Mrs, Simpson's Regency Journal
Laying Bare One's Feelings.
While I never felt afeared of George ( even when whipping the carter he did it calmly ) – I kept well out of his way for the next month or so.
Now, you might think that in a small town like Grantham, this would not have been possible. But, as our little cottage was on the outer edge of the town, surrounded by woods, I would always make haste to quit the house when I heard Satan’s hooves upon the road, whether it be day or night. For, being a child of the woods and streams, nightfall abroad held more interest than terror for me.
The reason I had come to know the sound of Satan’s hooves upon the road was because the blessed pair was in the habit of dropping by to take a drop of The Creature and talk of poultices and pessaries, hounds and hazelenuts, with my Grandam and my gentle, fey mother.
So I heard, until I could almost repeat it by rote, that Milord and George Simpson had talked a-while on that dusty road, that afternoon of our first meeting. They had then repaired to the garden of a near-by inn to talk even more.
'Twas old news now to me that George Simpson was lately installed in the old Keeper’s Cottage on Lonsdale’s estate. And that, sure, he was a male who knew almost as much as my mother and Grandam. And, I now knew, certainly a deal more than I.
But then, he was a man grown and had had more time than I, for getting knowledge.
Both my good dames had assured me he thought nought of my blush-making introduction but that I had got my tongue tied on the day of our meeting. But this did not ease my disinclination to meet with him – he was just too big. And too dark with his black boots and his black horse and his black hair. Which made his blue eyes look decidedly peculiar. Despite what my Grandam says, I have never before seen any normal person with blue eyes and black hair! And besides, he thought me so abashed in his company that my tongue tripped over itself - the puffed-up palpeen!
Spring had slipped by, and then it was summer and, accompanied by my usual companions Nelly the goat, Merlin the robin and Clara the duck, I was away to my favourite pool. They seemed always to know just when I was going to the stream and shared it with me gracefully.
Together we topped the slope that hid our secret place from view and stood together in silent astonishment – there was someone in our place: It was a man.
He had his back to us, and the sunlight chose each droplet of water from which to shine as they slid down his naked back. His hair hung around his neck limned in golden reflections, and his bum was taut...and brown! My heart leapt when I beheld that, like me, his body was bronzed all over. He, like me, welcomed the sun on his skin; and skimming naked through the water like a slick, gleaming otter.
I had seen the village lads swimming naked, and bathed at times with the other young girls. But the sight of their blue-white skin, like milk with the cream taken off, went ill with me. Twas for all the word like those pale things which crawl out from beneath some rocks. They, in their turn, were shocked that my unfashionably brown body suggested I had been naked under the sun. So I told them of a Spanish grandfather, and they said sure, twas a shame I was so dark. And I realised I were a might uncommon .
I knew who it was before he turned, startled, as Nelly, with a cry of indignation, launched herself down the bank at this bold intruder. Clara, no less outraged, bustled hurriedly after, shrieking imprecations. Even tiny Merlin began a shrill scolding.
But even in the split instant in which he turned, startled; those gentian-blue eyes immediately found mine.
And the next instant I too was running, scrambling, slipping down the bank towards the water. For I knew now: - this man had been fashioned for me, and I for him. It was as natural as the air we were breathing and the clear water before us.
He was smiling at me now and, as he turned toward me, I heard him say “Good morrow Emma Jane Simpson”.
Before Nelly, head lowered, butted him hard in the bum so that he fell. Scrabbling for purchase to rise, he presented Clara with that smooth brown target. Which she smartly attacked.
So I sat, cross-legged, grinning contentedly, and watching the show.
We all knew where we were now.