Ginny Dewhurst: The Private Diaries (Part 1)
by La Riene Bleu

January 1st 1792

The first day of a new year. Quite an anticlimax really, as it feels
much the same as any other. I would be disappointed, but then again I
had not expected there to be any great change in the first place.
Indeed, why should things be any different? Just because we now write
92 instead of 91, does that mean that somehow a miracle should take
place and all life must change with it? I think not. I awoke around
midday to Suzy pulling back the drapes, the sound of voices outside
as the last of our guests from the previous night's festivities took
their leave, and everything continued as normal. Those who see the
New Year as a time for renewal, for a fresh start are, I am afraid to
say, deluding themselves. Not that I can blame them for needing
something to give them a sparkle of hope in the monotony of their
everyday lives, but you would have expected them to have at least
started to doubt by now

I say that today has been the same as usual, but I have to admit to
not being entirely truthful on that count. One thing is slightly out
of the ordinary I have started to keep a diary. I had always vowed
I would never be caught dead indulging in the craze for writing down
every intimate thought and feeling as most of my contemporaries seem
to feel the need to, but due to boredom and a rather unhealthy does
of maternal blackmail I have finally given in and taken up my pen.

"We saw it and thought of you Virginia dear," my mother felt obliged
to inform me on Christmas morning as she handed me a parcel that
could be nothing other than a book of some description. Having
realised after 17 years the futility of pointing out to her the fact
that everyone else manages perfectly well to call me Ginny and
wondering briefly what kind instruction manual on how to be a lady in
society she had managed to unearth this time, I held my tongue and
unwrapped what was to prove to be the most interesting present I
received this year.

A green, cloth covered book was revealed to my gaze, of taste so
close to my own that I recognised at once the hand of my brother in
choosing the gift. My suspicions were confirmed a moment later by the
look on his face, and I smiled, thankful that at least someone in
this family has managed to grasp the fact that Virginia-Rosaline
Dewhurst is not simply a replica of her mother.

So here I am, writing my life for the whole world to see when I die.
I wonder what people will say if they are reading this years after I
have passed from this world, what kind of person they will think they
are coming to know from reading my words. I am almost tempted to
create a life, inventing someone from my own imagination for no
purpose other than amusing myself and confusing others. But no, I
will do this properly, and who knows, maybe one day I will be glad of
what I have started on this cloudy and disagreeable January morning.

Mother has just been in to see me and to ask what my resolutions for
the New Year are to be. I promptly told her to follow in the
footsteps of the rest of the society's finest and become an
alcoholic, join a local brothel and after an exciting but lurid life,
renounce the evils of the world and spend the rest of my days in a
convent. If it weren't for the fact that people often have difficulty
in telling us apart I would swear to the fact that woman is not my
mother she has no sense of humour. It set me to thinking though,
and here for posterity, are my vows for this, the glittering year of
1792.

To be true to myself in everything I do, think and say and not to
allow society to dictate what my heart knows to be wrong. In short,
to continue as I always have done to please my own conscience and
try to keep from going mad in a world that does not seem to
understand me. That is all. How hard can it be?

January 4th 1792

I am surprising myself in that I did not expect to be writing in here
again so soon. I really hope it is not going to become a habit, I
would hate to have to admit to life being so tiresome that I have to
resort to a dependence on a book of paper. However, it seems as
though things may indeed be tending in that direction and therefore I
feel I should prepare myself for any eventuality.

Nothing has happened today. Nothing. Oh I mean we had callers, but I
would hardly constitute Lord and Lady Forecastle and their daughter
Alexandra as anything even nearing stimulating company. Only a year
older than myself and betrothed to the son of the Duke of Chadwick
a fact which Lady Forecastle seems to fear people may forget if the
way she alludes to it at least ten times an hour is anything to
measure by and the most uninteresting individual I have ever had
the misfortune to come across in my life. Needless to say, the only
event of even marginal excitement to have taken place in the last
twenty-four hours was when Pippy decided to take a fancy to his
Lordship's periwig a rather amusing spectacle to say the least.
There was of course the added benefit that in the ensuing ruckus I
was able to escape from the room under the pretence of removing the
delinquent bird, and therefore was saved from what would have been
yet further hours of discussing the price of hat-pins and where the
best places to purchase silk are. I always said that parrot would
have its uses.

There is a glimmer of hope though, as on Sunday we go to the theatre.
We have not attended as much as I would have liked to of late,
everyone has been busy with one thing or another and perish the
thought that I would actually be allowed to have any freedom and
travel anywhere alone. But Charles has spoken with Mother and has
convinced her to allow him to take me to see Cymon at the King's, the
fact she has agreed giving grounds for the suspicion I have been
harbouring for a while now, that she has decided upon him as a future
son-in-law. I would usually have protested, but it serves my purposes
well enough, and I am sure I can manage to endure an evening in his
company if it means I have the pleasure of indulging in one of my
favourite pastimes. I hear it is an interesting piece, and having
enjoyed several of Garrick's other works, I do not feel that I shall
be disappointed. And even if I am, the chance to escape from the
house for an evening is certainly nothing to sniff at. If only it
were with someone a little more inspiring

It is late, I think I shall sleep now.

January 9th, 1792

Well, my suspicions have been confirmed. Arose at the usual time
today, it is impossible not to really with the noise Suzy makes upon
entering a room, and I am not one to lie in bed after I have awoken.
I hate to scold her for it though as she is a good girl really and I
would hate to lose her. She left soon after and I was passing the
time before lunch in reading, I received several novels as gifts at
Christmas and I thought to take the opportunity to begin making my
way through them. It was not to be though, as I had barely read a
page when mother decided to pay one of her maternal visits, and that
was that.

After a few inanities concerning the weather and how well Tibb's has
managed to tend the roses this year, she moved in for the attack.

"Are you looking forward to this evening, Virginia?" She asked,
moving around my room inspecting the surfaces for dust as she spoke.

"Oh yes," I replied, answering the question she had asked rather than
that which I knew she was really wanting to put to me, "I am very
pleased to get the opportunity to see this piece, I have heard so
much about it. You know how I like Garrick. And it will be delightful
to visit the theatre again, I have missed it of late." I have to
confess that I found it rather difficult not to smile at the barely
suppressed sigh of frustration that followed my words, she should
know by now that I can read her like a book. And sure enough, her
next words revealed the true purpose behind her presence in my
bedroom.

"And what of Charles? It is so good of him to invite you to accompany
him, do you not think?" her voice was just a little too casual to be
believable and I shook my head at her transparency. Lady Veronica
Dewhurst would never have made a career on the stage.

"Yes it is good of him. I will be sure to thank him in an appropriate
manner," I replied sweetly, quickly burying my head in my book again
so I would not laugh at the expression on her face. Really, it is
just too easy sometimes. My remark, as I expected, was met with
silence, and when she had not spoken after a few moments I forced my
face into a mask of daughterly innocence and looked up. I had not
been expecting her to be watching me though and I started, struck by
the sudden seriousness etched across her features.

"You know Virginia that you are approaching an age at which it is
necessary to consider such things as as what will happen when you
eventually leave us here at Oakwood." She began, clearly
uncomfortable with such a topic of conversation. I have to admit to
not feeling all that happy with it either, but it was clearly
something she felt had to be discussed and after a moment made up my
mind to make it as easy for her as possible. I may not be the perfect
daughter, but I like to think that I am not completely heartless.

"You mean marriage?" I asked, my voice even as I watched her closely
for a reaction. She nodded, hazel eyes almost identical to my own
meeting mine as she considered how to proceed.
"Yes Virginia. Marriage. Surely you yourself have given the matter
some consideration?" Her words made me pause. Had I thought about it?
To be honest, I do not know that I have. I mean I have always known
deep down that one day I will leave home, and that in order to do so
I will need to take a husband. Besides, it is what young girls do
unless they want to remain at home for the rest of their days at the
mercy of disappointed parents and servants who smirk behind their
hands at the dowdy old maid that no one wanted. I know this and I
always have. It is just that I did not think the time would ever
come, that somehow I could continue as I always have done, reading,
singing, enjoying my days in whatever manner I choose without the
burden of running a household to hinder or concern me. I sound
selfish I know, but that is how I feel. I do not want to grow up, to
become the lady of society that everyone seems so eager for me to be.
I want to be young and I want, more than anything, to be free. And
although I may not be entirely familiar with what marriage entails, I
know that freedom is not something that I can hope to wish for.

"To be honest mother, I have not," I replied finally, hoping as I did
so that I did not sound as confused as I was feeling. If there is one
thing I will not allow myself to show to my mother it is weakness,
especially where a matter of such importance as my future is
concerned. Once I do, she will have complete control, and I cannot
allow such a thing to happen if I am to obtain any amount of
happiness.

"Virginia" she did not bother then to hide the exasperation I so
often drove her to, and I felt my own defences rising. What did she
expect me to say? Yes mother, I have done nothing but think of the
man who is to be my jailer for the rest of my life when you finally
find someone who you feel has enough money and a grand enough title
to satisfy your unrelenting pursuit of wealth and recognition? So I
said nothing, forcing myself to remain silent instead of giving in to
the words that I longed to shout at her. It would achieve nothing to
cause a scene at such a moment, there would be time enough for that
in the future. My attitude of studied disinterest thankfully got
through to her, and she left soon after, muttering something about
ungrateful girls who don't know when someone is trying to help them.

I tried to read again, but to my annoyance found I could no longer
concentrate, so decided to write this morning's events down in an
attempt to make some sense of them. Charles will be arriving soon,
mother has invited him to take tea with us before leaving for the
theatre this evening. I will be polite, but nothing more unless I
feel the desire to be otherwise. I can hear the sound of a carriage
outside now, he must be early. I will go down now, the less time they
get to discuss me behind my back, the better.

9th January - Late, 1792

It is late and I really should be in bed, but the truth of it is I am
just not tired. Ridiculous really given the long drive into the city
and back, not to mention the time spent in the theatre, but the
excitement of the evening seems to have affected me more than I had
thought and I know only too well that sleep would be nigh on
impossible if I were to attempt it now. I have no plans for tomorrow
though, so it will not matter if I sleep late. Besides, it gives me
the opportunity to write down the evening's events whilst they are
still fresh in my memory.

Firstly, Cymon. The theatre was the most crowded I ever remember
having seen it, and I do not think I exaggerate in saying that not
one more person could have been squeezed inside without serious
injury being caused to those concerned. We arrived at our box in
plenty of time, something I was glad of, as I do not like arriving
late to places as so many people seem to these days. It may be
considered fashionable to attend the theatre in order to be seen, but
I for one do not see the point in going at all if not to see the
performance. If I wanted to watch foolish young men strut around
under the erroneous impression that every woman or girl in the place
wants nothing more than to be swept of their feet by them, then I
would simply attend one of Grace Tapling's dinner parties. I would
have less distance to travel for one thing and there would of course
be the added benefit of being able to leave without drawing the level
of attention to oneself that is unavoidable in a crowded place such
as a theatre. Let others parade themselves like proud peacocks if
they wish, but I can honestly say I paid infinitely more attention to
what was taking place on stage than to what was going on around it.

The piece is not a serious one, something for which I was glad after
the less than entertaining past few days. Mr. Kelly took the title
role, and although my knowledge of previous actors in the part is
limited, I would have to say that in my humble opinion, he performed
very well. What stood out above all though and deserves special
attention in this account was the magnificence of the scenery. I had
heard that no expense was spared for this revival, and that certainly
appears to have been the case. Two horses were actually used to draw
the car in which Sylvia and Cymon were carried, and the procession of
knights was just breathtaking, the costumes the like of which I have
never seen before. The man who designed such finery is surely a
genius at the very least, and must have been paid handsomely for his
pains. All in all it was a wonderful performance, although I am not
sure that Charles would agree as he seemed to be more interested in
trying to procure the favour of holding my fan than watching events
on stage, something which I made sure not to allow. Accepting an
invitation to the theatre is one thing, allowing him to think he has
any right to other such liberties, however small, is another thing
all together. Therefore, due to one thing or another he was not in
the best of moods by the time it came for us to leave, something
which I fear was rather aggravated by an incident that occurred on
our way out of the theatre.

It took us a good while to make our way towards the exit, more than
once someone or other managed to tread on my foot or prod me in the
back with a cane, but eventually we found ourselves at the door. Just
as I was stepping out into the street though I was pushed rather
violently from behind, and would have fallen if it had not been for
someone quickly steadying me with a hand on my elbow. As soon as I
had regained my footing I span round, fully intending to give whoever
it was a good talking to as to how one should behave in such a place
as the theatre. I do not usually react so badly, but I admit to being
rather shaken by the experience, and my mood was not improved when
what was probably the same two youths who had pushed me in the first
place shoved me again in order to force their way outside, leaving
their unfortunate companion to meet the full extent of my wrath
alone.

"This really is most unacceptable" I began, shaking his hand from my
arm as I spoke. The laughing blue eyes that met mine as I looked up
though cut me short, and I found myself face to face not, as I had at
first thought, some ragamuffin off the street, but a youth who was
clearly of some breeding and refinement.

"You are right, please forgive the conduct of myself and my
associates, I most humbly beg your pardon," he informed me, clearly
trying to appear serious, although unable to quite hide the merriment
and high spirits that had caused the situation in the first place. It
is not in my nature to be irritable and I could not stay cross,
especially when he bowed low enough to almost touch the ground in an
effort to show his sincerity, and laughing, I bid him stand before we
attracted the gaze of any more amused onlookers.

"My pardon is granted, Mr?" I paused, realising suddenly that I did
not even know to whom I was talking.

"Kennedy. Archie Kennedy." He informed me, holding his hand out as he
spoke. "And may I be so bold as to ask whom I am addressing?"

"Lady Virginia-Rosaline Dewhurst," A cool voice from beside me
supplied suddenly, and I started, having forgotten totally my
companion in the events of the past few moments. "And I would call it
very bold indeed to ask anything of the lady you have just treated
with such disrespect. Really, this is a theatre, not a drinking
house!" His voice was loud, his tone far from friendly, and I felt
myself colour, embarrassed not only by the looks we were receiving,
but also at what the young man in front of me must be thinking of us.

"Charles" I admonished quickly before glancing quickly at my new
acquaintance, hoping he had not taken offence. He did not seem to
though, barely acknowledging Charles' words with a slight inclination
of his head before turning his attention back to me.
"It seems that your forgiveness is all I may dare ask for then, my
Lady, and as you have granted it, I can surely consider myself
blessed. But" he paused suddenly, a mischievous grin playing at the
edges of his mouth, "tell me, did not I dance with you in Brabant
once?"

"You must be mistaken Sir, Virginia has never set foot outside of
England, have you Ginny?" Charles piped up immediately, a look of
confusion on his face. But I laughed, recognising the line from
Love's Labours Lost, as addressed to the character who was partly my
namesake.

The next few minutes were spent happily trading the accompanying
lines and ended with much merriment on both our parts. A young man
with both intelligence and a sense of humour a refreshing change
from the company I am usually forced to endure. I would have liked to
speak with him further and to ask what he had thought of the
evening's performance, he seemed to be someone who would have an
opinion worth listening to, and I could not help but be slightly
curious. However, it was not to be, as his companions, clearly tired
of waiting for him, chose that moment to speak up from across the
street where they had fled to safety from my earlier angry outburst.
"Archie if you don't hurry up, we'll be late!" the taller of the two
called, tipping his hat to me as he added, "though I can't say I'd
blame you for choosing her company over ours you've picked a right
stunner there!" I heard Charles' spluttering with indignation beside
me and tried my hardest to look offended, but had to settle in the
end for laughing instead, especially at the look of amused
bashfulness on Mr. Kennedy's face as he grinned at me.

"It seems I must leave you Fair Lady. Parting is such sweet sorrow,
but I am afraid it is a necessary evil. I bid you adieu." And with
that he took my hand in his, holding it to his lips for what Charles
later pointed out a good moment longer than strictly necessary,
before nodding to him and hurrying to meet his waiting friends. I
have to confess that my cheeks felt unnaturally warm at that moment,
but the weather had taken a turn for the better, so it is likely that
had something to do with it.

Charles was in a foul mood for the journey home, making pointed
comments about social upstarts who did not know their position and
should be taught a lesson, but I hardly paid him a moment's
attention. I think I must have dozed off slightly for the main part
of the drive, as it seemed to take a considerably shorter amount of
time than on the outward trip, and before I knew it we were pulling
up outside the house and the night was over. After bidding a quick
goodnight to Charles and evading mother's questions by pleading
tiredness, I came up to my room where I have been sitting for a good
two hours now, unable to sleep a wink. I feel though that I have
cleared my mind somewhat by going over the events of the evening, and
shall once more attempt to coax myself into sleep. Staying awake late
is one thing, depriving oneself of sleep for a whole night and
looking a fright in the morning is quite another, and I really do not
feel like having a quarrel with mother over something so trivial. I
will have trouble soon enough as it is with her questions about our
encounter with Mr. Kennedy I do not doubt for a minute that
Charles, in a fit of pique, will tell her everything. Anyway, I will
deal with that when the time comes. Enough now, to sleep.

10th January, 1792

I was too exhausted to write in here yesterday, and besides, I was in
such a foul mood for the most part of it that I would have only
written things that I would surely come to regret at a later time, so
I think it was of the best for all concerned that I should wait until
today to report upon the events of the preceding 24 hours.

To begin with I rose at a normal time, something which meant I was
out of sorts from the very start as I could have quite happily spent
a few hours more in bed after the lateness of which I retired the
previous night. Unfortunately it had completely slipped my mind that
I had promised mother I would accompany her to Middleton Hall the
next time she went calling, and having chosen that day to repay her
visits, I was duty bound to go with her. To make matters worse, Suzy
was also in a rather sluggish state for some reason for another, and
it was considerably later than the time we had originally intended to
leave when I was finally dressed and ready to go downstairs, where I
was met with instant maternal disapproval.

"Virginia, really" she began, in that tone of voice just calculated
to drive me to distraction even when I am in a pleasant mood, and
which did nothing to improve my temper that morning. She immediately
set about fussing with my bonnet, tugging and jerking at everything
until I felt as if I wanted to scream. I did honestly try not to
show my annoyance, although from the expression on her face I do not
think I was particularly successful.

"I suppose that will have to do," she commented finally, giving one
final pull to the ribbons and almost strangling me in the process
before sweeping out to the carriage which, as she informed me over
her shoulder, had already been waiting a good ten minutes. Grumbling
under my breath I followed her, although I was sorely tempted to tell
her that she could go on her own and flounce back to my room. I am
glad that I did not though, as I do feel that 17 is too old to be
giving in to childish tantrums anymore, even if the occasional loss
of temper can be somewhat satisfying in clearing one's mind.

We had hardly been moving five minutes when the questions started. I
had been expecting it really, but I had hoped that the attack would
wait until I had more time to prepare myself. I should have realised
by now though that if that woman can find a way to unsettle me, she
will manage it.

"Did you enjoy yourself at the theatre last night?" she asked
casually, the very innocence of her tone putting me on my guard
immediately. I played along though, refusing to show that I knew what
she was up to.

"Yes, we had a most enjoyable time, the performance was
breathtaking," I told her calmly, smiling calmly at her for a moment
before turning my gaze to the window. She said nothing more for a
while, and I almost believed that maybe Charles had not spoken after
all and that this was nothing more than a rare motherly display of
interest. However, as I had feared, I was wrong.

"That isn't quite the story I was told," she informed me icily. I
kept my eyes fixed on the passing scenery outside, waiting until I
was certain of being able to keep my voice steady before replying.

"Oh?" I managed finally.

"I heard that you had a small incident upon leaving the theatre?" she
pressed, just in case I had not managed to understand what she was
referring to. Mentally cursing Charles in what I have to confess to
being a rather unladylike manner I forced myself to look at her,
striving for an expression of childish innocence and bewilderment.

"Incident?" I questioned, resisting the urge to toy with my fan as I
spoke. Mother would have noticed my agitation in an instant, and I
was not about to let her see that I cared what she was saying.

"Yes, with a young gentleman," she prompted, a little testily.
Feigning a look of surprise I considered a moment before answering,
being careful to keep my tone light as I did so.

"Oh, you mean Mr. Kennedy?" I responded, sounding, I hope, as if I
had not given the matter a moment's thought since the episode had
taken place. Which of course I had not, apart from to record events
in my journal that evening it was only the fact that Charles and
Mother chose to make such a fuss over it that I am even writing this
now. But I digress. The look on Mother's face at my answer made me
wish that I had gone with my earlier instincts and remained at home,
as it was clear that she was far from happy with me.

"Yes, Mr Kennedy," she replied, watching me closely to gauge my
reaction. I could not help my cheeks colouring somewhat, but I do not
think anyone else in my situation would have reacted in a dissimilar
manner. I simply disliked being cross examined over something that
really should have been of no consequence whatsoever, and failed to
see why such a to-do was being made over it when it was, by all
accounts, well and truly in the past.

"It was nothing Mother some high spirits caused by a most splendid
performance, that is all. Mr Kennedy apologised like a gentleman and
we conversed briefly before he and his companions left for whatever
entertainments they had planned for the remainder of the evening. No
harm was done, and to be honest, I had entirely forgotten about it
until you brought up the topic. I really do not see why Charles felt
the need to worry you so, it was really not at all necessary," I told
her, hoping as I spoke that she would accept my explanation and
vowing to give Charles a piece of my mind the next time I happened to
see him.

She watched me a moment longer and as I felt myself colouring again
in a most annoying manner I pretended not to notice and returned my
gaze to the houses and people we were passing on our way. With relief
I noted that we were almost at our destination, and as she would not
be able to question me in front of Lady Forecastle, I felt that I
would be safe for a while at least. However, as I was soon to
discover, she had not finished with her little lecture.

"You really should take more care over who you are seen speaking to
Virginia," she informed me coolly, her lips pursed so tightly
together that they had almost disappeared. I shook my head, unable to
stop my reaction to this latest evidence of my mother's snobbishness.

"As I have already said, he was a perfect gentleman Mother. I do not
think that even you could have faulted his manners. Besides, he was
clearly of some breeding and means, and I have seen many a man
dressed worse at Grace Tapling's before now!" I commented sharply. I
had hoped to dissuade her from any further comments, but despite
myself I had allowed my temper to rise, and she was not slow in
noticing the fact.

"That is neither here nor there Virginia, as you should well know by
now!" she informed me tartly. "You know nothing of the Kennedys or
their position in society, and I would be grateful if in future you
would leave such judgments to those who are more capable of doing so.
You will have nothing more to do with that boy, do I make myself
clear?" I flushed, unable to stop myself from feeling anger at the
presumptuousness of her words. I almost told her right there and then
that I had no intention of ever seeing, much less speaking, to Mr.
Kennedy ever again, but something caused me to choke back the words
as I let my anger get the better of me.

"I believe I am perfectly capable of choosing whom I wish to converse
with Mother," I snapped, no longer caring that my tone was less than
polite. "I do not need either Charles or yourself making such
decisions for me, and I would appreciate it if" I do not know what I
would have added if the conversation had been allowed to continue,
but thankfully at that moment the carriage came to a halt, indicating
that we had arrived. Quickly I climbed down, leaving Mother to
follow, and tried to calm my ruffled nerves. I do not know what I
dislike more, that she can upset me so or the fact that I allow her
to do so.

The visit was long and tedious, Mother and the rest of the simpering
group of ladies that she chooses to associate with discussing
everything under the sun but still, somehow, managing to avoid
talking about anything of even a modicum of interest. I almost
remarked on this peculiar phenomenon, but decided such comments would
not be well received in the present company, so kept such thoughts to
myself. Eventually, the afternoon drew to a close and I waited
impatiently while goodbyes and promises of undying friendship were
made in the usual meaningless manner before gladly climbing into the
awaiting carriage.

The journey home was quiet and uneventful, as Mother, clearly still
annoyed with my earlier behaviour, refused to talk to me. I went to
bed almost as soon as I got inside after pleading a headache in order
to escape dinner, and have remained in my room ever since. I think I
may venture outside in a moment though, it is not healthy to remain
cooped up indoors for such a length of time without fresh air, and I
can feel a genuine headache coming on. I will write more when there
is something of note to report.

17th January, 1792

Mother has finally started talking to me again properly now, for
which I am very glad. I do not like being at odds with her, and
although we may not always see eye to eye, it pains me when things
are awkward between us, especially when the cause is something as
trivial as the events of the other evening. Things are still a little
strained, but I hope soon that the situation will return to normal
again. However, I do feel that soon I may have more reason to be
annoyed with her than she with me, although I hope that for once I am
wrong.

Anyway, today I spent the afternoon at Grace's, a call which I
grudgingly agreed to make despite my reservations over spending a day
in the company of someone whose main topic of conversation was the
number of dresses she planned to purchase for the summer. Her cousins
Isobel and Charlotte Chandler were also visiting; the family
resemblance at once apparent, as was also, unfortunately, a severe
lack of personality.

Several hours of tea sipping and idle conversation passed in a blur,
and I found myself paying more attention to the pattern on the carpet
than to what anyone was actually saying. Suddenly though I became
aware of everyone watching me expectantly, and I realised that I must
have missed whatever question had just been directed to me.

"I am sorry, I was miles away," I admitted with a small laugh, hoping
as I did so that they would not take offence at my inattention. While
I did not greatly enjoy their company, I did not wish to needlessly
cause them to think unfavourably of me. I need not have worried
though, as Grace was only too happy to ask her question again.

"I was just asking what have you been doing lately Ginny?" she
repeated, smiling. I thought for a moment, and as my trip to the
theatre with Charles was the only event of note that I could call to
mind that they might be even slightly interested in, I proceeded to
tell them about the performance. They listened well enough, but I
received the distinct impression that they were not as interested in
the merits of Garrick's latest piece as I was myself, and accordingly
I cut short my explanation of the dance performed by the
shepherdesses in the third act, contenting myself with simply
commenting on the magnificence of the production as a whole.

"And so," I concluded eventually, "after a slight incident on the way
out of the theatre that I fear Charles is never going to forgive me
for, we returned home." I was still feeling considerable resentment
towards Charles for his part in the recent bad feeling between Mother
and myself, otherwise I would surely never have mentioned the
occasion again, but I was unable to quite shake myself of the
irritation he had caused me and therefore could not stop myself from
alluding to the situation that had caused it all in the first place.

"Incident?" Charlotte enquired curiously, and suddenly I found myself
the focus of their undivided attention in a way that I had not been
during the whole of my previous tale.

"Oh it was nothing really," I added hurriedly, wary of placing
unwarranted importance upon something that really was of little
consequence to me in one way or another.

"Obviously enough to ruffle Charles' feathers though," Grace
commented with slight smirk. "He was visiting here yesterday, I did
wonder what had been the cause behind the frightful mood he was in.
Had a face like a thundercloud for the entire afternoon, it really
was quite tiresome." I shook my head, marvelling once more at how
such trifling events as those of the other evening could cause a man
to be in bad humour for days. They really were the most awkward of
creatures, was it any wonder that I was so wary of committing myself
to one for the rest of my days?

"I do wish Charles would not exaggerate matters so!" I sighed,
rolling my eyes. "Honestly, as I keep insisting to Mother, it was of
no consequence whatsoever. Some youths pushed me on leaving the
theatre, that was all. It was exceptionally crowded that night, and
one can hardly expect to attend such a performance without
occurrences of that nature. No harm came from it, and besides, Mr
Kennedy" I got no further in my explanation however, as at the
mention of that name I was suddenly interrupted.

"Mr Kennedy?" Isobel questioned with a raised eyebrow.

"Yes, one of the gentlemen involved we spoke briefly after the
incident, a very charming young man" I offered, wishing as I did so
that my cheeks would not redden so at the mention of his name. It was
of no interest to me in the slightest after all, it was simply the
importance placed upon the whole episode by others that caused me to
react so. It really was beginning to be rather bothersome, and I was
starting to feel cross as I always did when I became flustered.

"Oh Ginny, no wonder Charles was so upset" Grace exclaimed with a
laugh. "I expect your Mother would not be best pleased either if she
were to learn of it"

"She already knows. And no, she is not pleased, although I cannot for
the life of me imagine why!" I burst out, sick and tired of being the
only one who seemed to be in the dark concerning the great offence I
had apparently committed. I was soon to find out though, as Grace,
leaning forward conspiratorially, told me all that I needed to know.

"The Kennedys are not well, let us just say that they're not the
kind of family that someone in your position should be too eager to
associate herself with." She informed me knowingly.

"But why?" I replied, surprised, and wishing for the first time in my
life that I had paid more attention to the meaningless gossip that I
so frequently chose to ignore. "He was most polite, I do not see"

"It was all a bit of a scandal really," Grace interrupted once more,
clearly relishing the fact that we were hanging on her every word and
reluctant to lose her position of power. "Before we were born
obviously, but these things have a habit of sticking, especially when
certain people make no effort to hide the fact" I was beginning to
become rather irritated at her by that point, something that Grace
clearly noticed as she continued hurriedly, "Lord Kennedy the
current Lord's father I mean was a splendid figure in his time.
Indeed it was considered one of the greatest honours to be received
at one of Lady Kennedy's gatherings, very select you understand,
wouldn't admit just anyone. For as long as anyone could remember, his
eldest son, Theodore, and Harriet Gosford, the Earl of Gosford's
niece, were betrothed to be married. It had been arranged since they
were both in their cradles I believe, a most fitting match for all
concerned. The Gosfords had a fortune almost as great as that of the
Kennedy's, they still do in fact, I'm sure you have seen young Samuel
posing about at someplace or other anyway, as I said, it was all
planned out to the satisfaction of both parties, a date was even set
for the ceremony from what I have heard, and invitations were sent
out to some of the best known names in the land. It was to a the
event of the decade if you believed what people were saying about it,
no expense spared."

"Yes, but what happened?" I demanded impatiently, caught by the story
despite myself. Grace laughed at me then, pausing to take another sip
of tea before continuing, refusing to be rushed.

"Even you are not above a little gossiping I see Ginny," she
commented, and I flushed, realising that my disdain at her previous
gatherings for those she surrounded herself with and their idle
chatter had not passed as unnoticed as I had thought. She continued
though, evidently enjoying the role of storyteller that she had taken
on for herself.

"About a week before the wedding it seems, Theodore, or Teddy as
everyone called him, suddenly turned around and said he wasn't going
to marry Harriet after all, that he was in love with someone else and
that it would not be fair to anyone concerned if the marriage took
place! You can imagine the uproar that caused Lady Kennedy fainted
and didn't come round for at least five minutes, everyone was
dreadfully worried about her, and as for his Lordship" she broke
off, shuddering delicately. "Not a scene I should have cared to
witness. And to make matters even worse, the girl he was proposing he
now marry was the daughter of an artist of all things!" she added
finally, a look of complete horror crossing her face that anyone
could dare to stoop to such a travesty.

"And Archie is their son?" I queried finally, wanting to make sure
that I fully understood the situation. When she nodded I fell silent
for a moment, unsure of what, if anything this meant for me.

"I do not see that it matters," I ventured finally. "I mean, surely
it is better to marry someone you love, rather than simply doing so
because your parents believe they have found you a suitable match
that will make them happy? The looks of incomprehension on the face's
of the two sisters coupled with the condescending smile on Grace's
informed me only too well that clearly this was not the case.

"Oh Ginny, always the romantic," she twittered, laughing. "My dear,
you know as well as I do that none of us will be marrying for love -
if it comes later then that is all well and proper, but to even
suggest that we should be allowed to marry any common lad who takes
our fancy it is sheer madness! Money Ginny, and more importantly,
making a good match, that is all that is important." I stared at her
and the other two as they nodded in agreement, horrified that anyone
could actually believe what they were saying as strongly as they
seemed to.

"Well I can see nothing wrong with it," I stated firmly, refusing to
allow myself to care that they were all looking at me with a mixture
of pity and disdain. "And when I marry, if indeed I ever do, it will
be because I love the man in question, not because I have been told
to!" Charlotte opened her mouth to protest at that point, but Grace,
perhaps foreseeing a scene and wishing to prevent it, quickly
intervened.

"I admire your courage Ginny, really I do" she informed me, the
conciliatory smile she offered me only causing to irritate me even
more, "But I think you will find in reality events will be quite
different. Unless of course" she lowered her voice slightly, "Are
you in love with Charles? Is that what you are trying to tell us?" I
could only stare at her for a moment, unable to force any response
out of my mouth at all in the wake of the surprise her unexpected
words had caused and the ridiculousness of the whole situation.

"No! I managed to exclaim finally, my tone containing as much
indignation as I could muster. "Whatever makes you even ask such a
thing? It was then Grace's turn to look surprised.

"Well I thought it was more or less accepted Ginny that you would be
the next Lady Wilson," she informed me, laughing slightly. "I mean,
your parents clearly approve of him, and it would be a very
advantageous match for all concerned I cannot see him turning down
such an opportunity now, can you?" I was shaking so much I could
hardly hold my fan straight, but somehow I managed to stand, ignoring
the startled exclamations of the other girls as I hastily grabbed my
bonnet from the chair on which I had abandoned it earlier.

"Thank you for you hospitality Grace, but I feel I really must be
leaving now," I informed her, somehow managing to keep my voice
steady as I gathered my scattered belongings together. "As for
Charles, I am afraid Hell will have frozen over before I should
consent to be his wife, so the position for Lady Wilson is still
open. Indeed, perhaps you yourself would like to fill it? With your
obvious passion for meddling in other people's affairs, I do feel you
would be so well suited." And then, with as much dignity as I could
muster under the circumstances, I left the room, ignoring everyone
and refusing to stop until I was safely outside again.

It was not time for the carriage to arrive to take me home, but I
could not bear the thought of remaining a moment longer. After a
brief consideration I decided to walk it was not that great a
distance I felt that the fresh air might do some good and help me to
clear my mind. As I walked I recalled my conversation with Mother a
few days earlier, and my suspicions as to her plans and motives. It
seems that everyone knows I am to marry Charles other than the one
person whom it most concerns myself. But I will not do it, I will
not marry someone who I do not love, or in fact if I am honest, even
like all that much. I will not, and they cannot make me, something in
which I can at least take a small amount of comfort. I almost told
Mother so when I arrived home, but the walk had done a little to calm
me and I could see no earthly good in causing another disruption when
there would be little to gain from it in any way.

Yes, I will hold my tongue for now, but if they try so much as
hinting at anything of this nature again, I will not be slow in
telling the world what I think of such ideas. Grace's story may have
been aimed at dissuading me, but it has had the opposite effect in
that it has shown me that it is possible to marry for love and if
it is good enough for Lord Kennedy, then surely it can be good enough
for lowly Ginny Dewhurst.

27th January, 1792

Not a great deal of note has occurred of late, which is why I have
not written here for such a while. I have been passing the time in
reading and attempting once again to practice my drawing, but I think
I will have to admit to a decided lack of skill in the latter and lay
my pencil to rest once and for all. There are only so many failed
masterpieces that one can endure before being forced to conclude that
for the sake of one's dignity that such practices should be left to
those better suited to them.

Today saw a break in the routine I had managed to settle into though
in the shape of a visit from Mrs. Pinkling for the purpose of
conducting the final fitting for my new gown. I really am quite
pleased with it, Mother and I for once being in agreement over what
does and does not suit me, and I have to admit to being just a little
excited over getting the chance to wear it so soon at Margaret
Harwood's next week. It is a simple thing really, a subtle emerald
shade that I fell in love with immediately upon seeing the sample,
and cut in such a way as to be flattering without being too
revealing, something which I detest. As for decoration, I allowed
some lace round the bodice but put my foot down at the horrors
suggested for the sleeves and neckline, and, thankfully for all
concerned, both Mother and Mrs. Pinkling decided to listen to me. The
result is very pleasing to say the least and I do not think that the
overall effect will be unfavourable once shoes and shawl are added.
If only I could be so sure of the same regarding the company, I would
almost be looking forward to it ...

 

2nd February, 1792

Another late night, this is starting to become something of a habit
for me. But I find it so hard to settle down to sleep after an
eventful evening, especially one such as that which has taken place
tonight. Writing has served in the past to clear my mind, and I write
here now with the hope that it will once more have the same effect
and allow me to retire soon enough to bed.

Tonight was Margaret's party, and therefore the best part of the
afternoon was spent preparing for the evening's frivolities. I do not
usually enjoy wasting excessive amounts of time in dressing, but it
was somewhat enjoyable to have Suzy pamper me for a couple of hours
as she attempted to dress my hair and curl my ribbons to Mother's
satisfaction. I wore it loose but conceded to a few ringlets around
the face which, as Mother took pleasure in pointing out, did much
to `soften' my expression, and I may in fact take to wearing it so
more often. My new dress completed the picture and I have to say
that the overall effect was rather pleasing and left me looking
forward to the night ahead.

Speaking of Mother, she seems to have finally put all bad feeling
behind us at last thank goodness, even going so far as to lend me her
own emerald necklace which father had given her for her birthday the
previous year. It really is beautiful, matching the colour of my gown
exactly, and I felt rather proud to be wearing something so lovely. I
cannot remember having felt so pleased to be going to a party for a
good while now, as I usually dread such social gatherings or at the
very least look upon them with bored indifference. Unfortunately
though, as always, something had to occur to dampen my good spirits.

"You look beautiful, Virginia," Mother told me, kissing me on the
cheek in a gesture so rare as to make me start in surprise. I felt a
tug at my heart at her words, my eyes suddenly damp, and I stayed
close to her for a moment, catching the faint scent of lilies that
always seemed to accompany her.

"Thank you," I managed finally, smiling softly at her as I drew away.

"And I am sure Charles will agree," she added, the look in her eyes
almost pleading as she busied herself with pulling my cape more
firmly around my shoulders. A sour taste sprang into my mouth at her
words and I pulled away, pretending to check my appearance in the
nearby mirror so I would not have to meet her gaze. Why do you
always have to do this? I wanted to scream, but the words froze in my
throat and I could only nod, forcing myself, as always, to keep my
feelings hidden.

"Good night, Mother," I told her finally when I felt I could speak
without betraying my agitation. It was her turn to nod then, and
although she did not speak again, I could feel her eyes on me as I
left the house, and I shuddered, knowing what she expected of me but
at the same time knowing even more certainly in my heart that I would
never be able to fulfil it.

The journey was uneventful, giving me plenty of time to dwell over
what Mother had said to me, or rather what she had implied in those
few simple words. As Brentford House came into view though I resolved
that I would put it from my mind for the duration of the party. I saw
no need to spoil what could, as I was hoping, be a very pleasant
evening with worrying over something that I could do nothing about at
present. There would be time enough for that later, as I knew only
too well that the problem was not going to just disappear, however
much I might wish it to. I had little time for thinking soon enough
anyway, as the moment I entered the house I was caught in a whirl of
faces and greetings that, as always, took up the first moments of
such a party.

"Ginny, how delightful to see you!" the first person to greet me was
Meg herself, dressed all in blue and sporting the rather large
diamond ring that has been the talk of just about everywhere for
weeks now. Clearly the gossip had been right for once, I told myself
as I returned her quick embrace and tried to follow her excited
chatter as best I could. The eldest daughter of Earl Harwood and
about as spoilt as a girl can be, but under it all there is a good
heart, and her sweet nature makes it impossible for me to dislike
her.

After greeting several acquaintances and a few whirlwind
introductions to various people whom I had not had the pleasure of
meeting before and whose names I would probably never manage to
recall if I were to meet them a second time, I was mercifully left to
my own devices for a few moments. Feeling rather battered after the
initial excitement I was thankful for the chance to catch my breath,
and, finding myself close to the refreshments table, decided that a
drink would do much to revive me. As I sipped my punch I took
advantage of the opportunity to survey the rest of the room, and
could not help smiling as Meg swooped down on yet another
unsuspecting guest who had chanced to arrive at that moment.

The house was decorated to perfection, society's finest dressed
brilliantly in a magnificent array of colours and patterns, and I
could not find one fault in the whole of the gathering before me.
Everywhere I looked, chattering, laughing, breathtaking brilliance.
So why then did I not feel happy? I was one of them; few in that room
would not have heard of my name and even less would be ignorant of
the reputation of my parents; not a drawing room in London would be
likely to refuse me if I so wished to be there. I belonged to this
set of people and I had done since birth, yet somehow, I still felt
like an stranger. No, worse, an interloper, as if I had no right to
be there among them, and had only managed to gain my place by deceit
or pretence. I had always blamed them for that, laughing at their
ways, refusing to conform. But what if I had been mistaken and it
were really my fault that I did not fit in to their world? If, as
Mother told me, this was to be my lot in life, surely I had a duty to
fulfil it? I had fought against it for so long, but maybe there was
no alternative, and I had just been deluding myself into believing
there could be another way. If this was all there was, then what was
to become of me if I continued to pull against them? I saw suddenly
the rest of my life in my mind's eye, a never-ending round of parties
and dinners, all exactly the same as this one, over and over until
until what?

The very thought made me shudder and I quickly set my glass down so
that I would not draw attention to the fact that my hands were
shaking. I tried to calm myself, but I could feel panic start to
overwhelm me and looked around, suddenly desperate to escape. The
door was not very far away from where I was standing, but the many
groups of people I would have to pass in order to reach it would
mean, as I knew from experience, that my departure would not go
unnoticed or uncommented upon. And Mother would demand to know why I
had returned early, Meg would feel slighted, and it was all such a
terrible mess that I wanted nothing more than to just sink to the
floor and scream until someone showed me a way to get out of it all.

"And there is no sight worth pitying more than the Ostrich who
believes itself to be a King." A voice from behind me suddenly
observed at that moment, and I started in surprise. I had been so
caught up in my own inner turmoil, that I had not heard anyone
approach where I was standing.

"I" More than a little flustered I turned quickly to see who had
spoken, and found myself face to face with the last person I had
expected to see there.

"Mr. Kennedy!" I exclaimed, hoping that my confusion did not show
upon my face. I took a deep breath in an attempt to steady my nerves
before adding, "What a pleasant surprise how are you?" I felt like a
complete fool, as if he would somehow know what I had been thinking
and judge me for it, but he only smiled, pouring himself a drink
before answering me in the same slightly amused tone in which he had
spoken at our first encounter.

"Lady Virginia, I did not think to see you again so soon, but now
that I have done so, I consider myself truly honoured," he told me,
taking my hand briefly before turning his gaze once more to the room
before us. "A most honourable gathering, do you not think?" I do not
know whether it was because of my own distemper, the manner in which
he spoke or something else entirely, but I was not in the mood for
pleasantries and something inside of me chose that moment to snap.

"You mock me, Sir?" I demanded sharply, taking a step and putting
some space between us as I spoke. "Because if that is indeed the
case, then I will take my leave of you and find others who truly do
desire to be in my company." I expected him to take offence at my
words and leave, but he merely regarded me in silence, his steady
gaze causing my face to redden, something which only served to make
me even crosser. I turned away from him completely, and would have
followed through with my threat if he had not at the moment at which
I started to walk away caught my arm and thus prevented my escape.

"Forgive me, I meant no disrespect," he assured me, his expression
when I forced myself to meet his gaze so earnest that I could not
doubt his sincerity. "My words may have been clumsily chosen, but the
sentiment behind them was only to your merit. It is rather too easy
for me, I fear, to slip into the mode of speech adopted by those in
whose company I so often find myself." I felt myself flush again,
ashamed that I had allowed myself to be so rude in the face of what
had been intended as a compliment. I wanted to answer him but could
not, and I paused, trying to gather myself enough in order to reply
sensibly. I did not get a chance to though, as after watching me a
moment longer he sighed, extending his hand once more as he did so.

"I believe I shall leave you in peace, Lady Virginia," he told me,
placing his by then empty glass on the table as he spoke. "I hope the
remainder of your evening is rather more pleasant than it appears to
have been thus far." I opened my mouth to tell him to stay, that I
had not meant my earlier harshness, but at that moment fate chose to
intervene. Charles, having recently arrived, happened to see me from
where he was talking to Meg, and was making his way towards me. Mr.
Kennedy, glancing from Charles to myself seemed to reach a decision,
and bowing politely, quickly took his leave. I watched as he was
immediately pounced upon by Tara Beaufort, heiress to half of Wales
if the tales her father put about were anything to go by, and
belatedly cursed myself for my seemingly perfect talent for turning
people against me.

"What did he want?" Charles demanded instantly as he reached my side
at that moment. "Was he bothering you Ginny?" I shook my head,
forcing myself to look away from where Tara was quite obviously
fawning all over him.

"He was merely saying hello Charles, being polite." I told him
pointedly, knowing even as I did so that the remark would be lost on
him. The only person I could see in the whole cursed room who might
appreciate anything even closely resembling wit was the very man who
I had just turned against me through my inability to think before
speaking.

Charles immediately launched into what, to him, was a most riveting
tale of his latest hunting trip, and I forced myself to listen to
what he was saying instead of adopting my usual and more favourable
practice of ignoring him. This can be your penance for being so
unfriendly, I told myself a good hour later as I was being told for
the third time how Lord Mountjoy's horse had almost thrown him and
surely would have done so if it had not been for Charles' quick
thinking and intervention. Trying to stifle a yawn I let my gaze once
more travel around the room, moving from group to group as I searched
for something to act as a distraction from the monotonous trap I
found myself caught in. If I could not spend even an evening in
Charles' company without being driven almost mad with boredom, I
could only imagine what it would be like to be married to him, and
the thought filled me with horror. Night after night of the same
conversation, the same stories, the same everything and I would not
be able to escape from it.

"Ginny?" he enquired, clearly having noticed my lack of attention
and, if the look on his face was anything to judge by, feeling rather
miffed at it. I quickly turned my most radiant smile on him, hoping
that his usual lack of observation would not abandon him at that
moment and thus alert him to my insincerity.

"Oh Charles, I am sorry," I simpered, hoping I looked as apologetic
as I was trying to. "I was just thinking on how selfish I have been
this evening, keeping you all to myself all this time. Just in the
last five minutes both Meg and Charlotte have given me positively
venomous looks, and I can see no reason for it other than that I have
kept you from their company for so long." As I had hoped and expected
Charles visibly swelled with typical masculine importance at my
comments, and I forced myself to hide a smile. With any luck, I would
not have the pleasure of his presence for much longer. Sure enough,
within moments he was excusing himself, although unfortunately, not
before he had managed to extract a promise to dance later that
evening when the music started, and I was left alone.

There is so much more still to write, but I can feel the pen growing
heavier and heavier along with my eyelids, and I do not seem to be
able to keep them open any longer. I will continue this in the
morning, when I will relate the most interesting part of the evening.
I do not doubt that I will be able to remember it clearly, as I
cannot deny it has left rather an impression upon me, along with a
rather delicate dilemma. Maybe some sleep will help me to decide how
best to proceed, although I fear that it may only serve to confuse
matters more. We will see I suppose...

 

3rd February, 1792

I slept surprisingly well last night despite my reservations,
although, as I suspected, my mind is no more settled now that I have
had some time to think matters over. I feel like a child again,
knowing I am doing something that I should not, but unable to quite
resist the thrill and excitement of it all. Not of course that I have
actually done anything, I have searched my mind quite thoroughly and
do not see that any action on my part could be construed as anything
other than completely innocent, and therefore I have no reason to
feel the slightest bit guilty.

As I was relating previously, the first hour or so of the party did
not exactly live up to the high expectations I had set upon it, and
by the time Charles thankfully left me to seek out the adoration of
the rest of the ladies in the room, I was in half a mind to abandon
the whole charade and just go home. I would have done so as well if
it had not been for the thought of Mother's reaction if I returned so
early, and, I am ashamed to say it, my own pride. It is a fault that
I am aware of in myself, but I would not allow anyone the right to
say that Virginia Dewhurst had left because she could not cope with
an evening in the best company society had to offer.

Realising that this meant I was trapped for at least another hour
until I could politely leave, I resigned myself to the fact with a
sigh and looked around for someone whose company I could manage to
tolerate for longer than a few minutes without wanting to scream. So
I flitted from group to group for a while, talking to various
acquaintances and trying my hardest to appear as if I were enjoying
myself, and I like to think that I achieved a certain degree of
success. After all, it is not so hard really. If you have a smile
pasted to your face, people do not tend to look too closely to see if
it is genuine or not.

I was busy trying my hardest to keep from falling asleep in the
middle of Harriet George's description of her cousin's wedding the
previous week, when suddenly the band struck up and the room was
filled with music. I immediately cheered, if there is one thing that
makes a party worth attending, it is the dancing. However, my
happiness quickly turned to irritation again as at that moment I saw
Charles looking around the room and remembered my earlier promise to
dance with him. I knew from past experience that once he managed to
attach himself to me I would not be free for the rest of the night,
and suddenly I did not think I could stand it, even if it meant I
would have to forgo the pleasure of taking part in the activity I so
much enjoyed. I looked around quickly for some means of escape, and
to my relief saw that the French windows leading out onto the balcony
were open. Quickly, before Charles could locate me, I excused myself
and made my way towards the doors, hoping the whole while that he was
not following me. I pushed my way out into the cool night air,
quickly closing the door behind me. And after a moment I breathed a
sigh of relief, confident that I had not been followed. I could hear
the music and the excited chatter as people began to dance and
sighed, wondering how long I would have to wait before I could safely
return inside. If only I had not promised Charles, none of this would
have been necessary...

"A pleasant evening, is it not?" a voice observed suddenly from
behind me. I turned sharply, only to discover Mr. Kennedy, leaning
against a nearby pillar and regarding me with obvious curiosity. My
surprise clearly amused him, a slight smile playing at the corners of
his mouth as he continued, "Rather mild for this time of year, or so
I have been told on numerous occasions tonight. I fear that all of
Meg's guests have been struck down with that peculiar English
complaint that compels one to talk of nothing but the weather..." I was
startled at finding that I was not alone as I had first assumed, and
it took me a moment to be able to find the words to speak. My silence
was evidently taken as displeasure however, and he sighed,
straightening as he did so.

"Forgive me Lady Virginia, but I feel that you would be far happier
if you did not have to endure the burden of my company. I will leave
you in peace," he observed, bowing to me before making his way
towards the door and leaving me to stare after him in bewilderment. I
know that I should have just let him leave, but a combination of
needing to apologise for my earlier rudeness and having no great
desire to be alone outside caused me to stop him.

"I... please... stay," I blurted out suddenly, flushing when he turned
back to me with a quizzical expression on his face. I continued
hurriedly, the words falling out of my mouth in a tangled rush that I
was unable to stop. "Forgive me, I was terribly rude to you earlier.
I did not mean it. And please, call me Ginny," I do not usually feel
so nervous or unsure around people, and I really have no idea what
came over me, but by the time I finished I felt like a stuttering
fool and really wanted nothing more than to be as far away from him
as possible. I could not have made such a bad impression as I had
feared though, as although he looked undecided for a moment he
finally smiled, moving back to where he had been previously.

"You do not need to ask my forgiveness for anything, I assure you,"
he told me, brushing aside any further protest with a wave of his
hand. "As for calling you Ginny, I would be honoured to do so. Tell
me though," he added, regarding me with a slight tilt of his
head, "is it because you dislike your given name or simply because
you have given up fighting against others who insist upon shortening
it so?" His question surprised me slightly as no one had ever
bothered to take the trouble of asking such a thing before. I was
used to simply telling people what I wished them to call me and
having them accept it.

"The choice was mine I am afraid," I admitted finally. "I refuse to
be inflicted with such a name simply because of a grandmother that I
have never met and my parents mistaken belief that they know
something about Shakespeare." He laughed at that, shaking his head in
amusement.

"Well I for one think it a great pity that such a beautiful name will
be used so rarely, but far be it for me to disagree with a lady over
something of such importance as what I am to call her," he
commented. "Although I feel duty bound to point out that as far as
names are concerned, your parents were positively kind. Mine on the
other-hand..." he trailed off, grimacing.

"Oh come now, if Archie is the worst that they could manage to decide
upon, I think you have been positively lucky!" I protested. "I stand
by my assertion that I have far greater cause for complaint than you,
where names are concerned at least!"

"Believe me, if that were the extent of it, I would not grumble in
the slightest," he assured me. "Unfortunately, although on the whole
my parents tend to have impeccable taste, it seems to have left them
rather severely around the time when it was necessary for them to
choose a name for their only son. You have no cause to complain over
your own name, I can assure you," he continued, his expression one of
amused distaste. "It is lucky that I love them so much really,
otherwise I would surely hold it against them."

"Well, if it is so bad, at least tell me so that I can judge for
myself?" I asked, curious to hear what could be so much more awful
than the name which I detested so much. He shook his head though, and
I frowned slightly, unused to having such requests refused.

"I would hate to frighten you away now when we have only so recently
been reconciled," he informed me, attempting to appear serious
although he could not quite hold back the smile that was threatening
to form on his lips.

"I hardly think that it can be as bad as you are saying!" I insisted,
my curiosity heightened yet further. "Please... tell me?"

"Patience is a virtue, or so my Mother tells me," he commented,
merriment twinkling in his eyes. "You have my word as a gentleman
that I will tell you, but only when I can be sure enough that you
will not run away laughing when I do so." And so I had to be content
with that, as it was more than clear that he was not prepared to tell
me at that point. With anyone else I would have felt offended, but
somehow I could not bring myself to be anything other than amused,
and still horribly, horribly curious about my new acquaintance.

"Well, if we are not to talk about names, do you have something else
which you would wish to talk about?" I asked pointedly, hoping still
at that time to convince him to tell me the information that had
suddenly and quite unexplainably become so important for me to know.
He only chuckled again though, tilting his head to one side as though
considering something carefully.

"I had no topic in mind, but now that I think of it, I do have a
question..." he mused.

"Oh?" I prompted, wondering what it could be that he had to ask me.
His question, when it came though, took me by surprise.

"I was merely wondering why it was that a lady such as yourself who
clearly does not want for admirers, is hiding outside rather than
being the centre of attention indoors where all the dancing is taking
place," he told me. I flushed again, wishing as I did so that his
words would not affect me in such a manner but being powerless to
stop it. "Do you not like to dance?" he added when I did not speak.

"No, I... I enjoy dancing very much Mr. Kennedy..." I assured him, unable
to keep the wistful tone from my voice as I spoke. As I looked
towards the house I could see the gaily-coloured dresses floating
past and the music beckoned temptingly through the half open window
behind me. If only...

"Please, I must insist that you call me Archie..." he entreated,
following my gaze to the window as he spoke. "So am I to take it that
other matters have forced you to venture away from the party? Do not
take offence at my question," he added hurriedly as if sensing I was
about to object, "I was merely enquiring out of concern, I could not
help noticing that you appeared rather flustered and hoped that there
was no cause for worry." I could not find fault with him with words
such as those however much I may have wanted to, and somehow I found
myself telling him about my earlier promise.

"Well you see, I rather foolishly made a promise to Charles that I
would dance with him tonight, but now...." I trailed off, realising how
petty it all sounded. I had promised to dance and when the time
arrived I had gone back on my word and run away like a girl of
fourteen who does not know any better. What would he think of me? But
it was too late now, the words had left my mouth and I could do
nothing but let him judge me. He did not speak for a moment though,
considering what I had just told him.

"You do not want to dance with him," he commented, finishing my
sentence for me. I flushed.

"No, I do not want to dance with him," I repeated, slightly more
emphatically than I had meant to and causing another amused glance
from my companion.

"I am only glad that I have no aspiration to ever understand the
fairer sex, as I fear I should be terribly frustrated in my efforts,"
he observed after a moment, smiling softly at me. I felt myself
becoming cross again although I tried my hardest not to, the
knowledge that I had no cause to feel offended at his words only
serving to irritate me more that I should feel so.

"But what of you why are you lurking around out here for?" I
demanded. "I see it as rather bad manners to ask a question of
someone if you are not to answer it yourself." A raised eyebrow was
his response, followed quickly by a short chuckle, and somehow, once
more, I found my bad mood evaporating, even though I really wished
nothing more than to cling to it.

"A rather similar predicament to your own, I fear..." he informed me
with a rueful smile. "It appears that for some reason a certain young
lady inside has decided to make me the centre of her attentions
tonight, and, just between yourself and I, I really do feel that if I
have to spend one more moment in her company I might just have to
strangle her." I could not help laughing at that, knowing immediately
from my earlier observations which `young lady' he was referring to.

"Tara?" I asked, although I already knew the answer. He nodded,
casting a hasty glance towards the door as if he expected her to come
charging through it at any moment and discover him.

"Yes... apparently she had been `simply dying to make my acquaintance'
for a while now. I would not have objected so much, but unfortunately
she neglected to inform me that, having done so, she would then
proceed to make it so that I could not move two steps all evening
without her following me. For the first hour or so it was rather
flattering, but..." he trailed off with a shake of his head. "So you
can see, I hope, why I felt the need to... put some distance between
us..."

 

Even if I had not known Tara as I did, the similarities between his
situation and my own would have aroused my sympathy, and I could see
only too well why he had sought refuge away from his admirer. Also it
seemed that, whether I liked it or not, I would have him as a
companion for the foreseeable future and therefore resigned myself to
trying to be a little more pleasant to him. I do not know even now
why I treated him so badly beforehand, nor why he allowed me to, but
I found myself feeling glad that, despite everything I had said, he
had not let my rather cool behaviour give him cause to leave.

As if sensing my desire to put our earlier differences behind us and
being of the same mind, Mr. Kennedy quickly initiated a discussion of
the merits and otherwise of the guests inside, his witty comments
causing me to burst into laughter on several occasions, which only
added to the general goodwill that seemed to have fallen upon us.

"Oh but Archie, you simply have to, I insist!" he simpered, his high-
pitched tone mimicking exactly that of Tara at her most exuberant.

"Stop... really, you should not say such things..." I giggled, knowing
that I should at least attempt to defend my associates, but finding
myself completely unable to due to the fact that his impressions were
just too accurate to be seen as anything other than hilarious.

He was in the middle of telling me of the scene Caroline Hautville
had once created by refusing to allow him to accompany her to dinner
after he had inadvertently insulted her by commenting on her `purple'
gown which was, in fact, `lilac', when suddenly the music from inside
caught my attention once more. It was a piece of which I was
particularly fond, and usually I would never miss the opportunity to
dance when it was played. Now though, due to circumstances that I
could do nothing to change, I was unable to do so, and I felt my good
humour lessen somewhat at the realisation.

"You like this piece?" my companion enquired, and I nodded, gazing
longingly towards the window where I could see quite clearly as one
by one each guest took a partner and prepared for what was in all
likelihood the last dance of the evening.

"I do... it is one of my favourite," I admitted sadly, trying to tell
myself that it was ridiculous to mind so much when it was, after all,
only one dance. I could not help it though, something which must have
been more than apparent to Mr. Kennedy as his next gesture clearly
indicated.

"Then you must dance!" he declared, holding his hand out to me as he
spoke. I did not yet understand his meaning though, and I sighed
wistfully as I continued to watch those who, more fortunate than
myself, were able to do so.

"I wish that I could," I informed him, shaking my head. He only
laughed at that, stepping closer and taking my hand in his own.

"Oh but you can! Come on, I promise not to tread on your toes if I
can help it," he replied, pulling me towards him as he spoke. His
intention became suddenly obvious and I instinctively resisted,
trying to pull my hand from his as I spoke.

"But someone will see! We really cannot, Archie... I mean..." I
protested, trying all the while to convince myself that the
suggestion really was quite impossible. He did not listen though,
brushing aside my protest with a laugh.

"No one will think to look out here whilst they are so busy trying to
impress each other with their fancy footwork. And besides, that
pillar there will keep us out of sight, I assure you, it is perfectly
safe..." his tone was soft and persuasive, his words dealing easily
with my objections and turning them to nothing as he spoke. And the
more I thought of it, the more I found myself compelled to agree with
him. Why should I not dance? The music was calling and my feet were
fairly itching to begin so what was stopping me? With that thought
I ceased to argue, instead curtseying slightly to him to indicate my
consent.

"Very well, Mr Kennedy," I told him, drawing closer to him as I
spoke. He smiled broadly, moving to rest his hand against my waist as
my own found his shoulder.

"I am honoured, Lady Dewhurst," he responded with a grin as we began
to dance. He danced well, and I could find no fault in his steps as
we spun about the small space we had to make use of. And as we moved
I found that I could give myself over to the music in a way I had
never been able to before; not having to worry over whether my
partner could keep up, I was able to lose myself in the pleasure of
the dance completely. We danced and danced, and I closed my eyes,
allowing myself to be guided by nothing more than the hand on my hip
and my senses. So lost in the moment was I as a result that when the
music finally ended I felt rather disorientated and had to cling to
him for a moment in order to compose myself.

"Are you quite alright?" he asked me, his concern evident when I
blinked up at him in confusion.

"Yes... yes I am..." I managed, blushing under his close scrutiny. He
watched me for a moment longer then nodded, reaching out to gently
brush back a strand of hair that had fallen slightly over my forehead
before speaking.

"It is a moving piece one of Mozart's finest if my humble opinion
can count for anything," he observed, making no move to break the
contact that had been necessary while dancing. I agreed with him
wholeheartedly, but was unable to do more than offer a weak smile as
I tried to gather my senses about me once more. "My father had the
pleasure of meeting him once," he continued when I did not speak, "A
most eccentric man to say the least apparently, but then I suppose
that is the price one has to pay for genius..."

"I... I really should be leaving now," I informed him, more than a
little embarrassed that I had allowed myself to become so completely
carried away in the presence of someone who was really little more
than a stranger to me. He nodded, releasing me as he did so, and I
shivered, immediately missing the warmth that his closeness had given
me. This did not go unnoticed either, and he gestured towards the
door with a slight bow.

"You go in first I will wait outside a moment longer I think. The
air is doing me good and besides, I would hate for anyone to
construct a wrong opinion of events if we were to be observed
returning together," he commented, smiling softly at me. I nodded,
seeing that his idea was a sensible one, although some part of me at
least wished that I did not have to leave him just then. Rejecting
such thoughts as being totally ridiculous I made my way to the door,
surprised at how my hand shook slightly upon reaching for the handle.
Berating myself for being so foolish I made my way inside, closing
the door behind me and slipping as unobtrusively as I could manage
back into the party that was drawing to a close.

"Ginny, where on earth have you been?" Charles demanded immediately
as he made his way towards me. He was clearly irritated but I smiled
at him, still feeling the exhilaration of the dance enough to be able
to pretend at being glad to see him.

"I had a headache Charles and have been outside getting some fresh
air," I informed him quickly, resisting the urge to look over my
shoulder as I spoke to see if Archie had returned to the room yet. At
that, Charles was immediately the picture of concern, fussing in a
way that would usually have driven me to distraction but which I
endured for the sake of adding credence to my story. "I am fine
Charles, it has quite gone now and there is nothing to worry about,"
I told him, adopting what I hoped was an apologetic expression. "And
I am so sorry to have missed dancing with you, I do hope that you
were not too put out by my selfishness." He hastily assured me that
he was not, and after that, all was well again.

Many guests had already left by that point, and as I was actually
feeling rather tired after the night's events, I decided it was time
for me to return home. Immediately Charles offered to fetch my coat,
something which for once I was glad to let him do. The headache I had
used as an excuse previously did in fact become reality at that
point, and as I waited for him to return I comforted myself with the
thought that soon I could fall in to bed and sleep. I closed my eyes
briefly, only to have to open them again a moment later when I heard
someone approach my side.

"I do hope you did not have too much trouble finding..." I began, only
to trail off when, instead of Charles returning with my coat as I had
expected, I found Archie standing in front of me.

"I was just leaving, but I wanted to give you this before I did so,"
he told me, handing me a folded piece of paper that he had been
holding as he spoke. Curious, I moved to open it, but as luck would
have it, at that moment Charles appeared, giving him a frosty glare
before moving to help me into my coat. Archie could not have failed
to notice his hostility, but he merely smiled, contenting himself
with glancing at me briefly but in such a manner that I almost
started laughing right there and then and had to try hard to contain
myself.

"I wish you a safe journey home, Lady Dewhurst," he informed me
cheerfully, and then he was gone, pausing only to say goodnight to
Meg before making his way out into the cool night outside. I quickly
concealed the paper from Charles, knowing that he would insist on
learning of it's contents and not feeling at all up to dealing with
his sulking if I refused.

"I think it is time I were leaving as well," I said quickly, a yawn
suddenly escaping me and supporting my words. After taking my leave
of Meg I allowed Charles to walk me to my carriage, breathing a sigh
of relief as it finally began to move and I was on my way home at
last. As soon as we were a considerable distance from the house I
reached for the paper again, eagerly unfolding it and wondering at
what it could contain. The writing was small but well formed, and I
had no difficulty in reading the words that were written there.

Ginny,

I hope that you do not find my writing to you like this offensive or
inappropriate, indeed if you do so you have only to inform me of the
fact and I will not trouble you again. I simply wished to thank you
for turning what could have been an incredibly dull evening into one
that was by all accounts highly enjoyable and to take the liberty to
say that I hope you consider it in the same light and that I did not
make too poor a companion. I would also like to remark upon the
brilliance of your dancing and how I consider myself honoured to have
had such a partner, but I fear that I have bored you enough already
with this letter, and therefore will restrain myself.

Your obedient servant,

Archibald Ignatius Bartholomew Augustin Percival Tiberius Kennedy.

P.S. I do hope that you will see fit to continue to call me Archie
I fear that the breathlessness created by having to resort to such a
name in its entirety could be rather damaging to your health.

I really did not know what to do, and even now that I have slept on
it I still feel I am no nearer to making a decision. In fact, a great
deal of my dilemma is in trying to ascertain if there is indeed a
decision to make in the first place. I know that Mother would not
approve of Archie having written to me, but I can see nothing wrong
with it in itself or any reason for myself to become upset over him
having done so. The letter contains nothing of which I should feel
ashamed and I have searched my conscience enough to decide that
neither he nor I acted in any way that could give cause for reproach
if it were to be discovered.

Besides, by simply keeping the letter I have acknowledged its
contents and the man who sent it, there really is no need for me to
do anything further. And I would be perfectly content with this
conclusion if it were not for the unfortunate fact that the letter
included a return address. Surely it would be considered frightfully
rude therefore if I did not at least send a short reply and to make
some observation of my own? Especially as he took the trouble to
fulfil his promise to me, showing all too well that he is a man of
his word who is to be trusted. It would be rude and churlish of me
not to at least recognise the fact and to tell him so, and as I do
not know when, or indeed if I will see him again, the only way to do
so is to write a letter in order to do this. I am torn, but I can
think of no one to whom I could go to for advice in the matter. It
would mean telling them everything and I really do feel that such a
move would not be a wise one, even though I have no cause to feel
guilty or ashamed. I am confused and unsure, and can see no way of
easily remedying the situation. How tiresome this had turned out to
be!

I have wasted enough time writing in here for one day I feel, I will
try to put it from my mind for a while and hope that this will enable
me to, in due time, reach a decision which will prove to be the best
course of action.


7th February, 1792

I have done as I proposed, and spent the last few days doing
everything but think of the predicament I have been thrown into. Now
however, I feel that although such a course of action was beneficial,
I cannot hide from the matter any longer and must now do something at
least towards bringing the whole affair to a close.

Accordingly, I have written a short note which I will have Henry
deliver when he goes up to town today I can rely on him not to
betray my confidence I am sure, and besides, there is no reason for
him or anyone else to question what it may contain. It took a
surprising number of attempts before I managed to write anything that
even came close to what I wanted to say, but finally I feel that I
have done as well as I could, and it will have to do. I do not know
why I am placing so much importance upon it really, I am merely being
polite after all, and in all likelihood Archie is probably not even
expecting to receive a reply and it was simply habit that led him to
include his address in the note he gave me. I have written:

Archie,

I thank you for your kind words and also for making good the promise
which you made to me at our last meeting. I hope that this letter
finds you as well as it leaves me, and that you are in good health.

Ginny.

Oh dear, I was satisfied with it before, why is it now when I read
over it I am no longer happy with the words I have chosen? I cannot
help feeling that there is something missing, that I have been rather
too cold and formal in response to his rather more flattering style.
I do not usually have such trouble with matters of this sort, indeed,
I can write a whole letter in the time it has taken me to compose the
few words I have used in my reply to Archie. This really is most
bothersome, and I can hear Henry downstairs now, I will have no time
to rewrite it. I know, I will add a few words to the bottom, and we
will all have to be content with that there is no more I can do. I
must leave off writing now, I do not want to miss him.

 

7th February Late, 1792

P.S. It matters little to me which name I call you by, my only hope
being that my next opportunity to address you in person will not be
too far in the future.

Why did I add those words? I really should not have, I do not know
what possessed me to do so and now I am in a most terrible dither and
it is really quite horrible. It was only because I was so rushed and
wanted to catch Henry before he left that I wrote them, it was the
first thing that came into my head, and now I am left with the awful
feeling that I have done something that was really quite wrong of me,
but can do nothing to change the situation. I regretted doing this
almost immediately, but by that time it was too late for me to
retrieve my note as Henry had already left. If Mother were to learn
of this...the very thought makes me shudder. Oh I do not know what to
do at all...