An Unfashionable Couple


Chapter 15

A decidedly woebegone Amelia received Edward early the next morning. She sat in bed, a picture of misery, and greeted him shyly, as if uncertain of her welcome. He acted as if nothing had happened. This, he thought wryly, was the case after all.

"I am so sorry," she whispered. "I do not know how this could have happened."

"I do," Edward assured her.

"I hope you do not think that I am addicted to drink?" She really seemed to worry about the impression she'd given him.

"If you were, a couple of glasses of wine would have done you no harm at all," Edward assured her. "I could tell you were not accustomed to it. It is my fault – I should have taken better care of you. How do you find yourself this morning?"

"I have the most devilish headache," Amelia complained. "I guess I deserved that."

"It will soon get better," Edward soothed her, bending down to kiss her. "Poor dear! Ask that woman of yours to get you a glass of wine, and you will feel better."

"Please! I do understand that my conduct last night may have given you a disgust of me, but do you really wish to kill me? I will never drink wine again for as long as I live!" Amelia moaned.

"Yes, you will – and a hair of the dog that bit you will make you feel much more the thing. Trust me."

Amelia gave him a suspicious look, but in the end she did as he had told her, and sent Martha for a glass of wine.

"Edward," she asked while Martha was gone. "Did … did anything happen last night?"

Edward did not pretend to misunderstand her. "Nothing," he replied. "I felt you were not in a state to properly enjoy my company, so once I'd got you ready for bed I left you to sleep it off."

"I seem to remember that you promised to come back," Amelia said, with a strong sense of ill-treatment made worse by her headache.

"I did come back, but by that time you were already asleep," Edward said. "Please do not let that worry you."

"I am not a very good wife, am I?"

"I have no wish for a better one, my love."

There was no time for similar confidences, because Martha returned with the remedy for Amelia's hangover; and Edward left the room to allow her to get ready for their journey in peace.

Amelia was glad when their journey ended for the day, and even gladder that they would have a day to rest in Rouen. She liked seeing new things every day, and enjoyed travelling; yet she could not wait until they would reach Paris, and stay in the same place for a while. She hoped to do some shopping – one could always do with new clothes – and she was looking forward to enjoying the city life. She had never really had an entire season in London, and had never been presented at court, but Edward had promised her that during those three weeks they were planning to stay in Paris she should enjoy what that city had to offer at this time of the year.

Not that they would find many people of note in Paris; just like the English, the French nobility left the capital during the summer months and stayed in their residences in the country. But some of them would still be there, and with any luck Amelia was also going to be presented to the King and Queen of France, who were currently residing in Versailles.

For now, she was settling into her room at the inn in Rouen – an ancient hostelry in the vicinity of the Cathedral, with comfortable rooms and a cheerful landlady – and wishing for nothing more than something to eat and, after that, getting some rest. Although Edward slept in her bed that night, he did not make any advances towards her, for which she was somewhat glad. After two days of feeling sick, she would not have felt up to enduring his caresses, or, even worse, returning them – although she felt comfortable in his arms, and snuggled up to him as she fell asleep.

They had a most agreeable Sunday – Edward showed her the town; they had a look at the Cathedral and the surrounding square, as well as the Great Clock, one of Rouen's major sights, and went to a pastry-cook's in the end to recoup their strength. Edward watched Amelia eat with an amused smile, and although he was not particularly fond of sweetmeats he humoured her and tried some of the pastries his wife wanted him to sample.

"I do not want to look greedy," she explained. "So you will have to eat some of these to save my reputation."

With a laugh, Edward complied. Neither did he complain when they walked back to the inn and Amelia insisted on looking into almost every shop window, or when she wished to sit down in the sun and enjoy the scenery by the river. Her husband was probably the most good-humoured man in the world, she decided. Not that she'd ever had any doubts in the matter.

When they returned to the inn, Amelia stopped in the door to their parlour and kissed him – for the first time it was she who had taken the initiative when it came to kissing, and Edward's surprise was evident. He was quick to recover, however, and pulled her into his arms when he had closed the door of their suite of rooms behind them.

"Thank you for a lovely day," she said a few minutes later, when he had stopped kissing her for long enough to enable her to say something.

"It is not over yet," Edward murmured, and kissed her again.

Amelia blushed, and wondered what this meant – but only until he drew her towards her bedroom door.

"Now?" she asked, raising her eyebrows.

"There is no better moment than now," he replied. "Unless you do not feel like it? I thought you did."

Amelia laughed. "I do," she admitted, blushing slightly but opening the bedroom door nevertheless. "I have been curious how it was going to be ever since we got married – if not before that."

"Sometimes curiosity is a virtue," Edward laughed, and took her into his arms again.

Their romantic interlude on that afternoon in Rouen did have its effects on their marriage. Their relationship became more intimate and less restrained – they began to act upon their impulses more often. Neither of them felt embarrassed any more when making an affectionate gesture; neither of them hesitated when they felt like taking hold of the other's hand, or dropping a fleeting kiss on the other's cheek.

As they arrived in Paris, they had their first lodgings of their own. Edward had rented a house in the Rue St Honorι, in the most fashionable part of Paris, along with the owner's servants who were first-rate. They enjoyed the privacy of their lodging, and the new intimacy of their relationship.

There was a distant cousin of Amelia's living in Paris with her husband, who came to call on the young couple the morning after their arrival, almost bursting with curiosity.

"My dear cousin!" Madame de Pierreval cried, as she was ushered into their breakfast parlour. "Welcome to Paris!" She ran a practiced eye over Amelia's morning gown, her eyes narrowing when she realised that this dress was way beyond her own means. Monsieur de Pierreval, though he bore a grand name, was not the most affluent of French noblemen, and his wife had to use all kinds of arts to coax him into buying her a new gown. It was therefore little wonder that she envied her cousin, whose attire proclaimed her husband's affluence as well as impeccable taste.

Amelia, to whom Madame de Pierreval had always been described as a spiteful creature, was none too happy that the lady had already found out that she was staying in Paris, but there was nothing she could do about it.

"Cousin Florence," she said, smiling. "How kind of you to come! Pray tell me, how is your husband?"

"Monsieur is enjoying his customary good health," Madame replied.

"I am glad to hear it," Amelia said. "Allow me to make my husband known to you – the Marquis of Asterby. My cousin, Madame de Pierreval."

Edward, who had got up from his chair the moment Madame had entered the room, bowed and said what was proper.

Amelia then offered Madame a seat, and sent for another cup of coffee for her guest.

"I felt you might want assistance in finding your way around in town," her cousin said. "You have never been in Paris before, I believe?"

"No; this is the first time," Amelia replied.

"How about you, monsieur? Are you acquainted with Paris already?" Madame inquired.

"I am – my father took me here when I was seventeen, and I have visited Paris several times ever since." Edward had instantly taken the lady in dislike. What was she thinking, interrupting his tκte a tκte breakfast with his wife? Was this the way to treat a newlywed couple?

"Then you will not need my assistance, I am sure. But I daresay you are not familiar with the most fashionable Mantua-makers in Paris." Madame de Pierreval was determined to make polite conversation.

"No, indeed. I am afraid my education in this area is sadly lacking; but I am certain you will lose no time in instructing my wife." Edward gave Madame a faint smile.

The wry undertone in his voice did not escape Amelia's notice, nor did Madame de Pierreval fail to recognise it. She had indeed planned to take her wealthy cousin on a shopping trip to the most prominent Paris modistes, feeling confident that her efforts in bringing them to the notice of a well-heeled client would be rewarded with a hefty price reduction when she had to replenish her own wardrobe for the next Season. She truly hoped his lordship was not one of the difficult husbands – one of those who, though extremely well off, grudged the trifling expense of new gowns for their wives; or one of those who insisted on his wife's company all the time. She would greatly dislike being related to someone as unfashionable as that.

"Would you mind very much if I went out with my cousin?" Amelia asked cautiously.

"Not at all; I am certain Madame de Pierreval will take excellent care of you." Edward smiled blandly. "Are you planning an expedition for today, Madame?"

"Only if it is convenient for you, Monsieur."

"I will not say that it is very convenient for me, because that would mean that I wish to be rid of my wife and she knows better than that," Edward said. "However, if she wishes to acquaint herself with the Paris shops, I will not hold her back."

"Thank you, my love," Amelia cried, got up and gave him a kiss on his cheek. "I will try not to spend too much!"

"You will buy whatever strikes your fancy, my dear," Edward laughed. "This is an order, madam!"

Amelia excused herself and hurried to her room to get dressed for going out. In a short time, she returned to the parlour and found Edward chatting amiably with her cousin. Perceiving her, Madame de Pierreval rose and took her leave of Edward, thanking him for letting his young wife go with her.

"I know how difficult it is for a young husband to let his wife out of his sight," she said with a coy giggle. "But I will take good care of her."

While the ladies were out on their shopping expedition, Edward decided to call on those of his Parisian friends who had not yet departed in the direction of their country residences, and whom he thought Amelia would like. He had meant to leave his card at their lodgings, but more often than not he was invited to come in and meet the master or mistress of the house.

"One has heard of your marriage, of course," his closest friend, the Marquis de La Rochelle said. "Lord Lewis wrote to me, bewailing his misfortune in losing so eligible a bride to you."

"Lord Lewis will recover, if he has not done so already," Edward replied. "I do not think that his heart was involved in any way."

"No," La Rochelle agreed. "I do not think it was. His purse, however, may have been."

"You think that this was his reason for thinking of marrying again?"

"I do not care enough for Lewis to think about him," La Rochelle laughed. "I hope you will absolve me! One has heard rumours, naturally – he seems to have suffered heavy losses at the gaming tables, and, my friend, I am not a fool. I make connections."

"How long are you going to stay in Paris?" Edward asked his friend.

"How long are you going to stay?" La Rochelle asked in return.

"Three weeks, if everything will go as planned."

"And then?"

"We are going on to Italy"

"In summer? Will the heat not be too much for your wife?"

"She does not seem to mind it."

"Does she know what Italy is like in the summer?" La Rochelle wondered.

"She has never been there before."

"I hope Madame la Marquise will not regret her wish to go there at this time of year. Are you certain you do not want to come to La Rochelle with me instead? I have a delightful chβteau – a hunting lodge – that would do very well for a young newlywed couple wishing for a private setting. You are free to make use of it for as long as you like."

"Thank you; but I do not think I will take you up on that offer," Edward replied. "We have our hearts set on Italy, I am afraid."

"But maybe when you get back?"

"We are going to stay in Italy until spring," Edward said. "By the time we get back you will be in Paris, La Rochelle, if I know anything about you."

La Rochelle laughed. "Be sure to visit me in town then. – It is a pity that my wife is not at home; she would have been delighted to see you again. But please make sure to dine with us while you are here. We are looking forward to meeting Madame your wife."

Edward promised to do so, and took his leave of La Rochelle to call on some more friends of his. The news of his marriage was generally received with great pleasure, and before Edward went home he could be tolerably certain that they would not spend many evenings at home by themselves while staying in Paris.

Upon his return he found Amelia in the parlour, beaming with excitement, and burning to tell him all about her shopping excursion with her relative.

"I am afraid Madame de Pierreval is exactly as my mother used to describe her," she said, a shadow of displeasure crossing her face. "Dreadfully vulgar – obsessed with fashion, too, and determined to belong to the fashionable set without having the means to keep up with them! Instead of doing the respectable thing and making do with what she has, she keeps living beyond her means and complaining that her husband is, as she terms it, difficult. I truly hope that we will not be obliged to spend much time with her while we are here; although she does know all the best shops."

"You had best limit your contact with her to shopping trips then," Edward advised her.

"I will do my best; though I am afraid we cannot avoid inviting her and her husband to dine with us one evening."

"We will survive the ordeal, I trust." Edward said, and kissed her.

Amelia chuckled. "You know, she said I ought not to kiss you when in company."

"She may be right, although I have no objection to the practice."

"Fashionable ladies do not show any affection for their husbands, she told me. In fact, she said it was extraordinary that a lady should feel any affection for her husband, let alone show it. The same goes for husbands, apparently."

"We could start a new fashion of our own, or else remain unfashionable," Edward suggested. "Though I guess we could refrain from kissing each other in public, lest it should offend the sensibilities of some people."

"I did not consider our own breakfast parlour a public setting, in spite of Madame de Pierreval sitting there with us," Amelia said, crestfallen.

"Amelia, you will never apologise for kissing me," Edward cried. "I absolutely forbid it. Whatever your cousin may have told you, kissing your husband is not wrong, no matter what the circumstances are! – But apart from your cousin's strictures, what else do you have to tell me? Am I to end up in debtors' prison yet?"

"I have been very moderate in my spending," Amelia protested. "Cousin Florence looked quite disappointed. I did buy a couple of hats – they have the most charming hats here! But I held back on everything else, feeling that I have so many new dresses I have not even had the chance of wearing; it would seem such a waste to be buying more. I fell in love with one ball dress, though, and I am having that one made, and one morning dress, but otherwise I have bought nothing."

"You will need a dress for your presentation in Versailles," Edward reminded her.

"This is why I ordered that ball dress. It will do very well, as you will see. Cousin Florence was green with envy."

"I am looking forward to seeing it."

Edward then told her how he had spent his morning, and what his friends' reactions to their marriage as well as their stay in Paris had been. Amelia laughed at the Marquis de La Rochelle's suggestion that they might not want to travel to Italy in summer, and should stay in his hunting lodge instead. She assured Edward that she had not changed her plans regarding their wedding tour, and that although she was much obliged to the Marquis for his generous offer she was not going to make use of it.

Chapter 16

Edward's French acquaintances cordially welcomed Amelia in their midst. They were charmed with the Marchioness of Asterby, and as Edward had foreseen they were not obliged to spend a single evening at home by themselves.

The highlight of their visit to Paris was, naturally, Amelia's presentation in Versailles. Even such severe critics as Lady Wincham, Amelia's mother, would have found nothing to cavil at her appearance and conduct on that occasion. The Queen of France certainly did not. She was in a gracious mood, and therefore spent almost a quarter of an hour talking to Amelia. Later she remarked to some lady-in-waiting that Madame la Marquise was an entertaining conversationalist, though by no means lacking in proper respect. The Queen even invited Amelia to visit the Versailles gardens as often as she wished during her stay in Paris, and hoped Lady Asterby would honour her again with a visit after her return from Italy.

This sign of Royal favour made people hurry to become acquainted with Amelia, and she was surprised to find that she had become fashionable without meaning to. Her cousin, Madame de Pierreval, basked in the sun of Amelia's glory, and told anyone who wanted to hear it – and any number who did not – that she was the closest friend the Marquise of Asterby had in France. Amelia chose to ignore those remarks, as did everyone else who was acquainted with Madame de Pierreval and knew her ways.

The gardens of Versailles struck Amelia as too formal, though she was prudent enough to refrain from that comment until she was alone with her husband, in the carriage on their way back to town. Their three weeks in Paris were almost over, and they were already preparing for their departure.

"Would you like to stay longer?" Edward asked his wife.

Amelia shook her head. "It was lovely here," she admitted. "But I prefer being alone with you somewhere."

Edward smiled, realising that this was a compliment of no mean order.

"Your friends are a wonderful set," Amelia continued. "They are amusing, and kind; and they have made me feel very welcome. I am grateful for everything they did for us, but still I am glad to move on."

"And so we will."

Edward had discussed the question of their further route with his friends, and had come to the conclusion that in spite of Amelia's susceptibility to seasickness it would be safer for them to go to Italy by boat. The Alpine roads were a disgrace, they had said, and there had been talk of bandits along the route. The weather could change at any moment; snow even in the height of summer was not unheard of, and all in all the dangers of such a journey were such as a man ought not to inflict on his young wife if he could help it.

La Rochelle had repeated his offer of his hunting lodge, only to be refused again. Amelia was willing to brave seasickness as well as the state of the roads in Southern France, and the dreadful state of some of the Italian inns along their way, only to see Venice and Rome, and the Palladian villas her husband had told her so much about. There were gardens she wanted to see, she said, and while there were also many gardens in France, she preferred to go and see the Italian ones. One might still go and visit France later, she said; but one had better visit Italy while one was still young and had no children to look after, since such a long journey would not be possible once their marriage had been blessed with offspring. Even though their French friends had been disappointed to hear that Amelia was bent on travelling on to Italy, they were content in the knowledge that the Marquis and Marchioness of Asterby would return to England using the same route, and would therefore come to Paris again on their way back.

Their last evening in Paris was a brilliant affair in spite of the knowledge that the young couple would be gone early the next morning. Amelia had arranged a dinner party for all their friends – even Madame de Pierreval and her husband, since one could hardly exclude them – and Edward proudly watched as his wife, who had never had the chance to shine in society before her marriage, turned out to be an accomplished hostess. It had not really worried him before, although he had been aware that it would be difficult for Amelia to assume her duties as the mistress of such a house as Asterby Court – or Burwell – but after watching her make her guests feel at ease, and take care everyone got the best of everything, any doubts that might have occurred to him were firmly banished from his mind. Amelia was going to be a perfect Duchess of Burwell, once it became necessary for her to assume the part.

Midnight was long past when the last guests left their house in the Rue St Honorι, and so Amelia was decidedly sleepy when their carriage left Paris and headed south. It was not long before she nodded off, and when she awoke she found herself in her husband's arms, her head resting on his shoulder.

"I am sorry," she said, smiling at him sheepishly.

"For what?" he replied.

"For falling asleep. I am not very good company today, I am afraid."

"I have no objection to the company you are," Edward replied with a grin. "I was quite content to hold you."

"A husband for all purposes," Amelia laughed, and sat up straight. Her eyes fell on the book he had placed face down on the opposite seat. "You have been reading?"

"One has to pass the time."

"The Castle of Otranto," Amelia read. "Oh dear. I wonder why I did not have any nightmares."

"I'll take care to read Plato the next time you fall asleep in the carriage," Edward suggested. "To avoid giving you nightmares. – I thought it was a good way of getting into the right mood for Italy."

"I had no idea Italy was such a gloomy place as that."

"Having second thoughts? We can still turn back to Paris," Edward countered.

"No; I am determined to see Italy, and will accept its gloom if I must."

Their journey to Marseilles was quite uneventful. The weather was in their favour and the roads not as bad as their Parisian friends had led them to believe. In fact, they had often encountered worse. Even their passage across the Mediterranean was better than Edward had feared, since Amelia did indeed become accustomed to this means of travel and felt much more comfortable than she had felt during their Channel crossing.

Therefore they suffered no set-backs but arrived in Leghorn according to their schedule, and Amelia fell in love with Italy at first sight.

Edward had chosen Leghorn, rather than Genoa, for their arrival in Italy because there was a large English community in that town; and besides it was easier to reach Pisa and Florence from there. It did mean that they would have a longer journey to their subsequent destinations, but one could not, one really could not miss out on Florence on a visit to Italy, Edward had said, and Amelia had happily agreed with him. She wanted to see Florence very much, especially the famous art collection in the Uffizi Gallery Edward had told her so much about. While she had always been quite good at drawing, and had enjoyed it as a pleasant pastime, she had never taken much interest in the history of art, or famous paintings and sculpture, but she was willing to learn since Edward appeared to be fascinated by it, and she wanted to show him that his interests were important to her. As for the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Amelia said, she could do without that, but if it was convenient for them to fit in an outing to Pisa she would be well content to see that too.

The Italian climate took some getting used to – the summer heat was worse even than in Southern France, and Amelia was quite happy to postpone their journey to Florence until the day she could think of travelling along dusty roads in furnace-hot temperatures with tolerable equanimity.

So they stayed in Leghorn for almost two weeks until some cooler weather made it possible for them to travel on to Florence. Amelia followed Edward around that town, taking in all the sights and patiently listening to everything he had to say about the masterpieces of art to be found there – discovering her own love of Renaissance art in general, and Botticelli's paintings in particular – and enjoying the atmosphere of the old town. The goldsmiths' shops on Ponte Vecchio had some fascinating merchandise on offer, and Edward happily bought everything that caught Amelia's fancy. Amelia jokingly remarked that the Florentine Guild of Goldsmiths would probably put up a statue to commemorate their visit, and send daily prayers to the Lord that they might, one day, return to Florence.

After a week in Florence, they started their journey north, and it was then that Amelia began to feel that she needed to use the bed linen she had brought along with her. So far, their accommodation had always been of the best kind, well-kept and clean, but now they were often obliged to spend the night in places that Amelia would not have set foot in, had they been in England. But she was willing to let travelling widen her experience, and so she stayed in those places without complaining; merely telling Martha to be sure to sweep their bedrooms thoroughly – fully aware that this was below Martha's dignity, for she was a first-rate ladies' maid and no longer accustomed to menial tasks of that kind – and replace the sheets with their own. She ate sparingly, taking good care to eat only what she knew, and making sure that it was well-cooked before allowing it onto her table. It was what Edward had advised her to do, and since Edward had travelled in Italy before she assumed he knew what he was talking about.

The scenery was spectacular, and Amelia loved just sitting in the carriage and looking out of the window at the passing scene. She listened to Edward, who read to her from some Italian travel descriptions, and got out of the carriage whenever they stopped at some remote farm to buy the farmer's produce of fruit and vegetables. They could safely eat those, they agreed, and had more than one picnic in an olive grove or next to some chapel as old as Time itself.

No one took notice of them unless they wanted them to; and in this private and informal setting Amelia soon fell even more in love with her husband than she had been before. There was no good society whose rules they were supposed to obey; they could dress as they liked, and do what they liked. They could talk of whatever occupied their minds, and become truly acquainted with each other. Edward began to open up to Amelia. Once he'd discovered that she shared his interest in art and history, he willingly told her everything he knew about the places of interest along their way – always begging her to stop him whenever she got bored, which never happened. He told her about his first journey to Italy, which he had undertaken in company with his brother Matthew, and his stories led Amelia to believe that her brother-in-law had been a remarkable young man.

"He always was the more charming of us," Edward said. "More popular too – he was much more outgoing than I could ever be; and naturally that made people take to him. Whereas I like to keep my distance until I know I can trust people. I know there are many who think me aloof and formal, which is not at all what I am, but to them I appear that way."

Amelia nodded. She could see how people could have got that impression; still, this was not what she thought of him. He was very reticent when it came to expressing his feelings, though. Even in their most intimate moments he did not tell her how he felt about her. He did use terms of endearment when talking to her, and treated her in an affectionate manner that gave her some hope that one day he would tell her that he loved her. Until he did so, she would refrain from making similar confessions, though.

"My father is well content with what he says is my proper reserve; he thinks it is very fitting for the future Duke of Burwell, but Matthew always tried to draw me out. He said the Duke of Burwell need not bother about proper reserve; people would respect him anyway." Edward continued.

"There is respect and there is respect," Amelia said thoughtfully, breaking some bread and dipping it into a bowl of olive oil, as she had seen the local peasants do. She had not eaten many dishes as delicious as that in her life. "Respect for the man, and respect for his position. While people may well be in awe of the Duke of Burwell's position in life, it does not necessarily follow that they also respect the man. A man who wishes to achieve true respect should not try to pretend being anything but what he is. It would not work. So I think your brother was wrong – while it was right for him to be as he was, it would be fatal for you to try to be the same. You'd only play a par, and people would soon realise that, and scorn you for trying to fool them."

Edward nodded. "That's what I told Matthew," he said. "But when he died, I felt that somehow it was for me to replace him – to become more like him, to ease my parents' pain. It was a terrible loss for them – for us all." He sounded despondent, as if he considered himself a failure for not being able to replace his brother.

Amelia put her arms around him. "There is no way you can ever be a replacement for anyone else," she said. "You have to be yourself, and live your own life. I am sure this is what Matthew would have wanted – and it is also what your parents want you to do. Maybe this is why your father has arranged this marriage for you – that he wanted you to leave the past behind you and start living for the future again. You are too young to be dwelling on the past. You can still do that when you are ninety, and have turned into an ill-tempered, gouty old fellow."

"You are right," Edward said, laughing. "Which is why we shall be talking of something else now, and will not touch the topic again until I am just that; and you are an old hag perfectly suitable for her ill-tempered gouty old husband. – Have I told you that I have written to my friend Beauchamp in Venice?"

"You mentioned a friend who is living in Venice, and who is married to a Venetian lady, but you did not tell me that you had written to him."

"I have – to announce our arrival. That is, I have asked for his help regarding something that I know you will enjoy – but I will not tell you what it is before I know for certain that it is going to work."

"Then why tell me about it at all?" Amelia asked.

"Because I know you are a curious young lady," Edward replied.

"You mean to tease me?"


"I warn you – I shall do my best to discover the secret," Amelia said.

"I think I can bear that," Edward said. "Maybe – I'm not making any promises, but just maybe, if you know how to make it worth my while – I might tell you."

"Do you already feel you need to stoop to such methods, sir?"

"Well, you have not kissed me above five times this morning. This is a worrying tendency I mean to put a stop to – by fair means or foul."

"Coming to think of it, you have not kissed me above five times this morning," Amelia retorted. "What do you mean to do about that, sir?"

"If you will move just a little closer, ma'am, I will show you exactly what I mean to do about that," Edward laughed.

Amelia did as he had told her and, a little later, whispered to him, "That method will do!"

Chapter 17

They had visited some ancient Etruscan sites on their way north, but Amelia had not seen any ancient buildings of note until they reached Verona. The Roman amphitheatre, which was huge and well preserved, was the first Roman building they encountered on their journey, and Edward told Amelia that while it was not as large as the Colosseum in Rome one got a much better impression of what that building had looked like in the days of the Roman Empire than a visit to the Colosseum itself could give them.

"The Veronese take excellent care of their Arena," he explained. "They are very proud of it."

They spent almost an hour touring the Arena, marvelling at the craftsmanship of the Roman builders, and the modern ones who had kept this building alive in the centre of a thriving city even though the space it occupied might well have been needed for other purposes.

Local tradesmen had adopted the vaults of the Arena for their purposes and set up their shops, however, and Edward told Amelia that the Arena was still in use at important occasions, such as visits from illustrious personages.

"More illustrious than us?" Amelia asked laughingly.

"Much more illustrious," Edward replied. "We'd have to be Royalty at the very least."

Upon their return to the inn where they were staying – a good, well-kept one this time – the landlady informed them that a letter had arrived for the Marchese during his absence.

She handed the missive to him, looking at him expectantly as if she wished him to explain what the letter was about and who it was from, but Edward merely thanked her and put it into his pocket. The expression on the landlady's face certainly spelled disappointment, Amelia thought with some amusement.

In their parlour, Edward took the letter from his pocket and read the direction.

"This looks like Beauchamp's reply to the letter I wrote him," he announced, and broke the seal. He read and then said with a wide grin, "It is Beauchamp's reply to my letter."

By now, Amelia knew who Adam Beauchamp was, for Edward had explained it to her. He was English by birth, but having been born to Catholic parents there had been no possibility for him to make his fortune in England, especially since he also had an elder brother who was going to inherit the family fortune. He had not been allowed to enter a school or university in England, nor did the Army or Navy want any Catholics among their ranks; and a political career was equally out of question. The only way an English Catholic could earn his living was by leaving the country and seeking employment elsewhere, and this was what Adam Beauchamp had done.

Luck had favoured him; a relative had furnished him with a commission in the Venetian army. He'd distinguished himself, and his prize money had made him wealthy enough to draw the attention of a certain Signor Tolomei, who was looking for a suitable husband for his sister. Francesca Tolomei was a plump and rather plain young woman, and while her fortune might well have attracted suitors, her father's eccentricity had driven them away. Unwilling to part with his daughter, who'd kept house for him, he had refused his consent to her marriage on more than one occasion, and by the time he had died Francesca, who had never been a striking beauty, was considered an old maid, and no longer pretty enough to attract eligible suitors, in spite of her generous dowry. Her brother, eager to have her off his hands, made the dashing Captain Beauchamp an advantageous offer.

For a stranger living in Venice, even if La Serenissima had adopted him as one of their soldiers, it was an honour to receive such an offer. The Tolomei family was one of the most powerful in Venice; and certainly one of the wealthiest. Marriage with a member of this patrician family would not only make him a fully accepted citizen of Venice; it would also gain him possession of a more than sufficient fortune, and the Tolomei clan would make sure that his professional career took its proper course. There were few marriage options more appealing to an ambitions man such as Beauchamp, even if it meant having Francesca Tolomei for a wife.

Captain Beauchamp therefore bestowed his name upon her, and in return received her money and her family's support, basking in the knowledge that he had achieved what he had set out to achieve. Mrs Beauchamp adored her dashing husband, and though he could not deny that it was flattering for a while her worship soon got on his nerves, and he started to behave like a bachelor again, avoiding his wife's company whenever he could.

In fact, Edward and his brother Matthew had made Beauchamp's acquaintance in a Venetian tavern one night, and he had soon proved himself to be closely acquainted with those places young men in search of entertainment were likely to frequent. There was no tavern, gaming hell or brothel in Venice that Captain Beauchamp did not know of – or that did not enjoy his patronage. His wife did not complain; she simply refused to think ill of her husband, and besides she would have been too proud to admit that her marriage was not at all what she had once hoped it would be. Her brother, glad to be rid of her, took no further interest in her situation.

Naturally, Edward had not told Amelia everything he knew about Beauchamp and his family situation – in fact, he had not often met Mrs Beauchamp and did not quite know what her marriage was like; besides it was not so very different from the fashionable marriages he did know about. Mrs Beauchamp, for all he knew, might well be content with her lot, and it was not Edward's place to meddle. Beauchamp and the Tolomei family were valuable acquaintances if one wished for an introduction into Venetian good society, and Edward was quite willing to accept their assistance in this matter.

So he had merely told Amelia that Beauchamp was English and Catholic, that he was an officer in the Venetian army, that he was married to a member of one of the most prominent Venetian families, and that said family was in possession of a treasure all the world coveted – so much so that they built imitations in the hope of achieving what only the original could offer. They had a villa on the banks of the Brenta Canal where they spent their summers – not just any villa, but one built by the famous architect Andrea Palladio.

"And this is what I was talking about the other day," Edward announced. "I did not know whether it would be possible, but I decided to ask Beauchamp anyway, and he has arranged it for us. The long and the short of it is – we will be allowed to stay in the Villa Tolomei for a week or two while we are on our way to Venice. The Beauchamps will meet us there and go to Venice with us. What do you say?"

"This is going to be lovely," Amelia said. In secret, though, she was having doubts as to whether it was as good an idea as Edward seemed to think. She did not know the Beauchamps at all and on those grounds she was reluctant to accept their hospitality. Since her husband had already arranged things for them, however, she could not cry off but had to submit to his plans, especially since he appeared to be looking forward to their stay in Villa Tolomei and she did not want to spoil his enjoyment. She did wish he had asked for her opinion beforehand, though.

Edward sensed that something was wrong, but let matters fall when he asked his wife, once more, what she thought of his idea and she told him that she was looking forward to staying in a Palladian villa.

"There are also huge gardens," Edward pointed out, and Amelia smiled.

"Poor Mrs Beauchamp will have to show me around then," she said. "Provided she does take an interest in those gardens, and knows what she is talking about. Otherwise I will have to engage the services of her gardeners – and yours as an interpreter."

While her Italian had improved due to her stay in Italy, she was still at a loss sometimes when conversing with peasants or servants – their idiom was difficult to understand at times. Edward did not appear to have those problems, or at least did not mind making a fool of himself by playacting and making people understand what he meant to say. Watching his conversations with the locals was highly entertaining.

Edward laughed. "Very well, ma'am, I am at your service. I'm sure you will enjoy yourself there!"

They made use of the pleasant evenings for walks in Verona, soaking up the atmosphere of the place and watching the antics of its inhabitants. They set out after dinner – which they ate rather earlier than the local population – and proceeded through the lanes of the old town to some of the hidden sights of Verona.

One evening, Edward promised Amelia a special treat, and led her to an old palazzo, the gates of which were open. Edward entered the portals, and drew Amelia after him.

"Are we going to pay somebody a visit?" Amelia asked, curious as to where her husband was going to take her.

"No; we are just going to have a look at the garden," he said. "It is most beautiful in the evening – the hour just before sunset best suits its atmosphere. As you will see in a moment."

Edward was right. The sight of the garden took Amelia's breath away. She had seen several Italian gardens on her journey, but none of them had had this mysterious atmosphere attached to it.

There were not many flowers, but box hedges and cypress trees on either side of the walkways. The main avenue of cypress trees divided the garden into two areas, one of which was mainly woodland, and the other a garden in the Italian style. At the top of the main avenue there was a monstrous face staring at them – a mask with a wide-open mouth and pointy teeth – which appeared to be crowned by a balustrade.

"Perfect! I want just such a thing for our orchard," Amelia said, grinning.

"To frighten away thieves?"

"Quite so."

"I have a clever wife," Edward said. "I'll see an architect about it the moment we get back to Asterby."

"You will also have to employ a gardener who has to sit in there and growl menacingly whenever anyone comes near the place," Amelia suggested.

"You'll only have to give my head gardener some work he doesn't like and see how he will growl," Edward replied. "He will do it for free; why pay someone else to do it?"

"I have a clever husband," Amelia said to no one in particular. "Shall we walk up to that face or are you afraid?"

"Not if you go with me."

"Courageous, too. – Very well, sir, lead the way and I will be happy to follow you just as a proper wife should."

Edward took her into his arms, looking down at her with a tender smile. "You know, my love," he began, but was interrupted by a loud, plaintive cry from the wood that made Amelia start.

"What was that?" she asked, startled.

"It sounded like a peacock to me," Edward replied. "Shall we go and find out?"

Amelia shook her head. "No. I am pretty certain you are right – it did sound like a peacock, though I admit it gave me such a turn at first! What did you want to say to me?"

She looked at him expectantly – from the way he'd smiled at her she'd thought that a declaration of love had been imminent at last.

But it probably hadn't. "Nothing of real importance," he merely said. "I'll tell you some other time. Now shall we go and have a look round?"

They remained in the garden for almost an hour, climbed to the belvedere on top, looked at the city beneath them as night drew in, and then up at the stars above them, Amelia clinging to her husband's arm and looking up at him as he pointed out the constellations to her. They took their time in walking back into town then, holding each other's hands and stopping every now and then for a kiss. All in all, Amelia thought later as she fell asleep, it had been a most satisfactory evening. If only that peacock had remained silent for another minute or two, it might even have been a perfect one.

They visited Giardino Giusti twice more before they left Verona, though none of their visits was as magic as their first one, the main reason being that they visited it during the daytime. The grotto underneath the frightening mask held some surprises for them, and Amelia made a point of closely inspecting the Italian garden and taking notes, so she could, at some future date, create something along those lines in the grounds of Asterby Court. On their last afternoon in Verona, they went to the Giardino once more and promptly got lost in the maze. It took them almost three quarters of an hour to find their way out again, by which time even Amelia was heartily sick of the garden and, as she told her husband, she was glad they were going to leave Verona early the next morning.

"It is always good to be sick of a place when one has to leave it," Edward replied. "That way one will not repine."

"And who says I am not already planning a maze for Asterby?" Amelia asked, grinning.

"Are you?" Edward asked, slightly taken aback. He did not think a maze was a good idea. Children might get lost in it.

Amelia laughed. "No, but for a moment I had you worried, didn't I?"

"You did," Edward admitted. "Now I need a kiss – to calm myself."

"If my kisses have a calming effect on you I must be doing something wrong," Amelia stated dryly.

Chapter 18

Their journey took them to Vicenza and Padua next. There they remained over the weekend, Amelia making use of the opportunity and visiting the famous Botanical Gardens, and Edward having a look-in at the local bookshops which, thanks to the ancient and renowned University of Padua, were well-stocked and likely to provide Edward with enough reading matter for the next five-and-twenty years, or so Amelia said. Edward did not take all those books on their journey with him, but had most of them – two entire trunks full – sent on to England, where they were going to find a permanent home in the library of Asterby Court.

Amelia was still fond of looking out of the window while their carriage took them along the Italian country lanes, but she had also begun to read during their journeys, as her husband did, or took turns with him as they read to each other.

In Padua they switched to a different means of transport. The River Brenta was the shortest and most convenient connection between the cities of Padua and Venice, and so their luggage was loaded onto a barge and Amelia and Edward continued their journey on the river. Usually the journey to Venice did not take any longer than a day, Edward informed Amelia, but since they were to meet the Beauchamps at the Villa Tolomei, which was situated on the river bank about halfway between Padua and Venice, they were not going to make the entire journey yet.

Edward asked Amelia to tell him if she was feeling unwell – it would be no difficulty to travel on the road, he said, though he preferred the boat for being the more comfortable means of transport. Amelia agreed – she had been jolted around in the carriage for long enough, she said, and was looking forward to going by boat for a change.

They reached the Villa Tolomei early in the afternoon. Their boatman steered the barge into a large boathouse, where a group of servants were awaiting their arrival. One of them immediately hurried off, no doubt to carry the news of their arrival to the master and mistress of the house, while the others assisted Edward and Amelia in getting out of the boat, unloaded their luggage and took it to the house.

By the time Edward had paid the boatman, a tall, good-looking gentleman and a short and plump lady arrived in the boathouse.

"Asterby!" the gentleman cried. "At last! We have been wondering what could have kept you! Although," he added slyly, looking at Amelia, "I can see what did keep you. You wished to spend some time alone with madam, your wife! I do not blame you!"

"Exactly," Edward said, grinning. "Amelia, please meet my friend, Captain Beauchamp."

Amelia curtseyed. "I am honoured to make your acquaintance, sir," she said primly. She did not like Captain Beauchamp at all; she disliked the impertinent looks he gave her, but felt it was unfair not to give him a chance to prove her opinion of him wrong. He was a friend of her husband's after all.

The Captain proceeded by introducing his wife to her, but Amelia did not feel he was treating Mrs Beauchamp with the respect that was due to her as the mistress of this house. Wishing to make amends, she curtseyed to the lady and, in rather broken Italian, thanked her for her generosity in inviting them to stay in her home.

"Oh, Fanny enjoys entertaining guests," Captain Beauchamp said dismissively. Amelia saw Mrs Beauchamp wince as she heard him say the name "Fanny", and concluded that the lady was not overly fond of the appellation.

"My husband's friends are my friends also," Mrs Beauchamp said tonelessly. "You had a pleasant journey, I hope?"

"Very pleasant. The countryside around here is stunningly beautiful," Amelia replied, hoping to put the lady at ease with her small-talk. "You are very lucky to be living here."

"We only visit here during the summer, for some weeks," Mrs Beauchamp said. "The house belongs to my brother. We have a house in Venice."

Her English was very good; much better than Amelia's Italian, in fact.

"Is your brother's family here, too, then?" Amelia asked.

"No; my sister-in-law is awaiting the birth of their third child," Mrs Beauchamp said. "They have another house near Dolo which she prefers, and so they went there this summer."

"I hope Signora Tolomei is in good health," Amelia stated politely.

"I have heard nothing to the contrary," Mrs Beauchamp replied. "If you will follow me, Marchesa, I will show you to your room."

"Gladly, ma'am," Amelia said and, accepting the support of Mrs Beauchamp's arm, walked towards the house with her.

"My husband told me the Villa Tolomei was built by the famous Palladio," Amelia said conversationally.

"Oh yes; it was the fashion at the time," Mrs Beauchamp replied with a faint smile. "My family has always been very fashionable."

"Mine, too," Amelia laughed. "Some of them, certainly – as soon as being fashionable became the fashion, that is. Before that the Earls of Wincham were quite unremarkable, I believe."

"What is your father's house like?" Mrs Beauchamp asked.

"It is a very old place; dating back the Middle Ages, and looks it," Amelia explained. "Although there have been renovations; the last took place shortly before my parents got married. My father had the house put in order for my mother to live in. We have large gardens surrounding the building – I used to be in charge of them until I married, for gardening is one of my favourite pastimes. I can see that your gardens are very well-kept, and beautiful."

"My brother is very fond of botany too," Mrs Beauchamp told her. "I do not know much about gardening, I am afraid. I just have a small courtyard in Venice; not much of a garden."

"What a pity! – Though I understand that space must be somewhat confined in Venice; and it makes more sense to build houses on the land that is available than waste it on gardens."

They entered the house, and Mrs Beauchamp led Amelia up the stairs – the walls of the staircase were frescoed, very much like those of Burwell Castle, though naturally the frescoes of this place were much older. Finally, Mrs Beauchamp opened a door to their left.

"This is our best guest room," she said. "Let me know if there is anything you need, Lady Asterby."

Amelia looked about her, and found herself in a large and airy room. Here, too, the walls were adorned with fresco paintings, and the large windows overlooked the garden and the river in the distance. There was a huge four-poster bed in the centre of the room, and Martha was unpacking Amelia's trunks and stowing their contents away in a large wardrobe in one corner.

"It is a beautiful room," Amelia said. Personally, she would have preferred a smaller and cosier one, with a carpet instead of marble tiles and wainscoting instead of the fresco paintings, but she could hardly say so to her hostess. She blamed her northern origin for her lack of appreciation of the Italian style of furnishing, and could not help but think that on cold and rainy days – which did occur around here, Edward had told her, though more rarely than in, say, Scarborough – the cold in this room and probably the entire villa would be dreadful.

"Thank you again for your hospitality, Mrs Beauchamp."

Mrs Beauchamp nodded, and left the room after telling Amelia that her servants had prepared a light luncheon for them, to be served in an hour.

Amelia set to changing her dress and putting her appearance in order at once, and was almost finished dressing when, after a short knock at the door, her husband came in.

"How do you like it here, my dear?" he asked, sitting down on the bed and watching Martha put the finishing touches to Amelia's hair.

"The place is charming. – The staircase reminds me of Burwell, I have to say. How about you?"

"Burwell is a little like this," Edward agreed. "Though not as old."

"And I am not sure I will like all those … those creatures staring at me from the walls when I go to bed at night," Amelia confessed. Considering that the murals depicted a hunting scene, complete with some rather odd-looking creatures half human, half animal, this was hardly surprising.

Edward laughed. "You forget that you will not be sleeping in here alone," he said. "Shall I bring my pistols?"

"The Goddess of the Hunt might object to being threatened with fire-arms, and history has shown that she has a bit of a temper," Amelia replied. "I do not want my husband to be turned into a boar. Boars make such a dreadful mess, and can't be kept indoors."

"I will ask to be turned into a tidier animal then. One that can be kept indoors without any dreadful consequences."

"It is the least thing you can do. If I have to have an animal for a husband it had better be a tidy one."

It did not take Amelia long to discover the state of affairs between her host and hostess. She cordially disliked Captain Beauchamp for treating his wife with marked disrespect – such as calling her by a name she obviously despised or talking about her as if she were not present while she was sitting next to him – and heartily pitied Mrs Beauchamp. She could not understand how Edward could ever have befriended the man, but since they were at the moment staying under Beauchamp's roof she did not discuss the matter with her husband, for fear of being overheard. The discussion would have to wait until they were on their way to Rome. In the meantime, Amelia supposed that it had something to do with the fact that men did not discuss their wives with their friends, and that Edward had not seen much of Mrs Beauchamp during his first visit to Italy.

It was obvious to Amelia that Mrs Beauchamp was extremely unhappy. Whenever her husband was around, she was remarkably quiet – hardly surprising since she could not open her mouth without her husband mocking everything she said – though there was such longing for approval in her gaze whenever she looked at her spouse that Amelia's heart almost broke for her. Mrs Beauchamp loved her husband, as much was certain, and her feelings for him gave the man considerable power over her. No matter what he said, no matter how much he hurt her, Mrs Beauchamp would never even think of reproaching him for fear that he would leave her, or withdraw his attentions, which he doled out very much in the manner of a man throwing scraps of meat from his table at a half-starved puppy waiting at his heels. They were just enough to keep his wife exactly where he wanted her; always devoted to him, always grateful for the least bit of attention, but it was not enough to make her happy. Amelia did hope that her husband would take Beauchamp's behaviour towards his wife as an example of how not to act. If Edward ever treated her like this, she feared her only option would be murdering him.

When they were alone among themselves and there was no danger of the gentlemen joining them any time soon, Mrs Beauchamp became quite a different person. She was talkative and intelligent, and had a well-informed mind. She had never been beautiful, she said, but had always applied herself to her studies, mainly because her father, too, had been a notable scholar in his day and had encouraged her. Having been trained in the duties of a hostess and housewife early in her life, she excelled in both capacities, and went out of her way to make her husband's guests feel comfortable in her home. While she did not know much about botany in general, her knowledge of kitchen herbs was extensive, and Amelia suspected it would not have put her hostess to any considerable difficulty to cook a meal for fifty dinner guests at short notice if her cook suffered a sudden attack of the gout. Even though Captain Beauchamp had little respect for his spouse, her servants lived in constant dread of her, for she kept them on short reins, and was a fastidious employer. Whatever faults Mrs Beauchamp might have, Amelia thought, her husband had no reason to complain about her skills as a homemaker.

"For how long have you been married, Mrs Beauchamp?" Amelia asked her on one of their solitary walks in the surrounding country.

"Almost six years," Mrs Beauchamp replied.

"Have you got any children?" Amelia asked. "If you do not mind my asking that question – I do not mean to be impertinent."

"Three. But they were not permitted to live," Mrs Beauchamp said sadly. "I lost two in the early months of pregnancy, and the third one was still-born. Two girls and one boy, they would have been."

Life was cruel, Amelia decided. This woman had so much love to give, and would no doubt have been an excellent mother to her children – even more so since she could not expect any affection from her husband – and yet she was denied the one thing that might have made her happy.

"I am very sorry," she said. "I did not know, or I would not have asked you. It must bring back painful memories – I cannot even begin to comprehend what you must have gone through."

Mrs Beauchamp shrugged. "There is a purpose to everything that happens, I am sure," she said. "I was not meant to be a mother, I presume; but if I am, I may yet have a child one day. I am not as old as that yet; but my husband said that I had better recover fully before we – before we try again. He is very considerate."

Amelia wondered how far self-delusion could take people. Captain Beauchamp had never shown the smallest sign of consideration when dealing with his wife, and she suspected that his "concern" in that particular area was probably the result of his own wishes. She made a noise that with good will could be understood as a sign of agreement, and Mrs Beauchamp did not wish for more.

"He was very disappointed the last time – he'd so wanted an heir," Mrs Beauchamp told her. "But he bore it patiently, and never uttered a word of reproach."

"Why should he reproach you for something that was not your fault?" Amelia asked. "I am sure Captain Beauchamp has more sense than that."

While Mrs Beauchamp appeared pleased with Amelia's praise of her husband's good sense, she felt some further praise was necessary, and was quick to supply it herself.

"There are many men who blame their wives when such things happen," she explained. "My husband never did."

Amelia was tempted to say that she was glad to hear that Captain Beauchamp had missed out on one opportunity of hurting his wife, but held herself back. Beauchamp's treatment of his wife was none of her business. If Mrs Beauchamp saw no reason to complain, she was not going to say anything either.

After a short pause, Mrs Beauchamp said, "In Venice I will introduce you to all our friends. They will be charmed to meet you and your husband, I am sure."

"I am looking forward to meeting them – and to seeing the city."

"It is the best city in the world," Mrs Beauchamp said with simple pride. "Though my husband says London is better. I do not believe him – it must be so cold in London! I would not like that!"

Impressed that Mrs Beauchamp had dared to differ from her husband's opinion in one matter, albeit a small one, Amelia agreed that it was sometimes cold in London.

"Is there a good opera house in London?" Mrs Beauchamp enquired.

"We do have an opera house," Amelia replied, "but I am afraid I am not competent enough to be a judge as to its quality. I have liked the performances well enough, those few times that I attended. – I have not spent much time in London, you must know."

"We have many excellent singers in Venice," Mrs Beauchamp said. "You will see. I have a box in one of the opera houses – we can go there often if you like."

Amelia accepted this offer, feeling that Mrs Beauchamp could well do with this token of friendship from her, and that she deserved no less in return for having accepted her husband's friends so readily.

Chapter 19

Edward, in the meantime, renewed his friendship with Adam Beauchamp, and if he found fault with his friend's character he did not say so to Amelia. He became aware of the strained relationship between Beauchamp and his wife, but not being well enough acquainted with the man to ask any questions he refrained from doing so. It was obvious to him, though, that Beauchamp was not as fond of his lady as a husband ought to be in Edward's opinion. He also became aware of the inappropriate way Beauchamp had of dealing with his wife, even in the presence of their guests – and sometimes there were things Beauchamp said, when they were alone after dinner or when their wives had gone for a walk and were not likely to overhear his remarks, that made Edward suspect that his friend was not the best of husbands, and that his ideas of marriage did not coincide with his own. It certainly put a damper on his friendship with the man, though he remained friendly and polite in his manner towards Beauchamp. He was not going to be sorry to leave him, though, and was afraid that visiting the Beauchamps had been a foolish idea.

"I sometimes think I was quite aptly named," Beauchamp said one evening, after having broached his second bottle of wine. Another thing Edward had become aware of – Beauchamp drank more than was good for him.

"Really? How so?" Edward asked.

"Adam – the man who gave up paradise for the sake of a woman," Beauchamp replied. "I wonder if he ever regretted doing so?"

"It might pose the interesting question whether Paradise, without a woman, would have been worth living in," Edward replied with a grin. "I'd say it was a rather dull place before Eve came along."

"Spoken like the recently married man that you are," Beauchamp replied, his accents a little slurred. "Still hanging on your sweet wife's apron strings and afraid of saying anything that might offend her, even if she's nowhere near you."

"That is nonsense. I am not hanging on my wife's apron strings. Nor am I afraid of saying anything that might annoy her – I've done so before. I'm entitled to have my own opinions, believe it or not!"

"Come, my friend! You are clearly besotted with your wife!"

"You are saying this as if it were a bad thing." Edward protested.

"Oh, it isn't," Beauchamp said dismissively. "Except that a man shouldn't be too compliant with his wife. It spoils 'em. Does 'em good to be crossed sometimes. Also does 'em good to be left alone occasionally. They'll appreciate you all the more when you come back. Listen to my advice, my friend. I know what's what."

"I don't see why I should leave my wife alone somewhere. We are still on our wedding tour, so why should she spend her evenings by herself? Besides I do enjoy her company."

"Wedding tour or not, one evening with your old friends in Venice won't hurt either of you. She'll have to get used to it sooner or later – can't have you at her heels at all times. Dashed inconvenient."

"I do not think she would object to spending an evening alone, once we are in Venice," Edward said cautiously.

"Of course not! Why should she? She's had your company for every single evening since you've been married! She won't grudge you a night out with the boys. Or are you afraid we might do something she would not like?"

"No; because if you do this does not mean that I have to take part in it."

"There! I knew you were afraid of doing anything that might offend Lady Asterby. Big mistake, my friend!"

"I am not afraid of doing things my wife does not approve of," Edward pointed out. "I simply do not want to. There is a difference, you know."

"There could be, if I believed you," Beauchamp said with a grin. "But I don't."

"Then you do not. I do not care either way," Edward, who'd had quite enough, said rudely.

It was that evening that Amelia, just as he was drifting off to sleep, said something quite unexpected.

"I shall be glad when we are on our way to Rome."

"Why?" he asked sleepily. "I thought you wanted to see Venice?"

"I still do, but … I had rather leave the Beauchamps, and I know we cannot do that before we go to Rome."

"We will have lodgings of our own in Venice."

"Yes, but with the Beauchamps round the corner."

"I thought you got along with Mrs Beauchamp?" Edward asked, suddenly wide awake.

"Oh, I like her. She is a lovely woman. But I hate having to watch the way her husband treats her, and not being able to do something about it. It makes me unhappy, and I am afraid…" She broke off.

"We must not interfere between a man and his wife," Edward said. "You do not know what happened to make things between them what they are today. Their marriage may have been different at one point. Not everyone is as lucky as us, Amelia. Not every couple cares for each other the way we do."

"I need not know that to know that it is wrong to treat one's wife with disrespect," Amelia retorted, beginning to hate the expression care for someone. Did he only care for her? Couldn't he bring himself to feel more? And if he did feel more than mild affection for her, why didn't he say so for once? "If you ever behaved in such a way to me as Captain Beauchamp does to his wife I'd leave you."

"Well, I won't," Edward said.

"I thought I had better warn you."

"Thank you for your warning. May I go to sleep now? I am rather tired, my love."

"Oh, do go to sleep," Amelia said testily. "I did not mean to disturb you."

"You did not disturb me. If there is something you want to tell me, you are always free to do so."

"There isn't anything at the moment," Amelia said. "Good night."

Edward turned to her, and kissed her. "Good night, my love. Don't worry about the Beauchamps too much. Whatever their problems are, they will have to solve them for themselves."

This time, Amelia remained silent, and Edward went to sleep. Amelia no longer worried about the Beauchamps. She had something else to occupy her mind. Her husband had called her "my love" again. Was it just a turn of phrase or did he really mean it? What made him hold back?

She did not want to give him the power over her that Captain Beauchamp appeared to have over his wife. Beauchamp knew that his wife loved him, and used that fact against her all the time. He knew that if he absented himself from her presence for long enough, and cold-shouldered her when they were in each other's company, he could get her to do almost anything for him. He could be a charming and attentive husband if it was convenient for him to behave thus, but only used his charm when there was something he wanted to achieve. Poor Mrs Beauchamp, who hungered for her husband's affection, fell for the trick every time. Amelia did not want to end up like her, a figure of fun for her husband, and one of pity for her friends. She'd rather die.

If this meant she had to keep the feelings she had for her husband to herself, so be it. He might call her his love; he might even be kind and thoughtful, and buy her whatever she wanted, but that did not necessarily mean that he loved her. It simply meant that he was going to do his duty as her husband, that he was going to look after her because he had taken the task of doing so on his shoulders. Amelia loved her husband with all her heart, but she was not going to tell him so unless he made a similar confession beforehand. No; she wanted even more than that. She wanted him to tell her that he loved her – and she wanted him to be sincere. Though how to find out if he meant what he said, Amelia had no idea. Being in love was a tricky business.

Venice was a fascinating city. Amelia enjoyed her stay there, especially since she had the opportunity to explore it with the help of Mrs Beauchamp, a native of the town. She had had a local guide in Paris, too, in the person of her cousin, Madame de Pierreval, but that had not been the same. Madame had never ventured beyond the fashionable areas of Paris; she had never even thought of doing so. Mrs Beauchamp, even though she had been born into a wealthy and fashionable family, was well acquainted with the city where she had grown up. She knew everything there was to know about Venice, Amelia felt, and what was more she loved it.

After the quiet lifestyle Amelia and Edward had adopted during their journey across Italy, city life was a welcome change to them both. The Beauchamps were a popular couple, and from the moment they returned to Venice with Edward and Amelia, they had one social engagement after the other. They hardly ever spent an evening at home, and so in spite of their having lodgings of their own Edward and Amelia often found themselves in the Beauchamps' company.

On those few evenings that they did stay at home, Captain Beauchamp invariably went off on his own, to attend some – as he called it – gentlemen's affairs, or so Mrs Beauchamp told Amelia. Mrs Beauchamp did not inquire into those affairs; she appeared quite unconcerned about them, and Amelia assumed that it was the norm, and that Mrs Beauchamp was already used to this side of her husband's character. Nevertheless she was glad that her own husband did not appear to have any "gentlemen's affairs" to attend to. She had been afraid that Edward might take Captain Beauchamp's behaviour towards his wife as an example of how to deal with one's spouse, and was glad that this was not the case. She became aware of Captain Beauchamp's ironic grin, though, when he – again – suggested going out and Edward chose to remain at home with his wife.

One evening, when she was alone in her bedroom with Edward, she remarked on it.

Edward laughed. "He thinks I am a henpecked husband," he said.

"Henpecked?" Amelia cried in outrage. "How dare he! When, I ask you, have I ever tried to impose my will upon you?"

"Never, my love. But I beg you will let me fight my own battles – anything else would just serve to strengthen Beauchamp in his opinion."

"Henpecked!" Amelia snorted, in an unladylike manner. "The man has no idea what he is talking about!"

"Does that rankle?" Edward asked, putting his arms around her. "Do not let it worry you. He is to be pitied, I think – he cannot understand why I prefer to spend my time with my beautiful young wife to going carousing with him and his cronies."

It was highly gratifying to find that her husband thought her beautiful, and even more so that he preferred her company to that of his male contemporaries. In view of the fact that they were to live some time of the year in London once they returned to England, it was encouraging – her husband was not the sort who would be forever going off to some club or other, content to leave his wife behind to shift for herself. She knew, of course, that he would go out by himself occasionally, and that she would have to be content with being by herself sometimes. But at least he would like coming back to her again.

"Mrs Beauchamp is to be pitied as well," Amelia said. "For being married to a man who does not appreciate her the way he should. Or is it because their marriage has been longer than ours? Do you think that in six years' time you will take a look at me across the breakfast table and immediately flee to White's, or wherever it is that your fancy takes you?"

"I do not think that will ever be the case," Edward said soothingly. "I'm not like Beauchamp, Amelia. He married for the wrong reasons. I married for the right ones."

Amelia would have liked him to continue in this vein, but he did not. He merely put his arms around her and fell asleep.

Chapter 20

So far Edward had been able to stay at home when Beauchamp went out alone of an evening, but as their departure from Venice approached Beauchamp reminded him of the promise he had made the other night, and Edward could think of no good reason why he should not keep that promise. He therefore agreed to accompany Beauchamp to a card party at a friend's house, and informed Amelia that he was obliged to do so. Amelia, determined that no one should ever be able to say that her husband lived under the cat's foot, had no objection. Besides, a card party was harmless, even if gentlemen drank disgusting quantities of wine there, lost huge amounts of money, and talked of entirely inappropriate things. One had to allow one's husband to have some fun, she supposed; though she did not see how drinking disgusting quantities of wine could be fun. Nor was losing money, when one came to think of it, though talking of entirely inappropriate things probably was. Anyway, her Edward was too sensible to lose huge amounts of money or drink himself senseless, and so she need not worry about that.

She and Mrs Beauchamp were spending the evening at Mrs Beauchamp's house, and some friends of Mrs Beauchamp's were coming to dinner. After dinner, they repaired to the drawing room, and had a pleasant time exchanging gossip and playing some card games Amelia had never heard of. Amelia returned to her lodgings betimes, and went up to bed at once, not expecting her husband to come home any time soon. If Mrs Beauchamp and the other ladies were to be believed, card parties could last all night into the early hours of the morning, and Amelia did not think Edward would care to disturb her if he got home as late as that. He'd probably go to his own bedroom and sleep there.

While she was blissfully drifting off to sleep, Edward was indeed at the card party, playing piquet for high stakes and enjoying a winning streak. When he rose from the table, he was richer by almost a thousand pounds, while his opponent was looking rather gloomy. This was obviously not what he had had in mind when he had sat down to play cards with that harmless-looking Englishman. Edward usually played for entertainment and not for gain, and mere games of chance were not to his taste – he preferred such games as gave him an opportunity to measure his own intelligence or strength against those of other men, which was why he preferred piquet to dice. It required some kind of mental activity.

Since none of the men present chose to sit down at the card table with a man who was enjoying the devil's own luck that evening, Edward strolled over to a table where some of the younger men were throwing some dice. What was he thinking – younger men? Edward himself was not yet thirty, and already he behaved as if middle age had set in. Was this what marriage had done to him? In that case, he reflected, he had no reason for looking forward to becoming a father – old age would approach him even more rapidly then, he feared. Coming to think of it, some of those grey hairs on his father's head could probably be attributed to Matthew and him. Being healthy and resourceful boys, they had got themselves into scrapes that had to be seen to be believed. Their existence had certainly not added to their father's peace of mind.

Beauchamp had joined the group, and was betting heavily – sometimes losing, sometimes winning, but in the end he too wound up with substantial winnings.

"We must celebrate this," he said as they left the house, on their way home.

"It looks to me as if you had celebrated enough already," Edward remarked dryly. His friend's state of intoxication was clearly visible even to those who were not well acquainted with him. The gondoliere certainly eyed him with some suspicion, probably afraid that the gentleman might be sick in his gondola and spoil the squabs.

"Don't be a spoilsport! You're not going to have much of your wife tonight anyway, so what's the harm in going somewhere for another drink before going home? She won't miss you, believe me!" Beauchamp protested.

"I was not thinking about my wife but myself. I really am rather tired, and I am not in need of any further entertainment."

"You would not have said no in the old days."

"No, probably not," Edward said, and sighed. It did not do to let a friend down. He suddenly felt guilty for being a less than accommodating companion. Not that Beauchamp would not have been better off at home, in his bed, but that was for the man himself to decide. He was grown up after all. Therefore, Edward gave in. "Very well. Half an hour, no more. Where do you want to go?"

Beauchamp gave the gondoliere an address, and sat down. "You'll like the place," he said. "First-rate wine cellar, and the company is such as isn't easily found anywhere in town. It's a new place, but it's already gained a reputation for itself. You shouldn't leave Venice without having seen it."

Some ten minutes later, the gondoliere tied up the boat in front of a large, respectable-looking house, not far from one of Venice's largest theatres. It certainly did not look like an inn, but maybe, Edward suspected, it was a gaming hell. Beauchamp had played recklessly all evening; yet perhaps he felt he had not yet gambled enough.

Only by the time they entered the building, Edward became aware that the place was not a gaming hell either. Women did not usually frequent gaming hells – at least the respectable ones did not – and judging by the clothes those women who were present wore, they were anything but respectable. Provided the few flimsy garments they had on deserved the name "clothes". Very little was left to the imagination. One need not be a genius to realise that Beauchamp had taken him to a brothel.

"I suppose this is your idea of a joke," Edward said between clenched teeth. "Thank you very much, sir, but I'm leaving. Now."

"Come now, Asterby!" Beauchamp cried, slapping his shoulder. "Have a look at what the place has on offer. Chiara over there – the things she can do to a man…"

"I have no doubt that she can, but I am in no mood to discover what exactly they are," Edward replied. "I'm a married man, and so are you, if I may remind you."

"Oh, remind me, please do," Beauchamp said with a sneer. "Do you think her ladyship would object? Or that she'd even care? She won't find out – I certainly won't tell her. Nor will anyone else in here. Come, a man must seek his entertainment outside the marriage bed sometimes."

"I feel no need to do so," Edward countered. "Are you coming?"

"Certainly not. I think I am going to give that French girl over there a try tonight."

Beauchamp was in the kind of mood where arguing was fruitless, Edward decided, and so he merely took his leave and left the building. Unfortunately, just at that moment a large party of people emerged from the building on the opposite side of the canal. Edward drew back into the shadow of the entrance, but was not certain whether he had not been seen. One or two of them had certainly looked into his direction. His blood ran cold at the thought that Amelia might find out about his whereabouts that night – not that he had done anything wrong, but he was fully aware that things were looking very bad indeed for him.

As he hailed a gondola to go home, he considered his options. He could remain silent and not tell Amelia what had happened, and hope that while they were staying in Venice no one would tell his wife where he had been. Upon second thoughts that idea did not look very appealing. He did not like keeping things from his wife, and besides there was no saying but what people might tell her out of spite.

The other possibility was to forestall rumours by telling Amelia himself, in an off-hand manner, that Beauchamp had tried to draw him into bad company the previous evening, but that he had made good his escape before anything of a serious nature had happened. That notion did have some appeal although, coming to think of it, it was still risky. The question was whether Amelia would believe him. She was more likely to believe him if he told her about the incident himself, though, so this was what he was going to do.

He looked in on Amelia as he got home, careful not to wake her, and found her sleeping soundly. For a few moments he watched her, wondering how anyone could suppose that a man married to this woman could have anything else to wish for. Amelia was the woman he loved – and other women no longer interested him. He might take note of their beauty; he might even find them witty, or charming, but he did not desire them. There were women in general, and there was Amelia – and there was none who could compare to her.

With these pleasant thoughts, he sought his own bedroom, got undressed – he'd told Lacy not to wait up for him – and slipped between the sheets of his bed. But try as he might he could not go to sleep – he realised that something was missing, and that something was his wife. Even though she was only sleeping in the room next door, he already missed her. Surely there could be no harm in going into her bedroom, and getting into her bed beside her. He'd be able to sleep then, he was sure – and in the morning he'd be able to tell her what had happened that night.

Amelia woke up only to realise that her husband was in her bed. Somehow she liked the thought of him coming back late at night and coming into her bed instead of his own. It showed that he needed her for his comfort; at least she liked to think so. It was a good sign. It was also a good sign that he'd been considerate enough not to wake her when he got home – although, maybe she would not have objected to being woken, depending on what else he would have done. Snuggling up to Edward, she went back to sleep. Life was certainly good.

But rumour travelled fast. While Edward and Amelia were still fast asleep, Venice awoke, and the story of how the young English marchese had been seen coming out of a house of ill repute the previous night was told by many people, and lost nothing in the telling.

They got up, and Edward decided that it was not a good moment to tell Amelia the truth about where he had been the night before – not while her maid was with her, doing her hair, and not later when they were having breakfast and there were servants around them. Never mind they were Italian – they understood enough English to realise what was going on, and he was not going to make a fool of himself before them. No, his confession would have to wait until later, when they had a moment or two to themselves.

Instead, he made polite conversation.

"What are your plans for today?" he asked Amelia.

"Mrs Beauchamp is going to take me over to Murano, to buy some glassware," Amelia announced. "Do you want to come along?"

"Only if I have to," Edward admitted. "I want to see a man about some books for my collection."

"More books?" Amelia asked, with a teasing smile.

Edward laughed. "More glassware?" he countered.

"Point taken. – I do wonder though. Are we going to find Asterby Court when we get back to England, or will the entire place be buried in things we bought on our wedding tour?"

"There is enough space around the house," Edward said. "If all else fails, I'll have another wing built."

"Provided there is any money left when we get back home."

"Oh, I had a profitable evening last night," Edward replied. "I won almost a thousand."

"It is a good thing you told me so before I went shopping," Amelia laughed. "Now I will feel much less guilty about my spending habits. - I am glad to hear that you had a nice evening."

This would have been the perfect opportunity for Edward to introduce the topic of how Beauchamp had tricked him, but unfortunately Mrs Beauchamp chose that moment to arrive, and the opportunity was gone. He decided to broach the topic later, once Amelia had got back from Murano.

Chapter 21

"Oh, look!" Amelia cried, crossing the shop and pointing out a table covered in glassware. "Those glasses are beautiful, aren't they?"

Mrs Beauchamp agreed that they were.

"I think I will buy a set and have it sent to Asterby," Amelia mused. "Though which one to take? – They all look charming!"

Amelia's Italian had improved in the meantime, and so she was able to understand the local dialect of the Venetians pretty well. So as she was waiting for the glassmaker to get her some more specimens of his work, she suddenly heard someone drop her name in a conversation – she distinctly heard "marchesa" and "Asterby" – and that, naturally, made her curious. Pretending to pick up a set of decanters and glasses for closer inspection, she moved closer to the two women who were talking about her, making an effort to look totally unconcerned, and listened in on their conversation; although a few moments later she wished she had not done so.

"Are you sure it was Asterby?" one lady asked, throwing a glance at Amelia as if to make sure she did not overhear. "I thought they'd only been married for a couple of months? They are on their honeymoon still, aren't they?" The woman was obviously shocked – though also eager to hear more. Amelia wondered what Edward had done in those women's opinion. She was soon to find out.

"Men are like animals," the other lady said darkly. "I have always said so, and will always say so. Yes, I am sure it was him coming out of that house. It's a disgrace, I tell you. Places like that ought to be banned, and the women locked up and flogged. They've no business to lead a respectable lady's husband astray the way they keep doing, I say."

Amelia flushed, realising what the implication of this conversation was. Edward – her Edward! – had been seen coming out of a – one hesitated to even think it – house of ill repute! That card party he'd been attending had been a sham – instead he had gone to that place to do … things. Things she had rather not imagine. Her world came tumbling down. With an effort, she managed to put the decanter back on the table before it crashed to the floor and broke. Amelia's only thought was flight, but she remained where she was, painfully aware that by running away she'd betray herself and show those women that she had overheard what they'd said, and what she had not been meant to overhear.

Mrs Beauchamp appeared to have heard the discussion of Edward's misbehaviour too, and came to her rescue. "Come, Lady Asterby," she said. "There is a workshop over there which I particularly wanted to show you – they make the most delightful hand-mirrors!"

"Oh yes, that would be nice," Amelia said mechanically. There was no point in making a scene here – especially since the culprit was nowhere near them. The humiliation of being pitied for her husband's infidelity during her honeymoon was bad enough; she did not want to make a figure of herself in public. Never would she have thought that she had so much restraint, but she did manage to behave naturally.

She turned to the glass maker, placed her order in a calm tone of voice, gave him her address for delivery and even adjured him to make sure the glasses were packed securely, since they had a long journey before them. She then followed Mrs Beauchamp to the workshop where the hand mirrors were made, before telling her friend that she preferred to go home immediately.

"I have a headache," she excused herself. "It came on quite suddenly – it is dreadful."

Mrs Beauchamp simply nodded, and they took a boat back to Venice. None of them mentioned what they had heard until they were alone in Amelia's sitting room.

"Do you think that woman said the truth? Do you know her?" Amelia asked her friend then. She was feeling as if nothing around her had anything to do with her – she was walking and speaking as if she were in a dream. A nightmare, to be precise. If this was real, she just wanted to die. The pain was more than she could bear.

"She is a gossip, but I have never heard her tell a lie," Mrs Beauchamp said. "She may have been mistaken though."

"Do you think she was mistaken?"

"I am in no position to know," Mrs Beauchamp replied. "You should not set too much store by gossip, Lady Asterby."

"I'd say that if my husband has been cavorting with loose women I have every reason to set great store by it," Amelia said hotly.

"You should not. Men are different than women. These things do not mean anything." Mrs Beauchamp tried to soothe her. "They don't mean to hurt you; they just cannot help doing such things. It is in their nature."

"Is this what your husband has told you?" Amelia asked.

"It is better for us not to know about these things," Mrs Beauchamp insisted. "Life is much easier if we do not."

"But what if we do find out about them?" Amelia demanded. "I realise that I was not meant to discover where my husband spent last night, but I have! What do I do now?"

"Keep quiet about it." Mrs Beauchamp advised her. "Your husband is in no way accountable to you for his actions."

"Isn't he, now?" Amelia fumed. "Just wait till he gets home; he will soon learn his mistake! How could he do this to me? I am his wife; I deserve better than this – and so do you! I won't let my husband ride rough-shod over me, as you seem to allow yours to do all the time!"

"You will learn that saying nothing is the best way to deal with these situations."

"No, because saying nothing is pretending that there is no problem, and we both know that there is a … a huge one! I am sorry, but I cannot ignore it. I … I am not even sure if I can allow my husband to come near me. Right now I feel as if I am going to be sick if he touches me ever again!"

"You are angry," Mrs Beauchamp agreed. "That is understandable – this is the first time this has happened to you. Go to bed, get some sleep, and calm down. When your husband gets back, watch how he acts. You will find him no less affectionate than before, I am certain. So why start a quarrel over nothing?"

Amelia realised that in Mrs Beauchamp's opinion, the matter really did not mean anything. She was probably used to her husband frequenting such places, she thought bitterly – one need not wonder as to who had introduced Edward to that house. Before they had got to Venice, Edward had never spent an evening without her. He'd never even wanted to!

"You are right," she said tonelessly. "I think I need some peace and quiet. I need some sleep, and I need to think."

Mrs Beauchamp put on her hat and gloves, and left her, not without advising her, once again, not to allude to the subject when her husband got home. For the sake of one's marriage, she said, some things had better be left unsaid.

"Is her ladyship in?" Edward asked when he got home, maybe half an hour after Mrs Beauchamp had left.

"Yes, my lord, her ladyship is in her room, I believe," his valet replied, taking Edward's hat and cloak into safe keeping.

"Good. I want to show her something," Edward replied, and went to the door that connected their bedrooms. He knocked, but there was no reply. He knocked again, louder this time. He was rewarded with a reaction then, but it was not at all what he had expected.

"Go away," Amelia sobbed. "Leave me alone!"

Instead of doing as his wife had told him Edward, sensing that something was wrong, opened the door and entered her room. Amelia was lying on her bed, crying. She sat up as he came in, and flung a pillow at him.

"I told you to go away!" she cried.

"I will, if this is what you want," he said soothingly. "As soon as you have told me what the matter is."

This, he concluded, what not the right moment to tell his wife about last night.

"Has anything happened to someone in your family?" he asked when he found that there was no answer forthcoming. "Is anyone ill?"

Instead of comforting her, it seemed that his sympathy made things worse. Amelia threw herself onto her pillows, and started to cry again.

Swiftly, Edward went over to the bed and sat down at her side. Gently touching her shoulder, he said, "Won't you tell me what has happened?"

Amelia recoiled, and slapped his hand away from her shoulder. "Do not touch me!"

It dawned on Edward that, somehow, he was to blame for his wife's present state of mind. But surely she could not have found out – who had told her? Mrs Beauchamp? She did not seem to be that sort, but one never knew.

"I won't," he said curtly. "But tell me what has upset you. What have I done to make you so furious?"

"Where did you go last night?" Amelia demanded.

Edward sighed. So she had found out. He was in trouble now, he knew.

"To a card party in the house of one of Beauchamp's friends. I told you as much. Signor Lunardi, in case you wish to inquire."

"Is that all? Or did you go somewhere else?"

"When we were on our way home, Beauchamp said he wanted to go for a drink before going home, and gave the gondoliere an address I was not familiar with. I wasn't too happy about it, but I thought that there could be no harm in going with him. He's been such a great help during our stay here after all! Only I am afraid the place where he wanted to have that drink was – not at all respectable, to say the least."

"A house of ill repute?"

"Quite so. But I left the moment I realised what kind of place it was, Amelia. I left Beauchamp there, and went home."

Amelia gave an unladylike snort. "How stupid do you think I am?"

"Amelia, I swear I didn't stay there, let alone – you do not really think I went there for – for entertainment, do you? I love you! I don't care about other women, I wouldn't even think about … Do you really think any of those women could compare to you? That anyone in love with you would even consider…?"

Ignoring her husband's professions of love, Amelia said, "And then you came back to me, from … from that place. I feel – I cannot describe how I feel! Filthy. Ill-treated. Utterly disgusted and humiliated."

"Amelia, no! Don't! I did come to you from that place, it's true, I cannot deny that, but I did not come to you from the arms of another woman. I love you, Amelia. I may not say so often enough, but…"

"You have never said it," Amelia said sadly. "Never. So why should I believe you now, when for all I know you may just say it to talk yourself out of trouble? If I could believe what you are saying, but right now I am finding it very hard to do so."

"By now you should know me well enough to know that I do not talk about my feelings," Edward said. "No one has ever taught me how. But I show them, Amelia, and you cannot say that I did not behave to you as a loving husband should. This must have conveyed the message to you! Actions are more important than words, are they not?"

"Exactly," Amelia said despondently. "Now leave me alone please."

Realising that his argument had not really done anything to improve his situation for him, Edward left his wife's room. There was no point in arguing with Amelia while she was upset, he felt. He would try to explain things to her when she was feeling better, later, when she had calmed down.

But her reaction had wounded him, much though he could sympathise with her anger. She must have been aware of his love for her – he'd given her enough signs of his affection; what else could he have done to let her know? Ever since he'd met her, he'd only lived to make her happy – surely that must count for something!

And now that he'd finally said the words, she'd dismissed them, and refused to believe them. She'd refused to listen to reason, had accused him of lying to her, and shown openly that she did not trust him. What had he done to deserve that? Fine, things were looking bad for him at the moment, but one would think that after almost three months of marriage during which he'd never given her a reason to doubt his love, she ought to know better. Deeply hurt and bewildered, Edward retired to his library, but for once he could not concentrate on his reading. He needed to find a way to make Amelia believe him – and to save his marriage.




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