Home > Waistcoats & Weaponry (Finishing School #3)(10)

Waistcoats & Weaponry (Finishing School #3)(10)
Gail Carriger

Sophronia pulled back her sleeves, showing the bandage on one side and the complete absence of the hurlie on the other. “I’m afraid I lost it in that very scrabble. You see, I had to leave it behind, hooked on, in order to get through the hatch.”

Lady Linette was skeptical.

Sophronia stood quietly, no elaboration that might give away the lie, no excess blinking that might betray a direct falsehood. She was applying, with great expertise, every one of the lessons that Lady Linette herself had taught her.

“Sometimes, Miss Temminnick, I worry that we are training you too well.”

“Is that possible, Lady Linette?”

“I don’t know. I suppose in the end it will ride on where your loyalties lie.”

“I suppose it will.”

“Where do they lie, Miss Temminnick? You are what, sixteen now? Old enough to marry. Old enough to leave this school, should your parents wish it.”

“I haven’t learned everything yet.”

“Nor have you finished properly. That is not the point.”

“What is the point?”

“You are old enough to know your own mind. Whose patronage will you undertake? Queen and country, supernatural, Picklemen? Will you follow your training in the pursuit of our ends, or those of your beau?”

“And what of my own wishes?”

Lady Linette was not so foolish as to answer that. “Or the vampire who sends you gifts?”

“Reading my mail, Lady Linette? How gauche. I guess the answer to your question is, I don’t know yet.” Sophronia felt emboldened. “I like this school but not the potentate, although working for queen and country seems no bad thing.”

“The one is tied to the other, I’m afraid.” Lady Linette seemed genuinely contrite, either because of the potentate himself—who did have a regrettable personality—or the fact that Queen Victoria’s government had so fully integrated the supernatural element.

“That is the difficulty, isn’t it? Right now my vampire friend’s gifts, I must own, are attractive. Although not my vampire friend himself,” Sophronia replied.

Lady Linette was looking at Sophronia with more respect than she had ever shown before. “He is not so bad a choice. We would be sad to lose you, but he could absolutely afford your indenture. Although he is a vampire; he might want something extra for it.”

Sophronia felt almost like an equal. What, she wondered, had just happened in that class to cause this shift in her own social standing with her teacher? Whatever it was, she hoped to capitalize on it. She rather enjoyed the novelty of garnering respect from an adult. So she accessed her training and responded as it dictated.

“When I have made up my mind, Lady Linette, you’ll be the first to know.” Well, after Dimity, Agatha, Sidheag, and Soap. And Bumbersnoot. Bumbersnoot will have to be included in any of my future plans.

“Very considered response, Miss Temminnick. A word of warning: you can’t change him, Miss Temminnick.”

“Who? My vampire friend or my Pickleman beau?”

“Yes.” Then, in one of her rapid switches of topic, designed—they had all learned—to unsettle an opponent, Lady Linette said, “Where is Lady Kingair, Miss Temminnick?”

“Unwell,” said Sophronia, instinctually covering for her friend’s absence.

“Oh, indeed, and what form of illness has afflicted her? She’s customarily so hardy.”

When fibbing, always stick as close to the truth as possible. “Of the sentimental variety. She had a letter that quite overset her.”

Lady Linette’s expression changed. So much so that Sophronia wondered if she knew the contents of Sidheag’s letter. Had she intercepted a private pigeon before it reached its intended target? Highly illegal, of course, worse than reading Lord Akeldama’s notes, but Lady Linette was an intelligencer. She did more illegal things before tea each day than most people did in a lifetime.

The teacher said, “Understandable sentiment, I suppose. But I expect to see her at supper, otherwise I will send matron. Perhaps she is in need of laudanum to settle her nerves.”

“Very good, Lady Linette. I will let her know.”

With which Sophronia escaped, gliding down the passageway as quickly as her skirts would allow.

Sidheag had not returned, not that they could conceive of a way for her to do so without being found out. The school was, after all, floating midair and very high up. In deference to the presence of Preshea; her new chamber-mate, Frenetta; and a gaggle of other girls, the three friends retreated to Sophronia and Dimity’s room. Bumbersnoot was delighted to see them. The little mechanimal trundled about tooting smoke out his ears and puffing steam from below his carapace. His tail tick-tocked back and forth and Agatha, despite Sophronia’s admonishments not to spoil him, fed the metal dog torn scraps of a brown paper bag that had once held sweets.

“What will we do if she is out all night, alone, with a werewolf?” Dimity was upset by the very idea.

“He’s a teacher, surely that counts for something?” protested Agatha.

“He’s not a relative. If word gets out, her reputation will be in ruins.” Dimity was probably correct in this assumption. “Didn’t we just learn that a young lady should never be alone with a gentleman for any length of time? Do the other teachers know she is with him?”

Sophronia said, “I don’t think so. Lady Linette just asked me where she was.”

Dimity swallowed. “That is not good.”

“Worse, she only has until supper to reappear. Matron’s coming by to check.”

“Then what will we do? Pillows in the bed won’t work on matron. None of us looks enough like Sidheag to pull a wig-and-switch, either.” Dimity wasn’t the best intelligencer, but some of the training had stuck.

Sophronia was out of options. “We have to hope she returns in time. Nothing else for it.” She sat down on her bed with a thump.

Dimity said out loud what they had all three been secretly wondering: “Do you think Lord Maccon has been successfully challenged?” It was a most delicate way of putting it. Lord Maccon was Sidheag’s great-great-great-grandfather, in truth the only father she had. He was also Alpha of the Kingair Pack, and Alphas had to fight for their position constantly. He was supposed to be the second-most-powerful werewolf in all of Britain, but new werewolves did happen, and loners, those unattached to a pack like Captain Niall, could be strong. If one had challenged Lord Maccon and won, it meant the Laird of Kingair was dead.

Sophronia said, “I don’t like to think it, but it would explain Sidheag’s behavior.”

Agatha, who knew Sidheag better than anyone, began to cry.

“Hush, now, we don’t know that’s what happened,” Sophronia tutted at her. “It could just be war. Queen Victoria is always sending her werewolves to fight on the front lines somewhere foreign.”

Bumbersnoot butted up against one of Agatha’s slippered feet, his tail wagging a little less, his floppy leather ears wiggling sympathetically.

Agatha blubbered, “But she does love him so. I know she talks gruff, but he’s her one and only Gramps. If he’s been hurt or killed…” Great fat tears trickled down her round, freckled face.

Hot Novels
  • Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Chris
  • Fifty Shades Freed (Fifty Shades #3)
  • Never Too Far (Too Far Trilogy #2)
  • Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades #2)
  • Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine’s Peculi
  • Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades #1)
  • Fallen Too Far (Too Far Trilogy #1)
  • Forever Too Far (Too Far Trilogy #3)
  • Ugly Love
  • Allegiant (Divergent #3)
  • Hold on Tight (Sea Breeze #8)
  • Bared to You (Crossfire #1)
  • The Destiny of Violet & Luke (The Coinc
  • Captivated by You (Crossfire #4)
  • Uprooted