Miss Darcy Falls in Love is the seventh publication in The Darcy Saga sequel series to Pride and Prejudice. I leave the Darcys in England, traveling with Georgiana Darcy to France. This is HER story of finding love and discovering her future.
I am sharing a whole chapter, this one titled “Composing a Friendship” and is Chapter 2 of the Second Movement: Exposition. Yes, music is a major theme!
For more information about Miss Darcy Falls in Love, click to this page: http://sharonlathanauthor.com/…..ls-in-love
Composing a Friendship
Long fingers moved effortlessly over the keys, the melody pouring from the piano harmonious and emotive. Georgiana stood to the side of the fine instrument, palms flat upon the gleaming wood to feel the vibration, eyes closed, and body swaying slightly as the music flowed through her. Sebastian Butler watched her with a pleased smile as he played.
Composing and playing music was a compulsion for him, an obsession, if you will, that had been a driving force for as far back as his memories existed. Lady Essenton was musically inclined, quite skilled in fact, although unable to utilize her talent other than teaching her children. She had created an environment consisting of songs and instruments, demanding that all of her six children learn the basics. Lord Essenton agreed that the girls needed to play and sing, considering the accomplishment a worthy one for entertaining family and guests, but he discouraged his son from learning what he deemed a female pursuit.
However, it was Sebastian who had shown a true gift, and by the time he was ten, his skill had far surpassed anyone else in the household. There were few instruments he could not play. Strings, drums, woodwinds, pipes—he was curious about everything, picking up any instrument he found and learning how to play whether by instruction or instinct. The pianoforte and piano were his chosen preferences, but he could manage nearly any instrument.
Rare was the piece of music he was unable to master within days. His voice, a fluid baritone with an octave from high bass notes to low tenor, was an inborn gift that only improved with training. His compositions, while perhaps not brilliant or revolutionary, were beautiful and varied in style. For all of this, he owed the greatest debt to his mother, and now his grandmother as well. They had presented a united force against his father, who thought Sebastian’s musical studies a waste of time. They insisted he fulfill his dreams now, while the duty of estate management was not a burden he needed to bear. The current tenuous peace with his father had been harshly bought.
Over time, he had discovered that as tremendous as his joy was in learning about and creating music, a higher pleasure was felt in observing the response of others as he performed. Being able to share the transcendent bliss he experienced via music was indescribable. Clearly Miss Darcy was enjoying the composition. He snuck a peak at Mrs. Annesley, Miss Darcy’s companion and chaperone, and his surge of contentment redoubled, as she was sitting in the far corner, embroidery forgotten in her lap and eyes glazed as she enjoyed the music.
He lifted his voice, adding French lyrics of love and eternity. Georgiana opened her eyes, smiling happily as he completed the ballad. She clapped her hands, Sebastian bowing his head with a grin.
“Do you think she will be pleased?”
“Oh, how could she not? It was beautiful. Lady Vivienne will be overjoyed and weeping hysterically!”
“That, I am afraid, is not a conclusive sign of praise, as my sentimental sister cries at the drop of a hat,” he said with a laugh. “She shall be a dewy mess all through the ceremony is my guess. Luckily, de Marcov is aware of her propensity for tears and loves her anyway, poor sod.”
“Well, I am certain a portion shall be due to your song, Mr. Butler. Tomorrow will be a day of remembrance on numerous levels.”
“I do wonder about this part,” he said, playing a set of chords. “It feels, not quite perfect. Like it needs a… dissonance.” Georgiana said the last word simultaneously, Sebastian meeting her eyes with an exuberant grin. “You hear it as well!”
“Yes. Something to add an emphasis as to what is coming, to draw attention. But not too harsh, Mr. Butler.”
“Indeed, no. And only for maybe two or three chords. How about this?” He played the section again, altering the notes ever so slightly, the subtle instability of the new arrangement underscored by the lifting tone and blending smoothly with the composition, while evoking a visceral charge in the listener. It was incredible and transformed the entire piece.
“Bravo!” Georgiana clapped. “Stupendous. Your sister will indeed be a puddle of tears! May I, please?”
“Of course!” He rose from the bench, waving his hand in front of the piano. “You know the piece as well as I, and it helps to hear it from another’s fingertips.” She assumed his place on the bench, fingers brushing over the keys as he leaned over her right shoulder to arrange the sheets of music properly. “There. Start from the top and play it through to the end, if you do not mind, Miss Darcy.”
She nodded her head. “My pleasure,” she murmured, fingers testing the initial notes as she concentrated on the papers before her.
Sebastian smiled, glancing downward as he straightened. Completely unconsciously, he had positioned himself so that he was afforded a direct view of her generous bosom, the soft swell and dark line of her cleavage readily visible. The sweet aroma of her flowery perfume rose from her ivory skin. A jolt surged through his body. Desire assaulted every muscle like a tidal wave that rushed and surged chaotically, settling in his gut and groin with a painful crash.
He stifled a gasp, stepped hastily backward several paces, and willed his racing heart to slow. His reaction was so utterly unexpected that his befuddled mind froze. Numbed yet excruciatingly aroused, he could only breathe deeply and wait for the tremors to pass.
She is beautiful, he reasoned, a fact he had recognized two years ago, at her debut ball in London at Darcy House. Sebastian Butler was assuredly a man who appreciated and desired those of the opposite sex, but for so long his focus has been on study. Matters of serious courtship were never considered, and sexuality was largely suppressed except for a handful of brief dalliances. His genial fraternization with persons of both genders was natural and rarely led to thoughts of sex. Never had he experienced a powerful reaction to a woman, as he had now twice with Miss Darcy, and it was disturbing.
He closed his eyes, allowing the waves of music and her sweet soprano to wash the troubles away, swiftly deciding that it was nothing more than a purely physical response heightened by his long abstinence.
Georgiana finished the cantata, turning to Mr. Butler for his opinion. He had regained his equilibrium, the flush of arousal passed, and he bowed appreciatively. “Beautiful! You should play it rather than I.”
She stood, shaking her head and laughing. “I shall be in Paris while you are dazzling the wedding guests, Mr. Butler. Perhaps someday you can amuse me with the tale of how weepy the assembly was.”
“I shall see you in Paris, will I not, Miss Darcy?” He ignored the faint tightness of dismay that banded about his chest and kept his friendly smile intact. “I promised to take you to the Conservatoire, remember?”
“Indeed, you did, but I would not hold you to such a promise, sir, if your schedule does not permit excessive free time for recreation. Your studies are far more important than entertaining me.”
“My studies will not commence in earnestness until autumn. Entertaining you is a prospect I hold in high regard, I promise. It will be my pleasure.”
“Thank you. I do appreciate the offer and confess I would be saddened to miss a private tour of the Conservatoire. Nevertheless, it is undoubtedly fortunate I will be departing before long, since I fear my curiosity to hear of your every adventure is inexhaustible. If given free reign, I would monopolize your every waking minute with questions!”
“And I would not complain,” he assured, resuming his seat at the pianoforte and pretending to study the keys while tapping an improvised tune. “Are you anxious to return to England? Are you weary of traveling?”
“Not the traveling exactly,” she answered after a pause to consider. “I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing places I’ve previously only read about and meeting people from such diverse cultures. However, I have realized that I prefer familiarity surrounding me.”
“You miss your home.”
“I do. Pemberley and, to a lesser degree, Darcy House have been the only dwelling places I have ever known. Our hosts have been hospitable and our lodgings comfortable, for the most part. Yet there is a sense of security and belonging that I have not felt since leaving our shores. I suppose that sounds odd.”
“No. I understand your meaning. I have felt the same unease upon occasion, and I experience my moments of pining for home. However, I started young with boarding school and then Oxford, always with the plan to travel abroad set within my mind and preparing my heart.”
“Or perhaps you do possess a portion of wanderlust despite your denial.”
“Indeed! Perhaps you are correct, but I shall avoid confronting the truth, in case I decide it is an attribute I possess and I am then struck with an uncontrollable urge to sail to the Orient!”
“Ah, but this might be an excellent urge. You could learn from the Kunqu and Sichuan opera masters, incorporate German and French influences, thus creating a masterpiece unparalleled.”
“And unwatchable, I am sure.” He shook his head, laughing and gazing at her with respect. “Chinese Opera. Who would have thought? Is there anything you do not know, Miss Darcy?”
“Very little,” she declared, hiding her smile, “and what I do not yet know I shall extract from your brain. I did warn you, Mr. Butler.”
“Yes, you did. Extract as you wish and then use that knowledge to compose your own Chinese-German opera. I am beginning to believe you may be wrong in which of us should move about the world.”
He wagged his finger at her, Georgiana batting it playfully away and shaking her head. “I confess that I imagine watching a Chinese Opera would be a spectacular experience, but the lengthy journey there is utterly unappealing. The green fields of Derbyshire are calling to me. I shall leave the traveling to those better suited for the lifestyle—after I monopolize their precious time, that is.”
He opened his mouth to assert that he considered spending time with her as precious, but the parlor door opened, revealing a footman.
“Sir, the carriage is prepared and awaiting your pleasure.”
The foul weather of the week before had left behind air that was crisp and replete with the fresh aromas of damp soil and washed foliage. It remained cold, but the sky was an endless blue, free of any clouds to obscure the sun’s warming rays, making the short ride a very pleasant one. The whitewashed, brick church was larger than either had expected based on de Marcov’s description. It was undoubtedly very old, the paint chipped in numerous places and gaps present in the mortar, but the garden was well tended and the pathways clear. Located on the northern edge of the small village of Issoire, on the outskirts of Lyon, it was surrounded by homes and businesses. The dirt and cobbled streets were far from busy, but enough people roamed about to indicate a thriving community.
The musée de musique was housed in a long, two-story building that had once been a convent, but new quarters for the resident nuns had been built some fifty years ago. The vacated rooms began as storage, the priests and nuns finally realizing that the accumulation of old instruments, sheet music, and other relics could be arranged into a semblance of order. The modest museum that began as a simple way to increase the church’s revenue, rapidly evolved into a full-scale museum, as local residents, many who were exceedingly wealthy, donated to the collection.
Georgiana and Mr. Butler were immediately impressed. “It will never compete with the Louvre, but it is nice,” Mr. Butler noted with wry humor and a grin.
They wandered together, Mrs. Annesley allowing them the space to talk without fear of eavesdropping, although neither paid the companion much mind, their attention drawn to the displays and the conversation evoked.
“Can you play the harpsichord, Miss Darcy?” he asked, as they stood before a seventeenth-century Blanchet.
“Yes. We have one at Pemberley. My mother was quite adept, so I am told. I only vaguely remember her playing it. More of a sense, actually, most likely fabricated in my mind due to stories I have heard.”
“Perhaps, although I believe music is a strong stimulus to memory. Meaning that, if your mother did play the harpsichord frequently when you were young, your memory is sparked when you hear the unique tones produced by the instrument.”
“Yes, I can see the logic in that. Same with smells. I have always envisioned her when I smell roses, yet I was not told until years later that rose water was her favored perfume.”
“Is that why you favor the fragrance of roses?”
She blushed, surprised that he had noticed, and nodded.
“I am sorry you lost your mother so young,” he said softly, his gaze tender. “I cannot imagine. Do you have vivid memories of her?”
Georgiana shook her head. “Nothing vivid, sadly. Or at least I am unsure if what I recall are true remembrances or images conjured. There are several portraits within the house.” She paused, smiling fondly. “My father was deeply devoted to my mother and desired capturing her image as frequently as possible. Thus, my brother and I now have a wealth of reminders throughout the manor. I was only four when she died, but William was older and has forever sought to keep her alive for me. He recounts hundreds of stories, enumerating the tiniest details, conveying feelings as well as facts, all so clearly that sometimes it seems impossible that they are his memories and not mine.”
She looked up into Sebastian’s pale eyes that watched her with sympathy. “I am fortunate, from a certain perspective, that I was blessed with many more years with my father.”
“Was he a kind man? A devoted parent?”
She nodded her head emphatically. “Oh yes indeed, he was, but also extremely sad. He never recovered from mother’s death. William has told me of how altered he was after. I have no memory of him from before. To me, he was always affectionate, ready with a laugh and a tight embrace. Yet, I knew of his pain. He would tell me of mother, speaking of her as if she was still alive, which I suppose she was to him, in his heart. His voice would be sad, yet oddly joyful. He told me once that she gave him purpose and happiness, and that the best gifts of his life came from her. When I asked him what those gifts were, he said it was Fitzwilliam and me.” She smiled brightly, eyes moist. “Is that not beautiful?”
“Indeed, it is. And very true, I daresay.”
“I miss him, but content myself in knowing that he is with mother, the woman he loved so completely. He must be overjoyed and at peace, and they are no longer alone. Do you believe in such an afterlife, Mr. Butler?”
“I do. I am sure you are correct in your assumption, Miss Darcy. And I am thankful that God blessed you with a brother who is so devoted. Nevertheless, I am saddened at your losses at so young an age.” He smiled ruefully. “My father can annoy me no end, but I do revere and love him. I cannot fathom the day he will pass away, and not only because I will then be Lord Essenton and forced to relinquish my wayward existence.”
She chuckled, appreciating his lightening of the sad subject, and decided it was time to change the topic. “Oh, look. Hymnals. My, some of these are quite old.”
“I love hymns. They seem more… spiritual than sacred music alone.” He shrugged. “I suppose that makes no sense.”
“On the contrary. It makes perfect sense. The focus of a hymn is on praise and worship of God. The words are felt deep in your soul.”
“Have you heard many of the hymns of Charles Wesley?”
“Indeed, I have! They are among my favorites. Our rector at Pemberley Chapel met both the Wesley brothers and studied with them for a time. Theologically, I believe he greatly agreed with Mr. John Wesley, but in the end could not bear to break with the Church, but our services draw upon many tenets of the Methodist Movement.” She glanced over to see how Mr. Butler was accepting that borderline heresy, but he was staring at her with deep interest and no obvious censure. “My brother is better educated than I, but we Darcys have a strong faith.”
“Yes. My grandmother speaks reverently of her family’s devotion to religion, even if she has not precisely followed a strict moral code.” Again, the strong affection was evident in his voice, even when teasing about Lady Warrow’s eccentricities. “You may be interested, Miss Darcy, in some of the psalms I have placed to music.”
“Indeed, I am.”
He shook his head at her awed enthusiasm. “It is a hobby, one might say. Amid more serious compositions and study, I have been methodically compiling short hymns from the scriptures. I have often wondered how the creations of David may have sounded as originally place to music.” He laughed. “Presumptuous, I know. And of course they did not have pianos two millennia ago, so very different than my humble offerings to be sure.”
“All instruments are pleasing to God, Mr. Butler. And I would love to hear your hymns.”
“Once we are settled in Paris, I will dig them out for you to peruse. I would be greatly honored, and benefited, if you sang a few of them for me. Some are written for a soprano and your voice is beautiful.”
She flushed, nodding once before turning to the object beside the harpsichord. “A Silbermann pianoforte. Oh, this is a beautiful specimen, if a bit battered. We have a Silbermann at Pemberley, although it is a far later model than this one.”
“These markings here date it at 1737. They’ve improved the design considerably since then. Do you prefer the pianoforte to the piano?”
She pursed her lips, thinking carefully as she ran her hand over the smooth wood. “They are different. I like the softness, the tonal quality, and the sustain of a pianoforte. For my seventeenth birthday, my brother gifted me with a Stein from Vienna. Four years prior he had purchased a Broadwood piano with six octaves! Oh, it is a wonder and I adore it. It was a horrible extravagance to buy a second instrument of such magnitude so soon after the other, but he knew how I appreciated the varied registers of the pianoforte. He spoils me horribly.”
“He loves you immensely,” he corrected. “Have you read that Broadwood has invented a seven-octave piano?”
Her brows rose. “Truly? That must be amazing. You should write for such an instrument.”
He laughed. “Eventually, perhaps. I do plan to tour the Érard establishment while in Paris. He is on the innovative edge of piano development.” He glanced around, noting Mrs. Annesley unobtrusively standing at a far window, and leaned toward Georgiana, whispering conspiratorially, “I have penned a six-octave fugue, but do not think it very good, so do not tell anyone.” He winked.
She leaned closer, whispering back, “I wrote a six-octave sonata and think it quite good.”
His eyes opened wide, his mouth dropped open, and his hand instinctively moved to lightly grasp her forearm as his voice rose in surprise. “You wrote a sonata? How could you not tell me this? I am so proud of you! All this time talking about music, with me droning on egotistically about my achievements, and here you are a composer!”
“It is nothing compared to your accomplishments, Mr. Butler, truly. But”—she looked at him through her downcast eyes, her cheeks scarlet—“if it is not too much trouble… that is, if you have the time, later… maybe I could play my melodies for you? For your critique?”
He lifted her chin gently, his voice low and smile genuine. “We are friends, are we not, Miss Darcy? I would be privileged to hear your creations, and knowing your skill, I doubt if my critique is necessary.”
They stared into each other’s eyes with their faces less than a foot apart. He held her chin, fighting the urge to stroke his thumb over the warm softness of her flesh or, better yet, the inviting moistness of her lips. The lips that parted slightly, affording a glimpse of her teeth and the tongue behind, Sebastian vividly imagining how incredible it would feel to press his lips against hers, insert his tongue between, and touch…
With a shake he removed his fingers from her chin, clearing his throat gruffly as he straightened. “Well, I see that we have much to cover once settled in Paris: the Conservatoire, all this music to listen to, the Louvre, Érard’s, hymnals, my sister’s weeping. You shall grow quite ill of me, madam.”
“Unlikely, sir. Besides, I shall be leaving Paris by mid April at the latest.” She was surprised to hear a normal voice escaping her dried throat, the words distinct even though she did not consciously form them. How could she when the only thought inhabiting her brain was to wonder how it would feel to kiss Mr. Butler? She was scandalized by the impression, her heart pounding at the shock of such a notion. She slid her arm away from under his hand and pressed her palms flat onto the surface of the harpsichord, willing them not to tremble or betray her thoughts by caressing the skin where his bare hand had lain. Somehow she had to ignore the desire that burned over her flesh that begged to be touched.
“Oh? Your plans have become set?”
“A letter arrived today from my friend Miss Bennet. She is Mrs. Darcy’s sister and has recently become engaged. The wedding is scheduled for late April, and I must be there. So you see, I shall not long be around to distract your studies for the hassle of fulfilling promises, made in the heat of the moment, that you are too much of a gentleman to break. Honestly, Mr. Butler, please do not allow me to invade your purpose. You owe me nothing.”
“I enjoy our time together, Miss Darcy. It is in no way an imposition and none of the invitations I extended were hastily rendered. I quite know my own mind. And besides, my serious studies do not begin until the fall, when my enrollment at the Conservatoire begins. Until then, I am free to be spontaneous.”
Smiling gaily, he waved his arms in the air, using the gesture to shake off the lingering stupor and smother the strange stab of breathless sadness that entered his heart at the thought of her leaving.
They continued to wander about the rooms, conversation light and pleasant as they enjoyed their companionship and mutual interest. Their balance was restored amid talk of music, but it was not only Mrs. Annesley who was aware of the constant separation of several feet and the careful avoidance of touching each other.
* ~ * ~ *
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