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Authors: Shirley Marks

Lady Eugenia's Holiday

BOOK: Lady Eugenia's Holiday
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Lady Eugenia’s Holiday

Shirley Marks

To Kim and my darling husband for their time

Chapter 1

It occurred to Lady Eugenia Abbott that had she not
taken her
aunt
Rose’s offer, she would have been the
one left at home, again.

Had Eugenia not refused to accompany her little
sister Marguerite and her governess, Mrs. Moss, to the village that very
morning, and had she not returned from her short walk at that precise time,
Eugenia would have missed her elderly relative altogether.

“Whatever are you doing here, Auntie? You are
nearly a fortnight early for your visit.” It had been over a year since Eugenia
had seen her great-aunt and had not expected her for another month. “Mama and
Papa have not returned from Town yet.”

“Yes, dear, I know all about that.” Aunt Rose
stripped off her gloves and marched past Eugenia, directly into the green
parlor. “Your mother has already informed me of their delay. I have taken
advantage of the situation and suggested you accompany me on my excursion to
Brighton. You may have been denied the delights of London but I daresay you
shall be pleased with your share of entertainment and parties where we are
headed.”

“Am I really to go with you, then?” Eugenia nearly
fainted dead away at the good news. At last she was to have a chance to enjoy
herself as Frances had.

“If you can manage to be ready in time.” Aunt Rose
gazed wide and winked, suggesting that her niece make haste. “And,” she added, “I
would like to leave in no
more
than an hour’s time.”

Eugenia shot to her feet, uncertain of what action
she should take next, and then moved toward the doorway. “Will you not remain
long enough to see Marguerite?” Using her younger sister’s absence to keep her
aunt a few more minutes at Langford Hall had been her first thought. “She and
Mrs. Moss are due back from the village at any moment.”

“I’m afraid that cannot be helped, dear. I believe
there are fifty-seven minutes remaining of your hour.”

“Mrs. Peterson!” Eugenia called down the corridor
for the housekeeper, who rushed down the hall at an amazing speed for someone
her age. “Please, Auntie, you must be tired from your travels. Why don’t you
have a cup of tea and sit while I have my things packed.”

“Sit? All I’ve done is sit!” she remarked rather
sharply. “However, tea sounds splendid. I believe I shall … if the staff can
manage. I am sorry to drop in like this—unexpected visitors are always
unpleasant.”

“Not you, Auntie, never.” Eugenia motioned to the
housekeeper, hoping she’d join in the subterfuge to keep her aunt occupied. “Mrs.
Peterson, would you be
so
kind as to see my Aunt Rose
to the breakfast room?”

“At once,” Mrs. Peterson replied. The housekeeper
whispered to Eugenia, “I believe Cook is pulling some of your aunt’s favorite
fruit tarts out of the oven just now.”

“Serve her some of those as well. I’m sure the
fruit tarts will detain her for an extra half hour.”

“Near an extra hour, I’d say,” Mrs. Peterson
amended, making Eugenia feel even more hopeful that she could be ready before
her aunt’s departure.

Eugenia dashed upstairs and ordered her
abigail
Marianne to pack for a stay in Brighton. After
changing into her blue traveling gown, Eugenia rejoined Aunt Rose in the
breakfast room.

“Ah, yes. Here you are—I have just finished. Now we
can be on our way,” Aunt Rose announced and popped the last bite of fruit tart
into her mouth when Eugenia stepped into the room. “They were absolutely
splendid, as always.”

Three tarts and an entire pot of tea in total were
consumed while Aunt Rose waited for her grandniece. To remain in her aunt’s good
graces, Eugenia had several tarts wrapped to bring along on their journey.

Aunt Rose laid her napkin on the table and
collected her gloves and reticule. “It is most unfortunate you were denied
your
come-out, of course it was through no fault of your own.”
She led the way down the hall and into the foyer. “I am told you shall make
your bows this fall.”

What could Frances do after her near-year long
engagement had come to an end? Eugenia’s Town plans had already been made but
neither she nor her parents wished for both daughters to be on the marriage
mart at the same time.

Eugenia had purposely kept her expectations, and
her disappointment at relinquishing her Season, to herself, never allowing any
hint of her true feelings.

“I grant you that Brighton is not as exciting as
London—” Aunt Rose paused at the open front door and observed Eugenia’s trunks
being loaded onto the transport. “But I’m sure we can manage to amuse ourselves—and
keep out of trouble.”

Trouble? What possible trouble could they manage at
a bucolic seaside resort?

Not ten minutes after boarding the carriage, Aunt
Rose turned to Eugenia to ask, “Has Frances written you of her young man? What
do you know of her match?”

Frances had corresponded with her sister. However
she had not been forthcoming regarding her fiancée. Eugenia hadn’t learned
much. “I know she is to marry Sir Russell Crawford and she does, by her
account, find him …”

“Tolerable?”

“Oh, no, much more than that … she finds him more
than acceptable.” Eugenia considered if it was appropriate to add her personal
sentiments and decided against voicing her opinion on the topic of Frances’
impending marriage. “It is unfortunate that she feels compelled to accept his
offer because of the approaching Season’s end.”

“I should hope so after two Seasons—if she were to
face another year … she would need to put herself on the shelf despite the
difficulties it might cause for you to make a suitable match.”

“Frances is hardly to blame, Auntie.” Eugenia fully
understood why her first Season had turned into her sister Frances’ second. “Lord
Aldolphus proved to be quite unworthy. He postponed the wedding until Frances
had no choice but to hand him the mitten.”

“If Frances had not behaved as if she were entitled
to every luxury—I may be mistaken but she is not the Princess Royal. Although
she may behave as if she were.”

Eugenia could not disagree regarding the manner in
which Frances conducted herself, always a bit high in the instep.

“I must admit that misguided pride runs in the
family … and if it is not unreasonably high expectations then fanciful notions
drift through the young girls’ minds.” Aunt Rose’s gaze wandered to her
grandniece, accompanied by a lifted eyebrow and a curt nod of her head.

Had that comment been directed at Eugenia? Fanciful
notions indeed!

Aunt Rose’s gaze rested on her clasped hands. “It
was her last chance—she was in the right to accept—she had no option, really.
Frances was lucky to have found Sir Russell. His income is not large but I’m
sure they will manage quite well … in the end.”

They sat quiet during the remainder of the journey.
Eugenia grew sleepy with the lack of conversation. She never imagined that
traveling could be so dull.

How her boredom would have been alleviated if only
they were held up by a highwayman. Of course he would have been a very handsome
one.

How exciting that would have been!

Eugenia was certain he would have abandoned his
criminal ways right there and then at the sight of her. He would ignore their
valuables and insist he have her heart instead.

How very romantic that would be.

She sighed at the very idea of the danger and
excitement of their life together. Then she thought of how her parents would
never approve of an outlaw as a suitable match for her. Nor would she be happy
spending the remainder of her life avoiding the law.

Eugenia blinked, coming out of her reverie and
gazed out the window. Perhaps it was best that she and Aunt Rose had an
uneventful journey.

Many hours passed before the undisturbed, pastoral
country landscape gave way to more frequent crossroads, occasional farms, and
homes. Soon they observed small villages and ultimately signs of a great number
of inhabitants populating the city of Brighton itself upon their arrival.

The carriage turned down a long drive and toward a
modest brick cottage. Eugenia learned that her aunt had rented Grove House, a
twelve-room residence complete with seven servants, for their stay.

“See here, Genie.” Aunt Rose stood before the large
window in the front parlor that displayed a splendid view of the
Steyne
. “I daresay our guests will enjoy this sight when
they come to visit.”

The concept of their guests sounded peculiar.
Eugenia did not know a soul here in Brighton. She could not even imagine what
kind of people would grace their interim home.

“We shall end our day with a small supper and
retire early in preparation of a busy week to come.”

Eugenia did not argue. To be honest, she was too
tired to do much except sit with her aunt and share a small repast before
heading off to bed.

“Is there anything else, my lady?” Katrina, Aunt
Rose’s maid, followed Eugenia after supper and helped her settle into her room.
“Your aunt, Mrs. Templeton, gave me instructions I was to see to your every
comfort.”

Exhausted from the day’s travel and the
anticipation that Brighton would provide more excitement than the isolated
existence of Langford Hall, perhaps Eugenia had appeared as if she was in need
of aid.

“I only thought …” Eugenia began. “I don’t know … I
had hoped there would be something more awaiting us upon our arrival.”

“Yes, indeed there will be. Mrs. Templeton has
always preferred the evening entertainment here than in Town.” Katrina nodded. “Guests
from London come to Brighton to relax after the strenuous months of the Season.”

Eugenia sat on the bed and listened.

“To be sure … there are private parties and
assemblies,” Katrina went on, sounding as if she had attended those activities
herself. “There is a public tea, a promenade on Sunday, and card games several
days during the week. The Castle Inn has a masquerade ball the first of every
month, which I daresay is quite exciting!”

As fatigued as she felt, Eugenia thought that
sounded wonderful and she could hardly wait.

“I am certain it shouldn’t be too long before the
Master of Ceremonies will pay a visit to this very house and deliver a personal
invitation.”

Eugenia hoped so. She fell into bed but had trouble
sleeping the first night. Overtired from traveling and anxious for her life in
Brighton to begin, she finally drifted off to sleep, trying to imagine the
glorious balls and the fabulous parties that would occupy the many days to
come.

The next morning, Aunt Rose informed her niece of
plans to attend a card party that evening. A card party? That was not at all
what Eugenia had in mind.

“Auntie, why do we not go to the assembly?” Eugenia
asked over her cup of chocolate. She was sure the Master of Ceremonies whom
Katrina spoke of last night would call that very day.

“There is time, dear. There is time,” Aunt Rose
stated amicably.

“But there is a ball at the Castle Inn. Why do we
not plan to attend?” Eugenia could not understand why they needed to wait.

“We shall go, my dear. We shall go—all in good time.”
Aunt Rose donned her hat and took up her reticule. “I’m off to the lending
library. Do you wish to join me?”

“No, Auntie, you go on—and please enjoy yourself.”
Eugenia had no doubt her aunt had already paid her subscription dues far in
advance.

The lending library? Eugenia sighed. She could not
have imagined anything
more dull
.

Eugenia realized there was no avoiding the card
party that evening. What she had expected to be a simple gathering turned out
to be quite a crush with an astonishing number of people in attendance.

She partnered her aunt for a few hands. Eugenia
normally enjoyed cards but this evening, with all the people, she was simply
distracted beyond belief.

“This is quite enough. Here, now, come with me.”
Aunt Rose scolded her grandniece then ushered her from the card room to the
refreshment room. “I did not attend to observe this dismal display of skill.”

“I am sorry, Auntie.” She felt her aunt’s loss was
entirely her fault. “I’m afraid I’m not very attentive this evening.”

The real problem, Eugenia decided, although there
were many who attended, was the lack of guests her own age. No sooner had that
thought occurred to her when Aunt Rose led her to one side and made an
introduction.

“Eugenia, dear, this is Lady Coddington and her
daughter, Lady Penelope.”

“I am very happy to make your acquaintance, Lady
Eugenia.” Lady Penelope glanced around them. “I’m afraid this gathering seems
to be missing …”

Eugenia waited, curious to what opinion her new
acquaintance would voice regarding the guests attending card party.

“…youth.” Lady Penelope took the liberty and linked
her arm through Eugenia’s. “Let’s take a turn about the room, shall we?”

As she stepped alongside Lady Penelope, Eugenia
noticed the two of them stood about the same height. Her new friend was very
pretty. Lady Penelope’s hair was perhaps a touch darker, her blue eyes
sparkled, and her rosebud lips must have been the envy of all.

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