The Secret Of The Silver Locket – Episode 06


IT was a fine evening so Grace wore no coat over the smart costume Rowena had recently given her. She found Matthew in the courtyard, wearing a dark jacket and trousers, his hair slicked down and, much to Grace’s surprise, looking as nervous as she felt.

“You look a treat and that’s a fact,” he said. “I’m sorry I’m only taking you to the Ritz picture house, not the Ritz Hotel.”

She laughed.

“I don’t think I’d fit in there. The pictures will do fine, thank you.”

They fell into step, walking through the rear gateway.

“Funny to think my Uncle Alf’s driving the family to the Ritz Hotel as we speak. You tell me you don’t belong in high falutin’ places but just between you, me and the gatepost, don’t you ever envy Miss Rowena her invitations to all them posh parties?”

“Not at all,” Grace answered crisply. “Often she has to sit through formal dinners with lots of courses, being bored by interminable tales of hunt balls and cocktail parties in the shires and what the French Ambassador said to someone’s Uncle Hubert last Tuesday night at the embassy.”

“Strike a light, if that don’t prove you could be one of ’em!”

“One of whom?”

“There you go again. You talk like a toff, Grace. I only wish I could compete.”

Impulsively, she slipped her hand through the crook of his elbow.

****

Beneath a ceiling garlanded with glittering chandeliers, Rowena glided demurely behind her parents towards the long table at the end of the dining room. Redvers was delayed and she’d declined to take her father’s arm, rather enjoying the surprised stares of several dowagers, seeing her walk confidently by, minus an escort.

Suddenly there he was! She had company in the form of a tall young man with hair the colour of Mrs Potter’s gingerbread and a Roman nose sprinkled with freckles across its bridge.

“My sincere apologies, Miss Carmichael,” Lord Redvers Fountain said. “I’ve committed the cardinal sin of turning up late, thus causing you to walk unescorted into dinner. Can you ever forgive me?”

Rowena suppressed a chuckle and held out her hand for him to shake. He lifted it to his lips and kissed her fingers while keeping in step with her.

“You’re forgiven, Lord Fountain, but I wouldn’t have blamed you, had you cried off this evening.”

“Please call me Red. It’s not my fault my parents gave me a ridiculous name to match my hair.”

He offered her his arm.

“By your remark, Miss Carmichael, I gather you haven’t been looking forward to this dinner either. I’ve only just returned from Paris, which is why I had to jump in a cab and follow on as soon as I’d made myself tidy. Did the old man explain?”

“The Earl made your apologies to my parents and me most charmingly.”

“The Honourable Miss Rowena Carmichael and escort,” Red told a hovering waiter.

A chair was pulled out for Rowena and once she sat down, her dinner companion remained standing, until all the other ladies in the party were seated.

“That’s a jolly pretty frock, Miss Carmichael,” he whispered to her. “Most girls I’m partnered with look like parcels wrapped up with coloured strings.”

“You’re allowed to call me Rowena, but you might bear in mind that my own dress is trimmed with ribbon.”

“That’s as maybe but it isn’t that wiffly-waffly kind of stuff, all pale pinks and blues and twiddly bits.”

“Perish the thought.” She glanced around the table. “You’re safe to sit down now, Red, if you can face having yet another beribboned skirt beside you.”

He chuckled and took his place.

“I can’t believe we haven’t met before.”

“I was presented last season but very stupidly fell off a horse and injured myself.”

“Our paths might have crossed before except I’ve been out of the country a lot,” he said.

“Lucky you. I’d adore living in Paris.”

“Tell me all about yourself. I want to know how many men I shall have to duel with before I fall swooning at your feet. I want to know why you’d like to go and live in Paris. Most of all, I want to know whether you’ll accept my invitation to luncheon tomorrow.”

Rowena couldn’t believe how excited she felt. Red was nothing like any of the young men she’d kept company with before. She felt he was more than a match for an impulsive, outspoken character like her. His unconventional good looks set her heart racing. Yet, how annoying to be following a path set out for her by her mother and society’s expectations.

“Come on,” Red urged. “Live dangerously.”

The words were enough for Rowena to fall under his spell.

 

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, I have found my perfect place on the “Friend” as I’m obsessed with reading and never go anywhere without a book! I read all of our stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!