It was very late into the night, and the great expanse of Winsford was deathly quiet after all of the party guests had left. Genevieve had had trouble sleeping after all of the excitement, so she was left to wander the halls in her nightgown with only a small candlestick for light. Her curly blonde hair was draped down her back, seemingly moving with her bare footed steps. Even though Fredrick gave her a tour, she still did not know much about the place she was supposed to call home. She passed by the guest rooms quietly, trying her hardest not to wake Augustus, Mr. Cole, Mr. Gougar, and Mr. Campbell.
When she reached the library, however, her wandering was stopped, and she ventured inside. She had finished Sense and Sensibility earlier that morning, so she wanted to begin another Jane Austen classic entitled Pride and Prejudice. As the heavy, chocolate colored doors opened slowly, Genevieve heard some rustling and noticed that one of the candelabras on the desk were lit.
Mr. Gougar's head shot up from the papers on the desk and he gasped. "Miss Wilkins! I did not expect you at this hour."
"Forgive me for startling you, but I thought if I were to read a little bit, I would be able to sleep. Am I disturbing you?" she wondered.
"No, not at all. I'm just…composing a letter," he said hesitantly.
"May I ask to whom?" she questioned as she grabbed the blue, hardcover book she had intended to read from its place on the shelf. She casually peered over his shoulder, but could only read some of what he had written, for he immediately moved to cover it up.
"No," he replied quickly, and then paused. "It is a private matter that I do not wish to discuss out loud."
She shied away from him and sat down on the dark brown leather sofa, hiding her face behind her book. Genevieve suddenly yearned for Mr. Cole's company so that she would at least have an idea of what was going on. "I'm sorry, Mr. Gougar. I did not mean to pry."
He paused. "Please pardon me, but I cannot help but notice you are in your night gown. Would you please find something to cover up with?"
She peered over the top of her book and saw the blush flashing across his cheeks. She giggled quietly before she spoke. "Would you like me to place the World Atlas on my lap?"
"I would not jest, Miss Wilkins. I am not the one who is exposed," he pointed out.
"Mr. Gougar, if you would look at me, you will find that I am quite properly covered up, and my ankles are crossed accordingly. I am being as modest as I can possibly be in this situation," she explained.
"Yes, but is improper for a gentleman to see a lady in her night gown unless they are betrothed. We are most certainly not married." he stated, flustered.
She closed her book and set it beside her. "I understand, but I should not be expected to dress properly for a meeting I did not know I would be having. Why must you write a letter at such odd hours of the night anyhow?"
"I simply wanted to be alone. Evidently I am not allowed to be alone in this house," he huffed.
"Why, of course not! You're staying at an estate with 3 other guests, the master and his curious twin sister, and a handful of servants. There is no possibility of you being fully alone," she mentioned.
"I wish I had been told that before I agreed to stay here," he said to himself, but Genevieve heard it anyway.
"You have such a terrible attitude, Mr. Gougar. Why is that?" she wondered.
He grabbed his papers off of the desk, straightening them before he stood up. "It is time that I retire, Miss Wilkins. Enjoy your book, and I shall see you in the morning."
He walked hastily out of the library and left Genevieve utterly stunned. She tried to read her book, but quickly found that she could not concentrate on it. Why had Mr. Gougar acted so strangely? She ultimately went back to her room, and sleep did find her, but not without her thoughts swirling like a hurricane.
As soon as she was dressed, Genevieve left her bedroom and marched downstairs to her brother's office. She flung the doors open, only to find Mr. Cole sitting with Fredrick. Both men looked incredibly startled by her sudden entrance.
"Good lord, Genny! Do you not know how to knock?" he demanded.
"I'm very sorry for being rude, Fredrick, but I have an important matter to discuss with you," she stated, folding her arms and glancing at Mr. Cole. "Preferably alone."
"Please excuse us, Edwin. I'll be calling for you again shortly," Fredrick said. Mr. Cole nodded and left the room, shutting the door behind him. "Now, what was so damned important?"
"I have a theory about Mr. Gougar. I have the…pleasure of talking to him late last night in the library, and I think I know why he is so stuffy," she mentioned.
Fredrick pinched the bridge of his nose. "I know you are curious, dear sister, but you should not meddle in the business of others."
"I was not really trying to! If you will not hear my theory, than I shall leave you to your work," she huffed.
He sighed, exasperated. "All right. Let us hear it then."
Genevieve smiled with victory and took a seat on one of the plush chairs in front of his desk. "When I found him, he was writing a letter, but he would not say to whom or what about. Therefore, I think he must be in love."
"He has family, you know. Perhaps he was writing to them," he mentioned.
"I did get a chance to look at the letter, and I am positive that I saw my name on the top of it," she defended.
"You think that Bennet Gougar is in love with you?" he asked.
"Correct," she stated.
Fredrick laughed. "Genny, he thinks himself incapable of loving anyone. In fact, with his indifferent nature, he probably is."
"Everyone is capable of love," she defended.
"I have a theory as well. Would you like to hear it?" he asked.
"Why, of course," she responded
"I think," he began. "That you are infatuated with Mr. Gougar, and have in fact created most of this scenario in your head."
Genevieve gaped at her brother. "I did not think you were so rude, Fredrick. And while I do find Mr. Gougar to be interesting, I would never perceive the notion that I would like him in such a way."
Fredrick grinned jokingly. "Do not deny your heart, Genny. It knows what is best for you."
She quickly stood up from her chair, her hands clenched in fists by her side. "Why must you jest at me? You are my brother. You are supposed to support me."
"I do support you, but not with such ill-conceived notions," he replied.
"Then I shall not continue to disturb you," she declared, and she quickly stormed out, not listening to her brother's pleas for forgiveness. Instead of fleeing to the library, where she would be expected to go, she went out to the garden. The hedges rose high above her head, flowers dotted the expansive grounds, and tree roots had an iron grip on the grass. Genevieve found a gray, marble bench to sit upon and she stopped there to sort out her thoughts.
"Miss Wilkins, what are you doing, moping about all the way out here?" A voice asked.
Genevieve looked up, and saw Mr. Campbell. He was wearing a more casual outfit than the suit she usually saw him in, complete with a light rain coat. His jet black hair reached just above the rim of his glasses in length, curling a little at the ends. She did not know him as well as the other men, but she still liked his company.
"Fredrick and I got into a little dispute is all. Why are you out here?" she wondered.
"I saw you rush out here in a huff and I thought you might need comfort of some sort," he replied.
"Thank you, Mr. Campbell. You are very kind, but I'm afraid that this is a private matter that I would rather not talk about," she stated.
"Then let us discuss something else. For example, at the party last night, I found your sisters to be very charming, especially Miss Jansen and Miss Nobles," he mentioned.
Genevieve smiled in response. "Both of them are absolutely wonderful. Minerva likes to joke around with me a lot, and Victoria can be rather silly sometimes, but I love them all the same."
"What of the other two? Miss Toone and Miss Blann seem interesting," he commented.
"Phoebe does not like awkwardness or being kept in suspense. She tries her hardest to avoid both. Stella can be easily excited if you talk about something she likes, but I find it rather funny how that happens," she explained.
"Perhaps the next time we are both free, we shall go to Ashington and visit for a weekend. It would be marvelous to get to know your adoptive family more," he declared.
"I would like that. You'd be a wonderful companion to us all, I am sure," she said.
"Would it be impolite if I were to call you Genny?" he wondered.
"Only if I may call you Simon," she grinned.
He smiled in return. "Why of course."
With that, the two companions went back into the house and continued talking, enjoying each other's newfound company. It would be a great friendship for both.