Letters to a Lady

Letters to a Lady by Joan Smith Read Free Book Online

Book: Letters to a Lady by Joan Smith Read Free Book Online
Authors: Joan Smith
Tags: Regency Romance
Harrup Hall.
    At ten she went and told Peabody what was expected of them. “Harrup said to take opera glasses. The ladies’ balcony must be up under the eaves. Oh, and he said to give you this money. Your ten pounds and a little gift.”
    Peabody’s face was wreathed in smiles when she peeked into the envelope. “Dear Chuggie—so generous. I knew how it would be. He told me when he came to see me that you would tell me what we are to do. He was in a great rush, but he found time to say hello before leaving. Agnes and Stoker were shocked. And he won’t hear of our going to a hotel, you say. Just like him.”
    Diana showed all the astonishment the occasion demanded, but her smile was for her own triumph. He had taken her advice, after all. “We’re taking his carriage,” Diana said.
    It didn’t seem possible Peabody’s smile could grow broader, but it did. “He thinks of everything,” she said.
    Diana didn’t bother telling her chaperon how the carriage came to be offered. “After we go to the Upper House, let us call on Ronald. Harrup said we could invite him here, but I wrote him last night that we’d call at his hotel, so we’ll do it.”
    “Invite Ronald here? So obliging!” she cooed.
    Peabody had many compliments on Harrup’s chaise as they spun along to Parliament. “How smoothly it glides. Exceptionally well sprung.” Neither lady mentioned that the superior roads of London might have anything to do with it.
    Peabody’s more customary voice of complaint did not arise till she viewed the staircase to the visitors’ gallery at Westminster. “I’m not at all sure I can tackle that climb, Diana. My knees always seize upon me when I travel. It’s the wind seeping into the carriage that does the mischief. Your papa’s carriage, I mean. Had it not been for Harrup’s excellent goosefeather tick, I wouldn’t have got a wink of sleep.”
    “Lean on my arm,” Diana said, and began hauling her chaperon up the long, narrow flight.
    The visitors’ gallery was deserted at that early hour of the day, as were most of the seats in the House of Lords. The ladies looked down with interest at the chamber of the House, to see where the country’s business was transacted. The monarch’s empty throne was scanned by Peabody’s glasses. In front of it sat the lord chancellor on his red woolsack, wearing a great gray wig. Rows of benches upholstered in scarlet rose in tiers on either side of the rectangular room.
    “So this is where they keep raising our taxes,” Peabody said. “Very grand, I’m sure. Where is Chuggie sitting?”
    He was discovered bent over his desk, and Peabody smiled as proudly as though he were the fruit of her own womb.
    “Harrup suspects the thief was a Whig. He should be sitting on the lord chancellor’s left side,” Diana informed her.
    Within five minute Peabody had run the opera glasses over the slender gathering and informed Diana that the villain was not present. As she spoke, two more robed gentlemen entered and took up their positions. Peabody studied them carefully but didn’t recognize either one.
    “Try the other side,” Diana suggested.
    Their villain was not to be seen there, either, but gentlemen kept straggling in, so the ladies sat on, carefully observing each newcomer. A very tedious morning was spent in this fruitless manner. At a quarter to twelve, Peabody could take no more.
    “He’s not here,” she said. “I cannot sit in this stifling, airless little attic a moment longer, Diana. My ears are buzzing. Let us go and see Ronald.”
    “Very well, but I should send a note around to Harrup’s office first. I told him I would.”
    She wrote her note and went in search of either Harrup’s office or someone to deliver the note for her. In a corridor they met a page boy. Diana was just handing him her note when she felt a tugging on her elbow. Turning, she saw Peabody’s jaw clenched in alarm. Her chaperon was ducking her head to remain unseen, and her finger

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