We returned to Ceasebury quietly, still pondering over that had just taken place in the White Woods. Gabriella had dried her tears on her yellow dress. She didn’t change. She sat with me, nestled on the bed in my chamber. She was calmer now.
“Gabriella?” we heard a whisper through the door “I have a note from the Captain.” Cheyenne slipped a folded piece of paper under the door. Gabriella ran to the door and picked it up from the thick, embroidered carpet. For the first time in a long time, I saw true hope on her face. I hadn’t even seen it today when she had approached the gates of her old house earlier. She felt real hope in the potential promise of her new courtship. She rushed to me with it in her hand. She took a deep breath before sitting down.
“Open it up.” I smiled to her. She opened it softly. I took a moment to realise that this moment – this letter opening – could mark the first moment of Gabriella’s freedom. She shook it slightly, carful not to damage it. She read it aloud.
“Dear Gabriella, thank you for writing to me. I have been looked to marry for many years now, although my own youth was interrupted by joining the red coats to help fight against this new threat to peace back in 1776. You seem so lovely from the letter you sent me, I would be delighted to dance with you at the mid-summer ball in the town on Wednesday, if this is agreeable to you. I sincerely hope we can get to know each other better. Yours, Charles.” She whispered the last words with a kind of converted joy. She was thrilled at this opportunity to take control of her own destiny.
“Well, what are you going to say to him?” I asked, excited.
“Yes. Of course, I want to go with him.”
“Then tell him.” I smiled, taking hold of her hand.
“I will.” She giggled, standing up. She began out of the room and heard a bang as the door to her chamber was opened. She hurried back and few seconds later with some parchment and a quill and began to write. “Dear Charles,” she read aloud “I would be delighted to accompany you to the ball.” She sighed. “What do you think, Theodosia?” she questioned. “What would you say?”
“Don’t say what I would say, say how you feel.” I smiled to her.
“Alright, I will.” She smiled. I heard the harsh scratching of a quill upon parchment as she wrote fast.
I left her there in my bedroom to write her little love note to Charles and walked out onto the front of the estate and took a seat on the bench which sat outside on the lawn under the clock face. I pondered why Dorian had treated Gabriella the way he had. But I knew now that I couldn’t possibly be blatant cruelty, there must have been some real reason he did it. I put my head in my hands. Did the world have to be so full of alteria motives and lies and deceit? I guess I did, I mean, if the man who claims to fight for freedom is allowed to be in favour of slavery there was clearly something a little strange going on in Virginia.
It was then, as the clock struck three, that I caught sight of a figure moving fast up the lawn, jumping over stables and flower beds. He was dressed in a red coat and a little white wig. He draw closer and I stood up, growing more and more aware of him. He bumbled up the path, knocking over a bird house and began waving at the house frantically.
“Miss! Miss!” he shouted. He grew closer. “Are you Miss Ceasebury?” he fell to a halt by the door.
“Yes. Who are you?” I looked at him perplexed.
“I’m part of the household at Kingston Grove, I have been instructed to give this to you.” He placed a thick piece of parchment which had been sealed with the royal blue bear seal of the Kingston house in my hand.
“Thank you.” I said, gripping it.
“Yore welcome, Miss. I best be going.” He trotted off back the way he had come.
“Thank you!” I called to him again from across the lawn.
I took the letter back to the bench and yanked it open.
I want to explain to Gabriella why I couldn’t let her in earlier. I want to explain a lot of things to her, but I just don’t know how. I have chosen to write to you in the hope you could explain it to her.
In 1776, our mother died. She died suddenly and without warning. That was because my father killed her. He killed her because he found out that his daughter – Gabriella – was the child of a lover she had had in 1762. She is not a Kingston, not really. That’s why had to arrange for her to go to live at Ceasebury. Father doesn’t know where she is and he can’t know for I fear she will meet the same fate as her mother.
I am so sorry to land all of this on your shoulders, but I would be forever in your debt if you could explain this to her.
I took a sharp intake of breath as I read the letter. Could this be true? Gabriella wasn’t a Kingston. How could I tell her any of this? If I did, then she would be truly lost in this world. All she had was that she was Gabriella Kingston and that she would eventually return to Kingston Grove. That could never happen now. I knew I couldn’t tell her; I would have to wait until she had secured herself a match, then at least she would belong somewhere. I stuffed the letter into the inner pocket on my skirt that I usually kept for Mr Jameston’s books.
At was at that moment that I saw Gabriella run out of the house, quite frantic.
“Theodosia!” she called. “I have just given the letter to the coachman, he says he’s going into town!” she laughed, almost ecstatic. Yes, I would allow her this, I would tell her once she had secured a proposal.