Though she was an indentured servant, Isabeau did not have a father who orchestrated her every move. Given that, Elisabeth could only guess the gist of Isabeau's thoughts. I am free. Free to come and go outside of work. Free to marry whom I please.
And she? Who was Elisabeth Anne Lawson? The reflection in the looking glass told her little. When the history books were printed and gathered dust, what would be said of her?
That she had the fortune—or misfortune—to be the only child of the lieutenant governor of Virginia Colony, the earl of Stirling? Daughter of a firebrand mother who used ink and quill like a weapon? Possessor of a pedigree and dowry the envy of any colonial belle? Friend and confidante of Lady Dunmore? Wife of Miles Cullen Roth? Mistress of Roth Hall?
End of story.
The scarlet seal on the letter was as unmistakable as the writing hand. Noble Rynallt took it from his housekeeper and retreated to the quiet of Ty Mawr's paneled study. Sitting down in a leather chair, he propped his dusty boots up on the wide windowsill overlooking the James River before breaking the letter's seal.
Time is of the essence. We must take account of our true allies as well as our enemies. You must finagle a way to attend Lord Dunmore's ball 2 June, 1775, at the Palace. 'Tis on behalf of your cousin, after all. Gather any intelligence you can that will aid our cause.
'Twas the last of May. Noble had little time to finagle. His cousin was soon to wed Williamsburg's belle, Lady Elisabeth Lawson. He'd given it little thought, had no desire to attend any function at the Governor's Palace, especially one in honor of his nemesis's daughter. Lord Stirling was onto him, onto all the Independence Men, and none of them had received an invitation. But 'twas as Henry said, Noble's cousin was the groom. Surely an invitation was forthcoming or had been overlooked.
Noble frowned, thinking of the stir he'd raise appearing. Lord Stirling was likely to have an apoplectic fit. But if that happened, at least one of the major players barring Virginia Colony's fight for independence would be removed. And his own attendance at the ball would announce he'd finally come out of second mourning.
The unwrinkled copy of the Virginia Gazette, smelling of fresh ink and Dutch bond paper, seemed to shout the matrimonial news.
Miles Cullen Roth's future bride, Lady Elisabeth Lawson, an agreeable young Lady of Fortune, will preside at the Governor's ball the 2nd of June, 1775...
The flowery column included details of the much anticipated event right down to her dowry, naming minutiae even Elisabeth was unaware of. As she turned the paper facedown atop the dressing table, her smile faded. A ticklish business, indeed.
Isabeau, quick to catch her mistress's every mood, murmured, "The beggars! I'd rather it be said you have a sunny disposition and Christian character. Or that you are a smidgen over five feet tall, flaxen haired, and have all your teeth save one. And that one, Dieu merci, is a jaw tooth!"
"I am Williamsburg's bride," Elisabeth said as her maid pinned her gown together with practiced hands. "The locals feel they can print what they want about me. After all, I was born and bred in this very spot and have been catered to ever since."
"You don't begrudge them their bragging?" Isabeau studied her. "Having the particulars of one's dowry devoured by the masses seems shabby somehow."
"It does seem silly. Everyone knows what everyone else is worth in Williamsburg. There's no need to spell it out."
"Tell that to your dear papa," Isabeau answered with furrowed brow. "He had a footman pass out multiple copies of the Gazette this morning like bonbons on Market Square."
Unsurprised, Elisabeth fell silent. Turning, silk skirts swishing, she extended an arm for Isabeau to arrange the beribboned sleeve. Below came the muted sound of horse hooves atop cobblestones.
"Your intended? On time? And in such stormy weather?" Isabeau looked up at her mistress with surprised jade eyes.
Turning toward an open window, Elisabeth listened but now only heard the slur of rain. "Mister Roth promised he'd come. 'Tis all that matters. He didn't say when."