Charlotte Kimberly became her father's heiress, for although he eventually remarried, there were no other children of his body. Your parents and sister were drowned shortly afterward, and the entire matter was forgotten until just before your grandfather's death. It was he who reminded me of the marriage contract, and asked that I see you fulfill your obligation. You can really have no strong or reasonable objection, Valerian, as your heart is not engaged elsewhere."

"No," he reluctantly admitted. Then he said, "You mentioned that we might be distantly related, Grandmama. How?"

"As I remember the tale," the dowager duchess began, "and I should have to consult the family Bible, dear boy, to be entirely accurate, but this is what I recall. The first Duke of Farminster was created so by King Charles upon his restoration. Your ancestor had grown up with the king, and gone into exile with him. They were bound by their friendship, loyalty, and by the curious coincidence of having the same birth date. The Earl of Farminster, who became the first duke, had a younger brother who remained behind in England to protect the estates, and two younger sisters. These young women were married. The eldest to a Kimberly, and the younger to a Meredith. Both men were royalists who remained in England working for the king's restoration. When it came, your ancestor saw that his brothers-in-law were rewarded. The island of St. Timothy was given to them by the king and they emigrated to become sugar planters. The last Kimberly, Robert, ahhh, now I remember, married the last Meredith, Emily. It is their daughter, the heiress, who will be your wife."

"But Emily Kimberly is dead, and Robert remarried," the duke said. "What else do you know, Grandmama?"

"Nought, dear boy. The rest you shall learn yourself when you reach St. Timothy."

"The girl might be dead," the duke suggested hopefully.



3 из 334