Sometimes over the past weeks it had seemed that almost every little thing Maria said annoyed him, irritated him like a persistent fly constantly buzzing around him. He wished once that he could swat her, then felt terrible for the rest of the day, making it up to her by showering her with attention, though of course this just encouraged her behaviour. It was not her fault, Sam reminded himself. It was his. He should never have married.

            ‘I thought we would never be home,’ Celine said, clearly happy to be travelling in style at last. ‘That last stagecoach smelled like something had died in it.’

            ‘Perhaps something did,’ Sam told her. Certainly his hopes of a swift and peaceful journey had.

            ‘Oh, darling, you’ve been in a terrible mood ever since York.’ Maria patted her husband’s arm. ‘Just think, before long we shall be home and you can reunited with your beloved David.’

            ‘Yes. Finally I will be able to wear clothes that are freshly laundered and pressed correctly.’ Sam had missed his valet, David, left behind in their rush to quit London and reach Scotland. Daniel had better be grateful. Without Sam’s help, Celine would have been spirited back to France and married off to another. Now she was his wife and they could begin married life back in London, hopefully more successfully that Sam’s own experience so far.

            ‘Finally!’ Maria gathered her belongings as they came to a halt outside the house on Eaton Square. ‘Come, Celine, I shall show you the rooms and you can choose which you prefer.’

            Sam helped his wife down first, then Celine, dawdling behind with Daniel as they went on ahead into the house.

            ‘No regrets, I hope?’ Sam asked his friend.

            ‘God, no! Thank you again for helping us. I feel that I’ll be saying thank you every day of my life after what you did.’ Daniel hadn’t been able to keep the grin from his face since his wedding day. Sam envied him.

            ‘Good. Shall we let the wives unpack? I brought back what I hope is a fine bottle of whisky. I shall invite David to join us.’ Sam led the way into his grand house.

            The house still wasn’t quite home, though Sam was not sure where home should be these days. Boston? Not while his father was still alive. London was where he saw his future, but a succession of rented houses had not provided sanctuary. This brand new house was perfect for his new start. A house with no memories, no expectation. A blank canvas as they said. Already Sam had his doubts. Living alone with Maria and David, ignoring the multitude of servants already hired by his wife, had felt strained. Odd. Maria was jealous of David, he of her. He hoped that Celine would distract her as helping Daniel had made Sam feel that he had a purpose in life for the first time. Not the useless good for nothing son that his father had been embarrassed by.

No longer.

Keeping Up Appearances – Part Two

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