Chapter Forty-Two: Part 1

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Bey had not turned up at Elf and Henry's wedding to explain Toad's secret project that required he travel to Greece, and shortly after that, Toad's letters stopped. Sally had tried several times to place herself in proximity to Toad's Aunt Charlotte, who might gossip about a venture of her husband's, but to no avail. She had hounded Elf's younger brother Gideon for information about Kopet Dag until he turned quite snippy about corporate espionage.

Sally was furious when her parents and the Wellbridges returned from Paris, a trip they'd made after sending her to Wind's Gate to settle Grandmama back into her routine. Her parents and the Wellbridges had gone to celebrate his graduation, only to be spurned. And it served them right, Sally thought. Seeing the man she loved without even telling her they were going! She could hear her father now: "It will only raise her hopes, Cherry, and she will make our lives miserable if we don't allow her to accompany us." She certainly would have.

Almyra alternated between complaining that Toad had refused to meet them, and gushing about Toad's handsome friend, Lord Piero d'Alvieri, who was involved in some business deal with her Uncle Firthley and had been summoned to the hotel to make a report for himself. She was endlessly tormented at the thought her brother could have made an introduction her aunt and uncle had refused utterly, if only Toad had cared enough to show himself.

Aunt Bella always looked on the verge of tears, and Mama clucked her tongue and shook her head sadly. Uncle Wellbridge was incensed, again and again and at volume, about his heir not even showing the courtesy of attending a ceremony where the school had honored both Toad and his mother. Papa would not talk about Toad at all, except to tell Sally to forget him and settle on another man.

Surely, Toad had perfectly good reasons for all of it. Uncle Wellbridge had probably stormed in and started lecturing Toad before he even said hello. Aunt Bella must have made pronouncements about his future without even asking his plans. Papa had probably been stiff and cold, when he should have been welcoming his godson into the family.

But Toad would be here soon, as he had promised, and he would tell her all.

The days passed and he did not come. London was sadly flat. Sally was the last member of the Beauties' Club unmarried. Elf and Henry were still away, her other friends busy with husbands, several with babies. And Sally, who had been the first to fall in love, was still waiting.

She wrote to Toad at his apartment in Paris, and posted it herself since Papa had forbidden her to write.

Dear Toad,

The rush of the last few weeks is over, and the Earl and Countess of Sutton have departed on their wedding tour. None of us know their plans. Elf would not even confide in me, though I swore secrecy. I am sure that, wherever they go, they will not even notice. They have eyes only for one another.

The papers called it the wedding of the Season, as they well might. I shall not bore you with descriptions of the bride and her attendants, though you might care to laugh at my sketches. Suffice it to say that Henry followed the Queen's example and dressed entirely in white, with a train of enormous length.

I wish you could have seen her, Toad. She was truly beautiful, and I swear, few eyes in the church were dry when she put back her veil and Elf froze, as if turned to marble by her smile. The look on his face! I imagine someone who arrives at last in heaven after first traversing hell might be likewise transfixed at the beauty he has so longed for.

You knew that four duchesses were to attend the ceremony, but we were thrilled to receive a last-minute acceptance from the Palace. The Queen and Prince Albert left immediately after the newly-married couple made their courtesy to their monarchs, but their presence has certainly put paid to any spiteful comments about Henry.

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