On the far side of the parlour by the gilded oval mirror, Lady Abergavenny was leaning back against the hall door, her petticoats bunched up as high as the garters on her stockinged legs.
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Dazed and shaken, Elizabeth scurried away down the back stairs, scarcely daring to think about what she had seen. She whispered her secret only to a laundrymaid, afraid that no one else would believe the shocking discovery. But as the months passed, suspicion grew among the servants about the unseemly intimacy between him and Lady Abergavenny. The house porter William Smith noticed that every time Mr Lyddel called, he was told by the mistress that she would not be at home to anyone else during his visit.
Seated at his usual writing table, he was absorbed in the task when a sudden noise from above made him stop abruptly halfway down a page, quill poised over the inkwell. Running as hard as he could, Matthews found one of the house servants and told them to send up the valet, then ran up the back stairs through the long gallery just in time to see Lady Abergavenny emerging from the White Room looking very red and disordered. The next morning he again heard noises in the room above and, determined now to find out the truth, dashed up the back stairs, along to the end of the gallery, and removing his wig lay down out of sight to wait.
Shortly he heard the bolt drawn in the White Room and Mr Lyddel appeared, looking around furtively, then the mistress came out carefully spreading her petticoats to prevent the silks rustling.
On Thursday of that week he heard similar suspicious noises in the bedchamber and decided to report the matter to Mr Osman, the house steward, as he could not bear to see his lord betrayed in this fashion. On Friday and Saturday morning the two men waited together for the lovers to meet, and both heard the White Room bed creak, the door unbolted and saw her ladyship come out holding up her petticoats as before. With such clear evidence now of a clandestine liaison, they knew Lord Abergavenny had to be told the truth; they initially asked his mother if she would break the terrible news, but she was too upset to confront him.
Eventually on 6 November Mr Day, a neighbour and relation who managed the family estates in several counties, agreed to take on the difficult task and asked his lordship to take a walk in the fields with him as he had something to discuss. Clearly alarmed by his grave manner, Lord Abergavenny pressed him to speak out at once, and when he heard what had been going on between his wife and Mr Lyddel was at first too shocked to believe that his close friend could have done such a thing.
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Then, hearing sounds within, Matthews cautiously opened the door, and the three men tiptoed softly to the bedside and flung back the curtains. Even more shocking, she was heavily pregnant.
Less than a month later she was dead. The shocking tale of Lady Abergavenny had all the right ingredients of a juicy scandal - illicit sex among the upper classes, betrayal, remorse and punishment of the guilty couple. It revealed a tantalising glimpse into the secret existence of the aristocracy, which was usually safely hidden from public gaze behind the forbidding stone walls of their country houses. By catering to our existing customers as well as local organizations, we quickly grew into one of the biggest catering companies on the South Side.
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