“Yes, ma’am.” Candace curtsied and left the room. Louisa closed the door behind her. A bad sign. I exchanged a worried glance with Isabelle.
“Have a seat, girls.”
Isabelle and I sat on the bed. Louisa remained standing.
“We’ve received a proposal this afternoon. Our first, and the season is not even halfway through.”
My thoughts flew immediately to Lord Windham. I held my breath.
Louisa took a deep breath and looked at Isabelle. “De Grave came to see me this afternoon, Isabelle, to ask for your hand in marriage.”
Isabelle’s face blanched at the sudden news. She said in a stunned voice, “Can it be?”
Louisa went on, despite of or perhaps because of Isabelle’s response. “Naturally, I could not accept this request as I am sure your mother and father will want to be apprised of the matter, and it is ultimately their decision, not mine.”
Isabelle stood, her face alternately turning red and white. “Is he still here, Louisa? Oh, but I must look a fright, still in my gardening clothes!”
“Child, do be seated,” Louisa exclaimed, “Of course he is not here. I sent him home.”
Isabelle meekly sat back down.
“We need to speak of your comportment sometime, Isabelle. Your parents sent you here in the hopes that the season would give you that necessary polish that ladies need.”
“Don’t forget The Husband,” I muttered under my breath. Isabelle stifled a giggle. I smiled, but my heart wasn’t in it.
“Oh, Louisa, may I write him?” I couldn’t help but admire how lovely my cousin looked as she knelt at my guardian’s feet, a beseeching look in her crystalline irises. Even in her dirty gardening skirts she was beautiful. For the first time in the sixteen years I’d known Isabelle, I felt a twinge of jealousy.
Louisa’s eyes softened as she looked down at her. “There’s no need to be so dramatic, dear. No doubt he will be at the Chestertons’ ball tomorrow night. You may speak to him then. I must go and write a long letter to your mother now. I’d like to get in touch with her before we leave to Bath.”
My aunt left and Isabelle sprang to her feet. “Oh, I’d forgotten all about Bath! How am I ever going to get through those two weeks? A proposal, Sam! From Vincent! Oh, I do hope Mama and Papa will like him. Do you think they will like him? Well, I’d better go and pack my things.” And with that she grabbed her valise and flew out of the room.
I was left standing alone, a crushed and withered red rose in my fist.