Sarah's Roses, Book II: Roses of White

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Chapter V

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Chapter V

“You are going to WHAT?” I couldn’t believe my ears.

“Oh, Sarah,” Jeff groaned. “Don't be so dramatic.”

Jeff had come to stay with us for his summer holidays, but the joy of his visit was cut short by the news he had brought with him.

“Don't you talk to me about drama! Jeff, you can’t be serious. You wouldn’t do something so, so, so foolish!”

“Why do you and Uncle have to have such a similar reaction?” He demanded of me. “You should have seen how he exploded at me in his study. I’m surprised the house didn’t blow up with him.”

“Maybe it’s because great minds think alike!” I shot back at him. “I’m not surprised Uncle is upset. What did you expect when you went ahead and got engaged to Prissy without his consent? And to think you have been engaged to her for half a year and never told anyone about it, and now you just come and tell us you are going to marry her? For shame, Jeff, for shame!”

Jeff grit his teeth in anger as the blood rushed to his face. I wasn’t through talking yet.

“You can’t marry her now; you’ve still got a whole year of Oxford left. Think what this marriage will do to your grades. Uncle has spent a fortune on your studies and is this how you repay him? By binding yourself to a woman without consulting him first?”

“I love her and I have every right to marry her. I am not a little child! I’m of age and I don’t need my Uncle’s consent for matters concerning my personal life. If I decide I am going to marry her, then I am going to marry her.”

“Prissy is spoiled and self-centered and I could never understand from the start why you were so attracted to her. She’ll make a terrible wife.”

When Jeff and I fought it was all teeth and nails. The fact that this fight was about Prissy only made it worse.

“You’re just saying that because the two of you don’t like each other.”

“I’ll bet you five dollars Uncle said the same thing. You know Uncle disapproves of the two of you and so you didn’t bother to consult him. Is that why she went traveling last winter? To see you? And you became engaged while in England? Oh I’m not surprised he exploded the way he did, not surprised one bit.”

Jeff gave a frustrated sigh. “He’s just angry at her because of the whole incident between you and her. Aunt Helen approves of the marriage…”

“Aunt Helen approves of everything you do.” I snapped. “You could declare a mission to the moon and Aunt Helen would approve.”

“Oh for the love of mercy, don’t exaggerate.” Jeff threw his hands up as he began pacing the floor. “I was hoping to get some support from you to in the hopes of changing Uncle Andrew’s mind.”

“You wanted me to support a foolish and imprudent engagement?” I shook my head. “Oh, Jeff, surely you can see how imprudent it would be. Look at the way she lives, she spends money right and left. Today it’s her father’s money, tomorrow it will be yours. She’ll spend you out of house and plantation.”

“She’s not like that.”

“Yes she is. Look at her family, her brother gambles and her father speculates. Trust me, it’s not going to end up well for any of them and it won’t end up well for you if you get caught up with them. Do you really want to end up like…?”

I gasped and covered my mouth with both my hands. I had stopped the word just in time.

“End up like what?” Jeff ceased his pacing and looked at me curiously; wondering what had brought about the sudden change in me.

I kept my hands to my mouth, and just shook my head.

“Sarah, what’s gotten into you? Did you swallow a fly?”

“Excuse me, Jeff.” I stated and quickly walked out of the room.

“But we haven’t finished yet.” He called after me.

“We’ll finish later.” I replied. I couldn’t believe what I had almost done. The word I had stopped from coming out would have hurt Jeff to his very heart. I had almost said “Do you want to end up like your father?”

How many times had I heard similar words from my Aunt? “Do you want to end up like your mother? Don’t be like your mother, Sarah. Sarah, stop behaving like your mother.” It was a terrible reminder to me of what my mother had become and what she had done. I didn’t want to start sounding like my Aunt. Not to Jeff of all people. His father had ended up ruined and in debt and it was an extremely delicate subject for Jeff; just as my mother and the way her life turned out was a delicate subject for me. Wanting some solitude I went to the library to try and think all this through. Of course, it would have to be Prissy. Jeff could have fallen in love with any other girl, but no, it had to be Prissy Thompson. Fate plays tricks on us and it was playing a cruel one with me right now. What did Jeff see in Prissy? To be sure, she behaved very differently when around him, but still. Everyone knew her to be a jilting Jessie. Everyone knew her to be a flirt and always putting on airs. Why couldn’t Jeff understand this? True, love does make us blind…but not that blind.

I heard the library door open.

“Honestly, Andrew, what would it cost you to give you consent?” Aunt Helen’s angry voice sounded through the room. I slowly sunk into my chair, gathered my knees up to my chest and listened. One thing the library was good at was hiding people, and I knew if I was quiet my presence would go unnoticed. I felt bad that I was eavesdropping again, but this time it wasn’t my fault.

“Priscilla Thompson is not the sort of wife I want for Jeff.” Uncle Andrew replied.

“She’s a well bred girl from an impeccably good family, what more do you want?”

“What do I want? A whole lot more than what Prissy can offer. Good family, hogwash. You know what sort of a good family they are. Priscilla will be the ruin of Jeff. That young man is young and foolish; he reminds me a lot of his father. What he needs a good, stable woman who will steer him in the right direction? Someone like his mother was. Rosemary was the best thing that ever happened to Jacob. While she was alive, there was economy and stability in their home. I don’t know how she did it, but she always kept Jacob from getting into trouble.” My uncle paused for a moment. “Priscilla will spend Jeff out of house and plantation.”

I had to smile when Uncle Andrew used the very same words I had spoken to Jeff just minutes earlier.

“Mrs. Thompson is a good woman and my good friend. This marriage will be very beneficial.” Aunt Helen persisted.

“Beneficial for the Thompsons.” My Uncle almost spat the words. It was weird hearing him get so worked up. “They’re sinking in debt. Priscilla marries a rich heir and their problems are solved. That is until they squander all of Greensten Plantation resources as well.”

“He loves the girl, Andrew. It is unfair of you to play favorites. Jeff is your flesh and blood and you treat him so coldly. Why if it had been Sarah…”

“No,” My uncle cut her off. “I made it very clear when both Albert and Henry proposed that Sarah was not going to marry either of them. It’s only harder this time because Jeff has some sort of unreasonable fancy for Priscilla.”

“Don’t be so hard on them, Andrew. Priscilla may not be the most economic and prudent of girls, but perhaps with a little time, Jeff can reform her.”

“Jeff?” My Uncle snorted. “Jeff needs reforming himself.”

“He’s a bright and honest boy, with so much potential.”

“He has potential alright; he just refuses to do anything about it. The boy has brains, but why he won’t put them to use is beyond me. He’s got to grow up sometime. I hoped Oxford would be the making of him, but I was wrong. What is it going to take? I don’t want him to end up like Jacob, dying alone and leaving behind nothing but debts.” There was silence again.

“His happiness should be your first concern.” Aunt Helen spoke again. “He love the girl, she loves him, let them get married.”

“His wellbeing is my first concern. When I’m gone he will inherit this plantation, and I want to know that it will be in good hands. After all, it’s not just him, it’s Sarah too. If he wastes all the resources, she’ll have nothing left to live on.”

“That girl needs to find herself a good husband and not be dependent on us for her living.” My aunt’s voice turned cold. “She will be twenty in the spring. It is high time she settled down and started a family.”

“We were discussing Jeff.” My uncle dryly reminded. “I’m sorry, Helen, I can’t consent to his marrying Miss Thompson. She’ll be his ruin. I know it.”

My Aunt tried to argue some more, but Uncle Andrew must have held his hand up (a gesture he did when he was through talking) and soon it became silent again. I carefully lifted my head and looked around. The library was still and empty. Now my goal was to sneak out without being discovered. Carefully opening the door, I tiptoed out and shut it behind me. Inching my way along, I finally made it to the door and went out into the garden.

Being in my garden was always bittersweet for me. I loved it more than ever, but it was filled with memoires, some sweet, some painful. I sat down on the bench and gazed around me. It would be two years in the spring since Sammy had gone, but this garden still lived and breathed of him. Europe had made the separation easier with all the new sights, sounds and new people to meet. But now, alone in the garden, I couldn’t help my mind from wandering to the past. I didn’t have anything to remind me of him, except for the forget-me-not patch. I had pressed a few flowers and kept them under my pillow, along with my mother’s locket. This was the only way I could feel close to the two people I had loved the most in this world who were gone forever. Thoughts of Sammy soon led to thoughts of Jeff. Jeff had been Priscilla’s faithful admirer all these years; even Oxford had not dimmed his love for her. He had no doubt met a lot of very pretty girls in England, and many of them from very rich families. And yet, it was Prissy he had remained true too. Come to think of it, Prissy had been pretty faithful too; even though he was gone oversees and that made it very easy to be fickle to him. Maybe Prissy actually did love Jeff. She was a human being after all and she did have some kind of a heart. Every heart is capable of loving, even if it was a hard little heart like Prissy’s. Maybe Aunt Helen was right, maybe we could help reform her. Get her away from her wretched family and help her to become a better person. After all, anyone could change, couldn’t they? At least I liked to believe so.

Another thought struck me, Jeff could easily just elope with Prissy. He had stated that he wanted to marry her before going off to England in the fall and if Uncle didn’t give him his consent Jeff would just go and do it on his own. This would not only severely distract from his last and most important year at university, but it would create a great dividing in our household. Uncle Andrew had been enraged when Jeff had secretly engaged himself to Prissy, if they went ahead and secretly married the consequences would be deadly. This family needed to stay together. We were broken up as it was and I was determined not to let the mistakes of the past repeat themselves. If we could somehow get Jeff to put aside his wedding for at least a year, maybe we could talk sense into him. Or at the very worst, he would finish Oxford and join Uncle in the business before burdening himself with a wife and family to support. I sighed and made up my mind to talk to my uncle. I would present him with the facts and maybe we could come up with some kind of resolution to this unexpected predicament.

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