City of Bath
A Fortnight Later
Lady Alexandra Davenport, only child of the Earl of Weston, kneeled on a small pillow and propped her elbows on the seat inside the crested carriage.
This trip was the last thing she wanted. She had contrived all sorts of excuses, reminded her father she knew no one—not even the hostess to convince him to let her pass, but the man was as stubborn as a ram. He had threatened to take away her most treasured possessions—her horse and her pistols. And when she balked, he added poor Mr. Benton, her fencing instructor, to the chopping block.
Hence, here she was, banished to yet another humdrum house party, in which the only motive for her presence was to offer her up to the next available gentleman.
She pushed away a stray chestnut curl from her cheek, bowed her head and closed her eyes.
Dear God, she prayed, forming a steeple with her hands. Please, please, please, don't let me be stuck with a man who is just like the other ones. I know I avoid my father whenever he brings up the subject of marriage, but I swear, Dear God—I do not mean to be disobedient. I know my father has good intentions, but his selection of eligible men either borders on the old and rickety—or the potbellied and smelly.
Say for example the Duke of Deadfellow—I mean, Redfellow—he is such a nice, fabulously wealthy man, but—Dear God, he is so old that he could be an artifact at the museum.
Then there's the Marquess of Sweetham—he has such good humor and demeanor, but his girth is so hefty that I can spread a tablecloth and have my afternoon tea on his belly.
And finally yet most importantly, the Earl of Bedsham—I know he is young and looks decent enough, but Dear God—he laughs by himself and talks to his hand—he might as well be called the Earl of Bedlam. Also, did I mention the—
A loud snort interrupted the solemnity of her supplication. Alexandra turned her head and glared at Anna, her maid, who was kneeling next to her with a constipated grimace.
"Excuse me, milady," she immediately stopped simpering and bit her lower lip.
Alexandra rolled her eyes and shifted her position. She cleared her throat and proceeded with her petition.
Please forgive Anna, Dear God, I promise I did not make her fart. Now to get back to my predicament—is it too much to ask if all I want is a kind, God-fearing gentleman, who is pleasant to look at, has all his teeth and doesn’t pick his nose or scratch his groin when he's out in public?
It will help if he has a title too, but if not, I suppose it will be just fine—as long as he is gentry with an income of his own. I am not too keen on fortune hunters and I ask you keep me safe from those scoundrels and rakes.
But if I may speak plainly, Dear God, truth be told—I have no burning desire to marry. I know you commanded us to go and multiply—and I have nothing against that, but I am happy as I am and do not need anyone. If I were to tie myself to a man who looks like a corpse, eats like boar or chatters like a magpie when no one is around, then I would rather be a spinster or enter the convent and become a nun.
As you probably can foretell by now, Dear God, I desperately need your help. You can either send the one I want or enlighten my father to leave my affairs alone. I simply cannot abide by this tiresome routine any longer.
Please, please, please, Dear God, make this scheme of his, the very last.
"Ahem, milady," Anna peered outside the window. "We've arrived."
Alexandra quickly scrambled to her feet and parted the curtains. Their carriage was still a reasonable distance away, but she could clearly see the bustling driveway ahead. "Oh dear," she sighed, as she observed the passengers alighting from the line of carriages that arrived before them. "Everyone is ancient."