Today marked the finest day of the season I have experienced yet. The sky was clear as anything and a steady breeze kept the conditions comfortable, if not a bit treacherous for hats and feathers. Two days previous, I had received a note from the Doctor inviting me out for a picnic on the grounds of his neighbor Daniel Smith, and to introduce me to his lovely daughters! Of course I wanted to immediately agree, but as the Hegwoods and I are still residing in temporary lodgings, I feared Mrs. Hegwood would need me too much for her comfort to consent to let me go. I sat at the window for the better part of two hours, The Doctor’s note in my hand, wondering how I would be able to decline without him thinking ill of me, or how to broach the topic with Mrs. Hegwood without inducing some sort of fit. At length I approached Mr. and Mrs. Hegwood who were having tea with the windows thrown wide, Mr. Hegwood laughing with his wife, looking almost as he had when first I came to them. What a wonderful effect the climate has had on his health. Though he is still in some types of pain, it is not at all near the condition he was in when we left Albany.
Mrs. Hegwood saw me approach and beckoned me to join them, crowing, “Come my dear Emily! Come and listen to this nonsense Mr. Hegwood has been telling me!” I smiled, and complied, setting the Doctor’s note on the table to rearrange my shawl. True to her form, before I could put it safely back into my hands, Mrs. Hegwood’s eyes caught the handwriting and quick as anything she snatched it up off the cloth.
“My dearest! The Doctor has finally sent her a note! How long he must have known she was in town, yet he waited until this moment to call upon her! Such odd behavior, I declare.”
I only could smile mildly as she scanned over the contents. When she had finished she looked over the paper at Mr. Hegwood who was patiently waiting whilst sipping his tea and looking between Mrs. Hegwood and myself.
“Well my dear, obviously something is on your mind. Do have the courtesy to share it with the rest of us lest you positively pop for containing it,” Said he, with a wink in my direction. “Well Mr. Hegwood, if this is not a declaration of some sort of intent to have her, I know not what is! He has invited her to picnic on the grounds of a notable family in the area with him and his children! What do you make of that!”
I opened my mouth in shock and could not contain the noise of astonishment that escaped me.
“Mrs. Hegwood, I beg you reconsider! It is only an innocent plot to bring me some enjoyable diversions in this rather trying time. As much as I admire and respect your imaginative tendencies, do have a care that you do not run away with it, or it with you,” said I with a laugh and a blush.
Mr. Hegwood put down his tea and set to quite a roaring bout of laugher. When he was able again to speak, said he “Well put dear Emily! Well put! I dare say against any of the snobbery of refined society here or in England you will hold your own! I have no fear of losing you to their insensible games.” He took my hand in his and gave it a warm squeeze. I returned it with a smile and looked back at Mr. Hegwood, who was still grinning in mirth, being entirely unaffected at my kind censure. Before I could even ask, Mrs. Hegwood declared excitedly that of course I was to accept his invitation, and was commanded by her to enjoy myself to every possible route and to not come home until completely satisfied and exhausted with the diversions. I thanked her as warmly as I could, kissed her cheek, and wrote back to the Doctor as hastily as I could, sending it by the quickest man at the Inn.
When today finally arrived I was up before the sun, pouring over my gowns, hats, and spencers, holding one up then tossing it aside unsatisfied. I finally decided on my favorites, and it was highly admired by Mrs. Hegwood. As the time approached for my departure I became more and more anxious to make the proper impressions, I was, afterall, to meet his children!
I could not, though I wished it, postpone the time any longer, and I was placed in the carriage and sent along my way, with loving farewells from Mrs. Hegwood, and even Mr. Hegwood came down to see me off, supported on his valet’s arm. I feel I ought to be suspicious of Mrs. Hegwood’s excitement, but other feelings were too crowded in my heart. Finally I arrived at the beautiful grounds, and there I saw the Doctor seated with four beautiful little girls, all in white with different colored sashes about their waists. One by one I was introduced to the sweet creatures, and never have I encountered such a set of well-behaved and fine girls of such varying ages. At last I was allowed to sit with the Doctor, and enjoy the time. We ate cheese and apples, grapes, and sweet fruit jellies.
I read to the children a bit out of the novel I had brought; ‘Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded’ and they were very attentive and interested in the story. We toured the beautiful grounds and a small trail that lead to an old Indian encampment through the woods. We investigated the herb garden, and wondered aloud when the plants would finish growing, admiring the soft lambs ear and speculating how near to a lamb it felt, as none of us had at all a clue. We took turns by the lake and admired the waterfowl that surveyed their domain in their stately waddling manner. I could not have imagined a better way to spend the afternoon, and the Roberts daughters were positively loath to part with me, and to be entirely honest I was loath to be parted from them as well. I had enjoyed the time talking to them greatly, they each had opinions and personalities entirely their own, untainted by society entirely, and an intelligence beyond each of their respective years. I have no doubts at all that they will all grow into very fine young ladies, and will be the pride of their dear papa.
Long before I was ready, it was my time to depart and join the Hegwood’s for supper. The Doctor and I exchanged out parting salutations, and he warmly gave his greetings to the Hegwoods, and graciously offered his skill if ever we needed it, and knowledge of the area and families. He lifted me into my carriage, and I thanked him most ardently for his unwavering kindness and attentiveness to our situation. We parted finally with his promise to write to me, and to invite me to further outings should he find himself invited to them.
I was full of a blissful glow when I finally returned to the Hegwoods, cheeks pink from pleasure and a touch of sun. Mrs. Hegwood promised over supper she would allow me a night’s sleep before prying every detail of the event from me. Mr. Hegwood countered with a wager she would not be able to, and a friendly banter was tossed back and forth the whole of the meal on Mrs. Hegwood’s character and Mr. Hegwood’s heartless attacks upon it. There was merriment and laughter that I had not known I missed until I realized how long it had been since the three of us enjoyed it, and I sit now warmly reflecting upon it, my heart glowing and my mind unable to settle. The clock has long since chimed midnight, and I cannot bring myself to close my eyes and sleep. I sincerely hope that now we are so much closer, I may see more of the Doctor, until I can no longer tolerate his company!