Admirable Grace

Author’s Note: I’m told this isn’t an end (though it could be, in my opinion,) and just a pause.

Of course, I don’t think I know how to pick up after the pause…

Admirable Grace

“You seem quite peaked.” Gray did not like the look of her face, too pale, making her seem ill, and he was concerned for her, a feeling that he didn’t like. Why did he care? She was still a stranger to him, and he had done his best to make amends for his behavior, so that should excuse him from any sort of obligation to her, should spare them both the need to have any continued dealings with each other.

She held up the note he’d left in her yard. So she had seen it, had found it. Good. He’d hoped that she would, though he couldn’t be certain.

“Why did you leave this for me?”

“It is what it is,” he told her. She should recognize it as what it was. He’d made it quite clear. He did not want to go into this. “A warning.”

“’Do not trust my uncle.’”
She read and then shook her head, and he should feel more remorse for the conflict he saw there. He had done this to her. Still, he had not done it without reason. She needed that warning. She needed it more than she knew. “Why?”

Gray knew that he could spend hours listing the man’s faults and sins, but he did not want to take that time. He did not have it, nor did she, since she should not have come after him at all. Her parents would lock her away for this—if she got caught, that was. “He is evil.”

She closed her eyes, biting her lip. Her parents had no comprehension of the situation they’d placed her in, and he did not know that they would care if they did. Their attitude toward her was reprehensible. “Did he kill your wife?”

“Truthfully, I don’t know. He might have. They were… involved.” He saw the look of horror in Grace’s eyes, and he would like to take away some of that fear, but he did not know how he could, not when she was in potential jeopardy. “He takes a particularly sinister pleasure in seducing women I know, especially if they are… friends or more to me.”

“That is why you did not want to marry again?”

He had a list of those reasons, too, but he did not give them to her. They were not fit for discussion, and she was still too much a stranger to impart all those failings. “A part of the reason, yes. I have others. Still, I did not know that he was in town when we last spoke. He was supposed to be in Spain, but he’s here, and he seems… alarmingly interested in our possible nuptials.”

She put a hand to her head, pained. “I do not understand. What darkness is there in your family that could be so—”

“My uncle is only two years older than me. You needn’t think him some terrible old man with wicked stamina. He is a product of my grandfather’s fourth marriage—that devil ran through a great many wives, killing most of them in childbirth—and owing to that young lady’s considerable beauty is considered a rather handsome man who has had little trouble with his conquests. As we were near of age, we fell into a sort of role of… rivals. You see, my father is in charge of the family business, one that will pass to me with all its assets. I am quite well-positioned. When he dies, I shall be a rich man. My uncle, on the other hand, will be near penniless aside from what he has earned working for my father, and it is, I assure you, a pittance, since he earns the same income as I do.”


“Forgive me. It is vulgar to speak of money that way, and it is also improper to impugn my family’s honor in such a way, not that they have any.”

“You make so little sense, Mr. Thatcher.”

He laughed. “I find that comforting, though I know you cannot see it that way. Were I more direct, I suppose I might well have found my own end as my wife did or perhaps I should be locked away as mad. I am merely eccentric at this point, and most blame that on grief.”

“You are not grieved.”

“I am guilty—I should never have married her, and my neglect made her receptive to my uncle, and therein is enough reason for censure. I warn you that you might avoid falling into a similar position, even though you are not to become my wife.”

Grace blinked. “You have determined that, then?”

He frowned. “Did you decide otherwise? I had not thought you wanted the second option.”

“A part of me does not, but then I don’t know that I can take the other one, either. They are both fraught with potential disaster.”

“Very true.”

“You are a man of business. What sort of employment do you think I might possibly gain?”

“At best, given your current level of skills as I assume them to be… the position of a secretary, and that is not one to covet,” he told her, letting out a breath. “My uncle delights in hiring women for that office, then seducing them and leaving them ruined. I have heard of others doing the same. Perhaps you could be a salesgirl at a store? That might be somewhat of an improvement over working so closely with one man who might see you as his… right. There is being a maid or some other domestic position, but there are many who would take advantage of such a thing as well…”

“Marriage is not much of an improvement over that, either. It is the same deal without the benefit of an income.”

He nodded. “Yes, you are correct, and someday your sex will revolt against all these outrages. You, though, are not yet there. Perhaps… you could arrange for schooling. Take up the occupation of teacher or nurse. Those are considered fit and acceptable for women.”

“Women who cannot marry.”

“Who wants to be married? As you just stated, it signs away all your rights without giving you much in return. I think some people do it for the right reasons, but if all you have to suggest the idea is that you have no other choice, such a thing is doomed to failure. Lord knows my wife was miserable. Me? I was not happy. I was not there.”

Grace let out a breath. “The amount of money you said you could give me—is that enough to arrange for schooling?”

“No. Unfortunately, it is not. Tuition and board might cost you as much as three hundred fifty per term, and I can give you only five hundred at present. You’d run out soon enough and have very little to supply you with other… incidental expenses. It might be such a thing where I could find a way to pay your tuition each term—”

“Why would you do that?”


She shook her head. “I do not credit that much, though you have been trying to apologize. I do not think that you were all that concerned with my fate. You think you should be, so that is why you now attempt to aid me, but you do not care what becomes of me.”

“After I warned you about my uncle and offered you money and—”

“And could care less about what I want so long as you fulfill your responsibility somehow. You pack me off, never to see me again, and you would not be troubled by what might have come of me except on rare occasions when I might come into your thoughts, but then you could dismiss me as you have already done.”

He shook his head. “What do you want from me, then? Some admission that I am… madly in love with you when I do not know you? A pledge to be your friend forever and always? I thought you would be as glad to quit me as I would be you.”

“In some respects, yes, that would be for the best, but I cannot help being aware that whatever course I take now I shall isolate myself from all friends and family and can count on no one and nothing but me. You then, would be my only ally, only I would lose you as soon as I took that first step. Why could I not have been the son they wanted? This would be so much simpler if I was.”

“I am a poor friend and a lousy ally.”

“Save your excuses. I fear I must take your money, but then our business is done, and we will part company for good. I want nothing from you, as you want nothing from me.”

He stared at her back as she started walking away. How bold she’d gotten in so short a time. He could not help thinking there was something rather admirable in it, despite how she infuriated him. No, she’d rather made herself into a stronger person, one who could survive the unpleasant future she’d chosen for herself, and she would do so with more grace than she thought she had.

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Beginning: Dreams Were All They Gave for Free

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