Today's Reading

It would seem, however, that there were other ladies who were not so careful. Still, those letters were not Rosalind's business. She was here for the white and sepia cameo that was a portrait of Mrs. Devery's grandmother, framed in gold and tiny diamonds.

Before she began to plot her entry into the club, Rosalind had visited Mrs. Devery's jeweler. That careful artisan had kept the description and pattern of the cameo. Many ladies had copies of their jewels made so that the originals could be stored for safekeeping, or sold without their families being the wiser. The jeweler was quite happy to duplicate the cameo in paste and resin, and did not demur at the alterations Rosalind requested.

Now Rosalind claimed the original cameo and, in its place, dropped the copy from her work bag into the drawer. She looked again at the packets of correspondence, and hesitated. Then, she took up the letters and tucked them away as well. She closed the drawer. There would be no way to relock it, but that could not be helped. Hopefully, Mr. Fullerton would think his thief had just been after the letters, and not consider the jewels left behind.

There. Done. As long as she could manage her exit.

Rosalind slipped once more into the hallway. She strained her ears for the sounds of bells or the cry of the watch for some indication as to the time, but heard neither. It was a far different sound that broke the cool silence.

"You there!" The woman's voice stopped Rosalind in her tracks. "Come here and help me fix this thing!"

Rosalind stood paralyzed for a handful of frantic heartbeats before she gathered herself. It was not the command that held her frozen. It was that she recognized the woman's voice.

Charlotte? she thought, but immediately caught herself. No. It is not possible.

"I must get my mistress her wrap," she murmured without turning around.

"Never mind your mistress. Come and help me."

No. It is not her. This voice is too low. The accents are wrong.

Rosalind turned to face the woman who stood at the top of the stairs. The flickering torchlight glimmered on a dress of pale silk and netting. In one hand, the woman held a swath of gauze that had clearly been torn at the shoulder.

Rosalind gathered her nerve, but her answer was cut off by the sound of footsteps on the stairs.

"There you are, my dear Cynthia!" A slim man with his hair swept back from his forehead trotted up the stairs. "I thought I'd lost you!"

"Ferdinand!" The woman in silver turned at once. Rosalind was so quickly dismissed from all consideration, she might as well have dropped through the floor.

"You frightened me. Feel how my heart beats!" The woman lifted the man's hand to her breast and laid it there.

Rosalind dropped her gaze. She knew she should retire. If she had been a real servant, she would have known how to retreat and where the back stairs were located. But she was not, and these two blocked
her only exit.

"Ah, a thousand curses upon me as a fool," murmured Ferdinand, stepping closer to the woman, and lacing his arm tightly through hers. "Come, let me find you some champagne. You will drink until you are quite calm again."

"But my dress!" The woman pulled the torn gauze from her shoulder. "I cannot be seen like this."

Tenderly, the man took the netting and draped it around her throat, arranging it with great care. "Then I shall take you where you cannot be seen."

The woman lifted her face to his. They linked arms at once and hurried down the corridor, away from the stairs, and Rosalind, leaving her alone, forgotten, and entirely safe from all risk of exposure.

This fact barely touched her. In her mind Rosalind was miles and years away. She stood in another darkened hallway, watching another young woman—slimmer, more plainly dressed—run through another
door. Despair, confusion, and betrayal washed through Rosalind, as clear and sharp as if she were still a girl, on the night when she watched her sister, Charlotte, disappear.
...

What our readers think...

Contact Us Anytime!

Facebook | Twitter