Chapter Three - The Traveler

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This Mr. Whitefield was donned in a long brown riding coat, tall black boots, thick leather riding gloves and a plain waistcoat. Traveling clothes. Unlike Mr. Smith, however, his were splattered with mud and indicated the end of a long journey rather than the start of one. His eyes were a brilliant blue, full of a life and energy with no sign of having been dimmed in the slightest by his travels. From the disheveled blonde hair atop his head to the dirt-caked boots on his feet, every inch of him seemed to pulse with energy and the calculation of a hundred unknown thoughts. To any passerby, he seemed a fascinating paradox, with his intellect and energy combined with simple clothes, unflattering to his marvelous features, and the humble life he led.

Upon meeting his friendly gaze and without a second thought, Grace immediately dashed over and embraced the young man as he proceeded to joyfully embrace her back. She was on the verge of tears as she welcomed home the traveler.

"Oh, how I have missed you, Benedict!"

"And I you, dear Grace!"

As the two separated from their embrace, traces of recognition began to illuminate Mr. Smith's features but before he could possibly get the chance to speak up, Grace hastily spoke,
"I could have sworn the last time you wrote to me you said that you would be back no earlier than Christmas."

"Ah, yes. So I had thought and planned. Was I not in receipt of word saying that the war had moved south to the Carolinas it would have surely been so."

"What then of your classes at Oxford?"

Grace asked, taken aback that he should have given up such a splendid opportunity, rare for many of that day, to pursue his studies in one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

"Oh, do not worry, I can certainly finish my studies next autumn or the autumn after that if I please. I just could not bear to stand one moment more in pursuit of idle study when those I cared for back home were in danger of their very lives. Besides, I have found that England holds no place for me. Were it not for all I have learned there, I should have considered myself daft for having ever had any desire of going there at all."

"Benedict Whitefield, your father must be the honorable William Whitefield, I presume?" Mr. Smith finally got the chance to inquire.

"Why yes, and you must be Mr. Smith. My father has spoken fondly of you on many an occasion. You are quite a champion of the poor."

"Your father is far too kind. Do give him my best wishes and tell him he must write as it has been ages since we last conversed."

"I most certainly shall. Now, if you would not mind I should like to take a turn about the property with Miss Lewis as there is something I need to speak with her about. I do apologize for taking her from any duties she may now be charged with, but I need only a moment of her time."

Mr. Whitefield looked expectantly towards Grace as he finished his sentence with a glint of joy and anxiety mixed within his soft blue eyes.

Grace bit the corner of her lip as she was in habit of doing when she really wished to go through with something contrary to her immediate duties. She glanced up at the staircase then back at Mr. Whitefield unsure of how she ought to handle the situation.

"I am afraid whatever it is you have to say to me must wait, at least for now. You see, our family is in an anxious hurry to pack up and be gone as quickly as possible. Colonel Banestre Tarleton and his Dragoons are expected to make camp near here before the day is up and we must leave lest we be ransacked and taken prisoner. I would absolutely love to walk with you but as you see I cannot abandon my duties, especially after having overslept and left my poor mother to do most of the packing."

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