Julian shrugged on his many-caped driving coat and took his leave of the faithful solicitor. With Mr. Huggett’s admonitions of haste ringing in his ears, he leaped into the curricle where his groom, Skelton, waited. Julian was not surprised when this worthy gentleman, who had been with the old earl in the same capacity, addressed his present lord and master with the air of confidence that only a retainer of many years standing could achieve.
“I ’opes that the money’s yours, sir, and we can get about settin’ the old place t’ rights?” His pointed optimism was not lost on his employer.
The afternoon had grown more dismal, although the drizzle had stopped. Julian looked skywards.
“We’d best be off, Ned, or else we won’t make Penrose before five o’clock.”
His groom’s muttered opinion on the fleetness of his lordship’s fine pair of steppers went unheard as the custom-built curricle clattered on the cobbled streets. Julian was lost in thought for a long while, although this did not impair his handling of the ribbons in any way. Usually a taciturn man, Ned could not contain his curiosity.
“Beg pardon, sir, but did we get the blunt?”
Julian did not chastise his servant for such a forward question. All their hopes of salvation were pinned on the contents of this extraordinary will. He sighed. An explanation of the bizarre conditions of the document drew an astonished curse from Ned.
“Crazy old codger!” Then Ned brightened. “So, ye get ’itched to a pretty young miss and that’s that? Easy enough, ain’t it?”
“Not quite.” Julian’s tone was dry. “It appears I have to remain married to the suitable young lady for a minimum of six months before I receive one penny of my fortune.”
Ned wondered aloud at this strange restriction, but Julian knew very well where his great-uncle’s thoughts had lain. Within six months his bride would no doubt become pregnant and bear a child. Julian would then be more inclined to stick with the marriage, settle down, and enjoy the matrimonial bliss his great-uncle had in mind for him. That was the problem. While Julian Trevallon was not completely averse to the idea of marriage, as he had said to Mr. Huggett, it was the possible fruits of a union that discouraged him from going ahead with this outlandish plan.
If only the damned will had not contained those conditions, he thought, all would be well and he would have had the funds to restore his life and estates to prosperity.
Blast Great-Uncle Oswald!
And then the appearance of a strange young woman turned the tide in Julian’s affairs.
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