True Pretenses: Deleted Scene #1

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One of Mr. Gilchrist’s scenes belonged to Mr. Jessop in the first draft.

It was with relief that she heard carriage wheels on the drive, and was given Mr. Jessop’s calling card.

“How are you, my dear?” the MP asked, once he was settled in a chair with a cup of tea in his hand.

She thought again about the visit she was expecting from Mr. Cahill, and with surprising ease a smile spread across her face.

“Better than I have been, thank you, Mr. Jessop,” she said. “I am—I have news, if you have no pressing business.” Aunt Packham quivered in her chair with excitement, but kept her eyes on her tatting.

His smile was a little forced, but he said, “I should be glad to hear your news.”

“I am to be married.”

There was a long moment of silence. “I wish you joy, of course, but—to whom?” Mr. Jessop’s brow was furrowed. She understood; if she left Lively St. Lemeston so soon after her father’s death, it would be a great blow to the Pink-and-Whites.

“A Mr. Cahill, of Cornwall. He has been staying in town this last week, perhaps he has already been presented to you?”

“A very charming young man,” Aunt Packham said. “I am very fond of him already.” Lydia was seized with a wave of affection for her aunt.

Mr. Jessop shook his head. “Cornwall?”

His dismay at the prospect of her removal to another county made her feel warm, deepened the smile on her face. “He has led a wandering sort of life, and has no objection to settling here. I shall be removing to the Dower House, of course, but otherwise I imagine I shall go on very much as I have been.”

He did look relieved, but he said, “He came to town this last week…but you knew him from before? You had met him in London, perhaps?”

“No,” she said. She could not meet his eyes—but surely some embarrassment would be expected even if her story was true! To become engaged to a man after a week was imprudent at best. “I feel as if I’ve known him longer. My…my father’s death has made me realize that…life is so uncertain.” She traced a finger around the rim of her cup. “When one discovers a correct course of action, hesitation can have no purpose.”

Aunt Packham heaved a sentimental sigh into her box of silks.

“Your father would not like this haste,” Mr. Jessop said gruffly, and a little apprehensively. He knew it was not his place to advise her in personal matters. “I would to God he were still with us, but as he is not, I feel it my duty to speak in his stead. Put off the announcement a few months at least. Be sure.”

Lydia was touched by his concern, though she would have been more inclined to take his advice seriously if his attempts to prevent his own daughter’s marriage hadn’t forced the poor young woman into a disastrous elopement a mere three weeks earlier. “I know that you speak out of affection for me,” she said with a smile, “so I can easily forgive any breach of manners.”

He flushed. “What does your brother say?”

Lydia gritted her teeth. She had never minded her father’s friends talking to her as if she were still a girl; they had many of them known her since she was in pinafores, and besides, as political men they were used to their words being treated with weight. She had never minded, either, giving her father the devotion and obedience that he deserved, and bending to his opinion in a matter of importance to him. But to have it assumed that that devotion and obedience would pass like a part of the estate to the brother she had mothered from infancy—that was hard! “I am writing to him now,” she said mildly. Inwardly, her stomach rolled. “I shall certainly listen carefully to any objections he may raise.”

He looked as if he would have liked to say more, but he nodded and said, “Then I wish you all joy.”

She gave him a good smile to show there were no hard feelings. “Thank you, Mr. Jessop. Now tell me your business.”

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