Dinner was in theory a quiet moment between Giles and herself, with – finally – no more guilt and unhappiness to weigh her down, but with a footman and Farley serving and carrying in the various courses, it was not so, no matter how discreet Farley might be, and they had to at least sporadically attempt to some decorum as befitting to an earl and his lady wife.
“I should see how Letty is once we have finished dining,” she said, primly, at one such moment, a footman pouring the wine at her elbow.
Giles glanced up. “I feel certain that if Letty was awake and in need of anything, we should have been fully aware of it already, my love.”
“I suppose that is true,” said Nell. “You think I should not?”
He smiled in return. “Letty has wasted more than enough of everyone’s time and patience today and for tonight, I’m afraid I demand you all to myself. As I warned you, madam, you shall no longer find me such an easy husband to deal with.”
She laughed, looking down as she took a sip of her wine, waiting for the moment when they could truly be alone, the first time that they would be so when she knew that her fanciful hopes that perhaps he did see her as more than his dutiful wife were indeed merely the whole truth of the matter.
“Nell,” he said, once they finally were together in her chambers. “You know I mean to make it up to you – every one of those harsh words. Can you really forgive me?”
She shook her head in earnest. “Giles! I have already said so. Let us not speak of it again – you did not know – and how could you –?” Somewhat incoherent in her emotion, she put her arms around him instead, a more effective means of conveying her feelings on the matter. He gripped her tightly in return, and she closed her eyes, letting go of any last fears that such happiness could not be permitted to be her after her foolishness these past few months.
“We shall do better now, I think?” she said, feeling oddly shy again as he pulled away a little, though he put one hand to her face, watching her in the candlelight.
He kissed her gently. “Infinitely better, I promise. And let us waste no more time before putting that resolution into practice.”
Nell stretched up to kiss him with a small laugh, pulling at his neckcloth as she did so – only for them to receive yet another interruption.
“Nell, I must – oh!” said Letty, standing in the doorway, for once lost for words. “Oh. I had wished to speak to Nell!”
Giles rose and crossed the room, causing Letty to take a step back, while Nell had to put her hand to her mouth to try and stifle her amusement.
“Well, forgive me if it inconveniences you, Letty, but I wished to speak with my wife this evening. Now, go!”
Letty, who evidently still had some sense of self-preservation, fled for her own room.
“Oh, no,” said Nell, giving way to her laughter. “Poor Letty! I said that I should look in on her!”
“Poor Letty indeed,” Giles said, though he didn’t sound angry any more. “I must advise Allandale to take the severest possible measures with her as frequently as possible, but I fear he will not.”
Nell swallowed her giggles. “Oh, but, Giles – did you see her face! Oh, dear, how shocking it makes one feel.”
“Nonsense,” said Giles, and then, before crossing back to her, locked the door, and at her surprised look, murmured, “I don’t know how it is, my love, but it appears to be necessary if one wishes for a minute’s peace in this house!”