Anastasia

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Chapter 8

A week passed with little more occurring than Mlle. Dubois' departure. Her sister had fallen ill and so the governess had travelled to Yorkshire, where her sister lived, to nurse her until she was recovered.

"I shouldn't be away for more zan a two weeks." Or so she had said. Anastasia, though incredibly close to her governess, was extremely happy at the thought of two weeks without lessons or, for most of the time at least, a chaperone.

She spent nearly every passing minute with her cousins and their guest. She found she could tolerate James Campbell's presence now, for her curiosity had overwhelmed her dislike of the gentleman - she had to find out more about his background. So far, however, she had failed. Her numerous attempts to draw him into conversation had all been unsuccessful - it was difficult to converse about such personal matters when she was not willing to be civil.

After yet another day spent in her cousins' company and discreetly trying to see if Robert knew anything about Campbell's history, she flopped, exhausted, onto a chaise-longue in her room. Her eyes closed slowly and she drifted into a light sleep, only to be awoken some minutes later by the unwelcome sound of the dressing gong.

Even when it was only their small family dining in the evening, everyone of the Avondale household was expected to change for dinner. Lady Adlington would wear an evening gown and adorn herself in some of her jewellery - nothing too extravagant for such a small party, of course; a tiara, a necklace set with emeralds or rubies and three or four of her numerous priceless rings. Anastasia's ornaments, however, were far fewer and simpler (much to her relief), and Lord Adlington rarely bothered with anything other than his plain gold watch. The latter two would generally sit quietly while the Countess talked of upcoming social engagements and other such monotonous subjects, and that evening was no exception.

"Oh! And have you heard that Sir Walter has returned to the neighbourhood?" Lady Adlington exclaimed in the middle of a detailed description of the dress baroness so-and-so had worn at a ball that had taken place the previous week. Neither Anastasia or her father made anything more than a quiet sound in acknowledgement. Lord Adlington had been even more reserved and reclusive than usual the past week, spending hours locked up in his study without even sending for food or refreshments. The Countess, however, continued regardless of their reactions (or lack thereof). "He's been in the Amazon these past few years. Imagine! The Amazon! He made a fortune out of the trees down there, or so Beatrice tells me. 'Rubber Barons' I think they call-"

"Oh the Amazon!" Anastasia interrupted, forgetting her fatigue. "That must be a wonderful place, I saw a book in the library about it-Papa, can you remember its title?"

But before her papa could so much as register the question, his wife retook control of the conversation, "Yes, well I'm inviting him over for dinner next Wednesday. I'm sure you'll have ample time to discuss the flora and fauna of the Amazon." The Countess smiled, glad her daughter's knowledge on the subject would finally be of use to her.

"Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend. It is a pity, I very much would have liked to talk of selling rubber," Lord Adlington said in a slightly irritated tone, speaking for the first time that evening.

"What? But, Tony dear, I've already sent the invitation-"

"I'm sorry, Cecily, but I have urgent business in London. I'm travelling up tomorrow morning and I won't be back until next Friday."

"Urgent business?!" Lady Adlington cried, "Surely it can wait until-"

"No, it cannot wait!" Lord Adlington snapped, rising from his seat. "I apologise for the inconvenience, but it is what it is." His tone softened, "If you'll excuse me, I think I'll retire for the evening. I have an early start in the morning. Goodnight, Cecily. Goodnight, Anna." He strode out of the room leaving an irritated wife and anxious daughter behind.

"I suppose we'll just have to do without him. I'm sure Sir Walter will be delighted to see you again, Anna, you were only a child when he last met you......" The Countess rambled on, an idea in her head that would not have ever occurred to her daughter.

Anastasia, meanwhile, fidgeted all through the rest of the meal. What was it that had made Papa so out of sorts? Was it the letter he received last week? She continued in this train of thought, ignoring her mother for the most part until they finished the last course.

"...And of course Sir Walter was always so fond of you - do you remember he took you-"

"Mamma, why do you think Papa has to go to London tomorrow?" Anastasia burst, wanting to know too much to worry about being polite.

"Oh, I'm sure he's just making excuses. Honestly, as if he couldn't put off his business for another five days! But men will do as they please. You would do well to remember that. Now, on Wednesday I think you had better wear the red chiffon..."


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