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Countess Of Gold

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Countess Of Gold
by Damask Rose


Chapter I

"Lady Denville, I am so delighted to meet you at last.  It has been some time since I was in London."

"Lady Pennington".

Amabel, Lady Denville, produced her most charming smile.  She was not very well acquainted with the Countess of Pennington, who had been closer to her mother's generation.  And the lady mostly lived in the country and was well known for her charity work.  Amabel admired her but while she had sympathy for the unfortunate, she had never dedicated herself to their relief.

She was generous to the poor, Evelyn said, she was too generous.  He often would intervene, in her giving money away, but she still did it.  After all she spent enough money on herself.  The sort of gowns she liked to wear were so well cut and elegant that they cost a fortune.

She liked jewellery although she never wore too much.  Even at over 40, she was a remarkably beautiful and well dressed woman.  Which made her very different to the rather hard faced lady who was now standing in her drawing room.

Lady Pennington was wearing a brown pelisse and a bonnet with dyed feathers, which had clearly been made by a provincial milliner.  But she was a well meaning, good hearted woman, so Amabel did not grudge the time she was now going to have to spend with her, listening to her tales of woe.  But it was exhausting.  They drank tea and Amabel listened politely to the stories of hardship, and promised, at the end, that she and some of her friends would give a charitable dramatic performance, which would raise funds for factory children.  It was really very sad, and she wanted to do something to help them.

Amabel enjoyed private theatricals and was considered a charming actress, although she knew herself that she was nothing out of the ordinary.  Little Lydia Deveril, Lady Lynton's younger daughter, was, she thought a most talented young girl and showed a real gift for comedy.  But Amabel enjoyed attending the theatre and taking part in it all herself.

After her visitor's departure, she flicked through a novel for a while.  But it didn't amuse her for long.  Just now, although she was normally not prone to worrying, there were problems that meant that even she could not always shrug them off cheerfully.

She loved both her boys dearly, but Evelyn the elder one was often rather careless and forgetful.  He often forgot engagements and he tended to disappear on little trips of his own, and would return home a day or 2 later than she expected him.   Now she was wondering if he was likely to come home tonight or if he would still be out of town.

It was not quite a year since her husband, William's death, and that had elevated Evelyn to the rank of Earl of Denville.  For a time, they had been in mourning and life had been quiet but after a few months, her son had started to go into society again, and seemed to be leading a very wild and rackety life.   He had not been very grieved over his father's sudden death but instead had thrown himself into more gaming, parties, and, she was afraid, more affairs with the muslin company.

It was not that Amabel was a prude - she knew society's ways. Her husband had been frequently unfaithful to her.  And she herself had, at one point, taken a lover, to try to find a little happiness, when she finally realised that her marriage would not give her much satisfaction.  She shivered even now when she thought of that time.  William had been so cold, so hard.  She had realised that they were very different to each other and should not have wed.

But it had been a frightening experience.  Since then, she had been very wary, and had usually stuck to pleasant flirtation with her many admirers.  Now she was a widow and could please herself, but while she liked many men, there was nobody special.  Her marriage had not produced many children.  There were only the twins, Evelyn and Christopher.

Kit was abroad in the diplomatic service and seemed happy and fulfilled.  But Evelyn was another pair of shoes. She knew that he was bound to have some mistresses, but it upset her that there were so many and that he did not really seem to enjoy his wild way of life.  He seemed bored and unhappy.   If he had had the chance of running the estates, she felt sure he would have settled into the role of landlord and while he would still have sown his wild oats, he wound have been more content.  But William had not trusted his son and had made a will stating that the estates should remain in trust until Evelyn was 30- which was over 6 years away.   Her son had no power to do anything, without the consent of his trustee, her husband's younger brother, Henry.  And Henry Fancot, now Lord Brumby, was a prim and proper man who disapproved of his nephew's wildness and of his sister in law's extravagance.

Amabel shed a few tears discreetly.  She didn't want to ruin her face.  She had reached the age where crying made a woman look haggard and awful.  It was her fault – partly - that poor Evelyn was in this difficult position.  She had been so extravagant and spendthrift that William had had financial difficulties, although he had been a very wealthy man.  And as a result, he had wanted to make sure that his son did not deplete the estate. And she still had debts that she had not been able to tell her husband about, and many of her creditors were now dunning her.

End of Chapter I