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Proud and Prejudiced

Guest Miranda

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Story Title: Proud and Prejudiced

Story description: Pride and Prejudice meets Home and Away

Type of story: Long fic. Comedy/ romance.

Main Characters: Whole cast.

BTTB rating: G

Does story include spoilers: No

Is story being proof read: No

Any warnings: None.

Summary: This is a very silly, and hopefully funny, story, just because I felt like writing it. Probably influenced by watching too many adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, and Lost in Austen.


Introducing the Bucktons

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an Aussie bloke in possession of a fortune must be in need of a wife. And so it was.

‘Oh Mr Buckton!’ cried the lady of Wetherby Grange, Mrs Morag Buckton. ‘Such good luck! You will not guess what news I heard today at the dressmakers!’

‘No, my dear,’ said Mr Ross Buckton, laying down his beloved Financial Times to listen to another of his wife’s discourses. ‘Pray do tell.’

‘Such good fortune! Fotheringham Manor has been rented by- you’ll never guess!’

‘I’m sure I won’t.’ Mr Buckton raised an eyebrow, thinking longingly of his calm and quiet study, which was forbidden to the womenfolk of the household.

‘It’s the Bingley-Campbells!’

Mr Buckton looked blank.

‘Oh, Mr Buckton, really! Mr Bingley-Campbell is the heir to a farming fortune! He is renowned for being one of the most sociable and eligible young men in the county! If our girls were to meet him…’ she let the sentence drift off into meaningful silence.

Mr Buckton thought wistfully of his four daughters: Charlotte [Charlie to her family], the sensible one; Belle, the quick witted one; Ruby, the romantic and Nicole, the flirtatious one. How could he parade them in front of the young bachelors that Mr Campbell would no doubt invite to his popular and frequent balls? Without a male heir, the Grange would fall into the hands of Mr Alfred Stewart, the local entrepreneur.

‘It’s such a stroke of luck!’ Mrs Buckton clasped her hands, already imagining the suitable matches her daughters would make at such occasions. She must inform her dressmaker to expect more orders.

Introducing the Campbells

At Fotheringham Manor, the Bingley Campbells were settling in.

‘My dear brother,’ said Miss Anne Bingley Campbell. ‘I must congratulate you on such an excellent choice of dwelling. It will suit our circumstances exceedingly well, especially as you have four thousand a year.’

‘Yes, it is very pleasing,’ agreed her brother, Geoffrey.

Their house guest, Mr Aden D’Arcy Jefferies, glowered by the fireplace. Despite his dour exterior, he had been a loyal friend of ten years standing to the Bingley Campbells, and Miss Campbell thought he would be a very suitable match for her. An alliance between the Bingley Campbells and the D’Arcy Jefferies families would be very advantageous.

‘We must have a ball,’ said Campbell. ‘We must get to know our neighbours and make our presence known in the district.’

‘Oh yes! What an excellent idea!’ Miss Campbell loved social occasions.

‘Hm,’ said Jefferies, frowning. ‘I disapprove of such frivolity. You will get to know your neighbours soon enough.’

‘Really, Jefferies. You are such a bore.’ said Campbell. ‘You will just have to put up with the terrible inconvenience of enjoying yourself.’

Jefferies said nothing. He liked spending time with the Campbells, but their excessive socialising sometimes annoyed him.

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The Campbells’ Ball

It was the night of the ball. Mr Campbell had invited all the neighbouring families, and everyone had accepted.

The first to arrive were the Stewarts. Mr Alfred Stewart, the entrepreneur, was the rich heir to a fishing empire. He had been widowed twice and at the age of 60, was looking for a third wife to provide more heirs. His spinster sister Colleen was a renowned gossip, and always knew of any local scandal and rumour. They drew up in the family carriage with the Stewart crest prominent on each door.

‘Good evening,’ said Mr Stewart heartily to the host. ‘Wonderful to see the old place full of young folks again.’

Mr Campbell nodded in a friendly way, and offered his arm to Miss Stewart as she traversed the puddles. Fotheringham Manor was vast. The entrance was flanked by ornate marble pillars, and guests reached it via a small but elongated flight of steps, also constructed of marble.

‘Jefferies? Welcome the next guests will you, old chap?’ Campbell called from the top of the steps, then disappeared off into the house.

Mr Jefferies was not amused, but politely waited for the next carriage.

When it drew up, he was even less amused to find it was full of chattering women. The Bucktons, wearing their new dresses, spilled out onto the drive like multi coloured bonbons.

‘Mr Campbell?’ exclaimed Mrs Buckton. ‘So nice to meet you. I did wonder who had moved in here, it’s such a lovely house with such extensive grounds-’

‘Madam!’ interrupted Jefferies. ‘I am not the host of this occasion. He is momentarily detained.’

Mrs Buckton was affronted, and her daughter Belle noticed this. She stepped forward.

‘My mother made a simple mistake,’ she said clearly, taking Mrs Buckton’s arm. ‘There was no need to be impolite.’

‘I was not being impolite,’ said Jefferies, in a scornful voice. ‘I was merely pointing out the truth.’

Belle and her mother swept past him into the ballroom without a second glance.

A large carriage came to halt next, to Jefferies’ dismay. The occupants were Mr Miles Copeland, owner of the local genteel boarding house, and his boarders. Mr Jai Fernandez, Mr Copeland’s ward; Mrs Kirsty Phillips and Mrs Leah Baker, both widows with young children, and Mrs Irene Roberts, the housekeeper.

Miss Campbell stepped forward to cover for Jefferies’ inadequacies as a host, but luckily her brother was returning from his discussions with the Stewarts.

‘Ah, Copeland!’ exclaimed Campbell. ‘How the devil are you, old chap?’ He shook hands enthusiastically, and began a conversation.

Miss Campbell found herself fascinated by the exotic appearance of Mr Jai Fernandez. He wore a black jacket and trousers, with a maroon cummerbund, and- heavens- a matching kerchief around his forehead. Indeed, he had the aspect of a pirate king! Miss Campbell’s heart fluttered. Perhaps he would ask her for a dance at some point in the evening. She must keep her head and remember that Jefferies would be a far more suitable match.

The carriages drew up in a continuous flow and Campbell decided to begin the dancing.

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Dancing at the ball

The first dance was ‘The Dashing White Sergeant’, so everyone lined up, ladies on the left, gentlemen on the right.

To her dismay, Miss Belle Buckton found herself opposite the unsmiling Mr Jefferies. They began the dance and she felt obliged to make conversation.

‘Have you known Mr and Miss Campbell for long?’

‘Ten years.’ He did not elaborate. So she tried again.

‘Do you find Mr Campbell’s new residence agreeable?’

‘The house is comfortable and I suppose the society is tolerable.’

‘Really? Do you include me and my family in your definition of society?’

Mr Jefferies paused but eventually nodded, with a superior expression.

How rude, thought Belle. She continued dancing as long as it was polite, but as soon as possible, she hastened away to her sisters, her long skirts sweeping the floor.


Meanwhile, Miss Ruby Buckton was dancing with a middle aged man, who introduced himself as Doctor Anthony Holden, the new physician in the bay.

‘Yes, Miss Ruby, that is my son Jack over there. He is a solicitor’s clerk in the city, but is here visiting on account of the Campbells’ ball.’

‘Is that his wife with him?’

‘Yes. Mrs Martha Holden. They were forced to move away because-‘ Dr. Holden stopped suddenly. ‘Tell me, Miss Ruby, have you lived in this area for any considerable time?’

Ruby politely told him of her family situation but secretly, she wondered what the good doctor had been about to say. Was there a scandal here to be discovered?


Miss Nicole Buckton sat down for a rest between dances. Her dance card was of course full, but she wanted to observe the activity for a while. She fluttered her fan affectedly and before she knew it, Mr Campbell was at her side.

‘Miss Nicole, would you do me the honour of accompanying me in the next dance?’

‘Oh Mr Campbell, let me see.’ She scrutinised her dance card. She was wearing a scarlet dress, against the wishes of her mother, but Campbell thought how becoming it was.

‘I have the next dance free, so I accept,’ she said graciously. She took his arm and they strolled to the floor. Nicole thought how proud her Mama would be when she saw her with the most eligible bachelor at the gathering.


The boarding house party sat together at first. Mrs Baker and Mrs Phillips were overawed by the occasion. Both widowed in the recent war, their soldier husbands had left them varying amounts to live on, but neither of them had enough to stay in their homes. So they had both been forced to move to Mr Copeland’s boarding house.

‘Mrs Phillips,’ said Copeland. He had a bushy black moustache and twirled it incessantly. ‘Would you allow me to escort you in the next dance?’

‘Why, Mr Copeland, I would be delighted.’ Mrs Phillips looked away coyly but accepted his arm.

Mrs Baker and Mrs Roberts, the housekeeper, exchanged glances.

‘My suspicions are correct, I fear,’ said Mrs Baker. ‘She is setting her cap at him. I only hope he will not break her heart.’

Mrs Roberts nodded thoughtfully. Suddenly a figure appeared beside them.

‘Mrs Baker, would you allow me the pleasure of the next dance?’ It was Mr Stewart. He did not acknowledge Mrs Roberts: as a servant she was beneath his notice. He whisked Mrs Baker away to the waltz.

Mrs Roberts sighed. She had always thought Mr Stewart was a handsome fellow, and financially attractive, but she knew there was no hope for her when beautiful young ladies like Mrs Baker and the Bucktons were available.

‘So Mrs Baker,’ began Mr Stewart as he elegantly proceeded through the waltz. ‘How fares your ornamental pudding business?’

‘Oh, very well, thank you.’ Mrs Baker had been left a substantial amount by her deceased husband, but needed the extra income provided by her cooking.

‘I must say that I admire your enterprise.’

‘Thank you. I have always had a talent for fine cuisine, and did not think it was an inappropriate occupation for a lady such as myself.’ Mrs Baker could not think of anything else to add.

‘It is unseasonably warm for this time of year, do you not think?’ asked Mr Stewart suddenly. He too was at a loss for words.

‘Oh, yes. It is nice to be able to walk outside in June.’

‘Yes.’ They danced in silence for a while and Mrs Baker became bored. She was not in the unfortunate financial situation of Mrs Phillips, and did not need a husband at present, so did not intend to get involved with anyone.

Mr Stewart was surprised that his usual charm was deserting him, and found his eyes drawn occasionally to Mr Copeland’s housekeeper, whatever her name was. She was certainly a fine figure of a woman, and nearer to his age, but not of his class and certainly past child bearing age, so not suitable.

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Another secret

Miss Anne Campbell in turn found her eyes drawn to another member of Mr Copeland’s household, the exotic Mr Fernandez. She was flustered when she observed his approach.

‘Miss Campbell.’ He bowed low. ‘Please accept my hand for this dance.’

She felt it would be rude to refuse such an unusual guest, and found herself hastened into the dance without further ado.

‘Are you enjoying residing with Mr Copeland?’ she asked, taking the initiative as hostess of the party.

‘Oh, yes.’

‘Do you intend staying long in this country?’

‘Oh, I am to stay here permanently. My late mother had no family, so Mr Copeland was duty bound to take me in.’

Duty bound? Thought Miss Campbell, puzzled. She was just about to enquire, when Mr Copeland and Mrs Phillips collided with them.

‘Oh Miss Campbell,’ gasped Mrs Phillips. ‘I am most terribly sorry.’

Copeland, on the other hand, was glaring at Mr Fernandez, until Mrs Phillips nudged him.

‘Oh- oh yes, please accept my deepest apologies, Miss Campbell,’ stuttered Copeland.

Just then, the dance came to an end, and Copeland’s party excused themselves. Miss Campbell observed Copeland having a heated exchange with Fernandez, and was even more intrigued.

An eventful trip home

As the ball progressed, Miss Charlotte Buckton reflected on the tediousness of the occasion. All the men were the same: polite, charming but dull. Even the host, Mr Campbell, was cut of the same cloth as the rest. What Charlotte wanted was excitement, passion and surprise. She was relieved when her father signalled it was time to bid everyone goodnight and return home. Their carriage drew up outside the front steps, and the Buckton family climbed aboard.

‘Did you have a pleasant evening my dear?’ asked Mr Buckton of his second daughter. Belle shrugged.

‘Unfortunately, father, I seemed to be almost constantly opposite Mr Jefferies, the house guest of the Campbells. I have never met such a disagreeable and-‘

‘Belle!’ interrupted her mother. ‘Mr Jefferies has six thousand a year! You should try and curb your judgemental nature!’

‘Mrs Buckton, please!’ said her husband. ‘Don’t spoil the lovely evening.’

‘Very well.’ But Mrs Buckton was very disappointed in her daughters this evening. Apart from her baby, Nicole, none of them had attracted the interest of any of the Campbells’ wealthy guests, and so the likelihood of Wetherby Grange falling into the hands of Mr Stewart seemed ever nearer.

Just then, the carriage gave a severe jerk and shuddered to a halt. The coachman appeared at the window and instructed the Bucktons to withdraw from the carriage at once. They stood in the darkness by the side of the highway, unsure what to do.

‘Oh, what shall we do?’ wailed Mrs Buckton, wringing her hands. ‘Out here at the mercy of vagabonds and footpads, defenceless-‘

‘Oh, Mama please. Do calm down,’ pleaded Charlotte. ‘You are frightening Ruby and Nicole.’

There was a galloping of hooves and the Buckton ladies cowered back, while Mr Buckton and the coachman stepped forward.

‘Whoa there!’ shouted Mr Buckton. ‘We are armed, do not approach!’

‘Well,’ said a merry voice, ‘We shall have to stand where we are.’ There was the sound of horses being reigned in, and a lantern was lit and began approaching. It revealed a group of four soldiers in the King’s red livery.

Charlotte felt her heartbeat grow faster as she saw the leader of the soldiers step forward with the lantern. He was tall and blond, with a handlebar moustache.

‘Sir,’ said the soldier. ‘Allow me to introduce myself. I am Captain Wickham- Harris, of the King’s Hussars.’ He bowed. ‘Do I find you and your party in need of assistance?’

Mr Buckton, although still suspicious, introduced himself and his family.

‘It seems the wheel of our carriage has become unattached, and we are unable to return to our home.’

Captain Harris nodded wisely, and summoned his colleagues. Between them and the coachman, they managed to raise the carriage and affix the errant wheel.

Charlotte observed the efforts of the men, especially Captain Harris. When the carriage was restored, the Captain helped her up the step.

‘Oh, thank you for your assistance this evening,’ she said politely. ‘And your men of course. We feared we would be stranded out here overnight.’

‘I am most pleased to have been of service, Miss,’ said the Captain, with a roguish smile. Charlotte was entranced by his gallantry, and excited by the unexpectedness of the situation. Her bosom heaved with emotion, which did not go unnoticed by Captain Harris.

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An encounter with the Holdens

A few days later, the Buckton sisters took a trip to the dressmakers. Mrs Buckton had instructed- nay, ordered- them to commission new dresses, in case of further invitations to Fotheringham Manor.

‘You can’t be too careful, my dears. You never know when your presence will be requested,’ she had trilled over breakfast that morning.

The sisters were just about to enter the dressmaker’s shop, when Ruby exclaimed in delight.

‘Doctor Holden! Look, sisters! The Holdens!’ She skipped over to the group of four.

‘My dear Miss Ruby,’ said Dr. Holden warmly. ‘Allow me to introduce my wife, Rachel. She was indisposed and unable to attend the Campbell ball.’

Mrs Rachel Holden nodded politely and a series of introductions between the Holdens and the Bucktons. This took quite an extensive time due to the customs of the day, but finally everyone was introduced to everyone else.

‘How is your occupation progressing?’ asked Charlotte politely.

‘Oh, very well,’ said Dr. Holden. ‘Although I don’t know what I would do without my wife’s good sense. She would make a much better doctor than I.‘

‘Nonsense dear. You know as well as I that it is inappropriate for a woman to pursue a career in this day and age.’ Mrs Holden laughed gaily. ‘What a strange idea.’

‘How are your father and mother?’ asked Dr. Holden of Ruby.

‘Very well thank you.’ Charlotte, as senior member of the Buckton family, took charge of the conversation.

‘Did they enjoy the Campbell ball?’

‘Oh, a great deal, as did we.’

‘Oh Doctor Holden, we had such an adventure after the ball,’ burst out Ruby. All her sisters looked shocked at her discourtesy, but Dr. Holden smiled.

‘Pray, Miss Ruby, do tell.’

‘We were driving along at good speed-‘ Ruby launched into an explanation. ‘And the leader of the soldiers, a Captain Wickham Harris, was most helpful and kind to us.’

To Ruby’s surprise, Dr. Holden’s face suddenly froze in horror. Belle noticed that his son, Mr Jack Holden, had an expression of fury. He was becoming exceedingly flushed, as if about to have a fit of apoplexy, and his wife, Mrs Martha Holden, looked extremely distressed.

‘That person!’ Mr Jack Holden suddenly exclaimed. ‘He is not fit to exist upon this earth!’

Mrs Rachel Holden patted him on the arm.

‘He is a dog, a cur! If I see him in this town, I shall teach him a lesson he will never forget! He deserves-‘

‘Control yourself, sir,’ instructed Dr. Holden. ‘Remember there are ladies present.’

‘Yes, dear,’ added Mrs Martha Holden. ‘We must try and put the past behind us and continue on our path.’

‘But that man did you a grave dishonour!’

‘Yes. One which I do not wish to make known around the neighbourhood.’ Mrs Holden’s voice grew quiet and confidential.

‘Good day to you, ladies.’ Dr. Holden bowed to the Bucktons, and hurried his family away.

‘What is your opinion of that?’ asked Ruby of her stunned sisters. ‘A scandal there to be uncovered.’

‘Ruby! You should not pry into people’s private business,’ chided Charlotte.

‘Our sister is quite correct.’ Belle supported her. ‘Keep your own counsel and allow others to keep theirs.’

The two elder sisters exchanged sensible glances. Charlotte knew it was her role to keep her younger siblings in good behaviour, but secretly the mention of Captain Harris had affected her heart considerably.

An invitation

The next week, an envelope with the Campbell crest arrived at Wetherby Grange, addressed to Mr Buckton. He did not receive it until luncheon, and by this time his wife was frantic with expectancy.

‘My dear! Please be patient!’ Mrs Buckton seemed about to tear the envelope from his hands.

‘Dear Mr Buckton,’ he read aloud. ‘My sister and I cordially invite you and your family to afternoon tea at Fotheringham Manor in a fortnight. We hope you will be available to attend and look forward to greeting you.’

‘Oh, Mr Buckton! Do you think Mr Campbell is growing partial to Nicole? Maybe the Grange will be spared after all!’

‘Do not get ahead of yourself, dearest. Pray keep calm or you will have an attack of the vapours again as you did at New Year.’

She sat down on the chaise longue at once, and tried to still her pounding heart.

‘However. I think you and I should excuse ourselves from this excursion and send only our daughters, if you wish to give Mr Campbell free reign to choose his intended wife.’

‘Oh, but-‘

Mr Buckton held up a finger. ‘Madam. We must trust our daughters in. At least one of them has a sensible head upon her shoulders and we must not intrude on young ones’ social events.’

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Tea at the Manor

On being ushered into the drawing room of Fotheringham Manor, Belle was impressed despite her reservations. The room was surprisingly light and airy, with comfortable couches and chaise longues placed in sociable clusters around it. As well as the well executed paintings of previous residents of the Manor, there was one corner devoted to books. A mini library with some free standing shelves one could hide behind to read in private! She whispered to Charlotte, who raised her eyes to heaven.

‘Miss Buckton, Miss Belle, Miss Ruby and Miss Nicole!’ exclaimed Mr Campbell heartily. ‘Please, make yourself comfortable.’ Belle noticed however, that his eyes were only on Nicole.

Miss Anne Campbell stepped forward too.

‘I trust your journey was agreeable.’

‘Oh yes,’ replied Charlotte, taking the initiative as the eldest sister. ‘The weather is clement, and our coachman skilled.’

‘Would anyone like some tea?’ Mr Campbell signalled the footman with the teapot, and the tea party began. Mr Campbell placed himself between Nicole and Ruby, and Miss Anne between Charlotte and Belle.

‘How do you like Fotheringham Manor?’ asked Charlotte.

‘Oh, it is delightful, a refreshing change from our last abode…’ Mr Campbell began describing their last home and surroundings, and Belle’s attention wandered. She was desperate to peruse the fascinating looking books on the library wall.

The tea party continued pleasantly with discussion of the Campbells’ current neighbourhood, the accomplishments of the sisters and the unusual weather for the time of year. Belle wished the conversation was more challenging.

At last, everyone finished the delicious cakes and tea, and Nicole and Ruby went to look out of the window. The drawing room overlooked the extensive grounds of the Manor, the lush green landscape stretched away into the distance.

‘Splendid country for riding,’ remarked Nicole. ‘My old pony would have delighted in such an expanse of grass.’

‘Oh, do you ride?’ enquired Campbell.

‘Yes, Ruby and I both enjoy the exercise and fresh air. Unfortunately we cannot afford to keep horses so I have to rely on borrowing friends’ horses.’

‘I have a stable here at the Manor. You are very welcome to join my sister and me for an expedition any time you would like. Please do.’

‘Thank you. I would love to.’

‘Excuse us a moment.’ Ruby hastened Nicole away from Campbell.

‘Are you sure this is proper?’ she muttered to her sister. ‘We hardly know the Campbells.’

But Nicole ignored her and smiled appealingly at Mr Campbell.

‘Would you like to visit my stables and meet my horses now, Miss Nicole? And Miss Ruby of course?’

‘We would be delighted.’ Nicole took Ruby firmly by the arm, and the sisters accompanied Campbell out of the drawing room.

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Mr Campbell’s library

Meanwhile, Belle had escaped to her beloved books. As she studied the long shelves of volumes, she wondered if these belonged to the Campbells, or if they had been previously domiciled at the Manor. She reached up to take the book which most appealed to her, ‘The Financial Inequalities between Men and Women in These Present Times’ by Mrs Georgiana Kemp-Smythe, but could not quite grasp it, however much she stretched. Just as she was about to give up and search for something to stand on, another arm reached up and slid the book out of the shelf.

‘Allow me,’ said a man’s voice, and Belle was surprised to see Mr Jefferies presenting the book to her with a bow.

She was speechless for a moment, then remembered her manners. ‘Thank you, sir.’

‘Not at all. I hope you enjoy-‘ He flinched when he saw the title of the book. ‘-such a worthy tome.’

‘Actually, I am certain I will enjoy it.’

Mr Jefferies looked astonished.

‘Yes,’ continued Belle mischievously. ‘I do not believe in wasting my time reading novels or ladies’ journals full of scandal and tittle-tattle. A woman’s brain is equal to a man’s and should be used to its full potential.’

She was pleased to see Jefferies’ expression change to shock, but she only smiled unrepentantly in return, adding:

‘I like to read improving books which challenge my intellect and allow my brain to function correctly.’

‘Well.’ He paused. ‘I shall– er- leave you to enjoy the volume alone, and begin my duties as host.’

‘Why were you hiding amongst the shelves? Have you just arrived at the Manor?’

‘No- I- er- I have neglected my duties long enough. Madam.’ He bowed.

As he walked away, Belle admired the cut of his breeches. Because of course father could do with some more clothes, she told herself quickly, feeling rather flustered. She resolved to ask which tailor Jefferies used, if it was possible to do so without being indelicate: he was obviously a conventional and traditional man. She did not realise that he had not been at all shocked by her declarations and was instead deep in thought.

Becoming acquainted

On the couch, Charlotte was talking with Anne.

‘I feel I have reached the limits of my interest in feminine accomplishments,’ Anne confided. ‘I have learnt singing, the pianoforte, needlepoint and so on.’

‘I do understand,’ replied Charlotte. ‘Sometimes I feel stifled at home. I often wish I was a boy so I could ride out on adventures and excursions.’

‘Oh, so do I!’ exclaimed Anne in delight. ‘I would sail the seven seas and find treasure.’

They laughed together.

‘Speaking of the seven seas, did you observe Mr Fernandez, the ward of Mr Copeland?’ Anne ventured. ‘He has the aspect of a pirate, and made me think of the freedom such a person would have.’

‘Indeed. I must tell you Miss Campbell. My family and I had such an adventure whilst travelling home after your ball a few nights previously.’ Charlotte recounted the tale of the unattached coach wheel and the Buckton family’s subsequent rescue by Captain Harris and his company.

Anne sighed at the end of the story.

‘Oh, Miss Buckton, how exciting! Rescued by a soldier! It sounds like a romance novel. Do you read those?’

‘I must admit that I do occasionally indulge. My sister Ruby and I have long discussions about the merits of certain books.’

‘Would you lend me your favourites? If it is not an inconvenience. My brother and Mr Jefferies disapprove of my fondness for romances, and I scarcely see one.’

Charlotte agreed, and felt that she had found a friend.

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A supper guest

Mrs Buckton insisted on being closeted with her daughters for the rest of the day after they returned from the Manor. She was delighted to hear of Mr Campbell’s burgeoning attachment to Nicole; the presence of Mr Jefferies and Charlotte’s budding friendship with Miss Campbell.

Whilst this was happening, Mr Buckton took a trip into town. He frequently felt the need to escape the feminine atmosphere of his household, so often visited his old friend, Mr Sutherland, another gentleman with a family of daughters. They talked exclusively about male pursuits and interests, and provided each other with a welcome relief from incessant female conversation.

To his intense disappointment however, Mr Buckton discovered that Mr Sutherland had been detained in the city on business, and his family were engaged in various pursuits around the house. So he politely declined an offer of tea with the ladies, and turned back on himself.

Walking round a corner, he bumped into a red coated gentleman.

‘I do beg your pardon, sir,’ said the gentleman. ‘Oh, I believe we have met before.’

‘Have we?’ Buckton peered myopically at the man. ‘Good God, its Captain Harris is it not?’

‘It is sir. I trust you and your family are recovered from your recent mishap?’

‘Oh, certainly, Captain. And all thanks to you and your company. I am remiss in not thanking you before now.’

‘Think nothing of it, Mr Buckton sir. I-‘

‘Nonsense! You must come home to supper at once. My wife and daughters would be overjoyed to see their rescuer.’ Buckton knew that the cook had prepared neck of lamb for supper and there was always more than sufficient. Captain Harris would enjoy a hearty meal and certainly be a welcome guest.

Polite conversation

Mr Buckton was entirely correct. The ladies of the household were indeed overjoyed, and Captain Harris was seated at Mr Buckton’s right hand, opposite Charlotte.

‘I am extremely glad that no harm befell you that night. It was a stroke of good fortune that my company was passing on that very road then,’ said the Captain, savouring the fine roast vegetables on his plate.

Charlotte was gazing at him approvingly, a fact which did not go unnoticed by her mother.

‘Look,’ hissed Mrs Buckton to Ruby. ‘A match to be made there, perchance? How much income does a Captain in the army receive each year?’

‘I have no idea Mama,’ said Ruby. ‘But surely as an officer he would get something.’

‘And he seems a decent fellow.’ Mrs Buckton could not take her eyes off the Captain’s moustache, a fine face ornament for any man.

‘So, Captain, have you travelled widely in your career?’ asked Mr Buckton.

‘Yes, indeed. My company and I crossed Spain to fight the French, then returned across Gallic lands when the Spanish turned to our side. The Spanish are a passionate people…’ The Captain continued with his description of his military campaigns, and Charlotte listened with eyes and ears wide. What an exciting life this man had led, far beyond the confines of the little bay she had grown up in.

‘How many campaigns have you fought in, Captain?’ she asked when he paused.

‘Only two, Miss Buckton, but long and bloody ones they have been. But put that aside and consider the exotic and varied lands and peoples I have encountered. I do not regret my choice of profession in any way.’

The meal continued, until Captain Harris announced that he really must take his leave. Everyone fussed around, and Charlotte found herself alone in the hallway with him for a brief moment.

‘I am so sorry you have to leave now. I found your descriptions of your campaigns most interesting and stimulating.’ Charlotte blurted before she could stop herself.

The Captain paused. ‘Miss Buckton, I hope you will not think I am forward but would you allow me to visit you again here? I have not told you half the adventures I have had-‘

‘I would love to hear them, Captain.’ Charlotte was again seized by a strange trembling in her chest, and felt weak at the thought of the Captain visiting her again.

‘I shall ask your father if it is acceptable, and make arrangements.’ Then the rest of the Buckton family reappeared, and the private moment was gone.

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Every cloud….

Ten days later, Nicole and Ruby Buckton set out with Mr Campbell for an early morning ride. They borrowed a brace of his horses, chestnut mares called Aphrodite and Minerva, while he rode a grey stallion called Valiant.

They started out walking sedately.

‘For how many years have you rode, ladies?’ asked Campbell.

‘Since childhood. I first rode a horse when I was eight years old,’ said Nicole.

‘We had an uncle with no children, so he doted on us and we-‘ said Ruby.

‘- we were very lucky to have all the advantages he would have given his own children,’ interrupted Nicole, frowning at Ruby, who subsided.

Campbell didn’t seem to notice the sisters competing, and politely continued his discussion with both ladies.

Suddenly there was a loud shouting, and two dogs raced onto the bridle path. They were fighting, and followed by two irate gentlemen.

Nicole’s horse, Minerva, reared as the dogs were almost under her feet.

‘Whoa!’ shouted Nicole, but it was too late. Minerva galloped off, and despite all Nicole’s efforts, did not stop.

Mr Campbell wasted not a minute, but spurred Valiant on after Nicole, and Ruby was left to bring up the rear.

She did not see either her sister or Campbell for a good mile, but then heard a shout, and came upon the sight of Campbell leaping off Valiant and racing towards a fallen tree.

‘Miss Nicole!’ he called anxiously, and disappeared behind the tree.

Ruby dismounted, hastily tying Aphrodite to a branch, and rushed behind the tree. Nicole was lying on the ground behind it clutching her ankle while Campbell hovered by her, distraught.

‘Would you permit me to examine your ankle?’ asked Campbell.

‘Yes- oh please- it hurts!’

‘Is it broken?’ quavered Ruby.

‘I do not think so. We must take you to a physician immediately.’ He swung Nicole up into his arms, and placed her on Valiant, instructing her to hold on tightly.

‘I shall take her to the Manor. I shall send for Doctor Holden. He is the closest physician.’ He leapt up onto Valiant, indicating for Ruby to follow on Aphrodite. There was no sign of Minerva.

They arrived at Fotheringham Manor as speedily as was sensible.

‘Help! Schofield! Mrs Allison!’ Campbell bellowed to his servants, and they hastened to the aide of Nicole.

Anne Campbell also rushed out of the Manor.

‘Whatever has happened Geoffrey?’ she gasped, but he was too busy with Nicole to listen, and she was forced to turn to Ruby for explanation.

‘Oh, I should have been more forceful!’ Anne exclaimed. ‘I told him not to take Minerva today, but he did not listen. He is always so headstrong!’

‘My sister,’ quavered Ruby.

‘Of course, my apologies.’ Anne escorted her into the Manor.

Nicole had been carried upstairs by the butler, Schofield, and placed in the East wing guest room. She lay in the bed, pale and shocked, with Campbell beside her.

Ruby ran to her and embraced her. ‘Dear sister!’

‘Doctor Holden is on his way,’ interjected Campbell. ‘Do not be alarmed. I think Miss Nicole’s ankle is simply sprained.

When Doctor Holden arrived, he confirmed the diagnosis.

‘Bed rest for a week, then light exercise for a fortnight, then you will be right as rain, Miss Nicole,’ he instructed.

‘She can stay here!’ Mr Campbell exclaimed. ‘For the first week I mean. My sister is a fine nursemaid, and we have an abundance of servants. Is that not correct, Anne?’

‘Oh- er- yes. Miss Nicole is welcome.’

As Ruby went home later in the carriage, she had mixed feelings. An unfortunate incident for her sister had led to an auspicious opportunity. Mama would be so excited to hear of Nicole residing with the Campbells for a week, that the shock of her accident would seem minor in comparison.

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A Discussion

‘So, Papa,’ said Belle the next morning. ‘What are your thoughts on this turn of events?’

‘Well, my dear.’ Mr Buckton had put down his newspaper to speak to his favourite daughter. He would never admit it, as no parent should have favourites, but Belle was indeed his. As Nicole was her mother’s.

‘Your mother is overjoyed. She noticed Mr Campbell’s fondness for Nicole at the first ball we attended.’

‘No, Papa. I wondered how you felt about Nicole residing with the Campbells for this week.’

‘Oh. Well I- er- I think if the two like each other well enough, a better match could not be made. I have always believed in marrying for love you see.’

Belle paused. ‘Speaking of the subject, do you not object to Captain Harris visiting Charlie?’

‘I do indeed have my reservations, my dear. Soldiers have a somewhat unreliable reputation, but if Harris intends to sincerely court Charlie, I cannot stand in his way.’

Belle smiled broadly at him.

‘I am glad to hear you say it. I too have reservations about the Captain, but I so hope that they prove unfounded.’

Dr Holden’s Warning

The events of Nicole’s sojourn with the Campbells were never disclosed to anyone, not even to Ruby, Nicole’s usual confidante. It is sufficient to say that over the next weeks, Mr Campbell became a more than occasional guest of the Bucktons, taking tea with them, and sometimes a turn round the garden with Nicole and Ruby.

Another intermittent visitor to the Grange was Captain Harris. His visits were less expected than Campbell’s in that he would arrive unannounced by an envoy, but always heralded by an impatient galloping of hooves in the distance, which became more and more distinct until the whinny of his horse was heard at the front door. Someone would hear this and rush to tell Charlotte, who would ready herself, feeling a stir of excitement.

Usually Charlotte and the Captain would stroll in the garden. He was not accustomed to drinking tea in drawing rooms and would rather feel the fresh air on his face and tell her tales of his exploits in foreign lands. These tales were rather too immoderate for Mrs Buckton and the younger girls, so he kept them for Charlotte’s ears only.

The other male visitor to the Grange was of course Doctor Holden. He kept a careful eye on the progress of Nicole’s ankle, partly because he did not want any aspersions cast upon his treatment, and partly due to the insistence of Mr Campbell.

One day as Doctor Holden finished inspecting Nicole’s injury, he glanced out of the window and gasped at the sight.

‘Miss Nicole. Am I correct in assuming that is Captain Harris in the garden with Miss Buckton?’

‘Oh yes.’ Nicole was unconcerned. ‘It is not the first time he has called upon my sister.’

‘Well, really! A most unsuitable association!’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean that Captain Harris is the most unsavoury of characters. He-‘ Doctor Holden restrained himself. ‘Could you inform your father that I must speak to him about this?’

‘Yes, certainly.’ Nicole was perplexed, but being a blithe young lady, put the request aside in favour of more pleasant thoughts.

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