London, 14 May 1848
“I think, perhaps… I should stay home.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Why?”
“Because…” Kate turned away from her step-mother and examined herself in a mirror. Since the Lovelace’s dinner party almost three weeks previously she had felt apprehension whenever venturing outside of their London house. They had attended a couple small Royal Society lectures, and gone to The Punch Bowl for a luncheon, but this would be the first time Kate truly entered society since the Lovelace’s dinner party. Kate thought her face showed some signs of worry, a frown and a sadness around her eyes. “What if Mr. Roylance is there?”
“Pish!” Jane burst derisively. “That scapegrace, no matter how charming, would never be invited to an…
London, late April 1848
“And one and two and three and four and pause, and turn – no, t’other way – and back now. And one and two and three and four, and face. Pause… no, don’t bow – you’re not a man. There. You’re… improving.”
Kate took a shaky breath while rising from her botched bow-turned-curtsey, and replayed the last phases in her head. Several wrong turns and blundered steps, and a complete gender mishap from trying to mirror the dance master’s movements had marred her performance. She glanced at the master’s narrowed eyes and perceived disapproval.
“Was my… posture and grace adequate?” Kate ventured in soft tones. Please say something nice…
“Certainly, except when you scramble to mend an…
London, late March 1848
Kate tried not to rattle the strainer on the cup, but did, and spilled a couple drops off the spout of the teapot, again. She found her bodice a bit constricting, which wasn’t helping matters.
“You’re trying too hard,” Jane said, judging Kate’s efforts out of the corners of her eyes.
The ladies were seated at a little round table with a silver service and fine china. A maid had laid everything out, now Kate tried to act as hostess. Her step-mother coached, correcting errors, while also being prim and proper. She was joined by her sister, Lady Gordon, clothed in an exquisite visiting suit, having arrived by carriage. Kate wore a silk house gown, a…
Quantock Hall, early March 1848
“It’s your old dog, my lady.”
From her position at the threshold of the front door, Kate looked fireside, Cinders’ usual spot of repose. She knew something was amiss as she entered from her morning ride, by the upset expressions of Smythe, the butler, and Wade, a young footman. A sour and pungent odour filled the air. Kate thrust her riding cane at Wade and strode to the hound.
“What’s the matter, boy?” Kate asked, kneeling beside the dog on the hearth rug.
Cinders whined and struggled to rise, his hind legs apparently paralysed, a puddle of urine soaking the rug.
“He’s going to make a mess of it,” Smythe warned, wrinkling his nose.
“He wants to…