Dinner that night was filled with an awkward and quiet air, the only conversation passing between the gentlemen. Genevieve had avoided her brother the whole afternoon, and was not about to begin speaking to him now. Augustus kept glancing at his dear friend, curious and concerned for her behalf.
"Genny," he whispered. "You seem unwell. Is something the matter?"
Genevieve looked at the other men at the table, quickly finding that none of them had heard, before she turned back to him. "I am fine. I just wish some people were not so quick to assume."
"Who do you mean?" he asked, unintentionally raising his voice slightly.
"That's not important. I would rather not cause a disturbance at the dinner table," she commented.
"I hate to see you upset," he mentioned.
"I cannot be happy and charming all of the time, Augustus. I am only human, therefore I have a lot of different emotions," she answered.
"I realize that, but I think you deserve to be happy," he stated.
"Well," she said, folding her arms. "I think that happiness does not exist. Everyone is actually sad, but some are very good at hiding it."
"I wish you wouldn't think like that," he declared.
Genevieve had been on edge the whole day, and did not mean to be easily angered, but she couldn't help it. She stood up from the table in a fit, her face reddening and all attention suddenly on her. "Why? I may be a woman, but that does not mean I cannot have my own thoughts and ideas. I should not be forced to keep them to myself."
"No one has ever forced you to keep quiet, Genny," Frederick cut in suddenly. "It would just be helpful if you knew how to hold your tongue."
She turned on him, her blue eyes blazing fiercely. "I used to think you were a kind man, brother, but evidently I was wrong. I wish I had my sisters back instead of you." She stormed out of the room, making a point to make as much disruptive noise as possible on her way out.
The hem of her dress swept against the floor as she moved hastily through the hallway, mumbling to herself. She burst into Rebecca's room, desperate for a female companion, only to find the most unexpected sight.
"Miss! What on earth are you doing, barging in like that?" Rebecca demanded, a blush appearing on her face.
Henry, Frederick's personal servant, pulled away from his previous embrace with the lady's maid and sat down in a plush chair, avoiding every gaze at all costs. He wiped his sweating hands on his trousers, breathing heavily.
"You're questioning me? I should be the one to ask you why you are attached so closely to Henry!" she shouted, her anger not subsiding at all.
"Miss! I-" she began, but she was suddenly cut off.
"Do not tell your brother, Miss Wilkins. I will lose my position, and I simply cannot afford that," Henry declared.
"I will most certainly not tell him, especially since I am not overly fond of him right now. Please just explain how all of this happened," she responded.
Rebecca and Henry looked at each other hesitantly before one of them spoke. "It was just a few weeks after we arrived," Rebecca stated. "Henry and I were up late because of the party and upon returning to the servants' quarters, we struck up a conversation."
"We discussed everything we liked and found we have many similar interests. Our discussions continued for another week before…this happened," Henry added.
"We had both snuck some wine from the cabinet in the kitchen-" she started.
"It was really only a few sips," he added.
She nodded in response. "We ended up in fits of laughter, but suddenly it stopped, and we kissed. We've agreed to keep this a secret since that moment."
Genevieve was agape at the two servants. They were the last people she had ever thought that would get together, and yet here they were, their hearts perfectly intertwined. Could they even get married and have children, or were they stuck in this life of submission? She suddenly felt a pang of pity for them. "I will keep your secret. Just remember to be more careful."
"We were careful," Henry stated. "This is the least used room throughout the whole estate."
"It should be locked for extra security then," Genevieve replied. "Now then, I shall let you both…continue. I will be in the library if anybody asks."
She politely bowed out and strolled back down the corridor to her favorite place. She was sure dinner had long since ended, and that she'd be free from the questioning eyes of the gentlemen. Though, as she approached the familiar, chocolate colored doors, she heard the soft mumble of voices from behind them. She knew it was impolite to eavesdrop, but she pressed her ear to the door anyway, eager to hear.
"Calm down, Bennet. Why are you overreacting over this? It has nothing to do with you," Mr. Cole's voice spoke.
"I cannot believe the way she treats him! Jarvis deserves better," Mr. Gougar practically growled.
"We don't know the full story, so we cannot be sure what really happened," Mr. Cole assured.
"I know you are fond of her, Edwin, but I do not understand why. Genevieve is the most ill-tempered, insufferable and ignorant woman I've ever met," he seethed.
"I will admit, she is rather…hard to swallow, but she is not ignorant. She's a very intelligent girl, just very outspoken," he defended.
"Bloody hell! When will you learn she is clearly not to be trusted? She is going to hurt our friend, and you are just going to stand by and watch?" he questioned.
"You have a sister, Bennet. You know how hard it is for siblings to get along constantly. You cannot judge them when you are the same with your sibling," he commented.
"There is still something clearly wrong with that girl. You, Frederick, Simon, and Augustus will all look back on this one day and realize I am right. She is not to be trusted," he repeated.
Genevieve stepped away from the door, having heard enough. "Well," she thought. "They will only be here for another week. Until their departure, I shall make enemies with them. Augustus, Simon, Rebecca, and Henry will be my militia it is time to prepare or war."