• Meg Sechrest

A Game of Love and Money-Preview

Updated: Jul 20



ONE


Sir Henry Watt was the type of man to think of or imagine any situation or circumstance, and when he fell ill after a trip to America, he sent for the best doctor in his acquaintance. His decision in sending for Dr. Jenkins was not only to care for his illness but also to make straight some urgent business.

“A Dr. Jenkins to see you, sir,” the doorman said as he bowed and entered the room.

“Let him in,” Sir Henry said.

“Sir Henry,” Dr. Jenkins said with a tilt of his head.

“Hello, Dr. Jenkins. Thank you for coming all this way. I know you are a busy man.”

Dr. Jenkins set his medical bag on the table at the foot of the bed and approached Sir Henry.

“How may I be of assistance to you?”

“I sailed to America eleven months ago and when I returned, I lost the ability to move my legs.”

Dr. Jenkins stepped back, covering his mouth in concern. “What are your other symptoms?”

“Hm, well, I’ve been feeling tired, nauseous, and I've not had much of an appetite…”

“You have a daughter, do you not?”

“Yes, sir.”

“How old is she?”

“24.”

“Do you mind if I speak with her?”

Sir Henry rang for the maid and when she entered ordered her to have Amelia join them straight away.

“Am I gravely ill?”

“Yes.”

Miss Amelia entered and Dr Jenkins turned to look at her, thinking how she looked nothing at all like her white haired old father.

She curtsied. “Father.”

“Amelia, my dear, I would like to introduce to you, Dr. Jenkins. He has come to help me with my illness.”

“Dr. Jenkins, this is my daughter, Miss Amelia Watt.”

“Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss.”

“I am glad you have come, sir.”

Dr. Jenkins glanced over his shoulder at Sir Henry and lowered his voice to just above a whisper. “Might I have a word with you in private?”

“Of course. This way,” she said and exited her father’s room. “We can speak in here,” she said, opening the door to another room down the hall. They entered the empty bedroom and upon noticing it was a bedroom, Dr Jenkins left the door open behind himself as he followed her inside.

“Miss Watt, upon examination of your father, it is my professional opinion that he has contracted the polio virus.”

Amelia gasped. “And what is to be done?”

“I am truly sorry, Miss, but there is nothing to be done. The paralysis is permanent. His body will slowly lose its ability to function and eventually he will stop breathing.”

She collapsed onto the chair with her hand over her heart. “How long will he have to live?”

“It is hard to say, really. His condition is very far progressed. At this stage, he could have only a few weeks.”

Amelia began to cry and said nothing until the doctor said, “Is there anything I can do for you, Miss? Or is there anyone I can contact, a relative perhaps?”

“No…”

“No one at all?”

She shook her head.

He nodded and left the room, returning to Sir Henry.

“I have informed your daughter of your. Condition. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“Could you be so kind as to send the same information to Mr. William Bailey in London?” Sir Henry said.

“Of course. I know him very well, actually. He is my wife’s nephew. Is this a relative of yours too?”

“No. He is a long-standing friend of mine.”

“I see. I shall send this straight away.”

After seeing the doctor out, Amelia returned to her father’s side, not leaving him for several days, assuring his comfort was cared to as best it could be. However, to Amelia’s great dismay, her father’s condition seemed to worsen faster than the doctor had anticipated.

“Kinsey,” she said to the head of house.

“Yes, Miss Watt.”

“I feel as though we should send for the doctor again. Father isn’t eating and he has hardly said three words since breakfast.”

“I will send a post directly.”

Amelia sat for days, waiting for either a change in her father’s condition or for word from the doctor. Neither of which came.

Two weeks after the doctor had visited the first time, she received another call.

“Mr. Bailey to see you,” the footman said with a knock on her father’s door. Amelia popped up from her chair at the entrance of someone she hadn’t expected to see.

“William? I mean, Mr. Bailey,” she stood from her chair. “Why have you come?”

“Your father sent for me.”

Amelia glanced back to her sleeping father. “I am sorry, but this is the state of his condition. I fear you may have wasted your journey.”

“I see.” William walked closer, taking a seat next to Henry. “Do you mind?” he said to Amelia. “I would like to have a few minutes alone with him if you would.”

“Of course,” she replied, stepping out of her father’s room, closing the door.

“Mr. Watt, it is William Bailey, here sir. I have come as you requested.”

Henry opened his eyes enough to see William and he mumbled, “William, I fear I am dying… you are the oldest friend of my family. Your father asked me upon…*cough* cough*...”

“Take your time, Henry.”

“Your father… upon his deathbed, asked me to see for your care, and now... *cough* cough* It is my turn to ask the same favor.”

“What do you ask of me?”

“Amelia…”

“What of her?”

“She will have no one now. She is to inherit 75,000 pounds upon my death… *Cough* Please, take care of her.”

Henry laid his head back onto the pillow, closing his eyes, his coughing becoming more violent.

“Perhaps we should take care of this another time?”

Henry’s eyes glanced up. “We haven’t the opportunity. I’m dying.”

“What is it exactly that you are asking me to do for her?”

Using all his strength to sit up half way, Henry took William’s hand and grasped it in his as he said, “Amelia is a fragile young woman. *cough* You have known her your whole life, Will. She needs caring for and teaching still that a man of your… experience can offer. Take her to London and help her learn the proper ways of society so the world will not ruin her.”

“I see, and I am to help her rent a house, and things of that nature.”

“I am making you the caretaker of her money until… *cough* she marries.”

William stood, shaking his hands. “No… no… no. I cannot do what it is you ask.”

“William, there will be many men who will try to take advantage of my daughter because of the amount of money she will have. Please, for my sake, ensure she is cared for.”

Taking a pen and paper from the desk next to the bed, William wrote down everything Henry had said…

11 am, 8th of June, 18834

Bath, England,


On the occasion of the death of Sir Henry Watt, all monies to be inherited by Amelia Watt, daughter Sir Henry Watt, from Sir Henry Watt shall from this day forward be under the direct supervision and care of Mr. William Bailey, solicitor and friend of Sir Henry Watt, until she marries a man who will thereby be approved by Mr. William Bailey. All monies, expenses, legal accounts, etc. shall be dispersed through the discretion and handling of Mr William Bailey… & Etc.


Signed here on this day,

Sir Henry Watt

Mr. William Bailey



“Thank you, William. I know this is no task you would’ve asked for, and I am not expecting you to be her guardian by any means as she is a grown woman. I merely ask that you see that she is kept in a good home and marries well, and also that her funds are kept properly.”

“I will do my best to help in any way I can, Henry. You were a great friend to my father, and had it not been for you, I’d not be that man I am today. I owe you so much.”

William reached out, grasping Henry’s hand between his as he said, “Rest well, dear friend. Rest well. I will return to London and see about setting up a house for Amelia.”

“Thank you, William. I can never repay you for your kindness.”

William squeezed Henry’s hand and said, “Speak no more of it. There is no debt to repay.”

“William, before you go. There is one more thing.”

“Of course.”

Henry reached to the desk next to the bed. “Here…” he said. “Open this drawer.”

William pulled out an old journal from the desk drawer. “What would you like me to do with this?”

“You will know when the time is right.”

“Am I to read its contents?”

Henry said nothing but closed his eyes and drifted back to sleep.


***

Only a few days later, Sir Henry breathed his last, and Miss Amelia was drawn into a deep state of despondency with no one being able to tear her from her room.

“Miss Amelia, will you not eat something, my dear?” Kinsey said.

“Let me try,” her dearest friend, Miss Eliza Thornberry, said. “Oh, Miss Eliza,” Kinsey said with a nod. “I did not know you had arrived.”

“I did just a few moments ago. I will stay a few days to see how she fares.”

Eliza and Kinsey neared Amelia and Kinsey said, “Miss Amelia, Miss Thornberry is here to see you.”

“Send her away.”

“Mia, do you not want to go back to London with me?”

“No,” Amelia replied as she laid still in her nightdress, though it was nearly midday.

Kinsey shrugged as she laid the tea and cakes on the bedside table.

“I will leave tea and cakes here for you, my dear,” Kinsey said. “Please try.”

“Perhaps you have come in vain,” Kinsey said to Eliza.

“The funeral was yesterday?” Eliza asked.

“Yes. She has not moved since?”

“No. Her father’s landlord, who is forcing Amelia to leave because he doesn’t believe in renting to women, arrived this morning, only furthering her despondency.”

Kinsey and Eliza left the room and Amelia only covered herself further down into the blankets.

Eliza glanced over to Kinsey. “And where is Mia to live?”

Kinsey shook her head. “I believe her father has made arrangements but no one knows what they are to be.”

The footman approached. “Mr. Bailey has arrived and has requested to speak with Miss Watt,” he said to Kinsey.”

“Send him up.”

“William Bailey?” Eliza asked.

“I believe so. Why?”

“I know him. That’s her father’s oldest friend’s son. Mia has known him her whole life. He is a solicitor in London. I do not believe this can be good.”

Clomping each step as he walked, Mr. Bailey came to the top of the stairs, “I can assure you, Miss Thornberry, my visit to Bath is entirely in favor of Miss Watt.”

The two women stared up at his tall stature, Kinsey admiring his handsome face and short, dark beard for a moment as her eyes wandered down his body to his navy vest where his gold pocket watch dangled from his pocket.

“Mr. Bailey,” she said with a small curtsey.

“I’m sure it is not,” Eliza replied to him.

“It is. I am here because Amelia will not live here in this property and needs to find a suitable place to live…”

“I can help her do that,” Eliza said.

“I think not,” William replied. “You are the worst influence in her life. I am here to ensure she receives proper guidance and establishes herself properly in London society.”

“If you are finished with your insults, I will have you know that I am already established in London society, and she benefits greatly from being in my acquaintance,” Eliza said.

“If you say so, Eliza.”

“Why can she not continue living here?” Kinsey asked.

“The rent was in Mr. Watt’s name and the man who rents the property is from the old days… he prefers to rent to men.”

Eliza rolled her eyes. “Does he not know it is 1884 and women are even allowed to own property now!”

William crossed his arms. “Yes, yes, Eliza. This I know. However, this law is so newly established that many of the older gentlemen are still becoming accustomed to the thought of it. The same with women in the workforce.”

“I, for one, am delighted by the idea of women in the workforce. I am thinking of getting a job myself.”

“Is that so? And what would your new career be?”

“I haven’t decided that part yet.”

“Will Miss Amelia have to be employed or will she have enough money to live on?” Kinsey asked.

“I would prefer not to discuss her personal affairs any longer. May I see Ame… Miss Watt?” he asked Kinsey.

“This way,” she said and opened the bedroom door.

“Miss?” Kinsey said, peeking her head around.

Upon seeing her pathetic state, William said to Kinsey, “I’ll take it from here,” and he opened the door, entering alone, and forcefully closing the door behind himself with a loud THUD.

“Amelia,” William said, entering the room. “Get up!”

She sprang up, holding her blankets against herself.

“William?! How dare you barge in here like this!”

He walked into the closet and pulled out a dress, tossing it on the bed. “Here ya go. Mourning time is over. You are getting yourself together and you are coming with me. Now go on. Get yourself dressed. We leave for London in thirty minutes.”

“Excuse me, but I don’t remember anyone making you my guardian, William.”

William reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the will that Henry had signed, handing it to her. “Your father did.”

“He... what?” she replied, flabbergasted, tossing her legs over the edge of the bed as she read through the contents of the document.

“Your father made me the legal manager of your inheritance.”

“Ugh!!” she yelled out, throwing her hands in the air as she stood from the bed, no longer caring she was in her nightdress. “You are impossible! I know that you were behind this whole scheme! My father never would have done this on his own, William Bailey, so don’t lead me to believe that he was the grandmaster behind all of this scheming...”

“Would you stop hollering at me and just get yourself dressed?!”

She yanked the dress off the foot of the bed and stomped over to the dressing shade. As she was changing, she peeked her head around the shade and said, “If you haven’t forgotten, I need to put on my corset, which I cannot do alone.”

“Right. I will send in your maid.”

He walked back to the door, but before exiting he said, “By the way, it was not I who made all the arrangements. It was your father who sent for me. He felt it right to do this for you because you are irresponsible.”

“Ha!” she cried out. “I don’t need nor want your guidance, William Bailey! Your darn Irish accent drives me so mad!”

“Whether you need it or want it, it is yours. You might as well make the best of it.” He walked out. Just before closing the door, he said in the thickest Irish accent he could muster, “The carriage leaves in 20 minutes. Your little blonde backside better be in there or I will forcibly remove you and everything you own from this house myself.”

“Argh!!” she yelled, balling her fists in anger as she moved into her corset. “Father, why, why, why would you do this to me?!”

“Miss Amelia?” Kinsey said, stepping over. “May I help you dress?”

“Please do before that impossible man comes back and I’m forced to show my unladylike ways.”

Kinsey laughed. “Miss, I like Mr. Bailey.”

“No…”

“Yes, Miss. I find him the most handsome man.”

“Well, I have known him my whole life and I find him the most disagreeable, argumentative, proud, arrogant…”

“Handsome man of your acquaintance?”

“Kinsey!”

“Well, Miss, I do remember when you were 16 years of age or so, you came back from the fields on the edge of town, and you were covered in mud and rain. Mr. Bailey was carrying half your torn dress… what was he then? 23 years of age or so?”

“Yes, I believe so.”

“Well, you returned with your face all aflush. I knew that something must’ve happened.”

Amelia blushed. “No. Nothing happened.”

“Miss Amelia, now I’ve known you since you were six years of age! You can try to pretend, but there will be no fooling me.”

“Think what you want. Now, help me lace this corset.”






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© 2021 Meg Sechrest All Rights Reserved.


This is only an excerpt. This novel may be purchased soon in its entirety in either digital or paperback version.


This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.


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