Sophie watches from the landing window by the middle stairs as the carriage draws up, and two young men spring out by the front steps.
She thinks herself indeed a fool, for as the long fair haired one springs down, full of energy, helping his stocky dark haired overdressed valet and the others to hand down the luggage, she feels her face burn. She really must get over this infatuation…
She has to laugh as she notices that this man, her grand relative, Lord Ynyr’s cousin, is fair, while his valet (who looks very vain) is dark. No doubt Agnes will nod sagely at this, imagining it to be proof that her absurd fortune telling predictions are coming true.
Monsieur Emile is recognisible as the lanky boy she remembers from that wedding where Lord Ynyr, following his instructions in the art of handstands, ruined his breeches, but now he’s broad shouldered and muscular.
Sophie is staying away as it seems forward to impose her presence on this family reunion, rendered tragic by the fact that Monsieur Emile is now the sole surviving member of his family. Lord Ynyr is at his side already, and Emile turns to wring his cousin’s hands, while Miss Morwenna rushes down the steps, all happiness. The Dowager Countess follows with more dignity, the Sad Tangles in this morning’s crochet work forgotten.
Emile Dubois is kissing Miss Morwenna’s hand gallantly, while his rougish looking valet pauses in his handling of the baggage to take a quick, admiring look at her.
How impertinent! Sophie is shocked, but of course, it may be that the social upheaval in France has done away with much of the old deference between man and master in people from that area.
Sophie allows the family three quarters of an hour by themselves, and then shyly enters the first drawing room.
The Dowager Countess spots her first, and calls her over. “Sophie, do not be shy. Here is my nephew, Monsieur Emile…”
Monsieur Emile, chatting with the others by the magnificent ornate fireplace, turns.
Sophie imagines that a tiger must have come in behind her, or an assassin with a knife between his teeth, for, catching sight of her, her grand relative freezes, eyes dilated, jaw dropped.
If this were a romantic novel, she would think he had fallen in love with her at first sight…