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August 15, 1912

Bray Manor

Daniel has been such  a frequent guest of my father’s, the two of them spending much time in Father’s study, that I’m quite sure they’re plotting my future. Surprisingly, I’m not bothered by this fact.

Besides, I won’t be coerced into doing anything I don’t want to, and Father knows this. I believe Daniel has become aware of this obstinate character trait of mine as well.

Today Daniel requested I join him for a walk in the common. I agreed to a morning stroll, as the humidity in the afternoon was often unbearable and disastrous for my hair, which takes Molly literally an hour to do.

Since Daniel’s heroic rescue of Louisa, my little sister has become unabashedly smitten. It would be adorable if she weren’t so annoying. Of course she made a scene in the sitting room where Daniel had been waiting for me, demanding that she come along. Sally beseeched me imploringly to take her along.

“She needs fresh air and exercise.”

I wanted to ask her why she didn’t take her out then, but I didn’t want to sound petty in front of Daniel. “Very well,” I agreed, but not happily.

“We’d be pleased to have the company of Miss Louisa,” Daniel proclaimed amiably. He held out his arm, and Louisa skipped to him and linked her thin limb through it. She actually stared over her shoulder at me and stuck out her tongue! Brat!

The walk turned out to be quite pleasant. I wore a white lacy summer dress with loose sleeves that ended at the elbows and a lavender sash that highlighted my hour-glass figure nicely. A matching ribbon decorated my flat, broad-rimmed hat which Molly had pinned to my coif with a dozen hat pins. The ensemble managed the heat quite well, especially since a breeze whispered through the elms. Louisa, with all the energy of a locomotive, ended up scampering after squirrels and collecting pebbles.

I twirled my parasol and glanced up at my companion. “Tell me about your home in London,” I said.  Now that I knew Daniel a little, I found I was quite interested.

“My estate is called Bray Manor and is situated north of London in a village called Chesterton in Hertfordshire.”

“Your estate?”

“Yes, well, it sounds more glamorous than it is,” Daniel said. He planted smooth hands into the pockets of his summer suit jacket. “It’s a very large house in need of repair, but the grounds are splendid. Flower gardens—mostly my grandmother’s roses—sheep and cattle in the pasture. There’s a lake in the back garden, quite lovely for taking a spin in a rowboat.”

“That does sound nice. Very pastoral.”

Daniel grinned, looking rather handsome in his straw boater hat. “It’s quiet, I’ll give you that.”

“I understand you live there with your sister and grandmother. Just the three of you in that big place?”

“Well, we do have staff. Not as many as we used to. Quite frankly, not as many as are needed to keep the place up.”

Thus the reason he was here in Boston, courting me. He needed Hartigan money. I decided to let that little irritation slide for the moment. The day was far too lovely to allow a bee to get in my bonnet.

“What’s your grandmother like?”

Daniel’s brows jumped as a smirk spread over his face. “Lady Ambrosia Gold is a force of nature. There’s not a villager in Chesterton who doesn’t bow, curtsey and defer to her. I don’t blame her for her strong personality. She’s had to bear the duties of patriarch—since both my grandfather and father have been gone for many years, and I’ve only come of age and quite honestly, out of my depth—and a surrogate mother to both me and my little sister. I’m able to fend for myself now, of course, but Felicia is only ten.”

“If she’s anything like Louisa then your grandmother has her hands full.”

“I’m afraid Felicia does keep my grandmother on her toes. Much like Louisa, Felicia is spirited with a mind of her own and no inhibitions in sharing it. Grandmother handles her more like a general than a mother, I’m afraid. Firm and demanding. But Felicia is in want of nothing. Grandmother makes sure of that.”

 I didn’t wonder that the elderly woman needed to be a bear to keep up with such a youthful and energetic personality, much less run an estate. Sally barely managed half as much responsibility.

“Grandmother bought a motorcar!” Daniel stated with a note of pride. “A 1904 Coventry Humber.”

I was amazed at this piece of trivia. “Does she drive it?”

“No. We have a man for that. She actually prefers the horse and carriage, but the purchase certainly caused the village to hold her in high esteem. It’s mainly used to shuttle her and Felicia to church on Sunday mornings, to great effect. The King himself would be jealous.”

I couldn’t help but smile. I haven’t met Lady Gold, but I already admired her.

Listening to Daniel talk about his home in England made me miss London. Which was odd, since I hadn’t been there since I was a child and my memories were limited, but now, I really hope to go back someday.

Louisa bounded between us, interrupting our talk about this wonder known as Bray Manor. She demanded candy from the street vendor and our time for meaningful conversation was over. Next time I will insist that she not tag along.

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