Lady Newsam surged to her feet, shawls and rugs slipping to the floor, as the new Lord Newsam entered her airless, heavily-draped parlour.
“At last you condescend to call upon your family, Granville?” she assailed him. “You had so little regard for the social decencies that you could not even trouble yourself to attend your brother's funeral! That was beyond toleration!"
This unjust accusation pushed Lord Newsam to protest, "But I never even received news of Anthony’s accident until well after he was buried! And I had to have my blacks made!"
"And did you then post home at once, to comfort your grieving mother? No! You preferred to dally with your friend! Why were you not here with us, to begin with?" his mother demanded. "But you have never cared for Gomersall!" She threw up an outraged hand. Another shawl slipped off.
Lord Newsam's hands, holding the edges of his coat, were white at the knuckles. He prided himself on his self-control, but it threatened to crumble.
"You have always made it plain that my presence at Gomersall was not desired. And I found it heartbreaking to see the estate neglected.”
Lady Newsam sniffed. "You need not put on airs merely because you have been elevated to the title!" she informed him. "Your absences from Gomersall have told me more clearly than any oily words how little you feel for your ancestral heritage! What does your fathers' estate mean to you? Mere bricks and mortar and clods of earth, I have no doubt!”
“But – “
"And when have you ever cared for your family? Do you believe your dereliction of duty has gone unnoticed? When have you ever shown concern for your sisters' welfare? Or made the slightest push to see them settled? What affection have you shown me, your own mother, weak and ill as I am?”
“Now, Mama – “
"But then," she pressed ahead with unabated energy, "you have none of the nobility of the Newsams, have you? Anthony was everything that was elegant and gentlemanly! His airs! His manners! His dress! He was so bold-spirited – but what would you know of such things? You, a spiritless, dull, Quakerish lump!”
Lord Newsam privately considered it preferable to be even a Quakerish lump than to kill oneself cramming one’s horse at a hedge in the turmoil of a hunt, but he made no reply.
“And what have you have done to ensure the succession?” his mother rushed on. “Nothing! That the title should descend to someone like you when it might have been held by Anthony, who was so completely worthy of it! Oh, the tragedy of it! It is not to be borne!"
She flung her hand out, shedding a further wrap. Lord Newsam’s sister Amelia glanced at her brother’s face and, startled, checked in the act of restoring her mother’s shawl. She had often thought her brother a fine-looking man, but the black scowl and thinned mouth made him look actually ugly. Amelia hated dissension, but as she opened trembling lips to pour oil on the stormy waters, her mother leapt to the attack again.
"And the thought of your father's chamber being occupied by you! You! You are not fit to occupy his stables!" Lady Newsam's voice throbbed with sensibility.
"You may set your mind at rest, Mama; I shall remain at the Dower House," Lord Newsam said shortly. “I bid you good evening.” Bestowing a frigid bow upon his mother, he left the room. The door closed with a faint click.
Within the sitting-room, Lord Newsam’s younger sister Charlotte rose from her seat in a corner. “Well done, Mama!” she said coolly. “You have no doubt worked up an appetite for dinner while removing everyone else’s.”