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Fenwick’s life to see Vanessa go, he could actually be commended on the generosity of his heart.Here's another piece. This is new. I'll add it to the story later. It is the continuation of "All Hallowes' Eve", and it is not finished...

Stella

After I retold him all of Vanessa’s story, William seemed disappointed. It was as if he had expected something greater, more momentous out of it. After all, her absconding had caused us all so much grief! I knew that he, like I, had imagined high passions running, perhaps-though not without trepidation, for it would seriously mar one’s opinion of Vanessa’s high virtue-another man, perhaps some irreparable injury which Mr. Fenwick had somehow dealt her to make her leave. But it was precisely as Mr. Fenwick had said: he had simply let her go, moved by his unselfish love for her. It was unthinkable that there was little more to it than one’s kind fulfillment of another’s fondest wish! But that it should so shatter Mr. Fenwick’s life to see Vanessa go, he could actually be commended on the generosity of his heart.



After I had finished, William remained by the window, staring into the darkness. He looked somber and troubled, biting down on his lower lip, holding his chin with one hand.

“I do not know whether to think him mad or to call him out and run him through as soon as gets back on his feet.”

That this was, perhaps, an overly optimistic prognosis, I chose not to remind him. Instead, I dwelt on how it was Mr. Fenwick’s kindness that drove him to release Vanessa. And, inevitably, on the possibility of servants returning to the kitchen to begin their day any time now and finding us there in our nightclothes. He heeded my suggestion to retire, and, having cleared away the remaining food, we quickly made our way back to our bedroom. Once there, we once again embraced, and soon enough, sleep claimed us.

Some hours later, I awoke to the gray morning light and the sound of the rain behind the window. I also heard voices and, raising myself on one elbow, saw William step out of his dressing-room, fully attired save for his jacket, which Barrington, his valet, handed him, following closely.

Pulling the counterpane up to my chin, I sat up in bed, and Barrington averted his eyes immediately.

”Why aren’t you asleep, love? It is still too early for you to rise.”

He came near the bed. The curls just above his forehead were still wet--likely from being accidentally splashed with water as he had washed his face.

“Where are you going so early?”

“Mr. Preston has some sort of an emergency with the tenants.”

“Is it dangerous?”

“I am certain it is nothing of the sort,” he said nonchalantly, assuring me that it was, indeed, quite perilous.

“Please be cautious, my love.”

“I shall,” he said, leaning in to plant a kiss in the crook of my neck. As he did so, I saw the ivory handle of his gun under his coat. I said nothing, not wishing to query him in front of his valet, and he left posthaste. Jumping off the bed, I ran over to the window, only to see William mount Zanzibar and ride off in the company of his overseer. In the morning rain, Zanzibar’s hide, usually a snowy white, looked an even shade of gray.

After they were out of my sight, I returned to bed, but sleep no longer came, and I contemplated what the emergency could be, so as to draw William from the bed so early; and to have him carry a gun at that! I tossed and turned, and so did the child inside of me, kicking me mercilessly. Pressing a pillow to my swollen belly, I tried to negotiate a few more minutes of sleep. It was of no use, for the more I lay there, the more all manner of ghastly thoughts came into my head.

But it was nothing I could possibly imagine.

After losing all hope at sleep that morning, I reached for the bell-pull, and called for a maid to help me dress. Lucy ran in, still looking somewhat sleepy.

“How’s madam feeling this morning?”

“Worried,” I confessed, as she placed a water basin in front of me.

“Worried, ma’am? ‘Tis no good at all in your condition to be worried, if I may say so!”

I washed my face, brushed my teeth and asked Lucy to take out my blue plaid dress. It was fresh and pretty, with ruffles on the bottom of the skirt and a lacy white collar.

“I daresay, ma’am, when Master William comes back, he shall be mightily pleased to see you so prettily dressed!” she cooed, as she buttoned the dress up for me. It was beginning to fit me rather snugly; in two or three more weeks, I thought, I should no longer be able to wear it.

“Do you know where they went?” I asked Lucy. It was somewhat humiliating-to inquire of my maid as to whereabouts of my own husband-but in the early hours of the morning, I felt strange communion with this girl, whose hands were gentle on my hair and whose soft voice comforted me.

But suddenly, Lucy seemed obtuse: it was as if she did not understand my question.

“Where they went?” she murmured, avoiding my eyes in the mirror. “I daresay I know not, ma’am, how would a girl like me know where the Master is to go, ma’am?”

She was right, of course, and I should have been shamed for my undue inquiry-had it not been for the way she hid her eyes. Something was afoot. Of course, I was not about to interrogate my maid, so I squirmed, impatiently, in the chair while Lucy set my hair. The moment she was done, I jumped to my feet and ran to Mr. Fenwick’s room.

There, I found Vanessa, who, unbeaten by fatigue, had already returned to her husband’s bedside. I related to her the goings-on of the morning, and, to dubious relief, she did not scold me for worrying for nothing.

“He took his gun?” she asked me, frowning. I nodded, now sick with worry. Vanessa rose quickly from her station by Mr. Fenwick’s sickbed, and it was not long before the two of us queried Mrs. Livesay in the kitchen.

“You are giving Lady Stella and me much grief, Mrs. Livesay!” Vanessa scolded her gently. “You must tell us!”

The old woman remained imperturbable.

“I promised Master William that I should say nothing.”

Yet we persisted ("You are making Lady Stella worry--and you know she must not worry in her condition!"), and, under the threat of both of us walking out the doors to search for William, never mind the pouring rain and his apparent orders that we must stay inside, she gave in.

She told us where William had gone that morning.

“ ‘Tis the Smythes, Miss Vanessa, Lady Stella,” she said reluctantly. “Their youngest has disappeared.”

“What do you mean to say, he has disappeared?”

“The mother left him playing near her as she worked in the field…some quarter of an hour she did not see him-when she called after him, he was gone…”

“How old is the child?” I asked.

“But two years of age, ma’am.”

“How awful,” I said, looking over at my sister. Vanessa's expression startled me; she was as white as the collar of her dress and just as stiff. This confused me, as did the fact that William took his pistol when he left. Though I undertsood the necessity of his participation in searching for the missing child, I could not imagine why he would need to have a gun on him; nor why he looked so worried as he left.

Then, from Vanessa's uncharacteristic pallor and from the way Mrs. Livesay hid her eyes from me--sight unseen, indeed!--it began to dawn on me that William was not there to help search for the child. My voice breaking, I demanded an explanation. Mrs. Livesay held her hands on top of her apron, took a deep breath, and said, resolutely.

"They accuse you of taking off with the child."

"What?! Why?"

Yet the answer I knew, and it was hideous.

“And my husband went there—why?”

“There is a veritable riot brewing among the tenants, ma’am,” Mrs. Livesay said. “Master William has gone to look into it.”

I was shocked, I was pained. I had never taken any prejudice seriously and was always of a mind that it was more of a problem for the believer than it was for the object. I have certainly heard of blood libels, and in my mind, there remained fresh a little spectacle I put on for the benefit of William’s cousin Victoria less than three months ago. I had thought it amusing to make light of such vicious prejudice; but now, as I stood, together with Vanessa and Mrs. Livesay—who both glanced at me with great sympathy—I was chilled to the bone. Accused of a hideous crime solely because of my faith! I felt anger bubbling inside and trembled, furiously.

“How dare they,” I breathed.

“If you forgive me, ma’am, they are but ignorant country folk,” Mrs. Livesay said kindly. “Dark, uneducated. What else can one expect from them?”

“Why is my husband talking to them?” I flared. Vanessa was the one to answer, and as she spoke, a great care to choose the proper words was evident to me.

“Because they are his tenants. He needs them—Bloomfield needs them. There has to be someone to work the land—and the profits William receives from renting to them allow us to subsist very well indeed.”

Feeling exceedingly helpless, I paced around the kitchen. I contemplated going out to look for my husband; but in that case, I suspected, Mrs. Livesay had probably been instructed to tie me up and keep me in a closet. So I retired upstairs, having ordered that any information regarding my husband be immediately related to me.

Vanessa remained with me for a while, saying nothing, but I knew that she longed to return to Mr. Fenwick’s bedside. So I feigned fatigue, telling her that I wished to rest. As soon as she quitted my apartments, I set myself by the window to watch for William’s return.

Cheerless thoughts invaded my mind: I could not think of a way in which I could have further ingratiated myself to these people. I had tried my best to be a good Mistress to them: I tended the best I could to the sick, sending them medicine and sustenance; I had worked, along with the parish minister Mr. Cleaver, to establish a school for tenants’ children, both boys and girls, so that they be given, except for the usual needful skills, an essential knowledge of the world. Of course, unlike Alexandra, I never did attend the tenants’ church, never did pray along with them. Did they think it was because I scorned them? But I had gone to church with my husband, like a dutiful wife ought to—if not out of my own faith, then out of respect for his. What more could they demand of me?

“Stella.”

I turned around, to see William in the door. He was soaking wet and very angry. Ripping off his upper clothing, he strode towards me. Following him, Aslan bounded in and towards me, shaking water everywhere. Absent-mindedly, I caressed the dog’s large head.

“Pack your things, madam.”

“Pardon?”

“Gather your things, Stella, I am taking you to London.” William threw his coat, soaked from the rain, onto the floor; his waistcoat and his white linen shirt followed.

“To London?”

“You shall be safer there. You shall stay with Mother.”

I was furious. I had no intention of fleeing our home. Long ago, my mother told me that no place was ever a home to the Judiyos for more than a generation. I remember telling myself that nobody was going to make me flee, ever, and now, as I stood, facing my husband, this somewhat adolescent resolution came back to me. Perhaps, had he reasoned with me, I should have relented; but the manner of his order was nothing if not insulting. He had never before spoken to me in such a manner; it was as if I was one of the help and merited no explanation of his orders to me. Crossing my arms on my chest, I took a deep breath and said:

“No.”

William stared at me blankly.

“I am not going anywhere,” I said. “I am staying here with you.”

He was visibly shocked.

“What sort of insubordination is that, madam?”

His words hurt my pride; I came closer and looked, defiantly, up and in his eyes.

“Insubordination, sir?” I cried. “The way you say it, one would think you are speaking with a servant!”

“No, madam, I am speaking with my wife, who hath promised, before G*d, to obey me!”

Reacting to the raising of his voice, Aslan, who had made himself comfortable before the softly glowing fireplace, raised his head and gave a hesitant howl. William, furious, crossed the room in two strides; he dragged the dog out of the room by the collar—Aslan’s claws scraping the fine wood in protestation—and shut the door behind him.

“I never knew you took all of your vows so seriously.”

“It is not safe for you to remain here, Stella!”

“Not safe for me? You have not even deigned to tell me why it is unsafe, William, yet you are ordering me away! And the way you spoke with me, sir! You are forgetting that I am not in your employ!”

He wrinkled his nose, as if considering what to do next.

“Must you be so difficult?” he uttered finally, rubbing his hand across his eyes. He looked very tired, as if all the air had gone out of him. I felt my anger at him dissipate quickly; for his troubles were great. “I am sorry I spoke to you as I did. I should not have ordered you. But do you not understand the necessity of going?”

“I must remain where you are,” I said in a softer manner. “My place is with you, always. If you wish me to go to London, you must then come with me.”

“I cannot just quit my estate, Stella, I cannot be seen running from my own tenants!”

Very well, I thought—I did not wish to go to London in the first place.

“Nor can I, sir. So we are both staying here.”

I came closer and put my hands on his naked waist. It was hard with muscle and still cool to the touch.

“You need to warm yourself up,” I told him, but, looking distressed, he softly disengaged my hands from his body and began pacing the room.

“I shan’t have a moment of peace with you here,” he complained, but I was relentless.

“Shall you have a moment’s peace with me on the road?” I asked. “In my condition?”

He had to see the truth of that, I thought.

“Plus, if I were to leave now, it would look like I was fleeing—“

“You would be fleeing, Stella.”

“But it would look like I was guilty of something. How should I ever return to Bloomfield if I ran now?”

“You are so logical,” he said, with a tint of regret in his voice. “You are so clever—but I am the one who will die of worry every time I have to leave you alone for a moment.”

“Then don’t,” I said simply.

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t leave me alone for a moment,” I smirked. “That should suit me remarkably well—to have you by my side twenty-four hours a day!”

He chuckled ruefully, his expression softened somewhat.

“There is just no reasoning with you, is there, Lady Stella?”

“Not about this, sir, if that is what you mean.”

“About what, then? Are there subjects, with respect to which you are more agreeable?”

He came closer, eyeing me curiously.

“This is a pretty dress, madam.”

“Do you like it, sir? Lucy suggested that you might.”

He trailed a finger along the lacy white collar of the dress, sending goose bumps along my bare arms. “Your Lucy is a wise woman,” he whispered, leaning in for a kiss. “I like it very much indeed.”

After a moment of tasting his sweet lips, I pulled away and caressed his face gently.

“I can weather anything, William,” I whispered. “But only for as long as you are with me.”

There was laughter in his eyes as he returned to the subjects regarding which I should be more agreeable.

“Perchance, good lady, you could help me warm up? I am quite chilled, you know.”

My reply was to the affirmative, and enthusiastic at that. He swept me up in his arms and, having kicked the door to our bedroom open, took me inside.


After we made love, William went out again—to help search for the Smythe’s boy. He came back hours later, fatigued and despaired. Later that night, all of the help at Bloomfield were gathered in the kitchen. All fifty-seven people: grooms, maids, footmen, William’s valet and Lucy, my maid. The cook was there, of course, and the butler, Henderson, and Mr. Preston, skulking darkly by the door. Mrs. Livesay presided over them all.

William, Vanessa and I came down to the kitchen. The servants seemed pleased to see “their” Miss Hester, but averted their eyes at the sight of me.

“Thank you all for coming here,” William said hoarsely. I could see that this was intensely painful to him—to have to justify his wife to the help—yet to completely ignore the vile rumor going around would at the least be imprudent.

“I trust all of you have heard about George Smythe,” he continued. There was a quiet murmur; some of the servants nodded, acquiescing, some remained unmoved. The impression I received was that they were utterly shocked at this gathering their Master demanded. Though William was always regarded as a kind master and employer, he was nevertheless a gentleman and never did he have to explain anything to his help.

“We looked for the child high and low, but it seems that he has been carried off the estate. Now, as to the question of who carried him off, we do not know that. It could be a stranger, it could be an animal,” his voice sounded harsher all of a sudden. “It could not, however, be my wife.”

That must have been the hardest thing to say; William took a deep breath and continued, his voice raspy.

“Someone has started a malicious rumor about your Mistress. I trust all of you are sensible enough to understand how utterly ridiculous it is.”

All of a sudden, he ran out of words, I could sense it. Gently, I slipped in front of him.

“Do any of you believe I did it?” I asked my domestics. Stunned, awkward silence was my answer. “Do you believe me guilty of murder most foul—only because my faith is different from yours?”

Of course, there was no answer.

“Yes, my faith is different,” I continued, passion burning in my heart. “But it is beautiful and harmonious, and nowhere—nowhere! —does it teach the murder of another! Much less of an innocent infant,” I added, breathing furiously.

Nobody dared contradict me, of course; nobody dared to say a word. The silence behind me, where William and Vanessa stood, was as deafening as that before me.

“The superstition, of which I stand accused, is as old as the sea. I do not know whence it stems. Perhaps, there was once a Jew who murdered a Christian baby, but then also, there have been Christians who murdered Jewish children, women and men ad infinitum. Evil has no faith.”

I looked at them again and saw that Mrs. Livesay was smiling and nodding. Behind me, I felt William’s presence and Vanessa’s gentle reassurance. Suddenly, I knew that neither of them could make my case better than I, myself, could. Emboldened somewhat, I went on.

“Many of you have worked for this family for decades,” I went on. “I am now one of them, your Master’s wife. How can you believe that those to whom you owe your loyalty are capable of such a great evil? If I am so depraved, how can you bear to remain in my employ? The bread we Jews make for our spring holiday of Passover is called matzot. It is made of flower and water, and nothing else. The suggestion that we put blood in it is beyond ridiculous! The suggestion that such blood belongs to innocent children is damnable. Think,” I implored them. “Think about the irrationality of it all. Do you think me a murderer? Think about what it means for one to stand falsely accused of a terrible crime.”

With that, I turned around, and, taking William’s arm, led him out of the kitchen. Vanessa followed us upstairs, and Mr. Preston joined us as well.

In the drawing-room, William paced some around the room. All of a sudden, he turned around and came at me. I was almost frightened when he reached for me, such determination was written in his face. Yet, he only reached out to cup my face and kiss me, passionately—and never mind Vanessa or Mr. Preston.

“You did well,” he whispered, pulling away. “If anything could convince them, you could.”

“Yes, dearest, you were positively rousing.” Vanessa chuckled from her chair. “Perhaps now,” she said, “we shall not have to live with potential murderers in our own house.”

“Vanessa!”

“I say we should retire to Hereford.”

“Out of the question,” William said angrily. “We are not running. And besides, it is far too dangerous to move Fenwick.”

Mr. Preston coughed delicately. “If you permit me, madam, sir,” he said. “I do not think that the domestics at this estate are anything to fear. They know and love this family well enough and would never do anything to jeopardize their station with you.” He paused. “It is the tenants that I am worried about.”

“I have spoken with them,” William said roughly. “I have joined the search for their child. What else can I do?”

“Tomorrow is Sunday,” Mr. Preston said mildly. “Perhaps Lady Stella could visit the tenants’ church, as Miss Hester was wont to do.”

“No,” I rose. “I shall not peddle my religion for fear of our own tenants. I am not Christian and shall not pretend otherwise.”

William shook his head. “Lady Stella is right, Mr. Preston. These things are only done genuinely, or not done at all. Particularly in a situation like this.”

“Pardon me, madam,” Mr. Preston addressed me deferentially, “but as you already attend the parish church, there could be no harm—“

“No, Mr. Preston. I attend the parish church as a sign of respect for my husband. I have never pretended to truly worship there. I shall not do so now.”

With a bow, Mr. Preston retreated into the shadows, making himself nearly invisible.

A liveried figure entered quickly, nearly making us jump. It was, however, only Henderson, who announced the arrival of Mrrs. Samuel Hester and Roger Whitney.

“What does he want,” I heard William mutter. I guessed that he was referring to Mr. Whitney: he still seemed to dislike the extremely reputable young man, for reasons only he knew. Neither did the news of his brother’s arrival do anything to lift the worried crease from his brow.

The two young men entered, dressed too smartly to have arrived on horseback, Mr. Whitney carrying a very fine cane, crowned by an ivory lion’s head. Samuel kissed my hand politely and embraced Vanessa. Mr. Whitney bowed all around. It turned out that the younger Hesters had not gone back to Linwood, but had remained at the nearby Blair Hall, as young Mr. Whitney’s guests. I questioned Anabelle’s conspicuous lack of letters over the past several days; after all, her brother could have died a thousand times in her absence.

“Sir William,” Mr. Whitney said earnestly, “I have come to offer you to stay with my family at Blair Hall. My father had heard of the unrest at Bloomfield and extends his invitation.”

William issued a small “hm!”, which, I knew, was the sign of a powerful stir within.

“It is very generous of you and your father, Mr. Whitney,” he replied, sounding touched at such good will from our neighbors. “But we have decided to stay at Bloomfield. It is our home and we shall remain here.”

“In this case, Will,” Samuel said, “allow us to stay with you. You might very well be in need of help in the next couple of days. On our way here, our carriage was surrounded by a crowd of your tenants. They seemed pretty, um, unsettled and said something to the effect of tarring and feathering the both of us—“

“Oh Samuel!” Vanessa cried, holding a hand to her mouth.

“—yes, that is, until I shot one, and my good man Whitney here showed another one how well he can wield his blade.” Samuel gave a wide grin.


“A blade?” Vanessa inquired of Mr. Whitney; for he seemed to be unarmed. The young man smiled sheepishly and, in one swift movement, whipped a gleaming rapier out of his cane. It was most impressive; never mind the gravity of the situation, Vanessa and I laughed and applauded. William, however, was not amused.

“This is rather a French trick, Mr. Whitney!” he noticed.

“So it is,” the young man replied calmly. “I learned it in France, during my Grand Tour. It allows one an advantage over one’s adversary—that of spontaneity.”

William sat down on an ottoman, cradling his head in his hands. I understood that it was worse than he had thought; neither his honest efforts to help with the search for George Smythe, nor his attempts to reason with his tenants helped. The situation was grave indeed; there were forty or so tenant families at Bloomfield, and that amounted to about ninety able-bodied men. Even with Samuel and Mr. Whitney staying, we were certainly outnumbered, as the loyalty of our male domestics was by no means certain.

“I gather that after this, there is going to be a nice turn-over among the tenants at Bloomfield,” Samuel noticed, as he checked the safety on his gun before laying it squarely on the table. It was decided that a trustworthy man was to be sent to fetch the sheriff and his men; in the meantime, William told Vanessa and me to go upstairs. I had wanted to remain near him; but, seeing the desperation in his eyes, I did as I was bid.

Of course, neither Vanessa nor I could sleep. We retired to Mr. Fenwick’s room, the quiet of which was only punctuated by the crackling of the wood in the fireplace and our own uneven breathing. At first, I was only nervous; but, as I stepped to the window and saw what seemed like myriad torch lights, I became frightened. Not for myself; but for the life that tossed and turned, fretfully, inside me. It was as if my child knew what was happening and strove to get away from the danger.

All of a sudden, the glass next to me shattered, sending both Vanessa and me cowering to the floor. A large stone lay just to the side of us; had it hit one of us, she would have been dead. Vanessa swore.

“Oh damnation, they can see us!”

Hastily, we blew out all the candles so as to dim the room, but a second later, another object swooshed through the air, engulfing the room in brilliant light. A blazing torch landed near the foot of Mr. Fenwick’s bed, setting the drapes on fire. Vanessa screamed, as the yellow flames licked their way up the heavy fabric.

There was no time to douse the fire with Mr. Fenwick in the bed; I slipped my hands under his arms and Vanessa grabbed his feet. Straining and panting, we were barely able to pull him out of bed before a patch of burning fabric fell upon his pillow.

With a great effort, we pulled the man’s body as far from the burning bed as it was possible. A foul stench rose through the air and it was becoming difficult to breathe, as the burning canopy gave off noxious smoke. I ran to a nearby dressing room and came back with a basin of water. Reaching up, I grasped the canopy and threw it down, as the fire singed my fingertips, and Vanessa immediately doused the burning fabric with water.

Hissing, the fire went out.

The next moment, the door swung open and in burst William, along with the young Mr. Whitney. They had seen the first projectile, but missed the second, and now stared, dumbfounded at Vanessa, who kept furiously stomping on the canopy. William surveyed the scene, saw Mr. Fenwick, as we left him, leaning against the far wall, smelled the smoke and noticed my red, blistering fingers.

“Oh, Lord, Stella!” he mouthed, turning gray. “Come, come downstairs, girls.”

Though beginning to feel the pain in my hand, I gently guided Vanessa out of the room. The two men gathered Mr. Fenwick up in a manner similar to ours—but with much more success—and carried him out after us.

Mr. Fenwick was set down on a couch in William’s study; the rest of us gathered around my husband, wondering if the sheriff would arrive soon enough. Soon we were joined by several domestics, including Mrs. Livesay, Barrington, the elderly Henderson and my Lucy.

“Oh ma’am,” she whispered, lovingly moving the hair out of my face as Mrs. Livesay expertly bandaged my hand. “That this should befall you now!”

“It’s nothing, Lucy,” I answered forcefully. “The sheriff will arrive soon. And my son will perhaps grow a stronger man.”

I could not let my fear take over; if I did, I should be ruined. Acutely, I sensed that if I allowed myself to be frightened, I should lose my child. So I rallied the best I could.

The crowd behind the window was quiet and threatening, torch-lights gleaming; yet, it seemed, it was still hesitant about further attacking us. Perhaps, I thought hopefully, it was a particularly rash tenant who threw the stone and the first torch; perhaps he had been reined in and the people behind our window would not make another attempt.

There was very little talk—not until William took out a large flat case and set it squarely on the table.

“Help yourselves, gentlemen,” he said, flipping the lid open. There were six guns there, metal and ivory glistening heavily in the candlelight. Vanessa was the first to reach for one; I took the one near it. William gave me a curious look, but said nothing and showed me how to shoot.

And so, we waited. William, in his state of cold anger, controlled himself all the better and was all the more impressive. He sat, resting his chin upon his folded hands, his gilded sword and an ivory-laden pistol on the table before him. At his feet, lay Aslan, his massive head upon his paws. Samuel toyed lazily with his gun, and Mr. Whitey remained motionless by the window, staring into the darkness, leaning upon his cane. Several times, Vanessa and I bid him to sit down, as he seemed so obviously in need of relaxation. But standing he remained, like a loyal sentry, and we were all heartily awed at this excellent young man.

Vanessa herself remained seated on the sofa, and I—next to her. As William seemed dark and unapproachable, I found the person who was the next closest to me in the room and rested my head gently upon her shoulder. Vanessa slipped her arm around me in a sisterly embrace. Thus we remained, waiting for we knew not what.

An hour or so passed, and, in spite of my nervousness, I was beginning to succumb to fatigue. My head slipped down Vanessa’s arm, and then, she gently lain me in her lap and caressed my burning eyes.

“Sleep, sister,” she whispered. Even as one of her brother’s pistols lay at her feet, her embrace seemed comforting and protective: even the restless babe in me calmed down.
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