The Deverills, England
“Look at him, admiring his own reflection.”
Sophie jabbed her friend in the ribs sharply, then returned to the sight on the plain.
“He has every right to. He’s beautiful,” Sophie sighed, peeking her head above the tall grasses. She swooned at the sight of him.
Mary crossed her arms and took a second look. He was rather beautiful with his raven hair and his smooth creamy skin. She touched her own tight skin and winced.
“We’d never have a chance. You know that. You’re dreaming, girl,” Mary whispered.
“And what’s wrong with dreaming?” Sophie murmured, strands of wet blond hair sticking to her young face.
Mary crossed her arms again and began to walk away.
“Mary! What are you doing?” Sophie whispered sharply, gathering up her skirts and following herfriend.
Mary looked over her shoulder and patted her dreary brown hair. “I’d rather spend my time looking at the village boys than at Mr. Cecil P. Sherbowe. There’s no use kidding ourselves, Sophie.”
Sophie’s strong shoulders drooped. “I suppose you’re right. It’s time to go anyway,” she sighed, following her friend down the path. “Still,” Sophie added, looking back longingly. “Wouldn’t it be grand just to touch him? To smell his hair? You have to admitthat, don’t
Mary turned and grinned. “You’re right. It would be grand. Now let’s go tell the girls – you know they’ll want to hear every detail!”
Sophie and Mary broke out in a spurt of giggles and raced back towards the dairy. The rain was steady again, but they had already been caught in a downpour coming to look at Mr. Cecil P. Sherbowe.
Cecil looked up from his seat near the river at the sound of women giggling. He smirked; the milking girls again! Cecil looked back at his reflection in the calm stream water. It was beginning to rain and the droplets were marring his reflection. Standing up, he brushed the mossy earth from his pants. He headed home at a slow pace since the rain did not bother him. Cecil looked up to the swirling gray clouds over the Salisbury Plain and realized again how good it was to be him.
By the time his house was in sight, Cecil was soaked. He stopped for a moment to gaze athis father’s home. It was magnificent – Cecil would give him that. But one day he would have something larger and less medieval. Very modern, very Cecil. He trudged down the muddy path towards the house.
The Sherbowe estate was one of the grandest in the area. The gardens were the envy of every lady, refined or not. The red roses and yellow daffodils brought a splash of color to the dreary green and gray countryside. As Cecil made his way to the large front doors he heard acommotion in
the nearby stables, where he discovered his older brother unsaddling his horse.
“Good-day, Master Cecil. How was your walk?” Cecil’s brother asked dryly, brushing off his brown mare’s sweaty back.
“Just fine, Master Harold, but I thought you were an intruder. You usually do not ride at this time of day,” Cecil replied, leaning on a wooden beam.
Harold grinned through his newly bearded face. “Really now? So you were going to come and protect the family’s horses then?”
“Well, someone has to. Now that you’re gallivanting across the plains every day, it’s just me and Father here,” Cecil answered coolly. Both brothers glanced up at the wooden roof as the sound of the rain quickened.
“Hm. You and Father and our fifteen servants. You’re quite vulnerable here, all right. And, if you’re trying to make me feel guilty for some pathetic reason, it’s not happening. I have new responsibilitiesnow. As will you when you’re twenty-three, little brother,” Harold announced, slapping Cecil on the back of the head.
Cecil pulled himself away and followed his brother into the house. “I’ll not get caught up in this land. That was your mistake – one that Anna and I will not make,” he snapped back. He shook off his wet coat in the wooden entryway and dropped it to the floor. Both boys slipped out of their boots and continued through the house towards thekitchen.
will, and you know it. As for Anna, she’s a woman. She can decide for herself. She’s perfectly free,” Harold sighed, turning to look at Cecil.
“Oh, I am, am I?” a voice shouted from the living room. Anna emerged from the shadows, her pale face unusually pink.
“If I’m so perfectly free, why is it that Father has threatened to marry me off to whomever he chooses? If I can’t marry Charles, I will kill myself! How could he do this to me?” she wailed, pulling at a flawless brown ringlet.
“He’s been threatening that since the day you were born,” Harold informed her.
“You weren’t there when I was born, you idiot!” Anna chided, on the verge of exasperated tears.
“Now, Anna dearest, stop that. I’m sure you’ll marry whomever you want, and if Father won’t let you, then I’m sure you’ll run off in a very poetic fashion,” Harold consoled her, holding back asmile.
“Really, Harold? Truly, really? Would it be… poetic… romantic?” Anna whispered, biting her rosy lip.
“Yes, yes! Now let us by. We’ve been working hard all day,” Cecil broke in, pushing past his sister and sprinting towards the kitchen. Harold kissed Anna on the cheek and followed Cecil.
The kitchen was alive with steam and the smell of dinner. Mrs. Sherbowe rushed around the room, tasting bits of this and that. She squinted her green eyes at theboys, trying to distinguish them
through her bad vision. She seemed befuddled by the busy kitchen atmosphere.
“Harold and Cecil? Is it you, boys?” she called, squinting her eyes again.
“Yes, Mother. We’re very hungry. May we have some food?” Cecil asked, eyeing the concoction boiling atop the stove.
“No, you may not. Now, go off! Your father is in the study and wishes to see you,” Mrs. Sherbowe answered loudly, shoving her boys out of the crowded kitchen.
Harold looked at his mother with hurt eyes. “Both of us?”
Mrs. Sherbowe shook her head. Her brown hair fell down into her face in frizzy clumps, making it even harder to see, “No, no! Just Cecil.”
Harold smirked and patted his brother on the back. Hard. “Well, now. Looks as though Father has had enough,” he chuckled, walking away. Cecil followed.
“What do you mean by that?” Cecil demanded, his face growinghot.
Harold turned down a hall, laughing, “You’ll find out! Good luck.”
Cecil watched his brother disappear into another room and shut the door. Sighing loudly, he began the long climb up the carpeted staircase to the second floor.
His ascension accomplished, he turned and looked down on the warm house and shook his head. One day it would all be his. Cecil gripped the cherry wood railing. He didn’t want this cursed house. And he was determined totell his father –
Cecil walked down the hall, ignoring the giggly greeting from a nearby maid. He straightened his wet work clothes and knocked on his father’s study door.
“Cecil? Come in,” Mr. Sherbowe shouted.
Cecil swallowed hard and opened the door. He was immediately greeted by the stench of expensive cigars and the oppressive heat of the blazing fireplace along the wall. He sat down in the cushioned chair across from his father’s desk and stared down at his hands.
“Good evening, sir,” Cecil muttered. “Are you well?”
Mr. Sherbowe took a long, thoughtful puff and surveying his youngest son with one eye shut. His white hair was slicked back severely.
“You’re seventeen. Correct, Cecil?” Mr. Sherbowe asked gruffly, tapping his cigar, then replacing it immediately in his mouth.
Cecil squirmed in his chair. “Of course, sir.”
Mr. Sherbowe leanedback in his desk chair and nodded slowly. “I’m sure you don’t really remember what happened to Harold at seventeen, do you?”
“Only that, whatever it was, Harold was much nicer afterwards. He was such a pain in the rump, even I remember that. He used to tie me to the stable beams and let the maids find me.”
“I am going to do the same for you. Sherbowe boys are notoriously idiotic at seventeen, and maybe you’re too seventeen to realize it.”
“Do what to me,
“Send you off. Get some experience. Associate with the commoners, if you see what I mean? We Sherbowe’s have always been wealthy, but not always disciplined. Remember what happened to Great-great Uncle Jonathan?”
“Well…he was burned, wasn’t he?”
“At the stake, like a sorcerer. From then on, the Sherbowe’s have put much more work into raising our boys.”
“But, sir! I’m very disciplined! Really!”
“All right, prove it then.”
“What did you do while you were gone this afternoon?”
“I… I went for a walk. But that was to condition my mind, sir. That’s discipline.”
“Afraid not. I specifically remember asking you to supervise the stable cleaning, and I have my suspicions that you left to get out of it.”
“Now, now. There’s no use arguing over something alreadydecided. Tonight will be your farewell party. I’ve arranged it all.”
Cecil jumped up from his chair . One look from his father stopped any hasty comment he was about to make.
Cecil gasped loudly. “Is this a trick? Father! And what if I don’t go?”
Mr. Sherbowe raised his eyes impatiently. “You’ll be disowned.”
“Disowned?” Cecil whispered. He loved the sound of the word; he loved the taste of each letter on histongue.
nodded. “Yes, disowned. Now, how does that sound, boy? Why aren’t you gone yet?”
Cecil slowly turned and left the study. He walked dumbfounded to his room, shutting the door behind him. He danced across the room and collapsed onto his bed, grinning at the ceiling in exuberance.
“Freedom!” his mind screamed. And he wouldn’t have to sacrifice a thing. Just a week or two in the village around milking girls who don’t know how to spell their own names. Cecil quickly jumped up and changed his clothes.