Read The Hopeless Hoyden Online
Authors: Margaret Bennett
“Do you rise early every morning, Miss Taber?" Emily asked conversationally as an idea began to take shape.
“Please call me Jane, and yes, most mornings I do. It gives me a few hours to get chores done."
Jane laughed at Emily's disgusted tone. "They are not nearly as bad as you make them sound."
“What sort of chores?"
“Repair a torn hem, sew lace on a flounce, that sort of thing. And sometimes Sylvia has errands--"
“Sylvia!" Emily very nearly snorted. “I should have known. So she manages to keep you carrying and fetching, even while she sleeps."
“Really, Miss Pendleton—“
“It’s Emily, if you please.”
“Emily, you make her sound horrid, and truly she is not."
”What has Sylvia reserved for you to do this morning?"
“Why, nothing," said Jane with a smile.
“Nothing?" Emily couldn't believe her luck. "Then, you can go about as you please?"
“What time does the princess arise?"
With a laugh, Jane replied, "Sylvia gets up around ten or later."
“Would you be adverse to a leisurely stroll?"
“Why, that sounds lovely," answered the unsuspecting Jane.
The leisurely stroll turned into a vigorous hike through the Park’s woods. They soon came upon a fast running stream that crossed Lindemann’s property. Although Emily knew of at least three good fishing holes, she figured the Viscount also had a favorite spot. It wasn't too hard to find.
If Jane was suspicious of her motives, the young woman's shyness prevented her from letting on. Instead, Jane trudged steadily along, following Emily, who was beginning to feel twinges of guilt for having deceived her new friend.
Up ahead, the stream widened before narrowing again as it rounded a bend. Still in the lead, Emily neared the bend and heard the deep rumble of male voices with Chesterfield's being the most recognizable as he bellowed about some beauty of a trout.
“Do you hear that?" Emily asked innocently.
“Is that Mr. Chesterfield?"
“Shall we investigate?"
“Oh, I think not, Emily. If the gentlemen are angling, they do not care for women about, scaring the fish away."
“Oh nonsense," answered Emily blithely over her shoulder, lengthening her strides toward a weeping willow that overhung the bank. “If anyone scares the fish, it will be Mr. Chesterfield with his loud mouth. Come on, Jane."
As Emily brushed aside the long supple branches of the tree for Jane to pass under, three men could be seen just ahead. Chesterfield stood proudly, admiring a good sized trout he hefted in the air to show Gabriel. A little further up the bank was Lord Fordyce, lying on his back with a beaver top hat covering his face.
“Oh, that is a beauty!"
Emily's greeting caused the two men to whip around as if Napoleon's troopers had hailed them. Gabriel was the first to recover.
“Miss Pendleton, what are you doing here?" His expression softened when he spotted Jane trudging behind her. “Good morning, Miss Taber."
“Good day, gentlemen," the young woman responded shyly.
“We just happened to be walking by," Emily said, ignoring the challenging glint in Gabriel's eyes, "and heard Mr. Chesterfield's exclamations when he caught that granddaddy." For such praise, she was rewarded with a broad grin from Chesterfield.
“Quite a walk from the house to here," Gabriel commented.
“We do not mean to intrude,” Jane said in a meek voice. “Emily, we should be going and allow the gentlemen to return to their fun." Jane took a step back while eying Freddy Fordyce coming toward them. His sleepy eyes squinted under the brim of his hat, now on top of his head, and he gave them a wobbly bow. “My ladies."
“Good morning, Lord Fordyce." Emily waved her hand at the baron and also noticed the slight blush that bloomed in the other girl's cheeks. She grabbed Jane's hand to prevent her from leaving and asked, "How is the fishing, my lord?"
“Don't know," Freddy answered. “Ain't caught one."
“What Freddy means," said Gabriel with an amused grin for his friend, "is that the hour's a trifle early for him. So, he opted for a nap under the tree."
“Told you. The crow wasn't up when you came for me, didn't I?"
“True, but Harry and I managed to get up, and we went to bed after you."
“And the fishing is every bit as good as Gabriel promised," added Chesterfield, opening the lid of a basket and laying the squirming trout in it. “This prize is my third catch of the morning."
“Really?" Emily turned to Gabriel. “I would give anything to try my luck at it."
“I'll bet you would," Gabriel said with a smile. “How about you, Miss Tabor?"
Miss Taber answered with a shake of her head. "I have never fished before."
“I can teach you, Jane." Emily leaned down and took up a pole. "Whose is this?"
“Mine," answered Freddy. “So are the others," he added, pointing to several more poles almost hidden in the deep grass behind where Gabriel and Chesterfield stood.
“Do you run more than one line at a time?" Emily asked.
Gabriel began to laugh, bending over to pick up another rod. "Hardly, just the opposite, in fact. Freddy's always loosing his pole. He drops a line in the water and then nods off. When he awakes, it is usually to find his pole floating down stream."
While Emily chuckled with Gabriel and Chesterfield, Jane turned to the plump lord. "It is very early, my lord, and I can well understand how you lose your poles."
“Thank you," Freddy said, favoring the laughing trio with a smug grin.
“Then, you will not mind if we each borrow a pole?" asked Emily.
“No," said Freddy. “'Fact, be glad to teach Miss Taber."
“Which one of us will teach you, Miss Pendleton?" asked Chesterfield with a hopeful gleam in his eye.
“No one, my lord." Emily grinned proudly. "I have fished this stream for years."
Chesterfield looked skeptical. “How's that?"
“I used to toddle after my two brothers. To silence me, they'd hand me a rod, and eventually they taught me a few tricks."
“You don't say?" asked Chesterfield. “What sort of tricks?"
Emily bent down and took a moment to select a fat worm from a jar sitting on the bank. Holding it up, she carefully threaded the squirming earthworm on to her hook. "Tom has a special way of whipping the rod to send the line out across the water. You see, Mr. Chesterfield--"
“Call me Harry."
She gave him a beatific smile. "You see, Harry, it is all in the wrist, though I will admit to applying a little elbow in order to get the same effect as Tom."
With both Chesterfield and Gabriel studying her movements, Emily demonstrated the technique. Her line sailed out across the water, the hook skimming the surface twice before sinking mid stream.
Chesterfield asked to see another demonstration, and Emily cheerfully complied, explaining in detail every move. Though the Viscount said nothing, he, too, watched her closely.
“I must admit, Emily," Gabriel said at last, "I am impressed. You baited your own hook."
“Oh pooh! T’is nothing." Emily grinned impishly. “Though Sally Harrow nearly had a fit last year when I grabbed her line and put a night crawler on it at Squire Stratton's harvest festival."
Gabriel laughed. "Yes, I can imagine. Baiting hooks is not the unusual custom for most young ladies of Quality."
“It wasn't that at all. Miss Harrow was miffed because she was hoping my brother would do it. Fortunately, Tom showed more sense than to moon over a half wit like Sally."
Freddy, who'd been threading a worm on Jane's hook, nodded his head. "Know how it is. Always some female after a fellow. Ain't safe anywhere, you see. Feel like a fish myself sometimes. 'Course, present company excepted," he quickly added with an apologetic smile for both the ladies.
Jane appeared tongue tied by the baron's forthrightness, but not Emily. "Oh, think nothing of it, Lord Fordyce--"
"Freddy. In the ordinary sense of things, you are quite right. After all, one only has to think of London and Almack's." Seeing the baron's plump form actually shudder at the mere mention of the
’s exclusive social club, Emily added, “You can rest easy around Jane and me."
Fresh lines were dropped and although the fish appeared to have quit biting, everyone’s mood was so bright that it little matter. In fact, on the stroll back to the house an hour later, Freddy confessed he was glad the ladies had shown up to enliven the morning.
“Ain't your usual types," he added with a meaningful nod in the direction of the house.
While Jane blushed, Emily took the off-handed compliment in stride. "Well, naturally we are not. Neither of us has set a cap for a husband. You cannot imagine how dreadful it is to be under the cat's paw, everyone expecting you to nab an eligible
“So you say," Chesterfield challenged. "But if you go by the actions of society as a whole, Miss Pendleton,--"
“Call me Emily, or Em, if you please."
“Right you are, Em." Chesterfield grinned appreciatively. "The sole purpose of the Marriage Mart is to see every last male leg shackled."
Emily sagely nodded her head. "Yes, it does appear to be society’s wish. But consider what happens to a lady with an independent income who does not want a husband? Her relatives will force her into marriage because some gentleman needs her funds or a brood mare to produce an heir.”
Gabriel shook his head. "It's not as Gothic as all that, Emily. There are a lot of marriages where the husband and wife rub along quite nicely."
“Still, the fact remains that not every girl wishes to marry. If a girl chooses to lead her own life, she is tagged an ape leader."
“'Tain't natural, that's what." Freddy's brow was creased from such heavy cogitation. "All women want to be mothers. Take Eve." When no one ventured to contradict him, he continued. “'Course, there has to be marriage. Can't have little bastards running all over the place. Do beg pardon, ladies," he added contritely, especially to Jane whose countenance, though turned away from him, showed a becoming pink.
Emily was not so missish, however. "Think nothing of it. Fact is, I consider that another example of how silly society treats girls. There are lots of people who were born on the wrong side of the blank, and, blast it, society insists we pretend not to know how they got there."
Gabriel leaned over to whisper in her ear. "Watch your language, Em. There is a lady present." The look she cast his way set him to laughing.
“Can't see why bast--er, them sort are so funny to you," Freddy said, frowning at Gabriel.