After the girl had departed, Madame came forward and took one look at him.
“Monsieur le comte, years ago you appointed me to look after a young girl and teach her the things she needed to know as a lady. As you graciously compensated me for her care, I humored your ongoing unorthodox tutelage in weaponry, horsemanship…and ahem, swordplay,” Madame tensed. She was prepared for a strong word from the Count, but he only shifted his weight in the chair as he stared at the fire. She continued.
“I think your intermittent presence here has become objectionable. It is inappropriate at this point for her to remain unchaperoned in the presence of male company. I should have put a stop to this sooner, but your generosity, Monsieur…”
“Quiet, woman!” Gilles snapped. “She is my ward. How could you think to keep me away? I, who have always had her best interests in mind!”
“You misunderstand me, Monsieur, I think of her like a daughter. I am only doing what I would for my own child!” Madame held her ground. Gilles picked up his discarded bandages and blotted at the blood that had started to run down his cheek. He had no energy to argue. He still needed the Madame’s roof over Aimée’s head for the time being. He was unprepared for her sudden objections. If he had been, he would have whisked his charge off into the night. Madame would never lay eyes on them again.
“So you say,” the count replied. He was not convinced that what the Madame said was true. She had always lamented about the cost of caring for the child to coax more money out of him. He pulled a coin purse from his pocket and dropped it on the table. “This is for the time being to compensate for her care. However, since you are withdrawing your hospitality, expect no more from me after tomorrow morning. As you desire, I will keep my distance.” Madame picked up the purse and it quickly disappeared into her clothing.
“I’ll fetch new bandages, shall I?” she offered. She swept out of the room and shut the door. Her disapproval had been made clear. For now, she had been granted control of this girl. She was something special, even though Madame was unsure of how. Without the Count around, she could start searching for a smart match for the girl that would provide a comfortable future for the both of them.