Aphra had not expected Robert’s offer. When they were playing with their nieces and nephew, or pulling up carrots in his lordship’s fields, she never dreamed he was thinking of marrying her. Now she turns the idea over and in her mind, trying to find an angle that will make everything click into place, and show her what answer she should give.
Robert is a sweet boy, a touch meek, but kind and careful. He is a hard worker too; she knows he will tend his little patch of land with love, and make it flourish. Though it is one of the smallest in the village, and though the cottage that sits upon it has fallen into disrepair, the copyhold will be securely his, and his son’s after him. An inheritance like that, however meager, means everything in Plumville.
Aphra sees how much her own brothers are struggling, thanks to the eldest’s wastefulness. She thinks they might be glad to have her off their hands. And Robert would expect less of a dowry from them than would a wealthier man. Not that any other man has made an offer to her. No, Robert’s is the best that she and her family are likely to receive.
But, for all this, the truth is that Aphra has no wish to marry. She likes her life as it is. Each day, she feeds and brushes the horses, animals she has adored since she was a girl. She talks to her brothers as often as she likes and can be there for Richard’s children when they need her. When she wants to be alone, she can usually find a little corner somewhere in the house’s three rooms and ample portion of land.
It would be quite a different story in Robert’s one-room cottage. She does not want to trade everything she has for a life with him there; or her nieces and nephew, known and loved, for the nameless, faceless children she might bear him.
Aphra nevertheless feels she should tell her brother Mark about Robert’s proposal. Though he is the youngest of them, save for her, he is also the most level-headed. She knows he will give her honest advice. She could never rest easy with herself if there was a way to help her family that she did not take.
She waits until their eldest brother Richard is busy with his friend Gilbert. Richard never says no to anything. He would give her away as freely as a bottle of Farmer’s Gold.