The Promise

A young English woman is forced to choose between her most beloved relationships-her family and home or her lover, who dares to cross the stormy Atlantic for turbulent early America. Set in the mid-1700's, Americans and their mother country are beginning to tense and rifts are developing. Will she leave all that she has known, and journey to a land unknown?

   1.

   Half asleep, chaotic dreams dashed through Margaret's mind, mixing with the sounds of the rain pounding at her window and thunder thrashing at the sky.  A tug of reality lurched her awake, the unexpected shriek of hinges catching her breathless and wide-eyed.

     The warm glow of candlelight cascaded through the open door, revealing the figure of their young servant, Harriet. "Miss?" her meek whisper barely made it across Margaret's bedchamber as an erruption of thunder shook the house. She seemed equally startled by Margaret's sudden reaction. "Miss, the Mr. Henry Allan is here. I....," she flinched, lightnening nearly blinding them both. ".... I believe you should come down."

    "What is wrong?" inquired Margaret worriedly, snatching her shawl from her nearby bedside table before slipping out of bed and shuffling over to the strong circlet of light which Harriet's candle cast. "Why has Mr. Allan come at such a late hour....in such inclimate weather?"  She shuttered, feeling slightly safer from the wicked night in the dim ambiance which it emitted.

     "I am not sure, Miss," continued Harriet, her narrow, chalky white face appearing more like a ghostly figure than ever in the flickering candle's flame. "He is in the library, speaking to your father."

    She furrowed her brow, "What ever could they be..." her voice trailed off as another consecutive thunderous roar interrupted her.

     Harriet grasped Margaret's arm firmly in fright, glancing cautiously about as if the house itself was expected to crumble all around them.  Seeing her own  reaction, she murmured, "I'm sorry, Miss....please, let us go down,"  her hand quaking so that the candle light wavered all around them.

     The two young ladies hurriedly turned from the bedchamber, creeping down the darkened hallway to the staircase, watching as their shadows followed them, slipping smoothly across the walls.

    As they reached the last steps, she could hear the muffled murmuring from inside the library door, rich golden candle light slipping out the bottom and flooding a little ways out onto the worn wooden floors.

    They both paused, Maragaret straining to catch a word they were speaking.  But they spoke in soft undertones, with thoughtful silences after seemingly every few exchanges.  She could distinguish both men's voices very clearly-Mr. Allan's, one she had come to know so well in the past year, as well as her father's, clouded with obvious thoughtfulness and a subtle distress which she could only make out in the backround of his tone. Someone was pacing slowly in the back half of the room, and by the anxiety is his voice, Margaret guessed it was her father behind his grandfather's old desk in which he usually sat.  What could be so serious and deep a matter?  She racked her mind nervously, soon finding her fingers tangled in the folds of her nightgown, the conversation seeming to drag into a long period of silence, the footsteps on the creaky wooden floor slowing to a halt.

    

      Mr. Carson stared into the young suitor's eyes, which looked straight back at him in the silence.  He leaned one hand on his heavy desk with a sigh, running the other through his rapidly greying hair.  "I must speak to my wife of this matter....and you must speak to....."  He trailed off, adjusting his stance.

       The other man nodded, lowering his gaze from Mr. Carson's, "Margaret."

     

      "What is happening?" whispered Mrs. Carson to her daughter and Harriet  as she stepped down the final stairs. 

     "I-,"  Margaret began, but she paused as she heard heavy footsteps nearing the library door, the doorknob turning to open.

      Her father's tall narrow figure stepped out, suprised to see almost all the women of his house standing at the door.  He blinked once and continued, "Harriet, would you fetch some tea? Margaret....,"  he didn't seem to know what to say, awkwardly shifting from one foot to another. "....Mr. Allan has requested your audience for a moment."

     She nodded without thinking, her curiousity over-filling her, turning to enter the library.  She swept by her father, his eyes distracted and far away as he watched her pass. 

     Mr. Allan stood in the center of the room, his dark hair wet with rain. Margaret took a glance back at her father as he shut the door behind her, yet his eyes were directed firmly on Mr. Allan.

    "Were you awakened ?" asked Mr. Allan as he took an advancing step forward.

    "No, the rain keeps me awake most of the time," Margaret shook her head impatiently.  "Whatever is happening, Henry? I thought you were in London?"

     "I....," he swallowed, glancing at his shoes for a moment. "...am....being disowned." 

    "Disowned! Why!" exclaimed Margaret incredulously.

    His eyes seemed to search hers for a moment. He took another step closer, more courageous as he continued, "My father is disowning me. Because I told him I wished...that I wished to marry you."

     Margaret stumbled backwards a bit, blinking hard for a minute. "And?" she managed to say hoarsely.

     "And I do....," he reached for her hands, but she barely noticed. "You are my favorite companion, you have always been. I would give up all that I have, because I l...,"

     "Wait!" she cried out, feeling as if she was drowning for a second. "Wait, please."

      Mr. Allan was silent, his hands sweaty in hers.  She breathed deeply for a moment, and asked more composed now, "What is going to happen? What I mean is...if I do marry you?  What will......we do if you are.....disowned?" This wasn't real. It some sort of an odd dream.

      He looked away from her and to the window where another flash of lightening lit up the land outdoors, as if to purposefully leave her hanging on edge. "That is why I have come here tonight without waiting....to speak to your father....and you. I am leaving tomorrow, on the first ship to America."

     "America?" she whispered disbelievingly. "Why?"

    "I have nothing now. I will not marry you without a home or income to offer," he started, looking straight back at her, and then at her hands, "A friend of mine, Patrick Garner, has always wished for us to be associates in law and journey to America to open a practice in Boston, where his brother's family lives and makes good living. He believes we would earn more wealth there than in England. I had always thought his plan had been.....without merit, since I was well set  with my inheirtance.  When all this happened, I went to his house in London, as I had no idea where to go and his doors have always been open to me. He again offered this idea....and this time I agreed to it."

     Margaret swallowed, her voice beginning to waver, "So you are to live in America now? But is not rebellion starting? And what will happen to.....me?"

    "It will be your choice,"  he said softly. "I will be leaving tomorrow. Whenever everything is settled, that I have enough income for you to comfortably live, I shall write back and request that you come to marry me......in America."  he paused, looking at the floor again, ".....in that period you may decide that you want to stay in England with your family."

      She felt her body involuntarily shake as she looked about the room, tears blurring her vision. All that she has known. Her father, her mother, her sister, her brother. To leave to cross an ocean?  She had always fancied marrying Henry one day-she loved him just as she loved her family. He too was her favorite companion, he allowed her full independence of knowlegde and to speak without fear. He was the only one she had ever found she could love and possibly live with other than her family.

     "I am sorry," he said as he squeezed her hands, his voice filled with emotion. "I am sorry."

     She shook her head, feeling as if she was to crack.  She put her hands to her eyes to stop the tears, swallowing several times to hold back.  Sniffling, she opened her eyes as Henry hurried to pick up the shawl she had let fall. Margaret stood straight up again, attempting to compose herself.   She had already half made up her mind.  "Will you wait for me in America?" she said trying to half smile.

     "I promise," he swore loyally.  He lightly kissed her, and said, "I must leave now for port. I will write you all the time."

     "As will I,"  promised Margaret in return.

     He looked at her one last time and hurried briskly out of the room. She listened as she heard the front door open and close. Hurrying to the window, moments later she saw the dark figure of him and his charger gallop down the road, the clouds and rain breaking to reveal a silvery full moon.

    

 

    

        

     

 

 

The End

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