Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 10

SO what was there to be afraid of, Grace thought? Nothing! Gathering her courage she, too, moved along the corridor, only to hear Lord Alderarche’s furious voice as he bellowed at his stepson. Marry a servant? What was he thinking of?

Phil’s voice, too, was raised, and his mother’s, though Grace couldn’t make out what she was saying in all the noise.

Then Lord Alderarche announced, “And if you do, that’s it. You’re out of the house. Disinherited. The lot!”

Everyone went quiet, except Grace. With a choking sob, she started off up the stairs. In her own little attic room she opened the drawers of her single chest and started packing.

There was a knock on the door. Phil. But that was OK. She was no coward. It had never been her intention to leave without explaining.

“I can’t marry you, Phil. I’m not having you giving up this house, the land and your fortune, for me. You’ve no idea what poverty is like. You wouldn’t be able to carry on painting, and I love you too much to let that happen. Nor to have you living as a pauper.”

“Grace, I have no intention of living like a pauper,” he replied.

She looked at him.

“I have money from my grandparents – my real father’s family. But even if I hadn’t, it would make no difference. I would choose you. You are my fortune. As for my painting, without you I doubt I’d ever paint again anyway! Those portraits of you are the best things I’ve done. You are my inspiration.”

He smiled and opened his arms to her.

“Marry me, Grace, and be my Muse!”

*  *  *  *

The threatened snow was finally falling when, a couple of hours later, Phil stowed their bags into his Rover. The embroidered trees and blanketed ground gave that special feeling of a clean page, a new start. They had both been firmly of the opinion that, even if Lord Alderarche didn’t carry out his threat, neither wished to remain under his roof another day.

Phil phoned an aunt on his late father’s side and arranged for them to stay there until they were married.

“That’s it then, except for saying goodbye to my mother.”

They managed to speak to her privately as she was getting ready for a function that evening.

“You must do what your heart tells you,” she said to Phil, adding, “as I had to, against your wishes, when I married your stepfather. I hope he’ll come round and accept your situation, as you accepted mine.”

Mother and son embraced.

Phil told Grace more about his aunt as they drove. How there was a little chapel on the estate where they’d be able to marry quickly and without any fuss.

On the estate? Was this going to be another Alderarche Hall, Grace wondered.

In fact, the house did turn out to be comparable in size, but it had an easier, bohemian feel to it. Various other relatives lived there, but his aunt was the queen bee.

She lent Grace a dress from her own youth to wear for their wedding – a flapper-style affair, all silky fringes.

Every Christmas for the rest of her life, Grace recalled the day. As she wrote to Evie and Francesca, it was perfect, like a scene on a Christmas card with the little chapel all covered in snow.

She had cherished a hope that Phil’s mother and stepfather would turn up to see them become man and wife.

It didn’t happen.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.