Charity knew that she should be bidden to move on the morrow, for two days had already elapsed, and though she was by nature as inquisitive as the next person, Charity had balked at any previous ideas of examining the grand mansion which had housed her recently. Eventually she gave in to her curiosity and traipsed soundlessly from her chamber on the last evening she was allowed to occupy it. ’Twas just after the birds had settled for the night and there was still yet a blue-grey colour to the twilight sky. She had never gotten further than the rooms which she had occupied and the landing with its bathroom adjacent.
Now she whispered her way past bracketfuls of candles. Gigantic portraits seemed to eye her every movement: ten and ten pairs of eyes studying solemnly and wordlessly the girl’s passage through the empty corridors, peeking as she did sometimes into this unlocked room or that. The place appeared, for the greater part, to be little used. There were dust-sheets in many of the rooms, covering the furniture and furnishings. She frightened herself on more than one occasion by running up against a pale-faced young blonde who was none other than herself reflected in grandiose and decorated mirrors.
She was tiring and had decided to return to her own rooms when she heard voices issuing from the ground floor. Curious to see who could be calling, for Lord Seyton Clover rarely, to her knowledge, had visitors, she pressed herself all of a huddle against the back wall. Unable to make out precisely who was below, she decided to crouch against the shelter of the carved and ornate banisters.
That voice, which was so loud and commanding, yet somehow dignified...? Could she have heard it before? With shaking breath she peered closer through the wooden struts and down in the well illuminated hallway below. Fear snaked along her like lightning; Fear singed her cuffs and, creeping up the satin of her sleeves, rested in a full blown rose of terror upon her beating heart, her heaving bosom. There was no mistaking – alas! - that bulk which shadowed the walnut of the hallway table. There was no mistaking the ruddy good health which even now cloaked the visitor in an invisible wrapping of affluence and, yes, debauchery.
From the shining pool of his cuffed sleeves to the glittering dazzle off his shoe buckles, she knew that she looked down upon none other than Lord Fitzroy Rispian! He had poured himself a tumbler of whiskey from the decanter brought to him on a silver tray by a bewigged lackey. He was holding it up to the light of a cluster of candles, saying how remarkably fine it was, and what a vintage! Then he appeared to spit out a mouthful onto the silver tray. Her eyes wide with astonishment, Charity searched for a sign of Lord Seyton Clover. There was none apparent bar the half-opened door of what Charity knew to be his music room.
“Not ready yet, coz?” Lord Rispian's voice seemed to boom through the hallway. “C’mon be Jove, or we shall miss the show and I’m not one for missing the entrance Lady Leonora Croffs shall be making this night! Har!-Har! Nor, come to think on it, the impress we shall make!”
He replaced his now empty glass on the tray and pushed the lackey away. A young servant girl was crossing the hallway and with a quick movement, Lord Rispian had caught her about the waist, his hands beefing about the opening to her blouse.
She saw the girl give a vixenish smile and as (not too heartily), she tried to break free of him, she wagged her finger at him as though daring to chastise Me Lordship. With a grin, Lord Rispian had the wench up in his arms and was about to place her, skirts uplifted against the hallway wall, when a noise behind him distracted his attention: he shooed the wench off.
“There was familiarity in those movements,” mused Charity, who after all, had to be mindful for her own well-being and safety. She drew back, ashen, and waited, her hand poised on the curve of a dolphin’s head.
Lord Seyton Clover sauntered into the hallway, his naturally raven hair hidden under an elaborate powdered grey wig. He held a gold-topped cane in one hand and was playing with it, trying to decide whether or not he should carry it. By his side was strapped a sword.
“Whaddya think Fitzi? Should I take the cane or not?” “Leave it.”
He wore white silk stockings and a suit of some dark shiny material. He sported a frothy white shirt and elaborate lace cuffs and wore a gaudy silk waistcoat, which seemed to be embroidered with flowers and animals.
Charity was totally taken aback. She had never considered that he could appear so flamboyant. Without further preamble he summoned Lord Rispian to his side. They went out of the front door, an open landau awaiting them.
Charity, now more perturbed than ever, crept back into the safety of her bedroom. She shot the bolt across. One never knew what gentlemen in their cups might get up to; she had some prior experience to guide her!
She believed in Lord Seyton Clover’s bond, however, and whatever had escaped through her lips when she had been wounded she believed he would hold as secret for her. Perhaps she should tell him in more detail what had prompted her actions, whilst she still remained, albeit for a brief time it was true, as his house guest. She should spill the beans about what precisely had occurred during her employment with the Wentworh Ames in Bloomsbury.