Three months later
The carriage stopped in the circular drive in front of Eddington Manor, and Edwin looked at the familiar façade. It was two stories, with windows running the length of the house. It was built of red brick, with a set of stone stairs leading up to the front door.
When the coachman opened the door to the carriage, Edwin stepped out, looking around at the familiar stables, the now-empty grazing pastures for the horses, and then across the lawn, towards the sea stretching out all of the way to the blue horizon.
The sound of the waves, crashing on the beach, and the sound of sea-birds was loud in his ears. It was like a lullaby, calming his soul, soothing him all of the way down to his weary bones.
I’m finally home.
It had been a long while since Edwin had been to Eddington Manor in Cornwall. He had, when in the local port, stopped in to check on the caretaker and the grounds, but it had been two years since he’d last been able to do so.
While in Boston, he had sent word to the caretaker, who had been the butler there for decades, that he was arriving soon, with his wife and daughter, and to make sure that all was ready.
It was a modest estate, covering only a few acres of land that abutted the shoreline of Cornwall. It was funded mostly by Edwin’s merchant vessels and the Petonia.
Edwin turned back to the carriage, then he helped Celine down, and then Sybil. His wife held out her hand, which Sybil took. Celine’s other hand went to her stomach, which was gently rounding as their first child began to grow inside of her. Together, they all stood, looking at their surroundings.
Celine smiled at him. “It’s beautiful,” she commented.
“You and Sybil will likely have to take the gardens in hand,” he said. “Mr. Sorenson was told to be sure to keep everything pruned, but I’m sure that it would be an interesting project for you both.”
The two ladies in his life grinned at each other. Their easy, warm relationship brought him such joy.
The carriage bearing Daniel and Grace pulled up then. Their coachman got down from the driver’s seat, and opened the door, helping Grace out. Her husband followed soon after. They were, of course, staying on. Daniel was going to return to his old post as Edwin’s valet, while Grace was going to be Sybil’s nurse.
“It’s good to be back,” Grace said, beaming.
“That it is,” Edwin agreed.
The sound of hooves, thundering along the road, could be heard. Edwin turned, to find that the local constable and his men were riding up. He glanced at Daniel, who nodded, pulling out his pistol, but keeping it close to his side and hidden. Edwin glanced at Celine, who looked as nervous as he felt. He moved so that he was in-between his wife and daughter and any possible danger.
The men all pulled their horses to a stop in the drive. Only the constable got down off of his horse, which caused Edwin a moment of panic.
They must not have gotten word from Boston.
“Lord Eddington,” the constable said, as he dismounted.
“Mr. Brownley,” Edwin replied, and they both bowed to each other. Edwin supposed that he would have to go with them. Rot in jail until they got word that the true murderer was already in custody.
“We have been trying to find you for years now,” he said disapprovingly. “In regards to your late wife’s murder.”
“I felt that it was in my best interest to be out of the way,” Edwin replied. “For my daughter’s sake.” Edwin looked at Sybil, smiling at her in reassurance, despite his deep-seated fear.
The constable glanced at Sybil, who was watching with wide eyes. Celine had angled herself so that she stood in front of their daughter. She was like a mother tiger. Edwin could almost hear her growl. Together, they all looked at the Constable.
“We were going to catch up with you, eventually. I received a letter recently, from a Lord Lillington,” Mr. Brownley said. “Confirming that he had discovered you posing as a ship’s captain.”
“Hiding in plain sight is often the safest place to be,” Edwin replied.
“Very smart, My Lord.”
“Are you here to arrest me?” Edwin asked.
“We had heard that the Petonia was returning to her home port. We had planned to catch you when you arrived. However, a letter from Boston arrived,” he said. “Apparently, they have proof that one Charles Hemingway has confessed to Lady Eddington’s murder. You have been exonerated of all charges by His Majesty’s court.”
Edwin breathed a sigh of relief. “That is good news.”
“Indeed,” Mr. Brownley agreed, holding out a formal-looking document, which Edwin accepted. “Are you staying long?”
“Yes. We mean to live here,” Edwin said. “My new wife and I are going to raise our family here.”
“Congratulations are in order. Welcome to Cornwall, My Lady,” Mr. Brownley said.
“Thank you, sir,” Celine replied.
“Welcome back home, My Lord.” Mr. Brownley bowed low. He climbed back on top of his horse, then the group rode back the way that they had come.
Edwin turned to Celine, who was smiling, a hand on her heart in relief. He walked over towards her, kissing her on the lips. Then, he turned towards Sybil.
“Come,” he said. “Let’s go inside.”
The butler, Sorenson, had opened the front door, and was waiting for them. Together, the small group went inside of Eddington Manor.
“Welcome home, My Lord,” Sorenson said as they stepped into the foyer.
Edwin looked around. A housemaid was bustling along, with a vase of freshly-cut flowers in her hands. As he watched, a dog came running down the hall. He was a large, fluffy golden dog, with warm brown eyes. The last time he had seen Sirius, his face hadn’t been so grizzled and gray.
Edwin knelt, holding his hands out, and petting him.
“Who’s this?” Celine asked.
“Sirius!” Edwin said. “It’s so good to see you.” The dog nuzzled his hands happily.
“He’s been waiting for your return, My Lord,” Sorenson said happily.
“Sybil,” Edwin said, turning towards his daughter. “You and Sirius were good friends, when you were but a babe.”
His daughter’s face lit up.
“Come. Come meet him,” Edwin urged. “Hold out your hand so he can sniff it.”
Sybil walked confidently up to the dog, who sniffed her small hand. She smoothed her hand over his soft fur.
Edwin stood up, looking around at Eddington Manor’s oil portraits. The chandelier. The tall, sweeping staircase. The sleek wood floors. It was the same as he had left it. Only he had changed.
This was the place where he had grown up. Where he had lived so happily with Rose. And it was where he was going to be happy again. He wrapped his arm around Celine’s waist as they watched Sybil as she petted Sirius.
“It’s good to be home,” he said.
Several months later
Celine stood on the terrace of Eddington Manor. It overlooked the beach. She could see the ocean. The gentle sound of the waves, crashing upon the shore filled her ears.
In her arms, she held her newborn baby. Theodore had his father’s black hair. His eyes, if she had to guess, would be Edwin’s brilliant blue. Right now, he was smiling up at his mother.
He was swaddled in a light blue blanket that Celine had knitted herself. She had become quite talented at it during her pregnancy.
The months that they had lived in Cornwall were some of the best that she could recall. Her father visited them often, since Tunbridge Wells was only a short ride away. Leon had stopped in, as well, with his new bride. Aunt Felicity had written, and had promised to come for a visit after the baby had been born.
Celine expected her aunt to arrive any day now.
She and Edwin still exchanged letters with those that they had become good friends with during their long journey. Letters arrived all of the time from Kulusuk and from Boston.
The Renforths had both found jobs in the city. Thomas’s health was still shaky, but he was working as a librarian, which did not further endanger him. Jane had been working as a housekeeper for a well-to-do family. She loved the job, and was very content.
Robert Plant, meanwhile, had taken over the Captaincy of the Petonia. He continued to do the run between England and America. There had been no talk of mutiny.
In Kulusuk, life went on, much as it had before the Petonia had arrived during a storm. Mrs. Lynge kept Celine apprised of all of the small village’s gossip. Her letters were always juicy tidbits of information.
“You and your sister are our happy ending,” Celine told her son, who had grabbed her necklace, and was tugging at it. He cooed happily, as though he were agreeing with her.
“You’ll have our temper, I imagine,” she murmured to her son. “We’re both rather stubborn, you know.”
She gently caressed his round, chubby cheeks—laughing to herself as she thought of how they had fought, while on the ship. They didn’t fight so much those days. They worked as a team, with one specific goal.
She heard the sound of footsteps, and turned to find Edwin, standing there. She smiled at him. He walked to her, placing his hands on her hips.
“There’s my fine-looking lad,” he said, grinning. “How is Theodore doing today?”
“He’s doing well.”
“And his mother?” Edwin asked, looking into her eyes. Her heart swelled at the tenderness and love that she saw there.
“I’m happy,” she told him. “Happier than I have ever been.”
“You’re like a flower in all these bright silks,” he commented, placing a hand on her cheek, running his thumb over her bottom lip. “When I first saw you, you were like a sparrow, hiding behind all those drab colors.”
“It was definitely not my style, as much as I enjoyed pretending to be Regina,” she admitted freely, as she shifted her son so that his head was against her shoulder, to keep him out of the sea breeze.
As soon as she had returned to being herself, she had immediately chosen as many brightly colored silks and muslins as she could. She had kept the yellow muslin that she had made herself. It had traveled back across the ocean with her.
“I love you,” he said. “Just as you are.”
Theodore reached up, tugging on one of the curls that framed her cheeks.
They both turned towards the shore. Edwin stood behind her, wrapping his arms around her. He leaned his chin against her shoulder.
“Will you miss being a sea captain?” she asked, feeling his warm breath against her cheek.
“The ocean is nearby,” he commented. “So, no. Not much.”
They heard the sounds of tiny feet, running out of the house. They turned to find Sybil, running towards them.
“Mama! Papa!” she yelled. “Theodore!” She had her poppet, tucked underneath her arm. She’d recently had a growth spurt, and was now a gangly six-year old. She wrapped her arms around the both of her parents’ legs, hugging them.
They stood together, their small, but growing family. Celine closed her eyes, feeling close to all of those that she loved. She listened to the sound of the waves, and the cries of the sea birds overhead. She realized that this was the happily ever after. It was the beginning of their lives together. There was so much more for them to do and to see. And in the years to come, there would be more children, and more adventures.
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