She raised the lamp and opened the door to the room she shared with Charlotte, setting the lantern on the table beside the bed. Discarded gowns still draped the dresser, bed and chair. Working through the room, she picked up the garments and put them away.
When she finished, she glanced around, pleased with the results. She could never stand confusion.
When a scrap of paper caught her attention, she reached down and snatched it from the floor. She lifted it toward the lantern. It had been folded, sealed and bore no name.
She turned it over and over in her hands. Who sent this and when had it been delivered? Was it meant for Charlotte or for her?
She hesitated. Should she open it, or leave it until Charlotte returned?
Merry tapped the paper against her fingers, stirring a waft of fragrance into the air. Rosewater? She smiled and wondered what to do. Curiosity got the better of her. What if it were something important needing her attention?
There was nothing for it. It needed to be opened. She broke the seal, lifted the flap and pulled a small slice of paper lace from its enclosure, releasing more fragrance.
Oh, how sweet! She sighed with relief, not certain what she‘d expected. This was only a valentine!
An oval picture of red and white roses, encircled with ivy rested against a square of paper lace. Red and white roses? Entwined with ivy? The symbols of marriage! She sighed. How romantic.
She didn’t bother with the sentiment printed over the roses because a smaller note floated under the lace to the floor. Grabbing the piece, she leaned closer to the lamp. As she read the words sprawled over the paper, she tensed and groaned with dismay. It is arranged. Midnight on the fourteenth, in front of St. Matthew’s. I have a special license. K.
“K? Oh, no Charlotte, not Kenneth Sinclair.” The words slipped past her numb lips. But, all during Charlotte’s season, she talked of nothing else but the handsome young man with that awful brother.
A special license. Meet at St. Matthew’s. The fourteenth. Today was the fourteenth.
“No. Oh, no!” she shouted.
Kenneth planned to elope with her sister this very night! That could not be allowed to happen. It would ruin the family name. She couldn’t allow this. She swirled toward the door. Oh, what would her father say when he had left the care of Charlotte in her hands?
She closed her eyes, remembering his last entreaty to her as he rode away from the cottage.
Now, don’t let that sister of yours get into any trouble. You’re older and much more sensible. You take care of her. I’m counting on you.
She shuddered. An elopement! The family would be disgraced. Of course, she should have expected something like this. Gavin Sinclair, Baron Dunleigh, was, according to Charlotte, a monster. He only just returned to England and was already ordering every moment of Kenneth’s life. Vaguely, she remembered Charlotte saying something about Kenneth being ordered to travel to some island at the behest of his brother.
Was this elopement intended to divert the brother’s dictum? Or did her scattered-brained sister believe a marriage to Kenneth would change big brother’s attitude?
Oh, this was terrible. Marriage would only make matters worse, much worse.
Pacing back and forth and chewing on her lower lip, she tried to decide what to do. She hesitated, wondering if Charlotte expected this letter.
But it hadn’t been opened. Charlotte hadn’t gotten this message. The seal was still in place.
Merry almost fell to her knees in thanks. Obviously, Aunt Sophia arrived with this note and somehow the message had been overlooked or ignored in the confusion of their departure.
She could stop this foolishness before any harm could be done. A quick trip to St. Matthew’s, a sound scolding to that young man and Charlotte might never be the wiser.
Thank God Charlotte had already left home and, thank the good Lord her father was out of the country. She had time to straighten out this mess. When Charlotte returned from her weekend with Aunt Sophia, Merry planned to make it clear the days of her acting irresponsibly were over.
Placing the lantern on her bedside table, she slipped on her hose and reached for her boots. Shedding her gown, she stepped into her dark gray riding habit.
It was less than an hour’s ride to St. Matthew’s. After she told Kenneth Sinclair her sister was no longer available, she would return home. And when she talked to him, she intended to give him a good piece of her mind. Imagine asking a girl barely turned eighteen to leave the safety of her home and travel nearly an hour just to meet him! What sheer folly.
More from Allison on February 14 and 20.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
I'm reading: AN EXCERPT FROM ALLISON KNIGHT'S ROSES FOR MY LADYTweet this! Posted by Angelica Hart and Zi at 6:00 AM