Since Lord Dorrington and Mr Eaglesham showed no disposition to bring their acrimonious dialogue to an end, and Lord Spenborough's polite attempts to recall them to a sense of their surroundings were not attended to, Rotherham intervened, saying impatiently: "Do you mean to continue arguing all day, or are we to hear the Will read?"
Both gentleman glared at him; and Mr Perrott, taking advantage of the sudden silence, spread open a crackling document and in severe accents announced it to be the last Will and Testament of George Henry Vernon Carlow, Fifth Earl of Spenborough.
As Serena had foretold, it contained little of interest to its auditors. Neither Rotherham nor Dorrington had expectations; Sir William Claypole knew his daughter's jointure to be secure; and once Mr Eaglesham was satisfied that the various keepsakes promised to his wife had been duly bequeathed to her he too lost interest in the reading, and occupied himself in thinking of some pretty cutting things to say to Lord Dorrington.
Serena herself still sat with her face turned away, and her eyes on the prospect outside. Shock had at first left no room for any other emotion than grief for the loss of her father, but with the arrival of his successor the evils of her present situation were more thoroughly brought to her mind. Milverley, which had been her home for the twenty-five years of her life, was hers no longer. She who had been its mistress would henceforth visit it only as a guest. She was not much given to sentimental reflection, nor, during her father's lifetime, had she been conscious of any deep attachment to the place. She had taken it for granted, serving it as a matter of duty and tradition. Only now, when it was passing from her, did she realise her double loss.
Her spirits sank; it was an effort to keep her countenance, and impossible to chain her attention to the attorney, reciting in a toneless voice and with a wealth on incomprehensible legalities a long list of small personal bequests. All were known to her, many had been discussed with her. She knew the sources of Fanny's jointure, and which of the estates would furnish her own portion : there could be no surprises, nothing to divert her mind from its melancholy reflections.
She was mistaken. Mr Perrott paused, and cleared his throat. After a moment, he resumed his reading, his dry voice more expressionless than before. The words : "...all my estates at Hernesley and at Ibshaw" intruded upon Serena"s wandering thoughts, and informed her that her share of the bequests had been reached at last. The next words brought her head round with a jerk.
"..to the use of Ivo Spencer Barrasford, the Most Noble the Marquis of Rotherham -"
"What?" gasped Serena.
"..in trust for my daughter, Serena Mary," continued Mr Perrott, slightly raising his voice, "to the intent that he shall allow her during her spinsterhood such sums of money by way of pin-money as she has heretofore enjoyed, and upon her marriage, conditional upon such marriage being with his consent and approval, to her use absolutely."
An astonished silence succeeded these words. Fanny was looking bewildered, and Serena stunned. Suddenly the silence was shattered. The Most Noble the Marquis of Rotherham had succumbed to uncontrollable laughter.
The fiery tempered Serena chafes at the effrontery of her beloved father forcing her and Rotherham together again especially after she had jilted him a few years earlier. She chafed even more at all the changes wrought by the new Lord Spenborough. Well aware he was not brought up to the title, he enlists Serena's help with the workings of the estate until he's more sure of his footing. The old lord and Serena were beloved by all which heightens the tensions. Finally, the widow, Lady Fanny readily agrees to move to Bath where they can be more at ease and finish their mourning taking the waters, going to concerts, and enjoy polite society in the Pump Room.
A delightful tangle ensues when Serena meets her long lost love who had placed her on the Goddess Pedestal after his suit was rebuffed by Lord Spenborough seven years earlier. Serena was anything but a goddess.
This novel written in 1955 receives a 4.5 out of 5 stars.