Chapter 2

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The air that occupied the atmosphere of the Bellevue Hall always seemed to shift when there was a ball on the horizon. It would feel different, and that was in a decidedly large part of blame upon the residents of course. The excitement of preparation was contagious, colours of perhaps a dozen fabrics laid out in the parlour at times after the calling hours, sparkling like rubies in Lady Diana Beaumont's peripheral vision. She loved the thrill of it. The thrill of looking forward to something, was undeniably a perfect thing. Though of course, if things were ever truly perfect. The lady's only disdain was that she would have to make an appearance without a companion. She had her entourage of course, though she was sure both her sisters would certainly dislike the idea of Diana referring to them as that. The lady suppressed a laugh as their expected expressions surged into her mind. But, in all seriousness, Diana loved attending events with her cousin, Lady Alicia Kirkpatrick. The ladies, being both of the same age, the same mind yet different hearts, would revel, in manners all dignifying, in each other's company, and ultimately attracting attentions wherever they went. 

The oncoming ball, had secured her, despite her reluctance, two promised dances with perhaps the most self absorbed cousin she had had to entertain, and the lack of her favourite one. 

As the present day dragged on, with Lady Diana Beaumont seated in the gardens of Bellevue Hall, the onslaught of the sun set brought along a miraculous news. 

"My lady, a letter has arrived for you," a maid approached, her breaths coming in frequent pants. Diana raised a brow and took the offered envelope. The maid curtsied in response. 

Letters were a common ordeal at Bellevue Hall. Perhaps as common as the air one might argue, or rather, as Diana's father Lord Beaumont argued. Her mother wrote frequently and excessively, her sister Henrietta had frequent acquaintances of her own and was fond of having penned down two pages passionately defending a side of a debate she was in the midst of with a friend. Diana however, wrote just enough, with fewer receivers. Letting out a soft breath, she took the letter from the maid and carefully opened it. One glance at the penmanship of the piece, and Diana knew from whom the word was from. 

Lady Alicia Kirkpatrick, having left for France a mere three months before, in the pursuit of a change of scenery and with the object of residing with her grandmother for the duration of her stay, had penned down the letter in haste, declaring that her visit was over and she was to arrive in Southampton at first light the next day. The delivery of the letter had been slow, and Diana suspected she ought to have gotten it at least a week before, for Alicia was never the sort of person who would decide things last minute. They were, in her cousin's mind, planned and prepped a month ahead time. 

She stood up and straightened her skirts, before striding into the house, her spirits much lifted at the prospect of having her best companion back. 

"In Paris, balls were absolutely exquisite. One must have very high connections to be invited to one, though it is a pity I had none," Lady Alicia Kirkpatrick chuckled as her cousin informed her about the upcoming ball held by their aunt on the morrow. "But of course, I will attend Auntie's ball if you will, dear cousin. We all know how she would react if we don't."

Lady Diana Beaumont's lips curled into a smile. Aunt Margaret was a people's choice best hostess of the county, her balls were elaborate and often were a source of many engagements and friendships formed over the years in this part of Hampshire. That was of course Lady Margaret Seymour's intention, for who would ever just arrange for an exquisite ball and hope for nothing to come out of it? 

"Mother says I absolutely have to go though," Alicia continued, taking a sip of the china tea cup held in her hands, "Lest, Auntie suspects I became French in my absence." 

She rolled her eyes, and Diana smiled, lifting her own cup to her lips. It had taken the force of very nature itself for her cousin to convince, or rather, gain permission for her leave to France. The idea of her father's mother residing in such a country was the source of much gossip in Southampton, and Alicia's mother, Lady Hyacinth Kirkpatrick had threatened to never speak to her daughter if she went. 

"How did you find Aunt Hyacinth?" Diana cautiously asked, and her cousin let out a laugh. 

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