Rose Elliston, the Duchess of Sandhurst, kept her arm firmly wound with Anne VanLandingham’s, Pelham's eccentric duchess, though the two weren’t fast friends. In public, Anne never shied from her reputation, which somehow protected the person she was with, which was just what Rose needed—to be unnoticed.
“I received a letter from the abbess this morning. She wants me to visit again,” Rose said in a low voice.
“That was rather timely,” Anne replied. “Perhaps there are more nobles in debt than I had imagined.”
Rose took a deep breath. There were no right decisions, only expedient ones.
“You are not having second thoughts are you, dear?” Anne asked.
“Do I really want to tie myself to a man who is incapable of managing his own finances?” Rose asked. Oh, if that were really her only problem!
“The pool of suitors is limited. You haven’t told me the particulars of your urgent situation, though I’ve always prided myself on my intuition. In this case, time is more important than money, hence my suggestion for a man indebted. Reverse the tables for once. When your marriage contract is prepared, demand that you provide him a quarterly allowance and let it be known that you will not cover any of his new gaming debts. Then avoid him for the duration of your marriage, except for the childbearing.”
Rose laughed. She had to - the situation was so ridiculous and desperate.
“I will attend her as soon as possible. I only wanted to tell you that your idea had born fruit. Hopefully there is more than one to choose from,” Rose said.
“What? One bad and one worse?” the duchess said and laughed. “Oh, that was rude of me, but then I’m not known for precise etiquette.” If Rose remembered rightly, Anne was a coalminer's daughter from Wales, who happened to be extraordinarily beautiful. They stopped beneath a large oak. “Do you want me to escort you back to Madame DuPuis’? I would be happy to do so."
“Thank you, but this is about my future. You didn’t need to offer advice, you know. I would have figured out a solution eventually.”
“When one of my peers’ cries at one of my splendid balls, it is my highest duty to help resolve the situation. We duchesses must stand firm together, you know. But do come to Grosvenor Square afterward and we can gossip about the lords in debt to the abbess.” Anne patted Rose’s hand. “And you are not to worry. After you choose your new spouse, Rand and I will host you at our home and set you firmly on the path to social acceptance, duchess or not. When I am done with the two of you, it will be as if everyone fully expected the two of you to marry all along!”