46. Secret Plans and Politics

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There's no reason to be angry! No reason to be upset! I told myself, chewing savagely on a bar of solid chocolate I had found at one of the refreshment tables. Not in the least! It is typical male behaviour, valuing a pretty doll in a ball gown more than a girl who actually chose to go out into the world and do something with her life. And there's no reason why that should make you angry! Not in the least!

It didn't help. The chocolate did to some extent, soothing my nerves a bit, but I was still fuming when I reached a table with free chairs, and slumped down onto the nearest one.

And do you want to know what the most infuriating part was?

I couldn't even figure out why exactly I was so angry! I mean, it wasn't as though I were entitled attract Mr Ambrose's attention, or even had any reason to wish it. I was his secretary, no more and no less.

It's the inequality of the thing, I finally decided. It wouldn't bother you at all if Miss Hamilton were a sensible female who actually worked for a living and stood up to men and their unjust laws. It is the suffragist in you that has taken a justified dislike to her, that is all.

Satisfied with my findings, and very happy about my noble disposition which wouldn't stoop to something such as petty jealousy, I took another bite of chocolate and moaned, as the piece melted in my mouth.

Ohhh...

The chap who invented this was surely the only decent man living! A true genius and benefactor to the whole world. The solid chocolate did wonders for consoling me. I sat at the table, slowly finding my calmer self again, and wondering what step I should take next regarding Ella and her unwanted admirer. Maybe if I just pestered him a little more...

"Lilly my dear!"

I froze. The voice that had come from behind me was unmistakable. It was the chief fury of hell! Turning, I saw my aunt rush towards me. But for once, she wore no angry scowl directed at me. Instead, her arms were wide open and there might have been actual tears of joy in her eyes.

"Come into my arms, most beloved niece of mine!" Before I could run for the hills, she had enfolded me in her arms and was pressing me to her meagre bosom. Startled, I hugged back, reflexively. What was this? Could it be that this wasn't my aunt, but her not-so-evil twin? Or a moving wax replica? Those were the only explanations for the abnormally chummy behaviour of the being in front of me which I could come up with.

"I saw you dancing with Lord Dalgliesh!" she exclaimed, and suddenly everything became clear to me. This was still my aunt, as she lived and breathed. "What did you talk about? Did he seem interested in you? Will you see him again? Oh, Lillian, don't just stand there saying nothing. You are always so quiet, girl! You will never get anywhere if you do not learn how to properly express yourself!"

"We didn't talk about important things, really," I murmured, choosing my words with care. I was well aware that I was walking a mine-field here. "We just talked about, um... mutual acquaintances, that is all."

"Wonderful! Wonderful! You have made a great start with him. Now don't lose sight of him, do you hear me? If you can secure him... Good God! That would probably be the most eligible match in all of England!"

I waited with bated breath, wondering if she would make any remark about my dance with Mr Ambrose, too. But she was so full of my dance with Lord Dalgliesh that she apparently hadn't even noticed what I had done once that had been over. I had to admit that after a while her profusions on the subject got a bit boring. Not that I had anything against Lord Dalgliesh – no more than against any other person in trousers on this planet – but I definitely did not entertain the thought of marrying him! Instinctively I knew that to him, I was no more than a marionette, just like all the other people in this room and all the people of his company. No more than an instrument to be directed according to his will. That was definitely not the kind of person I wanted to be linked with for the rest of my life.

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