Author’s Note: Robert was a bit stubborn again, though he is right about part of it and trying to be responsible.
Robert looked at the plate in front of him, not certain that he dared eat from it. The innkeeper had had been very generous in allowing him to stay last night, but the man’s wife still disapproved of him. Was it better, then, to eat so as not to offend his hosts or to refuse and cause no further burden or expense? He had not known before the plate was set before him, and he would have said no if he’d been able to think this through before then.
Despite having a welcoming bed and a roof above him, he had been unable to sleep, his mind on what he would do now. His situation was far from ideal, and he did not know how he would support himself. At this point, he thought he would have to give up his search for the man who’d stolen his name. He might never know why this had happened, and he had more or less given up all he had because of it.
He was a fool.
Still, he did not know that there was another choice he could have made after his father’s insensitive behavior. He had made the only decision that he felt he could, and now he had to find a way to live with it.
“You spend much time in your thoughts.”
Robert looked over at the innkeeper, forcing a smile. “I am poor company, I fear.”
“You have a great many concerns at present.” The other man reached for his coffee and took a sip before he pointed to Robert’s food. “I would think you of anyone would know the importance of eating even when you’re not hungry.”
“The war trained me to do many things. That was one of them, but I got out of the habit after my convalescence. My life of false luxury resumed.” Robert let out a breath, not looking at the food or the other man. “I cannot pay you for any of this, Mr. Millson. Why are you helping me?”
“There are more important things in life than money. Honor among them.” Millson set down his coffee. “You came here to do the honorable thing, didn’t you?”
“That depends. Most people think the honorable thing for me to do is marry Mrs. Winston, and that certainly was not my intention when I came.”
“Is it your intention now?”
“Are you suggesting that I let whatever income her family has sustain me now that I have disobeyed my father and been cut off? I could not ask them to accept the burden that I am, nor is it right to exploit the advantage I might have in being almost expected to marry her just because I am now penniless. If I was not willing to marry her before, I should not be permitted to ask now.”
“I wasn’t saying you should take advantage of anyone.”
“I am sorry. It does seem like I already am, so I may be overly sensitive to the thought.” Robert picked up his fork and turned it over in his hand. “I think my most immediate concern at present is how I will sustain myself for the next few days. I need employment.”
“I was trained to do things for my father’s company. It’s not much, but I suppose if there was anyone in need of some kind of secretary… I am willing to attempt manual labor, but with my arm, it is not the best idea.”
Millson rose. “It may be that someone has an open position. I do not know of any at present, but I think that there might be another step you might take first.”
Robert frowned. “You think I should go see Mrs. Winston now? I don’t think she’s allowed visitors, and I know that I would not be welcome. That is not an option at present. I think I should start with some kind of search for employment. I’m going to need funds, and without them, I should not even have a place to stay.”
“That has not been an issue.”
“Are you suggesting that it will be if I do not go see her?”