Marriage Dinner Ball at Brewster House
Evy thought she would not be surprised by the tide of dissension that came rushing toward her after her whirlwind marriage to Rogan Chantry, heir of Rookswood Estate and future squire. Though the brewing storm was not of Rogan’s making, inevitably it came, like large swells responding to outside forces.
Rogan had always been a controversial young man who attracted attention and made things happen–sometimes, whether he wished it so or not. Women seemed drawn to his arresting personality, as Evy had noticed from an early age. Evy saw it as both a gift and a distraction. While he was maturing as a young man, surface relationships had sought him out relentlessly enough to press him into his protective armor. Now she was finding that his solitary independence often shut her out, his own wife, causing her no end of frustration.
The storm began blowing into their lives at Lord and Lady Brewster’s opulent mansion in London where a dinner ball was under way in celebration of the unexpected marriage. Her biological father, Lord Anthony Brewster, had arranged it in order to introduce his daughter to his grandfather, Lord Brewster.
Many from the aristocracy were there, some because of Rogan himself. Perhaps it was natural that he would end up “shocking” them by marrying the “rectory girl” from Grimston Way in place of Lord Bancroft’s daughter, Lady Patricia–and “so suddenly, too.” Those words should have warned Evy of what was to come. But being impressionable, and overflowing with happiness, she’d been unprepared for the cruel chatter instigated by Patricia against their recent union.
Evy had married Rogan Chantry at Rookswood Estate in Grimston Way a week earlier and was thrilled with the sights and sounds of the London she had never experienced. There were theaters, balls and dinners, shopping–oh, the wonderfully exciting shopping excursions Rogan brought her on, buying her everything fashionable and beautiful. And this was only the start of their honeymoon before going on to Paris!
Large chandeliers glimmered on the high-domed ceiling, dispersing light onto the wine-colored velvet draperies. Golden bowls and Italian vases were filled with fresh-blooming roses. An intricately woven rug with thick golden tassels was flaunted in the center of the room. Surrounding it sat an assortment of velvet chairs, divans, and ottomans. At the far end of the salon was a large window overlooking a sloping front lawn.
Rogan gathered with the gentlemen in the salon, where it was customary for the men to drink a glass of port and share cigars after dinner before the ball. Evy, unaccustomed to such male traditions, remained in the salon, standing apart near the window. She looked up and wondered at the outright scowl of the departing Lady Willowby, but she attributed her expression to indigestion. The dinner had been exceedingly rich.
Evy looked into the florid faces of the well-fed members of Parliament. Lord Brewster, Anthony’s grandfather, stood alongside him and Rogan. Her great-grandfather was a pompous old man with a narrow forehead and wide, sagging jowls. He was in his eighties, but his small gray eyes were still clear and sharp. They beheld her with emotional distance as Anthony introduced her to him as his daughter by Katie van Buren.
As the evening wore on, Evy continued to feel embarrassed and out of place. She didn’t know what she had expected upon coming here. Rogan had warned her at the Chantry Townhouse not to expect warm, family relations to suddenly sprout after all these years. In fact, he had actually wanted to decline the invitation altogether, but Evy had protested for Anthony’s sake, since he had wanted to introduce her to his side of the family.
“I want you to enjoy yourself in London before we sail for Paris. Old Brewster, and those of his ilk, are pompous and overinflated. Remember, he and Lady Brewster, when she was alive, came between Anthony and Katie. They backed Uncle Julien’s plans to have him marry Camilla. I’m afraid you’re dreaming about butterflies and candy cane lanes, Evy darling, if you think you’re going to be welcomed with open arms.”
She hadn’t forgotten how Lord Brewster had treated her mother, but she hoped that time had improved matters. Now she began to realize that unless God’s Spirit was free to work in their hearts, real change was not likely. Rogan had dryly commented that time had mistakenly preserved old Lord Brewster in vinegar instead of sugar.
As it turned out, Rogan’s observation proved to be correct. Although great-grandfather Brewster was polite and precise in their first meeting, his eyes did not soften a speck. Evy understood the reason for his indifference. He had always known that she had been raised as the niece of Vicar Edmund and Grace Havering, and that Anthony’s family had held no interest in her. Evy was simply viewed as Anthony’s offspring from a young and foolish lust-ridden tryst he’d had in Capetown. And Katie van Buren was the reckless girl who had allowed the unfortunate incident to happen. She doubtless, in their view, had been a shameless flirt who’d used her wiles to take advantage of Anthony.
Nor did Evy’s marriage to Rogan Chantry, or the news that she was now a diamond heiress, do much to influence Anthony’s grandfather. Perhaps it was just as well. If she was accepted on the basis of these sudden changes to her life, it would be a shallow acceptance at best. At any rate, time had apparently confirmed and hardened old ways. Her marriage to Rogan raised brows and created questions for already suspicious minds who refused to believe love could triumph over staunch class distinctions.
Evy’s thoughts were brought back to a heated discussion going on among the gentlemen gathered.
“War,” a heavy, barrel-chested man boomed to the others, “that’s what it’ll be. Those blasted Boers will be taught a firm lesson this time.”
Rogan, in handsome black evening clothes and white linen shirt, was perhaps the one person in the salon who appeared undisturbed by either the cool social atmosphere or the heated rhetoric of war. He stood with Anthony and Lord Brewster as the debate grew between a few members of Parliament–some of whom represented the foreign secretary’s firebrands for war–and certain gentlemen who were for peace with President Paul Kruger and his Dutch Boers, even if it meant calling home Cecil Rhodes from the Cape and forcing him to answer to Parliament for the incursion of the Rhodesian “rebels” into the Transvaal. The incursion had been led by Rhodes’s official representative, Dr. Leander Starr Jameson.
Evy cared little for the fighting of Dr. Jameson’s men. She felt that war of any magnitude might hinder her from accompanying Rogan on his return voyage to South Africa. He was already frowning each time she mentioned traveling with him to Fort Salisbury. She had learned early that Rogan had very independent ideas about his adventures. Adventures that made him hesitant to involve his “delicate” new bride. He wanted her securely entrenched at Rookswood while he pursued his uncle’s murderer, the man responsible for her injury–Cousin Heyden van Buren. Evy had her own ideas about that, and staying behind at Rookswood was certainly not one of them.
“It’s time we dealt with these clod farmers. Our cause in Africa is just, and at risk. It’s far more important for England to succeed there than for Kruger to remain at the head of his volk, forever causing trouble.”
“Just so, just so.”
“Nonsense, gentleman,” came a disdainful voice. “We all know the benefit of saying these things to the newspapers to galvanize the British people behind the randlords’ war. But we can speak the facts between ourselves. It’s control of the gold fields in Johannesburg that the BSA wants, and the goldbugs in Capetown are hand in hand with Rhodes. Isn’t that so, Rogan?” The gentleman, Sir Gilcrist, swung toward Rogan and faced him. “You’re a South African man with a gold mine. You should know.”
“The Chantry mine is located in the northern Zambezi region, Sir Gilcrist,” Rogan stated, keeping an equal amount of scorn from his voice. “I’ve no interest in the Transvaal. We’ve enough trouble with the Shona. We don’t need to take on the Boers, too.”
“The trouble in Johannesburg is that the Uitlanders are not permitted to vote in Boer elections,” Anthony Brewster put in. “Uitlanders are what the Boers call our British miners working in the gold fields. The Boers fear they’ll be voted out of office and have the British workers take over. There’s graft too in the Boer police and some beatings of African workers.”
The man scorned a smile, and Anthony flushed and raised his glass to his lips.
“Most of that is bosh. Oh, I don’t deny there isn’t a ruddy policeman now and then going into the African workers’ area and causing a bit of ruckus, but they’re looking for criminals. It’s a good line to spread here at home to get the social workers up in arms to fight the Boers. Admit it, Rogan. You’re an honest young man. There’s wealth and power in the Transvaal, and that’s the reason the BSA is whipping up all this war fever.”
Evy glanced from the boisterous Lord George to Rogan. She already knew what Rogan thought because he’d been reading the papers each morning and commenting on South Africa news.
“I’ve little doubt the gold rands would like to end the Boer problem once for all,” Rogan said. “Fact is, not all the Uitlanders are British. Plenty are from Australia, Ireland, and America. But why deny it, gentlemen? The Uitlanders are beginning to outnumber the Boers in Johannesburg. They’ve come as foreigners disturbing the quiet farming and religious ways of the Boer. So I don’t doubt Kruger would like to keep them from having the vote.”
The conversation switched to Sir Julien Bley, whom they all knew. Julien held a high position among the men who formed a powerful political entity. Except for the minority peace party, they all supported London’s war and Sir Julien’s diamond monopoly. They’d also received shares in the mines in exchange for political favors. “The London lobby,” Rogan had told her, “has organized one of the most rigid and vigorous parliamentary power blocks England has ever known. And many of them wish for war with Kruger.”
What all this might mean for Evy and Rogan, she did not know. She looked at Rogan. He had told her all about the BSA and their plans to plant the British flag in the Transvaal. “They have their plans to push Kruger into war and to final defeat,” Rogan had mentioned just this morning at breakfast when the London paper arrived.
“Deliberately provoke war?” She had been shocked.
“You’re still a babe in the woods, sweet. Human nature remains the same in every generation. Where there is gold to be discovered, and diamonds in mines, there will be plenty of excuses for men to march to war.”
Evy was well aware of the politics of diamonds and gold. Worry about this wealth going by default to the Transvaal was growing daily for shrewd politicians like Sir Julien Bley and his cronies. Talk of diamonds lit a spark, and the conversation turned. At the mention of the famous Kimberly Black Diamond, Evy tensed. She glanced at Rogan, then her father. Rogan showed nothing, but Anthony’s features had stiffened.
“Wasn’t it some little tart who stole it from Sir Julien Bley?” Lord George asked.
Evy thought she would drop through the floor, but tensely, she stepped forward. “No, m’lord, it was not. And my mother was a lady, not a tart.”
Evy heard a gasp, then felt every head turn her way.
“My dear child!” It was Great-grandfather Brewster gaping at her in florid shock. Then Anthony stepped forward. “Evy, I don’t think–”
But what he didn’t think was not to be known, because Rogan came up beside her as her suddenly fearful eyes met his, expecting the worst. Amazingly, he chuckled and slipped an arm around her, proposing a toast. She stood stunned.
“Evy, darling, you just broke every rule in the book. I now celebrate not only your courage but also your delightfully refreshing spirit. To my dear bride!” He then turned to Anthony. “And to her esteemed father, Anthony Brewster.” Rogan nodded to him in respect. “And to Katie van Buren, much misunderstood, and much maligned. May her departed soul rest in peace.”
Silence held the room in its awkward grip for a moment. Then Lord George broke into a hearty laugh. “By Jove, I beg your pardon indeed, my dear Mrs. Chantry. I had no idea who I was speaking of when I mentioned the theft of that scandalous diamond.”
Evy’s throat was dry. She wondered what her great-grandfather was thinking, and Anthony. She looked at him. He stood rigid.
“No need to apologize, Lord George,” Rogan was saying. “That old tale has been around for a generation. But I’ve new information to add to it. I’ve discovered the real thief of the Kimberly Black Diamond–and he, not ‘she,’ also murdered my Uncle Henry for it at Rookswood–”
As Rogan went on to tell the story, holding the men in spellbound interest, he quickly squelched any further discussion of Katie.
Evy was never so relieved over his charming ability to capture an audience.
Few noticed as Lord Brewster turned and left the room, his face rigid. Anthony looked after his grandfather with a tense face but did not follow. Evy came up to her father. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
His eyes softened, and he reached a trembling hand to pat her arm. He shook his head slightly. “You did nothing wrong. I should have been the one to speak out as you did.”
The group was breaking up as the orchestra began playing in the ballroom and they wandered out two and three together discussing the possibility of war, diamonds, and Scotland Yard’s search for her cousin Heyden van Buren.
A few minutes later the three of them were alone. Rogan leaned against the back of a chair, allowing her and Anthony a moment together.
“I’ll be leaving next week for Capetown, Evy.”
“So soon?” She was truthfully disappointed. “Then I won’t see you for some time. Rogan and I will be going to Paris next week.”
“Camilla and I will be anxious to have you and Rogan at Cape House. She’s taken ill, so I’m leaving sooner than expected.