Claire turned her face away from the sight, too. What a little coward she was. She gathered up the tray, eyes downcast, and began to shuffle off to the kitchen.
Over the next few days she was forced to watch the handsome duke attempt to court the maid in ladies clothes. Because of his cripple, he hand her guide him by the hand, his fingers usually at her back to ‘keep an eye on her’.
One night, when Clare was the last maid in the kitchen, John sat with her. ”Only one more day and he will move to the next home.”
She let him lead her upstairs and into bed. They both wanted to marry her; she had already promised her hand to him; and the duke…oh, god, the duke…
She had known very brief bliss in the duke’s bed and she had pushed it away. Since then, she had known only misery.
She was not allowed to sleep for long. In the morning her maid and the count burst in. ”Up girl! Up!”
The maid pulled her robe on. And then presented her with a servant’s dress. Sir John followed. ”He is in the sitting room he will not be held for long.”
"Quick Clare," the count snapped. "Into the dress."
asexual sirens getting real fuckin pissed about all these sailors interrupting choir rehearsal
"I have a mind to give it to you, sir."
He combed back the locks of hair that had fallen down. ”Come to bed with me. And I will go back and demand your hand, my love.”
"I must do this. For Isabel." She leaned her face slightly into his hand for a moment.
"Then let me take you to the border at least."
"Yes, Your Grace." She rose and set aside the tea. For a moment, she hesitated and looked over her shoulder at him before disappearing.
When she came to the court yard, the Duke was standing there with his two servants. He reached out. Her horse, without her permission stepped forward and nosed his palm. ”Ask your master about his heir. Ask him his location. Willard’s family were once herb men. He grows a certain kind of herb no one else can find. It’s blue, with purple blossoms. Bring me five vines of it.”
"No. I left it with my sword."
"Fetch it. And your horse."
She wished the girl had stayed, or at least given her directions. But proud and stubborn, she would not try to find someone and ask for them.
It took her twenty minutes and several wrong turns and locked doors to finally reach the lab.
Inside the lab was dark, light only by candles so that Barney could see when he helped his employer. There was bubbling glasses, and mirrors, and vials and books open on every surface, the text raised on the page. A cadaver was open on the table, and there was a blank space of smooth wall on which chalk was drawn.
"This is too much…," Claire whispered, biting her lip. She couldn’t reject his kindness, but…but it was far too much for her. She was only there to help the countess.
"He will meet you in the lab," she said, curtsying and walking out, leaving her to her new gown and her empty room.
"N-no…no, but she is very ill…" Claire felt her heart sink. If he could not help her, Isabel would die…!
"Indeed. You must be tired. It’s rather late, don’t you think?"
"Indeed,"the manservant said nodding. "I will have a room made up for her, my lord"
"Thank you Barnard. And tell me…does the lady Clare look as noble as she sounds?"
"Yes, my lord."