Phillip heard skirts rustling. He turned toward the sound, and looked up to the landing at the top of the stairs.
Phillip gasped. Beautiful was too plain a word to describe the young woman descending the stairs. The gown of fine dove gray silk trimmed in fine lace was not the dress of a poor little orphan. The long blonde ringlets cascaded down the side of her head and her delicate features were not those of a homely woman. The graceful movements, the head held high, the slight tilt of her head were all movements of a woman who had been to finishing school. Phillip sensed the anxiety under the appraising look from those powder blue eyes framed under the long eyelashes, but he also caught a glimpse of the spirit he had once known. He knew this beautiful woman descending the stairs was none other than Elizabeth Thorton.
For a moment that stared at one another. He smiled a half smile and tried to hold back a grin. He watched the line deepen in her forehead. He knew she was wondering why he seemed to know her even though he had just arrived by ship from England where she, Elizabeth, had never been.
Phillip smiled at the confusion he saw in her face. He imagined she was debating whether he was making a blatant pass at her, or how it could be possible that they could know one another. He was certain that she had no idea who he was. She did not recognize him as the eight-year-old boy she had known in the West.
After Elizabeth joined the three men, Phillip was pleased to see Gerald could not make his charms rub off on her. Phillip was impressed that she recognized Gerald as the want-to-be womanizer that he was.
When Gerald was part of certain circles where men entertained older married women, he behaved himself. However, in the company of younger women, particularly pretty younger women who were just becoming aware of their womanhood and were flattered whenever any man paid attention, Gerald created his own rules, which benefited him and not the woman. He also misbehaved with the type of woman the type of woman whom men paid for their attentions or women who would do anything to improve her status in the world. Women of that caliber he considered fair game.
Phillip was pleased Elizabeth was not impressed with Gerald’s suave sophistication. He was relieved she dismissed Gerald and she immediately became more interested in Phillip. He watched her face carefully as he introduced himself to her. She recognized Phillip’s surname.
“I knew a Colonel Randolph when I was a child,” she said. “I was taken to Fort Presque Isle, where he was in command, after my family was killed by Indians up near Lake Erie. You wouldn’t happen to be any relation to him would you?”
His gaze never left her. “I’m his adopted son.”
Elizabeth’s mouth dropped open, and she covered it with her hand.
“Oh, my. . .”
She looked him deep in the eyes. Phillip could almost see the flicker of recognition in her eyes. He saw her struggle with the seeing the eight-year-old boy in the red uniform who was now a full-grown man in the red uniform. The boy he had once been but now was not. He was the boy who stood so straight and stern and tried so hard to be a man. He was the boy she tried so hard to teach to play as a normal child was supposed to play.
He heard her gasp, saw her eyes widen.
“This can’t be! Phillip, is this actually you?”
His grin grew wider, “one and the same.”
Elizabeth turned toward her brother-in law. “Peter! Do you remember Phillip, Peter? He was the little boy who came with Colonel Randolph when he brought me back here when I was five!”
Peter cleared his throat. His eyes were darker. Phillip frowned at Peter’s worried expression. Phillip heard Peter’s voice deepen when he said, “Yes, I remember. Phillip, how is Colonel Randolph?”