The Only Thing To Be Done
Despite Maria's anger over the matter of Henry Crawford and Fanny Price, the Rushworths and I, Julia Bertram, were happy in Wimpole Street. There were parties nearly every night, for Mr. Rushworth cared not how his wife spent his money. Indeed, he liked the parties as well, so long as he could stride in proudly beside his beautiful wife. That Maria was horribly indifferent to him, he scarcely noticed.
But he did notice a little.
I enjoyed my life in Wimpole Street. I liked it too well to return home to Mansfield, even if my brother Tom was ill. I adored the society and gaiety of life in London, and rather dreaded returning home to cold, bleak and empty Mansfield. Also, here in town, I had suitors, which I had never had at home. Maria had been available, and much prettier than myself. I did not care for any of my suitors, but it was rather the point of having them at all that really mattered. And Maria now had no one but Mr. Rushworth.
I was rather proud of my young men. There were only three of them, to be truthful. But they all were rather good looking.
The first two could never be distinguished from each other in my mind, or indeed, in the minds of many of their acquaintance. They looked remarkable similar in that they were quite average in form, and had the same sort of good looks. I know their names to be Geoffreys and Godfreys, and for the life of me, I couldn't say which was which. However, each had lovely tastes in gifts.
My third suitor was Mr. Yates. The same Yates of the doomed theatrical at Mansfield. I liked him the best of the three, if simply because he was Tom's friend. Also, he was quite kind to me at the time of the theatrical, when all of the others were being abominable. However much I enjoyed Yates in comparison to my other suitors, he did keep on asking me to marry him, I kept refusing him. We were rather good at this by the time Henry Crawford returned to London.
I must now make it clear that I am not in love with Mr. Crawford. I might have well been fond of him for a while... but he liked Maria...and Fanny. And I have nothing against Fanny, in fact, I always felt sorry for her, despite everything Maria and Aunt Norris said about her. Just the fact that Fanny could have gotten a young man like Crawford... it makes me look very silly.
And I am not in love with Mr. Crawford. I must make this very clear. I rather detest him now, in fact. Ever since he so bluntly slighted me when we chose roles for Lovers Vows. Who asked him to decide whether or not I could be Agatha? Maria should have been jolly terrible as in that role, if the play had ever come off.
When Henry Crawford was announced at our house the day he arrived in London, I did not want to be within the same building as him.
It was a rather calm day, after a rather late ball on the previous night. We had nothing but a small supper party for the evening, but it would be at home, and much more convenient to us. It was one of those afternoons where you sit lolling in a chair, eating marzipan and sugar cookies, and pretending to do embroidery. Rushworth was asleep in the corner, and snoring very loudly. Maria, between breaks for sweets, was playing something rather like a wedding march on the piano forte, in hopes it would bother her husband. Maria is rather brutal to Rushworth. It seems a pity for her to have married him, but I must say that I enjoy his house, his parties, and his marzipan.
However, I had just gotten to the point in a quiet afternoon where one kicks off one's slippers and puts one's feet on the table (honestly, I felt like it after the rules of Mansfield, and it wasn't as if Maria or Rushworth ever noticed me, too often anyway), when the door in the corridor opened, and the servant stopped to gather a name. Crawford.
Help. Here I was, in my stockings, with my feet upon the table, with a large piece of marzipan in my mouth, keeping company with a loudly snoring hulk, I mean, my brother in law. I quickly tucked my feet down, and spat out the marzipan into my embroidery, in the few seconds I had until Mr. Crawford entered.
And he entered. Maria was behind him, having heard the servant from the music room, across the hall. Rushworth was still asleep. Maria nodded to me to wake him, but he was across the room, and I wasn't going to show Mr. Crawford that I wasn't wearing shoes. She rolled her eyes at me and walked distastefully across the room, where she laid one finger tip against Rushworth, and poked him. He woke, and soon was functioning again.
Mr. Crawford looked rather worn, but as handsome as ever. Maria asked him rather pointedly about Fanny. Mr. Rushworth failed to notice her tone, and asked quite pleasantly after Fanny. Mr. Crawford sighed.
"Indeed, I have had no success in changing her heart towards me."
"What a pity," said Maria with no feeling of pity at all in her tone.
"Sorry to hear it," said Rushworth. He caught sight of the marzipan and cookies on the table, and came over to my settee, and sat beside me in order to be near the sweets. He also sat upon my embroidery. Wretched man. Marzipan does not come out of cloth easily.
The visit was somewhat awkward on the part of everyone in the room. I had no great affection for Crawford, Mr. Rushworth has no feeling about anything, and Maria clearly had too much feeling for Mr. Crawford. Odd, too. I should have thought life in Wimpole Street should have driven his pretty face from her mind.
As soon as it could be polite for me to leave, I left. Henry Crawford is very handsome, and as much as I dislike him, I must owe that he is ten times handsomer than either of the Geoffreys / Godfreys or Yates. And I did not want to stay in the same house long enough to realize that my suitors were inferior.
Maria invited Crawford to the supper party. I have to be thankful to Maria for bringing me to London, but at times she frustrates me beyond end. But anything rather than returning to Mansfield.
That evening at the supper party, Maria had Crawford seated next to her. If I had to see Crawford become attracted to Maria again, I should be most disgusted. I was quite pleased that I was on the other side of the table from them, and across from Yates.
He smiled at me, and asked me if I had sampled the fish. I hadn't. To tell you the truth, the Rushworth's cook is not very good in the way of sea food. But perhaps I am spoilt in this area. My Aunt Price is a rather good cook when it comes to fish, and is forever sending recipes to Fanny... which Aunt Norris takes, and claims as her own. But we have really stopped bothering ourselves over Aunt Norris. She's abominable to every one but Maria and Father. She merely simpers to them.
Yates called my thoughts off of the fish now, and asked me politely if I had reconsidered any of his offers. I hadn't, and didn't intend to. I turned to the fish and tried a bite. It was... less than superior. I choked.
"That was why I asked about the fish," he said kindly, handing me his napkin.
Yates is really a rather nice man. But Mary Crawford said not to pay him much attention. He isn't very wealthy, and he talks rather too much.
He began to talk about past fish dishes he had eaten with the Lady Bloats. That couldn't have been the name, but it sounded quite like it. I turned my attention to Rushworth, but he was busily talking about his improvements at Southerton, and eating. At once.
Maria and Henry were behaving rather dreadfully. It was clear that Henry was in no way thinking about Fanny at this moment. They were sampling the food on each other's plates with the same utensils, and his hand was enclosed around hers. She was smiling, and he was looking tolerably animated, if nothing else.
I returned to my fish, and glanced to see who else was near me at the table. Mrs. Howard. I should prefer not to talk to her, and fortunately she was conversing with Mrs. Lee. The two gossips should get along very well with one another.
Miss Anne Fields was on my other side, and was eating rather calmly on her own. I turned to her. We are distantly related, and she had been discussing having me visit her. This seemed like an excellent time to have the invitation brought back up. She and her two sisters, and her two brothers were fashionable people, if not overly wealthy. Mrs. Fields was the daughter of Baronet, and the niece of an Earl. Mr. Field's cousin was Sir Harry Wobbly, who, for some reason which I could not fathom, was quite popular in Town at the moment.
Anne smiled when I addressed her. She, quite of her own judgment, brought up her invitation again. I was delighted to accept.
"Please come soon," she said. "If it would be possible, we are leaving Town in three days time for home, and it would be very convenient if you would join us then."
I smiled at her. It was an excellent plan. I should love to quit the company of Maria and Crawford. We began to make our plans. I knew that with Crawford about Maria would not miss me. In any case, she would soon be visiting friends in Twickenham for Easter, and if I did not go with the Fieldses, I should be forced to accompany Mr. Rushworth on a visit to his mother in Bath. No, I should be delighted to come in three days time.
At this point, Yates had finished his fish speech, and we had moved on to the next course. But he had heard our conversation, and remarked that he, too, would be in Gloucestershire over Easter. Alas. I cannot even get away from Mr. Yates.
However, a suitor following me about in a strange neighborhood could be to my advantage...
I talked to Maria when the party had separated to the card tables. She readily agreed that I should visit the Fieldses. I was delighted. I sat down at a card table, and let Yates be my partner. We played opposite the duo of Geoffreys and Godfreys. And I rather enjoyed myself. In three days I would be away from Maria and Crawford.
I was quite pleased to board the carriage that stopped outside the door, and let my trunks be fastened onto it. I was a bit surprised when I was handed up, and saw that Yates was the driver. He smiled at me.
"The Fieldses asked me to take you. Their carriage was rather full, and I am bringing this carriage to a friend I am to visit, who lives not very far from Burroughs." Burroughs was the name of the Fieldses' home. I sat by Yates in the curricle, and wondered that no one stopped me from traveling alone with this man. But Maria would undoubtedly be pleased if I should run off to Scotland with a young man. She was beginning to tire of me, I know. Rushworth hadn't noticed that there was no chaperone. I sighed, and sank back into my seat. It would be a rather long ride. At least I could stop and talk to the Fieldses at the posting inns.
We continued on our journey rather silently. Then, Yates spoke.
"You think I'm a bit daft, don't you."
"I'm not that bad. I may be a bit too frolicsome, but I could settle down."
"Julia, this is my twelfth proposal. Will you marry me?"
"Any reasons? I'm trying to learn from my mistakes."
He turned and looked at me, slowing the horses down. He apparently really did want to know why I was rejecting him.
" You aren't wealthy enough?" I tried.
"Can't fix that much. I suppose I could stop gambling as high..."
He apparently really wanted me to marry him, and was offering to give up his gambling. It was a touching gesture. But I did not want to marry just yet. I was enjoying myself at this point in life.
"No, that's not it, Mr. Yates. I suppose that I just don't want to marry yet. I'm still young."
"Ah. Wretched girl. I can wait."
There was a pause. I knew that the drive could be very long.
"And... you talk too much about pointless things."
"Do I?" he looked gratified for a real tip. "I'll keep it in mind. Any particular problems?"
"Food, Friends and Frivolities."
"You talk too much about food, and who your friends are, and about what you have done with them."
I think he meant it. I sighed. He was dreadfully stubborn. I wondered how long he would keep on proposing to me. Either he would fall in love with someone else, or I'd give in, or I'd marry someone else. It looked a bit bleak.
At the first posting inn, I was glad to be able to talk to Anne, and her sisters Mary and Sophia. Their mother and father had also been in the squashed carriage, and I could see that there was no room there for me. In fact, Sophie suggested that she join me in the curricle, there would be much more room than in the carriage. Both of her parents were rather large people, and the trip had been unbearable for her.
I was pleased with the idea, not having to travel alone with Mr. Yates. I might have given into his offers just to make him be quiet.
Sophie Fields was a rather pretty young girl, who had no sensible opinions on anything, although she had a gift of logic on most occasions. Logic wasn't necessarily sensible, but at least she had an opinion to offer.
With Sophie as my buffer between Mr. Yates and his romantic ideas, we had a pleasant time. There was not a great deal of room in the curricle, but as both Sophie and I were slender, we managed to be comfortable. I was blissfully away from Maria and Crawford. It was Sophie, who has no tact to speak of, who brought up Crawford.
"I thought your sister was behaving a bit oddly," remarked Sophie. "In regards to her guest. Mr. Crawford, was it? He is dreadfully handsome."
"Yes, he is," I agreed, smiling to see Mr. Yates stiffen a bit. However, Yates is supposed to be just as much of a rake as Crawford, so I do not see his problem. If anyone should ask me if I thought Yates handsome, I should also agree. "My sister was behaving scandalously."
"Yes!" Sophie said. "Their behavior at the table was disgusting. Did you notice? I made no notice of it till Anne pointed it out."
Mr. Yates, who had missed the whole ordeal as he had been giving a speech about fish at the time, now asked for the gory details. I laughed. Maria would not be embarrassed at her behavior. She would laugh, and merely remark that she and Crawford 'had similar tastes in food'.
"I believe that my sister is still attached to Crawford. It is odd that he was behaving so, for I thought that he wanted to marry my cousin."
"The little creature?" asked Yates. "The Price cousin? I am all astonishment."
"You would be astonished, Mr. Yates. But he was sincerely attached to her, I am given to understand. But from his current behavior I should not guess that he retains that affection. My cousin has refused him, apparently, and he must be trying to take his revenge by being attentive to Maria, who hates Fanny."
"These refused young men!" exclaimed Mr. Yates lightly. "They will do anything!"
I frowned. If Sophie wasn't there, I should have reprimanded him, but she was very much there, and innocently smiling at Mr. Yates. Could the gentleman not fall in love with her instead? She is very pretty, and they could be frivolous together to the end of their days. They each refused to cooperate with my scheme, however, and changed the conversation before I could try to hand Sophie to Mr. Yates. We talked of sheep for the rest of the drive, and of the country, and at last Mr. Yates was forced to be silent while Sophie and I discussed wools and silks and muslins.
We arrived at Burroughs soon, and Sophie and I were pleased to alight from the curricle onto the courtyard. Anne came over to us and embraced us, her sister Mary followed, bearing her pet terrier.
"You poor dears!" she exclaimed. "Stuck the entire time with the Right Honorable Mr. Yates. I hope he did not bore you terribly."
"No, he did not, I thank you," I assured her. "Now, let me see the house!" She entwined an arm about my waist, and we walked towards the house gaily laughing, leaving Yates to deal with having my trunks handed over to the servants. I should have looked back, to tease him, but I must say that I forgot. Burroughs was one of the prettiest houses in Gloucestershire, if not very grand, and I was determined to see everything.
Anne, Mary and Sophie were ideal guides. I was given a pleasant room, with a view, beside Anne's own room, and was then showed the principle attractions of the house. A portrait of their uncle done by some famous painter... I am not good with names. The uncle was dead, and the painting was now a prized possession. I was shown some china which my friends had painted, and admired it with spirit, and deservedly so. I was shown the instrument, the harp, some sketches. These girls had been most properly brought up. I felt a little stupid about them, knowing that my own education was inferior. I could play the glass organ better than the piano forte, and my reading had been mostly confined to novels. I felt a little wistful, remembering Edmund's offers of reading material, which I had almost rudely declined, and which Fanny had gratefully accepted instead.
We proceeded into the garden, and took a walk around the shrubbery. I am fond of a nice shrubbery, and was even more pleased when it was cut by a path, which led to the stables. I am fond of riding, and am skilled at it, one of my few actually useful acquirements, though I have a number of them. (Chiefly in such things as dressing, embroidery, millinery of sorts, flower arranging, card playing, and dancing). The Miss Fields had a horse each, though it was a bit of an expense for them. However, they too liked to ride, and on having no other suitable lady's mount, offered me one of their brothers' horses, which they thought could take the side-saddle. I accepted the offer, and was pleased to be shown the further pleasures of my friends' property.
We enjoyed confiding secrets with one another, Mary, Sophie, Anne and I. In the evenings we would sit together in one of our rooms, and whisper to each other. None of us would reveal to a soul what we heard in these confidences, so we were prompted to keep nothing back. Thus, my scandalous sister was a favorite topic, in addition to our beaux.
"You haven't heard from her, have you?" asked Anne.
"Indeed, not, although she said she would write when she arrived in Twickenham."
"Do you think Crawford will follow her?" asked Sophie.
"Perhaps," smiled Mary mischievously. "Do you think your sister would run away with him? It would be terribly exciting!"
"I hope not!" I exclaimed. "If such a thing were to happen, I should be sent back to Mansfield, for sure. And you have no idea how droll it would be there. Tom spends all of his time in London, and Maria would not be there, and I should be left with Fanny, Edmund and my mother's pug dog!"
"Poor dear," comforted Sophie. "Sounds wretched. I've never liked pugs."
If she was a bit off the topic of my scandalous sister, we made no comment. However, we easily made a transition from dogs to suitors. They are often very similar, you know.
"I am surprised that the Hon. Mr. Yates has not come by," spoke up Anne. "He's terribly in love with you by all reports."
"I know. But he's so..." I left the sentence unfinished. I would let my friends conjecture as they pleased.
"Have you actually had an offer of marriage, Julia?" queried Sophie wistfully.
"Twelve," I replied promptly. "All from Mr. Yates."
"Twelve!" exclaimed Anne. "That is ever so many! I've only had one, by a drunk gentleman, at a parry, whom I had not officially been introduced to. I did not know him, so I did not accept him."
"Sound reasoning," applauded the logical Sophie.
I was oddly pleased. I had had ever so many more proposals than my friends. It made me feel oddly superior, and at that moment I was terribly pleased with Mr. Yates.
The beginning of my stay at Burroughs was as pleasant as anyone could have hoped for. My friends were pleasant people, who appreciated me for myself. Also, without Maria about, I could flirt as I wished. Not that I had terribly many opportunities to flirt, for Mr. Yates seemed to drive off any possible rivals.
Yes, Mr. Yates came calling fairly often. The Miss Fields were in awe of him, ever since I had told them of his proposals. He would smile at me, and they would all gaze at each other with veiled blue eyes, and think how coy I was being. But they enjoyed watching me with him, I knew, so I let them stay and watch. Besides, they kept me from having proposal thirteen delivered to me right there.
We were sitting about in the morning, laughing over Mr. Yates's last visit, when my sister's first letter arrived. I was pleased that she had actually written, and noticed with even more pleasure that the letter was long. My friends were only too eager for a scandal, and asked that I tell them what was in the letter. I read them excerpts about Mr. Crawford, who was in the vicinity of Twickenham. There were many excerpts to read from, for my sister seemed newly infatuated with him. I was temporarily angry at her, on Fanny's behalf, but my friends' amusement with the letters was too much for anger on my part.
Julia, I must tell you that I have arrived safely amongst my friends, who are planning to attend the Haversons this evening. The Lord Haversons, I mean. And you will know what that means, I am sure, if you remember one of our acquaintances who talked of them on occasion. You must know the delightful man I mean... Mr. Crawford. yes, he has come back into our acquaintance, here, staying with the Haversons, and has most sensibly stopped moping over Fanny. I have reason to think he is attached to me, instead! I know that I will startle you, Julia, but you never knew anything about Love. Heavens, you know I do not have any emotion of the sort towards Rushworth, and Mr. Crawford is a much more delightful man. But do not fear that I shall over step the boundaries of society, I like Wimpole Street too well for that. Sister, I trust that you have not even succeeded in an engagement yet, so I shall not flaunt the fact that I have succeeded nearly twice over.
The Miss Fields gaped in astonishment. I smiled, and chose another paragraph.
And Julia, I have returned from this evening's fun, and have much to say. Lady Haverson admired my gown, which I take as a wonderful compliment. Henry liked it as well, which means it shall be henceforth haloed, and worn again as soon as it is fitting to. Yes... Henry! We have danced this evening, and it is so pleasant for a married woman to have a partner at an assembly, when her husband is absent. And Henry was most kind to me. You will pout at reading this, and I smile. You shall have your fun once I have had mine, to be sure. You could always badger about with that man Yates, he was fond of you, I seem to remember.
"Have you told Maria about his proposals?" asked Mary. "She's only ever had one."
"And Mr. Rushworth at that!" giggled Sophie.
"Here is another juicy expert", I said, not answering their questions. Maria would be very angry if she knew that I had refused Mr. Yates. It was not a brilliant match, but it was a match, and I could stop being about all the time if I was married. Or, preferably, we could have fun together in London, far away from a disapproving Father.
Henry accompanied me home to a small reception here, simply with a few very close friends. I enjoyed it very much, and flirted scandalously. We were alone for several minutes, Henry and I, and I shall have the world know that he told me that he cares nothing for Fanny. He said, "Who is Fanny Price to the beauteous and alluring Maria?" How is that! I am most pleased indeed, Julia, you have never had such a compliment. I should not like to say more of his compliments towards me, as they were mostly in comparison to you, and you should not like that. Twickenham is wonderful, and I smile to think that I have my entire Easter here, unmolested by Rushworth.
"It's out of a novel" declared Mary. "It couldn't really happen. Maria and Henry Crawford?"
"It's awful!" exclaimed the sensitive Sophie. "And scandalous. You can't let her misguide her husband so."
"How is she misguiding him?" I asked. "She merely seems to be preferring Mr. Crawford as a companion, and allowing him to flirt. She said she would not allow herself to step over her social boundaries, for her love of her place in society."
"Hmm," said Anne. "I wonder. She seems dreadfully entranced by this fellow, and none at all by Rushworth."
"Who could be?" asked Mary, who was leaning back on the settee, stroking her terrier.
I put down the letter, and sat next to her, and petted the creature. I am not terribly fond of lap dogs, since my mother spent more time with hers than with her children, but I enjoyed the fact that I could be employed stroking it, instead of looking at my friends. I was worried about Maria, although I did not show it. What if she actually did run off with Crawford? I should be back at Mansfield, and the whole dream of London society should be locked away forever.
I was in this reflective mood when Mr. Yates was announced. My friends sent sly glances at each other, lowered their eyes, and discreetly moved Maria's letter from view.
"Good day," remarked Mr. Yates, choosing a seat. "Are the Mr. Fields in?"
"No," replied Anne, the eldest. "They have gone out to inspect the fields."
"Then I must be content with your charming society," he said. He seemed pleased about it, and I smiled mischievously.
"Indeed," I said gaily. "You must be content with us, who cannot compete with the Mr. Fields in the fields."
He glanced at me. "Good day, Miss Bertram, I hope that you are well?"
"I trust that your family, relations and canine acquirements share that health?"
I laughed. I must look a little like my mother with Mary's terrier half on my lap. Fortunately, the creature was of a light color, so the hairs did not show on my white gown.
"They are all well. I have even heard from my sister, who is very well."
"Mrs. Rushworth? You must tell me all about her. Has she reached her friends in Twickenham?" he queried. The man knew our movements too well.
"Yes, she has reached her friends in Twickenham. Indeed, her friends have also admitted Mr. Crawford into their circle, so she is quite content."
"Spreading rumors of your sister!" he remarked. "I never should have guessed it of you, Miss Bertram. I suppose you write in the society column in the papers as well, insulting your father and my friend, your brother."
"Has someone been insulting them?" I asked sharply. I may not like being with my family, but they are mine, and I shall not tolerate any untruths against them. Maria is different, they are never untruths.
"No one has been insulting them, exactly. But there have been some nasty conjectures about Tom's illness."
"And they do not tell me? No one writes me but Julia. Not Edmund, nor Fanny, Aunt Norris, Mary Crawford... I am most piteously neglected."
"How dreadful for you, Miss Bertram."
Conversation was reaching a standstill when my friends suggested that we walk in the shrubbery. There is something in the name of a shrubbery that amuses me, and I enjoyed walking (my figure is at an advantage then, I know), I agreed.
Anne and Sophie took the lead, as the path would admit only two, without one being forced off of it, onto the grass. Mary was walking her idiot terrier, and I was to walk with Mr. Yates. My friends had schemed for this, but I was not sorry, Mr. Yates could be entertaining. He even managed another proposal in our walk.
"Miss Bertram, Miss Julia, might you have changed your mind recently?"
"I have not," I said a little sadly.
"It is a pity, Julia. A pity."
"Did you think I would have changed it?"
"Not really. I only hoped. It's this shrubbery, I think. You look so delicate against it, and a man just wants to offer his hand to you."
Delicate? I had never thought of that word to describe myself. Fanny is delicate, I am sturdier.
"I am sorry that I cannot accept that hand. Perhaps if it was not offered so often, I might come to realize that I need it."
"Are you trying to tell me to go away?" he asked.
"Not really," I admitted despite myself. "I like you very much, and should be sorry not to have you about."
He was unsure how to take that.
"Shall I be your eternal slave, then, or are you admitting that you appreciate me and my presence?"
"I appreciate your presence, Mr. Yates, I do, just I can't see my way into marriage with you."
He turned away. "Fooled again, I suppose. However," he said, turning to me with a look of earnest upon his face, "however, you don't hate me. I thank you for that. Would you... would you honor me with the first two dances at the Kendell's ball next week?" He seemed almost shy then, and I smiled to see him wondering with mixed delight and confusion.
"I will dance with you for those dances."
I then promptly stumbled over Mary's terrier, which had run up to us, and was forced to accept Yates's arm for support. What would happen if Yates was not about to be so gallant to me, I wondered. Then I shook my head. I couldn't be beginning to like Mr. Yates in earnest. That sort of thing wasn't done.
Despite my resolution that I would not make an effort to please Mr. Yates, I found myself dressing for the Kendell's ball with care. I had a lovely yellow silk gown, which I knew Sophie coveted. The Fields had a lady's maid, which I was only too pleased to utilize, as I have never been very good at arranging my own hair. I can curl with skill, but I have been told that I look very silly with curls. I allowed the maid to braid and pin, and soon emerged from my room looking rather pretty, if I may flatter myself. I had a rather lovely golden chain on my neck, and Mary whispered to me that with it and the own I looked like a goddess of some sort. Anne whispered that Mr. Yates would be pleased, and Sophie could not trust herself to speak, being envious of the gown.
On arriving at the Kendell's, Mr. Yates was waiting. I left my friends, and was escorted about the room by his firm but courteous management. He approved of my gown.
On seeing her come in, Mr. Yates was sure that he could not easily leave Julia Bertram alone. Although Maria was indeed more beautiful, Julia had a certain grace about her that was very pleasing for the eye. She had a fine figure, which had not begun to fade away with all that marzipan as Mrs. Rushworth's was beginning to. her eyes were bright, and her manner slightly teasing with him, and it was all the man could do to retain his composure, and fight the instinct to draw her into a side room, and declare his undying devotion to her. But he didn't think she would accept his devotion, even if he declared it. For the fourteenth time.
I was enjoying the evening. Mr. Yates was one of the handsomest men in the room, and many other girls were gazing enviously at the baronet's daughter who was dancing with the dreadfully dashing Mr. Yates. I adored being the center of attention, since I never had been at home, or at Wimpole Street. I danced very well, I thought, with Mr. Yates, and was very kind to his poor feelings. When the second set was done, I agreed to dance again with him, and let go of his hand so that he might dance with Anne Fields. I sat on the side of the room for only a few more seconds before I was claimed for a dance, and from then on in the evening was kept busy upon the dance floor.
With the dance before supper, I found myself thankfully alone, and was preparing to sit down when Mr. Yates floated over to me.
"Will you dance?" aske d he, smiling, and stretching out a hand to her.
"I'd like to," I smiled, but on rising, I found my feet worn from the previous dances. "But perhaps I might sit?"
He saw the sad condition of my shoe roses, and guessed that I was fatigued.
"Very well," he agreed. "And I shall keep you company."
I was well entertained by my companion, who seemed pleased with my good spirits, and made no attempt to spoil them by romantic notions. I watched the dancers, smiling to see all three of my friends dancing.
"Who is that with Mary?" I asked my companion, who hovered behind my chair like a mother bird about her nest.
"Walter Davis. Second son of Sir George."
I smiled at the pair. "Does he like dogs?"
"A son of Sir George liking dogs? My dear Miss Bertram, the place is overrun with them. Have you never visited there?"
"Never. This," I said gaily, "is my first holiday. My going with Maria to Brighton was my first experience of the world beyond Northampton, except for brief visits to London."
"You unfortunate creature. You must travel more."
"I must be companion to my sister, or return home, you see," I said with a small sigh. "We don't travel at home. It's probably because of Tom..." I broke off. It was not delicate to speak of Tom's wantonness with his dear friend, nor, when Tom was so ill. When Tom was so ill, and had been deserted by Mr. Yates.
"Tom?" inquired Mr. Yates, gently. He felt a bit guilty about having left his friend.
"You don't want to hear about Tom."
"I do," he cried, "Honestly, Miss Bertram, I do. Would Miss Bertram ever forgive me for deserting her brother in his time of need?"
"Is there a need for all that third person speech?" I asked, curious.
"No," admitted Mr. Yates. "But," he added, gazing into my eyes with an expression I could not define, "I would like your forgiveness."
He had been so pleasant this evening... never had his presence been a burden, I looked into his face, and saw that he was sorry. "I forgive you," I said. A smile lit over his face. He sat down, and drew his chair close to mine.
"Now," he said, "Now, tell me how Tom fares."
I hadn't much news of Tom, and little of it good. My mother had written me of it a week before, and it seemed that he was not doing very well. Mr. Yates frowned.
"I was not with him when he needed me."
"No," I agreed. "You left him. You left the most delightful of my brothers, and I have forgiven you. Do you deserve it?"
He glanced at his fine shoes. "I don't."
"At least you know it," said I. "We may feel wretched together, you knowing that you are to blame for his state, and I for not returning home when I know my mother wishes it. If I were to go, I don't know that I should ever be able to return to London."
"Then do not go," said Mr. Yates. "We shall feel wretched together."
He offered a hand, and I noticed that the others were proceeding to the supper table. *********************************************************************
Anne scolded me after the ball.
"You flirted with Mr. Yates! I know you did!"
"He was pleasant this evening."
"None. It was very pleasant."
"I say, you were very pretty."
"Thank you. I know Sophie wants the gown."
"I know it too. She has the hair for it. Both she and Mary have the loveliest golden curls, which would look lovely with that gown. I've been stuck with the dark variety of curl."
"And I with no curls at all. You are terribly vain, aren't you?" I asked Anne.
She laughed prettily. "I've been found out. What shall we do with ourselves this evening? Mary is in bed already, likely because she does not want to be questioned about that young man she was dancing with. Sir George Davis's second son. The one who breeds dogs."
"Ah," I said. We smiled. Keeping one's romantic preferences secret was very difficult at Burroughs. *********************************************************************
I had been at Burroughs for nearly three weeks, and had been enjoying every minute of it. My friends were merry people, and there was no end to the local parties. When friends were not giving parties, the Fieldses themselves gave them. They were terribly resourceful people, and managed a full scale ball on half the cost of what other people paid to give one. There were teas, walks, and excursions. And everywhere followed Mr. Yates. I did not mind him as much as I had before, he was keeping more out of my way, and when he was with me, he was very polite, and an excellent companion. I'd also heard that he had given up gambling. I was surprised, but pleased, and happily went with him through the tangle of social employments.
I had heard from my sister, as well, in this time. She flaunted the fact that Henry Crawford was at her feet, supposing that I could never have a man at my feet. Her tones infuriated me, and her actions more so. She was behaving in a scandalous manner with him, and I could not approve.
It was the end of my third week at Burroughs when I received a thin letter from Maria. Puzzled by it's brevity, I opened it immediately, and read it.
Julia, you shall be angry, or laugh, I know not which, but you know that I cannot return to Rushworth. He is an inferior man of the worst sort, and I shall have nothing more to do with him. I have left his home, and remain with my beloved Henry. Society I care naught for, I have Henry Crawford. Yrs. Maria
"Good God!" I exclaimed. This was the worst that could happen. I would be summoned back to Mansfield soon, I knew it. The end of my holiday had arrived, it was back to Aunt Norris, sick Tom and the Pug. I felt sick inside myself. I wanted no part of the repressed life we lived at the Park. I was dizzy, and sat down in my chair. I was alone in my room, and could not utter a sound for nearly ten minutes after sitting. My sister was ruined, and I no longer had a haven in London. I would be brought home, out of danger. My suitors would not follow me in my family's disgrace.
There was the sound of footsteps running up the stair. They came towards my room, and my door burst open. Anne stood there, holding her father's newspaper. Her face was as white as mine must be.
"Julia... Julia... look at this." She pushed the paper in front of me, and pointed to a paragraph. I read aloud shakily.
"It is with infinite concern that this newspaper announces to the world a matrimonial fracas in the family of Mr. Rushworth of Wimpole Street; the beautiful Mrs. Rushworth, whose name had not long been enrolled in the lists of Hymen, and who had promised to become so brilliant a leader in the fashionable world, has quitted her husband's roof in the company of the well-known and captivating Mr. Crawford, the intimate friend and associate of Mr. Rushworth. It is not known even to the editor of the paper whither they are gone. Mercy" I exclaimed. "It is as Maria wrote!" I passed Maria's letter to Anne, who read it. We sat down together in shock.
"I knew she wouldn't bother with society," said Anne at last. "And what will happen to you now?"
"I don't know," I said. "I shall be called home at some point. I have no where to stay."
"Stay with us," urged Anne. "That is, until mid May, when we must visit Aunt Windsor, the old bat!"
I thanked Anne, but I could not stay. My father would want me home, home before I got any ideas into my head. Home to be with Tom in his illness. I remembered Mr. Yates speak of Tom's illness. He said he was to blame. And he was, in a way. And in another way, I was to blame for the current problems. I hadn't stopped Maria, scolded her, or warned her. Or warned Rushworth for that matter. Poor man! One minute he was gifted with a beautiful and clever society wife, the next instant he was alone in a scandal!
All there was was a scandal. I wouldn't be able to marry anymore, at least not brilliantly. No one would want to marry the sister who had spent so much time with the unfaithful wife. I was doomed from Maria's actions.
I spent most of the day in my room, and my friends did not disturb me. The news was great and horrible. I did not want to return to Mansfield, I couldn't. I was spoiled for ordinary life. I couldn't bear Edmund and Fanny's pure virtue, and sick people nauseate me. I couldn't be of any use nursing Tom, and did not want to be blamed for this inability.
The sun had crossed my room, when I heard a carriage stop, and someone come from it. For a moment I panicked. My father or Edmund had arrived to take me home. I fled to the window, and hid behind the curtain. It was Mr. Yates. I breathed. I could speak to Mr. Yates. He at least, might side with me, and give me pity uncombined with sneers. I tidied my face, and straightened my gown, and began to come down the stairs. I heard Mrs. Fields tell Mr. Yates that I was in my room, and it would be best not to disturb me, for the shock had come very harshly to me. I entered the room, as Mr. Yates was beginning to turn from it. He saw me, and his eyes shined. I was not hiding from him.
"I am well, I assure you, Mrs. Fields." I smiled at her. "I should like to speak with Mr. Yates, he was acquainted with my sister."
Mrs. Fields nodded, and left the room. Mary, who had been doing embroidery quietly in the corner made herself more unobtrusive. Still, we could not speak. I was biting my lip with worry, and afraid that I should cry from the thought of having to return to Mansfield and leave behind my frivolous lifestyle. I suggested that we take a walk. Mary's terrier jumped at the word, and the three of us, and also the dog, more or less cheerfully, made our way form the house, and chose a path through a small piece of woods.
The terrier, as I had expected, drew away from us, and Mary was obliged to follow it. I turned to Mr. Yates, and he stood still, his handsome face fixed on me.
"Mr. Yates, I trust that you have heard of the sad affair of my sister?"
"I have," he said, not wasting my time with speeches or exclamations. I was thankful. I had little patience left. There was a scandal. No one rich or exciting would marry me now, and I would be living a hermit's life at Mansfield too soon. I suddenly broke down. I did not weep, I choked, and very undignified, too.
I choked out my worries about life, and Mr. Yates stood very pleasantly throughout. When I was quite done, he took hold of my shoulders firmly, and offered me his handkerchief. He was so patient and gentle, that an idea came to me suddenly, and I spoke it before I knew what I was saying.
"Mr. Yates, would you go to Scotland with me?"
He drew in a breath sharply, and quickly gazed at me. His expression was guarded, but his eyes seemed to express delight.
"Where in Scotland?" he asked at last.
I now knew that I had two choices. To take John Yates, or to live at Mansfield. I chose Yates.
"To Gretna Green," I said, firmly. "I accept all of your offers, only we can't do everything properly, for my family is in no mood to deal with weddings."
His face was so pleasant, so happy and excited that I knew I should be happy with my choice. He was happy, and he would be the pleasant companion I had known these last few weeks. He drew me closer to him, and said,
"Am I to understand that you'd like me to elope with you?"
He now drew me against him, and I could hear his heart beating excitedly. Apparently he really did love me. I knew I would be happy if he loved me. I liked him, and he admired me, and all would be complete. Being the wife of Yates would be far better than Miss Bertram of Mansfield Park.
We stood against each other for some time, before the yips of Mary's terrier, warned us that she was turning back. He still held me, though, and asked hoarsely,
"When?" That would be simple, soon. Tonight, perhaps. The letter from my father would reach us tomorrow, no doubt. I could not be here when that happened. I turned to Yates's searching face, and smiled at him.
He smiled at me. "Shall you be all prepared then?"
"I have a few items of business to tie up."
"As have I."
"Where shall you be?"
"I'll meet you in the shrubbery," I said. He smiled at me again, and would have kissed me, if Mary had not then turned the bend. I smiled at him, and knelt down to the terrier. I would not go back to Mansfield.
That afternoon I spent writing letters. I had to write my friends, and I thought it best to write my family. I wrote to Edmund, as I thought me might understand me a little. Fanny would suffer by breaking such a blow to my family, another piece to the scandal. Aunt Norris would be angry, as would my father, and my mother would simply be upset. Tom would have been ideal, but because of my John Yates, he was not in good health.
I told Anne the whole truth, and also Edmund. I had no opportunities, I could not face home. John Yates truly loved me, and I liked him tolerably well, and would be happy. I asked forgiveness. I sealed my letters, posted Edmund's and left the ones to the Fieldses, Anne, Sophie and Mary on my table. I packed all my things. My large trunk I would leave here, but I packed the small one with all the necessary things, and a few extra gowns, and my jewelry and spare money. I ate my supper with the rest of the family in silence. They supposed me worried about my family and my sister, but I was not. I had an escape, and they did not. I should rejoice.
When the rest of the family has settled down for the evening, I carried my small trunk, and went out to the shrubbery. John Yates arrived, complete with curricle, and took my trunk form me. He then grabbed my arm, and swung me up into the vehicle. He smiled grimly.
"It's not the perfect ride for an elopement. My father gave me a better carriage, and I've arranged with a friend to trade off this one for it at the first posting inn. I've waited so long for you, Miss Bertram, that I will not be put off by trivial things such as people coming to search for you." He smiled pleasantly now, and put a fur rug over my shoulders.
"You can call me Julia," I said. "We will be man and wife, you know."
"I know," he said, smiling, and drawing my arm around his. "It only took fourteen proposals, dearest." He handled the pair of horses well. But I couldn't allow him to make his claim.
"I think...," I began hesitatingly, "I think that I made the last proposal." I licked my lips, and smiled into the night air as his loud and joyful laugh rang out.
"You did, Julia, you did!"
I was enjoying his company. His friendly manner did grow on one, I was sure. We went quickly, and when we arrived at the first inn, a figure wrapped up against the cool spring night came from a building, and led out a fine carriage and four horses. Yates handed over the reins to his curricle, and helped me from it. The man tied up the pair from the curricle, and loaded my trunk and one that must belong to Yates onto the new vehicle. Yates held my arm in the cold courtyard, and then held open the door for me.
"Julia," he said, "I should so much like to be near you now, but I fear I shall have to be the one driving. It would be better if you stayed inside."
I nodded, and was handed into the carriage, complete with furry rug. Yates climbed on top, and took the reins in his hands. His friend at the inn waved us on, and we were speeding towards Scotland.
Now that Yates was away from me. I began to miss him sorely. Perhaps I did... love him. I wanted to be beside him out in the night, or to have him in the warm interior of the carriage. Yes, that would be better. I was a creature of comfort.
I grew weary soon, and slept. He kept on driving.
The journey was a long one, and mostly carried out in the dark. I was comfortable within the carriage, but each hour made me realize that I must really be fond of John Yates after all.
When we did reach Gretna Green, a few days after we had left, I was handed out of the carriage by a tired by jubilant Mr. Yates.
"Julia, we are here!" he shouted to me. I smiled at him, and came to him, for those hours of being alone in the carriage had made me lonely for him. He took my arm in his, and pointed to a modest sign that read 'Gretna Green". We went for a ramble together, while an young urchin stabled our horses.
We stopped under a clump of blooming trees, and he took something from within his coat. He smiled a little bashfully.
"Can we not at least do part of this properly?" he asked, showing me a ring.
"Yes," I said, and he placed it upon my hand, and drew me to him, and touched his lips to mine gently. And if the urchin snickered at our display of affection, we thought nothing of it.
© 2001 Copyright held by author
John Yates and I were married at Gretna Green. By this time the hew and cry had gone out about us, and I knew that my father would come after me, if he was not already running after Maria. However, I did not care that they would come after me. I was married, I wore John's ring, and I was his legal wife. After marriage he retained his affection, and in great merriment was it that we left Gretna together, and went to his father's home.
I was surprisingly well received at my father-in-law's. I had feared that he would be angry with us, but he was not. He was more amused than anything else, and as he had married for love, he understood his son's reasons for marrying me. Thankfully was it that I at last was allowed to rest near John Yates, after another tiresome carriage ride. *********************************************************************
When we had become fully awake the next morning, John made the surprising statement that he thought we ought to go and see Father.
"Why ever?" I asked, beginning to try to pin up my hair for the day.
"We've seen mine, and it is only right. It's not as if you shall have to stay at Mansfield anymore," he said. "Instead you shall be frolicsome, and wear out your toe roses every evenings at galas and balls."
He had a point, I could no longer be a captive at Mansfield. We wrote a letter to my father, asking his forgiveness, and telling him, that if he would receive us, that we should be pleased to arrive on the Thursday fortnight. With this affair completed for the moment, we were able to blissfully spend our days at his father's house.
I laughed when I saw John suggesting that we buy our own home. I would very much like to be my own home's mistress, but laughed at him.
"You will become so domestic!" I trilled gaily, as he helped me over a stile when we were walking one day.
"I should like very much to be domestic," he admitted. "If, dear one, you might be prevailed upon to follow suit. I won't be a tiresome husband, I promise that to you Julia. We'll be as flirtatious and frolicsome as before we were married. Have our courtship now."
I smiled at him. I was only too pleased to be having my sadly missed courtship with him. I smiled, and retained his arm, even if I was over the stile.
"Flirtatious and frolicsome?" I queried, with a smile.
"Yes," he replied, his face looking very pleased. "Then shall we become horribly domestic, and have a home full of dogs, horses and children?"
"All those animals?" I asked, grinning, holding onto both his hands.
"All of them. To be with the animal husband and wife, who have been spending all their time outdoors instead of with their loving parents."
"Ah," I said. I laughed, and in a moment of sheer joy, we spun around in circles, holding each other's hands, and at last fell, quite dizzy on a log. I must have bruised my rump, for when I stood I hurt a little, but the absurdity of our marriage made me laugh. We laughed together, very happy. I had made a better choice than I had thought. For not only was I freed from Mansfield, but I was truly in love with my husband. That was better than Maria had ever done. I helped my husband to his feet, and as he approached me, I ran away, laughing. I enjoyed being outside in the sun, with the man I loved. *********************************************************************
My father told us that he would expect us at Mansfield. I began to feel guilty, and was struck by remorse. John told me that I had nothing to fear, but I did. I had to fear myself. I had caused my family pain, and I would see them once more, fully hurt by my actions. I've never been able to stand willfully hurting anyone.
We went in the carriage together this time, elegantly driven by a man in John's father's livery. The horses were from my father-in-law as well, who smiled grimly, and wished us luck. I had had great luck with my in laws so far, and only prayed that John might have equal success with his. Especially when his father-in-law still bore him a grudge over the theatrical.
Mansfield seemed as bleak and cold as ever as we came to the gate. I held John's arm a little worriedly, and he kissed me fiercely as if defying the house and the family within, before calming down, and becoming such a gentleman that I scarcely recognized him. We came from the carriage, onto the empty courtyard, and made our way to the door. The butler smiled encouragingly as we were led to my father's study.
My father looked worn. Maria had not been traced yet, and she appeared to want to give up Rushworth. There was no way that the scandal could be hushed up, and my father felt it. I was surprised when he actually smiled at me, and rose, and took my hand.
"Julia," he said. "Julia, you have done wrong, but you have come home to me."
He embraced me for a while, then released me. He nodded to my husband.
"We have had harsh words before, I know," he began. "And I forgive you. You have done rightly, and have married my daughter."
John seemed moved by this statement, and faced his father-in-law.
"Sir, I in no way intended to hurt you. I have courted Julia for some time, and do love her. I mean to be faithful and truthful to her, and with you. I am very sorry that the manner in which we have reached happiness together has hurt and worried you. We shall always bear the mark of it, you must know. But we are happy together. And, Sir, I wish to be a part of this family. Please do not let this come between you and us, for I want nothing more than to be accepted as Julia's husband. Let her not lose her family from my impulsive acceptance of this foolish plan, but let me be part of this family."
He gave a sort of smile, and seemed so truthful that my father stopped pacing the room, and looked at him.
"You mean that, don't you? You wish to be subject to my whims, and changes of temperament?"
John looked a little startled with himself. "I do. I honestly do. I wish to grow from your example, and have domestic happiness of a sort. To raise such fine children as you have raised Tom and Julia, Edmund and your niece. I want nothing more."
I was as amazed as he looked. I had been running all this time from my father's shadow, but now I realized, that along with my husband, I wanted to be protected in it, helped, guided by his example. My father looked astonished.
"You truly do feel this. There is nothing I can say to reprimand such flattery. I forgive you, and accept you and my daughter into this broken family. You have been a trifling sort of young man, but you seem to want to become a domestic man. At least you give up your trifling ways. I trust that you and my daughter shall end up happily married. Forgiveness is granted." He turned to me. "Julia, I should like to speak to you alone."
I looked at my husband, and he nodded, still looking amazed that hopes he had scarcely recognized within him had burst out. He left the room. My father spoke.
"I trust that you know that what you have done is wrong, and that you have caused this family great pain."
I looked at my feet. I knew it, and knew that I would feel wretched by the end of this interview.
"However, I am willing to overlook this, and reaccept you back into the family, for I feel that you and your chosen husband shall be respectable people. Julia, come to me once more." He embraced me again, and I knew that he was beginning to feel a balm for the pain which had haunted him these last weeks.
"Please forgive me, Father," I said. "Please forgive me. I did not want to return home. I thought that I should not be happy. But I have returned home, after my shameful behavior, and I have been made happy. Thank you, Father."
"You have been humble. You do not flaunt the fact that you have disgraced yourself and this family. I trust you to redeem your name. And you are my daughter, and I need a daughter now, when my other has betrayed me. If it were not for you, Fanny and your mother, I should have no faith at all in the female sex."
Aunt Norris must be making a nuisance of herself.
"You may go," my father said. "But sent Yates in."
I left, and told my husband to go and see my father.
It was cool in the hallway, where I stood. I was alone, but suddenly Edmund appeared. His face was so haggard, his expression so dreary, that I immediately addressed him.
"Edmund! What has happened to you?" He came to me, and made an attempt at a smile.
"What has not happened to me? I trust that you have spoken to my father?"
"Yes. I have. He has granted forgiveness, and pray that you do the like. I am very fond of Mr. Yates, in truth, I am. We are wed legally, and shall be respectable. Edmund, shall you forgive us?"
"I forgive you, Julia. If I do not forgive someone, I shall be left alone in my misery."
"Misery! Edmund, you look very ill, what has happened?"
Fanny appeared, on silent feet, and came to me. She hesitatingly glanced at my brother, and then at me.
"He has broken his engagement with Miss Crawford."
"Thank Heavens!" I said, unable to control myself. "I am glad."
"Are you?" asked Edmund, glancing at me.
"I am. She was rather rude towards me about Yates, telling me I ought to not pay him any heed. And having her about should only have made things more awkward about... Maria." Conversation stopped. Edmund looked at me.
"You haven't heard from her, have you?"
"No. She hasn't written since... she wrote me about leaving her husband's home. And then I read the papers... I couldn't face coming home. That is why I went with Yates, who still loved me. I've learned to love him, as well. I have been scandalized as well."
"But my father has forgiven you," said Edmund.
"Yes. We will settle down properly, in time, and be very respectable. I only hope that we have not hurt Father, and you."
"We were angry, and astonished. But you have sought to rejoin the family, and that father has accepted you is a good thing. He could not worry about Tom, Maria, and you and keep his sanity."
"Three of us have disappointed him!" I exclaimed. "You must be such a comfort, Edmund!"
"It is Fanny and Susan who are comforts in this household. Without them we all should have broken down."
"Is Susan here?" I asked. "I've never seen her."
"She is with Tom now, I expect."
"How is Tom?"
"Better, actually. His health is improving. He has been sitting up these last two days. perhaps we shall find him in the sitting room with our Mother." He led the way, and I fell back in step with Fanny. I looked at her anxiously
"Is everything all right now, except for Maria, I mean? I shouldn't have run away from the family."
She gave one of her quiet smiles. "We are much better now. I think your supplication shall help. My uncle has only one person to worry over now."
"Bless you, Fanny!" I whispered. "And thank you so much for helping Edmund through this."
She had an odd look on her face. "I'm only too happy to help him when I can."
I was then led into the sitting room where my oldest brother applauded my choice in marriage, my mother went into raptures at the thought that I wasn't banned from the house, and my Aunt Norris sulked. Even the pug noticed me, and waddled over to sniff me. I must smell like an old married woman now.
My husband and my father returned from their talk, and came into the sitting room. John was well received by everyone except for my aunt Norris, who was looking grim, and by Pug, who widdled on his boot. My mother gave an exclamation, and my cousin Susan, a sturdy and bright looking fair haired girl, whisked the tea towel from a table, and mopped up the mess. She then stood up, and we where introduced. I smiled gently at her. She reminded me a bit of Fanny when Fanny first came, only Fanny was timid. Susan was jubilant.
The day passed with my family, and in the evening, I was alone with my husband at last. We stood by a dormer window, and gazed out over my father's shrubbery.
"What did my father want to speak to you about?" I asked my husband, as we stood, arms about each other by the window.
He smiled grimly. "Finances, in fact. But, my darling Julia, I have passed the test. In his words, he thinks that my 'estate is rather more, and debts much less' than he had expected. We will have our terribly domestic home."
"With horses?" I asked, moving my head from his shoulder so I could speak more clearly.
"With horses. And dogs. And pigs if you like."
"And a garden with roses?"
"Roses in bushels. And apple trees, and a cat."
I looked into his bright face. We had come a long way together, had all the forgiveness we could want, loving families and well... why not have our own loving family? I held his face in my hands and said frankly,
"Then there is only one thing to be done."