Ben Davis was surprised when he was summoned near sunset to Grandfather Merriman's estate house. It was out of the ordinary for sure, he usually came in the house only for meals and worked in the stables with the others.
Wiping his feet outside, Ben was ushered into the great house, where one of the house servants showed him into the parlor. Ben walked in and was immediately met with a scene of great distress.
Mr. Merriman was pacing the room while Mrs. Merriman was wringing her hands and looking out the window at the storm clouds on the horizon.
At the sound of Ben's soft footsteps, Mr. Merriman turned, a frown creasing his brow.
"Ben, where is Felicity?"
Felicity... Ben's mind drifted to Mr. Merriman's daughter, a red haired beauty who liked to speak her mind, often leading to sticky situations.
"I have not seen her since breakfast" Ben said, curbing his thoughts.
Mr. Merriman swore and turned back to pacing.
"Sir, what has happened?" Ben asked carefully, feeling concern for the eldest Merriman girl.
"Felicity has been missing for some time now, she left on an early morning ride and never came back" Mrs. Merriman said softly from her chair, still looking at the storm that was approaching.
"If necessary, I can take a horse out and look for her" Ben said, feeling a chill.
"I'm afraid I can't let you, Ben. It's getting dark, And there's a storm coming. we've had slaves looking all day" Mr. Merriman said.
"With respect, sir. We need to make all haste"
Mr. Merriman turned on his heel, face livid.
"My daughter is out there! I can't send anyone out for a reason, I can't risk anyone! I would go myself, but I need to leave for the home immediately!"
Ben was sligthly taken aback, Mr. Merriman never raised his voice, not even when someone displeased him. He could see the conflict in the older man's eyes. Something truly urgent must have come up if he needed to leave immediately without searching for his daughter...
"Sire, your carriage is ready" The butler's voice came from the door.
Mr. Merriman nodded tersely, then grabbed his coat and hat from the corner, kissed Mrs. Merriman's cheek, and walked out the doorway, just stopping to pat Ben's shoulder.
"I will try to be gone for only a short time, please take care of everyone, and find Felicity as soon as you can. You're the man of the house now, Ben"
He shoved a ring of keys into Ben's hand, then left. Ben looked at the keys, unsure of what to do.
"If you think you can find Felicity before sundown, please do so" Came Mrs. Merriman's soft voice. Ben quickly handed the key ring to her and knelt down, taking her clasped hands.
"I swear on my heart, that I will find Felicity before dark"
And with that, he was gone. Mrs. Merriman watched him go.
Ben quickly saddled up a mare from the stable, then rode off in the direction of the woods. He knew which path Felicity always took, having watched her depart many times. He was about to search another path when something shiny caught his eye. Ben quickly dismounted and bent down for a look.
There, gleaming in the mud, was Felicity's locket. Ben recognized it instantly, the lass never took it off.
Overhead, thunder boomed, and Be was glad he had remembered to bring his hat as rain began to pour down. Squinting through the downpour, Ben picked up the locket, then looked down the trail.
Barely visible were a set of hoofprints, just starting to be erased by the rain. It was his best chance.
"I'll find you Felicity" Ben said, then remounted.
The going was slow in the mud, and the path quickly became more treacherous as the ground began to give in places. Ben let the mare pick her way down the trail, since her instinct was most likely better than his.
Then, up ahead, a soft whinnying could be heard. Ben urged the mare toward it, and soon a familiar horse came into view. Ben dismounted once more, squelching over to Penny and checking her over for injuries. The mare followed, nickering softly.
Felicity must be nearby, Penny wouldn't leave Felicity willingly. Ben cast his gaze around the trees, searching for a clue of the young girl's whereabouts.
He almost gave up, then he saw the toe of one of her boots. She must have been thrown, then rolled down the bank. Ben began to make his way down the hill with all haste, slipping and sliding in the mud.
When Ben reached her, he took of his overcoat, wrapping Lissie in it as gently as possible. Nothing looked broken, but she did have a nasty head wound.
"Felicity, Felicity, can you hear me?" Ben called, taking her cold face in his equally cold hands. When she didn't move, he tried again.
"Lissie, wake up" Ben gently cradled her in his arms, trying his best to keep the rain off her.
"Please" He touched her perfectly still face, surprised at how smooth it was. Then, before he could lose his courage, he quickly brushed his lips against hers, silently begging for god to spare her. The kiss was soft and quick.
Without another moment's hesitation, Ben gently lifted the young girl up, managing to struggle up the hill without jostling her too much. Atfer that, getting Felicity into the saddle was easy. He wrapped his arms around her waist, then whistled for Penny, who followed quickly.
He urged his mare back home as fast as she could go, keeping up his silent prayer as the caravan made its way down the muddy trail. Luckily, the mare seemed to sense the urgency in the situation and made quick work of the trail, getting them home quickly.
Ben dismounted quickly and carried Felicity into the house, running into the kitchen where her mother and the physician were waiting. Mrs. Merriman gasped when she saw Felicity, covering her face in her hands.
The physician too immediate action and quickly started to undress the yound girl. Ben was ushered out to the hall, where he began he began to pace.
After a while, exhaustion overtook him and he he sat down, leaning against the wall.
In seconds, he was asleep.
The next morning, Mrs. Merriman stepped outside the kitchen door, Ben's sleeping form causing a small smile to break out. She let him rest, figuring he deserved better than to be woken up for chores.
Ben woke up sometime later with a jerk. Sunlight streamed in the windows, warming the foyer.
A sudden loud chiming caused the lad to jump in surprise. He looked around and saw that he had fallen asleep next to the Grandfather clocj
Why hadn't anyone woken him up for chores? Blast. Ben quickly stood up and ran into the parlor, where he knew he would find Mrs. Merriman.
"Please forgive me Mrs. Merriman, I fell asleep" He said as he re-tucked his shirt and ran a hand through his long hair, trying to make himself presentable.
A small smile graced Mrs. Merriman's worn features as she saw the young man fidgeting with his appearance.
"It's quite all right Ben, you had an eventful evening"
Ben took a step forward, his agitation clear.
"H-how is she?" He almost didn't want to know.
"She is alive, but still unconcious" Mrs. Merriman replied. He could see the circles underneath the older woman's eyes. She must have stayed up all night with her daughter and physician.
Ben let out a breath he hadn't even know he was holding.
"When may I see her?"
"You may see her now, please tell me if she wakes up" Mrs. Merriman said. "There's also some food for you in the kitchen" Ben couldn't hide his smile as he began to leave the room.
"And Ben" Mrs Merriman called. "You are excused from all your usualduties for now, since you have been named the man of the house" Ben smiled even more, nodding his head in respect. Mrs. Merriman held out the key ring, which he took and attached to his belt.
"Thank you Ma'am" He said, nodding his head once more and leaving the room.
Ben stopped outside of Felicity's door, food forgotten. A sudden thought occurred to him. What if Felicity had died? How could he live with himself, knowing that he wasn't fast enough?
Ben shook his head. Those thoughts were meant for another time. He opened the door, surprising the maid that had fallen asleep by Felicity's bed.
"Sorry" he said, nodding to the maid. "I'll take over"
The maid scurried gratefully from the room, and Ben took the vacant chair by Felicity's side.
"Please wake up, Lissie" He said, taking her hand and clasping it in both of his. For a moment, Ben thought he felt her stir, but after a few seconds he decided that he was imagining it.
"I know that I have been denying my feelings for you over the past few months, and that was because I thought we couldn't be together" Ben began.
"I guess I was just being selfish because I didn't know what my feelings meant" He paused, kissing Felicity's hand softly.
"And now I realize, I-I realize that I care for you, Felicity Merriman. More that I originally thought" Ben thought her eyelids fluttered, but decided he was imagining it again. Sighing, he stood to leave, but then turned around and kissed her forehead thenbrushing one of her red curls away from her face before he left.
He had his hand on the doorknob when something made him turn. He swiveled, and saw Felicity looking up at him with her green eyes.
"Ben" She whispered.
"Lissie, you're awake!" Ben cried, striding to her side and taking her hand once more, a large grin spreading across his face.
"Ben, you're smiling" Felicity said, reaching up gently touching his face.
"I know, lass. Forgive me, but I must go get your mother, she will want to now that you are awake" Ben replied as he turned to the door.
"Wait" Felicity said, and Ben returned.
"Was it true, what you said?" Felicity asked.
"Every word, Lissie" Ben replied before her left.
Felicity smiled. Ben did care after all.
Ben burst into the parlor, striding through the room to the kitchen and shouting as he went.
"She's awake!" He yelled, grabbing some bread and cheese. Mrs. Merriman rose form her chair, following the excited youth as he raced back past her. THe two proceeded to Lissie's room, Ben gulping down his meal as they went.
"Lissie" Mrs. Merriman said when she saw Felicity sitting up in bed, some of the color having returned to her cheeks. The two embraced, and Ben held back by the door, still chewing his lunch.
"I'm so glad the physician got here in time" Mrs Merriman said tearfully, and Felicity frowned.
"It wasn't the physician mother, it was Ben. He helped me" Mrs. Merriman looked at Ben, who was standing in the doorway, looking as surprised as she was.
Just then, Mr. Merriman burst in, nearly knocking Ben over as he came.
"The road was closed, and I was able to return as soon as I got your letter, my dear." He said to Mrs. Merriman. "Lissie, thank god you're safe!" He continued, kissing his daughter on the forehead, then kissing his wife.
"You really should thank Ben, father. It's thanks to him i'm safe now" Felicity said, bright eyes filled with adoration fixing on her savior. Ben flushed.
"Good work, Ben" Mr. Merriman said. "Keep the keys"
Ben smiled, bowing his head in respect.
"Thank you sir, I shall keep them in the best of care" He replied.
"Aye, I know you will" Mr. Merriman said before looking around at his family and winking at Ben.