The Extended Epilogue
Julia nearly burst out of the carriage as it rolled to a stop in front of the estate.
“Georgiana!” she cried, hurrying up to the older woman and hugging her with all the enthusiasm she could muster—which was quite a lot. “It’s simply marvelous, what a charming place! Your letters do not do it the slightest bit of justice!”
“Perhaps you would like to withhold some of your energy?” James suggested as he descended from the carriage. “Otherwise you might overwhelm the poor lady.”
“Mr. Norwich.” Georgiana smiled and curtsied to him. “It is a pleasure to see you again. The captain is just inside, he has been handling affairs all day.”
“Ah, yes, making the final preparations.” Julia grinned slyly. “The wedding day approaches swiftly.”
“Yes, and you would do well not to tease me too terribly about it. I am up to my ears in preparations and I am almost tempted to run away to Scotland and have done with it all.”
“Your brother will be heartily disappointed. As will I. I have so longed to see you in your finery. You deserve this day, Georgiana.”
“As you will deserve yours.” Georgiana took her hands. “Oh, my dear, I am so happy for you. For both of you.” She looked at Mr. Norwich. “Your kindness to me has not been forgotten, sir.”
“Ah, there you are,” Captain Trentworth said, coming down the walk.
“Took you both long enough, I should say.”
“And just what sort of meaning am I to take from that?” Julia replied, laughing and speaking with mock outrage.
“That I knew he was in love with you after you so rudely berated me over Georgiana. He was standing behind you the entire time and smiling as though you were the most delightful and entertaining creature on this whole earth.” Captain Trentworth grinned at James, who had gone a bit stiff with embarrassment.
Julia laughed. She could laugh, now, about how blind she had been. It was endearing to know that he was so obviously in love with her. And she could see it now in the way that he looked at her and spoke to her. In fact, in everything that he did, it shone through.
In the intervening month that had passed, Julia had found many an occasion to witness his love for her. It was in every little thing.
Mother had been right about that. Romance could be found in grand gestures, but it was most often in the little things. In the way that he carried her packages for her. The way that he knew when to stay by her side at a dinner party.
He still wrote her little letters, but now they were to be found in little places all over her house. He would leave them there when he came calling, for her to find later.
It was a fun little game. He teased her about how it was just like a raven to try and find bits of treasure. She had retorted that he was now confusing her with a magpie.
The letters usually had one or two sentences attached to them:
You looked beautiful in your frock tonight.
My heart stopped when I saw you enter the room.
I look forward to the day when I do not have to leave you at night, so that we might continue to talk as long as we wish.
I cannot wait until I am able to introduce you to people as my wife.
You are going to love the trees on the estate.
And so forth. Just little things, his thoughts about her throughout the day that he wrote down and then folded up and put her name on so that she might find them.
It was darling. She could not believe her good fortune. How could she have come to deserve such a man?
Although she had forgiven herself for her actions she still sometimes felt as though she had to work hard to deserve James. But she would work at it. She would do everything that she could every day to deserve him.
James was always assuring her that she did not have anything to make up for.
“But you have spent so many years waiting,” she told him on one occasion. “You were so patient with me. I only wish to give to you as you have given to me for so long without my even realizing it.”
“Love is not about keeping score,” he had replied. “You love me now and you are being everything that I could hope for. Let us not worry about what came before. It is all sorted now.”
And soon, they would be officially joined by law as they were in their hearts. First there was Georgiana’s wedding that weekend. It was to be hosted at this very estate, bought recently by Captain Trentworth.
Julia was anxious to see all around the estate. It looked lovely and Georgiana had been in raptures about it. It was no less than her friend deserved, if you asked Julia. Georgiana had waited long enough for her happy ending.
But then—then in only a short couple of weeks, it would be her turn.
After Georgiana’s wedding they were to go up to James’s estate. Or rather the estate which would be officially his once his father passed on. Not that Julia was anxious for that to happen.
She had never been up there before. James had told her quite a lot about it. He had even tried to sketch it out for her. He was terrible at sketching and it had made her laugh. But the effort was sweet.
It would all be hers to help run someday. She was looking forward to it.
And both her dear mother and father would be alive to see her get married and become a titled lady. It made her unbearably happy. To know that they were happy and to know that they were reassured and comforted by her marriage made her almost as happy as it did to think about who she was marrying.
Now that she knew both sides of him, the more serious parts of James were coming out. He would talk to her when he was upset about something his father had done or failed to do. He would disclose to her when he was doubting himself.
In turn, she tried to show him all of herself as well. To confide in him when she was doubting herself. When she feared she was being selfish. To check in with him and make sure that the thing she had just said was not thoughtless.
They tried to be for one another the same person that they had been in their letters to each other. And so far, it seemed to be working out wonderfully.
“You must tell me all about your plans as well,” Georgiana told her. She began to lead Julia into the house while the men started discussing something about horses. “I want to know where you plan to honeymoon. And your dress. And all of it.”
“Wouldn’t you be tired of discussing weddings? After all, you helped to plan your sister-in-law’s wedding and now you must plan your own.”
“It is about your happiness, darling. Nothing could make me better satisfied to discuss.”
Georgiana then paused, smiling at her. Georgiana used to so rarely smile. And she had never laughed. Captain Trentworth had changed all of that.
“You do look so unbearably happy, Julia. I do wonder if you can even see it. But such a change has come over you.”
“Speak for yourself, my dear. You are lively and I daresay there is even pink in your cheeks.”
“I mean it. Julia, you were not unhappy before. I would not dare say that. But now it is as if you have been shown the world for the first time. I cannot even begin to properly describe it. I simply want you to know that I am glad for it. You are my dearest friend and I am happy for you.”
Julia looked over at where James was talking with Captain Trentworth. “He makes me so very happy. Oh, Georgiana. I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with him. To help him with his estate. To have his children. To grow old with him.
“Nothing in the world is exciting without him there. And now that he will be there I know that I shall be able to enjoy anything that comes my way. It seems so silly of me to not have known how much I cared for him before.”
“Well, they say that we are all fools in love,” Georgiana replied. “At least now we may all be happy fools.”
“Yes,” Julia agreed, looking back at her. “Yes, we may.”
James and Captain Trentworth walked up to them. “Well, my little raven, I hear that the garden is something we must see immediately,” James said, smiling at her. “Shall we allow our hosts to take us on the grand tour?”
“I think that we shall,” Julia replied.
She loved when he called her that. His little raven. She had only had the words before but now she had the tone and could see the way that his eyes sparkled with warmth and mirth. She could see the way that the corner of his mouth quirked upwards in an almost smile. She could hear how the words rolled off of his tongue.
She was engaged to a man that she loved beyond all reason. A man who loved her in return, who had been patient and loving with her even when she had not quite deserved it. A man who had taken risks for her. She was with her dear friends and was going to see them married. And then she was going to get married herself, with her parents there.
Overall, Julia thought, there was nowhere else in the world she would rather be.
Especially not when she had James.