How did I know that?
“No, my love. You did not lose our baby.”
Our baby! What was he thinking?
He heard Nurse gasp and felt Selena grasp his hand tightly, unable to speak for a few moments as she looked up into his face with tears glistening in her eyes. The silence was deafening with the loud ticking of the grandfather clock, and the influx of so many of the gentle night-time noises from outside. It was as silent as when she had first come around and had spoken.
He leaned over and kissed the tears away, as Charles would have done had he been here—he was sure of that—and they looked deep into each other’s eyes. He felt confused and overwhelmed with what he saw there and had seen once before ten years earlier: blinding love, burning him up. He realized that he had set out on a path he could not, and would not, easily turn aside from, no matter what it might cost him.
Charles would never have been parted from this woman for one second longer than necessary. But nor did he. He would need to begin to think as Charles would have thought concerning this woman. He realized how easily he might be able to do that. But then, when she came to her senses and realized how he had deceived her, there would be no forgiving him for such a major deception. She would turn against him with such hatred then. He would be forced to go back to his second love, the sea, but it would be with a heavy heart and a sense of loss that no man might survive.
He felt her pull his head down to her and kissed his own tears away. He had not realized that he had been crying. She was the strong one now, as she had always been where Charles was concerned. He remembered that. And even when he had first encountered her.
“Such sadness, when there should be none. Perhaps I did not need to ask about our baby as I did, but I had to know. I felt sure that I would have learned of that bad news soon enough, yet everyone seemed to be hiding so much from me.” She seemed puzzled.
“Yet, as I did not lose it, how did you know that I was carrying Charles? I told no one. If I had lost it, everyone would have known, and that would have put the house in enough of a depressing state. I feared I must have lost it with all of the fussing about me, yet no one was saying anything about that. I feared that I had lost not only you, but our baby too. That would have been too much to bear all at once.”
He touched her face to let her know that she was mistaken in what she had dreamed and let her speak.
“I was afraid to wake up and to find out the truth of it all. Then I felt you touching me with such concern, and heard your voice speaking to Sophia. I knew then that I had not lost everything, and that I might begin to hope again.”
So, his presence had achieved something good. When she began to recognize that he was not Charles, and that she had indeed lost the love of her life, she would need the hope that their baby would bring, to keep her feet solidly on the ground. That, and meeting the needs of her children.
She would indeed begin to hate him then and would wish to see him gone from her presence and from her life. He sighed deeply. He would strive to accept that fate, if that is what it would take to give her time to recover as she should. His own life counted so little in the scale of things compared with the lives of this woman and her children. However, what he did and was doing, would all be for the greater good. What iniquities had been committed down the ages with those considerations to guide the actions of others?
She breathed a deep sigh of total relief and sniffed back her tears. “Thank God! But as I did not lose it, how did you know about our baby? I was going to tell you that evening after we had retired, but then that accident…. I swear no-one else knew it. I told no-one, not even Nurse, yet you did not seem surprised. Why did that not shock you as it did Nurse? She leapt as though she had been scalded, and still looks that way, and yet you knew! But then you always could read my mind on the important things, and often knew what I was thinking and feeling before I even knew it myself.” No one felt like intruding into that deeply moving moment and let her continue with what she might recollect.
“I discovered that I was pregnant just before this… this accident. I think I am two or three months along but was loath to say anything earlier until I was sure and could believe that I would not lose it again.” Her eyes flickered across toward the settee. She smiled and even managed a nervous chuckle.
“Yes. That is Sophia lying there? I thought I heard her earlier. No, do not disturb her or wake her up, Nurse. You might wake the children if you do. She must be tired after looking after me and needs her rest. They all do. We will have time to talk to our heart’s content in the morning when she wakes up.
“I wish I had my sketching book handy and would capture her that way in the different lights and shadows and show her at some suitable moment. In fact, I see it over there. Nurse, would you put it close by me please, with those pencils, for I am wide awake now and I am good for little else.”
“But it is late, Ma’am.”
“Pooh! I have had enough sleep.” Selena dismissed her concern. “It is Charles who needs his rest, along with the rest of you. I think I would like to be propped up even higher if you can, so that I might draw, and look around. I will be able to see everything better. If it gets to be too much, I can ask to be laid down again.”
Robert took hold of the loose cloth on each side of her nightdress at her shoulders, and pulled her forward, even kissing her, as Nurse slid another pillow down behind her.
Selena took his hand again. She was looking into his eyes and was smiling at him as she spoke. That kiss had lit a spark within her.
“May I have some more wine? or will you try to limit me there, as everyone tries to protect me, though I am not sure why.” He poured the glass full, and after she had drunk from it, she passed it back to him and watched him closely as he took a drink himself, before he set it down.
He noticed that she was flushed and was looking at him intently. What did she see? His scars? The missing top of his ear? except he had kept that side of his head turned away from her.
“Nurse. You should go to your rest. Charles and I have much to discuss and talk about.” Nurse was aware of the kind of warm conversation that her mistress might have in mind for him, and it did not involve talking.
“The children and Sophia can be left where they are until they wake up for themselves. They are safe here and I need them close to me. Charles will see to all of my needs now. He is all I need at this moment and until morning, so please go and catch up on your sleep.” She would not be argued with. They watched Nurse retreat.