Mama is keen to see me married. I am the last of her brood to remain at home. Her other sons have all taken brides and are scattered around the country. Reginald is stationed somewhere in the North, a place whose name I cannot recall but I suspect is altogether ghastly. Frederic is in London where his wife has family and he tutors in Music and French. Roderick is abroad. His wife is quite sickly and they are touring in the Swiss Alps where it is hoped the fresh air will prove restorative to her poor lungs.
And so I alone am left. Papa has quite washed his hands of me and we no longer speak. He takes his meals alone in his study while Mama and I dine at the long table where once so many places used to be set.
Occasionally, Mama will put forward some errand to get me out of the house. I am loath to go. I do not wish to deliver her letters or place orders on her behalf at the haberdashery, yet once I am in the saddle and the air brings colour to my cheeks, I enjoy the ride out at least. Satan, our black stallion, has the power of ten of his kind. His hooves dance across the sward and we fly over stiles and hedgerows; and I arrive home again in a state of breathless exhilaration.
Mama has letters for me to deliver. It seems she is organising a ball to which half the county is invited. This is a foolish move on her part for I am able to vet the guest list by failing to deliver certain envelopes. The Warrenders’, for example. Their invitation shall end up at the bottom of a well. They have a truly horrendous daughter, somewhat akin to a gargoyle in a crinoline. Mama is keen to make a match between us for the family is superbly connected. I had rather boil my head in aspic than kiss her pig’s trotter of a hand.
I am being ungallant. I tell Mama I shall perform my task to the utmost of my ability but fall short of clicking my heels together in a salute. She tells me to be off, calling after me to pop into Farthingale’s haberdashery for some more of that pink ribbon she likes. She says I know the one she means.
I stride across the courtyard to the stable where Francis has Satan saddled in readiness. He asks the nature of my errand today and when I tell him, he is quite downcast and petulant. Come, come, I coax the stable hand into a stall he has lined with fresh hay. He need not worry, I tell him; as long as I am charged with delivery of the invitations, my courtship and subsequent wedding shall never take place.
Some hours later I return to the drawing room, my cheeks still flushed in breathless exhilaration. Mama castigates me for forgetting her ribbon. I apologise and set out again, calling to Francis to make preparations for another ride.