“My name is Emily. Thank you, thank you for rescuing me.”
“May I ask, what happened?”
“No, no you may not. Lord Edward…. I am ever grateful for your help. But please I don’t want to talk about it. I will pay you back my dues once I am able.”
Her words of retribution were a pierce to the heart of a man who just wanted to be known. He didn’t want payback, he wanted friendship.
“No need, Miss Emily. You are welcome to stay at Bolsover as long as you need.”
And he left the room.
The days and week went by and Emily slowly began to get her strength back. Sophie was a good nurse. A good friend. Emily had never had such care. Such love made her feel she must pay them all back.
So as strength would find her, Emily insisted on helping in the kitchen. Picking vegetables in the garden. Even cleaning the parlour and bower. One morning Edward and John had a conversation that changed everything as the looked on at both women, serving.
“Why do you suppose she stays? She is fine to leave,” asked Edward of John. John was really more of a friend than a servant anyway.
“I won’t begin to assume I know the thoughts, or heart, of a lady. But I think… I think she feels she owes you something. From whatever plight you have saved her from, she feels she must pay you back. And the sum of that debt, well, only she knows,” responded John.
“But I have only ever asked for friendship. I watch her day and night. She is a lady of grace. Depth, though unspoken. And all I know is her name.”
“Master, you know you are kind. We know you have a good heart. She doesn’t. My guess is she has only ever seen hardness. And you, in your kindness, have shocked her to a point she knows only to “do”. Not just “be” here. My guess is she doesn’t realize what you want and what she needs. Even though it’s staring you both in the face. Lord Edward, show her your heart and you will win her attention,” John, ever the wise man, looked up at Lord Edward, smiled mischievously, and walked away.
As he walked away Edward called back, “When did you get so brilliant?”
Show her my heart. Come on Edward, isn’t this exactly what you’ve wanted all your life?
Before Edward could protest his feet were taking him in Emily’s direction. And his hand was grabbing for hers.
“Come on. I want to show you something.”
Emily had no option but to follow. “But sir, I have so much to do. Please, let me work.”
Edward, now outside in the courtyard, turned to Emily, still holding her hand.
“Who asked you to work?”
Feeling sheepish, Emily looked down, “No one sir. I just, you’ve done so much for me. I know only to give back.”
“Emily, please call me Edward. I didn’t rescue you that morning because I had to. I did it because I wanted to. You have no obligation to me. But… but…. Friendship.”
“Friendship? But you’re… you’re a Lord. I am, merely a woman caught in the twists of trauma and the graces of your kindness. Why would you want my friendship?”
“Because there’s something about you I can’t resist and I am done trying to. Now come, there is something beautiful you must see.”
Still hand in hand, Edward led Emily into his favourite place on the estate. The garden. The servants were out working and all waved at Edward and Emily. Smiling.
The smells and colours overtook Emily’s senses. The beauty overtook her obvious fear. She wondered how she had been at Bolsover for so long and had never visited the garden.
“Isn’t our Creator fantastic? The shapes, the sizes, the smells, the colours. It’s overwhelming to me sometimes. Oh! And this is my favourite!”
Edward leaned down to a small pink flower, a snapdragon, and grabbed its petals.
In a peculiar tone he began to make the petals speak, “Hello Emily. Welcome to our garden. You are such a beautiful woman. Won’t you visit more often?”
A giggle broke from her weary being. Something felt free. And she looked at Edward.
Edward still gazing over his garden, finally looked up at Emily. And came to full standing.
“What is it?”
“You are the first man who… who has ever shown me beauty. Thank you.”
Edward’s heart leapt within him. Could she be coming my way? Could such a simple thing have won her over? Oh to know her story.
“You are most welcome Emily.”
Realizing she let her guard down, Emily turned around and ran back to the house.
I can’t make her love me, can I Lord?
Welcome to my world.
Humbled, Edward left the beautiful garden and walked back, intent on learning this woman. No matter how long it took.
More days passed. Rain. Mist. Sunbeams.
One night after a long day of business, Edward found himself in the study, alone. His attempts at learning Miss Emily had not gone unnoticed by the servant staff, they even seemed to encourage it. They saw something alive in their master that had never been there before. And be it out of sheer curiosity to its outcome, the servants looked onward to what could be.
As the fireplace flickered, getting more dim, Emily walked into the room. She cleared her throat.
“I… I made you some tea Sir.”
“Please, call me Edward. Come, sit here.”
Emily straightened the pleats in her dress, looking into the fire sparkling ever so warmly.
“I said NO.”
Thinking she was mad at him, Edward sat up straighter, almost spilling his tea.
“Sorry. Excuse me?” Edward said.
“I said no that day. That’s why you found me in that state that morning in the meadow. He wanted something I wouldn’t give him. And I said no.”
“What did he want?”
Anger burned in Edward’s soul for this woman’s past. And not for the first time.
“I said no and he tied me up. My legs. Around my neck. And he beat me. We were outside. In his garden…. “ Emily stopped and began to whimper. “If it wasn’t for his love of gambling and the distraction of his mates showing up that day with some money, I don’t know what would’ve happened to me. After he disappeared for a length of time I knew not, I was able to escape. It was dark, I had no idea where I was going. I must’ve been running for over 12 hours. That’s why you found me so exhausted. Disoriented.” She paused. Not knowing if she should go forward. “You see Edward. I have always been a yes woman. Living out of fear of what could happen if I said no to someone. And then, then when I did say no, and THAT happened. Why would I ever think someone such as yourself would show me anything different?”
“I’m not like everyone else.”
“Clearly. You have shown me only kindness. And beauty. But I don’t have the slightest idea of how to receive that.”
“I only ever wanted your friendship. And perhaps, in recent days, now something more.”
“Really? But you hardly know me.”
“I can see you with my heart. And something in that knows you are compassionate. Hard working. I’ve watched you with my servants. You love deeper than you realize. And well, you are beautiful. That my heart doesn’t need to be told.” Edward smiled. “Emily, love gives….expecting nothing in return. I hope you can just BE here. You have no need to feel like you must pay me back anymore. I would like to think you’d feel free to stay on here. As a guest, a friend, visiting, if that makes you feel better.”
Emily, still unsure, but her heart warming to the idea, looked up at Edward.
“As long as you don’t make the snapdragons talk anymore. I’d rather just hear Edward.” Emily smiled back.
Oh woman, now you’ve gone and done it. You’ve built that bridge and conquered my heart.
As they sat by the fire that night both realized that grace comes out of the unexpected. And sometimes life’s answers are held in chapters we wish to run from, when therein lies the great tales to be told.