About the book
Being auctioned to the highest bidder by her greedy father who is desperately trying to elevate his social standing, Amelia’s fate seems tragically predetermined: trapped in a horrible marriage of convenience with a man she despises.
But, while on her way to Canada boarding a Royal Navy’s frigate, Amelia & her maid get captured by a Yankee pirate ship, in charge of the ferocious but absolutely dashing Captain Jonathan Mitchell.
The Captain is not only a man of nobility and an honored patriot for the Service of his country, but also a man with a deep darkness hovering over his heart; one that only true love can forever amend.
Helpless from her heart’s desires, Lady Amelia will soon find out that there is no going back. You can always dance around destiny for so long until fate pulls you in…
A Prince’s Delight
London, England, June 1813
“Good morning, Your Royal Highness. It is past ten and ‘tis a fine day,” said the Groom of the Chamber, The Honorable Percival Waverly.
Unlike the regular servants, he, as one of the personal head retainers to the Prince Regent, was permitted to wear his own clothing. Above him in position was the Gentleman of the Chamber who was generally derived from peers of a higher station, like earls or dukes. He was not present this day.
Sir Percival was perfectly attired in a navy-blue tailcoat with a white silk waistcoat that covered the top of the trouser. Underneath, he sported a crisp white linen shirt with a featured starched chin-high neck collar to accommodate his light blue neckcloth. Black shoes with silver buckles adorned his feet.
“Go away, Waverly. I need to sleep…oh, God, the pain,” croaked the Regent.
“As I said, Your Royal Highness, it is a fine morning. And the beginning of a splendiferous dayfor the knighthoods taking place later today.”
“Yes, Your Royal Highness,” insisted Sir Percival.
“Argh…the light! ‘Tis blindingme,” complained the Regent,shiftinghis prodigious bulk to one side in an attempt to escape from the stabs of sunlight coming through the sash window.
“Dawson, how many times did I tell you on the way over here that you areto wait for my order before opening the curtains. His Royal Highness is allergic to the light this early in the morning.” Waverly shook his head and looked down his long aquiline nose, “Tut tut, Dawson, really.”
“Sorry, Sir Percival. It won’t happen again.”
The young man dressed in the livery of a household servant hastily started to draw the heavy satin curtains shut. His attire was impeccably tailored and came at a great personal expense to the Regent.
His uniform consisted of a fancy red coat, knee breeches, silk calf-hugging stockings, and powdered hair. As this particular gentleman, like his fellows, was often in the presence of the Regent, special care was taken that he looked perfect. He had even been required to provide his height when advertising for the position, because it was considered absurd to have a pair of personal servants that didn’t match in tallness.
“Dawson, what are you doing now?”
“I am pulling the curtains shut, Sir Percival,” said the young man with the auburn hair and the freckles on his already reddening cheeks.
“Yes, that is what I thought you were doing. Dawson, please don’t bother. Come here. We are to dress His Royal Highness, the Prince.” Sir Percival waved his hand frantically. “Well, come on, boy.”
“Yes, Sir Percival.” He rushed over to where the other man stood.
“There’s no need to run. Don’t they teach you anything these days?”
“Sorry, Sir Percival.”
“Stop apologizing, man. It’s most unbecoming,” huffed Sir Percival. He resembled a pelican standing on one leg. His back was straight to a breaking point and his small head -like the bird’s -perched on his neck as if lingering for its mother bird to feed it.
“Thanks to your bickering, I am awake now,” rasped the Prince Regent, peering from under the quilted blankets on his bed with two beady eyes.
“My intention exactly, Your Royal Highness. Now, come along, you have a big day ahead of you.” Sir Percival clapped his hands theatrically.
“I still don’t see why bother. Knighting some plebs…for what…I say?”
“Because they have done their duty to their King, their Regent and the Empire, Your Royal Highness.” Sir Percival swiveled his attention to the other chamber servant, standing by the door. “Well, come on, Wallis, the Prince Regent isn’t going to dress himself.”
Chastened, the other man, robed identically to Dawson, dashed across the vast bedchamber toward the bed.
“It’s like teaching monkeys to juggle. No running in the Prince’s chambers,” said Sir Percival, rolling his eyes.
“Sorry, Sir,” said both young men simultaneously.
“I now have three of you looking at me. This is most disconcerting. Where’s Gussy? He’s much nicer to me in the mornings,” said the Regent still peering from under the coverlets. He referred to his Gentleman of the Chamber.
He’s not here because the Duke of Uxbridge gets as drunk as you do, Your Royal… Pffft…Highness. I cannot discern which one of you two gentlemen is more debauched? The fat Prince Toador the fat Duke of Toad.Sir Percival bowed laconically. “Your Royal Highness, I only do what’s best for you.” He paused. “Do you wish to use the privy before you get dressed?”
The Regent arched one eyebrow. “Yes, Waverly, I think I shall.”
“Very good, Your Royal Highness.” Sir Percival whispered to Wallis, “You are in charge of privy duty this morning.” He had to hide his amusement because of the horrified expression on the man’s face.
“Is anyone going to help me,” snorted the Prince as he attempted to get off the bed. He resembled a beached whale as he rolled this way and that on the vast mattress.
“But of course, Your Royal Highness. Dawson, Wallis, chop chop,” said Sir Percival. The three men promptly advanced toward the bed. “One, two, three…heave.”
The Prince Regent stood swaying before them in his linen nightshirt with his initials emblazoned in red silk on the right-hand side of the garment. His face wasred flushedfrom the exertion of lifting his corpulent frame off the bed,or was it because he and the Duke of Uxbridge had indulged in too much food and drink the previous evening? Most probably both.
The preceding evening’s dinnerthat was more of a banquet of lucullan proportionhad consisted of two double portions of partridge, trout, and four beefsteaks (one of the regent’s favorite foods), each in their own savory sauces. Phenomenal amounts of vegetables accompanied this bacchanalian feast. The two men had shared copious amounts of champagne, wine,and brandy throughout the evening.
“Your banyan, Your Royal Highness,” said Sir Percival, bowing,and proffering a burgundy red silk garment for the prince to slide over his bulk.The regent smiled, clearly satisfied with the garment that wasthe epitome of elegant morning dress in Regency England. It was a tastethe Englishhadpicked up on in the Orient.
“What would I do without Jonathan Meyer? He does make the finest clothing,you know.” The Prince pirouetted on the spot in imitation of a spinning top. “Mm, we might have to call upon him again. This is rather snug around the midriff – I think he made a mistake with my measurements.” His face lit up. “I shall summon Beau Brummell;he will know what to do. It was he who recommended the man as a tailor in the first place, you know.”
With those words, the prince marched off in the direction of the privy like a charging bull. Following close on his heels went Wallis. The two other men quickly busied themselves with the preparations for when the prince returned. Sir Percival had trouble getting over the prince’s hubris – it was evident to him that the regent had grown in size since he last wore the vestment.
“No, no, no, I shall first have breakfast, Waverly,” commanded the prince on his way back from his visit to the loo. He flapped his hand frantically at the clothingheld in his direction as if a nest of hornets had just inhabited them.
“But of course, Your Royal Highness…will it be the usual?” asked Sir Percival, dreading the prospect.
“Yes, yes, I think it shall. Arrange for it to be brought to me in my dining room,” said the prince almost salivating onto the carpet and rubbing his hands with glee.
The prince’s route took him along the entire length of the lower ground floor at Carlton House that was composed of a suite of low ceilinged rooms, which included a gothic dining room, a library, a Chinese drawing room, and an astonishing gothic conservatory constructed of cast iron and stained glass.
This suite of rooms was equipped with folding doors that provided impressive enfilade when opened. Like most mornings, the doors were closed. However, when open, the entire length could be used for one enormous banqueting table. All of the ground floor rooms faced the elaborate garden fronting the Mall.
By the time Sir Percival arrived, the Prince Regent was already attacking an assortment of foods as if it would be his last meal. His breakfast consisted of two pigeons and three beefsteaks, three parts of a bottle of mozelle, a glass of dry champagne, two glasses of port and a glass of brandy.
Sir Percival watched on in consternated horrorthroughout and shuddered at the denouement of the meal. He had never been to Africa, but he could imagine that a pride of lions feasting on a carcass had nothing on the prince regent. The two footmen standing in the chamber stared straight ahead, knowing of the prince’s wrath should they be caught ogling.
“Ah, that’s better,” said the prince, emitting a contented burp, flowering his words. “Waverly, I shall be having my medicine now.” He gnawed on a bone in an attempt to find another tasty morsel – to his great chagrin he was unsuccessful.
Sir Percival nodded to one of the footmen who promptly jutted into action. Within moments, he returned with a small vialneatly presented on a silver salver.
As well as alcohol, George, the regent, was also addicted to laudanum, a liquid form of opium. He’d take 100 drops in preparation for a public appearance, enough to knock most people senseless. There was no limit to his desires, nor any restraint to his profusion.
The regent lifted his bulk from the seat. The action looked like a volcano prior to eruption. “Waverly, I shall get dressed now.”
Sir Percival bowed as the prince promenaded past him, back in the direction of his private suite. He already dreaded the next hours. It was his least favorite part of the day.
Carlton House – The Adoubement
Amelia Carlyle stepped out of the carriage in front of Carlton House. She was with her father, Mr. Thomas Carlyle Esquire and her mother, Felicity. She had never been to visit the prince regent before. Her gaze shifted upward in an attempt to take in the vast structure before her.
The building faced the south side of Pall Mall, and its gardens abutted St. James’s Park in the St. James district of London. John Nash, who was busy altering the layout of London on the Prince Regent’s request, included the location of Carlton House in his plans. The soon to be ceremonial route from St. James’ Park to Regent’s Park, via the newly established Regent Street -still under heavy construction -to Portland Place and Park Square were based on the position of the front entrance to Carlton House.
It was as the regent wished since taking on the formal task of representing the monarchy after his father, who had been declared unfit for the role due to the illness that some called madness. George the Third was known as the man who had lost the American colonies. However, he was much loved by the populace nonetheless.
Behind Amelia, there were more transports waiting to discharge their eager passengers. All around her, the coachmen yelled, “Ya, ya…” and clicked their tongues as they coaxed their horses forward with the lash. The procession was endless. Everybody of note had been bidden to the Regent’s home to witness the knighting of the men who had done their bit for king and country.
Amelia’s father was one of those men. It had always been his lifelong ambition to come so far. Thanks to his ownership of a shipping company and his adept handling of that asset, he had attracted the attention of Prime Minister Robert Banks Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool,who had suggested to the Prince Regent that he receive an accolade to reward him for his efforts.
Amelia did feel proud and to a certain extent happy for her father. A large proportion of her father’s ships supported the war effort against Napoleon by supplying the troops on the Iberian Peninsula with much-needed food, medicine, and other victuals. Of course, Amelia knew that he made a hefty profit on the side–what astute businessman wouldn’t. Yet, that was not what worried her.
Their relationship was a contentious one at best. His continuous efforts to marry her off above her station were a cause of great concern to her. So far, she had been fortunate that no prospective suitor had yet been found. But what would happen after he had made that first step up the ladder of advancement?
Amelia could not help but feel that fate was rounding on her like a pack of wolves ready for the kill. Oddly enough, despite her twenty summers, she had not yet been launched into society. She assumed that her father had a reason for that. He always was good at chess. This knighthood was all he needed to strategically plan his next steps of advancement. Now, he could flaunt his wealth to any impoverished lord, viscount, earl or duke and sell off his most prized asset to the highest bidder – namely me, she thought.
“Well, come on, daughter. It won’t do to dawdle. The Prince Regent will not wait for us,” said Amelia’s father happily.
“Yes, Father. I was just looking at the building. ‘Tis rather impressive.”
Her father arched his eyebrows. The gesture made him look slightly comical on his chubby face. He stood tall and was as bulky as a tree trunk. Every time he spoke, his jowls would wobble with his every utterance. In a way, his stout physique was a perfect reflection of his vast fortune – his key to unlock the greed among the nobles.
“Come on, Felicity…Amelia…” With those words, he marched up the steps to Carlton House, skipping as Humpty Dumpty might on a wall.
Amelia took one last look at the exterior of Carlton House before following her mother and father into the building – it was awe-inspiring, to say the least, comparable to a smaller version of the Palace at Versailles in terms of opulence.
The Prince Regent held a quasi-separate glittering alternate court to that of his parents at Buckingham Palace since the 1780s. The residence had recently been redecorated for the second time since the prince became regent in 1811 to encompass even more space. In London, the residence was referred to as a house. On the continent, many a European might suggest that it was more of a palace than anything else.
Amelia and her parents walked through a hexastyle portico of Corinthian columns that led to the main foyer. This room was flanked to either side by anterooms. Carlton House was very unusual in that the visitor entered the house on the main floor. Most unlike many of the mansions of the time, which followed the Palladian architectural concept of a lower ground floor.
Amelia could not take her eyes off the opulence of her surroundings. To her sides, more elegantly dressed men and women passed her by in an eager attempt to get inside. The women were resplendent in different colors of fine silks and damask. The men, as Beau Brummell, the epitome of the Regency dandy suggested, were far less ostentatious in their dark coats, white shirts, colored cravats, and trousers.
Their route took them through the foyer and on toward a two-story lit entrance hall. Passing it,they moved on to the grand staircase where Amelia and her family followed the others down the steps in the direction of the throne room.
“Stop fidgeting, Amelia,” hissed her mother. “It is most unladylike. Someone might think that you have never been here before.”
“But I haven’t, Mother…and neither have you if I might add,” she countered, receiving a hostile look from her mother.
Resuming her perusal of her surroundings, she gulped. Being interested in the classics and art, Amelia could not believe what she saw. It was a paradise for anyone with a more discerning disposition when it came to all things beautiful.
Besides the magnificent and opulent Louis XVI-style French décor and furniture, a superb collection of works of art adorned the walls of Carlton House. The prince regent collected many of the finest paintings for his main residence.
He was renowned for patronizing modern artists: Gainsborough, Stubbs, and Reynolds. With Sir Charles Long and the Third Marquess of Hertford acting as his art advisors, the Prince Regent also bought paintings from the old masters: Rubens, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Cuyp, and Jan Steen. He may be a bon vivant and a spendthrift, but the Prince definitely has taste,thought Amelia.
“This is unbelievable, Mother – look,” Amelia said, demurely indicating with her hand at the walls and marquetry wall tables as she continued following the flock of people to the throne room.
Her mother took no notice of her daughter’s antics – to her all that mattered was her husband’s advancement; she could barely organize the rush of excitement in her mind: who was she going to invite first? Or should it be a garden party? Or maybe something more formal – yes, we shall have a banquet in the prince’s honor. She decided at last.
Amelia was primarily interested in art, humanities, and geopolitics; all her mother cared about was station. This was the greatest day in Felicity’s life. She soon would be Lady Carlyle, 1st Baronetof Windom. She had used her onetime beauty to ensnare a man with potential, and had achieved that with flying colors. She was attractive, but in a bland way that would not entice undue attention.
And there he was as the small family shuffled into the throne room that like the rest of the residence was opulently decorated in Louis XVI-style French décor. The other invitees stood in a semicircle around the Prince Regent, his mother, and two footmen holding vigil slightly behind him.
Amelia gulped as she watched her father being directed away from them to a group of four other men who were also to receive their titles in due course. With eyes the size of saucers, she followed her mother to a free spot next to a lady and gentleman who looked almost as regal as the prince himself. Amelia cringed when her mother attempted to engage them in conversation even though it was openly apparent that they had no interest whatsoever in conversing with her.
She decided to calm down and focus her contemplation on the prince. While she was doing this, her eyes fell on a gentleman who had his gaze glued to her. He was handsome in a strange sort of way. However, his privileged heritage was there for the world to see – thin scowling lips, his head raised high, displaying a sort of aloof bearing when he looked at her. It was as if life itself had become so predictable because he always got what he wanted. Amelia looked away quickly and watched the prince regent who seemed as bored as sin.
A notoriously vain man, the prince Regent wore a whalebone corset under his shirt and a bright-yellow waistcoat and a claret-colored tailcoat, displaying his medals. An especially high cravat helped to disguise his double chins and fleshy jowls. On his head, he wore a chestnut-colored wig.
On his face, makeup had been carefully applied to make him look quite handsome despite his enormous size. It was common knowledge that it took the prince three hours to get laced into his corset and dressed so that in the end, he resembled a great sausage stuffed into a pastry covering.
“I see you found the most eligible bachelor in London, Amelia,” whispered her mother.
“I don’t quite know what you mean?”
“Don’t be coy with me. I saw you looking at him – handsome isn’t he.” It was not a question, but a statement of fact.
“I don’t know; he has something decidedly evil about him.” She turned to her mother. “Anyway, we are here for father and not to launch me into society.” Amelia pleated her brow when she saw a slight smirk flitter across her mother’s lips. What’s she got planned now?she thought, knowing of her mother’s caprices.
Amelia’s mother wore the most superb dress of ruby velvet and white satin; the draperies in every part trimmed with a rich imperial gold border, and a profusion of splendid gold tassels that were rope trimmed with pointed lace. On her head towered a matching ruby turban inlayed with jewels and feathers.
Next to her, Amelia was more modestly dressed in terms of color and the amount of jewels on her person. Her dress was primarily white with pale pastel shades adorning her flanks. Her silky dark hair was elaborately fashioned. Her natural hair color burnished in obsidian splendor and was tied up on the top of her head in a tuft of elaborate chignons to reveal her long slender neck. A white feather completed her ensemble.
Looking around the elaborately decorated throne room, Amelia wanted nothing more than to escape her predicament. Her body felt so constricted by all of the skirts, hoops and trains on her frame. She felt like the feathered former host – the ostrich. Like the bird, her person was rounded and full because of the skirts that were enhanced with panniers that stood out very wide on either side of her body but leaving the front and back flat. The only thing that differentiated her from the bird were its spindly legs.
All around her, the women’s clothing was so elaborate, displaying a broad swath of beautifully embroidered fabric. Amelia could not see the point of it all. She was a loyalist or a monarchist, yes, but why did Queen Charlotte, the regent’s mother, insist on this pathetic pageantry?
In France, or when a private function was hosted in England, women would wear garments with the ‘empire silhouette’ imitationing the ensemble worn by the former Empress Joséphine Bonaparte. These loose, formal dresses had a fitted bodice ending just below the bust, thus giving the appearance of a high waist, and a gathered skirt reaching the ankles.
This is ridiculous…I know that papa is receiving his knighthood today…and yes…it is an honor. But why do I have to look like a stuffed meringue?she thought. Amelia hazarded a glimpse at the queen. She gasped. She had never seen her before. She could not believe how unattractive she was. Her nostrils were too wide, her complexion overly pale and her forehead exceptionally low.
Amelia immediately chastised herself for being so insensitive. Queen Charlotte had always been an extremely dutiful wife to the mad king, providing him with fifteen children. The prospect made Amelia shudder – the poor woman must have been constantly pregnant.
This thought made Amelia study her dress more closely. She ran her dainty hands down the sides of the skirt, pressing slightly until it flounced back. She frowned. She very much resembled a young debutante. What was on her parents’ mind?she wondered.
The Prince Regent, George Augustus Frederick, who was also still the Prince of Wales, nodded. Amelia’s father was the first man to step forward. He hesitated for a heartbeat. Then taking a deep breath, he advanced further toward the Prince Regent.
He rested one knee on the knighting stool with the velvet-padded surface and lowered his head. This elaborate piece of furniture was carved with a gilt frame in the Louis XVI style.
The Regent did not utter a word. He just raised the knighting sword and tapped both of Amelia’s father’s shoulders. After which, an elongated, dark-blue velvet box was handed to him, containing the order of his rank and the deed was done. He was Sir Thomas Carlyle, 1st Baronetof Windom. And that was that. The entire process was repeated for the other candidates and the ceremony was over.
Like a crash of rhinos, the Prince Regent dashed off in the direction of the door that led to the gallery overlooking the garden and the Mall. When Amelia next saw him, he was attacking the assortment of delicacies on a long table that had been set up during the knighting ceremony. She watched him a while longer until she was interrupted.
“Amelia dear, I would like to present Lord Templeton French, oldest son to the Duke of Brandon,” said her father in a proud voice.
When she turned around, she saw her mother gushing with all sorts of emotions, none of which Amelia shared. She gulped. It was the arrogant-looking man she saw earlier.
“Well, do say something, Amelia,” chided her father. “She must be so overwhelmed by her father being knighted and now this – to be presented to the son of such an illustrious peer of the realm,” chittered her father in an attempt to ingratiate himself of the duke’s son.
Amelia could have killed him. He was behaving like a sniveling and groveling fool. However, she felt slightly uneasy under Lord Templeton French’s intense scrutiny. It was not a nice look and definitely not what she was seeking in a man. Before her was a male specimen who most definitely was a misogynistic sort with sprinkles of the vile to add to his unpleasantness. She did not know why she thought that, but her gut spoke volumes to her – the man had the visage of a coward.
“How do you do, Miss…oh, no; you are now the Honorable Amelia Carlyle. You must be pleased?” he said, chuckling like a fruitcake, while he scanned her body lecherously in a forlorn attempt to find some spot of her that was unclothed.
For the first time, Amelia was happy that she had so many garments on. Although not unattractive, this man had rapiers for eyes, unkind lips and sharp features. He stood in such contrast to her sweetness and softness of both character and appearance.
All Amelia could do was feign female timidity and some semblance of awe – Goodness, if only I was not so well brought up,she thought. It was all the invitation he needed – the introduction continued with her parents gushing admiration and awe beside the tedious lord.
However, what had vexed her the most was the cadence of his voice. It started off as a squeak that soon morphed into a series of trills and unconvincing attempts at baritone deepness. Lord Templeton French may never have ended puberty. It was what Amelia thought all the while he was telling her about how incredibly marvelous he was.
When the tone of his voice miraculously lowered into a deep hum, she steeled herself for the continuation of the introduction – she prayed for some change in his manner; Amelia wanted to believe that perhaps her initial opinion of the man was wrong; the pitch of his voice perchance only a small anomaly.
When Lord Templeton French started regaling her with the details of his group of acquaintances that were, to her mind, obviously more accomplished and important for they constituted the ‘Dandy Club’, she knew that she had been right all along: this man considered himself more stylish than Beau Brummell, a greater ‘Corinthian’ and sportsman than Lord “Beau” Petersham, Charles Stanhope, The Viscount of Petersham and even wittier than William Arderne, The Baron Alvanely. The hubris of the man, she thought.
What a windbag; you’d never catch any member of the ‘Dandy Club’ boasting of their accomplishments with such obvious self-aggrandizement,continued Amelia, her mind providing more fuel for her dislike. She prayed his monologue would be brief as she bored her emerald-green eyes into him, hoping, praying that he might back off.
“It is an honor to meet you, My Lord,” said Amelia, curtseying. It was all that came to mind as a riposte as excellent upbringing instinctively took a hold of her.
“The honor is mine, my dear,” he said, bowing and brushing his lips on the back of her hand.
Amelia cringed – my dear; I’ll show you my dear, you arrogant toad.There was something inherently wrong with what was going on. Her parents were oblivious to the happenings or were they? As she had been brought up, she made a few compliments about his exalted lineage and how accomplished his family was and closed her mouth – deed done – oh, no. He has more to say.
Lord Templeton French was about to open his mouth again. Amelia saw that he flitted gazes at the profligate buffet to his left. I don’t want to share food with you. I just want to leave and be as far away from you as soon possible.
“Lord Templeton French, do tell us how does your dear papa fair? I pray the gout is not as acrimonious as one hears.”
God, mother, you are so out of touch. But thank you - you saved me from having to converse further with the man – for how much longer I wonder?
While Lord Templeton French spoke with her parents, he constantly shot furtive gazes in her direction. When he smiled, it seemed like it was an effort or that he had just spent an hour on the privy.
The color drained from her face when the young lord, who was no older than twenty-four, mentioned that he would love to introduce her father to his. The words were accompanied by another glimpse in her direction – the grin that escorted it was more of a sneer. This is all getting out of hand. Father has to stop this. I know where this is going.
Her mind worked at twice its usual pace as her father started to discuss business with the duke’s son. Amelia heard none of the words. All she could do was stare at the man’s malevolent looking mouth as it moved. Each time he spoke, his lips twitched upwards unpleasantly. What was worse was that he was lecturing her father about the shipping business, even though it was apparent that he had no clue on the subject.
“You look downright bored to death, my dear. Someone as beautiful and as young as you should never have to put up with the tedium of idle business talk. Come, young lady, let me show you some of the delicacies we have on offer here at Carlton House. Afterward, I would like to delight you with some of my newest additions to my art collection.”
Before the prince regent could whisk an almost fainting Amelia away, he turned to Lord Templeton French. “My Lord, ‘tis most unbecoming to discuss business in my house – I shall not have it. You are surrounded by some of the most exquisite artwork in the world – I suggest you regale yourself with it and not bore lovely young ladies with the tedium of your commercial avarice…good afternoon.”
“Your Royal Highness,” said the others in unison and almost toppling forward and stumbling with their bows and curtseys.
“I was not aware Amelia was acquainted with the Prince Regent. How absolutely wonderful…ha, ha, ha,” said Amelia’s mother.
Sir Thomas rolled his eyes at his wife’s stupidity. He could have strangled her as he watched his daughter exchange words with the regent. He quickly returned his attention to the duke’s son. “I have a proposal for you…”
Women’s laughter could be heard on the second floor of the Carlyle residence in London Mayfair. It came from Amelia’s room that had high ceilings in imitation of the reception rooms downstairs. A fire burned in the hearth because it still got rather chilly at night despite it being June.
“He should be dashing, handsome and brave and strong,” said Amelia with dreamy eyes.
“Not too handsome ma’am. The ones that look too good always have roving eyes, ye sees,” said Anna.
Anna Titbits was Amelia’s lady’s maid. She was in charge of her hair, clothing, and any other personal tasks her mistress required of her. In other words, she was the female version of a gentleman’s gentleman or valet as the Americans liked to call them.
She was a petite sort with the sweetest of complexions: warm brown doe-like eyes, constantly smiling and a round face. Her entirety was like a mirror to her heart and soul. If any measurement could be applied to such things, then she was all gold and gems.
“Alright, let’s beg to differ on that one, Anna.” Amelia pressed her lips together in thought. “I…”
Anna tittered. “You do like ‘em gorgeous, don’t you ma’am.” She smiled as she ran a comb through her mistress’s hair.
“I don’t see why not. But what you said has me worrying. Maybe you are right and a gentleman who is not too good-looking might be better suited.”
“You are so beautiful, ma’am. No man would ever leave you.” She paused until her face lit up even more. “I would give anything to have hair like yours,” said Anna, looking at her mistress in the mirror attached to the dressing table.
Amelia took a moment to study her reflection. She knew that she was not unattractive, but she had never considered herself beautiful. She had moss-green eyes and high cheekbones. However, what she was most grateful for was her pixie nose. Fortunately, her mother’s side of the family had won out on that one. Her ash-black hair tumbled down from her head in a series of silky tresses.
She lifted her hand to touch the porcelain colored skin on her face. It felt smooth and was without blemish. As she let her mind wander back to the topic of a dashing man, her lips relaxed, displaying their fullness. Her head was perched on her neck like a rose blossom on a stem.
“The man that marries you, ma’am, will be the luckiest alive,” said Anna.
“Thank you, Anna. You are always so kind to me.”
“You are kind to me.” Anna thought for a moment. “The both of us will find love one day…I know because I dreamt it.”
“You dreamt it?”
“Aye,” said Anna in her typical Scottish lilt.
“What was the dream about?” asked Amelia, her curiosity piqued.
She always found Anna such a pleasure to be with. In a way, she thought her far more pleasant company than all of the inflated windbags that attended her mother’s invitations. She was so free-spirited and real. What you saw was what you got. Secretly, Amelia wished she could be the same - to break free and get away from the constraints of society. The prince regent does what he wants,she thought, remembering her chat with him earlier that day. Why can’t I?
“The dream was about us travelling on a long journey. It was by sea, it was.”
“Aye. But somehow, we never got to where we were supposed to be going,” said Anna with a deep frown on her forehead.
“Where did we end up then?”
“With two dashing men. Yours was more handsome than mine…”
This made Amelia laugh again.
“But they were good men. I saw it. I felt it. They made us truly understand what love is, ye ken. Sorry, ma’am, I slip into my native Scottish when I get excited. I meant you know.”
“It must’ve been quite some dream for you to get so excited,” said Amelia, grinning mischievously.
After they had laughed for quite some time, Amelia was the first to get serious. “What is love…I mean I know I love my parents (she frowned), I love horses and dogs. But what is it when you feel it for a man?”
“Ooooh, that’s easy, ma’am.”
Amelia arched an eyebrow, somehow disbelieving the certainty in her lady’s maid’s assertion.
“Ye…sorry, you see when you love a man without inhibitions, he is everything and all. You want nothing else but to be around him and smother him with kisses when you get the chance.” Anna shrugged. “You would do anything for this man, no matter what – that’s it, I think.”
Amelia wasn’t sure. “Sounds a bit like servitude to me. Here, let me try…I think the love felt for a man is when you cannot sleep at night when he is not beside you; your heart aches when he is with you because you cannot control the joy you feel when you see that love you harbor for him returned to you in full just by looking in his eyes. Love is when two people become as one in the realms of the physical and fuse on a higher plane in the kingdom of the spirit and soul.”
Anna brushed a wayward tear from her cheek. “That was beautiful, ma’am. You certainly have a way with words.” Her torrid emotions soon settled, and an impish grin slid across her mouth. “You wouldn’t mind getting into more detail on the physical side of things, would you?”
“What…oh…I see.” Amelia blushed. Usually, such intimacy between servant and employer was frowned upon and would result in the servant’s immediate punishment. However, Amelia and Anna were as close as they could get to being friends. They could never be seen in public or in the presence of her parents as equals, but when they were alone, Anna still did her duty, but the banter was always light between them.
Amelia never really enjoyed the company of her kind all that much. Anna was like a breath of fresh air. In their time together, Amelia had even taught Anna how to read and write. Anna was a formidable student and very clever. If times were different,Amelia always thought.
“You are as red as a tomato, ma’am,” said Anna, barely containing her mirth.
In moments, Amelia joined in. They laughed with such free abandon that the tears streamed down their faces.
“What’s all the ruckus about?” asked Amelia’s mother, swanning into the bedchamber dressed in her long silk nightdress and looking like a wraith.
“Oh, nothing, Mother. We were just laughing because I dropped one of my rings into my face cream pot and we had trouble fishing it out.”
“Oh, I see,” said the mother in the most matter-of-fact manner imaginable. “Titbits, out. I need to speak to my daughter alone.”
“Yes, milady.” Anna scurried out of the room and shut the door.
“What a filthy accent that girl has. Where is she from – the colonies?” She began to pace up and down the room, making Amelia even angrier because of the interruption.
“Come on, Mother, out with it. It must be some new bit of juicy gossip if you took the trouble in coming here at this hour.”
A sneer played on Lady Carlyle’s lips. “Oh, it’s not gossip. What I have is news.”
Amelia felt a cold shiver run down her spine. She despised it when her mother was in one of her scheming moods. The last time this happened, she had to spend an entire afternoon with the most tedious oaf – chaperoned at a distance of course. But their escort had been so meticulous in the execution of their duties that she had to listen to the bore of a man without interruption. Every time she had turned back, her mother had waved at her and nodded her encouragement.
“What fact, Mother?”
“Well, there’s no need to beat around the bush. So, I shall just come out and say it…you are to be presented to the Duke of Brandon at his London residence this Sunday to commence talks about a possible betrothal between you and his son – isn’t that grand?” She paused. “It’s just a shame that darling young man, Airey, cannot be there. He’s been tasked with something important in British America – Canada or something or other. Anyway…”
Amelia couldn’t believe her ears. So, this is it. I am to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. I knew the two of them had something up their sleeves. They had been scheming the entire carriage trip home. I should have known.
Her mother spun on her heels. “I just thought you’d like to know the good news,” she said on the way out of her room.
The tint on Amelia’s face went an even lighter shade. I am trapped. There is nowhere for me to go. Before she could stop them, the tears rolled down her cheeks. Amelia was not one to bare her emotions so brazenly, but this was too much. She asked herself why her parents couldn’t see the true nature of the man they were asking her to marry. It was plain for the world to see.
“Oh, ma’am…what happened?” asked Anna, entering Amelia’s room like a whirlwind.
“They, they…” Amelia couldn’t get the words out. Her crying became more intense as Anna took her into her arms and cradled her like a swaddling babe. They just remained still with Amelia on the stool with her nose nestled into Anna’s hair. Anna kneeled before her and pressed her mistress closer as if she was trying to squeeze out all of the melancholy from her body.
“Remember what I told you about my dream. You will never marry that man, Amelia,” said Anna at last. She had all of the details because she had been eavesdropping at the door the entire time.
Amelia looked down and into Anna’s eyes. She was not sure whether she was more surprised by her lady’s maid’s use of her Christian name or the ridiculousness of the notion of a dream coming true and the two of them finding love.
“It was just a silly dream.”
“No, ma’am,” said Anna, reverting back to the proper form of address. She helped her mistress to her feet and guided her to the bed. “Dreams are there to tell us the future. All we have to do is believe in them.”
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