Monday, September 14, 2009

The Scheme Begins!~ Vices Vitures~ Virginia

It was so quiet that you could hear a pin with a pearl on top of it drop onto a stone floor or wood floor. For one of the first times in her young life, Virginia found herself completely alone. No servants, no men, or women surrounded her. Emilia had gone off some place and her new-found father was nowhere to be seen. Virginia sat in the library which stood in the back of the house, on a soft cushion reading a book she really had no desire to read. It was a poor romance novel about some wretched girl who fell in love with a man above her station. Virginia wasn’t sure why she did not like the novel. It wasn’t that it was not well written. She supposed that it was something to do with the story.

The door creaked open, and Virginia shut the book quickly as John Hopswell strode in. He was wearing his striped waistcoat with gold buttons, which Virginia knew, after having lived in his house for the past two weeks, meant that he was in a good mood.

“Enjoying my library?” he asked, gazing at the cover of the book in her hands.

A small smile crept across Virginia’s pretty features as she sat up a little bit straighter. She nodded her head while she smoothed out the wrinkles that had formed in her plain dress.

“Yes of course!” she said happily. “I love to read.”

“Oh very good!” he said, taking a step towards the window. “Frankly I’m a little relieved. It certainly makes my plans much simpler.”

“Your plans, sir?” she asked, her brows raised doubtfully.

Her father smiled; she noticed there was something mischievous about it. “Perhaps I have not been as honest with you as I ought to have been. When you overheard my conversation with your aunt, Lady Susan, you might have suspected that there is something I haven’t been telling you.”

Virginia folded her hands now in her lap and nodded her head. She had guessed that there was something he had not told her. He had mentioned something about making her an heir to his fortune or something along the lines. There had even been something about “turning her into a lady”. However he had never fully explained the reasons behind why he would want to do such a thing. She was after all nothing more than a by-blow. Society would not accept her into its bosom lightly. She still wasn’t fully sure she understood what was taking place – other than that he insisted she live with him.

“Yes sir, I do believe there are a few things you have not told me,” she said.

The older gentleman smiled. “You see, my dear, I have never married, and, as a result, I have no children born of a legitimate union. Which is a damn shame, if I may say so, considering I have an unentailed fortune of such a quantity as would make the heads of most young ladies swim! But I believe your head is not prone to ‘swimming’, as those of many young women are. When I set out from Brighton to look for you, I wasn’t exactly in mind of making you my heir. But after having observed you closely for the past few weeks, after fate placed you on my doorstep, I am convinced there could be no better heir to the Hospwell fortune than you!”

For a few minutes Virginia simply stared at John Hopswell. She blinked a few times and stared at him again. Then she took in a deep breath and let out. So that was his secret he kept from her? He really did want to make her his heir. For a moment Virginia found it hard to breathe – so he must be extremely well off! What in God’s name could he do with so much money? After regaining some composure Virginia moved her gaze back to that of her father.

“You wish to make me your heir?” she asked calmly. “But society is not going to accept me. I was born and raised in a theatre by an actress. I’m your by-blow… How are you going to make me into something that would suit an heir to a fortune?”

John laughed. “I think you will find, my dear, that I am a very unconventional person – as I believe you to be also! With your incomparable mother’s influence, and I as your natural parent, what else could you be? But there are kinks to be smoothed out before I can introduce you to the polite world, and the titled hypocrites to be found within. To that end, I have engaged the services of a close friend of mine. Are you by any chance familiar with Beau Audley, the notable Nonpareil? No, I did not think so, but no doubt you’ve heard of him! He’s what they call a Bond Street Beau; in your words a dandy, my dear girl. You may find him to be a conceited coxcomb, and I do admit that he is a man of rather erratic sensibilities. But you must be quite aware that he is an arbiter of fashion, second only to Mr Brummel! You will learn that in this world, there are some persons whose approval is enough to win you the admiration of all but the most critical people, and Lord Audley is one of them. I think you will find him a likeable companion.”

“An ‘arbiter of fashion’? I s’pose I don’t know much about that.” Virginia said looking down at her simple, plain dress. She pressed her hands together and twisted the ends of the shawl she was wearing. “He’s going to teach me how to dress? Wouldn’t that be improper? To have a man… I mean, a dandy...”

“The situation would be regarded as by no means proper,” admitted John. “If you are to be his protégée, it must be kept as a secret. But given the option of procuring a high-minded lady at the very pink of the Ton, I would prefer to choose him; for, you see, that lady would be possessed of a mind to pass judgment on you. The best thing about Beau Audley is that he will not pass judgment on your situation – though he might very well take offense at the way you are wearing that shawl, my dear.”

“What is wrong with the way I wear my shawl?” Virginia demanded. “I’ve never worn it any other way!” She frowned. She was unsure if she was going to enjoy constantly being told how to dress and that everything she was doing was wrong. “Is it not right?” she asked.

Her father regarded her with a barely suppressed grin. “Well...I’ll leave that to Lord Audley to discuss with you.”

Virginia raised an eyebrow, and returned her father’s gaze quietly. She wasn’t very sure how she was going to like Lord Audley. She knew nothing about fashion, and cared even less. She sighed. This arrangement was going to take a while to get used to.

Written with Lord Edward Audley

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