Bonus Material! Lady Charlotte, scene-stealer
Lady Charlotte is a scene-stealer. Ever since she first appeared as sister to the Duke of Brandon in A Groom Of One's Own, I knew she would get her own story one day. She demanded it. Finally, she gets her own hero and her very own novella, Three Schemes and a Scandal. Behold, just for the fun of it, one Charlotte's outrageous exploits from A Groom Of One's Own.
Charlotte was fiendishly amusing. She made him resent that he had to maintain an appearance of patriarchal foreboding for, dear God, how he wanted to laugh at her latest mischief:
“Are you perchance acquainted with Walter Smythson?” she asked innocently. He was the blacksmith in the village near Thornbridge Manor.
“Of course, dear. Every one knows him,” Lady Richmond responded patronizingly. Amelia looked up and blinked rapidly a few times, trying to make sense of it, because there was absolutely no way Lady Richmond would know him, or admit to it if she did.
“Ah, how silly of me,” Charlotte continued. “So then you must know Lady Millicent Strange. She moves in the most select circles, as it seems that you do. You must be familiar with her.”
Miss Millicent Strange had been Charlotte’s imaginary childhood friend who was the regular instigator of all sorts of trouble. “Miss Millicent Strange did it,” Charlotte would say, “and she’s so very, very sorry.”
“Lady Strange and I correspond regularly,” Lady Richmond declared, taking another sip of her wine and then dabbing at the corners of her mouth with her napkin.
Lady Hamilton pursed her lips.
“You must be a favorite, then, given that it is so difficult for her to write after the accident,” Charlotte said. Brandon raised his brow, but his sister ignored him.
“Oh, a dreadful occurrence. We were all devastated when it happened,” Lady Richmond responded, affecting a sorrowful expression.
“And shocking. To lose a hand to the jaws of a wild boar!” Charlotte exclaimed. “One never expects that.”
Indeed, one did not.
Brandon took note of his family’s expressions: Amelia was holding her napkin over her mouth, Penelope had her lips pressed firmly together. Their husbands, Brentford and Lord Addison were similarly occupied with restraining their laughter. His mother was smiling as she smoothed out invisible creases in the tablecloth.
The Duke of Richmond lavished his attentions upon dessert. His daughter was not paying the slightest bit of attention. Round and around that emerald ring went on her finger.
“Her handwriting has never been the same, and it makes her letters a trifle difficult to read,” Lady Richmond carried on.
“Charlotte, I’m curious as to how you are familiar with this Miss Millicent Strange,” Brandon interrupted.
“She’s a Lady,” Charlotte gasped. “I attend school with her daughter, Miss Araminta Strange,” Charlotte answered breezily. “We call her Minty. Miss Minty Strange.”
Amelia began to choke and her husband handed her a glass of water.
“One of your school friend’s mum has had her hand bitten off by a wild boar,” Brandon reiterated. Brentford excused himself and left the table.
“Yes. Tragic, is not?” Charlotte remarked, first dabbing a tear that was presumably as fake as Lady Millicent Strange and her daughter, Araminta.