"Now Miss Alice Stewart I shall mention what has been left to you and your family by your grandfather as an inheritance."

"Yes sir," I listened carefully.

"This London townhouse, the Elton Hall country home and an yearly income of seven thousand pounds is the start of it."

"Dear Lord," my mother finally exclaimed.

"Is he saying this house is ours?" Daniel asked looking around.

"Yes Daniel," I was still processing what the lawyer said and walked up to my grandfather's coffin.

"Your grandfather wanted to be buried by your father's side here in London," the lawyer said.

"Open the coffin please, I want to see him," I asked the lawyer who did as I asked.

My old grandfather was in there, white as cotton, thin silver hair combed through and some tears fell on my black dress. I held his hand and near his face and whispered, "grandfather I wish I had talked to you some other day but do not worry you will be buried with my father. I forgive you, we forgive you and this is our one day, thank you grandfather, may you rest in peace." I kissed the third cold dead hand of a family member, three men, three deaths, three generations gone, bad things did come in threes as the saying went.

Mrs. Trudor remained employed as the housekeeper while we walked in with nothing the next day to the London townhouse. The lawyer who also managed the estates stayed in his post so did every servant, we would meet when my family went to the country house on the weekend. As my wits came back, grandmother's seamstress was sent to the town house to fit me for new dresses it was probably where I gained some consciousness of the high ground my grandfather had left me on.

Some people have wishes for when their lives take a turn of luck, they think of all the things they would like to buy, to do, to own but for me it was not like that. Right then with the world at my feet the only thing I wanted was clear, it was him, Mr. Howard, though why I wanted him I could not begin to know. The fact I was too high to work for the Howard household made me anxious, how was I to properly convey the words to Mr. Howard?

And so would he smile when I told him of my family's good fortune? Would he see me differently? Would he ask me to marry him since I was no longer a maid and could make him a proper pairing? I had put wings to dreams I knew was not for me before and let them fly as the circumstances no longer prevented me from hoping Mr. Howard might finally reveal his feelings toward me.

The expectations were quite different since with the fortune and title I could easily make him a good enough wife. And without attachments to my employer I could talk as his equal, expect actions as his equal, I would never again have to hold my tongue, or accept his treatment because he was my master. And if this status put us on the same level then surely he found himself free to propose, to attach himself to me as he had given the impression it what he wanted. As for his behavior I was inclined to forgive him if he proved himself righteous, through the veil of what he provided me I desired to see him beyond it and the time had come to take it off and see what kind of man Mr. Howard really was.

Before I left to go back to Stanley Hall Mrs. Trudor helped me into a brand new mourning dress and I did my hair until Mrs. Trudor hired a lady's maid, a nanny and a governess to be my tutor on social etiquette. The carriage came around to pick me up and so that I may depart back to Bridgeston and when I arrived back at Stanley Hall though I looked like the new Lady Alice Stewart it still felt like the same old same old maid.

"Miss Stewart?" Mr. Bert asked when I arrived.

"Hi Mr. Bert."

"Is it really you child?"

"Yes it is," his worried face told me how strange the change was. "How are you?"

"I am very well and Mrs. Hall was anxious to get you back because of the guests which are soon to arrive at Stanley Hall."

"Right the April dinner."

"Yes um and that is a fine dress you are wearing."

"Yes it is uh you see my situation has somewhat changed Mr. Bert," I walked with him still getting the hang of the weighty attire.

"How so child?"

"It seems you may have come across Sir Paul Stewart?" I tried to have him arrive at the conclusion without having to say what happened and be mistaken for arrogance.

"Yes he did visit this house when Earl William was still alive."

"Yes well Sir Paul and Lady Sabine Stewart they are, sorry, they were my grandparents, they have both passed away in the past year."

"Miss Stewart?" Mr. Bert took a fright coming to an understanding of the whole thing, "my condolences to you and your family." He then took a posture I knew too well it was of the staff looking at their superior.

"Please do not treat me that way yet, I am not ready for it Mr. Bert," I held his arm.

"Miss Stewart," he felt sorry for my luck but not sorry enough for what had come about it or it was the way I felt so he walked off guiding me to the master.

"Well here you are, Mr. Howard has been waiting for you."

"Thank you and if you want to tell the news to the others you are welcomed to, I will meet everyone in the kitchen when I am done here."

"As you wish," he left me and I stared at the stairs to go to the east tower room gathering courage to talk to my employer who had about the shortest temper ever seen in a man.

"Alice?"

"Yes Mr. Howard," I responded and he sketched something on a small notebook of his which more than once I tried to open to see where his mind went.

"You have arrived at last, I was ready to go meet you in London tomorrow if you did not come."







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Copyright: All Rights Reserved to A. Sena Gomes.

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