An unexpected but welcome arrival.
“Hetty. There’s a strange gentleman, just ridden into the yard.”
Hetty raised her head and looked out of the scullery window.
She dropped the cutlery she was cleaning back into the sink with a ‘clatter’.
Her heart took a sudden lurch and she felt breathless, but at the same time was elated that at last, someone was here that would lift this heavy weight off Miss Anna’s shoulders and get this problem laid to rest. She did not know him, but she recognized one of the horses, and immediately knew who it had to be. Who else could it be? They all knew of him and how Miss Anna moped around trying to remember him, yet without knowing anything real about him. Now, he was here!
“Strange gentleman, my foot! Are you blind? Can you not see that he’s leading, Peony, Anna’s missing horse!”
Thankfully he gave every appearance of being a gentleman in the way he dressed, though looking travel weary, and his own horse was another just like Tornado.
This man must be, Henry, the man Miss Anna was in love with, and was convinced she’d married. At least Anna was convinced of it, and it was to be hoped it was true, considering what he’d caused to be growing in her body and what they must have shared together over some time to have achieved that!
“That’s the man, Anna’s been trying to find for the last month, and no doubt he’s been trying to find her. Well, he's found her at last.”
She tore off her apron, tossing it to one side, and went out to meet him.
“I may not know him, but he’s no stranger to me, not after the last month of Miss Anna’s moping, and the rest of her moods, trying to get her memory of that time back. Well, he may not know it yet, but he’s in the right place and we’d better let him know that he’s welcome here.” Despite what he'd done to their mistress. At least until they knew much more about him. He’d better not be one of those here-and-then-gone, kind of gentleman, but if he had been, he wouldn't be here now.
David’s letter must have done the trick to alert him, or he’d seen the same posters that had brought David here.
She rushed through the house to the front door to meet him.
He could not know if this was even the right place, though the stable man seemed to recognize the horse he'd been leading.
“Peony. I missed you, you little devil. Where have you been?”
At least to Henry, it sounded like he was in the right place, but it had taken him far too long to find out where she lived, and to get here.
Hetty was tongue-tied at first, not sure how she would greet him. Should she thank him for being here at last to rescue them all, or should she tear into him for what he had done to Miss Anna?
Good sense prevailed. He did not look like the kind of man one took to task lightly.
There were two more horses for Jarvis to look after, but he was in his element now. Peony was not so well bred, but this new horse, and Tornado, brought a touch of class along with them.
He asked Jarvis. “You know the horse then?”
“Oh, yes, Sir. I know her well enough. I missed her. That’s Miss Anna’s horse, Peony.”
Miss Anna. He stored that name away.
Even as she left the house, Hetty could see that the gentleman had, ‘presence’, and he was not a man who would be caught at a loss for anything to say. Hetty saw that about him immediately, with him already conversing easily with Jarvis.
She would be careful what she said.
It was obvious how he had swept Miss Anna off her feet, and how she had similarly affected him, the same way Molly had captivated David and with just as much devastation to both of those women in the way that men always did, when they came into the life of that one woman, and what was rarely far behind.
Molly and David would get caught next, and in the same way if they were not careful, exercising themselves as intimately as they did throughout the night; and as many of the girls here did, with what went on around the farm and the number of remote places there were, to get up to that personal kind of mischief in the soft hay, once dresses got lifted eagerly out of the way or were even taken right off.
Not that Hetty approved of such indelicate behavior, but what would never be accepted or tolerated so openly in the city, was a way of life, and second nature to everyone here, and came naturally. More's the pity.
At times, the whole place was a seething, simmering hotbed of bubbling emotions, never far below the surface during hay-time, and especially after they’d been breeding some of the larger animals and getting everybody worked up and excited to be doing some of that for themselves. It was an infectious time and an infecting mood.
Hetty kept herself out of the way of all of that indecency. It was not healthy to watch any of that; especially not for a woman to watch or to get involved with, as Miss Anna did, wanting to know everything. Look where it had got her; making her susceptible to that kind of... attention and attraction.
“Good morning, Sir.”
He turned, and touched his hat to her before taking it off.”
“Good morning.” He looked around the yard and up to the house. “I think I am in the right place.”
He was in the right place alright.
“I am looking for the lady who owns that horse”—he pointed to Peony—“and who was riding it a month ago.” He paused. “Beatrice Angelica?"
“No, sir, you are not looking for her."
He looked puzzled over her vehemence.
“You are here for Miss Anna Rothschild, of this estate.”
He repeated that name, as though hearing it for the first time, which he was. "Miss Anna Rothschild.”
He thought about that name.
“One of the London, Rothschilds?
“I think I know her brothers. I am Henry Broadhurst.” He nodded his head to her, waiting for her response.
“Hetty. Henrietta Langford, Sir.” She resisted adding, of the Devonshire Langfords. Hetty wondered if she should curtsey, except she might never straighten up her legs if she did, and would need help.
“May I speak with her, please?”
And that smile. No wonder he'd bowled Miss Anna over.
“You may, Sir, when she gets back. She’s visiting some of the outlying farms, and we expect her back soon, now.”
She looked up at the sky, wondering if the rain would hold off for long enough for Miss Anna to get back unscathed.
“I am relieved that she was able to make her way home. She must have recovered her memory then. Did she tell you anything of me?”
And if she did, exactly what did she tell you?
He might not be welcome at all.
“She wasn’t able to say anything about that time she went missing, Sir. When she rode back into the stable-yard here, on Tornado and with Samson in tow; a month ago, she put us in a right tizzy; her going missing for two weeks and more, and then suddenly arriving back as she did, and as though nothing was any different.
“She knew who she was right enough when she got back here, but she couldn’t remember anything about where she’d been. She thought she’d been gone only for a few hours, and then to show up two weeks later, after we’d been scouring the countryside for her, and still had search parties out, and posters put up everywhere…. Well... it was a shock to us all, especially to her, I can tell you.”
He frowned. “She remembered nothing of that time?”
“Not a blessed thing at first, though she knew about the horse and the dog right enough, as though she’d known them all of her life. More has been coming back to her in dreams that she has; of her drowning... and being pulled out of the river, and… and….” She’d better be careful what she said about that, and what she knew. Better if she said nothing at first.
He came back into the conversation, but was also careful what he said. “I was fortunate enough to see her go into the river and I pulled her out. She hit her head, and that may have caused a loss of memory. I got the doctor in to see her, and he thought she would soon recover her memory, but she didn't, in the time she was with me.”
“Jarvis or one of the lads will bring your portmanteau over to the house. Come and take the weight off your feet, Sir; have some refreshments, and we can at least share some of what we know as we wait for Miss Anna to get back.”
But share only some of it. The more respectable bits.
“I have some pies in the oven and a good soup, if you are hungry.”
He perked up to hear that. He was, hungry.
“We’ve been expecting you for weeks, hoping you would come, but it took you a devil of a long time.” He almost laughed. She was taking him to task for not showing up sooner?
“I was afraid she’d give up waiting, and go out looking for you, and then who knows what might have become of her. Not that we’d have let her go. Of all the people we needed to see, you are the one we hoped for, even if we didn’t know you, or much about you, except for what Master David, your brother, let slip.”
That, surprised him.
“David is here?”
“Yes. He’s been here almost a week now."
And rare use he's been making of his time, him and Molly, when they get each other alone, and get dancing together in that nighttime jig of theirs.
"He saw a poster we put up for anyone who recognized the horse and dog, after Miss Anna got back. She was intent on finding out where she'd come from, as much as you were trying to find out where she’d gone, I expect.
“We had to look after Master David for a while. We found him in the stall, asleep with Tornado, and with a bit of a fever, but he’s alright now."
He was a lot more than 'alright', as Molly could easily attest to.
"...Except he was worried for you, and was loath to say too much about who he was or where he’d come from, so we called him, David of Murton. Miss Anna did. She’d heard him use that name, ‘Murton.’”
He smiled at that. Of course she knew it. She’d been two weeks at Murton Lodge, with him for an unforgettable two weeks.
“He was probably afraid you might contact my mother if he told you his name, or gave you better directions, and have her coming after him before I could get here.”
“Come to think of it, Sir, his satchel is here too, by that chair he sleeps in." She pointed as she sat him down at the table for a bowl of soup. "He keeps that very close to him when he can, but he must have forgotten to put it away.”
Henry looked into it and was relieved to see his diary, and his drawing book. David had taken them from the Lodge, knowing that his mother and sister would soon be there. They would be saved from learning that shocking thing about Beatr… Anna, and him, in those more delicately expressive, and tumultuous moments they had shared. Those had been well-captured in drawings of each other just after they’d made love and were sitting naked together by the fire, enjoying a glass of wine. Thank goodness he'd brought them with him, rather than leave them at the lodge for his mother and sister to find.
Unfortunately, there was still that bible and its entries for them to discover and to puzzle over, wondering who this woman was that he'd married, without telling them anything. Not like him, at all.
He'd been hasty, but he and Anna had no choice, the way they'd felt about each other. Better late, than never.
“Thank you for looking after him. I didn’t know David would come looking for me, but I should have expected it. Where is he?”
“He went out for a walk with Samson an hour or two ago. I expect he and Miss Anna will get back about the same time.”
“I am anxious and eager to make her acquaintance once more. I barely had time to get to know her before she was gone.” He blushed at saying that.
‘Barely’ had time to get to know her, indeed. Even ten minutes was more than enough time for what that pair had done, and they’d had two weeks to get to know each other like that. He’d had more than enough time to get to know her right enough, and in a way that there could be no mistaking from what Hetty had heard and seen; shorn, as Miss Anna had been. She'd better not ask him if he'd been the one to do that.
“In what capacity is she here at Appleton?”
“She owns this estate, sir.” She wouldn’t try to explain any further.
He seemed overwhelmed.
“She did get her memory back then? But….” He actually blushed. “What did she say of me? Or did I already ask that?”
“She said very little, Sir. We had to try and piece it together for ourselves from what she had on her person; that dress, the rings, the jewelry, as well as the horse and saddle.
“She got one memory back, but not the other. While she was with you, she forgot all about us and this life, and then when she got back here, she’d lost most of that other memory with you in it, and it tormented her something fierce.”
“We’ve been trying to piece together the memories that were coming back to her, but she remembers too little of that time she was missing from here, and doesn’t tell me all of it.”
He began to feel relieved, though the way Miss Langford looked at him, with this undercurrent of animosity in some of her gestures and expressions, told its own tale.
The bits she did remember were not to anyone’s credit from what Hetty had heard in that dream of Anna's. They’d had more evidence of it after that, when she’d come down with morning sickness and missed… that awkward time for a woman.
She wasn’t going to discuss either of those personal things with this man, or he might turn tail and run, except she knew he wouldn’t be doing that; not after looking for Anna for a full month. No. He was in love, just as Miss Anna was. He would be staying, and she'd better learn to forgive, and to watch her tongue.
“When she got back here, she’d lost all memory of you and where she’d been. Each life swept the other clean out of her mind. She didn’t know where she’d been for those two weeks with you, but thought she’d been gone for only a few hours.”
He looked around at the house and the windows, half expecting to see that one person he had come so far, to find.
“What did she remember? Can you tell me? You said it began to come back to her.”
How much did she remember of that life she’d shared with him for two idyllic weeks?
“Nothing meaningful, except for key things, here and there, and she’s not been telling me all of what she remembers either."
There was that critical look again.
"Except I managed to put a lot of it together for myself.
“She recalls you pulling her out of the river and some bits and pieces after that, but she doesn’t tell me everything, and is still full of secrets.”
That was to be expected. He had secrets too. And those bits and pieces referred to, would not be easily disclosed to anyone.
He could share with her some of what he knew, without wandering into awkward territory.
“Her girth on her saddle broke when her horse panicked in the water, and put her into the river. She got carried quite far down before I got to her and we both got… soaked.”
He wondered how much he dared tell her, but most of it would come out anyway.
“I had no choice but to take her to my home and look after her.”
She knew what that meant, coming out of the mouth of a man. 'Looking after her,' meant one thing to a woman, and another thing altogether to a man.
He’d not only undressed them both, but he’d looked after her alright in a very personal way from the very beginning, and for two weeks after that too, and it didn’t take much to guess how he’d looked after her, for her to be in the family way.
She’d keep the rest of what she knew, to herself for the moment but she had other questions of her own.
“She was wearing a special ring when she got back, and had the impression that she’d got married, but one does not go missing for two weeks and end up married.”
She waited for him to correct that; to deny it, or to confirm it.
He knew he could not evade responding to that.
“Yes. I agree. That would not be what one would expect on such a short acquaintance, however…." He took a deep breath.
“However, that is what happened, Miss Langford. We fell in love, and we married.”
It was a lot more complicated than that, but he couldn’t go into any of those personal details.
“Thank you for confirming it, Sir. She was convinced that you’d got married, but remembered none of the details about the church, or the ceremony, witnesses, or anything.”
Hetty was now being devious.
He winced at being pushed to explain more.
“We married, Hetty. May I call you Hetty? And my name is Henry, but we did not have the benefit of either a church ceremony, the clergy, witnesses, or anything else, other than our own vows of love for each other, which seemed all that we needed at the time."
And they had been desperately and urgently needed.
'I have never been so deeply in love before, and would not hurt her for the world, which was why we had to marry; the circumstances being what they were. She understood and agreed, or we would never…." He was saying too much.
“I know it is far from what is proper Miss L... Hetty, but I expected to have the chance to remedy that as soon as we could. At that moment however, it was necessary for her protection and for the peace of mind for both of us.”
Hetty knew that that meant too. It had got away from them both and they'd been at each other before they was ever even 'half-churched'.
He took a deep breath and confirmed what she thought.
“Things, got away from both of us because of where we were, and how we were, but I intend to make that right, with a proper marriage, if she will allow me.”
Miss Anna would allow him right enough, after what they had already done with each other. It was nagging at Hetty much more than it had seemed to be nagging at Anna, but Anna kept too much to herself, and didn’t tell Hetty everything about how she was feeling, or what she remembered, and it was obvious why, but what could she have done about it after the fact? You don't put that horse back into the barn, or undo that misstep once a man had been into you there.
“I would recommend that, Sir. And as soon as possible.”
He looked at her sharply, wondering if he understood her correctly.
She lowered her voice.
“She would never have told me, I know she wouldn’t, though I suspect she knew what must have happened, and what you and she had shared in private with each other. She didn’t even know what being sick like that, meant at first, but I knew."
Hetty took a deep breath. "She came down with morning sickness not long after she got back, so you should get her married, Sir, just as soon as you can.”
He deserved no less than to be hung, drawn, and quartered! Or parts of him did.
“Oh, Lord. And you dared invite me into your home.” He chuckled nervously, and even managed to blush.
“There is nothing wrong with honest love, Sir. I’ll not judge anyone for honest love, even if it often, almost always, does run away with things a bit earlier than it should; getting the cart before the horse is a common failing even around here."
Even with his own brother, if he but knew it.
“I watched Miss Anna after she got back, and I could see how she was striving so hard to remember. She knew she was in love, and she knew she was also loved. She lost a large part of her life, not remembering those two weeks.”
He smiled at her. “You are forgiving me too easily. Thank you for your understanding, Hetty. I would never have given up looking for her, and I’m here now to try and correct those things that I can correct, but it seems that there is nothing I can do until she or David gets back. I would not know where to go to find her, so I must force myself to be patient and to remain here, if you will not object to my being under the same roof.”
She giggled at his way of expressing himself. She was far from objecting. He was Miss Anna’s husband after all (as irregular as that had been done)—she would believe that— so he had every right to be here.
He saw the stable lad bring his portmanteau into the hallway, so retrieved it as he followed Hetty up the main stairs and along to a large room at the southern side of the Mansion, overlooking the driveway
There were a lady’s clothes laid out, where they had been taken off and carelessly laid over the bed.
He knew whose room this was. It was hers. It excited him to be in Anna’s presence once more; somewhere she knew, and felt comfortable and at home to be in, even if she wasn’t actually here, herself, with him just yet.
He needed to be here; to learn everything he could of her.
He blushed, over the way he felt; a sudden rush of warmth.
“This room seems to be already in use.”
“It is Miss Anna’s room, sir. And yours too now, with you being her husband. She’ll soon be back. I will not put you anywhere else.”
He had a pained look on his face.
“I should be in a different room, Miss Langford, until I know what my reception will be like. She may not remember what I remember, or as I remember it, and may want me gone.”
Hetty laughed at that.
“If you think that, Sir, you are fair and far off, and do not know my mistress very well. She is by far the most moral woman I know, and to let you… well....” She decided to say no more in that direction. “She must have fallen deeply in love with you, to let that happen between you.”
He was grateful to hear her express it even like that.
“I still do not want to bring down coals of wrath upon my head from others; her father, her brothers. This, surely, must be too sudden for everyone who knows her, to easily believe.”
She forcefully corrected him.
“Miss Anna is her own person, Sir, and if you did not learn that about her already, you soon will. No one will be shocked, not here, and not now that you are here, or they’ll have me to deal with. I know love, and what it means. And I know Miss Anna. I never thought to see her fall in that way for any man, but she did. I’m also a good judge of character, and I like what I see in you, and the way you express yourself. Your brother is very like you."
He blushed. “Thank you.”
He was not ready to hear about David and Molly’s nocturnal antics yet, and it was David’s place to tell him anyway, if he dared.
Henry walked over to other dresses hanging along a rack to one side of the room behind a screen and reached out to touch them; one of them.
“I recognize this dress. I had it sent up from London for my sister to consider. With Anna’s clothing being so wet…. And I wanted her to wear only the best.
“We were to ride to the river that day, to that place where we first met, but I was delayed for only a minute or two, and then when I tried to catch up to her, I found that she'd gone; and my life would never be the same. I had to find her."
Hetty could see the emotions he was experiencing.
“I had hoped she would wait for me by the river." He closed his eyes and shook his head as though to dispel a sudden, painful thought.
"I should never have returned to the Lodge without her, especially with her not knowing who she was, and able to remember nothing, and I deeply regret that lapse—but she didn’t return, and now I know why she didn’t come back. She must have recovered her memory at the river, and forgot about the life that she’d just left behind her, and me.”
That thought, caused him some pain.
“She must have seen something familiar to her that jolted her out of her time with me.”
He picked up Anna’s brushes and combs from her dresser, and saw Jewelry that he recognized, in a jewelry case toward the back.
Hetty told him more, to help him settle in. “She often sat up here as you are now, holding that dress and puzzling over that Jewelry and what she was doing with it in her possession. Then, after that, she would go into the stable to talk to Tornado, to learn whatever she could, from being close to him again, and the dog never left her side, except when it went with David, as though it were torn between the two of them.”
“He wouldn’t easily leave her.”
He sighed. “I hope it will soon be resolved. Thank you, Hetty, for being so kind when I am not sure I deserve it.” She saw the glint of light from a tear in his eye.
“I think you do, Sir. Henry."
She changed the subject. "I may be able to find a change of clothing for you if you would like to change out of those clothes, and we’ll get those into the laundry to freshen up.”
“Thank you. They do need tending to.”
“If you come down when you are refreshed, I will see to getting some more substantial food into you.”
He had other concerns he needed to see addressed.
“What should I expect when I see her Hetty? What will I do if she does not know me?”
He was just as lovestruck as Miss Anna.
“Little chance of that, Sir. She will know you the moment she lays eyes on you.”
“I hope you know that I will never hurt her, Hetty. Never knowingly, I can promise you that. Though I fear that we are off to a difficult start.”
“Not so very difficult, Sir. It only seems that way looking at it at just this moment. It was a better start than some get, I think. I knew she was in love the way she moped around the place trying to remember, but not able to. Now we just have to get her back and see it all put right again."
So they still would not be properly married for a little more time. Pish! Tosh! That was all old news, and who would care?
“And, Sir. One day, if you would not mind, I would like to hear exactly how you met Miss Anna; the details, if you can tell me that, though it’s none of my business.”
“Yes. You have the right to know. It will help you understand me better. Soon we shall sit down together, all three of us, and I, we, shall tell you most of it. You should hear it and can judge me as you will, though no one could judge me more harshly than I judge myself; for my dreadful lapse of character.”
“Love, does that, Sir.”
“You are still too forgiving, Hetty.”
She would forgive him, easier than he would forgive himself. “I’ll not be judging anybody, Sir. I've made enough mistakes of my own. If anything, I shall be thanking you from the bottom of my heart for rescuing her, both from the river and from herself.
“I feared for her when she took on this place, after society did not know what it had lost. A beautiful young woman as vibrant and alive as she was, was not cut out for either spinsterhood, or to manage a big estate like this one, though she’s done wonders with it. And had got started on even more when she got back, as though someone, or something, had lit a fire under her.”
Society’s loss, had been his gain.
“She went out a shy, unassuming young woman, and she came back determined, and full of knowing exactly what she wanted; full of life and vigor, even to the point of arguing with her own father and her brothers, who were here at the time in the search for her.”
Hetty approved of that change.
“Her time with you did that for her.”
“Mr. Frith, our estate manager, noticed. He liked the change too.”
She moved to the door. “I’ll send water up, and some clothes, and when you are refreshed, there will be some food waiting for you downstairs.”
After Hetty had left him alone, Henry sat heavily on the bed, still stunned, but relieved to know that his journey was now over, and he seemed to have been made welcome.
He put his head in his hands not sure whether to laugh, or cry, or shout for joy. It depended upon how Anna greeted him.
And she was pregnant with their child!
He picked up her nightdress from the pillow and buried his face in it, reminding himself of everything about her, rested his hand on her pillow, sensing her head lying there, and felt where she had lain down each night, imagining himself beside her.
He should not beat himself up like this. He walked slowly around the room, seeing everything as she must have seen it, looking in the same mirror she looked in, touched the same things she had touched.
He thanked the girl who brought him a ewer of hot water, and a change of clothing. They looked like they would fit him, and they were very like his own clothes.
He stripped of his coat and the rest of his clothes, standing in the light of the window to wash himself, not realising that Miss Anna had done that same thing that very morning.
He was impatient to have her come back, and would not be able to rest until she did.
It was at exactly that moment that there was a crash of thunder, and the rain came down harder than he’d ever remembered it doing, even when he’d been on the Peninsula. It did not seem that it would let up.
He could not go out in this, looking for her. He hoped Anna had taken shelter somewhere and was not caught out in it. David, too.