Death at Blenheim Palace

Death at Blenheim Palace by Robin Paige Read Free Book Online

Book: Death at Blenheim Palace by Robin Paige Read Free Book Online
Authors: Robin Paige
call out. A young woman danced into the room.
    “Oh, Connie, vous voilà! ” she cried, with a toss of her beautiful head. “I have been searching all over for you! I have something exciting to tell you!”
    “Thank you, Rosalie,” Consuelo said, dismissing her maid. She turned from the mirror, smiling fondly. “Gladys, my dear. How pretty you look.”
    No matter how angry she might be at Marlborough for the reckless way he was behaving with the girl, Consuelo found it hard to be angry at Gladys herself, who was as innocent as a child in such matters. Innocent and free, Consuelo thought with a sudden pang of envy—free to be lively and winsome and pursue her dreams as willfully as she pleased, privileges that she herself had never enjoyed.
    Gladys threw herself on the bed with a theatrical flutter of white chiffon. “Oh, I am too, too weary, dear Connie, simply trop fatigued . The Duke insisted that we tramp around and around the garden, pausing to sit only a little.” She raised her arms above her head, showing off delicate white hands like little birds. “Did you know, ma cherie, that Marlborough has commissioned a Venus fountain? And it is to be in my likeness! Isn’t that a deliciously enchanting idea? Oh, that wonderful Duke of yours—he does all in his power to entertain!”
    Consuelo’s lips tightened. She thought of the silent Sunny—what an irony there was in that family nickname!—who, when they had no guests, ate his dinner with neither a word nor a glance, let alone any thought of entertainment. But her husband’s churlishness toward her was scarcely Gladys’s fault, any more than it was Gladys’s fault that Marlborough was so obviously smitten—although Consuelo could wish that her young American friend might use just a little more discretion. Twenty-two was a bit old to play at being a flirtatious young girl, and Gladys’s giddiness might get her into trouble—as it very nearly had when the Crown Prince of Germany had fallen in love with her the year before, and insisted on exchanging his mother’s communion ring for Glady’s bracelet. The ring, of course, had been returned at the Kaiser’s command, but the indiscreet flirtation had nearly created an ugly international incident.
    Consuelo glanced up to see her young friend watching her in the mirror, her luminous, wide-apart eyes the color of sapphires, a sphinxlike look on that beautiful face with its lovely straight, fine nose that Consuelo, despite her best intentions, could only envy. She had overheard a pair of housemaids whispering that the girl had persuaded a doctor at the Institut de Beauté to inject paraffin wax into the bridge of her nose, to form a classical line from forehead to tip. It was likely true, Consuelo thought, having herself noticed something of a difference in Glady’s profile, as well as a slight puffiness between the eyes. But it had been a ridiculous and dangerous thing to do—and quite unnecessary, for Gladys had been perfect just as she was.
    To be fair, Consuelo could understand why her husband was infatuated with the girl, whose slender, boyish figure and enchantingly mercurial temperament gave her the air of a provocative young god. She herself had loved Gladys from the moment they met, although not, she supposed with her usual caustically self-deprecating humor, in quite the same way as did Marlborough.
    Or Lord Northcote, for that matter—Botsy, everyone called him, who had turned up at Blenheim the previous week, in pursuit of Gladys. Botsy was simply mad for the girl, and had even told Consuelo that they were engaged. At first, Consuelo had welcomed the news with relief, thinking that Gladys’s marriage would put Marlborough off the chase. But when she had asked Gladys about it, the girl had only smiled her lovely, mysterious smile and refused to say whether it was true. Unfortunately, Botsy only seemed to add to the general tension, and Consuelo found herself wishing that the fellow—he was

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