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3 A Sister Asks and An Order of Business

    Sir Everard Blackwell's sister quizzed him about Miss Norwen while he escorted her home. "It's no good," he said, "don't get your hopes up Mirandee."

    "But Everard, you seemed to get along very well," Lady Sefton protested.

    "I can't afford her," he replied.

    "Her grandmother told me she has a moderate dowry," his sister countered.

    "And how much do you think a moderate dowry is to a young lady who sews her own dresses, or an elderly woman who has been living on her annuity for years?" he asked dryly.

    Lady Mirandee Sefton entered her own home, in a somewhat dispirited mood. She did understand that her brother needed to be practical about his future marriage, but she wished he could be less practical, and it truly was rare to see him talk to anyone in such an animated fashion.

    --

    At Lady Norwen's townhouse, they took the dustcover off a guest bed for Kateri and retired immediately, for it was quite 2am. And without the conversation with Sir Blackwell to sustain her, Kateri was near fainting from exhaustion after her long trip and late night.

    The following afternoon, for neither of them rose before noon after their late night, Lady Norwen heard out the whole of Kateri's sudden arrival in London. Kateri was troubled by the missing letter, for she knew that Richard had included instructions on how to contact his bank, as he intended to pay for her season in London and not leave her a burden upon his wife's grandmama. Her grandmama disregarded her worries on this matter, saying that she had also set aside something for Kateri's entrance into London society, and she was sure Richard's bank would not be fooled by any ruffians.

    Miss Norwen was introduced to the servants of the household, who, as Lady Norwen's maid was not expected back for another day or two, consisted only of an elderly butler, Mr. Worthing, and a robust young housekeeper, Miss Fairington, who was actually the house's maid of all work.

    She did the bulk of the heavy cleaning, laundry, and all the cooking for the little household. She cheerfully warned Kateri that while the elderly company she usually cooked for were no trouble at all, and had a fondness for porridges, stews, and puddings, she thought the younger girl might be disappointed in the culinary offerings.

    Kateri assured her that she was not a picky eater, and could do a little cooking as well, if her addition to the household was adding too much work. The young housekeeper was shocked, and assured Miss Norwen that no such assistance would be needed. Although she did cheerfully agree to show Kateri where the tea making things were kept, and suggest that cheeses and other ready to eat foods might be laid in, to supplement a hungry young person's meals.

    As her sister Amelia had predicted, the first order of business in London, according to her grandmama, was clothes. Kateri displayed the few garments that had passed Amelia's inspection for London worthy wear, the paucity of passable items being the reason that she had arrived with a single portmanteau.

    Her grandmama bade her to bring everything with her when they visited the modiste the next day. Word was sent out to the modiste to expect them, and a gig ordered for the following mid morning.

    The next order of business was a suitable male escort. Kateri informed her grandmama of her uncle Andrew's agreement and it was decided he must be induced to come and visit her grandmama, and have his wardrobe examined for suitability. Lady Norwen was only slightly acquainted with her deceased daughter in law's younger brother, and her memories of him as a youthful rapscallion did not encourage her as to his suitability. She was, however, aware that he had gone on to serve in a cavalry unit in the skirmishes on the continent, and knew that war had sobered many a young man who survived it.

    The third order of business was dancing. Kateri, at home, was accorded to be a fair dancer. However when she demonstrated her skills with the elderly butler for her grandmama's perusal she was found lacking, most notably in the fact that she had no knowledge at all of the recently introduced waltz. Kateri protested that Amelia had told her that waltzing was quite scandalous. Her amused grandmama informed her that this was the very reason that one must know how to do it well.

    Which led to the fourth order of business: who to consult on such matters? Lady Norwen was of an age where many of her surviving contemporaries were busy greeting their great grandchildren, or even great great grandchildren. She did have younger acquaintances among her gaming friends, for she greatly enjoyed the mental exercise of games in her old age, and while never one to wager large sums, was a well known and respected card player.

    It was decided that after consulting with the modiste, and finding out how long it would take to update Kateri's wardrobe, that a small supper would be held at Lady Norwen's. A guest list of three women with daughters or granddaughters Kateri's age, and one gentleman who had his niece as his ward, was drawn up from the dowager's acquaintances. The purpose being to gather information on available teachers, current vogues for young women, and incidentally introduce her to a few potential friends of her own age. Her uncle Andrew was included, and another young man of Lady Norwen's acquaintance who she felt might have some insight as he had five sisters, the last just recently married off. It was still impossible to put together a balanced table from the list, but Lady Norwen assented to Kateri's suggestion that they also invite Sir Blackwell, who was already known to her, to fill the last seat.

    Kateri was dubious as to how well 14 people were going to fit around the small dining table that occupied one room of the house. Her grandmama admitted that it would be a bit of a crush, but as no one invited was of terribly large proportions, said they ought to do well enough with a little elbow rubbing.
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