May 20, 1823
“Don’t you consider it rather a bit of an inconvenience having a younger sister dropped on your doorstep on such short notice Martin?” Jeremy asked after reading the letter his friend had handed him. They lounged comfortably before a roaring fire after sharing a meal.
Martin’s lips curled in amusement as he stretched a flawlessly clad leg closer to the blazing flames, and lazily answered. “Janice could never be an inconvenience Jeremy. In fact, she has to be one of the most entertaining people I know. I have yet to meet another girl with so much life.”
“An eighteen year old, school room Miss?” Jeremy scoffed with an exaggerated air of disbelief. He had three sisters of his own and he was of the firm opinion that younger sisters were nothing more than complete nuisances.
Martin knew all this, but remembering his favorite sister’s character, he felt compelled to disagree. “Perhaps I should enlighten you as to what my sister is like Jeremy, for in all fairness, you should not meet her with a biased opinion of the female sex. Not only has Janice been out of the schoolroom for over two years but she is fluent in five languages. She is quick witted, intelligent, charming and graceful. Last year she was the undisputed toast of Viennese society. I am personally looking forward to her visit.”
These gems of information caught the attention of the young master Jeremy and he leaned forward to quiz his host.
“So why is this paragon of virtue coming to London?”
“One,” Martin held up a perfectly manicured finger to emphasize his first point, as well as to start a count. “To see me. Two,” He held up another finger in continuance, “because this year, our baby sister will be introduced into society. As Janice refused every offer for her hand last year father decided it better to send her away, rather than risk the embarrassment of having two daughters as rivals.”
“Lydia is as pretty as Janice, but not quite as I remember and she could never hold anyone’s attention for long. Now it is not that Janice would begrudge her any man in the whole of Austria that she has met, but I doubt if Lydia could get the proper attention with Janice nearby. If Janice is gone Lydia will capture the attention of some man and marry before the Vienna season is over. We will be called back to attend her wedding. Now that,” Martin frowned as he put his hand down on the arm of the chair he sat in, and gave a sigh, “would be an imposition.”
“Why did Janice not marry last year if she was so popular?” It was a question Jeremy was bound to ask, believing the ultimate goal for and of any woman was to make the most advantageous match she possibly could, after a successful launch into society.
Martin shook his head with a smile. Jeremy, to his way of thinking, was being deliberately obtuse. “It is not that simple Jeremy.” He explained, knowing exactly what was going through his friend’s mind. “Janice is smart and will not marry just anyone. Also, being who and what she is, she is determined to do as she pleases and at this time, she pleases not to be married.”
“But your father, doesn’t he object? This is not common or accepted behavior from a daughter in your home country as I remember.” Jeremy’s brow creased as he tried to make sense of everything.
Martin gave a small amused chuckle as he answered: “It wouldn’t do father much good to object. If he yelled too much Janice would pull all her resources and move to her Vienna town house, or to her estate to the North of Vienna. Grandfather felt his grandsons had enough and left Janice his properties, with enough capital to maintain them and use as she wanted.”
“I can see why she is so popular,” Jeremy noted thoughtfully with a dawning understanding.
“I doubt it,” Martin continued to smile in amusement at his friend as he shook his head, “but you will.”
“So when does our Duchess arrive?” Jeremy wondered.
“About the middle of April.” Martin replied with a feeling that his friend was due for a shock when he met Janice.
“Two months from now, why so long?” Jeremy voiced his bewilderment.
“Papa has to prepare her, so for now he has sent her off to Paris to fit a new wardrobe.” Martin replied.
“The clothes, I gather, are a peace offering?” Jeremy could understand that. A little bribery went a long way with a woman.
“Yes, although if father were to come right out and explain everything to her, I daresay she would gracefully bow out. It is a mistake on his part, but he has never credited any woman with much intelligence. He is just preparing himself for the scene he feels she will undoubtedly make when he tells her about it.” Martin explained.
Jeremy rose to leave and Martin’s butler brought him his coat. Martin also rose to see him to the door.
“I guess that will mean that you will be moving.”
“I was going to anyway. I have had my eye on a house in Park Lane for a while now and I rented it for the season. I will be moving into it at the beginning of April, with luck I may be able to persuade the owner to sell it to me.”
Jeremy paused inside the doorway and a puzzled frown marred his fair features again, for a moment. Martin had been in London and had been his best friend for at least four years, or had he? To cover his thoughts, which remained on his friend’s sister, he asked.
“Come to think of it Martin, when did you last see your sisters? I can’t remember when you were home the last time.”
“Three years ago.” Martin calculated swiftly.
“Janice could have changed Martin.” Jeremy pointed out.
Martin disagreed and, shaking his head, replied. “Not that much, not my sister Janice.”
“Well,” Jeremy relented. “We shall see.” With that he turned around gave a light wave and was off. He would have some news to spread at Whites tonight.
Martin watched him as he bounced in carefree fashion down the steps, and into his waiting carriage. He turned to his valet, who had just come down the stairs to join him and smiled as he commented.
“Something tells me that Master Jeremy is in for a shock. I always find it never pays to underestimate one’s expectations. My sister did not reign as Vienna’s finest for nothing. My countrymen do not concede that title for mere money like Jeremy suspects and I admit I am looking forward to getting to know my sister again.”