Entertainments on WIP Wednesday

_DDI5334At the weekend, I attended a workshop on Regency dance at the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference. And on the way home, I read Mary Balogh’s Only Beloved, which is partly set at a house party, where people find ways to entertain one another and themselves.

No tv, no internet, no radio. If you wanted music, you sang or played an instrument. The local sporting events were keenly followed. And gathering together often meant long journeys, so once people arrived, they made the most of it. The tutor at the dance class suggested that balls finished in the early hours of the morning, because people didn’t want to go home until dawn lit the sky and made travelling easier, and I’ve read that many country assemblies were scheduled for the two or three days around a full moon.

For today’s work-in-progress Wednesday, I have an excerpt from A Raging Madness. Alex and his family are taking Ella out in London. But any type of leisure activity anywhere in time or place is welcome. I’ll show you mine and you show me yours.

The event was a ball at Haverford House, a monstrous palace of a place and the home of the Duke of Haverford and his duchess. The Duchess of Haverford was an old friend of Lord Henry’s and welcomed Ella warmly.

“Henry has told me what you did for Alex, Lady Melville, and,” she gave her hand to Alex who bowed over it with courtly grace, “I can see for myself how much improved you are, you rogue. Lady Melville, you have my gratitude and my support.”

Her Grace was supported in the receiving line by the notorious Marquis of Aldridge, who greeted Alex with a nod, Susan with a peck on the cheek, and Ella with an elegant bow.

“I am delighted to make your acquaintance, Lady Melville,” he said, and Alex stiffened beside her, but the man’s flirting did not bother Ella. It was an automaton’s reflex, with no predator’s purpose behind it. Lord Aldridge was not interested in her.

Ella’s mourning precluded dancing, but she enjoyed watching the colourful couples turning and swooping in the patterns of the dance.

“Dance if you wish, Alex,” she told her escort when Susan had been swept onto the floor by a naval captain she knew. But Alex demurred. “I am claiming privilege of injury, Ella, and will beg you to come sit by me and keep me entertained while I rest.”

He did not look strained, or in pain. “Is your leg troubling you?” she asked, but he did not answer directly.

“Last time I danced, I could not walk at all. Did I tell you? I took to the floor in an invalid’s chair, with Jonno to provide the push.” He grinned at the memory. “Great fun, it was, with my partner standing on the platform of the chair to be twirled. It did not end well, sadly. A villain sabotaged the chair while I was at supper, and it collapsed as I threaded the line.”

He chose an alcove where they could continue to watch the dancers, and he told her more about his adventures in the resurrected chair.

“You may meet the maker when you come to Longford for Christmas. She is a frequent guest at the Court, I understand.”

Ella was intrigued. A maker of invalids’ chairs who was not only a welcome visitor to an earl and his countess but also a woman?

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2 thoughts on “Entertainments on WIP Wednesday

  1. From THE RENEGADE WIFE, which, I am delighted to say, comes out October 12!

    http://wp.me/P5qiDD-wa

    Rand watched Lena take another trick. She lay down her cards like a hardened gamester and collected five more nuts with glee. How on earth did a five-year-old girl learn to play Loo?
    “Isn’t it getting close to bed time?” he asked. “Mustn’t overdo. You’ve only been up two days.”
    “Did I make you afraid?” the little girl asked, popping her winnings into her mouth.
    “Who taught you how to play cards?” Rand demanded.
    “Private Pratt. He’s nice to me.”
    Rand looked at Meggy leaning against the sink and raised his eyebrows. She shrugged and pushed away from the sink, folding the dishtowel as she did.
    “Mr. Wheatly is correct, Lena. Time for bed.”
    Glee turned to pout instantly. “One more game,” she wheedled.
    “You heard your Mama, Lena,” Rand told her.
    She lay her head on the table. “I don’t feel well. I can’t go up.”
    Meggy rolled her eyes.
    “Mama, I’m ever so much older than Lena. May I stay up a bit to work on my beaver?” Drew glanced over at Rand who looked to Meggy for direction.
    “I have to bathe Lena. You may stay for another twenty minutes or so. If Mr. Wheatly, agrees, that is.”
    Drew scurried to the lower cupboard and pulled out the box Rand had given him. Rand helped him clamp the little figure down to the table. Drew grasped his penknife in the fingers of his right hand. He used his other hand, stiff from the splint, to steady the clamp. Rand smiled at the concentrated efforts.
    “Lena! Stop that.” The child had gone limp, making it difficult for her mother to pull her from the bench. He remembered that trick and tried to keep the grin from his face. He grabbed her by the waist and lifted her effortlessly.
    “I have this. I’ll put this miscreant in her bed,” he said hefting her over his shoulder like a sack of flour. The girl giggled shamelessly. Two nights of cards and the jade thinks she can have her way with me!
    He tossed Lena on her bed in an explosion of giggles. “There you are. Don’t give your mother any trouble.”
    Her voice caught him on the way out the door. “Can I have a story?”
    “When did I start doing stories? That’s Drew’s job. I’ll send him up when he is finished. Now get ready for your bath.”
    His feet on the stairs had a spring in them. The snow had kept the four of them inside for forty-eight hours. A month ago I’d have gone into the face of the blizzard rather than face this. What has come over me?
    He stopped in the study and added wood to the fire. “That should keep them warm,” he murmured.

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