Ginny Dewhurst: The Private Diaries (Part 2)
by La Riene Bleu

8th February, 1792

After a good night's sleep I have realised just how foolish I was
being yesterday. There was really no need to upset myself so much, it
was only a letter after all, and I am sure that Archie will not read
anything in to it that was not intended when I wrote those words. I
have acknowledged his note and that is all I need do nothing more,
and that will be an end to it. I should not let matters bother me so
much, there is really nothing in it, and I have decided to firmly
push the topic from my mind once and for all.

Besides, I have rather more interesting matters to attend to at the
moment, such as my approaching birthday. It is not every year that a
girl turns 18, and I have to say that I am feeling both excited and
apprehensive about it. I am hoping that it will mean I am treated
less like a child by certain people, but I have a feeling that could
be too much to ask for. I really cannot understand it, on the one
hand I am considered to be ready for marriage and all which that
entails, but on the other, I am not thought capable of being allowed
to travel further than Meg's without an escort of some sort. I cannot
help but find it rather tiresome, but as there is nothing I can do
about it I will stop fretting over it, for now at least.

Mother has been asking me for weeks now what I would like as a gift,
but I can honestly say that I can think of nothing that I wish to ask
her for, and her continuous harping on the subject has become more
than a little tiring. Anything that I needed I received at Christmas,
my wardrobe is fit to bursting and I have all the books I could
possibly want to keep me occupied for many a month to come yet. I
will have to think of something however, even if it is simply to keep
her from driving me to distraction with her constant questioning. It
could be worse I suppose, at least she has thought to ask me first
rather than taking the approach of some and inflicting the first
thing that captures their attention upon their unfortunate daughters.
I still shudder when I think of the monstrosity of a gown that Aunt
Beatrice gave Charlotte for her sixteenth birthday last year which
she had to pretend to be completely in love with so as not to hurt
her feelings.

On the positive side though, I have managed to persuade her that I do
not want a party this year, something that I was rather dreading. I
used the excuse that celebrations coming so close to Meg's party
would surely be looked upon as an attempt at competition, something
which was not a complete lie as I would hate for anyone to stir up
bad feeling between us by making such an observation, however false
it may be. The truth is, I simply cannot bear the thought of the fuss
and bother that would inevitably result from trying to arrange such
an event and would much rather forgo the pleasures that might be
gained from it if it means keeping such upheaval to a minimum. Now if
I can only think of something to tell Mother I would like as a gift,
then all will be well. There must be something I would like, I only
need to dwell on it for a while and I am sure to think of an idea. I
must stop writing now, my brother William and his wife are coming to
dinner and I really do not want to make Mother cross by being late.

9th February, 1792

Well it appears that the problem of a birthday gift has been
resolved, and most satisfactorily too by all accounts if I do say so
myself. Mother was a little hesitant to agree to the plan, but after
a relatively small amount of cajoling from myself and repeated
assurances from William that all would be well, she consented, and so
it seems that I am to be a free woman for a week.

But let me start at the beginning. Yesterday William and Caroline
visited for dinner, a pleasant prospect at the best of times as I
have missed William since he married and is no longer at home.
Caroline is nice enough too I suppose, a little dull for my taste
with hardly two words to string together since she is so shy, but
they love each other and that says a lot in this day and age. I only
hope that I may be as fortunate when my time comes, which is unlikely
to be the case I fear if Mother has her way. Anyway, once the
necessary pleasantries were dispensed with conversation turned to the
topic of my approaching birthday, and of course from there it was but
a short step to discussing what I planned to do in order to
celebrate.

"I've told you Mother. I do not want a fuss!" I insisted, cutting
off the rather lengthy description she was giving as to how awkward
and stubborn I was being over the whole affair.

"But Virginia" she continued, her voice at just the right tone to
irritate me still further.

"Ginny, Mother. For the last time, will you please call me Ginny!" I
exclaimed, trying hard to keep my temper from showing, but, I have to
admit, doing a rather poor job of it. I could see Caroline looking
uncomfortable at the scene that was unfolding in front of her, and
embarrassment more than anything else caused me to hold my tongue
when really I would have liked to give vent to the full set of
emotions that the incident was causing in me. I think I might have
finally given in as well, if it had not been for William's sudden
intervention which turned the conversation to a rather unexpected
matter.

"Ginny. Mother please. There is no need for such quarrelling!" he
insisted, the glance he shot in my direction when I opened my mouth
to protest ensuring that I quickly shut it again. "If you will just"

"It is her 18th Birthday, William!" Mother interrupted with a
sniff. "I am only trying to make the occasion a memorable one for my
only daughter, is that too much to ask?" I resisted the urge to snap
at her, hoping as I did so that I was right to trust in William and
his handling of the situation. I was not disappointed, as his next
words proved only too well that he had not forgotten how to deal with
Mother even though he has been away from home for just over a year
now.

"I am aware of that Mother, as is Ginny, and I am sure that she fully
appreciates that," he soothed, patting her arm comfortingly as he
spoke. "Besides" he added quickly before she could begin to speak
once more, "I too have been giving the matter of my sister's birthday
some thought, and I have a suggestion. It is something Caroline and I
have been talking over for a while now, and this seems like the
perfect opportunity to put the proposal to you." I looked from
William to Mother and back again, my interest truly piqued as I
tried to think what he could be about to suggest.

"What is it?" I prompted, leaning forward in my chair like a child in
my excitement. William smiled at me before turning once again to
Mother, showing her clearly by doing so that it was her opinion
rather than my own which he sought. I could not help but be impressed
with the way in which he could calm the situation with no more than a
look and a few simple words, and forced myself to remain silent
whilst he continued.

"Well we were wondering, and this is only if you agree of course
Mother, but we were thinking it would be rather nice if Ginny were to
come and stay with us for a while," he suggested carefully, watching
her face the whole time to gauge her reaction. As for myself, it took
all of my self-control not to make some noise to show my delight, and
somehow I forced myself to remain still as I waited with bated breath
for Mother to comment.

"But William" she began, and I felt my heart sink slightly. Surely
she was not about to refuse? Oh but of course she was, how could I
have ever thought otherwise? I need not have worried though, as he
quickly silenced her once more, his voice so calm and persuasive that
I could see no way for her to be able to refuse his offer.

"It will be perfectly alright Mother, really, I assure you," he
soothed. "She will not be on her own, and it is not as if Ginny does
not know the city well enough by now is it? It will be a chance for
me to get to know my sister a little better now that she is becoming
so grown up, and besides, Caroline will be glad of the company, won't
you my dear?" Caroline nodded quickly at this, and I could see that
they had worked the whole plan out between them before William had
decided to make his suggestion. I kept my mouth shut tight, instead
focusing my attention on gazing pleadingly at Mother in what I hoped
was a calm subdued way that would convince her I could be trusted to
do as William was proposing.

"Well" she began, and I could see that her resolve was weakening
quickly under such a persuasive argument. "Are you sure William? I
mean it is a lot of responsibility for you to take on, and I would
hate for you to"

"Oh I think we can manage," he told her with a smile, and I had to
struggle to keep my own expression serious in face of the obvious
fact that he was winning his case and was well aware of it. I held my
breath, hoping against hope that I had not misjudged the situation.

"If you are certain." She told him slowly, looking from myself to my
brother again before continuing, "But if there is any trouble, any at
all, you are to send her back here to me immediately, is that
understood?" William nodded, and I resisted the urge to ask her just
what sort of trouble she imagined I would be getting into whilst
under the protection of my brother and his wife. It did not matter by
that point anyway, she had agreed and that was all that mattered. I
was to be free. If only for a few days, I was to be free.

It has been decided that I am to leave in a fortnight's time and that
I will stay with them until the middle of the month, unless anything
unforeseen occurs to make it necessary for me to return. I would
never have thought this possible and I can still hardly believe that
William made the suggestion, much less that Mother should agree to
it. But I must believe it as it is true, and I now have to busy
myself with deciding what to take with me on my little trip. I cannot
wait and hope that the few days until I leave pass quickly. Freedom
at last I can think of no more perfect a gift nor one that I would
cherish so much as this. And for once I think this is something that
will live up to my expectations.

18th February, 1792

I have had little time to think, much less write over the past few
days, as every spare moment has been taken up with my fast
approaching visit. I am rather glad really, as it has meant that the
time passed more quickly than it might otherwise have done, and if
there is one thing I cannot stand, it is waiting. Impatience is not a
good quality to possess I know, but at least I can admit to myself
that I suffer from it, and I do try to keep it in check, which is
more than some people even attempt. I really see little else that I
can do, and I can only hope that the hold it has over me will
decrease as I grow older.

Where packing and preparations are concerned there have been moments
when I thought I would never be organised in time, Mother, as was to
be expected, has been fussing continually over just about everything.
She has had poor Suzy in tears more times than I can count now over
the most trifling matters, and I really do feel quite sorry for the
poor girl. She will not be accompanying me as William and Caroline
have enough help to see to my needs as well as their own, and I fear
that the next week or so will not be easy for her without me to cover
up the many mistakes that she will no doubt make. But there is
nothing I can do about that apart from vow to be extra nice to her on
my return and try to put in a good word with Mother if she should
choose to complain about her too much. It may sound selfish of me,
but I will let nothing at this moment cloud the excitement I am
feeling over this wonderful opportunity to do as I please for a few
days.

I have just been reading over some of my previous entries in this
diary whilst waiting for William's carriage to arrive, and it has
made me think upon something that the stresses of trying to plan for
a trip had quite forced from my mind. I see now that I was worrying
quite unnecessarily over the note that I sent to Archie, I have
received no further reply which only confirms my belief that he would
read no more into it than the politeness which I intended those words
to convey. There is no need to think on the matter further and as it
is rather unlikely that I will see him again I shall push him and the
entire incident from my mind.

23rd February, 1792

I have been in the city for just over a day now and I thought I
would take a moment to record the details of my stay so far. I almost
cannot believe that I am here, but it appears that I am, and I
therefore intend to enjoy every minute.

William and Caroline have a house in a very respectable area, but at
the same time it is not a great distance away from all the excitement
of life in the capital, which makes for a very pleasant time indeed.
Today I was still getting settled so we did not do a great deal, but
even the quiet evening we have spent at home together was somehow
special simply by the novelty it presented to me. At home with Mother
things are always so tense, and as Father is away so often it is a
rare occasion when we can all just relax and enjoy being in each
other's company. William read whilst myself and Caroline worked at
some embroidery, and after dinner we all played cards until the early
hours of the morning and I was quite surprised to see that it was
almost two o clock by the time I made my way up to bed.

Caroline and I are to go shopping in the morning, so I must get some
sleep otherwise I will be in quite a state when it comes to rising
tomorrow. I cannot even begin to express how pleased I am to be here,
so I will stop trying to do so and retire for the night.

24th February, 1792

William was busy today, but he suggested that Caroline and I should
go shopping together in order to get to know each other a little
better, and I have to say that I am glad that we did so. I was a
little reluctant to start with, but now I can see that I have been
unfair in my previous assessment of my brother's wife, and for that I
cannot help feeling ashamed. Caroline is very shy, but once she
manages to get past that she is really very pleasant company, and we
had a very delightful day together.

"So Ginny, where you would like to go first?" she asked as we stepped
down from the carriage where it had set us in Regent Street. I looked
about, taking in the bustle and noise all around me and tried to get
my bearings. It had been a while since I had last been into town to
shop, and I was really quite overwhelmed at the vast numbers of
people who were all trying to force their way down the same road that
we were now standing on.

"You choose," I replied finally, deciding it would be better, for now
at least, to defer to the judgement of someone who actually had some
idea of where they were going in the seething mass of humanity that I
had suddenly found myself thrust into. She thought for a moment
before making her way towards a smaller side street, beckoning for me
to follow as she did so.

"Less people, and many nice things to be found if you know where to
look," she informed me, pausing to look at some shawls that were
displayed outside a nearby shop. And after a short while I realised
that she was right. The street was certainly less crowded than the
main avenue, with a variety of smaller stores that each seemed to
contain something guaranteed to catch my attention and my money.

"I cannot believe I have never noticed this before," I commented
wondrously as I waited while Caroline purchased a pretty new hatpin
decorated with stars.

"You like it then?" she commented with a smile, nodding at my own
mounting purchases as she spoke. I giggled, enjoying the pleasure of
female company in a way that I did not usually, and finding it
surprisingly enjoyable.

"Yes I am," I told her, smiling. "Thank you."

We shopped for a while longer, my various bundles and packages
finally becoming so many that I knew I would have to limit myself to
just looking before long. I made one further purchase though, a small
broach with a butterfly design that immediately made me think of
Mother. I hope that she will like her gift, as I really want to give
her something that will show how grateful I am to her for letting me
stay with William like this.

As we left the shop the distant sound of bells told us that the
afternoon was more than half over and I looked up, surprised to
discover that I had spent so long in a pursuit that I do not usually
enjoy. Caroline, catching my expression, laughed softly.

"Easy to lose track of time down here isn't it?" she commented,
smiling. "We should find somewhere to go for tea soon, I know a nice
little establishment not far from here if you would like." I nodded,
realising suddenly that I was actually quite hungry after all of my
discoveries that morning. After pausing to browse in a tiny store
selling beads, we made our way with some reluctance back out into the
commotion of the real world. We hurried past the sellers and
entertainers that always crowd at Covent Garden, and down past the
theatre until we reached our destination.

"The Rose Rooms," I read as we approached a small but well kept
tearoom. Caroline smiled at me, holding the door open so that I could
enter in front of her.

"Again, small and quiet, but I have to admit that such things rather
suit my tastes," she told me with a rueful smile. "And the lemon cake
is just heavenly here. Mrs Turner will not share the recipe with
anyone either, although I am sure she could make a fortune if she
were to sell it. Will you order?" My concentration for the next few
moments was completely given over to trying to choose from the vast
array of delicious looking treats that the menu had to offer. Finally
though we made our selections and I closed my eyes briefly, the
excitement of the day suddenly catching up with me.

"A quite perfect day, is it not?" a familiar voice observed from
somewhere close by, and I opened my eyes quickly to find Archie
standing beside our table smiling down at me.

"Archie!" I exclaimed, unsure of why I was so pleased to see him but
unable to deny the fact that his appearance was indeed a very
pleasant surprise.

"Ginny," he replied bowing in that delightful little way of his that
always makes me smile for some reason, "I could not help noticing you
as I passed by the window, and thought I would take the opportunity
to say hello" he trailed off as he turned to Caroline, "Forgive me.
I do not believe I have had the pleasure of making your acquaintance
before Madam?" I watched in amusement as Caroline coloured prettily
while at the same time admiring the swiftness with which Archie had
taken note of my sister-in-law's wedding band and addressed her
accordingly. Seeing though that she was not about to answer I quickly
made the introductions, the new companionship between us meaning that
I did not want to see her embarrassed or uncomfortable.

"Archie, may I introduce Caroline Dewhurst, my sister-in-law.
Caroline, this is Archie Kennedy, a friend of mine." I felt my face
redden at the last, but forced myself not to heed that or the amused
grin which formed on Archie's face at my words.

"A pleasure to meet you," he told her, glancing at the assortment of
bags surrounding us as he did so. "I would ask what brings you to the
city on such a fine day, but I think I have found my answer," he
added with a laugh.

"I am staying with my brother until the end of the month and Caroline
has been showing me some new places to shop," I told him, gratified
to notice that I did not blush this time I as I spoke to him. "It is
really quite amazing, I have been shopping here many times before but
so much remains hidden unless you know where to look." Archie nodded
in agreement.

"Never a truer word spoken," he commented, "For instance, there is a
delightful little bookshop that I frequent regularly, but most people
seem to walk right by it without even noticing it exists. Not that I
am complaining mind you, makes it a lot less crowded for the rest of
us" My attention had be caught by the mention of books as he must
have noticed as he paused a moment, considering me. "It really is a
most fascinating place," he added, "Do you like to read?"

"Ginny is the bookworm of the family," Caroline volunteered suddenly,
and I looked at her, slightly surprised, but pleased that she felt
comfortable enough to join in the conversation.

"Well then, perhaps you would allow me to show you this place?" he
suggested, glancing from Caroline to myself as he spoke as if asking
for permission before continuing hurriedly, "Only if you would like
to that is, I would hate to impose upon"

"I would be delighted," I cut in quickly, surprised at
myself. "Though I am afraid it may have to wait for another day, as I
think this morning's activities have quite tired us out!" He laughed
at that, looking once again at our many purchases.

"Yes, shopping takes a great deal more effort than we men often give
it credit for, I believe," he joked, reaching down as he spoke to
catch a bag that had at that moment chosen to escape from where it
had been set. "Perhaps then you will allow me to be so bold as to ask
where it is you are staying so that we may arrange it at your
convenience?" I glanced quickly at Caroline to see what she thought
of such a suggestion, but she merely smiled. Reassured, I proceeded
to tell Archie the address of William's house which he acknowledged
with a slight nod and a smile.

"Well, now that is settled, I will leave you in enjoy the remainder
of your tea in peace," he informed us. "Delightful to meet you Mrs.
Dewhurst, I do hope I will have the pleasure of repeating the
experience soon. I look forward to our engagement Ginny. Good day
ladies." And with that he departed, leaving both Caroline and myself
to watch after him in silence for a moment before we both looked at
each other and burst out laughing.

"He seems to be a very nice young gentleman," Caroline observed a few
moments later after we had managed to calm ourselves.

"Yes, yes he is" I agreed, realising suddenly that I had just
arranged for a gentleman to call on me, and not only that, one of
whom my Mother strongly disapproved and had forbidden me to see ever
again. I only hoped that this would not reach her ears, although I
had a rather strong feeling that it would. I considered asking
Caroline not to mention the incident to anyone, but rejected the idea
when I realised that would only serve to make her suspect something
was amiss. I would just have to hope that no one felt the need to
inform my Mother of this afternoon's arrangements and deal with the
situation as best I could if she were somehow to learn of it.

We returned home soon after, both feeling the need for a rest and
wanting to be there when William should return in order to tell him
of our day. I have to admit that I have thoroughly enjoyed myself
spending time with Caroline, and would welcome the chance to do so
again. I will make sure to tell William, as I know it will please him
to hear that we are getting along well. After dinner we again played
cards, although not to such a late hour as the previous night as we
were all rather tired by that time. If the rest of my stay here goes
as well as today, then I will find that I do not want to go home at
the end of it!

As I write this I cannot help recalling how I had said I would in all
likelihood never see Archie again, and now here I am planning to
spend a day with him. I wonder when he will choose to call? Oh I
really should not think so, he may have made the offer only to be
polite and quite probably has no plan to follow through with his
suggestion. I must not let myself think on it otherwise I will only
be horribly disappointed when it all comes to nothing. But no, Archie
is a man of his word, he has already proven that to me and I have no
reason to think that he will not do the same in this. He will call,
and I will look forward to it.

28th February, 1792

Today was spent at home relaxing after the activity of the last few
days and it has been most pleasant. We all rose late and I passed
most of the afternoon working on my needlepoint again. It is the most
ambitious project I have undertaken yet, and I hope, if it turns out
well enough, to give it to William and Caroline as a gift when I
leave. I do not know if it will be completed by then, but I will try
my hardest. Anyway it will hardly be a chore, it is a very agreeable
way to spend ones time and there is a great deal to be said for the
satisfaction that is gained from finishing a piece. I have developed
quite a taste for such work of late and will certainly look to do
more in the future than I have done previously. There was,
unfortunately though something which marred my enjoyment of the day
somewhat, and although I know that I am being foolish, I cannot help
dwelling on the matter.

Spending time together as we did this afternoon has given me the
opportunity to see a little into the life of my brother and his wife,
and what I noted has left me feeling both unsettled and yearning for
something that I did not even realise I wanted until this moment.
They love each other very much, it is clear in everything they do,
each word, each look, each gesture. Caroline positively dotes upon
him and I can see in his eyes that he does not object in the
slightest to being petted so. Quite to the contrary in fact, as I am
sure that he enjoys her gentle dedication as much as she clearly
treasures the attentions he showers upon her, however small or
insignificant they may appear to an ignorant observer. It is not a
sickly clinging love though, they plainly trust each other and are
secure enough in their relationship to allow the other to do as they
need and want without trying to control or restrain them. The room
was filled with it, a gentle sweet lovingness that made me almost
want to weep with a longing for the same that I did not even know I
was feeling until then. But really there is nothing more lonely than
being a mere onlooker to such a bond, knowing that you can never be a
part of it however much you may long to be. I know they did not mean
to make it so, but I could not help feeling as if I were an intruder,
an interloper into their quiet blissful existence and seeing things
that I had no business to be witnessing. I made my excuses and went
up to bed early, unable to look upon such perfection any longer.

 

Will I ever feel for another person what they so clearly feel for
each other? I do not know, but I cannot help craving the chance to
experience such happiness, such joy as can be found when you discover
the one person you are meant to be with, who will love you for and
despite what you are and who desires nothing better than to be in
your company. I do not want to spend my life alone, or worse, in a
loveless marriage that will bring only sorrow. I only want to love
and to be loved in return, surely it cannot be too much to hope for?

5th March, 1792

Well, today was my birthday, and I am now 18 years old. It has been a
strange day, wonderful in so many ways, but still somehow tinged with
the sadness that I recently discovered within myself and now refuses
to leave me in peace. I am older, and for once I feel it, feel the
years moving away from me and leaving me helpless to do anything to
stop the passage of time. Within the next two years if not sooner, my
Mother will have arranged me into a suitable marriage, cast me away
to live with someone who I will be lucky to like let alone love, and
I will be duty bound to obey him for the rest of my days and to live
a life as a prisoner. I cannot see it as anything else, and I am
filled with fear whenever I let my thoughts stray to contemplate such
a fate. I do not want such a life, but I can see no way in which to
avoid it. Oh but I must stop this, if I continue to think in such a
way I will surely go mad.

I rose early today as I could not sleep due to one thing or another,
and I was surprised but pleased to find the others also awake and
downstairs when I made my way down to the dining room. Breakfast
started as a quiet affair, just William, Caroline and myself along
with the most delicious strawberry jam I have ever tasted in my life.

"From Mrs. Warner," Caroline informed me with a smile. " `Something
to start the day off right for the Birthday Girl', or so she said." I
voiced my gratitude, making a note as I did so to remember to go down
to the kitchen after the meal was over in order to thank my brother's
cook in person for her thoughtfulness. I doubted if our servants at
home would even know it was my birthday, much less care enough to do
anything about it, and this small token did much to lighten my sprits
as I finished my bread and poured myself a cup of tea to wash it down
with.

"And now, for the presents!" Announced William when the breakfast
dishes had all been cleared away. I could not help feeling suddenly
excited at his words, although at this age I really should be past
that by now. I also could not think who I could be receiving gifts
from my stay in London was surely my present from Mother and
William. Nevertheless though, Caroline appeared at that moment with a
selection of gaily wrapped parcels and I watched in surprise as she
set them down before me.

"Happy Birthday, Ginny," she told me, smiling as happily as if it had
been her own gifts she were holding.

"But" I began, still too amazed to do much more than just stare at
the bundles before me.

"Go on, open one!" William urged from the corner, clearly seeing that
I was not about to do so without at least a small amount of
prompting. Carefully I picked up the first package, a soft flimsy
mass that, when opened, revealed a quite beautiful jade coloured
shawl with pale pink trim.

"Didn't think I could go wrong with those colours," my brother
observed, and I smiled my thanks at him, turning the fabric over in
my hands a few times and enjoying the silky feel of it against my
fingers.

"It is lovely, William, thank you," I told him earnestly, folding my
gift neatly before laying it carefully by my side. "But you really
should not have, allowing me to stay with yourself and Caroline is
more than enough of a present, honestly" he cut me off though,
laughing good naturedly as always.

"It's your 18th Birthday Ginny. You didn't think we could let you get
away with out having any gifts this morning did you?" he asked,
nodding towards the pile as he spoke. "You'd better get a move on as
well, otherwise it will be lunch time before you've finished there!"

So one by one I unwrapped each bundle, each revealing something new
and precious to my gaze. Some rose scented soap, a jar of sweets, a
small trinket box with a blue and gold pattern on the lid and my name
in gold along the bottom; nothing expensive or stunning in itself,
but each one meaning so much more to me because of the love and
consideration that had clearly gone into the choosing of each item.
Finally there was only one left, a thin rectangular box with a gold
ribbon tied around it.

"This one is from Caroline," William told me, crossing the room to
rest his hand on his wife's shoulder as he spoke. Looking quickly
away from the tableau of perfection that they unwittingly presented
to my gaze I focused my attention on the box, opening it carefully.
Inside was a piece of green velvet, and as I pulled it back my final
gift was revealed to my gaze.

"It's beautiful" I exclaimed in wonder, and indeed it was. A
delicate gold bracelet with links so tiny I had to squint slightly in
order to see them, and when I turned it over, my name engraved in
thin flowing script along the small plaque that it held in the
centre.

"Do you like it?" Caroline asked anxiously, watching me closely for
my reaction.

"I love it, really, it is wonderful," I told her quickly, eager to
reassure her. "Really Caroline, I adore it. You shouldn't have gone
to so much trouble, but"

"It was no trouble, Ginny," she told me, smiling happily. "As William
said, it is a special day; it would not do for you to have nothing to
remember it by."

"Just being here will be memory enough," I replied, feeling a sudden
unexpected sting of tears that I quickly forced down again. William
and Caroline were too busy smiling at each other in response to my
words to notice and I told myself to stop being so silly. Birthdays
are not a time for sadness, especially not one as important as my
18th. Vowing at that point to put such stupid notions from my head I
thanked them both again for their kindness, before addressing myself
to the task of gathering my gifts together and taking them upstairs.

The rest of the day continued as it started, with merriment and
visits in the afternoon, followed my what has to have been the most
delicious meal I have ever experienced in my life. Caroline had made
sure to discover my favourite dishes, and everything I could have
possibly dreamed of wanting to eat was laid out on the table before
me like a banquet. By the end of it all I felt quite ill with
everything I had eaten and could not have managed another mouthful
even if I had been begged to. Thankfully though everyone else
appeared to be in the same condition, and we retired to sit by the
fire whilst we recovered from our feast. The evening passed quickly,
and before I knew it the clock was showing midnight and my birthday
was over.

I have been in my room for a while now, thinking over the day and
wondering at the fact that I have not once thought of home or missed
not being there for this special occasion. I know I should not feel
so, but I cannot help that I feel happier here, as if I can relax
properly for the first time in my life in a way that has just not
been possible before. I hate to think that in time I will have to
leave all this, leave William and Caroline and the freedom that I
have grown so used to even after being here such a short time. It
will make the return to my usual life so much harder I fear, and I
cannot help thinking that I will not be at all happy to return to it.

8th March, 1792

My good mood has been entirely restored thank goodness, and I have
managed to push such brooding and pointless thoughts as were
occupying my mind over the last couple of days completely from my
mind. I see now that there has been no use in them at all and so
therefore will try my hardest in future to prevent such worries from
bothering me and focus my attention on more worthwhile matters.

I had been planning to spend the morning in bed today in order to
catch up with some well needed sleep, but, as seems to be happening
more and more frequently of late, I found myself once again waking
with the dawn. Still feeling rather restless, I decided to take
advantage of the fact and rise at the usual time, wishing that my
body could be as alert as my mind as I made my way down to breakfast.
I am very glad of making that effort though, as just after eleven
Mary, Caroline's maid, came knocking at the drawing room door to
inform us that there was a `Young Gentleman to see Miss Ginny,"
waiting in the hall.

"For me?" I could not help exclaiming, knowing even as I did so who
it must be. William frowned slightly, but Caroline, having clearly
reached the same conclusion as I, silenced him with a look before he
could speak.

"Well don't keep him waiting, Ginny," she urged, turning to me with a
smile. "I believe you have a bookshop to visit" I flushed slightly
at the gentle teasing and the questioning glance that my brother was
giving us both, but somehow I managed to stand and make my way out to
greet my unexpected visitor.

"Ginny!" he exclaimed, a wide smile quite lighting up his face as I
approached him. "Forgive me for arriving unannounced," he added
quickly, his expression suddenly one of concern in case he should
have inadvertently caused offence through his actions.

"Think nothing of it," I was quick to reassure him, unable to help
returning his earlier smile with one of my own. "I was doing nothing
of importance, and besides, a visitor is always welcome here." He
smiled again, clearly relieved at my words, and I felt suddenly
excited for a reason that I did not know how to explain and which
caused me to flush yet again in his presence. He must not have
noticed though, or if he did, chose not comment on it, as he merely
bowed, gesturing towards the door as he did so.

"I am glad," he told me, smiling even more, "For I was hoping that
you would allow me to take you to the Bookstore that I mentioned at
our last meeting. I promise to have you home at a reasonable hour and
that I will not attempt to lead you astray in any manner," he
informed me, directing a quick glance towards the half open door
behind me. "That is if you would like to and it is agreeable to those
you are staying with," he added quickly, as the thought suddenly
occurred to him. I nodded, needing no time to consider his
suggestion. Caroline had already given her consent to the venture,
and I did not doubt that she would be more than able to convince
William that it was acceptable enough to let me do as Archie had
proposed. All that remained to be done therefore was for me to find
my cloak and then we could leave.

"I had managed to forget that it is still so early in the year," I
commented as we stepped outside. The air was somewhat cooler than the
previous day, but thankfully the thick layers of my cloak and shawl
were more than enough to keep out the winter chill and I did not let
it bother me unduly.

"A little brisk, is it not?" my companion replied, pulling his own
coat more tightly together as he spoke. I smiled at him, feeling a
thrill of anticipation at the thought of what lay before me. Suddenly
however I found myself thinking of my Mother at that moment, but
hastily pushed her from my mind. I would not let thoughts of her
reaction if she were to discover what I was doing ruin what promised
to be a truly delightful day.

"Yes, but I am certain that it can and has been much worse, so at
least we can be thankful for that!" I told him, laughing at myself
for my own high spirits. He laughed with me, and we continued to talk
and joke as we made our way through the busy streets around Convent
Garden to the same area where Caroline and I had been shopping
earlier that week. I lapsed into silence, once more captivated by the
striking contrast between two places that were so close in distance
but worlds apart in every other respect.

"We are nearly there now," he told me a while later, shaking me from
my thoughts as I followed him into a quieter, less busy lane. The
buildings were more tightly packed together there, the street itself
so narrow that the upper floors of some actually almost touched in
places. I was gazing around in fascination and as a result almost
walked into Archie when he stopped in front of a small, rundown
looking building.

"Well, here we are," he informed me, steadying me with a quick hand
on my arm as he spoke. Looking upwards I was just able to make out
the faded script on the sign swinging above the door. Bamber's est.
1732. Through the grimy window, shelf upon shelf of books were
revealed to my curious gaze, more than I had ever seen in one place
in my life. An old, grey haired gentleman sat surrounded by yet more
volumes and I felt a sudden flash of envy that he could spend his
time working with something that I loved so much.

"Can we go in?" I asked, anxious to begin exploring this treasure
that he had led me to.

"The Lady is impatient I see!" Archie observed with a smile, opening
the door as he spoke. "After you," he added with a bow.

The shop was almost dark, and it took me a moment before I could see
anything at all in the poorly lit room.

"Quite a place, isn't it?" Archie observed from somewhere behind me,
and as my eyes adjusted to the dimness, I realised that he was right.

Everywhere I looked there were books, books of every colour and size
and quality imaginable that rose from floor to ceiling in row upon
row until it made me quite dizzy just looking at them.

"I don't know where to start," I admitted, gazing around in awe.
After a moment though I reached a decision, and was soon exploring my
way through the shelves closest to me. Every book I had ever heard of
must have been there, along with countless numbers that I had not,
and I became completely engrossed in the expanse of volumes
stretching out before me.

I managed to entirely lose track of time as I stood there, and it
could have been minutes or hours later when I suddenly became aware
of Archie standing at my side, watching me. I tore my eyes away from
the elegant copy of A Midsummer Night's Dream that I was holding and
smiled at him, eternally grateful that he had allowed me to share
such a place with him.

"Thank you, thank you for bringing me here," I told him, "It is
truly amazing. Forgive me though, I did not mean to mean to spend
quite so long browsing," I added, quickly, fearing he might think me
taking advantage of his kindness, "I am sure that you must have
other things to attend to"

"Not at all," he replied, the sincerity in his expressive blue eyes
reassuring me more than any words could. "I have been talking to Bart
here quite happily whilst you were discovering the delights of his
wonderful establishment, something for which he cannot fail to be
appreciative may I add, as I somehow seem to have managed to place a
rather large order for books in the process." I laughed, once again
amazed at how at ease I felt in his company as I returned the book to
the shelf.

"Nevertheless, I think that I should stop now," I told him
ruefully. "If I do not, who knows what I may end up buying?" I had
allowed myself one treat though, and approached the counter in order
to pay for the book I had chosen for myself. It was a copy of Les
Liaisons Dangereuses, something that I have been wanting to read for
a while now, but never been able to find at a time when I was not
with Mother. She would not approve of my reading it I know, so to
come across it like this was an unexpected stroke of good fortune.

After I had paid for my purchase we left the shop, blinking at the
afternoon light that seemed quite dazzling after the darkness that
our eyes had been subjected to for so long.

"I wonder how long we have been here?" I mused out loud, unable to
tell from the overcast sky what time of day it now was. Archie
glanced at his watch.

"Just over two hours, I believe," he informed me with a grin. I
stared at him in disbelief.

"Two hours?" I repeated, astonished. "Oh Archie, I really am sorry
you should have said something, you must have been terribly bored!"
He only laughed though, brushing aside my apologies with a wave of
his hand.

"Oh not at all," he assured me with a smile, "I remember the first
time I discovered this place It was late morning when I went in,
and I was still there at 5 when Bart wanted to put the shutters up!
And besides" he added, his eyes twinkling, "It gave me time to find
this." As he was speaking his hand moved to his pocket, and the next
moment he was holding a small paper-wrapped parcel out to me.

"What is it?" I asked curiously. His reply however, threw me into
something of a predicament.

"A belated Birthday gift," he told me with a grin. "Go on, open it,"
he pressed as I hesitated, trying to decide what to do. I unwrapped
it slowly, almost dropping it in my sudden nervousness. Finally
though I managed succeeded, and I found myself holding a well worn,
but intricately decorated, book. Garrick A Collection I read as I
turned the cover carefully to see what lay inside. The pages inside
were well preserved, and a further inspection revealed a selection of
beautifully drawn illustrations to compliment the plays that the book
was made up of.

"How did you know it was my birthday?" I asked, dealing with the
easier of the problems and questions that had presented themselves to
me since he had handed me the gift he had chosen. He smiled a little
at that, although his expression betrayed a certain amount of
embarrassment.

"I overheard two of your maids talking together on the stairs whilst
I was waiting for you earlier," he informed me a little
sheepishly. "I did not mean to listen of course, but they were
standing rather close and I could not help catching some of what they
were discussing" I gazed down at the book for a moment then back to
him, conflicting thoughts tearing through my mind.

"What's wrong, don't you like it?" Archie questioned anxiously, my
prolonged silence clearly having given him cause for concern. I
smiled at him, trying as I did so to hide my confusion and
uncertainty.

"No! I mean, I I really like it, Archie, and it was very thoughtful
of you to go to the trouble of buying me a gift, but" I trailed off
haltingly. How could I explain to him that my desire to accept was
hampered not only by thoughts of what my Mother and others would say
if they were to learn of it but also by my own sudden misgivings over
allowing myself to be in a position where I could be considered to be
in the debt of a man who I hardly knew?

"It was no trouble at all, I assure you," he told me quickly,
watching closely to see if I were displeased with him. "I hope that I
have not caused offence," he added when I still did not respond. I
forced myself to think clearly, pushing away the conflicting doubts
in my mind as I reached a decision.

"I love it," I declared, trying to hide my embarrassment as I did
so. "Forgive me, my reaction was from surprise, not displeasure." My
reply appeared to satisfy him as he smiled broadly, and as always
when I am with him, I found that I could not help but smile in return.

"Then I shall consider myself a happy man," he told me, glancing at
his watch again as he spoke. "Although I do fear though that I have
kept you out for too long, I hope you will not be in trouble for it."

"No, not at all," I replied, pausing to consider for a moment before
continuing reluctantly, "Although it may be best if I return now,
just in case." He nodded, glancing up at the sky as he did so.

"It looks like rain as well I fear," he observed, holding one hand
out as he spoke. "Come, let me walk you home before we get caught in
a shower I do not think your relatives would thank me if I were to
bring you home soaking wet now do you?" We started to walk back along
the by now familiar roads, a few light spatterings from above proving
the truth in his words. Due to one thing or another the walk back to
William's took considerably less time than it had taken earlier in
the day, and in no time at all it seemed we were once again standing
outside the gate.

"Thank you Archie, for a lovely day," I told him, feeling suddenly a
little shy although I knew I had no reason to be so. He only laughed
at that though, shaking his head.

"The pleasure has been all mine, I assure you," he replied with a
smile, looking down at the ground for a moment as if trying to make a
decision before glancing up at me again. "I was wondering though
would it be most terribly forward of me to ask if I may call on you
again during your stay here?" He looked so nervous that I had a
sudden desire to laugh, although I quickly squashed the impulse
through fear of offending him.

"I would be delighted for you to call," I responded, glancing up at
the house as I spoke. "Although I fear I am only remaining here a few
more days, I am supposed to be returning home by the end of the
month."

"Then we will just have to make the most of the time that is left,"
he commented, glancing up at the sky once more as rain began to fall
in earnest. "If you do not mind, I will take my leave of you now," he
continued, already moving away from me as he spoke. "I will no doubt
see you again soon!"

I watched as he made his way quickly down the street away from me,
only going inside when I could no longer see him due to the bustle of
people and the increasing bad weather that had chosen that moment to
descend upon us.

I did not receive a great deal of questioning from William at dinner-
time, so I can only presume that Caroline has explained everything
and talked him around to accepting it, something for which I much
remember to thank her later. I spent the remainder of the evening in
reading the book that Archie has so kindly given to me, and I must
confess to be looking forward to the time when he should choose to
call again. It is so rare for me to find someone whose company I
enjoy rather than endure, so it is only natural that I should want to
see more of such a person once I have found them. I somehow do not
think that Mother would see it in quite that way though, which is why
I must do everything that I can to keep it from her, however much I
may hate to do so under normal circumstances. But I can see no harm
in it, and therefore do not feel that such a small omission of the
truth can be any cause for concern. My conscience can find nothing
wrong with that, so I will sleep easy tonight, secure in the
knowledge that I am acting in a manner that no one can find reason to
reproach or condemn.