I managed to entertain Nathaniel until 3:30 came around, when Cornelia walked outside and escorted Nathaniel back to Jessie's workroom on the third floor. I went up to my room, then Nellie and I got ready for tea with Richard and Grandmary.
"Is your new book any good?" Nellie asked as I pinned her hair up.
"I wouldn't know, Eddie kept interrupting me. Then I offered to watch Nathaniel for Jessie, and he took up the rest of my time until Cornelia came and got him."
I decided not to tell Nellie about the incident with Eddie and Nathaniel. She'd probably think I was just being paranoid, but she only knew Eddie for a year, two at the most. I knew Eddie for as far back as I can remember. I knew him better, and therefore, I knew how his conniving mind worked. Nellie wouldn't understand.
"Oh, that's too bad. Well, perhaps after tea or dinner you'll have time to read it."
"Perhaps," I replied absentmindedly as I tried to get a strand of Nellie's hair to stay where I wanted it.
"Samantha, I wanted to discuss something with you…" Nellie began.
"Just a second, I'm almost done with your hair," I mumbled, biting down on my lip in concentration. After a couple minutes I had finished. I smiled at Nellie in the mirror. There, we were both ready. "Now what was it you wanted to tell me?"
"Well, when you told me about—" she started, but suddenly there was a knock on the door. A moment later Elsa appeared, informing us that tea was ready.
"We'll talk after tea, all right?" Nellie forced a smile and nodded in agreement.
We walked downstairs and when we entered the drawing room and saw Richard sitting there, I couldn't contain the smile that crossed my lips. But I remembered whose escort he was, and let Nellie sit next to him, while I sat next to Grandmary on the sofa across from them.
"So, Richard, how was your trip across the Atlantic? I heard you traveled by steamboat," Grandmary began the conversation as she poured tea.
"It was excellent, ma'am, thank you for asking. White Star Line has great accommodations for first class passengers."
"Oh! I've been on a White Star Line ocean liner before!" I exclaimed. I knew I should let Nellie and Richard talk and get to know each other, but I couldn't help myself.
"Oh, really? Which one?"
"The USS Londonia. I also traveled on the RMS Queen Caroline once," I replied. "It was a grand adventure, and I hope to go on another ocean liner someday."
"Perhaps you will," Richard said softly, and then gave me a smile that held a promise. "And did you go too, Miss Nellie?" I could tell Richard was trying to include her in the conversation.
Nellie smiled, but shook her head. "Not on the Londonia, but I did travel on the Queen Caroline." She let out a laugh. "Though I'm afraid I couldn't tell you much about the trip, I was seasick for the first part of it."
"Well someday you all must take an ocean liner to come visit me and my family in London."
"My sister and I would very much like that," Nellie said, and gave me a wink when Richard wasn't looking.
"So what is it you do for a living, Richard, or do you attend a University?" Grandmary asked.
"I work with my father at his factory, ma'am. I'm to take over the business soon," Richard said.
"Factory?" I asked, a quiver in my voice. Images of children working in filthy conditions ran through my mind, and I felt my blood run cold.
Richard gave me a smile. "Yes, a factory. We assemble hulls and other ship parts for steamers. In fact, our last customer was the White Star Line. We assembled a giant hull for a ship they are calling Titanic. It's scheduled to set off on it's maiden voyage next year."
I took a sip of the tea to get rid of the lump in my throat, but it did little to help. You don't know that his factory hires children, Samantha. You can't just assume things, I told myself. I took another sip of tea, and this time the lump seemed smaller. There was no way someone as sweet and kind as Richard could work for a place that exploits children. I shouldn't be so quick to jump to conclusions.
Tea passed uneventfully after that. Mostly we just made small talk about the weather here compared to London, and what there was to do in Mount Bedford. As soon as tea was over Nellie grabbed my hand and pulled me upstairs. She quickly close the door and spun around to face me.
"Samantha, I have to tell you something and I have to tell you now," she stated, staring at me intently.
I sat down on the bed. Whatever it was must be bothering her. "All right, go ahead."
"I want us to switch escorts," she stated, and I was left stunned.
"But…why? Richard is polite, and kind, and…everything a girl could ever want."
Nellie smiled. "You see, that's exactly why we have to switch: he's everything you want. You obviously like Richard a lot more than I do, and I don't believe Eddie is as terrible as you say he is. I want you to go with someone you like. I can handle Eddie."
"Absolutely not, I can't allow you to go with that menace Eddie Ryland. I know I've complained a lot about him, but I can handle him," I assured her, jumping up from the bed and walking over to her.
"Samantha, I used to work for Eddie Ryland, I'm pretty sure I can handle him."
"Nellie, I wouldn't feel right taking Richard away from you."
Nellie rolled her eyes. "Oh, for goodness sakes, Samantha! It's not like we're engaged to be married!"
"I can't let you," I said, a determined look on my face. Nellie countered it with a determined look of her own.
"I've made my mind up about this, Samantha. I only wanted to discuss it with you before telling Grandmary."
With the last word she turned around, opening the door as she walked out of the room. I let out a sigh and walked back over to the bed. I could barely stand the thought of Nellie having to tolerate Eddie Ryland for a whole evening.
Eddie would surely be upset too, since Nellie used to be a servant in his house. He'd see it as the ultimate humiliation. That also means that whatever mean trick he'd been planning on playing, he would play on Nellie. Or maybe he'd find a way to play the trick on me even if he wasn't my escort. I flung myself on the bed and felt it bounce under my weight. Oh, what a mess this has turned out to be. A few minutes later I heard a soft knock on my door and sat up to see Grandmary enter the room. I immediately stood up and smooth my dress.
She closed the door behind her and sat down on the bed, patting the seat next to her.
"Nellie has just told me she wants to switch escorts," she stated when I had sat down. "She told me that you have feelings for Richard, and she can see that he has feelings for you, is this true?"
I looked away, embarrassed. How could I admit to my Grandmary that I liked Richard? Grandmary remained silent and gave me the time I needed to gather the courage to tell her the truth.
"Yes, it's true…but I never wanted to switch escorts!" I said, quickly adding the second part. Grandmary patted my hand.
"Samantha, I think you should go with someone you like. Besides, Nellie seems very determined to switch," Grandmary said, a slight chuckle escaping her lips.
"Can it even be done? Switching escorts?" I asked, trying to find a way out of it.
"Well I've never heard of it being done before, but I see nothing wrong with it," she replied. I was running out of objections. I just couldn't let Nellie take on the burden that was Eddie Ryland.
Grandmary gave a nod after a couple moments of silence. "I shall inform Richard and Edward's mother about the switch."
"But I don't want Nellie to be stuck with Eddie," I blurted out. Grandmary turned to me and raised a single eyebrow.
"Stuck with Edward?"
"Eddie is mean and loves to play pranks. He brought a toad to tea just a day ago," I reminded her.
"Which he has since apologized for. Samantha, you have not seen Edward in the past few years. He has grown from a little boy into a fine young man."
I looked down at the ground, not wanting to argue with her. This was exactly why I had not wanted to tell her. This sort of reaction was what I feared. Why was I the only one who could see that Eddie was no different than before? People hardly changed. Eddie Ryland was a good example of that.
"I shall go inform them now," she said. I nodded and looked up to meet her gaze.
With a pat on my shoulder she stood and walked out the room. After a few minutes Nellie came in, coming to sit down beside me.
"It was not necessary."
"Yes, it was. You should go with a man you like, Samantha. Besides, I don't mind going with Eddie. I can handle him well enough," she said, giving me a smile as she held up her chin. I felt an involuntary smile cross my lips as well.
"I'll make it up to you, Nellie," I promised.
She waved a dismissive hand. "There is no need. Just promise me one thing."
"Give Eddie a second chance."
I scrunched up my nose and shook my head. Of course she would ask the one thing I could not do. "Don't tell me you think he's some sweet, innocent boy now. You saw the prank he pulled at tea!"
"I don't think he's sweet and innocent, but I do believe he deserves a second chance."
I bit down on my lip. Nellie had forgone her happiness just so I could have a great time at the ball. The least I could do was agree. I might not have to believe in my heart that Eddie had changed, but I could surely act like it around Nellie. "All right, I will give him a second chance…just one more chance, though."
Nellie smiled. "That is all I'm asking. If he destroys this chance, I will not stick myself out on a limb for him again."
"Good, because I am certain-" I began, but when I saw the look on her face I remembered my promise, "certain that he will rise to the occasion."
She gave a nod before standing and walking over to the door. "I will let you read your book in peace now."
I grabbed my book and relaxed against the pillow, opening to the first page. Suddenly there was a knock on the door, and I let out a huff. Oh, for goodness sakes, would I ever be able to read my book?
"Come in," I called, closing the book and setting it off to the side. I obviously wasn't going to be reading it today. The door swung open and I saw Richard standing there, a smile gracing his face when he saw me.
"Might I speak with you in the garden? It doesn't feel entirely proper to have a conversation with a lady standing outside her bedroom door."
"Of course," I said, jumping up and trying to discreetly smooth out my dress. I walked over to him and he held out his arm. Tucking my hand in the crook of his elbow, we walked out to the backyard, where we strolled down the cobblestone walkway.
"Your grandmother has informed me that we…well, that Nellie and you have switched escorts." I felt my face grow hot. He must think I coerced Nellie into agreeing to it. He must think I am forward and pushy, trying to secure him all to myself. This must be his way of confronting me.
"I'm sorry. Nellie, she…" I paused, inwardly debating what to say. I couldn't tell him Nellie knew about my feelings for him, that would be too forward. Propriety dictated that a man ask to court the woman, and I did not want to scare him away by appearing too eager. Besides, I did not know for certain that he had the same feelings for me. There was only one way I could escape this with my pride still intact. "You see, Nellie has had feelings for Eddie ever since we were children. She has been wanting to switch escorts since we arrived, but felt she should meet you first. I agreed because I want her to go with someone she likes."
For a few minutes a silence settled between us. I usually liked the quiet, but this silence felt like a wall between us. I wished I could read his mind to see what he was thinking. Nellie had said she thought he had feelings for me, but I was not so sure.
"I hope you won't think me overconfident, but I am glad I'm your escort," he finally said, and all doubts were wiped clean from my mind. I looked up and gave him a bold smile.
"I am glad as well."
After dinner I decided to go down to the river to read my book. It seemed it was the only place I would get some peace and quiet. I sat down on the grass and looked out over the still waters of the Hudson. The sun hung low in the sky, but I knew it would be out for another hour or two. I crossed my legs and rested the book on my lap, enjoying the peaceful silence for as long as it lasted…which, as it turns out, wasn't very long.
I had just finished reading the first chapter when I heard an angry voice calling my name. It wasn't anyone in my family, or Richard, so it would only be one person. I listened intently and when I recognized the voice I just wanted to sink into the ground and disappear. Why did he always have to ruin my reading?
When I turned around and saw that he hadn't seen me yet, but was quickly headed in my direction, I scrambled to my feet and ducked behind a large bush. As his voice came closer I moved some of the bushes out of the way to get a good look at him. Wild red curls flew in ever direction as he stormed down in the direction of the river.
When I saw a deep frown on his face and his eyes squinting angrily I decided it would be better to hide than to confront him. There was nothing worse than having Eddie mad at you…last time I ended up with salty ice-cream and an almost-ruined birthday party. As he came closer I looked all around and calculated my chances of getting back to the house without Eddie catching me if I made a break for it. When I was younger I was always faster than Eddie Ryland, but it had been years since I practiced my running, and I wasn't so sure I could outrun him anymore.
His eyes suddenly shifted and landed on me. I quickly stood up and tried to look confident as he rounded the bush and stomped over to me.
When I heard Eddie's voice, with anger clearly etched in it, I tried to hold back a sigh. I sucked in a breath and put on a brave face when I saw the menacing look on his face. His wild red and orange curls were flying everything as he strode towards me, making them look like a wild fire on his head, which matched the look in his eyes.
"Are you going to expand on that question, or do you want me to answer all the mysteries of the universe?" I asked as I crossed my arms.
Eddie narrowed his eyes and stopped when he was about an inch away from me. "Knock it off, Samantha. You know darn well what I'm talking about."
I furrowed my eyebrows. "Actually, I don't."
"About you trading me in for some other guy. About me having to take Nellie to the stupid ball because you obviously don't think I'm good enough for you," he said, pointing a finger at me and stabbing me in the shoulder with each accusation. I shot him a glare as I slapped his hand away.
"I don't think I'm better than you, Eddie, and why do you care? It's not like your reputation will be ruined because you take a girl who used to be your servant."
"You think that's why I'm mad?" he snapped, his face becoming even more contorted with anger, if such a thing was even possible. "I was supposed to take you, Sam! But instead you traded me in like some…some…outdated piece of furniture! Tell me, what's so much better about him, huh?"
"Oh, cut it out, Eddie. I know you're just mad because first of all, you're taking Nellie, and you think she's beneath you, and second, I bet you were planning on embarrassing me at the ball and trying to ruin it for me! That's why you're mad."
"Oh, come on, do you think everything I do has to involve some sinister ulterior motive?!" he yelled.
"Yes!" I yelled right back, my temper lending me courage as I glared at Eddie.
"Because it always does! Can you think of just one time when you did something nice to me? All you ever did was bully and tease me!"
Eddie seemed stunned, although I can't imagine why, because everything I just said was true. It seemed like all his anger evaporated and he straightened up. "You're right. I'm sorry, Samantha. But I was nine years old then, I'm not the same as I was back then."
I was still angry, but now that the yelling had stopped I lowered my voice quite a bit. "Yes, you are. Even if you were telling the truth when you said the toad was an accident, you were still planning on releasing it."
"Come on, Samantha. Just give me a second chance," he said. I suddenly felt uncomfortable at his closeness and took two steps back, putting more space between us. As he said those words I remembered the promise I made Nellie. I should at least try to keep it. After a couple minutes of silence I finally let out a sigh.
"Fine. You have one chance. One, do you hear me?" I snapped. He nodded solemnly.
"I promise I won't play anymore mean tricks, or tease you."
"Fine. Now can you leave? I was trying to read my book." I held up the leather bound book for him to see.
"Alright. I guess I'll see you tomorrow," he said with a smile. I didn't return it, but nodded politely. As soon as he left I went back over to my spot in the grass, lying down. I tried to keep my mind on the words on the page in front of me, but my mind wouldn't stop racing.
I read over the first chapter, and realized it was a bit dry, so I went back and revised it quite a bit. However, if you'd like to re-read the first chapter, I did add a bit of humor. I also went back to the other chapters and touched them up, but not much has changed. Hopefully this will be the last time I revise them.
Anyway, let me know what you thought! :)