The end-of-season ball thrown by the Duchess of Fambrough will be the talk of Society long after the Season ends. Not for its appointments, or the excellence of the supper or the musicians, though these were fine, indeed. Not for the quality of the assembly, though the invitations had gone out to everyone of significance, and many who merely hoped they were. Not even for the long-expected announcement of the duke’s betrothal to a young lady as well born as he.
No, the defining moments of the Fambrough ball came shortly before the supper waltz, when Lord Charming, arriving late but as elegantly dressed as ever, strolled down the stairs into the ballroom, his arms full of roses, and marched straight across the floor, his eyes fixed on the Paragon herself.
Some say he had hailed the duke when that gentleman was riding in Hyde Park that morning, and that the two of them had spoken earnestly for close to half an hour, their horses pacing side by side.
Others report he visited during the time for calls, carrying even more roses and attended by two footmen similarly burdened. The ducal house was not receiving, being consumed with preparations for the ball, but he left the roses behind when he departed.
That made tonight Lord Charming’s third encounter with the ducal household, and the assembled onlookers held their collective breath in order not to miss a moment of the drama that played out before them.
The duke was between the viscount and his stepmother. His Grace moved to one side as she stood. The scandalous gentleman approached close enough to touch, and those close enough heard him say, “I promised you roses, Marie.” Those who murmured at his familiar address were shushed by those around them. His lordship ignored them all as he handed her his roses. “These are from the rose garden at Welling. The plums are ripening on the trees. I had hoped to bring you cherries, but my gardener says they will be next week.”
These were not the loverlike words we expect from Lord Charming, and his expression was unexpectedly open. Serious, too, as was the lady’s.
“What of the conservatory, Sam?” she asked. Another murmur at the intimacy of first names, again subdued by ferocious gestures.
“We are owed clement weather, are we not? But it stands ready, Your Grace, to protect us through storms.”
The duchess looked up from her roses and their eyes met. Lord Charming moved to take Her Grace in his arms. “Will you honour me with a waltz, Marie?”
Without taking her gaze off him, she passed the roses to her step-daughter, and stepped into the viscount’s embrace.
This is an excerpt from one of the stories in Chasing the Tale, Jude Knight’s latest publication. It’s one of eleven short stories, and intended for reading over a coffee or a meal, or at night before going to sleep.
I always enjoy picking up something from Ms. Knight because I know I will not be disappointed. This is a wonderful collection of unique stories ranging from medieval times to the 1800s. Nice, short stories you can read during a lunch break or a quick bedtime read. The stories were all entertaining and enjoyable with well thought out characters that were brought to life with the talented writing of Ms. Knight. The storylines had a nice smooth flow and the plots held my interest all the way through. Definitely a collection you want to have handy when you’re looking for a quick, captivating read. Highly recommend! [Advance Reader Copy reviewer]