The Proud Viscount

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Authors: Laura Matthews
Tags: Regency Romance
it unlikely, on either of our parts. We are, after all, considerably older and more experienced than Mr. Parnham and Lady Nancy.”
    Mabel scoffed at this suggestion. “Age has nothing to do with it. Adjusting to the advisability of such a match is even simpler than falling in love, my dear Rossmere.”
    It was an awkward time to bring up the matter of a loan, but Rossmere felt suddenly impatient with her schemes. He wished to settle the matter of his finances without all this extraneous tomfoolery. He was willing to remain at Willow End for the month he’d promised, but not in order to win Mabel’s support.
    “I’ve had a letter from my temporary manager,” he said. “He’s had to make some unexpected purchases for the estate. I wonder if I might impose on you to lend me the necessary sum. Which would include the quarter’s mortgage payment as well, of course. I can’t depend on receiving payment for the harvest before that’s due.”
    Mabel’s lips had set stiffly during his speech. Now she lifted a hand in an apologetic gesture and let it drop back to her lap. “You see what happens, Rossmere? These little emergencies are forever arising. You don’t need a temporary solution, you need a permanent one. I don’t know that I can see my way clear to lending you sums year after year when you make no effort to restore your fortunes by the only means at hand.”
    “Marrying a rich woman.”
    “Marrying my niece, who is a perfectly delightful girl and would bring you a dowry that would solve your difficulties forever.”
    Rossmere nodded and rose from his chair. “I understand your position, Lady Mabel. You’ve been very generous and I assure you every shilling of the money you’ve loaned me will be repaid on our agreed terms. I won’t look to you for any further assistance. Now, if you will excuse me.”
    Mabel looked stricken. “Rossmere,” she called after him, “it’s for your own good.”
    “Doubtless,” he murmured as he let himself out the door.
     

Chapter 7
     
    Jane was disturbed by Rossmere’s cool behavior during dinner. Each time she made some effort to engage him in conversation, he offered only a simple answer, giving no indication of any interest whatever in the subject. His bearing was rigid, his mind obviously preoccupied, his face stiffly forbidding.
    At first she thought she must have done something to offend him. Then it occurred to her that he had had further speech with her Aunt Mabel on the subject of marriage. Mabel cast little glances in his direction, the way she used to do when she’d punished one of the children when they were young and she wanted to know if she’d yet been forgiven. Either Rossmere did not notice her glances, or he chose to ignore them. The only one he listened to with any sign of tolerance was Lord Barlow, who had started reading the book John Parnham brought him and wished to try out its arguments on his captive audience.
    Jane was impatient with the lot of them. Dinner had been a lively affair when the Reedness children were growing up. Each of them would introduce an interesting topic by stating something outrageously provocative. The others would take up cudgels on one side or another of the issue, and soon a heated discussion was raging. Jane sighed. They had been wonderful times.
    And then there was Richard to fascinate and challenge her. They had often read out loud to each other, stopping to debate a point or remark on the excitement of the author’s ideas. In those days antiquities had been only one of the dozens of subjects that interested her and that she was able to talk about. Now she could discuss menus with Aunt Mabel and Roman and Greek statuary with her father... and little else.
    When it was time to withdraw for the gentlemen to have their port, Jane said, “I hope you will excuse me. My head is aching and I think I’d best lie down in my room.”
    “But, of course, my dear,” her aunt exclaimed. “I could bring you a damp cloth.

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