Treasured– Chapter Five

treasured finalIs Wickham really in Meryton? What is Will going to do about that?

Previous Chapters: One / Two / Three / Four

Chapter Five

Will tugged on his gloves in Netherfield’s front hall. Charles ought to have arrived by now. After Richard decided to go for a ride through Meryton in hopes of finding Georgiana, Will determined his cousin and sister should not be the only one seeing Elizabeth on this day. Speaking with Charles, they decided to ride to Longbourn. Finally, his friend arrived in the hall.

“You are looking more well-groomed than usual,” Will said as he looked Charles over.

“It is an important day,” Charles said and fiddled with his cufflinks.

“Is it?”

“You will pull it out of me, will you?”

Will playfully bumped into his friend’s shoulder. “If it is important for the reason I think it is then I should say if you find it so difficult to utter the words for me then you will never survive your lady.”

“My Bennet lady is far sweeter than yours,” Charles said.

Will laughed as he recalled his several proposals to Elizabeth. She had been a bit demanding when he could barely string a coherent thought. Jane surely would not put Charles through all that. “And her father?”

Charles ceased his movements. “He would not refuse would he?”

Will did not think Mr. Bennet would, but he would probably enjoy teasing his potential son-in-law. “I expect he will give no leniency if you beat around the matter. You are asking for his daughter’s hand. He needs to see that you can be the man of the house.”

Charles nodded and finally began walking toward the stables again. “I can be the man of the house. I am the man of the house!”

“Are you?” Will asked.

“As it happens,” Charles said after mounting his horse, “Caroline and the Hursts will be returning to London shortly.”

“This was your idea?”

“Yes,” Charles nodded. “Not that I have explained it to them but if Wickham has intentions for you, they are safer in Town. Secondly, I will not put up with Caroline and Louisa’s mocking of Elizabeth or Jane. I have made my mind up and do not care for childish tantrums. If they do not like it here, they can go to London.”

“And?”

Charles thought for a moment. “And I will inform Caroline she cannot go over the allotted budget of what she might have spent while here. Allowing her extra time in Town is not to be a reward for bad behavior.”

“Excellent,” Will said. Charles ought to have taken Caroline in hand years ago. However, as Will was discovering with Georgiana, it was not easy to restrain one’s sister. He could only guess that their closeness in age created even more problems.

Will slapped the reins against his mount and raced off. “Catch up!” He grinned over his shoulder. “Or you will never beat me!”

“I did not know we were racing!” Charles called after him as he directed his horse to a gallop.

Arriving at Longbourn, Will immediately sensed something was wrong. The servant who answered the door looked at them warily and brought them to the drawing room where a pale Elizabeth sat drinking wine as Jane rubbed her back.

“Perhaps you were mistaken,” Jane said.

“No. I know it was him,” Elizabeth replied.

Will cleared his throat, garnering Elizabeth’s notice. Before he had made more than two steps into the room, Elizabeth had raced to his arms and squeezed him tightly. “What is this? Are you well?”

“I am; are you?” Elizabeth pulled back and glanced over him.

Not understanding her behaviour, Will searched the room for Georgiana and Richard. They were not present. “Come, let us sit. You feel as cold as ice.”

Will led Elizabeth to a settee and rubbed her hands between his. “Miss Bennet, could you articulate for me what has scared Elizabeth nearly out of her wits?”

Jane looked at Mary before replying. “Elizabeth thinks she saw Mr. Wickham in Meryton.”

Instantly, Will’s body tensed. How could he be here? Did not Richard have Runners watching the scoundrel’s movements? Where was Richard?

“Will!” Elizabeth cried.

Looking down, Will realised he was vigorously rubbing Elizabeth’s hands. He released them. “Forgive me.”

Taking a deep breath, he blew it out. She was safe, that much was clear. Additionally, Richard, wherever he was, had surely ensured Georgiana was safe. He had no reason for urgent action. Bingley had been correct earlier. The safer route was to form a plan.

Fortunately, before Will had to ask about their whereabouts, Richard and Georgiana entered the drawing room. Richard’s face was set in a stern and grim expression, while Georgiana visibly stiffened. Upon seeing Will. “I have been apprised of the situation. Did either of you see him? Georgiana, did he speak with you?”

“Of course, I did not speak with him,” Georgiana said with flashing eyes that indicated annoyance. “I was never alone.”

“Georgiana did separate from Miss Elizabeth and Miss Bennet,” Richard supplied.

“I was getting better acquainted with Miss Mary,” Georgiana interjected. She gave the lady a soft smile. “She did not leave my side, and I believe we shall become very good friends.”

“Miss Mary, is this true?” Richard asked.

Will hated that he had to doubt his sister. He loathed that it was displayed for the Bennet ladies to see and that his cousin had to take on the role as Will had already failed to protect Georgiana once.

“Yes,” Mary nodded enthusiastically. “Mrs. Darcy and I went to the bookshop together. Jane and Lizzy had gone to the milliner.”

“I did give them leave to go to look at books without me,” Elizabeth said. “I hope you are not angry with me.”

Will shook his head and affectionately touched Elizabeth’s hand. “I am not angry, my dear.” He knew Georgiana well enough to suppose she had insisted on going. He would deal with that later. Now, the greater concern was Wickham. “Are you certain that it was he? You have not seen him and several years.”

“I could not forget what he looks like. If I had greater sketching ability, I would draw his picture for you.”

“Lizzy, might you be overwrought?” Jane asked. “You have been greatly concerned lately, and Mr. Wickham has featured prominently in those worries.”

“I know what I saw!” Elizabeth turned to Will. “Do you believe me?”

“Yes, love. Richard and I shall discuss how we will discover why he is in this place and what his potential motives are.”

“Are we in danger?” Jane asked.

“Certainly not,” Charles said.

Will nearly jumped at the voice. He had forgotten his friend was here as Charles had been uncharacteristically silent. “Charles is correct. We will do the best in our ability to protect you all, and he has nothing to gain from harming any of you. There is nothing to worry about.”

As Will said it, he forced himself to not cringe at the lie. The other girls probably had no reason to be concerned. Elizabeth, however, could be a target. Wickham would know that harming her would crush Will.

“Elizabeth, do you remember anything about where he was or what he wore? Were there any distinguishing features?” Will asked.”

Elizabeth thought in silence for a moment or two. “Now that I think about it, his jacket looked like a militia uniform. I could not see most of his body only his face.”

“And the location?”

“It was where our carriage was. Near the water pump.”

“There is a tavern nearby, and I suspect that is where we could find many other the militiamen if not the Colonel of the Regiment himself,” Richard said.

“We will journey there ourselves as soon as we bring Georgiana back to Netherfield.”

“Must I go?” Georgiana turned to her brother and gave him a pleading look.

It had worked when she was a small child and wished for some trifling thing from him. Years ago, it had ceased to work, and she had used the tactic with less frequency. He distrusted her motives for attempting it now.

“You have visited long enough for one day.”

“I thought I was invited to spend time with your betrothed?”

“And yet you did not,” Will raised his brows. He would not publicly expose that she had arrived before the “invitation” was ever issued. However, he was not in a mood to indulge any of her requests. She had disobeyed him again.

“Allow me to rectify that now. Miss Elizabeth also enjoys music. We could play together.” Georgiana sent Mary an apologetic look.

“That is a fine idea for your next meeting. It is useless to argue, though.”

“Oh, I would not dream of arguing with you dear brother.”

Georgiana stood and curtsied to her new friends, but it was done with an attitude Will did not like. If Elizabeth had less strength of character, he would wonder about bringing his sister around her lest the poor behaviour rub off.

“Goodbye for now,” Georgiana said to the room while wearing a false smile. “I trust we shall meet again soon.”

Richard escorted her to the carriage while Will and Charles said farewell to their ladies. When Will grasped Elizabeth’s hand to bring to his lips, he felt her tremble.

“Fear not, my love. We shall apprehend Wickham. You are in no danger. I will inform your father on my way out. This will soon be but yet another unpleasant memory.”

“It is not myself who I worry for you. I have told you this,” Elizabeth whispered and glanced around anxiously. “Take care,” she squeezed his hands tightly, “for you carry my heart with you and it could not survive another blow.”

Will had never ached to hold her more, but he could not gather her into his arms before her sisters. They had already broken propriety once while she was in the throes of distress. Soon, they would not have to separate, and she could always be with him. He placed a stray tendril behind her ear. “Everything shall be well,” he promised.

While he had not felt the words when he said them earlier, he meant them now. Whatever it took to make Elizabeth happy again, to ease her worries and erase the concerned look in her eye and lines between her brow, he would do. A quick kiss to her hands, a short conversation with Mr. Bennet, and Will was climbing in the carriage within minutes.

Looking at his sister, he vowed, “It will not work.”

“What will not work?” Georgiana asked and glanced nervously at Charles.

“I do not mind if he hears this,” Will said. “I will explain all to him later. I reference your dear Wickham’s scheme to have you ingratiate yourself with the Bennets.”

“That is not what I was attempting to do!” Georgiana folded her arms over her chest.

“I could care less if you liked them or they liked you. Elizabeth will be your sister, and you will have plenty of time to get to know her better once our marriage begins. I will not be bringing you with me on any subsequent calls at Longbourn until you earn my trust.”

Georgiana said nothing. She glared angrily at Will for a moment before defiantly turning her head and staring out the window. Will nodded his head at her actions. She knew it was useless to argue. He would not budge on this.

They arrived at Netherfield after a silent and tense ride. Charles had wisely chosen not to speak. Miss Bingley met them in the drawing room.

“I would ask where you all wandered off to but with those scowls, I believe I can guess,” she teased at the serious looks the men wore. “Mrs. Bennet’s effusions always makes me feel the same way. Colonel Fitzwilliam, do you not think it is absolutely intolerable that Mr. Darcy has aligned himself with such a woman?”

“We did not speak with Mrs. Bennet,” Charles said before Richard could answer.

“You did not?” Caroline’s brow furrowed. “Well, surely you did not speak to Mr. Bennet! I have never heard the man utter a word!”

“I did go to Longbourn with the intent of speaking to Mr. Bennet about a courtship with his eldest daughter, who you call a friend,” Charles hissed between grit teeth. “I have had enough of this, Caroline. Tell your maid to ready your trunks for tomorrow. I will inform Mr. Hurst as well.”

“Surely you are not banishing me to London because of a ill-timed tease!”

“I am sending you to London so I may court the woman I love in peace. She deserves no less from me.” He motioned to the door. “Now, go on your way. When I return, we will have a very candid conversation about your spending habits in town.”

Caroline scurried off calling out a mixture of disbelief at her treatment and vows to behave better if only he did not cut her allowance. Charles murmured that he would speak with Hurst and then return.

Georgiana sulked to the door. “I suppose you will do the same to me,” she said as she neared her brother.

“No. Go to your chamber, and we will speak to you when we return.”

Georgiana nodded but hesitated for a moment. She looked back at Will with tears shimmering in her eyes. “I know it to be impossible for Wickham to behave as you have described. He would never hurt anyone and could never have hurt Father.”

“Go now,” Will said and shook his head. It was useless to try and convince her of anything just then.

While Richard and Will waited for Charles to return they came up with a general plan on how to approach Colonel Forester. When their friend returned, they apprised him of it before setting off for Meryton.

They returned two hours later with even more haggard expressions than they wore at their outset. George Wickham was a member of the Militia and thus far an exemplary soldier. Will could hardly fathom the young man he knew happily doing such menial tasks. Other than a lifetime of taunting, spending his inheritance too quickly, and his attempted seduction of Will’s sister there was nothing to lay against the man. In the end, they had no examples of Wickham’s perfidy aside from his spending too freely. Colonel Forester sent them on their way with a promise to keep an eye on the man but would not have others picking on one of his officers either.

As the evening wore on, Will wrote a message to Mr. Bennet informing him of the meeting and ordered a tray to his room. He could not abide the theatrics of Charles’ sisters or his own. One good thing came from Wickham’s presence in the area, Caroline Bingley and her sister would be gone, and Will would have one less headache. As it was, he would need most of his concentration to affect confidence and security when calling at Longbourn when in reality he felt nothing but sheer terror at the thought of Wickham hurting Elizabeth.

Tilney Tuesday–Marriage lessons

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I often say Mr. Tilney is my book boyfriend but Mr. Darcy is my book husband. Henry just seems like so much fun! However, maybe I should amend that statement. For, Mr. Tilney has some definite opinions about marriage and we do not know anything about what Darcy expects.

Henry and Catherine first meet in the Lower Rooms and danced twice. Then, he leaves Bath for about ten days. They meet again at the Octagon Room but cannot dance as Catherine is already promised to Mr. Thorpe. It takes a few more days before they meet again and are able to converse. During this dance, Thorpe interrupts them before they take to the floor. Thorpe tries to pressure Catherine into dancing with him although he had never asked.

This is what Mr. Tilney says:

“That gentleman would have put me out of patience, had he stayed with you half a minute longer. He has no business to withdraw the attention of my partner from me. We have entered into a contract of mutual agreeableness for the space of an evening, and all our agreeableness belongs solely to each other for that time. Nobody can fasten themselves on the notice of one, without injuring the rights of the other. I consider a country-dance as an emblem of marriage. Fidelity and complaisance are the principal duties of both; and those men who do not choose to dance or marry themselves, have no business with the partners or wives of their neighbours.”

Catherine, of course, can’t believe that Mr. Tilney would compare a simple dance to a marriage. He offers a sound rebuttal.

“…I think I could place them in such a view. You will allow, that in both, man has the advantage of choice, woman only the power of refusal; that in both, it is an engagement between man and woman, formed for the advantage of each; and that when once entered into, they belong exclusively to each other till the moment of its dissolution; that it is their duty, each to endeavour to give the other no cause for wishing that he or she had bestowed themselves elsewhere, and their best interest to keep their own imaginations from wandering towards the perfections of their neighbours, or fancying that they should have been better off with anyone else. You will allow all this?”

Catherine continues to say that dancing is not like marriage and Henry cannot resist teasing that she is not agreeing with her partner enough to make him assured she not allow anyone else to cut in. It’s fun to read as we can see Henry is taking enough concern in Catherine that he wants to have her attention. Thorpe talks about wanting to be her partner but is then distracted by trying to sell Tilney a horse and then a gaggle of ladies walking by.

Despite Catherine disagreeing with Henry, she does try to offer him security.

“Mr. Thorpe is such a very particular friend of my brother’s, that if he talks to me, I must talk to him again; but there are hardly three young men in the room besides him that I have any acquaintance with.”

This is insufficient for Henry but Catherine soon adds:

if I do not know anybody, it is impossible for me to talk to them;

For Henry, what consolation could this give? Should a husband lock his wife up? She should never be trusted with knowing another man? Consider that in light of his father and you can guess it may not have been far from what he grew up knowing. Knowing and, hopefully, hating.

Fortunately, that’s not the end of Catherine’s statement.

“…and, besides, I do not want to talk to anybody.”

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I can just imagine Henry’s teasing smirk as he replies,

“Now you have given me a security worth having; and I shall proceed with courage.”

I wonder if it’s this moment that shifts Henry’s feelings from general amusement with Catherine to the gratitude of her attachment which is the foundation of his eventual love.

though Henry was now sincerely attached to her, though he felt and delighted in all the excellencies of her character and truly loved her society, I must confess that his affection originated in nothing better than gratitude, or, in other words, that a persuasion of her partiality for him had been the only cause of giving her a serious thought.

One must remember that Catherine’s frankness and openness would have been unusual for the Society ladies Henry often met with. He would have been more accustomed to the sort of sly trickery Isabella Thorpe employs. While Catherine often thinks of her country naivete as a liability, it’s exactly what Henry needs in life. Catherine offers the honesty that he’s looking for in a partner for life. Mr. Tilney may just be the best Austen husband material after all.

Monday Motivation– Life is Like a Camera

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Have you heard? Emma Approved is back! I discovered The Lizzie Bennet Diaries years after they came out. LBD is actually my favorite adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Don’t hate me! I think it really gets the point that the book is from Elizabeth’s point of view, that everything is framed in how she sees the world and the people in it and she’s not unbiased. I think it also shows her flaws and prejudices–how she grows. The spin off of Lydia Bennet‘s story shows the emotional abuse that Lydia goes through at the hands of Wickham which I think really adds a new dimension to her. Anyway, by the time I watched LBD, Emma Approved was out but I never watched it. I recently heard they are coming out with a second season so I had to binge Season One.

My kids were around for the last few episodes and we had some interesting conversations. Emma Approved really hones in on Emma’s need for perfectionism. She wants to better the lives of other people. While she’s confident in her abilities, she’s not conceited. Other people can make mistakes and get back up–but if Emma makes a mistake it’s like she wants to flay herself. That’s something that I can relate to so much and so can my kids.

My son has autism and has a very big perfectionism streak. If he even thinks he can’t do something perfect it can trigger a meltdown. Does he communicate it that way? No. With the autism he has trouble with emotional regulation. My daughter has ADHD and possibly Autism as well (we’re in the middle of evaluation for her). She can be so self-critical. She will avoid things that take more effort–which is becoming a lot of school things.

In the final episodes of Emma Approved, Emma crosses a line. Stressed to the max, she loses her filter. Just like Austen’s Emma, she insults Miss Bates. Then…well, then nearly everyone is mad at her and Emma crumples under the wake of disappointing so many people, including those closest to her. I told my kids that I have had to learn the lesson Emma was learning. I had to learn that I was allowed to make mistakes and try again to be better. I asked my son if he felt like he had to be perfect and he said yes. My daughter, always the talkative one, offered without me asking that she gets upset with herself all the time because she can’t write a 2 the correct way and instead always makes an S.

When I found this quote, I knew I wanted to share it on the blog. I think I’ll talk to the kids about this idea too. Remember the best moments, learn from the bad ones, and try again when things don’t turn out. I’d also add that sometimes when things don’t turn out as you wanted, it can still be a perfectly good photo.

What about you? Do you see moments in your life where these words have held true for you?

Style Saturday–Hues of Fall

style saturday

I am by no means a fashion expert regarding the past or present. In fact, I seldom think about fashion. I do like to play with makeup but that’s pretty much for my own satisfaction rather than trying to copy looks or look “on trend.” However, I recently got some new fall colors and it reminded me of some palettes I put together inspired by Elizabeth Bennet and Caroline Bingley. If you missed it, I wrote a blog post comparing and contrasting them so it should be no surprise that in both of the most recent productions, their costuming has similar hues. Additionally, I chose colors for the palettes based on the names of the shades which I thought complimented each lady.

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Next, I decided to try the inspiration looks myself. I didn’t try to recreate the inspiration picture–I might do that later. This time, I just looked at the shades I had selected. Which one do you prefer? On the bottom is the Elizabeth Bennet look and on the top is the Caroline Bingley look.

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Now, how accurate were the productions in regards to colors? I already addressed Caroline’s gowns in the the 2005 production. However, were there really gowns with so much orange and red? Weren’t most ladies wearing white?

 

 

Nope! The costume designers did their homework! There was a variety of colors to choose from, varying by year, season, and, of course, time of day.

 

Do you have a favorite Fall color to wear?

Friday Feeling–Frequent Pharmacy Shopper

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I am a frequent pharmacy shopper. Mr. Woodhouse would be so proud of me! Do I win a prize?

We’re not quite to the middle of the month and so far I’ve spent $447 in 8 trips at Walgreens. That doesn’t include the trips in which my medicine was not ready yet. Truthfully, not all of that was medicine. It is all sickness related, though. We need cleaning supplies, more fluids when sick, husband wanted some soup, after the fourth day in a row at the place I was NOT going to Walmart for office supplies. I practically live there and could easily be a walking advertisement for the place.

Toward the last week, I was ill with sinus congestion resulting in dizziness. I didn’t even realize I was congested because it wasn’t in my nose! Once I decided to attack the dizziness with allergy medicine, it lowered from my forehead to my nose and started to drain. I perked up just in time for my husband to wake up sick on Tuesday morning. He insisted that it was no big deal and a good sleep and Day Quill would take care of his raging fever and other aches which he wouldn’t even mention. On Wednesday, both of my kids woke up with stuffy noses and sore throats. As they had no fevers, I sent them to school and said we’d watch it but it was probably just allergies. Around noon, I insisted in taking my husband to urgent care as the doctor had no openings. I expected it was the flu until I got him to actually answer some questions en route. He said his throat hurt but he didn’t have muscle aches. That screamed strep throat to me.

Doctor mom was right.

We get him home and the pharmacy is backed up. By the time the kids get home from school, my husband’s prescriptions were ready. My son also came off the bus with glassy eyes and looking like he felt miserable. A touch to his forehead told me fever and the thermometer confirmed what I instinctively knew–102. My daughter also had a fever but upon hearing her father had strep throat began to insist her throat felt fine. She hates the swab test. I decided to not deal with her fighting at the moment and took my son into urgent care. He was positive for strep as well. By this point, I was pretty sure my daughter also had it. I could not convince her to come to the doctor that night but she did agree to take ibuprofen after I bought three different kinds so she could decide on a flavor and between chewable tablets and liquid. Le sigh.

Teddy slept through the night but it didn’t surprise me in the least that my daughter woke up around 4 am burning up, shivering, and in pain. I gave her some more ibuprofen and when she was due for another dose, I finally convinced her to go to the doctor. I’ll be honest. I LIED. I swore up and down she wouldn’t need to do a strep culture. By utter luck, the doctor agreed just by looking at her throat and knowing that two others in the house had strep that she didn’t have to do the the culture. I tried EVERYTHING to get her into the room before I lied but hey…desperate times. The doctor gave her a firm talking about next time she’ll have to do it. We’ll see if she will agree after being told by the doctor. It was given with a nice side dose of judgment. What’s with that? I’m doing the best I can! I can’t convince her to just handle it. I can’t make her just *not feel* something. She’s not spoiled rotten. We’re actually waiting for results on an autism evaluation for her. If she does have ASD, then she feels pain differently. Something which should not be so distressing can be acutely painful to an ASD child with sensory processing issues. More sighs.

I dropped her off at the house with my husband and son then headed back into Walgreens…again.

So, how am I doing? Well, I think I’m genetically superior for once! I got my tonsils out when I was 12. I have actually had strep a few times since then, but not often. At this point, my husband is feeling better and if I do come down with strep, at least one parent will be capable of running the show. The worst time I think we ever had was when we both had the flu the same week our son learned to walk! It was also over Christmas and none of our relatives could help. Miserable we were but survive we did.

As much as I complain, I know how fortunate we are. I’m thankful for antibiotics and modern medicine. I’m thankful for the convenience of local pharmarcies and wellness goods. I’m exceedingly grateful for the income to go to the doctor and buy supplies. I can never take my readers for granted when they allow me to keep my family healthy!

Illness also makes me think about Marianne Dashwood and Lydia Bennet. I think of Marianne because of her illness in Sense and Sensibility (clipped for brevity).

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He came, examined his patient, and though encouraging Miss Dashwood to expect that a very few days would restore her sister to health, yet, by pronouncing her disorder to have a putrid tendency, and allowing the word “infection” to pass his lips, gave instant alarm.

Towards the evening Marianne became ill again, growing more heavy, restless…

Marianne, suddenly awakened by some accidental noise in the house, started hastily up, and, with feverish wildness, cried out,— “Is mamma coming?”

“Not yet,” replied the other, concealing her terror, and assisting Marianne to lie down again, “but she will be here, I hope, before it is long. It is a great way, you know, from hence to Barton.”

“But she must not go round by London,” cried Marianne, in the same hurried manner. “I shall never see her, if she goes by London.”

Elinor perceived with alarm that she was not quite herself, and, while attempting to soothe her, eagerly felt her pulse. It was lower and quicker than ever. And Marianne, still talking wildly of mamma, her alarm increased so rapidly, as to determine her on sending instantly for Mr. Harris, and despatching a messenger to Barton for her mother.

It was a night of almost equal suffering to both. Hour after hour passed away in sleepless pain and delirium on Marianne’s side, and in the most cruel anxiety on Elinor’s, before Mr. Harris appeared.

His medicines had failed; the fever was unabated; and Marianne only more quiet—not more herself—remained in a heavy stupor.

he had still something more to try, some fresh application, of whose success he was almost as confident as the last; and his visit concluded with encouraging assurances which reached the ear but could not enter the heart of Miss Dashwood.

Hope had already entered; and feeling all its anxious flutter, she bent over her sister to watch—

Her breath, her skin, her lips, all flattered Elinor with signs of amendment; and Marianne fixed her eyes on her with a rational, though languid, gaze. Anxiety and hope now oppressed her in equal degrees, and left her no moment of tranquillity till the arrival of Mr. Harris at four o’clock, when his assurances, his felicitations on a recovery in her sister even surpassing his expectation, gave her confidence, comfort, and tears of joy.

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A Woman in Bed in a Sick Room, R. Pistoni, 1872

I think of Lydia because she suddenly grew sick in Letters from the Heart:

“Lydia fainted, only she will not wake,” Jane said.

By this time the commotion of the house was so great that Mary and Kitty entered the room as well.

“Thomas! What are we to do?” Mrs. Bennet was growing alarmed.

Darcy approached, “Excuse me, sir, but I think it best to send for the apothecary immediately, and I will send for my physician from Town.”

Mr. Bennet looked at him for a long moment. He was too reserved of a man to say much, but Darcy saw the usual laughing glint in his eye disappear and be replaced with concern. “You think this serious; have you seen this before?”

Darcy slowly nodded and spoke quietly. Only Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth could hear. “My mother. She had an acute sickness strike her. See how Miss Lydia perspires and her breathing is so shallow? My concerns may be for naught, but I think she ought to be moved to a sick bed.”

“I will ready things,” Elizabeth offered.

Darcy managed a very small smile when he saw Elizabeth rise to the occasion. How did he ever think she would be incapable of managing manage his homes? Georgiana was still distressed and Miss Kitty facilitated between believing Lydia was getting too much attention and wailing her best friend’s unknown condition. Jane and Miss Mary went after Elizabeth to help and despite the noise of Kitty, Darcy recognized it was quieter than he expected.

Scanning the room again, he recognized Mrs. Bennet standing over Lydia, who still lay on the sofa. She gently stroked her daughter’s hair. She was entirely silent but tears streamed freely down her face. Mr. Bennet wrapped one arm around his wife and was murmuring something in her ear. The tenderness surprised Darcy and he turned away from intruding on their private moment. He turned his attention to Bingley and they considered the best way to transport Lydia upstairs to the chamber when it was ready.

An hour later, Mr. Jones arrived and examined Lydia.

“It is as Mr. Darcy feared. I have bled her, but I believe this illness is beyond my experience. It is good a physician has been sent for. In the meantime, I must ask that those who are not family leave immediately,” he told the assembled group.

Jane began to cry, and Bingley was at her side instantly. “I will not leave you again, Jane.”

“No! I could not bear it if you became ill, too.”

Darcy interjected, “My friend and I assisted in moving Miss Lydia several times now, and my sister was alone with her when she fainted. I doubt the wisdom of us now leaving.”

“It is all my fault!” Georgiana wailed. “She would not believe me about Mr. Wickham, and I was too forceful!”

Everyone hastened to tell her that could not be the case, and Elizabeth attempted to console her. When the apothecary amended his statements that everyone should stay confined to Longbourn, Elizabeth took the sobbing Georgiana to her room.

A storm began, delaying the physician until morning. The house was still and sombre, the various ladies of the house were reduced to mostly silent tears. They all retired early and the situation was grave enough Darcy managed to give little thought to the fact that he was once again only a few doors down from a sleeping Elizabeth.

The next morning arrived with dark clouds in the sky, though the roads proved passable for the physician. He scarcely had more information to give but he did have additional medications to try. They had little effect. Lydia lay abed insensible to everything, with a high fever and symptoms of delirium.

Elizabeth, Jane and Mrs. Bennet took turns remaining at Lydia’s side. The gentlemen consoled the ladies as best they could. Mary and Kitty took to keeping Georgiana occupied. Elizabeth had scarcely been able to comfort her. Georgiana still blamed herself entirely.

On the second night of Lydia’s illness even Elizabeth’s spirits began to slip. Darcy sat with her hand in hand next to Lydia’s bedside. The door was open for propriety although it was unnecessary. Elizabeth wiped her sister’s brow and in what Darcy believed was a fit of exhaustion began to weep uncontrollably. He pulled her to his chest and pressed kisses in to her hair until she calmed. Then she looked up to him with reddened eyes.

“I never gave her enough attention. I was content to merely scold or laugh at her. And now…”

“No, Elizabeth. I will not allow you to despair. I have seen the deathbed. Look, her cheeks are still rosy.”

She looked more hopeful but still did not quite believe him. “But you said your mother…”

“Lydia is stout and young. My mother was always frail. Nor does Lydia cough. The physician tells us not to fear yet.”

She laid her head against his shoulder again and said, “I will try.”

“Dearest, you are a very affectionate sister. Would you still have come to Netherfield if it was Lydia who was sick instead of Jane?”

“Of course!” She wrapped her arms around his waist. “I am so thankful you are here with me.”

 

For Lydia and Marianne, their illnesses served as the jolt of awareness they needed to re-examine their lives. The same could be said for Tom Bertram in Mansfield Park. I don’t think my family will be given to such deep reflection as we recover but it is interesting to consider how a serious illness can change a person’s outlook–whether it be fiction or reality. What is the sickest you have ever been? Did you ever have near death experience which allowed you to see life clearer?

Throwback Thursday–Smallpox Vaccine

My house is currently a petrie dish with three out of the four of us ill with strep throat. I’m essentially a waking Lysol machine right now. It seemed fitting to do this month’s Throwback Thursday on the advent of the smallpox vaccine which predates antibiotics by nearly two hundred years.

I have been interested in the history of the smallpox vaccine for a few years. In 2016, I began an original Regency Romance in which the heroine’s sisters were smallpox victims. When Clara Lumley has to leave her vacation early to help tend to her sick sisters, it creates an obstacle and a massive miscommunication between her and the love of her life. The story is set several years after the illness and is a second chance for the hero and heroine.

Clara maintained her happy disposition, however. Taking an interest in medicine and the science of preventive disease, she counseled her step-father on the importance of smallpox variolation but he desired to wait until the children were older as many still became sick with a weaker version. Disaster struck the family when Clara was seventeen and on a holiday from the family. Dottie and Esther became ill with the pox. Seven year old Dottie’s rash remained flat, unlike the normal course of the disease, and her fever was very high and raged for days. When at last it broke, her senses remained addled.

The illness caused Clara to cut her holiday short. She would never regret coming home to assist Dottie and Esther, she only hated how faithless her one suitor proved. Refusing to understand her reasons for departure, he broke their engagement and then left the country for duties in India.

Smallpox is caused by a virus and was, finally, globally eradicated in 1980. Its origins are unknown but the earliest evidence uncovered is from 3rd century BC Egyptian mummies. It’s highly infectious and occurred in outbreaks. In 18th century Europe, about 400,000 people died from smallpox each year, including five reigning monarchs.

SmallpoxvictimIllinois1912The first signs of the infection are fever and vomiting. Then, mouth sores and a rash follow. Soon the rash turns to fluid-filled bumps with a tell-tale dent in the middle. If you survived the infection, you would often be left with scars and nearly one-third of survivors lost

Mary_Wortley_Montagu_by_Charles_Jervas,_after_1716
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu by Charles Jervas c. 1716

their eyesight.

Before the vaccine was discovered, some societies practiced variolation. It was also called inoculation.  Variolation came to England after Lady Mary Wortley Montagu returned from Turkey where her husband was ambassador. It was common practice there as a way to prevent smallpox. She had her five year old son inoculated. Upon returning to England in 1721, she also did so to her daughter. Intrigued, the Royal Family inoculated prisoners at Newgate and the following year Augusta, Princess of Wales, inoculated her children. From there it spread among the population.

Variolation uses pustules from an active infection. This differs from most contemporary vaccines which are dead viruses. Africa and China each had their own traditions. The form that became common in England is a variation on the technique Lady Mary witnessed in Turkey. It involved a shallow scratch made on the arm of a healthy person and pustules from mild cases. Less credible physicians encouraged extreme bloodletting and cut deeply.

After inoculation, a person would contract a mild case of smallpox. However, the survival rate was astronomically higher than untreated cases. A standard smallpox epidemic took between 20-35% of its victims. Variolated persons had only a 0.5-2% mortality rate. Still, people were growing sick with smallpox.

Early studies by James Jurin, Daniel Bernoulli, and John Fewster encouraged physician Edward Jenner to consider the immunity cowpox offered against smallpox. We know now that cowpox is closely related to the virus which causes smallpox. However, its host of choice is not human. We can grow sick from it but it is seldom fatal. What observers in the 18th century knew was that the pustules looked similar. There also may have been a general observance that those who had been infected with cowpox did not acquire smallpox. However, this was before any ideas of germ study and Newtonian science was still in its infancy.

Jenner went about conducting a few studies on the relationship. What he saw encouraged him to conduct trials on humans. He purposefully infected them with cowpox. The most famous case was James Phipps, the eight year old son of his gardener. In 1796, James was inoculated with cowpox and suffered from a mild fever and a few local lesions at the site of the inoculations (one on each arm). He did not have a full blown cowpox infection, just as those who were inoculated from a smallpox lesion seldom acquired a bad infection. A few months later, Jenner inoculated James with smallpox and the boy had no reaction. He was completely immune to the virus. James was later challenged with smallpox and again produced no reaction.

Jenner’s greatest contribution to the science behind the smallpox vaccine is not just that he injected a few people with cowpox. It’s that he recorded and tracked his data. He intentionally challenged the patients with smallpox material rather than merely noting they never acquired the infection naturally in the course of their life. Additionally, he demonstrated that the cowpox pus could create an inoculation from person to person instead of the source needing to be an animal.

He continued his studies and published a paper which was initially rejected by the Royal Society. Undeterred, Jenner conducted more studies and revised his paper. He even inoculated his 11 month old son with cowpox. Slowly, Jenner’s method, which he began to call vaccination, was accepted in the medical community. The Royal College of Physicians confirmed the efficacy of his practice in 1807.

The_cow_pock
“The Cow Pock.” 1802 caricature by James Gillray of Jenner’s vaccine. People feared it would make them sprout calf-like appendages.

While the vaccination was slow to catch on with official physician recommendation, it was very popular among the general public. Even Napoleon had his troops vaccinated, awarded Jenner with a medal, and released two English prisoners at Jenner’s request. Edward Jenner became so well-known for his vaccine that he could not return to regular medical practice and had to petition Parliament for support in 1802 and again in 1807.

In 1840, the United Kingdom outlawed variolation with smallpox and provided the cowpox vaccines free of charge to the public. In 1853, it became compulsory to vaccinate infants in England. In the US, vaccination requirements were managed by each state. The result was a hodge-podge situation. I believe the first time I ever heard of the disease beyond learning of Jenner’s vaccination was while reading All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren. His character Sadie Burk has smallpox scars. During World War I, many US soldiers had never been vaccinated. Dr. Louis T Wright, an African American and Harvard graduate, introduced vaccination for soldiers.

Obviously, through the years, the method of vaccination evolved. Arm to arm vaccinations carried risks of erysipelas, tetanus, septicaemia, tuberculosis, and, especially, syphilis. Various scientists discovered new ways to keep bacterial growth off the sample as well as improved delivery systems. A worldwide endeavor to eradicate smallpox began in 1967 and was realized in 1979. Ending an ancient disease which has claimed the lives of billions and plagued our ancestors year after year is nothing short of a medical marvel.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smallpox

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smallpox_vaccine

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cowpox

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variolation+

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Mary_Wortley_Montagu

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Fewster

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Jurin

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Bernoulli

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Jenner

 

 

Mr. Darcy’s Compassion–Chapter Four

Spring Blooming - White Blossoms And Sunlight In The Sky

Previous Chapters: One / Two / Three

Chapter Four

 

Darcy allowed Elizabeth a half an hour to go through her nightly ablutions. He had requested the valet purchase some feminine soaps and lotions as he believed Elizabeth must have gone without such luxuries since leaving Longbourn. Not that she looked unclean or unkempt. Only that the sorts of products she would be accustomed to she could no longer afford.

Never again, he vowed. Never again would she go without. On the morrow, he would write to his solicitor to begin settlement matters. They would stop in London on their way to Scotland. There he would sign the documents and have all of that arranged before their marriage.

A part of him hated the idea of an elopement. Georgiana might feel it hypocritical, but they had no other choice. Her family did not deserve consideration even if the law afforded Mr. Bennet with rights until Elizabeth’s first and twentieth birthday which, regrettably, was many months away. He could put Elizabeth up in some hidden location in London where her family could not reach her but calling the banns would merely invite trouble. It would also promote questions in Hertfordshire. He could hardly imagine what story the Bennets had devised to make up Elizabeth’s sudden departure but an unexpected romance and an elopement they could more easily cover than weeks of courtship in London.

That the Bennets must have made up some story about Elizabeth to explain her absence, Darcy heartily believed. If her disappearance would only ruin her reputation, they likely would not trouble themselves. However, what Elizabeth did could reflect on the remaining sisters and whatever bits of good reputation they had. If they would not consider treatment for Jane’s illness out of fear of judgment, then Darcy doubted they would want more attention to the fact of yet another missing daughter.

After they were safely married, Darcy would consider how best to remove Jane and Mary from their wayward parents. Finding Wickham, and he hoped Lydia would be with him, would be the first goal.

On that subject, Darcy knew he would soon have to tell Elizabeth about his change in understanding of the ton and the shocking, appalling truth he had learned from Georgiana.

Knocking on the door to the room, Elizabeth called out that he might enter. Darcy knew from the volume of her voice that she must already be in bed as it was in the far corner but he could not keep his eyes from ascertaining the truth. She looked adorable bundled up in the bed with the coverlet up to her chin. Soon he would call her wife and have the right to lay beside her. Redirecting his thoughts, Darcy walked to the settee. A week’s “rest” on it would probably cause more injury to his back than traveling would do to his arm. A week in cramped quarters with the woman he loved and would marry—that most assuredly was more dangerous than anything that could happen traveling with a tender arm.

“Focus on something else,” Darcy mumbled under his breath.

“Pardon?” Elizabeth called from the bed.

Darcy squeezed his eyes shut and began to remove his coat. This was folly. He ought to have hired a maid for her and sent her on to another inn. What was he thinking tempting faith?

“Fitz…Fitzwilliam?”

“I had asked if you require anything else.”

“No…”

She sounded uncertain. “Are you sure?”

“No, I think I need rest more than anything else.” She stifled a yawn.

Darcy nodded and proceeded to remove his waistcoat. Shirtsleeves and breeches it would be. He could get no tolerable rest in his coats. His eyes scanned the room. He would need a quilt… Of course, the extra one would be on the bed. He slowly approached. Elizabeth had her eyes closed.

“Pardon me,” he said, and her eyes flew open then widened at his attire. “Might I have the extra coverlet?”

“Oh, certainly,” Elizabeth sat up a little, the blanket dropping from her chin but still entirely covering her body. “I ought to have considered that and put it over there. I am unused to sharing a bed—” Elizabeth silenced and turned red.

“Think nothing of it. I am a grown man and can see to my needs. I would not expect you to anticipate my desires.” At the moment, he most certainly did not want her to know the direction of his wants and wishes. “Sleep well, Elizabeth.”

“Sleep well.” Elizabeth gave him a nervous smile and returned her head to the pillow.

Uncomfortable on the settee and simultaneously worried about Elizabeth and overjoyed at her acceptance of his proposal, Darcy found it difficult to fall asleep. She, on the other hand, had quickly fallen asleep but talked and muttered to herself throughout it. Darcy was equal parts enchanted and annoyed by it.

Eventually, he nodded off. A floorboard creaked, awakening him. Who was in his room? Were they there to hurt Elizabeth? Another creak, the fiend was near the door. They must have just entered. Springing to life, Darcy rolled and lunged at the intruder, grabbed at their legs and yanked until they fell. Darcy scrambled atop the slender-framed man and pinned the arms down.

“Who are you? What do you want?”

“Fi-Fi-Fitzwilliam?”

Elizabeth’s voice was breathy and full of fear but not from the far corner of the room. Belatedly, Darcy realized the would-be attacker wore a skirt and was a woman.

“Elizabeth!” Darcy pulled back. His eyes adjusting to the dark, allowed him to make out her countenance. “Forgive me, I believed you were an intruder.”

“Someone intent on stealing from the great Mr. Darcy of Pemberley?” Elizabeth jested, but her voice still sounded fearful to Darcy.

“Yes, my most precious thing.” Darcy knelt at her side and assisted her in sitting.

“Oh? What would that be?”

He evaded answering. “Are you injured?”

“Just a bump.”

Darcy frowned. He had thought he had defended his domain better than that. He stood and offered a hand help Elizabeth. As she began to put weight on her foot, she yelped in pain.

“You are hurt!” Darcy sunk back on his haunches. “It is my fault!”

“No,” Elizabeth hastened to say. “It was mine.” She shivered.

“Let us get you back to the bed. Should I send for the apothecary?”

“No, it is not my first twisted ankle. Elevation and rest will sort it out. However, I do not think I can stand.”

“I shall carry you–”

“Your arm!”

“It is a short distance.” Darcy began to slide one arm under Elizabeth’s legs. “Wrap your arms around my neck.” Elizabeth’s nearness was making it hard for him to concentrate and distracted him from any pain he should feel from the effort. Elizabeth clung to him, most likely to spare more weight on his arm. “Relax, my love.”

Darcy slowly made his way across the room, barely able to see the next step before him. He ought to have found a candle before he played the hero. The excitement wore off, and his arm began to throb. Sweat beaded on his forehead as he prayed the bed would appear.

Suddenly his arm gave out and Elizabeth, who had loosened her grip too much, slipped from his hold. She landed with a flop on the bed and let out a moan as her ankle jostled. Darcy, who had been in mid-motion bumped against the bed and fell atop her, landing on his arm. Gritting his teeth against the pain, he began to pull back.

“We are a pair, are we not?” Elizabeth laughed.

“Indeed,” Darcy chuckled. After lighting a few candles, he found several cushions from the settee. As he had expected, she blushed as he placed them under her leg. Then, he sat next to her on the edge of the bed. “Why were you at the door? From where did you return?”

“I had not gone anywhere,” Elizabeth stared at her hands. “I was leaving.”

“Leaving?” Darcy’s tone implied his incredulous thoughts but could not convey his deeper feelings. “You would leave me?”

“I…I…” Elizabeth sobbed into her hands for a moment. As suddenly as the outburst began, she ended it. “No, no more of that. I will not resort to tears every time I am unhappy or uncomfortable.”

“I applaud the notion.” He waited for her to answer as honestly as she always had.

“I awoke and was startled by my surroundings again. However, I recalled where I was before I left the bed. I panicked for an entirely different reason. Marriage to me would bring you and your family name ruin. I could not bear to cause you such unhappiness.”

“And leaving me without a word or a note, having me fear for your safety and wonder where you were with no money and not even your meager belongings would have helped? After telling you of my love? After agreeing to be my wife?” Darcy frowned. He did love Elizabeth, but he would not encourage this sort of behaviour and mindset. “No. That is not why you left. It had nothing to do with me. You know why you tried to leave.”

Elizabeth swallowed and nodded. “I do.”

“I do not approve of your momentary lapse in judgment. However, my fear and anger do not diminish the love I have for you even in if you make foolhardy decisions.”

Seemingly emboldened by his words, Elizabeth raised her chin. “I intended to leave because I think I deserve nothing. I should live in squalor and be friendless. Your generosity and love are so foreign to me that I would rather go back to the struggle I know than accept what you offer. I do not know what I was thinking—it sounds so ridiculous now.”

“It is ridiculous but not without justness. You have been terribly wronged and betrayed by those dearest to you. Rather than blame them, you have turned on yourself, and I am too new to have earned your trust.” He glanced at her foot. “It seems we have an additional reason to stay now and become better acquainted.” Darcy stood. “I suppose I do not have to worry about any repeat attempts.”

“No, indeed,” Elizabeth said with a smirk.

“Good night again.” He bowed, wincing at the effort, and took one step away before Elizabeth said his name. “Yes?”

“I will not banish you to the settee after your efforts this evening. Would you…that is…you should…” Elizabeth threw her hands over her face but could not hide the redness from peeking through.

“What is it you are suggesting?”

“I can only say this if I do not look at you as well,” she said as her voice was muffled by her hands. “You should sleep in the bed.”

“No,” Darcy said and began to take another step.

“Would you? That is, would you for me? Twice now, I have awoken afraid of my surroundings.”

“Will not a man in your bed alarm you more?”

“Perhaps,” Elizabeth said as she continued to cover her face which turned even redder. “But if I wake you then you might speak and calm me before I do anything rash. Eventually, I will have to remember you and everything that has passed this day.”

Indecision warred in Darcy. Lying next to Elizabeth would be a dangerous decision. Not that he could not control his actions. He would never force himself on her or seduce her. His thoughts, however… Darcy had yet to learn to master them. Yet, she looked so fragile and in need of his care. He would put himself through hell for her.

Wordlessly, Darcy walked to the other side of the bed and climbed in. Mere inches from him, he felt Elizabeth’s body relax and heard her sigh.

“Good night, Elizabeth.”

“Good night, Fitzwilliam,” she replied.

 

*****

Elizabeth nestled against the warmth at her side. She had never been warmer in a bed. Nor had it ever smelled so inviting—different than Jane’s rose water. The scent was earthy and manly. The thought awakened her other senses.

Someone held her close to them. Strong arms—a man’s arms. And yet, Elizabeth felt none of the fear that she had the night before upon awakening in a strange room. Slowly waking, her memory returned. Mr. Darcy—Fitzwilliam as he asked to be called—was the man holding her.

All her life, she had thought such intimacy with a man before marriage was unpardonable. Indeed, she could hardly imagine being this close to a man after marriage and merely had to take it on good authority that loving her husband would create the desire. She had guarded her virginity in the last weeks when giving it up would have been far easier and given her some luxury. Now, within a matter of days, she would be offering it to Mr. Darcy, and she did not tremble in fear at the thought.

When Elizabeth considered all the other gentlemen of her acquaintance who might have found her and offered their hand in marriage to rescue her, she had to concede Mr. Darcy was the only one with whom she would feel this—whatever this was.

“Are you awake?” he whispered against her forehead.

“Mmmm,” she said and took a deep inhale from where her head rested above his heart. A steady beat resounded in her ear. Slowly she lifted her head to meet Darcy’s eyes. The affection in them astounded her.

“You are so beautiful,” he said and tenderly caressed one cheek.

“I must be a mess,” Elizabeth said and self-consciously touched her hair.

Darcy caught her hand and kissed it. “You are stunning. I have envisioned this so often…I never thought it would be possible…and yet you are lovelier than any of my visions.”

“You have thought of me—of this?” Elizabeth blushed.

Darcy chuckled. “Very often…countless times a day.” He squeezed her gently. “The dream pales in comparison to reality. I really have you here in my arms!”

Elizabeth returned his smile, as uncomfortable as she was with such unabashed enthusiasm.

One of Darcy’s hands slid up to her cheek. Cupping it, he met her eyes and earnestly asked, “May I kiss you?”

Elizabeth’s breath hitched, and her lashes fluttered, but she awkwardly nodded her consent. Slowly, Darcy leaned his head forward until their lips just brushed. His were soft and smooth. It was more exquisite than Elizabeth had ever dared imagine. She sighed against his mouth before pulling back.

Darcy groaned, in what Elizabeth believed was appreciation, and pulled her closer, fusing their lips to one another. For a moment, she felt his body tense, his grip around her tighten. Elizabeth raised her free arm and returned the gentle pressure she felt around her waist. Suddenly, Darcy rolled away, breathing hard and flinging an arm over his eyes.

“Did I–did I do something wrong?” Elizabeth asked. “Are you displeased?”

Darcy rolled to face her. “The only thing which displeases me about our kiss is that my desires are at odds with my honour.”

Elizabeth furrowed her brow. So new as she was to the ways of carnal temptations, she did not fully comprehend what he meant.

Smoothing the deep lines on her forehead, Darcy chuckled. “Do you know what usually happens when a man and woman share a bed?”

Blushing profusely, Elizabeth nodded. “The girls I roomed with sometimes brought men back with them. I would leave the room, but one time I came in unannounced…”

Oh…he wanted to do that? Elizabeth admitted the man seemed well-pleased, if pained, her friend appeared less so, but she certainly brought men back too often to hate the experience.

“Ah…” He glanced away uncomfortably. “What you saw and were exposed to was something no gentlewoman should ever see and most never know.”

“I know giving your virtue to a man other than your husband is wrong—but would they not experience the act itself? I confess I never thought Molly and Susie so wicked and yet…”

“I sometimes forget how sheltered ladies are.” Something like regret emitted from his eyes. “A married lady enjoys her husbands…ah…affections from marital duty, a desire for children, and I hope genuine care and devotion. As such the physical experience would be different than someone who does it as an exchange of money.”

“You mean…”

“Yes, my dear.” He nodded. “It is not so unusual for women of little means to offer such services, especially at an inn. Nor is it out of the ordinary for men to take advantage of releasing their desires with any comely and willing woman.”

Elizabeth frowned. Did she have the courage to ask the question that burned on her tongue? The thought of which brought an ache to her heart and made her eyes sting with unshed tears. Yet, why should it? She did not love him and had no right to feel possessive.

“What concerns you?” He asked patiently.

Elizabeth sucked in a deep breath. She could not explain all of it to him. Would she ever meet his past lovers? Were they indeed in the past or would he continue such things? The chance for embarrassment would be very high. She had heard whisperings of kept women before. Did he have a favourite—one who would compete with her to be first in his affections? Or were they meetings with strangers? Out of the hundreds of questions she had, she focused on the one that mattered the most. “Have you?”

“No.” He grinned when she sighed in relief. “I never liked the hypocrisy that a man might do what he will while women would be condemned to act the same way. Besides, there are diseases from such acts.”

“And you will never?”

“No, I will never take to another woman’s bed—even if you never welcome me.”

Elizabeth had not thought such a conversation—awkward as it had been—would make her admiration for Darcy grow but his frank and honest way of talking, his vow of fidelity even without relief for his feelings, affected her deeply.

“Elizabeth?”

She focused her eyes on the man she would marry.

“You should know, however, if we do ever join it will be very different than what you had seen. Pleasure is not one-sided and is a hundred-fold when both are in love.”

Before Elizabeth could fully understand what he meant, he sat up.

“Let us begin our day. How is your ankle? I have been thinking, and perhaps one of the maids here might assist you in your toilette.”

Elizabeth gave her consent, and he left to speak with Cuthbert, leaving her alone with muddled thoughts and an aching coldness as his heat dissipated from the bed.