“Chou!” she said, waving at him. “Watch my hair.”
“Very funny,” he said. He landed on her outstretched arm. “I’m so pleased by your good spirits I hate delivering this message.”
“Then don’t. Lately you bring me too much disturbing news.”
“I only tell what needs telling.”
“I know,” she said with a sigh. “Out with it. I would rather it was not about my husband.”
He crept up her arm and spoke in her ear. “No, it’s about Sylvia.”
“Not much better.”
“She’ll make an announcement tonight. She’s pregnant. Four months along.”
Eleanor pressed her lips together. “Well, she should be congratulated. As should her husband, for the strength to hold her down long enough to mount her.”
“There are rumors about,” said Chou.
Eleanor nodded. Sylvia was universally praised as a hostess this summer, but she was not above reproach. When the women were not deriding the princess’s unladylike outbursts of political opinion, they were hinting that the Duchess of Harveston’s eye, and perhaps the rest of her, often wandered from her elderly husband.
Gregory appeared beside Eleanor and pulled out her chair. “Chou Chou,” he said. “Good evening.”
“Your Highness,” said Chou, bowing.
“We’re about to begin. The bowls are stocked with berries, if you would care to join the other birds at the roost.”
“Certainly.” Chou nipped Eleanor’s ear before taking his leave.
“Your parrot is always very gracious,” said Gregory.
“Thank you,” said Eleanor. “I’m sure he would be pleased to hear you say so.” Eleanor hated these conversations. How ridiculous, talking about the manners of a bird with the man who had shared her bed until three weeks ago.
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