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"Penelope," Lady Bridgerton said with a warm smile, "do sit down. The tea is still nice and hot, and Cook made her famous butter biscuits."

Colin made a beeline for the food, barely pausing to acknowledge his sisters.

Penelope followed Lady Bridgerton's wave to a nearby chair and took a seat.

"Biscuits are good," Hyacinth said, thrusting a plate in her direction.

"Hyacinth," Lady Bridgerton said in a vaguely disapproving voice, "do try to speak in complete sentences."

Hyacinth looked at her mother with a surprised expression. "Biscuits. Are. Good." She cocked her head to the side. "Noun. Verb. Adjective."


Penelope could see that Lady Bridgerton was trying to look stern as she scolded her daughter, but she wasn't quite succeeding.

"Noun. Verb. Adjective," Colin said, wiping a crumb from his grinning face. "Sentence. Is. Correct."

"If you're barely literate," Kate retorted, reaching for a biscuit. "These are good," she said to Penelope, a sheepish smile crossing her face. "This one's my fourth."

"I love you, Colin," Hyacinth said, ignoring Kate completely.

"Of course you do," he murmured.

"I myself," Eloise said archly, "prefer to place articles before my nouns in my own writings."

Hyacinth snorted. "Your writings!" she echoed. "I write many letters," Eloise said with a sniff. "And I keep a journal, which I assure you is a very beneficial habit."

"It does keep one disciplined," Penelope put in, taking her cup and saucer from Lady Bridgerton's outstretched hands.

"Do you keep a journal?" Kate asked, not really looking at her, since she had just jumped up from her chair to grasp her daughter before the two-year-old climbed on a side table.

"I'm afraid not," Penelope said with a shake of her head. "It requires far too much discipline for me."

"I don't think it is always necessary to put an article before a noun," Hyacinth persisted, completely unable, as always, to let her side of the argument go.

Unfortunately for the rest of the assemblage, Eloise was equally tenacious. "You may leave off the article if you are referring to your noun in a general sense," she said, pursing her lips in a rather supercilious manner, "but in this case, as you were referring to specific biscuits..."

Penelope wasn't positive, but she thought she heard Lady Bridgerton groan.

"... then specifically," Eloise said with an arch of her brows, "you are incorrect."

Hyacinth turned to Penelope. "I am positive she did not use specifically correctly in that last sentence."

Penelope reached for another butter biscuit. "I refuse to enter the conversation."

"Coward," Colin murmured.

"No, just hungry." Penelope turned to Kate. "These are good."

Kate nodded her agreement. "I have heard rumors," she said to Penelope, "that your sister may become betrothed."

Penelope blinked in surprise. She hadn't thought that Felicity's connection to Mr. Albansdale was public knowledge.

"Er, where have you heard rumors?"

"Eloise, of course," Kate said matter-of-factly. "She always knows everything."

"And what I don't know," Eloise said with an easy grin, "Hyacinth usually does. It's very convenient."

"Are you certain that neither one of you is Lady Whistledown?" Colin joked.

"Colin!" Lady Bridgerton exclaimed. "How could you even think such a thing?"

He shrugged. "They're certainly both smart enough to carry off such a feat."

Eloise and Hyacinth beamed.

Even Lady Bridgerton couldn't quite dismiss the compliment. "Yes, well," she hemmed, "Hyacinth is much too young, and Eloise..." She looked over at Eloise, who was watching her with a most amused expression. "Well, Eloise is not Lady Whistledown. I'm sure of it."

Eloise looked at Colin. "I'm not Lady Whistledown."

"That's too bad," he replied. "You'd be filthy rich by now, I imagine."

"You know," Penelope said thoughtfully, "that might be a good way to discern her identity."

Five pairs of eyes turned in her direction.

"She has to be someone who has more money than she ought to have," Penelope explained.

"A good point," Hyacinth said, "except that I haven't a clue how much money people ought to have."

"Neither do I, of course," Penelope replied. "But most of the time one has a general idea." At Hyacinth's blank stare, she added, "For example, if I suddenly went out and bought myself a diamond parure, that would be very suspect."

Kate nudged Penelope with her elbow. "Bought any diamond parures lately, eh? I could use a thousand pounds."

Penelope let her eyes roll up for a second before replying, because as the current Viscountess Bridgerton, Kate most certainly did not need a thousand pounds. "I can assure you," she said, "I don't own a single diamond. Not even a ring."

Kate let out an "euf" of mock disgruntlement. "Well, you're no help, then."

"It's not so much the money," Hyacinth announced. "It's the glory."

Lady Bridgerton coughed on her tea. "I'm sorry, Hyacinth," she said, "but what did you just say?"

"Think of the accolades one would receive for having finally caught Lady Whistledown," Hyacinth said. "It would be glorious."

"Are you saying," Colin asked, a deceptively bland expression on his face, "that you don't care about the money?"

"I would never say that" Hyacinth said with a cheeky grin.

It occurred to Penelope that of all the Bridgertons, Hyacinth and Colin were the most alike. It was probably a good thing Colin was so often out of the country. If he and Hyacinth ever joined forces in earnest, they could probably take over the world.

"Hyacinth," Lady Bridgerton said firmly, "you are not to make the search for Lady Whistledown your life's work."


"I'm not saying you cannot ponder the problem and ask a few questions," Lady Bridgerton hastened to add, holding up one hand to ward off further interruptions. "Good gracious, I would hope that after nearly forty years of motherhood I would know better than to try to stop you when you have your mind quite so set on something, nonsense as it may be."

Penelope brought her teacup to her mouth to cover her smile

"It's just that you have been known to be rather"—Lady Bridgerton delicately cleared her throat—"single-minded at times..."


Lady Bridgerton continued as if Hyacinth had never spoken. "... and I do not want you to forget that your primary focus at this time must be to look for a husband."

Hyacinth uttered the word "Mother" again, but this time it was more of a groan than a protest.

Penelope stole a glance at Eloise, who had her eyes fixed on the ceiling and was clearly trying not to break out in a grin. Eloise had endured years of relentless matchmaking at her mother's hands and did not mind in the least that she seemed to have given up and moved on to Hyacinth.

In truth, Penelope was surprised that Lady Bridgerton seemed to have finally accepted Eloise's unmarried state. She had never hidden the fact that her greatest aim in life was to see all eight of her children happily married. And she'd succeeded with four. First Daphne had married Simon and become the Duchess of Hastings. The following year Anthony had married Kate. There had been a bit of a lull after that, but both Benedict and Francesca had married within a year of each other, Benedict to Sophie, and Francesca to the Scottish Earl of Kilmartin.

Francesca, unfortunately, had been widowed only two years after her marriage. She now divided her time between her late husband's family in Scotland and her own in London. When in town, however, she insisted upon living at Kilmartin House instead of at Bridgerton House or Number Five. Penelope didn't blame her. If she were a widow, she'd want to enjoy all of her independence, too.

Hyacinth generally bore her mother's matchmaking with good humor since, as she had told Penelope, it wasn't as if she didn't want to get married eventually. Might as well let her mother do all th

e work and then she could choose a husband when the right one presented himself.

And it was with this good humor that she stood, kissed her mother on the cheek, and dutifully promised that her main focus in life was to look for a husband—all the while directing a cheeky, sneaky smile at her brother and sister. She was barely back in her seat when she said to the crowd at large, "So, do you think she'll be caught?"

"Are we still discussing that Whistledown woman?" Lady Bridgerton groaned.

"Have you not heard Eloise's theory, then?" Penelope asked.

All eyes turned to Penelope, then to Eloise.

"Er, what is my theory?" Eloise asked.

"It was just, oh, I don't know, maybe a week ago," Penelope said. "We were talking about Lady Whistledown, and I said that I didn't see how she could possibly go on forever, that eventually she would have to make a mistake. Then Eloise said she wasn't so sure, that it had been over ten years and if she were going to make a mistake, wouldn't she have already done so? Then I said, no, she was only human. Eventually she would have to slip up, because no one could go on forever, and—"