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[personal profile] historize
Title: Untitled: Part One
Character(s) or Pairing(s): Retired military veteran Major Arthur Kirkland and nurse Anna Jones (female!America) in Victorian England
Rating: PG, language, nothing serious
Summary: After returning from South East Asia with the Royal Army, Arthur Kirkland has served his time and will retire. Kindly, the military hospital is providing him with a live-in nurse to assist him while his wound heals. Anna Jones, who dreams of dancing, pops up and mistakes him for the butler.







Arthur Kirkland breathed in. “Ah, that’s a one…”

“Yes, Major, I can see the rips. It didn’t heal right out in the jungle. Looks like it took a nasty infection.”

“Yes, yes…it did.” Several delirious days under hot sunlight and enormous leaves. His men had carried him on a stretcher and his captain had taken command. The wound above his hip had festered and rotted. They used maggots to clean the dead flesh and boiled water to soak him when they made camp. It had been another week before he had come out of it.

“Thank you for your service, sir. I’ll see you get some young nurse to come help you about your house with the cooking and cleaning.”

“It’s not necessary—“

“Please, sir,” the doctor told him. “I understand—I was a surgeon out there. You’ve done your service, no need to not accept the assistance now. You need to heal.”

“A real gentleman knows when to accept a hand, I suppose,” Major Kirkland supposed.

“Indeed, sir.”

Major Kirkland pushed himself up with a grunt. “How’s the Captain?”

“Much better, they say Jungle Fever leaves a man with a primal lust for blood. He seemed far more interested in rum when he woke up.”

Kirkland laughed. A harsh, grating sound that bubbled up from his stomach and came out booming. “Now there is true English gent, though I think he must have had Jungle Fever before he set foot in that wretched place. Get him a bottle for me? And more for the Sergeants.”

The doctor smiled. “I’ll do that, Major. Shall I call the carriage?”

“Don’t worry for it. I can make it. Not quite so old yet, my man.” He got up. The doctor stayed close but did not make a move to assist him, for which Major Kirkland was grateful. He put on his jacket and grabbed his walking staff and headed out towards the nurses’ station with a barely discernible limp to get his hat.

Fifteen years of service to the Crown and with this last injury—a stupid one, as it were—he would now retire a respectable gentleman. Part of him desperately wanted this. To stay in his home in the country and live quietly, drink his tea and read his books. Maybe write a memoir about his time spent aboard in his Service. It sounded lovely.

If only for this wretched wound that never quite stopped aching and seeping. He certainly did not want to be trapped at home; that would drive him mad. Well, as soon as he seemed quite on the mend, he’d be on his feet enough to ride a horse again. A nurse might help for a short time. Cleaning would be a help, certainly, though cooking…he fancied himself a fine cook of English food—strange how his men seemed to eat it with a certain amount of restraint. Well, he was their commander, certainly they were just showing their respect. A finer group of men he couldn’t have had in the jungle. Though he was certain he didn’t want to see South Eastern Asia ever again, except perhaps by train, passing through. A bag of tea to pick up and a port of that wine they made, terrible in its potency, good for a lark. If one didn’t mind losing one’s clothes. To which Major Kirkland was mightily opposed. (But it had been fun before judgment had restored itself.)

Oh, home.

The carriage had been supplied from his home and driven by his manserveant, Roberick. A fine young man with a stout, strong back and a good head for the necessary protocol without being utterly smothering. He rather reminded Major Kirkland of his older privates or younger sergeants. An adventurous head and wild spirit, born in Australia but brought back by his parents.

The boy didn’t say anything to his master, at first. He drove the carriage and a set of hearty horses out of London and into the countryside. They came to a fine little manor in a sea of green grass. Behind it, a massive expanse of rose gardens, Kirkland’s favorite flower. When Roberick stopped the horses and got down to open the door, he said, “The roses look very fine, sir.” He smiled. “They just been waitin’ for you to return.”

Arthur put on his hat and stepped out, carefully using the cane. He looked at the manor and something in him keened. To be home, to finally be home. And…home to stay this time. To put his uniforms away and put his souvenirs on the mantle for conversation pieces, to have a nice cigar and a cup of tea.

He stood there a long time, closed his eyes and breathed in the scent of his beloved England. Slightly sweet, musty with rain, cut grass and wet earth. “I say, Roberick, the jungles have made my eyes unused to our rains.” He took out his kerchief to dab his eyes.

Rockerick smiled gently. “I believe it, sir. Let me go start you a cup. Would you like some of the chamomile and orange blossom?”

Kirkland shook his head. “No, no,” he said, putting his kerchief away. “Just a nice South Downs black.”

Roberick nodded and turned, walking with most of Major Kirkland’s bags and going inside. Major Kirkland took his cane and walked with his slight limp around the manor. His beautiful roses, damp with rain, glistening there in the cool wind. He went up to one and touched it, breathed it in.

Yes…he deserved this.

He turned back after some moments there, dabbing his eyes and went into the manor. Roberick was in the kitchen and Kirkland could hear the comforting sound of a bubbling kettle. The young man was measuring a looseleaf blend from a canister and putting it in its little mesh trap (a genius, simple thing, really, the boy had made it himself out of wire) and placed it in the porcelain kettle (from Japan) and picked up the beat up every-day kettle to pour the hot water in. Rob noticed him. “Ah, ready in a jiffy, sir. It’ll steep now.”

“Good lad,” Kirkland said and stood by the fire in the mantle. “Will you be helping Barnum with his work this fall?”

“I will, sir, proving you’re well enough here alone?”

Kirkland snorted. “I’ve managed a few battles and guns, I daresay I can manage getting around the home.”

Rob looked at him in that frank way of his, but nodded. “Of course, sir.” He put the pot on a tray, with a cup and saucer and took it to the table. He wiped his hands off and got the Major some honey and scones. “Got those from Barnum’s wife this morning. Traded me eggs for them. Very good. I’ll start a stew tonight to keep the blood flowing. It gets mighty cool out here.”

“Thank you, Rob.”



Later, Arthur staggered upstairs to his room. His bags were neatly arranged. Normal clothes unpacked and taken for cleaning. But Rob had left the other bags. Good lad knew he’d want to do these ones himself.

The first bag. His uniforms. Service and battle dress. He laid them next to each other on the bed, touching the wool and then taking out three pairs of battered leather boots. Gloves came next and shirts. The next bag, his pistols, his long-range rifle, his sword. He took it out, drew it, admiring the steel. The satisfying sound it made when the hilt connected to the sheath. A bootknife, two cleaning knives and two combat knives. He must clean them all—he’d display them downstairs.

The wooden chest had more weapons; these ones were all native to the jungle. The finest bows he’d ever seen. Superbly crafted, with matching shafts. He had built the chest just so he could ship these back. Also in the chest, a set of cups and a teapot, wrapped carefully in paper. He’d found them in some kind of abandoned shrine, dusty and caked in mud…he had taken a strange shine to them and took them back to his tent.

His medical kit, he put on a side table.


A week he spent there, attempting to sleep late and being completely unable. Rob was helping the farmer on the plot that butted up against Kirkland’s land. Harvest was coming and it earned the lad some money to send to his parents and let him take his excessive energy out on other young lads, horsing about, chasing after the maids and so on.

Kirkland didn’t mind it. He got up, made his tea and burned his eggs more often than not—but by the Devil if he hadn’t eaten worse in the jungle. He relished even burnt eggs, if nothing else, it ensured they were properly cooked.

The bell rang.

Kirkland didn’t hear it at first. He was rolling tobacco for a cigarette, watching his cup of tea. Almost like zen, meditation, letting his fingers work without thinking. His scars itched today.

The bell rang again, followed by a knock, or rather, more like someone were banging on the door rather than knocking.

Kirkland did the slightest of double-takes. “Yes, yes, I’m coming,” he said when the knock came again, a bit impatiently.

He grabbed his cane. Surely it wasn’t Rob, boy was still working and he couldn’t be bothered to knock, he lived here the rest of the seasons. Rather ungentle for a woman. He felt an ugly thought, hoping it were some rude, uncouth vagrant that he could teach some swift English manners to with his cane.

So when he opened the door and found a startled, if water-logged, young woman, he stood there mutely for a moment. And then managed, “Madam, was it you who were banging on the door?”

The woman was smallish but with a stature of one who was taller. “Yes, my man. I’m a nurse sent from London to see to Mister Arthur Kirkland. Can you tell him I’ve arrived?”

Kirkland blinked. Did she just take him for the help? “I’m sorry, madam. What is your name?”

“Anna Jones, this is the Kirkland manor, ain’t it?”

“It is,” he said, slowly, rather grandly, as if to somehow make her aware of whom she was speaking to.

She snorted. “Look, I’ve a note from the Head Surgeon, war surgeon, I’ll have you know. Says that I’m to be here.”

“I daresay, I’d like to see it.”

She snorted again, as if insulted. “Think I’m some low thing, do you.” She put down her bag (very cheap and falling apart, Kirkland noticed) and reached into her threadbare coat (rather thin, he noticed again). Out came a cream-colored envelope (a bit damp).

She started to open it.

“I shall take that, Miss.”

The look she gave him could only be described as predatory. It almost made him burst out laughing at the sheer audacity. “This is for Major Kirkland.”

“Don’t you put on airs, Miss. I am the Major Kirkland.” What a strange little thing!

She blinked, her eyes got big. “Ah…oh,” she said. “Well, then. This is for you, Major Kirkland.”

He took it and opened it. Began to read. To my friend, the Major: I do hope you don't mind...

“You know, sir, given you went to war, I was sure you’d have a dashing eye patch or something.”

He did a slight double-take up from the letter. What a strange creature, indeed. “Come in, Miss…?”

“Jones,” she reminded. “You can call me Anna.”

“I should think not!” he exclaimed as if this were rather offensive. He turned to walk back in, continuing to read. I thought given your personality, she might be a healthy match for you. She's a bit unusual but a good nurse. “Come in, then!” he called back.

She made a face at his back, not that he saw it (hopefully) and picked up her bag (now soaked on the bottom) and stepped in. Ah, she saw now, he walked with a limp. She followed him.

He stood in the center of a handsome sitting room. He seemed to be in the process of hanging up some weapons. Anna was peering at them when Kirkland looked up from the letter. “So you are indeed Anna Jones, come from London to be my nurse and maid for as long as necessary…”

Her nose wrinkled a little.

“You are not what I expected, you know,” Kirkland said, honestly, a little bemused by the Surgeon’s strange choice.

“Well, as I said, Mister Kirkland, I expected you to have a dashing eyepatch.”

He looked at her again for a moment. “Indeed. Well, come and you can put your bag down and…put on dry clothes if you have any that remain.” He headed upstairs. “This way. I have one other servant though he is currently helping the farmer next door. I want no shenanigans betwixt you two when he returns.”

Anna’s nose wrinkled more severely. “Shant a worry to be had there, Mister Kirkland.”

He opened a door to a small room. “This will be your room. Change your clothes and come back down, please. I’ll show you the kitchen.”


When she reappeared, she had made an effort to comb her hair, quickly tried to braid it and pin it back. Her dress was a slate grey but dry. Her socks were soaked still. He could tell from the spots of water on her buckle shoes. He led her to the kitchen. “Kitchen, kettles. I prefer to have breakfast by eight or so. Tea, a breakfast tea with a bit of milk. Feel free to make something for yourself, of course.” He pointed unnecessarily at the fireplace and then went out. “This way…”

Back outside they went.

Anna blinked. “S-sir—your jacket…”

“It’s just over here. Come, come. Can’t be bothered for it, Miss Jones.”

She smiled a little, following him.

He showed her the barn. Two horses, a cow and chickens. “Do you know how to make milk and butter and bread?”

“I do,” Anna said. “Can at least do that.”

He nodded absently. “You’ll be fine. Can’t do worse than me. The animals aren’t hard to care for but the cow needs to be milked regularly, typically Roberick does these things. He tries to pop by in the evening and take care of them for me. Mister Barnum next door lets me buy my wheat from him so I don’t have to go to the nearest village. So long as you can made flour, there’s no reason to have to go to village.”

She suppressed a smile. Like he were some sort of ogre, not wanting to see other people. “Does your family ever come?”

Kirkland was walking out of the barn when she asked that, he paused. Gripped his cane. “Not often, no. My elder brother, Ian, is still in the Service. It’s very likely the Crown may give him some land in Canada as a reward for his exemplary service to Britain. My sister is married and living in Ireland.” His father had given Caiomhe to an English lord living there. She had never forgiven him, even after his death. She loved Ireland, hated the lord. “And my other brother, Taliesin, works in Wales, managing the accounts of richer men.”

Anna nodded. “Yes, sir.”

Back in the house, he limped in silence and then turned to her. “Is there anything else you have questions about?”

Anna nodded. “Sir, could you let me see your wound?”

“Well, I can’t see why that—“

“I am a nurse,” she reminded him, “not just your maid.”

He sighed from the corner of his mouth. “I see. This way, please.” He went to his room and with as much dignity as possible, laid back to show her the wound above his hip.

She touched it gently, quietly examining it. A gold-colored sap was gathered, still, around the edges or the wound.

He noticed her eyes were very blue. He looked away.

“I see,” she said quietly. “The spear pierced here at an angle. You were very lucky. Another couple inches in and you probably would have died.”

“Yes, well,” Kirkland said, “grit, upper lips and all that.”

She snorted. Her smile was softer. “Yes, yes, of course, sir.” She mock-saluted.

It surprised him, made him snort. “You are a strange woman.”

“I’m going to make you an eyepatch.”




Rob stopped by around dinner-time to start something for the Major but when he got into the kitchen, he startled. “Oi, oi, who are you!”

Anna jumped a little. She held her knife out. “If you’re some thief, I’ll show you what's what!”

“What! Hey! I work here!” Rob glared at her.

“Well, I do too!” A pause. “Oh, you must be Rob? Mister Kirkland mentioned you.” The knife came down.

Rob’s mouth opened and then, “Oh, oh…right. You must be the nurse?”

“Yes.”

“Do you cook?”

“Well, it's expected in England that every woman can handle bread, I guess.”

Rob shrugged. “Well, thankful for it. Mister Kirkland burns everything he touches. Best not to let him cook. Waste of ingredients. Do you like working here?”

“Only been here since this morning but it is nice and warm. Milked the cow already, by the way.”

“Oh…oh, thank you. What are you making?”

“Side of beef, potatoes, bread. Will that suit him, do you think?”

Rob nodded. “He likes that sort of thing.”



She brought him his supper, knocking gently before entering. He was still fully dressed, despite the hour and he sat at his desk, writing. “Excuse me, Mister Kirkland. “

He nodded, went back to writing. Felt the hair on the back on his neck rising and glanced up. The mirror above the desk, reflected the nurse watching him. He turned around in his chair. “Is there something else, Miss Jones?”

“No,” she said with a tone that said something else was about to follow. “Just that when I come back at bed time, this food had better be eaten. I’m a nurse, you know. You need to eat. I didn’t spend an hour making this for nothing.”

Her impertinence was…he couldn’t decide if she was extremely brave or just amazingly arrogant. Her status was—she was probably of low status, parents unlikely able to afford a dowry to marry her off with. She did seem rather old to be unmarried. Maybe in her mid-twenties.

“Hey, you hear me on this food, Major.”

He sighed, lips thinned. He must be getting soft, he’d sort out a private who spoke to him like that with a cuff across the face. But then, she was a nurse. She was probably used to having to bully soldiers to take care of themselves. “I hear you, Miss Jones.” He threw her a mock-salute from his chair.

“Good. That writing is not as important as health. I’ll come get the tray. No lifting anything unnecessary until you’re completely well.” She turned on her heel and marched out.

Major Kirkland sat back in his chair. “What a strange creature.” It was almost charming, in a maddening sort of way. He looked at the letter to his sister. Almost picked up his pen…and then turned and got up, going to the little table to eat.



The weather got darker, Rob spent days and days at the neighbor’s farm. Anna slipped right into the role of managing the household. She was coming to really enjoy this job. Usually she was sitting around rich, sick people all day. But here, Kirkland could get around and clearly didn’t like being fussed over. So she could do other work to keep herself busy and be useful.

And really, Mister Kirkland wasn’t bad at all. He was grouchy sometimes but…but, well…sometimes the soldiers were like that. Or sometimes just old men were like that. Though really, Mister Kirkland wasn’t really old. Old enough to have served ten or fifteen years for the Crown but he might have joined young. Started out as a private and then, when someone noticed he was clever enough for it, commissioned him. She liked walking around and looking at his weapons and the strange and interesting objects he had gathered from around the world. Sometimes she would try and picture how these people might have danced and would make up a few steps—graceful, light—and go back to work.

She did like to dance in the kitchen though. Oh, that would be a dream. To be a dancer, in a ballet! On a real stage…with a real audience…but…those dreams, she would remind herself, were for the wealthy girls. The ladies of quality and class. Not her. Not someone who has to work with her hands…

The thought depressed her. She shook herself, poured flour in a bowl. She should be happy she was at least permitted to be a nurse. It earned her some money and a place to live. She wasn’t out on the street like other girls who couldn’t get men to be married off to. Not that her parents hadn’t tried.



Kirkland got up. The fire in his room was nice and warm. Anna must have been in early. A tray with hot tea and bread and jam was sitting at the nook by the window. He got up and went to it. There was snow outside. Goodness, and in October. Barnum would be pushing hard today to get the rest of the crops in. He had been hoping perhaps to work in the gardens again but…ah, his body. It seemed to become more rickety the colder it got. It felt the pain in his hip sharply this morning. Kirkland took a deep breath and took a stout sip of plain, black tea. Bear it, Major, there have been worse pains.

He finished his tea and ate some bread and jam. Very fresh jam. Anna must have plucked the berries from the cherry trees last month. He picked up the tray. He should really thank her. It was nice jam. He headed to the stairs—

But somehow, strangeness. His hands felt fuzzy. He was fumbling, pain shot up into his eyes.



Anna was walking on the tips of her toes, spinning with the bowl and humming to herself when she heard the thump. She stopped, looking towards the door. Listening. Had she heard that?

She put the bowl down.

Another thump and crash—something breaking—

Anna fled out the door, looking! Oh there, at the stairs! “Mister Kirkland!”

She ran to him at the bottom of the stairs, flipping the tray away, broken glass and porcelain. “Oh, Mister Kirkland! Arthur! Are you all right?”

He was lying half on the stairs, his head was bleeding. “M-mister—Arthur—oh, damn--!” She gently pulled him off the stairs and ran back for the kitchen, grabbing several towels and racing back. She cushioned his head and checked for other gashes and swelling. She bandaged his head and opening his dressing gown, checking his wound and oh, his fingers. Three fingers on his right hand were broken. She splinted them with shafts of wood from the barn and cotton. His skin was clammy. She checked his forehead again, his hands. “He’s feverish…”

She managed to lift him and carry him to the couch. After grabbing the medical kit, she pulled a chair over, sitting by him with water and bowl, dabbing at him. His pulse seemed normal. She grabbed blankets for him.



Major Kirkland awoke slowly, blearily. He tried to move.

“Oh, no, don’t, Arthur. Stay still.”

Arthur…who on earth was calling him Arthur. He opened his eyes. “…Anna?”

“Yes, Arthur—Mister Kirkland. Don’t move, okay. You took a nasty fall on the stairs.”

“I did…?”

“Yes,” she told him. She wiped his face down gently. “You seem feverish too. How did you feel this morning?”

He took a labored breath. “….was a bit pained by the weather. My wound hurt something awful.”

“So you took the tray and started downstairs? Do you remember what happened right before you fell?”

“…felt like…my hands were fumbling, like a child’s. And then I felt pain, such pain…”

“You shouldn’t have carried the tray! It’s one of the heavy ones! I told you no carrying!” Anna said, her brow was creased, Arthur saw.

“Sorry,” he managed. “Did I break anything?”

“You did, Arthur—Major Kirkland. But it’s all right. There are other things…also you broke some fingers and banged your head. Do you feel dizzy?”

“No…just…ungodly.”

She huffed. “I’m going to bring you something to drink, all right? You stay here? I swear to God if you get up I will hit you with a pan.”

Arthur couldn’t seem to help but smile. “I believe you, quite desperately.”

“You better.” She got up and went, returned later with broth. He started to sit himself up but she looked ready to knock his head about so he laid back and let her help him.

“I feel like an old man,” he muttered.

“Well, you’re not. You’re just hurt,” she said. “And you’re such a big silly, you were in pain and stressed yourself and got sick.”

“So was it being sick or carrying the tray?”

She gave him an evil look. “Probably both.”

“Point taken.”

She fed him his soup.

“I can feed myself…”

“You can’t even be trusted not to carry trays or call me if you need help. You be quiet and eat your broth.”

He was a little bemused but too tired and pained to be angry. He sipped his soup from her spoon. She made him up a splendidly comfortable nest of pillows and blankets on the couch and he slept there that night.

When he awoke, she was still there. Awake, at his side.

He smiled a little. “You truly are a nurse.”

“I told you,” she said quietly. “I’m a nurse, Mister Kirkland.”

He looked at her. “You can call me Arthur.”

She smiled a little, reaching up to her face. “Thank you, Arthur. You can call me Anna.”



Rob was very unhappy at the word of the accident but Arthur bade him go to work, with Anna around, he was fine. So Rob finished up November helping Barnum process the wheat and brought back several bushels for them.

December came with blustery winds and snow. Anna kept a closer eye on him. Spring would do him good, she thought. He seemed to have the lingering sickness all through the winter. But in February, when the sun shown for a day and the weather unexpectedly warmed, she put his coat and boots by the fire to collect heat and went and got him. “Would you like to walk a little, Arthur?”

Arthur looked up from his book. “…ah, yes. I should like that. Thank you, Anna.” He got up, grabbing his walking stick and following her to the kitchen. “I feel like you’re my mum.”

Anna laughed. “Goodness, my boy, you grew fast,” she said, helping him get his coat on. His fingers had healed slowly over the winter and she was still in the habit of helping him get the buttons. She put his scarf on him and went to get her own coat.

They walked out to the rose gardens. “I look forward to spring,” said Arthur, tapping the ground. “I want to get out here and work again…to make these gardens beautiful…”

“They are beautiful.”

“They’re dead.”

“It’s winter.”

“Well, yes, but….” He looked at them, no blooms were open, of course. “I…I suppose it is still green and pretty in the snow.”

Anna smiled. “When spring comes, can I help you?”

“To garden? Do you garden as well?”

“Well, no, not normally—but honestly, how can I keep an eye on you if you’re hiding in your roses?”

“You think me a fiendish child who runs away from his nurse?”

“Yes,” she answered dryly.

He looked at her. “You impish girl.”

“You stubborn man.”

“Who’s stubborn?”

She smiled. Arthur seemed caught a moment, looking at her. He wet his bottom lip and then looked away, smiling too, laughing a little. “I need to get you some better clothes then.”

Anna did a slight double-take. “Oh, sir, I don’t need anything.”

“Well, now you revert to ‘sir’? Are you embarrassed? Come, come, I’ve seen your clothes. You’ll need something more durable to garden in. Your coat is all threadbare and worn. I should have thought you were some street girl. We’ll go into town when the snow melts a bit more and get some things made for you.”

“Oh…I…uh. I can make things, Arthur.”

He waved the hand with the cane in it, staggered on the lumpy ground. Anna grabbed him. “Nonsense,” he continued as he got his balance with her. “You’ve done good work. A few new dresses aren’t much. Coat and gloves as well, I daresay. Practical purposes, it’s strictly necessary.”



So in March they went, Anna awkward and shy. Arthur strict and no-nonsense about it. He paid for the work and had her measured. “Two new work dresses, she’s a nurse and my assistant. One more for gardening, horseback riding, the like. And a new wool coat, gloves,” he said it all as if he were commanding his men.

She had a very trim figure and, well, a healthy bust. They could pick them up in a couple weeks.



In the meantime, Arthur took his cane and went out to the gardening house. The tools were still there. Everything as he had left it. “No need to be lonely,” he murmured to the tools. He looked out at the rose gardens and the fruit trees. “I’ve come home to stay….”

He was able to spend about an hour pulling weeds before his hip started to ache and he headed back in, passing the kitchen, he saw Anna flailing about and did a swift about-face to look back in. Oh, not flailing, she appeared to be dancing. He smiled a little. Strange creature. And went about his business.


Her dresses were finished and she was trying very hard to be dignified in the shop with him. He was dressed so nicely with his cane and his fine hat and coat. He cut a very dashing figure. The limp was barely there when he was focusing this hard.

Not that she…minded his limp. In fact, there wasn’t much about him she minded.

When they were back in the carriage, she smiled shyly at him. “Thank you so much, s—Arthur. Thank you.”

He nodded and coughed a little into his glove. “Nothing of it. Practical things, you see.” He watched her when she got out of the carriage to carry all the bags upstairs. He smiled a little but then huffed and hung up his coat and fine hat and fancier cane. He grabbed his plain staff, he lit his pipe and headed out to the gardens.

Anna appeared in her new gardening dress to start learning. It seemed to go at a cracking rate once she was there, working when he no longer could—and he wasn’t as fussed about admitting it in front of her. (She was his nurse, that was all.) She was so eager to learn.

By April, the gardens were cleared of weeds, some flowers were replanted and the rose bushes were pruned. Anna brought out a small table, with Rob’s help and some heavy chairs so that Arthur could enjoy his tea in the garden.

“I feel like my hip is feeling better,” Arthur said one day, as he stood outside with her.

“Mayhap it’s the kind of wound that’s sensitive to the weather,” she said. “Maybe the warmth will help.”

Arthur was quiet a moment. “Not saying I want you gone, just—you’re my nurse. Have to make sure of these things. Practical purposes.”

She looked up at him and nodded. “Of course, Arthur. Thank you.”

He did a slight double-take, chewing on his pipe. “Huh?”

She smiled, it lit up her blue-blue eyes, and then looked at the gardens. “Nothing, haha.”

“Do you know how to ride a horse?” he asked. It wasn’t a strange thing. And not inappropriate for a young lady to know. She shook her head. “I see, well, I can’t ride just yet but I can teach you, if you’ve a mind to learn it.”

Her face lit up again, something about it seemed to soften him. “I would love to, Arthur!”

Among all these things, the spring was busy. In summer he felt good enough to ride again. When he did, it was painful—and he and Anna argued something fierce about him doing it again. She was so stubborn! He’d never met a more stubborn woman, he was suddenly sure!

But when he walked into the house later that night, after listening to the twilight and he heard her humming…he paused. She was dancing again. And, he hadn’t noticed it before…but…there was real grace there. Strength and surety. When she noticed him, she stopped immediately. “Aha, “ she said, “sorry.”

“For what?” Arthur walked inside, looking at her. She was embarrassed. “For dancing?”

“I…er…” she shrugged a little.

“Were you a dancer?”

She smiled, shook her head. “Wasn’t born to the right class. I wanted it—but it doesn’t happen for girls like me.”

Arthur looked down, realizing quite suddenly that she knew far more about him than he knew about her. “What were you born to?”

She went to the kettle. “It’s the same for lots of people…it’s nothing special…”

“Well, tell me,” he said and sat at the little table by the fireplace.

She looked at him and suddenly seemed uneasy. She shrugged again, putting the kettle on the stove. “Mother was from the north, father was drunk a lot. But he owned a farm. She married him, had me. Father drank too much, farm work didn’t get done. No money to be frittered away so I could dance.”

“Is that why you left?”

“No…well, maybe partially. Didn’t want to end up like my mother. They tried to marry me to a drunk and so I ran away to London, learned to read and worked hard, fell into nursing.”

Arthur felt slightly uncomfortable. “…did you have siblings?”

“…I dunno, probably,” she chuckled. “Though it’s very likely they weren’t by my mother.”

Arthur thought he would very much like to meet this man and give him some lessons on how to be a gentleman with the end of his sword. “I see,” was all he said. “Well, but you have proven yourself an exemplary woman. You’ve worked hard for what you have. It’s something to be proud of.”

“Yeah, keeps me off the street—but it’s the same story for a lot of people.”

Arthur sipped from the tea cup she brought him and invited her to sit. “You know, Anna…I have been thinking for some time now….ah.” He looked at his cup, his face took on a very serious expression, as if about to become very angry at a soldier. But he didn’t become angry. “I have thought that…you are such a good worker and you don’t mind my occasionally abrasiveness…I’d hate to have to replace you with someone else…”

Anna straightened a little, put her hands on her tea cup. “…would you…like me to stay some time longer?”

Arthur’s lips thinned. “I’d…rather like you stay on permanently. We work quite well together,” he said, not looking at her but continuing to stare severely at his cup, “and you aren’t afraid to give me what for. I know you’ve worked hard as a nurse and I just said it’s something to be proud of—it still is. But if you would like to be my household…nurse. I would take you into my employ and pay you. You’ve been receiving a small stipend from the Association. I would gladly meet that.”

He could feel her eyes on him. He raised his teacup to his lips and glanced at her over the rim of it. She seemed surprised. “Of course,” he said quickly. “Do think on it. It’s merely an offer. I know out here it is not so busy as London—”

“No—I…I would really like such a position, Arthur.”

Arthur put down his cup a little too quickly. “Good,” he said gruffly. “Excellent. I’ll write up a contract and send a letter to the hospital—of course, you can too. Of course. And if you need anything moved, it can be done…” He stood up. Anna stood too, grabbing his cane and steadying it for him. He took it. “Ah, thank you, Anna…I just, hate to see good people go.” And he looked away and walked off.

When he was gone, Anna felt her spirits lift, she spun around in the kitchen.
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