Welcome to another edition of Fridays and Freebits. This week’s excerpt from Lord Esterleigh’s Daughter takes place at the end of Chapter Three. Julia, Anne’s mother has died, and Anne, rather than keep her deathbed promise, has attempted to take her own life.
“…The plot is fast-paced. The characters are well-developed… I recommend this story to those who like gothic fiction, and to those who are interested in aristocratic English society prior to the American Revolution.”
— History from a Woman’s Perspective
The girl stirred. He sat back, wiping away his tears, but she merely shifted her head on the pillow and pulled the blanket to her chin. Again he leaned over her. Early morning light now fell more sharply across her face, weaving patterns of brightness and shadow as the curtains rustled on the draft.
“Oh, my child!” he whispered. “You have every right to disdain me. I cannot begrudge you your feelings. But it will pass. It must! I mean to do right by you. I owe it to you…and to your mother.” He sat back in the chair, as she rolled onto her side, away from him. “There is so much you need to know, so much that only I can tell you. Trust me…just a little…and I will find a way to redeem myself in your eyes.”
It would not be easy. She remained steadfast in her animosity. Nothing could shake her resolve. She had been betrayed. Her world turned upside down.
Day and night he had sat by her side, cradling her in his arms when she cried out, wiping vomit from her chin, bathing her burning face and limbs with cool towels. Clutching her hand in that bleakest hour of the night, he saw in her glazed and dilated eyes that the spark of life had begun to fade. He clutched her against himself, as though to squeeze into her the very force that sustained him. Three days and nights passed before a flicker of light returned.
On the fourth night she asked for water. He poured out a glass from the pitcher on the bedside table and held it to her lips. She focused her eyes at him in the wavering light from the candle stub. She looked hard at him before recognition sent a pained expression over her face. Her eyes darkened, then filled with tears. Then she turned her face to the wall, and she wept.
She would not die. Yet, in that instant, she slipped away as surely as if death had taken her.