Arabella

Arabella

by Georgette Heyer

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Overview

Georgette Heyer had a handful of unforgettable heroines, of which Arabella is one of the most engaging.

The late Georgette Heyer was a very private woman. Her historical novels have charmed and delighted millions of readers for decades, though she rarely reached out to the public to discuss her works or private life. It is known that she was born in Wimbledon in August 1902, and her first novel, The Black Moth, was published in 1921.

Heyer published 56 books over the next 53 years, until her death from lung cancer in 1974. Heyer's large volume of works included Regency romances, mysteries and historical fiction. Known also as the Queen of Regency romance, Heyer was legendary for her research, historical accuracy and her extraordinary plots and characterizations. Her last book, My Lord John, was published posthumously in 1975. She was married to George Ronald Rougier, a mining engineer, and they had one son together, Richard.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402228186
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 08/01/2009
Series: Regency Romances , #9
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 63,306
File size: 935 KB

About the Author

Georgette Heyer's novels have charmed and delighted millions of readers for decades. English Heritage has awarded Georgette Heyer one of their prestigious Blue Plaques, designating her Wimbledon home as the residence of an important figure in British history. She was born in Wimbledon in August 1902. She wrote her first novel, The Black Moth, at the age of seventeen to amuse her convalescent brother; it was published in 1921 and became an instant success. Heyer published 56 books over the next 53 years, until her death from lung cancer in 1974. Her last book, My Lord John, was published posthumously in 1975. A very private woman, she rarely reached out to the public to discuss her works or personal life. Her work included Regency romances, mysteries and historical fiction. Known as the Queen of Regency romance, Heyer was legendary for her research, historical accuracy and her extraordinary plots and characterizations. She was married to George Ronald Rougier, a barrister, and they had one son, Richard.

Read an Excerpt

One

The schoolroom in the Parsonage at Heythram was not a large apartment, but on a bleak January day, in a household where the consumption of coals was a consideration, this was not felt by its occupants to be a disadvantage. Quite a modest fire in the high, barred grate made it unnecessary for all but one of the four young ladies present to huddle shawls round their shoulders. But Elizabeth, the youngest of the Reverend Henry Tallant's handsome daughters, was suffering from the ear-ache, and, besides stuffing a roasted onion into the afflicted orifice, had swathed her head and neck in an old Cashmere shawl. She lay curled up on an aged sofa, with her head on a worn red cushion, and from time to time uttered a long-suffering sigh, to which none of her sisters paid any heed. Betsy was known to be sickly. It was thought that the climate of Yorkshire did not agree with her constitution, and since she spent the greater part of the winter suffering from a variety of minor ills her delicacy was regarded by all but her Mama as a commonplace.

There were abundant signs, littered over the table in the centre of the room, that the young ladies had retired to this cosy, shabby apartment to hem shirts, but only one of them, the eldest, was thus engaged. In a chair on one side of the fireplace, Miss Margaret Tallant, a buxom fifteen-year-old, was devouring the serial story in a bound volume of The Ladies' Monthly Museum, with her fingers stuffed in her ears; and seated opposite to Miss Arabella, her stitchery lying neglected on the table before her, sat Miss Sophia, reading aloud from another volume of this instructive periodical.

‘I must say, Bella,' she remarked, momentarily lowering the book, ‘I find this most perplexing! Only listen to what it says here! We have presented our subscribers with fashions of the newest pattern, not such as shall violate the laws of propriety and decorum, but such as shall assist the smile of good humour, and give an additional charm to the carriage of benevolence. Economy ought to be the order of the day – And then, if you please, there is a picture of the most ravishing evening-gown – Do but look at it, Bella! – and it says that the Russian bodice is of blue satin, fastened in front with diamonds! Well!'

Her sister obediently raised her eyes from the wristband she was hemming, and critically scanned the willowy giantess depicted amongst the Fashion Notes. Then she sighed, and once more bent her dark head over her work. ‘Well, if that is their notion of economy, I am sure I couldn't go to London, even if my godmother invited me. And I know she won't,' she said fatalistically.

‘You must and you shall go!' declared Sophy, in accents of strong resolution. ‘Only think what it may mean to all of us if you do!'

‘Yes, but I won't go looking like a dowd,' objected Arabella, ‘and if I am obliged to have diamond fastenings to my bodices, you know very well –'

‘Oh, stuff! I daresay that is the extreme of fashion, or perhaps they are made of paste! And in any event this is one of the older numbers. I know I saw in one of them that jewelry is no longer worn in the mornings, so very likely – Where is that volume? Margaret, you have it! Do, pray, give it to me! You are by far too young to be interested in such things!'

Margaret uncorked her ears to snatch the book out of her sister's reach. ‘No! I'm reading the serial story!'

‘Well, you should not. You know Papa does not like us to read romances.'

‘If it comes to that,' retorted Margaret, ‘he would be excessively grieved to find you reading nothing better than the latest modes!'

They looked at one another; Sophy's lip quivered. ‘Dear Meg, do pray give it to me, only for a moment!'

‘Well, I will when I have finished the Narrative of Augustus Waldstein,' said Margaret. ‘But only for a moment, mind!'

‘Wait, I know there is something here to the purpose!' said Arabella, dropping her work to flick over the pages of the volume abandoned by Sophia. ‘Method of Preserving Milk by Horse-Radish... White Wax for the Nails... Human Teeth placed to Stumps... Yes, here it is! Now, listen, Meg! Where a Female has in early life dedicated her attention to novel-reading she is unfit to become the companion of a man of sense, or to conduct a family with propriety and decorum. There!' She looked up, the prim pursing of her lips enchantingly belied by her dancing eyes.

‘I am sure Mama is not unfit to be the companion of a man of sense!' cried Margaret indignantly. ‘And she reads novels! And even Papa does not find The Wanderer objectionable, or Mrs Edgeworth's Tales!'

‘No, but he did not like it when he found Bella reading The Hungarian Brothers, or The Children of the Abbey,' said Sophia, seizing the opportunity to twitch The Ladies' Monthly Museum out of her sister's slackened grasp. ‘He said there was a great deal of nonsense in such books, and that the moral tone was sadly lacking.'

‘Moral tone is not lacking in the serial I am reading!' declared Margaret, quite ruffled. ‘Look what it says there, near the bottom of the page! "Albert! be purity of character your duty!" I am sure he could not dislike that!'

Arabella rubbed the tip of her nose. ‘Well, I think he would say it was fustian,' she remarked candidly. ‘But do give the book back to her, Sophy!'

‘I will, when I have found what I'm looking for. Besides, it was I who had the happy notion to borrow the volumes from Mrs Caterham, so – Yes, here it is! It says that only jewelry of very plain workmanship is worn in the mornings nowadays.' She added, on a note of doubt: ‘I daresay the fashions don't change so very fast, even in London. This number is only three years old.'

The sufferer on the sofa sat up cautiously. ‘But Bella hasn't got any jewelry, has she?'

This observation, delivered with all the bluntness natural in a damsel of only nine summers, threw a blight over the company.

‘I have the gold locket and chain with the locks of Papa's and Mama's hair in it,' said Arabella defensively.

‘If you had a tiara, and a – a cestus, and an armlet to match it, it might answer,' said Sophy. ‘There is a toilet described here with just those ornaments.'

Her three sisters gazed at her in astonishment. ‘What is a cestus?' they demanded.

Sophy shook her head. ‘I don't know,' she confessed.

‘Well, Bella hasn't got one at all events,' said the Job's comforter on the sofa.

‘If she were so poor-spirited as to refuse to go to London for such a trifling reason as that, I would never forgive her!' declared Sophy.

‘Of course I would not!' exclaimed Arabella scornfully. ‘But I have not the least expectation that Lady Bridlington will invite me, for why should she, only because I am her goddaughter? I never saw her in my life!'

‘She sent a very handsome shawl for your christening gift,' said Margaret hopefully.

‘Besides being Mama's dearest friend,' added Sophy.

‘But Mama has not seen her either – at least, not for years and years!'

‘And she never sent Bella anything else, not even when she was confirmed,' pointed out Betsy, gingerly removing the onion from her ear, and throwing it into the fire.

‘If your ear-ache is better,' said Sophia, eyeing her with disfavour, ‘you may hem this seam for me! I want to draw a pattern for a new flounce.'

‘Mama said I was to sit quietly by the fire,' replied the invalid, disposing herself more comfortably. ‘Are there any acrostics in those fusty old books?'

‘No, and if there were I would not give them to anyone so disobliging as you, Betsy!' said Sophy roundly.

Betsy began to cry, in an unconvincing way, but as Margaret was once more absorbed in her serial, and Arabella had drawn Sophia's attention to the picture of a velvet pelisse trimmed lavishly with ermine, no one paid any heed to her, and she presently relapsed into silence, merely sniffing from time to time, and staring resentfully at her two eldest sisters.

They presented a charming picture, as they sat poring over their book, their dark ringlets intermingled, and their arms round each other's waists. They were very plainly dressed, in gowns of blue kerseymere, made high to the throat, and with long tight sleeves; and they wore no other ornaments than a knot or two of ribbons; but the Vicar's numerous offspring were all remarkable for their good looks and had very little need of embellishment. Although Arabella was unquestionably the Beauty of the family, it was pretty generally agreed in the neighbourhood that once Sophia had outgrown the over-plumpness of her sixteen years she might reasonably hope to rival her senior. Each had large, dark, and expressive eyes, little straight noses, and delicately moulded lips; each had complexions which were the envy of less fortunate young ladies, and which owed nothing to Denmark Lotion, Olympian Dew, Bloom of Ninon, or any other aid to beauty advertised in the society journals. Sophia was the taller of the two; Arabella had by far the better figure, and the neater ankle. Sophia looked to be the more robust; Arabella enchanted her admirers by a deceptive air of fragility, which inspired one romantically-minded young gentleman to liken her to a leaf blown by the wind; and another to address a very bad set of verses to her, apostrophising her as the New Titania. Unfortunately, Harry had found this effusion, and had shown it to Bertram, and until Papa had said, with his gentle austerity, that he considered the jest to be outworn, they had insisted on hailing their sister by this exquisitely humorous appellation.

Betsy, brooding over her wrongs, found nothing to admire in either sister, and was weighing the advantage of cosseting from old Nurse against the possibility of being called upon to amuse Baby Jack, were she to remove herself to the nursery, when the door burst open, and a stout boy of eleven years, in nankeens and a frilled shirt, and with a mop of curly hair, precipitated himself into the room, exclaiming loudly: ‘Hallo! Such a kick-up! Mama is with Papa in the study, but I know what it's all about!'

‘Why, what has happened?' exclaimed Sophia.

‘Don't you wish you knew!' said Harry, drawing a piece of twine from his pocket, and beginning to tie it into a complicated knot. ‘Watch me tie this one, Meg! I know six of the chief knots now, and if Uncle James does not get Captain Bolton to take me on his next commission it will be the most infamous, swindling thing I ever heard of!'

‘But you didn't come to tell us that!' said Arabella. ‘What is it?'

‘Nothing but one of Harry's hums!' said Margaret.

‘No such thing!' retorted her brother. ‘Joseph Eccles has been down to the White Hart, and brought back the post with him.' He perceived that he had succeeded in riveting his sisters' attention on himself, and grinned at them. ‘Ay, you may stare! There's a letter from London, for Mama. Franked by some lord, too: I saw it.'

Margaret's book slipped from her fingers to the floor; Sophia gave a gasp; and Arabella flew up out of her chair. ‘Harry! Not – oh, not from my godmother?'

‘Oh, ain't it?' said Harry.

‘If it comes from London, it must be from Lady Bridlington!' declared Sophia. ‘Arabella, I do believe our fortunes are in a way to being made!'

‘I dare not suppose it to be possible!' said Arabella, quite faintly. ‘Depend upon it, she has written to say she cannot invite me!'

‘Nonsense!' replied her practical sister. ‘If that were all, pray why should Mama take the letter to my father? I regard the matter as settled already. You are going to London for the Season.'

‘Oh, if it could be so indeed!' said Arabella, trembling.

Harry, who had abandoned knot-making in favour of trying to stand on his head, overbalanced at this moment, and fell in a heap on the floor, together with a chair, Sophia's work-box, and a hand-screen, which Margaret had been painting before succumbing to the superior attraction of The Ladies' Monthly Museum. Beyond begging him not to be such an ape, none of his sisters censured his clumsiness. He picked himself up, remarking scornfully that only a girl would make such a fuss about a mere visit to London. ‘The slowest thing!' he said. ‘I should like to know what you think you would do there!'

‘Oh, Harry, how can you be so stupid? The balls! The theatres! Assemblies!' uttered Arabella, in choked accents.

‘I thought you were going there to form an eligible connection,' said Betsy. ‘That is what Mama said, for I heard her.'

‘Then you had no business to be listening!' said Sophia tartly.

‘What's an eligible connection?' demanded Harry, beginning to juggle with several reels of sewing-silk, which had spilled out of the work-box on to the floor.

‘I'm sure I don't know!'

‘I do,' offered the invalid. ‘It's a splendid marriage, of course. And then Bella will invite Sophy and Meg and me to stay with her in London, and we shall all find rich husbands!'

‘That I shall certainly not do, miss!' declared Arabella. ‘Let me tell you that no one will invite you anywhere until you have a little more conduct!'

‘Well, Mama did say it,' argued Betsy, in a whining voice. ‘And you need not think I do not know about such things, because –'

Sophia interrupted her ruthlessly. ‘If, Betsy, you do not desire me to tell Papa of your shocking lack of delicacy, I advise you to take yourself off to the nursery – where you belong!'

This terrible threat did not fail of its object. Complaining that her sisters were disagreeable cats, Betsy went as slowly from the room as she dared, trailing her shawl behind her.

‘She is very sickly,' said Arabella, in an excusing tone.

‘She is a precocious brat!' retorted Sophia. ‘One would have thought that she would have had more elegance of mind than to be thinking of such things! Oh, Bella, if only you were to be so fortunate as to make a Splendid Marriage! And if Lady Bridlington is to bring you out I am sure I do not see how you can fail to! For,' she added nobly, ‘you are by far the prettiest girl I have ever seen!'

‘Hoo!' interpolated Harry, adding his mite to the conversation.

‘Yes,' agreed Margaret, ‘but if she must have diamond buttons, and tiaras, and – and those things you spoke of, I don't see how it can be done!'

A damped silence greeted her words. Sophia was the first to recover herself. ‘Something,' she announced resolutely, ‘will be contrived!'

No one answered her. Arabella and Margaret appeared to be dubiously weighing her pronouncement; and Harry, having discovered a pair of scissors, was pleasurably engaged in snipping short lengths off a skein of darning-wool. Into this pensive silence walked a young gentleman just emerging from adolescence into manhood. He was a handsome youth, fairer than his elder sister, but with something of her cast of countenance; and it was manifest, from the alarming height of his shirt collar, and the disorder of his chestnut locks, that he affected a certain modishness that bordered on dandyism. The Knaresborough tailor who enjoyed his patronage could not aspire to the height of art achieved by Weston or Stultz, but he had done his best, and had indeed been greatly assisted by the admirable proportions of his client. Mr Bertram Tallant set off a coat to advantage, and was blessed with a most elegant pair of legs. These were at the moment encased in a pair of buckskin breeches, but their owner cherished in one of his chests of drawers a pair of yellow pantaloons which he had not yet dared to display to his Papa, but which, he rather fancied, turned him into a veritable Tulip of Fashion. His top-boots, on which he expended much thought and labour, were as refulgent as could be expected of boots belonging to a gentleman whose parents were unhappily unable to supply their second son with the champagne indispensable for a really good blacking; and the points of his shirt-collars, thanks to the loving hands of his sisters, were so stiffly starched that it was only with great difficulty that he could turn his head. Like his elder brother James, at present up at Oxford, prior to taking Orders, he had been educated at Harrow, but he was at present domiciled at home, working under his father's guidance with a view to passing Smalls during the Easter Vacation. This task he had embarked on without enthusiasm, his whole ambition being to obtain a cornetcy in a Hussar regiment. But as this would cost not a penny less than eight hundred pounds, and the termination of the long war with Bonaparte had made promotion unlikely, unless by expensive purchase, Mr Tallant had decided, not unreasonably, that a civil occupation would prove less ruinous than a military career. He intended that Bertram, once provided with a respectable degree, should adorn the Home Office; and any doubts which the volatile disposition of his offspring might have engendered in his mind of his eligibility for that service, he was nearly able to allay by the reflection that Bertram was, after all, not yet eighteen, and that Oxford University, where he himself had passed three scholarly years, would exert a stabilising influence on his character.

The future candidate for Parliament heralded his entrance into the schoolroom with a muted hunting-cry, followed immediately by the announcement that some people were unfairly favoured by fortune.

Arabella clasped both her hands at her breast, and raised a pair of speaking eyes to his face. ‘Bertram, is it indeed true? Now, don't try to roast me – pray don't!'

‘Lord, yes! But who told you?'

‘Harry, of course,' replied Sophia. ‘The children know everything in this house!'

Mr Bertram Tallant nodded gloomily, and pulled up his sleeves a trifle. ‘You don't want him in here: shall I turn him out?' he enquired.

‘Ho!' cried Harry, leaping to his feet, and squaring up to his senior in great good-humour. ‘A mill!'

‘Not in here!' shrieked his sisters, with one accustomed voice.

But as they had no expectation of being attended to, each damsel made a dive to snatch her own particular property out of harm's way. This was just as well, since the room, besides being small, was crowded with knick-knacks. The brothers struggled and swayed together for a brief minute or two, but since Harry, though a lusty lad, was no match for Bertram, he was very soon thrust outside the room, and the door slammed against him. After dealing the scarred panels a few kicks, and threatening his senior with gruesome reprisals, he took himself off, whistling loudly through the convenient gap occasioned by the loss of one of his front teeth; and Bertram was able to remove his shoulders from the door, and to straighten his cravat.

‘Well, you are to go,' he informed Arabella. ‘I wish I had a rich godmother, that's all! Much old Mrs Calne ever did for me, except to give me a devilish book called the Christian Comforter, or some such thing, which was enough to send a fellow to the dogs directly!'

‘I must say, I think it was excessively shabby of her,' agreed Margaret. ‘Even Papa said that if she had thought you had a taste for such literature, she might have supposed that you would find it upon his shelves.'

‘Well, my father knows I have no turn in that direction, and this I will say for him, he don't expect it of me,' said Bertram handsomely. ‘He may be devilish straitlaced, and full of old-fashioned notions, but he's a right one at heart, and don't plague one with a pack of humbug.'

‘Yes, yes!' said Arabella impatiently, ‘but does he know of this letter? Will he let me go?'

‘I fancy he don't like it above half, but he said he could not stand in your way, and must trust to your conducting yourself in Society with propriety, and not allowing your head to be turned by frivolity and admiration. And as to that,' Bertram added, with brotherly candour, ‘I don't suppose they will think you anything out of the way amongst all the nobs, so there's precious little chance of its happening.'

‘No, I am sure they will not,' said Arabella. ‘But tell me the whole! What did Lady Bridlington say in her letter?'

‘Lord, I don't know! I was trying to make sense of a whole rigmarole of Greek when Mama came in, and I wasn't listening with more than half an ear. I daresay she'll tell it all to you. She sent me to say she wants you in her dressing-room.'

‘Good gracious, why could you not have told me that before?' cried Arabella, stuffing the half-finished shirt into a work-bag and flitting out of the room.

The Parsonage, although built on two storeys only, was a large, old-fashioned house, and to reach Mrs Tallant's dressing-room Arabella was obliged to traverse several corridors, all carpeted with a worn drugget, and all equally draughty.

The living of Heythram was respectable, being worth some three hundred pounds a year, in addition to which the present incumbent was possessed of a small independence; but the claims of a numerous family made the recarpeting of passages more a thing to be dreamed of than an allowable expense. The Vicar, himself the son of a landed gentleman, had married the beautiful Miss Theale, who might have been expected to have done better for herself than to have thrown her cap over the windmill for a mere younger son, however handsome he might be. Indeed, it had been commonly said at the time that she had married to disoblige her family, and might, if she had chosen, have caught a baronet on her hook. Instead she had fallen in love with Henry Tallant at first sight. Since his birth was genteel, and her parents had other daughters to dispose of, she had been permitted to have her way; and apart from wishing sometimes that the living were worth more, or that Henry would not put his hand in his pocket for every beggar who crossed his path, she had never given anyone reason to suppose that she regretted her choice. To be sure, she would have liked to have installed into the Parsonage one of the new water-closets, and a Patent Kitchen Range; or, like her brother-in-law up at the Hall, have been able, without feeling the pinch, to have burnt wax candles in all the rooms; but she was a sensible woman, and even when the open fire in the kitchen smoked, and the weather made a visit to the existing water-closet particularly disagreeable, she realised that she was a great deal happier with her Henry than ever she could have been with that almost forgotten baronet. She naturally concurred in his decision that whatever became of their daughters their sons at least must receive every advantage of education; but even while employing every shift of economy to ensure the respectable maintenance of James and Bertram at Harrow she was gradually building her ambitions more and more on the future of her eldest and most beautiful daughter. Without precisely regretting the circumstances which had made it impossible for herself to shine farther afield than York and Scarborough, she was determined that Arabella should not be similarly circumscribed. Perhaps it had been with this hope already at the back of her mind that she had invited her school-friend, Arabella Haverhill, who had contracted such a brilliant match, to stand as godmother to her infant daughter. Certainly her resolve to send the younger Arabella to make her début into society under the aegis of Lady Bridlington was of no very recent date. She had maintained throughout the years an infrequent but regular correspondence with her old friend, and was tolerably certain that fashionable life had in no way impaired the easy good-nature which had characterised the plump and cheerful Miss Haverhill. Lady Bridlington was not herself blessed with daughters – she was, in fact, the mother of only one child, a son, some seven or eight years older than Mrs Tallant's daughter – but from her friend's point of view this was a decided advantage. The mother of a family of hopeful girls, however good-natured, would not be in the least likely to take under her wing yet another young female in search of an eligible husband. But a widow in comfortable circumstances, with a strong inclination for all the amusements of fashion, and no daughters to launch upon the world, might reasonably be supposed to welcome the opportunity of chaperoning a young protégée to the balls, routs, and Assemblies she herself delighted in. Mrs Tallant could not conceive it to be otherwise. Nor was she disappointed. Lady Bridlington, crossing several sheets of gilt-edged notepaper with her sprawling pen, could not imagine why she should not have hit upon the notion herself. She was excessively dull, and liked nothing in the world so much as having young persons about her. It had long been a grief to her, she wrote, that she had no daughter of her own; and as she had no doubt that she would love her dearest Sophia's girl on sight she should await her arrival in the greatest impatience. Mrs Tallant had had no need to mention her object in sending Arabella to town: Henry Tallant might consider that Lady Bridlington's letters betrayed little but folly and frivolity, but her ladyship, however lacking in mental profundity, had plenty of worldly sense. Sophia might rest assured, she wrote, that she would leave no stone unturned to provide Arabella with a suitable husband. Already, she hinted, she had several eligible bachelors in her eye.

It was small wonder, then, that Arabella, peeping into her mother's dressing-room, should have found that admirable lady lost in a pleasant daydream.

‘Mama?'

‘Arabella! Come in, my love, and close the door! Your godmother has written, and in the kindest way! Dear, dear creature, I knew I might depend upon her!'

‘It's true then? I am to go?' Arabella breathed.

‘Yes, and she begs I will send you to her as soon as may be contrived, for it seems that Bridlington is travelling on the Continent, and she is quite moped to death, living in that great house all alone. I knew how it must be! She will treat you as her own daughter. And, oh, my dearest child, I never asked it of her, but she has offered to present you at one of the Drawing-rooms!'

This dizzy prospect took from Arabella all power of speech. She could only gaze at her mother, while that lady poured out a list of the delights in store for her.

‘Everything I could wish for you! Almack's – I am sure she will be able to procure you a voucher, for she knows all the patronesses! Concerts! The theatre! All the ton parties – breakfasts, Assemblies, balls – my love, you will have such opportunities! You can have no notion! Why, she writes that – but never mind that!'

Arabella found her voice. ‘But Mama, how shall we contrive? The expense! I cannot – I cannot go to London without any clothes to wear!'

‘No, indeed!' said Mrs Tallant, laughing. ‘That would present a very odd appearance, my love!'

‘Yes, Mama, but you know what I mean! I have only two ball dresses, and though they do very well for the Assemblies in Harrowgate, and country parties, I know they are not modish enough for Almack's! And Sophy has borrowed all Mrs Caterham's Monthly Museums, and I have been looking at the fashions in them, and it is too lowering, ma'am! Everything must be trimmed with diamonds, or ermine, or point-lace!'

‘My dear Arabella, don't put yourself in a taking! That has all been thought of, I assure you. You must know that I have had this scheme in my mind for many a long day.' She saw her daughter's face of mystification, and laughed again. ‘Why, did you think I would send you into society looking like a rustic? I am not quite such a zany, I hope! I have been putting by for this very occasion since I don't know when.'

‘Mama!'

‘I have a little money of my own, you know,' explained Mrs Tallant. ‘Your dear Papa would never use it, but desired me to spend it only as I liked, because I used to be very fond of pretty things, and he never could bear to think I might not have them when I married him. That was all nonsense, of course, and I'm sure I very soon gave up thinking of such fripperies. But I was very glad to have it to spend on my children. And in spite of Margaret's drawing-lessons, and Sophy's music-master, and dearest Bertram's new coat, and those yellow pantaloons which he dare not let Papa see – my love, was there ever such a foolish boy? As though Papa did not know all along! – and having to take poor Betsy to the doctor three times this year, I have quite a little nest-egg saved for you!'

‘Oh, Mama, no, no!' cried Arabella, distressed. ‘I would rather not go to London at all than that you should be put to such dreadful expense!'

‘That is because you are sadly shatterbrained, my dear,' replied her mother calmly. ‘I regard it as an investment, and I shall own myself extremely astonished if a great deal of good does not come of it.' She hesitated, looked a little conscious, and said, picking her words: ‘I am sure I do not have to tell you that Papa is a Saint. Indeed, I don't suppose there is a better husband or father alive! But he is not at all practical, and when one has eight children to provide for, one must have a little worldly sense, or I don't know how one is to go on. One need have no anxiety about dear James, to be sure; and since Harry is set on going to sea, and his uncle is so obliging as to use his influence in his behalf, his future is settled. But I own I cannot be happy about poor Bertram; and where I am to find suitable husbands for all you girls in this restricted neighbourhood, I have not the least notion! Now, that is speaking more plainly than perhaps Papa would like, but you are a sensible puss, Arabella, and I have no scruple in being open with you. If I can but contrive to establish you respectably, you may bring out your sisters, and perhaps, even, if you should be so fortunate as to marry a gentleman of position, you might be able to help Bertram to buy his commission. I do not mean, of course, that your husband should purchase it precisely, but he might very likely have an interest at the Horse Guards, or – or something of the sort!'

Arabella nodded, for it was no news to her that she, as the eldest of four sisters, was expected to marry advantageously. She knew it to be her duty to do so. ‘Mama, I will try not to disappoint you!' she said earnestly.

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Arabella 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 88 reviews.
ajpohren More than 1 year ago
Though the engrossing and talented works of Ms. Georgette Heyer have graced us for many many years, I have personally, up until now, been bereft of enjoying her tales. With Arabella, that has all changed and I feel as though I have uncovered a much coveted treasure! Just the sweet innocence and romantically nostalgic cover makes one's fingers itch to pick up the book. Once the cover is lifted and eyes are fixed upon the beginning words, the reader is transported back in time and lost in a different world, almost immediately. When I began to read Arabella, I was strongly reminded of Jane Austin and her voice and talent for words. The strong and sassy heroine and dashingly handsome hero, dealing with propriety of the times and just the overall feel of the story, was reminiscent of Jane Austin, to me. I simply adored the lead character of Arabella! There was not one single aspect of her that I disliked and the way in which she was written made her so easy to connect with. As a young lady, she has been given the enviable opportunity to travel to London to debut and stay with her Godmother. Along the way, a mishap occurs, landing Arabella and her traveling companion upon the doorstep of Robert Beaumaris a highly respected and well-known Nonpareil. When Arabella overhears Robert telling his friend that he is sure that Arabella is nothing more than yet another wealthy husband hunter, she takes matters into her own hands and tells a little white lie. That little white lie, however, changes Arabella's life and presence in London causing her heart to ache and her conscience to whirl. When Robert takes note of the spunk and fire within Arabella, he is instantly intrigued and decides to "help" her become known in London, just by his simple appearance and friendliness, and their story is one that is unforgettable. Georgette Heyer does such an outstanding job bringing this story to life and enveloping the reader with these lives. I have to say that I even adored the mogul that Arabella thrusts upon Robert. His adoration simply melts the heart and the connection between Ulysses, the dog, and Robert is sure to bring a smile to the reader's face. Arabella has a magnificently strong and warm heart, wanting to help out anyone or anything in need and Robert takes this in stride with a delightful humor. Arabella is simply a not-to-be-missed story that I can't say enough about. I loved it and cannot wait to read more by this author. The writing, characterization and overall feel of this story is just excellent and engrossing. If you haven't read anything by Georgette Heyer, I strongly recommend snatching Arabella up and settle in for a wonderful afternoon of reading pleasure!
bookwormiest More than 1 year ago
I'm someone who HATES the typical romance novel, so I approached Georgette Heyer with some trepidation. In the past, I'd tried a few regency romances and always felt they were poor (very poor) imitations of Jane Austen. Heyer, however, really delivers. Her prose is clean and straightforward- none of the flowery, gushy, euphemism-laden language that characterizes contemporary romances- her command of period slang is exceptional, and humor is delivered with a deft touch. I most enjoyed Beaumaris's "conversations" with Ulysses. Now I'm off to read as many of these as I can get my hands on!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a huge Georgette Heyer fan. I believe Arabella (which is the first Heyer book I read -- many years ago) is the best. It is about a beautiful but penniless country parson's daughter who, on her way to the city to spend some time with a relative, has carriage trouble and has to stop at a country house. There she meets the owner, a man she instantly takes a dislike to because she believes he is arrogant. She then decides it would be okay to poke fun at the rich and arrogant Mr. Beaumaris, so she passes herself off as a rich heiress. Arabella doesn't believe this little lie will do any harm because she will never see this man again. Little does Arabella know that she will be meeting Mr. Beaumaris quite often in the city and, unfortunately, her lies of being an heiress have reached the city thanks to Mr. Beaumaris's friend who was staying with him at the country house. Arabella manages to get herself into all sorts of hilarious scraps with suitors thinking she is an heiress, and others who cross the path of the headstrong, but lovable, Arabella. The rich and handsome Mr. Beaumaris, much to his amazement, has to continually bail her out of these scraps. This is the book that got me hooked on this author. I highly recommend it and all Georgette Heyer's books.
Ellen Hicks More than 1 year ago
My maiden great aunts recommended Georgette Heyer to me thirty years ago, and Arabella is one of my favorites. I read voraciously and associate with some "highbrow" readers, and I am never embarassed to mention my admiration for Heyer's clever novels. I've read them aloud on long car trips to my husband; he finds them very entertaining and loves Heyer's vivid characterization.
readingissexy23 More than 1 year ago
I logged on to barnes and noble expecting to see hundreds of reviews for this book. I am shocked that more people have not discovered this masterpiece! Georgette Heyer writes beautifully, and throws in some hilarious jokes every now and then. Arabella is the story of a girl trapped among a big family without a big fortune. Her parents expect her to marry rich in order to set up futures for not only herself, but for her siblings. She goes to visit her godmother Lady Bridlington in London and must adapt quickly to the fast paced world of social engagements and luxuries. She meets Mr. Beaumaris, the last person anyone would expect to fancy Arabella. One little lie sets the pace for this entire novel. Read on as Arabella's seemingly innocent bluff backfires. Mr. Beaumaris is suprisingly charming and see's past Arabella's impetuous personality. Must read for Bronte and Austen lovers! Georgette Heyer's style has less extreme vocabulary than Austen. I also dare to say that she's got more wit!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book on a whim and was VERY pleased. Would be a great book club selection. I intent to read more of her books
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this story! What a fun, delightful book! I loved the 'Nonpareil'! I thought he'd be more like Darcy. I was pleasantly surprised to how it all turned out! Fun read! This was my first encounter with Georgette Heyer. She's one of my newest favorites!
DDAVIS79 More than 1 year ago
I had the good luck to be in Barnes and Noble on a day when they had Heyer's books on display. My hardest decision was trying to figure out which book to start with. I'm so very glad I chose this one. It was charming, romantic, and at times had me laughing out loud. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Jane Austen, I've been looking for a great period romance writer and now I've found one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It all seemed very good and very cute. But the story felt flat. Definitely a read, but not all encompassing as I was expecting.
bacillicide on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I feel like every time I finish a Heyer my reaction is "NEW FAVORITE HEYER", and I guess I should just conclude that Heyer is awesome. But I really adored Arabella, perhaps because Mr. Beaumaris is my favorite Heyer hero so far, the only one I've actually fallen in love with. Not to mention Arabella is super charming. A MUST read.
jmaloney17 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another very pleasant Heyer novel. Arabella is very sweet. I liked her brothers and sisters and her love interest was dashing and intelligent. I do like a happy ending.
alana_leigh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For those who enjoy light regency fiction, Georgette Heyer is a staple of the genre. Arabella is an excellent example of the author's renowned skill with creating charming characters and ridiculous scenes that make for a silly read, perfect for when it's either raining or you happen to be sick. (Or if you're recovering from reading a violent novel and there are no kittens on hand to comfort you.) One always knows what to expect from Heyer's endings (and, indeed, most of the middle, too), but if a light romp is what you want, then look no further.Arabella's titular heroine is the eldest daughter in a vicar's family of eight children. Blessed with a wealthy and socially significant godmother (who has no daughters of her own to fuss over), Arabella Tallant is going to London so that her godmother, Lady Bridlington might present her to society and oversee the girl's first season... which will hopefully be her *only* season, as she needs to make a good match if there's any hope for her younger siblings and the money to get a girl through a London season doesn't grow on trees. No one seems too concerned that Arabella will make a good match, for she's a beautiful young woman and smart enough, with her only real flaw being a bit of an impetuous streak that often results in her acting before she's thoroughly thought on the matter. Unsurprisingly, for the daughter of a clergyman with eight children, she has very little dowry to speak of, but she does at least have a smart mother who has saved for this very occasion, setting by money and keeping her own old items from her youth so that they might be made up new for her daughter. No one need be in any doubt that everything ends well... and that Arabella not only makes a suitable match with a decently established fellow, but that it will be a matter of love, too, and not just acceptability... but at least the road to get to this happily ever after is entertaining.While traveling to London in her uncle's coach, an accident drives Arabella and her companion to seek shelter at a nearby home... which turns out to belong to the most fashionable man in London, Mr. Beaumaris. Elegant and wealthy, he is tired of women hunting after him and so when this pretty young girl shows up at his door, he is not inclined to think favorably of her. When Arabella hears him saying just as much to his friend, implying that Arabella might be some girl who has traveled just to disturb his peace and create a sham impromptu meeting, Arabella is furious and acts on impulse. She lies and "lets it slip" that she is an heiress, also tired of being hunted for her enormous fortune, and she makes it clear with her demeanor that she has no interest in Mr. Beaumaris whatsoever.Well, Mr. Beaumaris's friend might have been taken in by Arabella's heiress claims, but the man himself is not... and yet he decides that to set the girl up as the toast of society would be quite amusing. He allows his friend to spread word of the new heiress come to town and Mr. Beaumaris pays special attention to Arabella upon meeting her. With the approval of the most fashionable man in London and the gossip quickly spreading about the enormous Tallant fortune, Arabella quickly becomes the most sought-after girl in town... and she is just as quickly mortified when she realizes that it's all to do with her lie about having a fortune. Mr. Beaumaris continues to spend time with Arabella, realizing that he's never met a girl quite like her, while Arabella keeps her emotional distance, aware that he's probably just trifling with her, but she can use his attention to her advantage in society. Of course, with news about that she's an heiress, she doesn't feel right accepting any proposals of marriage... not even should Mr. Beaumaris himself offer. Of course, what Mr. Beaumaris wants is for Arabella to trust him enough to tell him the truth so that he can find out her true feelings about him and assure her that his feelings are
Stacey42 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The daughter of a well bred but impoverished clergyman, with many brothers & sisters, Arabella goes to London to marry money. While traveling she has a carriage accident & meets Richard Beaumaris. She overhears him assuming she has manufactured the meeting because she is after his money so she lies about being a very well off heiress. This lie follows her to London & problems ensue. It¿s a sweet story & entertaining.
Apolline on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Arabella is the daughter of an impoverished country parson in the Yorkshire area. With three sisters and three brothers, it is her mother's wish to see her married with a respectable and wealthy man. Arabella is lucky enough to have a rich Godmother in London, who, with no daughter of her own, willingly takes Arabella under her protective wings as a débutante among London's finest social elite.On Arabella's way to London, her carriage breaks down outside the hunting cabin of London's Nonpareil, Robert Beaumaris. Arabella and her escort, is invited in to wait for a new carriage, but as soon as Arabella is out of the Nonpareils eye shot, he accuses her of planning the stop and being just another girl after his wealth. Arabella finds herself provoked in such a degree, that she chooses to tell Mr. Beaumaris and his company a lie to prove him wrong. And so the story unfolds, with parties, fancy dresses and misunderstandings, all is set for a little drama, but also love.This was my first encounter with Georgette Heyer¿s writing, and definitely not the last. This book had every aspect of a good historical romance. Supposedly Heyer established the historical romance genre and the subgenre Regency romance. The fact that Georgette Heyer was deeply inspired by Jane Austen did shine through in Arabella. I registered several similarities to, especially Pride and Prejudice, but not in a degree that I found it problematic. Quite the contrary I found the story sweet, entertaining and charming. I caught myself thinking of Arabella and the book several days after I finished it. I take that as a good sign and I can heartily say that I enjoyed the book very much.
exlibrisbitsy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Impetuosity is Arabella¿s only fault. That and being young and naive. At the same time she has very strong convictions about right and wrong and follows through on them, again to a fault. She is not a push over, nor is she vapid or overly frivolous. Being young and naive ends up being only endearing, and her convictions are admirable considering the time and place she is in. Her impetuosity though is what got her into trouble in the first place.Arabella is one of eight children in a large family living in a country parish. Her father, the Vicar, is a strict man who raises his children to love, respect and care for all of their fellow creatures. She is from a respectable family, but her fortune is very, very small. Through a happy circumstance her godmother writes and says that she is willing to bring Arabella under her wing in London and sponsor her for a London Season!On her way to London, traveling with a family friend, her carriage breaks down and she goes to a near by house seeking shelter. The man inside, Robert Beaumaris, is at first unwilling to entertain her and finally admits to his friend, inadvertently in her hearing, that he assumes that she was a fortune hunter and, hearing that he was home, made up this story to throw herself in his way. Arabella's impetuosity comes to life and she immediately puts on airs that in fact she is a "great heiress" of "large fortune" and attempts to put Mr. Beaumaris in his place. Soon this news is all over London, and Arabella finds herself the target of every fortune hunter of the Season. Now she somehow has to contrive finding a man that will love her for herself and not her money, and manage to avoid the biggest scandal of the Season on top of it!This book reminded me a lot of the story Cinderella. The fairy godmother, the journey to the ball Season in a carriage, the poor girl elevated to rich circumstances and falling into the lap of a prince, well not literally a prince, more like a prince of fashion. There the similarities end. I enjoyed this book of Georgette Heyer's because, for the first time, it addressed the concerns of the lower classes. It depicted slums, orphans, abusive masters, and the very real and very harsh lives lead in the underside of London. Throughout the book Arabella tried to help these people even though it was considered scandalous, unbefitting, or beneath a young girl of her class to do so. She may have been considered a great heiress, but she was not a stranger to hard work, dedication to a cause, or to being truly concerned for people other than herself, regardless of their station in life.I enjoyed reading the witty banter, the well constructed characters, and the engaging plot of this regency era take on the story of Cinderella. If you are all into stories of the regency than I think you will love it too.
ncgraham on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dash it all! I typically open up my Heyer reviews with snarky comments about pink covers and how said covers may or may not reflect on my manliness. But SourceBooks¿ presentation of Arabella is tasteful and conservative, with only a thin band of pink running behind the title. So I suppose I¿ll have to save the snark for some other time.It has actually been three months since I read this Heyer, and I¿m afraid it hasn¿t stuck in my mind as clearly as some of her others. This may be an indictment of the novel itself, or it may be simply due to the fact that I didn¿t write a review at the time.Either way, rather than writing a detailed summary and review, I¿m just going to list the things that stuck out to me while reading.First and foremost, I have to mention how very cozy this book is. Most Heyer novels would qualify as ¿comfort reads,¿ and indeed I can see myself turning to any number of them when I just need to relax, but Arabella in particular seems this way to me. Maybe it¿s the homespun quality of the heroine¿s domestic life, maybe it¿s the fact that there¿s no one truly evil who comes in and tries to botch up the proceedings, maybe it¿s just the leading couple¿s charm; for whatever reason, it reminded me of a thick, quilted blanket to snuggle up under on a chilly night.And then there¿s the matter of our heroine herself. I actually think that of all the Heyeroines I¿ve encountered, Arabella may be my favorite so far (the only real competition coming from Kitty Charing, of Cotillion fame). Due to her upbringing as a parson¿s daughter, she has a stronger moral grounding than the typical Heyeroine, and when she makes a mistake her conscience haunts her. But she is also incredibly impulsive, which means that she has plenty to feel guilty about by the time she¿s half-way through, I¿m afraid. A delightful character.One could also talk about the brilliantly acerbic and deadpan hero, but I have to say that after the heroine and the downright coziness of the book, the thing that most impressed me was the way Heyer depicted the larger social scene in which Arabella and Mr. Beaumaris move. She has a clever way here, before or after a major scene involving the main characters, of showing minor characters going about their various activities, and reflecting upon what our twosome¿s intentions and motivations might be. It was something I did not remember from her other novels, and very much enjoyed.Is Arabella my favorite Heyer? Probably not. Will I be revisiting it? Most assuredly. And do I recommend it? Yes, yes, yes.
SophieCale on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While this is not the first of Heyer's novels that I've read, it was the one I was most interested in reading, because it seemed to promise the most repartee, and while it did deliver, most of it was between the lead male, Beaumaris, and the stray dog he picks up. While Arabella has her passion and purity, she sadly lacks the wit I was expecting. I really hate to think that all Heyer leads will be the mice in their feline husbands games. This may be precipitate since this is only my second Heyer novel (the first having been The Convenient Marriage), but I'm suspecting a Heyer "template": Rich bored aristocrat goes all out to win the "enchanting" and impudent female and wins her over by aiding the pockets and reputations of her brother and family. I nearly called Beaumaris "Rule" and Bertram "Pelham". They had not the same character but fit the same mold. While I loved Rule for his irreverence, I think I enjoyed Beaumaris better since he is more the cynic and less the rake. And I have to say that I really dislike how Heyer describes the women, her relations and her toillettes so well and with so much detail but almost entirely neglects the hero's description. I know its supposed to be vague to allow your imagination to run but there's something wrong when I can envision a smart blue coat with lapels and pantaloons, but no real body inhabiting it nor face and head seated above it.
2chances on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite Heyer novels. It concerns the lovely (and socially conscious) Arabella, who becomes annoyed when the arrogant Mr. Beaumaris lets slip the fact that he thinks Arabella is angling to marry him for his fortune. Poor-as-a-church-mouse Arabella immediately claims to be the possessor of wealth untold, and shortly thereafter finds herself fighting off fortune-hunting suitors with a barge pole. Heyer's Arabella is more than just a pretty face - she is wildly inventive as well as witty, curious, quick-tempered and altogether delightful; reading this delicious re-issue reminded me of eating my favorite meal (Trout Wulfi at Carabba's, if you're interested, with fresh hot bread, a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, and some meltingly-sweet tiramisu for dessert). The happy sigh at the end was the common denominator.
justchris on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a reread from my youth, though I didn't remember much about Arabella. It was moderately charming. The heroine is the eldest daughter of a parson who is respectable but not rich, given his numerous offspring. Her godmother agrees to sponsor her for a season in London. The whole family is depending on her to contract a good marriage so that she can bring out her younger sisters. En route, her borrowed carriage breaks down outside the hunting lodge of Mr. Beamarais, our hero. He's got everything--wealth, looks, high social standing. He's also got the attitude to go with it, so when she overhears him complaining to his friend of the lengths women go to when chasing him, she gets angry and pretends to be a fabulous heiress. The word gets out and suddenly she's the most sought after debutante.This romance falls into the comedy of errors and misunderstandings category. Our hero of course guesses the truth immediately but goes along with the game (and even eggs it on), charmed by Arabella's innocence and integrity and waiting for her to trust him. She doesn't know how to confess her lie and can't accept any of the marriage proposals under false pretenses, so she's in quite a quandary. In the meantime, she embroils Beaumaris in various scrapes, and when her brother decides to acquire some town polish while on break from college, the scrapes only get worse. Of course, it all comes right in the end, thanks to our masterful hero and despite the naive heroine. Not my favorite style of romance, and this doesn't compare to April Lady in terms of naivete and romp.
runaway84 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is by far the most cleverest plot that Georgette Heyer has created. Granted, I wouldn't call myself someone who has read a great part of her novels yet, but I'm getting there.Arabella is headed to London to stay with her godmother who is going to introduce her into society. On the way there, her carriage breaks down and while waiting for help to arrive (where's a gas station when you need one?) she takes shelter in a nearby home that belongs to none other than the infamous Nonpareil Robert Beaumaris.Beaumaris wasn't born yesterday. He has been bamboozled into meetings with marriage-seeking ladies who conveniently get into 'accidents' just to meet him for years. Mortified, Arabella - a daughter of a Vicar - concocts a clever story that she is a wealthy heiress. Figuring this is false, Beaumaris decided to play along due to boredom. But boredom eventually leads to something more.A lie such as that can only bring about shenanigans from there. Once word gets out that a heiress is town, every fortune seeking bachelor is vying for her affections.Arabella is witty story that brings with it a lot of laughs. A sweet, strong heroine and a devilishly clever hero and a strong plot makes this a definite Heyer must read.
riverwillow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Arabella is delightful heroine, whose temper and impetuosity lead her to try and put the wealthy Robert Beaumaris in his place by masquerading as a rich heiress. But Mr Beaumaris spots the deception and, amused, plays along and soon all of London is playing court the wealthy Miss Tallant. Along the way Arabella manages to convince Mr Beaumaris to shelter Jemmy, a young chimney sweep, and adopt an adoring mongrel, Ulysses, who manages to charm even Alfonse, Mr Beaumaris's temperamental chef. Another sparkling Regency romp from Heyer.
Anniik on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a charming book. While a bit slow in the beginning, once it gets going, it introduces utterly fascinating characters and a lively and engaging plot. Arabella is a wonderful heroine - very much a lady, but not so held down by the dictates of society that she is afraid to stand up to society's dictates. Robert is a fantastic character as well - some of my favorite scenes in the book were the ones with him and Ulysses. I really enjoyed this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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rishe70 More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite Georgette Heyer books. The fabulously wealthy Mr Beaumaris, who can socially ruin a young lady with the raising of any eyebrow, is captivated by a young woman who has as much character and integrity as she has beauty... a really fun read!