Katie puffed the cushions with her hands and placed it back once she was done. Removing the withered flowers from the vase she changed the water and placed fresh ones that she had picked herself from the garden.
As she pushed the bunch of stems into the vase, her finger pricked with the thorn and she winced.
“How many times have I advised you to avoid the roses,” Dorthy said seeing Katie press her finger.
“They look beautiful together. See,” Katie reasoned looking at the combination of flowers and then back to her finger which now had a small red dot where the skin had been pricked.
“They aren’t your normal roses. The thorn is sharper than a shard of glass which cuts deeper into the skin if you aren’t careful,” Katie looked at the deep blue roses that stood out in the vases, “None of the maids go to pluck it. I heard that Lord Alexander was the one who planted and nurtured it.”
“They are scared of Lord Alexander,” Katie murmured.
“Of course that’s another thing to consider,” Dorthy said thoughtfully, “Do you know a lady was found breaking its branches and tearing the roses one night.”
“What happened after that?”
“I don’t know. None of them know what happened to her or where she went after that night,” Dorthy answered shrugging her shoulders as they went to pick the dried flowers that was kept aside.
“What was she thinking, I would be angry too if I grew something with so much love and if they harmed it,” Katie picked the wilted flowers and the residue it left around the vases. With the other hand she touched the rose with her finger tips, “I think these deserve to be out and loved. Just because they are wilder and different than the other ones, it doesn’t do justice to them to be in dark.”
“Looks like your hand hasn’t healed yet,” Dorthy said looking at her hand which was a lighter shade of green, “Does it hurt?”
“It did the day the man held my hand but it doesn’t hurt a bit now,” Katie replied as they walked out of the room. There was a small meow and Katie saw it was the Lord’s cat.
“The Lord has a soft spot for you, doesn’t he? Look even his cat is greeting you.”
“There’s no such thing,” Katie waved her hand with a smile denying it, “You are imagining things. He is being kind as I am a half guest-half maid here in this mansion,” hearing this Dorthy laughed.
“Whatever. Do you know Kit said he might have seen the vampire who had accused you in the dungeon but he isn’t entirely sure. Trusting Kit’s eyes is like walking on hot coal. His eyesight is bad so consider it as a rumor. There are….”
Was the man in the dungeon because of her? She wondered if it was because the man had broken the law by attacking her in public.
The dungeon was a place that executed punishments and people with no mercy. There were no details on it as the maids in the mansion knew nothing about it except for few people who operated it. Going there was off limits.
Before lunch Katie was asked to see Sylvia who was in the drawing room and she went to her.
“Come in, Katie. Please take a seat,” Sylvia said seeing Katie at the door. From the far corner of the room music played from the gramophone.
Taking a seat she linked her fingers looking at the lady in front of her. Sylvia looked no less than a high class man’s daughter as she twirled the spoon in the cup before handing it over to her. Her hair was tied up with a side partition and a gentle smile on her lips.
“Lady Letitia invited you to her summer house,” she said taking the card that was on the tea table, “Here.”
Katie looked at the card and saw it dated for tomorrow, “Will you be there?”
“You don’t want me to?” Sylvia asked her and Katie shook her head.
“Forgive me, that wasn’t what I meant. I wouldn’t be comfortable going there alone,” Katie said looking at the card.
“We know,” Sylvia replied with a smile, “We’ll be leaving by seven in the morning and I already spoke to Martin regarding your absence for tomorrow therefore you needn’t talk to him about it.”
“Thank you,” Katie was glad hearing it.
She didn’t want to ask Martin in front of any servants because it was difficult to find him alone while he was always nit picking on the servants. There were always little gossips going around the mansion with the maids and she did not want to be part of it.
After all she wasn’t going to stay in Valeria forever. She had to leave someday.
“May I ask a question?” and Sylvia nodded for her to go on, “Where did Lord Alexander find the rose stem that grows behind the mansion? I haven’t seen one as such in my life time.”
The unexpected question startled Sylvia, “He received it from his mother… So it has been you who has been arranging flowers. Its been years since I last saw those roses inside the mansion. If I remember the maids were asked not to touch them after an event.”
“I wasn’t aware of it,” When Martin had given her the task of flower arrangement, she was extremely happy as it was the easiest job. Cynthia had shown her the flowers that was normally picked out and had included the wild rose.
“Handle them with care. The Lord wouldn’t be happy if it was mistreated,” Katie nodded with a yes and left to get back to her work.
Next day in the summer house of the Boland’s, Katie sat quietly, squaring her shoulders stiffly as others spoke. It had been an hour since the time they came but she just couldn’t relax.
Alexander and Elliot who had come along with them were busy in one corner over the lawn while Sylvia had left her a while ago to look at their apple orchard.
The Boland’s were of a old lineage elite family, it was expected that men and women who came today would be of the same class.
Women with their grand gowns and a fan in their hand as they spoke to each other. Most of them behaved coy with their prim and proper manner.
Few men had made an effort to exchange a smile or two but she was too rigid or shy to talk. She wasn’t used to such attention.
“Hello there,” a voice belonging to a man interrupted her frizzy mind, “I don’t think we have met. I’m Lancelot Milford,” the man introduced himself with a bright smile on his face as he put his hand forward.
“Katherine Welcher,” Katie said giving her hand unsure and the man placed a kiss on top of her knuckle, making her take her hand back to her side.
Lancelot was a man of average height with his blonde hair swept aside and a dimple that appeared every now and then as he smiled.
“If I may,” he said placing his hand on the seat next to her and she nodded, “How is that I haven’t seen you before? I surely wouldn’t miss seeing you.”
“It is my first time attending a tea party,” she replied.
“I see your parents have been treasuring as you’re young and pretty. Are they here?” he asked taking a biscuit from the plate and putting it in his mouth
“Ah no,” Katie said looking towards Elliot who was chatting up with a little boy.
As she and Lancelot spoke, she felt the man was intrusive with his questions. She evaded his questions subtly and smiled at the jokes he tried making nonetheless he seemed like a decent man.
She once caught him looking at her neckline but had brushed it off thinking it might have been by mistake.