The Hunt: Or How I Married the Earl of Edrington, the True and
Compleat Confessions of Electra, Countess Edrington, As Told to Her
Granddaughter, Lady Sarah Trusdiffe-Hupper
by Juliet

 

Apologies: To those who know London better than I: forgive me if I've
turned your city upside down. I've been there enough times that I
should know better, but -

 

Chapter 4. Wherein Lectra does London, and Finds a Letter

My mother's sitting room was pretty and cozy, with Chopping
Bottom's typical low, timbered ceilings and bumpily plastered walls.
Two large windows, draped in faded blue damask, embroidered with a
filigree pattern, let in the morning sun. Long ago, a traveling painter
had come to stay for several months, covering the cream coloured
walls with pictures to resemble a bramble thicket, filled with birds and
flowers and tiny woodland creatures.

I found my mother there in her favourite chair, with her sewing. Jassy,
her cat, lay in her basket at her feet, a put upon expression on her face,
as her latest litter of five rolled and tumbled all over her in their play.

I went to kiss Mummy's cheek, then bent down to scoop up one of
the exceedingly fat little kittens, which curled itself immediately around
my hand and began to bite at my thumb. I settled myself on the settee
by the fire.

"Mummy, what would you say if I told you I was thinking of going up to
London for a bit?" I asked.

She smiled, and without looking up from her work, said, "I would say,
Who are you, and what have you done with my daughter Electra?'"

I smiled back, a little sheepishly. I lifted the kitten up to my face and
kissed its wet little nose. It hissed at me, and I set it back down and
watched it waddle back to its brothers and sisters.

"Do you really want to go?" My mother asked, looking up at me. I
studied her face for a moment. The Countess was right. I was nothing
like her, with her soft, dainty features and fair colouring. There was
certainly no likeness between her and the Countess, although they
were cousins, and so must Alexander and I be, albeit distantly.

"Well, Gussy is always asking me, and I thought, well, perhaps it is
time I got out into
society." I replied.

She set aside her work. "Electra, you must know that your father and I
have no expectations of you other than that you will do what will make
you happy. You have your own fortune, and may be as independent as
you please. Unless - "

"Unless, what, Mummy?"

"Is there something I should know about you and Gussy?"

That startled me. "Gussy?"

"You have always been so close. He has grown to be a very attractive
young man. I don't believe anyone would be surprised - in fact, I'm
sure Susannah and I would like nothing more - "

I cut her off, "Gussy! Oh no, Mother! We are the best of friends, but
nothing more." She looked a bit disappointed, "And I don't think - " I
stopped, thinking I should not say any more.

"You don't think what, dear?"

"Well - " I hesitated, "The thing is, I don't think Gussy really cares
for - girls."

She gave me a searching look. "Oh? Oh!! My goodness! Does
Susannah know?"

Poor Gussy. It seems I was telling everyone his secrets. "I'm not sure
Gussy really knows it himself, Mummy. I shouldn't have said anything.
Please don't say anything to Lady Fitzgibbon just yet."

"Of course not, darling. As to going to London, of course you may do
as you wish. I must say it surprises me that you would think of tearing
yourself away in the middle of hunting season." Ah, yes, the first of
many sacrifices I would make for my love!

"And will you stay as long as Christmas? Whatever will we do without
you?" It was true. I loved Christmas at Chopping Bottom. I was the one
who always took responsibility for filling the house with greenery from
top to bottom. I would make my own special recipe for "lambswool",
the traditional punch of ale, nutmeg, toast and roasted apples and I
always had a starring role in the servant's annual pantomime, usually
as a slovenly housemaid to an imperious Duchess, invariably
portrayed with great hilarity by our butler, Harryman. Ah. To have
imagined then that all these years later, the butler would be playing
me! And I do think, Sarah, that your portrayal of the housemaid is very
nearly as good as mine. You should try, if you can manage it, to get off
a good, loud, fart once in awhile. It always brings down the house! Oh
my yes! Your Aunt Iphigenia was the master of the loud stage fart! Most
impressive!

But in answer to my mother's question regarding Christmas, I said,"I
don't know, Mummy, perhaps."

"Well, Uncle Edward and Aunt Alice are at the Haymarket Square
house for the Season. I am sure they will be delighted to have you join
them."

"Actually," I said, "The Fitzgibbons have asked me to come and stay
with them in St. James." The Fitzgibbon's London home was located in
the same fashionable square as that of the Earl of Edrington's, as it
happened.

"Allright, darling. I'm sure you will have a lovely time, though we shall
miss you a great deal."

"And I you, you know that." And then I asked, "Did I tell you I met the
Countess of Edrington?"

"Cousin Jeanne? No, you did not."

"We had supper at Edrington. She told me that she still writes to
you."

"Yes. We were very close, once, though she was much older. I
worshipped her when I was a little girl. She would read to me, and
teach me games." She picked up her sewing once more and started to
work.

I went on. "She also told me she was pleased that you married
Papa. That you are happy. She seems - regretful about her own
marriage. I was surprised by how much she revealed to me in our
conversation. I think she may be ill."

Mother sighed and nodded. "Yes. I am glad you spoke to her, Electra.
Now you see not all of my family are - well, they are not all alike." I
could see it was still a painful topic for her, even after all this time.

I decided to change the subject. "I will probably need to get an awful
lot of clothes."

She smiled, "I daresay! Breeches and boots will simply not do, will
they?" She reached over and patted my knee, "I am sure Susannah
has accounts all over town. Uncle Edward can see to the bills.
Electra - ?"

"Yes?"

"You are a lovely young woman, and we are so proud of you. I do so
want you to be happy."

"I will be, Mummy." I said.

****

"Madame, do you not think we should cut the neckline, un peu, a little
lower, to take better advantage of Mademoiselle's best features?"

"Oh, yes, I agree. You do have a lovely bosom, my dear. There are
women who would kill for such as those. Not to mention a great many
men!" The dressmaker, Mrs. Stanton, owner of the most exclusive
shop in London was sniggering like a bumptious barmaid in a
dockside tavern. I stood in front of a mirror, arms crossed determinedly
across the aforementioned chest of mine. Paulette and I were at odds
once more over my own skin. That is to say, how much of it I was
willing to reveal, as opposed to the amount Paulette was convinced
was absolutely essential, both for the sake of fashion, and for the
achievement of certain objectives which she seemed to have
discerned already, although I had not expressed them as such.

"Mademoiselle!" Paulette said at last, throwing up her hands in
exasperation. "Do you want ze man or not?" The "French" accent was
much in evidence, a sign that Paulette was fully girded for battle.

"Do I - ?" I turned on her, "How in hell do you know - ? Oh, never
mind. I am sure it will have something to do with being French!"

"Oui. How many times do I have to tell you, Mademoiselle? I know
about zese things."

"Oh, you ARE French," gushed Mrs. Stanton, I wasn't quite sure, the
accent - "

"She's not French." I said, glaring.

"Oui. Of course I am. Mademoiselle is in a bit of a pique, yes?"
Paulette turned to the dressmaker calmly, and ignoring my impatient
foot tapping, said, "We will take zis one, remade, as I have instructed,
and also ze black and white peau de soil. How soon can you have
them ready?"

I hated this whole procedure, which was one reason why I needed
Paulette so desperately. I was spending a fortune. Gowns, cloaks,
hats, gloves, stockings, slippers, boots, jewels, a new riding habit,
fans, ribbons, perfume. I was exhausted. I have to be eternally grateful
to the Baroness Fitzgibbon for essentially giving her maid over to me.
Surely she understood the monumental task which Paulette faced.
Fortunately for me, Paulette loved to fight the good fight, and the more I
dug in, the more she enjoyed herself, and truth be told, she always
emerged the victor.

"So we have our eye on a young man, have we?" wheedled Mrs.
Stanton, "Well, your maid is absolutely right, Miss Edgerton, you must
use every weapon at your disposal."

"Listen to the two of you!" I fumed, "Talking as if men are the enemy.
And my breasts are not weapons!"

At this they both burst out in squeals of disgusting, hysterical
laughter, "Oo! Mademoiselle!" Paulette shrieked, "I can see you have
much to learn about l'hommes! Oh, don't worry, Paulette will teach you,
or Monsieur will!"

*****

I saw Alexander again, and for the first time since coming to London,
on the night we went to The Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. I had not
been to the theatre since I was a little girl, and I must say I was nearly
as excited by the spectacle as I had been back then. The Fitzgibbons
had one of the large private boxes, situated with others under a large
wooden gallery. In front of the boxes was the "pit", a large space facing
the stage, in which benches covered with green matting were placed.
The pit was seething with people, who, in the course of the evening,
seemed to be paying little attention to what was going on onstage.
Both men and women sat there, but mostly men, playing cards and
flirting with the women present, and surveying who was in the boxes.
The stage itself was brightly lit by candles in enormous chandeliers,
hanging to the right and left of the stage.

Gussy was reading to me from the program. "We will see a farce,
called "The Cheats of Scapin". A comedy of two acts called "The
Comical Rivals" with two Italian sonatas by Signor Gasparini. Two
French girls will walk across the rope. Their father will present the "
Humors of Harlequin" as performed before the late King of France, and
, oh, here's something to make you homesick, Electra, Mr. Evans of
Vienna will show astonishing tricks performed by his wonder horse,
Hercules."

I did miss my horses! I could not bring James, of course. When I had
left Chopping Bottom he had been playing happily in his paddock with
Persephone and Thisbe, who had been sent over with the groom,
Scroggins, the week before. My own mare, Cordelia, was due to have a
late season foal before too long, and I would most likely miss the birth.

A movement and a flash of white caught my eye from across the arc
of the gallery, and I looked to see none other than Lady Portia
Edrington waving frantically at us with her fan. I lifted my own fan and
smiled at her in return, and looked beyond her at those entering the
box. A scarlet coat. Oh, it was Captain Kennedy. And Athena, looking as
if she was becoming aware of a very bad odour indeed. And then there
he was, so straight and tall, his hat under his arm. I saw him take his
seat. Portia was leaning over, speaking to Captain Kennedy, who then
got up to leave the box.

"Oh, the Edrington's are here." Said Lady Fitzgibbon, giving Portia a
little wave as well. "I did not know it. We shall have to send over a card
on the morrow."

Was he looking at me? I knew I was looking well, wearing one of the
gowns Paulette and I had sparred over, a deep, bronze-gold satin,
low-cut,( of course!) embroidered all over with silken thread in a slightly
darker gold shade. She had performed a stunning slight- of- hand with
my hair, somehow coaxing it into a mass of curls, some of which she
piled atop my head, and some left streaming down my back.

There was a bit of noise at the back of the box, and I turned to see
Captain Kennedy entering. He bowed to Lord and Lady Fitzgibbon, and
greeted Gussy and me.

"Good evening, "he began, then as if forgetting what he was going to
say, looked at me for a long moment. "I must say, you look lovely this
evening, Miss Edgerton."

"Thank you, sir." I didn't know what else to say.

He seemed to remember himself. "Ah! Lady Portia was most insistent.
She wished me to ask if you all would please like to join us in Lord
Edrington's box?"

"Thank you, I'm quite comfortable where I am," grumped the Baronet,
causing Lady Fitzgibbon some little embarrassment, I think.

"You're very kind. I do think we shall stay put," she demurred, "But
Gussy and Electra, the young people should go. You will have a much
livelier time, I should think. Do go on."

The first of the players was already on stage when we reached the
box. Portia looked up, and smiling brightly, motioned me to the seat
beside her. His Lordship stood to say hello and took my hand to kiss it
lightly. I forced myself to look into his eyes, as frightening as it was to
do so, Sarah! I confess, I could not tell what he was thinking, but as for
me, I was thinking of another kiss, boldly taken in a stable, that had
turned my very bones to jelly!

"How wonderful to see you, Miss Edgerton!" Portia was saying as I
sat down on her right. Captain Kennedy was to her left, and, oh, lord!
Alexander sat right next to me! "I do wish you would let me call you
Electra, the most beautiful name! And you must call me Portia for we
are friends, are we not?"

I laughed. "Yes! Isn't this marvelous!

I did enjoy the performance, in spite of my preoccupation with the fact
of Alexander's nearness. We hardly spoke, although we did exchange
a few smiles over the antics of "The Comical Rivals". Whatever
conversation was taking place was mostly on the part of Portia, who
chattered on oblivious to the efforts of the divine Signor Gasparini,
dividing her attentions equally between myself and Captain Kennedy.

"Oh, oh!" she exclaimed toward the finale, as if reminded by the
appearance of Mr. Evans and his horse, Hercules. "Sandy and Captain
Kennedy are taking us riding tomorrow, to tour the grounds at Windsor!
Won't you come, Electra?"

"Thank you, Portia, I think I would like that very much." His thigh
rested not a quarter of an inch from my own. I imagined I could feel the
heat of it, and I had the wildest urge to shift myself, just the merest
fraction, to press against it.

We all rose from our seats to applaud the end of the performance.
Their party was going on to White's and though I knew Gussy would
have loved to have gone along and had another crack at beating His
Lordship at whist , I knew that the Fitzgibbons had reserved a table at
Pontacs, and I already felt a little guilty at slighting my hosts, so I
declined the proffered invitation.

Alexander and I were the last to file out of the box. The backs of the
others were all turned to us, and he was following just behind and to
the side of me. With a little shock I felt his hand lightly touch the small
of my back, and then the prickle of the hairs rising on the nape of my
neck as his warm breath touched it.

"You are beautiful, Electra," he whispered.

*****


Next morning it was unseasonably pleasant weather, perfect for an
outing. Gussy walked me through St James's Square to Pantops, as
the Edrington's London house was named. It was, of course, from the
Greek, for "to see it all". The house was massive, rising a full three
stories to a hipped roof, punctuated with regularity by dormer windows
and huge chimney stacks. In the center of the roof was an open marble
cupola, where the family could dine and entertain when in residence
during the hot summer months. From the roof the view was
spectacular, thus inspiring the name. It was possible to see the whole
of St. James's Square to the west and across the Marlborough House
gardens to St. James's Park to the south.

The front of the house had even numbers of large windows rowed
across all three stories. A simple outside stair curved upward to the
double doors of the entrance, cased in marble and topped by a
pediment.

Gussy was not coming riding. He was off to see his tailor. As much
as buying clothes was sheer torture for me, so it was a pure pleasure
to Guss, and I should have been grateful for Portia's invitation for no
other reason than that I might otherwise have been obliged to go
along, numbed with boredom and trying desperately to think of
something helpful to say in order to aid in the making of such life
altering decisions as which of three identical cravats best expressed
one's true raison d'etre, or some such nonsense!

"Oh Electra! You mustn't be angry with me!" cried Portia as she
hurried to greet me in the "great" parlor. She was not dressed for
riding, and there was no sign of Alexander or Captain Kennedy.

"I'm afraid our outing has been postponed. Sandy had a message
this morning from Lord Grenville, and he has gone to an assembly at
the House."

"The House?" I asked.

"Yes, the House of Lords. Something about the war."

Naturally, the House of Lords. I felt the dunce.

Portia went on, "I didn't send word to you, because I selfishly thought it
would be so lovely for us to have a visit. I could show you the house if
you like, and we'll have tea, and then later, perhaps we could walk in
the park. Are you very disappointed?"

I smiled, "No, Portia, I'm not disappointed. Surely we may go to
Windsor another day, and I think tea and a visit does sound just lovely."

Her blue eyes crinkled in the corners when she smiled, "Oh, I'm so
glad! I'm all alone you see. Sandy has gone off, and Mamah has not yet
come and Athena has been gone all night with her ghastly friends. I
daresay I shall never be allowed to get away with that! Sandy will have
me locked away!" Nonetheless, she was somehow able to get away
with calling her brother "Sandy", and oh, my goodness, Sarah, the
things he wouldn't do for that girl if she asked him! He did have a
peculiar weakness. Well, it was the same with all of our girls.
Phaedra, Cassandra, Iphigenia, oh, how they did try me, especially
when they were nearly grown! But Papah was always wound sweetly
round those little fingers!

" The house was completed in 1669," Portia was saying, as she led
me on The Grand Tour, "The land itself was deeded to my great-
grandmother as a part of her dower, by her father, the Duke of
Tamborough." She led me through the great hall, the scale and
proportion and every detail of which, while in every aspect was both
perfect and beautiful, seemed to speak of nothing so much as
greatness and power and wealth. So the great Duke of Tamborough,
war hero and favorite of Queen Anne was Alexander's great-
grandfather? The thought nagged at me that such a family chose its
alliances with great politesse and deliberation. I was far out of my
depth, for certain!

Into the walls surrounding the vast open space, floored in enormous
squares of pink and white marble were cut oval niches, outlined with
laurel wreaths, into which were set marble busts. Portia ticked off the
names of the most famous men of Queen Anne's reign; Marlborough,
Godolphin, Prince Eugene, Prince George, Sunderland, Somers and
Cowper. Power. Lineage. Blood.

Portia took me all the way up to the roof where I gazed in awe at the
splendor spreading before me. It was such a fine, clear day, and the
ever present pall of coal smoke which invariably hung over the whole of
London seemed to have been carried away upon a light, sweet breeze.
The entire roof was surrounded by a marble balustrade and a walkway
where guests could stroll, and stone benches were placed here and
there. Huge pots of flowers and shrubs were placed here and there.
The roof itself was like a garden in the sky!

Room after room of rich furnishings, hangings, porcelain and
paintings. One portrait caught my eye, over the fireplace in the main
drawing room. " That is Mamah," Portia informed me. A slim, tall young
woman ,golden haired, with dark, glowing eyes, Alexander's straight
nose and serious mouth. Not a beauty, I thought again, certainly. But
still compelling.

"Isn't she grand, though?" Portia asked me, "I look not a bit like her."

I was astonished. Did she not know? I wondered again exactly what
had been in that pipe of the Countess's that had so loosened her
tongue to the extent of revealing her family's secrets to a near stranger!
I gazed awhile at the painting. She was the daughter of a Marquess
,who had done her duty and married well. She had loved her husband
and he had betrayed her.But now she was the matriarch of this great
and powerful family. My own mother, her cousin, had the man she
loved, and yet she had lost her family and her position in society. How
rare must it be, I thought, for all of the pieces to fit together. Love, family,
duty, happiness.

Once again, I do tend to go on! Let me tell you, Sarah, what was my
favorite feature of the house. Attached to the back of the house, facing
the park, was the most marvelous conservatory, or an orangerie , as it
was sometimes called, an enormous space with walls almost entirely
of glass, and still more lights of glass set into the roof so that the
space was flooded with daylight. It was quite warm on this very
pleasant day, but even in the dead of winter it was kept at a springlike
temperature by a number of little coal burning stoves that kept the chill
of an English winter from nipping at the fruit trees; lemons and
oranges and white peaches and quince, and the exotic, fragrant
flowers tended year round by the gardeners. The rooms at Pantops
were always filled with gorgeous arrangements of fruit and fresh
flowers. The ultimate luxury!

On the way back from the orangerie, Portia stopped in front of a
closed door. In a low voice, although there was no one but me to hear,
she said conspiratorially, " These are Sandy's rooms. He hates for
people to come in. Thinks we'll disturb his perfectly arranged rows of
hair ribbons or some such! But I am going to show you, because he is
not here and he has the very best view of the park from his balcony!"

In contrast to the rest of the house, these rooms were rather simple
and spare. A dressing room, where indeed, rows of neatly pressed
black ribbons lay in soldierly rows upon a table top. A little alcove with a
bookcase and a small writing desk. The bedroom, not large, with
simple hangings and bedcovering of dark green against oak paneled
walls. A collection of equestrian bronzes on the fireplace mantle. Tall
glassed doors led out to the private balcony, which looked out onto a
sweep of green, steeply sloping lawn and down, over the treetops to St.
James's Park.

 

 

" It's such a lovely day! Almost like springtime," Portia exclaimed as
she walked through the doors and out ," I think we should be very
wicked and cross Sandy by having our tea right here, don't you think,
Electra?"

" Oh, I think so!" I smiled at her.

"Let me just run and tell Mrs. Cadogan, then. Make yourself
comfortable, Electra. I won't be a moment." With that she bustled off to
order our tea, leaving me alone. Now, Sarah, I am sure you will not
suppose for a moment that I would miss such an opportunity as this! I
knew so little about Edrington as a man, and I did so want to know
everything. Surely there was much to be learned by exploring his most
private environs! I walked to the bookshelves. Not terribly revealing.
Gibbon - Ugh, Tacitus! Shakespeare, of course. My own favorite,
Gueriniere. Others. I turned to the desk. It was very neat. Ink, quills,
sand , lined up smartly front and center. A tidy stack of papers placed in
the middle, weighted by a heavy bronze disc inscribed with the letter "
E". I walked round and pulled out the chair and sat down. There was a
little drawer there. Now you're really poking your nose in where it
doesn't belong, Electra, I told myself as I slid it open. A book of poems
lay there. Oh, very interesting! John Donne, a great favorite of mine. I
had read from his "Divine Meditations" at the funeral of my beloved
grandfather. Such beautiful and comforting words:

" Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so - "

Donne was also a great favorite of the kitchen maids at Chopping
Bottom. On chilly winter nights I would sit with them around the great
kitchen hearth, eating roasted chestnuts, and I would read to them
from his marriage songs, those earthy and sensual descriptions of
physical love that would set us all to gasping and giggling!

The little book fell open to a page that was marked with a folded slip
of paper. I looked at the words, and imagining Alexander reading them
too, felt the heat coming to my face, for they were these:

" License my roving hands and let them go.
Before, behind, between, below,
O' my America! My new found land,
My kingdom safliest when with one man manned,
My mine of precious stones, my empirie,
How blessed am I in this discovering thee!
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be - "

I had to smile. In my experience, His Lordship's hands required no
license to rove! Oh, I should put this back and go out onto the balcony
to wait for Portia. It would be most embarrassing to be caught
snooping! I went to replace the paper into the book, and noticed that it
was in fact a letter. Let me tell you of this letter, Sarah, and you will see
how I was justly rewarded for my bad behavior. It was somewhat less
than a full page, and written in a somewhat loose,and decidedly
feminine hand. It read:

Dear Alexander,

Should I thank you for your note? I can honestly say I was pleased
to hear from you. I am glad to know that you are doing so well as to be
willing to surrender to or to charge the enemy. You know I am smiling
at the thought, as it reveals that dynamism that I find attractive. What I
recall about you is that time in the hospital when I believed you would
have kissed me! I was quite overwhelmed and I was thankful that your
eyes were bandaged on that occasion! I knew you would be a trial, I
just did not know to what extent! Again I smile!

( I caught my breath! In hospital? His eyes bandaged? What had
happened? And this woman had been there - )

- I wish you had spoken when you saw me that Friday. That I am still in
your thoughts is a great flattery, sir. Please forgive me for contributing
to your current emotional state. I know you recall I did what I did to help
you. You said so yourself. I am pleased it had the desired result of
giving you a will to live. You are a fine man and a credit to your nation,
my nation now, and I am thankful your injuries healed.

You were a great comfort to me on the road to Toulon. I could not let
you know then, but I was relieved to have you along on the journey. You
did much to comfort me, as well as to make me angry, sir. I smile at
the remembrance.

Those days of summer shall never be forgotten. And our morning on
that knoll? I confess, I never felt closer to you than at that moment, but
we had been discussing something dear to my heart. Sometimes it is
easy to transfer love for one to another. It is well it was morning, and
that you warned me away.

As to my future, I can only pray that I will grow old with my husband,
the man I love. You are correct that I shall guard your letter with my life. I
do want us to be friends.

In my own way, Alexander, I do love you. I shall never forget the
summer of 1799. it will be a bright beacon in my memory for many
reasons, and, I do not know if I should say it, but you are a "major" one.

Take care of yourself, my lord. I will keep you in my prayers.

With regard and esteem, your,
Pamela

Dear God! I do not know how the notion came to be that the color of
jealousy is green, for I can tell you, Sarah, dear, that the hue of the
emotion that blazed in my heart and flared behind my eyes in that
moment was as red and as hot as a flame! Who was this woman? "
My nation now..." she wrote. I thought of the poem, " O my America - "
Gussy's words: "There was a woman, American of all things! The wife
of a Naval officer - "

A married woman, and yet she signed with only her Christian name.
She purported to love her husband, and yet she appeared to be doing
her best to keep Alexander-- my Alexander-- on her little string! "In my
own way I do love you - I shall never forget - " She found his"
dynamism" attaractive! Oh, I felt ill! And this was a response to a letter
he had written! Surely a married woman who loved her husband
should have thrown such a letter from another man on the fire and
never responded, unless -

I couldn't bear it! I wanted to rip the thing into a million tiny shreds and
toss it in the grate! Would he miss it? 1799. Two years later and still he
kept it, safe and close in this little drawer. Had he carried it with him in
France, in Egypt? Oh, God, did he love her still? If he did then why did
he trifle with me? I thought of the touch of his hand on my back, the
timbre of his voice as he whispered, "You are beautiful - "

" Electra! Here I am at last!"

Portia! The letter fluttered to the floor. I had time to do nothing but close
the desk drawer hurriedly as she entered to find me sitting at the desk,
the volume of Donne in front of me.

"Oh, you poor thing. I was gone so long you needed to find
something to read?" She said. The housekeeper, Mrs. Cadogan came
in with the tea tray and headed to the balcony.

I prayed my face did not reveal my distress. " Oh, I found this. Its John
Donne. I do so love his poems." I said.

Portia's eyes widened, " So do I! Especially - " she grinned.

" I know!" I winked, and we both laughed.

"What's this ?" She stooped to pick up the fallen letter.

"I don't know. It must have fallen out of the book." I was very cool, I
must say!

Portia's eyebrows rose, " Oh. Pamela." She said.

"Pamela?"

"Sandy was in LOVE with Pamela. He wrote to me of her. He was
wounded. In hospital. She nursed him."

"And they fell in love?"

" He did. SHE loved someone else. Her husband. It just as well. Sandy
could never have married her."

" Well, why not?" I asked, and really, Sarah, the answer was, in light of
my own circumstances, not what I wanted to hear, as much as I
already knew it to be the truth.

Portia sighed. "Well, she was American for one thing.She would
have been completely unsuitable. She was nobody! Surely you must
know what I mean, Electra?"

Of course I did. Poor Portia, she hadn't a cruel bone in her plump little
body, but her words did sting, for I knew that in this noble house, I too,
was nobody.

End of Chapter 4. To be continued.