“She has dolls! Does she seem neglected to you? Deprived in any way? She’s my daughter, and I take care of her. She has nothing to do with you. You’ve no business buying her dolls. What will Lady Clara think? What do you think your fine friends in the ton will say when they hear you’ve given my daughter gifts? You know they’ll hear of it.” Lucie would show the doll to the seamstresses, naturally, and they’d tell everybody they knew, and word would spread through the ton in no time at all. “And do you think their speculations will do my business any good?”
“That’s all you think about. Your business.”
“It’s my life, you great thickhead! This”–she swept her hand to indicate the shop–”This is how I earn my living. Can you not grasp this simple concept? Earning a living?”
“This is how I feed and clothe and house and educate my daughter,” she raged on. “This is how I provide for my sisters. What must I do to make you understand? How can you be so blind, so willfully obtuse, so–”
“You’ll make me run mad,” he said. “Everywhere I turn, there you are.”
“That’s monstrous unfair! Everywhere I go, there is your great carcass!”
“You upset everything,” he said. “I’ve been trying for a fortnight to propose to Clara, and every time I steel myself to it–”
“Every time,” he went on, unheeding, “you“–he waved his hand–”There you are. I went to Warford House today to come up to scratch, as you so poetically put it, but you had her worked up into such a state, we couldn’t have a proper conversation, and all my speech–and I spent half an hour composing it–went out of my head.”
The door to the back of the shop opened again and Leonie came in.
“Oh, your grace,” she said, feigning surprise, though she’d probably heard the row from the stairs. Marcelline hoped the seamstresses had followed orders and left early, else they’d have had an earful.
“He was about to leave,” Marcelline said.
“No, I wasn’t,” he said.
“It’s closing time,” Marcelline said, “and we know you aren’t buying anything.”
“Perhaps I shall,” he said.
“Leonie, please lock up for me,” she said. To him she said, “I’m not keeping my shop open all night to pander to your whims.”
“Do you plan to throw me out bodily?” he said.
She could knock him unconscious. Then she and her sisters could drag him out into the alley behind the shop. It wouldn’t be the first time they’d had to dispose of a troublesome male.
“You’re too big, curse you,” she said. “But we’re going to settle something, once and for all.”
Review Coming Soon