This letter was from my mother in its contents a most sad news my grandfather, Sir Paul Stewart had passed, I only saw him a few times because he wanted nothing to do with my family. My father's father was from the upper class, and he disinherited my father for marrying my mother who worked as a seamstress at a family friend's shop.
Father met mother on one morning when my grandmother went inside a new shop to order a hunting dress from her London seamstress. My father accompanied her that day and every other time his mother went to the shop he would go along to see my mother. Lady Sabine Stewart, my grandmother, did not want to completely ban our family but obeyed my grandfather's wishes so they would not be excluded from society.
They never visited us except the day they offered to take Daniel away and raise him right but my mother would not be separated from him. My father's life was made impossible once he chose my mother, everywhere he looked for jobs my grandfather would tell them not to hire him in an attempt to get his son back. I had seen from up close what it was like to be ostracized from society though my mother's love brought my father consolation I saw how hard it was for him to endure the constraints of his new social status.
Which was why I could never put Lord Joseph through it nor any man especially the son of the man I had allowed to kiss me. Joseph may have stolen a kiss from me but I had let Mr. Howard kiss me over and over again with a passion I was entirely guilty of and here was my first chance to run away from it.
"Mrs. Hall, I will need two days off," I asked her instead of telling directly the master or Lord Joseph hoping she would pass the news along.
"Is it because of your letter?"
"Yes so may I go pack?"
"Not so fast dear, you must tell both of the masters first, I will not endure another pulling of the ear so close to the Spring dinner."
"I will talk to them," I took the letter with me and went to Mr. Howard right away on the east tower.
"Mr. Howard may I come in?"
"Yes," was all he said and I saw his brush on his hand, and the colors spread across a surface which he picked a blue from.
"If you have the time to spare I must talk to you sir."
"So do I, we will talk now," he put his brush down to look me in the eye and courage deserted me.
"About what sir?"
"My son," he wiped his hands off.
"What about him?"
"You must marry him."
"I know you have turned him down but you are no more under any obligation to stay away from him."
"If you have any inclinations towards him then I will not stand in the way."
How could he say that? Why would he treat me as he did and then try to pass me on to his son as if I were the object of choice to play with? How could an artist as he was meant to be understand nothing of affections, of humanity?
"If I could silence my conscience I might consider it but not after that night sir."
"So I ruined your chances with him is that what you mean to say?"
"Without a doubt sir."
There was a possibility Joseph would have been more appealing or that I would have come to love him and accept him if Mr. Howard had not already disturbed my once upon a time settled and quiet heart. There was also a possibility in the end I was still a maid and there was my father's cautionary tale to hold me down and let Joseph who was after all a Lord and most eligible bachelor find more suited prospects. Either way it would be easier if I did not get to know what I would be missing out on by staying here at Stanley Hall near Joseph and getting to know his sweetness was too much to resist.
"I will not ask you for forgiveness."
"I know and I am here to tell you I must go to London."
"What?" He looked angry, I knew it well by now, his forehead crinkled his mouth looked disgusted and his voice grew louder while his eyes honed in on me. "How? I wrote to them, to the family who wanted to employ you, and Adelia said she would not find you another position."
"You did what?"
"Why are you going to London?" He still questioned while I seethed with wrath of his domineering actions.
"You asked Adelia to not find me work?"
"What is in London Alice?"
"My grandfather! He has passed away and his lawyer called us to the funeral."
"Is this the letter?" He asked as I held on to it.
"Let me see it," he put out his hand but I was so upset I did not want to hand it over. "I won't let you go unless I know you are telling me the truth and not running away to some other employer."
"I am not a liar sir unlike you."
"I am not a liar either, I said what I would do, if you did not believe me then that is on you, now the letter please?" I put down the letter on his hand though wanting to throw it at him like he had done previously to me.
Mr. Howard turned away to read the letter and I stood in place as he finished it; "so it is true Sir Paul Stewart was your grandfather?"
"He has a couple of my paintings in his house."
"May I have my letter sir?"
"Why are you in service when your family has more than enough for you to live like a proper lady?"
"My father was disinherited when he got married to my mother."
"Right, of course... I will not do the same to Joseph if you accept him," he dared to imply I wanted to marry his son for the money and I ended the conversation.
"Sir I will not speak with you of Lord Joseph anymore, there is nothing left to say on the matter."
"Your mother must be a woman worthy of great admiration for your dad to throw himself into poverty only to be with her."
"Yes she is."
"Just like you I presume."
"May I go sir?"
"You may go but you must promise to come back," he gave me the letter back.
"I do not make promises sir least of all to you."
"If you do not I will retrieve you myself," he held my hand and I could hear my sin thumping inside my humanity.
"I should be in the train to London today sir," I took my hand away.
"I will see you soon Miss Alice Stewart or by God and all that is sacred I will keep my promise," he said and I closed the doors hoping to lock him in there forever if it was the way to my freedom.
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...