Sarah put her head on the pillow. Somehow, she felt useless and lonely already, lying on a large bed in a large room, by herself, while a maid and a cook did the work. She was used to the constant company of her asylum friends, even though there hadn’t been much to do.
She couldn’t sleep. A fear of Henry consumed her, and how he might react, and what might happen to her. Would he accept her return? Did she want him to accept it? What about her hair? In her mind she kept rehearsing what Albert and Martha had told her to do that night. She was worried Henry would be angry, but she was more concerned she would say the wrong thing and let slip that Albert was in town or that she wasn’t really let out of the asylum but rescued by her convict son. She wanted to tell him. But she knew if she did, he would set out to find Albert, and as for her, she might be sent back to the asylum and kept there a very long time. This wasn’t what she wanted, now she had seen her children again. Her thoughts turned to Emily. She was cross with Henry for letting their daughter become a layabout. Eventually she drifted in and out of restless sleep.
Later there was a knock on her door. She sat bolt upright. Was it him? She was thankful when she heard Martha calling her.
“Sarah, time to wake up. He’ll be home soon.”
Her heart raced. She hadn’t felt so scared since Brody first dunked her in the bath. She couldn’t speak.
The door slowly opened. “Are you in there, dear?” It had got dark and Martha came in carrying a lamp.
“No, I’m not.” Her voice quavered.
“Look, I’m sure everything will be fine, dear.” Martha sat next to her on the side of the bed.
“Please don’t tell him I’m home. I’ll just stay up here.”
“What, forever more?” She laughed. “The children won’t be able to keep their mouths shut that long.”
“The longer you leave it, the worse it’ll be.”
Sarah said nothing.
“Let’s go downstairs.”
Again Sarah was quiet. She sat very still, staring at the lamp. At length she drew a deep breath. “I’ll need my bonnet,” she said.
Martha got her bonnet and gave it to her. She looked at it and recalled how Henry almost ran her over earlier that day and thought he might recognise it. Then she remembered she had lots of bonnets and dresses and shoes, unlike the one gown, nightcap and pair of slippers she had in the asylum. Sarah got up and went to her dressing room. A dozen dresses and other garments lined the wall, just as they had before she was taken away.
“I’ve kept them clean for you,” Martha said. “Why don’t you pick a nice dress and I’ll help you into it.”
“Thank you.” Sarah chose a dress and a bonnet.
Soon she was ready. As they went downstairs, her legs felt quite weak and wobbly. She eased each foot down to the next step in turn, her hand on the railing all the way. When she got to the bottom, she stared at the front door. She knew he would come bounding through it any time.
“Come into the sitting room, like we planned,” Martha said. “When we hear the horses, I’ll go to the front door and let him know you’re here. Then, after he changes for supper, I’ll send him in to see you before you both eat.”
They sat in armchairs and waited. After a while there was a knock on the sitting room door. They looked at each other. Sarah froze. Had Henry come home and they hadn’t heard him arrive?
“Who is it?” Martha said.
“Supper is overdone and the children are restless.”
They were glad it was Alice. Martha nudged Sarah who wasn’t used to being in charge.
“Let them eat,” she called out.
At last they heard hoofs in the distance and then coming up the driveway.
“That’ll be Henry and Benjamin.” Martha got up and cupped her hands reassuringly around Sarah’s for a moment before going to the front door.
Sarah closed her eyes and wished she was somewhere else, anywhere. The thought of time together with Henry frightened her. She listened hard. The horses had stopped. She heard the carriage door slam shut and strained to hear footsteps. Before long, two pairs of heavy boots clomped up the path. The front door handle clicked open and she felt as if her heart had jumped into her mouth. She held her breath trying to hear what was happening outside the room. That made her heart beat even faster until she was sure she could hear it over other noises. Then she heard talking – Martha’s and two male voices, Henry’s and Benjamin’s, but in particular Henry’s.
“What? Where?” Sarah heard him say. “No, I want to see her now, not after I change.” She couldn’t hear what Martha was saying. Henry’s voice got louder though. “Maid, I have the right to see my wife, now.”
She wanted to open the window and jump out and run, like Albert had done the previous night, but it was too late. The door opened and there stood Henry. He stared at her. She found this off-putting and focused on the floor in front of him. He came towards her slowly. Several times she glanced at him before looking away. Even though her eyes were on him only a split second at a time, she couldn’t help noticing his weight. He looked three stone heavier, most of it around the middle. His coat was pulled tightly over it. He had the appearance of a true aristocrat, she thought. He stopped just in front of her. Still she avoided eye contact.
(end of excerpt)
My historical novel, A Weaver’s Web, is available from the following sites:
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H52SEEK
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00H52SEEK
Amazon Australia: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00H52SEEK