(An original story by Gratiana Lovelace; All Rights Reserved)
[From time to time, I will illustrate my story with my dream cast of: Richard Armitage as Lord Rafe Wingate, Carla Gugino as Lady Katharine Wingate, Lesley Nicol as Mrs. Plunkett, Emilie Francois as Anna, Mark Strong as Sir Collin MacGregor, Alan Bates as Lord Charles Wingate, and Christian Bale as Stuart MacGregor, Daniel Day-Lewis as Sir Antony Southwick, Michelle Pfeiffer as Lady Charmaine Southwick, Catherine Deneueve as Lady Esmѐ Sinclair, and others, etc.]
[Story Logo 1abcd]
Author’s Mature Content Note: “Love is a Choice” is a story of love and romance set in the early to mid 1800’s. I like Regency sensibilities with regard to comedy of manners, but Romantic period modes of dress. Ha! As such there will be some passages in this story involving heartfelt love scenes (perhaps some R rated) and some passages involving highly dramatic moments. I will label the maturity rating of those chapters accordingly. Otherwise, the general rating for this story is PG or PG-13 due to some mature situations and topics. If you are unable or unwilling to attend a movie with the ratings that I provide, then please do not read the chapters with those labels. This is my disclaimer.
Author’s Recap from the previous installment: Lord Rafe and Katharine Wingate travelled to London the Thursday after they wed to visit her parents, Sir Antony and Lady Charmaine Southwick. The Southwick parents are a bitterly divided couple due to his supposed infidelity 18 years ago that she only found out about eight years ago–when Lady Katharine was ten years old–and they have been estranged since then. Lady Charmaine is unhappy and vindictive–and Sir Antony has had it. Their shouting from their final marital argument is overheard by Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine while waiting to greet them in the parlor before dinner. Lord Rafe views Sir Antony sympathetically–but his wife Lady Katharine more so. However, Lady Charmaine apologizes to her daughter about misleading her with regard to the marriage bed and they have a reconciliation of sorts before Lady Charmaine heads to bed–after letting Lord Rafe join her daughter in Lady Katharine’s bed chamber for the night. Then Sir Antony–an unwelcome guest in his own home–almost goes to his wife’s bed chamber to try to plead with her again to believe him about his innocence, but he loses his nerve. Lady Charmaine has been nursing a severe headache all evening, and fatigue has made it worse as she only fitfully falls asleep. In the early Friday morning hours after dawn, Lady Charmaine has a stroke–with none to come to her aid since she sleeps alone due to her estrangement with her husband, Sir Antony. The Southwick family will wake up to a very different reality on Friday morning once Lady Charmaine’s condition is discovered.
“Love is a Choice”, Ch. 16 (PG-13): Visiting Lady Katharine’s Family in London, Part 2
Friday morning, Lady Katharine and Lord Rafe wake up lying naked together in each others’ loving arms in her bed chamber at her parents’ home in London as they continue their wedding trip. And they delight in a lovely morning romantic tryst. Their shared closeness of bodies and hearts strengthens the bond of love they are nurturing together. Though married not quite one week, Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine are loving and supportive of one another–and they both need support and encouragement for their pasts, their present, and their futures together.
After kissing and cuddling for as long as they can–or at least until Lord Rafe’s stomach demands attention with a most ungentlemanly noise that collapses them both into giggles– they put on their underclothes to receive Lady Katharine’s ladies maid bearing their morning breakfast tray. Once the ladies maid has left, they remove the tray from the table in front of the sette and take it to their sanctuary from life’s cares as they enjoy breakfast in bed together a deux–a welcome indulgence for an adored wife and her loving husband–as they feed each other morsefuls of cinnamon rolls and fruit.
Lord Rafe: “Plums! Kate! You remembered.” Lord Rafe [(2) right] smiles shyly at her thoughtfulness toward him. As with most men, Sir Rafe likes to be pampered. He is just more cognizant than most men that such consideration for their welfare is not something to be taken for granted. Nor will he take for granted his wife who so kindly bestows her solicitude upon him.
Lady Katharine: “Of course, my love. Last night I asked my ladies maid to inform the cook of your food preferences.” She smiles pleased with herself–for pleasing him.
Lord Rafe: Lord Rafe gathers his wife to him as they sit up cuddling with each other, on side by side pillows. “That was very thoughtful of you, My Angel.” He gently kisses her lips. “I do not know what I ever did to deserve you, but I will thank you for it the rest of my life.” He says sincerely.
Lady Katharine: “Hhhh!” Lady Katharine [(3) right] sighs in happy contentment to have found such a love as her husband, Lord Rafe. Then her thoughts turn to her parents’ unhappy wedded state and her face saddens as she tears up. Then she begins wincingly. “Rafe, my parents …”
Lord Rafe: Caressing her face tenderly, he soothes her. “I know my Love. It is very sad. Your parents have broken faith with each other, and said things that they may never be able to take back.” Lady Katharine nods, but she does not look at her husband. Then sensing her worry, he vows. “But I promise that we will not have a similar fate. Our love will last. And I will love you until I am no more. And even then, we will find each other in heaven–to share eternity together.” He kisses her lips tenderly.
Lady Katharine: She nestles her face into his neck, a tear escaping her eye and trickling down her cheek. “Mama and Papa were not always this way. They loved each other once. But something happened eight years ago. I do not know what. And everything changed.”
And Lady Katharine thinks of her brother who ran away to escape the stricture and censure that their mother placed on him–Lady Charmaine mistakenly fearing that her son would turn out like his father, a supposedly unfaithful deceiver. But Lady Katharine does not know the reason why her brother left–only that he abandoned her to the full force of her mother’s glaring attention.
Lord Rafe: Not wanting to breech his father-in-law’s confidence, Lord Rafe replies vaguely. “None of us truly knows what happens in other people’s marriages, my Love–even were they to tell us. For each person in the marriage would be merely possessing one third of the truth.”
Lady Katharine: Wrinkling her brow, she asks looking up at him. “Surely you mean one half?”
Lord Rafe: “No, I did not misspeak. One version is his perception. A second version is her perception. And a third version could be said to be a blending of the two that might be closest to the truth.”
Lady Katharine: “You seem very wise, my husband.” She gazes up at him adoringly with her chin perched on his chest.
Lord Rafe: “It is wisdom born of experience, Kate.” He nods ruefully. Then not wanting to sound imperious to her–as her Mama does–he continues. “But I am–like all men–a work in progress. So I hope that you will forgive me as I slowly learn to understand your needs and wishes–and then attempt to fulfill them. Though I am not averse to guessing, …” He smirks seductively with a raised eyebrow. “… any assistance you can provide me with will be most welcome. Ha ha ha!”
Lady Katharine: “Ha ha ha ha ha ha!” She giggles as he brings her lips to his, with his index finger curled under her chin–coaxing her to meld her lips to his lips.
They kiss each other adoringly for several moments–and then for several more moments. And they are beginning to become heatedly amorous again–afterall, they are on their wedding trip–when there is an urgent series of knocks on Lady Katharine’s locked bed chamber door.
Lady Katharine: “What is it?” She asks cheerily, but with a slight edge of perturbationat being disturbed.
Lady C’s Ladies Maid: Saying quickly. “Lady Kathy, it is Miss Morgan. Your Mama, Lady Charmaine, is not responding to my knock and call to her through her closed bed chamber door about her breakfast tray as usual. I wonder, is she with you?
Lady Katharine: “No.” Lady Katharine looks quizzically at her husband. “Have you checked my father’s bed chamber?” Lady Katharine shrugs her shoulders sheepishly at her husband–hoping that a miracle might have happened.
Ladies Maid Miss Morgan: “He does not answer my knock either.”
Lord Rafe: Now Lord Rafe looks at his wife questioningly, and asks her. “Could they have gone out already together? It is nearly 8 o’clock in the morning.”
Lady Katharine: “No.” She blanches. My father often takes morning walks, but my mother never accompanies him–not this early, anyway. And she would need her ladies maid to assist her in dressing.” Then she calls out to the ladies maid on the other side of her closed bed chamber door. “Just a minute, Morgan. I am coming.”
Lord Rafe: “I am coming with you, My Love.” He suggests as an unwelcome shudder of dread passes through him.
Lady Katharine and Lord Rafe, rise from their bed and don their dressing gowns over their undergarments. Lord Rafe reaches their bed chamber door first and opens it.
Ladies Maid Miss Morgan: Seeing Lord Rafe opening the door, she curtsies, not having realized that he was in there. “My apologies, my Lord.” She bows her head.
Lord Rafe nods benignly to the ladies maid. Then the three of them walk to Lady Charmaine’s bed chamber and enter it–the door was not bolted. They see the shadowed form of Lady Charmaine Southwick lying still in her bed.
Lady Katharine: Whispering to her husband, she suggests. “Rafe, Mama loves to greet each new day with welcoming the morning sun. Let us bring more light into the room.” He nods. Then Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine go to the curtains and throw them back to let light into the darkened room.
Ladies Maid Miss Morgan: Morgan notices the deathly pallor in her mistress’ face [(4) right] now that some sunlight is in the room. And she gently touches Lady Charmaine’s shoulder. “My Lady Southwick, it is morning.” But Lady Charmaine does not stir. “Lady Kathy! I cannot waken her.” Morgan calls to her mistress’ daughter in a panic
Lady Katharine: Lady Katharine rushes to her Mama’s bedside fearing the worst–that she has died in the night. Shaking her gently, she pleads. “Mama, Mama, wake up.” Then Lady Katharine notices the smell. “Morgan, what has happened?”
Ladies Maid Miss Morgan: “Lady Kathy, it would seem that your Mama has had … an accident in her bed.”
Lord Rafe: Looking with shock at the gray cast of his mother-in-law’s expressionless face and hands–not certain if she is even breathing–Lord Rafe strides to the other side of her bed from where his wife is standing and places two fingers at Lady Charmaine’s neck to feel for her pulse. After a few worried moments, he finds her pulse–it is there, but very faint. He also smells the stench of her elimination. Lord Rafe looks up at his wife, Lady Katharine, with grave concern. His mother-in-law–whose beauty he thought brittle last night–now has an ethereal quality to her countenance, closer to being a spirit than corporeal.
Lady Katharine: “Rafe, … Mama … is not ..” Lady Katharine looks back at her husband, Lord Rafe, with her very young questioning eyes–imploring him to help. Then he takes charge of the situation.
Lord Rafe: “Kate, your Mama is still alive, but something is terribly wrong. We must send for the doctor. And your Papa must be notifed.” Lady Katharine quickly nods her assent. Then he turns to the ladies maid. “Morgan please have the butler send for the family physician at once via carriage! Then have several footmen search Sir Antony’s usual walking paths and bring him home this instant!”
Miss Morgan curtsies and leaves the room quickly to do that.
Lady Katharine: “Oh Rafe! Mama complained of an aching head and extreme fatigue last night. Is my Mama dying?” Lady Katharine wails as she holds her Mama’s limp hand as Lady Katharine looks across the bed to him.”
Lord Rafe: Believing honesty is the best course, he says gently. “I do not know. But she looks very unwell. Kate, you might have to prepare yourself.”
Lady Katharine: “No!” She cries. “My Mama cannot be dying! I will not let her!” She drops to her knees at her Mama’s bedside in a prayerful pose as she sobs.
Lord Rafe: Walking around the bed to his kneeling wife, he leans down and puts his arms about her shoulders. “Katharine, my Love, only your Mama and God know the appointed time of her death. And I pray that it is not soon.”
Sir Antony: “What is wrong with Charmaine?” He rushes to her bedside and stands mute with shock at the end of the bed as he looks down upon the ghostly pallor of his stilled wife’s face. Sir Antony’s face contorts with fear, then goes slack with dread [(5) right]. “Is she dead?” He croaks out with terror gripping him again.
Lord Rafe: Remaining calm, though also very concerned, he replies. “No, but she is very unwell. We have sent for the doctor by carriage to speed his arrival. Sir Antony, Kate says that her Mama had an aching head and fatigue last night. Have you noticed any other symptoms in the last week since the wedding?”
Sir Antony: Sir Antony stares at his son-in-law, blanching. “I would not know.” Then he explains. “I have been living at my club off and on for sometime now–and I only arrived home yesterday for your visit.”
Lady Katharine: Looking up at her Papa, she wails. “Oh Papa, Mama cannot leave me, not yet!”
Sir Antony moves to the other side of the bed and sits down near his wife’s the head–taking care to stay away from the stain of urine on the bed linens–and he clasps his wife’s hand in his.
Sir Antony: “Charmaine, Charmaine. My love, do not leave us!” He sobs.
Their wait for the doctor seems interminable. And while the gentlemen stand out in the hallway, Lady Katharine, Miss Morgan, and a chamber maid gently change the unconscious Lady Charmaine’s nightgown and her bedding, while also washing her, to make her more comfortable–or perhaps, to comfort themselves since Lady Charmaine is still unconscious. For Lady Charmaine’s comfort, they also place a rolled up towel between her legs to lessen the discomfort to her of possible future accidents. But it is only thirty minutes until when the doctor arrives and is ushered into Lady Charmaine’s bed chamber. It is now about 9 o’clock Friday morning–two hours since Lady Charmaine Southwick fell ill.
Dr. Triton: Seeing the distressed family gathered around the very pale Lady Charmaine, he orders. “Please stand back to give Lady Southwick room. Then open a window to get some fresh air in here.” He had noticed the faint odor of urine as well–the stain had seeped into the mattress a bit. Lord Rafe and Sir Antony move to open the windows and the cool fresh air rushes in billowing the sheer drapes. Then the doctor goes to Lady Charmaine’s side and checks her pulse at her wrist and neck–the same. Then he lays a hand on her face and forehead to check for temperature. She is clean and not overly warm, but her skin feels clammy to his touch. “Who can tell me her symptoms, what happened?” He looks at Sir Antony.
Sir Antony: Sir Antony shakes his head.“I do not know. We slept in separate bed chambers last night.” He says ruefully. Sir Antony feels that if he had been sleeping in his wife’s bed chamber when she fell ill, that he might have been able to summon help sooner. He is right.
Lady Katharine: “Mama said last night that her head ached and she felt unusually fatigued.”
Dr. Triton: “Hmmm. Anything else?”
Lady Katharine: “Wellll.” She hesitates to reveal something negative about her mother’s disposition.
Dr. Triton: “We can have no secrets. You must tell me if we are to try to help her.” He says soberly.
Lady Katharine: “It is just that Mama was her usual austere self earlier in the evening. But then, she seemed to soften toward me after dinner–when she told me of her aching head. Then when she and I chatted at bedtime, it was as if … as if …”
Dr. Triton: “You must tell me.” He commands soberly.
Lady Katharine: “She was kind and caring again–like when I was a little girl.” Lady Katharine winces. “And then when we initially found her unconscious this morning, Mama had wet herself.”
Dr. Triton: “Right.” He nods his head curtly. “I will conduct a thorough examination of Lady Southwick with her daughter and Ladies maid present. Sir Antony, you and this other gentleman …”
Sir Antony: “This is Lord Rafe Wingate, my son-in-law, Lady Katharine’s newly married husband.” He says quickly.
Dr. Triton: “You gentlemen can wait in the hallway.”
Everyone nods and the men leave the bed chamber as requested so Dr. Triton can conduct his examination.
The minutes tick by slowly. Sir Antony has his hand over his mouth in shock as he paces the floor of the hallway outside of his wife’s closed bed chamber door. Lord Rafe looks at his father-in-law with forboding–for what he fears will happen with Lady Charmaine, that she will die. And Lord Rafe pities Sir Antony–even as he worries about how her mother’s death will affect his wife, Lady Katharine.
Sir Antony: “If I had only gone to Charmaine last night as I started to do–to beg her to forgive me–maybe I would have been with her and could have helped in some way.” Sir Antony is racked with guilt and he looks desperately at his son-in-law for solace.
Lord Rafe: Seeing the fear and despair in his father-in-law’s eyes, Lord Rafe tries to console him. “Sir Antony, in cases such as these, the catastrophic event cannot always be prevented–nor lessened.”
Sir Antony: “What are you thinking? Her heart?”
Lord Rafe: “Or something in her brain. Neither is a good option … for her prospects for recovery.” He says gently.
Sir Antony: “Oh god! Oh god! This cannot be happening! My Charmaine cannot be taken from me so soon. She cannot die!” He wails as his tears fall. Sir Antony thought that his life was over last night when he and his wife quarreled once more–such that they both knew that their marriage was irrevocably over. But at least Lady Charmaine would have been living–even if Sir Antony could not live with her. And now? Sir Antony is in agony of what he fears is coming–his wife’s death. And if her death happens, then he knows that for him, his own life will truly be over.
After examining Lady Charmaine Southwick thoroughly, Dr. Triton is ready to make his diagnosis.
Dr. Triton: Turning to the ladies maid, he requests. “Please ask Sir Antony and Lord Rafe to rejoin us.”
Miss Morgan walks to the closed bed chamber door, opens it, and beckons the men to enter. Sir Antony instantly strides to his wife’s bed side and sits on the now clean bed next to her head, clasping her limp hand in his and kissing it reverently. He notices how frail and delicate her hand is–and how cold it feels. Sir Antony feels that his wife is slipping away from him and he is powerless to prevent it. All manner of entreaties to God race through his mind as he closes his eyes in silent prayer. Dear God, Please let my Charmaine live. Strike me down if you must, but let her live. And if it is your will, then let me be to my beloved Charmaine the husband that she deserves. Let her happiness, be my happiness.
Lord Rafe goes to his own wife’s side and puts his arms around Lady Katharine to comfort her as she lays her head upon his shoulder quietly weeping. Lady Katharine has watched the doctor examine her Mama with fear and with fascination. She twists the sash of her dressing gown as another outward sign of her distress.
The doctor has been silent, not offering any information about Lady Charmaine’s condition–which Sir Antony knows does not bode well for his wife.
Sir Antony: “Tell us Dr. Triton. What is wrong with my wife?”
Dr. Triton: He says simply and without preamble or diversion. “I believe that Lady Charmaine has had a stroke.” He pauses to let that sink in as their stricken faces turn to him. “Though her eyes repond to light, they are sluggish. And her left side does not respond to pain as strongly as the right side does.” They look startled at him and the doctor hold up a small straight pin, then he gently pokes Lady Charmaine’s finger with it to assuage their concerns about her being in pain with his examination. “That is typical in strokes–to have a weakness on one side.”
They all gasp. Like heart attacks, severe strokes are usually fatal in 1826.
Sir Antony: “And her heart?”
Dr. Triton: “It is weak but steady. So I do not think that she also had a heart attack.” Then he adds somberly. “But that could still happen. And she could have more strokes. Her condition is very grave. You must prepare yourselves. The next several hours will determine whether she has a chance to recover, … or not.”
Lady Katharine: Finding her voice–though it is of a daughter speaking, Lady Charmaine’s child–Lady Katharine implores. “But Dr. Triton. My Mama is only 44 years old. She is young.” Well, at least not has old as Lady Katharine’s Grandmere is at the age of 62.
Dr. Triton: “She is young.” His brow furrows. “Has she been under a strain of any kind lately? That can sometimes precipitate these catastrophic events.”
Sir Antony: Sir Antony is ashen faced. “We quarreled again, last night. But in truth, we have been estranged for several years now. It is my fault. I have killed her.” Sir Antony is racked with guilt. He puts his head into his hand and he weeps, while still clasping her other hand in his.
Lady Katharine: “No Papa. This is not your fault!” She tries to soothe him. “Mama could have behaved differently and none of this might have happened.”
Dr. Triton: “Sir Antony, self recriminations are of little use at times like these. You must spend the next few hours as if they are your last with your wife. Do you want to spend them full of regret? Or do you want to let her know that you love her?” He states boldly.
Sir Antony: Sir Antony’s head jerks up. “I love her! I have always loved her! I will always love her.” The tears brimming in his eyes fall down upon his cheeks in cascades of tormented grief.
Lady Katharine: “Oh Papa!” She sighs as she looks upon his bereft form through her own tears–even as her husband Lord Rafe pulls her into his embrace again to comfort her.
Dr. Triton: “I must return to my medical office to retrieve some medicines that might aid Lady Southwick should she awaken. And I have several other severely ill patients that I must attend to. So I will be back in an hour or two. Someone should sit with Lady Southwick at all times.” He cautions.
Sir Antony and Lady Katharine are mute with impending grief.
Lord Rafe: “Thank you Doctor. We will take turns sitting with her. Then we will look forward to your return in the hope that Lady Southwick will recover.” Then he says graciously. “Let me walk you out.”
Lord Rafe kisses his wife’s cheek and then he shepherds the doctor into the hallway and walks him to the stairs for privacy.
Lord Rafe: Dreading the answer, Lord Rafe still poses the question. “Tell me truthfully, Docter. Does Lady Southwick have any chance of survival?”
Dr. Triton: “Hhhhh. Based on her current condition, it is very slim.” The doctor shakes his head sadly. He has been family physician to the Southwicks since Lady Katharine was a child. And for all his stoic professionalism, Dr. Triton still has a fond regard for the families in his care. “If her present condition does not alter, she could be dead by nightfall. You should send for a priest to give her the last rites.” [(6)]
Lord Rafe: Stunned at this further confirmation of his fears, Lord Rafe closes his eyes. “Thank you for your honesty.” Lord Rafe reopens his eyes and nods to the doctor. “I will see to the family. Please return as soon as you can.”
Dr. Triton: “I will.”
Then Dr. Triton walks down the stairs and Lord Rafe starts to return to Lady Charmaine’s bed chamber. But the butler walks up the stairs with a message for Lord Rafe.
Butler: “Lord Rafe, I must inform you that Lady Southwick’s Mama, Lady Esmѐ Sinclair, has arrived for her previously arranged morning meeting with her daughter. What do I tell her?”
Lord Rafe: “Hhhh!” Lord Rafe sighs wearily. “I will come downstairs and inform her ladyship of what is going on before escorting her to her daughter’s bed chamber.”
Butler: “Would you like me to assist you in dressing first, My Lord?” The butler asks helpfully.
Lord Rafe: Lord Rafe looks down at himself. He remembers that he is still in his dressing gown over his under garments. “No thank you. Given that time is of the essence, I believe that Lady Sinclair will forgive my informality.” The butler nods. “Please show me to her. And then call for the family priest to come.”
The butler nods his assent as they walk down the stairs–now fully realizing the seriousness of Lady Southwick’s illness. It is now about 10 o’clock in the morning.
Lord Rafe is shown into the smaller back parlor generally used by Lady Charmaine for close acquaintances and small family gatherings, such as her Mama.
Lady Esmѐ Sinclair turns to the door expecting to see her daughter–the servants have not informed her about Lady Southwick’s condition since they do not know what has happened yet themselves. And Lady Esmѐ looks upon her granddaughter’s husband with a quizzically bemused expression [(7) right] as she crosses the room to greet him.
Lady Esmѐ: “Lord Rafe, I know that we are family now. But I had not thought that I would see you in your dressing gown so soon after your marrying our Kathѐ.” (pronounced kah-Thay) Using her pet name for her granddaughter, Lady Esmѐ smiles impishly at her new grandson-in-law and his state of undress.
Lord Rafe: Coming to the point, he bows. “My deepest apologies for my attire and for being blunt, Lady Esmѐ. But Lady Charmaine was taken ill in the night and the doctor has just left. He said it was a stroke. The situation is very grave.” He says somberly and portentously.
Lady Esmѐ: Lady Esmѐ’s smile freezes, then fades to terror as she reverts to her native French tongue. “Mon dieu! Prenez mon possible pour ma fille!” (translation: My God! Take me to my daughter. )
Lord Rafe: “Bien sur. Je vais vous accompagner à elle.” (translation: Of course. I will escort you to her.) Lord Rafe had spent a year in France a few years ago–and so he has a smattering of familiarity with that language.
Lord Rafe offers Lady Esmѐ his arm–as a gesture of courtesy, but also because he can see that she is overcome with this sad news. She grips his arm to steady herself as they ascend the stairs. They walk calmly, but swiftly toward Lady Charmaine’s bedchamber.
Lady Esmѐ pauses only briefly to collect herself before she walks into her daughter’s bed chamber.
Lady Esmѐ: Walking over to her granddaughter’s side as she stands next to her Mama’s bed, she asks. “Kathѐ mon cher, comment est ta maman?” (translation: Kathѐ my dear, how is your Mama? )
Sir Antony looks up at his mother-in-law sorrowfully.
Lady Katharine: Turning to embrace her Grandmere, Lady Katharine weeps in her arms and replies to her in French. “Oh Grand Mere. Maman a eu un accident vasculaire cérébral. Nous ne savons pas si elle va se rétablir.” (translation: Oh Grandmere. Mama had a stroke. We do not know if she will recover. )
Lady Esmѐ: “Shhhh. Shhhh.” Lady Esmѐ soothingly strokes her granddaughter’s hair, even as she gazes upon the pale countenance of her daughter with sorrow. “Votre Maman est dans les mains de Dieu maintenant. Si telle est sa volonté à lui souhaiter la bienvenue dans le ciel, nous devons accepter son jugement.” (translation: Your Mama is in God’s hands now. If it is His will to welcome her into heaven, we must accept His judgement.)
Lord Rafe: Catching the drift of what Lady Esmѐ said, he informs them solemnly. “As per Dr. Triton’s suggestion, I asked the butler to send for the family priest.”
Lady Katharine: “Noooo!” Lady Katharine wails and sobs in her Grandmere’s embrace.
Lady Esmѐ: Now speaking in English for her son-in-law’s benefit–since he does not speak French–she says. “Thank you, Lord Rafe. That is very thoughtful of you. My Charmaine is a devout child of God–her faith has been her one solace these past years.”
Sir Antony: “Hhhh.” Sir Antony bristles, knowing that remark was meant for him.
Lady Esmѐ: “Would you be so kind as to grant a Maman’s last wish? I would like some time alone with my daughter … and her husband.” She adds, looking penetratingly at her son-in-law.
Sir Antony: “Of course. Kathy, you and Rafe should get dressed. Then come back to sit with your Mama while I greet the priest.”
Lady Katharine kisses her Mama’s forehead, then she walks over and hugs her Papa, who kisses her forehead.
Lord Rafe: “Come my Love. We should get dressed.” Lord Rafe gently caresses her shoulders. Then he nods at his father-in-law, Sir Antony, and bows to Lady Katharine’s Grandmere, Lady Esmѐ. And Lord Rafe caringly guides his wife away to her bed chamber to get dressed.
Now alone in Lady Charmaine’s bed chamber, Sir Antony looks sorrowfully at his mother-in-law, Lady Esmѐ Sinclair. She glowers back at him.
Sir Antony: He stiffens, while still gently holding his wife’s hand in his. “You have something to say to me?” He braces for her vitriolic response–assuming that Lady Charmaine has given her Mama her version of their marital strife.
Lady Esmѐ: “I do. But now is not the time. We must focus on Charmaine.” She states coolly. She has, indeed, heard Lady Charmaine’s side of the story. Then she startles him by announcing. “You should inform your son Percival that his Mama is dying so that he will return home.”
Sir Antony: Sir Antony shakes his head despairingly. “He has been gone from us for five years. I do not know where he is, nor even if he is in England. Hhhhh!”
Lady Esmѐ: “Then I will contact him.” She says calmly.
Sir Antony: He frowns. “Do you know where my son is?”
Lady Esmѐ: “Perhaps I should ask, which son you are referring to?” Lady Esmѐ counters, breaking her own rule of not wanting to fight with her son-in-law over her daughter’s ailing body.
Sir Antony: “I have only one son, and his name is Percival Southwick! I have been faithful to my Charmaine–even during our eight years of estrangement.” His body shakes in frustration. “I only had a passing flirtation with that Harriott woman eighteen years ago. And I was so awkward about it that I doubt that she even recognized my fleeting interest in her. Happily, because my shame at my even thinking of it caused me to correct myself before I had acted on the impulse of the moment. But that odious Lady Montgrieve spread vicious gossip about myself and Lady Harriott eight years ago. You might ask why? Because I would not support Lady Montgrieve’s husband for Parliament. So she stabbed me in the back the way she knew she could do the most harm–by separating me from my Charmaine, the love of my life!”
[ http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/stab+in+the+back ]
Lady Esmѐ: Her eyes narrow. “A pretty speech. Is there any truth in it?”
Sir Antony: “Every word!” He vehemently asserts.
Lady Esmѐ: Her eyes narrow as she gazes upon her son-in-law’s pleading face. “Then for now, I will give you the benefit of the doubt and allow you to stay in my daughter’s bed chamber–until I can ascertain the truth.”
Lady Esmѐ turns away from her son-in-law and sees fresh linen hand towels and basin with cool water in it at Lady Charmaine’s bedside. So she begins to apply cool compresses to her daughter’s face and neck. Sir Antony sits down next to his wife again, holding her hand and kissing it tenderly. Lady Charmaine continues to be unresponsive to their touch or their sounds of movement in the room. However, slowly, her breathing deepens.
During the next two hours, Lady Katharine and Lord Rafe take turns sitting with Lady Charmaine whilst Sir Antony speaks with the priest. Then the priest does, indeed say the prayers of the mortally ill over Lady Charmaine and bids them farewell. They are keeping vigil over Lady Charmaine, because that is all they can do. There are no medicines to make Lady Charmaine well–only God and Lady Charmaine herself can do that. By now, all of the servants have been told the news about Lady Charmaine’s illness. And messages were sent to the Southwick’s invited guests to cancel tonight’s dinner party for Lady Katharine and Lord Rafe. Lord Rafe has also sent word to his parents of this sorrowful news.
It is now just after midday on Friday–approximately 5 hours since Lady Charmaine had her stroke. The doctor has already been back once to check on her, but he discerned no substantial improvement in her condition, except for her deeper breathing. Sir Antony and Lord Rafe are listlessly eating cold sandwiches in the small dining room on the first floor at the insistence of Lady Esmѐ Sinclair who has not left her daughter’s side since she arrived this morning. Lady Esmѐ and Lady Katharine are tending to Lady Charmaine at the moment. Lady Katharine has also not left her Mama’s side since she returned to it after having dressed this morning.
The room is silent, Lady Esmѐ and Lady Katharine not knowing what to say to each other, let alone to Lady Charmaine. Neither of them can bear to speak the words of saying farewell to Lady Charmaine–because they do not want to let her go. Lady Charmaine is still unconscious–and as such, she cannot receive much needed sustenance in fear of Lady Charmaine choking on liquids due to her swallowing reflex possibly being affected by the stroke. But realizing that they need to provide her with some fluids if she is to hope to recover–that faint hope still glimmers in their hearts–Lady Katharine dips her fresh linen handkerchief into cool drinking water in a glass on the bedside table and then squeezes droplets onto her Mama’s lips. Lady Charmaine lips move at the touch of the water. This startles Lady Katharine.
Lady Katharine: Whispering hopefully. “Grandmere, Mama’s lips moved when I put water drops on them.”
Lady Esmѐ: Lady Esmѐ had been looking wistfully out the window, remembering when her Charmaine was a little girl. Then Lady Esmѐ turns back to gaze caringly at her granddaughter Lady Katharine as she walks toward the bed and looks at her daughter’s still form. Then she nods and strokes her granddaughter’s hair soothingly, trying to let her down easily. “It is just a reflex, mon cher.”
But Lady Katharine will not be disabused of her hope. So Lady Katharine dips her handkerchief into the water glass and squeezes more droplets onto her Mama’s lips. Now Lady Charmaine’s tongue runs along her lips. Both Lady Katharine and Lady Esmѐ witness this and they look at each other in astonishment.
Lady Esmѐ: Staring fixedly at her daughter, Lady Esmѐ tells her granddaughter. “Give her more water.”
Lady Katharine squeezes more water droplets onto her Mama’s lips and mouth and Lady Charmaine seems to be swallowing the sparing amounts of liquid. Then they are stunned beyond belief.
Lady Charmaine: “More.” Lady Charmaine says in barely a whisper.
Lady Esmѐ: Lady Esmѐ claps her hands together in thankful prayer. “Merci! Merci! Merci!”
Lady Katharine: “Mama! Mama!” Lady Katharine cries out in joy as she squeezes more water droplets onto her Mama’s lips.
Outside Lady Charmaine’s half closed bed chamber door, Sir Antony and Lord Rafe are walking toward it with the doctor who has returned again. Hearing Lady Katharine’s cries and fearing that the worst has happened, they rush into the room.
Sir Antony: “Charmaine, do not leave me!” He rushes to the other side of the bed from his daughter and sees her squeezing droplets of water into her mouth. “What are you doing?” He asks questioningly as he picks up his wife’s hand.
Lady Katharine: “Papa! Mama asked for more water. Watch.” She squeezes droplets of water onto her Mama’s lips, and Lady Charmaine moves her mouth seeming to swallow them.
Sir Antony: “Charmaine?”
Lord Rafe: Rushing to his wife’s side, he embraces Lady Katharine caringly. “Oh my Love! I hope this is a good sign.”
Dr. Triton: Standing at the foot of the bed which gives him a full view of both sides of Lady Charmaine’s body, he notices a slight droop of her mouth on the left side–the side where she had not responded to the pain of pin pricks as much as the right side. “Lady Katharine, you heard your Mama speak?” Lady Katharine nods her head yes.
Lady Esmѐ: “I heard it, too.” Lady Esmѐ nods her head hopefully.
Lady Charmaine: “Antony.” Lady Charmaine sighs and her eye lids flutter, but they do not open.
Sir Antony: Sir Antony looks upon his wife in wonder, and he immediately lies down next to her on the bed–taking her into his arms despite a roomful of people watching. Sir Antony whispers to his wife as he gently peppers her face with kisses. “Charmaine, my love. You have come back to us.”
Dr. Triton: Moving to Lady Katharine’s side of the bed and looking at Sir Antony, he says gently. “Let me check her pulse and eyes.” He does not want to give the family false hope if Lady Charmaine is merely having a temporary rally before she succumbs.
Sir Antony gently lays his wife back down on her back, not taking his eyes off of her while the doctor performs his examination. The room is silent as the doctor performs a few tests. Lady Charmaine’s family is frozen, hoping against hope that she has indeed come back to them–rather than this being her final moments of life. Then they all wait breathlessly for their answer.
Slowly, Lady Charmaine opens her eyes, but her vision is hazy–a result of the stroke that will wear off–so she closes her eyes again and she turns her face toward her husband to her right who is holding her right hand in his and kissing it. She tries to lift her left arm, but she finds it too heavy and she is too tired. Then with her right hand being held by her husband, she squeezes his hand.
Dr. Triton: “Lady Charmaine, can you hear me?” He asks in a clear voice as he hovers over her.
Lady Charmaine: “Yes.” She sighs as her head turns toward the doctor’s voice–though her eyes remain closed.
Dr. Triton: “She responded to a direct question. That is good.”
Lady Charmaine’s family gasps with hope, but quietly so as not to frighten her.
Lady Charmaine: Then Lady Charmaine’s eyes open a bit and she looks at the doctor. Then she turns her head slightly to her right and looks at her husband. “Antony, what is going on?” She looks up at him with questioning eyes.
Sir Antony: He turns to the doctor. “Doctor?”
Dr. Triton: “Go ahead and tell her.” He nods.
Sir Antony: “Charmaine, my love. This is difficult.” He pauses.
Lady Charmaine: Her eyes go wide with fear. Her first thoughts are of her children. “Where are Kathy are Perce? Are they hurt?”
Sir Antony: “No! No! They are fine!”
Lady Katharine: Leaning over her Mama and taking her other hand in hers, Lady Katharine says. “No, Mama. I am here. I am fine.” Lady Katharine smiles at her Mama through her tears. Lord Rafe strokes his wife’s back soothingly as his hopes increase.
Lady Charmaine turns her head to her left and she stares at her daughter with questioning eyes, but she does not say anything.
Sir Antony: “Charmaine, your Mama has sent for Perce.” Lady Charmaine looks back at her husband, and she smiles weakly.
Lady Esmѐ: Walking to the end of the bed, Lady Esmѐ pats her daughter’s foot under the blanket. “Charmaine, Perce should arrive on the morrow.” Sir Antony looks quizzically at his mother-in-law, Lady Esmѐ, regarding her knowing that his son is nearby, but not giving him details.
Lady Charmaine: “Maman.” She sighs in relief. Lady Charmaine can hear her Mama’s voice, even if she cannot see her very well.
Dr. Triton: Noticing that Lady Charmaine did not have a pleased reaction to Lady Katharine, the doctor asks her. “Lady Southwick, do you know who this young lady is?” He gestures to Lady Katharine?
Lady Katharine smiles hopefully at her Mama while still holding her Mama’s hand.
Sir Antony: “Charmaine, this is …”
Dr. Triton: “No, Sir Antony!” He cuts Sir Antony off. “Lady Southwick needs to tell us what she knows. I repeat, Lady Charmaine. Do you know who this is?” He points again to Lady Katharine.
Lady Charmaine: She shakes her head slightly. “No.” Then she turns her head to her husband again and asks him questioningly. “Antony, where is Kathy? Where is my little girl?”
Lady Katharine: “Hhhhh!” Lady Katharine sighes and faints–while the fast acting Lord Rafe puts his arms around his wife to support her as she falls and he carries her to a nearby chair. Her Grandmere, Lady Esmѐ follows them and fans her granddaughter.
Sir Antony: “Doctor, what is going on? Why does my wife not know her own daughter?” He pleads for understanding.
Dr. Triton: “Lady Charmaine, how old is your daughter, Kathy?” He asks pointedly.
Lady Charmaine: “She will be ten soon. Her birthday is next week. We are hosting a party for her.” Then she looks back at her husband and notices his gray hair and raises her right hand to touch it and then to caress his face. “Antony, where did this gray hair come from?” She asks him groggily.
Sir Antony: “Doctor?” Sir Antony looks up at Dr. Triton again.
Dr. Triton: “Lady Charmaine?” Lady Charmaine slowly turns her attention back to the doctor. “You have had a stroke–a stroke that seems to have affected your memory.”
Lady Charmaine: “My memory?” She asks quizzically, still very weak. She turns back to her husband and lays her head against his shoulder as she closes her eyes in fatigue. “Antony, I do not understand. Hhhhh!”
Sir Antony: “Everything will be alright.” He caresses her face and she looks up at him with a faint smile. Then he softly kisses her on her lips. “I love you, my Charmaine.”
Lady Charmaine: “And I love you, my Antony.” She softly kisses him back.
Sir Antony: Sir Antony is loathe to leave his wife’s embrace, but he must see to his daughter, Lady Katharine. She has had quite a shock with her Mama not recognizing her. “My love, I am just going to ask the doctor something. Then I will be right back.”
Lady Charmaine: “Hmmm.” She sighs sleepily.
The doctor and Sir Antony walk to the other side of the room where Lady Katharine is sitting up in a chair having awakened from her faint. Her husband, Lord Rafe, is kneeling beside her while her Grandmama Lady Esmѐ stands nearby.
Sir Antony: “Kathy Dear, are you alright?”
Lady Katharine: She stays seated since she is still feeling woozy. But she replies to her Papa stoically. “Yes, Papa. What is wrong with Mama. Why did she not know me?”
Sir Antony: “She seems to think her Kathy is the little girl you were when you were almost ten years old, eight years ago.” Then Sir Antony’s eyes widen with a realization, and he says slowly. “Eight years ago … before your 10th birthday party Kathy … before everything went wrong.” He places his hand on the side of his face in shock.
Lady Esmѐ: “Mon Dieu!” She exclaims in shock.
Dr. Triton: “I have no explanation for Lady Southwick’s memory loss. And I do not know if her memory loss is a permanent or a temporary one. But for now, Lady Charmaine seems to have lost the memory of the last eight years of her life.”
Lord Rafe: Asking in concern. “Is there anything else we should be aware of, doctor?”
Dr. Triton: “Strokes affect the brain and body in different ways. Her speech and thinking seem to be fine–apart from her memory loss. But she might have some weakness yet on her left side and trouble walking.”
Lady Katharine: “But doctor, Mama did not know who I am?” She wails.
Dr. Triton: “Yes, that seems to be the case. We need to tread lightly here. We do not want to shock Lady Charmaine and worsen her condition. There is still the possibility of more strokes.” He warns them.
Lord Rafe: “What are you saying?” He stands up straight and lays his hands on his seated wife’s shoulders. She covers his hands with her hands.
Dr. Triton: “For now, it might be best not to push the point of Lady Charmaine recognizing her daughter, Lady Katharine.”
Lady Katharine turns her head into her husband’s chest and she weeps. Lord Rafe soothingly rubs her back as he grimly looks at the doctor and then at his father-in-law.
Sir Antony: “What about Charmaine and I? We were estranged. Though if she would forgive me and take me back, I would go to her instantly.”
Dr. Triton: “Sir Antony, I do not know what came between you and Lady Charmaine. But right now, her memory is of loving you. So it would be better for her health right now if you loved her back.”
Sir Antony: “I do love her. I have never stopped loving her!”
Lady Charmaine: “Antony?” Lady Charmaine calls to him weakly from her bed.
Sir Antony: Sir Antony leaves the small group of them talking about Lady Charmaine and goes to her side again–the others follow him. He slides onto the bed next to her and kisses her forehead as he holds her in his arms. “Charmaine, my love. Is there anything I can get for you?”
Lady Charmaine: “Just you, Antony.” She smiles sweetly and they kiss on their lips. The others in the bed chamber witness this tender exchange between husband and wife.
Lady Katharine smiles at her parents being so loving with each other–more loving than she has seen them in eight years–despite her Mama not knowing her.
Lady Esmѐ: “Bon.” Witnessing how loving Sir Antony is with her daughter, Lady Esmѐ is beginning to believe his side of the story with regard to the gossip about an affair that he may or may not have had that broke he and her daughter apart eight years ago.
Lady Charmaine: Then Lady Charmaine whispers into her husband’s ear. “Antony, might we ask everyone to leave my bed chamber? I fear I need some privacy for a personal matter.” She says delicately. Lady Charmaine needs to urinate–and her loving husband, Sir Antony, knows what her euphemism refers to. As a husband and wife of twenty-six years, they have such understanding between them.
Sir Antony: “Ha ha ha ha ha! Of course, my love.” He kisses her on her lips. Then he turns to the doctor. “Doctor, you said that Lady Charmaine might have trouble walking. Shall I carry her to the water closet?” [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_closet ]
Lady Charmaine: “Antony, is a lady to have no privacy?” She gently chides her husband while blushing at having her bodily needs announced to the doctor and others in the room.
Dr. Triton: Despite Lady Charmaine’s embarrassment, the doctor is pleased to see her acting more alert and color coming back into her face. “Carrying Lady Charmaine would be best for now, Sir Antony. Then in a few days time we will see if she can walk or needs to exercise her muscles and learn to walk again.”
Lady Charmaine: “Dr. Triton.” She says with a bit more strength in her voice. “I am your patient.” She points to herself. “Please convey information about my health condition to me, first.” She says politely but firmly.
Sir Antony: “Charmaine! You are back! Ha ha ha ha ha!” He gently embraces her and kisses her.
Lady Charmaine: “Very nice, Antony. But if you are going to carry me to the water closet, you had best do it soon–or there will be no point.” She says urgently, primly, and bemusedly.
Sir Antony: “I have missed you, Charmaine.” He sighs and kisses her again. And their daughter, Lady Katharine, tears up at seeing her parents caring actions toward each other.
Lady Charmaine: “I am right here, Antony. Except … if you could carry me to the water closet …” She reminds him pointedly–her need becoming greater than her sense of embarrassment in announcing it to those in the room.
Sir Antony: “Right!” He stands up. “Everyone, please give Lady Charmaine her privacy.” He gestures for them to leave her bed chamber.
Lady Katharine: Lady Katharine walks over to her Papa and stands on tiptoes and whispers into his ear. “Mama has a rolled towel between her legs to absorb additional accidents.”
Sir Antony: “Looking down at his wife who has a quizzical look on her face, he says facetiously to his daughter. “Oh your Mama will love that. Do not worry, Kathy. I will take care of it.”
Sometime later–after Sir Antony settles Lady Charmaine back into her bed comfortably–her family and the doctor return to her bedside. The doctor finds her pulse and breathing stable–and improving in strength. But they do not want to over tire Lady Charmaine. So everyone finds someplace to sit quietly while Lady Charmaine rests. Sir Antony still lies on the bed next to his wife who naps off and on–he does not want to miss a moment of this precious time with her, lest her memory return and she once more banishes him to oblivion. Lady Katharine and her husband Lord Rafe hang back in the bed chamber to give them their privacy while still being in the same room with them. Lady Esmѐ sits serenely in the bay window cushioned seat looking out the window on this bright and sunny day and the garden below. Meanwhile, the doctor observes Lady Charmaine from a discreet distance away–he is still not entirely certain that this initial rally of her health will last. It is now about 2 o’clock in the afternoon on Friday.
Lady Charmaine: After dozing a little, Lady Charmaine opens her eyes and she whispers to her husband. “Antony?”
Sir Antony: “Yes my Charmaine?” He smiles at her and kisses her forhead, seeing that she is awake agin. Then he kisses her hand that he his holding as they lay side by side facing each other–her under the covers, him on top of the covers.
Lady Charmaine: “Your hair has gone gray.” She repeats her earlier observation, but with a great interest in finding out why his hair is gray.
Sir Antony: Sir Antony tilts his head and smiles at her wrly and whispers into her ear. “Well, gray hair is better than no hair.” He quips–slyly looking over at the bald doctor.
Lady Charmaine: Lady Charmaine smiles primly. Then she looks at her hands with skin that is not as supple as it used to be–and a few age spots here and there. “How old am I?” She asks hesitantly as she strokes his gray hair again.
Sir Antony: “You will always be my eighteen year old princess bride, my love.” Sir Antony tenderly kisses his wife.
Lady Charmaine: “I fear not.” She looks at him in mock petulance. “I saw my face in the mirror earlier. I do not look like my little Kathy’s thirty-six year old mother anymore.”
Sir Antony: “Age is just a number, my Love.” She looks at him pointedly. “You are forty-four years old–and more lovely than the day I married you.” He adds adoringly.
Lady Charmaine: “Then, if I am… the age you say I am … then the young lady standing over there with the young man is …?”
Sir Antony: “That is our Kathy, my love–all grown up at eighteen years old. She was married last week–the man standing next to her is her husband, Lord Rafe Wingate.”
Lady Charmaine: “Oh!” Lady Charmaine closes her eyes in sadness for her losing the memory of her daughter growing up–and not remembering her wedding. Next to a woman’s own wedding, her daughter’s wedding holds a place of honor in her heart. But Lady Charmaine’s heart has a void where that memory should be. And a tear falls down her cheek.
Sir Antony: Gently wiping the tear from his wife’s cheek with his index finger, he asks. “Charmaine my love, what is it?” He so wants to brighten his wife’s spirits.
What is not well understood in 1826 are the lingering cognitive and emotional effects of having a stroke–Lady Charmaine seeming calm one moment, then agitated or sad the next moment is a common consequent of having a stroke.
Lady Charmaine: But Lady Charmaine is a Mama, first and foremost. And she can only imagine the distress that her daughter must feel because she does not recognize her. “Antony, please ask the young lady … Kathy, to come closer.”
Sir Anthony: “I will.” He lifts his head up from the shared pillow with his wife. Then he beckons to his daughter to come to her Mama’s bedside.
Lady Katharine rises from her chair and slowly walks to her Mama’s side of the bed. Lord Rafe looks questioningly at his father-in-law, who nods back at him. Then Lord Rafe also walks toward the bed. Lady Esmѐ watches them move toward the bed, but stays seated in the window seat so as not to crowd her daughter.
Lady Katharine: “Yes Mama?” She says hopefully. Lady Katharine has been told by the doctor not to strain her Mama’s health by pushing her to remember her. But it is very hard on Lady Katharine to be unknown to her Mama–as if she were motherless.
Lady Charmaine: She slightly moves her left arm toward her daughter–and with her good right arm outstretched. “Kathy.” She says lovingly, beckoning to her daughter.
Lady Katharine: Her tears falling, Lady Katharine slides onto the bed next to her Mama and embraces her. “Mama, Mama! Do you know me again?”
Lady Charmaine: “There there, little one.” Lady Charmaine says soothingly as she embraces her daughter.
Lady Katharine: Not getting a direct answer from her Mama, she looks behind her Mama at her Papa who shrugs his shoulders. “Mama, do you remember me?” She asks gently.
Lady Charmaine: Lady Charmaine says soothingly to her daughter. “Kathy, I remember you as my lovely little girl. And I knew that you would blossom into a beautiful young lady someday. And you have.” Lady Charmaine caresses her daughter’s face.
Lady Katharine: “But Mama, I thought that you remembered me.” Lady Katharine is on the verge of tears again. But she does not say anything more–her not wanting to seem to be accusing her Mama of misleading her.
Lady Charmaine: “If your father tells me that you are my Kathy, then I believe him. He has never been false with me.” She caresses her daughter’s face.
Lady Katharine nods at her Mama. And Lady Katharine notices that her Grandmere, Lady Esmѐ, has turned her attention back to her daughter with the statement Lady Charmaine just made. Sir Antony’s face goes pale, dreading that his Charmaine will eventually need to be told about their estrangement and the cause of it–because he is afraid that she will reject him again. And Sir Antony having his wife back loving him–if only for a short while so far today–has reinforced in his own mind that Lady Charmaine is the only love that his life will ever have.
In the evening, after Lady Charmaine sips some broth and tea, and nibbles on some lightly buttered toast for her first meal of the day–while her family eats their cold meat sandwiches for dinner like they are having a picnic in Lady Charmaine’s bed chamber since no one wants to leave her side–they must all retire for the night. Lady Esmѐ has had her ladies maid bring her clothes to her daughter’s home so she may stay by her side during her recovery this coming week. Lady Katharine and Lord Rafe are also staying in the Southwick’s London home–as is Sir Antony.
In general, Lady Charmaine’s family is now more hopefully focused on her recovering. Though the doctor is still cautious–and he will return to check on Lady Charmaine tomorrow on Saturday. So now comes the delicate negotiation this Friday evening as to who spends the night in Lady Charmaine’s bed chamber to tend to her needs. It is now about 8 o’clock at night–thirteen hours after Lady Charmaine had her stroke.
Lady Charmaine: Lady Charmaine turns her head on her pillow to her husband lying to her right side in bed and whispers to him. “Antony, it is late and I am quite tired. Do you think everyone will understand if we retire for the night? They have been so kind and caring to me today.” She sleepily closes her eyes and smiles.
Sir Antony: “Of course, my love. I will see to it.” He kisses her forehead. Then he gingerly rises from the bed so that he does not jostle his wife and walks over to his family sitting around the fireplace. “Charmaine would like to retire for the night and thanks you for your caring and kindness today. But she is quite worn out. Hopefully, she will feel stronger tomorrow.” He nods his head.
Lady Katharine: “Alright, Papa. Goodnight.” She reaches up on her tip toes and kisses her Papa’s cheek. Then she goes to her Mama in bed and kisses her goodnight as everyone watches her sympathetically. “Goodnight, Mama.”
Lady Charmaine: “Goodnight Kathy, Dear.” Her eyes are still closed in fatigue, but she smiles at her daughter and caresses her face with her good right hand. Lady Charmaine’s left arm is still weak and she cannot lift it up very far.
Lady Esmѐ: Looking at her son-in-law with a concerned eye, she speaks to him in a hushed tone so that her daughter cannot year her. “Antony, despite your caring attentions to my daughter today, considering your estrangement I am not sure if it is appropriate that you spend the night with Charmaine.” She suggests a bit disdainfully.
Sir Antony: Refusing to cringe under his mother-in-law’s censure, he responds to her sotto voce. “You are not making me leave my wife’s side tonight!” He almost added, old woman–but he thought better of it. “The doctor even said that my presence loving her will help her get better. And when she needs to use the water closet, I am the only one with the strength to carry her there.” He reminds Lady Esmѐ practically.
Lady Katharine: “Grandmere, you are tired with the strain of the day. Papa will take good care of mama. Come to bed.”
Sir Antony: “Yes. I will let all of you know if Charmaine’s condition changes.”
Lord Rafe: Putting his arms around his wife’s waist and taking her left hand in his hand to guide her to their bed chamber–which is her bed chamber–he concurs with a nod. “Yes. Let us all retire. Sir Antony, Lady Charmaine, we bid you good evening and pleasant dreams.”
Sir Antony: “Thank you.” He raises his arms to shepherd them out of the room.
Lady Esmѐ: Lady Esmѐ is out voted. So she goes to her daughter’s bedside and kisses her goodnight. “Mon cher, I will see you a demain.”
Lady Charmaine: “Thank you for staying, Maman. Bonne nuit.” Lady Charmaine weakly squeezes her Mama’s hand and then she drifts off to sleep again.
Then Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine leave for their bed chamber, even as Lady Esmѐ retires to her guest bed chamber down the hall from them. It has been a long day of fear and distress for everyone. So after changing into their nightclothes, Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine fall instantly asleep in each others’ loving arms in her bed chamber–since it is closer to her Mama’s bed chamber should their assistance be needed in the night. The newlywed lovers’ only need tonight being their mutually feeling an unbroken contact of their bodies, fitted together in their consoling embrace.
Finally alone with his wife, in her bed chamber–a circumstance that his not occurred for eight years–Sir Antony finds himself hesitant about where in the bed chamber he should sleep this night. He feels that his mother-in-law is somewhat correct about the appropriateness of him staying with his wife in their bed since they were estranged. Though, Sir Antony and Lady Charmaine were not estranged by his choice. And Sir Antony does not want to jostle Lady Charmaine were he to move about as he sleeps. When he and his wife were sleeping together more than eight years ago, she used to tease him about his restlessness as a sleeper–likening him to an overly large humming bird to their mutual amusement. Then there was also Sir Antony’s ability to acquire mattress territory such that Lady Charmaine often ended up with only one third of the bed, while he sprawled across it. So mindful and considerate of his wife’s comfort with her illness is he that Sir Antony begins to move a club chair and sette nearer to the bed so that he may sleep on them and also be able to monitor and attend to his wife’s needs.
Lady Charmaine: Having awakened from her dozing with the noise of Sir Antony moving the furniture about her bed chamber–though he had tried to be as quiet as possible–she asks him quizzically. “Antony? Why are you rearranging the furniture at this hour? Come to bed my husband.” She holds out her goodright arm to him. Then she pats the empty expanse of bed to her right–his usual sleeping spot, from eight years ago.
Sir Antony: “Oh. Well I, um, uh … Charmaine, I do not want to keep you awake with my restless movement.” He finally settles on a partial, half-truth reply.
Lady Charmaine: “Dearest, you know that I cannot sleep and take my rest without you by my side.” She opens her eyes and gazes at him imploringly–something Sir Antony cannot resist.
Sir Antony: “Very well, my love.” Sir Antony removes his shoes–him now still wearing his outer clothes of an open collared shirt and his trousers. Then he starts to lay on top of the covers.
Lady Charmaine: “Antony, you will wrinkle your clothes and make more work for the servants if you sleep in them. Besides, I want to fall asleep in your arms.” She pulls back the coverlet and sheet and pats the bed next to her.
Sir Antony: “If you are certain, beloved.” He winces.
Lady Charmaine: “Yes.” She smiles and closes her eyes.
Sir Antony removes the remainder of his outer clothes down to his drawers and he slides into bed bare chested. Taking his wife into his loving arms, Sir Antony kisses her tenderly on her lips before laying his head on the pillow next to hers.
Sir Antony: “Charmaine, my love. Sleep well.” Sir Antony reverently entreats his beloved wife. Lady Charmaine feels so delicate in Sir Antony’s arms that he wants to be sure not to inadvertently roll toward her in the night and unknowingly crush her in his joy at being by her side, in her bed again. Though, of course, he realizes that they will only be sleeping. Still, for a man like Sir Antony who was cut off emotionally and physically from his only love for eight years–his wife, Lady Charmaine–he is in awe that he now has the privilege to tenderly embrace and kiss her once more. Sir Antony hopes that he has been granted that rarest of gifts–a second chance, to make right what went wrong with his Charmaine.
Lady Charmaine: “Hhhh! Sleep well, my Antony.” She snuggles next to her husband in perfect contentment.
Then they both drift off to sleep due to their exhaustion from their long and stressful day. And a small tear escapes Sir Antony’s eye as he hopes that tomorrow brings not only renewed health and vigor to his wife, Lady Charmaine–and that she will remember their grown daughter, Kathy–but that his wife will still love him.
To be continued with Chapter 17
1) “Love is a Choice” story logo is a composite image comprised of:
a) Gold wedding gown (cropped to fabric of skirt) found at http://0.tqn.com/d/honeymoons/1/0/C/w/belle2.jpg
b) Oval picture frames were found at http://www.inlineovals.com/product_images/q/675/602agp__91104_zoom.jpg
c) Image (cropped, masked, brightened, color) representing Lord Rafe Wingate is that of Richard Armitage as John Thornton in North & South (2004) episode 2, picture 66 was found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode2/ns2-066.jpg
d) Image (cropped, masked, brightened, color) representing Lady Katharine Wingate is that of Carla Gugino as Nan St. George in “The Buccaneers” (1995), Episode 1 vlcsnap-ooh09m21s203 Mar1313 Gratiana Lovelace screencap (cap)
2) Lord Rafe Image is Richard Armitage as John Thornton in N&S epi4-pix285 Apr1913 and was found at. http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode4/ns4-285.jpg
3) Lady Katharine image is of Carla Gugino as Nan in The Buccaneers 1995epi2 28mpix218 Mar2313GratianaLovelaceCap MaskHi-ResHairRev; (oval flipped).
4) LadyCharmaine-ill-image-is-Michelle-Pfeiffer-as-selina-kyle-in-BatmanApr1913peopletheiapoliscomCropClr was found at http://people.theiapolis.com/actress-008B/michelle-pfeiffer/gallery/michelle-pfeiffer-as-selina-kyle-in-batman-1036737.html
5) Sir Antony image is of a contemporary Daniel Day-Lewis and was found at http://images.dailyexpress.co.uk/img/dynamic/79/590x/370132_1.jpg
6) Information about the “last rites” may be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_rites
7) Lady Esme Sinclair image is of Catherine Deneuve from the Lines of Wellington tv series promo in 2012 was found at
Nota Bene: Translation from English to French was mostly done via Googlet Translate at: http://translate.google.com/
“Love is a Choice”, Previous Story Link to Ch. 15 is: