Now You shall Leave us alone.
When he returned to the Master bedroom, he noticed that Deirdre had tidied around and was now sitting and reading aloud to her mistress, even if she was asleep. She closed her book when he entered.
“Thank you, Deirdre. I think we will be well enough here for a few hours now. Is there someone who could check in here every so often, and see if we need anything? I cannot leave her alone, though I could ring, I suppose, except I would rather not disturb the house, and have everyone rushing upstairs needlessly.”
“There is indeed, sir. Abby and I have been spelling each other, so you will see one of us, or the other. But do you not need one of us here to sit with her?” She was another like Nurse, who did not feel it proper to leave a beautiful woman, as helpless as she was, in his sole charge considering the rumors of him. He could see what she was thinking, but he would deal with it kindly.
“No. No point in having two people here and losing their sleep. Go and get your rest. And would you ask Benson to bring me my gun case from my room if you see him?” He was still not sure where his room was.
“Yes, sir.” She left with a warring of different emotions in her breast. She still had her doubts about him after Abby had described how he had Miss Sophia helpless in his arms when she had walked in on them, and her looking as though she had swooned after he had kissed her, and no doubt with more on his mind for her after that. However, Miss Sophia didn’t seem to have been harmed by him, and could not have objected, or she would not have been resting on that cot as easily as she had been. She began to doubt that it had been as Abby had described it.
She would tell Abby to keep a close eye on him, especially when he was alone with either Miss Sophia or her ladyship. It was possible that the entire household might have the wrong opinion of his late lordship’s brother, although it was entirely unacceptable that any man would be left alone with an unconscious woman, so lightly clad, and as beautiful as her mistress. She had heard of the antics of some gentlemen when they could get away with it, but he did not seem to be one of that kind. She actually approved of the way he smiled and spoke, and she had seen him with the children at a distance, earlier. The rumors of him might be true, but they were from a long time ago. Perhaps he wasn’t as bad as he had been painted. No matter, she would check up on him when she could.
Robert heard her pick up the tray that he had left outside of the door, and go down to the scullery. They were not easy leaving him alone with their mistress, but they would have to get used to it.
He made up the fire, and checked his patient, seeing that she was resting easily and breathing peacefully, and then moved a chair close to the bed where he could study her and let his mind wander over what might have been, as well as what might now be possible.
Loss of his brother had been upsetting for everyone, himself included. However, he was not one to stay in the dumps for long. There was something else he needed to think about and consider; how long might he be required to keep alive this illusion, for Selena’s benefit, that he was Charles, and should he?
There was a knock at the door and Benson walked in with Robert’s gun-case under his arm. He trod carefully to make as little noise as possible.
Robert kept his voice down. “It’s alright, Benson. You won’t disturb her, and even if you do, it will not matter now. She’s resting, so we can talk if we are careful what we discuss.” Benson had already been warned.
“I brought your guns, sir, as you requested. Did her ladyship really take some nourishment, and talk to you and the girls? They were so full of life when they came downstairs, just as they should be.”
“She did indeed, Benson. She was quite confused over the situation, but I expect that is to be expected just waking up as she did and finding me and the children here, together.” His voice dropped so that the invalid could not hear them if the opiate had not taken effect.
“I feel sorry for her when she does eventually realize what really did happen. It will not be easy. But we will keep that moment away for as long as we can, even if it requires some deception to do so.” He drew his thoughts back to his immediate requirements. “Yes, I’ll take those here, Benson.” He recovered his gun case and placed it near him.
He heard his patient moan in her sleep. He rose to his feet and stood over her as he laid his hand upon her brow. He took her hand in his, for a few moments, to comfort her until she settled again, and then pulled the sheet up more about her. Benson watched him with interest, and then saw him move to be more out of hearing range if her ladyship was not fully asleep.
“Is there anything else you might need, sir? I would be glad to see to it if there is. Deirdre and Abby are getting some rest downstairs. They have had too little of it until now.” No one had.
“I can manage for a while, and it will soon be time for dinner. I suppose you heard that I shall be dining with the children. I do not anticipate anything special. I shall eat whatever they are eating. I did not come with any fancy notions or a desire to add to anyone’s burden. I am not here to dictate anything. More to the point, this is all very foreign to me, and I need to know what is expected of me and how I am to behave. I suspect it is just as well that my grandfather is not alive to judge me, considering what I am likely to be called upon to do to distract everyone. However, I am sure he is already beginning to turn over in his grave.”
“I shall help in whatever way I can, sir.” Especially, to discomfort that old tyrant in his grave. “We can begin that now. Might I suggest that you give me that ring that you wear; the one his lordship gave you the day you went away, and that you wear this one instead.” Benson passed him a simple gold band that must have been Charles’s ring. “I do not know what made me put this aside as I did, but if it might help persuade her ladyship, at least for a while….”
“Thank you, Benson. It will be some help.” He exchanged rings. “She will need all of the help we can give her, even if it is dishonest of us to do so.”
Benson knew that nothing this man would do, would ever be truly dishonest, or intended to harm anyone.
“Just pull on the bell sash if you need anything, sir.”
Benson closed the door and removed himself down to the kitchen to relate what he had just learned about modest expectations for dinner. It would put cook at her ease. Cook would be yet another conquest for him. Benson had already detected a subtle change in the conversation between Deirdre and Abby regarding what they might believe of the new Lord.
Master Robert had landed on his feet at last, and it was not the navy that had done that to him, but three young girls, maybe four, and something more. If he was right about what he had observed, they might all come out of this better than he had any right to hope, except those foolish women below stairs would likely disapprove, and set themselves up to oppose him and be against him.
Robert opened his gun case. He removed the percussion caps from each pistol and carefully unloaded them. He cleaned his guns over the next ten minutes and then packed them away again. For once in his life, he could leave them unloaded.
He stood, walked to the window, and looked out over the lawns with the lengthening late afternoon shadows creeping across them, as he had remembered. He had forgotten those simple pleasures that came from relaxing in one’s own home. And it was home, and still felt like it despite the differences, and those years of absence. Soon, the chestnuts would be ripening, and then they, and the leaves would be falling from the trees. His own father had looked out of this same window and might have watched two boys racing about under the trees, collecting the fallen prickly green casings, stepping on them, or peeling them back, to expose the shiny brown nuts inside. What would his father have thought of this sad turn of events? It was a good job that no one might read his thoughts about the way forward, or they would be even more concerned about him and their mistress.