“Freddy, must you walk so fast?” Rebecca demanded, holding her hat in place. “I’m quite out of breath trying to keep up with you.”
Frederick paused to glance over his shoulder at her. “You’re just out of shape.”
“I am not!” she retorted. “I’m in perfect shape, thank you very much. Why, I take turn in these gardens every single day. I’m a fit as a fiddle. Telling a young lady that she’s out of shape is not a very gentlemanly thing to do. You apologize to me right now, Frederick Livingston.”
Frederick gave her a tolerant smile. “Very well, Miss Johnson, I apologize for my ungentlemanly remark. Am I forgiven?”
She smiled sweetly at him and hooked her arm through his. “Yes, you are. Now let’s slowly take a turn around the grounds.”
“Very well.” He didn’t mind Rebecca. She was a bit childish but very lovely in appearance. Both families approved of a match between them and he wasn’t opposed to the idea but he wanted to take his time. Marriage wasn’t something he wanted to rush into. Vacationing here in the English countryside was very pleasant and it gave them the opportunity to spend a lot of time together. Rebecca and her family were from Savannah, Georgia while he and his family were from Charleston, South Carolina. They were the two richest families in their communities and owned the biggest plantations.
“Oh, by the way, Daddy decided to sell Hester. I shall hate to see her go. She has been with us since before I was even born. She was a teenager when I was just an iddy biddy baby. I like the way she braided my hair. Now who’s going to do that?”
“Why is your Daddy selling her?”
“He said she’s no use. None of the darkies will marry her because she can’t breed.”
“You mean she’s barren?”
“Yes. Isn’t that a shame? To be a woman and unable to bear children. How awful. I would rather die if that were to happen to me.”
“Yes, having children is something most women want.”
“Well, maybe, it’s just as well. We’ll have less darkies running about the plantation. Mama is complaining that our plantation is almost overrun with them. She said it’s almost like a roach infestation. You know, how Mama loves to exaggerate. Anyway, Hester was sold and Daddy’s going up to Mr. Yates’ plantation in Atlanta to get another slave girl.”
“I’m sure it will all work out very well.”
“I hope so. Oh, by the way, the Hardcastles are throwing a ball tomorrow evening. You will come, won’t you? Please say that you will. I will make sure that your name appears several times on my dance card.” The Hardcastles were the English couple she and her cousin Rachel were staying with. He was staying in Bath with his uncle and his family.
He smiled. “I shall be there,” he promised.
She gave a soft, tinkering laugh, her emerald greens sparkling. “I’m so excited that I feel like I’m going to burst. Let’s go back to the house and tell the Hardcastles that you’ll be coming to the ball. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled.”
He allowed her to drag him back to the sprawling manor, shaking his head and chuckling softly. What an excitable girl she was. She was busy chattering about the new gown she was going to wear which was sure to turn lots of heads.