Chapter LXI

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Mr

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Mr. Howard's hair had grown since I last saw him, he had a wave of hair veering off to the side making his appearance less harsh and there was something less constricted about his expression as well. I probably stared at him for too long before going to where he stood because he moved away from the door and brushed his hair back as if he were impatiently waiting for me to move.

"Have I grown horns Alice?" He asked when I swallowed my hesitation and met him at the door of Stanley Hall.

"No m'lord, you look well" I did not give him my hand to kiss but curtsied as a sign of acknowledgment.

"I guess there is a first time for everything," he did seem so unwell in humor while I stood without any further responses, "I wish you had called on me."

"Forgive me my mother was not too well to call on anyone and I had to be by her side."

"Right I should have called on you then."

"No it's alright my mother is not feeling too well these days to receive visitors m'lord."

"How are you then?"

"I am well and you sir?" I thought it strange his amiable way of talking to me.

"Alice? I would not expect you to be well with your mother being ill, I remember how you cared for me when I was nothing but your master, how much more will you do for your own mother?"

"What shall I say then?"

"How ill is she?"

I thought of her worst moments as he waited to hear from me, "I do not know, she is just ill I'm afraid."

"You do not seem too hopeful about her situation."

"I cannot find how wise it is to be hopeful or not."

"I am sorry," he used the word sorry and not in a superior tone anymore, I felt his equal for once in this conversation, time and distance had done well for us. Without seeing Mrs. Hall anywhere in sight to lead me up to the room I let Mr. Howard guide me there.

"I heard you spent some time in Bath?"

"I did; I thought it would refresh me."

"And did Bath refresh you?"

"No, not a bit, the familiar shadows followed me where I walked, where I stopped and where my mind went which was not Bath."

"Yes," I heard through his lips what living felt like in this explanation and I agonized in sympathy with him. "You are right sir they follow me too," I walked past him and he followed me up the stairs.

"I wanted to write you but you asked me for silence and I kept it," his hand no longer contained itself, it smoothly reached out to hold my hand and I came to a standstill.

"I wanted to write you but you asked me for silence and I kept it," his hand no longer contained itself, it smoothly reached out to hold my hand and I came to a standstill

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"Thank you for keeping it sir."

"And what do you say to me here?"

"Only that I wish to go to my room m'lord," I avoided his eyes at all costs but was still polite.

"I am not your Lord, Alice, if I were you would obey me, you would pray at my feet daily, you would seek me out and find me."

"Indeed sir you are not my Lord."

"I have questions, allow me these questions I have had the past ten months."

"Mr. Howard the trip was tiresome forgive me," I lied to him, I did not want to be questioned and he willfully ignored it.

"Did you love him? I must know."

"Loved who?"

"Joseph."

"Your son and I have been and will remain good friends forever sir."

"And you disengaged yourself from him so he would be free to pursue Miss Lilly?"

"Yes I did," I distanced myself from Mr. Howard's hand when my heart accelerated.

"Then why did you not tell me this before? Joseph mentioned his change of heart so casually and how he exchanged his commitment from you to Lilly in such a shameless manner."

"I can assure you Joseph was quite shamed though if he only knew he had every right to reject me he never would have even blushed."

"You must know my conscience accused me since last spring, your words became irrefutable, I was a monster unto you."

"What does it matter sir? It is all past."

"It does matter, I insulted you here and I made you cry, and I..." Just in time I noticed Mrs. Hall was coming as Mr. Howard was dangerously close to saying all the right things and everything I wanted to hear but should not.

"Mrs. Hall is here sir, I pray you excuse me," I bowed and left him so that Mrs. Hall may lead me to the bedchamber.

"Lady Alice you are still the same as you were last time do you not eat at home?" Mrs. Hall hugged me.

"No I have not been eating well with the passing of my little sister and my mother being ill. I do forget the time of day most days," I hugged her back.

"We shall feed you then, I have had just enough of you and this bad eating of yours," Mrs. Hall said it like a mother and I was admit to be in need of one.

"I will do as you see fit," I smiled comforted by Mrs. Hall and then she walked in with me to the bedchamber before leaving me alone to go grab me some food.

"We tried to keep it to your taste, is there anything you need?" Mrs. Hall asked proud of the room and new books waiting to be read by the bedside.

"No this is perfect."

"Good then wait here and I will be back with some pie and tea for you child."

"Thank you Mrs. Hall," I sat on the bed and picked the first book of the pile it was The Duchess of Malfi, Mr. Howard's copy and when I opened there was note sticking out from it.

Dear Alice,

This book is yours; I have no need of it when I cannot have you, for it only drives me to the distraction of memories of you that I may never relive.

Yours.

"Yours?" I sighed hiding the note in one of the books I had brought, he wrote yours? What was all of this for? What did he hope to achieve with my stay here? And those questions? Dear Lord, where could I find strength?

Dinner was served every guest was present, the overall joy tangible and no room was left empty in the Stanley estate.

"There we are a complete party now," Sir Arthur said seeing me first.

"Sir Arthur," I nodded.

"Oh Lady Alice, it's a wonderful evening is it not?"

"Yes lovely, I wonder what has made you so happy," I teased him.

"This way comes the reason," he excused himself after shining his debonair smile.

"Lady Alice!" Miss Martha Campbell soon to be Lady Scott came to hug me it had been too long since I saw her.

"How are you dearest friend?"

"I am wonderful, slowly planning my wedding for the spring."

"I heard, flowers right?"

"Exactly but I have not heard when the announcement of your engagement with Mr. Walker will come."

"And who said there will be such an announcement?"




























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