Lady Caroline Downey drew a deep breath and lifted her shoulders. The face in her mirror showed a slight blue tint under the eyes. The color in the cheek was almost too heightened, while the rest of the complexion stayed a snowy white. She stared into the dark eyes looking back as if to dare herself. “I will make the effort,” she said, determined to appear strong despite feeling a deep internal weakness. Turning for the door, she took a wobbly step and then steadied herself. She lifted her chin and strode to the door.
At the stair she met her father, the affable but elderly Earl of Chilverton.
“How are you, my dear?” asked the Earl.
“Very well, thank you, Papa.”
“Glad to hear it, glad to hear it.” He gave her his arm. As they entered the drawing room, a rather short, very plump, older woman turned from fussing with some flowers. She squared herself as for battle and stiffened her long upper lip. “Well! I see you have decided to let us see you downstairs this afternoon.”
“Yes, Aunt Clara. I am feeling a little better today.”
Miss Clara Hilliard gave a huff of derision. “I hope you do not intend to give us one of your little dramas this evening.”
“I shall try my best, Aunt.”
"As you know, Mrs. Wald is a very old friend of your mother’s and mine. I do pray we shall all want to make her stay here pleasant. Let us have no repetition of your performance at dinner yesterday.”
Lady Caroline only smiled slightly. It was well known to be fruitless to respond to Miss Hilliard’s unpleasantries.
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