Sophie – innocent but sensual girl as she is – likes to enjoy a hot bath before a blazing fire on a cold winter’s day, and as she relaxes in it, and Agnes goes through to the dressing room to get out her dinner clothes, she sees the irrepressible girl get out her Tarot pack, turn
them face downwards, pull out one and turn it round.
“Agnes, you are incorrigible! You are to those cards again and we can imagine what the Reverend Smythe Jones would say.”
Sophie hears Agnes snort, but not too loudly, so she can afford to ignore it. “Mr Smythe Jones would do well to recognise his own faults, Miss Sophie, like being too fond of the table.” She adds, mischivously, “The Lovers is come up again, Miss..” She puts the cards back in her pocket.
Sophie clicks her tongue, but can’t dispute that the Vicar is fond of his dinner. “What did I say earlier, Agnes? By the time these admirers you predict arrive, we shall -”
“Ah, beg pardon for interrupting, Miss, but by the by, I heard his Lordship saying to his man that his cousin Monsieur Emile has written him that he’s coming to visit at last, and to expect him inside the sennight.”
Sophie feels her face go hot. Long, lanky, green eyed Monsieur Emile has been her hero since she first met him at a wedding party when she was about eight and he was twelve or so. She still remembers his lazy smile of greeting, and how graciously he accepted a hair encrusted, flattened cake from his youngest sister Marguerite. “Thank you, ma chere, I will enjoy that…”
For years he was lying low in France, in danger of his life every day as the son of a family who’d engaged in coutner revolutionary activity (ironical indeed, for Sophie has heard Lord Ynyr remark that if anything, Emile’s views were too sympathetic to the proponents of the Revolutuion). Finally, she heard last summer that he was saf ein England, but he has been a long time coming to visit his Aunt here, though Lord Ynyr met him briefly in Town in the autumn.
His Lordship had come back from that trip to London and expressed himself to the Dowager Countess about the ‘back biting, mean gossip in the clubs’ with unusual warmth. “The most preoposerous stories are given credence, you would scarcely credit it, Ma’am…”
“And what has he to do with an admirer, Agnes?” Sophie stands up in her bath and Agnes comes to envelope her in one of the towels warming at the fire.
“Oh, nothing in the world, Miss…They do say that Mr Kenrick’s new wife is coming up at last, too.”
“I’ve heard she’s accounted a great beauty.”
Agnes does some more snorting as she pats Sophie dry. “Yes, Miss, and non too virtuous, neither…I’ll lay that that hulking footman comes up with her, Arthur.”
Sophie isn’t quite sure what that has to do with her virtue, or lack of it…