Some Cautionary Words of Warning.
“There is something I should say, sir.” Robert looked up at Nurse. She seemed troubled.
“About her ladyship believing that you might be your brother, Sir. Not that you would be likely to heed any warning I might give you, but I was thinking more about it.”
She sniffed loudly, ever ready to drag his character forth, and give it a sound beating before she let it go. He was patient with her and allowed her to say what she needed to say.
“What if she comes to her senses too soon? What if she recognizes who you really are? It could throw her back to where she was.”
“Yes. Quite a quandary for us to be caught in; if I am recognized as Robert.” He looked at her. “Then I must not be recognized as Robert.”
“But sir; that raises another problem. It will not be as simple as that, if it might be simple at all. The only way you will not be recognized as Robert, is if you behave just as Charles might have behaved. With her!” She struggled to add those last two words. He knew what she was saying, but he would see if she could spell it out for him.
“And how was that, Nurse?” The way she looked at him, he knew what she was itching to warn him about. “Spit it out, Nurse. You were never tongue tied before, nor slow to tell me my faults.”
“Yes, sir.” She still had difficulty finding the words, so Robert waited patiently, in silence. Unusual for him.
“Her ladyship, sir.” She struggled with things that needed to be said. She was even blushing. He took over the initiative to save her from warning him about his behavior.
“I think I know what you are about to say, Nurse. There is no need, however little you might believe me. I will exercise unusual and even inexcusable restraint—for me—when presented with such an invitation or opportunity, and I can assure you that she will be safe with me.”
That was not what she had been about to say. He could see that she was fighting with herself not to say anything even slightly questionable about this woman she had grown to love. She still had more to say, but it would cost her dearly to say it.
“You will be making a big mistake if you think that, sir. She will not be safe with you, and it will have little to do with what you might want! It will be out of your hands before you know it. You may not be safe with her if she does not soon recognize you, and then what will happen to us all when that scandal is discovered, and she realizes what she has done? What you both have done?”
She seemed unusually upset, so he put his arm about her to comfort her.
“I do not like to speak candidly about any of this, sir, you must know that with it being no one’s business but theirs, but your brother and his wife”—he waited until she decided how to tell him more, obviously uncomfortable to be discussing any of it— “they behaved carelessly at times. They showed their affection for each other openly, and in an intimate way at the most awkward times. And sometimes with never a thought about who might observe them or where it happened.” He could not help but chuckle.
“Just like me and Mary?” She was shocked to hear him say that. But at least he seemed to understand what she meant.
“Yes, just like you and…her. I ignored it all, as I had to, of course, and went about my business as I had to. They were married, after all was said and done, and they would not be stopped no matter what I might think, but you and she are not….”
“No, we are not married. However, I shall strive to take care.”
She must not believe him. He would not try very hard. What a man might say was one thing. What he might do when temptation was thrown at his head (and Lady Selena would be just such a temptation), was another. And words were cheap.
They both heard the old clock in the hall, striking off the hours, saving him from more embarrassing disclosures. He might have guessed how she and Charles had behaved with each other after his own brief encounter with Selena. She had obviously overwhelmed his brother with affection at every opportunity, just as she had with him. Charles would never have objected or refused her. He and Charles had both been alike in that way; never backward, and not afraid to commit, totally. Poor Nurse. She had never really lived. However, she had said her piece for all the good it might do.
“Is that the time? I must not be late. If I were to keep them waiting they would never forgive me. I might never forgive myself. We shall all come and see you after dinner, Nurse, and then you shall put them to bed while I pick up my place here again and play my role. Don’t be surprised if you hear some unusual noises from the dining room, even up here.” He put his hand on her arm as he thought of something else that he needed to say. He became serious.
“What you were saying, about her believing that I am my brother. Yes, I know the danger that you fear, but there is another one. I know you and the maidservants disapprove of my being alone here with her, but I cannot just absent myself from her presence now that she thinks that I am Charles. Nor can I stay away for any but the briefest moment when she wakes up, or she will wonder why I am not here with her. I must behave as I know that Charles would—within reason of course—or she will think that there is something seriously wrong between us.”
The truth of what he was saying worried at her, but she said no more. She would need to closely watch both of them. There was too much that could go wrong before it might be corrected. She would not think of that, however, and put her mind back onto the dinner and the children.
“You will not forget where you are, or who they are, will you, sir?” She still had doubts about him.
“Of course not.” What did she think he might say, or do?
“You must be on your best behavior at all times with the children and set a good example.” He nodded his head. “Impressionable little minds will be watching you, so watch your language, sir. There are times when I need to caution my own husband about that, but when he is sleeping and has one of his dreams all I can do is plug my ears!” That thought obviously gave her pain. “And be careful what tales you tell, to entertain them. I heard some of those too, when I was not meant to.”