“What could have taken Morrow—at night—to that part of the city?” Foxe said.
Brock considered the question for a while.
“Had to be meeting someone, I imagine. A woman? A boy?”
“Neither seems much more likely than finding him drunk,” Foxe said. “Besides, there would be rumours if a man like him was making the rounds of the brothels or molly-houses. You heard anything?”
Brock shook his head.
“Nor have I.”
“Shame Gracie isn’t about,” Brock said. “Her girls would know for sure. Any idea when she’ll be back?”
“No. Being engaged for the season at London’s Drury Lane Theatre, and in leading roles, is Kitty’s big chance. From what I gather, she’s a prodigious success. She won’t want to come back to Norwich after this—at least, not for a long time.”
“Not even to see you?”
Foxe shook his head. “Not even for that. Oh, I don’t doubt she’s fond of me—even loves me a little—but the theatre is her life. No, Miss Kitty Catt is fast becoming the toast of the London stage, and that will matter much more. Imagine her giving it up to return to a mere lover in Norwich.”
“Why did Gracie have to go as well?” Brock asked. “I can see the reason for Kitty to throw you over in favour of fame and fortune, but not Gracie.”
“Those two sisters have been inseparable since birth,” Foxe said. “Neither can be happy without the other close by. Besides, I think Gracie wanted a change. Running the bagnio was enough for a while. It fitted in with her fancy to scandalise the dull folk of the city. There she was, the daughter of a wealthy and respectable merchant, acting as the madam of a fashionable brothel. That was flying in the face of convention in almost every imaginable way.”
“So why change now?”
“Ah, Brock. You underestimate the power of respectable society to wear someone like Gracie down. No one would receive her. I was the only person willing to be seen with her in public settings. Being a rebel can be exciting for a while. Later it means isolation and rejection.”
“It’s never bothered you.”
“Men have an easier time of it. Being thought of as something of a rake adds glamour to a man in the world’s eyes. No, Gracie had had enough. By going to London, she hopes to escape from her reputation. Rumours may filter there from Norwich, but Londoners rarely pay much attention to anything that happens in the provinces.”
“But I thought Gracie truly loved you, as you loved her,” Brock protested.
“I believed she did,” Foxe replied, his voice sad. “Then I spoiled it.”
“How? Another woman?”
“No. Far worse than that. Gracie knew I was faithful to her—except for sleeping with her sister, of course, which didn’t count for either of them. What sent Gracie away was her growing desire to get married and settle down into domestic life and motherhood. The years are passing. She calculated she needed to do it sooner rather than later.”
“Gracie? Get married?”
“Why not?” Foxe said. “She will make a marvellous wife and mother. The only trouble is that she knows I’m not ready for such a step—if I ever will be. I’m not much attracted by marriage, Brock. I have no interest in getting heirs for my estate, nor in tying myself down. Gracie knew if she stayed with me, things would remain more or less as they were. I remained deaf to her hints, so she gave up.”
“So she won’t come back either?”
“She may. If she does, I suspect it will be as a respectable, married woman, though her reputation in Norwich is likely to be something she will never fully overcome. Far more likely that she’ll settle down somewhere else, where she can stress her family’s solid background and forget she ever had anything to with a brothel.”
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