"I have embarked upon another career for a number of reasons," she said crisply. "While the demand for mesmeric therapies appears to be as strong as ever, the competition is extremely fierce in that line and, as you noted, it is not easy to attract an exclusive sort of clientele unless one has connections and references in Society."
"I understand." Howard nodded somberly. "Celeste and I will have our work cut out for us, in that case. It will not be a simple matter for me to establish a new practice here."
"Where have you been practicing until now?" Tobias asked.
"I spent several years in America, traveling and lecturing on the science of mesmerism. A little over a year ago, however, I grew homesick and returned to England."
Celeste sparkled at him. "I met Howard in Bath last year. He had established a flourishing practice there, but he felt it was time to come to London."
"I hope to discover a greater variety of interesting and unusual cases here in Town," Howard explained very seriously. "The vast majority of my clients in Bath, as in America, sought treatments for rather ordinary afflictions. Rheumatism, female hysteria, difficulty with sleeping, that sort of thing. All worrisome enough for the patients, of course, but rather boring for me."
"Howard intends to conduct research and perform experiments in the field of mesmerism." Celeste gave her husband an adoring look. "Indeed, he is dedicated to discovering all of the uses and applications of the science. He hopes to write a book on the subject."
"And to do that successfully, I must be able to examine clients with more exotic nervous disorders than one generally encounters in the country," Howard concluded.
Lavinia's eyes lit with enthusiasm. "That is a very exciting and admirable goal. It is high time that the science of mesmerism was accorded its proper due." She shot a speaking glance in Tobias's direction. "I vow, a great many ill-informed people still persist in believing that mesmerists are all quacks and charlatans of the worst order."
Tobias ignored the barb and swallowed some tea.
Hudson exhaled heavily and shook his head with a grave air. "Unfortunately, I must admit that there are far too many fraudulent practitioners in our profession."
"Only advancements in the science will discourage that sort," Lavinia declared. "Research and experiments are precisely what is needed."
Celeste gave her an inquiring look. "I am curious to know the nature of your new career, Mrs. Lake. There are so few professions open to a lady."
"I am in the business of taking commissions from persons who wish to employ me to make private inquiries." She put her cup down on the saucer. "I believe I have some of my cards around here somewhere." She leaned across the arm of the sofa and opened a small drawer in a table. "Ah, yes, here we are."
Excerpted from Don't Look Back by Amanda Quick Copyright 2002 by Amanda Quick. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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