When I got back to the house I was shocked to discover the Hunt Ball still in progress, the windows bright and cheerful music coming through the open front door. I shouldn't have been surprised, it was only just after ten o'clock, and I had been explicit about not letting anyone other than Lord Levondale and Dotty know what had happened. But it was a shock, nevertheless, and I found myself resenting the people inside for having a good time while I'd been off in the freezing dark woods mourning a murdered friend.
I also resented myself for suddenly thinking of Jingo as a friend now that he was dead, all his crimes forgiven and his memory fluffed about with a halo of regret for all my hard words to him. I was angry at myself, too, for going all weepy and maudlin over the murder of someone I know when I had previously viewed the murders of strangers as merely interesting intellectual exercise. It made sense that I would feel that way, a friend and a stranger will inspire entirely different emotional responses, that's what friendship is for; nevertheless, I felt like a hypocrite for all the tears I'd never shed for William, or for any of the other dead men I'd encountered in my travels.
Wearing a groom's boots and a coachman's coat over my evening clothes, all liberally besmattered with mud, I was anxious to get to my rooms without passing through the ball; going through the Hunt Room and a circuit of low corridors, I was able to get to take one of the corkscrew staircases from the ground-floor to the corridor outside my rooms.
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