A Few Years Later
“Robert! Mind the fence rail and prepare for the jump!” Marjorie called out as her son veered his pony around the ring and made a straight trot towards a low beam of wood that lie on the ground. He cleared it nimbly, never faltering in the saddle. “Excellent! Wonderful jump, my son!”
Evan appeared at Marjorie’s elbow and smiled with pride. “He’s a natural. It seems that horses are not the only thing that can pass their traits through their auspicious bloodlines. Who knew that two excellent riders could also produce such a talented young lad?”
“He had no choice but to be so skilled!” she answered, still watching Robert closely. “But then again, his brother has no interest in riding horses other than the occasional jaunt about the square.”
“And that is fine with me,” Evan said firmly. “Let the boy choose his own course. I dare say, your sister paid him some mind when she called last, and she seems to think he has the makings of a musical prodigy!”
“Well, she would be one to know about that. But prodigy or no, I only care that my children find something they truly love and pursue it, whether it be horse riding, music, or… or… painting spots on butterflies!”
Evan laughed as he wrapped Marjorie in his arms and kissed her soundly, demanding her attention as the groom stepped forward and took Robert’s horse by the reins to lead it into the barn. Marjorie smiled and nestled deeper into Evan’s embrace.
“Did my sister mention how she’s been feeling of late? I know these last few months can be difficult on a woman who’s expecting?” she asked.
“I think we’re not supposed to speak of such topics, are we? Other than when we so casually discuss the mares dropping their foals?” Evan replied with a knowing smile.
“That’s what confounds me so, I’ll admit,” Marjorie argued. “I can speak with any man in the county about breeding and bloodlines, but I must whisper behind my fan while inquiring about a living person who faces an arduous endeavor such as bearing a child! I shall never understand it!”
“Tis strange to me too, but to answer your query, no. Harriet did not speak to me of her state. You’ll just have to go pay her a visit yourself and find out all the details! Be sure to let everyone in the ton know what you manage to pry out of her!”
“As if there’s anyone in the ton who doesn’t already talk about my sister and the Duke,” Marjorie said, scowling.
“Ah, but that I can promise you is the sincerest form of adoring jealousy. Not the kind of petty jealousy that sparks devastating gossip, but rather all the talk is of how happy everyone is for both of them. Imagine, becoming a father at his age! I should think my heart would give out on me!” Evan said, instinctively looking to his oldest son and smiling.
“For her part, my sister has never been more at peace than when she became his wife,” Marjorie admitted. “I’ve always feared for her so, knowing how every trivial thing could cause her to tremble. When the Duke first intended to propose, I thought it was nothing more than a sense of obligation for Harriet’s part in resolving your cause, but I am so pleased to know that I was wrong. He adores her, and I can think of no better man than he to be her husband. Now, with the love of so tender a person to provide her calm in every storm, she has truly become the happiest person I know.”
“I rather need to argue,” Lord Mortham said, coming up behind them. He shook Evan’s hand warmly and kissed his daughter’s hand. “I cannot think that anyone on God’s earth could be happier than me.”
“Hmm, I wonder what could be the cause of that, sir?” Evan asked, causing Marjorie to laugh.
“I have two grandsons, another babe coming any day, and everything that I’ve ever wanted to build in the world is standing before me,” he answered in a tender way that Marjorie could not ever remember hearing before.
“A horse paddock filled with jumping rails and horse droppings?” Marjorie asked innocently. Her father laughed.
“No, you ninny girl! A family that has truly prospered, but more than that, a family that welcomes the sight of one another. Oh yes, and the horse thing, droppings and all!”
The three of them laughed and turned when Robert bounded towards them.
“Did you see me, Mother?” he asked excitedly. “I jumped over it, just like you do!”
“Robert, shhhh! Remember, it is our little secret that Mother still rides in such a fashion!” she said, pretending to whisper as she scooped up her son. “We mustn’t let your father or grandpapa know that you and I ride like New World savages!”
Charles looked down at Marjorie’s turn of phrase, remembering how he’d once admonished his daughter for her love of riding.
“Only if I’m not invited to come along, she means!” Charles finally said, taking Robert from his daughter’s arms and swinging him up onto his shoulders before striding towards the house.
Evan twined his hand within Marjorie’s and smiled. “What are we to do about those two?”
“What do you mean?” she asked, watching them as her father skipped gayly, bouncing her son until the boy nearly doubled forward in laughter.
“I mean, there’s no happiness in the world that can compare to theirs, and it grieves me. I think that no matter how much we try, we shall never come close to their joy.”
“You must be telling a lie, My Lord,” Marjorie explained. “Our own happiness far outshines theirs. Just ask anyone in the ton, they’ll tell you of the scandal involving a wanton woman from the countryside who is far too enamored with her husband for their liking!”
“Oh no, I only hear the rumors that on full moon nights you still dress as a man and go riding up the highway, terrifying any robbers who might be about!”
Marjorie swatted at Evan’s elbow. “Be nice, or we shall not bring you along when we visit your mother this evening.”
“Tis no matter,” he answered, sighing sadly. “She rather likes all of you better than she does me!”
“You know that is not true. I never thought I would understand how she can be so patient with your jests and antics, at least not until Robert and Little Charles were born. Now, I fear that her affection for you is not only commonplace, but that I’m infected with the same sentiments!”
Evan stopped, turning Marjorie to look at him before kissing her deeply, his arms winding around her tightly. She leaned closer to him, basking in this feeling that she’d once thought would never be hers.
“I know this much, my wife,” he said at last. “I, too, finally understand the affection that someone can have for another person. I never believed it nor cared for it until I met you.”
Ah, before you go...
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