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Wherein the Misses Loontwill Cope with Scandal Wherein the Misses Loontwill Cope with Scandal in Their Midst
How much longer, Mama, must we tolerate this gross humiliation?”
Lady Alexia Maccon paused before entering the breakfast room. Cutting through the comfortable sounds of chinking teacups and scrunching toast shril ed her sister’s less-than-dulcet tones. In an unsurprising morning duet of well -practiced whining, Felicity’s voice was soon fol owed by Evylin’s.
“Yes, Mumsy darling, such a scandal under our roof. We real y shouldn’t be expected to put up with it any longer.”
Felicity championed the cause once more. “This is ruining our chances”— crunch, crunch—“beyond al recuperation. It isn’t to be borne. It real y isn’t.”
Alexia made a show of checking her appearance in the hal mirror, hoping to overhear more. Much to her consternation, the Loontwil ’s new butler, Swilkins, came through with a tray of kippers. He gave her a disapproving glare that said much on his opinion of a young lady caught eavesdropping on her own family. Eavesdropping was, by rights, a butler’s proprietary art form.
“Good morning, Lady Maccon,” he said loudly enough for the family to hear even through their chatting and clattering, “you received several messages yesterday.” He handed Alexia two folded and sealed letters and then waited pointedly for her to precede him into the breakfast room.
“Yesterday! Yesterday! And why, pray tel , did you not give them to me yesterday?”
Swilkins did not reply.
Nasty bit of bother, this new butler. Alexia was finding that little was worse in life than existing in a state of hostility with one’s domestic staff.
Entering the breakfast room, Alexia actual y flounced slightly in her annoyance and turned her ire upon those seated before her. “Good morning, dearest family.”
As she made her way to the only empty chair, four pairs of blue eyes watched her progress with an air of condemnation. well , three pairs—the Right Honorable Squire Loontwil was entirely taken with the correct cracking of his soft-boiled egg. This involved the application of an ingenious little device, rather like a handheld sideways guil otine, that nipped the tip off the egg in perfect, chipless circularity. Thus happily engrossed, he did not bother to attend to the arrival of his stepdaughter.
Alexia poured herself a glass of barley water and took a piece of toast from the rack, no butter, trying to ignore the smoky smel of breakfast. It had once been her favorite meal; now it invariably curdled her stomach. So far, the infant-inconvenience—as she’d taken to thinking of it—was proving itself far more tiresome than one would have thought possible, considering it was years away from either speech or action.
Mrs. Loontwil looked with manifest approval at her daughter’s meager selection. “I shal be comforted,” she said to the table at large, “by the fact that our poor dear Alexia is practical y wasting away for want of her husband’s affection. Such fine feelings of sentimentality.” She clearly perceived Alexia’s breakfast-starvation tactics as symptoms of a superior bout of wal owing.
Alexia gave her mother an annoyed glance and inflicted minor wrath upon her toast with the butter knife. Since the infant-inconvenience had added a smal amount of weight to Alexia’s already substantial figure, she was several stone away from “wasting.” Nor was she of a personality inclined toward wal owing. In addition, she resented the fact that Lord Maccon might be thought to have anything whatsoever to do with the fact—aside from the obvious, of which her family was as yet unaware—that she was off her food.
She opened her mouth to correct her mother in this regard, but Felicity interrupted her.
“Oh, Mama, I hardly think Alexia is the type to die of a broken heart.”
“Nor is she the type to be gastronomical y chal enged,” shot back Mrs. Loontwil .
“I, on the other hand,” interjected Evylin, helping herself to a plateful of kippers, “may jol y well do both.”
“Language, Evy darling, please.” Mrs. Loontwil snapped a piece of toast in half in her distress.
The youngest Miss Loontwil rounded on Alexia, pointing a forkful of egg at her accusingly. “Captain Featherstonehaugh has thrown me over! How do you like that? We received a note only this morning.”
“Captain Featherstonehaugh?” Alexia muttered to herself. “I thought he was engaged to Ivy Hisselpenny and you were engaged to someone else. How confusing.”
“No, no, Evy’s engaged to him now. Or was. How long have you been staying with us? Nearly two weeks? Do pay attention, Alexia dear,” Mrs. Loontwil admonished.
Evylin sighed dramatical y. “And the dress is already bought and everything. I shal have to have it entirely made over.”
“He did have very nice eyebrows,” consoled Mrs. Loontwil .
“Exactly,” crowed Evylin. “Where wil I find another pair of eyebrows like that?
Devastated, I tel you, Alexia. I am utterly devastated. And it is al your fault.”
Evylin, it must be noted, did not look nearly so bothered as one rightly ought over the loss of a fiancé, especial y one reputed to possess such heights of eyebrow pre-eminence. She stuffed the egg into her mouth and chewed methodical y. She had taken it into her head recently that chewing every bite of food twenty times over would keep her slender. What it did was keep her at the dinner table longer than anyone else.
“He cited philosophical differences, but we al know why he real y broke things off.”