Previously in Trust and Tribulation:
“And of course, Miss Stanwell, you remember Commander Hayden,” Lord Rydges said, his gaze directed behind her at the man standing by the window.
Finally, Anthea turned. Breath suspended. Heart beat loud in her ears.
Commander Hayden stepped forward, out of the shadows. Anthea saw the man of her memory shift into the man before her. Changed, so changed. Her eyes met his, and it felt as if the world was held still in one awful, crystallized moment...
Chapter 6 – Early Troubles and Late Arrivals
Anthea searched Commander Hayden’s face. A scar curved from temple to cheekbone – the violence of it caught in its jagged edges. A wound from the war, Anthea thought, her heart contracting at what he must have suffered. His dark hair, once so fashionable groomed, was cropped short, and he was thinner too. But none of that was of any consequence. What mattered was the change in his eyes. There was no laughter. No warmth.
“Miss Stanwell, I was not expecting…” He looked across at Lord Rydges, the line of his jaw tight. The two men glared at one another. Hayden abruptly turned back to her, and bowed. “I am pleased to make your acquaintance again, Miss Stanwell.”
“And, Hayden,” Lord Rydges said quickly. “This is Miss Stanwell’s sister, Miss Lily Stanwell.”
The Commander bowed again, his attention flicking to Lily then back again to Anthea.
“It has been quite a long time since we met last, sir,” Anthea managed to say.
His hand went up to his face, resting for a moment on the scar. “Yes. A lifetime ago.”
Lord Rydges cleared his throat. “Miss Stanwell, Miss Lily Stanwell, allow me to also introduce Mrs Tunbridge, companion to Lady Davinia, and Mrs Hane, aunt to Miss Tait.”
Reluctantly, Anthea turned from Hayden. She had not noticed the two ladies sitting in the far corner, slightly apart from the main gathering. No doubt, chaperones for the heiresses. Both were elderly and rather stout, although Mrs Tunbridge seemed to have maintained a youthful vibrancy in her expression.
“Miss Stanwell,” Lady Rydges said, interrupting the murmured courtesies from the chaperones. “Is your mother well?”
“She is, my lady, and sends you her greetings and thanks.” Anthea could feel the Commander’s eyes fixed on her back.
Lady Rydges inclined her head graciously then turned to the butler. “Philips, has Lord Dansworth arrived yet?”
“No, my lady.”
Her mouth pursed. “Well, we will not hold dinner for him.” She rose from her chair. “Commander Hayden, take Lady Charlotte in. Mr Edgecombe, you will have the honour of leading Lady Davinia.” She ordered the pairings with irritated flicks of her hand.
Hayden crossed the room to where Lady Charlotte sat, his eyes fixed on Lord Rydges as he passed. There was such a savage look in his face that Lord Rydges turned away and hurriedly took his wife’s arm. Anthea watched the silent discord between the two men. Lord Rydges must have invited her without the knowledge of Commander Hayden. But why keep it from him? Unless Lord Rydges had known the Commander did not want to see her again, and for some mischievous reason, had invited them to the same place. The thought froze her for a moment. Did the Commander hold her in such low esteem?
He looked back at her and she saw a glimmer of gladness on his face. Her heart lifted. No, that was not a look of dislike.
“Commander Hayden?” Lady Charlotte prompted.
Recalling himself, he bowed to her and offered his arm. The lady was no fool – she had obviously noticed the strain between her father and the Commander, deduced its source, and was observing Anthea with interest. It was, at least, half-friendly interest, Anthea decided. She gave a wan smile and was warmed to receive a smile back.
A small grunt of amusement drew her attention. Mrs Tunbridge stood beside her, watching the Commander lead Lady Charlotte into the dinner procession behind her mother and father. “I see that you are already acquainted with the Commander,” she said softly as they joined the line behind Miss Tait and Mrs Hanes. “He is still a handsome man, even with that scar, don’t you think?” She gave Anthea a jovial wink. “It may interest you to know that he will soon be hearing news to his advantage.”
Anthea’s gaze flew back to the Commander. He was bending towards Lady Charlotte as she said something. Was it just courtesy, or was there intimacy in the gesture? Perhaps there was some understanding between him and Lady Charlotte, already. The possibility drove a knife through her heart.
It took her a few steps towards the dining room before she could ask, “What can you mean?”
“I have it on good authority that the Commander has a great deal of Prize Money coming to him,” Mrs Tunbridge answered. “He captured a vessel off France and will have the bulk of the reward once it is passed by the Admiralty. No doubt he is looking to step up into the Ten Thousand, by way of a titled wife. And I would say that our kind hostess has also heard that rumour and is throwing her daughter his way.”
At least the news was not an engagement. Not yet, Anthea thought wretchedly. Perhaps that was why he was so angry with Lord Rydges. He was looking for a titled wife, but Lord Rydges did not want him for a son-in-law. Yet that did not tally with the man she had known three years ago. He had never sought that kind of advancement.
Why was he so angry? None of it made sense.
“My dear, you have broken your fan,” Mrs Tunbridge said.
Anthea looked down at the snapped sandalwood ribs. “How careless of me,” she said.
“Would you like some asparagus, Miss Stanwell,” Mr Edgecombe asked kindly.
Anthea murmured her thanks as the vicar passed her the delicate porcelain dish stacked with white spears. Two hours into the meal and the third remove had just been laid out, the extravagant assortment of sweet and savoury dishes covering the large table. Anthea surveyed the full roast goose with head attached, almond encrusted trout, a delicate berry syllabub, green and pink macaroons, butter-dressed potatoes, a country style stew, beans cooked with mushroom, sardines in aspic, jugged hare, jellied fruit, cheese wigs, and roast pork. So much food, Anthea thought, and most of it would be sent back to the kitchens like the last two removes.
She looked along the table to where Commander Hayden sat between Lady Charlotte and Miss Tait. Four times, Anthea had looked away from the polite conversation with her own dining partners, Mrs Tunbridge and Mr Edgecombe, to find the Commander watching her, his expression unreadable.
And now, a fifth time.
For a long moment, they observed one another. Boldly, Anthea gave a quizzical lift of her eyebrows: why do you look at me, so?
She watched the shift in his expression – a rise of some strong emotion, swiftly quelled. He gave a tiny tilt of his head – my apologies for the intrusion – and turned back to Lady Charlotte’s conversation.
She felt another pair of eyes upon her and looked across the table at Miss Tait. Now, there was an expression that also required no decoding. Dislike.
“It is time to leave the men to their port,” Lady Rydges announced across the debris of the sumptuous dessert table.
Reluctantly, Anthea placed the candied plum she had just selected back on to her plate, and gathered her broken fan and reticule from her lap.
Everyone rose from their seats, the gentlemen bowing as the ladies withdrew from the dining room. Anthea vowed to herself that she would not seek the Commander’s eyes as she passed by him. So much for that vow. As if drawn by a magnet, her gaze connected with his.
She almost stopped still at what she saw in his face.
Bewildered, she was swept on by Mrs Tunbridge’s bulk behind her.
As Anthea came through the door, Lily fell into step with her on the short journey across the foyer.
“Was Commander Hayden the man who disappointed you?” her sister whispered. Lily had always been aware that a naval man had paid his addresses to Anthea and then left, but she had never known the particulars.
“Yes,” Anthea said shortly.
“He seemed quite put-out when we were introduced. Then he could not take his eyes off you throughout dinner.”
“I could say the same about Mr Edgecombe and you,” Anthea countered. She could not bear to be prodded about the Commander. Not now.
Lily primmed her mouth. “Mr Edgecombe is very amiable.”
Anthea smiled at her sister’s coy response, but her spirit felt leaden. Some part of her understood what that moment of pained resignation had meant; Commander Hayden had decided to sever the connection that they both – so obviously – still felt.
Anthea knew that a woman with dignity and grace would accept that decision. She felt the broken ribs of her fan grind under her grip. Well, meek acceptance may be the mark of true womanhood, but it certainly did not sit well with her. Perhaps Mr Pitwater was right – she did not have enough dignity. She could not throw off the conviction that she deserved an explanation of the Commander’s behaviour now, and of three years ago. If only because they had called each other friend. Although, Anthea had to admit sadly, it was really because he had once called her his love. Something she had not even told her mother.
Over an hour later in the drawing room, the sound of horse hooves and coach wheels crunching across the gravel outside brought some distraction to the weary ladies still waiting for the gentlemen. The younger members paused in their card game while their elders stopped their desultory conversation to listen as the muffled tones of male voices echoed through the foyer.
Lady Charlotte smiled. “Stephen has arrived.”
“It would seem so,” Lady Rydges said.
Lady Davinia tabled a card then leaned across to Anthea. “Dansworth,” she whispered.
Anthea nodded politely although she had already known that Lady Charlotte referred to her brother.
“I am most desirous that you meet my son, Miss Tait,” Lady Rydges said, bestowing a smile upon the heiress. Miss Tait returned the smile then glanced triumphantly around the card table.
Lady Charlotte turned to Anthea. “And I am eager for you to meet him, Miss Stanwell. He is a most dear brother to me.”
Anthea smiled. “I will be most pleased to meet him.”
Miss Tait threw down a card. “I’m sure you will, Miss Stanwell, if you can bear to stop staring at Commander Hayden.” She smiled, her small, even teeth showing.
“I rather think it was the other way round, Miss Tait,” Lady Charlotte said quickly.
Lady Rydges rose from her armchair. “Well,” she sniffed, “My son shall, no doubt, join his father and the other gentleman for Port. I think we can safely say that they will not be joining us in the drawing room tonight. We shall retire.”
And so ended the evening.
Anthea woke from a restless doze, startled by Lily’s absence and the unfamiliar shadowy shapes of the bed chamber. Feeling too closed in, she slipped out of the huge bed and wrapped herself in her silk shawl, crossing the carpet to open the curtains. Beneath her window was a neatly laid out herb garden, lit by the full moon into a ghostly lattice. She turned the dressing table chair and sat, drawing her legs up and hugging them against her chest. Somehow, she had to find a way to reconcile herself to her encounter with Commander Hayden, but there did not seem any comfortable way of doing so without knowing his thoughts. By the time the sun rose and patterned the carpet with light, she was just as conflicted as she had ever been. There was only one thing for it – she needed a walk to clear her head.
She efficiently dressed herself in her favourite print day dress and green spencer, murmuring a small apology to Sally at usurping her role. A few moments in front of the mirror had her long hair pinned into a knot, and the shorter hair at front arranged around her face; it still had enough curl in it from the previous night to make-do. Grabbing her bonnet and gloves, she headed for the door.
It was lucky that a housemaid was already at work clearing the hearths and was able to lead Anthea to the foyer. It was with a sense of relief that she finally stepped out into the weak morning sunshine.
She strode down the gravel, heading for the beautiful garden arranged like a wilderness. At least, the Romantic ideal of a wilderness. Anthea’s little guidebook of grand estates had stated that the Lakeside gardens were originally designed by Capability Brown, and Anthea was keen to see the work of such a famous landscape architect.
She was soon striding along a lovely walk lined with Birch. She twirled in a circle to reassure herself that no one was in sight then quickened her pace into a jog. The cold air in her lungs felt as though it was cleaning out her confusion. She gathered the hem of her dress up in one hand and accelerated into a run, feeling the heaviness within her spirit lift.
The sound of a loping animal made her look around. A huge dog, brown and shaggy with an absurdly long, wagging tail was keeping pace alongside her, his huge jaws split into what could only be called a dog-grin. She smiled and slowed.
“Hello, boy,” she said and stopped, holding out her gloved hand to the animal.
Anthea jumped, swinging around at the deep, male voice.
“I beg pardon,” the man said. “I’m sorry to have startled you.”
He was dressed in a tailored blue greatcoat, the large collar raised against the chill in the early morning air. His smile was easy, the amusement in his golden-brown eyes not unkind. He clicked his fingers and the dog trotted to his side and sat in an untidy heap at his feet.
“May I present Waverley of Lakeside,” he said indicating the dog. “He has no manners and tends to run alongside ladies without formal introduction.”
He had seen her running like a hoyden. Flushing slightly, Anthea curtsied to the dog. “Pleased to meet you Waverley. I am Miss Anthea Stanwell.” She smiled at the man and sunk into a deeper curtsey. With his lean, classical features and athletic build, there could be no mistaking his lineage. “And, if I may hazard a guess, I am pleased to meet you too, Lord Dansworth.”
“Well guessed, Miss Stanwell.” He bowed.
“You are very much like your father, my Lord.”
He was, indeed, built on the same lines as Lord Rydges, but with even more height. Unlike his father, however, he was fair-headed, the breeze ruffling his fashionably longer style into disarray. So this was the famous Rake and Dandy. Anthea had to admit he was very well dressed – the coat fitted his broad shoulders to perfection and she glimpsed a beautifully tied white cravat and spotless linen beneath.
“I see that you are like myself and enjoy an early morning walk,” he said.
She nodded. “It is most refreshing.”
“Would you do Waverley the honour of allowing him to escort you around the garden?”
“I would be delighted,” Anthea said.
They walked on, Waverley running ahead and circling back to make sure of their direction, his tail wagging joyfully.
“What kind of dog is he?” Anthea asked.
“An Irish Wolf-hound,” Dansworth said. “Good hunters, although this fellow seems to think he is built for a warm fire and a cosy rug.”
“A Brobdingnagian lap-dog?” Anthea asked, wondering if he would recognise the reference.
Dansworth laughed. “You have read Gulliver’s Travels?”
She smiled. “I have. Does that shock you?”
“Not at all. I do not subscribe to the idea that women should not read widely.”
“I am glad to hear it,” Anthea said.
“And have you read the namesake of my dog, here?” he asked.
“The Wizard of the North is one of my favourite authors,” she said, smiling with delight.
As they circled the huge garden, they talked of Jacobite heroes and gallantry and Scott’s Romanticism, sometimes agreeing, and sometimes entering into a debate that had them both, by the end, laughing at the extravagances of each other’s claims.
They finally arrived back at the front door of Lakeside, the bustle of the morning underway.
“Do you like to ride, Miss Stanwell?” Dansworth asked as she ruffled Waverley’s ears in farewell.
“I do, but, sadly, I have not brought a riding habit,” she said, looking up at him with regret.
“Don’t mind that. I’m sure Charlotte will have something you can borrow. Shall we ride tomorrow, after breakfast?”
Anthea nodded. “Yes, I would like that very much.”
He bowed. “Then we have a firm appointment. Thank you for a lovely morning.”
With another click of his fingers, he called Waverley to his side and headed towards the outbuildings. Anthea watched his long easy stride, the big dog looking up at him with adoration. She turned back to the house, smiling. If that was a Rake then she now understood the attraction.
Next Time: Accomplishments
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© Alison Goodman 2012.
Alison Goodman holds the Intellectual Property rights to the Trust and Tribulation serial, but acknowledges the right of 2012 JAFA season ticket holders to make use of the characters and situations in the serial to fulfil the conditions of the competition.Please also note that the use of brand names in the serial has been used in the spirit of fun and is not meant, in any way, as product placement. The author has, alas, not been offered any terrific freebies to use these names.