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BEST-SELLING AUTHOR JANET ELAINE SMITH PRESENTS FICTION, FUN AND FACTS

Marylebone Excerpt


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Bank Roll Excerpt

Obsession--is it more than just a matter of the heart?

CHAPTER I

The table had been laid and the Earl of Kent and his lovely wife, Lady Josephine Berkeley, sat at their usual places. The only difference of note was that there was today a third setting, which was as yet vacant.

"It is so delightful to once again have Caroline here with us," the earl said. "I do know how important her music is to her, but I have so missed her."

"It is a truth," Lady Kent said, "that the house has appeared to have a silence which would not rid itself until the moment she returned to walk through the doorway."

Caroline entered the room, her beauty radiant and her dress more befitting a formal evening than the normal activities of the day ahead.

"You do, I presume, have plans for the day?" her father inquired. "It is not that the person appears thus every day."

"I do indeed!" Caroline responded enthusiastically, a lovely smile crossing her countenance. "In the post when I returned from Vienna I found a voucher from Almack’s. Oh, Father, I have arrived! I am one of them! Tonight I shall join the friends I have so longed to be a part of. It will be splendid!"

"But to ready yourself so early in the day," her mother asked, "is that a wise decision?"

"Oh, but Mother," Caroline protested, "I am nowhere near ready. I must have my hair done. And I will not wear this to the club! I have donned this just in the event that some of my friends may come calling here at Berkeley Manor, having heard of my return. I would not want to be caught unawares, after having been to the continent. They would think me such a ninny!"

"You know, of course," Lady Kent said, "that your friends are always welcome at our home. We would never want you to sense that there was any other way we would have it."

Caroline had always appreciated the fairness with which her parents had treated her. It had been difficult for them to release her from their care, especially her being their only child, when she had so wanted to go to Vienna to pursue her piano studies. Yet they had made the sacrifice and allowed her to do as she wished. She had no idea how valuable this statement would become to her, nor how much it would be challenged in the near future.

Once the meal was completed, Mrs. Scarborough came to Caroline and inquired, "Might I be of service to you today? I would assess that you have a large number of duties for me on your first day back at the Manor."

Caroline had missed Mrs. Scarborough, her personal attendant for the bigger share of her life, almost as much as she had missed her parents during her stay abroad. It was such a satisfaction to know that she was there to tend her every whim and fancy again.

"Indeed I shall require your services," she replied. Then, defying all customary procedures, she jumped to her feet and ran to Mrs. Scarborough, throwing her arms around her to greet her warmly. "I have missed you so much!" she exclaimed. "Everyone should have a Mrs. Scarborough of their very own!" That the two women, although so very opposite in every way, were extremely fond of one another was obvious to any beholder.

"I will take my leave," Mrs. Scarborough said, "and I shall await you in your chambers, my lady."

Mrs. Scarborough entered Caroline’s private chamber, gazing in awe at the trunks which seemed to fill every spare inch of floorspace. She hesitated only momentarily before going to the one which stood open and began to take one of the dresses from it. She lifted the gown, a beautiful pink creation with rows and rows of rich European lace encircling the skirt, and held it up in front of her. The fact that Caroline was a goodly six inches taller than she was did not enter the woman’s mind for a fleeting moment. She walked to the mirror, and for an instant she was a beautiful young woman at a grand ball with every lord in the room having his eyes fixed on her. She was still enraptured in her dreams when Caroline entered the room.

"Would you care to accompany me to Almack’s this evening?" Caroline asked, smiling as she watched Mrs. Scarborough drop the gown to the floor, hoping for a way of escape.

"Oh, Miss Caroline!" she said, her face filled with color. She said nothing more, as she found no words to explain her disturbing her charge’s private belongings. She had no right to have dabbled in the trunk, and of that she was fully aware. Finally she added, "I am so sorry; I just could not help myself!"

"You behavior is permissible," Caroline said kindly. "Everyone has a perfect right to fill their heads with visions and dreams—no matter who they are or of what age."

"It is so wonderful to have you here again," Mrs. Scarborough said. "It was so quiet with your presence missing. The Manor suddenly seems as if it has been revived."

* * *

The day passed all too slowly for the lovely Caroline; the festivities which awaited her at Almack’s seemed an eternity away. There was, as she had expected, a steady flow of her friends who came calling, anxious to renew old acquaintances and to hear the latest news from the continent and to see the fashions she was certain to have brought with her, knowing that she had returned by way of Paris.

"The Duke of Lennox to see Miss Kent," Forrester announced.

Caroline had been busily engaged with the alterations of her gown for the evening, a beautiful royal blue which she and Mrs. Scarborough had chosen from her new garments. She was pleased that she was presently indisposed, so as to cause the duke to wait her arrival in the drawing room. He was not one of her favorite people, yet he was a close personal friend of the family. Politeness to him came as a duty, rather than a pleasure.

"Tell him he must wait. I must finish the fitting of my dress first," she instructed Forrester.

Forrester promptly delivered the message to the duke, offering him a glass of brandy, which he was always known to accept a little too willingly.

After the dress was fitted and the proper adjustments arranged, Caroline decided she had made her call wait sufficiently.

As she made her entrance, the Duke of Lennox dropped his glass, spilling the few sips which remained, at the sight of her. She had been gone scarce a year, yet she had blossomed into the most beautiful young woman he had ever laid eyes on. He was determined that he would pursue her until he had made her his conquest. Little did he know how much Caroline despised him.

Caroline could not help herself. Before she could stop herself, she said snidely, "Is the glass as slippery as my lord himself?"
One of the things the Duke of Lennox had always admired about Caroline was that she spoke exactly as she thought, not just framing her words as she thought her listeners mist wish her to speak. It made a conversation with her always so much more of a challenge. He was pleased to learn that she had not lost this art while she was abroad.

The duke was at a loss for words, which was as uncommon for him as it was for Caroline. He was not known for his silence, although often the thoughtlessness of his speech was quite widely proclaimed. After a considerable period of silence, he finally spoke.

"It has been told that a voucher from Almack’s has been issued you. Knowing that this is the first day of your return, I thought perchance you might desire an escort for the occasion. If you would do me the honor, I would be most delighted to have you at my side."

Acknowledging that it would indeed be better to go with even the Duke of Lennox than alone, she agreed, but felt that she was compromising greatly by accepting his offer.

"I shall arrive for you at seven," he said, taking his leave. Caroline cringed. He made it seem as if she was a personal possession of the duke, which she surely would never become. She found comfort in the fact that he would undoubtedly be quite soused soon after they arrived, leaving her free to enjoy the rest of the evening.

As she descended the winding stairway to meet the Duke of Lennox, the time to depart at hand, Lord and Lady Kent stood in awe of their daughter. She had, indeed, grown to be a most desirable woman during her absence.

The duke stood, his mouth agape, as he watched the grace with which she moved. She now had her corset in place, tightly drawn at the waist to accentuate her already full bosom into a state of near explosion. It was further accented by the low neckline, which she had purposely chosen for this event, so the diamond and sapphire necklace which had once been worn by her grandmother would glisten more than ever before as its light bounced off the royal blue of the satin in her gown. She had never looked lovelier, nor had any other woman in the entire kingdom.

The duke held his hand upwards to assist her into the carriage. She carefully gathered her layers of petticoats about her, smoothing the skirt with its yard upon yard of fullness to offer her most perfect appearance on this important event.

* * *

There was a rustle of whispering throughout the club as she entered, her hand enrapt in the arm of the Duke of Lennox. He was, as usual, dressed in the best finery, yet he seemed to be invisible by comparison to the lovely Caroline Kent. He was but a sparse two or three inches taller than she, yet he puffed his chest to its fullest, appearing much as one who had just won a trophy for the fox hunt or the Royal Race, and is exploiting his triumph.

Caroline tried to hear what was being said, and was successful as she neared the table where Julia Hampton and Elizabeth Grayson were seated.

"It might be known," Elizabeth stated, "that she would make her premier appearance on a Wednesday!"

"The very same!" Julia replied. "As if she had forgotten in her absence that this was the night of the dance. There will be no men for the likes of us tonight, you may well be assured of that!"

Caroline spoke in ever-so-friendly a manner to the two women who had long been her friends as she passed their table. The Duke of Lennox issued her to a table of their own, very near the center of the room, where all could see his conquest. He gloated extensively as one by one the patrons came to their table to extend a warm welcome home to Caroline. He found it quite perturbing that the only persons who seemed to take an interest in her were of the male persuasion.

It was disturbing to Caroline as well, as she did wish to maintain her long list of friends from among the young women of London. If she was going to become a pivot of Society, she must do nothing to alienate them or she would soon find her name eliminated from the list of favored guests.

As she had feared, it was a matter of mere moments until a long line seemed to be forming to lay claim to his prize for their dance. As she was whisked about the dance floor, Caroline felt every inch a princess, and she appeared to fill the part well. Never had she been happier in her entire life. She had waited for this day for years. As a young girl, she had envisioned the inside of Almack’s and the festivities which occurred. She was not disappointed and had no way of knowing that every other woman in attendance tonight despised the very fact that she was present.

Overtaken by a sudden sense of guilt, she opted to return to the table with the Duke of Lennox. He immediately called to the wench to bring him another brandy, which Caroline saw immediately was not what he needed. As they sat there a man who was seated in a corner, surrounded by numerous young men, became obnoxiously loud and ready.

"’Tis the return of the Old Oak Tree," the men said, rising to his feet and speaking so everyone could hear him. "My good friend," he continued on, picking up a chair and holding it in his hands as though he were addressing it. "It is indeed wonderful to see you again." The man rolled his eyes backwards into his head as he spoke. "And how are things in your great kingdom of Prussia?"

Caroline felt herself becoming ill as she watched this man. He spoke in a most peculiar manner, with spittle running from the corners of his mouth.

"Whoever is that man?" she asked the duke.

"That, my dear," he answered, "is the Prince of Wales—the future king of Great Britain."

"It cannot be so," Caroline protested. "But he appears quite mad!"

"So he wishes. You see, the king has been ill in the past, purported to be mad, he was, and the prince wishes to take over the reign of the realm. So, if he can convince all England that the king is once again stricken with a loss of reason he can succeed in his devilish plot."

"But the prince, why does he speak so?"

"’Tis well known that he is the most talented comic in England. Too bad; he should be content with that for his lot in life. He would be much better at it than he would at trying to play the role of a king."

Caroline seemed relieved when a young man asked her to dance, as the duke kept leaning closer and closer to her as he spoke. The whole room sat in awe—or rage—depending on the gender of the beholder, as they circled the floor.

Suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, there was a horrendous outburst from an inner room. Caroline had heard that there were other quarters at the club where many of the young men of the day gathered to gamble and she assumed, correctly so, that such was the case now. She did not know, being a newcomer, that the young women were forbidden entrance to such rooms. Always a girl of great curiosity, she left the dance floor, leaving her partner moving to the music alone, so sudden was her departure. She raced to the door from which had come the noise and burst in upon the group.

It did not take long to realize that one of the young men, a stranger to her, was having a most successful turn at the hazard cards, making the other men in attendance very angry.

Looking about the tables, she recognized all of the men with the exception of the man who was causing the ruckus. She was not able to take her eyes from him. His frock, a royal blue which did indeed make him seem to be royalty in the flesh, was trimmed with extravagant gold braids adorning the brocade of the coat itself. His eyes, as blue as his frock, danced about. He obviously was most accustomed to winning. The defeat of his opponents, worthy as they might be for one another, made his countenance glow. Never, in all of her travels abroad nor at home, had Caroline seen such a man.

The stranger glanced upward, catching a glimpse of Caroline, and again turned his face to the table.

"My lords," he said, "it would appear that I have broken the coffers, and so I bid you all adieu. With that, the most stunning man took his absence from them all.

The gentlemen stared in wonder at Caroline. Never had a woman dared to invade their domain. The Duke of Lennox, seeing her plight, quickly removed her from the room and ushered her back tot their table. Her face was a deep red once she realized what she had done.

"I beg you forgiveness," she pleaded with the duke. "I seem to have this terrible custom of entering into things of which I have no right to involve myself. This appears to be one of them—again."

"I suppose I should be angry," the duke replied, "but I find it extremely difficult, if not totally outside the realm of possibilities. I find myself incapable of becoming upset with one as lovely as you are tonight."

"But that man," Caroline asked, "is he an acquaintance of yours?"

"No," the duke replied. "The man has not been in my presence before. He is but a stranger to me."

"But obviously one of great breeding. His conduct was above reproach, even in the face of trouble. And his manner of dress, it was the most magnificent garb I have ever beheld on a gentleman."

The duke had intended to capture the heart of his lovely lady tonight. Now it appeared that she was stricken by another, a total stranger at best.

"He spoke with a foreign accent," she noted, "one of perhaps Scotland. He must be of the house of one of the fathers of that land. Surely he is nobility. He had such…"

"I beg you, let us take our leave," the Duke of Lennox said, interrupting her and making not even the slightest apology nor excuse.

The fact that the duke was suddenly of a most unpleasant nature was not evident to Caroline. She had other things on her mind. She must learn more about the stranger.

Higgins appeared with the duke’s carriage and only as they mounted it did it become evident to Caroline that while she had been touring the dance floor with the many gentlemen of the evening, the duke had imbibed an exceedingly excessive amount of his all-too-famous brandies. She reached for his hand as he plummeted to the ground, unable to keep his footing.

Higgins came from the front, dropping the reins, to give assistance to the duke, assuring that he was properly seated inside the confines of the carriage. As they settled on the soft velvet seats, Caroline was relieved that the duke soon fell fast asleep, leaving her in peace on the journey back to Marylebone Street and the safety of her home. The reputation of the Duke of Lennox had been widely spread for many years. He knew what he wanted, and he would go to any end to achieve his desired goal. Only as yet, Caroline was unaware that what he wanted was her!

Relieved that it was but a short ride from St. James’s Street to the Manor, Caroline hurried to depart from the coach before the duke awakened from his stupor. She would much prefer, particularly tonight, not to have to deal with him—in this state or any other. Her mind was preoccupied with the stranger she had seen earlier and with learning his identity.

As she entered the Manor, her father was seated in his study, poring over a pile of account books. Assuming that they were excess work from the bank, of which he was the principal officer, she paid it no mind.

Caroline tried to quietly go up the stairway to her chamber, hoping to avoid the questions her father might put to her. However, the swishing of the satin from her gown alerted him of her arrival.

He cleared his throat. "Did you find it all you had expected?" he asked.

"That and more," she replied. She did not want to have to explain the events of the evening to her father. She most assuredly did not want to have a confrontation with him about her thoughtless act of barging into the forbidden room, nor of the obsession she felt for the stranger.

"And Lord Lennox?" the earl asked.

"He was quite indecent," she said. "It seems that, as usual, he partook of too much spirits at Almack’s. He was, to my good fortune, asleep when we arrived home. I did not trouble him with such a mere formality as to escort me to the Manor. Higgins proved to be quite the gentleman, as always, offering me his company up the walkway."

"Then if you will excuse me," her father said, "I must continue with the books." With that he retreated again to his library, where he sat with a frown on his face.

Caroline was most grateful for the privacy of her own chamber. She had much to mull over in her mind. It was unexplainable, but she knew she must learn more about this man she had seen tonight. As she retired to her bed, sleep was slow in coming. She formulated a plan to try to locate him. He was obviously a man who enjoyed the games of the day, being the expert he had proven to be at Almack’s. The most logical place to start, she reasoned, would be at the various clubs on St. James’s Street, where gambling was allowed. As she lay quietly, she made a mental list of the various clubs where that would be possible.

Caroline smiled to herself as she thought, "Even our choice in the color of our frocks is equal." Her mind conjured up a mental picture of him, seated as he had been, with his royal blue brocaded waistcoat. She was quite certain that if she had been able to get close enough to him to compare the two, the hues would have proven identical.

Mrs. Scarborough, she thought, would be most apt to lend her assistance. She trusted her implicitly, and she could confide in her above anyone else she knew. She did not want her mother and father to know of the stranger. Once she learned his identity, that would be time enough to relate her interest to them. Besides, she laughed, there was certainly nothing to relate to anyone at this point.

Tipton would not have to be informed of anything. It had long been a custom of Caroline’s to visit St. James’s Park many afternoons, accompanied, as always, by Mrs. Scarborough. She most often gave Tipton leave during such trips to go where he wished. He would return at a pre-appointed time to collect them to return to Berkeley Manor. He would be none the wiser, she reasoned.

Feeling more comfortable with her plan in tact, she finally fell into a deep sleep, her unconscious mind filled with dreams of her mysterious man, from whom she could find no escape.

The rain was falling when Caroline awoke in the morning, casting a question on her very plans for the trip to St. James’s Park. Nonetheless, she thought, a ride into the center of London was most appropriately called for, since it was to be her first such visit since her return. She hurried to dress, anxious to be about the business of the day. She rang the tiny delicate bronze bell, which she knew would bring Mrs. Scarborough skittering to her side.

"Yes, Miss Caroline," Mrs. Scarborough said as she hurried through the door. "Might I be of assistance?"

Caroline often wished that Mrs. Scarborough, whom she considered to be her closest confidante in the whole world, could bring herself to be less formal with her, yet she knew her upbringing and training forbade such actions.

"I have for us a plot, which we must begin to put into action today," Caroline said, all the while continuing to pull herself into her corset. "If you would be so kind?"

Mrs. Scarborough immediately went to her, pulling on the cords of the corset, wishing that her own slightly rounded figure should look so fine, even without a corset.

"Tighter," Caroline ordered. "I must have it tighter."

"Mr lady," Mrs. Scarborough argued, "if it becomes much tighter you shall not be able to partake of the fineries that have been prepared for you. All of your favorites. Many of them have seen the table since the day you left."

"But I must insist on your complete discretion in this matter," Caroline said, as if the few exchanges of mundane affairs of the day had never occurred.

"Of course," Mrs. Scarborough hastily agreed. "I would never betray you, Miss Caroline. My word is yours. Now, if I might hear of your plan…then we may begin."

Caroline was aware of the fact that Mrs. Scarborough loved anything which involved a smither of mischieviousness. As a young child, the numbers were beyond recall when together they had created varied circumstances which would have been considered questionable at best. It was most pleasing to her that she would be able to once again pursue such actions.

Caroline recounted to her the events of the evening past and the mysterious stranger who had held her every moment captive.

"I must find that man," she said. "If the remainder of my life is to be spent in search of him, so be it. But I must have that man!"

It was most unusual for Mrs. Scarborough to disagree with Caroline, but she felt that in this instance she must do so. It was her duty, she reasoned. She could not let her charge err in such a way as to live a life of misery and despair.

"Missy," she said, her voice filled with love and concern. She had not called Caroline "Missy" since she was a very small child. "But of this man, you say you know nothing. He may be, I fear, a millstone hung round your neck. He may well cause you more pain and sorrow than you can bear."

"One so well-bred and so fair of appearance can bring nothing but good!" Caroline argued.

Mrs. Scarborough had a desire to pursue the argument further, but felt that it would be quite futile. She knew Caroline sufficiently to recognize that once her mind was set, it was a permanent state.

The two finished with the duties pertaining to her dressing and then went to the dining room to join the earl and his wife. She had warned Mrs. Scarborough to refrain against mentioning the plans for the day. "I will handle it with the delicacy it requires," she assured her abigail.

As they partook of the morning meal which had been so carefully prepared to suit Caroline’s fancy, she noted that her father seemed unduly preoccupied about something. She thought about the way she had seen him studying the books from the bank the night before and decided against questioning him about the cause of his wrinkled brow. Perhaps, she thought, it will lighten his troubles if he has something else to contemplate.

"Mrs. Scarborough and I are going to the center this morning," she announced. "I have always enjoyed watching the people gather in St. James’s Park. I so missed it in Vienna. It is a beautiful city, with the mountains and all, but it is not London. It is not home. Even the rain and the fog seems a welcome sight to me."

"That is quite acceptable," her father said. "I shall have Tipton ready the carriage. I do, however, have one request first. You have not touched the piano since you returned. After we have finished dining, would you favor your father with a selection?"

Caroline smiled. Her father had always enjoyed her musical talents. She was glad that perhaps she could help him with whatever seemed to be the problem at hand. He had always appeared to relax to the sound of her playing.

Caroline made her way to the music room, seating herself at the piano and running her fingers up and down the scales to limber herself after several days’ absence from the instrument. She had practiced faithfully every day while she had been in Vienna. It was good to return to it again. She seemed to forget her own quest of the day in the course of her music.

"I must neglect you no more," she muttered, not loud enough for anyone to hear. "If I do not prove faithful to you, my little friend, I shall be like a woman who has been scorned by her lover. You do need a kind and gentle touch."

It would perhaps seem strange to some to hear such a person conversing with an instrument, but to Caroline her piano was as real as anyone she had ever known. It did, indeed, seem to come to life at the touch of her fingers.

While in Vienna, Caroline had studied under one of the former pupils of the already famous Joseph Haydn. His music was widely acclaimed to be the most inspirational of the century. She broke into song of one of the master’s compositions.

The Earl of Kent sank into the velvet chaise which was near the piano. He did not sit with his customary poise and erect posture, but slouched. As the music swelled, it seemed to breathe life into his troubled being. He straightened himself and seemed intent upon his daughter’s every movement.

When Caroline completed the selection she turned to her father.

"Do you approve of what I have learned?" she inquired.

"It is a marvel!" he exclaimed. "Such ease, such beauty in the notes. I have never heard such music!"

"It is the Maestro," Caroline explained. "His music is like heaven here on earth. He could take sounds that were not meant to be together and when he combined them, they were beyond description. I was so fortunate to have studied under Herr Fransz. Thank you, Father, for allowing me to privilege the time in Vienna afforded me."

She walked over beside her father and gently kissed his cheek. She thought she saw a glimmer of a tear, but she could not be certain. She knew better than to question him about it.

"Something is turning about like a whirligig in that pretty little head of yours," the earl said, making it more of a question than a statement.

"Your mind is working too much," Caroline chided. "It is too long hours at the books. You do imagine it all."

Caroline knew that her father had always been capable of determining her every mood by the way she played at the piano. At least that, she thought, has not changed. But I must not tell him. Not until I learn more of the man who has come to taunt my every move.

And the earl, sensing the hesitancy in her voice, knew it was best to await the time when she would confide in him. Past experience had taught him that in due course she would come to him. To her mother, perhaps not, but to him, yes. For the moment, he was just grateful to have her back with them—back where she belonged. Back where he could tend her. She was a young woman, he knew from looking at her, but she was still his little princess.

"I would enjoy listening all the day," her father said, "but I must take my leave. The books await me. I will bid you farewell for now. But I shall expect more of your lovely hands this eve. Have a fair journey to your park," he said as he left the room.

Caroline was anxious to make her way to the park, yet as if to call down some magic force she returned to the keyboard, intoning a plea for help in finding the man she so longed to see again.

As they neared St. James’s Park, she watched carefully from the windows of the coach, hoping that fate would be kind to her and she would catch even a glimpse of him.

The rain turned from a heavy downpour to a light, steady mist. As Caroline and Mrs. Scarborough stepped from the carriage, Tipton quickly raised the yellow silk bumbershoot and placed it over the head of Caroline, waiting for her to grasp the handle of her own accord.

"And Mrs. Scarborough?" Caroline asked. "She is to ignore the dampness and walk in the protection of the trees?" Caroline asked jokingly.

"I have my own protection," Mrs. Scarborough answered, opening her own bumbershoot as she stepped from the coach.

* * *

Caroline and Mrs. Scarborough made their way to the rear of Almack’s, watching the door closely for someone to depart from the club. When the head master left, Caroline quickly made her way towards him.

"Sir," she said, "if we might persuade you to answer some queries for us, we would be most appreciative."

The man jumped at the approach. He had not expected to find someone outside his rear door, and certainly no one of the breeding of Caroline, the daughter of the Earl of Kent. Oh, yes, he knew who she was. There was scarce a soul in all of London who had not by now heard of her return from Vienna and of her scandal at Almack’s when she tried to enter men’s quarters, nor of her great beauty. To converse in truth with the magnificent lady was beyond his fondest imagination. He was near the state of dumbness, not knowing what to say to her.

"I—It—what—I am at your command, your grace," he finally replied.

Caroline placed her hand over her mouth to stifle a chuckle. She was, after all, hardly royalty. "If it would be possible to bring to your mind, sir, the events of Wednesday last, here at Almack’s. If you recall the man who seemed to be in control of the hazard table. He was a stranger to me, and it appeared that he was little known to the other gentlemen at the table as well."

"Yes, my lady, I do bring to mind the lord to whom you refer. It would be most right if I should tell my lady of the young man," he explained. Caroline’s heart jumped suddenly within her. If she only knew who the stranger was, she would know more where to begin her search for him.

Seeing the anxiety which overcame the young woman, he hastened to continue with his explanation.

"But I fear, my lady, that the gentleman to whom you refer has indeed not graced us with a return visit. He has, rather, vanished into thin air. I did inquire as to the other clubs to see if perchance he had been to their sites, but I have been informed that he appeared but once at the Kit-Cat Club. It was there, I have heard it told, that he was able to recite poetry with the best of the lot—equal to Walter Scott himself—and of the tales of yore, he was the most learned of those in attendance. Then, as here, he disappeared, not to be heard from again. Also, he appeared on one occasion at Boodles, where it is well known by all that their cuisine is the nearest to divine in all London. He sampled the fare, and declaring it not to his liking, put to quite a scene and then made haste to depart. Of his person, none else is known. From whence did he come? He speaks with the brogue of a Scotsman. To whence did he disappear? No one seems to know. Who is this man, of obvious breeding and well-being, who has come to cause a puzzlement to all? No one knows. And, I must admit, you are not, my lady, the first to inquire of his whereabouts. It would seem that he has stolen the hearts of every young woman in London who was present here when you dared to cross the threshold of the playing room when he laid claim to the wherewithal of the others in attendance.

"But surely," Caroline protested, "someone must know. He must reside somewhere. He cannot sleep with the horses!"

* * *

Day after day, come rain or shine, Caroline and Mrs. Scarborough could be found at St. James’s Park, traveling between the clubs, inquiring of the mysterious stranger. Caroline was convinced that one day she would again find him, but each day proved to be fruitless in their hunt.

"Miss Caroline," Mrs. Scarborough said finally, "there is no rhyme nor reason to your search. We have looked everywhere in the center, and we have failed to locate even one clue as to his whereabouts or identity. I fear, my dear, that it is a lost cause we pursue. Your perseverance is to be admired, but you must not waste your entire life on such nonsense."

"Nonsense!" Caroline cried. "It is not nonsense! I will find him. I must find him! I cannot live without him! I must continue the search."

Fearing that Mrs. Scarborough was upset with her insistence in this matter, she opted for remaining at the Manor. She made her way to the piano, playing soft melancholic music which came from her heart rather than from any written music she might have studied in the past. So entranced was she with her music, she did not notice her father enter the room and sit beside her in the large chair he loved to occupy when she played.

"My darling Caroline," he said, breaking the silence he had held during the music. "I cannot bear to see you thus. You are so sad; your music reveals your heart. What is it that troubles you so?"

Caroline knew she could not confide in her father, as dear as he was to her. He would never understand her obsession with this stranger. And he would certainly never give a nod of approval to her pursuing any man, least of all one of whom she knew nothing. Her position in life decreed that they must find the perfect mate for her—one whose background and standing was at least equal to hers, if not above hers. No, as much as she wished to share her thoughts and feeling with her father, she knew she could not do so. She would have to continue by herself. Now it appeared that even Mrs. Scarborough might desert her in her quest.

May you find your treasures in life--and may it not take 150 years!

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