Miss Douglas peered into the twin’s bedroom. She smiled and nodded, satisfied that they were both fast asleep. With no-one in sight, she made her way to the kitchen and boiled the kettle, fetching milk from the larder. As quietly as a dormouse, she paced next door to the pantry, reading all the labels of the items upon the shelf. ‘White caster sugar.’ She grasped it, surely they wouldn’t notice if only a teaspoonful or two was used.
“Come,come! Now dinner is finished, I propose that we have tea. Ladies, we shall return to the drawing-room and Gentleman you may suit yourselves.”
“I am very tired Edward.”
“I can see that. My only regret of this evening is the fact that I have barely spoken to George. Might I speak with him for a few moments before our departure?”
“Yes you must. I shall sit here by the fire. I have to admit to being a trifle cold.”
“Oh but you shall be lonely!”
“No, not at all. I am quite content, thank you.”
Edward removed his dinner jacket, draping it around her shoulders. “Oh, no! You’ll need it for the journey home!”
“I am too warm at present, I can’t let my wife catch cold now can I?”
“Thank you my love.”
“I won’t be long I promise.”
Edward wandered over to the circle of gentlemen in the next room. “Edward old bean!” George exclaimed, shaking his hand with great warmth.
“I do beg your pardon! I have been meaning to talk to you all evening. Goodness how the time has flown George.”
He handed Edward a brandy. “Chin chin!”
“Now then old Man, do tell all. How have things been with you and your family? I hear that dear Lucinda has not been well.”
“It is true, I was really worried I have to admit. I still am.” He whispered.
“Well, these things take time. Don’t let Annabella frighten her will you? Tell her to take no heed, there is no stopping that woman when she gets going. Annabella is like a combine harvester, stirring up the dirt. You seem lost for words Edward.”
“I am a little.”
“Tell me, how is this new Governess of yours?”
“Oh she is very good indeed.”
“Oh Lucinda, you look so out-of-place just sitting there. You seem really lost!”
“I- I was just warming myself by the fire.”
“And being an antisocial creature!”
“I am tired and do not wish to be a burden to anyone.”
“A burden? What a ridiculous thing to say!”
“That is the second time you have given me such a label tonight.”
“I beg your pardon Lucinda?”
“No I beg yours! You have humiliated and gossiped about my private affairs quite enough for one evening!”
“What is the meaning of this?!” Annabella gasped.
Lucinda picked up her skirts and darted past Lucinda, leaving her with her mouth gaping like a codfish and went to find Edward.
Edward glanced up, placing his empty glass down. He stood, taking Lucinda’s gloved hands in his.
“My God! What has happened? Don’t cry my love! You are all of a tremble, I think we shall go home, it is getting late. George, thank you for a splendid evening!”
Lucinda bid George farewell through tears and with that, the pair left and made their way outside.
“I-I am so sorry!”
“You were enjoying the party so, you barely had a chance to speak with George.”
“Oh, no! We had a grand little chat just then and he has already said that he and I need to see each other again soon. Here.” Edward opened the carriage door, helping Lucinda in first.
“There my darling, you needn’t tell me anything if you don’t wish to. Was it the gossiping that upset you?”
“Ah, I thought as much. Well, there are people in this world that it is best to steer clear of. Unfortunately, Annabella is one of them. Poor George, what on earth did he let himself in for when he married that outward spoken, self conceited half-wit?!”
“Edward!” Lucinda composed herself, drying her eyes. “You know Edward, when I married you I knew that I had picked quite a gentleman, but never did I think that I would find myself a handsome, charming prince. I could not cope with out you.”
Edward kissed her hair. “A prince, no not I! Well, I am not going anywhere I hope, certainly not for a good few years.”
“Hmm, I’m so tired.”
“I know. Don’t worry about falling asleep, you are as light as a feather and I shall carry you inside.”
“Oh I don’t know about that, I think that I would wake first anyway.”
“It must be all that rich food.”
“So many courses.” Lucinda mumbled. “I swear I feel three months pregnant.”
Edward’s jaw dropped open. “You- you’re not…. are you?”
“No! Heavens no Edward! Can you just imagine? I can’t even cope having twins, let alone a third dependent child added to the equation.”
To be continued…