your mind, ma’am?’
Thus appealed to, Alicia laughed heartily. ‘Of course we are going, child. Why Celestine has promised to deliver your new gown this very morning!’ She paused and then shot their visitor a crafty look. ‘Are you going, Randal?’
Guessing what was coming, Randal hid a smile. ‘I have accepted the invitation.’
‘Excellent. Kitty won’t know a soul there save for us. You can introduce her to a few of your friends.’ Lady Edgeworth chuckled. ‘Maria Legh has held out the lure of cards and dancing so I expect we’ll see plenty of you young gentlemen there.’ She threw out another broad hint. ‘You’re still keen on dancing, ain’t you, Randal?’
Knowing what was expected of him, Randal agreed and, directing his gaze at her young companion, continued, ‘Will you do me the honour of standing up with me, cousin?’
Guilt warred with her longing to accept as Kate sought for an answer. In all her plotting, it hadn’t occurred to her that she might want to dance with the man she was intending to deprive of a fortune!
‘Did you get much opportunity to attend parties in Massachusetts?’ Randal asked, feeling ridiculously disappointed at her silence and hoping to find an alternative reason for it than the one which immediately sprang to mind.
Kate wondered if she ought to deny it and then remembered just in time that she had already told Alicia she knew most of the popular steps when her hostess had asked her if she would like to have dancing lessons.
‘I attended a few, sir, but they were small events and I’m not sure if my skill is equal to that of the ladies you know,’ she prevaricated.
‘You are too modest I’ll be bound, Kitty dear.’
Randal was inclined to agree with Alicia. He’d wager that a girl who possessed the proud deportment of a queen was certain to be a good dancer.
‘I should like the chance to begin again,’ he said softly, knowing that she would understand even if Alicia did not. ‘Say you will consent to save the supper dance for me?’
Torn between delight and alarm, Kate could only nod silently.
* * * *
The gown promised by Celestine had still not arrived by the time Lady Edgeworth arose from an afternoon nap taken to recruit her energies for the evening ahead. Kate had declined to rest before the party and was engaged at the handsome little rosewood escritoire which graced her bedroom when Alicia came hurrying in to see her.
Quickly concealing her letter to Ned, she set herself to soothing Alicia’s alarm. Fortunately for her nerves, the older woman was soon interrupted by a knock at the door.
‘There, ma’am,’ Kate said cheerfully. ‘That is probably Mary come to tell us the delivery boy is here.’
To her surprise it wasn’t Mary who entered, but Susan, the parlour maid, who was carrying a box much too small to hold a dress.
‘For you, Miss.’ Susan bobbed a curtsey and handed the box over to Kate. ‘Just been delivered.’
It felt very light and Kate suddenly knew what it must contain.
‘Do open it, my dear,’ Lady Edgeworth encouraged.
From the broad smile on her face Kate knew she had also guessed that the box contained flowers.
‘How charming! From Crawford, I assume?’
Kate stared down at the exquisite bouquet and her heart did a peculiar flip-flop as she discovered the accompanying card.
She held it out to Lady Edgeworth, who scanned it with satisfaction.
‘And tied up with pink ribbons too!’ Alicia smiled happily. ‘They will match your new gown.’
Her smile faded abruptly as she remembered what had brought her post haste to her goddaughter’s bedchamber. Ordering Susan to remove the posy, she exclaimed, ‘I shall send to Celestine directly! It is too bad of her to keep us waiting when she knows that this is your very first evening party!’
In the event it did not prove necessary to badger the modiste for the dress arrived before Alicia had completed her angry note and Kate had plenty of time to prepare