He proceeded to lecture me for the next hour, about what I cannot say, for as I flung the knife with varying degrees of effort and success, I had leisure to be alone with my own thoughts. I turned and waved the knife at her. Stoker is in a terrible fuss. He has been sulking ever since his lordship broke his leg.
A Treacherous Curse (Veronica Speedwell Series #3) by Deanna Raybourn, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®
How is the patient today? That much was true. His lordship had always resembled a librarian in the latter stages of anemia—pale and stooped from too many years poring over his books. But blood will tell, and Beauclerk blood was hearty stuff. Lady C. But as I assessed her, I noted an unaccustomed furrow to her brow, and her usually pink cheeks seemed lacking in color.
She shook her head. The Beaucleark girls had a habit of driving away hapless governesses with well-timed hysterics or the odd spider in the bed. I rather thought it a pity that no one had told them about the efficacy of syrup of figs dribbled into the morning tea, but it was not my place to tutor them in misdemeanors. Lady Cordelia smiled her gentle smile. My ears pricked up. Known formally as the Hippolyta Club, it was an intriguing place, founded for the purposes of free discourse amongst accomplished ladies without the strictures of society limiting their conversation.
Lady Cordelia had been admitted on the strength of a series of papers she had written on the subject of advanced mathematics, and it was good to see that her talents—frequently wasted in arguing with Mrs. Her own family thought of her as a sort of performer, conjuring numbers as a dancing bear waltzes to a tune. Her grave, calm eyes never belied the frustration she must have felt at being so frequently ignored or brushed aside, even by kindly and well-meaning hands, but I harbored outrage enough for both of us. Lady Cordelia gave me a benign look.
I had sensed in her—if not a kindred spirit—at least a sympathetic one. I have heard you speak too eloquently of your travels not to understand how much you love the chase. She went on. I pursed my lips. But it is kind of you to offer. Yes, thank you. I would like to go. The little furrow between her brows smoothed, although if anything she seemed even less at ease than she had before I accepted. If you would like to collect your things, I will meet you in the drive. Her gaze drifted over my working costume.
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I glanced at the enormous canvas pinafore swathing me from collar to ankles. It was an unflattering garment, to be sure, and streaked with paint, blood, dust, and the remains of a profiterole Stoker had flung at me earlier. I whisked off the offending pinafore to reveal a simple gown of red foulard. It was not a fashionable creation by any standards, but I eschewed fashion, preferring to have my working clothes tailored to my specifications rather than the latest whims of the rich and idle. Narrow skirts and an unobtrustive bustle were my only concessions to modernity.
Lady Cordelia gave a vague smile. I turned to Stoker, shoving a few errant locks into the heavy Psyche knot at my neck. Mind you take good care of that dummy. Lady Cordelia smoothed her black silk skirts, her expression carefully neutral. She is inclined to be indiscreet at times. She seemed disinclined to conversation, but I felt obliged to speak.
I suppressed a snort. I might look and speak like a lady, but my choices have placed me beyond the pale of propriety.
A Treacherous Curse (Veronica Speedwell Series #3)
I have traveled alone. I am unmarried, I live without a chaperone, and I work for a living. I did not mention my more colorful peccadilloes. I had made a point of choosing my lovers carefully—no Englishmen need apply—and of entertaining them only when abroad. Thus far mere whispers of my misconduct had reached England, but one never knew when one of the dear fellows would succumb to indiscretion and Reveal All. I recognized the gesture. We had known each other only a matter of months, but I had already learnt that Lady Cordelia possessed an unbendable will when she chose.
No doubt her elevated rank would protect her from the worst of the gossip.
I settled myself more comfortably as the coachman maneuvered his way through the darkening streets. A late summer storm had rolled in, blanketing the city with lowering cloud as sheets of rain began to fall, and when we reached the Curiosity Club, the windows glowed in welcome.
It was an unassuming edifice, a tall and elegant house tucked in a row of other such buildings. It appeared to be a private residence, but just beneath the bell was a small scarlet plaque bearing the name of the club and the legend alis volat propriis. Before she could put a hand to the door, it swung back to reveal a portress dressed in scarlet plush, her head wrapped in a shawl of gold silk.
She was of African descent, with the innately elegant posture I had observed so often upon my travels to that continent, but her speech was London born and bred. Hetty inclined her head. She opened a thick leather book and proffered a pen to Lady Cordelia. Lady Sundridge is awaiting you in the Smoking Room. I gave Lady C. So, our visit to the club had a purpose after all, I mused. Suddenly the promise of cakes and tea took on an additional spice.
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The girl named Florrie whisked herself away with the brisk rustle of starched petticoats as Lady Cordelia took the pen and signed us in with a flourish. I glanced about, registering my first impression of the club. It was smaller than I had expected, intimate, and decorated with a restraint I found relaxing. The walls were closely hung with photographs and maps, charts and memorabilia, all celebrating the accomplishments of the members. The club was fitted with gas, but a quick glimpse through the arched doorway into a large parlor revealed a fireplace in which logs were merrily crackling away.
I heard the muted buzz of female conversation, punctuated here and there by excited remarks or unrestrained laughter, and I tipped my head at the sound of it. By the time she had guided me upstairs to the closed door bearing the inscription smoking room, her usual calm had faltered and the furrow had etched itself again between her brows.
‘Into the Still Blue’ by Veronica Rossi
She tapped lightly, darting me an anxious look before the reply sounded, swift and peremptory. Framed maps hung upon the walls, books lined the shelves, and a table beneath the windows held celestial and terrestrial globes interspersed with a selection of potted orchids. She rose slowly as we advanced, giving me a look of frank assessment. Veronica, this is Lady Sundridge. For a long moment Lady Sundridge said nothing. She merely stood in a state of composed stillness, like a figure in a tableau.
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