She glared at him. “All right then, do you think he could have eaten one whole cow all by himself?”
Trevelyan leaned back on his elbow and looked at her with some interest. “What do you think will take these people out of their poverty? American factories? American railroads running through the hills? Will you dynamite the mountains away? Will you have tourists coming to see the quaint Scotsmen in their national dress?”
Claire sat down hard. “I don’t know.” She looked at her hands in her lap.
Trevelyan watched her for a long while. “What does it matter to you what happens to the people of Scotland? You’ll have your money and you’ll have your duke. What more do you want?”
“You still don’t understand, do you? Becoming a duchess is a great responsibility. It will be my duty to take care of these people. When they go hungry I will have to see that they’re fed.”
Trevelyan gave a nasty little laugh. “You are talking feudalism. These people merely rent lands from you. No longer is a duke the one who judges courts and decides the fate of people.” He raised an eyebrow at her. “You want to have twentieth-century plumbing and sixteenth-century clans.”
“Maybe I do,” Claire said softly. “It does all seem so complicated.”
She sat pondering the question for a while, then looked up at him and smiled. “I don’t know how to do what I want to do because I’m not sure what I want to do, but I mean to try.”
He laughed at her, then frowned. “Do you think Harry’s mother will allow you to do what you want?”
“Oh, yes, of course. Harry has told me I’ll be able to do what I want.”
Trevelyan grunted in disbelief.
Claire looked down at the chessboard and realized that while they had been talking he had been playing chess, with himself as an opponent. “Did you win or lose?” she asked.
“I won, of course,” he said, eyes sparkling.
She laughed and for a moment they shared a flash of something between them. Friendship, Claire thought. They were beginning to form a genuine friendship. In spite of a few times better not remembered, they were becoming real, true friends.
“I’ve told you things that I’ve never told anyone,” she said softly. “I’ve told you about my mother and I’ve told you opinions I’ve never shared with anyone else.” She paused. “It’s not easy being rich. It’s not easy having grown up as the Commander’s granddaughter. In my life—” She stopped and put up her hand. “I know, I know, you’re going to say, In your very short life, and it’s true that I’m not very old, but I have lived a great deal. My parents are not…” She didn’t know what to say that wouldn’t sound as though she were complaining about them.
“Not always as adult as you’d like them to be,” Trevelyan supplied.
“Yes, exactly. There have been many times when I’ve felt I was the adult.”
Trevelyan’s impression of her parents, from what he’d heard of them, was that they had the emotional maturity of six-year-olds. He could imagine the two spoiled, rich parents depending on this young girl for all kinds of things, such as marrying whom they wanted her to marry so they could get what they wanted. They’d had a chance in life, a chance such as very, very few people ever got, yet they’d wasted it. And now they were expecting Claire to give them a second chance.
“You were telling me about your life.”
“Yes.” She turned to look out the window. “There have been many people in my life who wanted to be near me for what they thought I was rather than f
or what or who I am.”
“People who wanted your money,” he said bluntly.
When she didn’t say anything else, he tried to figure out what she was trying to tell him. “Are you asking me if I want your money?”
“Maybe I am,” she whispered. “I guess I’m suspicious when people are nice to me.”
She turned to smile at him at the mention of Harry, but right now she couldn’t seem to remember Harry. Trevelyan’s dark eyes seemed to fill the room.
She looked down at the watch pinned to her breast. “I must go. It’s nearly time for dinner, and I don’t want to miss the surprise of my horse or the ladies with the silverware.”
“Don’t tell me those two old ladies are still alive?”
“Alive and happily thieving.”