In Which Things Are Put Right  

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(@penelope_stout)
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((This scene is a collaboration between the players of Philip Rackham and Pippa Rackham. It takes place shortly after Mrs. Fairchild's picnic.))

 

Pippa sits in the parlor, a book open in her lap though she hardly pays attention to it. Her eyes are on the window, absently watching a pair of robins as they make a nest just outside. It is open enough that she can hear their chirping through it, the warm summer breeze making its way inside. Her attention span has been too short of late to truly enjoy reading no matter how hard she might want to. It has been several days since the picnic, and meeting Lady Aurelia, but still she feels ill at ease whenever Philip is present. It is easier when he is out of the house, though even then she has her doubts as to where he might be. The feeling is unpleasant enough that she wishes they had never attended the picnic, no matter how enjoyable it should have been.

 

Philip enters the room with a somewhat determinedly cheerful smile, though he gives in and lets it fade as he sees his wife's position. He still doesn't fully understand what happened at the picnic, but clearly it has affected her more than he had thought it could, and he has come in to find out exactly what she is thinking. His courage dips a little, wavering slightly as he sees her face and hopes that he won't just upset her more, but he /needs/ to get to the bottom of this, for it has disturbed their peace. He wants her to be happy, and he wants to be happy himself, so he takes a breath, goes over to sit near her, and says carefully, "Hello, my dear."

 

Pippa looks toward the door as Philip comes in, forcing a smile. She wishes she did not feel so unhappy, or that at the very least she could simply let it pass as the nothing it probably is. As he comes to sit beside her, she looks back out the window for a moment. Something tells her he wants to talk about the picnic, and she is unsure she can, or that she wants to. Watching the robins and their happiness seems easier. Finally, she sighs and looks at him. "Hello. Did you make any progress with your studies?" It is small talk that seems to be the only thing she has been able to say to him of late.

 

Philip wants to frown a little, worried at her question because it is exactly that kind of small talk. Instead, however, he shakes his head and offers her a tiny smile. "Not particularly. I was distracted... Pippa, if I may own the truth, I am...I am concerned about you. And about..." He hesitates, unsure how to describe it, and then waves a hand. "...all of this. Since Mrs. Fairchild's picnic, I...I just..." He shakes his head helplessly.

 

"I am sorry to hear that." She smiles slightly, though it does not quite reach her eyes. Even so, she listens as best she can as he speaks, looking away and down at the book in her lap as he tells her of his worries. She thinks for a long while before answering, wondering if she truly has the energy to discuss this just now. Her sleep has been poor at best of late, interrupted by disturbing dreams and restlessness. "What is there to be concerned about?" His mention of the picnic makes her glance up at him for a brief moment before looking down again. "Oh. That."

 

He nods. "Sweetheart... I know something has upset you somehow. I have the feeling it might be my own fault. But I don't...I don't fully understand what I did...and I want to make it right. Will you not...explain it to me, so I can try to make it up to you?" He casts her a worried glance, unsure what else he can say.

 

Shaking her head, she looks up, her hand worrying the edge of one page. "You will only think it is a foolish thing, that I am reacting to something that does not exist at all in your eyes." She sighs and chews the inside her lip, realizing that there is so much she could say but that none of it will capture her worry and unhappiness. "I do not know how to explain, Philip."

 

"My dearest..." He sighs as well. "I would like to say I could never think anything that is important to you nothing. I certainly believe it to be unlikely that I would think it so. But even if it seemed like nothing to me, it is clearly something to you, and that makes it important to me as well." He hesitates, and then adds, "I do not know what to do, love. I know you are unhappy; is there nothing I can do to help?"

 

Closing the book, she breathes out through her nose and lifts her chin slightly as if it could somehow give her the courage to say what must be said. She knows he will simply declaim what her worries are, tell her that it is nothing at all. But it is so much more than nothing. Even though it will seem like a non- sequitur, she feels as if she has no choice but to ask, "Philip, how often do you see Lady Aurelia? And please do me the favor of telling the truth."

 

Philip blinks at the question. He's unsure where it came from, and a little hurt that she is specifically asking him to tell the truth--does she think he will lie to her? Still, he answers, hoping it will help. "The picnic was the first time in some time...the first time in months, in fact. Before that, it was fairly often. But now, hardly ever." He hesitates, frowning a little in concern, and adds, "I know I promised to call on her, but...we need not do so more than once, if that is what is bothering you."

 

It takes her a moment to decide if she believes him, her eyes studying his face as if for some clue that he might be lying. She has never not trusted him before, and she hates that she could even consider whether he might lie to her now. Part of her knows it is foolish, but she has not been able to stop thinking about it since the picnic. Nodding, she takes a breath, trying to think of how she should respond. "Hardly ever..." She wishes he had said not at all. What could they possibly have to talk about or do, if he does see her, even if it is rarely? "It is only a part of what is bothering me."

 

He considers that, and nods. "May I ask what else there is? I... As I said, I would like to help you be happy again, and I still do not entirely understand." He wishes he could just /know/ what is upsetting her. Then, perhaps, he could make it better. But as it is, he doesn't know how to help.

 

She swallows hard, not having expected to be questioned like this or about this today. Thinking about it always puts her on the verge of tears, and to actually have to talk about it is that much more difficult. After a moment of hesitation, she looks away before speaking. "You seemed very happy to see Lady Aurelia, and almost pointedly oblivious to her behavior toward me. It..." She trails off, unable to say just what it made her feel. Betrayed? Forgotten? Unimportant?

 

He doesn't miss the signs of tears, and wants to reach for her hand, but isn't sure how she would take it right now. Instead, he says slowly, "I...well, I /was/ happy to see her. She is a friend, and I was particularly glad that you would get the chance to meet her. As for her behavior towards you...sweetheart, you said she was unkind, and I...I still do not understand how. It is not that...that I don't believe you, precisely, but...might you be mistaken? Or...can you give me an example? Perhaps I could explain what she meant... I suppose I don't understand /why/ she would be unkind to you."

 

Not a word of what he says makes her feel any better. If anything, it makes her feel worse. He is not quite dismissive of her feelings, but he does not seem to take it very seriously. He may /say/ he believes her, or at least that he doesn't /not/ believe her, but she is not so sure of that fact. "Philip, she..." She makes a sound of frustration, unable to explain to a man how a woman could be cruel while seeming as pleasant as can be. Shaking her head, she looks up at him. "I am unsure how to show you. All I know is that she is very, very jealous, as if she /owned/ you. I cannot believe you were blind to her attempts to show me that she was more important to you, at least in the past, than I ever could have been, or could be." She bites her lip, not having planned on saying so much.

 

"But /why/ would she..." He stops himself, seeing that wondering why isn't helping, and thinking about what she is saying. He wants to deny it, to say that surely Aurelia would not be so cruel as to say such a thing--and she /didn't/, he knows that much. She didn't /say/ it. But /did/ she mean it? /Could/ she? The pit in his stomach, as he remembers other times she has been cruel like that, remembers the way she has treated him in the past, says yes. He takes a breath, opening his mouth and then shutting it again, as still more recollections make him pause. Her words at the picnic...her sudden kindness towards him... He had assumed that it was because he was married and no longer pressuring her to love him. And yet...she /did/ almost seem as if she was...well, /flirting/ with him...and the smile she wore, now he comes to think of it, was the one she always used to wear when she was angry. "I..." he manages at last, not knowing what to say. "Good heavens..."

 

Pippa has to stop herself from rolling her eyes, knowing the unkind gesture is rude and would be completely unproductive. Perhaps there is no point in this conversation. Perhaps Philip will never understand, or even admit, that his /friend/ would act the way she did. He sits for so long in silence, that she wonders if he even cares enough to talk about it any further. He said he would not disbelieve her, but perhaps he does anyway. His friendship with Lady Aurelia may simply mean enough to him, that he will not hear anything ill about her. She considers simply getting up and leaving him to the window seat. Eventually her feeling of betrayal would fade and they would settle into at least something comfortable. She begins to stand, ready to leave, when he speaks finally. She looks down at him with a frown. "What is it?"

 

Startled by her words, having almost forgotten she was there, Philip looks up at her and blinks. "She was--Pippa..." And as soon as he says it, shame floods over him, for not having seen it before. How could he have missed it? He stares at his wife for a moment longer, and then covers his face with his hands. "I am a /fool/," he mutters. Taking a deep breath, he looks up at her again, standing and going to her, taking her hands in his and kneeling beside her. "PIppa--my love...I am /so/ sorry. I...all I can say in my defense is that I truly didn't see what she was doing. But...but you are quite right. I still do not understand /why/ she was so horrid to you, but...you are right. She /was/."

 

As he moves to kneel beside her, she frowns. When he apologizes, tears spring to her eyes, and a lump comes to her throat. She bites her lip against crying, though her chin still wobbles a bit. Unsure of why his sudden realization of what had happened is making her wish to cry, she looks down at him, not knowing what to say. Her legs feel suddenly too weak to remain standing, and she sinks down onto the window seat again, staring at him. "You do not know why? Truly? I thought it was so plain." She should be relieved that he finally believes her, and perhaps she will be, but part of her is still too hurt to allow herself to simply let it go and be happy again as if nothing happened.

 

He frowns, thinking hard and shaking his head. "Well...you said she was jealous...but why would she be? She always rejected my advances. If she wished to marry me, why would she not simply accept me in the first place?" It's half an honest question, and half just...protest. He still hates to think such things of Aurelia, hates the idea that she would be so...so /selfish/. Not his childhood friend. And yet...it seems undeniable.

 

Dashing away tears that have fallen with the back of her hand, she looks away from him again. "I do not know her, Philip. Perhaps it was that you were the one she could count on to... to want her. Or... that you were always sure to love her and pursue her. And then you stopped, then you turned that attention on someone else, someone who actually returned your feelings." She shrugs and sniffles back her tears. "You would know better than me. All I know is that she thought you were hers to have, and now you are not, she is angry about it. And would do anything she could think of to hurt me, because I am to blame."

 

He listens to her conjectures, the sick feeling in his stomach worsening. He can't help it--as much as he doesn't want to believe she is right, he has the distinct feeling that she is. At her last words, however, he shakes his head. "Oh--sweetheart, /no/. You are not to blame--not for anything! If--if she feels that way...it is her own fault, and mine, I suppose. Perhaps I should have told her when I fell in love with you..." Seeing how upset his Pippa is makes him speak more strongly. "But she has no right to be jealous. She had multiple opportunities to take me up on my offers, and she did not. That was her choice, not yours. You did /nothing/ wrong."

 

The idea of him making offers to Lady Aurelia, how he seems to have tried not only once but many times to win her love, makes her cry in earnest, despite herself. She tries to be angry again, but can only think of him wishing to be with Lady Aurelia and how she is his second choice. Everything could be so different now, and she cannot help but wonder if he would, given the chance, be with Lady Aurelia now. Again, she tries to wipe the tears from her face, turning away so he cannot see her like this.

 

"Pippa--" he says helplessly, seeing how he seems only to have upset her /more/. He is feeling lost again, unsure what to say or how to say it in order to reassure. He rests a gentle hand at her chin, turning her head back towards him and bending forward to kiss her tears away. "Sweetheart," he murmurs between kisses, "what can I do to help?"

 

Pippa does not resist as he turns her face back to look at him, though her tears still fall. She tries to hold them back, as impossible at that seems to be, but fails miserably. Staring at him for a moment, she finally speaks, her voice trembling a bit. "Would you... if you were given the chance, would you be with her now?" Looking down at her hands in her lap, she continues. "Instead of me? If she had accepted your many offers, maybe you would be happier."

 

He stares at her for a moment, his mouth hanging open slightly in shock. Then he speaks, as firmly as he can. "/No./ Not a bit of it. If I had been given the chance /before/ I met you, perhaps. But since I fell in love with you, it has been /only/ you, and if she had relented since then, I should have told her exactly that. I do not care for her in the same way anymore--only as a friend, and...and perhaps I ought to rethink even that, with the way she acted towards you. I do not want anyone hurting you in the way she has so clearly done, and since she apparently did so on purpose...well." He shakes his head. "That is something I will not stand for, my darling, and so I shall tell her whenever I see her next."

 

Perhaps she should not doubt whether or not he will say that Lady Aurelia is not what he wants, but there is still a part of her that does until he speaks. And the sureness in his voice makes her exhale a shuddering, relieved breath. She feels guilty now for doubting him, for being angry and hurt. Even so, she cannot stop herself from asking, despite how very certain he sounds, "Are you sure? She is very pretty." It sounds foolish in her ears, but the words have come out and she hates them. She closes her eyes, inwardly berating herself. "I only mean... I suppose I just wonder what I could have possibly done to make you change your mind, your heart, if you were so in love with her that you made so many offers." When he says he will tell Lady Aurelia how he feels about the way she behaved, Pippa is the one to shake her head. "Oh, you mustn't do that. She will only hate me more... I cannot bear the thought of what she might do."

 

 

He strokes her cheek, giving her a small, gentle smile. "I am /entirely/ sure, my dear. She /is/ very pretty...but I prefer you. You are kind. You make me laugh. You are loving, and unconventional, and I am lucky to have you as my wife. When I made her those offers, I was young and foolish. I /did/ love her, but I did not know how to go about being in love. And when she refused me, I just...tried again. I pushed her, when the gentlemanlike thing to do would have been to take her no and be done with it. I ought not to have done so, and I am very glad now that she did not accept me, for then I would not have you." As she shakes her head and says he must not tell her, he hesitates. "I...are you certain? I shall do just as you wish, my dearest, for I owe you no less than that, but if you would /like/ me to tell her off, you must let me know that, for I will."

 

His words make her feel slightly less uncertain. Enough that she ventures a rather watery smile, though it still does not quite meet her eyes. Sniffling, she leans her forehead against his and closes her eyes. In a very quiet voice, she says, "And I am lucky to have you too. I am sorry I have been so miserable to be around. It was not my intention to make you unhappy as well." She sighs as he offers again to tell Lady Aurelia how terrible she has been. It is a tempting offer, but she shakes her head again. "No, it would only give her more reason to be cruel toward me. I do not think I could bear it."

 

Philip's thumb rubs up and down her cheek still as he speaks, softly and gently. "It's alright. I understand, sweet; you need not apologize." He wishes her smile were happier, but he doesn't know what to do to help any more than he already has, so all he can really do is hope that she feels better soon. In response to her rejection of his offer to talk to Aurelia, he nods. "Alright, then. I would hope that she would not take the opportunity to be cruel, but...but I do not think I trust her not to. Not anymore. And in any case, you have told me what you wish me to do, and so I shall do exactly as you like." He sighs a little. "I am just...I am sorry I made you unhappy. I hope you know that I do love you."

 

Pippa leans her cheek into his hand and sighs. "If I thought she would not be so terrible, I would tell you to make it clear that her behaviour is not acceptable. Sadly, I just know she would be." Turning her face, she kisses his palm before looking back at him. "You didn't make me unhappy. Well... not exactly. Lady Aurelia made me unhappy. And my own assumptions that you might care for her more than you do for me. It was foolish though, as I know now. And I do know you love me. I love you as well. If I did not, what she said and did would not have made me so unhappy."

 

He sighs, too. "Yes, I suppose very likely she would be." He wishes he knew what happened to the girl he used to know. "She used to be so different..." he murmurs, and then shakes his head. "But she has clearly changed." At her kiss to his palm, he smiles a tiny bit. "Well...I am glad I was not the one to make you unhappy, then. And your thoughts were not foolish...not when she put them into your head. I am glad you love me, though," he adds, "for I do truly love you, as well. And I have missed your happy face and your laughter."

 

"It matters little how she used to be, if she is so horrid now," Pippa says, mostly to herself. She wishes he did not hold on so tightly to the memory of how Lady Aurelia was before, as it makes her doubts rear their ugly heads again. Fighting off another frown, she forces a smile. "I am sorry I've been terrible to be around. You deserve so much better than that. I will do my best to smile more."

 

He frowns in a worried way at her first words, unsure he agrees with them. He can tell he's made her unhappy again, and he's not sure what to do, but shakes his head when she apologizes again. "No, no--that was not what I meant. Do not smile unless you feel inclined to... I only meant that I hope you will be happier now. I hope that I can /make/ you happier now.../naturally/, not because you think I want you to be..." He stops, feeling tongue-tied, and grimaces a little. "Oh, dear. I cannot seem to say things the way I mean them just now."

 

His frown causes her to fight back another wave of doubt, her eyes straying to the window as her brow furrows slightly. After he speaks again, she finally looks back at him. "I cannot promise when I will feel inclined to. I've been stuck in my own head of late, and I fear I do not know just how to get out of it." She smiles slightly at his inability to speak the words he means, though it still doesn't quite reach her eyes. "It is fine, Philip. Do not feel as if you must spend your days simply trying to make me happy. There are a million other things you could be doing."

 

He nods. "That's alright. I do not expect you to be happy all at once. I just...I hope you will be able to be soon. Because /you/ want to, not because /I/ do. Because...because I /do/ want you to...because you /deserve/ happiness. And that is why I /want/ to spend my days making you happy. That is one reason I married you, my darling...because I wanted to spend my /life/ making you happy."

 

"Thank you, love. I do appreciate your desire to do so. But try not to let it keep you from doing things you enjoy." She moves so she is leaning against him, needing to feel him against her. Trying to think of some way to change the topic, she chews on the inside of her cheek. It cannot be enjoyable for him to feel he has to cheer her up when she is not feeling very cheery at all at the moment. "How are your studies going, dear? Well I hope. Are you nearly through with them?"

 

He isn't entirely convinced, but her words do help a little, and he is glad to hold her close when she leans on him. Pressing a kiss to the top of her head, he nods. "Alright. I just...I want to try sometimes." He allows the change of topic, deciding that if she doesn't want to talk about it, she shouldn't have to. "They are going fairly well for the most part. I did hit a bit of a sticking point recently, but I think I have figured it out. And I believe I am nearly through, yes. Another month or two, and I think I should be ready." He is rather excited by the idea.

 

"I would offer to help, but the law is not one of the things that has ever piqued my curiosity. I'm afraid I would be a rather dreadful tutor on the subject." She does smile slightly at this. Entwining her fingers through his, she looks at him out of the corner of her eye - the best she can do from this angle. "Still months? I should have thought you would be closer by now. I suppose I did not take into account how difficult the subject could be."

 

He smiles as well, both at her smile and at her words. "No, no, I am sure you would be a wonderful tutor on any subject you chose to teach! You would just have to make things up instead of teaching something you knew!" He squeezes her hand and looks a little sheepish. "Yes, well...I estimated six months when I spoke to your father about marrying you. I think that is still accurate... It is a difficult subject, certainly. I hope I have done my best with it, and will continue to try to hurry. I am sorry it is taking so long. I know it is difficult to be married to one who has no proper income of his own."

 

"I think that might be less than helpful in this case. I am sure the group of people who determine your ability to work in the law would not be impressed with made up facts." Lifting her head from his shoulder, she looks at him and shakes her head. "Do not hurry. It would do no good to rush things and end up failing. I am sure you are doing your best with it. I hold no blame over you at all. Your father has been kind enough to help and Papa is willing to as well while we get our feet under us."

 

He laughs softly. "Very true, I suppose they would not be. Though they might be impressed at your imagination." He watches her with some worry, and squeezes her hand again. "If you are sure, then. I do worry for you. I dislike being unable to support you myself...though our fathers are both very kind to help us. But I want to make you happy in any way I can, and I want you to have all the pretty things you deserve."

 

"Oh tosh, I do not need pretty things. Not unless they are pretty books, but those are very expensive indeed." Shrugging, she pulls his hand to her mouth to kiss it. She is feeling slightly better, even if not entirely herself yet. "As long as you are doing your best at your studies then I am satisfied. I only wish there was some way I could help, rather than lazing about uselessly." She sighs, as this has been on her mind frequently up until the picnic. "Unfortunately, there are not many professions available to a young lady, and even those would bring more trouble than they are worth for those of our standing in society."

 

Philip smiles. "Well, I should like to buy you pretty books, then, if those are what you desire." His smile widens at her kiss to his hand, and he nods. "I am glad, then, for I am doing my best. But, love, you must not worry about helping. It is my job to provide for you, and I am very glad to do so. Besides, you make things easier for me just by being here, and loving me. It is quite enough, I assure you." He kisses her cheek.

 

Lifting her head from his shoulder, she gives him a doubtful look. "Yes, but it would only be until you finished your studies, and I should greatly like to feel useful." In truth, being useful would get her out of her own head, and into something which could bring satisfaction. "Perhaps I could teach children something. How to... read or sing or something." She frowns, realizing that it might only bring into question Philip's ability to provide for her, and she would not wish to do that. "Or perhaps not. You must at least tell me how I might help you study."

 

He considers that. He can understand how she would like to feel useful, and if it would help her, he doesn't want to deprive her of it. "Well...I do not know about teaching children, but I suppose if you really wish to, you might help me organize my books and papers. They are quite in a mess, and I continue to make a wreck of them even after I organize them. It takes time I could be putting to use with studying. Would that be an acceptable way to help? Only if it is not, or if you should not like to do it, you must tell me so, for that is quite alright, too."

 

She smiles the closest thing to a genuine smile she has in a while. "Oh, I should be happy to help in any way I can. I used to help Papa keep his things organized. I shall get started on them in the morning, unless you wish me to begin tonight." Somehow knowing she can be useful to him, makes her feel a bit less weighed down by her thoughts. She will have something to distract her, something to give her a sense of direction at least until they have children for her to care for.

 

Her smile once again draws one from him, and he nods. "You may start whenever you like, my dear. I will be happy to have your help. Thank you." He is very glad to see her seeming a bit happier, and glad that he can help encourage that. He will have to think of other things she can do to help, if helping makes her happy.

 

As soon as he consents, she kisses him on the cheek and rises. "Then I believe I will start now. I promise not to throw anything away until you've had the chance to look at it and will try to have a system that makes sense so you know where to find things." She seems almost excited for the prospect of helping, and kisses him on top of the head before leaving him sitting in the window seat by himself.

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Posted : 13/07/2018 6:04 pm
  
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