A sham betrothal isn't the only thing that gets Kitty and Freddy into trouble, but it's definitely the beginning ..
A most unusual hero
Freddy is immensely rich, of course, and not bad-looking, but he's mild-mannered, a bit hapless--not anything like his virile, handsome, rakish cousin Jack ...
A heroine in a difficult situation
Young Kitty Charing stands to inherit a vast fortune from her irascible and eccentric guardian--provided she marries one of his great-nephews ...
A sham betrothal
No sooner does Kitty arrive in London then the race for her hand begins, but between confirmed rakes and bumbling affections, Kitty needs a daring scheme ...
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October 01, 2007
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Excerpt from Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
The Saloon, like every other room in Arnside House, was large and lofty, and had been furnished, possibly some twenty years earlier, in what had then been the first style of elegance. This, however, had become outmoded, and although the room bore no such signs of penury as a ragged carpet or patched curtains, the bright brocades had faded, the paint on the panelled walls had cracked, and the gilded picture-frames had long since become tarnished. To a casual visitor it might have seemed that Mr Penicuik, who owned the house, had fallen upon evil days; but two of the three gentlemen assembled in the Saloon at half-past six on a wintry evening of late February were in no danger of falling into this error. They knew that Great-uncle Matthew, who had made a fortune in the large enterprise of draining the Fen-country, was one of the warmest men in England, and suffered merely from a rooted dislike of spending money on anything that did not administer directly to his own comfort. The third gentleman gave no indication of thinking about it at all. He did not, like his cousin, Lord Biddenden, level a disapproving eyeglass at a spotted mirror; he did not, like his younger cousin, the Honourable and Reverend Hugh Rattray, comment acidly on the inadequacy of the small wood-fire burning in the hearth. Throughout dinner, which had been served at the unfashionable hour of five, and had been chosen (as Lord Biddenden pointed out to his brother) more with a regard to the host's digestive difficulties than to the tastes of his guests, he had maintained a silence that might have been unbroken had his cousin Hugh not addressed a series of kind and simple remarks to him, which could be easily understood, and almost as easily answered. Upon entering the Saloon, he had drifted to a chair on one side of the fireplace, where he now sat, chewing a corner of his handkerchief, and staring with an expression of vacuity at his elder cousin. Lord Biddenden knew that this gaze betokened nothing but blankness of mind, but he found it disconcerting, and muttered fretfully: 'I wish the silly fellow would not stare so!'
'He is doing you no harm,' his brother said gravely. However, he picked up a book of engravings from one of the tables, and gave it to Lord Dolphinton, directing him to look at the pictures, and telling him that he would find them very pretty and interesting. Lord Dolphinton, who was accustomed to being told, far less kindly, by his mother, what he must do, received the book gratefully, and began to turn over the pages.
Lord Biddenden said, still in that complaining under-voice: 'I cannot conceive what should have prevailed with Uncle Matthew to have invited him! It is absurd to suppose that he can have an interest in this business!' He received no other answer than one of his brother's annoyingly reproving looks, and with an exclamation of impatience walked over to the table, and began to toss over one or two periodicals which had been arranged upon it. 'It is excessively provoking that Claud should not be here!' he said, for perhaps the seventh time that day. 'I should have been very glad to have seen him comfortably established!' This observation being met with the same unencouraging silence, his lordship said with a good deal of asperity: 'You may not consider Claud's claims, but I am not one to be forgetting my brothers, I am thankful to state! I'll tell you what it is, Hugh: you are a cold-hearted fellow, and if you depend upon your countenance to win you a handsome fortune, you may well be disappointed, and there will all my trouble be spent for nothing!'
'What trouble?' enquired the Rector, in accents which lent some colour to his brother's accusation.
'If it had not been for my representations of what you owe to the family, you would not be here this evening!'
The Reverend Hugh shrugged his broad shoulders, and replied repressively: 'The whole of the affair seems to me to be most improper. If I make poor Kitty an offer, it will be from compassion, and in the belief that her upbringing and character are such as must make her a suitable wife for a man in orders.'
'Humbug!' retorted Lord Biddenden. 'If Uncle Matthew makes the girl his heiress, she will inherit, I daresay, as much as twenty thousand pounds a year! He cannot have spent a tithe of his fortune since he built this place, and when one considers how it must have accumulated--My dear Hugh, I do beg of you to use a little address! If I were a single man--! But, there! It does not do to be repining, and I am sure I am not the man to be grudging a fortune to either of my brothers!'
'We have been at Arnside close upon twenty-four hours,' said Hugh, 'and my great-uncle has not yet made known to us his intentions.'
'We know very well what they are,' replied Lord Biddenden irritably. 'And if you do not guess why he has not yet spoken, you are a bigger fool that I take you for! Of course he hoped that Jack would come to Arnside! And Freddy, too,' he added perfunctorily. 'Not that Freddy signifies a whit more than Dolphinton here, but I daresay the old man would wish him not to be excluded. No, no, it is Jack's absence which has made him hold his tongue! And I must say, Hugh, I never looked for that, and must hold it to be a piece of astonishing good fortune! Depend upon it, had the opportunity offered, the girl must have chosen him!'
'I do not know why you should say so,' replied the Rector stiffly. 'Indeed, I am at a loss to understand why you should be so anxious to have me offer for a lady whom you apparently hold in such poor esteem! If I did not believe her to be a well-brought-up young woman to whom such persons as my cousin Jack must be repugnant--'
'Yes, well, that is more of your humbug!' interrupted his lordship. 'You may be a handsome fellow, Hugh, but you are not an out-and-outer, like Jack!'
'I have no wish to be an out-and-outer, as you term it,' said Hugh, more stiffly still. 'Nor do I regard his absence or his presence as being of any particular consequence.'
'Oh, don't sham it so!' exclaimed Biddenden, flinging down a copy of the Gentleman's Magazine. 'If you fancy, my dear brother, that because he gave you your living my uncle prefers you above his other great-nephews you very much mistake the matter! I wonder you will talk such gammon, I do, indeed! Jack has always been my uncle's favourite, and so you know! He means Kitty to choose him, depend upon it, and that is why he is so devilish out of humour! I marvel at his having invited any of the rest of us, upon my soul I do!'
Lord Dolphinton, who occasionally disconcerted his relations by attending to what they said, here raised his eyes from the book on his knees, and interpolated: 'Uncle said he didn't invite you, George. Said he didn't know why you came. Said--'
'Nonsense! You know nothing of the matter!' said Lord Biddenden.
Lord Dolphinton's understanding was not powerful, nor was it one which readily assimilated ideas; but once it had received an impression it was tenacious. 'Did say so!' he insisted. 'Said it last night, when you arrived. Said it again this morning. Said it--'
'Very well, that will do!' said his cousin testily.
Lord Dolphinton was not to be so easily silenced. 'Said it when we sat down to luncheon,' he continued, ticking the occasion off on one bony finger. 'Said it at dinner. Said if you didn't care for your mutton you needn't have come, because he didn't invite you. I ain't clever, like you fellows, but when people say things to me once or twice I can remember them.' He observed that this simple declaration of his powers had bereft his cousin of words, and retired again, mildly pleased, into his book.
Lord Biddenden exchanged a speaking look with his brother; but Hugh merely remarked that it was very true, and that in such a contemptuous voice that Biddenden was goaded into saying: 'Well, at all events, it is as much to the purpose that I have come as that Dolphinton has! Folly!'
'I'm an Earl,' said Lord Dolphinton, suddenly re-entering the conversation. 'You ain't an Earl. Hugh ain't an Earl. Freddy ain't--'
'No, you are the only Earl amongst us,' interposed Hugh soothingly.
'George is only a Baron,' said Dolphinton.