Alfred and Edward

Rebecca loops her arm in Alfred’s. She gracefully carries my glass in her hand while guiding Alfred to my table in the L & L pub. She smiles at Alfred. “Well, Edward, here’s your drink. I am sorry for the wait. I got distracted by this tall, dark traveller.”

I smirk back. “You are pardoned, Rebecca. I can understand what would distract you. I’m quite sure he has some interesting tales to tell. Thank you for the drink.”

I take a long puff from my pipe as Alfred sits. He yanks the chair back from the table and plops down into the seat. He falls back against the chair with his eyes closed. After he opens his eyes and gulps his beer, I incline my head toward him. “Welcome to the corner table, Alfred. I’m glad you could join me. I thought with your delay that you might have walked here. I’m glad you didn’t. How was the ride?”

Alfred shakes his head. “It was fine. Did you walk up here today?”

I nod with a smile. “I did. I just returned from the East last night, so I did not get your letter until this morning. I was very happy to see your letter. Since you haven’t written to me for a while, I thought it best to come quickly. Margaret was a great help.”

I pause to puff my pipe a bit. Alfred seizes the pause. “Margaret, eh? Does that mean that you have finally found someone crazy enough to put up with you?”

I laugh and wave the question away. “Oh no. Margaret is my housekeeper. She’s been at Lignum for about five years now. She does excellent work. She has organized my entire estate. I am fairly certain things could run smoothly without her, but I am not sure at all if I would want to know. Has it been five years?”

Alfred stares into the center of the table for a moment. “I suppose it has been that long. I cannot believe that.” He rubs his beard. “Actually, it has probably been longer than that. I do not recall you even looking for a housekeeper the last time we talked.”

I stare into the fire. “You may be right about that. I didn’t even know that I wanted a housekeeper for a long time. I don’t even remember now how I heard about Margaret. I want to say that some correspondent of mine mentioned a sister being fascinated by my work, and she asked if she could help. However, I could have simply met her randomly in one of my travels. Sometimes people just ask if they can help, and I try my best to find an answer to that question.”

Alfred meets my eyes again and holds his beer up for a toast. “Well, then it has certainly been too long. I hope I can begin to fix that problem. I know our schedules are a bit off, but we have to do this more often. How was your walk then?”

I clink my glass against Alfred’s. “It went much better than I expected. I ran into a bit of rain last night on my return trip. So, I anticipated the road being difficult because of mud. But, the road was dry and solid. I suppose the sun baked most of it off today, and there were obviously many other travellers out today. I can confirm that there was a large crowd here earlier. How are things on the farm?”

Alfred takes a measured breath. “Oh, they are getting along. I bet you enjoyed the sun today then. I know your cloak is good, but the rains brought some definite colder weather.”

I raise an eyebrow at Alfred. I think he is avoiding talk of the farm. Well, that will do for now. “Yes, the sun helped the journey. I don’t think I could have done very well without it. Who knows the cold may have even sped my progress?”

Alfred lowers his head and shakes it while still looking me in the eye. “You and I both know that you crawled up here. Did the rains last night even speed you home?”

I laugh. “You bring up a very good point. No, they did not. I got distracted by some still flowering weeds. I thought it amazing that such things were still growing. I know some plants can thrive in strange conditions, but flowers in January look odd. So, I took a moment in the rain. How are Joseph and Catherine getting along?”

Alfred laughs. “Of course, you stopped in the rain. I wish I had your patience with things. So, you took a trip to the East, huh? How did that go?”

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