I opened the card and began reading it aloud. “My Dear Miss Delacourt -“
“Ooh, he called you his dear Miss Delacourt!”
I glared at Isabelle over the card. “Do you want me to read this or not?”
“Sorry, sorry. I’ll be quiet as a mouse. Do continue.”
I cleared my throat and started over, trying to ignore the many squeaks and sighs of the “mouse” as I read. “My Dear Miss Delacourt, it was a distinct pleasure meeting you last night. Your beauty is equal only to your charm. I hope I have the pleasure of meeting you again soon. Yours Very Truly, Viscount Henry William Cardet Beauchamps Dubois.”
“How many names can one man have, dear God?” Candace exclaimed as I finished, and both Isabelle and I succumbed into fits of laughter.
This was the tableau that Lady Huxtable encountered when she reentered the room. She didn’t say a word – she didn’t have to. Her eyes said it all. Our laughter quickly died and both Isabelle and Candace scurried out of the room, leaving me alone with the “dragon.”
I gulped. “Begin what, Louisa?” Louisa was my guardian’s name, and I normally felt quite comfortable using it with her, but now I felt as though a stranger were standing in front of me, and saying her name seemed somehow strange, as if I was trespassing onto private property.
My guardian began pacing, which was really uncharacteristic of her. She said in an exasperated tone, “Begin at the beginning, child! Tell me why I had to come home to find a man in my ward’s own chamber! I thought I had raised you better, I thought for sure I was doing right by your mother and father. Where did I go wrong?”
She put her head into her hands, stray strands of black hair coming down from her chignon. I gaped at her. Were today’s strange events the hallucinatory product of my fever?
She looked up at me again, dark eyes fiery. I quailed against my pillows. “Please – tell – me – you – are – still – untouched.” Her words came out slowly but deliberately, like well-aimed arrows. I blinked, not understanding her meaning.