The secret diary of Miss Tryphenia M. Tylerton, spinster but not for long!
September 17, 1890
I had not known that one can’t take one’s money into prison. Since Pa’s sentence is for three years, he has given me his fortune. He is very wise! I have considered carefully the most prudent action. I think the best thing to do with my sudden access of fortune is to marry royalty. Then, not only will Pa’s money be safe. I could get my prince or king to pry Pa out of prison. Even the strictest parent could hardly complain about that, and I have Pa’s measure. He will be delighted.
I take ship tomorrow from New York for London. I hear tell there’s plenty of titles there, and I’m going to find me one.
Marian, Lady Donthorne’s journal
21 September 1890
To picnic on Hampstead Heath, the three young men had dragged out every cushion and rug in Sandett House. The painter John Constable used to sit on this very slope to capture clouds on his canvas: big-bellied puffs of white, mountain-high and foam-light, sailing majestically across a fathomless blue sky. There is no landscape more English. We sat in the centre of all that is our nation. I tipped the broad Leghorn hat to shade my eyes and thought to myself, I must remember this, this moment of perfection.
Zed spoke with dreamy peace from where he lay in the shade of the chestnut tree. “Why is the sky so big in England?”
“Doesn’t it look this large in the South China Sea?” Idly Dickon tossed his empty beer bottle up into the air and caught it again.
Tad replied, “No, Zed’s right. Even in the middle of the ocean, it’s not like this.”
There was a long somnolent pause, broken only by the joyful twitter of swallows as they spun and swooped through the azure late-summer firmament. Even the insects dozed in the last delicious warmth of summer. Soon, too soon, winter shall come. But today is Paradise.
“Might as well let you fellows in on the news,” Dickon said at last. “Last week I proposed to Merry, and she said yes.”
Zed rolled over. “Did she? About time. Tremendous congratters, Dickon! Shall I be your best man?”
“If you marry my sister, then we’ll be truly brothers!” Tad glanced at me. “And of course you approve, Mama.”
“Of course.” From my perch on a lawn chair I smiled down at them, my boys, though I gave birth only to Tad. They were alike and yet quite different. All three dark-haired and dark-eyed, they were entirely handsome, in the first glorious bloom of early manhood.
Dickon is the slightest but visibly a Lowry, an English aristocrat whose ancestors came over with the Conqueror. My stepson Zed’s Asian blood shows in the subtly sculped cheekbones and eyes. The lean height, and his straight black hair and Eurasian light-brown skin, are from his father, my lost third husband Tsan Ziyahn Lord Sze. And over the years Tad has, mercifully, become more and more like my first husband Theo. In sturdy build and most especially in turn of mind, he is his father’s son, intelligent and inventive.
Flushed with health, sunshine, and two baskets of an excellent Sunday picnic luncheon, they were glorious young men. Surely no sight makes a mother’s heart lighter. “Merry loves you, Dickon. So how can I object?”
“She loves me for myself,” he replied. “Not my title, nor my fortune, but me! You’ve no notion, chaps, how wonderful that is.” Dickon is properly known as Lord Richard Henry Halcombe Lowry. He shall be Earl of Brecon and Stowe when his father, my third cousin, passes. He could marry any girl in the world. My youngest daughter Merry is innocent of guile or ambition. She has never needed them, being armed instead with beauty and charm to the strength of triple steel. But now she’ll marry far above her station – dangerously far.