Maggie MacKeever

Maggie MacKeever by The Baroness of Bow Street

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Authors: The Baroness of Bow Street
you won’t make the introduction. Even if I wished to secure your removal from this place, I could not.”
    “Pah!” retorted Leda. “If you wished, you could gain the release of every prisoner here, but I doubt even your rakehell husband would care to see you pay Prinny’s price! Never mind, I shan’t hold it against you, though I’d give a great deal to know what’s going through your scheming little brain.” She paused, but the Baroness said nothing. “How is Max? What a handsome devil he was, with that Mephistophelean smile.”
    “He still is. Bat is just now in Paris, taking opium with Madame de Stäel—you will recall that she was denounced on the floor of the Convention for conducting a monarchist conspiracy while cuckolding her husband? Society frowns upon a woman who thinks herself as free as a man to sample romance!—and enjoying the conversation at La Recamier’s salon. She is a virtuous woman, Bat reports, and a lovely one. Do stop trying to throw dust in my eyes! I am perfectly aware that you are willing to hang rather than implicate Viscount Jeffries in your somewhat scurrilous activities. It won’t serve. With each moment of your silence, Ivor becomes more deeply involved. If you do not make an effort to help him and yourself, the pair of you will dangle from the deadly Never-Green.”
    Leda leaned back in her chair, a genteel and rosy-cheeked figure in her old black gown. “We’ve come a long way, have we not?” she said. “I remember when you first appeared in Society, to such good effect that the rest of us might have been antidotes. It wasn’t long before the whole world discovered that you, a green girl from the country, had already ensnared the devilish Max. You must have broken half the hearts in London between the two of you.”
    “Not yours, Leda,” said the Baroness.
    “No, not mine. I’d already made my choice. Worse luck, I married him. But that’s all water under the bridge.” Leda folded her hands in her lap. “Why would you wish to help me, Dulcie Bligh? What can you know of this damnable fix I’m in, you with your jewels and your bold Baron, your excesses and your intrigues? I daresay you’ve never wanted for anything in your lifetime.”
    “True,” said Dulcie calmly. “Which is precisely why I’m here. Your predicament is the perfect antidote to any possibility of my becoming bored. No more distractions, I beg you! If you do not mean to cooperate, tell me so, and cease wasting precious time.”
    Leda twisted a loose strand of hair around one finger in a curiously girlish way. “Very well. I suppose I must trust you. Ask your questions, since you’re so determined. I’ll tell you what you want to know.”
    Lady Bligh propped her elbows on the table and cupped her forceful chin. “There is a rumor that you claim to have been elsewhere at the time Warwick was killed. I suggest you tell me the name of the person you were with.” Leda wore an obstinate look. “Warwick’s valet is prepared to go into the witness-box and give oath that it was you who killed his master! Can you imagine the repercussions were you to hang?”
    “Mary Elphinstone,” said Leda sourly. “I doubt you will remember her, for Mary was as timid and insignificant a chit as ever appeared in Society. However, she once rendered me a small service and I am in the habit of occasionally visiting her. She lives in greatly reduced circumstances now, in a small cottage near the Ratcliffe Highway.”
    “You are a wretched liar, Leda!” Frowning, Dulcie rose. “And a very foolish one. Would it have been so terrible if your timid Mary revealed your secrets?”
    Leda grasped the wine bottle as if she meant to hurl it at her visitor. “How the devil did you guess that, Dulcie? Just how much do you know?”
    “A great deal,” replied the Baroness, “and a great deal less than I would like. This is a pretty kettle of fish you’ve landed yourself in, Leda. I don’t like the appearance of things

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