Waistcoats & Weaponry Page 21

“Advantageous match, is it?” suggested Felix, the implication being it would take quite a bit to outrank him in worthiness of a carriage. Which was true.

“Indeed it is. Did I not write on it?”

“Little of the particulars. Never you mind, it’s a novel experience, this trap thing. My father tells me that soon such transports will be entirely obsolete, and private steam locomotives the thing.”

“Oh, do you think that likely? They would have to lay tracks practically everywhere.”

“I think our reliance on mechanicals should organically lead to ever more mechanical transport outside the home, don’t you?”

It was a little shocking that a duke’s son should be versed in rural matters and goods transport. “Yes, I suppose that would be efficient. It will be sad to see the countryside so scarred.”

“So said many townships when the railroads were constructed, and now look how far they have taken us. Wouldn’t you rather we had the option, now, for example, of a fast closed conveyance to one’s home?”

“Indeed I should.” Sophronia was disposed not to argue with the boy right off. She was more nervous than she ought to be, at this reacquaintance. She had forgotten how blue Felix’s eyes were. He also had this adorable lock of hair that seemed compelled, in the rain, to fall down over his forehead. Unfortunately, his conversational deviation did not bode well for their relationship, such as it was. When Felix and the boys had traveled with them into London almost a year ago, he had been almost obstreperously intimate with her. His flirting had been blunt to the point of rudeness, designed to unsettle. He had stated outright he intended to court her, even with all the obstacles of family, school affiliation, and politics. This, on the other hand, was an overly proper conversation, as if they were surrounded by polite society, or being monitored by parents.

Perhaps I was right, he really isn’t interested in me anymore. Sophronia nibbled her lip in aggravation. She didn’t realize that little gesture of nervousness did more to endear her to the young man than anything Lady Linette might teach.

“Your family seems most complicated, my dear Ria.”

Well, that was reassuring; he still utilized her pet name. At first she had hated his assumption of affection, but now, uncertain of his interest, she found it comforting. She shifted a little closer to him on the bench of the cart.

“There are an awful lot of us. Eight at last count,” she said.

“Goodness, your mother must be exhausted.”

“So she says, most of the time. Often claiming we will be the death of her. But she can hardly complain. She would keep going having children and most unwisely ended with twins. Silly of her. Should have stopped with me, it would have made a world of difference.”

Felix ruminated. “But then, how much more of a bother, between six and eight?”

Sophronia nodded. “I suspect that was Father’s argument. He seems happiest under a pile of children. Pity, as he works so hard away from home most of the time.”

“He works?”

“Only for the government. He’s home during the hunting season!” Ministry was the only allowable occupation for the gentry, and Sophronia wanted it quite clear that her father was a gentleman. Felix’s family might be on the rolls and extremely toffy-nosed, but there had been Temminnicks in Wiltshire for as long as Felix’s father, the Duke of Golborne, had held his seat, possibly longer. Sophronia’s family did not rank Felix’s, but they were just as old, thank you very much!

“So Ephraim is the eldest?” Felix continued, trying to get her family straight.

“He’s the eldest boy, there’s two sisters above him, Nigella and Octavia. Then another brother after him, that’s Gresham. He’s at Oxford making something of himself. Then comes the horrible Petunia, you’ll meet her right off. She’s still at home and bound to set her cap at you. Then there’s me, I’m the final girl. And after me come the two repulsive younger brothers, Humphrey and Hudibras.”

Felix looked properly gobsmacked. “Quite the mouthful.”

“You should hear what Father named the dogs. Frankly, he goes a little overboard.”

“Gracious me.”

Sophronia giggled. “Ephraim would come home from Oxford on holiday, and Father used to yell for all of us by name, and both beagles, before he got ’round to Ephraim. I expect it’ll be the same with me now that I’ve been away. Nigella’s been married for simply ages and she’s off the recitation completely. Sometimes I think Father doesn’t remember she exists. She netted the rather well-regarded Dr. Chillingsrymple, have you heard of him?”

Felix shook his head so Sophronia prattled on. “Publishes papers on the probable medical effects of aetheric travel.”

Dimity and Pillover were arguing vociferously, as only siblings can, over something utterly inconsequential—like the nature of applesauce. Roger was stolidly facing forward, the road having turned into a bit of river and requiring all his attention. Roger’s companion occasionally glanced back at them, but it was with the attitude of one who checks on packages to ensure they are all still inside the transport. Once or twice, Sophronia suspected him of snorting, but it was impossible to see his face.

Sophronia knew she was talking overmuch, like a real schoolgirl rather than one who was trained to flirt and should know better. But Felix’s constant banalities were making her increasingly nervous. Chattering was Dimity’s trait, but Sophronia seemed to have picked up on it, at least with Felix. He didn’t appear to mind, asking encouraging questions and learning all about her family. He must not have siblings of his own.

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