Chapter 8 Part 1 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
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Twenna didn't know which of her inexpert coquetries had worked--she'd done little more than pout--but Harsin returned to her bed not two days after the unfortunate incident at Neya's Day. He showered her with gifts: shot silk for a new dress; tortoise-shell haircombs from Pau'a; and a magnificent set of matching sapphire-and-diamond earrings, collar, ring and bracelets, "the color of your eyes, my dear. You are to keep them forever."
She was back in Elbig's good graces. "Our sponsor would like you to start dropping little hints in his favor, darling."
"Hints, Papa? What hints?"
"Oh, I don't know. Make sure he's in attendance at all your cozy little evenings--invite his friends, too. Compliment Corland's address, his amiability, his reasonableness. How much you like him."
"But I don't like him, Papa."
"Then lie, you ridiculous girl!" he fumed. "The point is, make the King look more favorably on His Grace!"
Twenna pursed her lips in confusion. "I'm sure Borney is already one of Harsin's particular friends. We see him and Cosetta--Mistress Grasian--at the Lodge quite often. He makes pop-eyes at me."
"Yes, but if the King thinks you see him as amiable--oh, never mind. I don't know what he wants with us anyway, that Duke of Corland, but his help got us this far. When he asks us for ours, just remember we are to give it."
"The 'little hints,' you stupid tailor, are to put the King in a more receptive frame of mind to our ideas," said the exasperated Corland when they met the next day on the Promenade. "Your daughter inviting me and the members of my faction to her gatherings gives us political capital, not that you'd understand something like that. Have her mention things like the Heir's bad behavior, how much she'd love a set of Inchari house slaves, how insolent the merchant class is getting--"
"I hesitate to remind you--I hesitate to remind myself, but it must be said--that I come from the merchant class."
"Not for long," said Corland. "Harsin is quite smitten. I wouldn't be surprised if he elevated you to a knighthood."
A knighthood! While Elbig had bought himself a certain amount of gentility, a title, even one so modest as Sir, would give him real countenance, real claims as a gentleman. Perhaps then the young men strolling so indolently about the Temple Green would stop turning their noses up at him. "Tailor--no--more!" he said to himself, each word a step down the Promenade. "Tailor--no--more!"
Twenna's artless contriving of dinner parties to always include Corland and his friends began to irritate the King. "Why does Borney have to be at every card party, every musical evening, every damn dinner we give? And his hangers-on--what on earth do we need with longfaces like Edgins and Hoop?"
Twenna paused in arranging the roses he'd brought to the Lodge for her and fought to come up with a half-truth. In the end she settled for the lie. "I find him quite amiable, don't you, darling?"
"I find him the same lump he was in school," said Harsin, flicking the butt end of his cigar into the empty hearth. "A little of him goes a long way."
"Oh. I thought you were friends." She kept her eyes on the flowers in the vase before her lest he see her trying to think of what to say next.
"After a fashion, I suppose. That loathsome son of his is too presumptuous by half, but that's hardly enough to make Borney my enemy. He's politically influential among the New Conservatives, and I need his men in Inchar. But friend? Old school mate is more accurate. Now, Lord Litta--Anvalt is my friend. Why don't you invite him more often?"
"I invite him every time, Harsin." So she had, but her invitations were always answered with the same curt note from Litta's secretary: "His Grace regretfully declines." Now she thought on it, of all the King's friends he alone never danced with her.
"Well, invite him again. No, I'll have Winmer do it. Anvalt's a curious old thing--conservative in the traditional sense, not the political sense."
Twenna's intimate dinners at the Lodge were the kind to which men brought their mistresses, not their wives. Perhaps His Grace had no one like her or Lord Corland's Cosetta to bring? Lord Litta was older but hardly unattractive even with that dueling scar through his brow, and if he was a lover of men, why wouldn't he just bring his young man? "Is Lord Litta perhaps…uncomfortable at occasions such as our dinners?"
Harsin crossed one leg over the opposite thigh and settled back in his chair. "You know, he just might be now that you mention it. He's never cared for outside liaisons--never has any of his own, keeps himself to his wife entirely--and used to scold me about it when we were younger. Suppose he's given up on me by now," he laughed. "Stop fooling with those roses, Twenna, and come to me."
Son in Sorrow will end its serialization July 15, 2013.
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