Read A Proper Lady's Gypsy Lover Online

Authors: Juliet Chastain

A Proper Lady's Gypsy Lover (4 page)

BOOK: A Proper Lady's Gypsy Lover
3.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

 

Chapter Five

 

 

Lucy-Ann awoke the next morning and leaped out of bed. She laughed merrily at everything her aunts said over breakfast until they begged her to be more serious. And then she sang as Smith did her hair, thinking of her lover running his fingers through it, thinking of his hands on her body, feeling desire rising in her, making her heart beat faster. Intolerable impatience overcame her. She wanted only to be with Liberty in the golden light inside his
vardo
. She planned to tell her aunts that she would be lunching again with Miss Darnsworth.

No sooner had Smith finished pinning her hair than a letter came for her with no address or mark of any kind indicating from whom it came. She tore it open and read.

 

Dear Miss Taylor,

I would address you as my darling, but I have no right to do so. Nor did I have the right to behave as I did yesterday. I hope and pray that you will forgive me. I had meant to do otherwise, to only bid you farewell, but when I saw you I could not constrain myself.

I have thought and dreamt of you many times although I have struggled to forget you, for I knew I must lead my life without you. But when I saw you on Wednesday and again yesterday, I forgot my resolution and attended only to my selfish desires.

Now I have returned to good sense, as I am sure you have also. We have no future together. Our two worlds cannot be happily combined. I will never be of the ton, save in disguise, and you are much too fine a lady to join me in my life as a gambler—though I think of myself as an honorable one, as I play cards only with those who can afford to lose what I win—and as a trainer and seller of horses. And I am a traveler, a Gypsy. I do not wish to live forever in one place but would choose always to be wandering. Whereas I see that you have settled into the life of a member of high society. You will want to marry a fine gentleman and settle in a fine house and raise a fine family in comfort and respectability. I can offer you none of this, not house, not comfort, not respectability.

I care too much for you to dally with you further.

When we have sufficient money, my family and I will emigrate to America. If my luck runs out before then, I will be hanged or transported to the prison colony in Australia.

I will leave London as soon as I am able. I must finish some business at the Bartholomew Fair, and then I will be gone.

We will not meet again.

Your Faithful Servant,

Liberty Wood

 

Lucy-Ann threw herself on her bed, buried her head in the pillows, and wept copiously. After a while, she interrupted her orgy of self-pity by throwing the pillows one by one across the room. Finally, she got to her feet. This would never do.

“I’ll be damned,” she whispered, and then snuffled, remembering how, long ago, Liberty had taught her to swear. “I’ll be damned,” she said again in a low voice—no sense causing an uproar in the house should anyone hear her—”if I shall spend my life as a fine lady. How dare he suggest that I couldn’t lead the life he leads?”

She poured some water from the pitcher on the table in the corner of her room into the bowl, splashed her face, and wet a handkerchief, which she held against her eyes. “I’ll be damned,” she said once more between gritted teeth, “if he shall know I was weeping.”

She told her aunts that the letter was from Miss Darnsworth requesting her presence at luncheon again.

“But surely,” Aunt Louisa said, “you should have invited her here.”

After a few seconds of desperate thought, Lucy-Ann said, “So I would have, but her foot is injured.”

She ran upstairs to change her dress. Once again she rode with Aunt Emily. Once again the footman accompanied her around the corner and turned his back, and once again she walked quickly to the field. Her heart beat madly; her breath was ragged. She could not wait to be in Liberty’s arms, to tell him that she wanted no part of life in society, that she wanted to be free, and that she wanted to be with him.

She gasped and her hand flew to her chest. The
vardos
were gone! A new animal pen was being erected where the encampment had been. She saw no one working with the horses. Instead there were men hammering and sawing and sheep being led across the grass, the sheep dogs barking excitedly and running back and forth.

She stood stunned for a moment, uncomfortably aware that all the people she saw about were men, and she was unescorted. Unless the carriage had lingered, she would remain that way for the entire day until it returned for her at dusk. Heart pounding, she turned and ran as fast as she could, skirt held up above her knees, back to where she had left the carriage.

Thank goodness! It was still there, but the coachman was climbing onto his box and the footman was already in his place.

“Elijah,” she called out. “Don’t go. Wait for me.” The coachman started and turned. Seeing the shock on his face, she stopped running, let down her skirt, and walked decorously the rest of the way.

The footman helped her into the carriage where Aunt Emily said something about the footman having lingered to talk to a parlor maid. Lucy-Ann managed to blurt out something about mixing up luncheon dates and promptly burst into tears.

“Don’t cry, darling,” Aunt Emily said, patting her knee. “We’ve all made the occasional social faux pas in our lives. It is truly unpleasant, but really, it’s not worth crying about.”

“One more minute and you would have been gone,” Lucy-Ann wailed.

“Does Miss Darnsworth’s family not keep a carriage?” asked Aunt Emily. “If not, surely they could have sent you in a hansom cab—perhaps Miss Darnsworth’s personal maid could have accompanied you. It would have been perfectly decent. But all is well that ends well.”

After some time, Lucy-Ann gained control of herself and stared morosely out the window, hiccupping occasionally, while Aunt Emily slept.

She tried to think reasonably. Of course the
vardos
had moved—they had to make room for the fair. They could not have gone for good because the horses were still there in their pen. At Almack’s, and in his letter, Liberty had said he would be at the Bartholomew Fair. She let out a deep breath and leaned back. She would find him at the fair.

She would persuade her aunts to accompany her to the fair where, alas, as a proper young lady, she could not go alone. She would find Liberty and convince him that she despised her life in the ton, that she would much prefer the life he led. Somehow she would show him that she was perfectly capable of leading the life of a wanderer, a life with him.

 

 

Chapter Six

 

 

The sun shone brightly on Saturday as Lucy-Ann, standing before a mirror, considered herself in her best bonnet. She wished she had been more agreeable when her aunts had taken her to buy it. Then she had had no patience, wanting only to be done with the chore. Now she wished she had considered more carefully, for surely there were bonnets more complimentary than this one. Surely there were bonnets that would make her eyes bluer, her skin like alabaster. Surely there were bonnets that would make Liberty Wood decide he could not exist without her.

“I am being absurd,” she muttered to herself and tied the ribbons firmly under her chin. No, that did not look pretty. She untied it. Perhaps a bigger bow to the side of her face would be better. She tried again but was not satisfied.

“Are you ready at last?” Aunt Louisa inquired. “You were so anxious to go, though I cannot imagine why, and now you are delaying.”

“Aunt Emily, could you tie this for me? Could you make a fat bow like you do on your own bonnet?”

“This sudden interest in your own appearance!” Aunt Louisa said, smiling slightly. “Why, you would think you were going to meet a beau.”

To her chagrin, Lucy-Ann found herself blushing.

“Louisa, you are embarrassing the child,” said Aunt Emily as she pulled gently at the bow she had made, making it fuller.

“Emily, she is no child and it is time she took the vocation of finding a husband more seriously; otherwise, she will never marry.”

“She will not be a spinster like me. There are many men who would like to court her.”

“Yes, and she drives them all away with her wicked tongue and her unfriendly ways.”

“Perhaps she has not seen the man to suit her.”

Louisa sniffed. “Any man should suit, provided he is of good breeding and sober. It is time Lucy-Ann accepts that reality, no matter how harsh it may seem to her.”

“But affection, Louisa, mutual affection is necessary.”

“You are a foolish romantic, Emily. That is why you never married. It is nonsensical to hope for affection, and it is not necessary.”

No
, Lucy-Ann thought.
Affection is all that is necessary. I love Liberty and shall marry him, if he will have me. But if, alas, he will not, then if I must marry, it will not be for love.

She pressed her lips together and squeezed Aunt Emily’s hand.

 

***

 

The carriage stopped beside Smithfield and Lucy-Ann and her aunts got out. The footman followed behind them carrying a chair for Aunt Louisa.

Smithfield was quite changed. There were gaily decorated booths and tables and small gilt edifices in tidy rows. Lucy-Ann saw members of the ton and children dressed in rags, matrons shepherding their pretty daughters, and nursemaids and nannies leading their charges. There were men in impeccable tailoring and others in coarse and worn clothing. Everyone of every social class ambled about, enjoying the Bartholomew Fair.

The air was redolent with the scent of sausages as they strolled past a table piled high with them, and the woman standing behind it called out if they might not like some. They continued on, passing a group of entranced children watching a puppet show, then a pen filled with sheep and a dog asleep beside it while two men stood arguing next to him. They passed the pen where she had seen Liberty training the horse. Now she saw a boy leading a mare around in a circle while several gentlemen took stock of her, and a man in a gray cap, not unlike the one Liberty had worn when last she saw him, watched the men. There was no sign of Liberty.

They stopped to watch a bear with a monkey in a red jacket on its shoulders dance about. That is, her aunts watched, Aunt Louisa seated in her chair with the footman standing patiently behind it, but Lucy-Ann kept looking about, hoping to see Liberty in the crowd.

They had not gone much farther before Aunt Louisa wished to sit again, and the footman put the chair beneath a small tree next to a gingerbread seller. Aunt Louisa would not have the other two stay with her, so Aunt Emily and Lucy-Ann continued on. There was still no sign of Liberty. At one moment, Lucy-Ann saw a blue cap, but alas, it was another man, dark and handsome to be sure, but not Liberty.

Aunt Emily admitted she was tired, and Lucy-Ann, despondent now, wished herself at home. The two of them walked on, not sure if they were going in the right direction, and somehow found themselves approaching the horse pen again.

“Why, there’s Lord Chinton and his wife,” Aunt Emily said, disapproval obvious in her voice.

“Lady Chinton is a notorious flirt, and Lord Chinton indulges her every whim.” Lucy-Ann thought that the Lady’s whim of the moment must be horses because she was leaning over the fence surveying the animals, but when she smiled prettily up at their companion—a tall, well-built gentleman with dark hair whose back was to them—Lucy-Ann decided the Lady’s whim was probably the man, not the horses after all.

Lucy-Ann gasped as she realized who he must be, and her heart skipped a beat.

When he turned, laughing, Aunt Emily exclaimed, “Why it is Mr. Derbyshire!” She added more soberly, “Can even so fine a gentleman as he be ensnared by Lady Chinton?”

“Come, Lucy-Ann, we must pay our respects,” Aunt Emily said as Lady Chinton waved at them. Mr. Derbyshire’s smile vanished. He did not look pleased to see them. Lucy-Ann’s heart sank.

 

***

 

Liberty had almost persuaded the lady to buy the small mare, the poorest horse of the lot. Her husband knew nothing of horses—in fact, the fellow stayed sufficiently inebriated that he knew little about most things—and was rich enough to buy his wife whatever she wanted. His stables were extensive and well run. The horse would be well treated though ridden seldom, if at all, by her owner. The lady was not interested in horses, but rather in seduction, and for the moment, he was her prey. He would make good use of this. This horse would be difficult to sell to anyone who knew about horses—at least for what he hoped to get for the animal. His cousin and his cousin’s boy were showing the horses, acting as though the foppish Mr. Derbyshire was their employer.

Were the Chintons the kind of people among whom Lucy-Ann would spend her life—rich, spoiled, self-indulgent gamblers and drinkers?

Giggling flirtatiously, Lady Chinton asked,” Pray tell, is that truly a fair price?

Still thinking of Lucy-Ann degrading herself by marrying someone like Lord Chinton, Liberty scowled.

“Don’t scowl so!” The lady laughed, mistaking the reason for his expression. “I believe you. I shall believe every word you say henceforth, just so you don’t scowl so.

“Tell me, Mr. Derbyshire,”—she put her hand over his, which rested on the fence. He did not allow himself to recoil at her touch—”do you think I will look charming riding sidesaddle upon it?”

Lady Chinton was beautiful. So beautiful that he wished her personality were less abhorrent, for then he might allow himself to be seduced and thus perhaps forget Lucy-Ann for a night or two. Forcing a smile, he said truthfully, “Madame, you would look very pretty indeed.” But he wondered if she would ever take herself from the gaming tables long enough to go riding.

“Shall you ride beside me?” she asked, pouting her pretty lips.

He laughed to avoid answering and turned slightly and there was Lucy-Ann looking solemnly at him. His heart thudded painfully against his ribs and he had to stop himself from hurrying toward her. It was madness to want her the way he did. He had thought perhaps he had his feelings for her under some control, but the sight of her proved to him that that was not the case. He stood silent, rooted to the spot, as she and her aunt walked toward him.

“Mr. Derbyshire,” the elder Miss Taylor said. “Lady Chinton, Lord Chinton.” There were greetings and bows and curtseys all around. His lordship’s bow was cursory, his words slurred. Her ladyship’s eyes narrowed as she looked Lucy-Ann up and down, infuriating Liberty.

Out of the generalized din of greeting, he heard only Lucy-Ann’s voice—how he loved the sound of it—saying, “Mr. Derbyshire, what a pleasure to see you again.” He heard himself return the compliment as he bowed and she curtsied.

“Mr. Derbyshire,” said Lady Chinton, “is helping me choose a horse. He advises this one—Mr. Derbyshire, tell the lad to walk her up and down again.” She gestured toward the Gypsy boy who stood watching impassively.

“Noah,” Liberty said loudly. “Would you walk her around again?” He could feel Lucy-Ann’s eyes upon him.

“Mr. Derbyshire has been most good to me,” said Lady Chinton in honeyed tones. “He explained all the points of importance on the animal.” She moved indecently close to him. “Mr. Derbyshire is a particular friend of Lord Chinton and myself.” Liberty cringed, fearing that Lucy-Ann might think he was good friends with people such as these, but he could not think what to say.

“Indeed?” Lucy-Ann queried. “I have had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Debyshire since we were children.” Miss Emily Taylor stared at Lucy-Ann in surprise while Lady Chinton scowled, and Liberty thought the sale was lost, though he no longer cared. “It is true that he is an excellent judge of horses.”

Lucy-Ann leaned close to Lady Chinton and said just loud enough that Liberty could hear, “I know him to be quite the rascal—so beware, my lady. I am sure that if you buy this fine horse, Mr. Derbyshire will be a frequent visitor. Do not allow him to be alone with you.”

Lady Chinton smiled. “Why thank you, my dear. Believe me, I know exactly what to do with rascals.” She turned to Liberty.

“My dear Mr. Derbyshire, your little friend here assures me that you are as well-versed as you claim to be in matters of the flesh.” She smiled prettily and gazed up at him. “I refer, of course, to horse flesh. Lord Chinton will take your advice.” She waved her fingers at her husband, who struggled to rouse himself from his torpor.

“Buy that horse, darling,” she commanded.

“It’s rather expensive, don’t you think?” he asked, slurring his words.

She regarded him with a frown. “Don’t be absurd, it’s perfectly worth the price.” She turned back to Liberty, smiling once more. “Mr. Derbyshire, you will deliver it in person, will you not?”

“Should I for some reason be unable to do so, I will look forward to the pleasure of meeting you at the gaming tables,” he said, and then bowed. Lady Chinton took her husband’s limp arm, bade the misses Taylor good day, and walked away smiling.

Liberty turned to Lucy-Ann and saw that her eyes were sparkling with mischief.

“Perhaps,” she said under her breath, “we could sell that same horse to another gentleman as well.”

Liberty laughed. “I think not. I plan to stay in London a little longer than I had intended.” He lowered his voice, “I much prefer to enjoy my visit here as a free man, on this side of Newgate Prison.”

“That, sir, is a good idea.”

She turned to Miss Emily Taylor—the good lady, Liberty realized, was rather deaf—and asked loudly, “Aunt, may we invite Mr. Derbyshire to dinner this evening?”

“Oh, yes, that would be most agreeable,” the old lady said, and smiled benignly on the two of them.

“I accept with pleasure,” he said, smiling back at the two of them. “Would you ladies permit me to escort you about the fair?”

“We cannot permit it, sir,” said Lucy-Ann, “I suspect Lady Chinton will decide she needs no new horse if we are seen together.”

Liberty threw back his head and laughed uproariously. “You are still the mischievous imp I remember,” he said, then whispered, “and the devilish woman that I love.” In louder tones he declared, “I would far prefer to lose Lord Chinton’s payment than lose the pleasure of a stroll with you and Miss Taylor.”

BOOK: A Proper Lady's Gypsy Lover
3.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Sandra Chastain by Firebrand
Extraordinary Rendition by Paul Batista
False colors by Powell, Richard, 1908-1999
Dancing with the Duke by Suzanna Medeiros
Letters From the Lost by Helen Waldstein Wilkes
I Trust You by Katherine Pathak