Serving the Viscount – Roselyn Francis

What did you think of the Earl of Sussex, miss? I didn’t get a good look at him, but from what I could tell from the staircase, he had a nice voice.” Hanna Seton asked as she helped her mistress with her stays. “Eh, he talks too much, and he’s a bit fat.” Miss Isabella frowned, smoothing cream under her eyes as she sat at the vanity in her bed chamber. “Miss! Is there no man you will choose as a match for yourself?” Hanna asked, shaking her head. They had had this conversation before, about various suitors. Different names were featured, but the themes were always the same. Miss Isabella always found a reason to dislike each man. “Certainly not him,” Miss Isabella sniffed. “He would never do as a husband.” “But surely you must choose someone soon,” Hanna said, wringing her hands. “I will not.” Miss Isabella swiped a glob of cream across her face and frowned at herself in the mirror. Then, she wiped it dry. “But I don’t understand, miss, don’t you wish to marry?” Hanna asked as she helped Isabella pull the sunny yellow dress over her head.

“I just don’t like any of the suitor’s papa wants me to meet, that’s all.” Isabella straightened the front of her dress, studying herself with a smile. “I thought Lord Lawton was amiable, and he has a great fortune, too. All the ladies in Lincolnshire talk about him as a great match.” “Posh. Him? He has a huge forehead! You could fit an entire family on it. His fortune isn’t big enough to make me overlook that.” Miss Isabella said with a chuckle. “You are quite mean, miss,” Hanna giggled. The man did have a bit of extra on top.

“I am not. I’m simply not going to settle for just anyone.” Miss Isabella ran a brush through her golden blonde hair. She was quite vain about her hair and brushed it with over 100 strokes a day. Between that and her creams and powders, she put hours every week into her appearance. To Hanna it seemed a strange thing to do if one didn’t plan on getting married, or care about suitors. “That is your choice, of course, miss,” Hanna said. “It is. Enough about me. What of you and your young man?” Miss Isabella glanced back at Hanna, her lady’s maid, and raised an eyebrow.

“What young man?” Hanna ducked her head so her mistress could not see the furious blush she felt rising over her cheeks. “The one you’ve mentioned in the marketplace. George something or other.” Miss Isabella grabbed her powder puff. “Oh, yes. George. He’s quite a nice young man.” Hanna cleared her throat. She didn’t like to talk about her personal life much, even though Miss Isabella did. She loved to gossip about everything and treated Hanna more as a friend than a servant.

“I think you think of him as more than that, Hanna.” Miss Isabella clicked her tongue and batted her eyelashes. “Miss–” “Don’t give me that. Is he kind?” “Well, yes. He always gives me extra ribbons when I buy them at his stall.” Hanna smiled. “That’s a good sign. And I’m sure he’s handsome.” Miss Isabella made a face. “He’s very handsome.

” Hanna laughed. “Describe him for me.” Miss Isabella sighed, resting her chin on her hand. “Well, he has huge brown eyes, and he’s tall–” “Oh, he sounds lovely! I do like a tall man. So many of the suitor’s papa chooses for me are nearly shorter than I am.” Miss Isabella frowned and shook her head. “Before I go on, let me just adjust your hair like this.” Hanna moved one blonde braid of her mistress Isabella Frampton’s hair an inch. “I love it!” Miss Isabella clasped her hands together. “Thank you, Hanna.

” “Of course, Miss Isabella.” Hanna studied her mistress’s reflection in the mirror—sparkling and lovely, and then appraised her own. She looked plain in comparison, and older than her 18 years. “Now, go on. I want to hear everything about him!” Miss Isabella smiled encouragingly. “Well, his hair is the color of chestnuts and curls at the bottom.” Hanna said, her face growing hot once again. “Oh, he sounds so handsome!” Miss Isabella clapped her hands together. “He is. The handsomest of men around these parts.

” “Oh, Hanna!” Miss Isabella giggled. “And is he kind and good?” “Definitely. As I said, he gives me extras, but he is always solicitous. He asks after the household and my mama and papa.” “When will you see him again?” Miss Isabella leaned closer. “In just a bit. I have to go to the market to get the things you requested.” Hanna smiled shyly. “Yes, you certainly do. I must have them straight away!” Her mistress raised an eyebrow imperiously and burst into laughter.

Hanna loved the sights and sounds of the bustling marketplace in the village, from the fragrant flowers and animals for sale to the fruits and clothing items, but George Bentley was the sight she most enjoyed. He wore a white shirt with a short brown jacket and matching breeches. The color suited his complexion. He was arranging some of his wares on a table. He saw her coming before she could speak. “Miss Seton! What a lovely surprise!” “Hello, Mr. Bentley. Good day to you.” Hanna smiled, feeling happy and free as she always did around George. She could truly envision a future with him.

He was kind and good looking, and wasn’t that all there was, really, to it? Did love really matter? If it did, she believed she could grow to love him, given enough time. “How are you doing, and how is your mistress and her family?” He asked, smiling. “I am well, and they are, too.” “Very good, and your mama and papa? Have you heard from them lately?” He asked, adjusting a hair pin on the table. “I have. They are doing quite well.” “Oh, good. Do you see anything you like? I have something I think will suit you well. It’s on the house,” he said, picking up a hair pin with pearls on it. “Oh, Mr.

Bentley, I couldn’t accept that,” Hanna said, shaking her head. “I have a list here of items my mistress wants, and those are the things I came for—nothing more.” She shook her head firmly. She didn’t want to take advantage of the man’s kindness. “I understand that, but this gold hair pin would so suit you. Would you take it for me?” He asked, beginning to wrap it up in paper. “Oh, sir, please let me pay you for it. I can.” Hanna reached into her purse. “No, no.

It’s a gift from me to you. I insist. You bring me much business every week.” George smiled. “Thank you. You are certainly too kind.” “I’m not. Any man would do the same upon seeing your lovely red locks. They just beg for an equally lovely hair pin to adorn them.” George winked.

Hanna felt heat rise in her face. “Oh, well, let’s get on with the list I have then,” she said, not knowing what to say. “Of course, Miss Seton. I hope I haven’t embarrassed you.” George Bentley frowned, looking troubled. “No, not at all. It is just…my hair. I’ve never much liked it.” Hanna laughed softly. “Oh, Miss Seton, it is a crowning glory.

Don’t ever believe any different.” Hanna collected the items Miss Isabella wanted, and George wrapped them up for her in a parcel. “That’s everything, I think.” “Very good. Miss Seton?” “Yes, Mr. Bentley?” Hanna asked, half turning to leave. “Please call me George.” He paused. “Would you like to take a walk one afternoon on your day off? Could I call for you?” Hanna took a deep breath, excitement filling her at the thought. “Of course.

Next Saturday afternoon.” “Very good. I’ll call for you around 2 p.m.” “At the servants’ entrance, of course,” Hanna said, smiling. “Yes, of course.” George half bowed. “Until then, Hanna.” “Yes, I’ll see you then, George.” Hanna walked away, feeling as if she were floating on air.

A future with George Bentley seemed more possible by the moment. She could not wait to get back to the estate to write all about it to mama. She only had to wait a week until the walk with George. The time would pass so slowly until then, though! Later that evening, Hanna helped Miss Isabella dress for dinner. Her hands were shaking with excitement, and she could hardly keep her mind on the task at hand. “What ails you, Hanna Seton? You are not yourself,” Miss Isabella asked, giving her a sharp look as Hanna dropped a hair pin on the floor. “I’m sorry, miss,” Hanna said, picking it up. “Don’t be sorry. Tell me what the matter is before you muss my hair,” Miss Isabella demanded. “Nothing is the matter.

Everything is right with the world, in fact,” Hanna said and sighed. “Oh. Oh! I forgot. You saw your young man today. Didn’t you?” Miss Isabella said and winked into the mirror of the vanity. “I did,” Hanna said shyly. “So, what happened to put you in to this state? You are positively in a tizzy!” Miss Isabella giggled. “He asked me to take a walk with him next Saturday.” Hanna adjusted a hair pin in Miss Isabella’s blonde hair. “How lovely.

And what did you say? I think I know the answer.” Miss Isabella laughed. “I said yes, of course.” “Good for you, my dear. He’s a lucky man.” Miss Isabella reached for her powder puff. “Thank you,” Hanna said, finishing the hairdo. “I’m only saying what is true, my friend. He would be very lucky to have you. Let us hope he turns out to be half the man you think he is.

” Miss Isabella dotted perfume on her wrist. “I think I shall be counting the days until we meet!” Hanna said, clasping her hands together and spinning around in a circle. Miss Isabella laughed. “I’m sure you shall. That’s what love is like!” “Love? I’m not sure that I do love him,” Hanna said, stopping her spin and frowning. “Well, you are at least in deep like. Very deep, and that’s good enough to build a marriage on,” Miss Isabella said. Just then, the door of the bed chamber burst open. “I will speak with you now, young lady!” Miss Isabella’s father roared. “Father, what is it?” Miss Isabella stood from the vanity with a start.

“What is it?” Her father sputtered, his face red with rage. “What it is, is that you’ve rejected all your suitors. You are 23 years old, and it is well past time for you to get married. This cannot continue! I have taken matters into my own hands, young lady.” “What do you mean?” Miss Isabella sank into a chair near her bed. Hanna tried to look invisible as she moved to the corner, embarrassed by the scene. “I mean that I have chosen a husband for you. Lawrence Morton, the Viscount Stafford. You are to leave for the London Season the day after tomorrow, taking your lady’s maid, of course, with you. I will brook no arguments about it.

” He gestured toward Hanna. “Father, no!” Miss Isabella wrung her hands.

.

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