Miss Eleanor Southeran was reliably informed that independence of mind was not a desirable quality in a young lady. But, convinced that she could not love any of the fashionable fribbles of the Ton, Eleanor had so far evaded matrimony.
Meeting Mr. Jonas Guthrie, a forthright, coolly cynical gentleman, was a refreshing change--until the scandal that surrounded his name was revealed. Believing herself deceived about his character, Eleanor intended never to see him again. But Jonas had other plans for her....
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February 03, 2000
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Excerpt from Eleanor by Sylvia Andrew
Eleanor had never seen anything so beautiful. The crystal drops in the huge chandelier splintered the flames from its candles into a million points of sparkling light. It was like...like fireworks frozen in the air, like all the stars in the Milky Way gathered together. It was worth coming to London just to see this. A fairy-tale enchantment...
'Eleanor, my dear, Lady Dorothy and her daughter wish to speak to you!' Eleanor was recalled to a more mundane reality by the sound of her aunt's voice. Without waiting for her niece, Lady Walcot had moved on a few paces in the direction of a dowager with a haughty air and an imposing turban, complete with feathers.
Eleanor gave a small sigh and started to follow, but stopped again when she became aware that a tall, broad-shouldered man with dark, hard features was staring at her from the other side of the room. He would have been an impressive figure in any circumstances, but what made him even more striking was the fact that in this crowded room he was standing quite alone.
As her eye caught his, he raised one eyebrow and smiled ironically. He was laughing at her! Of course, she had been behaving like the country bumpkin her cousins accused her of being, gazing like a moonstruck idiot at the chandelier, but she was not about to be put out of countenance by this creature's boldness! She raised her chin, gave him a cool stare, and then turned away to join her aunt and Lady Dorothy.
After exchanging civilities with Lady Walcot and agreeing, with every sign of pleasure, that the rooms were sadly crowded, Lady Dorothy said with a significant movement of her head, 'I see that he is back in London.'
'He?' said Lady Walcot blankly. Then her puzzled expression changed to one of disapprobation. 'Is he here now?'
'Come, Lady Walcot! You must have noticed him.'
'Further down on the other side of the room--you passed him as you came in. He is quite on his own, of course. How he has the effrontery to show himself I cannot imagine!'The ladies turned and stared down the room. Eleanor looked too, but more discreetly. The tall man was gazing indifferently at the passing crowd, but when he became conscious of those two icy stares directed down the room at him he bowed ironically. Whatever the gentleman lacked it was not self-assurance, thought Eleanor with some amusement.
'The impertinence!'said Lady Dorothy as she turned back again, outraged. 'But, my dear Lady Walcot, there is worse. Mrs Anstey is here tonight, too. I only hope the poor woman is not brought face to face with him-- that would be most unfortunate. In a moment I shall seek her out and warn her.'
'Indeed you must!'
Most of the sense of this conversation was lost on Eleanor, though it was certain that the two ladies were talking of the man who had smiled at her. Her aunt seemed to be genuinely worried by his presence, but beneath her display of righteous indignation Lady Dorothy was relishing the idea of seeking this Mrs Anstey out to warn her. Lady Dorothy had never forgotten that she was the daughter of a duke, and that marrying Edwin Rushton--a mere commoner--in no way diminished her right to order the lives of those around her. When they had last met, Eleanor had thought her an uncharitable busybody, and she now saw that the years did not appear to have mellowed or changed her. She sighed and waited patiently until the lady turned to her.
'Miss Southeran. How nice to see you in London again. Are you here for the season? I believe your mama is not with you?'
'I am a little old for that, Lady Dorothy,'said Eleanor with a polite smile. 'No, I merely came to take part in my cousin Bella's wedding celebrations. But I must go back soon--I have been away too long already. My mother is now something of an invalid, and I worry about her.'
Lady Dorothy's daughter, a pretty, fair-haired girl with doll-like features, cried, 'But how can you bear it, Miss Southeran? To be leaving London just as the season is beginning!'