Simfield House, SimshireMy Dear Sir, I beg your pardon but I did in fact quite enjoy Sir John’s accounts. With more intelligence than you give me credit for, Lady Simself
27 Once, when I was ten or so, I wondered if perhaps I was not simply a sickly sort of person. I had always been told that I had inherited mymother’s frail constitution, but it made little sense; did my mother constantly cough—did she fall ill with fever at any given moment? She neverdid. And yet, as I grew, I began to think that perhaps all would be well in time. I went long periods without so much as a cold and began to takemore joy in the outdoors; indeed, perhaps there was a connection between my improved health and sunlight. I have heard it said on countlessoccasions that better air is the finest treatment for those with this “romantic” disease.
Consumption, I am told, comes in varied forms and has as many outcomes as there are people suffering from it. One’s symptoms mightpresent themselves on Tuesday and death might come the following Saturday. Or, as is evidently the case with me, one might contract thedisease at the age of twelve and manage to live an additional ten years or more. Of course, Dr. Trimble and my brother were not terribly optimistic that I should have lasted more than a week after this first significantmalady. In truth, I was more than half convinced of my impending demise as well, but I refused to admit it. I managed to talk with them asmuch as physically possible; if I recall correctly, I even managed to irritate John a little on purpose.
And yet this morning I find myself recovered! Not fully, not in the least, but this morning I feel much improved. I am weak, certainly, but Iintend to live. Indeed, I intend to live fairly ridiculously as soon as I can manage it. What else is one to do when the love of one’s life is forever lost? “I am so relieved you are feeling better!” It would seem one must be interrupted by one’s brother.
“And I thought you were hoping I would snuff it so you could have Papa’s fortune,” I joked as I put my journal on the bedside table. Lookingup to see the amusement I intended my comment to be met with I saw only that John’s face had gotten impossibly paler. I sighed nearlyimperceptibly. “I was only joking, John, I know you would never—“ “Are you absolutely out of your bleeding senses?!” he yelled. “Yes, a bit. You realize I have just been to hell and back on my death bed.” “Do not play that card with me, Robert! You know that I want nothing less than taking up Papa’s estate and duties.” I rolled my eyes. “Yes, yes, you wish to do something useful in the world. I am aware you think my future is a dull one, thank you forreminding me of that.”
“That is not what I meant.” He grunted as he sat beside me. “It is your place, not mine, to become master of it all. I have always known that.I have also always wished to avoid the depressing, useless lives second sons often have. As a doctor in His Majesty’s army I will become awealthy man in my own right, and I may be able to save lives.” “If you live, that is.” “Well . . . yes.”
I frowned and shifted the blankets irritably; without the fever I was finding the fire in the hearth quite unnecessary. “I am not saying that Iwould rather die than take Papa’s place, but it would be . . . helpful if you were to replace me.” John saved me the trouble of asking the question we’d avoided half our lives and told me outright that he, along with everyone but Papa, waswell aware of my situation and tastes. I did not feel the relief I had anticipated. “Oh, Plumbob. Can you imagine if Papa found out . . .? Hewould be so devastated. He would hate me. Good Plumbob, he would probably disown me! …Maybe I should tell him.” I twisted my fingerstogether in distress as my brother sat, clearly deep in thought. I could do with a contradiction, damn it!
He eventually supplied it. “I doubt that. Papa loves you. He would certainly be scared for you—and confused—but that is only if he actuallybelieved your aversion to women was sincere, which I doubt he would. In all likelihood Papa would take you out on the town to all of his oldhaunts—probably enlisting the aid of dear Uncle O’Leery—and try to talk you out of it. Ha! He might even drag you to the Simselves and havethem sort you out, though from what Sarah has told me they are very sympathetic to your plight. He may be upset if he knew, Robert, buthonestly… I do not think he would even believe you.” “I am so ashamed of myself,” I mumbled. “You ought to be!” I gasped—how could he be so cruel? He smiled at me. “It was in jest! But… let us be honest, what am I to say? I may be,ah… well versed in this situation given my tendency to read things of a. . . certain manner, but—s ”
I decided to throw everything to the wind and just beg. I was ill, after all. I was allowed to be preposterous. “Promise me you will take overfor me! Say you shall be Papa’s heir in my stead. I could leave. I could go back to Tri—I could leave.”
“Be serious, please.”“I am serious!” I yelled, near to tears.“Robert! You are not yet fully recovered, calm yourself!”“What care I for my health?!”“Do not say such things, you imbecile!”
“Well? I do not think I will survive if I have to wed and bed some obnoxious woman just to add to my wealth and beget heirs! I… blast meto hell in a thousand pieces, but I love… I love…”
I love that toe rag Surilie. I love his face, his hands, his hair, his eyes. I missed him more than I could even contemplate. In my dreams it wasonly his face, our last night together, that played over and over in my head. John was blushing rather a lot and I knew he’d followed my thoughts despite his better judgment. “I thought you had said your goodbyes tohim,” he said as conversationally as if he’d been commenting on the curtains—which were hideous, by the way. I had said goodbye, though. Rather thoroughly. Indeed, I was meant to be forgetting all about Tristan Surilie and his glorious face. It was noeasy feat. “I did, but that does not mean I want this.”
“It is not only your duty, Robert, but your right. You should not throw it away on me. Who knows, perhaps you will manage a son on thefirst go and may be done with the whole business!” I was at a complete loss. “Perhaps, but who the devil shall I marry? I may honestly say that there is no woman of my acquaintance that Icould countenance spending the rest of my life… with.”
Quite without warning I found myself wondering how Lady Emma Bingham fared, and whether or not she was missing Tristan as much as Iwas. I knew they were close friends, after all. It was only natural that I should think of her, was it not? What was not particularly natural—forme, anyway—was the fact that her turbulent silver eyes, so very deep with intelligence and poise in such a pleasant, happy person, seemed to berather stuck in my head. -
I do not remember John leaving. He must have, and long ago, for I awoke several hours later to a darkened room full of nothing but mythoughts and a rather cold cup of tea. And those hideous curtains. ---
36 I could be mistaken, though that is a rare occurrence indeed, but I believe John has deluded himself into thinking I fancy Lady EmmaBingham. He seems to have forgotten she is a woman—although that does seem to be rather the problem with him, come to think of it. We were having a visit a week or so ago when I suddenly asked after Lady Emma. John said he had not seen her, which irritated me greatly.I had every right to be angry, and it was nothing untoward at all. She is a dear friend of our family and, though there may be a bit ofawkwardness between John and the lady, he should still treat her according to her situation and rank. Ignoring her is simply not acceptable!But, somehow, the conversation turned to an odd testimony of my admiration for her. I believe I said something along the lines of Lady Emmabeing perfection embodied, which is true; I praised her otherworldly beauty and her exceptional brilliance, kindness, and wit. I implied thatJohn did not appreciate her, which he quickly contradicted. I then found myself asking whether or not he loved her in a way that would lead to marriage…
I did not know precisely why I asked at the time, but now it can surely be explained as mere consideration for her feelings. I thought itimportant to be assured of his lack of regard so I could tell Marian. Marian should know, should she not, so that she may better aide her friendin healing the wound my brother so stupidly placed? Yes, that is it exactly! And yet after I asked John smiled in that annoyingly arrogant way and has since hinted on more than one occasion that perhaps I should callupon the young lady. Perhaps I should, but there would be no reason for me to do so in a romantic sense. I am already attempting to forget one romantic attachment, one which has possibly ruined me forever; courting another is completely out ofthe question.
Moreover, let us not forget she is lacking in several highly significant departments. ---
40 Though I’ve just sent a letter (a note, really) to Tristan—my hand is blackened with ink and it aches from the thousand or so words it took tofinally come up with something partially acceptable—I need to think, and my thoughts are best put down on paper. They are like a poisonwhich must be drawn out or I shall perish in misery.
He says what he feels is more than affection, that it is love, but of course I would know this to be true whether he had spoken the words aloudor not. I would know just in the way he knows that I feel the same way without my constant reiteration of the words. And yet here I sit, day after day, trying to forget about him. He does not make it particularly easy, of course; he made his mark on my soulthat night and reinforces his claim through as many letters as he may possibly send to me. What does that say about me? Am I cruel, forwanting to forget the greatest affection I have ever felt or will ever feel? Am I inhuman? Or is it not love but simply a passing fancy? That is what I try to tell myself. I do not love him, it is folly, it will come to nothing… all of it, and yet he clings! He says he will never let goof what we have had—and what we will have when he returns, no matter the cost.
Of course he says that, for what could it cost him?! He has nothing. He IS nothing. He is nothing to me.
“Does it make you feel better, lying to yourself like that?” I gripped the pen so hard it threatened to snap. “Marian.” I turned around and there she was, of course. “I was not expecting you. Indeed,how did you get here?”
“Papa and the children are below stairs. Surprise!” Her tone dripped with sarcasm.I laughed. “The children, eh? Have you fallen out with Isabella again?”“I think it is inevitable that we should never get along, to tell the truth—”
“Not that you try to with any enthusiasm.” I sighed; bickering sisters makes for a poor afternoon indeed. “Anyway we have come to kidnap you and John for the night. Alice misses you both so much she is driving Papa to distraction, so you are notto argue. If you would be so kind as to leave your woeful lies to yourself behind,” she indicated my journal, “and follow me, then we can set off.” ---
41"You know, Robert..." I was growing weary of listening to my fathers rambling (which had gone on incessantly from the beginning of the carriage ride fromSimdon and straight through dinner) and John was being absolutely no help whatsoever so engrossed was he with some tome or other.Resigned, I raised my eyes just above the top of my glass. "Mm?"
He waved his hand around wistfully. "Back in my day we had none of this wishy-washy, lovey-dovey nonsense." I cocked an eyebrow at him. "Really." "Certainly," my father said. “And you would do well to heed the rules of the old. You say you cannot marry without affection. Nonsense, inmy opinion. Balderdash. Just marry some pretty woman and get on with it, for Plumbobs sake! In my day you found a suitable wife with agood heap of money and somehow coerced her into marrying you. That was it. Ask your mother, if you do not believe me.
His face was grave and entirely serious which of course is why I, quite out of character, snorted rather loudly."My mother, you say?”“Mm.”“You mean to say the woman who, I believe, is currently upstairs in her bedchamber with your mistress of nearly twenty years?"
Papa choked on the large glass of wine he was sipping and John attempted to muffle his laughter. Satisfied with their reactions, I said, "I think it might be time to back off on that.” I indicated the wine. “Before Mama hears about this "loveynonsense" and sends you back into the dark ages post haste."
“You hold your tongue, young man!” Papa said, blushing. “Do not joke about such things. Those…that… there was a very difficult time inmy life where I was almost forced to attend to myself—”
John saved us both from utter humiliation by standing up abruptly and saying rather quickly, “I require a drink— a rather large glass ofsomething extraordinarily strong. Join me, Robert?” ---
51 I find it disturbing, grossly so, that my brother Henry has spent so much time in Simdon’s brothels that he now has a substantial list ofacceptable establishments—which is made worse by the fact that he is not yet sixteen—and that he intends to show me as many of them ashumanly possible this evening as a “gift” for my nineteenth birthday. While I find it outrageous that he knows of these places in the first place,he may have a point in saying that it is far more absurd for me, a gentleman of eighteen nineteen not to have had more than one lover. I shall write tomorrow of our “exploits” or lack thereof. ---
“This is the worst idea you have ever had,” I sighed. Henry just grinned at me. “What an accomplishment! I am full of bad ideas, or so Isabella tells me.” We were strolling down Northanger Street. It was dark, it was cold, and we were on our way to the first place on his horrible list. I could nothave been less pleased with the setting or the destination. On the other hand, perhaps Henry was correct. Henry had felt a partiality to gentlemen at one time, but once he began visiting The ScarletSlipper that seems to have faded at least partially away. True or not, he at least looked at women and men with an equally disgusting leer thesedays, so surely that was an improvement?
“Aha, here we are!” the veteran said. At my pained expression Henry slapped me on the back and grinned. I groaned. “This is going to be terrible.’ “This is going to be excellent!” As he said this Henry was practically rubbing his hands together with glee. When I continued to look miserable, Henry rolled his eyes and placed a comforting hand on my shoulder. “Listen. What is that quote?‘Every man is surrounded by a neighborhood of voluntary spies?’ You do not have to enjoy this, though I am hoping something will snap inyour head and you will magically want to nuzzle some b—ahem. What is truly important here is to keep up appearances. You have been luckyso far with your former ‘affair’, but where is the guarantee that you shan’t be seen next time? You are nineteen. You are male. You partake inthe company of loose women. It is a rule.”
Away, away, ye notes of woe!Be silent, thou once soothing strain,Or I must flee from hence—for, oh!I dare not trust those sounds again.
To me they speak of brighter days— But lull the chords, for now, alas! I must not think, I may not gaze, On what I am—on what I was. ---
52This morning I find myself thanking Plumbob that my chamber has no mirror. I doubt I could look at myself if it had.
I did not think of Tristan once last night, nor the next night. Nor the next. Nor…What must that say about me? ---
53 At first, after I had finished despising myself entirely, I thought last evening’s activities might well be an excellent solution to my wished-forforgetfulness. Effective though it was, as soon as the thought came into my mind I shut it out, knowing such actions would only cheapen who Iam as a person. I cannot say I will never join Henry in a night out again, however. I wish I could say thus, but putting my prudence aside I must admit Ienjoyed myself. I think I shall take up walking… ---
59 There comes a time in a man’s life when he must put away childish things and mature. I feel that now is my moment. It is not so much that I have indulged in childish things at any time after the age of four, not at all, but there are other things I must put asideif I am to become the man I must become. There is little point in trying to forget Tristan. I know this now. It was foolish and, if I am quite honest, cruel—to myself and to him. Myaffection for him must be put aside, but I shall not put him aside.
I have to be sensible about this. I was not born to take pleasure where I see fit and to disregard the things that truly matter. My family is oneof the greatest in Simshire and I am beginning to see its potential. No longer do I feel that my future is only a burden. As I have studied historyover the past year or so I have learned just how easy it is for a family to be undone by stupidity. It took the fear of this happening to force myrealization that I want to see my family succeed. Being a sodomizing, consumptive arse is not going to get to that point. From this moment on he may be an acquaintance and that is all.
He may resent me for this. Indeed, he may hate me, but that may be for the best. We have no future together but one filled with misery andcensure. I would not subject him to it even if I wanted to put myself through it. He would not approve of my choice. He would say I am taking the easy route, that giving up whatever it was that we had would be thestupidest thing I could ever do. He would make an impassioned argument for us to run away together. He would expect me to want the samethings. But he would be wrong! My choice is the most difficult, not the easiest, and my decision proves my intelligence because I am the one who issmart enough to make it.
It may be difficult to bear for a time, especially when we are in close quarters, but in the end we will both be happier knowing that what wehave done is the right thing to do. Life will go on, as it always has, without the stain on the earth that would be us together. I will have to write to him. I cannot bring myself to state explicitly my intentions, but I will have to word it in such a way as he could notpossibly miss the meaning. He is not an imbecile… surely he can read between the lines. ---
63 When I made my decision last week I thought I would feel relief. I usually find that the most difficult part of a decision is the making of it,but this has been extraordinarily challenging. I have still not written to Tristan and I do not know when I shall. If I shall. Perhaps silence isbest. My emotions are as conflicting as heaven and hell. Perhaps this is indicative of my two paths. ---
78 Lady Emma Bingham is the most perfect creature to walk this earth. I have been exceedingly stupid not to realize this, at least not to such adegree, until now. My decision regarding Tristan was threatening to drive me into madness and so I began spending more time in Simshire with my family.They are exceedingly distracting which, though usually very irritating, was precisely what I needed. The situation was made so much better whenever Lady Emma was about and, as she is the closest friend either of my sisters has, that was veryoften indeed. I did not realize it until this afternoon just how remarkable she is. Certainly, she always was amusing, and I have always admiredher. Indeed, very early on in our acquaintance she impressed me greatly.
One day long ago she and Marian walked in on John and I having a very great argument over a sliver button missing from one of my favoritewaistcoats. I absolutely could not calm myself (and though John was mortified before the audience he, too, was fairly incensed). The only thingthat made any progress at all toward resolution was something she said: “I am sure someone shall manage to find another silver button somewhere in the universe. I assure you that, should this exceptional eventoccur, I will sew it on myself.”
I was taken by immense surprise, though whether it was at her interference itself or the effect her words had on me I know not. Completelycalmed, I laughed at her and kissed her hand before patting my brother on the back and strolling off as if nothing had happened. It wasdelightfully absurd and after that I knew I would not have been sad to know Lady Emma better.
As we have spent time together I have realized something very shocking: John was correct. I am interested in Lady Emma. I am not attractedto her in an intimate way, but she attracts me with her beauty nonetheless. I have already praised her to the best of my ability, but I find that,even when I think she cannot get more wonderful, she does. Every time. Lately, as I have been considering my future, I see two things very clearly:
Plan the first, the redecoration of the music room. It is hideously outdated.
Plan the second… Lady Emma Austen. I now understand what my subconscious mind already knew: she would be the perfect wife for me. ---
83 “You really will not come along? You know Isabella would like to see both of us together, and you know Marian is going through a difficulttime.” John was making this surprise annoyingly difficult to carry out. I heaved a convincing, irritated sigh. “Yes, yes, but this is more important.” He thought I was being an arse, it was obvious. Isabella and Henry were about to celebrate their sixteenth birthday and, as John has beentirelessly pointing out, this will only happen once. Of course I knew this, I am not an imbecile. What I am, however, is feeling a bit mischievous.Too much time with Lady Emma will do that to a person. As such, I had told my brother I would remain here at Pemberley to have one last go atstudying for my exams. His response was typical.
“Robert, perhaps you would not be rushing so, had you not spent every waking minute at some club or other with those dandies you wasteyour life with.” “Is that so, Mama? Goodness me, I really ought to be more careful with my time. Good Plumbob, John, do keep your cravat on.” What anexaggeration. After that first night with Henry I have only repeated the experience a handful of times. Despite my better judgment, of course,but a men—whether they prefer the company of women or not—will be men. I was determined to fight the instinct Henry so prides himself on,but over time, well. Determination wanes, even for hopeless consumptives like myself. He sighed. “Fine. I shall tell them you are most heartbroken to have to remain here and revise but that you are merely thinking of yourfuture duties as son and heir of so distinguished and grand a fortune.” This last bit was said with what he seemed to think was a perfectrepresentation of the way I speak and was obviously aimed to make me angry. Naturally I would not give him the satisfaction.
I merely smiled at him. “I shall see you next week.” He rolled his eyes in that very John-like way as he turned around to leave. Before he made it through the door I added, “Say hello to LadyEmma for me, should you happen to see her.” He ignored me, but he heard me; I had to give myself a moment to stop chuckling to myself beforeI got up and went to pack my small trunk. ---
84 John’s expression alone would have been enough to make my surprise worthwhile, but the pleasure it brought to Lady Emma… I could not stop myself—nor would I have if I could—from pulling the young lady into an embrace. It was forward of me, of course, but,unlike my brother, I have no qualms about showing physical affection when necessary. “Forgive my forwardness, Lady Emma, but it has been far too long, has it not? And you have been so close to our family these past five years ittruly feels that you belong here. I am most pleased to see you.” And I was, truly. More than I thought I could be.
“Oh, you know, forwardness is how we get places. Er, that is to say, forwardness… well it isn’t so very bad, all things considered. It is not asif we’ve gone prancing about in our underthings! Ha-ha, now that would be… ahem. It is no bother at all. I am so happy to see—I mean, I amhappy you managed to arrive for I know your family was most eager to see you. I am too. I—well, my goodness, is that a sparrow?” I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing aloud, but I fear a chuckle may have escaped. Quickly I offered her my arm and lead her over to abench where we could talk privately. It was imperative that I get to know her better, and that she began to trust me, if my current designs wereto come to fruition. -
That sounds very bad, does it not? ‘Designs’… it is as if I had dastardly plans to steal her virtue. Good Plumbob, no. I find comfort in the fact that I quite forgot about my original intention to get to know her for practical reasons and found myself genuinelyinterested in what she had to say. It should not have surprised me, but I suppose it is the latent expectation that the process of courting awoman would be hell on earth. With Lady Emma, goddess that she is, I do not think it will be this way. I wanted to know about her family, herhome in Simireland, her thoughts, hopes dreams… I delighted to see her so animated about it all, and it honestly pulled at my heart when shesaid speaking of her mother was too painful, though I noticed she tugged at her necklace when she said so. I wondered at the connection butput my curiosity aside; I wanted nothing more than to stop her from being hurt in any way.
Propriety must be observed some of the time, however, so I eventually had to take my leave. I was feeling very well indeed, though, anddecided a stroll about the grounds was in order. I asked Isabella to accompany me—it is, after all, her birthday and I have spent very little timewith her lately—but she was far too preoccupied with her guests. I was resolved to walk alone and had nearly made it into the west gardenwhen Marian caught up with me. -
“’Lo, Marian.”“I wanted to ask you if you were going to see Emma again.”She certainly wasted no time in getting to the point, at least. Before I could actually answer, she went on.“I think she fancies you, and quite a bit, Robert. She would be an excellent match, I think.”
“Marian.” “She’s very wealthy.” “Marian.” “And, really, it is high time you moved on. You must move on from…from your past. You cannot marry a man no matter how much youlove him.” “Marian.”
“Plumbob knows he may not return anyway, so really there is no point in waiting.”
My patience disappeared instantly. I snapped, “He’s coming back, Marian! I have to believe he is, or I will not be able to live. Surely youexercise the same hope with Captain O’Leery!”
She winced at the thought of him. “I understand. But Robert—”
“Marian, would you silence yourself for just a moment?” She said nothing. I frowned at her. “Have you any idea how very vexing you are?” “Very vexing, Id imagine,” she said dryly. I sighed. This was not the leisurely walk I’d hoped for, and there really was no reason whatsoever for us to be arguing as we had the samegeneral thoughts. I stood silent for a moment trying to formulate a response but of course she could not wait for that.
“Think of your family!” she blurted. Again, a heavy sigh. “I always think of my family, Marian. That is why—” “Should you not be considering marriage then? You are more than halfway finished with university, and you know you may not have timeto waste given your—” “Lecture me not on the dangers of my condition, Marian! I know!”
“I—I should not have brought it up, Robert. I—”
“Do not trouble yourself,” I said as I turned away from her and began marching off. “And, to answer your original question,” I tossed over myshoulder, “I have every intention of seeing Lady Emma again.” ---
107 My father has just been advised by Dr. Trimble to begin setting my affairs in order. John does not approve of me sitting up and writing, butthis is the first day I have been able to open my eyes for more than a few moments. I have not the strength to write more than this, but it isimportant: John, If I die, give this to Tristan. Tell him I love him. Try not to blush yourself to death. Marry that girl before you ruin everything. Look afterour family.
John, If I die, give this to Tristan. Tell him Ilove him. Try not to blush yourself to death.Marry that girl before you ruin everything.Look after our family. Look after Emma.
121 “Dearest brother of mine, I am so pleased you are feeling better. Did you know John has some rather questionable texts hidden in thelibrary?” “Yes, I did—and ‘dearest brother’ my foot, Marian; I know that tone. What have I done now? I know you have not come all this way just towish me well.” “Oh, nothing. I was merely thinking it might be high time you got a bloody move on and proposed to Emma.” I rolled my eyes as I settled back against the pillows. She was not precisely incorrect.. -
The past six months, despite a brief interlude during which I was fighting for my life I have paid Lady Emma every possible courtesy. It isalmost as if the dreams brought on by my illness sought to test my resolve to put my affection for Tristan aside, at least at first, but after thosedreams I was treated with ones of a future that could actually happen. A future with Lady Emma, with children… I was still mostly convinced Iwould die, of course, but I knew that if I did survive that Plumbob had a plan for me. Once I was better I renewed my efforts to win Lady Emma’s heart. Considering my true affection for her and the fact that our marriage wouldfulfill my duties and bring me happiness in the form of children I really had no reason not to. I do try very hard not to think of the other thingsmarriage will entail, of course. But, as I said, it has been six months. It is not as if courtships have not lasted longer, but Marian seems to think anything above a month isridiculous. Of course, Captain O’Leery has been gone these two years, so she is not exactly rational on the subject, either. -
“What are you waiting for, Robert?” I am sure of what I want. Lady Emma would be the perfect wife for me, and she genuinely likes me. That is a far better beginning to amarriage than many have! “I do not know.” ---
133 I relapsed again—in a way. John thinks it may have been a simple, yet ridiculously unpleasant, cold. I must say, having consumption is notparticularly enjoyable, but at least I am well again. I owe my life to those who have cared for my health; Lady Emma’s reading sessions couldnot have hurt either. I’ve had a lovely time in Simdon and my companionship with Lady Emma grows by the day. It has made me realize just how correct Marianwas in saying Lady Emma had an interest in me. I did not expect to feel such happiness and, if I am honest, triumph at this knowledge, but I do. We return home to Simshire next week, and not long after that we will hold the much anticipated ball for my sisters. I really ought to ensureI have Lady Emma’s hand for the first two dances at minimum. She is an excellent dancer, though she would never admit it. I have had thepleasure of dancing with her on several occasions, and I must say I have never seen anything more beautiful than Emma in a ballroom. ---
137Interesting tea with John today…John had just returned to Pemberley from a brief visit to see our parents, but I knew he must have also seen Lady Emma. It made me curious. -
“So tell me, is there any news from Simshire?” I said it tonelessly, hoping there was no way he could possibly know what I was truly asking.I failed in this endeavor.“What?”
“Why do we not just admit that you want me to tell you ALL about my visit with Lady Emma yesterday? You know, Robert, for a man not atall interested in ladies you seem to be almost obsessed with her.” “Pah, obsessed,” I scoffed. Perhaps a little. “In all honesty, not much has happened. Well, Emma did mention she was in love with you.” -
I believe I choked on my tea at this juncture, either that or I spit some back out into my cup, but I was so shocked at the time I cannotremember. It was not long ago that I was almost congratulating myself on attracting Lady Emma’s attention, on making her like me… so it should followthat her love would only bring me further happiness. It did not. All I feel is guilt. She deserves someone to love her in return, but all I will everfeel is respect and platonic affection. She is very important to me, but she remains a friend. Perhaps this is why I hesitate? If I marry her theguilt will never fade, not ever. There are things she cannot ever know; I might grow to hate myself, more than I do already, because of the lies Iwill have to tell her for the rest of my life. ---
141 I have been thinking more about my marriage prospects. Hypocritical though he was, I believe my father was correct. Marrying withaffection is a luxury. Many women spend their lives with horrible husbands who mistreat them in all ways imaginable. Lady Emma loves me, Iwould never enterprise to wound her, and I do care about her. Already she is better off than half the women in Simland, surely? This is the practical course, marrying her. She is as wealthy as she is kind, and she loves me. There should be no impediment whatsoever. ---
142 “That is all well and good, Marian, but the fact remains that your motives make absolutely no sense at all!” We were walking toward MartinHall together, and she was being difficult. I had half a mind to turn around but I wanted to see Lady Emma. “They make perfect sense!” “To an ostrich, perhaps!” “An…what? Really? An ostrich? Do not be absurd.”
“Ha! And you want me to marry Lady Emma? I think absurdity has become a part of my personality whether I intended it to be so or not,simply by associating with the young woman.” Marian sighed and adjusted her bonnet. “Robert, what do you want me to say? That I want my dearest friend to marry a man who cannotgive her the love she deserves just because it would be the most convenient thing for everyone?”
“…Well do you?” I did not get an answer. She did not say a word to me until we arrived at Martin Hall, and after that directed most of her speech to LadyEmma. To be fair, I did the same.
After we’d been whisked into the drawing room for tea, as could only be expected, Marian persuaded Lady Emma to tell us more about herfamily. At last, Lady Emma began to speak of her mother a little. She kept trying to explain how the Lady Anne looked almost exactly like herdaughter, but with slightly darker skin “because she actually managed to be in the sun without a parasol and without burning to a crisp.” WhenLady Emma lamented the fact that she did not own a finished picture of her mother my interest was piqued. “Is there an incomplete portrait? I would love to see her, if you would not mind. Portraiture fascinates me,” I said. “It’s true, Emma, although Robert’s talents are slightly frightening,” Marian said, smiling at me. Apparently I was at least partially forgiven. “Indeed, how so?”
“ For our father’s 35th birthday he painted a family picture of our grandparents, Fitzwilliam and Edith, as well as Papa and his 8 siblings.Funny thing is, Robert has never met our grandparents.” Lady Emma laughed. “But surely there are portraits of them? Are they not hanging in the entrance hall?” “Well, yes. They are there, but—”
“The only likenesses we have of them are portraits painted by our Aunt Elizabeth and…er, while very…accomplished…they were not herbest work.” I was being far kinder than my aunt deserved—Elizabeth Howard is many wonderful things but an artist is not one of them—andyet one must not disparage one’s aunt in the house of said aunt’s twin.
Marian laughed. She knew I’d stared at those portraits for days and complained very vocally at all the flaws. “And yet the painting, Papasays, looks so much like his parents he would not be surprised if they began yelling at him,” she said. “How wonderful,” Emma said. “And yes, there is in fact a sketch of our family done just after my youngest brother was born. I believe it issomewhere in my room.” She blushed. “Would you care to see it?”
Of course I did, and when she dug it out of a box and showed it to me I was enraptured. “Why was this never finished?!” I could not believe any artist would go through the trouble of such an excellent sketch and not go on topaint it, especially if he was to be paid.
“Oh! Yes, that. He died.”“…Died?”“Rather tragically in fact. You know how artists are. They seduce women, they get poisoned…”
I stared at her and nearly dropped the sketch. Not only did I not like being lumped into a group who seduce women as a general pastime,but, “He was poisoned?”
“No, no. Do not be silly, this is not the 16th century. No, Lady Andrews’ husband merely ran at him with the family sword upon finding himon her private balcony.” She said this as if it was the most mundane thing in the world.
“You speak of Lord Andrews’ act of murder with surprising calm,” Marian noted. I quite agreed.
“Ha! Lord Andrews didn’t kill him. The poor man contracted a deadly cold from standing outside on the balcony in the blasted rain. LordAndrews barely nicked him, and he died the next afternoon.”
“…Right,” I said as Marian cackled. “Do you think I could ask you a few questions as to the detail of the day this was painted? I should like toenvision what the artist had in mind.
Thus began my relentless questioning. “What is the precise shade of green, would you say, of your brothers’ eyes?” Lady Emma blinked. Of course the questions I had been asking for the better part of an hour must seem ridiculously unimportant to her but Iabsolutely had to see this artist’s vision. “They are rather like Joh—Isabella’s eyes, in fact. Very bright, almost otherworldly…very pretty, I must say. Oh! You met Patrick, did younot? His eyes are the same.” ---
155 I am meant to be below stairs ready to greet the guests for the ball but I needed a moment to gather my thoughts. On the one hand, I am honestly excited for to dance with Lady Emma. On the other, something tells me I am going to have to make the decisionI have been avoiding tonight. There can be no more pretending there is a middle ground for my future. I either have to continue on this path,or find another. Marian is calling (screeching, really) for me to come down. I do hope this night goes well. ---
156“Pardon my saying so, Robert but good Lord you have let yourself go.”
I sighed and put my palette on the table. “What is it, Marian?”
“Honestly, your hair is ever so long. Of course, it always was too long, but—”
“Had you a point, or did you simply wish to insult my hair, which is marvelous by the way…?”
“You have been down here for the better part of a month! We’ve hardly seen you—you have not asked me once about wedding plans and Iwould have thought you very interested in my choice of gown.”
I frowned. “That is not true, I have been about. I was there when Isabella went off to Simdon. And of course I am interested, do not benonsensical. It is just, well, this needs to be completed before I can focus on anything else.” “Do you even eat?” “Of course. John would have me hanged otherwise. You know, he’s been so irritable lately.” “Well he is preparing to finish up his education, unlike some people.” “Marian, it is not my fault our brother achieves far more than necessary. I will return next term as usual. I see no need to rush my educationand traipse off to war and glory like he does.”
“Ha! Yes, glory. That is exactly what John wants,” she said, full of sarcasm.I crossed my arms. “Was there something you actually wished to speak to me about, or may I get back to work?”
Marian smiled and started to walk around me for a peak at my canvas.“Absolutely not,” I said, waving her away. “Back. Shoo. It is a surprise.”“For me?”“Of course not, but it is meant for one person only and she—they must be the first person to see it.”She nodded as if she knew exactly what I was about. “Very well. But, yes, there is something I wished to say.”
I grabbed the nearest cup and swallowed a gulp of tea. It was dreadful. “Well, then… say it,” I said, shuddering as the cold tea went throughmy body. Disgusting. “I want to apologize.” It was lucky that I hadn’t attempted a second sip of tea for I surely would have choked on it. “What?”
“This is important, Robert. I am sorry for how… for how tenacious I have been on the subject of your marriage. I have pushed you, and Iwas wrong. I wish for you to know that I want nothing but your happiness, no matter what that means and what path you take.” I appreciated her words, of course, but I couldn’t take her seriously. She was smiling too much and toying with the ring O’Leery hadpresented her with a few weeks ago. I have seen people act in this way before, and these people are usually my parents after a good night’sromp. “You have been naughty, have not you, Marian? I would offer to kill O’Leery for this, but something tells me it was not done at hissuggestion.”
“Also, he could probably kill you in his sleep, so you oughtn’t bother trying.”I had to admit she had a point. “Well at least you are marrying the blackguard, and he will make you happy.”
“I am deliriously happy, Robert.”“I can tell.”“I know, I cannot stop smiling! I am utterly ridiculous, I know you think so; I can tell by the way you are smirking at me.”
“It is not that. It is just that you actually apologized to me for something.”“Oh, right.” ---
157I cannot believe I am saying this, but I am ecstatic. What a marvelous evening! -
Everything was right. My aunt and uncle were more than happy to assist me with my extravagant idea, and they agreed to stay there withme until the proper moment.
I was nervous, far too nervous. If she had not come in the room when she did I may have collapsed, but her presence elicited an automaticand brilliant smile from me. I immediately revealed my gift .
Emma rushed over and stared transfixed at her family while my uncle dragged dear Aunt Gee out of the room; the poor woman was tooexcited, I think. When they closed the door behind them I knew the moment had come. I fished out of my coat the object that could changeeverything; with my other hand I turned Emma to face me.
My hands shook as I pressed the inoffensive little box into her hands. “I have something I should very much like to ask you,” I said. My voice sounded far away, almost as if I was under water and hearing anexchange of words above the surface. I swallowed, and closed my eyes for half a second; this was right. I knew I was making the right choice.
“This belonged to my grandmother,” I explained. Of course I’d had it reset; the original band was positively ghastly. In its new home the central diamond was surrounded by several smaller stones and set in a band of delicate gold; as it lay there nestled in redvelvet and catching the candlelight most enchantingly I found myself thinking I would say yes if I were presented with such a thing. Theabsurdity of the thought seemed to bolster my confidence, so I continued.
“For my entire life I have been convinced that I would never find a woman I would be willing to tolerate long enough to marry. Indeed, if allwomen were like my sisters I should have given up completely before the age of seven.” She laughed at this, but I could not look at her. Not yet.I continued to stare at my hands, cupped around hers and the box. “But then I met you. From our first meeting I knew we could be great friendsif given half a chance, and though it took several long years I like to imagine that we have become such.” Her empty hand gave mine a squeeze.“And yet… I now find myself wishing very much that we could be more. You know I can be unpleasant, abrasive even, but I never find myselfin anything but perfectly good humor in your presence. You bring me peace when I feel as if nothing will ever be well again. You say the mostabsurd things and make me laugh when no one else can, and I love—”
“I love you, Emma. Truly. If you honor me in accepting my hand I swear I will spend the rest of my existence ensuring your perfecthappiness..” She said nothing; I started to panic. Finally, she smiled at me.
“Your nose twitches when you are nervous.”“…”“Perfect happiness, you say?”
“I do not believe you will have to tax yourself overmuch.” ---
^.^ SO that’s the end of Robert’s chapter! I hope you understand a little more about his motivations and thought processes as far as Tristan and Emma go now, but mostimportantly I hope you enjoyed it! Isabella and Marian’s chapter is next, and that will be the end of these POV installments. I’m sure you can’t wait for it to be over. :PCREDITS:~ The amazingly lovely Di for being the most helpful proofreader ever and for helping to talk me through the fact that it’s okay for Robert to be melodramatic~ Lord Byron for the use of part of his poem, “Away, Away Ye Notes of Woe”~The creators of the CC that helps complete Simshire~Anyone I’ve annoyed with PLEASE TALK TO ME AHHHH sessions over the last month or so And thank YOU for reading! >>>