“I found I quite enjoyed having you under the same roof. Being able to see you, hear your voice many times a day. I miss that.” His eyes locked on hers. “I miss you.”
“I love you, Margaret Macy. And there is something I need to ask you. Something I’ve asked twice before and am nearly afraid to ask again. The Scriptures say let our yes be yes and our no be no, but I pray, in your case, your no may have changed . . . ?”
Margaret leaned forward and kissed him firmly, warmly, on the lips. Then she smiled at him, her eyes brimming with tears. “Yes, it most definitely has.”
“Mr. Upchurch,” she fumbled. “I . . . I must take my leave directly. But before I go, allow me to say how sorry I am for the callous way I treated you in the past. I regret it most keenly.”
His heart squeezed even as he felt his brows rise. “Do you?”
She swallowed. “I was wrong about you. I was wrong about a great many things.”
“How rough your hands still are.”
Embarrassed, she made to pull them away, but he held them fast. “Yet never have I longed to kiss any woman’s hands as I long to kiss these.”
“In 1770, a British law was proposed to Parliament granting grounds for annulment if a bride used cosmetics prior to her wedding day.
—Marjorie Dorfman, “The History of Make-up”
“I remember everything about you, Miss Macy. Every moment between us—the good and the bad.” He chuckled dryly. “Though I prefer to linger on more recent pleasant moments.”
“Endeavour to serve with such good will and attention to the interest of your employers, that they know they are blessed in having gotten such a good servant, one who serves, not with eye-service as a man-pleaser, but in simplicity of heart as a Christian.
- Samuel and Sarah Adams, The Complete Servant”
“Nathaniel Upchurch. Margaret couldn’t believe it. Gone were the pale features, the thin frame, the hesitant posture, the spectacles. Now broad shoulders strained against his cutaway coat. Form-fitting leather breeches outlined muscular legs. The unfashionable dark beard emphasized his sharp cheekbones and long nose. His skin was golden brown. His hair unruly, some escaping its queue. Even his voice sounded different—lower, harsher, yet still familiar.”
“She also watched Miss Upchurch as she danced with Mr. Hudson. They bounded through the steps in lively abandon. Mr. Hudson’s form was a bit ungainly, but he had never seemed so young and handsome as he did while dancing with Miss Upchurch.”
“Seeing you puts me in mind of a piece of French chocolate.” She swallowed and took another step backward. “If one wants to discover what is inside, one must first remove the foreign wrapping.”
“Slowly, carefully, he pulled the wig from her head. He asked, bemused, “You just happened to have this lying about?” “I meant to wear it for a masquerade.” He chuckled, deep in his throat. An intimate sound that warmed her. “And you certainly did. The longest masquerade in history.”
“Her voice sounding young and nearly giddy in her ears, she asked, “Are you certain, sir, you ought to kiss a housemaid?” No answering chuckle. “I have never been more certain of anything in my life,” he whispered, his breath tickling her upper lip with each syllable.”
“I am glad you came to Fairbourne Hall.” She glanced at him, uncertain. “Are you?” “Yes,” he said, mouth quirked in a lopsided grin. “We needed a new maid.” He leaned in for another kiss.”
“Lewis appeared beside them, roguish grin on his handsome face. “Miss Macy, as I live and breathe! How I have longed to see you again. Do say you’ll dance with me. Nate won’t mind if I cut in. Will you, ol’ boy?” Nathaniel felt the old stab of jealousy. He glanced from his brother’s face—perfectly confident she would agree—to Margaret’s. She looked at Lewis squarely and said, “Actually, I would prefer to dance with your brother.” Lewis’s mouth parted in disbelief. Heart lifting, Nathaniel whirled Margaret away from his stunned brother. It was likely the first time a woman had turned him down for anything.”
“I need to hear the words of this book—its truth, forgiveness, hope—as much as anybody.” Nathaniel looked up with an apologetic smile. “I know I’m no great orator. But I ask you to bear with me as I fumble through this new duty.”
“Did you tell her?” “Tell her what?” “That you love her?”
“You know you nearly killed me, don’t you?” Margaret gaped up at him. “Killed you? How?” He clasped his hands behind his back. “You were barely gone a day when we heard Marcus Benton had changed course and married a different lady.” She nodded. “An American heiress.” “I know that now. Hudson and I have our ways. But you gave me a few dashed miserable days, I can tell you.” Her heart tingled at the thought. “I’m sorry. I thought of writing . . . but, well . . .” Her words trailed away. He nodded. “You don’t know how I thanked God when I learned the truth.”
“Yet never have I longed to kiss any woman’s hands as I long to kiss these.”
“What do you suppose it means, Hudson, when I dream of a beautiful blond lady and awaken to find a long blond hair in my bed?” Hudson chuckled. “My goodness, sir. What vivid dreams you must have!” “You have no idea.”
“What do you think you are doing?” she fumed. “I hauled all that hot water for my own bath.” He smirked. “I did wonder who left it. Awfully kind of you.” “It was not kind,” she said between clenched teeth. “It was for my own bath. Why would you presume someone filled it for you?” His eyes narrowed. “How high and mighty you speak all of a sudden.” She felt her cheeks burn. “Well, I’m angry!” He gripped the sides of the tub and made as though to rise. “Then I shall get out straightaway if you like.” “No! Not with me standing here. I shall wait outside.” She stepped out and closed the door. Five or ten minutes later he finally emerged, hair slicked back, skin still glistening. “It’s all yours, love.” “I trust you’re going to help me refill it?” “No need. It’s perfectly good water. Still warm. I shall even come in and scrub your back, if you like.” He winked at her. “Not on your life. How selfish you are.” He lifted his square chin. “Well, I shall definitely not fetch and tote for you after that.” He turned away, whistling to himself as he walked jauntily down the passage, her towel around his neck.”
“Nathaniel said, “Allow me to help.” She kept pacing. “What can you do?” “I can marry you.” She whirled, incredulous. “Marry me?” He flinched as though she’d slapped him. “I know it was Lewis you wanted. If that is still the case, I will do everything in my power to convince him. In fact, he may be more amenable, now he knows of your inheritance.” She frowned. “I don’t want to marry Lewis. How would marrying anybody help my sister?” “If Marcus has proposed to your sister to force you from hiding . . . and still hopes to marry you for your inheritance . . .” “My birthday is only two weeks away. If I can remain unwed until I receive my inheritance I will grant Caroline a generous dowry and she can marry someone worthy of her. And I can marry, or not, as I wish.” He shook his head. “You have been living under our roof for months now, Margaret. A gentleman in such a situation, unusual as this one is, has a certain duty, a certain obligation.” A chill ran through her. She lifted her chin. “I assure you there is no obligation, Mr. Upchurch. You and your brother did not know I was here, though I suspect your sister knew all along. You need not worry. You are under no compunction to uphold my honor, such as it is after all this.” “It would be no burden, Miss Macy, I promise you.” He took a step nearer, a grin touching his mouth. “In fact, I can think of no other woman I would rather be shackled to.” She stiffened, anger flaring. “I don’t want you to be shackled to me. I don’t want anyone to have to marry me. Not Marcus Benton, not Lewis, and not you.” “Margaret, I was only joking. Don’t—” She whipped opened the door and whispered harshly, “Now I must ask you to leave, sir, this very moment.” Nathaniel hesitated. Then, with a look of pained regret, he complied.”
“What is it about men and swords?”
“How strange that he had kept this small amateur watercolor. She did not recall giving it to him. Did he not know it was by her hand? Perhaps he had stuck it into the volume to mark some place long ago and had completely forgotten about it, and when he found it later did not remember the artist was the very woman who had spurned him, the woman he despised. Surely he would not have kept it had he remembered.”
“Margaret . . .” The name was part groan, part growl. She was filled with a sweet, aching longing to bridge the lingering space between them. She leaned down and their lips met in a feather touch. Sparks thrilled her every nerve. He angled his head to deepen the kiss, pressing his mouth to hers, fervently, fiercely. Her head felt light, her pulse pounded. What was she doing? The heady, delicious kiss took her off guard. She had never expected such a passionate, forceful embrace from a man she had once thought timid. A man who doesn’t know what he is doing, she reminded herself. Who is dreaming. She, on the other hand, knew very well what she was doing. She tried to pull away but, leaning over as she was, fell forward, her elbows spearing his chest. Crying out, she scrambled out of his hold and to her feet.”
“And who is this pretty lady you’re talking to, Nora?” the second footman, Craig, asked, all eagerness. “Do introduce me.” Margaret grinned first at Joan, then Craig. “Miss Joan Hurdle, may I present Craig . . . I’m afraid I don’t know your last name.” “Craig is my last name! But we already had a Thomas, didn’t we?” “Oh. Well then, may I present Mr. Thomas Craig.” “How do you do?” Joan dipped her head. “A great deal better now you’re here. Say you’ll save a dance for me, Miss Joan, and I shall do better yet.” Joan smiled. “Very well.”
“And of course, I had to see you today, on your birthday.” “You remembered?” He turned to her, expression earnest. “I remember everything about you, Miss Macy. Every moment between us—the good and the bad.”
“Her eyes flashed up at him, then back down at the box. She opened it eagerly. Inside lay the cameo necklace he had seen the new housemaid pawn at a shop in Weavering Street. “You bought it back for me,” she breathed, eyes shining. “You have no idea what this means—it was a gift from my father.” He nodded. “There is more.” She looked inside the box again. Under the cameo lay a piece of thick paper. She extracted it and handed him the box to hold. She turned the paper over, revealing the small watercolor of Lime Tree Lodge. Her brow puckered. “Thank you, but you might have kept it. I wouldn’t have minded.” He tucked his chin as though offended, and insisted, “I spent a great deal of money on it.” “On this?” She raised her fair brows, incredulous. “Not on the painting. On Lime Tree Lodge itself.” She stared at him, stunned. “You didn’t . . .” “I did.” “But . . . my solicitor told me some vicar was very keen on buying it.” “He was. But I was keener.” “How did you . . . Forgive me, but I know you needed every shilling for Fairbourne Hall and to repair your ship.” “True.” “Then, how?” “I sold my ship. The damage did not lower its value as much as I had feared, and it brought a good price. Besides, I have no need of it any longer.”
“I love you, Margaret Macy. And there is something I need to ask you. Something I’ve asked twice before and am nearly afraid to ask again. The Scriptures say let our yes be yes and our no be no, but I pray, in your case, your no may have changed . . . ?” Margaret leaned forward and kissed him firmly, warmly, on the lips. Then she smiled at him, her eyes brimming with tears. “Yes, it most definitely has.”
“Mr. Upchurch,” she fumbled. “I . . . I must take my leave directly. But before I go, allow me to say how sorry I am for the callous way I treated you in the past. I regret it most keenly.” His heart squeezed even as he felt his brows rise. “Do you?” She swallowed. “I was wrong about you. I was wrong about a great many things.”
“He punched me—right in the midst of the Valmores’ ball.” “He never!” “He did. Of course, I got my licks in too. Man has to stand up for himself, you know.” “Oh, Lewie. Is that where that bruise came from? I was afraid you’d been breaking hearts again.” “Only two or three a week.” “Lewie . . .” Helen scolded fondly, “one of these days someone’s father, or brother, or sweetheart will do worse than bruise you.” “Then perhaps I ought to swear off women. After all, you are my favorite, Helen, and always shall be.”
“Forget Romeo and Juliet. This was much closer to The Taming of the Shrew.”
“In order for this to happen, your entire frame of reference will have to change, and you will be forced to surrender many things that you now scarcely know you have.”
“Sometimes the heart makes decisions the mind cannot, and though we know that the heart is deceitful above all things, we know that at rare moments of stress and profound loss it can be purged pure by suffering.”
“The Holy Spirit is in charge here.
We should write it for all to see on the lintels of every doorway we build. But since that might seem like so many words, we will do better: we will write it in our lives. And in all the lives we can reach out to and touch and inspire with the living Spirit of God.”
“Es lo que quieres que sea. Esa es la razón por la que me gusta el arte. Nadie se confunde.”
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