The Duke and I (Bridgertons 1) - Page 3


“He is! And William read when he was four. Agatha, too.”

“Actually,” Colin admitted thoughtfully, “Agatha did start to read at three. Nothing terribly involved, but I know she was reading short words. I remember it quite well.”

“Georgie is reading,” Penelope said firmly. “I am sure of it.”

“Well, then, that means we have even less to be concerned about,” Daphne said with determined good cheer. “Any child who is reading before his third birthday will have no trouble speaking when he is ready to do so.”

She had no idea if this was actually the case. But she rather thought it ought to be. And it seemed reasonable. And if Georgie turned out to have a stutter, just like Simon, his family would still love him and adore him and give him all the support he needed to grow into the wonderful person she knew he would be.

He’d have everything Simon hadn’t had as a child.

“It will be all right,” Daphne said, leaning forward to take Penelope’s hand in hers. “You’ll see.”

Penelope’s lips pressed together, and Daphne saw her throat tighten. She turned away, wanting to give her sister-in-law a moment to compose herself. Colin was munching on his third biscuit and reaching for a cup of tea, so Daphne decided to direct her next question to him.

“Is everything well with the rest of the children?” she asked.

He swallowed his tea. “Quite well. And yours?”

“David has got into a bit of mischief at school, but he seems to be settling down.”

He picked up another biscuit. “And the girls aren’t giving you fits?”

Daphne blinked with surprise. “No, of course not. Why do you ask?”

“You look terrible,” he said.

“Colin!” Penelope interjected.

He shrugged. “She does. I asked about it when we first arrived.”

“But still,” his wife admonished, “you shouldn’t—”

“If I can’t say something to her, who can?” he said plainly. “Or more to the point, who will?”

Penelope dropped her voice to an urgent whisper. “It’s not the sort of thing one talks about.”

He stared at her for a moment. Then he looked at Daphne. Then he turned back to his wife. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said.

Penelope’s lips parted, and her cheeks went a bit pink. She looked over at Daphne, as if to say, Well?

Daphne just sighed. Was her condition that obvious?

Penelope gave Colin an impatient look. “She’s—” She turned back to Daphne. “You are, aren’t you?”

Daphne gave a tiny nod of confirmation.

Penelope looked at her husband with a certain degree of smugness. “She’s pregnant.”

Colin froze for about one half a second before continuing on in his usual unflappable manner. “No, she’s not.”

“She is,” Penelope replied.

Daphne decided not to speak. She was feeling queasy, anyway.

“Her youngest is seventeen,” Colin pointed out. He glanced over at Daphne. “He is, isn’t he?”

“Sixteen,” Daphne murmured.

“Sixteen,” he repeated, directing this at Penelope. “Still.”

“Still?”

“Still.”

Daphne yawned. She couldn’t help it. She was just exhausted these days.

“Colin,” Penelope said, in that patient yet vaguely condescending tone that Daphne loved to hear directed at her brother, “David’s age hardly has anything to do with—”

“I realize that,” he cut in, giving her a vaguely annoyed look. “But don’t you think, if she were going to . . .” He waved a hand in Daphne’s general direction, leaving her to wonder if he could not bring himself to utter the word pregnant in relation to his own sister.

He cleared his throat. “Well, there wouldn’t have been a sixteen-year gap.”

Daphne closed her eyes for a moment, then let her head settle against the back of the sofa. She really should feel embarrassed. This was her brother. And even if he was using rather vague terms, he was talking about the most intimate aspects of her marriage.

She let out a tired little noise, something between a sigh and a hum. She was too sleepy to be embarrassed. And maybe too old, too. Women ought to be able to dispense with maidenly fits of modesty when they passed forty.

Besides, Colin and Penelope were bickering, and that was a good thing. It took their minds off Georgie.

Daphne found it rather entertaining, really. It was lovely to watch any of her brothers stuck in a stalemate with his wife.

Forty-one definitely wasn’t too old to feel just a little bit of pleasure at the discomfort of one’s brothers. Although—she yawned again—it would be more entertaining if she were a bit more alert to enjoy it. Still . . .

“Did she fall asleep?”

Colin stared at his sister in disbelief.

“I think she did,” Penelope replied.

He stretched toward her, craning his neck for a better view. “There are so many things I could do to her right now,” he mused. “Frogs, locusts, rivers turning to blood.”

“Colin!”

“It’s so tempting.”

“It’s also proof,” Penelope said with a hint of a smirk.

“Proof ?”

“She’s pregnant! Just like I said.” When he did not agree with her quickly enough, she added, “Have you ever known her to fall asleep in the middle of a conversation?”

“Not since—” He cut himself off.

Penelope’s smirk grew significantly less subtle. “Exactly.”

“I hate when you’re right,” he grumbled.

“I know. Pity for you I so often am.”

He glanced back over at Daphne, who was starting t

o snore. “I suppose we should stay with her,” he said, somewhat reluctantly.

“I’ll ring for her maid,” Penelope said.

“Do you think Simon knows?”

Penelope glanced over her shoulder once she reached the bellpull. “I have no idea.”

Colin just shook his head. “Poor bloke is in for the surprise of his life.”

When Simon finally returned to London, fully one week delayed, he was exhausted. He had always been a more involved landowner than most of his peers—even as he found himself approaching the age of fifty. And so when several of his fields flooded, including one that provided the sole income for a tenant family, he rolled up his sleeves and got to work alongside his men.

Figuratively, of course. All sleeves had most definitely been down. It had been bloody cold in Sussex. Worse when one was wet. Which of course they all had been, what with the flood and all.

So he was tired, and he was still cold—he wasn’t sure his fingers would ever regain their previous temperature—and he missed his family. He would have asked them to join him in the country, but the girls were preparing for the season, and Daphne had looked a bit peaked when he left.

He hoped she wasn’t coming down with a cold. When she got sick, the entire household felt it.

She thought she was a stoic. He had once tried to point out that a true stoic wouldn’t go about the house repeatedly saying, “No, no, I’m fine,” as she sagged into a chair.

Actually, he had tried to point this out twice. The first time he said something she had not responded. At the time, he’d thought she hadn’t heard him. In retrospect, however, it was far more likely that she had chosen not to hear him, because the second time he said something about the true nature of a stoic, her response had been such that . . .

Well, let it be said that when it came to his wife and the common cold, his lips would never again form words other than “You poor, poor dear” and “May I fetch you some tea?”

There were some things a man learned after two decades of marriage.

When he stepped into the front hall, the butler was waiting, his face in its usual mode—that is to say, completely devoid of expression.

“Thank you, Jeffries,” Simon murmured, handing him his hat.


Tags: Julia Quinn Bridgertons Romance
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