“Expectations” (Book 2)–Ch. 27: Lord Robert’s secret,
July 10, 2019 by Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1245)
[As is my custom, from time to time I will illustrate my story with my ideal cast consisting of (in order of importance/mention in this chapter): Lord Robert Knightsbridge the Marquess of Wyre (portrayed by Hugh Grant); and Lady Gwendolyn Lindsay of York (portrayed by Emma Thompson)]
Author’s story content and serializing scheduling notes: For the most part, my ratings for the chapters will be PG-13—for romantic interludes and dramatic moments. If you are unable or unwilling to attend a movie with these ratings, then please do not read that chapter. This is my disclaimer. And I always put the previous chapter’s brief recap at the top of the next chapter. Also, I hope to post new chapters weekly on Sundays or Mondays. I hope that you enjoy this chapter.
Ch. 27: Lord Robert’s Secret
At first, Lord Robert Knightsbridge Marquess of Wyre and Lady Gwendolyn Lindsay of York stroll arm in arm together in pleasant silence through the Sussex Hall Manor House formal gardens this post Faire-going afternoon, after tea. They have each changed into less formal clothing befitting their foray into nature’s idyll. Cotton is easier to clean than silks and linens—was the ever practical Lady Gwendolyn’s reasoning to Lord Robert for their need to change their mode of dress. So should they wish to sit upon the grass or a weather stained stone bench, they will not have to worry about their clothes getting soiled.
And the Sussex Hall Manor House gardens are enormous, stretching to the horizon—well before reaching the Sussex Hall Estates’ farm lands and tenanted farms—with each section of the formal gardens having a cohesive theme before entering upon a new section and a new theme. It is almost as if the garden sections are arranged into rooms—each with their own design features, be they flowers, trimmed hedges, topiary, water elements etc. And with the tall hedges bordering each new garden section—or their increasing distance in walking away from the Sussex Hall Manor House—their privacy is assured. And Lady Gwendolyn has dispensed with being chaperoned by her Ladies Maid. Scandalous!
After a few moments of silent companionship, Lady Gwendolyn opens their line of conversation.
Lady Gwendolyn: “Harold? You seem quite vexed with your Papa Duke. Would you like to share with me the cause, or do you wish that I had not asked?”
Lord Robert: Gently squeezing her hand upon his arm, Lord Robert speaks directly about the issue that has conflicted father and son. “No, it is alright that you ask. Well, you see, My Father Duke is getting up in years … and he would like to see me married and produce my heir—who will also be his heir one day.”
Lady Gwendolyn: “I see.” She thinks about this oft thought of topic of her own parents—regarding her getting married. “And does your father propose a candidate or a timeframe for you?” Some families use draconian measure of limiting funds to their offspring until they marry.
Lord Robert: “Yes and no.” She looks up at him quizzically. Then he gestures to the nearby bridge over the lake for them to lean against—also giving them unparalled views [(2) below]. “You see my father suggested a Lady to me before tea, but he does not suggest a deadline for my marrying her. Although, he did not like my initial suggestion of waiting to look for a wife during next year’s Spring season.” He sheepishly shrugs his shoulders.
Lady Gwendolyn: “Hmmm.” She ponders his words. “And do you have a lady in mind, so you object to your father’s candidate?” She asks forthrightly. She likes Lord Robert—better than most men she has met. And she hopes that whomever he marries that he will be happy.
Lord Robert: He smiles. “Yes and no.”
Lady Gwendolyn: “I sense that you are teasing me, My Lord.” She glances coquettishly at him as they start to walk back toward Sussex Hall. Lady Gwendolyn is not flirting with Lord Robert, per se. They simply enjoy bantering with each other.
Lord Robert: Lord Robert hesitates before speaking. Then he gestures for her to join him on a bench tucked into a rose bower. “There is a lady whom I have come to know and to like. But our familiarity also causes me to wonder if either of us would be willing to compromise our personal wishes for happiness and fulfillment to marry anyone—let alone, each other.”
Lady Gwendolyn: “Nay Robert. You have already improved in my estimation of you upon our short acquaintance. Surely the Lady of your Heart would think kindly of you.”
Lord Robert: “I hope that is the case. But then there is also me, set in my ways. I like my orderly life. Excitement and passion have their appeal now and again.” She looks at him with alarm. “Now do not look at me as if I am a rogue, or even a rake. But I am a man …” He lets that thought trail off.
Lady Gwendolyn: She nods her head in understanding. “And men give into their base needs.” She recites rotely what her Mama Duchess had spoken to her about in her first season, to put her on guard for preserving her honor.
Lord Robert: “Your face reveals your disgust, Lady Gwendolyn.” He sighs disappointedly. “But I assure you that my … romantic adventures were of a limited nature.”
Lady Gwendolyn: “I beg that you desist from sharing the lurid details with me. It is much more than friends should share.” She squirms. She realizes that though she is still untouched in her mid twenties, the over thirty Lord Robert should be expected to have past amours—plural.
Lord Robert: “Would you think more kindly of me if I told you that I have only loved once before?”
Lady Gwendolyn: “Once?” She does not know if he means one amour or one interlude of romantic passion. She rather thinks that it is the former.
Lord Robert: Despite her protestations against his disclosures, he presses on. “It was after I had finished university when I was one and twenty, and I was a new man about town. I had met a young widowed lady who had recently moved to a small cottage at Richmond, just outside of London. She had no children or near relatives, but her widow’s inheritance set her up nicely.”
Lady Gwendolyn: “Oh! So you did not pay her for her … favors?” She is relieved somehow that he did not prey upon an unfortunate who had to sell her body to survive..
Lord Robert: “No. We did not even start out as lovers, but as friends. You see, I was such a green youth back then—untutored in the ways of wooing a lady.” He shakes his head in chagrin, but with a small smile. “We had met after an afternoon play performance that we were both attending. She was trying to hail a hack, her not having her own. But her cloak concealed her lady status illustrated by her hidden silk gown, so the cabbies would not stop for her.”
Lady Gwendolyn: “Oh how mean of the hack drivers!”
Lord Robert: “Yes. And as a Lady without protection—she had no companion nor footman with her—she was vulnerable.”
Lady Gwendolyn: “And you helped her arrange a carriage home?”
Lord Robert: “I did. She looked a little lost. So I offered to accompany her, then return to London. Which I did, after she served me tea as a thank you.”
Lady Gwendolyn: “Was she a pretty widow?” Lady Gwendolyn asks haltingly. She does not know why her knowing if his amour was pretty or not matters to her, but it does.
Lord Robert: “I would say that she was handsome. But we began as friends—going to plays and readings and the like. Then at some point, … we became more than friends.” But he will not share with Lady Gwendolyn his shy awkwardness with their first couplings—wherein his Lady’s patience and gentle guidance had relaxed him enough to actually enjoy the experience of being one with her. Some things are too private to share.
Lady Gwendolyn: “You fell in love with her.” She states, rather than questions.
Lord Robert: “I did. She was fifteen years my senior, but she was lovely and charming.” He remembers fondly.
Lady Gwendolyn: “Yet you did not see fit to marry her?” She accuses, wounding his sense of honor.”
Lord Robert: “After the first year of our romance, I was completely smitten—and I wanted to marry her. But she kept declining—claiming that she was not certain that she could give me an heir.”
Lady Gwendolyn: “You told her who you were?”
Lord Robert: “I did, we were completely open and honest with each other. Our only obstacle was her unwillingness to marry me.” Then his face saddens.
Lady Gwendolyn: “You look sad, did she leave you in the end?”
Lord Robert: “Yes, but not in the way that you think. We had been together as a couple for four wonderful years–and I was becoming more ardently wanting to marry her. I felt that my success in securing her hand in marriage was near—and she seemed almost on the verge of accepting my proposal of marriage. But then, something changed. She missed meeting me in town for one of our outings. So I sought her out at her cottage. She said that she was feeling a little unwell, and apologized for not being able to send word to me about her cancelling joining me. You see, she kept no live-in staff—which insured our privacy. But maybe a full time housemaid might have been able to notice aspects about her health that I did not.” His eyes trail off into the distant past.
Lady Gwendolyn: “Oh no!” Lady Gwendolyn sighs in distress as one hand covers her mouth, and the other hand squeezes Lord Robert’s hand.
Lord Robert: “She never really felt better after that. I sent several doctors to see her over the course of three weeks–and none could explain her sickness. And with each passing week, she slipped away from me more and more. Her last few months, I hired a fulltime nurse for her and stayed with her at the cottage. It was only one more attempt on my part to seek a physician who might be able to heal her that the doctor relayed the devastating news to us. She was dying from a wasting illness–likely from a tumor since her abdomen was sore to her, and she was so weak. But thankfully, the doctor gave me some medicine to ease her pain in her last days.” He pauses.
Lady Gwendolyn listens to Lord Robert without comment. She is spellbound to hear of Lord Robert’s former love.
Lord Robert: “And then one evening, I kissed her forehead in goodnight as I always did, before lying down on the cot to sleep near her in her bed chamber. And her eyes looked up into mine pleadingly. I could sense that she was in more pain, so I carefully gave her a bit more of the medicine as I held the spoon to her mouth. And in a few moments, I could see her relief from pain–which seemed to calm her. But she still looked at me with such caring and such longing. And I could not leave her that night to sleep apart from her.”
Lord Robert sees the compassion in Lady Gwendolyn’s eyes as he pauses once more to collect himself. She squeezes his hand in encouragement and support. Then he continues.
Lord Robert: “So I held her in my arms one last time that night as I laid down with her—telling her that I loved her, and that I knew that she loved me. She was so weak that she could not speak at that point. But we understood each other, she and I. I kissed her gently and sweetly as I reminisced with her about our many happy times together, until she fell asleep. I watched her breathing closely over the next two hours as it slowed into a peaceful rest. Then after a while her breathing lessened–without her seeming to be in pain, thankfully. And then in the middle of the night—with the moonlight bathing her face in an angelic glow–her breathing stopped completely. I waited for her next breath for several tortuous minutes, thinking that it would come, that she was only in peaceful slumber. I even exhorted her to breathe, to no avail. Her next breath did not come, and my Love MaryAnn was gone. She died in my arms. And I lovingly kissed her one last time, in farewell.” Tears are streaming down Lord Robert’s face unabated.
Lady Gwendolyn: “Oh Robert!” She sighs compassionately in a hushed whisper as she embraces him as her own tears fall.
Lord Robert and Lady Gwendolyn stay embracing for some time as their tears flow—his in raw grief, hers in empathic compassion.
It is about one hour later–when a footman discreetly coughs around the hedge from them and announces that dinner will be served in a half hour—that Lord Robert and Lady Gwendolyn are roused from their comfortingly embracing seated position. Then they gaze at each other in shared understanding and rise from their seated positions. And they walk back through the formal gardens toward the house in a peaceful silence.
As the terrace steps loom, Lady Gwendolyn stops and turns toward Lord Robert, whose eyes are still moist from his crying.
Lady Gwendolyn: Embracing Lord Robert once more, Lady Gwendolyn whispers to him. “Thank you for sharing MaryAnn with me, Robert. I’m glad that you and she had loved each other. I know intuitively that your love was a very great blessing to her—as it was to you. And though she is no longer upon this Earth, she lives on in your memories of her. Her lessons of kindness, love, caring, hope, dignity, and so much more, are a testament to her being a wonderful and beautiful person. I wish that I had known her. And for your sake, I am glad that you did know her and love her—and that she knew and she loved you in return.” Lady Gwendolyn leans back to gaze into her friend Lord Robert’s eyes, and then she caresses his face.
Lord Robert: “Thank you for understanding, Gwendolyn. I have not told another soul about MaryAnn.” Though he suspects that his father knew—however, the Duke never interfered. “MaryAnn’s short life, and our short time together was one reason ten years ago why I supported my sister Constance in her desire to wed your brother Lord Alfred before he went away to the Napoleonic wars.”
Lady Gwendolyn: Moving her thumb to stroke his cheek, she smiles tearily. “Another blessing from MaryAnn. For if you had not given Lady Constance your support for her marriage to my brother, she would not have had their daughter Lady Tamsin to comfort and console her these past ten years.”
Lord Robert: He nods his head. “At times, I think that having Tammy was the only thing that kept Connie tethered to her every day life. She had to care for her baby Tammy, and then care for Tammy as she grew through her childhood.” Then his voice becomes softer. “I had even sometimes selfishly wished that Tammy was my and MaryAnn’s child.” He reveals one of his deepest thoughts.
Lady Gwendolyn: “I can see why. And you were not being selfish. Tammy is a treasure to be cherished.” She smiles up at him. Then she tries to lighten the mood. “However, we do need to keep our cakes safe from her wandering eye.”
Lord Robert: She is favored with his self-effacing smile. “Indeed.” Now his hand caresses Lady Gwendolyn’s face. “Gwendolyn, I …”
Lady Gwendolyn: “I understand, Robert. Your heart is still full of MaryAnn.” She embraces him again, with her head nestled into his chest—in full view of the Manor. Your love was so great that you mourn MaryAnn still. But someday, you will be able to remember MaryAnn with only joy and not with sadness. I hope then that you meet a lady whose caring and compassion will help you find love anew.”
Lord Robert: “And if I have found such a caring and compassionate lady to help me learn to love anew?” He asks shyly as he leans back and guides her chin to look up at him—whilst he gazes tenderly into her eyes.
Lady Gwendolyn: “Then your lady is the most fortunate of women, Robert.” Her eyes moisten, wishing that he would see that she loves him.
And then Lord Robert slowly leans toward Lady Gwendolyn, seeing her tears and gently wiping them away with his thumb. Then she closes her eyes, and Lord Robert closes his eyes, and he kisses her softly upon her lips. It is a petal soft first kiss given to a maiden fair—their lips softly brushing against each other, yet stirring their desires with their innocent kisses.
Lady Gwendolyn purses her lips together at first, since she is untutored in the ways of kissing. Her betrothal to her late fiancé Stephen did not progress beyond hand holding, because she was but a sixteen year old at the time ten years ago. Then Lord Robert slowly makes circular sucking motions with his mouth opening and closing. So Lady Gwendolyn tries to follow his lead by opening and closing her mouth with his. And they pull back from each other in dawning wonder.
Lord Robert: “I love you, Gwendolyn.”
Lady Gwendolyn: “And I love you, Robert.” They cannot help but kiss each other some more.
Lord Robert: “I do not want to wait and waste any moment being apart from you, My Love. Marry me?”
Lady Gwendolyn: “Yes! Oh Yes!”
Then he whisks her up into the air as he twirls her in his arms—before he brings her back down to the ground for more kissing. However now is not the time for deepening their kisses. Now, they delight in their wondrous shared love.
And the Duke of Lancashire walks to a second floor window overlooking the terrace, and he sees his son Lord Robert embracing and kissing Lady Gwendolyn. And the old Duke smiles as he walks back further into his room.
That evening, dinner for all of the Blount, Lindsay, and Knightsbridge families at the Sussex Hall Manor House is a lively event. They celebrate Lord Alfred’s return to his wife Lady Constance, and their daughter Lady Tamsin. The flaming Christmas Pudding is an especially delicious and magical dessert.
And for the other loving married couples in attendance—including Lord Christian and Lady Madeline, and Lord Harold and Lady Penelope—there are toasts in tribute to them. Lord Duncan the Viscount Lindsay and Lady Elizabeth Blount sneak loving glances at each other as almost betrotheds—pending his interview with her brother Lord Christian upon the morrow.
And Lord Robert belatedly realizes with some chagrin that he will also need to seek an interview with the Duke of York to ask for Lady Gwendolyn’s hand in marriage upon the morrow. For now, Lord Robert and Lady Gwendolyn are seated next to one another because they make their couples numbers even, not because their newly affianced status is known. And they are both of a maturity to be less obviously smitten with each other than the younger Lord Duncan and the very young Lady Elizabeth. But yet their nearby proximity at table means that their legs sometimes brush alongside each other, despite her voluminous skirting—or their hands touch when reaching for their water or wine glasses.
And oh yes, at the evening’s end—before they must part to slumber in their separate guest bed chambers in separate guest hallways at Sussex Hall Manor House—Lord Robert and Lady Gwendolyn share a tender and heartfelt goodnight kiss and embrace in the now darkened foyer, with only the moonlight bearing silent witness to their love.
To be continued with Chapter 28
Expectations” (Book 2, sequel to “Encouragement): Chapter 27 images for July 10, 2019 by Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1245)
1) “Expectations” (Book 2, sequel to “Encouragement”) story cover art image represents Lady Elizabeth Blount, sister to the Earl of Sussex in black evening gown–is that of actress Jessica Brown Findlay as Lady Sybil in Downton Abby found at http://www.internet-d.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/38/2012/02/JESSICA-BROWN-FINDLAY-as-Lady-Sybil-Crawley.jpg ; the text font is Vivaldi.
2) Lord Robert Knightsbridge the Marquess of Wyre and Lady Gwendolyn Lindsay of York having a heartfeldtchat is represented by Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson in “Sense & Sensibility”; image was found at http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_TiDqzDJS4jw/TN7oOe4ce-I/AAAAAAAAATw/kSuUof7zmvw/s1600/sense-and-sensibility.jpg
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