(1938-11-25) What Man Could Be Humble
Details for What Man Could Be Humble
Summary: Edwarlinda, seeking her brother, finds his consort instead; and naturally has one or two questions for Rhyeline on the subject of her feelings for Cassius. The fortunate gentleman makes a cameo appearance at the end. (He however is not offered a biscuit.)
Date: November 25th, 1938
Location: Berylwood

The Library at Berylwood

A steady rain falls from the sky and lashes against the window with the occasional sharp winds. The bitter cold and wet of the night outside only emphasizes the opulent warmth within the Berylwood Estate. All curled up on a small sofa near the fireplace, surrounded by towering shelves of books, Rhyeline gazes into the flickering flames in reflective silence. A book lays open in her lap and a cup of tea warms her hands. A blanket of the softest, finest white wool warms her lower half.

The doors are all kept well-oiled by Cassius's army of servants; but there is a sound, nonetheless, as someone turns the handle and steps inside. Not the master of Berylwood, but his elder sister, Edwarlinda, who has for the past week or so been resident in the guest house set within its grounds. She's still wearing her coat, a big thick minky thing, untouched by the rain, and a scarf about her hair. She has one hand still on the doorhandle as she sees Rhyeline's small figure tucked up so cosily by the fire — it's odd for her, still, to see a woman so at home in her brother's house, and perhaps that's why her greeting is reticent. "I'm sorry," she says quickly, "I was looking for Cassius."

Rhyeline glances over at the sound of the opening door. One might catch a glimpse of the unguarded, luminous little smile that touches her lips with the expectation that Cassius has come home at last and joins her now. There is an innocence to the light, a profound shyness to the sweetness. However, when she realizes it is Edwarlinda, the shyness deepens. With a hushed watchfulness, she gazes over at her suitor's sister. "Ah… I- I don't think he is home yet…" she murmurs.

And Edwarlinda takes a few steps into the room to say, "What was that? I couldn't hear you," as she slips the scarf from her head. The nights are cold at this time of year, even the quick jaunt from guest house to main house requires a certain amount of wrapping-up.

The little mouse's cheeks grow warm with a subtle blush. "I… I said that he's not home yet…" she murmurs, attempting to lift her voice a bit more. However, her voice still remains hushed and sweet- a voice meant for libraries.

Then Edwarlinda nods; "I should have known he wouldn't be," she says, almost another apology, though not really, she's a Malfoy after all, "but I didn't look at the time, I just came over as soon as I'd got Circe to sleep." She'll have her nanny still watching over her, of course, that child is never alone for a moment. "I'll wait somewhere, if you don't mind. If I'm not disturbing you." The hand holding her scarf gestures towards Rhyeline's book, in which she was so deeply immersed a moment ago.

"No, it's- it's alright…" murmurs Rhyeline as she peeks over at Edwarlinda. Tucking a stray wisp of a curl behind her left hear, she hesitates a moment before murmuring, "Would you care to join me?" She indicates the spot beside her on the small sofa.

Oh, thank God that negotiation's over. Eddie drops her coat on a passing chair and sits down next to Rhyeline. How many times has she sat here? Probably more than Rhyeline has, although, lately… She's wearing a green suit which could do with pressing, over an ivory cardigan which fits snugly over her at present rather maternal shape. "If you're sure I'm not interrupting," she says, a little too late for it to be more than a courtesy. She eyes the book still in Rhyeline's hands; "What are you reading?"

Rhyeline blinks before glancing down at the book in her lap. "Oh… just… just some research…" She closes it and shows Edwarlinda the cover. It's a pale green, cloth bound book with the title: The Hobbit. Along the top border is a line-drawing of mountains while a dragon coils along the bottom before starting to crawl from the right hand corner up the side of the cover. "It's a muggle book… about wizards and- and magic… I- I just wanted to- to understand better how they remember us now…"

"The Hobbit," Eddie says blankly, reading the title from the cover. It means nothing to her; but how interested she is in the peculiar ways of Muggles… "What do they think about us, then?" she asks, reaching out to take the book and turn it over in her hands and read the inside flap of the dustjacket.

"The wizard character… he is elderly and mysterious… powerful… admired and followed as a source of guidance by- well… by an expedition of dwarves… and a curious little creature called a hobbit." Falling silent, Rhyeline watches Edwarlinda examine the book in her hands. It's a recent publication- no more than a year since printing.

No lacquer on Eddie's nails these days, and they're cut short, too. But the shape of her hands is still pretty as they flick through the book. Her eyes pick out one or two sentences, which make her frown slightly. "One wizard," she says, "and a lot of dwarves?" She smiles faintly. "You'll have to tell me how it ends. If he's a good wizard, or a bad wizard, or something in between. If we're friends to the Muggles in it, or…" Her lips press together. She returns the book to Rhyeline's lap.

"I haven't finished it…" murmurs Rhyeline setting the book aside with great care- just as she treats all books. "But- in others… the wizards are so often the counsellors, the wise ones… They even have a vague memory of Merlin…"

Edwarlinda makes a face. "I wish we were the wise ones," she says, "but there are times when at least some of us are as foolish as any Muggles could ever be…" She sniffs hard (a walk in the cold makes wizarding noses run just as much as Muggle ones) and looks about for another subject. "I hope you've forgiven me for the other day." She's referring, of course, to how boldly she prefaced Rhyeline's statement with the girl's name, when she read it aloud at the community forum. "I really didn't realise you wanted to be anonymous — your words were so forthright and intelligent, I thought you deserved to own them."

Rhyeline's cheeks grow rather warm once more. Lowering her gaze, she takes a small sip of tea before she murmurs, "I… I appreciate the- the sentiment… And- and it was alright… It- it simply caught me off guard…" As she falls silent, her gaze remains fixed upon her tea.

Just then there's a *crack* as Cassius's house elf Apparates in with tea for the master's sister. Her favourite biscuits are on the tray, too. Firm instructions were left on this score, and whenever Eddie crosses the threshold there's always something set in motion for her comfort or amusement. "Thank you," she says to the elf — she's the only Malfoy who occasionally extends such courtesies to those who are bound in service to their clan — and raises her cup to Rhyeline as the elf Apparates away again, his duty done.

"You really should learn how to take a compliment, Rhyeline," Eddie teases, "as many of them as you must be getting…"

Rhyeline's blush only seems to deepen as she peeks up at Edwarlinda with such profound shyness. She gives a small, hesitant nod. Though Cassius has hoped that Rhyeline would make his world hers- but it seems that the little one is not yet certain whether that world is interested in accepting her in return. "Forgive me… I- I've just… I've never been used to- to much attention…"

"Attention is always paid to Malfoys," Eddie says softly, lifting her cup of tea to her red lips (she hasn't let herself go completely), "whether we wish it or not. It's probably better to try to get used to it, if…" If you're going to marry my brother? Well, it's too soon to say, isn't it?

Rhyeline gives a small nod, knowing the direction Edwarlinda's thoughts went once her voice had trailed off. "I am aware… And… the opportunity to- to emerge from the shadows and- and stand at his side… and with him- to promote the noble intent of the unity movement… That's- it's one of the reasons I accepted his- his request for courtship…"

Both women are now sitting holding their tea-cups — Rhyeline, as though hers were a shield, Eddie, as though she were wishing hers might be a battering-ram. The eldest of the London Malfoys sips again, her cool blue eyes intent upon the girl who apparently would wed her brother, if she could… "One of the reasons?" she asks softly.

Rhyeline hesitates, hidden behind her cup of tea until she slowly lowers it. Hands warmed against its sides, she rests her teacup in her lap as she murmurs, "Yes… many reasons… I- I weighed Cassius' request very- very carefully…"

Careful weighing… Well, that could be good, or it could be bad, but to Edwarlinda Malfoy, who throws her heart over walls and then follows it, come what may, it certainly doesn't sound romantic. She sips her tea again, and, looking into Rhyeline's eyes, asks her: "You didn't just… know?"

Rhyeline blinks, looking a touch bemused by the question. The little one is a cautious creature by nature and as she gazes over at Edwarlinda now, that much shines clear in her dark, expressive gaze. "No… I… I wanted to weigh the choice… What it would mean… What might come of it… It mattered so much. So… it took me a few days to accept…"

The subject of love, Cassius's for Rhyeline, Rhyeline's for Cassius, has been in the air whenever these women have met, since Eddie moved into the guest house and Cassius at last explained why Rhyeline Diderot was spending rather more time in his home than might be expected of even the most confidential assistant. Yet never has it come so plainly into the open as it does now. Eddie takes a biscuit from the plate the elf left for her and dunks it very quickly in her tea, a common habit picked up from her common friends. She bites off the end of it, looking at Rhyeline, suddenly more an inquisitor than a potential friend. "It mattered that much?" she asks quietly.

Rhyeline's dark gaze shines now with a quiet bashfulness- her innocence hidden behind a veil of caution. "Yes… Very much… as much as he does… Choice has never been easy for me. But- he said that- if I would have him, he- he would share more of himself with me… So… the way you said, hadn't I simply /known/… It was through courtship that Cassius- I understood that through courtship, I would come to /know/." Averting her gaze, she remains silent for a time, her cheeks burning with warmth. "And… and it's true…"

The other part of the biscuit has remained still between Eddie's fingers as she listens to Rhyeline, with an attentiveness which betokens how much this matters to her, too. There is so much she still doesn't know, hasn't been able to discover, of the young woman her brother has chosen as his… consort? His betrothed? Something in between. She wants to know; but having run up against Rhyeline's timidity several times now, she's careful in asking. She pops the rest of the biscuit between her scarlet lips and chews slowly, washing it down with a long draught of tea. "You know him better now?" she says at last. Question after question. This is, perhaps, the real vetting. The last times they spoke alone they were only just becoming accustomed to all Cassius had told them both; or they were absorbed in the practical considerations of his life and theirs. How soon Eddie had to return to Circe. The community forum in Diagon Alley, and Rhyeline's statement. Unity.

Rhyeline nods, consumed with such intense shyness as she brings her teacup to her lips once more. After a long, slow sip she gives a small nod. "Yes… Each day, a little more…" Though she might not admit it- not yet- the seed of love has taken root in the little one's heart. Though the seed is slow to grow, this time just lets it extend its roots deep in her heart… slow to grow, but in time, it will be impossible to uproot.

"Cassius was born," Edwarlinda says slowly, "two days before my ninth birthday. I was old enough, by then, to remember…" She finally looks away from Rhyeline's face, to select another biscuit. Belatedly, she offers the plate to the younger woman; would she like one? Which of them is hostess here, the sister more or less in residence, or the consort who is such a frequent visitor? "He takes a long time to know," she says at last. "If he wants you to know him better — if he's letting you — it means a great deal. I've seen him with quite a few women," she admits, "but not the way he is with you."

Though tentative, Rhyeline plucks a biscuit from the plate. Nibbling on its edge, she watches Edwarlinda with that profound shyness of hers. In her mind, there is no question of who takes precedence here. Still blushing bright, she lowers her gaze once more. "No one's ever made me feel like this before… the way he makes me feel… But-" She peeks back up at Edwarlinda. "I- I also know how much you matter to him… More than anyone… Anyone. As it should be." The little one is the keeper of Cassius' secrets. So many secrets. Though her emotions shine bright and easy to read in her eyes, those secrets remain well hidden.

Cassius's voice is heard before he is seen. "I'm sorry, dear one," he says as he enters the library, distracted by a stack of envelopes in his hands. "Simply a ridiculous amount of post today. I suspect somebody put my name on a lis-…" He blinks, his smile broadening at the sight of his two favourite women together. "Lin, I didn't expect you. This is a pleasant surprise."

Once Rhyeline has taken a biscuit from the plate, Eddie returns it to the tray the house left upon the table at her elbow; she's slow to speak, thinking over what she's just heard. And then — Cassius? There's no mistaking that both the women sitting on the sofa light up at his approach, though in rather different ways. In Eddie's case it's a relaxing of her eyes, a soft smile over her shoulder to him as, without really thinking about it, she holds out her hand. "Cassius. You're working yourself to the bone," she chides gently.

Rhyeline's cheeks are burning with the warmth of a profound blush. Peeking up at Edwarlinda, the little one finishes the last of the biscuit. The sound of Cassius' voice ensnares the little one's attention at once. Despite her shyness in Edwarlinda's presence, she can't help but smile as she catches sight of him. Her dark gaze soon shines with a quiet, innocent delight. However, as Edwarlinda speaks and reaches out to her brother, the little one remains silent and still as she watches them.

"What man could be humble with two such divine creatures greeting him with such smiles?" Cassius tosses the stack of mail onto a table, and steps forward to claim both of their hands, lifting them simultaneous to kiss their joined knuckles. "Rhyeline, Edwarlinda, you make my heart soar. Am I interrupting, though? I certainly don't mind giving you ladies some private time."

Well, the mention of private time just makes Eddie feel de trop. If she spoke enough French to know what that was. Anyway, she feels it. She rises, drawing in a breath — but without extracting her hand from Cassius's gentle grasp. "I ought to be going," she says, smiling as she looks into his eyes, and then down at Rhyeline. Her errand — what was her errand? She's forgotten it.

Rhyeline stares up at Cassius, entranced as he takes her hand and brings it to his lips to match the kiss he gives his sister's offered hand. For a moment, within these walls and in this man's presence, the little one seems to forget her caution, and her eyes shine with that innocent adoration. Realizing that Edwarlinda has looked down at her, the little one blinks and peeks up at her. There her shyness returns. Were she the kitten she seems to be, her ears would have lowered on either side of her head.

Cassius gives a teasing frown. "Must you leave already? I've only just arrived. Ah, I did interrupt, didn't I? Should my ears have been burning?" He reluctantly releases both women's hands.

The change in Rhyeline, once she's in Cassius's presence, the way she looks at him, is desperately obvious to a heart like Eddie's. Her gaze lingers upon the younger woman, before rising to the man who means so much in both their lives. "I don't know, Cassius, should they have been burning?" she teases him lightly, drawing her hand away at last. Her gloves are lying on the sofa, next to where she was just sitting; she puts down her tea-cup and reaches for them, but doesn't put them on yet. What a splendid pair, these Malfoys, alike in height and blondeness, alike even more so in the confidence with which they stand together. "I should leave you two alone," she insists. "Especially if it's been a long day, Cassius." Her eyes haven't left him yet.

Rhyeline places her hand upon her cup of tea and now warms both against its sides as she rests it in her lap. Such a contrast the little mouse makes to the two magnificent Malfoys. Bringing the cup of tea to her lips, the little one's dark gaze flickers from brother to sister and back again with a hushed watchfulness.

Cassius tut-tuts. "Utter nonsense," he teases his sister. "But if you must go, I won't keep you. I'm sure Circe will need you soon. Oh, do bring her around the house more, would you? I'm having the staff turn one of the bedrooms into a nursery, so you needn't rush back to the guest house when she has needs." He smiles down to Rhyeline. "I don't suppose she's introduced you to my niece yet? She's the most angelic little creature you've ever laid eyes upon."

"It's cold out, Cassius," Edwarlinda says softly, "I don't like bringing her through it." This practical, deeply concerned, maternal side of his sister was new to him a couple of months ago, but must by now be, if not old hat, at least familiar. "I wanted to talk to you about — but it can keep, till tomorrow." She has her gloves on, now, and she's fishing in her pocket for the scarf she wore about her head to cross the gardens of Berylwood. "We can talk then." The warmth of her smile travels from Cassius to Rhyeline, where it sets slightly — she's not sure, she won't be sure for a while yet — and then to Cassius again. No hesitance as she looks into his eyes. "Goodnight, Cass." And then she turns, looking for her discarded mink coat.

"Not yet… but- I'd love to meet her…" murmurs Rhyeline with a soft smile as she peeks up at Edwarlinda with a tentative look of hope. The way his sister's smile sets a little when she looks to the girl deepens her shyness a touch. Hesitant, her dark gaze flickers to Cassius.

Cassius nods firmly. "It's settled then. When next you come, bring Circe. I'll send the bloody coach if I must. It's got winter charms on it." He gives Edwarlinda a fond smile, taking her hands again and leaning in to kiss her cheek. "Good night, Lin. Give Circe a kiss for me."

Is it so settled? Eddie laughs softly, leaning into Cassius's kiss, brushing her lips fondly over his cheek in response. She doesn't seem to realise the lipstick-smudge she leaves. "If you really want to meet her…" She looks down at Rhyeline again, and pauses, and then finally grants it. "I'll bring her." Her arctic blue eyes look up into Cassius's again. "You needn't send the coach, Cass, I'll bundle her up. Just this once." She slips into her coat, smiles at them both, and withdraws from the library. "Goodnight, you two," are her last words, uttered as the door shuts behind her.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License