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The Education of Joanne

The Education of Joanne by Joan Vincent
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Rebellious Lady Joanne is banished to the obscurity of Kentoncombe by her father, the libertine Earl of Furness. Lord Jason Kenton, determined to transform her into a lady, was duty-bound to introduce her to the London ton. Destined for another man's arms—and marriage, was Lady Joanne woman enough to teach her tutor a lesson in love?

Georgian Romance by Joan Vincent; originally published by Dell Candlelight

Belgrave House; July 1980
154 pages; ISBN 9780440123033
Read online, or download in secure PDF format
Title: The Education of Joanne
Author: Joan Vincent

“It shall not be tolerated,” roared the Earl of Furness, his pallid, powdered complexion highlighted by dulled patches of anger.  “This time she has outdone the ex­tremes of folly!  Was a father ever more cursed with such a vexatious child?” he asked, turning to Lady Evelyn.

In answer his timid sister ventured nothing despite the multitude of words rioting to break the barricade of her lips.  She was accus­tomed to her brother’s outbursts in regard to his only daughter.  Instead she chose to inspect the puffs of her polonaise gown.

“What can be done with her?  What action have I not tried?” Lord Furness continued, his ire growing.  “I shall seal her in her chambers for this.  She shall not flaunt...

“Dear brother,” Lady Evelyn interrupted, “calm yourself before you bring on apoplexy.  Surely Joanne’s behaviour cannot—”

“Cannot!  Exactly,” he thundered and waved the mis­sive in his hand.  His lace cuff brushed his sister’s face.  “She has undone all my efforts.  None in the realm but riff­raff and scum will have her after this becomes known.  Even they will succumb only if the temptation is generous enough.”

His port-laden breath assured Lady Evelyn that her brother’s ravings were just a continuation of the usual tone regarding his daughter.

“Have you nothing to say?  You could have aided me with this child,” he baited as he meticulously arranged the ruffles of his shirtfront.

“I was repulsed in my offer to do so,” she said angrily.  She jumped up, her ire roused at so unjust a charge.  “I told you I would raise the child as my own—see to her education.  Butt you protested.  Now live with the re­sults of your education of Joanne.” She regretted the words as soon as they were said.  Not for any element of untruth, but for their effect on her brother.

“Damn the whole bloody business,” said Fur­ness in a much milder tone than Lady Evelyn had braced for.  The touch of despair in his voice drew her eyes to his face.  Troubled, pained, his eyes burned into hers.  She was lost for words of comfort, consolation, or confident solution. 

The eyes, she thought, how like the daughter to the father?   Would either ever be free of anguish?

Lord, that I might help them both, Lady Evelyn prayed.  The prayer was instantly crushed by her acknowledg­ment of her habitual submission to her brother.  The time for correcting the wrong had long since passed.  She had not been able to withstand his decision to isolate his infant daughter upon the death of the mother. 

Nor had she been able to take hold when she had visited Furness House and seen the child, then only seven years of age and already filled with a growing bile.  At so young an age, the child was already tormented by the realization that her father begrudged her life.  There had been no way to help her.   Lady Evelyn’s timid soul shrank from the memory of the child’s unharnessed hostility.  How her hostility must have grown in the three and ten years of con­tinued neglect.

Lost in these thoughts, Lady Evelyn had not fol­lowed her brother’s mumblings. 

“Her education lacked for naught.  The best governess to be had.  Why you even recommended some that were used over the years.”  He strode to the slab table at the side of the small sitting room and poured a glass of port.  Downing it, he refilled and emptied the glass once again.  Furness mused in gentler tones when he turned back to Lady Evelyn.

“If only Joanna had not died...  The gen­tleness, peculiar to any thought of his wife, flitted across his features.  They altered forcibly a moment later.  “Or at least if it has been a son who had caused her death,” he ended bitterly.

Lady Evelyn sighed hopelessly.  Her brother had never reconciled himself to his wife’s death.  Joanna had survived the childbed only six months, her frailty tested too far by the difficult birth.

“What is it she has done?” she asked, absently wondering about the cause of his verbal violence this time. 

Anger creased his face.  “She has poured a vase of putrid flowers on the Viscount of Fordingham and told him he was lucky she did not crack his skull with it,” Lord Furness said as if a magistrate citing a death-warranted offence.  “This after he had offered for her hand in marriage.” 

“Fordingham—Blayworth’s son?  That spindly, bald­ing fop?

“There is no wonder.  I dare not comprehend how he had the courage to approach Joanne.  They say he will not even put a hand to the reins,” Lady Evelyn noted.  Suspicion entered her voice.   “How—”

“Well you are to wonder how.  For months I plied that snivelling coward—endured his presence and worse, his discourses.  What is the reward for my labours?

“This,” he again waved the missive, “is from Ford­ingham withdrawing his offer.  I should never have permitted him to see her until the day they were to wed.  If all the land and wealth I have will not in­duce him to tolerate marriage with her, not even one of convenience, who am I to find?”

“Why, I had no idea you intended her to marry.  You have never even brought the child to London, never given her a ball.  Never let her go beyond the grounds of Furness.  Your behaviour regarding the child has not prepared her for…

“But, why not find a genteel woman to educate Joanne in the finer arts of society.  Prepare her for a London season?  Next spring would be the time—shortly before she gains one and twenty birthday. 

“A bit old, I must say so myself,” she said, fanning herself with her bejewelled, painted fan, “but some rumour can be put about—ill-health may­hap. 

“This woman could teach Joanne the manners of the beau monde since you feel she is lacks gentle womanly qualities.  She would refine her and teach her how to dress.” 

Lady Evelyn gave a trill of false laughter.  Her tall periwig of massive curls swayed as she offered, “I—I would be willing to sponsor her.”

“When did you last see the child?  Ten, four and ten years past?  You would not believe—I myself was as­tounded upon my last visit to Furness to see what my daughter had become.  Admittedly it has been over a year, perhaps longer, but...”  A tremble ran through him. 

“It is as if she were a changeling and no daugh­ter of my Joanna.  A coarse, fat bull ready for market.  Why the animals of my poorest tenants surpass her cleanliness and her manners are those of a—”  He shud­dered.

“The servants shun her and her cham­bers.”  Furness turned back to the decanter and quaffed three more glasses of port in quick succession.

“I must be off to White’s,” he stated abruptly as he thumped down the once again empty glass.  With a stiff bow he departed as quickly as he had entered, leaving his sis­ter in unhappy contemplation.

Joanne was nearing her majority.  Some solution must be found before then, Lady Evelyn realized.  A shiver ran through her as she thought of both father and daughter in London. If half the tales concerning the former and all Furness said of the latter were true, London—certainly she, herself—would have a stormy season. 

But it would relieve the dreadful news of the rebellion o£ those bothersome colonies, she thought, and stepped to the looking glass above the slab table.  The heart shaped patch on her left cheek was not placed to her liking.

* * * *

The evening had grown quite late and neither drink nor gambling had freed Lord Furness’ mind from the problem nagging like a nipping hound.  Thumping his hand unsteadily upon the table, he motioned for another bottle of port.

The pounding roused Lord Blottal from his drunken slumber.  “Wash ye so long in the jaws, fer, Furnesh,” he asked.  Forcing his bleary eyes to focus, Blottal mumbled, “Ye been no bloody good sport this eve, non ’tal.  Mush go.

“Come, Fontaine.”  He mauled the man seated next to him, who had also succumbed to the several bottles of port each had imbibed dur­ing the evening.

“Fontaine,” Blottal said again and pummelled him until the man jerked upright.  With mere­ly a haphazard salute, they stumbled away.  The two men who remained at the table took no notice of them.

Leonard, Marquess of Wiltham, eyed Furness.  A casual observer would have claimed the marquess had drunk as much as the others, perhaps more by his looks and movements.  However his clarity of eye showed a carefully husbanded sobriety.

It had taken Lord Wiltham many months to enter Furness’ circle of intimates.  Seeing the state of the man now, he wondered if the time had come to make his move.  Certain of him plan however, he decided to restrain his impatience this close to his ob­jective.  An impromptu display of his hand must not destroy what he had worked so diligently to achieve.

“My lord, you do appear distressed.”  He leaned toward Furness.  “May I not ease your mind?  Speak of what troubles you.  All that is mine will I press to your aid,” he told the other earnestly.  Ironic­ally he had been busily avoiding duns for weeks.

Furness looked at the marquess over his glass.  He struggled to sort the man’s words into some meaning in his present pickled state.  “Education,” he finally man­aged.

“It is important, I suppose,” Wiltham noted warily.

“Failed to educate properly.”

“Who failed, my lord?  Surely not you?  Your life is ample proof you have not.”

“Education,” Furness mumbled again.

At a loss, Wiltham asked, “What education, my lord?  There are many kinds.  That proper to the gentleman, to the soldier, to the gentlewoman.  Of which do you speak?”

Sitting bolt upright, Furness stared at Wiltham.  His eyes focused sharply.  “Many kinds of edu­cation.  Quite right, you are!  The education must suit the purpose,” he continued, an idea forming steadily. 

“Unusual situation calls for unusual solution!  Capital, my man.  You have solved my problem.”  The excitement slowly drained from Furness’ eyes. 

“But no.  Who should do it?  Someone fast and hard on the reins.  Strong in discipline—mayhap harsh, but effective and most important of all, willing to deal with the problem.”

Perplexed, Wiltham could do naught but agree while he tried to sort out what the man meant.

A brief disturbance drew both men’s attention.  They watched a club member, drunken and suddenly destitute, had become unruly and was “escorted” from White’s.

Furness’ gaze wandered from the scene.  He noticed a table where a group of men quietly played whist.  “Whittle,” he breathed.

Wiltham turned in his chair to see what had captured his interest.  “Ah, yes, the Duke of Whittle.  I did not realize you were acquainted.”

“We are—but vaguely so.  I am more known to his brother, Lord Jason Kenton.”

“Kenton?   Lord Jason Kenton?   I do not recall the name or even of hearing of the man.”

“There is no wonder in that as he is seldom to Lon­don.  Keeps to himself.  Stays in that manor of his in Devon most of the year.  Has quite a large holding.  I heard he has turned into a gentleman farmer.”

“Nicely done by those who have naught else,” quipped Wiltham with a meaningful wink at Furness.  “Let us drink to the man,” he added and refilled their empty glasses.  “Then let us go on to better entertain­ment.  This has grown too quiet by far.”

The earl took his glass in hand, but did not drink.  “I had not thought of Kenton for some time.  Been years since I’ve seen the man.  Must be nigh on four and ten years since Warburg.”


Furness’ face relaxed into a smile of remem­brance.   “Back in ’sixty against the French at Warburg.  What a day for the cavalry.  Proved they were up to snuff.

“Kenton was a young lieutenant in Granby’s regiment—the Blues.  Never was a battle more bloody well fought.  Kenton was wounded; shipped back to England shortly after that.”

“Sold out after being wounded, eh?” Wiltham sneered.

“Not right away.  I think his wound left him un­fit for service.  Married, I think.  I’ve not seen him for four—five years at least. 

“His men had tremendous re­spect for him and he was a young man then.  Always had instant obedience. 

“Yes, instant obedience.”  Furness mulled the thought.

“You were there, my lord, at Warburg?  I had no idea you had served in the army,” Wiltham said.  He hop­ed he wasn’t overdoing the awe and that he could distract Furness from Kenton.

“Tried my hand at it for a time after my wife died—too dull when the war was over,” the earl said. 

“Kenton had this idea that I saved his life.  Yes, I recall how he promised to repay the favour.”  Furness slowly sipped his port.  “Methinks the time has come to lay claim to the debt.  Why not?”  Quaffing the last of his drink, he rose.

“But, my lord, may I not do what you would have this man do?” Wiltham asked.

“Good of you to offer, but no—the more I think on it the better I like it.  Must go now; matters to attend.”

“My lord.”  Wiltham scrambled to his feet, “Certe I shall see you tomorrow at Lord Gurley’s?”

But Lord Furness did not reply.  He had walked away engrossed with his new scheme for the educa­tion of Joanne.