"A Life of Duty" - Lady Josephine, Archie, and Edrington
by Dutch

Place: At "The Lion's Heart" tavern
Time: 12 hours since Archie and Edrington's arrival

Lord Edrington sat in the front sitting room with a cup of tea. Idly he looked out the window to see a carriage arrive, and a young woman descend. He could see she was stiff and sore from her travels. He looked around for Archie on the supposition this was the mysterious "Lady Josephine Silverthorne", but did not see him. Edrington watched as the woman's servants clustered around her, but hesitated to let her enter ahead of them. Edrington moved towards the doorway in order to hear her announced.

"I believe you were to have a room for me. My name is Lady Josephine Silverthorne." the woman said in a clear voice.

"Lady Silverthorne, is it? I'm sorry, my lady, but who was supposed to make these arrangements for you?" the tavern owner queried as he looked through his books.

"Leftenant Archie Kennedy, sir." the woman coldly replied.

"Ah yes, Mr. Kennedy. He did say summat about a lady coming to join him. Should I have him sent for, my lady?"

"That won't be necessary." Lord Edrington stepped out of the sitting room. "Lady Silverthorne, would you be so kind as to join me in a cup of tea while your room is readied?"

"I thank you for your kindness, sir, but..." Lady Josephine began.

"My lady, I am Lord Edrington."

"You know Mr. Kennedy then, my lord?" Lady Josephine moved towards Edrington in anticipation of accepting his offer of tea.

Gallantly, he waited for her to precede him into the sitting room as the tavern owner sent a girl in with another tea cup. Just as Edrington was about to respond to Lady Josephine's question, Archie rushed into the room.

"My lo...Lady Josephine!" Archie's smile lit the room.

"Archie... Mr. Kennedy... I came as soon as I read your note." Lady Josephine said as she crossed to him. She looked deeply into his eyes, saw the pain behind them along with the shadows under them, and took both his hands.

Edrington looked away, embarrassed by their closeness and the feeling he was intruding. He glanced back to see Archie gently lift Lady Josephine's right hand to his lips. For a moment, they paused before her fingertips brushed his cheek and she retreated.

"My lord, may I introduce you to Lady Josephine Silverthorne." Archie announced proudly. Edrington bowed sharply as Lady Josephine dropped into a graceful curtsy.

"My lady, it is a pleasure. Would you do the honours?" Edrington asked as he gestured to the tea service. "Mr. Kennedy, may I have a word?"

The two men walked towards the doorway. Edrington dropped his voice as his expression turned serious. "Is it appropriate to have her here, sir?"

Archie looked over at her. Curiously, she gazed back at him. He turned his eyes back to Edrington. "My lord, she is my intended. It has been some time since we've seen each other, and I want her here. Shall we join her, it appears she's finished pouring our tea."

"Have you completed the arrangements for her accommodations, Leftenant?" Edrington asked sharply.

Guilelessly, Archie looked back at him. "Yes, my lord, but it will be a little while before her room is ready. Her servants are seeing to the final arrangements - for both themselves and her. After you, my lord."

Stiffly, the two men rejoined Lady Josephine. Archie took the cup of tea from her, and lightly brushed her hand. Gruffly, Edrington cleared his throat.

"Lord Edrington," Lady Josephine started, "you must be curious about my sudden arrival. I was surprised to see you as well, Mr. Kennedy did not tell me you were here with him."

"You appear to be in mourning, Lady Silverthorne. May I offer you my condolences?" Edrington asked after pointedly looking at her dress. Archie looked at Lady Josephine with his brow furrowed in concern.

"My parents, my lord." She looked at Archie before continuing. "They became ill with a fever. I was away at our country house at the time, so I was spared. Mr. Kennedy, I am sorry I did not tell you. I did not want you to be concerned about me."

"I knew anyway." Wryly he grinned at her. "My eldest brother wrote to me. At the time he wrote, no one knew you were in the country, so there were fears for your safety. However, before I had a chance to write you, I received a second letter from him after he'd seen you."

"Ah, yes." Lady Josephine looked into her teacup. "He 'happened' to be in the country, and stopped by our house to call on me. He brought word of your mother's sympathy for my orphaned state, and her invitation of sanctuary." Her tone had turned ironic. Suddenly remembering Edrington's presence, she dropped her eyes while colouring.
Archie glanced at Edrington, and saw how stiffly he was sitting. "My lord," Archie's tone had turned dead, "I had hoped to introduce Horatio to Lady Josephine, but..." his voice trailed off.

Abruptly, Edrington stood. "Perhaps I should take my leave of you, Mr. Kennedy, Lady Silverthorne."

"No, my lord, please sit down, finish your tea." Lady Josephine answered, gesturing for him to sit. "We have been leaving you out of our conversation. Although you would never say, you must be curious about me, our history..."

"I do not want to pry, my lady." Edrington said as he sat back down. "However, I am a bit curious."

Archie, happy to have any distraction, eagerly took up the narrative. "My lord, Lady Josephine and her family have been acquaintances of the Kennedy family for generations. Our lands are adjoining, and though both families are titled..." He glanced at Lady Josephine with a slight grin.

"Your father is an earl, and mine is...was...not. He was only a viscount."

"Only one rank lower, not too bad." Edrington commented with a well-hidden smile at their exchange. "You have lands, Lady Silverthorne?"

"Yes, my lord, as well as the house in London." She replied conversationally. "I am the only offspring of my parents, so the family title passes to my husband along with all my lands. With the three male children in the Kennedy family, the opportunity presented itself to form an alliance of our lands and titles."

"Why were you not promised to the eldest son, my lady?" Edrington asked.

"He was promised to the daughter of a duke." Archie answered with a grin. "Unfortunately, the family of that young lady has fallen on hard times, and as there was no formal engagement, my parents extricated him from that entanglement."

"That happened whilst you were missing." Lady Josephine commented. "They tried to marry us then, but I refused to be released from our formal engagement until you were declared dead."

Edrington looked from one to the other of them with a slightly confused expression. "While you were missing, Mr. Kennedy? When was this?"

"For three years I was imprisoned, first in France, and then I was moved to Spain. This was just prior to the mission in Muzillac. Horatio saved me from death during that imprisonment." Archie lapsed into silence. Mutely he looked at Lady Josephine, who reached over and touched his hand.

Embarrassed by their obvious attachment, Edrington forged ahead, "That explains how you avoided marriage to the eldest son, but aren't you the third son, Mr. Kennedy?"

Archie looked at Lady Josephine, smiled vaguely, and looked back at Edrington. "That is true, my lord. Even while we were children, it was obvious to all that an alliance between Lady Josephine and Edward would end in bloodshed - probably his. Whereas Lady Josephine shares many of my interests, and we would spend hours playing together. I looked on her as only a playmate, but that changed as we grew older."

"I knew an alliance was being planned with one of the Kennedy sons, but I was never told which one." Lady Josephine said, taking up the narrative. "One day my father took me aside and asked me which one of the three of them I would choose - if I were given a choice." She smiled and shook her head at the irony. "Without any thought, I answered 'Archie'. My father smirked, and commented 'How convenient.' That was how I discovered who my intended was. From that time on, we were closely guarded until our engagement was formally announced."

During her speech, Archie had moved closer to her. Without any thought to appearances, he had taken her hand and was lightly caressing it.

"Your room is ready, my lady." Edwards announced from the doorway. Both Archie and Josephine jumped at the sudden return to their surroundings.

"Thank you, Edwards. Has Anna ...."

"Yes, my lady. All is settled." Edwards answered.

Archie suddenly saw the fatigue etched into her features. "My lady, Josephine, are you all right?"

"I think I would like to go to my room for a while, we were traveling all night." Lady Josephine responded.

"I'll escort you to your door, my lady." Archie said, rising to his feet. Wearily Lady Josephine allowed him to assist her.

"Lord Edrington, it was a pleasure meeting you. We shall speak more later. I have a feeling there are some things we need to discuss." Lady Josephine said looking over her shoulder.

Edrington had politely stood as soon as Lady Josephine began to rise. "Until then, my lady." He answered.

Without another word, Archie and Josephine left Edrington alone in the room. Thoughtfully, he drew a chair over to the fire and sat down, lost in his thoughts.
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