Six Years Later
They sat in the parlor, working diligently at embroidery as the early snows began to fall. The children, confined to the house, were screaming and running in the corridors while Sarah and her mother made their best attempt to ignore them.
Joshua had escaped earlier, claiming he had some work to do for parliament. Sarah didn’t blame him at all. Having three children under the age of four was a challenge for any parent. For one as involved as Joshua was in their daily upbringing, he was bound to need a break now and then.
“William is coming home.” Teresa said abruptly.
Sarah looked up from her sewing. “Really? When?”
“At the end of the week. The physician says that he seems to have recovered. Not fully perhaps, but near enough not to be dangerous. And he has been asking for such a long time. We thought we would try it.”
Sarah bit her lip in thought. “I should be happy to see him home again. He always looks so miserable when we go to visit. He will continue to see the physician will he not?”
“Yes. The physician will make regular visits to see him, keep an eye on him. But I think that as long as we avoid upsetting him too badly, he will be fine.”
“In that case, I am so happy.”
Teresa smiled. “I imagine Lord Manworth will be less so.”
Sarah shrugged. “He’s very protective.”
“That he is.”
They continued to sew in silence.
“Oh, did I tell you? I managed to persuade the ladies of my Mayfair sewing circle to contribute all the foodstuffs they may otherwise throw out to the sisters of charity who will then feed it to the prisoners at Newgate. Is that not good news?”
Teresa smiled. “Your Father and I are so proud of the work you are doing, Sarah. Without your persuasive tongue we should not be able to maintain even half the programs that we do.”
Sarah snorted. “I think it is more the Manworth name rather than my tongue which helps,” she said drily.
A little body burst into the room rapidly followed by two more. “Mama, can we go out and play in the snow?” large pleading hazel eyes blinked at her.
She sighed. “You may go out briefly only if Miss Glendale says you can.” The children were already screaming in excitement and running out to look for their governess. Teresa watched them go with a smile.
“Little Emily is the mastermind; you do know that don’t you? Her brothers simply do her bidding.”
Sarah sighed. “Trust that I know whose evil machinations plague my existence. That child is a menace.”
“She is merely precocious. You must find new and interesting ways to occupy her mind.”
“I am thinking of taking her with us on our next visit to St. Vincent’s home for disadvantaged children. Perhaps she’ll learn some gratitude.”
“That is a good idea. She is old enough now to understand.”
Sarah put her sewing aside. “Yes, well…I would like a few more years before I have to explain the birds and the bees.” She got to her feet. “I go in search of hot chocolate. Would you like some?”
Teresa looked up and smiled. “Always.”
William’s homecoming was very subdued. After much consultation, it was decided that London held too many bad memories for him. Perhaps Bath, where he could live quietly, would be a better option. Gregory and Teresa did not have a permanent home in the town, but both Sarah and Lord Osset did.
“Let him come and stay with me,” Lord Osset offered, “a little bit of the bachelor life might do him good.”
Sarah was skeptical. “He hardly knows you.”
Osset shrugged. “We are brothers are we not? At least we share a sister in common. Come, let me help you with this. He cannot stay at Chateau Calcot after all. Manworth will drive him mad in a week.”
Sarah laughed but she had to concede the point. Joshua was not likely to forget any time soon that William had caused her injury. “Very well, if he is agreeable, he can stay with you.”
To everyone’s surprise, William was agreeable.
“I don’t want to make trouble,” he confided to Sarah. “And if my staying with your brother is best for everyone, that is what I shall do.”
Sarah smiled, feeling very grateful for his cooperation. It did not even amaze her when it turned out that William and Osset got on like a house on fire.
“But what happens if Osset weds?” Joshua wanted to know.
“Oh, you do like to borrow trouble, husband.” Sarah waved him down.
“I like to be prepared. There is a difference.”
“William is fine. If Osset wants to wed, I feel sure we will know about it soon enough to make other arrangements. In the meanwhile, I should really appreciate it if you made an effort with William.”
“Yes, My Lady. Anything for you, you know that.”
She reached for him, pulling him to her and kissing him thoroughly. They only broke apart when they heard the approaching sound of the children’s high voices. “I love our children but their timing is always abysmal,” he said glumly.
She laughed softly, touching her forehead to his. “You will miss them when they grow up and leave you.”
“Never. I shall have you to myself again.” He breached the distance between their mouths, planting a soft kiss on her lips just before George burst into the chamber, demanding their attention and closely followed by his brother and sister.
Joshua sighed and turned to the kids. “Where’s the fire now?” he asked, hands on hips.
“Miss Glendale won’t let us climb the tree near the barn,” Emily said at once.
Joshua quirked an eyebrow at them. “And…?”
“We want to!” Emily went so far as to stamp her foot.
“I will tell you what. If you wish to break your necks climbing tall trees you may. But first, you must muck out the stables until there is not a single bit of horse manure to be found.”
If he had thought his children would be dismayed by this order, he would have been disappointed. They jumped and screamed in excitement and then went racing off to find brooms. Joshua and Sarah exchanged glances before bursting into peals of laughter.
Joshua reached for Sarah and pulled her to him, “Now, where were we?”
Joshua ventured out of their bedchamber an hour later, leaving a sleeping Sarah and headed to the stables to see how his children were faring. He was disturbed at the utter quiet as he approached the building. His children were many things, but never quiet.
He hastened his footsteps, expecting to find the kind of mayhem that would have his wife in hysterics. Instead he was confronted by the sight of his three children, scattered among the hay, fast asleep. Poor Miss Glendale was also passed out by the horse stalls.
He smiled, shaking his head and debated whether to leave them there or take them to bed. But the sun was setting and soon it would be too cold for them to be outside. Starting with the youngest, Alexander, he hoisted the boy over his shoulder before picking his brother up with his other arm. He carted them to their nursery without waking them and then returned for their sister.
She made a noise of protest as he picked her up but he made soothing sounds in return and soon she went limp again. He carried her to the nursery as well before standing at the doorway, just watching them.
He was blessed to be able to watch his children grow, safe and happy in a serene environment. Thanks to Sarah he knew that many children did not have that chance. As he watched them sprawled carelessly in their beds, safe in the belief that their parents would always protect them against the evils of the world, he renewed a vow which he made every day.
With my last breath, I will keep you safe.
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