Wednesday, September 7

same heroine, five years later

"Why are your hands so rough, so wounded? Are you not in the practice of ministering to that delicacy we so admire in our . . ." He searched for the appropriate cliche: "Our flowers of the court? True ladies should have hands made of rose petals, and fragile . . ."

She let her visitor trail off into silence as the King's vanguard moved across the plain; it would not be until evening that tales would be told or the news given.

He held her limp hand for a moment, scrutinizing it for blemishes and pointing them out to her; a fading scar, a callous, a graze that was slowly oozing blood from underneath a pale cover of blotched cream and powder.

"Like to porcelain?" she asked tonelessly, pronouncing the syllables deliberately.

It dimly crossed his mind to be annoyed with her seeming aloofness--she almost seemed as if she wasn't enjoying his presence at all--but he reminded himself, very patiently, he thought, that she was a young creature and perhaps unschooled. All the better. Untaught beauties, though with less elegantly affected behaviour, were often the more in need of refined company.

"Yes. Like to porcelain. Very good."

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