"What are you doing here?" she demanded.
He looked around, shared with her the discovery that this was, in fact, his own room. The winding corridors of the Hall, combined with her troubled haste, had led her to an entirely different wing than she had supposed.
"What am I doing?" Choir took up the remark. "Good question. Have a seat, won't you? Kind of you to visit, if a little unorthodox. But I like that, you know."
"I've... I am lost," she said, and plopped down on the footstool he motioned to. She buried her face in her hands.
"There, there," Choir said absently, not getting up. "Didn't bring me any remnants from our dinner, did you?'
"No," she said, rubbing her stony eyes.
"That saddle of hare...admirable." He continued to twist a thick dowel of wax over a candle flame, turning it this way and that, as if roasting a small pheasant or ortolan. "They really know how to cook in the countryside. None of your city sauces. Just meat, with the look of fear still in the creature's eye."
"I am intruding," Tabitha said.
"Not at all. I told you, I enjoy your company. I am just sorry I cannot devote my full attention to you right now."
He was already dressed for bed in a long white nightshirt and a tasselled cap. His monocle still glinted in his eye, though. The red wax began to soften and scorch.
"You look like you are performing a Black Mass."
"Very perceptive," he nodded. Strewn on the table were papers, a densely-written contract of some sort, with clauses and sub-clauses. The final sheet had a large empty space at the bottom. "I may indeed be summoning up the Devil."
"Why would you do that?"
"To make a pact, of course." He reached for a small velvet bag and took out an ancient bit of cast iron. "The Choir seal," he explained. "Over four hundred years old. I see now I need a witness. So your coming here was providential."
"Do you think I am pretty?" Lady Tabitha asked.
"Beautiful," he answered, in an uninflected, appraising way, not bothering to look up. "Why? Has any
one told you different?"
She shook her head.
"What would I be witnessing?"
"That is not for you to know." He had prepared the surface and brought the wax to its desired temperature. The drops fell on the heavy paper like blood from a wound, making loud, hollow sounds as the whole cavernous house seemed to listen. "All you need do is sign this, saying that I have affixed my seal to the agreement."
He had already done it, with no ceremony, simply rolled the rounded stamp over the wax so that the familiar Choir Arms sat rakishly askew beneath the contract's final clause.
Tabitha did as she was told.