Another fine day dawned upon the castle of Gormenghast, the seat of the Groans, sending shadows chasing away into the darker corners of the main courtyard. Not that Steerpike would have noticed. He was already growing used to the permanent half-gloom of the Prunesquallors' house, being built as it was against the shadiest side of one of the castle's walls. After smoothing down the front of his jacket and checking that his hair was more than presentable, studied himself in his mirror several times before leaving the room he'd been appointed and making his way out into the corridor.
With a quick glance at her door, he noted that Irma was already awake, and managed to fix a smile upon his face that would suggest he was pleased to see her, even though the truth was far different. He allowed himself a sly grin, laughing at another of his private jokes - or, rather, another chance for him to indulge in his intellectual superiority. He was so absorbed in his smugness, his arrogance, that he almost failed to notice the figures moving towards the house, and he paused and took a moment to regard them through one of the house's grime-smeared windows.
Fuchsia tugged furiously at her teacher's wrist, making the woman jerk uncomfortably and stumble forward as she was dragged ever faster in the direction of the Prunesquallor's door.
"Come on! Come on! I've a present waiting! I want to get it! Why do you have to drag so? Why do you have to keep me from getting my present? Oh! I could have come on my own and had it by now! Come on, Felicia!! Come on!"
Felicia bared her teeth at the hideous girl and yanked her wrist backwards, the sudden movement making Fuchsia almost lose her own footing and trip to the side, barely catching herself and scowling at her teacher before sticking out her tongue and proceeding forward again.
"I've told you over and over again, Lady Fuchsia, you are to call me Miss Havershum. As your teacher and your elder, I deserve that small bit of respect. And honestly, your manners, you act nothing at all like the Lady you are."
Fuchsia grinned cheekily and took on a haughty air as she glanced back to her teacher before striding imperiously forward.
"I am Lady Fuchsia, the daughter of Lord Groan, and I will call you whatever I like. So there!"
She stuck out her tongue again and proceeded to the door where she began a wild frantic banging and called in a screeching voice for the doctor. Felicia hung back a few steps, her eyes narrowed, back straight, glaring daggers, wishing hideous catastrophes upon the idiot girl before her.
Lady Fuchsia. Steerpike smiled to himself, his eyes fixed upon the girl as she made her way towards the house, evidently irritating the other woman who was accompanying her. Some other servant, he supposed, possibly an associate of Slagg's, if that foul crone even attracted any company. Still, it was Fuchsia whom he was concerned with, the young woman who had taken him in when he'd first arrived after his tumultuous escape from the realms of Swelter's kitchens. She seemed biddable enough; he'd often considered using her to further his own ends, even if she did seem to be possessed by an unhealthy spark of chaos. And much as he tried to quell the feelings that occasionally gnawed at his heart and tugged at other areas of his person, she awakened something within him that he still had not yet realized - not that he would ever admit this, even to himself. With a flick of his head, he immediately awoke from his reverie and made his way purposefully, yet swiftly, to the front door, pretending not to notice the tantrum Fuchsia was throwing on the other side. Assuming a humble air, Steerpike swung the door open and executed a graceful bow, Fuchsia's frantic banging having already brought the Doctor's inquiring face into the room.
"Sir," he announced, his gaze passing briefly back towards Prunesquallor, "We appear to have guests."
As the door opened, Fuchsia barged through, barely even glancing at the man who had opened it and accosting the doctor in her high pitched eager keening.
"Doctor Prunesquallor! Doctor Prunesquallor! Felicia said you had a present for me! Oh what is it? What is it? Please tell me! Please! Please! Please!"
Felicia stepped through the door, her lips pursed in distaste as she was once again referred to by her irritating pupil by her first name. The girl was just as arrogant and ridiculous as the rest of her family. It was absurd that she had to cater to such hideous people. It was beneath her in all honesty. Unfortunately, she had been born into the serving class of Gormenghast... a situation she hated more than anything. She took a deep breath and stood to the side, watching with cold black eyes as Fuchsia pawed at the doctor, who seemed quite amused by her eagerness, and was led to a sitting room. This left Felicia in the company of the other man... he wasn't the Prunesquallor's usual man... he was much much younger. She glanced over him briefly before flaring her nostrils in distaste and following through to where she could hear Fuchsia still prattling on about her gift.
Steerpike watched Fuchsia with the same, cold stare, although his eyes held a hint of something warm within their glittering depths. Calmly, quietly, he closed the door behind the guests and stood, impassive, as the Doctor greeted Lady Fuchsia Groan.
"My dear, my dear, do calm down!" he scoffed, his nose twitching as he smiled at her. "I find hysteria most harmful to the complexion! Hysteria, that is, not wisteria, which I imagine would be most unkind to the skin, were it applied, which of course it should not be."
His prattling, as usual, was lost on the young lady, who pouted and tugged most insistently at his sleeve. "Ah! A present! Well, we are indeed, now in the present. No time like the present, which I see it is now! Such vigor and spirit!"
Steerpike suppressed an irritated sigh at Prunesquallor's irritating banter. It seemed ironic to him that of all people in the castle who could possibly match his intelligence - which, in itself, he deemed highly unlikely - it would be the man standing before him with more mouth than brain. To alleviate his annoyance, Steerpike found himself glancing at Fuchsia, which eased him mind somewhat; she was dressed, as always, in a way which seemed to appeal to his weaker side. After contemplating this for a moment, he realized this, too, only irritated him, and so he turned his gaze to the other lady who had just entered. Felicia, Fuchsia had said. Smiling, wishing to seem warm and friendly, yet humble and servile, he begged leave to speak.
"Doctor Prunesquallor, I present to you - since we all seem most concerned with presents, at the current time - Lady Fuchsia and - dare I say it - a lady named Felicia. A veritable bouquet of names, wouldn't you say, Sir?"
Felicia's gaze turned to the young man briefly before she rolled her eyes and let out a small sigh, her face immediately going from barely contained annoyance and boredom to a calm pleasantness as the doctor extricated himself briefly from Fuchsia's eager pawing and questing for her present. Felicia nodded politely to Doctor Prunesquallor.
"You see doctor, I made the mistake of mentioning your gift to Lady Fuchsia at the beginning of her lessons today. She refused to wait one second, insisting that we come over immediately to retrieve said present. So if you don't mind, I'd rather appreciate it if the exchange could be made rather speedily as I would much like to get her back to her studies."
She waited until the doctor had turned back to Fuchsia to add under her breath. "Not that there's any point in trying to teach the little cretin anything. Might as well be holding class for Gertrude's cats."
So, this Felicia was another in the Groans' service, some manner of personal tutor to Lady Fuchsia. Steerpike kept his face a cold mask as he pondered over what, exactly, the schoolmistress could possibly teach the chaotic maelstrom currently whirling in front of him with a flurry of scarlet. How would one ever manage to get Fuchsia to sit still for five minutes, he wondered, never mind attempt to force some cold logic into her flighty brain. She reminded him of a caged bird, never resting, constantly battering its wings against its gilded cage, even though the only outcome would be battered feathers and broken bones; all that would be needed would be the cold, dark cloth of logic over her cage, and she would see reason. That, or the door of the cage could open...
"Are you still here?" Fuchsia's shrill voice cut into his thoughts as a knife would slice a Victoria sponge. Prunesquallor had managed to calm Fuchsia briefly with promises of presents and treats on his ever-moving lips, and now the daughter of Groan had turned her attentions to Steerpike. She was staring at him, her brow furrowed, her lower lip jutting out as she glared at Steerpike with such immature anger that one could almost be fooled into thinking she had a valid reason for her outburst. "Why are you still here?"
"Because I have not yet left," he replied, the ghost of a smile upon his thin lips.
"Charming! Most charming!" marveled Prunesquallor, removing a previously hidden handkerchief from one of his pockets.
"WHY haven't you left?" Fuchsia demanded, stamping a booted foot upon the floor.
"Because I am in the pay of the good Doctor, as I believe has often been discussed," he replied, executing another small bow. "Indeed, it is to the Lady Fuchsia herself that I owe my thanks, for she is no small judge of talent and ability-"
"You should be adventuring so you can tell me more stories!" she said sulkily, raising her head and looking down her nose at him. "I want stories! I want to hear about dragons and circus clowns and horses that fly!"
"Fuchsia, dear Fuchsia!" Here, the Doctor interrupted, for he feared that the young lady could keep them in the drawing room all day. "Horses cannot fly - at least, not the ones whose company I keep. Most unnatural for the scapula, you see."
Steerpike was an observant and patient man. As the Doctor prattled and rattled, and Fuchsia fussed and complained about the lack of adventurers in the world, he tried to glean as much information about Felicia as he could from a cursory glance. She seemed weary, perhaps, of Fuchsia's constant daydreaming and dancing, her inability to keep her mind fixed on anything. Interesting. He remained quiet, playing up to the role of servant into which he had been cast, keeping a watchful eye on all three of the others as Prunesquallor's voice took on a more commanding air.
"Now, unless there are other matters to attend to - that is, matters, not maters - other maters! That would be a situation indeed. Seeing as her Ladyship requires more attention than this body can possibly give, and other maters, mothers as they should be called, would drain the very life from these bones - if all matters here are concluded, apart from the present, which will still be with us in the future-"
He laughed at his own joke, then continued. "Would you two fine examples of womanly pride care to join us for breakfast?"
Felicia gave the Doctor a small polite smile, glancing disapprovingly at the way Fuchsia snatched the handkerchief from his hand and began to fuss over the gaudy bauble inside.
"Thank you, Doctor Prunesquallor, but we really don't have time for breakfast. We must be getting back to Lady Fuchsia's lessons and..."
But she didn't get the chance to finish her thought as Fuchsia immediately lost interest in her new gift and began to howl and whine in favor of staying.
"But I want to stay for breakfast! I want to stay! I want to! I want to!! I'm ever so hungry! I could eat for hours and hours. Why are you so boring? Why must you always be trying to keep me from doing what I want? You're dreadful and plain and boring! I want jam and tea and cakes and honey and biscuits! I want to stay! I hate you! Why are you trying to starve me? You're horrible! I want to stay!"
Fuchsia continued her onslaught, stamping her feet and thrashing her fists in the air, Doctor Prunesquallor trying desperately to calm her with reassurances, his insipid rambling and laughter grating on Felicia's nerves as much as Fuchsia's tantrum. Felicia set her jaw and gazed at Fuchsia with as much steady and calm as she could muster, knowing that she had only to wait out the torrent of pubescent rage that was occurring before her. To the untrained eye, she would have seemed quite calm and reserved considering the level of snide and nasty comments being hurled at her. But Steerpike could detect a fine tremor running through her body, observed the way her fists clenched into tight balls at her sides, the faint pulsing of a vein beneath the fine pale skin of her temple. Slowly, Felicia began to unwind herself, taking a slow deep breath and holding up a pale thin hand.
"Alright, Fu... Lady Fuchsia... calm yourself. Lessons can wait a bit longer. But if there are any more of these impetuous outbursts I'll be speaking to her Ladyship. And I'm quite sure she won't like to hear the way you've spoken to me. But if you must have breakfast, then by all means... I'm quite sure the good Doctor's table is well enough appointed for you."
"Well-appointed? Ahahaha!" The Doctor beamed and stared at the two ladies with such intensity that his pleased smile, coupled with his glasses, made him seem like a bemused - if eager - tortoise. "My dears, I would have seen to it that my table was well-appointed if I had known beforehand that you would be gracing me at the altar of my repast! Thankfully, this day, we have been blessed with an over-abundance of scones."
"Shall I show them through, Sir?" Steerpike asked courteously. "Or am I to see that the table is presentable as you keep these ladies in such civilized company?"
He bowed and fawned, even as he sneered inwardly at Prunesquallor's nonsensical twaddle. It had also not gone unnoticed that Felicia, as with all the servants of Gormenghast, should supposedly be grateful for the honor of living to do the Groans' bidding, as tradition required. But the way she had spoken, her subtle hints regarding the Prunesquallors' breakfasting being adequate for Lady Fuchsia's needs - these were not the words of a devoted, loyal servant. This, combined with Felicia's inner irritation - a feeling she appeared to keep well hidden and under control, admirable qualities to Steerpike - was certainly a welcome change from Nanny Slagg's incessant whining and self-pity.
Thankfully, Fuchsia had ceased her thrashing now that it seemed she was to have her way, although her angered outburst had brought a flush to her cheeks and further agitated her already untamed hair. She pouted still, glaring at Steerpike as though he alone were the source of all her troubles in the world.
"I don't want scones!" she protested. "I want cakes!"
"I am sure cakes can be found, my dear," the Doctor soothed, patting Fuchsia on the shoulder. "Yes, Master Steerpike, if you would be so kind! Frightfully intriguing boy, that one. Can you believe he came to me actually wanting to work? The human condition never ceases to amaze..."
Steerpike heard the Doctor relating several dross tales as he retreated to the dining room, replacing the now-cold toast with fresh pieces, dusting crumbs from the tablecloth and seeing to it that the generous table was presentable for the guests. Four places were now set; one for the Doctor himself, one for Irma, his sister, and two for the ladies who were sat in the next room. Much as Prunesquallor was fond of him, Steerpike was still a servant, once a kitchen-boy, no less. It would not yet have been proper for him to dine with the rest of the household. Satisfied that the dining room was ready for occupation, Steerpike returned to the drawing room and, clearing his throat, made his announcement.
"Lady Fuchsia; good Doctor; Lady Felicia. Breakfast is served."
Felicia arched an eyebrow in Steerpike's direction as the Doctor graciously invited them towards the dining room. Her eyes met his for a few brief moments before she had turned back to the Doctor with a look of slight interest.
"He came to you for work you say?" Here she turned back to Steerpike and looked him over with cool appraisal. "I don't believe I've ever seen you amongst the castle's other servants." But their conversation was disrupted as Fuchsia once more fell into her fussing and tantruming.
"You're all so boring!! I want breakfast! I want cakes and tea! I want them! I want them!"
"There are cakes, Lady Fuchsia, nestling beside the toast rack, if you would care to look."
Steerpike strode forward, leading them into the dining room, and slid Fuchsia's chair back from the table, although she declined to sit; he stepped away, his hands clutched behind his back as he waited patiently for Felicia and the Doctor to take their seats. Once seated - and leaving Fuchsia to her own devices, to sit if she wished - Steerpike gave his answer to Felicia's query. It irritated him that he hadn't been able to answer as soon as the question was posed, for Felicia's calm and collected manner piqued his interest, but he didn't let an ounce of annoyance show as his voice, smooth and calm, gave his reply.
"You are an astute observer, Felicia," he noted, this time not allowing her the luxury of being called 'Lady'. She was, after all, a mere servant like himself. "But, then again, who amongst us can say he or she has ever observed all of the castle's servants at any one time? Indeed, even Lord Groan himself does not have to bother himself with the comings and goings of mere maids and nurses - unless, of course, they are dealing with his precious son."
Despite their venomous nature, his words were wreathed in sweet roses, and the Doctor failed to see their poison. It remained to be seen whether Felicia would take the bait.
"You are, however, correct. I was not born into this position; in fact, I strived for it, this illustrious office of a doctor's assistant, this prized possession of employment-"
"Oh, enough, dear boy!" Prunesquallor cut in, halfway through a mouthful of toast. The Doctor turned to Felicia, his eyes full of mirth. "He does like to thank me for liberating him from the cooking pots! Would you believe, of all the medical and multiple wonders you have ever seen, that this fine young example of Homo Sapiens - male, juvenile, seventeen years of age - used to be a kitchen boy?"
Fuchsia had snatched a cake from the table and a muffled giggle could be heard from behind it as she took a rather large bite and began to prance around the room, spinning slowly and twirling her other hand above her head. Her bite of cake now chewed and swallowed, her mirth seemed to dim somewhat as her flighty brain seemed to just be digesting what the Doctor had said.
"I'm the one who liberated him! I found him! It was me he came to in his hour of need." Here she paused to give a dreamy sigh, her eyes lighting upon Steerpike, though it most likely wasn't the calm subservient young man standing before them that she was truly seeing. In her mind's eye, he was mounted upon a fine stallion, his face streaked with grime and blood from a hard fought battle as he urged his steed towards her, leaning down to receive a bouquet of flowers. Felicia's eyebrow arched slightly higher as she turned once more to Steerpike and looked him over again with renewed interest.
"How intriguing... to have risen from such a lowly station to become... a dispensary clerk. Most impressive." She left it to him whether to read her remark as praise or sarcasm.
"Indeed," he remarked, a slight smile upon his thin lips. "And it could be said that the fascinating life of a dispensary clerk is almost as thrilling as that of a chil's carer... wouldn't you agree?"
So, she fancied herself a step up in station. He had to suppress a laugh himself, watching her delicately take a slice of toast onto her plate. No doubt she was a common bitch as well, raised amongst the ranks to play nursemaid. His attentions turned, then, to Lady Fuchsia, as he did his utmost best to enter the strange world of Fuchsia's imagination, playing up to her with passion and charm.
"The lady is correct!" he nodded, bringing a pleased sigh from Fuchsia's lips. "There I was, streaked with dirt and grime, dying upon her chair, the darkness closing about me; then there she was, the sun of my world, bringing me light and hope as fresh as rain."
Even though his lines had been delivered in a slow and measured way, allowing him to retain his cold demeanor, Fuchsia's ears took his words and bent them into romantic ballads, which danced about her brain. "He's an adventurer!" she sighed again, twirling the piece of half-eaten cake about her head. "He's been to the road in the clouds, he's seen castles and monsters and beauty and such pain!" Prunesquallor, as ever, delighted in this show of emotions, which occurred, whenever Lady Fuchsia came to visit. Steerpike, his piece said for the moment, smiled dangerously at Felicia. He was the cat, his smile said, and Fuchsia was the mouse.
Felicia had been spreading jam over her piece of toast in precise even movements of her knife and was just raising it to her lips at Fuchsia's comment. Unable to stop herself from giving a short snorting laugh, she took a dainty bite of toast and looked over it at Steerpike.
"All that in the kitchen's? Who ever would have guessed it was such a fascinating realm. And here I thought it was nothing more than a disgusting world of slop and sweat. Has it been hard for you then? To give up your great adventures for the Doctor's employment? No offense meant to the good Doctor of course." She paused and reached for the empty teacup before her and held it aloft in Steerpike's direction.
"If it wouldn't be too much trouble, could you possibly take on the overwhelming task of procuring some tea for me? Clerk?"
Even Steerpike couldn't avoid the barbs of her comments, and he dropped his guard for a second, unintentionally allowing Felicia a glimpse of the cold, calculating mind behind his sincere gestures. His eyes glittered, his mouth curved into the hint of a sneer, and he was suddenly aware of his mistake. Smoothly, swiftly, he made up for his slip, stepping forward to proffer the teapot in Felicia's direction.
"Certainly," he nodded, pouring the hot liquid into her cup, ever aware of Fuchsia's eyes on his deft movements. "It is no trouble. No trouble at all." But his jaw was clenched, his knuckles white, as he replaced the teapot back upon the table before fussing over the Doctor's scones. Prunesquallor had been too absorbed in the shape of the raisins to notice the tension between the servants, and he ate his breakfast with gusto, a fact for which Steerpike was grateful. He found the Doctor's tirades at the table were not beneficial to his appetite.
"I think you will find, Felicia," Steerpike continued, "That my duties include far more than providing tea for the good Doctor."
"Of course... of course..." Her eyes had narrowed as she watched him return to his place at the side of the table, his hands clasped before him. So there was more to this clerk than she may have guessed. His mask had slipped, not much... but enough... enough to let her know that he was not at all what he had at first seemed. She would have to watch this one carefully. He might prove to be a problem for her. Turning her attention back to her tea, she added a few cubes of sugar and some milk, taking small sips as she continued to observe the youth before her, nodding now and then and murmuring faint replies as the Doctor began his obnoxious prattling again.
"Fuchsia, my dear, are you sure you will not partake of the scones? Absolutely, positively, completely sure? I feel I should be raisin, an objection! An objection raised! Ahahaha!" His shrill laugh pierced the air, almost making Steerpike flinch. Now his facade had been slightly tarnished, he was going to have to concentrate to remain seemingly impassive as the Doctor continued his spouting.
"These scones have been 'raised' most impressively! Raised, brought up, subjected to yeast - dragged up!" Fuchsia wasn't listening, however, too busy humming an invented tune to herself, lost in dreams only she could see. It was doubtful that she even noticed the half-eaten cake that fell, forgotten, from her fingers and onto the richly carpeted floor. Yet another mess that Steerpike would have to deal with later. He watched Felicia sipping from her cup, his repeated glances hopefully subtle enough that she would not notice. And when he was not risking a wary look at Felicia, his eyes were on Fuchsia as she whirled around the room, her red skirt swirling around her ankles as she closed her eyes.
Fuchsia's whirling about and the Doctor's unending babbling had managed to distract Felicia enough from Steerpike's presence, the nonstop cacophony beginning to give her a throbbing headache. She was about to make an attempt at getting Fuchsia to sit down when a clock on a nearby mantelpiece began to chime. Sighing, she set down her cup and smoothed her skirts as she rose from her chair.
"I do thank you for your hospitality Doctor, but I'm afraid it's time for us to be leaving. We still have Lady Fuchsia's lessons and Lady Gertrude is expecting us for a pre-luncheon walk. Perhaps you and your dear sister could join us then?" At the mention of leaving and lessons, Fuchsia began to stomp and huff as she glared at Felicia. "I don't want to leave yet! I don't want to! I haven't finished my cake... my cake... where is my cake? Oh where is it?" She seemed in a near panic as she searched for her missing treat before spying it on the floor and giving a ridiculously over-dramatic wail.
"Oh how did it get there?? Why is my cake on the floor?" Felicia closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose before stepping in the direction of the drawing room. "Lady Fuchsia, we must be going, there will be cakes at luncheon... after lessons."
As Fuchsia renewed her fussing, Felicia dared raise her voice, pronouncing her words very precisely and slowly. "Your mother... will be waiting for us... we are late... as it is. Now we really must be going."
"Fear not, Lady Fuchsia." Steerpike stepped forth, one hand moving quickly towards the table, gathering up a slice of the cake and wrapping it in a handkerchief.
"There is a fresh piece of cake awaiting you, here." He smiled and took one of Fuchsia's hands - his sudden action shocking the young woman into a stunned, possibly horrified, silence - and pressed the wrapped cake into her fingers. "Do not squeeze it so!" he warned, "Or else it would lose its irresistible freshness!" Fuchsia, caught within his spell, as she often found herself doing in his presence - something which pleased Steerpike greatly - nodded silently, and took the piece of cake as if it were made of precious china. Then, he turned and delivered a grin to Felicia, as if taunting her, showing he had tamed the chaotic girl; but his cold eyes glittered still, reminding her of his earlier slip.
"Perhaps the ladies could return another day, if the Doctor would so will it," he announced. Inwardly, he was aware of something tugging at him, something that made his hormones shiver whenever Fuchsia was in his presence. As always, he was swift to deny himself such feelings, but today they were coupled with interest in the girl's guardian, this teacher, and he told himself that his desire to see them again was due to his interest in Felicia. She was far too observant for one of her station. She would have to be watched.
Felicia's eyes narrowed once more, annoyed slightly at the way this... former kitchen boy... was able to calm her tumultuous pupil. That could be quite dangerous. Fuchsia was quite an impressionable girl given the right circumstances. And she had no doubt that one such as Steerpike, though she truly knew nothing about him, might have a mind to turn that to his advantage. When he hadn't been staring at her, he had been watching Lady Fuchsia far too closely. Like a child eyeing treats he hoped to be receiving any moment... or a cat creeping upon an unsuspecting bird. But would he pounce? And when? Clearing her throat, she placed a hand on Fuchsia's shoulder and steered her towards the door, the girl now strangely docile and clutching tenderly at the piece of cake Steerpike had given her.
"Again I thank you, Doctor. I don't see why we couldn't return another day. I should like to have spent more time with two such gracious hosts, but we've quite a lot to do today I'm afraid."
Still smiling, Steerpike stood by the door, allowing the guests to pass as the Doctor aided their exit. "Marvelous! Certainly! I would be honored - were I not already amply so - by another visit!"
Steerpike rolled his eyes at the Doctor's tiresome outbursts, managing to keep a welcome look upon his face by sheer force of will alone. After Felicia took the reluctant Fuchsia through the drawing room and into the hall - where much bowing and scraping was done on behalf of both Steerpike and Prunesquallor towards the Lady Fuchsia - they were bid a cheery goodbye, and promises of all manner of sweetmeats upon their next visit. Fuchsia was a great deal calmer on her exit from the house, her cake clutched in one hand, her other gripping the gaudy present with which the Doctor had pleased her, and she glanced behind her as the two women walked away from the house. Steerpike was watching her still, his eyes fixing on the curling flow of her hair; but it was not only Fuchsia that he watched. He had already noted Felicia's details, the way she moved, the sound of her voice. She was different from the rest, he could tell, whether it be by the tone of her voice, the strength of intelligence behind her words, or merely the way she carried herself. Thinking quickly, Steerpike retreated into the house and appeared to be searching for something within the cushions of the large armchair by which Fuchsia had been standing; then, seeming to find something, he clenched his fists shut and approached the Doctor with a look which bordered on alarm.
"Sir!" he gasped, breathless. "The Lady Fuchsia! She dropped one of her treasures behind the cushion, and I fear she will be most disagreeable unless she is reunited with such a valued possession!"
The Doctor tutted, but knowing of Fuchsia's volatile nature, he nodded his assent and allowed Steerpike to leave for the castle. It was all false, of course, a mere pretext to follow the women inside the castle. He would not waste such a valuable opportunity.