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Royal Revels

Royal Revels by Joan Smith
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Deirdre Gower, newly betrothed to Lord Belami, expected to marry at once, not rush off to Brighton with her aunt and her fiancé. But the Prince Regent was in double trouble—a beautiful blackmailer and a questionable long-lost son. Could Lord Belami extract Prinney from this coil without losing his fiancée?

Regency Romance/Mystery by Joan Smith; second of the quartet of Lord Belami mysteries, originally published by Fawcett

Belgrave House; July 1985
177 pages;
Read online, or download in secure PDF format
Title: Royal Revels
Author: Joan Smith
 
Excerpt

The Dowager Duchess of Charney’s drawing room was noticeably cool on that morning in early January. Wind drifted in around the ill-fitting window frames and rustled the draperies. A sluggish fire smoldered in the grate, emitting more smoke than heat, till she felt some fear of being kippered alive. Though the duchess was bundled into a stout shawl, she was chilled to the marrow and was impa­tient, waiting for her guest to arrive.

“It seems to me that Belami might make some effort to be on time when he comes to visit his bride-to-be,” she told her niece with a scowl from her close-set eyes. “I should never have allowed the match. I can’t imagine what possessed me to do it after his behavior at Beaulac,” she added, tugging at the ends of her shawl to block out an errant breeze.

“Now, Auntie, we’ve all been through that,” her niece replied calmly. It was easy to be calm now that she was, in­deed, betrothed to the only man she had ever loved. Nothing could dampen Miss Deirdre Gower’s spirits. Not her mean-spirited chaperone, not the faded Mustard Saloon in which they sat, not the dreary view of snow turning to slush be­yond the window, not even Dick’s tardy arrival. “He could hardly tell the Prince Regent to hurry, as he has an appoint­ment with his fiancée,” she said to remind her aunt that Dick was late for such a royal reason.

It was quite an honor for Belami that the prince wished to consult with him on a personal matter, and the magical words Prince Regent always managed to bring a smile to the raddled countenance of the duchess. When she spoke again, however, her tone was irritable. “If it weren’t that he is with the prince, I should bolt the door and not let him in.”

Really, it was only impatience and curiosity that jangled her nerves so. She was on thorns to learn what scrape Prinney had fallen into that he required the services of Lord Belami, sometime investigator into criminal matters for his friends. Prinney had been settled down with Lady Hertford as his flirt anytime this past decade. As the lady’s husband was en­tirely agreeable to the arrangement, it was unlikely that Lady Hertford was the cause of it. Blackmail, Belami had mentioned. After women and drink, spending inordinate sums of money was Prinney’s little weakness. Had he bor­rowed privately and found himself unable to pay up? The cent-percenters might be nipping at his heels, threatening some dire revenge or revelation.

But Belami would fish him out of hot water. He had just rescued his own reputation and the duchess’s diamond when the latter—and much more important in the lady’s view— had been in jeopardy. A clever rascal, Belami, but she did not care for that proclivity for dabbling in criminal matters. After he rescued Prinney, whom she could not abandon in his hour of need, she must either persuade Belami from his avocation or persuade Deirdre from marrying Belami. Nei­ther course would be easy. Her thin lips assumed the unnatu­ral position of a smile to contemplate the challenge.

While the duchess schemed and Deirdre sat in a happy daze, dreaming of her honeymoon in Italy, Lord Belami was led through the sumptuous rooms and passages of Carlton House, the prince’s London residence. The private cham­bers were situated at the back of the south side, to afford a view of St. James’s Park and perhaps to necessitate passing through the rest of the house to admire such treats as the Blue Velvet Closet, the Crimson Drawing Room, the Chi­nese Parlour, and the Library. Belami bit his lip to control the wayward smile that wanted to peep out. Such vulgar opulence, with gold upon gold everywhere, quite over­whelmed him. His own preferred mode was understated ele­gance.

Colonel McMahon, the prince’s private secretary, was Belami’s guide. “You’ve met the prince, of course,” McMahon said as they walked briskly along.

“Only at public gatherings,” Belami replied. Though he would sooner have lost his hair than admit it, he was ner­vous.

“He’s easily pleased. Pretend you’re amazed with his banalities and he’ll love you forever.”

“Can you give me any idea what’s troubling him?” Bel­ami asked.

McMahon wore a worried frown. “Truth to tell, Belami, what’s troubling him isn’t what’s troubling the rest of us. When he finishes discussing the blackmail with you, try if you can to urge him on to the subject of a certain Mr. Smythe. It won’t be difficult,” he added grimly.

“Who is Mr. Smythe?” Belami asked, already thinking it sounded like an alias.

“God only knows. Some American who turned up at Brighton and has been more or less added to the royal reti­nue, but in no official capacity as yet. It would be ap­preciated if you’d do a little looking into the fellow’s background—see if you can learn who he is and what he’s up to.”

McMcMahon stopped at a pair of high, broad doors embel­lished with gilt and panels. A page in dark blue livery, trimmed in gold lace, opened the door, revealing the Prince Regent. His Royal Highness sat alone with a glass in his hand, smiling sadly into it. He had not yet dressed for the day. He wore a mauve silk dressing gown with an embroidered pocket and looked like an overaged, overweight satyr. He looked up and made a beckoning gesture with one grace­ful hand. Belami followed the colonel into the very hot chamber, wishing he had worn a summer jacket. It must be above ninety degrees, he thought.

“Kind of you to come, my dear Belami,” the prince said in weary but cultivated accents. He made a sort of nominal motion of rising, but his corpulent body didn’t actually leave the chair.

Though the prince was only in his early fifties, a life of indulgence had not been kind to his appearance. Despite, or perhaps because of, the various ointments and unguents he lavished on his face, it had assumed a waxy quality. His gray eyes were bleary and his chins sagged, to be caught up and concealed in the immaculate folds of a high neckcloth. He wore this device even with his dressing gown. His brown hair was artfully brushed forward to conceal time’s ravages on the hairline.

“You may leave us now, McMahon,” the prince said, motioning Belami to the chair beside him. A flick of the royal wrist sent the page boys hopping from the room, has­tened forward by the colonel.

“How can I be of help, sir?” Belami asked.

The prince looked at the lean, young face before him and felt an awful pang of envy. Once he himself had been known as an Adonis. Really, Belami was not so much an Adonis as a Corsair, out of a poem by Lord Byron. There was a whiff of danger in those coffee-black eyes and of romance in the exaggeratedly long lashes that a girl might covet. It was a marvel how the skin sat so tightly against the classical bones of the lad’s face. And he wore a fine jacket—Weston, of course—upon a fine set of shoulders. Damme, but time was a traitor.

“A mere trifle,” the prince replied indolently. “McMa­hon feels it would be best handled by an objective third party whose discretion could be counted on, and he suggested you. Can I offer you a glass of wine?”

“Thank you,” Belami said, accepting the glass. The warm, sweet Madeira being poured into it would do nothing to assuage the glaring heat of the room.

“It will involve a jaunt to Brighton,” the prince contin­ued.

Belami did not betray by so much as a blink that this was dismal news for him. He was newly engaged and wanted to be with his fiancée, wanted to get on with the marriage and to plan the honeymoon in Italy.

“You’re welcome to stay at the Pavilion, if you wish,” the prince added.

This was a rare favor, and one to be avoided at all costs. Belami dodged the invitation by saying, “What is to be han­dled at Brighton? McMahon mentioned blackmail….”     

“That is a harsh word. Pressure, perhaps, is closer to the mark. There is a young lady who wishes to sell me certain objects of a personal nature. She has set an inflated price on them, as she appears to think she can exact a high sum from the newspapers,” he said, his florid complexion deepening with anger or embarrassment.

“Letters, I take it?” Belami asked, showing no censure.

“A few notes written in a sentimental mood after a lonely spell in which I sought solace from a glass of wine,” the prince explained. “I met the woman—Lady Gilham she calls herself—one afternoon at St. Ann’s Well last autumn. My—better friends”—Belami quickly translated this into Lady Hertford—“were in London at the time, and the woman invited me to call upon her if I happened to be pass­ing nearby. A man gets so desperately lonely,” he said with a quick peep to see if he was eliciting sympathy. He saw none on the impassive face before him. The young were all brutal. Lady Gilham was brutal. Who would have thought that that sweet-faced chit would betray him?

“I quite understand, sir. All I shall require is the lady’s address and your instructions. Do you wish to purchase the letters or have you something else in mind?” Pay, you fool! he said to himself and feared for a moment that he had said it aloud. The prince was looking at him oddly, with a dissatis­fied expression. Belami felt he was doing well by wiping all emotion from his features, not knowing he was expected to simulate sympathy as well.

“She must be silenced. Five thousand pounds she’s ask­ing for the letters. Out of the question. See her and tell her one thousand is what she’ll get, not a penny more. There’s nothing salacious in them, Belami. Nothing of the sort. I believed at the time she was a lady and was very proper,” he said earnestly.

“Five thousand does seem very high,” Belami agreed, frowning. “There must be something incriminating if the newspapers have offered her five thousand.”

“Bah, the newspapers! They make bricks without straw. They’ll twist and cut and paste my phrases till they have me offering to marry the wench. You’re old enough to remem­ber how the Hunt brothers vilified me in the Examiner, and to try to suppress those fellows is worse than letting them have their say. There’ll be another raft of caricatures in shop windows. I tell you, my lad, it’s no easy thing being a ruler. The royal crown cures not the headache, as the admirable Ben Franklin so succinctly put it. I’d gladly trade all the royal trappings in for a simple cottage away from the cares of the world,” he said, allowing his eyes to roll sadly toward the window.

Belami looked around the ornate chamber and took tacit leave to doubt this pious nonsense. “She may be happy enough to settle for one thousand and have done with it,” Belami suggested. “She’s bound to ask for more than she expects to get.”

“That is the sum McMahon suggested. You would be well informed on such matters, I make no doubt. The colo­nel will give you her address and the money. It’s kind of you to take care of this little matter for me. Naturally you must get all the letters back from her—six in all. You might make a bid for a certain locket as well. Gold with a small heart picked out in diamonds on the front. A mere trifle, but the miniature of myself inside is something I promised to one of my sisters. It was only a sentimental gesture. She has a few other gewgaws—get them all back if you can.

If the other trinkets were also laden with diamonds, Bel­ami began to think, the price he had suggested was too low. “Perhaps another hundred douceur for the trinkets….” he suggested.

“Yes, yes, whatever it takes. You’re the expert, my good fellow. I have no experience in these matters. I certainly don’t want any more scandal at this time,” he said irritably.

Belami lifted one mobile brow, wondering why “this time” should be of particular importance. The words of McMahon were in his mind and the name of Mr. Smythe. “Is there a reason why the present is particularly inauspi­cious?” he asked carefully. One never knew how far he might intrude on the prince’s patience and privacy. In the proper mood, he’d bare his soul to a perfect stranger and, a moment later, he’d insult his bosom beaus.

A beatific smile lit up the waxen countenance, and the bleary eyes sparkled. For a fleeting instant, Belami caught a glimmering of what people a few decades ago had found to admire in the man’s looks. There was a certain some­thing—a charm.

“As a matter of fact, there is,” the prince replied. Belami sensed an expansive mood had come upon him and encour­aged him on to revelation with a smiling nod of interest.

“It is incredible, something out of a fairy tale.” The prince sighed. “One hardly knows where to begin. It all started so long ago. I met her over thirty years ago,” he said dreamily. This tipped Belami the clue that they had reverted to the days of Maria Fitzherbert, and his heart plunged. In a long line of troublesome mistresses, Mrs. Fitzherbert had taken the lead. Her affair with the prince had nearly toppled the government. What she could possibly have to do with a Mr. Smythe was unclear, but there was surely some connec­tion between them.

“Maria Fitzherbert is the only woman I ever loved,” the prince continued, still gazing fixedly into the air, seeing a vision of his love. With a maidenly blush he pulled a locket up from his neck and turned his eyes to it. “You didn’t know her when she was young. A vision of loveliness, with her golden hair and the sweetest blue eyes ever bestowed on woman.” A tear swelled in his eye and trembled over the waxen cheek.

Belami’s memory of the lady was more recent. She was a tall, portly dame with a hooked nose and an overly elaborate manner of dressing. Gossip had it the prince had actually married her, but he later denied it. A twice-widowed Roman Catholic of undistinguished birth, she was quickly sloughed off when his official wedding was performed.

“I’ve heard her cried up as a great beauty,” Belami said vaguely.

“And a good woman, Belami. A good woman. She is my wife, you know,” he added with a sudden change of intona­tion. He looked sharp now, alert, ready to defend this outra­geous statement with all the royal prerogative at his command.

Belami was too astonished to reply. The whole world knew his wife was Princess Caroline of Brunswick. “Oh” was the only sound to come from his lips.

“You are surprised,” the prince said, in perhaps one of the understatements of the year. “Definitely, Maria is my true wife. Oh, they foisted that German princess on me when I was too young to stand up for my rights. There was coercion brought to bear, Belami. I was in debt at the time, due to the miserly bit of an allowance I was allowed. Yes, Maria Fitzherbert and I were married by the Reverend R. Burt, an Anglican curate, on December 15, 1785. The happiest day of my life,” he said simply.

“Where did this take place?” was the only question that occurred to Belami.

“It was in Maria’s drawing room. Certainly the marriage is valid,” he answered confidently.

“But she’s a Roman Catholic,” Belami reminded him. “According to the Act of Settlement, you and your heirs would forfeit the right to succession if you married a Roman Catholic.”

“Some things in life mean more than a crown,” the prince said calmly, though his next speech showed he had no intention of giving up his much-maligned crown. “Actu­ally, there exists some doubt in my mind that Maria remains a Catholic after being married in front of an Anglican minis­ter. It is possible she became a de facto non-Catholic when she married me, in which case the Act of Settlement would be irrelevant.”

“There’s still the Royal Marriage Act,” Belami reminded him. “You were under twenty-five at the time and hadn’t the consent of the king. Without that consent, no legal marriage was possible.”

“My dear father is, unfortunately, so confused in his mind that he no doubt has only the vaguest memory of those days, if he has any memory at all,” the prince answered with a very sly smile. Was he planning to claim a spoken agreement by the king?

“Surely the consent must be formal and written,” Belami said, but he had, in fact, no idea if this was the case.

“We are wallowing in details,” the prince said impa­tiently. “The fact is, Maria and I married in good faith be­fore God and the wedding is morally valid and binding. Are we to put man’s laws before God’s? These ‘acts’ can be managed as King Henry VIII was obliged to do. Not that I mean to say I want a divorce. Nothing could be further from my mind. I want only the right to call my true wife my wife,” he said with a noble attitude.

“What about Princess Caroline?” Belami inquired, carefully avoiding the words “your real wife.”

The prince lifted his hands and hunched his shoulders.

“That is another detail to be worked out. Some honorary title and a settlement must be made.”

“What has brought you to this decision?” Belami asked, guessing he had only seen the tip of the iceberg.

“It is not for myself,” the prince assured him. “No, it is for England and for my son.”

“But you don’t have a son; you have a daughter,” Belami said, almost beyond rational thought. He felt as if he had fallen into a nightmare.

“I do have a son, Belami!” the prince declared, wearing the reckless smile of a gambler. “I have, and I have found him. Maria had him shipped off to America, never telling me of his existence, the naughty girl. You must know there were periods of regrettable disagreement in our marriage. For long periods I didn’t see Maria, and it was during one of these that our son was born and shipped off to America.”

Belami held his face under tight control. One did not laugh or scream at a prince. “What is your son’s name?” he asked, but he already had a good notion of the reply.

“He goes by the name of Mr. Smythe—George Smythe. You understand the significance of this?” he asked, staring hard at Belami.

“Is it that George is your own name?” Belami asked in confusion.

“Just so, and Maria’s maiden name was Smythe. Fitzher­bert was her second husband’s name. It proves, in my mind, that George Smythe is my son. But you must see him and judge for yourself. He has Maria’s eyes, I think, with some­thing of his father’s hair and physique.”

Belami heard a strange ringing in his ears. Had poor old Prinney finally gone completely mad like his father? What could be in his head to be rooting about in the past, un­earthing such mischief? What did he plan to do with his real wife, the king’s cousin, and with his daughter, Princess Charlotte, the most popular woman in the kingdom? Did he actually think his subjects would sit still to see her consigned to illegitimacy?

“I speak of my youthful physique, of course,” the prince was saying when the ringing in Belami’s ears stopped.

“Is he here now?” Belami asked.

“Ah, no, McMahon and some of my advisers thought it wiser to leave him in Brighton till I get these few details ironed out.” Ridding himself of a wife and daughter and re­pealing two acts of Parliament were sunk to “details.” Cer­tainly the man was mad.

“Might I see Mr. Smythe when I go to Brighton to take care of the other business?” Belami asked. He was eager to get away now and talk to Colonel McMahon.

“I hope you will look him up. He isn’t well connected with the right sort of chaps because of being raised in Amer­ica. I would take it as a personal favor if you would befriend George. Show him his way around society. You will be a very proper model for him, Belami. We admire your style,” the prince said with a smile and a bow of his head.

“I’m eager to meet him.”

“It will be best if you not tell him you act on my request. He will be more at ease if he thinks you just a friend and not an emissary.”

“Yes, that might be best,” Belami agreed. “I’ll go and find Colonel McMahon now,” he said, then began bowing himself out.

“You’re a fine fellow,” the prince proclaimed, chatting amiably from his chair as Belami inched away. “A dashed well-cut jacket you have got on. We must take George to meet Weston, what?” A glass of wine teetered in his fat pink fingers.

Belami got out the door and closed it behind him. It was not only the infernal heat of the chamber that caused him to wipe a film of perspiration from his brow as he went in search of McMahon.

The colonel was awaiting him around the first corner. “I judge by the blank look on your face that His Highness has let you in on it,” McMahon said in a sardonic way. He was a tall man with a military bearing and a down-to-earth man­ner.

Belami shook his head, dazed. “Where can we go to talk in private?” he asked.

McMahon led him to his office and poured him a glass of wine. McMahon leaned his shoulders back against his chair and propped his feet up on the desk. “The cat sits poised to swoop amongst the pigeons,” he said in an ominous voice. “You’re an intelligent man, Belami. I’m sure the conse­quences of such rashness as we anticipate are clear to you. The prince is barely able to hang on to his position by the skin of his teeth as it is. If he takes it into his head to inflict Mrs. Fitzherbert’s bastard on the populace as their ruler, there will certainly be a revolution.”

“Is it true then? Is Smythe her son?”

McMahon sat silently for a moment. When he spoke, he said, “I don’t honestly know. There’s a superficial resemblance. Fitzherbert could have had a son and had him shipped off to America.”

“Hasn’t anyone asked her?” Belami inquired in astonish­ment.

“This is entirely a new turn. Smythe only fell into favor during the New Year’s festivities at Brighton. The prince has written to Mrs. Fitzherbert, but she hasn’t answered his letters in years. She sends them back unopened. Actually, she wouldn’t have received the latest yet. It was sent to Lon­don from Brighton, and when we arrived here we learned that she had gone out of town for the holiday. She had her house closed up. We haven’t been able to find out where she has gone. She lives quite out of society nowadays. But it makes little difference whether Smythe is her son or not. He’s illegitimate in any case.”

“True, but if he’s not even her son, it will be easier to turn the prince away from this folly,” Belami pointed out. “It sounds like a ruse to me.”

“If you’re fingering Smythe as a rogue, I’m afraid you’re mistaken. He was more surprised than any of us. He makes no claim to being of royal blood. It’s all Prinney’s idea.”

“Does he not have a set of parents?”

“No such luck. He’s an orphan. A nice, simple lad, good-natured. It’s the coincidence of his name being George Augustus Smythe that did the damage—along with a certain physical resemblance.”

“Half the male population of England bears the name of the royal princes. That’s pretty flimsy,” Belami said doubt­fully.

“Their last name isn’t Smythe,” McMahon pointed out. “I feel partly responsible myself. I am the one who brought them together, quite by chance.”

“How did you happen to meet Smythe?” Belami asked with quick interest.

“He came to England last autumn, hung around London for a while, then went to Brighton, probably because living was cheap off season. He met an old army acquaintance of mine at the Old Ship Hotel, where Smythe is staying. They played cards there at night. I dropped in and invited the army man—Captain Stack is his name—to the Pavilion to join us for faro there. Just as an afterthought I asked young Smythe to join us. Company was thin at the time and Prinney likes to see a new face. I could see right away that Smythe was a success. It seemed harmless, another friend of the Beau Brummell sort, I thought. Smythe was invited back again and again, each time the party shrinking in size, till, the last night before we left, it was only Prinney and Smythe. It was after that meeting that we were hit with this misbegotten theory. I dragged the prince back to London at once, hoping the thing would die a natural death, but it’s taken such a hold on his imagination that it’s become an ob­session.”

“It’s a pity,” Belami said, shaking his head.

“Yes, but a perfectly understandable one. The people hate the prince. He’s hissed and jeered at when he goes about in public. His wife has left him to traipse through Europe with a ragtag and bobtail caravan of foreign ruffians, and his daughter seems unable to produce an heir. She’s miscarried twice since her marriage. The prince is ill and worries about the succession. Securing that would bolster his popularity. He longs for a stout-bodied son to carry on and has convinced himself he’s found one,” he explained.

“How did he convince himself the son is legitimate?”

“Power and folly are old friends. We’re all quoting Ben­jamin Franklin these days. He’s Mr. Smythe’s favorite au­thor, you know. The prince did undergo some sort of wedding ceremony with Mrs. Fitzherbert. He knows in his mind the marriage is invalid.”

“He’s beginning to worm his way around the various acts of Parliament that forbid it. He’ll never convince Parlia­ment, but if he convinces himself, he’ll be hard to hold back,” Belami said, frowning into his glass.

“He’s convinced himself, all right. He forgets the divine right of kings is history. He believes that if he brings Smythe forward and the lad becomes incredibly popular, Parliament will go along with him to avoid an uprising. If Fitzherbert doesn’t deny it and claims herself a non-Catholic, he might just pull it off. And furthermore, she just might abet him. She’s ambitious,” McMahon said, shaking his head.

“We don’t even know if he is Fitzherbert’s son. If she’s as ambitious as you think, she wouldn’t have sent him off into anonymity all those years ago,” Belami pointed out.

“They had tiffs, then would get together again. She might have feared a son would prevent a reconciliation,” McMa­hon said thoughtfully.

“The likeliest spoke to stick in the wheel is to find out who Smythe is, and I mean to tackle it,” Belami said with an air of resolution.

“You’re welcome to it, but it won’t be easy to trace down a twenty-five-year-old orphan from America. This is really why I urged the prince to call you in, Belami. Lady Gilham was only a pretext to get you off to Brighton without alerting the prince that you were involving yourself in his affairs, the Smythe affair, I mean.

“I confess it’s the Smythe affair that interests me more,” Belami replied with a smile.

“It’s extremely urgent. Prinney is champing at the bit to bring his son forward. I’d say you have about a week before all hell breaks loose.”

“Then I’d better get to Brighton,” Belami said and arose. “Ah... Lady Gilham’s address and the money to buy her silence. What’s the real story on her?” he asked with mild interest.

“Nothing very interesting there. She’s just a clever, pretty hussy who set her cap at Prinney and managed to at­tract his interest for a few weeks.”

“Does she, ah, pass for a woman of virtue or is she the other sort?”

“She passes for respectable in Brighton. Pure as the driven snow to hear her tell it, but I believe the snow has a few paw marks in it. She was cunning enough to get him to write her billets-doux and knew enough to hang on to them. It shouldn’t be necessary to pay her sort anything, but the mood the papers are in, it might be best to keep her quiet if we can,” McMahon replied.

He drew open a drawer and handed Belami a bag of gold coins. “There’s something in there to cover your expenses as well. His Highness won’t be ungenerous in his non-mone­tary rewards,” he added vaguely. He was hinting at some court sinecure, Belami supposed, but didn’t press the mat­ter.

“As to the more important affair, Belami, I don’t know if you are an ambitious man, but the government would be ex­tremely grateful if you could circumvent a new scandal. You could name your own price if you bring off this one. Lord chamberlain, an earldom, relatives on the Civil List— anything within reason.”

“Deciding will be a pleasant diversion from business,” Belami said lightly.

“Where will you be staying if I need to be in touch with you?”

“At my own place on Marine Parade,” Belami said.

“I expect to see you soon. I won’t be able to keep Prinney away from Brighton for long, when his soi-disant son is there. Godspeed.”

McMahon accompanied Belami to the door and along the passage to the courtyard, discussing further aspects of the case. “We must at all costs keep Smythe from moving into the Royal Pavilion. That would be too close for comfort. He has carte blanche to do so if he wishes. It’s strange he didn’t jump at the chance, is it not, when his pockets are to let?” McMahon asked. He directed a long, curious look at Bel­ami.

“Very odd,” he answered with a considering frown.

This was the detail that occupied his mind as he hastened to Belvedere Square and Deirdre. Why did Smythe refuse to stay at the Pavilion where he could mix with the well-to-do, who might land him a good position? McMahon had inti­mated he was not well off. But then Smythe probably found the prince’s company suffocating, and the old cronies roosting there would hardly be to a young man’s taste. That must account for it.

Or perhaps he’d found himself some fe­male company that was not fit to introduce to polite society. His mind veered to Lady Gilham for a moment. He little thought what pranks that female had in store for him. He al­lotted half an hour to handling her case.