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11 A Rose and A Knife

    Andrew regarded Sam warily and asked, "You don't want to walk with them?"

    Sam said, "I think I'm not as used to riding as Kateri, short rides around the park are more what I'm accustomed to."

    They sat in companionable silence for a little bit.

    "Miss Amberley," said Andrew hesitantly.

    "Sam," said Sam.

    Andrew took a deep breath and said, "Sam then." He paused again and then continued, "I'm afraid I may be being very conceited, but I don't want you to, um," he fumbled for words, "I mean, I am glad of your company, but I wish you would not waste your regard.. Damn it all, I don't know how to say it."

    Sam looked at him calmly and said, "You think you are too old for me, and you regard your injury as a weakness."

    "I am too old for you, and it is a weakness," he said.

    Sam, unable to think of anything indirect, said boldly, "But I do like you Andrew," Sam added, blushing, "more than any other man I've met." Andrew looked at her unhappily, and she asked uncertainly, "Do you dislike me?"

    "Sam," he said, "I like you very well, given the short amount of time I've known you."

    "Then I wish you would consider me seriously," she said.

    "What if," he hesitated, not wishing to make light of her feelings, but unable to think of a better way to say it, "it is merely an infatuation?" he asked finally.

    "Then simple time may be enough to reassure you?" she answered hopefully.

    He regarded her soberly, and nodded.

    Afterward they spoke only of other things.

    --

    Sir Blackwell reminded Lord Waverly of his promise to act with full propriety toward Kateri, when he took her arm rather suddenly as she stepped over an obstacle in the path. Lord Waverly replied that his action was meant only for Kateri's safety. Kateri ended the discussion by taking both their hands, saying, "This way I will be entirely safe from falls, and only the two of you at risk."

    A bit later, she said wistfully as they helped her up over a particularly large stone in the path, that she wished she were just a bit younger, so that she might ask to be swung between them. The Marques, amused, offered that he thought perhaps that last stone had been so large that on the way down it might be easier to swing her over it, and if she happened to enjoy the swinging more than was strictly lady-like, he would certainly never mention it to anyone.

    Sir Blackwell agreed that the stone was indeed a sufficient obstacle to warrant such a course. Kateri thanked them both and said that she was looking forward to the return trip with enthusiasm.

    They climbed clear to the top of the rise, and took a few minutes to enjoy the charming view of the follies. Kateri expressed the wish that Sam might see the fall roses that tumbled over the rise. The Marques said, "If I'd thought to bring a knife we might have carried a spray down."

    Sir Blackwell did not carry one either, it turned out. But Kateri confessed, "I have one, though I shouldn't tell you so," and after they had promised not to mention it, she pulled a small blade from her boot.

    The Marques donned his riding gloves and cut a generous spray from the bush. He handed the little knife back to Kateri, and removed the glove on the hand he offered her, leaving the other on to carry the thorny roses back down the slope. On the way down Lord Waverly and Sir Blackwell did swing her over the aforementioned rock and several other small obstacles, to her great delight.

    They returned to the resting pair quite cheerfully and described the lovely view from the top of the rise. Kateri took the roses from Lord Waverly and offered them to Sam. The roses were received happily and declared to be very lovely.

    Andrew regarded his niece, and said dryly, "It's good to know that the knife has been of some use to you, though you don't seem to be keeping it very secret."

    Kateri flushed, and Sam rose to her defense. "I'm also carrying a small knife, though I don't know if it would do as well at cutting roses," she confessed.

    Andrew and the other gentlemen regarded Sam with mild surprise. Sam reached up and fiddled with her hat pin for a moment, and revealed that it was actually two pieces, a pointed sheath and a very small, very thin dagger.

    Lord Waverly laughed and said lightly, "It seems that if we are set upon during this adventure, our women folk are more prepared than we are."

    Sam refrained from mentioning the much sturdier hilt she'd glimpsed peeking from Captain Andrew Matheson's boot, when he merely nodded and did not refute the statement. Kateri asked her uncle anxiously if he was feeling any better, and he said that he was recovering faster than he'd feared, and should be well enough to attempt the ride back.

    The others returned with a full picnic basket, and several jugs of tea. Bernie told them that the inn wanted basket and jugs returned when they were finished, so before the party set off home, someone would have to make the trip to the inn again. The colonel had acquired a small bottle which he offered Andrew, who denied needing it yet, though he added wryly that it might be very welcome after they'd made the return trip.

    Robbie looked at the spray of roses his sister had set beside her, and told the girls not to pick any of the daisies scattered among the follies if they were collecting flowers, "For they are fair overrunning one bank of the roadside on the way to the inn, and I can pick a bundle for you without depleting the few here when the basket is returned if you like?"

    The girls said that they would like, if he didn't mind. The picnic lunch was devoured happily by the party. The follies and bright fall afternoon were properly admired. Robbie and Lord Waverly returned the basket and jugs to the inn. They returned with the promised daisies, along with a few other late fall flowers. The large spray of roses was divided and two bundles of flowers tied up, one for each of the girls to take home.

    The ride back, as is often the case, seemed even longer than the ride out had been. Bernie and Lord Waverly left them first, when they had neared their starting point. Lord Waverly took a moment to tell Kateri that he had enjoyed the chance outing, and would call on Lady Norwen soon, with the promised voucher. Kateri had nearly forgotten it, but thanked him and said she was looking forward to his visit. Sir Blackwell frowned, as this was the first he'd heard of the matter, but made no move to interrupt, seeing that Kateri's uncle seemed unsurprised.

    The Amberley siblings left them next, saying that it was quicker home if they took this intersection. Sam cast a look at Andrew, but refrained from any personal farewell. Andrew caught the look however, and watched her ride away uncertainly.

    He was in obvious pain by this time, and after Sam and Robbie had left, Kateri anxiously asked her uncle if he shouldn't go directly home too. Andrew pointed out to his niece that her horse would want to go home with them as well.

    Sir Blackwell offered to take Kateri up on his horse for the remaining distance, and also offered to apprise Lady Norwen of their outing. It was a measure of his pain, that after hesitating, Andrew allowed himself to be convinced to this plan when the Colonel added his support to Kateri's persuasion.

    Kateri handed her reins to the Colonel and slid off her mount unaided. Sir Blackwell bent down, and Kateri reached up and put her hands on his shoulders and he lifted her up onto his saddle without dismounting. Colonel Richards handed over her bundle of flowers, and she bid him and her uncle Andrew a fond farewell.

    The party thus dispersed, Sir Blackwell carried Miss Norwen and her armful of flowers back to her grandmama's townhouse. Kateri was intensely conscious of Sir Blackwell's arm around her waist as they rode. When they arrived he dismounted first before lifting her down, and she found herself wishing that he'd kiss her again. He seemed oblivious to her thoughts though, and only carefully set her on her feet and tied up his horse.

    She lifted the long skirts of her riding habit and they entered the house together, under the watchful eye of the elderly Mr. Worthing, who cheerfully took the bundle of flowers from her. Lady Norwen expressed surprise at their return alone together, for Mr. Worthing had informed her that the Captain and his friend had also ridden out with her granddaughter that morning. She had wondered at the extended absence, but had not worried overmuch, assuming them together.

    Sir Blackwell gave a summary of their adventures and assured Lady Norwen, "Miss Norwen and I spent only a few minutes of our return alone together."

    Kateri described the amount of pain that her uncle had appeared to be suffering and declared, "I insisted, so any blame should fall to me." She also remembered to inform her grandmama of what Lord Waverly had said of his plans to visit soon with a voucher for her.

    Sir Blackwell scowled at this, for he'd forgotten to ask about it, having been rather distracted by carrying Kateri tucked up comfortably in his arm on their way back.

    Lady Norwen, noting the scowl, asked diffidently, "Sir Blackwell, do you possess a voucher?" Though she felt certain she'd seen him attending in the past.

    Surprised, he replied "I do," and added, "I'd be pleased if you would inform me of when you are planning to attend, so that I might also purchase a ticket for those nights."

    Lady Norwen took this reply as confirmation that Sir Blackwell considered himself one of Kateri's suitors. She had been uncertain about how he regarded the girl, wondering if perhaps he only saw her as a child. It renewed her discomfort with their return alone. She thanked him for his care of her niece, said of course Kateri might notify him of when they would attend Almack's and bid him a good afternoon.

    Sir Blackwell, unaware of his new status as a suitor, took his dismissal with good grace, and bid Kateri farewell.
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