Read Bewitching Season Online

Authors: Marissa Doyle

Bewitching Season

Table of Contents

Title Page

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Copyright Page

To Mom and Sherry and Liz and Hal and my Write Sisters

Janet and Doreen, who never said “if,” but “when”;

to my agent, Emily Sylvan Kim, who made the “when” into “now”;

to Dick—my only sadness is that you’re not here for this;

and most of all, to Scott

1

APRIL 1837—MAGE’S TUTTEROW, HAMPSHIRE, ENGLAND

“M
y God, Persy, you killed him!”

“I did not!” the Honorable Persephone Leland snapped back at her twin sister, Penelope, who was

perched on the battered schoolroom table. She rubbed her damp palms on her apron—they still

tingled, the way they usually did after she’d cast a spell—and looked anxiously at her little brother,

sprawled pale and motionless on the faded Turkish carpet in front of her. What would she say to

Mama? “I seem to have killed Charles during lessons this morning” would probably not go over well

as a conversation starter at lunch. She turned to her governess. “Oh, Ally, I did it just like the other

times!”

Miss Allardyce had assigned them halting spells today. While Pen watched, Persy had stopped

Charles in his tracks a dozen times with her command of
repellere statim!
But this time her spell’s

force had not only halted him but also knocked him over backward. She dropped to the floor and

grabbed one of his limp hands. “Charles, please, are you all right?”

Miss Allardyce sighed. “Penelope, do not take the Lord’s name in vain. A true lady is known by

her conduct under trying circumstances. And Charles, get up before your sisters have hysterics. I

know you’re hoaxing us.” She bent and gave one of his brown curls a sharp tug.

Persy exhaled in relief as her brother opened his eyes and gave her an impudent grin. “Got you,

Persy.” He sprang up and held out a hand to her. “Tell me you weren’t just a little worried.”

She was, but she’d never admit it to him, the little beast. Ignoring his hand, she scrambled to her

feet and shook out the creases in her pink morning dress.

Honestly, why did Ally let Charles sit in on their magic classes when he was home from school on

holidays? Yes, it was helpful to have someone on whom to practice spells like this one, and they

couldn’t very well ask any of the servants. Magic was not something one advertised, as Ally

frequently reminded them. It was risky enough having their lessons in the schoolroom, but Ally had set

up a warning spell at the end of the corridor in case the footman came up with more coal for the

fireplace. Still, practicing on Charles was sometimes too much.

“I wasn’t worried. In fact, I rather hoped I’d found a spell to knock you unconscious. It would have

been terribly useful,” she said, looking down her nose at him. He grinned again and stuck out his

tongue at her.

“Persy,” Ally chided. “Is that a commendable sentiment?”

“No, but it’s an honest one.” Persy collapsed on the yellow brocade sofa Mama had sent up here

when it became too disreputable for the morning room. Between practicing that halting spell and the

hour of object teleportation and manipulation before that—not to mention Charles’s shenanigans—her

head was starting to pound. Hard magic practice always did that to her. “I think I’ve had enough for

one morning, please, Ally. It’s Pen’s turn.”

Miss Allardyce frowned as she consulted the watch at the waist of her neat maroon dress. “You

have another ten minutes scheduled—”

Persy groaned and began to rise.

“—but I shall excuse you for this morning.” She bent over Persy and brushed her fingers across her

forehead. “Better?” she added softly, belying her stern look.

“Yes, thank you.” Persy closed her eyes and sighed. She would have to learn Ally’s headache-

curing spell one of these days.

Pen shook her head as she rolled up the sleeves of her dress. “You’re such a goose, Persy. If you

didn’t stay up late every night reading Ally’s spell books, you wouldn’t get the megrims.”

“But if I don’t study them now, when will I be able to? We leave for London next week.” Persy

kept her eyes closed so that she wouldn’t have to see Pen’s face light up at the mention of London.

“I know.” Pen’s voice was dreamy. “I can’t wait. Balls and parties and getting presented at court

—”

“—and having to be polite to witless boys who talk only about clothes and boxing matches—”

Persy grimaced as she thought of it.

“—and men with exquisite manners asking us to dance—” Pen ignored her.

“—and nasty mamas who scowl if you’re asked to dance before their daughters are—”

“—and society beauties in the latest fashions—”

“—and boring conversation about who cut whom dead at Lady So-and-So’s reception—”

“—and maybe finally seeing the princess.” Pen finished triumphantly.

That stopped Persy dead. If she had to “come out”—go to London and be presented to Queen

Adelaide and attend balls and be a proper society miss looking for a husband—then the least that

should happen was that she get a glimpse of Princess Victoria. Ever since they’d learned that they

shared the princess’s May birthday, she and Pen had scoured the illustrated papers for pictures and

snippets of information about the girl who would someday be queen of England. Imagine, someone

just their age—and a girl,
just like
them—as queen … after so many decades of disreputable old men

ruling the country, it was fascinating to contemplate.

“Do you think we ever
will
see her?” she couldn’t help asking.

“Just think … if she should become queen tomorrow.” Pen’s voice was breathless. “Then we’d be

presented to—to her!”

“Girls.” Ally stepped forward, shaking her head but smiling. “That would presuppose the death of

our present king, which is hardly kind or proper. And if Princess Victoria were to become queen

before she turns eighteen, it is more likely that you’d be presented to her mother as the queen’s

regent.”

“Oh.” Pen sounded disappointed. “Well, it was just a thought. But maybe we will see her, just the

same … they say she’s ever so tiny, but has the most beautiful blue eyes. Do you remember the sketch

of her Grandmama sent us last year? I wonder how she wears her hair now? Do you think it’s like that

illustration we saw in—”

Ally cleared her throat. “Might we continue with our lesson before the bell rings for luncheon?

Charles, if you will … Charles?”

A snoring sound issued from under the sofa. Persy started, and peered under its edge.

“I got bored and went to sleep while you talked about that girl stuff,” he said, opening one blue eye

and squinting at her.

Eleven-year-old boys. What else should she expect? Persy poked him. “Come on out,

Chucklehead.”

“Don’t want to. I’m tired of getting pushed around while you practice magic on me. Why can’t I

learn too, Ally?” He rolled out from under the sofa and glared up at them. “I’m stuck going to rotten

old Eton while you two have fun here doing spells all the time.”

Ally shook her head at him. “I’ve told you, Charles. Boys your age don’t usually have the capacity

for magic. And in your family it has been the girls who possess it. Attending Eton is a privilege that

only you, as a boy, can enjoy. Don’t begrudge your sisters their education.”

“You get to learn Greek,” Persy said glumly. Oh, how she’d love to learn ancient Greek, and be

able to read The Odyssey in Homer’s own words.

Pen made a face at her and strolled to the ivy-shrouded window. “And fencing. Now that would be

exciting. Come on, Chuckles. Let’s get busy. It looks like the rain’s finally stopped. After lunch you

can go outside and play and not endure the torture of watching us anymore.”

Crossing the dark-paneled hall on her way to the midday meal, Persy glanced up at the great family-

tree mural painted on one wall. When twin girls were born to James Leland, thirteenth Viscount

Atherston, and his wife, Lady Parthenope, it was reckoned the joke of the season: no daughters had

been born in the direct Leland line since King Henry created the title in the 1530s.

What few remembered after such a long time was that Leland women were known for their magical

abilities. It was only thanks to Ally, whose mother had traced the histories of the magic-possessing

families of England, that the Leland girls had learned to use their power.

Lord Atherston was a quiet, scholarly man who took great joy in finding two perfect classical

names for his two tiny perfect daughters. Though Mama had told them that she’d protested, citing the

tears she had shed in her early schoolroom years learning how to spell her own classically derived

name, he was adamant.

And so the names Persephone and Penelope had duly been painted onto that wall, to be joined six

years later by that of Charles Augustus, or Chuckles, as his sisters had christened him. Eventually

Charles’s name would be outlined in gold as the fourteenth viscount. Rather sooner, hers and Pen’s

would be joined by other names, names that belonged to eligible young twigs from other family trees.

Persy’s mouth went dry at the thought. Why couldn’t she stay a child forever, having magic lessons

with Ally and sneaking books out of Papa’s library to read and avoiding the agony of coming out and

balls and meeting strangers? She shivered and averted her eyes from the wall as she followed Pen

into the breakfast room.

Papa stood by the marble fireplace, toasting his backside and reading a small leather-bound

volume of Virgil’s
Eclogues.
Their mother, Lady Parthenope, as she was still called—she had never

quite been able to forget that she was a duke’s eldest daughter—stood by the window with Miss

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