Amanda Scott

Amanda Scott by The Bawdy Bride

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Authors: The Bawdy Bride
duke?” Anne did not trouble to hide her astonishment. Andrew had not struck her as one who would notice if the state bedchamber fire had been kindled or not.
    Mrs. Burdekin flushed. “His late Grace, I should have said, madam. Duke Edmund was most particular about such things.”
    “Yes, well, I can see that you have continued to go on as he liked you to do, but economy is necessary in any well-run household, as I am sure you know. We can easily dispense with quite half of those fires. Make a list, Mrs. Burdekin, and inform the servants who attend to such matters that they are to light fires in half the rooms one night, the other half the next—only in those rooms the family does not use daily, of course, but you know that without my telling you. Now then, if you will show me the kitchens, dairies, still rooms, linen presses, and so forth. I’ll look round the rest of the house on my own later.”
    Though she looked surprised by the request, Mrs. Burdekin obliged, but Anne could not flatter herself that the interview had gone well. By exerting herself to compliment the woman whenever she found an opportunity to do so, she hoped when they parted two hours later that Mrs. Burdekin at least respected her knowledge of the effort necessary to manage a large house; however, even that respect could not be taken for granted, for Mrs. Burdekin had certainly not agreed when Anne had pointed out near the end of their cursory tour that although the huge kitchen fireplace seemed to be equipped with an astonishing array of contrivances for roasting, boiling, baking, stewing, frying, steaming, and heating—including three clockwork bottle-jacks and a smoke jack designed to turn spits by a heat-propelled vane in the chimney—it was woefully lacking in cinder guards or even a proper fender.
    “There ought at least to be a bucket of water nearby,” she said, “in case of accident.”
    “We’ve no need of such,” Mrs. Burdekin said placidly. “Our water is piped right to the kitchen, madam, as you saw. Lord Ashby contrived it so three years ago, just as he has contrived other labor-saving devices here and elsewhere round the Priory. With water so handy, there can be no need to add to the clutter around the fireplace with another bucket. As to guards and such, I can assure you that if more were needed, we would have them.”
    Anne was not convinced, but she was tired and had by that time had enough of Mrs. Burdekin’s company. She had also had enough of being indoors on such a lovely day, and wanted to look over the gardens. With this object in mind, she parted with the housekeeper and had turned toward the family wing to change her shoes and fetch a cloak, when, passing one of the salons, she overheard a cry of protest, instantly hushed.
    Curious, she pushed open the salon door, confounding the two persons inside. Elbert stepped hastily away from the housemaid, straightening his shoulders and assuming his footman’s dignity like a familiar garment. The maid, slender but curvaceous, and very attractive even in the plain stuff frock, crisp white apron, and mobcap she wore, was not so quick to recover her composure.
    Sunlight streaming through a pair of tall windows, revealed her reddened cheeks and the spark of anger and confusion in her blue-green eyes. She held a feather duster uplifted in one hand, as if she had been about to strike the young man. Now, in some consternation, she lowered the duster to her side and, bobbing a hasty curtsy, said, “Did you require assistance, your ladyship?”
    It was not the first time in her life that Anne had interrupted such a scene, nor was it the first time she had had cause to deal with budding personal relationships among members of her household staff. But in general, both culprits had looked equally guilty. In this instance Elbert said coolly, “Were you looking for me, my lady?”
    Anne’s gaze shifted from the blushing, indignant maidservant to the footman. “What are you doing in

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