Dr. Prunesquallor had been apprenticed to his predecessor as castle physician when her ladyship had been born, thus he had only been allowed to observe her entrance into the world. Since then, he had watched her grow from a spindly girl to an awkward damsel who got herself into minor distresses that required his attentions. He'd patched up her bumps and bruises when she got herself into scrapes while clambering around the attics of the castle and in time, became as much a healer to her often bruised heart as he was to her body. Perhaps of both the children, she was his favorite.
He might not have been able to attend personally to her entrance into life, but it fell to him to help usher her out, by determining what had happened to her. It might have looked like a simple drowning, but nothing was ever so simple when it involved Fuschia.
The bruise on the back of her head likely came when she hit her head on the stone sill of the window in her chamber as she fell or jumped. That, along with a hairline fracture on her skull indicated she likely had swooned before she hit the water below; she'd likely fallen unconscious before she drowned, hopefully lost already before the sufferings that lead to this end caused her more pain.
Or had she been pushed? The maid who'd found her had not seen anyone else in her ladyship's chamber, but he wouldn't put it past that young menace to have added the Earl's sister to his list of casualties. If the little monster had found a way into Barquentine's office without being seen, he could well have found a way into and out of Lady Fuschia's chambers.
And clearly Steerpike had accomplished this already: a further examination proved her ladyship had been expecting an heir to the blood. She had hinted to Prunesquallor that she had an admirer, but had said nothing to hint at his identity. But during Steerpike's convalescence following the fire in Barquentine's office, Lady Fuschia had fluttered to the whelp's sickbed nearly every night to see about his recuperation. He should have guessed at her reasons then, but he had dismissed these thoughts as the product of his own concern for her. Whatever had gone on, the admiration had gone from the emotional and devotional to the physiological.
"Who entered and egressed your chamber, milady?" Prunesquallor asked, as he covered Fuschia's body with a sheet. He should have pressed the girl further when she had prattled about her admirer, but he cursed his own missed opportunity. The child certainly wasn't his: He had been the one -- at her ladyship's insistence -- to usher her from innocence to experience when she was twenty-two, a physiological occurrence which he by turns cherished for her confidence in him and shuddered to recall for the unseemliness of it all. Yet he doubted the child was of his loins, unless the fetus had hibernated all that time.
Poor, tragic Fuschia, always making small spectacles of herself with her moods and her fits of flounce, but never once garnering the attention that she craved from her mother, though she had had some moments with her father that she'd spoken of wistfully. Perhaps he and Nannie Slagg had been the only ones to really worry for the child. He was her confidante, and he would have kept this secret between them, till she brought the child to bed. He would have spirited the child to a family willing to take it in, much as his predecessor had done with a son that the late Lord Sepulchrave had fathered on a fading woman who had worked in the library. The question was, would that child of Fuschia's have followed in its father's stealthed footsteps? It was something he could never reveal to the family. Lord Titus would be furious and her ladyship the Countess would be displeased, and as passive as Gertrude might seem, her cold disdain burned more deeply and fiercely than the most towering rage.
Much as he would do otherwise, he would have to let this secret go to the grave along with the passionate dreamer who bore it...