Page 76 of The Husband Season

‘Yes, but it is not enough, Sophie. I failed to do any good.’

Calling each other by their given names seemed perfectly natural now. He had become more at ease with her. His up-and-down moods, teasing one minute, scolding the next, seemed to have vanished and they conversed like old friends, like cousins, she supposed. It wasn’t what she wanted exactly, because she was as much in love with him as ever, but it would have to do. ‘You have done me a lot of good,’ she murmured.

He looked sharply at her, one eyebrow raised. She laughed. ‘You have made me grow up, Adam.’

‘You would have done that without my help.’

‘Perhaps, but not so quickly and not with so much pleasure.’

‘Oh, Sophie,’ he said. ‘Don’t ever change, will you?’

She had no answer to that and they went into the farmhouse to tell Mr and Mrs Brown they were leaving the next morning.

* * *

Goodbyes said and with Mr Brown clutching more sovereigns than he had ever seen together before, they climbed in the carriage and were on their way. The floods had receded and though they had left mud on the roads and there was still water in the potholes, the weather was fine and they made good time. Alfred Farley had made sure there were fresh horses waiting for them at each stop and they reached Downham Market in the early afternoon, where they stopped for a meal while the last set of horses were harnessed.

‘We should be in Hadlea before dark,’ Adam told Sophie as they resumed their journey. Farley was once again riding behind them on Swift. Bessie, still sniffling a little, was sitting on the opposite seat with her feet up, wrapped in a blanket. Mrs Brown had given her another dose of her remedy to make her more comfortable for the journey and she was dozing. ‘I will take you home first and then go on to Broadacres. No doubt you will be glad to be reunited with your parents.’

‘Yes,’ she said, but she had mixed feelings about the end of the journey. Of course she wanted to be home and see Mama and Papa again, but it would also mean saying goodbye to Adam. In the past few days they had been thrown together in more intimacy than would have been allowed under normal circumstances. She had become used to having him close, seeing him every day and all day, getting to know every nuance of his character, laughing with him, arguing with him, eating with him, doing everything but sleep together. It had served to reinforce her abiding love for him and she wished it could go on forever. She longed for him to become more intimate, but he seemed content with the way things were.

Aunt Emmeline had said she needed to make a push, but how to do it, she did not know. If she tried to flirt, he flirted back, but somehow left her feeling belittled. If she quizzed him, he answered politely or avoided answering by changing the subject. Once or twice she had caught him looking at her with an expression she could not fathom, as if she were a problem. And before the day was out, they would part.

‘How long do you think you will stay at Broadacres?’ she asked, clutching at straws.

‘A few days.’

‘And then it will be back to Saddleworth?’


‘No doubt you, too, will be glad to be home.’

‘Yes. I have been too long away.’

‘Is there someone waiting there for you?’

He looked at her sharply, wondering what had prompted the question. ‘A great many people,’ he said. ‘Staff, workers...’

‘No, I meant a lady.’

‘Oh, I see, still fishing on behalf of your friend.’

‘No, I am not. I am persuaded that is a lost cause. I just wondered who the mare was meant for. You said she was for a lady.’

He laughed. ‘She is. Mark asked me to buy her for Jane. It is to be a surprise birthday gift from him.’

‘Jane?’ she queried in surprise.

‘Yes, your sister. You know her best. Do you think she will like her present?’

It was Jane’s birthday on the fifteenth of July and she had all but forgotten it. ‘She will love the mare,’ she said. ‘It is just like Mark to think of something like that. He is always surprising her with gifts. Jane might even let me ride her now and again and then I will think of you.’

‘Will you?’ he murmured.

‘Of course. How could I forget you after...after what we have been through together?’

‘It has been rather unforgettable,’ he said with a smile.

‘Tell me about Saddleworth,’ she said. ‘Then I can picture you there when you are gone.’