Oliver Pardekopper prepared to escort Eudora and Gideon—as Mr. and Mrs. Elric Wilson—around the lavish, nautical-themed parlour. But before he could do so, a footman entered the room.
“Begging your pardon, Mr. Pardekopper, but more guests have arrived. Mr. Greer and Mr. Huxous are here.”
“Very good. If you two will be so kind as to excuse me for one moment?” Oliver said to Gideon and Eudora.
“Quite alright. I’m sure Mary and I can mingle just fine until your return,” Gideon said graciously.
“Thank you. Duty calls!” Oliver said, leaving the room with his footman.
“Fancy a drink?” Gideon said, turning to Eudora.
“Yes, thank you.” Eudora replied. As Gideon left to fetch her a cup of punch, she turned and scanned the room. Various potential investors were strewn about, having conversations in groups of two and three. Before she could pick out much about them, however, she was approached by a short, stout man with yellowing hair.
“I say, ma’am, have you a younger brother?” he said to her.
“I beg your pardon, sir?” Eudora asked. “Have we met before?” she went on, knowing they had not.
The man turned around and gestured to a taller, younger companion in a red vest. “Come here. I tell you, she’s the sister!”
“Why are you hassling that poor woman, Finnegan? Haven’t you caused enough trouble for one day?”
“Sorry, miss,” Finnegan said, turning back to Eudora. “This must come as quite a surprise to you, but I’ve met your younger brother today. A little boy by the name of Edward Wright.”
“What’s all this then?” Gideon said, returning and handing Eudora a cup of punch. She used the moment to regain her composure, unsettled by the mention of her brother’s name.
“We found a boy this morning when we came in on the train. He’d been wandering all about the station looking for his sister. Name of Edward Wright.”
“I’m afraid you’re mistaken, sir,” Gideon said. “My wife hasn’t any younger brothers. She’s the youngest of her family.”
“I could have sworn you were the one in the picture,” Finnegan said. “Aaron, doesn’t she look just like the girl in the picture?”
“I think you’ve lost your wits trying to help that boy. Besides, we returned him home safely. Surely he’s found his sister by now,” Aaron said.
Eudora took in all the details, reeling. Her brother, wandering a train station, showing her picture to strangers. What happened? Why on earth would Mother allow him out? Unless—has something happened? Are the children alone? She pushed away the cold lump of worry in her chest only to have it settle in her stomach.
“How curious,” Eudora said, affecting an air of casual interest. “You say you found this boy at the train station and reunited him with his family? I’m sure his mother was happy to see him.”
“Oh, heavens, she was beside herself with tears of joy and frustration,” Finnegan said. “Quite a sight to see.”
Eudora breathed a quiet sigh of relief, and felt Gideon’s fingertips rest gently on her wrist, in a subtle gesture of comfort.
“That’s a good deed done, then,” Gideon said. “It’s always a pleasure to meet someone who does the right thing. I’m Elric Wilson, and this is my wife, Mary.”
“I’m Finnegan Blatsley, sir, a pleasure, a pleasure,” Finnegan said, first shaking Gideon’s hand, then taking Eudora’s free hand in his own and kissing its gloved back.
“A pleasure to meet you,” Eudora said. “And you, Mister…?” she asked of his companion.
“Aaron Myers,” he said, politely kissing her hand, and then shaking Gideon’s.
“If you gentlemen will excuse my wife and I, Mr. Pardekopper said he wished to make us another introduction,” Gideon lied smoothly. The men nodded and moved on as Gideon put an arm around Eudora’s shoulders and escorted her out of the room. He turned into a nearby sitting room and strolled up to the bookcases as if they might inspect the titles together.
“Can you manage?” Gideon asked, pitching his voice very low, and not turning his head from the books.
“Yes. I was just startled a moment, when he said his name.”
“They said they took him home again. I’m certain he’s fine,” Gideon said, sympathy in his voice.
“Thank you. For covering for me.”
“I rather expect you’ll have opportunities to return the favor. It’s the nature of this business.”
“Shall we return?” he asked.
“A few more moments, to give our story credence. The ones upstairs were discussing something about the demonstration and its object increasing their numbers of supporters, whether it functions or not.”
“Interesting. You didn’t hear what it was they hoped to have supported?”
“No. One of them heard me in the hallway and poked his head out. Rude fellow, gruff, very tall, grey about the temples. He seemed to be in charge, of whatever it was.”
“I’ll keep an eye out,” Gideon said. “Anything else?”
“Not yet. Alright, are you ready?”
“Yes. Let’s head back in.” Suddenly, Gideon pulled Eudora to him and kissed her full on the lips. Eudora froze in shock, hearing footsteps behind them as someone started to enter the room and thought better of it. It wasn’t her first kiss—she had shared a few with her suitors after her debut ball—but it certainly wasn’t a common event.
Gideon released her and whispered, “I’m sorry. Someone was coming and it was the best excuse I could think of for wandering the house without permission.”
“Right then. I mean, it’s alright. I mean, let us return before we’re missed,” Eudora said, unsure which of the events in question that evening had startled her most.