The breakfast room was a quiet, calm room. Lady Adlington took a tray in her room and Mlle. Dubois always rose late when Anastasia didn't have lessons, and so the young lady was left to break her fast with her father who buried himself in The Times. With no one to talk to, and the stern gaze of the butler by the side board following her closely, Anastasia whiled away her time looking out the east-facing window which provided a view of the small wood, a few hills and, in the distance, the chimney tops of Fawley.
"A letter for you, my lord."
Lord Adlington took the offered envelope and slit it open. Anastasia watched him, for she had little else to be doing. As her father began to read the letter, she noticed his expression darken and his brow crease. He stood suddenly, folding the letter away.
"I'm afraid I have some urgent business to attend to. Have a nice day, my darling," he said, sounding more composed than he looked. He kissed Anastasia's forehead and strode out of the room, leaving his bewildered daughter to finish her morning meal.
"Anna," the Countess of Adlington called from the top of the staircase as Anastasia tried to slip away to the library. "Mademoiselle Dubois is taking you for a walk about the gardens at eleven to practise your conversational skills. You are to meet her here five minutes before."
"Conversational skills? But, Mamma-"
"Anna, this time next year we will be in London for the season and you will be presented before the King. You must prepare! We discussed this, did we not?" Lady Adlington said, sounding exasperated.
"Yes, Mamma," Anastasia mumbled.
"Good. Beatrice is calling soon with Charlotte, you might practise together."
"Wonderful," Anastasia muttered under her breath so her mother wouldn't hear the sarcasm. She checked a nearby clock. It was almost eleven. "Will they be saying to luncheon?"
"Yes, dear. I'll see you later."
Abandoning all thoughts of spending some time reading a wonderful book about summer wildflowers, she sighed and waited patiently for her governess to come. All this effort just so she could curtsey before their majesties and dance with a few strangers while her mamma played match-maker with Aunt Beatrice. No doubt they had already made the guest list for her coming-out ball!
The day was warm and bright and this particular part of the estate, the sunken garden, was alive with colourful flowers. As part of her lesson, Anastasia strolled between the beds, beginning a new topic of conversation each time they came to a different shrub. So far, she had found it easy, pointing out much of the wildlife in the garden.
"And did you know that wasps produce more-"
"Anastasie! Enough of zeez wasps! I do not like zem! Let us talk about something else."
"Very well Mad-Good lord! Why on earth did they bring him?"
Mlle. Dubois whipped around, alarmed by Anastasia's exclamation. "Ahh, eet is Charlotte, Robert and Monsieur Campbell," the governess said happily. When the trio had approached, Charlotte giggling as she was now wont to do in the presence of a certain gentleman, Mlle. Dubois insisted Anastasia and Charlotte practised with Robert and Campbell for a change.
"Oh, yes, that's a wonderful idea Mam'zelle! I'm sure you won't mind, James?" Charlotte said
"Not at all, Charlotte, I'm sure it will be rather amusing," Campbell replied, flashing a glance at Anastasia. She looked at her feet, feeling embarrassed and frustrated that he should not only be present during her instruction, but also take part in it. What must he think of them? Practising 'conversation'? She harboured her feelings, however, and began determinedly. They set off towards the lake, Charlotte on Campbell's arm, Anastasia, wearing a sour expression, in front with Robert. They had not taken three steps when Mlle. Dubois stopped them.
"No, Anastasia, you must go with Monsieur Campbell, you will only talk of wasps and bees with Robert. Charlotte, you will talk with your brother." Neither of the ladies were particularly pleased with this arrangement but consented, knowing there would be no point in arguing.
"What part of the country are you from, Mr. Campbell?" Anastasia asked, seeing a perfect opportunity to find a little more about the gentleman.
Anastasia rolled her eyes. He was purposefully making it difficult to converse with him. "What part of Yorkshire?" she persisted.
Mademoiselle Dubois coughed meaningfully from behind them, and Anastasia rolled her eyes.
"What is the name of this place in the north of Yorkshire that is so blessed as to have you as a resident?"
"Studley is the name of the estate, but I wouldn't consider myself as a resident there," he said somewhat stiffly.
"Oh? And why is that? Do your parents prefer London?"
"Yes, but I haven't been to Studley in several years as I've been boarding at Eton."
"But during the holidays-"
"I stay with friends." His tone was becoming stern.
"Don't you miss Studley?"
"I believe it is time we broach a new topic?" Anastasia would have pointed out they had not yet reached a new plant, but something in his voice caused her to keep quiet. But her curiosity had been piqued, and she would not be satisfied until she found out the whole truth.