Steamed water flowwed, d'Argent summed her tale:
No dowry, no price, no future for sale,
But perhaps a future full of whispers,
silver, gems, the terrible warmth of furs.
Lady d'Argent watched Melinda's gaze closely, a subtle smirk her only expression. "It is the body which first gains the eye of noble and commoner alike." Cecily said "But it is the mind which keeps him enflamed. Control the mind and you control the man."
Lady d'Argent stepped into the bath-water and let herself drop slowly into the steaming water. Melinda felt the stir of a vagrant breeze pick at the hem of her dress. March in the province still bore the touch of icy cruelty.
Lady d'Argent reclined languorously and, after a pause, she lifted a hand. "Step forward."
Melina did as she was bade, carrying a pitcher of steaming water.
"Remove your gown."
Melina paused, obviously confused. She placed the pitcher on the tiles, and reached for the hem of her dress, hesitantly. Cecily had schooled her features to an unreadable mask. Melina shrugged awkwardly from the garment, which pooled at her feet. She shivered, as the draft picked at her dress and ruffled the fabric.
Lady d'Argent clucked once and made a face. "Leave your hands at your side. Don't cover yourself up. Are you ashamed of your body?"
Melina started to answer, but d'Argent shook her head. "A rhetorical question is one to which the answer is already known. Do you know why you were sent to me?"
Melina nodded, but did not speak.
"Your father has no dowry." d'Argent said. "And I have a secrets I wish to share. If you treat them right, they will serve you far better than gold or jewels."
d'Argent gave Melina an appraising look. The girl was not in tears, as she had feared. Melina held a defiant look, though. A rebellious nature d'Argent was sure she could use and mold.
Melina shivered slightly, but left her hands at her side. She was sixteen--nearly too old to marry, but still delightfully naive and coltish in her appearance. She had fine dark hair and wide, dark eyes that d'Argent was sure could drive men to distraction. And her lips... Melina's lips seemed to constantly pout. It prompted her own imagination to wild possibilities.She was petite, but the years of toil had given her a wiry physique and a flexibility d'Argent knew she could train.
Finally, d'Argent nodded, her appraisal complete, her decision reached.
"Do you wish to know my secrets?" she asked.