Pages 75 – 77
If located in the Alps, the Terra Feliz mountain would have been called a hill, but here on the island it loomed over the plain below. Inland, a lake captured the rain. The water sparkled and bubbled in the sunlight as it cascaded over a precipice and then disappeared into the shadows at the bottom of the mountain before the river snaked across the plain into the bay and to the ocean beyond.
From his bedroom overlooking the harbor, John Neuton tried to shake off a strong foreboding. He knew he should stay away from Mrs. Leighton. He thought back to his visit in London. His attraction to her remained from the first time he had seen her on the dance floor. Once he realized she was Richard Leighton’s wife, he knew there could be nothing between them.
Something was different about her. She was beautiful, but at his ports of call, he met many women from prominent families who were equally or more beautiful. No woman had stirred his heart until he glimpsed Madeleine Leighton on the dance floor. She had a magnetism that few women possessed. He thought of Mrs. Darnley of South Carolina who radiated in the society of Charleston. She wasn’t beautiful, but she had captured Charleston with her charm. He found Madeleine Leighton had this same charisma, not only because of her fresh youth, but because of her evident joy in life, which was revealed in her dancing and the flash of her blue eyes. Although he understood Richard Leighton’s fascination with her, he wondered why she had married an older man, a widower. She must have had her choice of young men in London. What was it? Money? Prestige?
She was already taken. Shrouded in disappointment, Neuton left London, vowing to keep his distance from her and to hide the feelings that pounded inside of him.
Now, here in Terra Feliz, Richard had put him in an awkward position with the request that he act as guide to Mrs. Leighton. Slipping his arms into his blue, double-breasted coat, he buttoned the silver buttons, stood back and viewed himself in the mirror. At twenty-nine years of age, he was in his prime. He eyed his figure in the jacket and dark pantaloons and thought such attire was an abomination in this heat; however, required by society, he knew it was a must. As he tied his white cravat, he noticed his face appeared drawn. He had not slept well the previous night. His mind was filled with images of Mrs. Leighton seated across from him as they drove from the wharf to the Leighton house upon their arrival in Terra Feliz yesterday.
Neuton remonstrated with himself. He must get these thoughts out of his mind. It was an impossible situation. He was reluctant to put himself in a position of temptation, yet, to ignore Richard’s request was out of the question.
Brushing back his hair, he braided it into one long queue and tied it with a black ribbon. At that moment, he heard his carriage stop at the front door. He approached the small, four-seated open carriage just as his manservant, Joshua, stepped out.
He thanked Joshua and watched him enter the house. Joshua had become a close companion. It was a lonely life here in Terra Feliz with just his manservant for company. They had come to the island together seven years before when Neuton left London abruptly. He appreciated his servant’s loyalty for the past years. A cook, two servant girls, and a gardener made up the remainder of his household.
Neuton climbed into the carriage and made a light tap of the reins on the flanks of the horses. The carriage moved down the drive toward the road.
The afternoon was hot even in the scattered shadows of trees. As the vehicle rumbled on, seagulls circled above. He drove slowly up the long drive to the Leighton House, prolonging his arrival. He felt hollow with misgiving about the day. After stopping in front of the house, he stepped out, carrying his hat, and walked to the door.
Robinson greeted him. “Madam will be with you shortly, sir.” He took Neuton’s hat and led him to a small sun room that Neuton had been in many times before. He stood at the door feeling comfortable in the familiar room. It was simple yet elegant with white walls, a green sofa, and small tables dispersed around the room. He thought about relaxing in one of the floral-patterned chairs, not knowing how long he would wait. Some ladies took a long time to dress. The window was opened wide, but the white sheer curtains hung without a breeze. Restless, Neuton walked to large glass doors that opened into a small garden lined with precisely clipped hedges, and studied two gardeners pruning roses.
He started as a door to the left opened, and Madeleine, dressed in a soft pink muslin gown, came into the room. Her blond curls were captured in a high matching bonnet that accentuated her rosy cheeks. She carried a parasol in her left hand. In spite of his determined self-restraint, Neuton caught his breath when she smiled at him. Emily followed her into the room.