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He sat in the garden because that's where Lisette had put him, and Rian Becket had already learned that arguing with the strong-willed, determined Lisette was as equally productive as attempting to joust with the moon. And as fruitless as wishing his left arm back.
Strange, though, how he seemed to simply do whatever Lisette wanted him to do, almost without question.
Perhaps it was because she reminded him somewhat of his sister Fanny. That same sort of tall, lithe body. That same shimmer of blond hair, although Lisette's was devoid of curl, more of a silky curtain that fell past her shoulders than the unruly mass Fanny was forever cursing. More sunlight to Fanny's moonlight.
And most definitely that same unshakable belief that they were completely in charge of him.
Fanny had always believed herself his keeper, had always attempted to order him about, nag at him.
Lisette was her equal, if not even more unwavering in her belief that she had been put on this earth to tell him what to do, and he had been placed on that same earth to obey her.
That might be the reason.
That, or the fact that he truthfully couldn't muster much interest in where he sat, what he ate, or even where, precisely, he was. He was existing, floating above the everyday, and the feeling was rather pleasant. He could almost hear Fanny crooning to him, as she would to any of the horses that might be upset in a storm, or whatever, "Nothing to fear, now is there. Nothing to see, nothing to worry such a fine brave soldier like you."
Yes, he thought, chuckling at his sudden insight-- simply not caring, that also might be the reason.
Rian closed his eyes against the late afternoon sun that would soon drop behind the high stone walls of the French manor house, amused at his own amusement. Wasn't that strange?
He was a lucky man, lucky to be alive. That's what Lisette told him, had harangued him with during the long weeks and months of what she insisted upon calling his recovery.
Recovery? His wounds may have healed at last; the sword swipe to his midsection, the leg bone shattered by rifle shot, whatever in hell had happened to his head that kept him from remembering anything beyond the first few hours of the battle Lisette told him was now known simply as Waterloo.
But unless Lisette knew of a way for him to re-grow most of his forearm and all of his hand below his elbow, he was not recovered. He was far from whole, far from alive.
"And again, alas, far from caring," he muttered, believing his mind was now running in a circle, repeating itself, but still not entirely unhappy as he looked up at the blue sky. After all, the sun did still shine, the sky remained blue. "Green grass, pretty pink flowers…pretty Lisette."
Yes, pretty Lisette. Her accent was French, although her English was rather adorably precise. Odd in a servant girl, but Lisette had told him that her father had been English, a teacher, and her mother French. Both of them had died, one within months of the other, and Lisette had been forced into service, having no other way to earn her bread and cheese.
Her employer had been a childhood friend of her mother's, a minor French aristocrat who had somehow survived the Terror and even flourished, his sympathies all with England and the French monarchy, although only inwardly. Outwardly, he had been a loyal supporter of whatever faction in power in Paris at the moment demanded of the citizenry. He'd been imprisoned twice, Lisette had told Rian, once years ago by Robespierre himself, once again by Bonaparte, but he had always found a way to survive.
Rian remembered all of this through the dint of repetition, as Lisette had told him, and told him again, and again, until he was finally able to remember every word. Such a sad story. Such a pretty girl.
He would be eager to meet this clever man, if he cared. Which he probably didn't. Besides, that would mean the two of them would have to indulge in polite conversation, and that prospect was too fatiguing to contemplate.
He knew that the man had found him among the prisoners some escaping French had taken with them, hoped to use to trade for their own freedom if the chasing English caught up with them. He'd rescued Rian, brought him to this place, and left him in Lisette's care as he traveled south, to Paris, to watch Napoleon Bonaparte be expelled from France one last time.
Surely that was all he needed to know.
There had been other English soldiers brought here to safety, Lisette had told him, although he had never seen them. Two, she'd said, who had recovered and then been returned to troops passing by on their way to march triumphantly into Paris. Two others who had died of their wounds.
He was the only one still remaining at the manor house, the château, whatever this place was called, and strangely reluctant to be deemed well enough to leave.
Did Lisette have anything to do with that reluctance? No. Impossible.
Well, now, he was doing his share of thinking today, wasn't he? He wasn't sure if this was something to celebrate. It was much easier, drifting.
But, as long as his brain seemed to be waking up, he might as well think about Lisette. Much better to think of her, than to push down an almost overwhelming need to scratch the itch on the back of the left hand that was no longer a part of him.
Was it pity he saw in her eyes when she came to his bed? Never revulsion, bless her, but then, she was at heart a simple girl, attempting to unravel a complex man.
"Or a very thick man," Rian said, smiling slightly, feeling ashamed of himself once more. Perhaps this was good. At least shame was an emotion. Perhaps he was beginning to wake up from the months' long slumber he'd allowed himself, indulging his pain, both the physical, and the pain that he felt only in his heart.
Damn! It was about time!
He looked down at the leather-bound journal Lisette had found for him a few weeks ago. He'd written only three lines today. What a lazy creature he was, or else he'd become sick of his own maudlin scribblings.
Once he'd written of a brave adventurer, a man of spirit and daring traveling the world, slaying dragons, dazzling all the beautiful women. Even Fanny, who thought she knew everything about him, had never known of the journals he kept hidden beneath a floor-board in his rooms, of the poetry, the supposed epic he had been writing for years. His brothers had jokingly called him a poet, but they also had never known how right they were.
They had also called him a dreamer, and he did once have dreams. Lofty. Soaring. Full of ideals and promise. He would go to war, he would have grand adventures, and then he would write about them. He would become famous, like Lord Byron. He would go to London, be fêted, even honored by the Prince Regent.
Oh, what ambitious dreams he'd had!
Now? Now, when he forced himself to write, he wrote of silly things; the shapes he saw in the clouds, the many names he could give the color of Lisette's hair, the beauty of peas, floating in a sea of gravy. Insane things. Or else he'd write of stormy nights, lonely walks through tangled forests, demons and dangers behind every tree. Despair, hanging like low clouds over every horizon.
Mindless rambles, or melodramatic drivel. That's all he could muster. All because he'd lost his arm? Was that something to be maudlin about? Probably…
What had he written today?
Alone in a world of strangers; unfit, unknown, no longer whole;
Does the world go on without him? Lovely ladies, where are your smiles and sweet simpers now?
Dear God, how pathetic! Pathetic, self-pitying nonsense. A waste of ink and paper.
He crumpled the page in his hand and tried to rip it from the journal. But that was an exercise that took two hands, and the journal only slipped from the arm of the chair and went flying across the grass.
"There is a problem? And what bee has flown in to your bonnet today, Mistress Becket?"
Rian closed his eyes, gritting his teeth. "Go away, Lisette. I've been working on a way to choke you using only one hand. I may soon perfect it."
"Not the silly clown today, I see, but the dour-faced malcontent, threatening mayhem. I tremble in my shoes, truly." Lisette bent down to pick up the journal, smoothing out the rumpled page and reading it before she closed the thing and slipped it into her pocket. "Where have all the ladies'smiles gone now? Yes, I can see why the ladies would have smiled at you, Rian. When you're asleep, I can see it, for then both the too-silly smiles and the scowls disappear, and the hopeful poet emerges. I should like to see the poet awake. But for now, my impatient patient, it's once again time for your medicine."
"Hang my medicine," Rian said, getting to his feet, tucking what was left of his forearm into the buttoned front of his jacket. "I don't want to shock you with such a revelation, but I'm as whole as I'm going to get, Lisette."
"So you say. For months, throughout the hot summer, I despaired of you, for so many wounded turn putrid and die in the summer. And for these past weeks I've waited for the questions. But they never come, do they? 'Where am I, Lisette? Who has taken me in? Why has this person done so? What is his name? When will I be strong enough to return to my own home? Who won the battle, Lisette?'"
Rian turned to her at that last question. "We took the day, Lisette. I know that, at least."
"And how do you know that? I told you the name of the battle in which you were wounded, but I have a great memory for all that we've spoken of, you and I, and we have never really spoken of the battle. You never told me what you did there, or even asked who won the day."
God, she could drive a man to distraction. Pushing at him, always pushing, pushing.
He frowned, trying to remember how he knew they'd won the battle. But thinking too deeply was beyond him, and caring to think was a nebulous thing, something he felt he should be able to master, but a desire that always seemed somehow just beyond his grasp for more than a few moments. "I don't know. But we won that day, just as we won the war. You told me we won the war, so it stands to reason we won such an important battle."