A Hectic Time
Robert was in and out of the house over the next few days, rushed off his feet on various errands, and with the bit firmly between his teeth.
Selena did not have time to feel neglected. She could hear sounds of preparation going on around the house and knew what it meant. Her excitement infected everyone, but they were close-lipped about what was happening.
She fumed, good-naturedly at her enforced inactivity when she wanted to help and to be given a role to play. She had insisted that an old pair of crutches that Charles’s grandfather had used, be dug out for her, but they were too big for her to use safely, even if Nurse might have allowed her.
Robert was in and out of her room at all hours, never staying for long, and never alone with her, so she had to accept that. He brought her the new dress she had spoken for, before the accident, and also showed her the dresses that the seamstress had made for the children. She was bubbling with excitement and did not have time to complain about his frequent absences from her.
“The children will be so pleased. But how can I possibly wear this new dress now, with me in this developing condition, Charles, and me confined to this bed?
“Mr. Rogers said that it would be at least several weeks before I might be up and about, even on crutches, and our anniversary is only days away. And then, before you know it, I will be showing again, so will need a constantly changing wardrobe. As I improve in one direction I will rapidly go downhill in another.” She smiled up at him enticingly. “You would not care to give me a hint of what you plan for me; for us, would you?”
He shook his head. “You like surprises. You wanted a surprise, and it shall be a surprise.” It would indeed be a surprise. For everyone except Sophia and the children.
She had to accept that, but it did not stop her from trying to find out. However, even Sophia, her almost constant companion if Robert were not there, and even if he were, would not betray what was to happen.
He spent as much time with Selena as possible, explaining that with her now recovering, he had to be sure that those things that had been neglected on the estate could move forward, along with preparations for their anniversary.
Selena had smiled at him as he had explained his absences; not convincingly. The anniversary was as much on his mind as it was on hers. There was an unspoken understanding between them, but her eyes and her gentle touch upon his hand said it all. ‘Don’t forget about me, or yourself.’ She would soon take the bull by the horns and banish the servants from their presence altogether, but it was more difficult getting Sophia or the children to leave them alone no matter what she might say to them. However, there would come a time.
The children were excited over whatever he had planned but would not divulge their secret other than to betray how pretty their new dresses were, to thank her for them, and that they were looking forward to wearing them. Despite her burning curiosity, she did not try so hard to learn their, or Charles’s secret, and to spoil the surprise for herself.
Even Sophia was a different person, and merely said, with a twinkle, that she would have to be patient. The servants divulged nothing, no matter how much she enquired about the sounds she could hear and pleaded that they did not know the details (or did not want to know). She even began to believe them.
There continued to be the intriguing sounds of preparation, and the smell of cooking, drifting throughout the house, but for what, exactly, remained a mystery. There were successions of visitors, at least two or three each day, but not to see her. It was aggravating. Selena could not see enough detail of who it might be, or what arrived, in the mirror arrangement that Charles had set up in her room so that she could see down into the courtyard. She could not hear enough, nor see enough to satisfy her, and no one was telling her anything. Her impatience, showed.
“How can I possibly be patient, trapped here like this? I am excitement itself to know what is planned for me. How can I have this anniversary in any meaningful way with me stuck in my bed?” They always succeeded in consoling her and persuading her that the wait would be worth the surprise. She would have to be patient, and to learn whatever she might from overhearing the smallest snippet of conversation. She constantly tried to bring all of the little pieces together, but without success.
Then, the day arrived. The twenty-second. The tenth anniversary of the day she and Charles had married.
They all had breakfast in her room after Robert had carried her over to the table to sit with them. No one betrayed anything even then, of this wondrous secret that they all shared. Her impatience got the better of her.
“When will I learn what is going on, Charles? There is still a surprise planned for me, is there? All activity outside seems to have come to an end.”
“Of course, my love. All in good time. After breakfast, the servants will come to you and prepare you, while the children and I, change. I shall join you on the stroke of eleven. At mid-day, everything will go forward as I have decided, and then you shall have your surprise.
“At this moment, however, I have several last-minute things to see to, so I shall have to leave you. I shall return before you have had chance to miss me.”