Posted on: 2011-05-25
A bright light flashed before her eyes and she struggled away from it. She pressed her eyes together and tried to drift back into her dreams. At that moment a rumble erupted in her head and sent violent shudders around her body. She bit past the pain quickly and issued a low groan. She heard movement to the right of her, then a voice close by.
"Betty, please fetch Doctor Townsend. He is in the library with Daniel" A silky voice oozed itself into her thoughts as she turned her head slightly towards the noise.
"Of course, my lady" Came the reply, a little way off and a much higher pitch. There was a scraping sound, a small bang, then silence. In the quiet that issued, the girl tried to get a grip with her thoughts. First of all she wondered where she was. Her mind struggled to find answers but none came. Now she truly thought about it she couldn't remember anything before the time she awoke. Her dream was even a mystery to her, but something deep inside told her that she could never remember her dreams regardless. She lay there a few minutes longer battling with the remnants of sleep and her own mind until she became terribly frustrated. She was so worked up with herself she hadn't even noticed the door open then close.
"Mother? Is she awake?" Came a deep male voice from the door. At once she stopped fidgeting and lay still. She found the voice to calm her considerably.
"Yes, she seems distressed but has yet to open her eyes. You should not be here, Daniel" The silky voiced woman replied quickly.
"I wanted to see if she was well" This time the male's voice was closer, moving towards her quite quickly. The silky voiced didn't reply but she heard an irritated huff. She struggled slightly trying to open her eyes in vain, but her body was not awake enough for her to do so, besides the light of the room was still too bright for her. A small hand came down on her arm in an attempt to calm her.
"Lady Greycote, I heard our patient is awake" A gruff voice sounded now. She was feeling a bit dizzy and losing count of all the voices. Had 'Betty' returned? Or was it just the three?
"Yes Doctor Townsend, I believe she is waking" Heavy footsteps approached her and a rough hand came down on her forehead. The gruff voice muttered a few words under his breath which she could barely pick out before instructing her to open her eyes.
This time, as if by magic she managed to force them open and battle against the light of the room. Three hazy figures loamed before her. They spun and flickered a few times before coming into focus. There were two men and one woman. The woman looked quite elderly and looked down at her with a kind smile on her face. The first man was older, she knew immediately such a face belonged with the gruff voice. He didn't have an ugly face; in fact he had probably been very handsome some years ago. The third face was totally different. A pair of light grey speckled eyes came in contact with her own, before she addressed the rest of a young handsome face and thick dark hair. She stared at the third man a little longer than necessary before turning back to the man she presumed was 'Doctor Townsend'.
"Good morning" He offered brightly, as him and the elderly woman helped her sit up in bed. The younger man had retreated back a few steps and now stood in the shadows of the room.
"Hello" She muttered weakly. Startled slightly by the sound of her own voice.
"My name is Doctor Townsend" He started and she nodded her head in understanding. "Do you know your name" She thought it a ridiculous question at first, who didn't know their own name? She searched for it for a few moments, and realized that she did not know it. Her face contracted into a frown and she became agitated.
"I am sorry, but I…" Tears of frustration brimmed in her eyes.
"Do not worry, my dear" The woman offered as she gently took her hand in her own. "Daniel, the pitcher" She directed the man in the corner with a nod of her head. She watched him move quickly towards the sideboard and bring forward a pitcher of water and a glass. The elderly woman pored a glassful quickly as she tried to control her tears. She accepted the water and drank it quickly as the handsome man returned to the shadows again instantly.
"Thank you" She said softly when she had emptied the glass and the elderly woman had taken it from her clasp. She turned her attention back to the doctor.
"Do you remember anything?" He asked slowly, trying to be as gentle as he could. He didn't want to upset or distress her more than she was already. A few more tears fell after a prolonged silence. She finally shook her head telling the doctor she didn't remember anything. She accepted another glass of water and sipped it slowly this time. Her head felt heavy and light at the same time. She didn't know what to feel and was unsure how she should think. She started to unconsciously shake and the man in the shadows stepped forward.
"What's going to happen to me? I cannot remember anything" She gasped between sobs. She was now shaking so much that the elderly woman found it wise to remove the water from her clasp. The elderly woman went to speak but the young gentleman interrupted her.
"You will stay here, as our guest" He told her quickly, then turned to the doctor "This is amnesia isn't it? Caused by the accident?"
"What accident?" Her voice was wobbling terribly now. The doctor hushed her quietly.
"We will explain that later. And yes, my lord. This is amnesia"
"Then there is a chance of her regaining her memories?" He pressed. She looked at his profile and thought him very handsome indeed. His eyes were not off her for long, however. After another second he looked at her with concern.
"Yes. Of course there is a chance. But time will tell how much – if anything – she regains" The young lord nodded his head at the doctor and thanked him for his help; he then asked what should be done.
"Your young lady will need to rest for several days, and not over exert herself. I also advice giving her a name" All eyes turned to her on the bed. She looked at them one by one, but found it difficult to hold the young man's gaze without flushing slightly.
"What will it be, my dear?" She was stuck as to what to say, a thousand names rushed around her head and she did not know how to pick one.
"I do know, that is to say one does not usually choose their own names. Couldn't one of you?" She asked timidly, gazing down at her hands instead of at the company.
"You are quite right. Well then gentlemen, what will it be?" Replied the kind woman, she turned to the two gentlemen and waited eagerly for a reply.
"Emma" Came the Doctor's first suggestion almost instantly, leading her to believe he knew an Emma long back and wanted to be reminded of her once again.
"Too short!" cried the woman beside her. She watched her intently and decided she rather like the kind elderly woman. She imagined her and the younger gentleman to be related, they had the same grey eyes.
"Rose" Was the young man's first suggestion, followed quickly by Doctor Townsends' "Lily"
"We are not listing flowers. She does not look like a Rose or a lily. Her hair is too dark, so are her eyes" She swallowed hard as the young man turned to examine her face again. She felt uncomfortable lying there with three strangers staring at her like a caged animal, however tender their looks. Then again, she thought quickly, maybe they weren't strangers after all. But if they were not, why didn't they give her her true name.
"Molly" The doctor tried again.
"We are not naming a dog"
"Dorothy" The young man teased slightly, giving his mother a chance to inflict her authority. He looked down at the girl with sparkling eyes, but found her somewhat distressed by her circumstances. Who could blame her? He thought quickly.
"Nor a cow" The room lapsed into silence again for a few minutes, as the young man leant on a bed post and looked with amusement at his mother, before turning his attention towards the doctor who was trying his hardest to think of a suitable name.
"Men, they are quite useless are they not?" The elderly woman gave her a gentle smile, which she managed to return sincerely. For what she felt in her stomach, she had not had much experience with men.
"How about Harriet? She reminds me so much of an old childhood friend of mine called Harriet. They have the same eyes. She was such a lovely girl. Do either of you men have an objection?" She looked between the two men and waited patiently. She found her tears had stopped slowly when the name was chosen, at least now she would be certain about something in her life.
"Shouldn't we ask our guest?" The young man enquired with a small smile playing on his lips.
"Of course, how about it? Do you feel like a Harriet?"
"I like Harriet" She admitted shyly, meeting her gaze with the elderly woman, and her alone.
"There then we are settled. I will take my leave now and allow our guest to get comfortable and rest further. I will return within the day to check on you, Harriet" The Doctor headed towards the door and pulled it open suddenly, the young man bowed to him quickly before turning his attention back to the bed.
"Thank you Doctor" She called after him before he shut the door and was away. The room was still and mellow for a few moments before:
"Now that we know you name, dear, we can make proper introductions!" All Harriet could do was nod in consent.
"Well, now we all know you're name… I am Rebecca Bracken, and this is my son Daniel, the Earl of Greycote" She introduced with a smile. Harriet could already tell how immensely proud she was of her son by the way that she looked at him and the pride in her voice at his introduction.
"It is a pleasure to meet you, Harriet" Lord Greycote said with a small bow. Harriet dipped her head in return.
"Likewise. Pray tell me, how did I come to be here?"
Darcy paced through the gallery at Pemberley towards the window which stretch along one wall and gave a view of the front of his estate and the road winding its way down to Lambton. He knew his wife would be seated there, she had been all afternoon. She was a most dedicated sister indeed. He rounded the corner and found her sitting on a chair she had pulled up towards the window. She turned her head eagerly when she heard some disturbance.
"Is Mary here?" She asked quickly, a glimmer of hope lighting up her face. Darcy didn't want to tell her that had her sister arrived she would have spotted it from her window. He saw how anxious she was about everything so he crossed to her chair and rested himself on the stuffed arm.
"No dear, she has not arrived here yet" He bent forward and planted a swift kiss onto his wife's forehead. Elizabeth sat back and sighed quietly.
"I don't know where she could be. What if something truly awful has happened to her?" Darcy stroked her hair now, in an attempt to soothe her.
"Elizabeth, nothing will have happened to her. I am sure they have just been delayed at Longbourn. Or their carriage has a broken wheel and they are waiting for it to be repaired. Nothing will have happened to Mary" Elizabeth nodded slowly, but still looking out of the window with fearful eyes. Darcy gave her a weak smile before bending down and kissing her head once again before burying his face into her hair. He hated seeing Elizabeth sick with worry, it made him feel dreadfully uneasy. After sitting with her for a few minutes he got the impression she wanted to be left in solitude so made a quick excuse and left her in peace.
He managed to keep himself occupied around the house and with Georgiana until he went to retire to the master chamber. On his way to the third floor he passed by the window and saw his wife still in her former position in her chair. He approached slowly in the slight flickering light and noticed that she was slumped sideways into the arm chair with her legs over hanging one of the arms. He stood still for a few minutes admiring her peaceful sleeping form. He bent down in front of her savouring the contented look on her face.
In one swift movement he had his wife in his arms and was carrying her to their bed chamber. He thought about how distressed his wife had seemed and his mind began to wonder. What if something terrible had happened to Mary? How would Elizabeth bare such news? He would have shaken his head of all thoughts if Mary was not twelve hours delayed. Surely he would have heard some news by now. Someone would have ridden ahead and given him word about the situation, but no. The members of the house had not heard hide nor hair of them.
Once he had carried Elizabeth's sleeping form all the way to the bed, he gently laid her down. Then he busied himself with removing her outer layers so that she could sleep with relative ease. Once that was completed he changed himself and then tucked them both soundly into bed. He took one last lingering look into her face before closing his eyes and falling asleep.
Elizabeth awoke in the late hours of the morning and looked around. She was back in their bed next to the slumbering form of her husband. She quickly realized that he must have carried her to her bed. She turned to face him and reached forward to place a light kiss on his cheek. He sighed in his sleep and fidgeted a little but did not wake. She beamed down at him, counting her blessings that he was her husband and would love her always. She then slipped out of bed and heading downstairs.
Darcy finally woke when his wife took a firm hold of his shoulders and shook him violently. He opened his eyes slowly with a groan but soon felt wide awake when his wife looked down at him with tears streaming down her face. He immediately sat bolt upright in bed and had her clasped in his embrace.
"She still is not here!" Elizabeth managed to mutter in sobs. Darcy immediately quietened her, rubbing his thumb up and down her back in motions he knew she found calming. He said nothing until he was satisfied his wife had calmed down slightly. He pulled her gently from his grasp and then placed his large palms on the sides of her face.
"I will send a man out along their route and make sure he enquires at every town. Would that help?" Elizabeth nodded slowly as she looked up into his wide dark eyes. She shut her eyes tight and willed herself not to burst into more tears. Darcy pressed his lips to her tear stained cheek softly before pulling her back into his grip.
Harriet recovered well. She was visited twice more by Doctor Townsend in the next two days before he permitted her well enough to leave her room. In truth Harriet was exhausted. She had been racking her brain none stop for days trying to remember anything about her life. Who was she? Was her most common question. She could be anyone, from a farmer's daughter to the wife of some rich peer. She hoped she wasn't married. She did not feel a great ache at being separated from anyone she loved, but she didn't suppose she would if she couldn't remember them.
The Dowager Countess Greycote sat with her for a few hours every day. Harriet grew to love the lady more and more with each passing hour, and the lady had even permitted her to call her Rebecca. Because Harriet had no stories of her own, Rebecca spent the time telling Harriet all of her fondest memories. They often included the Earl and the late Earl. Harriet loved to hear these stories, they made her laugh until she had a stitch and tears in her eyes. Rebecca told her such wonderful stories which she swore were all true, but all utter ridiculous. She then told Harriet about their old pet cow called Dorothy. She then admitted she did not know why her son even suggested it as a name for Harriet, to which Harriet replied that he was probably in jest. Harriet hadn't seen the Earl since their first encounter but Rebecca always told her that the Earl wished that she got well again soon.
The Earl sat in his study one Saturday morning reading over some letters from town when he heard laughter coming from the grounds. He stood and walked quickly over towards the window. A smile lit up on his face when he saw the scene. Down by the small man made pond sat his mother and Harriet in deep conversation with each other. Every few moments both would burst out into laughter then say some witty comment with a smirk on their faces. Daniel was greatly pleased by the friendship that had formed between Harriet and his mother. He had always worried that the Dowager Countess had never really enjoyed anyone's conversation as much after his own excellent father had passed away some years ago. It was very refreshing to see such a lovely young woman make her laugh and smile constantly.
However, he was still uncertain about Harriet. She was a kind, pleasant young woman, not to mention he found her extremely interesting. But, what of her relations and her circumstances? What of her birth? She could be anyone, a harlot or a Duchess. There was no way of telling, well not until people start to look for her at least. He studied her more from his window and hoped that she wasn't married. He didn't know what it was about her face – for she wasn't exceptionally beautiful, or his usual type – but something about her drew and interested him in her. He sighed slowly before casting a glance at his correspondences. Hang it! He told himself quickly before crossing the room and out the door with every intention of joining the women down by the lake.
Harriet looked up from the bench when she heard someone approach. Her gaze immediately met that of the Earl. She dipped her head in acknowledgement before turning herself fully to face him.
"Oh Daniel!" cried his mother. "Come to join us, have you?" She teased him with a glint in her eye. She had already picked Harriet out as his bride, no matter her background. There was a chance she would never remember any of it.
"I have indeed" Daniel replied in the same teasing tone "I could not keep away" He smiled down at them charmingly. Harriet had quickly realized that the Dowager Countess had a charming smile, it was her best feature. She was glad that it was a trait that her son shared.
"Well, since we provide such good company, you must accompany us to Frayton, Harriet here needs some new clothes and I am more than willing to buy them. She only possesses this dress in the whole world"
"Oh no please! You mustn't buy me new dresses, I beg you" Harriet tried to insist quickly, giving Daniel a look he soon understood to mean 'reason with your mother'
"I am sorry, Harriet. But once my mother has decided on something she will not let it slide"
"Exactly. Then you will accompany us, dear!"
Before either young person quite knew what had happened they had all been bundled into Daniel's curricle and headed in the direction of Frayton village. Rebecca sat in-between the pair and made light conversation. Both Daniel and Harriet soon found it pleasing to gently tease each other at every opportunity.
Harriet soon found that Frayton was a gorgeous village that must have only been situated about three miles from the Earls home of Frayton Abbey. It was placed in the middle of some rolling hills which stretch off down into a valley, in which you could see the next village and beyond that a larger town, but Harriet didn't know which one. She did not have much chance to see the village, Rebecca rushed her off towards a dress shop which Harriet found she was apprehensive about. Daniel rolled his eyes at his mother before giving Harriet an apologetic glance. She gave him a small smile before following Rebecca into the shop. Daniel let loose a smile to her back as he stood there for a few moments before turning and meandering towards the bookshop on the opposite side of the small square.
Harriet retreated to her chambers after they finally returned to the house. She was exhausted. Rebecca had insisted on getting her seven dresses right away – she claimed it was the basics; one for every day – and then another special one was made right there in the shop for a dinner party the Earl was hosting that evening. Harriet had protested profusely. She argued that surely no one would want to talk to a girl with no past and no stories of her own. Rebecca insisted that everyone would want to talk to her as she was very lovely and dreadfully interesting. Harriet still wasn't satisfied.
"It would mess up the seating and the courses. Also the Earl has expressed no wish to have me there" Harriet continued as they walked back towards where Daniel stood with the curricle. Harriet watched him as the approached, he was stood leant against the wooden side with his head turned sideways watching some action across the square. Her heart gave a small leap when a gentle breeze blew the end of his thick straight hair across his face. In the process of studying him she had quite missed what Rebecca had been saying until they had joined Daniel at the curricle. He gracefully took Harriet's readymade dress into his arms and gestured for the two women to climb aboard. Once they were settled he handed the dress gingerly back to Harriet before walking around to the other side and gently nudging the horses into life.
"I was just telling Harriet, my dear. That she must attend the dinner party tonight"
"Of course she must. I could not bear to part you two now you are so well acquainted" He replied with a smile as he watched the lane in front of them.
"You are too kind, but I really insist that –" Harriet tried to make an apology before Daniel interrupted her quickly, his voice surprisingly curt.
"I have already said you will attend" Harriet was taken aback. Up until that moment she had not though it possible for the Earl to say anything which was not out of kindness. Although she ought to feel some embarrassment for negative emotion, she could not. She could only marvel in his steadfast nature.
"Once Daniel is decided on something he will not let it slide" Rebecca whispered to Harriet as a mimic of her son earlier. Although she had said it quietly the Earl had still heard. He threw his mother a glance that signalled abhorrence but when he turned his eyes back to the road he couldn't help but smile.
It was almost seven by the time Harriet's temporary maid had finished with her hair and helping her dress. Amanda had taken one look at Harriet and decided there was very little she could do. The girl could have been seen as pretty, her dark eyes were wide and her long hair silky, but she was not as pretty as any other woman that the Earl had entertained. However, Amanda did her best, her hair was pinned back into a loose bun with tiny flowers scattered in the hair. Then she allowed a few straight locks to fall free and frame her thin face. Amanda was quite proud of her handy work, and however plain Harriet was she was very kind. They had had a nice but short conversation in which Amanda determined Harriet couldn't have come from a background directly linked to the ton.
When she helped Harriet do up the back of her dress she saw the true picture. The dress was a deep blue and highlighted Harriet's dark eyes and hair. It had been simply made but was still elegant and held together at the front with a lighter blue sash. Just as Amanda was fussing with the last strands of the dress there came a knock at the door.
"Are you ready, my dear?" Came Rebecca's voice.
"Yes, I am just coming" She turned to Amanda quickly and thanked her for making her look half decent for the Earl. Amanda smiled readily and told her she was happy to serve her.
Once Rebecca had escorted Harriet downstairs, the lady left it up to Daniel to introduce her to the whole party; which he did most readily. He took her arm in his and guided her gently around the party making introductions. It was obvious to Harriet, after they called her 'Miss Harriet' that either the Earl of Dowager Countess – or indeed both – had already informed the party of her 'condition'.
With Harriet in attendance the seating arrangement had not been tampered too severely, and there was more than enough food to go around the party. As Daniel's mother was seated opposite him at the other end of the table, and Harriet had been seated to her left this afforded him with a good view of the pair. He made an effort not to glace back at them too habitually, he thought of it more as checking up on the pair, making sure that they were enjoying themselves. He also found the need to check up on Harriet personally, most importantly her looks. He noted as soon as he saw her that she looked especially fine tonight. Her new dress was most becoming and however awkward she looked around the guests and being the centre of attention, he found it all rather endearing.
Harriet was enjoying herself considerably too. She was currently engaged in a conversation with a Baron who had far too many stories about his past escapades then appropriate. Harriet wondered as she half listened to the man, whether she had often been in society like this?
She glided through the rooms slowly, stopping by a pillar all of a sudden to listen to an elderly woman rattle off some gossip about a farmer's boy. Then the gossip turned into praise of someone whose voice she just couldn't catch. She pressed on suddenly, the music filling her up to the brim; she walked amongst the crowd watching the dance. Through the people she saw a young couple dancing, both with disgusted looks on their face. The gentleman tall and handsome, the woman young and very pretty. She felt a pang of jealousy when the young woman's eyes caught her and gave her a smile. Then there was a hand on her arm. She turned to find two giggling girls lean towards her and whisper something she didn't understand in her ear. She felt disgusted and dizzy; she stumbled on and on and on and on. "Wait!" She found herself crying out before:
"Miss. Harriet" The Baron's concerned voice kicked her out of her flashback. She turned her bemused eyes towards him and blushed slightly.
"Pray, forgive me. I found myself…miles away" The Baron gave her a warm smile before she requested that he continued with his story.
From the top of the table, Daniel had seen Harriet's eyes glaze over suddenly and her body stiffen. He leant forward in his chair and detached himself from all conversation. He watched as a hundred emotions seemed to flash across her face in a matter of seconds. Her hand gripped the table desperately as if that was the only thing keeping her attached to this world. Then she was back. Her whole body suddenly jerked forward and she gave a look like she wanted to break down and cry.
She had remembered something, he just knew it.
After the women had left when the meal had finished and the men had taken their leave to Daniel's study, the two groups joined swiftly after. Harriet positioned herself out of the way of the company and the attention and picked up a book she had found in the library the day before. It was a book of poetry and she was enjoying it exceedingly.
"Harriet" Came a deep voice from in front of her. She didn't need to look up to understand whose voice it was.
"My lord" She looked up at him with her wide eyes and Daniel found himself swallowing hard.
"May I sit with you a while?" He requested in quite a small voice. She nodded her consent as he took the seat next to her and indicated towards the book of poetry.
"I like that book exceedingly"
"As do I" She replied, she then watched as the Earl smiled at her. Something welled up in her chest again. She could hardly imagine why such a handsome and amiable young man would sit with her out of choice. Harriet knew she wasn't pretty or easy going like the rest of the young women in attendance tonight. She knew she would be receiving several pointed stares from them if she happened to look up.
"I have something particular I wanted to ask you" He broke her thoughts with his request. She looked up at his solemn eyes again and nodded for him to continue.
"You remembered something during the meal didn't you? Something from your past?" She searched his eyes wildly. Had she been so obvious something was amiss?
"How could you tell? Was I very unsubtle?" She replied in a quick whisper. He shook his head instantly.
"No, I am sure only I noticed. You're whole body just seemed to stiffen. What did you see?" He pressed gently. Taking one of her hands in his own and squeezing it. Harriet told him all that she saw slowly and with difficultly. When the Earl noticed tears forming in her eyes he hushed her and suggested she should write everything down instead.
From across the room Lady Greene stood on the arm of her father and watched the pair converse. She had been good friend with Daniel her whole life, all twenty years of it and felt a pang of jealousy and regret when he took Miss. Harriet's hand quickly in his own. For many years now Lady Greene had considered Daniel the handsomest man of her acquaintance and had quickly fallen in love with him at the age of seventeen. However, she knew that Daniel could never return her feelings, and however much it hurt her inside she wanted him to be happy. Bearing that in mind she detached herself from her father and walked timidly towards the couple seated on the sofa.
"Daniel" She started softly. "I do not think you introduced me to Harriet in person" She scolded him with a small smile. Harriet looked up at her and felt rather small. The young woman – perhaps Harriet's own age – was a classic beauty. Her blonde hair and blue eyes shone in the flickering candle light and her smile was magnificent. Daniel smiled up at his old friend before standing and allowing Sophie to sit in his space.
"Of course. I just wanted to save you for myself, Sophie" How he will never know how much those words hurt, Sophie Greene wondered to herself with a stab in her chest. "Miss. Harriet, this is my oldest friend Lady Sophie Greene" Harriet smiled at her as she sat down and Sophie turned to face her.
"It is a pleasure to meet you, Lady Greene"
"Oh please, if I am to call you Harriet, then you are to call me Sophie" Harriet looked at her smiling face and found a smile of her own creeping up at the corners of her mouth. The women conversed for a few minutes whilst Daniel stood there slightly amused.
"You must go now, my lord" Sophie told him sternly. "I would like to monopolise Harriet's attention for a while"
"As you wish, my lady" He bowed with mock civility. "Harriet" He gave a small nod of the head and a smile before walking off to join his mother at the piano forte.
"He likes you exceedingly" Sophie whispered in Harriet's ear after a few minutes. She turned her head abruptly and went to protest but Sophie hushed her and lifted a trained eyebrow. "I have known him all my life, he can't fool me"
Posted on: 2011-08-01
Darcy was replying to some correspondence in his study when there came a gentle knock at the door. He bid the knocker entrance and looked up to see his land steward standing sheepishly looking up at him.
"Ah, Roberts. Come in and take a seat" He instructed with a wave of his arm. Roberts swiftly paced across the grand study and slipped into the chair Darcy had indicated to. "What can I do for you?"
"It's about Miss. Bennet" Robert's told him rapidly. He wanted to convey the message and leave as soon as possible. He didn't want to be on the receiving end of an angry Darcy - or a distraught one for that matter. Darcy's face instantly fell; he had wished the news was on a more welcoming topic.
"I did not know that Thomas had returned" He muttered as he fidgeted in his seat, trying in vain to get comfortable. Robert could only mutely nod as he watched the colour drain from his masters' face. "What is the news?" Darcy already knew by the grave look on his land steward's face that the news did not bring joyous feelings.
"Thomas arrived mere minutes ago. He informed me that he found the carriage overturned on the direct road through Northamptonshire. It was causing quite a scene amongst travellers" Darcy sat forward in his chair and rested both hands clasped together on the oak desk.
"What of the driver and Mary?"
"The driver was found crushed under the carriage. He must have died right away; Thomas said there were so much blood and a massive wound"
"And Mary?" Darcy continued impatiently as he jumped up and started to pace. He gripped his hands behind his back just so that he had something to occupy them with. Robert's looked up at his master who looked in the brink of insanity in that one moment. He swallowed hard before continuing.
"There was no sign of Miss. Bennet. Thomas dismounted and searched the surrounding area. Nothing was too be seen. He knew it was the carriage because her case was still locked in the back"
"Still there?" Darcy was puzzled. His first assumption that they had both died in a crash was now invalid. His second thought was that some great robbery had taken place. The Bennet's had little, but the small worthwhile items would have been stored in her case. To leave them untouched worried him.
"Yes, the case was still locked and the key gone. I am sorry I could not bring you more joyous news, sir" Darcy turned to him and gave him a gentle smile. It was barely present but when Darcy told him that he was grateful, Robert's knew it was sincere. Robert soon took his leave when he sensed the gentleman's want to be alone with his thoughts. He left quickly and mentally wished Darcy luck in telling his wife of the news.
Darcy did tell his wife the news as soon as he felt collected enough to do so, it was very fortunate that she had been sitting down at the time. He tried to comfort her as best as his abilities could before he found himself in a whirl of emotions and tasks.
He was instructed by his heartbroken wife - whose hands wouldn't stop shaking - to pen a note to Longbourn and Netherfield requesting assistance and to explain the matter as fully as possible. Darcy quickly had the equipment brought to him as he couldn't bear to be parted from his wife in her present state. He held onto her form forcefully as she sobbed into his chest. After ten minutes of dreadful sobbing she collected herself long enough to look up at him.
"I am so sorry Fitzwilliam" She managed to gasp out, trying at the same time to fill her lungs with the fresh air she was lacking. He looked down at her tenderly and started to dedicatedly wipe away her fast flowing tears. Even with her red face and eyes she was the most beautiful woman he had ever beheld.
"What for, my love? None of this is your doing" He whispered to her before he felt one of her shaking hands on his face.
"For concerning you with my family matters. And oh, this is my entire fault. If I hadn't invited…" She tried to shake her face free of his hands as the end of her sentence demolished into incomplete slurs. She didn't want Fitzwilliam to see her distressed. She didn't want to worry him. He had enough on his plate with all the estate affairs already. How could she expect him to deal with this as well? Darcy refused to allow her to slip from his grip. Instead he engulfed her in his arms. He rested his forehead into the curve of her neck and felt her hands clasp his shirt and yank on it tightly with desperation. Elizabeth's crying had escalated into great sobs, each one wrenching something out of her soul. Darcy had never heard anything quite as awful as this before. All he could do was uselessly hold her tight in his arms as she descended into utter despair. He allowed a few tears of his own to seep down his cheeks as he buried his face further into her soft neck.
Please make this stop, oh God please.
Harriet awoke to the sound of birds, which had become the custom over the past week. She stretched and shook off her sleep before opening her eyes. Memories of her past week flooded easily to her attention as her brain was not cluttered with thoughts stretching back to her infancy. Then there were her flashbacks. As the Earl had suggested, Harriet had taken up the task of writing any sort of memory or feeling down. She had had a few over the past few days, but they were all much the same. She rubbed the bridge of her nose as she thought about them. They all seemed to be centred on certain characters. Four other young women, a gossip bag and a sterner, quieter gentleman. Sometimes they featured other people, but more often than not they didn't. Another thing which vexed Harriet was that none of them seemed to be very interesting memories. What an exciting life mine is shaping up to be.
When she ventured into the breakfast room The Earl and Dowager Countess were already seated at the table waiting for her. She greeted them with a small smile before sitting opposite Rebecca and pouring herself a cup of jasmine tea. She discovered the tea quite early on and now was on a strict diet of it. She sipped her tea peacefully letting the gorgeous taste roll around her body.
"How did you sleep, Harriet?" Rebecca asked her while buttering a roll.
"Very well, I thank you. And yourself?"
"I think I had a most peculiar dream, but I cannot remember it" Rebecca pondered, taking a bite from her roll.
"I have heard that happens when one gets old" Came Daniel's voice from behind his freshly pressed newssheet. The dry comment was accompanied with a whoosh as he turned the page. Harriet hid her smile behind her cup and watched Rebecca's expression change. She threw a dirty look towards her son hiding behind his paper before remarking:
"Age is how we determine how valuable one is" Harriet heard Daniel scoff from behind his paper. She placed down her cup silently before selecting the biggest roll she could see and pulling it apart with her fingers.
"What about you, what did you dream?" Daniel heard his mother say. From behind his paper the smile slipped off his face. He folded down the top of his paper, and first looked at his mother's teasing eyes then into the woman's that he dreamt about. He recognised that his mother knew full well what his dreams had been; this was just revenge for calling her old. He tried to speak but found he couldn't. His mind whirled and he had to say the first thing that came to his mind.
"Cows" He said suddenly. Both women looked at him inquisitively. For the few moments it took them to recover he felt like he had jumped out of his skin and stared at himself to.
"Cows?" Harriet repeated, holding some of her breakfast midway between the plate and her mouth. Daniel swallowed again, not before wondering what on earth had possessed him to say it.
"Yes" He captured an amused gaze from his mother. "I… I dreamt about cows. I was - I - I was milking them, and then they…" He stopped himself and desperately fought for the attention to be turned from him. "Sang to me?" He finished with a wince. Rebecca and Harriet turned to look at each other once before they both said:
"Was the cow called Dorothy?" Daniel joined in their laughter sarcastically before pulling his paper back to cover his face.
"You can't choose your dreams" He muttered once before diving back into his reading. Harriet gave him a small smirk before returning back to her breakfast.
Later on that morning Sophie Greene called upon the trio once more. She greeted them with open arms and addressed them with her favourite nickname; the three musketeers. Sophie and Harriet wondered around the flowerbeds for a half hour or so discussing their likes and dislikes and other trivial matters. Sometimes Sophie told her a story or two about her childhood and they often involved Daniel.
As Harriet listened to the stories, she wondered if he had broken her heart considerably. The way Sophie spoke of the Earl with such tenderness was the same way his mother spoke to him. She was no blind to believe that Sophie only harboured sisterly affection for him. She saw the way Sophie looked at him so unguardedly when her thoughts slipped away from her. Also the solemn almost painful way she had admitted that Daniel liked Harriet. Which Harriet believed with still impossible. She was impossibly plain, and the Earl was impossibly handsome. They would not be seen as a couple, not in a million years. There looks were as different as chalk and cheese.
Once Harriet and Sophie had returned to the house, Rebecca claimed Harriet's attention and Daniel came and settled himself beside Sophie. The young Lady watched him stare after his mother and her new friend with flickering emotions.
"Are you serious?" She asked him quite suddenly, she had not realized she had spoken aloud until it was done with. Daniel snapped his head back towards her and pouted his lips slightly in confusion. Oh how Sophie wanted to kiss those lips.
"About what exactly?" He enquired, looking deep into her fiercely blue eyes.
"I still don't understand" His heart instinctively leaped up in his chest at her name. He still didn't understand this feeling; it was so new; so sudden.
"I have known you since you were three and I was born. That's twenty years; I know when you take a fancy to someone. And you most certainly have with Harriet" As if his heart and Sophie had made some secret pact without his heads permission he found himself nodding. He fought back for reality.
"I barely know the girl. She barely knows herself"
"What does that matter? Love is blind, remember?" Sophie certainly remembered that. It was all she had dreamed of for years now. Just one chance, just one kiss from Daniel would settle everything. Just some consolation for all those nights.
"Humph. I don't know, Soph" Daniel rubbed the back of his neck with one of his hands and looked towards the door.
"You don't find girls like her every other day. She's lovely, and extremely smart. You will never be in want of conversation. I readily give you my blessing" Sophie finished off in quite a small voice.
"Do I need your blessing?" He asked her with an eye brow raised in amusement. Sophie tilted her chin up to meet his gaze straight on.
"You would never proceed without it" They then lapsed into silence, until suddenly Daniel held out his hand to her. She looked at it for a few minutes before looking at him with wide eyes.
"I am sorry, Sophie" His eyes were soft and concerning. She had never seen him look at her like this before. It was as if he was almost in pain over something. If not that, then fighting some internal battle with his feelings.
"About what?" She asked and watched in horror as her hand snaked into his and his fingers interlaced them together. Her breath hitched quickly. She never thought she would experience something like this with Daniel. Not in a million years. At least, not in reality. Daniel could hear her heavy breathing and felt shoddier for it. It wasn't like he chose to make her so attracted to him. Or that he didn't find her so.
"Us. I am sorry I could never love you how you love me" A tear threatened to form in Sophie's eye, she batted her lashes quickly willing it to go away. She went to speak at first, but her voice came out as a dry rasp. She shook her head and tried again.
"It does not matter, Daniel. It was just never meant to be. Besides, there is a young handsome gentleman who just bought up Twicken House" Her voice was forcefully light and contented. And she was glad to feel that her words were true. Henry Windsor was turning out to be a perfect man. Sophie felt it deep inside her that soon all feelings for Daniel will be put to rest.
"Oh, how fascinating. Pray, tell me about this 'young handsome gentleman' then" Daniel replied half in jest and half in earnest.
She took a deep breath before telling Daniel all she knew about her new neighbour. Daniel listened with a ready ear and only teased her when he saw appropriate to do so. They spoke on the matter for some time, and Daniel's mind was put at ease that soon Sophie would come to love him as a brother, and only as a brother.
"I must go attend some land with my steward. I think you will find mother and Harriet by the lake, it is quite a favourite spot of theirs" He finally admitted after checking his pocket watch and realized that he was in fact terribly late. He hated to keep his steward waiting, but Harrison was so very fond of Sophie that he would not mind.
"Thank you" Daniel stood and paced towards the door, before stopping a few feet short and taking a deep breath.
"Oh and Sophie"
"Yes?" She looked up at him with her remarkable crystal eyes. She stood quickly. To her surprise Daniel stepped back towards her quite determined. He took her face in his hands. Swallowed down a lump in his throat hard before leaning towards her and giving her one chaste kiss to her lips. When he drew out instantly he continued to hold her face close to his allowing her time to process the last few seconds. Sophie could barely believe what had happened. She wanted to smile, cry and collapse into a heap all at the same time.
"I hope this new young gentleman teats you better then I" He told her softly and sincerely before making his way towards the stables with a confused look on his face. If only that had been Harriet. No, if that had been Harriet the kiss would not have been in any way uncorrupted.
Henry Winsor sat in his library at Twicken that evening when a sharp rasp interrupted his reading. He called for the knocker to enter and his father strode into the room holding out a letter.
"Henry, dear boy. This has just arrived from Frayton Abbey" Henry looked at the letter in his father's hand curiously before taking it and pacing towards the fire so he could best read its contents. Old Mr. Windsor watched his son, snatching the arm chair he had just left and settled back contented. Henry stood stooped towards the fire slightly as he skimmed the contents quickly.
"Who is it from?" His father's gruff voice asked. Henry turned his eyes back towards him with a slight smile on his face.
"It is from the Earl of Greycote" The elder Window scratched his chin in wonderment. He had known the late Earl some years ago, and heard a lot about the new earl. All of it in praise, he was happy to say. Apparently he was quite the gentleman and a most kind landowner. He had not realized how close Frayton Abbey was until his son purchased Twicken.
"And what says he?"
"He invites us to dine with him on Tuesday. And also, invites us to attend his summer ball in two weeks' time" Henry informed his father quickly, searching his eyes for any sign of further input. "I suppose I must accept him, father?"
"You may. You would not want to displease the Earl" Henry smiled as he paced over to the other armchair situated by the fire.
"It would not matter if I displeased the Earl"
"But I hear he is great friends with Lady Sophie Greene" His father coaxed one of his grey eyes brows up on his forehead.
"Oh Hush father, she must think nothing of me" His son replied with a blush as he returned his attention once more to the fire.
The next day Daniel approached his mother's party by the lake. They all sat together on three blankets with a delicious spread - courtesy of the Earl's generous cook - scattered around them. The day was lovely. The sun spewed its rays down onto the earth, and basked everything in a good light, however evil it originally was. Rebecca had invited some of her closest friends, Lady Holland, Mrs. Ferrington, Both Mrs. Williams' and the Lord and Lady Twinning. Then of course there was Harriet.
"Oh mother" Daniel called when he was a few metres away.
"Yes, my dear?" She looked up from her conversation and smiled at her son. She peered up at him using her arm to block out the son.
"I have invited Henry Winsor and his father to dine with us tomorrow. So take care not to eat all the cake" There was a small ripple of laughter from the party. Everyone within miles knew how much Lady Greycote enjoyed her cake.
"But you know I am so decidedly against cake" She jested with him lightly, brushing his comment to the side. "But I am very much looking forward to meeting them"
"You look forward to meeting everyone" Came Daniel's quick reply. Oh, he is a lively one today, isn't he? His mother asked herself with a wide beam. It was a blessing that Harriet looked exceptionally fine today, and Daniel was in a particularly good mood.
"That is beside the point. Also, Daniel. Now that you are here, come and join us. I am sure Harriet is getting fed up with talking to a bunch of old biddies." Harriet looked up from her book and rolled her eyes, but replied only with a smile. Daniel nodded his head before settling himself down next to Harriet on the blanket. Rebecca watched as they started to converse and a small smile crept across her lips. Everything was going as planned. Daniel settled himself down and tilted his head in Harriet's direction. He found himself then gazing at her face, taking every inch of it. His carefully trained days had long gone. She shut her book slowly and handed him an extra-large slice of cake with a smirk. He accepted it with a wide beam and took a bite. He shrugged off his coat after a few minutes; the sun was heating him up considerably. He also leant backwards so he propped himself up on his elbows and looked up at Harriet. He was squinting slightly. Harriet smiled down at him, his squinting added a few extra lines to his forehead and Harriet found she liked them considerably. Daniel tilted his head to the side and smiled slowly.
"Why do you smile at me like that?"
Harriet blushed slightly before replying. "I was thinking how much like your mother you look" Daniel rolled his eyes. People were always telling him how much like his mother he looked. He did get fed up with the comment, but it seemed especially complimentary coming from Harriet.
"You seem to be a keen reader, Harriet" He told her after a few minutes of silence, in which the purely regarded at each other.
"I find I am, yes. It is a great diversion"
"I find that also. Tell me" He lowered his voice for the next. "Have you remembered anymore?" Immediately Harriet dropped her gaze from his face and found great interest in her hands.
"A little, yes. It is very hard to process. But I guess it is a beginning at least. Hopefully more will come, and I can find out who I truly am" Daniel watched as she played with her fingers, pulling on each one in turn. This too, he noted and found endearing. He was beginning to learn her body movements and how well he could judge her character by them.
"I don't want to pry into your personal business, but what exactly do you remember?" He leant himself slightly forward towards her, so that she wouldn't have to raise her voice and chance the rest of the party hearing. He knew that they would be trying to. He had caught his mother's eyes on them for a brief moment a couple of minutes ago.
"I remember quite a lot. There are the women from that time at dinner where I had the first one. Then there is an elderly man, he is really reserved, but I think he is kind. I see a piano sometimes and people laughing. I don't think I was a very good player" She smiled slightly at herself in admittance. "That other gentleman, he is tall and dark. But he often looks proud. There is a smaller snivelling man as well. He and the taller proud man are always hovering around that beautiful brunette"
"Perhaps she is married to one of the gentleman"
"I doubt it, she always looks at them in disgust and avoids their presence" Not all marriages are happy, Daniel admitted to himself, but didn't tell her that. She was probably right about the woman. He looked up into her deep eyes and imagined what his life would be if they were married. He could sit like this with her every day and have no reason stopping him from taking her hand or pulling her down beside him. He sighed out slowly and suddenly realized that he was in fact falling for her. It bemused him slightly; he wondered what attracted him to her. She wasn't the prettiest woman of his acquaintance or the easiest going, but he loved her for that. Harriet looked down into his warm eyes and allowed herself to take in every aspect of his face. Oh how she wanted it all to be hers.
Lord Twinning turned towards Rebecca and lifted his eyebrow with a knowing smile. Rebecca nodded slowly. He had watched the whole conversation which passed between Daniel and Harriet, including the small smile which tempted to creep across Daniel's unguarded features as he looked into Harriet's eyes. His casual attire and warm looks would almost lead him to believe some sort of agreement had formed between them. But he knew better then to think otherwise.
"Yes, I know. Utterly excellent is it not?" Rebecca asked him with a smile. She had waited all her life for Daniel to find someone to love. It had been very fortunate that it was he who had rescued Harriet from her carriage crash.
"I do not know Miss. Harriet terribly well, but I dare say they would be a very fine pair"
"Let's just hope she doesn't remember up some rich husband" Rebecca said with a smile. The smile was indeed forced. Deep down Rebecca was worried that Harriet would do just that. The thought plagued her sometimes; she could only imagine how it would affect Daniel. He had never been in love before and her mind conjured up the worst situation and reflexes possible.
A church, the alter, the vicar. She sat there in her seat and watched with wide eyes at the scene around her. Everyone was fussing around her. The gossiping woman's voice was there. Along with the calm collected one of the other man. From the back of the church she noticed the proud man stood with a fiery red head. The ginger man was pacing and muttering to himself. The prouder man wrung his hands together with nerves but looked slightly more collected. Then someone pushed them both down the aisle. She sat there collected. Joy now brimming up in her chest, she allowed a small smile to spread across her lips. Thank God it was not her wedding, what would Daniel have thought? There was music now, the colours of her memory swirled around but she could definitely see two figures in white. Was there two, or was her memory splitting up her ideas? Then something changed, the whole picture seemed to whip around her until she felt her self-falling, and falling, and falling and…
Harriet awake with a start. Her dark limp hair was plastered to her face with a fine sheet of sweat. Her breath was irregular and ragged. She clutched onto the bed sheets until the room stopped spinning. She took a deep breath and tried to comfort herself quickly. She determined that it was a memory not a dream. Everything had been far too vivid for a dream, and she felt far too sick for it to be a dream. She flopped back to the pillows and listened to the silence of the house. Her room was still dark and she unable to determine the time.
She rolled around in her bed for a while before deciding there was no hope of sleep. She took up a candle which was slowly dying on the sideboard and exited her room silently not wanting to wake the house. She headed down the deserted hallways towards the library. It had become a useful sanctuary for her mind when her memories became too strong and threatened to overwhelm her. She pushed open the door and let out a small gasp when the warmth of a fire hit her smack in the face and she found herself face to face with the Earl himself.
Posted on: 2012-07-29
"Oh. I am sorry, my lord. Excuse me" Harriet dipped her head quickly before turning to leave. Daniel - after being too stunned to say anything up until now - jumped up and reached out an arm towards her.
"Please, say if you wish" He told her, a desperate tone in his voice. Harriet turned back towards him and pulled the top of her nightgown firmly back up onto her shoulder. She nodded swiftly, noting his casual attire before pacing towards the midst of the bookshelves and coming to rest where he would not see her. Her face was scorching red now. Why hadn't she thought to put anything more appropriate on? She hadn't dreamed that anyone would be awake. Let alone the Earl. She closed her eyes but all she could see was his memory lurking in her mind. His cravat had been discarded long ago, his loose cotton shirt allowed her to see all the way down his neck, and the beginnings of what she imagined to be a very muscly chest. She rested against a shelf for a few minutes, pondering over what she should do.
Daniel stood there in the centre of the room sheepishly; he had red cheeks and didn't think he would be able to look at Harriet for some time. He was not naïve to the shapes of a woman's body but something about Harriet's slight form affected him more than usual. He fell back into his arm chair and closed his eyes. He pictured her in his mind in her loose nightgown which showed him her figure slightly through the material. Her long dark hair and fallen around her shoulders and he would have given anything to be able to run his hands through the dark tresses. But then why couldn't he do just that? Before the thought got any further into his mind he set up a barricade. Propriety. That is why.
After ten minutes when Daniel had drifted back to reading his book, Harriet felt able enough to go back and face him. Turning around with her candle she picked a hard leather backed copy off the shelf - making sure not to set the place alight with the candle - and returned to the arm chair opposite his by the fire. He didn't look up at her from his copy of Pluto when he approached so she settled herself down and tucked her feet underneath her, so as to hide her exposed ankles. She still felt rather embarrassed about the whole thing, especially as it was Daniel who had seen her. The two of them sat there for some time. Harriet found herself wrapped up in her own thoughts and it took her a few minutes to realize she was holding a book in her hand. She turned over the front cover and noticed it was Shakespeare's Hamlet. Something immediately told her that she enjoyed it. Because of that, she was rather satisfied with her choice.
A while later Daniel leant forward to stoke the fire once more, and turned his head in her direction. He watched her glare at the pages in concentration before addressing her.
"You could not sleep then?" Harriet looked up from the play and stared at him blankly for a few moments.
"What? Oh, no, I couldn't" She finally stuttered out when she realized what he was referring to. This made him smile slowly.
"Me neither" He admitted settling himself back into the soft red chair.
"I had another dream" Harriet offered.
"Pray, continue" He placed down his book, and took up his brandy glass again. He swirled the contents gently before taking another drink.
"I was at church. But it was a wedding" She paused collecting her thoughts. Daniel almost dropped his glass in shock. It wasn't…hers was it? "It was the proud man's wedding. I think it was a double wedding with this other exceedingly nervous gentleman. I was sat at the front of the church and the music started up. Now I think about it, it was two figures that I saw. One was blonde and one was brunette. Then I…" She racked her brain and failed to notice the look of obvious relief on Daniel's face. "And then I…forgot" She finished in a mere whisper. She frowned at her lack of memory and rubbed the bridge of her nose with two fingers.
"Am I right to presume that it wasn't your wedding?" Daniel pressed gently, hiding his obvious beam behind his brandy glass. He thought he had never been happier. Well, not in a few days at least. He always seemed happy in Harriet's company.
"You are correct. I am now starting to think that I am not married" she smiled timidly and looked at him. She took a sharp breath in. In the flickering light of the fire his hair shone and his face lit up a warm orange colour. She looked in his warm eyes and tried to stop her heart from flipping out of her chest.
"I am glad. I would have felt sorry for your husband if you had forgotten him" He said with a teasing look in his eyes. Harriet saw beyond the look there was a real seriousness there.
"As would I" She replied in much the same way. She glanced at the fire and fought to crawl out of the deep waters "How come you could not sleep?"
"I always find the master bedchamber to become overly hot in summer. Especially July" She threw another glance at the roaring fire and raised an eyebrow.
"Could you not reside in another chamber?"
"I am" She turned her head back to him shocked.
"You cannot tell me that you sleep here"
"Sometimes." He nodded slowly "I find a library to be a very calming place" He remembered suddenly a very similar conversation they had had on the matter. Actually, that was a dream. Yes, of course it was because it was just before I…
"That is ridiculous" She interrupted his thoughts. Which he was glad about because they were careering off down a very improper path.
"But you agree with me, do you not? That a library is calming for those with a lot on their minds" He saved his thoughts from further trepidation by asking her.
"For thinking yes, but not for sleeping" He rolled his eyes at her before finishing off his glass. He stood before walking over to the drink cabinet. He offered her a drink but she quickly refused.
"Ahh, Hamlet. A favourite of mine" He commented as he was bent down rummaging, trying to find the blasted brandy in the shadow his light was casting on the bottles from the fire.
"And me, I have most recently discovered" She replied absentmindedly, as she tilted her head, admiring him further from behind. When he turned around she quickly diverted her eyes and looked anywhere but at him. He gave her a smug sort of smile before settling back down in his armchair.
"I will not disturb your reading any longer" He swiftly said, feeling the need to hide his smile behind his book.
"Why thank you, my lord" She murmured.
After a while Harriet started to feel the reigns of sleep pulling her into a tighter grip. Her hands were becoming unable to even hold the book steady and her eyes were drooping. She placed down the copy of Hamlet and excused herself quickly, before escaping the library as quick as possible. She was aware that Daniel was watching her as she left, wishing that she had fallen asleep in that chair so he could have carried her to her chambers. Harriet was aware just how good the nightgown was at exposing her figure. She was overly nervous and self-conscious about the way she looked. Having an exceedingly handsome man like Daniel observe her didn't help.
The next day Harriet and Daniel spent apart. Harriet had walked to the village quite early in the morning and after purchasing a new book for her own personal collection she meandered around the country side until mid-afternoon. Once again Amanda helped her get ready and made idle chit chat. She was escorted downstairs by a proud Daniel who once again was very happy with Amanda's work.
"Oh Harriet" Sophie cried as she came up behind her friend and tapping her on the shoulder. Sophie followed her gaze and found her, of course looking in Daniel's direction.
"Hmm?" She replied tilting her head slightly in Sophie's direction but still not looking away from him.
"Has Mr. Winsor arrived yet?" Sophie asked eagerly looking around the room. Harriet looked at her and saw she had taken extra care with her dress. It was a lovely cream colour with a green pattern running down the sides and tied together with a mint sash. Her hair was curled and held loosely by her side. Harriet felt extremely plain by her side.
"Yes, I think so. Ah, yes. He is over there talking with Rebecca. Can you see him?" She pointed towards the corner and saw both Mr. Winsor's talking with Rebecca and Lord Twinning. They were laughing together and Rebecca was the charming hostess, as usual.
"Yes I can. What do you think of him?" Sophie's eyes searched Harriet's plain ones for any hint of a lie.
"He does seem to be extremely kind and handsome" Harriet told her truthfully with a wicked smile playing on her lips. Before Sophie could reply with some smart comment the Earl was standing in front of them obscuring their view.
"Ladies" Daniel bowed in greeting. He took hold of Sophie's outstretched hands with ease and smiled at her slowly.
"Good evening Daniel. Are you well?" She tilted her head to the side, pretending to be curious, but in actual fact looking around him at Henry.
"Especially well, I thank you. I have also been speaking with your Mr. Winsor" Daniel purposely moved out of her way with a laugh and came to rest by Harriet's side. Sophie admired how well the couple fitted together for a brief moment.
"He is not mine" Daniel rolled his eyes and let out a frustrated sigh.
"I came to inform you that dinner is almost served. Harriet" He held his arm out for her which she readily accepted. She felt somehow…safer whilst in his secure grip. Once again, Daniel was able to beam with pride before announcing that the meal was served and walking ahead of his party with Harriet. Everyone watched this for a moment and smiled at each other knowingly. It had all become so obvious.
"Thank you, but I was under the impression I would be sitting with the Dowager Countess once more" Harriet said with a smile when Daniel gestured to the seat to his left from where he sat at head of the table.
"No, you sit with me this evening, my mother has been monopolising your time for long enough" He instructed her, a little sharper than he had originally intended. A young man - perhaps a year or two older than the Earl - settled himself down opposite Harriet and smiled at her briefly.
"Harriet, may I introduce you to my good friend Colonel Johnson. Tom, this is Harriet" Daniel replied absentmindedly after the Colonel had gestured from Daniel to Harriet. He left the pair to become acquainted as he spoke quickly to his butler.
"Ah, the famous Miss. Harriet. Pleasure to meet you. I have heard so much about you from the Dowager Countess" His voice was light and calm, which matched his smile well. Harriet gave him a small smile and could already tell she would quite like this Colonel.
"I must admit I have not heard nearly enough about you" She presently replied as she thanked one of the man servants for pouring her a glass of red wine.
"Then we must rectify that mistake, mustn't we? What story shall I tell you? Come now, Bracken. Which shall it be?" Daniel turned his attention back to his two friends with an exasperated look. He indicated they give him a few more seconds by holding up a finger. He muttered some words to his butler who laughed and then walked off with a smile.
"I hope" Daniel started with dry amusement in his voice. "It is one that I am notthe villain in" Harriet smiled at him quickly, before turning her attention back to the animated Colonel opposite her.
"That narrows it down considerably. I must say that the Earl treats me very ill. Just because I am a second son in the service" Colonel Johnson placed a hand theatrically on his heart and pretended to be saddened by his words.
"Actually, I find I treat you very ill because you are a fool" Daniel smiled. Besides, if his military career fails him, I know a few acting companies that would be happy to have him.
"A fool I may be, but emotionless I am not, my lord" the Colonel replied with a beam. Daniel nodded his head quickly with a smile as he took a drink of his wine - taking a swift glance at Harriet's profile.
"How about the story about that night at Cambridge?" Daniel asked as he raised one of his eyes brows. The Colonel flushed slightly, and Daniel gave him a smug grin. Harriet watched their conversation with joy as she took a sip of her own wine.
"That story is highly inappropriate for a woman's ears" The colonel hissed.
"Come now, just because I was the hero" Daniel told him with a laugh. The Colonel then turned to Harriet's expecting face.
"I will not tell you the full account. But let's just say Bracken here had to bail me out of jail" He told her with a wicked grin. Harriet was pretty sure that she already knew more or less what had happened. She still laughed slightly at the image.
"And you try and tell me the Earl treats you ill?" Harriet asked him with a sly smile. Daniel watched it and was thrilled that she was defending him.
"You can have no idea, Miss. Harriet, for how long the Earl relentlessly teased me afterwards. Actually, come to think of it I can think of a story concerning my friend Colonel Fitzwilliam. Do you know the man, Bracken?"
"I don't say I do. But I am more than interested in knowing the tale. Do tell us?"
"Well. Firstly, I must say that I am sorry Miss. Harriet if you find this story most inappropriate. Blame it on Lord Greycote here, he insisted" Then the Colonel went on to detail a story about him and his friend Colonel Fitzwilliam. They had been drinking in their shared cabin on the way to the West Indies when they ran out of Brandy. So they went below deck to try and sniff some out.
Whilst they were rummaging around two of their fellow sailors came down below deck in order to "reacquaint" themselves with each other. In the end the two Colonels had to sit it out in horror until the morning until the 'selfish' men were bothered to get up and move on. Colonel Fitzwilliam had snatched up the only hammock so Johnson had to sleep spread out across four barrels. He had smelt like gun powder and rum for days after.
All Daniel could do was roll his eyes and Harriet smiled at him deciding she would like to travel abroad.
After that story Daniel and Colonel Johnson fell into a separate conversation which left Harriet the opportunity to watch Henry and Sophie interact. They were sitting next to each other and from what Harriet could gather the conversation seemed to be going well. There were no frowns or awkward blushes. They seemed to be having a lively debate of some sort, but had to be occasionally prompted by Rebecca. All in all, they seemed to be getting along swimmingly.
"It is a glad sight, is it not Harriet?" The Earl asked her as a passing comment. He had his arm rested on the table with his glass in his hand. He seemed so laid back and in control with just one look from his gorgeous eyes. He belonged here as an Earl. Harriet couldn't imagine him anywhere else.
"Hmm" was all she could reply as she turned back to her meal with a small contented smile.
The rest of the meal past smoothly. People talked and laughed. Stories were exchanged. The Earl was sufficiently embarrassed by his mother. She loved to tell childhood stories about her only child and everyone seemed to love to hear them. Today's instalment into Daniel's life was when he and his father had spent an entire afternoon trying to chase a rainbow for the pot of gold that lay at the bottom. Harriet listened as Rebecca told the story with such animation to the whole party, and watched as Daniel's face became redder and redder.
Daniel's appearance wasn't helped by his old friend who added to the list of stories about him. A lot were from their school and university days, and they all -to Harriet's amusement - painted the Earl as the villain.
Talk flowed easily for the rest of the meal, and then afterwards the Colonel led a laughing Harriet to the hall where the men and women split. She had a brief but a lovely conversation about the Colonel with Rebecca, and soon learnt that the Colonel was one of her favourite people in the world. He was almost like a second son in her eyes.
Then the men joined them swiftly afterwards and the smiling Colonel quickly found his way back to Harriet's side with yet more stories and Daniel wasn't trailing far behind begging him to stop at once.
"Harriet" Rebecca was walking towards them with a purposeful look.
"Oh, watch out" Harriet heard the Colonel whisper to Daniel.
"Can you play the pianoforte?" She stopped in front of them with a gleam in her eye.
"I seem to remember I could, but very ill" Harriet was trying to physically back out of the conversation, edging towards Daniel slowly.
"Then please play for us. None of our party are musicians so you will be seen as quite the maestro" She turned around and signalled to the rest of the room. There came a few laughs and a general murmur of agreement in which Harriet stood still trying to form some great excuse.
"Please, I simply couldn't. I seem to remember being laughed at" Rebecca leaned in slightly.
"My dear, we have all had a bit too much wine to care" Harriet heard the Colonel snort slightly before hiding his laughter. Daniel appeared at her side now.
"It will be alright. I shall turn the pages for you" He told her softly, he didn't give her chance to answer he was already guiding her towards the corner with a palm on the small of her back. Harriet tried to turn and give Sophie a desperate look which Sophie understood but pretended she didn't with a quick wink.
Daniel lifted the lid for her and sat down next to her on the long stool. He could have pulled up a chair beside her but he wanted to sit close to her for just a few minutes. He thought after being civil in the library the night before he deserved something for his pains. Harriet sighed before pulling a piece towards her and staring intently at the notes.
At first her hands glided quite smoothly across the keys and the room was surprised. Daniel watched as her fingers moved from muscle memory and her eyes were staring at the manuscript with such determination.
Slight hands on ivory keys. Music filling the room, it seemed to wonderful, so free to small ears.
She sat swinging her legs of the stool as broken scales fell from her fingers.
"Oh stop that playing child! You will wake your sister!"
An older hand came forward and pushed down the lid.
The little hands in front of her were too slow and one palm got caught.
Pain shuddered through her and hit her brain like a blow to the heard. A cry of pain and then nothing.
Harriet's body jumped forward a little and she lost her place. Her eyes searched the page but everything seemed to foreign so wrong. The pause seemed to long now, her cheeks were already flushing.
"Keep pretending you're playing" He whispered in her ear quickly as he batted her hands off the keys and replaced them with his own. The room lapsed into pleasant conversation again after the small stumble. Harriet felt her heart race. She flexed her left hand experimenting with it. The pain had seemed too real to be possible of a memory. She hadn't known pain could flow so strong and be so absent before. She pushed past it and watched as the Earl played with skill the piece in front of her whilst she pretended those were her hands glided across the keys. She followed the movement of his fingers in the air mere centimetres above his own before glancing at his face. He was looking away, out of the window for a few seconds. She marvelled at his skill and acting ability.
"I did not know you could play" She whispered out of the corner of her mouth.
"I do not play very often" He admitted as he pretended to get lost in the music with a nod of his head and a puzzled look. Harriet almost reached forward and pointed out his place before stopping herself.
"But you are excellent"
"Excellent I may be, but committed I am not" He gave a wide grin as if remembering some found memory. Harriet would have asked, but she thought that they Earl would not want to expose another part of his childhood tonight. She had already built up quite a detailed account about him.
Harriet was happy that no one had noticed it wasn't her playing. Daniel finished the piece before clapping himself along with the rest of the room.
Rebecca walked out clapping enthusiastically before resting a hand on the dark lid.
"That was very lovely…Daniel"
"Lizzy!" It was getting dark and the front of the house was dimly lit from the great house's shadow. However, Elizabeth still recognized the site of Jane launching herself up the stone steps and into her arms.
"Jane! Charles! Thank God you arrived safe" Elizabeth said as soon as she had her arms safely around Jane. She had to double check the woman before her was indeed flesh and blood and not some figment of her imagination.
"Are Mama, Papa and Kitty here?" Jane asked holding Elizabeth at arm's length to get a good look at her face. She had been crying; that much was obvious. Charles came beside Elizabeth now and gave her a quick hug while Jane - to Darcy's surprise - pulled the gentleman into an embrace.
"Yes; they arrived a few hours ago"
"Thank God. Oh Lizzy, what are we to do?" She took hold of her sister's arm and held on tightly.
"I don't know Jane"
"First off, I suggest that we return indoors" Darcy proposed as he signalled to the wide open front doors and the heat issuing from inside. The two women passed him and he took Bingley's hand in a firm shake.
"A capital idea. And Darcy, how are you man?"
"As best as I can be. How about you, Charles?" Darcy replied with a sigh as the two gentleman walked into the entrance hall together.
"Much the same" Came the bleak reply.
"I just don't understand it" Started Mr. Bennet into the silence. The whole family had gathered in one of the drawing rooms and clumped together in the chairs scattered around the fire. The room had been avoiding talking for some time. "Such a sensible girl like Mary. She would have written"
"Of course she would have, I am sure. That only means that…" Kitty started in-between sobs. She had realized just how much she missed her only other single sister. She found she had no one with which to make idle comments to. She had found Mary great comfort, especially at night if Kitty couldn't sleep. She used to sneak into her room and Mary would always read to her for hours on end. It was a nice gesture, regardless of whether it was Fordyce or not.
"Oh don't even think that! My poor nerves, they have never been worse! Just thinking about what fate could have befallen poor Mary" Darcy exchanged a swift glance with Bingley. They did not think Mrs. Bennet had ever thought kindly of her middle child.
"No, if something terrible had happened to her, I am sure I would have felt it" Jane started softly as Charles increased his grip around her shoulders. Darcy turned to look at his own silent wife. He held out his hand for hers silently and she threaded their fingers together. As the speculation continued Elizabeth listened with a heavy heart. These were not the circumstances she had wanted everyone to be joined together at Pemberley for. Fitzwilliam and dear Georgiana had been so kind to her, trying to keep her occupied during the day. But there was nothing to stop her thoughts from wondering at night.
"You do not believe the worse, do you Elizabeth?" Darcy whispered in her ear as he gently nudged her with his forehead affectionately.
"I daren't think it, but yet I fear it has happened" Her voice was no more than a whisper. She increased her grip on her husband's hand.
After 'Harriet's' grand performance at the pianoforte, Daniel had drifted away from her company and left her to talk to the Colonel and two other gentleman she could barely remember the names of. They stood in conversation for some time before Harriet felt slightly faint. She excused herself quickly with the intention of heading towards the balcony. The colonel offered to escort her, but she gracefully declined his request.
She leant against the stone wall and looked out over the darkened county side. She imagined what Daniel must feel owning all this land. She sighed out slowly but a lump was fast forming in her throat. She decided she must have eaten too much at the meal and so went to take a walk through the gardens still visible in the light of the house. She turned and started to walk down the stone stops. She didn't get very far before a sensation caused her to grip hold of the stone wall for support.
The dark corridor lit with a single lamp. A child gripping hold of a small blanket listening to the horrid cries of a mother in agony. Hot fat tears rolled down her cheeks and another scream came from her mouth, then fading into black.
But it doesn't end, more cries, harsher, blood curdling this time, accompanied with the cry of girls' names. Five of them, and then one of them repeated over and over again.
"My poor nerves!" Swam around her head in the shrill voice that had issued the scream. Doorways surrounded her; spirits flew around blinding her at every turn. The laughter beginning crescendos as her heart swells and starts to tear its way from her chest.
Harriet gasped for breath, she felt like she was drowning. She tried to tear away the remnants of the memory but her body was already weakened. Her form fell and hit the cold solid stone. It hurt her knees as she fell but she couldn't care about her physical state at the moment. Her head reeled and she leant forward, shutting her eyes tight and willing the pain to stop. A tidal wave of emotions hit the back of her mind and spilled forward through every thought until salty drops pierced her eyes and cheeks.
"Harriet!" It was Daniel, of course. He was striding towards where she sat with a look of wild terror spread across his face. "Are you hurt?"
"No, I am not hurt" She gasped out. He looked down at her concerned. What on earth has happened? He bent down in front of her, his throat dry with fear.
"Did you collapse, shall I send for Doctor Townsend?"
"No, I am quite well. I just felt a little sick" She turned her eyes up to meet his with a lying smile. In the silence which issued Daniel could hear her heavy breaths and see the tears of pain in her eyes. Her face was drained of colour and when a tear slipped down her face he sat down beside her and took her hands in his.
"Are you sure? You can tell me you know, Harriet" He murmured to her softly as he rubbed his thumb up and down her palm. She did not know why, but this gesture coupled with her recently arrived memories made her feel worse.
"I was… I - I just" She didn't managed to get any further before her confusion crushed her and she burst into tears. Within seconds Daniel had her folded against his firm chest. He rested his chin on the top of her head and could smell her rich hair. He closed his eyes and allowed her to grip at the back of his coat. "You're waistcoat" He heard her mumble trying to detach herself from him. Instead of allowing her he only held her tighter.
"Hang the blasted waistcoat" He muttered softly, as he leant his forehead on the side of her head and butted gently against it with fondness. She continued to cry then calm then cry again when the demon of her past shocked her with some unforeseen memory with a jolt. Daniel said nothing, except for occasionally hushing her when something particularly painful came back to her. His hushes were a gentle hum, similar to the reeds blowing gently in a warm summer's breeze around his lake.
The pair remained like this for a few more minutes before Harriet trusted herself to look at him and not cry again. She was utterly mortified about her actions and dreaded what the Earl must have thought. He continued to hold her close and Harriet was glad that he continued to embrace her until the last susurrations of hysteria had gone.