“What a match,” Casper commented, as John called from across the courtyard.
“Papa, Mama, look!” Edward looked back at John. He was rising and falling in a neat trot, riding in circles as the pony was held on a lead rein. Perhaps Ellen’s talent was instinct for the boy was equally blessed. Either that or he was extremely used to horses too, which Edward doubted would have occurred at the school. No, the boy was like a duck to water.
“You are an excellent horseman, John!” he complimented, lifting his hand in acknowledgement of the boy. “I’m impressed!”
A broad proud grin lodged on John’s face.
“Mama, is something wrong?” Edward’s gaze spun from Ellen to John. He was on the landing, dressed in his nightshirt. Letting Ellen’s arm go instantly, Edward felt guilty, he’d no idea how much John knew or had heard. Ellen was obviously concerned, no beyond that, bloody mortified, as she rushed to turn John about. Edward felt even worse. No matter that it was her lack of self-worth that was the issue. He recalled his earlier thoughts, his memory of that last night in the club. One memory haunted him, two when he thought of her bruises. Hundreds not dozens must haunt her. No wonder she felt like this—unclean. He’d felt unclean to watch it. He did not wish to add to her pain. He’d hurt her emotionally if not physically, and that was hardly likely to improve her opinion of herself, or him.
He had an apology to make.
“Nothing is wrong, John.” He listened to her whispering to the boy as she led him back to bed.
The heat of the spring sunshine strong on his back, warm inside and out, Edward walked along the lane leading back to Farnborough House with his wife and child, gripping Ellen’s hand tightly.
Lord, he’d received a sharp shock when she and John had sung out the first hymn in a sweet, unwavering, harmony. Of course if he’d thought on it he would have known John had a superior voice. He’d been selected as a chorister to sing at Eton, in King George’s own chapel, after all. But Ellen? Her singing voice had such clarity. It held each note with perfection. They’d taken the family box at the front of the church, and were mostly hidden from view until they stood. But when they stood to sing the first hymn and Ellen’s voice together with her son’s had rung out against the gray stone the whole congregation had turned in awe.
He squeezed the delicate hand in his again.
John was running on ahead, the soles of his boots grinding on the gravel path.
Looking up at him, Ellen smiled, her light blue eyes sparkling with a happiness which seemed to run very deep. A person’s eyes were a window to the soul so the vicar’s sermon had read. Yes indeed, he agreed, he’d always only seen good in Ellen.
If she had been afraid to go to church she’d not shown it. But if God judged a woman with such a pure, good heart as hers, for deeds that were forced upon her, then in his opinion, God was an ass. But Edward held to the knowledge of the Lord’s omniscience, and if God knew all and could see all, then he must know of her innocence, her regret too, and thus he must forgive.
When they left the church Ellen had stood beside Edward greeting their neighbors, the village folk and some of his brother’s tenants. Their resounding consensus on his bride was that she was ‘a true gem’—‘how lucky he was’, ‘With such a voice’—it was added. Poor John had been patted and petted for his own sweet soprano singing voice of course, but the boy kept extremely quiet about his skill, not mentioning that he’d sung for the king. If it had been Edward at John’s age, some bragging would have been in order.
In fact, Edward suddenly realized, John had said very little of his life to date, apart from asking about his father. Perhaps Edward ought to speak to Ellen and find out what had actually happened regarding John. The two of them were obviously close, but there still seemed something underlying which disturbed the boy.
“I’m hungry,” John called from in front, as they turned onto the path leading back to Farnborough while he struck at the long grass on either side of the path with a stick he’d picked up from the ground.
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