The young ladies were all in a tizzy because Mr. Edmond McFadyen was joining them for dinner that evening. Mr. Burrows had taken the liberty to extend the long overdue invitation when he had the pleasure of bumping into the young man at the gentlemen’s club that morning.
Ever since the McFadyens had moved into Grand Meadow Manor, Mrs. Burrows had pressed her husband to make their acquaintance. They were invited to tea but Edmond was not present at the time, much to Mrs. Burrows’ consternation. She urged Mr. Burrows to invite the young man to dinner and was beside herself with excitement when it was accepted graciously.
Mrs. Burrows clapped her hands in delight. “Oh, girls,” she said to her daughters, Louise, Evelyn and Henrietta. “Just think, one of you will win the affections of Edmond McFadyen.” Yes, it was her plan to secure one of her daughters for one of London’s most eligible bachelors.
The girls giggled. “Oh, Mama,” Henrietta cried, “He is ever so handsome. Which one of us do you think he will prefer?” she asked her sisters.
“Me,” said Louise. “I’m the oldest and wisest.”
Evelyn pursed her lips. “I’m the prettiest.”
Henrietta clucked. “And I’m the youngest.”
They began to quarrel among themselves and Mrs. Burrows raised her hand. “Girls, girls, stop fighting among yourselves,” she said. “We will know soon enough this evening which of you Mr. McFadyen will favor. Now, why don’t you run upstairs and sort out what you will wear. You must all look your very best, you know.”
“Yes, Mama,” they cried and bustled out of the room, leaving Mrs. Burrows alone with their cousin, Kay.
Kay sat by the fireplace reading a book. She had listened to the commotion but had kept quiet. Her aunt would not have welcomed any remark from her. The older woman had never made her feel welcomed in her home. And her cousins had always made her plain and inferior. Only her uncle treated her kindly. Many an evening they would sit in the library and have stimulating conversations. He had intimated once that he wished his daughters were more like her.
She could feel her aunt’s gaze on her and she looked up. The withering stare she received elicited a heavy sigh. She closed her book. “Perhaps, you would rather be alone, Aunt Mabel,” she said. She was about to rise from the chair.
Her aunt waved her to remain seated. “Don’t leave until I have said what I need to say to you,” she said.
“What is it, Aunt?”
“Don’t imagine for one moment that Mr. McFadyen would pay any attention to you. He is a gentleman. You are not a gentleman’s daughter. Your father was a shopkeeper. I still don’t know what possessed my sister to marry him.”
Kay’s face suffused with color. She tried to remain calm. “My father may not have been a gentleman, Aunt, but he was a man of good character and my mother loved him. As for Mr. McFadyen, I have no given no thought of him paying me any attention that is beyond what is customary.”
“You are not a pretty girl by any means, so I don’t suppose there’s any likelihood that the good gentleman would even notice you.”
Kay opened her mouth to respond to that unkind remark but decided that it was not worth dignifying. “If you have no further requirements for me, Aunt, I shall excuse myself.”
Her aunt waved her away dismissively. Getting up from the armchair, Kay made her exit. Kay spent the rest of the afternoon in her room and when it was time to get ready for dinner, she did so half-heartedly. She chose the pink gown that flattered her coloring and shape. She pulled her hair back from her face in a French knot, allowing a few curls to fall across her forehead and brush against her cheeks. She examined her reflection in the mirror and satisfied that she looked respectable, she left the room.
They were all in the drawing-room, including Mr. McFadyen who was surrounded, poor chap, by her excitable cousins. All eyes turned in her direction when she entered the room and she felt her face go red. How she wished she could return to her room. She would be happier curled up on the bed, reading her book. A tray could have been brought up. Her eyes caught the sour expression on her Aunt’s face, the disdained glances of her cousins, the affectionate smile on her Uncle’s face before her gaze drifted to the guest of honor.
He was tall, very stately in appearance and quite handsome. “This is our niece, Miss Forrester,” she heard her Uncle say. Mr. McFadyen bowed and she curtsied.
The announcement that dinner was ready came just then and they all went in. Mr. and Mrs. Burrows preceded the party. Mr. McFadyen escorted Louise as she was the eldest; her sisters followed, looking rather cross and Kay brought up the rear.
She was seated at the opposite end of the table, as conceivably far from Mr. McFadyen as possible. No doubt her Aunt’s doing. Louise sat on his left and Evelyn on his right while Henrietta sat beside Evelyn, much to her displeasure.
However, the evening didn’t go as her Aunt hoped. Her Uncle kept drawing Kay into the conversation when her Aunt and cousins seemed perfectly happy to ignore her. Mr. McFadyen seemed more interested in what she had to say than the frivolous chatter of her cousins. Kay found that she and Mr. McFadyen had a great deal in common. They shared a love for History and the Arts. He had done a great deal of travelling and she listened with rapt interest as he recounted some of his adventures.
The evening turned out to be rather pleasant for Mr. Burrows, Mr. McFadyen and Kay. Before he left, Mr. McFadyen said to Kay, “Miss Forrester, would you do me the honor of accompanying me to the museum tomorrow? There are some new Egyptian artifacts on display which I have no doubt you will find fascinating.”
She smiled. “Thank you, Sir. I would be delighted to accompany you.”
“I bid you goodnight, Miss Forrester,” he said with a smile and a bow.
“I bid you goodnight, Mr. McFadyen.” She curtsied.
After he left, she was subjected to malevolent stares from her Aunt and cousins. “Kay, you should be ashamed of yourself, monopolizing Mr. McFadyen’s attention like that,” Louise scolded her. “If you weren’t there, he would have paid more attention to me.”
“All that dull talk about History and Art,” Henrietta complained. “He’s as dull as you, Kay.”
“And what did he say to you just now before he left, might I ask?” demanded Evelyn.
“If you must know, he invited me to accompany him to the museum tomorrow.”
“What?” her Aunt was aghast. She slumped against the chair, fanning herself with her handkerchief as if she were feeling faint.
Her Uncle chuckled. “It seems as if Mr. McFadyen has taken a fancy to Kay.”
“A fancy, indeed! It’s all your fault, Mr. Burrows. If you had ignored her like the rest of us, Mr. McFadyen would have requested the company of one of our girls.”
“My Dear Lady, it was clear to me that the young gentleman was not at all interested in any of our girls. Therefore, ignoring Kay would not have changed that fact. Now, it’s late and I am going to retire.”
Kay thought it a good time to leave as well. She knew if she stayed, she would be raked over the coals. “I too must retire. Goodnight, Uncle.” She kissed him. “Goodnight, Aunt, Louise, Evelyn and Henrietta.” She didn’t wait for them to respond but hurried from the room.
As she ran up the stairs, she felt a deep satisfaction that her Aunt’s plan for Mr. McFadyen had failed. He was a gentleman, indeed and deserving of a woman who was his equal, not in social status but in character.
Source: Fantasy Name Generators