It was a miserable day by anyone’s measure, unseasonably cold, with rain just beginning to fall and thunder rolling across a darkening sky. As Jane burrowed deeper into her black, woolen cloak, a sigh escaping the tight line of her lips, she decided the weather was well-suited to the occasion. That was her father, after all, boxed up in a casket and being lowered into the ground. At least her veil hid the fact that she wasn’t crying.
Not that anyone was there to notice. Despite having passed only two days ago, Lord Reginald Fitzsimmons had been dead to the world these past nine months, an outcast in Society, a scandal. The wages of sin and all of that. When you maligned a war hero and tried to compromise the girl he loved in the process, you were not well-liked. And his passing had made him all the more shameful. He’d died in a pool of his own blood outside London’s most hardened gaming hell, either murdered for his winnings or set upon for sport. The Bow Street Runners hadn’t even mounted an investigation. As if she’d needed a reminder he would not be missed.
Nor would she be, if some unfortunate accident happened to befall her. She was all but invisible now, just like her father, a pariah in the Society that had once prized her. Such a paragon she’d been, no less than the founding patron of The Ladies Auxiliary to Improve Manners and Morals. How amusing to remember a time when friends did not cross to the opposite side of a street as she neared.
She shook her head to clear it. She was not only being maudlin, but also unfair. Not all of them crossed the street. Nor was she entirely alone. Sir Aldus Rempley, Father’s only remaining friend, was here at the graveyard too, a small act of kindness, even if he was a good distance away. Beside another grave entirely, as a matter of fact. Far enough away that no one would see him offering his last respects to a rogue.
Just yesterday, he’d sent a note promising to call, along with a bank draft to settle the burial’s expenses. She should have refused it, of course, but she could no longer afford her pride. The reading of Father’s will had made that abundantly clear. He’d gambled away almost everything in the long, final months of his disgrace.
A cough sounded, recalling her attention to the two men waiting with shovels nearby, the grave diggers, clearly restless. Waiting for the minister to finish, so they too could finish, covering Father’s casket with the dirt piled beside it. Returning him to the earth, and ultimately to dust.
She wished the cleric would get on with it. What was the point of praying for absolution when there was none to be had? Besides, the rain was starting to come down in earnest now, pooling in the dirt, sending streams of muddy water into the pit where Father lay. She could feel it seeping into her cloak and through the leather of her serviceable boots. How she envied the enclosed carriage that had just stopped at the edge of the graveyard. The walk home would be interminable. Perhaps the loneliest she’d ever undertaken.
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