- 33 . At Bowerly Hall-33
- 34 . At Bowerly Hall-34
- 35 . At Bowerly Hall-35
- 36 . At Bowerly Hall-36
- 37 . At Bowerly Hall-37
- 38 . At Bowerly Hall-38
ARE you unhappy here?” Lady Anne said when I went to tell her my decision.
“On the contrary, I have had some of my happiest hours in your house,” I said honestly.
“Yet you want to leave us!”
“I have had a very kind offer from Mrs Bidens of a loving home and I feel she needs my company at the present time.”
“What about Mary? She will be distraught when you go. She has become very fond of you.”
“As I am of her. But she is young and she will soon forget me.”
Which was a sad thought in itself.
“Very well, I can see you have made up your mind and that I will not be able to persuade you otherwise. You do realise you have left me in a difficult position? Mary will have no teacher if you go now. Can you not stay a month or two longer? What is the rush?”
I could hardly tell her I wanted to avoid her son.
“Will you be here when I return?” he had asked me. Had he had some premonition that I’d be gone?
Like Mary, he’d soon forget me. I shut down my emotions and packed my bags.
Mary cried as I left Bowerly Hall. She clutched at the doll I had bought for her in the village. It wasn’t much but it was all I could buy at short notice.
I had sent a letter to Sarah, wishing her well for her wedding and future life. I hadn’t wanted to visit and have to bear yet more farewells.
A chapter in my life was ending. A new one in London was to begin.
I was doing the right thing, wasn’t I?
Mrs Bidens was overjoyed to see me. She had not moved address despite inheriting her cousin’s house.
“Oh, no, it’s far too large for me to rattle about in. I can’t leave this house where Arthur and I started our married life together. Too many memories,” she had said.
I had been back in London for several weeks. At first I’d dreamed that Charles would find me and beg me to return with him to Bowerly.
As the days passed, so did that dream fade. I was no young girl with foolish notions.
I devoted myself to Mrs Bidens’s comforts. She had been persuaded to take on another maid and to increase her cook’s hours to full time. She had no housekeeper so I took on much of the role.
“You’ve taken on too much,” she said. “I shouldn’t have allowed you to organise the house and plan the meals. I shall employ a housekeeper, after all.”
“Don’t do that, please. I enjoy keeping busy.”
The busier I was, the better. It stopped me missing Charles and Mary every second of the day.
“Very well, if you are sure. I thought perhaps we might go shopping for dress material. There is a very good seamstress I know of who can run up the latest fashions.”
“Dear Hannah, you are too good to me.”
“Not at all. I enjoy being able to treat you; it gives me great pleasure. Shall we plan to go into the city this week?”
She went out that morning as there was much to do with settling her cousin’s estate. I decided to reorganise the linens. It was just the sort of simple task that soothed my brain.
To be honest I was restless. I missed organising Mary’s lessons. It wasn’t the same, reading poetry by myself. I longed to discuss it with someone. Hannah was not a great reader, by her own admission.
I opened the linen cupboard and pulled out great piles of towels, tablecloths, napkins and other odds and ends. There was plenty to do. This task looked likely to take all day.
I was right in the middle of it when the doorbell rang. Hannah’s new maid answered. There was some short conversation and I vaguely wondered who the caller was. We did not get many social calls. And, of course the butcher, coal merchant and others came to the back door.
“There’s a gentleman here to see you, miss,” Agnes said.
“Oh, please tell him Mrs Bidens is not at home. If he will leave a message…”
“He asked for you. For Miss Thorne, he says.”
Puzzled, I stood up from my position kneeling in a froth of linens. Uncle Timothy came to mind. I had written to my uncle and aunt to let them know I was back in London. They had not replied. Perhaps Uncle Timothy was visiting in person.
There was a pit in my stomach as I went to the door. However, I pasted on a polite smile. I might not like my relatives, but that didn’t mean I should be unkind and unwelcoming.
It was not Uncle Timothy. It was Charles! All broad shoulders, well-fitting jacket and immaculate breeches, high polished black boots and – and, oh, his dear, familiar dark scowl and piercing blue gaze.
“Devil take it, Amelia! What made you leave?” he said savagely.
“And a wonderfully good day to you, too, sir.”
That took the wind from his sails. He removed his hat and came inside without waiting for an invitation.