LOST BUT FOUND
“Miss, are you lost?”
It was a deep baritone voice that pulled Ese, first child and heiress of the renowned Baron Davies, out of her distressing thoughts. Yes, she was lost, but she was rather unwilling to admit that to whosoever possessed the rich but intimidating voice. Ese turned around to see a man with the most imposing figure, she had ever laid her eyes on.
It took all of her willpower to not cower at the sturdy man, as she stared from his broad shoulders to the whip in his hand. For the first time in all her years, she began to regret her own mischief. She acknowledged it was a poor decision, as a slender maiden of dark complexion, to attempt hiding in such a large and unfamiliar location. She was lost in an endless maze, lined by hedges tall enough to fortify a city.
In retrospect, Ese admitted to herself, that it was for a rather foolish reason she had found herself in such a predicament. She had been forced to accompany her Mama to a social function, in which she, as expected, had been bored out of her mind. Her plan to slip away and hide in the maze had been born partly out of boredom and partly the desire to make her Mama spend all her time seeking her.
In her household, she was fondly referred to as the Duchess of mischief, and she hoped that if she lived up to the title outside her home, her mama would never desire her company to any such dreadful events again. This time however, she had outdone herself and had become a victim of her own mischief.
At first, she had eyed the strange man suspiciously, unsure of who he was and his thoughts towards those of her complexion. She knew the worst could happen to her if he was one of those her mama constantly warned her of; The evil sect that despised the black immigrants within the kingdom and went as far as committing the most hateful crimes against them.
The kingdom of Roshi prided itself in its stance against the barbaric act of slavery, yet various members of the society still considered people of the dark complexion as inferior to the fairer and treated them thus. Although Ese had been born in the kingdom and officially considered a native, she had come to learn that not everyone that lived in the kingdom thought of her as such, since her parents were a part of the mass exodus of black people, both slave and freed, who immigrated or took refuge in the land.
“Miss, do you hear me? Are you well?” The man asked in such a concerned tone that Ese was compelled to lift her eyes from the horse whip to his face. Although she had been full of fright at first, she was stunned at how handsome he was. He had dark curly hair, green eyes, a perfectly shaped nose, and firm lips, that gave him a sem blance to how she assumed angels would look.
“I am quite well, sir. You need not to worry your mind about me.” She replied, shaking her mind off her consideration of his beautiful face. She had to remind herself that he could possibly be seeking ways to harm her.
The man however, seemed surprised at her curt response and said nothing immediately. Ese had time enough to observe him. He was wearing riding clothes that showed off his sturdy athletic build. She would have appreciated his good looks, if her focus did not drop again to the horse whip in his hands, which she observed begrudgingly. Whilst she had never experienced any form of cruelty, she had heard from her mama that horsewhips were used on the backs of slaves in some kingdoms where slavery was legal.
As though reading her mind, the man dropped the whip on a bench next to him and took a step towards her. “Forgive me miss, I assumed you were lost, for this is a very tricky maze.”
“Again, sir, you need not worry, for I am in no distress.” She responded and turned around with eager intention to get away from the beautiful man. She was certain that no good could come from speaking to him, but his appealing words made her halt in her retreat.
“Would you be obliging as to offer me aid ? By kindly leading me out of this garden, I mean.” she turned to him and considered ignoring his request, as he looked all but distressed. She searched her mind in futility for a polite reason to decline his request, but he strengthened his appeal. “You seem quite confident, and it will be helpful to me if you would lead me out of here. Please miss, you shall have my undying gratitude.”
Ese decided against admitting to the man that she knew nothing of the path that led out of the garden. She had become so puffed by his praise that she refused to admit to any less than what he thought her to be. She convinced herself she was doing it for the honour of her kind.
“Come along then.” She said to him and the two begun what seemed to Ese as an endless journey through the maze. Thankfully, the man seemed patient and unfazed by the number of dead ends they hit. Instead, he seemed more keen on conversing with her.
“What is your name, Miss?” He asked, as they walked into another dead end.
“I am Ese. Ese Davies,” She responded absently, as she attempted to remember if she had been on that same path previously.
“And your age?” The man continued, as she led him through another path.
“Three and twenty. I have seen twenty-three summers in this unpleasant world.” She blurted, uncaringly, still focused on her futile attempts at getting on the right path.
“And why, Miss Davies, do you consider the world unpleasant?” The curiosity in the man’s voice made her temporarily abandon her preoccupation to turn to him.
“The world is an unpleasant place to me, sir, but I dare say, you shall never understand it. Now, cease asking so many provoking questions and allow me focus on the task of getting us out of this odious place.”
“Now miss, I shall only cease asking if you begin asking me questions. Walking silently in such a place shall never do. It would most certainly be a bore; do you not think?” Ese observed his demeanour for a moment, before letting out a sigh. She was sure he always had his way with his requests, as it was difficult for even her strong-willed self to disoblige him.
“Very well sir. What is your name?” She asked, turning away from his face that seemed to become more pleasing to her sight the longer she stared.
“Samuel.” He responded simply, causing her to turn to him again with a raised brow.
“Samuel is my name, Miss Davies.”
“Surely sir, you do not expect that I address you in such an informal manner when I have only just met you. Why, even you call me Miss Davies!”
“If it bothers you so, may I call you Ese then?”
“No, you may not! For the love of God, sir, cease from your funning, for it only gives me a headache, and the good Lord knows that I already have one trying to get us out of this forsaken place!”
“Miss Davies! I was under the impression that you knew the way out. If I recall correctly, you said you were not in distress.” the man said, his lips quivering like he would burst into laughter.
“Well, I was not in distress, till you began speaking to me you provoking creature! I never claimed to know the way. I only said that, because I did not require the aid I assumed you were about to offer.”
“Ha! I see. Your presumption that I would be so ‘evil’ as to help you, caused you to defensively proclaim you were not in distress? What an odd maiden you are.”
“I believe I am quite able to take care of myself without aid.” She responded, whilst struggling with the temptation to smile, for his wide grin was annoyingly infectious. “Well, now that it has come to this, I must admit that I have not the slightest notion of however we may exit this dreadful place. It seems to me like we have been walking in circles and ceaselessly hitting dead ends.”
“That is rather unfortunate, ma’am.” The man said looking rather unbothered by her admission. “There is naught more to do, but to hold a conversation whilst trying to discover our way out, or till we are found. At least, that way we shall not be bored, even if we are stuck in this dreadful place till dusk.”
Ese frowned at this suggestion at first, hoping to the heavens that they would not be trapped in the gardens till dusk. However, having observed him, she decided that whether or not she agreed to his suggestion, he was going to provoke her into a conversation nonetheless. In truth, she had become quite comfortable in his presence and was not opposed to the idea of spending her day with him. She had even begun to feel safer than she had when she was by herself.
“Very well, we shall walk and speak, but if I must call you Samuel, then you must call me Ese. Do not think, sir, that you have had your way. I just do not wish to be provoked into a headache with your clever speeches.”
With that said, the two continued on in the maze. She discovered the man had seen twenty-seven summers in the world, and just like herself, he loved horses. It was all she learnt about him before she was bombarded with questions about herself. She got carried away telling him stories of her mischievous adventures. It was whilst she told a tale of her most adventurous mischief that they found a bench and sat for a short rest. He listened with great interest and laughed good-naturedly at some of the ridiculous parts of it.
After the short rest, they continued in their search for the exit. She charged her companion with the duty of observing the turns they had previously made, so as to cease walking into dead ends. Though their joint efforts proved futile, Ese had begun to care less about finding her way out. She had never met anyone who shared her humorous ideas. It was also the first she had found any who thought her mischief was funny and even encouraged it.
Improper, unladylike, and disgraceful were words she had become accustomed to, but Samuel had not offered her any of those words. She desired to continue conversing with him and spoke as though it were not the first time, she met him.
After some time, they sat on a bench and continued to speak and laugh at her experiences, their earlier preoccupation long forgotten. It was not until the sun began to set that Ese slowly began to realise the impropriety of their situation.
There would be grave implications if I remained trapped in the garden with an unknown man till it’s dark.
She arose from the bench abruptly, as her mind reeled with thoughts of not finding the exit and the troubles her absence would cause for her mama. Although she was certain to get a scolding, she did not wish to make the woman anxious. “Come now Samuel, we must find the way out of this dreadful place at once.”
The man raised a brow and smirked, “Would you permit me to lead you out now, or do you still insist that you require no aid?” Ese’s mouth dropped.
“Now, sir, if you tell me, that all this while, you have known exactly what way would lead us out from this horrid place and said nothing, I shall be very vexed with you!”
“Then I shall not tell you so. I shall only lead you out if you allow me.” He responded smiling, but Ese maintained her frown. “Now, my dear friend, you will own that I never claimed to be lost. I only asked to be led by you, since you would not accept my help.”
“You, sir… ” She started, but was overcome with a fit of mirth that made her unable to complete her sentence. When she had her fill of laughter she spoke again. “You sir, are more mischievous than I. I have certainly met my match, as mama oft says I would.”
“If I recall the many mischiefs you have claimed, I feel honoured to be considered a match.” He responded with a nod as he led her out of the maze. They had walked less than a minute before emerging at back part of the large Manor.
“You misled me sir! Had I taken that right turn, I may have found the way out.”
“I must disagree with you ma’am, for you had in fact, taken that right turn many times and still led us to a dead end. You simply failed to notice the little path that led us out. Now ma’am, I must return to the stables and horses. I believe you can easily find your way from this point without aid.” When she frowned at his teasing words, and he simply laughed, compelling her to smile with his infectous laughter.
“May I call on you some time. Perhaps for a horse race?” He asked as he slowly retreated, taking backward steps.
“But you do not know where I live.”
“I shall make enquiries. I wish to see if you are as skilful as you claimed when you tricked your stables man, for I grew up in the stables myself.”
“Very well then. If you are truly able to locate me, meet me at noon on Wednesday at the Davies stables, and we shall conduct a race. Our stables man is quite dependable, and I shall alert him of your presence, so you may gain entry.
“It shall be my utmost pleasure to race you ma’am.” He proclaimed, and bowed, before turning around to take his leave.
Fortunately for Ese, she met a servant as soon as she entered the buiding through the back entrance. Although she pretended to Samuel, like she knew where she was going, she had no knowledge of the way around the manor or how to get to the large drawing room, where she had left her mama. She was quite anxious to return to the woman who she was certain would be fretting over her absence.
To her utmost surprise, on her return, she realised that her Mama had not sought her at all. She was relieved to discover that the woman had been engaged with the Duchess of Ecclesia and assumed she was in a salon with the other young ladies. She decided against disclosing her activities of the day to her mama and chose to fix her excited mind on her plans for the set day, where she shall meet the stranger once again.