Valentine and I got out of the bath and began to dress each other. I wasn’t sure I could stand to return to Ceasebury Manor after that wonder I had just experienced, sitting between his legs.
“I’ll bring you back home on my stallion.” He said, hurriedly dressing me and him. I nodded and he pulled me behind him into the hallway where my dress had mostly dried and he helped me put it back on swiftly.
“Why are you hurrying so much, Valentine?” I questioned him bemused.
“Because I know what will happen if someone decides to tell anyone that you were here. Your reputation will be ruined.”
“So?” his tone was almost mocking “I don’t want that for you.”
“I know, but –“ my voice trailed off.
“Let’s get you back to Ceasebury.” He said in an authoritative voice. He led me back out to the grounds and to the stables where he retrieved a beautiful black stallion which he mounted, pulling me up beside him. We galloped through the vast plantation fields and (while I so loved the feeling of being protected against Valentine’s chest) I couldn’t help but notice the slaves who toiled in the hot July sun. As we approached the huge lawn of Ceasebury Manor, Valentine slowed the pacing of the steed. It was afternoon now and my mother was walking at the front of the house. The clock face began to chime two. Valentine dismounted the horse about ten feet from her and helped me down after him.
“Theodosia!” my mother shouted. “Where have you been?” she stared at me. Just as I was about to respond, Valentine began.
“Sorry for keeping her so long, Mistress, we took the boat down the river and walked the fields for a while.” He smiled with an odd kind of false sincerity.
“Oh,” she took an exaggerated breath in “that’s brilliant.” She smiled gleefully. I went to stand with my mother, closer to the house. Valentine lingered.
“There is something else, may I speak with Master Ceasebury?” Valentine smiled.
“But, of course.” She smiled as if something wonderful had happened. “He is up the stairs in his study.”
“May I?” he asked. She nodded. He entered the house.
“You know what this means?” she whispered to me in a harsh but happy tone. I looked at her blankly. “He is about to ask your father for your hand in marriage. You will be Marchioness Ravenswood within the fortnight. Come, I imagine he will formally propose to you at the ball, we need to get you measured for the most beautiful dress Virginia has ever seen.”. I smiled softly to myself, knowing that she was right, for we had agreed it naked in a copper bathtub. She took me upstairs and had the maids measure me up for a dress and sent a hurried letter to the Williamsburg Millinery Emporium tailor who I could only imagine had jumped at the opportunity to make a dress for a girl to be promised to a marquess in.
It felt so strange - so terribly, terribly strange – that I was to marry to marquess after knowing him les than a day. But, I suppose, things have to move fast at Ceasebury, for the clock which looms over us all, ticking ever forward, marching to the unforgivably silence beat of the years it had ticked through. It would tick until the end, reminding us of the incredibly sort time we were all granted. The clock made me turn my thoughts to the revolution; it was already bigger than the only other revolution I knew about, the rising of priests in Malta all the way across the wide, wide sea. That’d been crushed in a matter of hours, this revolution had been going for years now. I took a moment to think about Williamsburg. I hadn’t visited the town in about six months now, Valentine had mentioned that Captain LeBolt had been quartered there, did that mean we up here were in danger? Or did it just mean that Williamsburg was teeming with red coats?
The ball was to be in two days’ time, a fact which I found rather ironic, considering it would be held on the 4th of July up at Governor's Palace, a vast government building in which Virginian society liked to hold its most grand of parties. It seemed to be almost ludicrous that while the revolutionaries would be laying in a ditch somewhere, the red coats would be dancing the night away and finding ladies to court. It was truly an absurd image; a bunch of muddy men would be in a field just outside of Williamsburg, thinking they were going to have some kind of ‘five years since the declaration of independence’ massacre on the British and all the British would be tucked away neatly in their ballroom. I laughed to myself.
I went upstairs to my bed chamber, attempting (in vain) to ignore my mother’s perpetual talk of the ball and marriage and everything else. I had now secured my own match, now I had to cement Gabriella’s. I found her sitting on a cushioned set outside her bed chamber in one of her yellow dresses, looking rather dazed into space.
“What’s wrong, Gabriella?” I asked her tentatively, not wishing to frighten her.
“Oh, nothing’s wrong, I’m happy.” She giggled. “I had written to Charles and given it to Cheyenne, she was going into town.”
“Is he going to be at the ball?”
“Oh, I quite forgot about the ball, I hope he’ll be there, then I can dance the night away with him.” She giggled again. “When do you think he’ll write back?” she questioned me.
“I don’t know, when did you give the letter to Cheyenne?” I asked.
“A few hours ago, while you were wherever it was you were with Marquess Ravenswood.” He stared at me, almost as if she were hoping to gather where I had been from looking at me. I knew she wouldn’t guess.
“Oh, well, Williamsburg isn’t far away, he’s probably already read it.” She took a little gasp as I spoke.
“I really hope so, do you think he’ll write back to me today?”
“Probably.” I shrugged. She giggled again. I heard a sudden beating of hooves from the gardens below. I ran to Gabriella’s window and looked down to see Valentine riding away back towards Ravens’ Wood.
“What was that?” Gabriella questioned me.
“Valentine.” I sighed.
“Yes, he asked my father for my hand in marriage, I hope he said yes.”
“What?” she said in surprise. “Really? Well, you sat on that news for a while, didn’t you?” she laughed.
“That’s amazing news, you’ll marry Valentine and I’ll marry Charles.” She said in a matter-of-fact tone.
“Yes, I suppose.” And just like that it all seemed so easy. It seemed as it hard this time yesterday, we both had perfect matches. It just didn’t involve Dorian. Dorian, yes, I had quite forgotten about him. Why did he send his sister away? That thought had swirled in my mind the previous night and yet I had forgotten it when I had been with Valentine. What was all of this about? It mattered to me more than it mattered to her. I wanted to know why she was here.