First light. The best news.
Henry awoke to sunshine, with the sun just clearing the horizon and beginning to hit his bedroom wall, providing promise of a better day ahead, though he had been aroused by the sound of pans clattering downstairs, signaling that others were starting their day.
He lay in the soft pillows, comfortable for the first time in a month, lying in her bed, and in the same bodily imprint that she slept in. That thought excited him, and the knowledge that she could not be so far away now. He saw the room as she must see it every morning; smell those same smells, and hear the same things; the birds in the ivy outside of the window.
The only thing missing was her, and he would do something about that today.
He leapt out of bed, checking what he could see across the meadows, seeing a low-lying mist in the shade of trees, and on the lower ground. It would soon burn off when the sun rose higher and the day warmed.
After hurriedly dressing, heading downstairs to get hot water to shave, encountering Hetty on the stairs with hot water for him.
She could see that his rest had done him good. That and the better meals he'd eaten since he'd arrived.
He would shave, have breakfast, learn where Miss Anna and David could be, and then would ride out and stay out until he found them both.
He knew he could not kick his heels here without doing something, but should check his horse first, and see that he was prepared for another day of searching. Then, he would learn what he could, of the outlying farms; where they were, and of Miss Anna’s plans for the previous day before he rode out again, following her agenda. She would be somewhere along that course and would be as pleased and surprised to see him as he would be pleased to see her.
After finishing off a good breakfast; the first one he had been able to enjoy for the last month, he learned what he could, of the plans that Miss Anna had made, and prepared to saddle his horse and ride out, knowing that he would encounter her somewhere out there. He was convinced of that.
The excitement he felt; having come so close, and knowing that he’d found where she lived at last, and who she was, but with her not here to greet him as he’d dreamed about, tore at him. He would not properly rest until he actually was able to hold her in his arms again and to tell her again, how much he loved her and how much he had missed her, knowing that whatever he said, would be equally reflected in her own greeting of him.
Unfortunately, they would not be likely to be left alone, as he most would desire at that moment, so that they could pick up where they’d left off with each other; nothing hidden, nothing held back.
Hetty knew the fire that burned within him, watching him demolish a breakfast fit for two men; feeling the impatience he felt. She had prepared a luncheon for him to take with him, knowing that he would not be returning without her, so might be out for a few hours.
Before he could saddle up and leave, he saw a figure emerging from the light mists, rapidly burning off already.
He knew that horse, and he knew the dog bounding along beside it, but it was not Anna riding that horse she'd gone out on. It was David.
He waved and shouted, seeing Samson suddenly take off and run at him, excitedly yipping, almost knocking him off his feet, even as David urged Tornado forward, recognizing his brother.
Henry had come at last!
David leapt off the back of the horse into his brother’s embrace as Henry strove not to be knocked over by Samson and his brother, and then reached up to greet Tornado, also nuzzling into him.
Realizing that others would be watching, David pushed himself back from such an open display of affection that others might not understand, and held his brother’s arms, as men might do after such a long separation, and let the excitement they were feeling, begin to subside. They'd both changed in subtle ways since they had last seen each other.
Hetty saw everything.
Those two, were very close.
She smiled, watching it all from the window. She was soon joined by Molly, whose hand she captured and squeezed, as though to say, ‘there… there. I told you he would soon be back for you’.
Molly had been worried, wondering if it was something she had done that was keeping him away. All young lovers had to endure those same pangs and doubts, early in their relationship.
Molly had been crying. She was still pale, wanting to rush out and greet David for herself, anxious for him, but Hetty held her back.
Letting her feelings for David be so obvious, so early in their relationship after only a brief separation, despite the understanding they both had with each other, would be premature, and others would see and understand too much, including Molly’s own sister, also watching from the kitchen window.
“Let them talk, Molly. They’ll soon be in. You’ll be able to talk to him then, with a little more privacy, when he washes up.”
Hetty had questions of her own for David, but would not be able to ask them at just this time. She would listen.
What was David doing on Miss Anna’s horse? He’d gone out with Samson, on foot, and now he was returning on Tornado. Where was Miss Anna? Had something happened to her?
She so much wanted to hear what they were talking about, seeing David’s arms sweep out to the horizon behind him, explaining something to his brother.
Henry was clearly torn between setting out immediately, retracing David’s steps, or letting David pull him to the house, as Jarvis led Tornado into the barn to join his stable-mate, and to get him brushed down until they decided what to do with their day.
Henry, let David lead the way into the house, so whatever David had imparted to him, could not have suggested anything too serious that needed him to rush out with any urgency.
Miss Anna must be alright. Hetty felt relieved over that, but would like to know more.
David and Henry came into the scullery where Molly had presence of mind to lay out a breakfast for David as she looked at his face, seeing in it what she hoped to see as he smiled at her, mouthing words that set her heart leaping back to life and making her legs weak.
Henry noticed his brother touch the girl’s hand and pause, as they looked at each other with a look that spoke volumes. It was obvious that David was aching to lean in and kiss her.
There was an understanding between that pair.
He hadn’t been here that long, but he’d certainly made a conquest. Their mother would have a lot to say when she learned how both of her sons had been felled by a pretty face.
A lot must have changed for David too, since he’d arrived here, but neither of them dared to be so open with each other just yet. That, would soon change.
David fleetingly raised his hand to touch gently at her face as his brother and Hetty were looking elsewhere.
David sat where he could watch Molly moving around the scullery as she worked, bringing water for David, fussing around him generally; and a tankard of beer for Mister Henry. Their eyes met, often. Even a blind man could not have avoided seeing that they were in love.
Henry perched himself on the back of a chair and watched his brother eat and the other interesting, and almost unavoidable exchanges between the pair of them as he questioned his brother.
“You say she is alright, and you know where she is?” Henry was burning with many questions, but this was not the place to ask all of them.
Hetty’s ears perked up.
David nodded. “She’s alright. We both managed to miss that storm…. Just.”
He said nothing about seeing Miss Anna led away on Tornado, fearing the worst, or of him climbing up that creeper to the upper window as the rain began to come down.
Nothing had been as he’d feared at first, once he’d found where Miss Anna was resting, and she’d told him all of it, and the circumstances she’d just learned about. It had been a last desperate effort on the part of the Maskells, and of the Barringers to avoid the ax. They had never intended her harm, but had sought her co-operation in whichever way was needed.
Anna had been unable to help them as they’d wanted, but she’d thought about it as she and David had talked. She’d learned more from Miss Barringer, learning the full extent of all of their financial woes when Suzanne brought her some supper, and had stayed with her and David as she ate, sending down for food for David--not too surprised to see him. She made sure that Miss Anna cleared her plate, and that she was comfortably settled for the night. They had spoken extensively as Miss Barringer laid out the entire state of affairs the old man had left them with as David listened.
She even saw that David had somewhere to sleep, and that a surprisingly big dog was brought from the barn where David had left him, to spend the night close to them both.
David explained all that he could, to his brother and those within earshot.
“She’s staying with the Barringers, until later this afternoon. She told me to let everyone know she's alright, and for you not to worry about her. I have some things to do before I go back to her.
"Miss Barringer is getting married to one of the Maskell brothers at noon today in their home, while they still have it, so Miss Anna is invited to that wedding, and as I was there too, so am I.”
Henry would be there too. That went without saying, now that he was here. Nothing would keep him away, now that he knew where ‘Beatrice Angelica’ was, the women he had fallen in love with.
Hetty was puzzled by that news about the Barringers and their financial difficulties. This was all news to her and had been well hidden. But about to lose their home? That couldn’t be right. And a sudden marriage? It seemed to be the way of the world.
She knew that Suzanne and one of the Maskell boys were an item, and had long been engaged, but no one spoke openly of that, or about any forthcoming marriage. The old man would never have allowed that, though once the old man had died, that plan would be able to go forward... as it was doing.
What had caused Miss Anna to go there? That estate was far from where she had been visiting, unless she’d changed her plans before returning home.
David was still explaining, so she’d better listen.
“Miss Anna took a bit of a dizzy spell yesterday, while she was visiting, and had to stay, rather than ride out, so I stayed with her, once I learned where she was (he didn’t go into any other details; the less that was known of the start of that diversion, the better), and then once that rain started…. There was nothing I could do to let anyone know where she was until this morning.”
David knew better than to blurt out everything he knew about what had happened to Miss Anna, and of the Maskells having given her little choice about accompanying them back to that estate, or what their desperate plans had been for her at first, hoping she could, and would help them, despite the shocking nature of their proposal.
None of that had been possible, however, so they were still stuck with losing everything, unless…. Henry would know what to do.
David and Miss Anna had discussed it at length before the house retired, as Miss Anna had rested and recovered, and she’d explained to David what she’d learned of the financial problems that beset both families, all because of the old man’s financial mismanagement. She so much wanted to help them, and would try. She had some money of her own that would keep the wolf from the door for long enough, now that the old man was not there to stall everything.
If only Henry had been there.
And now he was.
Hetty pieced most of it together from the snippets she overheard. She was getting good at this. It was the first she'd heard of the Barringers being about to lose everything. They were such hard-working souls and didn't deserve that.
“When you’ve finished eating, will you be ready to take me there?”
David nodded. “Once I’ve changed. I will.”
And once he’d had a few personal moments alone with Molly. At least she now understood why he'd stayed away.