Sorry I have been slow with this update, life got in the way, I hope you enjoy :)
Dedicating this chapter to Carpathia, thank you so much for all your support, for voting and commenting. I truly appreciate it :)
My mid June I was finally allowed out of my room and outdoors. Dr. Morris warned me that complete health would not be quick it coming and I was to take things easy, have plenty of air and rest and not get agitated. So I spent most of my summer in the garden, among the flowers.
Prissy and I had made peace. Uncle Andrew must have written the Thompsons a very angry note and they had taken the necessary steps to mend the very broken relations. Prissy had come over and apologized to me and of course I had forgiven her. After all if I hadn’t let my anger get the better of me I wouldn’t have gotten so sick so I figured I was also partially to blame, but even if the fault had been entirely hers, I simply didn’t have the heart to turn her apology down. Jeff had been so worried about the fact that there might be a rift between us. He tried not to show it, but I could see he was torn between his devotion to me and his affection toward Prissy. The full story had been made known to him, thanks to Uncle Andrew, and he had stated that he would neither see nor speak to Prissy until she make things right. I think I forgave Prissy more for Jeff’s sake than my own. I knew he really fancied Prissy, and though still unable to understand what it was that so attracted him to her, I didn’t want him to be miserable just because Prissy and I found it hard to get along. Uncle Andrew was very upset with Prissy and with the Thompsons in general, but I strived to make peace, not only for Jeff’s sake, but for Aunt Helen’s as well. Mrs. Thompson was her friend and I was going to do all in my power to keep peace between the two plantations.
I looked up and smiled when I saw Sammy standing near me.
“Yes, it’s the newest Dickens novel; Uncle Andrew brought it over today. It’s frightfully interesting; I can lend it to you once I am done.”
“Thank you, I’d like that. How are you feeling?”
“Good, very good actually. Better than ever to be exact. I’m getting my energy back and I don’t know what to do with it. If only I didn’t have to sit all summer, I miss going out riding.” I sighed, then allowed myself to smile. “The flower garden is amazing this summer, tell me Sammy, what is it exactly that you do to the flowers?”
“Secret, Miss Sarah, can’t tell,” he had a twinkle in his eye.
The statement made us both laugh. It felt good to be laughing again with Sammy. I had seen a great deal of him in the summer, and the romance that I had tried to put to an end was blossoming again. Though my better judgment told me not too, I allowed us to slip back and pick up where we had left off. I told myself we would be extremely careful and everything would be fine. With this whole illness, Uncle Andrew quite forgot his suspicions about Sammy and as long as I watched my steps and kept the surface innocent and proper I knew we would be safe from him.
“Sarah, there is a gentleman calling on you,” Elsie said, coming over to the garden and walking up to where I was sitting. “Henry Earl Jr. to be exact.”
I was startled by this piece of news. “Henry! What could he possibly want?”
I had received flowers and cards from Henry and his sister while I had been ill, and now that I was finally better I figured they had come to call. Unfortunately, it wasn’t them, it was just him. Entertaining Henry wasn’t as bad as entertaining Albert. He had a bright mind and could converse on topics that were interesting to me. I only wished he wasn’t so negative in his outlook on slaves. They were the scum of the earth to him and he always spoke out about them in a tone and manner that made me angry. The slaves were people too, but the way Henry spoke of them, they were lower than animals.
All that summer Henry was a regular caller, as was Albert, who had come home for the vacations. There was also a third suitor, his name was Cleaveland Browne. A friend of Uncle Andrew’s, he was older than Henry and Albert, by nearly ten years. Twenty six years of age, going on twenty seven, he wasn’t as large a landowner as the Earls or the Thompsons. He had called on business one day, and Uncle Andrew had introduced him to Jeff and myself. I saw the smile slowly appear on Mr. Browne’s face when he laid eyes on me and something told me I would be seeing him again soon. Cleaveland was more of a quiet fellow, who wouldn’t call half as much as Albert or Henry and wouldn’t hang around for half as long. He was earnest in his courtship of me, and of the three of them, Cleaveland was the one I pitied the most. Something told me he was seriously considering marriage and I didn’t want to break his heart. I tried my best to keep him from getting any hopes, while at the same time being friendly and courteous, but since he never spoke on the subject of marriage, it wasn’t very easy to hint to him that I wasn’t interested.
I don’t know how Sammy managed to get by that summer. Three suitors seriously pursing me! Two of them sons of his former masters. He took it in stride and no matter what he felt or what he went through, never once did he tell me. Somehow he bottled it all inside and never let it show.
Time passed and summer progressed into autumn.
It was early October and I was doing needlework with Aunt Helen in the parlor when Ben announced that Henry Earl had come. The first thing I noticed when he walked into the room was how fine he was dressed. We made small talk for some time, and then Henry expressed a desire to walk in the fresh air. My aunt rarely went outside after September and it was up to me to walk with him in the gardens.
“Miss Rose, may I ask you something?”
“Perhaps,” I didn’t like the tone of his voice, it rang trouble ahead.
“I’ve grown very fond of you…” He began, taking my hand and looking deep into my eyes
“Mr. Earl,” I shook my head but he waved his hand and continued.
“I’ve enjoyed my times with you very much. Surely you must have noticed that since your debut ball I’ve been your faithful servant.”
“I’ve given this matter a lot of thought over the summer. At the moment I am in no way able to support a wife. I still have three years of University left, but I was hoping….
“Henry!” In desperation I spoke out his Christian name.
“But I was hoping, Miss Rose,” he pressed on, not paying the slightest attention to my obvious discomfort, “I was hoping you would give me your word that you will wait till I have graduated and then do me the greatest honor of becoming my wife. Perhaps the idea of a long engagement does not flatter you, but I fear if I do not claim you now, someone else will. Please, you will not regret becoming my wife; I am a man of comfortable means and I will do all in my power to make you happy.”
“Henry, I wish you wouldn’t have asked me,” I lowered my head. “You are a good boy and I am sure you will be able to make some other girl happy, but I fear I am not the right one for you. I can’t make you any promises and I certainly cannot give you my hand in marriage.”
“Miss Rose, you are not serious, are you?”
“I’m afraid I am. Mr. Earl. Please believe me when I say that I do not care for you in a way a wife ought to care for her husband, I can’t see myself married to you. I’m sorry, but please, understand and accept my answer, which is no.”
“You don’t understand,” he took a step closer to me. “You can’t refuse me. It isn’t right, it isn’t fair. This is our way to make right all the wrongs of your mother. You may not care for me too much right now, but with time you will learn to care for me. Come, this is fate giving you a chance to redeem your mother and her folly.”
“What does my mother have to do with this?”
“Nobody told you? Your mother was to marry my father, but instead she ran off. And what happened? Nothing good became of her foolish, rash and improper decision. Had she remained and done her duty, all would have been well. You can change that, Sarah, you make it all right again. Your mother was destined to be an Earl, take her place and fulfill that destiny.”
“Henry, Mr. Earl, I have no idea what you are prattling on about. Whatever happened between my mother and your father is no concern of mine, or yours for that matter. I do not care for you and I do not think you will be able to make me happy. I’m sorry it has to be like this, I had hoped you would understand that I never once entertained the idea of marrying you.”
“Is there someone else?” His voice grew harsh.
“If there was, it is none of your business. You have asked, I have refused, let us put the matter behind us.”
“I am not one to be refused, Miss Rose.” He took another step closer to me. There was something in that gleam that put a fear in my heart and I took a step back. “I want to have you as my wife, and have you I shall, even if it the last thing I do. You may be just as proud and foolish as your mother, but I am more than my father could ever hope to be. My father was not able to hold Miss Evelyn Beverly, but in this I will exceed him in every way. I will have you as mine and mine alone.” He suddenly reached out and grasping me, pulled me close to him planting his lips on mine. His tobacco stained breath nearly choked the life out of me and I struggled to free myself from this unwanted embrace, but he held me tight. Suddenly he was pulled back by someone with such force it nearly threw him to the ground. He let go of me and I gasped for breath. Regaining his balance, he looked around to see who had grabbed him. I looked too, wondering who had come to my rescue.
It had been Sammy. He had come from behind and yanked Henry’s shoulder with a strong force.
“Why you scum of the earth, you miserable excuse of an existence, I’ll teach you to stand in my way again.” Henry took a swing at Sammy, who simply ducked, making Henry lose his balance again and fall to the ground.
“Are you alright, Miss Rose?” Sammy asked, walking up to me.
“I’m fine, I’m fine,” I stated, glaring at Henry, who was picking himself off the dirt. “You will not harm my slave, Mr. Earl. And you most certainly will not call him names.”
“Teach your slaves some manners, Miss Rose,” Henry hissed. “He should know better than to touch a free white man the way he did, much less to violently shove him around. I’ll have him pay for this; I’ll have the law…”
“Teach yourself some manners to begin with, Mr. Earl,” I retorted. “You dare to insult me like that and then blame my slave for having no manners? Shame on you.”
“What is going on here?” Uncle Andrew appeared on the scene. I don’t know how he always managed to appear out of nowhere like that, it was a strange habit of his.
“Your slave, sir,” Henry pointed at Sammy, “threw me to the ground. I demand that he be punished severely for his lack of respect.”
“Sam?” My uncle turned towards Sammy, and raised an eyebrow.
“Young master Earl insulted my mistress, I was only protecting here,” Sammy replied, looking Uncle Andrew straight in the eyes.
“Henry Earl kissed me against my will,” I hotly stated, roughly wiping my lips in demonstration. “He came here to propose and I turned him down. He was upset and began telling me that it was my duty to marry him because of how my mother treated his father. I stated my decision was final and that was when he grabbed me and planted a kiss on my lips, never once asking me if I wanted it or not. When I made an attempt to free myself from his embrace, he refused to let me go, only then did Sam appear on the scene. And I will point out that he did not roughly throw Mr. Earl to the ground. Sam merely pulled him away from me, Mr. Earl took a swing at Sam and Sam ducked, that was when Mr. Earl lost his balance and fell over.”
Uncle Andrew looked from me, to Sammy and finally to Henry.
“I think you had best get home, Henry. I will remind you that as my niece is underage, and she needs my approval before she can enter holy matrimony and I will never give my consent to her marrying you. Now go on, off with you.”
Henry growled, but knowing better than to confront my uncle, he only gave Sammy a dark glance and sauntered off.
“Good work, Sam," Uncle Andrew stated and motioned for me to come inside. I winked at Sammy and went in with Uncle. At least Sammy was lifting himself in my uncle’s good graces, which was always a good thing.
We're getting more little glimpses about the past of Sarah's mother! I hope you are finding this story interesting, there's lots more to happen as the story progresses :)