Friendship and Folly: The Merriweather Chronicles Book I

Free Friendship and Folly: The Merriweather Chronicles Book I by Meredith Allady

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Authors: Meredith Allady
allied with that engendered by a shared aggravation. When one has stood hoop to hoop in a hot, over-stuffed room, with the ache in one’s head only second to that in one’s feet, surrounded by the lordly and impatient whose haughty stares seem to question the legitimacy of one’s presence, and wishing only for the peace of a homeward carriage--to glance up as yet another person attempts to squeeze past, and meet a look as rueful and weary as one’s own, and feel the brush of feathers as a head is dipped to murmur, “Dreadful squash, is it not? Were you ever in a more disagreeable crowd?”--this is to know the meaning of true rapprochement . It is a cold heart indeed that does not warm to so timely a sentiment, so aptly expressed.
    In the weeks that followed, Miss Spenhope was to prove an ever-bubbling fount of apt and timely phrases, and from the circumstance of her family having been oftener in town, was always ready to offer opinions and advice on the subject, in an authoritative manner that daunted skepticism. I do not mean to imply that her assertions were in any way untruthful; but any doubt foolish enough to suggest that they might be somewhat unsubstantiated, was quickly put to rout by what Julia referred to as Miss Spenhope’s “air of ex cathedra .”
    “London is intolerably stupid this year,” said she. “Somehow we contrive to go out almost every night, but that is only one degree better, or if you please, two degrees worse, than dozing at home--and it is only to dinners--there have been no assemblies, and I have heard of but one ball!”
    Julia said that she had not yet been able to determine what turned a mere “party” into an “assembly.”
    “Oh,” replied Miss Spenhope, “the existence of an assembly may be ascertained by whether or not one has room to stir; when you have plenty of elbow room from the thinness of the company it must be bad. A crush is always to be desired, for when you have no time for conversation, you fancy everybody is agreeable, and in fashionable life, trust me, imagination is always preferable to reality!”
    Miss Spenhope and Lady Thomasin might lament the shocking “thinness” of town, but there were those who did not hesitate to call this paucity a myth, and to suggest that those who espoused it were the victims of hitherto unsuspected weaknesses in the brain.
    “There are a great deal too many people in the world,” was Clive’s estimation, feelingly delivered one day, upon returning from a ride in the park, “and most of them seem to be in London.”
    Nature had designed for Clive a disposition both good-humored and sociable: but his heritage had intervened, ensuring, by a simple ordering of features and complexion, that his childhood would be beset by humiliations and frustrations, and all manner of ills. No mother could have been more solicitous than Lady Frances; no father more protective than Mr. Parry; but even they had not the power always to save him from the inevitable consequences of the curse laid upon him at birth. His nursemaids would pick him up and cover his face with kisses while he was trying to examine those fascinating pebbles in the drive; visiting duchesses would ruffle his dark curls and call him the “sweetest, prettiest little boy” just when he had executed his best bow with some dignity. Years of this sort of treatment had left their mark upon Clive. He was not the friendly and confiding youth nature had intended; it was impossible that he should be. Behind his cheerful, easy manner lurked a wariness ever-ready to repulse familiarity. He considered compliments a display of bad taste; personal remarks of any kind an impertinence.
    In the year five his fifteen years sat unconvincingly upon a frame devised for a man half-again as old, and a face that rivaled Julia’s for perfection; and if he had reason to complain that advancement down the Row was hindered by all the gentlemen desiring speech with Julia, it was more than likely that

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