A Country Gentleman

A Country Gentleman by Ann Barker Read Free Book Online

Book: A Country Gentleman by Ann Barker Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ann Barker
Muir’s name before, but he had heard of Miss Macclesfield, a young lady of some fortune who had acquired rather a fast reputation in London. He also knew Mrs Wilbraham slightly, and could well imagine that the young lady did not want her exploits to come to the ears of that formidable dame.
    As his Christian name might indicate, Benjamin was the youngest son of his family, indulged by his mother, whilst his rather ascetic clergyman father closed his eyes to his imperfections . Early on in his life, Benjamin had developed the notion that his existence was meant to be a pleasure, and that those who surrounded him therefore had a responsibility to ensure that it was as agreeable as possible. Twizzle lived by his wits. His wits told him that there might be some profit, as well as some entertainment , in keeping an eye on these two.

Chapter Four
    T he first night of the journey was to be spent at Hatfield, and when the coach swept into the inn yard, the ladies were both heartily glad to be able to get down and stretch their limbs.
    Mr Twizzle leaped out ahead of them and claimed the privilege of handing them down from the coach. ‘Mrs Hedges,’ he said respectfully. ‘And Mrs … Miss…?’ He paused, wondering what name she would make up.
    Isobel managed to side-step this situation by simply ignoring him and helping Lavinia solicitously. She was not to be so fortunate once they reached the inn, however. The landlord stepped forward, beaming, and standing next to him was a maidservant with a huge bouquet in her arms.
    ‘Welcome ladies,’ said the landlord. ‘May I ask if one of you is Miss Macclesfield? I was told to expect you both. These flowers come with the compliments of Lord Riseholm.’
    Mr Twizzle was just behind them. Lavinia could almost feel his avid interest. She could certainly see the consternation on Isobel’s face. What upon earth could they do? She might have guessed that her friend would not be at a loss for long. Isobel straightened her back. ‘For shame,’ she declared, turning to Lavinia. ‘My poor friend! One would have supposed that your widowhood would have been sufficient to protect you from his advances!’
    Lavinia looked at Isobel with a shocked expression on her face.Fortunately, this was probably what any onlooker would have expected.
    ‘Put them in the public rooms,’ Isobel continued. ‘As for Mrs Hedges and I, we will share a bedchamber.’
    ‘Of course, ladies,’ said the landlord beaming. ‘I have a very good room available for you. It must be my business to oblige any … er … friends of his lordship.’
    Mr Twizzle smiled as he watched them go upstairs. So either Miss Macclesfield or the bogus Mrs Hedges, alias Miss Muir, was entangled with Lord Riseholm! Of the two, he suspected that it must be Miss Macclesfield – she who had tried to give him a set-down in that coach. He stored the information away to be used at a later date.
    ‘Flowers from Lord Riseholm!’ exclaimed Lavinia, as soon as they were in their room – a very superior one, no doubt due to the aristocratic connections of its temporary occupants. ‘How ever did he know where to find you? Izzy?’
    ‘Well … I may just have let it slip,’ Isobel replied, trying to sound careless but blushing nevertheless.
    ‘Let it slip? When?’ Lavinia demanded.
    ‘I … wrote him a tiny note.’
    Lavinia gasped. ‘You have been writing notes to Lord Riseholm?’
    ‘What if I have?’ Isobel answered defiantly, turning away her head so not to meet her friend’s gaze. ‘It’s got us better accommodation , hasn’t it? And better treatment.’
    ‘Yes, but at what cost?’ Lavinia pointed out. ‘Thanks to your encouragement of Riseholm, everyone here thinks that I am the one who has attracted his attentions! Those flowers are for you and not for me.’
    ‘We could not have said that it was I,’ said Isobel in a reasonable tone. ‘I am single, whereas you are a widow. We are not so far from London. Gossip could

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