"How do you feel?"
"I'm happy to hear it, I thought of writing to your family but did not know if you would approve it."
"That is kind of you but I rather tell my family only after the illness is gone as to not worry them unnecessarily," Mrs. Hall had not told him the truth yet or else he would not be here. "Have any letters arrived for me?" I sat up on the bed leaving his hand alone and hoping my new post would start soon. This would make it an easier way to tell Joseph the truth and exit out of Stanley Hall in one fell swoop.
"No, are you waiting for a letter?"
"I am, yes."
"I will go ask then."
"Joseph?" Mr. Howard walked in.
"Ah father come in and watch over her while I go check for letters," Joseph called Mr. Howard father and my heart sank to the pit of my stomach.
"Father?" I asked hoping Sir Joseph mistakenly used the word.
"I forgot to make the proper introductions, my apologies," Sir Joseph chuckled.
This was to be the most wretched situation I had ever been caught in, the young man who was fond of me was the son of the man I kissed. If I were to die at this instant there would be no doubts as to where my final ending would be, it would be a fall straight down into the pit of hell.
"Then let me make the proper introductions," Mr. Howard said for once abiding by society guidelines. "Miss Stewart meet my only son, Lord Joseph Howard, heir to Stanley Hall and title of Earl of Bridgeston once I am gone."
"Yes who is never home to keep you company, it's no wonder he had not mentioned my existence before," Sir Joseph or Lord Stanley teased but Mr. Howard was not going to smile.
"I thought you were going to check for the letters?" Mr. Howard asked Joseph, his son.
"Yes I will be right back, excuse me Miss Stewart," Lord Joseph shook away his gaze from me and left us in the room.
"Son?" I asked under my breath when Mr. Howard's anger came spilling over as he got out a letter from inside his pockets and threw it at me.
"How could you do this?"
"What is this?" I opened the papers and saw it was Adelia's response; she had sent out the word for me and secured me a position as a lady's maid with a family she worked for in London if I responded yes the job was mine.
"You opened my letter sir?"
"Of course I did! I commanded you to stay and you disobeyed me! You were plotting behind my back to leave; you took it upon yourself to find Mrs. Adelia to train you without anyone knowing. And do not deny it because when I mentioned it to Mrs. Hall she knew nothing of it! And then you asked this lady to find you another situation?! All the while pretending to be a dedicated maid here, perhaps I should congratulate you should I not? You were very successful at what you set out to do!" Mr. Howard was definitely not the sort of man to be trifled with and I had done it.
"I needed to leave Stanley Hall sir what else was I to do? You put me in an undignified position when you led me into a scandalous moment with you," I could not yell my body still hurt a bit and so did my head.
"Needed? Has your need past? Have you changed your mind?"
"No I have not."
"Are you sure my son's interest towards you has not changed your mind?"
"I am sure," I said while he sat by me on the bed looking in my eyes to find the truth.
"I forbid you to lead him on or to have anything to do with him do you hear me?"
"Why are you saying this?" I thought he would say he had feelings for me, that he would admit to something understandable but no Mr. Howard could not be predicted.
"Because he is not for you!" The master's hands that smothered the linens between his fingers jumped at my arms to have me agree with everything he said but I would not.
"So I am too poor and lowly in your eyes? Of course, this was a game of cards to you sir and you knew how to play it, you never saw me as your equal I am only here to entertain you."
"Do not speak of things you know not of," his voice had come down as I tried to repress a tear from falling while catching my breath.
"I do know, I know how you break me and demand me to stay by you but sir I will not."
"You will stay, I may not be the king of the world Alice but I will write to your future employers saying you will not be seeking employment there."
"You cannot do that, I have to leave!" He got up as I tried to grab him as if my force could alter something.
"In the mean time you will assure my son of your rejection lest you want me to convince him otherwise and since I have already broken one of his engagements I will feel no guilt of taking him from you, get well soon Alice."
"Mr. Howard!" I tried to yell but my voice broke as he left me alone.
Not before in the sum of my life I had been in such a fight of strength, he thought he had some hold on me which I was going to prove him wrong of. Though why did he want to keep me here? If he had good intentions they would have come out by now yet all he did was yell at me whenever I did not let him lead me blindly to his way. Under the covers I tried to forget our argument if possible while he closed the door to the empty room where I laid sick. It felt like sleep, medicine and food was everything anyone let me do for the next three days except the Lord Joseph who brought me books to read.
"Miss Alice you have read at least one book and a half per day, how prodigious of you" Lord Joseph said.
"I never have enough time to read and soon I won't have it again so I must use this time wisely."
"And why would you not have time to read?"
"Because I have to get back to my duties here and my lessons with Adelia, she is training me thoroughly to be a lady's maid in London," I gave him the indication of my reality.
"I heard but what if you did not?" He caressed my face.
"I must," I slowly put his hand back and he almost laughed.
"As you wish Miss Stewart but you will not serve the guests when they arrive if you have not gone to your new employer yet."
"Ah I have made you curious, well have a good day then," he left without saying why and I got up to take turns about the room after being bedridden for so long.
Copyright: All Rights Reserved to A. Sena Gomes
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The Greatest JourneyHistorical Fiction
Miss Alice Stewart is a poor girl, recently fatherless with a mother and two younger siblings to take care when she finds a job in service as a maid with her aunt Mrs. Green. Soon the family she works for loses money and lets go of her, in need of w...