An Infamous Army
by Georgette Heyer
Nothing, thought Judith, could have been more opportune! Lucy was by far too unaffected to have purposely placed herself beside a plain young female in a dress of a particularly harsh puce, but the effect could not have been more advantageous. How right she had been to advise the child to wear her white satin! It was no wonder that she had caught Charles' eye. She replied in a careless tone: "Oh, that is a young friend of mine, a Miss Devenish."
"Will you present me?"
"Why, certainly! She is pretty, is she not?"
"Pretty!" repeated the Colonel. "She is the loveliest creature I ever beheld in my life!"
Prejudiced as Judith was in Miss Devenish's favour, this encomium seemed to be to her somewhat exaggerated. Charles sounded quite serious, too: in fact, oddly serious. She turned her head, and found to her suprise that he was not looking in Miss Devenish's direction, but towards the big double doorway.
"Why, Charles, whom can you be staring at?" she began, but broke off as her gaze followed his. It was quite obvious whom Colonel Audley was staring at. He was staring at a vision in palest green satin draped in a cloud of silver net. The Lady Barbara Childe had arrived, and was standing directly beneath a huge chandelier, just inside the ballroom. The candlelight touched her hair with fire, and made the emerald spray she wore in it gleam vividly. The heavy folds of satin clung to her form, and clearly revealed the long, lovely line of a leg, a little advanced beyond its fellow. Shoulders and breast were bare, if you ignored a scarf of silver net, which (thought Lady Worth) was easily done. Any woman would have agreed that the bodice of the wretched creature's gown was cut indecently low, while as for petticoats, Lady Worth for one would have owned herself surprised to learn that Barbara was wearing as much as a stitch beneath her satin and her net.
A glance at Colonel Audley's face was enough to inform her that this disgraceful circumstance was not likely to weigh with him as it should.
He swung himself into the saddle, and rode to meet the Lady Barbara.
She came galloping towards him and reined in. Cheeks and eyes were glowing: she stretched out her hand, and exclaimed: "I thought you still in Ghent! This is famous!"
He leaned forward in the saddle to take her hand; it grasped his strongly. "I have been bored to death!" Barbara said. "Confound you, I have missed you damnably!"
"Excellent! There is only one remedy, " he said.
"To marry you?"
He nodded, still holding her hand.
She said candidly: "So I feel today. You are haunting me, do you know? But in a week, who knows but that I may have changed my mind?"
"I'll take that risk."
"Will you?" She considered him, a rather mischievous smile hovering on her lips. "You have not kissed me, Charles, " she murmured.
He caught the gleam under her long lashes, and laughed. "No."
"Don't you want to---dear Charles?"
"Yes, very much."
"Oh, this is a pistol held to my head! If I want to be kissed I must also be married. Is that it?" she asked outrageously.
"That is it, in a nutshell."
Her eyes began to dance. "Kiss me, Charles: I'll marry you," she said.
These sections `donated' by Vickie, from the