Home > Prudence (The Custard Protocol #1)(10)

Prudence (The Custard Protocol #1)(10)
Author: Gail Carriger

“I hope you learnt something from this,” said her mother, looking a little hopeless.

“Frankly, all I learnt is that I must give up bloomers. Perhaps a short silk underskirt would work better? It’s the tail, you see, it rips the seams.”

“And what on earth has happen to your stays, young lady?”

“Pshaw, Mother. I gave up wearing corsetry years ago. Far too inconvenient. And so old-fashioned.”

“Oh mercy me, how did I not know this? What kind of child have I raised?”

“I got permission!” Rue whined.

Her mother whirled on Dama. “This is what comes of your overindulgence! My daughter prancing around in split bloomers!”

Dama only smiled, his fangs politely tucked away. “My dear sugarplum, be reasonable. I would never allow my daughter to go without proper foundation. It wasn’t me who gave her said permission.”

Rue’s mother threw her head back and yelled at the top of her lungs, “Conall! Get your furry posterior in here post haste!”

Rue giggled. “Paw’s got great hearing but he’s at the Bureau tonight. Even he can’t hear you all the way across London.”

Her mother’s face was all thunderclouds. “Give up stays, indeed! With your figure? To think, you’ve been dancing without support. Lordy, lordy. The uncontrollable wobble of it all! And now bloomers as well?” She turned to Dama as a new possible ally rather than enemy in the matter of her daughter. “My dear lord, how are we to remedy the catastrophe that is my progeny?”

Rue would have none of it. “Mother, it’s done. Besides, why should I obey the bounds of polite dress?”

“Because, infant, you are a proper gentlewoman. The daughter of two lords and a lady. You have standards to maintain.” Her mother was moved to impassioned gesticulation for emphasis. It was the Italian ancestry that did it.

Rue rolled her eyes.

Her mother turned again to Dama. “What are we to do with her?”

“Ah, good, Alexia my gherkin, I’m delighted you brought that question up. I do believe that what our Puggle requires is an occupation.”

Rue’s mother sputtered.

Dama was ready. “Now, now, my dear, cast your mind back some quarter century or so. I do believe you once got into a great deal of trouble yourself, all because you hadn’t an occupation. Now, you are settled into your duties, I have my potentate responsibilities, your husband has BUR, even Rabiffano has his hat shop. Puggle needs the same, don’t you, darling?”

Rue would hardly have put it like that, but since she was keen on the idea of travelling, she nodded, and watched her mother for an adverse reaction.

Whatever incident Dama alluded to seemed to do the necessary because her mother’s imminent boil-over subsided. She twisted her parasol about in her grasp and actually gave the matter serious thought.

She caught Rue’s eye. “I suppose, were you an ordinary child, you’d be married by now. And since you’ve been vampire-raised, people have mostly stopped trying to kill you. I worry, that’s all. What will become of you?”

Rue was touched. “Aw, you actually love me.”

Alexia Maccon scooped her child in closer to her on the couch with one arm and kissed her temple. “Of course I do, infant.”

Rue hid a smile. Sometimes it was too easy. “So, this ball I was at…” Before you get hold of tomorrow’s gossip rags.

“Very well, tell me all. What’s the situation with the tea? What did you do to poor Uncle Rabiffano? And why were you gallivanting about London in your bloomers?”

Of course, poor old Mother became quite agitated all over again at the idea of her precious daughter travelling to India. Although, as Rue pointed out, it was most certainly the countryside. Dama reminded Lady Maccon of her own misspent youth which, much to Rue’s surprise, appeared to include plagues in Scotland, a mad dash across Europe and one ill-advised trip to Egypt. “At least with Puggle here, we can see her well prepared, properly outfitted, and decently dressed.”

“Really, Mother, I had no idea you were so reckless. You seem so very staid.”

“I’ll have you know, infant, I was a madcap adventurer of epic proportions. Not that you should take that as permission, mind you.”

“So you agree I should go to India?”

“What did I just say?”

Rue crossed her arms and glowered, looking rather too much like her Paw for anyone’s comfort level. “I can take care of myself. Did you forget the little fact that I can steal supernatural abilities?” Nothing irritated Rue more than overprotectiveness. Except possibly flat champagne.

“Infant, there are times when there are no vampires or werewolves around. Not to mention daylight hours rendering you powerless. Also, I am not the only preternatural in existence and able to thwart you.”

“I have other skills,” Rue grumbled.

Her mother looked her up and down as if she were a military captain evaluating Rue for a mission. Then she turned back to Dama. Some silent signal passed between her parents. Dama had trained Rue in mysterious ways and Lady Maccon knew of Rue’s theatrical abilities, even if she rarely witnessed them first-hand, and preferred not to think about the ramifications.

“Oh, very well,” Mother capitulated, “but take this. You’ll need it. Very hot in India, I understand.” She handed over her parasol, an ugly if well-meaning gesture.

It was a good thing to have Mother’s approbation, for even Dama hadn’t the persuasive powers to convince the Alpha of the London Pack that his daughter traipsing around the empire was a good idea. Lord Maccon might be firmly wrapped around Rue’s little finger, but when her safety was at stake he could be militant. It would take Mother’s cajoling to bring him on board. Rue had never inquired too closely into her mother’s skills in this arena. Suffice to say that, on those occasions when Lord and Lady Maccon argued most virulently, a pattern inevitably emerged. They disappeared to their private quarters in disagreement and re-appeared in accord, generally to Mother’s way of thinking. Rue’s mother was fond of saying, “I am always right. Sometimes, it simply takes him a little time, flat on his back, to realise this.”

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