Friday, January 31, 2014

Who has a baby grand piano in their living room when they can't play a note?  My grandmother Ruby did.  Gram lived in a tiny little house on the poorer side of Hill Avenue in Pasadena.  That piano represented all the children who had taken music lessons and a husband who had played beautifully as a song evangelist.  My mother took after him and could play any song by ear.  She was known for her soft touch.   Sadly, my lessons didn't take.  My only consolation is that I took after Gram in this as the music still resonates with me. 

I learned something new tonight about those wires.  It has to do with resonance.  Somehow, when a middle "c" is played, the higher "c's" vibrate slightly with it.  Even more interestingly, when a note is played, the harmony notes resonate as well.  Resonance occurs even when a human voice sings a note to those piano wires.  It will be answered back with the faint vibrations sung on the harmonizing wires.  Isn't that amazing?  Technically, to resonate is to oscillate with the same frequency as the source.  Spiritually, it is to be in beautiful harmony with our Source.  Beth Moore used this as an illustration of the Scripture in Romans 16, "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God..."  The "bears witness" here is literally to witness together, to resonate with the Spirit.  Isn't that a beautiful picture like in Ephesians 5:18-19...

"...but be filled with the Spirit,
speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord ..."
I guess you could just say that the baby grand in my grandmother's shotgun living room, the elephant in the room, really resonated with her, with all of us because it was a symbol of one of the things of beauty in this world that was of  significance.  Anyone could walk in who was gifted, sit down and  play for her, a mini concert in one of the tiniest music halls in the world with those vibrating strings.  I liked to watch the hammer fall on those wires under the propped up lid and hear them vibrate, making music, giving glory back to Him.
My brother's children play beautifully.  Growing up, they too had a grand piano in their living room.  It stayed there after the piano players moved away.  But when they came home to visit, beautiful music would once again make those strings sing which I occasionally was priviledged to enjoy hearing on visits there in Colorado.  Now my brother and his wife have sold the large house and downsized to a 600 square foot home.  I hope they squeezed the grand piano in.  It's family tradition, you know.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

This post will be short, for a change.  I have been working on a short story which I will probably publish in blog form on Feb. 1 in honor of  the month of valentines.

It is the biggest puzzle to me how or why I write.  I do not know the answer.  I guess it is how I play.  Beginning when I was a little girl, I would tell myself stories in my head as I would go to sleep, and I never stopped.

I started this story when I ran out of books to read last week.  I was writing along at a good clip yesterday when all of a sudden, the story ended.  I couldn't have been more surprised.  What!  I thought it had more chapters waiting to be written.  So, I checked again, and sure enough, there were some loose ends begging to be tied up in one last chapter along the lines of, they lived happily ever...wait, I don't want to give it away. 


The story comes from my research on a place in Scotland called Gretna Green where couples could go to get married just over the border from England.  Today, this little village hosts more than 5,000 weddings a year still since it all began over 250 years ago when England passed a law in 1754 that couples each had to each be 21 to get married and it could only be performed in church.  In Scotland you only had to be 12 and 14 and just have two witnesses to declare you married.  It was also called going "over the anvil" because a blacksmith there decided he could perform the weddings as well as anyone, then he would strike the anvil and declare them man and wife.  The anvil is still used today. Are you interested yet?  The story is called "The Road to Gretna Green."

As with anything as beautiful as a marriage ceremony, sin comes to steal, kill, and destroy.  We certainly see this today with traditional marriage under attack.  I hope you will take the time to read this story and let me know what you think.  It is completely fictional not even based on any of my crazy kinfolk, though we had plenty from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.  Help! History lives in my head and I can't get it out...except in stories.  Enjoy.  It's coming soon.

(This is not exactly my usual type of writing
in that it includes some terrible crimes, just saying...)
"Watch over your heart with all diligence,
for from it flows the springs of life."
Proverbs 4:23

I know dreams die, teams fall apart, and there is grief.  There is something especially sad about marriages where instead of being on the same team, all of a sudden, being free agents, the former lovers find themselves on opposite sides.  Trading teams for what appears to be better advantages, commitment to each other as a team has become secondary to the individual.  Maybe too many injuries occurred.  Scores are kept and all the stats memorized. The ball is fumbled.  Little skirmishes become flags down, interference, interceptions, personal fouls.  It gets dirty.  Even the stands are divided on which side to cheer for.  Either way, the home team has lost.   And it's all viral, all over the news, play by play. Only, the dark circles under the eyes are not charcoal and the pads don't protect the heart from hurting, or the helmet, the head from the impact.   Raw, raw, raw run the emotions.   There is only one coach who is worth playing for.  He is still recruiting key players, looking to make His team.

"The game doesn't make the character of the man, it reveals it."
"Pride is concerned with who is right.
Humility is concerned with what is right."
Listen to the Coach...
"And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises..."  now tuck the ball of hope tightly under your arm and run with it!
"...we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us.  This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us..."
Hebrews 6:18-20
The ground game is important, but the Coach is most concerned about the passing game,
from one generation to the next.
Pass complete?

"Yes, deer." 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Kinfolk Stories  of Amazing Births...

I found an amazing story of tripletts being born and surviving in our family in the fourteenth century!

News from Stirling Castle: an emergency caesarean...


Walter Stewart, 6th High Steward of Scotland, who fought alongside William Wallace and Robert the Bruce in the Scottish War of Independence was rewarded for his loyalty to King Robert the Bruce by a marriage with Princess Marjorie Bruce, the king's daughter.
They had a son Robert Stewart who nearly did not make it when a very pregnant Princess Marjorie was thrown from her horse, died, and he was delivered by emergency caesarean section. 

He became Robert II of Scotland and the founder of the Royal House of Stewart, which ruled Scotland for over three hundred years until King James (KJV patron) ruled over the United Kingdom.  This was in the fourteenth century, an emergency caesarean delivery of a future king.  Amazing!  Who knew?

"My frame was not hidden from Thee,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth.
Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Thy book they were all written,
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them..."
Psalm 139:15-16 
"His words are true yesterday, today, and forever."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Needy for coffee and  other random thoughts to start my day...

Pastor Gil preached on having an adventure following God like when He told Abraham to "Go."  For me it meant waking up to hear Hank say that he missed the bus.  I decided taking the dogs along for the ride to school before having my coffee to wake me up was a great adventure.  (My neuralgia meds I take before bed make me groggy in the mornings but are finally after nine months, beginning to work, an adventure indeed!)  The dogs and I arrived safely back at home to a warm fire and a cup of coffee for me.

Looking at the gas fire that's on at the flick of a switch, the burning bush that is not consumed, made me think of how we take fire, heat, for granted, like the Bible.  (Did you see the fb post of dear ones in the underground church in China when they were given Bibles of their own?)  The Good Book may sit there on the shelf ready to be taken to church, but if we do not flip it open, our hearts remain cold, strangely unmoved.  The Bible is just paper, but the Word inside is more basic than fire and water.  The logs may be non-consumable, but the flames are real and the warmth is a comfort.  Don't stay cold, my fellow traveler in this world of woe.

My secular pleasures are enjoying watching this season, American Idol, Downton Abbey, Sherlock Holmes and on netflicks, BBC's Monarch of the Glen.  I read six books by Elizabeth Aston, spin-off's of the Darcy family from Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice."  Other than biographies, I seldom read secular books and found these to be a pleasure, ones I did not have to throw in the trash part way through.  "The world is so full of a number of things, we should all be happy as queens," to paraphrase Robert Louise Stevenson.  By the way, one of my favorite games growing up, once I graduated from "Chutes and Ladders," was the card game, "Authors."  I wouldn't mind playing that again someday.

My simple pleasures are dark chocolate, home baked gf Pillsbury chocolate chip cookie dough (bought in the refrigerator section of Walmart ready made), orange juice milk shakes (simply two ingredients), and my own home cooking as long as it is broken up by an occasional visit to where they serve gluten free food like at Chipotle or Costa Vida.  Hank had a dreamy conversation with me thinking over his favorite foods like my creamy cheesy potato soup, mashed potatoes and gravy with a beef or turkey dinner and so on.  It's nice to be appreciated. 

Simply a relief is taking a break from teaching children's church for a couple of Sundays.  Simply cute is when tiny little adorable Violet greets me after church with an accusatory finger pointing to the classroom saying emphatically, "YOU are supposed to be teaching us in there!"

How is your random day going?  Are you having an adventure with God?  I am savoring Pastor Gil's point about how God spoke Creation into existence, then God spoke to Abraham and said, "Go..."  I am trying to be open to what God speaks to me.  Is He pointing His finger and saying to me, "YOU are supposed to..." When I follow, I trust He will be creative in helping me do what He desires.

"Now the Lord said to Abram, 'Go...
And I will bless you...
And so you shall be a blessing.'"
Genesis 12:1-2
It is not enough to sit back and enjoy our blessings.  We need to be a blessing as well.
 How's your adventure going?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Attitude of Gratitude: unfading beauty

More thoughts for 2014

by Isaac Watts

"The Rose"
Isaac Watts
"...yet the rose has one powerful virtue to last...
When its leaves are all dead and the colors are lost,
Still how sweet a perfume it will yield.
So frail is the youth and beauty of man,
Though they bloom and look gay like the rose;
But all our fond care to preserve them is vain,
Time kills them as fast as he goes.
Then I'll not be proud of my youth and my beauty,
Since both of them whither and fade;
But gain a good name by well doing my duty:
This will scent lie a rose when I'm dead."
(He certainly has left that to us five hundred years later.)
Isaiah 35:1-2, 10
"The wilderness and the desert will be glad,
And the (desert) will rejoice and blossom;
Like the crocus It will blossom profusely
And rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy...
They will find gladness and joy,
And sorrow and sighing will flee away."

"Beauty without virtue is like a rose without a scent."
"Against Pride in Clothes"
Isaac Watts
"Why should our garments, made to hid
Our parents' shame, provoke our pride?
The art of dress did ne'er begin
Till Eve our mother learnt to sin.
When first she put the covering on,
Her robe of innocence was gone;
And yet her children vanity boast
In the sad marks of glory lost.
Then I will set my heart to find
Inward adorning of the mind;
Knowledge and virtue, truth and grace,
These are the robes of richest dress.
It never fades; it ne'er grows old,
Nor fears the rain, nor moth, nor mold:
It takes no spot, but still refines;
The more 'tis worn, the more it shines.
In this on earth I would appear,
Then go to heaven, and wear it there:
God will approve it in this sight,
'Tis His own work and His delight."
"And I have led you forty years in the wilderness;
your clothes have not worn out on you, and
and your sandal has not worn out on your foot."
Deuteronomy 29:5
As long as He leads us,
the clothing of knowledge, virtue,
truth and grace,
"These robes of richest dress,
never fade...but still refine."

"When a woman veils her body in modest clothing,
she is not hiding herself from me.
On the contrary, she is revealing her dignity."

Instead, nowdays, women seem to wear less, reveal more,
 and write on their bodies, God's masterpiece, with scribbles of tattoos
like a toddler let loose in an art museum with a permanent marker.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Poor lady had to eat before the spork was invented.

There are fun words that are combinations of two familiar words as if they are new inventions.  Take the smartie pants that saved school districts lots of money saving them from buying spoons and forks and invented "sporks."  We all have enjoyed a brunch now and then, the lazy get-up-too-late-for-breakfast-and-eat-before-lunch combination.  I invented a new word today, a "shath."  It is a combination of a shower and a bath.  Now you can eat your brunch with a spork after you've enjoyed your shath.  (Did you know that the Sunday Brunch was invented for pagans who skip church to engorge themselves instead?)

You've seen this iconic picture of men eating "brunch,"
but have you seen the results?
 There are a few things more dangerous than even this...

There are words that you can't play with.  "Twist not Scripture lest ye be like the devil because that is exactly what you are doing."  The last admonition in Scripture is this...

"I testify to everyone who hears the words of the words of the prophecy of this book:
if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book;
and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy,
God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city,
which are written in this book."
Revelation 22:18

(Hmm, "God shall take away his part from the tree of life" and heaven.)
"You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you,
nor take away from it,
that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God
which I command you."
Deuteronomy 4:2

"For truly I say to you,
until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter (tittle or iota) or stroke shall pass away
from the Law, until all is accomplished.
Who ever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others,
shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven;
but whoever keeps and teaches them,
he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 5:18-19
(The words of Jesus)

You can't mess with the Word because you are messing with the Man,
"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us."
 I John 1:14
"In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God."
I John 1:1 

If you are having trouble understanding, He has that covered too...
"And He will give you another Helper, that He may with you forever;
that is the Spirit of truth...
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name,
He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you."
John 14:16, 25-26

Enjoy your Hevotions, (He will meet you in your devotions)
 and with singing psHimns (psalms and hymns about Him).
Do it before brunch!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Kinfolk Stories...
Bigfoot is real. 
In fact, we're related. 
 Her name is Bertha Bigfoot or Bertha "Grand au Pied"...

Or more affectionately known as "Goosefoot,"
Perhaps she was the original Mother Goose...
With a name like that you'd think she was from the backwoods or from a fairy tale, but actually she married a king,  Pepin III and was the mother of one of the most famous kings of all, Charlemagne.   Her husband was known as Pepin the Short, but her son was six foot four.  Short + Bigfoot = Big Boy Charlie (Charlemagne).  Go figure.

Pepin the Short +

Bertha Big Foot =
Big Boy Charlie, an over-achiever who ruled all of Europe,

I'm also related to a sea gull. 
One of our relatives was born on a ship coming over from Ireland to the colonies and they were inspired to name her, Sea Gull, or Anne for short.  I've mentioned other odd names such as Thorough Luther, Julius Cezar, and add to these Opal Pearl.  Like the old saying in the family, "I don't care what you call me, as long as you call me for dinner."

Christ Church Cemetery where Harpers are buried
in Georgetown, Virginia

What if we were named for one quality or fault.  What would our names be?  What would be our epitaph or made mention of in the history books or for our descendants to read?  There is only one name really that matters, and that is the one written down in the Lamb's Book of Life.  It's the final word of who we are: His.

"And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain." Revelation 13:8

Friday, January 24, 2014


"The more I know of the world, the more I am convinced
that I shall never see a man whom I can really love."
Jane Austen, "Sense and Sensibility"

The moon shone only half heartedly with a scarf of fog tucked up under her chin.  The wet grey cloud scudding, dragging on the ground enveloped Eve.  She scattered a herd of sheep startled by the ghost of a girl running in the darkness. The ewes called to their bawling lambs who were so suddenly frightened off by the phantom.  Eveline fought the desire to call out herself  but choked it tight in her throat.  She must keep quiet and stay hidden. 

Though it took her off the road and from the ditches where she stumbled through brambles, the lass ran  past the fields to the woods.  Any wild creatures there would be better than meeting up with the ravenous wolf of a man in the carriage.  She had heard the slurred shouts die out, the smash of the door slamming, and the clipping away of hooves that told her they had gone on, but she didn't trust the drunken whim of the one who might turn back with his savage anger at being thwarted.  The knife was still clutched in her white knuckled grasp.  It had saved her.  Or God had.  She wasn't sure and couldn't think.  She kept to the edges of the woods so as not to become lost, but could melt into the darkness behind a trunk if need be.  Eveline would not allow capture again. 

Her dress was torn ragged by thorns what the man had not already ripped in her struggle.  Her chest was heaving with the exertion, the desire to reach home before daylight.  Sometimes a sob escaped in spite of her mind's grip that told her she had no time for tears.  The low branches pulled at her hair which was wild in its fallen state. She ripped them away leaving torn twigs and leaves in the tangled mass.  Eve did not pause when an owl hooted only hurried on picking herself up when she tripped on her tattered hem.  The silence then was only broken by her panting and crashing through the undergrowth and the occasional grunt of falling. 

The faint sound of clomping hooves on the road made her heart stand still.  The road was not farther than she could throw a stone though she stayed hidden in the woods.  When a farmer's wagon pulled by a worn out horse appeared out of the mist, she watched carefully and stamped the fear back  down deep inside.  The man was tilting on his seat snoring letting the reigns go slack.  If she could slip up quietly behind, he would be none the wiser for giving her a lift.  She crept up and became like another sack of potatoes on his partial load. She shivered covered up with empty sacks where she lay.  The man was tipsy coming back from market.  She could smell him clear from the back.  The old mare only breathed a heavy snort in  greeting but kept his head down.

Sometimes the driver was jostled awake and sang a piece of a ditty before falling back into his drunken doze.  Once the lazy horse stopped to pull grass alongside the road.  This infuriated Eveline  knowing they could very well be here until morning.  She contemplated throwing a potato at the old mare to make it go, but was afraid it might bolt and give her away.  The farmer did finally wake, nearly falling over in his seat, enough to swear and whip at his horse to get it going down the road again.

From where she lay, the lass kept her eyes open to concentrate on the landscape.  When the fog lifted here and there, it was impossible to guess how many more miles to her home, too hard to tell in the dark.  She had seldom been this far from home and certainly not at night.  Eveline found herself beginning to relax from shaking as much cold allowed, when a horse could be heard coming towards them.  Quickly, she slipped off and ran soundlessly to the ditch where the brambles snatched and scratched at her.  The knife was still clutched in her grasp. 

The farmer rousted himself to nod to the passing horse and rolled on.  It was only a moment before  the horse pulled up sidling with a  snort with its rider yelling, "Git on, Samson!  I'm not telling ye to stop."

It was her father.  Eveline jumped out of the ditch like an apparaition.  He cried out as he fought to steady his startled mount.  She could not stem the flow of tears any longer. 

Her father slipped down to clutch at his lass crooning, "Now, now, child, my lamb, we're going home.  You don't have to say a word till we get there and your mither can hear ye too.  No use in your explaining your troubles twice in the thick of the night."

Even next to her father wrapped in his cloak on the broad back of their horse, she could not stop her tremblings.  This time the farmer in the wagon never woke as they turned and passed him where his horse stood grazing at a full stand still.  They met no one else at this late pass of the night.  The gloaming was so heavy her father had to finally give their horse Samson his lead to find the way on his own.  She loved that old horse and had always secretly called herself  Delilah always promising him she would never cut his mane while she groomed him.  Now, she felt that dirty wicked and more, but she was the one betrayed by a man.

It was miles that she was relieved not to have traveled on foot when they finally arrived home in the wee hours.  Her mother had a light in the window and threw open the door to greet her pulling her inside  where they clung sobbing.  Then she stood her apart and began wiping the tears from her daughters face with her apron clucking like a mother hen.  She tisked pulling a few of the larger twigs from her hair before she sat her down and brought a cup of tea.  Patting her daughter on the knee she said, "Speak of it when you can darling.  We'll be ready to just listen to your troubles."

"It was a gloomy prospect, and all that she could do
was to throw a mist over it, and hope when the mist cleared away,
she should see something else."
Jane Austen, "Mansfield Park"

With half a cup of warmth in her she began the halting tale.

"I was with Stven with the sheep and went after a wayward lamb whose mother was calling and calling.  It was further down the road than I would have thought.  I finally spied it  standing in the middle of the  roadway where the signposts tells how many miles to London and how many to Edinburgh when a carriage pulled up.  I remembered the face of the young man inside from when the fair was in town.  He had flirted with me then, but I tried to avoid him. When he called to stop his carriage and got out, I was only polite and no more.  He could see I was of no matter, not fancy, being with the sheep and all, but he kept looking me over in a way I didn't care for and so I bid him good day.  But he grabbed my arm making me drop the lamb.  His breath and manner told me he had been drinking as well as his companions inside who thought it was a good joke.  He said they were going to Greta Green so his friends could go over the anvil and be married."

Ave's father, a clergy, could barely restrain himself from remarking knowing the law that any couple could be married over the Scotish boarder not far away if they were even as young  as fourteen and twelve with just  two witnesses to declare them man and wife, or by a visit to the village blacksmith who would strike his anvil to declare a couple wed.  He felt it was a disgrace upon the holy estate of matrimony.  Eve hated to go on because it was going to get worse, and she saw his thunder building.

Meekly she went on with the tears pooled in her sad eyes.  "He said I could go with them to be a witness, but of course I said I couldna go.  He began to argue. I tried to run away, but he grabbed me and bodily put me in the carriage and told his driver to go on.  Well, the other couple was doing all manner of things in spite of us being in the coach together, and didna mind me at all when I protested and they just laughed at my screaming.  The man tried to, tried to..." Here she stumbled and hung her head.

"Did he force himself on you, child?" her mother croaked.

"Well, he kissed me, and grabbed me where he shouldna while I fought him off.  I yelled to the driver to let me out, but the fiend just swore and told his man to keep going or he would find two new drivers for what he paid him.  He was trying to have me, and it was going to come to that until I pulled his knife from its sheaf. I held it up over him and threatened to run him through.  His companions thought that was good hilarity, but he could tell I meant it.  And I would have too in order to save myself.  He told me I would hang if I so much as scratched him, but I remembered what I overheard the Widow Cooper say about Agnes Stillwell, and plain as day, knew it would happen like that to me.  So I never let the knife down but held it over him.  When the carriage wheels were  sunk into a deep mudhole, he was thrown forward, and I hit the door. I jumped out and ran.  It was dark by then and foggy, and he couldn't find me drunk as he was.  I was under the brambles in the ditch and laid still until they went on. Then  I ran and made my way hiding in the forest until I rode for awhile on the back of a farmer's wagon unbeknownst to him.  When I heard Da coming, I had jumped off and was hiding in the ditch again, scared out of my wits."

"I was almost to the Scottish border when she sprang up.  I thought it was the Grey Lady of Glomis Castle, a real ghost," her father put in.

Her mum continued, "Agnes Stillwell went willingly to Gretna Green, darlin', believing him that said he would marry her after he had his way in Gretna Green.  It was only a trick.  Of course the black heart never meant to marry a village girl, Agnes nor you.  It's a good thing you are a strong, smart girl."

Her father pounded the wall hard with his fist leaving a hole in the plaster.  She had never seen his anger before. "Was it that Phineas Thornston?"

She nodded, "I think so, but his friends called him Phiney."

"That's the one Agnes named, but he denied the whole thing and almost had her father turned out of his cottage for the accusation."

"Here's what we must do."  Her mother spoke as if she planned such schemes as a gentlewoman's past time.  "You get a couple of hours sleep, darling, then you will rise early and ride with your father smiling and waving through town as he makes a few rounds in the morning running errands.  You won't have to get out of the wagon, but you'll be seen, and none will be the wiser that you were almost to Gretna Green tonight.  I would think the English gent will be embarrassed enough to keep his mouth closed that you bested him, and that way we can keep your reputation in tact. 

"If not, I'll take it to his family for the insult, and I might do it anyway," her father said.

"Let's hope you won't have to go so far," her mother worried.  "You know a country curate will have little effect upon the word or reputation of a landed gentry, no matter how disgusting they may be.  Such is our unfortunate lot.  Sadly, some feel they can use lasses up like they change their silk ties.  It is morally reprehensible.  If it comes to that, it would be better handled by the vicar."

Her father's brow looked dark and brooding while her mother went on soothing her.  "You know you did the right thing, and I'm proud of you.  There's nothing else you could have done, and don't be thinking you brought any of it on yourself.  None of this was your fault."  When you didn't come back with Stven, we knew something was amiss when he stopped by, and your father went looking before dusk."

"Thank you Da," she choked out another sob. 

He lifted her face.  "I wish I could have protected you from this.  It's my fault for letting you roam like the village lads with the sheep.  You will stay home with your mother from now on.  Today has woken me to the fact that you are no longer a little girl, but a woman in the world's eyes.  You should have been safe, but not safe enough in this evil world so close to the border." 

"I think we'd better get rid of his knife," Eve's mother continued.  All eyes were on the knife where it lay on the table.  "I wouldna want her to be accused of theft if he sent the constable searching."  They both looked at the little woman who was as wise as a serpent and as harmless as a dove.  "I think the bottom of the pond will do when you go fishing for our dinner tomorrow, dear."

"I'll tie it to a big rock so it'll go down deep and stay there."  Her father looked like he would rather bash a certain young man's head in just as well.

"You go on to bed, my lamb.  I'll just be up to comb out your tangles in a minute.  It looks like you brought half of Sherwood Forest in your hair.  Once you are in your night shift, I will burn your torn clothes in the fireplace.  They are beyond repair anyway."

"You are never sure of a good impression being durable."
Jane Austen, "Persuasion

The next morning Eve accompanied her father as he took a book on herbs and medicine to lend to the Widow Cooper, the town gossip.  The girl smiled and waved to the old crone from the wagon sure that her beady eyes did not miss much, even Stven coming home without her.  The old woman's shoulders seem to sag to see the girl safely seated next to her father on this early morn. It would have been a triumph indeed to involve the curate's daughter in a juicy bit of gossip.   Next, they returned a borrowed tool to the smithy, where he glanced up at her before going back to his bellows.  This is where the idle men of the village gathered to swap lies.  They passed Stven and the flock.  Her father paused to ask him to look after his few sheep along with the others letting him know quietly that Eve would no longer join him.  The boy looked her way with a wise, sad look in his eyes, but Eveline knew he had closed lips no matter what he guessed.  She would miss her carefree days in the fields with the lad.  They passed Agnes sitting by her mother's stoop in the early morning sun nursing her baby born out of wedlock.  Agnes dropped her head to hide her shame.

"There go I but by the grace of God," whispered Eveline to her father.

"We must be thankful, to God and for your bravery," her father replied.

"I didna feel very brave, just desperate."

Back at home and once inside by the fire, he told his wife of their route.  "That was a brilliant plan, especially going by the Widow Cooper.  That woman was practically gnashing her teeth to see our Eveline sitting with her chin up on the wagon seat beside me.  Such sin to enjoy the fall of others.  She'd just as well make up a story as repeat one, I dare say.  I do think we will keep her lips closed for now at least."  Her father went to his study and shut the door exhausted.

"It was so sad to see Agnes sitting there with her bairn, Mum.  I donna know how she could have believed such a one.  The man practically made my skin crawl when I saw him the first time."

"She was probably hankering after the promise of riches and an easy life more than the man himself. He was whispering those lies in her ear, no doubt."

"I've watched many a couple go off down the road obviously heading to Gretna Green, and they all looked so happy.  I never thought of the such deception.  I'm afraid it will be a long time before I wave and wish them well again, maybe never.  I canna think of the ways of a man with a maid so fair now.  It twists my stomach."  Eve looked to be sick.

Her mother stroked her hair.  "There are good men, godly men out there, real gentlemen, but they are few and far between, I'm afraid.  It's a sorry day that you have had to become older and wiser in such a way.  You will think twice rushing into marriage with any lad who winks your way, however, I'm sure."

"I don't know that I will rush into marriage at all, ever.  When I close my eyes, I feel his hands clawing me."

Indeed, her mother had heard the girl cry out many times last night in the short sleep she did have.  "Why don't you bed down here by the fire this morning near me and try to get some rest.  If anyone comes, I'll shake you awake before they get from the gate to the door."  Eveline did and slept through their midday dinner and her father creeping from his study to pick up the knife to hide in his fishing creel and leave. 

It was a satisfying meal of fried catfish for supper.  They ate in near silence until the flakey meat was gone from the platter leaving a pile of bones.

"So, did you sink it in the middle of the pond, dear?"

"Yes, I waited until I had caught a stringer full so the plop of the rock wouldn't scare them off, otherwise, we'd not have had such a feast."

They looked at Eve's plate.  She had the biggest pile of bones at the table.  "I hope I didna eat more than my share," she said apologetically.

"Just glad to see you get a little of your appetite back.  You only nibbled at your bread this morning and slept through your dinner.  Glad to see you eat your supper, daughter," her mother said beaming.

"Coming back from fishing, I saw the dishonorable Phiney and friends clatter through town without hardly slowing down."

"Did he see you, Da?  Do you think he knows who you are?  Who I am?"

"I stood tall and stared as hard as I've ever stared down my nose at anyone, but I only got a glimpse before he let the curtains fall back across the window. The sooner he's back to London away from these parts, the better."

"Do you know whose great house he's been visiting, dear?" her mother inquired.

"I'm sure it's no one very close by as there are no companions his age in any of their estates.  So many of the young men have gone off to fight Napoleon.  It's probably someone closer to London town.  There were no crests painted on the carriage doors, so it might have been a rented carriage by someone wanting to remain anonymous for their dastardly deeds.  It is indeed a sad plight when there is no justice for a young woman who is abused by one of the gentry.  The fault will always be laid at the lass' feet, even a curate's daughter who is pure as the driven snow."

"Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings."
Jane Austen, "Mansfield Park"

The days calmed down to long months, even slipping past a year, without a ripple of excitement, a dreadful calm to a girl used to spending her days carefree outside.  She had read all the books in her father's library with nary a novel among them.  She had taken to writing her own stories to climb out of the tower of protection her parents had built around her.   Eve carefully tucked them away deep under her mattress as soon as the ink was dry.  Her needle was dutiful, but she found no pleasure even in a new gown now and then.  There was no where to wear one other than church where she would be subjected to every nag's opinion of her stitches and style, whether the color suited her or not, whether it made her look sallow or too cheeky.  Such nonsense.  Her mother could not interest her in a new bonnet.  She had no hope for her hope chest though she embroidered sheets and pillowcases as much as her mother instructed her to.  She did not know her mum watched her with a care and heard her sighs even when they escaped her own notice as common as they were.  Each one was a rock tied to her mother's heart though, until a letter came.

"Here is an address out of the ordinary, dear, addressed to you," her father said handing over a letter to his wife.  They had just sat down to a lunch of thinned  barley soup.  "Do you have a cousin in Northchester?"

"Indeed.  Let me see."  They both could see she was not as surprised as they were.  She was up to something, it was quite evident.  Her careful nonchalance did not fool them.

She slit it open with a butcher knife that she had just chopped her parsley with and wiped clean on her apron.  "Hmm.  Oh...interesting.  Who would have thought."

"Might you read it aloud, Mother?  You are tantalizing us on purpose, I dare say."

"Well, you know my great aunt on my mother's stepfather's side, she has a nephew who is advertising for a lady's companion for her.  Oh, the poor dear's eyesight is failing, and she needs someone to write her personal correspondence and read to her and such.  He has been instructed to write to us since we are such close family. Being in a manse and all, they thought, of course, that we might know of such a one for this.  I can't think of anyone, can you dear?"

Her father looked at her with a quandary as Eve had seldom seen in his eyes like when her mother had suggested he should go to hear one of John Wesley's preachers in the coal fields while he was visiting in London years ago.  Finally he said,  "Indeed, Clare, I'm sure you have it all thought out.  What is it you are suggesting?  Pray do tell so we can all be of one mind with what you have connived."

Her mother pretended to be aghast, pressing the letter to her heart, but merely said, "What an opportunity for our own dear Eveline."

Eve dropped her spoon making a loud clatter against the tin  bread plate.  "Me?" she gasped.

"It wouldn't be forever.  Instead of a season in London, for which we would not approve, it is a chance for a young lady such as yourself, to have an exposure in a larger and finer society than is to be found in our own little village.  I once met this Lady Hetherfield at her great house with my family as a very young girl.  She must be getting on in years now to be sure, but she is as respectable as any Englishwoman in the kingdom."

"Will there be too much frivolity, dear?  I would not wish to expose our dear Eveline to a wild young set."

"Under Lady Hetherfield's keen eye?" she snorted. "I hardly think so.  I wouldn't imagine there are too many our Eve's age, in the circumspect circles of her neighborhood.  It is a little out of the way, and I doubt the  dowager will move beyond her own small society there. They dine perhaps with four and twenty families when the occasion arises."

"What is she like, Mother?"

"She is austere, worthy of all due respect, but really quite a caring gentlewoman once you get past her necessary demeanor.  She married years ago but was widowed very young, and everything is entailed to a nephew who, from all I hear, is helping her manage her affairs with quite a concern for her comfort.  She was left the manor for all the days of her life while he is in charge of the grand estate.  It was at his suggestion that a lady's companion be sought.  You might be younger than he was thinking, but it is appropriate being kin and all."

Her father was up from the table and pacing lost in his own thoughts and did not hear her mother whisper, "She's quite fond of novels, I remember."

"I suppose, if she so desires, our Eve could try it for a time with the understanding that if she is not happy she will be released from the arrangement at any time.  I would not want her to be tied to any situation which causes her unease.  It will not be an apprentice sort of agreement, after all.  What do you think, Eveline?"

"I've hardly had time to think at all.  I'm speechless."

"Of course, we would need to stop in London to finish off her wardrobe so that she might appear more than a country mouse.  She has sewn several new dresses, hardly worn, but we might find new hats, boots and a serviceable gown or two, perhaps a more elegant dress as she has had no occasion to wear in our simple life here," her mother said obviously scheming.

"Who do you mean by "we."  Are you planning for us all to go to the Hetherfield's?"

"Of course.  We would all need to go see the situation for ourselves, and it would be my last chance to see one of my own kin.  Sad to say that there are not many left.  Lady Hetherfield was particularly fond of my mother in their youth."

"I will see what can be arranged.  I suppose you may write a letter in response.  At least give a chance for the missive to arrive before we do.  I hope you do not plan to stay too long in London.  The city does not agree with me or my purse."

"Of course, dear.  However, I do remember you being particular about a couple of old bookstalls there."

"Yes, indeed, Clare.  Still, there will be no need to stay longer than a few days.  We will have the trip there and back to consider as well as two or three days to visit with Lady Hetherfield, allowing a fortnight and no more, please.  I dare say I will need to take my little flock to market to turn some coin for the trip."

"Not all of them, please, Da."  Eve looked crushed.

"Most, but not all.  I will need to keep a few to build the herd back up with and, of course, your old woolgatherer, what do you call your old ewe?"

"Lady Woolsley.  I can't bear the thought of her not being a part of the flock.  Besides, she wears the bell to lead the others along.  Thank you, Da."

"The old lady stays while my young lady goes.  Such is life.  I can't say as I am happy about it, but I can see it is for the good.  Life here is a little too provincial for a young woman of your worth."

Her mother clapped.  "It's all settled then.  Eveline, we'll go ready your trunk and see what's what as soon as I've written this letter."

Eve could only swirl her parsley around in the soup with no appetite for the next bite.  When her mother finished her writing and handed it off to her husband for the post, she found her still there staring into her soup.

"Aren't you excited, dear?  This is such an opportunity for you, beyond what I could have imagined.  Lady Hetherfield is a great lady.  Oh dear, I shall have to remember all the rules of etiquette I learned as a girl and make sure I haven't neglected any part of your education.  Let's see, do we break a biscuit and cut a roll or is it the other way around?'

Eve cleared the table and washed the bowls before going to her room to watch her mother busily pulling everything off every hook and out of every drawer.  She was glad that she did not try to find what was hidden under the  mattress under where Eve sat placidly.

"Dear, go pick some lavender to pack with your things.  Or if you prefer, gather some rose blossoms.  We'll have to give a care that they don't leave a stain so we'll need some old sheets to wrap your dresses in." 

Eve was glad to go out to the garden.  She realized she had more friends with the sheep than she had with the people she saw little more than in church.  All the village girls her age were married and with a brood of children, easy to do this close to Gretna Green.  There were no young men with whom to even share a smile except young Stven who was more like a little brother.  Though they had not been able to roam together for months, he occasionally stopped with his little flock in the road to pass the time of day over the gate.  If someone truly wanted to know what was going on in the village without the muck Widow Cooper threw on it,  he was the one to ask, though God knew he could keep his mouth closed when he wanted. 

She waited for him today.  The tongues would prattle when they left in the mail coach, but she wanted him to know first. 

"Take care of my Lady Woolsley, will ye, Stven now?"

"Of course.  Have no worry on her account.  So I won't see you till you're grown more'n likely."
Promise me you'll come back to visit the village when you're a fine lady, won't ye?"

"I'll never be all that fine, silly.  That's not for the likes of me.  I'll be a servant, hardly more than a lady's maid."

He got quiet and shuffled his feet.  "Say, Eve, back on that night you went looking for the lamb, were you alright?  I was fiercely worried when you didna come back with your lamb, but I couldna leave the flock.  I never asked you before now, but I would pity the man who brought ye any harm."  His fists were white knuckled.

Eveline looked past him down the road toward the Scottish boarder.  "Yes, I'm fine.  I came out alright in the end, more than a little wiser anyhow.  I'm sorry for the little lamb though.  I never saw him again."

"If you don't mind me asking, what was tied to that rock your father threw in the middle of the pond the next day?  The look on his face showed me it was no idle toss and I saw a glint in the sunshine."

She looked at him and laughed.  "You don't miss much Stven.  People don't know how smart you really are with you only having the sheep for companions."

"I had you and hours to think with.  But you didna answer my question."

"Yes, well, I can trust you and few others.  It was a knife, but I'll say no more.  Good bye for now Stven.  When you hear my ewe's bell know that I'm thinking of you here."

"Thinking of your precious sheep, not me, more 'n likely," and he laughed too, but there was a cold glint in his eyes thinking over what she had said but which she missed clouded with a sudden pooling of tears in her eyes.  She was saying a last goodbye to her childhood.

"If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village,
then she must seek them abroad."
Jane Austen, "Northanger Abbey"

The mail coach was a crush, but a faster way than the public stage.  By the time they got to London, not even her mother could venture out to shop until she had rested well into the next day.  Their father dropped them off at some dress shops of a recommended reputation before wandering away to find his old friends, his books.  They were to meet at an agreed time at a respectable eating establishment where ladies would not be ashamed to be seen with an escort. 

One dress, ready made, was wrapped to take with them, another serviceable one needed a few alterations, and a gown was to be made up entirely to order just for her to be mailed later.. Eveline had never imagined owning something so lovely.  Nothing else of material worth had excited her like this before.  There were boxes of hats and parcels of capes, and what not. Her destination, a world apart from what she had ever known, was apparently going to quickly become a reality.  She tugged sweaty palms into new kids gloves while her mother opened a parasol for her.  Even this early in the spring, London was humid and warm without a cooling breeze.  Eve did not feel elegant with the sweat making her hair droop around her face and sweat stains under her arms.  They were leaving the shop when a man bumped into her making her drop her parcels.  Her mother screeched like a monkey.

"I beg your pardon, " he said.  She almost knocked his beaver hat off as they bent together to retrieve her things.

"I thought it was a street urchin going to steal us blind, then what would your father say?" her mother fanned herself.

"Just my carelessness, though you should take beware of other slights which might mean someone pilfering."  She looked up to meet his eyes as she took the last packages from his hands.  "I believe
everything is all there is as should be," he said as he looked her up and down.

Eve gave an involuntary shudder as this man looked quite frankly at her in a way that reminded her of her unfortunate past encounter. He was not entirely impolite but she could see in his eyes that he had taken in her appearance and obviously noticed her womanly figure.  She was sure her face was flaming more than the heat of the day.  "Thank you, sir."

"Can I call you a coach?  You are overly burdened," he did not seem willing to let them go yet which made Eve exceedingly nervous.

"Oh, how kind, but thank you, no."  Her mother said. "My husband will be along shortly."

Once again, he looked at her thankfully keeping his eyes on her face this time saying, "Well, good day, ladies."

"Well, it's nice to be in polite society," her mother said smugly.  "I dare say he noticed your beauty."

"Quite," was all Eveline had to say with a frown as he drove away in an open barouche with the audacity to tip his hat to her in the passing.  They had never been introduced, and a real gentlemen would not show such boldness.

Eveline did catch a street urchin trying to cut her mother's purse strings and kicked him in the shins in a most unladylike fashion while her mother was oblivious.  "Do take a care, Mother.  You were nearly robbed just now.  We should wait in one of those stuffy shops until father comes.  It is not safe out here on the street like the man said."

"My word, how you exaggerate.  But I would like to sit on one of the chairs inside.  You may watch at the window.  Your father should be here shortly," she said as she bustled into the dressmaker's again.  Her mother smiled and said, "I would like to see a few more swatches of fabric, this time in the darker colors more suitable for a lady of my age."

Eve knew from this one afternoon in the heart of the fashion district, her mother was already feeling dowdy.  She wondered how long it had been since she had a new dress not of her own making.  If she did earn wages, Eve determined she would buy her mother one the first chance she got and began to  notice the style that matrons wore shopping, quite a different appearance than back in their village.
Yet, if her mother returned home too done up, tongues would wag distracting from her father's sermons for a month of Sundays and the folks would complain to the vicar that her father must be making too much money from their tithes in their poor country church.  Such was the life of a curate in a small village. 

Only one more uncomfortable stretch of miles before they found her ladyship's carriage waiting when they got off the post in the next town.  They climbed in grateful to not have to be smashed for the remainder of the journey.

Eveline's nerves were taunt as they came closer to the great lady's manor. She tugged restlessly at the gloves her mother said she must get used to wearing.

"I wish you were not quite so brown, Eve dear.  If we had known sooner you were wanted here, I would have made sure you stayed indoors more so you could have a light creamy complexion."

Her father grumbled back, "You couldn't expect to see a finer looking girl than our Eveline.  A man likes to see a blush of health on a girl's cheek."

It was the first time she remembered her father ever saying anything about her appearance, it made her eyes smart.  If he thought so, she could hold her head high.  The salt air could be smelled now and its fresh dampness was making her hair curl around her face.  She did not know she looked a picture.

Whether from her nervousness or the winding road from the hills down to the coast, her stomach was feeling quite queasy.  She could not take her eyes off the beauty though of the lush fields with wildflowers that sloped toward the distant shining sea.  On such a clear day, it was almost as if one could see clear to France, or heaven.  Occasionally, they passed stone archways or tall iron gates to different great houses out of sight beyond winding tree lined lanes.  Eve did not know so many great houses could exist so close together only a handful of miles apart.  When there was a sign, her mother announced the family name with a knowing humph as if she knew them all, which of course she did not.

"Oh, I feel like a child again coming back here to this house.  Such good times seeing my mother and Lady Hetherfield so happy to be together.  Now it will be my daughter's turn.  Of course, when I was your age, dear, I was happily married to your father with two young sons, God bless their souls."  She wiped a tear from her eye with a handkerchief.  You decided to wait to arrive many years later as a pleasant afterthought to make us happy in the afternoon of our lives.  Oh, how we will miss you.  It is a tremendous sacrifice to give you up, even to one as great as she, but we must.  You cannot be allowed to become a spinster taking care of her old parents, now can you?"

"Why not?  I'll be a spinster taking care of this great lady.  Don't doubt that I can pack up and come home to take care of you if you need me."

Her mother patted her hand and sniffed.

"No one should be talking of spinsterhood at your age, my dear.  You're in your early bloom," her father said taking her in as if to remember her always such as this.

"I wouldna say early bloom, Da, but my petals haven't all fallen off now, have they."  She laughed, and added,  "Don't put me in a potpourri bowl yet !"  They all laughed as they drove down the drive.
However, their amusement stopped when they arrived at the front door with maids and manservants lined up.  Eveline was agog.  She could never have imagined arriving to such state.  She was glad they had stopped at the London dressmakers' now.  There was no turning back now.  When the door opened she tentatively pointed her new shoe onto the step as a white gloved hand grasped hers and helped her down.  There was the great woman, Lady Hetherfield herself standing in the open doorway with an appraising look on her face. 

"She believed that she must now submit to feel that another lesson,
in the art of knowing our own nothingness beyond our own circle,
was becoming necessary for her."
Jane Austen, "Persuasion"

Eveline felt a country bumpkin, but held her chin up high after a curtsy.  The lady kissed her mother's cheek then took Eve's hands in own looking her up and down.

"I had imagined her to look a little more like your mother, Clare, but I see she has her father's height and fine nose and eyes and even coloring, quite fetching."  Lady Hetherfield gave one hand for her father to kiss while she held onto Eve's other clearly not done with her inspection. Her father passed, slipped behind and slyly winked at his daughter with a little smile on his face at the backhanded compliment.

"You are barely out of leading strings, Miss Eveline.  I had thought you would be older, closer to your  brothers' ages if they had lived."

Her father coughed choking back a chortle she was sure. 

Eve had gasped at the inappropriate comment in front of the servants, but steeled her gaze and dished  right back saying, "I'll have you know, m'lady, that I have been out of leading strings these past three months."

It was Lady Hetherfield's turn to gasp, her mouth dropped open and then she choked out a laugh as long and loud as a country lad's, finishing by wheezing.  "Oh, but don't I deserve that.  Well done, young lady.  You'll do, Miss Eveline.  You'll do."  Her mother had hurried back out to hear what the hullabaloo was about with a perplexed face while servants were biting their lips looking down trying not to show mirth as well.  It had been a long time since such laughter had been heard here.  Suddenly a tall shadow stood behind the lady and a man stepped out in the sunshine.

"May I present my nephew, Lord Hetherfield II.  Rev. Holt, Misses Holt, and Miss Holt.  Please come in."

But the gentleman held Eveline's glove to his lips and came up with an undisguised smirch, "So we meet again."

It was the man from London who had caused her to drop her packages.  Eveline bit the inside of her cheek to cover her dismay and followed her parents inside.  She knew he was following behind probably appraising her backside, the impudent devil.  She wanted to stamp her foot on the marble floor in the entry, but knew she could not let go again with impropriety and hope to keep her position.  The best she could hope for was the man would soon go back to London and stay away for most of her time here.  As much as she distained the nephew, she thought she would get along with the infamous Lady Hetherfield quite well, quite well indeed.

As they were served refreshments in the parlor, Lord Hetherfield stood at a relaxed position with his arm on the mantle and looked at his aunt, "What did you find so funny today, Aunt?  I don't know when I've heard you laugh like that."

Eveline almost choked on her glass of lemonade, but his aunt only waved him away, "Not now, Max.  I'm certainly anxious to hear about my dear cousin's family.  Tell me of your curate, Rev. Holt.

Her father stretched out a description of the countryside and little church as long as he possibly could and still hold up his end of the conversation.  She, of course, demanded to know what the tithes were after the vicar took his share and what their support was from the landed gentry.  He answered graciously, though she gasped at the little amount that allowed them still to live, just barely.  Then in his adept way, he turned it back on her asking about what crops they grew and about their orchards, and animals and such.  Her nephew seemed to come alive then as the great lady deferred to him such matters of business.

Eveline was so fascinated listening to the men speak of the husbandry of such a large estate that she almost failed to hear her ladyship ask a question.  "Excuse me, m'lady.  I was distracted."

"Tell me of your schooling, dear.  Your mother said you've read widely, but I wondered if you could be more specific."

Eve went on to describe the volumes in her father's library that formed her classical education. 

"No novels then?"

"No, father did not approve, except for the Greek mythology and such."

"What a pity."  The lady went on to ask her mother, "And what of the womanly arts?"

Her mother sputtered, "I've been teaching her how I keep the home and garden.  She can cook and sew and do embroidery, but we were never fortunate enough to have a pianoforte for her to learn on.  She can sing, but I dare say, she has never sung but a few Welsh songs and hymns in front of us, her parents.  My husband doesn't hold to dancing.  He has seen too much trouble in the parish that results from the breaking down of the inhibitions at the country dances."

It was Lord Hetherfield's turn to cough into his hand as he found this to be most amusing as the men had lagged in their conversation enough to overhear the ladies much to Eve's chagrin. 

The lady went on to remark, "No dancing, Rev. Holt?  I find that positively provincial.  Are you a Methodist then?"

Her father smiled graciously.  "No, just a country parson who has to deal with couples going over the anvil to Scotland more often than not rather than posting their bonds in church.  Most of them have got the cart before the horse, if the truth be known.  It is one of the disadvantages to living so close to the border."

"I've heard of that, haven't you, Max?"

"The cart before the horse, Aunt?"

Eve smothered a laugh.

"No, well of course, but I meant 'going over the anvil' they call it?"

"Yes, Aunt.  Going to Gretna Green isn't always advantageous to the ladies in particular."

Eveline looked him clearly in the eye, but he had no familiarity from before London.  She wasn't sure  what exactly he meant.  Her father was looking back and forth between them to ascertain if there was a personal significance in the remark.  She looked away coolly to sooth her father's fears.  Inwardly she wondered if it was a common deception among so called  gentlemen to take young women to such a destination to be ill used with empty promises.  Was that a confession she wondered, then caught herself knowing she had no right to judge him without evidence other than a casual remark.  Yet, when she looked up his eyes were still upon her in such a way to make her shudder.

He went over and shut a window.  "Do you feel a chill?  Come sit closer to the fire.  I dare say the coach was not very warm early in the morning.

"As you well know, London was exceedingly warm even this early in the season."  Eve felt an unreasonable outrage that he would assume to know what she felt and said, "Thank you, I'm fine here. I was enjoying the smell of the roses from the front walks." She would not admit that her smart new spencer was not a warm enough jacket for the English springtime this close to the coast.

"Well, I'm sure you are all tired after all these days of traveling.  There are warm baths ready in your rooms.  Here, our maids will gladly take you there." Lady Hetherfield sent them like children to their rooms while Eve wished she could wander the grounds after so many hours shut up in a carriage.  Enough time for that later, she guessed. 

After bathing and having a maid comb out her hair like her mother did when she was young, Eveline did find herself between clean sheets with the window open in the most beautiful room she had ever seen.  She slept soundly until a maid shook her gently awake. 

"Excuse me miss, but dinner will be in an hour.  I will help you dress."

Sleeping in the daytime always left Eve feeling dully stupid trying to waken and was glad for the help.  The maid styled her hair in a new way that Eve decided she rather liked.  Her dress was freshly pressed.
"This was the best dress I could find.  Is this your dinner dress, miss?" 

"Yes, I am having a couple more being sent from the dressmakers in London, but I will not need anything too fancy as I will be in service, much like you, as a lady's companion."

"Oh, no.  You will be expected to move about in society with Lady Hetherfield, not like us at all.  The styles are all of the French influence for evening wear, you know, empires, gauzy material, and such.  I dare say she will have you dressed like a Greek goddess before its over," the girl giggled.

Perhaps this was going to be more complicated than she thought.  It would be best not to say any more until the matter was settled to her ladyships satisfaction, but she couldn't resist asking, "Does she go out into society often?  I mean, I'd assumed she would be more retiring, more comfortable at home most of the time."

"Upon my word, hardly so.  She is quite active, not one to sit still.  She keeps us all on our toes.  Invitations for teas one day, visiting another, church and charity work, dinner parties, and the such."

Eve bit her lip realizing this was going to be more than the passive life her mother had described.  She decided she must know and asked, "Is her nephew here from London often?"

"Oh, this is his home, though business does call him away from time to time.  He's done with his days at Oxford now, and he's home busy managing the estate.  It was entailed to him years ago, you know.  He has his hands full too with an aunt such as our Lady Hetherfield.  Yes, indeed."

This time Eve couldn't keep from groaning and worrying aloud, "I don't know what I've gotten myself into, I'm afraid." 

The maid did not suppress her giggle, "You'll soon see. There. You look a vision though the lady will remark on how drab your dress is to be sure."

"A woman can never be too fine while she is all in white."
Jane Austen, "Mansfield Park"

The maid was right in that she was under the critical eye of the lady, but the dowager evidently controlled her tongue, for now.  Eve took a little satisfaction in seeing how difficult it was even for her mother to conform to the rituals and manners that ruled the life here at Hetherfield Hall.  Eve took her clues from the dowager herself, not trusting her mother to know which spoon or fork was for which course. 

Only her father seemed relaxed as he allowed himself to be monopolized with the young lord and was a natural with the graceful manners he had been raised with.  Though a poor curate now, her father had grown up on a country estate such as this.  But being a second son, he had only the way open for him to follow the church or the law, or the military.   He chose the church.  His was a poor curate position since he was soft on the dissenters without a chance or motivation for upward mobility.   If  one of her brothers had survived, her uncle's estate would have fallen their way instead of the second cousin to carry the name on.  There had been only one visit to that great house where they had been received coldly enough.  Her father vowed never to return.

"Heaven forbid!
That would be the greatest misfortune of all!
To find a man agreeable whom one is determined to hate!
Do not wish me such an evil!"
Jane Austen, "Pride and Prejudice"

Tonight she found herself seated next to the young lord across from her father as they talked of their flocks.  Her father said, "What do you think, Eve, my dear?  Do you think the sheep fare better with lambing in the fields or in the barnyard?"

"We never had much choice, did we Da?  It would be easier to help in a troubled birth if in a stall, but we seldom were so fortunate.  Usually, Stven and I would have to go search for a missing ewe who  would take herself off for birthing in the woods or in a far meadow."

"So, you actually helped in the lambing?" Lord Hetherfield was astounded.

"Yes, for most my life, the sheep were my responsibility.  I grew up helping with the lambing, especially the troubled births because my hands were so small.  A small curate must farm or starve."

Her mother was clearing her throat and her father caught on.  "I forget myself.  This is not exactly dinner conversation now is it, or one anyway for a young lady to be discussing freely in any company."

Judging by Lady Hetherfield's eyes, she had not missed a word of it and was greatly amused.  "I find it fascinating what young ladies are up to these days, but it wouldn't do for our neighbors to know, now would it."
The next morning she was allowed to go on the tour of the estate with her father.  She found quickly that she would need a riding habit for sidesaddle as she tugged at her dress which stubbornly rose almost showing her stocking over the top of her boots as she mounted.  Worse yet, Lord Hetherfield had grabbed her waist to boost her up and helped pull down her skirt for her with a little too much familiarity. 

"I must say, this is a versatile dress useful for dinner parties, riding, and who knows what all, lambing perhaps?"  He was more than teasing her, it was an actual insult that she refused to acknowledge hearing.  And rode off after her father with her chin in the air until she had to duck under low hanging branches when the horse tried to brush her off.  Did he purposefully give her a contrary mount as well?"

Still, it had been a glorious day riding with her Da across the green, green fields of Spring with the ever present far view of the sea sometimes emerald, sometimes turquoise, and sometimes the same color as the sky whether royal blue or grey.  Lord Hetherfield was just a fly in the ointment.  Let him drown in the perfume of the day filled with daffodils and jonquils, tulips and violets in purple carpets.

Eve enjoyed seeing the flocks of sheep and the cattle herds scattered far over the grand estate.  She noted the boundaries and their markers and listened as Lord Hetherfield spoke nonstop about the estate with her father.  Then she met the shepherds who would not lift their eyes to her like they had to the men.  Yet, when she looked back, she found them staring still holding their caps in their hands.

Then her horse threw its shoe.  Of course, it was in the far acres more than a few miles from the manor.  Her father offered to let her ride with him double, but Lord Hetherfield refused.

"I would not try that horse.  He's never ridden double before, but it's quite alright.  She may ride with me.  My horse has carried double many times, and I can trust him to behave."

Eve did not know whether she could trust the man to do likewise, but she had no choice.  She was glad her father was there as well.

She dismounted and handed the reigns to her father to lead the poor horse back to the barn.  She spotted a rock to stand upon to help her mount without the Lord having to offer her a boost up again. He pulled her up as if she was weightless in fact.  Soon she was seated uncomfortably close to the insufferable man.  After all morning ignoring her, he began talking just to her.

"Since you'll be staying, Miss Holt, I will need to find a mount that suits you.  I can see you are able to ride so you won't be needing the oldest bag of bones in the barn after all.  I let you ride him until I could see you're quite capable of riding something with more spirit.  I guess you could say you rode the poor thing until he needs to be let out to pasture."

Another insult.  "Indeed, he only needs a shoe.  I dare say there's life left in him yet, but I wouldn't say we are well suited for each other."

"Are you speaking of the horse or of me, I'm wondering?"

"What nonsense.  It matters not if we are well suited.  I am here only as a companion to Lady Hetherfield." 

She was sorry having to be so close, close enough that she could smell his cologne, one she had never known before.  She had only been this close to one other so called gentleman and his perfume was odorous.  Yet her hands were about this man's firm stomach, and drat, she had forgotten her gloves.  She could also smell his sweat, up this close, from the heat of the day.  It made her wonder what he smelled.  She had never used perfume and did not dare try what was on the dressing table in her room, something so unfamiliar. Never  before had she cared if she wore even the odor of sheep, but now it seemed of some importance learning to be a lady. 

They rode on in a silence broken now only as he pointed out some landmark or view.

"Would you care to canter?"

"Whatever you like, m'Lord."

"Since you are going to be a part of our lives for a time, please call me Max, or Maxwell, if you prefer, and save the Lord stuff for your prayers.  It's alright to use in society, but since we are some sort of long lost kin, you may leave it off."

Certain that she was out of reach of her father's hearing, she found she needed to know and felt bold to say, "May I ask, did you really advertise for a companion for Lady Hetherfield, or did my mother write and ask?"

"I am not free to say.  However, the dowager could, in my opinion, benefit from a companion.  And you, I dare say, could benefit as well.  She needs a project, and now you will keep her busy instead of me.  She has been trying to reform me ever since I returned from Oxford."

"Has she been successful?"

He laughed, "Not in the least.  Only God can do that.  But I believe you will benefit more by her efforts on your behalf."

"So, you believe, I need reform?"

The man laughed again.  "Are you always this direct, Miss Holt?  Do you really want an answer?
Ask me after you've been here awhile to see if I still think you need reform."

Then he took off in a canter and she had to hold on more tightly.  Once when he felt her slipping, his hand came back to steady her in a too familiar way.  He had forgotten the lame horse, and slowed to let her father catch up.  She could feel her hair down and hair pins gone, and sighed.  Perhaps, she did need a little help after all.

"I could easily forgive his pride,
if he had not mortified mine."
Jane Austen, "Sense and Sensibilities"

Lady Hetherfield and her mother were sitting in the garden when they walked back from the stables. 

"Eveline, your hair!" her mother exclaimed.

"Goodness, young lady!  You went on horseback without a proper riding habit?  We'll have to see to that." Then she muttered under her breath, "and a whole new wardrobe beside."

Eveline went in to luncheon with her hair tied back wearing her serviceable dress that suited just fine for breakfast, dinner, tea, and supper, and riding besides.  "Fortunately none of the shepherds called upon me to help in the lambing today," she announced much to her mother's chagrin and Lady Hetherfield's enjoyment.

"Perhaps you'll need more reformation than Calvin himself," whispered Lord Maxwell who was seated again beside her.

"Maybe  you should have joined one of John Wesley's holy clubs," she countered. "I heard they were  still popular at Oxford."

"How do you know I didn't?"

"You don't impress me to be the type interested in his method."

"What are you two whispering about?  With your heads together, it appears to be quite an interesting conversation," Lady Hetherfield interrupted.

"Just theology, Aunt.  She was discoursing on the finer points of doctrine."

"Oh, that will not do.  I don't consider it proper table conversation at all. I try to keep talk of religion and politics for the men after dinner and instead prefer to speak of gossip and nonsense for a pleasant repast.  Seriously now, did you come across any neighbors on your ride today, Max?"

"No, but the men said we had just missed Lord Hill.  He thought our sheep had trimmed the grass on his hummock a little too closely.  Since he has not grazed his flocks there this year, he thought our shepherds had erred in not observing the boundary."

"Well, did they?" his aunt asked.  "It's not as if we don't have enough hummocks of our own."

"The shepherds denied it, but it will be worth watching more closely if one has become lazy and let the sheep wander beyond our boarders."

"I did not see any sheep dogs today.  They say they can be trained very smartly  to work with the sheep.  I always wanted one for our small flock, but never had the opportunity.  Mum here would never let me take her little lap dog, she was that afraid of ticks on the pampered creature."  When Eve entered the conversation they all looked at her as if she were a specimen on a pin.

"Dogs are for hunting, not sheep."  Max went back to his mutton. "They would kill a lamb as soon as a kitten."

"Don't be so quick, Max.  It might be just the thing.  They are used successfully, I dare say, with the flocks on many large estates.   I can see them running circles around the shepherds and never tiring on my trips to London.  It's worth looking into.  Just because it might hurt a shepherd's pride who has always done without, doesn't mean it won't bring improvement.  Have you ever seen an exhibit of their skills in a competition?  I'm told it is quite amazing."  Lady Hetherfield was actually agreeing with Eve.

"Maybe our little shepherdess and I can go visit an estate where they are used and decide then if it is worth the bother.  Oh wait.  There aren't any in our neighborhood."  Then he winked at her.  Right there in front of her mother and father.  How impudent!

She spent the rest of the meal in silence as her mother desperately tried to repair any breach of manners by staying on safe topics such as the weather for their return trip to London, pleasant places to eat, or a suggested shop to visit.  Her father spoke more of their ride with the young lord.

Just as the dessert was being served, Maxwell said, "What do you think of the Gallant Gent for Miss Holt, Aunt?"

"Oh, that would suit quite wonderfully. How clever Max.  Is he too tall, or do you think he is too wild for her though?"

"I think she is up to his spirited ways and can handle him.  I even think she prefers a challenge."

Eve was confounded but looked over to see her mother practically in a faint fanning herself with her napkin while her father was becoming rather red in the face.

Lady Hetherfield saw them and laughed heartily.  "Oh dear, we failed to explain that the Gallant Gent of whom we speak is a horse," but it was obvious that Max was feeling smug about the joke.

She went on to say, "Max bought him for me a few months past because he had been trained to be a ladies' horse.  I thought to ride him, but decided to keep my faithful mount of many years.  You know the old saying about changing horses in midstream."

Eve was certain that he must be the beauty she had seen in the pasture.  "By chance, is he the dapple grey?"

"You have a keen eye.  Yes.  He's a beaut, isn't he?"  Max looked at her without a mocking expression for once.

"I would be honored to ride him."

"We need to see to a riding habit, however Miss Eveline.  We'll talk of that later.  Your parents are going to be here only a short time more.  If you stop over in London again on your way back, I recommend Madam Sinclair's Emporium, Clare.  You would find everything you could possibly need."

"A country curate's wife isn't in need of much, my Lady," her father said.

"You might be surprised at how much we ladies are always in need of.  But Maxwell and I would like to send you home with a donation for your manse to use at your personal discretion, not for the normal work of the parish.

"A new dress for mother from one of those smart shops would do, Father."

"Quite so," smiled the Lady glad that Eveline had seen to the heart of her gift.

"I dare say, Clare might remember a few things she needs after all.  Thank you ahead of time for your generosity, m'lady, for this as well as for allowing our dear Eveline to stay with you for a season."

"A season?  I understood it to be longer than that," the Lady protested.

"It was a manner of speaking, not strictly meant in terms of months, or a London coming out. It is something for the two of you to decide.  It will not be easy to give up the comfort of our daughter's company but we realize you can do much more for her than we can in our limited society, and we hope she will be of benefit for your company as well," her father spoke as though it were the hardest words to say.

"They are to have you married off, it's plain to see," the young lord whispered in her ear.  She wanted to kick him, but she did not dare.

"Will you be leaving in the morning then.  Can we change your mind to stay longer?"

"No, we must return to the parish.  A minister's work is never done."

"Why, I know some vicars stay away in Bath for the whole season," the lady protested.

"Probably they are able to do so because of some small curate who plays their part while the vicar enjoys a greater portion of the parish support," Lord Hetherfield interjected.

"We thank you for the great kindness you have shown us and brings to mind the happy times you and my mother shared in days gone by, Lady Hetherfield," her mother said.

"Yes, you were just a child then with leading strings I well remember," the Lady said with a twinkle in her eye.  Eve and her father laughed while her mother and Max looked at them oddly wondering what they missed.

"Every moment has its pleasures and its hope."
Jane Austen, "Mansfield Park"

Her mum and da were off in the morning and Eve felt it in the pit of her stomach.  The Lady turned to her and asked, "Will you have fits of homesickness, do you think?"

"Certainly some, but I think I will be able to manage.  It is so lovely here.  As long as you let me know what is expected, I will try to serve you properly."

"Oh that, well, first I should go over my calendar, but I would rather go over some fashion newspapers to help decide on a new wardrobe for you.  I can't have you go around with me while you're wearing your lambing dress, now can I?"  With her arm slipped through the crook of Eve's arm, the two walked back into the house while Max went out to the stables laughing.

"I should let you know that I am not normally an early riser and will not take breakfast at the table.  I prefer to be served in bed and read while the light is good enough to see by, a luxury for old women.  Max gets up early and rides around a part of the estate every morning to look after everything.  Whenever you wish to go riding, you may go with him or ask a groom to ride with you later.  Then when you get back,  if I am dressed, we can go about our business.  I receive callers in the afternoon or go calling myself often.  That's why we must get you some morning dresses as well as dinner dresses and several gowns.  The dresses you brought are serviceable for traveling and such, but not for the society we keep here."

"But, a gown we had made will be mailed from London soon.  It is indeed the most lovely thing I have ever owned."

"Good.  We just won't wear it out.  You will need variety.  I don't know if Max explained, but he is tired of all my attentions poured upon him, and thought I needed a new project.  What better way than to find the daughter I never had to show my concern for.  He will be most relieved that you are here.  You do like him don't you?"

That left Eve sputtering for an answer while Lady Hetherfield laughed.  "You don't have to answer that.  I see how it is.  Time will tell.  We'll see."

"Anyway, we can look through these fashion newspapers, cut out ones we like and send them to my dressmaker in London with your measurements the maid can take.  I trust the seamstress to pick the right fabrics and colors for the current styles.  It will be quite pleasurable, you'll see."

Eve did not see.  In fact she protested, "I'm afraid it would take more than a year of my father's wages to do all that. I had not realized I would be moving about in society and thought I would just be your companion here at home.  That would suit me much better in fact."

"Silly girl, you are provincial.  You are here for my enjoyment.  The clothes will be a gift.  I have an income larger than I can begin to spend, and I have decided to spend some of it on you in your grandmother's honor, and yes, you will receive a small living of your own besides.  Some days I will be completely lazy and have you read to me my novels, never even getting dressed while other days we will be quite social.  At my age, I must take pleasure where I can.  Are you willing to let me do that, Miss Eveline?"

"Yes, of course."  And a dimple rarely seen was there with the bloom on her cheek.

After the two poured over the fashion newspapers with Eveline protesting over the plunging necklines or the revealing fabrics, they settled on some compromises.  The village girl was astounded at how out of fashion she was not even realizing it in London where most ladies went about wrapped in their concealing long mantelets or Turkish wraps hiding the flimsy gowns under them.  Eve was most happy to know that she would not be made to wear a corset except upon occasion hating their breathtaking grasp.  So she was to be dressed top to bottom, inside to out, heel to toe, even with nightclothes, robes to boot.  Eve wondered if this was even more than her mother had dreamed for her.  It was like a fairy tale, but one in which the princess would be forced out of the comfort of her castle in front of the world's view.  She was used to the critical eyes of the village upon her, but did not know what it would be like on this grander scale.

"I cannot think well of a man who sports with any woman's feelings;
and there may often be a great deal more suffered than a stander-by can judge of."
Jane Austen, "Mansfield Park"
Mercifully, Lady Hetherfield  stayed cloistered  at home for now keeping Eve busy writing letters for her and reading novels out loud.  It was all she could do to not sneak them into her chamber after the lady nodded off eager to finish reading them for herself.  Eve had not imagined such suspense and lively pictures of life.  She wondered if her father had ever read one or if he was just prejudiced in principle against them.  Sometimes the two women cried together at the heroine's plight or laughed heartily at a characters antics.  The authors were so clever with insights to human nature, they were a delight to the girl.  Eve had a door opened to her that she had not known existed.  Eve went about in practically a daze in between readings wondering what would happen next, so much so that she did not hear Lord Maxwell coming and bumped into him as he came around the corner.

"You seem to have a knack for bumping into gentlemen.  Have you always had that practice?"

"You are the only one who has the habit of  getting in my way," and she tried to go around him, but he stepped in front of her.

"You quite sure of it, are you now?"

He did not miss an opportunity to insult her, and it needled her if he meant more than was on the surface.  Did he know Sir Phineas?  Had that fiend spread lies about her?  It was not something she could ask.  Perhaps though, she might think of a way to slip it into a conversation with Lady Hetherfield if she knew of her nephew's close companions to see if that name came up.  Up till now she had avoided any talk of the nephew with her ladyship as it was Eve's least favor subject.

"Will there be leading strings to all your new gowns?

"Leading strings are for small children's dresses only to catch them before they fall."

"Exactly.  You do know about falling, do you not, Miss Eveline."

He was beyond rude.  The young lord had implied she was a fallen woman.  Phineas Thornston must truly have twisted the truth.  He left Eveline deeply shaken.

The only real piece of fashion Eve longed for was the riding habit so she could go try out that majestic mount Gallant Gent.  Everyday as she went for a walk before the lady woke, she would take the horse a carrot or apple from the kitchen.  They became fast friends quickly.  The dapple grey would throw up his head before pounding the dirt with his tail held high to greet her at the rail.  His eyes were deeper pools of chocolate than her morning cup had been.  The Gallant Gent would let her kiss him on his soft nose before she patted his neck good bye.  "Soon, it will be soon, and you will give me the ride of my life," she whispered.

"Whispering sweet nothings in the Gallant Gent's ears?  Is that another habit of yours, or are you so starved for conversation that you need to talk with a horse?  I can take you out for a short ride today if you please.  We just won't tell aunt that you were riding again without a habit. You will have to change before dinner, however, or have a maid brush the tell-tale horsehair off you.  I wouldn't want to get you in trouble with the great Lady.  She can be fierce when crossed."

Her anger burned, but the temptation was too great. Eveline justified a ride saying, "She did not exactly forbid me from riding, did she?"

Lord Maxwell only winked and went to the stables to find the sidesaddle.  She helped him by putting the halter on while he put on the saddle.  They worked in a silence much more to her comfort than his mocking conversation.  This time he took her over to an ancient mounting stone.  Even so, the horse was so tall, it was an unladylike stretch to mount.  She successfully kept her skirt more free and hardly had to tug it down.  He did not assist her at all though his eyes never left her as she mounted.

Eve's heart was pounding with the excitement of the ride on this beautiful beast.  He responded to the slightest touch of the bit.  Once out of the stable yard, they took off at a canter, then a gallop.  The man looked back to make sure she kept her saddle then they let their horses run.  It was heaven to Eve, but it took all she could do to keep her saddle when Gallant Gent decided to suddenly jump a stump instead of going around it.  All too soon, they pulled their horses back to a walk, and he slowed to ride beside her. 

"You've proved to be a horsewoman.  Did you enjoy that?"

"Quite so.  It was marvelous!  I only had old Samson to ride at home, and he seldom found the need to run.  If I really goaded him, he would always slow back to a walk after a short run.  I didna have the heart to whip him as he was a work horse, not a beast of pleasure. His back was so wide, it was nigh unto impossible to fall off.  Gallant Gent is the finest horse I've ever seen an' a dream to ride."

"I see you like your gallant gentlemen."

He always seemed to be speak to her with a jab.  If they were on the ground, she would have slapped him.  She rode on ahead to regain her calm.

"I want to go see some percherons at the neighbors.  You can ride to the top of the ridge.  If I'm not back soon, I'm sure you can find your way home.  It's not so far that you would be lost."

She felt her hair fallen down again. "Is it a fine view up there?  I'm sure I can find my way back afterwards."

He looked her over, "Yes, it is a fine view.  Don't ride too much farther.  We are at the boundaries of our neighbors here, and I couldn't vouchsafe your safe keeping.  They are a bit stingy with a welcome."

"Is it safe to go up there then?"

"Yes, but not beyond."  He was off  then at a gallop.

"It was, perhaps, one of those cases in which advice
is good or bad as the event decides."
Jane Austen, "Persuasion"

Eve urged her horse to a canter up the hill.  She was sure it would be a view to amaze.  But she had no idea how true that would be.  Just as she ascended, she looked over her shoulder and saw a man riding up from the other side.  Chills went up her spine before it registered that it was in fact that Phineas Thornston, the man who gave her nightmares.  She turned the Gallant Gent and kicked him into a run back to Hetherfield Hall.  She looked over her shoulder and saw he was astride his horse on top of the ridge just where she had been.  Eve was still shaking when she handed her horse over to the groom afraid she would be sick. 

"Are you alright, miss?  You had a scare, didna ye.  Is he too much for ye?  I can find a different mount easily enough," the groom worried.

"No, he was perfect.  I'm just feeling a little ill.  It will pass."  Eve quickly went into the back hall and up to her room and shut the door.  She wretched into the chamber pot then lay pale against the covers staring unseeing up at the ceiling with her hair splayed out across the spread.  She didn't even hear the maid come in to empty the pot and didn't notice her until she put a cool hand against her cheek.  Are ye sick, miss?  The lady can call the doctor."

"No, I'm alright.  I feel better already," she lied.  "Something I ate did not settle well is all."  But she did not see that the maid noticed her trembling hand.

"Alright, miss.  I'll check on you later."

Instead, the maid marched into the dowager's room where she was having her breakfast in bed and told the lady herself  the condition she had found her companion in, a state pale as death warmed over.

Lady Hetherfield swept into her room with a shawl over her nightclothes.  She sat on the bed, put her hand to Eve's cool cheek and then waved the maid out.  Eve's eyes were still like a startled doe before the hunter.

"What is it dear?  You can tell me.  I know you've had a fright, and it is no good trying to hide it."

Eve looked at the older woman's determined expression, and rolled away from her.

"Did you write to my mother or did my mum write to you?"

"She picked up our correspondence more recently which had lagged for the last many years.  What is this about?"

"Did she write to tell you about the episode with the man and his carriage?" Eveline was sitting up now with a face as white as the sheets. 

"I wasn't to mention it to you, but yes, she did describe that horrid scene.  That was when I offered for you to come to be my companion.  But what kind of a fright did you have today?  Did someone come to the house or did you go riding?"

"Lord Hetherfield offered to take me out on Gallant Gent.  I did not think it proper to ride on with him to the neighboring farm so I asked permission to go the top of the hill to see the view before returning home.  I did not go beyond the boundary he warned me against, but saw a man riding towards me from the neighbor's side.  I came back as fast as I could.  It was him."

"Are you sure?  Was he close enough to truly see his face?"

"Not so close...I mean, I don't know how clearly he saw me, but the man has a way and look about him that is not hard to recognize.  Besides, he has his blazing red hair."

"Phineas Thornston.  I see."   The lady sighed and got a far away look in her eyes.  She sat there thinking a long while in silence while she held Eveline's hand.  "There is another sad tale that I promised once not to repeat, but that promise is buried with your sweet grandmother.  I only tell it to you because of your present circumstances.  Not even your mother is aware of it, I believe.  I might not have invited you here if I had known it was Sir Thornston who accosted you."

"Will you send me away then?"

"Not unless that is your wish.  It doesn't sound like you are any safer in your small village than you are here though."

"I'm sorry, I interrupted.  You were telling me a story."

"Well, when we were young girls, your grandmother and I were happy to be very much together.  She was a lovely young woman, quite fair and of such a sweet temperament, quite different from mine.  Her coloring was more like your mother's than yours.  She was visiting here for a fortnight before we were to begin our coming out season in London.  My mother put on a small neighborhood dance to prepare us for those balls we would attend in the city.  Our estate has been adjacent to the Thornstons for generations, and of course they were invited.  It was there that Phineas' grandfather became jealously obsessed with your grandmother.  She was afraid of him, but he found her out riding one day.  When we went on London, I knew something had happened to her.  She cried all night and was fearful with that same look in her eyes that you have now.  She hated the whole social affair and had to go home early.

Later, when we learned of her predicament, my father hurried and found a man with a small piece of land whom he had dealings with, who was happy to marry her.  My father felt responsible since it happened while she was under his care.  She disappeared from our society, but seemed to be happy after the baby came.  He was a good man, your grandfather. They only came to visit that one time that your mother remembers when he brought a prize horse for my father to buy. The Thornstons have ill used women through the generations.  I dare say, if it wasn't such a nasty business to divorce having to go through Parliament to get permission and hanging out every sordid detail like dirty laundry in the papers, Mrs. Thornston would have left the manor long ago because of the abuse. Unless they have a relative who would take them in though, women would be penniless since usually the men have control of their income and property.  Phineas certainly did not learn how to treat a woman from his grandfather or father.  I feel so sorry for his mother.  I believe her husband beats her, but she won't speak of it, only just says she has fallen again.  She rarely will leave her house, and I hardly see the poor woman about."

"Was anything done to the man for his terrible deed?"

"Since we had to remain neighbors, my father went to his and told him if anything ever happened like this again, he would take them to court, and did order them to stay off his property.  We never socialized with them after that even though we are nearest neighbors. He did manage to arrange a small sum to be promised to be sent to attend to the poor child's needs, but that stopped soon after as the baby didn't live long.  Happily your mother was born a year or so later and gave them great joy.  They did not have another.  I don't believe your mother ever learned of her brother's story.  I am telling you now so that you will know I understand the bent of Phineas' character."

"Does Lord Hetherfield know him well?"

"I have tried to warn him about having anything to do with young men of his low character, but never shared any secrets, your grandmother's or yours.  I'm sorry I did not know who the perpetrator was in your situation.  Now that I do know, I want it perfectly clear that under no circumstances are you EVER to go anywhere unsupervised, especially riding, is that clear?  I will never trust a Thornston."

"Neither will I, and I have no desire to ever be in his presence alone."

Her ladyship was gripping Eve's hands tightly but let go to hold her in her arms.  "Thank you for trusting me with your secret, dear one.  Such things trapped in the heart can do a great deal of damage before they worm their way out."

"You won't say anything to Lord Hertherfield will you?"

"I will be very delicate in how I handle this saying as little as possible, but I will also be very firm in saying that no male in the Thornston line will ever be welcome in our home, neighbor or not."

"But what if we are about, say at another social gathering, must I stay there if he is invited as well?"

"I will try to find out who will be invited to most things blaming my old age for the privilege of being nosey.  But if by chance it happens, know that I'll stay by your side and excuse ourselves as quickly as possible using my feeble old age as an excuse once again.  I don't remember him attending  any functions since he was a young lad, but then again, he's been away at school, just sent home.  I believe he was kicked out in fact, if idle gossip is true.  More reason in itself to warn my Max to stay away."

"Thank you, m'lady."

"I'll have a refreshment brought up to you, but I think you should rest up here until supper.  I'll send over a novel that I've already finished.  I dare say, real life lately has been filled with more perilous excitement than an author could dream up."

"Indeed, I would appreciate it kindly."

As racking as the day began, Eve looked forward to reading a novel for the first time on her own, but first she picked up her Bible. Her father had bought a copy for her very own while they were in London saying, "You know I can't spare you mine, so it's time you have your own."

"It was with a clearer mind that she began her book the maid brought in."

"My good opinion once lost is lost forever."
Jane Austen, "Pride & Prejudice"

At supper, Lord Maxwell, glanced at her but did not say anything and directed his conversation to his aunt.  "You know those percherons I have wanted to add to the herd?  They are tremendous workers and so strong.  Well, the Thornstons are willing to promise me one from their next breeding as well as one not yet weaned.  They come at a dear price...What?  What did I say?"

His aunt was glaring at him.  "You know I don't want you on their property or to have anything to do with that family.  Can't we buy our stock elsewhere.  I dare say we'd get a better price than out of those weasels."

"I've already shaken on it.  It's a gentleman's agreement."

"It's a one sided agreement then since there are not two gentlemen in the equation."

"Aunt, I'm surprised at you.  What has got you worked up over this generational feuding?  Sir Phineas and I are schoolmates.  I knew him in Oxford."

"I hope you did not keep company with the likes of him," she said sternly sitting up straight in her chair.

Then Lord Maxwell looked between his aunt and Eveline until a slow grin grew on his face. "I see how it is."

Eve dropped her eyes and toyed with her food even though she had lost her appetite.  Eveline understood without a doubt that Phineas knew who she was and had blackened her name.  It explained the nephew's  saucy demeanor towards her always ready with an insult.

"You know nothing of the kind.  In fact you know very little indeed if you associate with the likes of the Thornstons.  I demand you respect my wishes as long as you are in this house."

Her nephew had the nerve to say, "I will respect your wishes in this house, but once I'm out of it on my land, I will do as I choose.  I will manage my life just like I manage the estate, as I see fit.  With that the impudent young man fell to eating not the least caring that he had broken his aunt's heart.

After hardly touching her food, the lady went to bed and told Eve not to bother coming in to read.  She was too weary.

 "Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously,
a person may be proud without being vain.  Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves;
vanity, to what we would have others think of us."
Jane Austen, "Pride and Prejudice"

The only thing that perked up the dowager was when the packages arrived from London later in the week.  She demanded a fashion show of every garment and accessory, even the night dresses and matching robe.  Eveline was stunned. They were all so elegant.

As the maid fixed her hair in the special way she did, Eve said, "I never dreamed I would have so many beautiful things."

"It would be a dream, miss, one anyone would not want to awaken from.  But not many would make the clothes look as lovely as you do."

"What a kind thing to say."

"Me mum taught me not to lie, so it's the truth," and she laughed.

Lady Hetherfield was very pleased and only instructed her maid to alter a couple of the dresses slightly.  She had tears in her bleary eyes when she said, "My sight may not be what it used to be, but anyone can see you are a beauty to behold. Lovely, just lovely, my dear Eveline."

That night when she came in to supper, the young lord and the dowager were waiting for her.  Eve saw him as he glanced her way then quickly took another long look at her in a new gown.  He was subdued most of the meal stealing glances at her, but not partaking much of the conversation at first.

"Tomorrow, I believe, I feel up to calling on the vicar. We will need the carriage, if it is alright with you, Max.  He will be wondering where I was on the Sabbath since I wasn't in service as usual."

"Yes, Aunt.  I have no other plans for it.  I'll let the groom know to have it ready and wiped down."

She went on, "Then, Miss Eveline, we will plan a tea and invite certain ladies in to meet you.   I believe you would like that before greeting all the strangers in church come the Sabbath."

"I would appreciate that.  Thank you m'lady."

"Are you planning on attending the affair at the Houghtons next month, Aunt?  I believe they will feel slighted if you don't go."  Max had a small smile at the corner of his mouth.

"I will invite Lady Houghton to my tea and find out more about it.  If it is a large crowd as it often is, I doubt I will manage.  I don't go in for such at my age like I used to when I was younger."

"Since when did you pass up an event that is the social highlight of the neighborhood?"

"Perhaps, you'll have to begin taking on more of the responsibilities of representing our family at the grander affairs.  Like I said, I may or may not attend depending upon how I feel."

"Well, if you do not choose to attend, I guess I could escort Miss Eveline as a long lost kin then."

"If I go, she goes.  If I stay, she stays.  She is my companion, not yours young man."  Lady Hetherfield was so suddenly adamant that her nephew was surprised.

"Whatever you wish.  I was just thinking of the young lady's happiness."

"So was I."

They all resumed eating in silence with a knife scraping the plate here and a clink of a glass stem there until Lord Maxwell and Eveline spoke at the same time.

"Excuse me, you go ahead," she offered.

"No, ladies first.  You speak so seldom, that I hang on your every word.  They are so often quite shocking."

"Maxwell.  That is enough teasing.  You torment Miss Eveline.  You need to show how a gentleman behaves."

"Excuse me, Miss.  I'll try to reform," and then he winked at her again.

Impudent, stupid man!  Eve did not even realize how delicious the dessert was till she took the last bite since he had spoiled her evening again.

"But, you did not finish what you were beginning to say earlier, Miss Eveline."

"It matters little.  May I please be excused, m'lady.  I need to write a letter to my parents or they'll think me amiss."

"Yes, dear.  We may read later if you are up to it."

"I'm sure I will be."  She knew his eyes were on her as she left the room, and turned at the door to catch him.  He smirked unashamedly.  Oh, what an insufferable rascal.

When her hand was on the stair, she could hear the dowager taking her nephew to task knowing it would have little effect.  The man was incorrigible.  She knew the lady hesitated about going to the large neighborhood affair for her sake in case Phineas Thornton was to be there.  She hated to think that having her here would keep the fine lady in when she longed to be in the thick of social events.  As for herself, Eve would be happy never to leave the grounds of the Hetherfield estate unless it was a trip to the seashore so tantalizingly near.  She could offer to stay home that night and let the nephew take his aunt out.  There would always be someone at home in the manor so she would not be alone.  Yes, she would suggest it to the lady tonight before they read.  She sighed thankful to have it settled in her mind.

"How wonderful, how very wonderful
the operation of time, and the changes of the human mind!"
Jane Austen, "Mansfield Park"

"We'll wait to decide until I have spoken with Lady Houghton.  If the Thornstons are not invited, then we may go.  If not, I truly would not mind staying away.  Now that you are here, I have found the company I enjoy.  Sometimes people can be such a bore at those events.  You can believe I've heard all their stories unless it is something new.  Even then you can imagine that servants have spread the gossip like wildfire, and in that case my maid has told me already."  She laughed.

Eve paled at the thought of being the talk of servants and then it spreading through the fine houses like a disease.  She would be shunned and perhaps Lady Hetherfield as well.  She should go home. Eve felt sorry for the kind lady's expense on her behalf, but truly could not imagine her having to put up with rumors spread by a malicious, lecherous neighbor Phineas Thornston.  Obviously, if her nephew could believe so ill of her, their whole social set could as well.

"Lady Hetherfield, perhaps it is better if I do return home, as soon as possible."  Eve stared at the book in her hand.

"What!  I had thought you liked being here.  I just told you how I prefer your company to others in my circle of friends."  Then the dowager narrowed her eyes and said, "You are frightened again.  What did I say?  Hmm, let me it that you are worried about, gossip?"

Eve did not know how the lady read her mind, but there would be no keeping secrets from her, so she nodded.

"Of course.  If you think I am not able to counter rumors concerning you, you do not know my reputation yet.  Very few there are who would challenge me.  One word from me would quiet their lips.  My maid will tell me if any lies are being spread about.  I can nip them in the bud very quickly."

Suddenly, Lord Maxwell was at the door looking boldly over Eve.

"What are you doing here, Max?"

"Evidently, I'm here overhearing your conversation.  Perhaps you need to start with me, Aunt, for indeed I have heard rumors. I heard them long before our little Miss Mischief arrived.""

His aunt rose out of her chair and stood regally.   Please excuse us, Miss Eveline, while I have a word with my nephew in private.  I will send for you when I'm done."

Eve tried to slip past him, but he all but blocked the door and made her brush past him as she heard his aunt crying, "Have a care, Max!"

Eve began packing with waves of anger then sorrow washing over her.  It is not that she cared for the young Lord Maxwell's opinion of her, but she did care about her reputation.  It made her furious that a man like Phineas Thornston would be believed over her good name.  Why must she relive that night's terror over again?"  She found her trunk and was throwing her clothes from out of the wardrobe across her bed, her beautiful, beautiful clothes.  The next thing she knew she was sobbing on top of the pile and did not hear the soft knock on the door. 

"May I come in?"  It was his voice.  He had dared to open her door a crack.

"No!  Of course not.  I don't wish to ever speak to you again.  Go away and let me pack in peace."

He entered.  She jumped off from the bed, found the closest thing she could find and threw a shoe across the room hitting him in the shoulder.  "I said go away or I shall scream!"  Eve could feel herself unraveling and becoming hysterical.

"I cannot, for I have told my aunt that I would come apologize to you immediately."  It was then she could see his change of countenance.  "Of course if you'd rather, I could beat Phineas bloody, then come back and apologize to you.  I will probably challenge him to a duel before morning anyway.  May I come in?"

Eve could only hide her face in her hands.  She wanted everything to disappear and to be back in her old room at home.  She did not realize that he had crossed the room until he put his hands on her shoulders. 

"Miss Eveline, I cannot tell you how truly, truly sorry I am.  I have judged you harshly as you well know.  I am the one who deserves the worst judgment for my unforgiveable ungentlemanly behavior for which I am very sorry.  I have wronged you, shamed my aunt and have acted as a complete ass.  From this time forth, I will protect your reputation with my life.  I will not allow anyone to besmirch you, not even a hint of a slight."

Eve was looking up unbelievingly into a face with such a look of utter sincerity that she could hardly grasp the difference.  This was a different man than she had just passed minutes ago.  He gently rubbed his thumb across her tear stained cheeks and caught her eyes with his.  She scarcely could breathe.

"Please forgive me, dear Eve.  I know I don't deserve it, but I beg your pardon."  He was holding her hands in his now.  She was staring down at them trying to make sense of what had transpired.  Finally, he lifted her chin until she would look him in the eyes again and simply said, "Please forgive me, Eveline.  I have wronged you, I know and don't deserve it.  But please.  I would wish to be your friend, not your enemy."

"Of course." she whispered. 

He kissed her forehead and said, "Thank you.  You will make me a better man.  Would you like me to call the maid to help you put your things to rights?  I dearly hope you are not planning to run away."

"No thank you.  I would rather not let her see what a mess I have made.  You know how the household help gossips." She let a faint smile play at her lips.

"Come dear, let your maid put this away.  I desire to speak to you.  I can assure you she will carry no tales."  Lady Hetherfield was at the door.

"I will leave you, then."  He squeezed her hand then left.  His aunt kissed his cheek on his way out.

Suddenly, Eve gasped and ran past his aunt calling him, "Maxwell, please wait!" 

He stopped in the hall and turned with a bewildered look as she stood before him searching his eyes.  "You will not fight that worthless man or challenge him to a duel. Please promise me you will not.  I could never forgive myself if it caused you harm."

"If it is avoidable, I will, for your sake.  However, it will not be left unaddressed.  I will visit him immediately."

"Please, no duel.  Promise me that, please."

"I promise not to challenge him to one.  You have my word.  I will demand he leave and not come back.  Perhaps his family will be willing to purchase him papers for the military.  He has an older brother to inherit the estate, and so they will probably comply anyway since he was kicked out of Oxford for his less than admirable behavior.  I was one of the last friends he had, and now he has lost me.  He really doesn't have anything here for him.  Good riddance, I can safely say now.  But I shudder to think how I let him influence me.  I hope I have learned one of life's valuable lessons about passing judgment and in picking friends.  I cannot believe how I allowed him to cloud my judgment.  However, I have a clearer picture of myself and it is not a pretty one.  Good night, Eve."

She nodded, and let him go watching him as he went.  Lady Hetherfield came and took her arm and led her back to her room.  They sat side by side on a sofa.  The dowager held her hand in hers and waited for Eve to speak. 

"I can not image what you said to bring about such a change in him.  I can't help but believe he is sincere."

"The truth, dear.  I just told him the truth.  Always remember, 'The truth shall set you free.'  I am certain that my nephew will continue to do the right thing.  It was quite a wake up call for him.  He was utterly undone when he read your mother's letter.  You have nothing to fear now, dear Eveline."  She patted her hand.  I believe we have had enough drama tonight and will only sit here long enough to allow the maid to put your things away.  You will not leave me now, will you?"

"No, m'lady.  I did not wish to leave, but felt I had no choice but to spare you further embarrassment.  It is a relief my time will not be cut short. I am truly thankful for you handling the situation for me as you did."

"You do not know how wonderful it is to have things settled between you and my nephew.  I had never seen his behavior in such a bad light before, and it troubled me greatly. Then your whole sorrow tied back to this neighborhood was almost too much to bear.  It brought back such sad memories from your grandmother's trouble.  I could hardly think  how close it had come to repeating itself, and I somehow felt responsible."

"Oh, none of this is your responsibility.  You have been nothing but a help and an encouragement to me."

"One thing would make my happiness complete.  Do you think you could call me "aunt" like Max does?  Somehow, it would seem to honor my kinship with your grandmother.  I cannot begin to tell you how very close your grandmother was to me.  We would share the bed as two giggling  girls on the verge of  our coming out, talking about boys and the mystery of it all.  Just a week later, everything had changed.  She had been robbed of her innocence and youth, and I was left trying to make sense of it all.  Of course, the grown-ups would not tell me what happened, and she chose not to share her burden with me.  But fortunately, after all that transpired, she wrote me of her happy home and the man who loved her.  Sometimes I even envied her, me as a childless widow."

"I do believe she was happy.  My mother only has fond memories of her childhood."

The dowager was in a reminiscing mood.  "I was engaged after that first season in London, married very young in a match made and approved of by our families.  Lord Hetherfield and I learned to appreciate each other, but did not have time to truly say we loved each other beyond the vow.  He died too young.  We never had children, my greatest regret."

"You never married again?"

"Once was enough.  I was provided for unlike so many widows.  I guess you could say that I did come to love him as the years went by for the way he made sure I was taken care of, not left to the mercy of a man who would inherit the estate and rule with a whim.  He did not have to, but he had it all put down that I would have the manor house for my life and an income to support me.  He was older than I was, quite a bit older in fact.  I guess he had seen what had happened to other widows, including his mother when she was alive, and wanted to make sure it would not happen to me.  There can be poverty of spirit or a generous one in the great houses as well as in the  humblest of homes.  A great house does not guarantee a happy home, but you already know that.  I was blest to have had the best of both worlds, the safety of a home and the protection of a good man.  The longer I live in this world, the more I realize how few have this blessing.  I am glad to have you and Max as my closest family, indeed, more family than I've ever known."

"You were used to a much quieter life, I dare say, with Max away to the university before he returned home to his inheritance, and then I showed up to unquiet the scene."

"There's nothing that makes me happier than having young spirits here.  It does my heart good, without all the drama, of course.  But such is life.  It is not always smooth sailing, but I hope to give you a calm port to come home to."

"You have done that, and I shall always be grateful, Aunt."

"There you go.  It sounds natural off your tongue.  Thank you, dear."

"The youth and cheerfulness of morning are
in happy analogy, and of powerful operation;
and if the distress be not poignant enough to keep the eyes unclosed,
they will be sure to open to the sensations of softened pain and brighter hope."
Jane Austen, "Emma"

The next morning, Eve knew the lady of the manor would not wake early after the excitement of the night before, but she could not wait to speak with Lord Maxwell to be assured that there was not, nor would be any violence with the neighbors.

She was waiting, lingering over her hot chocolate and biscuit when he came in.  Before she could ask, he said, "Would you care for a ride with me this morning, Miss Eveline?  The fog will soon burn off, and we will have a fine day." 

"Yes, I would like that very much."

"  Good.  We can talk then.  I've already had my coffee since I woke up early.  Hard to sleep after a night like last night.  Well, I'll get the horses and will be ready to be off as soon as you are."

Eveline went up to change into her new riding habit.  She wished the lady had picked something more serviceable than the velvet, but the color was a nice, deep green rather than the pastels of her other gowns. When she looked in the mirror, she noted the of excitement in her eyes.  She would look more fit to ride on the beautiful dapple grey now.

Max was in the stable getting her horse saddled while the groom saddled the lord's.  "He's a beaut isn't he?"

"I've never seen finer.  But his temperament is sweet, spirited, but sweet."

"Like someone else I know."  He had turned and was looking at her steadily, but somehow in a more respectful manner than in the past.  "The color suits you very well."

The groom led her horse out to the mounting stone finding she could do it with much greater ease in her riding habit. 

Again, they began at a walk, went to a gallop, and then the race was on.  It was exhilarating.  Though the fog was hanging low, the summit was clear.  The sunshine was not warm yet, but held promise of a beautiful day.  When he dismounted, she slipped off and they walked their horses in comfortable silence.  There was a large fallen log.  He tied the horses reigns to its jagged branches and got out his handkerchief to wipe off a portion for her to sit upon.  Then he sat beside her.

"I suppose you wondered last night if I was killed in a deadly duel or was beaten to a pulp or if I am guilty of murder or something of the sort.  As it went, I spoke to him in front of his entire family.  The father's anger was directed at his son, and rightly so.  Phiney had been drinking as usual, and had a hard time taking it all in.  He isn't used to being held accountable for his actions, and I'm partly to blame for always making excuses for him while away at the university.  I wanted to keep the neighborhood's good name out of the mud, I guess." 

"I must confess, that I waited up last night, and couldn't sleep until I heard you come in.  I had left my door ajar to hear you."

"I saw you peeking over the banister to see if there was blood all over me, I suppose."  He laughed.

Eve flushed embarrassed to have been caught spying.

Max went on, "You do know, don't you, that he had put a whole different slant on that episode near your village.  He made it sound like you were a willing participant, and gloated that he had made a fool of the curate's daughter.  I was angry when I found out there was a family connection and that my aunt was determined to bring you here.  You know that was no accident when I literally bumped into you in London.  I had thought I might turn you away before you ever arrived, but then I decided to make sport of it. I certainly harassed you enough.  I don't know how you bore it. Even worse, I must tell you that it was I who told Phiney that day to ride to the top of the hill to see if it really was you that he had been with that day."

" did that?  You set me up on that ride to see that horrible man?"

"I told him he could not speak with you, but I wanted to make sure he was right on your identity.  I had told him when I rode down to his place, that he would find you somewhere near the top.  And he did."

Eve sat silently thinking it all over.

"So you see how badly I judged you.  Judgment really says more about the person judging than the one being judged more often than not.  I stand condemned.  You must also see how much I need your forgiveness.  I'm struggling with the shame and find it difficult to forgive myself."

"If I forgive you, I dare say, you must."

"Shame is a good thing if I can learn from it.  It has humbled me and made me realize that I wasn't a man to be proud of, that I had hurt my aunt and added more pain to your horrific experience.  I had treated you, well as a woman not worthy of respect, but I pulled myself down to such a low level by doing so that I am deeply ashamed of my thoughts and actions, God knows.  You do realize, don't you, that you are a beautiful young lady, a woman to be admired in every way."

He was looking at her now and she found herself blushing at the unexpected compliment from one who had been treating her before this day with contempt. 

"Thank you.  I appreciate your sharing the confessions of your heart."

"I have not shared them all.  It is not the time yet for everything that is there.  But as for last night, his father said he would see about placing him in the military immediately.  Phiney was howling about that, even took a swing at me, but was too smashed to be able to fight.  I saw pure hatred in his brother's face and know that he won't be welcomed back to the estate when his father is gone.  His mother cried of course.  I hated most of all to say those accusations in front of her.  She has not had an easy life under that roof.  I pity the woman his brother marries.  Still, until we are sure Phineas is gone, I do not wish for you to be alone, ever.  I'm suddenly becoming quite fond of my new kin."

"It's a stretch to say we are really related, but it's nice that the lady wants me to call her "aunt."  I guess my grandmother was some sort of cousin or something."

"Yes, I was on her stepfather's side, so ours is no blood relation, but in any case is it all right if you call me Max and I call you Eve.  I found I had done so last night, and it seemed awfully nice.  I hope it did not affront you."

"Not at all.  It did seem right after all we went through and to find you on my side after all.  It is Max then, if you please."

"Thank you, Eve."

They sat in the still of the morning listening to bird song and enjoying the view and the calm when hooves pounded up the hill to break their requiem.  It was the overseer.  Plain as the look on his face, troubles had come.

Max jumped up.  "What is it, my man?  Is my aunt alright?"

The overseer nodded towards Eve, "Should I speak in front of the lady?"

"Out with it.  She may as well as hear it from you whatever it tis."

"It's the neighbors, my lord.  There was a great trouble in their house last night.  Quite a row.  Your aunt has gone there to be with the woman, but it seems the men of the house had it out after you left.
The older son went to beating his brother when the mother tried to intercede.  The father stepped in and the blow that was meant for the younger, hit the lord, he fell, hit his head, and is dead.  The constable has taken the eldest away, but the woman is hurt and a doctor is there.  It appears, once the court settles, the younger may not be going into service after all.  There is a chance that he will be the next lord of Thornston Manor.  Your aunt said for you to come to her side there.  I will make sure the lady here is returned safely home.  We will be on guard as well, have no fear."

The anguish on Max's face broke Eve's composure even more than the news.  She put her hand on his arm, and softly said, "It's not your fault.  People are responsible for their own actions.  This family has been out of control for generations apparently.  All you did was hold them accountable.  It was the right thing to do.  They will stand before God for what they have done.  But go. Your aunt needs you.  It may not be safe for her to be there."

Patrick hurried to say, "I insisted that my son stay with the Lady Hetherfield.  He's big and burly, and  won't let her come to know any harm in that house of violence.  I told him not to let anyone stop him from following her into the manor.  He was to stay by her side no matter what."

"Thank you, Patrick.  Well done."

Max put his arm around her in a quick embrace while he kissed her forehead again. "Don't worry, Eve.  Everything will be all right."

And he was off.  She climbed the log, mounted  Gallant Gent, and she and the overseer rode slowly home, back into the fog.

Lady Hetherfield brought back the broken woman to her home for a few days with strict instructions that the son could not visit her there.  She would send news of her well being twice a day with a servant.

The lady had only bruises, but her spirit was very low.  The dowager thought it best if Eve did not see her as yet and be reminded of her son's terrible deeds.

One time going down the hall, the door was ajar and she could hear Lady Hetherfield telling her patient that she would always be welcome in her home if she needed a refuge for as long she would like.  In fact, she would not have to return to Thornston Manor if she did not wish.   Eve paused to hear the lady's answer, but she could only hear soft crying.  She went on to pass by.

The next day when she saw Max at the breakfast table, she joined him.

"I have never tried coffee? May I?"

"Let me pour you some.  I drink mine black, but you might at least try some cream.  If it is still too bitter, then stir in some sugar as well."

"Hmm.  It is very different, but I believe I could come to enjoy it.  It is quite bracing.  I think I like it with just cream."

"Well, we are back in a quagmire as far as Phiney goes.  As it stands now, he is not leaving and is practically crowing about becoming the next Lord Thornston.  I don't know what the law will say concerning the accidental death of his father at his brother's hand.  It probably depends on who he knows in high places, and Thorntons do not have that many friends in high or low places."

"Do you think I am safe here?"

"Phineas knows better than to trespass against my wishes.  However, I cannot promise that you will not see him in society.  He will be shunned from most circles, but not all.  As for you, take a care to never  be alone.  I have asked Patrick's son to shadow you and go where you go if you step foot outside the manor.  I hope you don't mind."

"Not at all, and I thank you."

"I prefer that you not go riding unless I take you.  I would feel better knowing you are under my protection."

"I am truly grateful, Max."

By the day of the funeral, Lady Thornston was able to attend and insisted on going home again.  Max bribed one of her servants to run and get him if she was ever in any danger from one of her son's drunken rages.  Eve did not attend, but Patrick's son was on guard at the foot of the stairs, and she felt safe.

"...and they are much to be pitied who have not been made to feel,
in some degree, as you do; who have not, at least, been given a taste for Nature in early life.
They lose a great deal."
Jane Austen, "Mansfield Park"

Almost two busy weeks had past before she and Max were able to ride together.  Though he had to ride ever day, there was so much business with his workers that he was unable to invite her along until this beautiful day in early summer. 

The grass was tall and lush.  She called over to Max, "This must be horse heaven.  They almost don't  have to bend their heads to eat."

"The sheep will cut it down soon enough."  He flashed her a smile then turned his eyes.  Something had changed in him.  Since his eyes had been opened concerning her, it was almost as if he averted his eyes now.  Whereas before he had no problem looking her over in a provocative way, now he only glanced at one of new dresses then look away.  It was all very confusing.

Today when they stopped to let the horses enjoy the grass feast, she decided to ask him. "Max, have I in any way offended you?  Or are you sorry I have come to complicate your life here."

He quickly looked over at her, "No, of course not.  You have not complicated, but complemented our lives.  Why do you ask?" 

"Oh nothing.  Are you going to the Houghton's affair?"

"I haven't decided yet.  Are you?"

"Aunt says that depends.  Mrs. Houghton has assured her that she did not invite the Thornstons for propriety's sake due to the unfortunate death in their family, but Aunt still refuses to go unless you go with us."

"And what do you wish?"

"To never wander beyond the boundaries of Hetherfield Estate."

"That will never do.  Yes, I will accompany you, if you would like."

"Thank you."

"And what are you going to do about the dancing?"

"Sit them out.  I will not leave your aunt's side."

"Are ye now?  What and insult your hostess?   All the gents of every age will accuse me of depriving them a dance with the fairest maiden of them all.  Of course you will dance."

"Have you forgotten, I don't know how?  To obey you is to disobey my father's wishes.  Perhaps I could stay home and convince the lady to go with you for an escort."

"I believe your parents understood that we would take proper care of you.  By chance a dance in our society will not be as free as one of the country dances he spoke of.  I'm sure we can begin dance classes after supper tonight.  It is really not all that complicated if I was able to learn them."

Eve did not want the thought of the dance to ruin such a perfect day, but the thought wouldn't settle down: it was more like a bothersome fly.

He took her riding in a forest land she had not seen before.  There was a path through though at times he had to hold the branches away for her.  The ferns were lovely up to the horses belly.  They startled more than a few deer and saw one fine stage bound away.  Moss grew on the trees and robins and woodpeckers flicked about.

"Do you hunt here?" 

"Only at times.  It is protected for our use only.  There are seasons for it and we enjoy the meat and share it with the village as well.  Fortunately, under Patrick's watch, we haven't had too much trouble with poaching.  The penalties are so severe, I pity the poacher.  I would rather them come to the kitchen door if they are hungry than steal the game.  The poor know we will feed them as need be.  I tell my man not to mind if the rabbit traps are sprung, but I don't like the deer being wrongly taken.  Once we had someone even stealing the beef and leaving much to rot.  We had to prosecute that bloke."

They came back out into the sunshine with the sea glazed before them in shimmering light.

"It is so beautiful.  After my troubles, I had to stay in with my mum, me who was used to running the fields with the sheep.  That was a hard one, like being in a prison sewing a fine seam day in and day out.  I had read all my father's books already.  It was beginning to feel as if I could never be free again.  And now here I am with the whole beautiful world laid out at my feet.  I am truly blessed, and I thank you Lord Maxwell Hetherfield for allowing me this joy. 

"My pleasure.  My mother used to ride up with me here when I was a boy.  It was her favorite view."

"You've never spoken of your parents."

"We all lived with my aunt here, my parents, two little sisters and myself.  When they all had the same sickness at once, it was a horrible dying time.  My aunt nursed them doing all that was possible to do, but one by one they slipped away in a fever.  That's when I became Lord of Hetherfield Estate as a youth.  I don't know why I lived and they died.  I was never sick a day with it, or the dowager either.  Ever  since then, it has been my aunt and I until I went away to Oxford.  There is learning to be had and great men to sit under, but there is also a lot of immorality there.  I'm afraid I was lost in the downward spiral myself for a time.  Up here on a fine day like today, I too am glad to be back....but we had better return.  There is a shorter route down, a little rough at first then we can give the horses their heads to run."

"You lead.  I'll follow."

"He thoroughly knows his own mind, and acts
up to his resolutions--an inestimable quality."
Jane Austen, "Mansfield Park"

The constable was waiting to ask Max questions again about the night of the terrible accident.  After the man left, Max came in with them to the table where there was a nice spread.  He was staring into his glass without drinking. 

"What's wrong, Max?  Your thoughts are far away," his aunt asked him.

"The man said that Phiney has changed his story and said that I was there during the fight and was in fact involved."

"I saw you come in, Max.  The fight must have been much later.  The servants know when you left and arrived as well."

"Their servants are afraid and can be bribed."

"What of his brother.  Is he trying to blame it on you as well?"

"I don't know.  He would if he thought it would get him out of prison, which is the last thing Phineas would want.  I'm sure he would rather his brother rot there.  So I don't understand why Phiney has changed his story unless it is to try to force the story to come out of why I was there to begin with.  Perhaps he still trying to drag our names through old mud."

"That's probably it, or he truly is so diseased by the alcohol in his brain that he doesn't know the truth from a lie anymore," the dowager said.

"I am not afraid of you telling the constable of my troubles.  You may show him the correspondence with my mother as well if it would help."

"I hope it does not come to that.  I would like to allow you the privilege of privacy if I may.  I could not guarantee it would not be splattered across the papers if it is found out."

"Well, we must all pray the Lord's prayer to deliver us from evil,"  Lady Heatherfield said.

Well, Aunt," Max said after dinner.  "I say that we need to give our little Methodist  dancing lessons.  Can you play for us while I teach her a couple of the dances?"

Eveline was surprised to hear how well the dowager played.  She, however, was a very bad, terrible dance partner indeed.  She looked down at his feet the whole time and tried to copy his steps."

"Next time you should wear your riding boots to protect your toes from my stepping all over them."

"I remember my father dancing with my little sisters while they were standing upon his feet."

"Shall I try it?"

"No."  He jumped back alarmed.  "Actually, I think we are going about this wrong.  You need to relax, look at me and just follow my lead.  You are trying too hard.  You need to enjoy it."

In fact, it was amazing how much easier it became as she kept her eyes on his and let him lead her through the patterns.  She was flushed with the pleasure of it when Lady Hetherfield insisted upon stopping.

"My old fingers are too crippled to go on.  It is a pity since you two were beginning to look graceful.  I must admit at the beginning, I had my doubts.  We can continue tomorrow night."

"The world is pretty much divided between the weak and the strong,
between those who can act and those who cannot;
and it is the bounden duty of the capable
 to let no opportunity of being useful escape them."
Jane Austen, "Sanditon"
The whole trial was becoming such a news sensation in London, that it would was hard to hope their names would be kept out of the story.  Newspaper men were turned away from their door.  They all felt sorry for Mrs. Thornston and hoped Phiney would stay sober long enough to not create a scene.

A few nights later in the wee hours, the servants answered the door to find Mrs. Thornston brought by her maid and a stable man.  She was in a terrible state.  Max went down, then Eveline, then finally even the dowager came gliding down the stairs in a warm robe to offer her comfort.

"He is in such a rage that he is quite out of his head.  Our servants have hidden all the weapons in the house because I wouldn't trust him not to try to do something drastic."

"Is he threatening you, dear?"  Lady Hetherfield asked.

"He is threatening everyone, me, the servants, Maxwell, and even the young girl." She turned as if suddenly aware of Eveline standing there barefoot in her white night gown and robe with her hair all a tumble.

"I'm sorry, miss, for the heartache my son caused you by his reprehensive behavior.  I'm truly, truly sorry."

"And I, m'lady, am sorry for your loss and tragedy.  You are in our prayers."

"Well, Anne, you must come up to your former room and stay with us until this ordeal is over.  You have been made to suffer too much."

"Thank you, Eveline.  You are most kind."

Eve looked puzzled at Max as the older women went up the stairs arm in arm.  "She called her Eveline."

"I thought you knew.  You were named after Lady Eveline Hetherfield," Max said.

"No, I guess my mother forgot to mention that little detail."

He offered his arm.  "Shall we go, cousin, and join in the promenade of the night clothes?" 

She giggled and took his arm and grandly swept up the stairs behind them.

At the top of the stairs, he kissed her cheek, "Goodnight, dear Eveline, a lady through and through."

She blushed still holding his arm and whispered, "Thank you, Max," and boldly pulled down his face to kiss his cheek as well.

He was so startled that he dropped her arm and ran his fingers through his hair till it stood up like a madman.

"Don't tell me you have never been kissed, my dear old fellow.  I've never seen you blush before though," she whispered laughing up at him.

"You don't know what you are about, Eve.  You mustn't do that, I swear," he answered in a husky whisper.  And he left  as she puzzled over his reaction.

He did not come to breakfast and took his dinner out in the field with the workers.  They did not see him till the supper.  Eve decided to wear one of the gowns she had never worn yet since they had the company of Lady Thornston.

"Oh, you look lovely, dear.  I believe that is the most becoming one yet.  The pale shade of dusky rose is perfect with your complexion," Lady Hetherfield greeted her.

"Upon my word, Aunt, I never knew your first name till last night.  I had no idea I was named after you."

The dowager threw back her head and laughed.  "Isn't that like your mother to leave out that little detail.  I'm sure she assumed you knew that tidbit already though you were probably told when you were still in..."

"leading strings, I know."  and they both laughed.

Lady Thornston looked much more rested and warmly took her hand, "Well then, I'm glad you heard me use my dear friend's name since you made your fortunate discovery of sharing it."

"Sometimes the last person you want to be with,
is the one person you can not be without."
Jane Austen, "Pride and Prejudice"

Max burst through the doors.  "Sorry I'm late, Aunt.  The sheep shearers had a little trouble, and I had to get them extra help."  He bowed to Lady Thornston and then to Eve barely glancing her direction before looking away.  His eyes never strayed her direction during the meal even though he sat at her side.  The older women had his full attention.

When the ladies were in their own conversation, Eve asked him, "What kind of trouble did you have with your shearers today?"

He answered while looking down at his food.  "Several of them did not show up as they were expected to.  Some said they were provided a hearty whisky by Phineas' men and could not be woken from a dead drunk.  Many of the ones who did come were not much help."  He continued to whisper, "I'm thinking our neighbor is trying to make my life as difficult as possible and stay one foot ahead of the law."

"Be careful, Max."  He looked down where she had placed her hand over his and moved it as if it was on fire."

Eveline stiffened and ate the rest of her meal in silence, just listening to the old ladies' tales of times past.  Though she told herself that she had dressed in Lady Thornston's honor, she was hurt that Max had not noticed her gown.  He never said one word.  She did not know that his eyes followed her out of the dining room, but his aunt did.

The young lord did not offer to take her riding.  She waited, but refused to ask him for the favor.  Obviously, he had more important things to attend to.  Finally, on an exceptionally nice day, she could stand it no longer.  She dressed in her riding habit and went to the stables.  She had visited the Gallant Gent on her walk around the grounds every day shadowed by Patrick's son, but was excited to be back up in the saddle.  She asked the groom to go with her, of course.  He was hardly more than a boy, but very willing.

She cantered along before letting her horse run.  The groom lagged behind on a mount that was as slow as a plow horse.  After reaching the ridge, she decided to ride down through the edge of the trees.  When he finally caught up, he rode behind several paces.  It was a pleasant time until there was a thud.  A horse whinnied, and hers was skittish.  She looked back around and saw her  groom out cold with a broken tree branch beside him.  Then she froze.  Phineas Thornston was laughing up at her.

"I've been waiting for you to come to see me.  You've kept me waiting too long until I've become quiet impatient."

She was so stunned that too late, he had grabbed her reigns.  The Gallant Gent reared and she fell off, but scrambled back to her feet.  He was beside her grabbing her arms in a vice grip.  Eve wanted to scream but her fright froze any sound in her throat.  Suddenly, she fought him kicking and scratching.  He pulled her head back by her hair and was going to kiss her.  She spat in his face, when she was thrown to the ground.  Then she saw Max had plowed into him.  They were rolling over and over down the hill.  The horses had bolted, the groom was still unconscious so she ran screaming down the slope making a straight path towards the manor. 

Farm workers began running up the hill and soon separated the bloody pair.  But Eveline could not, would not stay and look into that awful face again. She ran down the hill through the tall grass with her dress pulled above her knees and her hair flowing behind.  She ran out of breath, got a pain in her side, but ran on still.  After an eternity of making her way down the hillside as fast as she possibly could, she burst through the front door slamming it behind her, and gasping for breath and began climbing the stairs heaving, having to stop to hold her side, but managing the last few before rapidly going to her bedroom and locking the door behind her.  She did not heed the dowager calling after her.

The bewildered ladies stood aghast looking up at the landing when Max burst threw the front door leaving it wide open and taking two steps at a time to stand pounding on her door.  His shirt was torn and pulled half out of his britches and he was covered in blood from an obvious blow to the nose.

Lady Hetherfield stomped and said, "I demand an explanation," but was not heeded.  Soon Patrick ran winded inside looking around.  He did not get by the dowager.  He caught Mrs. Thornston as she nearly fell weakly to the floor, her legs refusing to hold her up any longer when they heard his brief explanation.

Max looked down from the banister and said, "Take him to the constable, Patrick.  I don't want to see his face again.  Tell the man I will come later to bring witness against him."

Then he turned back to banging on Eve's door calling, "Eve, it's me.  Please let me in."

Finally, she opened the door and he shut it behind him.  Inside he held her as she wept before picking her up and laying her on her bed.  He half sat and half laid beside her stroking her hair and face and telling her all manner of apologies.

"It was my fault.  You told me not to go riding without you, but I thought it would be safe if I took a groom," she said faintly.  "I'm sorry to have brought trouble upon you again.  But there, there's a cloth to wipe the blood off your face.  Did he break your nose?  Is the poor groom alright?"

After washing off his face, he came back to her side.  "The groom will be fine as well as my nose. But you did not bring this trouble, dear Eve.  Phineas Thornston is the only one responsible, and he will pay this time.  I promise you that.  I can take you under the protection of my name and see justice done as a witness.  Did he hurt you, dear one?"  I saw him walking through the trees watching us work.  Then as soon as I saw you and the groom riding his direction, I jumped on my horse and came as fast as I could."

"I never heard you, just  knew when you knocked him off me and rolled like a couple of  bobcats down the hill."

"You were the bobcat scratching, screaming, and clawing.  His face will wear some more of your scars, more than you gave him already."

"I did?  He had scars?"

"To be sure.  Across his cheek are long scratch marks that he used to not have.  I'm thinking they are some that you were kind enough to give him before, and then you gave him some more today.  He'll wear them for the rest of his life."

They did not realize how close they had drawn as he stroked her hair and she held her hand on his rough whiskered cheek and running her fingers through his hair as they talked. Then with eyes half closed he whispered, "Eve, my little darling,   I could not bear to look at you without telling you, I must tell you, I can no longer deny it to myself or to you that I love you with all my heart and soul."

She pulled his head down to kiss her.  When she let go, the dowager was standing at the opened door.

"Well," she humphed, "It's about time, you young lovers, my two favorite people in the world, decided to kiss and make up.  But you better post your bonds and not be rushing her off to Gretna Green, Maxwell."

"You'll need to put leading strings on her wedding dress, Aunt, or I'll not be able to keep up with this young thing.  You should have seen her flying all the way down the long field with her hair streaming behind her," Max said, helping Eve up, and they all burst out in laughter, none more hardily than the Lady Hetherfield.

The mirth was short lived.  Patrick's son was heard downstairs demanding to see the Lord Hetherfield.  Max gave her a bold kiss on the lips and went downstairs tucking his shirt in on the way.
"I'm sorry, m'lord, but he got away."
"What! How did you let that happen?"
"We thought we had him tied up enough, but one of his men who had helped with the sheering had undone his hands. When Thornston got free,he pulled his musquet.  I'm sorry to say that we didna think of searching him.  He pointed it at us, and I felt there was no other choice.  He's a black heart, he is, and I know he would have shot a ball right through one of us.  He ran off, so we tied his man up and took him in instead.  He hollered that the bloke threatened to come back and kill him if he didna help him escape.  But, that's the constable's problem now.  I came back as fast as I could, but the rest of the men went with the constable to look for him.  I'm ever so sorry about the rotter getting away."
By now Lady Hetherfield and Eve were listening hanging over the banister above.  Mercifully, Lady Thornston was still indisposed in her room.  Eve was trembling like a leaf as Max looked up at her with anguish.
"I'm sorry, love.  I'll have Patrick's son guard here with a gun, while I'll round up more men to search."
"Be careful, Max," she called down.
He beamed momentarily looking like the happiest man alive.
In spite of all the men from the area's estates out looking, Phineas Thornston was not to be found.  It appeared like he had hurriedly made it home to grab his money purse among a few other things and then taken off on his fastest steed before anyone could call the alarm.
Every trail was checked from the east to the west, without result.
"The scoundrel has probably holed up somewhere with a wench until his trail has cooled before moving on," Patrick told the lord.  "He'll probably pop up with that blaze of hair somewhere and some bar keep will find him and claim the reward.  He can't hide forever."
"In the meantime, I want a guard, one in front and one in back of the house.  I won't take any chances.  Use your son and the best men you have to rotate.  Make sure they're armed.  You can make do with the sheep sheering with any Tom, Dick, or Harry.  That takes more brawn than brains."

 "Seldom, very seldom does complete truth belong to any human disclosure;
seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken."
Jane Austen, "Emma"
Little did they know that back in a country village a strapping young shepherd was fishing with a big hook and a heavy weight in the middle of a pond in the dead of night in a small dory under the cover of fog.  Finally, he made the catch that had taken weeks of lost sleep.  The lad pulled up a heavy rock by the rope that bound a dagger to it.  He pulled off slimy moss and grass then broke away the rotting rope that held the knife.  Stven grinned, wiped the blade off on his pants, and tucked it inside his shirt.  Then the boy let the rock plop back into the bracken water to sink.  He did not know of a reward or a wanted poster spread abroad, but he knew a villain when he saw one, and couldna abide the thought of him breathlin' the same air as a pretty lass he once knew.  All the hours, days, weeks, and months he had thought upon not much else while out watching his lambs to protect them from a wolf.
Two weeks later he was whistling a tune to his herd spread across the road as they meandered to a different pasture, when a fine carriage was stopped till they passed.  The driver yelled, but Stven kept on at an unhurried pace.  Finally, the passenger got out and started cursing.  The shepherd turned around and went back to speak to the man.  He turned his back to the driver and pulled out the knife and showed the man leaving the bloke speechless.
He quietly said just so as the man could hear, "I found this on the road awhile back and am looking for the owner.  Are ye tha man?  I see the initials are "P" and "T" so finely engraved. Look closer and you will see."  They were standing behind the open carriage door out of the sight of the driver.
Then in the blink of an eye as the man stooped to look, Stven gave it back to him thrust into his black heart.  That head of red fell back onto the floor of the carriage where the blood poured.  Stven shut the carriage door and banged so the driver would go on.  The shepherd went back leisurely whistling to his sheep keeping a close eye on his lambs.  Finally, further down the road when he stopped at an inn, the driver slowly climbed down to see what was keeping his passenger from climbing out of the carriage.  He was in for a shock.
Later when the constable questioned the sheep herder, he asked, "Did you see this man before?"
"Aye, he had a habit of passing through, as you well know concerning our Agnes."
The constable cleared his throat.  "Did you see anyone else around when he got out to demand you get your flock out of his way?"
"Nay, we were the only two.  No one else was in the carriage.  But he quit his cursing and calmed down after I spoke with him. You can ask the driver, and he'll agree.  Then I went back to my sheep to get the herd out of the way, but the carriage didna go on."
"But what about the dagger?" the village official asked.  "Did you see it in his hand?"
"No, he did not show me any knife.  Was it a blade that a shepherd boy would have?"
"No, it was his own.  It had his initials on it."
"Was his pocket of money on him, or did someone rob the man?"
"No, he still had a purse of money on him."
"Well, perhaps, he was done in by his own missteps likely climbing in to go over the border to Gretna Green.  He might of finally slipped up and found his own blade plunged in.  Do you think he was running from the law?"
"To be sure."
"Well, there you go.  He was probably afraid of being caught, and the blade found him instead. God works in mysterious ways His justice to perform." 
The constable let the simple shepherd boy go, one of the least among the village to be suspected even though he was the last to speak with the man.  The mystery was never solved.  Even the curate never knew how the dagger found its way up from the slime in the murky bottom of the pond, and so he kept his lips sealed.

"If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more."
Jane Austen, "Emma"

The bonds were posted, and the wedding took place.  The best gift was the assurance that the newlyweds would never be troubled by such a terrible man again.  And, a young shepherd looked forward to the day when his lass would come back as a fine lady.  He would wait.  He was a patient lad.

And so gentle reader, this story begs the question: will you keep the shepherd's secret from the
road to Gretna Green?  Ahh, I thought so.   You'll take it to the grave then, will ye? 

Wedding Vows from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer
that were unfortunately left off when the ceremonies were held in Gretna Green...
With this Ring I thee wed,
With my Body I thee worship,
and with all my worldly Goods I thee endow:
In the Name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Ghost.