In response to Linda G Hill’s stream of consciousness prompt to/too/two hosted this week by Helen Espinosa from This thing called life one word at a time.
And in response to Felicity Johns’ Friday Flash Challenge Time Travel
To be honest I wasn’t sure how to title this one. I used the themes of the prompts instead. If someone had an idea ;-).
“Stop breathing child,” Delia admonished. Delia rarely used proper title with her mistress, even though she should. But Adeline did not mind. She had been under Delia’s care ever since she was a babe and she was used to it. Even though she was no longer a child.
She obeyed, as the maid pulled on the lace. She gasped once and then it was done. Not too tight that she could not breathe, not too loose that she would make a scandal. She could not afford it. At least not now. Things were complicated as it was. Delia gathered the dress she was to wear, a gown of pale blue contrasting perfectly with her dark curls that were properly arranged in the Paris fashion. Although the French were horrible and untrustworthy people, they had style.
She pinched her cheeks just a slight bit to give it some more colour, while Delia placed an aquamarine necklace and earrings upon her. They matched her eye colour. She needed to be particularly beautiful tonight. A knock came at the door and it opened before she invited her sister in. Her twin Adelaide was impossible; but she looked beautiful in her virginal white dress. Unlike her, Adelaide had brown doe eyes and such long lashes that made her look like an innocent angel and granted her everything she wished. Her mouth shaped a perfect o, as she took a moment to look at her.
“What is it you want from Father, Adie?” She asked blithely and uncaring of Delia’s presence.
“I cannot fathom why you would think such a thing.” Adeline answered stiffly.
Her sister smiled knowingly.
“Fine keep your secret. I imagine you hope he will let this untitled man woo you. You know Father will not agree to a marriage outside the ton.”
Adeline kept a calm demeanour. Let her sister think as she would. In fact, she had voluntarily misled her twin in this matter. Corporal James Milford was not interested in the least in wooing her. He was merely a friend who would share information about the man she truly wished to see. The Duke left the morning after their last engagement and he sent Milford to keep her abreast of his whereabouts and his welfare. For it would be unbecoming for the Duke to send a letter to her. And another potential scandal. Lord Huntington would not forgive it. She shivered.
“Let us go.” Adeline said.
The two sisters went down the stairs where their father waited. Although he’d been out of mourning for months, Lord Huntington still favoured dark colours. He had always been a jovial man, but since his wife passed, some of that happiness had gone. And his eldest son’s demise in a brothel had left him very protective of both his reputation and his daughters’. Adeline was not likely to forget that her behaviour might be the last straw for her father but it all started innocently. He smiled at the sight of his daughters though.
“You both are beautiful.” He said. A trace of sadness lingered as he looked at her. Adeline had her mother’s eyes and she was reminded of it every time her father met her gaze.
Adelaide hooked her arm to their father’s pestering him about the company that would be welcomed tonight. She heard a very special guest might attend and she needed to know who; but her father would not say. Soon the mansion was filled with guests, all member of the nobility: dukes, earls and ladies gathered in the main room, first eating and then dancing. Their dance cards were always full before the ball started but tonight hers was not. Adeline wondered at that when her father invited her for a waltz. They took to the floor and Lord Huntington smiled down at his daughter.
“What do you need from me Adeline?” He asked with a knowing smile. She arched an eyebrow, unwilling to admit that she needed something. “You are wearing your mother’s jewellery.”
That had been a mistake then. She sighed dropping her gaze but did not add a word.
“Have you heard about the proposal I received today? Did you intend to convince me to allow it, or maybe to refuse it?”
She looked up again surprised.
“A gentleman of great quality and renown has asked for your hand. And I am minded to accept. The time you spend with this Captain Milford…”
“He is but a friend Father.”
“Is he now?” She nodded. But she knew in the severe set of her Father’s mouth that he might not believe her. “Well until you are married he will not be welcome to our house. Then it will be your husband’s decision.”
Her heart sunk.
“So you have decided already?” She asked sadly. He nodded. “Is there something I could do to make you reconsider?”
His tone was final. He would not have another scandal. Well and so. He would anyway. For how could she explain to her new husband she was pregnant? She would need to send a letter to her lover that he might come and fetch her. Though when it would reach him was a mystery. She did not know where he was stationed. Her father stood still as the music ended before he led her to the stairs and called for everyone’s attention.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” He called. “Tonight it is with great pleasure that I announced the betrothal of my beloved daughter Adeline.”
Adelaide had come closer and her face showed surprise and compassion. She had not known either. Adeline felt her father shift and Adelaide’s gaze moved past her. She turned and almost fainted.
His Grace, the Duke of Rochester, came down the stairs. His arm was in a sling but for that, he looked exactly the same as the night they pledged and shared their love. His smile was for her only, as he took her hand in his and kissed it.