The night he’d waited in Piggleston, believing India had been on the eve of marrying Vander, had scored him to the heart. But his father wasn’t wrong: it had also taught him what he most wanted.

Not just what he wanted, but the only thing that was important in life.

Under the table, he tightened his hand around India’s. Then he remembered that he wasn’t a gentleman—he was a mudlark, sitting at a table with three other mudlarks.

He caught India’s face in both his hands and kissed her. Her arms wound around his neck.

It was scandalous.


Just right.


May 12, 1807

From Miss Adelaide Dautry at Starberry Court,

to her parents at 40 Hanover Square, London

Dear Papa,

I miss you very much. When are you and Mama coming home? Rose has been perfectly horrid to me all day. She says that now she’s 14, she shan’t play with me any longer. She hurt my feelings, and I did something bad, and now Mr. Twink says I have to write to you and confess. I want to say first that I’m not sorry, because she should have read me a story when I asked, and besides, she doesn’t play with Antigone anymore.

I cut a little bit of Antigone’s hair.

Please come home now. You’ve been gone for years.


From Miss Rose Summers at Starberry Court, to her guardians at 40 Hanover Square, London

Dear India,

I know you left only two days ago, but we’ve descended to the level of animals here, and civilization is but a dim memory. Remember when we visited Italy, and Papa read aloud The Inferno? That’s what Starberry Court is like at the moment. I know you will say that Addie inherited her temper from you, but there is no excuse for this: She cut Antigone’s hair short in the front! You know how I feel about Antigone. And now my poor dear has shorn hair and looks like a fever victim.

How can you both spend so much time at Starberry Court? I am positively dying of ennui. I have finished my study of Heraclitus and Xenophanes, but Twink can scarcely have a philosophical conversation when he’s busy chasing after Addie. I truly think she should have a governess, as should Peter. For myself, I am counting the days until I can return to school.

Please arrange for the baby to be born tomorrow, as I should like to share a birthday.



From Master Peter Dautry at Starberry Court,

to his parents at 40 Hanover Square, London

Dear Mama,

Mister Twink says I shud rite but I don’t like riting.


From Mr. Dautry at 40 Hanover Square, London to his butler at Starberry Court


Thank you for sending on the children’s letters. Please inform our irritating offspring that babies arrive on their own schedule, and their mama and I will return to Starberry Court just as soon as their new sister or brother chooses to make an appearance.



Margot is perfect,” India whispered, one finger tracing her newborn daughter’s winged eyebrows. “And she’s so calm! I suspect she will be a better sleeper than Addie or Peter. Rember how Peter bawled?” The infant had opened her eyes just long enough to reveal that they were gray, like her father’s, and had promptly fallen to sleep again.

“I wouldn’t count on it.” Thorn was measuring one of the baby’s tiny feet against his thumb. “I suppose Peter and Addie were once this small, but it doesn’t seem possible. Rose is almost at my shoulder, and yet fourteen years ago her feet must have been this size.”

“But she was already reading,” India reminded Thorn with a choke of laughter. It had become a family joke that Rose claimed to have been reading “ever since I was born.”

“Margot, do you already know how to read?” her father asked the baby.

Margot would have said yes (she passionately wanted to be like her oldest sister in everything), but instead she slept on, even when her father pretended to bite her toes, when he put her foot down and kissed her mother, when she was in danger of being smothered as they whispered to each other.

She slept the dreamless sleep of an infant who would never be hungry, who would never scavenge in the Thames, who would grow up in the arms of a family so loving that even after the children had grown and left home, Starberry Court would remain their fulcrum, drawing them back with their spouses, and then their children, and, later still, their grandchildren.

In time, a new wing would be built, at least in part to house the overflow of books (mostly Rose’s, though Margot contributed quite a few as well). The kitchen would acquire new iron stoves, the water closets would be replaced by bathrooms with ceramic bathtubs, and the house would be the first in the county to be electrified. Peter’s grandson would proudly drive one of the very first automobiles into the courtyard.

No matter the modernizations that Starberry Court underwent, it remained the glowing, comfortable home that India created in 1799: the heart of her family and her descendants, where they learned to laugh, to dance (for the pink ballroom became famous through three counties), to love . . . in short, to live.

And even two hundred years later, the chandelier that India had found in Venice on their first trip to Italy still hung in a place of honor in a dining room decorated with swallows.

Next : Copyright 2016 - 2024