The Marquess’ Saving Grace – Ella Edon

What about this purple silk?” Grace asked as she brought out another gown from the armoire. The ball was not until tomorrow night, but Lady Stephanie had yet to choose what she was going to wear. Stephanie slid off the window seat and walked directly to meet her to look at the gown in her hand. Grace was hoping that this time, she would make a decision. That was the seventh dress she had picked for her. Yet again, Stephanie pulled a face. “It’s not right, Grace. I need to look perfect. It’s going to be a special night. Phillip is going to finally propose to me…please Grace, find me a better one. I trust you.” Grace managed a smile even though she was tired. Yet, she mustn’t let her mistress down. She rummaged through the armoire and brought out a blue satin. “How about this?” she asked.

Stephanie stood up, her eyes beaming with excitement. “Yes. This is perfect, Grace. Well done!” She took the gown from Grace and walked to the mirror with it. “I love it,” she went on, giggling. “Phillip is going to fall in love with me all over again when he sees this.” Grace smiled, glad that Stephanie was finally pleased. Stephanie was her mistress, but they were good friends as well. Ever since Stephanie had received her invitation to the masquerade ball, she had been going on about how Phillip Day would finally propose to her. Just a few days before, Lord Exeter had had a private audience with Lady Stephanie’s father, which hinted that he was preparing to ask Lady Stephanie herself.

“It’s been three days already, and he has particularly asked me to come to the ball. I am so certain he will ask me,” Stephanie went on, twirling around excitedly with the gown. “Oh, Grace! I am finally going to be engaged!” Grace smiled. “I’m happy for you, My Lady. You both complement each other perfectly!” “I know,” Stephanie beamed, turning around. “Everyone knows how we belong together, and do you know how much the marriage will boost the financial status of my family?” Grace nodded. “I’ll be right back. I want to ask Mother her opinion on this.” Stephanie hurried out of the chamber, still holding the gown in her hand. When she was finally gone, Grace inhaled and sat on the bed, close to the pile of dresses which she had picked for Lady Stephanie earlier.

She picked up the purple gown. It had an empire waist and bell-shaped sleeves. French lace lined the neck and the hem of sleeves. How could I not want to wear this? Sometimes, she wished she had the life that Stephanie had. She wished her mother was wealthy enough to cater to all their needs, but she was a servant and as her mother always said, they must be grateful for everything they did have. Grace picked up a red satin, admiring the designs. The gown would look good on her… “You would look so beautiful in that…” She jumped, startled at Stephanie’s voice. Quickly, she dropped the gown on the bed with the others. “No, pick it up,” Stephanie insisted, walking over to the bed and picking up the gown. She held it out to Grace.

“Why don’t you try it on?” Grace shook her head. “No, My Lady. I’d rather not.” “I know you were thinking it, so why don’t we try it out?” Then, abruptly changing directions, she said, “I’ve just realized how we’re just about the same size. Isn’t that odd?” Her voice was suspicious. “You could easily wear my dresses, if you wanted.” “I hardly think so, My Lady. Flattering as that may be.” Grace’s hand went self-consciously up to her hair and the tight bun she always wore at the base of her neck. Her mother, Marie, had always gone to a great length to ensure that Grace did not appear attractive in the least, claiming if she appeared even slightly beautiful, she would only attract unwanted advances from the gentlemen of the house.

And then, she might land herself in some kind of trouble she did not need. Lady Stephanie was an exceptionally handsome lady, with hair the shade of honey and unique amber eyes. More than one gentleman had fallen in love with her, based on her looks alone. “Go on, try it on,” Lady Stephanie urged. “I don’t think so, My Lady,” Grace added. “Nonsense,” retorted Stephanie. “I must say, the red would look much better on you than it does me.” Of course, Grace couldn’t really tell. She couldn’t remember the last time she had checked her reflection in the mirror having been told to avoid vanity at all costs. Besides, she knew she was nowhere close to the same beauty as Lady Stephanie.

Stephanie grabbed her shoulders and spun her towards the mirror above the small desk. “Take a look at yourself, so you can actually see how beautiful you are.” Grace stood in front of the mirror, her eyes centered on the toes of her brown shoes. She felt uncomfortable about looking in the mirror, not sure what Stephanie was trying to achieve. Before she had the time to make up her mind on what she was expected to do, Stephanie nudged her closer towards the glass. “Just look, Grace.” Slowly, Grace looked up, until she was staring at herself in the mirror, seeing her reflection for the first time in so many years. She released an audible gasp as one hand flew up to touch her cheek, then her lips as if she couldn’t believe what she was seeing was real. She turned her surprised look to Stephanie who was smiling at her. “See what I mean? I am certain that if we let down your hair out of that severe style and refashion it into something a bit more becoming, add a little touch of rouge to your cheeks, then you could accompany me to the ball tomorrow night!” Grace stared in horror at her.

“What?” Darkened gray smudges of wool threateningly surrounded the sky like a predator encircling its prey. The startling low rumble rang loud in the cool fall air in London, causing the wind to roar in satisfaction. The rain tapped insistently on the roof and the windows of the Exeter’s mansion where Alexander sat in the living room, waiting anxiously for his best friend, who was yet to return from his early morning ride. He stood up and walked towards the window, but there was no sign of his friend. “Blimey!” he cursed under his breath. If he had known that Phillip would tary this long, he would have indulged himself in other things back home. Instead, he had dressed and left early, hoping to meet his friend at his house so they could go to the silversmith’s shop together. If there was anyone known for tardiness between the two gentlemen, it would be him. The plan was for him meet with Phillip so they could go to the shop. He had arrived on time only to be told that Phillip had gone riding.

Alexander knew his friend was only trying to pay him back for keeping him waiting at the tailor’s shop the other day. He chuckled. He hadn’t meant to do that, but he was busy trying to keep his mother’s company, especially since his father was not home. He had taken much time and Phillip was greatly displeased. Alexander had decided to come as early as possible to Exeter’s estate, but it had already been an hour and Phillip had yet to return. He began to pace and finally took a seat. With his eyes fixed on the clock, he tapped his foot against the marble floor, continuously and impatiently. “My Lord,” said Rosa, one of the housemaids. “Would you like me to bring you some tea as you wait for your friend?” “Make that two cups!” Phillip said as he opened the door and walked in. Alexander inhaled.

“Finally! I thought you would never arrive!” Rosa curtsied and left. “There you are,” said Phillip as he saw Alexander. “I thought you were never going to come on time, as usual.” Alexander grimaced. “I think I deserve some apology for wasting my time.” Phillip laughed while his butler removed his wet jacket and left with it. “Do you not see the rain? How would you expect me to come in such a weather? I had to wait somewhere because I didn’t know you would come so soon. Remember how you kept me waiting yesterday?” Alexander shook his head. He knew Phillip had done this on purpose. “I expected you to show more gratitude that I was able to make it early,” Phillip said as he took a seat.

“If you had taken longer,” Alexander replied, “you would have met only my absence.” Phillip snorted but Alexander continued “I would have been greatly displeased if you had ended up not going with me as we had agreed. Besides, it’s only drizzling; the rain was not all that heavy, so you could have come on time if you wanted to. I believe you took your time on purpose.” Phillip laughed. “Yes, you’re absolutely right, my friend.” Rosa walked in with a tray containing two cups of tea. “The weather is cold, and a cup of tea is great at this moment. Thank you, Rosa,” Alexander said before the maid smiled, curtsied, and then took her leave. “So, are we still going to the silversmith’s shop today or have I taken too much of your time?” Phillip asked after a while.

“You’re hell-bent on making me some customized cufflinks, so I would say ‘yes,’ but that will be once it stops raining. As you can see, it’s raining heavily right now.” “So, did you receive the invitation to the masquerade ball?” Phillip inquired. “Of course,” replied Alexander. “Will you be gracing the occasion with your presence?” Phillip joked. Alexander was well known by his friend to be reclusive when it came to attending social events. So, when Alexander nodded, Phillip was surprised. “You will?” he asked. “Yes, I will, Phillip,” Alexander replied with a languid interest. “That’s splendid news! Do tell me, what made you change your mind?” Alexander shrugged and sipped his tea.

“Mother wouldn’t stop reminding me of how quickly I’m getting older and how much she would like me to get married before she dies.” Phillip stifled a laughter. Alexander knew that his mother had once asked Phillip to talk to his friend and to try and take him to social events, but Alexander never listened to either Phillip or his mother. She had been sick for a while now and she was using her illness to make him do her bidding. “That’s wonderful news!” Phillip teased. “I am certain that all the ladies will be rushing to dance with you. Everyone will be surprised that the reclusive Lord Surrey has finally made an appearance.” Alexander grimaced and took more tea. “If it was up to me, I would never get married. I don’t see any reason why I should do so when no lady appeals to me.

” “How could any lady appeal to you, when you do not make time to meet her? You find it difficult to go to social events where you would meet ladies. I am certain that you would find a beautiful lady that will capture your heart and sweep you off your feet…Like I have.” His friend looked surprised. “Are you talking about Lady Stephanie Lauder?” Phillip nodded. “Of course, who else do you think I’m talking about?” Without waiting for a reply, he continued. “As a matter of fact, I plan to propose to her at the ball.” Alexander scoffed. “So you are really planning on getting married to her?” Phillip raised his brows. “Yes I am. I’ve already gotten her father’s permission.

Why do you make it seem as if it’s a terrible thing to do?” “I’ve no idea,” Alexander replied. “Perhaps, it’s because I dread anything that has to do with marriage.” Phillip shook his head. “You ought to be happy for me, Alexander. You’re such a lousy friend.” Alexander laughed and clapped. “You would be officially engaged, my friend. We must drink to that.” Phillip smiled. “We shall,” he promised, then he faced his friend.

“Do you think she will accept my proposal?” Alexander frowned. “You two have been courting for two months now. It’s obvious that she cares about you just like you care about her…There’s no reason for her not to accept your proposal. Do not speak nonsense.” Phillip laughed. “Thank you. These are the things I need you to say to me.” “Well, you’re lucky to have someone who cares about you and who you care about.” “But if you give yourself a chance to love and be loved, then you would also be lucky.” Alexander grimaced.

“I’d rather not. However, I will meet you at the ball tomorrow night and see how it goes.” By this time, it had stopped raining. “Oh!” Alexander said. “We should be on our way soon. Once we leave the silversmith’s shop, we can stop at the tailor’s shop. Come on.”

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