“What offense did I commit, Mother?” Catherine demanded. “All I did was
turn down Mr. Nivens’ proposal of marriage.”
They were sitting outside the hotel facing the sea. The family was vacationing
at their favorite seaside resort for part of the summer. It was there that
Mr. Nivens had proposed to Catherine and she politely refused him. Upset,
he left and her mother, upon hearing the news took her outside where they
could have some privacy.
The sun was setting and it was pleasant evening. Ships sailed
in the distance, people were on the beach, enjoying the last
few moments of sunshine.
However, Catherine was not out there to enjoy the view or bask
in the fresh air mingled with the briny smell of the seashore. She
was there to explain to her mother why she had rejected Mr. Nivens.
She sat down beside her mother who was casting her a censorious look.
“What offense did you commit? You turned down John Nivens. A fine,
“Mother, I do not love him. He’s old enough to be my father and he’s
a bit of a bore–”
“A bore?” Her mother was incredulous. “Why I find Mr. Nivens to be a
very amiable man. And to think you turned him down. With his wealth
you would have been well provided for. You have thrown a perfectly
good future away.”
“Mother, I could not in good conscience consent to marry Mr. Nivens when
I did not love him. Besides, my heart belongs to someone else.”
“What?” her mother was aghast. “Who is he?”
“The solicitor?” The older woman was beside herself now with indignation.
“You turned down Mr. Nivens for a man who is below your station?”
“Even if I were not in love with James, I would still have refused Mr. Nivens.”
“Has your Mr. Fenmore proposed?”
Catherine lifted her head, her eyes flashed in defiance. “No, he has not.”
Her mother shook her head in disbelief. “You turned down Mr. Nivens who
chose you when he could have chosen any number of fine young ladies for
a man who has not even proposed to you. How could you be so foolish,
Catherine. I always thought you were a sensible girl but you are letting
your feelings rule your good sense. You have no future with Mr. Fenmore.
You would have been better off with Mr. Nivens. Perhaps, it isn’t too late
to appeal to him. Perhaps he will forgive your reckless behavior and reconsider.
I shall write a telegram to him and—”
Catherine jumped to her feet, her face flushed with anger. “Mother, you shall
do no such thing. I will not marry Mr. Nivens even if he were the last man
on the earth. I would rather die an old spinster than subject myself to a life
of unhappiness with a man I do not love.”
Her mother took out her handkerchief and dabbed her eyes. “Very well then,”
she said. “Suit yourself. I will say nothing more on the subject. But I must say
you behaved very badly toward poor Mr. Nivens. Yes, very badly indeed.”
“If putting one’s happiness above another’s constitutes bad behavior in your
estimation, then I am guilty. As for James. I cannot determine if he will ask
me to marry but I will admit that I hope he does. I love him, Mother, and
I would count myself very fortunate to have such a man for a husband.”
Her mother got up and stalked over to the chair which faced the beach
and sat down rather heavily. She sat with her back to Catherine gazing
stonily out at the sea.
“Excuse me, Mother.”
There was no response. Shrugging, Catherine turned and walked away.
No matter what happened between James and her, she had stood up to
her mother and secured her own happiness by not settling. And contrary to
what her mother had said, she had used good judgment and reason to
make her decision. She was convinced that she would not have made
Mr. Nivens any happier than he would have made her. She had
spared them both future unhappiness. And that accomplishment alone
was well worth the ire of her mother.