I mean it! My father told me about them. Winnie gave a stifled moan, the kind one might hear from a woman in the grips of labor. Eugenia, I am not going home until you give me a governess. Winnie sat up, handkerchief clutched in her hand, and pointed to her son. I am inured to dirt.
For the first time, Marmaduke looked a bit fidgety, shifting his weight to one leg and tucking the other up so that he looked like a blue heron. We had hoped. After today, no. They were wild savages.
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They howled. Would you like to see? She asked me what I thought about the book of church history she had brought me for my birthday last month, and had I read the whole thing.
Mother was ruffled by that, but she settled down and after a while, Lady Hubert asked me what I thought of her new gown. Father always said that about her. She had discovered over the years that children learned best from simple statements of fact. He scowled. Your father was a war hero who would have done anything to stay with you and your mother. She glanced over at Winnie, who was flat on her back with an arm thrown over her eyes. Her husband had been a naval captain who lost his life at the Siege of Malta while serving under Rear Admiral Lord Nelson.
I had to run for the footmen and two grooms as well, because the bank was slippery with mud. The butler said that it was like hauling a Hereford steer out of a mudhole.
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The door opened. After four years in her position, Ruby was adept at handling unruly children. Winnie sat up to watch him go. May I borrow your housemaid? Winnie nodded. Yesterday the vicar greeted me in a wretchedly stiff manner. Eugenia wrapped her arm around Winnie. She could write a book about the hidden dramas of polite society. Her desk was piled with letters, and there were undoubtedly mothers waiting to see her. Eugenia rocked Winnie back and forth as she watched Marmaduke scampering around the back garden.
Send me a tutor!
Eugenia ought to have returned to her desk, but instead she stood at the window and watched as Winnie chased her son, still faintly blue, around and around the fountain where Fred was enjoying a bath. It seemed to her that widowhood would be bearable if your husband had left behind a child, a part of himself. He had vivid memories of the sour-faced women who had come through the door of his house—and what their backs looked like as they marched out again.
Small devils with trouble stamped on their foreheads. He had envisioned a cluster of women sitting about, waiting to be dispatched to nurseries—and he had planned to choose whichever one most resembled a colonel in the Royal Marines. It was elegantly appointed, from the tassels adorning striped silk curtains to the gilt chairs.
That said, Snowe probably had to put on airs in order to convince people to pay his outrageous fees.
Since Ward needed to impress the House of Lords with his nonexistent parental abilities in order to secure guardianship of his siblings—not to mention getting Otis up to snuff before his brother entered Eton in September—he was prepared to pay whatever it took to get a first-rate governess. A few minutes were needed to sort out the salient facts that Mr. Snowe was deceased, that Mrs. Snowe had opened the agency some years before, and that no one saw Mrs.
Snowe without an appointment. I require a new one, but I have a few stipulations. He rocked back on his heels and waited until she stopped spluttering and ran off to inform someone of his crime as regards Miss Lumley.
His recently orphaned half-siblings were opinionated and idiosyncratic, to say the least. She stifled a moan when her assistant, Susan, entered with another fistful of letters. Reeve is asking to see you. Would you please repeat that? I suspect the lady realized what that marriage would do for her reputation.
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Eugenia gave a mental shrug. It was unfortunate that the conjunction of a penis and privilege had such an unfortunate effect on boys, but so it was. Without just the right governess, they never learned how to be normal. Having grown up in a household that prided itself on eccentricity, Eugenia was a fierce proponent of the virtues of conventional living. She crumpled the ruined letter and threw it away. Others were loving and warm, just right for orphans. Penelope Lumley was sweet as a sugarplum, and, admittedly, about as interesting.
Eugenia leaned forward and gave Susan a poke. Reeve had been sent Penelope only because of his orphans. She had been known to keep a governess in place, the wages paid by the agency, even if a family lost its funds. That was something different altogether. Her house was only a few steps from the office, which meant she often worked until she went home and fell into bed.
He must have behaved in a most unvicarish fashion, because she needs to marry spit-spot. Ergo, the duchess needs a replacement. My father would not approve. Susan nodded. Eugenia rolled her eyes. The man who strode into the room was tall, with thick brandy-brown hair and darker eyebrows, the color of tarnished brass.
He had a lean rangy look, but something about the way his coat fit across his upper arms made Eugenia suspect he was muscled. He breathed a different kind of air than did the mothers she dealt with daily. Her lips were lush, even erotic, despite being pressed together into a hyphen. Snowe was wearing a pale yellow gown that celebrated her breasts.
Her absurdly wonderful breasts. A delicate jaw, a straight nose… Their eyes met. He bit back a grin.
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