A long time ago (though in this galaxy), I started writing a story. Life happened, and I abandoned it for a time, leaving you entirely hanging. Well, folks, I now have decided to take up Lady Elizabeth again, and to finish it at long last. I cannot promise the updates will be steady, though I shall do my best for your sakes. Please feel free to refresh yourselves on the first four chapters or, if you are new to the story, read them for the first time, either at the link in this post or under the tab at the top of my blog.
Without further ado, I give you chapter 5 of Lady Elizabeth:
When Tuesday morning dawned with the look of rain, Elizabeth thought Lord Chelmsford might not come for their first lesson. Charlotte affirmed this suspicion, saying that surely he would not risk being caught in the rain.
Despite their predictions, at ten o’clock, Lord Chelmsford was announced. “Good morning,” he greeted the women. “I am sorry to disturb you on this gloomy morning, but I have engaged Lady Elizabeth for my first lesson and was loath to miss it.”
“Were you not wetted by the rain?” Lady Leicester asked in concern.
“But a very little bit, your Ladyship,” he assured the matron. “It is only a very fine mist.”
Despite his statement, Lady Leicester’s disquiet about his health was not assuaged. Nothing could content her, her sister, or Charlotte but ordering for him tea and gruel and placing a seat for him just by the fire. He cheerfully obliged them in their attentions, while protesting to their necessity altogether. When the ladies were finally convinced he was not in danger of taking ill from such minor dampness, he turned to Elizabeth, who had remained at the edge of the female activity, hovering in the distance with a drawn brow and hands ready to accomplish any task asked of her. “Lady Elizabeth,” Edward said, “I now give myself into your hands. Teach me as you will, for I am your humble servant.”
“I–I–the room is–that is, I did not prepare the room…” she trailed off. She would not be overcome by this circumstance, she decided; she would remember her lesson plans and act with dignity and ease, as befitted a Marquess’s daughter; she was determined. “Mother, may Lord Chelmsford and I have use of the pianoforte this morning?” she asked.
“You may, dear. Lady Leeds,” she said to Elizabeth’s aunt, “would you accompany the young people for the time being? I have some urgent correspondence to see to, or I should do so myself.”
“Of course, Charlotte,” the Duchess of Leeds obliged. “It will be no trouble at all. I have a bit of needlework I have been meaning to see to that will do very well to keep me industrious.” She bustled out of the room in search of her needlework, muttering as she went.
Elizabeth’s insides flew into a frenzy of anxiety. Until now, she had yet to allow herself to think upon the execution of their agreement. Now, with the moment of beginning upon them, she was suddenly afraid. She would have to spend rather much time in the presence of Lord Chelmsford, whose acquaintance she had barely made, and would, undoubtedly, be expected to speak rather more than she was accustomed to speak. The prospect was so daunting, she nearly fled the room. Flight, however, would be too bold of an action, and so Elizabeth took the only course left to her. She took a couple deep breaths, folded her shaking hands in her lap, and raised her blue eyes to find Edward watching her.
History taught her that she should have been exceeding discomfited by his gaze; yet the way the corners of his eyes squinted in a kind smile had an unusually calming effect. For all his reputation as a rogue, his countenance was entirely free of flirtation or affectation, reassuring her that, for once, there was a young man who did not see her merely as a challenging prize to flaunt if he won her.
“Yes,” she said in a tiny voice, barely shaking as she rose from her chair. “Come over to the pianoforte.”
He obliged readily, following her to stand beside the instrument and carefully place a hand on its top when she set down at the bench. “I may as yet know nothing of making it sing, but this is truly a lovely instrument,” he praised with sincerity. Elizabeth blushed and ran her fingers tenderly over the white keys. Softly, Edward asked, “Was it a gift?”
“From a suitor?” he prompted.
Heat flooded her cheeks, and she dared not look at him. “No, no,” she choked, alarmed by the idea. “My eldest brother, George, gave it to me.”
“Forgive me for my indelicate question,” he asked. “Your brother–he must be very special to you.”
“Yes,” she replied simply. George had been her closest companion until Harriet was old enough to walk, and the brother and sister had remained close in each other’s confidence ever since. The exquisite pianoforte had been a birthday present from him, a token of how well he knew her.
Lady Leeds returned then with her needlework, settling into a chair by the fire. “Go on with your lesson,” she urged loudly. “I shall be as quiet as a mouse. You will not even know I am here.”
Without further ado, the lessons began. “In music, there is an alphabet,” Elizabeth began. She found that if she kept her eyes on her fingers, she could speak with much more ease in Edward’s presence. “It is the first seven letters, A through G. Every white key makes one of these notes. Here in the center is the C key.” She pressed down on the key, sending a clear note through the room.
From her fireside chair, Elizabeth’s aunt interrupted. “Does he know how to read music?”
Elizabeth turned wide eyes to Lord Chelmsford. He shook his head, and Lady Leeds saw his response. “Hadn’t you best start with that?” she suggested. When Elizabeth opened her mouth, she added, “I think you had better.”
“Oh, yes, o-of course, Aunt,” she nodded, jumping off the bench and shuffling through the sheets inside. She wished she could stop flushing. “Here, my lord,” she smoothed out an uncomplicated piece which she had previously chosen for this first lesson, but which she had not planned on addressing until the lesson’s end. “Do you see this note, how the top of it rests against the bottom of the lowest line? Every note at this height is a D.” She hazarded a glance at him to see if he was comprehending.
“So, this mark,” he pointed to a note, “also means D?”
She nodded with a little smile.
“Does this little black mark that is D perchance correspond to what you said earlier about a musical alphabet?”
Lord Chelmsford’s quick observation warranted a wide smile from Elizabeth, and she dared to meet his eyes for several seconds. “Indeed, it does,” she answered. Lowering her gaze back to the sheet, she murmured with pleasure, “You are a fast learner.” Charlotte had been a much more sluggish student when Elizabeth taught her how to play.
“Do not forget to teach him the proper posture for his hands,” Lady Leeds interjected.
And so the lesson progressed, far from Elizabeth’s original plan. Her aunt would propose some topic of utmost importance for a new student, Elizabeth would promptly comply, growing increasingly agitated, and Edward would follow as best he could. By the conclusion of the hour, the poor girl was near tears. She could barely meet her pupil’s eyes for shame at her ineptitude as a teacher. Nonetheless, he thanked her most cordially before departing, adding, “And, so long as you still desire it, I shall see you two days hence for our first riding lesson.”
“I–I do,” she hurried to assure him. She did truly wish to ride horseback.
“Then farewell until Thursday, Lady Elizabeth,” he bowed, leaving her to meditate upon the day’s failures and to resolve to improve as a teacher.
And now is the time when I beg you for feedback, thoughts, ideas, (constructive) criticism, or anything else you might have to say…Please?