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by Gina Solomon 10 months ago in Historical
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Sweet weeds

Photo by Brian Taylor on Unsplash

As the carriage bumped along and began to slow for turns, Elise reached up and wrapped her knuckles hard on the ceiling yelling, “We can’t slow down. Please, keep going as fast as you can.” She did her best to brace for the bumps, as they picked up speed again. “I will not be forced to marry anyone.” She thought to herself.

At this particular time, Bram, the bull was up to his usual trick of getting out of his field and wandering on the road to get to the sweet weeds he loved.

As he was enjoying his treat, Elise’s carriage came barreling around the corner. Bram looked up to face the oncoming horse and carriage. The horse managed to avoid him, the carriage however, did not. It did not go well. The driver was thrown and landed like a rag doll. The carriage broke an axle, and the frame split into sharp pieces that found their way into Bram.

Elise hit her head, knocking her unconscious and she was tossed free to the side of the road. She landed in the sweet weeds Bram so loved.

Elise began to wake, her head hurt and at first she thought she was home in her own bed. Realizing she couldn’t be, she opened her eyes, how did she get in a bed. “Oh my head.” As she tried to sit up and get a look at her surroundings.

“Slowly, miss, you had a terrible accident.” A young maid was sitting near a window with sewing on her lap. She stood quickly and dropped her sewing as she came to help.

Elise reached the back of her head and felt the bump she realized was the cause of her pain. “What happened?”

“Oh miss, Bram got out of his field again and stood in the way of your carriage. Poor Bram had to be done in.”

“What? Someone obstructed my carriage? Did you say he was killed for it?” Why would someone stand in the way of a carriage? Suddenly she remembered how she had demanded the speed.

“Bram was a bull, miss. He was injured in the collision. They say you were blessed to have only been knocked unconscious. To be sure you would have died like the other poor fellow.” The maid poured a glass of water and held it up for Elise.

“Thank you. I’m sorry the bull was killed.” Elise was trying to process the information and as she took a sip of water, things became clear. “My driver, did you say he was killed?” Elise suddenly felt like her stomach was dropping down a well.

“Yes miss, I am sorry to say, he hit the stone fence clear across the way.” The maid thought little of the impact of her words on Elise. She knew from talk in the house the accident was due to the carriage being driven too fast. The driver deserved it.

“Oh, I... I was only trying to get away. I didn’t mean for anyone to be hurt.” The tears began to flow again.

“Oh dear, I’m sorry if I upset you. Miss, here take my handkerchief.” She pulled it from within the folds of her skirt and held it out.

Elise took the handkerchief. “Thank you.” She said as she tried to stifle the flow of tears.

“Why were you trying to get away?”

Elise wiped her eyes as delicately as she could. “I refuse to marry the man my father arranged. He got himself into difficulties with his gambling. It is not my duty to save him by marrying some brute who thinks he can buy a wife.” Elise felt the anger welling up within her again. “The very idea. My father may end up in debtors prison for it but it would serve him right.”

“What did the man say when you left?” The maids eyes were wild with curiosity.

“I hadn’t met him yet. I just knew a man who would consider a wife as payment for a man’s debts could not be decent. Is he so grotesque that no one would accept his courting let alone a marriage proposal?”

The maid tried to hold back her smile of amusement.

“I wrote to my cousin and she sent her carriage for me right away. She understood, she..oh that poor man.” The tears began again.

“The driver was neglect in his duty. Driving so fast like that, putting you in danger.”

“No, it was my fault. I told him to go fast.” More tears.

“He failed in his duty to keep you safe.”

Elise was inconsolable, she felt so guilty.

“How do I fix this? I can’t go to jail but…now I have lost my daughter.” Mr. Dunn was on his way to Lord Ashtor, to plead with him. He had put himself in debt gambling and Lord Ashtor had taken his marker. The Lord was in need of a wife and Mr. Dunn did not ask why, he just saw a way out of his mess. When he had told his daughter Elise, he assumed she would be pleased, but before he could finish telling her about how wonderful the match was, she refused. She did not leave her room for 3 days and then the housekeeper discovered she was gone.

The closer Mr. Dunn got to the Ashtor Manor the more frazzled he became. He realized he had lost his composure and tried to calm himself. He needed to be clear and plead his case. More than anything he missed his daughter.

The carriage pulled up in front of the manor. Mr. Dunn pulled his arm across his brow. He took a deep breath and stepped out just as a footman opened the front door. He would have been so proud to have his daughter be lady of the manor.

Elise had dressed and was heading downstairs to meet the man of this home. The maid was guiding her and suggested she ask his Lordship to write to her cousin to explain.

“Lord Ashtor, thank you for seeing me!” Elise could just hear a voice. She stopped mid stairs and turned to the maid.

“I do not wish to meet any of his Lordship’s guests.” It was not proper to be alone and certainly not in a man’s house.

“I fully understand.” She reached out and touched Elise’s wrist. “Come to the sitting room. You can wait for his Lordship there.”

The maid left Elise. Little decorative boxes sat on the tables between the chairs and couches. Elise tried to busy herself with looking at the boxes.

“My mother loved to collect them.”

“Oh, I didn’t hear you come in” Elise turned to see a well-dressed man standing inside the doorway. He left the door wide open, and motioned for someone behind him to enter. Elise became fearful, but then she saw the maid from earlier enter and stand to the side.

He then motioned for Elise to sit. He waited until she was in a chair and then positioned himself in the furthest seat.

“Thank you for all you have done for me. I am very sorry my actions have caused such tragedy.” Elise found it hard to look him in the eye and looked down.

“It was tragic, but more a combination of events that came together, than one persons fault entirely. Tell me, why were you in such a hurry? “

“I was on my way to my cousins. I… I am not sure I am comfortable telling you why.”

“Comfortable or not, do you not think I deserve some kind of explanation?”

Shyly Elise kept her eyes on her clasped hands. “I refused to be the means for my father to purchase his freedom, from a debt he himself incurred through gambling. It was his own doing and I saw no reason for myself to be thrown at the man who held his marker.”

“Thrown? Were you asked by your father to throw yourself at this man?” The man was becoming tense and somewhat red faced. Elise thought perhaps he was angry at her.

“No, I was asked to marry him. Though I do not know why he would want my hand in marriage in exchange for my father’s debt.”

“What is your name?”

“Must I say? Does it really matter?” Elise feared he would help her father and force her to wed.

“I feel this is all a misunderstanding.” He cleared his throat and stood. He looked at the maid and she gave him a nod as though she agreed with him. “I believe your name is Elise Dunn.”

Elise drew in a sharp breath, “And if I am?”

“Then you have the right to know exactly why your father agreed to your marriage to Lord Ashtor.” He looked at her, waiting for her to react.

“Fine. I am Miss Dunn and you may try to explain, but it does not mean I will agree to the marriage.” She was determined to refuse.

“Before Lady Ashtor died she made it very clear, her dying wish was for her son to be wed. There have been numerous attempts to con him into marrying and none of them have been successful or desirable. Lord Ashtor, having seen a miniature portrait your father carries of you, commented on your beauty. Others suggested he marry you and put a stop to all the scheming mothers of debutants to win his hand.”

“Why would he want to marry me? He doesn’t know me, or if we would even be a match.”

“What do you want in a husband?” He was trying not to smile but his eyes were giving it away.

“Well, I would expect him to be kind, realistic, not a dreamer. I would expected him to have ambition and a desire to do good for those around him. Your coming to my aid is a quality I would wish in my husband.”

“I think it is time we brought your father in, and let him know you are safe.” He said as he rose.

“He knows I’m here?”

“No and he is frantic. He cares more for your safety than his predicament. He came to tell me you had run away. He said he didn’t care if he lost everything if it meant he had you.”

“Why would it matter telling you? Wouldn’t he tell Lord Ashtor.” Even as she said it she realized who the man in front of her must be. “Ohh, …you are Lord Ashtor.”

“At your service.” He gave a slight bow, turned and walked out of the room.

A few moments later her father entered the room. Tears welled up in his eyes as he ran and hugged her. “Oh my dear girl, I am so grateful. I thought I had lost you forever.”

Elise was not sure if she should push him away or hug him back. She looked over his shoulder to see Lord Ashtor smiling at them and she softened. She hugged her father and he began to sob softly into her shoulder. ‘you mean more to me than anything and it was my own stupidity that caused all of this. Please forgive me.”

“There is still the matter of a debt, Miss Dunn. Would you consider marrying a man like me?” Elise looked up at him and her father released her, looking hopeful but tired and worn too.

Elise thought seriously about what it would mean to be Lady of the manor, married to this man. He walked over to stand beside her father and he held his hand out with a ring between his fingers. She could barely focus as tears began to form. She knew this was the best solution and found herself not upset at the idea. She nodded yes.

“I think that bull was meant to stop me from getting away. I will marry you.” She said with a smile.


About the author

Gina Solomon

Life is an adventure and sometimes the adventure is figuring out who you are and why you have learned so many odd skills years before. I think it is time to share my adventures in stories my imagination has been aching to create.

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