Chapter 24 - Eric

Eric gave Corinne a breakfast of cherries, strawberries and pear slices with a steaming bowl of milk. She was cautious at first to eat and drink but after the meal, she smiled and told him it had been delicious.

For the rest of that morning, Eric allowed Corinne to walk around the cottage, to pet Whisper in the stables and to sit in contemplative silence on the animal rugs in the living room as he prepared luncheon: an easy task which allowed him to watch Corinne at the same time. Once the preparatory task was over, he sat with her on the rugs. Her expression, though thoughtful, was not troubled: a cause for Eric’s gratification. As he sat beside her, she smiled and murmured, "Your cottage has a lovely atmosphere."

"Why, thank you," he replied, smiling in response.

She sighed. “You’ve not acted awfully yet.”

“And I don’t intend to,” he said softly.

She looked into his eyes.

“Tell me you love me again. Tell me while I search your expression.”

Eric, naturally, was only too happy to oblige. Gazing directly into her eyes, he told her, “I love you, Corinne.”

Her face took on a slightly sad smile.

“So sincere. And yet, you’ve made completely trusting you impossible.”

Eric nodded. “I would not expect anything other than suspicion from you.” He paused and smiled as an idea came to him. “But may I tell you how wonderful you are anyway?”

Corinne blushed, flattered.

“Save it for when I trust you a little more.”

Eric bowed his head.

“Your wish is my command, Lady Corinne.”

She chuckled. Eric grinned as he raised his head again. He could not resist gazing contentedly into Corinne’s eyes for a few seconds, viewing their clarity, fancying he could see the magical heart behind them.

After that short period, he stood up, partly so as not to disconcert her but partly because he was beginning to feel hungry.

“Would you like your luncheon yet, my lady?” he inquired.

“Yes, please,” she replied.

“Well, I need to cook the food but I will serve it to you as soon as it is ready.”

“May I sit in the kitchen while you cook?” she asked.

Eric nodded. “Of course.”

So she sat at the wooden table on which he prepared the meals as he added sliced potatoes and vegetables to a pan of boiling water and allowed it to simmer while he placed the sausages on a tray and heated them magically.

While he cooked, he made conversation with Corinne.

“I usually go to market on Wednesdays and Saturdays,” he told her. “Oh, incidentally, it’s Thursday today.”

Corinne grinned.

“I intend to stop going while you’re here - I grow my own fruit and vegetables and who really needs meat anyway? But what I sell is bags of lavender, roasted chestnuts and mushrooms I’ve collected from the local forest.”

“Oh, there’s a forest?” Corinne asked, interested.

Eric nodded. “I can take you there if you like. We can go for a pleasant stroll.”

Corinne beamed. “That sounds wonderful.”

Eric nodded in agreement.

“So, may I taste the roasted chestnuts?” Corinne inquired.

“Of course,” Eric told her. “They’re in that wooden box on the table.”

 Corinne reached out for the wooden box and took a single roasted chestnut out of it. She ate it, smiling as the taste filled her mouth.

“Lovely,” she declared.

Eric smiled gently.

“I’m glad,” he said, and there was probably too much sincerity in his tone to disguise the fact that he was in reality enamoured of Corinne’s delight.

She looked up, noticing this. Seeing something in Eric’s eyes, she nodded.

“I can tell.”

Eric was so happy that he almost forgot to roll the sausages over.

*

Soon Corinne and he were eating, now in silence because Corinne seemed to adore the food Eric had cooked too much to talk.  She praised him afterwards, saying that he should sell luncheon and dinner at the marketplace and he could soon live in a mansion because he would make a lot of money from it.

Eric told her precisely how much her compliments meant to him and again she was blushing. Eric secretly set himself the challenge of making her blush once a day, because he loved seeing her cheeks redden in pleasure in that way.

He didn’t do a lot for the afternoon, merely let Corinne lie on the rugs which were extremely comfortable and bask in the heat from the fire: a contrast to the icy winds outside.

A little later he cooked a large dinner of roast lamb with potatoes and vegetables. He enjoyed sitting with Corinne as they ate this meal, even though during it they were once again silent.

When the sun had set in its typical earliness for this time of the year, Corinne posed a very valid question.

“What am I to wear while I’m here, Eric?”

Eric’s cheeks turned crimson and he confessed that he had not thought of her clothing. She laughed, making him feel more light-hearted.

“I will wear this till the morrow and then we can buy me some new dresses.”

Eric agreed but told her he would have to buy the clothes because anyone they met in Periville would recognise her and ensure she was sent back to Dachshund Manor. Corinne told him she would write down her measurements on a piece of parchment which he could hand to the tailor without looking at them. Eric admitted he wouldn’t know what the numbers meant anyway but promised he wouldn’t peek.

Corinne looked satisfied and returned to lying lazily in the fullest luxury the cottage could provide. ‘Fitting,’ Eric thought, contentedly, as he lay on another rug.

Five hours later, Corinne headed to his bedroom and closed the door behind her. Eric doused the flames of the hearth and fell asleep on the rugs which had also been his bed the night before. His dreams were once again beautiful. The scenes were almost such that he didn’t want to wake from them.

The End

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