Chapter 19, Part 1

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The entire house was in a state of deep quiet, except for the occasional footstep of a servant. But even those noises were few. Isabella made her way along the upper corridor, moving towards her room. She had visited the chapel one last time before seeking her bed. The stillness of the house was a comfort, for there was no one about whom she had to face...particularly not Owen. After the incident out on the practice field, she had not seen him all day, not even at supper. From what she could gather, Sir Guy had ordered his son to remain behind while the other men journeyed to court, and Owen was not at all pleased with the decision. He had hidden himself away in some part of the house, and no one seemed to mind his absence.

Who can blame them? she thought, as she neared her door. Detestable boy. They have enough concerns without having to endure his callousness. She sighed at the thought of him, wondering how he had come to be so malicious. His father was aloof, but from what she knew of him, Sir Guy was tolerable of others, even when he did not like them. He had, at first, been displeased with the idea of her being here, but he had softened soon after. Why could his son not be as gracious?

She shook her head at her musings, wondering why she should concern herself with him. He was an ill-tempered youth, and he had much growing to do, as far as his manners and temperament. Perhaps one day, with time, he would grow into a decent young man. But that, it seemed, was a long way off.

After she had stepped into her room, pushing the door to close it, she heard an odd noise coming from somewhere nearby. Judging from the sound, it seemed like someone was shuffling along. There came a thud, as if someone had fallen...and then came a soft curse. She knew it wasn’t right to pry. It would be better to ignore the noise, whatever it was. But curiosity got the better of her. Peeking through the opening of her door, she looked out in the hall, her eyes searching for the source of the disturbance.

She took a slight step back as she realized who it was. Owen, walking along in a clumsy fashion, passed her door. She kept her door open only by a tiny space, not wanting him to see her. It seemed he was aware of very little, her least of all. He stopped within her line of sight...still, and yet not still. He seemed to be wavering on his feet. He attempted to take a step...and he lost his balance, falling against a chair.

The foolish boy, she thought, horrified at the realization that he seemed to be drunk. She knew what a drunkard looked like, and this was a sure sign of it. For a few moments she observed him, wondering what he might do. His movements were deliberately slow, as if he was making an attempt to control his actions. At first he gripped the chair, trying to steady himself. And then, sensing that his balance was beyond his control, he sat down in the chair. He hung his head...and a moment later, he was as still as death.

Good heavens, Isabella said to herself. Has he fallen into a stupor?

She took a step away from the door, thinking that it would serve him right to be found that way, passed out from an overindulgence of drink.

But what if his mother found him in such a state?

Lady Cassia had been such a devoted friend. With all that she was enduring...pregnancy, the departure of her beloved husband...it would be cruel and heartbreaking to find her son in so embarrassing a situation.

Isabella sighed heavily. Heaven help me, she said, crossing herself. Slowly, she opened her door. Looking carefully about for anyone who might be passing, she softly crept over to where Owen sat. He was emitting a light snore...and with a hesitant hand, she reached out to shake him. He mumbled, but didn’t lift his head. She shook him again, and this time, he seemed to come to his senses. At least, he looked up at her. His eyes closed, and then opened again, as though he wasn’t sure who he was looking at. His speech was mumbled.

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