An Undeniable Passion Ch. 25byopels©
A couple of weeks later, Drake announced to Virginia that since the tack room was almost finished she could hire a groomsman if she wished. He mentioned that he needed to go into town so if she wanted he could post the notice for her. She wrote one up and gave it to him. He took the carriage into town and after posting the notice he continued on to the goldsmith. He went inside and asked if his order was ready.
He then proceeded to the ship yard to check on the repairs to the Aurora. He was led out to where the she was and he glowed with happiness to see her deck smooth and free of holes once again. The charred stumps that had once been masts had been removed and the bases of new ones had been installed. He was taken inside a long building where the new masts were being built. The foreman assured him that the ship would be ready to sail again in a month's time. Drake thanked him for his time and walked back to the carriage. He then drove to the harbor and found a ship on which to send a letter back to England.
When he returned home, he went up to the sewing room. Virginia looked up as he entered. She smiled and announced, "You're just in time. I'm finished. You now have a very respectable riding outfit. Mostly black with a touch of color. Go in the next room and try them on," she said.
"Surely I don't have to do that," he said smiling. "I can just change here." He removed his coat and began to unbutton his waistcoat. She pushed him towards the door.
"Next door," she said firmly, but laughing.
"Fine," he relented. He grabbed his new clothes and went to the next room, where she stored her fabrics. A few minutes later he returned buttoning the waistcoat.
"Well, how are they?" she asked as he pulled on the frock coat.
"Fine, except for one thing," he said, straightening the coat.
"And what is that?" she inquired, with a mischievous gleam in her eye.
"Why are my breeches lined in pink?" he asked patiently, knowing full well why.
"Because I ran out of black lining fabric?" she replied, trying to stifle a smile.
"I was just in your fabric storage room and saw that you have plenty of it," he said, trying to be serious as well.
"Oh, I must have missed it," she said innocently. She could no longer keep up the pretense and began to laugh. "Would you like me to change it? I can quite easily."
"No, it's fine," he said, laughing as well. "Actually, I think I rather like it. Thank you for making it." He leaned forward and chastely kissed her on the cheek.
He went back to the adjoining room and changed into his other clothes. When he returned she asked, "Did you go check on your ship?"
"I saw the Aurora. The repairs are on schedule, she should be ready to sail in a month," he said happily.
Her heart dropped when he said the words. "You must be looking forward to it," she said in a tight voice.
"It will be nice to see her back in the harbor, where she belongs," he replied.
She blinked back tears and didn't respond. Turning her back to him she retrieved the dress she had abandoned to work on his suit and laid it out on the table. In an unsteady voice she said, "I'm glad you like your riding suit. I hope you get a lot of use out of it."
Sensing that he was being dismissed he thanked her again and left. She heard the door to the stairs close and she sank into a chair. She buried her face in her hands as his words ran through her head, 'where she belongs.' And where you belong too, Drake, she thought. She only had him for another month and then she was going to be alone. Alone in a house full of servants. It was going to be months before Billy was back and even then he would be living in the out-building. Virginia had never felt so alone since her father had died. She sat in the chair for a long time and finally Rosy came looking for her to tell her that dinner was ready. She found Virginia sitting in the dark. As she entered with her candle, she saw that her mistress had been crying.
"Ma'am, are you alright?" She used the candle to light an oil lamp, illuminating the room and knelt by Virginia's chair, taking her hand.
"No, Rosy, I'm not," she replied.
"What is it?" she asked gently.
"He's leaving. In a month he'll be gone," she murmured. "I thought if I kept my distance, guarded my heart, it wouldn't matter when he left, but I failed and it does hurt."
Knowing that she was talking about Drake, she said, "Why will he be leaving, ma'am?"
Virginia poured out the story to her maid. About first meeting Drake and running away from Charles and ending up on Drake's ship. About their last night on the water and how angry she was, and Billy staying to look after her. She even told her about Thomas and explained why she had been so shocked when Rosy had revealed even more of the man's terrible nature. She told her about Charles and Drake showing up on the same day and about the fire that damaged the Aurora causing Drake to stay in Williamsburg. "And now that the ship is almost repaired, he'll be leaving."
"You love him, don't you?" Rosy asked.
Virginia sighed. "Yes, ever since that first day in Liverpool over a year ago, I've loved him," she admitted.
"He loves you as well, ma'am," she said encouragingly.
"Don't believe everything he tells you, Rosy," she said with a harsh laugh.
"He didn't tell me. It's obvious just from looking at him. Sarah and Dolly see it too. It's as plain as day." She paused and then asked, "Does he know you love him?"
"He says he knows, but I'm not sure if he really believes it."
"Maybe if you tell him, he'll stay. Maybe all he needs is to hear it from you."
"I don't know, I just don't know. He's been so eager about his ship being repaired. He keeps going to check on it, to see how much longer it's going to take." Wiping her eyes, she let Rosy help her stand. "I have to wait and see what he does when the Aurora is ready to sail, then I'll know what to do."
Drake went downstairs and hung his new riding clothes in the wardrobe. He knew he would treasure them forever. He again peeked inside the breeches at the bright pink lining and couldn't help but laugh. Turning away from the wardrobe he dug into the pocket of his frock coat and pulled out the small velvet box. Opening it, he gazed at the emerald ring inside. The goldsmith had done a wonderful job. He closed the box and placed it inside the bureau. He knew exactly what he was going to do with it. Deciding to read until dinner was ready, he went down to the library to wait.
A couple of hours later Rosy entered with a tray for him. Setting it down , she said "Miss Templeton won't be joining you tonight, sir. She has a headache and has gone to bed early."
Rising from his chair and moving to the desk where she had set the tray, he replied, "Thank you, Rosy."
"Will you be needing anything else tonight, sir?"
"No, Rosy, thank you. Good night."
She bobbed a quick curtsey. "Good night sir."
A few days later, Rosy announced to Virginia that there was a young man at the door for her. He was responding to the posting for a groomsman. He was the fourth one to come by. She hadn't hired the others because she didn't feel comfortable with them. She felt that since Drake was leaving whoever she hired would have to be someone that she could trust to have around. If Drake were staying the issue wouldn't be so crucial.
Virginia met him in the sitting room. "Good morning, my name is Virginia Templeton," she greeted him.
He stood and nervously clutching his hat, replied, "Good morning Miss Templeton. I'm Daniel Lancaster, but everyone calls me Danny." He was tall and lanky, with dark blond hair that he kept pushing out of wide brown eyes. Virginia guessed he was about twenty years old.
"Well Danny, why don't you tell me a little about other places you've worked."
He explained that he didn't really have any experience directly as a groomsman. "I've only worked as a stable boy, helping out my Dad. He was one of the groomsmen at the Kincaid house in the next county. He got kicked by a horse and can't work now, so I'm looking for a position. I can do the job ma'am, especially since you said in the posting that you only have a few horses."
He looked at her with such guileless eagerness that her heart immediately went out to him. She wasn't about to act so hastily though. She talked with him for awhile about his duties at the Kincaid house and she took him out to the stables and showed him the newly renovated quarters and tack room. She also showed him the barn where some of the equipment was kept. They then returned to the house, where he asked, "Do you live here alone, ma'am?"
"Well, I do have three house maids that live here and at the moment a friend of mine is staying in the house, but he'll be leaving in about a month." She stopped and looked at him, "Why do you ask?"
"Oh, it's just that you referred to everything as yours, not ours, which is what I'm used to hearing when being interviewed for a position."
"Have you applied for many positions?" she asked.
"A few, But they always want someone with more experience." He looked up at her with earnest eyes. "Please give me a chance, ma'am. You won't be disappointed."
Virginia liked the young man. She felt at ease around him and knew that he would work hard. "Alright Danny, I'll give you a chance. The position is yours."
He gazed at her with eyes full of gratitude and for a moment she thought he might hug her. "Oh, thank you, ma'am. Thank you!"
"You're welcome, Danny. Now come with me and I'll introduce you to the rest of the staff." She took him to the kitchen where she found Dolly washing the breakfast dishes. Then Sarah who was washing the windows in the spare bedroom. Rosy was making the beds and came out into the hallway to meet the young man. Virginia noted that Rosy blushed quite a bit while being introduced to Danny and he did likewise.
The next month was torture for Virginia. The time seem to both fly by and crawl incredibly slowly. As the end of Drake's time with her came nearer she craved his company more and more. They went for long horse rides and spent many hours in the library playing billiards or just chatting by the fire. And she spent many hours at night in bed willing sleep to come but it always eluded her, leaving her with her thoughts and more often than not, tears
One afternoon Drake arrived home after being in town and announced that the repairs to the ship were finally complete. He had been to see her and she was once again magnificent.
Virginia tried to share in his happiness. "That's wonderful, Drake. When does she go back into the regular harbor?"
"In a couple of days. I'm hoping to meet with Simpson tomorrow. He's been captaining a ship that runs between here and New York and he's due to dock in the morning. I must speak with him as soon as possible."
She fondly remembered Drake's first mate. Of course he would need to speak with him. New crew members would have to be hired and cargo arranged. He would be very busy over the next few weeks, she thought. She forced a smile. "Say hello to him for me when you see him."
When she emerged from her bedroom the next day, he was already gone. She had breakfast and moped about the house waiting for him to return.
Drake returned to the house after lunch and found Virginia upstairs in her sewing room. She was just standing by the table staring down at her incomplete dress. Drake knocked on the door, startling her.
"I'm sorry I didn't mean to scare you," he said, unable to suppress a chuckle.
"Oh that's alright," she murmured. "I didn't hear you ride up." She picked up the dress, and pretending to examine a seam, she asked, "Did you see Simpson?"
"Yes, I did. We discussed what needs to be done for the Aurora's return trip to England and he's going to take care of everything."
"Well, that's good, that he's so capable," she said lamely. She felt tears threatening her eyes and she blinked them back.
He approached her and stroked the dark violet fabric of the dress she was holding. "This is going to look lovely on you," he commented.
"Thank you. Violet was always so annoyed that I looked better in this color than she did. It being her name of course," she said, laughing too loudly and putting the dress down.
He noted her agitated mood and flustered behavior. "V, are you alright?"
"Yes, I'm fine. Why do you ask?" she said, once more picking up the dress only to put it down again. She suddenly couldn't bear to be in the same room with him and with a muttered, "excuse me," she rushed through the door and down the stairs. She turned into her room and closed the door behind her.
The tears that had threatened a few minutes earlier finally burst forth and she sat down on the edge of her bed as they slowly streamed down her face. She wasn't going to be able to bear it when he left. Perhaps she should ask him to stay, tell him she loved him. No, it's too late, she thought. Simpson's already making all the arrangements to return to England. I'll be lucky to see him again this year, she thought, recalling how long he usually liked to stay in Liverpool before having to make another round trip, and he may not even come back to Williamsburg. The east coast was dotted with ports and his next cargo could be destined for any of them. In a few weeks he was going to sail away, right out of her life forever. She collapsed onto the bed as a fresh wave of tears overtook her and she swore she could hear her heart breaking.
Virginia stayed in her room for several hours and finally emerged only after it was dark outside. She knew her eyes were red and puffy and she hoped that in the dim evening light, Drake wouldn't notice. She entered the library where she knew he would be. He greeted her and asked if she felt up to a game of billiards before dinner. "No, not tonight, I think I'll just read a bit." She picked up her book and stared at the page, not really seeing the words. It took every ounce of her willpower not leap up and run into his arms, begging him to stay.
As soon as Virginia entered the room he had noticed her drawn face and puffy eyes. It tore at his heart to see her like this but he didn't comment on it. She declined his offer of a billiards game so he just aimlessly shot the balls about the table until dinner was announced.
They sat across the table from each other in a tense silence. Dolly reported back to the other two maids and Danny in the kitchen between serving the courses. "They're not speaking to each other. The atmosphere out there is terrible. She's very upset and he seems most uncomfortable," she announced.
"Why doesn't one of them say something?" Rosy said, exasperated. "She should either ask him to stay or he should ask her to go with him."
"I'd rather if they stayed. Do you remember that time about a month and a half ago when they let their emotions get the better of them? They were so happy. Can you imagine it being like that all the time?" Sarah said happily.
Intrigued, Danny eagerly asked, "What happened?"
Rosy whispered back, "Well, when Mr. Stratford was making the renovations to the stables, Miss Templeton went out there to get him for lunch one day. Well she was gone for so long so I went out to see if everything was alright. I found them together, on a pile of hay, and you can guess what they were doing. After about an hour they came back in and almost right away they were laughing like a couple of kids and he was chasing her up to her room. But by that evening, everything was back to normal. It was very strange."
Danny stared at her with wide eyes.
"But he's leaving soon, and that's why she's so upset," Sarah added.
"I better go clear their plates," Dolly sighed leaving the room. She returned a few moments later with the plates, both of them hardly touched. She set them down and said, "Not only are they not talking, they're not eating either."
Virginia looked at Drake across the table. She nervously cleared her throat and asked, "So, when does your ship sail?"
"I'm not sure when she sails. It depends on how quickly Simpson can arrange things."
Not looking at him, she replied, "I see. And is he trying to arrange things quickly?"
"Well, yes. The sooner everything is finalized the better. Only a fraction of the original crew is still here so new ones are being hired and loading the new shipment will take some time. But I would think she'll set sail back for England in a couple of weeks."
Still avoiding his eyes, she again replied with, "I see." She felt tears welling in her eyes again and quickly excused herself from the table and ran from the room, almost colliding with Dolly. Drake stood and almost rushed off after her in an attempt to talk to her and explain things, but instead he sat back down and let Dolly serve the next course of dinner.
Virginia avoided him for the next week, taking Liberty out for long rides around the farm and staying in her room in the evenings. Drake missed her company and stood before her door more than once, tempted to knock on it and urge her to come downstairs.
The morning came for the ship to sail and Drake rose early, hoping to catch Virginia before he headed into town. He knocked on her door but received no answer. He cracked it open and found the room empty. She was already up. He hurried downstairs but Rosy told him she was already out, having taken Liberty for a ride.
"I tried to delay her, sir, but she went anyway," she explained.
Thoroughly deflated, he went back upstairs and got ready for the day. He dressed and waited in the house until the last minute before he had to leave. She still hadn't returned.
He went out to the stables and asked Danny if he could take him into town in the carriage. He sat in the cab looking forward to being back on the ship. He alighted from the carriage and spoke briefly with the young man before shaking his hand. Danny nodded and smiled before driving off.
Drake scanned the crowd in the harbor looking for Virginia's red hair. She was nowhere to be seen.
He walked onto the docks and boarded the Aurora. He found Simpson and shook hands with his good friend.
"Is she all ready to go?" he asked, looking up at the brand new billowing white sails and the gleaming deck, with hardly a scratch on it.
"Yes, sir. All ready," Simpson replied with a large smile.
"It's a good time for crossing. Spring is always good, pleasant weather with lots of wind," Drake said, walking around, greeting old crew members and being introduced to new ones.
Virginia stood far away from the docks but close enough that she could see the Aurora. She was wearing a hat to hide her tell tale red hair and the shadow from the wide brim partially hid her face. She knew Drake was probably already on board and she had purposely waited until the last minute before coming to see the ship sail. She didn't trust herself to see him and thought it best to avoid the chance.
Sure enough, she only had to wait a few moments before the large ship began to move. She fought back tears as it slowly slid out of its berth and out of the harbor. Her heart broke all over again as it majestically sailed away. She watched until she could no longer see it and then slowly turned away. She pulled off the hat, letting her coppery hair spill down her back and walked to where she had tied up Liberty. As she approached she saw that her horse was nowhere to be seen. She looked wildly about, but she wasn't nearby. She sighed heavily, and knowing that Liberty knew how to get back to the house, she decided to hire a coach to take her home. It was then that Danny pulled up in her carriage, with Liberty tied to the back.
She stared at him bewildered. "Danny, what are you doing here with the carriage?" She looked at Liberty tied to the back. "Where did you find her?"
"I brought Mr. Stratford down earlier and I found Liberty wandering down the street. I saw you here looking for her and came over. Would you like a ride back?" He was grinning broadly and seemed to be oddly excited about something.