Home > The Summer Bride (Chance Sisters #4)

The Summer Bride (Chance Sisters #4)
Author: Anne Gracie


 

Chapter One

 


It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.

   —JANE AUSTEN, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY


London March 1817

   “I can make anyfing out of anyfing, but even I can’t make a silk purse out of a bloomin’ sow’s ear!” Daisy Chance declared. “I was born in the gutter, raised in an ’orehouse and I got a gimpy leg. I don’t look like a lady or speak like a lady and I ain’t never gunna be a lady, so what’s the point of—”

   Lady Beatrice cut her off. “Nonsense! You can do anything you set your mind to!”

   Daisy rolled her eyes. “Maybe, but I don’t want to be a lady! I want to be a dressmaker—and not just any dressmaker. I aim to become the most fashionable modiste in London—fashion to the top nobs.”

   The old lady shrugged. “No reason why you can’t be a modiste and a lady.”

   Daisy stared at the old lady incredulously. “You don’t have no idea, do you? What it’s gunna take—”

   “Any idea. It’s any idea.”

   Daisy rolled her eyes. “Work, that’s what it takes—hard work, never-endin’ work. I’m workin’ every hour God sends as it is, and even so I’m barely managin’. There ain’t no time for me to prance around pretendin’ to be a lady!”

   “You are a lady!”

   Daisy snorted, and Lady Beatrice went on, “Your entire nature declares it. Inside, you are a lady, Daisy—loyal, loving, honest, sensitive to others’ needs—all we have to do is teach you to be ladylike on the outside as well!”

   “Bugger that,” said the budding lady. “Apart from the fact I ain’t got time for all that, the thing is I don’t care about it. And there’s no point! All the lessons in the world ain’t goin’ to make me the kind of lady that Abby or Jane or Damaris is. They was born with lovely manners and a sweet way of speakin’—I was born in the gutter and brung up rough.”

   “Brought up not brung, and they were born not was. But that is immaterial—”

   “No it’s not. I’ve got a chance now—thanks to you and Abby and the girls—to make somef-something of meself.”

   “Yes, a lady.”

   “No, a modiste, wiv a shop of me own. I want to dress fine ladies, not ape them.”

   Lady Beatrice drew herself up stiffly. “With me conducting your lessons, there is no question of aping anyone—and please do not use such a vulgar expression!”

   “Yeah, well, I’m from the vulgar classes, me, and I call a spade a bloomin’ spade, but if that’s too blunt for you, I’ll say it different—I ain’t a lady and I don’t like fakery.”

   “Says the girl living in my house under a false name,” the old lady said with a sweetly sanctimonious air. “And presumably planning to open her business under that same false name.”

   Daisy gaped. “You can say that? You, who’s told more lies about us than anyone? Who invented her own false half sister—and made her a bastard, eh? Who claimed us as her nieces when we weren’t no such thing? Who made up the whole piece of nonsense about Venice? Who—” She broke off. The old lady was chuckling. She was proud of her lies.

   Daisy said with dignity, “You know dam—perfectly well I only went along with the Chance surname for Abby and Jane’s sake—they was in danger.”

   Lady Beatrice shrugged. “They were. Nevertheless, you still call yourself Daisy Chance instead of—what was your surname, anyway?”

   “Smith. But that was just a surname somebody picked out of a hat. I’m a foundling, never known me mum or dad, so me real name is anyone’s guess.”

   “You’re getting off the point,” Lady Beatrice said. “All the other gels will be gathering upstairs tomorrow afternoon and I want you there as well.”

   “I thought they wa—were finished with all that, now the Season has started.”

   The old lady waved her hand dismissively. “They require further polish. The gentle art of social intercourse—conversation, dancing and deportment—does not come naturally to all ladies, and Jane has a tendency to romp, rather than dance. So, you will come.” It was an order, but there was the faintest note of uncertainty in her voice.

   Daisy pounced on it. “No, I got too much work to do now to waste any more time on social flimflam.” Daisy had found the lessons about conversation and deportment interesting enough, and she figured the curtsying might come in useful for her business, but that was enough. Besides, Lady Bea kept going on about her learning to dance, and that she downright refused to do.

   “An hour or two won’t hurt.”

   “I can set a sleeve or finish a hem in an hour.”

   “Pfft!” The old lady dismissed the sleeve and the hem. “I want you there and you shall attend.”

   “Bad luck. I ain’t comin’.”

   “I won’t argue with you, Daisy. You will learn what I say you must! No niece of mine will leave this house knowing less than she ought.”

   Daisy glared at her. “But I ain’t your niece and we both know it.” The old lady was asking the impossible and she knew it, so why . . . .

   The old lady glared back, stamping the floor with her cane. “Gels who live under my roof do as I tell them!”

   “Or what?” Daisy demanded. There was a short, tense silence, and she added half incredulously, “Are you threatenin’ me? Tellin’ me to do as you say or get out o’ your house?”

   The silence stretched. Daisy felt her stomach clench. Oh, gawd, her bloody temper . . . The old lady had every right to toss her back onto the streets . . .

   Lady Beatrice subsided in her chair with a sigh. “Oh, don’t be ridiculous, child. Of course I’m not. I might want to strangle you—and I’d be perfectly justified, stubborn wench that you are!—but you must know that I love you like a daughter—a stubborn, infuriating daughter who doesn’t know what’s good for her, mind—but then that’s quite common in daughters, I’m told by women who have ’em. And nieces are clearly just as troublesome. Some of them,” she added with a beady look.

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