A Daughter’s Education
Morcant Pritchard was seated at his ancient oak desk, a concerned scowl on his face. He had been working in his home office for hours, and the remnants of his dinner lay on a pewter plate to his left. He’d had to pass judgment on a case earlier that day and was still coming to terms with what had been his decision on the matter. Several candles were spread out on the desk for he was desperate to continue his work on into the night. He became aware of a draft as they all sputtered at once, and he looked up to find the door to his office sliding open.
Stepping into the office, Carys said, “I wish to speak to you, my lord.” Morcant looked over at his wife, her black hair loose about her stunning face. She was a beautiful woman, tall and lithe with sun-darkened skin and full pink lips. Her dark green eyes were downcast and this demure expression could mean only one thing. She was intent on changing his mind about something. The damn woman was always up to one thing or another.
“Shall I have a guess then?” He saw one corner of her mouth raise slightly and this mere gesture caused his loins to stir with longing. No one had ever moved him as she. It had been years since his first glimpse of her in the forest stream, her dress tied up in knots all about her while she fished in the moving water…with nothing but her hands and her wits! He had watched her for some long minutes, mesmerized by the scandalous flesh of her legs moving languidly under the water. At one point, she lost her footing and dipped face-first into the stream, her hands thrust out before her unseen beneath the current. Her chin was at water level and he felt sure that he would watch her head disappear at any moment. While laughing, he had dismounted and rushed forward to help her. If she was disturbed by his sudden appearance, she didn’t show it. She had merely smiled up at him and produced a huge salmon from the clear water, its muscular body undulating beneath her hands. He had expected her to lose it, but was pleasantly surprised to see her make it to the bank, unhelped, still bearing the prized fish. That had been the first of many a meal shared between them.
“As you wish, my lord.” He laughed aloud at that, a dark and hearty chortle. “As I wish, hmm? It is always as I wish, isn’t that so?” She had annoying skills of negotiation that always made him feel as if her ideas had always been his own.
“I would hazard a guess that it has something to do with our beloved daughter, Willow. And some nonsense about her needing to learn another language from some expensive tutor who will turn our household upside down with his eccentric requests.”
He referred, of course, to the cantankerous old fool who had taught a Flemish Dutch to his daughter for five weeks and three days. Five weeks and three days of hell, until Morcant had finally had enough and thrown him out into the pouring rain. The bastard had called out for his daughter in the middle of the night to come in and carry out his chamberpot, and to assist him in wiping up his own ass. Morcant had been awakened by the yelling and left his bedchamber to find his daughter stepping into the old man’s room. Following after her, he’d heard the Dutchman whisper, “I need a hand with the wiping, my dear girl.” It had been the straw that broke the camel’s back and Morcant had seen red, going sick with rage. The gall of it! Even now, these months later, Morcant still shook his head at the thought. His daughter was no chambermaid, nor some bedroom-travelling wench in search of her latest dirty-assed conquest! What an impudent jackass he had been!
The tutor had huffed and puffed, still in his nightshirt, as Morcant threw his clothes out to him and slammed closed the door. He had been flabbergasted. “Where am I to go at this god-forsaken hour my good sir? And in this rain!? What is the meaning of this?”
Morcant had bellowed through the door, “You can go to hell for all I care, my good sir. And by God, if I see you again I will take the very life from your lungs.” He had been seething, pacing back and forth in front of the door, his fists clenching and unclenching in a rhythmic pattern of frustration. He had turned toward the stairs and his waiting bed before thinking better of it, returning to the door in three long leaps. He had thrown open the door and yelled at the baffled man still standing there. “Better yet, if I even hear one more word from your dirty lips, I will come out there and drown you in the damn rain. Go on, say one more word. I beg it of you.” He had taken a gasping breath before saying again, this time in a hushed whisper, “I dare it of you.” The old man had opened his mouth to mutter some form of protest, but in looking at the father’s face, had thought better of it.
Morcant had continued. “You dare ask what is the meaning of this? After trying to run my household as your own? After asking my servants to massage your feet and cook your extravagant meals all the while complaining about everything they do? The food never good enough, my hearth never warm enough, your pay never high enough. And daring to ask my children, my children, to wait on you hand and foot as if you were a king.” His eyes had bored holes into the man and he growled out, “How dare you!”
Mustering whatever self respect he could, the old tutor had stuck his chin up in the air and harrumphed. He had turned and trudged off into the storm, dragging his heavy leather tote behind him. Morcant had roared after the retreating figure, “Let the rain clean your arsehole then you damnable jackass! You better thank God you can still breathe, damn you to hell.” Then he had slammed the door, good and proper, and turned to find every member of the household staring at him.
His family had been standing in a row at the second floor landing, each leaning against the dark wood of the railing. Gareth’s curly black hair had been tousled, his eyes were full of sleep. Aeron, their youngest, had held a bit of cloth in one hand while his sister grasped the other. Willow was looking down at him with a startled expression, and Carys’s eyes were brimming with mirth, her lips turned up in a smile. The servants had stood further back among the shadows, heads downcast, but he had been quite positive that he’d heard a suppressed laughter among them.
Morcant had looked from one to the other and when he‘d found his wife’s eyes, his face had erupted into a big smile. “Now that the bastard’s gone, we can finally get some peace and quiet around here.” As his gaze had travelled back to Willow, he had said, “Willow, no matter how important you think an education, no knowledge is worth wiping the arsehole of an arrogant old man.”
Willow had cocked her head to the side and said, “But father, I’ve never wiped the arsehole of an arrogant old man.” She looked at her younger brothers. “So far, it’s only been the arseholes of young arrogant men, and I thought I might have something to learn yet.”
They had all laughed at that, while Morcant climbed the stairs, his body suddenly overcome with the need for a long sleep. “Come, children. Come, wife.” He had nodded over at the servants. “Let’s all get back to sleep. Leave the mud at the door, it can wait for morning.” He had sworn then that no other tutor would ever step over his threshold again.
He had never once thought his dear wife and daughter capable of waiting this long to approach him about his ultimatum. Morcant motioned his wife toward him. “Do I have the gist of it, my lady?”
Carys stepped forward and walked slowly to the man she loved, curtsying low until her head was practically in his lap. Then she looked up at him as he said. “You think yourself so subtle, my lady.” She kept her eyes on his as she rose, an innocent smile on her face. “Whatever do you mean, my dear lord?”
He reached out for his wife and she fell into his lap, resting her forehead against his. He brought a hand to her face and traced the contours of her cheeks and neck.
“And what has our dear daughter decided that she just has to learn about now? Has it not been enough that I let her learn the fields and flowers at your side? Is it not enough that I’ve had tutors here to teach her French, Spanish, and for whatever reason, Latin? I’ve had a doctor here, a priest here, even a damned taxidermist.” Carys was nodding her head in sympathy. “This house is littered with the remains of her ‘education’. A virginal that is never played, stuffed dead things lying about, paints that have dried up from disuse, ridiculous dancing costumes and shoes…I had planned marriage for my daughters…not the noble and unrelenting finance of a child’s whims. Is there no end to what she wants to know? You know that we are done with tutors.”
Being his last living daughter, he had allowed her some eccentricities. But, by God, he’d figured she would have been taken over by a desire to be wed by now. She was fifteen, and yet she had never shown interest in a single boy. He had started to wonder if the girl would end up a spinster. He had lost his patience with her; did she plan to live at home for the rest of her life reading from books and ignoring every man that took an interest in her?
“Yes, love, done with tutors in the house. But,” and here she kissed each of his bushy eyebrows, “there is a school. The schools here don’t accept girls, and she’s too old anyway, and she grows weary of my teaching. She already knows everything I know.”
“A school for Willow?” He’d never heard of such a thing. Typically the schooling of girls was left up to the family. “Do you mean a convent?”
Carys shook her head. “No, something new. A school for girls. They have several different classes, including one on how to run a household. The same institution has been running a school for boys but decided to open a different building for the education of girls. They are by no means a convent, but they do have religious studies.”
Morcant was nodding his head. He was starting to like the sound of this, but while he wished for his daughter to start her own life, he still feared the thought of not having some small part in it. “Where is this school?”
“Gower.” Just saying the name brought back so many emotions and memories flooding back. Her husband chortled, deep and low in his chest.
“Gower?! Where I first cast my eyes upon thee.” He drew her face down to his and kissed her long and deep. “One of the luckiest days of my life.”
“And mine.” Carys looked deeply into his eyes. “They’ve already accepted her.”
He was not surprised. His ladies usually liked to ask for forgiveness instead of permission. “She must be very excited.”
Carys stroked his face and smiled. “She actually doesn’t know anything about it.” Morcant was visibly shocked, and tilted his head to one side as he looked at her incredulously. “I thought you might like to tell her as her birthday gift. I’ll even let you take all of the credit.”
“And tell me, dear woman. What is it that you wish of me?” She laughed at him and kissed the tip of his nose. “I think you know what I want, dear husband.” She began to run her hand down the front of his body, unbuttoning his vest as she went. She helped him out of his vest and started on the shirt beneath. When his top half was naked, she kneeled in front of him and removed his shoes and stockings. Then she took a seat back in his lap and kissed him again. She started giving him little butterfly kisses all over his face. Between each kiss, she spoke. “I. Want. You.” And here she paused and gave him a sensual kiss on his mouth, meeting his tongue with hers, and then drawing his bottom lip out between her teeth. “To. Take. A. Bath.” And with that she jumped away from him and ran out of the room, calling for Alys to prepare a bath for her very smelly husband.