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India

Dear India,

Is the dower house progressing? I think Rose would like a rocking horse. She told me today that Antigone does not like the new governess (the second I hired), and when I found the time to investigate, I learned that the lady had already given her notice. We shall arrive with a nursemaid and the much-beloved Antigone.

Thorn

Dear Thorn,

I have completed the mistress’s bedchamber, which means the house is very nearly ready. I was unable to find a rocking horse here; perhaps you can locate one in London? The dower house awaits Rose.

India

Dear India,

I shall arrive in three days, Rose in tow. I sent my new butler out for a rocking horse and he found only a rocking cow. Rose thinks the cow is stupid, and I have similar concerns about the new butler. She named the cow Buttercup.

Thorn

Dear Thorn,

A good milking cow is never a bad investment; your future offspring might like her.

You will be happy to know that the privies are now functioning, and the bedchambers furnished. Yesterday Lady Adelaide and I left the Horn & Stag and moved to Starberry Court.

India

Dear India,

Did I tell you that I’ve invited my friend Vander, the future Duke of Pindar, to the house party? I know the two of you are a perfect match in that you have the bluest of blue blood. Lately, I’ve been thinking that I should give him advance warning. It’s the least a man can do for the brotherhood.

Like wearing garlic to ward off a vampire.

Thorn

Dear Thorn,

I’m worried that after Laetitia gets to know you a bit better, she’ll choose the local doctor—a very handsome young man—over you. I summoned Dr. Hatfield to warn him of Lady Rainsford’s imminent arrival. As you may be aware, her ladyship requires daily medical attention for any number of ailments. I promised Hatfield two pounds for each day that he dances attendance on her.

India

Dear India,

That’s probably the first expense of which I heartily approve. Here’s hoping that Hatfield can keep the lady in check. I met her only twice, but I live in fear.

Thorn

Dear Thorn,

You really mustn’t speak of your future mother-in-law in such a jocular manner. Perhaps you should begin an earnest study of polite manners. It would be a shame to do all this to the house, only to have Lady Rainsford take a virulent dislike to you. As she is bound to do if you don’t play your cards better.

India

Dear India,

You are my trump card. I expect your next career will be in matchmaking. At any rate, I am just back from meeting Laetitia in Kensington Gardens, and I am too much at ease with the world to squabble with you. I am feeling like a lucky man.

All the best,

Thorn

For some irrational reason, India had kept all of Thorn’s notes. She liked the way his sentences tore across the page in a strong, slanting hand. By this point, she had a quite a pile, as they’d kept messengers going back and forth to London for days. But she tossed this letter in the library fireplace.

Of course, she was glad that he was happy. Thrilled. Lala would be able to coax him into displaying his dimple on a daily basis. Lala was adorable, that’s what she was. Adorable the way little bunnies and babies and all the sweet little things in the world were.

These days, India felt herself to be the very opposite of adorable. She looked haggard. She was so exhausted that she felt as if a horse had ridden over her. Everywhere she looked, she saw more things that needed attending to. Indeed, as she watched Thorn’s letter burn, she realized that the space over this fireplace needed a painting.

A family portrait would be perfect: perhaps Lala and her children in the garden, and Thorn leaning against a tree just behind them, with that fierce look he had, and the contained power of his body.

She shook her head, taking herself out of the room nearly at a run. She wouldn’t answer his letter.

In fact, she shouldn’t answer any more letters at all.

Dear India,

You will be happy to learn that I have solved the problem of the governess. I found a tutor instead, a young sprig by the name of Twink. He graduated from Cambridge about three and a half minutes ago, but he’s a good fellow. He laughs, which Rose needs.

Her nursemaid’s name is Clara. She’s a good girl from the Highlands and will probably fall in love with Twink, but there’s nothing I can do about that. They will both accompany us to Starberry C. and stay in the dower house.

Thorn

India had spent the whole of the afternoon in the library, sorting through books in order to shelve them, and she still wasn’t finished. In her opinion, a library was the heart of a house. A library’s book-filled shelves conveyed the impression that a family has lived in one place for generations: curious minds bequeathing their collections for their descendants to read.

Obviously, Thorn didn’t have that.

Nor, it seemed, had Jupp. Either he hadn’t owned many books, or an especially literate thief had ransacked the library, since most of the bookshelves had been bare.

Never mind: India had bought three large crates of “miscellaneous books” from the Temple of the Muses bookshop in Finsbury Square, and they’d arrived that morning. The shelves had been scrubbed and oiled; now they gleamed in the June sunlight, waiting to be filled. India began by emptying the crates and piling the books on the floor according to subject matter: literature and poetry (of which there were very few) here, military history and the like (at least fifty) over there, householdry and farming (three tall stacks) across the room. There were books of essays, books of sermons, and fourteen Bibles. (Apparently the bookseller hadn’t thought she’d actually look at her purchases.)

When she had them sorted, she turned her attention to the books that remained of Jupp’s collection in order to distribute them among the piles.

It was at that point—and perhaps she should not have been surprised—that she discovered his naughty books.

The first one she picked up was called Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. That was followed by Venus in the Cloister: or, The Nun in Her Smock; The Rape of the Sabines; and The Amatory Adventures of Tilly Tucket.

“Tilly Tucket”? What sort of name was that? India sank to the floor and opened the book at random, finding herself staring at an engraving of a frolicsome couple. Like a silly chambermaid, she gasped and slammed the volume shut, opened it again, and examined precisely what was happening.

She could feel her cheeks were pink by the time she put the book to the side; perhaps she would buy a bookshelf that locked. After one quick look at The Rape of the Sabines, she dropped that one onto a pile destined to be thrown away, followed by a few others that were equally horrid.

But then she picked up The Genuine and Remarkable Amours of a Light Gentleman and turned to the first page. The book followed the adventures of a young man called Francis Feather. “Feather” turned out to be not . . . feathery. In fact, she had no idea that men’s parts were so large. Feather’s was easily the size of his lower leg. It didn’t seem anatomically possible.

The volume was lavishly illustrated, and there was definitely something riveting about the engravings. In one, for example, Feather and his inamorata were making love on a table.

She could tell it was a dining table, because a teacup and two plates had smashed on the floor, presumably owing to the frenzy of their activity. It made her think differently about household cleaning, though surely the depiction was merely there to shock.

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