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Lady Wynwood's Spies 4 vignette - Lady Stoude

This is a really random scene I wrote that occurs in Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 4: Betrayer right after chapter 23, after Keriah returns home and before Phoebe comes to pick her up later that night. The team has finished making all preparations for the trade for Michael at Vauxhall Gardens.

***

“Oh! I have no wish to go to the ball tonight!”

Lady Stoude stood in the open doorway to the drawing room of her husband’s townhouse, hands on hips, with a disgruntled expression that looked faintly like a drowned cat.

Her husband, Jeremy, Lord Stoude, glanced up at her from where he was leaning against the mantle of the fireplace, drinking something amber-colored and peaty-smelling. He merely gave her a mild, inquiring look. “Why not, my dear?”

“I have just heard from my maid, who heard from Mrs. Butterworth’s maid, who heard from Miss Farrimond’s maid, that Miss Farrimond will not attend the ball tonight, because an unfortunate accident with hair dye caused her to now sport a giant brown splotch on her cheek.”

“I thought you detested Miss Farrimond, my dear, because of the terrible insult she gave to Keriah at the soiree few weeks ago—something about Keriah’s dress making her look like a crooked weed.”

“Of course I detest Miss Farrimond,” his lady replied tartly. “And without her at the ball, I would have no one to bully, and so it will be quite boring.”

Jeremy sipped his drink. “You mustn’t bully the young women, my dear. After all, what would happen if you made them cry?”

“I never make them cry. Mostly because they are too unintelligent to be able to understand my insults, and so it flies right over them. But Miss Farrimond is smart enough to know exactly when I am insulting her.” Lady Stoude’s eyes gleamed. “Miss Farrimond is quite ugly when she flushes, and I have been trying to get her to flush to the same color as the beets we ate last week.”

Jeremy cast her a chiding look. “Even with your protectiveness of your sister, you are perhaps being rather cruel to Miss Farrimond.”

“After the way she hurt Keriah by referring to her leg injury—you know how sensitive Keriah is about that—I have no qualms whatsoever in getting in a few good pokes.” She sighed. “The evening will be sadly flat without that entertainment.” Lady Stoude staggered to the sofa and melodramatically cast herself down upon it.

There was a sudden crack of glass, and she sat up, glancing around her, before shuffling her bottom aside to see what she had sat upon. She picked up a reticule, a knitted lace drawstring lined with satin. “Oh dear, I do believe this belongs to Keriah. What was it doing on the couch? I wonder what I have accidentally broken—”

A horrific expression suddenly came over Lady Stoude’s face. She started coughing so violently that her fingers, gripping the front of her dress over her stomach, tore the fabric.

Jeremy smelled the noxious scent only a second later, but he had the presence of mind to hold his breath and rush to open the drawing room windows.

Lady Stoude had collapsed onto the carpet, coughing while trying to crawl toward the window.

Lord Stoude wiped his watering eyes. “Well, this gives you the perfect excuse not to attend the party tonight.”

***

Keriah searched through her bedroom. Where was her reticule? The only thing of importance in it was one extra pouch of tracking chemicals that she had made for Mr. Coulton-Jones. She had forgotten to give it to him, and thought she might instead hand it to Mr. Ackett in case he needed it for… something. It certainly was not an excuse to speak to Mr. Ackett.

She stood in the midst of her bedroom, hands on hips. She really must find her reticule. If the two glass vials were broken and the chemicals mixed together, they formed quite an offensive odor. She would hate it if the glass vials were accidentally broken inside the house ...

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