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By Georgette Heyer

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She murmured something, in disjointed phrases, about his sister, and Almack's and fled out of the room. That gesture, coming as it did at the end of a scene during which he had indeed seemed to be more schoolmaster than husband, seemed to her rather the expression of kindness than of any warmer emotion, and, with her nerves already overset, she had not been able to respond to it as, in general, she had forced herself to respond to any advance made by him. That her retreat might offend him she knew; that it could wound him she had no suspicion, having, from the start of her married life, seen in his love-making only a chivalrous determination not to betray to her that although he had bestowed his name on her his heart belonged to another.

But so it had been. He had first seen his Nell in a ballroom, and he had instantly been struck, not so much by her undeniable beauty as by the sweetness in her face, and the innocence of her enquiring gaze. Before he well knew what had happened, his heart was lost, and every prudent consideration thrown to the winds. She sprang from a line of expensive profligates, but he had been ready to swear, looking into her eyes, that she had miraculously escaped the Irvine taint. She had been less than eighteen when he had married her, fourteen years younger than he, and when he found himself with a shy, elusive bride he handled her very gently, believing that tenderness and forbearance would win for him the loving, vital creature he was so sure lived behind the nervous child.

It included such things as always showing my lord an amiable countenance, and never embarrassing him by asking ill-bred questions, or appearing to be aware of it if (perhaps) he was found to have formed a Connection outside the walls of that splendid house of his in Grosvenor Square. "One thing I am sure of," had said Mama, fondly patting Nell's hand, "and that is that he will treat you with the greatest consideration! His manners, too, are so particularly good that I am persuaded you will never have cause to complain of the sort of neglect, or—or indifferent civility, which is the lot of so many females in your situation.

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