Duel of Hearts

Duel of Hearts by Elizabeth Mansfield Read Free Book Online

Book: Duel of Hearts by Elizabeth Mansfield Read Free Book Online
Authors: Elizabeth Mansfield
striking a pose before her friend, one arm raised bravely to indicate the far horizon. “I shall sally forth with flags flying and attempt to conquer the frozen wastes where so many before have failed.” She dropped her arm, giggled gleefully and gave her friend a broad wink. “And before two months have passed, I shall have planted my standard firmly in the ground and made the territory my own!”
    Belinda was unimpressed. “If you ask me, Corianne Lindsay, you are about to take a wolf by the ear. Just have a care that you don’t wind up being eaten alive!”

Chapter Three
    O N A CHILLY , late-September night, a tired and tight-lipped Edward tipped the footman of the Fenton Hotel, sent his man Martin off to bed and shut the door of his hotel room with a firm slam. He cast a quick look about him and groaned. The room was decorated with just the sort of baroque femininity he most disliked. Perhaps he should have taken himself to Long’s, a hotel he’d heard of which was located in Clifford Street, but the Fenton was situated somewhat closer to Stanborough House (where he’d just deposited Corianne) and had therefore seemed the better choice. Oh, well , he thought, this room will probably do as well as any other. I’m not likely to find any room in London to my liking .
    He tossed his portmanteau on a low chest, took off his coat and sat down at a small, uncomfortable writing table. He lit an oil lamp which stood at his elbow, trimmed the nib of the pen that stood waiting in the inkstand and began to write: To Lord Lindsay, Daynwood Park, Lincolnshire — My dear Roland, This will be a brief report, for we have been travelling all day, and I am at the point of exhaustion. I wish only to assure you that your daughter has been deposited safely into the arms of your sister at Stanborough House. The trip brought no catastrophe, but thanks only to my assiduous guardianship of your impossible offspring, for she attracted an alarming amount of masculine admiration at every stop we made. The postboy at the Swan in Peterborough was so instantly smitten with her he dropped a trunk on his foot. Two young coxcombs in the taproom of the inn came to blows over which one of them was to open a door for her. And she actually flirted with a complete stranger who blundered into our dining room, which was supposed to be private. Can you imagine the havoc she’d have wrought if we had gone by the mail, as you suggested? I’m thankful that I followed my instincts and came in my own carriage, for it would have been the outside of enough to have had to sit in the mailcoach for two days and watch the other passengers ogling her. In any case, it will be convenient for me to have my own carriage available here in town .
    I have put up here at the Fenton on St. James Street. I’ve been told it is a very fine hotel, but in actuality it is a noisy place with small, cramped rooms containing so many chairs and tables and furnishings that there’s not a bit of bare wall to be seen. And the furniture is so elegantly dainty in design that a man of my size and bulk can approach it only with extreme caution. I sincerely hope the bed is long enough to permit me to stretch out my legs. The mattress is of the overstuffed, feathered kind that I detest, but in my weary state I shall undoubtedly find it passable enough. We shall soon see, for I am headed for it as soon as I write my name. Hoping you keep in good health, I remain yours, etc., Edward .
    He threw the pen aside and sealed the letter, uncomfortably aware of its ill-humored tone. But since he was too tired to attempt to rewrite the message, and since he knew that Lord Lindsay would be eager to learn of his daughter’s safe arrival (even if the letter in which the news was contained was decidedly morose), he rang for the hotel footman and arranged for the note to be dispatched. Then he rummaged in his portmanteau for a nightshirt and quickly

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