A Dash of Scandal(5)

Millicent determined she wouldn’t look at what she had to do as if she were spying on people concerning their personal lives. She wouldn’t think about how her mother would feel if she ever found out Millicent had participated in this scheme.

She was going to look at this as if she were writing a general news column for The Daily Reader. She would find a way to make the column uplifting and never negative if she had any say about the final writings.

As she stepped out the front door an idea struck her that she was sure would be perfect. She would include a little Shakespeare in Lord Truefitt’s column. Everyone loved the master storyteller. That should give a new dimension to the “Society’s Daily Column.”


“Modest doubt is called the beacon of the wise”—just ask any of the Runners of Bow Street. No one is escaping their questioning as they search for the Mad Ton Thief. Dukes, earls, and marquesses are being interrogated like common footpads in the mad dash to catch the elusive thief.

—Lord Truefitt, Society’s Daily Column

It was late in the evening and the large room was not only crowded, it was hot and stuffy with people talking in groups, laughing out loud, and whispering in secret. Millicent had been to many parties where she lived in Nottinghamshire, but she had never been to a party as grand as this. The opulence of the town house, with its crystal chandeliers, gilt fretwork, and carved moldings, was magnificent. Numerous candelabra threw golden shafts of light onto the elegant stairs.

The elaborate trimming and decorations on the colorful clothing the people wore took Millicent’s breath away. She had never seen so much lace, so many feathers, and such large jewels in all her life. The buffet table had been set for a feast. Beautifully arranged silver dishes were heavy with fish, lamb, fowl, and vegetables and fruits of every color and season. The punch and champagne flowed without hindrance.

So this is how members of London High Society live?

Millicent was awed.

The first two hours passed quickly. The Heathecoutes had been wonderful in seeing that she was introduced to the proper people at the soiree. Some of the ladies she met eyed her with reserve while others were quite warm and friendly. She had been introduced to five young men and all of them had immediately asked to sign her dance card. She had already danced with three of them.

True to her word Lady Heathecoute had not let Millicent out of her sight except to dance. Even then, Millicent was certain the woman watched her. The viscountess had remained lovely to Millicent all evening, and she couldn’t help but wonder if Aunt Beatrice was wrong in thinking the lady had wanted to take over writing the tittle-tattle. Millicent had not seen a hint of envy.

Millicent’s mind whirled with all the people she’d seen and met. There was no way she could remember all the names and titles she’d heard until she got home. She would have to make some notes. In order to do that she needed a few moments to herself. She remembered seeing a narrow corridor that seemed to go unnoticed by the people who passed the ballroom on their way to supper. That should be the perfect hideaway for a few minutes alone.

She quickly found the doorway and hurried down the passage, which was dimly lit by a single low-burning wall lamp. Chests, chairs, and tables lined each side of the walls, making it barely possible for one person to maneuver down its length. The stagnant scents of dust, wax, and burned oil tickled her nose. No doubt the furniture had been moved to the hallway to make standing room for the guests.

Little more than halfway down the corridor she saw a large porcelain compote positioned by a tall brass candle stand, and she hurried to hide between the two. Luckily, that put her almost directly under the light.

She quickly untied the ribbon of her dance card and took it off her wrist. Then, using as short abbreviations as she dared, she wrote on the back of the card with the small pencil attached to the ribbon.

Lady H. has eye on Lord Greenfield. Lord Dugdale looking make match this Season. Miss B-well will marry a Terrible Threesome, doesn’t care which. Miss Chipping, unhappy with match father made would rather run away than marry elderly earl.

A shadow fell across Millicent’s paper. Engrossed with her writing, she paid it no mind and adjusted the paper into the pale yellow light again. Within a moment or two, the shadow fell on her card again. Too preoccupied with her writing to look into what caused the light to fade, she turned again toward the brightness. The third time the paper went dark she took notice and looked up with a grimace of annoyance.

Her gaze first landed on a wide chest and straight shoulders covered by a crisp, white shirt that was outlined with a cream-colored brocade waistcoat, and a black evening jacket, all topped off with a perfectly tied neckcloth. The expensive material and fine cut of his clothing told her that the man standing in front of her was no ordinary gentleman.

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