It transpired later that Vincent was nowhere to be found. He had left London, presumably afraid that Benjamin was about to reveal the extent of his deceit and treachery. It seemed unlikely that he would be back since it would mean facing the consequences of his criminal activities. It would likely result in him being sentenced to hang for treason. Mr. Blackwood had already met his fate. The lawyer hadn’t been as quick to leave the city as his partner in crime. After Robert and Benjamin had spoken to the authorities, he had been arrested and was now confined to prison to await trial.
Justice had prevailed, but Cupid was given the final word on the matter. Sophia and Benjamin’s love for each other continued to grow stronger with each passing day. Two years after their wedding, they were blessed with the birth of a daughter, and not long afterwards, they eagerly anticipated the arrival of their second child.
Sophia continued to pursue her art, much to her husband’s pleasure and delight. Working with a passion which matched his own, her skills continued to develop. With his ongoing encouragement and support, she looked forward to holding a small exhibition of her work. It was to include her painting of the rose which Benjamin had admired the first time he saw it. He still cherished it, saying it was one of his favourite paintings.
He had also managed to buy the landscape painting by the unknown artist which Sophia had been viewing at the Royal Academy when he saw her for the first time. To her delight, he had presented it to her on her birthday after their marriage, and it now had pride of place in their drawing room. Every time Sophia looked at it, she knew it would forever be a symbol of their love and all they had endured to be together. For that reason alone, she treasured it.
Benjamin had told her that he wished to take her on a tour of Europe once their children were a little older, of course, and might be left with their grandparents. Or even later on if she didn’t wish to leave them behind. In the meantime, they could console themselves very happily with the thought that there was a wealth of art in the British Isles for them still to discover. The current lack of opportunity for them to travel for practical reasons was of little consequence, they agreed, when they had each other.
The Ladies Helena and Rosamund had soon become doting grandmothers. Beatrice’s daughter had also formed a close friendship with Sophia and Benjamins’s little girl Suzanna. Even Lady Charlotte Sinclair had found happiness in marrying the marquess she loved not long after Benjamin and Sophia’s engagement had been announced. Gossip said the couple were expecting their first child, with great excitement.
With Benjamin’s support, Sophia had recently revealed to Lady Helena what she had failed to convey earlier concerning Henry’s poor opinion of Vincent’s lack of standards. She explained that she had not wished to hurt her mother-in-law fat the time, but she had since realised that she should have voiced her concern at the outset about Vincent’s reputation. Lady Helena did not seem surprised to hear that Vincent had asked Henry on several occasions for money to pay his creditors.
In return, Lady Helena had told Sophia that, in Henry’s absence, she would always be grateful to Benjamin for coming to their assistance. She knew he had saved them both from a miserable life with Vincent, even possibly being abandoned to a state of penury on the streets! She confessed she had developed the highest regard for Lord Benjamin Willoughby, his quiet and gentle manner, and the acts of kindness he did wherever he went. She admitted she dearly wished she could have said the same about her eldest son.
When Sophia relayed this to Benjamin, she pointed out that it was not just her who thought he was entirely wonderful. He smiled when she stroked his face and called him her hero, adding that he was the best husband and best Papa in the world. The, he kissed her passionately and told her that it was all because of her and the love she had brought into his gloomy life. Sophia sighed happily, resting in his arms. After all she had been through, she now knew with absolute certainty that it was possible to have a second chance at love, and to find true, everlasting happiness.