Unbelievable! Father used my own birthday party to set me up. While I thought he merely wanted me to have an escort at the soiree, the truth came out in the end. He invited Lord Gold to Boston with the intent that I should marry him!
The evening started out well enough. The drawing room of our brownstone’s not nearly as grand as the one at Hartigan House, but it was suitable for the size of the party. (As a side note, our brownstone isn’t distinguished enough to have name and is known only as “our house” or “our home” or 6685 Beacon Street.)
In attendance was Father and Sally and Louisa, of course, Lord Daniel Gold, my dear friend Elizabeth Squire with her brother John, along with a few of my other university friends, and my father’s business partner and his wife. Mrs. Bakker produced a marvellous three course meal of codfish in lemon sauce, glazed duck with roasted carrots, beets and caramelized onions and fresh salad in oil and vinegar which we ate with glasses of the finest California wines. The growing and vocal temperance movement would be quite unhappy to know about that!
Glasses were raised in my honor. Father toasted, “To my lovely daughter, intelligent, capable and highly eligible.”
Everyone laughed at that. Father winked. At first I thought he was looking at me, but then I realized the wink was directed at Lord Gold! Lord Gold’s lips twitched, and the nuance made my stomach twist. I was almost unable to enjoy the delectable chocolate cake served afterward.
Dinner was followed by dancing in the drawing room. Father had hired a small band who played favorites such as That Haunting Melody and Moonlight Bay.
To spite my father, I immediately suggested to John Squire that he should ask me to dance before the lord could claim me.
“You look ravishing, Miss Hartigan,” John said as he guided me around the room.
“Why, thank you, Mr. Squire.”
I made a point of staring defiantly at my father as we passed by. George Hartigan was a man who was used to getting his way. He simply lit his pipe and smoke billowed out of his nose.
I knew I couldn’t avoid Lord Gold all evening and sure enough, after the third song, he requested my hand.
His grip on me was acceptably loose yet confident. Though not handsome at first look, he did have pleasant blue eyes and well-trimmed honey-blond hair. His suit was of the highest quality with tails hanging from the jacket down the back of pressed trousers. A black bow-tie rested at the neck of a starched white shirt.
He gazed down at me with a glint in his eyes.
“I feel I have offended you, Miss Hartigan,” he said.
“I don’t care to be the brunt of someone else’s mirth, Lord Gold.”
“If you’re suggesting that I’ve been anything but gentlemanly, I must object.”
“Your manners are not in question. It’s your motive.”
Lord Daniel spun me around the room, a truly fine dancer, and I admit to being distracted by his cologne.
“You are rather perceptive, Miss Hartigan,” Lord Gold said eventually.
“I like to think so. Are you here to visit my father, or is there more?”
“We are negotiating, you could say. It’s a conversation best left for tomorrow.”
“If I am involved in the negotiations in anyway, shouldn’t I be involved?”
Lord Gold tightened his hold on me. “I certainly hope so.”
The nerve! How dare he insinuate . . .
The band began to play Turn Off Your Light Mr. Moon Man, and I felt myself blush at the lyrics. It's a catchy tune and even now, I hear it playing over in my head.
When the Moon is shining yellow
And a girl is with her fellow
Both are getting nice and mellow
It's a surprise to find
If the Moon-Man should discover
Sweethearts meeting under cover
Can you blame that girl and lover
If they say “Turn off that light”
Turn off your light, Mr. Moon-Man
Go and hide your face behind the clouds
Can't you see that couples wanna spoon, Man
Two is company and three's a crowd
“I quite like this song.” Lord Gold sounded amused.
“I’m sure you do. Lord Gold.” I pulled back and forced him to look me in the eyes. “I’m an educated woman, and as you’ve noted, perceptive. Are you and my father negotiating terms for my hand in marriage?”
Lord Gold grinned crookedly producing an attractive dimple, and I had the feeling that my father wasn’t the only man in this room who was used to getting his own way. “Would it be so awful if we were?”
“If you think I would marry a man I didn’t know, that I would marry a man not of my own choosing, you are dearly mistaken.”
“Then I guess you’ll have to get to know me, Miss Hartigan.” He smiled slyly. “In time I hope you’ll choose me for yourself.”
Father did have the decency to invite me to the meeting today in which the agenda impacted my personal future. I don’t think I’ve ever been so angry at my father in all my life. Why did he feel he had to spring this on me?
We gathered in my father’s study. Panelled warmly with rich dark wood, it had a large wooden desk, a set of shelves and a fireplace which wasn’t in use over the summer. It smelled of his brand of pipe tobacco and reminded me of his study at Hartigan House.
Lord Gold and I occupied the two chairs facing father’s desk. I wore a day dress of lavender satin and lace. I knew I looked my best, and I needed every bit of confidence I could muster, going up against two strong men.
Father lit his pipe before the discussion began. His arm shook slightly and I frowned. “Are you all right, Father? You seem a little shaky.”
He laughed it off. “Perhaps I’m a bit nervous.”
As he should be! Both of them, for that matter. I folded my arms in defiance. “Let’s get it over with then, shall we?” I turned to Lord Gold. “What’s in it for you, Lord Gold.”
“Please call me Daniel.”
‘’Very well. You may call me Ginger.”
“Splendid, Ginger. And to answer your question, money.”
I huffed. “What a surprise.” I glared at my father. “What’s in it for you.”
“Ginger, love,” he said as he placed his pipe in the ash tray. “You must know that I want the very best for you.”
“An arranged marriage to a man after your money is the best you can do?”
Father sighed. He ran a hand over his balding head. “Please, hear me out.”
“Daniel’s father and I go back a long way. We stood up for each other at our weddings. Unfortunately, the previous Lord Gold had a penchant for gambling.”
“I see,” I said sharply. “So Daniel is here because he needs to appease his father.”
“Rather, my father’s debtors,” Daniel said. “My parents both died in a carriage crash, leaving my little sister Felicia and me orphans.”
“Oh.” I slumped a little at my rashness. “I still don’t see how you benefit, Father.”
“Daniel’s in the possession of many fine assets, including the family home in Hertfordshire—Bray Manor. I’d hate to see any of it fall into the hands of creditors.”
“Yes, again, I see how Daniel benefits from our paring. How do you? How do I?”
“You gain a title,” Father said to my disappointment. I was really unimpressed with such social divisions. “And,” he continued, “I get peace of mind.”
“In what way?”
“I know my daughter will be taken care of.”
I laughed haughtily. “Clearly Daniel has you bewitched. He’s the only one to truly gain from such a deal. And I can take care of myself.”
“I’ve no doubt in your ability to care for yourself, Ginger,” Daniel said. For once he put his arrogance aside. “However, with me you’d be a baroness. The title does carry some weight, even here in America. You could use it to your advantage.”
“In what way?”
“That’s all?” I said. “Father has done splendidly without the need of a title.” Father’s investments in steel manufacturing were just one of his many intelligent and timely business decisions. The Hartigan family certainly wasn’t hurting for money.
Daniel moved his chair to face me and leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. His blue-eyed gaze pierced me in a way that made me quiver. “Give me a chance to win your heart, Ginger. If, by Michaelmas, you still find a coupling with me disagreeable, I’ll return to London and you’ll never have to see me again.”
Daniel Gold left me speechless. My heart is still pounding.