Although my gaze was fixed upon the water as it rushed forth as if it were late for an appointment, my heart was otherwise engaged in a very distressing matter–a matter which has placed my very constitution for happiness in grave danger.
The whispers of the impending nuptials between George Allerton, my employer and the beautiful Lydia Bridewell have been growing louder. Yesterday, I overheard Alice, the maid telling Beatrice, the cook that the wedding could be as early as a fortnight. I wanted to inquire of Mrs. Moore, the housekeeper, if this were true but thought it best not to touch on the subject for fear of betraying my feelings if she did confirm it. So, I held my tongue and suffered in silence.
For his part, Mr. Allerton has said nothing to me which I find to be very strange as it would be imperative for me to find employment elsewhere. The thought of leaving Riverdale Manor, little Amy and Mr. Allerton fills me with torment. Over a span of four years, I have grown to love my life here. I cannot imagine finding the same happiness elsewhere.
Necessity bids me now to bring the matter of my leaving before Mr. Allerton as soon as possible. I have made up my mind to broach the subject this evening after dinner and when we are alone in the drawing-room where he and I have spent many evenings together engaged in stimulating conversations. It is obvious to me that he enjoys my company as much as I enjoy his and it warms my heart that he treats me not as a servant but as an equal.
My gaze swept over the beautiful landscape with the lush green grass and trees which swayed gently in the breeze. I shall miss this place which has brought me such joy and peace. I shall miss the solitude and the walks I have enjoyed with Mr. Allerton. I shall miss seeing little Amy chasing after butterflies while I read or sketched. And I shall miss Mrs. Moore who has been so kind and good to me.
Tears pricked my eyes and I turn to head back to the manor when I espied Mr. Allerton striding towards me. I stood there, my heart racing. Perhaps, he was coming to address the very matter I wanted to bring to his attention this evening. He had been in town on business. The manor was never the same when he wasn’t there. When he went away for days and weeks at a time, it was torture for me. I missed him dreadfully.
He was standing before me now, his hair as black as the night was tousled from his habit of running his fingers through the thick tresses and his face was slightly flushed from the exercise. His eyes raked my face making me feel as little self-conscious. I touched my face which felt hot.
“Miss Foster,” he said as he towered over me. “I was told that I might find you here. How have you been?”
I wanted to say that I have been miserable because he had been away and because of the news of Miss Bridewell and him. Instead, I stepped back a little, attempted a smile and replied, “I have been well, Sir.”
He studied me with those penetrating dark brown eyes of his. “You don’t look well,” he said, looking concerned. “In fact, you look very pale. Are you unwell?”
“No, Sir. I’m fine.”
He didn’t look convinced but he didn’t press the matter. “Let us stand over there in the shade,” he suggested. I followed him over to a group of trees and we stood under their shade.
Perhaps now was the time for me to bring the matter of my leaving to his attention. Taking a deep breath, my hands tightly clasped in front of me, I said, “Sir, it has come to my attention that I need to find myself another situation. I will advertise and hopefully find a suitable position very soon.”
He stared at me. “What the deuce are you talking about?” he demanded. “What new situation and why should you advertise? I think you may have been out in the sun too long, Miss Foster.”
“Sir, it would not do for me to remain in your employ after you are married.”
“Married? Now, I know you have taken leave of your senses. Where the devil did you get the idea that I’m getting married?”
“There has been talk of your upcoming nuptials to Miss Bridewell and—”
“Miss Bridewell and I?” he exclaimed.
“Yes, it is believed that in a fortnight you two shall wed.”
He laughed. “It is true that in a fortnight, Miss Bridewell shall wed but it shall not be to me.”
I looked at him, confused. “But, Sir, everyone said that she was to wed Mr. Allerton.”
“Yes, she is to wed James Allerton, my cousin.”
I was so overwhelmed with relief that I had to lean against the tree lest my legs give way beneath me. When I heard the name Mr. Allerton in relation to Miss Bridewell, I just assumed that it was him to whom they referred. I had forgotten all about his cousin, James whom I recalled had been particularly attentive towards Miss Bridewell whenever they were in each other’s company.
“There is color in your cheeks again, Miss Foster,” Mr. Allerton remarked now, watching me closely. “I suspect that it has to do with my clearing up a little misunderstanding.”
“Yes, Sir. It means that it is no longer necessary for me to quit your employ. I can stay at Riverdale for as long as I am needed here.”
His expression became very serious and he moved closer to me. “What if I needed you to stay permanently at Riverdale?”
My eyes widened. “Permanently?” I repeated. “What about when Amy no longer needs a governess or you decide to marry?”
He reached for my hand. The feel of his warm fingers against mine made my heart flutter and my breath quicken. His eyes met mine in a steady gaze. “Miss Foster—Emma, Amy is no longer in need of a governess,” he said quietly. “She’s in need of a mother and I am in need of a wife.”
I gawked at him. “You mean…?”
“Yes, my dear Emma, I am asking you to marry me.”
I felt as if I were in a dream, one from which I hoped never to wake. This was all so incredible. My heart was pounding wildly against my ribs and my face was on fire. “But what will everyone think of you marrying someone beneath your station?”
“When it comes to my heart and what constitutes my happiness, I care not about what others think. And I have always treated you as my equal and not as someone beneath my station.”
I smiled. “That is true, Sir.”
He smiled. “Since I am soon to be your husband, don’t you think it’s time you called me George?”
He didn’t answer. Instead, he held my face between his hands and kissed me. My heart was bursting with happiness.
At the end of summer, we were wed.
This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Span at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.