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Escapade by Naomi Rankin

Escapade by Naomi Rankin

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Escapade 
by Naomi Rankin Page 1
Escapade 
by Naomi Rankin 
Escapade 
by Naomi Rankin Page 2
Escapade. Copyright © 2010 by Naomi Rankin. All rights reserved.
This copy of 
Escapade 
is being offered free of charge, but it is also a thank youfor donations to the Stephen Lewis Foundation to combat AIDS in Africa. Pleasevisitwww.naomirankin.comfor more details. Canadians who contribute $20.00or more will receive a charitable tax receipt.
To Bob, who puts up with all this
Illustration: Vigee Le Brun, Self-Portrait in a Straw Hat (age 22) - 1782Oil on canvas, 97.8 x 70.5 cmNational Gallery, LondonISBN 978-0-9867998-0-8
Escapade 
by Naomi Rankin Page 3
Chapter 1
Of the many blessings of a numerous family of children, a certainsocial self-sufficiency ranks high. An adequate group of sons willsupply a good deal of its own entertainment from within its ownranks, tripping each other up and wrestling, exchanging insults,and above all daring each other to acts of deviltry, without beingunduly anxious to retain the good opinion of outsiders. With thepassage of time such incitements become almost automatic, with amere exchange of glances being sufficient to invoke the spirit of mischief.It was a fine late summer's day when Matthew, Jonas, William andDaniel Loftus, the Squire's sons, were lounging before their ownstables and perceived their nearest neighbour riding towards them.
―There's Bob Arkwright again,‖ Matt said. ―What is it makes him
 come round so often? He has already had two of my father's
bitches, what more can he want?‖
 
―I cannot tell,‖ said Will. ―Why do you not ask him?‖
 
―Mr. Arkwright, sir,‖ said Matt, nothing loathe. ―May a gentleman
 inquire what is it draws you to us so often? I do not think my
father's brandy any better than yours.‖
 
―Dear boys, can you not guess? I hope to be your brother by
 
Michaelmas,‖ said Mr. Arkwright. Matt, Dan and Will gaped at
 him in just the gratifying manner he had hoped. Jonas, quicker than his brothers, passed his hand before his face, the better todisgui
se an involuntary smirk. ―Yes,‖ Mr. Arkwright continued.
 
 
―Your father and I have been in consultation some time already.
 
We are almost agreed I shall have your sister to wife.‖
 
―But, Mr. Arkwright,‖ said Will, ―have you spoke to Amelia?‖
 
―Why would I do th
at? I have your father's favour, 'tis all that is
necessary.‖
 Matt and Jonas looked at each other.
Escapade 
by Naomi Rankin Page 4
―Why, not at all, sir,‖ said Jonas. ―Do you not know that there is a
 new fashion? You will be much laughed at, sir, if you do not askmy sister yourself first, before she is commanded to it by my
father.‖
 
―Laughed at! Why should I be laughed at?‖
 
―It is now
-a-days considered quite unmanly not to hazard yourself 
with the lady, sir,‖ said Jonas. ―A gentleman who lets his father 
-inlawundertake all the work of wooing and winning on his behalf islooked upon as quite craven. Mr. Harper over at Lonsgate couldhardly show his face in town for a week when it was known he had
Miss Betty Greenwood bestowed on him without her knowledge.‖
 
―Craven! I will not submit to that, sir,‖ Bob Arkwright cried. ―I
 
will not be compared with Mr. Harper.‖
 
―Well, then, away with you, sir, to Amelia and be at your courting
 
yourself,‖ said Matt.
 
―I will indeed,‖ said Bob Arkwright. ―Gentlemen, I thank you,
I
should not otherwise have known.‖ And he turned forthwith to
 knock upon their front door, rather than to seek out Squire Loftusin the kennels as he had originally intended. Matt, Jonas, Dan andWill waited until Mr. Arkwright had been admitted, and the doohad well closed behind him, to burst out in uproarious laughter.No further exchange of words was required amongst them todetermine them to run round to peer in the window of the ladies'sitting room, to see for themselves the progress of Mr. Arkwright'sattempt upon the maidenly sensibilities of their only sister. Theyreached their vantage point just as the ardent suitor was ushered in,and they were further enlivened to observe that Amelia was alonein the room to receive the frankest expression of Mr. Arkwright'sardour, and that the window was open to permit them to hear.
―Well, Miss Loftus, I've had my eye on you for some time,‖ Mr.
 
 Arkwright said. ―You're a fine dashing filly, and want only a
 
Escapade 
by Naomi Rankin Page 5masterful fellow in t
he saddle. What say you?‖
 
―Whatever do you mean, Mr. Arkwright?‖ said Miss Loftus. Her 
 brothers could easily perceive that she was considerably astonishedand somewhat ruffled.
―Why, damn
-me, Miss Loftus, I'm popping the question. What else
would I mean?‖
 
―I'm sure I've no idea, Mr. Arkwright.‖ Miss Loftus was here
 
 
guilty of a little dissembling, for she had already a quite preciseidea, which was that for no consideration would she ever marrysuch a rough and loutish man, distinguished even among her father's cronies for his vulgarity of address.
―Come, come, Miss Amelia. You may be as coy as you like, but
 I'm sure you can have no objection, so why do we not tie the knot
immediately?‖
 
―Indeed, sir, you can hardly be so assured of anyone's intentions –
 and c
learly you are utterly mistaken as to mine.‖
 
―What a spirited little filly she is!‖ cried Mr. Arkwright, reaching
 out to embrace her. Amelia jabbed him in the fleshy part of thethumb with her needle, and left the room. So prompt was her withdrawal that she heard nothing of the suppressed laughter outside the window. Amelia went quickly down the passageway leading to the kitchenand offices, to seek the protection of her mother's presence. Shewaited only until the flush of annoyance had faded from her cheeksbefore entering the still room, and saying,
―Maman, I have come to see whether you might need some help.
 So many bramble-
berries as there have been this year!‖
 
―Why, yes, my dear, how thoughtful of you. I declare, we must
 have a still-room maid, but Squire will not hear of any moreexpense. How ever are you to have any prospects if you are to be
Escapade 
by Naomi Rankin Page 6always at work? I must speak to your father. This time I shall be
quite insistent. Truly I shall.‖
  Amelia made no reply. Her mother had always some suchplaintive litany on her lips, and some such desperate resolution.Had Miss Amelia even wished to speak, she would have beeninterrupted, for from the front part of the house came a bellow of inarticulate rage and mortification. Mr. Arkwright hadcomprehended that he was rejected.
―What is it?‖ cried Mrs. Loftus, appalled.
 
―Oh, never mind, maman. It is only Mr. Arkwright,‖ Amelia said.
 
―Mr. Arkwright? Why should he make such a sound?‖
 
―He behaved very impudently,‖ Amelia said. See
ing her mother's
stricken look, she added soothingly, ―But I gave him a sufficient
 
hint, I think, that he will make no more bother.‖
 In this, Amelia was overly optimistic. Mr. Arkwright wasdisinclined to force his way into the humbler part of the house torenew his tête-a-tête with Amelia, but he betook himself to thestable to unburden his soul to the Squire.For the first time in living memory, Miss Amelia was summoned toher father's room. Mrs. Loftus, in the extremity of her maternaldevotion, followed along behind, uttering little cries of dismay.Her fear of displeasing her husband was such, however, that she

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