Ten years have passed since Kate and Cecy married Thomas and James, and England is now being transformed by the first railways. When the Duke of Wellington asks James to look into the sudden disappearance of a German railway engineer, James and Cecy's search reveals a shocking truth: The railway lines are wreaking havoc with ancient underground magic, which could endanger the very unity of England. Meanwhile, Kate has her hands full taking care of all their children, not to mention the mysterious mute girl they rescued from a kidnapper!
Written in letters between Kate and Cecy--and between their husbands--this installment of the cousins' adventures is another satisfying blend of magic, mystery, adventure, humor, and romance.
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PATRICIA C. WREDE (Cecelia) and CAROLINE STEVERMER (Kate) created Sorcery and Cecelia and The Grand Tour by playing the Letter Game. Ms. Wrede also has written many novels of her own, most notably the four books in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. And Ms. Stevermer is the author of several books for adults and a fantasy novel for young readers, River Rats. They both live in Minnesota.
~ 24 FEBRUARY 1828
TANGLEFORD HALL, KENT
It was splendid to see you and Thomas and your boys again this fortnight past. (And I still think that Baby Laurence is the image of his papa, even if he is still quite bald. In deference to Thomas’s feelings, however, I shall not mention the resemblance again until little Laurence is old enough to have grown some hair.) My only regret is that we could not stay longer at Skeynes. You have turned it into such a comfortable home that I do not wonder at your reluctance to go up to London, though I do hope James and I can coax you all to visit Tangleford next summer, so that we may return your hospitality.
Two weeks was hardly enough time to catch up on all your doings of the past few months. I know James was as sorry to leave as I, and as for the children— well, you saw how Baby Alexander cried when we left, and Diana and the twins all sulked for two days straight. (I had expected it of Diana, who is only four, after all, but I had hoped that at the age of nine, the twins would have grown out of such tricks. Apparently it takes longer than that.)
Speaking of the twins, I am afraid Arthur has confessed that he and Eleanor sneaked into Thomas’s study on the last day of our visit. Eleanor has been suffering from a trifling ailment since we left— no more than a bad cold, but Arthur was convinced that it must be the result of some dreadful magical protection they had triggered, and so he poured out the whole story to James and me the night after we arrived home. I do not know where he can have come by such a notion, but he was so earnest in his concern that both James and I had difficulty in keeping a sober expression. I promise you that we did so, however, as neither of us wishes to encourage him to undertake any similar adventures in the future. Poking about in a wizard’s study is serious business.
The reason I mention it is that Thomas may need to readjust his warding spells. (I am still not entirely sure how Arthur got past them; please do let me know, if you should discover it.) And I wish you would advise me whether Thomas maintains a continuous scrying spell on the gazing ball in his study. Arthur claims to have seen things in it, and if he is neither making up tales nor using an existing spell, I may need to find him a magic tutor who can oversee more advanced work than his present teacher.
James is going up to London to consult with the Duke of Wellington. (I suppose I ought now to say with the prime minister, but I am not yet accustomed to thinking of him so.) Though I am not sure what the duke has in mind this time, I am quite pleased for him by this turn of events. James becomes bored and most unhappy when he does not have enough to do, which is a habit I am sure he picked up on the Peninsula when he was aide-de-camp to Lord Wellington. And whatever the duke needs, I doubt it will be boring!
At first, I had hoped to go to London along with James, but both Baby Alexander and Diana show signs of coming down with Eleanor’s cold, and I really cannot leave Nurse to manage them all alone, most especially if Arthur is going to remain in good health. For he is sure to get into some scrape while her back is turned, and she has a decided partiality for him that sometimes persuades her to be less firm with him than she ought.
Indeed, I am feeling nearly as sulky as the children, for I had been looking forward to seeing Aunt Elizabeth and Mr. Wrexton again. What with Mr. Wrexton’s work at the Royal College of Wizards, they are so firmly settled in London now that it is nearly impossible to induce them to visit outside the city. (I cannot bring myself to call Mr. Wrexton “Uncle Michael,” though he and Aunt Elizabeth have been married these ten years. I suppose I have never quite got out of the habit of thinking of him as my magic tutor.) I especially wanted Mr. Wrexton’s opinion of the discursive-chain cantrips Thomas and I had that disagreement about.
I had also hoped to order a few gowns in advance of the Season, and to review the redecorating of our town house (for you know that now the duke is become prime minister, we shall have all kinds of distinguished persons visiting, so it is most important that everything be properly done).
Now it must all be left to the last minute, for James is quite hopeless at such things. I daresay he would not notice even if the drapers put crimson drapes in the blue salon. It is most provoking, and of course I cannot complain of it to James. So I write to you instead.
~ 25 FEBRUARY 1828
TANGLEFORD HALL, KENT
My dear Thomas,
The eldest of my young hellions has confessed to sneaking into your study near the end of our visit. The offense has already met with suitable punishment, but I trust you will let me know of any damage or disruption that he has not seen fit to mention. He has not provided any reason for the excursion other than a desire “to see a real wizard’s study.” Sometimes I think he takes after my dear Cecelia a little too much.
I am off to London as soon as may be. Wellington’s summons was waiting for me when we arrived home. I am not yet entirely sure what the business is about, which will tell you a good deal right there. Unless he has good reason, Old Hookey has always been clear about his orders; I infer that the matter is serious. I need not tell you to be discreet.
Cecelia stays here with the children. I shall write when I know more, and tell you what I can.
James Copyright © 2006 by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
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