By that evening, feeling exceedingly undressed in a silky nighty, her white dressing gown patterned with pink stars and black trim around the sleeves and gray slip-ons covering her bare feet, terrified at the thought of the next few hours, Nanny was a mass of nerves. She had picked up the telephone at least a dozen times over the course of the afternoon, ready to telephone Sir Wilkes and tell him she had changed her mind, but had only managed to complete dialing the number (after she HAD it following a long search and, in desperation, speaking to William who had kindly provided the information!) once. Sir Wilkes had not answered the telephone. Nanny's stomach was churning, her hands were shaking, and her knees were wobbly. She had taken a long, hot bath hoping to calm herself down, and in her efforts to quell her trepidation had resorted to a bottle of beer as well. Nothing had helped. Feeling resigned to ending the rest of her life overcome with shame at her effrontery, she peeked out her door at eight o'clock, and, seeing the hallway empty, ventured down towards Sir Wilkes' suite.

Standing outside Sir Wilkes' door, which she had only reached after numerous retreats, she hesitated a long time. Then, hearing the elevator bell, she hurriedly knocked. Oh my Lord! The last thing she needed that evening was to be CAUGHT by his door in her night clothes! Hearing voices approaching, and realizing it was Rachel and her friends obviously on their way to Mr. Peabody's suite, Nanny rapped on Sir Wilkes' door again, then in panic twisted the knob and pushed into Sir Wilkes' rooms, almost into his arms. Her fright had her ignore his proximity only until she had pushed the door almost closed, her eyes glued to the figures of the five young people who had appeared behind her. Had they seen her? Then she became aware of his body behind hers as he peered out the door as well, his head close to hers.

"Were you seen?" he asked worriedly, in a quiet voice.

"I ... I don't think so. And, they ARE busy visiting, for sure, sure, sure," Nanny was feeling breathless. Oh my sainted Aunt Fanny, she was very, very, very aware of him, now. She swallowed hard, and closed the door firmly, turning slowly to face him.

Wilkes backed away, blushing vividly. "G - good evening, Nanny" he said at last, his hands nervously tightening the tie on his navy velvet dressing gown.

Nanny cringed inwardly. What had she been thinking earlier, in the elevator? She hadn't thought at all, for Lord's sake! Through her impetuosity, she had trapped them both in this horribly embarrassing situation! She wished the elevator had crashed with them in it, ending this horror before it had gone this far. She couldn't even respond to his greeting, she was so ashamed of herself. Then a firm knock came at the door. Her eyes wide with sudden panic, she looked at Sir Wilkes.

"It's ... it's most likely Bill. I ordered some ... Nanny, why don't you ... ummm ... just, well, the bedroom is there ... I shall join you when Bill has gone ... Just, well ... make yourself comfortable ..." Wilkes suggested desperately, his face a deep red. He clearly was every bit as ashamed by their proposed liaison as SHE was, Nanny realized, her heart sinking.

Nanny wasted no time moving in the direction Sir Wilkes had pointed her. Slipping into his room, she looked around wide-eyed at the candles, vases of flowers, and turned-down covers on the bed. Gulping, Nanny looked away from the bed towards the flowers and candles. Roses! He had filled the room with ROSES! Hearing William's voice thanking Sir Wilkes and wishing him a wonderful evening, Nanny gulped again, then threw off her dressing gown, jumped into the bed and pulled the covers up around her neck. In moments, Wilkes stepped into the room. He cleared his throat, then silently removed his own dressing gown to reveal a set of pale blue paisley silk pyjamas. He climbed into the other side of the bed and pulled the covers quickly up to his chin as well.

Lying rigidly side by side in the bed, both staring awkwardly at the ceiling to avoid looking at each other, neither one could think of what to say to break the ice. Wilkes was wondering if he should mention that he had spent the afternoon at a bookstore pouring over books which had caused him no end of embarrassment when he had been caught reading them. The cheeky young clerk had then chuckled and told him not to forget the rubbers, or the chicks wouldn't let him go all the way. Wilkes had obviously looked as blank as he had felt, and the young man had grinned and explained that a rubber was something he needed to purchase at a drug store, because not only was it the man's job to protect the woman, but if a woman was worried about becoming pregnant, she'd never let him get into her pants.

Blushing at the crudeness of the remark, Wilkes had come to the painful conclusion that although he didn't believe any of the positions described or illustrated in the books were possible for ANYONE let alone himself and Nanny, he simply MUST protect her at all costs from the ignominy of an unwanted pregnancy. Accordingly, his next stop had been at the drug store just down the street where, after wandering helplessly around the store for quite a while, he had finally gotten up the nerve to ask the male clerk for some "... er ... rubbers, if you know what I mean ..."

Now a box of them was hidden in the drawer of the night table by the bed. Wilkes flushed at the thought, and felt miserable. He had opened one of the packets that afternoon and had not managed to figure out how to put it on himself ... and he was very afraid that it was not going to be any easier this evening. He was, quite frankly, extremely worried at the thought of failing Nanny ... of not being able to ... well ... well, it seemed as though the stress of the afternoon had, er, shrivelled him, and he was deathly afraid the limp, flaccid part of him presently nestled between his legs would make it impossible for him to give her what she had asked of him! He felt hot at his thoughts, and inwardly prayed she could not read them.

For her part, Nanny was agonizing over the feeling that she should just admit that this had been a nonsensical idea and thereby let them both off the hook. She knew Sir Wilkes was as embarrassed as she was, and knew it was all her fault. It was definitely up to her to say something. But what? Her eyes wandered over the roses, still astounded that he had so many in his bedroom. Did he always have them ... or dare she hope he had bought them especially for ... tonight? "You shouldn't have spent all that money on flowers," she said at last, her voice husky.

Wilkes jumped a bit. "Oh! Oh, it ... was nothing. Eloise told me you liked roses ..." His words trailed away.

"Thank you," she whispered, her eyes suddenly and unexpectedly filling with tears. He had bought roses ... because she liked them! Her head turned on the pillow and she tried to smile at him.

Taking a deep breath, Wilkes said, his eyes dropping to her lips for a brief moment, "Well, perhaps we should ..."

"Yes, perhaps we should, should, should ..." Nanny agreed, somewhat faintly.

Neither moved. Then Nanny's eyes closed tightly and she pursed her lips, obviously waiting for him to kiss her. Wilkes gulped. "Oh! Yes, of course! Well, first, I must ... well, I understand it's ... I should ..." he half sat up, leaned over to fumble in the bedside table drawer, then grabbed a foil package and tried to tear it open.

Nanny opened her eyes and sat up too, gaping at the little foil square then at him. "Sir Wilkes ..." she began, tentatively.

"Protection, you know? So you don't get ... with child ..." He was sweating as he struggled to open the packet, wondering exactly how he was supposed to put the little circle of flimsy plastic on himself. It wasn't any clearer this evening than it had been this afternoon. Why weren't there instructions? Of course, he couldn't possibly have read them without his glasses anyway ... He inwardly cursed himself for never having done this before. More than anything, he wanted to give her the beautiful experience she had requested, and he was bungling the whole affair!

Nanny's hand came over his, and she stopped his fumblings. "Aoww, it's all right, Sir Wilkes. I rawther think that won't be necessary," she said gently.

"I don't understand ..." Wilkes said, bewildered. Had she changed her mind about it, because he was so inept? Surely it wouldn't take too long to figure out ... then his fingernail poked a hole in the rubber. He groaned. "I'm sorry. It's just that, well, I was told that the man must ..."

"I'm too, too, too old for it to matter," Nanny said bluntly, feeling a wave of tenderness wash over her. He was so sweet, so earnest ... so obviously out of his depth!

"Oh yes, yes! Right. Of course." Thankfully he cast the plastic and paper away, his face burning once again. She must think him an absolute bungler!

They both lay flat on their backs again, staring at the dim ceiling, breathing rather quickly. Nanny found herself wishing for a bolt of lightning to strike her dead. ANYTHING to get her out of this bed and this exceedingly awkward situation! "Sir Wilkes?" She spoke tentatively.

"Yes, Nanny?" His voice was strained, but polite.

"I am feeling rawther uncomfortable," Nanny confessed in a small voice. "Are you ...?"

"Oh yes. Quite. Quite. I don't suppose ... er ..."

"Yes?" she asked, trying not to sound too hopeful that he had changed his mind. Oh, my stars, stars, stars, she most certainly wished he HAD!

"Well, it's just that ... you see, I ..." he stammered, then fell silent.

Nanny finally made up her mind. She had started this fiasco, and it was obviously up to her to finish it. Yes, he would think her a fool, but there was no help for it. She sat up. "Sir Wilkes? I can't do this. I - I should never have asked you to ...."

Feeling relief washing over him, Wilkes sat up quickly, too. "Really, Nanny, I didn't mind ... but, well, I ... it just didn't seem ... not the right time ..."

Climbing out of the bed, Nanny pulled on her dressing gown. "I'm terribly sorry, Sir Wilkes ... I simply cannot apologize enough!"

"Tush, tush, tush ..." Wilkes scrambled out from under the covers on the bed himself and fought to put his arms into his own dressing gown as he continued to speak earnestly. "It was not your fault, Nanny! Not at all! I ... I wanted it ... I thought. It's really not ..." now he blushed again, painfully, "not that I don't ... admire you ... you know ..."

Nanny couldn't bear to stay in his presence a moment longer. She was humiliated, a scorch of shame from head to toe. She hurried to the door and opened it, then pushed it closed again quickly, a stricken look on her face. "Rachel and her friends are still talking in the hallway! I ... I'd rawther not go right now. Sir Wilkes, might it be possible ...?"

"Please, Nanny! Please, stay for a bit!" Wilkes begged, not wanting a word of this to leak out in the hotel. "I, er, perhaps we might watch a spot of television? And ... and I have some wine ... or ..." he blushed again, "some beer ..."

"I'd absolutely love a beer, for sure, sure, sure!" Nanny said thankfully. They were two Victorians who now found themselves in the middle of the progressive twentieth century and it was very hard to adjust to the new times of the 1950's, for Lord's sake!

O o O o O o

They sat primly side by side, just as they had done a week ago while watching a movie. But now they were in their nightclothes and their bodies were touching since Wilkes had a love seat instead of a regular couch. Nanny took a gulp of her beer and found herself wondering if politeness and awkwardness would take the rest of the sizzling possibilities out of this evening and, indeed, what might pass as a future relationship between them, for Lord's sake! Still, now that they had tacitly agreed to forget about the lovemaking, she was feeling more comfortable. Just a tad, she amended, feeling the heat from his thigh all along hers. Oh, my Lord! NOW she was feeling attracted to him again? What on EARTH was wrong with her? She shivered slightly.

Then Wilkes jumped up. "Oh, Nanny, I have something for you." He hurried into the other room and returned in a moment with a thin package beautifully wrapped in Christmas paper.

"Aoww, Sir Wilkes," Nanny wasn't sure what to say. "I - I must say, I... I couldn't think of what to get YOU for Christmas..."

"I must confess that I didn't find this until today. As I was walking back to the Plaza this afternoon, I spotted this in the shop window and realized that I had found your Christmas gift at last. I stopped in and promptly bought it, asked them to gift wrap it for me, and, well, here it is..."

Nanny carefully opened the gift and stared at it silently for a moment while he watched her anxiously. Then her face broke into a smile that made her look beautiful for a moment. Wilkes' eyes widened, and for the first time that evening he felt a renewed stirring of his desire for her. Softly Nanny read aloud the words engraved on the plaque. "Dance as though no one is watching, sing as though no one can hear, love as though you've never been hurt."

"D-do you l-like it?" Wilkes stammered worriedly, standing before her and twisting his hands together. "It, well, it seemed to me that it was describing you... your, er, motto, you might say."

"It's ... it's wonderful, for sure, sure, sure," Nanny said, smoothing over the words with her fingers. Then she smiled up at him. "Thank you so very, very, very much!" Impulsively she put the plaque down on the table beside her and, before she lost her nerve, she jumped up and kissed him on the cheek.

Wilkes beamed at her. Then embarrassment once more swept over them both. Nanny sat down and, picking up her drink, took another gulp. Wilkes pivoted around and turned on the television, turning the knob through the channels. He found a boxing match which he watched for a couple of seconds, not noticing that she was leaning forward to watch it avidly herself. She craned to see around him, and, seeing the movement out of the corner of his eye, he said, "Oh, I'm terribly sorry, Nanny, but would you mind if I watched this match ... just for a minute?"

"Not at all. I rawther enjoy boxing ..." An understatement if she ever heard one, for Lord's sake!

"Really? Magnificent! How remarkable! Not many women like to watch a fight." Wilkes moved back to the love seat and took his seat beside her again, picking up his glass of beer and drinking some down... all the while keeping his eyes glued to the television.

Nanny resolved that she would do her best to watch the fights quietly, but it was very, very, VERY hard to sit still and not yell at the boxers. After a moment, she noticed that Sir Wilkes was twitching beside her. At a particularly exciting part in the match, Nanny bit her lip and clenched her hands together in an effort to restrain herself, then was flabbergasted when Sir Wilkes suddenly shook his fist at the television.

"Hit him!" he cried. "Yes, that's right! Use your right! No! The OTHER right! Uppercut! There! Yes!"

Openmouthed, Nanny stared at the man, then the television. Somewhat chagrined, but with a gleam still in his eyes, Wilkes glanced over at her and said, a trifle apologetically, "I'd forgotten these re-runs were on. I AM sor -- ..."

Nanny's attention was caught by something on the screen, and she interrupted him with a glad cry. "Marciano's fight with Charles from September 17th is coming on! I missed it then!"

"So did I, and Ring Magazine called it the Fight of the Year for 1954!" Sir Wilkes exulted. "At last they are showing it again!"

Their previous discomfort that evening forgotten, the two became intensely involved in the boxing match, both yelling and gesticulating wildly. They groaned in unison when Ezzard Charles managed to get to his feet in the second round at the count of two. They were on their feet when Rocky Marciano was in danger of being stopped because his nose was severely cut. Then, at the exciting conclusion in round eight when Marciano knocked out Charles, winning his forty-sixth fight and retaining his title as the heavyweight champion, Nanny and Wilkes threw their arms around each other and hugged each other tightly as they bounced, extremely excited at the outcome of the boxing match.

The surge of sexual desire that had surrounded them in the elevator that very morning suddenly returned with a bang. Nanny wanted to melt into his arms when she felt the unmistakable pressure of Wilkes' arousal against her hip. She bit back a moan and whispered, "We ... we probably shouldn't ..."

"You're right ..." he said huskily, not releasing her. "Although I do find that I am ... intrigued ... with the possibilities, you know ..."

"You ... you ARE? For sure, sure, sure?"

He pressed closer, and she trembled as strings of fire began to race through her veins. "I must confess, Nanny, that I have been dreaming about you, and quite embarrassing dreams, I must say."

Her mouth opened in shock. "You – you're just saying that ... to make me feel better."

"No, no! Indeed I am NOT just saying it! I truly do mean it, Nanny..." Releasing her in order to cup her face between his hands, Wilkes studied her, feeling something he couldn't describe. His gut clenched and his groin tightened, but his heart also beat a little faster and there was a feeling deep in his soul that if he failed her now, he would lose her and things would never be right again. Her mouth was made for long, drugging kisses and he wanted to take his time tasting this woman who had come so unexpectedly into his life. But how could he possibly tell her that? What words could he find to express his feelings?

In the end, words weren't necessary. He would never have found the right ones, anyway. Instead, he pressed his lips to hers. Her arms came up to his shoulders, perhaps to push him away, perhaps not, but as the kiss deepened, they slowly slid around his neck and drew him down with her as she fell back onto the love seat.

The kiss was all Nanny had ever dreamed of receiving. It lasted a scandalous length of time. Before it was over, Nanny had allowed Wilkes to press the whole of her body against his, and she had responded enthusiastically. Before it was over, she had coaxed his hands onto parts of her body that only moments earlier she had thought would be horrifyingly embarrassing to have touched. Before it was over, they were both weak with the ache of their desire.

"My love," Wilkes murmured against her lips, "forgive me. We should not be here... on the sofa... in the living room. Our first time together should be on... on a bed... on OUR bed... and not now. No, our first love-making will be on our wedding night... on our marriage bed. If..." He drew his head back and gazed at her with eyes heavy with passion and love. "If there is to BE a wedding night. Is there? Will you marry me, Nanny?"

"Oh, my Lord!" She gaped at him. "Me?" she asked foolishly. "You want ME to be your wife? But... but, you're above my station! You know..."

"I know that I love you, Nanny, and that you can make my happiness complete by marrying me. Will you?" Wilkes begged humbly. "I cannot blame you if you do not trust me. I am, well, I am new to love. And I am certainly no prize for ANY woman, let alone you. You deserve the best, Nanny, and that is not me. But I... I DO love you, Nanny, and I want you to marry me..."

"Oh, my Lord ..." Nanny breathed again, her eyes wide and her heart beating wildly. "You LOVE me? You love ... ME? But ... but HOW?"

Wilkes smiled, and touched her cheek tenderly. "You have always done an admirable job with Eloise... but what has dazzled me the most over the last few months has been you. YOU, Nanny. You are beautiful, inside and out, and I want you for myself, to make me a better person... one worthy of your love. I need your vitality, your exuberance, your..." he blushed a little, "your body. Yes, Nanny, I love you. Could... do you think you could ever feel anything for me?"

"Oh, for sure, sure, sure!" Nanny almost cried with happiness. "You must KNOW I love you!"

They held each other closely on the loveseat, wordless for a moment, then Wilkes murmured into her ear, "Stay with me tonight, Nanny? Just like this? I know sitting here on the sofa is... well, it's not as comfortable as a... bed... but I dare not be with you in a bedroom. Not now. I couldn't resist you again. As I said before, I want our bodies to unite for the first time as a... well, as a marriage commitment. Does... does that sound dreadfully dull to you, Nanny?"

"Naow, naow, naow! It sounds... absolutely divine, divine, divine!" She sighed happily and snuggled against him. "Sir Wilkes? I..." she broke off, flushing, feeling that she should call him something other than his name and title!

"Willy. Call me Willy. It makes me, well, I forget that I'm old, and I feel young again with you. Please, Nanny?"

"Well, I ..."

Whatever she was about to say was soon forgotten as his mouth covered hers again, and they moved perilously close after all to anticipating their wedding night now that their awkwardness had eased into desire! When the first heat of desire cooled slightly, they began to talk, still snuggled close to one another. They both tried to cram two lifetimes of thoughts and feelings and experiences into one night of shared confidences during their first foray into the magic of love. After they were forced to pause for breath in their talking, they continued their conversation in the form of love murmurings and unremembered nonsense as they kissed and adored each other throughout the long, long, long hours of the winter night, succumbing to a sweet, contented sleep only in the wee hours of the morning, still wrapped in each other's arms.

The next morning, the entire Plaza Hotel was electrified by the news that Sir Wilkes was to marry Eloise's nanny the following week. The only person not taken completely by surprise was Bill, who had heard all about Nanny's interest in the distinguished gentleman months ago from Eloise. He immediately made plans to be present when Eloise and her mother returned later that day since he wanted to see Eloise's first reaction to the news himself, and in the meantime he congratulated the joyful couple wholeheartedly... inwardly wondering if they could possibly be as happy as he was with his Rachel. (And of course they were, were, were, for Lord's sake!)