The Gallant Guardian

The Gallant Guardian by Evelyn Richardson Read Free Book Online

Book: The Gallant Guardian by Evelyn Richardson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Evelyn Richardson
Tags: Regency Romance
miscarriages, had been a severe disappointment to Cecil, who had begun to entertain hopes of succeeding at last to a position worthy of him. His subsequent discovery of that heir’s diminished mental capacities had only served to convince him further that a title he had begun to think of as rightfully his did, in fact, belong to him.
    So secure was Cecil in these convictions that he had actually begun to picture himself as heir some time before the Earl of Harcourt’s demise, and it had come as something of a shock when the will maintaining the deceased earl’s son as heir had been read by the solicitor after the funeral. And this was not the worst of it; more appalling still was the fact that Cecil had not even been named guardian of the inheritance for which he was next in line. He had barely been able to contain his outrage at such a sorry state of affairs and it was only by exerting enormous self-control that he was able to maintain his composure under the coolly observant eye of the new earl’s sister. The only consolation during the entire thing was that the legal guardian demonstrated such a notable lack of interest in the entire state of affairs that he had not even bothered to appear for the funeral or for the reading of the will, and Cecil had begun to hope that the management of Harcourt might yet fall to him.
    His wife, Almeria, had done nothing to dissuade him from this line of reasoning. “For you know what Lord Harcourt was, a loose screw if I ever saw one. Ten to one he appointed some card-playing crony of his who will not make the slightest push to do what is right. As head of the family, Cecil, you have a duty to return to Harcourt and see to it that the place does not come to rack and ruin.” At Almeria’s urging they had remained back at home at Wadleigh Manor just long enough to pack and to make arrangements for an extended absence before heading back to Harcourt to take up the running of an estate worthy of their abilities.
    Ensconced back at Harcourt, they wasted no time. The very next morning Almeria was to be found in the housekeeper’s room instructing Mrs. Hodges in the new regime. There were to be no more fires in the servants’ bedchambers, nor wax candles in their quarters, and the keys to the storerooms were to be turned over to Lady Wadleigh immediately.
    Forewarned by her mistress, Mrs. Hodges listened to these demands with dignified equanimity before refusing quietly to do any such thing.
    “Why you impudent creature!” Almeria gasped, once she had recovered enough from the shock of such blatant insubordination as to be able to speak.
    “Begging your pardon, my lady, but Lady Charlotte has given instructions that things are to remain as usual until such time as the Marquess of Lydon arrives, and then I am to consult his lordship’s pleasure on the running of the household.” Mrs. Hodges’s expression remained one of respectful servility, but the note of triumph in her voice was not lost on Lady Wadleigh, who immediately turned and swept from the room, her long thin nose in the air, her tiny mouth pursed tighter than ever, and two bright angry red spots burning on her sallow cheeks.
    Her husband met with the same lack of success in his conversation with Harcourt’s agent. Mr. Sotherton was all deference to Sir Cecil, but not the least inclined to follow his wishes, having already received clear instructions from his mistress to wait until such time as they could benefit from the advice of Lord Lydon.
    Frustrated at every turn, the Wadleighs could only fume and possess themselves of the little grace that they could muster to wait until Charlotte and William’s guardian saw fit to make an appearance.
    Some days after the Wadleighs’ installation, as she sat down to yet another interminable dinner punctuated only by stony silence and Almeria’s disgusted sniffs, Charlotte thought that her guardian’s arrival could not occur too soon for any of them.
    In fact, the only person

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