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  1. Top | #31

    تاریخ عضویت
    1389,02,19
    عنوان کاربر
    کاربر حرفه ای
    میانگین پست در روز
    0.73
    محل سکونت
    اهل ایرانم!
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    1,123
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    24,440
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    پیش فرض

    To look different from her sisters, her gown was of rose pink gauze over a pale satin, decorated only with small bunches of roses and velvet ribbons.
    A number of gentlemen, with lamentable lack of originality had told her she looked like a rose, and she knew without conceit that the gown was very becoming.
    But Andrina had in fact hurried over her own toilette when dressing for the Ball and she was supervising Cheryl's when there was a knock at the door and without waiting for an answer Lady Evelyn joined them.
    "Can you imagine it possible, girls?" she asked. "I have just received a message from His Grace to say that we can wear any of the family jewels which take our fancy!"
    "The family jewels?" Andrina repeated and at that moment Sharon came in from an adjoining room.
    'That is just what I was thinking we lacked!" she exclaimed, having overheard what Lady Evelyn had said. "We are all very elegant but we need the extra touch that only gems can give to make us really smart!"
    "That is exactly what I thought myself," Lady Evelyn said. "At my age jewels are as important to a woman as the cosmetics with which she embellishes her complexion."
    "Where are they?" Sharon asked.
    "I will show you," Lady Evelyn answered with a smile.
    They all went downstairs to Mr. Robson's office to find him waiting for them having already received his instructions from the Duke.
    He opened a heavy iron door that was situated in a corner of the room and they saw what Andrina privately thought of as an Aladdin's cave.
    There were shelves on which reposed leather, velvet and satin covered boxes and when each one was opened by Mr. Robson the jewelry they contained made them all gasp in astonishment.
    There was a set of sapphires and diamonds which comprised an enormous tiara, a necklace, bracelets, brooches and rings, and there were other sets equally magnificent in emeralds, rubies, diamonds and pearls.
    There were other pieces of jewelry, many of them historical, which had been brought into the family either through marriage or by being acquired by the various Dukes on their journeys abroad.
    Sharon went into ecstasies over each new jewel she was shown and even Cheryl seemed a little excited by them.
    "What shall we choose?" Sharon cried.
    "I should have liked to wear the sapphires," Lady Evelyn said, "but alas they will not go with my gown. I always thought they were the finest gems in the Broxbourne collection and I remember His Grace's mother looking absolutely magnificent in them!"
    She turned to the secretary.
    "Is that not so, Mr. Robson."
    "Her Grace was one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen," he answered.
    "Will the Duke mind their being worn by anyone else?" Andrina asked.
    She was really speaking to Mr. Robson, but Lady Evelyn heard and said:
    "I see no reason why he should mind. His mother died when he was six and it is unlikely that he directly remembers her."
    Andrina said nothing but she felt quite sure the Duke did remember his mother. After all, she could remember hers long before she was six, and her father too in the years when he had been young and gay and always good-tempered.
    "I will wear the diamonds," Lady Evelyn said with a last wistful look at the sapphires. "Now, girls, what is your choice?"
    "I think all Cheryl will need is a small string of pearls," Andrina said firmly. "I am sure it would be incorrect for a debutante to wear much jewelry."
    Lady Evelyn gave her a little smile.
    "You are quite right, Andrina," she said. "I should have said that, not you. It would be ostentatious and in bad taste. A string of pearls would be perfect for Cheryl."
    "I want something that glitters," Sharon said firmly.
    "Why not these, Miss Sharon?" Mr. Robson suggested.
    He opened another box and inside they saw two brooches shaped like stars and glittering with blue-white diamonds.
    Andrina fixed them in Sharon's hair and they certainly much enhanced her appearance and were in perfect harmony with the glittering silver of her gown.
    "And what about you, Andrina?" Lady Evelyn asked.
    Andrina shook her head.
    "I have no need for jewelry," she said. "There is a wreath which goes with my gown and that is all I require."
    She spoke so firmly that nobody argued. Then having thanked Mr. Robson they returned upstairs.
    "Why did you not choose a pretty bracelet?" Cheryl asked when they had reached the bed-rooms.
    "It would only be hidden by my gloves," Andrina' said quickly.
    She could not explain to Cheryl or to anyone else why she felt a reluctance to accept the Duke's offer of appearing in the Broxbourne jewels.
    She somehow felt it was too incongruous to wear something that was so closely connected with him personally when she knew that she disliked him and that he, as he had said himself, had embroiled himself in their 'crazy, senseless scheme' against his better judgment!
    جهنم برای ما از روزی شروع می شود که خداوند به ما بینشی می دهد که از آن چه می توانستیم به آن تبدیل شویم، از آن چه می توانستیم به آن برسیم، از آن چه تلف کرده ایم و از آن چه می توانستیم انجام بدهیم و ندادیم آگاه شویم...
    جهنم یعنی زندگی در مراتبی بسیار پایین تر از شأن و استعداد انسانی که خدا به ما عطا کرده است.


  2. Top | #32

    تاریخ عضویت
    1389,02,19
    عنوان کاربر
    کاربر حرفه ای
    میانگین پست در روز
    0.73
    محل سکونت
    اهل ایرانم!
    نوشته ها
    1,123
    تشکر
    24,440
    سپاس شده 3,827 در 923 پست

    پیش فرض

    It was different where Cheryl and Sharon were concerned.
    She was the one who had forced the Duke into agreeing to introduce them to the social world, and in consequence she
    would not accept from him anything that was not entirely necessary.
    Looking at Sharon now Andrina realised that she was dancing for the second time that evening with a tall and handsome Russian whom they had met at Almack's.
    It had been Sharon who was almost too excited to speak when on Wednesday night Lady Evelyn had told them they were to visit Almack's.
    The temple of the Beau Monde about which she had read in her magazines and which was the most exclusive, most select place in London, was to open its doors to them and they were on the List!
    It was, Andrina had thought at first sight, disappointing after so much had been said and written about it.
    A suite of Assembly Rooms in King Street, St. James's, it seemed a quite ordinary place of "entertainment with refreshments consisting of lemonade and tea, bread and butter and stale cake, until one looked at those who were being entertained.
    Lady Evelyn of course knew everyone and she had already told her charges on the way to Almack's how fortunate they were to have received their vouchers from Lady Cowper within a few days of arriving in London.
    "The Foot-Guards boast of three hundred officers," Lady Evelyn said, "but of those only six are admitted to the Club."
    "Do the gentlemen gamble?" Sharon asked, who had been reading about some of the other Clubs in London.
    "It was suggested a short while ago," Lady Evelyn replied, "but the Patronesses said that if card-tables were introduced, the girls would lose all their partners. Men would always rather play than dance!"
    She laughed.
    "No, you are the entertainment to-night, and make sure that you do not miss this opportunity." '
    It would be difficult for most girls, Andrina thought later, to be noticed when the Patronesses of Almack's were themselves so beautiful.
    Lady Cowper who greeted them was at twenty-nine, at the
    height of perfection. She had an almost classic profile, large expressive eyes and a head that was set proudly on graceful shoulders.
    Andrina was to learn later that Lady Cowper was much the sweetest and kindest of all the Patronesses, but she could understand too why Lady Jersey, who was known as 'Silence' amongst her friends because she never stopped talking, was fascinating.
    Lady Sefton, another Patroness, was amiable and the Princess de Lieven, the wife of the Russian Ambassador, had a personality it was impossible for anyone to ignore.
    She had an infinite capacity for making mischief, and power was an obsession with her.
    She entertained all the important men in London in her husband's Embassy in Ashburnham Street and she believed she could sway in Russia's favour the opinions of men like the Duke of Wellington, Lord Castlereagh, and Lord Palmerston.
    Yet she was not clever enough to realise that they saw through her.
    In fact Lady Evelyn told Andrina that the Duke qf Wellington had said the Princess was "a iemme d'esprit who can and will betray everyone in turn if it should suit her purpose."
    It had been the Princess who had presented Count Ivan Birkendorff to Sharon and when he had taken her onto the dance-floor a great number of those present had turned to look at two such handsome and attractive young people waltzing together.
    The Princess de Lieven had introduced at Almack's the waltz which was considered at first to be extremely immoral.
    "Even Lord Byron was shocked by it!" Lady Evelyn told Andrina, "and he only permitted Lady Caroline Lamb to waltz after he had grown tired of her!"
    Although Lord Byron had gone to Italy the previous year, the scandal he had caused with Caroline Lamb was still the on dit, Andrina found, by the ladies who called on Lady Evelyn. But at the moment she was concerned only that there should be no gossip about Cheryl and Sharon.
    She was also very anxious that Sharon should not waste her beauty, her wit and her fascinations on ineligible young men.
    "After all," she told herself with a little sigh, "we have so little time."
    Two months ... only two months in which to find Cheryl and Sharon husbands! And if they failed there was only an ignominious return to Bigger Stukeby and the loneliness and boredom of the Manor 1 louse.
    It was something she hardly dared to contemplate, and yet always at the back of her mind there was the spectre of failure.
    Every tick of the clock brought them nearer to the moment when their money would have run out and they could no longer impose on the Duke's hospitality.
    Andrina had made it her business to find out all she could about Count Ivan Birkendorff.


  3. Top | #33

    تاریخ عضویت
    1389,02,19
    عنوان کاربر
    کاربر حرفه ای
    میانگین پست در روز
    0.73
    محل سکونت
    اهل ایرانم!
    نوشته ها
    1,123
    تشکر
    24,440
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    پیش فرض

    She learnt that he came of a distinguished Russian family but he was not at all rich and was only a very junior Diplomat. It was expected by the gossips that with his good looks and undeniable charm, he would marry into the British aristocracy and chose a bride with money.
    Andrina had related this to Sharon, and yet here at the Ball she was dancing with the Count again and looking exceedingly lovely as she did so.
    "How can she be so foolish to-night of all nights?" Andrina asked herself, "when every nobleman of importance is here?"
    Could any girls have been more lucky than to have a Ball given for them which was graced by the Prince Regent and for which every important hostess in London had given a dinner-party?
    Andrina was determined to speak to Sharon, and as her sister waltzing round the room came near her she stepped forward.
    The Count saw her and stopped dancing but his arms still encircled his partner's waist.
    "Your skirt is caught up a little," Andrina said. Then as she pretended to adjust it and Sharon turned her head to see what was wrong, she said in a whisper:
    "Dance with the Duke. If he does not ask you, you must ask him!"
    She did not wait for her sister's reply, but stood back as if she had completed her task and smiled at the Count.
    "I hope you are enjoying the Ball!" she said.
    "How could I be anything but rapturously happy at the moment?" he replied.
    He bowed, but when he would have resumed the waltz the band stopped playing.
    "You dance divinely!" Andrina heard him say to Sharon. "When will you honour me again?"
    Andrina had the feeling that Sharon was going to give him another dance and putting her hand on her sister's arm she said:
    "I think, dearest, we must find Lady Evelyn."
    She thought that Sharon was about to refuse, when at that very moment a voice at her elbow said:
    "I have been told by Lady Evelyn, to discover if you both have plenty of partners?"
    It was the Duke, and Andrina replied :
    "We have indeed, Your Grace, but of course we are still waiting for our host to lead us onto the floor, as is, I believe, correct."
    "I am afraid my etiquette in such matters is limited," the Duke replied, "but of course if you ..."
    Andrina realising that he was about to invite her to be his partner, quickly drew Sharon forward.
    "Sharon has been hoping all the evening that Your Grace would dance with her," she said. "Is that not so, dearest?"
    Her fingers pressed her sister's arm as she spoke and obediently Sharon replied:
    "I should be very disappointed if you did not consider me important enough, Your Grace."
    "I think, as we are talking about matters of protocol," the Duke replied with a hint of laughter in his voice which told Andrina quite clearly that he had realised what she was doing. "I should take my protégées in order, starting with the eldest."
    Andrina looking at him saw a cynical twist to his lips and guessed that he knew that the last thing she wanted was to dance with him.
    "It is an honour. You Grace," she said, "but unfortunately I am already promised for this dance."
    She looked around hastily as she spoke seeking a familiar face amongst the men standing talking with each other or escorting their partners back to the Chaperons.
    She could not immediately recognise anyone. Then a voice she most disliked said:
    "I think, fair charmer, you are promised to me!"
    Andrina gave a start and saw standing behind her was the man she had taken a dislike to at the first dinner-party they had attended - Lord Crowhurst.
    She had in fact seen him in the distance at Almack's but he had been with Lady Castlereagh and the Princess Esterhazy and although he had bowed he had not sought her company nor asked her for a dance.
    He had obviously overheard what she said to the Duke and it was impossible to refuse him without being rude. Besides it meant that in the circumstances the Duke would be obliged to partner Sharon.
    "I think you must be right, My Lord," she said. "I am afraid I have muddled my partners into such a tangle that is beyond unravelling."
    '"Do not let us trouble our heads about anyone else but ourselves," Lord Crowhurst answered.
    The band started up and without looking again at the Duke Andrina allowed Lord Crowhurst to lead her onto the dance- floor.
    He danced well, which surprised her. At the same time she knew that she disliked him and there was something within her which was revolted by the touch of his hand, even though she was wearing gloves.


  4. Top | #34

    تاریخ عضویت
    1389,02,19
    عنوان کاربر
    کاربر حرفه ای
    میانگین پست در روز
    0.73
    محل سکونت
    اهل ایرانم!
    نوشته ها
    1,123
    تشکر
    24,440
    سپاس شده 3,827 در 923 پست

    پیش فرض

    Fortunately the dance was not a waltz, where they would have been closer, but a quadrille, so that it was impossible to have an intimate conversation.
    When the dance was over Lord Crowhurst put his hand under Andrina's elbow and moved her skilfully through one of the open french windows, into the garden outside.
    She hardly realised where he was leading her because as she tried to do during the dance she was still looking to see whether Sharon was dancing with the Duke.
    The room had been so crowded that she had not been able to observe them, though she thought that she saw Cheryl's white gown disappearing down one of the lighted paths.
    Because she thought it was somewhat indiscreet for Cheryl to leave the Bail-Room with the Marquis and it might incur the censure of the more stiff-necked Dowagers, she hurried after t he white gown.
    It was only when with the Earl beside her she had reached almost the centre of the garden that she realised that the girl in front who had stopped with her partner to look at a small fountain was not Cheryl. She merely wore a white dress which in some way resembled that of her sister's.
    Andrina gave an audible sigh of relief and realised that she and the Earl had walked quickly but had in fact said nothing to each other.
    She turned for the first time to look at him, and she could see him quite clearly in the light of the Chinese lanterns which hung from the branches of the trees.
    He seemed to her to be more unpleasant looking than she remembered, with his deep-set eyes and dark lines of debauchery beneath them and his thick, sensual lips.
    "Do you always chaperon your sisters with such ardour?" the Earl enquired.
    Andrina felt confused.
    She had not thought he would realise that she had been pursuing the girl in the white gown.
    "Cheryl and Sharon are very young," she replied. "They have never been in London before. Because they are so lovely I have to look after them."
    "And who looks after you?" the Earl enquired.
    There was something caressing in the way he said the last word and Andrina replied lightly:
    "I assure you, My Lord, I can look after myself!"
    "I am glad to hear that," he replied. "Come, I have something to say to you."
    I le took her hand as he spoke and led her down a little path. Without thinking, Andrina acquiesced, her thoughts once again on Cheryl.
    It was only as the path came to an end and she found herself in a tiny arbour containing a seat on which there were several silk cushions, that she said quickly:
    "I must go back to the Ball-Room!"
    "There is no hurry," the Earl replied.
    "On the contrary. My Lord," Andrina contradicted, "the next dance will have started by now and my partner will be looking for me."
    "Let him look," the Earl answered. "I want to talk to you, Andrina, and here we shall not be disturbed."
    She noticed the use of her Christian name and said in a reproving tone:
    "This is only the second time we have met, My Lord!"
    The Earl did not pretend to misunderstand her.
    "That is something about which I wish to talk to you," he said. "Let us sit down."
    He stood between Andrina and the path and she thought it would be undignified and rather childish to make a fuss.
    She seated herself down on one of the silk cushions and said:
    "This is just the sort of place that I was trying to prevent my sister Cheryl from finding!"
    "As you have already told me, Cheryl is young," the Earl said, "but you can look after yourself!"
    Andrina hoped he was right.
    She was uncomfortably aware that he had now sat down nearer to her than was necessary. In the dim light he looked even more unpleasant and she was extremely conscious of the distaste he aroused in her.
    "You are very beautiful, Andrina!" he said softly.
    "I have already pointed out, My Lord, that on such short, acquaintance my name is Miss Maldon, or if you prefer, Miss Andrina!"
    "There are many ways in which I intend to address you," the Earl replied, "and none of them starts with 'Miss'!"
    Andrina felt he had drawn even nearer and she said quickly:
    "I must return. What was it you wished to say to me?"
    "I wish to tell you that you are delightful, entrancing, admirable and that I think - no, I am sure - that I have fallen in love!"
    "That is ridiculous, as you well know!" Andrina said sharply. "No-one falls in love at first sight except in a novel."
    "But you must have learnt that the exception proves the rule," the Earl replied, "The moment I saw you, Andrina, I knew that we belonged to each other!"


  5. Top | #35

    تاریخ عضویت
    1389,02,19
    عنوان کاربر
    کاربر حرفه ای
    میانگین پست در روز
    0.73
    محل سکونت
    اهل ایرانم!
    نوشته ها
    1,123
    تشکر
    24,440
    سپاس شده 3,827 در 923 پست

    پیش فرض

    Andrina was tense.
    "I am sorry ... My Lord ... I can stay no longer," she said quickly. "Please forget what you have ... said to me, because 1 assure you I do not take it.... seriously! "
    "Then I must convince you that I am serious," the Earl replied, "very serious, Andrina!"
    As he spoke he put his arm round her waist.
    Andrina instantly turned her head away from him and said in what she hoped was a cold and icy tone:
    "Do not touch me, My Lord! If you do, I shall scream and that would be extremely undignified!"
    "I doubt if anyone would hear you," the Earl said with a smile, "and if they did and came to your rescue, think how much gossip it would cause!"
    He knew how to make things difficult, Andrina thought.
    Rather than go on arguing she tried to rise to her feet but it was impossible with the Earl's arm round her waist pulling her against him and now he took her other hand in his.
    "As I have already said, you are lovely, Andrina, and you excite me! "
    As he spoke he bent forward and his lips were on her bare shoulder, hard against, the softness of her skin.
    It took her by surprise because her head was turned away from him.
    Then as she felt his mouth hot and insistent it disgusted her.
    She struggled but he was too strong and now he pulled her against him and his lips were on her neck,
    "No ... no!" she cried.
    His kisses grew more passionate and Andrina was terrified that his mouth would possess hers.
    She twisted her face away from him, but found it impossible to move her -arms.
    Then suddenly driven by fear, with a super-human effort and
    a strength she did not know she possessed, she fought herself free.
    As the Earl clutched at her dress, she escaped him, and was running frantically down the path back towards the Ball-Room.
    The dancing had started again and there were only a few people left in the garden.
    Andrina's eyes were fixed on the brilliant lights coming from the uncurtained windows, until on the terrace, just before she reached the Ball-Room windows, she bumped into someone.
    As she did so she realised that a man had deliberately stepped in front of her and looking up at him she saw that it was the Duke.
    Her breath was coming quickly between her lips and for a moment it was impossible to speak.
    The impact with which she had bumped into him had un- steadied her, so that he reached out to stop her from falling.
    "What have you been doing," the Duke asked harshly, "or is that an unnecessary question?"
    With difficulty Andrina forced herself to reply breathlessly:
    "I ... I thought I was ... late for the ... dance!"
    "Do not lie to me!" the Duke retorted. "You have been with Crowhurst! If he has frightened you, it is everything you deserve!"
    Andrina did not answer.
    She was fighting for self-control and although the Duke had taken his hands from her she still felt unsteady on her feet.
    She wanted to leave him, to go into the Ball-Room, but somehow was unable to move.
    "Have you not enough sense, enough knowledge of proper behaviour, not to go into a garden with a man of that type?"
    The Duke's voice was scathing.
    "I did not... think," she stammered after a moment.
    "You never do," he replied, "or is it that you have a predilection for dangerous situations, of being alone with strange men?"
    "That is not ... fair!" Andrina cried hotly, stung by the contempt in his voice and by the insinuation that she enjoyed such encounters.
    "Fair ?" the Duke ejaculated. "It is, if you like, crass stupidity! But it is hardly what one expects from someone of your age who pretends to be looking after her younger sisters!"
    "I went into the ... garden, because I ... thought I saw Cheryl ahead of ... me," Andrina said.
    She felt she had to explain, she had to make the Duke understand that she had not deliberately sought to be alone with the F.arl in the darkness.
    "It is typical that you should be fussing over your sisters instead of setting them an example by your own behaviour," the Duke snapped. "You are not such a nit-wit, Andrina, as to think that a man with Crowhurst's reputation would take you into the garden except to make love to you."
    He paused to say sternly:
    "If he has frightened and shocked you on this occasion, perhaps it will be a lesson that you will remember next time you go philandering!"-


  6. Top | #36

    تاریخ عضویت
    1389,02,19
    عنوان کاربر
    کاربر حرفه ای
    میانگین پست در روز
    0.73
    محل سکونت
    اهل ایرانم!
    نوشته ها
    1,123
    تشکر
    24,440
    سپاس شده 3,827 در 923 پست

    پیش فرض

    "How dare you ... speak to me like ... that!" Andrina cried, unable to repress her anger at what she thought were unjust accusations on the Duke's part.
    "You forget," he said icily, "that it was you who insisted that we are related. I can hardly be expected to stand by and watch my so-called cousin disport herself in a manner which, to say the least of it, is reprehensible!"
    Andrina drew in her breath sharply.
    "I hate you!" she declared, without considering her words.
    The Duke looked over her shoulder.
    "As I see your ardent admirer approaching, I suggest you straighten your wreath and that we will, with something approaching dignity, go into the Ball-Room."
    Andrina's hands which were trembling, went to her head. Then with what she hoped was a dignified grace, she moved towards the open window.
    She was well aware that the Duke was frowning and he was still angry with her, but she was at the same time grateful that he was preventing her from having to speak to Lord Crowhurst again.
    There was no doubt, she told herself, later that night, that the
    Duke and Lord Crowhurst between them, had spoilt the Ball for her.
    She had managed to dance, to smile and make herself pleasant to a countless number of people.
    She had accepted the Prince Regent's congratulations on her appearance, conveyed to her in the flirtatious but charming manner that was all his own, and yet she had only felt miserable.
    The gaiety and sparkle had gone out of the evening.
    It was some consolation, when the last guest had departed long after dawn had broken, to hear both Cheryl and Sharon exclaiming that it was the most wonderful, perfect party there had ever been!
    "I always dreamt of a Ball like that," Sharon said, "but 1 never thought I would go to one, and if you had told me even a month ago that it would be given for us I would have known I was dreaming!"
    "We were very proud of you all, were we not, Tancred?" Lady Evelyn asked.
    "Of course," he replied. "I was effusively congratulated on having been so clever or so lucky as to find such attractive and well-behaved Wards!"
    Although her sisters were delighted with the compliment, Andrina knew that the Duke was being sarcastic deliberately.
    "You must go to bed at once, girls," Lady Evelyn said. "I cannot have you looking pale to-morrow night, and we have a Reception to attend in the afternoon."
    "How exciting!" Sharon exclaimed.
    Cheryl curtsied to Lady Evelyn, then to the Duke, and turned towards the stairs. Andrina followed to slip her arm through her younger sister's and ask softly:
    "You have been happy, dearest?"
    "It has been a wonderful evening!" Cheryl replied.
    "I saw you dancing with the Marquis. You liked dancing with him?"
    "He was very kind."
    There was something in Cheryl's tone that told Andrina she did not wish to discuss it further, and having taken her to her bed-room where there was a sleepy maid waiting to help her undress, Andrina went to find Sharon.
    Her youngest sister was waltzing dreamily round and round her bed-room.
    "Oh, Andrina," she said, "could anybody have had a more perfect, more marvellous, more glorious evening?"
    "Did you dance with the Duke?" Andrina asked.
    Sharon stopped waltzing and walked towards the dressing- table.
    "Of course, I did as you told me."
    "What did you talk to him about?"
    Sharon did not answer and after a moment Andrina said:
    "You know what ! want, Sharon. He is a difficult man, but if anyone could charm him into a good mood, if anyone could make him into an acceptable husband, it is you!"
    Sharon was still silent, then after a moment she said:
    "Do you suppose that being a Duchess would really make one happy?"
    "But of course it would," Andrina said quickly. "You would have everything - this wonderful house, all the jewels we saw tonight, and the Duke has many other possessions we have not yet seen: his house in the country about which Papa used to talk, a Hunting Lodge in Leicester, and a house at Newmarket where he stays for the races."
    Andrina paused and after a moment continued :
    "1 have never seen Cheryl so gay as she seemed to-night with the Marquis and if you were both Duchesses, think what an achievement that would be!"
    "The Duke was not a particularly amusing partner," Sharon said after a moment.
    "You have to charm and fascinate him, Sharon. After all, if he had been easy he would have been married before now. Think of all the women who must have wanted to be the Duchess of Broxbourne! But 1 am quite certain that none of them were as beautiful as you!"
    Sluron gave a little yawn.
    "I am tired, Andrina."


  7. Top | #37

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    1389,02,19
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    "Of course you are," Andrina replied, "and it is selfish of me to want to talk. Go to sleep. There are lots of exciting things to do tomorrow. But Sharon, just remember one thing, we have very little time."
    When she was in her own room and the maid had taken away her Ball-gown, dressed only in her thin nightgown Andrina walked to the window.
    She pulled aside the curtains.
    The pale morning sun was already climbing up the sky shining on the roofs and glittering on the window-panes of the houses that she could just see beyond the drive.
    "So little time," she whispered, and yet somehow she had to marry Cheryl to the Marquis and Sharon to the Duke.
    She could not help feeling that the latter might prove an impossible task, and yet, she told herself, she was determined - completely and utterly determined - that she would do her best for her sisters.
    That was why she had come to London. That was why she had sacrificed her pride to plead and beg the Duke to make them his protégées.
    Then she remembered the contempt and anger in his voice tonight.
    How could he have said such things to her ?
    'He despises me,' she thought, 'and he has told me often enough that I am brainless, idiotic, and in his eyes unprincipled.'
    She felt a surge of anger once again that he could accuse her of such things and yet she had to admit that when she had come from the garden, he had some excuse for his comments.
    It had been crazy of her to let the Earl take her into the arbour. She ought to have refused to leave the Ball-Room with him in the first place and should have allowed Cheryl, as she had supposed the unknown girl to be, to look after herself.
    "I suppose I am very ... foolish," Andrina admitted humbly.
    Then as she put her head down on the pillow she thought she would not have to endure the Duke with his suspicions and his innuendoes for long.
    The moment Cheryl and Sharon were safely married she would be free of him.
    Yet she wished before that time came she could prove him wrong, confound him in some way so that he would be sorry not only for the things he had said to her, but also for his behaviour when they had first met.
    "How can I make him respect me?" she asked herself and found there was no answer to that question.

    * * *
    The following day it was late before anyone was aroused from sleep, and actually it was Andrina who came downstairs first to find the Hall filled with flowers of every description.
    There were bouquets, baskets, bowls and sprays addressed in almost equal numbers to Cheryl and Sharon and, to her surprise some for herself.
    There were two magnificent bouquets from the gentlemen who had sat either side of her at dinner, two from gentlemen- she could not remember, and one huge basket of white orchids, of which she knew the donor before she opened the note.
    The Earl's writing was like himself, Andrina thought, dark, uneven and somehow slightly sinister.
    "To Andrina, who has captured both my heart and mind."
    She tore up the card and threw it in the waste-paper basket.
    'I cannot think why the one man in London I really dislike should be the one who pursues me,' Andrina thought.
    "You have certainly all been a sensation as far as floral tributes are concerned," Lady Evelyn said when she appeared just before luncheon, "but flowers die. What you girls need is something lasting."
    "What is that?" Cheryl asked.
    "An engagement ring!"- Lady Evelyn replied. "Preferably of diamonds!"
    "Oh, an engagement ring," Cheryl said and there was something in the way she spoke which made Andrina look at her sharply.
    Could the Marquis have said anything last night? she wondered.
    She did not wish to press her younger sister, but she felt excitedly that Cheryl was undoubtedly thinking of marriage, and it was obvious that the only man she could have in mind was the Marquis.
    Sharon collected the cards from her flowers immediately after
    luncheon and put them away in a little satin reticule she carried on her arm.
    "Are you not going to tell us the names of your admirers ?" Lady Evelyn enquired.
    "I am too tired to worry about them now," Sharon said in a voice which did not sound as if she was at all tired, "but later this afternoon I shall have to write and thank them."
    "I think we can forget about 'thank you' letters for to-day," Lady Evelyn said. "I thought we might go driving.".
    'That would be lovely ! " Andrina said. "But first I had better take the jewelry we borrowed last night back to Mr. Robson."
    She put the stars that Sharon had worn in her hair and the necklace which had encircled Cheryl's white neck back in their boxes and went along the corridor to Mr. Robson's office.


  8. Top | #38

    تاریخ عضویت
    1389,02,19
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    "Thank you. very much, Miss Andrina.' he said taking the jewelry from her. "It is very kind of you to be so prompt in returning them. I do not mind telling you it worries me when such things are not safely in my keeping. The Duke trusts me, and if anything was lost I should have no-one to blame but myself."
    "That is a horrible feeling, as we all know," Andrina smiled.
    "May I tell you how beautiful you looked last: night, Miss Andrina?" Mr. Robson asked. "I thought; as I watched you dancing, you had been quite right in thinking you needed no jewels. They would only have been dimmed by the excitement in your eyes!"
    Because he was an elderly man Andrina did not feel it was impertinent of Mm to speak in such a manner.
    "Thank you very much," she said. "I thought no-one would be looking at me when my sisters were in the Ball-Room. At the same time everyone was very kind."
    "With the exception of the Duke!" she added to herself.
    He had not only failed to pay her a compliment, he had actually abused her and once again aroused her anger.
    She talked to Mr. Robson for a little while about the other guests, and he told her how much he admired Lady Cowper and how everyone in her employment worshipped her.
    Then Andrina had returned to the Salon to find Lady Evelyn alone.
    "Have Cheryl and Sharon gone to get ready to go driving?" Andrina asked.
    "They have already gone," Lady Evelyn said.
    "Gone?" Andrina questioned.
    "The Marquis of Glen called for Cheryl. Apparently they had arranged that he should do so last evening," Lady Evelyn explained.
    "You let her go alone?" Andrina enquired.
    "My dear, he was driving a vis-a-vis which, as you well know, only provides for two occupants. I could hardly sit on the driver's lap, nor could you expect Cheryl to sit on mine!"
    Lady Evelyn laughed as she went on:
    "Stop looking like a worried hen who has lost her chicks, Andrina! Cheryl and Sharon are perfectly all right and it is entirely convenable I assure you, for girls to go driving in the afternoon providing they keep to the popular parts of Hyde Park."
    "And with whom has Sharon gone?" Andrina asked.
    She knew even as she asked the question what the answer would he.
    "Who else but the handsome Count Ivan?" Lady Evelyn replied. "I saw last night that he was very enamoured, and I must say he is one of the most attractive men I have ever met."
    "He is not at all suitable for Sharon," Andrina said sharply, "and I hope, Ma'am, you will not encourage this association. I thought she danced with him far too frequently at the Ball."
    Lady Evelyn said nothing and after a moment Andrina went on:
    "You yourself told me that he was looking for a rich heiress. I think he should be warned before things go too far, that Sharon is absolutely penniless."
    There was a smile on Lady Evelyn's lips as she said:
    "You sound exactly like my mother. That is the way she talked when I was a girl, and yet I married my husband and we were very happy!"
    She saw Andrina's expression and said:
    "He became an Ambassador and made a great success of his career. When I first met him he was no-one of any importance with little influence and nothing to recommend him even in the
    Diplomatic Service except that he had an aptitude for languages."
    "I want Sharon to make a good marriage," Andrina said. "I am quite sure, Ma'am, that Count Ivan Birkendorff is not the type of husband we would want for her."
    "I am sure you know best, Andrina," Lady Evelyn answered, "but do not forget that the last word rests with the Duke."
    "Why is that?" Andrina enquired. "I am looking after my sisters."
    "On the contrary," Lady Evelyn replied, "we have proclaimed to the world that you are the Duke's Wards. Therefore if any young man wishes to lay his hand and his heart at your feet he has first, as you are all under twenty-one, to ask your Guardian's permission."
    "I should have thought that was unnecessary," Andrina said quickly.
    Lady Evelyn shook her head.
    "Most young men would be extremely nervous of doing the wrong thing, especially in the eyes of someone like the Duke of Broxbourne. His Grace, as we both know, can be very autocratic when it suits him, and I have a feeling that any suitor of whom he does not approve will be very quickly shown the outside of the front door."
    "Do you think I should speak to the Duke about this?" Andrina asked reluctantly.
    "I think you will find that he is your strongest defence," Lady Evelyn replied. "At the same time he will undoubtedly have his own ideas on the subject."
    "We can be quite sure of that!" Andrina said bitterly remembering the way the Duke had spoken to her last night.


  9. Top | #39

    تاریخ عضویت
    1389,02,19
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    0.73
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    "I still think you must have cast a spell on him," Lady Evelyn said. "After all these years during which no Ball has been given in this house and Tancred has only entertained his own particular friends."
    She laughed and went on:
    "When I think how he has lived up to his reputation of being difficult and inhospitable, I can hardly believe this is really happening !"
    "It was a lovely Ball," Andrina said without much enthusiasm in her voice.
    "I saw you dancing with the Earl of Crowhurst," Lady Evelyn said. "Now if you can bring him up to scratch, that would be a great achievement!"
    "No!" Andrina said vehemently. "No! I assure you, Ma'am, that he is not really interested in me, nor I in him!"
    She walked from the Salon as she spoke and did not realise that Lady Evelyn gave a knowing little laugh as the door shut firmly behind her.
    Chapter Five
    Andrina returned to the house with Lady Evelyn after attending a Reception which secretly she had found rather dull.
    It had been full of Her Ladyship's friends and, although they had been kind and flatteringly inquisitive, Andrina was well aware that what they really wanted was to gossip about the Duke.
    It had obviously caused a sensation that after all these years he had suddenly entertained on such a lavish scale, and she sensed that the Beau Monde was already speculating as to which of his attractive Wards he would marry.
    She wondered if in fact Sharon had done as she had advised her and gone out of her way to be charming and fascinating to him.
    "Of course," Andrina told herself with a sigh, "Sharon is very young."
    At the same time it was impossible to think of the Duke being married to Cheryl.
    As she returned to Broxbourne House in the Duke's comfortable London carriage with Lady Evelyn chattering beside her, Andrina was wondering whether she would find on arrival that Cheryl had received a proposal of marriage from the Marquis.
    He had certainly singled her out, both at the Ball last night and by taking her driving alone in the Park. But when she remembered that Sharon had also gone driving with the Count, it overshadowed her pleasure about Cheryl.
    "You are very silent, Andrina," Lady Evelyn said when she had asked a question and received no answer.
    "I am sorry, Ma'am if I appear rude," Andrina answered. "I was thinking of Cheryl and Sharon and wondering if they will have returned."
    "I am sure they will have done so," Lady Evelyn said, "and
    you will doubtless find them both having tea in the Salon."
    Unfortunately this hope did not materialise.
    There was no-one in the Salon when Andrina arrived at Broxbourne House and she learnt to her consternation that neither Cheryl nor Sharon had returned from their drive.
    "How could they be so long?" she asked.
    "Time does not exist when one is young," Lady Evelyn said blithely and went upstairs to change.
    Andrina was just about to follow her when the Butler said:
    "His Grace is in the Library, Miss, and wished to see you vv lien you returned."
    Andrina felt her heart give a frightened throb.
    Was the Duke still angry with her as he had been last night?
    She had a sudden terror that perhaps he was so incensed that he was unwilling to continue entertaining them, and intended to send them away.
    Then she thought she was alarming herself unnecessarily.
    He had been angry, it was true, but it was not Cheryl's or Sharon's fault and she had the feeling that, difficult though he was, he would be just. Yet, she asked herself, what grounds had she for thinking that?
    She knew nothing about him, nothing at all-except that he was over-powering, autocratic and at times infuriating.
    'Where he is concerned, I always seem to do the wrong thing,' she thought.
    Then her pride made her add:
    "Why should it trouble me? Once Cheryl and Sharon are married I will never see him again."
    However feeling it would be unwise to keep the Duke waiting, she took off her bonnet and the light silk pelisse she had worn over a pretty muslin gown and gave them to the Butler.
    Then holding her head high she walked along the corridor to the Library.
    A footman opened the door for her and she went in to find the Duke at his desk.
    He half-rose as she entered, then seated himself again and indicated with his hand a chair on the other side of the desk.
    Andrina looked at him and thought he was looking more
    cynical than usual, and she saw too that he still looked angry and there was a frown between his eyes.
    She felt her spirits sink; then once again she told herself defiantly she would not be overpowered by him. Because she was nervous she spoke quickly as she said : "1 think before I hear what you wish to say to me, Your Grace, I should thank you in all sincerity for your great kindness in giving the Ball last night." She paused. The Duke made no reply and Andrina went on : "Everyone to-day has been saying it was the best party they had ever attended and that Broxbourne House had never looked more magnificent!"
    Still the Duke did not speak and after a moment, because his silence was so nerve-racking Andrina said in a low voice: "Why did Your Grace ... want to see ... me?" "I wished to congratulate you, Andrina. You have been more astute than I expected or gave you credit for.'' "About what?" Andrina asked.
    "As if you did not know!" he replied scornfully. "Let me make it easier by telling you that your 'ardent admirer' called to see you after you had left the house."


  10. Top | #40

    تاریخ عضویت
    1389,02,19
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    "1 have no idea what you are talking about," Andrina answered, but the colour rose in her cheeks.
    "As I have already said, I must congratulate you," the Duke went on. "From a worldly point of view it is a brilliant match, and it will put you in a position where you can look after your sisters, as you have not been able to do in the past."
    Andrina's eyes were on the Duke's face. Then she said hardly above a whisper: "What... arc you ... trying to ... tell me?" "I am informing you," the Duke said, "that the Earl of Crowhurst has asked for your hand in marriage, and as your Guardian I have naturally given him my consent!"
    For a moment Andrina felt as if her heart had stopped beating and she was paralysed.
    Then without thinking what she was doing she rose to her feet and walked across the room to the window to stand staring out at the garden bathed in sunshine.
    "You have achieved what you set out to do,'' the Duke's voice said behind her. "Crowhurst is a matrimonial catch, as my cousin Evelyn will be able to assure you in more detail than I can."
    Andrina did not move.
    She was remembering how last night when the Earl had touched her she had felt disgusted and revolted to the point where she longed to scream.
    She recalled how she had fought herself free of him. and how frightened she had been that his superior strength would hold her captive despite all her efforts to escape.
    When she went to bed she had scrubbed violently with soap and water the places on her shoulder and on her neck where he had kissed her. Even then lying in the darkness she could feel the hot insistence of his mouth.
    She had told the Duke that she hated him, but it was a very different hatred from that which she felt for Lord Crowhurst.
    The Duke angered her and she fought him mentally. But what she felt for Lord Crowhurst was entirely physical, the shrinking of her whole body when he came near her, as if from something evil and unclean.
    "I am waiting, Andrina," the Duke said.
    Andrina turned from the window.
    "Please," she said in a voice that he could hardly hear. "I ... cannot ... marry him!"
    There was a moment's silence. Then the Duke said :
    "Am I hearing you aright, Andrina? Are you telling me you do not wish to marry His Lordship?"
    "I ... cannot do ... so," she answered and still her voice seemed strangled in her throat.
    The Duke rose to walk to the mantelpiece and stood with his hack to it.
    "As your Guardian," he said, "I must point out the advantages this marriage would bring you."
    Andrina would have turned back to the garden again, but he said sharply:
    "You will listen to me, Andrina! Come and sit down!"
    Slowly and reluctantly she obeyed him, crossing the floor to seat herself on a chair at the side of the hearth.
    She thought as she did so that to sit beside the Duke when he was standing made him seem even larger and more overpowering.
    Because she knew she must obey him she clasped her hands together in her lap and waited.
    "The Earl is not only a very rich man," the Duke began after a moment, "but he is also accepted in the most exclusive circles. He is well known in the field of sport and he has one of the best racing-stables in England."
    He paused before he went on:
    "He has also, which from a woman's point of view it appears, is important, fallen in love with you - in fact he was quite lyrical about your attractions."
    There was a sarcastic note in the Duke's voice which made Andrina wince.
    It was quite obvious, she thought, that he did not share the Earl's sentiments.
    "You came to London to find a husband."
    Andrina made a little gesture of protest, but he continued before she could speak:
    "Oh, I know the pretext was that you were concerned only with your two sisters. But you must have realised there were men who would be interested in you as well. And so, Andrina, you have managed to pick the ripest peach from the very top of the tree!"
    Again there was a note in the Duke's voice which made her feel as if he flicked her with a whip."
    Then clasping her hands so tightly that her fingers were white she said:
    "It is no ... use. I understand all the ... advantages. I know how much I could ... help Cheryl and Sharon, but I cannot marry him ... I cannot!"
    Her voice broke on a little sob.
    There was silence until the Duke asked in a different voice:
    "Will you give me a reason?"
    "I do not... love ... him!"
    He could hardly hear the words, and yet they were spoke.
    "Love?" the Duke ejaculated and his voice seemed to echo round the Library. "Love, Andrina? This is the first time you have ever mentioned that illusory emotion. I thought it was position you wanted, a title and a coronet to wear on your pretty head! Those things seldom go hand in hand with love!"


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