A/N: Hello beautiful people from around the world! For those of you who are wondering, this is a regency romance story, and yes, this is the first story I've ever written. It took me over two years two complete this story, but I knew from the moment that I got the idea that I wanted to give a shot at writing a story set on one of the most beloved eras in fiction (that is at the same period of Pride and Prejudice). So, yes, there shall be plenty of the old-fashioned romance some of us hopeless romantics day dream about.
You are all most welcome to leave a comment, suggestion, review. If anything, thanks, first of all, for the simple fact that you opened this story and read the first chapter. :)
And, here it goes...
Chapter One: Thoughts evoke memories
Love is the caressing, first ray of sun which thaws the icicles of the most obscure and unfeeling heart. It slowly and securely wraps it arms around the ice and melts the efforts of winter to harden the life the heart possesses.
The lady stopped writing and re-read what she had just composed.
"No," she muttered dropping the pen and placing her hands over her face.
"This will not do. It does not sound poetic. This is such a pathetic attempt!" she exclaimed somewhat annoyed at her lack of dexterity.
Rebeca Trentworth looked out the open window in search of some inspiration. With her eyes, she caressingly traced the familiar outline of the hills that rolled softly onto the thriving green pastures. The flowers on the field turned opened their petals to the sun's radiant warmth. Majestic oaks stood prominently above the ground, surrounding the park's lawn.
The lady's thoughts softened as she returned from admiring the landscape of the lovely grounds. She was still unsatisfied by the work of her thoughts, but at least her vexation had disappeared. Rebeca was usually quite demanding of herself when it came to accomplishing a task. On that day, it was the fourth attempt of writing poetry and she felt nothing had been accomplished. The lady placed the pen and ink back inside the drawer, but kept the paper on which she had written.
"I have to constantly remind myself to be careful from the prying eyes for they scrutinize everything within its periphery," she mumbled softly to herself.
She warily glanced at the door and put away the folded paper inside the book she had carried into the library. Miss Trentworth was careful to guard her thoughts and feelings from any member beyond her family and closest friends. She was aware of the rapidity at which gossip spread through a town like fire catching on dry weed.
She thought worryingly, "People could assume I was writing a letter for a gentleman who I admired, but was not engaged to. I have been a witness," she felt chills running up her spine as she recalled an unpleasant memory, "of how assumptions tarnish the reputations of young ladies."
The lady hurried to her chambers and hid the paper in the drawer of her writing desk, locked it, and returned to the room she had been sitting in.
"Perhaps later, I will show it to papa. He will laugh at me and admonish me for setting impossible and high standards for reality.
" 'An old, single woman, with spare riches.' " Rebeca giggled as she remembered her father's teasing tone.
"Papa!" she had resentfully exclaimed, "I shall marry someday, when I truly feel inclination for it, but for now I shall assess love according to my rational thoughts rather than my fluctuating feelings."
She blushed at this confession. Lord Albert stared at his daughter's flushed countenance and chuckled.
"I believe this has been quite an extraordinary conversation. I shall leave the matchmaking schemes to your mother and Mrs. Allen, or, perhaps Miss Crawford can assist you in overcoming these prejudices you have towards gentlemen."
The sound of scrunching gravel pulled her back to reality. A gentleman in a deep blue coat dismounted a strong-looking horse and handed the reins to the servant who awaited for the stable boy.
Rebeca sighed. "I will not end up a single, rich woman. Rich, yes; but, single, definitely not. I am not as fastidious as Papa thinks I am; besides, I do not even possess the liberty to decide for myself, so there is no point on my dwelling any further on the subject." The exasperation in her tone of voice increased over the last sentence.
However, she kept wondering, "How many women of my age truly and earnestly fall in love with her suitor before marrying? I know several women who have married for convenience rather than friendship and attachment. I am fastidious; I do not want to settle for convenience nor for a handsome face. Nonetheless, marrying a friend would not be awful, right?" She corrected herself, "Marrying a handsome, intelligent, and amiable friend, would not be so awful, perhaps; but those details are yet unknown to me."
The young woman paced around the room lost in her musings. A few moments later, her reverie was disrupted by the opening of the parlor door and the announcing of a visitor.
"Lord Prescott to see you ma'am," announced the footman reverently.
The lady composed her features before turning around to greet the noble guest. Lord Jonathan Prescott came to visit the Trentworth family frequently. His mother, Lady Emilia Prescott, was Lady Anne Trenworth's closest friend. The young women had grown up for they were —or more like sisters for there had been few girls of their age in the neighborhood— and to their surprise and amazement, their marriages kept them close, for their husbands' estates were an easy distance from each other. Thus, the Prescott and Trentworth families were close to one another a fond friendship resulted from the proximity. Lady Emilia's son, Jonathan, and Lady Anne's daughter, Rebeca, became friends at an early age. In fact, the young woman and gentlemen had been friends as far as their memories could recall.
"Miss Trentworth," uttered Lord Jonathan as he bowed in salutation.
"Lord Prescott," Miss Trentworth pronounced smiling as she curtsied.
They smiled in an unspoken understanding until Rebecca offered him to sit down. When they did, both of them began to stifle their giggles, until they could no longer hold back and began to laugh heartily. Lord Jonathan attempted to halt his laughter, but the flood of memories rendered his efforts useless. Rebecca could not escape the mirth either and her shoulders shook from laughter. She hoped her mother was not walking down main hall in that precise moment.
Lord Prescott's laughing subsided and with a weary voice he exclaimed, "I cannot believe we laugh every time we meet in this parlor. It has been one month since the incident took place, yet, we have not conquered this giddiness."
"Lord Prescott, you are at fault for this giddiness. Your countenance's expression as you come into the parlor is the same as the one you could not disguise on that day! One look and that's all it takes to remind me of it. I had been sitting here two hours and had not recalled the incident until you came!" she said placing a gloved-hand over her delicate lips to silence the laughter.
One month ago, Mrs. Allen and her two daughters Miss Catherine and Miss Clara Allen, had come to visit their cousins house. On every visit, Mrs. Allen made it a point to insist on having Lord Prescott and Lady Prescott for dinner so that her daughters would learn to behave in the society they were expected to move in. And, given that the eligible (Mrs. Allen only thought of the word, never said it out loud) Lord Prescott was a family friend, it would be magnificent for him to get to know better her daughters.
So, the scheming Mama threw hints at her sister-in-law of what an excellent company the gentleman and his mother were. Mrs. Allen made sure every miniscule detail was ready in order to receive the noble guest. She went as far as to inquire what dessert Lord Prescott favored and then, requested that said dessert be delivered to the main drawing room the next day before four o'clock.
That day, Mrs. Wields the housekeeper had been busy arranging the drawing room according to Mrs. Allen's directions. Lady Anne advised Mrs. Wields to patiently comply with her sister's whims, although, her husband Lord Albert reluctantly agreed to the scheme. When the visitor had arrived and the tea had been served, there was only one thing missing: the dessert. Mrs. Allen was infuriated and she decided to go fetch the cake herself.
Nobody could have foreseen what followed. As the footmen opened the door for the incensed lady, the servants were running up to the door to deliver the cake to the room. One of them stumbled over the carpet and the cake smacked right onto Mrs. Allen's face. The servants' glanced at each other in horror. She gasped as she removed with the back of her hand the albumen that covered her nostrils. Her chest rose and fell as she inhaled and exhaled loudly. The servants began to apologize for their clumsiness. She silenced them, excused herself with a voice bordering shrillness, and hurriedly left the parlor room.
The party had looked at each other not knowing how to react. They all seemed to have implicitly agreed to remain quiet as not to embarrass the Allen girls. Miss Trentworth and Lord Prescott offered to play a duet to entertain the quiet party; however, their real intention had been to hide the giggles that escaped their lips.
" She only desired to make a good impression on you, Lord Prescott," snickered Miss Trentworth
"Well, she certainly did leave an impression. Though, I am sorry to say her scheme has resulted in quite the opposite. She has diverted my attention from Miss Allen and Miss Clara."
Miss Trentworth's sudden stern expression caused Lord Prescott to realize he had gone too far.
"Please forgive me. That was untoward of me", he said embarrassed.
She gave a curt nod and diverted her gaze. The mirth died right away and the silence took over the room. Uneasiness followed the pause. They conversed on lighter topics which involved Lord Prescott's recent visit to London. He described the balls he had attended and the visit he had paid to his acquaintances in London. The young man stated he had a most happy time in during his visit, but, however, he confessed to have missed the company of his dear friends in Devon; and with his heart pumping faster inside his chest, was bold enough to hint who he had missed the most….
Later on the evening, Miss Trentworth recalled her failed attempt at poetry and she decided to finally grant her father a chance to read the passage himself. Rebecca's soft pacing was unheard by the elder man. He sat on a chair situated in front of the large chimney, his favorite spot in the ample library. Lord Albert Trentworth was wont to wander the long corridors of the house whenever he was distraught and would always end up in the library. He was sure to be ruminating when he was in the library. Thus, the man was so absorbed in his thoughts that he did not even feel Rebecca's hand on his shoulder.
Softly, Rebecca gave him a slight shake, "Papa?"
Lord Albert came back to his senses and he turned around in the armchair to look at his daughter. The man's expression betrayed the disagreeableness of his reverie, but he rapidly fixed his features to display a cheery countenance.
"My dear girl, one of these days you will scare me to death," he pronounced in an effort to divert his daughter's attention from his grim state.
"I have never startled you before, Papa. You should know by now that I do not enjoy scaring people."
"I know you do not enjoy doing such things, but your manner of soundlessly approaching me makes me think the opposite."
The older man spotted a paper neatly folded in his daughter's grip. He pointed at her hands,
"Is it possible you will reveal your secret thoughts to your father the Keeper?" He laughed as he remembered how his little Becca with those unfailingly sweet honey-colored eyes had come to him as a child to confess to him that the newborn puppies were too heavy a burden for her to handle alone.
The smirk on Rebecca's lips proved she did come to show him the message conveyed in the pages, so she laid the papers on his lap and walked to the mahogany desk to retrieve her father's glasses from the middle drawer. After reading the short passages on each page, he returned them to Rebecca and sighed,
"Darling, I do not wish to get my hopes up, but is there a young man who inspires these verses? Have you finally come to a better understanding of your taste?" His voice sounded teasing, but there was a serious undertone to it.
Rebeca blinked several times before saying, "No," she stated confidently, "Of course not, father. I merely thought of them. Father, are you teasing me?"
The elder man merely raised his gray eyebrows at her.
"I have been waiting for you to confess you have fallen in love, though, I will probably be aware of it even before you are. Perhaps, if the time does not come soon, I might have to interview young gentlemen in order to find a worthy suitor," he smirked mischievously at her. Another grim thought flashed at the back of his thoughts as he saw his daughter's countenance twitch.
She frowned. "Papa! I thought mother and Mrs. Allen were in charge of the husband-hunting, not you. Besides, there is no point on searching; we both know the young gentleman has been chosen," Rebeca mumbled softly. Her father heard the muffled complaint.
His thoughts returned to the bitter state they were before his daughter's appearance. He studied his daughter's unhappy expression.
"Beca," he said slowly searching for the rights words, "we have spoken about this before. There is no better way to secure your future. You shall have a respectable, caring husband, and a beautiful, large home. Your status will be elevated further by the connection and there will be no doubt about you adapting to the new station. It befits you very well. After all, you were brought up in the same sphere. He is your equal in every respect—character, consequence, fortune…"
He continued, not wanting to remind her, but he had to, "Your mother and I have strived to rectify the mistakes committed by our families in the past. We have had to endure the consequences of others' ill decisions. You are a young lady of immense capacity, try to comprehend our reasoning."
"I am procuring to reconcile myself to it, father. Forgive me for complaining, it was insensible of me to do so," Rebeca looked down at her gloved hands as a rush of guilt washed over her.
An ugly sensation clawed at her heart. How could she have thought things would all go back to being normal? As soon as it appeared, she muffled the creeping thoughts. She was ashamed of how her feelings could ruin a conversation with her father.
"I must attempt to control them," she thought to herself.
Lord Albert's heart ached over how much his daughter had grown. A few years ago she would have spoken up defensively or glared at the floor in excruciating silence; now, she assessed her words before replying. Lord Albert, though quite satisfied by this observation, was affected by how his daughter's spirits seemed to become oppressed as soon as they mentioned the topic.
"No," he reminded himself, "I have done this to protect her. I only want what is best for her. She may not understand nor thank me for this now, but she will reconcile to it. My daughter will not be exposed to society's cruelty."
The silence settled for a few moments, both father and daughter reminded themselves why they had committed to the arrangement. Neither spoke nor moved, until a rap at the door awakened them from their contemplative thoughts.
Sarah, Rebecca's younger sister and Lord Albert's youngest child, peeked in and spotted her sister.
"Papa, can you spare Rebeca from your night reading? She promised to spend the evening with me."
"Of course, dear, you have my permission. I will ask Mrs. Wields to bring only one cup of hot chocolate tonight." His voice had its teasing tone once more.
"Papa, you cannot keep the hot chocolate all to yourself, you must share some with us. So, if you do not mind, we will ask Mrs. Wields to deliver three cups of hot chocolate to my chamber," asserted Rebecca.
He looked suspicious, "Three? Who else shall be joining your party?"
"Bethany will be joining us tonight. We are having a sleep over."
"A sleep over? Where do you get these ideas from?" he paused as if to consider something. Bethany lived in Westley Park, so technically she was not coming to sleep over.
"I shall also ask Mrs. Wields to make a pot of cinnamon tea, in case your giggles wake me up in the middle of the night, like the last time your cousins came."
The two young women bode their father good night with a kiss on the cheek. Then, they strode out of the library with linked arms.