Waistcoats & Weaponry Page 7

With her injured arm, Sophronia reached for her chatelaine and the small bottle of perfume dangling there, the one they were instructed to carry at all times. She used to stock rose oil, but an incident during her debut had left her with a marked preference for lemon-infused tinctures in a metal flask with snap-top lid.

With Preshea distracted by the wickedly darting fan, Sophronia poured out a quantity of the perfumed alcohol with, and into, her free hand. Then she flicked the liquid into Preshea’s eyes.

The girl squealed and stumbled back, straight into the stream, landing on her bottom with a splash. Her beautiful skirts poufed out around her before sagging as they absorbed the muddy water. The skirts—a rich purple color, in a modern petal cut—looked remarkably like a water lily before they deflated. Afterward, the dress looked more like a wrinkled old prune.

There was a round of giggles and some gloved applause from their fellow students.

Being a true gentleman, Captain Niall went into the stream to offer Preshea a hand up.

“Now, Miss Buss, bloodthirstiness is all well and good, but you ought to have stopped the moment you bloodied Miss Temminnick. First blood always ends a duel.”

Preshea pouted prettily and offered no excuse, although she eagerly accepted his assistance.

The werewolf turned to Sophronia. “Miss Temminnick, commendable defense. You are to be applauded for not buckling under the pain. Now let Lady Kingair see to your injury. Lady Kingair?”

Of course, Captain Niall would suppose that Sidheag had knowledge of wounds, being the child of a werewolf pack. But Sidheag was not there.

Captain Niall’s boyish face looked older when he frowned. “Where is Lady Kingair? It’s not like her to miss my class. Miss Woosmoss?”

Agatha looked panicked by the direct attention of the teacher.

“Called away by Professor Lefoux,” said Sophronia, gritting her teeth at the pain, which, now that she’d stopped running about with a fan, was quite intense. “She had a pigeon.”

Captain Niall continued to frown. “A pigeon? We shall see about that. Miss Woosmoss, perhaps you would wrap Miss Temminnick’s arm? I think you are not the type to faint.”

Agatha nodded, colored, and shook her head, trying to respond to both statements without actually saying anything.

“Good girl.”

Sophronia, feeling weak, sat down abruptly on the mossy bank, despite the inevitable damage to her own skirts. Oh, well, her dress was probably ruined anyway; blood was near to impossible to get out of silk.

Agatha squeaked and ran over to her.

Rather callously, Captain Niall continued with class. “Ladies! What did we learn from Miss Temminnick’s tactics?”

“She used the terrain to her advantage,” said one.

“Exactly so, obstacles are not always a detriment. What else?”

“Uh, sir,” came a timid voice. “It’s Dimity, sir. She’s fainted.”

Captain Niall, well used to Dimity, since his classes were the ones most likely to produce blood, said only, “Apply the smelling salts to the silly chit, do.”

He turned back to Sophronia. “The arm?”

“I’ll do,” said Sophronia, although the pain was, if possible, more intense under Agatha’s ministrations. The redhead had dipped her handkerchief into the creek and was patting clumsily at the gash.

Sophronia realized why the werewolf was keeping his distance and acting so uncaring. She explained in a low voice to Agatha, “He won’t come check. My blood probably smells too tasty.”

Agatha blanched and looked with wide eyes at their teacher, whose general attitude and demeanor were not significantly different from normal. He was very good at putting on a front. They had learned from Sidheag that this was also a sign of age in werewolves.

Sophronia said to Agatha, “Why not apply some of my lemon tincture? Sister Mattie always says alcohol helps clean cuts, and the lemon scent will hide the smell of my blood.”

Agatha reached for the little bottle hanging from Sophronia’s waist. Since she hadn’t recapped it during the fight, most of it had sloshed out, but there was enough left to pour over the wound. Agatha then wrapped Sophronia’s arm with her handkerchief.

“All good, Captain Niall,” said Sophronia as Agatha helped her to stand.

The werewolf sniffed and then raised both eyebrows. “Goodness, I can’t even smell… Miss Woosmoss, what did you do?”

Agatha said tremulously, “Sophronia’s idea, sir. We used her perfume to clean the wound and modify the scent.”

Captain Niall came over. “Remarkable.” He turned back to the other girls. “Now, who would like to duel next? Keeping the leather guards on this time, please.”

Sophronia retreated up the bank to sit next to Dimity, who was coming ’round.

“What did I miss?” Dimity sat up, patting at her bonnet to check the straw for injury.

“Oh, nothing much, I dumped Preshea in the river.” Sophronia gestured to where Preshea stood, bedraggled and shivering in a shawl, surrounded by solicitous girls.

“Oh, bother. That’s your best so far.”

Sophronia grinned. “You know, I might agree with you there.” She looked down at the fan she still held in her good hand. “I believe I may have to get myself one of these. Do you think they are available on Bond Street or will I have to special order?”

“You will have to order several in different colors to match all your outfits,” said Dimity with conviction. She was always serious about the fashionable side of matters deadly.

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