I felt I could not stand the tension another minute. How much more was Mistress Donavon going to speak? After all, it was only a simple graduation ceremony, not anything fancy at all.
I suppose I should explain. My name is Angelique de Changy, my brother is the Vicomte. I just call him Raoul. Though we are a French family, I had just spent the last five years at Donavon's School for Young Ladies in London. This was my last day and also my sixteenth birthday. Mistress Donavon was presently giving a speech to our families. It seemed as though she had been talking half the morning! I knew Raoul was out in the small crowd somewhere and I couldn't wait to see him. We had been apart for the last two years, ever since the death and funeral of our eldest brother, Phillipe.
Raoul is my dearest friend. He is four years older then I and has adored me since the moment I was born. I, in turn, have always been his most devoted follower, eager to please him for the sake of a smile. Until my eleventh birthday we had never spent more than a week away from each other.
But then that year came, bringing the death of my mother. Though they loved me dearly, my two bachelor brothers had no idea how to raise a young lady properly. Thus I had been shipped off to Mistress Donavon's without a moment's delay. I missed them terribly at first, but soon I learned to manage on my own. Becoming a proper young lady is a most interesting process, albeit a tedious one. However that was now over. In a few minutes Mistress Donavon would finish speaking and I would be free of schoolbooks forever and able at last to find Raoul.
Suddenly I was aware of a polite burst of applause. One of the other girls nudged me and we walked to the front of the parlor where Mistress Donavon presented us to our audience. We curtseyed gracefully, as we had been taught. Then with pleasant smiles we tripped down the narrow aisle to find our families.
Where was Raoul? I craned my head eagerly over the other girls, trying to find him. Suddenly a pair of familiar gray eyes jumped out at me. I gasped, then put my hand to stifle a giggle. The latest fashion produced a very dashing effect on my brother. Raoul had grown out his hair!
Raoul noticed me at the same time. With a smile he got up from his chair and hurried to my side. "Angel!" he exclaimed, using his pet name for me.
"Raoul!" I cried happily. "I missed you so much!"
"And I you." Answered he, enveloping me in an affectionate embrace.
"But look at you!" I pulled back to examine him more closely. "You grew out your hair!"
"And you are wearing yours up!" He retorted.
I slapped his arm playfully. "Well I am sixteen now, and quite the proper young lady. All young sixteen year old ladies turn up their hair!"
Just then the butler appeared and rang a little silver bell. This was the call for tea. Raoul offered me his arm. "And I think you look very beautiful, little sister!"
After tea Raoul and I collected my things and took a carriage to St. James Park. Raoul sent the carriage on ahead, while we walked through the park on foot. It was a beautiful afternoon. The swans were out on the lake, and we tossed them breadcrumbs. Not far away we could see Buckingham Palace, the new residence of the Queen.
"So, little sister," Said Raoul, after we had walked for a time. "What do you think of London?"
I thought for a moment. "Well, it's a very fine city, and I do appreciate its history. But I must admit, I am homesick for France."
"How would you like to return with me to Paris?"
I stopped and swung around to look at him. "Return to Paris? Do you mean it Raoul?"
"Of course!" he laughed at me. "After all, I can't really leave you in London on your own! You'll have to wait a few weeks though."
"Why?" My smile disappeared.
"The house isn't ready yet. You see, I planned to bring you back with me, but I'm still not extremely wise yet, and I forgot that you couldn't very well share my bachelor's quarter's with me. I've bought a proper house fitting for a Vicomte and his sister. Not five minutes from the Opera Populaire."
"Why of course. You want to sing, don't you?"
I gasped. "Raoul! Do you mean it?"
Ever since I was six years old it has been my dream to become an Opera singer. Unfortunately, singing in Opera houses was not considered a proper occupation for young ladies. I had always been forced to content myself with private voice lessons and piano.
Raoul smiled down at me. "I've decided to become a patron of the Opera. As such, I can request special favors."
"Such as allowing your sister to sing occasionally?"
"Naturally. And you will be in no way socially deprived. The name of Changy is well respected in Paris and I am invited to nearly every gala and ball that is given. You shall attend, and perhaps we shall find you a respectable husband ere long."