The candles dance brightly, casting a resplendent hue on the dining room that shows off the table set with Navron’s finest china, the silver polished until it sparkles. William surveys the setting with satisfaction. The lady will be down presently, bringing with her that rush of emotion so palpably raw and open, no matter how she tries to contain it. Shortly after this, his Master will arrive.
The shimmer of candlelight calls to his mind his boyhood home in Breton and the lights glinting off the river where it meets the sea. Some of his earliest memories are of the river, stêr Gwilen, sluicing its way through the pebbles, shaving and smoothing them on its journey to the sea. The sea fights back, waves crashing against the newly formed channels, and tides pushing back the steady flow. La mer and la riviere, locked in their eternal battle, forever advancing and retreating, and always joining.
Lady St. Columb is like that river, he thinks, flowing from higher ground, with seemingly delicate rivulets slicing the land without mercy as it hurries from its source. It was this quality, sensed in her on their first meeting, that first put him in mind of his Master, and when he found his tobacco in her bedside table, spurred him to leave it for her to discover. For his Master is not a river but la mer, subject to sudden and deadly squalls, but more often a steady ebb and flow, riding forever to the shore. The lady needs this; they all need it, William thinks, to bring this place to life.
The lady’s footsteps sound on the stair, shaking him from his musings. The Master will arrive soon and he must be ready. William assumes the face of service that they expect, but cannot suppress a smile of anticipation for the night to come.