Don Jacobson’s favorite love scene is from one of his Bennet Wardrobe books, The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion.
Some part of Wickham’s brain registered a warm breath against his ear. Then a whispery voice pushed through the fog of nearly twelve hours of exhausted sleep.
“George…George,” the blissful presence intoned, imploring him to wake, “Wickham!
“Come now, my dearest, you must wake up.” Then a woman, yes, t’was certainly a female, intent on turning Wickham’s rich dreams into a wakeful reality nibbled playfully on his ear lobe.
Luscious lips shifted their attentions along his jawline, pecking a series of kisses that included small nips designed to titillate but not injure.
At some point, her scent, a natural aroma that screamed Gaia blended with hints of rose and mint, exploded throughout his sinuses.
His eyes flew open to discover a head crowned with sunshine bobbing just below his chin. His wife was ministering to the softly sensitive skin protecting the great triangle of muscles anchored deep in his back but arcing over his clavicles to be exposed to her agile tongue and lips.
Wickham inhaled her musk, filling his lungs to bursting. How he had missed her enthusiasm which colored every smell ever associated with this most unique of all women.
Unbidden, his hands lifted and gently cupped her head, urging her higher, to their first kiss in nearly a twelve-month.
Lips parted. They breathed as one, sharing humid tastes of each other, savoring the thrill as adrenaline illuminated their senses.
Lydia was the first to break contact. She planted a hand on Wickham’s chest and levered herself up, a smile wreathing her face.
She offered first an explanation, “Lizzy told me why you were in Town. I had no idea that you were even on your way, but that is, I imagine, no surprise to you. Somehow, I think you outrode your letters.
“She also impressed upon me that you are not your own man, but rather are awaiting orders and dispatches from Horse Guards. Hence her urgent summons for me to fly to Town.
“However, my beloved sister neglected to mention that t’was you upon whom I would be attending.
“As the frogs would say…Quelle surprise!”
Wickham scooched himself up onto the downy mounds behind him. He impertinently challenged Lydia, “And, now that you are here, ma petite chou, what should I expect?”
Lydia bounced away from his reaching arms and landed on the floor, hips cocked, her weight balanced upon her right leg with her left leg, knee bent, tenting out her gown in Eve’s pose, known to every man from time immemorial. Her delicious firmness only hinted at, she scanned a pensive look, her left thumb and forefinger stroking her chin.
She answered, “Why, nothing, my dear sir, given that you look a bit like one of my Papa’s old sheepdogs after he crossed swords with a noisome hedgehog.
“However, I have prepared a solution.”
She swept her arm expansively toward the makeshift barber’s chair. She motioned him toward the seat.
Flipping back the sheets which had entangled his legs, Wickham rose from the bed, advising Lydia that he had a night’s worth of business which demanded his immediate attention. As he strode across the chamber, he caught sight of the dishes and drinks awaiting them. He softly asked if she could pour him a cup of coffee. Then he disappeared behind the privacy screen.
Rarely had a mug been filled with such excitement.
Once Wickham had drunk his quota, Lydia ordered him to the chair with a glance. After he had settled into it, she draped him with towels.
Scrubbing bristling horsehair through his shaggy locks to groom that which she could, Lydia set about trimming his hair. Handfuls and hanks were snipped and dropped to the sheet. The brush swept through from time-to-time pulling at knots left untended for the days without end that Wickham had taken to ride across the Continent. More hair was cut, although less now, preserving the underlying shape he so favored, sweeping in its fullness from his crown to the tops of his ears. She coiffed him as if he were one of the ton’s leading men, rubbing in a minute amount of cedar-scented oil to control his potent curl.
Through it all, Wickham studied his wife. Her concentration in her efforts reminded him of when she styled a new bonnet. Her tongue’s pink tip crept between her bee-stung lips. Every-once-in-a-while, white even teeth dazzled him as she unconsciously gasped in pleasure. She was a joy to watch, more so when he was forced to keep his hands folded in his lap as she focused on her work.
Hair finished, Wickham wondered what would come next.
Lydia wordlessly told him as she stroked his face, his beard’s bristles scraping beneath her fingers. She tipped his head back with the fingers of one hand.
His neck fully exposed, Wickham watched from the corner of his eye as she lifted a snow-white towel from the basin in which it had been soaking. She wrung out still-steaming water until just a few drops remained. Lydia then wrapped his face, heat soaking his whiskers to soften them.
Blinded by the soothing cloth, Wickham was forced to focus on other senses to apprehend her manner and movements. Ears engaged, much as they were when he was leading Wilson and Tomkins through the Iberian night into the French lines for prisoners, he divined a vibrant aural portrait from the soundscape he inserted into his memory’s vision of the surrounding space.
He listened as the razor’s edge snicked along the strap, an audible snap cueing the direction change as she flipped the shining steel against the pliable surface to draw the blade back against the leather’s grain. T’was a sound akin to no other on Earth much as the noise field of a flintlock being cocked could not be mistaken for anything else.
At some point, the lady pronounced her satisfaction with the edge, its nicks and burs vanquished to the point where little but Wickham’s beard would be cut.
George imagined her carefully placing the tool on the toweled expanse off to his left. He fancied her thoughtfully placing a pretty finger to her lower lip as she pondered her next step. He pictured her as she moved to her task, head bowed, a small smile gracing her face, exposing the tips of pearly teeth. He relaxed into the vision.
The sound of water being dribbled into the mug preceded the frothy clinking of the brush whipping suds into small peaks.
Finally, Mrs. Wickham’s sigh told him all was ready.
The cloth was lifted, but George did not open his eyes, preferring to remain blissfully blindered.
Boar’s bristles, slick with a rich foam, played around his face, from the well of his throat to the jut of his jaw beneath his ears. At some point, the brush playfully silenced him with a soapy seal dabbed upon his lips.
The brush and mug clattered softly as they were set upon the table.
Then Wickham heard the soft rustle of cloth against skin: not so much as to promise the removal of clothing, but rather a suggestion of a drape being raised. He understood what she had done when Lydia gracefully threw one leg across his thighs where they rested atop the chair’s edge.
Her weight settled onto his lap as she straddled his lower limbs. One at a time she lifted his unresisting hands to lay them atop her naked thighs, his fingertips touching her rucked up night rail.
That last roused the Lieutenant. His eyes flashed open to see her emerald green portals probing the depths of his soul.
Lydia planted her left hand against his right shoulder for balance, her breathing matching his now. She gracefully arched her other arm above her head, the well-honed blade she held catching the afternoon sunlight before she brought the edge toward his cheek.
First one stroke and then another: days of care and concern shaved away, the leavings to be wiped upon the table-bound towel to her right.
She ever-so-carefully negotiated the back of his mandible with nary a nick…or even the inference of one.
Wickham did not move a muscle…a wise practice when dealing with an unknown barber. Yet his immobility was not from concern, but rather that he was refilling his memory’s hoard with the sounds, scents, and sights of his toilet beneath the most loving of hands. These would carry him through for months, if not years, of enforced separation from the core of his life.
All too soon, Lydia finished her work, wiping off any soapy residue with a damp cloth. Her last task was to splash her husband’s face with lemony astringent witch hazel pilfered from Darcy’s changing room: young James having been most resourceful.
She bent forward and gently freed him with a tender kiss. The man heaved a cleansing breath and slid his hands up her downy thighs beneath her nightgown until he had captured the roundness of her hips.
A fluid motion brought Wickham to his feet as Lydia’s legs instinctively circled his waist and locked at the ankles.
Time suspended its passage as a man and a woman once again redeemed and forgave each other all their iniquities, all their injuries, small wounds given and taken, with the purest expression of the Universe’s unquenchable fire.
In the depths of their passion, unheard by all but the one who apprehended everything, a cosmic peal was rung.
This scene is a refreshing indication of a real attachment between Lydia and George Wickham. It seems that both are quite different from what we often read. What do you think? I loved reading of Lydia’s growth as a woman in this book. Have you read it? Did you enjoy seeing the changes?
In Plain Sight, a novel by Don Jacobson that is not part of the Bennet Wardrobe, will be released by Meryton Press, summer 2020. You may read more about Don’s upcoming release here.