48. Woes of Love

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I eyed Wilkins cautiously. "What about my sister Ella?"

"I... I have confession to make." He pressed a hand to his heart, either overcome by his feelings or having a heart-attack. Unfortunately, the chances for the latter seemed slim. "A secret that I have born in my heart for a long time, but now must reveal to somebody, or else my heart will burst."

Well, things are looking up. Maybe the chances aren't that slim after all.

"I see," I said.

He had obviously hoped for a response like "What is your secret? I'm dying to know!'' or something equally dramatic. When I didn't oblige, he floundered. But soon enough, he found his voice again.

"I have chosen to confess my secret to you," he whispered, conspiratorially. "If for now, you promise you will reveal it to no living soul."

"Go on." I waved my hand. "I promise, I will reveal it only to vampires, ghosts and other members of the undead community."

"Um... good. Very well, then." He took a deep breath. "I... am in love. I am in love with your sister, Miss Ella Linton."

My left eyebrow rose about a millimetre. "You don't say."

Again, he had apparently hoped for a more dramatic reaction. But he seemed to cope well with the disappointment, more than ready to supply all the necessary drama himself. He leaned forward so far that the sunflower almost fell out of his buttonhole.

"The reason I tell you this," he said, whispering, "is, that throughout the entire time I have had the pleasure to know your sister, I have noticed you have taken a most lively interest in the progression of our relationship. You have always been there, trying to help me..."


"... and although your failed attempts at furthering conversation show how innocent you are, how inexperienced with romance, they are greatly appreciated."

This man definitely could never be allowed to marry my sister! There was insanity in his family! There had to be! Me, helping him?

"Miss Lilly," he said in a fatherly manner, which might have worked better if he hadn't been just about 3 years older than me. "I am a seasoned man of the world. I have no problem with striking up a conversation with your sister on my own. Have no fear. What you hope for is true: I am indeed pursuing your sister. I am so deeply in love with her I can hardly express it. Soon, after an appropriate courtship, I will ask her to be mine, and your sister Ella will marry one of the most eligible bachelors of London."

He pressed my hand.

"Have no fear. Soon, we shall be family."



Somehow, I managed the ride home without getting hysterics. The situation was far more dire than I had imagined. My only consolation was that Ella still wasn't aware of the fact. But as we rode towards home, even that consolation began to disappear. The love-struck smiles which Wilkins sent in Ella's direction at regular intervals could hardly be misinterpreted, even by one as innocent as her. In addition, Wilkins had begun to suggestively wink at my little sister. Since he did this repeatedly, and without great talent, he looked like somebody desperately trying to get a fly out of his eye, but still, she probably got the message.

The others were no help either. Lisbeth was sad because nobody at the ball had danced with her, Gertrude was quiet, Maria and Anne were shooting angry glances at Ella, and my aunt was still making hints about how well Lord Dalgliesh and I seemed to be getting along. It was only Sir Philip's presence that stopped her from pestering me for the date on which our engagement would be announced.

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