Maggie MacKeever

Maggie MacKeever by Bachelors Fare

Book: Maggie MacKeever by Bachelors Fare Read Free Book Online
Authors: Bachelors Fare
planted in his own flowerbeds. So much, too, for Madame le Best’s promise that Thea’s new gown would make gentlemen’s eyes start right out of their heads.
    Madame’s promise had not pertained to Vivien, Thea recalled. She looked at her cousin Malcolm, currently responding irreverently to an on-dit that, following the opening of Parliament, the Prince Regent’s carriage window had been shot out. Did Malcolm take nothing seriously? she wondered. He caught her glance and smiled. Evening wear suited him, decided Thea. Malcolm looked very handsome in his frilled shirt and knee breeches and long-tailed coat. For that matter, so did Vivien. Fancy dress suited the Davenants—with the exception of herself.
    It came to Lord Davenham’s notice that his companion was exhibiting no measurable excitement in response to his generously offered reading list. He concentrated on his wife.
    Thea was unhappily studying her reflection in the chimney glass. As Vivien watched, she surreptitiously tugged up her low-cut neckline. And so she should! privately thought his lordship; or at least temper nature’s bounty with a discreetly arranged shawl. Not that his lordship had the least objection to said display, save that it made concentration on anything else deuced difficult. Gentlemen and scholar though he might be, Lord Davenham was also very much a Davenant. It was not ice water that coursed through his veins. “I wish you would stop fidgeting with your dress!” he therefore remarked. “It makes it deuced difficult to concentrate.”
    “It does?” Slightly cheered by this intimation that her new gown was not entirely without effect, Thea awarded her reflection another doubtful glance. Assuredly she did not look dowdy, she decided. She was less certain that she did not resemble Haymarket-ware.
    Her gown was fashioned of light delicate cream-colored silk gauze embroidered with flower sprays, worn over a satin slip of bluish-pink. The bodice was cut very low over the shoulders, the neck in a deep V;
    the short sleeves were held up by a narrow satin band; the wide skirts were deeply flounced and trimmed with a profusion of open-work embroidery, in Vandykes and scallops, alternating with puffings and pipings and insertions. In itself, the gown was an admirable display of Madame le Best’s talents. On Lady Davenham, the gown became a showcase for bounty unequaled elsewhere in the room. Lord Davenham was not the only gentleman who had glanced with fascination upon Thea’s décolletage. Thea was unaware of this, of course. Thea’s awareness was blunted by her dissatisfaction with life in general, with herself, and especially with her dress.
    With it she wore long gloves of white kid with ruching around the top, and round-toed evening shoes with rosettes. Her dark hair had been released from its severe braid to cascade in ringlets from the crown of her head to her neck. Set amid that profusion of curls was a pearl-studded bandeau. Around her neck was a string of perfectly matched pearls. “You have not answered me,” she complained, turning from the glass. Lord Davenham’s expression was contemplative. “And if you say one more word to me about seed plows, Vivien, I think I shall scream!”
    Lord Davenham was too tactful to explain that his thoughts had fondly dwelt not upon seed plows, but instead his wife’s lush person. “As you wish, my dear. What would you like to talk about?”
    As is the usual way with people asked this question, Lady Davenham’s response, was to look blank. “Tell me, Vivien,” she said after a long pause. “Do you like this gown?”
    What Lord Davenham would have liked to do with his wife’s gown was immediately remove it, an impulse prompted by no consideration whatsoever of his responsibilities as head of the Davenant clan. “It’s very nice, my dear,” he diplomatically said.
    Whatever adjectives might be applied to her gown, “nice” was not among them, decided Thea, who had turned away from

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