When the Duke Returns(9)

By: Eloisa James





He nodded.



“Where is the duchess? She should be here with you. Your responsibilities to the Cosway line of descent have been sadly neglected.”



Simeon couldn’t help wondering if his mother intended to monitor how often he visited his wife’s bedchamber. “Isidore is in London. She will remain there while I prepare a wedding celebration.”



“Wedding! You are married; what need have you for a wedding?”



“We were married by proxy. I should like to celebrate our vows properly.”



“Stuff and humbug!” his mother snapped. “That’s one and same with those other romantic notions with which you always stuffed your head! Rubbish!”



“Isidore agrees with you.”



“Isidore? Isidore? Who is Isidore? Are you, by any chance, referring to your wife, the Duchess of Cosway, by her personal name?”



“Yes.”



“Indeed.”



Now they were on familiar ground. The groundswell of a lecture rolled toward him. He sat down, remembering a second too late that he should have asked her permission.



But he settled back into his chair rather than spring to his feet. The lecture, which began with his impertinent behavior in referring to his wife by her given name and deviated into the disgraceful, un-English nature of that name (Isidore), swelled like a river in springtime, giving him time to catalog perplexing aspects of his return.



His mother was brilliantly dressed in figured silk. But her chamber had faded, the hangings and upholstery apparently not having been touched since long before his father died three years ago. The house didn’t even smell good. There was an underlying miasma that hinted of the privy. Had no one noticed?



He would have returned to England sooner, had there been a problem with money. His solicitor forwarded the estate summary every year and at no time did it indicate a shortage of funds to furbish the house, to pollard the trees, or to keep the fields in good trim.



It was a long hour.





Chapter Three




Revels House

February 22, 1784



“Whereare you going dressed like that?” The Dowager Duchess of Cosway was no stranger to a shriek, but on this occasion she excelled. Any reasonable elephant would have stampeded.



“Running,” Simeon answered. For propriety’s sake he had pulled on a simple tunic; he usually ran bare-chested, dressed only in short trousers.



“Running to what?” his brother Godfrey asked, following their mother into the entry.



It was a reasonable question. Simeon had outrun the occasional lion (but only with the help of a friendly tree). He had failed to outrun a crocodile and almost got eaten as a punishment. There was nothing to outrun in the prim English countryside that surrounded Revels House; one had the feeling that not even wolves dared intrude on the duchy’s herds.



“I just like to run,” he explained. “It’s excellent exercise and I enjoy it.”



His mother and brother spoke at the same moment. “What are those shoes?” Godfrey asked, and “You must stop that practice at once,” his mother commanded.



Simeon sighed. “Shall we retire to the drawing room and discuss it?”



“The drawing room?” his mother asked. “With you—with you unclothed as you—” She didn’t seem to be able to continue, just flapped her hand in the air.



Godfrey was just the age to be enjoying himself enormously. The only way Simeon could explain the fact that he had a thirteen-year-old brother, when he himself was almost thirty, was to picture his mother and father having a prolonged and energetic marital life. Given that his mother had a look of perpetual outrage and a figure that resembled a cone-shaped beehive, he refused to imagine it.



“You’re not clothed,” Godfrey said, laughing madly. “I can see your knees!”



“It’s easier to run like this,” Simeon said. “Would you like to try it? I have several spare trousers of this nature.”



“Don’t you dare try to contaminate him!” his mother blustered.



“Mother,” Simeon said.



“You may address me as Your Grace when we are in public.”



“We aren’t in public.”



“Unless I invite you to my private chambers, we are in public!” she snapped.



Simeon ignored this. “When I return, if you would be so kind as to grant me the honor of an audience for a mere five minutes, I would be most grateful.” He swept a bow, a duke’s bow.



“The honor of an audience?” Godfrey said. “Do you say that to savages when you meet them, Simeon?”

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