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A most unusual household [April 24th, evening]


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It was dinnertime at St. James Square, and things were not going well at the De Courtnay residence.


"Alice," Edward said sharply, after his sister could not resist to put in another dig at the Mountjoy's presumed poverty "That is quite enough from you."


Turning accusing eyes at her eldest brother, know as Lord Avon, the Kings master of horse, the most at court, Alice gave a horrible pout "I am just making conversation." Her tone said How dare you choose her over me.


Sofie saw where this was going and hastily offered "I didn't really think she meant.."


"Yes she did," Edward observed sharply, quite put out by his sister's behaviour. Alice removed her napkin and threw it at her half empty plate "I want to be excused," she barely managed, for Lord Avon insisted on impeccable manners always, something she was now in breach of already. There was no point in tempting fate.


"You may," Edward nodded and watched his sister storm away, stomping up the stairs. Women, I don't understand them.


Stubbornly his lordship finished his meal as if nothing was the matter. Francis and Sofie joined him in his silence, feeling subdued. Francis reached out to his wife gently, patting her hand under the table as if to suggest all would be better soon. He just couldn't wait to get his own household. Soon, his brother had promised. Everything leave the tension of this house. It was not the rose garden he had thought marriage to be, but at least his Sofie was still as sweet as ever. He gave her encouraging smile which she shakily returned.




It was much later that evening, when Francis and Sofie had already retired and Edward stood in his study, nursing his drink and thinking of the past as he leaned on the chimney, that a visitor was announced.


Avon turned and when the hood of the black cloak was pushed back he nodded, recognizing the blond curls, the sardonic smile "Master Stewart, what have you brought for me tonight?" With a gesture behind him, his guest stepped back and revealed several paintings that were being brought in. With a sigh of delight Avon went to inspect them.

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