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As you both shall live

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She steps, quite new, into his old world. She's nearly as lovely as she is necessary. (It could have been worse, is the not-precisely-gentlemanly thought that follows him through her first days here. It could have been much worse.) She speaks often and well, polished and polite but so very American. Her words, the shape of them, are curious and unpinpointable; some cross between a bell and a carving knife. People listen when she talks. They cannot help it. In her manner and her bearing she is a near-perfect imitation of any of the dozen English girls he might have married, were circumstances different. She keeps her head demurely down, but sneaks upward glances with clever, curious eyes when she thinks no one is looking. And so he develops the habit to look. When she catches him, she smiles.

She does not melt right into the scenery of Downton, fading until she looks as correctly placed and unremarkable as the curtains in the parlor or the mantle clock. She is not quite a piece of this puzzle. Not yet. But she is essential to it -- the lifeblood pulsing through, the harbinger of little footsteps and heartbeats that will grow into sons and daughters that will carry this life on as it has always carried on.

(He is a little afraid of her -- absurdly, embarrassingly. There has always been talk of men fearing their wives, but she is no comical archetype, no henpecking burden. She is too quick and too bright. In these early days he is forever certain she will find him out -- though of course she knows already; theirs can hardly be mistaken for a love match -- and will tell him as much. Bells and carving knives. But she remains forever silent.)

She has a bedroom of her own but stays in his all throughout the night. She says, when he remarks upon it, that going back and forth would make her feel too much like some concubine in a harem, called when wanted and then sent away again. He laughs and tells her that he's never imagined himself much of a sultan. Thank God for that, she says. She seems as happy to fall into his arms as she is to meet any of her duties here.

In time, he forgets that she is not something he chose.