Juliana looked out of the window. The scent of flowers drifted in from the garden below, a sweet fragrant smell that made her heart lift. It was early summer, and the roses were blooming in profusion out in the flowerbeds at the front of the house.
She looked up from the drawing she was making – a picture of the vase of summer roses that stood on the table before her. Drawing was a pastime she had always favoured, but it was only recently that she’d found time for it. Not that, she thought with a soft smile, she would have begrudged a second of the time Adeline and she spent together.
Thoughts of her daughter made her smile. She put her pencil aside, and as she stood to go to the nursery, she heard footsteps in the hallway. Her heart filled with joy.
“Glendon! How was the ride?”
Glendon grinned. He had a small package in his hand, and he was flushed and glowing from the recent outing. She knew how much he loved horse riding – almost as much as she did. She smiled delightedly as he kissed her hand fondly.
“It was grand,” he said. “I wish you could have joined me. I bought you a present – I went up past the village and the village fair was in full force. I couldn’t resist these as a gift.”
“Oh, Glendon.” Juliana smiled at the length of ribbon he’d bought her. She had taken to tying her hair back with a ribbon, a simple style, and he’d found a sheened green satin one that would look well with her red curls. “That’s so kind.”
“It is selfish – I know it’ll suit you.”
She giggled, wrapped her arms around him, and looked up into his eyes, feeling her heart flood with warmth. He was such a dear man and being near him made her spirits lift.
“I am so pleased with it,” she said, tucking it into the little drawstring purse that lay on the chair at the fireside. “I’ll wear it at teatime.”
“Great.” He looked around the room, where the white flocked-silk wallpaper reflected palely the sunshine and the long windows let in squares of honey-golden light.
Juliana stood with him, just looking at the place. It was small, but comfortable, the windows oriented so that the sunshine in summer was not unbearably hot, the floor dark parquet decorated with rugs. She had loved the small hunting lodge the moment they had moved in – it was much less gloomy that Glendon Manor, and closer to her parents, which was wonderful for her.
“Shall we spend the morning outdoors?” Glendon asked her. He was looking at the vase of flowers on the table, her drawing beside it. She tilted her head.
“I think that would be pleasant,” she agreed. “Alexander and Adeline can join us.”
“Quite.” Glendon nodded.
They both adored their children – little Alexander, now three, had been born in the first year of their being here. Adelina was only three months old now, just taking an interest in the world around her and starting to interact more.
“Will we have time before Mama and Papa arrive?” Juliana asked, frowning. Her parents had said they would call for tea. Glendon nodded. His eyes were gentle when they looked at her.
“I’m certain we will,” he agreed. “I’m looking forward to their visit. They always have some advice about the grounds.” He gestured to the window, and Juliana grinned.
“Mama loves the roses. I’m so grateful to her for all the plants she grew for us.”
“Indeed,” Glendon said, laughing. “It’s the finest garden in miles around – with the exception of your parents’, of course.”
She giggled. “Yes. I don’t think we’ll ever reach the sheer intensity of their garden.”
They both chuckled, and Glendon wrapped his arms around her as they looked out the window together. They stood there for a long moment, looking out over the fine lawn.
The small house had been transformed over the last years. The first thing Glendon did when they decided to make it their permanent residence was to wallpaper throughout in flocked silk. The softness that brought to the small, comfortable rooms was luxury itself. Then her parents had insisted that the undecorated lawns be made into a fine garden – of their design, that was. They had spent a year carefully growing plants and planning with them.
“It’s so lovely,” Juliana murmured.
“We should prepare some food to take outdoors with us,” Glendon commented. “I’ll go down and ask the cook for something simple – Alexander will be wanting morning tea soon.”
“Yes!” Juliana chuckled. “He will certainly grow as tall as you – he eats enough to be a giant when he grows up.”
They both laughed. Alexander had a hearty appetite, and he was growing fast. Already, most people thought he was at least a year older than he was – his little legs had grown in the last year so that he was a few inches taller than any other three-year-old of Juliana’s circle.
She put her drawing on the long table at the other side of the room, where she could resume with it later. The table where she sat would be laid out for tea when her parents visited them at four o’clock.
She tidied the drawing-room a little, settling the pillows on the long chair by the fire in a better order, moving her book off the wingback by the fire where she’d left it yesterday. Glendon came in at the door, smiling broadly.
“The cook said she’d put some little jam tarts in a basket for us to take outdoors. She’ll put it in the hallway downstairs for us when it’s ready.”
“Marvellous,” Juliana said, feeling her heart lift. It would be a fine day to spend outdoors.
“Let’s go and find the little ones.”
Juliana went with him up the stairs to the room that had been a guest-chamber but was now the nursery. She smiled at the nursemaid who had been sitting with the children. A cousin of Rebecca’s, the woman was a little younger than Juliana and deeply kind.
“Thank you, Emily,” Juliana said fondly to the younger woman.
“Young Alexander was asleep,” Emily explained. “He’s awake now, as you can see.” She smiled at the boy, who was sitting by the hearth, a small wooden rattle in his hand, which he was proceeding to beat against the grating, delighted by the clatter it made.
“You’re a big fellow!” Glendon exclaimed, bending down, and lifting the boy up, who let the rattle fall. Juliana felt relieved, as she was worried the noise would wake Adelina. She went over to the cradle and looked in, but the little girl was just stirring.
As Alexander whooped and giggled, his little round face lit up as he played with his father, Juliana bent down and lifted the tiny half-awake form of her daughter. She made a small crooning noise as the child stirred and hiccupped, her little eyes opening as she looked up at her mother.
Juliana felt her heart melt. Her daughter’s eyes were soft brown, like her own, her head a mass of dark curls that might become the red of her own hair or might be the rich chocolate brown that his parents had. Juliana recalled the portrait of Glendon’s family – it had hung at the manor, but they had it moved here, and it now hung in the study, which they considered expanding into a gallery for portraits, like at the manor where she grew up.
“Shh, little one,” she murmured gently. “Hush, now, it’s just me. And there’s your brother making all that noise! Aren’t you, my big fellow!”
She grinned at Alexander, who was – by the looks of things – trying to escape from his father, the two of them wrestling and laughing all the while. Usually serious and focused, Glendon’s face was wreathed in grins.
“Mama!” the boy said breathlessly, giggling as his father tickled him. “That tickles so!”
Juliana laughed, and Glendon let the little boy stand up, all of them – Juliana, Glendon, and the nursemaid, as well as the two youngsters – smiling and giggling.
“Outside,” Alexander announced. “Let’s go outside.”
“Indeed, little fellow,” Glendon said. “We should go and see the roses.”
“Play,” Alexander informed them. “Want to play!”
Juliana felt her heart melt, seeing his big eyes look up at her. Like Adeline, their boy had inherited her colouring – Glendon’s pale eyes and hair hadn’t shown up in either of them so far. Juliana wondered if perhaps Adeline’s hair would change as she grew, but if it didn’t – if it stayed the glossy chocolate of her grandmother and grandfather, that would be beautiful too.
“Let’s go outside,” Glendon said. He took Alexander’s hand, and they went out into the hallway, slowing for his chubby legs as they went down the stairs.
Juliana carried Adeline in her arms, watching as her daughter looked about her with interest. She was clearly aware of the change in surroundings as they went downstairs, and Juliana thought she looked considering as she studied the stair-railing. It was exciting to see her learning about her world.
They reached the garden, and little Alexander ran about excitedly on the lawn. Glendon was carrying the basket in his hand – the cook had put a rug out for them too, and he spread it on the ground. Juliana settled on it, the baby in her arms looking about them with interest.
“A fine day,” Glendon murmured as he sat down beside Juliana on the rug. It was beautiful – the sky was blue overhead, and the leaves were fresh green, making a fine pattern against the blue background of the heavens.
“Mm,” she agreed. She looked around, breathing in the fresh scents and listening to birdsong. Her daughter could hear it too – she could see her looking around, trying to see where the noises came from.
She let her sit on the rug, and Glendon opened the basket. There were small tarts there, each no more than two inches across, filled with delicious jams of all flavours. Juliana selected a red one and bit it, the sweet flavour of strawberries intense in her mouth.
Glendon went to fetch Alexander – who was exploring in the flowerbed – and brought him back to sit on the rug. Juliana felt her heart fill with warmth as she sat there in the sunshine, the closeness of her family filling her with happiness.
They stayed in the garden until midday. Juliana looked up at the sky, where white clouds drifted here and there, high against the blue, and looked over at Glendon.
“We should go indoors,” he commented.
“No,” Alexander said, his little voice raised in delight.
Glendon chuckled. “It’s dinnertime indoors. And then grandmama and grandpapa will call on us.”
“Grandmama! Grandpapa!” Alexander echoed; his face wreathed in smiles.
Juliana smiled fondly. Her parents loved the children and spent hours with them. Already, Alexander could tell her about the garden, the plans that grandmama had for it, and his delight in nature brought smiles to them.
They went towards the house.
Dinnertime was delightful – unlike many households, they insisted on having the children dine with them – and then they took Alexander and Adeline upstairs to nap, with the promise they would be awoken as soon as grandmama and grandpapa arrived.
Juliana and Glendon went to their bedchamber to rest after dinner – the room had been beautifully refurbished, the wallpaper white like the rest of the house, the floor pale wood decorated with precious silk rugs from the East. Juliana snuggled close to Glendon, and they lay there with the sweet sounds of birdsong pouring through the window from the lovely garden.
At four o’ clock, Juliana’s parents arrived. Her face lit up to see them. Her mother looked as tranquil as ever, her father’s walk a little slower, but otherwise they had changed little in the last years. Since they saw each other every week, it would have been hard to notice, in any case.
“Mama!” Juliana exclaimed, embracing her.
“My dearest,” her mother said fondly. “We sent some lupins for the border – Luke should be bringing them on the cart.”
“Oh!” Juliana clapped her hands delightedly. “That’s grand.”
“So good to see you,” her father murmured as he embraced her fondly.
“I’ll ask the butler to bring us tea,” Glendon said, going to ring the bell.
“Grand! Grand,” Lady Neavesbury exclaimed. “We brought some raisin loaf for the little ones. Alexander has such an appetite.”
“He’ll be delighted.” Juliana laughed. “Though he’s eaten so much already at luncheon.” She chuckled fondly as they went upstairs to wake the children.
They all sat in the drawing-room. Juliana looked about, heart filled with warmth. It was so good to have them here, to see them. She listened to the small sounds of Alexander on the hearthrug playing, while Adeline slept in her cradle by the fireplace.
“My Lady?” the butler said, coming in at the doorway. “My Lord? I apologize for disturbing, but you have visitors downstairs.”
“Oh! That’s Luke with the flowers,” her mother said, getting up. Juliana frowned as the butler looked confused.
“It’s Captain and Mrs Murton.”
“Oh!” Juliana stared. Glendon got up, but he was chuckling.
“My! Look at that. Send them in, do,” he said. Juliana nodded.
“Yes, please do.”
She felt her heart thump. She and Yvette had exchanged letters often, so she knew of her betrothal to Mr Murton. She didn’t know that they would be close by, though. She looked up as their footsteps echoed in the hallway.
“Yvette!” She ran towards her, grin broad.
They embraced. Yvette was dressed in dark blue, her lovely hair ringleted, her green eyes shining. Beside her stood the captain and the look in his brown eyes when he gazed at Yvette made Juliana feel tears in her eyes.
She was so happy for them both.
“We were just on the way to visit relations, and we thought we simply had to visit you.”
“I’m so glad,” Juliana commented with feeling. She looked down at the small child the captain held by the hand. “Good afternoon,” she greeted him and then the youngster, bending down to make herself less intimidating.
The little child looked up at her. Juliana felt her heart melt as she stared into those big eyes, which were the soft green of Yvette’s. The girl was two years old, Juliana guessed, with pale hair and a small solemn face.
“Afternoon,” she murmured.
Juliana grinned at her.
“Her name is Christiane,” Yvette said. Her eyes held Juliana’s, and Juliana felt her heart melt.
“She’s so beautiful.”
“I’m so glad to see you,” Yvette said.
Juliana nodded. She could barely speak to express the delight that filled her heart. She had a lump in her throat, and she couldn’t say anything, even though there was so much she wished to express. She was distracted when Christiana made a small noise.
She was looking at Alexander, who was standing by the fire, and the two children were just staring at each other, their eyes wide and their faces a picture of awe. They had never seen children of their own age before, that was clear. Juliana watched with delight as the children made uncertain steps towards one another.
Yvette didn’t speak either, and Alexander cleared his throat.
“Here,” he said, holding a rattle out to Christiana. “You can have this.”
Christiana toddled to join him on the mat, and Juliana chuckled with delight as Alexander showed Christiana how to beat it on the fireplace, making a metallic clatter. Glendon, who was holding their baby, came over to the door.
“Good afternoon, Captain. Good afternoon, Yvette.”
Yvette curtseyed, and Glendon inclined his head, the child in his arms making it too difficult for him to bow.
“This is Yvette,” Juliana explained to the baby. She watched as the child studied the woman, her expression solemn and considering. Then, as Yvette grinned, Adeline smiled.
“Her name is Adeline,” Glendon said.
“What a beautiful name,” Yvette said, looking at Juliana. There was no anger in her eyes, no bitterness – there was just love. Juliana looked back at her, feeling her throat tight with emotion.
“It’s so good to see you,” she said.
“Yvette!” Lord Neavesbury said, coming over to greet the guests. “How grand! We just quickly came to visit Juliana and Glendon too.”
“It’s delightful to see you, Uncle Gerard. And Auntie Grace,” she added, grinning at where Lady Neavesbury sat on the chair by the fireplace with the children, watching them play.
“It’s grand to see you,” Lady Neavesbury replied.
They all went to sit down. Juliana held Adeline – who had fallen asleep – while they chatted and talked. They all spoke together, discussing the events in the village and at the manors over the last few years.
“James is very happy,” Yvette commented. “Of course, you must have heard he’d married Lady Henrietta. She is such a delight, and he’s such a contented man. I’m so happy for him whenever I visit the manor.”
“I’m so glad,” Juliana commented. She saw Glendon nodding. She had heard about the match through Glendon, who had received letters from James. He did ride up occasionally to visit, but it was rare, since he had been first in London and then returned to settle and focus on his family.
Juliana grinned at Yvette, who smiled back.
“And so great that the village is prospering so,” Lady Neavesbury commented.
“It is! It is,” Yvette replied. “The vicar’s son has started farming vegetables on a big plot of land, and that’s increasing the prosperity of the place quite considerably.”
“It’s a fine venture,” Juliana agreed, nodding. “Rebecca is so pleased with him about it.” Her maid, Rebecca, now lived there with Luke, the vicar’s son, and they were raising a family and farming potatoes and carrots and other vegetables that were increasing the resources for the village.
“It is a very fine farm,” Yvette commented.
Talk of the farm led to talk of others around the village. Glendon’s uncle had gone to Europe, and when he’d come back, he’d been with a lady – Glendon said she was a woman his uncle had fallen in love with when he was in his youth, who had gone with her family to France. When he met her there, he had asked her for her hand, and now they lived together, not too far away. Juliana was fond of them, thinking his wife, Minette, was a delight.
“And Victor is a changed fellow,” Lady Neavesbury commented. “He has made grand use of his inherited land, allowing the poor to rent and farm at such low rates that people who had no other hope have come there and built new lives for themselves.”
Juliana nodded. She had heard of Victor’s venture, and she was surprised by it. She had never imagined he would do such a thing. She was glad that he had found something that would fulfil him. He was not a bad person – immature, insecure, but not cruel. She suspected that his wife, Gertrude, had a lot to do with the changes at Parker House.
“It’s so grand to have you all here,” Juliana said, leaning back and looking around the room. The smiles and nods that met her statement made her heart flood with warmth. It was truly lovely to see them all here, all relaxed and at ease and sharing affection and caring with each other.
“It’s grand to be here,” the captain said.
“Oof,” Alexander said, sitting down on the carpet. “Where’s the cake?”
Juliana and Glendon laughed, and Lord Neavesbury roared with good-humoured amusement.
“He’s a solid little fellow, isn’t he?” Lady Neavesbury said.
They all chuckled. Alexander and Christiana came to join the adults at the table, and Juliana watched as Glendon helped Alexander to a helping of raisin loaf, and the captain sat with Christiana.
Juliana sat and chatted, feeling her heart lift as she and Yvette discussed holidays and the garden and their pastimes – all simple, happy things that they would always have enjoyed discussing. It felt as though they had never been away from one another – certainly not for three years.
“I might like a walk about the garden,” Lord Neavesbury commented, stretching his legs out under the table. He grinned comfortably. “I need some fresh air and exercise.”
“A grand idea, Gerald,” Mama said with a small smile. “And we need to decide where the lupins will best show in the garden.”
“Oh. Yes, quite!” Lord Neavesbury said with a grin. “You know, I’d entirely forgotten about their coming.”
Juliana nodded. She had, too. She smiled fondly as her parents stood up, going to have a look at the garden. They all followed, Glendon carrying Alexander, who was eager to go around the garden with his grandparents, while Juliana carried Adeline. Yvette took Christiana, and the group walked slowly down the stairs towards the entranceway.
The lupins had arrived, and while Lord and Lady Neavesbury chatted with the garden staff, the four younger people sat on the rug on the lawn with the children, chatting and enjoying the warm sunshine.
“We should be on our way,” Yvette commented, glancing at the shadows on the lawn. “I promised Auntie we would be there to take supper with them.”
“Of course,” Juliana said.
“We would like to visit longer on the journey back again.”
Juliana looked into her eyes and nodded. She was delighted that her friend wished to visit with them. Yvette looked back, and in that gaze, there was trust and forgiveness and the knowing that, whatever had happened, their friendship and understanding meant more to them than anything else.
“I am truly glad you will come to visit us,” Juliana said.
“We would be so happy to stay,” the captain murmured, moving his hand over Yvette’s where they sat together on the blanket. “It’s such a pleasure to see you all.”
Juliana smiled and watched as he held Yvette’s hands in his own.
“You’re cold,” he said.
Yvette chuckled. “I’m well,” she said. “I suppose Christiana might get cold soon, though. We ought to take her indoors. But she will definitely want to visit longer, too,” she added, glancing over to where Christiana was standing near the earl, while Alexander explained something to his new audience about the marguerite daisies.
Juliana grinned, and she could see the intensity of love on Yvette’s face as she watched her daughter. It was a feeling she understood – just looking at Alexander or her new baby daughter made her heart flood with love.
Glendon shifted on the mat, and they stood, going to fetch Alexander and Christiana. Yvette and the captain followed, and then they walked with them to the coach, chatting and laughing all the way to the stables.
“We will see you soon,” Juliana said as Yvette got into the coach, the captain passing Christiana to her before alighting into the coach himself.
“Very soon,” Yvette agreed. “Christiana will be pleased, too,” she said with a grin, as the little girl waved shyly to them.
“See you soon!” Juliana called as the coach turned and went towards the gate. She watched it speed off, and she was surprised to feel tears in her eyes.
“It felt so good, talking with her.”
“I’m sure it did,” Glendon said fondly.
They let Alexander wander about with his grandparents a while and took Adeline up to Emily, who would sit with her while she slept. Her parents would stay for dinner and then ride back to the manor, which was only two hours away.
“It was so good to have our visitors,” Juliana commented later, when she and Glendon sat together for a moment on the long chair in the drawing-room, her body nestled against his.
“It was,” Glendon agreed. He sounded peaceful. Juliana turned and looked into his eyes.
“I love you, Glendon,” she said, her gaze holding his. She loved him so deeply, and it was a pleasure to have him here, now, alone with her for a moment while they relaxed in the sleepy warmth.
“Oh, Juliana,” he said, looking into her eyes. “I love you … so much that I could never describe it.”
She smiled and let her eyes droop closed as she snuggled against him, and he stroked her hair, and she rested with him on the long chair in the firelight. He put his arm around her, and she knew that she had never imagined such contentment. She had never thought her life could be like this, and yet it was. Love was the most powerful thing in the universe, and that was one thing that she knew with deep knowing. She rested her hand on Glendon’s and fell asleep.