desperation that she forgot how upset she had
been at Mr. Selwynn for implying what had not been the
“ Good heavens! A woman who quotes
the classics!” He was laughing, and Isobel frowned at him. “Pray
tell, Miss St. James, when had you occasion to read
“ When I was eleven,” she said
There was an incredulous pause. “Indeed?” he said.
There was another pause, during which Isobel glared at him, and
after which he said, smiling, though his voice was serious, “Should
a woman as learned as yourself deign to take my humble advice, you
would do well to avoid Mr. Selwynn in the future.”
By then they had reached his carriage and he handed
her up when the footman jumped to attention and opened the door.
She heard him giving the coachman instructions after the door was
shut but didn’t know he stood looking after the carriage long after
it was out of sight.
Later, Julia was effusively apologetic for Lord
Burke’s clumsiness in losing hold of her at Ranelagh and she
repeated her brother’s advice to avoid Mr. Selwynn.
The next day, promptly at ten in the morning—the
earliest one might call without rudeness—one of the servants
brought her a card with the name “Mr. Rupert Henry Selwynn”
embossed in ornate letters beneath the silhouette of a carriage and
four. “He sends his best regards for your health and begs you to
see him, miss,” the servant said when Isobel took the card from the
“ Show Mr. Selwynn to the west
drawing room,” Isobel said. “And tell him I will join him
momentarily.” She finished her coffee, then went to see Mr. Rupert
“ Miss St. James! It is indeed a
pleasure and an honor to see you.” He took the hand she extended to
him and bent over it. As he did so, he thought he had never held a
hand so pretty. The sapphires she wore could be worth no less than
a thousand pounds.
Isobel took her hand back. “Have you come to
apologize, Mr. Selwynn?”
“ Miss St. James, I can only think
you refer to your misapprehension that I was not leading you to the
coffeehouse. “ He looked stricken at the thought. “I assure you, I
was not leading you astray! May I be struck down as I speak if I am
capable of such a base act!” Fortunately, Mr. Selwynn was not a
religious man, or he could not have kept his composure so
“ Yet, I know you were not taking
me to the entrance, Mr. Selwynn. I had at least remembered that
much!” She remained standing.
“ You are quite mistaken, Miss St.
James.” He stroked his upper lip. “I was merely taking you by a
route which you, apparently, did not recognize. I would
never—never!—do such a thing as you accuse me of.” He went down on
one knee before her and grasped her hand. “Miss St. James, I beg of
you, I beseech you! I shall throw myself in front of the first
carriage to pass your door if you persist in thinking me capable of
such a base and dishonorable act!” He stood up when she gently took
her hand away.
“ Yet, you allowed Lord Hartforde
to think I approached you, a stranger.”
“ I?” He put a hand to his breast.
“I only recall helping to safety a beautiful woman who was in
distress. If my Lord Hartforde received the impression that you
approached me, why, ‘tis false!”
“ But so he thinks.”
“ Then I shall go to him directly I
leave here and explain his error!”
“ I think you had best do so, Mr.
Selwynn.” She rose and rang for a servant to show Mr. Selwynn
“ I shall go on the instant, Miss
St. James.” He took her hand and bowed over it. “Will the lovely
Miss St. James have pity on my poor soul and permit me the honor of
calling on her again?”
“ Perhaps, Mr. Selwynn.” At least
Lord Hartforde would no longer think her morals loose. Mr. Selwynn
seemed so sincere she did not at all doubt he would keep his
“ Then, I am your slave, Miss St.
James.” And he followed the servant out of the room.
Rupert Selwynn paused on
W. Michael Gear, Kathleen O'Neal Gear