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Authors: M.C. Beaton

Animating Maria

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M. C. Beaton
is the author of the hugely successful Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth series, as well as a quartet of Edwardian murder mysteries featuring heroine Lady Rose Summer, the Travelling Matchmaker and Six Sisters Regency romance series, and a stand-alone murder mystery,
The Skeleton in the Closet
– all published by Constable & Robinson. She left a full-time career in journalism to turn to writing, and now divides her time between the Cotswolds and Paris. Visit
www.agatharaisin.com
for more.

Praise for the School for Manners series:

‘A welcome new series . . . the best of the Regency writers again offers an amusing merry-go-round of a tale.’

Kirkus

‘The Tribbles, with their salty exchanges and impossible schemes, provide delightful entertainment.’

Publishers Weekly

‘[Beaton] displays a fine touch in creating an amusing set of calamities in her latest piece of frivolous fiction.’

Booklist

‘The Tribbles are charmers . . . Very highly recommended.’

Library Journal

 

Titles by M. C. Beaton

The School for Manners

Refining Felicity

Perfecting Fiona

Enlightening Delilah

Animating Maria

Finessing Clarissa

Marrying Harriet

The Six Sisters

Minerva

The Taming of Annabelle

Deirdre and Desire

Daphne

Diana the Huntress

Frederica in Fashion

The Edwardian Murder Mystery series

Snobbery with Violence

Hasty Death

Sick of Shadows

Our Lady of Pain

The Travelling Matchmaker series

Emily Goes to Exeter

Belinda Goes to Bath

Penelope Goes to Portsmouth

Beatrice Goes to Brighton

Deborah Goes to Dover

Yvonne Goes to York

The Agatha Raisin series

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death

Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet

Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener

Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley

Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage

Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist

Agatha Raisin and the Wellspring of Death

Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham

Agatha Raisin and the Witch of Wyckhadden

Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam

Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell

Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came

Agatha Raisin and the Curious Curate

Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House

Agatha Raisin and the Deadly Dance

Agatha Raisin and the Perfect Paragon

Agatha Raisin and Love, Lies and Liquor

Agatha Raisin and Kissing Christmas Goodbye

Agatha Raisin and a Spoonful of Poison

Agatha Raisin: There Goes the Bride

Agatha Raisin and the Busy Body

Agatha Raisin: As the Pig Turns

The Hamish Macbeth series

Death of a Gossip

Death of a Cad

Death of an Outsider

Death of a Perfect Wife

Death of a Hussy

Death of a Snob

Death of a Prankster

Death of a Glutton

Death of a Travelling Man

Death of a Charming Man

Death of a Nag

Death of a Macho Man

Death of a Dentist

Death of a Scriptwriter

Death of an Addict

A Highland Christmas

Death of a Dustman

Death of a Celebrity

Death of a Village

Death of a Poison Pen

Death of a Bore

Death of a Dreamer

Death of a Maid

Death of a Gentle Lady

Death of a Witch

Death of a Valentine

Death of a Sweep

Death of a Kingfisher

The Skeleton in the Closet

 

 

 

Constable & Robinson Ltd

55–56 Russell Square

London WC1B 4HP

www.constablerobinson.com

First published in the US by St Martin’s Press, 1990

This paperback edition published by Canvas,
an imprint of Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2012

Copyright © M. C. Beaton, 1990

The right of M. C. Beaton to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.

A copy of the British Library Cataloguing in
Publication Data is available from the British Library

ISBN: 978-1-78033-315-1 (paperback)

ISBN: 978-1-78033-470-7 (ebook)

Typeset by TW Typesetting, Plymouth, Devon

Printed and bound in the UK

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

1

Father, O Father! what do we here
In this land of unbelief and fear?
The Land of Dreams is better far
Above the light of the morning star.

William Blake

‘Common as a barber’s chair,’ said Miss Amy Tribble.

‘But so exquisitely pretty,’ pointed out her sister, Effy. ‘Quite the prettiest to have engaged our services.’

The Tribble sisters were discussing their latest ‘client’, Maria Kendall. Although they were good
ton
, the sisters were always in need of money, and sponsoring ‘difficult’ girls at the Season had proved a lucrative source of income. The Tribbles were too eccentric to attract the attentions of any match-making mama with a sweet young thing to puff off. But parents of the spoilt, the rowdy, the farouche, or the downright odd turned to the Tribbles. Despite four previous successes, they were lucky to get any clients, because it seemed their tall house in Holles Street in the West End of London attracted murder and mayhem.

They also had a resident French dressmaker, but it had become well known that Yvette had given birth to an illegitimate child, a child the Tribbles had not only let her have in their house but had also announced their intention of looking after.

So the fact that the Kendalls stank of the shop and were incredibly vulgar did not stop the Tribble sisters from thinking they were very lucky to get anyone at all.

Thanks to their previous successes, their home was now well appointed and well run. The drawing room in which the sisters sat, discussing the Kendalls and the imminent arrival of their daughter Maria, was a pretty room with long windows boasting new gold-and-white-striped curtains. The furniture had been upholstered in gold-and-white satin, and a fine Aubusson carpet covered the floor. The furniture was a pleasant mixture of the old and the new. There were books and magazines, vases of flowers and the scent of applewood from a cheerful fire.

Both spinsters were reputed to be in their fifties. Effy Tribble, who had been plain in her youth, had become a pretty, dainty woman with silver-white hair, a sweet face and a trim figure. Her twin, Amy, was less favoured. She had a sad, horselike face, a flat figure, large feet, and was often clumsy.

They were jealous of each other. Amy envied Effy’s looks, and Effy envied the way Amy seemed to get the gentlemen to like her. Until the last Season, they had competed for the attentions of their nabob friend, Mr Haddon. But now Mr Haddon’s friend, Mr Randolph, was on the scene. He had also returned from India rich and still a bachelor.

The sisters had spent many, many Seasons in London, but age had not diminished their hopes of marriage. Despite wrinkles and back pains and sagging skin on the outside, a young and tremulous girl still lived inside each of them, longing for a husband.

But that afternoon, they had for once put all thoughts of their own romantic dreams out of their heads. Maria Kendall meant work, and work meant money. The vulgar Kendalls had already paid out a large sum of money in advance.

‘The parents may be pushy, mushroom sort of people,’ said Effy, ‘but you must admit that Maria Kendall is as graceful and charming as she is beautiful.’

‘When she’s actually
there
,’ said Amy crossly. ‘Her parents say she lives in a dream-world and no amount of whipping will bring her down to earth.’

‘On the other hand, does she need to be brought down to earth?’ asked Effy. ‘She is rich and beautiful.’

‘But think of our reputation,’ pointed out Amy. ‘We have secured titled gentlemen for all our previous charges. Any lord has only to meet Maria’s father and mother to take the whole family in dislike. Do you know that Mr Kendall told me the price of every item in that dreadful drawing room of theirs?’

‘Yes,’ said Effy. ‘And Mrs Kendall had her jewel box brought in and discussed the value of every stone with me. Where does their money come from again?’

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