“Finally, some numbers I am accustomed to. I imagine their dispensation follows the ages of the children? The eldest son gets the earldom, the second the largest estate, the third the next largest estate, and so on?”

He nodded.

“And daughters take their places accordingly if we do not have sons?”

Again, her uncle nodded and she laughed nervously. “It is funny, don’t you think? When you collected me in January to visit Great Aunt Seymour, I never imagined that the following summer I would be engaged to an earl and making plans for my seven children!”

“Elizabeth, is this all too much for you? Are you having second thoughts about marrying Lord Asheland?” he asked.

“No!” she cried. “I very much want to marry him! It is just, this is all, all so…”

“Sudden and overwhelming?”

“Yes,” she exhaled loudly. “Exactly. Thank you, Uncle. All will be well, I will be well, I know it. I just need time to adjust to so many changes and so much money! I’m sure there are many women who always hoped to marry a wealthy man, but I confess I never truly thought I would. I thought Jane might, but I never expected to be more than comfortable.”

“It is a good surprise though, yes?” he said with some humor.

“Yes! If I must choose, I’d rather be wealthy than poor,” she teased. “Now, tell me how many grand carriages I am to have.”

Her uncle laughed and continued detailing the three houses in town—one accompanying the title, Asheland House, one inherited from an uncle, Talbot House, and another from his mother’s family. Two were let and one was currently in use. There was a good amount of money in the funds and in the bank, amounts which were not specified, but clearly there was enough for him to settle forty-thousand pounds on her without strain. When her uncle told her this, her eyes bulged and he had to call for tea before they could proceed.

Her pin money was more than she could ever imagine spending and the dowries set aside for their daughters were, to her mind, inconceivable, but of course the amount would be lowered if she delivered more than three Miss Talbots.

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