Bride for the Sake of Duty – Extended Epilogue

Miles looked up from his desk in the East India Trading Company office on the waterfront, picking up a kerchief to wipe the sweat from his brow. He had forgotten this during his time in the cool summer of central England, but India could bring the heat in a way that put some Englishmen into the vapours and sent others home straightaway. Miles had learned from Ajit that light clothing, and a willingness to relax the British uniform, were good ways to fight the heat, as well as wide open doors and little paper fans. In the doorway, he saw Ajit with the group of diplomats they’d planned to welcome a full week ago. Only three months back in India, and Miles already found himself heading up one of the primary trade operations in the area. This was largely due to the fact that returning with his interpreter and his sweet wife was the best option for long term interaction with the people in India.

The diplomats were all dressed in long dark coats and ruffled pocket handkerchiefs; two of them even had wigs that were dripping and running dye down their necks.

“I had hoped,” the oldest said, sniffing disdainfully, “that we might find some reprieve from this infernal heat in your offices. Is it not true that they have servants employed here who have as their sole responsibilities the shading and fanning of honoured guests?”

Miles stood stiffly in greeting, biting back the insult that sprung so readily to his lips. He had found during his last tour, and had it confirmed to him again during this most recent one, that it was far more difficult to deal with the English in India than the people of India themselves. He gave a stiff bow.

“I am afraid that under my current stipend, I cannot be expected to employ a servant for the sole purpose of fanning people who have hands to fan themselves.” He forced a smile, trying to soften the sharpness of his words. “But if the good gentleman would like, he is welcome to shed his overcoat. I find mine to be too constraining in this weather, and, additionally, not fitting with the culture in the least.”

“We needn’t lower ourselves to the place of heathens and animals,” the man intoned in response. Then, looking around, he nodded at Ajit. “Couldn’t he, or some … cheaper servant aid me?”

Miles sucked in his breath. “The gentleman to which you refer is the honourable Ajit Maharaj, and no, I will not be wasting his many talents on your comfort. If you are implying any form of slavery in your request for cheaper servants—”

“Implying, no.” The man sat down heavily in a chair, the other diplomats coming to sit behind him. “I am merely stating that while we are here in the land, we owe it to the people to make use of them and teach them polite and accomplished ways.”

“By enslaving them?”

“When in a heathen land ….”

Miles stood up abruptly. “Good sirs, I’m sorry that I shall have to cut our meeting short so abruptly, but if you desire me to make you an integral part of the operation here at my port, you are looking in the wrong place. I am eager to promote trade, but it is minds and hearts like yours—polluted by a desire for money and an ignorance of compassion for mankind—that I wish to avoid. You will please see yourselves out.”

Sputtering, protesting, not fully comprehending the insult that had just been handed down to them, the men one by one left the room. Only one remained behind, a middle-aged gentleman with greying hair and a brown coat. He removed it, laid it over the chair, and gave an awkward little bow to Ajit.

“Good sirs,” he said, clearing his throat uncomfortably. “I came over with those gentlemen, but I must assure you that I do not share their sentiments in the matter of slavery or the instillation of our culture in a place that already seems rich with such a thing. I would only ask that you consider doing business with me.”

Ajit turned and smiled at Miles, then responded to the man in his perfect, lilting English. “Usually, Mr Fitzroy’s speech clears the entire room, but on the occasion that people come back, he’s happy to negotiate with them.”

At that moment, there was a commotion at the far door, a good three hall-lengths away but easy to hear with all the open windows and tile. After the pattering of feet and a muttered exclamation to the secretary, a familiar little face burst in through the doorway. It was Drishya, one of Ajit’s youngest cousins, a pretty lass with dark hair and large brown eyes.

She spoke to Ajit first in a string of undecipherable Hindi, and then turned to Miles even before Ajit had time to translate.

“Baby!” she said in English, and then turned around and ran back into the hallway towards home.

Ajit was remarkably composed. He stepped forward to their visitor in the brown coat, bowed soberly, and extended his hand.

“A pleasure to meet you; I’m afraid that me and my partner will have to step away for the day—my wife is having a baby.” And with that he turned on his heel and was gone as quickly as Drishya had been.

Miles turned and laughed in the direction of the visitor. “I’m sorry,” he said with a wry smile. “Perhaps you can come by later this week?”

***

“Hiya, where can I find some rags?” Eleanor ran into the hallway, calling out to Ajit’s aunt who was hurrying away in search of a pot of water. The midwife was just inside, helping Kitty get settled on a wide pallet.

Hiya turned around, her jet-black hair streaked with a strip of distinguished silver; her cheeks showing beads of sweat. “Lower room,” she said in the same even English Ajit employed. “And make certain the men are put to good use.”

Eleanor turned and hurried along the hall, barely taking in her surroundings. She’d had a few months now to become acquainted with the estate where they now lived. Ajit had radically undersold his family inheritance, for the house was not a hut as Eleanor had on occasion imagined; instead, it was a beautiful, sprawling estate surrounded by lush vegetation. There was an elegant courtyard tiled in pale blue and crimson around terra cotta paving stones, fountains everywhere that gave to the breeze what was needed to cool the house, and luxurious private rooms.

Eleanor had fallen in love with it almost at once, which had at first surprised her. After the long, difficult sea voyage, she had expected to have to convince herself of the beauties of India, to come to grips with the fact that she was not returning to her plush and comfortable bed in England, but she found at once that she loved the sounds, smells, and colours of this place more than she had ever thought possible. The heat had taken her off guard the very first day, a blast that was so overwhelming at first she felt like she would never again be able to take a full breath of air, but she had grown to appreciate it. She had disposed of most of her fine dresses, tucking them away for returns home only, and she went about almost entirely in white muslin and cream shifts, using simple embroidery and leaving her hair in long rope-like braids as the other women in the household did.

They all seemed as taken with her red locks and Kitty’s gold hair as Eleanor had been with their ink-black tresses, and she felt at once welcomed into Ajit’s family. She had already started picking up some of the Hindi phrases, and Ajit had promised to help teach her more intricacies of the language so that she could navigate the markets with ease and better understand the inland part of the country when they travelled there in a year’s time.

Now, Eleanor used one of those phrases, awkwardly forming the word for “cloth” with the cook in the lower cellar who was labouring over a hot pot of boiling water for sanitation purposes. The woman either understood her, or knew enough about what was going down upstairs to infer the meaning, for she at once piled Eleanor’s arms high with the clothes and sent her rushing back upstairs.

As she passed the first courtyard towards the cooler interior of the house where she knew Kitty was labouring, she caught sight of Miles and Ajit coming in through the open gate. She waited until they reached her, and then put on her most comforting smile. “You’ve nothing to worry about,” she said softly, making sure to meet Ajit’s eyes and assure him as best as she could. “I tell you, Kitty is strong, and this is just within her proper time—not too early, and not too late.”

“Is the midwife here?” Ajit asked, his brow wrinkled in concern.

“She is, and your Hiya and Drishna as well. We will tend to everything.” She readjusted the load of laundry in her arms. “But Hiya said for you to make yourselves useful, and I wholeheartedly agree. Ajit, run to the market and fetch that herb Kitty told you she fancied last week. Hiya says it will make a fine soothing tea for the recovery. Miles, stay here—I have a job for you after Ajit has gone.”

Ajit took off through the gate, a man on a mission, and Eleanor turned to Miles at once with her brows raised. “Your job is to stay here and intercept that tea when he returns. Send it to me via a servant, but don’t come back that way, no matter what. I want Ajit to avoid hearing Kitty’s labour if possible. Walk around to the back gardens and keep him calm there. I will send updates whenever possible.”

She turned to go, and Miles caught her by the elbow. “Wait.”

“Yes?”

“I never knew you could look so beautiful while being so authoritative.” He leaned down and kissed her lightly on the lips, dragging his fingertips down the edge of her thick braid. “I like your hair like this.”

She nodded to his loose long hair. “And I like yours like this.”

“What shall I tell him if he insists on breaking through to see our Kitty?” Miles asked.

Eleanor smiled. “Tell him it is against the rules, and remind him how very much Mrs Fitzroy cares about her rules. If he makes an effort to break them, things will not be pretty.”

She hurried away from him down the hall, passing through the archways and into the innermost room that was cool with the fans from the servants and the breeze tumbling through two open windows from one of the small courtyards nearby.

Kitty was laying in a fine bed in the centre of the room, her forehead bathed in sweat, her blonde hair splayed out all around her on the fine muslin pillowcase, a pale and loose nightgown all around her. She pressed a hand to her belly and then looked up with relief to meet Eleanor’s eyes.

“You’re here, good.”

Drishna hurried forward and took the clothes, setting them to the side and then helping Eleanor tie one of the smaller ones around her hair to keep the wisps out of her eyes.

“There.” The younger woman pointed to the head of the room, near Kitty. “Help her.”

Eleanor hurried over and clasped her friend’s hand while the midwife rattled off phrases to Hiya who then interpreted them more kindly to the poor mother in the bed.

“You’re looking healthy, but labour may continue for a few hours,” Hiya said kindly. “Be strong, and remember that we are not trying to rush this all at once. Baby can come when baby wants to come.”

Kitty sighed and laid her head back against the pillow. “Come soon,” she whispered so quietly that only Eleanor could hear.

***

Eleanor walked out to the garden where Ajit and Miles were waiting, hours after her last meeting with them, feeling exhausted and happy all at the same time. She reached out and took hold of a nearby column to steady herself, raising a hand in greeting.

“It’s over,” she said to Ajit, smiling weakly. “Your wife was a strong lass, and I think you’ve nothing at all to fear when it comes to your healthy baby boy either. She asked us all to come back together, to honour your family tradition of seeing the new little one as a group.”

Ajit hurried past her, and Miles caught her around the waste as they walked back. Eleanor let her head drift gently against his arm, and when they were all ringed around Kitty’s bed at last, looking at the beaming bride in her fresh nightgown with the babe resting peacefully in her arms, Miles leaned forward and whispered gently into her hair, “Are you quite well? You seem tired.”

“I am tired,” she answered with a smile. “But happy.”

The scene unfolding before them was a beautiful one. Eleanor could see that love was truly the same in all corners of the world, for here were Hiya and Drishna and all the other members of the family cooing over the little boy, talking in rambling Hindi she couldn’t yet understand but could nevertheless guess had to do with how much his dark eyes looked like the father and his fair complexion like the mother.

Ajit stepped forward, holding his son in his arms like a prize jewel. “This man shall heretofore be known as Miles, of the Maharaj family,” he said, looking at Miles with an earnest expression in his eyes. Eleanor looked up at her husband and saw how much it had touched him. His eyes were shining with happiness.

When the family left Ajit and Kitty alone at last, Miles looped his arm around Eleanor’s waist and walked with her out into the courtyard to sit beneath their favourite spreading tree. It was well-situated, just in line with a tunnel of fresh air that always seemed cooler than the other places in the house, smelling lovely by the lavender plants at hand.

When they were sitting at last, Eleanor looked again at Miles and saw tears in his eyes.

“You are moved,” she said tenderly, reaching up to wipe one of the runaway tears from his cheeks. “My great, brave, adventuring husband, moved by the sight of a wee babe.”

“I cannot think of a greater honour than to have a child carry my name,” he said softly, gaining his composure once again. “I care very much for my dear friend, but I never imagined that I would see such an obvious bond of our friendship. It is unusual for a man from India to choose a name that is not Hindi; I will owe him a great debt all my life.”

Eleanor leaned to the side again and laid her head on Miles’ chest. “It is a fine name, yes,” she said, “but I am not sure that I will be able to forgive our good Ajit for having stolen my favourite name for our first son. Now I shall have to go in search of something better.”

Miles laughed deeply. “I am sure you will have plenty of time. As it is, if we have a daughter first, I hope you are reconciled to the fact that she will called Elsie—no Eleanor in sight, I assure you—and we shall make her the happiest little girl to ever walk the earth.”

Eleanor sat for a moment in the gentle, quiet garden and then, her heart thumping a little and unable to keep the smile from her cheeks, she said quietly, “Well, Miles, I’m not sure that the naming process is so very far off after all.”

Miles didn’t move for a second. Then he pulled back and held her at arm’s length, examining her face as though he could decipher the truth from her expression alone. “What are you saying?”

“I think you know what I’m saying.” She smiled simply and then pulled his hand down to her belly. There was hardly any shape there as of yet, only the slightest protrusion, but it was enough of a gesture, and Miles gasped in delight. Eleanor tilted her head back and laughed.

“I wanted to wait until I was certain,” she said, “but I think my father, the captain, would have been proud to know that his grandchild was conceived at sea, in the waters he so loved.” She released Miles’ hand and leaned forward to kiss him lightly on the cheek.

“You’re sure?” he asked, almost in a trance. “Today I watched my friend pace this very garden, knowing that he was about to receive the greatest gift man can ever receive, and now you are here to tell me that I was watching a foreshadowing of my own self?”

“I’m sure,” she answered again. “And now you can see why it was such a tragedy that the gentleman Ajit Maharaj stole my option for a boy’s name.”

“Oh, there are other options.” Miles wrapped his arm around her again, and Eleanor drew close to him. “You have a father, don’t you? And I do as well.”

They sat in peaceful silence in the garden as the shadows stretched into evening and the evening into night. Eleanor could hear Miles’ heartbeat against her ear, and she smiled to hear it. She thought of how far they had come and realized with quiet delight that she had never anticipated being here, so very happy, and yet still knowing that her greatest happiness was before her.

THE END


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121 thoughts on “Bride for the Sake of Duty – Extended Epilogue”

  1. This is a good story about a young woman that finds love and happiness after marriage as a duty and the characters are very good

  2. “Bride for the Sake of Duty“ was well written and had a beautiful story. I loved how the heroine Eleanor allowed herself to be strong and yet vulnerable to love. I really loved this book!

  3. A great book about a woman who tried to be proper yet wanted love from her husband. Miles wanted adventure and on his return fell in love with his wife . After much footsieing around they found that love . It was such a fun book too as I smiled at Eleanor’s too proper behaviors.

  4. What a enjoyable book, which I read in one sitting. This epilogue was the frosting on the cake.

  5. Enjoyed this book as I have been enjoying all of your other other four. Keep writing these wonderful interesting stories.
    I was never interested in anything about England before reading your stories. Thank you for giving your readers such joy.

  6. I am an avid reader and i do believe i have just read, for the first time, a storyline that was so great that i will read and re-read it time and time again. I do so love when the wronged are made whole and that they find true love. I just wish that the cad would have gotten his just due and that kittys family would have seen the evil he is and supported their daughter. That would have closed the loop and made the story complete.

  7. Maybe I am just a sentimentalist, but I giggled at quite a few parts and teared up towards the end. Nicely written and worth reading in one sitting.
    The Extended Epilogue naturally leaves you with a sense that the story is complete.

  8. Bridget,
    You never fail to satisfy your readers. Here, you outdid yourself. You are so skilled at developing characters with depth and humanity. I loved how real the struggle was for Elenor and Miles.
    Thank you.

  9. Great story…Interesting story line…Great writing…I love the strong ladies…

  10. A great story that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. All the characters felt like real people. I’m glad Miles and Eleanor found their happy ever after. I liked Ajit. He was calm and wise. Kitty was a lucky girl when he fell in love with her and accepted her child as his own. The extended epilogue finished off the story well. I love your books and look forward to your next one

  11. It truly was a wonderful story to read. Couldn’t wait to finish reading it!

  12. I too finished the book in one day. I loved the story. Hard times in those days. Looking forward to more stories
    Annette

  13. Well, I have done another of your books. As usual,Iread it inone night! You are so good at developing characters. tht I truly fall inlove with. Elsie andMiles.and Ajit will.be withme long after to delete these page

  14. I love the depth of story you create. There is nothing thin about the characters or storytelling! You know it’s a good story when your own heart quickens or despairs along with the characters. Well done!

  15. Excellent and so isn’t every book that I have read of yours and I have read plenty of them.

  16. I truly enjoyed this book. Loved all the characters and how they interacted with each other and the story. Will recommend as a great read to my friends.

  17. It had me from the father’s back story through the conclusion. Elsie (this is who she really is) and Miles, given their circumstances, are both kind of clueless yet still manage to be likable. Ajit and Kitty were a pleasant addition. I definitely will be leaving a positive review!! I just love your books. 😁 Can’t wait to read the next one. Keep them coming.

  18. Loved this story! I have lived abroad and the excitement of a journey and sights and sounds were all brought back. Well done. Probably my favorite one of your books so far!

  19. Loved this book! Great job as usual. Great characters and storyline. Eleanor and Miles came together because of their parents plan but ended up being a true love match.

  20. I loved this book and the 4 main characters. I didn’t even realize I had reached the end of the book. The extended epilogue is absolutely wonderful. Can’t wait for your next book.

  21. You have done it again! A masterpiece! I loved this unusual recency book start to extended epilogue! It was an absolute delight to read and I found myself slowing down at times just to make it last longer!

  22. This story was captivating and so emotionally fulfilling for me. It had everything I could want and expect in a historical romance and I just love that you always include an extended epilogue! You have become a favorite author to me and I will look forward to reading another one of your wonderful stories!

  23. Beautiful story and well written. I could feel the English countryside and enjoyed the Indian surroundings. Eleanor showed great courage in her growth and maturity. I read in one sitting and enjoyed my time with the people within.

  24. During this enforced confinement of the pandemic I have been carried away to delightful places and stories full of love and romantic understanding. Thank you for all your well developed characters and the romance I love to experience as I enjoy these great books.

  25. Yes, this was a good book, with interesting characters! I had hoped Miles and Eleanor would have declared their love sooner, but the ending was romantic and lovely. I was especially happy for Kitty and Ajit.

  26. Arranged marriages, many times, did not find the love. Loved how they found that special love after being apart so long. Honoring their father’s pledges to one another years prior. Beautiful story line and I could feel and see the beauty of the country. Anxious to read other novels by you.

  27. I really enjoyed the friendship strengths, and honesty and the realm of consequences.

  28. At first I struggled with Eleanor’s character. I guess because she is so much like me. And like me she married an adventurer. What a great read! And like me she lived happily ever after!
    Lynn

  29. Really enjoyed reading this book could not put it down till I finnished it xx

  30. I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I have not read many of your books but I think I will now after finding this book so enjoyable.

  31. Wonderful story!! I wonder if the two children will someday be together. Great book.

  32. I loved this book and the extended epilogue. I really loved how kind and gentle that Mile was with her most of the time. I love that kind of man. Thank you for a wonderful book.

  33. I really enjoyed this story. The Book had just enough twists to keep one turning pages long after the evening lights should have been turned out. I am very glad for the epilogue as well.
    Thanks for another great historical romance.

  34. I thoroughly loved reading this novel. As usual it was well written with great characters. Read in one sitting it stirred my senses and kept me sitting on the edge of my seat throughout. I never tire of your novels Bridget and already look forward to the next one. Well done and please keep writing. 🌺

  35. I truly enjoyed this book. It is hard to believe now a days what was expected of young girls and women during that era. This story reminded me of the duty of a daughter who truly loved her father. Also,the duty required of a son. Eleanor and Miles, two young people who do not REALLY know each other but love their fathers and marry to please them. The very same day Miles leaves for his job in India and Eleanor takes over the responsibility of running his home. Two years pass and Miles writes and let’s her know that he will be coming home. She tries to welcome him with a small gathering to welcome him home. He brings home an Indian friend and just wants to get home and rest. It is a poor start to their time together. She goes to his room and informs him she is prepared to do her duty to give him a son. He tells he that when they get to know each other better they can discuss it again. But he spends most of his time with his friend and she really only sees him at mealtimes. Then her best friend arrives and tell her that her wedding is off and that she is pregnant. Eleanor insists she stay with her.
    A truly great read, I loved it!

  36. I loved this story. It reminded me of wonderful autumn days reading my mother’s Cartland romances. I think I enjoyed this more. Cannot wait to crack open another one.

  37. I enjoyed this story and the epilog. I have read a few of your stories now and appreciate the fact that you keep them clean.
    The story line of people discovering that they love the other but not thinking the other one loves them and then discovering that they do toward the end of the story gets a little tiring.

  38. The best extended epilogue I’ve read! Such an amazing story of a marriage of convenience turning into a love match. It’s my favorite type of story, and the wonderful epilogue is the icing on the cake!

  39. I absolutely love reading your books. Your style of writing is so well rounded. The characters are so real. And what you have made happen, really could have happened. I immerse myself in a way, that I actually see myself there. You are my escape, and so appreciated. Thank-you.

  40. A good story of a young girl who wanted to marry for love. She finds it even though she married For duty. She was stronger than she thought and finally fought herself to get real love. her father knew her well and loved her. Miles grew up and found what he needed in her.

  41. A great story – from duty, loneliness, and then all the changes that came when Miles finally returned home two years after leaving for India, and leaving the day after he married Eleanor.

  42. I love all your books, and this one did not disappoint! Thank you for letting us get lost in your beautiful stories!

  43. I loved this book. It was well written and beautiful. It was a great pleasure to read. And I loved how you didn’t focus so much on the details of the estates and grounds but still gave enough information to understand its beauty.

  44. Hello there. I don’t normally go for this type of story but I am pleased that I decided to ty this. The story was great and I found it hard to ut down. I will read more of the books you write. Thank you for writing it an all the best for your future endeavours. Maureen Clarke

  45. Thank you so much for the view into Elsie and Miles future…I enjoyed their story and will remember it fondly !

  46. I enjoyed your book do much. I saw s little of my self in Elsie but I didn’t embrace the change as much as I should have.

  47. What a wonderful story. Loved the characters and how Elsie and Miles finally realized that they were in love. I enjoy all of your books so please keep up the good work.

  48. Wow! Loved this story! It just drew me in to see how it would end. Nice touch with the ending in the epilogue.

  49. Wow!!! What a wonderful journey of adventure and love. I absolutely enjoyed reading this amazing book. Love the characters and story line. It’s such a heartwarming story with a beautiful extended epilogue to a happy ending. I absolutely loved everything about this beautiful story. Definitely a must read and highly recommended. Excellent writing as always.

  50. I always love your books, but this one was especially beautiful! I loved the character development and reading how love can truly change one’s outlook on this complicated state we call life. Thank you for making my day!

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