A Little Knowledge (The Split Worlds #4) - Emma Newman


Cathy listened to the argument, weighed its merit, and considered her response carefully, as the Duchess of Londinium should. “This is bullshit.”

That also summarised most of what Cathy had discovered about being Duchess of Londinium. She’d had high hopes—once she’d overcome the sheer dread of having such high status—that the title of Duchess would confer upon her enough power to really make a difference in Fae-touched Society. In reality, the only power Cathy had was confined to areas in which she had no interest whatsoever.

What was the use of setting Londinium fashion when she didn’t give a stuff about necklines and fabrics and whether things should have lace trims or not? What was the point of being the woman all the others looked to for social cues when they were lost on her in the first place? Cathy still cringed at the memory of the first soirée they’d held at the Tower; one of the Buttercup ladies had fainted because she hadn’t eaten. Appalled, Cathy had discovered that none of the female guests had gone near the feast laid out for them because she, as Duchess, hadn’t yet had the first bite. Having the power to dictate when all of the women in the room could start eating was the tragic pinnacle of her influence. She should have known that only the Duke would have any real power.

Everyone kept telling her how influential and important the Duchess was, but whenever Cathy tried to pin down exactly how she could wield that influence and importance, it was all vague comments and shrugs. Margritte Tulipa, who had been Duchess for less than an hour and frankly, still should have been, had tried to explain it to her. Apparently, it was all about presenting an image of stability and strength whilst indicating who was in favour and who was not. Margritte had patiently described the subtleties of whom Cathy should look at or talk to in different situations and how to respond, but it was like another language. Theoretically, it was to help the ladies in the Londinium Court know who was worth speaking to and who wasn’t. Cathy couldn’t for the life of her fathom why that would be so. Surely they could make up their own minds!

It didn’t help that at social events she just wanted to sneak off and read a book, like she had as a child. Although Cathy understood that wasn’t possible anymore, it was too much of a leap to suddenly acquire all the social delicacy and insight now required of her. Cathy had the delicacy and insight of a cat with its head stuck in a box moving backwards to try and escape it, and she knew it.

Even in the library Will had created for her, with three women she loved and respected, Cathy felt impotent. No one was listening to her. She didn’t want to stamp her foot and shout “Who’s Duchess?” in a shrill voice, but it was sorely tempting as the argument circled again and again.

Margritte’s eyes, round as pennies, were fixed on Cathy. “This is the best compromise we can reach. I think it’s too early, but if you’re determined to go into the Court and be controversial, this is the best we can agree on.”

“I’m not determined to be controversial,” Cathy said. “I’m determined to make some bloody changes, and setting up a women’s court is the wrong way to go! We should have the right to speak in the Londinium Court just like the men do. A crappy girl version reinforces the idea that women have to have something separate and special.”

“Who said this new court would be a ‘crappy girl version’?” Margritte asked.

“No one, but it’s obvious that’s what it will be.”

“Is it?” Margritte pressed. “I was hoping it would be a space where women can gather with the sole purpose of discussing matters of import without fearing male censorship. Forgive me, Cathy, but I thought that was what we all agreed was sorely needed here.”

Cathy looked at Natasha Rainer, her former governess, for support. This was the woman who had taught her about the suffragists and Peterloo, the single most influential person in her life. Natasha’s lips were pressed in a tight, thin line, as if she were using them like a dam to hold back a torrent. She still didn’t have the confidence to argue passionately against Margritte, no matter how many times she agreed with Cathy when they were in private. Cathy suspected that Natasha hadn’t fully