General Fiction posted December 22, 2017

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Short story

Pathway through the poplars

by zanya

Viscount Norton alighted from his carriage. Charles, his valet, attended to his portemanteaux.
Norton rubbed his gloved hands together to keep out the icy January cold.

'Charles', he began, 'see to it that there is a fire lighting in the morning room as I am expecting Lord Annesley at noon'.
'At your service , Sir,' Charles replied.

Norton pushed open the heavy wooden door of Ramsgrange. He removed his great coat before going into the morning room.

'Dearest Charles', he began, ' Why, I have begun to grow weary of my travels in Europe. Long distance travel alone, has become somewhat tedious, tinged with a sense of ennui. Perhaps a man approaching his fiftieth birthday, like myself, should no longer be foot loose and fancy free.'

Charles was taken aback. His Lordship usually revelled in foreign travel.
Charles had worked at Ramsgrange for nigh three score years. Never had he heard such sentiments being openly expressed.

'It's time to take unto myself a wife', Norton jested.'Now that the dark clouds of war have receded, life should be a little more lighthearted'.

'Why, there are many eligible young women who would wish to be joined with you in matrimony,' Charles proferred.

Secretly Charles wondered why his Lordship had not as yet taken a wife . Charles himself, being a grandfather, knew the joys of family life. He had met and married his lovely Ellie when they were just seventeen and had been happy for forty years.

'I have left it too late, I fear, my dear Charles,' Norton continued.

The sound of footsteps in the hall drew Charles away from his Lordship.

Lord Annesley had arrived. At the start of each new year, Lord Annesley, a life long friend of Norton's recently deceased father, came to pay his annual visit.

'Charles,' he began ,' The years are catching up with me. So I have requested that my only daughter, Lady Adeline, accompany me this year. Despite wearing her widow's weeds and pregnant with her first child, she agreed to my request.'

Lady Adeline gently guided her father to his seat.
Leaving the two men to their discussion, Lady Adeline walked towards the pianoforte and played quietly.

Norton's eyes rested on her peaches and cream complexion, as her nimble fingers caressed the keyboard.

Suddenly she let out an urgent cry. Norton rushed to her side.

Adeline appeared to swoon. Norton gently took her arm. He guided her to the chaise longue, beneath the bay window where a pallid ray of January sunlight lit up her countenance.

Lord Annesley took his cane and bowler hat and announced his departure.

'Lady Adeline is to be allowed to rest for some hours now, as her pregnancy is far advanced. Perhaps your valet can accompany me to my home.'

Lady Adeline removed her green and red woollen bonnet and lay elegantly on the chaise longue. Lady's maid, Juliet, mopped her warm brow and wiped the beads of perspiration on her skin.

Too ill to return home immediately, Lady Adeline was accomodated in the west wing .

Following a week of rest at Ramsgrange Lady Adeline emerged one sunny January morning to join Norton for breakfast.

'Lady Adeline, how good to see that you are feeling a little better, Norton remarked.
Would you care to walk with me among the poplars after breakfast? The air is bracing particularly at this time of year?'

Following a light breakfast of madeleine and warm milk, Adeline donned her muffler and great coat.

Norton wore his nut brown, country breeches that he favoured when walking the beagles.

An east wind blew through the clearing as the pair made their way along the pathway.Color began to be restored to Adeline's pale cheeks.
Adeline was obliged to walk at a slow pace, due to the proximity of the arrival of her first born.

'Lord Norton', Adeline began as they walked towards the east wing,' your hospitality has been warm and welcoming. I shall be sad to return home. It is lonely now since my beloved husband, Count Lester, was so tragically killed in the coach accident. Papa fears the carriage may have been in need of repair before he set out on that fateful journey. My mind constantly relives the moment I heard the tragic news.
Do forgive me, Norton, I am presently wont to wallow in my own misfortune.

You, on the contrary, live quite an exciting life on your estate, surrounded by people who love you.'

Norton now felt distinctly uncomfortable at Adeline's comments. It threw into stark relief his lonely batchelor status.

'M-m-m Lady Adeline, ..perhaps...yes .. I have a cohort of people who surround me. Yet if I may be so bold as to acknowledge, that I have of late, become extremely conscious of my single status. Most of my cohort of friends and acquaintances are on the threshold of being grandparents.'

Norton's own words suprised him. Why did he feel sufficiently safe to acknowledge his lonely secret to a pregnant young woman whose acquaintance he had just made?

He fumbled nervously with the brass buttons on his hunting jacket. He wanted to continue this conversation. He wanted another human being to feel this lonely state with him, to share his isolation. But why, he thought to himself, should he burden this young woman who was about to give birth and whose concerns, no doubt were focused elsewhere.

He glanced furtively at Lady Adeline. She seemed deep in thought, as she removed her muffler to caress gently her rotund belly.

The pair walked along in silence for some time.

Lord Norton's sympathies were aroused by Adeline's tragic story.

'Why you are such a young woman, tragically widowed,' he began.

'Yes,' Adeline replied,' my child will grow up without a father. An orphan. And my father is getting into old age and will not be able to engage with him. Since my older brother died in infancy from small pox, many years ago, I am an only child'.

Tears welled up in Adeline's eyes .

The couple continued walking with measured step.

Norton reached out taking Adeline's hand in his own, steering her gently along the cobbled pathways among the poplars.

Light snow flurries fell. disappearing on contact with the frozen earth.

'Why, perhaps it is time to return to the house,' Adeline murmured . ' Though it is very pleasant to walk here in the grounds with you.'

' I wish we could walk here forever, just the two of us,' Norton blurted out.

Adeline could feel the flush in her cheeks at these words.

'Why that would be my heart's desire', she continued.

They came to an abrupt halt, on the pathway.

Norton looked into Adeline's emerald eyes and placed a gentle kiss on her flushed cheek.

His heart filled with gratitude. He had now found the precious gift of the love of a beautiful, caring woman here among the poplars.
His next scheduled trip to Europe would now have to wait.

1,163 words

Found It writing prompt entry
Writing Prompt
Write a story where your character found something that impacts his or her life. Maximum word count: 2,000 words.

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