An Earl's Agreement(134)

By: Joyce Alec


Stories circulated that Henrietta had gone missing, but many believed the story was just a rumor when they saw Lady Henrietta and the duke in such good spirits.

The carriage ride to St. George's Church on Christmas morning was breathtaking. Snow lightly dusted the trees and ground, and with the sunlight shining just right, it looked as if the city was covered in sparkling jewels.

John looked like a new man. He could look forward to being a husband to the most wonderful woman he had ever met. Carrying Lady Henrietta out of the hiding place to safety provided an intense mix of emotions. His heart was glad at her safe return, but the state of her health had him very worried.

The doctor arrived immediately. Although she was mildly dehydrated, Henrietta was in good health and recovered quickly.

At their wedding breakfast, the duke and duchess celebrated the start of their new life together.

“You look beautiful this morning, Lady Amelia. I trust you are feeling much better.” Bartley admired her as they waited to be called for the wedding breakfast.

“Thank you, My Lord. It is very gracious of you to say such a thing. Indeed, I am feeling well.”

If her ordeal had taught her anything, it was never to take anything or anyone for granted. Just days earlier, Amelia had questioned Henrietta about being so hasty in love. Now, Amelia’s heart had been stolen in a whirlwind romance.

Amelia had also had to recover from dehydration, so she was unable to see Bartley these last couple of days. The doctor had strict instructions that she must stay in bed.

Bartley found a way to communicate with her through letters, which he seemed to be writing hourly. Each letter brought Amelia a little bit of joy. In one of his first letters, Bartley explained his newfound discovery. When searching for the architectural plans for the house, he came across some old letters from the previous duchess. The letters explained the details of the passageway. It turned out that there had been rumors of an uprising against the ton. The previous duchess was in such a fright that she had a secret passageway built, but didn’t want many people to know about it. She remodeled the room as a guise, so not very few individuals knew that the real reason for the remodel was to build a secret room, where she could hide with her husband in case they needed help. While in the midst of the remodel, the architect discovered the strange light reflection from the two mirrors and built that into his plan as the way to access the secret room.

Bartley’s letters were filled with stories and anecdotes that made Amelia laugh and sometimes cry. Amelia found that she could be much more expressive in her letters than she could with her words. Bartley’s letters expressed his love from the beginning, but Amelia’s letters soon followed suit.

In Bartley’s final letter before the wedding, he offered a marriage proposal. Amelia had yet to answer.

“Well,” said Bartley. “Is there anything else you would like to say to me?”

Amelia smiled as she looked down, suddenly nervous about making eye contact. She couldn’t believe that she was considering marriage to a man she had barely known a week.

“You do know you would have to ask my father,” said Amelia.

“I have already bought my ticket to Stannington,” beamed Bartley. “I was going to call on you soon after you returned home.” Bartley then realized what her words meant. “Are you saying you will marry me?”

“If my father approves, yes, Bartley, I will marry you.”

Amelia’s eyes met his, as they were both filled with joy.

Lady Henrietta couldn't be happier to think that her wedding had produced such a wonderful match between her closest friend and her husband’s cousin.

When the women were in private, Henrietta cupped Amelia’s hands and asked, “You do love him, don't you?”

“I do. I never thought I would fall in love, but now that I have, well, it is rather wonderful,” she smiled through her tears of joy.

***

The End