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Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 5

October 08, 2020 05:57PM
Chapter Five

Colonel Fitzwilliam had a duty call to make. One of his officers had had his leg broken in a tavern brawl and had been forced, by reason of dwindling finances and shear helplessness, to resort to imposing on his widowed mother’s hospitality. The lady was none too happy about the situation. For having to cater to a son who offered little towards her support and yet expected to be fed and cared for when flattened in a row, made her normally sharp tongue even sharper. The poor man was forced to bear the sting of her abuse daily. Of course, he knew his old mother had good reason to be fed up with him, but nevertheless, it was grievously bitter to be so dependent and to be treated with so much animosity and little respect.

The men of his regiment believed that a visit from his Colonel might garner the poor devil some much-needed deference from the lady, and the Colonel was only too glad to perform the service. Logan had more than once come to his aid on the battlefield and had once given testimony on his behalf at a hearing. And so he pinched a bottle of port from his cousin’s wine cellar, grabbed a lovely bunch of flowers out of the vestibule vase and brought them along as further proof of his regard for the man.

The visit lasted only a half hour, but its effect could be felt even before he had stepped back over the threshold. If her son’s commanding officer thought enough of him to pay him a visit and bring such thoughtful gifts, her darling ruffian must not be such a bad sort after all. Her change in mood was instantly noted by both gentleman, and Logan could not have been more appreciative of his Colonel’s gesture.

Once out in the fresh air again, the Colonel breathed in deeply and contentedly. He chuckled to himself at how easily one could alter the way a person was perceived, simply by treating him with a measure of respect. He was very happy to have been able to affect such a change, for Logan was not really a bad chap; he simply spent too much time with lonely men who had no reason to leave the pub before they were too far gone with drink. Perhaps that was why he spent so many evenings at Darcy’s. The domestic felicity of his cousin’s home drew him like a moth to a flame. Though it was obviously not his home, nor his family, the comfort offered there was restorative and addictive. He sometimes had to remind himself that Edward was not his flesh and blood, but only his nephew—so much did he love the boy! And was there anything sweeter than sitting between Georgiana and Elizabeth at breakfast, listening to their lively chatter, and breathing in the delightful fragrances that surrounded them after their morning toilette?

He had originally thought that escorting Georgie during this London season would give him the opportunity to observe this year’s crop of young ladies, newly out in society, without having to put himself on the auction block. He was tired—so terribly tired of the entire, sordid game. Yet he could not expect to find a wife, if he refused to look for one — and he sorely needed a wife! But it was difficult indeed, when one no longer had the spirit for the battle.

“Dash it!” he said, suddenly remembering. Georgie and he were expected for an evening of supper and cards at the Dennison’s tonight. He had hoped to get his hair trimmed this afternoon, but had not arranged to get it done. So meandering down the street, he looked for the nearest barber’s shingle. Rather than imposing on Darcy’s valet again, he decided to venture into the first establishment he came upon, hoping to emerge from it looking decently well groomed, if not rakishly handsome. The old barber did an admirable job, and as the Colonel was about to leave, he consented to have his boots shined as well.

As he sat in the shop window thus restrained, he smiled at the sight of a handsomely dressed lady leaving her residence directly across the street. With her head down and her bonnet shading her face, she descended the stairs and then turned to continue down the lane. The Colonel started as her face and familiar demeanor came into view. She was in an obviously sunny mood, and her smile and bright expression could not have been duplicated. It was indeed Elizabeth!

But had she not said at breakfast that she was to join her aunt Gardiner for lunch today? Obviously the two ladies had not yet met. Perhaps Elizabeth was just going off to meet her.

The young man polishing the Colonel’s boots had been forced to pause for a moment when his customer leaned forward to have a better look at someone he seemed to have recognized. Turning round himself, he said, “Aye, sir, is that not a pretty sight? The neighborhood is graced with the lady’s beauty every Wednesday at just this time, and believe me, there are few who do not wait at their windows for the privilege of seeing her. Do you know the lady, Sir?”

“Hmmm, no,” replied the Colonel, now taken aback by the information and reluctant to add anything to the neighborhood gossip. “I mistook her for someone else, I’m afraid. She is a handsome lady, though.” And after a few moments of contemplation, he inquired, “So, she does not live there, at that address?”

“Oh no, sir. That is the residence of a single gentleman. A scientist he is — very clever they say, and very well liked by all in the neighborhood.”

The Colonel blanched.

Don’t jump to conclusions, man! There must be a perfectly reasonable explanation for this, I am certain,” he thought. I will simply ask Elizabeth about it this evening and then have a good laugh at my own foolishness. How could I ever suspect Elizabeth of anything improper?

But he could think of nothing else all day. What would she be doing on Crestwood Lane, of all places; and why would she be secretly visiting a gentleman there?

***


“You are looking very handsome this evening, Richard,” said Elizabeth, as she affectionately smoothed away a fold in his neck cloth that had not suited her.

“Why, thank you for noticing, my lady,” he joked. “I had my hair trimmed this morning in the most unlikely of places, but I must say the old barber did a surprisingly good job. In fact, I saw you through the window of his shop, but was in no position to call out to you.”

“You saw me?” said Elizabeth, appearing ever so slightly flustered. “When was that? And where?”

“It was almost noon, and you were coming out of a residence on Crestwood Lane, near Rosewood. I had been visiting one of my officers there.”

“Oh, but it could not have been me,” said Elizabeth coolly. “I was with my aunt at the time, picking out some leather to take to the cobbler for Edward’s first shoes. There must have been a great resemblance between that lady and myself for you to think it was me, Richard, but I’m afraid you were mistaken. Had I not suffered a little mishap on that very street a few months ago, I would not even have recognized the name.”

“But Elizabeth, I know it was…”

She interrupted him with a stern look. “It is impossible, Richard, I was not there.” she said forcibly, in a tone that brought the conversation to an end. And turning away from him, she busied herself with rearranging the flowers that had been gathered from all over the house to replace those that had mysteriously disappeared that morning. Georgiana soon appeared at the top of the stairs, and her cousin was thankful for her good timing.

There had never been any awkwardness between Elizabeth and himself before, but the tension now was palpable. Perhaps he ought to sleep at the officer’s club tonight. He had suddenly become an intruder in a house he had considered almost his own from the time he and Darcy had been at university. He certainly had no wish to know the intimate details of his cousin’s married life…but, on the other hand, how could he now ignore the situation he had so unhappily stumbled upon? More than anything, he was devastated by the thought that there might actually be something happening to overturn his belief in the powerful love and devotion that united this family. Urging Georgiana to hurry, he whisked her out of the house with only a murmured, “Good evening,” to Elizabeth.

Throughout the seemingly endless evening and wretchedly sleepless night, he pondered what should be done. Best do nothing at all than be responsible for … He could not even bear to put it into words! How could Elizabeth be doing this to his cousin? And what motivation could she possibly have? Surely, she was one of the most beloved and cherished women in all of England! Was she not cognizant of what she had to lose? And what of Edward? How could she even contemplate risking his happiness? The Colonel taxed his brain with such painful questions till exhaustion claimed him for a few hours sleep. And when he awoke the next morning, his desperate need to make things right again brought him to an entirely different way of thinking.

The facts were these. It had certainly been Elizabeth who had emerged from that private residence on Crestwood Lane and it was evident that she had been upset at his having discovered her there. It also had to be true that she frequented the place regularly, for the young man at the barbershop would have had no reason to speak of her thus had it not been. But in the light of day, the Colonel had to admit that had he not accidentally discovered her, he would not have guessed that anything was wrong in the Darcy home. Elizabeth was as easy and loving as she always was with his cousin. Their knowing looks, their furtive little caresses when they thought themselves unobserved had not diminished or altered in any way. Elizabeth’s devotion to Edward was beyond questioning, and her liveliness and good spirits were totally unchanged. How could a woman as artless as Elizabeth Bennet Darcy have an affair with another man and not have it affect her behavior in some way? It was not possible! It simply was not…and therefore, there had to be something else, something, at the moment inconceivable, going on.

If Elizabeth would not answer for her own behavior, then perhaps he would have to look elsewhere for the information he sought. He would go directly to the source of the problem and demand an explanation. Perhaps he was taking upon himself the role normally best left to the husband involved—but he would sooner cut out his own heart than injure his cousin with this knowledge. No, he would get to the bottom of this immediately and then decide what needed to be done. Hopefully, it would be nothing at all, and he could allow Elizabeth her innocent little secret without regret. He would dress, sport his best uniform to be as formidable as possible and wait for the man to show himself. By the end of this day, his heart should again be light.

***


“Has Richard taken to sleeping in?” asked Darcy as he perused the newspaper over his breakfast.

“Oh, I am sorry! I should have mentioned it first thing this morning, as you had already retired when we arrived home last night. Richard did not stay. He said he had an early meeting and would therefore sleep at the officers’ club,” said Georgiana.

Elizabeth colored slightly, but tried desperately to hide her distress. Poor Richard! What terrible thoughts he must be having! What a dreadful dilemma he must think himself in? It had been ridiculous to deny her obvious presence on Crestwood Lane, and she had to get to Richard before his loyalty to Fitzwilliam caused her beloved husband any unnecessary pain. But how could she keep her promise to Anne and at the same time convince the Colonel to keep her secret. There seemed no answer to this terrible predicament, but it was clear that she could no longer meet Anne without putting her in danger of being discovered.

She determined to go out on some errand or other and wait for Richard outside the officer’s club. The sooner she spoke to him the better, although what she would say eluded her.

***


Having paced back and forth for almost an hour across from that now infamous door, Colonel Fitzwilliam was finally rewarded with his first glimpse of the offending gentleman. The man was of average height and wiry, carried himself well, dressed somewhat shabbily, but had the air of a gentleman — that could not be denied. Yet, he lived here on Crestwood Lane. Why? He seemed carefree as he made his way towards the street, obviously indifferent to the pain he was causing others!

‘Wait! Calm yourself!’ thought the Colonel. ‘Your anger will get you nowhere. You are right to have your suspicions, but be fair. Give the man a chance to explain. This might be completely innocent—though it could hardly be proper, in any case! Approach him calmly or he will never give you the information you seek.” Colonel Fitzwilliam waited until the man was half way down the street, then crossed and hastened to catch up with him.

“Excuse me, sir, but perhaps you’d be kind enough to help me,” said the Colonel. “I am looking for 49 Crestwood Lane. It must be near by, but I can’t seem to find it.”

“May I ask who you are looking for, sir?” said the man with an easy smile

“Why yes, I am looking for the gentleman who resides there. I do not know his name, but I understand he is a man of science and I seek to…”

“Then you have found him, sir!” said Fennimore, grinning broadly and holding out his hand. “My name is Simon Fennimore and the address you seek is mine. How can help you?”

Colonel Fitzwilliam ignored the offered hand and drew himself up to his full height, his expression now grave. “You can explain to me your connection with my cousin, Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy, sir, and why it is that she comes to see you every Wednesday…on her own.”

Fennimore drew back his hand and stared resolutely at the Colonel. “I’m afraid I am not at liberty to answer any of your questions Colonel. May I suggest that you apply to your cousin for that information?”

“You are not at liberty?” hissed the Colonel angrily. “How dare you hide behind such a cowardly reply? You will not tell me, and that is evidence enough! What kind of a man are you to so callously ruin the lives of others for your sport? There is a child involved here…an innocent baby that depends on its mother…”

Simon Fennimore held up his hand. “Forgive me, sir, but you are completely off the mark and upsetting yourself for nothing at all. I cannot answer your questions, but I will assure you that no personal relationship exists between Mrs. Darcy and myself. Her reasons for coming are personal and not for me to divulge. I repeat, please ask the lady directly, for I cannot help you.”

The situation was inconceivable and utterly ridiculous! What reason could Elizabeth possibly have to come to this part of town on a weekly basis and enter this man’s private residence if not for…? If nothing else, it went against every sense of propriety.

“And are you alone with her the entire time that she is in your home? Is there anyone else present?” asked the Colonel, almost choking on his words.

“I am there whenever she comes; that I will not deny. But that is all I will say. Now I ask you to let me be on my way. We have nothing further to discuss.”

The rage that had been building during this frustrating exchange now channeled itself into the Colonel’s fist, which suddenly and explosively found its mark on his victim’s chin. Stunned, Simon Fennimore fell to the ground, blood pouring from his mouth, his hand gripping his throbbing jaw.

“Get up you sniveling coward, “ growled the Colonel. “I’m not finished with you!”

By now, a small crowd had gathered, and the Colonel, even through his blinding rage, realized how all this must look. Simon Fennimore had obviously never been in a physical altercation in all his life, and he, a man trained to fight— in his best uniform, no less — was taking unfair advantage. Confound it all! It would not do!

Reaching down to give the man a hand up, he was suddenly taken completely off guard by someone from behind. The attacker thrust an arm about his neck, while at the same time, pummeling his ribs with some heavy object.

He grabbed for the arm to twist it round when he realized the wrist was as thin and delicate as a child’s. His peripheral vision made him aware of crimson silk! Stunned into immobility, he was not prepared for the powerful blow that now struck his chest. Enraged by it, he pulled the arm forcefully off his neck and twisted it round the back of his opponent, coming face to face with a pair of light blue eyes, as intensely wild and angry as his own. A splattering of freckles adorned the cheeks and strawberry curls bounced wildly about as she tried to shake him off.

“You’re hurting me!” she shouted at him. It was not a plea for mercy, but an indignant accusation, accompanied by such a ferocious look as he had not thought possible on a young lady.

“Forgive me,” he spat back, “but you’ve inflicted some discomfort yourself, Madam!”

Why he refused to let her go and pulled her arm even higher, he could not fathom, but to his great shame, he did, and as she cried out in pain, she swung her unknown weapon against his head. The blow landed against his ear, sending shooting pain deep inside it and down his neck. He had never felt anything so excruciating! Something inside his ear seemed to explode, fill with warm liquid, and sent him reeling.

The next thing he knew, Fennimore was on his feet, restraining his attacker, while at the same time, coming to his aid! He seemed to have lost all balance and orientation.

Reluctantly, he allowed himself to lean against Fennimore, held onto him and prayed he would not pass out.

Conscious but unable to function for the terrible pain, he heard, as though through some thick fog, the confusing conversations of those around him. Fennimore kept saying that he was well, that no harm had been done. The young lady was insisting that the constable, who had appeared out of nowhere, arrest him, as she put it, for savagely beating a defenseless man. He waited to hear her accuse him of violence to her own person, but she never did. Fennimore ended the discussion by saying that as he was the injured party, it was up to him whether to press charges or not, and he would not. The last thing that Richard Fitzwilliam saw, before his body blessedly gave him some respite, was Fennimore kissing the tear stained cheeks of his attacker, while she gingerly dabbed his bloodied lips with a handkerchief. Then everything went black.

He awoke in Dr. Morrison’s surgery with both Morrison and Fennimore hovering over him and whispering to one another. He was in terrible pain, but nothing like what he had felt before. Dr. Morrison smiled at him and lifted him slightly to facilitate the spooning of some liquid into his mouth.

“The pain will soon subside, Colonel. I’m afraid you are going to develop an intimate relationship with Laudanum over the next few days. There is some damage to your eardrum, but it will heal in time. I do not believe your hearing will be permanently effected. ”

Fitzwilliam turned his gaze towards Fennimore, whose entire left jaw line was a deep, purple color. His lip was split and swollen, but his eyes were gentle and compassionate.

“Ah yes! You are wondering what your victim is doing here. Well, he was the one who brought you to me in a cab. Quite honestly, I didn’t know which one of you to treat first,” laughed Dr. Morrison.

By now the Laudanum was taking effect and Fitzwilliam sighed deeply and closed his eyes. Morrison patted his shoulder and told him to sleep. He would spend the night under his care, and hopefully feel well enough to be transported to the Darcys’ for a few weeks of convalescence. Word had been sent to them, and they were expected at any moment. All would be well.

At this news, the Colonel opened his eyes again and looked to Fennimore for his reaction to the news. The man gave an odd smile and said, “Well, I had best be off then, as you are in such good hands. I cannot say it has been a pleasure Colonel, but I hope that when we meet again it will be under better circumstances.”

There was more to that statement than met the eye, but Richard was too exhausted and in too much pain to try and decipher its meaning. He stared at the man with bitter resentment. What was it about him that made two of the loveliest women in all of London lie for him and fight for him in the street? He couldn’t understand it.

He groaned in reply, then grabbed Fennimore by the wrist as he began to walk away.

“What did she strike me with?” he asked with faltering breath.

“Our dinner, Colonel. A five-pound ham, with the bone in, swung from a mesh bag. I am sorry, but there is no one more determined than a woman defending someone she loves.”
SubjectAuthorPosted

Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 5

Gaby A.October 08, 2020 05:57PM

Re: Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 5

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Re: Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 5

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Re: Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 5

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Re: Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 5

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Re: Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 5

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