The Dream of Love: Episode 9


Remi took great care in choosing the perfect gown to wear for her afternoon meeting at the vicarage. Adam had invited her yesterday to participate in the midsummer celebration discussions, and she did not wish to be late. In truth, she had considered arriving early to learn more about his Inverness family, especially knowing that he’d lost brothers in the war, but decided to linger afterward to pose her questions. To do so before the meeting would not be productive and might only aggravate him. After opening his heart just enough to mention he had four brothers, he’d slammed it shut again and told her nothing more. She was patient and could wait him out, assuming her father did not haul her away and force her to marry a toady of his choice. “Good afternoon, everyone. I hope I’m not late.”
Adam seemed relieved to see her. “No, you are right on time.”
He rose from his seat in the parlor and offered it to her, giving her arm a little squeeze, which she took to mean he was glad to see her.
“I think you know Lady Monkton.” He nodded toward an elegantly dressed blonde in her early thirties.
“I do. How are you, Lady Monkton?” Remi was sorry she and Adam would not have a moment alone. Perhaps he would agree to walk her back to Sherbourne Manor, then they could talk as they sauntered along the road. Yes, it was better to get him away from the vicarage where he could come up with any feeble excuse to be rid of her and not answer more of her questions.
“Quite well. And you, Lady Remington? I understand you’ve had a bit of trouble.”
It was a snide comment to make, but Remi tried to overlook her smirk and the way her chin was raised as though peering down her nose at Remi. “No, all is well.” She was not about to rise to the woman’s bait. “I’m so pleased Vicar Carstairs thought to ask me to your meeting.”
She turned to the other two ladies seated in Adam’s parlor. “Good afternoon, Mrs. Dowd. Miss Dowd. It’s a lovely day, isn’t it?”
“Too warm for my liking,” said Mrs. Dowd, taking out her fan and waving it across her face so that her body odor wafted through the room. It wasn’t a very pleasant odor, which immediately brought The Book of Love and its chapter on the sense of smell to Remi’s mind. As for herself, she’d added a lavender-scented oil to her bath and hoped she reminded Adam of his beloved Scottish home. If not that, then at least a pleasant Scottish flower.
Not that she was Scottish, but he was, and obviously missed his home.
“Not a pleasant day at all,” Emily Dowd said, mimicking her mother’s disdainful air.
Remi shrugged off their dismissive glances, understanding why the Dowds were not happy to see her. She was competition for Emily, who no doubt sought Adam’s affections. Well, Remi refused to be glum about it. Emily was pretty, but she wasn’t particularly nice or clever, which made her completely unsuitable to be a vicar’s wife, especially this vicar.
As for Lady Monkton, she was a fairly attractive woman married to a lunkhead of a husband. He wasn’t cruel or prone to excessive drinking or gambling: He was just dull as dishwater. Remi was innocent, but not so innocent as to be ignorant of Lady Monkton’s intentions toward Adam. Not that he needed Remi to protect him from the unwanted advances of a hungry female.
But she did not like to think he might be receptive to the odious woman.
No, Adam was honorable. He wouldn’t take up with a married lady.
Remi was struggling for something polite to say in order to break the uncomfortable silence when Adam’s housekeeper rolled in the tea cart. “Lady Remington,” Adam said, turning to her, “may I impose upon you to act as my hostess?”
It was a proper request since she was the highest-ranking lady among them. “I’d be delighted.”
Despite her rebellious nature, her years at finishing school had served their purpose. She knew how to behave like a lady. Also, she was glad to have given thought to her attire, a gown of ivory muslin with a forest-green pelisse that highlighted her auburn hair. She looked elegant, but approachable. Her hair was done up in a braided chignon at the nape of her neck, once again elegant but not too ornate. She hoped to look charming and suitably understated, not the imperious earl’s daughter.
Two men hurried in as she was pouring tea for the ladies. The first gentleman was a local magistrate, Squire Claymore, a pleasant, rotund fellow who enjoyed hearing himself speak. The second was a successful local merchant by the name of Mr. Squibb, who thought quite highly of himself.
Adam greeted them and motioned for them to be seated. “Shall we begin? Anyone have suggestions for our midsummer’s eve festivities?”
Mr. Squibb frowned. “I wouldn’t call our plans festive. We ought to be giving thanks to our Creator for providing us with our bounty. The children especially must be discouraged from behaving like heathens.”
The others took turns making comments and offering suggestions, none of which remotely appealed to Remi. Finally it was her turn. She cleared her throat. “I think we must hold a fair. Surely a marionette show and some games would not cause any harm. I think a three-legged race would be fun. Children need to run around, especially if the weather is beautiful. Perhaps we can make faerie wings for the children and crown one of them the faerie queen or king. Food and dancing for the adults.”
Her suggestions were immediately voted down. “You seem to be under the misapprehension that we are planning a party,” Lady Monkton said with a sniff.
“Isn’t the point to make goodness enjoyable?” Adam asked.
Remi glanced at him, hoping she hadn’t embarrassed him too badly. But he did not seem in the least put out, so she pressed her suggestion. “Why can’t we hold a fair at the vicarage? Food, dancing, and games, but all for charity. I mentioned faerie wings, but we can call them angels wings instead. The three-legged races can be run for charity, each participating pair designating their favorite cause. A pie-eating contest, too. I’m sure the local landowners would all be happy to donate to a church roof or new psalm books or food for a struggling family, whatever the cause designated by the winner of each event. All for a good purpose, and the children would be quite proud to participate.”
“I like the idea,” Adam said before anyone else could respond. “Lady Remington, you seem to have given this serious thought. Midsummer’s Eve is a perfect time to bring our Wellesford families together to celebrate love of their neighbors and village. I have no doubt the Earl of Welles and Duke of Hartford would be happy to donate a few shillings to a good cause. Perhaps others would as well.” He stared pointedly at the magistrate and Mr. Squibb, both of whom felt a sudden need to stare at their toes.
“The children will feel quite proud of themselves, racing across the field for a good cause,” Remi said.
Adam grinned at her. “Or stuffing their little faces with pie to help fix our roof.”
Mrs. Dowd shot to her feet. “It seems the two of you have it all worked out. Come, Emily. We’re obviously not wanted here.”
Adam sighed. “Do sit down, Mrs. Dowd. The fair is an excellent idea and we should all be in the planning of it together. Piety does not mean deprivation, and I certainly do not want any families in this parish to feel that attending my Sunday sermon is a chore. I particularly like the idea of involving the children toward raising donations. I don’t know how better to make them feel a part of the Church.” He turned to Remi. “Will you take the lead in organizing the fair?”
Her eyes rounded in surprise. “Yes, I would love to.”
Lady Monkton rose and walked to Adam’s side, stroking his arm. “Our dear Lady Remington will not be here by the end of the week. We all know her situation. Her father will either disown her or cart her off to some impoverished nobleman to marry.”
“Indeed,” Emily said, coming to his side as well. “Vicar, I’ll work closely with you on this matter. How can you think to ask Lady Remington? You’ll be left with a shambles when she suddenly disappears.”
Mrs. Dowd also crowded around him. “My Emily is more than capable. We don’t need Lady Remington.”
Adam’s committee members were quick to vote her out. Remi was heartbroken, but refused to allow her disappointment to show. Adam had stood up for her. It was enough. Since everyone was already on their feet, huddling around him, she rose as well. “Thank you for inviting me, Vicar. I shall be going now.”
She thought she heard him call out to her, but refused to turn back. She didn’t want anyone to see how upset she was. Nor could she return to Sherbourne Manor just yet. The day was nice enough. She decided to sit by the river, but this time keeping her shoes and stockings on, and not wading in.
Why had she thought anything would be different? Her father had poisoned everyone in Wellesford against her. They considered her a laughingstock and always would.
She plunked herself down on the bench and stared at the swiftly moving river current, wishing it would simply wash her away. She was not yet composed when Adam came upon her. “Thought I’d find you here,” he muttered.
She kept her gaze on the water. “I’m sorry if I spoiled your meeting.”
The bench groaned as he set his large frame beside her. “You were the only bright spot in that meeting. Your ideas were perfect. The children would have loved everything you suggested.”
He shrugged. “They don’t know what will happen to you after the Sherbourne party, and it worries them.”
“And you?” Her hands began to shake. “You do realize that what happens to me is completely in your control, don’t you? I’ve made my feelings known to you. But you’re so caught up piling those stones around your heart, defending your fortress so no one ever gets in, that you’ll let me go.”
She rose, preparing to walk away because it was simply too painful to be close to him. “I’ve read the book Poppy gave me. I believe in the magic of love. I just don’t know how to make you believe it.”
“Remi, wait. Don’t go.”
“Give me a reason to stay.”
He placed a gentle hand on her arm. “You want to know about me, don’t you? Sit down and I’ll tell you.”