Lady of Devices - By Shelley Adina Page 0,1

tell me, how on earth do you expect to attract a husband looking like that?”

“She’s trying to impress old Grünwald.” Lady Catherine giggled. “He’s single.”

He was also forty if he was a day, overweight, and his receding hairline perspired when he was under pressure, which was nearly all the time. Besides which, marrying anyone below the rank of baron was out of the question, never mind a man forced to earn his living by teaching the next generation of society’s glittering lights.

Not that these particular glittering lights wanted to be taught anything but how to embroider a handkerchief or pour a cup of tea. Though if there were a class devoted to the art of landing a titled husband, she had no doubt every one of them would sign up for it and never miss a moment. Of course, Lady Julia could probably teach such a class. Rumor had it that as soon as she descended the platform on graduation day next week, Lord Robert Mount-Batting would go down upon one knee on the lawn and propose. Claire rather doubted that rumor had its facts in order. Lady Julia would never miss her presentation at court in two weeks, nor any of the balls and parties to be held in her honor afterward. If there were to be lawns involved, it would probably be the one at Ascot, or the one at Wellesley House, sometime before the shooting season began in August.

Julia, Catherine, and Claire herself were to be presented to Her Majesty during the same Drawing Room. Claire’s imagination shuddered and refused to venture there. Who knew what fresh humiliation those girls could dream up in that most august company?

Finally ridding herself of the maddening crowd, Claire went to Administration and sent a tube containing Professor Grünwald’s request down to the offices of the staff. No point in cleaning herself up or changing her clothes if she was to be doomed to pushing a mop for the next thirty minutes. This benighted school hadn’t the wit to obtain the services of a mother’s helper to take care of the worst of the mess. Armed with a ladder, mops, and buckets, it took her and the two chars the rest of the period to clean the sticky foam off the ceiling, benches, chairs, and floor of the laboratory.

Thank goodness the professor had retired to his office. She was able to laugh at the chars’ comments on his marital prospects with impunity.

After Claire helped them carry the equipment back to the basement, she changed into her spare uniform in the gymnasium dressing room as fast as she could. Still, she arrived at her French class late with half her blouse’s hem sticking out of the waistband of her skirt, much to the amusement of Lady Julia and Gloria.

“Never mind them,” Emilie Fragonard whispered from the desk behind her as she reached forward and tucked in the offending article. “You’re all right now.”

Dear Emilie. Though her friend’s hair was drawn back in an practical braided bun instead of a flattering pompadour, and her spectacles were, in Claire’s opinion, too heavy for her delicate features and hid her fine eyes, she was the soul of kindness. And kindness, heaven knew, was in short supply at St. Cecelia’s.

After class and before the midday meal, Claire and Emilie took refuge in the dappled shade under a grove of trees on the far side of the lawn. Over the ten-foot granite wall that separated the sheltered young ladies from the bustle of London, the rattle of carriages and jingle of harness could be heard on the road, along with the voices of passers-by and the occasional distinctive chug of a new steam landau. When she heard that sound, Claire could hardly contain the urge to run to the gates and stare. They were such fascinating engines, each one different, yet operating under the same marvelous principles.

“Don’t even think about it.” Emilie’s tone told Claire she’d been caught. “Ladies do not gawk after steam landaus or those who drive them.”

“I don’t care about who drives them. I drive one myself. I just like to look at them.”

“You do not. Drive one, I mean.”

“I do indeed. Gorse is teaching me.”

“Claire Elizabeth Trevelyan!” Emilie put a pale hand against the trunk of the largest of the elms for support. “I thought your escapade with the quadricycle was bad enough. You cannot tell me you are actually piloting one of those dangerous things!”

“They’re not dangerous, if you know their proper

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