The Vicar’s Daughter

After she had put some distance between Mr. Rivers’ property and herself, Dora stopped to examine her torn dress.  She was panting and her heart was racing.  She was lucky that all she suffered from her foolish decision to take a shortcut through Mr. Rivers’ property was a torn skirt.  He had set his savage dogs on her, “That will learn you to trespass on my property,” he yelled as she ran for her life with the two beasts in hot pursuit.  How she managed to escape the jaws of death, she didn’t know.  Perhaps it was the Lord showing her mercy.

What a mean man that Mr. Rivers was, she thought.  He was rude and always threatening to loose his dogs on anyone who dared to venture on his property.  She knew it was foolish of her to cut through his property but it would be getting dark soon and she wanted to get back to the vicarage before it did.

She had to catch her breath first before continuing on through the woods.  The dress was ruined.  Sighing, she sat down and thought of how she was going to explain to her parents what had happened.  As the daughter of the Vicar she should have respected Mr. Rivers and stayed off his property.  And she had always been taught not to think badly of people, no matter how miserable they were.  Still, Mr. Rivers irked her so.  She would have to pray to God about him.

She sat there for a while, thinking and then the setting sun reminded her that she had to head back home.  As she rose to her feet, she started when she heard the sound of an approaching horse.  She glanced around the clearing and her eyes settled on a lone rider coming toward her.  Had Mr. Rivers sent the law after her for trespassing on his property?  As the rider got closer, she recognized him.  It was James Hiller of Mannerly Manor where her cousin Mabel worked as a lady’s maid to his mother.

This was the first time she had seen him in these parts.  She stood erect, concealing the tear in her skirt as best as she could.

He drew to a halt beside her and dismounted the horse.  He bowed and she curtsied.  “Miss Baker,” he said.  “What are you doing out here?”

“I went for a walk and was on my way home when I heard you approaching.”

“It is getting dark.  Please permit me to take you home.”

The thought of sitting on the horse terrified her.  “Oh, no, Mr. Hiller, I would rather walk.”

He smiled.  “Nelson will not harm you, I assure you.”

“Nelson?” She looked at the horse and then at him in surprise.

“I named him Nelson after my uncle who taught me how to ride.  Come, let me help you up.  You needn’t be afraid, Miss Baker.  Nelson is a gentle beast.”

Still not convinced but because of his persistence, she allowed him to lift her up onto the fine steed’s back and then he mounted.  She held onto him for dear life as they galloped through the woods.  She was relieved when they reached the vicarage.

He got down and helped her down.  His hands were still on her waist as she tried to steady herself.   Her face was flushed and her heart was racing.  She didn’t know if the ride was the cause or his nearness.  Their eyes held for what seemed like an eon before he released her and took hold of the reins.  And she stepped back.   “Thank you, Mr. Hiller.”

“It was my pleasure, Miss Baker.” There was a brief pause.  “May I call upon you tomorrow afternoon?”

Her eyes widened.  “Call upon me?”

“Yes, I would like to see you tomorrow.”

“All right.  Tomorrow then.”

“Good evening, Miss Baker.”

“Good evening, Mr. Hiller.”

He bowed before he mounted the horse and rode off.

She gazed after him, hardly able to believe that he wanted to call upon her–the Vicar’s daughter.  She hadn’t expected to see him that evening or that he would even stop and talk to her.  She had Mr. Rivers to thank for that.  If he hadn’t run her off his property, she would not have stopped in the place where Mr. Hiller came upon her.

Laughing, her eyes filled with delight, she gathered up her skirt and ran to the house, anxious to tell her mother that a certain gentleman would be coming by for a visit tomorrow afternoon.

A-Pensive-Girl,-C.1865

The Intruder

A storm was raging outside.  The rain was beating relentlessly against the windows.  The lightning flashed across the sky and soon followed by the loud thunderous clap.  She hated storms. And being alone in the house didn’t help the situation.  She chided herself for coming ahead of the family to this place which been closed up for a year.  It feel strange being on her own in this large house.  So many rooms.  So many stairs.

She had come down to check the windows to make sure they were securely locked.  She was half-way down the hall when she heard it.  It was during the intermission between the clap of the thunder and the next flash of lightning.   At first she thought she had imagined it and continued walking.  There it was again.  She froze.  Her heart pounding now with fear.  She hadn’t imagined it.  She heard the jangle of keys.  She wasn’t carrying any keys with her.  Someone else was.  Who was in the house?

Then she heard the footsteps.  They were coming down the hall behind her.   Terrified, she darted into one of the rooms and locked the door.  She leaned against it, shaking like a leaf.  Again she wished she hadn’t come here tonight.  What on earth had possessed her to do so?  Why her parents and siblings were sleeping peacefully at the inn, she was here hiding from an intruder.  All sorts of terrifying thoughts assailed her mind.  It could be an escaped convict and the jangle she heard were his chains.  He had some how gotten into the house.

She heard the footsteps stop outside the room she was in and she almost dropped the candle.  Her heart was pounding in her chest, her breath was coming in short gasps and her legs had turned to jelly.  “Oh please, go away,” she whispered.

Then she heard the key turn in the lock.   She ran away from the door, her eyes darting wildly about the room for some way of escape.  The windows.  She could open one of them and climb out.  She and her brother used to do that when they were children. Climbing down the trellis in the pouring rain and possibly slipping and having a bad fall was preferable to what was going to come through that door.

She quickly blew the candle out and dropped it on the rug.  She ran to the window just as the door opened.  Frantically, she tried to unfasten the latch on the window.

“Who’s there?” a voice boomed.  “You are trespassing on private property.”

She swung around to face the speaker and just then lightning flashed across the sky and she caught sight of a tall figure wearing a raincoat. He was carrying a lantern which he now held up.   In its glow she could make out his features.  This was no convict.  It was Mr. Crawley, the caretaker of the property.  Relief washed over her and she stumbled over to him.  “Oh, it’s you, Mr. Crawley.”

“Miss Catherine?”

“I heard someone moving about in the house and I was dreadfully afraid.”

“I saw a light on in the house and came to investigate.   I didn’t expect anyone to be here until tomorrow, Miss.”

“I know,” she said.  “I decided to come ahead of the family.  I didn’t mean to cause you any trouble.”

“It’s no trouble, Miss.  Will you be all right?”

She nodded.  “Yes, I’ll be all right.”

“You can take my lantern, Miss.  I can find my way all right.”

“Thank you, Mr. Crawley.  Good night.”

“Good night, Miss.”  He bowed and left her.

She stood there for a moment, listening to the storm, no longer afraid.

woman with a candle

Much to Celebrate

“Happy anniversary, my Darling,” he said as he handed her the beautiful bouquet of flowers.  “Forty years ago, you turned my life upside down when you moved into my neighborhood.  And it took a few years before I plucked up the courage to ask you out on a date.  Thank you for not saying no and for the happiest years of my life.”  He pulled her to his side and kissed her on the temple.

Joanne smiled as she inhaled the sweet fragrance of the roses.  “These are lovely,” she said.  “Thank you for being such a wonderful husband.”

Tears came to her eyes as she thought of how amazing he had been when they found out that she couldn’t have children.  It had devastated her because she had longed to be a mother and she knew that he would have made a terrific father.  For years they had tried and then she had learned that they would never have children.  It was a very bitter pill to swallow and for months she was depressed but Martin was always there, loving her and trying to help her through those though times.

During the moments of despair, she lashed out at God, asking Him why He would deny her the joy of being a mother.  Friends encouraged her to looking into adopting a child but she didn’t want to consider it.  And Martin assured her that she was more than enough for him and tried to encourage her to go away on trips with him and get involved in activities to take her mind off of things.  He was so devoted to her that sometimes she felt ashamed of how she was so fixated on not being able to have children that she might be neglecting him.

One day she was turning the pages of her Bible, not sure what to read.  It had been a while since she had even opened it.  And her eyes fell on the chapter one of the first book of Samuel.  She began to read it.  She could identify with Hannah.  She remembered those times when she couldn’t eat and was always in tears.  And all Martin could do was try to comfort her as best as he could.  It must have been so hard for him.  The words, But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the LORD had closed her womb.  Martin loved her even though she couldn’t give him children.  Her barrenness hadn’t diminished his love at all, in fact it had grown stronger.  Her friends remarked on how he treated her like a queen.

And Elkanah’s words to Hannah cut Joanne to the quick.  “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?”  Wasn’t Martin better to her than the children she wished she could have?  He was there and they were not.  God had blessed her with an incredible man whose happiness was wrapped up in her and the life they could have together.  She felt ashamed and she cried out to God, asking Him to forgive her for being so selfish and for her anger and bitterness toward Him.

That night when Martin came home, she asked him to forgive her and he, of course, assured her that there was nothing to forgive.  He took her in his arms and held her close for a long time.  That night was the turning point in her life.  She decided that she would focus on her marriage and nothing else.

Forty years later and they were still going strong.  There were still moments when she wondered what would have happened if her life had turned out like Hannah’s.  Hannah had prayed to God and He had opened her womb and blessed her with seven children.  Joanne had prayed for Him to do the same miraculous thing for her but it didn’t happen.  God had blessed her with a lasting, strong and healthy marriage and tonight she was going to celebrate.

“Are you ready?” Martin asked.

She nodded.  “Yes.  I’m ready to celebrate forty years of being married to an incredible man.” Yes.  There was much to celebrate.  And she had God to thank for that.

man giving wife flowers

Unexpected News

“What is all the commotion?” Isabel asked as she removed her bonnet.  She could hear excited voices in the drawing-room.  She didn’t dare go in.  “Is Elsie in trouble again?”  Elsie was her youngest sister.  She was a bit of a wild one, always managing to get herself in trouble and sending their mother in a tizzy.

Amelia shook her head.  “No, it’s not Elsie this time.  It’s Mr. Hornby.”

“Mr. Hornby is here?”  Isabel felt her heart lurch.  She ran her hands over her hair and smoothed the skirt of her dress.  “Has he been here long?”  If she had known that he was coming over this afternoon, she wouldn’t have gone for a walk.

“Not long.”

“Why is Mr. Hornby the cause of such commotion?”

“It seems that Mr. Hornby has decided that he wants to move to Canada.  He had considered the possibility for a very long time.  He sails next month.”

Isabel felt the color drain from her face.  “He’s leaving for Canada?  Next month?”

Amelia looked at her in alarm.  “What’s the matter, Izzy?” she asked.  “You have turned white as a sheet.  Are you not feeling well?”

“I–I need some fresh air,” she mumbled.

“But you just returned from your walk.”

“I need some fresh air.”

“Perhaps you should go and lie down.”

“No.  I need to go outside.”

“Would you like me to come with you?”

“No–I would rather be alone.”  She quickly made her exit, leaving Amelia standing there, looking perplexed.

Outside in the garden, Isabel burst into tears.  She couldn’t believe that Mr. Hornby was leaving England and—her.  How could he leave without knowing that she loved him dreadfully?

She had known him since she was child and he had always been so kind to her.  He never made her feel like a nuisance and when she was a teenager, he never treated her like a child.  They had very stimulating conversations and she looked forward to his visits.  He seemed to enjoy it when she played the piano and would sit beside her with the newspaper open in his lap, pausing from his perusal of it to compliment her playing. She loved to play for him and didn’t feel a bit nervous at all. Sometimes, they would take turns reading poetry.  She could have sat for hours just listening to him recite the sonnets and the works of her favorite poets.  He had such a marvelous voice.

She didn’t know exactly when her feelings for him had changed but one day when she went into the library and found him there looking through one of the History volumes, she realized then that she was in love with him.  It didn’t matter that he was twice her age. To her he was the most wonderful and handsome man she had ever known.  She cherished the time they spent together and the fact that she hadn’t heard of any romantic attachment on his part with anyone, she hoped that this might be in her favor.  However, that could all change now.

Why was he going to Canada?  Why so far away?  Will she ever see him again?

“Isabel?” She hadn’t heard him approach her and was startled when he materialized beside her.  “You are crying.”  He gave her his handkerchief.

She took it and wiped her eyes and her nose.  “Mr. Hornby,” she said.  “Amelia told me that you were here.”

He frowned.  “Why didn’t you come and see me then?” he asked.  “When I arrived I was very disappointed to learn that you weren’t home.   Why didn’t you join us in the drawing-room?  I wanted you to be there to hear my news.”

She felt the tears coming again and she turned away so that he couldn’t see her face.  “I heard the news,” she said.  “Amelia told me that you are going to Canada.”

“I suspect that Amelia wasn’t in the room when I asked your father permission to marry his middle daughter and to take her to Canada with me if she would agree to it.”

She swung around to face him, her eyes huge with shock.  “You asked my father to marry me?” she could scarcely believe this.

“Yes.  I must admit that at the age of two and forty, I never imagined that I would be asking a girl half my age to marry me.  Isabel, I am old enough to be your father but my feelings for you far from paternal.”

“Oh Mr. Hornby, I had hoped that you would come to regard me as I have regarded you for the past three years.”

“Then, you will marry me?”

“Yes!”

“And you have no objection to moving to Canada and being so far from your family?”

“I admit that I shall be sorry to leave them and the house in which I have spent the happiest years of my life but my future happiness is with you.”

Mr. Hornby smiled and brushed his knuckles against her cheek, his eyes filled with the love that had long dwelt in his heart.  “I shall resolve to make you as happy as you have made me, Isabel.”

“I cannot imagine being happier than I am at this moment, Mr. Hornby.”

“Please call me Nigel.”

“Nigel.”  His name came out as a laugh and a sob as she was overwhelmed by the sheer happiness of this moment.

victorian gentleman and young lady at piano

The Deception

“A letter for you, Miss,” Fanny announced as she handed the envelope to Clara.

Clara took it and frowned when she saw the name on it.  Why did he write me?  Why did he not come instead?  “Thank you, Fanny.” As soon as the young maid was gone, she ripped open the envelope and unfolded the letter, her fingers trembling with excitement.

As she read the contents, her face turned ashen.  The sheet shook in her hand and she gripped the chair with her other hand.   The letter read:

Dear Clara,

I hope you are well.  I am still in London taking care of the business matters for which my Aunt asked me to attend to.  I don’t quite know how to say this but my affections have long been engaged elsewhere.  Lady Agatha and I are to be married upon my return to Devonshire.  If I have given you reason to believe that my feelings for you were more than brotherly affection, please forgive me.  I will always remember you with fondness and felicity.

Your friend,

Raymond

She collapsed into the chair as her legs gave way under her.  He never loved her.  That was what he said.  He had been in love with Lady Agatha all this time.  Not once did she ever suspect that his feelings were engaged elsewhere.  He had always been so attentive to her and she could not have imagined the tenderness which she had seen in his features.   Had it all been an illusion?  Had she imagined that he loved her?

She dissolved into tears, her heart breaking.  How could she had been such a fool?  She had given her heart to a man who had given his to another.  How was she going to face her family and friends?  They too were under the impression that Raymond and she were soon to announce their engagement based on the warm and affectionate sentiments they had expressed toward each other.  It had all be a lie–on his part.  She had been deceived.

Pain gave way to seething anger.  She crumbled the letter and getting up, she rushed over to the fireplace and threw it on the fire.  She watched it burn.  Oh, how she hated him.  The love she had once felt for him had now turned to hate.  She never wanted to see him again.

It took Clara several years to get over Raymond.  During that time she was frequently in the company of an older gentleman whose devotion she grew to appreciate.  Eventually, they got married and Clara grew to love him dearly.  She never saw Raymond again.  He and Lady Agatha moved to France.  She no longer bore any ill-feelings toward the man she had once loved.  She wished him well.

 

victorian woman grips chair as she reads letter

The Visit

She stood at the window watching

the snow fall in thick white sheets

on the streets below.  It had been

like this all morning.   What was

it going to end?

 

All night she had looked forward

to seeing Rupert.  When they had

last seen each other which was a

fortnight ago, he had promised to

visit her today.

 

When she woke up this morning

all cheerful, she was appalled at

the wintry scene outside her bedroom

window.  The snow fell relentlessly

with no promise of that it will taper

off any time soon.

 

Skipping breakfast, she came straight into

the library to occupy herself with a book

but it was no use.  She couldn’t concentrate

on anything.  She got up from the armchair

by the fire and walked over to the window.

She drew aside the curtain and watched

the snow which she now regarded as her

enemy.   It blanketed everything in its path.

The streets were deserted.  No one

dared to venture out in such blizzard-like

weather.  Why, of all days, did it have

to snow today?  There was no reason to

believe that Rupert would even attempt

to brave the weather just to see her.

 

Yet, an irrational part of her hoped

to see a carriage pull up in front

and a tall and slender figure alight.

She remembered how handsome he

looked in his officer coat when she

she first saw him.  It was at the ball

thrown by her Aunt in honor of her

husband, a retired officer.  Her eyes

scarcely left him and she urged her

aunt to introduce them.  Which she

did with relish.

 

Rupert was friendly and gracious and

she was immediately put at ease.

They spent most of the evening talking and

she was fortunate to have a couple of

dances with him.  It vexed her when she

saw him dance with other young women

but always, he returned to her side.

 

It was with deep regret that she bid him

farewell that night but her constitution

brightened considerably when he

promised that he would visit her in a

fortnight.

 

And here she was, watching her hopes

diminish with each falling snowflake.

Even if it were to taper off, the roads

were now impassable.   She might as

well face the inevitable.  She was not

going to see Rupert today.  And she

wasn’t even sure about tomorrow.

 

She turned away in distress.  Just then

the door opened and Rupert stood in

its opening.  I must be dreaming, she

thought.  I want to see him so desperately

that I am conjuring his image now.  Perhaps,

I need to go and lie down.  She felt a bit faint.

Perhaps not having a morsel to eat for

breakfast was taking its toll on her now.

 

As she started forward, the image

moved towards her.  Her eyes widened

in shock.  It was Rupert.  He was there–

but how?  He came forward, smiling and

took her hands in his.  His dark brown eyes

steady on her upturned face.  “I came by

very early this morning,” he explained.

“When the snow was just starting to fall.”

 

She still couldn’t believe that this was

real.  He was here.  “But, no one told me

that you were here.”

 

“When I arrived you were still in bed.  I asked

her aunt not to disturb you.  Your Uncle invited

me to join him in the drawing-room where I

was quite content to bide my time until you

were available.  Your Aunt had been to your

room to check on you but found that you had

vacated it.  On her way to the drawing-room,

she popped her head in the library and saw

you standing at the window.   She came and

informed me.  And, so without further delay,

I quit your Uncle’s company and came straightaway

here.”

 

“I thought—with the weather being so bad

that I wouldn’t see you today.”

 

“Hannah, you will soon learn that I am a

man of my word.  I promised that I would

visit you and here I am.  Besides, I have been

thinking of little else.   Come, let us go

and sit by the fire.  Your hands are cold.”

 

She glanced back at the falling snow.  A

smile touched her lips.  She no longer

felt resentment toward it but was thankful.

It meant that Rupert was going to be here

for a while.  Yes, it was to be an extended

visit after all.

 

Victorian woman looking out window

Source:  Military Heritage

God’s Plans

Your eyes saw my body.  In your book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there were none of them – Psalm 139:16
 

Your Creator saw you
Before you were born
And planned your days
Even before they existed.

He who fashioned you
In His own image
Wrote down every plan
He had for your life in
His book.

His plans are for your good
And not for your harm
Plans for your peace and
a future with hope.

He has your life in His hands.
And He will protect you all
your days.

 

Baby girl