Bathilda "Cousin Bathilda" Picklewood

A rather stout lady who is always accompanied by her little spaniel, Mignon, Cousin Bathilda brought up Lady Phoebe and Lady Hero after their parents were killed.

Appears in Notorious Pleasures, Duke of Midnight, Darling Beast, and Dearest Rogue

* * *

“Do you think a man can change?” Hero asked that night at dinner. 

She poked at the cold beef upon her plate. It was just her, Cousin Bathilda, and Phoebe, and Cousin Bathilda had pointed out that it was hardly thrifty to have Cook put on a grand meal for a quiet supper at home.

Still. Hero did dislike cold beef.

“No,” Cousin Bathilda said promptly. Rarely did she ever not have a decided opinion.

“What kind of change do you mean?” Phoebe asked. 

The candlelight sparkled on her spectacles as she tilted her head in interest. She wore a bright yellow gown tonight and it made her seem to shine in the little family dining room. The table was a nice, intimate size, and the fireplace, ornamented with white and blue tile, was just big enough to make the room warm and cozy.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Hero said vaguely—though of course she did know. “Say for instance a gentleman has a decided fondness for gambling at cards. Do you think he could ever be persuaded to quit?”

“No,” Cousin Bathilda reiterated. She slipped her right hand beneath the table while staring fixedly straight ahead. There was a small scuffle under the table.

Neither Hero nor Phoebe made any sign that they had noticed the transaction.

“I think it might depend upon the gentleman,” Phoebe said thoughtfully. “And perhaps on the nature of the persuasion.” She picked up a tiny piece of her beef and slipped her hand beneath the table.

“Nonsense,” Cousin Bathilda said. “Mark my words: no lady has ever been able to change a gentleman, by persuasion or otherwise.”

“Pass the beetroot,” Phoebe murmured to Hero. “How do you know, Cousin Bathilda?”

“It’s common feminine wisdom,” that lady said. “Take Lady Pepperman.”

“Who?” Hero asked. She helped herself to the beetroot, even though that was cold as well, before passing it to her sister.

“Before your time,” Cousin Bathilda said. “Now listen. Lord Pepperman was a well-known gambler and a very unlucky one at that. Once gambled away his clothes, if you can credit it, and had to walk home in nothing but his smallclothes and wig.”

Phoebe snorted and hastily covered her mouth with her napkin.

But Cousin Bathilda was in full sail and didn’t notice. “Lady Pepperman was at her wit’s end. So she decided she would teach her husband not to gamble.”

“Indeed?” Hero asked with interest. She chose a bit of beef and held it under the table. A small, warm, soft nose nuzzled her hand and then the beef was gone. “How did she manage that?”

Panders, the butler, and both footmen were too well trained to show anything but boredom on their faces, but all three men were leaning closer to Cousin Bathilda.

“She told him he could gamble as much as he wanted, but only in his smallclothes!” Cousin Bathilda said.

There was a small silence as everyone in the room—including the servants—gaped at Cousin Bathilda.

Then Phoebe closed her mouth and asked diffidently, “Did that work?”

“Of course not!” Cousin Bathilda said. “Haven’t you been listening to a word I’ve said? Lord Pepperman continued to gamble, except now he was clad only in his small clothes. Went on for a year or more before he lost nearly everything and tried to blow his brains out.”

Hero choked. “Tried?”

“Succeeded only in clipping off the top of his ear,” Cousin Bathilda pronounced. “Man was a horrible shot. Can’t think why Lady Pepperman married him in the first place.”

“Hmm,” Hero murmured as she digested this cautionary tale. Truly she couldn’t think how she could apply it to Lord Reading.

–from Notorious Pleasures