WAS GONE IN AN INSTANT

WAS GONE IN AN INSTANT

Giles had understood perfectly. Lucetta had no doubts about that, but she realised instinctively that admitting her feelings for Sam had both shaken and hurt the man to whom she owed so much.

During the weeks that followed Giles said nothing to make her feel uncomfortable, but sometimes Lucetta caught him looking at her with a serious, almost wistful expression in his dark eyes. It was gone in an instant, replaced by his normal insouciant smile, convincing her that she had imagined the whole thing. After all, he had never spoken to her of love or romance and he was a good ten years her senior. What would a man of the world like Giles see in a penniless orphan? Despite the generous Christmas present and his obvious pleasure in her company, she decided that he was just being kind. His real interest must lie with Mary, whose feelings were painfully obvious, at least to Lucetta who had grown to love her like a sister.

The days passed pleasantly enough, although the weather continued to be dreadful with continuous snowstorms and reports of drifts several feet deep making travel outside London virtually impossible. Lucetta hoped that this was the reason for the lack of a response to the letter she had sent Sam, but she was still determined to go to Devonshire the moment that winter released its icy grip. She worked diligently for Sir Hector, and even when Parliament returned after the Christmas recess she continued to write much of his private correspondence, for which he paid her a modest salary. She saved every penny of her wages, placing the coins in an old stocking that was too laddered to darn, and stowing it away in a drawer with her clean undergarments.

Soon after Christmas, Sir Hector had taken Lucetta and Mary to the studio of a photographer who was renowned for his daguerreotype portraits. Sir Hector and Mary had their likenesses taken together and separately, posing rather self-consciously amongst potted palms set against a lavish curtained backdrop. Then it was Lucetta's turn to sit on the horsehair sofa for what seemed like hours while her image was captured for posterity and an extra print ordered so that it could be sent to Bali for validation by the consul.

'It seems as though this is the only way we can prove your true identity,' Sir Hector had said. 'Even if you find your young seafarer, I doubt whether his word alone would be enough to convince a magistrate that your uncle is lying.'

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