[posted Nov.15/02]

CHAPTER 1

Thursday April 16, 1812

Elizabeth acted as quickly as she could. Heart pounding, she hired a hackney-coach, ignoring the driver’s questioning look at her being unaccompanied. The destination was not precisely clear, only the name of the nearest Square. The driver thankfully knew London much better than she did. It was some distance across town, enough time to reconsider what she was about to do. But no, she could not back out now. Mr. Darcy was her only hope.

The coach finally began to slow, then came to a complete stop. Impressive buildings rose up within the narrow frame of the window – her audacity really was a wonder. Take a deep breath. She climbed out unassisted and instructed the driver to wait. She approached a street vender selling news sheets. He did not know where Miss Darcy lived, but another man standing a little off to the side who overheard their exchange immediately recognized the surname and offered her directions. She thanked him gratefully for his assistance and headed on her way. The driver nodded as she passed by him, but a last glance back at him before turning the corner was somewhat unsettling. He was shaking his head, likely at the boldness of young ladies these days.

Fortunately, it was not a long walk, since she was attracting a certain amount of attention by being out alone. His house was on the other side of the Square, situated on a small side street near a park; the houses here were a little older and even grander than before. The footman escorted her into Mr. Darcy’s private library at the back of his house. It was such a relief to know he was at home and would receive her. As she entered the room, he rose from behind his desk to greet her civilly. The curious servant was dismissed and ordered to close the door.

Limbs shaking slightly, she took the chair he offered as he regained his position behind his desk. He was regarding her without expression, a fact that made her more nervous. He was drawn and tired looking, though his eyes were bright enough. She would have at least liked to know what he thought of her, especially about her coming to his house, and alone. He said nothing more however, and his expression became pointed.

She took the hint, and biting her lip lightly, began to speak. The words would barely come out and she cleared her throat before trying again. "Mr. Darcy, I realize my arrival here is highly…unusual." His eyebrows rose haughtily at that. "Believe me, I would not have dreamed of imposing on you if I could have found any other option."

"I can well believe it." She did not miss the bite in his tone. "Perhaps, Miss Bennet, you could get straight to the point? What is it you want?"

His highly unfriendly tone caused her to worry at her lip again. "I need your help."

"My help?"

"I know that I…I have no right to ask it, after…after our previous exchange. But I must ask. My sister Lydia has run away – has eloped with…with Mr. Wickham. You know him too well to doubt the rest. She has no money, nothing to…appeal to any honourable sensibilities he might have left. She has been concealed in London for the last sixteen days and my family has had no luck in finding her." She took a steadying breath as she prepared to blurt out her request. "I thought you might have some clue that we do not. Some way, some name, that might help us to find them."

It was impossible to know what he was thinking, though a great many emotions played across his features.

How galling, she thought, to have to appeal to the one man who must hate me now. And how ironic it must appear to him that I am here pleading my case for his help so that I may locate his bitterest enemy – the very man who helped poison my opinion against him.

She could not meet his eyes for several moments until, driven to it by his silence, she met them square on. The hostility radiating there was more than she had ever felt from another person, and she knew a moment of irrational fear in the face of it. But she would not be cowed. She would never allow herself to be cowed by Mr. Darcy.

He studied her with unrelenting penetration for the longest time before he rose again from his chair and walked across the room to lean a hand against the mantel, his face slightly turned from her. She followed him with her eyes, wishing he would say something, anything. She jumped slightly when he finally did.

"As a matter of fact, I do have some idea of his former acquaintance and where I might find them." He lifted the poker and began to stoke the fire with slow, deliberate movements. Was it her imagination, or did he stab into the flames with more force than necessary?

"Anything, any information you could give to us would be most helpful."

He turned back to her then. "And how did you think to convey such information? I assume that no one knows you are here? Unless your family is as comfortable with you wandering alone around London as they are with you doing so in the country?"

She bristled at his insulting manner. Since his letter, she had felt guilty for misjudging him, but the style of his address was the same as always – arrogant, haughty, cold. Then she mentally made allowances.

He is undoubtedly furious with me. Did I expect it to be any different so soon after? It has only been six days since he placed the letter in my hands.

"Mr. Darcy, I cannot blame you for your resentment, but I beg you to remember that more than myself is involved. The welfare of my youngest sister is at stake, as is the reputation of my entire family. I am throwing myself on your mercy, though you have good reason to think I do not deserve it."

At that speech, he smiled slightly, though it did not reach his eyes. "I will not quarrel with your representation of our past dealings, madam. I am only torn between a distaste to offer assistance that may benefit Wickham, and the satisfaction of hearing you beg humbly for it."

"I see that I have made a grave mistake in coming here." She rose from her chair and made to leave. He caught her arm to halt her progress before she could sweep past him. He was disturbingly close to her, and the situation had become too uncomfortable now for her to remain in the same room with him.

"I did not refuse to assist you, Miss Bennet. Please sit down." He returned to his chair. He seemed to be deep in thought. She was staring at him in surprised relief, she could not help it. His changeable manners made her somewhat dizzy. Her moment of hesitation passed; she willed herself to return to the chair across from him. Her options at this point were simply too few to throw any away because of mere rudeness. The clock ticked away for some time before his expression changed again, as though he had reached some sort of decision. The next moment reinforced this impression, for he finally said something.

"I can tell you the names of his acquaintance, but without my help you will likely have no luck in finding anyone. It would be much better if I were directly involved, since I know where to look."

"That is not necessary, Mr. Darcy. If you would just direct us, we will manage."

"Ah, but then there is the problem of accounting to your family for how you came upon this information."

"You could call at my uncle’s and convey the information yourself."

"I thought you did not want me involved?"

"Then I will find some other suitable excuse."

"And then of course, finding Wickham will guarantee nothing. You may retrieve Lydia, but in what condition?"

She blanched at the thought.

"In order to make him marry her, it will take a great deal of money."

"How much money?" She feared his answer even before he said it.

"Probably between five and ten thousand pounds."

Five and ten thousand pounds. It was impossible to hide her distress at this information. They had all been focusing on finding Lydia. No one had yet considered what may happen once they did. "So much then?" Her voice sounded oddly faint.

"Do you think Wickham a fool? What has he to gain by marrying your sister otherwise? If he had planned to do so, he would have by now, do you not think?"

She nodded her agreement. He was not saying anything she had not thought herself. But the sums involved were staggering.

Her companion leaned forward in his chair, appearing truly animated for the first time during their interview. "I have a counter proposal – a bargain really. No doubt it is one you will find unacceptable, but then, you came to me, not I to you. And I have no need to help you at this point in our acquaintance."

She realized then that the light in his eyes was his own particular blend of rage and enthusiasm, but think as she may, she had no idea what he was going to propose. She took a steadying breath. "I am listening."

"I will find Wickham and your sister myself and make them marry. I will see to it that his debts are paid, of which there are doubtless many." She nodded to confirm that likelihood. "I will even make some decent arrangements for their future."

She viewed him warily. "And why would you do all this, given how little you feel moved to assist? What is it you want in exchange?"

"I should think that is obvious, Miss Bennet. I want you."

She faltered, wild thoughts running through her head.

"Mr. Darcy —"

"Ah, no. I see you mistake my meaning, Miss Bennet. This is not a second proposal of marriage, this is a bargain." His eyes swept over her suggestively and Elizabeth was torn between outrage and apprehension as she rose from her chair.

"How dare you."

"Knowing how despicable I am, knowing how capable of ungentlemanly behaviour, you should know that I would dare." His bitter sarcasm was not nearly as bad as that look of resentment that once again overtook his features, obliterating all else. Elizabeth backed away from him.

"Come now, Miss Bennet. Surely it is a fair exchange? Thousands of pounds of my money, and your family’s reputation restored to all its former glory, with only you the unwilling sacrifice to bring it about."

She shook her head in disbelief. He must have seen the fear on her face before she turned uneasily to the door.

"You need not fear me. I remain at my desk, and have not even been too uncivil. I may frequently display selfish disdain for the feelings of others, Miss Bennet, but I am not a barbarian."

She turned back then, feeling nothing but hatred for him. "Indeed, you are as civilized as ever. Thank you for your generous offer, Mr. Darcy, but I must decline."

She quitted his room, then his house, her ire steadily rising with every step she took. He had actually had the nerve to tell her to think it over and send him word if she changed her mind.

 

[posted Dec.8/02]

SHE continued to fume all the way back to Gracechurch Street. Clearly he must have known that she had no intention of agreeing to such a bargain. He must have simply wanted to insult and goad her. Then again, his face, the unmistakable bitterness followed as it was by unmistakable desire – it was possible that he had been serious. Anger gave way to disappointment; she had been fully prepared to allow that he was a good sort of man up until her encounter today.

Disappointment gave way to hesitation. She had not heeded her intuition before. No, she had deliberately misled herself with her wounded pride. She would not make the same mistake twice with regard to him. All her instincts now insisted that she had caught him at the worst possible time after rejecting him. His shocking words were not at all in keeping with his character as previously known. Here she hesitated again. Although she had led a sheltered life, she was not naïve. Men had mistresses. Society was governed by a brutal hypocrisy which demanded that young ladies remain virtuous, while men might cavort with fallen women. It was true that the aristocracy played by slightly different rules, but affairs could still destroy a noblewoman if conducted too openly, whereas, a nobleman could continue to hold his head up high as a pillar of society. Men had arranged their world in such a way that women were divided up into functions for them. Exactly how did Mr. Darcy fit into this picture? That question would intrude during the rest of the evening while she attempted to give every appearance of normalcy.

Her aunt arrived home from Longbourn only a few hours after Elizabeth returned from Mr. Darcy's house. It was a quiet evening, since all three at the table were exhausted from their various struggles during the day. On top of a hectic number of hours spent at his warehouses, Mr. Gardiner had more disappointments in uncovering clues to his niece's whereabouts. Mrs. Gardiner was worn out between bidding an hysterical sister-in-law goodbye earlier in the day, managing the care of the children on their journey home, and meeting with Mr. Bennet halfway there to exchange carriages and information.

As much as she adored her aunt and uncle, what a relief it was to retire early. It was unbearable to hear the latest grim news about Wickham relayed from Hertfordshire, or acknowledge the growing hopelessness of the situation. Why should they even bother to make such an effort for Lydia, who obviously cared only for herself? It added to the bitterness of their circumstances.

No one had sent word to her at Hunsford until nine days after Lydia's disappearance. That silence still hurt. Excusing the first two days when they had been trying to confirm some facts, the full week beyond that was difficult to comprehend – during which she was ignored, her presence simply not required. That stung. Jane would surely have written to her immediately, but their father had apparently insisted on keeping the matter as quiet as possible. How this was accomplished with their mother’s involvement was difficult to fathom. How a letter had not reached Charlotte from Lucas Lodge before Mr. Bennet's letter reached her was equally amazing. There had been some small blessing in not having to listen to Mr. Collins' sympathetic ramblings.

When her father finally wrote to her at Hunsford, he briefly informed her of Lydia's suspected elopement without giving her more details. The chief of his short letter conveyed the arrangements he had made for her to travel to London the following Monday, a full week earlier than originally planned. Her anxieties at Hunsford were compounded by the fact that she received Mr. Bennet's letter just hours after she received Mr. Darcy's. Here were two great shocks to her system, and her confidence in her own judgment, not to mention her picture of the world, had been shaken to its foundations.

She travelled alone. Maria Lucas, not wishing to leave Hunsford a week early, accepted Lady Catherine's offer to stay longer, much to Elizabeth's relief, since now was not the time for guests at her aunt's. In London, Elizabeth arrived to discover that Jane and Mrs. Gardiner were at Longbourn caring for her mother. When her father finally related all that was going on, Elizabeth insisted that she wished to remain in town, arguing that if Lydia were found, a sister might be of assistance to her. As enraged as Mr. Bennet was by his own failings, he was not the man to turn down such a convenient solution. He had no real wish to be the main support of a ruined daughter in God knew what emotional state if Wickham had abandoned her. Once it became clear to everyone that Lydia was well concealed and that there was a very slim chance of finding her quickly, Mr. Bennet elected to return home within days.

Elizabeth could not say for certain what it was that kept her negotiating to remain in London. All rational excuses aside, perhaps deep down she simply could not bear to return home. It seemed intolerable to pretend that her life was going on as usual when inner peace was turned completely upside down. Even the wish of seeing Jane again paled in comparison to her need for some escape. His opinion, not only of Wickham, but of her family, weighed on her mind more than ever before. He had been right. Her family had lacked propriety, sense, and restraint, and now these deficits had caused them their respectability in the world. His letter inspired an odd feeling of camaraderie with him, the camaraderie of a long time respected enemy. Puzzling. Yet she toyed with the idea of contacting him to seek his help if he were still in town.

Standing before the mirror in her bedroom now, she conceded that she had indeed made a terrible misjudgment. He might have viewed her as an enemy today, but it was doubtful that he respected her very much. If his bargain had been serious, then he was no better than Wickham in simply wanting what he wanted without any concern for who might get hurt in the process. Certainly, without any concern for the woman he wanted. I want you. His words sent an unexpected jolt of energy through her body. So shocking. Mr. Darcy of all men. But then, she was still reeling from the knowledge that he had proposed marriage to her, that he had been in love with her secretly for months and that he had been willing to walk into that very fate he had attempted to spare his friend. And now this. If he could not obtain her by marriage, he was quite willing to take her as his mistress. Bed provided sensual comfort as she drew the covers around her. Would the speculating never cease? Really, did she understand men at all?

Inevitably her thoughts returned to one man, remembering his expression when his eyes swept over her person. Admit it. Yes, he was a handsome man. She had always thought so, though she had also always refused to dwell on it. She had never before felt the full effect of his interest. Not even during his proposal of marriage had he looked at her like that. The look was…carnal. Based on that look, Mr. Darcy could be no innocent where women were concerned. There had certainly been clues all along if one thought about it. The way he had so carefully assessed her when they met, not that first evening, but the second time. Then there was that highly risqué comment he had made at Netherfield about admiring a lady's figure. And even something in the way he looked at women without being particularly impressed by them suggested the connoisseur, more than the abstainer. She should still be enraged with him for his behaviour today. She should. Yet, the incident appealed to her as a study in character. This new perspective on Mr. Darcy was undeniably fascinating. Such wickedness. How funny that she had simply been mistaken about the nature of his vices and not the existence of them. It seemed that in her present mood, all meaning was now up for negotiation and she laughed uncontrollably at the irony. Mr. Darcy wanted a mistress. Mr. Darcy – the man who never looked at a woman except to assess her flaws. Well, today was proof beyond measure that that was not true. No, he was like the rest of mankind after all.

Her sense of the absurd finally faded. Why did it seem more palatable that Mr. Darcy would want a mistress, rather than that he had shamefully cheated Wickham? And now the truth rushed to the surface before she could suppress it. Because it makes him much more susceptible to women than I ever thought possible. How she blushed at the thrill of power that idea caused.

Had she really, deep down believed that Mr. Darcy was an asexual passionless creature? After his disastrous proposal she had come to terms with the fact that she had been terribly blind to his feelings – that all of their interactions had involved a certain tension. How was it that she had failed to grasp the nature of that tension before he had declared himself with a marriage proposal? I simply did not want to see it. But why? She had been asking herself that for the last week.

As she lay there in the dark, recalling once again the entire interaction today, she cautioned herself that he was far more…dangerous…an opponent than she had ever expected. There was such an element of recklessness about him today. As though…he had stopped caring about behaving properly. His resentment was so…powerful. Had her rejection of him really wreaked such havoc upon a respectable man? Or was it proof of serious weakness – of a revealed lack of respectability on his part that had always been present? His obvious interest in a sexual outlet aside (for in that, he was apparently no different than any other man) his bargain was at least an expression of his failure to maintain his morals in the face of disappointment. Perhaps it pointed to a deep character flaw. She recalled his words of long ago. My temper I dare not vouch for. – It is, I believe, too little yielding…My temper would perhaps be called resentful. My good opinion once lost, is lost forever. Here were sobering words. The warning contained in them warred with the memory of that long ago encounter. He had not been offended by her spirited interrogation, even though she had meant to offend him. Exactly how much power had she yielded then, without even knowing it?

My temper would perhaps be called resentful. A more chilling possibility presented itself from today’s interview. He might simply want revenge. He might want to ruin her in the eyes of the world. That would make him far worse than Wickham. That would make him diabolical. Push him from your mind, let it go and move past him. If he were out to destroy her simply because she had refused him, such a man was far too dangerous to deal with for any reason.

He would not be dismissed however. The look in his eyes would not be denied. I should think that is obvious, Miss Bennet. I want you. Whatever his other motives, he still wanted to obtain her. She still had power over him, such as it was. It was too provocative a conclusion. The possibilities flowing from it seized her imagination and would not let go. Dangerous or not, he was still their best means of finding Lydia. She might get around him somehow. She might use whatever power she still had to her advantage to help her family – without giving him what he wanted. She simply needed to devise a way to play with fire without getting burned.

 

CHAPTER 2

Friday April 17, 1812

A letter from Jane that arrived shortly after breakfast attempted to put a cheerful view on things. Elizabeth’s family was well and missed her, their father was a little down, their mother, recovering. From this Elizabeth deduced that Kitty and Mary continued as usual thinking only of themselves, their father was shut up in his library indulging in useless introspection, and their mother was giving as much trouble as she possibly could. She fancied only Jane could flatter herself in hoping that the lovers would yet be found married, or that Lydia’s heedless flight and Wickham’s careless seduction of a fifteen year old girl was somehow proof of a strong attachment. Drawing no comfort from the most likely source to provide it, she took up pen and paper to compose a letter of her own. It took her some time, and more than a few sheets of paper before she was satisfied with the results of her labour. Finally she pronounced it to be just the right tone of apology and challenge. When her aunt left to make her calls, Elizabeth hurried outside to find the nearest means of sending her letter across town. That accomplished, she had time to wonder at what she had just done.

 

Saturday April 18, 1812

Elizabeth sat in the park a few blocks from her aunt’s house waiting for Mr. Darcy to arrive.How had he reacted to her letter? Would he appear today, and if so, would she manage to carry her point? She would find out what she needed to know and avoid any further mention of a bargain. It was possible that he had been bluffing and would not dare to continue with his outrageous demands. She could not shake the nervousness in the pit of her stomach.

He arrived on horseback in good time. Dismounting, he turned to her with a polite greeting, causing a surge of hope that her letter had made the intended impact.

He sat down beside her on the bench and after another quick glance of acknowledgment, stared out over the park.

"Thank you for meeting with me today, Mr. Darcy."

He shrugged. "I could not very well refuse after your heartfelt plea."

"I am relieved to know that is the case."

He looked at her sharply then; he was trying to gauge the meaning and sincerity of her tone. "You said that you knew you had misjudged me and wished to discuss it. May I assume that your ‘deep regret’ as you put it, means that you actually believed what I had to say in my letter?"

She continued to look into his eyes and even smiled sweetly, taking care to retain a slightly contrite expression despite the effect her smile had on him. "If I had not believed you, sir, I would have no cause to be ill over my sister’s welfare."

"Learning that Wickham is despicable as you have now, does not necessarily mean you were prepared to credit my words or my character."

"But I do credit your words. In more ways than you can imagine."

"Oh?"

"You were right about my family. It pains me to acknowledge it, but it is so. And we are reaping that harvest; what has happened is proof of that. However," her voice faltered for a moment, and she effected a subtle pretence by drawing out her handkerchief, "it will soon be too late if you continue to refuse your assistance." He shifted uncomfortably – proof that she had chosen her strategy wisely. "I know now that you are really a good man at heart. It will be my lifelong misfortune that I did not see that in time."

"In time?" He sounded doubtful and his eyes narrowed suspiciously. She was not used to putting on such performances, but what choice did she have? Lightly, I must tread very lightly here.

She smiled bitterly. "Yes Mr. Darcy, in time. We are ever dealing with each other at the wrong time, are we not? You paid your visit at Hunsford cottage while I was busy exasperating myself by perusing all my letters from Jane, specifically for proof of her wounded heart. You could not have walked through the door at a more inopportune time."

He seemed greatly surprised by this revelation. Finally he smiled, though his smile was pained. "As did you, the other day."

"Then please let me repeat more strenuously what I attempted to say in my letter, and what I should have said much better than I did the other day. I wronged you greatly at Hunsford. I maligned your character based on false information and…I must add, a petty prejudice which I had been harbouring since we first met. I was wrong, so very wrong."

"You were not wrong about my efforts to separate your sister from my friend."

He was watching her closely again. Too closely. As much of the truth as possible was likely the best course. "Yes, I was not wrong about that. And I still think that you should not have done such a thing. However, your letter clarified your motives – they were much nobler than I had allowed. I want to apologize for that misjudgment as well."

He actually flushed as he turned away from her in embarrassment and resumed staring straight ahead. I almost have him where I want him. "And now, though the misjudgments about Mr. Wickham were mine, my youngest sister, nay my entire family, seems to be paying the price. It hardly seems fair that such lessons should be brought home so cruelly – that my family should end up paying. If only we had known long ago what type of man George Wickham was…." She let that thought hang in the air between them, watching him beneath lowered lashes as he struggled with everything she had said.

He was silent for several uncomfortable minutes. "You take too much upon yourself, Miss Bennet. Though the fault lies chiefly with Wickham himself, I also failed to expose him to the good people of Meryton. Were his character known, this could never have happened."

She shrugged as he studied her for her reaction. "I cannot blame you for wanting to keep your personal business private."

"You have suddenly become highly forgiving of me, Miss Bennet. May I ask what has wrought this change?"

She smiled saucily at him. "I cannot afford the luxury of prejudice now, Mr. Darcy. I must be inconvenienced with the painful truth." It seemed that he wanted to believe her. He appeared to be searching through everything she had said, no doubt for any weaknesses. Another silence stretched on.

He turned suddenly from watching a duck tear apart the stale bread someone had left for it; his next question was a surprise. "What was it that caused you to resent me at the beginning of our acquaintance? What had I done to earn your condemnation?"

The thought of satisfying his curiosity was genuinely embarrassing; she looked away and concentrated on the scene he had abandoned. "I…I am afraid I cannot recall anything specific."

Meeting his eye, she wondered if he believed her. He seemed willing to let the matter drop, for he merely nodded. After another long moment, he spoke the words she had been waiting to hear. "Regarding your sister and Wickham, Miss Bennet, I will help you to –" His sharp intake of breath warned her before he captured her chin and forced it up so that he could see her eyes clearly. His actions, his perception, had been too quick. She had not managed to wipe the sense of triumph from her face, or lower her eyes in time.

"By God," he said, "you…little, scheming – I cannot believe I almost fell for your act."

"No, you are wrong, Mr. Darcy. It is not an act. I –"

He dropped his hand and stood, his fury visible in his tight jaw and grimly set mouth. "Do not – do not lie to me another moment." He began to stride angrily away.

She went after him, caught at his arm, and attempted to halt his steps. Much to her great surprise, she found herself propelled around and held before him. "You have gone too far this day, madam, attempting to play me like a lovesick fool. I promise you, you will regret it."

"Let go of me this instant. The only thing I regret is imagining that you might have a decent bone in your body. It may come as a surprise to you Mr. Darcy, but your feelings are not uppermost in my mind at the moment. You are not actually the centre of the universe." Outrage flared in his eyes but she was too angry, disappointed and frustrated herself to check her hasty words, "nor is your wounded pride – a wounding so richly deserved – likely to move me to much –." His lips swooped down wrathfully on hers and silenced the rest of her insults.

Incensed by his actions she at first attempted to push him away, but the sensations created by his mouth on hers were both shocking and wildly exhilarating. She could not help responding to the sheer passion of his demand, the sheer life-force that was him, or the headiness of her own sense of aliveness in his arms. Their lips were relentless on each others’, her tongue duelled with his for domination, their circumstances were completely forgotten. The heat, the taste and texture of him, the scent of him, the hardness of his body, all flooded her with a keen sense of need, long suppressed.

When he let go of her and stepped back, he seemed as stunned by what had transpired between them as she was. No sooner did he attempt to move further away than Elizabeth, overcome with the effect of their passionate exchange, grasped him roughly by the lapels and pulled him back to her, then caught his face in her hands and kissed him again with a violent initiation that rivalled his own. For several more moments they were lost again, until at last Mr. Darcy managed to hold her away from him. His eyes were wild and alarmed.

"Do not…do not come to me again Miss Bennet. I am warning you. I have done with being an honourable gentleman while scoundrels earn the love and respect that should be mine. I am weary of being good, of upholding the constricting rules that no one else seems to care about, or ever pays the price for breaking."

Still struggling to comprehend herself, she could not form any words to answer his plea, or to tell him that somewhere deep within her she heard the anguish, the disillusionment, and the longing for something more that lay beneath his cynical words. His feelings had struck a powerful chord within her, resonating with her own growing dissatisfactions.

She watched him as he mounted his horse and rode away. She watched him with the strongest sense of yearning.

 

 
* Photo on right tinted blue; original: 'treedrama' by LynnC, courtesy of stock.xchcng.  
 

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