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9 Forbidden Waltz

    After supper, which had consisted of many light courses of prettily arranged foods, but through their hostess' cunning had not overfilled most of her guests, they returned to the room set aside for dancing. Kateri and Sam both expected to be sitting the first dance after supper out, and were thus surprised when Sir Blackwell approached with another of his acquaintances. Lord Burleigh was already acquainted with the Miss and Lady Amberley, and thus found that politeness and the fact that Sir Blackwell had already claimed the next dance on Miss Amberley's card, required him to ask Miss Amberley to dance before asking her pretty friend. Sir Blackwell then drew Miss Norwen into the first post supper dance.

    Kateri whirled in gleeful abandon to the steps, happy that Sir Blackwell was taking a dance with her after all, and he grinned down at her childish enthusiasm. "You seem to be enjoying your first London dance a great deal?" he suggested, when they came together.

    "It's quite wonderful," enthused Kateri, when they came together again.

    And when the dance brought them close for a longer set, she added, "And my horse will come to London soon, for uncle Andrew's friend offered his assistance in arranging her stabling!"

    "Shall I invite you riding when she arrives, or will you go in your uncle's company?" he inquired.

    Kateri's face fell, and he was taken aback until she answered, "I should love for you to go riding with me, as I don't think uncle Andrew has ridden again since his injury."

    "In that case, I will be delighted to be of service," he told her gently.

    Partners were exchanged for the second dance, and Kateri thought wistfully that Sir Blackwell and Sam looked very well together. Sir Blackwell was tall enough that Sam looked smaller and more feminine next to him. And both of them looked so composed and elegant while dancing, to her eyes.

    Poor Lord Burleigh did not make much of an impression on Kateri during their dance, though she responded politely enough to his attempts at conversation. Sam spent the next dance quietly conversing with Captain Matheson, but Kateri had been invited out by a young man who had used his small claim of acquaintance with her grandmother to garner an introduction.

    The following dance Kateri sat out, and chatted amiably with Robbie and her uncle, while Sam had been invited to dance with a fellow who occasionally paid her some interest, though he was by no means a dedicated and reliable beau, and Sam was not surprised when he asked if she might introduce him to her friend. Though she would have admitted to being rather smug when they returned to find Kateri already claimed by the Marques Waverly.

    When the Marques Waverly approached, a little before the fourth dance had ended, Miss Norwen immediately confronted him. Half guiltily, half challengingly, she said, "I had not known, when I agreed to it, that the next dance was a waltz?"

    He regarded her with unconcealed amusement and asked politely, "Is there some problem?"

    Kateri flushed and confessed her predicament, both in having recently learned the dance, and of having been instructed to say that she should wait until she'd danced it at Almack's after her grandmama had obtained a voucher.

    Her grandmama caught part of this conversation and scolded her sharply, "Kateri! You are saying too much."

    A little contrite, for he had only meant to tease the girl a little, not get her into trouble, Lord Waverly replied with feigned surprise, "You haven't yet?" And to her grandmama said, "Then please allow me to obtain Miss Norwen's voucher, and if you'll send word of when you plan to attend, I'll ensure that she receives permission to waltz." Excessive modesty was not one of the Marques Waverly's flaws, and he was certain he could make good on his offer.

    Lady Norwen hesitated briefly, but could find no reason to refuse such a generous offer, especially when it would save her the trouble of coaxing some other gentleman of her acquaintance into sponsoring her granddaughter's voucher. "Thank you, that is very generous," she replied.

    To Miss Norwen, Lord Waverly said, "As for having only recently learned the dance, a small affair like this is an excellent opportunity to practice, and I would be glad if you would oblige me."

    Kateri was unable to refuse, and also rather looking forward to it, even though she was afraid of missing the steps. He led her onto the floor after the fourth dance ended, but well before the music for the fifth had started, and whispered to her, "Would you like me to count the steps out for you as we go?"

    Kateri nodded in surprise, and whispered back, "Thank you, that would be very helpful."

    And so when the music started, they set off into the dance, with the Marques Waverly giving every appearance of attentiveness to his pretty young partner. Only those couples that passed close enough on the dance floor were aware that they danced to a quietly repeated chant of "One, two, three, four."

    Lady Amberley wondered if she ought to mention something of the rumors surrounding the Marques to Lady Norwen and Captain Matheson, but refrained. His rather pointed display of favor to the girl didn't exactly suggest illicit intentions to her and she hadn't missed his change from amusement to contrition at Kateri's brief scolding. And he would after all, be quite a catch if he were interested in matrimony.

    On their way back from the floor, Lord Waverly offhandedly said, "It's good to see Captain Matheson looking so well, I'd heard that his injury was quite severe."

    Kateri looked up at the Marques surprised, "Uncle Andrew said that he didn't know of you, I'm surprised you knew about it?"

    "Did he now?" asked Lord Waverly, amused. Kateri didn't know how to reply, but was relieved of needing to answer by their arrival. "Andrew," said Lord Waverly, "your niece tells me you don't know me, did you take injury to your head as well as your leg?"

    Captain Andrew Matheson looked at the Marques in surprise, and began, "I'm sorry, I don't..." and then he stopped, recognition bloomed and he exclaimed, "Good God! Lord Mark!"

    The Marques grinned, nodded, and replied, "Though I go by Waverly since assuming my father's title."

    Andrew regarded him soberly and said, "I'm sorry, when did it happen?" And before Lord Waverly could reply asked, "Didn't you marry shortly after I left?"

    Lord Waverly winced, and Kateri felt moved by his expression to pat his arm. He offered her a wry glance, and said to Andrew, "I lost them both, in quick succession, almost ten years ago."

    Aghast Andrew apologized and offered his very belated condolences. Kateri accepted the invitation to dance that was offered by another gentleman and left them to their conversation. The two men talked quietly for awhile. Lord Waverly had heard of Captain Matheson's injury several years ago, and expressed his pleasure in seeing him so well recovered.

    Andrew admitted that he'd heard nothing of his old friend, though, he confessed even if he'd heard of Lord Waverly spoken of at the clubs, he hadn't connected the two and paid any attention. "I haven't ever seen you at Boodle's, nor at Brook's when I've stopped in there," said Andrew curiously.

    "I got myself thrown out of Boodle's about a year after my father died," Lord Waverly admitted with some embarrassment. "I still visit White's, and Brook's occasionally."

    Seeing that the two men seemed well acquainted, Lady Amberley and Lady Norwen both attributed the Marques' unusually attentive attitude toward Miss Norwen to his acquaintance with her uncle, and thought no more about it. Sam was less certain, but didn't know of the rumors concerning the Marques, and therefore was only pleased to see her new friend had attracted such a suitor.

    Kateri had partners for all of the remaining dances, and as many of them also invited Miss Amberley to dance as well, she also danced most of the time. Ironically perhaps, this success could be laid at Sir Blackwell's feet.

    Sir Blackwell's dowry requirements were no particular secret among his male acquaintances, nor truth be told, among the women either. Add the fact that two of his closest friends and the Marques Waverly had stood up with the young lady who'd approached him in a familiar fashion upon arriving, and it all seemed to indicate that he'd arranged to have the dances taken. This, the observers had concluded, could only mean that Miss Norwen had a sufficient dowry, and that Sir Blackwell didn't wish her to meet too many rivals. They were, of course, interested to meet the girl.

    Incidentally, the Contessa DiPasquale had come to a similar conclusion about Miss Norwen's dowry. But what had induced her display of unusual warmth toward Sir Blackwell had been an inexplicable feeling of irritation at seeing the girl clinging to him without rebuff, and then catching him watching the child intently after delivering her to the Amberley's.

    She had since mostly satisfied herself, noting that he had danced twice with her to the one dance bestowed on the girl, and in conversation did not mention her unless asked. He did keep glancing at the child once in awhile though, but then, the Contessa realized, so did she. It was perhaps fortunate that she hadn't been standing with Sir Blackwell when Kateri had danced with the Marques, for he had scowled disapprovingly at their apparent closeness, and remarked grumpily to Bernie that he didn't quite trust Lord Waverly's idea of utmost propriety.

    Bernie had surveyed the couple and calmly replied that Lord Waverly was not an inch closer than propriety demanded.

    The Norwen women returned home, tired, but well pleased with the evening.
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