Home > A Wicked Kind of Husband(3)

A Wicked Kind of Husband(3)
Author: Mia Vincy

“We must make plans, you and I, to go to London.”

“London?” He straightened his nightcap, only to tilt it again when he pulled his hand away. “But Mr. DeWitt prefers you to remain here.”

“I believe his actual words were that he couldn’t have his wife running around the country and I ought to stay where I was put.” At least, those were the words in the letter that Mr. Newell brought after she last expressed a desire to go to London. According to Mr. Newell, Cassandra’s husband dictated all his letters to a legion of secretaries, who thoughtfully edited out the curses. “Unfortunately for Mr. DeWitt, the situation calls for me to be…” She paused dramatically. “A nuisance.”

“A nuisance. Yes. Ha ha,” Mr. Newell said, looking dismayed.

“Altogether too much of a nuisance:” That was the phrase Mr. DeWitt had used to describe Cassandra and her family in Mr. Newell’s letter of introduction, nearly two years ago now. Cassandra had not meant to be a nuisance to her husband. It was simply that her father’s unexpected death, less than a month after their equally unexpected marriage, meant that she—and therefore he—owned Sunne Park and she had naively assumed he might want to, well, if not actively manage the estate, perhaps, ah, visit it? Maybe, at least, say, once?

“I have four factories, three estates, one thousand employees, and a growing fleet,” had come her husband’s reply. “I do not have time to attend to one measly cottage in the depths of Warwickshire. Surely Mrs. DeWitt can figure out how to prune the rosebushes and feed the pigs all by herself.”

Never mind that Sunne Park was a fine Tudor mansion on one thousand acres of rich farmland, whose pigs were the most sought-after breeding stock in the middle of England.

Never mind that Mr. DeWitt was based in Birmingham, which was less than a day’s travel away.

“We agreed to a marriage in name only,” he had added. “Mrs. DeWitt has my name; I cannot see what else she can want from me.”

Nevertheless, he had sent Mr. Newell, newly hired as Secretary In Charge Of Matrimonial Affairs, along with a bright-eyed gray kitten, the latter included “so,” Mr. DeWitt wrote, “the wife doesn’t get lonely and do something foolish.”

Charming man, her husband-in-name-only.

Really, Cassandra was perfectly content to have nothing to do with him, as his letters indicated that he was ill-mannered, and the scandal sheets indicated that he was ill-behaved. She knew little more about him now than she had on their wedding day—the only time she had ever seen him. Joshua DeWitt was a wealthy widower and the illegitimate son of an earl, Papa had told her, when he sat her down in his study and asked her to marry Mr. DeWitt, a week after they learned that Cassandra’s betrothed, the cheerful and charming Viscount Bolderwood, had eloped with someone else.

“Joshua is a good man, for all his ways,” Papa had said. “I wouldn’t marry you off to someone I didn’t trust. With your brother Charlie gone, the lawyers insist the only way for a daughter to inherit this estate is if she is married, and I know Joshua will take care of you all when I’m dead.”

Cassandra had laughed at him. “Heavens, Papa! Why do you talk of dying? You are in excellent health.”

But Papa had pleaded, so she married Mr. DeWitt, and a month later, Papa was dead. Though if Mr. DeWitt was a good man, she had seen little evidence of it.

Yet she was grateful for Mr. Newell, whose avuncular manner and infinite patience made him a favorite with Emily and Lucy. As for Mr. Twit…

A soft head butted her knee and a pair of cat’s eyes gleamed at her in the dim light. Mr. Twit, purring vigorously, rubbed against her calves, telling her to go to bed.

“The fact is, Mr. Newell, it is past time to launch Lucy into London society. In the circumstances, I think it best that I seek my grandmother’s assistance. And as the duchess will be in London for the Season, there must I go too.”

Mr. Newell shifted uncomfortably. “You must understand that Mr. DeWitt—he does not mince words. Once he decides something, he expects it to happen. He was very firm in saying no to you before.”

Given how much control a husband could legally wield over his wife, Cassandra counted herself fortunate that Mr. DeWitt ignored her so thoroughly, and that his only requirements were that she ignore him back and stay where she was put.

Which she was willing to do. Most of the time.

“Unfortunately for Mr. DeWitt, Lucy’s need to be in society is greater than his need to pretend I do not exist.”

“Perhaps a letter to your grandmother would suffice.”

“I had considered that but…” Four times a year, Cassandra dutifully wrote to the duchess, and her grandmother dutifully wrote back. The sole purpose of the letters was to acknowledge each other’s continuing existence. “Our relations are strained, so it is best I see her in person. You will not be blamed for my actions,” she added. “You need not fear Mr. DeWitt.”

“I don’t fear him,” Mr. Newell hastened to say. “He is not unkind. He is merely…not restful. He will send you straight home.”

“Not if he does not know I am there.” Mr. Twit flopped onto her feet and she stooped to scratch the cat’s neck. “You say he travels frequently and you are always advised of his schedule, are you not? We simply have to find a time this Season when he is not in London.”

“Hm. I did receive word he is planning a trip to Liverpool. How long do you propose to stay?”

“I need only to convince my grandmother to take Lucy,” she said. “If we plan it properly, we’ll never see Mr. DeWitt at all.”



Chapter 2



“Mr. DeWitt is everything that a husband ought to be,” Cassandra said to her friend Arabella as they strolled through London’s Hyde Park on a fine afternoon three weeks later. “He is conveniently rich, extremely generous, and always somewhere else.”

Cassandra ignored Arabella’s amused if skeptical glance, and concentrated on the marvels around her. On one side of them lay Rotten Row, with its cacophony of horses and carriages; on the other lay the waters of the Serpentine; and pressing all around them were the thousands of people in London who possessed both colorful finery and the leisure time in which to display it.

“Stroll,” however, was an optimistic description of their progress. Navigating the crowd required something more like a slow, improvised quadrille: a chassé to the right, a glissade to the left, and then perhaps a small sissone.

Unless, of course, one was Arabella, Lady Hardbury, in front of whom space magically opened up.

“Absence is a quality that many women appreciate in their husbands,” Arabella said. “I have not been married to Hardbury long enough to appreciate it in him, but I daresay the time will come when we divide up the country and ensure we are always at opposite ends of it.”

“I cannot imagine that, besotted as you two are.”

“There is that. Besides, what on earth would I do for entertainment if my husband were not nearby to provoke?”

A pair of pastel-clad young ladies approached, hugging each other’s arms as they opened their mouths to address Arabella. Cassandra readied her smile—finally, a conversation!—but Arabella merely lifted her chin and looked them over disdainfully. The ladies discovered an urgent need to be on the other side of the park and hurried away. Arabella smiled with satisfaction and strolled on.

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