The Barringer House-hold.
They rode away from Appleton, leaving a reluctant Samson behind. The dog was groaning and moaning in protest at being tied, straining at the rope, watching them like a hawk until they were out of sight.
They were also watched from the house, by both Hetty and Molly. Things were changing around them very quickly since David and Henry had arrived. Indeed, since Miss Anna had come back to them as she had.
David had to be cautious about what he told his brother as they each filled-in the details of their individual lives in the last month, since Henry had set out on his quest to find ‘Beatrice Angelica’.
Henry known knowing nothing of her; her proper name or where she could be found. All he knew for certain was that he was in love for the first and last time in his life, as she was with him. He was a driven man, needing to find her.
He knew nothing about her, other than how she had come into his life that fateful day, on that feisty little mare that hated water, and knowing that she must live within—at most—a twenty mile radius of the river, where he’d first met her and saved her life, while changing his own life in every way.
David was sketchy in relating what he’d discovered about her and his brother's relationship. Too much of it raised questions of propriety, and his brother was the last one he wanted to either hurt or offend. Their mother would do enough of that, however, when she caught up to them both, but she hadn’t found them yet. Their mother was a force to be reckoned with.
David related how he'd arrived at the Lodge soon after Henry had gone out on his quest. He’d kicked his heels, impatiently, over the next two days, in the expectation that his brother would soon return; learning what he could about what had sent Henry out to search for the young woman that the stable lad had described in very guarded terms.
Ralph had not wanted to disclose too much about what he knew to be a very private and disturbing circumstance unfolding under his very nose, as though he weren’t there. But he had been there, unable not to observe that pair, and their interactions with each other over those two weeks he’d seen to the stable, and as he’d made sure they had wood for the fire and food, prepared by his mother, for the table.
His mother had told him to ignore what he could, and to say nothing to anyone.
They’d been in their own little paradise from what he could see.
The lad; Ralph, about David’s own age, had described the young woman to David—when pressed hard enough about what he remembered, or knew, or had seen—as a very beautiful young woman. More than that, he was loath to say, but David had slowly dragged enough of it out of him to alarm him.
She, that young woman, had not known who she was, having lost her memory with the accident that had put her in the river, and had very nearly drowned them both when Henry had gone in after her.
Ralph struggled to disclose as little as he could of what he knew, or thought he knew about those following two weeks, and what they’d got up to with each other, but did say that Henry had sent him for the doctor, disclosing that the ‘damage’ had already been done by then, from what he’d seen, and not much a doctor could do about it. It had begun to seem ‘not respectable’ to his view of things.
Ralph hadn’t specified what he’d meant by those cryptic remarks; ’damage', and ‘not respectable’, but David soon discovered that out for himself when he read his brother's diary, and saw that sketch book.
It was not Ralph’s business what those two got up to when he wasn’t there (and so he’d said), yet somehow knowing of them riding around like two wild children, laughing and enjoying themselves with picnics, long rides, walks in the moonlight. He'd seen a lot, despite it being none of his business.
In the house, a more personal tale had been presented.
Ralph had seen that there had been only the one bed made up downstairs, and all of her clothes, and his too, had been drying out around the fire that first day or two, as Ralph had seen for himself when he’d brought wood in for the fire, or brought in the food that his mother had prepared for them and sent over.
It did not look proper, what was going on, and so Ralph’s mother said too (she’d laughed nervously, even as she’d been scandalized by that thought), but she liked, mister Henry, so could forgive a lot, and she was sure that mister Henry been given no choice in what he’d had to do for the young woman when he’d pulled her from the river, no matter who she was or where she’d come from, and had seen to her immediate needs.
He’d seen to those needs, right enough, and had also seen to a lot more than that.
After that, Henry should have asked for help… except… he hadn’t, so the less anyone knew about what was happening now, including their walks in the moonlight, with the moon shining off their bodies (naked bodies!) the better. Live and let live. Watch and learn. Ralph had seen too much when he'd spent one night in the barn after it had been too late to go back home.
None, absolutely none, of what Ralph had reluctantly related when pressed-- even if it was only part of what they'd done together-- had sounded like Henry. He was usually much more careful and cautious than that.
Since coming back from that war, he’d kept all women at a distance; out of his life, shunning everyone, avoiding society, which was why he’d set out to go to Murton, earlier than everyone else. He wanted to be alone. Except he hadn't been alone. There had been a woman with him!
If their mother got a whiff of that...?
Then, David had seen those ‘telling’ entries into the family bible; sparking alarm at first, and then further interest in what his brother had been up to, so he’d dug further.
His brother wouldn’t thank him for meddling in his personal affairs, except something had gone wrong, and Henry had gone missing, looking for that woman who’d also taken off on Tornado.
That woman, a special woman in some way, had clearly got to Henry for once in his life, and then she’d gone.
That was also when David had come across those decidedly revealing drawings—even, ‘racy’ drawings, that his brother had made of this young woman, lying on blankets by the fire, and looking up at his brother as though she had as little care in the world, and as if she had been fully clothed, which she hadn't been. Henry had captured it all, even their moonlight walks in the altogether....
Henry’s diary had been even more revealing, telling a much more detailed story of what had happened, and that had so captivated him, telling a tale of rescue, and of surprising love, and shocking intimacy, and even speculating as to where she could have come from. Henry had held nothing back, never expecting anyone else to read his diary.
That woman had bewitched his brother, filling his mind totally to the point of exclusion of everything else.
David had no choice but to go after him, seeing all of that; find out where he was, and rescue him.
His mother and sister were following a few days behind him. They should not see any of those revealing drawings of that young woman, even of them both, or Henry’s diary, and they would, when they came up in a few days time if he didn’t hide them.
“Tell me of this young woman back there.”
David was suddenly dislodged from his thoughts, looking startled. “Which one?”
Henry laughed. “You know which one. I have eyes, you know? There was only one young woman paying you, particular attention. She took care to stay close to you after she’d served you this morning.
"She, was the one who touched your hand more than once and leaned over you, and you returned that touch. I am not blind. I know that look. You wanted to kiss her. She wanted you to kiss her too.”
David had gone silent, and was not going to say anything.
“It is not fair to toy with servant girls, David.”
That, got a response from his brother.
David flew to defend her.
“And who are you to judge me, brother? I am not toying with her, any more than you toyed with Miss Anna when you got her in the family way as you did.”
Ouch! So, David knew about that. What could he not guess at?
David had sudden concerns of his own after saying what he had.
Oh, God. What if he had done the same thing to Molly? Knocked her up! Put a bun in her oven?
They'd been very expressive with each other that way, as well as very careless.
He’d never given it any consideration until now. He suppressed a sudden panic and a nervous laugh that had begun.
“She… Molly… is from a good family that is temporarily fallen on hard times. Miss Anna took her and her sister on, to alleviate the family difficulties.”
Henry was chuckling.
“Then we both have secrets to hide, though mine seem to be too well known to everyone.”
Better known than he'd realised, except he’d looked into David’s satchel and had seen those personal things that, fortunately, David hadn't left behind for their mother to find.
David must know everything they'd done together.
He’d seen those entries in the bible, and his diary had been too damned descriptive; and those drawings…? And Ralph was a good lad but could be pressed to say too much about what he'd seen. If he'd seen anything. And he probably had.
“We have another problem, David. You do realize that, don’t you?
David was still smarting, so said nothing, letting his brother continue.
“Our mother and sister. They will also be following after us and can’t be that far away by now. I suppose you left a note behind, telling them something?”
David confirmed it, and that he'd sent another one to them too.
“Of course I did. I didn’t want them worrying, but I didn’t tell them anything so very important, just that I had gone after you, and for them not to worry. I couldn't tell them where I was going, or why, other than that I was looking for you.”
“You didn’t have to tell them anything, David. I am sure she found out almost everything within hours of their arrival in the lodge. Our mother would corner the stable lad and talk to his mother too, winkling everything out of them, just as you did.”
“They probably know everything that you know by now.”
Hopefully, not everything.
“Nothing will keep them in Murton after that. I suppose I should be thankful that they didn’t beat either of us here, or god knows what mayhem I would have been walking into.”
At the steady canter that both horses were easily capable of maintaining, the time soon flew by.
David soon got over his earlier annoyance, and prepared his brother for the more immediate issue, telling Henry some of what to expect when they arrived.
Miss Barringer had seen him at least eat something, before he’d left at first light to ride over to Appleton.
It would be a busy day for Suzanne, but she'd already made preparations for a wedding lunch for those few guests who would be there, before they waited for the next lot of bad news from London concerning their future and when they would all need to vacate the place they had called home, since birth.
Once he and Henry were in the house, knowing that he had freedom to enter as he would, with even those few wedding guests they were expecting, David introduced him to Miss Suzanne, who seemed to be the only one there. She was busy cooking and baking.
Mr. Maskell and his sons were working somewhere. Farm life did not pause or stop for any man, even if the world ended. They would be working until the day they were forced to leave.
Richard would soon need to come in, to prepare for his marriage to Miss Barringer.
What a day it would be. Wedded, and then shortly after, to be turned out of their home.
“Miss Barringer, Suzanne, this is, Henry, my brother.”
Henry took her hand and bowed over it.
“I believe congratulations are in order, Miss Barringer.” His eyes flickered around the large hall, seeing no one else, but liking what he saw and could smell. Cooking and baking.
He got straight to the point.
“Please, can you tell me where Miss Anna is? My wife? I have been a month looking for her, and a rare old time I’ve had of it, keeping myself from going insane.”
So this was the man Miss Anna had married!
“I am just ready to take her some hot water up, sir, and a dress for her to wear to my wedding.”
“Then, please allow me to do that for you, Miss Barringer.”