Secrets of a Fair Lady – Abigail Agar

Georgiana Reid pinned the last of her caramel blonde curls and pinched at her cheeks, hoping to remember to do so throughout the night if she wanted maintain a natural blush upon her face. She had forgotten at the previous ball and, as it was the height of London’s season, she would need to keep up appearances at all times if she wanted to find a good husband. Humming to herself, Georgiana thought about dancing with the Baron of Ayre. He had acted interested in her of late and it would be wonderful to marry a man with a title, even if he was only a baron and not an earl or a duke. Certainly, she did not have much care for him in return, but that hardly mattered. It would be an advantageous marriage and that was the important part. Georgiana was quite in awe of the grandeur of her newest gown. The gentle, silvery blue sheen was quite the thing and she was convinced that it would get her well noticed. Even if Evie Grace was present at the ball, which was certainly probable. Her lips puckered at the thought of Evie, but Georgiana ignored it. The last thing she needed was to get distracted by the dread of seeing Evie with her piggish nose and the haughty, breathy laugh. She sighed, annoyed by the tedium of getting ready on her own, being enslaved to her own thoughts. Where was Rachel? Georgiana had not seen her handmaid in hours and was frustrated that Rachel would not check in with her. There was a ball that evening, certainly Rachel understood how important it was that she assist Georgiana. She made her way down the stairs, as ready as she could possibly be on her own.

When she entered the drawing room, her mother gasped. “My goodness! If it isn’t my own little queen,” she said. Georgiana shook her head and rolled her blue eyes in false humility. “Oh, Mother, you do not mean that. Anyway, I can hardly get ready on my own entirely. Have you seen Rachel anywhere? I need her assistance,” she said. Her mother’s smile faltered. “No, I have not. Has she gone somewhere? Good heavens, what will your father say?” she asked, tsking at the idea of the house help being elsewhere when they were in need. Although they were not nobility, nor did they have any blood or lineage about which to brag openly, the Reid family was wealthy, and they paid their household staff accordingly.

“I have not seen her, but that hardly means she has vanished, only that she is not coming to me. Perhaps one of the others will be able to tell me where she is at,” Georgiana said. “I thought she was one of the reliable ones. Too bad she is behaving just like all the others,” her mother said. But Georgiana did not take her mother’s words to heart. After all, her mother was rather accustomed to complaints regarding the household staff, particularly when she felt that they were failing entirely in their duties. Rachel, however, had become a good friend to Georgiana. Despite all efforts her mother had made to foster a distance between the family and the staff, Georgiana had so few friends outside of the house and had gravitated toward Rachel who was just a year older than she. Rachel had agreed that it would be unwise to tout their friendship. Mrs.

Reid might not approve of her staying to work at the house if there was a close friendship between the girls. With her mother’s complaint, Georgiana felt certain that they had been successful in refraining from sharing their friendship too deeply. “I suppose I ought to try and find a maid to assist me,” Georgiana sighed. “Come here, let me help you for a moment. I still need to finish getting ready, but I can help with that terrible mess of hair you have there,” she said, positioning Georgiana in front of a mirror and getting to work. Georgiana winced. She had worked so hard to make her hair look presentable. She had not known there was anything objectionable about what she had done. As her mother went to work on it, she starting talking about all of the rules Georgiana must follow for the evening. “And, of course, you must dance only with the very best of men.

There is no use in attracting anyone who is not wealthy or titled. Simply behave yourself and do all you can to attract those worthy of your attentions,” her mother said. “Yes, Mother,” Georgiana said, nodding. She knew what was required of her and she would perform her duties as admirably as she was able. “If a handsome man should come to you and you do not know anything of his breeding, you must find out quickly. There is no point in ending up with a man that you do not truly like, but you must also weed out those who would do nothing for our family,” she said. “Certainly, Mother. I shall do my duties as best I can,” Georgiana said. “That’s my girl. You will make me proud, I am certain.

And the Baron of Ayre will not be able to resist you, but you have made him no commitment,” her mother said. “I know that, Mother. If a better prospect is found, I shall follow it,” Georgiana said, straightening her shoulders. She disliked speaking about men in this way, but she would do so in order to appease her mother. In reality, Georgiana was quite comfortable searching amongst the other men that she would be meeting that evening. She understood that any man she married would have to live up to a certain pedigree, but if she could find one she liked better than the Baron of Ayre, she would not hesitate to pursue the match. “Is William coming this evening? The Darby girl likes him, you know,” Georgiana said. Her mother pursed her lips in the mirror’s reflection. “Your brother has dreadful taste, I fear. But yes, he is coming,” she said.

When her mother was finished with her hair, Georgiana was determined to go in search of Rachel once more, needing her maid’s help to change into her ball gown. She made her way to the servant’s quarters and knocked on the door of Mrs. Buckley, the housekeeper. “Miss Georgiana?” she asked, wide-eyed with surprise. “Forgive the intrusion, Mrs. Buckley, but have you seen Rachel?” she asked. “No, ma’am, I have not. Not since…” she paused in thought. “I suppose it would have been just after breakfast. But since then? Not a word.

” “Have you gone in search of her?” Georgiana asked. “I did not think there was a reason to. She and I have different duties so I assumed our paths simply had not crossed and hardly gave it a thought. Why? Is something the matter, Miss Georgiana?” she asked, concern flooding her face. “I am not sure. I have not seen her since she helped me dress this morning. It would have been before breakfast as well. But I need her assistance now and she is nowhere to be found. I can’t think where she might be,” she said. “Have you checked her room?” Mrs.

Buckley asked. Georgiana looked embarrassed. “I did not. That was probably foolish of me not to do. It is just that she is always by my side when I need her and I cannot imagine she would be hiding out,” she said. “It is easily remedied. Come,” Mrs. Buckley said, leading Georgiana down the hall to Rachel’s room. After knocking twice and calling Rachel’s name, there was still no answer. Mrs.

Buckley opened the door and Rachel was not within. Some of her things were in a mild disarray, scattered in two or three piles, as if quickly glanced through and left to sit there. But there was not a great mess and it did not appear as though any harm had befallen Rachel in her room. “Is she not very tidy in her own space?” Georgiana asked. “I have always known her to be quite orderly,” Mrs. Buckley said, worried. “I see…” Georgiana said. “Come, we may ask Sarah,” Mrs. Buckley suggested. They made their way to the other maid’s room and knocked.

Sarah answered, appearing somewhat groggy, as though she had been resting. “Forgive me, Mrs. Buckley. As the family is going out this evening, I thought to rest before making dinner for you, me, and Rachel,” she said. “No reason to apologize, Addie. Have you seen Rachel? That is what concerns us at present,” Mrs. Buckley said. Sarah’s face instantly grew alert and curious. “Rachel? Is she missing? What do you mean?” she asked. “We are not certain, but Miss Reid and I have not seen her since breakfast.

Did you see her at all today? Do you recall if she came to get her lunch in the kitchen at any point?” Mrs. Buckley asked. Realization dawned upon Sarah. “No, indeed, she did not. I had assumed that she was simply busy or delayed. But I did not leave the kitchen for most of the day and I didn’t see her even once,” she said. Mrs. Buckley looked at Georgiana, who was growing more and more alarmed by the moment. It was one thing to need her maid for assistance in getting ready for the evening, but quite another to learn that her friend appeared to be missing. She couldn’t bear to think what might have happened or where Rachel had gone in such a hurry so as not to tell anyone.

“Miss Reid, do you think something has happened to her?” Mrs. Buckley asked. “I am not sure, Mrs. Buckley. But we shall find out,” she promised. No longer did the ball seem important and no longer was Georgiana concerned about the Baron of Ayre. She just wanted to find Rachel.

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