"Kind of your brother and Robert to leave us unchaperoned for a moment." Matthew said awkwardly.
"They always like to go to the nursery before they dress for dinner." Lennie replied cooly. "Especially..." she paused. "Especially here in...in this unfamiliar place." She inhaled. "Just to make sure that Colin isn't bothered by the change in surroundings."
"I am sure he isn't." Matthew smiled. "He's a hearty little chap."
"Yes, he is." Lennie nodded. "However, even the heartiest of us can find some things to be troubling."
Matthew let out a small sigh. "Darling, I am truly sorry for what I said earlier. You know how I can be when I talk, I...I simply don't think about what I'm saying. I've been too long with gentlemen. Men don't listen to one another. I've been too much at my club. There, a man has no interest in what the man next to him is saying. I've become so accustomed to saying whatever pops into my mind that I don't consider that it could hurt someone's feelings. Women are so sensitive."
"Women are?" Lennie raised an eyebrow. "I assure you, you offended my brother and Robert as well."
"Well, they're rather like women, aren't they?"
"You see..." Matthew said quickly. "There I go again. I..."
"Oh, do stop, Matthew."
"Darling, please be patient with me. You must understand, as my wife, you'll need to take on a position wherein you will be required to be more..."
"What, Matthew?" Lennie asked. "Timid?"
"In a way." Matthew blushed.
"Oh, Matthew. Feminine timidity went out of fashion with the peruke. I've made my contribution to the coffers of timidity. Just the once, when I gave my name and my very life to Orpha Polk. And, then, I only did so out of sheer fatigue and exhaustion. Also, fear. yes, fear. I need not do that again, Matthew. Look what it cost. Years of agony. How many people lost their lives because of that nod to being the weak female? I was depleted to feed the temerity of a monster who tore open several households. How did that end, Matthew? What was the result of my timidity? An incestuous union which produced a two-headed, cannibalistic baby. Could there be a more fitting metaphor? I shan't silence myself again. I will never sit back and hold my tongue. Not for you. Not for anyone. I will never be made silent nor fearful again."
"I am not asking you to fear me." Matthew shook his head. "I'm merely pleading with you to be patient with me." He began to pace. "Your previous timidity didn't cause Orpha Polk to do those things. Orpha's wickedness caused them. Darling, consider what else came from that chapter of your life. You found your long lost brother who finally allowed you to know who you truly are, who embraced you into the heart of his very powerful family, to the Royal Court. He's given you a nephew, a brother-in-law of sorts, a household of friends, a new aunt, and, even an adopted niece who, albeit slightly deranged, of whom you seem to be fond. It even brought you to me--such as I am."
"Yes, that's true." Lennie replied sincerely.
"I say, Lennie, I know I'm maddening. I say all the wrong things. I'm daft at times. I'm awkward. I am not without fault. I can be weak. I suppose you must accept these things of me as...well, as I must accept your strength. I must accept your strength of mind, your strong opinions, your convictions, and the fact that you will always seek to protect those who need it. You're so like your brother that way. It won't be difficult to accept those things about you because those because those are the traits about you which I most admire. Which I most love. I can accept all things because I love you. I say, that's all there is, darling. I love you. I hope that, you can accept me for the same reasons. My character is not as alluring, I confess, but I can offer, at least--stability."
"Of course, I can, Matthew." Lennie smiled. "I am quite sure you've found me most difficult this afternoon. I can only tell you that since we've arrived here, we have not gotten much sleep, and, I think we are all a bit on our edge."
"Perhaps we can start anew at dinner?"
"Yes, I think we should." Lennie nodded, offering her hand.
Did you miss Chapters 1-66 of A Recipe for Punch? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 68.