Love Lies and Marriage
Love Lies and Marriage
"Will you drive me to Windsor Castle tomorrow?" "No!"
"Why not? I felt sure you would be staying there when I learnt you cannot go to Bracknell as you intended."
"I have made other plans."
"Whatever they are they must be in the vicinity of Ascot and surely you can take me to The castle on your way?"
It was difficult to imagine how any man could refuse Lady Sydel Blackford when she pleaded with him.
Lying back on a chaise-longue she looked exceedingly alluring, wearing little or nothing but a diaphanous gauze negligée which clung to her perfect body.
She had been told so often that she resembled in face and figure the exquisite Princess Pauline Borghese, sister of Napoleon Bonaparte, who had been sculpted by Canova, that she almost instinctively fell into the same pose as the statue of the Princess.
Her golden hair was caught up on top of her head and her blue eyes looked at the Earl from under long dark eyelashes which owed more to artifice than to nature.
Everything about her was in fact slightly artificial, but at the same time there was no doubting her beauty or her sexual allure.
The Earl, however, leaning back in an armchair and sipping his glass of brandy, seemed for the moment immune both to her beauty and to the pleading in her eyes.
"Why do you not stay at The Castle?" she asked poutingly. "The King has asked you often enough to be his guest and you know full well that he likes having you with him."
"I prefer to be on my own," the Earl replied, "especially in Race Week, when I want to think about my horses." "And not about me?" Lady Sydel enquired.
He made no reply and she said almost angrily,
"Why must you always be so irritatingly elusive? I would believe it was a pretence if it were not habitual." "If I don't please you, there is an obvious answer," the Earl remarked.
Lady Sydel made a helpless gesture with her hands, her long fingers seeming almost too frail for the enormous rings she wore.
"I love you, Valient!" she said. "I love you, as you well know and I want to be with you."
"My party, as you are equally aware, is a bachelor one," the Earl replied.
"And where will it take place now that you cannot go to the inn at Bracknell as you intended?"
"I have rented Langston's house. It is, I believe, quite near the Racecourse."
"Langston? Do you mean that handsome boy who I understand has not a penny to bless himself with?"
"I imagine that is a fairly accurate description," the Earl replied dryly.
Lady Sydel laughed.
"In which case you will doubtless find yourself in some crumbling old Manor, extremely uncomfortable, with the rain leaking through holes in the roof onto your head."
"It would undoubtedly please you if that proves to be the case."
"You had much better come to Windsor Castle with me."
Her voice was very soft and alluring, but the Earl yawned and she said hastily,
"His Majesty is expecting you to dinner on Tuesday." "I have told him that I will dine with him on Thursday after I have won the Gold Cup."
"You are very sure of yourself!"
"I am sure of my horse and that almost amounts to the same thing."
"It's so bad for you, Valient, that you should always win what you desire, whether it is a horse or a woman."
The Earl appeared to consider this for a moment.
Then he replied cynically,
"I think the odds are on the latter category."
"I hate you!" Lady Sydel exclaimed. "And