6 Inauspicious Beginning

    Her visit to her uncle Andrew the next day began inauspiciously. The driver had difficulty locating the address, and they'd had to stop and inquire several times. Finally arrived at the line of low bungalows though, Kateri had no difficulty locating the correct residence, as the little buildings were clearly marked.

    Upon knocking at her uncle's door though, she received a shocked and unwelcoming welcome. "Good God, kitten, what on earth are you doing here!" Her uncle declared upon seeing his visitor, he looked around for more family members, and upon seeing none exclaimed, "Never tell me you have come here alone!"

    Kateri experienced a sinking feeling.

    Her uncle continued, "Have you run away from home?"

    She shook her head, and explained that she was staying with her grandmama.

    Her uncle grabbed his coat and hat and dragged her back out toward the curb, his limp still noticeable, but unaided by the cane he'd still carried when she'd last seen him. "Then right back to your grandmama we are going, how could she let you come here alone?"

    "But you're my uncle," Kateri protested.

    Her uncle told her quite frankly, and rather shockingly, "And every pretty girl who comes to visit a man here is his supposed niece."

    "Sir Blackwell is going to scold me," said Kateri despairingly.

    "Who is Sir Blackwell that he should scold you?" inquired her uncle.

    But before Kateri had framed an answer a dashing phaeton pulled up in front of them with a clatter. "What ho Captain Matheson?" cried the excitable driver. "That's a pretty piece you've got there."

    "My niece," replied Kateri's uncle through clenched teeth.

    Kateri and her uncle stared up at the older man defiantly, and he began to laugh, "With those expressions, like two peas, of course she is. Your sister's? May she rest in peace."

    Captain Andrew Matheson nodded.

    Kateri gave her uncle a speaking look.

    He shrugged and introduced his friend, "Colonel George Richards, retired," he said. Then asked, "New rig?"

    This inquiry set off a spate of excitable description. When her uncle tried to excuse them on the grounds of they'd just been on their way to Kateri's grandmama's, Kateri interrupted and begged that they stay and view the shiny new vehicle. "It's got those new sorts of leaf shaped springs on it," Kateri pointed out excitedly, and asked the Colonel how it rode.

    "Cuts up a bit stiff actually," the greying Colonel confessed with disappointment.

    "Perhaps the springs will relax with wear," suggested Kateri hopefully.

    Her uncle Andrew rolled his eyes and gave up on leaving when the pair began discussing the fine horse that pulled the dangerous contraption. "Why is my entire family horse mad?" he asked rhetorically.

    The Colonel eyed his young friend, who'd been discharged early from a cavalry unit of dragoons when he'd been severely wounded, with amusement, and agreed that they must none of them be anything like him.

    In the end uncle and niece were both taken up in the new rig, to go racing up and down the nearest lane that was relatively traffic free. The three of them were a little crowded in the phaeton, for it was a vehicle designed for two, but as they were none of them very large, they managed.

    The Colonel asked Kateri about her own horse, and she confessed that her horse had been left behind, "Though Richard said he'd send her if uncle Andrew can find her a stable," she added hopefully.

    As this was the first uncle Andrew had heard of the matter, he was forced to confess that he hadn't done anything about it yet. "Keep her horse with mine," suggested the Colonel kindly.

    Her uncle demurred, but the Colonel pressed his friend into it, saying the stable he used gave a discount for four horses, and as he already had three, a fourth would add little. Trapped between the pleading expression of his small niece and the determined cheerful helpfulness of his older friend, Andrew eventually gave in, and agreed to arrange to have Kateri's horse brought to London. But only if he paid the difference himself, he insisted to the Colonel.


    Lady Norwen was satisfied with Captain Matheson's manners when he returned Kateri to her. And his manner of dress, though subdued, was sufficiently up to date.

    When he asked what she'd been thinking in sending Kateri to visit him alone, she was taken aback, and asked if his London residence was in an unsuitable area. Andrew informed her that he was living in primarily retired officer housing and that the young ladies who occasionally visited, often were of dubious reputation. Lady Norwen was shocked and apologetic. Kateri's uncle agreed to attend the dinner her grandmama was planning, and promised to visit them on a daily basis for awhile, in order to keep abreast of their plans.

    The letter from Amelia arrived the next morning. Apparently untampered with, but rather battered. The Norwen women speculated that perhaps it had travelled the whole of England a few times in a corner of a mail bag before being found and delivered.

    Kateri's first visitor in London though, was Sir Blackwell. He dropped by early in the afternoon. Kateri's grandmama supervised the visit, and was a little puzzled by their conversation, though there was nothing particularly exceptional about it.

    "I just came to tell you I won't be able to accept your dinner invitation." Sir Blackwell said to Kateri after the usual greetings and offers of tea had been made.

    "Oh," replied Kateri sadly, "I'm sorry."

    Sir Blackwell hastily interrupted, "I came in person to let you know that I'm not declining because of," he paused, mindful of Kateri's grandmama looking on, "I'm not declining because I wouldn't like to come, but because I'll be out of town for a few days."

    "Oh, thank you," Kateri said more cheerfully.

    "Perhaps I'll call to see how you're getting on in London after I return," he said uncertainly.

    Kateri suggested diffidently, "Perhaps my horse will have come to London by the time you've returned?"

    He nodded, "If that's the case, send a note 'round, and I can take you out riding if you wish. A note mind."

    Kateri nodded happily. "Thank you," she said more cheerfully. Then they bid Sir Blackwell farewell, and he set out on his journey.

    Over the next couple of days her visitors included the Amberleys as well as her uncle Andrew. The first visit the Amberleys made, Lady Amberley and Sam came over briefly. Thereafter Sam and Robbie occasionally visited on their own.

    Kateri quizzed her uncle on the matter of his missing cane during one of his visits, and learned that the old Colonel was to thank for his recent continued improvement. Colonel Richards had only recently retired, on full pay. He'd struck up a fast friendship with the younger Captain, and noticed that his young friend seemed to often use his cane more from habit than need. Rather than let things alone, he'd teased the young Captain mercilessly until Andrew had discarded the cane entirely. The limp of course, did not magically disappear, but Andrew Matheson had been surprised to discover that his new friend was correct, and he truly didn't need a cane any longer. Which was not to say that long walks stopped making his leg ache, but only that it ached no worse than if he'd used the cane, he told his pleased niece.

    The dinner party was carried off without mischance, and much advice on the care of young ladies in London was obtained from the friendly guests. Kateri was also glad to meet the several young women near her age who attended, though Sam was still the most cordial. A dancing master was recommended, and successfully contacted following the dinner party.

    Sir Blackwell did not call again, but neither had her horse made it to London, for her uncle Andrew had decided after a couple letters were exchanged with Richard that he would be better off going to collect the horse himself. He planned the trip for the following week, after he had escorted the ladies to their first scheduled event.
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