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Robert stirred noisily as he made the gradual transition from sleep to wakefulness. He became aware of the body lying at his side.
The pain in his head, the dryness in his throat and the foul taste in his mouth all served as reminders of the evening he had spent carousing in the stews of Dublin.
Sensing he was awake, the girl at his side opened her eyes the smallest amount and tried to guess his mood. She could still feel the bruises he had inflicted on her the previous night. Robert Rochfort was a frequent visitor to the bawdy-house where she lived and was too important a man for Mrs. Gleeson to refuse. At least she should get a shilling for her night’s work – and work it was; the girls all knew him as a man with cruel tastes. All she wanted was to get back to the house, and clean herself, and check that any marks left were small and would fade soon.
In the depths of the house, a clock struck the hour. 11 o’clock and the morning light was streaming through the gaps in the curtains. One of the sun’s rays fell upon Robert’s face and caused him to stir again. He sat up, and turned to the girl, who cowered away from him. The sound of the door opening saved her from any further pain, bruises and distress. Robert’s valet entered the room carrying a tray.
Robert turned to him as he entered the door, and gestured towards the girl. “Get rid of this!” Steele, the valet, knew better than to express any opinion or to argue. He had been his Robert’s valet for over a year now and knew only too well of his Lordship’s violent mood swings. He also knew how to handle master’s more unusual physical requirements. Steele caught the girls eye, and she leapt out of bed as fast as she felt able, grabbed hold of her dress and fled the room. The other girls had warned her that Steele would make sure she dressed. He would also reward her with a shilling before being showing her out via the servant’s entrance.
Steele placed the tray down on a small table and surveyed his master, sprawled in bed. His nose curled in distaste as he poured the coffee. Once prepared he left the steaming cup so Robert could see it and withdrew without making a sound. He had the girl to check and pay, and he had to make sure she was not hurt or marked. Such things would be bad for Roberts reputation, and, as such could affect the whole family, servants and all. Failing to look after his master would, he knew, also reflect on him.
Robert swung his legs over the side of the bed and walked over to the table with his coffee, his head screaming out at him in pain. He was sure this was not just the amount of wine he had drunk? The porter, perhaps, they had supped at the Brazen Head. His memory of the previous evening’s events was still hazy. At this stage, he had no recollection of the girl he had slept with. He couldn’t have picked her out from among a rank of her fellows.