Eternity Begins- Preview
Updated: Oct 24, 2020
The interesting thing about life is that no one is born with expectations. People place them on us or decide them for us. For me, I was living such a life where I had both. When you’re the son of an Earl in the 1700s, the impression that you gave people seemed to be the only thing that mattered. At least it did to my father.
It was the night of the highly anticipated King’s Annual ball. My twin brother, Tom, and I were dreading the thought of attending. It wasn’t because we were unsociable, cantankerous miscreants. Tom and I just preferred a way of life that didn’t include balls and proper things.
“Henry,” Tom said when he saw me standing in our shared dressing room deciding what to wear. “You best be on your watch.”
“To what regard?”
“Last evening, Mother came searching for you. Upon your absence, she questioned me.”
“And your response?” I asked, slipping a shirt over my head.
Tom fingered through his jacket choices one at time as he replied, “I told her I was unaware of your whereabouts.”
“And she believed you?”
“Of course not.”
Tom pulled out a jacket, slipping one arm after the other into it and said, “Her reply was that she wanted to know where you were and she would find out, even if it wasn’t through me.”
“Thank you, Tom. I owe you.”
“That would be correct. The instances for which you now owe me seem to be stacking higher and higher. How ever will I redeem your burden?”
I glanced up at him from where I leaned over slipping into my boots, noticing his smirk, I said, “I’m very confident you will figure out something.”
With a huge grin, he replied, “I’m certain I will.”
Tom exited the dressing room, leaving me standing there to think on my previous evening and my encounter with Claire Davenwell.
THE PREVIOUS EVENING
I walked into the kitchen feeling a bit peckish, looking for the cook.
“Anything I can do ya for, Master Henry?” Lou, the cook, said.
Touching my hand to my stomach, I replied, “Just a little hungry after my afternoon in town.”
“What’ll have today, young sir?”
“Maybe I could do with one of those almond biscuits you’re always giving to Miss Amelia.”
After handing me two biscuits, Lou moved to open the rear-entry kitchen door for a servant that knocked.
“Good afternoon, Miss Claire. How are you this fine day?”
“I’m doing very well, Lou. And you?”
Lou moved to take the armfuls of milk she was carrying, and I turned around as I listened to them converse. “Things are very fine here at the Barclay mansion.”
That remark amused me a bit and I gave a side smile and stopped walking out of the kitchen.
“Miss Claire, let me introduce you to one of the masters of the house, Henry Barclay.”
Claire curtsied as I gave a slight tilt of my head. “G’day to you.”
“Claire is our new milk maid. She brings the dairy from the farm down yonder.”
I’ll admit that my eyes began at the top of Claire’s head, studying the way her strawberry blonde hair flowed down over her shoulders out from underneath the scarf tied around her head, and when I locked eyes with hers, something in those emerald greens kept mine remaining there for far longer than they should’ve, and Lou noticed my reaction to Claire’s pretty face.
“Ahem,” Lou coughed into his fist, his eyes gandering in my direction without being obvious about their purpose.
“Oh, I’d better be on my way then,” Claire said and curtsied. “Good day to you, Mr. Barclay.”
“And to you,” I replied, my gaze still fixed on her as she turned and walked out the door. I couldn’t help myself. She was beautiful.
“Claire Davenwell is a fine young girl,” Lou said. “Darn shame about her mother.”
My head snapped around. “What about her mother?”
“Claire wasn’t even born, I hear, making the doctor do one of those difficult births and all. Good thing is Claire has a father who was sure to see her cared for, which was a mighty good thing because her mother up and died on her and all.”
“Who is her father?”
“Some real character in town. Never sticks around. Put her up to live with that family who sends her out to fetch the dairy. Seems likely enough a story seeing how she ended up here.”
I nodded and looked over to the back window of the kitchen, thinking about those green eyes and freckles and long strawberry hair as I stared out onto the family’s vast many acres through the window.
“Thanks for the biscuits, Lou,” I said and rushed out the back door and across the field to the stables.
After mounting my favorite horse, a brown Cleveland Bay named Brunneous, I followed the dirt road towards the farm about two miles away.
“Miss Davenwell,” I said when I caught up with her.
Her face was all surprise, and she dropped the canisters she was carrying, leaning to curtsey. “Mr. Barclay!”
Not having ever had this reaction to a servant before, I wasn’t sure how to act with her and decided just to be myself.
“Have I forgotten something? You needn’t trouble yourself, sir.”
I jumped down off my horse and began picking up the canisters, loading them into the side bags draped over my horse. “No. Not at all. I came to see you.”
“Me? Whatever for?”
“Please,” I said, “Let me give you a ride back to your farm.”
The blush rose very quickly to her face.
“I’m certain my master would not approve.”
“I insist.” As I mounted my horse, I said, “If problems arise, I will explain that I was traveling this way and you were weary.” I outstretched my hand to grasp hers.
Claire gave an innocent smile and replied, “Well, now, if you insist.”
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© 2020 Meg Sechrest All Rights Reserved.
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