Edward threaded and folded his fingers in between Ellen’s as they were admitted entry across the threshold of her father’s townhouse. Before the door was even closed John flew across the room, jubilant, as though he had been waiting in the hall for hours. Ellen dropped to her knees and hugged the boy.
“Mama, Papa, I saw your carriage from the window upstairs! Grandpapa said I am to live with you!”
“I know, sweetheart.” Her hand was on John’s hair, and Edward watched her eyes skim every contour of the boy’s face soaking him up. “We have come to fetch you.”
“Mama!” John hugged her fiercely once more. He needn’t speak his feelings his body said it all…
A footman held the door open, and after Edward entered the library, it was firmly shut behind him. Edward took a breath, steeling himself for what might come.
“Take a seat.”
He did, but remained primed to move if he did not like what was said. The Duke sat behind the broad desk. “I have something for you.” He pulled open a drawer and withdrew a piece of paper. Another bank draft. Edward did not even wish to touch the thing, but even though he tried not to look at it his eyes took in the sum, fifty thousand, more than before. Rejecting it, he stood.
“I have told you once before, Your Grace, I do not want your money.”
“Sit down, Marlow! This is no insult! I want nothing from you for the sum. If you do not wish to take it, so be it, but at least let me explain.”
Edward re-took his seat, his eyes threatening an outpouring of disgust if Pembroke dared say anything insulting.
“The sum is equivalent to the dowry I had set for Eleanor. A dower house, which came with her mother, and its surrounding land, was due to be Eleanor’s. I sold it off after, well, after she wed Harding. I could no longer bear to think of it. This is the equivalent of the sale plus more I would have settled on her if she had allowed me my choice. John is my heir. He cannot live in the home of a man who must find employment.” Edward leaned back uncomfortably, astonished. “Yes, Marlow, I have taken the liberty of looking into your finances.”
“But still you do this for John, not Ellen.”
“Does it matter?” …
Now Edward sat with Ellen in the carriage, on their way home. He was facing her. John had curled into her side and fallen asleep, exhausted from the excitement of the day and what Edward guessed were many sleepless nights of fretting. Edward withdrew the bank draft from his pocket and held it out, giving it to Ellen without a word. Her eyebrows lifted in astonishment as she took it.
“A wedding gift from your father. He said I was to take it as your dowry.”
She said nothing, simply looking at the sum as though it was something odd.
“You do not mind? If you do, I’ll tear it up. But it will give us enough to buy our own home, and it will keep us for life if I invest it wisely.” …
…Her eyes lifted and met his. “If I cannot forgive him, I will be like him. I do forgive him. You may accept his gift.”
Edward nodded, understanding. She didn’t like it any more than he did, but it was the right thing to do. He looked at John. This was it then, this was their new life begun.