Defining Moment

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In Which Stiffness is Exchanged

Maggie, for some reason, didn't go up and tell Eustace good evening after her walk. For one reason, it was quite late, and she was famished, and for the other, she wanted to be in quiet and alone to think over the grand things Phillip told her about, and the pleasing compliments he had made her. His cheery and jovial manner sparked the wit that Maggie so often repressed here in her solitude, and she was flattered to think that perhaps, just perhaps...

No need to be silly. Not yet, at least. Maggie was almost ashamed of herself. But in spite of her guilty feelings about not telling Eustace good evening, or even good night, Maggie fell asleep with a smile on her face, and dreamt of Quinna and her dog coming to the park. Quinna was dressed in one of the most beautiful dresses Maggie had ever seen, and she unconsciously thought to herself in her sleeping state that somehow it was only fair, since all these years Olivia had all of the beautiful gowns. Then Phillip appeared. The sunlight illuminated him from behind, and made his fine head seem to be crowned with beams of glory. He took Quinna by the hand and began to take her away with him, but in his raptures he stepped upon her little dog... the dog yelped in pain, and Maggie jerked awake.

Later, Eustace asked her if she was feeling alright, as she seemed distracted in their work.

"Oh, yes, I'm fine. I was just thinking about the things I did yesterday on my walk to the park."

"You didn't come back afterward – I wondered if you were alright."

"Do I have to come and report to you every hour?" Maggie countered, and instantly felt sorry, seeing the hurt in Eustace's hazel eyes. "I'm sorry," she murmured. "I didn't mean to say that."

"Of course," responded Eustace, handing her a fresh pencil. "Did you sketch any at the park?"

"Yes. I drew a good deal of people and nature there, and I intend to go back. I met a man who said my drawings were very good, and wants to see more of them. Wasn't that kind of him? I think it was, to notice me, sitting on a bench alone and amusing myself," Maggie reflected, going and replacing a book that she had been studying upon the shelf.

"I have told you that your drawings are good," Eustace said quietly. "Did you not believe me?"

Maggie didn't answer; his manner was beginning to irritate her. "He was very friendly and kind, and I would not be sorry to know him better. I'd like to take more walks I think, even if I don't see him. The air was wonderful. But now – to business. I am a bit confused as to this description of the structures built for the siege of Harfleur, but I have made some preliminary sketches. What do you think?" Maggie offered a sheet to Eustace, showing several various war-machines of the Middle Ages.

"They are nice – but this one," Eustace indicated, "wasn't used until quite a bit later, from what I read. The description given in this book – at least I think it was this one..." the scholar reached down and retrieved a volume that was reposing at his feet, "was your inspiration for the other one, was it not?"

Together they compared information on various versions of trebuchets and siege towers, and at last, after they had been working in silence for a while, Maggie asked in a kinder tone of voice,

"Eustace?"

He looked up and raised his eyebrows.

"Do you mind my going on walks... and talking to people?" It was an honest question, and Eustace admired her for asking honest questions. He admired a lot of things about Maggie, but this most of all.

"No, I don't," he said at last. "I shouldn't, at least."

"But you do?"

"I said that I don't. And I hope I never shall."

"Why would you?" Maggie retied the ribbon on her braid, and was conscious of the color creeping up her neck.

"I suppose I just feel I ought to look out for you," Eustace said. "The way you look out for me."

There was no proper response to this that Maggie could find without thoroughly embarrassing herself and Eustace, and not liking this new element to their friendship, resolved to take it back to the way it was at the beginning – very literally.

"Eustace, I have been wanting you to tell me another history story," she smiled modestly. "I don't care so much for history now that I can get on without you to keep it interesting." To Maggie's delight, Eustace pretended to groan and tear himself away from his work. But pleasure was hiding behind the corners of his mouth, and his inkstained fingers clasped the edge of the table in anticipation of his orders.

"What about? No – no... let me pick..." He lowered his head, his dark forelock falling down into his eyes as he sat in deep thought for a long moment.

"Can it be about anything?" he asked at last, a look Maggie had never seen before on his face.

"Anything," she assented.

"Then listen," he spoke slowly, "as I unfold to you a tale of heroism and love - Leopold and Charlotte..."

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