Ruthy could hear her mother and the other woman talking through the heavy brocade curtains that separated the hall from the parlor. They spoke in hushed whispers, but she was able to tell they seemed to be getting on. These two women from such different social classes were chatting lightly and speaking her name sweetly. They were surely making plans for her future.
Thoughts of her lover, the other woman’s son, heated nights of passion, his promises of their future together away from his family-away from hers, made her flush with desire. She could see him soon now, and in the good graces of both families!
Month after month, she had met him secretly, in her room in the servants’ quarters and a few times he had slipped her into his own bedchamber. There he kept lovely night gowns of satin for her and bottles of perfume in lovely fragrant bottles. She did not care where they met as long as she could be in his arms, surrounded by his words of love and tenderness.
A member of the staff- she suspected a jealous under butler, had told the master of the house about the affair, and circumstances progressed to today’s meeting of the mothers. In the offing, she and her lover had been separated, she dismissed from the household and her name tarnished. Ruthy hoped-no, she knew, after today all would be put right!
Ruthy’s heart was in her throat and she blazed with sudden heat as she rose to meet the women coming into the hall. It seemed she had been waiting a lifetime. The two looked at her with expressions she could not read. Her ears rung like a fog horn, her body trembled as a moth dying. The mother of her lover placed her hand gently on Ruthy’s arm.
Her mother told her she was in good hands now and smiled in a way she had never done before. The Butler saw her out. Her mother left without a second glance. Ruthy turned and looked into the face of the other woman, ears still ringing and close to losing her vision. She had never been alone with this woman, her superior, mother of her secret lover, knower of her shame and disgrace. But, did she know all?
The woman took her hand and gently led her upstairs without a word, smiling all the while. In the guestroom, laid-out on the bead Ruthy saw new clothes, a lovely coat, boots, hat, scarf and gloves. A trunk was set waiting beside the door. The woman’s Ladies’ Maid was instructed to help Ruthy bathe and dress. The woman told Ruthy plainly she would be back soon.
The maid was sweet and gentle, but would say nothing, that she was not privy to his Mistress’s plans. Ruthy knew from the lovely clothes and what she found in the trunk that she was going to be taken to meet her lover on the continent. She was filled with increasing excitement and joy. She could not believe her mother had worked these things out for her! They would be together forever at last! She was so thankful that her mother had not told anyone about the baby! That would have ruined everything-she was certain! Surely his mother would have reacted in some way or things would have turned out differently if she had.
Ruthy was taking stock of herself in her new coat and hat when the woman knocked. Both were all smiles and the car packed and off she went with the driver. The last thing she saw was the woman waving and smiling as they drove away.
Ruthy gave no notice to where they went. Her thoughts were daydreams of being his arms, passionate love and talk of their future. Oh, what places they would visit, Paris, Rome, Venice-all as had been planned. Soon she dozed and finally slept.
Ruthy was awakened by the driver who was gently speaking to her. They had arrived, he told her. As she stepped out of the car, Ruthy saw a tall house with many lighted windows, much like the one she left. She thought she had arrived at a hotel somewhere. Surely she had, because the driver told her someone was waiting in the lobby for her! Her breathe caught in her throat, she took a deep one, calmed herself and the driver escorted her in.
They entered through the huge double doors where a well-dressed, stern yet kind-eyed woman took Ruthy’s hands and welcomed her to Berkshire House for Laying-In and Adoption. Shocked beyond belief, Ruthy turned to look at the driver. In his hand was a small envelope. He slipped it into her gloved hand. The envelope was addressed ‘To My Love’. He put a finger to his lips as if to say do not tell. There were tears in his deep loyal eyes. He then bowed, turned and walked out the door.