“Take a deep breath, my lady.” Emily gathered up the skirts of the dove grey gown, holding open the bodice.
“Is this the right gown I should wear? I don’t wish to be cast in the shade.”
“It is perfect, my lady, truly. The colour is right for the occasion. You wouldn’t want to look as if you’ve made too great an effort.”
“You’re quite right. Oh, what would I do without you? How dare Mama insist that I share you with that ”
“My lady, should you not begin to refer to her as Miss Allbright? After all . . .”
There was a knock on the door and as Emily went to receive the chocolate from Alice, she caught sight of her own reflection in the oval mirror. She’d worn a blue dress that Lady Florence had discarded and given to her to make over. But the colour didn’t really suit Emily’s freckly paleness. She wondered what Will thought of the American girls, famed as being so pretty and with such a healthy glow about them.
“Thank you, Alice.” Emily took the silver tray of chocolate but at the sight of it Lady Florence groaned.
“Take it away! It will make me feel quite sick.”
Emily opened her mouth to speak but then stopped as she became aware of a strange sound coming from somewhere outside. It was getting steadily louder, rather like a distant drone of bees.
“Whatever is that?” Emily began, but then she heard Mr Runciman’s footsteps in the entrance hall, and the sound of the front door opening.
Lady Florence frowned, then turned towards the window.
“What is it, my lady?” Emily peered out of the tall window, screwing up her eyes to see into the winter sunshine. There, rattling down the long drive and swinging into the forecourt, was a gleaming yellow motor car.
“Good heavens, it’s Bunny!” Florence cried.
Alice hurried into the room and they all watched as Lord Witney removed the goggles that made him look as much like an insect as the distant motor had sounded. And beside him, in the driver’s seat, the lady who they had all been breathlessly waiting to meet opened the car door and stepped neatly off the running board.
“Oh, Bert! This house!”
Emily, Alice and Lady Florence watched in astonishment as the lady pulled off her own goggles and strode up to the steps.
Witney tripped after her, bobbing his head in silent greeting to the open-mouthed Mr Runciman.
Emily felt her legs go weak. So this was the mysterious Miss Allbright, whom she was to look after. Where in the world had they got the motor car? Had they hired it, or bought it as soon as they’d stepped off the train? And where was Perkins, who’d gone to collect them in the carriage? These thoughts tumbled through Emily’s mind as Lady Florence exclaimed.
But topmost in Emily’s mind was one question.
Where was Will?