstrous shame if you did not take advantage of the opportunity.”
Emily sighed and came over and put her hand on Giles’s arm. “Give me a little more time. Let us get through this next concert, and then I will have a word with Papa and see if there might be another way.”
“Let me know if I can help. My advocacy on your behalf might help sway him.”
They could hear the sister’s climbing the stairs to Giles’s loft, and soon the door opened and Ruth and Teresa entered carrying their instruments.
“We are not late, are we?” Teresa asked, opening her oboe case as Ruth removed the cover protecting her cello.
“Not at all,” Emily said arranging two chairs near the piano.
“Papa was just dreadful about taking out the carriage this afternoon to bring us here, and he grumbled all the way over,” Ruth said.
“He still doesn’t see why we cannot practice at home,” Teresa said.
“He knows our piano is not up to a professional standard and if we are to have a grand concert, we must rehearse properly,” Emily answered.
“Come along now,” Giles insisted, tapping his baton on the piano. “Let us not waste any time. First the Rameau and then the Beethoven.”
The sisters settled into their places and the rehearsal got underway.
Owen Dunn ran the premier London shop selling musical instruments. His trade consisted mostly of beginning instruments for children being urged by their parents to take up the study of music. But he also carried a line of expensive quality instruments, and he had contacts throughout the continent that could locate rare, antique, and highly prized instruments for the discerning professional.
From an early age, and after discovering he would never be a successful musician, Owen began working at Cartwright & Phillips Musical Instruments in Knightsbridge. He quickly became the shop’s most successful salesman, and by the age of thirty he had bought out the aging owners, but kept the name as it was so well known as the place to purchase quality musical instruments.
Owen dreamed of having a son who might become a virtuoso in the London musical world. But he ended up with three daughters—lovely as the days of spring—but restricted by their sex in the all-male world of British classical music. But he was undeterred and proceeded to train his daughters as musicians with the idea of creating a successful trio.
The family lived in a tidy, modest Georgian-style house in Knightsbridge on a quiet side street not far from the shop.
Breakfast was always a hectic affair. There was no set time, and the family members arrived if and when they felt like it. Except that Mother was usually first.
Teresa, who loved to read, would be early and sit at the table drinking tea and nibbling from her plate while engrossed in the latest novel. She wore thick eyeglasses and was hunched over as she turned the pages with her greasy fingers.
Teresa was the plainest of the sisters. Today she had her hair parted down the middle braided and coiled on either side of her head. She gave little attention to her appearance and wore no blush, rouge, or lipstick. Occasionally her mother would come over and pinch her cheeks in an effort to get a little color in them.
Papa was usually the next to arrive, as he needed to open the shop, and liked to be early so he could get a little work done in the back office before he was inundated with customers.
He came in this morning and sat down as Molly, their only domestic besides the cook, poured his tea.
Owen looked up and glowered at his plain daughter.
“How are you ever going to be a first-class performer looking like that?” he groused.
Teresa blankly looked up, still in the world of her novel. “Papa, what are you talking about? How do I look?”
“Like a bedraggled, rain-soaked cat.”
Teresa pushed up her eyeglasses that had scooted down her nose and stared at him like he was speaking Turkish.
“I am not wet,” she replied blandly. “I have no idea what you are talking about.”
Emily was the next to breeze into the dining room, quickly followed by Ruth who was fiddling with the lace on her left sleeve. Ruth had lovely auburn hair and green eyes with a fair, milky complexion. She resembled her mother more than the other two girls.
“I do not suppose anyone has a needle and cotton do you? I must have caught my sleeve on that infernal stair railing again,” Ruth said as she sat at her place at the table.
“Not at breakfast, dear,” Mother said. “Change your dress after breakfast and give it to Molly to mend.”
Ruth sighed as she sat down. “I will do it. Molly always takes forever.”
“Well, she has other responsibilities, too. And, as you know, we are in no position to have a personal lady’s maid in this house.”
“As we are all too aware,” Ruth said, playing with her cutlery as Molly poured her tea, sticking out her tongue behind Ruth’s back.
Ruth always thought of herself as more attractive than her younger sister, Teresa. But she seemed to have a perpetually sour expression, as she was always complaining about something and, although she was often approached by young men interested in courting her, she inevitably sent them scurrying away with her grouchy attitudes.
Emily, as the eldest, attempted to stay out of the family’s petty squabbles and tried to lead by example with her calm demeanor. However, both sisters thought she was a bit haughty and full of herself. But then, they did not have the same drive to succeed as she did—or the same talent.
After Emily received her breakfast, Mother asked, “Whatever happened to that nice gentleman who called on you last week? What is his name? He seemed to be very nice.”
“Yes, Raymond Howard. He scurried away as soon as he found out I did not have any money.”
“But he seemed so very nice,” Mother lamented.
“No, Mother, he was not. He was like so many men I meet—a hanger-on. He was mesmerized by the glamour of me being a successful musician—and something of a novelty.”
Papa looked up from his rasher of bacon and eggs. “You do seem to attract a lot of those types, do you not, my dear?”
Emily sighed. “It is difficult to find a genuine suitor with my constant rehearsals and performing schedule. They all want to either take me out to tea or to the theatre, but I am rarely available for any of those events.”
Mother frowned. “You work too hard. You need to set aside time for romance, or you will find yourself an old maid with no future.”
Now their father pounced. “Mother, her future is in performing. She… and the other girls too… are destined for greatness. How can marriage possibly stand up to such splendid musical accomplishments?”
“Speaking of which,” Emily said as she rose from her place at the table. “I must practice. If you will excuse me…”
“Well, I am going too, but to wash my hair.” Ruth insisted. “You work far too hard, Emily. And I intend to have a real life, thank you very much.” She stood up and left the dining room before Emily.
Papa caught Emily’s gaze and whispered as she passed. “I do wish your sisters were as dedicated as you are.”
Emily patted her father’s shoulder. “There must be allowances for all of our differences, Papa.”
After Emily left, Teresa looked up from her book. “Is there any more toast? I do love this marmalade.”
Mark Linfield, the young Duke of Edgerton, sat at his father’s bedside and reached over and took the old man’s hand. His father had been asleep but, at his son’s touch, he opened his eyes.
“How are you doing this morning, Father?”
His father winced. “About the same. What time is Doctor Benson coming? Did he say?”
“He usually comes about ten.”
Jacob, Mark’s father, closed his eyes again.
“Father, I wanted a word with you about the Cape Colony trade.”
Opening his eyes, Jacob said, “Mark, I am sorry not to be of better use to you, but I just cannot deal with those issues anymore. That is why I passed the dukedom on to you. Please, leave me in peace.”
“As you wish, Father,” Mark replied, and he stood to leave.
“Maybe your grandmother might have some thoughts about the Cape Colony business. She always seemed to have a head for business, but she is a bit of a dotter these days. But have a chat with her.”
“I will—thank you.”
As Mark turned to leave, his father stopped him by waving his hand. “And have the doctor sent up as soon as he arrives.”
It was unusual for a living duke to pass on the dukedom to his son while he was still alive, but Jacob Linfield was no ordinary duke. He had been aggressive in business in his active years, and he had amassed a vast family fortune in trade while, at the same time, being an eager supporter of the arts—especially music. But when his health rapidly declined, he turned his entire estate and title over to his son Mark.
Linfield House and Park were situated just outside of London in Essex, near the small market town of Chipping Ongar. It was a convenient location because it had ready access to London where Mark could conveniently manage the estate’s business interests.
One approached Linfield house from the right side—the drive leading through a lush green lawn and past two welcoming monuments to the right front corner where a single-story entrance led into the two-story French chateau-style house. Mansard and conical shaped roofs covered turrets and towers along the front and sides of this yellow sandstone building, surrounded by expansive lawns with beautifully placed, stately trees.
Short, round topiary bushes crossed along the front of the house on the far side of the drive, edging the lawn that led down toward a natural lake with an irregular shore with many small coves, surrounded by a natural wooded area.
Mark walked leisurely along the grand gallery toward a wing of the house known as the Duchess wing, because his grandmother, Hester, the Duchess of Edgerton, resided there. Mark’s mother had died giving birth to his sister Alice, leaving Hester as the reigning Duchess.
The grand gallery of Lindfield House was particularly attractive. A wide skylight ran the length of the gallery illuminating one of the finest art collections in private hands in all of Great Britain. Aside from the fine portraits of previous generations of the Linfield family, there was an extensive collection of English and European landscapes, religious paintings, military campaigns, and sea battles.
Mark had the same striking features that ran in the Linfield family. At thirty he was tall, aristocratically handsome with finely chiseled features, and had a graceful way of moving. He wore his blond hair loosely, but not long enough to reach his shoulders. He had never done manual labor, and his hands were long, thin, and beautifully proportioned. He would have been a natural pianist if he had ever been trained, but, alas, he was needed, even as a youngster, to learn the family business.
Mark arrived at the Duchess’s door and he knocked. The door was opened by Baggs, Hester’s maid.
“Is Her Grace available?” Mark asked.
“Yes, please come in,” the maid said, standing aside and allowing Mark to enter.
“Oh, Grandson, there you are. Come sit with me,” Hester said.
The Duchess was seated at a card table by a large window overlooking the lake of Linfield Park, playing solitaire. She was a large woman who favored loose clothing with lots of lace, believing it hid her unwelcome size. She was considerably advanced in age but her plump face showed few wrinkles, lending her the air of a sybaritic cherub.
“I do like to amuse myself at cards just before my luncheon. I believe it soothes and aids in one’s digestion.”
Mark sat opposite her at the table.
“I have recently come from Father’s bedside,” Mark said pointing to a card that could be played.
“And how is my poor son doing today?”
“About the same, but never well.”
Hester sighed. “I should be the first to die, but I am far too stubborn. And now he is wasting away with whatever that nasty business he has consuming him.”
“Doctor Benson is doing all he can. He bled him again earlier this morning.”
“Humph,” Hester muttered, shifting her weight in her chair and pulling at her clothing to free it up. “And then there is that snarly uncle of yours—fit as a fig. I am sorry he became a part of this family.
“Grandmother, he is my mother’s brother. We can hardly exclude him, now can we?”
“Well, I certainly have no say about such things, do I?”
Mark played another card that Hester was ignoring. “Uncle Silas thinks very highly of you and treats you with the utmost respect.”
“He is so obviously trying to get into my good graces. I do not trust him as far as I can throw a pony.”
“Grandmother, have some charity, please. Uncle Silas and I are actively engaged in many worthwhile projects together. Why we have been working to stage one of Handel’s great choral works at Chelmsford Cathedral at Christmas. It will be quite splendid, and I know you will want to attend.”
“Handel, eh? That might just be passable.”
Just then Wesley, the long-serving, and ancient, household butler, knocked and entered pushing a trolley with Hester’s lunch.
“Your Grace, would you like your luncheon served at the card table or in your study?”
“This will be fine,” she said clearing away the cards.
Wesley served as Mark stood.
“My purpose in coming to see you was to get your opinion on the Cape Colony trade situation. You are aware of the troubles, are you not?”
Hester waved her hand, dismissing his concern. “It is nothing to bother about. The natives are often restless, but they will calm down when the rains come.”
Mark was unimpressed with her answer. “I believe it is more complicated than that.”
Shaking her head, Hester turned to her fillet of sole and took a dainty bite. “Come back in a week if the trouble persists, but I do not believe it will.”
Mark could see she was not about to discuss the situation with him seriously. “Very well, I shall take care of the matter myself. Enjoy your meal,” he said and was about to leave when he added. “And you will still be attending the concert with us tomorrow evening?”
“Yes, however, I shall be going down to the house before the two of you. I have some shopping I need to attend to before you arrive. Baggs will be going with me in my carriage. And are we to dine together?”
“After the concert as it starts early.”
“Then we shall meet at the house for tea before?”
“That sounds convenient,” Mark said, and then left.
“Wesley told me you were visiting,” Mark said.
Sophie Crauford was waiting for him in the red parlor when he entered with his three dogs panting behind him.
“Have you been riding?” Sophie asked with a welcoming smile.
“Foxes—keep raiding the barnyard. Thought we might flush a few, but no luck. Crafty buggers.”
“Father has much the same problem. Says it is time for a hunt,” Sophie said, as she walked leisurely about the room, knowing just how to show off her attractive figure.
“What brings you to Linfield? I thought you were at the London house,” Mark said as he approached Sophie and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
She turned away with a pout. “I have not. And you have been a very naughty boy?”
“Oh? And why is that?”
“You have not visited me in well over a week.”
Mark was not about to play into her pouts, so he said, “Shall I ring for some tea?”
“No tea. I have a mind to just leave and never return until you treat me properly.”
Mark knew Sophie’s games and just stood admiring her perky indignation which she displayed so well.
Mark had been courting Sophie, the daughter of Baron Crauford, a nobleman who lived close by. The two had known each other since childhood and it had always been assumed that they were a suitable match for matrimony.
Sophie wore a small jaunty hat on top of her blond ringlets with a form-fitting satin dress that showed off her very best attributes. She was very beautiful and often stayed at her family’s London house because she was always in demand at the season’s many social functions.
She had a lovely oval face with small lips and a slightly upturned nose that gave her the quality of a pixie.
“Very well, since you refuse to answer me, I shall leave and free you to attend to your other, obviously, more pressing concerns.”
She kicked at the hem of her dress and turned with a swirl and headed for the door.
“Sophie, you know I am delighted to see you, but I have been tied up with business matters, and I did believe you were in London. Do not be a silly filly about it.”
She turned and scowled at him. “Oh, I am a silly horse, am I?” And she continued toward the door, but he did not stop her, and she left.
This little incident was going to cost him at least a flower arrangement or even a silver necklace. But he tapped his riding crop against his boots to rouse the dogs and headed for the stable, where he had noticed a lame horse when he stabled his own after riding.
Mark and his uncle, Silas Skeffington, were headed from Linfield to London in his carriage the next afternoon. They were dressed in evening wear even though it was mid-afternoon. They had musical business to attend to before attending a concert that evening in a small hall in the West End that was featuring a performance by a trio of lady musicians—a most unusual affair.
Silas sat opposite Mark in the carriage. At first, they were both lost in their own thoughts as they left the house. Silas, his mother’s younger brother, worked closely with Mark on his many musical projects. They both had a passion for supporting the arts, but most importantly, music. It was, in fact, Silas’s profession to manage a few musical artists and to organize and direct tours for various musical groups and soloists.
Silas was in his late forties but was still considered to be handsome and dashing. He had red hair like his sister and kept in good shape due to his passion for hiking and swimming in the nearby forest preserve.
His sister had bequeathed him a fine Georgian house in a nearby village, and he was often at Linfield conferring with Mark on business matters.
“What have you heard about this trio we are to see this evening?” Silas asked.
“Very little. But the fact that there are three female musicians is interesting enough to spark my interest,” Mark said.
“I have heard that the pianist is quite exceptional. Some of my contacts in the musical world tell me she is a virtuoso and could be headed for international fame.”
“Really? And her name?”
“Miss Emily Dunn. I believe her father is the owner of Cartwright & Phillips, a well-respected establishment.”
“And the other young ladies?”
“Her sisters—but less than promising. It is the pianist who stands out, I am told.” Silas leaned in with a twinkle in his eye, “And a very handsome woman too, it is reported.”
Mark sat back in his carriage seat and tapped his walking stick absentmindedly against the side of the carriage keeping time to some inner melody. Finally, he asked Silas, “What do you know about this Cape Colony trade business?”
“Not a damn thing. I have all of my investments in gilt-edge securities. But I have heard good things about the newly emerging railways. I might try some modest investments in those and see if there is anything to them.”
“Hmm. Yes, I have heard about those, but it seems like a pipe dream to me. How can something as simple as steam ever drive a carriage large enough to haul numerous people, as well as pigs, sheep, and bales of hay—what will these engineer types think up next?”
Silas laughed. “You may be right. Best we keep focused on the world of music. It has been around as long as civilization and is bound to remain long after we are gone.”
“It certainly is lasting even if it is not always profitable,” Mark said with a smile.”
“And your Grandmamma is attending the concert with us?”
“We are to meet at the London house for tea and then we shall travel together to the concert hall.”
“And no supper first?”
“The concert is early, so I suggested we dine after.”
“Then I shall load up on teacakes before. Never enjoyed music on an empty stomach,” Silas said with a chuckle.
The concert hall was modest in size. It served not only for the presentations of musical evenings, but it also served as a lecture hall and was known for its fine acoustics. The stage was small, with burgundy-colored, velvet drapes lining the back and sides.
Grandmamma, however, found their box to be stifling and she aggressively fanned herself with the program. She was seated at the front of the box, dressed in a deep purple dress with maroon lace and a large diamond brooch and a tiara.
“Remind me not to attend concerts in the summer. Mark, my love, might you enquire at the concession bar if they have any iced barley water? I do not think I shall be able to make it through the concert without some refreshment.”
Mark leaned in and whispered. “Grandmamma, the program is about to start. Might you make it to the first interval? Then I shall promptly fetch you whatever you like.”
Grandmother adjusted herself in the too small chair. “If I must.” And she began to fan herself more vigorously and ruffled in her handbag to make sure she had her smelling salts—just in case.
Mark and Silas looked up as the applause began and the performers appeared on stage. The sisters bowed and took their places—Emily at the piano and Ruth and Teresa in the chairs before their music stands just to the right of the piano.
“My God, what a looker that pianist is,” Silas said with a big grin.
“Ah, but can she play?” Mark responded, but having to admit to himself she was a very handsome woman.
The program consisted of several solo piano pieces including the flawless Mozart Fantasia. The pieces with the sisters’ accompanying were competent, but the other two sisters’ performances were tepid.
However, by the first interval, the audience showed their deep appreciation when Emily stepped forward to take her brief solo bow.
Silas turned to Mark and suggested, “We must go backstage and meet that lovely lady.”
“I expect you mean Emily Dunn,” Mark replied.
“Let me fetch some refreshment for Grandmamma, and then I shall go with you. I have to admit she is a brilliant talent.”
“And not to forget, a stunning looking woman, as well,” Silas added.
Mark smiled shyly, “Agreed.”
They walked to the only dressing room in this small concert hall. Silas knocked and slowly opened the door to a small crowded room, cluttered with objects the management had nowhere else to store.
“May we come in?” Silas asked. “Unless you are resting.”
Emily’s back was to the door. Ruth, who was seated facing them, immediately responded with a smile. “Please do. It is always nice to be appreciated,” she said, coyly tilting her head and fluttering her eyes.
Mark introduced Silas and himself. Upon learning he was a duke, Teresa and Ruth perked up and gave Mark their full attention.
Silas stepped forward and offered his hand to Emily. “Most stimulating performance. I especially liked the Mozart and the Beethoven.”
“Thank you,” Emily said. “The Mozart is a particular favorite of mine.”
Silas surveyed the crowded room and extending his arms, asked, “Might we invite you ladies to accompany us to supper after the performance?”
The sisters looked at each other.
“If you have no other plans, that is,” Silas added.
Mark could see there was some hesitation on their part and he said, “My grandmother, the Duchess of Edgerton, will also be accompanying us.”
That seemed to relieve the sisters of their concerns of impropriety and they assented.
“Excellent, then we shall call for you after the performance and we can go in our carriage—unless you have your own transportation,” Silas confirmed.
“And my cello?” Ruth asked. “I must take that with me.”
“The carriage is sufficiently large,” Mark assured them.
As they briefly chatted, before the interval was over, Mark could not take his eyes off the beautiful Emily. She was so statuesque, poised, and restrained. She was like one of the classical Roman statues back at Linfield Hall.
Finally, Emily stood and politely addressed the two gentlemen. “You must excuse us; the interval is nearly over, and we need to compose ourselves for the next segment of the concert.”
“Of course,” Mark said as he ushered Silas out of the dressing room ahead of him. As he was leaving, he took a last look at Emily. How extremely beautiful she was. But he felt a twinge of guilt as he compared Sophie to Emily and found she did not compare.
As they headed toward their box, Silas said, “Now, that Miss Emily is certainly a great beauty. I should very much like to further my acquaintance with her.”
Mark led the way toward the box but Silas broke away. “I should like a quick glass of champagne before the interval is over. Can I get you anything?”
“Not for me. I shall wait until dinner.”
“Very well.” And Silas headed for the bar.
The second section of the concert was about to begin, just as Silas returned. As the applause for the returning artists fell away, Mark leaned over to his grandmother and said, “We invited the musicians to dine with us after the concert.”
Grandmother gave him a stern look but did not respond otherwise.
When the concert came to a close, the audience lavished exuberant applause on the performers. After a number of curtain calls, the trio performed several encores.
However, Mark could see that his grandmother was becoming restless and wanted to leave. When the final applause ended, Mark said to Silas, “Might you fetch the ladies while I escort Grandmamma to the carriage?”
“Happy to,” Silas said flashing a large grin.
“Did you enjoy the concert?” Mark asked as he led his grandmother out of the hall.
“It was passing fair,” she said. “I must say, the idea of female performers does upend convention, and I am not at all sure I like the idea.”
“I thought the pianist was brilliant and I have taken to the idea of seeing if I might be able to help her career,” Mark said.
“And the other two ladies?” Grandmother asked as Mark helped her into the carriage.
“That is the problem. They are nowhere as talented as Miss Emily. I do not feel inclined to see much of a future for them. But I do not know how Miss Emily might react to such an idea.”
“Then why are they dining with us?” she groused.
“Because I do see a possible bright future for Miss Emily, and it would be rude not to include the sisters after their joint concert.”
“I am getting too old for all this nonsense.”
“Then may we drop you off at the house on our way to the restaurant?”
Grandmother thought about that. “No, I am hungry and quite enjoy the Simpsons’ beef. I shall endure the evening as best I can.”
“But you will be pleasant to all the young ladies, will you not?”
“Of course, Mark, what do you take me for? A heathen?”
Silas opened the carriage door. “I have three ladies and a fairly good-sized cello. Will we all fit comfortably inside?”
Grandmother scooted over to the far side of the carriage. “Come. Come. We shall manage. Simpsons is not that far.”
The three additional guests and one cello squeezed inside. Teresa carried her oboe case in her lap. And with the carriage full, it was snug.
As they arrived at Simpsons-in-the-Strand, Mark announced, “The instruments will be safe here. No need to bring them into the restaurant.”
The party filed out of the carriage and into the entryway of the restaurant, and, once they were settled at their table, Silas ordered champagne and told the waiter to keep it coming.
Grandmother focused most of her attention on the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and very little on the conversation, except for the occasional grunt or reply to a direct question.
Silas exclusively focused his attention on Emily while Mark struggled to include the other sisters in the conversation.
Silas was consuming far too much champagne, and at one point, Mark needed to lean in and try to moderate Silas’s consumption—but to little effect.
Finally, Mark took control of the conversation and said, “This has been a lovely evening, but I should like to ask you ladies, how might we be able to further your careers?” He turned to Emily and set his gaze upon her. “It is clear there is a lot of talent, and I would imagine that as young ladies you must find it difficult to find your way in the gentleman’s world of music.”
Ruth immediately spoke up. “That is exactly the case. I cannot tell you how many times we have been denied a venue or cancelled for a concert when it was learned that we were young ladies and not young gentlemen.”
Silas then asked Emily, “And do you ever do solo recitals?”
Emily looked briefly at her sisters, turned toward Silas, and said, “I have been asked, but our father insists that we remain a trio. We have been together from the beginning and he wishes us to remain so.”
“I see,” Silas said, obviously disappointed.
But Mark pursued. “Whatever your plans are for the future, I should like to see how I… we… might be able to assist you.”
“That is very generous,” Emily said, looking directly at Mark. “What exactly did you have in mind, and how do you foresee helping us?”
“Giles Carter is our teacher and manager. I think we should set up a meeting whereby he might meet you,” Ruth said. “He is the one to speak to as he is the one who manages all of our bookings.”
“Of course, I shall be happy to meet with all of you at any time.”
Teresa who had been mostly silent during the conversation spoke up, “But why do you need us? Certainly, you could meet with Giles and accomplish all you need without us being in attendance.”
“That suits me,” Ruth said. “I care nothing for the business side of what we do. I find it to be quite a bore.”
Emily seemed to disagree when she said, “I should like to attend. I feel at least one of us should be there with him, as I am sure you and he might have questions only we can answer.”
Mark took a calling card out of his inside coat pocket. “Then, please have your manager contact me with a proposed time to meet and I shall be pleased to host the meeting at Linfield Hall at your convenience.”
Mark held the card, and overcome with a welling up of affection for this lovely woman, handed it to her. With his card in her hand, she lowered her eyes and carefully put the card in her bag.
Silas made a point of offering to pour another glass of champagne for Emily.
“Drink up. The evening is young and it is time to celebrate,” he said, spilling wine as he reached over with the champagne bottle to pour her another glass, but she put her hand over the glass and shook her head.
“No thank you. I have had quite enough for one evening. And I think we should be returning home, as our father always waits up for us after a concert where he is not in attendance.”
Mark placed his hand on Silas’s arm, attempting to restrain him. “Then we shall settle the bill and accompany you home in the carriage.”
Releasing an appreciative sigh, Emily slowly rose from her chair and said, “No thank you. I think it best if we take a cab. You have been so gracious and kind to us this evening. I do not wish to impose on your hospitality any further.” She looked at Teresa and Ruth and asked, “Sisters, are you ready to leave?”
Seeing Silas was too drunk to stand, Mark stood and said, “Then let me fetch a cab for you and retrieve the oboe and the cello from our carriage.” He turned and whispered quietly to his grandmother, “I will return shortly. And see if you can sober Silas up, even a little. He has disgraced himself this evening.”
Grandmother heaved a sigh. “I will do what I can, but do not expect miracles.”
As they headed for the exit, Ruth lingered behind her sisters and cozied up to Mark.
“Thank you for the lovely supper. It was such a pleasure meeting you and your family this evening,” she said as she ran her hand down Mark’s arm before taking his arm for him to escort her.
Emily had gone ahead to the carriage, where it was standing in front of the restaurant, opened the door and was retrieving the oboe case and the cello when the other three arrived.
Mark disengaged himself from Ruth and went into the street to hail a hansom cab.
“Ladies, your carriage awaits,” he said jokingly.
Teresa was the first in, followed reluctantly by Ruth. Emily held back and said, “Thank you for a wonderful evening. And I shall have Giles contact you as soon as we meet and discuss a plan. I hope you do not mind if I accompany him to the meeting.” She said this very coolly with no hint of flirting.
“Not at all. I truly look forward to our next and, I hope, successful meeting.”
As Emily entered the carriage, Ruth leaned out, extending her hand, and said, “Charmed, Your Grace. I look forward to a rich and meaningful future relationship.”
Mark smiled, nodded and firmly closed the cab door.
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