The Extended Epilogue
Sitting on a wooden chair by the beach, Kitty watched the waves gently lapping the sands, pushing shells up the shore and leaving sea foam behind. There was a second wooden chair beside her, but it was empty. The therapeutic effects of the sea were, after all, mostly for her. And the earl was a little busy with the two bundles of joy and trouble which he had promised to put to bed that night.
Kitty fully expected to be called in to help finish settling the toddlers, but she appreciated that he made the effort for her. He made so many efforts for her. This little cottage on the beachfront being one of them. A nice little retreat for when she wanted somewhere to rest and recover, somewhere that would treat her joints kindly.
Looking back at the cottage, she saw that a figure was already emerging. She was either going to be told that they were asleep or that she was needed to tell them to stay in their cot. The earl walked down the beach. He looked as handsome as ever and she got up to greet him with a kiss.
“Are they asleep?” she asked, glancing at the cottage. “That was very quick.”
“Yes, they were so tired from the journey down here, all they wanted to do was go to sleep. That, or they have devised another way of tricking me and are currently sneaking to the kitchen to steal dried fruit,” he said, as though suddenly realizing the possibility that he had been deceived. “Ought I check them again?”
She shook her head. “They will be fine a few more minutes, I am sure.” She wrapped her arms around him and rested her head on his chest.
“Are you feeling better for spending some time out here in the fresh air?” he asked, running his fingers through her loose hair.
She nodded. “I am. Thank you for taking the time to come here with us. I know you’re busy at the moment, but it truly helps with my rheumatism.”
“I am glad,” he said, kissing her head and then releasing her.
He sat down in one of the empty chairs and looked out over the black water as the sun set behind them. “It is nice out here,” he remarked. “I can see how it could be nice when you are feeling unwell.”
“It is supposed to be healing, not nice,” she replied, moving to the other chair and sitting down. “Fresh sea air is good for the health.”
“But it is also nice. I feel better when I am here too, truth be told. Whenever I am tired, or frustrated by something going wrong, this is always the best place to be. With you, of course.” He reached out over the arm of his chair, without looking away from the water.
She took the hint and held his hand as they both looked out over the sea. The waves were rising higher again, and come nightfall they would be crashing hard into the sand. But for now they were at that perfect point where they were making a nice rushing sound without looking too rough.
He was right. It was nice. Even if she were not ill, she would enjoy being out there. Especially with him.
“Must you leave for London again?” she asked.
“You know the answer,” he replied flatly. “I am a busy man, with many things to do. London is where many of these things happen to be. Besides, I could be further away. London isn’t so bad, as far as travel is concerned.”
“I would be unhappy if you were going anywhere else too,” Kitty replied, squeezing his hand.
“I think your complaint is not that I am leaving, but that I am leaving without you,” he remarked with a smirk.
Kitty laughed a little. “What do you expect when you take a woman to so many amazing places and then leave her home for two years whilst you go wherever you please?
I want to travel more, to see more. You know that.”
He squeezed her hand. “I know, I know. But I still have to work, whether or not we have children.”
“But you do not. You’re an earl. You just want to work,” she countered.
“Yes, I want to. It brings amazing new developments to our country. Developments that help it become greater by the day,” he replied.
“I wish I could see more of them, more of what you are doing,” Kitty said softly.
“We have seen a lot together already. France, America, Germany. You know what it is that I do,” he replied.
“It is not the place. It is you,” she explained. “I simply want to be with you, wherever you happen to be. I want to see what you are doing, and where you are going, and to witness the same things you witness. I want to be by your side through it all, rather than just hear your stories when you come home.”
“And you will,” he said reassuringly. “Soon you will come with me again and we can travel together, as a family. I promise you that.”
“But when?” she asked. “I feel I have been waiting too long again.”
“When the twins are old enough then we shall set off again,” he replied. “And not just the safe and simple journeys. Your joints are strong and healthy, and you are not yet with child again. We can go to India, if you want. Or to the horn of Africa.”
Kitty sighed contentedly. “That sounds wonderful. So long as it is with you. But what of the boys? Shall they come with us? I am not sure I would like them to go on such dangerous journeys. Perhaps when they are old enough to take care, but certainly not before they are five or six.”
The earl paused a moment, as though thinking it through.
“If they are mature enough to be trusted they can come with us. Until then, they can stay here a while. Delilah and Cassandra are more than happy to look after their little nephews, and I am sure that Helena would not mind having a second and third for a few months,” he explained.
Kitty felt excited already. “You are right, it would not hurt for them to spend some time staying with friends, or with relatives. And I am sure that Helena would not mind looking after them for a while if it meant a lot to us. It just feels so strange to be contemplating leaving them behind while we go away.”
“I understand. You have spent the last two years all but attached to them. But it is natural to want to do some things on your own again now that they are older,” he replied, his voice warm and understanding.
“Some might call me a bad woman, and a bad mother, if I leave my children behind to travel with my husband,” she said. “Although I am sure they will call me much worse if we bring them with us.”
“And some might call you a bad invalid for walking,” he replied with a grin. “People will find something to criticize. Always. You cannot base your life on what others say you ought to do. You are the perfect woman for me, and the perfect mother for our boys. And if you want to let them stay with a friend and come with me to India, then we shall do that. Or if you want to bring them with us to Germany, then we shall do that.”
“Do you really think so?” she asked pensively.
“That we shall bring them to Germany?” he asked, a little confused.
“That I am the perfect woman for you,” she elaborated.
He grinned. “I know so. No other woman could have helped me to be as focused as you have. And no other woman could have taught me all you have taught me. We were destined to marry.”
Kitty felt her heart fluttering. “I suppose we were, because you are the perfect man for me.”
“I know,” he replied, “I would not have asked for your hand in marriage if I did not believe we would both benefit.”
She laughed a little at his flippancy. But he was right. They complemented one another. Like two pieces of a puzzle, they came together to balance out the flaws in one another, and both of them became stronger as a consequence. He really was the perfect man for her. But not just because of that.
He understood her. She had known this from the start,
but it became truer by the day. He understood her in ways that nobody else had understood her, and through that understanding he made her feel truly cherished. The sun continued setting behind them and the wind picked up. She squeezed his hand again. He was like a restorative sea breeze, revitalizing her heart and soul.