Chapter 3

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"I cannot believe you danced with Lord Edward Buxton. Did he make for an absolutely tiresome company? Is he as made of stone as they say he is?" Lady Alicia Kirkpatrick inquired in amusement the next morning over breakfast.

Lady Seymour had let her sisters, nieces and nephews and brother in laws, all stay over at the Mansfield estate after the ball. The other guests were bid farewell at eleven am sharp, and the family got comfortable at estate right after, going to sleep as they laughed and discussed the events of the night.

Alicia had been overly excited to discuss Lord Edward Buxton with Diana, but she had to wait until the morning to have Diana all alone. Lady Kirkpatrick would decidedly lose her marbles if she heard her daughter discussing an unmarried gentleman, so would Lady Beaumont. It was considered the most improper for young ladies to be discussing a man so, and after all, Diana and Alicia weren't one of those fortune hunting middle class ladies that Southampton seemed to be bursting at the seams with. They were ladies of rich and respectable families, and thus they had a time limit of only discussing a gentleman for an hour maximum, before he was never mentioned again. 

"I don't know, he was alright, I suppose. Let us not talk about him please," Lady Diana Beaumont whispered as she looked around to make sure none of her cousins or aunts, who were all sitting around the big circular breakfast table chatting, had heard what Alicia had just mused.

Alicia chuckled and rolled her eyes a little, "Alright. You should be prepared however, because soon you'll hear all of Southampton discussing this."

She took a bite off a scone as she smiled at Diana, who seemed quite struck with her words. It was quite indifferent how a man such as Lord Edward Buxton had only danced with her at the ball and left soon after, without even considering a second lady to dance with. The scene probably seemed very suspicious or even scandalous to people looking at it from the outside.

"Oh, Mr Ashbrook could not take his eyes off my daughter, I tell you," Their aunt, Lady Margaret Seymour's loud and excited cry suddenly interrupted them.

"He did engage her for two dances; I take that as a sign," Lady Kirkpatrick stated with a raised brow as she sipped her tea.

"He really is quite the gentleman for Rebecca, they seemed to fit together perfectly at the ball and he has quite the income too," Lady Beaumont added, earning a hearty sigh from Lady Seymour.

Then Lady Seymour glanced at her daughter, who sat opposite to Miles and Henrietta at the breakfast table, buttering her toast with a butter knife slowly.

"Rebecca dear, did Mr Ashbrook say something?" She inquired at her daughter, the tone full of hope.

Rebecca looked up from the toast and found out that not only her mother, but her aunts and cousins too, were curious of her response, for they all were now looking intently at her hoping for an answer in a look of her eye or turn of her smile.

"Of course he did mother, he isn't a statue you know," Rebecca uttered, frustrated at being cornered like that. She found herself to be a spectacle in her family at times; everybody was always stressed out about her and her private life. Any man she'd so much as speak to, her mother would get her hopes high and convey to the entire family.

Nobody was ever worried about Diana, or Alicia or Henrietta in that regard. Oscar, Miles and Adam were not even bothered on that matter. Rebecca always thought that was because her aunts and uncles knew that her cousins were capable of finding eligible partners for themselves when the time comes, but she wasn't.

"I mean if he said something to you in that regard," Lady Seymour scoffed, annoyed at her daughter's behavior.

Rebecca sighed. "He asked if he could see me again, and I replied that he could, at the Southampton fair," she let out. Dealing with her mother was always easier when you let her know what she wanted to know, Rebecca had learnt.

Before she knew it, she felt a smile creeping onto her face at her audible admittance of the fact that Mr Ashbrook had asked to see her again. He really was a charming person to talk and dance with. His looks were although satisfactory, maybe that was the reason why she hadn't ever noticed him before, but somehow when they danced and talked, his satisfactory looks increased higher in that regard and he grew more and more handsome each passing second.

A series of shocked silence pursued after Rebecca's admittance. She looked at the faces of her family staring at her, everyone was shocked.

"Upon my word, why didn't you tell us dear?" Lady Beaumont gushed as she put her hand on her heart and looked at her sister, Lady Seymour, who was now about to faint as her eyes grew wider.

"Oh, that is great news!" Lady Kirkpatrick exclaimed as she immediately put her tea cup down and put her hands together.

"I am so happy for you, Rebecca. Mr Ashbrook cannot be more worthy," Diana added next as she smiled at her elder cousin. Her relationship with Rebecca had always been a rocky one to keep up with, for they seldom ever agreed on the same thing. But nonetheless, they were cousins and as much as they would fail to admit, their happiness mattered to each other.

"Yes, I agree. This is such happy news," Alicia added following Diana, as she too, smiled at Rebecca.

Miles and Henrietta smiled a somewhat confused smile at their cousin Rebecca, mostly because they did not see a solid reason for all this happiness as the Rebecca and Mr Ashbrook weren't yet engaged. But then again, Miles and Henrietta weren't also the two most experienced in these matters.

"Mama, is Rebecca going to get married at the fair?" Mary Ann's tiny inquiry came as the congratulations died down a little.

Everyone glanced towards the girl who had been looking at her excited family with a confused expression on her face, for she too could not see what the substantial deal was in her elder cousin meeting a Mr Ashbrook at the Southampton fair.

"Yes and no, my dear," Lady Beaumont quickly replied to her youngest, "Now go off and play in the garden."

Mary Ann's increasing confusion was quite evident on her face as she trotted off out the dining hall, grabbing her china doll from a shelf on her way.

"Hm, Ashbrook failed to mention he was interested in Rebecca," Adam Seymour's sudden observation came as everyone turned to look at him. He was intently looking at a plate and moving a spoon between his fingers. His tone depicted annoyance and a hint of anger.

"And considering the fact that she is my sister and he, my colleague, it is quite improper to not mention it to me first," he continued, his gaze still fixed on the plate in front of him.

A surprised look took over Lady Seymour's face, she hadn't imagined Adam of all people taking offence in matters like that, but then again he was right.

"Adam, dear, he must've forgotten," Lady Kirkpatrick let out, trying to calm the tension down. She, like everyone else, also hadn't expected Adam to act like that.

"Forgotten that he is trying to pursue my sister? Apparently not," Adam scoffed tossing the spoon aside in frustration.

Diana flinched a little as the silver spoon clashed against the ceramic plate, the loud noise echoing throughout the hall. She could not help but observe Adam, just as everyone else present was doing. It really was astonishing how a man's behavior changes once their deserved respect is denied to them.

"Maybe you gave him no opportunity to speak," Lady Beaumont let out, in a desperate attempt to distinguish the fire.

"I gave him every opportunity to speak, Aunt Ruth. He never even mentioned or looked at Rebecca in front of me. So last night when he danced with her, I made nothing of it," Adam answered, his tone getting louder and higher.

Rebecca looked at her brother as he grew impatient with frustration. She felt her stomach tighten, was her younger brother's hurt ego going to ruin her chances at this one hopeful love?

Lady Seymour felt the same too. She had kept silent during this ordeal and had let her sisters; Lady Kirkpatrick and Lady Beaumont try and handle the matter. She knew her sons had minds of their own, but can a difference in a son's opinion ruin her only daughter's, perhaps last, chance of getting married? She glanced towards Oscar, who was busy adding spoonfuls of sugar in his tea with a grim expression on his face.

Oscar looked up and met his mother's hopeful eyes, begging him to take hold of the matter and calm Adam down. Oscar sighed and nodded slowly.

"I propose we go and confront the man in person," Oscar stated with a raised brow at his brother who looked at him.

Lady Seymour sighed and put a hand to her forehead in exhaustion, her sons always seemed to do things however they wished, no matter what she asked or meant.

"Yes, it's half past nine, let us pay him a call," Adam said as he got up. Oscar got up too and followed his brother out of the room, with the footmen pushing their empty chairs into place and gathering up their used plates and spoons behind them.

"Men," Lady Seymour huffed as Lady Kirkpatrick poured her some tea.

"Hush Margaret, I am sure everything will turn out alright," Lady Beaumont consoled her sister, motioning a footman to take the tray of scones towards Lady Seymour.

"I just hope they don't ruin anything," Lady Seymour cried as she sipped the tea and took a scone off the tray.

"Oh don't you fret Aunt Margaret, Miles and I will be more than happy to have a talk with Mr Ashbrook if Oscar and Adam do ruin things so," Henrietta chimed in, trying to calm her aunt down.

"Yes, and we can take Lord Beaumont's Baker rifle too, just to help us put some weight on our proposition," Miles added, resulting a chuckle from Henrietta and shocked gasps from everyone else.

"Upon my word," Lady Seymour gasped at her niece and nephew, dropping the scone from her hand onto her plate.

Diana and Alicia burst in chuckles, joining Miles and Henrietta as the hall filled with sounds of laughter.

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