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Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 35

December 14, 2016 02:50PM
**Don't be disappointed that today's post is only 1 chapter--it's a LONG one!

Chapter 35

The next day

Elizabeth rounded Duke Street onto Grosvenor Square. Yesterday's visit to St. Dunstan's had been bittersweet. She'd enjoyed seeing the nurses, VADs, and a handful of the patients she'd known from last year, but it only drove home the point that Fitzwilliam would soon be a patient there—and blind for life.

She'd been proud of him as they toured the hostel for blind soldiers. Though generally reserved, he'd engaged with the other officers and even participated in a several activities. He'd eaten without incident and moved among the unfamiliar surroundings with ease.

Her morning in London had been productive as well. She'd bought a new nightgown, a braille book of short stories for Fitzwilliam, and most importantly, she'd reapplied for foreign service and delivered the envelope containing Dr. Scott's recommendation.

Nearing Darcy House, Elizabeth shifted her parcels and checked her watch. They had a few hours before their train's departure back to Donwell, but she'd better hurry or she'd be late for luncheon.

She skipped up the townhouse steps, and the butler met her at the door.

Crossing the threshold, she handed Hawkins her parcels, then pulled off her gloves. “I haven't missed luncheon, have I?”

“No, ma'am.” He took her hat. “Miss Darcy asked that luncheon be delayed until Mr. Darcy awakens.” The man's grim expression suggested a condition more serious than fatigue.

She met his eyes. “He's not ill, is he?”

“I don't believe so. Perhaps his visitors this morning tired him.”

“Visitors?” She removed her hat.

“Mr. Bingley and his sister.”

Elizabeth tensed. If she'd been there, Charles and Caroline would have recognised her! Elizabeth pasted on an unaffected smile. “Not bad news, I hope.”

“That, I could not say. Miss Darcy's in the drawing room.”

“Thank you.”

Elizabeth's footsteps echoed through the marble hallway. Had something happened to Jane or the baby? What other news might cast a shadow on the household?

She climbed the stairs and found Georgiana at the drawing room window staring into the distance.

“Georgiana?” Elizabeth's voice broke the silence.

The girl turned, dejection written on her face.

“What is it? What's the matter?” Panic seized her as she crossed the red patterned carpet to Georgiana's side.

“Fitzwilliam's friend Charles Bingley and his sister Caroline called this morning.”

“They brought bad news?”

“I'm not sure what to make of it. It's about Miss Bennet. The woman Fitzwilliam deeply cared for who went missing last autumn. Her sister Jane is married to Charles and—.” Georgiana's gaze dropped to the floor. “Maybe I shouldn't....” She looked up. “But you would never hurt Fitzwilliam would you?”

“Of course not.” Elizabeth placed a hand on the girl's arm.

“Then I can trust you not to mention this to anyone?”

“Certainly.”

Georgiana leaned closer and lowered her voice. “Jane received news that their youngest sister has married a German officer!”

Heat flushed over her.

“Poor Jane is having a baby soon, she's heartbroken over Elizabeth's disappearance, and now learns her other sister is a traitor. It's just dreadful. Fitzwilliam was very upset at the news.”

“I'm so sorry.”

“But that's not the worst of it. I'm sure you're familiar with the famous Dr. Cowart?”

“The one on all the posters?”

Georgiana nodded. “Fitzwilliam is modest, so you may not know that he and Miss Bennet served with the doctor at a clearing hospital in Belgium. But Dr. Cowart was also a colleague of Charles' late father. When the doctor was shot in Belgium, he was sent to a hospital in Boulogne to recover. Caroline went to see him, and apparently he voiced suspicions that Elizabeth was a spy!”

“A spy? Did the doctor have any evidence?” Elizabeth's stomach lodged in her throat. How many other people had Caroline told?

“Well it hardly matters if it's true or not. If word gets out that Elizabeth was even suspected as a spy, her family's reputation would be ruined. And it was already tainted by the indecorous behaviour of some of her relatives.”

“I see. So you think your brother is having second thoughts about Elizabeth?”

Georgiana sighed and shook her head. “I don't know. I just know that Fitzwilliam and Caroline had a terrible argument and that his heart has been broken over Elizabeth. I can't stand to see him in such pain. And him being blind! Oh, Juliet, I just wish I could do something for him!”

~~~*~~~

Luncheon at Darcy House was a near-silent affair, the clinks of forks against porcelain the only sounds.

Elizabeth wiped her mouth and glanced around the table. Georgiana sat like a wilted flower, scared to look up from her plate. Fitzwilliam stared, brooding into the distance, his thoughts clearly not on those at the table.

Elizabeth cut a bite of ham, evaluating the situation. None of the revelations were new to Fitzwilliam. He already knew Lydia had married a German and that Elizabeth was suspected of being a spy, so it couldn't be the news itself that was so upsetting. Was the argument with Caroline what had soured him? Or perhaps Caroline had shared Dr. Cowart's implicating suspicions. Did Fitzwilliam believe she was a spy?

Elizabeth closed her eyes. Regardless, there was nothing she could do to change his opinion of her. And it had been another close call. Too close. She would count herself fortunate she hadn't been seen by Caroline. If the Jezebel discovered that Elizabeth was serving as Fitzwilliam's nurse—. She shook her head. Next time Elizabeth might not escape unscathed.

She needed that VAD summons, and she needed it soon. To ensure there was no next time!

~~~*~~~

Lawson steered the car past the entrance to Hartfield, and Elizabeth glanced over at Fitzwilliam and sighed. He'd hardly spoken two words since their departure from London. He merely sat brooding in an icy chill.

It was such a contrast to yesterday at St. Dunstan's where the other blind men had him laughing and singing Cowart was no coward and nor will we be. And at dinner last night, he'd been warm and engaging. Their evening with Georgiana couldn't have been more pleasant. But Fitzwilliam's radiant optimism of yesterday had been blotted out by the black clouds of Elizabeth's past.

Perhaps Spero could raise his spirits. She turned to Fitzwilliam. “Donwell's just ahead. Shall we stop for Spero before our return?”

“Beggin' your pardon,” Lawson spoke over his shoulder, “but Mrs. Knightley asked that Miss Thomas pay a call as soon as the captain is delivered to Donwell. She'll be expecting her.”

“Mrs. Knightley asked for me?”

Fitzwilliam broke in. “Take us to the stables, Lawson, it will only take a moment.”

Minutes later the car stopped in front of the stable block. Lawson opened their door, and Elizabeth stepped out behind Fitzwilliam.

In their familiar routine, she offered her arm. He took it, but the hand's breadth between them felt like a mile.

A dozen paces from the car, Fitzwilliam slowed his steps. “Why haven't you told me about the posters and ads?” Accusation laced the words.

Elizabeth halted. “I beg your pardon?”

“Cowart was no Coward. You must know of it. Everyone else seems to. Apparently he's a national hero. Surely you've heard of him.”

Elizabeth opened her mouth, but for once, she could form no reply. In truth, she'd purposely avoided mentioning the slogan out of her own disdain for the man.

“Here I was telling the men at St. Dunstan's that my exceptional nurse read me the newspaper every morning, yet I was unaware of something that's become a national phenomenon. It was embarrassing. It put me in an awkward position.”

“I'm afraid—” Spero barked, saving her a reply.

The dog nudged his leg, and he released her arm, then knelt and massaged the dog's ears. Spero licked his hand. Fitzwilliam expelled a pent up breath and chuckled. “Hello, boy, did you miss me?”

Elizabeth smiled and shook her head. It was amazing how an animal could warm the human heart with no effort at all.

With a final pat on Spero's back, Fitzwilliam rose to his feet and sighed. “Forgive my acerbity, Miss Thomas, it was uncalled for. You've been an outstanding nurse, and I've been fortunate to have you. I'm afraid some unpleasant news this morning has put me in a rather foul mood.”

The tension was broken and Elizabeth laughed. “It wasn't hard to tell.”

“Was it so obvious?”

“You've hardly spoken two words all day.”

“Really? I hadn't noticed. I suppose while I was deaf I became so accustomed to silence I hadn't realised that today's silence was of my own making.”

“Perhaps I should be insulted that a dog is more successful at summoning words from you than I am.”

He smiled at her teasing. “Don't be. But were Spero to be proficient in braille....”

She joined his rumbling laughter. Goodness, she loved him—brooding man and all.

Elizabeth bid Fitzwilliam goodbye at Donwell with a teasing promise to beat him at dominoes when she returned.

On the short drive to Ashworth House, Elizabeth sobered, steeling herself for the forthcoming encounter. She hardly expected this to be a friendly social call. Mrs. Knightley rarely extended her more than the barest of civilities.

Minutes later Hobson met her at the door, then led her down the short hallway to the grande dame's drawing room, which she hadn't seen since arriving at Hartfield more than three months before.

“Ah, Miss Thomas, come in. Sit down.” Mrs. Knightley perched on her ornate chair like a queen on her throne.

Elizabeth lowered herself onto the green brocade settee.

The imperious woman dismissed the butler, then turned back to Elizabeth, her chin held high. “I trust you've surmised my summoning you here is not under social auspices but a matter of business, so I will get right to the point. The family is grateful to you for the care you've given William. But now that he no longer requires your services as an interpreter....”

Elizabeth balled her fist. After all she'd done for Fitzwilliam, this woman was going to brush her aside like a worn-out frock.

“...It's time he settles down with a woman of his station and gets on with the business of producing an heir. I believe you are aware that he and my granddaughter Sarah are very fond of one another, and she is like a sister to Georgiana. Everyone agrees it is an excellent match.”

Elizabeth bit her tongue.

“...Now, it seems the only thing preventing William from forming the proper attachment to Sarah is the memory of a deceased woman. But I'm no fool, Miss Thomas. I see the way you look at him, and I'll take no chances with my granddaughter's future. You're a smart and sensible girl, so I'm sure you wouldn't want to stand in the way of his duty and future happiness, would you?”

Fuming, Elizabeth adjusted her glasses, then levelled her gaze at the matriarch. “Just as I made the choice to forfeit my VAD summons for overseas service in order to care for Captain Darcy, I made the choice to reapply. And I did so just this morning in London.”

“Well,” the matron sat back with a smug grin, “I'm glad you did. It seems it is all settled then.”

“Indeed.” Elizabeth forced herself to smile. “Will that be all?”

“There is another trivial matter. Now that your services as an interpreter are no longer needed, it seems rather gratuitous for you to reside in the room adjoining William's. Thus I've taken the liberty of having your things moved back to your room at Hartfield. I'm sure you'll be more comfortable there among the other...employed VADs until you are summoned for foreign service.”

“So you wish to dismiss me as his interpreter and his blind aide?”

“Now that William can hear, I see no reason to retain your services. He can communicate on his own, and Sarah can assist him in whatever else he may need.” Raising her chin in victory, the imperious woman reached for the butler's bell.

Elizabeth rose to her feet. “Don't trouble yourself. I'll see myself out. And as for my dismissal, I'll continue to aid the captain until my employer, the army, sees fit to relieve me.” She turned on her heel and exited without a backwards glance.

Striding out the front door, it was all Elizabeth could do not to slam the door behind her. That conspiring, meddling woman! She was as bad as Fitzwilliam's Aunt Catherine—maybe worse!

Elizabeth strode past the car and headed down Ashworth's cobbled drive, her heels hammering the stones as fast as her heart pounded in her chest. If Sarah thought she had to deport herself in a manner similar to Lady Catherine or her grandmother, it was no wonder she had no desire to be mistress of a great estate. If Elizabeth were ever a mistress reigning over a great house, she would never be so high-handed and dictatorial.

But she needn't worry about that. She would never reign over an estate or anything else.

The realisation struck her like a slap in the face. Her shoulders slumped and she slowed her steps. What did it matter that she was sent back to Hartfield like a naughty child banished to her room? She would be leaving sooner than later anyway.

And she couldn't hold on to Fitzwilliam no matter how much she loved him.

~~~*~~~

Darcy mounted the stairs at Donwell with Spero at his heels and a smile on his face. Miss Thomas was a good woman.

He crossed the rug in his room, then lowered himself onto the cushioned chair and laid his officer's cap and cane on the adjacent table. When Spero's head nudged its way onto his knee, Darcy scratched the dog's ears. In the quiet solitude of his room, his mind returned to his morning's visitors.

Caroline Bingley. He shook his head. She was like an annoying gnat that refused to be swatted away. She had a lot of nerve visiting him as if she were innocent. So much for her friendly letter where she might have voiced Cowart's suspicions about Elizabeth. He huffed. Then she'd acted coy when he cornered her alone in the library. But she'd never forget the dressing-down he'd given her for sharing Cowart's so-called suspicions about Elizabeth with Wickham! That conniving shrew knew just what she was doing. Blast her!

Darcy closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath. But it didn't change the fact that Elizabeth was missing. And if she was still alive, that ridiculous “Cowart Was No Coward” business would undoubtedly keep her in hiding.

He grunted. Rehashing thoughts about her disappearance was like a phonograph needle going 'round and around at the end of a record but accomplishing nothing. He'd done all he could to find Elizabeth to no avail, and he couldn't allow his grief to spin him into despondency. He needed to focus on Pemberley, Georgiana, and prepare himself for St. Dunstan's.

Pemberley. The roses would be in full bloom. Now that he'd refined his sense of smell, he longed to stroll in the garden and drink in their fragrance.

Speaking of Pemberley, another list of things needing his attention should be arriving from his steward in the next few days—perhaps it already had. Directing his mind to issues at home was a welcome change from leading men at the Front. Deciding what route to take across No-Man's land and hoping to avoid a sniper's bullet were a world away from deciding which stallion had the best chance of siring a prize-winning foal.

His slid his hand over Spero's silky head. How much longer would Britain's young men be slaves to the great leviathan of war?

The stairs creaked in the distance. Spero turned towards the sound, but didn't wag his tail—it couldn't be Miss Thomas.

The unfamiliar footsteps neared, then stopped. “Good afternoon, Captain. I'm Mr. Dixon. Mrs. Knightley asked me to stand in as your valet.”

“Valet? Thank you, but I've been getting on quite well without one.”

“Ah, then perhaps I could unpack your things.”

“That won't be necessary. Miss Thomas will be returning shortly.”

“Sir, Miss Thomas has removed to Hartfield.”

“She's only gone to Ashworth House for tea.”

Dixon hesitated. “I believe you'll find her room empty, sir. Miss Knightley's maid moved her things this afternoon.”

“Then have her bring them back.” His ire was rising. “Who directed her to move them? Certainly not Miss Thomas nor I. We've been in London for the past two days.”

“Mrs. Knightley ordered them moved, sir.”

“I beg your pardon?” Darcy sat up in the chair.

“Mrs. Knightley said now that your hearing had returned, there was no need for an interpreter. She ordered Miss Thomas' things moved to Hartfield and asked me to look after you.”

“You tell my aunt I don't need looking after! I can put on my own bloody shirt and trousers.”

An uneasy moment passed. “Will that be all, sir?”

“Yes, that's all.” The nerve of his aunt. Taking it upon herself to remove Miss Thomas and make arrangements for him like he was a child. What must Miss Thomas be thinking?

Springing to his feet, he nearly tripped on the carpet in pursuit of the valet. “Dixon!” he called down the hall. Footsteps halted. “Summon Lawson to take me to Ashworth House.”

“Yes, sir.” The man called back before his soles pattered down the steps.

Darcy smacked his palm on the doorframe. Blast Aunt Eliza! What was it about matriarchs and meddling? His Aunt Catherine, Great Aunt Eliza, Elizabeth's mother—. His chest tightened at the reminder of Elizabeth.

“William!”

His head jerked up at Sarah's voice and her rapidly approaching footsteps.

“I can't believe Granny had the nerve to remove Miss Thomas. You didn't request it, did you?”

“Certainly not.”

She huffed. “I've had enough of her plotting interference and manoeuvrings. I can't stand it here any longer. I'm leaving as soon as I can make arrangements.”

“Don't do anything rash.”

“It's been a long time coming,” she bellowed. “Granny wants me to be just like her, but I have no intention of ruling like a queen bee reigning from a golden throne. And this dinner party and benefit concert.... Granny is driving me mad with the preparations, clothes fittings, and criticising my every move. My name may be Knightley, but I'm not like them. Neither was my brother.”

“Have you spoken to your father of these concerns?”

“He's no better than Granny. He never stands up for me. He thinks young ladies should spend their days embroidering and taking tea while waiting for a husband. I can't stand the boredom. I want to do something. Make my life count for something. As a VAD, I had a taste of it. I'll never go back to the old way. If they keep pushing, they'll lose me just like they lost Stephen.”

“You wouldn't hurt yourself—”

“No! Of course not. I just want to live my own life and feel useful.”

“If it's any consolation, you've been a great help to me. Robert would never have sent me here had you not known telegraphy.”

“But now that you can hear, my telegraphy skills are irrelevant. There's nothing I can do for you that Miss Thomas can't do better.” She placed her hand on his arm. “It's not that I don't care for you, William, I do. But—.”

“I understand.” He patted her hand.

“Pardon me, Captain, Lawson's here.”

“Thank you, Dixon. I'll be along straightaway.”

“Where are you going?” Sarah's grip tightened on his arm.

“To make my position clear to Aunt Eliza and reassure Miss Thomas.”

“Let me go with you!”

“I think you'll make a stronger case with your grandmother after you've had some time to think things through and devise a solid argument. Your grandmother is an expert in rhetoric.”

Sarah relaxed, releasing her grip. “You're right. Whenever I've flown off the handle before, I've ended up looking like a petulant child. Give Miss Thomas my regards.”

Minutes later Darcy secured his hat and ducked into the motor car with his cane.

Lawson slid into the driver's seat and eased the car into gear. “To Ashworth House, sir?”

“Yes. I presume you've delivered Miss Thomas to Hartfield?”

Lawson hesitated. “The cook at Ashworth invited me in for tea, but not a dozen minutes later Hobson reported that Miss Thomas had let herself out. I went after her, but she said she preferred to walk.”

Darcy groaned. The invitation to tea had no doubt been just a guise for a reprimand or insult. But like Elizabeth, Miss Thomas had pluck. She wasn't likely to allow Aunt Eliza to have the last word. Darcy chuckled under his breath, recalling their heated exchange the day he'd flung the contents of his luncheon tray across the room.

But even if Miss Thomas had the last word, it didn't give Aunt Eliza the right to meddle or intimidate. He didn't appreciate his aunt's interference either—with Miss Thomas, a valet, or his choice of a wife.

Once at Ashworth, Lawson let him out and pointed him towards the door. Darcy swept his cane across the uneven cobbles and mounted the steps of the dower house.

A moment later Hobson showed him into the drawing room.

“Ah, William,” his aunt crooned, directing him with a gentle tug of his arm. “What a pleasant surprise. Shall I ring for tea?”

He retracted his arm. “That won't be necessary. I don't intend to stay long.” His cane located a chair, and he seated himself as he spoke. “I'm sure you can guess why I'm here.”

“Would it have something to do with Miss Thomas?”

“You know it does. I may be sleeping at Donwell, but I'm still under military jurisdiction, as is Miss Thomas. Any changes in my care will be decided by the army, Dr. Scott, and me. My personal arrangements, such as choosing a valet, are my affair as well.”

“Oh, come now, William, you make it sound as if I've done you a disservice. You no longer require the services of Miss Thomas. A man of your standing needs a proper valet, not a common nurse with no better sense than to allow her charge to fall into the pond. And certainly not some scheming gold digger sleeping in the next room. It's nearly scandalous!”

“Miss Thomas didn't allow me to fall in the pond. And her good sense and care has enabled me to make excellent progress. She even declined the opportunity to serve abroad in order to care for me. She's been nothing but professional, and I won't cast her out like a racehorse past his prime.”

“She's done her duty as interpreter and we can thank her for that, but it doesn't mean we must keep her on indefinitely. Besides, she's already reapplied for service overseas.”

“Is it true this upcoming dinner party holds social significance for you?”

“Yes, of course it does. It's not every day one has the opportunity to entertain the Duke of Norwich.”

“And you wish for me to make a good impression in hopes of attracting his generous donation?”

“It sounds rather blunt when you put it that way, but yes, we're proud of your progress and consider you one of Hartfield's outstanding...features.

“I'm willing to do my part and work to perform at your little production—but only for the sake of Scott and the blind officers awaiting care. But in order to perform well, I'll need training. And Miss Thomas is my selected trainer. So, as long as she is here, I expect you to treat her with respect.”

“I'm afraid you might be allowing her to cloud your judgement. You need to think about your future and find a suitable wife to look after you. Someone fitting for the role of mistress of Pemberley.”

“That's the point of St. Dunstan's.”

“Not to find a wife I hope,” she chuckled.

“No. To learn how to care for myself, and learn the skills necessary to properly manage Pemberley and my future. And should I decide I need a wife, I will choose who and when. Now, if you will summon Hobson to show me out, I'll invite Miss Thomas to return to Donwell so we can get on with the business of preparing for your dinner party.”

A beat of silence passed.

“William,” she paused, her voice almost pleading, “is there no way I can convince you to consider Sarah?”

“I'm very fond of Sarah—just as I'm fond of my cousin Anne. But I have no intention of marrying either of them. And I must warn you, Aunt, if you keep pressing Sarah, you will likely lose her.”

The matron sighed. “I'm afraid you could be right. She's threatened to follow Margaret. But Sarah is too young to be traipsing off to France. And working with street urchins?” She scoffed. “It's so undignified and...low class.”

“She's no longer a child. She knows her mind. And I can assure you, a marriage proposal won't keep her here. Now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to invite Miss Thomas to return to Donwell.”

Darcy took his leave, and minutes later Lawson let him out at Hartfield.

“Good afternoon, Captain.” Miss Dashwood met him at the car. “May I see you inside? Have you come for tea with the officers?”

“I've come to speak with Miss Thomas.” He offered his arm.

“Is she not with you at Donwell?” She led him through the door.

“I believe she returned here. To her former quarters upstairs.”

“If you'd like to wait in the library, I'll see.”

Once in the library, Darcy lowered himself into a leather wing chair and inhaled the smell of worn leather and paper. As a clock hammered out the silence, a longing for Pemberley overwhelmed him, and he closed his eyes, his mind roaming over every detail of his beloved library. If he didn't regularly picture the familiar room, he could lose its magnificence and detail.

Sadness crept over him like a cloud moving over the sun. He would never read any of those books again. His access to poetry, literature, and history would be limited to the few books published in braille.

He released the air in his lungs. He couldn't allow himself to drown in sorrow. He was fortunate he could afford whatever braille books he liked. And fortunate to have a skilled woman teaching him to read them.

Recognising Miss Thomas' approaching footsteps, he rose. She paused at the threshold. “You wanted to see me, Captain?”

Sensing an uncharacteristic timidity about her, he held out a welcoming hand. “Please, come in.”

Her footsteps echoed on the wooden floor, then stopped in front of him.

“I hope I haven't spoken—”

“Please, forgive my aunt—”

They spoke at the same time, then relaxed, gently laughing together.

“You first.” He gestured in her direction.

“I'm afraid I gave in to my temper earlier with your aunt. I failed to consider the gravity of my words and that perhaps you might fully agree with her and no longer wish me to serve as your teacher and aide.”

“Not at all. Her behaviour was inexcusable. Please, will you come back? I've enjoyed our mornings at the pond together. Not only am I improving in my reading, but it's gratifying to be attending Pemberley's business.” He chuckled softly. “Besides, if I'm to be the main attraction in winning over the duke, my skills will need to be honed to perfection.”

“I admire you for your willingness to participate, knowing how you hated being paraded at the hospital ceremony.”

“I'm only doing it for Scott and the sake of the blind officers awaiting someone like you to give them hope.”

“You're generous in your compliments. But I must confess, while we were in London I resubmitted my application for foreign service. I expect it won't be long before I'm called—probably before the duke's visit. With my imminent departure and the return of your hearing, there's no real need for me to stay in the adjoining room. I may as well stay here.”

“I understand. I expect I'll be leaving for St. Dunstan's just after the dinner and concert as well.”

A gap of silence opened between them.

“I'm sorry.” She sniffed, her voice quavering. “It's just that things will be so...different without you.”

He swallowed over a swell of emotion. “It will be different for me too.”

Like a tentative knock on the door of his heart, her fingertips brushed his uniform sleeve, then grazed his hand as her fingers fell away.

Something answered deep inside him.

~~~*~~~

That night Darcy set his toothbrush on the bathroom shelf, then padded across his room and climbed into bed. The clock ticked over the silence.

In the ten odd days since his hearing had returned, he'd become accustomed to the sounds of Miss Thomas in the room next door—floorboards creaking under her footsteps, the springs of her bed gently squeaking—and he missed them. He missed her.

Darcy released a heavy breath. She'd be gone soon. He would too.

He couldn't deny the spark that had passed between them tonight. Was he coming to care for Juliet, or did she just remind him of Elizabeth? If only he could see her. See her form and features, her gestures and mannerisms. Then, perhaps he could truly consider her apart from Elizabeth.

Did he hear himself? He was considering another woman! But Elizabeth was gone—and had been for some seven months. She herself had encouraged him to get on with his life. And Scott had said blind men who had a woman to come home to had an easier time making the transition.

But he needed more time. Time for his grief to fade. And time to sort out his feelings for Juliet.

But he didn't have time. Miss Thomas would be leaving in a matter of weeks, maybe sooner. So if he wanted to maintain any sort of connection, he'd need to suggest they correspond. Should he pursue her?

He didn't want to assume Juliet was interested in him because he was Fitzwilliam Darcy, master of the great Pemberley estate. He was now blind. Hardly a recommending characteristic. And she certainly seemed anxious to serve overseas. But if she did have feelings for him....

Was he willing to risk his heart again?

Yes. He was thirty-one and lonely. Elizabeth had accustomed him to the idea of marriage, and he was ready. And he liked how he felt around Elizabeth and Juliet.

Could he see Juliet as his wife?

Yes—and no. On the positive side, there was attraction between them, they enjoyed one another's company, and she would be an excellent partner, both in life and business. But her family.... In some respects it was less appealing than Elizabeth's had been.

Could he see her as mistress of Pemberley?

He tried to picture her beside him at Pemberley, then released his breath with a huff. He couldn't see her at all!

But he was running out of time. He had less than three weeks until his departure, and even less if her summons came before then. He needed to make some sort of decision and stick with it. If he pursued her and she rejected him, their remaining time could be very awkward. But if things went well, it would allow them more time to explore a future together.

Perhaps he could have his cake and eat it too. He could try to be open with her about himself without overtly pursuing her, and then re-evaluate as things progressed.

He rolled over and sighed. He'd met hundreds of eligible women in the last decade, but none he'd considered marrying. Then he fell in love with a country girl from Hertfordshire, and now he was contemplating a working-class woman he'd never laid eyes upon. He shook his head. Five years ago, both would have been unthinkable.

But war had an uncanny way of stripping superficialities from life.

##

So, E has another near-miss with Charles, Aunt E meddles, and D is considering Juliet. Did you notice how E doesn't respond to Aunt Eliza with as sharp of a tongue as she might once have? And D is not so quick to assume Juliet will be enamoured by him. A few years of maturity, some hard knocks in life, and time spent in a war zone have changed both D & E. What do you think?

As always, I love reading your comments! Thanks!
SubjectAuthorPosted

Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 35

GingerDecember 14, 2016 02:50PM

Re: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 35

LynetteDecember 17, 2016 01:00PM

Re: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 35

GSinghDecember 15, 2016 12:50AM

Re: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 35

CleobDecember 15, 2016 02:12AM

Re: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 35

BaraDecember 15, 2016 12:16AM

Re: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 35

GingerDecember 17, 2016 01:22PM

Re: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 35

Lucy J.December 14, 2016 06:42PM

Re: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 35

EvelynJeanDecember 14, 2016 04:52PM

Looking for few readers to read WHOLE manuscript within next 2 days....

GingerDecember 14, 2016 04:51PM

Re: Looking for few readers to read WHOLE manuscript within next 2 days....

EvelynJeanDecember 14, 2016 04:53PM

Re: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey, A WW1 P&P Companion Ch 35

RoxeyDecember 14, 2016 04:05PM



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