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8 A Bit of Matchmaking

    Kateri stood next to Sam and they talked quietly about the assemblage. The first dance started, and Robbie reluctantly led Sam out to join it under his mother's prodding. Kateri watched them twirl through the energetic dance enthusiastically.

    Lady Amberley quizzed her a little about her grandmama's absence and their late arrival while they stood alone, and Kateri explained cheerfully, adding Sir Blackwell's hypothesis that her grandmama might be trying to acquire a dance card for her. Lady Amberley raised an eyebrow at this and said that the servant who granted them entrance ought to have provided it to them, even if their hostess had already left the entry area.

    Sam and Robbie returned, pink from their exertions, and Sam tried to coax her brother into taking Kateri out for the next one, but before she had succeeded, Kateri bounced excitedly and waved toward the entrance. "There is uncle Andrew at last!" she exclaimed. Her uncle caught sight of her waving and raised his hand in acknowledgment, then made his way around the edge of the dance floor toward them.

    Sam watched his approach with interest. Kateri's uncle appeared to be about thirty, though actually he was a bit above this, and slightly shorter than average. He walked with an obvious limp, but didn't seem pained by it. His hair was dark, in striking contrast to Kateri's gold, but curled in a similar fashion where it hung long enough to show it. Their faces shared a fine boned similarity, and Sam thought as he drew closer and smiled down at his niece, the same brilliant smile.

    "I was delayed by an accident on the road, kitten," he said to Kateri before she could ask. He looked around and added, "Where is your grandmama?"

    Kateri explained and asked him anxiously if he'd been hurt, "No, my cab wasn't involved in the turn up," he assured her, "only delayed."

    Kateri turned and introduced him to Sam and her family, "My uncle," she said proudly. "The Honorable Captain Andrew Matheson," she introduced him, and then asked him anxiously, "is that the right order?"

    "I'd prefer just Captain when you're introducing me," her uncle replied with amusement, "as it's the title I earned for myself. And your grandfather can be expected to live many years yet, so implying expectations seems silly."

    She introduced Sam, Robbie and their mother. Her uncle bowed to each in turn, finding Kateri's friend Sam to be a tall pleasant girl, dressed with pleasing restraint, who resembled her mother greatly, and her youthful brother lively and quick to humor.

    Kateri's grandmama joined them shortly after, and presented Kateri with a dance card. She was surprised when Kateri immediately wrote in the promised dances, and again when Kateri gave a startled exclamation. "Oh no," she breathed, "I bet he did it on purpose, he seemed so amused."

    Sam required an explanation of this cryptic muttering, and Kateri showed her the fifth dance after supper that the Marques Waverly had offered for, it was a waltz.

    "I'm not familiar with the Marques Waverly," said her uncle Andrew, "but why is that significant?"

    "And when did he have the opportunity to ask you?" added Kateri's grandmama.

    Kateri explained to her uncle that waltzing was both a little scandalous and that she'd only just begun learning. "And grandmama said I ought to refuse using the excuse that I'm waiting until after I've been given permission and waltzed at Almack's, even though you don't have to have permission to dance it outside the club," she explained anxiously. And to her grandmother's question explained that she had already met Sir Blackwell here, and that he'd introduced her to three of his friends, though she didn't mention how he'd scolded her for approaching him.

    "Your Sir Blackwell is here?" asked her uncle curiously.

    "He's not mine!" Kateri refuted, scandalized.

    "Point him out to me anyway," laughed her uncle.

    So she directed his gaze to the tall figure, who was currently addressing a strikingly beautiful woman in a brilliantly red dress. He laughed at something the lady said and replied to her apparent amusement.

    "Who is that lady he's speaking to?" Kateri asked of her companions.

    "The Contessa DiPasquale", replied Lady Amberley somewhat disapprovingly.

    "Mamma doesn't approve of her, says that she's too flamboyant," whispered Sam to Kateri. "She's a wealthy widow, who returned to England after her husband died."

    "She doesn't dress like a widow," Kateri replied with wide startled eyes.

    "It's more than three years since her husband died," confided Sam.

    "Well, she's very beautiful," said Kateri.

    Mr. Revell came to claim his dance with Kateri, was introduced to the company, and politely asked if Miss Amberley were free for the next one. She allowed that she was. And their company watched cheerfully as Kateri was spun off into the energetic country reel.

    Sir Everard Blackwell was surprised and gratified by the unusually warm reception he received from the Contessa that evening, for her beauty and wit appealed to him, and her fortune met his requirements for a wife. And though she had remained childless during her marriage, he wasn't certain that the fault hadn't lain with the lecherous old Compte who had married her as little more than a child.

    Since she had lately seemed bored by his attentions, he was pleased by her welcome until she revealed something of her thoughts. "Who was that little girl clutching your sleeve earlier," she asked.

    He regarded her question somewhat cynically, but replied cheerfully enough, "Miss Norwen, the dowager Viscountess' granddaughter. The Viscountess frequently attends my sister's parties," he added.

    "She's very pretty, but looks as though she can't possibly be above sixteen," the Contessa DiPasquale said a little indignantly.

    Sir Blackwell, aware of the Contessa's past, wondered if perhaps he had mistaken her interest and was moved to reassure her. "Miss Norwen, despite appearances, is above eighteen summers."

    Bernie who overheard some of this exchange commented to Lord Waverly with quiet indignation that, "the chit is just jealous that someone else might play with a toy she had left laying about."

    Lord Waverly raised an eyebrow at this vehemence and mildly reminded Bernie that he'd agreed to the next dance with Miss Norwen. Bernie, recollected to his commitment, made his way over to the dowager Viscountess, with whom he was well acquainted, as they frequented the same card games on a regular basis, and often partnered together.

    Kateri was returned from her dance with Mr. Revel and turned over to Bernie, who dutifully led her back to the dance floor, while Mr. Revell escorted Sam with rather more enthusiasm.

    Captain Andrew Matheson chatted quietly with the young Robert Amberley who showed no inclination to seek out a dance partner on his own, and and learned that he'd been pressed into escorting his mother and sister in his father's place.

    When the girls were returned to them, Sam again pressed Robbie into taking Kateri for a dance. "But it's the supper dance!" protested her brother, who was then obliged to explain the significance of this protest to Kateri. Traditionally, when the supper dance ended one's partner then escorted one to supper.

    Robbie was overruled by his sister who said, "But we will likely all go in to supper together anyway, so it hardly matters."

    After the pair had taken to the floor, Captain Matheson asked Miss Amberley teasingly, "Isn't your brother a little young yet, for matchmaking with my niece?"

    "I wasn't matchmaking for Kateri," replied Miss Amberley cryptically. Her mother gave her a sharp look, and Kateri's uncle a more evaluating one that neither of them noticed, with their eyes turned to watch Kateri and Robbie dancing.

    The Viscountess missed most of these exchanges, for Bernie had resumed his conversation with her upon his return with Miss Norwen, and she was subtly trying to inquire if he might be willing to sponsor her granddaughter to Almack's. Bernie dodged the hints politely and with unusual skill, for recalling Miss Norwen's precipitous behavior on arrival, he wasn't sure he wanted to be responsible for her entrance to that exclusive club.

    When the supper dance ended, and Robbie and Kateri returned, Bernie realized he was standing with a group that had four ladies and only two men, discounting himself. After a brief struggle with his conscience, he offered his arm to escort the Viscountess in to supper, rather than making a solitary escape.

    Robbie dutifully took his mother's arm, and looking around found that Captain Matheson had his sister on one arm and Miss Norwen on the other. Kateri's uncle was also a little surprised by this arrangement, but escorted the two girls to supper without comment. Kateri observed that Sir Blackwell was escorting the beautiful Contessa in to supper.
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