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Justin couldn’t help but hide his laughter at Willow’s reaction as he took a drink of scotch.
“My brother was a very busy man, you see, would work himself to the ground and they were not married long before he contracted the sickness.” He said, rescuing Willow somewhat and he chuckled.
“That was a fine dinner, thank you very much.” He said, aiming to get the attention off of Willow before she choked anymore on the water. He didn’t quite want the evening to end though as Anastasia most likely wouldn’t get an opportunity like this again to be so equal with the others. He thought quickly and looked to Jobe,
“You know I find a nice sunset stroll around the gardens rather freeing after such a magnificent meal!” He encouraged and stood, holding out his arm to Willow,
“Come, Juliet. You have yet to show me the wonderful gardens!”He beamed and walked out with her.
“Are you alright? You nearly choked.” He chuckled playfully, keeping quiet as he looked back to Anastasia and Jobe,
“I was waiting for a comment on your child bearing hips.” He winked and looked around the gardens.
Anastasia looked at Willow, surprised by her reaction and she wondered if she had offended the woman. However, Justin stepped in and she smiled a little to Willow.
“I suppose there is plenty of time for children.” She explained and watched Justin escort Willow out for a leisurely stroll around the garden. She looked to Jobe,
“You should join your guests, Mr Hughes.” They would want to be entertained by him and she could help clear some of the dinner away and make sure the fires were lit for them all when they came back in.
It was all she knew and she was trying but she didn’t understand how some people could simply be waited on hand and foot all day and all night. She felt so useless and she didn’t know how to impress Jobe any other way than being diligent and dutiful in her approach with things. She sighed and smiled to him, looking to Justin and Willow, gesturing he should entertain his guests.
She stood and looked to Willow and Justin, she still found it curious how they did not understand the emotions for one another but sometimes it was nice to let it okay out on its own. Before Anastasia could help the butlers had swept in to make sure she didn’t help, she figured word travelled fast in the house of her days off. She sighed and smoothed down the dress, awkwardly.
Willow took a sip from her water and looked around the table, listening to Justin talking to Anastasia about her arm. It was looking much better today and she was glad that she could be of service.
[b “It was how I was brought up Mr Hughes. I believe that all of us should be equal, working class, high class, men and women.”] She said with a smile as she took another sip from her water, almost spitting it out and chocking on it as Anastasia posed her question.
[B “I most certainly do not.”] She said with a laugh as she shook her head and placed the glass back down. [b “I have other things to worry about. Work is far too busy to think about that.”] The moment she spoke she felt anxiety creep up on her. She looked at Justin apologetically and swallowed hard before looking back at Jobe and Anastasia.
[b “What I mean is that my husband left a rather sizeable farm to work and we did not have the chance to conceive before he passed away.”] She could only hope that she saved the situation.
Jobe was surprised by what the woman said. He had not thought of that before and it made complete sense and hearing it confirmed by ‘Fletcher’ made him think back to the will. [b “I believe there are no stipulations but I can assure you that it does not mean I am free to marry who I wish. Though I hate it, there are certain stipulations in society that will not allow me to do so.”] He glanced towards Anastasia as he spoke, wishing that he could tell her he did not give a damn about his reputation.
However, the conversation was now changed and they tension that had been growing around them seemed to shift into something a lot less threatening. He was still rather angry about Anastasia’s arm but he was glad to hear that there was no swelling. Juliet had clearly done a good job of keeping the woman distracted. This was perhaps one of the first days in a long while that the woman took some time for herself.
[b “Of course Juliet has been accommodating. She seems to be grounded, not at all affected by the restrictions society put in place.”] He smiled towards the woman, keen to learn more about her. He could play matchmaker too. He thought to himself as he waited for the woman to confirm if she had children. If she did it would certainly make a little more sense as to why Justin wanted to keep things formal.
Justin kept quiet on the subject, listening to each person as he took a drink of scotch.
“I believe Juliet is right.” He remarked after he had swallowed the amber liquid.
“Children are security but- does that will state if there are certain... stipulations on who it is you must marry? For instance- does the woman need to have a good name or wealth or her own assets?” Justin dared to ask and looked around.
“If it is simply marriage, then you are free to marry whoever you wish. Well, I won’t say whoever as of course people of our class love to gossip and spread rumours.” He rolled his eyes and gave a look towards Willow with a small smile. Of course he knew nothing of the will but Victorian era tended to have rather vague instructions. Most of the time there were numerous legal clauses but still.
“Anyways, I believe Mr Hughes wanted to move on from the subject.” He remarked, more because Anastasia was looking increasingly uncomfortable with talks of marriage and he didn’t wish to hurt the other female.
“I trust you have been resting that arm and Juliet has made sure you have not worked?” He remarked, trying to change the subject to something less anxiety causing because he wanted Anastasia and Jobe to be comfortable.
Anastasia was growing a little unsettled with the way things were going and honestly, she was a few seconds from getting up and making and excuse when Justin changed the topic. She figured she should add in a little given her comments earlier.
“Mr Hughes will find a lovely lady of equal standing, so his reputation remains intact.” She murmured and looked at Jobe before looking to Justin as he spoke.
“There is no swelling, only the bruises. And Miss Juliet has been very accommodating. As have you all with my presence.” She realised how strange it must be for the others to be eating with a servant, Willow and Justin seemed unphased however and perhaps things were different where they came from. Anastasia lifted some water to her lips, still hesitant on wine and she was worried someone would come through the door at any second and scold her for being unprofessional and overstepping her mark.
The silence was somewhat uncomfortable for her.
“Do you have children, Miss Juliet?” She asked, desperately trying to steel her nerves. It didn’t feel right not serving Jobe in some way and the constant reminder that he would find a wife soon was eating away at her. It was something she didn’t want to accept but had no choice in and she would serve him until her death or his, because it was all she knew. Still, she had to admit she would carry this memory with her always because she truly did feel his equal, sat at the table with him.
Willow smiled over at Justin when he said he would prefer to stick to the countryside. She imagined that he would enjoy a simple life like that if he wasn’t constantly surrounded by people in a lab in the university. It was nice for her to see a different side of him and it only increased her affections for him.
When Justin spoke of the marriage clause she looked up from her food, glancing over at Anastasia to gauge her reaction. She already knew of that because Jobe had written about it in the diary he was yet to write but she kept her mouth shut. [b “I know you do not wish to discuss if further, but I believe I might be able to shed some light on why.”] She said softly, glancing up at Justin, a promise in her eyes. A promise that she would tread carefully with what he said. [b “If my guess is correct, Harrison Hughes is simply trying to protect the business. If you marry, the outcome would likely lead to you having children which would protect your business from vultures.”]
Willow shrugged her shoulders. [b “I believe that you might not have thought about that. Having another Hughes would ensure the Hughes factory stays in your hands for longer.”]
Jobe stole glances towards Anastasia as the evening progressed, excited by the fact that she had decided to join them for dinner at long last. They were served yet another feast and he showed his gratitude towards his staff as they brought it all out. When Justin spoke he had a mouthful of food and he stopped chewing. He was aware that Anastasia knew of the clause but he did not want to discuss it around the woman. For reasons he was no prepared to voice, he hated the idea of the woman thinking about him marrying another and truthfully, he was not prepared to think about it either.
He continued to chew his food as Anastasia weighed in on the situation. She was not wrong. If he tried to find a wife it would be easy. His wealth helped but he was also an attractive man and that would have made it easier. [b “And what makes you think I have not already found the right woman?”] He looked around the table at all three faces before settling upon Anastasia and shook his head, softening slightly. [b “Of course there is method to his decision but I should like to avoid talking about such matters for now if that is alright.”] His tone was far from scolding. He was not at all angry, he just did not want to discuss matters such as marriage when the woman who had stolen his heart was sat across from him.
He would marry her in a second if he was free to love who he wished to love. However, Willow seemed to ignore the fact he wanted to change the subject.
Justin looked to Willow and smiled a little. It was so strange to see how she was so fond of this era. It was like she just belonged there with Jobe and Anastasia. And she had done wonders on Anastasia, the two of them looked absolutely beautiful but he had a preference in Willow.
“Hunting out here in the countryside is much more. And I see you did wonders with Anastasia!” He smiled and glanced to Jobe, he could see the man’s adoration but he didn’t mention it further.
“Oh shopping is for you ladies to enjoy, I much prefer the scotch and the countryside.” He said them and laughed a little,
“Although you two certainly did make an entrance, anyone who does not know us would think we were two very fortunate men.” He remarked and gave a charming smile to Willow before taking a drink of the scotch. He would need to find scotch like this when they were home because it was sublime.
Dinner was served and honestly after the day of hunting and excitement, Justin wouldn’t say no to a good meal in him. He could tell the atmosphere was very heavy with unspoken desires and he looked thoughtfully between Willow and Anastasia.
“Me Hughes was explaining his predicament to me, regarding his father’s wishes.” He mentioned and looked to Willow,
“He must marry before the year is out.” He added, realising they weren’t supposed to know.
“How peculiar a request.”
Anastasia looked to Jobe and gave a genuine smile that he seemed pleased with how she looked,
“Thank you.” It was still so strange being seated here with him as an equal.
“Miss Juliet helped me choose the colours and she fixed my hair so I would look proper.” She explained and looked to Justin as he spoke. She knew of Jobe’s predicament and she liked to think that he would pick a nice woman who would at least treat others as kindly as he did.
“Mr Hughes has had no end of women coming to the door. I’m sure the right woman will come along soon.” She said and she wasn’t really up to talking about this topic because she did worry who Jobe would end up with. She had resigned herself to understanding that it would not be her, and that he would get with a proper lady of wealth and name. She could only hope they were good to him and kind and gave him everything he ever wanted from marriage.
Perhaps Willow’s confidence had rubbed off on her because Anastasia felt a little more free to speak up.
“The late Mr Hughes only wanted what was best for his son. I am sure there was method to his decision.” Maybe she had spoken out of turn and she quickly hushed her voice at that, not daring to go on further because Jobe was a kind man but she did not want to test his boundaries. She looked to Willow as dinner was served with a small smile, almost apologetic in nature. She wasn’t sure about any of this because she was still noticeably uncomfortable at being the one served, rather than the one serving.
Willow was in her element. Shopping in the Victorian era was so much more interesting that going to Piccadilly Square on the weekend. The sights, the smells, the people. It all added to the atmosphere. The two women went from merchant to merchant, finding something for the two of them to wear, Willow advising the woman on her colouring and helping her choose a lovely dress. When Anastasia had tried to pay Willow placed her hand on the woman’s arm. [b “Put that away dear. This is my treat and I will not take no for an answer.”] Telling her that the money had actually come from Jobe would not help the woman accept it so she went along with her fabrication.
Back at the house, Willow changed and fixed her hair, allowing it to flow more freely before turning her attention to Anastasia, helping her into her dress first, then working on the woman’s hair. She stood back and took in the woman’s appearance and placed her hands on her hips. [b “You belong in this dress.”] She said softly. [b “You look beautiful.”] She could tell that the woman was nervous but they walked down to the dining room together and watched her carefully as she made her way to her chair.
Willow then turned her attention to Justin, smiling at his appearance and nodded graciously as he held the seat out for her. [b “Town was wonderful. You simply must see it before we go. It was amazing.”] She said, trying not to allow her excitement seem misplaced. [b “You do not need to thank me. I enjoyed your company and I am sure that we will enjoy each other’s company again.”]
While Jobe was an advocate of equality, there was little he did to warrant it in society. While he kept his home and business as fair as possible, he doubted that he could have much influence on the opinions and business of others. Social reformers were not exactly doing much to help the working class, if anything they were just publishing articles in bourgeoisie newspapers, targeting people responsible for the conditions in the first place. They were hardly a shock to them.
Regardless of what Justin had said about keeping his relationship with Willow formal, Jobe could detect the admiration in his tone, knowing that it was not formality that warranted such views. He clearly had some feelings for the woman, even if he was unprepared to admit it. However, he chose not to press the matter, not wanting to upset his guest in any way. Besides, he was not exactly a role model for men doting over a woman he could not have.
Jobe’s new friend seemed to get the hang of hunting rather quickly for someone who did not have much experience, although it was beyond him as to why a man would not have hunted before. It was a common sport and many enjoyed it. However, the thought did not cross his mind again when they began to make their way back towards the house, Justin talking of the women and their expenditure. It caused a laugh to erupt from his throat.
[b “I’m not sure London prices could render either of use penniless but I am sure they have had quite the adventure.”] The two men went their separate ways when they arrived at the house, each changing into something more presentable for dinner. He swore that he could hear the voices of the two women coming from Willow’s room but he did not intrude. At least they made it back safely.
Back in the dining hall, he was joined by Justin and had a scotch poured for him while they waited for the women to arrive. [b “Women tend to like to make an entrance.”] He said in humour but he was stopped dead in his movements as the women entered. Whilst Willow looked lovely, his eyes were trained on Anastasia. He could not believe the transformation. Whilst he had always found her beautiful, there was more to it now. [b “Anastasia, you look wonderful.”] He said quietly as he lowered himself to the seat after the women were seated. [b “We had a rather wonderful day, thank you.”]
Justin still found it peculiar how the classes interacted. Clearly Jobe was a rare case where he treated all as equal but he knew that if you were lower class here, it was dangerous. Anastasia’s arm and the bruises were testament to such things. He looked to Jobe and smiled a little. He wondered if the man knew he was going to do great things some day. He kind of wanted to know how it would end up for Jobe and if he would get some sort of happy ending after all.
“Juliet is indeed strong willed. She also has a very infectious personality, an ability to allow others to open up in her presence.” Justin said and smiled a little to himself as he aided Jobe in his task.
“Juliet is a kind woman, with no shortage of confidence. I think you and her will agree on a lot of your opinions. Though, Juliet always has a plan.” He laughed a little.
The afternoon of hunting was something new and exciting and Justin came to find he was actually a fair shot although mostly it wasn’t about the sport itself, but more about getting to know Jobe. It seemed a shame his father had put a clause in his will and Justin would help where he could with that but he knew better than to interfere too much. Men were always proud creatures and he knew better than to push too much.
“Do you suppose the women have gone off and spent both of our money? We may be penniless by the time we get back.” He laughed a little and shook his head. He hoped Willow was alright and would be on time for dinner.
“I suppose we should make ourselves presentable for company, also!” Justin said as he made his way back upstairs and washed up so he would be acceptable for dinner. He sighed out and looked over the grounds of the house from the window. He never imagined the upper class having issues, perhaps thinking they were all pompous and cruel. Jobe was different though.
He went downstairs to see the table set with an array of dinner and he raised an eyebrow. People sure did like to eat. He had a scotch poured for him and thanked the Butler with a nod as he awaited the women, helping Willow to her seat. He smiled a little to her,
“Everything went well in town then?”
Anastasia seemed enthralled by how magnificent the glorious colours were of the town. No one even spared her a glance, really! She would be forever grateful to Willow for doing this for her and treating her as an equal woman. Jobe had always treated her kindly but there was a difference when it was another woman. She was used to women looking down at her and not acknowledging that she had feelings and a free mind. Willow seemed to see her as a person though. Just like Jobe did.
Anastasia was somewhat lit but with Willow’s help she decided on a lovely royal blue dress and of course when they were back she let Willow fix her hair. It was amazing to her how another woman could be so caring, because Anastasia joining them for dinner was not something particularly useful for Willow so she was doing it out of kindness. Or sympathy.
Anastasia smoothed down her dress, her hair was long and the braids in it still left some down to frame her face, like Willow had done. She looked to Juliet, she was nervous! It was as if she didn’t want to make anyone regret her joining them for dinner. She went into the dining room and it still felt very odd to be a guest and not a servant.
“Thank you.” She said quietly to a butler who helped her sit down and she looked to Willow with a smile.
“and thank you for today, Miss Juliet.” She said quietly. She looked to Justin and Jobe,
“You did well with hunting?” She pushed conversation because it was horribly clear she was nervous right then as she moved some hair from her eyes.
Willow smiled and followed Anastasia, pulling on an overcoat as they ventured towards the space where the carriage would meet them. While they waiting, Anastasia seemed to show more of her excitement. [b “I would be happy to help you choose something. I can assure you that I do not always look like this.”] She laughed, knowing how true it was. [b “Perhaps I can fix your hair in preparation for this evening too. You would look beautiful with you hair framing your face.”] She smiled.
When the carriage pulled up she climbed in and when they arrived her eyes lit up with the bustle. It was nothing like modern day London and it felt alive. [b “This place is amazing.”] She said as her eyes drank in the environment. [b “There is so much choice and everyone seems to content!”]
Willow turned towards Anastasia, smiling widely, not hiding the excitement. It might have seemed weird for someone of her status to be excited by such things.
Jobe led Justin out of their room, moving towards a room where he kept his hunting gear. He had plenty to spare and he would make sure that his new hunting partner would have everything he needed to succeed. As he looked through the guns and handed one over to Justin he listening to the man speaking. Soon enough he led him outside where they would spend their afternoon.
[b “Fortunate is one word for it. I have never wanted for anything, and I would like to think that most of my staff have had a similar experience. I think it’s harder when everyone else insists of reinforcing the class system in the way that they do. I would much rather every be equal but it’s not as easy as that.”] Jobe wish for things to be simpler and he only assumed that his father would want him to marry a woman equal of wealth. What had not occurred to him yet was that there was no such clause.
[b “Your Juliet seems strong-willed I am well aware that she will take care of her. If I am honest, I hope she rubs off on the woman. She would benefit from a little more confidence.”]
Justin looked to the women and smiled. It seemed Willow was being a real influence on Anastasia and he looked to Jobe when he seemed over joyed that she would be joining them for dinner and he smiled a little.
“I shan’t get got, Juliet.” He winked and looked to Jobe as he pulled on a jacket.
“Yes! Lead the way. I’m sure we will be back in time for dinner, and the company of such lovely women.” He said, actually being charming for a change!
He followed Jobe out and looked to the countryside.
“You are so fortunate to have everything you would ever need at your fingertips.” Justin said. Unlike Willow, he didn’t know who Jobe would end up marrying. He knew the man’s writings but not much history on him.
“I would imagine it is is difficult for you not to see class when you are like this. It seems your servants see it more openly.” It did confuse him just how Jobe couldn’t see the classes. He tried so hard to teach Anastasia but it seemed she was stuck in her ways. Maybe it was for Jobe’s protection so he wouldn’t be ridiculed. Still, it seemed very strange.
“Juliet will take good care of Anastasia.” He remarked and he hoped Willow knew what she was doing because he did worry about the woman.
Anastasia looked to Jobe and gave a small apologetic smile. She knew she was not a prisoner but it was all she had ever known these days. She put on an overcoat to keep out the chill.
“Thank you.” She said to Jobe before becoming distracted as the man slipped Willow money.
“Let’s! I’ll ask the carriage to take us to town.” She said to her as she went off to make arrangements before reappoint and smiling to Willow.
“I have never bought myself anything, and especially dresses fit for a dinner with Mr Hughes and his guests.” She explained, almost nervously.
“Perhaps you could help me choose?” She asked.
“You always look very fine in your dresses, Miss Juliet. And your hair is always perfect.” She explained.
Anastasia got into the carriage as they were taken to town. It was busy with merchants selling their wares and beautiful colours. Anastasia has not been to town that often, Jobe had always asked her to accompany him but she had always grown shy or embarrassed and refused.
Willow nodded affirmatively. [b “Of course I would. I told you that I do not see class and I sincerely hope that we can be friends dear Anastasia. I think that we would have a lot to learn from each other.”] She meant that she could learn about history from her but she was sure that Willow could assert some more independence into the woman’s personality over the next few days. While is saddened her that he life had been void of kindness, she knew that her life would not always be like this. After all, her future was much brighter.
She shook her head as she continued to insist upon ‘Fletcher’s’ feelings but decided not to respond so that she could avoid the topic of conversation. When they moved back into the dining room she smiled towards Justin, intrigued by the fact that he had been invited hunting. She would have loved to experience that but it was not for a woman. She laughed when he told her to be careful and she smiled softly towards him.
[b “I promise to be careful but I believe that what you are doing if far more dangerous. Do not get yourself shot now. I need you to get back home.”] She laughed softly, knowing he would understand her meaning and she nodded towards Jobe, taking the money with subtly.
[b “Shall we be on our way dear Anastasia?”]
Jobe was glad that the man had decided to come hunting with him. It was a sport he had grown to enjoy and it was relaxing too. It allowed him to work on frustrations when he had any. Right now, he just wanted to work his way through his anger at his father and having company would keep him grounded.
[b “Well then that is settled isn’t it? We shall go hunting and the women can do whatever it is they decide to do.”] He said happily rising from his seat just as Willow and Anastasia entered the room. He was glad to see Anastasia in such high spirits and finding herself with a woman who would clearly be a good friend to her.
A smile spread across his face when he heard that she had been invited to dinner. Apparently it took a guest to do so for her to finally join him. [b “Anastasia, there is nothing that would please me more. Of course you have my permission. I wish you would understand that you do not need my permission to leave this house. You are not a prisoner.”] He shook his head and smiled, reaching into his jacket pocket as he started to walk out of the door, handing Willow some money as he did.
He lowered his voice to a whisper and spoke into the woman’s ear. [b “Although I pay her well, I do not wish for her to waste her earning on such things. Take this and tell her you are paying for it if you must.”] He said and looked towards Justin, nodding his head. [b “Well let us be on our way Fletcher.”] He said, amused by the way he told Willow to be careful.
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