And Merripen… but Win's mind shied from thoughts of him, which were too stirring to dwell on in anything other than a private setting.
She gazed at her surroundings, the forest of ship masts, the endless acres of quay and jetty, the immense warehouses for tobacco, wool, wine, and other items of commerce. There was movement everywhere, sailors, passengers, provision agents, laborers, vehicles, and livestock. A profusion of odors thickened the air: goats and horses, spices, ocean salt, tar, dry rot. And above all hung the stench of chimney smoke and coal vapor, darkening as the night pressed close over the city.
Win longed to be in Hampshire, where the spring meadows would be green and thick with primroses and wildflowers and the hedgerows were in bloom. According to Amelia, the restoration of the Ramsay estate was not yet complete, but the manor was habitable now. It seemed the work had gone with miraculous speed under Merripen's direction.
The gangplank was lowered from the vessel and secured. As Win watched the first few passengers descend to the dock, she saw her brother's tall, almost lanky form leading the way.
France had been good for both of them. Whereas Win had gained some much-needed weight, Leo had lost his dissipated bloat. He had spent so much time out-of-doors, walking, painting, swimming, that his dark brown hair had lightened a few shades and his skin had soaked up sun. His eyes, a striking pale shade of blue, were startling in his tanned face.
Win knew that her brother would never again be the gallant, unguarded boy he had been before Laura Dillard's death. But he was no longer a suicidal wreck, which would no doubt be a great relief to the rest of the family.
In a relatively short time, Leo bounded back up the gangplank. He came to Win with a wry grin, clamping his top hat more firmly on his head.
"Is anyone waiting for us?" Win asked eagerly.
Worry creased her forehead. "They didn't receive my letter, then." She and Leo had sent word that they would be arriving a few days earlier than expected, owing to a change in the clipper line's schedule.
"Your letter is probably stuck at the bottom of a Royal Mail satchel somewhere," Leo said. "Don't worry, Win. We'll go to the Rutledge by hackney. It isn't far."
"But it will be a shock to the family for us to arrive before we're expected."
"Our family likes to be shocked," he said. "Or at least, they're accustomed to it."
"They'll also be surprised that Dr. Harrow has come back with us."
"I'm sure they won't mind his presence at all," Leo replied. One corner of his mouth twitched in private amusement. "Well… most of them won't."
Evening had fallen by the time they reached the Rut-ledge Hotel. Leo arranged for rooms and managed the luggage, while Win and Dr. Harrow waited in a corner of the spacious lobby.
"I'll allow you to reunite with your family in private," Harrow said. "My manservant and I will go to our rooms and unpack."
"You are welcome to come with us," Win said, but she was secretly relieved when he shook his head.
"I won't intrude. Your reunion should be private."
"But we will see you in the morning?" Win asked.
Yes." He stood looking down at her, a slight smile on his lips.
Dr. Julian Harrow was an elegant man, supernally composed, effortlessly charming. He was dark-haired and gray-eyed and possessed a square-jawed attractiveness that had caused nearly all of his female patients to fall a little bit in love with him. One of the women at the clinic had remarked dryly that Harrow 's personal magnetism not only affected men, women, and children but also extended to armoires, assorted chairs, and the nearby goldfish in a bowl.
As Leo had put it: " Harrow doesn't look at all like a doctor. He looks like a woman's fantasy of a doctor. I suspect half his practice consists of love-struck females who prolong their illness merely to continue being treated by him."
"I assure you," Win had said, laughing, "I am neither love struck, nor am I the least bit inclined to prolong my illness."
But she had to admit, it was difficult not to feel something for a man who was attractive, attentive, and had also cured her of a debilitating condition. And Win thought Julian might possibly have feelings for her in return. During the past year, especially, when Win's health had rebounded into full vitality, Julian had begun to treat her as something more than a mere patient. They had gone on long walks through the impossibly romantic scenery of Provence, and he had flirted with her, and made her laugh. His attentions had soothed her wounded spirit after Merripen had so callously ignored her.
Eventually Win had accepted that the feelings she had for Merripen were not reciprocated. She had even cried on Leo's shoulder. Her brother had pointed out that she had seen very little of the world and knew next to nothing about men.
"Don't you think it's possible your attachment to Merripen was a result of proximity as much as anything else?" Leo had asked gently. "Let's look at the situation honestly, Win. You have nothing in common with him. You're a lovely, sensitive, literate woman, and he's… Merripen. He likes to chop wood for entertainment. And apparently it falls to me to point out the indelicate truth that some couples are well-suited in the bedroom but not anywhere else."
Win had been shocked out of her tears by his blunt-ness. "Leo Hathaway, are you suggesting-"
"Lord Ramsay now, thank you," he had teased.
"Lord Ramsay, are you suggesting that my feelings for Merripen arc carnal in nature?"