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Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 13

November 30, 2020 05:38AM
Chapter13


Standing on the landing, Richard picked up the knocker, then hesitated. It was unusually quiet for this household. It unsettled him. Taking a deep breath, he knocked and anxiously waited for the door to be opened.

“Oh, good evening sir,” said the maid, recognizing him immediately. “I'm sorry, sir, but Miss Fennimore has already retired.”

“So early? I thought I'd be interrupting the family at dinner.”

“The rest of the family is still at table, sir, but as I said, Miss Fennimore has gone upstairs. I shall tell her you called in the morning.”

“Actually, it is not Miss Fennimore I've come to see. I wish to have a word with Lord Fennimore. But as he is still having his dinner I shall not disturb him. Do you think it would be convenient to try again in half an hour?”

“Yes, sir. The pudding has already been served,” she replied. “Shall I tell Lord Fennimore to expect you?”

“No, no. It's not necessary.” The Colonel nodded, turned and made his way down the steps.

He walked the streets in one direction for fifteen minutes, then turned and made his way back.
This time, he did not hesitate to knock.

“Good heavens,” said Lord Fennimore, clearly irritated. “Who in the world would be calling at this hour?”

When the Colonel was ushered into the room he was greeted with a simple, “What do you want? This is a very inconvenient time to make a social call, sir, and my daughter is unavailable.”

“It is you I have come to see, sir, and I assure you, I will not take up much of your time. As Miss Fennimore is now back in London, I've come to ask your permission to court her, Lord Fennimore. I am very much in love with your daughter and wish you to know my intentions are honorable.”

'What? Court Juliana? You are too late, young man. My mind is made up! She is to be betrothed to Reginald Greasley in the morning. And if she will not, I shall disown her entirely,” he muttered under his breath. “Has she put you up to this, Colonel,” he continued, looking up at him suspiciously. “Is this a scheme to rid herself of Greasely and enjoy another few months of independence? No, no, no. I shall not have another delay. She needs to be married and to bring some honor to this house! I am done with her manipulating the situation. Now, good night sir. This discussion is closed.” Lord Fennimore turned his back on the Colonel, went to sit at his desk and pretended to study the newspaper before him.

“Sir, please, allow me to assure you that Miss Fennimore and I have not arranged this meeting. Indeed, she knows nothing of my being here this evening. I would have asked for her hand while she was in the country, but did not wish to defy your authority. And as for prolonging her independence, if she will have me, I shall marry her tomorrow. You have my word, sir. If you wish Juliana to be married, then why not give her the choice. I shall abide by her decision whatever it may be.”

Richard took Lord Fennimore's contemplative look as a positive sign and continued to press his case. “And as far as bringing honor to your family, sir, my parents, Earl and Lady Matlock, hold an enviable position among members of the ton, as do my close relations, Fitzwilliam Darcy and Lady Catherine DeBourge. I am a second son, it is true, but your daughter would enjoy the company of some of the finest and most respected people in all of England.” he offered. 'Never have I sunk so low as to use my family's station in life to further my cause,' thought the Colonel, 'but I will not have my pride take Juliana away from me.'

“Well then,” said Lord Fennimore, “let us see what she says on the subject. She must agree to an announcement in tomorrow's evening paper and be married to you within a month. I am aware of the time it takes the ladies to organize these things.” He reached behind his desk to pull the cord for the servant and demanded she go upstairs and fetch Miss Fennimore down immediately.

“But sir, she may be asleep, sir. You sent her up to bed over an hour ago.”

“Confound it. Do as you're told! I want her down here within five minutes. Do you understand,” he bellowed. The frightened girl curtsied and raced out and up the stairs.

*****

Juliana stepped into her father's study without knocking, then froze at the sight of the Colonel standing there. She paled and instinctively crossed her arms about her chest. “Father, I was not told we had company. I must dress! Please let me go upstairs and make myself presentable. I shall be very quick.”

“Stay where you are, Juliana. The Colonel has one simple question to ask you and I expect you to …..

“Lord Fennimore, please!” the Colonel hastily interrupted. “May I have the honor of speaking to your daughter in private, sir? This is not how I envisioned ….

“Very well, get on with it then. Take him into the small parlor, Juliana. I will not be thrown out of my own study.”

She nodded and led him out of the room. As he followed her, he was captivated by her cascading locks, swaying across her back as she walked. He had thought her very beautiful from their very first encounter, but had never pictured her like this – her satin robe draped so sensually about her body, her beautiful, tousled hair framing her blushing cheeks. He had, of course, imagined her completely unclothed, but the view in front of him now was indescribably seductive.

“Richard, of course I am thrilled to see you; I have missed you so very much. But why have you come tonight? My father is beside himself as it is. He doesn't need another reason to be upset with me,” she cried, quickly turning to him once he had shut the door.

“I wanted to make sure you were all right. I was worried about your father's reaction to your unexpected arrival.”

“Well, as you can see, I am well. Papa does not beat me … although I am sure he would like to,” she joked. “Though he thinks nothing of making me miserable for the rest of my life,” she added more somberly. “So what is this simple question you want to ask me?”

He stepped closer, took her hands in his and faltering a bit at first, quickly regained his voice. “I was hoping to do this very differently, Juliana, at another time, another place ... but given the circumstances, I shall do it now. I wish to ask if you'll have me for your husband, Miss Fennimore.” here he paused for a split second to gauge her reaction, and when she did not respond, he hastily continued. “It is true that we have not known each other for very long, but I know what is in my heart. I am deeply in love with you. You are the woman I have waited for all these years. No words can express my admiration for you. I didn't believe I could ever find anyone who would suit me so well as you. I adore you, Juliana, and I want to live my life with you beside me. Will you have me? Will you consent to be my wife?”

Juliana had held her breath from the beginning of his entreaty and now released it slowly as tears welled in her beautiful, blue eyes. She reached out to touch his face and whispered, “I love you, as well, Richard. But are you quite certain that this is what you really want? My father has obviously given you some sort of ultimatum and is rushing you into making this offer. I won't have you pressured into marrying me. That could not end well.”

“It can end far better than we ever could have hoped. I came here tonight to ask permission to court you, believing that stroking your father's ego could only help us in the long run. And of course, I had planned to propose soon after. But truth be told, I was a bit concerned about dividing the focus away from Anne's upcoming ordeal. Now I realize that if we commit to each other tonight, our hearts will be so much lighter over the difficult weeks ahead. The stressful anticipation of the proposal will be behind us and we can be of better service to both Simon and Anne. And the best part is, we can be married that much sooner.” His eyes twinkled and his roguish expression prompted her to giggle.

“You make a very convincing argument, Colonel Fitzwilliam.” she said, rising up on her toes to kiss him. “May I have some time to think about it?”

“No, you may not, Miss Fennimore,” replied the Colonel, picking her up and swinging her about. “I demand an answer immediately!” He kissed her ardently, but being suddenly startled by the loud knocking on the door, quickly put her down.

“How long does it take to say yes or no?” demanded Lord Fennimore angrily as the door swung open. “Ah, I see you are taking liberties already, Colonel!”

“Father, the Colonel has made me an offer of marriage and I have accepted,” said Juliana hastily as she struggled to gain back her balance. “I hope this puts your mind at ease.”

Lord Fennimore grunted, “I shall be at ease once this understanding is acknowledged in the press. Then, I suppose, I shall have the unpleasant task of informing Greasley. Well, I dare say, he would not have made the most pleasant relation. And your mother will surely be pleased.”

“Thank you, sir, for your help and understanding,” said Richard holding out his hand to his future father-in-law. Lord Fennimore ignored it and offered instead, “Thank me after a few years of marriage when you are intimately acquainted with my daughter's disposition. Good night, young man. Be here early tomorrow morning. I shall accompany you to the newspaper office.” He dismissed the Colonel with a wave of his hand and barked at Juliana to hasten upstairs.

*****

The Colonel had one more stop to make before heading back to Grosvenor Square. Tomorrow would be an eventful day and he needed to be available to both Darcy and Anne. But his parents would never forgive him if they learned of his engagement through the evening paper. And more importantly, he was anxious to see his mother's face when he shared his good news. It was a moment she had been praying for and he was most eager to make her happy. However, he was not going to allow his aunt to spoil the moment. Considering his options, he decided to make his entrance through the kitchen. The servants were understandably surprised to see him there.

Cook hurried to greet him, wiping her hands on her apron before she lavished a firm embrace on her favorite member of the household. He had always been her darling boy, enjoying his company as she worked, relying on his discriminating palate to help with the seasoning. He had always been so genuinely appreciative of all the dishes she created and was most generous with his praise.

“Goodness, Colonel, what brings you to us this evening? Are they starving you at Grosvenor Square? Have you come for a good meal of leftover dinner?”

“Yes, actually!” he said laughing, “that is an excellent idea. But first, I wish to speak to both my parents without the knowledge and interference of my aunt. Could you devise some sort of reason to get them down here without Lady Catherine suspecting that anything is amiss?”

“Yes, of course,” replied Cook, and taking off her apron and smoothing back her hair she proceeded upstairs without hesitation.

Richard Fitzwilliam took his seat on the stool by the large wooden worktable. It had been his appointed place since he was a boy and he adored the vantage point he had from there. How he loved this kitchen and the people who worked in it.

His melancholy thoughts were suddenly interrupted by his father's gruff voice. “Didn't we have this stove refurbished just last week?” said the Earl with much frustration. He was gingerly making his way down the steps with his wife right behind him.

“Indeed we did my dear, but this may be a sign that the old girl is finished and should have been replaced.”

“Oh, there will be no need for that, my Lady, “ chuckled Cook. “The stove was simply an excuse to get you down here to meet with your visitor.”

“Richard?” What on earth are you doing in the kitchen at this time of night?”

“I am here to give you some very good news, Mama. You see before you a very happy man! I have asked an exceptional young woman to marry me and she has accepted. I wanted to inform you both as soon as possible as the announcement will be in tomorrow's evening paper. However, I did not wish to hear Lady Catherine’s remarks on the subject. Thus, the reason for this ruse.”

Lady Matlock rushed to embrace her son, fighting the tears that threatened to spill over. “Who is she, my dear? Tell us all! Do we know her parents? Why have you not introduced her to us already?”

Cook placed a plate of hot food at the Colonel's place and poured three glasses of wine. She motioned for him to sit and had one of the scullery maids bring in two more chairs from the servants' dining room. The Matlocks then joined their son at the table. As he ate, he told them all he wished them to know. It was one of the most meaningful, yet easy going conversations they had had in a very long time, and the first time in years that the Richard Fitzwilliam was happy to be at home.


******


“Fitzwilliam, please! Put me down. I am perfectly capable of walking down a flight of stairs! I shall report you to Dr. Morrison when he comes this afternoon, and he shall declare you officially mad!”

“You are the one who refuses to stay in bed, Mrs. Darcy, and these are my terms for allowing you to join us in the dining room this morning,” replied her husband. “If the good doctor pronounces you well enough to prance about, I shall respectfully desist.”

As he carried her into the room, delighted laughter and applause filled the air. Everyone was extremely happy to see her. She did look well – perhaps because her embarrassment colored her cheeks, but her eyes were bright and the green silk robe bedecked with Japanese motifs complimented her beautifully. Mrs. Reynolds, however, was a bit unnerved at the sight of her mistress appearing downstairs thus clothed and ran to get a large shawl.

“Well, as eager as I am to be here when Mr. Sutherton arrives,” said the Colonel, “I'm afraid I have a previous appointment that I cannot forgo. I shall have a cup of coffee and be on my way. It shouldn't take very long and I hope to be back within an hour or two. Forgive me, Anne.”

“No, no,” replied Anne. “You must keep your appointment, to be sure. And I wish to enjoy this fine breakfast without giving one thought to the hearing. Besides, Mr. Sutherton is not expected before ten o'clock.”

“Ah, yes,” said Richard after draining his cup, “There is one more thing. I have an important announcement to make, but would like to hold off until this evening. I assume we will all be together for dinner?” he asked, looking at Elizabeth.

“Yes, of course, Richard. But now you have us all curious!”

“Well, I believe my announcement will be well worth the wait,' he replied, grinning at Georgiana, who stared at him, utterly mystified. Only Anne had a clue as to the subject of the mysterious announcement, but she simply smiled and remained silent.

Between bites of food, the family continued to question Anne about her extraordinary experiences and how she had managed on her own for an entire year. She enjoyed telling them all about Winifred and Eugenie, her hours at the orphanage and of course, her wonderful time with Juliana and Aunt Helen. Her meetings with Dr. Fennimore she kept to herself. Simon was, of course, delighted to hear these stories again and again.

****

Mr. Sutherton arrived as scheduled and everyone assembled in Darcy's study to hear what he had to say.

“I have already petitioned the courts on your behalf, Miss de Bourgh, and we have secured a date with the magistrates early next week. You and I shall meet many times before then to discuss our strategies and to prepare you for every eventuality. Do not be overly concerned, Miss de Bourgh, Mr. Darcy and I will make you as comfortable as possible with the proceedings. I wish to inform you now, however, that after I make my initial statement to the court, I shall call on you to testify immediately.” Sutherton saw his client turn pale and hurried to reassure her.

“Miss de Bourgh, it is of the utmost importance that the first impression the magistrates have of you is that of a poised, self assured young woman with both intelligence and common sense. There is only one way that her Ladyship can force you back to Rosings and under her control. And that is if she can prove you mentally unstable.” Everyone gasped and Anne stopped breathing. “But do not fret, Miss de Bourgh, it cannot and will not happen. The magistrates and all those in the gallery, including members of the press, shall quickly recognize your good sense and maturity. Your mother's solicitors will certainly question you most brutally – that we must expect – but you shall be so well prepared that everyone's opinion of you shall only be strengthened. Besides, no doctor would risk his reputation by unjustly declaring you unfit – even when bribed. Your sanity will be obvious to all.”

“If only we could prevent the newspaper reporters from being there,” said Georgiana.

“Sadly, Miss Darcy, this trial will create a rather large scandal. Unfortunately, people enjoy hearing that wealthy, high born people have problems not unlike their own. Trials such as these sell a great many papers.”

“And having the press there is actually an advantage for us,” he continued. “They will report daily on what is said in court and I predict, Miss de Bourgh, that you shall become a heroine in the eyes of the readers. The people of London will be solidly in your camp, and public opinion can be very helpful in situations such as these.”

***

When the evening paper was delivered, Colonel Fitzwilliam was there to take it from Strickland's hand and add it to the others he had already purchased in the street. The family was settled in the small parlor awaiting the dinner bell, so it was the perfect time to bring some merriment to this otherwise anxious household. He went around the room handing each person a copy, then went to stand before the hearth.

“All right everyone,” he said, trying unsuccessfully to hide his merriment. “Listen carefully to the rules of this little game, please.” The curious murmurings stopped and everyone gave Richard their undivided attention.

“This evening's copy contains a significant clue to news directly concerning this family. The first person to find it will win the distinguished title of “Master Family Sleuth!”

Everyone was instantly curious and eager to join in the fun. Most were convinced that
there had been some positive change concerning Anne's hearing. Perhaps, Lady Catherine had decided to avoid a scandal and agree to Anne's stipulations. They skimmed each page and quickly turning to the next, searched out key words and phrases. When only the classifieds remained, all but Georgiana admitted defeat. She had been glancing up at Anne's face and wondering why her cousin had only pretended to play along . A momentary glimpse at both her cousins made her laugh aloud. Everyone stared as she rushed to put her paper on the table, turned to the classifieds and drew her finger down the row of announcements labeled “Weddings and Engagements”.

“Here it is!” she cried, practically jumping out of her shoes with excitement. Turning to face her family, she picked up the paper and read aloud, “Lord and Lady Fennimore announce the engagement of their daughter, Juliana Fennimore to Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, son of Earl and Lady Matlock.”

Anne was the first to reach the perspective groom and embraced him saying, “Well, you certainly made short work of that, Richard. Did you intend to offer to her when you left here last night? I don't believe Juliana expected anything remotely like a proposal so soon.”

“Let us just say that her father gave us the motivation required to move ahead quickly.” Here he winked at Simon Fennimore who was truly speechless!

The entire family was both surprised and overjoyed! For several years now, they had listened to Richard's humorous grumblings about the difficulty of finding a wife. And although these comments were always made in jest, everyone knew that behind each joke or sarcastic remark lay a heart that ached to find a woman he could love. This blessed news brought joy and great gratification to all of them. Simon Fennimore closed his eyes for a moment and silently thanked G-d for this wonderful turn of events. He could not have chosen better for his beloved sister.

“Mama is planning to host a small celebration so the families can meet. It will not interfere with the hearing, Anne, and I hope will provide some much needed diversion.”

Simon and Anne exchanged worried glances. Would Lord Fennimore even acknowledge his son on such an occasion? Would he embarrass the entire family with his uncensored and thoughtless remarks? There was no questioned of Simon's attending the family gathering, but would his presence make things unpleasant for Juliana and the Richard?
SubjectAuthorPosted

Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 13

Gaby A.November 30, 2020 05:38AM

Re: Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 13

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Re: Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 13

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Re: Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 13

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Re: Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 13

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