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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The Dinner Invitation

He resisted the urge to bury his face in her hair and…  Sharon stopped typing and stared at the laptop screen.  She was tired and the thoughts were not coming as they should. Her mind was not on the story she was writing.  She was thinking about Jason.  

This afternoon when she walked into the reception and Lauren greeted her with, “Good afternoon, Susan.  Please let Jason know that I’m here,” she had to grit her teeth to stifle the angry retort that rose to her lips.  Plastering a smile on her face, she said for the umpteenth time, “It’s Sharon.  And, I will let Mr. Armani know that you are here.”  She got up from her desk, grabbed the folder with papers she needed him to sign and walked away.

She fumed as she headed to her boss’s office.  How she detested Lauren Forbes.  She was a beautiful, statuesque and glamorous woman with thick, bouncy strawberry blonde hair.  Sharon felt plain and ordinary compared to her.  She saw the admiring glances that her male co-workers cast at Lauren who seemed oblivious–perhaps because she was so used to the attention.

Jason was sitting at his desk, typing something when she knocked on the door.  “Come in,” he called without looking up.

Sharon went in and closed the door behind her.  “Lauren Forbes is here,” she announced dryly.

He looked up then.  “What’s the matter?” he asked, his eyes searching her face.

“Nothing,” she said, busying herself with the papers in the folder.

“I know you, Sharon.  You’re upset about something.  What is it?” he insisted.  She had his full attention now.

She paused to look at him.  “I can’t stand the woman,” she admitted.  “She gets on my nerves.”

His lips twitched.  “You really shouldn’t let Lauren get to you like this,” he advised.

“I don’t know—” her voice trailed off.  She had been about to say, “I don’t know what you see in her.”   Really flustered now, she stepped back from the desk.  “I will send her right in.”  And she was out of the office before he could say anything else.

“You may go straight in,” she told Lauren who gave her a rather disdainful look before sauntering off.  For the rest of the afternoon Sharon was in a bad mood.

Now she sat in front of her laptop, staring at the screen, unable to concentrate.  What on earth did he see in her?  She seemed so shallow.  He could do so much better.  

The sound of the doorbell startled her.  She glanced at the time on the laptop.  It was seven.  Who could be stopping by now?

She got up and went to the door.  She looked through the keyhole and her eyes nearly popped out of her head.  It was her boss.  What was he doing here?  She drew back from the door, agitated.  She wished he had called to warn her that he would be dropping by. She was in her dressing-gown and her hair was pulled by in a not so flattering hairstyle. She couldn’t keep him standing out there while she changed.  She had no choice.  Taking a deep breath, she unlocked the door and opened it.

She saw his eyes travel over her and she shifted self-consciously from one foot to the other.  “I wasn’t expecting anyone,” she told him.  Least of all you.   He looked so fine in his charcoal grey suit and black shirt with a matching black and grey tie.  He looked like he just walked off the pages of GQ.  She could feel her pulse racing and she hoped she didn’t look as nervous as she felt.

“I apologize for dropping by unexpectedly,” he said.  His eyes seemed to linger on her face which was beginning to feel hot.  “May I come in?”

“Yes, sorry.” She stepped aside and she caught a whiff of his cologne as he passed her.  She closed the door and leaned against it for a moment.  Her heart was beating really fast now.  “Was there something you needed me to take care of?” she asked.  Why was he here?

He looked around the unit and then turned to face her.  “Very nice place you have here,” he commented.

“Thank you.”  He looked really, really good.  She hoped she wasn’t staring.

“This is not a business call,” he told her.

“Oh.” was all she could say.  He was obviously going somewhere.  Perhaps he and Lauren were going out for dinner and for some reason he decided to stop by here before…

“Have dinner with me.”

Stunned, she blurted, “Pardon me?”

“I wanted to ask you to have dinner with me tonight this afternoon when you came to my office but you left before I could.”

“You want me to have dinner with you?”

“Yes, that’s why I am here.”

“But I thought that you and Lauren—”

“What did you think about Lauren and me?”

“I thought you and she were going out.”

“It’s strictly business between Lauren and me.  Besides, she’s not my type.”

“What is your type?” the question was out before she could prevent it.

He smiled.  “I will tell you over dinner.”  He glanced at his watch.  “I made reservations for eight.  You had better get ready now.  I will wait over here.”  He turned and was walking over to the table where her laptop was.  She hurried past him and closed the top. The last thing she wanted was for him to see her poor attempt at writing a romance.  He didn’t say anything but sat down.

“I won’t be long,” she promised, all the while wondering what she was going to wear.

Thank goodness she had had a shower around six-thirty.  She rushed to her bedroom and closed the door.  After frantically searching through her walk-in closet, she seized the black dress she had bought just recently.  She hadn’t worn it as yet.  Well, it was about to make its debut.  She got dressed and tried to fix her hair as best as she could.  She was not a make-up person.  A flattering shade of lip gloss was all she needed.  After a quick once over in the mirror, she slipped her feet into a pair of pumps and grabbed her clutch purse.

When she walked into the living-room, Jason’s eyes traveled slowly over her, obviously liking what he saw.  “You look amazing,” he said.  He stood up.

She smiled.  “Thank you.”  As they walked to the door, she was aware of him and that his eyes were on her.  She still couldn’t believe that this was happening.  She had planned a quiet evening, working on her story.  Never did she expect Jason Armani to show up at her door and invite her out for dinner.  This was going to be some evening.

 

Mr. Thornber

“Mr. Thornber,” his name spilled involuntarily from her lips.

“What the blazes are you doing in here, Miss Roth?” demanded the gentleman.  “You should be outside taking  a turn in the garden.  It is a very pleasant afternoon.”  In a few strides he closed the distance between them.  He stopped abruptly beside her, facing the fire, removing his gloves and warming his enormous hands which seemed to fascinate her at the moment as she replied to his inquiry.

“I was out in the garden earlier , Sir.  And yes, it is a very pleasant afternoon.  I was rather reluctant to come back inside but my duties to my pupil demanded that I do so.”

He turned to look at her and she met his stare, wondering if he had any idea of how delighted she was to see him.  The days he had been away had dragged.  The house seemed so empty and boring without his presence.   She had no idea that he would return today.  She hadn’t heard a carriage arrive and perceived that he had probably come by way of his horse.  She had seen him once on the black steed and thought what a fine figure he made…

“What have you been up to while I was away?” his inquiry jolted her back to the present moment.  She could feel her face grow red and hoped that he would attribute it to the fire.  She moved away from the fireplace and went back to the chair she had vacated before he came in.  She sank thankfully down into the soft cushions.  She hoped he did not think her rude from walking away like that.  As he crossed the room to where she was, she saw nothing in his countenance to indicate that he did.

He promptly took a seat in the chair nearby, his arm resting casually on the book on the table beside him, his head turned slightly to the right so he could look at her.

With her hands clasped in her lap as she returned his gaze, she replied, “Nothing outside of the ordinary.  When I am not teaching, or outdoors, I spend most of my time here reading.”

“What sort of books do you like to read?”

“Fiction, mostly but I like History and Philosophy__”

“Philosophy?” He looked surprised.  “Why should you like Philosophy?”

“Sir, do you wonder that I should like Philosophy because of my gender?”

“My surprise in your choice of discipline has nothing to do with your gender, Miss Roth.  You just don’t seem like the philosophical type.”

“I beg to differ, Sir.  Philosophy is an activity that I like to engage in.  I like to question assumptions, beliefs and current presuppositions.”

He looked intrigued.  “I suppose you are familiar with Plato, then?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Tell me, Miss Roth, do you agree with his claim that ‘until philosophers are kings, or kings have the spirit of philosophy, cities will never have rest from their troubles’?

Before she could answer, he got up from his seat.  “I should be very interested in hearing your answer.  After you have had your dinner this evening, I should like for you to join me in here.”

Did she detect a tender expression on his face?  Before she could be certain, he was gone as quickly and suddenly as he had arrived.

Sighing, she reached for her book but didn’t open it for several minutes.  Her mind preoccupied with their conversation and his question about Plato.  She would have to think about it.  She looked at the clock.  Three hours before dinner.  She longed for the time to advance quickly so that she could enjoy his company once again.

 

Photo:  British (English) School; Portrait of a Gentleman; Royal Albert Memorial Museum; Sources:  Art UK ; CUNY Education; American Art

Lily

Although Lily was small in stature,

Ordinary and poor, she did radiate

Confidence and faith that she

Was the perfect choice for the

Job of governess.  Like her heroine

Jane Eyre she was not to going to

Be Intimidated by Mr. Thornber.

 

He may be big, boisterous and brusque

But she could match his demeanour

With sense and not sensibility.  She

Could let wisdom be her teacher

And guide in how to deal with an

Imposing man like her employer.

 

She would treat him with the utmost

respect and not do anything to cause

friction or disagreement between them.

She was there to be governess to his niece

Not to be his friend or companion.  It was

Strictly business between them and was

Likely to remain that way.  After all, it was

Foolish to think that he would ever look

Upon her with a romantic interest.

Besides, he was the steady companion

Of the beautiful Kate Renshaw.  Oh yes,

She was beautiful and rich.  She was an

Accomplished piano player and singer.

She was everything Lily was not.

 

Lily sighed and set aside her book.

She got up and walked over to the

Fireplace.   “I should be thankful,”

She mused as she watched the flickering

Flames burn the embers.  “I have a job I

Love, a pupil I adore and I have my faith.

Yet…I feel that I should go mad if I have to

endure one more night without seeing him.”

 

She didn’t know what it was that alerted her

That someone else was in the room.  She

Turned around and her heart leapt to her

Throat when she saw the tall and familiar

Figure of Mr. Thornber.

 

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