A/N: sorry for the late update, and terribly sorry for the cliff hanger. (Am I not just evil?) Hope you'll enjoy it.
Higgins was sitting in the library that evening, trying to concentrate on the book he was reading but his mind kept wandering back to his mother's words. "Marry her, if you want to keep her, or else someone else might win her heart." He had become to close to losing her to that worthless lad, Freddy Hill."
He looked at Pickering who seemed to be writing a letter, and he though should the Colonel decide to go back to India or join the regiment again, would Eliza still stay here with him?
His meditation was, however, diverted when Eliza came In and sat in a sofa in front of him. He involuntarily busied himself in his book and tried to comprehend what he was reading----it was a selection of Byron's poems.
"WHEN we two parted
In silence and tears,
To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
Sorrow to this."
He felt her eyes on himself and looked up. She was gazing at him but was apparently deep in thought for she did not realize he had caught her eye.
"Eliza, had you ever read any of Byron's works?" She was still in oblivion and it puzzled him.
"I'm sorry what did you say?"
"come here," he patted the seat beside himself, "let's read some of Lord Byron's poems; you should be well-read if you want to be a true lady past pretension, and I'm sure you will like poetry."
She complied silently and went to sit there beside him, he read to her a page of it and looked at her she looked back at him blankly and shook her head, "
I don't understand a word!"
"Higgins I think you should start with something simpler" said Colonel Pickering, looking up from his work.
Higgins looked at Eliza for a second and got up to move towards a shelf near the pianoforte and looked through the books for some time until he found what he wanted and exclaimed,
"Ah I think she would like this one".
He took his seat once more next to her and began searching through the pages while Eliza watched him with anticipation.
"Ha! Here it is! Daffodils by William Wordsworth"
Once they had commenced reading they went on for hours, becoming so engrossed in the book, Henry reading, explaining and Eliza listening with genuine interest, wholeheartedly devoting herself to learning what he taught her that neither realized how time flew by and that Pickering had left hem to go to bed.
The old man had smiled when he saw the enthusiasm with which his friend spoke and the patience with which Eliza listened and he would not break the enchantment of their moment, so he silently left them, chuckling as he went up the stairs, asking Mrs. Pearce not to disturb the two on his way to his room.
As the hour had passed and ands weariness had taken over Eliza, she had gradually leant on Higgins, and he seemed to welcome it and had unconsciously put his arm around her, as he held the book with one hand and held Eliza close with the other.
When Mrs. Pearce finally went into the room at nearly 1 am, discarding the colonel's warning, she beheld a sleeping Eliza in Mr. Higgins arms who had lightly picked her up and was apparently taking her to her bedroom.
"Mr. Higgins I think you should wake her, really it's not proper" said she amazed at her master.
"Oh come now Mrs. Pearce, she is really tired. It would be cruel to wake her"
She sighed, knowing it would be useless to argue with him and said "very well then, good night, sir."
"Good night Mrs. Pearce."
Higgins woke that morning, with strange recollections of his dreams of last night. He dressed, and walked down to break fast as per his usual routine, but his mind was engaged. He had become extraordinarily quiet and thoughtful and it didn't go unnoticed by the rest of the household. He avoided Eliza's eyes, who sought his attention, and answered Pickering's questions bluntly.
Breakfast over, Eliza declared she is going out for a walk, and the gentlemen adjourned to Higgins's study while the servants cleared the table.
"Marriage? Could mother possibly expect me to marry her?" Higgins's train of thought continued "An old bachelor like me who has lived his whole life in solitude contently? Could I possibly find the will to marry in myself, or the courage to step on my pride and ask…but it's out of the question! She thinks I'm too old for her; and then the embarrassment of a rejection! No I have to be absolutely sure, and then what if it's all a mistake and I would ruin my own peaceful life and her youth? But I can't do without her. I can't bear the sight of her with another man." Higgins sighed dejectedly. He was not one to remain in doubt and confusion for long. There was always a solution…but now…this was not something he had ever learnt how to deal with. A deep frown had settled on his brow and his eyes had been fixed on one part of the page he was holding, a page about the contents of which he had no idea after gazing at it for about half an hour.
The Colonel had decided to leave him to his thoughts, and after watching him with an amused expression for five minutes, went back to his newspaper. But let's not dwell much in the quiet corners of the old man's mind. A man of the world as he was, with the wisdom one usually finds in elderly people, he already had notions of what was going on around him, but the same wisdom said not to meddle in it.
The house was quiet but for the bustle of the maids in the kitchen. Don't look here for Eliza, dear reader, she is not home.
Home. Where is her home, truly? She wanders sometimes in the Tottenhagem road still, looking at the flowers and the busy people making their living, oblivious to her. She can't call it home anymore for she no longer belongs to it. She realized that when she returned there for the first time and found out that her friends don't recognize her anymore. And yet she does not belong to the higher societies either, for at heart she would always be the simple innocent girl, whose passion were those simple flowers and not the heavy, burdensome jewelry that ladies of elite society hung around themselves! She had never felt a kinship for her father, never truly felt her parent's love.
And what of Henry Higgins? Could she belong to him? Could he give her the love she had lacked in her life?
No, Eliza was not at home, for she had no place to call home. Tears welled in her eyes again. Why couldn't she be strong enough?
She was walking on the pavement, heading for the river. If Henry was never going to talk, she had to think of something to do with herself. Maybe Colonel Pickering could help her with a shop of some sort, and she will have to live with her loneliness; surely she could still find new friends. "But I will have to carry the weight of my rejected love to my grave!" she murmured.
"Janet, come here!" said an old, grumpy lady, addressing her grand child.
A happy little child of 7, dressed in a blue and grey frock which looked rather old, came hopping along the road.
"Grandma, look at that beautiful lady on the other side!" she said in a cheerful whisper filled with admiration. "She is so pretty."
"Where?" the elderly woman strained her weakening eyes to focus on the figure her grand daughter had pointed to. "Why that must be Miss Doolittle!" she exclaimed.
"The one aunt Suzanne had met at the ball?" said the child wit distaste. She was not very found of her rich and elegant but cold aunt.
"Yes, now come, we must not be late, or your father will fume!" she warned. Te child obliged and fell into step beside the old woman. But they had hardly walked two more steps before a screeching sound and the scream of a woman brought them to a halt.
Little Janet turned only to scream at the sight when her grand mother fainted.
"I say, Pickering, it's already two, don't you think she is a bit late, wherever she has gone to?"
"Stop fretting, she will come soon enough." Was the only reply Henry got aside from a low chuckle.
"Sir, I do think you must send to search for her" Mrs. Pearce interceded. "I'm becoming worried too"
"Yes, I suppose I will do that. Where was it that she said she is going to?"
"She didn't specifically mention a place. She said she is going for a walk. Might I suggest Tottenhagem, or perhaps you mother's house?" the Colonel said.
"Perhaps, sir, she has gone to call on Mrs. Eynsford-Hill?" Mrs. Pearce suggested not noticing the Professor's colour rise.
"No, she wouldn't go there."
"Well then, I'll go to mothers. Pickering, will you dispatch a search party to Tottenhagem, and to the river perhaps…"
"Of course" said the old gentleman while getting up. By the time he did, Henry had already worn his coat and was on his way out.
The sun was rather warm at that time of day and in all probability she was too busy enjoying the weather o notice how late she was, and how worried they were for her.
"yes, it's probably that. Women never take into consideration…" he was walking fast, but he did notice the crowd gathering on the road.
"What in heaven's name…" he started. His heart started to beat faster as he approached the crowd, though he was unconsciously too nervous to notice that.
"Excuse me…begging you pardon…" he made his way into the crowd. It took him a few seconds to realize what has happened…some more for his heart to stop beating so violently against his chest, and as he grew calmer, he registered his own name being called from behind.