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The High And The Humble Chapter Sixteen Conclusion

"Jack and Becky resist admitting their indiscretion"

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Sir Oswald had left the room to see Lord Duckham to his coach, after  his Lordship had inspected the new stables and made a very surprising presentation to Jack.  So surprising, such a shock that, as Becky pressed against him, he was still wrestling with the problem of how to approach what it was now imperative for him to admit. Then he heard the sounds of the coach pulling away.

As the room door began to open, they jumped apart. Sir Oswald came in, looked from one to the other, a rather twisted smile on his face. He gestured to the two chairs on the near side of his desk. “Just sit there, please.”

Jack was wondering whether it would be best to blurt out his confession before this went too far. But he took his seat with Becky just near his right hand. He expected Sir Oswald to go around to his high-backed chair, but instead, he perched himself on the edge of his desk near them.

His dark eyes moved from one to the other, before settling on Becky, as he said, “Rebecca, you don’t think I’m in my dotage, do you?”

Oh, oh, what was coming?

Shaken by the unexpected question, Becky, her eyes wide and enquiring replied, “No uncle. I would never think that.”

“Good,” Sir Oswald said, his mouth fixed in a straight line, “because I’m not.”

His florid face turned to Jack. “And you Jack, do you believe I am losing my senses?”

Jack was as stunned as Becky had been, but he replied, “Of course not, sir.”

“Good, then just listen.”

Tell him, Jack was advising himself. “Sir Oswald, I think—”

Sir Oswald held up a hand. “No interruptions please.”

He paused, as though gathering his thoughts. “First, I have a confession to make.”

Jack and Becky’s eyes met and shared mutual surprise across the space between them. Surely, they were the ones with confessions.

“There is one thing I am ashamed of in my life.” He looked at their dubious faces and his head nodded, “Rebecca, it may surprise you to know that your attitude to privilege was not far from my own.”

“But uncle---”

Again, Sir Oswald held up a hand of restraint. “Let me finish, Rebecca, please.” He took a breath before continuing. “In the service, I had many men at my command. Men who had been farm hands, ditch diggers, labourers. But, steeped in military discipline, they went unquestioningly into battle, too often to their deaths, or in many cases maimed for life. Trustworthy, honest men, often smiling despite adversity.  I admired them greatly.”

He stopped, drew in another deep shuddering breath, as though dreading what he had to say, but he continued, his eyes moving frequently between Jack and Becky. “Those same men, once out of the service suddenly became commoners. Bowed and scraped in deference to the upper classes, wary of how they addressed any high-born lady, like yourself, Rebecca.”

“I left the service, started the wine trade, met rich merchants and my shame is that despite how I’d esteemed the men in my regiment, I joined in with the convention of being the privileged class.”

Jack had already felt an easing of the tension that had built inside him, he glanced at Becky and saw her brow wrinkled as she looked back at him.

“Rebecca,” Sir Oswald went on, standing up to stretch and pull at his jacket, before settling on the desk once more, “before you came into our lives, your father, my dear lamented brother, had worried that you were rather wild and undisciplined. Later, the nuns, where you were placed after his sad demise, also complained that they found you unmanageable. But in the first few weeks, we found that they were wrong.”

He stopped and gave Becky a wide radiant smile before adding, “You were much worse than that. We found you obstructive, headstrong, disobedient, careless, greedy and rather rude.”

Jack could not define the look that shadowed Becky’s face, but guessed she would not want to hear this.

Sir Oswald continued, “Then magically, there came a change, very gradually at first. More smiles. More helpful. More amenable.”

His attention turned to Jack. “Being in the army taught me so much. I’ve known many ladies. No mention to your aunt, Rebecca.” He half smiled. “After a few harsh lessons, I know that a lady does not changed her character by accident. No, usually there are two main reasons. One is money. The other is a man.”

Sir Oswald now faced Jack directly. “This, was where my senses came into action. First, I noticed my niece never ventured far on her lone rides out. Then, I noted her often coming away from the stables.” He tapped over his eyes. “All my senses working, Jack.” His eyes switched to Becky. “And no dotage to prevent me putting things together.”

Oh, God, Jack was thinking, he does know. What now?

“Yes, those stables were such an attraction. And this was even before Trafalgar. But his arrival gave you an ideal excuse.”

“But I love Trafalgar,” Becky burst in.

“Oh, I have no doubt about that. But I began observing all the glances between you and Jack, all the sly touching at race meetings.”

Jack was still not convinced that they were out of the woods yet. What did Sir Oswald intend?

Now, Becky asked, “So, if you were so sure why didn’t you stop us? A commoner and a lady.”

Sir Oswald laughed, “Well, for one thing for the calmness Jack produced in you.”

Only slightly relieved, Jack couldn’t help thinking of the very uncalm, very wild lady who frequently squirmed in his arms.

Her uncle went on, “I’ve told you how I feel about class convention. But I was tied to your dear father’s wishes, that you did not marry beneath your so-called status. His ideas were so different to my own. Hell, he might have had Jack shot.”

“Don’t say that,” Becky protested. “So, you don’t mind that we’ve been together. “

“Mind? Haven’t you noticed my encouragement lately? Who had no objections when you sat, or stood, between Jack and Alf at race meetings?  Who was quick to agree with Alf’s suggestion that Jack accompany you on your rides while the labourers were on site?”

Sir Oswald, turned his eyes on Jack. “Jack, as her guardian, I do need to that know she is secure in your love for her.”

Jack, for the first time, felt the freedom to look directly at Becky as he told him, “I have no doubt about it, sir.”

Becky’s uncle turned back to her. “My encouragement was helped by knowing since the Doncaster meeting last year, that there was the possibility that he’d be knighted.”

They both gasped, but it was Becky who almost cried out, “You‘ve known all this time?”

“It all depended on Trafalgar’s performance.”

Jack couldn’t hide his rising delight. “So, Trafalgar won us more than just a big race.”

The distinguished head nodded as he looked from Jack to Becky. “So now you can meet your father’s wishes and marry at your own level, a knight of the realm.”

“You’ll agree?” Becky’s face was alight.

But Jack saw that he still needed to suppress his joy at this turn-around of events. There was still one stumbling block.

Sir Oswald said, “There are no problems. For a start, I’ll have the top floor arranged so it is where you can live until you have somewhere built. A late August then. You want it large—”

“I’m pregnant, uncle.”

Oh, hell, she’d dropped that bomb so quickly. Sir Oswald’s face lost its cheery aspect, as he heaved himself off the desk and, without speaking, strode across to the large window, where he stood with his hands clasped behind him, staring out into the bright sunlit garden.

Jack looked across at Becky who shrugged as though she was saying, “I couldn’t help it.” Her sorrowful look was too much for Jack and he reached out to grab her hand.

But without too much delay, Sir Oswald turned back from the window and reached for one of a line of bell pulls on the nearest wall. He gave it a tug, as he said, “All right, Slight change of plan. Smaller wedding, and quicker. Chance of a—”

At that moment, there was a polite knock on the door, and Sanders came in. “Yes, sir?”

“Ah, Sanders, would you hurry across to the stable and tell Alf to have a curricle ready at the front door in the next fifteen minutes.”

As Saunders went out, Jack and Becky stood and stared at Sir Oswald, who looked at their puzzled faces and laughed, “I said quick, and that means starting now. Rebecca, my dear.” And he strode to his niece and gave her a hug. Jack just stood feeling like a great weight had lifted from inside him.

Sir Oswald glanced at him. “Rebecca, Jack doesn’t know it yet, but he’s going to drive you into town to buy you the first of the rings that will mark this union.”

Jack could hardly breathe as Sir Oswald moved towards him and held out a hand, which he took gratefully. “Sir Oswald, I don’t know what to say. I—”

“Then say nothing, Jack. Just keep my niece happy.” A rather suggestive smirk crossed his face as he added, “As you obviously have been doing. You want to pay for this simple ring yourself?”

Events had moved so fast, Jack hadn’t had time to think. “Yes, sir, I think that would be appropriate.”

Sir Oswald smiled, “Well, if she gets greedy, mention my account to the jeweller.” He turned to Becky. “A simple ring for starters. Right?”

Becky returned his smile before moving to stand close to Jack, taking his hand. “We can do this in the open now.”

Sir Oswald gave a knowing laugh, “It was hardly a secret before.”

Just then the sound of coach wheels was heard and when they went out of the front door, Alf was standing there, holding the bridle of the harnessed horse.

Alf wore a smile as wide as the lake as he went into an exaggerated bow. “Your carriage awaits, Sir Jack.” And he stressed the ‘sir’. Jack went to him and wrapped his arms around this very dear friend.

“You knew?”

“Only since this morning. Oh, Jack, I’m so glad for you--” He turned to Becky. “—and m’lady”

 “Becky,” she corrected him and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

Jack realised, as they boarded the curricle, that Alf couldn’t know about the baby. That would be cause for greater celebration when he found out.

As he took up the reins, Jack nodded at Alf, as the old man a gave a triumphant wave and called out, “Drive carefully.”

Jack gave a shake to the reins to set the horse in motion. Heading down the drive, Becky clutched his arm and could only murmur, “Oh, Jack.”

Jack was thinking of the contrast between the depression he had been in for the past two days, and how he was feeling at this wonderful moment. How long would it take for him to come to terms with this new status?

As he drove, Becky put her cheek against his and whispered, “At last, I’ll be able to sneak you into my bedroom.” And they laughed together. Jack saw that there was one more thing that they needed to do.

And when he told Becky, she agreed and added, “Both of them.” So, instead of heading the curricle directly out of the estate, he steered it to the front of the stables.

Jumping down from coach he took Becky’s hand, and they stood at the fence to the grazing field where, without even being called, Rascal trotted to meet them. Jack happily rubbed his muzzle and ears, he said, “This dear animal was the start of the dream.

Becky had moved along the fence, where, as ever, Trafalgar sought her attention. Becky smiled happily at Jack as she rubbed the chestnut muzzle. “And my darling Trafalgar has kept the dream alive.”

Jack moved close to her, and hugged her closer, as he said, “And what further dreams lie ahead of us?”

THE END

 

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Written by redwriter
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