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10 A Curious Visit and a Ride to the Follies

    The next time Sam and Robbie came to visit, they came without their mother, and Sam quizzed Kateri about her uncle. Kateri was rather pleased by this, for though Sam might be a little young for her uncle of 33 years, neither Sam nor Kateri considered him to be as old as he felt himself to be. She told Sam and Robbie of his terrible injury almost five years ago, and how he'd spent much of the first year home stuck in bed wondering if he'd ever walk again. But he'd had good doctors and an overprotective family that had driven him into regaining his independence.

    Sam and Robbie were confused as to how the overprotective family had helped, but Kateri explained that her uncle had moved to London to live alone as soon as he'd been able to walk unaided except for a cane. "He said grandmother's fretting would drive him mad if he kept living at home," Kateri confided. "He's been living in London for three years now, but even last Christmas when he came to stay with us for a few weeks, he was still using his cane for any walk outside the house." Then she told them of his happy friendship with colonel Richards and his continued improvement.

    Sam, while pleased to hear all this, tried to delicately steer the conversation toward Captain Matheson's suitability as a husband, until her annoyed brother told Kateri outright, "She wants to know if he can afford a wife, because she's only got a smidge of dowry, even though our parents are spoiling her with any number of seasons."

    Sam admitted with annoyance that this was true.

    Kateri, wide eyed, ignored the request for a moment and asked, "Any number of seasons? You're not that much older than I am?"

    Sam explained with embarrassment, that she'd insisted to her parents that she was old enough to come out at seventeen. "Only Mama was right after all, and I was too extremely shy, between that and being so tall, I didn't do well." She said that the last season had gone much better, but that no one she'd found very interesting or likable had seemed to find her very interesting or likable. She confessed that this year was actually her third season.

    Kateri finally offered that, if nothing else, her uncle had sold his commission as a living since his injury, but added that her grandparents on that side would be very pleased if he would marry, and no doubt assist if his own resources were insufficient. "And someday he'll inherit the Baronetcy and grandpa's estate of course," added Kateri.

    Sam and Robbie commented that it was very unusual for an only son to take military service. Kateri replied that her uncle wasn't an only son, but that the eldest had died young, of what she was uncertain. Then her own mother had been lost, leaving Andrew the sole remaining child of her grandparents.

    When Sam returned home, she cornered her mother and asked if she'd mind very much if her daughter set her cap for Captain Matheson. Lady Amberley was taken aback by this forward attitude, though not surprised by it's direction. She'd made a few discreet inquiries about Captain Matheson since the dance and found nothing offensive, though she hadn't thought to ask her husband.

    When she took her daughter to task over her forwardness though, Sam surprised her with her reasonable answer. "I don't think he considers me as a potential wife," she said quite frankly, "and if I must throw myself at him to make him notice, then I feel I should have your approval. Since normally a man must seek my parents approval before seriously trying to court me, I thought it best to ask your approval before seriously trying to court a man."

    Lady Amberley agreed, contingent on Lord Amberley's approval. Sam's father greeted the request with amusement, and gave his permission. Captain Matheson was rather better known to him than to his wife and daughter, for they met occasionally at his club. He rather wished he'd be able to witness the day when Captain Matheson realized that Sam intended to marry him, but had no objection if that was where her preference lay.

    --

    Kateri's horse and habit were brought to London, and her uncle Andrew as a consequence spent two days abed. When Kateri and Lady Norwen visited after receiving his note, they discovered that he'd attempted to ride back after posting down to Richards estate. At Kateri's surprised dismay, he informed her that despite appearances, it had really gone quite well.

    "Obviously my leg is not up to long extended rides, but it went well enough for the first hour or so. By the time I reached the first inn though, I was aware that I'd need a cart to continue. Unfortunately the only thing available and cheap enough to bring all the way back to London was a little rattle trap that wasn't a great deal easier on my leg than riding. Still," he said enthusiastically, "I will probably be able to resume making short pleasure rides, and I think I'll begin looking into a horse of my own."

    Kateri sent a note to Sir Blackwell, saying that her horse was available, and when she visited the Amberley's told them the same.

    Sir Blackwell visited the next day, and arranged with Lady Norwen to take Miss Norwen riding the following day. Kateri asked him if she might invite Sam along, and he agreed that that would be pleasant.

    Arrangements were made, and Kateri awaited her horse breathlessly the next morning. She was dressed in her brown riding habit, which her grandmama had agreed was perfectly suitable, for riding habit fashions did not change as quickly as other fashions.

    She was surprised, but not displeased when her horse showed up with her uncle Andrew and Colonel Richards both mounted on two of the Colonel's horses.

    When Sir Blackwell arrived, very shortly after, he was polite about the increased number of riders, and lifted Kateri onto her horse easily. Kateri, remembering the last time he had lifted her from the ground, blushed fiercely. Her amused uncle, knowing nothing of that incident, teased her about her reluctance to be assisted in a ladylike fashion, which only increased the duration of her blush.

    They set out toward the park where the Amberley siblings were to meet them. But they met Bernie and the Marques Waverly first. When Sir Blackwell commented that it was unusual to meet Bernie abroad before noon, and asked if Lord Waverly had dragged him out, Lord Waverly protested that his good character was being maligned.

    "My mother's in town," announced Bernie gloomily, "had dinner with a gaggle of empty headed chits last night, and the only way I could get out of seeing some of them again today was to claim I'd already got other plans. No offense," he said glancing at Kateri who hadn't felt the least offended until he'd said that.

    Lord Waverly noticed and grinned at her. "May we join you?" Lord Waverly asked Kateri.

    Kateri looked helplessly at Sir Blackwell, who surveyed the assemblage and asked, "Why not?"

    They rode on and soon found the two Amberleys near the Park entrance. Kateri thought Sam looked exceedingly charming in her severe dark green habit, and glanced at her uncle to see what he thought. But he was busy chatting with Lord Waverly, and only Lord Waverly caught her glance, and nodded politely back at her.

    Bernie surveyed the party and said, "There are too many of us to ride comfortably through the park, perhaps we should take advantage of the weather and ride out to the Corwen Follies?"

    The proposal was discussed and eventually agreed upon. The Colonel asked Andrew if he were sure he wished to attempt it as it was bound to be a trip of at least five miles, but Andrew thought he could manage.

    Kateri spent most of the ride chatting with Sam. When they arrived at the Follies, everyone agreed that the ride had felt longer than expected. Andrew's leg was aching something awful by the time they arrived, despite his hopes, so he found a spot to sit immediately after dismounting. Sam professed to be tired by the ride as well and seated herself near him.

    Bernie, Robbie and the Colonel decided to ride on to an inn, that was a half mile farther along according to Bernie, to bring back a picnic for the company.

    Lord Waverly asked Kateri if she'd like to walk a bit. She agreed, and the two headed uphill. Sir Blackwell caught up to them after a minute. Lord Waverly regarded him wryly but said nothing.
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