The English Pudding ~ or ~ Comfort Foods of the British Isles
Peas pudding hot, peas pudding cold
Peas pudding in the pot nine days old
He was to be married.
A smile carried him down the steps and across the upper terrace garden. He could see Felicity’s brother Thomas, and Rupert Upton, one level below.
“Wish me happy!” he called, as he strode down the slope.
Upton’s sword lay upon the ground, his shirtsleeve stained green. Thomas, a regular at Jackson’s and a keen student of Angelo, still held his foil.
“Grass slip you up?” Andover asked Upton, as he reached the two men.
His spirits higher than in months, Andover crossed to a table covered with sabers, foils and protective gear. He found a padded vest and slipped it on, standing still as a servant fastened the buttons along the right side. “Treat to get some fresh air without a load of drizzle.” He looked over his shoulder. Thomas and Upton stared at him.
“Happy?” Upton asked. “You’ve proposed to some poor lass? By the post? You proposed by letter?” Upton marveled.
“No.” Andover smiled, surprised by his own happiness, especially under the circumstances. He needed to be married, urgently. He owed his family that. He had not expected to feel so joyous about it.
“There’s been no one here for you to propose to, except my fam…” Thomas stopped, scowled, “You have been speaking to my father about farming, correct? Taking his counsel during all that time in his study? Riding out on the farm?”
It was not going to go well. He should have anticipated that. In respect, Andover offered another bow, this one for Thomas. “I have taken your father’s wise counsel.”
“On farming?” Thomas’s nostrils flared.
Smile gone, Andover nodded. “On farming. As well as other things.”
“Oh Lord!” Upton swallowed. “You’ve been spending considerable time with Lady Felicity.”
Both men had figured it out and Thomas, for one, was not about to wish him happy.
“You’ve proposed to my sister?” Thomas exploded.
“No!” Upton whispered. “Right under our noses.”
“Damn you!” Thomas took a swing. Andover blocked it.
“Hold on, Redmond!” Andover wanted to defend his proposal, but he knew and understood Thomas’s position. They had drunk and gambled and chased petticoats together from Eton through Cambridge and beyond. “I didn’t come here with that intention. I did not anticipate caring for Lady Felicity.”
“That’s my sister we’re speaking about, and no damned hums about love. I know you better than that.”
He did, Andover thought. Love was not the idea. He had a title to carry on, sooner than he had expected. She would not be sorry. He had promised.
“I didn’t invite you to seduce my sister.”
Upton put a hand on Thomas’s shoulder and was shrugged off. That didn’t stop his counsel. “Come on, Redmond, leave it. Andover will be a good husband.” He defended his childhood friend. “And your sister’s a sweet girl.”
“Too good for him,” Thomas snapped. “She doesn’t need the mess he is in.”
Andover looked up at that. “I will be good to her. I promise you that.” He wished he could think of something else to say, but nothing else came to mind. He frowned. “Do you think I don’t know how special she is? How fortunate I was to meet her before either of us found someone else?”
“No. I don’t think you know that. You haven’t had time to learn the depth of her, or to give her time to know about you.”
The depth of her. Something in that worried Andover. He pushed it away. “What is it you really don’t like?” he asked, doubting Redmond knew just how bad things were at Montfort Abbey. A situation that would reverse as soon as he married. A positive focus was all his mother needed to pull her from the spiral of malaise.
Thomas snorted, looked away at the distant horizon. “You said you were going to marry quickly for your mother.” He swiped away a lock of hair that had fallen into his eyes.
“Thomas…” Upton broke in, but again, Thomas pulled away.
“As intelligent as she is, as practical...” he bent, picked up the foil that Upton had dropped, tossed it to Andover. "Felicity is a romantic. It is part of her beauty.” He lifted his own foil, tested its flex, then looked at Andover. “You admitted there was no room for emotion in your goal.”
“Look here, Thomas,” Upton interrupted. “Men never think of such things.”
They both looked at him and scowled. “Shut up, Upton.” Thomas flared. “I don’t like this, not one bit.” He faced Andover, signaled for the servant to hand him a mask, then pulled his own down. “You have not been forthright in your suit.” He waited as Andover put on the meager protection. “You better not have touched her. There had best be room for her to change her mind.”
Andover flicked his mask down. “You know me better than that.”
“Do I?” Thomas snapped. “You managed to tie yourself to her right under my nose.” He lifted his foil before his face. “Prepare yourself.”
Even as Andover raised his foil, Thomas shouted, “En garde!” and lunged.
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