Part 21

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PART TWENTY-ONE:

Rival Affections

CHARMIAN SAT ON a stool while Justin cleaned the dirt from the scrapes on her knees and then applied some medicine which, of course, stung.  She bit her lip.  His "house" wasn't quite what she expected it to be.  It made her think more of a mansion or something.  It reminded her of the pictures of the Victorian-style houses she'd seen in the Mackinac Island guidebook, only, not knowing the different styles of architecture, she couldn't know if that's what it was or not.  Whatever it was, it was fancy enough.

She sensed the Dupries family was wealthy.  He'd taken her to the kitchens and offered her something to eat, and while munching on a huge sandwich she'd noticed a long polished table in the adjoining dining room.  However, at the moment she and Justin seemed to be the only ones there.  She looked around at the walls and windows and ornate stairway and wondered.

"How many people live here?" she asked.

"Oh?  Just my parents and myself.  A few servants in the servants' quarters.  No one more.  Why do you ask?"

"Well, it's just a pretty big house and all...seems like it would get lonely here or something."

"True."  He smiled.  "This is why I go out hunting every so often.  One should always get out or they'll eventually go mad."

She smiled back this time.  "Where are your parents, anyway?  I don't see anybody around..."

"My father is often out on some 'business' or other.  There are a few more like us on the Island, and I believe he prefers their company.  My mother is most likely haggling."

"Haggling?"

"Haggling, yes.  She sometimes buys items from the natives here.  She's quite good at it.  She's learned their language, although it's not necessary, being the Island and all..."

Something lit up in Charmian's mind.  "Oh.  Have you seen Francois LaCroix today?"

"Francois?"  He looked up at her.  "You know him?"

"Yeah.  The last time I saw him he and Mr. Marcott said they were coming here to see you."

"No, I haven't seen them today, but then again I've been out...perhaps they went off looking for my father.  Was there any reason they needed to speak with us?"

Charmian started to answer when she realized it had to do with the Ocryxes, and clammed up.  "Uh...no, I'm not really sure...they just said they were going to try stopping in sometime today, is all."

"Well, it wouldn't be the first time...I get the feeling Monsieur Marcott would prefer staying here most of the time to tagging along after Francois."  He laughed to himself.

"Ow."  He finished placing bandages on Charmian's knees and she extended her legs.  "Thanks," she murmured, rubbing her arms and looking up at the fancy windows again.  Some of them were stained glass, and she thought she could recognize the form of a manitou in one of them.  He took her hand and helped her to her feet, and for the first time she noticed a small pendant he was wearing around his neck.  She blinked and reached out to touch it before thinking.  It was silver, enclosing a chip of ruby and a chip of emerald, red and green side by side.

His glance followed her motion and she drew her hand back, embarrassed.  "Sorry.  It's just an interesting necklace."

"This?  I often forget I wear it, I'm so used to it."  He smiled and shrugged.  "Do you feel ready to go now?"

"Where did you get it?"  For some strange reason she again found herself thinking of the green glass necklace in Miss Anne's store.

"It was a...'gift' from my father."  He shrugged again.  "He's sparing in his gift-giving so I suppose I should be more grateful...are you ready to go now?"

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