“You are your own worst enemy. If you can learn to stop expecting impossible perfection, in yourself and others, you may find the happiness that has always eluded you.”
“Bending his head over hers, Leo murmured, "When I give you away at the altar, Bea, I want you to remember something. I'm not really giving you away. I'm merely allowing him the chance to love you as much as the rest of us do.”
“All right, then,” she snapped, “do as you please! Perhaps afterward we could manage a coherent discussion.” Twisting beneath him, she flopped onto her stomach.
Christopher went still. After a long hesitation, she heard him ask in a far more normal voice, “What are you doing?”
“I’m making it easier for you,” came her defiant reply. “Go on, start ravishing.”
Another silence. Then, “Why are you facing downward?”
“Because that’s how it’s done.” Beatrix twisted to look at him over her shoulder. A twinge of uncertainty caused her to ask, “Isn’t it?”
His face was blank. “Has no one ever told you?”
“No, but I’ve read about it.”
Christopher rolled off her, relieving her of his weight. He wore an odd expression as he asked, “From what books?”
“Veterinary manuals. And of course, I’ve observed the squirrels in springtime, and farm animals and-”
She was interrupted as Christopher cleared his throat loudly, and again. Darting a confused glance at him, she realized that he was trying to choke back amusement.
Beatrix began to feel indignant. Her first time in a bed with a man, and he was laughing.
“Look here,” she said in a businesslike manner, “I’ve read about the mating habits of over two dozen species, and with the exception of snails, whose genitalia is on their necks, they all—” She broke off and frowned. “Why are you laughing at me?
Christopher had collapsed, overcome with hilarity. As he lifted his head and saw her affronted expression, he struggled manfully with another outburst. “Beatrix. I’m . . . I’m not laughing at you.”
“No I’m not. It’s just . . .” He swiped a tear from the corner of his eye, and a few more chuckles escaped. “Squirrels . . .”
“Well, it may be humorous to you, but it’s a very serious matter to the squirrels.”
“Captain Phelan,” Cam asked, choosing his words with care. “Have you come to ask for our consent to marry Beatrix?”
Christopher shook his head.
“If I decide to marry Beatrix, I’ll do it with or without your consent.”
Leo looked at Cam. “Good God,” he said in disgust. “This one’s worse than Harry.”
“When Christopher finished, there was a moment of silence.
Leo looked at Cam expectantly. “Well?”
“Now is the time when you dredge up one of your blasted Romany sayings. Something about roosters laying eggs, or pigs dancing in the orchard. It’s what you always do. Let’s have it.”
Cam gave him a sardonic glance. “I can’t think of one right now.”
“By God, I’ve had to listen to hundreds of them. And Phelan doesn’t have to hear even one?”
“I’m fairly certain, Captain, that the more you discover about me, the more you will dislike me. Therefore, let’s cut to the chase and acknowledge that we don’t like each other. Then we won’t have to bother with the in-between part.”
She was so bloody frank and practical about the whole thing that Christopher couldn’t help but be amused. “I’m afraid I can’t oblige you.”
“Because when you said that just now, I found myself starting to like you.”
“You’ll recover,” she said.”
“Christopher heard a pair of women gossiping nearby, whispering in disapproving undertones.
"... Ramsey was found flirting in a corner with a woman. They had to drag him away from her."
"Who was it?"
"His own wife."
“I carry thoughts of you like my own personal constellation. How far away you are, my dearest friend, but no farther than those fixed stars in my soul.”
“I didn't mean to send love letters, but that is what they became. On their way to you, my words turned into heartbeats on the page.”
“Beatrix, do you know what happens to girls who ask such naughty questions?”
“They’re ravished in haylofts?” she inquired hopefully.”
“I’ll tell you what I’m fighting for. Not for England, nor her allies, nor any patriotic cause. It’s all come down to the hope of being with you..”
“I beg your pardon?” Catherine interrupted. “Are you implying that women have poor judgment?”
“In these matters, yes.” Leo gestured to Christopher. “Just look at the fellow, standing there like a bloody Greek god. Do you think she chose him because of his intellect?”
“I graduated from Cambridge,” Christopher said acidly. “Should I have brought my diploma?”
“In this family,” Cam interrupted, “there is no requirement of a university degree to prove one’s intelligence. Lord Ramsay is a perfect example of how one has nothing to do with the other.”
“The trick was forgetting about what she had lost ...and learning to go on with what she had left.”
“You don’t annoy me.” Carefully he rebuttoned the placket of her shirt. “I thought you did, at first. But now I realize it was more like the feeling you get when your foot’s been asleep. And when you start moving, the blood coming back into it is uncomfortable . . . but also good. Do you understand what I mean?”
“Yes. I make your feet tingle.”
A smile came to his lips. “Among other things.”
“Beatrix puts a distance between herself and the rest of the world. She’s very engaging, but also quite private in nature. I see the same qualities in Captain Phelan.”
“Yes,” Amelia said. “You’re absolutely right, Catherine. Put that way, the match does seem more appropriate.”
“I still have reservations,” Leo said.
“You always do,” Amelia replied. “If you’ll recall, you objected to Cam in the beginning, but now you’ve accepted him.”
“That’s because the more brothers-in-law I acquire,” Leo said, “the better Cam looks by comparison.”
“After a universal silence, Leo was the first to speak. “Did anyone else notice—”
“Yes,” Catherine said. “What do you make of it?”
“I haven’t decided yet.” Leo frowned and took a sip of port. “He’s not someone I would pair Bea with.”
“Whom would you pair her with?”
“Hanged if I know,” Leo said. “Someone with similar interests. The local veterinarian, perhaps?”
“He’s eighty-three years old and deaf,” Catherine said.
“They would never argue,” Leo pointed out.”
“Of all the Hathaway sisters,” Cam said equably, “Beatrix is the one most suited to choose her own husband. I trust her judgment.”
Beatrix gave him a brilliant smile. “Thank you, Cam.”
“What are you thinking?” Leo demanded of his brother-in-law. “You can’t trust Beatrix’s judgment.”
“She’s too young,” Leo said.
“I’m twenty-three,” Beatrix protested. “In dog years I’d be dead.”
“What kind of wedding would you like?" he asked, and stole another kiss before she could reply.
"The kind that turns you into my husband." She touched the firm line of his mouth with her fingers. "What kind would you like?"
He smiled ruefully. "A fast one.”
“Captain Phelan and I dislike each other,” Beatrix told her. “In fact, we’re sworn enemies.”
Christopher glanced at her quickly. “When did we become sworn enemies?”
Ignoring him, Beatrix said to her sister, "Regardless, he’s staying for tea.”
“Wonderful,” Amelia said equably. “Why are you enemies, dear?”
“I met him yesterday while I was out walking,” Beatrix explained. “And he called Medusa a ‘garden pest,’ and faulted me for bringing her to a picnic.”
Amelia smiled at Christopher. “Medusa has been called many worse things around here, including ‘diseased pincushion,’ and ‘perambulating cactus.”
“You could run to the farthest corners of the earth. There's no place you could go where I wouldn't love you. Nothing you could do to stop me.”
“With all due respect," Christopher muttered, "this conversation is leading nowhere. At least one of you should point out that Beatrix deserves a better man."
"That's what I said about my wife," Leo remarked. "Which is why I married her before she could find one.”
“I’m fairly certain, Captain,” she said, “that the more you discover about me, the more you will dislike me. Therefore, let’s cut to the chase and acknowledge that we don’t like each other. Then we won’t have to bother with the in-between part.”
She was so bloody frank and practical about the whole thing that Christopher couldn’t help but be amused.
“I’m afraid I can’t oblige you.”
“Because when you said that just now, I found myself starting to like you.”
“You’ll recover,” she said.
Her decisive tone made him want to smile. “It’s getting worse, actually,” he told her. “Now I’m absolutely convinced that I like you.”
Beatrix gave him a patently skeptical stare. “What about my hedgehog? Do you like her, too?”
Christopher considered that. “Affection for rodents can’t be rushed.”
“Medusa isn’t a rodent. She’s an erinaceid.”
“We assured Phelan that we were more than happy to let him have you and your menagerie,” Leo retorted.
“After that, he said he needed to think.”
“About what?” Beatrix demanded. “What is there to think about? Why is it taking him so long to make a decision?”
“He’s a man, dear,” Amelia explained kindly. “Sustained thinking is very difficult for them.”
“I had to wait for someone special. Someone who would make my heart feel as if it's been trampled by elephants, thrown into the amazon, and eaten by piranhas.”
“Before you marry, you have to get shot by an arrow and fall in love,” the boy explained. He paused thoughtfully. “But I don’t think the rest of it hurts as much as the beginning.”
“The boy heaved a sigh. "I would ask to go with you," he said, " but I have to finish my lessons. I so look forward to the day when I know everything. Then I won't have to read any more books or do any more counting."
Beatrix smiled. "I don't wish to be discouraging, Rye, but it's not possible to know everything."
"Mama does." Rye paused reflectively. "At least, Papa says we mus t pretend she does, because it makes her happy."
"Your father," Beatrix informed him with a laugh, " is one of the wisest men I've ever known.”
“Beatrix,” Amelia said over her shoulder as they proceeded through the hallway. “Perhaps you should reconsider your attire. Poor Captain Phelan may find it somewhat shocking.”
“But he’s already seen me like this,” came Beatrix’s voice from behind Christopher, “and I’ve already shocked him. What is the point in changing clothes? Captain, would you feel more comfortable if I took my breeches off?”
“No,” he said hastily.
“Good, I’ll keep them on. Really, I don’t see why women shouldn’t dress like this all the time. One can walk freely and even leap. How is one to chase after a goat in skirts?”
“Aristotle taught that stars are made of a different matter than the four earthly elements— a quintessence— that also happens to be what the human psyche is made of. Which is why man’s spirit corresponds to the stars. Perhaps that’s not a very scientific view, but I do like the idea that there’s a little starlight in each of us.”
“I stand by my opinions when I know I'm right, Captain Phelan. Whereas you stand by yours merely because you're stubborn.”
“She had discovered that the best remedy for heartache was trying to make herself useful to others.”
“Do not struggle when the hook of a word pulls you into the air of truth and you cannot breathe.”
“Wo immer ein Thron ist, findet man in reicher Auswahl jede Torheit und jede Bosheit, deren der Mensch fähig ist, poliert mit guten Manieren und vergoldet mit Heuchelei.”
“And it's special meaning for me was this: It is proof that sometime back when my father was a young, young man, he must have had a moment or two when he felt that he might have reason to take himself and his life seriously.”
“What you don't want is always going to be with you
What you want is never going to be with you
Where you don't want to go, you have to go
And the moment you think you're going to live more, you're going to die”
“Ariana, there's a small rodent on your face. Thought you should know."
"It's a mustache. Kyra assured me that it's extremely convincing.”
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