She walked into the library and was startled to find him sitting at her father’s desk, writing what appeared to be a letter. He rose immediately to his feet when he saw her and bowed. “Miss Hampton.”
She returned his greeting in the manner of women, her face a little flushed. She hoped he would think it had to do with her walk. “Mr. Read.”
He put down the quill pen, folded the sheet of paper, slipped it into an envelope and handed it to her. “Please do me the honor of reading my letter, Miss Hampton. I will not take up any more of your time. I bid you farewell.” And he was out of the room before she had even said anything.
She went to the window and looked out to see him untether his horse and then mount it. He was off and she watched until she could see him no longer. She looked at the envelope with her name written neatly on it, anxious to read the letter enclosed.
“I heard you come back from your walk, Miss Ellen and thought I would bring you some tea and fresh scones.” Bessie bustled into the room, carrying a tray which she set on the table. Ellen’s mouth watered as she smelled the freshly baked scones. She slipped the letter into her pocket.
“Where’s everyone?” Ellen asked.
“Mr. Turner went out on business. Mrs. Turner, Misses Grace and Mary went to visit Mrs. Blakely. They all should be back later this afternoon.”
“When I came in a few moments ago, I was surprised to see Mr. Read here.”
“Oh yes, Miss. He came by to see Mr. Turner. They were in the library for a while and then Mr. Turner left for his business. Mr. Read stayed to finish writing a letter.”
Ellen’s fingers closed over the letter. “Thank you, Bessie.” She wanted to be alone to read the letter. Bessie left, closing the door behind her.
Ellen drew a chair over to the window and sat down. She took the letter out of her pocket. Her heart began to pound as she removed it from the envelope and unfolded the note.
My dear Miss Hampton:
I hope that this letter finds you well and that you will not think me impertinent for having penned it. It is by the counsel of your cousin and my dear friend, Roger Wentworth that I have resorted to writing you this letter in which I hope to express my interest in you which I must confess has been hard for me to communicate in person.
Nothing but the noblest of sentiment would prompt me to intrude upon the notice of a young lady under such circumstances. An interest in you has captured my heart and no effort on my part could free it. I hope that you will have pity on me and receive me as a suitor.
The purpose of this letter is to ask your permission to pay you friendly visits with the hope that closer ties will develop between us. I do not request an answer in writing although if you choose to accord me one, I shall be very flattered. I will do the honor of calling upon you on Friday evening, on which occasion I hope for a very happy outcome. Yours with much regard,
Ellen stared at the words on the page, hardly able to believe it. Mr. Read wanted to be her suitor. During those times they saw each other, she never imagined that he harbored any interest in her. He had hidden it remarkably well.
She read and re-read the letter. Her heart was pounding again. She got up from the chair and went over to the desk. She sat down and taking a sheet of paper from the drawer, she took up the quill pen and wrote:
Dear Sir: I read your letter. Thank you for writing with such candor. I shall be happy to see you on Friday evening and whenever you are pleased to call on me I shall make you feel quite welcome. Truly yours,
She slipped it into an envelope and sealed it. She slipped out and went to the post. Mr. Read will have his answer before Friday evening.