Petticoat Rebellion

Petticoat Rebellion by Joan Smith Read Free Book Online

Book: Petticoat Rebellion by Joan Smith Read Free Book Online
Authors: Joan Smith
Tags: Regency Romance
mood.
    Lady Susan blinked once and returned her attention to her dinner. Penfel outlined some of the treats in store for them, and the remainder of the meal passed more lightly. Lady Susan was not allowed to collar the conversation again. As she was not much interested in learning about a circus, she ate instead. Kate was making great headway with Lord John. Once Mr. Singleton discovered Miss Kirby was as ignorant as a swan, he relaxed a little and managed a few questions.
    “Ah, er, your papa?”
    Strangely, Annabelle, who could usually misunderstand most things, seemed to understand his cryptic utterances.
    “Kirby’s ale,”she replied. “Are you familiar with it, Mr. Singleton?”
    “Excellent stuff. Prefer it to Whitbread’s.”
    “Really? I shall tell Papa. Are you a teacher like Miss Fairchild?”
    “That’s it.”
    “You must be very smart.”
    “Not pretty, though, like—”
    “No, handsome,”Annabelle said. Singleton turned bright scarlet.
    The gentlemen made short work of their port after dinner while the ladies went abovestairs to remove their jewelry and don their mantles. They were all soon back in the saloon, eager to attend the circus. With three gentlemen escorts, Abbie did not think any harm could befall them. When they left, Lady Susan had a firm grip on Penfel’s right arm, his mama on his left. Lord John offered Kate his arm, and Mr. Singleton, for the first time in his life, had the pleasure of escorting two pretty ladies out the door. Neither of them paid him the least heed. Abbie was too busy admiring Penfel’s manly figure, and Annabelle’s chatter was all about Lord John and Kate.
    “I believe she has a tendre for him,”she said, smiling at such romantical doings. “He is very handsome, is he not, Miss Fairchild?”
    “Very handsome—and very young,”Abbie replied.
    A hum that might have been agreement or its opposite issued from Mr. Singleton’s throat.
    Abbie could not work up much interest in Kate’s romance. As Penfel left, he had cast one rather wistful look in her direction, shrugged as though to say, “What can I do? I have been shanghaied.”Then he said over his shoulder, “We shall have a good coze in the morning—about da Vinci.”But his gleaming eyes did not speak of art.
    She did not think again of her first meeting with him until they were actually at the circus ground, when the women’s tent reminded her of it. He had been in that tent, flirting with the showgirls. He had made a date with one of them for later that same evening. He was a lecher—that was why Lady Eleanor had turned him off.
    Abbie was determined to see those da Vinci cartoons, to copy them if possible, but she must be on her guard against their flirtatious owner, who could say more with his flashing eyes than most gentlemen could say with words. She sensed he had some interest in her, but common sense told her it could be nothing but a flirtation. But why should she not enjoy a flirtation with a handsome lord? Ashis own mama had said, why should gentlemen have all the fun and the ladies have none?
     

Chapter Six
     
    Mr. O’Leary, back in his imitation of an army officer’s uniform, welcomed the audience to O’Leary’s Traveling Circus. The most eager face in the crowd was Lady Penfel’s. Her party had choice seats in the first row of a raised platform that surrounded the central stage. She shrieked in glee when the horses, decked out in head feathers and gilded saddles, were trotted out and performed their tricks. The clowns, the dancing dogs, the bear who balanced a ball on the end of his nose—all were equally enjoyable to this indiscriminating lady, and indeed to her guests, for at Miss Slatkin’s an evening out meant a dull concert of antique music or a lecture on history, philosophy, or morals. The dancing girls were particularly enjoyed by the gentlemen.
    “I could do that!”Kate boasted, as the girls undulated to the accompaniment of violin and drum.
    Lady Susan stared

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