Marion woke and looked at the bedside clock. It was only a little after six o’clock in the morning. Still an hour before the alarm would go off to wake her for her day at Teacher Training College.

She had been woken by voices in the room. She looked and saw Kristoph talking on the videophone to his brother. She sat up and put her hand on his shoulder as he sat on the edge of the bed, dressed in his silk pyjamas, listening to what his brother was saying.

“What is wrong?” she asked. “Is your father ill again?”

“No,” he assured her. He looked at his brother. “I am truly sorry, Remonte,” he told him. “I hope she changes her mind before the baby is born. For your sake.”

“Thank you,” Remonte told him. They spoke for a little longer and then Remonte said goodbye. Kristoph broke the connection and switched off the screen.

“I am sorry we woke you,” he told Marion. “I really should have taken the call in my study.”

“That’s all right,” she answered him. “But what’s happened? Your brother looked upset.”

“Let’s not talk about it on an empty stomach,” he said. “It’s early, but not so early that we can’t have breakfast.”

Marion’s idea of getting breakfast was to go down to the kitchen in their dressing gowns to put the kettle on and throw some bread in the toaster.

Kristoph’s idea of having breakfast meant them both getting dressed and getting into the TARDIS and going to a beachfront café in the south of France where coffee and hot croissants followed by a ham and Swiss cheese omelette and more coffee were brought to their outdoor table.

Marion liked Kristoph’s style. He never failed to surprise her with little moments like this. But even the pleasant surroundings and delicious breakfast didn’t make the news he had from home less palatable.

“Idell has left Remonte” he told her at last as they sat in the pleasant sunshine drinking their third pot of coffee.

“Left? But she’s having a baby. She can’t…” Marion had read most of the books in the library by now. She knew how much Gallifreyans valued their children. Especially sons. And Idell was having a baby boy. Remonte’s son and heir. “Oh, he must be upset.”

“She has gone back to her own family. They live on the Northern continent, on the other side of the Red desert.”


Kristoph sighed. He wished he didn’t have to tell her. But this was the life she had accepted when she became his fiancée. As embarrassing as it was for him to talk about this scandalous situation brought upon his family, she had a right to know.

“Because Remonte refused to press our father to make their son his heir ahead of any children you and I might have.”

“Oh. You mean… it’s my fault.”

“No, it is NOT,” Kristoph assured her. “Idell is the one who is in the wrong. She was probably in the wrong the day she married my brother. She comes from a Newblood family. They tend to have wealth. They are our industrialists and businessmen. Like the new rich of the industrial revolution here in Britain. But they don’t have power. Idell’s family wanted an Alliance with an Oldblood family for the power and the prestige. Since my work meant that I was not home very much there WAS a common belief that Remonte was going to be conferred as heir in my place. Idell married my brother in that belief and it was too late when she discovered it was not so. We have no mechanism of divorce. She was married to a man who stood to inherit no title and no power other than that he may earn for himself by his own efforts. Remonte is a clever politician. He is sure to rise through the ranks and become a senior High Councillor before long. That ought to be enough to satisfy any woman’s ambition. But Idell wanted to be Lady de Lœngbærrow.”

“She should have married you, then?”

“I think not. A vain empty-headed, spiteful woman like that!” He was thinking of the things she had said the night of the dinner party. He knew Marion was, too. He smiled as he saw her expression. He could see her thoughts clearly. He understood them very well. “Go on,” he told her. “Say it.”

“It’s a wicked thought,” she answered. “I can’t…”

“Yes, you can,” he assured her. “Or if you won’t, let me. You were thinking, if only for a moment, that Idell gone from the family fold is one less thorn in your side. One less gossip saying things about you behind your back. And it is true. There’s no reason for you to be ashamed of saying it. I am sorry for my brother’s grief. He loved her in his way, and he was looking forward to the birth of the child. But I am not sorry to see the back of her. I think when his sorrow eases he will be better off without her.”

“If there is no concept of divorce…” Marion began.

“He WILL always be married to her. She will be married to him. But they will live separate lives. She may take back her family name and most likely when the child is born it will have that name, not de Lœngbærrow. The child will not suffer. Her family are wealthy enough. He will have the same educational opportunities as he would have as a Lœngbærrow, the same chances of advancement in our society. All the bitterness she has created is for the sake of the title of heir to our House. That is all.”

“I suppose you could let her have it? You could let your brother inherit and let her BE Lady de Lœngbærrow? It’s… it’s your choice, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Kristoph said. And he knew what Marion would say next.

“Then why not do that? We’re happy enough living here on Earth. Professor and Mrs de Leon. I don’t NEED to be Lady de Lœngbærrow. I have never had the slightest ambition of that kind.”

“Because you deserve to be my Lady.” Kristoph answered. “Because it is MY right to choose to make you my Lady. And because the House of Lœngbærrow is an honourable House,” Kristoph answered. “Lady de Lœngbærrow will be a gracious woman with kindness in her heart, not a cold hearted creature for whom ambition is the driving force.”

“You put me first in those criteria,” Marion noted.


“Idell is born to it. She LOOKS like a Lady. Do you really think I would be better than her?”

“A thousand times better. Don’t even think of it. You ARE going to be my Lady and when we make our vows of Alliance none will doubt that I made the right choice.”

“Idell will.”

“Idell will almost certainly not be invited. And that will be to her cost. Because the people of power she wants to associate with WILL be there. She has sealed her own doom socially.”

“I almost feel sorry for her. All that bitterness. There IS no need.”

“No,” Kristoph said. “There isn’t. But she brought it on herself. And you, my love, need not waste a moment’s thought on her.”

“I wish it wasn’t so complicated. If it was just you and me… like it is now, when I AM just Mrs De Leon, it would be all right. But there’s your parents to consider. Your brother, your sisters. This idea of the primogeniture. And I still hate the idea that when we marry, your mother and father are ‘pensioned off’.”

“They retire to the Dower House. Which, incidentally, is a beautifully appointed house only a fraction smaller than the main house. I’m not putting them in Sunny View rest home for the elderly. Only taking the responsibility and the burden and allowing them to live out their lives in peace. It is the tradition in our society. When the heir marries, he becomes head of the family. Otherwise there would be several generations all waiting to inherit. Besides, you’ll enjoy visiting my mother in the Dower House. It is right by the river. I can just see you and Lily and mother sitting there on a sunny afternoon drinking herbal tea and telling stories about me.”

Marion smiled at the image.

“You make it sound so nice. But even if I AM going to be your Lady, I’m not going to spend my whole time receiving other Ladies for lunch and tea and dinner parties and going to their houses to do the same. I shall make myself useful. Teaching at the school will be so rewarding. Which reminds me…” She looked at her watch. It told her the ‘real time’ that it ought to be if they hadn’t taken a trip in the TARDIS. It was nearly half past eight. She should have been on her way to Edgehill on the train by now. “I have a lecture at ten,” she said.

“I will take you there in the TARDIS,” Kristoph promised. “I think we’ll have a pleasant walk on the sea front first.”

“If I do that, I won’t want to go back to Edgehill and spend all day in lectures and classrooms,” Marion said. “You’re spoiling me.”

“There’s no point having a time and space ship if we can’t use it for a romantic breakfast before work. I’ve got a morning of the Modernist Novel with second year undergraduates.”

“Poor you,” she said. But she knew he loved the job that had once been no more than a cover for his real work, but was now something he did for the joy of it. And she enjoyed walking with him on the seafront in the Riviera sunshine before they went back to the TARDIS and returned to ‘real’ life in Liverpool.