The Duchess (Montgomery/Taggert 16) - Page 59

Claire looked down at the mug. “Yesterday my little sister said the oddest thing about Harry.” Even as she said this, she knew she must be getting drunk or she’d never tell anyone this. Brat was always saying the most dreadful things about people. Sometimes her family met perfectly nice people, yet Brat would later say a person was evil or some such nonsense. Of course, it was eerie how often she turned out to be right.

“What did your sister say?”

“She said, ‘You’ll never have any control over Harry or influence over him. Three months after you’re married Harry won’t even know you’re alive. He’ll see that you have two children, an heir and a spare, then he’ll go his own way. He’ll be sweet and good to you, but he’ll never interest you. You’re much too smart in a stupid sort of way. You have to be smart like me and go after what you want.’”

“How old is this sister of yours?”

“Fourteen, I think. Maybe she’s forty.”

Angus nodded and poured himself some whisky. “And what of the other one?”

“What other one?” she said, but she knew exactly who he was talking about.

“The other boy. The dark one. The one that brought you here.”

“Oh,” she said slowly. “Trevelyan.”

“Aye, that one.” He watched as she seemed to be struggling to figure out what to say. “The explorer one.”

“You know?”

“I know that much. Tell me w

hat he’s done to anger you.”

“I thought he was my friend,” she began, then started to talk. Trevelyan had been the one person in the house who would talk to her. “We talked about everything. I could tell him anything. I told him things I’ve never told anyone and he always understood. He never—” She stopped because, even as mellow as the whisky was making her feel, she didn’t want to sound disloyal to Harry. She loved Harry.

“He was writing down everything that I said. He was studying me,” she said. “He wanted to put me in one of his damned—oh, sorry—books. I’m not a subject for study. I’m just a woman, and Captain Baker can—”

“I thought you called him Trevelyan.”

“I did. I mean, I do. That’s his family name. But he is Captain Baker. Do you know of all the things he’s done?”

Angus looked at her. When she’d come in, her face had been distorted with anguish, but now her eyes were gleaming. “Nay, I know nothing. Why don’t you tell me what he’s done?”

Claire took another sip of the whisky and started telling about one of her favorite subjects in the world: Captain Frank Baker. She told of his trips to Africa, to the world of Arabia. She explained about his being a Master Sufi. She told of the languages he could speak. “He can master any language in two months.”

She told how he wrote when he was ill. She told of the chances he had taken in his life and what he had learned from what he had done. “Over the centuries whole civilizations have disappeared, like the…like the Babylonians.” She was pointing her mug at Angus. “We don’t know much about the Babylonians, because there was no Captain Baker then. There was no brilliant, brave man to go into the country and observe it and write about it as he has done.”

“Doesn’t sound real to me. He sounds more like a myth.”

“Maybe he is,” she said. “I don’t know. I don’t think he’s a real man.” She looked up at Angus. “I can’t imagine Captain Baker’s mother telling his future wife that he can or cannot eat peas with squab. I doubt that Captain Baker had a mother.”

“I think he did,” Angus said softly.

“I bet she died when he was born and he raised himself.” She drained the last of the whisky then looked at the mug. “What in the world am I going to do?” She looked up at Angus and the anguish on her face was back again. “The way I see it I have two choices: I can marry Harry and live under his mother’s rule. That means that every aspect of my life will be decided by her. I will end up like her poor daughter, holed up in a room, never allowed out, with a few books chosen by Her Grace. I wonder if she will even allow me to see my own children?”

“And the second choice?”

Claire was silent for a moment. “I could break my engagement to Harry.”

“Would that hurt you? Do you love the lad so very much?”

“If I do not marry a man of whom my parents approve I will not receive my grandfather’s money.” She went on to explain, telling him about her grandfather, her parents having spent ten million dollars each, and about her sister having no money at all.

It took Angus, who had difficulty understanding how much money a hundred pounds was, a while to recover at hearing such numbers. “Ten million dollars. And how many pounds would that be?”

“Probably about two million, I guess.”

Tags: Jude Deveraux Montgomery/Taggert Historical
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