» The Socialite and the Sodier

The Socialite and the Sodier cover


Lady Angela is the daughter of a duke and the widow of the heir to a vicountcy. Her husband has been dead for almost two years, so she is ready restart her life. While visiting a friend's country estate, she is attracted to a wounded soldier who is recuperating there. But he does not have title or fortune, and her father threatens to withhold her dowry if she chooses such a man.

Captain Daniel Matthews knows Lady Angela is far above him socially, but hopes the fact he is an officer in the British Army gives him a chance with her, since many second sons of aristocrats are army officers. Then the army judges him permanently disabled because of damage to one lung and discharges him. Daniel tries to do the right thing and withdraw from his pursuit of Angela, but she's not ready to take no for an answer.

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When Angela entered the parlor at the far end of the hall, she was surprised to find another woman with Catherine. "Oh, Angela, here you are. Allow me to introduce Miss Felicity Brewster. Her mother is the president of the garden club I belong to. Felicity, this is Lady Angela Holden. We were childhood acquaintances."

Angela didn't miss how Catherine avoided explaining exactly what their childhood relationship had been. She smiled as she moved toward the little cluster of chairs arranged around a table laden with a steaming tea pot and a platter of sweet biscuits. "How do you do, Miss Brewster? I hope I'm not interrupting a discussion of garden club matters?"

The young woman giggled. "Oh, no. I know little about gardening."

"Felicity comes in the afternoons to read to Captain Matthews," Catherine said.

"Captain Matthews?" Angelia asked.

"The wounded soldier's who's here. I told you about him earlier," Catherine explained.

Angela nodded as she sat down.

Catherine continued. "He suffered a chest wound at the battle of Sebastopol. The doctors said he needs country air to recover, but his parents live in London, so Firthley brought him here."

Angela stared at Catherine in confusion. "But wasn't the earl wounded in the battle for Balaclava the year before?"

"Yes," Catherine nodded, "as was Captain Matthews, but his wounds were less serious so he returned for the next season of fighting."

"So he participated in the Charge of the Light Brigade too?"

"He participated in another part of the battle. He was in the Light Company, but not the Light Brigade. Firthley knew him before they embarked for the Crimea, and they returned to England that first year on the same hospital ship. So of course, when Firthley heard about his condition after the battle of Sebastopol, he offered assistance."

Miss Brewster nodded her head so that the light brown curls on either side of her rosy cheeks bounced up and down. "Yes, the earl has been helpful to a number of our wounded veterans. Everyone should be as generous to those who have sacrificed so much to defend us."

Angela didn't see how fighting half-way around the world to defend a bunch of heathen Turks had done her or England any good, but she nodded and accepted the cup of tea Catherine offered her. As she examined the plate of biscuits Catherine extended, Angela said, "Do you come from a military family, Miss Brewster?"

"No, my father is just a country squire, but I have been inspired by the wonderful example Miss Nightingale has set. I wish I could become a nurse."

Angela was so shocked by that pronouncement that she dropped the biscuit from the tongs she was using to transfer it to her plate. "A nurse? Good heavens!"

"Now, Angela." Catherine spoke in the soothing tone she'd used when they were children and Angela had been upset by something. "Surely you've seen all the praise the newspapers have heaped on Florence Nightingale. It's no wonder our young people want to be like her."

In Angela's opinion that Nightingale woman was a traitor to her class, but rather than hurt the girl's feelings by criticizing her idol, Angela said, "But to work as a nurse-with sick people-surely you don't want to do that, Miss Brewster?"

Catherine took the tongs from Angela's hand. As she transferred two biscuits to Angela's plate, she said, "Felicity, Lady Angela is a duke's daughter. She has rather elevated ideas about women working."

Felicity gave her shoulders a dainty shrug. "I understand perfectly. As you well know, my parents are dead-set against the idea too. I had to plead ever so hard to get them to let me come and sit an hour with poor Captain Matthews."

Angela took a deep breath to regain her composure. If this ninny wanted to do common work like nursing, it was no skin off her nose, and she certainly didn't want to offend her hostess who had once been a working woman herself. After taking a sip of tea, she said. "Well, I'm sure the Captain appreciates you reading to him."

A mournful look came over the younger woman's face. "He's so terribly ill, it's hard to tell if he even knows I'm there."

Good heavens, was the man at death's door? Angela didn't like the idea of being all alone on the hall with a man who might die at any minute. "Is-is there a real nurse with him?"

"Mr. Watkins, an orderly the earl hired in London, stays with him all the time." Miss Brewster said.

"Knowing how I am, the earl wanted to make sure I didn't take Captain Matthews's care on myself," Catherine added.

Angela was still feeling uncomfortable about her proximity to the sick man. "Did he bring back one of those terrible fevers?"

"No, no, just his war wound," Catherine said.

Miss Brewster shook her head woefully. "But he's still very sick. He has so much trouble breathing that he can barely speak."

"But the doctors say he has a good chance of recovering," Catherine added with what Angela felt was false bravado. Oh well, the man had lived long enough to make it back from the Crimea, surely he'd live one more night, and Angela would leave tomorrow.



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