forehead. Absurdly young to be so impassive, to be such a very efficient valet.
“Shall I have your horse brought round, my lord?”
“Yes, Fellowes. Thank you.” Nathan returned his attention to his reflection in the mirror and pretended abstraction. Fellowes withdrew.
Quiet, unassuming Fellowes. There was something about him, something that had just this moment tripped Nathan’s instincts. He didn’t know why. But there was something.
He never distrusted his instincts.
After a brisk ride, Nathan consulted with his man of business and then lunched at his club. He was always sure to meet someone he knew there and sure enough, not long after his arrival, in strolled Ross, otherwise known as Simon Rossiter, Viscount Maybury, another of the old Cambridge set and one of Nathan’s closest friends. After sharing a bottle of port, Nathan persuaded Ross to join him at the Camelot theatre that evening for a performance of Twelfth Night .
Ross, not the most cultured of men, was dubious but was persuaded when Nathan pointed out that they would be in Covent Garden and thus admirably close to Ross’s favourite haunts: Belle Orton’s gaming hell and Madame Yvette’s bawdy house. If the play was boring, they would leave, Nathan promised.
It was a promise he regretted only a few minutes into the performance.
“What’s this twaddle again?” Ross asked as he slumped in his red velvet chair, scowling at the stage, his floppy fair hair and blue eyes giving him an innocent appearance that was quite undeserved. It was only act one and Ross was already getting bored and impatient. It didn’t help that he was already three sheets to the wind.
“As you know perfectly well,” Nathan sighed, “it’s Twelfth Night , a very fine comedic play by the best playwright England has ever produced.”
Ross slipped his hand inside his coat and extracted a silver flask which he unscrewed and drank from deeply. “Rum cove, Shakespeare,” he muttered.
“Listen, why don’t you pop out for a bit? Go and see Dunwoody, there’s a good chap. He’s over there with Mrs. Herbert and he looks just as bored as you.” Nathan signalled at one of the boxes opposite.
Ross followed his gesture. “Oh is he? Then yes, I think I will. I want to ask him if it’s true he’s selling his greys. But don’t worry,” he added. “I’ll be back soon.”
“No need to hurry on my account, old man,” Nathan assured him dryly.
By the time Ross had left the box, the actress playing Viola was back on stage with Orsino. She was making the most of her “masquerading as a boy” costume, showing off a pair of shapely legs that were attracting a few shouted comments and whistles from the cheaper seats. Orsino didn’t notice her patently feminine legs, of course. He was far too busy looking broodingly into the distance.
“My father had a daughter loved a man, as it might be, perhaps were I a woman, I should your lordship,” Viola told Orsino, over her shoulder. Her tone was casual but, unnoticed by him, she watched him hungrily.
“And what’s her history?” Orsino asked.
“A blank, my lord. She never told her love, but let concealment, like a worm i’ the bud, feed on her damask cheek.”
Loving passionately in silence? It didn’t sound much like the women he’d come across, Nathan thought. In his experience, women were the more cool-headed about matters of the heart, whether they be courtesans looking for a generous protector or dukes’ daughters looking for a dynastic marriage. They put themselves on display and simply—waited. To be approached; to be chosen. And if more than one fish nibbled the bait, they selected the best of the catch. As for men, he’d lost count of the fools he’d seen, desperate to declare that they had fallen in love, when the truth was that all they felt was a lust that would wear off in a matter of months.
It wasn’t that he didn’t believe in love. He loved his family: his mother, his sister Verity