1617: viii

Madame found Aimée lying crosswise on her bed in the middle of the afternoon.

“What are you doing, girl? We are expected in an hour,” Madame tried to hold back the bite in her voice. She was tired of Aimée’s moroseness and lack of enthusiasm at visiting their well to do neighbors.

“I am ill, go on without me,” Aimée replied. She heard the rustling Madame’s skirts as she came closer. The woman leaned over to study her, but she didn’t see the usual signs of illness.

“Very well, I will send Louisa to help you undress and have the doctor sent for,” Madame said. She had hope the trouble would cause Aimée to give up her ruse. The girl simply stared blankly up at the bed canopy. She remained frozen until Madame’s skirts swished out of the room. Aimée let out a long sigh.

The days under Madame’s tutelage had become increasing long and wearisome. It had been months since the Count had last visited. It had been the unfortunate cut to his eye that had required him to leave. At the time, she had understood that her apology had been accepted, but now after so long an absence she was beginning to question it. Perhaps after hearing the doctor’s analysis, his anger had returned and he had kept himself away.

Louisa’s soft-soled shoes padded into the room.

“Mademoiselle?”

Aimée sat up to greet the expectant maid.

“You’re not needed here, Louisa, you can see that I am fine, but go to the window and tell me when Madame has departed.” The maid cautiously disappeared down the hall. After ten minutes, the girl returned.

“Madame is gone.”

“Good,” Aimée hopped off the bed, “Make sure she hasn’t sent for the doctor.” She fell to the carpet and reached under the bed. She pulled out a bundle that emitted a threatening clink. Louisa hadn’t moved.

“Quickly, if you please and have me notified if anyone approaches the house,” Aimée snapped. Surprised at the tone of voice from the often quiet girl, Louisa dashed out of the room to fulfill her orders.

Aimée clamped the bundle under her arm. Inside were various blades that Madame believed confiscated and locked in her strong box. However, if Madame were to pull the bundle out of the strong box she would only find sticks and silver dinner knives that had been reported missing.

She emerged into the garden. Only the asters remained in bloom as the other leaves were losing their color. A cool wind was beginning to be in the habit of blowing through the branches. Aimée unfurled her bundle and for the first time in weeks clasped her hands around the hilt of her rapier.

i     vii     ix

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