She's so close to me. That is the one thing it seems I will never be able to grow accustomed to...how it feels to have her here, so close to me, for so long, for hours at a time, warm in my arms.
I wish she would sleep...every so often I think she has drifted off, here in the twilight, her head pillowed on my chest, and then she will clutch me closer, or I will feel the sudden tears that she has been holding back for a quarter of an hour, and all I can do is hold her tightly and try to make her forget that I must leave with the dawn. I wish she would go to sleep..I wish I could hold her, quiescent, unaware, asleep in my arms, and I could carry her into her bedroom when the first hint of rose touches the east, and lay her down, and kiss her goodbye before I must leave for Dover, the Daydream...and France. If she could pass even a few hours, a few hours in blissful ignorance...
But she will not sleep, for the same reasons I will not. I don't want to lose a single moment, a single look, I want to remember her every word and glance and each time she draws breath. Both of us live so very much on memories...
How long can we do this? Heaven only knows what she suffers, what I force her to endure...Margot, my Margot, I have to come back to you, one day, for good, if only to try and by the rest of my life atone for these hellish three years.
I want to look at her face, but I am afraid to move....she's been still for so long now, perhaps she is, after all, asleep. It is so beautiful a night...the stars, and the remnants of the sun, it is dark under the trees but out here, by the river, there is still half-light...it will get cold. We will have to go inside if it gets cold...I don't want her to grow ill. Perhaps if she is well and truly asleep by then I can cover her with my coat, and we can stay out here...it is peaceful out here, it is neither France nor London. Here I am not the Pimpernel or the fop, the hero or the fool..here I am no one but her husband, her lover. I would rather be that than anything else..
No, no, darling, please, be still...be still...there...oh, I wish she would sleep, so that she wouldn't know when I leave. And she is so beautiful when she sleeps...she is always beautiful, but when her eyes are closed and her lips are parted and she screws up her nose as if she were seven years old...the only flaw in the pleasure of watching her then is how desperately I want to kiss her awake.
And her hair, that lies against my hand like silk, that is the envy of half the women in London, that behaves so angelically when she torments it into the dozens of styles in fashion nowadays...it becomes a different entity when it touches the pillow. I have never told her why I laugh, sometimes, when she first wakes up and peers at me, blinking, with a flaming bush like that which confronted Moses atop her head...I love her so much.
It is true and fully dark now, and soon the moon will rise over the river. *I* should sleep..I know that--I should eat, too. Have we eaten today..? I think not...we fled Richmond for the Nest here this morning, to be alone with each other, and so close to Dover that we need not say goodbye until the very last moment...we arrived here and have been in the garden all day, her hand in mine and her head against my shoulder. She should certainly have eaten...and I should eat before I leave, I should rest, and eat, because tomorrow I will need to think.
I should shake myself, yawn, and say something flippant about the lateness of the hour...I should lead her inside, and kiss her goodnight, and then sleep, fully dressed, on the couch in the library until just before dawn, and mount Sultan rested and prepared...but I think I will stay here. I can rest, and I can eat, on the Daydream...a few hours' sleep and a meal from the galley and I shall enter France a new man. But this...I need this, to sustain me, to hold me up. God, God in heaven, thank You for at least these times we have...to think I might have lost this, long ago, I might have remained blind and stubborn my whole life and seen her always as a torment, a cruelty, something to be avoided for my own sanity...my Margot, my own wife..!!
And I could yet lose her, through my own recklessness...I keep forgetting what my life means to her, if not to myself, perhaps because I cannot understand why she values me so..
I cannot think on that, any more than she can. We must both put it behind us...live from moment to moment, from day to day, and acknowledge only to God in our prayers and to ourselves in the feverish strength of an embrace the danger, the peril...dread would not defer it or hasten it, what will be will be. But oh, Father, don't take me to You just yet...I trust her to You, of course, but, well...I would like to care for her as well myself, for at least a little while. You did give her to me for that, did You not?
Faith. Just faith...what will be will be. My darling Marguerite..my wife, my own.
It is cold..she's been still for so long, perhaps she is asleep, perhaps I dare...careful...careful, careful, don't wake her...oh, it isn't going to work. My tailor is brilliant but even he has not designed a coat that can be discreetly removed when one is lying on one's back with a beautiful woman nestled against one.
I love to carry her...she weighs scarcely more than a child..she was not a weight even that night on the beach, when my strength was nearly gone from me...perhaps it is half the joy of the service, though, of holding her in my arms. The moonlight on her face, and the starlight in her hair, and her nose is screwed most undeniably up...it is more difficult to think of leaving her now than it ever is when she holds me and looks at me with eyes that plead no matter how much she tries to be stoic; her gaze tells the truth when she will not allow herself to try and hold me back. She seems almost helpless, almost frightened, now... I want to hold her here, in my arms, where she is safe, where nothing can touch her that must not go through me first...I would shield her even from heartache, from worry, from anything but bliss. Surely there is a way to block evil with your body as one would block a weapon.
Into bed, gently, and cover her warmly..it is cold tonight, it will be bitter on the Channel in the morning. She must not catch cold.
I could sit here for hours, and watch her, her breathing, the way her face moves, now and again, as she dreams...I verily believe that were I home always I would spend every night here. There could be no greater happiness than the freedom to never do anything but drive away her nightmares...
It can do no harm to lay down beside her, only for a moment, and hold her in my arms again...if she did not wake when I carried her in from the garden she will hardly wake now, deeply asleep...and I want to hold her....but no, I haven't the time. It is gone three, somehow...I HAVE sat here for hours...it is gone three and I must be preparing to go. I could give myself a moment if I knew it would only be a moment, but it will not...I would lay beside her, and gather her in my arms, and watch her eyelashes and her lips, and it would take the noon sun to break my reverie.
Goodbye, Marguerite, mon aime...
PercyBlakeney adjusted the covers once more, carefully, and then gently stooped and kissed his unmoving wife, brushing his lips against her forehead, her nose, her closed eyes, and at last her lips. He trailed his hand across her fingers, lying outside the coverlet, and at last forced himself from the room.
His footsteps had
no sooner died away into the corridor than Marguerite cautiously opened
one eye, then the other, and raised herself in bed, apparently quite wide
awake. She sat there, wordless, her only movement a silent mouthing
of a petition for strength and his safety, until, nearly two hours later,
the distant pounding of a horse's hooves drifted through the predawn stillness
into her bedchamber in thecottage. She held her hands tightly together
a moment, paused, and then buried her face in the pillow lest, even a quarter
mile away, her husband hear the sobs that would sway him from his purpose.
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