The Runaway Heiress

The Runaway Heiress by Anne O'Brien

Book: The Runaway Heiress by Anne O'Brien Read Free Book Online
Authors: Anne O'Brien
Tags: Fiction, General, Romance, Historical
last
night. She appears to have a remarkable range of talents. I certainly could not
compare. In fact, I failed miserably on all counts.'
    'Neither could I.' Juliet
was clearly pleased to have found a sympathetic ear. 'Penelope was forever
questioning my governess about what I had been learning and blaming the poor
lady when she discovered that I had learnt nothing. Poor Miss Dennison. I fear
I was the worst of pupils. And Penelope was not even family, so she had no
right to criticise her.'
    'Tell me...' Here Frances
saw an opportunity to elicit some information without appearing overtly
inquisitive. 'Do I understand that Miss Vowchurch was to have married your
brother Richard?' she asked tentatively.
    'Oh, yes.' Juliet proved
more than willing to indulge in family gossip and fill in the gaps. 'And when
he died it was Mama's plan that she should marry Hugh. Penelope did not seem at
all reluctant. And Hugh never actually said he would not marry her. So we all
expected it to happen, until you arrived.'
    'Shut up, Julie. You
gossip too much!'
    'No I don't. And Frances
ought to know what she has got herself into.'
    Frances decided to pursue
the subject. 'Lady Aldeborough told me that your brother Richard was killed,
but that it might not have been an accident.'
    'Of course, you would not
know—'
    Matthew interrupted and
frowned in Juliet's direction to discourage her. For the first time a reserved
expression appeared on his face and even Juliet looked a little downcast.
'Richard was thrown out of a curricle and broke his neck. Mama doted on Richard
so it hit her hard and she has not got over it. But there is no doubt about it
being an accident.'
    Juliet opened her mouth to
add to the story, but after another quelling stare from her brother she
changed her mind.
    So with that Frances had to be content.
    Luncheon passed pleasantly
enough, but Aldeborough failed to put in an appearance.
    'He has probably forgotten
all about you and gone to buy a horse,' commented Juliet with no respect for the
Marquis. 'Or,' with maidenly disgust, 'he is at Gentlemen Jackson's Boxing
Parlour!"
    'Take no notice of her,
Frances. It's more likely estate finance. Since he stepped into Richard's shoes
he's been bedevilled by it. But Hugh's absence is my gain—I'll be honoured to
drive you round the park this afternoon.'
    'Can I come?' Juliet
brightened. 'I have a particularly fetching bonnet I would like to wear.'
    'Certainly
not. I intend to drive the curricle so there is not enough room for three. And,
before you ask, I have no intention of squeezing you in!'
    'You
could take the barouche,' she persisted in her most persuasive and sweetest
tones. 'Everyone who is anyone will be in Hyde Park in the afternoon.'
    'No.'
    'I know. You only
want to drive Aldeborough's horses.' Juliet flounced, her smile replaced by a
petulant frown, and Matthew grinned in agreement.
    Juliet
waved them farewell. Frances, in a new fur-trimmed pelisse and silk-flowered
bonnet, with a frivolous little feather muff, concentrated on wielding a delicious
cream silk parasol with the style and dash advised by Juliet, under strict
instructions from Matthew not to frighten the horses.
    'I
have never ridden in a curricle before.' Frances looked around with interest as
they turned into the park.
    It
was a smart turn-out, if somewhat precarious to Frances's eyes, and, as Matthew
informed her, all the crack. The matched bays, driven well up to their bits,
were a splendid pair with glossy coats and mouths of silk.
    'Will
Aldeborough mind you driving his horses?' she asked, remembering Juliet's
comment on Matthew's motives.
    'No.
Though I dare not take his new chestnuts. I would give my eye teeth to try them
out, but it would be more than my life's worth to take them without
permission.'
    'And
since you're hoping to persuade him to buy you a pair of colours?' she enquired
with a hint of mischief.
    Matthew
laughed and had the grace to look a trifle sheepish. 'As you say, it behooves
me to

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