Amanda slumped in the dressing table chair, thwarting her maid’s efforts for the third time.
“Please stop fidgeting, Miss Amanda, or I’ll never finish your hair. At this rate you may miss breakfast altogether.” As she spoke she swiftly fastened the coiled braid to the back of Amanda’s head with a half dozen long hairpins.
“I’m sorry, Helene. I don’t know why I can’t cut it off since it’s such a bother, or at least wear it down until noon. After all, it’s only my family at table.” Amanda stared at her wavy reflection in the mirror. The dreary winter had robbed her cheeks of all color. She was as pale as the ghost the staff insisted roamed the attic of Dunn Manor.
“You can’t wear it down because you’re not a child anymore. Young ladies must have fashionable coiffures unless they are abed with the fever and their continued earthly existence appears in doubt.” Helene winked at Amanda’s reflection in the mirror. “And cutting it off is advisable only if you plan to book passage to India disguised as a man.”
Amanda chuckled at the mental picture of herself dressed in flannel and tweed. “I’ve seen you in the garden of the carriage house with your hair plaited down your back. And you’re older than I.”
“True enough, but I’m the widowed daughter of your papa’s coachman. My appearance ceased to be of much interest the day I married. But you, Miss Amanda, should make a good impression wherever you are, no matter what time day or night.” Helene bent to whisper close to her ear. “How else will you catch a fine husband like a viscount or an earl?”
Amanda emitted a rude noise that would have appalled her mother. “Your suggestion sounds dreadfully dull. Instead, maybe I’ll become an actress and travel the world, or perhaps a famous opera singer and appear on the finest stages of Rome, Vienna, and Paris.” She closed her eyes, imagining the sound of thunderous applause.
Helene freed two tendrils to soften the severe look of Amanda’s upswept hair. “To be a famous opera singer, one must first be able to sing.” She tugged on a lock playfully. “Go to breakfast before your mama sends her maid after you.”
Without an alternative, Amanda dutifully obeyed. On her way downstairs, she heard rain pelting the window with chilling relentlessness. This time of year any career someplace warm sounded preferable to winter in Lancashire.