Lady Farnsworth jumped into the awkward silence while the duke assembled whatever conclusions gathered in his head. "Miss MacCallum was recommended to us by one of the most eminent physicians in Edinburgh, and her essays are proving very popular. I will have to improve my own writing lest I fall out of favor with the subscribers of Parnassus and they all clamor for more of her brilliance."
"Lady Farnsworth shares her political views in that journal, I am told. As today's party makes public, the duchess here serves as its patroness," he said to Davina. "What do you contribute, Miss MacCallum?"
"Stories about some journeys I have taken."
The duchess laughed lightly. Lady Farnsworth chortled. The duke smiled that vague smile. "From the reaction, I think you either fibbed or told a joke of which I am ignorant."
"It is neither a fib nor a joke, Your Grace. In the course of those travels I witnessed some medical concerns among the women I met. I include information about those along with the more usual descriptions of places and monuments."
"She has a talent for it," the duchess said. "It hardly reads as a medical treatise, all boring and dry. Instead any woman she introduces becomes a real person and I think our readers recognize themselves in some of the plights described. In the least they can't help but be sympathetic, and they receive excellent advice if they suffer from the same affliction."
"That is a rare talent, to be educational without being pedantic." His gaze lingered on her, as if he had seen something unexpected and needed to confirm his fleeting impression.
"Ah, Langford's duchess has arrived," their hostess said, looking to the door. "She delayed to bring some copies of the new issue with her, fresh from the printer. Please excuse us, ladies." She slid her hand around the duke's arm and guided him away.
"Lady Farnsworth shares her political views in that journal, I am told." Lady Farnsworth echoed the duke's words in a brittle mutter. "How like him to let us know he has never read an issue. As I said, it is a wonder he deigned to join us."
Davina was not sure he had never read an issue. He had only implied he never read Lady Farnsworth's contributions. She did not think the lady would appreciate that observation, however.
"He would be more handsome if he were less hard," Lady Farnsworth said in a distracted voice. "Come, let us see if Amanda brought an extra copy that we can nab before someone else does."
Brentworth accompanied Clara to the little table where Langford's new duchess, the former Amanda Waverly, had deposited the crisp new issues of Parnassus. Clara glowed while she opened one to the frontispiece that named her as the publisher and patroness. The revelation of her role was the reason for this little celebration at her home.
"I am so proud to finally have my name associated with this undertaking." She cocked her head and watched him page through another copy. "You do not approve, I think."
"I always approve of accomplishments. And, if we are honest, whether I approve or not would not matter to you in the least."
"How wrong you are. Your high esteem is very important to me."
"Sarcasm doesn't become you." He paged past Lady Farnsworth's essay, noting that it began with the stridence for which the woman was famous. Unlike most members of Parliament, he did not dismiss her views. The lady had a sharp mind and sharper pen and both had a talent for cutting to the heart of an issue. He had become aware of this journal a year ago, and only read it for her contributions.
His fingers paused when he reached the page that began Miss MacCallum's essay. "She is an unusual addition to your journal, and this party."
Clara bent her head to see the page he lingered upon. "Her writing is most unusual too. Clinical at times. Intimate at others. Poetic when she describes vistas that move her. We intend to take anything she wants to send us."
His gaze lit on one of the clinical parts. The writing eschewed euphemisms. It described a young woman in a small village who took to her bed every month in debilitating pain on the first day of her menses, then proceeded to explain how common that was for younger women before offering advice on possible actions for relief.
He'd had no idea some women suffered pain for this reason. "On what basis is she qualified to give medical advice?"
"Sound judgement, I would say. As for the basis of that, perhaps you should ask her."