Five Years Later
The early morning light streamed through the window in the small drawing room. Hardly anyone was out and about this early, but Caroline walked toward her desk, careful not to make a sound. This was her time to herself. She pulled out the stack of papers from the top drawer and leafed through them, finding the page she wanted to write on. Her quill was sharp, and soon the light scratching was the only sound heard, except the chirps from the bird outside.
“Good morning, My Lady,” Madeleine said very softly, holding a tray with tea, walking toward her. She lay the tray on the small table next to Caroline and carefully placed the cup on the desk.
“I thought I would finally wake before you.” She laughed and took a sip of the steaming liquid.
“Not quite, My Lady,” Madeleine replied with a small smile. Caroline moved in her seat, wincing slightly. Her bump had grown considerably, but there was still a long time to go. “Are you all right, My Lady?” Madeleine was always so concerned about every single sound she uttered.
“I’m fine, Madeleine,” she replied. “This little one seems to be awake.” She stroked over her stomach, affectionately.
“I will give you privacy.” Madeleine curtsied to her and left the room. Caroline gazed out the window to the beautiful countryside. Soon it would be time to go back to London, although she wished they could stay here in Bath all year. But Jasper had to return to his practice, and it would be good to see all her friends and family again.
Since marrying, Caroline and Jasper had spent most of their time in their small house in Bath, that her father had given them. The house was perfect for them. Not too big, which meant only a few servants, and peace and quiet.
After she had been writing for a while, the stillness was rudely interrupted by the trample of feet running down the stairs. A burst of gleeful laughter could be heard, as well as the sigh from their poor governess, Mrs. Burt. Caroline focused on her final sentence, biting her lip to seem serious. She knew that in a moment, her rascal of a son would run into the room, much to Mrs. Burt’s chagrin.
As she had expected, she had just dipped her quill into the ink, as the door was flung open. A small boy, who had just turned four years old, bounced to her, all grins and mischief.
“Mama!” Little Thomas exclaimed happily. “I runned much faster down the stairs!”
“You ran much faster than Mrs. Burt?” She laughed, embracing her son. She knew that she ought to be stricter with him, but it was hard. They had Mrs. Burt with them for a little over a year. Their last governess had been much too harsh with Thomas, and Jasper had banished her from their home.
Both she and Jasper agreed that they wanted to learn from their parents’ mistakes. Jasper was attentive, and he read to Thomas every night, while they sat together by the fireplace. She would sometimes catch Mrs. Burt shaking her head good-naturedly as Jasper read to their son from law books.
“I do apologize, My Lady,” Mrs. Burt said as she appeared in the doorway, clutching what seemed to be a stitch in her side. “You are getting quick, young master Thomas.”
“I was really fast!” Thomas grinned, nuzzling his face in his mother’s neck.
“Come now, Thomas,” Mrs. Burt said kindly. “Let’s see what the cook has prepared for breakfast today.”
At the mention of food, Thomas leaped from Caroline.
“Let’s give your mother a chance to write.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Burt.” Caroline waved to her son, who had already run down the hallway. Being in London was going to be a challenge for her son this year. He seemed to have boundless energy, and being cooped up in Brighney Manor was sure to be a strain on him. But perhaps not—her father had been doting on his only grandchild, and would no doubt allow Thomas to do what he wanted, to the great annoyance of her aunt.
Caroline was deeply focused on her writing and did not hear the soft footsteps behind her. A small yelp slipped from her as an arm slid down her chest, caressing lightly over her breast but ending on her bump. Jasper’s warm breath tickled her ear, and she rested against him, as he bent down to kiss her neck.
“Good morning, my love,” he whispered, causing her to drop her quill. She twisted her head, giving him better access to her neck. He did not hesitate for one moment. His lips sprinkled her with feather-light kisses, but suddenly, he sucked on the nape of her neck. The abrupt change in sensation caused her to grown loudly, but he shushed her. “Be quiet, Caroline.” He chuckled softly, and the vibration of his laughter made her womanhood ache.
“I really could do with a distraction,” she cooed, standing up from the desk. She bit her lip, looking at her handsome husband. She had been warned that after a few years of marriage, this frenzied attraction would dim slightly, but that had not been her experience. They snuck into their bedroom, and as soon as he closed the door, their heated kisses began.
A trail of clothes marked their short journey to the bed, and soon he filled her, causing her to pant with pleasure. Their lovemaking was different now, much calmer, but their deep love had intensified every feeling.
Afterward, they lay together, Caroline resting her head on his chest—listening to his steady heartbeat. His hand stroked her naked hip, his fingers gently tickling her buttocks. “I wish we could stay here all day,” she murmured.
“Me, too,” he replied softly. “But I promised Thomas we would try our hand at his new kite.”
“Lady Adams surely knows how to pick gifts, doesn’t she?” She chortled at the memory of Jasper trying to make the kite soar across the skies once the package had arrived a few days ago. It had been a complete disaster.
They dressed and joined their son for breakfast. Caroline had only recently regained her appetite after weeks of eating dry bread and tea. She happily ate the fresh buns and sighed with contentment. Madeleine walked into the dining room and handed Caroline a few letters. She opened the first one and read.
“Her Grace is most excited for our arrival,” she read out loud. The next letter was from Lady Anna, who was traveling with her husband, Lord Kittridge. For a year, they had been seeing exotic places, and from each new destination, Lady Anna sent her a letter.
The final letter surprised her. It was from Lady Louisa, and she wanted to know if they could meet once they arrived in London. Her son was a few years older than Thomas, and she suggested that Caroline could join her for a luncheon, with the boys.
Since Lord Estaria had absconded to parts unknown, Lady Louisa had almost disappeared from the ton completely. The Duke of Aston had been deeply ashamed of his son’s behavior, and he had created a trust fund for Lady Louisa and her child, which Jasper helped to set up. That was not the end of the Duke’s generosity. He had funded a new building for Jasper’s law firm.
Caroline was about to tell her husband about Lady Louisa’s letter when she noticed that he was staring dumbfounded at a letter in his hand.
“What is, dear?” she asked.
“This is a letter from your father,” he replied slowly.
“Well, what does he say? You seem as if you have seen a ghost?”
“Lord Gisborne is stepping down as judge,” he said, looking up at her.
“He was getting on in years, so that can hardly be a surprise now, can it?” She kissed Thomas on the cheek before he left the dining room with Mrs. Burt.
“Your father has put my name forth to replace him.” Jasper dropped the letter on the table.
“As a judge?” Caroline was trying to comprehend what he was saying.
“Darling, that’s wonderful!” she shrieked.
“It is quite, well, I actually don’t know how I should react.” He was completely stunned.
“Is that something you would like?” she asked tentatively.
“I never thought that might happen. It was never even on my horizon,” he said.
“You would be a terrific judge.”
“Well, I have enough time to think about this.” He stood up, and Caroline could see that he liked the idea of becoming a judge—she knew her husband well enough to tell. “There is a kite waiting for me.” He grinned and kissed her before leaving the room.
Caroline returned to the drawing room and looked at the papers she had been working on. Her manuscript was almost ready, only the foreword was left, but it was proving difficult to write.
Not many knew about the articles she had written under Jasper’s name. After they married, she continued to write articles, still under his name. Jasper was encouraging and lovingly supportive of her. There was a rumor that it was not Jasper who wrote them, but no one said it to her directly. These were only whispers.
She had thoroughly enjoyed being at a private ball just after her marriage to Jasper had been announced. A group of young ladies sat tightly together, talking about the latest scandalous article from the Examiner, which had encouraged young ladies to read and write more. She had overheard one of the young ladies say that she had her lady’s maid sneak books into her room, and not merely romance novels.
Outside the window, she could hear Thomas chastising his father.
“No, Papa, you’re doing it wrong,” the young boy called. She could not see Jasper but heard him laughing heartily.
“Be patient, Thomas,” Jasper replied. “Now look.”
There was silence for a moment until Jasper groaned with disappointment, and Thomas cackled with laughter. “Why you little rascal,” Jasper said, and soon the garden was filled with Thomas’ screeches and giggles. She moved closer to the window and chuckled at the sight of Jasper tickling their son. Finally, Jasper let him go, and she observed them running, holding on to the kite together and then letting it go. The kite flew up but plummeted down at once.
“Run, Thomas! Run!” Jasper encouraged his son and let go of the string, letting his son hold it. Thomas bunched up his nose in concentration and ran. At last, the kite soared to the sky. Jasper whooped and clapped, and Thomas beamed with happiness.
A sharp kick from her stomach filled her with overwhelming love and joy.
“You want to join them, don’t you?” Caroline whispered to her stomach. “We cannot wait to meet you, darling.” She stroked her bump, and the bay seemed to somersault.
Caroline sat at her desk again, a sudden inspiration coming over her. She had planned for the foreword to be dedicated to her family and to her unborn child, which she was absolutely certain was a girl this time. However, Jasper said it would most definitely be another energetic boy.
But she thought about the young ladies that had been sneaking books into their room, just as she had done. The novel in front of her was part fiction and partly autobiographical. It would be the first time she wrote under her own name, which was terribly daunting. She took a new piece of paper and wrote a short passage.
The book would be dedicated to all the young women that had a thirst for knowledge, even if they were taught to suppress that longing. She encouraged them to read and make their own choices, and said they deserved love. The heroine from her story bore many similarities to Caroline, although with many noticeable differences.
If I can encourage one young lady to follow her heart, to show them it is possible, then I will have succeeded.
She stared at the title of the foreword, feeling proud.
The Confessions of a Bluestocking.
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