Chapter 14

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"So I'm sure you must know that the business is run by Lord Edward Buxton and Lord Isaac Algernon," Frank pressed further, as he and Diana strolled through the gardens of the Brockenhurst estate. He had, somehow managed to convince his mother to give up Diana's company for a while, and after The Countess's minimal protests, she had decided to agree on the grounds of her assumption that her niece had probably forgotten the look of nature all the weeks she was cramped up in the hectic part of Portsmouth.

Diana smiled and nodded, without saying anything else. It was frustrating how she and Alicia could not seem to escape these names.

"It's admirable right?" Frank gushed, his arms at his back and an excited smile on his face, "They've got all the wealth and prestige from their parentage, yet they insist on doing business to create an independent name for themselves."

Nodding slowly, Diana's smile dissipated quietly. She had thought that too once, admired the gentleman for these very qualities, but now she had come to realize that you can't really assume to know a person by what they choose to show or tell you about themselves.

"That's what I want to do," Frank continued in the same excited voice, not caring that Diana hadn't really replied, "Make a name for myself, not to be known as merely Count Brockenhurst's son and heir."

Diana observed her cousin silently; he was ambitious, but never in a bad way. He always had this bubbly look about him when he used to dream of things far beyond his reach when they were little, he had that same look now, as if he was listing all the endless possibilities of such an endeavor in his head."

"What do you think? You haven't really said much," Frank added after a pause, suddenly cautious that his endless ranting had discomforted her.

"I think it's great that you think like that," Diana spoke carefully, before halting in her steps and turning to face him, as he too stopped, "Just don't let ambition make you forget who you truly are. Don't let it make you forget about things and people who matter the most in life."

"Aunt Agnes especially asked us to come," Diana sighed as she sunk into her bed. They had returned from the Brockenhurst estate an hour ago and after making sure their little cousins had eaten and were alright and that Aunt Frederica's health was fine, the ladies retired to Diana's room to discuss the events of the day. It was terrible feeling Diana had felt as the carriage had drove away from the estate, it had felt like leaving Bellevue Hall all over again. The Brockenhurst estate, her Aunt and Frank, reminded her so much of home. They were family, they were home.

Her only consolation was that The Countess of Brockenhurst had invited them to stay at the estate for three days this weekend, and had extended the invitation over to Uncle Arthur and his family as well. She had insisted that the estate gardens would be good for Aunt Frederica's health, and had emphasized that she was in an urgent need of company if she were to be prevented from going mad with all of Frank's propositions and no one but the butler to listen to her own.

Diana and Alicia had been glad the invitation was extended to Uncle Arthur's family as well, because they would certainly not leave their Aunt and Uncle behind again as they went off and socialized.

"I'm tired," Diana spoke softly, her voice coming out muffled as she pressed her face into a pillow. She was not physically tired, it was just that her spirit felt heavy and her heart felt empty, "I miss Southampton, I miss everyone." Everything felt dull and colorless. Aunt Agnes's invitation for the weekend was just what she needed to lift her spirits. There was no truer Southampton soul than the Countess.

Alicia sighed. In all honesty, she had started feeling that way shortly after arriving to Portsmouth; Alicia was just curious to see how long Diana would go before she too felt and said something. As she sat on by the vanity she wondered whether to comfort Diana or narrate to her the classic, 'I told you so.' Portsmouth had been nothing but trouble ever since they arrived. Alicia quickly glanced in the mirror, looking at her reflection and sighing in relief; it was a surprise she hadn't formed permanent lines on her forehead because of the countless times she had scrunched up her face at every displeasure their endeavor to this part of Hampshire had thrown at them.

"I do too," Alicia sighed again. Come to think of it, she hadn't ever sighed this much all in a span of a month too. Alicia quickly made a mental note to use other forms of subtle action to show her exhaustion in case people were to think that she had a habit of sighing, "At least this weekend at the Brockenhurst estate seems promising. It will be great to shut everything out for three days."

It was the truth, despite how much she wanted to believe she put up a strong front, she missed Southampton and everyone. She missed the noisy breakfasts they had, with their aunts discussing this matter or that, and all their cousins having conversations of their own. Alicia had; however, experience of being away for she had went to Paris. The trip was short, but at least she knew what being away felt like. Diana on the other hand, had never been away from Southampton.

"Everyone is so excited," Alicia added, reaching to the surface of the vanity and picking up the letter that had arrived from Southampton while they were at the Brockenhurst estate. Having read the letter, perhaps, was the reason they suddenly felt so down, "Rebecca's engagement ball preparations have the whole of Southampton delighted."

"I hate that we're missing it," Diana hummed quietly, "All the excitement."

"I know, I should've liked to see Aunt Margaret fuss over every little thing and all of Rebecca's frustrated declarations over the whole ordeal," Alicia responded quietly, with a chuckle. The house had gone entirely silent now, indicating that it was past bed hours. Diana muffled her chuckle with a pillow, feeling slightly better.

"At least we aren't missing the ball," Alicia continued, looking on the bright side of things as she re-read the letter, "Mother says, 'Your Aunt Margaret was shocked when the rector asked if the ball was to be held in both you girls' absence, so much so that she slightly choked on the biscuit she had in her mouth and asked the rector how he would feel if his own mother were to get engaged and not invite him to the festivities. And then the rector presumed a look of deep consideration and thought before responding, "I get your point entirely, my lady.' "

They both laughed, covering their mouths with their palms, just like they had done when they first read the letter an hour ago. Diana felt a lot better now; she couldn't imagine how she could've kept going without all these detailed letters arriving from home. Aunt Hyacinth had taken it upon herself to describe the full week's happenings in clear detail in case her daughter and Diana should feel left out.

Having freshened up with a dose of laughter, Alicia pulled her chair closer to the vanity and whipped out new parchment from the drawers. Pulling out the ink pot and a quill from a second drawer, she set to work writing a response to be sent to Southampton. Diana sat up and they both discussed everything the letter would contain, as Alicia started penning everything down. They would send an equally detailed letter, perhaps excluding some slight inconvenient happenings, but overall, an equally detailed letter for their family back in Southampton.

"The business is a rather a profitable one as you may have noticed, Mr Templemore," Isaac Algernon dictated as he walked alongside their newly attained investor, showing him the inner workings of the mill, will all the hustle of workers around them. At present, Isaac was all relief that the investor's mind hadn't changed, "Especially in this part. The whole of Hampshire depends upon cotton from this mill, since we are inclined to produce the finest there is."

"I don't doubt it," Frank Templemore responded, his mind still echoing with Diana's words upon their last meeting. Just don't let ambition make you forget who you truly are, don't let it make you forget about things and people who matter the most in life, she had told him. Did she think him as flexible as a butler with new found prospects, that she garnered he would run blindsided making poor decisions and forget about everyone in his life? It made him think that perhaps Diana thought him as immature as she had those two years ago. Perhaps she had looked at him that week ago at his estate and thought, he hasn't changed a bit. And that thought alone irritated him.

"Algernon," Frank spoke as he halted in his steps and turned to face him, his voice laced with his newfound determination to prove himself capable and worthy, not only to his mother but to everyone around him, including Diana, "Let's cut the tour short shall we? I've already seen enough that would make any gentleman declare a favorable decision. But, I do not want to rush into this unless I am entirely sure."

Isaac swallowed a frustrated scoff, his face sporting an unaltered smile. A small silence presumed as both the men looked around, glued to their spots.Isaac entailed a more nervous take as he found himself holding his breath. The eastern mill branch depended on this investment. Neither him nor Edward could use the money off of their lands to fuel this need, for their business was entirely their own and their lands inherited from their fathers. Nor was it dignified to attain money that way, and nor did the gentlemen's pride allow them. "Say," Frank Templemore declared, "I should like to invite you and Buxton to my estate this weekend. We shall get to know each other, and your business,more and talk about this investment in depth. Perhaps, you would have me more reasonable if you somehow manage to convince my mother too. What say you?"

Frank silently praised himself for the idea. He could demonstrate his mature consideration to his mother and Diana to see, so that they could realize that he was much more than someone who would easily stray if ambition held him by the strings. He wasn't a fool, he could tell by Isaac Algernon's urgency to show him every single corner of the east mill, that he and Buxton depended upon the investment Frank had to offer. He could also tell by the condition of the east mill that they had no other investor waiting in line behind him, despite how much Edward Buxton made it seem that way earlier. If these men were to agree to his invitation, Frank planned to be as difficult to convince and as intelligent to work with as he could. The matter had become all about his reputation, these gentlemen might think that Frank had no experience, but they were yet to see just how truly experienced he could be. 

Isaac looked at him; this was Frank Templemore's first business investment. How hard could it be to win him over when he had no prior experience in the endeavor? All they had to do was to make him believe that he could trust them. Isaac and Edward had done it countless times before, conversation over a round of drinks can do the job efficiently but three days at the man's estate would most likely guarantee the papers signed on the fourth. It was an opportunity too beneficial to pass up.

"We accept your invitation."

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