Yuah knelt down and used the buttonhook to fasten the twenty-eight buttons on each of Iolanthe’s shoes. As she fastened the last button, Yuah had to smile appreciatively. These shoes cost more than she made in a year, but unlike most wealthy aristocratic women, Iolanthe paid a premium not because the shoes were encrusted with jewels, but because they were exceptionally well made, and they were very comfortable.
“What are you smiling at?” demanded Iolanthe.
“Nothing, Miss. I would never smile in your presence.”
Iolanthe pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes.
“What do you think about moving to some faraway land, Yuah… say for instance, Mallon?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Yuah feigned.
“Oh please. I know you’re all a bunch of spies. There is nothing that goes on in the house that you and your father and the cook don’t know about.”
“I’m just the servant, Miss. You’re the mistress.”
“You’re cheeky too. I would fire you in a minute if it weren’t that Augie is under the impression that you are his sister instead of me.” Iolanthe stood up and brushed out her dress. “Have you heard from him, by the way?”
“Yes, Miss.” Yuah had gotten at least three letters from Augie since Iolanthe had last asked her. He did indeed think of her as a sister, and she thought of him as a brother. She sent him a letter for every one she received. They were the same age, two years younger than Iolanthe, and six years younger than Terrence, and had spent an enormous amount of time together as children.
“And what did he say?” asked Iolanthe, pointedly.
“Oh. He wrote mostly about the native…people. Can you call them people? They aren’t really people are they?”
“It matters little what you call them,” said Iolanthe as she crossed the room to the cheval glass.
“Well, he’s been talking to them and learning their language. Isn’t that marvelous? Imagine talking to reptiles. And he writes about the creatures that live where he is. It’s all quite amazing.”
“Amazing that he hasn’t managed to mess it all up.”
“Not at all,” replied Yuah, raising her chin defiantly. “I think Master Augie is doing the family proud.”
“My family,” Iolanthe reminded her.
“Still, he’s not the brother you would prefer to hear from, is he?”
Yuah’s face turned red. “I don’t know what you’re talking about… Miss.”
“Returning to my previous topic.” Iolanthe carefully placed her new hat atop her carefully coifed hair. “Life would be different for you outside of Brechalon… in a colony, I mean. Colonial life is different. You wouldn’t be a servant any more. In fact, you could probably afford servants of your own. You might be quite an important part of the community.”
“Are you trying to tell me that in the colonies I might marry Terrence?”
“God no!” Iolanthe laughed musically. “Perhaps we could marry you off to a tradesman.”