Join the millions that use us for their forum communities. Create your own forum today.Learn More
· Sign-up Now
|Welcome to The London Life: An English Regency RPG. We hope you enjoy your visit.|
You're currently viewing our forum as a guest. This means you are limited to certain areas of the board and there are some features you can't use. If you join our community, you'll be able to access member-only sections, and use many member-only features such as customizing your profile, sending personal messages, and voting in polls. Registration is simple, fast, and completely free.
Join our community!
If you're already a member please log in to your account to access all of our features:
The Board Has MOVED! Please join us at our new domain: thelondonliferpg.com
Emerson House: "The Morning Call After", 4/15; Julia Hissop, Winifred E, Elise H
|Julia Hissop (Lidell)
Duchess of Pennington
Member No.: 219
Joined: 2-June 09
April 15th, 1811
An invitation from the Marchioness that politely requested a morning visitation made Julia rethink her evaluation of the Emerson Ball. There was something about Lady Emerson that made her hesitate and sympathize—and these were emotions thoroughly foreign to Julia Pennington. They made her feel young, foolish, and not like a peeress of her high station at all—just some wilting, dithering little girl unworthy of anyone’s attention. She would go to great pains to avoid situations that would provoke such emotional reactions, but Winifred Verlaine-Pritchard was … different. She was kind. While many people appeared kind to Julia, she still suspected that they weren’t (they were, as ever, simply pretending to manipulate her). But evidence worked in this lady’s favour. She hadn’t told anyone about Rachel. In a moment of weakness she had confided in the older woman her worries about pregnancy. Word hadn’t got out about that either. So she had forced herself to stop fretting and do something entirely uncharacteristic. She had told herself to trust.
Yet vestiges of doubt remained, intrinsic to her being as breathing was. Sometimes surges of deep suspicion would cloud her judgment, and she would consider cutting off all communication with the lady—before she remembered that this was the Marchioness of Emerson she was thinking about. Consequently, Julia was always on her best behaviour when with her and even more so when she was invited to probably discuss the biggest social event of the Season thus far.
Mr Whinging (that prating fool) had been left at home, where he couldn’t embarrass her. He had made a right mess of himself while dancing at the Ball, which was comical until the other observers had slid their eyes to her, thinly veiled glee glinting in the lights of the ballroom. As the doormen smoothly allowed her in, and a footman showed her the way to the parlour Lady Emerson was, she relished the calm, the absence of apologetic footsteps shadowing her path.
The moment the Marchioness came into view, Julia felt the need to say something pleasant, and it was odd, because she felt it sincerely. “Thank you for inviting me,” she said, the words unfamiliar on her tongue without the customary apathetic bite. “The Ball must have been so tiring—it was quite spectacular!”
There were several people in her acquaintance Winifred would count as friends, and friends in high places before. There was, of course, Jane, the Duchess of Claitonborough, Theodora, Marchioness of Raulings, Marion, the Marchioness of Beningborugh.. Countless of them, not forgetting those that joined the almighty Father in Heaven; Winifred had clout, and she was not afraid to use it. And then there were those that she had seen grow up, those that she had spoken to, given support to, mentored, encouraged- Lady Tessington, her Grace, the Duchess of Beaumont, and then there was the Duchess of Pennington.
Julia Winifred thought to herself as she sipped the cup of tea in the Morning room. Elise and Char were both ensconced with their flowers- this would be a private caller for her. Julia needed patience, and a little more than a discussion of the weather. She was bringing the cup up to her lips for a second sip when a scratch came at the door and the Duchess was announced. Winifred did not stand, instead waved for Julia to sit. Winifred seldom stood.
"Oui! I am glad you enjoyed yourself ma petite.." She said, as she poured Julia a cup of tea, just the way she liked it. "I was quite.. upset.. to not have had the chance to speak with you at the party.. There were so many people!" She said with a smile, patting Julia's hand.
"How 'ave you been?" She had not spoken to Julia since both of them came into town. "And Pennington? Still being lazy and rotund?" She finished with a laugh for Julia.
Had anyone else refused to stand for a duchess and waved instead for that duchess to sit, Julia would have defiantly stood until the right honour was accorded to her. If there was one thing that she had married Pennington for, it would be the awe and deference that came with being of the highest rank excepting royalty. But that would be a silly obstinacy to follow through with Lady Emerson. So she sat, daintily spreading her skirts, feeling the serene aura emanating from the lady opposite her. She felt her frayed nerves soothe a little, and the cup of tea, mixed with just the right amount of sugar and milk, reminded her of two things: firstly, that she had to be careful around the Marchioness, because she was still one of the greatest socialites in London, and to offend was to ruin; and secondly, that this was Winifred, who was exceedingly kind, and who hadn’t destroyed her yet.
Yes, there were too many people at the party, which had been, in Julia’s opinion, a definite problem—but she would never say as much to Lady Emerson. She murmured agreement as the lady expressed her regret. She had been too excited to stay long yesterday evening when the attendees were being received, but she had made sure not to slight the hostess.
“I have been well, thank you,” she said, cautiously, “but I do live for the Season. And Pennington … Yes, as always, he is slightly concussed and miserable.” Julia attempted the biting tone of sarcasm and wit that usually accompanied complaints about her husband, but instead her voice came out flat and resigned. That could not do. “He chose not to attend the ball; he told me convey his regrets.” He actually had done so, great elephant that he was well aware that he was missing something more than just a ball; he was missing the Emerson girls’ debuts. “The girls looked spectacular, they really did,” Julia remarked, feeling odd—she never complimented anyone sincerely. But Charity and Elise had looked beautiful, even for the former’s peculiar taste in gowns. “You must be proud!”
"I am, I am... What a blessing it has been for the Lord to give me two beautiful girls after my Gabriel." It was common knowledge that the Marchioness was not able to have children after her second son, but since she had done her duty to the Marquess in giving him two sons, they didn't understand her pain of not having a daughter. "Make no mistake, I still mourn Louise, God rest her soul." Louise Pritchard, Charity's mother, was a french beauty in her time, with Charity's same ebony hair and her gray eyes. She was a good friend of Winifred's and a trusted confidante.
"Well, now that the party is over, I must say I feel glad that I too, can now enjoy the season in earnest. There is a definite advantage to simply attending and not planning a thing." She said with smile to the duchess. Oh, she had known Julia for a long time. She too, knew more than most about Julia, about her family, about Rachel. Julia had a hard time in her youth, and when all had thought that now, as a duchess she would have unspoken claim to the best, she had to be thwarted, most of all, in Winifred's opinion, by Lady Viola's appearance this season. There was no doubt about it- the girls had debuted the same year, with Lady Viola being crowed the Incomparable of the season despite her unfashionable coloring. It was an exception- like Lady Julianne. But the girl's fine breeding and manners could not be ignored. Winifred felt Julia's pain for coming in second, despite all the signs that pointed to her being the favored one.
Julia was pretty, with that porcelain skin, that head of blonde curls, those vibrant blue eyes. In more ways than one, Julia reminded her of Elise. As if her mind spoke to the younger girl, a knock came at the door, announcing Elise's arrival. "Oh Maman," She said softly, seeing Lady Pennington as she came into the room. "I had no idea you were receiving.."
"No, come in, and make your curtsy to the Duchess of Pennington..."
Elise daintly went before the duchess and lowered herself, in deference to Lady Pennington's superior rank. She might be the favored one of a Marchioness, but that did not change that she, at birth was a mere Miss. "Your Grace, it is a pleasure to finally meet you." She said prettily, before taking a seat on the Chaise next to Lady Emerson.
Julia’s stomach lurched. The sickening swoop had nothing to do with the tea, or the biscuits she had not touched. It was Lady Emerson’s mention of her two boys, and how she was unable to have any children after Lord Gabriel was born. There was the instantaneous emotional reaction—At least you have children!—but she would never snipe at the Marchioness in such a way. Besides, instead of feeling angry and upset as she usually did when others spoke of their darling babies, she simply felt very, very tired. Winifred would never have brought up her children to deliberately provoke her, unlike that minx Viola or all the other smug, conniving ladies of the ton. She sipped her tea silently, hoping that the topic would pass. Julia was aware it would be the polite gesture to comment warmheartedly, but she couldn’t bring herself to be so deceitful.
When the Marchioness began to talk about the Season, she almost could have let out a sigh of relief—but she was better trained than that. She smiled, and wondered how good it was of Lady Emerson, to take in two girls she was really under no obligation to, and treat them as if they were her own. She wished she could do something like that, but would any child be willing to love her? Children were astute. Maybe they would see right into her bitter, hardened heart, see the simmering hatred stewing beneath her breast, see the likeness of her face to Rachel’s … The thought was enough to scare her away.
The arrival of Miss Hampton took Julia by surprise, caught as she was in her introspection. How could she let herself off guard like that! She bowed her head slightly in acknowledgment of the girl’s pretty curtsy. She was really quite beautiful. The Duchess would almost feel jealous, but then being in Winifred’s presence often calmed her vindictive emotions. She took a deep breath. “It is a pleasure to meet you too, at last!” she said, not entirely insincerely. She had long wanted an introduction to this girl who would undoubtedly be one of the loveliest debutantes of the Season. Miss Hampton seemed demure and gracious, and Julia had always liked that better than the bold and flashy. “You were beautiful last night. Please accept my congratulations on an unparalleled debut.”
"Lady Pennington, you are much to kind for saying so. I am sure the compliments should go to Lady Emerson, who has put in such an effort to pull of the event." She said with a laugh, her blue eyes smiling, as Lady Emerson rested a hand on Elise's own, giving it an affectionate squeeze.
"My Elise has an interest in music, Julia." Winifred said now, looking fondly at the girl. "Elise, when Lady Pennington was a deb, she too was very accomplished." Not accomplished enough to beat Lady Viola at everything, but certainly accomplished in her own right. "Julia, I shall have to rely on you to keep an eye on my girls as well- I fear I am getting too old to keep up with the young people." Winifred might not wish to be running around the ballroom herding children, but she was certainly not old.
"Tell me Julia, have you met many of the girls this season? What did you think of them?" Elise busied herself with a cup of tea as Winifred addressed Julia.
Miss Hampton could turn out a polite and pretty answer without thinking twice, which was almost exasperating to Julia. How little she knew! Once she too could reply so delicately and daintily, but being married to that oaf Pennington had made her realize how little men appreciated the talents of a debutante. These days, in her old married life, she rarely resorted to coquettish flirtation in her own household. It was overwhelmingly tedious and pointless. “I have definitely paid my compliments to Lady Emerson and will not stop doing so for a very long time,” the Duchess responded with a slight tone of humour, “but as it was your debutante ball, I believe you and Miss Pritchard deserve just as much praise! It is no easy feat, holding a ballroom in thrall.”
The mention of accomplishments almost made Julia flush. She had not been accomplished enough to generate more proposals than Lady Viola, so her meagre abilities to pluck out a tune on the pianoforte were not, in hindsight, of any importance. But she inclined her head in recognition of the Marchioness’s kind words, and smiled at Elise. “It would be my honour if I could be any help at all during the Season,” she said simply. It was true, and in this case she preferred not to investigate her doubts. She owed Winifred that much.
“I have not had the honour of meeting any of the debutantes, besides Miss Hampton and the youngest daughter of the Duke of Elsings,” she admitted, a bit sheepishly. “I have been much preoccupied with the poet I am sponsoring. I am sure I had mentioned my intentions of bringing Mr Whinging to London the last time we met. He is”—an idiot—“unused to city life, and I have not found myself at leisure to make the new debutantes’ acquaintance.”
"Yes, yes, you did.." Winifred murmured, more to herself than to Julia. She vaguely recalled greeting Lady Pennington and her escort. Although whether or not it was a worthy escort was another topic for discussion altogether. Still, Winifred had maintained her creed of inviting all her friends and their partners, whether or not they were worthy to step into her ballroom. She would have been glad to welcome Pennington himself into her home if he deigned to attend. Speaking of which, she recalled Mrs Clare not attending...Hmm.
"How is Mr Whinging adapting to city life?" Elise asked, bringing her cup up to her lips for a sip of tea. "It can be so overwhelming for someone so new." she said sympathetically. "Indeed.."Winifred continued with an approving smile. "And so good of you to nurturing young minds! A worthy cause for my support. I should love to read some of his material, if at all possible?" Julia was such a giving person. Sponsoring new talent. If only more of the Ton found themselves spending time in this manner, society would be a more colorful place to live in.
Winifred had the unusual talent of making Julia feel guilty. In no way did she regard her relationship with Mr Whinging as one where she was nurturing his young mind, but now she regretted, just a bit, how callous she’d been to him thus far. It wasn’t his fault that he was far from the suave, charming poet she’d imagined him to be, able to sweep the ladies of the ton off their slipper-clad feet. Actually, it was his fault, but never mind. It was unkind of her to aggressively inform him of his mistake every other time he opened his mouth. She promised to herself she would be more patient with him now. Being an awkward idiot probably was not pleasant.
“He is adapting rather well, although …” Julia trailed off delicately. “He is not used to city manners, let us say. He does adore London, however, and that is really all that matters!” At the thought of his poetry, her smile became slightly more thoughtful. She had never particularly liked poetry, considering that it was a lot of insincere waffle and ecclesiastical reprimands, but his was something else. She hadn’t read any before he’d arrived, but now she was halfway through her second volume, and she was finding herself experiencing strange urges. The other night, she had almost wanted to go look at the stars.
“I would be delighted to provide you with a volume,” she said simply. It would accomplish two tasks, if the Marchioness liked Mr Whinging and his sonnets. She would help him find acceptance among London society, and perhaps he would discover some scrap of confidence. Julia’s curiosity had been piqued by Lady Emerson’s earlier comment, however, and couldn’t resist asking: “May I ask your opinion of the debutantes this year? I am sure I will meet them soon, but doubtlessly you already know which girls will be the talk of town.”
"Yes, yes, send one over when you have the chance to." Winifred said with a dismissive wave, knowing Julia would have the mentioned volume dispatched at the earliest opportunity. "Perhaps if there is a chance the girls can show him about town. Certainly we can leave the young people to themselves now that we have much more things to bother ourselves with? The bliss about growing older, Julia, is that respect is now given willingly and freely, and attention commanded with ease." She said with a conspiratorial smile. "Elise and Charity can take Mr. Whinging about with some of their young friends- Perhaps Penelope Grove will be willing to come as well? I recall her to be an avid reader."
Elise nodded demurely in answer, promising to have Penny come over for an outing tomorrow. In fact, she told Lady Pennington, a group of them were going to Bond Street tomorrow, and that Mr Whinging, if he so inclined, could join them. She was quite sure Lady Pennington had much more important matters to deal with than to watch a few young men and ladies shop around town being boisterous.
"As for the debs this season, Elise did very well last night, dancing with the Duke of Leighton for the first dance, but the one to watch, I believe, would be Julianne Grafton. Although, she might have a contender, do you remember Marion Landon's daughter? Juliet?" Winifred said, now leaning forward. This war of the debs always interested her.
Julia felt it would be easier and less embarrassing if Mr Whinging were to fall off a cliff at the earliest opportunity, rather than have him socialise with the young, fashionable sons and daughters of the ton. It would be an outing of catastrophic consequences, him blushing and stammering and tripping about like the fresh country boy he was. She felt like cringing at the idea already. She was sure Mr Whinging would do her no credit, but neither did she want him to be hanging around all day long. She had better things to do when he wasn’t around, and since he had arrived she hadn’t had a moment to herself. And if the Marchioness insisted … Julia thanked Miss Hampton, and decided she would take delight in the social havoc he would inevitably wreak. Lady Penelope Grove would be there too, and the Duchess already had her suspicions about that relationship.
Lady Emerson was always the greatest authority when it came to the debutantes. Julia only knew the girls she mentioned by their older sisters—she had to suppress a smirk when the name ‘Grafton’ passed by the Marchioness’s lips. Sure, the family was impeccable, but that unfortunate scandal with the Countess of Carrington—the poor death of her husband!— was not so far in the past that the matrons did not still titter about it behind fans. Lady Julianne must have been the young lady with golden red hair last night at the ball, with her chin held ever so high. As for Lady Juliet Landon, she must be Lady Elizabeth Landon’s younger sister. Lady Elizabeth had been a debutante last year, and being stunningly beautiful had made Julia take notice. She would look out for these two girls, as well as Miss Hampton, of course.
“I do remember Elizabeth Landon very well,” Julia answered, raising her eyebrows ever so slightly. “I must profess my awe if both girls are so beautiful! And Lady Julianne has her family’s colouring …” The Duchess made a thoughtful sound. “It seems that there are many debutantes this Season, and of such good families! It will be a difficult year in terms of competition.”
"Very much so." Winifred replied with a soft cluck. She was always keen to see how the girls turned out, much like Julia herself. That Viola, Winifred thought with a slight air of disapproval, should have done well to marry into a good family. Still, it was the girl's own choice, and Winifred certainly didn't have anything to say about it. "Jane Dunford is holding a tea party today for all the debs- she sent a letter out saying that her Lizzie Dunford needed good company." Winifred said, introducing a new topic to the conversation. Elise, knowing that she would attend and also that the Duchess of Claitonborough despaired of her daughter ever becoming a 'proper young lady' kept her eyes on her teacup. Julianne had many thoughts on this subject, most of them revolving around the fact that Lizzie simply did not have the 'air of a duchess' daughter'. In fact, Elise had the impression that Julianne thought herself superior to Lizzie Dunford despite the latter's higher rank.
"There is word on the street saying that the Dunford daughter is running a little wild, I for one have never seen her be anything but well behaved and an example to all." Nonchalantly, Winifred sipped at her tea.
Once again, Julia had to suppress a cruel smile as Lady Emerson talked of the letter penned by the Duchess of Claitonborough requesting (of all things!) better company for her youngest child and only daughter. All of society knew about that embarrassing missive now. To have such personal issues published in the Tatler was humiliating, indeed! Yet, Winifred’s poise and serenity in discussing the controversial tea-time, as if were no more scandalous than requesting lace embroidery on a new gown, was confident. Feeling slightly chastised, Lady Pennington wished she could quash those snide opinions. But they were so fun, and to think of the silly things people did! She would never be caught in such situations, no, never.
Having never met Lady Lizzie Dunford personally, Julia accepted the Marchioness’s estimation of her. Then again, Lady Emerson did have a tendency to think the best of others. It was a characteristic, Julia thought suddenly, that allowed her to be at Emerson House now. No other society matron was this welcoming and warm. Certainly, they were always fawning and smiling and they seemed to want to know her, but it was tiring trying to decipher who was real, and who would only hurt her for benefit. It was much easier to stick with motherly Lady Emerson, who brewed her tea just right.
And she always did have the best information on the debutantes. Julia almost pitied the new girls this year. Those poor barons’ daughters, who could have been deemed Incomparable any other Season, were now going to be politely ignored in favour of dukes’ and marquesses’ daughters (not to mention their dowries!). It brought back unhappy memories of her own first Season, even though many would say that it was a resounding success: Julia Dancy had married a duke, after all! But nevertheless, the scornful giggles and sly side glances were more than enough to leave a lasting bitter impression. Looking at Miss Hampton, who was focussed on her teacup, she felt a surge of sympathy. She might be Lady Emerson’s ward, after all, but she really was only a servant’s child … “Miss Hampton, what do you think of the Season thus far? It is always so refreshing to hear a new opinion.”
"I've quite enjoyed it so far." Elise said with a smile, her honest eyes training on Lady Pennington. Winifred smiled. Elise had been considered so shy in the past that she wouldn't speak to anyone, let alone a Duchess like Julia. Still, the younger woman continued on. "Lady Emerson has been very kind to both Charity and I," She said, knowing it was no secret to the ton that both Char and her were orphans, Lady Emerson having taken both of them in. "The party on Sunday was a success by all considerations and if it weren't for Lady Emerson, it would have never been that way." Here, Winifred gave Elise a pat on the hand before taking up her teacup again.
" It's also nice to have all my friends with me this season. Lady Penelope, the Marquess of Pendleston's daughter is on her second season in London, along with Lady Julianne and Lady Gwendolyn, the Marquess of Aveing's sister. I count both of them amongst my closest friends, and I'm lucky to have them here in London! I would be so lost without Penny's guidance, truly!" Elise didn't realize it till then, but what high places her friends all seem to be from! Really, the family you were born into, or in her case, living with really mattered. She abruptly felt a keen sense of realization- what would have happened if her parents hadn't died? She would end up, simply a gentleman's daughter, with no hopes of even a Season. The world worked in the oddest ways sometimes.
"Elise has been very welcome in society.." Winifred said, taking up the conversation again. "And my Charity too. If only Charity would keep still long enough instead of going about and meddling with everyone elses business. Lord Daniel Rossington seems to have a marked interest in you, Elise, doesn't he? And the Duke of Leighton? Dancing your first dance? What do you think of those gentlemen Julia? Good men?"
The obvious sincerity in Miss Hampton’s eyes was as disconcerting as it was sweet. Julia was not one to cultivate affection for debutantes (especially young, pretty ones whom Pennington would always inspect too closely) but she knew that this little ward of the Marchioness’s was firstly too high-ranking for her husband, and secondly too good-willed. He liked the regular out and outer ladies, much like she herself had been when she could only count seventeen years. Miss Hampton would not set the matrons gossiping by dancing in the same set with a gentlemen twice or by choosing a scandalously low-cut gown. Most certainly she would not flirt with a married duke. Listening with a growing sense of protectiveness, the Duchess found herself feeling glad for the younger girl’s success, even though some could claim it was already guaranteed with Lady Emerson as a chaperone.
As the Marchioness continued the vein of her ward’s conversation, Julia only had time to smile warmly at Miss Hampton before she turned her attention back to the hostess. It was just as well, because although she found herself uncharacteristically sympathetic this day, it was also very slightly confusing. Surely people could not be as charmingly simple and exceptionally lovely as the girl in front of her … It would not surprise the Duchess if Miss Hampton revealed herself to be a designing harpy, although she dreaded the prospect.
She raised her eyebrows as Lady Emerson flippantly revealed that Miss Hampton’s suitors were no less than his Grace the Duke of Leighton and Lord Daniel Rossington, who was as good as a duke already, considering Welby’s unfortunate situation. Her pity from moments before felt undeserved in this light—this servant’s daughter could be a duchess at the end of this Season! But mechanically, she answered, with a playful smile: “Good men! The very best, surely—although his Grace of Leighton may still be nursing a broken heart.” She had intended it as a flippant comment, and the fact that it came out a tad harder than she wanted sobered her. Wanting to lighten the remark, she smiled mischievously at Miss Hampton. “Do try to ensure that you refrain from breaking it more, although it will—I own—be difficult with your looks! You are entirely too captivating, my dear.”
Elise's mind blanked completely as Lady Pennington's comment registered in her head. Heart broken? What was she talking about? She wasn't quite so aware that the Duke was still pining for his ex-wife. She knew, of course, that his grace had married once, though he did not have any children that she knew of. A broken heart was something quite serious, in her opinion, and she wasn't quite sure she wanted in any part to deal with that. She truly wanted to know more about it, but she wasn't quite sure it was in anyway appropriate to ask Lady Pennington questions regarding his Grace's personal past.
"Not quite as beautiful as yourself I gather, Lady Pennington," She said demurely, a flush on her cheeks. "There is after all, more to beauty and attraction than just a pretty face. Confidence, intelligence and a general air about a woman that I am sure I will take years to attain compared to that that you already have." A bright laugh hid her inner confusion, her mind still reeling from the newest bit of information that she learnt.
Indulgent parents and a cosseted childhood had ensured that Julia was the recipient of many an inflating compliment. Yet the consequence was rather odd—instead of, like the vivacious Miss Wriothesley, becoming all too accustomed to praise and expecting it, flattery was taken by her Grace of Pennington with a suspicion approaching paranoia. While Miss Hampton prettily delivered her admiring comments, the object of admiration had to suppress the instinct to narrow her eyes. There was something behind that laugh, and although many would scoff and demean Julia’s second-guessing and distrustful nature, nine times out of ten she knew her misgivings were correct.
But however strongly she felt that the compliment hid deeper feelings, the Duchess could not feel that they were negative reflections of her. It was difficult to fathom what Miss Hampton was thinking when it seemed that the praise was meant in a manner disarmingly earnest. Uncomfortable, Lady Pennington could only laugh modestly, and wave an airy hand. “You are too appreciative, my dear! I am just an old, married woman, and even if I do possess this ‘confidence, intelligence, and a general air’ now I assure you I did not have it when I was a debutante!” It was, even objectively speaking, untrue. Julia could hardly remember all the other girls she’d debuted with; they were all pretty enough, to be sure, but the confident and unique ladies were the ones who continued to have sparkling careers in the ton, as hostesses and mothers.
Miss Hampton was not so outwardly bold as Miss Pritchard or the bubbly Miss Beacham she had been hearing of, but there was a naivety to her that would be very endearing to the truly gentlemanly. Julia felt like she almost wanted her to do well. To curb the strange sensation, she smiled at Lady Emerson. “If I am successful in persuading Pennington to open my house for an event this Season, I must have your girls there!”
In a burst of what must be odd excitement, Elise bounced in her seat at the news of a party. "Oh, Lady Pennington, you must, you must! We shall be so, so honored to attend, wouldn't we Maman?" She said excitedly, a youthful bloom over her cheeks. Her previous thoughts about Lady Pennington's words on the Duke were pushed to the back of her mind, determined not to let it affect her for now. Now, there was a duchess saying that she must be invited for a party. On her part, Lady Emerson smiled. "Of course we will, and will most graciously accept the invitation whenever it comes. I say, Pennington should be persuaded. I will have two words with him when I see him next," Lady Emerson declared. "For what good it is to be of the highest rank and not show it off?" She finished with a tinkling laugh, patting Julia's hand.
Elise smiled and nodded, her bright smile lighting up her cornflower blue eyes. How glorious, to be invited personally by a Duchess! She had never been one to look purely at status alone, but Lady Pennington was truly a beautiful person. What would Julianne say when she heard! Elise, meeting a duchess and getting invited so soon!
Warmth spread throughout Julia as Lady Emerson patted her hand; she briefly contemplated that this was what a having a true mother might feel like. Of course, she had her own mama, but it had been a long time since she had nurtured any modicum of respect for Lady Eleanor Dancy. She was a foolish woman prone to aches and vapours, and the Duchess disliked everything she knew she had inherited from the woman: a transient, pale sort of beauty; a marked disposition for stoutness; a shrill, tinkling laugh; and a shortness that was fashionably petite but inconvenient for staring people down. Shaking herself out of a temporary melancholy, she smiled at Miss Hampton, who looked genuinely excited.
“If I am met with such animation for the prospect of a ball in my home, then I declare that the campaign to persuade Pennington will start immediately!” Suddenly, she remembered that her birthday was in only a few weeks. Her twenty-fourth birthday … Julia wondered if anyone would consider or if anyone would care, but her expression continued to be flawless. She smiled at the Marchioness. “Your two words would be a great help; he is so obstinate sometimes!” Julia hoped she sounded loving and exasperated, but as she had never personally experienced such a mix of emotions, she would have gambled her husband’s tailor that she came across as an impostor.
She glanced outside the window; it seemed that noon was approaching. How quickly the time had passed! Smiling quickly again, she nodded at Lady Emerson. “It seems that I must be on my way soon; I am to meet the Duke.” It was bound to be a tedious appointment, especially as it involved accountants, and would doubtlessly expand to an interrogation of why mantua-makers charged so extravagantly. As if she would know … “I hope to see you again—both of you,” she added, her expression softening as her gaze slid to Miss Hampton’s face. Strangely, she wasn’t mistrustful of this debutante, yet …
"Likewise, your Grace." Elise said happily, pleased to have made such an acquaintance. "And I am extremely sure the duke will have no reason to say no to you. Emerson has often commented that it is particularly difficult to refuse a request from a beautiful woman." She said, prompting a chuckle from from the Marchioness.
" We shall not keep you, Julia." Lady Emerson said with a smile. "and I am very sure there will be many other occasions for us to meet, the Season has just begun!"