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Authors: Judith B. Glad

Tags: #19th Century, #England, #marriage, #Regency, #Regency Romance, #Romance

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BOOK: A Pitiful Remnant
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"Only when I must be." He took her hand and laid it upon his
sleeve, for all the world as if they were promenading among the
guests. "Carleton, how much trouble would it be to move the
festivities into this room?"

"None at all, my lord. In fact, I think it an excellent notion."
The butler slipped through the crowd that was descending upon
them.

"Oh, great God. They are like a pack of ravening wolves. And
my mother is leading them. Brace yourself."

In the last remaining instant before the wedding guests
descended with their congratulations, she realized that she might
just grow to like this man she had married.

* * * *

The next hour was less of an ordeal than he had expected,
thanks mostly to his wife and her new-found ally, Carleton. Together
they kept the guests from crowding around him, diverted their nosy
questions and smoothly moved everyone into the dining room as
soon as the doors were opened.

Miss Hi-- His wife had only remained at his side for few
minutes after the prayer ended. When it became clear that the
strangers among the guests were bound on discovering all they
possibly could about the circumstances of his marriage, she had
risen and diverted their attention with quick smiles and
inconsequential chatter.

"We'll have you to dinner soon." The woman who'd spoken
was a perfect stranger. Clarence had no idea how to respond.

Miss Hi-- His wife, who appeared seemingly out of nowhere.
"Not too soon. My husband is still convalescent."

"Oh. Lady Guillemot, I am so thoughtless. Of course we will
be patient. We are just so delighted to have another young couple in
the neighborhood." Her smile was tentative. "I am Marianne Abbott.
Our property is adjacent to Guillemot to the north. We've only lived
there two years."

"Thank you for understanding. We'll be delighted to become
better acquainted when his lordship has recovered completely from
his wounds."

"Hold. I am no invalid."

"Of course you are not, my lord, but neither are you in
fighting trim. The last thing you need is a flock of guests wearing you
to the bone. And our paying calls is completely out of the question
for a while."

Mrs. Abbot tapped him on the shoulder. "My lord, you have
the perfect excuse to keep us all at bay. As newlyweds, you are
entitled to a honeymoon. Since you have chosen to spend it
here--you have, have you not?"

Clarence had not given a honeymoon a moment's thought,
but he thought it unwise to admit the omission. He nodded, hoping a
silent agreement would be less a lie than the spoken word.

"A perfect notion," Miss Hi--
his wife
said.
What the
devil is the proper address for one's brand new wife?
He could not
continue thinking of her as an attachment to himself. "We will
announce it at table."

The dining room door opened and Carleton emerged. "My
lord, are you feeling up to joining your guests at breakfast?" His
expression said he rather thought the answer should be yes.

"I suppose I must." Reaching for his walking stick, he steeled
himself to walk the distance to his chair at the head of the table. At
the other end of the fifty-foot-long dining room.

"I have taken the liberty of rearranging the seating. You will
find your chair at this end of the table. Lady Guillemot suggested that
you might be more comfortable there."

He glanced her way, and caught a fleeting expression that
might have been concern. "Thank you both. I confess that the less I
walk, the happier I will be."

When Carleton announced them, he accomplished the few
steps to his chair without stumbling or wavering. He even found it
possible to stand straight and tall while his wife trod to the foot of
the table and was seated. When Carleton pulled out his chair, he
didn't quite collapse into it.

Lisanor decided that Carleton was a jewel among butlers. He
had somehow persuaded the dowager to limit the breakfast to five
courses, and had even given her credit for the brilliant notion to
switch the tables' head and foot. With him on her side, perhaps
adjusting to life at Guillemot would be less trying than she had
feared.
I wonder if he might give me some hints about how best to
cope with my mother-in-law.

She had already discovered that the dowager marchioness
was a woman of instant enthusiasms, most of them impractical,
many of them extravagant, a few of them actually sensible. She also
seemed unaware that she should relinquish her duties and
responsibilities to her successor.
A problem for another day. First I
must protect his lordship--my husband--from these
gibble-gabblers.

Lisanor had been her grandfather's hostess ever since she'd
put her hair up. She was adept at managing dinner guests who
wanted to linger. Today she did so with a vengeance, and with
Carleton's able assistance. Within an hour, the sweet had been
served and it was time. She rose, and when conversation faltered,
she said, "I must ask you to allow a departure from custom. As you
know, my husband recently returned from the wars in Spain. The
journey was onerous and exhausting. For this reason I beg you to
excuse us from further festivities."

A moment's surprised silence was broken by Lord
Guillemot's voice, a voice well suited to be heard above the sounds of
battles, she decided. "And
I
must ask you to allow us a
honeymoon. We have not seen each other for such a long time, and
we have more than the usual need to renew our acquaintance. Please
respect our wishes and do not visit nor invite us to visit you for a
month."

This bald request triggered a wave of babbling, but Lisanor
ignored it. She said, "Thank you all for witnessing our nuptials. May
your journeys to your chosen destinations be uneventful and
comfortable."

She turned and slipped out through the servant's door
behind her chair, confident that Carleton would see to getting her
husband to his chambers.

Their
chambers. Mrs. Smith had said that her
possessions would be moved to the master suite today. Henceforth
her bedchamber would be there.

A chilling sensation coiled in her all but empty stomach. In
only a few hours it would be night.

Her wedding night.

Chapter Six

"This is the sitting room, my lady. The bedchamber is
through that door. Just beyond it is a bathing chamber." Mrs. Smith
sniffed, her disapproval evident. "His late lordship had a
bathing
fixture
installed there."

From the housekeeper's tone, the
fixture
was either
dreadfully decadent or just plain sinful. Lisanor was tempted to
request a viewing, but Mrs. Smith was opening another door in the
wall to the left of the bedchamber's entrance.

"This is your dressing room. Your maid's chamber is just
beyond. She has already unpacked for you, and so I gave her leave to
go to dinner. If you want--"

"If I need Pammy, I'm sure I can ring. Which of these?" She
gestured at the line of bellpulls on the wall beside the entrance.

Mrs. Smith identified each of the six pulls. "Will there be
anything else, my lady?"

"Ah, yes, I have one more question. You said that is the
master bedchamber. But where is mine?"

"Why there, of course. The Ladies Guillemot have always
shared their lords' bed." She gave a regal nod as befitted her exalted
station, and departed.

Lisanor's knees gave way and she nearly missed the slipper
chair that was, conveniently, just behind her. She had assumed that
Lord Guillemot would not claim his conjugal rights until his health
had improved. While she knew that at some point they would
consummate their marriage, she had not expected it quite so soon.
I am not ready. I don't know him. How can I possibly...

She sprawled there, unable to move while her thoughts
scampered like mice disturbed in their nest. But before she could
gather them into some sort of coherence, the door to the corridor
opened.

"Here ye, go, sor. We'll have ye comfortable in a trice."

Guillemot's man--Needles?--edged past Carleton, again half
carrying her husband. As soon as they were inside, the butler closed
the door and hurried across the room to an alcove Lisanor had not
noticed, half hidden as it was by shabby velvet draperies. "In here,
Mr. Nettles. My lord, I believe you will be most comfortable on this
chaise. You have overdone it somewhat. You must rest, but I
know--"

"You're right. I won't go to bed like an invalid." Guillemot
seemed to see Lisanor for the first time. "Good day, my dear. I see
you've made yourself comfortable."

She bit back the sarcastic response that leapt to her
lips.

Clarence was relieved to see Miss Hi--
his
wife
--relaxing in the sitting room. There was much they must say to each
other, and the sooner it was done, the sooner they would begin to
rub along together smoothly. He contained his impatience while
Nettles saw him settled on the chaise, while Carleton fussed with the
tray holding the cordial they forced upon him twice daily, fetched a
glass from the breakfront cabinet, and unfolded the rug.

"That will be all," he said, as soon as he was established.
"Thank you."

"My lord--"

"Carleton, I admit to weakness in my leg and a certain
lightheadedness when I have been on my feet for too long, but I am
not ill. I
am
newly wedded, and my...my wife and I would like
to be alone. We will ring if we need you."

"But--"

"No, Nettles. I do not need you to stay with me. Miss...Lady
Guillemot is more than competent to cross the room and ring for you
or Carleton, should I need you." He forced himself to smile, despite
wanting nothing more than to relax into a semi-reclining position
and close his eyes.

"Yes, sor." Nettles turned to face Miss...

Damnation! She is my wife. Why can I not remember
that?

"You'll not let him get overtired, my lady?"

"I will take very good care of him, fear not. Thank you both."
There was no doubt that her words were a dismissal.

At least she knew how to deal with servants. Clarence had
wondered, coming as she did, from a farmhouse. Poor girl. She was in
for a difficult period of adjustment. While Guillemot was not one of
the great houses of England, it was one of the old ones, and it had its
traditions. Traditions he was determined to continue.

When the door closed behind Nettles and Carleton, he lay
back and let himself relax. The double vision that had plagued him
ever since he'd landed on his head when his horse was shot from
under him had finally reduced itself to a slight blurring when he
tired. He hoped the doctor was telling the truth, that it would
eventually disappear entirely. His left wrist and leg, while both still
weak, were slowly getting stronger. Only the still draining wound in
his right buttock remained a problem.
What a joke. Shot in the
arse.
Wouldn't Rodney...

No, Rodney wouldn't laugh his fool head off. Rodney was
dead. Along with so many more. Men he'd fought beside for four long
years, comrades he'd loved like brothers.

"Are you in pain?"

He kept his eyes closed. "No. Not more than usual. Just tired.
I don't seem to have the stamina I should."

"Would you... Can you tell me about your wounds?"

"I'd rather not. They are really quite tiresome."

"My lord, I did not ask out of idle curiosity. I've long thought
that human wounds are little different from those suffered by
animals. For the past six years, I have treated our livestock and our
people when they were cut, broken, or shot."

He opened his mouth, but before he could speak, she went
on.

"Yes, my lord, shot. While we fought no battles at Ackerslea,
we did see our share of hunting accidents, particularly when we
opened the woods to hunting."

"Huh."

"Now, will you tell me about your injuries?"

"I fell on my head. Concussion, the doctor said; it's all but
healed. I was struck on the wrist by something heavy--a club,
perhaps--and it apparently broke several small bones. At least that's
what the sawbones on the ship said. My left leg was broken in the
retreat and rebroken during the battle for the gates of
Coruña." He opened his eyes and watched her carefully as he
spoke the last sentence. "And I was shot in the...the right
buttock."

She didn't smile, gave no indication she thought the location
of his wound was amusing. "Tell me about your treatment."

"I hardly think--"

"My lord, we have much work ahead of us, putting your
estate back in condition and seeing to the spring planting at
Ackerslea. You are no good to me flat on your back. If my healing
skills can help you, we would be abrogating our responsibilities if we
did not make use of them. I think you'd better let me have a look at
your injuries."

"My lady!"

"Oh, don't worry. I've seen a man's naked buttock
before."

For some reason, all he could do was laugh. Clarence lay
back on the chaise, roaring with laughter. After a few moments, he
got it under control, reduced to occasional snorts. Until he opened
his eyes and saw the outraged expression on her face, and it sent him
off again.

At last he was able to speak without chuckling. "This is
not
how I envisioned spending my honeymoon."

Her sniff was eloquent. "I imagine not. It is, however, how
we
will spend our honeymoon, until we have you back on
your feet, without your needing anything more than a walking stick
to prop you up. Can you turn over on your own, or do you need
help?"

"Can't this wait until we've retired? Just think how much
easier it will be to lift my nightshirt than to pull down my
britches."

"Oh, stop laughing. There is nothing funny about this. Very
well, then. I will wait until tonight, but don't think I will forget."

BOOK: A Pitiful Remnant
5.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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