The Road to Redway (Pt.4)
At this point in Helena’s story, I had several key scenes—saving the foal I mentioned in The Road to Redway (TRtR) part one; Helena and Nathaniel meeting for the first time at a dinner party at Eastease; and the first opera aria scene.
Whenever I had an opportunity, I wrote more scenes leading up to that first dinner at Eastease. Suddenly, I was thankful to my mother, who insisted I attend evening classes and learn to touch type. The prologue became Helena’s journey from her parents’ house in Norfolk to Redway Acres in Lincolnshire. With a more recent update, chapter one shows how George Stockton (Redway’s founder and Helena’s grandfather) died, and Helena became the stable’s new owner. Chapters two and three—Nathaniel’s injury in battle causing him to return to Eastease to recuperate, and Helena receiving a visit from Genevieve Harker. The latter inviting Helena back to Eastease for tea.
That last visit allowed me to show Helena’s spirit as she responded to Mr. Harker’s request that she not influence Harriet Wyndham unduly. Harriet had expressed a wish to ride astride a horse in the same way as Helena.
“Mr. Harker, let me ask you this. If I were to require your business opinion, as you have so generously offered, would you be informing me of a course of action I must take, or would we have a discussion over the merits of possible courses of action from which I would be free to choose?”
“The latter, of course,” he exclaimed with surprise.
“Then please be assured, when Harriet has sought my opinion on any matter, we have always discussed the merits of varying viewpoints. I have given her my views with my reasoned arguments. She has been free to make her own decision.”
Helena’s character was beginning to emerge. Yes, she is a strong and fiery red-head, but she can speak up logically and get her viewpoint across. In fact, we learn later that Mr. Harker begins to meet with her often to discuss business. Something he promised her grandfather he would do, but he also enjoys it and values her opinions.
After the dinner party at Eastease, we learn more of Helena’s altruistic tendencies when Nathaniel talks to the Eastease housekeeper, Mrs. Hopkins, who tells him how Helena helped a young woman after two men attacked her.
“Indeed. Tell me, Mrs. Hopkins, has she assisted others as generously?” His interest earned a shrewd smile that made warmth suffuse his face.
“Well, now let me think.” She tapped her finger against her pursed lips. “She isn’t one to make a big song and dance of what she does.”
Helena had a lot to say to the clergyman, Mr. Brooks, at the Eastease dinner party, highlighting an unfortunate incident following his assistance to a family from his parish. The situation did not end up with a suitable outcome due to his thoughtless attempt and lack of follow-through. Her admonishment certainly had the desired effect, as his sermon the following Sunday could attest. Mr. and Mrs. Ridgefield, who visited Redway right after church, informed Helena of it.
I believe you were the source of his inspiration,” Mrs. Ridgefield said with amusement.
“Indeed!” Mr. Ridgefield exclaimed. “At the end, he told everyone to do something good for someone else. Bravo!”
Helena, however, felt somewhat differently about it, concerned that her anger about the situation caused her to embarrass the clergyman. She deemed her something good to be an apology to the man in question.
As Nathaniel learned from Mrs. Hopkins, one person who benefitted from Helena’s charity was an old widower who lived in the ramshackle cottage down the lane. Old Joe Baxter was a dear friend of Helena’s grandfather, and his last wish was for Helena to ensure his friend’s care should Joe outlive him. When she visits Joe after her grandfather’s funeral, she offers him a room at Redway should he tire of living alone.
“There’s a nuff a tha’,” Joe said gruffly but put a hand over hers briefly. “We were talkin’ of ya marryin’.”
Helena sighed. “I do not want to marry. Grandfather knew that. I have John—”
“John canna move in the circles George cud. Fa’ll his rolled-up sleeves an’ muckin’ in with tha men, George was a gen’leman. He were a rare breed tha’ cud mix in both circles. Same as you. Mebbe, ya’ll find a man like tha’?”
Later, Helena considers Joe’s words when Nathaniel gathers many men to work on Joe’s ramshackle abode, and she visits to bring food for the workers.
Surreptitiously, she watched Colonel Ackley as he moved easily around the men, laughing with them. He was dirty and sweaty, and his exposed forearms were strong and muscular, scarred too in places. It was hard to imagine that this easy-going man was the same that had spoken to her so formally in the Harker’s drawing room. Helena recalled Old Joe’s words about her grandfather when he told her to find a similar man to run Redway with her.