The pane of glass felt cold against my fingers, numbly I watched the large raindrop make its way slowly down the sheet to join its brothers and sisters before merging into a giant pool at the bottom of the window frame. My heart felt like a band of ice was constricting it, making it hard to breathe as the mist formed before my face. I stood watching but unseeing as the rain poured down on the sad looking little rose bush that Arnold had given to me as a birthday present only a few months before. Deep green coverings protected the growing bud inside. The bush would be covered in blooms come summer, but I would not see them. I would never see this place again. Placing my hand on my stomach as I felt life surge within me. My child, our first unborn child.
Footsteps echoed across the bare floorboards and I half turned as a man cleared his throat softly. “Carriage is all packed ma’am.” He said politely, as he stood feet apart, the broad brimmed hat held before him in both hands. His wizened weather beaten old face flushed softly and he looked down at his boots more suitable for a horses stable than a ladies drawing room.
“Thank you Mr Matheson.” I said quietly, gathering my new black skirt in one hand. I paused and touched my handkerchief to my face. I had been crying. Licking my lips, I gave him a watery smile. I would miss him and his wife. Mr Matheson wasn’t a servant, he was a neighbour and a good friend. It was his horses I was borrowing to draw the carriage that would take me back to my parents home some five hundred miles away. Returning home seemed ominous. I had been hesitant to write to them on hearing the news of Arnolds death, but after all Arnold was their son in law. I knew I had hurt them by my actions, but I would not have changed a thing. From the moment Arnold and I met at the Assembly ball last Christmas Eve I had known that despite my promise to marry Richard Cartright my heart belonged to Arnold.
We had tried hard, both of us to resist the mutual attraction. It was a struggle we both lost. I had grown up with Richard, he was my brothers best friend. It seemed natural that Richard would seek my hand in marriage, but it was a cold emotionless courtship. Arnold was different, completely different to Richard. Tall and slender with dark blonde almost brown wavy hair and sparkling brown eyes that were always smiling. Arnold was always laughing – or trying to make others laugh. He had an infectious spirit about him, carefree and innocent.
Unlike Richard, although as tall, he was heavier and darker complexioned. Richard had grown up as the eldest of three boys and as such took on the responsibilities of heir with such conviction that it left little room for anything else in his life. Their estate was not large, a little larger than my fathers home of Marsden Park. A property of some three hundred hectares including farm and manor house. There was the house in town too of course.
But our fathers were delighted by the match, and seemed resolved to the families joining. I would have been happier perhaps if Richard hadn’t been so busy. Perhaps that was part of the reason why I fell for Arnold. With his light wit and ready hand for a dance we were continually in each others company.
Arnold had been staying in the nearby town with his sister, Mrs Margaret Darrlington, wife of another of my fathers friends. Her youngest brother, by almost twenty years. Arnold had looked so dashing in his uniform, the new red coat suited him. Life as a Lieutenant was not without its dangers and inherent attractions. Like the others of his unit – the 13th Light Dragoons, Arnold had been sent to the Peninsuala and there with almost the entire British Army’s Light Brigade he had met his death against the Russian guns in the charge across the plains. And for what? An attempt to stop the Russians stealing a gun – or so Lord Tennyson’s poem described it. Waste. Sheer waste of over six hundred lives.