The addition of two guests delayed dinner slightly but not too long. The table at the Lipton House was soon full of warm and friendly conversation, and as might be expected, Lord Lipton kept a spread that kept all of the various members of his party content. In fact, this particular night happened to be an evening for the Indian food that Lord Lipton occasionally enjoyed. The food was mild, and there was plenty of salad for Lady Martin to eat, since her taste in food went largely to greens with chicken, which was one of the things that Lord Lipton enjoyed eating as well. Lord Lipton was able to tell how it was that he had acquired the recipe and that it was a favorite dish in the collection of recipes he had found in the house when he took possession of it, a wonderful recipe for lamb biryami with some garlic naan as well, washed down with various drinks to take the edge off of the spices that remained.
It might have been judged a bit eccentric that Lord Lipton would have enjoyed Indian food, but the group that was there greatly enjoyed the dishes and rightly considered themselves a cosmopolitan audience in the way that matters, in the honest appreciation of the ways of others in a way that allowed them to celebrate the creativity that is inherent within humanity created in the image and likeness of God. It is to be hoped that had a native lascar been present in the audience that the effort in creating an Indian dinner might have been appreciated as a warm reminder of home in what might otherwise seem to be a cold and unwelcome land, but no such people were within the acquaintance of any of the people dining around the table.
The conversation around the table was warm as well. The arrangement of the table allowed everyone to hear everyone else very easily and everyone involved enjoyed conversing with those across the table as well as those near them. As might be expected in such a conversation, everyone was carefully observing the others as well as discussing things themselves. Lord Lipton talked about what had happened since he had left Nassau, introduced his mother to her niece and Clarissa’s governess for her special attention and care, and talked about the surprise he had dealt with in his elevation to Viscount. Lady Martin talked happily about her trip and her desire to spend a bit of time in England. Sarah continued to be a person of considerable interest to Lady Martin, who saw that there was definitely attachment on both sides but also a fair amount of shyness and diffidence in both of them when it came to moving beyond their obvious affectionate friendship. Lady Martin pondered how to prod her son to move in a way that would not cause offense.
After dinner was ended and the final course was taken from the table, Lord and Lady Sydney got up from the table along with Sarah and made their goodbyes, explaining that they had a bit to do and that they needed to pick up their son who had been spending the evening with some of his younger cousins so as to avoid the boring adult conversations that invariably went on at dinner. Lord Lipton stood and gave the group his affectionate farewells, most affectionate of all, of course, for Miss Sarah. When that group left, Lord Lipton spent a bit more time talking to the party that remained about their plans, and Lord Martin and Lady Martin expressed a willingness to stay as long as they were able. Before too long their trunks were taken to a room that servants had prepared for them. Lord Lipton also said that Mr. Bennett was staying for the winter in the area of Cheapside and that if they wanted to see Lady Martin’s brother that they would be able to do so without any difficulty, information that was replied to politely in the affirmative.
When this discussion was ended, Lord Lipton took leave of the party and went to his library. His mother followed him.
“To what do I owe the pleasure of your desire to speak in confidence with me, mum?”
“I have a matter of considerable personal importance to talk to you.”
“About what matter?”
“How far have things progressed between you and Miss Sarah?”
“That is getting to the point awfully suddenly.”
“Of course I am interested in knowing about the potential for you to marry and give me grandchildren in my old age.”
“We certainly get along very well, but we are not formally engaged.”
“Do you wish to know my opinion of the young woman?”
“I am always gratified to hear what others have to say in matters of the heart. Surely you know that my own skills in such matters has always been extremely limited.”
“That is the truth. I think you have chosen well, and that she will suite you well. She is not only precisely the sort of young woman you have always been deeply drawn to, but she appears to be interested in you.”
“I hope that is the case.”
“Are you able to tell me more about her background? I did not wish to pry from her parents.”
“They are actually her foster parents. She is related by blood to one of her foster parents, but her birth family was somewhat chaotic and both her and her elder sister were raised for several years–the older sister for only a few years, and Miss Sarah from about the age of four or so–and she can be considered to be an adopted daughter of theirs, only recently introduced into society.”
“Ah, she has a sympathetic story then.”
“Indeed, she does.”
“Then she is the complete picture of the young woman you are interested in.”
“I was not aware that I had a type.”
“I think that most people do, and what we are drawn to says a lot about us. You are drawn to people towards whom you can show gentle and kind affection and love and provide healing from the sort of life that brings scars.”
“That is true enough.”
“I hope it does not offend you, but my advice would be to let her know of your interest in such a way that does not overwhelm her. I will leave you to think of how to do that.”
“I appreciate it.”
“There is something else I would like to ask about.”
“And what would that be?”
“Why is my niece in this household?”
Lord Lipton spent a bit of time explaining how it was that he met Clarissa and how it was that his uncle delivered to him for him to take care of and explained what he had done to help her become more polished and better prepared to live a life among the gentry and peerage. His admiration for her quickness was also noted. After hearing this, she was deeply interested in talking to her brother herself and sorting out why it was that her brother had behaved in such an irresponsible manner as to abandon the care of a beloved daughter.
After this there was a pleasant conversation and then Lady Martin left, content that her son was not upset to hear advice about his love life and she was pleased to have some sort of business of her own to deal with.
After his mother left, Lord Lipton took a sheet of paper and wrote a note to Lord and Lady Sydney, addressed to the two of them, which said something like the following:
“I appreciate the time I have spent getting to know your lovely foster daughter. I hope I have not misunderstood your intentions, but I would like your official permission to marry her and to discuss whatever arrangements you deem to be necessary.”
To Miss Sarah he wrote a somewhat longer letter which went something like this:
“It has been a great pleasure to get to know you over the last few weeks since bumping into you at St. James. I hope you have enjoyed getting to know me as much as I have enjoyed getting to know you. I have been impressed with your knowledge, amused by your good humor, and I hope you feel the same way about me. I deeply love and care for you, and if you are willing, I would love to spend the rest of my life with you. I hope I have not misjudged your own sentiments.
I am aware that I am taking a bit of a risk by writing a note to you, in that my sentiments may become known to far more people than I would intend. I have also sent words of my desire to marry you and asked permission of your foster parents, and nothing I have written in this note would be improper to share with them as well. If you feel it necessary to your peace of mind to avoid the thought of being my wife, feel free to burn or return this letter. But if your feelings mirror mine, I trust you will not leave me in suspense for too long.