“It was whisky,” she gasped, her hand to her throat.
“Scotland’s finest,” Trevelyan said, amused.
Claire staggered backward toward him, clutching tables as she moved.
“If you’re planning to collapse, might I suggest that you do it on a chair. The floor is quite hard.”
In spite of a throat and a stomach that were on fire, she managed to give him a look that told what she thought of his not coming to her aid. She caught the back of a chair and sat down on it hard.
“I…could have been killed,” she at last managed to say.
“Stealing a man’s whisky is an offense, but hardly punishable by death. At least not in most countries. Of course there are the moral implications of stealing anything.”
“Would you please be quiet? Can a person die from that much whisky?”
He was watching her with his intense eyes, and after a moment she began to relax against the chair. “My goodness,” she said. “I do believe this is the first time I’ve been warm since I came to this country. I feel rather…” She trailed off.
“Drunk is what you feel.” With that he clapped his hands twice and almost at once there appeared a man in the doorway.
Claire, in spite of her relaxed state, widened her eyes. He was the tallest man she had ever seen, several inches over six feet and dressed in a strange white outfit. He wore a tunic that reached his knees and beneath the tunic were trousers that were tight about his ankles. A wide sash edged in pale gold fringe encircled his waist. His face was dark brown, with black eyes, a thin mouth, and a large nose that looked sharp enough to cut metal. Wound about his head was a round bundle of white cloth and in the middle was pinned an emerald that had to be two inches square.
“Oman,” Trevelyan said, making the name sound like Ooomahn. “Food for our drunken guest.”
“I’m not—” Claire began but stopped. She certainly did feel as though she were floating. “How very pretty the fire is. How pretty the tables are. Does Harry know you’re here?”
Trevelyan turned away from her and went back to his writing. “I have His Royal Highness’s permission if that’s what you mean.”
Claire giggled. “Not His Royal Highness. It’s His Grace. Not that my mother can remember.”
Trevelyan turned back around. “What does your mother call Harry?” His eyes were intense; he looked as though he were exceedingly interested in her answer.
“Whatever comes to mind.” She couldn’t help laughing. “Yesterday she called him Your Sereneness.” Claire put her hand over her mouth. “Harry thought it was very funny. He’s such a good sport.”
“Perfection, is he?”
“I rather think he is,” Claire said in wonder. “He’s kind and considerate.” She held up her left arm. “Under here is a bandage. Harry made sure that I stayed in bed one whole day after I hurt my arm.”
At that Claire started to stand. “I will not remain here to be insulted.” But as she stood her head began to spin, and she sat back down.
Trevelyan looked up as Oman reappeared in the doorway. “Food is through there,” he said and turned back to his writing.
Unsteadily, Claire stood and walked through the doorway and into a bedroom. It was a beautiful room, the walls hung with gold-colored silk brocade, beautiful Persian carpets on the stone floor, and in the middle of the room was the most astounding bed she had ever seen. It was enormous, with two deeply carved posts at the foot that had to be a foot and a half square. The headboard and the top of the bed were also heavily carved. The big bed itself was draped with plush red silk velvet.
She had an impulse to jump onto the bed, but then she saw that a plate of food had been set on a table against one wall and she went to it. But it wasn’t food she had ever seen before. There was a bowl of white creamy stuff, boiled potatoes, thinly sliced meat, and a bit of green stuff in the middle of the plate. There were tomatoes and sliced cucumbers also. It was not the same kind of food that she’d eaten since she came across the ocean, or before that for that matter.
She sat down, picked up the spoon, and dipped it into the bowl. Was it soup or was it, for some reason, a bowl of cream? She smelled it.
“It’s called yoghurt,” Trevelyan said from the doorway. “Fermented milk.”
bsp; “It looks delicious.”
“It’s an acquired taste.”