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Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 32-34

December 11, 2016 09:37PM
Chapter 32

Ten days later

Darcy stretched his legs out on the picnic blanket beside Miss Thomas. Lately, every morning after breakfast they set out for a shady tree beside a pond not far from Donwell. With a basket lunch and Spero by his side, he and Miss Thomas worked through a list from Pemberley's steward, then tackled braille. After luncheon and a short rest, she walked him to the stables where he met Sarah for the afternoon.

“Is that the last of the estate correspondence?” He crossed his ankles.

Yes.

“I've enjoyed returning to business. I much prefer making decisions about Pemberley over leading men into battle.” He smoothed his hand down Spero's back and began massaging the dog's nearly-healed leg.

You love it don't you?

“Love what?”

Pemberley—the land—all of it. And you find deep satisfaction in being its owner.

“Pemberley and the land are in my blood. But I don't really see myself as owner. I'm more like a caretaker. Of a timeless entity that existed long before me and, God willing, will go on long after I'm gone—if I manage it well.”

G lucky to have you for brother.

“She's a sweet girl. I'd do anything for her. She's all I have.” A cloud of grief for the loss of Elizabeth drifted over him. He swept it away and shifted. “Tell me about you. You rarely speak of yourself.”

Had scarlet fever at six, favourite poet is Byron, don't like beets, scared of horses.

Darcy chuckled. “So that's Juliet Thomas summed up in a dozen words.”

She squeezed his hand.

“I suppose your interest in nursing comes from your father. What of the rest of your family? I only know you've recently returned to England from America. What made you come back?”

She hesitated before tapping. War changed everything. Since war began, parents died and sister married. Wanted to start over and busy myself. Help save as many men as I can.

“You mentioned once that you lost someone in the war. A beau?”

She responded with gentle pressure on his hand.

A melancholy silence hung between them. His question about her beau had been thoughtless. She was probably as pained by her loss as he was by his. Perhaps their mutual grief was one reason for the resonance between them.

A sudden awareness of her hand covering his and the close proximity of her body sparked a yearning inside him. Clearing his throat, he withdrew his hand and sat up. “Shall we begin our braille lesson?”

She set a thick book on his lap. Found new book of war poems thought you'd like.

He found the first page, then stuttered his fingers over the raised braille dots. After three stanzas, he swiped the beads of perspiration from his brow, then resumed his faltering reading aloud.

After gently patting his knuckles to halt him, Miss Thomas tapped, Don't have to finish.

“I'd like to complete it—if you can endure my blunders and painfully slow reading.”

She removed her hand, and he began again, slowly interpreting the dots of the last stanza.

“...as Tommies trudged across the barren wasteland of the Somme.
Little did they know that day
Their lives would be forever changed
On a Flanders field of grey.”

His hand lingered on the page, the poignancy of the poem's last words pricking his soul like a needle finding a hidden splinter. His life had certainly been changed on that Flanders field of grey.

You were there, weren't you.

“Yes,” he sighed, closing the book. “And I'm forced to relive that day over and over in my nightmare.”

Spero nuzzled his hand, and he smoothed his palm over the dog's head.

Will you tell me about it?

He closed his eyes, and an image of men falling like dominoes and smoke drifting across the Somme sprang to his mind.

Talking may take its power away.

Could he talk about it? Tell her what he'd seen and done—or rather what he'd not done?

Her hand slid over his, bathing him in an assuring calm, and his words flowed out in a torrent like a dam given release. “We knew it was coming. Our artillery had been pounding the German line for a week. Finally, our orders came. We were told it would be easy—so easy we were ordered to walk across No-Man's land—promised the Huns would all be but dead in their trenches.

“As soon as we went over the top, machine gun fire mowed my men down like a scythe in a wheat field. The generals had been wrong. Very wrong. But we had no choice. Our orders bound us to press on over the field that was nothing but a wasteland of shell holes and splintered trees jutting up from the chalky sludge. Not a blade of grass or green leaf was left in sight.”

“Shells were raining down all around us, spewing earth and men into the air. But I hardly heard the noise. Time seemed to twist into slow motion. It was like I blocked out everything outside myself so I could focus on my duty to press on. I forced my feet forward, when in truth, my every instinct was to flee.

“A shower of bullets took down the men in front of me, and it was like it shook me from my trance. I stepped over two dead privates with wide eyes and their bodies riddled with holes. We got close enough to the German line that I could see the points of their helmets sticking up above their trenches. Then another round of gunfire swept over us that brought Tipper down. The next thing I knew, I was on the ground too.

“With bullets peppering all around, I crawled towards a shell hole. It was the only thing within sight that offered protection. I was dragging my wounded leg and shouting over my shoulder for Tipper to follow. When I tumbled into the hole, a German not four feet away grabbed his bayonet and pointed it at me. I whipped out my revolver, and he dropped the blade, begging for mercy.

“My finger sat poised over the trigger. The slightest movement would have taken him out. In that agonising moment I held the man's life in my hands. But I couldn't do it. I couldn't pull the trigger. He was so young and helpless. Eyes as big as saucers, his foot swathed in a wad of dark red bandages, and covered in mud from head to foot. And he had that look of primal fear—like a terrified animal cowering in the corner of a cage. He was the enemy, but right there, up close, I couldn't shoot him.”

Miss Thomas squeezed his hand, and Darcy blew out a breath. “I finally lowered the gun, but I had to be sure the Fritz wouldn't kill us. I heaved myself across a puddle of putrid water in the centre of the pit. It stank. Worse than any trench. Fritz pressed himself against the pit's wall. He was terrified of me. He had no idea what I intended. I tossed his bayonet out of the hole, then patted him for other weapons. All he had was an empty canteen, a package of cigarettes, and a photograph of a pretty girl.”

“I crossed back to Tipper and ripped open my bloody trouser leg. Blood was oozing from a gash in my shin. Tipper's wound was about the same. But he was scared. He kept eyeing a boot protruding from the fetid water. It was a grim reminder of our predecessor's fate. We had hours to wait until nightfall when it would be dark enough for stretcher-bearers to venture this far out into No-Man's land. My greatest fear was that a shrapnel shard or Germans would finish us off before our own boys picked us up.

“Bursting shells and gunfire showered us with dirt and mud most of the day. But all we could do was sit and wait. And stare at Fritz. And try not to smell that stinking water.” He closed his eyes, shuddering at the putrid smell and iridescent slime shimmering on the puddle.

You never shot the German?

“No. And I could be tried for treason if my superiors learned of my cowardice. But trenches full of faceless Germans a hundred yards across No-Man's land are easy to hate and kill. But face to face....” Darcy shook his head. “He was so young. With hopes and dreams like the rest of us. If I'd killed him, looking at his lifeless body would have been a constant reminder that I'd extinguished his hopes and dreams. I just couldn't do it.”

Darcy sighed. “Eventually the whole thing turned absurd. Tipper took a swig of water, and Fritz looked on like a dejected puppy. Tipper pitched him the water bottle. After a few gulps, he lobbed it back and held up a package of cigarettes. Then they exchanged matches. Suddenly two Tommies and a Fritz were like a merry little band sharing tea and crumpets, serenaded by a symphony of artillery shells and gunfire.”

But you're tormented over not killing German?

“Yes—and no. By then we knew the offensive had been an abysmal failure. Late in the afternoon, the enemy's guns quieted, and I peered over the edge of the crater. Germans were pouring over their walls and wriggling under the tangle of barbed wire coiled in front of their trenches. They were counter-attacking. And Tipper and I would be sitting ducks when they passed by. Fritz knew it too. I ordered Tipper to play dead, but he was shaking like a leaf. The chatter of our boys' machine guns started up against the advancing Germans, and the artillery assault escalated to full throttle. I could hear German soldiers calling out to one another in the near distance over the gunfire and exploding shells. Tipper begged mercy from Fritz, then asked me to finish him off if the Germans poked him full of holes. I told him if Fritz didn't give us away and we put on a good show playing dead, we'd have a fair chance of surviving.”

What happened?

“When the Germans came closer, I rolled onto my stomach and concentrated on appearing dead. A minute later two thuds hit the crater, and a pair of Huns exchanged words in rapid German with Fritz. I knew they were talking about us. My heart pounded, wondering if Fritz would give us away. One of the Huns rammed me with the butt of his rifle. I'm sure I moaned, but Fritz cried out and must have made a plea on my behalf. After another verbal exchange, the Huns scrambled out of the hole and continued on their way.”

Darcy released a heavy breath. “Everything in me went limp. I just lay against the crater wall sucking air, trying to keep my heart from pounding out of my chest. Tipper was blubbering like a baby. Eventually I managed a nod of thanks to Fritz.”

If you'd killed Fritz, other two would have killed you.

Darcy nodded. “By disobeying I saved myself.”

Your mercy saved you.

“But that's not how the army would see it.”

But army never found out.

“No.”

What became of Fritz?

“Our bearers picked him up. I suppose he's a prisoner now.”

And you were sent to Boulogne to recover.

“Yes. How did you know I was sent to Boulogne?”

She shifted beside him. Weren't most casualties from Somme sent to Boulogne?

He chuckled. “There were enough casualties that day to fill every hospital on the French coast.”

Her sudden movement opened the space between them, removing her warm comfort.

You've worked hard this morning. Rest?

He nodded with a sigh. “Yes. I think so.”

I'll throw stick for Spero.

Darcy stretched out on the blanket and laced his fingers behind his head. Closing his eyes, he drew in a deep breath, then slowly exhaled. A heaviness he didn't know he was carrying seemed to fall away.

Maybe talking about his dream and that haunting day on the Somme had helped. What made it so easy for him to tell Miss Thomas? Was it the comfortable familiarity between them, or just that he couldn't see her? He'd had a similar connection to Elizabeth—when they'd finally worked out their differences. Once his heart healed, maybe he could love again. Someone like Juliet.

He dozed off, his mind slipping into a twilight of pleasant images of a dark-haired woman, poetry, and soft feminine laughter.

Suddenly Darcy bolted upright as a blaring train whistle echoed through the air, then faded away. His pulse pounded, and hopeful anticipation sparked inside him. Had he heard something, or was he just dreaming? He angled his ear, listening. A chugging clackity-clack pulsed in the distance. He sprang to his feet, moving towards the sound.

The whistle wailed again—louder. Grass swished against his legs. And laughter rang in his ears. It sounded a little different, but it was his voice, his laughter! He quickened his pace. “I can hear, I can—!” The ground fell out beneath him, plunging him into the chilly pond.

Shock and panic coursed through him as he flailed with sputtering gasps. With stumbling and staggering he found his footing, then pushed himself upright. His heart was hammering as he swiped the droplets from his face, teetering to maintain his balance in the churning, waist-high water.

“Fitzwilliam!”

He turned in the direction of the feminine voice and nearly fell backwards when her body slammed into him. Spero barked on the bank as he floundered with Juliet in a tangle of arms and legs. Each grasped the shoulders and arms of the other in a clumsy attempt to remain upright. Working to steady themselves, Juliet stiffened. “No! Sper—!”

Splash.

Darcy planted his feet, tightening his grip on Miss Thomas as a curtain of water swept over him.

Just as they regained their bearings in the sloshing water, Spero paddled between them.

Still grasping each other, a simultaneous awareness of the comedy of errors launched them into spontaneous peals of laughter.

Throwing his head back, Darcy released a rumbling chuckle from deep within. Adding a whoop, he shouted, “I've fallen into a pond with a woman and a dog, but I can hear!”

With her tinkling chimes ringing with his, he swept her up and spun her around in a swirl of water. “Did you hear me? I can hear! Say something!” He set her down, gripping her forearms.

“Fitzwilliam?” The word flowed out on a teary breath.

She'd said his name. He heard it.

Tears sprang to his eyes, and he enveloped her in his arms.

“I'm so happy for you,” she murmured against his chest, clinging to him.

Darcy blinked away the moisture in his eyes. It was a moment he'd never forget. He could hear, and he was sharing the moment with someone who cared about him—not his position, not his money or his estate, but him.

Tightening his arms around her, a deep satisfaction welled inside—at the pleasure of holding a woman and a renewed sense of hope in his future.

He'd breathed.

He'd hoped.

And now he heard.


Chapter 33

Later that afternoon

“Our congratulations again, William. We'll leave you to rest.”

“Thank you.” Darcy shook George's hand. “I'll never take my hearing for granted again.”

Sarah touched his arm. “We're so happy for you. And glad you'll no longer have to endure my poor telegraphy.”

“Ah! Dr. Scott.” Donwell's master called out as he moved towards the door.

“So it is true! Wonderful news.” Scott's booted footfalls crossed the floor amidst the hubbub of the family's departure.

The doctor clapped him on the shoulder. “Heard you took a little swim.” He chuckled. “I told you it might take an obscure event to unplug your ears.”

“Unplugged indeed. I never noticed life was so full of shuffles and thumps.”

“Any trouble with volume? Or high or low-pitched sounds?”

“Doesn't seem to be, but I've only been able to hear for an hour or so. The only obvious difference is that my own voice doesn't sound quite the same.”

“What about the voices of others? Do I sound the same or different?”

“Somewhat different. And things like footsteps aren't quite the same, but I still know they're footsteps.”

“A small concession.” Scott shifted. “Speaking of concessions, I believe your aunt apprised you of the forthcoming dinner party and concert?”

“She did. Complete with distinguished guest list and detailed menu.”

“Did she mention the reason for the occasion?”

“To celebrate George's birthday, if I recall. And of course raise money for the hospital while entertaining the patients.”

“In part, but there's another reason as well. For some time I've been proposing setting aside one of the wings at Hartfield for blinded officers who have other serious non-head wounds as well.”

“I thought blinded officers were looked after at London's Second.”

“They are. But their blindness is secondary to their other wounds, and they are given very little instruction in living with blindness. I believe they would very much benefit from the instruction of braille and other skills as soon as they are well enough—as Miss Thomas has done with you.”

“You said there was a concession.”

“The Duke of Norwich has a son at London's Second General. The boy's leg is healing, but he's struggling to get on as a blind man. The Duke is prepared to provide a substantial sum of money to fund a facility he feels is best able to address the wounds of blinded soldiers as well as their loss of sight. Besides Hartfield, he's also considering a hospital near his home in Essex. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that bringing this to Hartfield would be a feather in my cap.”

“No doubt a feather for the Knightleys as well.”

“Indeed. And here's the concession. You represent a model of what we'd be aiming to replicate, but on a larger scale. And now that you can hear, were you to be among the dinner guests.... Well, let's just say you could be our trump card.”

“I hardly feel confident enough in my dining skills to parade them at a dinner party.”

“I believe you would with a few more weeks of practice with Miss Thomas.”

Darcy grunted. “You know how I feel about social affairs of this nature, but I'm willing to give it a go for the sake of other wounded officers.”

Scott released a relieved breath. “I'm very grateful.” The doctor hesitated before continuing. “At the risk of being impertinent, might I make another request and observation?”

“Go on.”

“Your aunt is, shall we say, persistent in her petitions to make you more accessible to Sarah. Would you be willing to take meals with the family in the dining room? It would give you the practice you need for the dinner party and appease your aunt.”

“It would be nice to eat at a proper table.” Darcy nodded. “Yes, and I'd enjoy discussing business with George.”

“What about Sarah? Your aunt makes no effort to hide her wish that the two of you form an attachment, and it's not uncommon for nurse and patient to forge such a bond.”

“Beyond being my cousin and Georgiana's dearest friend, I have no intentions of a union with Sarah.”

“But your aunt is right on one account. The choice of a suitable wife will now be more important than ever. You'll need not only a wife, but a partner. You'll have a year at St. Dunstan's but after that, you'll be on your own. Those who have someone to go home to find the transition much easier.”

“Georgiana can assist me.”

“Perhaps, but I know you wouldn't want her to feel beholden to you for the rest of your life.”

Reality struck like a shot between the eyes. “My sight's not coming back, is it?”

~~~*~~~

That night

If your sight hasn't returned by now, chances are it won't. Darcy rolled over as Scott's words echoed in his mind. Why had he kidded himself, hoping his sight might return? What was the point of having Miss Thomas teach him braille unless his chances of seeing were slim to none? For a day that had been so triumphant, it ended with a painful blow of truth.

But it shouldn't. He closed his eyes and inhaled the lavender sachet on his bedside table and focused his ears on the patter of raindrops on the windowpane. He could hear. Sound. Glorious sound—the creak of the floor, the exhale of his own breath. And voices—the gateway to communication.

Fitzwilliam. A tingle shimmered down his spine recalling Miss Thomas speaking his name. It wasn't just her choice of word, but the emotion captured in the way she said it. She truly shared his joy.

Joy. Yes, he would focus on the joy of hearing and not the sorrow of blindness. Fitzwilliam. He let her voice wash over him.

How did she come to call him Fitzwilliam? The Knightleys called him William to differentiate him from his cousin Richard Fitzwilliam. Bingley called him Darcy. And among the army he was addressed as Captain. Using his Christian name was a bit overly personal—though they did share an easy comfort. She was nearly as close to him as a valet. But his valet at Pemberley never took such liberties. Could she be forming an attachment to him? The thought struck him like an electric shock. Scott said it wasn't uncommon for nurses and patients to form an attachment.... Heat flushed through him as he recalled spinning her around in the water and then embracing her in the poignant moment. Certainly his actions could be seen as taking liberties.

Then why had he done it? Such behaviour was out of character for him.

Darcy shifted. He'd have to be on guard that he made no more spontaneous untoward gestures. Perhaps he should distance himself from her. He wouldn't want to be accused of leading her on.

He blew out a breath. But she'd be leaving sooner than later anyway, now that his hearing had returned. He would miss her. Miss her familiar comfort. Familiar even though he'd never seen her. And had only heard her voice for the first time today. But was it her that he would miss, or the fleeting reminders of Elizabeth that she represented?


Chapter 34

A week later

Holding the curtain aside, Elizabeth watched Fitzwilliam cross the yard with Sarah, his arm tucked into hers and Spero trotting by his side.

It was hard to believe a week had passed since Fitzwilliam's hearing had returned.

She'd never forget his exuberance and joy that day. Or his embrace. She closed her eyes, reliving the moment he pulled her to himself. Oh, the sweet torture of being encircled in his arms!

It had been the culminating moment of a day that had started with a poem whose poignant verses had pricked a place deep inside him. And like the popping of a balloon, his haunting experience at the Somme rushed out. At the time, his trusting her with his secret seemed to bring them together, but now she wasn't so sure. This past week he seemed...different. Distant and aloof. Similar to how he'd been at the Ritz when he was sheltering his heart. Was their tender moment together a painful reminder of her as Elizabeth? Could he be feeling guilty for embracing another woman, or was it something else?

She returned her focus to Fitzwilliam and Sarah seated on a garden bench below. He threw a stick, and Spero dashed after it. Sarah leaned over and said something to him, and his face bloomed into a broad smile.

He didn't seem aloof with her. In fact, they appeared closer than ever—the perfect picture of a happy couple. Was Sarah the reason he'd distanced himself from her?

Elizabeth groaned. As much as she hated to admit it, she was jealous. Sarah now took him to the stables to see Samson. Sarah read him the morning newspaper and his personal correspondence. Sarah accompanied him to Hartfield to share Spero with the patients there. And last week Sarah arranged for Spero to be allowed indoors. Why hadn't she thought to suggest it?

Dropping the curtain, Elizabeth sighed, then crossed to the wardrobe and pulled out her carpetbag. Tomorrow she and Fitzwilliam would be leaving for London. He was looking forward to touring St. Dunstan's, seeing Georgiana, and staying the night at Darcy House. She was too.

Then why had she felt so melancholy all afternoon? Because your time is nearly up. She sank onto her mattress as the truth seeped in. Like Cinderella, her clock was striking midnight. She'd committed to stay until his hearing returned and it had. His nightmares had nearly disappeared since revealing his harrowing experience at the Somme. Even his headaches had subsided. He was healthy and whole. The truth was that he no longer needed her.

Dr. Scott had asked her to help prepare Fitzwilliam for the upcoming dinner party and benefit concert in three weeks, but Fitzwilliam didn't need her. All he needed was practice. And he now had plenty of opportunities at breakfast and dinner in the dining room with the Knightleys. He was ready to embark on a new chapter of his life—first at St. Dunstan's, and then at Pemberley as master. All he needed was a good wife.

Closing her eyes, she touched the envelope hidden behind the tear in her bag's lining. The words in the letter Fitzwilliam had given to her on the wharf in Boulogne wafted through her mind. My dearest Elizabeth.... I found myself enchanted by you.... These past few days have been the fondest of my life.... Forever yours....

A lump rose in her throat. Last autumn she had hoped to become that wife. Now her chance was gone.

Sarah had once voiced adamant disinterest in Fitzwilliam. Two years ago Elizabeth had felt the same way.

But Elizabeth had changed her mind.

Would Sarah?

~~~*~~~

The next evening—Darcy House, London

The floorboards squeaked beneath Darcy's feet as he crossed his study at Darcy House. He paused and smiled, intentionally flexing the creaking plank with the toe of his boot. Never again would he take his hearing for granted.

Resuming his steps, he extended his hand in expectation of the table between the room's two large windows. When his fingertips met the polished wood, he crawled them to the decanter and poured himself a drink. Home. Darcy House wasn't Pemberley, but it was familiar. And comfortable. It was his domain.

Swirling the brandy in the snifter, he raised it to his nose and inhaled. Every nuance of the fruity fragrance filled his nostrils. Surely its scent hadn't changed, but after so many weeks of sight and sound deprivation, his olfactory sense had sharpened like a knife blade on a sanding stone.

He sipped the liquid and sighed. He would never see again. Not the sun reflecting off Pemberley's lake, or Georgiana, or Juliet.

Or Elizabeth.

He closed his eyes and pictured her twinkling green eyes and warm smile. She would have brought vibrance and life to Pemberley and Darcy House.

He reached into his uniform's breast pocket, then drew out the little silver box and lifted the lid. Let me call you sweetheart, I'm in love with you. Let me hear you whisper that you love me too..... The melody flowed over him, bathing him in memories.

His eyes misted, and he snapped the box shut. He couldn't allow self-pity or despondency to gain a foothold. He had to focus on his future. And right now that meant looking ahead to his next nine months at St. Dunstan's. Due to Miss Thomas' excellent tutelage, the staff there had assured him that if he continued to progress, he could expedite his training and be back at the helm as Pemberley's master before this time next year.

He sipped from the snifter. Independence is the key to happiness for the blind. What he'd experienced at St. Dunstan's today confirmed the truth of their motto. The men there walked about with a confidence and cheerfulness that was inspiring. He'd even found himself chuckling along with their friendly banter over a game of dominoes.

He crossed to his desk and sank into his chair. If blind men could learn to be poultry farmers and cobblers, surely he, a gentleman, could run his estate. But he would need some sort of assistant.

He swirled the aromatic liquid in his glass. He'd need someone who appreciated the challenges of being blind and would be meticulous to keep things in their proper place. Someone he trusted—who understood business, that he would feel comfortable spending hours at a time with.

Like Juliet.

He tried on the thought. Yes, someone like Juliet.

Or Elizabeth.

Blinking away the memories, he forced his thoughts back to Miss Thomas.

Miss Thomas was a woman. But she'd already been helping him with estate business. And she certainly understood the challenges of being blind. And he rather enjoyed her company. Actually he was fond of her.

He absently stroked the stones of the garnet bracelet, then huffed. How ridiculous. A nurse, a woman, becoming his business assistant? That was absurd. He'd be the laughing stock of London society.

Scuffing slippers interrupted his thoughts. “Fitzwilliam, are you still awake?”

“Ana.” He rose to his feet.

The light switch clicked, and she padded across the floor. “It's late. I was worried when you didn't come upstairs.”

Darcy held out his hand. “I've just been enjoying my study.”

Georgiana clasped his palm. “It's good to have you home.”

“It's good to be home.” He squeezed her back.

She lingered beside him before gently pulling her hand away. “Fitzwilliam, may I speak with you about something?”

“Of course.” He gestured in the direction of the chair in front of his desk, then felt for his own seat and lowered himself.

“Actually, it's about...someone. Do you remember Alexander Prescott?”

“The one who chased you with a frog when you were ten years old?”

“Yes. I—. He was one of our patients in Lambton. And, well, he and I....”

Darcy sat back and smiled. “Are you trying to say you've developed a fondness for him now that he's older and wiser? And handsome, perhaps?”

“Oh, yes! He's a perfect gentlemen, now.”

“I encountered him a few years ago. He's a fine man. He would make a good husband.”

“So you approve then?” Her words came out on a relieved breath.

“You're of marriageable age, and I can't hold on to you forever.”

“Thank you,” she managed the words on a teary breath but seemed to have something else to say.

“Is that all?”

She sniffed. “Well, there is another matter....” She shifted in her chair. “Did you enjoy today at St. Dunstan's?”

“I did. I expect I'll be sore tomorrow from rowing with the other officers.”

“So you think you'll get on well there?”

“Well enough.”

“And Miss Thomas will be leaving.”

“That is her wish. I dictated a letter to Scott giving her my highest recommendation.”

“But she will be gone.”

Darcy chuckled under his breath. “Yes. What is it you're getting at?”

Her hesitancy suspended the moment, and then her words tumbled out. “Fitzwilliam, I know it may be too soon to consider another woman, but Juliet would make a wonderful wife. I know she's fond of you. I see the way she looks at you. And you're fond of her, aren't you?”

“Yes, but—”

“She may not be from a prominent family, but you said there were objections to Elizabeth's family as well. And you are getting older.” Her chair scraped the floor as she rose to her feet. “I just want you to be settled and happy.”

Her hand landed on his shoulder and he rose, drawing her into his arms. “I know you do.”

“Then you'll think about it?”

“I'll think about it, but don't get your hopes up.” He tightened his arms around her. “Why don't you go back upstairs? I'll be up shortly.”

Georgiana's footsteps echoed across the floor, then suddenly stopped. “Fitzwilliam, are you sure we've never met her before?”

“Miss Thomas? I don't think so. She's recently arrived from America. What makes you ask?”

“There's something familiar about her. Like I've seen her someplace, but I can't recall where.”

“Surely she would have said something if we had.”

“I suppose so. But you will consider what we talked about, won't you?”

“Yes, Ana. Goodnight.” He shook his head, then resumed his seat and picked up a pencil, twirling it through his fingers. So Georgiana wanted him to consider Juliet as his wife. Darcy traced his jaw with his thumb and forefinger with his other hand. Considering a woman other than Elizabeth felt like betrayal.

But if he was going to move past Elizabeth and embrace his future as a blind man, he must force himself to consider other opportunities. And his choice of a wife would be more important than ever. Could he see himself married to Juliet?

He closed his eyes, struggling to conjure an image of the woman he'd never seen standing by him as his wife, but the only face that came to mind was Elizabeth's. He forced spectacles over her twinkling green eyes, then released his pent-up breath with a gush of air.

He couldn't seem to envision them as two individuals. Both were kind, witty, intelligent, and strong. And both... fit him.

Yes, Juliet fit him. He sipped his brandy, surprised by his conclusion. If she was his wife, no one need know she assisted him in business as well. But would she be willing to assist him? A wife aiding her husband in business was certainly unconventional. But times were changing. And undoubtedly would continue to change after the war. Would Juliet even consider the idea? Georgiana said Juliet was fond of him.... He had to admit there had been moments of...interest between them. Did he hold any genuine affection in addition to the attraction? He cracked the door of his heart, allowing himself to weigh his feelings.

A warm glow seeped out; he slammed the door. He couldn't cast Elizabeth aside so easily.

Draining his glass, he rose to his feet and moved towards the stairs. Seven months ago, contemplating marriage to a woman other than Elizabeth would have been unthinkable.

But unfortunately, a lot had changed in the past seven months.

##

A lot of developments! D can hear and G is planting ideas in his head.... As always, I appreciate your comments! (and feel free to email me at SperoBooks@gmail.com if you see any typos! Thanks : )
SubjectAuthorPosted

Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 32-34

GingerDecember 11, 2016 09:37PM

Re: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 32-34

Shanti ChandwaniDecember 12, 2016 01:38PM

I post about 3 times a week. Thanks for reading along with us! (nfm)

GingerDecember 12, 2016 03:18PM

Re: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 32-34

EvelynJeanDecember 12, 2016 07:12AM

Re: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 32-34

EvelynJeanDecember 12, 2016 07:21AM

Wet shirt pond scene: Ha! Darn, I should have thought about that and leveraged it more. : ) (nfm)

GingerDecember 12, 2016 11:46AM

Re: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 32-34

LisaYDecember 12, 2016 06:46AM

Re: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 32-34

GingerDecember 12, 2016 11:48AM

Re: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 32-34

AlidaDecember 12, 2016 03:57AM

Re: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 32-34

GSinghDecember 12, 2016 02:02AM

Re: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 32-34

JoanaDecember 12, 2016 01:15PM

Happy or angry reunion?

GingerDecember 12, 2016 03:17PM

Re: Happy or angry reunion?

CleobDecember 12, 2016 10:34PM

Re: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 32-34

CleobDecember 11, 2016 11:42PM



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