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The Glitter and the Gold

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Fanny and her bridegroom had been tricked! Both sets of impoverished parents had decided to recoup their losses by marrying their offspring to that of a rich neighbor. The truth was, both were penniless. Charles wasn't the dark rogue of Fanny's girlish fantasies, but he was chivalrously determined that she should meet someone more appropriate than he. And Fanny wanted Charles to find a woman of means. But as each set out to find a partner for the other, they both began to suspect that true love might have nothing...
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Overview

Fanny and her bridegroom had been tricked! Both sets of impoverished parents had decided to recoup their losses by marrying their offspring to that of a rich neighbor. The truth was, both were penniless. Charles wasn't the dark rogue of Fanny's girlish fantasies, but he was chivalrously determined that she should meet someone more appropriate than he. And Fanny wanted Charles to find a woman of means. But as each set out to find a partner for the other, they both began to suspect that true love might have nothing to do with riches.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780783885971
  • Publisher: Gale Group
  • Publication date: 7/28/1999
  • Edition description: Large Print
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.42 (w) x 8.45 (h) x 0.52 (d)

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Chapter One

MISS FANNY PAGE had come to the conclusion that nothing exciting was ever going to happen to her. It was a year since she had left the seminary in Bath, where she had been very happy. The principal had told her father to remove her as the fees had not been paid for a year.

Returning home, expecting to live on gruel and stale bread, Fanny had discovered, to her surprise, that her feckless parents were still living in a fairly grand way. Her father had countered her complaints about the abrupt termination of her stay at the seminary by saying blithely that she was too old to be educated and that intelligent women were highly unmarriageable.

Her seventeenth birthday had just passed. There seemed to be no plans for her future. Her parents were a bright, frivolous pair in their thirties, seemingly without a care in the world. So she settled down to amusing herself as best as she could. There did not appear to be any young people in the immediate neighborhood whom her parents considered to be suitable companions, and so she passed her long days in reading novels and dreaming of handsome men. She still wore her hair down and was dressed in the gowns she had worn at the seminary, which were becoming increasingly short at the hem and tight at the bust.

Despite her added height, she was only a little over five feet tall, and to her despair did not show any signs of turning into the tall, statuesque lady she longed to be. She had a mass of glossy black curls that rioted down her back, rosy cheeks, an elfin face, and huge, brown, sparkling eyes.

Her home, Delfton Hall, despite its grand name, was a square box of a place in the middle ofthe Oxfordshire countryside, its harsh red brick walls unrelieved by creepers. There were no flowers in the gardens, only shaggy lawns cropped by sheep.

Then, just as she was returning to the house one day after a long walk in the wintry grounds, she was told her mother wished to see her, a rare summons.

Mrs. Page was a small woman with improbably colored fair hair and highly rouged cheeks. She was dressed in the latest fashion of thin muslin, despite the chill of the drawing room.

"Ah, Fanny," said her mother, "come here and let me look at you, child. Tch! Tch! Too much color in your cheeks. You should not walk so much in the cold. You will get a blowsy look. And that gown! What a fright!"

"If you supply me with some cloth, perhaps I can make a new one," said Fanny, thinking bitterly of all the times before when she had made such a request--only to have it turned down.

"I wish there was time to send your measurements to London," said Mrs. Page, narrowing her eyes and scrutinizing her daughter. "Never mind. Miss Clement from the village is coming to alter some of my gowns for you. You must look your very best."

"And why is that, Ma?"

"I do wish you would call me Mother. Did that seminary teach you no style, no grace? We are having a little turtle supper next week. Squire Deveney and Mrs. Deveney are returned from London. We have not seen them this age."

Fanny frowned. "If I have it right, you said six months ago that Squire Deveney was a wastral and a gamester ... and the Deveneys had not a feather to fly with."

Mrs. Page trilled out a laugh. "You must be dreaming. I adore the Deveneys. Sound family. Good English stock. You must look your prettiest. As a matter of fact, their son, Sir Charles, is due home quite soon." She kissed her fingertips. "Such a delightful young man. Knighted for bravery, too. Fought like a Trojan."

"Charles Deveney must be ... let me see--twenty-nine, Ma. That's not young."

"Hark at the child! In the prime of life, my sweet." Mrs. Page put her head on one side and her sharp eyes raked her daughter up and down. "Must be white muslin, but not too girlish. And your hair!"

"I did want to put it up."

"Long hair is not the thing. You need one of the new crops, like Caroline Lamb. Mr. Tulley will need to do it. I'll send John to fetch him."

"I do not think our local barber knows anything about fashionable crops."

"Don't quibble. Be a good child and be guided by me."

Well, thought Fanny in a dazed way, later that day--after her hair had been shorn and the local dressmaker was picking out some of Mrs. Page's very best gowns to alter--you never really knew what was going to happen. She looked at her reflection in the glass. Her hair was surprisingly pretty, now a cap of black glossy curls. Poor Mr. Tulley had been so nervous of cutting it that he had dropped the scissors several times. Charles Deveney, now Sir Charles. What would he be like? She could not remember much about him. Yet she knew she had met him a long time ago, when she had been ten. But he had seemed to belong to the world of grownups. She had a vague memory of someone tall and fair. Would he turn out to be the hero of her dreams? The boredom of her days had turned her into an excellent dreamer, and so the picture of Sir Charles, at first hazy, grew in her mind and took shape and form. He would be battle-hardened, a seamed, lined face tanned by the Spanish sun. He would be very tall and strong.

She passed the time pleasantly--once she had made a face and form for him--in writing scripts for Sir Charles. At first he would dismiss her from his mind as being too young, but ... Ma's little donkey carriage would run away with her and she, Fanny, would ride to the rescue, hair streaming--No. She ruffled her short crop. No more hair to stream. But he would be impressed. He would see the rescue, and the light of admiration would bring warmth to his stern face. They would walk together in the gardens under a full moon and he would look down at her and murmur, "Your beauty unmans me." Fanny experienced a qualm. She did not think herself beautiful at all. But a man in love would think her so, and everyone knew that love was blind.

Fanny had expected Sir Charles to accompany his parents to the supper party--and so it was with dismay that she learned that he had not yet returned home. Only Squire Deveney and his wife were to be the guests.

Still ... she must do her best to please these future in-laws, for Fanny had made up her romantic mind that she was to marry Sir Charles.

On the morning of the important day she escaped to the kitchens to have a gossip with Mrs. Friendly, the cook, and found a new butler busy showing the footman how to polish a quantity of gold plate.

"Is that really gold?" asked Fanny, goggling at the glittering plates and knives and forks. Mrs. Friendly drew her aside. "It's only for this evening, Miss Fanny," she whispered, "as is that jackanapes of a butler. He was lured over from Lord Tandy's for the day. Lord Tandy is on the Grand Tour, and it's my guess that's his lordship's gold plate, for it came with his butler and goes back with his butler when the supper is over."

"But why such trouble to entertain the Deveneys?" asked Fanny curiously. "I seem to recall someone saying they were not at all well-heeled."

Mrs. Friendly folded her plump red arms across her starched apron. "I think it is all for your benefit, Miss Fanny."

"Me?"

"Seems the son, Sir Charles, made a great deal of prize money in the wars and your parents are anxious to make a match between you. With the Deveney family having such expectations, the master and mistress don't want to look poor."

"No, I suppose not." Fanny felt uneasy. Part of the romance about Sir Charles was that she had believed him to be as poor as herself. She had always been aware that her lack of dowry made her singularly unmarriageable.

Her hopes of Sir Charles as a future husband received a further blow when his parents walked into the drawing room that evening. Mrs. Deveney, a thin, dried-up-looking woman with sharp features and sandy hair was bedecked in diamonds. A diamond tiara glittered on her dusty hair and diamonds blazed at her withered neck. The squire was not the bluff John Bull of Fanny's imaginings but a sly-looking man like a horse dealer.

But she was bewildered by their praise of her--her gown, her hair, her beauty. Fanny glanced surreptitiously at a mirror over the fireplace and was startled to see that, to her, she looked much the same as ever.

Then they summoned their servant to bring in a picture of their son. Fanny, who had been expecting to see a miniature, was startled when a full-sized canvas was carried in and unveiled. "This was painted by one of his officers," said Mrs. Deveney proudly. "A most talented young man."

The picture was unveiled. The servant carried forward a candelabrum. Fanny gazed on that picture and all her nagging doubts and fears about a borrowed butler and borrowed gold plate melted away. Here was the very stuff of dreams. The picture portrayed a young cavalry officer on a rearing white charger, a drawn sword in his hand. He had midnight black hair and a strong, rather cruel face. Behind him tumbled an approaching thunderstorm. Round about him lay the dead bodies of French soldiers. She had remembered Sir Charles as having fair hair, but perhaps it had darkened later in life.

Fanny drew a deep breath and her eyes sparkled. "A splendid-looking man!" exclaimed Mrs. Page. "Do you not think so, Fanny?"

And Fanny clasped her hands and murmured an ecstatic, "Yes."

Supper was a great success. Fanny was not expected to say much and so was free to dream more dreams. But to her surprise, as soon as supper was over, Mrs. Page smiled on her indulgently and said, "It has been a tiring day for you, Fanny. Why do you not retire?"

Too well schooled by that excellent Bath seminary to do anything so vulgar as to argue with her parents in public, Fanny curtsied and withdrew. She had no lady's maid and so she put herself to bed, dreaming all the while of the handsome and dashing Sir Charles.

The Deveneys and Pages had retired back to the drawing room. They settled themselves comfortably and then looked at one another in an amiable, almost telepathic silence, broken finally by the squire, who rubbed his hands together with a dry sound like sandpaper and said, "Fine gal, your Fanny. A treasure."

"Exactly," said Mr. Page.

"Glad to see you in such comfortable circumstances," pursued the squire.

"Yes," said Mrs. Page, with affected languor. "Such a windfall when Aunt Isobel died and left me her fortune."

"I think you know what is in our minds." The squire hitched his chair forward.

"Ah!" Mrs. Page looked arch. "I do believe you wish our Fanny for your Charles."

"Demme, the lady's a genius." Mrs. Deveney nodded vigorously and set the diamonds on her head shimmering and sparkling.

"When does Sir Charles return?" asked Mr. Page. He was normally a jolly, plump man, but for this special occasion his rotund form had been lashed into an Apollo corset, and, as he had eaten too much at dinner, felt he might burst at any moment.

"In a month's time. Good lad. Anxious to settle down," said the squire.

"And Fanny will, of course, be guided by us," said Mrs. Page.

They all beamed at one another.

"As to the question of the marriage settlements," said the squire, and the Pages perceptibly stiffened, wondering how on earth they were going to raise the wind for Fanny's dowry. "Call me an old romantic," said the squire, sighing and putting his hand on his heart, "but I'm set on a love match and I don't want these young things to have their lives clouded by financial arrangements, not until after the wedding, that is."

Had it not been for Mrs. Deveney's splendid diamonds, the Pages might have become suspicious, but as it was, neither of them could take their eyes off those sparkling gems for long.

"Our feelings entirely," said Mr. Page. His brain seemed to him to be working at a great rate. They could rent the house and leave for the Continent immediately after the wedding--and stay away until the Deveneys got used to the fact that there was no money forthcoming.

"In that case," he said, "when do you plan to hold the wedding?"

"On the day after Charles returns," said the squire.

For the first time, Mrs. Page experienced a qualm of conscience. "But--but Fanny should at least have an opportunity to become acquainted with him first."

"No need for that. Young people. Well suited. Charles will do as he's told."

Mr. and Mrs. Page argued a little for the sake of form, but terror of letting the prize slip through their fingers finally made them agree to everything. The squire said that their respective lawyers would get together a week after the wedding. Champagne was produced. The squire privately thought it was the oddest champagne he had ever tasted, which was perhaps the case, the "champagne" being apple juice laced with soda water.

They fell to discussing arrangements. The couple would be married in the local church by the vicar. The Pages asked about a honeymoon, neither of them wanting to be around when their daughter and her new husband found they had rented Delfton Hall and disappeared.

"I'll fix that," said the squire. "Have you ever met my wife's unmarried sister, Miss Martha Grimes?"

"Didn't even know you had a sister-in-law," commented Mr. Page.

"She's got a house in the best part of town. We'll send 'em there for a few weeks. I'll write and tell her they're coming." The squire put the knowledge that his sister-in-law had called him a loose screw and had told him never to cross her threshold again to the back of his mind.

It was four in the morning before the Deveneys took their leave--unaware that the gold plate and the butler had departed to their rightful home at midnight. The Pages had few remaining servants, the cook, Mrs. Friendly, acting as housekeeper as well. She stayed on because her son had been allowed the use of the kitchen garden, the produce of which she sold to the neighboring houses.

In their carriage on the road home, Squire Deveney said to his wife, "Better get those sparklers back to the jeweler in the morning. They did their bit."

"Did you see how they gazed at my diamonds?" crowed his wife.

"Not your diamonds. Only on loan," the squire reminded her.

"Don't be so depressing," snapped his wife. "We've done well for Charles. That gold plate was worth a king's ransom. We'll rent the house and clear off right after the wedding. But where?"

"Beat Tommy Wellan at cards before we left London," said the squire, rubbing his hands. "Said I'd waive the money if he let us use that hunting box of his in Yorkshire. 'Course, all I was thinking of at the time was escaping the duns."

Mrs. Deveney nodded toward the rewrapped portrait on the opposite carriage seat. "Be a bit of a shock to the girl when she realizes Charles don't look like that at all. Who is it?"

"How should I know? Some felon was trying to sell it down Barminster way in the Dog and Duck. He thought he saw the constable, so I got it for a song, he was so anxious to be rid of it. We'll make sure she don't see Charles until they're both at the altar."

"But the wedding rehearsal...?"

"Don't need one. I'll get the vicar to guide them through the responses."

His wife patted his hand. "You think of everything."

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