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Fraternal Visit

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Inviting her brother for an indefinite stay at Soho-square had been a sad mistake, Arabella reluctantly concluded. When had Henry become so dull? He seemed to think of nothing but his parish these days. She had longed to share the excitements of her life in London with him, and her disappointment at his indifference was acute. Henry did not seem to understand what it meant, any of it. Her encounters with the Duke of Wellington barely merited an “oh indeed?”, and Jonathan’s feats of magic in the Peninsula he evidently regarded as dangerous and improper. If any thing, the impropriety seemed to affect him more. She found it hard to believe that they had ever been close.

Of course there were some things she would never attempt to tell him. Henry had already remarked on the frequency of Major Grant’s visits to the house, and wondered aloud that Strange chose to maintain a connexion that must undoubtedly put him in mind of the most painful scenes. What her brother would have said if he could have seen how the three of them customarily disported themselves together, Arabella could not imagine; but the insupportable tedium of Henry’s company sent her mind in that direction very often, in sheer self-defence. They had not been able to enjoy a convivial evening à trois with Henry in the house, and she knew that Jonathan and Grant must feel the lack of it as keenly as she did.

Something would have to be done to shorten Henry’s visit, or at least to get him out of the way for a few hours. Perhaps Jonathan could use his influence with Sir Walter to find Henry a charitable errand – the inspection of some suitably distant almshouses, or a visit to another of the livings in his gift. She would discuss the matter with Jonathan in bed: the prospect of being freed from their fraternal chaperone would, she was sure, be as invigorating to him as it was to her. They would have to be quiet tonight, of course, with Henry still in the house, but the need for silence could add to the keenness of enjoyment, when rightly used.

Henry was still prosing on about some parish matter, apparently unconscious that his sister’s mind was elsewhere. Arabella bent over the tea-tray to hide a grin of delight, and added hot water to the pot.

“More tea, Henry?”