Whispers of the Heart by Rose Pearson
Miss Ann Whyte looked up from her needlework, smiling briefly as she glanced at the note that the butler held out on a silver tray.
“Thank you,” she murmured, looking down at it and realizing that the handwriting was her brother’s. Her heart leaped and she quickly set her needlework down, picking up the letter at once so that she might break the seal. Exiting the room discreetly, the butler left Ann to herself, knowing how eagerly the young lady had been waiting for that communication.
Ann’s eyes misted as she read her brother’s letter, telling her that he was well and as yet, uninjured – a remark which made Ann wince even though her heart was filled with relief at such news. Her brother had gone to fight for his King against the French and, even though he held the title of Viscount, had chosen to do so regardless of his duty to the title. Ann had not said a word about his decision, knowing that it was not her place to do so and that anything her brother felt was required of him in terms of his duty was something she could not speak to. Her eyes moved down the page as she continued to read, only for them to flare wide, her hand fluttering against her chest as her breath caught painfully.
“‘You are expected in a fortnight at the Earl of Ware’s townhouse in London,’” she read aloud, utterly astonished at such a direction. “‘You see, my dear Ann, I have not forgotten that it is the London Season soon and that you will be most eager to make your way there in search of a husband! Thus, I have made an arrangement with Lord Ware for you to reside in his home, under the care of his mother. There is money for all that you require – my steward will make certain of it. Lord Ware’s mother, Lady Ware, will chaperone you throughout the Season and will guide you, should it come to any gentlemen wishing to propose, which, of course, I am certain they shall. Lord Ware will send his carriage and servants to convey you to London.’”
Ann dropped her hand to her lap, her face now a little pale as she stared blankly across the room. She had not had even a single thought about going to London for the Season! She had been more than content here, residing in her brother’s country home and waiting for his return. Her companion, their now elderly nurse, spent most of her days asleep by the fire, but Ann had not felt herself overly lonely. She had been wanting nothing more than to remain here until her brother returned, and had prayed fervently every day that it might soon be so. Now, it seemed, she was to leave her companion here and make her way to London, as though her brother expected her to throw herself into all manner of gaiety and delight instead of considering the war and praying that it would soon go in England’s favor. Her stomach cramped as she shook her head to herself, finding a flare of anger burning in her heart. Her brother, Viscount Brigstock, had taken it upon himself to make such arrangements without even enquiring as to whether or not this would be of any interest to her! Of course he would think that her only desire would be to go to London for the Season, but did he not know her well enough to consider that she might find such a thing a little unsettling? Ann did not know how she would enjoy the London Season knowing that her brother was still fighting in such a great and terrible war!
Sighing, she picked up the letter and finished reading it, her shoulders slumped and a slight upset in her soul.
“‘I do not wish to concern you, my dear Ann,’” she finished, reading aloud, “‘but there is always a distinct possibility that I might never return to you. Therefore, I want to make certain that you are happy and settled with a good husband. Pray, do not spend the Season thinking of me and worrying about where I am. Do all you can to make a good match and know that such news will lift a burden from my shoulders.’”
He finished with the usual expressions of familial love and the like, but Ann found her eyes filling with tears as a searing guilt scored her heart. She had been angry with her brother only a few moments ago, thinking him a trifle unfeeling and even a little ridiculous, only to see now that he cared for her very deeply indeed. He wanted her to go to London so that she might find a suitable husband and, in doing so, make certain that she was looked after should the very worst happen. If that did not speak of his consideration for her, then Ann did not know what would! Her heart warmed and yet still, she felt such a great and piercing sorrow that tears came to her eyes despite herself.
If only this war could come to an end,she thought, pulling out a handkerchief and dabbing at her eyes. Then he might come home.
Lifting her chin, Ann blinked rapidly and sniffed a little indelicately. There. The moment had passed and now she had to think on her future. She was to go to London after all, it seemed!
“To Lord Ware,” she murmured aloud, setting down the letter and once more picking up her needlework.
She did not know how her brother had made such an arrangement, but Ann was determined to be grateful for it. There was a nervous anxiety building within her heart, however, for to make her way to London without ever having set eyes upon her host or her host’s mother was quite an undertaking! Lord Ware, she considered, must be very generous indeed to be so willing to permit her to join his household for the Season. And his mother too! Biting her lip, Ann tried to focus on her needlework so that any feelings of nervousness or fear would dissipate. Whatever happened, she had to trust that her brother’s arrangements were for her good and that, despite her worries, she would have a most excellent Season.