Gaia de Blanche . . .
This is another back-story entry, this time from Maria Grazia of www.flyhigh-by-learnonline.blogspot.com in Rome. Maria says she doesn’t speak english fluently and asks to be forgiven for any lapses, but I think she has done a wonderful job and as we expect from Maria, the lady who has on her blog the wonderful RA Friday, she has perfectly caught RA as we have come to know him. Read on . . .
The dizzying blend of anxiety, joy and longing made my heart beat faster and my breathing irregular. I was ready, I had been preparing myself for hours. My blue muslin dress was as perfect as I had wished it to be, in a shade that haunted my mind, the material the same crystal blue as those eyes I saw in my dreams.
Madame Jeancourt had promised I would look pretty in her creation but I felt so unsure. I loved the dress and its laces around the plunging neckline. That neckline! Was it daring too much? I had never worn such a dress and looking at my naked white skin embarrassed me. To imagine those piercing blue eyes on it made me breathless.
But Madame Jeancourt had assured me men appreciated those details in a young woman’s attire. I wished it was true.
I had also carefully combed my desperately straight hair and rolled it with rags with the help of Nelly . Now curls dangled down, partly restrained by a delicate pin formed in the shape of a flower that sparkled in the candle light . Regardless, I simply could not calm down . I was worried I would not meet Lord Armitage’s expectations.
I had seen him at my previous – indeed, my first – ball proudly walking through the admiring crowd, escorting a tall, elegant, amazingly beautiful dark-haired woman.
What would he think tonight of the tiny slim fair-haired girl he had invited to the Masked Ball?
Why did he ask? I had been flattered and honoured at his invitation, but after accepting it , I had gone through a deeply troubled time. I started feeling uneasy at the thought of being among an unknown crowd with a handsome stranger … because that he was, a stranger to me:
A fascinating stranger I had been thinking of, over and over, during the last three days. That was the most worrying feeling to me. Why did he have such an effect on me? Again I looked at my reflection. Tolerably pretty in my blue dress but not divine as I wanted to be for such a tall god-like gentleman. Were I but older and more experienced of the world, though not a beauty, I could at least make him proud of me . At 20 , that was only my second ball and my first time with a gentleman as an escort.
I recalled the moment he had come to me, three days earlier. I was sitting alone and bored in the great hall at Palazzo Galati. All the guests there seemed pleased and cheerful, dancing or conversing. I knew no one. I had reached Veniche with my Aunt, Lady Catherine, and my cousin Stella the previous day . Now they were sitting nearby, talking with some of their many acquaintances. I felt completely forgotten, almost invisible . Unexpectedly, Lord Armitage had approached with old Lord Brainwood who was commissioned by my aunt with the task of introducing me. Lord Brainwood spoke first, he uttered a few formal quick sentences, and left briskly. Lord Armitage bowed again , moving elegantly and in total confidence as if he had known me for a long time. I only actually saw him when he started speaking . His velvety voice made me startle and, soon after, shiver:
“May I have the honour of the dance? I have already asked your aunt for permission and she kindly consented. She told Lord Brainwood to introduce me to you. Would you please do me the honour , Miss De Blanche?” .
I foolishly stared up at his incredibly magnetic eyes and even gasped. Getting no answer, he went on : “Miss De Blanche, I know this is your first ball, your aunt told me. But I am sure you are an excellent dancer. Shall we dance , then?”
I looked inquiringly at my aunt but she was so engaged in her lively conversation she did not notice what was happening. What should I do? It was appropriate and decent to give such a gentle request my assent. I accepted. My legs almost failed me, so nervous was I as his cool hands led me to the floor. I was sure he could feel my pulse jumping. I found myself among the animated dancing crowd I had been idly observing from my seat . I thought I should be unable to move a step. I felt my legs heavy and trembling. Why had I always been so shy?
Lord Armitage spoke again: “Will you let me lead you? Are you ready?”
I smiled at him and , incredibly, I started dancing. I could move, I could follow the music . I felt his warm look on me and I started feeling more confident , almost at ease, I forgot all the rest. The reassuring tone of his voice caressed my timidity. He went on smiling down at me all the time. “So, Miss De Blanche, you see? Not so unpleasant after all.”
“Yes, Lord Armitage, forgive me. It is just that this is my very first ball and I am so excited , I cannot restrain my anxiety…But it is much better now. Thank you”
“Do you like it here at Palazzo Galati?”
“Yes, very much. Only I know no one here. And there are so many people.”
“But you know me now!”
“Yes, and you are my first partner tonight . Well… my first partner at a ball ever, actually”
“I am honoured. This means I shall have a very special place in your memories, I hope. ”
I could feel my cheeks flushing and hoped he wouldn’t notice such a sign of shyness from me. He would think I was an ingenue. I wished I had my cousin’s readiness for proper witty comments, but he went on: “What have you seen and done in Veniche so far, Miss De Blanche?”
Yes, I thought, he was totally and utterly convinced I was an ingenue at that point. “Very little. I have just arrived with my aunt and cousin. We got here yesterday morning and spent the night at Countess Galati’s residence. She is such a kind refined lady. She invited us to this ball and … here I am, glad of dancing and making your acquaintance, Lord Armitage . You see, I wish I could see every corner, square and alley of this delightful town in the following days.” I was astonished. I had stated several sensed thoughts, one after another, without any hesitation at all and with a joyful tone.
His smile had become even more luminous when he had responded: “And I would love to show all the best of Veniche to you, if you please.”
Again, how was I supposed to respond? I could not just accept, though that was what I wanted. So I tried with: “Well, I would be very glad indeed but, I do not know if …”
And he immediately suggested: “I shall invite your cousin to join us and require your aunt’s consent, of course. I shall be your personal chaperone in your errands in the city.”
When the music subsided , I felt as if I had woken up from a dream and felt embarassed at the many curious looks directed to us while he led me back to my seat at his arm. I had the awful impression everybody was staring at us.
“My thanks, Miss De Blanche. It’s been delightful. You are an enchanting dancer. Will you consider me forward if I invite you to another ball? A Masked Ball on May the first? Iwould be honoured if your aunt let you and your cousin join my sister, Margaret, and me there.”
I had been tremendously dull and awkward and yet he insisted in inviting me, and to another ball! Curious indeed. Even stranger than that, my aunt seemed very pleased to accept Lord Armitage’s requirements. She let Stella and I go visiting the city and even let us go, escorted by Lord Armitage and without her , to tonight’s ball at the Museo di Veniche. Did Lord Armitage always so easily obtain what he wished for? Moreover, why did he want me to join him at this elegant party?
Someone was knocking at the door. Lord Armitage had arrived and would soon be announced. My cousin was already with him. Why was I so dreadfully worried? In those few days I had tried to control my tendency to flush when he stared at or talked to me. I had even begun to talk more and more in his presence, getting to know him a bit better. I had also found a trick to escape my anxiety: I just had to look right into his eyes and my fears disappeared. I would do the same that night.
How would those piercing blue eyes gaze at me from behind a mask? They would be enchanting, magic .
Those eyes had the colour of my dreams.