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When Love Awaits(6)

By:Johanna Lindsey

“Know you my neighbor, Sir William of Montwyn, Evarard?”

Evarard approached. “Aye, my lord. At one time he was often at court, as I was before I came of age.”

“Has he many children?”

“I cannot say how many he might have now, but he had only one, a daughter, when he was last at court. That was five or six years ago, before his wife died. I understand he has a young wife now, but of children from this union   I do not know.”

“Know you this daughter?”

“I saw her once with her mother, the lady Elisabeth. I remember wondering at the time how such a beautiful lady could have such an uncomely child.”

“There!” Thorpe interjected. “Now will you let the fool idea rest, Rolfe?”

Rolfe ignored his old friend. “Uncomely, Evarard? How so?”

“She had great red splotches covering every part of her skin that could be seen. It was a shame, for the shape of her face might have foretold beauty like her mother’s.”

“What more can you tell me of her?”

“I only saw her once, and she hid behind her mother’s skirts.”

“Her name?”

Sir Evarard frowned thoughtfully. “I am sorry, my lord. I cannot remember.”

“It is Lady Leonie, my lord.”

All three men turned toward the maid who had spoken. Rolfe did not like the servants to be so attuned to his conversations. He frowned.

“And what is your name, girl?”

“Mildred,” she replied with proper meekness. Now that the lord’s eyes were upon her, she could have torn her tongue out for speaking up. Sir Rolfe’s temper was a terrible thing to behold.

“How do you know the lady Leonie?”

Mildred took heart at the quiet inquiry. “She—she came here often from Pershwick when—”

“Pershwick!” Rolfe bellowed. “She lives there? Not at Montwyn?”

Mildred blanched. She was beholden to Lady Leonie and would have died rather than hurt her. She knew her lord blamed Pershwick for the damage Crewel had suffered since his taking it over.

“My lord, please,” Mildred said quickly. “The lady is all that is kind. When the Crewel leech left my mother to die of a disease he could not cure, Lady Leonie saved her. She knows much of the healing arts, my lord. She would never cause a hurt, I swear it.”#p#分页标题#e#

“She does live at Pershwick?” At Mildred’s reluctant nod, Rolfe demanded, “Why there and not with her father?”

Mildred stepped back, eyes wide with fear. She could not say anything bad of another lord, even one her new lord might not like. She would surely be beaten for criticizing her betters.

Rolfe understood her fear and softened his tone. “Come, Mildred, tell me what you know. You need not fear me.”

“It—it is only that my former master, Sir Edmond, claimed Sir William liked—drink too well since his first wife died. Sir Edmond would not let his son wed Lady Leonie because Sir William swears he has no daughter. He said an alliance with her would gain them naught. She was sent to Pershwick when her mother died and has been separated from her father since, or so I have heard.”

“So Lady Leonie and Sir Edmond’s son were…close?”

“She and Sir Alain were only a year apart in age, my lord. Yes, they were very close.”

“Damn me!” Rolfe stormed. “So she has set her serfs to plague me! She does it out of love of the Montignys!”

“No, my lord.” Mildred risked herself again. “She would not.”

Rolfe paid no attention to this declaration for he had already dismissed the maid from his mind. “It is no wonder our complaints were ignored if the lady herself is set against me. But if I make war on Pershwick, I make war on a woman. What do you think now of your jest, Thorpe?”

“I think you will do what you will do.” Thorpe sighed. “But do consider whether you want a deformed creature as wife before you rush ahead.”

Rolfe waved that aside. “What law says I must live with the lady?”

“Then why take her to wife? Be reasonable, Rolfe. All these years you avoided marriage when many great beauties were willing.”

“I was landless then, Thorpe, and I could not wed without a home to offer my wife.”

Thorpe began to say more, but Rolfe said flatly, “What I want most now is peace.”

“Peace? Or revenge?”

Rolfe shrugged. “I will not hurt the lady, but she will regret causing me any ill if that is what she intends. See how she likes being confined in Pershwick the rest of her days and her people hanged—for the slightest wrongdoing. I will have an end to these troubles.”