How to Impress a Gentleman (14 page)

BOOK: How to Impress a Gentleman
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Backing slowly from the room, and closing the two paneled doors behind her, Lindsay turned to the other side of the staircase. Linnie was relieved to discover a dining room with a functioning table. A side board would be needed but the chandelier sported two dozen candles, which sufficiently lit the room. Behind the master’s chair a marble framed fire place, with cracks at its base rose regally. Behind the lady’s chair, a large, arched window stood bare to the carriageway. Gazing at the lonely vista, Linnie noted that the sun set glowed purple and yellow tonight, suiting her mood perfectly.

Floating dreamily to the entrance, Lindsay did something she had never before dared. She opened her own front door and sat directly on the steps of the porch. Slouching in a most unladylike position, Linnie placed her elbows on her knees and her chin in her hands. Gazing at the view before her, Lindsay considered the scene as if it were an outward manifestation of her own heart. “A pretty picture we make,” she sighed to the sun, “but bruised and aching, nonetheless.”

~ ~ ~

Finally faced with a growling stomach and aching head, Charles wandered down to seek out his bride and a hot meal. Lindsay was no where to be found. Her room, left in haste, sported her journal, lain open on the bed. Charles was tempted to peek at its contents but his sense of ethics allowed him only to move the inkwell to a safer location on the night stand. A rising anxiety surrounding Lindsay’s whereabouts drove him from the chamber. Stopping in each room, Charles made his way down the stairs, into the entry hall.

The light, subdued now, washed him in purple and gold shadows; giving the hall a surreal, almost dreamlike feel. Charlie was drawn to the door, intent on witnessing the impending sunset. Through the cracked strip of glass lining the front door, Charles viewed the most beautiful and achingly melancholy sunset he had ever seen. He was awe struck. Since his return from the navy, he had not taken the time to watch the sun. Often, he was too caught up in day-to-day scheming and planning to ever notice life’s more intangible offerings.

Adjusting his focus to take in the whole of the scene before him, Charles spotted Lindsay’s small frame propped on the porch. His heart twisted painfully in his chest. It was the very image he had summoned while being beaten at the mast.

Her doe-colored wool and ebony cascade of curls melted lovingly into the unearthly scene before him. He wished he was a painter so that he could capture this image and cherish it in the years to come. He hardly dared breathe for fear of disrupting the Samuel Scott watercolor before him. Oh, God, how he loved her, his Diana, his comfort through this interminable night of suffering. He ached to hold her in his arms.

“Clang! Cling! Clang!” Startled, Charles ducked from the doorway and veered into the sitting room, afraid that Lindsay might look up and catch him spying on her.

“What am I doing, hiding like a recalcitrant child? This is ridiculous!” Charles chided himself. I am the master of this house, am I not? I took what I wanted last night, did I not? What has she done to me, to turn me into a weak milksop? Striding from the sitting room with renewed purpose, Charles ran smack into Lindsay.

“Oh!” she exclaimed, taken by surprise. “I-I just heard the dinner bell and was making my way to the dining room.”

“Yes, so was I. Allow me to escort you, Dear Wife,” Charles grinned, plastering a false bravado upon his countenance.
She must think I am little better than a gutter snipe
, his thoughts tortured him.
Bringing her here, to this country squire’s estate, when she deserves a town house, surrounded by London’s elite. The home she has been prepped for that the whole of her life.

Shaking his head free from his dubious thoughts, Charles turned to Linnie and stated, “I had Bernard prepare chicken and mash. I knew you always enjoyed it as a ch-a young lady,” he quickly corrected himself.

Smiling wanly, Linnie dipped her head slightly in acknowledgement and glided silently into the candlelit dining room. Despite its boarded window, the room was really quite majestic in its appeal. The flickering lights danced merrily, warming the rich mahogany surfaces, which seemed to grin and wink at the young couple as they entered the room.

After seating Linnie and pulling up his own chair, Charles tried valiantly to steer the conversation into a friendly, if safe topic-area. “How do you find your room accommodations? Are they comfortable?” He felt like biting his tongue in two as soon as the words escaped his lips.

Looking up, quickly concealing her disconcertment, Linnie settled into the practiced shelter of a socially polite facade. “Yes, the room is clean and functional.” Then she paused, unable to stop herself from asking, “Where will you be sleeping tonight, Charles?”

The inquiry seemed to catch them both off guard, leaving several interpretations of the query hanging in the air.
Will you be sleeping with me? Is it possible for two people to sleep in that bed? Is this your way of avoiding me? Do you still want me? Are you sleeping in the attic or somewhere else? Are you sleeping with someone else?
Linnie’s cheeks grew red and flushed as they stared across the table at one another and simultaneously considered her loaded question.

Knowing women a bit better than the average man, Charles approached this trap cautiously. “Where do you think it would be best for me to sleep, Linnie? I had not fully considered our options in the matter.”

Linnie’s heart sank a bit. Why could he not just say, “With you, Linnie. I shall always sleep with you.”

“Well,” she returned in her best woman’s charity-society voice, “It seems the choices are limited at the moment. There is the option of sharing the guest bed or, I suppose you could sleep on the cot in the attic.”

Charles, nodded, waiting. Sighing, Linnie lifted her chin and blinked rapidly to prevent her burning eyes from betraying her. “Well,” she continued, “I have had a trying day, and, I suppose, so have you. Sleeping separately would allow us to rest and not be so cramped on the small bed.” Her voice was steady but her eyes pleaded with Charles to contradict her.

Biting into his tough piece of chicken, Charles felt the bitterness spread across his tongue and throughout his body.
She is rejecting me, now that she has seen I am without decent means. The girl I knew, who saw people with her heart and not her ton-like sensibilities, no longer exists.

Looking at her meek and prudish expression, Charles felt his desire wither. Covering his hurt with a cold, hard exterior, he replied blandly. “Yes, I agree. I need my rest. There is much to be done before winter sets in. I have to ride to the neighboring manor on the morrow. I shall leave at dawn and return at dusk. Please feel free to engage John for any task you might need completed.”

In truth, he had not planned on leaving for at least a day or two, until Lindsay was more settled. However, her cold reception of him tonight left him feeling the need to flee. Still, Charles felt he owed her some sort of explanation for leaving her so soon, on what was supposed to be their honeymoon.

“The Bonnevilles have some farm equipment and materials that I am interested in obtaining. The negotiations and transactions will require my attention over the next few weeks.”

“I see,” Linnie spoke quietly. Feeling as if her insides had just been sucked out, she was unable to respond further.

Eating for several minutes in silence, Charles was relieved when Mattie, his high-spirited tabby entered the room and brazenly rubbed her side along Lindsay’s skirts. Linnie bent to pick up the orange cat as if it were a lifesaving anchor in a sea awash with uncertainty. Mattie purred as Lindsay petted her repeatedly, stroking down her length.

Finally, the meal ended. Lindsay bit the inside of her cheek to keep from breaking down and crying, or begging Charles to stay with her. Leaving her at the door to the guest bedroom, Charles bid her good night, bent to kiss the top of her hand chastely and wasted no time climbing the stairwell to the attic.

Lindsay turned quickly into her room. Shutting and leaning against the door, she took a deep ragged breath. Feeling a bit more centered, she looked around the darkened room with a sinking heart. As her hurt and anxiety drained, exhaustion and ire seeped into every bone and muscle.

How dare he treat her like a bothersome house guest! How dare he ignore her on this, her honeymoon! Grasping her pillow, she flung it against the door. Picking it up, she screamed every obscenity she knew into the down softness. Regaining her composure, Lindsay briskly undressed and prepared for bed.

Climbing beneath the chilly covers, Lindsay was relieved to discover that the bed felt soft and clean. Still, she could not seem to relax and fall asleep. Rolling back and forth, she finally gave up and sprawled, flat on her back to stare blindly at the ceiling above. How had she found herself in this horrible predicament? Married to her childhood antagonist, living in some Godforsaken back woods relic, unloved, uncared for, unneeded. Hiccuping, Lindsay’s bold blue eyes gave up their flood of tears. Sobbing into her pillow, Linnie finally fell asleep, both physically and emotionally spent.

In the attic, Charles paced. “What am I doing? I know she needs her space, but this is
house! She is
wife.” Multiple times he strode towards the door and then stopped himself, unsure of how best to proceed. Finally overcome with self-righteous indignation, Charles marched down the narrow stair in his stocking feet. Raising his fist to pound on the guest chamber door, his arm arrested mere inches from the wood. Was that Lindsay crying? Linnie did not cry. She railed, ranted, and raved. She did not weep.

This time, it was his scheming that had caused them so much turmoil. How could he have been less than honest with her? She must truly hate him. Trading Linnie’s trust for her father’s gold had left him feeling as if he had committed an irreversible wrong. How could she trust and respect him if he did not tell her of his impressment? Staying his hand on the door knob, he reminded himself,
How could she hold her head up in society if her father spread his viscous rumors about my legitimacy?
He would not push her past endurance tonight.

Accepting the fact that Lindsay needed time to adjust to her new situation, Charles slowly plodded the steps to the attic. Settling on his narrow cot with a copy of Marlowe’s
Doctor Faustus
, Charles mused, “I too have made a deal with the devil. Let us hope that neither my soul nor Linnie’s will be the price,” he noted as he drifted off to sleep.

~ ~ ~

Lindsay woke at dawn to the sound of her husband’s foot steps making their way down to the front door. Rubbing her eyes, she blinked blearily. It was not until she splashed water upon her face and held a cold, wet, towel to her eyes for several seconds that she could see.

Sighing resignedly, Lindsay bucked up in true Beaumont fashion. Her grandmother and father had always met life head on, dealing with set backs pragmatically, and she planned to do the same. Charles may not love her and her new home may be in shambles, but all was not lost. For once, she was mistress of her own abode and whatever his short comings, Charles was a responsible member of the gentry. They would make this house presentable and she-she would make it a home.

Then, maybe, just maybe Charles could learn to love her as she had always loved him-fool that she was. Like her mother’s family, she also seemed doomed to love in vain. Sighing once more, to rid herself of her melancholy, Lindsay circled around the foot of her bed to kneel at her cedar trunk.

Pulling a large white handkerchief from the bottom of her trousseau Lindsay set it upon the bed and dug for her most worn house dress. The yellow cotton print, embellished with tiny red roses still felt a bit too overdressed for her simple surroundings, but it was what she had. Brushing her ebony locks vigorously, she swiftly twisted the mass of frizz into a tight knot at the nape of her neck. Once secured with a dozen or so hair pins, Lindsay covered her hair with the cotton handkerchief and tied it below the bun.

“I would have been better off to have traveled to Italy and taken the veil,” she murmured into her looking glass. “At least all of this cleaning, solitude, and abstinence among a dusty old abode would have come with the added perk of a shaved head.” And yet, despite herself, she was pleased at the image of simple efficiency before her. Picking her forgotten journal up off of the floor, Lindsay reviewed her notes for each room.

Were she a clever wife, she would begin with the master suite, but she had no intention of sweetening up her husband. Besides, she much preferred to be a clever homemaker. Linnie would start with the downstairs rooms and landscaping. She would quite die of humiliation if she had to greet guests with the house looking like this.

Coming down the stairs, Lindsay decided to walk through the dining room to the small adjoining room. She was relieved to discover there a neat and tidy serving room complete with a worn but sturdy wooden table and shelves filled with serving implements. Walking through the door on the far wall, Lindsay found herself out of doors. Stepping timidly along a rickety wooden walkway, She came upon the sunken kitchen.

“Now this place
a relic.” Betsy and Bernard turned from their porridge preparation to look at Lindsay inquiringly. “However do you make do?” Lindsay asked in a congenial manner.

Bernard, his sense of loyalty to his former master roused, stiffened perceptively. “Your breakfast will be served in the dining room, momentarily, Ma’am.”

“Yes, of course, Bernard, but first, I was hoping to speak with Betsy about the kitchen and laundry-to see what it is we might need.”

Bowing slightly, Bernard hobbled his way up the stairs with a heavily laden tray. Turning her bright eyes upon a more susceptible victim, Lindsay began her interrogation. “Now, Ms. Thomas, you and I both know that this kitchen is somewhat...lacking in modern conveniences. If you were to send away for those items that would make this space more effective, what might they be?

BOOK: How to Impress a Gentleman
10.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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