Chapter LXVI

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Love, love? The question asked itself over and over again while Mr

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Love, love? The question asked itself over and over again while Mr. Howard's hand caressed my neck with a peek of a smile as if the question I had asked was an amusing one.

"Do you doubt it?"

"Yes," I did not hesitate to make him know it.

"I love you still."

"You love me then?"

"Yes."

"And what do you hope to get out of it?"

"Uh..." Mr. Howard thought about it and then answered, "well we could start with never mentioning the past, forgiving everything that has taken place between both of us."

"Forgiveness?"

"Yes."

"And Mr. Henry?"

"What about him?"

"What will I do about him?"

"Forsake him."

"Oh really? Like snapping my fingers?"

"Yes forsake society, what you promised him, what is proper or right to everyone else, forget their opinions and your grandfather's wishes."

"And if I do such a thing, what then?"

"Then we shall never look back."

"Never..." I watched him talk and if I my hearing was not impaired then I was in utter incredulity that these were the wishes of Mr. Howard.

"Now promise me Alice."

The carriage halted and they opened the door to let me out first so The Lord of Bridgeston and Lady Alice Stewart would not be seen arriving together and I was so attached to his skin it injured me to part with him.

"I..." I pointed out the door woozy from the question as the coach helped me out and closed the door once more.

"Right," the reminder that a lady of single status and a widowed Earl could not share a carriage without arising suspicions. Then I took my seat by Martha on the same side of the church as Joseph's guests sat for the wedding ceremony to begin.

During the wedding my eyes wandered with curious glances over to the front where Mr. Howard could see me with a slight left glance, then without hesitation I smiled back at him blushing from his early proposal. I was faced with our love, I loved him, the man but did I love even the things I was afraid of about him? Was Mr. Howard the lowest man I ever met to be the one I loved? Ah if only my heart could stop beating for him, if only it could love Mr. Henry with this much passion I would debate no more, I would close my eyes and marry Mr. Henry tomorrow. Yet I knew I would get no answer observing them, I knew as long as I was too close to Mr. Howard and Mr. Henry I would not be able to say yes wholeheartedly, I needed to go abroad in order to see who I wished to come back to.

"We now declare you Lord Joseph Howard and Lady Lillian Howard, husband and wife in the eyes of God, Amen and Amen..."

The priest said and soon the happy couple was walking out the church's door where Mr. Howard smiled cheering though less enthusiastic like the others and asking me with his eyes to give him some kind of answer but I did not have it yet. It was much too difficult to want him the way I did, too much love would break open if I decided to accept him and I was afraid that love would freeze us over like ice if he decided to receive it coldly once more. I was unsure and fearful of what could pass between us after he knew how much I loved him and this required trust I was unsure he deserved.

"Lady Alice how is Mrs. Theresa? I heard she was not doing well..." Sir Arthur's mother, Lady Scott, asked.

"Unfortunately you heard right Lady Scott," I agreed.

"I am sorry dear tell her I wish her to get better soon we have missed her in society."

"Thank you Lady Scott I will make sure to let her know," I smiled and while I tried to blend in with the walls looking over one of the paintings in the room Mr. Henry spoke with his back turned to me.

"I have missed you so much; come let us get away for a little, outside," but the party was so full with people I had yet to meet that I said no at the risk of getting caught and Mr. Henry never had the best behavior.

"I still have to plenty of people to meet, another time Mr. Henry."

"Fine then call Miss Campbell over so that I may speak with you."

"Alright," I said waving to Martha, "oh how lovely is your dress."

"Yes I wanted to impress Arthur though I clearly have no need for it," Martha smiled and Sir Arthur was looking at her when Mr. Henry grabbed him by the arm to come and talk to us.

"Ladies, how are you this evening?" Mr. Henry said and I questioned his strange attitude.

"Great, the wedding was very charming with it being winter and all do you not think so?" Martha asked and I nodded.

"Yes very charming."

"Alright then here it goes," Mr. Henry said fixing his suit.

"Mr. Henry what..." I tried to ask while both Martha and Sir Arthur looked at each other without wondering like I was.

"Just stand there my dearest Lady Alice and listen."

"Oh dear God," Martha put her hand over her mouth and I stared into Mr. Henry's eyes shaking my head.

"Lady Alice you made me a promise almost a year ago remember?"

"Yes why are you..."

"So I believe we have known each other long enough, we have been through more than enough," he joked about his arm by lifting his shoulder up.

"Uh..."

"And I have waited long enough to give you this," he took a small box from his jacket and then some people took notice of what was happening around them.

"He really is, isn't he?" Martha held Sir Arthur's arm as Mr. Henry continued his talking.

"Mr. Henry wait..." Mr. Henry did not bend to anyone else's expectations not even mine of being sensible at least in this.

"Lady Alice we have waited, since last April dinner," Mr. Henry said for those close to hear.

"Mr. Henry we are in the middle of Joseph's wedding."

"Yes the perfect time of joy! So here we are gathered with my family and our dearest friends for all to partake in our happiness before London does."

Mr. Henry then knelt down and I stood by like a spectator for there was nothing else to stop this from happening, this was merely the formalization of everything everyone expected.

"Lady Alice Stewart will you take this ring as a sign of our public engagement?"

"I..."

My voice got caught thinking how had we gotten here so quickly then to Mr. Howard as I looked astounded at the ring then at Lady Walker waiting for me to say yes, and even his father Sir Walker frightened me with a grieved looked on his face at my delay.

"Say yes already!" Martha helped and then more people began to look our way happily waiting for the yes and I managed to nod first, "oh this is truly magnificient!"




















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