The Legend of Lyon Redmond

By: Julie Anne Long



Years of distributing and accepting pamphlets for the causes nearest her heart—the eradication of slavery and the protection of the poor—had Olivia reflexively stretching out her hand for it.

The man hesitated, then saw the outstretched hand was encased in an expensive blue kid glove and decided to let her hold it.

“Two pence, madame, if ye’d like to take it with you.” He beamed persuasively at her.

She didn’t hear him.

She was transfixed in horror by the first words on the page.

The Legend of Lyon Redmond

Her breath left her in one painful gust, surely as though a broom handle had been driven into her ribs.

But the worst was yet to come.

Oh, if you thought you’d never see

A bride called Olivia Eversea

Well come along with me, lads, come along with me!

Her pretty self was on the shelf

And at last a-wed she’ll be.

Oh, everyone thought

It was all for naught

And she’d dry up and blow away.

But will Redmond return

And make her burn

For the love of yesterday?

Sensation abandoned her limbs.

Where oh where did Redmond go?

Why oh why did he flee?

Is he riding the Nile on a crocodile?

Or did he take to the wide open sea?

Did a cannibal eat ’im?

Is he living in Eden

With Adam and Eve and the Snake?

Did Miss Eversea scare ’im

Into the arms of a harem

Where he lolls about like a sheik?

Shock reverberated through her as though she’d been driven into the ground with a mallet.

And all the while the little chorus behind her sang on.

Someone back there, she thought irrationally, had a lovely baritone.





Chapter 2


SHE FINALLY, BRIEFLY CLOSED her eyes because the air in front of her was spangling ominously.

So this is what it feels like right before one faints, she thought distantly.

She’d never fainted in her life.

Perhaps she ought to breathe. That’s what lungs were for, after all, and she currently didn’t seem to be using them.

They were words. Just words. Just words.

She inhaled deeply.

Exhaled.

That was a little better.

And still the chorus behind her sang on.

“Madame,” the man’s insistent voice cut through her daze, which made her realize this likely wasn’t the first time he’d said it. “’Tis two pence for that fine composition in your hand.”

She opened her eyes.

She was nearly eye level with a sparkling, shrewd brown gaze. The man’s waistcoat buttons were severely taxed by the majestic arc of his stomach, and two tufts of hair friskily peeked from beneath his beaver hat. She suspected it was all the hair he had left in the world.

“Two pence, is it? I can see why it’s so dear. It’s an impressive piece. Quite nimbly rhymed.”

The man glowed. “It’s my own composition, you know. I’m told I’ve a gift. It goes on to explain all the other things Redmond might be doing whilst he’s away.” He leaned over to tap it for emphasis. “Eight verses and counting! I learned about sheiks and crocodiles and the like at a lecture by his brother, Mr. Miles Redmond, the famous explorer.”

“Quelle irony,” she murmured.

“The Redmonds are a very accomplished family,” he added proudly, as if he was their personal retainer and the Redmonds kept a staff troubadour to chronicle their lives.

“They are, indeed,” she agreed smoothly. “Tell me, do sheiks, in fact, ‘loll’? You see, I was unable to attend that particular lecture by Mr. Miles Redmond.”

“Well, I cannot say for certain. I confess I called upon my imagination for that bit, and the word ‘loll’ is rather musical, don’t you think?”

“It paints a picture. I fear I must take issue with your first verse, however.”

He bristled. “On what authority do you speak? Are you a poetess?”

“I’m Olivia Eversea.”

He froze.

His eyes darted with hummingbird speed over her face.

He made a frantic chopping motion in the general direction of the choir behind him.

They clapped their mouths shut.

The sudden quiet seemed deafening.

And then he whipped off his hat so quickly the ribbons on her bonnet fluttered. He clapped it over his heart and bowed like he’d been felled by an axe.

“Cor, is that so now?” he said when he was upright again. “Pleased I am to make your acquaintance, Miss Eversea. Ye’re prettier than a spring day.”

“Clearly hyperbole is your special gift, Mr.—”

“Pickles.”

“Mr. Pickles.”

She fixed him with stare that distilled centuries of excellent breeding and money and arrogance and intelligence and grace.

To his credit, shamed scarlet slowly flooded into his cheeks.

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