“Oh dear!

” the young lady ran into the study of the Duke of Weyburne’s townhouse, where the Duke, Edmund Peyton, was in conference with his friend Richard Ward, the Earl of Bourne. Two more different persons in appearance one could not find. While both were of average height, the earl, with a muscular build had dark hair and blue eyes, while the duke was slender with russet coloured hair and green eyes. “What has happened now, Amelia?” Richard asked his wife. “Toby has thrown his ball over the fence. I heard something break as it landed.” “Which fence did he use?” asked Edmund. “The one that joins to the Countess of Fyfe’s dwelling.” She replied. “Oh dear, indeed,” he laughed “As the countess is in I will take the young rapscallion with me to apologise.” “I will do it.” Said Richard. “Don’t worry, Richard I need to speak with the countess as it is. This gives me a great excuse to see her informally.” He went to the door where Toby was waiting quietly with his head bowed. “Come along then; we need to visit a very nice old lady, young man.” Edmund knocked on the door. Instead of Greaves, the butler, opening the door as he expected , a young vision with blonde hair and eyes as green as his own answered the door. She was nearly as tall as he was. “Can I help you?” He was stunned to silence. “I said can I help you?” she repeated. There was a call in the background “who is it Grace?” She looked at him with a quizzical lift of her left eyebrow. “Hmm, hmm I’m from next door I am Edmund. This young man has thrown a missile into the yard and broken something. We,” he pointed to Toby, “came over to apologise to her ladyship.” “Come in then. We are all in Aunt Grace’s salon.”

“I thought Grace had no relatives.” “Aunt Grace is my Godmother, she went to school with my grandmother. My name is Grace as I was named after her.” “Why did you answer the door and not Greaves?” “Greaves has his half day today, as I was standing, I decided to answer the door.” “Welcome Edmund come in and I will introduce you to my guests.”Lady Grace called to Edmund at the door. “I did not mean to intrude on your party, but Toby here has an apology to make.” “It seems that, Toby, such a nice name, “Grace introduced, she smiled at him, “has thrown an object into the garden and broken something.” “Yes, but it was an accident I did not know that I could throw the ball so far. I am sorry for the damage I have caused.” Toby spoke rapidly so that it was hard for the countess to hear everything he said. “Perhaps you should go and see what has been broken and is in need of fixing.” The countess told Toby. “Take Grace with you.” Grace left the room with Toby. Edmund had time to observe the Countess’ guests. The man had Grace’s colouring, there the similarity ended, he was short and stocky. While the woman had red hair with laughing grey eyes, she was above average height and quite slender . “Edmund allow me to introduce Mister and Missus William Middleton. This is my neighbour and friend Edmund Peyton, Duke of Weyburne.” “I am pleased to meet both of you.” Edmund greeted them all. “Who is the young girl that answered the door?” “Our youngest,” answered Mr. Middleton. “Today we are celebrating her seventeenth birthday. Would you like to stay for our toast to her health?” The subject of their discussion walked through the door with Toby in tow. “Not too much damage aunt Grace just one of the old pots that we were going to pot one of your plants in. No real harm done.”

” Grace hurriedly walked in front of him so that there could be no dissention. How long are you visiting with the countess?” “My parents are leaving tonight. I would like to stay a few minutes. He kissed her gently on the lips “Happy Birthday Grace. She is a bit young but that does not matter I think she likes me too.” “Who is she? Where did you meet her. I believe that Aunt Grace does not rise until after ten o’clock. but I am staying for the next few months to be a companion to Aunt Grace. “ I really must go now. any time. even more so than her brother-in law and all the girls at home used to vie for his attention. The most amazing thing has happened I have finally met her.” “Until tomorrow.” “I will see you to the door. He was really quite handsome. Edmund had a spring in his step as he entered his townhouse. They will be relieved that there was no too much damage done. and return Toby to his parents. “What took so long. at nine o’clock?” “Tomorrow at nine. it isn’t that bad is it?” “What are you talking about? Oh the damage was an old pot for plants. She is going to sponsor me for the season until my parents return from their stay in Europe. yes. At the door Edmund turned to Grace. ” “Who?” “My Duchess.“Thank you.” Grace closed the door with a smile on her face she was going to see him again.” “May I call on you in the morning?” he asked hesitantly. so I shall be free until then. “Of course.” He took the glass offered and drank along with Grace’s family to her health. what do mean a bit young?” . Richard greeted him.

” “How old is she?” “Seventeen.” Was his sheepish answer. Greaves answered the door.” Edmund was left to think over what he should do. “I am seeing her tomorrow.” “My god Edmund.” “Here I am. Why did he have to find her now? The doctors all had said the same three to six months left to live.” Richard ushered his wife out of the room. fortunately our son did no real damage at all.” .” She bustled past the butler and took Edmund’s arm..” “You have to tell her. Could he expect Grace to see him through that time? Was he that selfish? He would see her tomorrow and explain all to her. His lungs were slowly collapsing.” called Grace behind the butler.” “There you are Richard.“Her name is Miss Grace Middleton she is the Countess’ Godchild and she is celebrating her birthday today. “I thought perhaps a short walk to the park at the end of the street. she is twenty years younger than you. “Amelia. Come let’s collect Toby and be on our way. He was gradually becoming short of breath whenever he performed any strenuous exercise.. “I’m calling for Miss Middleton. “Now where are we going today?” she asked. As Richard had rightly pointed out it would be a burden when his time came. It seems it was only a pot for plants that was broken. “I know I would take my time courting her but as you know I have very little time to do so. Edmund knocked on the door promptly at nine o’clock.” Richard managed to spit out. And sit under the trees so we can talk. “I think that you should contemplate some more before you further your acquaintance with her. Edmund: what damage did our little boy cause?” a tiny human dynamo swept into the room. “I won’t be a minute.

” “Age is only a number. “If you will permit me I will come and see you when Aunt Grace has her nap after the noon day meal.” “Oh Edmund. you will do this. “Let us just sit here and take in the sunshine. I feel so selfish now.” She chatted on keeping him amused. “I have always admired this park. They walked slowly back to Edmund’s dwelling.” he said . no arguments.” “My age is only one problem the main one is that my lungs are slowly collapsing the doctors expect that I will live for three to six months more. “I must explain. we should have taken a carriage.” “Thank you dear girl.” She nodded her agreement. They sat on a bench at the entrance so he could regain his breath. So I would understand if you do not want to see me again.” She kept her pace even with his.“That sounds wonderful. “When I saw you yesterday I felt that you were meant for me. Grace knocked on his door and saw that he was settled in the parlour.” “Of course.” he managed to gasp.” He gasped. that is why you were so out of breath. I.” He chuckled.” He started to breathe more easily. “I am sorry that I cannot walk any further at the moment. When they reached the park his breathing was laboured. let us walk back home. its flowers are quite pretty in the spring. or better yet not walked so far.” . Of course I wish to be with you and help you through all that you need. am thirty seven old enough to be your father.” “It is not your fault. “Then I found out that you were just seventeen. “What is the matter do you have a cold? I am sorry I should have noticed and stopped with you sooner.” “That would be nice. Turned around as she left the room and said . I think you felt the same way too. I felt a strange pull to you and want to know you better.” “This time we will take things slowly and stop frequently. Grace I will see you then.

” The Afternoon could not come quickly enough for Grace. Where are the cards?” “They are on the desk in my study. “Now let’s play piquet.” Edmund said happily.” “Thank goodness he has gone.” She defended. I did but he is not well.” “Why wouldn’t I?” “Because he is dying and young people do not like being around death. How thoughtful of you.” Laughed Edmund and he started to cough. “Yes.” Said Richard.” Answered Richard.” Aunt Grace queried Grace. “I thought you went out with Edmund. He was still sitting where she had left him. My brother taught me that game when he was abed with a chill he caught one winter and no one else would play with him.” “You are such a kind girl. so I said that I would look in on him while you were having your afternoon nap. I know how to play most games even piquet. As she handed it over he thanked her and gestured for Richard to leave.” Chortled Grace. “I think that is a negative way of looking at Edmund’s life. what a sad man he is. But he is living every day of his to the best of his ability. “Now what shall we do this afternoon to help the day go by?” “Do you know any card games?” Edmund asked. causing Grace to fetch a glass of water for him.” . the next room along the hall. my girl. “I will see you at the end of the week. “Yes. You know that he has no relatives living in England and the only person who visits his home is Richard with his family of course. “Hello. He is very ill and will have a shorter life than most of us. Richard was now in the room.” “A man after my own heart. “I will take my leave now. “I told you she would come.Grace walked the rest of the way home. When she entered Edmund’s she was told that he was still in the parlour.

do you not think so?” enquired Grace.” “I look forward to your visit.” “Thank you for that. “Yes and we can take a carriage ride to the Park this time.” “I told her that you were not well. “Let us pull over near the pavilion and have a look. So she picked up a book from the table and started to read as well. just how much does my aunt know of your illness?” “Only what you must have told her. “Can I see you tomorrow? At the same time?” Edmund asked Grace. We should return home as your aunt should be up by now.” She leant into him and kissed him. “I have not hurt you have I?” she worried.” Grace leaned over Edmund to gain a better perspective of the building and brushed against his thighs.When it was time for Grace to leave she bent over and kissed him just as he had kissed her the day before.” “Only if I am permitted to visit you again this afternoon. He groaned as she regained her seat. they drove slowly on through so that they could admire the scenery. He escorted Grace into the carriage.” “Before I go. “Oh definitely. I did not know if you would want your health to be discussed. She quickly alighted the carriage and ran up the stairs and into her aunt’s townhouse.” She hugged him and left the room leaving Edmund with a smile on his face. “This is so much better than yesterday. with a smile. Grace found her aunt in the parlour reading. “No my dear you could not hurt me if you tried. you are quite correct the fewer that know about my condition the more contented I will feel. He was at the door at precisely nine o’clock once more.” Replied the duke. .

” “What shall we do this afternoon? Would you like me to read to you? I am told I have a very relaxing way of reading. It is on the desk in the corner would you mind reading it to me?” She retrieved the paper and snuggled into him while she read the latest news items.” . “Oh” was all she could say and when her mouth opened he kissed her thoroughly. Will I see you in the morning?” “Yes please.” “No my dear come and sit next to me. “You need to go now. “Am I interfering with your rest period? I don’t want to tire you. When she had finished the first page she looked up into his eyes and he kissed her. will you come. That is alright is it?” “That will be fine my dear.” “That would be nice I have been trying to read the paper. you have no other plans do you?” “I would love to come.“Why don’t you invite Edmund over for supper one night?” the countess suggested.” “I nearly forgot Aunt Grace asked if you would like to have supper with us tomorrow. After the countess retired to her rooms Grace went next door.” he said as looked at the clock on the mantle. I will see you then good bye. This must be heaven he thought to be kissed by one so innocent with such passion. She responded by kissing him back. They pulled apart and she moaned then leaned into him once more.” “So she knows you are here?” “Of course. You make me feel alive. “Do you think tomorrow will be too soon?” “I do not know what Edmund has planned but if he is free that will be fine. Edmund once more was seated in the parlour. They pulled apart again.” “I am visiting him again today while you nap.” Said the countess. “your Aunt will be worrying about you. I have no other plans.

He groaned and kissed her then started to kiss her ears and down her neck. They stopped the carriage by a small stream. It was an old war wound that had damaged his lungs. she melted into his arms and kissed him in return with passion that Edmund knew he had never felt before. “No we can’t do this. She arched into him as she felt the need for more. He went upstairs to his rooms and lay down for a rest so he would be able to stay up for supper with the Countess and Grace. “No I would like just to sit with you and talk. she was asked to wait for him in the parlour.” He felt decidedly euphoric as he went into his townhouse. Go and get the cards we will play piquet.The next morning they went for a carriage ride to a different park. my darling Grace. even knowing how ill he was. “This has nothing to do with my health.” He sighed into her ear. and then kissed him.” While they played cards Edmund told Grace how he came to be so ill. “Sorry to have kept you waiting. Aunt Grace wants you to come with me after I visit you while she is napping. He had been quite healthy until last .” She sat on the sofa next to him then snuggled up to him. “We better go home or I will not be responsible for my actions” he said breathing heavily. When Grace asked to see Edmund that afternoon.” “Are they on your desk?” “Yes. with my rules this time. “Are you sure you just want to talk?” Grace looked at him mischievously. Grace responded to him. Would you like to play cards again ?” he asked as he sat on the sofa. have I?” asked Grace worriedly. Grace. “I have not made you worse. Edmund pulled Grace to him. I was just resting. The carriage returned and as she alighted she said “I will see you this afternoon.

month when he caught a chill that developed into pneumonia. “Aunt Grace you’re up early from your nap!” “Yes I am . What type of comfort is she giving you?” Grace turned red. I know she says that you are ill and need comfort. Yesterday morning you took the carriage to the park at the end of the street. and be by your side.” “Selfish. You. “What are your intentions to Grace? You seem to be monopolising her spare time. “Aunt Grace. how could you ask such a thing?” “It’s all right Grace. While they were having their tea the Countess asked Edmund.’ “Not by what Lady Jane Hammersmith says. it feels as though I have known you a lot longer than that. You could quite easily have walked. Greaves let them in and informed them that the Countess was waiting for them in the parlour. So please do not ask me not to love you as I already do. That would be selfish.’ he said to Grace and turned to the Countess. I knew it was so when I first saw you. “I always thought that I would settle down when I met my perfect woman. It seems that the carriage afforded you less privacy than you counted on. Then where would I be? You could have been killed when you received that initial wound. I am afraid that you are stuck with me regardless of what you say. You could be thrown by a horse and break your neck tomorrow.” “You are a dear girl! It is time to go next door for my visit with your godmother.” They walked hand in hand to the townhouse next door. However with my future prospects I can’t be selfish and ask you to stand by me. it would be selfish of you not to ask me to love you. Grace was asked to pour the tea for their guest. We only have one life to live. When was it? Only three days ago.” After the tea tray had been set down. They went into the parlour where the Countess was waiting for them. “Grace has been the soul of discretion. It was then that the doctors discovered the damage. my dear girl seem to be her.” . Now would you both like to have afternoon tea?” “Thank you.

you want to marry me so soon?” “Time is of the essence that is of course if you will have me as I am?” “I do want to marry you but will Father let us marry?” “Your mother and father have gone to the continent for a rest. “Marry you. She has told me quite categorically that she will be with me for some time to come. The reason for the carriage was not privacy but rather for my health. He was . a nice old gentleman who wished them both well.” “I am sorry my dear boy I had no idea. the sooner we are married the better. thank you.. “If it is what you both want and to keep the gossip away I suppose I will give my blessing. As the tongues are wagging over imagined indiscretions maybe we should look at gaining permission for us to marry.” It was Friday morning.” Grace looked at Edmund with surprise.” “We did but for reasons I do not wish to discuss as yet.” “I thought you said that you had acted with discretion. I decided that we should travel in the carriage so I could enjoy the outings with her. “When do you think we shall have the engagement party?” Aunt Grace asked the happy couple. concerning their marriage. Grace accompanied Edmund to see a solicitor.“Lady Grace we did nothing wrong. I found it hard to breathe by the time we reached the gates.” “Thank you.” Grace looked pleadingly to her aunt. “There will be no engagement I will procure a special license so we can be married by next Friday. As you know I have been suffering from pneumonia and walking to the park the first day exhausted me.” “No one has.. I have been left in charge of you so it is my permission you need.” Grace threw herself into Edmund’s arms lifted her face to his and kissed him. As to my intentions I have made them quite clear to Grace and she seems to think age is just a number.

Will you stand up for me at my wedding next Friday?” “Are you mad? You’re going to marry that young girl.” “I know.” “Agreed. I seized the opportunity and Grace agreed to marry me. “Richard just the man I want to see.” The ladies arrived promptly for lunch and Edmund introduced Richard formally to Grace as his best man next week. I have Aunt Grace standing up for me and Edmund has some one that he cares for to be there too. “Thank you so much for doing this for us.” They were interrupted by the butler announcing lunch was served in the dining room. Then Lady Grace cornered me with some spiteful rumours Lady Jane Hammersmith was repeating to her.” “She will be here for lunch soon.. “I think that it should be held in the back garden of my townhouse it is very pretty there.” “I will have to have a word with her. If she brings her aunt with her you cannot discuss my illness in front of her she does not know the full story.” Edmund said. Richard gave Edmund a withering stare that Grace missed because she was intent on watching Edmund. Will you ask your wife as well?” “We need to discuss where we are to be married and who will perform the ceremony. Me.instructed by Edmund to apply for the special license for their marriage. He had just returned when Richard arrived. next Friday. She has no title and no dowry you have no prospects. They all proceeded to the dining room. . You can speak with her then. Grace approached Richard and gave him a hug.. but she loves me and was prepared to stand by me until my death without marriage.

and then asked “Do you know what you are letting yourself in for? You are going to hurt him with your thoughtless acceptance of his proposal?’ “I have no intention of hurting Edmund at all. Grace.” “When he is so ill that he cannot arise from his bed in the morning are you going to be there for him? Have you really thought through the repercussions of marrying Edmund?” “Yes I have and as I told Edmund. Richard escorted Grace to the study. closed the door. all right.” Watching the ladies leave Richard said “She really is a woman to be reckoned with. “I will see you later. as I firmly believe that age is just a number.“I know my minister will perform the ceremony if he is free next Friday morning. who knows how long we will live? He could have died when he was wounded in the first instance. As to the objection on the grounds of his health. that his age had no bearing on my feelings. I do not believe the fact that there is a certainty that he will die before he is much older in any way detracts from the love that I can give him and help him live the rest of his life. rather than have him sit awaiting death. you have convinced me. to her Aunt. When he told me his age I told him.” She whispered in his ear. before I even knew of his illness. She put me in my place.” “All right. went to Edmund kissed him goodbye. I am pleased to say it will be an honour to stand up with you next Friday. I felt a connection between us. He could ride a horse tomorrow and be thrown and break his neck.” “As to those scurrilous rumours you more than anyone should know why we used a carriage instead of walking” Grace left the study.” “Might I have a private word with Grace before you leave Lady Grace?” Richard enquired.” “I will be honoured to escort you to church on Sunday. “You will meet him on Sunday. Will you attend Sunday service with us Edmund and that way he will meet both of you.” Aunt Grace added.” “You will bring Amelia with you?” . “Come on it’s time we left.

” It was finally Friday morning. Grace was so excited the night before she could hardly sleep.”He turned to Grace. and then she thought of the time that they would spend together at Weyburne Hall. It was Sunday afternoon. I was more enamoured of you than any title. The ceremony went well until Grace had to say the words. Yes I will see you then. They both smiled as they each curtsied or bowed “Lady Grace. when it should take just a day and a half. when they approached the entrance to Weyburne Hall.” . He introduced her to Mrs. take Lady Grace’s luggage up to my room.” “We will have supper early.” Then she encouraged him to put his head on her shoulder and rest for the remainder of the journey that day. do you?” “Of course not we agreed that a nice. “You don’t mind that we will take three days to reach my home. “Don’t worry you’ll get used to it. quiet journey was the best. So I will see you next Friday at the Countess’ townhouse at ten o’clock?” “Thank you. away from all the gossip. The reason for the rush to be married made her frown. the third day. “Would you like to tour the house. “until death us do part” it was then she went pale and could hardly speak.” Edmund assured her. “Well Grace how does it feel to be a Duchess” Edmund teased. “I didn’t even think about that.’ It is a little confusing isn’t it?” “Yes it is. slow.” “What did I do to deserve you?” “You waited for me. Hollis the housekeeper and Bilingsworth the butler. It had taken her one whole day to convince him that she did not need the city. Today she would marry Edmund. At the entrance Grace was enthralled by the size of the country “house”.“Yes.” He laughed with her. I was quite surprised when Jamison your butler addressed me as ‘Your Grace. the country would be fine.

” “Now let’s go and see our patient shall we?” a rather chastened doctor asked.” “Well I will be highhanded and look through all the rooms on the ground floor and have a suite set up down here..” He lead her into the drawing room to wait for supper. Edmund showed her the rooms on the ground floor and she agreed that the solar and spare parlour were ideal.” “I heard through local gossip that she was being a bit pernickety about her sleeping arrangements. “No our suite is where the solar used to be.” “It is my wife. However I would like to see where your bedroom is.” “Oh yes.” “This is for me.. Dr.” . “You seem quite well. Lady Grace is expecting. They both slept until noon.” Dr Fraser went to go up the stairs. They moved into the downstairs suite and four weeks later Grace was violently ill in the morning and the afternoon. They went downstairs and had a leisurely lunch. Ten minutes later. “You of all people should realise that. I had not thought that far ahead. Grace’s idea. “Well I have some good news.” He snapped. not her.” “There is a solar and spare parlour that will be suitable. she has been ill these past few days. This went on for a few days and Edmund finally called his doctor.“I will have a full tour tomorrow.. They consummated their marriage that night. “Why did you call me?” he asked. Fraser arrived quickly. and she loves me any way.” “I heard that you had married. Does she know?” “Yes.” “It is upstairs.” “Well I am thankful that she has. She is in our suite. Edmund stopped him. When Edmund greeted him he was relieved to see that Edmund was well.. with Mrs Hollis.

My world is becoming smaller.“We are having a baby!” “Yes it would seem so: in eight months time. You have made it past the first milestone and are still up and around. the solicitor. Can you see yourself out I must speak with Grace. “Did he tell you? We’re to be blessed with a child. I need to notify Richard and have Mr Handley.” “Your staff seems to have divided loyalties when it comes to Grace.” “Yes although I must admit Grace helps me to offset my difficulties.” He left the doctor in the entrance and went to see Grace. talking with Edmund. Richard sent a letter in reply congratulating them and stating that both he and Amelia would be returning in one month. but Grace adjusts to this by asking for the carriage to be brought to the front door. send a clerk out to change my will.” “Yes. “ “I told you I hadn’t. I cannot walk from here to the stables any more. I just wish the staff would help squash that rumour as they had to clean the sheets the next day. doctor.” . She was sitting on the day lounge a smile on her face and tears in her eyes. I was going to ask only for her friendship.” “So you really hadn’t despoiled her as the city rumour mill is espousing. I will see to it now.” “Thank you. If my suite of rooms were still upstairs. as they would have been if not for her. ” Mr Handley came personally to see to Edmund’s new will. this will make my life complete. Two months later Richard was sitting in the drawing room of Weyburne Hall.” “You do know that your staff thinks that she is being overly dramatic because of her pregnancy. don’t you?’ “Yes and I know that there are rumours about that she married me because she was already pregnant. “Country life has agreed with you. my problems would be more noticeable.

nice to see you again. “Yes sir I have but it is not my place to say. “You do realise that my six months is up?” “I know isn’t it wonderful. you are my valet. I think perhaps you should start at least having every breakfast in bed and then give yourself more time to be able to do other things in the day. Richard it hurts me.” “What a strong fellow he is.” He laughed.” “Good I will see you all then. It is because of the rumours that are being spread concerning my wife. Chapter Five Three months later. “Richard.” “You will still get up for breakfast though I won’t have you martyr your name any more it is time the staff knew the truth. “You are all wondering why I have called you together. as such you help me to dress each morning. Then more seriously.” Grace knocked on the door at that point and entered the room. I will have breakfast in bed and call a staff meeting at eleven o’clock.” She walked over to Edmund and kissed him before she left via the French doors that opened onto the garden. but she says as long as they are respectful of her wishes she will endure anything to make me happy.” That decided he rang for his valet to give the directions to Bilingsworth.” “He would not dare. Henry. You do seem to be struggling for your breath a lot more frequently. Grace was lying next to Edmund on their bed. “Feel that kick.“They believe that she is the reason for my not attending to all of my duties. when is Amelia going to visit next?” “We are all coming to supper next Friday. here give me your hand and I will show you where to feel.” “He might be a she. That she has me at her beck and call. Have you noticed anything over the past few weeks?”Edmund was seated on a chair so that he could conserve his energy.” “Could you please say now?” .

within a month of returning here I could not walk up the stairs. It was at this time that I met the Lady Grace. stepped forward.” he paused. If you think back the first thing she requested was bedroom suite on the ground floor. me. I’ve always had an easy conversation with her Grace when I needed anything for the house and for any of you who needed help it was her I went to and she has always listened. Somehow it has been rumoured that she is selfish and wants things her way for her.” “Begging your pardon. The upstairs maid at the time was Eliza. He looked around at his staff. Jenny. Having the carriage come to the front of the hall was not for her comfort but for me so that I would not feel inadequate.” “Would one of you.” interjected Mrs Hollis. Your Grace. I am sure you of all people as well as Mrs Hollis should know that the child is mine conceived after our wedding vows. Not for her. “As to the Lady Grace’s former station in life she is now the Duchess of Weyburne and as such should be afforded that respect. “Jenny has only been the upstairs maid for the past five months. sir? I have not heard anything. not for her convenience but mine.” The duke fumed.” The upstairs maid. Grace had seen that this would embarrass me and had the bedroom moved for me. She left to marry the local smithy. Six months ago I was told by the top medical men I would have three to six months to live. “I told them she wasn’t as bad as she seemed. a true lady she is too. I will now tell all of you that I have been suffering with a lung problem for the past few months. That her Grace somehow seduced him to better herself after all she is only a merchant’s daughter. But I can attest to the fact that her grace was a virgin when she arrived as it was I who helped Eliza change the sheets that morning. all except Mrs.” “I had not heard all of that. Hollis were embarrassed. “In the village it is said that the child might not be the masters or if it is that was why they married in haste.” “Thank you Mrs Hollis. Maybe you can help with that particularly nasty rumour concerning our child.” “What rumour.” . who has heard the rumour please tell Mrs Hollis.“Well each morning it has taken longer to dress you and you seem to be tired at the effort of even dressing.” “That is correct.

There was an uncomfortable stirring. They did this without informing everyone of their employer’s health. however I am finding it difficult to speak even now. Over the next two months Edmund’s health deteriorated to such an extent that he could no longer walk.”Richard commented wryly. please leave the room and Billings will you let my wife know that I am waiting in here. Thinking over what had been said. He found it hard to eat. My wife wants me to enjoy the time I have left. She would read to him feed him soft foods and delicacies to encourage his appetite. the rumours eased as whenever they were voiced near any of the staff from Weyburne Hall instead of ignoring what was said they defended her. If it’s possible she seems to love you even more than when she first met you. These past eight months have been heaven.” . made sure he could feel every movement. Talk to him about their child. When Richard walked in Edmund asked Grace to have him helped into the study so he could talk to Richard privately. “Thank you for your time. I would not have changed anything in my life. “The reason I have had this meeting with you is so that my wife will not have issues with any of you when my time comes.” He paused and started to gasp for air. Grace has made me realise that life is for living even though I know I will die sooner rather than later. It was then that he asked Grace to have Richard call on him. Grace’s presence kept him cheerful. “I told you she was my mate and that she would look after me.” Richard looked at his friend hard and long. So far I have lived past my allotted time. even though you have lost your looks. “Well she certainly proved me wrong. The staff stopped complaining about the eccentricities of their duchess. “You really were quite lucky that Toby threw his ball too hard that day weren’t you. She had him dressed each day carried out to the porch and seated on a lounger. Richard was at his country home he had returned two days before. At night she would hug him close to her keeping his chest and head elevated so he could breathe more easily.” They left quietly.

“I’ll fetch her for you now shall I?” Edmund nodded. I just wanted to know that you will look after Grace and our child after I die. I’ll let myself out. I need to know that there will be someone to help her through all the legalities that will arise. My perception of her has changed ever since I asked her to leave you alone and let you die in peace.” “That would not have gone down too well. If you don’t tell Dr Fraser I will get you a glass of port.” Richard smiled at his friend. who by then was gasping for breath and unable to talk any more. He is in pain as well but he refuses to take the amount of laudanum that Dr Fraser has prescribed and I support him as the few times he does take it life passes him by.” “You know I will. “Thank you for coming have you put his mind at ease?” “I believe so. you go and see to Edmund.“Yes. He told me.” “That’s Grace for you. You look after yourself and the baby won’t you?” “Edmund helps me to look after myself he lets me know when I do too much.” “Thank you and I will take you up on that offer. I will be here for the next two months call me any time you need me. Grace came in with two footmen and had them carry Edmund to their rooms. Even now she will not let me think of dying I have to live to my last breath.” “You spoil me.” .” Over the next month Edmund became weaker Dr.” “Yes he is to live until his last breath. “You know?” “Yes you made it to thirty eight that deserves a celebration. Fraser visited daily. and I know he worries. “Do you know what today is?” Grace asked Edmund as she opened the heavy curtains leaving the soft ones closed for Edmund’s eyes to adjust.

Edmund a fine strong young man he is too.” “Richard ask him to name him please.” . Also have James fetch Lord Richard and the minister. “Mr Brown is here. Grace asked if you could name him. “We need to have Royce baptised with his father present. Dr. Mr Brown. Richard had managed to have Grace moved to the spare bed in the second room of the suite. “Can Richard take our son to Edmund so he can see him?” “Yes but only for a short visit. now I think that Dr Fraser wants all of you to rest. Richard you are still going to be his godfather?” “Naturally.”She held the glass to his lips and let him sip it slowly. When Mrs Hollis appeared she groaned through yet another cramp “Could you call Dr Fraser back I think that I am having the baby.“I know isn’t it wonderful.” “Good send him in.” Dr Fraser arrived an hour later. “ Tears streamed down Edmund’s cheeks.” She continued. Fraser was just telling Grace to sleep and feed the baby as necessary.” She rang the bell and then sat on the bed with another cramping sensation.”You have a son.” Gently he lifted Royce from Edmund and went to see Grace. When Richard handed Royce to Grace he said “Edmund named him Royce. “Richard and Dr Fraser can be witnesses.” said Grace as she arose from her bed. After another hour Richard was called into the room to see Grace and her baby sitting up happily. Against all the odds he had been here to see his son and Grace had given him the gift of naming him. “I think we shall name him Royce I think that’s a fine name don’t you?” “Yes.” There was movement in the hall.” Edmund tried to sit up to see his son. With Richard’s help he held his son and said to Richard. She was trying to be brave and not scare Edmund with her pain. Billings announced. “I think that we might be having a double celebration today our babe might be born today I can feel the cramps that Dr Fraser warned me to watch out for last week. Thank you.

I’ll leave you now and come over first thing tomorrow morning.The ceremony was a simple one performed in Edmund’s bedroom. he even has your red hair. “Goodnight Edmund. Edmund was breathing very heavily gasping for each breath.” he rasped “you have made me whole my love. she placed Royce in his arms and held them both. Grace sat behind Edmund and lifted his chest and head so he could breathe easier. .” Grace fell into a deep sleep. and then finally rang for help.” “No. When only Richard was left in the room with the small family he smiled at them and said. she woke before dawn and carrying Royce she walked into the main bedroom where Edmund was laying. Thank you. Grace and little Royce Edmund.” He traced his finger along Royce’s chin then breathed his last breath. Grace cried for a time hugging both Edmund and Royce. “Thank you for such a wonderful son.

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