An Undeniable Passion Ch. 17byopels©
The next day did come and Billy was up early and pacing through the downstairs rooms. The ring was in it's velvet box in his pocket and he kept taking it out and looking at it. Virginia was preparing lunch in the kitchen. "It's still an hour to go, we should have invited her to dinner last night," he said. He paced about the room and kept going out into the hallway to check the clock.
She couldn't help but laugh at him. "Billy, calm down. The time isn't going to go any faster with you pacing about. Why don't you play the piano while you wait? Some music would be nice and it might help you relax. The way you are now, you'll be on one knee the moment she walks through the door."
He stopped and stared at her. "Is that what I have to do? Kneel when I ask her?"
"Yes, I think that's usually what's done. It's what Charles did when he asked me," she said tasting the soup she was making.
"Down on one knee or both?" he asked.
"Just one," she replied.
"And what should I say?"
"Well, you should start by telling her how much you love her and that you hope that she feels the same way. When she agrees that she does, you should then tell her how happy she makes you and that you hope she'll make you even happier by agreeing to be your wife. That's when you go down on one knee. Open the box and say 'Elizabeth Robbins, will you marry me?'" Virginia's voice cracked and her eyes filled with tears. "Oh look at me, getting all teary just talking about it!" She took a deep breath and then continued, "She'll say yes, and she will say yes, don't worry about that, and then you place the ring on her finger and kiss her."
"Alright. Say all that again," he said.
Laughing, she said to him, "Billy, you only need to say what's in your heart. It'll come out just fine."
He walked out of the room muttering to himself, "I love you, you make me happy, even happier be my wife, down on one knee..." Moments later she heard a lively tune being played badly on the piano.
The Robbins' carriage finally arrived and Billy watched as both Elizabeth and her mother stepped out. Virginia greeted them at the front door and letting Elizabeth go ahead she whispered to Mrs. Robbins, "Did Mr. Robbins speak with you?
With a broad smile, she nodded and whispered back, "Yes, he did. This is very exciting!"
They were seated in the front parlor at a small table where they ate lunch. Billy was anxious and nervous throughout the meal. Elizabeth repeatedly asked him if he was alright, while Virginia and Mrs. Robbins exchanged knowing glances.
After the meal, Virginia began to clear the dishes and the older woman offered to help carry them to the kitchen. Elizabeth stared at her mother in astonishment. She was astounded that her mother would leave her unchaperoned with a young man. Seeing her expression, she said to her daughter, "I'll only be a minute dear."
The moment they were gone, Billy nervously asked her if she would like to move to the sofa. They sat down and Billy took her hand in his. He told her how he felt about her and when he asked if she loved him too he held his breath waiting for her answer.
She bashfully lowered her eyes and said quietly, "Yes, Billy, I love you too."
He was so incredibly happy that he forgot the rest of his eloquently prepared speech and immediately knelt in front of her. He dug the small box out of his coat pocket and opened it, displaying the sparkling ring inside. "Elizabeth, will you marry me?" he asked in a quavering voice.
She stared open mouthed at the ring in the box and then into Billy's eager face. Her eyes filled with tears and her lips spread into a joyous smile. She leaned forward and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Yes, Billy, yes," she said, pulling him close. Leaning back she looked at him with shining eyes and said, "Yes, I'll marry you."
With shaking hands, Billy slid the ring onto her slim finger. He had asked the jeweler to make it small and it fit her perfectly. He sat beside her on the couch and taking her glowing face in his hands he gently kissed her. He looked down at the ring on her finger and smiled. He then jumped up and yelled, "She said yes!"
Virginia and Mrs. Robbins rushed into the room to congratulate them. Her mother hugged her as Elizabeth asked, "You knew? How did you know?"
"Billy spoke with your father yesterday and he told me."
"Are you happy Mother?"
"Yes, dear. I couldn't be more thrilled."
"When will the wedding be?" Virginia asked excitedly.
"Oh I don't know. Soon," Elizabeth said uncertainly.
"How about twelfth night?" her mother suggested. "That's close enough without being too close."
Staring into Billy's eyes, Elizabeth said, "That sounds perfect."
The next few weeks passed in a whirl for Virginia. She was already busy planning the Christmas Ball, as well as trying to make herself some dresses and now there was also a wedding to plan. She had set her ball for New Year's Eve and was consulting a calendar when a cold thrill suddenly shot through her. She stared at the calendar without seeing it. Drake will be back any day now she thought. What would she do if she saw him? How would she react? How should she react? Should she rush into his arms and forgive him or should she be cool and distant? She sat down on a couch and thought about it. I'll be pleasant and polite, she thought and then base my words and actions on how he behaves. Satisfied with her decision she resumed her task.
Later that day, Billy found her in the library checking the guest list. "Have many people responded to the invitation?"
"Yes, I've received almost all of the responses and everyone so far has said they will attend!"
"We're supposed to go pick up the carriage today," he reminded her.
"Oh yes, I almost forgot! How exciting! We'll go right away, let me get my cloak."
Thomas had been happy to loan them a carriage while theirs was being made. Billy had liked sitting up front and driving. It was much more comfortable than the cart and warmer too. Thomas had also agreed to help them bring the new carriage home, so they stopped at his home to pick him up. He, of course, brought his driver with him so Billy was able to join the couple in the cab.
"I guess I'll need to look into hiring a driver soon. Now that you'll soon be married Billy, you won't be available to drive me into town whenever I need to go. I actually may need to hire a number of servants to help me since you plan to live in the out building."
"Elizabeth and I will live in the house with you until the other one is ready. It really should be bigger and like you said it won't be finished until late summer, so there's plenty of time."
"And you never know, you may never need to worry about staffing that house," Thomas said suggestively.
He had been making more and more remarks such as that one lately and Virginia was beginning to think that he may propose soon. She wasn't sure if she was ready for that. She was still getting her bearings in this new country and still finding out who she was. Having spent her whole life defined as Gregory Templeton's daughter, she had assumed that she would eventually be known as someone's wife. To be just Virginia Templeton now was exciting and she was enjoying it. And she wanted to enjoy it awhile longer before becoming known as someone's wife.
Several hours later they returned home with their carriage. "Should we get a new horse, just for the carriage?" she asked. "Both Spirit and Liberty are meant for personal riding, so I think we should. What do you think Billy?"
Taking her hands in his, he said to her gently, "You're going to have to stop consulting me on decisions Ginny. I'm sorry to have to point it out but we're not going to be partners for much longer and you're going to have to get used to making decisions on your own. Although, judging from the way Mr. Ogilvy talks, it sounds like he may be making your decisions from now on."
"Yes, I know," she said sitting at the table. Looking up at him she said, "For the first time in my life, I'm my own person. I'm Virginia Templeton. I'm not being defined by which man I'm attached to. Plus, I own something, and not just a dress or a hairbrush. But really own something. And I'm making my own decisions. And I like it! I love this independence! Knowing that I don't ever have to worry about money again, knowing that I can marry for love and not for security. I love this house because we found it and gave it a rebirth. I don't want to leave it Billy. But I also want to get married and have a family. How can I do that and keep the house?"
"Maybe Mr. Ogilvy would be willing to move in here with you?" he suggested.
She laughed gently. "What, and leave his big mansion to come live here? Somehow I don't think he would do that."
"So you don't want to marry him?' he asked.
"I'm not sure, maybe, but not now. I'd rather wait awhile, perhaps another year and then I may be ready to become Mrs. Thomas Ogilvy."
"Perhaps you should let him know that," he suggested.
"Maybe I'll start dropping hints about loving my independence and this house and being my own person and so on. And then I'll chart my next course of action based upon how he reacts."
The next morning she walked up the stairs to her sewing room, looking forward to working on one of her dresses. She usually found it to be soothing and occupied her mind just enough so that she didn't have to think about Thomas or Drake or her future. All she had to do was concentrate on a straight seam. That wasn't to be the case today though. Her mind kept wandering and she had to undo the same seam three times before she finally gave up. She was trying to imagine scenarios where she could hint to Thomas that she didn't want to get married right away but wished to eventually. She was worried that she might give the wrong impression and that he might think that she just didn't want to marry him. She was worried that he would think that she had been leading him on, deceiving him. She knew what that kind of betrayal felt like.
With that her thoughts drifted to Drake. She usually pushed thoughts such as these away but today she closed her eyes and let the memories wash over her. The nights on the ship had been heavenly. She had never known such intense pleasure and wondered if she ever would again. Drake's warm hazel eyes, full of passion, asking the question, danced beneath her closed lids. She thought about the hour she spent with him, trapped in his carriage during the storm. Her breath caught in her throat again as she recalled the sensation of his tongue trailing down her throat and the kiss they had shared.
Her thoughts then turned to the night of the Summer Ball. The way he had kissed her on the terrace. They way his lips on her exposed flesh had ignited the flames of passion that had ultimately been her undoing. It had been her first passionate embrace, and that night she had wondered if she would ever again experience such passion in a man's arms. She most certainly did but she never would have thought that it would be from him. She was once again laying on the bed in his cabin soon after she had been discovered to be on board. She smiled as she recalled her shock and revulsion the first time he slid his tongue into her mouth.
What would she say if when he returned he told her that he loved her and wanted to marry her. That he wanted to live with her in her house in Williamsburg and build a life there. She indulged in the fantasy. She imagined them in the large backyard, on a sunny afternoon, enjoying a romantic pic-nic while their children played nearby. She imagined them together in her large four poster bed, tangled up in the sheets. Images of them out riding together, attending balls together, everyone admiring her handsome and charming husband.
She shook her head and silently chastised herself for such foolishness. That will never happen she thought. Not with Drake anyway. She held onto the images though. Perhaps with Thomas. Or perhaps someone she hadn't met yet. She tried to replay them without a face on the man, but no matter how hard she tried, Drake's face was always there.
Thomas came by for a visit the next day. Although it was cold out, the day was clear and sunny and they decided to take their horses out to get some exercise.
"These fields look as though they've been plowed recently. Did you have some work done?" he asked her as they rode by one of the fields.
"Actually Billy and I did it. We bought a couple of oxen and with a plow from the barn we did all of them over the course of a couple of weeks," she said proudly.
He looked at her with astonishment. "The two of you did this yourselves? You plowed the fields?"
Chuckling at his reaction she replied, "Don't look so astonished, Thomas. I rather enjoyed it. I suppose it may have been the novelty of it, but I think a part of it may have been working my own land. Getting it ready for spring. I'm looking forward to planting and harvesting my first crops."
"But my dear, you should hire someone to do that sort of thing. This is, if you're even still here," he said suggestively.
"Oh I intend to be here. Have I told you how much I'm enjoying myself these days?"
"Well, you do seem happy," Thomas offered, not sure what she meant.
She tipped her face into the wind, letting the breeze blow her hair back. "I am happy, Thomas. Happier than I've ever been. I've never had such independence. I didn't even know I wanted it until it was thrust upon me. And now I'll be reluctant to let it go. I know I will have to someday, when I marry," she said, giving him a shy smile before continuing, "but until then I intend to make the most it."
"How long do you think that will be?" he asked, trying to sound casual.
"Oh I don't know, a year perhaps, maybe two," she said.
"Two years," he repeated. "That's a long time."
"Oh, Thomas, you have no idea what it's like," she said eagerly, trying to make him understand. "Imagine spending your whole life expecting to belong to someone else and then all of a sudden you only belong to yourself. I guess for you it would have been the moment you stepped out of your father's shadow and became a man in your own right. Now imagine having to go back."
He furrowed his brow for a moment and then looked at her. "Yes, I can see what you mean," he conceded. "But I suppose as a woman that is your lot in life."
"Not if I don't want it to be," she declared. "This is America, the land of opportunity and I plan to take full advantage of that opportunity."
"But you do want to marry eventually?" he asked hesitantly, as if he wasn't quite sure what her point had been.
"Oh, yes. I want to marry and have a family but I want to enjoy myself a bit first. Just give me a little time, alright?" She gave him an encouraging smile.
Virginia returned from her ride with Thomas and after he had left she found Billy up on a ladder making some minor repairs to one of the chandeliers. "Did you manage to get your hint across?" he asked her.
"Yes, I did. I tried to explain it to him, and I think he understood. He knows that I should like to marry someday, just not now. I think it went well," she said happily. "Although he was quite surprised to learn that we plowed the fields ourselves," she continued laughing.
"Yes I can imagine he would be. I'm sure he's never gotten his hands dirty his whole life," he replied good naturedly.
"I'm going to go upstairs and change out of my riding clothes," she informed him as she left the room.
She returned downstairs to find Billy putting on his coat. "Where are you going?" she asked.
He held up a few small pieces twisted pieces of metal. "These are from the chandelier. I'm going into town to see if the blacksmith can fix them, or make new ones."
Virginia looked at the clock in the hallway. "It's almost five o'clock Billy. Will he still be there?"
"I'm hoping I can make it in time. I'll see you later." He rushed out the door and a few minutes later she heard Spirit's hooves trotting down the front drive. She slowly walked through the sitting room into the music room. She sat in front of the piano and ran her fingers over the keys. She had taken lessons as a little girl but she barely remembered any of it. She got up and wandered into the library. She hadn't spent much time in here yet and thus she wasn't familiar with its contents. Now is as good a time as any she thought to herself, scanning the books along the shelves. She found a few of interest and carried them over to one of the chairs. She built a fire in the grate and was soon absorbed in her book.
Billy quickly rode into town and caught the smith just as he was closing his forge. He was appropriately called Mr. Black. He showed Mr. Black the broken pieces and asked him if he could either repair them or make new ones. The smith turned them over examining them in the dying light. "I think I should be able to repair them. Shouldn't take long. I'll work on them first thing tomorrow. Come by in the morning, I'll have them ready for you."
"Thank you very much," Billy said.
As he was leaving the smith called out to him, "By the way, congratulations on your engagement."
Billy looked at him in surprise "Thank you, but how did you know?"
"Williamsburg may be growing quickly but in some ways it's still a small town. Good news travels fast."
As Bill rode back through town, he took a detour to ride by the harbor. He missed the companionship of the other sailors and was wistful as he looked at the tall masts of the ships bobbing in the harbor. He reminded himself that if he was still leading that life he never would have met Elizabeth, or Ginny for that matter. He also wouldn't be splitting a fortune in gold, silver and gems with her either. Smiling to himself he realized that he had made the right decision.
Further along he noticed a large luxury passenger ship that had just arrived. Its well-to-do passengers were disembarking and all were looking for the best hotel in town. He overheard a young man with blond hair speaking rudely to a carriage driver. He must be one of the upper class from Liverpool he thought. He has the same accent as Ginny.
Charles sat in the carriage as it made its way through the busy streets. He could barely understand the driver and had had a very difficult time coming to an agreement on where he wanted to go. Night was falling and it was difficult to see what sort of a place Williamsburg was. He would stay at a hotel tonight and begin his search for Virginia in the morning.
Much later that night, the Aurora arrived, slowly making its way through the crowded harbor. Drake was eager to disembark and go looking for Virginia and Billy but knew that it was far too early. The sun hadn't even begun to rise. Plus he had business to attend to first. He knew they were going to try farming so all he had to do was go to the courthouse and see if they had bought one. If not he was sure someone in town would know where they were. It would be awhile before the harbor master arrived, so he retired to his cabin to get a few hours sleep.
When he awoke the sun had risen and there was activity on deck. He quickly washed, shaved and dressed and then went up on deck. He squinted into the early morning sun and looked at Williamsburg. Every time he came back he could swear it was bigger. Simpson approached him, "The harbor master is here Captain."
"Thank you Simpson. Why don't you start getting the shipment ready for unloading?"
"Already started, sir."
"Very good then," he said as he made his way to check in with the harbor master. He accomplished that quickly and then made his way to the import office. He concluded his business there quickly as well. He returned to the ship and located Simpson "I'm leaving you in charge of this. There's something I need to do."
"Yes sir," he replied. "And good luck, sir," he added, knowing what is was that Drake was off to do.