Friday's Child

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9780099468042: Friday's Child

"A lightsome, brightsome comedy." —Kirkus Reviews

"Nimble, light-hearted chronicle of high London society in the time of the Regency." —The New Yorker

Georgette Heyer's sparkling romances have charmed and delighted millions of fans. Her characters brilliantly illuminate one of the most exciting and fascinating eras of English history—when drawing rooms sparkled with well-dressed nobility and romantic intrigues ruled the day. Heyer's heroines are smart and independent; her heroes are dashing noblemen who know how to handle a horse, fight a duel, or address a lady. And her sense of humor is legendary.

When the incomparable Miss Milbourne spurns the impetuous Lord Sherington's marriage proposal (she laughs at him—laughs!) he vows to marry the next female he encounters, who happens to be the young, penniless Miss Hero Wantage, who has adored him all her life. Whisking her off to London, Sherry discovers there is no end to the scrapes his young, green bride can get into, and she discovers the excitement and glamorous social scene of the ton. Not until a deep misunderstanding erupts and Sherry almost loses his bride, does he plumb the depths of his own heart, and surprises himself with the love he finds there.

"Reading Georgette Heyer is the next best thing to reading Jane Austen." —Publishers Weekly

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About the Author:

Georgette Heyer wrote over fifty novels, including Regency romances, mysteries, and historical fiction. She was known as the Queen of Regency romance, and was legendary for her research, historical accuracy, and her extraordinary plots and characterizations.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

One

Do not, I beg of you, my lord, say more!' uttered Miss Milborne, in imploring accents, slightly averting her lovely countenance, and clasping both hands at her bosom.

Her companion, a tall young gentleman who had gone romantically down upon one knee before her chair, appeared put out by this faltered request. ‘Damn it I mean, dash it, Isabella!' he expostulated, correcting himself somewhat impatiently as the lady turned reproachful brown eyes upon him, ‘I haven't started!'

‘Do not!'

‘But I'm about to offer for you!' said the Viscount, with more than a touch of asperity.

‘I know,' replied the lady. ‘It is useless! Say no more, my lord!'

The Viscount arose from his knee, much chagrined. ‘I must say, Isabella, I think you might let a fellow speak!' he said crossly.

‘I would spare you pain, my lord.'

‘I wish you will stop talking in that damned theatrical way!' said the Viscount. ‘And don't keep on calling me "my lord", as though you hadn't known me all your life!'

Miss Milborne flushed, and stiffened a little. It was perfectly true, since their estates marched together, that she had known the Viscount all her life, but a dazzling career as an acknowledged Beauty, with half the eligible young gentlemen in town at her feet, had accustomed her to a far more reverential mode of address than that favoured by her childhood's playmate. In some dudgeon, she gazed coldly out of the window, while her suitor took a few hasty turns about the room.

The prospect, which was of neat lawns, well-stocked flowerbeds, and trim hedges, was a pleasing one, but it was not from any love of sylvan settings that Miss Milborne was at present sojourning in the country. Her withdrawal from the Metropolis some weeks previously had been in consequence of her having contracted an odiously childish complaint which had made it necessary for her to disappear from the Polite World at a moment when she might have been pardoned for considering herself, if not its hub, at least its cynosure. Her Mama, quite as sensible as herself of the ridiculous nature of her indisposition, had announced her to be quite worn-down by the exigencies of fashionable life, and had whisked her off to Kent in a post-chaise-and-four, where, in a comfortable mansion suitably retired from the haunts of men, she was able not only to recover her health and looks in seclusion, but also to communicate her complaint to two abigails, and a youthful page-boy. She had emerged from her sick room some weeks earlier, but since she was still a trifle pale and out of looks, Mrs Milborne, a lady distinguished by her admirable sense, had decided to keep her in the country until (she said) the roses should again bloom in her cheeks. Quite a number of ardent gentlemen had presented themselves at Milborne House, having driven all the way from London in the hopes of being permitted a glimpse of the Incomparable, but the door remained shut against them, and they were obliged to relinquish their nosegays and passionate billets into the hands of an unresponsive butler, and to tool their various chariots back to town without having had even the refreshment of being allowed to press their lips to the fair hand of the Beauty.

Lord Sheringham would undoubtedly have met with the same reception had he not presumed in a very unhandsome way upon his long acquaintance with the family, by riding over from Sheringham Place, where he had been spending the night, leaving his horse at the stables, and walking up through the gardens to enter the house through one of the long windows that opened on to the lawn. Encountering an astonished footman, his lordship, very much at home, had tossed his whip and his gloves on to a table, laid his curly-brimmed beaver beside them, and demanded the master of the house.

Mr Milborne, being quite unblessed by the worldly wisdom which characterised his spouse, had no sooner grasped the purpose of this visit than he suggested vaguely, and not very hopefully, that his lordship had better speak to Isabella himself. ‘For I'm sure I don't know, Anthony,' he had said, looking doubtfully at the Viscount. ‘There's no saying what may be in their heads, no saying at all!'

Correctly divining this cryptic utterance to refer to his wife and daughter, his lordship had said: ‘At all events, you've no objection, sir, have you?'

‘No,' replied Mr Milborne. ‘That is Well, no, I suppose I don't object. But you had best see Isabella for yourself!'

So the Viscount was ushered into the Beauty's presence before she had time even to draw down the blind against the too-searching light of day, and had plunged without the slightest preamble into the first offer of marriage he had ever made.

Miss Milborne found herself in the unhappy predicament of not knowing her own mind. The Viscount had been one of her acknowledged suitors for the past year, and the fact of her having known him almost from the cradle did not blind her to his charms. He was a handsome young blade, wild enough to intrigue the female fancy, and if not as brilliant a match as the Duke of Severn, who had lately shown flattering symptoms of being on the verge of declaring himself, at least he was much more presentable his grace being a stolid young man inclined to corpulency. On the other hand, the Viscount was by no means so devout a lover as his friend Lord Wrotham, who had several times offered to blow his brains out, if such a violent act would afford her pleasure. In fact, the suspicion had more than once crossed Miss Milborne's mind that the Viscount had joined the throng of her admirers for no better reason than that he was never one to be out of the mode. His professed adoration had not so far led him to abandon the pursuit of opera-dancers and Cyprians, or to rectify those faults of character to which Miss Milborne had more than once taken exception. She was a little piqued by him. If he would but display a few tangible signs of his devotion, such as reforming his way of life, which was shocking; growing slightly haggard, like poor Wrotham; turning pale at a snub; or being cast into rapture by a smile, she thought she would have been much inclined to accept his proffered suit. But instead of behaving in a fashion which she had come to regard as her due, the Viscount continued on his reprehensible course, according her certainly a good deal of homage, but apparently deriving just as much pleasure as ever from a set of sports and pastimes which seemed to have been chosen by him with a view to causing his family the maximum amount of pain and anxiety.

She stole a look at him under her eyelashes. No, he was not as handsome as poor Wrotham, whose dark, stormy beauty troubled her dreams a little. Wrotham was a romantic figure, particularly when his black locks were dishevelled through his clutching them in despair. The Viscount's fair curls were dishevelled too, but there was nothing romantic about this, since the disorder was the result of careful combing, and Miss Milborne had a strong suspicion that his passion for herself was not of such a violent nature as to induce him to interfere with his valet's inspired handiwork. He was taller than Wrotham, rather loose-limbed, and inclined to be careless of his appearance. Not that this criticism could be levelled at him on this occasion, Miss Milborne was obliged to own. He had dressed himself with obvious care. Nothing could have been neater than the cravat he wore, nothing more rigorously starched than the high points of his shirt-collar. The long-tailed coat of blue cloth, made for him by no less a personage than the great Stultz, set without a crease across his shoulders; his breeches were of the fashionable pale yellow; and his top-boots were exquisitely polished. At the moment, as he paced about the room, his countenance was marred by something rather like a scowl, but his features were good, and if he lacked Wrotham's romantic expression it was an undeniable fact that he could, when he liked, smile in a way that lent a good deal of sweetness to his wilful, obstinate mouth. He had deceptively angelic blue eyes, at odd variance with the indefinable air of rakishness that sat upon his person. As Miss Milborne watched him, they chanced to encounter hers. For a moment they stared belligerently, then his lordship's good-humour reasserted itself, and he grinned. ‘Oh, deuce take it, Bella, you know I'm head over ears in love with you!'

‘No, I don't,' said Miss Milborne, with unexpected frankness.

The Viscount's jaw dropped. ‘But my dear girl ! No, really, now, Bella! Most devoted slave! Word of a gentleman, I am! Good God, haven't I been dangling at your shoe-strings ever since I first knew you?'

‘No,' said Miss Milborne.

The Viscount blinked at her.

‘When you first knew me,' said Miss Milborne, not rancorously, but as one stating a plain truth, ‘you said all girls were plaguey nuisances, and you called me Foxy, because you said I had foxy-coloured hair.'

‘I did?' gasped his lordship, appalled at this heresy.

‘Yes, you did, Sherry; and, what is more, you locked me in the gardener's shed, and if it had not been for Cassy Bagshot I should have been left there all day!'

‘No, no!' protested his lordship feebly. ‘Not all day!'

‘Yes, I should, because you know very well you went off to shoot pigeons with one of your father's fowling-pieces, and never gave me another thought!'

‘Lord, if I hadn't forgotten that!' exclaimed Sherry. ‘Blew the hat off old Grimsby's head too! He was as mad as fire! Devilish bad-tempered fellow, Grimsby! Went straight off to tell my father. When I think of the floggings that old man got me Yes, and now you've put me in mind of it, Bella, how the deuce should I be giving you a thought with Father leading me off by the ear, and making me too curst sore to think of anything? Be reasonable, my dear girl, be reasonable!'

‘It doesn't signify in the least,' responded Miss Milborne. ‘But when you say that you have been dangling at my shoe-strings ever since you first saw me, it is the greatest untruth ever I heard!'

‘At all events, I liked you better than any other girl I knew!' said the Viscount desperately.

Miss Milborne regarded him in a reminiscent way which he found singularly unnerving. ‘No, I don't think you did,' she said at last. ‘In fact, if you had a preference, I think it was for Hero Wantage.'

‘Hero?' exclaimed the Viscount. ‘No, dash it all, Bella, I never thought of Hero in all my life. I swear I didn't!'

‘No, I know that,' said Miss Milborne impatiently, ‘but when we were children you did like her more than you liked me, or Cassy, or Eudora, or Sophy, because she used to fetch and carry for you, and pretend she didn't mind when she got hurt by your horrid cricket-balls. She was only a baby, or she would have seen what an odious boy you were. For you were, Sherry, you know you were!'

Roused, the Viscount said, with feeling: ‘I'll swear I wasn't half as odious as the Bagshot girls! Lord, Bella, do you remember the way that little cat, Sophy, used to run and tell tales about the rest of us to her mother?'

‘Not about me,' said Miss Milborne coldly. ‘There was nothing to tell.' She perceived that her reminiscent mood had infected the Viscount, the gleam in his eye warning her that some quite undesirable recollections were stirring in his memory, and made haste to recall him to the present. ‘Not that it signifies, I'm sure. The truth is we should not suit, Sherry. Indeed, I'm deeply sensible of the honour you have done me, but '

‘Never mind that flummery!' interrupted her suitor. ‘I don't see why we shouldn't deal extremely. Here's me, madly in love with you, Bella pining away, give you my word! No, really, my dear girl, I'm not bamming! When he measured me for this coat, Stultz found it out.'

‘I fancy,' said Miss Milborne primly, ‘that it is the life you lead that is to blame for your being thin, my lord. I don't flatter myself it can be put to my account.'

‘Well, if that don't beat all!' exclaimed his lordship indig-nantly. ‘I should like to know who's been telling tales about me!'

‘No one has been telling tales. I do not like to say it, but you must own that there is no secrecy about your conduct. And I must say, Sherry, I think if you really loved me as you say you do, you would take some pains to please me!'

‘Take pains to please you! Take No, by God, that's too much, Bella! When I think of the way I've been dancing attendance on you, wasting my time at Almack's night after night '

‘And leaving early to go to some horrid gaming-hell,' interpolated Miss Milborne.

The Viscount had the grace to blush, but he regarded her with a kindling eye, and said grimly: ‘Pray what do you know of gaming-hells, miss?'

‘I am thankful to say I know nothing at all of them, except that you are for ever in one, which all the world knows. It grieves me excessively.'

‘Oh, does it?' said his lordship, anything but gratified by this evidence of his adored's solicitude.

‘Yes,' said Miss Milborne. An agreeable vision of the Viscount's being reclaimed from a life of vice by his love for a good woman presented itself to her. She raised her lovely eyes to his face, and said: ‘Perhaps I ought not to speak of it, but but you have shown an unsteadiness of character, Sherry, a a want of delicacy of principle which makes it impossible for me to accept your offer. I do not desire to give you pain, but the company you keep, your extravagance, the wildness of your conduct, must preclude any female of sensibility from bestowing her hand upon you.'

‘But, Bella!' protested his horrified lordship. ‘Good God, my dear girl, that will all be a thing of the past! I shall make a famous husband! I swear I shall! I never looked at another female '

‘Never looked at another female? Sherry, how can you? With my own eyes, I saw you at Vauxhall with the most vulgar, hateful '

‘Not in the way of marriage, I mean!' said the Viscount hastily. ‘That was nothing nothing in the world! If you hadn't driven me to distraction '

‘Fiddle!' snapped Miss Milborne.

‘But I tell you I love you madly devotedly! My whole life will be blighted if you won't marry me!'

‘It won't. You will merely go on making stupid bets, and racing, and gaming, and '

‘Well, you're out there,' interrupted Sherry. ‘I shan't be able to, because if I don't get married I shall be all to pieces.'

This blunt admission had the effect of making Miss Milborne stiffen quite alarmingly. ‘Indeed!' she said. ‘Am I to understand, my lord, that you have offered for my hand as a means of extricating yourself from your debts?'

‘No, no, of course I haven't! If that had been my only reason I might have offered for a score of girls any time these past three years!' replied his lordship ingenuously. ‘Fact of the matter is, Bella, I've never been able to bring myself up to scratch before, though the lord knows I've tried! Never saw any female except you I could think of tieing myself up to for life I'll take my oath I haven't! Ask Gil! Ask Ferdy! Ask George! Ask anyone you like! They'll all tell you it's true.'

‘I don't desire to ask them. I dare say you would neve...

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