She glanced out the window. "As I suspect it is about to snow, I'd rather she stayed in the nursery in case she catches a cold before her christening."
"You are probably right." Robert resumed walking. "It would be a shame to ruin her big day—especially when her godmother is going to be a countess."
As Elizabeth had been born earlier than expected and was rather small, Lucy was aware that she was a little overprotective of her daughter. She had delayed the christening until her father had begun to ask some rather pointed questions about his granddaughter remaining a heathen. At three months old, Elizabeth had gained weight and was a charming, sunny child whom everyone said greatly resembled her mother.
It was unusual for Aunt Jane to confide family business to Lucy, and this made her wonder just how difficult things had become in the titled branch of her father's family for her formidable aunt to stoop to explanations and excuses. Max would not enjoy the christening, which would irritate his parents and probably make matters between him and his father even worse.
As Lucy put on her bonnet, stout boots, and warmest coat, she promised herself that whatever happened at the ceremony she would find a way to deal with it. She was known as a remarkably resourceful woman who had faced down murderers and thieves. A mere christening should not trouble her at all.
After greeting his aunt Rose, whose marriage to his wife's father had somewhat complicated their family relationships, Robert retired to the rector's study. His father-in-law was an avid horseman, rider to hounds, and dog breeder, and thus the perfect person to choose a horse for Ned, who at the age of four was itching to ride by himself. It was a skill Robert was unable to teach him without resurrecting too many memories of his horse rolling on top of him at Waterloo.
He'd taught himself to drive a gig again, and could tolerate being in the stables, but the ability to watch over his son while he learned to ride with all its terrifying implications was beyond him. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but he'd had to accept it. Luckily, his staff and his horse-mad father-in-law were more than willing to teach Ned all he needed to know. The choice of a suitable pony had diverted the rector's attention from his three congregations for at least a month, and Robert was heartily sick of the matter. As a child, he'd scrambled onto the back of any horse he'd been allowed to mount without concern for the horse's disposition, height, or breed. He'd been thrown off a few times, which was entirely his own fault, and perhaps, on reflection, not something he would wish for his son.
"I've found the perfect pony for Ned."
Robert redirected his wandering attention to his father-in-law.
"Ah, finally! I mean, that is excellent news. Is the pony close by?"
"Yes, indeed! In Kurland St. Anne of all places. A retired groom of mine bred him, and I couldn't wish for a better animal." The rector cleared his throat. "As to the matter of payment, I instructed Albert Lawrence to send the bill directly to you. I did not have the necessary funds on me to pay for the transaction when I met with him yesterday."
"That's quite all right." Robert said. "Will the pony be brought over to Kurland Hall, or do we need to fetch it?"
"Albert will bring him over. We thought we should wait until after the christening, then surprise Ned for Christmas."
"An excellent suggestion." Robert nodded. "He's not been happy about Elizabeth's arrival and has been making his feelings known rather too loudly. I suspect rewarding him with a pony right now is the last thing he needs. In fact, I'll keep the little blighter away from Ned for good if his behavior doesn't improve."
The rector chuckled. "I remember Tom being most indignant when his younger brothers and sisters arrived. He kicked the cradle and insisted that it was still his and that no one else should be allowed in there." His smile disappeared. "Alas, poor Tom didn't live long enough to experience the joys and travails of being a father himself, God rest his soul."
"Indeed." Robert allowed a moment of silence to develop between them. Tom, the rector's oldest child, had died in the wars Robert had barely survived. "I know that Lucy still misses him very much."
The rector busied himself pushing a pile of papers to one side on his desk. "The first Mrs. Harrington and I lost two children shortly after their births, but somehow it is far worse to lose an adult son." He looked up at Robert, his gaze clear. "Please do excuse my reminisces. I do not normally choose to dwell on the negative, but this year has been rather trying."