Chapter 20, Part 3

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Another short one. I promise the next one will be much longer. For now, enjoy!

 

Rene stared at the blank parchment before him. It sat there, on the desk, almost mocking him…daring him to write to Evelyn. With a determined scowl he picked up the quill pen…only to drop it back in the writing box. Resting his elbows on the edge of the desk, he locked his fingers together and pressed his lips against his knuckles, letting out a huff of frustration.  

His mind was burdened with worry, wondering if Evelyn had read the first letter. He knew she had received it. But there was no way of knowing if she had read it. And even if she had, were her feelings softened by it? There was so much more he longed to say. So much had happened in the last few days, he was only now coming to grasp the reality of it.   For the first time in six years, he was “lord” Jean-Bastien. Monsieur Rene. A nobleman.  

According to some, he ought to have been thrilled by his turn of fate. Louis had taken their father’s title of “Comte,” and Rene was, once again, “Baron Rene Jean-Bastien.” Louis talked of granting him a small estate a few miles away...the estate he had been promised before his exile. Now that he was a man, it would be his in truth. All should have been well and merry for him.  

But his feelings about nobility had not changed. He had no desire to rise in society, or to mingle with men of power and influence. The return of his status and the reclaiming of his fortune were important to him for only one reason.   He wanted to be worthy of Evelyn’s love.  

She had cared for him once. He recalled the day they had spent on the hunt, following the falcons. She had unwittingly opened a vulnerable spot in his soul. They had started in a fashion he was accustomed to...speaking to a lady, encouraging her to confide in him and express her thoughts and feelings. But Evelyn had somehow turned the conversation to him. Her blue eyes had been so soft and affectionate. Her tender heart had opened to him, trying in her gentle way to soothe his unseen wounds. Other women thought mostly of themselves, wanting and needing a man who would give them comfort and affection. Since he had first gained knowledge of females, he had been happy to oblige them with that attention. In exchange, he had found pleasure in their bodies and sweet companionship in their company. The women in his life had eased his loneliness, and until Evelyn, he had been content.   In her, he had found a granting of genuine affection he had long forgotten. Many women had wanted him. Some, he knew, had lost their hearts to him. But how long had it been since someone had truly caredabout him? Had he ever seen, in any woman’s eyes, such a light of true affection?  

No, he thought. Not a one has cared for me so. Not since...   He was aware of a presence in the room...an unseen presence, but a powerful one. Knowing precisely from whence it came, he slowly raised his eyes to a gilded painting. Like the one in Louis’ chamber, it hung over the fireplace. And as in that work of art, his mother was part of the subject. But this painting did not have its tone darkened by the old master of the house. This was a sunny portrait of a mother with her three children. Looking at it, he felt a well of emotion rise in his throat.  

She had loved him unconditionally, even when his behavior had bordered on shamefulness. He could imagine her here, now...loving him, despite the reputation he had earned for himself. These past six years, he had lived without thought for consequence. His recklessness had been born of having nothing to lose...of having no one who cared what manner of life he lived. He had never given thought to what his mother would think of him...until now.  

What a selfish degenerate he had become. What a dishonor for a mother, looking down from heaven, to see her favorite child so sullied. He felt so low. If only he had returned sooner, she might have been spared this disgrace. He turned his eyes away, ashamed.   He looked at the parchment again. A flood of feeling...of strange inspiration...gripped him, and he reached for the quill. He dipped it in the inkwell, tapping the rim of the jar to remove the excess ink. Putting the pen to paper, he began to write...  

My dearest Evelyn,  

I hardly know how to begin. Perhaps it is best to express my disbelief as to the strange workings of fate. Of all the places on this earth for a vagabond to wander, who could have foreseen that he would find himself at the very place where his life began?   You have brought me home, Evelyn. Although my return has brought me unexpected sadness, it has, as well, allowed me to begin my life anew. And you must believe me when I tell you I am no longer the scoundrel you banished from your presence. From this day forward, I shall endeavor to be a man worthy of so great and generous a lady.  

Your humble servant,  

Lord Rene Jean-Bastien, Baron of LeFontaine

His heart was full. There was so much more he longed to say...words more affectionate, more ardent, than what he had written. But he was no fool. Such passionate sentiments might be too much to convey at present. For now, he would temper his heartfelt words. And perhaps, in time, there would be something more between them...

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