Today's Reading

Husband and wife exchanged a glance. Across the grass, the musicians had progressed from stately dances to rollicking country ones, the very sort Jessica loved best.

"Leave her with me," said the duchess. "No doubt the nursemaid will come soon."

Hugging the little girl close, Jessica hesitated. "Are you certain, Mama?"

She gave a stern look. "As if I didn't raise four children. I think I shall be able to handle one small girl." She waved her hands to shoo them away. "Go! Dance and be merry!"

"If you insist." Gently Jessica deposited the child on the settee in her place. She bent down to speak to the girl, her fair curls brushing the child's dark ones. After a moment's whispered conversation, Jessica rose and took her bridegroom's arm. "We shall be right over there," she said—to the duchess or to the child, it wasn't clear.

"I know where you will be," said her mother dryly. "Have faith, my dear." The colonel went down on one knee and kissed his daughter's forehead, her face so tiny in his hands. The little girl reached out and held on to a button of his scarlet coat. He murmured something to her, loosened her hand from his coat and kissed her fingers, then rose. "Thank you, ma'am," he said, bowing again as Lady Jessica made a face of amused impatience at her mother. "Send for Asmat if—"

"Yes, yes." She flicked one hand again. "One would think you don't trust me."

His face blanked with alarm, but Jessica burst out laughing. "Of course we do! We don't want to put you out. But since you insist..." She gave the child a cheery wave and took her husband's hand, pulling him back toward the dancing.

The duchess looked at the little girl, who gazed fearlessly back. Jessica had told her Colonel Kirkpatrick had a young daughter, but today was the first time she'd met the child. "You're Philippa," she said.

"Philippa Noor un-nisa Kirkpatrick," was the reply, with surprising confidence.

"Your father calls you Pippa."

She nodded. "Papa and Pippa." She was quiet for a moment. "And now Mama, since Ammi is gone."

Ammi must be her mother, who had died a year ago. Her Grace nodded
gently. She knew what it was like to lose someone dear.

"What is your name?"

Her Grace's brows went up. "Sophia Constance St. James, Duchess of Carlyle." The little girl's nose wrinkled in disgust. "Perhaps you will call me something else," suggested the duchess, amused.

"Are you a daadee?" Philippa asked curiously.

"What is a daadee?"

"Ammi's ammi. She gave me this before we came here on the ship." Philippa patted the gold and jade pendant on a string of pearls around her neck. It was far too ornate for a child, but Jessica had been reading voraciously about India, and she said jewels on children weren't unusual there.

"Ah." The duchess nodded, but with a twinge. She was not a grandmother—not yet. "Would you like to call me Daadee?" The little face brightened. "Yes!"

Her Grace was charmed. "Then I shall be Daadee."

"Daadee," repeated Philippa happily.

"Are you pleased to have a mama?"

Philippa nodded. "Mama's dress is lovely."

The duchess smiled in delight. "Yes, it is. So is yours."

Philippa slid off the settee and spun around, watching her yellow skirts bell around her. At the end she gave a couple of hops to make the ribbons flutter. "Papa gave it to me."

"That was very kind of him." It was clear the colonel doted on his daughter—surprisingly so, for a man of his age and profession. The duchess had never known army men to be sentimental.

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