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Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 26-28

December 05, 2016 05:21PM
*Get ready for some D&E fireworks!


Chapter 26

The next morning

Elizabeth's heart pounded as she neared the Red Room. It had been more than a week since she'd seen Fitzwilliam awake, and the anticipation had her insides flittering like a flock of butterflies.

Crossing the threshold, the sight of Fitzwilliam took her breath away. Standing tall fastening the brass buttons of his dark brown uniform, he looked like the man she'd fallen in love with in Belgium. The bruising was gone, the cuts healed. It was all she could do not to throw her arms around him.

“Ah, Miss Thomas. You've come to escort the army's circus bear to the show.”

Her elation plummeted at the sarcasm lacing his velvety baritone voice. Indeed, she tapped. And a smart looking one he is. But I'll abandon him if he growls.

He was unamused by her teasing. “I have no desire to be paraded in front of war office bureaucrats so they can pity me, and then pat themselves on the back for the fine facility they provided. They're the ones prolonging this bloody war.”

Good. Then show them you need no pity.

Fitzwilliam grumbled.

She looked at the handsome man in front her, blue eyes staring blankly ahead, his world silent. Being blind was difficult—a pitiable obstacle. And every blinded soldier mourned his loss of sight. Was she being too hard on him? She closed her eyes. Her training had taught her not to pity, but to teach. Independence was the key to happiness among the blind. There would be plenty of others to lend commiseration. Oh, but it was gut-wrenching to watch her beloved struggle!

Private Thornton appeared from the adjoining room with a pair of boots in his hand. “Miss Thomas, my apologies he's not ready. His boots needed polishing.”

Dropping her gaze to Fitzwilliam's sock feet, hope welled inside her. He'd recognised her gait from the vibration on his feet. He might be dispirited, but at least he was using the tools she'd given him.

Elizabeth smiled at the private. “I commend you for having him out of bed. Knightley said he's been in a foul mood of late, refusing to get up.”

“I can't say it wasn't without a struggle, but his grief is understandable. At least he learnt to dress himself before hearing the unfortunate news.” He rapidly drummed a series of dots and dashes on Fitzwilliam's arm, then directed the captain to seat himself on the bed. The private knelt before his charge and looked up at Elizabeth. “Would you mind gathering his possessions while I help him with his puttees and boots? Colonel Brandon ordered this room vacated and ready to be toured by the dignitaries within the hour.”

“Certainly.” Elizabeth's gaze circled the sparse furnishings and even fewer personal possessions. What a contrast to Fitzwilliam's bedchamber at Pemberley and dressing room filled with fine clothes.

She gathered his blue silk pyjamas, dressing gown, and slippers, but an unfamiliar bag on the bedside table sent a rod of fear charging up her spine. “Does this Dorothy bag belong to the captain?” She held out the plain drawstring bag.

“I believe so, but I haven't looked. One of the new VADs found it in a desk drawer downstairs this morning.”

A Dorothy bag held the personal contents of a soldier's pockets when he was admitted to a hospital. Was her picture in there? Her fingers itched to pry the drawstring open, but not wanting to draw additional attention to it, she added it to the stack of clothing. “What about this lavender sachet?”

“I'll ask him.” Thornton tied the captain's boot, then tapped on his calf.

“Yes,” Darcy answered, “I'd like to keep it.”

Elizabeth winced as she unpinned the tiny gauze sachet from his pillow and placed it atop the Dorothy bag. After the scent had nearly given her away that first day, she hadn't worn lavender water since.

Rising, Mr. Thornton turned to her. “He's all yours, Miss Thomas. I'll see that his things are delivered to Donwell. Enjoy the ceremony.” He tapped something on Fitzwilliam's arm, then nodded and took his leave.

Darcy checked the time on his braille pocket watch, then rose to his feet. “Would you direct me to the chair, Miss Thomas? The circus hasn't even started and already I'm fatigued.”

Elizabeth linked her arm through his, then led him the few steps to the chair and placed his hand on the upholstery.

Feeling his way, he lowered himself onto the seat, then rested his head in the crook of the chair's wing and closed his eyes.

Elizabeth glanced at her watch. They still had ten minutes before needing to join the crowd gathering on the lawn.

Her eyes shifted back to the Dorothy bag on the bed. Now would be the perfect time to look inside. If her picture was in there, had anyone seen it?

Loosening the drawstring, she flicked her eyes to the door. No one was coming. She reached inside and drew out a handful of papers, then rifled through them one by one: an army pay book, a letter to Georgiana, another letter—from her! Heat flushed over her. If Dr. Scott saw it, he would easily recognise her handwriting. What else was there? She tossed the letter aside, and a new wave of panic swept over her. It was the picture of them together in Boulogne. She peered closer, then released her breath with a gush of air. Abrasion on the face of the dog-eared photograph had rendered her image unidentifiable. Was there anything else that might give her away?

She pulled out a new pair of socks from Anne, then dumped the remaining contents onto the bed. There lay Elizabeth's garnet bracelet. He carried it as a memento of her. A lump rose in her throat as she clutched the string of red stones and pressed it to the matching necklace hanging beneath her blue uniform. Surely he had read the letter she'd left with the bracelet, so at least he knew she loved him.

She returned the bracelet to the bed and picked among the other items. Under a money clip of francs lay an assortment of coins and a tiny silver box. What was it? She placed the curious item on her palm and flipped up the lid. Let me call you sweetheart, I'm in love with you.... The tinkling melody brought tears to her eyes. Fitzwilliam carried a music box that played their song. An ache welled in her chest—to hold him, kiss him, tell him how much she loved him, and share her life with him. As heartbroken as she was over losing him, his grief in thinking she was dead must be worse.

Her gaze slid to him dozing in the chair, and she blinked away the tears. Yes. She would write him a letter so he would at least know she was alive.

She tucked the letter that betrayed her handwriting under her corset, then returned the rest of the items to the Dorothy bag. As she laid it on the stack of clothes, Sarah darted into the room.

“Juliet! Thank goodness you're still here. I have a favour to ask.”

“A favour?” Elizabeth adjusted her glasses.

“Would you take my shift with William this afternoon? My cousin Anne arrived this morning, and I would dearly love a few hours to visit with her after the ceremony. My sister Cornelia is coming from Town, and Papa wanted me at dinner with the family and the other officers.”

“I'd be glad to sit with him.”

“Oh, thank you! I expect the ceremony will exhaust William, so he'll probably sleep most of the afternoon. Besides, when he wakes up, you'll be much better than I at orienting him to his new surroundings.”

Elizabeth smiled. “Enjoy your time with your sister and cousin.” I'll savour the time with Fitzwilliam.

~~~*~~~

Elizabeth stifled a yawn. How long could a brigadier go on about a hospital opening? During the droning speech she'd mentally composed the letter to Fitzwilliam and worked out the details. Just before she boarded the steamer to cross the Channel, she'd mail the letter addressed to Colonel Fitzwilliam. The postmark would only reveal a busy port city, and by the time Fitzwilliam received it, she'd be long gone.

Fitzwilliam shifted beside her and discretely drew out his pocket watch. After brushing his thumb over its face, he slipped it back into his pocket and probed the space between them as if he wished to relay a message. She grazed his hand with her index finger and rested her palm under the drape of her uniform skirt. His palm tentatively slid over the back of her hand. Warmth tingled down her spine. But she only had a moment to savour the intimate contact before having to concentrate on the dots and dashes he tapped on her hand. Is it almost over?

She rotated her palm to meet his and tapped back, Hope so. Rather drawn out. Sorry. Must be especially tiresome for you.

She moved to pull away, but he tapped again. Describe scene?

Hope rose in her. Like a door opening to admit a crack of light, he was showing an inkling of interest in life. We're third row, left of small stage. Mr. K and cousins in front.

Aunt E on stage looking proud as peacock?

Elizabeth smiled and squeezed his hand.

Thornton?

Behind. With Scott and new nurses.

Smells like rain. Cloudy?

Elizabeth looked up. She hadn't even noticed the clouds rolling in overhead. It is. Very perceptive!

A beat passed. It's all I've got. His spirit slammed shut, and he withdrew his hand.

Elizabeth closed her eyes, aching for him. It had been so lovely, feeling that he trusted her with his private thoughts and seeing a tiny glimmer of interest in life. But she shouldn't be surprised at this abrupt shift of mood. She had seen the pattern over and over at St. Dunstan's. Unfortunately this valley of melancholy was deep and wide.

And she would not be there help him up the other side.

~~~*~~~

An hour later Elizabeth offered Fitzwilliam her arm and they followed the aged butler up Donwell's red-carpeted stairs to Fitzwilliam's new suite of rooms.

The dedication ceremony had been a tedious affair. After the pomp and speeches, they'd been directed indoors to be part of a receiving line. As dignitaries filed by and shook Fitzwilliam's hand, Elizabeth stood just behind his right shoulder and translated their greetings and names onto his arm. Fitzwilliam replied politely, but his shifting weight and wilting pojavascript:editor_tools_handle_i()sture told her he was tiring. As soon as the last guest paraded by, Elizabeth arranged for their departure.

Crossing the threshold into his new room, Elizabeth scanned the blue-grey room. She led him across the Persian rug that covered the plank floor between an ornate Victorian bed and two large windows draped in yards of creamy fabric. She stopped him in front of a pair of cushioned chairs flanking the fireplace and directed his hand to the upholstery. He sank into the seat, expelling a lungful of air.

May I get you anything?

“Not at present, thank you. I should like to rest.”

Need help?

“I can manage.”

Shall I orient you about room?

Fitzwilliam sighed. “I suppose.” He heaved up from the chair. “Sarah assured me I've stayed in this room, but that was before....”

She squeezed his wrist then threaded his hand through her arm and led him around the room, stopping for him to feel the contour of each piece of furniture. While he trailed his hand along the bed's footboard, she moved his meagre stack of possessions onto the bedside table. After showing him the bathroom, they circled back to the bed. Dropping her arm, he sank to the mattress and reached for the knot of his tie.

Feeling like an intruder, she tapped, I'll be next door, then scurried to the adjoining room. Thank goodness Thornton had taught Fitzwilliam to dress himself!

Unsure what to do, she crossed the gold-papered room and stopped at the large window. Pushing aside the green brocade drapes, she watched raindrops slide down the glass like teardrops on a cheek. Two hours before, she'd seen a hint of sunshine in Fitzwilliam, but his clouds of grief had chased it away.

A jarring thump and muttered curse broke her abstraction. Wincing, Elizabeth glanced at the partially closed door that separated her from Fitzwilliam. He'd bumped into the bed. Maybe she should help him. She stepped towards his room then stepped back. No. Learning by trial and error was part of the painful process of adapting to being blind.

A boot clomped to the floor. Then another. A moment later his Sam Browne belt thwacked the counterpane followed by the whooshing flop of his tunic landing on the bed. Was it untoward to be listening to him changing clothes? She rolled her eyes. Listening was far less intrusive than looking, and how else was she to know when he was dressed?

The bed creaked again, and then it was silent. She waited another minute before tentatively approaching the door between them.

Peeking in, tears sprang to her eyes. Fitzwilliam sat on the bed stroking the rough stones of her garnet bracelet. The remaining contents of the Dorothy bag lay scattered on the bed.

Her heels clicked across the wooden floor.

Fitzwilliam looked up. “Is someone there? Miss Thomas?”

Yes, I'm here.

With his braces hanging limply by his thighs and shirttail untucked, it reminded her of the day he'd stood on The Ritz's veranda in a similarly relaxed state. He'd been so happy that day. Today his creased brow betrayed a heavy heart.

“Where did the bag come from?”

Found in downstairs drawer at Hartfield.

His fingers searched among the bag's contents and picked out the silver music box. “Tell me, does it still play?”

She lifted the lid and pressed the vibrating box against his cheek.

His lips quivered, and he drew her hand and box back to the counterpane. “I'd like to sleep now.”


Chapter 27

Three days later

“Well, let's see.” Elizabeth turned to the next page in the newspaper, smiling down at one of Hartfield's newest patients. “I think we've covered all the war news, unless you want me to read this one.” She turned back and read, “Influenza Strikes Spain.”

The corporal missing half of his jaw shook his head with a groggy smile.

“I know,” she chuckled. “A report of a flu outbreak in Spain hardly seems like war news.” Folding the paper, she rose from the chair. “You rest. I'll be back later to write that letter to your wife.”

Moments later she meandered down the portrait gallery. With the manuscript edits finished, restlessness buzzed about her like an annoying gnat. The waiting, hoping for the call to go overseas, was maddening. Hartfield had taken in seven new patients since the dedication ceremony three days before, but with a full staff of Sisters and VADs, her help wasn't needed. To pass the time, she took long walks every morning, and spent several hours each afternoon reading and writing letters for the patients. The rest of the time her thoughts were consumed by Fitzwilliam living half a mile away at Donwell Abbey.

Stopping at a window in the galleried hall, she watched the raindrops serpentine down the glass and sighed. Waiting for the call to go was like waiting for dull clouds to lift their cloak and reveal the sun. At least the newspapers had made no mention of spies in Belgium, but Cowart's picture still graced nearly every edition and his blasted posters were everywhere.

A boy on a bicycle sped past the window. Her heart quickened. A telegram. Could it be for her? She hurried through the hallway and rounded the corner into the entrance hall just as front door closed with a thud.

“You're just in time, Thomas. This is for you.” Dashwood handed her the telegram.

Restraining her eager anticipation, Elizabeth reached for the tiny envelope. “Thank you.” With her heart pounding, she ducked into the officer's dining room and tore it open. Relief washed over her. She'd been called to Egypt! And she was to leave from Dover in four days.

With her shoulders back and a broad smile, she made her way to the lift and pressed the button. In four days she'd be on her way to Egypt where she could leave her past behind and disappear into obscurity as Juliet Thomas. It would loosen the noose around her neck, and prevent a scandal that would blacklist Fitzwilliam and Jane.

At last!

The lift pinged and the doors slid open.

“Miss Thomas,” Dr. Scott stepped out, “I've been searching for you.”

Unable to suppress her excitement, Elizabeth held up the telegram. “It's come. I've been called to Egypt. I leave from Dover on Tuesday.”

The doctor relaxed and curved a resigned smile. “My congratulations. I know this is a dream come true for you.”

“You were looking for me?”

“I was. But I suppose it's inconsequential now.”

“What is it? Can I help?”

“It's Capt—.” He shook his head. “Never mind. You go on and enjoy yourself.”

“Something about Captain Darcy? Please, tell me.”

His breath rushed out. “Thornton's being called back to active service.”

“But his wound—? I thought he was to be here several weeks.”

“He was. But he's been summoned by top brass. They're aware of his condition. Evidently whatever they have in mind for him will accommodate his arm in a sling.”

“So he's leaving?”

“Tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow? What about Cap—? Oh, I see.”

“I've put out the word for VADs or Sisters with experience in telegraphy, but I've had no replies. We'll have to make do with Knightley for now, and then send him to London's Second General. There's an orderly there who knows telegraphy.”

“Where's Knightley going? What about Hale?”

“Hale's a fine VAD, but since the captain can't hear, she can't communicate with him. And with the hospital's conversion now complete, she's considering going to France to serve in an orphanage. If she goes, I fully expect Knightley will follow. You know how she loves adventure.”

“Will her father allow it?”

“That's not my business, but when Knightley sets her mind to something, she's a determined young woman. But even if she doesn't go, I can't see her attending Captain Darcy full time. She just doesn't have the passion for it like you do, no matter what her grandmother may think.”

Elizabeth swallowed hard. “So you wanted me to look after him.”

The doctor nodded. “You're an outstanding nurse. And perhaps more importantly, the captain's fond of you. With his nightmares and headaches, I hate to think of him in a London hospital. All alone, only able to communicate with one person on one shift. And in his present condition?” He shook his head. “Not good. Not good at all. But my hands are tied. I see no other option until his hearing returns.”

How she longed to stay! To sit beside him in quiet company. To teach and encourage him. To reveal herself, throw her arms around him and tell him how much she loved him! But it would only end in more misery. “I'm sorry. I just can't.”

“I understand. He's not your responsibility, not your concern.”

He is my concern. That's why I must leave.


Chapter 28

The next day—Just before dawn.

Darcy bounced his knee under the sheets. Blasted headache! He pressed his fingers to his throbbing temples. His skull was likely to split open at any moment. “Thornton, morphine. Please.”

Ten more minutes.

Darcy grunted. He'd already waited half an hour. The longest half hour of his life. And he'd spent some long half hours in the last month. Month. He'd been blind—and deaf—for a month! And there were no signs of his sight returning—or his hearing, for that matter. If his deafness was a result of shell shock or a brain injury, he could be deaf for life. Could he endure a lifetime of silent darkness? In the past, his rank, wealth, and name had merited him instant respect. But that was worthless now. Now that he was...less. Less than a whole. Less able. Less of a man. Shut out, pitied—pitiful. Doomed to a life of solitude. And this blasted pain! How long would he be forced to live with excruciating headaches? Scott wouldn't admit it, but surely there was something wrong in his brain. So wrong it would kill him. So why tolerate life until then? Elizabeth was gone. His position was gone. He was done. At thirty-one. He sniggered at the rhyme.

Thornton patted his arm. Pill.

Darcy parted his lips then swallowed. He sipped from the hospital cup then relaxed back onto the pillows. Another quarter of an hour and he would feel no pain. No pain—like death. Only bliss. Bliss of seeing Elizabeth. He closed his eyes reliving their last moments in Boulogne together—her sparkling green eyes, her lips responding to his, and her words Come home to me, Fitzwilliam, I love you....

“I will,” he whispered.

~~~*~~~

A little later

The tick-tock of the clock in the nurses' dining room hammered the silence. Elizabeth set down her coffee cup and closed the newspaper with a sigh. A prominent Wiltshire family had been forced to sell their country home for a mere pittance amidst rumours of secret communications with the Germans. And that ridiculous picture of Cowart served as a daily reminder of the bullseye on her own back. One wrong move, and the sale of Pemberley could be gracing the headlines. At least there was no mention of Lydia's defection or clearing station spies.

She removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes. She was leaving for Dover the day after tomorrow, but her excitement about leaving was overshadowed by thoughts of Fitzwilliam. He's not your concern. No matter how much she tried to console herself that her letter would soon inform him that Elizabeth was alive, all she could think about was him lying in a London hospital bed. Alone. Despondent. And shut off from the world.

What if she could show him Elizabeth was alive? She closed her eyes and pictured herself delivering the news. His face bloomed into a smile and then he crushed her to himself while uttering declarations of relief, love, and affection.

“Miss Thomas, here you are.” Her eyes popped open to find Dr. Scott crossing the threshold. “We meet again.” He pinched his lips, and his gaze sheepishly roamed the space around her.

“Is there something I can do for you?” She hastily returned her glasses to her nose.

He exhaled, then targeted her with pleading eyes. “I need your help—” he held up a placating hand “—just for today, I promise. Thornton is scheduled to leave within the hour, the captain has a horrendous headache, and Knightley has taken to bed with the flu. Would you come to Donwell and sit with Captain Darcy? I give you my word, it will only be for today. I've spoken with Mrs. Knightley, and we're working to have him transported to London's Second General tomorrow.”

Her chest imploded as if she'd been punched in the stomach. Fitzwilliam would be leaving tomorrow. It would likely be the last time she ever saw him. She sighed. “All right. I'll do it.”

~~~*~~~

The scone between Darcy's fingers crumbled, sending jelly-laden pastry chunks cascading down his pyjama shirt. He cursed and picked his way through his lap to retrieve the sticky morsels. Breakfast wasn't even over, and already the morning had him snarly as a rabid dog.

Aunt Eliza was partially responsible, paying a call far earlier than good manners should allow. Of course she couldn't leave without obliging Thornton to convey a monologue of Sarah's virtues—spelled out one letter at a time. How embarrassing. Even a blind man could recognise her marital scheming. And this blasted headache—.”

Thornton's large hand cuffed his arm. My time has come.

So has mine, Darcy thought to himself. “I hope you've allowed a few minutes to see a certain woman before you leave.”

I have.

“I wish you well. Keep your head down, and be thankful you have a fine woman to come home to.” My fine woman is gone, Darcy thought as he held out his hand. “Thank you. For everything.”

Thornton shook his hand and tapped, Dum spiro spero. With a final grip, his batman was gone.

Dum Spiro Spero. How trite. He wished he'd never introduced the silly platitude.

A moment later Scott patted his shoulder and Miss Thomas' familiar hand landed on his arm.

“So, Scott, you've coerced Miss Thomas to be my interpreter again.”

Only for today. I've been called for service abroad.

“My congratulations.”

Thank you. Doc's here to explain your situation.

A pause ensued before her hand returned. Sarah has flu. With no other interpreters, only option is London's 2nd General.

Darcy huffed. “I know they accommodate the blind there, but how am I to get on without hearing?” Maybe it didn't matter. He'd be home with Elizabeth as soon as he could figure out how.

Orderly there knows telegraphy.

One orderly who works one shift. Perhaps my blindness and deafness will go off-duty when he does.”

It's best we can do for now. Expect your hearing will return sooner than later.

Darcy made no reply.

Dr. Scott patted his shoulder in farewell.

A moment later Miss Thomas' hand returned. Time to get up. Clean pyjamas, short stroll.

“I'd prefer morphine and sleep.”

Up first, then sleep.

Darcy jerked the sheets aside and grunted as pain gripped his ribs. “Let's get it over with.”

Shall you unbutton your pyjama shirt or shall I?

A chill swept over him. Elizabeth had used that exact phrase a year ago on their first encounter at The Ritz. “I will.” He forced the words past the knot in his throat.

I'll step out. Call when dressed. Clean pyjamas here. She took his hand and placed it on a pile of fabric beside him.

Warmth tingled down his spine at her touch. Her words, her touch—it was all such a déjà-vu of Elizabeth.

Mechanically working each button through its hole, his mind trailed back to that first encounter with Elizabeth in Belgium last year. Even when she'd despised him, he'd been drawn to her. And when she'd stood over him that day, surrounding him with her aura of lavender, it was all he could do not to draw her to himself.

He slid the silky shirt from his shoulders, recalling her fingers soothing salve over his cuts that day, and then months later her arms wrapped around him, begging him to come home to her. Closing his eyes, he sighed. He’d planned to marry that woman. Envisioned her walking through life with him and bearing his children. But that woman had vanished, taking the hopes of his future with her.

He reached for the clean pyjamas. Wrestling with the shirt, the trousers slid to the floor. He pushed his arms through the shirt's sleeves, then fingered the buttons and holes. Something was wrong. The buttons were on the wrong side. Blast it! He'd put it on inside out. He jerked it off and turned it around. Dressing without sight was so frustrating!

He hastily buttoned the refitted shirt and reached the top only to find one side higher than the other. Darcy growled. Now he'd misbuttoned it! He ripped the buttons open and began again, finally closing the shirt.

He bent over scrabbling for the trousers. Once in hand, he snatched them up, smacking his head on the bedside table. Pain shivered down his spine while water splashed his hands and feet. “Arrr!” He pressed his hand over the throbbing knot rising on his head. He couldn't even button his shirt or pick up his trousers! Why hadn't Thornton just let him die? He stepped towards the bed and winced at a jab in his foot. He leaned down. Glass. It was a piece of glass. He rose, gently fingering its jagged edges. Come home to me, Fitzwilliam, I love you. He closed his eyes, a plan forming in his mind.

Don't move. Miss Thomas' hand gripped his arm. Vase—broken glass.

As she lowered herself to the floor, he slipped the glass fragment into his breast pocket.

A moment later she rose and routed him to the bed. I'll clean it up.

After fluttering at his feet and dabbing his legs with a towel, she disappeared.

He managed to change pyjama trousers without incident, then returned to the bed. Maybe Miss Thomas had forgotten about walking.

Walking. What was the point of having two legs if you still had to be led about? Blindness was a cursed sentence to solitary confinement. And he was deaf. He'd rather be dead. With Elizabeth. His hand started towards his breast pocket when Miss Thomas tapped, Time to walk the hall.

Ambling along, he counted the steps. Four steps from the carpet to the floor, another six to the hallway. With one hand on her shoulder and the other outstretched, he must look ridiculous.

...four, five, six. His hand met the doorframe; they turned right. Carpeting again. He made his way down the hallway counting to each landmark—table, fireplace, doorway. When they reached the bannister at the top of the stairs, they turned and retraced their steps.

Once in his room he dropped onto the bed and swiped the perspiration beading on his forehead.

Well done! Getting stronger!

He swung his legs onto the bed. “Now may I have morphine and be left to myself?”

Your pain doesn't warrant morphine.

“I'd like it anyway.”

Sorry.

“You're impossible.”

Only protecting you. Dum sp—

“Don't patronise me! Just leave me alone.” He turned away and closed his eyes. With the way things were going today, he was likely to have that bloody nightmare while taking a nap! The nightmare that forced him to relive that hellish day on the Somme over and over—at least until the part where he and Tipper were mowed down.

The war was like that nightmare. An endless cycle of carnage and suffering, dragging on and on. Like an angry monster with an insatiable appetite for lives, hopes, and dreams, it stalked and consumed year after year, differing only in whom it devoured. On the Somme alone, it had swallowed the lives of more than a third of his company. Now it had taken Elizabeth, his sight, and hearing. He couldn't even properly feed himself! He was shut off. Living in a silent and dark world. He was alone. Lonely. Angry, bitter, hopeless, useless, bored.

And tired.

Tired of all of it.

But he had a weapon.

A little shard of glass in his pocket....

~~~*~~~

Darcy's fitful nap swam in images of Elizabeth, artillery shells, and a sinister presence.

A distinct scent stirred him awake. He shifted. Gingerbread. And roast beef. Luncheon.

Rousing himself, he padded to the bathroom and splashed water on his face. A final cleansing before his final meal. Would anyone miss him? Georgiana might—for a time. If he had any reservations about his plan, it was for her sake. But blind and deaf he was unfit to be a guardian. He would only be a burden on her. Richard would take care of her.

If he could see, he would write her a letter. A last letter. But he couldn't see, so the letter in his Dorothy bag penned before the offensive a month ago would have to do. It was meant for her in the event of his death. He just hadn't planned to die this way.

The aroma of gingerbread approached, and he returned to the bed, allowing Miss Thomas to place the tray across his lap.

Hungry? Smells delicious.

Grunting, Darcy leaned over the tray and proceeded through the familiar ritual: determine contents, note location, feel for heat, drape napkin, locate fork.

After delivering a bite of carrots to his mouth, he picked up a Yorkshire pudding roll. Biting into the soft pastry, blistering heat scorched his mouth. He choked it out. “Aahh!” Sweeping his forearm across the tray, he flung its contents away. “Get out. Just get out and leave me alone.” He shoved the tray aside.

His heart pounding, he anticipated her hand and a tapped reply.

There was none.

Had she gone? What now, pull out the shard of glass and get it over with?

Moments elapsed. Time suspended like smoke hovering in the air.

Her hand landed on his arm, and dots and dashes hammered in staccatoed beats, Ready to clean it up?

He jerked away. “Clean it up? How am I supposed to clean it up?”

Her hand swept up his wrist with an iron grip. With your hands and nose.

“You're treating me like a child.”

You're acting like a child.

“Do you have no sympathy that I can neither see nor hear?”

It's because I have sympathy I will not coddle and pity, or treat you like an invalid unable to care for himself.

“I'm not able to care for myself.”

Not at present, but you are fully capable of learning—if you want to. And I intend to help you want to.

Darcy huffed. “You're impossible.”

No more than you. You want to be led around on leading strings rest of your life, or use that brilliant mind of yours and carry on as master of your estate? You decide. In meantime, we'll leave food on floor 'til you're ready to clean it up.

“Fine.”

Fine.

“Good.”

Good. Let me know when you decide. I'll be next door. Her hand jerked away, and a second later the room shook with the vibration of a slammed door.

Fuming, he rammed his hand into his pocket and pulled out the shard of glass.

##

Yikes! D is at a pretty low place. What do you think will happen next??

On another note, I am looking for some people to be a part of my launch team for this novel. Basically all it entails is reading this novel in full and leaving an honest review on Amazon between Dec 15 and Jan 5. I need people living in the USA & especially those living in non-USA countries. If you live in Canada, Australia, India, the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, or any other European or Commonwealth country I need you! You'll get a free finalized copy of the ebook as well : ) If interested, please email me with your name and country at SperoBooks@gmail.com. Thanks!
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Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 26-28

GingerDecember 05, 2016 05:21PM

Re: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 26-28

RoxeyDecember 06, 2016 08:19PM

Re: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 26-28

AlidaDecember 06, 2016 08:40AM

Re: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 26-28

Lucy J.December 06, 2016 06:35AM

Re: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 26-28

EvelynJeanDecember 06, 2016 02:12AM

Re: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 26-28

CleobDecember 05, 2016 07:32PM



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