Gentle reader, today’s column concerns a personage no less august than Toad Northope, the Marquess of Abersham, heir to that regular denizen of our newspaper, the Duke of Wellbridge, and his esteemed duchess, Bella, former envoy for the Crown and majority owner of Seventh Sea Shipping, one of England’s largest such concerns.
Spotted, not two hours past in front of the British Museum: Toad Northope, Marquess of Abersham, now sixteen, in London during Eton term time. He was seen in close quarters with the daughter of the Duke of Haverford, Lady Sarah Grenford, who is still in the schoolroom, but has, seemingly, already caught this rogue’s eye. And not only his eye, as he was caressing her face and kissing the back of her neck while two oblivious chaperones overlooked the entire episode.
Will we yet see the joining of these noble houses? Perhaps sooner than later, lest young Abersham find himself on the wrong end of Haverford’s pistol. It might be counted a shame that such a young girl–barely fifteen herself–could be forced to wed a known rake over such a small incident, were the groom not heir to the immense wealth and privilege of the Wellbridge duchy. However, Haverford may yet wish to think twice about joining his daughter to Wellbridge’s spawn.
Upon investigation, it has become plain Abersham has been asked to leave Eton for such crimes as the Teatime Tattler is loath to print, though one wonders if the ducal name (and purse) will mitigate such a sentence. Certainly, few at Eton expect Toad Northope to remain persona non grata permanently. His father is a wealthy duke and intimate of the House of Hanover, and the girl not unwilling. In fact, to his credit, Abersham left her well seated to face the loss of her position and reputation. The girl herself is quite keen for the marquess to return to Berkshire; complaint was made to the administration by a member of her family who did not share the sentiment.
Clearly, the Abersham apple falls not far from the Wellbridge tree, as anyone who knew the duke before his marriage can attest. The Wellbridges’ good friend, Haverford (Abersham’s godfather, in point of fact), may do well to recall his own ignoble past, and Wellbridge’s, and save his daughter’s virtue from a man who follows the example of their early histories. Young Abersham bids fair to exceed the rakish exploits of his legendary father and godfather. Those who remember their scandalous youth may beg leave to doubt the possibility, but this correspondent would remind those souls that the two dukes were considerably older than Abersham when banished from England by their own fathers (and the Prince of Wales). Given a decade, we submit, Toad Northope will put his father’s legend to rest.
Meanwhile, we are told the duke has made inquiries about entrance exams at Oxford, Trinity, and Cambridge. Perhaps a change of locale will solve the problem, but we caution His Grace that there are ladies strewn across England and the Continent, and anywhere else he might send the young marquess, and no shortage of ones willing to entertain a nobleman without benefit of clergy. It might be better to warn the boy of the dangers of the pox and the dignity due a noble title, admonish him not to follow his father’s poor example, and send him back to Eton to grow up.
David “Toad” Northope is heir to the Duke of Wellbridge and a rogue in the mold of his infamous father. Despite his reputation, he knows Lady Sarah “Sal” Grenford, daughter of the once-profligate Duke of Haverford, will always hold his heart. But when the two teens are caught in bed together by their horrified parents, he is sent away to finish school on the Continent, and she is thrown into the depths of her first London Season.
Can two reformed rakes keep their children from making the same mistakes they did? The dukes decide keeping them apart will do the trick, so as the children reach their majority, Toad is put to work at sea, learning to manage his mother’s shipping concern, and Sal is taken to the other side of the world, as far from him as possible. How will Toad and Sal’s love withstand long years of separation, not to mention nasty lies, vicious rumors, attractive other suitors, and well-meaning parents who threaten to destroy their future before it has begun?
(A Victorian romance continuing family stories begun in the various Regency romances of Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight.)