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CHAPTER TWO — AGEING SPINSTER




"If I catch you with that wretched gossip sheet one more time, I will–" Edith D'Alessio's scolding fell short. She exhaled heavily, choosing not to finish her sentence. "Never mind. Hand it to me, Emilia."

"You shall have to pry it from my cold, dead hands, mother" Emilia responded, refusing to tear her eyes away from the parchment. "It is the best entertainment I've had since I arrived. No offence, of course."

"You should not be indulging in such poison." Edith scowled. "It's not good for you to read such horrible words about yourself."

"Honestly, I found it rather amus–" Emilia was interrupted by Edith viciously snatching the sheet from her hand. "Mother!" She gasped. "I was in the middle of reading! Did you know that Daphne has been named the incomparable of the season?" 

"There will be no more Lady Whistledown," Edith told her, a stern finger pointed in her eldest daughter's direction. "Tonight is Lady Danbury's ball. The first of the season. Your sister will be making her debut. Nothing, and I mean nothing, shall spoil her day."

"It is not me you should worry about," Emilia said. "Father and Leo are desperate to have my dear sister married. It is them you should be wary of."

"I am sure they will find a suitable match," Edith replied, discarding the gossip column on the dressing table.

"Do you really believe that?"

Edith's thin brows drew together as she turned back to Emilia. "Are you questioning me?"

"Yes, I thought that much were obvious."

Edith's eyes narrowed. "Do not take that tone with me."

"Apologies. I am just a little hesitant to believe that father and Leo have Gabi's best interests at heart," Emilia said. "And I would simply hate for her to marry a monster."

"Well, we may not have much choice in the matter," Edith muttered. "You'll do very well to stay out of such affairs, Emilia. It will make the season much...smoother, shall we say?"

"Mother, could you honestly live with yourself if you let her marry a...I don't know, Nigel Berbrooke for instance," Emilia hypothesised, the man's very name causing a shiver to run along her spine. Goodness, what an awful thought. The lovely Gabrielle married to that awful excuse of a man? Emilia would rather die than let that happen. "Heaven forbid."

"Nigel Berbrooke is..." Edith paused to choose her words carefully. "A respectable gentleman."

Emilia looked at her questioningly. "I fear we are not speaking of the same Nigel Berbrooke here."

Edith released an exasperated breath. "Emilia, you simply cannot spend the whole evening doing this. You will chase away suitors in an instant."

"Good," she said. "That is the plan."

"Emilia–"

"If they truly cared about Gabrielle, and were worthy men, then they would stay, wouldn't they?" She pointed out. "Well, either that or we'll later find out they are desperate for our family's money."

Edith brought her fingers towards her temples. "Must you always be so cynical?"

"You will be thanking me for my cynicism when I ensure Gabrielle is married to a respectable gentleman." Emilia remained undeterred by her mother's criticisms. "If you recall, I have friends in very high places. I'm sure we will be able to distinguish the good from the bad."

"Do not involve your friends in such meddling," Edith warned. "In fact, you should do your best not to consort as much with the Bridgerton sons during these balls. It will stop men from approaching you."

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