Chapter 6

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"Michael has grown into quite a man, I dare say," Lady Beaumont gushed as she examined her nephews through her lorgnette, "Has he started behaving like one too?"

"Theodore looks a little weak, Arthur, has he been eating well?" Lady Kirkpatrick asked in concern.

"Yes, he does look a little drained out, and so does Michael now that I think about it," Lady Seymour exclaimed and her eyes shifted frantically between her two little nephews.

Lady Charlotte Allan, who had been observing her elder sisters' reactions and listening to their proclamations, shook her head. They never did approve of Portsmouth entirely, and were never convinced how anyone could be healthy, happy and thriving there.

"Michael, and Theodore," she announced as she turned her gaze to her brother, who looked shaken because of his elder sisters' remarks, "Look as healthy and handsome as they have ever looked."

Then as her brother and his wife smiled in relief, Charlotte Allan turned towards her nephews and said, "Now, come darlings, and give your aunt and little cousin Fanny a hug." Obediently the joyful brown haired boys ran towards their aunt and embraced her in a hug, kissing little Fanny's forehead as she lay asleep on their aunt's lap. Aunt Charlotte had always been their favorite aunt, but then again, Aunt Charlotte was everyone's favorite aunt.

Running her hands through their hair and ruffling it playfully, Lady Charlotte Allan smiled. Michael and Theodore were striking images of their father, her brother. They both reminded her of a little Arthur, the one she used to play checkers with when they were children. Arthur was a year younger than her and thus they had been a team all through their childhood.

Accepting his wife, Frederica, had been the easiest for her, considering that she always valued feelings and affection before mindless societal pressures and obligations.

"Frederica, you are glowing. I feel quite dull in your presence, I dare say," Charlotte uttered smiling.

"Not as dull as I feel in yours, dear Charlotte," Frederica Fleming answered politely back.

"Where are my other nieces and nephews?" Arthur asked as he took little Fanny from Charlotte's lap and kissed her forehead, "I have missed their faces and their conversation ever so much."

Lady Beaumont smiled, "Diana, Alicia, Rebecca, Adam and Oscar have taken the children to the Orchard View, they should be back any time now."

"They planned on coming back before you arrived, to welcome you, but might I say your carriage defeated them to it," Lady Seymour laughed.

Arthur shook his head as he chuckled, "It is just that we didn't make any unnecessary stops along the way because I wanted to get us here as fast as the winds would permit."

"Yes," Frederica Fleming added, "We dearly wanted to be here a week earlier, but Arthur's job had restricted us I'm afraid."

Lady Kirkpatrick scoffed as she took a sip of her tea. "Those Portsmouth employers I tell you, I so desperately want to give them a piece of my mind," she stated, her tone laced with frustration.

"That, I'm afraid," came a usually silent Lord Kirkpatrick's voice as he went through the morning papers, "Will do no good dear, business men hardly ever let a woman get in the way of their money."

Lord Beaumont and Lord Seymour uttered a small hum of agreement as they too went through their copy of the morning papers.

"It was easier when the old Mr Pickwick was still our employer and owner of our mill in Portsmouth, but since the mill's been bought, the new owner is far from lenient to his employees' claims and demands," Arthur explained as he uttered a sigh, thinking about the struggles he had to go through to get his application for a few days' leave accepted by the new owner of the factory.

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