Lord and Master
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by Rosemary Stevens
Category: Romance/Historical Fiction
Description: The Earl of Ravenswood had decided never to marry an intelligent woman like his stepmother. She had used her cleverness to bankrupt Raven's Hall. His lordship's determination ruled out beautiful and wise Miss Daphne Kendall. Or would two meddling servants and one determined cat change his mind? Book Three of the Cats of Mayfair. Regency Romance by Rosemary Stevens; originally published by Fawcett Crest
eBook Publisher: Belgrave House, 1997
eBookwise Release Date: March 2011
5 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [290 KB]
Reading time: 182-255 min.
"Harkee, Harkee, Ladies and Gents! See the world's smallest tiger!" a loud male voice cried to the patrons of Astley's Royal Amphitheatre.
Miss Daphne Kendall, entering the horseshoe-shaped theater accompanied by her companion, Miss Oakswine, just missed the invitation.
"May God forgive you, Daphne, for pestering me into taking you to this horrible place," Miss Oakswine railed at her employer while the two women made their way toward their seats.
Daphne stopped herself from cringing before Miss Oakswine noticed. Any sign of weakness seemed to fuel the woman's fire, making Daphne subject to a prolonged rebuke that invariably digressed to a wide number of topics.
Instead Daphne gazed about in pleasure. Astley's boasted the largest stage in England, and at the foot of the stage was an orchestra pit. Tiers of seats and private boxes ensured the comfort of those who came to enjoy the entertainments offered.
Miss Oakswine was not one of them.
"Pshaw! I can feel my nose beginning to run from all the dreadful animal dandruff in the air. Trained horses and dancing dogs! Heaven only knows what I shall have to endure. Of a certainty my health shall deteriorate over the course of the evening. And you know any sort of anxiety is bad for my weak heart."
"Perhaps if you try to enjoy--" Daphne began, glancing sympathetically at the older woman.
In answer, Miss Oakswine pulled a yellowed handkerchief out of her reticule and applied it with vigor to her long, pointy nose.
"Oh, I am sorry," Daphne said, and averted her gaze.
She was indeed remorseful, hut not overly so. For the long-suffering and loudly complaining Miss Oakswine and her sneezing fits threatened to spoil the much anticipated visit to the famous Astley's.
Daphne's own sorrow was rooted in the past, three years before, when her carefree parents had been tragically killed in a carriage accident. Tears threatened as she remembered her dear Mama, who had shared a love of all creatures with her only child.
Daphne blinked rapidly, then a reluctant smile came to her lips when a picture formed in her mind of her Papa, and how he would merrily tease that he held second place in their hearts to their beloved animals. Amid laughter, they would fall upon him with hugs and assurances that it was never so.
After her parents' deaths, Daphne had still been in a grief-filled haze when her adored country home had gone to a distant male relative, who was the new viscount, and his large family. And while Daphne later told herself she should be grateful she was left the London town house and a large dowry, she could not help missing the freedom of the country and the cherished long walks with all her pets gamboling about at her side.
Furthermore she found living in Town with her mother's old school friend a daily trial to her patience. Employing the woman had seemed such an expedient solution to her need as a young, unmarried lady to have a companion reside with her for respectability.
When Miss Oakswine had written Daphne, expressing her condolences on the loss of her mama and papa and offering her services, seventeen-year-old Daphne had penned an immediate acceptance, hoping the lady would have the same sweet nature as her mama.
But it had not taken long for Daphne to realize her error. Miss Oakswine swept into the town house two days after the girl's arrival in London and immediately established her authority over the household. Inside of a day, she succeeded in having the exuberant, albeit clumsy, puppy Daphne had found whining and shivering outside the kitchen door, banished from its free run of the house to the scullery.
The following week the puppy mysteriously disappeared, never to be seen again.
Daphne had wept for the little fellow, but Miss Oakswine had merely twitched her long nose and declared it was for the best. In the future, Miss Oakswine had decided, there would be no animal in "her" house. Over time, Daphne learned to be satisfied with sneaking food to the stray cats and dogs that always seemed to make their way to the kitchen door.
Bringing her thoughts back to the present, Daphne guided her companion to seats in the third row. Miss Oakswine tucked her thoroughly wet handkerchief back into her reticule, sat herself down, and continued her lecture. "Horses! I suppose one must tolerate them, for they are necessary to getting about Town. But they are the only exception to my aversion to animals, as you should well know by now, Daphne. By the Lord! Must we sit so close to the ring?"
Daphne ignored the woman, a stratagem that had served her well over the past three years. Now that they were comfortably seated, her attention was caught by the spectacle of a series of clowns spilling out into the arena, causing adults and children alike to shriek with excitement.
One particularly exuberant boy with red hair a few shades brighter than Daphne's auburn locks, jumped up and down, shouting and pointing. Behind the clowns, a shabbily dressed man pulled a wheeled cage around the edge of the ring to Daphne's left.
"See the world's smallest tiger!" the shabby man yelled.
Daphne looked in his direction, and her light green eyes widened. Painted a garish bright orange, the cage contained the most pathetic cat Daphne had ever seen.
She supposed its apricot-colored fur, contrasted by darker brownish stripes, could qualify it as bearing a resemblance to the great cats of India. However, the animal lay listlessly on its side, eyes almost closed, in the manner of one who has totally given up on the world.
While the shabby man poked and prodded the "ferocious" beast, Daphne moaned in scarcely audible protest.
After staring compassionately for several moments, her outrage grew to the point where it propelled Daphne from her seat to follow when the man led the cage out of the ring.
Miss Oakswine screeched an objection at this unexpected turn of events. She leapt from her seat and scurried behind while Daphne made haste to catch up with the man and his cage. On the point of exiting the public area, Daphne and her unnoticed follower reached the wheeled cage.
"Sir! Sir!" Daphne called.
The man turned and stared rudely at the beautiful lady in the expensively cut dark green gown. His eyes narrowed when he comprehended the light of battle in her expression.
"I am Miss Kendall, and I wish to speak with you about your cat."
"My name's Cuddlipp, and it ain't a cat. He's the world's smallest tiger," the man responded stubbornly.
Daphne eyed her opponent's greasy black hair with distaste. Obviously, if he was not even willing to admit the cat was a cat, social niceties would serve no purpose. She decided to come right to the point.
"Mr. Cuddlipp, it is apparent the animal is in a sad condition."
"What? I gives him scraps every day or two. He's better off than wandering the streets, where I found him."
Daphne thought of inquiring how Mr. Cuddlipp came to find a tiger wandering the streets of London, but held her tongue. Perhaps a measure of tactfulness was called for here.
Unfortunately Miss Oakswine, who had also arrived on the scene, put no such strictures on her own speech. "Daphne, come away!" she said breathlessly, one hand pressed to her heaving chest. Inhaling a lungful of air, she continued. "Like all men, it is plain to see that common sense is foreign to Mr. Cuddlipp's nature. And what can the fate of that animal possibly have to do with you?"
Mr. Cuddlipp glared at Miss Oakswine. "I don't know who you are, lady, but you've got the longest nose and the smallest ears I've ever seen on a human."
The hairs on Miss Oakswine's head, which were prone to stick out in every direction, quivered with her indignation. "Daphne," she hissed, "let us return to our seats immediately! People are looking our way. It will not do to be seen arguing with someone dirty as a sweep."
"Mr. Cuddlipp, I shall give you ten pounds for that cat," Daphne pronounced firmly.
"Oh, I am having palpitations," Miss Oakswine moaned.
A choking sound emitted from the man's throat. "Ten pounds? You must be daft. Anyhows, he's not for sale."
Daphne glanced at the cat, which had not moved an inch. It appeared likely to cross the threshold of death's door at any moment. Daphne felt a renewed surge of pity for the creature. "Twenty-five pounds, Mr. Cuddlipp."
The man screwed his eyes up and considered the tall, elegant female before him. Daphne returned his gaze without flinching.
Once again, though, Miss Oakswine took it upon herself to interrupt the proceedings. "Daphne, how many times have we spoken of how insensitive men are? How they are little more than animals themselves? Your very home was taken away by a man who never even offered to give you houseroom. Why you stand here and try to deal with this churl is beyond anything."
Mr. Cuddlipp's face went red under Miss Oakswine's latest insult. "I don't wants your money. Miss Kendall. You'd be better off spending it on more cordial company than what you've got there." He jabbed a finger in Miss Oakswine's direction. "She can't be any relation of a beauty likes you, as ugly as she is."
Miss Oakswine drew a sharp breath. "You rattling sinner!" She moved as if to crack Mr. Cuddlipp over the head with her reticule.
Daphne felt a wave of frustration at her companion's behavior. She feared the opportunity to rescue the cat was slipping from her grasp.
"May I be of assistance?" a deep masculine voice asked.
Startled, Daphne swung around to face the stranger.
He was of above-average height and powerfully built. His hair was a rich dark brown and showed a tendency to curl slightly. His skin was very white, and his mouth was firm. He was dressed impeccably in slate-gray, and a large sapphire burned darkly on the ring finger of his right hand.
But what Daphne noticed most about him were his eyes. The color itself was not unusual, being an ordinary deep brown. What was remarkable was the intensity she saw in their depths. His eyes seemed to possess a power to draw her to him and to veil just the two of them in a web of intimacy.
Daphne had experienced two Seasons since her arrival in Town, and her period of mourning had ended. She had danced and flirted with many gentlemen and would have remembered this particular one had she seen him before.
"Forgive me for intruding, Miss--"
"Kendall. I am Miss Daphne Kendall, and this is my companion, Miss Oakswine."
"And I am Ravenswood." He bowed gracefully to both ladies. "I could not help but observe that a controversy of some nature was taking place between you and this person," he said, indicating Mr. Cuddlipp.
"My lord," began Miss Oakswine, who knew her peerage and recognized at once she was dealing with the Earl of Ravenswood. Not that male members of the nobility inspired much more respect than commoners. Men were men in Miss Oakswine's view. Rather like sheep or cows. "My charge insists on squabbling with this vile man over a cat. She has always been foolish beyond permission when it comes to animals, but this incident surpasses her galaxy of stupidities."
The earl raised one dark eyebrow at Miss Oakswine, and she seemed to shrink. Then his dark brown eyes met Daphne's. "You wish to take this cat home with you. Miss Kendall?"
Daphne felt she had lost control of the situation, if indeed she had ever had command. She was a clever and intelligent girl and was not used to others interceding on her behalf. "Yes, my lord. But I am perfectly capable of sealing the bargain with Mr. Cuddlipp without any help, though I do thank you for your concern."
One corner of the earl's mouth twitched.
Mr. Cuddlipp entered the conversation. "And I've told you, miss, that you could not buy the tiger, so that's that."
Lord Ravenswood turned his head and glanced down his nose at the cat. To Daphne's utter amazement, the animal strained to raise a paw in his lordship's direction.
Daphne thought she saw a shudder of distaste cross the earl's handsome features, but it was gone so quickly, she believed she must be mistaken.
A rusty noise issued from the cat's throat. It was not a meow. The odd sound was more a cross between a growl and a weak tiger's roar.
"The monster!" Miss Oakswine declared. "I have never heard a cat's meow sound like that. Heaven above only knows what the animal's nature might be."
"Mr. Cuddlipp," Lord Ravenswood stated in a tone that would tolerate no argument. "You will accept my generous offer of one hundred pounds for the cat, release him from his cage, and hand him to Miss Kendall. I shall do you the favor of not inquiring of Mr. Astley as to why this particularly woeful animal was permitted to be a part of one of the entertainments, when everyone knows Astley's reputation for excellence."
There was a collective gasp.
Mr. Cuddlipp's face lit with joy over the huge sum of money.
Daphne was torn between shocked indignation at the earl's high-handed offer and relief that the cat would suffer no more.
Miss Oakswine was furious. "Daphne! You will not bring that creature into the house. I absolutely forbid it!"
But Daphne had not come this far only to go away empty-handed. She strained to keep her voice level. "I must contradict you, ma'am. This cat needs nursing, and I shall see to it in the kitchen. We shall not disturb you."
Lord Ravenswood eyed the pair curiously. "Miss Oakswine, are you by way of an aunt or some other relation of Miss Kendall's?"
Mr. Cuddlipp snickered.
Daphne felt her cheeks warming, and her temper slipping, at what must appear to his lordship as her inability to control a paid companion. The fact that this was somewhat the truth goaded her into addressing him tartly. "My lord, Miss Oakswine suffers sneezing fits around animals, and I have respected her feelings in the past. However, on this occasion, it cannot signify. The cat's very existence depends upon me."
Miss Oakswine appeared on die brink of apoplexy, until suddenly, a cunning look came into her eyes. "My lord, perhaps you could take the animal home with you. I am certain a gentleman of your rank commands a large staff that could easily care for one cat."
To Daphne's irritation, Lord Ravenswood paused and considered this statement. Once again he turned toward the cat, who immediately replied, "Grraow," in seeming agreement to the plan.
The earl's gaze returned to Daphne. She felt what could only be called a magnetic pull when he looked directly into her eyes. She managed to refrain from tapping her foot as he surveyed every aspect of her appearance, although she could not prevent the color from rising in her cheeks.
Miss Oakswine drove the final nail into the coffin. "I need not remind you, my lord, that it would be most improper, and would, indeed, set tongues wagging if it got about that Miss Kendall, as an unmarried lady, accepted a gift from you. Especially such an expensive one."
Daphne drew in a quick breath at her companion's audacity.
Lord Ravenswood's expression turned grim. "Yes. The only thing is for the cat to return to Upper Brook Street with me."
Before Daphne could voice any protest, his lordship raised a well-groomed hand. A strange-looking man promptly appeared at his side. Daphne realized he must have been standing close by, waiting for just such a signal.
He was not tall, but his height was enhanced by a large white turban that sat imperiously atop his head. In the center of the front of the turban was an enameled pin portraying a vibrant likeness of an eye.
The servant's skin was nut-brown in contrast to his flowing white garments. He wore flat, gold-colored shoes from which red tassels dangled.
The look he bestowed on Miss Oakswine was nothing short of malevolent. However, he quietly produced the required sum of money and paid Mr. Cuddlipp for the cat.
"Eugene," Lord Ravenswood directed his servant. "Remove the cat from that cage and let us be on our way."
Eugene, whom Daphne guessed was a native of India, or perhaps Egypt, and nearing his sixtieth birthday, moved silently to obey the order.
Daphne watched as the cat was gently extracted from the cage, while Eugene spoke to it soothingly in a tongue she could not understand. The animal lay calm, like a sleeping infant, in the cradle of the older man's arms.
Miss Oakswine twitched her long nose in satisfaction.
Mr. Cuddlipp took his money and began walking away with a jaunty step. He turned for a moment to call back, "The tiger's name is Mihos."
Eugene's silver eyes widened, and a faraway expression came into them. He held the cat close to his chest.
Daphne looked regretfully at Mihos, who, she decided, really did look like a miniature tiger. Even his eyes were a golden amber color.
As if sensing her distress, Lord Ravenswood turned to address her. "Miss Kendall, after the animal is recovered, may I call on you? I shall bring Mihos with me, of course."
"Yes, my lord, you are most kind." Daphne looked into his dark brown eyes once more and felt the stirring of attraction. She curtsied to him, and he bowed, then moved away with Eugene a few steps behind.
It would not do, she told herself. Like all the others, he would find her Fatal Flaw. The one she herself did not know the exact nature of, but which eventually put off even the most ardent of her suitors.
After two Seasons full of admirers, who consistently balked at the point when they might have been expected to make a declaration, Daphne had lost hope of forming with any gentleman the kind of attachment her parents had enjoyed. Fortunately she had not had her heart broken, for her affections had not yet been engaged by any of the gentlemen. And, she reminded herself, she had long ago determined to marry only for love.
She was brought out of these depressing musings by the sight of a man in a brightly colored costume, who was leading an elephant out of the ring and toward the exit where Daphne and Miss Oakswine were standing.
Lord Ravenswood passed through the exit. Following the earl, Eugene held a sleeping Mihos. The servant paused at the portal, turned around, and stared at the elephant.
Daphne experienced an odd feeling that Eugene was somehow communicating with the elephant. She chided herself for being fanciful, but turned nevertheless to look at the large beast.
Miss Oakswine stood facing the opposite direction and did not see the elephant approaching. Daphne opened her mouth to voice a warning, but Miss Oakswine was full of her triumph in the matter with the cat and was saying, "In the future you will be guided by me, Daphne...."
In the next second the elephant came abreast of Miss Oakswine, raised its trunk high in the air, and bellowed a deafening cry.
Miss Oakswine's eyes popped in her head. She clutched her chest, and with a strangled cry, fell to the ground.
Eugene had hastened after Lord Ravenswood and did not see what happened. Daphne could only stand in shock as a crowd gathered around.
A man stepped forward and leaned briefly over Miss Oakswine's motionless body, pressing his fingers to her throat. Drawing back, he shook his head sadly. "Dead. She is quite dead."
A light sandalwood fragrance perfumed the air in Anthony, the Earl of Ravenswood's, elegant London town house. It pleased him that his staff had so quickly come to know his tastes. After seven years on foreign soil, he had arrived home from Egypt a mere fortnight ago.
Home was not really this rented town house. It was his beloved estate in Surrey, Raven's Hall. There he had grown from a boy into a young man who lived in constant conflict with his father's shrewd and extravagant young bride, Isabella.
That reckless matron spent her time lavishly entertaining friends from London with extended house parties. Of course, costly clothes and jewels must be purchased to impress the numerous guests whom she indulged with all manner of luxuries.
Rather than watch Isabella destroy the estate, Anthony had finally made the decision to leave his home after yet another pointless argument with his father over Isabella's spending. Her pretty tears always won the day with the old earl. He could deny her nothing and refused to see what was right in front of his eyes.
Anthony had left for London that bitter day. In less than two years, Isabella brought the estate to its knees. When there was nothing more to be gained, she abandoned her husband. The old earl had gone on a mad, drunken binge, which had cost him his life.
When Anthony had received word that he was the new earl, he began the long and difficult process of trying to maintain the estate in some order while deciding on how best to replenish its coffers. All the while, the question of what would have happened had he not left when he did plagued him. Would he eventually have been able to force his father to see the truth? Would he have been able to put a stop to Isabella's selfishness? Would his father still be alive?
The new Lord Ravenswood was riddled with guilt and determined never to let any woman influence him beyond common sense.
It had taken seven years to build his fortune, but Anthony was a skilled and resourceful dealer in Egyptian artifacts. He had been successful beyond his expectations.
Anthony could not take all the credit, though. He had been fortunate to have Lord Montcross as his partner to teach and guide him. The wizened old man had been his best friend as well as his business partner, and Lord Montcross had seen Anthony through the pain of losing his father.
Of course, Lord Montcross had also saddled him with Eugene.
"Ah, Eugene, is the cat settled, then?"
The servant entered the hall and answered in a low tone. "He is warm and safe in the kitchens with a bellyful of chicken. We are lucky to have Mrs. Ware as cook. She will treat Mihos well."
The earl flipped through numerous invitations and missives on the hall table. "Good. See that the animal is kept out of my way. You know how I feel about cats."
The Egyptian servant stood deferentially with his hands clasped behind him. "In Egypt cats have been revered for centuries. When a feline member of the family died, everyone shaved off their eyebrows as a mark of respect."
Lord Ravenswood paused over one of the notes in the rack. "Shaved off their eyebrows, eh? Deuced unattractive if you ask me."
Eugene studied the earl carefully. "What was the name of your stepmother's cat?"
Lord Ravenswood glanced up sharply and faced the servant. "Do you read minds, then, Eugene? Perhaps those cards with the pictures on them you are always fiddling with tell you things."
Eugene shrugged enigmatically.
"Very well, yes, Isabella did have a cat. He was a large black cat called Brutus. Aptly named, I might add. Devilish sharp teeth and even sharper claws. Spent his life plotting ways to ambush me."
Eugene slowly nodded his turbaned head. "Had your stepmother been a wise woman, she would have also kept a white cat, for balance. Then the black cat would have been content."
The earl's features hardened. "I shall not have that woman referred to once we return to Raven's Hall. As for the level of Isabella's intellect, I should say it was unusually high. My father was no fool, but she managed to dupe him nonetheless. His mistake was in letting a pretty face blind him to the fact that intelligence is not a trait to be desired in a woman."
Eugene leaned forward and listened to this speech intently. "Why is it not a desirable trait?"
"Because clever women are dangerous," the earl stated flatly.
"Yes, master," Eugene replied, looking thoughtful.
Lord Ravenswood scowled. "I never liked you referring to me as 'master' while we were still in Egypt, and here in England it is even more bothersome. Lord Montcross asked me on his deathbed to see to your future. You are an excellent manservant, but I do not own you."
Eugene's face was a passive blank.
Having made his pronouncement, Lord Ravenswood turned back to the table. On the surface a large Chinese bowl sat in stately distinction. The earl put the correspondence aside and carefully raised the bowl to eye level. There, across the front, was a perfect likeness of Raven's Hall. He had had the bowl commissioned while he was still in Egypt. It had served as a reminder of what he was working for.
The earl's face softened as he studied the image of his beloved home. "My steward has sent word that the repairs to Raven's Hall are running ahead of schedule. Before the Season is over, we shall be able to return home, and I shall personally oversee the estate."
"Excellent news," Eugene said quietly. "Now all that is needed to ensure the future of Raven's Hall is an heir. Is that not so?"
His lordship's mouth tightened. While in Egypt, he had often proclaimed he would never marry. Now, back in England, the need for the heir Eugene spoke of demanded his consideration.
"Indeed," he replied absently as a picture sprang into his mind of a pair of almond-shaped, light green eyes. Of masses of hair in the richest shade of red imaginable. Of a small nose and full, pink lips. A body that belonged to a courtesan.
And, if her behavior earlier in the evening was any indication, a bright and alert personality that bespoke an astute mind.
No, regardless of how lovely she was. Miss Daphne Kendall could not be a candidate for his countess. He wondered at his own actions regarding her and the cat. He could not understand what had made him intervene on her behalf with Mr. Cuddlipp.
One minute, he recalled, he had been instructing Eugene as to the seating he desired at Astley's, his gaze snagging momentarily on the odd pin ornamenting the folds of his manservant's turban. The next minute, or so it seemed, he was ordering a ridiculous amount of blunt to be handed over for a scrawny feline. All for the sake of satisfying an extremely attractive lady he did not even know.
The earl's grasp on the bowl tightened. Gammon! Was it possible that he could become as soft in the head for a female as his father?
Absolutely not. He would never allow that to happen.
Then he reasoned that being back on English soil had brought out the gentleman in him, whereas in Egypt he had been too busy with business affairs to entertain thoughts of any woman other than the occasional lightskirt. He had been born and bred an English gentleman who would no sooner turn his back on a lady in need than he would kick his own horse. Yes, that was it.
Well, he was obliged to call on Miss Kendall, and to bring Mihos, since he had said he would, and to be polite during the Season's social functions, where he might encounter her, but that would be the end of any responsibility. Once done with his duty, he could be shot of her.
Neither Miss Kendall nor Mihos would pose a problem.
With this happy thought, his lordship dismissed lady and cat from his mind. He put the bowl down and reached for a particular letter. "I have a note here from Mr. William Bullock. Says he will be showing some of my Egyptian artifacts at his new Egyptian Hall over the next few weeks. I shall have to attend."
"Yes, master. In the meantime you must call on Miss Kendall."
"That necessity had already occurred to me, Eugene." Lord Ravenswood pursed his lips briefly, but directed his attention to the note in his hand. He was surprised by the last few lines. "Good God! Bullock says the Egyptian officials are quite upset about a highly prized statue of Bastet that is missing. Seems they have been around to question him regarding his contacts with dealers. Ugly business. Wonder who could be behind the theft."
Eugene was silent as the grave.
The earl gathered the note and a few others, and took himself off to his Library. "I shall ring for you when I am ready to retire, Eugene. Make sure instructions are left with Mrs. Ware that the cat remains with her or in the garden."
"Yes, master," Eugene whispered through dry lips.
Late that night, after making sure Lord Ravenswood would not have further need of him, Eugene closed the door to his own room and bolted it shut.
He put a candle down on the bedside table and opened a serviceable wardrobe containing more of the same type of clothing he had on. Bending down to the bottom of the armoire, he retrieved an article wrapped heavily in burgundy-colored velvet.
He carried it gingerly across the room, unrolled the velvet, and carefully lifted the object and placed it next to the candle on the table. A pair of eyes made out of golden citrine gem-stones winked at him in the light from the flame.
The statue was a woman's body with a cat's head. It was made of ebony with fine turquoise lines depicting many concentric necklaces.
"Bastet," Eugene murmured to the statue. "You have given a great sign today by sending your son, Mihos, to me. I am ever grateful for your benevolence. Your humble slave will do whatever is necessary to see to the cat's comfort."
He bowed his head and uttered a string of prayers designed to please the cat goddess, Bastet. When he was finished, he reverently held the statue in his hands for a moment. "The cards told me to bring you to this country, and now I see why.
"Lord Montcross thought to foil me by giving me to a man he thought would not marry, just as he never did. Old curmudgeon! 'A slave is a slave, a servant a servant, and so it is with you, Eugene' he always said. But he underestimated Lord Ravenswood's dedication to his home and family name. The earl will marry for the sake of Raven's Hall, and then I shall have my freedom at last.
"And it would not have been possible if I had not brought you to England, my goddess, so you might guide us all. Yes, I am thankful for the sign you bestowed on me. You sent Mihos to direct his lordship to the woman he is destined to wed.
"Never fear, Bastet, I shall do your bidding in this as in all things." He, and the eye-pin nestled in his turban, gazed into the cat's unblinking golden eyes. "Lord Ravenswood will marry Miss Daphne Kendall."