Ghosts of Winter

Ghosts of Winter by Rebecca S. Buck

Book: Ghosts of Winter by Rebecca S. Buck Read Free Book Online
Authors: Rebecca S. Buck
your gown yourself. It is so…unusual.” Mrs. Richmond made the word unusual sound like the worst possible condemnation.
    “You wonder perhaps, Mrs. Richmond, why I should choose to dress in this fashion?”
    “Yes, Miss Greville, I confess I do.” Catherine flushed with embarrassment at her mother’s tone but turned her gaze towards Maeve, curious as to what her explanation would be. It was impossible not to be impressed by how undaunted Maeve was by Kitty Richmond’s disapproval.
    “I dislike fashion,” Maeve said simply, at first. She smiled slightly and then enlightened them further. “Corsets and crinolines are so dishonest. They make all of us women into liars. Uncomfortable liars.” Her tone was conspiratorial, as though she expected Catherine and her mother to agree with her. Catherine looked into her hazel eyes and knew she would agree with every word Maeve uttered, even if she declared the sky to be green and the grass blue. However, her mother was clearly not at all impressed.
    “You think us dishonest, Miss Greville?” she enquired coldly.
    “No, Mrs. Richmond, I don’t mean any offence to be taken. I simply think the demands of high fashion are rather more than any woman should be asked to bear. What, after all, is wrong with the female form that we should have to constrict it here and accentuate it there, beyond all natural proportions? Nor do we need excessive decoration, which, after all, detracts from our God-given beauty.”
    “These are highly unusual opinions you hold with, Miss Greville,” Catherine’s mother said with as much politeness as she could muster, which was not a great deal.
    “Not so unusual amongst many of my acquaintance, Mrs. Richmond,” Maeve replied evenly. “I suppose it depends upon which circles you move in, does it not?”
    “Yes. I cannot imagine yours is a very large circle.” Kitty Richmond’s tone was biting now.
    “Larger than you would expect. There are many artists and poets who think in a very similar way to me.”
    “It sounds so fascinating,” Catherine said dreamily, picturing such a world of art, and revolutionary views, and poetry. Everyone in that world—men and women both—would be as beautiful as Maeve. They would dress naturally as she did and spend their days composing poetry, or in fierce debates, while others painted their lives away, fingers constantly smeared with oils, little regard paid to the smudges on their clothes and noses.
    “Nonsense, Catherine,” Mrs. Richmond snapped sharply, breaking into Catherine’s reverie. Her mother composed her features into a serene smile once again. “I mean, these things are all well and good for someone like Miss Greville, but they’d never suit a girl like you.”
    Catherine’s face flushed. To be spoken to like a child in front of Maeve was mortifying. She sipped her tea in silence, her blood on fire as she had never felt it before. She looked at her mother and fury stoked the flames, but when she turned her gaze instead on Maeve, searching for relief, the burning simply grew worse.
    Mrs. Richmond brought tea to a close rather earlier than was usual and withdrew to her chamber hurriedly, claiming the onset of a headache. As Maeve prepared to leave, Catherine followed her through the hallway and to the door. “You will come back, won’t you?”
    Maeve turned and took Catherine’s hand in cool fingers. Catherine felt frozen to the spot under her touch. “Dear Catherine. I don’t think your mother will like that.”
    “For me,” Catherine said, knowing she sounded quite ridiculous but somehow unable to help herself. “You must come here as my guest and visit me. We can walk in the park perhaps—mother won’t even know you’re here.” She could barely believe she’d suggested such deceit, but could not bring herself to retract the suggestion once it had been spoken.
    “You would keep me as your secret?” Maeve said, raising her eyebrows.
    Catherine blushed and looked at the

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