When Corinne could not find a response to make to his confounding statement, Richard sighed and started to eat as well. He thought to himself that he could not ask any more of this poor woman who was frankly unfortunate to have fallen in love with a complicated man such as him. He ought to have discouraged her when she was a child. But it was so difficult to do such a thing when he was in love with her as well.
Still there was one wickedly selfish part of them that continued to want Corinne’s love, even if he was successful in preventing their relationship from developing.
Before retiring, Richard took a stroll in the manor grounds, a sword hanging from the leather belt at his waist, to use should any man make an attempt on his life.
The night was still and silent, rather, in Richard’s mind, as though its lady the moon sympathised with Corinne or another female like her and wished to punish man for his cruelty and insensitivity.
“Then punish me,” Richard murmured, coming to a halt and staring at the ground in expectation.
Nothing happened. He stood motionless for a few seconds before turning and walking back to the manor.
He had to pass Corinne’s room in order to reach his. Pausing at the open door, he gazed at the sleeping form barely visible amongst the shadows. He imagined her beautiful face, calm and peaceful despite the darkness enveloping her. He longed to sit beside her, absently stroke the ends of her hair, murmur silly words which she wouldn’t hear while she slept. He would be wrapped in her soothing aura and forget the circumstances surrounding his unwillingness to make her his wife; she too would be glad when she woke to find he had nestled into her warmth and then the pair would be united for eternity.
Richard tore himself away from the tempting fantasy that taunted him for his cowardice, shied away from the torturous image of Corinne’s smile and hurried along the corridor to shut himself in his bedchamber.
His breathing was heavy: an effect of the intensity of the yearning and the heartache which threatened to burst into fiery agony and to throw him mercilessly to the floor. His hands shook as he changed his attire and he very nearly failed at halting the tears which wanted to rise to his eyes.
He cast his eyes around for an object to strengthen his conviction in his actions regarding his love for Corinne. He found the indigo ribbon on his nightstand and let out a long breath. His subsequent breaths were calm and the trembling ceased.
“Mother,” he whispered, taking up the ribbon and kissing it. He lay on his bedcovers holding it, caressing it. He retreated into the shell he used to disguise his grief - the faraway look people often saw in his eyes was the evidence that he was elsewhere: lost in the past rather than experiencing the present - and inwardly wept.
The next morning Samantha found him curled up, still on top of rather than underneath the covers, a slight frown on his face, a deep furrow in his brow. Yet when he awoke he would not speak of the reason for such an expression and he acted in the world-weary, detached fashion that everyone was used to.
The staff never commented on his behaviour as the lord never mistreated them. Though Lord Dachshund was unconscious of the fact, they whom had watched him grow up suspected that his heart was of a larger-than-average size and that powerful feelings were hidden underneath his distant façade. They forgave him the façade because they guessed that caring so deeply for others must be a strain on the poor man.
Their suspicions were not so very far from the truth.