Hello dear friends,
As promised, this is chapter one of the sequel to To Save and Protect. I know it is not particularly long, but it will take off soon. I am so excited to start another ride with all of you. Read and review.
Lord Paisley, the honorable marquis of Dartfort, master of Paisley Court, scion of Paisley clan, son to Lady Eleanor Paisley and brother to Ladies Clare and Henrietta Paisley, entered the breakfast room of his ancestral home, wearing his usual confident and satirical smile.
"Good morning, mother," he said as he bent to bestow a kiss upon Lady Eleanor's face. "Good morning Claire, Henrietta. I trust you ladies slept well?"
"Julian!" Lady Eleanor exclaimed with no little surprise. "I must say I am surprised to find you up at such an early hour."
"Are you, mother?" Lord Paisley asked as he poured himself a cup of coffee.
"You are never up at this hour when I visit you in London," Lady Eleanor observed.
"True," Lord Paisley agreed and sat on his usual chair across from his mother. "But then, we are not in London. Are we? Correct me if I am wrong, but do people not keep to early hours in the country?"
Lady Eleanor rolled her eyes at her son and smiled.
"Am I to believe that you are keeping to country hours, my dear?" She asked. "Forgive my skepticism, Julian, but somehow I imagine another reason for your early rising this morning."
"You are clever and insightful as always, mother," Lord Paisley bowed his head. "I confess, I do have another reason for leaving my rooms early this morning."
"And what might that reason be, brother?" Lady Claire asked, raising a delicate brow.
"I am leaving for Derbyshire this morning," Lord Paisley replied, taking a sip of his coffee. "And since it is a long journey, I plan to take advantage of the daylight as much as possible."
"Derbyshire?" Lady Henrietta asked, suddenly interested in her brother's plans. "But, brother, you cannot be serious."
"Can I not?" Lord Paisley asked lazily. "No doubt you will tell me why."
"Because Mr. Brooks is due to arrive today," Lady Henrietta explained anxiously.
"Oh, well then, in that case, I am only happy that I have decided to rise early," Lord Paisley said with a mischievous smile. "With any luck, I should be on the road to Derbyshire long before he arrives at Paisley Court."
Lady Claire hid her smile behind her handkerchief, but her shining eyes were evidence enough that she was utterly enjoying her brother's cruel joke at Lady Henrietta's expense. Mr. James Brooks was a distant cousin to the Paisleys, whose character and intellect left much to be desired. He was not a malicious man. In fact, as Lord Paisley had told his mother one day, Mr. Brooks was a funny character, one his lordship would not mind having around for occasional entertainment, had it not been for the annoying fact that he was Lord Paisley's sole heir in the event his lordship passed before having any children of his own. It was not merely the fact that Mr. Brooks stood to inherit all the Paisley fortune that irked Lord Paisley and his mother. Rather, it was the openness with which the young man spoke of his lordship's demise that left a bitter taste in their mouths.
Despite Mr. Brooks' numerous efforts to become better acquainted with the family, he was ignored as much as propriety permitted. Lady Claire found Mr. Brook's conversation too ridiculous to tolerate and Lady Eleanor would not exchange more than mere words of civility with the man who was to take her son's place. It was only the youngest member of the Paisley family, Lady Henrietta Paisley, who found the young man fascinating, and enjoyed his company with pleasure.
Having just turned nineteen, Lady Henrietta had had one successful season in London the previous year. She had received numerous offers, all of which she was obliged to refuse since her brother had forbidden her to accept any offers during her first season. Lord Paisley was of the opinion that his sisters needed to experience at least one season before they made any decisions regarding their marriage. Lady Claire, who was older than Lady Henrietta by two years, was of a calmer disposition and more rational mind. She had enjoyed three seasons already and despite receiving many offers of marriage, had refused to enter into a marriage where her heart was not engaged. Her brother had supported her decision and had not pressed her into making decisions that, he was sure, would end in regret. Lady Henrietta, unlike her sister, was quite ready to fall in love with the first gentleman that offered for her. To Lord Paisley's great relief, she seemed to fall out of love quite as easily and quickly as well, and none of the young gentlemen had been able to leave a lasting impression on her young heart.
Unfortunately, and much to his lordship's disappointment, Lady Henrietta seemed to be quite impressed with Mr. James Brooks at the moment. And what made matters more distressing was that the young man knew about it as well. As a result, seeing this as his only chance to grow closer to the family, Mr. Brooks used every opportunity to invite himself to any of the houses where the Paisley family resided under the pretense of calling on Lady Henrietta. He had called numerous times at Lord Paisley's London townhouse. And now he was calling at his country estate, where he knew all the family members to have gathered for the last few weeks.
"You cannot possibly leave when you know Mr. Brooks will be arriving today," Lady Henrietta argued.
"You are mistaken, my dear," Lord Paisley replied as he leisurely partook of his plate of fruits. "I can certainly leave, especially now that I know Mr. Brooks will be arriving."
"But that is so ill-mannered, brother," Lady Henrietta reprimanded.
"Ill-mannered it may be," Lord Paisley said with a wicked smile. "But it is equally necessary. I assure you, sister."
"I wish you would show more interest in Mr. Brooks," Lady Henrietta said begrudgingly.
"I wish I could show more interest too, my dear," Lord Paisley said with a pleasant smile. "But, alas, Mr. Brooks makes it impossible for me to stay interested in him. I'm afraid, no matter how hard I try, I lose all interest as soon as he opens his mouth to speak."
"That is so incredibly disagreeable, Julian,"
"Yes, but it does not make it less true," He said gravely. "I'm afraid, my dear sister, Mr. Brooks is a dead bore."
"I do no care what you say," Lady Henrietta said petulantly. "He is a wonderful man."
"You and I must have very different notions of what wonderful means, my dear," Lord Paisley said, still maintaining his smile. "What you call wonderful, I characterize as ridiculous."
"I'm afraid you fail to see Mr. Brooks in the same light as I do," Henrietta concluded.
"I'd rather not see Mr. Brooks in any light at all," Lord Paisley returned good humoredly.
Lady Claire giggled softly, receiving a glare from her younger sister.
"I do not know why you have to leave quite so early," Lady Henrietta argued again.
"Oh dear!" Lord Paisley said. "Now you are becoming a dead bore."
"Why are you going to Derbyshire of all places?" Lady Henrietta asked.
"I am visiting my friend, Mr. Darcy," Lord Paisley replied. "Mr. and Mrs. Darcy have invited me to stay at Pemberley."
"Mr. and Mrs. Darcy?" Lady Eleanor asked, glad for the change of subject. "It seems like ages since I have seen your friend, Mr. Darcy. And I have yet to meet his wife. They have been married for quite some time. Have they not?"
"They have been married nearly two years now," Lord Paisley nodded.
"I did not meet Mrs. Darcy in Town during last season," Lady Eleanor remarked.
"Mrs. Darcy was with child last season," Lord Paisley explained.
"Oh, yes, of course," Lady Eleanor nodded. "I remember you telling me of your friend's joy in becoming a father."
"Yes," Lord Paisley chuckled. "I have never seen a prouder father than Darcy. In fact, I have rarely seen a man more in love with his family than Darcy. He is so blissfully happy in Derbyshire, we seldom see him in London."
"I wish you could be more like your friend," Lady Henrietta said begrudgingly. "I wish you would care for your family as he does."
"Well, perhaps when my family behaves in a rational manner," Lord Paisley returned. "I shall be obliged to care for them as well."
"You must be happy to see your friend, brother," Lady Claire intervened. "I know I always enjoy spending time with those I love."
"I always look forward to spending time with Darcy," Lord Paisley smiled at his sister's tact in changing the subject. "And I confess, I look forward to seeing Mrs. Darcy again as well."
Lady Henrietta's eyes were immediately focused on her brother.
"Why?" She asked.
"She is a magnificent creature," Lord Paisley said with a smile. "She is witty and beautiful, and has an impressive sense of humor."
"And you enjoy her company?" Lady Eleanor asked with interest.
"Immensely," Lord Paisley replied. "There are very few men who would not enjoy her company."
"And how does your friend feel about your opinion of his wife?" Lady Henrietta asked with unmasked disapproval. "Is Mr. Darcy reconciled with how other men feel about his wife?"
Lord Paisley's eyes met his sister's sharply and understanding the meaning behind her words, he sneered.
"My dear sister," Lord Paisley said, his eyes narrowing dangerously. "What fanciful mind you have! Did you imagine me in love with my best friend's wife?"
"You were profuse in your praising of her," Lady Henrietta said defensively.
"She is a lady worthy of great praise," Lord Paisley said. "And I have great admiration for her. But you must think so little of me to imagine that I would allow any feeling other than respect and friendship for Mrs. Darcy."
"I am no longer a child," Lady Henrietta said. "I know that it is common practice among gentlemen to have relations with married women. They choose to keep it discreet, but I must say that I find the practice most inappropriate and distasteful."
"Yes," Lord Paisley said with a curt nod. "Almost as distasteful and inappropriate as discussing such matters in polite company."
Henrietta had the grace to blush under her brother's intense and unforgiving stare.
"Forgive me," she apologized with a barely audible voice.
"Mrs. Darcy is a Lady of superior understanding," Lord Paisley said after a long, uncomfortable pause. "Her mind and her heart belong to her husband, who is, I might add, a most worthy gentleman. I was fortunate to witness their courtship and to attend their wedding. They are both dear friends and I look forward to spending time with them."
"I look forward to meeting Mrs. Darcy when she comes to London," Lady Eleanor said to her son. "Do you believe they will come to London this year?"
"I believe so," Lord Paisley nodded. "I believe Miss Darcy is to have her first season in London this year."
"Miss Darcy?" Lady Claire asked with interest. "I did not know Mr. Darcy had a sister, Julian. You never made mention of her before."
"Miss Darcy is quite younger than her brother," Lord Paisley explained. "I believe she must be nineteen now."
"She is my age!" Lady Henrietta remarked, having completely forgotten her argument with her brother. "Does Miss Darcy look like her brother?"
"Not at all," Lord Paisley replied. "Miss Darcy is quite different in her looks from her brother."
"That is a pity," Lady Eleanor observed. "Mr. Darcy is a very handsome man."
"Miss Darcy is a very handsome woman too," Lord Paisley said too quickly for his own comfort.
"Is she?" Lady Eleanor asked, raising an eyebrow. "Her mother was a beautiful woman. In fact, Lady Anne was one of the most beautiful debutants during her season. She was pursued by so many gentlemen. But no one would do but Mr. Darcy. She was hopelessly in love with him."
"Were you and Lady Anne close, mother?" Lady Claire asked.
"We were acquainted," Lady Eleanor replied. "But I was closer in age to Lady Catherine than to Lady Anne. Lady Anne was two years our senior. She married Mr. Darcy in her first season and moved to Pemberley. Their son was born a year later."
"Do you consider Miss Darcy a beauty, brother?" Lady Henrietta asked, bringing Lady Eleanor's full attention back on her son.
"I have not seen Miss Darcy since her bother's wedding," Lord Paisley shrugged, noting his mother's attention. "From what I remember, she is a charming young lady."
"Oh, come brother," Lady Claire declared. "That is hardly a description."
"That is all the description you will have from me, my dear" Lord Paisley said as he moved to stand from his chair.
"Mr. Brooks, my lord," his butler, Mr. Green announced.
Lord Paisley sent Lady Henrietta's gasp of excitement a warning glare and reluctantly leaned back and readied himself for the entrance of the annoying young man.
"Good morning Ladies," Mr. Brooks bowed as soon as he entered the breakfast room. "Good morning, Julian."
Lady Eleanor's eyes grew wide upon hearing the young man's informal address of her son. Lord Paisley smiled knowingly at his mother and nodded toward Mr. Brooks.
"Good morning, my dear Mr. Brooks," his Lordship said with good humor. "To what do we owe the distinct honor of receiving you so … er … early in the morning?"
"Oh, I had promised Lady Henrietta that I would call," Mr. Brooks said with a wide smile, unaffected by his lordship's not so subtle criticism. "And I am never one to keep the lovely ladies waiting. So I decided to come as early as propriety would allow. Seeing as we are related, I was sure you would not mind an early call."
"How fortunate that you arrived early," Lord Paisley said ironically. "A few minutes later, and I would have missed seeing you, as I was just about to bid my family farewell."
"Farewell?" Mr. Brooks asked, his smile instantly disappearing. "You are not leaving?"
"Oh, but I am," Lord Paisley replied with mock gravity. "Alas, I have prior engagements that would not allow me to stay."
"But I rode all the way from London to see you," Mr. Brooks said, unable to hide his disappointment.
"To see me, my dear Mr. Brooks?" Lord Paisley asked with a smile. "Forgive my lamentable memory, can I possibly have imagined it or did you not say, a mere minute ago, that you have come here with the intention of calling on Lady Henrietta."
"Oh, well, …, as for that …, " Mr. Books mumbled with no little discomfort. "Of course, it was my main purpose to call on the ladies. But … well, you see, sir…"
"Yes," Lord Paisley nodded with a knowing smirk. "I am afraid I do see, young man."
Lady Eleanor stood from her chair, prompting all the other occupants to stand as well.
"I must speak to my housekeeper, Mr. Brooks," Lady Eleanor said. "I am sure you will excuse me. Claire, Henrietta, oblige me with your company for a few minutes as well."
Both gentlemen bowed to the ladies and watched them exit the breakfast room.
"How providential that we have a few minutes to talk," Mr. Brooks observed.
"There is nothing providential about it," Lord Paisley returned, no longer smiling. "My mother has superior understanding. She was quick to understand what my sisters are yet too young to understand, that your visit this morning is to ask me for something."
Mr. Brooks looked affronted and opened his mouth to disagree with his lordship's words.
"Do not waste my time, Mr. Brooks," Lord Paisley said as he raised his hand to silence the younger man. "What do you want?"
"Well," Mr. Brooks said, no longer confident. "If you must know, Julian, I have come to offer you an opportunity to double your money."
Lord Paisley sat back on his chair and covered his face with both his hands.
"Dear Lord! This is going to be worse than I had assumed," Lord Paisley said gravely. "What have I ever done to be burdened with you and your ridiculous notions."
"What ever do you mean, Julian?" Mr. Brooks asked confusedly.
"What in the world would make you think I have any need to double my money, young man?"
"Well, who would not want such an amazing opportunity?" Mr. Brooks asked. "There is absolutely no risk, you see. All you have to do is to lend me three thousand pounds. Within six months, I will return you double the money you lent me."
"Oh?" Lord Paisley asked, raising an eyebrow. "And may I dare ask what you plan to do with the money you borrow from me?"
"I will invest it, of course," Mr. Brooks shrugged and smiled.
"Invest in what exactly?" Lord Paisley insisted.
"Unfortunately, I cannot divulge that to you," Mr. Brooks said apologetically. "I am sure you understand."
"I do," Lord Paisley nodded, smiling at the young man. "Unfortunately, I cannot lend you the money. I am sure you understand too."
"But, Julian!" Mr. Brooks exclaimed but was interrupted by his lordship who stood from his chair and walked straight to where Mr. Brooks stood, towering over him.
"Now, you listen to me very carefully, young man," he said in a dangerously low voice. "I am not in the habit of lending my money to anyone, especially not one who will certainly gamble it all away within a week. If you imagined me ignorant of your state of affairs, your so called friends, and your gambling debts, I advise you to think again."
"But, Julian!" Mr. Brooks argued. "I am your heir. Surely, you understand that your money will be mine one day. Why can I not have access to it now that I need it most."
"You presume too much, sir," Lord Paisley smirked.
"Everyone knows that you will remain a bachelor, Julian," Mr. Brooks said.
"Is that so?" Lord Paisley asked with a dangerous gleam in his eyes. "Well, then, let me make it abundantly clear. I fully intend to marry this year. And I will make sure to marry a healthy young lady who will bear me an heir."
"But, Julian!" Mr. Brooks said desperately.
"You will kindly refrain from addressing me so informally, Mr. Brooks," Lord Paisley said venomously. "You will only address me as Lord Paisley or sir."
"Lord Paisley, please," Mr. Brooks cried.
"One last thing," Lord Paisley said as he walked toward the door. "You will steer clear of Lady Henrietta. If you have any designs on her and her inheritance, let me assure you that I have full power over her inheritance until she turns twenty-one, which will give me enough time to do with it as I wish, should she marry anyone I do not approve of. I trust I make myself clear, Mr. Brooks?"
"Yes, my lord," Mr. Brooks said dejectedly.
"I wish you a good day, Mr. Brooks," his lordship said and exited the breakfast room.