Chapter XXX

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"Lord Howard as you live and breathe!" Lady Scott said happily though his official title was something more frightening than I knew him to be already

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"Lord Howard as you live and breathe!" Lady Scott said happily though his official title was something more frightening than I knew him to be already.

"Father what a surprise!" Joseph went over to him.

Frozen and petrified to be encountering my previous master here or at all it was clear almost a year later Mr. Howard still alarmed me. His appearance was much changed since we last saw each other, there was not one trace of hair on his face, his cheekbones were structured higher than I had known before. Every piece of proper dinner attire dressed his tall body, his hair had been cut, styled back to nape of his neck which aided in his terrifying and now gentleman like posture.

"My apologies for intruding Lady Thomas but I just arrived to London and saw the invitation for dinner and thought surely my son was here. Then an enchanted voice led me in the room before I could be properly announced." I heard his dominion echo over everybody as they stared at Joseph's father with a curious awe.

"None of that, Earl of Bridgeston we are delighted to renew your friendship any day." Lady Thomas catered to anyone with a title with a passion though she was not one to snob others who did not, at least that I could commend about her character.

"So we have finally drawn you out for dinner in London of all places." Lady Scott hugged him meaning her family was rather close to him which spoke volumes of Arthur and Joseph's friendship.

"Yes it has been too long old friend." Sir Walker greeted the master with a handshake and a hug but Mr. Howard might have gotten tired from the introductions as he did not smile or act too pleasant toward Sir Walker.

Earl of Bridgeston, or Lord Howard as they called him after introducing him had the attention of the whole room to himself and I stayed away standing up in a corner as the younger people were being introduced to him for the mothers and father seemed to know him. Out of the parents Mr. Howard was distinctly by far the less weathered one in appearance and by comparison to the rest probably the youngest too, though mother had retained much of her youth with age though not the spirit that went along with it.

"Come father you must remember Lady Alice Stewart it was her who sang with Miss Martha Campbell." Joseph said and I swallowed waiting for Mr. Howard's steps to come to a halt.

"How to forget?" Mr. Howard replied, his eyes were more overbearing than ever and I fought against them for no one to notice the depth of our acquaintance.

"How have you been Lady Alice?" He held my hand and the touch of his lips on the skin of my hand made it twitch when he took the time to kiss it with the familiar warmth of his lips.

"I have been well m'lord," I nodded keeping my eyes down as if I were still his maid, like nothing had ever changed between our first encounter.

"And father this is Mrs. Theresa Stewart, her mother," Joseph said and Mr. Howard also kissed mother's hand.

"Honored to make your acquaintance Mrs. Stewart."

"You are too kind Earl Bridgeston."

"Well then Lord Howard should be fine," he replied and mother smiled at him, apparently we had the same taste in men.

"We shall serve dinner now," Lady Thomas announced and we all sat in her long dining table under her French crystal chandelier.

To my right sat Joseph, to my left Mr. Howard, or Earl or Lord Howard, I was getting mixed up with all the terms or with his presence. By his side sat my mother whom he engaged in a entertaining conversation as she could not take her eyes off him.

"I believe your mother and my father are getting on very well," Joseph remarked.

"Yes they are," I faked a smile.

"Your mother is a widower like my father; they will probably have many things in common to talk of."

"I believe so," I put food in my mouth to not have to answer Joseph's interest in how well our parents were getting along.

After finishing my wine my mother talked to Mrs. Campbell besides her and Joseph talked to Henry about something to do with the University of Cambridge.

"How has your last year been?" Lord Howard asked me.

"Good Lord Bridgeston." I did not want to go on with the conversation but politeness was the rule of the day therefore I asked him to also know how he would treat me after so long, "and yours?"

"Uneventful since you left... Did you enjoy my gift?" He alluded to my past as to say not even time or society would help his indecorum.

"The Duchess of Malfi is a splendid book."

"Have you read it since then?"

"No sir."

"Why not?"

"I have no wish to be scared again sir." I imagined myself getting up from the table away from Mr. or Lord or the Earl's conversation which made the air run away from my body.

"Well then it seems I have come to disappoint you," his hand found mine under the table and it warmed my cheeks.

Mr. Howard's thumb traced my hand in the most delicious manner like someone pouring honey over my closed mouth; I knew how sweet it was but was prohibited from savoring it.

"How easy is it is to be proper in society and something else entirely underneath it do you not think so?"

"Sir," I tried taking my hand away but he intertwined his fingers on mine and I spoke only for him to hear. "Why are you doing this?"

"Lady Alice?" Arthur called me out of trance Mr. Howard had enticed me in to participating.

"Yes?" I asked getting rid of Mr. Howard's hand.

"You will attend the Winter Ball with Mrs. Stewart will you not?" Arthur asked.

"I am not sure," I said though I had never gotten an invitation.

"I told you she prefers to be indoors." Cynthia said batting her eyes at Arthur who took no notice of her no matter how much time she spent making herself prettier for him.

"Very well then I shall convince you by saying Joseph will be there," Arthur joked.

"Arthur do you have no one else to bother?" Joseph took it as a joke with his light manners.

"What do you say now Lady Alice?" Arthur continued.

"The food is wonderful," I joked back and the youngest part of the table laughed at Arthur.

After dinner finished my mother, Mrs. Campbell and Lady Thomas went on the front parlor talking while I walked down the hall right behind them.

"Lady Alice."

Joseph came after me and when I noticed I was alone without any ladies around I went into a panic. The house was filled with people whom might be our friends and I could not ruin it by earning a bad reputation in their house. And I would be ruined if anyone besides my mother found me talking to Joseph alone or any other gentlemen as the rules went, I wished he would have picked a safer way to talk to me.

"Please you must not do this, we cannot be alone," I stopped my walking just a couple steps from the door.

"I said I conceded that day but tonight."












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