The girl sighed, though she couldn't help but smile at the pedantic change of tone. "A true lady never curses," she parroted back at him.
"And do you know why?"
Adrienne blinked. He'd never gone into it, and she'd a.s.sumed it was another of the endlessly labyrinthine laws of etiquette. "Umm, because it's not ladylike?" she ventured.
"No. Because a true lady should have the wit and the imagination, or at the very least the restraint, to express herself without resorting to such base vocabulary.
"Now," he continued, releasing her hands and rising, oblivious to the strange expression his comment had inspired on his protege's face, "I think it's time we see what Jeanette has for us for supper. Then I'll send word to Franois to be ready for another session bright and early tomorrow morning." He looked meaningfully at her. "Can I count on you to behave, Adrienne?"
The young woman sighed. "If he can keep from sticking any more needles in me, I promise to stand still."
"Good. Once he's done, I'll have Beatrice start work on your hair." He grinned evilly as he strode toward the exit. "You thought standing for the dress took patience..."
Adrienne slumped dejectedly in her chair. "Oh, fu-"
"Yes?" Alexandre asked, face gone stiff, frozen in the doorway with one hand on the latch. "Oh, what?"
"That's my girl." The door clicked shut.
"All right, all right! I'm coming, confound it all!" Through the living room of a small house, its interior neat and crisp as a military barracks awaiting inspection, the old man moved toward the front door. In one hand, he carried a small lantern, for he'd already doused the lights in preparation for bed. In the other, he carried a heavy bludgeon with which, even at his age, he was more than skilled enough to crack a skull or two. He wasn't expecting trouble, no, but neither was he expecting visitors-and one didn't reach an age to retire from the Guard of Davillon without knowing how to take precautions.
It took him an extra moment to work the lock and the latch on the door, what with both hands being full, but eventually he hauled the portal open a crack, just enough to see who waited on the other side.
"Well, I'll be...Come in, Major, come in!" The door swung wide in invitation.
"Thank you, Sergeant," Julien Bouniard told him as he stepped across the threshold, doffing his plumed hat.
"None of that, Major," Cristophe Chapelle told his former protege with a smile far wider than any he'd offered during their years of working together. "No longer a sergeant, me. Unless you want me to call you 'Constable'?"
Julien smiled in turn. "There was a time the thought of calling you anything else would have terrified me out of a week's sleep."
"Well, I suppose you can go with 'sir' if it makes you comfortable." Then, still grinning, "Have a seat, Major. I fear I haven't an
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