Chapter XXIV

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"No need I am here

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"No need I am here."

"You kept your promise," he cleaned his hands of the black residue of the pencil and I waited for him to take one good look at me.

"Yes sir," I stared at his wide back, unruly hair and shirt half tucked in as if I could finally feel for him the feelings I had suppressed since we went out riding.

"My son Joseph has gone to London hoping to run into you did you see him there?"

"No sir I did not," not even the thought of Joseph could deter me from what I was about to do.

"I told him to give you up but he would not, he still blames me for the first girl I made him give up," he dried his hands off and I waited fretfully to tell him my news though all he had to do was look at me.

"Yes I heard."

"I should have never asked you to accept him Alice... But I, well it does not matter." I was happy to forgive his mistake because I was blinded by affections and Mr. Howard changeful mind was a rule of his character. "While you were away I selected some books for your reading," he finally put his pencil down and got up from where he sat overlooking the outdoors.

"Thank you sir but I am afraid I will not be able to read them at the moment."

Although I had traveled back to give Mr. Howard an account of the somewhat happy news my family waited for me in London to mourn my grandfather, to travel at the moment was already disrespectful and to stay at Stanley Hall was impossible. 

"Why not?" He slicked the front of his hair back and finally his eyes were on me. "Alice? Where did you get those garments?" Was this anger I beheld in his reaction?

"It is to mourn my grandfather sir," my legs shook under the big dress as they always did when around Mr. Howard.

"You said you and your grandfather were estranged," he walked over slowly looking at me from the bottom of the dress to the top of my head as his temper boiled like water in a tea kettle.

"We were but he is gone to the Lord."

"What does this mean?" He touched the sleeves of my dress to have proof it was real what he was seeing.

"This means I can no longer work for you Mr. Howard."

"Say it again," his voice was low demanding it although he had heard me the first time.

"I must take my leave sir."

"No..." He backed away from where I stood. "No!" He shouted and kicked away the chair he had sat on to draw me on the night we first kissed. "You promised Alice!"

"Sir my new status..." I could not understand his fit of anger towards what I thought would be something to celebrate with him.

"I knew if I let you go you would not return!And here you are being taken away! Must I stand and watch this?"

"Sir please..."

"He made you his heir did he not?"

"Yes sir.

"And now you must leave everything behind, as if we never met right!"

"Yes sir."

"So what did you expect from me after giving me such news! Happiness? Congratulations? A round of applause?" His eyes filled with water and so much misery I was moved to almost touch his face but no tears came out he was too high and mighty for them.

"No I expected something quite different," I waited for him to ask me, for his mind to catch up with what I wanted to hear him say but he was puzzled by my meaning.

"Like what Alice?" Mr. Howard was not a mind reader but how inconvenient it was to be the one who had to bring up the subject, if he really did love me would it not be the first thing in his mind?

"Mr. Howard my position has changed I thought you would like for me to stay."

"Of course I do."

"Then can you not see it is in your power to make such a wish come true?"

"How so?"

"Sir I am not bound to the constraints of my previous status, I can be with you in a proper way, my grandfather had status and so will I."

"Alice? Oh Alice, did you expect me to offer my hand to you?" Mr. Howard changed from anger to talking like it was the daftest expectation I could have.

"I..."

"You are a child Alice," he chuckled "and I am almost twice your age," my feelings amused him and I stood there surprisingly hurt for along the last months I did somehow believe he was capable of being someone better.

"I am not a child and if I were, you are guilty of overlooking the fact when you pursued me."

"Guilty yes," he sighed, "still I would never marry you Alice," then walked away for a moment sat on the sofa and spread his arm along the arm of it.

"Never?" I asked with a high pitched noise not knowing where to look or where to lean on for support.

"And your status changes nothing; I would not marry you if you were next in line for the throne of England."

"I let you... We kissed... You... you tricked me," trying to be sensible without the ground under me was hard when there was this whole other part of me which wanted to scream at him. Yet what use was it when I would end up with the same result, I had been deceived and used and it was time to go, to leave him to his next diversion.

"Come Alice do not make that face at me, I never made you any promises," he asked for me to sit next to him and I sat in the chair as far as possible knowing too well this was to be expected.

"Promises are made when one expects the other to act dishonorably, if I could have known you were this person before I..."

"Before you what?" He wanted my feelings served on a platter for his ears but I did not go on so he talked instead. "Fine but as for me, I do not expect I will ever marry, the institution of marriage holds no appeal to me and not even you can change my mind," Mr. Howard pulled his chair close looked straight at my lips and touched them.

"Don't touch me!" He was surprised with my tone.

"Alice do not be unreasonable, I never offered you what you conjured up in your mind."

"No you did not and you have made your point very clear sir so goodbye."

When I tried to get up from the chair so did he but I did not sit back down though he was mere fingers away from my face.

"Wait..."

















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