Four years later
Anna stood back and looked up at the monumental stone gate at the entrance to the Creassey estate.
“Something is missing,” she said to herself but was overheard by Harry.
“It looks wonderful. What are you talking about?” he asked her.
“It needs something with wings. An angel. Yes, that is what is needed. With a trumpet,” Anna said enthusiastically.
Harry laughed. His wife had been building this gate to their estate for the past six months and he thought it would never be finished. Today was to have been the final day. They were having a ribbon cutting ceremony at two o’clock with all their friends and family in attendance. Even Dorothy, Christopher, and their two-year-old had come all the way from Dorset to witness the dedication of the gate.
“Dearest Anna, you must leave it alone for now. We are having a gigantic celebration, and this is not the time to be rethinking your design.”
She smiled up at him. “Dearest, you know I want it to be perfect.”
“I do. But it looks quite splendid without an angel—at least for now. Can you agree to let it be as is until the ceremony is over? The masons are coming, all dressed up, with their wives and children. They will be in no position to start carving you an angel at the last minute.”
“Too much. Is that what you are saying?”
Harry hugged his wife. “I love you so very much, my dear, but yes.”
At that moment little two-year-old Kent came over to his mother while holding on to nanny’s hand.
“Mommy, Mommy, Up,” he insisted.
Anna tousled Kent’s blond hair and picked him up. She pointed to the gate. “You like what Mommy built?” she asked pointing to the gate.
He pointed and said, “Birthday cake.”
Anna and Harry laughed. “Oh, my—my first critic,” Anna said covering her face with her hand.
Harry bumped his shoulder against hers, just as Maria and Percy arrived in a buggy. But, as there was a ribbon across the entrance, they had to pull up the buggy outside in the road.
Harry, seeing that, went toward them. “You can come in. Maria you know the service road just down five hundred yards.”
“Oh, yes,” she said, and they drove off.
Kent laid his head on his mother’s shoulder and started sucking his thumb.
“I think he is a little tired. Shall I take him from you, Your Ladyship?” Nanny asked.
“Let him lie down for an hour. Then it will be lunch time,” Anna said, handing her son over to her.
Harry took Anna’s arm. “I think there is nothing more to be done here right now. Let us return to the house. Daniels is going to have the refreshment table set up during lunch.”
Anna put her hands on her swelling belly. She could feel the baby kicking.
“Oh…” she said in surprise.
“Do you need to lie down?” Harry asked, squeezing her arm.
“Not at all. Too much to do and I want to visit with Dorothy and Christopher. Their little Elizabeth is such a doll. I keep wanting to pick her up. Do you think we might have a girl this time?”
“Is that what you want?”
“Maybe. A daughter wouldbe nice.”
As they neared the entrance to the house, Maria and Percy arrived in their buggy with the little dark-haired Donald sitting between them.
“Where is Kent?” the three-year-old asked.
“He is taking a nap, but he will be down in time for lunch,” Anna replied.
The three Garvey’s stepped down from the buggy and came over to embrace Anna and Harry.
“Are you excited about the dedication?” Maria asked Anna.
Anna sighed. “It has been a monumental effort—pardon the pun.”
“I like it. It is just what Creassey needed. Splendid job.”
“Thank you, but it just makes me want to do more,” Anna giggled. “I was thinking I would like to build a Greek-style pavilion on the hill overlooking the lake at Repington. What do you think?”
Maria leaned in and whispered, “Has Harry forbidden you to build any more over here?”
Anna laughed. “No. Not at all. But it has been a dream of mine to build on that hill and Father would never allow it.”
As they entered the house, Aunt Agatha was descending the stairway with her latest young traveling companion. Maria had not seen Aunt Agatha since she arrived.
“Aunt, how nice you could visit. And who is this young gentleman?”
“Travis Moncrief,” the young man said, offering her his hand.
After shaking hands, Maria turned her attention to her aunt, “And what has become of your dear friend, Mr. Oakley?”
“The poor dear, suffered heat exhaustion in India and had to be sent back to Bristol by packet boat long before the end of our journey. However, the darling Mr. Moncrief so nobly offered to escort me the rest of the way.”
“I was between engagements and Agatha was such a dear, offering to let me assist her on her travels.”
“Between what kind of engagements?” Maria asked, amused.
“I provide personal services,” he said opaquely.
Agatha jumped in, saying, “He is so adept at managing luggage, negotiating with porters and the like.”
Harry came over and picked up the young Donald, who was holding his mother’s hand. Harry turned the young boy upside down before putting him on his shoulders. Donald squealed with delight. Harry then bounced up and down as he gave his nephew a horsey ride.
Anna touched Maria’s shoulder and said, “You must excuse me, I must see how lunch is coming on. It has been quite a while since we have had visitors and I want to make certain all is well in the kitchen.”
Dorothy and Christopher were in their rooms attending to the baby Elizabeth who was just eight months old.
“It is so strange staying at Creassey after living all those years at Repington.”
“These are nice rooms,” Christopher said, “Why are you complaining?”
“I am not complaining, just commenting. Honestly, Christopher, you can be so annoying at times.”
“My humble apologies,” he said. He leaned over the cradle as Elizabeth smiled up at him. “But I imagine you are happy to see Anna. This is the first time she has seen the baby.”
“Yes, I am delighted. Christopher, my darling, we must invite Anna and Harry to come visit us now that our wing is finallyfinished.”
“I am sorry it took so long. But we did marry before we had planned and I did not have time to get the work done before we moved in.”
“I know, my dear,” she said patting his cheek. “I am not blaming you.”
There was a knock at the door and Anna poked her head in. “Are you busy?”
Dorothy squealed as she saw her sister. “Oh, do come in, Anna. I have been longing to have some time alone with you.”
“Shall I leave?” Christopher asked.
“Not on my account,” Anna said as she came into the room.
“I think I shall in any case. I should like to visit with my old friend, Harry. We have not seen each other since the wedding, can you believe? We have a lot of catching up to do.”
“Yes, do that, dear,” Dorothy said, as she patted the place on the sofa next to her for Anna to come sit.
Anna took her sister’s hands in hers. “I thank you for your letters. But I have missed seeing you. Has it really been four years?”
Dorothy teared up slightly. “Oh, Anna, I have missed you too. I always thought we would end up living close by each other. But it has not been the case.”
“Are you happy?”
“We quarrel from time to time, but what married couple does not? But I still love him very much.”
“And the in-laws, is it difficult living in the same house with that rowdy bunch?”
Dorothy laughed. “One gets used to them. And they are a kindly bunch. However, our wing is quite separate, and we only need to see them when we wish to. Christopher has been very firm about keeping our living arrangements separate.”
“And are you happy, Anna?”
Anna shook her head in disbelief. “Oh, Sister, I owe it all to you.”
“You are unhappy?” Dorothy asked not certain of what Anna was meaning.
“Oh, no. Happier than I ever thought possible. Do you remember you advising me to consider Harry, after Percy was trying to court me?”
“I did? Oh, my, the memory cannot be fading already?”
“Harry is the best husband and father possible. Of course, we have always known each other since childhood, but I never envisioned the depths that we have grown to know each other in ways I never imagined. Do you understand?”
“Maybe. But I have only known Christopher since we met not long before we married. But I do know we are becoming comfortable with each other. We can be alone together and not speak, but still feel connected. Is that what you are talking about?”
“Yes, something like that.”
The two sisters sat in silence together until Dorothy smiled and patted Anna’s belly. “And another on the way. Are you pleased?”
“Most certainly. A companion for Kent and more sleepless nights for Nanny, but we are overjoyed. But we must not be apart for so long again—you and I.”
“Well then, you must come sometime this summer and we can go to the cottage on the seashore.”
That set them laughing.
After a rousing lunch where everyone seemed to be talking at the same time it was soon time to wander down to the gate for the dedication ceremony.
It was a delightful summer’s afternoon, although a bit hot. The ladies carried their parasols and the gentlemen shed their coats, but it was to be an informal ceremony and no one minded. Harry pushed his mother’s wheelchair before him as Anna carried Kent in her arms. The nurse shaded Leah with a large umbrella.
As Maria and Percy walked with Donald holding Maria’s hand, they spotted a guest they had not expected—Percy’s father.
“Let me handle this,” Percy said to Maria as he walked on ahead and over to his father.
“Have you come to make trouble?” Percy asked curtly.
“No, son, I have not. I came to see the gate and I want to thank Harry.”
“You want to thank Harry?” Percy asked in astonishment.
“You may not be aware that Harry has been aiding me with the new field we bought back. You were right, boy. We are beginning to come back from the brink. I know it has been a long time, but your mother and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Percy could not believe what he was hearing. “Father, I did not know. I have been so busy at Repington, learning my way, and having a child.”
“You could visit more often. Your mother misses you.”
Percy stared at his father. “You do seem changed. You look a lot healthier.”
“I shall never lose the limp but I am doing fairly well. Do not expect a miracle, but things are not as bleak as they were.”
“I am happy to hear that.”
“Might you, Maria and the child come to Sunday dinner some time? Your mother would really like that. And me too.”
“I think that might be possible. Maybe two Sundays from now?”
The masons, their assistants, and their families were all gathered now. All the family, friends and even the mayor of the local village were all in attendance.
The mayor had been asked to dedicate the gate and Anna was to cut the ribbon.
A tent had been set up to cover the champagne and punch to be served after the opening. Daniels was standing by ready to serve with several footmen to help him.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please assemble, and let us get the ceremony underway,” the mayor announced.
The guests moved forward to the ribbon. The Mayor gave a mercifully, brief speech and handed a large pair of ceremonial scissors to Anna.
She was a little nervous but called out. “I now dedicate this triumphal gate to my wonderful family and most especially to my dear husband who so graciously encourages me to follow my dreams. The gate has no name so I shall just say—the gate is now open.”Then she cut the ribbon and everyone cheered.
Harry came to her and put his arm around her waist and patted her belly. “I do not suppose I can convince you to await your next project until the new baby arrives?”
Anna looked up at him and said, “Oh, Harry, what an impossible dream that is!”
Ah, before you go...
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