A Journey to Gretna Green
I've been meaning to write a Georgette Heyer-inspired Regency story--but the right plot never came to me. But as soon as I read Eviana, my evil genius whispered to me, and now, I'm writing a Mariah/Georgette Heyer/evil genius-inspired story. :) I hope that my story will find favor with you all, and I dedicate this to Mariah, whose Eviana is only one of her many excellent tales, and whose talent is responsible for the drivel you will now (hopefully?) read.
As the coach pulled away from Bath, Cecilia Ashford suddenly found herself attacked by qualms.
"Why are the horses going so fast?" she asked her companion.
"Because I asked the coachman to spring ‘em, my love," he replied.
She shuddered slightly. "I beg you, Mr. Trevor, to refrain from taking such liberties with me."
"But my darling, we are going to be married soon!"
She sighed at the words, and turned her head towards the window. She fidgeted with her gloves for a moment, then said unsteadily, "Perhaps we should slow the horses down."
"Well, we don't want the coachmen to get too suspicious."
"Well, I don't want to be caught by your father before we make it to Gretna!" he retorted darkly, his mind pondering their destination with disfavor.
"My father!" she exclaimed, between disgust and horror. "No, indeed . . ." Her mind began to dwell on some distant idea, and her lips curled in a shy smile.
"Are you sure that we must go all the way to Gretna, Cecy?" Mr. Trevor pleaded. "After all, Bristol is so much closer, and perhaps we could get a special license and be married there . . ."
"Bristol?? But Frederick, you promised!" she said, almost angrily. "Besides, I have always wanted to be married at Gretna Green--it would be so romantic!" she finished in coaxing tones.
"Yes, but you can't deny that it's dashed expensive! Not that I can't afford the expense," he averred, "but Gretna is so far away, and besides, we might get caught on the ride up." After he finished speaking, a blush overcame her. When her eyes flitted away from his to regard her feet, Mr. Trevor began to become suspicious.
"Cecy . . . is there something you're not telling me?" he asked.
Her laugh was harsh as she regarded him once more. "Like what, pray?"
"I don't know . . . but what made you so suddenly accept my offer, after so long? And why did you insist that we leave today?"
"Well . . . Mama thinks that I have been sick for the last few days, and she and Papa are going out tonight to Lady Ware's party . . . they believe me to be sick in bed, and of course they wouldn't dream of disturbing my rest. Besides, they cannot miss the party . . . it would be quite rude if they did," she finished lamely, her eyes downcast.
"Are you sure that they shan't expect you to go? After all, Cressida Ware has been your friend for years, and she just returned from her trip to London."
"Cressida Ware is not my friend!" Cecilia snarled hotly. "She is the most treacherous, sneaking creature that I have ever met in my entire life!"
Mr. Trevor could only blink at such a surprising show of venom. "Cecy!" he exclaimed, shocked.
Her eyes darted from him to the window, to the floor, and back again. She gave off a nervous laugh. "I'm sorry to alarm you so, Cousin Freddy, but Cressy and I quarreled before she left, and I'm still angry with her."
"But that doesn't explain it all . . . I mean, why did you insist on running away? Your parents might not have liked it, but we're family--they would have come ‘round in the end, I dare say."
"Oh, but I could not have waited!" she assured him. "After all, Freddy, I care for you ever so much . . ."
He was forced to be satisfied with this avowal, but questions still nagged him. They rode in uneasy silence for another mile, with Mr. Trevor's tongue on the verge of speech. Finally, he managed to put his doubts into words.
"But Cecy, I thought you didn't care for me above half!"
She turned towards him, her lips pursed in fury. "How dare you say such a thing to me, Frederick Trevor? Why would I be here with you if I didn't love you? I can't believe you said such an ungallant thing--you are the rudest, most hateful creature on the planet!" she said, turning her body towards the window, tears in her eyes.
He instinctively leaned over to assure her, putting his hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry, Cecy . . ."
"Don't touch me!" she shouted, pulling away from his hand. "I wish I hadn't accepted you--I wish you would just leave me alone!"
"Cecy . . . !"
"No!" she sobbed.
The young man leaned back against the squabs, and ran a hand anxiously through his hair. He had dealt with Cecilia in many different moods, and had expected her to feel many different emotions on their trip to the Border, but he had not expected her to suddenly revile him, and then begin to cry.
"I . . . uh . . . I'm sorry, Cecy . . . please, just stop crying . . . I'm sorry . . . I just thought . . ."
"You might be right . . ." she moaned, "but how could you say such an ungentlemanlike thing?"
Mr. Trevor's eyes widened, and his jaw dropped. "What?" he asked.
Miss Ashford's eyes widened when she realized what she had said. "I--um--well," she stuttered as she played nervously with her handkerchief.
"None of that foolishness, Cecy," Mr. Trevor insisted. "You're going to tell me what you meant by that right now."
"Please, Freddy!" she begged, her blue eyes pleading eloquently. His set jaw and stanch glare silenced her, and her words subsided.
"Well, you're my friend, Freddy, and I like you very much . . . but I just really don't love you," she sniffed.
"Then why did you want to marry me?"
"Well, I really didn't," she managed, once more in control of herself, "but I have to get married . . . and since I can't marry him, I don't care in the slightest who it will be! And we've always been friends, and I do like you, so I thought it would be comfortable."
"But . . ." he was left stuttering, "who is he? Why couldn't you marry him?"
She sighed. "Lord Lindsay has been at Cressy Ware's feet for weeks now! I thought that tonight would certainly be the night that her engagement to him would be announced, considering that I saw him coming down the steps from her house just yesterday, looking positively radiant! When he told me that she was an uncommonly warm-hearted girl, that she had made him so happy, I just couldn't stand it any longer. How could I have wished him happy with her when she doesn't care for him in the slightest?"
Mr. Trevor looked quite as confused as he felt. "So, you asked me to run away with you to the Border because you didn't want to go to Lady Ware's party? But Lord Lindsay never told you he wanted to marry Cressy?"
"Oh, but he does want to marry her! Have you seen the looks he gives her? He's always talking with her, and dancing with her. And when they dance together she's always laughing, so I know that he is amusing her and complimenting her on her great beauty, which, I cannot deny, is substantial . . . I wish I could look like Cressy . . ." she sighed wistfully, thinking about Cressida Ware's elegant stature and golden curls. "Besides, he once told me that I was lucky to have such a good friend as Cressy!" she finished.
"But how do you know that Cressy doesn't care for him? And that she will marry him even though she doesn't care for him?"
"Because when I went to visit her before she left for London, she confessed to me that she has a tendre for Lord Bridgeforth, who she says was calling upon her for months while she was in London. She said that she was planning on visiting him while she was in London this last time--but her parents do not view Lord Bridgeforth with an eye of favor, considering that Cressy is such a large heiress and his pockets are completely to let. Despite her tendre, I feel sure that her parents will have her marry Lord Lindsay. I know they like him . . . but nobody could dislike him," she said in disheartened tones.
Mr. Trevor opened his mouth to say something comforting, but then shut it as he realized he could think of nothing to say. He decided to settle for, "Well, well," and patted her shoulder comfortingly. This time she did not resist, and laid her head weakly upon his shoulder. Suddenly, the coach came to a halt, and Mr. Trevor instinctively wrapped his arms around Miss Ashford, trying to prevent her from falling off the seat. The coach door was flung open, and Mr. Trevor suddenly found himself confronting Lord Lindsay.
Mr. Trevor usually thought of Lord Lindsay as an uncommonly agreeable man, whose gray eyes often sparkled with merriment. Tonight, his eyes were not sparkling, but hard with anger. The only lines usually on his face were those of laughter, but his brow was furrowed, and the wide smile had given way to an irate pucker. He no longer looked like a kindly friend, but a very wrathful enemy, ready to do battle.
"Unhand Miss Ashford!" was the command hissed at him. Mr. Trevor figured that it behooved him to oblige the hostile figure, and did so.
"Lord Lindsay!" Cecilia managed to say, surprised.
"Miss Ashford," he said, turning to look at her. The anger softened, and he said kindly, "I am sorry, but I cannot allow you to do this."
"Lord Lindsay--how--what brings you out here, on this road?"
"When I went over to your home this evening to escort your family to the party, your parents had already found your note. Your mother was in hysterics, and your father was so busy trying to calm her down that he begged me to find you and bring you home."
She dropped her head down, hoping that Lord Lindsay would be unable to see her disappointment. "I am sorry," she mumbled.
He hesitantly rested his hand on her shoulder for a moment. "It's quite all right, Miss Ashford. I am only glad that I was able to stop your coach. But Mr. Trevor--" he said, his anger resurfacing as he addressed the young man, "I am shocked that you should have contemplated such a course of action. Not only was it unnecessary, but utterly foolish! If word of this gets out, it could ruin Miss Ashford's reputation! How you could induce a lady, whom you claim to care for, to act so much against her best interests is completely beyond my comprehension!"
Long before Lord Lindsay finished his philippic was Mr. Trevor rendered completely penitent. While Lord Lindsay was actually shorter than he, and only several years older, his anger was so great that it rendered him completely terrifying to the other man. "My lord, I assure you I fully regret my actions--but I assure you, I have been uneasy from the beginning! If not for Miss Ashford's encouragement, I should never have created such a plan, much less tried to carry it out!"
Lord Lindsay's eyes turned towards the blushing Miss Ashford. "Miss Ashford--is this true?"
She looked up, her eyes searching his face for a moment before looking out the window, in obvious discomfort. "Well, no . . . and, yes . . ."
He looked confused. "What do you mean? Cecilia, please explain," he said, taking her hands in his.
She started, and stared at him. "You just said my name," she stated in a tone of mild surprise.
"Cecilia, what do you mean?" he asked, his tone agitated. "Now tell me, are you in love with Frederick Trevor?"
"Why, no . . ."
The tense lines around his eyes faded, and he looked as youthful as he was. "Oh, Cecilia, you don't realize what a burden you have relieved me of! When I came to your house and discovered that you had run away with him, I thought that you didn't care for me at all."
"And I thought that you didn't care for me when Cressy came, and you began to escort her about. I thought you had lost interest--or that you weren't ever interested, and preferred her to me."
He laughed. "How dare you accuse me of such bad taste? Forgetting this escapade, you have so much more sense than Cressy Ware! Besides, I cannot adore tall blondes who love my friends. They just do not charm me as much as pretty brunettes who don't make me feel undersized, who laugh with such charm, and who smile at me so invitingly."
She laughed happily, squeezing his hands. "So that was it! But what was I to think when you came out of her house yesterday, and told me that Miss Ware had made you so happy? that she was an uncommonly warm-hearted girl? You looked so jubilant that I could only think you had proposed to her, and had been accepted. It was quite cruel of you to say those things to me, when I begin to suspect that you understood my heart all along."
"My darling, if your feelings had been as apparent as you seem to think they were, do you think we would be here right now?" he inquired with a grin. "Or do you now know me for the tormenting creature that I am?"
"I don't think that's funny, Arthur," she answered with a frown. Suddenly, a coy smile came to her face, and she began to pull her hands away from his. "But as I do know your secret now, perhaps I shall withdraw, and use my absence as a way to torture you as you have tortured me?"
"Ahh, but such a threat will turn me desperate," he said, securing his grip on her hands, "and I am afraid that I shall have to do something very shocking, indeed." He then leaned over, and pressed his lips to hers.
The only thing that disturbed this very satisfactory kiss was the very embarrassed Mr. Trevor, who coughed after several minutes had passed to remind them of his presence.
Lord Lindsay reluctantly pulled away from Miss Ashford, who began to straighten her dress nervously, and turned towards Mr. Trevor. "Well, Mr. Trevor, far be it from me to set myself up as a judge of any man's frailties--"
"Indeed, my lord," was his tactful interruption.
"But certainly, your conduct was quite reprehensible. While you deserve much punishment, I believe that any further conversation at this moment would be pointless. Tomorrow, I shall endeavor to give you the scolding you so richly deserve--if I remember, that is. In the meanwhile, I think it more important that I escort Miss Ashford home to her family. In the future, I hope that you will make no further attempts to abduct her."
"I think that I shall leave that to you, my lord," was Mr. Trevor's irreverent retort.
"Good! Good!" Lord Lindsay approved with a smile. "Have a lovely evening, Mr. Trevor. Come, Miss Ashford!" he said, turning his attention to the young lady. "We must be on our way. I am sure your parents are expecting our imminent arrival."
"Must it be ever so imminent, Arthur?"
Though Lord Lindsay could suppress his smile, his eyes still sparked appreciatively. "That is something we shall discuss later, Cecy. For now, we must get into my chase and head home."
"Indeed, Lord Lindsay; I am ready to oblige you in any way possible."
With smiles on their faces, Lord Lindsay helped Miss Ashford to step down from the coach. After a sigh, Mr. Trevor leaned out the window and directed the coachman to turn the carriage around, as soon as Lord Lindsay and Miss Ashford stopped kissing and vacated the road.
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