"She would have been so disappointed if she wasn't able to go to the ball."
"It's my pleasure, Lady Ashbury," I replied. So Tish's full name was Letitia!
"You'll want to meet Tish," said Tony. "I'll see if I can find her," and he disappeared up the stairs. While he was gone I chatted with his parents who, in spite of their impressive titles, were really very pleasant. Then I heard Tony's voice say, "Found her!" and I looked around.
Tony was leading Tish down the stairs. She was wearing slacks and a simple top. Her hair was in curlers, and she had some sort of beauty cream on her cheeks and forehead. "Tish, this is James," said Tony by way of introduction. "James, Tish."
Tish stepped forward and gave me a radiant smile. "Lovely to meet you, James," she said in a sweet voice. "Thank you so much for doing this. I promise that I'll look much better tonight than I do now."
Tish's eyes sparked as she spoke, and right then I saw past the face cream and hair curlers and realised that she was a truly beautiful woman. "I'm delighted that Tony asked me to do it," I said smiling, "and I think that you look beautiful already."
Tish blushed a little at my complement. "Thank you, Sir James," she said. "But now if you will excuse me, I must go and finish preparing for the evening." With another smile she turned and left the room.
I knew then that I need not have worried about Tish. In my mind's eye I could see her in her ball gown, and she looked dazzling. I started to look forward to the evening.
Tish did not appear for tea, which was served on the terrace, and I chatted with Tony and his parents. Then after tea, Lady Ashbury announced that it was time for her to get ready for the ball. I spent the rest of the afternoon with Tony and Lord Ashbury. They showed me around the estate, with special attention to the stables. Lord Ashbury was apparently well known for breeding champion show horses. I had done a little riding, but I really knew nothing about show horses, or show jumping and the like, so I just tried to be interested and polite.
We returned to the house and dressed for the ball. Tony had to leave to pick up the girl whom he was escorting. Then as Lord Ashbury and I waited at the foot of the stairs, Lady Ashbury appeared at the top. She moved aside, and Tish appeared from behind her.
Tish was beautiful! Really, really beautiful! Her gown was pale blue, and she wore long matching gloves. Her blond hair was piled high on her head, and finished off with a jewelled tiara. She wore a simple locket around her neck. As she made her way gracefully down the stairs I just stood and stared. "You are so beautiful!" I managed to gasp as she reached the last stair. "Thank you James," she smiled. "Shall we go?"
Tish held out her arm for me. I took it and escorted her through the front door to the car waiting outside.
At the ball, we were announced as 'Miss Letitia Gordon-Smythe and Mr James Bowden, Earl of Stratford'. Tish looked at me in surprise when the announcement was made. I don't often use my title, but I had decided that it would be appropriate on this occasion. Well, I had thought that it might impress her friends.
Apparently it impressed her parents also, as I found out later.
The ball was a great success, and I had a lot of fun. Tish of course was very much in demand as a dance partner by the other young men there, but I managed to have a couple of dances with her. I guess that my dancing skills are fair to average, but Tish was an absolute delight to dance with. I did dance with other girls, but my mind the whole time was on Tish.
The ball continued until the early hours of the morning, until Lord Ashwood announced that it was time for us to leave. Tish chattered happily the whole time during the drive home, and she smiled at me a lot. Clearly she had had a good time.
We all slept late the next morning.