[warning: racism; antiquated terms, violence]

She should have been more shocked. More afraid, sent into panics and forced to flee. That's what she'd done last time. 
Instead, she felt only resigned surrender. It was just as unlikely that a woman would flee her family on a pirate ship as it was that said family would find her again, by accident. Perhaps it was wisdom that guided her reaction, or perhaps it was simply the dispassionate way she had gone through with the marriage in the first place. So desperately had she wanted to love Phineas. And she did, in his way. He did seem so happy when the child was born. Her family had certainly been pleased too. Much more than when she had been in Queen's, set on her education. And that had been it, for several years.

Then impulse set her free, or so she said to herself. She hadn't planned much, just that she might catch a train and make her way about finding another college, or a schoolhouse that needed a teacher. So she used what money she'd taken from Phineas' purse to travel to Quebec City. 

Fate drew her to the young Indian, who seemed to be dead as she happened upon his body on her way from the train station. But he stood up, nearly striking Meril dead at the sight of it. She couldn't just leave him there, his face was a right horror after a bullet had apparently torn across his jaw. But he insisted that he couldn't go back into town. Instead, they took toward the St Lawrence, camped and got to know each other. She came to care for the boy, he was older than her Harriet, a young man even, but older children and youths were so much easier for her to understand. 

That had been her plan, all along; to come back home when Harriet was older. She felt both revulsion at infants and revulsion at herself for disliking them so. 

One night their sleep was interrupted by a police wagon. It seemed they had discovered that Jericho wasn't dead, as they had believed the day they'd shot him. The ground rumbled and the awful horn of the automobile was vivid in her memory. Jericho fled the tent, and in his desperation, ran toward a passing steamboat to flag it down. Meril ought to have taken this as a sign, that no common steamboat would stop for a panicked singleton. Yet there it had been, bumping up against the sand in a manner not befitting a skilled captain. She'd hesitated before dashing after him, Jericho climbed a rope ladder which had been flung over the edge. Yes, very queer.

The captain seemed to have commandeered this boat, indeed, it was he and only a handful of others aboard. No uniforms, dirty and roughly spoken. Just like in the fairy stories.

Once they'd turned into the Gulf, they abandoned the steamer. A proper looking pirate ship was docked at Anticosti Island. From there, they'd reached Spain, then England. She and Jericho couldn't last in Spain without knowing the language, she insisted. They must go to England and seek out proper lodging. And so they did.


Meril had in her hands a bundle of what she hoped was a decent start at an apology. Some gifts, a long letter explaining herself. For she couldn't bring herself to face them in person with the tale. She entered the village proper, the cold wind from the hill cut down within the protection of the crowd. Phineas and Harriet lived in a small boarding house squeezed in back of the circular limits of the southern village.
The winter out in the Moors was nothing to shake a stick at. Even Dr. Dietrich looked akin to a round snowman, buried in layer after layer of wool, scarf flapping over his shoulder, top hat pulled down, and a red nose poking out like a carrot. The doctor was running household errands, a task he was slowly but surely learning until he could employ a housekeeper in his country home, or at least a cook.

The doctor’s visits to the manor had become less frequent. The Marquess was still ailed, and he checked in to make sure his condition didn't regress. He expected winter to be difficult, though, due to the poor weather. It did mean Oliver had seen less of the friends he made during his stay, particularly Gordon and Meril. It would hardly be appropriate to make a social visit to the domestic staff

When Oliver spotted Mrs. Benbow in the village, he was delighted, but before he could raise his hand to wave, he hesitated. He had left things on a bit of an awkward note before he left, assuming she had been unattached… assuming she might be interested in him… It had been terribly selfish, and terribly foolish, and he had not had an opportunity to make amends. It was a difficult conversation, one that Oliver would normally prefer to avoid, but he had returned to Moorland with the resolution he would do better. Do better by his son. By his friends. By his pupils and patients.

Oliver waved, and strode in Meril’s direction. “Good afternoon, Mrs. Benbow.” He said, as friendly as he could muster in the cold, as he removed his hat to nod.
She had bent toward her path so intently that she started when she heard her name. She half expected everyone to know the secret, to call her 'Mrs. Kempa' and point and laugh or scorn.

"Doctor." Meril gave a brief smile and tucked the package into her coat. "Good afternoon. They say you have taken a permanent residence in the village now, is that so?"
“I have.” Oliver returned the brief smile, at least glad she didn’t take off again. “I’ll be up at the manor often to check on the Marquess, of course, but the home in the village is convenient for my work at the hospital.” He sighed. “Anyways, I couldn’t impose on the Madswitt’s hospitality indefinitely.”

Apologize. Apologize. Oliver knew he had to, but when he opened his mouth, all he could say was “And how have you been?”
She had quite certainly forgotten bits and pieces of the bonfire night. It had all been blurred significantly by both the alcoholic and non. Vaguely, she did recall the proposition... proposal? Of Dr. Dietrich, but the happenings thereafter and the details of it all were murky. As she struggled to shift her mind from Harriet to the matter and man at hand, she gave a sort of pained expression as there seemed to be no other adequate face to make just yet.

"God knows there is room for imposition in that house." She shouldn't be talking such, but since he wasn't employed nor living there anymore, she allowed herself leeway. "I have been quite well." If she didn't have to bring up anything, she wouldn't. It wasn't mannerly, or maybe it was? It was very English to not divulge or pour out one's dramatics, wasn't it? "Whereabouts do you live now, Doctor?"

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