I stepped out of the boat with his help and planted my feet (still in their embroidered silk heels) on the thick green grass of the bank beside his house. I stood there, dripping in his crimson jacket, my corset, my now flat petticoats, and my drenched stockings. I hurried towards the entrance to this vast mansion across the lush lawn as he followed behind me, carrying my drenched gown. Valentine unlocked the door and told me to go inside and up the stairs while he laid my gown out in the hope that it would dry in the hallway. I wondered up the marble steps, staring blankly around at the many portraits and paintings that hung in the hallway of this colossal castle.
“Welcome to Ravens’ Wood.” He exclaimed with a tremor of a laugh in his voice.
“Valentine, its magnificent.” I gasped, turned around to face him. “Its more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.”
“Well, thank you, Theodosia.” He smiled in a way that suggested to me that he was unused to receiving compliments. “It was built in the latter part of last century.”
“Who did it? Its utterly amazing.”
“My late great grandfather, well he was the architecture behind all this, he had slaves build it for him.” He took a deep sigh.
“Valentine,” I paused, unsure of how to word the question, for I knew full well that ladies were permitted to talk about such things “do you think the world could exist how it is without slavery?”
“No.” he shook his head decisively. “In fact, I know the work couldn’t exist how it is without slavery, but equally I know that we will have to get rid of slavery somehow.”
“Do you think that man you were talking about, Washington, I think his name was, do you think Washington will get rid of slavery if the revolution wins?”
“No, I know he won’t.”
“Well, Washington lives in a slave plantation about one hundred and fifty miles north of here, he would never allow slavery to be abolished while he’s in charge.”
“But what if the people push for the end of slavery?” I continued.
“What? The people here in Virginia? They never will.”
“But why?” I asked again.
“Come with me to the window.” He took hold of my shoulder and led me towards one of the huge crystalline windows that lined the walls “Look out, tell me what you see.” He commanded.
“I see rolling green fields. But what’s that got to do with slavery?”
“It has everything to do with slavery. If we lived in a place like the New York Province, or if Washington had come from somewhere like that, perhaps we would see abolition in his lifetime.”
“But how can you claim to be in favour of freedom if you don’t support emancipation of enslaved people?”
“Who knows?” he laughed with a little shrug. “Now, lets get you dry, I’ll get you a quilt to dry yourself with, the drawing room is the first down to your right if you want to sit in there.” He gestured broadly.
“Valentine,” I turned to face him “what if I’d rather go somewhere else than your drawing room?” I whispered.
“Like where?” he smirked.
“Your bed chambers?” I questioned lightly.
“I can’t imagine what you could want with that old room.” He smiled.
“Well, I might want to find out what else you know about the modern-day world we’re in. I might want you to teach me about the other things you know that people don’t usually talk about in drawing rooms of fine houses.” I whispered to him.
“Well, it is true, I do make it my business to know about this ever-changing world we live in, but I can’t imagine you want to discuss the emancipation of slaves in my bed chamber.”
“No, I want to discuss another form of emancipation, Valentine. I want to know what you know about how ladies can be emancipated between the sheets.”
“I’ll show you.” Valentine whispered, his voice tremulous from his position behind me (with myself still standing in my corset and petticoats). “Come with me.” He took my smaller roughly in his much larger one. As I looked from my hand to his and the contact they made, I couldn’t help but notice how torturously masculine the now risen veins on his hands were. It was as if they were bulging with excitement. They matched with the true feelings of my heart, for I couldn’t deny my desire for Valentine. Even though I had known him less than a day, I knew that he was the kind of man I would want to share my wedding night with. He was like the men I had read about that cared that his lady desired what he was going to give her. He pulled me down the corridor to what I could only assume was his bed chamber.
He thrusted the oak door open with a heavy thud and what I saw was a huge hall of a chamber with a four poster bed in black wood at one end with crimson sheets and quilts and at the other a huge marble fireplace with a fire burning at the hearth. Just ahead of the fireplace, a large coppery tub lay on the floor.
“Valentine, I haven’t done this before, what do I do?” I asked gingerly.
“Well, that all depends on what you’d like me to do.” He smiled, holding me a little closer to him.
“Oh, I don’t know what I want you to do, I was hoping you might.”
“Well, I had in mind that – since you’re shivering – we could share a bath.” He smiled.
“Really?” I questioned him.
“I mean, that was my thinking, if you’d like that, Theodosia.”
“I think I would, Valentine.” I whispered to him.
“Okay, I’ll fill the tub.”