Chapter XXXIX

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"Did Lord Joseph tell you what brought them out of the Ball?" My mother inquired but before I could tell her I had accepted anything, Joseph needed to ask her for my hand

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"Did Lord Joseph tell you what brought them out of the Ball?" My mother inquired but before I could tell her I had accepted anything, Joseph needed to ask her for my hand.

"No, he did not."

The deed had been done; my mother and Mr. Howard could never again exchange intimate moments for they would be on the opposite sides of the family. In desperate times, desperate measures had to be taken for the good of my mother's name or that is what I told myself. When people found out the terrible story of Mr. Howard I would be engaged to Joseph and so my mother could cast me off to keep the good name intact. Either choices were better than having my mother end up with Mr. Howard and be disgraced into a relationship who could turn on her like he did on me. My mother deserved some happiness after everything and since I had no hopes of finding it with anyone for the sinful way I had entangled myself with Mr. Howard, I could find it to at least make Joseph as happy as it was in my hands to do so.

"Lady Alice may I have the next dance," Arthur asked and we went straight into the dance floor. Martha and Cynthia stayed with my mother as Henry went to ask another lady for a dance.

"How are you Arthur?"

"Better than Joseph I fear," he joked as we danced, "what did you say to him to make him leave so quickly?"

"You two are like brothers I am sure he will mention it to you."

"Yes but it is so strange how you girls can have intelligent men running around like idiots without their heads by uttering a couple of words," he glanced over to where Cynthia and Martha stood.

"Do not be so harsh on us Arthur, for most times we are not allowed to want what we want, let alone say it."

"And then you leave the talking to be done by men who were never taught to use pretty words, is it not too ironic?"

"Yes," I smiled at Arthur realizing how backwards most things were, "and I always hated irony."

"Yes such as it is the miracle of life through women it is also women who end up taking it away," he was not talking about me but who could have captured his heart so intensely that even his jaw clenched before smiling.

"Forgive us our folly Arthur and if you genuinely want a lady's heart, you must learn to talk before it is too late for such an error can be fatal."

"Fatal?"

"Yes to the hearts of every person individual involved in the mess of our affections."

"Thank you for this enlightening dance Alice," we nodded to each other and then Henry asked me for the next dance.

"Lady Alice it seems you have collected your fair share of admirers tonight," Henry said while I looked to a couple of high ranking officers who had come to the Winter Ball glancing towards us.

"Is there something wrong with my dress?"

"Yes, it elevates your beauty," Henry chuckled though we knew he was the biggest flirt I did not take him seriously.

It might have been true what he said since the officers were soon introduced to mama, and it even brought Cynthia's mood up who had been asked only for two dances, one with Henry and the other with her cousin. Martha was not in the best mood after telling me the story and with the boys acting so strangely she was very displeased I would not tell her what I had talked with Joseph about.

"Please tell me what Joseph said, I won't tell Cynthia," Martha promised but as much as I loved Martha she could not be too trusted with secrets yet.

"Martha as soon as I am sure of anything you will be the first to know."

"Sure of what?"

"Not tonight."

"You promise on your mother's grave I will be the first to know?"

"Never, I would not promise on anyone's grave for death might hear and come taunt me again and that is the last thing anyone in my family needs," I scolded her who tapped her foot and pouted at me.

"Fine, I will wait until you are ready but I will not tell you what Arthur said to me either."

"Did he tell you why he is so glum tonight? It was sad to see the light put out of his face like that, tonight barely felt like the mythical Winter Ball everyone talks about."

"Yes I quite enjoyed my first one but this year everything is in such disarray with Mr. Dunn and the Earl and by the way it looks like you did not tell your mama the story."

"No."

"I see does it have something to do with Joseph?"

"Well..."

"Right and I like your dress."

"Oh thank you, it was mother who designed it."

"Not your mother, your mama."

"Right."

"Well she is one special woman, but I will not have her marry before we do, what a calamity it would be for us eligible young ladies," Martha joked of our state.

"Martha," I shook my head and then two officers who had been introduced to us asked Martha and I for the next dance.

Cynthia did not have a good night and retired early from the Winter Ball she danced all but three dances, one with Henry, one with a second cousin, and another with a widower she described far below the average beauty any man should be capable of having. The night went on, and when Martha had danced her fair share and was resting her feet with a cup of wine, I was still on the dance floor as if I were some curious outrage. Although mama was proud of my success she was uneasy with all the presentations of families during such a small period but there was not much choice since the music never stopped playing and everyone knew I was in no position to stop.

"Oh dear what a success you were," Mother said as we were dressing in our coats along with Mrs. Campbell and Martha who yawned since dawn had come.

"I wish Lady Thomas could have seen it, I dare say it was not a wise decision to let Cynthia go home so early," Mrs. Campbell said since the introductions made to mama also meant she reaped the benefits of it for Martha.

"Or Lord Howard, his presence was missed," mama complemented.

"Yes, it was," Mrs. Campbell nodded though us three knew the truth was that we were better off without him.

"My feet will need to soak the entire day tomorrow," Martha said putting back her shoes on, she had the horrible habit of taking them off everywhere we went. "And you will need new ones," Martha had a little too much wine so she leaned on me joking.

"I think those will be hard to order," I said back helping her into carriage with Mrs. Campbell.

"Thank you dear," Mrs. Campbell pushed Martha inside, "oh what a lovely evening, the Winter Ball was definitely more than we expected so much more," Mrs. Campbell waved goodbye to us with a wide grin on her face and Martha spread across her lap.

"Oh dear how will we survive all the calling cards to come?" Mama put her head on my shoulder.

"I am sure Mrs. Miller will find a solution," I sighed though everyone counted it a success I saw the failure.

"Yes, even if she has to make time stop in order to fit in everybody," mother said and we went inside the next carriage to take us home.

January of 1890












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