Authors: Karen Ranney
Tags: #Romance, #Historical Romance, #Scottish Highland, #Regency Romance, #love story, #Highlanders
“I’m not merely an editor, Lord Provost. I also write columns and do the reporting for the paper. Otherwise, all the
would publish would be legal notices. Who would subscribe to us then?”
“Indeed,” he said, his smile still in evidence. Was he impervious to the cold? Weren’t his lips numb and his teeth freezing?
She felt as if her nose must be bright red. Hopefully, it wasn’t running. She slipped a hand up to her lips, breathing on her glove.
“And you, Lord Provost, why would you be out and about and not in council chambers?”
“We had an inspection of the gradient of the street,” he said. “A company is claiming that steam power will effectively power tramways in the city.”
“Do you agree?”
“I’m not certain,” he said. “Steam power might be against the Edinburgh Tramways Act we passed last year. Besides, I see the possibility of accidents through failing brakes. It’s not a chance I’m willing to take with the lives of the citizens of Edinburgh.”
She was going to have to examine the act in more detail. Perhaps she should write a column about the future of Edinburgh, including the Lord Provost’s opinion on steam trams. Perhaps the man was simply averse to progress.
That, she could most certainly pass along to her readers.
“But I’ve kept you too long,” he said, reaching out and wrapping her scarf around her throat, a gesture that held her silent and surprised. “You’re beginning to shiver. However, it was a pleasure to see you again, Miss Sinclair.”
“I’m quite used to Edinburgh’s winters,” she said. “It’s my home.”
He smiled again. “How odd that we’ve never met before now.”
The fact that she had thought the same was annoying.
“Not that odd. I do not cover politics. I prefer to report on things that matter.”
His smile didn’t slip one degree. Instead, she seemed to have amused him again.
“I shall keep your words in mind, Miss Sinclair, and endeavor to matter today.”
She wanted to say something wickedly wise, words that would impress him with her capacity for repartee. Nothing, absolutely nothing, came to mind, and she was forced to simply nod, watching as he walked back over the street, his long coat flapping around his legs. She’d never been rendered speechless around anyone.
He was an imposing man and a bothersome one. He’d either seen the broadside and wanted to confuse her or hadn’t yet read it.
She only wished she knew which one it was.
Turning, she made her way to her next source, a shopkeeper near Princes Street.
She could feel Harrison’s eyes on her all the way up the street. Twice, she stopped, and twice told herself to keep walking. She would not turn around to see if he was still there. What disturbed her was not the sensation that the Lord Provost was watching her but the fact that her heart was racing at the thought of him doing so.
The Drummonds had two daughters. Which one was he going to marry?
She would bet next month’s income from the paper that none of the Drummond girls ever wondered about their futures. Nor would they be concerned about the plight of women in Scotland.
Perhaps she wasn’t being fair. She had a habit of prejudging people sometimes, especially when she felt lacking or not as accomplished as the other person. When that happened, and she noted it at the time, she made a concerted effort to correct her behavior.
Both Drummond girls could be suffragettes for all she knew.
She doubted it, however. They were probably the type who would simper around Harrison, playing coy and delicate and helpless. He would like that type of female.
He probably thought it beneath him to be challenged by a woman.
No, he hadn’t read the broadside, she was certain of it. She smiled into the wind, anticipating when he finally did.
oday’s council meeting had been contentious. Just when Logan thought the clamor might die down, a male representative of the Scottish Ladies National Association was allowed into council chambers.
When he read the petition handed to him, presented by a man who otherwise looked intelligent, he only stared at it.
“The SLNA wants to march through the streets of Edinburgh?” he asked, biting back his irritation and attempting to sound calm and reasoned.
“Yes, Provost Harrison, in order to demonstrate to the good citizens of Edinburgh our just cause.”
He put the petition on the long table in front of him. “Have you traveled through Edinburgh lately, Mr. McElwee?”
The man held his ground, smiling back at him. “Indeed I have, sir, and I understand your concerns about congestion. The SLNA wishes to hold the march at a time both convenient to the council and when we would be most visible to the citizens.”
Logan glanced to his left, then his right, meeting the stony features of his fellow councilmen. “We will take it under advisement, Mr. McElwee.”
The man nodded. “When might you make a decision, Lord Provost? The ladies are most anxious.”
“Have you no concern for their safety?” he asked. “Or are you not aware of the number of disturbances during each of the SLNA meetings?”
For the first time, McElwee didn’t look as sanguine. “We are indeed aware, Lord Provost, which is the reason why we wish to march. If the inhabitants of Edinburgh truly understood our goals, I believe we would be able to marshal their support.”
Two women had been badly hurt last week, and just a few days ago a group of men shouting epithets had advanced on women leaving one of the meetings.
One of his predecessor’s most memorable acts had been to adopt a dog and, when he died, have a statue erected in his honor. While Logan knew he would, no doubt, be remembered by posterity as the man who oversaw the destruction of Edinburgh by a war of the sexes on the Royal Mile.
“The ladies will simply have to petition other cities in the interim,” he said.
A half hour later he parted from his fellow council members. After giving instructions to the secretary recording the meeting, he made his way to his office, only to be waylaid by McElwee. The man stepped out from an alcove and stood in the middle of the corridor, effectively blocking his passage.
“Mr. Harrison, if I might have a moment,” he said.
“Now is not the time to press your case, Mr. McElwee. I believe you already did a sufficient job of that in council chambers. As I told you, we will take the matter under advisement.”
“What would it take to convince you, sir, that the SLNA should be given the opportunity to educate and inform?”
“There are plenty of ways they could educate and inform, Mr. McElwee, that wouldn’t put them in jeopardy. We could not guarantee their safety.”
“We do not wish to be safe, sir. We wish to be heard.”
Logan folded his arms, staring at the other man. “We? How did you find yourself involved in a group of women?” Raucous women at that, who were determined to press their case to others who didn’t want to learn or listen.
“There are numerous men who belong to the SLNA, Mr. Harrison. Those men who realize it is the nineteenth century, time enough for women to take their rightful place alongside men.” He eyed Logan with narrowed eyes. “You’re a director of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, are you not?”
“A pity you do not care as much for the plight of women as you do a cart horse, sir. I’ll tell the ladies that we would be better served to go to Glasgow or Aberdeen. Perhaps their governments are more enlightened.”
With that, McElwee turned on his heel and strode down the corridor.
Logan walked back to his office in contemplative silence. Had the man been correct? Had he never considered the plight of women?
He entered his office, grateful to find it empty for once. Normally, he was surrounded by people who just wanted to add one more thing to a discussion, ask a favor, or deliver an invitation.
Even Thomas was absent, a fact for which he was grateful.
He closed the door behind him, wishing it had a lock, and settled into the chair behind his desk, turning slightly so that he could see the view. Edinburgh Castle hunkered on the hill, reminding everyone that this was a royal place, the capital of Scotland, the home of intrigue. What better place to march?
What would Edinburgh citizens do in response? Some of the men might jeer. Some would no doubt feel threatened. How would the women react? Perhaps half of them would be shocked, or maybe the majority of them would applaud.
Thomas entered the office without knocking, but then he thought Logan’s office his domain.
Logan ignored him.
He didn’t know many women. His mother had died when he was nineteen after a long illness. His sisters-in-law were all pleasant women but he had the impression that he terrified them. None of the three had ever initiated a conversation with him. Instead, they stood in the background staring at him like he was a beast in the parlor.
He supposed they were happy. Whenever he visited his family, his brothers were the same boisterous bunch, laughing and boasting as they always had. They were his brothers and they hadn’t changed, although he might have.
Strangely enough, he enjoyed going to their houses more than them coming to his home. They weren’t the same people when they came visiting. His brothers were as silent as their wives.
Would his sisters-in-law wish to march through Edinburgh? Or would they be appalled at the idea? Were they eager to vote? Or was that something they left to their husbands? Were they more concerned with their children than their rights?
He heard Thomas rustling papers behind him and wished he could banish the man for a while. Only in his home was he allowed any true privacy, but even that had to be dictated and enforced. No visitors. No slipping into his library to ask if he wanted coffee or something to eat. No bringing domestic problems to his attention.
Mrs. Landers ensured that his library was sacrosanct. She was also one of the few women he knew well.
Even the women on his list of potential wives weren’t personalities as much as commodities, and that realization would have shamed him had he not understood they did the same to him. Did he earn enough to support them and a family to come? Was he of sufficient social bearing? Criteria that was perfectly acceptable and understandable.
But who were they as people? Did Barbara Drummond care about the plight of women or was she more concerned with her own life? Did Olivia Laurie want to engage in politics or did she consider the whole idea beyond her?
“The SLNA wants to hold a march through the middle of Edinburgh,” he said without turning.
“Do they, sir?” Thomas said, his voice without inflection. Thomas, from his tone, didn’t give a flying farthing.
He nodded. “They want to call attention to the organization, and educate the citizens of Edinburgh on the causes of women.”
“Voting. Women getting the vote.”
“Why should women get the vote, sir? They would only go to their husbands to be told who to vote for.”
He glanced at Thomas. His secretary wasn’t a bigot; he was repeating those tenets he’d been brought up to believe.
“You aren’t supporting that, are you, sir? Most men don’t want women to vote.”
“Why is that? Or is that even a correct assumption? I don’t believe I’ve ever asked one of my companions his feelings on the matter. Have you?”
Thomas looked from left to right, then down at his papers, almost as if he were torn, wanting to answer in the affirmative but being loath to lie in case Logan questioned him further.
He took pity on his secretary. “Perhaps in the future,” he said, “you might ask some of your associates how they feel.”
“I will, sir,” Thomas said.
“How do you feel, Thomas?”
“Do you wish your wife could vote?”
Thomas’s eyes showed too much white. “I’ve never given it much thought,” he said.
A tactful answer, but then Thomas was a man with just the right answer for the right moment. He was the quintessential political being, someone who gave advice after weighing both sides and choosing the best option. Not necessarily the right thing to do but the most expedient.
Once, he would have considered himself fortunate to have a man with Thomas’s instincts working for him. Lately, however, Thomas was a barnacle on his backside.
The world wouldn’t end if he said the wrong thing at the wrong time or chose a position that might go against the mainstream. What was wrong with trying to convince others? What was wrong with being independent of thought and action?
According to Thomas, it would be a death knell to his political ambitions.
Even those were coming under scrutiny, but only his own. He wasn’t up to sharing his dissatisfaction with Thomas and being lectured hourly.
Thomas fumbled with his papers, withdrew one and advanced on his desk.
“I debated showing this to you, sir,” he said.
He extended his hand. “What is it?”
“A broadside, sir. Written by the woman you asked me to investigate.”
He scanned it quickly, then read it slower.
Now, Mairi Sinclair—there was a woman who would march through Edinburgh and say to hell with anyone who tried to challenge her.
Logan held the broadside in his hand and extended it the length of his arm. It didn’t get better at a distance.
Strange, he’d never been the subject of a broadside. She thought him a misogynist, did she? A man whose only intent was to keep women subservient to men?
When had women ever been subservient to men? They simply lived in a different world, one not occupied by meetings, negotiations, and conciliations. Their lives were concerned with fashion and gossip, filled with friends and laughter.
However, he’d enjoyed the columns she’d written under her pseudonyms. A test there, and one he’d spectacularly failed. He’d thought her a man. Nothing she’d written had sounded overtly feminine.
“I think someone should suggest she keep her opinions to herself, sir.”
“I don’t need a keeper. Or a protector, Thomas.”
Thomas’s face grew even more ratlike as his mouth pursed tightly.
Standing, Logan walked out from behind his desk, still clutching the broadside. He strode to the window and looked down at the square, finally turning and addressing his secretary.
“Give me an hour or two,” he said. “There’s nothing pressing on my agenda, is there?”
“You said something about wishing to talk to Miss Drummond’s father, sir.”
That could wait.
Logan’s every movement was dictated by expectations. Everyone’s but his. He countered his momentary irritation with the thought that he’d wanted this life, had done everything he could to obtain it. If the fit sometimes chafed, it was little enough to pay for the privileges of his rank.
“I need to take care of this matter,” he said.
“Sir, are you going to call on Miss Sinclair?”
He bit back his impatience and answered Thomas. “If I am?”
“Wouldn’t it be better to delegate the task to someone else?” Thomas asked. “That way you wouldn’t be accused of consorting with her type.”
Exactly what was her type? He realized he wanted to know, a comment he didn’t make to the other man.
“No, I think I’ll make the time to speak with her myself.”
Thomas nodded, his mouth twisted in a disapproving downturn. “Very well, sir, I’ll call for the carriage.”
“I don’t need you accompanying me,” Logan said.
Thomas frowned. “Are you certain, sir?”
Certain that Thomas was a constant and unremitting shadow? Certain that he was growing tired of the man’s omnipresence? Certain that he could breathe without Thomas sharing his air?
All he said was, “Yes, I’m certain.”
Perhaps it would have been better to have had a witness to the confrontation with the Sinclair woman, but he was surfeited by witnesses, by chaperones, by people constantly following him.
He made note of the fact he was having that thought fairly often.
A quarter hour later he was in front of the Sinclair Printing Company. He’d passed this building countless times, and never thought about it. Of yellow brick, it was neither an excessively prosperous appearing structure nor one that looked like it suffered a financial hardship. Somewhere in the middle, like most of the businesses he frequented, run by civil people who wanted a decent life.
The lettering on the wooden sign above the door read:
THE SINCLAIR PRINTING COMPANY, ESTABLISHED 1843.
Beneath it were the words:
THE EDINBURGH GAZETTE.
Nowhere did it feature the words “incendiary broadsides” or “scurrilous opinions offered for a penny.” Or even “bad poetry featured here.”
He took his time leaving the carriage.
Mairi Sinclair’s name wasn’t mentioned anywhere. Nor had she signed the broadside. Wasn’t an author normally proud of his authorship? Unless, of course, it was libelous. In that case, she was right not to have signed her name.