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They were just married, but soon they may lose their greatest treasure. Complete.
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SPOILER ALERT!: If you want to read the entire book, "Novel: Fire in the Heart, don't read any further. This book is a sequel and will give away the ending. Instead, click on the envelope above and request a copy of "Novel: Fire in the Heart in PDF format. Thanks!


---Vicki


Now the labourer's task is o'er;
Now the battle-day is past;
Now upon the further shore
Lands the voyager at last.
---John Ellerton

Prologue
Charleston, 1876


Marie clung to her husband that January morning as he prepared to leave for the ship. He murmured an endearment into her ear and then got into the carriage. She had decided not to accompany him to the dock, preferring to preserve in her mind the little fiction that he had merely gone to his office, or for a short visit, soon to return.

I love you, Edward, she said silently, with a pang of regret as the carriage retreated toward the Battery's forest of ship masts. It turned the corner out of sight.

Somber, she went into the house. The carriage would soon return empty, and her things were already packed. She climbed the stair to the dark hallway in the third story, and opened a door to the unused room, the heavy portieres drawn against the damaging sun. These rooms were the preferred sleeping places in Charleston, as they caught the sea breeze in the stifling summer. She imagined the rooms open and light again.

The servants from the other household would arrive over the next two weeks as the house was reopened and restored. The servants' quarters were occupied only by her housekeeper, and that building would be refitted, as well. The coach house would also be repaired.

Marie sighed. It would be good to start work on the house immediately, but it would take time for the house to be finished.

The empty carriage had returned for her, so Marie descended the stairs. The coachman took her trunk to the carriage, and they left to return to her new husband's home.

Part I
Chapter 1
The Letters

Mr. Edward Matthews
Addison House
Charleston, South Carolina


Sunday, January 9, 1876

My Dearest Edward,

I write to you today to tell you of my actions and my thoughts as I think of you at your home.

Soon we shall have our own stationery, but forgive me for wishing to use this paper until ours is ready. It is so hard to waste anything after so many years of making do with what we have. But I see you are of the same mind: today when I went into the grounds, I found the old rug from the school reception area placed on the dirt floor of the smokehouse. So, I see that you are as thrifty as I.

Auntie has persuaded me to leave off teaching and let them divide the girls among them. Miss Andrews has left us to return to Massachusetts. We may have to hire a new teacher, but we shall see. I still accompany Amy to school in the morning, but return to the Duvalier house at noon to oversee the work there. Auntie brings Amy home to Addison in the evening. I believe we will wear out your carriage and coachman before you come home, at this rate. He is sick of the trip, I daresay. Amy is supposed to write to you, so you may expect a letter from her soon.

The workmen are to begin renovations on the coach-house tomorrow. The foreman assures me that the work will be completed in two weeks, although I allow three. I have seen how they leave off work at 2:00 in the afternoon, when there is plenty of daylight left. I do not wish to interfere, just yet, but they had better not take too long, or I shall have to insist that they finish. I do so wish to move back to my own home.

I have not begun to read your diary, my dearest. I am reluctant to invade your privacy---but in my mind I can see you admonishing me to read, as you had wished, so I promise that I will start tonight. As you read this some days later, I shall know a good deal of your history. I am sure you are far too critical of yourself and I shall make every allowance for shortcomings, of which I am sure you have very few.

I have taken up residence in your old room, in which a few of your personal articles remain. You left a nightshirt here, and I know it is silly of me, but I wear it to bed sometimes, thinking of you until I can fall asleep. I shall bear up well in time, I hope, but forgive my weakness--I shall soon be sensible again.

Amy and I spend an hour together each night. She does not always wish to be with me, I can see, but I have been reading to her from the Yankee novel Little Women (you see how egalitarian I am trying to be?). It is good and I am sure we shall learn to love it as we read it together. She misses you, I am sure; she does not say so, but my company is not as lively as yours, and so of course she must prefer yours to mine. I am quite fond of her---she is thoughtful and clever and has a sense of humor (or humour, as you would spell it) like yours. She is a dear child, as Aunt Caroline always says.

I hope this letter finds you well, my dearest, and count the hours until we may be together again. I pray for you daily that God may watch over you while we are apart.

---Lovingly, Marie

Mr. Edward Matthews
Addison House
Charleston, South Carolina


Sunday, January 16, 1876

My Dearest Edward,

Another week has dragged by without you here! Amy and I went to church alone, as Auntie has a cold (it is only a cold, I assure you!). I pray for your safety and health in the cold damp English winter, so far from sunny Charleston.

The work goes well at the house. The workmen have begun to rebuild the coach house, as I had hoped, and we are to move back amid the mayhem this Wednesday. The foreman had to be reminded of the multitude of out-of-work men in town to be motivated to finish the task. I merely looked at him coolly as I reminded him and he was glad to comply.

We have hired a new teacher, Jeannie Antoine, to take Miss Andrews's classes. The transition seems smooth for the girls. She is the sister of one of my oldest friends from before the War who was brave enough to come to our wedding---perhaps you remember her, she caught the bouquet. I only hope I do not drag down her reputation---but I am perhaps too quick to judge, as her mother is one of the leaders of the "Old Guard." I cannot blame any of these women for their censure, after all they have endured. Rather, I admire their courage, though they chose a different course of action than I. Their lives are so difficult, I am glad to pay her well and so help her mother indirectly.

Amy and I have spent a great deal of time together this week, and she seems to be more used to me. I had offered to sing her to sleep many times, without success until last night, when she asked: "Marie, would you sing that sad song Lorena to me--the one you like so much?" So we shall get along well, you see, and I am becoming increasingly fond of her.

Since Auntie was ill, I took Amy to the Symphony. She did not enjoy it as much as I do, but she made an effort to appear to enjoy it, perhaps for my sake, dear child. I do love her for it.

I still miss you terribly; I thought the ache in my heart would fade, but I long for you more each day. I am still "sick with love" for you, as I read to you on our wedding night---do you remember? I pray for you daily and thank God for the great happiness He has given me with you. May God watch over you, my dear husband.

---Lovingly, Marie

Mr. Edward Matthews
Highpoint House
Grosvenor Street
London, England


Tuesday, January 19, 1876

My Darling Marie:

I arrived in London on Friday and have only now had time to write. I have so much to say to you, Marie. I will send a separate letter to Amy; this letter is for you only.

Our American venture goes well, and cotton may soon flow to our mills again, as the South recovers slowly. We also plan to ship rice as the crops improve.

My father wishes to meet you, my dearest, and to see Amy again. They have done so much for me---when I think of how I treated them---but I was young and foolish, and they have forgiven me. I want you to meet them, Marie; so I think we will travel to England in the summer.

How wonderful it is to have someone I can confide in now! You filled a great void in my life. I long to see your sweet face again, playing Chopin with that angelic and dreamy look as I have seen in the past. I must tell you it was worth the price of piano lessons to see that look upon your face as I came early to collect Amy from your home! For as you may know by now, that was my motive in obtaining lessons from you.

The other business I came to London for is delayed again; but I shall return to Charleston at the appointed time. I will not tarry unless I cannot help it---I miss you terribly although I have been away only two weeks.

God bless and keep you until we are together again, my darling. He has been so good to me, although I sneered at Him and defied Him. I thank Him continually that He has granted me such happiness, though the pain of separation from you is intense.

---Faithfully, Edward

Mr. and Mrs. Edward Matthews
Duvalier House
45 Palm Street
Charleston, South Carolina


Sunday, January 23, 1876

My Dearest Edward,

I read your diary last evening to the point about Amy's birth and your divorce. Although I cannot condone your scorn and rejection of God, I admire your nobility in allowing a divorce rather than an annulment. I cannot condemn your state of mind at this time of your life. It seems God has had His hand on you for a long time, even when He seemed most distant from you and you had turned from Him in pride and despair.

I felt much sympathy for you in your pain, and, having seen so much suffering here in Charleston, living with destruction and hatred, I know that it is not easy to love God in the face of misery; that He seemed distant to you sometimes. I, too, have turned away from Him in false guilt and pride, refusing to forgive or accept His comfort and forgiveness. I am only now learning to trust Him as I should, with the help of your guidance, dearest Edward, and for that, and for you, I thank God daily.

We are moved back to the Duvalier home, and it is becoming as beautiful as a debutante at St. Cecelia's ball. I can hardly wait to show you---but I shall not describe it, and leave it as a surprise when you arrive home again.

Amy is making such improvement in her piano playing! I never have to remind her to practice. We shall have a grand gala to celebrate your return, shall we? But not the night you come home: Amy and I want you all to ourselves first.

Auntie is fully recovered now. We heard a Wagner piece the other night--so beautiful, and so sad. I wonder if you know it? It received a rousing ovation afterwards--perhaps they will play it as an encore.

It seems the school runs itself; and I begin to believe it has improved greatly since I gave some of the headmistress's duties to dear Mrs. Beech. She is more competent than I in financial matters. I see now how I may have squandered money or not invested where it might have been prudent to invest. She never criticizes me outright, but she has a way of saying, "I think we could forego that---" or "I think we could go ahead on that." She has run an entire plantation, you see, whereas I---but it is all for the best, Edward, for I believe I shall turn the school over to her and Auntie soon, and devote myself entirely to you and Amy. Auntie may then do as she pleases, either live with us or go to Mrs. Beech as she did after the War. If she does go, I may lose Mrs. Francis, too, but it will be all right, as we have Bessie Parmelee. Then she can become our housekeeper, if she likes, and if you agree.

Your servants seem to believe they are allowed to leave off work when they pleased, but I soon relieved them of that notion! They may think me a hard mistress, but I think not; Mrs. Beech visited us one day and I remember well her stern commands. Compared to her I am only a lieutenant, but she is a General! They may complain to you, if they wish---you will be fair and tell me if I am too harsh.

Oh, dearest Edward, the nights are long without you; come home to me as soon as you can! I long for you more each day; and I pray for you constantly. May God bless you and keep you safe, until we are together again.

---Lovingly, Marie

Mr. Edward Matthews
Highpoint House
Grosvenor Street
London, England


Sunday, January 23, 1876

My Darling Marie:

Yours of the 9th came Tuesday, and have read it until I have memorized it. I keep it in my waistcoat pocket and have folded and unfolded it until it is falling apart. You have driven me to distraction with your mention of wearing my nightshirt; I must skip over that part if I am to get any sleep at all at night.

I am very pleased by your attentions to Amy. You know how precious she is to me, having read that part of my diary by now. I pray that you and Amy will love each other, as I love both of you.

I must tell you, Marie, that although your natural delicacy prevents you from greedily devouring my diary, yet I wish for you to know me thoroughly and be aware of what kind of man you have married, as I begin to know you better through your business journals.

You have told me much about yourself in your dealings. You see, a business's journal reveals its managers' or owners' behaviour like a diary, and you, Marie, have been far too generous to those who would play upon your heartstrings with hard-luck stories.

I see the little contributions to this or that charity; the late or missing tuition payments, the pupil's debt then cancelled; the forbearance to accept full tuition, often a courtesy extended to persons with familiar Charleston surnames; payment of your debts on time, but reluctance to collect payments due to you. In short, Marie, you are no businesswoman; but a generous loving soul who opens her heart far more often than she realizes.

I doubt that you could be so harsh to the workmen as to cause them to leave their work, but then you and the other women of Charleston constantly amaze me, you most of all perhaps; but you are all a remarkable lot. I put full faith in your ability to make those fellows work without killing themselves. Arch your brow a little and lift your chin as you give them instructions, and that will strike fear into their hearts, as I well know.

The matter that brought me to London is now to be heard next week, but will not be resolved in this visit. You and I must then return for the summer here. For I will not leave you again, Marie, when I travel. The last three weeks have been sweet torment for me, knowing you are safe and that you care for me as you do, yet I cannot see or hear or touch you except in my imagination. So we must be apart for now, but I am with you in spirit, be assured, my darling, and will soon be with you in the flesh, God willing.

Greet Caroline for me, and thank her for making us marry before I left the United states. She was very wise. God bless you and keep you safe while I am gone, and kiss Amy for me.

---Faithfully, Edward


Mr. and Mrs. Edward Matthews
Duvalier House
45 Palm Street
Charleston, South Carolina


Tuesday, January 25, 1876

My Dearest Edward:

Charleston is a blaze of color as winter is half finished and spring approaches. You may safely return at any time now, as the house is nearly ready and fit for any gentleman's residence. The coach house is large enough for a second carriage, perhaps a chaise, if it is not too expensive. Amy would love to have a pony, too, but that seems extravagant, and as you have not given her one already, perhaps we had better not. I do not wish to live in too "grand" a manner, and I see no need to outshine our neighbors. I do look forward to our trip to England with you and meeting your dear parents.

You shall spoil me terribly if you send me many more books! The ones from Addison already fill our library, and now I shall be forced to look for bookcases to match our Duvalier Sheraton pieces. But how sweet you are! The first edition of Jane Eyre was wonderful---you knew it was my favorite novel. I would read it again, but it is bittersweet and I shall have trouble remaining sensible if I do, and I had promised you I would not be silly.

I should scold you for your tricks last year. The very idea of lurking outside my window, without announcing yourself! And sending Auntie and me subscriptions to the Symphony and then spying on us! Now you shall forever believe me to be silly, as perhaps I am after all. I shall have to be very stern to you, and call you Mr. Matthews again, if I am to regain the upper hand with you, while you are in this state of infatuation. Forgive me, Edward, but I am only sad because I miss you so. I must find a useful occupation when the house is finished; perhaps I may teach literature at the school in the mornings, as I used to do.

Amy has played piano most nights of the week. She is determined to play a Chopin piece for you when you return. Dear child! No one else may put her to bed, now, but me; and I must read her bedtime stories, as we are finished with Little Women.

Aunt Caroline is determined to set up housekeeping with Mrs. Beech, and I cannot dissuade her. She has promised to stay with me until you come home. You could never know how dear she has been to me; my own mother could not have been kinder and more loving. You see how selfish I am, wanting to keep her here when I know she feels in the way now.

Soon we shall have to put away our velvet gowns, though I only have one; I shall wear it to the Symphony on the 11th and then off it must go to storage.

I shall go now and play the "Polonaise" to lift my spirits. I shall play for you, dearest Edward, and picture you watching me with your dark eyes flashing. I will not tell you whether it is the Militaire or the Heroic; and you may imagine the one you prefer, but I shall have my way and play the one I prefer, and I shall picture you "blushing at the wood's boldness," as the beautiful sonnet says. It is little enough consolation to me for how much I miss you.

May God keep you safe until you return to me at last. I am praying for you daily, dearest Edward.

---Lovingly, Marie

Mr. Edward Matthews
Highpoint House
Grosvenor Street
London, England



Tuesday, February 1, 1876

My Darling Marie:

You are far too kind to me after reading of my rebellion and hatred of God. Your flight from God was far less extreme---but let us not compare our level of sinfulness, as you would never match my degradation, if you were to work at it for the rest of your days.

The matter for which I returned to England has been heard. Nothing is resolved. The solicitors and barristers in the case (you call them "lawyers" in America, I believe) want to battle out the matter during court recess, so during the summer we will enter negotiations. The tenor of these proceedings weighs me down, but I pray God will allow us to prevail, or, to help us bear up if we do not prevail. I will explain all this to you when I return.

I will not insist upon your giving up your school, Marie, if you wish to teach or act as headmistress (but no scrubbing floors, now!). If you do wish to relinquish it, it must be by your choice, as I will not force you to give it up.

I depart England tomorrow. Ten more days, and we will be together again! I shall take you to the Symphony on the 11th---wear that red-wine colour velvet dress, will you? My heart pounds when I think of you in it---or out of it---but I had better not pursue that line of thought or I will not be able to concentrate on dinner conversation, nor sleep well later on.

I am most gratified by your attention to Amy. She needs a mother, and I am grateful to God that he sent you to us at this time, when we both needed you so much. For I needed a wife more than I knew, Marie. I long for your company, to tell you my innermost thoughts, but I shall soon flood you with those, and then you will be sick of me, I daresay, not "sick with love" as you say sometimes, but bored senseless with my talk.

If Caroline wishes to go to Mrs. Beech, I would allow her, but she is welcome to stay with us as long as she wishes. I wish she would stay until I return; I cannot like the idea of you being there alone just now.

Kiss and embrace Amy for me and I will be there again before you receive another letter. I am coming home at last, Marie; our separation will soon be over.

---Faithfully, Edward

Chapter 2
The Diary

Feb 24, 1860 I begin a diary in imitation of my friend Alfred here at Cambridge. We have had such larks together, when we escape the scrutiny of the boring dons. He is a jolly fellow, and we shall obtain a horse this Saturday, to go up to London for some fun.

Mar. 9, 1860 The outing to London was great fun. Alfred and I shall go again tonight. He lost a great deal of money gambling, but he has plenty, it seems, and shrugs it off. I wonder at his improvidence! I managed to avoid his fate by flirting with the young ladies and drinking myself insensible. I don't see the attraction of gambling, though---it seems like a spectacular waste of cash and time! For my part, I'll keep my thoughts on wine, women and song.

April 27, 1860 Father heard of our trips to London and has forbidden me to go again. But I can easily defy him and sneak out, though he may not give me as good a position as he might if I were a "dutiful" son. But the life in London is so gay, and college is a complete bore. I shall have to apply myself to be graduated in June, and then I will be free.

June 24, 1860 At last I am free of this blasted place. I am sick of the droning lectures and the long-faced dons! Off to London, where I may do as I please!

July 12, 1860 Father means to start me off as a clerk! Of all the blasted luck! At 80L per year, I cannot frequent my spots, as I'd like. Ah well---Alfred has had a string of good luck and will stake me a loan until my first salary check. I shall go mad if I cannot escape this dreary office soon! That young wench at the Crown gave me the eye last night---I think she's game.

Aug. 20, 1860 I am deep in debt and must go to Father and confess. I owe over 200L and have spent every shilling of my salary. I should be earning more---he underpays me terribly! Perhaps I should strike out on my own---go to California and try my luck in the gold fields. Must face the music this Sunday as Father has returned from his trip.

Aug. 29, 1860 father ranted at me for two hours but bought back my vowels. He says I am irresponsible and that he will relieve me of my duties if I put him through anything of this sort again. He is far too strict; Alfred loses twenty times in a night what I owed for the entire summer, and his father never asks what he pays for. Rotten luck.

Sept 27, 1860 I cannot go out, have been trapped inside for two weeks. I dare not spend another penny than what I earn. Father means to take my debt out of my salary. Just to spite him, I do as little as possible at the office. I hate it all; it is so stupid, duller than college!

Dec. 19, 1860 Things are about as bad as ever. I do not go out often, as funds are low, but I am alone and devoid of pleasant company. The insipid guests my father invites are all full of God-talk, and they go on for hours till I feel physically ill. God doesn't exist, as any intelligent person knows. I want to earn as much money as I can to produce an annual income, so that I may live as I please in my own rooms.

Jan. 11, 1861 There is a problem in the books at the office. I have checked the numbers repeatedly. We have a deficit of exactly 500L. I worry about Father's reaction---he may accuse me. But I shall check the numbers yet again, and take the evidence to him. If he suspects me, I suppose I cannot blame him after the way I have acted. But I must tell him and to XXXXX the word was blotted out with the consequences. I am half-inclined to take the blame myself anyway to be out of his influence once and for all.

Jan. 30, 1861 After seeing the evidence, I thought Father would accuse me, but he sat a long time at the table and said, "I've misjudged you, Edward. But you seem to have benefitted from this menial post." No rise in salary, yet, but I was glad to have his confidence again. He tried to credit the change to God's influence, but I do not believe that nonsense; I just let him ramble on.

Apr. 20, 1861 The Americans are at war with each other over slavery, and our cotton mills are badly threatened. If there is a blockade, as some say there may well be, the cotton mills must be closed or put on half-time. The blockade may be breached, but I believe we should look elsewhere for goods for our mills. Neither side will give up easily, or compromise. We are in for a long siege, it seems.

June 12, 1861 The head accountant was arrested today for embezzling the 500L lost earlier. I pity the fellow's family; perhaps the temptation became too great for him. He was one of Father's Christian friends, too---so much for Christian honesty and character! I will be promoted to second-in-command of accounts, with a corresponding rise in salary. Things are improving for me---I shall go out on the town again, soon, as my debt will be paid next month.

Sept. 29, 1861 What a time we had last night! My old friends and I burst in upon a party of the nobility at a game of whist at the Club. One of them took a liking to my high spirits (and my pocketbook, probably!). He has promised to look me up again when the Season starts.

Dec. 20, 1861 Father is actually visiting that accountant in jail! And he sends the family a clerk's salary, as if he were still working for us---stupid business! Father is talking of letting the man repay the debt and letting him work for us again in a menial capacity and dropping the charges. I should never run a company this way; but as second-in-command, I have no authority or influence yet, so I just watch this nonsense and shake my head.

Sept. 30, 1862 The War between the states is on in earnest and our prospects look dim for buying reasonable cotton goods anywhere. The price is so high that no one can afford it, while the cotton sits on the docks in the States rotting in the sun, or worse, being burned by the Confederate soldiers, rather than let it fall into Northern hands. Indian and Egyptian cotton comes in only sparsely, at ridiculous prices.

Nov. 12, 1862 My social life is boring; that aristocrat fellow never kept his word and pub crawling seems so insipid. Nothing to do but try to search for a way to make more money.

Apr. 14, 1863 I am now head accountant and in line for a partnership. The daily routine of business is satisfying, but dull; I wonder if there isn't more to life. Father seems so much more content than I, but then he has Mother, who is a saint. Perhaps I should think about finding a wife.

July 12, 1863 A terrible battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in the American War Between the States. They say Lee was repelled from an attack on the Capital, Washington; it may be the beginning of the end, as the South lost the battle decisively, stopped in the field. But such carnage! It is said that up to 50,000 men were killed in the three-day battle. God, indeed!

Sept 23, 1863 My aristocrat friend (to whom I made several discreet personal loans from my own credit) wishes to introduce me to his sister. They are both the younger children of one of our impoverished lords, and apparently wish her to marry well for interest. My prospects improve as my bank account and business sense increase. I was a fool to want fun all the time; first, I will be rich, then I shall do as I please.

July 1, 1864 I am a full partner in this business, equal in authority and influence to my Father. I never thought I would see the day I had this rank, or wanted it. Half of the profits are mine. I shall be rich at last, and Miss Langford had better keep her head about her or she shall be married to a tradesman, after all.

Dec. 20, 1864 Cotton trade is all but dried up, though the black market thrives, contrary to my earlier pessimism. Nearly a million men estimated were or will be killed in the American War; then Napoleon and Crimea, all in this century alone! How people can believe in God is beyond my comprehension.

Mar. 10, 1865 Miss Langford and I are to be married next month. She seemed to put me off until last month she suddenly seemed overcome by my charms, although it may well be my bank-account. But at any rate, I shall have a place in Society at last, with the lovely Miss Langford at my side.

Apr. 19, 1865 The American war is over at last, and cotton trade may resume, but probably not for years, as the South is devastated and slavery is abolished. The end is in sight, however. We must gear up our mills as soon as possible.

May 30, 1865 Wedding day.

July 12, 1865 Married a month and a half to the untouchable Miss Langford (now Mrs. Langford-Matthews) and I find I am to become a father, without ever exercising my conjugal rights. It seems a lord of Isabelle's acquaintance did not wish to marry her, a poor member of the peerage, when an American heiress was available. All this I am told on my wedding night, fool that I am! The child is due in October. Miss Langford concealed her condition with tightly drawn corsets. Not that I would have had the wits to notice.

Oct 4, 1865 My daughter Amy was born today, poor, small, weak thing! Though she is not truly mine, and though I cannot claim true parentage, she will carry my name and I will acknowledge her, though Lord Rockingham does not. The Langford family will wash their hands of the entire affair; they have not indicated whether we will be received or not. What a blockhead I have been! Yet, for Amy's sake, I will try to carry on as if things were normal.

Dec. 3, 1865 I am taking Isabelle and Amy to Italy for the winter for Amy's health. Mrs. Langford-Matthews has not accepted me as a husband (though she spends my money prodigiously!), and I will not force her. But perhaps the atmosphere of Italy will turn her head to see what I could be to her; I may also learn to love her, though she has given me no encouragement. Wretch that I am! I am as wealthy as I had ever wished to be, yet I am miserable.

Feb. 12, 1866 Amy is much healthier. The Italian climate worked wonders for her. If I believed in God, I might thank him, but I have left that foolishness behind. Isabelle cannot stand the sight of me, it seems, but has something to tell me today. Perhaps we can start again. If we do, we must return to England; now that Amy is better, I must go back to London as soon as I can to tend business again.

Mar. 1, 1866 I am sunk so low in despair and shame I can hardly bear the weight of it. Isabelle has left Amy and me; she is carrying a second child by Rockingham, and she has gone to his lands in Rome, courtesy of his American wife's cash. I have returned to London with Amy, to Father and Mother's home.

Jun. 3, 1866 Isabelle has informed me she wishes to start annulment proceedings, meaning to make public the entire story; and, she will take Amy, since I cannot technically be her father. Amy is eight months old, and when I go to see her in the morning, she is sitting up and holding out her arms to me, the only bright spot in my debased life. I cannot bear the thought of losing her! Father says I am besotted, and so I may be; but I see him playing with her as often as I do, and Mother has thrown her heart at Amy's feet. I pray that I will not lose her---If you exist, God, have mercy on me and leave me in peace to raise this little girl as mine.

Jul. 10, 1866 The Langfords sent word that Isabelle lost her unborn child and is to return to her father's estate as soon as she is well. They are intimating that a compromise may be reached regarding Amy's future; there may yet be hope.

Oct. 28, 1866 An uneasy truce between the Langfords and us. They will file for divorce in order to protect their name from further disgrace; Isabelle is to stay in England at her father's estate; and I am to provide 2,000L annuity to Isabelle until Amy's majority, but thank God, Amy is to stay with me! Nothing is to be mentioned about the true parentage. So it shall be. I am receiving by far the better side of the bargain, for what is 2,000L against the value of my daughter? This is a private agreement, but the Church will recognise the divorce, so I am free to marry again---should I be fool enough to trust another woman! I must depend upon myself, it seems, and my family's devotion to me. Perhaps there is a God, after all, though he seems distant and mocks me in my efforts to follow the right course of action.

Feb. 10, 1867 Final letters to confirm the agreement signed and sent to both sides' solicitors for safe keeping. Amy took her first steps today. I hired a nursemaid for her, a dependable and kind woman who looked after me when I was a boy. I have business trips to make---Amy will stay in London with Mother and Father while I am gone.

Oct. 4, 1867 Amy is two years old today. She calls me "Papa!" and loves to be tossed in the air, to the horror of my mother. We go for little walks in the park and feed bread from our picnics to the Queen's swans. Amy climbs on everything, and plays at my feet as I finish my work at home in the evenings. This is not all I had wished from life, but I find it far better than merely working and going out to parties and balls. Father teases me about how staid I have become; and perhaps I am, but I don't mind.

Feb. 3, 1868 The rebellious Southern states, before they can be considered fully part of the United States, are to undergo a period of intense scrutiny and oppression; that its former citizens may not vote, nor have any security of their property, and may suffer exorbitant taxes. How this will rebuild the South's society and civilisation is a mystery to me. I do not believe the people will endure it long, and the resentment fostered by this oppression may well last for decades. Injustice is not a remedy for injustice---slavery was unjust, but so is confiscating legally owned property. The North would be better served to administer the rebuilding of the South and base its decisions on generosity and forgiveness. But that seems an unlikely outcome.

Jun. 12, 1868 I read back and see that I am beginning to sound like Father when he goes off on his Christian ramblings. Maybe there is something to his rhetoric; Amy should be raised in Christian teachings, as I was, then she can make up her own mind later. I will start taking her to church at the next opportunity.

Aug. 5, 1868 Church isn't as bad as I had remembered, though the things the pastor says make little sense. But I believe it is better for Amy to go, and therefore I shall continue attending.

Oct. 3, 1868 May God have mercy upon me. An itinerant preacher from Virginia came to our church last night, and laid down the meaning of the Gospel so clearly that it became clear even to an idiot like me. I see that I am lost, wretched, poor, and sinful. All my wealth means nothing when I have turned away from God so willfully. When I think of the time in my life I have wasted, the way I have shaken my fist in God's face, I am ashamed! That He could still love me after such insolence and unreasoning hatred, is beyond me. I have prayed for Him to have mercy and forgive me, and to accept what talent and abilities I might have in His service, as He has so faithfully given us His Son, holding nothing back.

Dec. 26, 1868 The occasion of our Lord's birth. Amy was christened earlier this month, and I again thanked God for her as He has given generously to my family and me. We had a joyous and blessed Christmas, with my sister and her new husband William, a fine man who shall join our firm soon. I am filled with love for the first time in my life, for God and for the family who never gave up on me.

Apr. 12, 1869 In our Easter service we remembered the death and Resurrection of our Lord and His infinite sacrifice for us. Amy went with me, lisping the beloved songs of our faith in her little voice. How privileged I am to have her.

Dec. 26, 1870 Amy is five, and she is to start lessons with our new governess, Madeline Blake, a member of our church recently widowed. Poor woman! William says I pay her too much, but God has given me so generously, and how can I hold back when it is to benefit Amy?

Jan. 31, 1871 Rockingham's American wife has been killed in a riding accident, poor girl. We shall pray for his family in their grief.

Dec. 26, 1871 Mrs. Blake is going to Charleston, South Carolina, to stay with her daughter, an acquaintance of Mother's cousin. I shall have to visit that city sometime, as Mother mentions it occasionally with great affection. A new governess, Miss Sarah Castle, will take Mrs. Blake's place next month.

Feb. 14, 1872 Isabelle was married to Rockingham today; I hope she is happy, at last, to marry the man she loved.

Dec. 1, 1874 Isabelle died at Rockingham's estate yesterday. May God have mercy on her soul.

Dec. 26, 1874 I shall travel to Charleston this fall to establish our trade office there. Rice production is increasing, as is cotton, although slowly. Miss Castle declares she will never go to South Carolina, that the heat and humidity would kill her. I doubt that. But I shall take Amy with me, and I will find a school there or a governess, so it will be all right.

Oct. 1, 1875 I enrolled Amy in the run-down Charleston Christian Academy for Young Ladies. The proprietress, Miss Hutchison, is a striking young woman, not tall but somehow imposing nonetheless. She is an outcast because of her acceptance of "Yankee" girls at her school. She made me laugh while I visited, set me at my ease, all the while letting me talk myself into paying full tuition in advance. There was something about her, though... she has the most remarkable gray eyes.

Oct. 15, 1875 I sent a young man who was delivering readers to the Academy, in with subscription tickets to the Symphony, as a little gift to Miss Duvalier and Miss Hutchison. I wonder if they will use them? They were ridiculously cheap. Amy is having a wonderful time: she has so many friends, all of whom want her to visit for days on end! She is growing up, and without a mother, too, I see suddenly, and I am wishing to settle down with a wife, myself. I must pray about this.

Nov. 5, 1875 A fair performance by the local symphony, but I heard almost nothing of it, for I spent the entire evening observing Marie Hutchison's face. At one point, her face was lit with an inner passion so intense, it was almost religious. She accepted a ride home with me, but would not look at me in the carriage.

Nov. 14, 1875 She is the same way in church. Her aunt must have warned her that I watched her---for her aunt saw me at the concert, I am sure---but even though she tried to hide her feelings, a heart-felt prayer or thrilling chord wrings tears from her. I am thinking about her increasingly; at unbidden times at work and home, I imagine her face before me with that intense gaze. I can see her in reality each morning as I take Amy to school, though taking her often makes me late. Marie seems almost as if she comes to life when she sees me, which makes it worth the trip.

Nov. 21, 1875 I have hit upon an idea to see Marie more often, and help her finances into the bargain. If she gives Amy piano lessons, I shall be able to see her as I arrive to collect Amy from her lesson. Marie does not frequent the Charleston social events, so I must find another way to see more of her. I have heard her play, and sometimes sing to herself, of an evening when I walk by her home, looking up at the dimly lit old ballroom like a lovesick schoolboy, which is what I am becoming, I suppose.

Dec. 10, 1875 I was in heaven on earth for a moment. I couldn't help myself---I held Marie and kissed her, and it was sweeter than I could ever have imagined. She accepted our invitation to the Christmas Ball, and I will have to see if I can get a dance or two with her.

Dear Marie,

Now you have read my life's story, its candid details and my reactions to its events. It has been sordid and shocking, I know; but I beg your forbearance as a fellow sinner who deserves God's wrath but hopes for God's mercy.

--Edward

Please click here to read Part II: "Novel: Upon the Further Shore, Part II

This novel is finished. Please click on the envelope below
to email me a request for the entire novel in PDF format, or email me at vdavisson (at) writing (dot) com.


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