Throngs of people
crowded the dock at Southampton.
Passengers disembarking from the
ship, and visitors who came to
welcome them, mingled with
automobiles and horse-drawn
Elizabeth Shallcross hurried through
the crush, her eyes darting from side to
side. Her hat, although not as
wide-brimmed as fashionable women wore
those days, covered most of her hair and
made scanning the crowd a bit of a
challenge. Silently, she berated herself
for losing contact with Lord and Lady
Wheatly at the last moment.
Suddenly, an arm went around her
waist from behind and pulled her
violently to one side. A scream started
in her throat.
"Please don’t be frightened." The
male voice was close to her ear. "You
were almost run down by a careless lorry
Elizabeth whipped her head around to
see a four-wheeled cart in the very spot
she’d occupied a few moments before. She
could have touched the side of it if she
Her heart still pumping wildly from
the incident, she looked up at the man
who’d rescued her from being trampled.
He was tall and broad-shouldered, yet
slender, wearing the unmistakable
clothes of a gentleman, including hat
His gaze swept over her, and he
smiled and bowed. "I must apologize for
my rather rough treatment, but it seemed
necessary if you were to remain
His accent puzzled her--not quite all
English nor all American. Having just
spent three years in New York, she
recognized American accents.
She smiled back at him. "No apology
is necessary. On the contrary, it’s I
who should thank you for keeping me out
of harm’s way."
He seemed to be in his early thirties
and, in her opinion, quite good-looking,
especially since he wore no beard or
mustache. Thankfully, fewer men those
days kept up the practice of sporting
facial hair. King George wore a beard,
but Mr. Taft, the President of the
United States, had only a mustache.
"If I’m not being too bold, may I ask
if I may assist you further? You seemed
to be searching for someone in this
crowd. Perhaps I could find a safer
place for you to wait?"
Since he was obviously a gentleman,
she had no qualms about telling him the
circumstances. "You’re right. I am
waiting for someone--Lord and Lady
Wheatly--with whom I’ve just returned
He gave a broad grin. "What a
coincidence. I came here today to meet
them myself. Are you a relative of the
"No." She decided quickly that
explaining her position would be awkward
as well as unnecessary and said no more.
"Forgive me." He touched the brim of
his hat. "I should have introduced
myself at once. My name is Richard
He took her gloved hand in his. "What
a delightful coincidence. Since you are
a friend of Lady Wheatly, I expect we
shall see a great deal of one another in
future. I shall look forward to it."
His smile and the length of time he
held her hand in his could mean only one
thing. He was flirting with her,
obviously wanting to become better
acquainted. She’d had admiring glances
before and suspected he might, as other
men she’d met recently had done, attempt
to pursue a closer relationship. His
next words confirmed her opinion.
"You say you were with the Wheatlys
"Yes, I was."
"I understand the Bennetts are
planning a welcome-home party for them.
No doubt you will be attending." Without
giving her time to answer, he went on.
"If no one is escorting you to the
soiree, may I offer my services in that
Elizabeth felt her cheeks warm. How
marvelous it would be to attend such a
party, and in Graham’s company at that.
But the acceptance she framed in her
mind never became spoken words.
An imposing voice--which she
recognized at once as belonging to Lord
Wheatly--broke the little tete-a-tete
and Mr. Graham released Elizabeth’s
"Richard, my boy," Wheatly said to
her companion, "how good of you to come
to meet us."
Almost at once, Lady Wheatly appeared
behind her husband, both hands occupied
holding onto those of her two children.
And behind her, a uniformed steward
pushed a heavy-duty cart laden with
steamer trunks, boxes and leather bags.
Richard Graham bowed again. "Lady
Wheatly. Sir. I took the liberty of
engaging a large motorcar for your
return to London. The rack on top will
hold all your luggage. I hope that meets
with your approval."
"Capital," Wheatly said. "Very
thoughtful of you."
Penelope, who was eight years old,
pulled her hand out of her mother’s and
rushed to Elizabeth’s side.
"I see you have met the children’s
governess," Lady Wheatly said to Graham.
"Elizabeth Shallcross. But we call her
Beth. We somehow lost touch with one
another leaving the ship, but it seems
you have found her for us."
After taking Penelope’s hand in hers,
Beth looked up at Lady Wheatly. "I’m so
sorry if I caused you any worry. I
returned to my stateroom for the gift
I’d purchased for my mother."
During her explanation, Beth watched
the smile fade from Mr. Graham’s face.
She knew exactly what he thought. No
doubt an aristocrat, he’d presumed her
to be one as well. Now he knew she was
only an employee of the Wheatlys’. So
much for his offer to be her escort to a
party. A knot formed in her midriff. In
spite of changing times, the class
system was obviously still alive and
well in twentieth century England.
A half-hearted smile reappeared on
Richard Graham’s face. "Yes, Miss
Shallcross and I have met." He paused.
"However, I’m not sure if there will be
room in the motorcar..."
Beth spoke again. "I shan’t need a
ride back to town, Mr. Graham. I expect
my parents will be meeting me here very
"Admirable," Lord Wheatly said.
Lady Wheatly leaned toward Beth. "But
this is au revoir and not
good-bye. You remember we have much to
discuss, and I shall expect you to call
on us in a day or so. When it is
convenient and you’re rested from the
"Yes, Ma’am." She dropped her gaze,
unwilling to look at the others any
longer. Why had she allowed herself to
be enticed even for a moment when
Richard Graham introduced himself
earlier? She should have known nothing
would come of it. She supposed her three
years in New York were responsible for
such optimism. Little, if any, class
consciousness existed there.
"Well, let us be on our way," Lord
Wheatly said. "Richard, is the motorcar
Mr. Graham stared at the procession
of automobiles threading their way
through the slowly-diminishing crowd. "I
believe I see it now." He paused. "Miss
Shallcross, a pleasure to meet you."
She detected no warmth in the smile
he gave her then, but she nodded her
head for an instant and said nothing.
Both Penelope and Charles, who was
six, gave her the polite handshakes
she’d taught them to give when greeting
or parting from others. She watched them
enter the large silver limousine where
the steward arranged the luggage on top.
She recognized it, from magazine
pictures she’d seen, as a Rolls Royce
Silver Cloud. Seemingly almost as large
as a railroad passenger car, it provided
plenty of room for her, especially if
Mr. Graham were to sit in the front seat
with the chauffeur.
But he apparently preferred not to
include her, and the steward placed her
own steamer trunk at her feet. Although
she chafed at the slight, her common
sense told her she didn’t want Mr.
Graham to see where she lived anyway.
She curtsied to Lord and Lady Wheatly,
and they, too, climbed into the vehicle.
Richard Graham apparently entered from
the other side, and she didn’t see him
She sighed. Most likely she would
never see the man again.
* * *