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visuals by rhoda penmarq
"i would be only too happy to bring you some tea," daisy murmured. "that is, if you promise to do your best to undertake a commission for me."
"and what might that be?" catherine answered evenly.
daisy moved closer on the bed to catherine and lowered her voice. "have you ever heard of dick turpin?"
"why of course. who hasn't heard of the famous - the legendary - highwayman?" catherine turned and faced daisy. "you know there are those who consider him merely - legendary."
daisy laughed. "what do they know?"
"be that as it may," catherine continued. "what has the real or imaginary mr turpin to do with you?"
"i would like you to take a message to him."
catherine glanced at the window, against which the wind-driven rain was continuing to beat.
"oh, don't fear, you can wait until the rain has stopped. and until aurelie has had her way with you."
"and until you have brought me some tea."
"to be sure.'
catherine narrowed her eyes. "do you know, everyone in this house has a decidedly familiar manner, from the mistress on down. i wonder at it , i really do."
daisy lay back on the bed, and began twirling a lock of her hair.
"oh, pish. there is no wickedness in this house to compare with some of the things you hear."
"well one does hear of houses where the servants are flogged every night, and where devil worship is decreed by the masters.'"
catherine laughed. "yes, one hears of them indeed, but does anyone ever do anything but hear of them?"
daisy seemed a little nettled by catherine's attitude.
"yes, but one can't be in every house in the three kingdoms, can one? so how can you really know? how can you know?"
"i believe things when i see them myself, that's all."
"do you believe the world will come to an end in the year 18--?"
"no, why should i believe such a thing?"
"because it's written in the stars, that's why."
catherine just laughed.
"why," said daisy, "i thought we were going to be chums, and here you are already, calling me a booby and laughing at me."
"why, can't chums call each other boobies? come, give me your message for mister turpin, or get my tea, whichever suits you."
daisy continued to pout.
"it's captain turpin, he likes to be called captain."
"oh, he does, does he? well, mister, captain, lord or king turpin, how am i supposed to meet up with this fine fellow in any case? is he going to announce himself to me as i walk down the king's highway?"
"no, of course not. if you agree to take my message you will proceed to the roaring rooster inn and ask for mistress take-your-time - she runs the place. you will give her the message and she will pass it on to the captain."
"how very mysterious."
"not so mysterious as all that. so you agree to do it?"
"why not?" catherine yawned. "now - about that tea?"
"but aren't you interested in the message?'
"oh, yes - insatiably. but all in good time."
daisy lowered her voice again. "it's about - aurelie."
catherine stifled another yawn. "oh, so aurelie is involved with the gallant captain then?"
"in her way. aurelie, as you may have surmised, does not care so very much for menfellows, but is not above using them for her own purposes."
"i see. and where exactly do you come in?"
"well, that's for you to guess, isn't it, miss?" daisy's eyes sparkled. "i think i have already guessed something about you."
"and what might that be?"
"that you are ticklish!"
daisy made a lunge at catherine, but just then the door flew open behind them.
"what is going on here?" aurelie demanded. "what are you doing here, daisy?"
"i was just making my rounds, your highness. after all, i am -"
'i know what you are." aurelie gave daisy a smack on the ear that sent her sprawling off the bed.
daisy got up off the floor without even rubbing the side of her head.
"get out, daisy. and don't come back."
"going to do your own laundry now, are you? besides, i promised miss catherine here i would bring her some tea.
she might all her strength in dealing with you, don't you think?" daisy took a pillow off the bed and used it as a shield between herself and aurelie as she walked around the bed.
aurelie took a half hearted swipe at daisy as she sidled out the door. "let me see as little of you as possible."
"i am not your slave, aurelie. i shall come and go as please, thank you." daisy threw the pillow at aurelie and ran down the hall laughing.
"do you know what i hate more than anything?" aurelie asked catherine as she tossed the pillow aside sat down on the bed beside her.
"boring people. and that girl would bore the moss off a rock. i do hope she wasn't being too tiresome to you, pet."
"i hardly had time to make her acquaintance," catherine answered carefully. "or to form a considered opinion of her qualities."
"hah! insolence without spirit, and impertinence without wit. i think that sums her qualities up nicely." aurelie began fingering a lock of catherine's hair but catherine brushed her hand away.
"please don't be quite so familiar."
"not 'quite' so familiar?"
"i have already had two people describe me to my face as your 'plaything'."
"not the most polite choice of words, to be sure."
"i did not much care for it!" catherine snapped.
"ooh, spirited! cupid, how deep your dart doth strike!" aurelie put her hand on her heart and looked at the window.
"but you will prefer my company to the wind and rain's, will you not?"
"i suppose i shall."
"good." aurelie stood up. "well, duty calls. it is growing darker. would you like me to light the lamp before i go?"
"no, thank you."
"there are matches in the drawer beneath the lamp if you want to light it." aurelie turned to go.
"oh, one other thing."
"was daisy by any chance boring you with some nonsense about captain dick turpin?"
"she did mention his name, yes."
"and then you came along, before she could warm to her theme."
"i see." aurelie sat down and gave catherine a quick kiss on the cheek, which she did not resist. "i will be back as soon as in can."
captain dick turpin reined his horse in under the eaves of the back wall of the roaring rooster inn. the back door opened immediately and mistress take-your-time started out but thought better of it on seeing how hard it was raining.
clugworth the kitchen slavey had been peeking out from behind the mistress' broad form and the mistress grabbed her by the neck and tossed her stumbling out into the rain, with the command to "find noggins, but no noise, mind you!"
turpin dismounted and waited patiently beside the horse for the stable boy to be discovered, and to arrive to lead the horse away.
when the door closed behind them and the captain had handed his dripping cloak and broad hat to clugworth, mistress take-your-time put her finger to the side of her nose and whispered,
"have a care, captain. a couple of strangers in the front room with the look of the kings men about them."
"have they been here since before the rain?" turpin answered in a mild voice. "this is no weather for kings men to be about in."
"they arrived about an hour ago. all the same, it might be best for you to stay here in the kitchen."
turpin thought for a second and shrugged. "why not, so long as the fire warms me and i get the same food and grog as i would in front." he looked out through the thick kitchen window. "although it is still day and not night. it doesn't do to be too mysterious, before night has even fallen."
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