Chapter IX

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A couple of days went by and no one mentioned any disturbance in the woman's bedchamber and I kept myself busy with any work given to me as to not interrupt the staff who did not interact with the new hired servants if they could help it

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A couple of days went by and no one mentioned any disturbance in the woman's bedchamber and I kept myself busy with any work given to me as to not interrupt the staff who did not interact with the new hired servants if they could help it.

Pictures of the master's ancestors and family decorated the walls of Stanley Hall, the most important hall in the house, which Mrs. Hall sent me to clean. There were weapons, medals, even uniforms worn by the Howard men found in glass and wooden cases along with the family trait: the proud exalted heads. Soon I found the family's crest and the Earl William Howard of Bridgeston, the master's father whom had the same high cheekbones, he stood alone in the painting wearing his British Army uniform but could not tell what rank he was due to military ignorance. It seemed the common assumption of the Howard men was their duty to their country and as I gawked curiously to find the master's rank amongst his valuables why did the master not have a painted of picture of his own among the family.

"Miss Stewart what are you doing?" The master's voice shattered my concentration in the silence of the hall.

"Oh master!" I jumped back taking my hand to the heart to settle it down, "forgive me."

"Well first you must say what I am to forgive you for?"

"It is nothing sir I will get back to work now." I got back to dusting the cases and he came to where I was and looked over the case as if to find out what were my thoughts.

"Ask your question Miss Stewart, if not to get an answer then because you are at my service."

"I... well."

"Yes?"

"I only wish to know what does that mean," I pointed to the family crest displaying an armor helmet on it. "I know it is not my place sir so I did not want to bother you."

"It is Latin, Sola Virtus Invicta, means virtue alone invincible, the Howard family crest, it is etched on my mind as a sermon, I heard it one too many times, anything else Miss Stewart?"

"Is this you sir?"

It was a picture of a young boy by the side of their father and mother. He looked at his mother and I read below it the master's name before his father passed away was quite a mouthful; Lord Sebastian Howard of Stanley Hall. Reading it in my mind I itched to call him by it to but it would not do, Mrs. Hall had made it clear he liked Mr. Howard, though why he would forgo the title was yet another mystery.

"You will not be outsmarted I see, finding me out like this, what gave it away?"

"The smile," I teased and went over to look at the army accolades from the family.

"What smile?"

"What about your father sir, William Howard, what rank did he hold in the British army?"

"Colonel, my father was a colonel, and it was Earl of Bridgeston. He would never let you get away with calling him anything else in this house," his face lifted to look at the portrait and with a sigh he dismissed it. There was a second of vulnerable sadness in his gaze and I forgot myself drawn in by worry for his melancholic spirits.

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