Horatio Clarke/Stone #writephoto

stone

Photo courtesy of Sue Vincent

Cora walked along the path, the new bonnet in her hand.  While the family was entertaining the vicar and his family, she opted to venture out here.  Her face was turned up to the sky, her flushed cheeks becoming.  She wanted to loosened her raven dark so that it tumbled down her back but that won’t do for a young lady.  Sometimes she envied her little sister, Della who could wear her thick auburn hair down.

She hitched up her skirt and ran the rest of the way, leaning against the stone when she reached the top.  What a glorious day, she thought spreading her arms wide like a bird.  Up here she felt free–free from convention.  She disliked sitting in the parlor, drinking tea and listening to boring conversations.  Most of the time, her body was there but her mind was here.

Besides, she was tired of being asked the same insidious questions.  “Are there no young men who have won your affections?” or “What about Henry Taylor?  He’s a very amiable young man with a very handsome fortune.  You wouldn’t want of anything, my Dear.”

No, none of the men in Yorkshire had so much as stirred any interest much less won her affections and as amiable as he may be, Henry Taylor didn’t tickle her fancy at all.  Why couldn’t they be satisfied that her elder sister, Edith had formed an attachment to the very handsome and very agreeable Mr. Fairfax?  It was only a matter of time before an engagement would be announced.  She liked Bernard very well.  He would be an excellent brother to her and Della.

She was so preoccupied with her thoughts that she didn’t notice him until he was almost upon her.  It was a man riding very gallantly on a beautiful white steed.  He looked stark against the animal because he was dressed completely in black.  Even his hair was black and the black cloak billowing behind him, reminded her of Count Dracula.

He dug his spurs into the horse’s sides and he came to a halt.  In one fluid and quick movement, he dismounted the animal and stood, over six feet tall, a few feet away from her.  He was very handsome.  His hair, thick and unruly, was blacker than hers.  Light brown eyes framed by enviably long dark lashes met her hazel gaze.

“Good afternoon,” he greeted her.  “I hope I’m not intruding.”

She shook her head.  “No, Sir, you’re not.”

“I like to ride up here,” he said.  “It’s very quiet and pleasant.  Do you come here often?”

“No, not often.”

“From whence did you come?”

“Fairhead’s Gate.”

“Fairhead’s Gate?” His black brows arched.  “Are you by any chance acquainted with Miss Edith Phillips?”

“She’s my older sister.”

“Then you must be Cora,” he said.  “Oh, permit me to introduce myself.  I’m Horatio Clarke.”

She stared blankly at him.  When he’d said, Horatio, she half expected him to add the name, “Hornblower.”

He looked amused.  “I see that Bernard has neglected to tell you about his roguish cousin.”

Her eyes widened.  “You’re Bernard’s cousin?” she exclaimed.  “But you look nothing like him.  He’s fair haired and ruddy and you’re–”

“Dark and rakish looking it.  I sometimes believe I have a little gypsy blood in me.”  His lips parted to reveal even white teeth.  He was quiet charming and disarming too.

Well, what ever he had pumping in his veins, he was unlike any man she had ever met.  He got her pulse racing and her heart pounding with excitement.  He was older than the men she knew too.  She guessed that he was five and thirty–fifteen years her senior.  Surely a man such as he could not still be unattached.  Whoever she was, she was very fortunate and she envied her.

She realized she was staring and she looked away, her face turning crimson.  “Perhaps, I should leave now,” she said.

“What?  You want to take leave of me so soon?” he inquired.

“It looks like it shall rain,” she said.

He gazed up at the sky.  “Yes, it does,” he agreed.  “Very well, Miss Phillips, I shall take you home.”

She looked at him in dismay.  “No, please, I don’t mind walking–”

“I insist,” he said.  “It would be rather remiss of me to let a lady get caught in the rain when I could have easily borne her to her abode.”

“Very well,” she said, realizing that it was pointless to protest any further and thought it rather kind of him to offer her a ride home.  She put on her bonnet and her heart lurched when he put his hands on her waist and hoisted her up onto the horse.  He climbed up and off they went.  This time his cloak didn’t stream behind him.  She clung to him for dear life, her eyes squeezed shut.  She had never ridden on a horse before.  It was terrifying.

She was relieved when they reached her family’s residence.  He got down and then helped her off.  Her legs felt wobbly.  He didn’t remove his hands from her waist until he was satisfied that she had regained her balance.  “Now, Miss Phillips, I shall bid you farewell but not before I ask your permission to call upon you tomorrow evening.”

It was hard to think sensibly when he was standing so close to her.  “Call upon me?” she repeated.  “But what about your young lady?”

His brows arched quizzically.  “My young lady?”

“Do you not have a young lady, Sir?”

He shook his head.  “No, Miss Phillips, I do not have a young lady.  Like you, I am unattached.”

She smiled for the first time since they met.  “Then, you may call upon me tomorrow evening, Mr. Clarke.”

He smiled and bowed.  “Tomorrow evening, then.  Good afternoon.”

She curtsied.  “Good afternoon.”

He swung up onto the horse and galloped off.

She watched him until he disappeared from view and then she walked slowly up the path to her house, just as the first drops of rain began to fall.  Oh, dear, she thought.  Mr. Clarke shall get soaked.

This is a response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Stone at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

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Misinformed/Summit #writephoto

summit

Copyright Sue Vincent

 

Emily’s face turned ashen.  “That cannot be true,” she exclaimed.  “You must be mistaken, Charlotte.”

Charlotte’s expression was one of great concern when she saw her cousin’s reaction to the news.  She took her hand and led her over to the sofa. After, she gently pushed her onto the seat, she sat beside her.  Holding her hands in hers, she said to Emily, her gaze unwavering, “I assure you, dear cousin, that I am not mistaken.  I received the news from a very reliable source.”

“May I inquire as to whom this source was?”

“His sister, Anne.  I was on my way to the drugstore when a fine carriage pulled up alongside me.  It was Anne.  She called me over and inquired after my family and my own health. And then, she announced that Edward was to be engaged to Mabel Turner.”

“Mable Turner?”  Emily looked aghast.  “That nasty little creature?”  Mabel Turner was the last person on the planet she would have expected Edward to have any romantic attachment to.  She was the most insufferable person she had ever had the misfortune of knowing.  They met when Emily’s older sister Viola was employed as Lady’s Maid for Mrs. Turner.

They instantly disliked each other.  Mabel disliked her because she was smart and clever and Emily disliked her because she was vain and pretentious.  She hated when Mabel called her “Mole face” because of the moles on her face and referred to the birthmark on her neck as “hideous”.  This discord between them continued into their teenage years and presently.

“Emily, I know about your history with Mabel, but you must put all of that aside.  She is Edward’s intended.  There must be something commendable about her character to stir the affections of a man such as Edward.”

Emily’s eyes flashed at her.  “I don’t know how she managed to get her claws in Edward but it had nothing to do with her character, I can assure you.”

Charlotte sighed.  “Whatever you might think of her she is to marry Edward.  The wedding ceremony is in a fortnight.”

Emily sucked in her breath sharply and tugging her hands from her cousin’s, she rose unsteadily to her feet.  She wrung her hands, the tears threatening to fall.  “How could he do this?” she cried, her voice a broken whisper.  “Oh, Edward.”

She threw herself onto the ottoman and broke down.

Alarmed, Charlotte rushed over to her and tried to put her arms around her but she pushed her away.  “Please leave.”

Charlotte drew back, her own face pale.  “Very well, dear.  I will leave you be but I shall call upon you in the morning.”

She turned and left the room, her skirts making a swishing sound.

After she was gone, Emily stayed there on the ottoman, weeping as the pain of Edward’s treachery ripped through her.  She thought he loved her.  The way he looked at her whenever they were together spoke volumes of his unprofessed love. So, why was he marrying someone else?  What made it unbearable and highly reprehensible was that it was Mabel, her mortal enemy.

Anger filled her and the sobs subsided.  Brushing her wet cheeks, she got up from the Ottoman and hurried from the room.  She was going to change and go for a long walk in the moors.   As she climbed the stairs to her room, Hilda, the housekeeper called out to her, “Miss Emily, Mr. Edward is here to see you.  He’s in the drawing-room.”

Emily’s heart lurched and her grip tightened on the handrail.  “Please inform Mr. Taylor that I’m not receiving any visitors today.”

“Mr. Edward said that he is here on a very important matter, Miss Emily.”

Fresh tears pricked her eyes.  He’s here to tell me about his engagement.  “Hilda, I don’t care why he’s here.  I don’t want to see him.  Send him away.”

“But, Miss Emily–”

“Send him away, Hilda.”

“Very well, Miss Emily.”  Hilda turned and scurried off.

Emily turned and ran back down the stairs, through the foyer and out of the door.  She headed for the summit, and didn’t stop running until she was at the top.  She leaned against the fortress, her cheeks flushed from the exercise.  Her chest heaved as she tried to catch her breath.  Below the sea continued on its unhurried pace and the sun hide behind the clouds.  A gentle breeze stirred the strawberry blond ringlets which framed her face.  Usually her place of solace and contentment, today it offered her neither.

She started when she heard a sound behind her and turned.  Her body stiffened when she saw Edward’s tall figure rapidly approaching her.   When he was standing in front of her, she glared at him, her green eyes hostile as they met his tawny ones.  “What are you doing here?” she demanded.  “I told Hilda to send you away.”

“I had to see you, Emily.”

“Why, what could you possibly have to say to me?”

“I came to clear up a misunderstanding.”

“What misunderstanding?”

“You are under the impression that I am to marry Mabel Turner.”

“Yes.  Your sister Anne had informed my cousin, Charlotte of your engagement.”  She looked away so that he couldn’t see the tears in her eyes.  “The wedding is in a fortnight.”

“Emily, your cousin has been misinformed.  There is no nor will there ever be such an occasion between Miss Turner and me.”

She looked at him.  “What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that Miss Turner and I are not engaged nor are we ever likely to be.”

“But why would your sister say otherwise?”

“Anne and Miss Turner are dear friends and it has always been my sister’s wish that I would form a romantic attachment to her friend.  Even after she saw that my affections were engaged elsewhere, it did nothing to divert her intention to secure what she believe to be a very agreeable match.”

“So, you have no feelings for Mabel?”

He shook his head.  “No.  How could I have feelings for her or anyone else when my heart belongs to you?”  He moved closer, his expression earnest now.  “I need to know if my feelings are returned.”

She gazed up at him, squinting as the sun emerged from behind the clouds.  “They are,” she assured him.

He moved so that he was blocking her from the sun.  His eyes met hers in a steady gaze.  “Emily, will you make me the happiest man in the world by becoming my wife?”

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak.  The tears ran down her cheeks.

He took her hands in his.  “And now, that I have secured your consent, I must see your father and secure his as well.”

She smiled.  “I’m quite certain that he would not withhold it.”

 

 

This was written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Summit for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. Click on the link to read other stories inspired by the image.

Mistress of Pembrook

She had walked through the gate at Pembrook Manor, stopping only for a moment to look back at the impressive mansion in the midst of the sprawling land that you could see for miles.  Somewhere in that imposing structure was the man she was running away from.  She knew he had returned from his business trip yesterday evening and she wanted to be out of the house before she risked running into him. He had sent Mrs.  Allen, the housekeeper to take her to the drawing-room to spend time with him but she told the kindly woman that she was not feeling well.  She knew that if she had accepted his invitation, her resolve to leave in the morning would have weakened.  After Mrs. Allen left, she packed her bags, her heart heavy.

She felt terrible about leaving Katie.  She had grown so fond of the little girl but she couldn’t stay another day at Pembrook, knowing that she must leave there soon any way when Mr. Middleton married Miss Young.  The thought of him and the beautiful daughter of Baron and Baroness Young filled her with such pain.  How foolish it was to fall in love with her employer, an man of nobility and whose station was so superior to hers, a mere governess.  And it had been even more foolish to think that he would have any regard for her even if Miss Young were  not in the picture.

It was beautiful, crisp morning.  The sun was just rising.  She felt no pleasure in it, though.  Countless of times she had walked this way with him and found great delight in doing so.  Tears stung her eyes as she hurried to the spot where she was to meet the coach.

“Going somewhere, Miss Evans?”

She stopped dead in her tracks, dropping her bags, her eyes large in her pale face, shocked to see her employer standing there.  “Mr. Middleton,” she gasped.  “What are you doing here?”

“I went for a walk.   And you haven’t answered my question.”

“I-I am going away.”

“That I can see but where are you going and for how long?”

She saw the carriage approaching and picked up her bags.  “I must leave Pembrook, Sir and return to my home from whence I shall not return.”

He came closer, his eyes troubled now.  “What do you mean?” he demanded.  “Why must you leave Pembrook and not return?”

With him so close, staring at her it was hard to remain resolute.  “You are to be married, Sir and I cannot remain at Pembrook when that happens.  So, the best thing for me to do is to leave.”

He grabbed her arms.  It was a firm grip but it did not hurt at all.  It was meant to secure her.  “You cannot leave,” he declared.  “I will not let you.”

“Sir, I must leave.  The coach is approaching.  I must catch it.”

He released her then but turned and strode toward the coach.  She hurried after him, desperate now to leave.  “The young lady will not be departing,” he told the driver.   Before she could say anything, the driver replied, “Very well, Sir,” turned around and drove off.

She was terribly upset now.  “Oh, Mr. Middleton, why did you send the coach away? My family is expecting to see me tomorrow afternoon.  I wrote and told them that I was coming home.”

“You can write and tell them that there has been a change of plans.”

Unable to hold it any longer, she dropped her bags, turned aside and ran into the woods, leaning heavily against the first tree she stumbled upon.  Mr. Middleton was immediately at her side. She pressed her hand against her mouth to prevent the sobs that rose in her throat but she couldn’t stop the tears.  “I cannot stay at Pembrook, Mr. Middleton,” she told him in a trembling voice.  “I cannot remain there when you are to be married to Miss Young.”

He looked puzzled.  “What the deuce are you talking about?  What is this talk of marriage between Miss Young and myself?”

She looked at him.  “Mrs. Allen intimated that there is soon to be an announcement of your nuptials.”

“Mrs. Allen is mistaken.  Miss Young and I have no plans to be wed.  It is the hope of my aunt that such a match should be forthcoming but alas for her, it is not to be. Miss Young’s affections are engaged elsewhere as are mine.”

She was relieved to hear that there was to be no marriage between Miss Young and him but who was the object of his affections?  “Mr. Middleton, nothing has changed. I am going to leave Pembrook as soon as other arrangements can be made.”

He took her by the shoulders and drew her to him.  “You are not going to leave Pembrook or me,” he insisted.  “You are going to stay there as my wife.”

She blinked at him, stunned.  “Your wife?” she repeated, dazed.

“Yes, my wife.  I love you, Miss Evans.  I fell in love with you the first moment I saw you but I hid my feelings because of convention.  Well, hang convention.  I want to marry you.”

“Oh, Mr. Middleton, I love you too.  I have loved you since the first time we met.  I never dreamed that you would harbor any romantic feelings toward me.  I am just an ordinary governess who has nothing to recommend her to you, except her deep love and fidelity.”

He held her face between his hands, his eyes shone with the love he had suppressed for so long.  “You have made me the happiest man in Hartfordshire Country.” He kissed her.  “Let us go home,” he said as he raised his head.  “Let us go back to Pembrook where you shall soon be Mistress.”

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