Orphan Ch. 13-16byFrederick Carol©
Dinner was quiet, with just the two of them, conversation general, but Roxane enjoyed the meal with her uncle. Without conscious decision, they had avoided the subject of Alex Gilroy, and Roxane's brief visit to France, instead talking about general topics. Finished, Roxane drained her wine glass, and looked across to her uncle.
"If you'll excuse me, Uncle, I must check on Captain Gilroy's bandages."
"Indeed so, my dear. How was he, earlier?"
"Very tired, but apart from that, in good spirits. Mr Jenkins was helping him to change, and took him a tray of dinner. He should be almost ready to settle for the night, and will be, when I have checked his bandages."
Le Tessier smiled. "He should be well on the way to recovery, with such a nurse as you."
"I think he is, Uncle, but he lost a lot of blood, and until his body restores that, he tires very easily. Each day, I think, he will be better."
"Let us pray that is so. Off with you, then, Roxane. I will be in my study if you need me. Otherwise I shall see you for breakfast."
"Very well, Uncle Silas. In that case, I'll wish you goodnight."
"And my goodnight to you, dear Roxane."
Mrs. Trevelyan was just coming in to clear the dishes as Roxane went out, and signalled her to wait.
"A moment, Miss Roxane?"
"Of course. What is it?"
"Captain Gilroy? Mr. Jenkins took him up his dinner and swears that the captain ate it all, and he said to tell you that the captain is changed and ready to settle, as soon as you check his bandages."
"Thank you, Mrs. Trevelyan. I'm just on my way now."
She considered going to her own room first, for fresh bandages, but no, it would probably be better were she to check the existing one. If it was still in place, another night would be possible. Gilroy's door was closed, and she knocked gently, reasoning that if there was no answer, she could leave him in peace, but his reply was immediate.
"Who is it?"
"Roxane. May I come in?"
"Of course. You, of all, are the most welcome."
He was sitting up in bed when she went in, propped up by pillows. He smiled to see her.
"Roxane, my dear, you are a welcome sight."
"Thank you, Alex, but I confess that I have come to check your bandages. Does that still make me welcome?"
"Of course, but I fear we have a small problem."
"A problem? How so?"
"Jenkins and I between us contrived to get me into my nightshirt, but it will need to be lifted for you to reach my bandages. I fear your shock and revulsion at such a moment."
"Pray tell me, why? How?"
"Because unless you check my bandages with your eyes tight closed, you must see my sorry carcass, singularly unlovely when compared with your own fair form."
Roxane flushed, but she could not help laughing. "You insisted on seeing me, most ungallant captain. Perhaps now I shall insist on seeing you."
Gilroy gave her a crooked smile. "In truth, Roxane, unless I was to pull on my breeches, and to be honest I'd rather not, I see no alternative."
"Perhaps I'd better close the door, then," she said, keeping her face straight and fighting the giggle which sought to escape, "for we do not want to frighten anybody, do we?"
Gilroy shook his head, and Roxane suspected he was fighting to keep his own laughter in. "No, we do not."
"Very well, my unlovely Captain Gilroy, can you swing your legs around and out, and give me your hand so that I may assist you?"
Gilroy laughed, and threw back the bedcovers, swinging his legs out, and down, a grimace of discomfort passing across his face as he did.
"Gently, Alex. Don't strain yourself. Here, give me your hand." Roxane reached out and took Gilroy's hand, tugging, to help him to his feet. He reeled a little as he stood and she grabbed at his arm to stop him falling back, and as suddenly as that, was in his arms, their faces inches apart.
"Ah, my dear, sweet Roxane," he breathed, and his mouth came down to hers. For a fleeting, tiny moment she braced herself to push him away, but a wave of heat passed through her and she was kissing him back, their mouths working, arms tight around each other, her nipples tight and hard against the stuff of her shift.
This time it was Gilroy who broke the kiss, but he continued to hold her close and she buried her face against his chest, her mind racing, her breathing erratic, uneven.
"A dangerous thing, a kiss," he murmured, "but so wonderful, when the woman I kiss is you."
"You like to kiss me?" she murmured against his nightshirt. He gave her a quick squeeze.
"I love it, can't you tell?" He took his arms from around her and took her shoulders, moving her back slightly so that he could see her face. "What about you? Do you enjoy being kissed? Do you enjoy kissing me?"
She felt herself flush but she couldn't lie to him. "I do. Oh, yes, I do!"
"I want more of your kisses, Roxane. Not here, for I will not embarrass you in your uncle's house, but is there anywhere we could be alone for a while?"
"Alone? I don't know. Not here, no. Not tomorrow, for I think it's still too soon, but perhaps the day after? I'll get Andrew to harness the gig and we can go for a little drive, get you some fresh air."
"And find somewhere to share a few kisses? Wonderful!" He bent and kissed her again, but this time quick, light, a token. "Now, dear Roxane? I think it time to let you check my bandages." He grimaced. "Be brave, dear one, you need not suffer the sight for long."
She laughed. "Very well, Captain Gilroy. I think it easiest if we remove your nightshirt for the moment. That way, I need not hold it out of the way and I can check your bandages quickly."
"I'll need your help, I'm afraid. If I bend forward, perhaps you can pull it off over my head?"
"Yes, that seems easiest. Now?"
He nodded, and seemed about to say something, but shook his head instead. He bent forward, holding out his arms and she moved between them to take hold of the shoulders of his nightshirt, pulling it up and off, over his head. She was holding her breath, trying to appear calm, but this would be her first sight of a fully-naked man. The nightshirt came clear, and she let herself look at him, her eyes dropping involuntarily to his groin, and to what she would later learn was a half-hard erection, lifting, thickening, but not standing hot and proud, not yet.
She sucked in her breath and let her eyes travel over him. Gilroy was slender, well-muscled, and her eyes lifted to his. She smiled. "You lied to me."
He frowned. "I lied? How so?"
"You told me you were unlovely, when the truth is that you are beautiful."
He gaped at her for a moment, then burst into laughter. "Roxane Harrison, you never fail to surprise me. Beautiful? Me? Never, not in a world where your own loveliness exists."
"Perhaps it is in the eye of the beholder, then, and we each see beauty in the other. For the moment, though, your bandages take priority. Let me check them. Best you turn, I think, given the location of your wound."
It didn't take her long to establish that the bandages were sound. She bent close and sniffed, but there was no taint. "All is well, Alex, and reluctant as I am to cover your beauty, I think it time for your nightshirt again."
She bent to the discarded nightshirt, readied it, and waited. He nodded and bent again, arms extended and she carefully slid the nightshirt over his head. He straightened, and it fell to his knees.
"Back into bed, Alex, and sleep, for that way lies healing."
"I think that is no more than the truth, and I'll not lie to you, I'm ready to sleep."
"Well, then. Lie down, and I'll pull the bedclothes back up for you."
He lay back, sighing as he straightened, and Roxane drew the bedclothes up to cover him. He smiled at her, arch, innocent.
"Do I get a goodnight kiss?"
She laughed, and bent to kiss him. Not a long kiss, but there was a promise in it, from each of them. She straightened, and turned to go, then turned back. "Your lamp? shall I douse it? Or perhaps turn it low?"
"Turn it low, please, Roxane. It's not that I'm afraid of the dark, but this is a strange room to me, and I'm not quite sure where everything is, in the dark." She trimmed the lamp, a task soon accomplished and went to the door, turning back as she opened it.
"Goodnight, Alex. Sleep well, and heal."
"Goodnight, dear Roxane."
She closed the door softly behind her and walked the few steps along to her own room. Once inside, she leaned back against the door and finally let herself think about Alex Gilroy, think about his penis, think about how it might feel penetrating her. For the first time in her life, Roxane let herself think seriously about how it would feel to make love. Although it was evening, it was summer, and there was easily sufficient light for her as she prepared for bed, no need for lamp or candle. Naked, she was about to don her nightdress, but stopped. She moved across to stand before the cheval mirror, and gazed at her reflection, trying to see herself through Alex's eyes, but the image was too familiar to her. She blew herself a kiss, donned her nightdress, and settled herself to sleep, but it was a long time coming.
* * * * *
Next morning, washed and dressed in fresh clothes, in a gown which she knew showed off her figure well, she knocked on Gilroy's door.
"Who is it?"
"Always welcome. Come in, please." He smiled in greeting as she went in. "Ah, Roxane, you look even lovelier than you did yesterday!"
"Glib-tongued flatterer! I want to check your bandages, but I've had an idea to save both our blushes. If you can get your nightshirt up over your hips, we can remove it while you keep yourself covered by the bedclothes, and I can check without embarrassing either of us."
"Ah! There's a mind inside that pretty head." He smiled, nodding. "Good thinking. Excuse me while I wriggle a little."
It didn't take long for her to check that the bandages were secure, and she helped him back on with his nightshirt.
"Are you coming down to breakfast? Or resting a little more?"
"Roxane, if you can bear to breakfast without me, I think more rest is indicated. I will make the effort to get down for our midday meal, though. At one, no?"
"Indeed so, Alex. At one."
"Would you pass a message to Jenkins for me?"
"Ask him if he would attend me at twelve, but tell him his time is his own until then. I'll need his help to dress today, I think, but I feel that from tomorrow I should be able to dress myself. We shall see. Ask him to bring hot water. A shave will make me feel better."
"And make your kisses less uncomfortable to me," said Roxane, managing, somehow, to keep a straight face. She relented at sight of the stricken look on Gilroy's face. "Alex, my dear, I but tease you." She smiled. "Your kisses could never be uncomfortable to me."
He breathed out a mock sigh of relief. "Ah, Roxane. You frightened me!"
"What? The intrepid Captain Gilroy, frightened by a girl?"
He gave her a rueful smile. "Some women truly scare me. My aunt Matilda, for instance." He shuddered. "Terrifying!"
Roxane laughed. "Never mind, some of us are nice." She bent and kissed him, light, quick. "That must keep you until later. I shall change the bandages tonight. In a day or two we might be able to dispense with them altogether. For the moment, I shall leave you, but I'll bring your breakfast shortly."
He nodded, and blew her a kiss. "Thank you, dear Roxane. Thank you for everything."
In the kitchen Jenkins was breakfasting, Molly was busily sorting out breakfast things, while Mrs. Trevelyan attended to the cooking. The housekeeper smiled.
"Good morning, Miss Roxane. May I ask, what brings you here?"
"Might I have a breakfast tray for Captain Gilroy, please? He rests this morning, but will dine with my uncle and I later."
"Of course. Molly? Will you see to the captain's tray?"
"How is the captain this morning, Miss?" said Jenkins.
"Much rested, Mr Jenkins. He asks that you attend him at twelve, taking hot water for his shave, but asks me also to tell you that until then, your time is your own."
"Thank you, Miss."
"Miss Roxane? The captain's tray," said Molly. "Shall I take it up?"
"No, Molly. I promised to deliver it myself, and you would not want me to go back on my word, would you?"
Molly laughed. "Of course not, Miss Roxane. It won't be but a moment."
Five minutes later, Roxane entered Gilroy's room at his invitation.
"Your breakfast, Alex. Notice the cunning legs on this tray, so that I can set it down across your lap, while you settle yourself against the bed head."
Gilroy hitched himself a little further up, and signalled Roxane to set the tray down.
"I must leave you to your own devices for now, as Uncle Silas expects me momentarily. I also have to go down to the harbour, to the packet office, so that your letter gets sent. Molly goes with me, with a list of things for Mrs. Trevelyan. I'll see you at lunch, I trust?"
"I too hope so. You asked Jenkins to attend me at twelve?"
"I did. He asked after your health, too."
"He's a good man, Jenkins. A good bosun as well. I think, were I to leave the Navy, I would ask him to come with me, for I think he'd make a good manager of any enterprise I might undertake."
"And are you thinking of leaving the Navy?"
Gilroy smiled. "Not until Bonaparte is defeated, I fear."
"Quite so. Now, enjoy your breakfast, and I will have my own with Uncle Silas. If I do not see you before, I shall see you at one."
Breakfast with her uncle was, as usual, quiet. Silas Le Tessier was not one for gossip over the breakfast table, but he greeted her politely, asked her if she'd slept well, the usual trivia of a morning greeting.
"And Captain Gilroy? Have you checked on him this morning?"
"I have, Uncle. I shall change his bandages tonight, but I do not think he will need to wear them for more than another day or so."
"The wound is healing well?"
"It appears so. The flesh is inflamed a little, yes, but after all, it is a musket wound. The inflammation is certainly lessened."
"Good. I'm quite fond of Alex, so I'm pleased he improves." Le Tessier returned his attention to his breakfast and they ate in silence for a while. Finished, he pushed back his plate and took a sip at his tea He regarded her in silence for a moment.
"Yes, Uncle Silas? What is it?"
"You will take the letters to the packet office?"
"I will, Uncle, yes."
"Do you go alone?"
"No. Molly will be with me, for she has Mrs. Trevelyan's list for Mr Jones."
"Just you and Molly?"
"Well, yes. Why do you ask?"
"I received a note from Wilson Tucker this morning. The watch has found no trace of that Scrogg villain. He may well bear you a personal grudge after you agreed with Alex that he should hang, and I want you taking no chances until he is either caught, or we know his fate." Le Tessier frowned. "You take the gig?"
"That is what I thought, yes. Plenty of room for Molly and me, and whatever Mr. Jones is to supply."
Le Tessier nodded. "Would you ask Mrs. Trevelyan to pass the word that I'd like to see Andrew for a moment. I want you to take him along as well as Molly, and I'm going to tell him not to let you out of his sight."
Roxane nodded. "Very well, Uncle Silas." She smiled. "I will not be so foolish as to take chances, I promise you."
"Quite so, my dear. You are finished?"
"Please ask Mrs. Trevelyan to tell Andrew I shall be in my study."
* * * * *
A half hour later, Andrew drove the gig out of Le Tessier's stable yard and set off towards the harbour.
"A rare treat for me, this, Miss Roxane, driving the gig."
"You do it well, Andrew."
He grinned. "Well, see, me and Charlie, there," he said, indicating the bay that was pulling the gig, "we been friends for a long time now. I treat him good, give him an apple or something, once in a while, so he knows if I'm driving, he behaves."
"Which is more than you do sometimes, little brother," said Molly, teasing.
"Not so little now, Molly. I'm taller'n you!" He grinned. "Least I am when you ain't wearing your fancy shoes with the big heels."
Roxane laughed, enjoying the banter between the siblings.
"Do you have fancy shoes with big heels, Miss Roxane?"
"Yes, Andrew, I do. In this world, where the women are usually shorter than the men, we need every advantage we can find." She winked at Molly, who fought a laugh.
"Our Ma don't need no fancy shoes, do she, Molly? Twists our Da around her finger no bother."
"That's true," said Molly, "but I think he likes it that way."
"Where we goin' first, Miss Roxane?"
"Well, I thought we'd drop Molly off at Mr. Jones' shop, and then you and I, we'd go on down to the harbour, to the packet office. When we're done there, which shouldn't take long, we'll go back for Molly."
Andrew nodded. "That's fine by me. Mr. Le Tessier said not to let you out of my sight."
"My uncle fusses."
"Aye, perhaps he does, but he wants no harm to come to you. We don't either, do we, Molly?"
"No, we don't. Mr. Le Tessier smiles a lot more since you came to live with him, Miss Roxane. He was always good to us, no arguin' that, but he seems happier now."
"Is it so? I only hope that's true." Roxane smiled at the other two. "I do know that he has loyal and good people working for him."
"He's a good master, I like him," said Molly, and then blushed. "I like that Mr. Jenkins as well."
Roxane laughed. "Yes, he's a nice man, is Mr. Jenkins."
"Almost there, Miss Roxane." Andrew pointed along the road, to where the shops began. A minute or two later, he drew the bay to a halt outside Molly's destination.
"How long do you need?" said Roxane, as the young maid stepped down from the gig.
Molly shrugged. "Most of what's on the list will be for delivery, too much for the gig. Just the tea and coffee, and Mr. Jones can have that ready for us quickly. No more than half an hour at most, I would think."
"Very well, we'll be back in a half hour, Molly. Andrew? Next stop the packet office."
The quay area was busy, and they had to leave the gig a little distance away from the office. Andrew helped her down, and then took up position a little behind her to her right.
"Lead on, Miss Roxane, I'm right behind you."
"Andrew, surely there's no need for you to come as well. See, 'tis barely a hundred paces to the office."
"Aye, Miss Roxane, and look how busy it is. Master said not to let you out of my sight, and I'm not about to disobey him."
"Very well, but step forward, let me take your arm."
The packet office was busy, but Roxane was quickly attended to by a smiling young clerk. "These packets? To London?"
"Yes, please. On Mr. Le Tessier's account."
"Would that be Mr. Silas Le Tessier?"
"Yes, it would."
"Very well. The packet sails on the evening ebb, and these will be aboard her. Is there anything else I can do for you?"
"Thank you, but no, that was all I wanted."
"Very well, ma'am. I'll bid you good day."
"That was quick, Miss Roxane," said Andrew. "We've a while to wait for Molly."
"We'll go back to the gig, perhaps find a quiet corner and wait there, shall we?" A figure caught her eye and she stopped, staring, the colour draining from her face.
Andrew didn't notice at first. "We can do that, Miss Roxane, yes. Miss Roxane? What is it? You look like you seen a ghost!"
She gave the youngster a wan smile. "No ghost, Andrew, but the man who attacked me that day I came back muddied, remember?"
"Where is he? Point him out!" There was concerned anger in Andrew's voice.
"He's gone. I think he spotted me at the same time I saw him, and ran. The crowd is too thick, he could have gone anywhere." She took Andrew's arm again. "How do I contact the watch? I think they should be told."