Providence

“Miss Johnson, to what do I owe the pleasure of this unexpected visit?” Lucius Suchet asked, his brown eyes studied her as she stood in the doorway.  “I’m astonished that you remember me considering that you didn’t so much as say a word to me last night.”

She ignored his remarks and marched over to the table where she tossed books, papers and pamphlets willy-nilly on the table.  She was about to turn around and leave when he caught her by the arm.  She tried to tug it away, glaring at him but his grip was too firm.  “Unhand me, Sir,” she ordered him.  “Remember that I am a Lady.”

His expression darkened.  “Yes, and I should remember that I am the son of a vicar,” he muttered.  “Yet, it was I who was invited to sit at the table and have dinner with your family when you were not.”

She blinked.  “I know that the color of my skin is the reason for this arrangement but it by no means suggests that I am not held in the highest regard by my family.  They are merely following convention however prejudicial it may be.  Now, please let go of my arm.  Perhaps Miss Foster might allow you to manhandle her but I won’t.” She tugged at her arm again and he released it.

His eyebrows arched.  “Miss Foster.  Why do you mention her?”

“I observed the two of you last night after dinner.  How she hung on your every word and how you showered her with your attention, no doubt filling her head with foolish notions–”

He laughed.  “My dear Miss Johnson, you are jealous.”  He seemed very pleased at the thought.

His remark and the expression on his face infuriated her.  “I am not jealous,” she retorted.  “To be jealous would imply that I have feelings for you, which I do not.”

He moved closer to her and she backed away, her eyes wary now.  “Look me in the eye and tell me that you don’t have feelings for me and I will pursue the matter no further.”

She glanced frantically at the door, longing to make her escape but he advanced toward her like a tiger while she backed away until she felt the wall behind her.  “Mr. Suchet, if you are indeed a gentleman as you would have me believe, you will permit me to leave right now.  The coach is waiting downstairs for me.  I must return home before my family begins to wonder where I am.”

He was standing very close to her now.  His eyes held hers like a trap holding a helpless bird.  “Tell me now that you don’t have any feelings for me,” he insisted.

Her eyes were wild now, with fear and something else which she hadn’t wanted him to see.  Her breath was quick and laborious and her heart was pounding.  She closed her eyes in defeat.  “I can’t” she admitted.

She felt his warm breath against her cheek.  “I have feelings for you too.  Feelings I have had ever since the first time I saw you.  I tried to fight them because was painfully aware of the difference in our stations but they are too strong.”

“What about Miss Foster?” she asked.  Seeing them together had filled her heart with such jealousy and pain that she had wanted to bolt from the room.  Instead, she had turned her attention to the gentleman who paid her some attention.

“There is nothing between Miss Foster and me, I assure you.  What about you and Mr. Wright.  I saw how receptive you were to his attentions.  I was mad with jealousy but propriety kept me in check.”

“It was the wish of my family that I should marry him as he was the only gentleman who would marry a woman of color.  I suspect that his reason for wanting to marry me had more to do with my fortune.”

“Is it your wish to marry him?” he asked anxiously.

She shook her head.  “No.  I turned him down and my family was not at all pleased. They fear that I shall die a spinster as there will be no more prospects of marriage for me.”

“Would you have a problem marrying the son of a vicar?”

“Are you asking me to marry you, Mr. Suchet?”

“Yes.”

“Then, my answer is yes.”  Her family would not approve of this match but she could not bring herself to marry for any other reason but for love.  And she loved Lucius Suchet, a man without fortune but a gentleman, nevertheless.

He swept her up into his arms and swung her around.  Then he bent his head and kissed her.  “I love you, Ivy,” he whispered when he drew back to gaze down into her upturned face.

“And I love you, Lucius.  I almost allowed pride and station to rob me of this happiness.”

“I believe that Providence had a hand to play in this,” he said.  “It is what gave me the courage to press you about your feelings for me.”

“I am thankful, then to Providence,” she said with a smile.  “It brought me to my senses.”

 

 

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The Suitor Calls

It was Friday evening.  Mr. Read

was to call on her.  She felt a prickle

of excitement at the thought of

seeing him again.  The week had

flown by quickly.  It seemed only

a moment ago when she had

surprised him in the library

where he was composing a

note which he gave to her.

 

After reading what it said,

she set about writing a reply

and mailed it that very after-

noon.  She wanted to make

sure he received it before

Friday evening when he

was to stop by.

 

She stood by the window

now eagerly watching for

his arrival.  Her family

were already in the

drawing-room where she

was to receive him.  She

ran her hands nervously

over the bodice of her dress.

Her mother assured her

that she looked “very pretty

indeed” when she came up

to her room to inspect her

a few moments ago.

 

Her heart skipped a beat when

she saw the familiar figure on

the horse coming up the road.

She hurried from her room,

wanting to be in the drawing-

room when he was admitted

to it.

 

By the time she ran down the

stairs and was seated on the

chair facing the door, she was

out of breath.

 

“My Ellen, how lovely you look,”

her mother gushed.  “However,

Dear, you really shouldn’t be

rushing about the place.  Now

you are panting as if you have

been running for miles.  Do try

to compose yourself before Mr.

Read arrives–”

 

Just then Bessie came to the door-

way and announced, “Mr. Read, Sir,”

addressing Ellen’s father.

 

“Mr. Read,” he greeted him jovially.

“How delightful to see you.”

 

“Good evening, Mr. Turner,”

Mr. Read replied as he went

forward and extended his hand

to the older gentleman.   “Thank

you for allowing me the pleasure

of visiting you and your family.”

He bowed to Mrs. Turner and her

two younger daughters before

his eyes shifted to Ellen and

remained there.  “Miss Turner,”

he said softly as he bowed.

 

She lowered her head in

greeting, “Mr. Read.”

 

Their eyes held for a moment

before he sat in the vacant

chair next to hers.   “Mr. Read,

I do hope you will join us for

dinner,” Mrs. Turner said.  “That

is if you have no other plans.”

 

He smiled.  “I have no other

plans, Madam and would be

delighted to join your family

and you for dinner.  Thank you.”

 

“And how are Mr. and Mrs. Read?

 

“They are doing well, thank you.”

For a while the conversation was

between Mr. Read and her mother

and then her father but she hardly

spoke, except to ask her suitor how

he was and if he was enjoying the

balmy weather they were having.

 

Then dinner was announced

and as they filed out of the room,

Mr. Read offered his arm to Ellen

and she took it, her eyes shy as

they met his.  “I hope that you

will do me the honor of going for

a walk with me tomorrow afternoon,”

he said.

 

“I would be delighted,” she said.  “My

sisters will accompany us.”

 

“Very good then.”  And they went

into dinner.

 

 

Victorian woman in blue dress looking out the window