'Tis somewhat later than usual when they go to their beds, but Sandy finds he cannot sleep. Perchance it was thinking of whether Clorinda still has lovers, and who they might be, but it turns his mind unhappily towards his own situation.
Indeed Gervase had quite the finest moral character: was kind, generous, hardworking at the slow and tedious business of bringing about reforms, ever thoughtful, the finest of examples to the young fribbles who followed him –
- and he misses the companionship of one so much better than himself, who embodied true honour –
- but even more, he begins to find himself missing that beautiful body, the talented hands and mouth, the entirely glorious –
He hits his pillow and then sits up. This will not do. They had been unwonted fortunate in the years they had had together, but they always knew how the law, the church, and public opinion would regard them did all become known. He is not now going to scurry furtively about dark alleyways in fear of the Watch or the Vice Society or just those who look for a brawl. He supposes the rational solution would be that certain club, but, somehow he cannot, not yet, bring himself to that.
He will go to the library and find some book to distract his mind.
There is a glint of light under the library door: he almost goes back to his bedchamber, for fear that 'tis Clorinda that sits up at night writing on her newest Gothic tale, though surely Sophy would never permit her to do anything so deleterious to her looks – would doubtless cry that Docket’s shade would come haunt her –
'Tis, he dares say, one of the household that recreates themself with a little reading, or mayhap goes improve their mind with heavier matter.
He opens the door and see Josh looking along the shelves.
He turns, with that delightful smile: that was a fine feast, he says, but I am not used to such rich fare, would not injure Euphemia’s feelings by waving it aside, but hinders me from sleep, when combined with the noises of the town, that I have grown quite unused to. Can you recommend anything that I might read, now that I am wakeful?
Why, says Sandy, moving over himself towards the shelves, I think you will find Clorinda’s very fine collection of play-texts over here, and this should be mostly novels. Those shelves are poetry.
Does she keep her own works together?
He shakes his head. Says 'twould look particular - they both give fond smiles – so they are mingled among the rest.
Have a fancy, says Josh, to peruse The Fateful Philtre once more.
I think, says Sandy, that it will be somewhere about here - he leans across Josh and their shoulders brush.
It must be very hard for you, says Josh in thoughtful tones, to present the right shade of sorrow – all know that there was a very fine mutual respect 'twixt you and His Lordship, so 'twould not do to seem unconcerned at his shocking premature end; and yet you may not mourn as perchance you should desire.
Sandy pauses with the book half-lifted from among its companions, struck to silence.
Josh rests a hand upon his shoulder. I think all of us, he says, when we were come to years of reasonable discretion, had Mama and Papa sit us down and tell us the way of things, whether 'twas Flora’s parentage or that the world has very cruel notions as to who should love who and who might not. And that did we desire discuss matters further, we should apply to our Aunty Clorinda for additional enlightenment.
We could see, says Josh, your very great, your exemplary, mutual devotion. Just as we came to understand the quite out of the common affection in which Mama and Papa held Aunty Clorinda. He squeezes Sandy’s shoulder.
'Tis an entire proper gesture of manly affection.
Sandy lifts out the book and stumbles a little against Josh.
Their faces are close together.
Josh leans a little further towards him and kisses him.
He was completely unprepared for that. Had not even wondered how a beard would feel – quite different from rasping stubble –
Josh pulls his head back and says, sorry, that was – I –
Sandy rests his hand on the back of Josh’s head and pulls him in for a longer kiss.
Only later does he think, furor: in the moment it is gasping, grasping, grappling, fumbling, grunting, desperation, behaving quite as if they were two schoolboys crept into some hidden retreat, and 'tis not at all long before both of them are busy with handkerchiefs and trying not to look one another in the eye.
Forgive me, says Josh. That was – sure 'twould be a vulgar excuse to say, has been a long time. I should have better command of myself. But –
Forgive you? Indeed, my dear Josh, I should be more master of my desires -
They mumble, stammer, in mutual embarrassment. Wish one another goodnight, and repair to their separate bedchambers.
He should probably think further about this, but sleep rises up and claims him for its own.
When Hector comes wake him the morn he can hardly believe what happened, it seems like some dream born out of his restless desires. He has some nervousness about encountering Josh at the breakfast table, but when he goes there he finds Clorinda alone. Josh, she says, was up betimes and has gone ensure all is done entire proper for his dear beasts and that they do not pine or fret, that they are fed and have sufficient water, &C&C.
But, my dear, what shall you be about today? I have promised to go visit Lady Raxdell so that I may tell her somewhat of Town Society, and then take her about a few calls when 'tis the proper hour for such, among ladies I confide will be kind and agreeable.
It is very good of you.
O, poo. Is a poor flustered creature never anticipated to be in this position, but minds that she should act as befits her new rank, did she know how to do so. Indeed dining the county every few months, and going to balls at the Assembly Rooms, and private dances, can have been little preparation.
Oh, he says, I confide 'tis a question of fie upon this quiet life, I want work!
Mayhap and perchance! I have no tale upon hand at the moment, but indeed, does it not seem that the taste for the Gothic declines, and thus my occupation’s gone? She sighs.
You have writ more than Gothic tales, dear Clorinda: I daresay there are those would welcome a new play from your pen.
She sighs again. At least, he thinks, looking at her across the breakfast table, it does not seem that she has deduced what went forth yestere’en, and that Josh has made no revelation. And does she intend to go out, there is no danger that they may sit in their old cozy fashion and that he may himself be led to disclosure.
She sighs again and says, but now there is no borrowed name that may be imputed under which to secure my treasure. But, she goes on, I daresay one might come about to contrive – and have long been in supposition that Miss Addington entire sees through the device. But she is a dear good discreet creature.
She rises from the table and says, will go be dutiful.