"Very good, my lord. Supper shall be served at 8:30," George repeated the
Governor's last phrase, as always when taking a series of orders to be
passed to the rest of the staff. "I shall inform Rodriguez immediately."
George dreaded the task of informing Rodriguez, however. He disliked the
tall, broad-shouldered cook. His spoken English was impeccable, but his
style and mannerisms spoke of an upbringing far more relaxed in certain
social niceties than the sharp delineations of the British castes. Rodriguez
was too familiar, both with those whose station was above his own, and those
Swann interrupted his valet's silent musings with an uncharacteristic
question: "George? How long have you served me?"
"...M'lord?" George cleared his throat. Perhaps some sort of length of
service reward was afoot? Best to pad the account a bit. "Twelve years, my
lord. Since on the Estate in Hampshire."
Weatherby grunted. "In all those years have I ever asked you for any
unreasonable task, as my vassal and bodyservant?"
Only one possible answer to that sort of question! "Never, m'lord."
"I find myself under such constraint, in this post, George, so very much
limited by my role as the Governor. I must needs behave as an example to the
citizens of Port Royal, in every aspect of my existence, and I must remain
the embodiment of the crown in these benighted outpost lands." The valet
swallowed uncomfortably as Weatherby continued his monologue. "Yet, I find
that since my daughter has left the household to marry, I am bereft of
the... of the milk of humankindness, as it were."
George stood ramrod stiff before his master. The silence stretched.
"I... I find the isolation to be the greatest burden I face in my duties,
George." Weatherby's eyes had begun to moisten slightly in self-pity. "Can
you tell me, when was the last time you touched another person? When your
hand brushed at the passing of a plate? When was the last time you were
embraced by another's arms, George? When did you last know intimacy with
George continued to stand before him, stiff and silent. There was not one
thing that might safely or reasonably be said by a man in his position.
Still, the governor blundered on in his one-sided conversation.
"I danced with my daughter, and innumerable other ladies of society here, at
her wedding. Twelve weeks ago, my good man, twelve weeks, two days, and..."
he glanced at the clock that hung on the wall in the foyer outside the
parlor, "...and three hours, since I kissed her cheek and she rode away in
Pity stirred in George's heart. The gentleman's pain was so achingly
apparent in his wavering voice, his dejected aspect.
Weatherby stood and moved closer to his valet. "Can you help me? I can't see
my way out of the dark, George."
"I believe I know someone who can, m'lord."
Rodriguez rapped on the door to the Governor's bedchamber, later that
evening, and entered when bid to do so. Swann had retired early with a glass
of strong brandy to soothe his heart's wounds, and lay, slightly tipsy and
askew, among the pillows and loosened bedclothes.
"George sent me." Rodriguez was more awkward than his usual garrulous self.
"He said you had been alone too long. He said I could help."
A largish box was gently placed on the edge of the high bed.
"What's this...?" Weatherby leaned forward, and peered over the rim, down
into the dark shadows, unlit by the angle of the lamp's glow.
Two limpid eyes gazed back into his own.
"A Puppy!" Swann lifted his new companion into view, soft golden-brown fur
wriggling under his fingers as the pup wagged his tail so hard, it seemed
fit to break. Pink tongue caressed wrinkled cheeks, and tiny claws caught in
the fringes of his wig, tugging it ludicrously awry.
Rodriguez exited, leaving Weatherby to become better acquainted with his