town. The meetings are conversazioni held in various homes.”
Thorne snorted. “What? You see me sitting around with a gaggle of middle-aged matrons discussing the latest Gothic novel from the Minerva Press?”
“I think you will find the League quite different from the image you have in mind.”
“Very well,” Thorne said. “I shall look in on one of these meetings if you can secure me an invitation.”
Watson had produced an invitation for the next such affair to be held at the home of Lady Gertrude Hermiston. It was not to be an ultra-formal affair, but Thorne had no desire to appear the country bumpkin Emma Bennet had presented to the world. He donned a pair of gray Cossack trousers, a white waistcoat, and a dark blue coat. Having adjusted his lordship’s neckcloth yet again, Hinton finally expressed his approval and sent him on his way.
As he was relieved of his cloak and hat in Lady Hermiston’s entrance, Thorne heard voices and laughter. Well, at least he would not be the only gentleman here—and had Watson not said he would be here as well? The butler showed him to the drawing room where he discovered some twenty-five or thirty people in attendance, fully half of them of his own gender.
Watson came forward and two women turned quickly toward the door as Thorne’s name was announced. He masked his surprise at seeing Lady Wyndham and Miss Richardson at such a gathering, though he did recall their interest in political matters at the Harts’ party.
“Allow me to introduce you to our hostess first,” Watson said, guiding Thorne over to the very group that held Lady Wyndham and Miss Richardson.
Lady Hermiston was a tall, gray-haired woman with an intelligent look in her hazel eyes. She was dressed rather fashionably in a soft green gown but wore none of the feathers fancied by so many women of her age group.
“Lord Rolsbury. How nice to meet you,” Lady Hermiston said politely, but she gave him an intense look. “I believe you know my niece, Lady Wyndham, and Miss Richardson.”
Her niece. Ah, that explained their presence at such a gathering. He greeted the other women politely.
“A number of people are eager to meet you, my lord,” Lady Hermiston said. “One in particular—Mr. Watson, you know de Quincey.”
“Thomas de Quincey?” Thorne asked in pleased surprise. She nodded and Thorne said, “I had hoped to meet him in London. I have enjoyed his essays tremendously.”
“If you like essays, perhaps you know Mr. Charles Lamb’s work?” Lady Wyndham asked.
“Yes, I do. Do not say he is here, too?”
“Over there.” She nodded in the direction of a group standing some distance away. “He and his sister have been cornered by Lady Mansfield and her daughter. Annabelle, we must go and rescue the Lambs in a moment.”
Miss Richardson smiled and nodded, but did not say anything. He thought it unusual for her to be quite so reticent in conversation.
Lady Hermiston continued to identify certain of her guests. “Mr. Southey, our poet laureate, is here. In a short while, Mr. Stephenson will be discussing his ideas for a new transportation system—on rails, mind you.”
“I have heard of his experiments—with some sort of steam-powered locomotion, I think?” Thorne said, deeply impressed with not only the level of intellect in the company Lady Hermiston had gathered, but also the eclectic nature of their interests. Where did Miss Richardson fit in, though?
“It will never work,” Watson said.
“I beg your pardon?” Thorne was annoyed at his own inattention.
“That rail thing. It will never work.”
“I think it does work even now—in mines, for instance,” Thorne said.
“Oh, yes, but only on a small scale and using horses or donkeys as the source of power,” Watson argued.
The two men excused themselves to make Rolsbury acquainted with more of the company. Lady Hermiston went to attend to some hostess duty. Moments later, Thorne saw Lady Wyndham and Miss Richardson