On Friday, we even ventured to the coast for a picnic, and I swear in my time in New York I have never seen the ocean so blue, nor the weather so fine. Seeing the ocean seemed to please the Doctor immensely, and it pleased me to see him smile so much. He even risked getting his boots wet more than once to peruse a small little tunnel made in the rocks with many carvings all about it from previous visitors. His curiosity was most charming in its almost childlike fascination.
Saturday, as the Doctor had no business again, brought another sort of busy day in which Mrs. Hegwood insisted upon calling on everyone she possibly knew in town to present to them the Doctor, which she had no doubt regaled with stories regarding both of us, and I am certain what she did not know she filled in with her own versions. All the while the dear Doctor remained perfectly cordial and polite, albeit quiet and very reserved. Who is to blame him? I was most impressed with his patience during the entire ordeal, at times I think there is no end to it, and the man should be brought up for sainthood.
Time slipped past us entirely unnoticed during the course of the day, until it was brought to our attention how very late the hour had become and the sun was quickly fading. We had lost almost all of our time to prepare for the ball! Mrs. Hegwood was nearly beside herself upon realizing how behind our schedule we were, and I confess her distress was infectious and I myself was in a bit of a state, as I do so hate to be late to anything. After a such a length of time previouslty thought impossible, our small party which included Ms. Liebert, Mr. Simmons, the Doctor, and I, departed in the carriage in high enough spirits and feeling very fine indeed. I felt especially lovely despite myself in my newest frock of white muslin with white-work around the sleeves and hem, with bright red silk trimmings, and it seemed well received by my party, the Doctor included, who was sure to compliment me more than once through the night.
The location of the ball was a painfully long journey of an hour, and since we were required to take the longer route, adding even more to our late schedule, I felt my mood begin to sour. This was not helped by the poor condition of the roads and the poor directions we were given. I was resolved not to arrive to the ball in a state of agitation, but as time wore on I felt that resolve wane, and by the time we finally arrived I excused myself from my party to have a few moments in solitude to compose my temper and remain the face of sweetness; for the Doctor's sake, as I would not have him see me so terribly ill-tempered.
When the dancing ceased momentarily as to allow a break for the musicians, I took the opportunity to introduce the Doctor to the few acquaintances present, and he was very well received by all, and showed no signs of having been present for grave amounts of distress just hours earlier, to which I am eternally greatful.
I fear I lost sight of the Doctor shortly after his introductions and the music started again, as I was hastily accosted by friends and berated with questions regarding the Doctor, as well as called away to dance. I oft looked for the Doctor among the crowds, worried he would be left quite alone and feeling abandoned, but each time I spotted him, he was dancing with Ms. Liebert, or speaking with Mr. Fox or Mr. Seeley.
As the night wore on, I was beginning to think I would never get a chance to dance with him, and felt perhaps I had not honored his request of my company well enough. The last dance was called as a waltz, and I felt certain the rather old fashioned Doctor would have little to no interest in this new dance, but I was pleasantly surprised to see him suddenly before me, holding his hand out for me with a small, secretive smile. I happily placed mine in his, and he led me confidently to the floor, saying nothing and giving away nothing. The music started, and I was immediately swept up in a dream. The Doctor despite any of his previous claims was light on his feet and a wonderful dancer, and what is more, he knew how to waltz! I felt as though time itself disappeared. Well before I was ready, the music ended, and the world came back to present, and suddenly I needed to escape. With a hasty courtsey, I left the Doctor on the floor and made for the small gardens at the back of the house. I found an empty bench away from the crowds and sat down, watching the company slowly break off into small groups to talk, or to make for their respective carriages.
My heart could not beat any harder, lest is beat right out of my chest, and I sat deep in thought, a crease in my brow as my mind traveled to what just had happened. I did not even notice the Doctor approach my corner of the garden until he spoke, startling me out of my reverie. "I did not know anyone could look so cross at such a merry place, Miss Waterman", said he. Not wanting to expose myself and my thoughts, I provided some excuse such as our late arrival as explanation to my mood. He stood in silence, then sat at the bench across from me, close enough to let his knee brush across mine! I glanced down, but said nothing to point it out.
He noticed me fingering the torn loop of my dress, which was to hold up my skirts from under my feet, and inquired if any other damage had been done. I replied that no, thankfully, other than a few stains from dirty boots that were placed by the same gentleman who was clumsy enough to trod upon my gown causing the damage. The Doctor asked after which gentleman was the culprit, and after a description and his name, the Doctor produced the most mischievous grin I have seen on a grown man, and quickly stood up and looked about. Upon not seeing the aforementioned gentleman, he turned to me and said "Ah yes, Mr ---. Have you noticed, Miss Waterman, that Mr. --- has such a particular way of standing,very similar to this-" wherein the Doctor splayed his feet in a most awkward and ungraceful manner, and continued, "to where he looks very much like a duck!" With this he put on quite a show of mimicking the particular gentleman in his style of dancing and walking, all the while quacking in a most undignified manner until I was quite overcome with laughter and tears sprang to my eyes. Satisfied he had pulled me from my gloomy humor he sat back down in his previous place, still grinning like a naughty schoolboy when I chastised him for behaving so.
Silence finally descended upon us once more, and again he allowed his knee to brush mine. I am sure he had something more to say to me, but his attention was diverted to Ms. Liebert, who was waiting by at a respectable distance, signifying our carriage has been brought around at last and was ready for us. Before we rose, he stayed me just a moment longer, looking at me with a rather distracted and suddenly shy glance, and asked me in a low tone "Miss Waterman, would you be so kind, rather, would you do me the honor of..would you..would you be opposed to holding my hand whilst in the carriage for our journey to the Hegwood Estate?". He shifted during the whole speech uncomfortably, and looked everywhere but me, and displayed such a charming state of shyness I could not help but tease him. To him I responded with a kind laugh, "My dear Doctor, are you in fear of either of us losing our balance and falling whilst seated in the carriage?" He looked at me so earnestly that my teasing tongue was immediately reproached by myself, and I softened my smiled. He responded after some time spent fidgeting and searching for the right words, telling me "Well...No..I just...I just want...to." To this, I blushed and lowered my eyes to look at my hands clasped about my fan in my lap, and to our knees, still touching. "Then, my dear Doctor, it would be my honor and pleasure to do so, but you must promise not to tell Mrs. Hegwood, as she will either scold me or tease me until I cannot bear it any longer and do something rash!". He seemed satisfied with this answer, smiled warmly at me, and we stood, and he wrapped me gently in my shawl. With my arm through his we made our way through the crowds to our carriage.
To our advantage, Ms. Liebert and Mr. Simmons were so...distracted they failed to notice as the Doctor slipped his hand beneath mine on the seat beside me, and for the rest of the trip home, it moved not from that place, and I made no motion to change that, as I was quite content to have it remain as it was, and for longer if given the choice, but alas we had arrived too early at the Hegwood Estate, and our happy evening was coming to a close. No words were exchanged as we entered the house and as he escorted me to my room. I looked up at him, and without knowing he was looking down at me our eyes met for a few remarkable moments before he offered me a bow as a swift goodnight, finally releasing my cold hand from his. He left with no words, and as he entered his room at the end of the hall, he spared a moment to look back at me, and there I stood transfixed, my face illuminated by the candle and my hand on the door.
I will never forget how his eyes, ever entrancing to me, looked at that moment. When dawn came at last after my sleepless night, and we were forced to see the Doctor away back to the South, the image remained with me still, and has carried all the way to this moment. I refuse to make any admissions of anything yet, as I know nothing and can make no sense of what I feel, but I will at least admit this; the Doctor has made a dramatic and somewhat frightening impact on me since I have known him, and I still cannot work it out. I cannot compare it to my feelings I had once for Mr. B--, they are entirely different yet so much the same. I shall write to Mama, Kathryn, and perhaps even Cousin Georgiana directly, and beg for advice to aide me.
There is an empty space in the house where the Doctor once was, and I believe all present in it feel it sharply.