"Charlie! We know you're out here somewhere."
Charlie took a deep breath and wiped her eyes with her handkerchief, sniffing very unladylike. Her sniffling gave her away.
The pine branches shook and parted, revealing Diana, Colleen, and Jeanette all looking down at Charlie. She smiled up at them, but it was watery and weak.
Diana sighed, "Come on, chit, let's get you cleaned up."
Jeanette and Colleen helped Charlie up, dusting off her dress and pulling her onto the path.
Diana pulled her close as they began to walk back, away from the Wellington estate.
"I'm going to strangle my brother." She whispered loud enough for every girl to hear and all burst into bright, rambunctious laughter.
It helped Charlie cheer up, a bit, at least. She sighed and knew that she was going to regrets saying what she was about to say.
"We must go back."
Jeanette's grey blue eyes narrowed in a frown, "I'm a bit slow to what's been happening since I've been gone, but isn't going back the worse thing for you to do, Char?"
Charlie sighed, "Of course, but my mother will skin me if she knew I left a ball early."
"Are you sure, Charlie?" Asked Colleen, a frown between her dainty eyebrows.
Charlie gave a tiny nod. They walked closely together through the dark gardens, a crescent moon shining above them. Charlie found comfort in her long time friends, their presence and warmth building her up.
However, the sense of security and warmth disappeared when they came to the garden doors of the ball room.
The doors were closed and curtains were drawn over them.
Diana shook her head, trying the knob, "This isn't right. Mother always keeps the garden doors open during balls. Something has gone terribly wrong."
She led them to the south, coming to a set of white French doors. Upon opening them, Charlie saw that they led to Diana's private sitting parlour.
Inside, Charlie frowned deeply, "There's no music."
Jeanette nodded, "I can't hear it either. We're not that far away, are we?"
"No, the ballroom is just down the hall."
Each girl exchanged worried looks and quickly left the parlour. Charlie felt dread raising up in her stomach, making her feel nauseous.
They hurried down the hall to the ballroom, where a steward was closing the doors and inserting a key.
"Sexton, what's going on?" Diana called, rushing up to the steward.
Sexton shook his head gravely several times, "Grave business, my lady, grave business indeed."
The girls exchanged alarmed looks.
"But what happened?"
Sexton shook his head once more, "It isn't for the ears of a lady like yourself, my lady, best put it out of your mind."
He shuffled away, but Charlie could hear him muttering as he went, "'Tis a shame, a poor shame. Not proper, it is."
All four girls spun and Charlie sighed a relieved breath. It was only Conrad, his fine ball suit rumbled and wrinkled. His hair was tousled, a sign that he had been pacing and running his fingers through his hair.
"Conrad, what is it? What's happened? Have the guests gone home?" Charlie pelted him with questions, but Conrad would not answer any.
He took hold of Charlie's arm, "Come along, Mother has been worried to death. Father too. And I suppose you three girls had better come too."
Following Conrad, they went down the main hall, to the left, and into the library. They met Charlie's father and Colleen's father, Lord Ronan, talking to a runner boy.
"...tell them that Ronan Horrow sent for them. They'll let you in." He was saying.
The runner nodded and took the letter in Lord Fredrick's hand, "Yes, sir."
"Father!" Colleen called, "What's going on?"
Lord Ronan looked relieved to see his daughter, as did Lord Fredrick.
He accepted her embrace as Colleen ran up to him, "Great Scott, child, where on earth have you been?"
Lord Fredrick led them into the library, where Charlie first saw Eliza shaking and crying while her mother patted her on the back. Phillip talked in low tones with Lady Samara, Diana's mother. And Richard himself stood at the window, drinking brandy in a crystal cup. His uncle, Edmond, stood next to the fireplace, bracing himself with both hands and leaning down towards the dying flames. He looked deep in thought.
"Would someone tell me what's going on?" Diana demanded the moment she was in the room.
Richard spun, a horrible, haunted look in his eyes.
"There's been a robbery. And someone's been killed."
betcha didn't see that coming.
Anyways, sorry for the late update, things and stuff got in the way and inspiration only just came to me.
So, expect (hopefully, maybe, I don't really know) more updates to come your way.
YOU ARE READING
The Scandal of the SeasonHistorical Fiction
Charlie wasn't ready for the Season. The day she returns home from Boston is in preparation for this year's London Season. In the midst of it all, is Richard, the handsome new duke of Wellington and the brother of Charlie's friend, Diana, and an ent...