Thorncliff Manor, June 12th, 1820
It's a curious thing...this business of getting older. One day you're chasing butterflies and squealing at the sound of thunder, and the next, you're wondering how these moments of innocent marvel could possibly have happened so long ago. Time is an interesting concept in that regard. I've known it to pass by with tedious slowness when forced to endure disagreeable company. But looking back - especially when thinking of George - it all happened so fast. Too fast.
I was only seventeen when he and I met, in India, of all places. But then again, that was where my parents were stationed and he was the man charged with the responsibility of bringing me back to England to meet my betrothed.
Things certainly didn't turn out as expected where he was concerned, but that is hardly surprising considering the fact that we spent six months together, secluded at sea. And George...well, I would be lying if I said he wasn't the finest gentleman I'd ever seen when I first laid eyes on him. It was at the governor's ball, the night before our departure. I had no idea who he was when we were first introduced, and so, hoydenish fool that I was, I fear I was rather rude to him. He told me later that he'd thought of throwing me overboard several times during the weeks that followed. Frankly, I cannot blame him, for I had set my mind on being difficult - to fight the restrictions that were being imposed on me with increasing force the closer we came to England. After all, I was to be a Society bride - a dainty young thing who would sip her tea with perfect poise and never argue a point with anyone. But how was I to adhere to such rules? I'd been living abroad for most of my life, had ridden on Elephants and grown accustomed to sitting cross-legged on the floor while eating supper with my nanny. I had also been taught to shoot at bats with a bow and arrow - a practice that prove quite useful when our ship, the Endurance, came under attack from pirates. George didn't want to admit it at first, but I always knew he was proud of how well I handled myself against those barbarians. Which was fortunate indeed, or things might have turned out very differently for us.
It was our first adventure of many. He and I quickly discovered a mutual interest in seeing the world. We loved to travel - to share new discoveries and to explore places most people of our acquaintance would only ever read about in books. And I loved him, with all of my heart and soul. Not having him here by my side is undoubtedly the worst sort of pain I have ever had to endure. But at least I can find some distraction and pleasure in watching the younger generation enjoy the splendor of the home we once shared. Thorncliff is such a magnificent place, and if the Heartlys are right in their estimation, then the treasure George sought - the one his father supposedly hid here within Thorncliff's walls - is as real as the love George and I had for each other. If only I'd seen it sooner...
Perhaps it's just as well. Perhaps this is an adventure that's better left for the younger generation, for Viscount and Viscountess Spencer, for the Duke and Duchess of Stonegate and for Mr. and Mrs. Heartly.
You can find out more about the Secrets at Thorncliff Manor and order your next copy - A Phantom of the Opera inspired romance - HERE