Authors: Mary Kingswood
“Burford is so rich now you may spend as much as you choose,” Connie said. “Really, Belle, you should go to London, then you would have the latest fashions and all the best colours. When I marry, I shall choose a very rich man so that I never have to worry about money.”
The rest of the day passed in a froth of anticipation. Connie tried on each of her three ball gowns twice, and Dulcie’s once, in case it should suit her better, and even as they descended the stairs for dinner, she fretted that she had made the wrong choice.
They found Amy alone in the drawing room, reading a journal.
“You are very calm, sister,” Dulcie said. “I am sure I should collapse from nerves in your situation.”
“She has been so serene, anyone would imagine this to be a regular occasion,” Hope said. “The very first ball in your new home — I should be quite terrified! So many things could go wrong.”
“Terrified? No, indeed,” Amy said. “My dear Mr Ambleside has taken care of everything so that I need not be under any anxiety. He is so good to me.”
“Well, that is too bad!” Grace declared. “Are you to have no say the arrangements for your own dinner and ball?”
“I have had a say in everything, of course, but I need not concern myself with the details. Although I confess I am a little concerned about the dining room, for we only have room for twenty four in any comfort, and I have had word today from Harriet that she is to come, and that makes twenty five. It is very lucky Mr Wills is away, but even so, we shall be sadly squeezed, I fear.”
“Is Lady Harriet to bring her brother?” Dulcie said, clapping her hands with glee. “It will be famous if she does. Think what a compliment it would be to you, Amy.”
“I cannot tell you, for she writes so much that I cannot make it out at all. There, can you make anything of it?”
The letter was passed from hand to hand but Lady Harriet had had so much news to impart that she had crossed her lines once, and then crossed them again, rendering most of her message unintelligible.
“Where was this sent from?” Belle said. “Oh, Drummoor, I can just make it out. But look, the letter was not franked, so the Marquess could not have been there.”
The sisters groaned in disappointment.
Ambleside came in, and then Lady Sara appeared, and other guests in twos and threes, almost all the principal inhabitants of the neighbourhood. Connie watched them arrive without enthusiasm. There were few single men amongst them, and those few were either too young or too poor to be of interest. She was looking at Lady Hardy, and wondering whether the attractions of a fine house, a title and a large fortune that attached to Sir Osborne would overcome the disadvantage of daily intercourse with his mother, when the door was opened one more time. There on the threshold stood the most beautiful man Connie had ever seen. He had the face and figure of a Roman statue, his attire was in the finest of London fashions, his hair elegantly arrayed. He stood on the threshold, as if to be admired, his gaze raking the room. Every conversation died away.
“The most honourable the Marquess of Carrbridge, and the Lady Harriet Marford,” the butler intoned, into the silence.