“Whatever is easiest,” Lady Winstead replied. “And please, something for Honoria, too.” She looked at her daughter. “You should try to eat.”

“I know. I just . . .” She didn’t finish. She was sure her mother knew exactly what she was feeling.

A hand settled gently on her shoulder. “You should sit, too.”

Honoria sat.

And waited.

It was the hardest thing she’d ever done.

Chapter Eleven

Laudanum was an excellent thing.

Marcus normally eschewed the drug, and indeed he had a feeling he had looked down upon those who used it, but now he was wondering if perhaps he owed them all an apology. Maybe an apology to the entire world. Because clearly he had never been in real pain before. Not like this.

It wasn’t so much the poking and snipping. One would think it would be painful to have bits of one’s body hacked away like a woodpecker jabbing at a tree trunk, but that actually wasn’t so bad. It hurt, but it wasn’t anything he couldn’t bear.

No, what killed him (or at least felt like it) was when Lady Winstead took out the brandy. Every so often she would dump what had to have been a gallon of the stuff over his open, gaping wound. She could have set him on fire and it wouldn’t have hurt so much.

He was never drinking brandy again. Not unless it was the really good stuff. And even then, he would only do so on principle. Because it was the really good stuff.

Which needed to be drunk.

He thought about that for a moment. It had made sense when he’d first considered it. No, it still made sense. Didn’t it?

Whatever the case, sometime after Lady Winstead had poured what he dearly hoped was not the good brandy on his leg, they’d got a dose of laudanum down his throat, and really, he had to say – it was lovely. His leg still felt as if it were being slow-roasted on a spit, which most people would consider unpleasant, but after enduring Lady Winstead’s “care” without any anesthesia, he was finding it positively pleasant to be stabbed with a knife under the influence of an opiate.

Almost relaxing.

And beyond that, he felt rather unaccountably happy.

He smiled up at Honoria, or rather he smiled up at where he thought she might be; his eyelids had clearly been weighted down with rocks.

Actually, he only thought he smiled; his mouth felt rather heavy, too.

But he wanted to smile. He would have done, if he’d been able. Surely that had to be the most important thing.

The jabbing at his leg stopped for a bit, then started up again. Then there was a lovely, short pause, and then –

Damn, that hurt.

But not enough to cry out. Although he might have moaned. He wasn’t sure. They’d poured hot water on him. Lots of it. He wondered if they were trying to poach his leg.

Boiled meat. How terribly British of them.

He chuckled. He was funny. Who knew he was so funny?

“Oh, my God!” he heard Honoria yell. “What did I do to him?”

He laughed some more. Because she sounded ridiculous. Almost as if she were speaking through a foghorn. Oooorrrrrhhhh myyy Grrrrrrrrrd.

He wondered if she could hear it, too.

Wait a moment . . . Honoria was asking what she’d done to him? Did that mean she was wielding the scissors now? He wasn’t sure how he ought to feel about this.

On the other hand . . . boiled meat!

He laughed again, deciding he didn’t care. God, he was funny. How was it possible no one had ever told him he was funny before?

“Should we give him more laudanum?” Mrs. Wetherby said.

Oh, yes, please.

But they didn’t. Instead they tried to boil him again, with a bit more of the poking and stabbing for good measure. But after only a few more minutes, they were done.

The ladies started talking about laudanum again, which turned out to be incredibly cruel of them, because no one got out a glass or a spoon to feed him. Instead they poured the stuff right on his leg, which –


– hurt more than the brandy, apparently.

But the ladies must have finally decided they were through torturing him, because after some discussion, they untied his bindings and moved him to the other side of his bed, which wasn’t wet from all the hot water they’d been using to boil him.

And then, well . . . He might have slept for a bit. He rather hoped he was sleeping, because he was quite certain he’d seen a six-foot rabbit hopping through his bedchamber, and if that wasn’t a dream, they were all in very big trouble.

Although really, it wasn’t the rabbit that was so dangerous as much as the giant carrot he was swinging about like a mace.

That carrot would feed an entire village.

He liked carrots. Although orange had never really been one of his favorite colors. He’d always found it a little jarring. It seemed to pop up when he didn’t expect it, and he preferred his life without surprises.

Blue. Now, there was a proper color. Lovely and soothing. Light blue. Like the sky. On a sunny day.

Or Honoria’s eyes. She called them lavender – she had since she was a child – but they weren’t, not in his opinion. First of all, they were far too luminous to be lavender. Lavender was a flat color. Almost as gray as it was purple. And far too fussy. It made him think of old ladies in mourning. With turbans on their heads. He’d never understood why lavender was considered the appropriate step up from black in the mourning calendar. Wouldn’t brown have been more appropriate? Something more medium-toned?

And why did old ladies wear turbans?

This was really very interesting. He didn’t think he’d ever thought so hard about color before. Maybe he should have paid more attention when his father had made him take those painting classes so many years ago. But really, what ten-year-old boy wants to spend four months on a bowl of fruit?