"Sprig Muslin" by Georgette Heyer
Amanda is an innocent girl who doesn't realize the impropriety of her position and dangers of her behavior. And, makes a delightful read.
A very close resemblance to "Charity Girl" and the story develops on almost the same lines too. Only difference is that the run-away girl is too ingenious and makes far-fetched but believable stories and manages to run away even from her adopted guardian who is far mature than Ashley in Charity Girl.
Sir Gareth Ludlow is on his way to offer for Lady Hester and stops at an inn for refreshments where he encounters a very pretty girl arguing with the landlord of the inn. From the argument, Gareth infers that the girl is seeking a position of chamber maid in the inn. He again looks at the girl and correctly concludes that the girl is on the run and she is a well-bred lady and has just come out of her school-room. So, he invites her to take refreshments with him. The girl, Amanda, is very innocent and accepts his offer. During the course of partaking of refreshments, she narrates to Garth that she has run away from her grandfather because he is not allowing her to marry Neil who is a Brigade-Major and has a ball in his shoulder and is about to depart to Spain. But, she vehemently denies telling anything about her family so that Gareth may restore her to her grandfather. Fed up from arguments, he decides to take her under his protection and takes her to Lady Hester's home where everyone assumes Amanda to be Gareth's mistress.
Soon, Amanda realizes that Gareth is not going to let her run away so she hatches a plan and decides to run away with Hester's uncle next morning before Gareth is out of his bed. Meanwhile, Hester rejects Gareth's offer of marriage. So, Gareth decides to leave on the next day but he finds out that Amanda is missing when he comes to the breakfast table and immediately chases after Amanda. Meanwhile, Amanda realizes her mistake of running away with Hester's uncle and decides that she should give him a slip. So, she pretends that she jas got sick on the course of her journey and needs to rest before going any further. Thus, they stop at the next inn and Amanda is accompanied to a bed chamber. When the landlady of the inn leaves Amanda to take some rest, Amanda immediately slips through the back door of the inn and tells the boy who was standing there with a cart wheel to hide her on it. The boy is so struck by the beauty standing in front of him that he doesn't think of anything and does as he is instructed. Thus, Amanda accompanies him to his home. Back at the inn, after half-hour, Hester's uncle searches for Amanda and finds her missing so he tries to find her in the neighboring villages where he fails to find her so he goes to an inn at the night fall where he is met by Gareth who tracks him down throughout the course of the journey.
When Gareth realizes that Amanda has run away again, he goes back to the inn where she was last seen and he concocts a story of being Amanda's guardian. In the mean time, the father of the boy whom Amanda accompanies comes to the inn and talks to the landlady. When Gareth comes to know of this, he immediately goes to get Amanda. From there, Amanda and Gareth go to another inn to put up for the night where they meet Hildebrand Ross. Ross is much struck by the despair evident on Amanda's face and he finds out from Amanda that Gareth is an abducting uncle who wants to marry her (her new invention). Thus, Ross is very much taken aback by the tyranny and decides to rescue Amanda. Ross hatches a plan to play the highwayman and take away Amanda form Gareth but when the scene actually occured, Ross was extremely nervous and he fires at Gareth by mistake.
Gareth gets hit in the hollow of his shoulder and loses a lot of blood and is almost on the verge of dying. Somehow, Amanda manages to stop the bleeding and takes him to the nearest inn where Gareth is laid down and doctor is called for. The landlady of the inn is very detestable and doesn't believe in Amanda. Thus, Amanda is forced to call someone to her rescue and she could think of no one except Hester. Ross is dispatched to convey Hester to the inn. Thus, Gareth immediately gets blessed by three new family members - Amanda and Ross becomes his niece and nephew and Hester becomes his sister. Hester looks after Gareth and he slowly recovers.
Meanwhile, there is an outrage in Gareth's sister's house, grandfather of Amanda's and also at Hester's house. Through a twist of the fate, Amanda's Brigade-Major becomes known to the husband of Gareth's sister and s invited for dinner where he comes to know that Gareth has run away with Amanda. Neil visits Amanda's grandfather and tells him of her fate and follows Gareth's trail. Similarly, Hester's trail is followed by her relatives and everyone comes to that inn at the same time and a hilarious description of the scene follows. And, everything ends at a happy note.
The ending of the novel gets very confusing and is extremely hilarious. This one is a much better novel than Charity Girl because of the better character sketch of Amanda and Gareth. Again , a must read.
**Read more of my articles here**