Affairs Of the Heart
Charmed as he was by the young lady's smile and much as he might have liked to return it, Felix could not quite bring himself to return it with any spirit or enthusiasm. It had been a mistake to agree to this, and he hoped wholeheartedly that his father would never hear of it. If the trunk had belonged to anyone else, would he have done this? Felix was relatively confident he would not, and that knowledge made him entirely more uncomfortable than he had already been.

Waiting as Lady Philomena searched the trunk, reminding himself of his place in the household, how terribly improper it would be for a Footman to ask whether he might sketch a member of the family, or remark on her likeness to Rossetti's painting of Pandora. Struggling to remain impassive, merely nodding at Philomena's delight in finding the book. They were achingly familiar to him, a constant presence during his growing up in Cambridge, and still important enough to his father that the man would have taken them with him all the way to Yorkshire. Only to grant them to this young woman, at least temporarily, for reasons Felix remained uncertain of. He wished now he'd spoken to his father of anything other than whatever inconsequential things they'd argued about, about his father and his plans rather than his own failings.

Consumed with his current thoughts of failure, Felix scarcely noticed her discovery, thinking at first that she had indeed slipped a love note into the book, then realizing what it must be. Stepping closer confirmed his guess.

Felix himself had kept none of his childhood drawings, but this was typical of a period in which he had, not traced but diligently and with a rough exactness, copied the anatomical illustrations in this set of books, among others. Here was an eclectic assortment of musculature and skeletal anatomy, clustered together with no apparent reasoning behind it. Written above was his name, FELIX DIETRICH. He was not sure how to feel that his father had kept it, all he knew was that there was some connection here between them beyond the impersonal letter and without thinking, Felix reached for it.

"I beg your pardon, but that is mine. . ."
She had seen the name, not knowing who Felix might have been, in relation to her dear Oliver, but the young woman had barely time to wonder more over the drawings of bones and bands of muscles before the footman – the young man who bore such a likeness to the man whose trunk she was raiding – spoke. Philomena’s eyes leapt up, a slight crease forming between her dark brows, her lips forming into a surprised “O.”

”Yours?” she echoed, not with a tone of disbelief, merely of wonderment. Eyes dropping to the paper, as she moved her hand to offer the drawings to him, she asked, ”So…you are Felix?” Her dark eyes came to his. ”You are his…son?”

It was still posed as a question, although she was fairly certain she already knew the answer.
For a moment, as the young Lady stared at his drawing, Felix tried to read her expression, wondering what she thought of it. Then he recalled that he knew nothing of her opinion of art, and that this juvenile copying was hardly art, in the first place.

Taking it from her as she offered it, he wondered what he could say to her. "Yes," he said, softly. His father had kept this picture, which meant somewhat more than anyone's opinion of his honest attempts at art. "I'm not surprised my father never mentioned me . . . he had hoped for rather more than this for me, I'm afraid." Felix glanced up at Lady Philomena, offering her a rather apologetic smile.
How awkward, was Philomena’s first thought, as Felix took possession of the childish replication of what no doubt lay within the tome. He had confessed, to having been both artist and…son. Philomena could hardly comprehend that. Oliver had a son, whom he had never mentioned, and – more unbelievable – the doctor had failed to point out that the new footman was, in fact, his progeny! How extraordinary!

She frowned slightly, her eyes still on the handsome young man, and, now his guessed at parentage was confirmed, she saw Oliver in so many aspects of her ‘partner in crime.’ She felt guilty, for having unintentionally teased out this revelation. She felt sad, that her close friend and mentor had not seen fit to confide this in her – although she could see why Oliver had chosen to remain silent. She felt upset, on Felix’s behalf, for having been placed in this awkward position, having to explain who he was, and why his father had not done so. And she felt sympathy, towards the young footman, who seemed to share some, as yet unplumbed, level of estrangement from his sire. Philomena could relate to that, certainly.

She did not know what to say, how to respond, other than to use the words that sprang up from her innately kind heart. ”I see…That is a hard thing to bear – the censure of one’s parent. We are often such a source of disappointment to them.” Again with little thought for impropriety, she reached to place a soft hand on Felix’s arm.
Unexpected as it was, Felix was touched by her tenderness, though he could not help wishing that he paid even scant attention to the gossip of the other servants. At least then he might have more than the faintest idea the relationship between Lady Philomena Muzuran and her father. He had gathered the old Duke was something of a martinet, but if he was to be disappointed in any of his daughters, Felix would have thought Violetta the obvious choice. From what little he knew of Philomena, she was lovely, kind, and intelligent. If somewhat bold when it came to intruding on the property of others. He never doubted that she was friends, of some nature, with his father. Whether or not his father had promised her the book, Felix did not know. It was doubtful, at least, that he'd notice this one missing.

“That is kind of you," Felix said, and knowing he was venturing well out of the bounds of appropriate behavior for a Footman, continued; "Though I would have to believe, if your father is disappointed in you, it is through no fault of your own."
She gave a wry chuckle, which held no mirth. ”Oh, where does fault ever lie? It is a fruitless quest, to try to make that determination, when in truth, doing so changes nothing. I am who I am, just as I suspect you are who you are, and how can we change our very natures? My father does disapprove of me, yes, although I feel the disappointment is more within his own character, and has little to do with me, or my sisters. Perhaps our worst transgression is that we should all be sisters, without a son for him amongst us.”

She had turned her face to gaze, unseeing, into the trunk, as she mused upon the ways of fathers and their children. Now she looked at Felix again, with something of a sadder expression, though she smiled still. ”And we ourselves are not better, I suspect. For our fathers may seem quite disappointing to us in turn, when once we no longer see through the lens of childish awe, and affection.”
As she spoke, Felix nodded, lapsing into silent contemplation, his lips pressed together. Though the young lady had a lovely way with words, the meaning cut far too close to his own experience. Worse still, he knew that his own faults far outweighed his father's. If his father would only listen to him . . .

Sighing, Felix offered her a rather bitter smile of his own. "I quite agree with you," Felix said. "Though I would guess that your first statement is truer in your case than in mine . . . perhaps the second." He might have said more, if their positions had been more equal he certainly would have. "I have certainly taken the paternal disappointments to heart, and I know he isn't a bad man. . ."
Philomena’s eyes softened as she replied readily, ”Oh no, your father is a very good, good man indeed! He is so intelligent, and patient, and kind…” She was smiling but then her look faltered, as realization dawned. ”Just as mine might be said by some to be charming and clever and strong…whereas I have only experienced him as manipulative, cunning and stubborn.” She sighed, looked away, bit down on her lip, and then returned her gaze to Felix.

She reached to place her hand on his. ”Your father is a good man. I hope…somehow…you may find a way to reconcile your differences with him. It…it would make my heart glad to know you had. For his sake as much as for yours.” She paused and then, as if unsure, offered, ”If…if there was ever anything that I could do…”
This fervent praise of his father, an opened window into how others might view him. Must view him, for this young lady certainly loved him, whether romantic or filial, was an unsettling experience for Felix. Logically, he did know his father was a decent man, and better than some other fathers. Including Lord Muzuran. This quite factual knowledge did nothing to assuage the uncertainty which caused him pause.

For a moment, he was unsure whether he should defend himself, or fall on his knees and beg or absolution. Then, when her words turned to her own father, Felix thought only to offer her some comfort. Or perhaps, the hope they might comfort one another, though there was nothing he could offer her that would have been at all appropriate. And then, it was Philomena offering him her gentle consolation, and Felix found himself blinking back tears. Nodding, certain he should say nothing further to dissuade her of the affection she felt for his father, not quite meeting her eyes.

"Perhaps, if you were to write to him, you might. . ." he sighed, doubtful this would make any difference. ". . . speak well of me? Though I am sure there is nothing you could say, as eloquent as you are, aside from my acquitting myself as a Footman should. I'm sure that's not even true." There were times when Felix suspected he tried too often to make light of things, but he only wished to fight off despair. Now glancing up at her. "And if there is anything I can do in return?"
Philomena gave him yet another gentle smile, and a reassuring light squeeze of his hand before letting hers drop. She nodded. ”That indeed I can do, for it is but the truth. I have heard no complaint of you, in the execution of your duties. And, with your permission, I will say I have come to make your acquaintance somewhat and I have found you to be a kind and compassionate man. Perhaps that is not the stuff which some fathers put great store by. But…I believe yours might.”

”As for me.” She paused, looking at him with a warm yet slightly conspiratorial light in her eyes. ”It is enough to know that there is a sympathetic soul in this house. Believe me, with your father’s departure, there are truly few enough of those amongst the inhabitants here… although your father did recommend Mrs. Benbow to me. I shall have to follow up on that.”

She smiled at him more brightly. ”It will be a delight to share this little secret – our mutual…troubles…with our sires. And who knows? Perhaps one day we shall share a happier moment, coming together at some future date to tell of reconciliations and rapprochements.”

Giving the book in her hand a little pat, she concluded, ”And if ever I can return the favor you have done me today, please, Felix…come to me. It would be my pleasure to render to you whatever assistance I may, poor though it might be.”

With that, she smiled, almost uncertainly, turned, and made her way from the room.


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