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.”Roxanne said, eyebrow arched, “You want to stake me out now?”They laughed together, but it wasn’t long before Roxanne was again tapping notes on the pianoforte.Mint said from the doorway, “It is her grace the Duchess of Brabante—the dowager duchess—in other words, the one you would wish to see.”Roxanne rose from the pianoforte.“Thank you, Mint.Your grace, how lovely to see you.Won’t you have a cup of tea with us?”Corinne tapped her foot, stared hard at Sophie surrounded by her sewing.“I want to know why you aren’t making at least a small push toward my son, Sophie.He was with his mistress; one of my acquaintances saw him emerge from her lodging—it was the middle of the afternoon! He must have gone directly from the Marksburys’ garden party to her.If you were encouraging him at all, Sophie, he wouldn’t be straying in such a dreadful manly way.How he found her so very quickly, I do not know.He has been in London only a sennight.He obviously met her when he was here before meeting with Harlan Whittaker, his man of business.”Roxanne’s eyebrow shot up.“But, ma’am, however could one of your acquaintances know it was his mistress’s lodging?”Corinne turned a lovely shade of pink, tossed her head.“Well, it’s quite simple, really.” She sat herself down on the sofa, spreading her voluminous India muslin skirts around her.“Simple?” Sophie asked.“If you must know, I hired a young boy to keep an eye on Julian.”Roxanne stared at her.“You mean you have your son followed? This boy reports his movements back to you?”“You make it sound like I am a nosy mama, which isn’t the case at all.Julian is, and always has been, more stubborn than his proud papa.I must see to his welfare, since he is so very careless of it.”Sophie snipped another thread, not looking up.“What is his mistress’s name?”“She calls herself Marlene Ronsard.It is doubtless a fabrication, that lovely name, and I strongly doubt she has ever seen even a stick of driftwood on the shores of France.I asked my boy—his name is Jory—if she spoke with a French accent, but he didn’t know, said it didn’t sound at all furin to him.”Corinne huffed at the two sets of astonished eyes staring at her.“I should not speak of such things in front of you, that is true enough, but you would know, so now you do.No, you shouldn’t, since you are well-brought-up young ladies and you should remain as ignorant as dirt or purposely stupid on the subject of men and their lust, but you forced me to tell you, did you not? I shall have some tea now, Roxanne.Don’t forget, two sugars and no milk.Dreadful stuff.I ask you, who can drink a proper tea with milk in it?”A mistress, Roxanne was thinking a few minutes later, as she stirred sugar in the dowager duchess’s tea.Did Julian by chance have more than one mistress—mayhap three, like Devlin?When she handed the saucer to Corinne, she said, “Your grace, by any chance has Jory followed Devlin Monroe?”Corinne took a sip of tea, nodded in approval.“Why ever should I want to have Devlin followed? He is her son, not mine.If Lorelei is interested, she can see to employing her own—”“Spy?”“What an unflattering word, Roxanne, a word that surely gives the wrong impression.Do not jest about such a thing.It is a mother’s duty to be fully informed about her son’s activities to ensure he is kept safe.He is safe, is he not? So that means I am doing what is needful and doing a good job of it.”Roxanne said, “Ma’am, tell us about Richard Langworth.He is tall, dark, rather fine-looking, I suppose, but not as dark or as fine-looking as your son.He could be, but he has this sneer about his mouth that is very unattractive.At least he did when he was speaking to Julian.”Corinne stiffened.“Richard Langworth is the reason I am having him followed, truth be told.Jory knows bullyboys, he tells me, real toughs who he can call quickly to protect my son.”“Why does Richard Langworth wish him ill, ma’am? Sophie told me his family home and Ravenscar are very close.”“Yes, a mere three miles separates our homes.”“Then that means this Richard and Julian grew up together?”Corinne nodded, then she raised her hand.“This is a subject I will not discuss with you.If you wish to ask Julian—” Her voice stopped, and she knew, looking at the two young ladies, that both of them would ask him the first opportunity that presented itself.“Let me say only that Julian’s wife was shot and Richard believes Julian killed her.He wants revenge.”“But why—”“Sophie, if you and Roxanne want to know more, you must ask Julian.I will say no more.”14Covent Garden TheatreSophie looked through her opera glasses at Charles Kean striding to the middle of the stage like a short, puffed-up conqueror.He stopped, looked out over the audience, raised his hands, and declaimed.He continued to declaim, wildly gesticulating all the while.She stopped listening after the third bombast.She could feel a headache coming on.She lowered her opera glasses to her lap and looked around the theater.She was not in the majority.Most patrons’ eyes were glued to the stage, all their attention focused on Kean.Wait, there was a matron in the next box rolling her eyes as Kean clapped his hand over his heart and stumbled around a bit.Sophie looked at Roxanne when she squeezed her hand.Roxanne winked at her, then smiled as she nodded toward Corinne.She was leaning forward in her gilt chair, her eyes fastened on Kean.She looked enthralled.Julian sat on Roxanne’s left, garbed in stark black, his linen nearly as white as Devlin’s face, his arms crossed over his chest, looking stoic.Roxanne leaned close, whispered, “My father told me Kean could posture better than Elrod, his prized rooster.I will write to tell him I think he may be right.Also, I do believe Kean trumpets louder than Mr.Rickett’s cow Lisette when she wants to be milked.”“I would like to shoot him,” Julian said.“But most appear to be enjoying his performance, which raises serious questions about the taste of our countrymen.”Corinne sent them both a look, and they subsided [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]