Just then they heard a rifle shot, and turning their heads as one they saw a group of militia at the far side of the lake. Before anyone could think what was happening, a shrill cry was heard and there, running through the fast melting snow was Charlotte. Behind her came….
. . . a group of well-born gentlemen.
Despite the terror of the situation, Hester could not help her spirits lifting at the sight of so many English lords leaping to the rescue.
‘Ten of you?’ she gasped.
‘Do you think we really need so many?’ asked Ryder, with the lift of one eyebrow.
‘Where there is a damsel in distress, can there ever be too many?’ asked the foremost lord, Lord Wakeham, his arm resting protectively on Charlotte’s shoulder.
‘You’re wasting your time there,’ said Ryder, eyeing him coldly. ‘The lady already has two suitors whose names begin with a W. There is no room for a third.’
‘Whereas I . . . ‘ said Hester tantalisingly.
‘ . . . whereas you are the most charming young woman I have ever seen,’ said Lord Wakeham, slipping his arm from Charlotte’s shoulder and turning towards her.
‘Put the gun down, Waverley,’ said Lord Hawksmere, his eye on the present danger.
‘Never,’ said the panther, waving it at him menacingly. ‘Get out of here, all of you. This isn’t any of your business.’
‘Oh, but we intend to make it our business,’ said Lord Ravensdeep. ‘True, it may only be a walk-on part – or a leap-in part – in this story, but it could lead to bigger and better things. We could be the hero’s friend in the next story, or maybe the hero himself. My nephew has a particularly charming governess. That’s reason enough to give me my own book.’
‘And I need an heir,’ said Lord Chadderton.
‘Whilst I need an heiress,’ said Lord Penstable.
‘And I am a notorious rake in need of taming,’ said the tallest of the men, pushing Lord Wakeham aside and taking Hester’s hand. ‘I am the Duke of Eaglesbane,’ he said looking deeply into her eyes. ‘But you can call me . . . ‘
Hester felt her lips part.
‘Yes?’ she gasped.
‘. . . Your Grace,’ he said mockingly.
Hester had an urge to slap him, but if she did so, she suspected he would only catch her hand, drag her into his arms and kiss her, so . . . oh!. . . .
She lifted her hand . . .
‘So you see,’ said Lord Ravensdeep to the Panther. ‘You are outnumbered. And do not think you can fool us into thinking that Jack is a traitor. Luke here infiltrated the smugglers a month ago . . . ‘ A man with laughing blue eyes stepped forward ‘ . . . and he knows everything.’
The panther sneered, turned his gun on Luke and pulled the trigger . . .
Come back for part 11 of our Christmas round robin to see what happens next!
A Class for the Beau Monde
I've recently given a class for the English country house for the Beau Monde chapter of the RWA.
What a treat to be able to revisit some of these beautiful places! I did some pieces on how they lived, and the roles of the various servants in the house, and a "typical" day for the master and mistress, if they ever had a "typical" day!
I used to live near Chatsworth, and although the house is completely stunning, I was never entirely convinced it could be a home. But they managed it, and although they didn't use the grandest rooms every day, they had some lovely drawing rooms and parlours where they did live. People had their own suites, and if they wished, they never had to leave them, except for great occasions.
Such as Christmas. In the English country house, the Christmas period was marked by a lot of churchgoing and revelry. The church, denuded for Advent, would be decorated for the twelve days of Christmas, with evergreen boughs and the church regalia, the vessels used in communion and the cleric's clothes, would be similarly festive. The austere Advent clothes replaced by the colours of Christmas.
At the Big House, there might be a tenant's ball, where the master would have a ball for his tenants, and maybe revive the old custom of Saturnalia, where masters waited on servants, instead of the other way around. The servants would receive gifts on Boxing Day, December 26th, usually of something useful, like a length of cloth to make a serviceable gown from.
After January 6th, all the decorations came down and the family settled in to wait out the rest of the cold winter. With no central heating, I'd be tempted to live next to the fire, if I lived then!
Lynne Connolly w/a Lynne Martin