The market was busy that morning, but it wasn’t so busy that Hermione couldn’t find her favourite stalls or favourite vegetables. Most women who were sent to market genuinely disliked the crowds and the noise, but Hermione felt like she thrived in them. She often went to the market when she knew it would be busy, just so she could take some energy from the crowds. Her father usually shook his head and told her she should wait until there was a quieter time, but she immersed herself fully in the crowd, and stood there for a minute or two, soaking in all the energy.
Today, she was after carrots and turnips, both of which were plentiful. But when she headed to her favourite stall, she found that the carrots were practically gone.
“Good morning, Jules,” she said to the shop owner, who often travelled for hours in the dark of the night in order to set up at the market. “What happened?”
“Soldiers happened,” answered the kindly old man as he warmed his hands by rubbing them together. The air was cold, and Hermione was starting to wonder if it would ever be warm again. She normally didn’t mind the cold weather, but she had been in a rush this morning, and had not dressed as warmly as she could. She had a scarf that she’d just finished knitting, with bright colours that others might find garish, but she found beautiful. Hermione didn’t like to be the same as every other woman in the market. She couldn’t afford finer clothes or a beautiful scarf, or even a common colour to make it with, but she could knit and create patterns and merge colours like no one else. She had always felt outside the trend, but she enjoyed it.
“Oh,” she said, realizing exactly what he meant. “Have they purchased enough for three armies? I was so hoping for some of your carrots today.”
“I didn’t expect them,” the old man said. “To be honest, I thought they would demand it for free. And truth be told, they did demand a discount, but for buying in such quantities, I couldn’t refuse. There are these, though, that I would be willing to let go for half the usual price.”
Hermione took a look at the final carrots in the basket. They were small and misshapen, but would all taste the same in the stew she was intending to make with them, and so she nodded her agreement. Once she cut them up, they would be the same as any other carrot, and saving a few coins was always something she would agree to.
“I’ll take them,” she said, and Jules handed them over with a delighted grin. She didn’t think she had ever seen him sold out before, and so it delighted her. Jules was one of the few people who treated her well, and always had a smile. “Is it too hopeful to ask for apples?”
“It is,” he said, with a shrug. “Sorry. But perhaps next week?”
“That’s alright,” she said, with a smile. “Do you think they are for the King?”
Jules paused and then turned a bit pale.
“I didn’t even think about that,” he said. “I assumed they were for the troops. But it is possible that perhaps … Goodness me.”
Hermione chuckled lightly
“I did not mean to make you unsettled,” she said. “It was merely a thought.”
“Your head is always full of such beautiful thoughts,” Jules replied. “Unique thoughts.”
“That is a kind way of putting it,” Hermione answered. “How is your wife, by the way?”
“She’s well,” Jules started when Hermione suddenly felt someone knock against her. She almost fell over and whipped her head around to see exactly what had happened.
She recognized the gaggle of women right away. They were women who didn’t need to go to market; women who went just for the amusement in their days. Women who went because they had nothing else to do. Hermione had seen these women more than once, and it was never pleasant.
“Oh, my apologies,” one of them, she recognized as Viola, said. Viola’s father owned more land and houses than the entire town. She had never bought a single thing at market, but she always made it clear that she could buy the whole market if she wanted. “I was blinded by the pattern in your dress.”
“Oh,” Hermione looked down at her dress, which she had made from scraps of a few old dresses. She quite liked her dress, but it was clear that Viola really didn’t. “My apologies. Perhaps if you could let me know what days you are planning to attend the market, I’ll avoid you?”
Viola clearly missed the sarcasm, and she turned to her group with a giggle.
“Or you could not leave the house?” she suggested to Hermione. “Which one is it?”
“That one,” Hermione pointed to a country house in the distance. It was fairly far in the distance, but one could see, even from the middle of the market path, that it needed repair. Hermione had great plans for the house, and she intended to do most of the work herself. Her Father was capable, but he was getting older, and so he often instructed her rather than physically assisting. Hermione was proud of her Father and what he had taught her over the years, and she was looking forward to working on the house with him. Hopefully, the weather was still cold, and if it continued to stay that way, they would have to do the roof repairs in the cold.
The roof was just one of the many things that needed repairs. The walls also needed patching, and their floor was starting to wear away. She had a dream of painting the house, but that was far too expensive at the moment.
“Oh,” Viola said with a giggle. “I thought it was a shack.”
“Home sweet home,” Hermione answered, holding her ground. Women like Viola didn’t bother her because she knew that they were in different worlds. Viola didn’t understand hard work, and she never would, and Hermione prided herself in hard work.
“I think I saw your father looking for you, Miss Viola,” Jules spoke up, and Viola’s eyes suddenly widened. “I told him that you were out and about, and he seemed on a warpath.’
“Why—I …” Viola stuttered and then hurried off in the other direction with her friends. Hermione turned to Jules with a smile.
“I would have been fine,” she said. “You didn’t have to fib on my behalf.”
“Oh, I know, Miss,” Jules replied. “I did not fib.”
Hermione’s eyes widened and then she giggled.
“You didn’t?” she replied. “Oh my.”
“Indeed,” Jules said, and then looked around his stall. “Is there anything else I can get you?”
“No, that’s wonderful,” Hermione said, as she looked around at the other stalls. “I will no doubt see you soon.”
She headed off to another stall, which still had some apples. She was grateful that the soldiers hadn’t cleared everything out, until she picked up one of the apples and her hand nearly went through it.
“Oh my,” she said, trying not to wince in disgust. “Are these apples … for sale at full price?”
“Indeed.” This shopkeeper was not so nice to her, and he practically glared as she looked over them.
“But they are overripe,” Hermione protested “What can one do with them?”
“I picked them,” he replied. “And if you take them, then I assume you are going to use them. Therefore, you have to pay for them.”
“Lovely,” she said, biting her lip. Apples were a key ingredient in many of the desserts she was planning, and using anything else was going to be far more expensive. “I’ll take them.”
“Full price?” he asked her, and she nodded. Normally, she was a very good negotiator, but it seemed that she had truly come to the market at the wrong time today.
A warm breeze blew through the air, and she had hope that perhaps the cold weather was just temporary and not a real winter season just yet. Of course, it wasn’t just the warmer weather they were waiting for. She also had to find a way to scrounge together enough money to make the repairs. Even though they did them themselves, the materials were still expensive, and Jules was the only person in town who seemed to give her a discount.
Hermione started running over the items that they had at home that she could sell. She had the scarf that she had just made, that surely someone would appreciate the eccentric value of. She had some books that were treasured possessions, but she had read half a hundred times and could probably recite by memory by now. Maybe she could sell them at the next market, or at least trade them for some sort of supplies.
Her Father had some possessions from his father that he had offered to sell as well, but Hermione didn’t want him to. It was just the two of them, and the broken pocket watch and pipe were among the only things they had of other family members.
Hermione had never wondered why she had been born into her situation. She figured God had a plan for everything, even if it meant praying for hours with sometimes no results. Hermione knew that in the end, everything would make sense. However, there were some days she wondered if she would ever get answers, as other people seemed to, or whether she just had to trust in God blindly.
She was paying so much attention to the house and her thoughts that she nearly tripped over a tiny kitten. She had seen this kitten alone in the market before, sitting on the side of the road and mewing pitifully. It seemed mostly brave, but always hungry. It had a fuzzy zigzag pattern in its coat, and it reminded Hermione of the scarf she had just knitted.
“Hello,” she said, crouching down to pet it. “Hello. Why are you all alone?”
Hermione eventually straightened up and took stock of her bag again to make sure that she didn’t forget anything, and then started heading down the path. Her father would eventually be expecting her to return home, and start cooking. It wasn’t that he expected her to do all the work, but he relied on her, as she had once relied on him.
Hermione often got lost in her thoughts, which was a problem. She barely noticed her surroundings when this happened, and there was danger everywhere these days. She knew that there were young women who had been snapped off the streets in the bigger towns, and she knew that carriages went rogue all the time. She knew that she should be careful but couldn’t ever calm her mind. Her mind was her own demon, and her best friend, especially as she grew up.
She barely heard the soldiers approach. At first, they weren’t paying any attention to her, but as they got closer, it became apparent that they had seen her and liked what they saw.
A few were on horses, and they slowed when they started to pass.
“Hello, Milady,” one said. “What is a beautiful girl like you doing all alone on a road like this?”
Hermione didn’t bother to look at his face. She wasn’t interested and didn’t want to give him any false hope.
“Just walking home to my husband,” she lied, and he laughed.
“I don’t see a wedding ring,” he said. “Besides, I’ve seen you before. You don’t have a husband.”
She looked up at him. He was quite handsome, but it was of no consequence. Hermione wasn’t like all the other girls around, and she had no interest in a King’s soldier. She knew that the soldiers weren’t used to this because women swooned for them all the time. She suddenly wished that Viola was here because she would surely appreciate the soldier’s affections. It was the first time she had ever wished Viola was there.
“You didn’t?” she asked. “I must have left it at home.”
“Don’t be that way,” he said to her. “I was simply complimenting a beautiful lady. And you are surely the most beautiful lady I have ever seen.”
“I would take him seriously if I were you,” another said, on horseback. “I’ve never heard Jarvis say a kind word about a woman.”
“Aye, he’s right,” the one apparently known as Jarvis said. “I’ve never seen a woman with eyes like yours, or with such luscious hair. Truly, even if nothing comes of it, you are stunning.”
Hermione shrugged at that. She knew that she should accept the compliment; it was the polite thing to do. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to; it was that she didn’t care. Beauty didn’t matter in a world where one struggled to eat, or was cold at night.
“Would you at least be willing to cook some food for us?” Jarvis asked. “For all of us are useless. We can at least pay you for your time.”
Hermione stopped walking. She didn’t want to get home any later, but she couldn’t turn down such an honourable offer for money. At least, it sounded honourable.
“I could,” she said. “If it’s here, and now, in the open.”
“Yes,” he said, at once. “We are all rubbish at even cooking over an open fire. We have some turnips that we can’t figure out how to cook, and I’m sure there is more in our various bags.”
“Right,” Hermione answered and shifted her own bag higher on her shoulder. “How much?”
They made a deal, and Hermione went to work quickly.
The soldiers paid her, as they promised that they would, and then Hermione served them, before picking up her bag again.
“You’re not going already, are you?” Jarvis asked, and she nodded.
“I have to …” she said. “I have to get at home.”
“What’s at home?” he asked her. He clearly didn’t believe that she had a husband at home, so she decided to go with the truth.
“My father,” she said.
“Oh,” he replied. “Well, this soup is so good that maybe I should marry you and set you free from your father’s house.”
Hermione fixed him with a hard stare.
“Sir,” she said. “Do not make yourself a fool by proposing to me. I’m sure you will find yourself a non-scandalous woman to marry.”
With that, she took her bag and headed off. Her head was swimming at the words, but she told herself not to look back.
She didn’t care for him, and she would never marry such a man. However, she never thought her first proposal would be in such a state.
Other women had so many proposals that they didn’t know what to do with them. Other women married before they were Hermione’s age, and they managed to do well for themselves. She had even heard of women who were born into her position and had managed to rise higher than any noble-born lady. But Hermione knew that wasn’t to be her fate. Her fate was going to be to survive and scrape by all her life until she couldn’t anymore.
She had dreams and aspirations, of course, but she was also realistic. The only thing that she knew for certain was that she would find a way to carry on, no matter what the circumstances were.
When she got back to the house, she didn’t go inside right away. Meeting the soldiers and cooking lunch for them at the side of the field had taught Hermione that every moment counted. They could have waited until they were in the next town, but they had lunch on the road, and then rode on, and they used what they were carrying to make do. It inspired her to use what she had to make her little house at least a little better.
She never really envied the people who had servants and who had everything done for them. She always wanted to do everything herself, even from a young age. She was a strong, independent woman, or so her father told her.
She knew that was a bad thing, but she did what she could to survive.
Hermione left her bag by the front porch, knowing that nothing in it would spoil for the next little while, and went to her garden at the back. The garden had not done very well this year, and they had lost many of the crops to bugs. However, there were many green onion plants that were growing, their only plentiful vegetables. Hermione got down on her knees, and she started to dig up the plants, as much as she could. She pulled them up by their roots and then tried to save the onion bulb to replace. She put as many green stocks in her apron pocket as she could and then brought them into her kitchen.
Her father wasn’t home, which didn’t surprise her. Sometimes, when she went to market, he hurried home from work to wait for her. Other days, he was kept late, and she had a hot meal prepared when he came home. The one thing that she was glad of was the fact that the soldiers did not seem to have followed her home. She doubted Jarvis’s proposal was serious and assumed he had probably moved on to the next girl walking home.
She had so many green onions on the kitchen table by the time she walked back outside twice more that she was stumped for a moment. She didn’t want them to go to waste, but she also didn’t know what to do.
Hermione noticed that she still had six eggs on the counter that her father had brought home from his job. She decided she would make the biggest quiche she could, and then she would also make a huge pot of soup. She hoped that it was cold enough outside that she could keep things in the cellar so they wouldn’t go bad, but she figured it was better to try than it was to guarantee everything would go to waste.
Once she started cooking, she got lost in her mind even more.
Why had Viola been so cruel today? She pretended that it didn’t matter, but it did matter, of course. She would never admit it to anyone, but occasionally, she wished that Viola vanished from town and was never found. She didn’t want her harmed, but she never wanted to hear her voice again. She didn’t want to be included, or have such a lifestyle, because frankly, Hermione thought it sounded terribly boring. She couldn’t imagine a life of constantly looking for entertainment and hurting others in order to make some.
Her quiche eventually turned out well, and Hermione saw out the window that the sun was starting to set. If she wanted any chance of daylight, she should go outside and enjoy the dying rays of light. Her father still wasn’t home, but that worried her only slightly. Like her, he often looked for extra opportunity to make income.
Hermione started on the soup, focusing her energy on chopping all the vegetables in front of her. She used her market finds in order to make the same soup that she had made for the soldiers, which made her own stomach growl. She liked to wait and eat with her father, but she was starting to wonder if he was coming home at all. On the very rare occasion that his employer needed him late at night, he offered him a bed. Her father always took it because it came with a meal, which was always welcome.
Once the soup was done, Hermione couldn’t wait any longer. She sat down at the table, cut herself a piece of quiche, and poured herself a bowl of soup.
She pulled out her journal, and paged back to a month ago. It was one of her favourite activities, to look back and see what she was doing on this day last month, and last year.
There was a certain point that Hermione couldn’t go back, but she felt that every day she was getting closer to the moment she could read about those days.
Once she was done with her meal, and he still wasn’t home, she really started to worry. Hermione had heard a story the other day about a young woman who had come home and found her father dead. It occurred to her that he could have been here the whole time and have fallen, or worse.
The house was getting dim, and so she lit a candle and started to search the house carefully, room by room. The house wasn’t very big, but it was cold. She made a mental note to start the fire again as soon as she went back into the kitchen.
She bit her lip, her heart pounding in her chest. What if accepting the job with the soldiers had caused her to miss something dangerous happening to him?
She told herself not to be silly, that just because she wasn’t popular didn’t mean that someone was going to rush into the house and kidnap her father, or worse. She had clearly been reading too many books, which was also frowned upon.
She tried to keep her love for books a secret because it was frowned upon for a woman to lose her head in books so much, or at all. However, Hermione didn’t think that she could ever make it through life if she didn’t have books to escape to. Books were her entertainment when there was nothing else, including the lonely days she spent in the house while her father was at work.
She often tried to keep her ability to read a secret too, because many women frowned upon it. Her mother had taught her to read and write, and Hermione often asked for paper and ink or a book whenever people asked her what she wanted. Of course, the only person who really asked her was her father, and she was honoured by how much he must save up to give her gifts for her birthdays or Christmas. Other girls might think that it was not a very exciting gift, but Hermione felt that it was the most exciting gift in the world. Her mother had understood, as she was the one who had taught her to read. It had been in secret, and Hermione had never asked her mother where she learned. She had just taken great joy in the process of learning and then reading the stories.
Her father would not appreciate the fact that she was dreaming up all these fantasies, and so she made herself go and sit at the table again. She pulled up her journal and dipped her pen in the ink before putting it to the page.
Today I went to the market.
She let the words dry for a moment and contemplated. What else did she wanted to write? Despite the fact that she told her father everything, she was worried that someone might read her journal, perhaps in the future, and think horrid things about the raw thoughts in her head.
Often, she could override these thoughts, and today was one of those days.
Viola was there, and she made sure to make a scene, as usual. She had her usual gaggle of women with her, but luckily, Jules frightened her off by saying that her father was looking for her. I am grateful to God that I have a father who is not cruel and supports my outings, even if all I do is go to the market and then return home.
Soldiers had bought nearly everything at the market, so I had to settle for some undesirable fruits and vegetables. I still have not done anything with the apples, but I shall do that tomorrow; they will survive one more day.
On the way home, there was a group of soldiers who decided to show their verbal affection for me. I accepted their offer to make lunch in exchange for a few coins, but one proposed marriage.
I refused, obviously. I was not interested in such a man, and we had just met. It was my first proposal.
I suppose I just wanted to record that.
I am not sure if I want there to be others. I am not sure if there will be others at all. But I am certainly not accepting his.
I know that Father wants me to marry, and I do not want to disappoint him. However, there is no one I want to marry and no one who wants to marry me. Except for the soldier, who is already stricken from my mind.
Perhaps I am destined to be alone. I have given much thought to this, and I am not sure if it is the worst thing in the world.
I hope Father is home soon.
She re-read the journal entry and then blew on the ink to dry it before closing it.
There were just a few dying rays of light left, and Hermione wrapped herself in her new scarf before going to sit on the front porch. She didn’t care what the neighbours would say. She wanted to make sure there was no sign of him before she took action.
Of course, what that action was, she had no idea. Hermione doubted that many people in town would help or listen to her. Her plan would be to walk to his employer and ask for him.
She shivered as a cold wind blew through. The candle beside her, even within a lantern was starting to go out, and a thunderstorm was rolling in. She could hear it in the distance, and by her guess, she only had a few minutes left outside.
When the lantern went out, Hermione knew that she couldn’t wait outside any longer. She slowly looked down the road for hope; squinting into the darkness.
She thought she saw a figure but couldn’t be entirely sure. She didn’t want to call out if it wasn’t her father, and so she lingered by the front porch; hopeful and yet on guard.
What if it was one of the soldiers? What if it was someone come to do them harm? What if Viola had hired someone?
Hermione had certainly been reading too many books; there was no question.
She shivered again and drew the scarf closer. She decided that the safest course of action was to go inside and barricade the door. People often made fun of her for such wild ideas, but she needed to do something. The figure was getting closer, and Hermione wasn’t sure she could identify him.
Just as she was about to go inside, she heard a familiar voice call out to her.
“ Hermione?” called her father, and she breathed a sigh of relief and practically collapsed against the front column.
“Father?” she asked, just to be sure. “Why were you so late?”
“Why are you outside?” he asked as he approached. He looked tired, but he was well, and that was all that mattered.
“A Beauty Hidden in their Hearts” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Hermione lives with her father, and although they sometimes struggle to make ends meet, she has taught herself to be content with her life. She doesn’t mind that she has no friends in town or that there are vicious rumors about her. She does, however, wonder if she will ever be truly happy and find real love. When she is unexpectedly invited to marry a Lord she has never met, she can’t help but wonder whether she could find her other half by his side. But can she really trust her mysterious husband-to-be? Or is there a secret hiding behind his choice to marry a woman of humble origin?
Lord Fisher has spent the last few years holed up in his manor house, away from prying eyes. Although his heart is made of gold, he feels that his soul and his face are not fit for the world outside… He tries his best to manage the lands his father left him and find a purpose in life, until he decides it’s finally his time to get married. In despair, he sends his secretary to find someone eligible, but never would he expect to find a lady with a good heart and a strong mind to accept his proposal. But can this delicate woman bear his well-kept secret? Or will she flee taking away his last hope to experience genuine affection?
True love knows no bounds, but Hermione and Lord Fisher are condemned to find many obstacles between them. Will she discover a way to help him cure his trauma, and change his heart? And will he trust her, even when things seem to be falling apart?
“A Beauty Hidden in their Hearts” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.