“Could we get out of here?” Trevelyan said. “Before the two of you get into a fistfight? Oman can’t distract the people in the street much longer.”
Claire started to follow Trevelyan out of the door, but Nyssa pushed past her and plastered herself against the back of Trevelyan so that Claire brought up the rear. When Claire started to say something, Trevelyan put his finger to his lips to tell her to be quiet.
The two women followed Trevelyan down the stairs, twice having to hide to keep from being seen by the people who were now returning to the house. Outside, the street was quiet. In the back of the house, Trevelyan unlocked the door and held it open for the two women. As Claire passed him, he whispered, “I wouldn’t want you to get your camel hump caught again.”
Claire didn’t bother to answer him.
The three of them made it through several twisting streets and back to Oman, calmly sitting atop the carriage as though nothing had happened. Yet Oman’s usually pristine white clothes were torn and blackened from gunpowder from fireworks, and there was a cut across his cheek. Nyssa greeted Oman with great pleasure and said things to him that made the tall man smile.
The second the three of them were inside the coach, Oman cracked the whip over the horses and they were off. Nyssa sat beside Trevelyan while Claire sat opposite them.
Claire wasn’t sure what was wrong with her but she knew that she was angry, very, very angry. She leaned back against the wall of the coach and closed her eyes. She told herself that she wasn’t in the least interested in what Trevelyan did with this woman, but she was aware of every word that they spoke to each other. She couldn’t understand any of it, but she imagined that they were whispering love words to each other. And why not? Why shouldn’t this woman be in love with a man who had saved her from death?
“Do you want to stop and sleep or drive on?” Trevelyan asked.
Claire knew whom he had spoken to but she acted surprised. “Were you speaking to me? I thought perhaps I had disappeared, that I had become invisible, that maybe I’d faded into the upholstery.”
“Nyssa is asleep.”
“That explains it,” Claire said nastily. “You have no one else to talk to. But then I guess you’ve told her all your stories. After all, you did have a great deal of time together on the long journey back from Pesha.”
“Nyssa is not a good listener,” Trevelyan said softly. “Not many women are interested in what I have done. Not as you are.”
A little of the hurt that Claire was feeling left her. “That’s surprising. She seems to be very interested in you.”
“In bed perhaps, but nowhere else. In my life I’ve found that for the most part people do not like to learn. They like to know and they like to tell others what they know, but they do not like the process of learning as you do.”
“In bed?” Claire whispered.
“Good God, woman, I’ve just given you the compliment of a lifetime and you give me back jealousy?”
“Compliment?” Claire spat at him. “What compliment? She’s the one you love.”
Even in the darkness she could see his eyes. They were glittering. “You’re wrong about that.”
Claire looked away, then leaned back and closed her eyes. “It’s none of my business what you do. We’ve done what we set out to do and I’m glad of it. Jack Powell won’t be able to offer proof that he went to Pesha. Perhaps you can teach your…your paramour to speak English and she can tell the Royal Geographic Society how you rescued her, both from Pesha and from Powell. Now, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll try to sleep.”
Claire couldn’t sleep. She kept her eyes closed but she was too aware of Trevelyan and the woman snuggled together on the seat across from her. She was puzzled by the depth of her anger, but she told herself that it was because their conduct was unseemly. They weren’t married, or even planning to be married, yet they were obviously lovers.
The sun rose, they stopped to eat and change horses, then they were off again. Nyssa woke up, and like a child, she was refreshed and restless. She and Trevelyan started playing a hand game to occupy themselves. Trevelyan asked if Claire would like to learn the rules and play too, but Claire said she’d rather not. She sat and watched them, watched the way they laughed with each other. She saw how easy they were in each other’s company.
At one point Nyssa looked at Claire, then said something to Trevelyan. Trevelyan turned to Claire. “Nyssa says that you look old and sour when you frown like that. She says it’ll give you lines in your face before your time.”
“I’m not frowning. I merely…” Claire couldn’t think of an explanation.
Nyssa spoke to Trevelyan again. “She says that you’re very jealous of her.”
“That’s ridiculous. Did you tell her that I was the one who insisted on coming with you? That you didn’t want me to go with you?”
“I’ve told her a good deal. I’ve told her all about Harry and your pending marriage to him, and I’ve told her about your family and about your dear little sister.”
“I wonder exactly what you told her? Did you tell her that my sister is more beautiful than she is?”
Trevelyan smiled. “No, I didn’t tell her that. I don’t think she’d believe me.”
“She’s vain, isn’t she? Vain and not awfully smart, judging from the silliness of your game. Can she read?”
“I doubt it.”