an enigma
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A Candle in Her Window
by Molly Neely


“Fresh!” Rosette squealed playfully, as she slapped his face. “I asked you to brush the tangles from my hair, not take liberties with my bare neck!”

His face flushed with a mixture of anger and excitement. They would be in deep trouble if he was caught in her bed chambers. The scandal of their impropriety would surely ruin them both.

Calmly, he placed his hands on her smooth shoulders, his eyes locked on her reflection in the large gilded mirror. He flashed her his most charming smile, the glint in his sea blue eyes oozing with defiance. The fire in Lady Rosette Wenders began to fade.

“We cannot go on like this,” he whispered, gently sweeping the mane of red curls away from her pale, delicate neck. “When will you permit me to ask your father for your hand?”

Rosette closed her eyes and smiled. “Once again, you have mistaken our rendezvous for a promise of commitment.”

A gust of anger boiled up from his stomach. “No!” he yelled, pulling her up out of the chair. “I am not mistaken Rosette, and I grow tired of these games.”

Startled, Rosette tried to pull away. “What games?”

“Every Tuesday for months, when your father goes to town,” he answered, tightening his grip,“you light a candle, inviting me to your bed chamber.” He released his hold on her and turned away. “Why?”

Rosette reached out as if to touch his back, but fear would not let her fingers connect. “I... well, you see...”

“Do you love me?” he asked, holding his breath.

“With all my soul,” she cried softly.

“Is it because your father will disapprove of our union?”

“It is much more complicated than that,” Rosette answered solemnly.

“Then, is it because I am not yet eighteen?” he pressed, “I will be of age this spring, surely your father would allow you a long engagement.”

Rosette closed her eyes, and let out a deep sigh.

He turned around and faced her, his heart heavy, fearing the answer to his next question.

“So, your father has already chosen a husband for you,” he said evenly, “who is the man?”

“It would not matter if he had,” she answered.

“It matters to me!” he replied, pressing his hand to his chest.

“Yes, but-” Rosette began.

“You asked me to be patient, you made me believe that we would be together,” he fired back. “I love you Rosette, but your motives are all too transparent. You only want me to be your little secret.”

Red faced, he snatched his coat from the edge of her bed and started for the window.

“Wait!” Rosette cried out, “You do not understand. Please, do not leave me here alone. You are all I have!”

“Tell someone else your lies, Rosette,” he fired back, “perhaps your future husband will be entertained by your childish intrigues.”

Angry tears streamed down his face, as he climbed the vine covered trellis that encased the east wall of Lord Wenders' estate. By the time he reached the ground, he had made up his mind to wash his hands of the young and beautiful Lady Rosette Wenders forever. Instinctively, he glanced up at her window, hoping to catch one last glimpse of the maiden who broke his heart. A blend of relief and disappointment washed over him. There was nothing in the window except the soft amber glow from the candle on Rosette's bed side table. Its flicker taunted him, with promises that would never be fulfilled. The echoing clomp of horse hooves drew his attention. Emerging from the blackness was a large cherry-wood barouche, signaling the return of the master of the house. As the carriage of Lord Arthur Wenders approached, the young man quickly shoved his hands deep into his pockets, and nervously walked to the edge of the cobblestone driveway.

“Why, John Hardy,” Lord Wenders called out merrily from the carriage, “what is a young, handsome buck like you doing strolling the grounds of an old man's estate, when you could be wooing some beautiful creature in town?”

John walked cautiously to the carriage and opened the door for Lord Wenders. “Just enjoying the crisp air, my lord. Is this not your meeting night?”

“Ah, yes,” Lord Wenders answered with a frown, “but the scoundrels canceled on me. It appears, Lord Danville's daughter is getting married, so most of the members have gone up to his estate to celebrate.”

John nodded slowly. “But, not you?”

Lord Wenders shook his head. “Oh no, my boy, not me.”

“Forgive me for prying sir, but, do you not like weddings?” John asked.

Lord Wenders looked up at Rosette's window and sighed. “It was a ordinary Tuesday,” he began. “When I left for my meeting, I was a man with land, title and a lovely daughter. But when I returned...” his voice trailed off, lost in sadness.

John frowned. “I do not understand, sir.”

“Fever,” Lord Wenders muttered, “It was the fever that took my beautiful Rosette. The same fever that stole her mother years before. I still cannot believe my child has been dead these ten years.”

“Impossible,” John gasped.

“Indeed,” Lord Wenders continued, “She was only sixteen, ready to be courted by suitors.” Wenders wiped his eyes. “I was looking forward to becoming a grandfather, but, it was not to be.”

John's knees trembled, as he ran his hands through his mop of blond hair, trying to process what the old man was saying. “But, the candle,” he stuttered, pointing to the open window on the east wall, “is that not her room?”

“I have the chamber maid light her bedside candle every Tuesday,” Lord Wenders sighed, walking towards the front door. “That way, it is like my Rosette is still here. You would have loved her, my boy, and I am sure she would have loved you.”

Heartbroken, John watched Lord Wenders walk inside. As the large doors of the estate clicked shut, everything became clear. She had tried to warn him, but his pride had deafened his ears and his heart. John took one last look at the soft light radiating from Rosette's window and smiled.

“I do.” he whispered, “and I always shall.”



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