Bees in the Butterfly Gardenby Maureen Lang
Raised in an exclusive boarding school among Fifth Avenue’s finest, Meg Davenport has all she’s ever needed . . . but none of the things she’s wanted most, like family or dreams of a future that include anything other than finding a suitable match. So when her distant father dies, she seizes the chance to throw etiquette aside and do as she pleases.… See more details below
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Raised in an exclusive boarding school among Fifth Avenue’s finest, Meg Davenport has all she’s ever needed . . . but none of the things she’s wanted most, like family or dreams of a future that include anything other than finding a suitable match. So when her distant father dies, she seizes the chance to throw etiquette aside and do as she pleases. Especially when she learns that John Davenport wasn’t the wealthy businessman she thought, but one of the Gilded Age’s most talented thieves.
Poised to lead those loyal to Meg’s father, Ian Maguire knows the last thing his mentor would have wanted is for his beloved daughter to follow in his footsteps. Yet Meg is determined, and her connections to one of New York’s wealthiest families could help Ian pull off his biggest heist yet. But are they both in over their heads? And in trying to gain everything, will they end up losing it all?
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Bees in the Butterfly Garden
By MAUREEN LANG
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Maureen Lang
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA young lady who attains the grace of self-discipline rightfully earns the admiration of others. Indeed, her place in genteel society will not be won without it. Madame Marisse's Handbook for Young Ladies
NEW HAVEN COUNTY, CONNECTICUT FOUR YEARS LATER
Meg DaVenport stood barefoot on the warm, loose garden soil. she watched a butterfly hover on a breeze above the garden as if it danced before a banquet, contemplating which nectar to sample first. Yellow celandines, purple coneflowers, or red verbena? not far off, the sweet briar rose beckoned, trimmed with a skirt of pinks and zinnias. All planted under Meg's direction to attract butterflies of every sort.
She knew this butterfly. As a caterpillar he had, along with so many of his butterfly siblings and moth cousins, undoubtedly been hosted among the clover beds or colorful sweet peas that festooned the white columns of the gazebo where Meg often sat. But while many of the moths and butterflies boasted shades of black and white and gold and orange, this one lit a delicate shade of blue as the sun blended its sheer wings with the summer sky. How she wished she could fly like him, beyond the walls of the school, and see what the world looked like from a butterfly's view. It had been so long since she'd let herself dream of such things that she'd nearly forgotten how.
Perhaps it was as silly a whim for herself as for this pretty blue butterfly. He wasn't as adventurous as the others. She'd seen him before and knew he rarely floated beyond the edges of the garden.
She bent to remove another weed, although if Madame Marisse were still alive, she'd have quietly but firmly directed Meg back to the gazebo to merely enjoy what even she had called "Meg's garden." even with the school nearly empty for the off-season, there were others employed to do such menial tasks as pulling weeds. But Meg enjoyed the satisfaction to be found in keeping the garden pure of anything but what she'd intended for it to present. Besides, the earth was softer than any carpet beneath her toes.
Hazel Hibbit beckoned, but beside the stout school matron bustled her sister, Beatrice. Meg smiled, far from alarmed. The Hibbit sisters were forever distressed about something, perhaps more often now that Hazel had become the matron. Meg added the weed to the others she'd collected and set to the side for the gardener to remove, then stepped back onto the grass.
"A message!" Hazel called.
"Yes!" Beatrice added. "for you!"
Curiosity stirred, Meg held the puffed flounces that trimmed the bottom of her silk day dress out of the way to wipe her feet on the downy lawn. Obviously it wasn't a letter from a former schoolmate, an invitation to a soiree, or even a note from some prospective beau. Such things wouldn't have warranted any more attention than to be left with the others upon her silver card holder by the door.
Only a message from one person would hasten Hazel's step and add a bloom to Beatrice's cheeks. It must be from Meg's father.
"Open it, child! Look, it's bordered in black."
Meg reached for the sealed envelope. Indeed, the stationery was outlined in black, though her name was written neatly in the center where the paper had been left white. She tore it open, seeing it was dated that very day.
June 7, 1883
I write to you today with a heavy heart and unsteady hand. Your beloved father passed on to his reward this very day. I will, of course, see to all the arrangements of his burial.
Please be assured he did not suffer but breathed his last in the peacefulness of sleep.
Respectfully, Ian Maguire
"He's dead." Meg's words, like her heart, were untouched by the news. So it was over. Her hope that he would one day arrive knowing how to be a father to her, or to share with her anything of the family to which she was bound by blood.
"Your father?" Beatrice's voice was usually high-pitched, but just now piercingly so. "He's—he's gone?"
Meg nodded, folding the note and slipping it back into the envelope. She walked past the sisters, back to the three-story house that had once ranked among the finest federal estates on the hills between Boston and New York. For the past twenty-five years, this home had been one of the most expensive, exclusive schools in New England. One that taught European grace and manners to the next generation of accomplished wives and mothers, all under the far-reaching umbrella of Christian love. Even after Madame Marisse died two years ago, the staff had carried on in her absence so that it was still regarded as one of the finest schools along the East Coast.
Beatrice fluttered behind Meg, taking one of her arms. "oh, dear, we're so very sorry for the news!"
"Yes, of course we are," Hazel added, reaching for Meg's other arm. "How sad the world has lost such a gentleman."
Meg stepped up to the porch that served as the entrance to the back of the school, walked past the sunroom, where she and countless others had learned not only the art of watercolor and charcoal drawing, but the art of conversation and genteel manners. Here they had been taught how to be demure yet confident, all the while reminded of the delicacy of a woman's constitution and the greater delicacy of a woman's reputation. She passed the music room, where she'd learned not only to sing and dance and play piano, but the history of musical elements as well, because Madame Marisse had believed in the depth as well as the breadth of knowledge—at least as it pertained to becoming an asset to a husband. And she continued past the sitting room, where she had rested after lawn tennis or horseback riding or long afternoon walks. Or had spent time with the mundane to the profound, from idle embroidery to discussing the greatest literature known to man. Where she'd prayed with other students and the staff alike in english as well as French. Because Madame Marisse had believed in educating the whole person, physically, intellectually, and spiritually.
Meg passed all the rooms in which she had been a student, a friend, a protégé. But never a daughter.
In the front hall, at the foot of the stairs, she turned back to the sisters. "Thank you for your concern, but I wish to be alone for now."
"Oh yes, of course," Beatrice said.
Meg put a foot on one stair, then another, realizing for the first time that she'd left her shoes in the garden. But they didn't matter now.
One hand on the polished walnut handrail, Meg turned back.
Hazel looked up at Meg with the oddest expression, one of uncertainty rather than sympathy.
The look disappeared as Hazel turned away. "It's too soon, my dear. Never mind. Go upstairs, and we'll talk when you're ready."
"Pertaining to what?"
Hazel faced Meg again. "Pertaining to your father, dear."
"There is nothing to be said."
"You'll want to go to his funeral, of course," Beatrice said.
Meg shook her head. "even if I did, I wouldn't know how. That boy—" she amended her thought of him; the last time she'd seen Ian Maguire, he had been a boy, but surely he was as grown as she by now. "a Mr. Maguire will be attending to all of the details."
Hazel pulled at the bottom of her cuirass bodice, which shifted despite the finest of corsets beneath. It would fit even tighter by the end of summer, during which time Hazel annually added a few pounds, eating quantities she would never permit herself—or others—to consume while school was in session. "Yes, well, that isn't exactly what I meant, but we needn't discuss anything right now."
Meg descended the two stairs she'd mounted. The school was newly quiet with only her and the sisters there, besides the reduced year-round household staff.
"if there is anything to be said regarding my father's death, Miss Hibbit, you might as well tell me now. Has it something to do with my place here?"
"Oh no, of course not!" Beatrice spoke before Hazel could, shaking her head and taking one of Meg's hands, patting it. She was as wont to be thin as her sister was to be plump. When the students returned in the fall, one sister would eat with those whose diets were curbed, while the other ate with those whose diets were embellished. At the end of every summer they were able to provide guidance and personal example for those girls who had to work at becoming the ideally sized debutante.
"Your position is secure as long as you like," Beatrice added. "Madame Marisse made that so very clear, you know, before ... well, before she passed on."
Meg turned her eyes back to Hazel, and as so often happened when Meg leveled a gaze at anyone, man or woman, Hazel let her own stare linger. It happened because of the color of Meg's eyes; she knew that. The eyes she'd inherited from her father. Eyes that people simply wanted to peer into.
Hazel took Meg's other hand, leading her from the hall and back toward the wide, curved threshold into the parlor. It was a large room appointed in the finest fashion: furniture designed by such famous people as Phyfe, Lannuier, and roux; side chairs and sofas and a pair of French ladies' desks trimmed with inlaid mahogany; and nearby, a rococo center table of marble and rosewood offering an inviting surface for a silver tea set imported from London.
Hazel headed to one of the desks. "i wonder if you might think this a bit sudden, considering the news has had but a moment to make an impression."
Meg stared at Hazel, wondering if the older woman truly believed her own words. Did she think Meg's lack of emotion was simply because her father's death hadn't sunk in yet? Did she expect Meg to mourn a man she barely knew? other women might not have been immune to the charms of John Davenport, but unlike them Meg had never once wanted to simply stare at his handsome face.
"What is it you'd like to say about the matter, Miss Hibbit?"
Hazel looked from Meg to the desk beside her, the one used only by the staff. Meg expected, one day, that she would use that desk. Knowing there were few other options for her future, Meg had decided to transform this school from a luxurious factory of wives and mothers to an institution that could offer women more choices: to be instructors or lecturers, doctors or lawyers, or anything else they wished. It wasn't the kind of future she'd envisioned as a child—one in which she made others' dreams come true as she ignored her own—but with so little choice left open to her, it would have to suffice.
Hazel withdrew a key from her pocket. "Please, make yourself comfortable. Perhaps Beatrice could summon some tea."
Meg could hardly sit, let alone drink tea. "What is it you want to share with me?"
"I have a letter for you." she opened the desk as she spoke. Meg had seen the interior a thousand times or more: little compartments neatly holding bills and records, a small inkwell, pens and tips, stationery and envelopes. Nothing unusual. It was, in fact, the perfect model for students to reproduce while studying household management.
But then, after Hazel withdrew a small stack of envelopes, she pushed the edge of the corner compartment. In one surprising instant the rear wood piece dropped down. A shadow appeared, from which Hazel drew another lone envelope.
Holding it in her thick fingers, Hazel turned back to Meg. "it's from Madame Marisse regarding your father. We were instructed to look at it if you were ever at death's door. Otherwise it was to be given to you upon the day you left our school or the day your father died. Whichever came first."
How silly of Meg not to have had some kind of premonition of this. But she hadn't; Meg was completely, utterly stunned that Hazel knew something concerning her father that she did not.
"A letter from Madame to me, about my father. Do you know what it says?" Hazel shook her head.
Meg took the envelope, instantly disappointed in its weight-or rather, the lack of it. Surely it was a short letter.
She didn't open it right away. Instead, she stared down at the familiar script. So precise, so feminine. The perfect handwriting, as perfect as everything Madame Marisse had done. As controlled as Meg had learned to be.
Meg broke into the envelope, withdrawing the paper inside. she recognized at once the school stationery, upon which was written a few meager lines and a new York address.
The address below is to be used to contact John Davenport, should anything happen to Meg. If there has been any change, the proprietor of this business will know where Mr. Davenport can be reached. Only to be used in the most dire of circumstance.
Meg allowed the sisters to read the words over her shoulders.
"Well, then, there is no reason for you not to attend his funeral," Beatrice said. "You have means to contact his estate now."
Hazel nodded. "We'll accompany you, of course."
Meg shook her head. "No. I'll not be going."
She folded the letter, slipped it back into the envelope, and crumpled it with the other one, the one from Ian Maguire that had revealed her father's death. Then she walked from the room.
It wasn't until she was up the stairs, down the hall, through the very last bedroom door, and inside the perfectly decorated room that she fell to her knees, pressing those letters to her breast. And then she burst into tears.
Excerpted from Bees in the Butterfly Garden by MAUREEN LANG Copyright © 2012 by Maureen Lang. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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