Now when Penelope Featherington bragged about being likened to an overripe citrus fruit in her tangerine satin, Kate could wave her arm and sigh with great drama, “Yes, well, I am a singed daffodil.”

“Someday,” Mary announced out of the blue, giving her spectacles yet another push with her index finger, “someone is going to discover that woman’s true identity, and then she’s going to be in trouble.”

Edwina looked at her mother with interest. “Do you really think someone will ferret her out? She has managed to keep her secret for over a year now.”

“Nothing that big can stay a secret forever,” Mary replied. She jabbed her embroidery with her needle, pulling a long strand of yellow thread through the fabric. “Mark my words. It’s all going to come out sooner or later, and when it does, a scandal the likes of which you have never seen is going to erupt all over town.”

“Well, if I knew who she was,” Kate announced, flipping the single-sheet newspaper over to page two, “I’d probably make her my best friend. She’s fiendishly entertaining. And no matter what anyone says, she’s almost always right.”

Just then, Newton, Kate’s somewhat overweight corgi, trotted into the room.

“Isn’t that dog supposed to stay outside?” Mary asked. Then she yelped, “Kate!” as the dog angled over to her feet and panted as if waiting for a kiss.

“Newton, come here this minute,” Kate ordered.

The dog gazed longingly at Mary, then waddled over to Kate, hopped up onto the sofa, and laid his front paws across her lap.

“He’s covering you with fur,” Edwina said.

Kate shrugged as she stroked his thick, caramel-colored coat. “I don’t mind.”

Edwina sighed, but she reached out and gave Newton a quick pat, anyway. “What else does she say?” she asked, leaning forward with interest. “I never did get to see page two.”

Kate smiled at her sister’s sarcasm. “Not much. A little something about the Duke and Duchess of Hastings, who apparently arrived in town earlier this week, a list of the food at Lady Danbury’s ball, which she proclaimed ‘surprisingly delicious,’ and a rather unfortunate description of Mrs. Featherington’s gown Monday last.”

Edwina frowned. “She does seem to pick on the Featheringtons quite a bit.”

“And no wonder,” Mary said, setting down her embroidery as she stood up. “That woman wouldn’t know how to pick out a dress color for her girls if a rainbow wrapped itself right around her neck.”

“Mother!” Edwina exclaimed.

Kate clapped a hand over her mouth, trying not to laugh. Mary rarely made such opinionated pronouncements, but when she did, they were always marvelous.

“Well, it’s true. She keeps dressing her youngest in tangerine. Anyone can see that poor girl needs a blue or a mint green.”

“You dressed me in yellow,” Kate reminded her.

“And I’m sorry I did. That will teach me to listen to a shopgirl. I should never have doubted my own judgment. We’ll simply have to have that one cut down for Edwina.”

Since Edwina was a full head shorter than Kate, and several shades more delicate, this would not be a problem.

“When you do,” Kate said, turning to her sister, “make sure you eliminate the ruffle on the sleeve. It’s dreadfully distracting. And it itches. I had half a mind to rip it off right there at the Ashbourne ball.”

Mary rolled her eyes. “I am both surprised and thankful that you saw fit to restrain yourself.”

“I am surprised but not thankful,” Edwina said with a mischievous smile. “Just think of the fun Lady Whistledown would have had with that.”

“Ah, yes,” Kate said, returning her grin. “I can see it now. ‘The singed daffodil rips off her petals.’ ”

“I am going upstairs,” Mary announced, shaking her head at her daughters’ antics. “Do try not to forget that we have a party to attend this evening. You girls may want to get a bit of rest before we go out. It’s sure to be another late night for us.”

Kate and Edwina nodded and murmured promises to that effect as Mary gathered her embroidery and left the room. As soon as she was gone, Edwina turned to Kate and asked, “Have you decided what you’re going to wear tonight?”

“The green gauze, I think. I should wear white, I know, but I fear it does not suit me.”

“If you don’t wear white,” Edwina said loyally, “then neither shall I. I shall wear my blue muslin.”

Kate nodded her approval as she glanced back at the newspaper in her hand, trying to balance Newton, who had flipped over onto his back and was angling to have his belly rubbed. “Just last week Mr. Berbrooke said you are an angel in blue. On account of it matching your eyes so well.”

Edwina blinked in surprise. “Mr. Berbrooke said that? To you?”

Kate looked back up. “Of course. All of your beaux try to pass on their compliments through me.”

“They do? Whyever?”

Kate smiled slowly and indulgently. “Well, now, Edwina, it might have something to do with the time you announced to the entire audience at the Smythe-Smith musicale that you could never marry without your sister’s approval.”

Edwina’s cheeks turned just the slightest bit pink. “It wasn’t the entire audience,” she mumbled.

“It might as well have been. The news traveled faster than fire on rooftops. I wasn’t even in the room at the time and it only took two minutes for me to hear about it.”


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