|Portrait of Lady Caroline Howard (1771-1848)|
by Sir Joshua Reynolds
She arched a malevolent eyebrow.
The last time he had seen the child had been five years ago upon a visit to Lord Marks’ country estate to discuss a business venture. She had loitered about underfoot the entire afternoon, vying for his attention. Her father had indulged her every whim and seemed to view everything she said or did as an enchantment of sorts. Baldwyn had simply rolled his eyes, concluded his business, and took his leave at the first opportunity.
|Photo by Heinz Hackman|
But the girl was not content to be pleasantly tolerated by a gentleman nine years her senior. She preceded him out of doors and lay in wait behind a hedge, and as he rode past she ambushed him, hurling crudely formed mud balls dangerously close to his head. Fortunately, her aim left something to be desired, though by pure dumb luck, one of the misfired projectiles struck square in his horse’s eye. The animal reared, taking Baldwyn by surprise and sending him flailing all the way to the ground. The few strategically placed bruises would have been humiliating enough, but by some horrifying twist of fate, his horse had recently dropped a steaming pile of dung in the precise location he found himself sitting.
Naturally, no doubt to the delight of the devilish pixie, he had to immediately return to the house to clean up and change before he could leave again. But it was already late, so he was forced to remain for the night, enduring an evening of unending prattle as the girl begged for his particular attention.
Even now as he thought on the tragic memory, his head ached and his backside throbbed.
Baldwyn massaged his temples in slow deliberate circles, hoping to erase the reminiscence from his mind forever.
“Lady Anastasia is no longer a child, Baldwyn. And you have responsibilities.” His grandmother’s voice broke through his anguish.
“Regardless, Grandmother. It would have been nice to have a choice in the matter.”