[Note: Lawrence Fitzwilliam, Viscount Brantworth is the heir to Lord Matlock in my novel, Oxford Cottage.)
Loneliness is an interesting feeling, he thought, not always an unwelcome or unpleasant feeling, but always interesting. This time was no different. There was no longing for company, no hurt that needed solace, no feeling of unrest, just a quietness that was welcoming, comforting, restorative. The breeze blew softly making the leaves of the tree he lay under tremble slightly as the long grasses tipped their hats to him. Lawrence Fitzwilliam, Viscount Brantworth, bent his right leg and propped his left foot atop his knee. His arms were crossed behind his head acting as pillow. He closed his eyes and drank in the tranquility that surrounded him. This was what he needed. He needed to be alone, to withdraw from life for a few brief moments and contemplate in lonely seclusion–far away from the house, past the edges of the formal gardens, hidden in the rolling countryside.
He had known she would never be his, but to have her married and so happily so, did sting just a bit. There was not another like her. He was nearly certain of it. How many years had he been parading through the seasons with nothing to show for it but a little more apathy, a bit harder edges, a heart that seemed less and less touchable. He sighed. There were others, not as lively as she, but acceptable and perhaps even lovable.
He switched legs, propping his right foot on his left knee. Did he even know what it was to feel love? He had felt strong, protective feeling for her, but were they really any greater than those he had for his own sisters? He found her attractive, that was different from how he thought of his sisters, but attraction did not equate to love. He had been saddened when she had refused his offer of marriage, but he had not been shattered. He had not even felt melancholy. He had actually been somewhat relieved–relieved enough that he had almost wholly sworn off all strong drink so that he would not find himself in such a situation in the future. No, he had not loved her, not in the way a husband was to love a wife. He had loved the idea of her. Someone who would always be eager to listen and share his deepest concerns and greatest joys. Someone who could arouse a feeling of desire.
He swatted at a fly that buzzed near his ear. Annoying creatures. Not unlike some of the ladies of the ton. Buzzing and flapping about with no purpose but to drive you to distraction. There was one, on the outer edges of the ton, that piqued his interest. She could buzz and flap with the best of them. He had watched her do so in many of the finest rooms in London. He knew that it was to garner the attentions of his cousin. He had on more than one occasion seen her glue herself to his cousin’s arm and babble on about things of no importance. She had pursued his cousin, it is true, but not with a heartfelt-longing for the man himself. There had been disappointment when she learned of his cousin’s betrothal, but there had been no headaches or other complaints of malady that bespoke a love-sick heart. She was obviously looking for position and wealth in marriage. She was the sort of woman from whom men of his rank ran–the fortune hunter.
He sat and stretched out his legs while leaning back on his hands. Was that all the interest she had in him? Had she spent hours with him as they waited news of Elizabeth and Georgiana’s safety just to engage his interest so that she might have a chance at his money and title? He shook his head. No, she had not pursued him. She had never crossed the room to sit beside him. She had never laid claim to his arm in the manner she had with his cousin. She had waited for him to approach her, for him to offer his arm. He had seen her eyes follow him around a room, only to dart away when he looked her direction, and she had coloured in embarrassment. When he had engaged her in conversation, her speech had on several occasions faltered, something that did not happen when she spoke to others. Perhaps…a faint ember of hope ignited in his heart…perhaps, she felt attraction to him as a man and not as a viscount of substantial fortune.
Attraction was but one part of choosing a marriage partner. His father had made sure that all his children knew that fact. If he could not prove to his father an attachment beyond attraction, his father would not give his blessing to such a union. But, attraction was a first small move toward the eventual loss of his current single state–not his attraction to be questioned, for he had no trouble feeling attraction to many a pretty lady, but her attraction to be scrutinized to assure it was attraction to something other than his current and future titles or his fortune.
He stood and smoothed his clothing, making sure to remove any leaves or blades of grass that may have attached themselves to his jacket or trousers. Assured that he looked presentable, he strode to his horse and took his seat. Slowly, he nudged his mount into a steady cantor. He looked back down the fence line of the adjacent field where his brother and cousin often rode as if the devil were in pursuit. He shook his head. He was certain he would never understand the need to race forward whether on horse or in a relationship. A steady pace, calm and assuring, that would keep solidly to the prescribed path. That is what he needed, was it not?
He turned his horse toward Netherfield. Loneliness was indeed an interesting, shifting feeling. The loneliness that he had sought, the peace that it had brought, the clarity of mind that it had helped him achieve, had been replaced by a dissatisfaction with his current state and with a desire to leave a certain type of loneliness behind. Impatience accompanied this loneliness. It compelled him to urge his horse to gallop more quickly. There was a lady of interest that he wished to know better. Now was not the time for a leisurely ride about the countryside. A laugh escaped him as he felt a longing to allow his horse to chase the wind back to the wedding breakfast. Loneliness, he thought, is fickle. Not only can it provide tranquility, it seems it can also provide motivation.