Vic intercepted him as he was descending the steps, unbothered by the rain. “Found the horse. They’re taking care of it in the stables. It’s not hurt that I could tell.”
“Thank you. I’m sure Mrs. James will be grateful,” Sage said as he climbed into the carriage. He rapped on the roof and thought about what he would say to the neighbors.
He knew the story about Mrs. James, of course. Anyone who mingled in local society had heard the tale. Disgraced and pregnant, she’d married on her fiancée’s deathbed. She’d lost the baby soon after, to her in-law’s disgust. “The one thing she could have done properly,” her father-in-law, Lord James, was known to grumble.
At her late husband’s request, she’d refused to wear black, further scandalizing her relatives. Sage didn’t care for the mourning fashions of the day, considered them silly. Through gossip, he knew she’d worn colors of darkest red, midnight blue, emerald-black and sable with black trim. He recalled the bit about the trim because one harpy had been particularly virulent about it.
Mrs. James wore a black veil over her hat, though never over her face. Also, her father was a down-at-the-heel gentleman of dubious reputation. A gambler, he was said to be good to her, but not responsible. By all accounts she’d been the grownup, and had won respect and a certain amount of sympathy before the scandal.
He frowned. Hadn’t her father died in a carriage accident? It wasn’t like him to forget details, but it had been an eventful night. He watched as they left the tall, gargoyle-guarded iron gate and turned onto the country road. It took only minutes to reach their neighbor’s drive. In kinder weather he might have walked.
The James property was a staid country manner that would no more consider changing shape than its owners would permit unicorns to graze the lawn. The carriage clattered up to the cobbled front yard. Umbrella in hand, he stepped out and rapped at the door.
Lord James received him promptly. A sober gentleman with a bit of a belly and thinning hair, he was in his late fifties. He’d shown Sage to the library, and after he’d been assured that Mrs. James was alive and whole, he’d been quite put out with his daughter-in-law. “Silly gel! I’ve told her that gelding was too much for her. She rides pell mell for leather in any kind of weather, ignoring all sense. What was my son thinking?” It was unclear whether he referred to the gift of the horse or choice of wife.
Sage let his gaze trail over library, wondering at the fashion for dark wooden panels and general gloom. “Hm. Well, she’s welcome to our hospitality while she recovers. Would you care to send some of her things with me? Lady Griffin won’t hear of moving her until she’s better.”
“Of course, of course. Very kind of her.” Lord James nodded to his butler, who promptly left, presumably to pack a bag.
Lord James wandered over to the sideboard. “May I interest you in a brandy? Nasty out.”
“Thank you, no. I must be on my way,” Sage demurred. “Will Lady James need further assurances?”
Lord James waved a hand. “I’ll tell her what’s happened after she returns from visiting her sister. I’m sure she’ll call on you soon.”
Sage smiled sardonically and took his leave as soon as a truck had been packed. If he were Mrs. James, he’d be grateful for the vacation. It was obvious there was no love lost here.