What Lucinda Learned

What Lucinda Learned by Beth Bryan

Book: What Lucinda Learned by Beth Bryan Read Free Book Online
Authors: Beth Bryan
a country expedition. And, she thought wryly, she wouldn’t be likely to run into Lady Chloris in the middle of Dorking Wood.
    Thus, when Mr. Richard Devereux turned into Agincourt Circle early the next morning, his uncle’s cheery voice hailed him.
    “Hi, Ricky, over here!” Ivor was standing on the! steps of the Granthams’ travelling coach. Lady Grantham was inside and Mrs. Cleeson stood on the pathway, perusing the inevitable list.
    Richard greeted the two elder ladies. “Well, Ivor,” he said then, “you look poised for adventure.”
    “Off to Dorking, my boy. Luncheon alfresco. Care to join us? You’d be better off for a day out of Town.”
    “Yes, do come, Dev.” Sir Charles had ridden up on a big grey.
    “It will be so delightful to be in the country,” Lady Grantham said, leaning out of the window. “For, you know, it is to be an excessively hot day today.”
    “It is a tempting prospect,” Devereux agreed, but his eyes were on the open landau just in front, in which Lucinda, Belle and Patience made a cool and charming picture in their gauzy summer muslins. “But I am dressed neither for the country nor for riding.”
    “Go and change, my boy. You’ll easily catch up with us or your stable ain’t what it used to be.”
    Mr. Devereux regarded the landau. Belle smiled and waved; Patience nodded politely. Lucinda apparently did not see him, for she was gazing with deep interest at a small black-and-white dog which was investigating the gutter. Mr. Devereux smiled slightly.
    “Thank you, your ladyship.” He bowed to Lady Grantham. “I shall be honoured to join you.”
    Lucinda watched him leave with mixed feelings. Her heart had been unaccountably lightened when she saw him first, but when he looked towards the landau, she had been sure he meant to approach them and felt a sensation that was close to panic. Now she was conscious of strong disappointment.
    “What happened to Mr. Devereux?” Belle demanded as Sir Charles rode up to them again. “Why didn’t you ask him to join us?”
    “He’s going to,” Charles replied, frowning at Belle’s interest. “He’s just gone to change.”
    “Mr. Devereux is always agreeable,” said Patience soothingly. “I am sure we shall all be glad to have him join us. Aren’t you, Lucinda?”
    Miss Neville tried to speak casually, but her voice sounded strained, even to her own ears. “Of ...of course.”
    In sudden concern Patience asked, “Are you nervous about the journey? I do not think you need be, for in general, you know, people are not sick in open carriages.”
    “No, no, I’m sure I shan’t be. Look, my cousin has finally got into the coach. Now we shall be on our way.”
    “That’s right,” Will agreed as he cantered up, “we’re off to Dorking!”
    It was a bright, glorious morning and Belle and Patience were soon in high gig. They bantered playfully with Charles and Will. But Lucinda was mostly silent, and when Mr. Devereux galloped up on an enormous chestnut, she became entirely so.
    Their destination was a pretty meadow, bordered by Dorking Wood on one side and a sparkling crystal brook on another. Soon Lady Grantham and Mrs. Cleeson, with Ivor Devereux in attendance, were installed in the shade of an ancient elm. Then the younger members of the party busied themselves in unpacking the picnic baskets.
    Lucinda was uncomfortably aware of Richard Devereux. As she worked, she made quite sure that she was never beside him. At lunch, she positioned herself quickly between Belle and Mrs. Cleeson.
    If Mr. Devereux noticed these elaborate manoeuvres, he kept the knowledge to himself and made no attempt to single Lucinda out. He addressed no more remarks to her than to the others and treated her with his usual impersonal courtesy.
    Lucinda was not sure whether to be pleased or piqued by this treatment. However, she did relax a little. Once the repast was finished, however, all her apprehensions returned.
    Lady Grantham and Mrs. Cleeson

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