At Bowerly Hall-35

WHEN we arrived home, a footman passed me a letter which had arrived for me at midday.

My dearest Amelia, it read. I hope this letter finds you well. I enjoyed your descriptions of Bowerly Hall and its gardens.

A lot has happened since I wrote to you last. I think I mentioned my travels to care for my cousin. She was very poorly and sadly has since passed away.

It came as a shock as she had appeared to be improving. Her heart was weak, poor Clara, and the physician said that nothing could have saved her. He praised my constant attentions to her. I do miss her.

However, that is not why I am writing to you. After Clara died, I had a lot to do in my own house as I had rather neglected it to care for her. I adjusted with relief to not having to journey each day to the other side of London, and then I was called to a reading of her will.

This was most unusual and I was inclined not to go. I am tired at present. It has been an emotional few months. However, in the end, I did go to listen to the lawyer. I felt it was only fair to Clara to do so.

It came as a shock to discover that Clara has left me everything – her beautiful house and its pretty gardens, her carriage and horses, and quite a large amount of money!

My dear, I am writing to offer you a home at last. You will have no need of employment ever again. I felt terrible when you came to me that I could not offer you permanent shelter. Your mother was such a true friend and I wanted so much to care for her only daughter.

Well, now I can!

Please, Amelia, come and live with me. You will want for nothing and your companionship will give me great pleasure.

Your dear friend, Hannah Bidens.

I laid the letter down on my bed. It was hard to adjust to what Mrs Bidens had written.

I was so very pleased for her. She was a kind and generous woman and now she was financially secure for life.

She wanted me to share in her bounty. I could give up work. I need never have to fear the future again!

But what turmoil her letter had stirred…

I got up and paced the room. Mrs Bidens was tired and grieving for her cousin. She needed me. I should go.

But Mary needed me, too. I loved her and the thought of leaving her was painful.

Then there was Charles. I loved him in quite a different way, even if it was useless. I couldn’t bear not seeing him again. But what future was there in loving him?

The next morning I was worn out. There were dark circles under my eyes and Peggy commented upon them.

I told her about Mrs Bidens’s letter and her kind offer. Peggy’s mouth turned into an O of surprise.

“Well, ain’t you the lucky one. When will you leave?”

She stared at me and then shook her head dismally.

“You’re considering turning her down, aren’t you?”

“I’ve grown to love Bowerly and I’m very fond of Mary, of all of you. I just I don’t know what to do for the best, Peggy.”

“Well, I’ll tell you, then.” Peggy stuck her hands on her hips as if to give me a lecture. “It’s all very well working for the gentry but you’ve got to remember that’s what it is. It’s work! We’re not part of the family.

“They don’t care about us really. If they didn’t need you, they’d give you notice tomorrow. That’s the plain truth.” She shrugged.

“What about when Mary’s older? They won’t keep you on out of charity, you know. Grab your chance, Amelia, grab it with both hands. It’s a rare thing you’re being offered. Imagine not having to work ever again!”

She sighed, picked up her pail and duster and walked away, still shaking her head.

I felt chastised. The more I thought about it, the more I began to see that Peggy was right. It struck me that I would be an embarrassment to Charles if he ever suspected my feelings for him. Could I hide my love so easily?

I felt not. It was bound to show eventually. Humiliation would surely follow.

I decided I had to leave before he returned from London. Lady Anne’s prediction on the weather had come true. Late autumn storms had blown in and would make travelling unpredictable.

The worst part was leaving Mary. It was going to rip my heart out.

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!