“It was explained to me that the lowest pulpit is for the clerk or the pastor to make announcements about the parish. The second pulpit, a bit closer to heaven, is for reading the Gospel. The topmost one with the sounding board above it is where the pastor stands to give the sermon.”
Lord Meriweather laughed. “I think they have it out of order. I mean no insult to your brother or any man of the cloth, but I think God’s word in the Gospel should be closer to heaven than man’s word in a sermon.”
“That was my thought, too, even though I did not speak that opinion in Gregory’s hearing.” Her shoulders eased from their stiff line. “And you can see, my lord, that I did not include a triple pulpit in my sketch.”
“A wise decision.” He winced as he spoke the word that he must hate. How must it be to have everyone around you making decisions all the time and be incapable of even the simplest ones yourself? “You have a clear eye for how a space should be arranged. Far more so than some of the so-called architects who make impossible demands on the men who actually construct their buildings.” He let the page roll up again. “May I keep this?”
“If you think it will be of any value, of course.”
“You should not be so self-effacing, Miss Fenwick. I can see you will prove to be a very valuable assistant in this undertaking.”
Ice froze her heart in midbeat. Assistant! He saw her exactly as Gregory did. Someone who was there to listen and who was never expected to claim any ideas as her own.
“Ah, here you are, my boy!” Mrs. Uppington burst into the room with Miss Kightly in tow. “We have been looking for you. Miss Kightly has been telling me the most amusing stories about her great-uncle’s art. You really must come and listen.”
When he hesitated, Vera said, “Go ahead, for I have a fitting with Mme. Dupont in a short time.” She eased past the other two women and headed out the door, relieved to have an excuse to escape before her frustration exploded.
* * *
Edmund wished Miss Fenwick had stayed at Meriweather Hall instead of coming to the church site, but maybe she had wanted to avoid his aunt as he did. He sighed. Aunt Belinda had once been his favorite aunt, because she had a generous heart and an honest concern about his future. But that concern had become obsession since she had arrived in Sanctuary Bay. He appreciated Miss Kightly’s beauty and her obvious polish. He had no need for his aunt to point both out on every possible occasion. Even asking her to desist because she was embarrassing the young woman did nothing to change his aunt’s eagerness for him to propose to the blonde.
A man who could not make up his mind about which waistcoat to wear each morning certainly was incapable of choosing a woman to marry. He had refrained from mentioning that in his aunt’s hearing, however, because she would respond that he should leave everything to her.
Marriage was not as intimidating a prospect as it had been in the weeks after Lady Eloisa had tossed him aside for another suitor. After that had happened, he had put that part of his future out of his mind, even though he knew, as Lord Meriweather, he needed to marry and sire a male heir. Then he and his friends, Northbridge and Bradby, had come to Sanctuary Bay, and his friends had fallen in love and married. He could not fail to see their joy, and he began to envy them finding that connection with a special woman.
Lord, I will need Your guidance and assistance on this path I never expected to walk as a peer. Help my aunt understand that I want no less than what Northbridge and Bradby have found, and help me make the right decision if the time comes that such a love touches my heart.
A sense of peace filled him, and he realized he had been running around too much of late—often to avoid his matchmaking aunt—and he had not stopped to make a connection with God.
He walked to where Miss Fenwick stood to one side as two teams of oxen pulled down the last wall of the vicarage. Men scooped up the scorched flint with wide shovels or with their bare hands. The pieces were tossed into the back of a cart. When it was full, a team of horses drew it to where they could drop the stones into the cellar of the former church. The plan was to pack soil on top until there was no sign of where the church had once stood.
Several hundred yards away, more teams arrived with supplies from Whitby. After discussing the delivery with the merchants in the city north of Sanctuary Bay, it was decided that the slower overland route would be easier than bringing the lumber and stone up the steep streets of the village.
Edmund watched Miss Fenwick’s face closely. It was one thing to know that the vicarage was being torn down. It was quite another thing to witness it. The flint cottage had been her home for ten years. He could not help wondering what thoughts filled her mind.