August 7, 2023

Epilogue: The Girl Returns

Previously: The Bride

Marble Hill House, one week later

Dearest Reader,

After a most remarkable wedding, it seems the Count and Countess Mironov are the talk of Mayfair. Whatever dark cloud was hanging over them appears to have finally dissipated, for the newlyweds have begun attending social functions in lieu of a honeymoon, and are even planning their very first ball together. The Count in particular has promised a night of "proper Russian revelry"....

Cordelia Patridge crumpled Lady Whistledown's scandal sheet and promptly tossed it into the fire.

While she was grateful for the Queen generously packing her off to one of the royal estates to save face, she still resented how easily life went on without her Mayfair. Even her own mother attended the wedding!

Meanwhile, Cordelia busied herself with letters, embroidery, Lady Whistledown, all the while roaming from one impeccable sitting room to another. The Queen had left her under the watchful eye of Viscountess Esther Lowell, and advised her it would be "some time" before she could return to Mayfair.

After several balls and operas, no doubt, Cordelia scowled, picking up her embroidery and trying very hard not to prick herself in the process.

It was supposed to be me.

The Viscountess often cautioned her not to become discouraged nor bitter by this setback, but then again, what did she know...the aged wench was here while her husband was somewhere else with someone else. And no matter how many times Cordelia reminded herself that she still had her youth and beauty, it didn't chase away that all consuming thought: It was supposed to be me.

It was supposed to be me at that wedding, saying "I do", and becoming a Countess. Now I have to start all over.

She wasn't looking forward to the spring season, to having to sift through the usual slim pickings in the desperate hope of even finding an available lord with a proper title and sufficient wealth to even come close to that of the Mironovs.

Worked into a deep irritation, Cordelia suddenly slammed her embroidery down and rose to her feet. It was stuffy in here; she need the crisp, cold night air of winter. She needed to clear her head of these venomous thoughts which could only turn her into a bitter shrew.

Marble Hill House was decorated in the proper Georgian style; Cordelia drifted through rooms and halls of pastel and marble of the second floor. She could hear voices in the main hall as she approached the stairs. She'd hoped to go out back, where she could watch the moonbeams fall upon the River Thames. Instead, she paused, frozen atop at the rowdy and noticeably manly voices grew louder.

"I see the Queen's nephew has returned," the Viscountess Lowell muttered. Cordelia turned to see the graying older woman behind her, only slightly leaning over railing enough to see while still remaining out of sight. The Patridge girl slowly, hesitantly followed suit.

"Prince Friedrich?" she blinked, glimpsing the tall blond Prussian.

"One and the same," Esther nodded. "God only knows how long they'll be here this time."

"And who's the other?" Cordelia's brow furrowed at the Prince's fair-haired companion.

"Wieslaw (vyeh-slav) of Cieszyn (cheh-shin)," Esther told her. "He's a Duke of Silesia."

"Polish?" Cordelia blinked. She couldn't remember the last time she met a Pole.

"And a dreadful influence on His Highness," the Viscountess grumbled. "Hopefully, they'll grow bored as always and go to another of Her Majesty's houses."

A dreadful influence, you say? Cordelia raised an eyebrow. He had such a sunny smile, this Wieslaw fellow. Though he was clearly drunk, he seemed incapable of any real trouble.

"We should retire," Esther said lowly, pulling back from the railing. "If we are lucky, they'll be gone before breakfast."

And if we are truly fortunate, Cordelia mused, watching the handsome Duke follow the Prince into another room, they will tarry a while longer.

~ FIN ~

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