Beth

Beth Emmerson may be rich, but she doesn't have everything; her father thinks she's proud and her distant cousin, Gordon Banks, clearly hates her enough to appear cold and distant. But when a strange poem is presented, written by an apparent admirer, Beth's entire world is flung upside down and she must venture to find out more about her family than she has ever known before. To do this, however, Miss Emmerson must first hear the tragic story of two lovers; one player and one young lady, who is dead and has been for five years. As the past and present collide, the nasty intentions of the mysterious poet are revealed and Beth must, and will, make her decisions.

SEQUEL TO ELIZABETH MARTON

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3. 3.

The following three days preceding the dance at Hardon passed in the usual blur. When the day finally arrived, however, panic vastly arose. The ladies fussed over what to wear and most of the gentlemen ended up losing some garment or other. Mrs Fitzwield entered her youngest daughter's bedroom, only to discover that Kitty had picked out her skimpiest, most low-cut dress and was interestedly examining her reflection in the mirror.

"Kitty, you cannot wear that to a formal ball." Janet told Kitty firmly. Reluctantly, Kitty did as she were told and chose different attire, but Beth Emmerson, overhearing the conversation from the room next-door, worried that her own gown was too revealing and went through her entire wardrobe, until her own mother quietened her fears and advised her to redress herself also.

 

Over on the other side of the house, meanwhile, more commotion was taking place, as Eddie Emmerson had lost his hat.

"Father," he asked, coming into his father's room "have you seen my hat?"

Mr Emmerson glanced up destractedly; he was too busy rummaging around in his own wardrobe for some specific item of clothing and his servant was, in vain, trying to assist. "What?"

Eddie repeated his request.

"No." snapped his father irritably. "Of course I have not. How could I possibly have seen your hat?"

His son sighed then, catching sight of his uncle in the corridor, called out to him "Uncle! Have you seen my hat?"

But Edmund Fitzwield denied having any knowledge of its whereabouts.

At last, however, once everyone was deemed ready to go, the family took themselves, in two of their carriages, to Hardon.

 

Hardon Hall, although of a rather less rich disposition than Pickely - but being rather of the same worth as Inklefields - was a very fine house, not overwhelming in grandeur, but pleasing and modern all the same. The Emmersons all of whom had, being its closest neighbours, seen it plenty of times before, were not so awed by it as their cousins were and Beth, whom was very used to grandeur, and on a larger scale, shared an almost bored look with Eddie. However, upon arriving outside the front doors, Beth took up Rose's arm, offered her free one to Kitty, and the three of them entered the party.

The ballroom at Hardon was fairly crowded, although it were large, and food was certainly not scarce. Beth's brother, instantly spying Daisy Ephram, for whom he had long nursed a soft spot, left his sister and cousins immediately, leaving James to be burdened upon the company of the young ladies, all three of whom felt extremely annoyed. However they indeed coped with their relation's presence and Rose, upon spying Daphne Dorweight, one of their intimate friends, called out to her to join them.

James, at this, and Beth suspected it was because he, no matter how much he denied it, felt some degree of powerful feeling*2 towards Daphne and could not bear to be in her company, slunk away.

"Miss Emmerson!" addressed Miss Dorweight, speaking first to Beth, with whom she was particularly acquainted. "And Rose and Kitty, too! My, my! How are you?"

"Very well, thank you." replied the eldest Miss Fitzwield graciously. "It has been several months since Kitty and I last saw you, has it not, Kitty?"

But Kitty Fitzwield was not listening. Instead, her attention was caught by someone else, by James, whom had appeared again from the crowd and whom was speaking, with rapt eagerness, to a gentleman none of them had ever seen.

"I say!" said Kitty loudly, pointing in their direction. "Whoever is that, speaking with James?"

Her three companions looked.

"That," said Daphne in a breathless undertone "Is only the man himself, Mr. Miles. I believe him to be a very promising, amiable sort of man."

Beth stared. He was indeed very handsome. He smiled a lot, too, perhaps a bit too much, but Miss Emmerson supposed that that would only pronounce his figure to appear all the more amicable.

"Mr. Miles?" repeated Rose, just as breathlessly. "Goodness! He is handsome!

Privately, Beth could not see what any of the fuss was about. Mr Miles was not bad-looking - quite the country! However Miss Emmerson was very sure that she had seen many a man whom had attracted her more, and Beth was not anywhere near as awe-struck by him as her cousin and friend were. Before she could express any of this, however, Kitty had cried out "Look!"

"What is it?" asked Daphne, but the meaning and cause behind Kitty's second exclamation was soon made visible. A second gentleman, also unfamiliar, was moving soundlessly towards the pair of James and Mr. Miles, weaving himself between the many tight knots of gentlemen and ladies with somewhat difficulty.

"Who is he?" whispered Beth to Miss Dorweight, nodding in the direction of the new stranger lest her observant friend should have the answer. But Daphne did not.

"Pardon me," she replied civilly "but I have no idea."

The stranger had now reached the two gentlemen he had come in quest of, but stood by them, merely, in an almost intimidating manner, not saying a word.

James, Beth noticed, shifted uneasily.

 

The new gentleman was of fairly tall height, with extraordinarily handsome features, dark eyes and dark hair. He was clearly rich, richer, possibly, than many of the other people in the room, for he was dressed in a manner which certainly did not impose lack of wealth. The young ladies stared and stared and even Beth, the richest of the four, felt humbled. Likewise, however, the gentleman also seemed to have snatched the attention of the rest of the room; people whispered and gawped. Gentlemen turned to each other in wonder, and extreme curiosity, and every single member of the female sex, throughout the ballroom, was caught completely star-struck.

The stranger, however, only glared about him with such contempt, that Miss Emmerson's positive light, light in which she had placed him, at once flickered and went out. Stupid man! she thought angrily. How arrogant is he ti impose such awful manners upon the vast amounts of civility and respect with which he is being treated?

However, she did not turn away and joined Miss Dorweight and the two Miss Fitzwields in listening slyly in on the conversation that now flowed between James, Mr. Miles and this rude, strange gentleman.

 

"Mr. Banks, at last, here you are!" cried Mr. Miles warmly. "I wondered at your absence!"

Mr. Banks said nothing.

"My dear Mr Fitzwield," continued Mr. Miles, turning to James. "Allow me to present to you my friend, Gordon Banks."

"It is an honour indeed, sir." said James politely. "A very great honour."

Mr. Miles beamed. "And," he said tentatively, after a short pause, to James. "I believe you to have two cousins... And, perhaps, some sisters...?"

James made a slight bow. "Yes, sir. My sisters and one of my cousins are just over there, and my other cousin is on the dance floor."

"Your sisters are over there, you say? With one of your cousins? May you introduce us?"

"Of course, sir." replied James in a tone of surprise, directing his two companions' gaze in the direction of Beth, Rose, Kitty and Daphne, all of whom were trying to act as though they had no idea whatsoever that they were being conversed over.

"Delightful! Delightful indeed! They look like charming young ladies, do they not, Mr. Banks?" cried Mr. Miles, nudging his friend cheerfully.

"What?" snapped Mr. Banks sharply. He had ignored the ladies before, but now he turned his head to look at them properly. "Oh." he said. "No, they do not seem like charming young ladies at all. Quite the reverse. I should consider them merely a pack of silly little girls."

Beth, upon hearing this, tried hard not to snicker; she found the man highly ridiculous. Rose, however, looked affronted and so, as Mr. Miles' next words, did Kitty.

"The youngest may be, but the elder ones are very handsome and I daresay they shall make elegant enough friends for Emma. Your sister needs company, does she not?"

"Perhaps." said Mr. Banks shortly. Then he stood in agitation for several minutes, before turning to Mr. Miles and bursting loudly out: "Oh, very well then! Get us introduced. For Emma's sake."

Mr. Miles smiled, then nodded in James' direction. "Pray - will you introduce us to the ladies?"

James made no objection and lead the two gentlemen over.

Daphne, Beth noticed, looked, at the sight of all the grandeur of them, as though she was trying very hard not to faint.

"Good evening." said Mr. Miles politely, once he was in front of the ladies. "Your charming relation here has kindly offered to introduce us to you - or rather, introduce us to his seemingly delightful cousin and sisters."

"Daphne Dorweight, at this, gave a very nervous, almost hysterical, laugh and coughed something that sounded like "Relation?"

Beth stood on her foot. Daphne yelped in protest and pain, and Mr. Miles concernedly looked at her. "I beg your pardon?"

Daphne blushed crimson and Beth, whom seemed to be the only one whom had not lost her head, helpfully cut in. "Miss Dorweight, here, is not our relation. Daphne is our particular friend." she said.

"Is she really?" laughed Mr. Miles warmly. "And you are...?"

"Elizabeth Emmerson, sir." replied Beth.

Beside his friend, the surly, bored-looking Mr. Banks gave a slight start.

"Although as my mother also goes by the name Elizabeth, then I go usually by the name Beth." Then, Miss Emmerson turned to Mr. Banks, for his look of astonishment at her name had not gone, by her watchful eyes, unnoticed. "You are familiar with the name Emmerson, sir? Or was it Elizabeth?"

Mr. Banks looked steadily down at her. "Both." he said, edging a little further forwards, arms folded. "I happen to know, vaguely, both of your parents. I am, in fact, your father's cousin-in-law's nephew. I believe, at first, your parents disliked each other and that they met through the means of your father's friend, Edmund Fitzwield."

Beth was astonished. So were Rose and Kitty. Miss Dorweight, however, upon spotting some potted shrimp sandwiches, for which she cherished a great weakness, silently slipped away.

 

"Do you really know my parents?" asked Miss Emmerson, intrigue and respect forming, momentarily, upon her features. But when Mr Banks only snorted and replied, in the most uncivil manner possible, "Of course", all good feeling towards him vanished and Beth was left with an unmovable disgust and nothing to say.

"My father has thirteen thousand*3 a year." she said promptly after a while, for want of a subject.

Mr. Banks gave a slight smirk. "I know." he said shortly. "The same as myself."

Rose Fitzwield's jaw dropped.

Beth said nothing and turned away.

 

Mr. Miles, meanwhile, whom had been watching the exchange between his friend and Miss Emmerson with rapt attention, then asked for more introductions and the names of the two Miss Fitzwields were given. Kitty's excitement, however, rendered her almost incomprehensible and Rose, even though she was usually of a bold, frank disposition, was far too terrified of Gordon Banks to do anything other then stammer her name and flee. Kitty, her little sister, whom then dissolved into inexplicable giggles, went with her and the pair of them sprinted off into the crowd. This meant Beth and James were the only two left of their party whom had not yet disgraced themselves, and the cousins exchanged awkward looks of embarrassment and vexation, each unsure what to say. Mr. Miles, it appeared, had exhausted all his conversation and Mr. Banks was, of course, no help in the matter whatsoever. Finally, however, they were rescued by the appearance of Beth's father and Eddie, the latter whom had been dragged unceremoniously from the dance by his father, in favour of his coming over and getting introduced.

"James, your mother's looking for you." said Mr Emmerson to his nephew, coming to a halt beside his daughter. Grateful for an excuse to get away from the rigidity of the scene, James hurried away.

"Father," said Beth to Mr Emmerson as soon as James had vanished. "This is Mr. Miles and, with him, he has brought his friend, Gordon Banks."

Mr Emmerson blinked, first at Mr. Miles and then at Mr. Banks. Recognition flickered across his face. "Goodness me! Is it really? Well, I suppose I have now officially met you, dear cousin!"*4

Mr. Banks smiled thinly. "Indeed. I consider it a very fine honour in finally meeting you, sir."

"No, no. The pleasure is mine, I assure you!" said Mr Emmerson, whom, when he was not being haughty or shy, could flatter perfectly well if he wanted to.

Mr. Miles bowed. "Your daughter, sir, may I just add, is an incredibly fine young woman - as are your nieces - and your nephew I find charming, as well."

"Thank you, sir." replied Mr Emmerson. "And this is my son, Edward."

Mr. Miles turned eagerly to Beth's brother. Mr. Banks, too, even looked at Eddie with a sort of mildly interested expression, although he made no sort of gentlemanly gesture of introduction.

"Ah, yes." said Mr. Miles as he shook Eddie's hand. "I happened to notice your dancing, dear boy, and very excellent dancing it was, too. Capital! Absolutely capital!"

Eddie went pink and mumbled his thanks.

After a short pause, Mr. Miles then continued: "Did I tell you about Gordon? Indeed, your distant cousin, Mr. Banks, here, along with his sister and his cousin - George Ramsal and Emma. Emma Banks - are visiting me in my new estate for the summer. And, although I daresay you may, perhaps, know something about it already, I will also now tell you about their house: The Bankses own extensive property up in Yorkshire - a very fine place. I am sure you shall find both Mr. Ramsal and Miss Banks very agreeable."

 

Privately, Beth felt that. if they were anything like their relation, Mr. Banks, then they might not be thought of as very agreeable at all; that they might be thought of as the perfect reverse. However, she did not say so.

 

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