A Life of Discovery
Rupert sat in his cushioned chair in the drawing room. He didn’t know how it had become his chair; all he knew was that he was home from school no one sat in it but him. His mother, Amelia, sat across from him on the feather couch. She looked like perfection with the exception of one long strand of hair framing her face.
Rupert leaned forward and took a small hard candy from a crystal dish. “What’s wrong mother? Are you ill again?”
Amelia glanced at her youngest child for a moment, then her eyes drifted to the parlor window. Across the street the lawn spread out into the green park. For days couples and families had walked by, their faces beaming with smiles from the merriment of the circus.
Amelia forced a smile. “No, it’s just…I’m glad your home for the weekend.”
Rupert sucked on the candy. It tasted of cherry and mint. He eyed his mother. His intuition told him something was amiss. She had never been a healthy woman, but she was good at keeping up the appearance of one. When he had arrived his personal butler had told him her bouts of depression had returned. Rupert knew that also meant she had been staring at a secret portrait she kept hidden in her dresser drawer.
“Would you like to stroll in the park today? I’ve heard the circus puts on quite a show. Maybe it will lift your spirits.”
His mother almost laughed, but her lips formed a frown instead. “No dear, I’m afraid that won’t help.”
“Papa says I’m to dot on you. So, your wish is my command?”
Amelia straightened her shoulders and pushed the strand of hair out of her face. “I just remembered I have an engagement with Lady Hester.”
Amelia stood up. “Yes, I’m sorry dear. You will find some way to amuse yourself, won’t you?”
Rupert offered Amelia his arm and walked her out of the parlor. “Yes, I will.”
After Amelia left Rupert snuck into her bedroom and took out the picture. He held the portrait next to the light in the window. The girl had an oval-shaped face with long and loose curls wrapped around her shoulders. At times her face seemed vaguely familiar to him, but he could never place it. He dared not ask, for then his mother would know he’d been snooping and she was a very private woman. He’d seen this picture hundred of times, but today a peculiar thought overtook him. Who was this girl who had robbed him of the vibrant mother he should have had?
Outside on the street a young boy pulled his nanny down the path. Between tugs, he skipped and pointed toward the circus top; his voice a chatter of excitement. Rupert tucked the picture back into the drawer, grabbed his coat and hat and headed out the door.
The smell of roasting nuts and cigars filled the air as soon as Rupert entered the tent. Ladies in their best day dresses and men in sharp suits milled about the entertainers drinking champagne. The jovial atmosphere was just what he needed to take his mind off his mother’s condition.
A dark-haired beauty, with green leggings and tight bodice displayed her ample bosom when he walked by. “Leave your worries at the door handsome!”
Rupert tipped his hat. The young girl winked back. Rupert milled through the crowd. Flame throwers, trapeze dancers, pantomimes, monkeys and clowns showed of their talents within arms reach of their audience. The young man was amazed to discover the rumors had all been true. The colors, the gaiety; the circus was a true delight.
The crowd parted in front of him. He took a step forward to get a look at the latest entertainer. A young girl in a tight-fitting bodice, colored leggings, high heels and a peacock fan strutted forward. The sight of her caused the crowd to cheer with delight.
Confused Rupert tapped a shoulder of a man next to him. “Who is she?”
The man’s face widened with surprise. “Why Miss Stena of course.”
In that fraction of a second the crowd had encircled the girl. Rupert pushed his way through bodies that blocked his view. When he got to the front Miss Stena curtsied to her admirers. In one hand the fan was displayed elegantly above her head, her body bent slightly and one foot pointed outward. When she stood her smile was radiant. Stunned Rupert gazed at the face he’d seen hundreds of times before. Even underneath the painted checks, red lips and dark eyes there was no denying Miss Stena was the girl in his mother’s secret drawer.
Catch up on the rest of the mini saga (In order)