The uncovered brazier was full of hot coals, the room so warm that Sukey was reaching for the buttons of her pelisse before she recognized the smell.
Roses, fragrant and luxurious in the heart of winter.
She breathed them in, disbelieving. Over a dozen lit candle stubs made the copper bathtub in the center of the room glow brightly and turned the steam rising from it a warm yellow.
Sukey knew that tub. They carted it up the stairs to Mr. Summers’s room once a month, along with dunnamany buckets of hot water, and he took great pleasure in soaking in it.
She drew near to it. At least twenty-five gallons of water steamed inside, smelling like roses. “For me?” She reached out to touch the water, almost nervesome.
He caught her wrist. “It might still be too hot. You were early. Let me.” He dipped a finger quickly in, and when this proved safe, submerged his hand. “Give it another five minutes.”
“I’ve never taken a real bath before.” She used a basin and sponge most days, and on Saturday nights the vicarage servants took turns filling a hip-bath before the kitchen fire. But soaking in a tub? That was for ladies and gentlemen. The labor it took to draw and haul and heat and haul again so much water, only to have to empty it out… “You shouldn’t work on your half-holiday,” she protested.
“I told you. It isn’t work when I do it for you.”
“And I told you it is.”
He stepped up behind her and unbuttoned her dress. “Imagine an artist who paints society portraits all week,” he said in her ear. “On Sunday he comes home and paints his wife. Is there really no difference?”