How To Mend A Broken Heart
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It was but a few days after Elizabeth’s appearance at Crandall House that General Richard Fitzwilliam arrived. The ladies where sitting the drawing room talking when he was announced. Lady Suzan rose and moved quickly to the door and had her arms around him before he could enter.
“Richard, I am so glad you are finally here. I have missed you so.” Lady Suzan stated with tears of happiness evident in her eyes.
“Mother, you look wonderful.” He pulled back to look at her, his eyes a little watery. “I am glad to be home.”
“Well, come and meet an old friend of yours.” Lady Suzan gestured to Elizabeth who had risen from her chair.
“Miss Bennet! As I live and breathe, how are you? What are you doing here?” He blushed at the last question, but she was the last person he expected to see in his mother’s parlor.
“General Fitzwilliam, I am well. It is a pleasure to see you again. And I will let your mother explain my presence,” was Elizabeth’s reply.
Richard Fitzwilliam could hardly take his eyes from Elizabeth Bennet. She seemed just as he remembered her, though there was a touch of sadness about her.
They spent the next hour talking. Lady Suzan told Richard how
Sensing that she was in the way, Elizabeth rose with an excuse of having to write some letters, leaving mother and son to talk of more personal matters.
“Richard, when are you going to tell me the real reason why
you are here in
Sheepishly, he replied, “Several weeks ago while working
with a replacement horse, I had a spill and broke my leg.” Hearing her gasp, he further explain, “It was
a clean break and has healed nicely, but I have not regained the strength in
the leg that I had previous to the break.
When the regiment left, I was not in shape to ride and therefore
useless. So I was sent to
Patting her son’s arm, Lady Suzan said, “I must say that I am glad you broke your leg.”
“Your Ladyship!” he exclaimed, shocked by his mother’s statement.
“Yes, yes, I know. A soldier’s place is with his men. But do not begrudge me the knowledge that you are out of harm’s way. What better place for you to be than under this roof so that I have daily proof that my wayward son is truly safe.”
“Mother, as my leg further heals, I may be sent on to
“Richard!” she exclaimed, interrupting before he could complete his sentiments of where the little Emperor could go. Her son’s colorful language, while suitable for the command of men, was not always appropriate for the drawing room.
Bowing his head, he apologized, “I am sorry. Until Napoleon is no longer a threat, I am afraid that I may still be called to duty.”
“But you are here right now and with perfect timing to escort a beautiful young lady and a weary old woman around town,” Lady Suzan stated. “Now, tell me, what do you think of Miss Bennet?”
Laughing, he responded, “She is a lovely young lady.”
“Is that all?”
“She is witty and intelligent and is not afraid to speak her opinions,” he elaborated.
“That she is!” Lady Suzan concurred.
“She will make a delightful addition to our family party, but she is not my type.” He gave her a pointed look.
“Richard, do you think I would attempt matchmaking again?”
Chuckling as he shook his head, he responded, “No, Mother, I do not believe that. However, I will assure you that if I do take a wife, it will be a lady who is more complying than Miss Bennet. After all, I am a General used to people jumping at my command. I am not sure I would be amenable to having my every instruction challenged.”
“Maybe that is for the best,” she sadly said.
He looked at his mother quizzically but decided that statement was something he best not delve into. In stead, he took another path, “Besides, you already have a son who is an Earl and has four children. What need do I have to supply more?”
He patted his mother’s hand. “Please do not elaborate.”
Laughing, she said, “You must be tired from your journey. Go upstairs and get some rest.”
Lady Suzan sat warming herself by the fire in her sitting room before retiring for the night. She could not help feeling the bliss of having her son safely within her home. Because of his dangerous occupation, she had always worried about his safety. He loved what he did and he was a good soldier but she could have no sympathy for him on his forced exile to London as she knew he would much rather be on some muddy field with Wellington.
Another sense of relief came over her as she comprehended
After spending an enjoyable dinner and evening with Lady Suzan and the General, Elizabeth lay in bed thinking on the past day. General Fitzwilliam was just as he was in Kent, amiable, humorous, and very entertaining with his stories of soldiering. Though there was a certain melancholia about him that she later realized was due to the fact that he was here in England and not off fighting Napoleon with the men he had trained.
She had held some trepidation on seeing the General again. Not so much that they had known each other several years ago but from the sense that Lady Suzan might try to make a match between them. Though, from the tenor of the conversations and what she had gleaned from the interactions between mother and son, she conceded that was something she need not worry about.
Having the General around for the next few months might be nice, especially if she needed him to deflect unwanted suitors. With four sisters and no brothers, she looked forward to having a brotherly figure to help her navigate this labyrinth call the ton.
Richard Fitzwilliam sat in his chambers contemplating his homecoming while sipping a snifter of brandy and smoking a fine cigar. As he looked around the room, he was glad that his mother had chosen to open Crandall House instead of staying at Matlock House. Though he knew Lady Julia, the current Lady Matlock, and his mother did not get along well, he also realized that the memories of his father would make things more difficult for his mother.
Crandall House was his maternal grandparents’ London home, and he always wanted to stay with them when the families were in town. While he loved his grandparents dearly, its main draw was the fact Darcy House was just around the corner. He and his cousin, Darcy, would sneak out through the servants’ entrance and spend their time playing in the mews and alleyways between the two houses. They would spend hours and hours playing soldier or pirates or plotting pranks on unsuspecting family members. It was truly a happy time for him, and now it just felt good to be back in this house. He puffed his cigar and blew a ring of smoke into the air and fondly smiled.
Seeing Miss Bennet in his mother’s drawing room was definitely a surprise, though not an unpleasant one. She certainly would provide entertainment and diversion as they maneuvered their way through all the social engagements of the Season. Also, seeing the result of Miss Bennet’s presence on his mother was a welcomed relief. Both he and his brother, Edward, were very concerned for their mother’s emotional state, as well as her health. The loss of their father had such a profound effect on their mother, her grief and mourning had been more than they could bear to watch because she would not let anyone near her, to aide her in her grief. Today, however, when she greeted him, she looked like her old self, and he knew it was Miss Bennet who had performed such a transformation of his mother.
Finding humor in his mother’s denial of matchmaking, he thought back on her first and only attempt at matchmaking. Though the two people involved had benefited greatly from her interference, she was the one that was left to suffer from her actions.
It all started about nine years ago when he and his brother, Edward, along with their cousin, Darcy were young men. Darcy was just out of university and he had just made captain. Edward was still indulging himself and sowing his wild oats in London, not willing to give up his fun to assume the mantle of the responsible gentleman he would have to become in the not too distant future. As young gentlemen of means, they sought to prove themselves with their sexual prowess and spent quite a few evenings partaking of the pleasures of the flesh with Edward as their ring leader. Edward had always been a bit of a rake, a lovable rake, but a rake nonetheless. He found it difficult to keep his trousers buttoned up, and, with strict orders from their father not to become involved in any scandal, Edward spent quite a bit of time and his allowance sampling the houses of the West End and Soho Square that catered to the discreet gentleman. Though Edward was far from discreet about his activities with his family and close friends, he enjoyed his life and was not shy about letting his achievements be known, even if they were with prostitutes. The general lifted his glass to his lips as he flicked his ashes in a nearby ashtray, reliving those fond memories and the ladies they had known.
One morning after the three of them had spent the night enjoying the skills and talents of the young ladies at Madame Dupree’s, they entered Matlock House to find Lady Matlock waiting for them. By the look on her face, they were certain that she knew what they had been doing, and their faces grew red with shame. Shame that they had been caught, but none of them regretted their deeds. Lady Matlock took Edward by the arm and escorted him into a nearby parlor. As he and Darcy went to follow, she turned and informed them she only needed to speak with Edward. Relief turned to curiosity as they went to listen at the door. Before they could hear any of what was being said, they felt a hand on their shoulders.
“Come away, boys. Her Ladyship has decided that it is time for Edward to find a wife. That is what they are discussing. Come, breakfast is served and by the look of you two, you will need the sustenance just to climb the stairs to your beds.” Lord Matlock laughed as he hauled them away to the breakfast room.
Lady Matlock’s dictates did not sit well with Edward. He enjoyed his nightly debauchery too much to give it up until it dawned on him that if he took a wife he would have a constant source to assuage his appetites at any time of the day or night. A wife would always be in residence and if not in the same chamber, then, at least, just a short walk away. Not caring about the more material aspects of marriage, he devised a list of the physical attributes he wished in a wife: she must be pretty, have large breasts and long legs, and must be willing to submit to him whenever he desired.
Then he went to his mother with his requirements. “Mother, since it is your wish that I marry and settle down, then I leave you to find me a suitable wife. However, after she has passed your muster, she must pass mine.” He handed her his list.
If Lady Matlock was shocked by her son’s requirements in a wife, it was soon overridden by the joy of seeing her son settled. It did not take her long to set about making a list of ladies whose breeding and monetary considerations befitted a future Earl. After comprising a list of twenty ladies that met her requirements, she narrowed the list down to three that met his, with Julia Westcomb topping that list.
Not wishing to waste time, as Edward had quite warmed to the idea of marriage and its advantages, he set off to court Julia Westcomb. Within two months, he had secured her hand. As he had insisted on, nay required, a short engagement, they were married six weeks later. Edward spent the first two months after their wedding in a rigorous training regime with his wife to insure that she knew what he required from her to be happy.
Once the poor girl was able to free herself from the marital bed, she realized she was now Lady Julia, a Viscountess. That is when Lady Matlock began to regret her choice in a bride for her son. While Lady Julia comported herself in all that was proper, her attitude towards others became arrogant and condescending. It was not long until Lady Julia found she could say or do as she pleased as long as she stayed in the bounds of propriety, albeit at the fringes, and her husband was well satiated. However, the rest of the family was not so fortunate.
Richard understood, as well as the rest of the family, the
reasons behind his mother’s decision to move into the Dowager house at Dovecote
after the death of his father. They were
the same reasons she opened her family’s house here in
No, he knew that his mother would not be doing any matchmaking. It was just as well. This was not a time for a soldier, who could be called to service at any time, to begin any romantic entanglements. Once the war was over, he would resign his commission and then think about marriage. With his father’s passing, his mother deeded to him her family’s estate. With his cousin, Darcy’s, help, his small savings had been increased almost fifty-fold and each year it grew larger. When he retired, he would have a quiet and comfortable life as a gentleman. Then he could think of marriage without regards to wealth and connections.
Seeing Miss Bennet today also brought back his previous requirements for a marriage partner. Back then, he was expected to marry for wealth and connections, but that was no longer the case now. He remembered them conversing on the subject when he first met her at Rosings Park. He felt that they both had an attraction for the other but were both too poor for it ever to be a consideration. Besides, he had sensed that Darcy was also attracted to the lovely Miss Bennet, and he realized he could never compete with his cousin. Though he had often wondered about what it was with those two. She evidently did not seem to care about Darcy, but he was constantly seeking her out. Richard had always assumed that Darcy’s vanity was piqued because a young lady of no consequence did not flatter him as all the other marriageable young ladies were apt to do. But when they returned from Kent, Darcy had been in such a sullen mood that it made him wonder if there was not more to it.
Stretching out his legs, Richard realized how tired he was. Draining his glass, he set it aside and put out his cigar. Rising from his chair, he walked to the bed and climbed in, settling himself for a peaceful sleep. The last thought he had was how the Season would prove to be very interesting…very interesting, indeed.
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