Rain poured down in sheets upon the grassy terrain over which
Lord Alexander Wyndham rode at full gallop. "How could I
have let it happen again?" He asked himself "How furious
Mother will be if I am late for another ball." As these thoughts
raced through his mind he turned into the stable yard. As he jumped
off the horse, Billy, the stable boy, offered to take the animal
"I know you like to take care of NightHawk yourself, sir, but Lady Edith has been asking all over for you. If I were you I'd hurry. She didn't look too pleased."
"Thank you, Billy. I'll take your advice. Be sure to rub him down well, he's had quite the run this afternoon."
"I will, sir."
He rushed towards the house, hoping to slip in by the side entrance, change into a more appropriate outfit, and be ready to go before anyone spotted him. He would have to be extremely clever to get past his nine-year-old sister Cynthia without being noticed. Cynthia seemed to take a special delight in finding things out about him and tattling to her Mother. As a result Alexander rarely managed to slip out to visit his favorite haunts in the woods and fields. He wished Faith, his twin sister, wasn't an invalid. One year ago his older brother William and Faith had been in the forest riding and were caught during a rain storm much like the one today, when a tree fell and William was killed. Faith, who had never had very strong heath, had also been struck by the tree. Although she had escaped with her life, she had been an invalid ever since. How he missed her constant companionship. Cynthia for all her ill will towards her older brother admired Faith so much that when Faith was around she tended to be at least civil.
He made his way up to the door, opened it a crack and peered in. No one in sight. He entered cautiously and removed his mud soaked boots. He walked into the hallway. "All well so far." He thought. But then he heard it; someone was coming up the hallway to his left. It wasn't a servant or even Cynthia, it was his Mother.
"Alexander Robert Wyndham!" She exploded. "Where on earth have you been all day?!"
"I...I've been..." he stammered
"You been riding that accursed horse of yours haven't you? Well answer me, young man. An English gentleman such as yourself shouldn't just stand there like an idiot. Now answer me!"
"Yes, mother I am afraid I have been riding. I honestly didn't mean to be this late. It was just such a beautiful path, in the fall the trees are so--"
"The trees?! You mean you not only cross my wishes by riding out at all, but you also went into the woods! You know that is how William...Well never mind that now," she said curtly "we will all be late if you don't hurry up and get changed."
"Yes, Mother. I'm sorry."
With this she turned around and briskly walked away. He was now nineteen and felt that he should be able to make his own choices, but he wanted to honor his mother's opinions, even when he felt she was wrong. So he suppressed his angry feelings and went to carry out her instructions.
He changed quickly and went down to the entry where his parents were waiting for him. The Lady Edith didn't say anything and he didn't dare look at her, but he knew she was glaring icily at him. His dignified Father thought it only right that Alexander should ride, hunt, fence, and go boating. Although Lord Henry was kind and wise he didn't usually win the debates when the Lady Edith had made up her mind on a subject. Nor was it that he was week-kneed, it was merely because his wife was exceptionally strong willed and nobody wanted to earn her displeasure.
They arrived at Blakeney Manor just barely on time. Sir Percy
and Lady Blakeney were greeting guests at the door and as they
entered they heard Sir Percy's voice ring out in a cheery welcome.
"My Lord and Lady Wyndham, we're so very glad you could come!"
"Thank you, Sir Percy, we are honored." replied Lord Henry Wyndham.
"Ah, and there is Lord Alexander, welcome!" exclaimed Sir Percy. "We have not seen you at one of our balls for quite some time, it's so good to see you."
They moved on down the lengthy stairway and into the luxurious
ballroom. Blakeney Manor was crowded with extravagantly dressed
Ladies and Gentleman. Music came from the far end of the room
where musicians were playing a waltz. Almost immediately Lord
Henry was talking politics with other gentlemen and Lady Edith
paired up with old friends of hers. He was relieved to see his
mother's attentions drawn away from him, but at the same time
he was a little uneasy because now he was alone he didn't really
know what to do with himself. It wasn't that he didn't have friends
but he hadn't seen any of them yet. He hated attending these fancy
parties where everything was so formal and stilted. But his mother
wanted him to come along. Besides, the ballroom was one
of the best places to hear new stories about his hero, the Scarlet
Pimpernel. So once again he found himself standing in the midst
of all this finery looking around for someone he could at least
identify with in some ways. He finally decided to go get some
refreshment. On his way he caught sight of one of his friends--Lord
Anthony Dewhurst. To his relief, Lord Dewhurst saw him as well
and made his way over to him.
"Lord Alexander, I was hoping you would be here. How is that hound of yours?" he asked with a smile.
"Huan? Tolerable, but I am afraid that his leg is bothering him quite a bit. He stepped in a hole while we were on a chase recently. I am not sure that I will be able to go on the hunt with you this week. I am awfully sorry."
"Don't be! I was just wondering how I was going to bring up the subject myself. I didn't want to be rude but some very important business has come up and it will have to be seen to before the week is out." Dewhurst said still smiling good naturedly.
"I hope it's nothing serious?" said Alexander.
"Oh, not really just a good friend of mine... anyway I will probably be away a good part of the next month."
Both young men look up as Lady Edith approached.
"Excuse me my Lord..." she said as she curtsied.
"Dewhurst, Lord Anthony Dewhurst. And you must be Lady Edith? Alexander has told me, um, so much about you," Dewhurst winked at Alexander.
"Yes, I am sure he has. And now if you would excuse us, Lord Dewhurst."
"Of course," Dewhurst bowed as they walked away.
"Really, Alexander, must you always hide in a corner like that? You need to expand your horizons, meet new people, go new places. You have such a limited circle of friends."
"It's just that there are very few people I feel comfortable around. It all seems so unnatural," he said, shifting uneasily from one foot to another.
"Unnatural? I'll tell you what's unnatural, you behaving like you do! You embarrass me in front of all my friends acting like that. So shy, always hiding off in a corner."
"I am sorry, I don't mean to."
"Well you certainly succeed. If you really want to prove
to me that you are trying, why don't you go ask Lady Alice for
"But I hardly know her."
"Well, get to know her."
After that Alexander knew he would have to bow to his Mother's wishes. So he did what she had asked of him with as good a grace as he could muster. And although the Lady Alice was a very nice girl, he found the night grew very tedious, for he was pining all the while to leave and go to the solitude of the library. His martyrdom was not all in vain though, Lady Edith rode home in a much pleasanter mood than when they had arrived. And he even received a grateful smile from his father.