Wisdom Before Swine

Title: Wisdom Before Swine
Time Period: May 7, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Duncan has a surprise for his eldest daughter, it's not a puppy that followed him home.

It started with a small cart parked at the servant's entrance of the castle. A parade of trunks and carpet bags, hauled by men of no distinction, formed a line like ants. To and from Constance Rowntree's chambers for the better part of an hour. As the pile grows to fill the empty space in the middle of the floor it becomes apparent that there might never be a stop to all of the gifts being brought in. The great lack of furniture does not mean lack of furnishings. Framed drawings, watercolor paintings, and lace panels also join the trunks. Laid to rest at sturdy angles, each porter careful not to break or chip any of them.

There's one piece, in all of it, that stands tall and proud. An empty shell as it is, for lack of glass, the frame of a familiar standing mirror is brought in last.

Constance is worried.

Really, gifts shouldn’t be a bad thing, but her father had told her before that gifts always have a price. Especially if they’re from men. Given that she’s not entirely sure of why or how or from whom all of these beautiful creations originated, she’s uneasy. It could be any number of things, ranging from some kind of apology (she’d have to try hard to remember what her father needed to apologize for, but she’s sure there’s something) or perhaps her father’s already done what she fears and found her a husband.

She’s really hoping Duncan did something unthinkable and was simply showering her with apologies. Really hoping.

Of course it's nothing of the sort. And if Duncan ought apologize for anything, it is for the lack of proper notice. Though there may be room for other criticisms. The truth is, his daughter has a new quartermate, and she is - it is said - not a respectable woman. Of course, one might argue that what damage can be done has been done already. Constance's new roommate was once her governess, however briefly.

And now she is a guest of Eilean Donan castle once more. Duncan makes sure to emphasize this fact, by personally leading her to where she will - for the time being - be resting her head. As good a time to announce the situation as any, surely?

And after all: "You get along with my daughter quite well, don't you?" Duncan asks, with an air of assumption, rather too close to the moment of meeting.

"I didn't have the chance to know her very well," Luna says of Duncan's youngest, the grin on her face wide and the blush on the apples of her cheeks makes her look like a schoolgirl rather than a governess. The fingers of her right hand are tangled with his as she lags just enough to keep them from entering through the door of Constance's room. Her voice is loud enough that the younger blonde can hear it quite clearly. Perhaps Duncan should have brought the girl something, both of them, actually.

Pausing to lean her back against the frame, she becomes visible through the space where one of the men had left the heavy oak panel ajar. "It is temporary— I hope— not that I don't adore Constance… but…" Her voice drifts as she leans in and whispers something into the soldier's ear that turns her own ears and cheeks a bright red.

Uh oh. There's a girlish giggle from down the hall and that's something Constance was used to but not used to. That, combined with the lavish gifts makes her feel a little uneasy. Moving to her bed, which is thankfully unoccupied by possessions that are clearly not hers, she draws her knees to her chest eyeing the doorway idly.

It's clear she's uncertain how to feel about this.

Duncan lets out a small huff of breath at Luna's whispered remark. "You'll want to keep that sort of talk twixt us, dove," he says, giving Luna a sidelong that is well softened with indulgence. He opens the door to Constance's room - he's never really been much of a knocker when it comes to his children - and steps inside, playing herald.

"Constance, beloved daughter, you remember Lady Owens, don't you?" The way he speaks - very polite. But does he maybe think this is a little funny?

Certainly the situation bears explanation. And he's quite ready to provide.

"There are rooms enough, but I put you together for a reason," his voice takes on a formal lilt - a mock-anglism, almost - which is delivered with a self-amusing smile, "foremost- in that you will both be warmer for it, as your health and safety are the first of my thoughts. But also so that you might have the benefit of each other's company, influence, and education. Lady Owens has much improved herself with reading, as well as other arts becoming of a lady.

"Though I must ask, Lady Owens-" Duncan turns to the lady in question, "how skilled of a seamstress are you?"

Luna steps forward after Duncan's initial introduction and hops up to kneel at the foot of Constance's bed. From there, she grabs the closest of the girl's hands and clasps it between both of hers. "Constance! I can hardly believe this is all true," her excitement is breathy, not as loud as when she was in the hall but still loud enough to be heard well around the room. "I'm nearly beside myself. Think of the fun we'll have together."

It's not until her own greeting that she turns her head to eye Duncan from the corner of hers and give him a brilliant smile. "Seamstress? I am able to mend clothing," her shoulder lifts in a half shrug and then her eyes drift down to the framed panels. "Sewing itself is something best left to people who require it for a living. Needlework is a lady's pursuit."

Constance's hand is let loose and the blonde woman slides off the bed again to open one of the trunks. The pale creams, blues, and whites of the threaded items inside give a more demure feel to the contents of the rest. Or would, if either of the Rowntrees were to conveniently forget the Owens woman's history.

A white shawl is lifted from its depths and held out for both to examine. "Ladies make things that are delicate and pretty," she instructs them both, "like the lady herself. People who sew make things that are utilitarian in nature… things that are used instead of treasured."

"I think we'll have a lot of fun, yes," Constance agrees, but she still seems a little tentative. It's a little hard to get a grasp on what it is that she still has her mind on, especially because her face is pretty passive. She notes the shawl with careful scrutiny.

"This is good work. Perhaps I'll make something like this for Celia."

"Clearly you've a better sense of ladyship than I," Duncan concedes to Luna, "and I am well beyond directing an education. I leave it to you. I am, myself, a practical man - too stolid and set in his ways by half, as I'm sure Constance will let you know."

"This is also an opportunity for you to hone your role as hostess," he says to Constance, and that humor has abated entirely, making way for sincerity, "hospitality is the heart of what separates good folk from wild and wicked. And I am honored to keep the company of the best sort of people."

The pale hands holding the shawl drop to Luna's sides and she stares mouth agape at Duncan. "Surely you jest," she breathes, her eyes flitting toward Constance every few seconds, as if looking for some sort of support. "You really don't mean for me to have a hand in your daughter's education?" The underlying current in her tone is, she already failed once.

Rolling the lacy garment up, she tucks it back into the trunk and sits back down on the edge of the bed, facing Duncan and back to Constance. There's an uneasy smile born of fear stuck to her face as she looks up at him, silently pleading. "We've worked our needles in front of the window together before, I'm certain Constance is much too practiced for me to be any sort of tutor."

"… what?" Constance is a little confused as to what Duncan is suggesting… especially considering that Luna was her governess once, and that turned out fantastic. She looks between Luna and her father, straightening herself up.

"I think we can both be ladies just fine on our own," she states.

"Lord almighty," Duncan says, unable to hold back a laugh at this collective reaction - as such he's quick to make clear his comfort, "just a turn of phrase, on my honor. I mean only the education that comes about from the collusion of any two wise people.

"Perhaps that was my mistake, thinking wisdom might dwell here..?" Now that's an out and out goad. His expression already awaits retaliation.

"Oh.." Luna's sigh of relief sounds like a syllable of understanding, the rest of it is let loose in a long breath and sagging shoulders. "Of course, forgive my foolishness." Her smile is much easier then, and complete with a small laugh at her own folly.

"Perhaps we're simply not as quick with wit as you are," a wider smile is thrown in Constance's direction, nodding to the girl's suggestion. "I think Constance is quite right, we'll do splendidly together. We've already made grand plans for the future, however near and far." Jumping up from the bed again, she takes Duncan's hand much like she had a hold of his daughter’s moments ago. Pressing it between her two palms, she holds it a foot from herself, keeping a respectable distance between them. All for the sake of the girl. "I look forward to a time when we'll be able to share an afternoon all together."

The younger blonde also looks relieved. "Yes, silly us," Constance says, shooting a glance in Luna's direction. Her eyes, however, snap to both lady and gentleman as they interact, a careful scrutiny given to their interaction. She's not just observing, she's analyzing, and that's a behavior Duncan's likely seen in his daughter on more than one occasion. She thinks a lot more than she gives on.

"I look forward to it too."

Duncan also retains this measure of distance, this decorum worn for the sake of his daughter’s eyes. In truth, it’s the very least he can do, however silly it may seem to try and hide adult realities from a young woman who is - in this epoch - virtually an adult herself. But due caution is a world of difference from being brazen, however little the former covers the essence of the latter. Respect is what Duncan intends to show. The question remains as to how he is doing.

“With two sets of such lovely eyes turned ahead,” Duncan says, “how could I fail to be present at the hoped-for moment? An afternoon, and soon-” a chuckle, “aye, and I should be present, too, just to take care that no alliances are forged without my knowledge.”

"We'll have too much time together for you to guard against alliance, Mister Rowntree." The twist of Luna's lips is a feeble attempt to hide a smile, it ends up turning crooked. The fingers hidden from Constance's sight lace with Duncan's only for the span of a squeeze before slowly lifting one by one.

A slight tinge of blush colors her cheeks as she glances back to Constance, its rosy glow giving her a more youthful appearance. It's plain to see that, at least in their company, she's a bit bolder and happier than she is in the rest of the castle. "We'll plan something splendid and refined. To hone Constance's talents as a hostess."

"Afraid of us making alliances?" Constance looks innocently towards her father. "You're far, far too late for that. Who's to say we don't have one already?" She glances back towards Luna with a wry grin. "I'm sure I make a fine hostess." She still watches the two, however, a small smile quirking at the corner of her mouth.

"I shall leave it to Lady Owens to judge whether that confidence is well placed," Duncan says, in answer to Constance's sureness. In concealment, he lightly answers Luna's squeeze, but lets her go when she leaves, an exercise in restraint that comes easily enough in the presence of his flesh and blood.

"And if you have an alliance, I shall at least hope you'll view me with a protective attitude. I'll not be your enemy, not unless you become truly wicked-" Duncan allows for this, as if the darkening of these fair-haired women were simply a danger to be navigated, "or even if you are not wicked, should you get up to too much wickedness."

"We are women," Luna says, nose up, and possessing airs of prideful nobility, "alliance is our perogative." She turns up a shoulder in Duncan's direction and peeks over it, a fan of eyelashes fluttering flirtatiously and coupled with a coy smile. "You are the sly one, an actor of extreme talent, if I dare say. Pretending an alliance is something to guard against when it is that very thing you wish to happen.

"It's the reason you've placed us together," she goes on, explaining her understanding of his working mind.

On the subject of Duncan's intentions, Constance stays silent. She knows, perhaps, a bit better of the makings of Duncan's mind than Luna, but her curiosity is piqued when the older blonde seems to take to analyzing the Rowntree's actions. Her arms fold lightly over her chest, eyes flicking back and forth between the two like it's some kind of sports match and she were the biggest fan.

"Suspect, as you will," Duncan says, his smile betraying something to Constance, even if the name for just what is uncertain. Something- definitely something. He makes a low bow to both of them. "I'll delay your conspiracy no longer. I'll give you until supper to plot and plan. Then I expect peerless elegance and manners."

His heels ease him towards the door, backwards - he's not swift to leave them.

Duncan's retreat is responded to with arms folded over chest and a posture that has Luna standing as straight and tall as she is able. "I will suspect," she sniffs, high and mighty, like the queen of the manor. "I think the temporary measure is to ensure a bond forms rather than allowing me to hide away in the tower as I did at the Dovetail."

They come loose and swing at her sides when she skips, chasing him, toward the door with a grin. "Supper's not far off, the only plotting and planning I'll be doing is making certain I'm fit for castle company." Her breath shakes, not from the exhilaration of the hunt but from a bit of fear at what lies ahead. "If I'm not, I'll be hiding away here."

"Believe me, Luna, I'm certain that you'll be in better company here than at the Dovetail," Constance says with a wry grin. Her gaze moves back to her father. "But Father… when aren't we full of peerless elegance and manners?" The smile she offers him is far too innocent, and purposefully so.

If it troubles Duncan to hear open talk of brothels with his daughter, he doesn't show it. Moreover, if it troubles him, maybe he ought to have thought about that before lending a spot in his daughter's room to a resident of that brothel. Perhaps this is a progressive moment for him. We can hope.

"You know," Duncan says, for he hears Constance and sees, also, that flinder of fear in Luna - so he answers them both, "you are quite right. You both possess natural grace, and anyone with any sense will see it's so."

"It's what I'm worried about," Luna utters, her brazen attitude and confidence suddenly gone. "It's easy to be a pearl among swine but a pearl among diamonds is somewhat lacking in lustre." She leaves them both, making her way toward the window, leaving Duncan to the door and Constance to the bed. Clearly, the prostitute is afraid of being ordinary or below that, especially in a house full of nobility.

Taking a seat at the window, she glances in the direction of the brothel before smiling back at each of them. It's strained but genuine. "I'll be at my best and on my best behavior. Though, if there's tea now, I'd gladly take some."

"Then clearly the pearl needs the right setting," Constance notes, offering a small smile to Luna. "But I think that's something that's up to the pearl to find." She lifts her chin, as if knowing she's already said something wise. It's broken, however, by a small giggle from the young woman.

"I'll have a pot sent up," Duncan pledges, unable to keep a sort of smirk from his lips. He gets only some feet away and already the jeweled metaphors are proliferating. Ladies, being ladies. He can't linger, however curious he might be. He steps out the door, with some parting words. "Be good.

"And if you can't be good, at least be wise."