Still in the Dark.
Over the next few hours, he found out no more than he already knew. There was no clue in the study; nothing written down. He became more and more convinced that it was something that Charles had intended to surprise her with, as with the trip to Scarborough that he had heard about. He had sprung that on everyone at the last minute.
Whenever Robert visited Selena after that, he was relieved to see that they were never left alone. Nurse had taken the threat seriously. She did not believe that he would show any restraint with her mistress if Selena gave him any encouragement, which she seemed too ready to do.
Gradually, though, Selena’s thoughts turned ever more often to their anniversary. Try as she might, to learn what he planned, Robert would tell her nothing, largely because he did not know himself, and there was no divine inspiration, nor any from that other place either, come to help him.
“Don’t forget my dressmaker, Charles. She should have the dresses for the girls by now. She will also need to know that I am carrying again, and that I will need an entire wardrobe once more. Oh, how frustrating it is to be stuck here as I am. I gave my other maternity clothing away and cleared out most of the nursery of baby things. Perhaps that was what brought this pregnancy on in some delightfully perverse way.” She re-thought that. “No. Not perverse, but in some cautionary way, telling us not to grow complacent or to assume that fate was quite finished with us. Look at my mother. She had thought that her childbearing years were over, and then along came Sophia ten years after I was born.” She looked up at him mischievously.
“However, it was not fate that brought this pregnancy about, was it Charles, but you and I. Five years between pregnancies is a long time, but as I have not lost this one as I so feared I might, we should begin to make preparations. However,”—she sighed and blushed up at him and set his heart pounding. She did not need to continue what she was thinking. He could see it in her eyes and in her face. She kept her voice down, cognizant that others were always somewhere close by.
“I must be recovering, Charles. I am becoming quite impatient with others fussing around me when all I can think of is you and wondering where you are. These last ten years feel as though they were just yesterday. I still vividly recall that stolen moment in the Belvedere when I arrived earlier than I was expected, and while that carriage was blocking the gate. I had never known you to be so eager, or so excited—after you recovered from the surprise I must have given you—though we had been apart for some little time. I often think of that moment with great tenderness.” So did he. She kissed his hand, not realizing how much that thought excited him.
“You were so gentle; so passionate; so attentive; and yet so….so… wonderfully unrelenting! You have always been that way, but that one day, stands out in my mind. And then, that evening when you came along to my room, it was as though we had not been private with each other already in that way, or that I had tired you out as much as I feared I might have done.” She chuckled at memory of that time. “How I did not become pregnant then, or from those other numerous occasions that I lost count of, before my sister and parents joined us, I do not know. Although I did become pregnant at that time, didn’t I? Not that anyone would have cared by then with us being only a month away from being married.” She rested her hand on her middle. “Perhaps there is another Robert, growing here, as there was the first time. I hope so.” So did he. Except a boy would be called Charles, if he might influence what he would be called. Robert entered the conversation again.
“They no longer cared, my love, any more than we did. They could see that we were in love, and soon learned to keep out of our way. I think we were sometimes too incautious in our eagerness, and often sent Nurse and the others scurrying off and out of our way.” Nurse’s comments had been helpful.
Selena looked up at him in a measuring kind of way and looked around the room. It seemed to be empty of anyone else by then.
“Charles. How careless of them. There is no one here with us now.” He looked around, concerned that she might be right. They were indeed alone. How might that be? Since his conversation with Nurse, a few days ago, he had always taken care to be sure that others would be with them throughout the day, and even at night, and so had she.
Abby walked in with a tray and saved him from whatever Selena might have in mind for him. She ignored what she had seen; how her mistress had returned the coverlet over herself, and how Robert had sat up from her. They both looked like two children caught in an awkward situation, adjusting their clothing.
Why wasn’t Deirdre here? Or had they got mixed up, and both had left, thinking the other was still here? It must not happen again. Nurse had warned her. She could see the flush and the disappointed look on her mistress’s face and the heightened color on his too. She had arrived just in time. She overheard a little of what they said.
“Damn! Poor Charles. Poor me.”
Had Mistress sworn? Yes, she had. Most unlike her, and her eyes were flashing with life. Abby began to feel sorry for them both. He was Charles to her, and to everyone else, why did they not just accept that and get on with it? It was what they both wanted and what the entire house needed, and never mind the morality of it.
Selena understood the look on his face and smiled at him with a promise in her eyes as her hand went out to him and they briefly touched. So much passed between them at that instant in time.
He breathed a sigh of relief. He could warn Sophia of her sister’s overwhelmingly amorous intent for him, though she already knew about it, and he would suggest that she try very hard not to go to sleep on the settee if her sister was awake. He might even suggest that the children be allowed in again. He would need to find some excuse to remove himself from such constant temptation. Making preparation for their anniversary might be enough of a plausible excuse.
He would be damned, only if he gave in to his feelings and to hers, and perhaps even more damned if he didn’t, and were to hurt her feelings. What a predicament! And it could not possibly improve. He might not survive. She might not survive. He would need to tread very cautiously and give a good deal of thought as to how they would go forward.
What had not helped, was that she had fondly remembered those stolen moments in the Belvedere that had so strongly shaped his own life and future, but without ever finding out that he had not been Charles.