Powder and Patch
by Georgette Heyer
Brenderby's eyes twinkled.
"Bear up a little longer, dear! Of course, I know there is no truth in what Mr Winton says!"
"It is true!" James danced in his fury. "Cleone promised to wed me, only a little while back! You can't deny it, Clo! You did!"
"I did not!"
"You did! You said yes! You know you did!"
Cleone leant on the nearest thing to her for support. It chanced to be Sir Deryk, but she was past caring.
"James, you know I - never meant it!"
Suddenly Philip's lips twitched. Brenderby was bubbling over with ill-suppressed merriment.
"My dear, this is most serious! Did you, indeed, accept Mr Winton's proposal?"
"Yes, but he knows I did not mean it! I --"
"Cleone, do you tell me you accepted him and --"
"Yes, she did! And I hold her to her promise!"
Cleone's knees threatened to give way.
"James, I can't marry you! I won't marry you!"
"I hold you to your promise!" repeated James, almost beside himself.
"And I." Sir Deryk passed his arm round Cleone's waist. "I hold Cleone to the promise she has given me!"
"Probably the lady would be glad of a chair," he suggested evenly. "James, Brenderby - let your future wife sit down!"
Sir Deryk's shoulders shook. He led Cleone to the couch, and she sank on to it, hiding her face.
Philip swung the curtain aside.
"Permit me to withdraw. I am decidedly de trop. Mademoiselle, messieurs!" He went out, and the curtain fell back into place.
"Oh, oh, oh!" moaned Cleone.
James bent over her.
"Come, Clo! Let me take you back to your aunt!"
Brenderby stepped to Clo's other side.
"Cleone needs no other escort than that of her affianced husband, sir!"
"And that is I!"
"On the contrary, it is I! Cleone, sweet, come!"
Cleone sprang up.
"It's neither of you! Don't -- touch me! Oh, that I should be so humiliated! I will not marry you, James! You know that I never heard what you said!"
James set his chin stubbornly. "I'll not release you from your promise," he said.
"And nor will I." Sir Deryk was enjoying himself immensely.
"You must release me, James!" cried Cleone. "I -- I am going to wed -- Sir Deryk!" She dissolved into tears. "Oh, what shall I do? What shall I do? How -- how dreadful it is! Let me go! I hate you both!" She fled from them both and was at her aunt's side before either had time to follow her.
"Good gracious, child, what's amiss?" exclaimed Lady Malmerstoke. "You're as white as my wig!"
"Take me home!" begged Cleone. "I am b-betrothed to Sir Deryk and James! Oh, for heaven's sake, take me home!"