The Earl of Diamonds


Elise had put Anthony to bed, and was sitting with him reading a story.  Marion, Emily and Lydia were in the parlor when the men returned.

Marion looked at her son's face, it was not as happy as she would have expected with Anthony back.

"What is it Stephen?" Did they not find the man who took Anthony?"

"Yes, Mother, we found him, and also the one who had hired him," he said sullenly.

"That is good, is it not?  You do not seem too elated about it. What happened?" she asked concerned.

Looking at his mother, he paused before answering, knowing how she would take the news.

"Cedric was the one who hired the man that took Anthony."

She gasped, with a shocked look, then cried, "Cedric! Our Cedric? That's impossible! Why would Cedric want to hire someone to kidnap Anthony?"

"He hired him to kill Anthony not kidnap him," he said grimly.

"Kill him!" cried Lydia in astonishment.

"Cedric wanted to kill Anthony?" Emily asked as shocked as the other. "I know he is no-good, but could he commit murder?"

"Yes murder, and speaking of that, he is the one who killed Karen Lacey when he stole her bracelet," Raynhurst said sadly.

"Cedric is the bracelet thief we have been hearing about? I cannot believe all this!" Marion said as she slumped in her chair from this astounding news.

"Also, Cedric had planned to have that man kill Raynhurst tonight," Michael said angrily.

"Yes, with Anthony and Raynhurst out of the way, Cedric would have been the Earl of Raynhurst," Edward added.

"Good God! That is why he did it! Why that no-good useless piece of trash! I hope they hang him," said Emily with venom.

Michael looked at her with a twinkle in his eye, and smiled. He thought she looked beautiful when she was angry and her eyes flashed.

"That is right, he will hang would he not?" inquired Lydia.

"Definitely. He has already murdered one girl. Even without the murder, stealing all those bracelets, would qualify him for the gallows," Edward said solemnly.

"Oh dear, what is Cornelia going to do? Does she know yet?" asked Marion with a worried look.

"I do not know, Mother.  I should think someone at Bow Street will notify her before the gossip starts spreading," Raynhurst answered.

"There certainly will be gossip!" said Emily nodding in affirmation.

"Yes, and I have had enough of that already!" Raynhurst growled.

"Why don't you go to your Estate in Sussex as you had planned the last time we talked?" inquired Michael.

"A wonderful idea!" Marion agreed. "And you come with us, Lydia.  Well, Michael and Edward should come too. That way, the three of you can have a nice quiet visit to renew your family relationship."

"Oh, I would love that," said Lydia looking at her two sons affectionately.

"I could come for a few days, but then I have to get back to Bristol." Michael said, thinking that he would have a few days with Emily.

"I believe I would enjoy it," Edward said, "Do you mind if I brought my daughter, Marissa, with me? I doubt my wife would come."

"I would love to see Marissa, Edward. You know I cannot remember how long it has been since I have seen her," Michael said.

"Well then, that is all settled.   We will start packing after supper, and leave the first thing in the morning, about nine o'clock. Is that agreeable?" Marion said.

Everyone nodded their agreement. They were anxious to distance themselves from the ton when the news of this scandal broke. There would be no peace in the house, for they would be flooded with callers wanting to be the first to know about the crimes Cedric's had committed.

Getting up from his chair, Raynhurst said, "I will go up and see Anthony, and bring Elise down for supper. Will it be within the hour, Mother?"

"Yes, as soon as you came home, I notified the cook," Marion answered.

Edward rose from his chair and went to his mother to take her hand. "I will have to be leaving now if I plan on making that trip to Sussex with you tomorrow.  I am glad we will have time together," he said, as he bent over and kissed her cheek, then said good-bye to his brother and the others before leaving.

Raynhurst opened Anthony's bedroom door and quietly walked over to the bed.  Anthony was asleep, with Elise holding his hand and stroking his hair off his forehead.

Putting his hand on her shoulder, he leaned down and kissed the top of her head. Looking up and smiling at him, she whispered, "Oh Stephen, I am so happy to have him back."

"Yes love, I know, I am too.  It was the most fortunate blessed luck, to be Michael's ship that man had booked passage," he whispered back. "Come now, I will take you down to supper," as he started to help her to her feet.

"No Stephen! I cannot leave him!" she whispered in panic, as she sat down again.

Looking at her with concern, he said, "Elise, he is safe now, and the man responsible is in prison."

"I know, but I should stay with him for a while," she said looking back at Anthony.

More forcibly, he helped Elise to her feet, and steered her toward the door as she was resisting his effort.

When he had closed the door behind him, so Anthony would not be disturbed, he turned her around to face him.  She looked back at the door and he took hold of her chin, turning her to face him.

"Elise, you have to realize everything will be back to normal.  Anthony is home safe and sound. You cannot sit here and watch him twenty-four hours a day.  He has to know that things are the way they were, in fact he seems to think it is all an adventure.  Now, tomorrow we plan to go to my estate in Sussex, so after supper we will start packing for the trip. Anthony will love the country, and you will too, Elise," he said, looking into her watery violet-blue eyes.

Then she slowly nodded. "Come, they are waiting for us downstairs," he said gently, leading her to the staircase.

Edward arrived back at his town house feeling better than he had in almost twenty years. He felt younger, more energetic, and light-hearted. He was looking forward to the trip tomorrow with his daughter. Then he thought of his wife and frowned. Thinking back over those years they had been together, he realized he had never loved her.

Their marriage was one of those family arrangements between his father and hers. Trying to produce an heir, when she was so frigid, and then finally getting pregnant ending in miscarriages. They grew further apart, and by the time Marissa was born, he had completely built a shell around his feelings, and let her run the estates, like a tyrant queen. His only pleasure was his mistresses he kept in town, and there was hardly any conversation with them, they only served a purpose.

Things will be different now, I will not let Rachel interfere with my plans.  She has been demanding and cold, always insisting on getting her way. This time she will not . . . and never again.

He walked into the parlor where his wife and daughter were waiting before supper. He looked at his daughter sitting meekly in the corner on the window seat, reading a book, and he felt a guilty lump in his throat at all the lost years of not showing her any affection. The shell he had built, had also shut his daughter out of his life.

"Edward, you are late. You must remember to be on time.  The cook will not be happy having to wait for you," Rachel said coldly, treating him as a child. Without looking at him, she returned to her sewing.

Ignoring his wife, Edward walked over to his daughter, and sat down next to her. She looked up in surprise at her father . . . he was smiling. She noticed what a nice-looking man her father was when he smiled, and she could not remember having seen him smile in all these years.

"Marissa, we are going on a trip tomorrow. Just you and I. We are going to Sussex and will be visiting with your grandmother, your Uncle Michael, and your cousins, Elise, and her son, Anthony. So after supper you can start packing, for we will leave early in the morning. Do you think you would like that?" he asked quietly, still smiling at her.

Marissa has never been on a trip to visit, and it has been so long since she saw her grandmother, she could not believe her ears.

"You want to take me on a trip, Papa? I will get to see my Grandmother?" she said in wide-eyed amazement.

Taking her hand and squeezing it, he said, "Yes, I do want to take you, Marissa. It is about time I took you places, do you not agree?" he laughed.

"Oh yes, Papa! That would be wonderful," she said delighted.

Hearing the laughter, Rachel looked up from her sewing at her husband in a cozy chat with their daughter. She had never known him to do that before, as she looked at him suspiciously.

At that moment the butler announced supper was ready.

Taking his daughter's arm in his, he escorted her over to his wife, and taking her arm also, he led them into dinner.

After being seated, and the servants had served the meal, Edward made his announcement to his wife that he was taking his daughter to Sussex in the morning, and did not know how long they would be gone.

"Do not be absurd, Edward," she said contemptuously without looking at him, as she continued eating.

"I am not being absurd, Rachel. I am taking my daughter on a trip tomorrow, and that is final," he said firmly, picking up his glass.

Marissa watched anxiously, looking back and forth from her father to her mother.  Hoping her father would not change his mind.

"Final?  I daresay it is not, for I will not let you take her. She is too frail and weak to take a trip. She needs to rest," she answered coldly.

"Yes, Rachel, Marissa and I will be going.  Do you understand?" he said with a commanding tone.

Taken aback by this new attitude of Edward's, Rachel stared at him for a moment. Then with narrowed eyes she said accusingly. "What has that woman been saying to you, to make you act like this?"

"By that woman, are you referring to my Mother?" he asked in mock surprise.

"You know very well that is whom I mean! How dare she interfere and disrupt Marissa's life," she hissed.

"I believe you have said enough, Rachel. I will not have any more disrespectful talk about my mother. And as Marissa's father, what I choose to do is my business. It is time she became acquainted with my family," he said determined.

"I forbid you going!" she shrieked.

Edward laughed, "Oh, Rachel, you cannot forbid anything anymore. You have just been relieved of that excessive control you have had in this family. You will now resign yourself to the state of a dutiful wife, as you should have been years ago," he said with a twinkle in his eye.

Marissa, seeing her father's look, smiled inwardly.

Rachel stared at him with a horrified look. Then lifting her chin, she continued in her disdainful tone.

"You are drunk Edward! That is what it is. You have never before acted like this. Did Raynhurst get you in this condition? With his reputation, I do not doubt he will be leading you astray into rakish ways. I forbid you to go near him. There is too much scandal attached to his name."

"Rachel, that's enough. You no longer have any say in my business. In fact, I believe I will have my accountant revise your quarterly stipend. I have noticed you go over the amount quite often, but it certainly isn't on hair style or clothes," he said raking his eyes over her appearance, and then glancing at his daughter's outfit, "From the way Marissa is dressed, she doesn't seem to see any of it either. Are you gambling, Rachel?" noting the color drain from her face, and the unsettled look, he knew it was true.

"Well, well, so that's where it is going!  It seems I need to keep an eye on your activities from now on. You may be into all kind of strange things. So let us not speak of the Earl of Raynhurst's reputation," he said with a malicious smile. Then he glanced at Marissa, who was listening to the altercation between her parents with wide eyes.

"Another thing, Marissa will be attending a girls' school. She should be around girls her own age, and learning what is going on in this world, instead of being shut up in the house like a prisoner."

"Oh may I Papa? I would like to go to school," Marissa said eagerly.

"Yes love, when we get back from our trip, we will make arrangements to have you enrolled. In fact that was a very nice school your Aunt Eleanor had attended. I will talk to your grandmother about it," Edward said smiling at his daughter.

Since making these plans, Marissa looked healthier already. Her cheeks had color in them, and her eyes sparkled. She was a very pretty girl, with her long dark hair and blue eyes. What a beauty she will be when she grows up, he thought, especially if she attends a finishing school.

Infuriated that he had discovered her gambling obsession, Rachel rose stiffly from her chair, and said rigidly, "I believe I will retire now, I have a headache."

"Rachel, before you leave this room, I want to hear you say you are in full agreement with everything I have said . . . including being a dutiful obedient wife," Edward demanded.

She paused and stood still, looking straight ahead at the door, without answering.

"I am waiting Rachel," he said firmly.

With her lips pressed tightly together, she nodded.

"Look at me Rachel, and answer properly."

She turned to stare at this new Edward, and realized that he expected her life to be changed forever. Well, he will have his way . . . for now.

"Yes, Edward, I will agree to everything you said," she answered coldly, and walked out of the room.

When she had left, Edward leaned back in his chair and sighed.

"Will we still be going, Papa?" Marissa asked hesitantly, confused over those last words exchanged.

He smiled at her, "Yes, Marissa, we are still going, and you will be going to school too. Everything is going to be just fine from now on."

Raynhurst was in his study getting papers ready to take with him to the estate, when Martin knocked on the door.

"Mrs. Cornelia Lovell to see you, milord."

"Show her in Martin," he sighed in resignation.

"Yes, Aunt Cornelia, what can I do for you?" he said.

"Raynhurst," she said arrogantly, "a Mr. Davidson came by, informing me that Cedric has been taken to Newgate Prison for kidnaping your son and planning your murder, or some such nonsense.  I want you to go down there right now, and tell him to release my boy from that filthy place."

Stunned at her audacity he just looked at her speechless.

"Well, Raynhurst? Are you going to just sit there or are you coming with me," she commanded.

"Aunt Cornelia, in addition to kidnaping my son, Cedric has murdered a woman, and is guilty of theft.  He is not going to be released," he said firmly, trying to keep his temper.

"Pooh!" she scoffed, "What theft? Some silly diamonds you gave to those whores? And murder?" she snorted, "Why that's not murder, that's just ridding London of another wretched whore that was probably diseased," she said contemptuously.

Losing his temper completely at that remark, Raynhurst came over to his Aunt, took her roughly by the arm, marched her out of the study, as she sputtered and shrieked, and right on out the door to the street, before letting go of her arm.

"How dare you! How dare you treat me like that! Me! Your Aunt! Why you good for nothing rake . . . you should have never been made Earl of Raynhurst, you don't deserve it! You should have died from that wound in Spain!" she cried.

Ignoring his aunt's ravings, he said coldly, "If you were a man, I would have killed you for that remark about Karen. Karen was a wonderful girl, kind and gentle, and she did not deserve to die . . . not like that . . . especially at the hands of a scheming, selfish, worthless bastard who planned to kill my son. Cedric is going to hang . . . Hang! Do you understand! I will make sure of it. Do not ever come near my family again, do you hear me? I do not want to see your face again!" Abruptly he turned, went inside, slamming the door.

"Martin! Do not let that woman in ever again!" he growled at his astonished butler, and went back into his study and shut the door soundly.

"Yes milord," Martin said with a grin, staring at the closed door. He had been waiting for that woman to get a good set-down for years.

Michael and Emily were just leaving the parlor when they heard the commotion and had peeked out the door as Stephen marched his aunt out.

Emily turned and putting her hand over her mouth and her face against Michael's chest, started giggling. Surprised at the sudden move he put his arms around her. Looking up at him with sparkling eyes, she said "I have been waiting for years for someone to give Cornelia her marching orders."

He laughed, "Yes, I remember her from years ago. She was a dragon then," still with his arms around her.

Then the laughter faded, as he looked in her eyes, and saw the same look of wonder that he was feeling. He leaned down and kissed her gently.

"I have been wanting to do that for quite awhile," he said smiling at her.

"And I have been waiting for quite awhile," she said smiling back, putting her arms around his neck, as he bent to kiss her again. Then pulling back, Michael looked at her seriously.

"Emily, will you marry me? We could get married by special license in Sussex, and you can go with me to America on my ship. We could make it a honeymoon," he said hopefully.

Emily stood looking at him overwhelmed.

Getting nervous she hadn't answered, he added. "Maybe I didn't do that right. I just never had any practice at proposing," he said looking forlorn.

"Oh Michael! Yes, you did fine. Yes, I will marry you. Yes, I will go to America with you," she said happily, putting her arms around him again.

"Emily, did I tell you I love you?" he asked as he kissed her again.

"Now that you mentioned it, I think you should have said that before asking me to marry you. But I will forgive you. I love you too, Michael," she laughed.

Cornelia Lovell stood looking at the closed door after Raynhurst slammed it, then abruptly turned and stepped into her carriage. Sitting back in the seat, she idly twisted the ornate diamond and emerald ring on her finger, as she thought of what to do about her son in that prison. She was not going to let him hang.

They were totally broke and the creditors will be coming to cart away everything from both the estate and the town house. When the scandal broke, all of her friends would shun her.

Glancing at her ring, as she clenched her fist, she muttered, "Of course . . . there is only one thing to do."

Raynhurst sat with his head in his hands, trying to calm down after that outburst.  When there was a knock, and Martin opened the door. "I am sorry to disturb you, milord, but Mr. Davidson, is here."

"It is all right Martin, show him in," he said composing himself, as he got up to pour brandy in two glasses.

Mr. Davidson came in and Raynhurst indicated the chair and handed him the brandy, before walking back to his desk.

"I hope you are not here about Cedric's mother.  She has just left . . . actually, I just about threw her out," he said wryly.

"Yes, I can understand that.  She is a hard person to deal with isn't she? Although, I am here in regard to another matter," Davidson answered.

"Oh? Is there something else to do with this mess?" Raynhurst asked.

"What I came to see you about Lord Raynhurst, are the diamonds," Mr. Davidson said.

Looking at him with a raised eyebrow, Raynhurst asked, "The diamonds? I thought that was all completed. Did you not get them from Cedric?"

"Yes, my lord. We have the diamonds . . . all fifty-six," he said, taking the pouch out of his pocket and putting in on the desk.

"Fifty-six? I thought it was forty-eight with six bracelets stolen.  He snatched another bracelet? When did this happen?" Raynhurst asked astonished.

"At the Hollingsworth Ball, apparently. A Lady Caroline Simpson was found the next morning in the shrubbery, with a bloody bump on her head. When she came to, she said she was to have met someone in the garden, but when she was on her way to the meeting, someone had hit her on the head from behind, knocking her unconscious then stealing the bracelet."

"Cedric arrived with her at the party. He must have hidden in the garden and waited for her," Raynhurst said, shaking his head, "It is still hard to believe he could be that treacherous and evil."

"Well, I have been in this business for years, and it surprises me every time I run into something like this. It is hard to figure human nature," Davidson said, then added, "When my man brought in the pouch, we did not count the diamonds until later. Then we noticed it had the extra eight, from the Simpson bracelet. Now that we have all of the diamonds, we need to know what you want done with them. We have given the pawnbroker his reward you authorized from your solicitor, when he gave back the twenty. Now how do you want to distribute these?"

Raynhurst stared at the pouch, and thought of all the trouble these diamonds have caused these past few months, then reached for a paper and pen.

"I am leaving the first thing in the morning to go to my estate with my family. Give this letter to my solicitor, with the diamonds, and the names of the women that had owned the bracelets. I want him to have the jeweler make them a new bracelet of another design . . . be sure it is another design and without the Raynhurst initial . . . ," he said, as he also scribbled that onto the paper, "and return them to the ladies, with my apologies for their misfortune. The diamonds belonging to Karen, I want him to locate her next of kin, and give that person the monetary value of the bracelet," he said as he finished writing the letter.

"That is very generous of you, Lord Raynhurst, to go to the additional expensive of new bracelets for the women," he said with renewed respect for Raynhurst.

"The expense is nothing to me, and the women did not deserve to be mixed up in this, and subject to the danger of what happened to Karen. They are all nice ladies, no matter what the general opinion is of them," he said, thinking of the callous remark made by his aunt.

He handed the letter and pouch to Mr. Davidson and walked him to the door.  Pausing before opening it, Raynhurst inquired, "Cedric is going to hang isn't he?"

"Without a doubt," Mr. Davidson answered, before leaving. Then he hesitated, and added, "To insure being transported, instead of hanging, Bigley gave us the name of a brothel's madam.  It seems she has been furnishing Cedric with street women for his sadistic pleasures, who ended up dying at his hand."

"Good God!" Raynhurst moaned, as he covered his eyes with his hand and sat down again.

"This time it is all over and he has no way out. Yes, he will definitely hang," Mr. Davidson said quietly, and left.

Raynhurst was on his way up the stairs to his bedroom when he saw Elise going up the stairs to the third floor. Worried that she was going to go back in the room to sit with Anthony, he hurried to catch up with her.

"Elise? Where are you going?" he asked as she turned when she heard him.

"I wanted to see how Agnes was doing.  Do you think she would be able to go with us tomorrow?" she asked as they walked on together.

"When I talked to the doctor earlier, he said she was doing fine, and had told her not to use that arm for a while. So, I do not see why she should not go. The country air would do her good," he answered.

"Oh thank you, Stephen!" she said looking up at him with her beautiful eyes.

He stopped her, and leaned down to kiss her, gently, then he pulled her tightly in his arms, and kissed her passionately.

"We haven't done enough of that lately," he said huskily.

"Do you think we could catch up, tonight?" she asked as she touch his face with her index finger trailing it down to his lips.

"You had better count on it!" he said laughing as they continued to Agnes's room.

Elise peeked inside to make sure she was awake and dressed, before they entered.

Agnes was sitting up in bed, with a frilly night cap perched on her golden curls, and a pale green wrapper over her nightgown. The housekeeper was in a corner sitting on a chair with her arms folded, watching Robert as he read to Agnes, from a new book of poetry he had brought for her. A fresh bouquet of flowers was sitting on the table next to the bed.

Elise glanced up at Stephen, who had an amused look.

Hearing them enter, Robert jumped up, dropping the book on the floor, and Agnes pulled the sheet up to her shoulders with a flustered look.

"Good evening, Agnes, Robert, Mrs. Reese. It looks like the patient is recovering quite nicely," Raynhurst said pleasantly.

"Good even'n, m'lady . . . Good even'n, m'lord," Agnes murmured and Robert stammered, as he bowed, then picked up the book.

"Good evening" Mrs. Reese echoed with a curtsey.

"We came to see how you are, Agnes. Has Anthony been by to see you? He was terribly worried about you when that man had stabbed you, as he was carried away."

"To be sure, m'lady. The young master was ever so kind. 'e told me all about 'is adventure!" Agnes said.

"Do you think you will be well enough to travel?" Elise asked.

"Trav'l m'lady? Ye be want'n me t'go?" Agnes asked surprised.

"No, No Agnes," Elise laughed and glanced at Stephen.

"What the Countess meant, Agnes, was that we are going to the estate in Sussex tomorrow, and we wanted you to come along," Raynhurst clarified.

Agnes looked in dismay at Robert and he returned the look.

Raynhurst cleared his throat and said, "Robert, I will be wanting you to go too. You will be needed at the estate, as we have several guest that will be arriving."

Another glance exchanged between Robert and Agnes, this one of elation, then Robert came to attention mindful of his duties.

"Aye, m'lord, I'll be tendin' t' me duties," he said seriously, bowed and left the room.

"I will have Agnes's packing taken care of for her," said Mrs. Reese, as she turned to leave.

"Thank you, Mrs. Reese," Raynhurst said, as he walked over to Agnes and took one of her hands.

"Agnes, I owe you a debt of gratitude that I do not think I could ever repay. You had risked your life when you tried to save my son from being taken. I will always be in your debt, but as part of that debt, I would like to settle on you a dowry of 50,000 pounds when you decide to marry. That is the amount that would normally be given to a daughter of the Earl of Raynhurst when she marries, and you deserve the same consideration," he said smiling at her.

Agnes with her eyes wide and her mouth open stared at him in disbelief, still holding the sheet tightly with her hand.

"Ohhhh . . . m'lord! Do ye mean wha' ye say?" she stammered.

"Yes, Agnes, of course I mean it," he laughed.

"Oh Agnes, you are such a wonderful person, and you were so brave," Elise said sincerely, as she stood next to her husband.

"I will write to my solicitor, and have him appropriate the funds to be set aside in your name. It seems you may be needing that dowry very soon," Raynhurst said, with a meaningful look at the flowers.

"Now, I think we'll let you rest for the trip," Elise said to the blushing Agnes.

Elise and Raynhurst were walking down the hallway toward their room, when they heard laughter, and giggling on the landing of the main staircase. Peeking over the railing they saw Michael and Emily whispering, while in an embrace.

Raynhurst amused, whispered to Elise, "This must be a night for romance."

Leaning over the railing he said in a stern voice, "Aunt Emily! . . .tsk, tsk, you are setting a bad example for your nephew."

"You too, Uncle Michael!" Elise added with a feigned look of shock.

"Cut line, Raynhurst.  I'll have you know, we are nice and proper.  I have asked this lovely lady to be my wife, and sail away with me into the sunset!" he laughed.

"Ohhhh . . . how wonderful!" Elise shrieked, as she ran down the steps to them, with Raynhurst right behind her.

"When do you plan the wedding if your ship is leaving soon?" Raynhurst inquired with a grin.

"Well, as to that, I thought I would have to get a special license, and get married in Sussex," Michael answered, beginning to show concern over that probability in such a short time.

Seeing his worried look, Raynhurst smiled and said, "Come with me Michael, we will take care of that now," then looking at his aunt, "Aunt Emily, do you not remember that the Bishop is a relative of ours? He is my Great-Uncle on Father's side."

"Why, of course! How silly of me to forget," she said flustered.

"Considering how we found the two of you, I do not doubt you would forget," Elise teased.

Michael kissed Emily one more time, and then went with Raynhurst to get his carriage.

Taking Elise's arm, Emily said happily, "Let us tell Marion and Lydia the good news."

Knocking on the doors, they finally got them together in the parlor of Marion's suite.

"I have exciting news to tell you. Michael and I are getting married and we are going to America together," said Emily still in her state of euphoria.

At which point the women burst into tears of happiness at the news, and then tears of sorrow of hearing that Emily would be going so far away to another continent.

Michael and Raynhurst returned to find the ladies waiting for them, anxious to know if they had succeeded in obtaining the special license.

"The Bishop is a very accommodating gentleman, and I am certainly glad you are related!" said Michael with a happy grin.

"It looks like we will have more company coming to Sussex, as the Bishop insisted on doing the wedding himself. He will arrive the day after tomorrow," Raynhurst said. "I believe all of you ladies will be busy arranging a celebration," he added.

"Oh yes! We can plan everything on the trip down to the Estate," his mother said elated.

The duchess looked at her son, Michael, as he and Emily sat gazing at each other, forgetting about the others in the room. She was glad she had lived long enough to see this happy occasion. And tomorrow, when Edward comes, she will finally be able to see her granddaughter, Marissa.

Perhaps next year, she and Marissa can take a tour of the Continent, or see America. It will be so nice to have the company of a little girl again, as she thought about her daughter Eleanor.

"To think, all this is a result of a letter I wrote to Eleanor almost twenty years ago and Elise had finally opened," she mused.

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