Chapter 11- A Little Kindness

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As winter deepened, the weather got colder. It was therefore a relief that the smaller ballroom was lit by candlelight and roaring flames in the fireplace.

Society's men and women huddled in groups, chatting and laughing as servants approached with hot drinks to keep everyone warm. These kinds of gatherings were much more informal than the grand balls. Everyone was still dressed well, but there wasn't any of the finery and rigid social etiquette that a ball would have.

Eliza stood between Alice and Bea, the three women gossiping. Each wore heavier dresses and coats to accommodate for the weather. Unfortunately for them, they'd not been able to get near enough to a fireplace due to others staking their spot first. Warm cocoa had to suffice.

Alex was across the way, charming the Norcott family. She hated herself for not being able to keep her eyes away from him. Everyone knew that Alex needed to pick a wife soon, society was abuzz with gossip about the ultimatum that the king had given him. Eliza had always tried to keep him at an arm's length, knowing it would happen eventually. Still, she couldn't stop looking at him.

Eliza still felt that fear she'd had when he'd run into that burning building. She still longed for his comforting embrace.

"Have you entered the music competition?" Alice asked Bea.

"Yes I have, I've prepared an aria from an opera that I think I shall sing. I'm quite nervous, Countess Violeta is a most talented pianist and Mrs. Johnson can play any song on her lute. I fear that I'll get too anxious and leave if they perform before me."

"They are indeed talented Bea," Eliza squeezed her best friend's arm, "But you are the most beautiful and enchanting singer I have ever known. You have the voice of a star opera performer. I would bet all my clothes that you shall win. All you have to do to impress the judges is open your mouth."

"You are just saying that."

"She is not," Alice replied, "You sound like an angel. Besides, we'll be there to cheer you on."

"Alice is right, front row."

"Thank you," Bea let out a sigh of relief.

When the doors opened and another family went in, there was a sudden silence.

"Is that the Yellens?" Alice whispered.

"I can't believe they came," Bea whispered back, eyes wide, "I didn't think they would ever show their faces again after what happened. They must know how everyone would react, I mean look, no one is talking to them. Everyone is staring."

She was right. As the infamous Yellen family entered, all judgemental eyes were on them. The three huddled together in the middle as they made their way to give their respects to the royal family before moving away.

"It would have been bad enough if the Viscount's son had run off with a chambermaid, but breaking off an engagement with one of the Haylings was downright scandalous," Alice shook her head, "Heck, he didn't even break it off, he just eloped with the maid."

"Whatever happened to them?" Eliza wondered aloud.

"Apparently they've set up home in the south, I've heard she's pregnant but I don't know if it's true," Bea shrugged.

"The Viscount has disowned him to prevent further damage but it was too late. He's only got Catelynn. She needs to land a good match for security but nobody wants to ally themselves with that family. Catelynn is probably going to die an old maid and that'll end the Yellen line. She needs to have a son, they'd allow him to inherit over his uncle. Uncle Tobias always talks about it to keep me and Barnaby in line."

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