The Legend of Lyon Redmond

By: Julie Anne Long



They were on the “. . . did he take to the wide open sea?” line, the least painful of the lines for Olivia to imagine, when Mademoiselle Lilette spoke.

“Miss Eversea, if you would hold still, like so, or your hem will be wavy and not even. Interesting, non, but wavy is not the style?”

“My apologies, Mademoiselle Lilette.” Olivia obediently froze.

“Such exquisite taste you have, Miss Eversea.”

Mademoiselle Lilette’s accent was authentically French and her flattery unsurprisingly rote.

“Thank you,” Olivia said, in a tone that meant Please stop talking.

“So fortunate you are to be marrying such a grand man, n’est-ce pas? A handsome viscount, oui?”

“Oui,” Olivia said tautly.

The song appeared to be rounding on the second verse now.

Would that her last name was . . . oh, Silver, perhaps, instead. Nothing rhymed with Silver.

Would that nothing had ever happened in her life that warranted a song.

Would that Lyon was here, because she could think of no one else who would have laughed with her over that song until tears poured down their cheeks and they gasped for air.

She closed her eyes against an onslaught of fury and yearning so painful it made her nauseous and she nearly swayed.

She held herself very, very still, and the pain washed out again.

She’d learned over the years this was how to manage it. With stillness.

“You must be very, how you say, very in love weez your fiancé?”

Weez? Olivia frowned. What the devil was . . .

Oh—with.

The bloody French. They were always on about love love love love love. Suddenly the question made her head ache as if she’d been presented with an algebra problem.

Love. The word had once felt infinite, magical. A word like “Heaven” or “universe.”

And now it felt barbed and foolish. She knew an impulse to shrug away from it as if something multilegged had landed on her skin.

“I wish there was a way to disperse the choir out there permanently,” she muttered irritably.

Mademoiselle Lilette stopped moving and was quiet for a merciful moment.

“Surely we can, how you say, exploit them instead, Miss Eversea,” she said mildly.

“Exploit!” Despite herself, Olivia was intrigued. “Go on.”

“Perhaps to give all of them, how do you say, une pamphlet about the rights and needs of the poor? They will become educated or they will be driven away, perhaps both.”

Olivia laughed, genuinely surprised and delighted. “Ah, I do like how you think, Mademoiselle Lilette. You seem a resourceful woman.”

Mademoiselle Lilette gave a little modest grunt. “One does not rise from the slums to work for the magnifique Madame Marceau if one is not resourceful. You must remain still, however, while I pin, for I do not wish to draw blood.”

Imperiousness was the province of dressmakers everywhere, it seemed, and for the sake of vanity, well-bred women everywhere obeyed.

“Sorry. The slums, was it?”

“Mais oui.” Impressively, Mademoiselle Lilette said this around a mouthful of pins. “The darkest of slums.”

“An admirable achievement.”

“Merci.” She paused to shrug. “But one need only be, how do you say, tetu comme an anu, to survive and thrive.”

“Stubborn as a mule?”

“Oui. And I am.”

“I think perhaps we have that in common, Mademoiselle Lilette.”

“And they do like to call us the gentle sex. The poor things.”

“If only they knew.”

They giggled together.

Though Olivia often wished she truly was as strong as everyone seemed to think she was. As strong as she wanted everyone to think she was.

“Oui, c’est vrai. I, too, admire you, Miss Eversea. I have heard of your work, you see, with the poor and against the Triangle Trade.”

Olivia froze, astonished. She craned her head down toward the seamstress. “How on earth did you hear about that?”

Mademoiselle Lilette squeaked. “Do not move, Miss Eversea! I am sympathetic, shall we say, to such efforts, and your name is so often mentioned with great respect as someone who supports the cause of slavery abolition. You give to people the pamphlets, oui? And attend lectures and ask clever questions? Our paths perhaps may have crossed there. And so much is better now, thanks to the likes of Mrs. Hannah More and Mr. Wilberforce.”

“Oh, I scarcely feel worthy of mention in association with Mrs. More and Mr. Wilberforce! And if my small efforts have made any sort of difference, I am gratified. But I suspect those of us who deplore slavery have Le Chat to thank for decimating the illegal Triangle Trade more than my pamphlets,” she said dryly. “Everyone has become afraid to sail.”

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