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 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 grow 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 Refusal

“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,

upstanding gentleman.”

 

“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?”

“James Fenmore.”

 

“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.

 

Young Victorian girl walking away from mother

The Match Maker

Christina was sitting on the porch, enjoying a late spring

afternoon when Logan joined her.

 

“So how is Pemberton’s self appointed matchmaker?”

 

“Don’t you have anything else to do beside annoy me?”

 

He leaned against the door frame, his eyes intent on her.

“Whose life have you decided to meddle with this time?”

 

She glared at him.  “I don’t meddle,” she retorted crossly.  “I bring

people together.”

 

“Oh yes, you are Pemberton’s self-appointed matchmaker.”

 

“I have had great success in this venture.  Why just recently

I had the pleasure of seeing my dear friend Lucinda marry

Robert McKinley.  From the moment I saw him, I knew that he

would be a perfect match for her.  I have had other such

victories.  You cannot deny that I am good at this.”

 

“And you have never suffered defeat?” He sounded incredulous.

 

“Well,” she admitted grudgingly, “There was the matter of Olivia

and Miles.”  She blushed as she remembered how Miles had

mistaken her solicitude toward him as romantic interest and how

angry he had become when she had intimated that she wanted

to secure him for her friend, Olivia.  He was insulted, claiming

that Olivia was a nobody and unequal to him in every way.  Then,

he had stormed out of the library never to be seen again.  Poor

Olivia.  It had taken a long time for her to get over the heartbreak.

 

“I must be the only unattached gentleman you have not tried to

find a match for,” Logan remarked, startling her.   “Why is that?”

 

“You exaggerate,” she chided him.  “There are several unattached

men and women whom I have not sought to find matches for.”

 

“I’m curious.  Why haven’t you planned a match for me?”

 

She lowered her eyes, afraid that they might betray her

feelings.  “Do you want me to?” she asked.  She hoped he was

teasing her.  He had a habit of doing so.

 

“As a matter of fact I do,” he announced.  “There is a particular

lady I would like to become better acquainted with.”

 

Christina swallowed hard.  “Do I know her?”

 

“Yes.  You know her extremely well.”

 

Who could it be?  The thought of him caring for another

devastated her.  She couldn’t hide her agitation now.

“I’m afraid I can’t help you,” she said, avoiding his eyes and

getting up suddenly, she moved away and stood with her back to him.

 

She heard him come up behind her and then felt his hands on her

shoulders, turning her around to face him.  She couldn’t

look at him so she concentrated on the front of his shirt.

“Christina,” he whispered.  “Don’t you know by now that I’m in love

with you?  You have been so caught up in trying to find love for others

that you failed to see the love that has always been yours.”

 

She looked up at him, her heart pounding wildly as she met

his gaze.  “I have been in love with you since the first time we

met,” she confessed, hardly able to believe that this was really

happening.  “I never dreamed of finding a match for you because

I had hoped that you would feel the same way about me.”

 

“I would not have allowed you to meddle in my life.  As you

can see I am quite capable of finding love on my own.”

 

“My match-making days are over,” Christina promised him.

 

He smiled and taking her arm, he escorted her back to her

seat and they spent the rest of the afternoon most agreeably.

 

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Sources: WikipediaVictorian Trading Co

 

The Ball

A picture of total calm, she sat there,

watching the people enter the ballroom.

She had the advantage of facing the

entrance.  Demure in her new white

dress, her black hair swept back from

with several curls framing her face,

she received admiring glances from

the gentlemen but she was oblivious.

Her eyes intermittingly taking pause

to regard the beautiful dresses, would turn

irresistibly toward the entrance, looking for

the appearance of a particular gentleman.

 

Philip Moore was one of the most eligible

bachelors in London.  She and he first met

at a dinner party.  He sat beside her which

made her very nervous.  He did most of the

talking because she was so shy and in-

accustomed to socializing with such an

arresting gentleman.

 

After the dinner the men remained in the dining-

room where they were served coffee while the

ladies went to the drawing-room.   She saw him

when he came to bid the ladies goodnight.

His eyes seem to linger on her face as he bowed

“Good night, Miss Parker.”

 

“Good night, Mr. Moore.”

 

That night she lay awake for a long while, thinking

about him.  They saw each other at several other

functions and he would speak to her, getting her

to open up, overcome her shyness.

 

Tonight she was going to see him.  She appeared

composed on the outside but there were butterflies in

her stomach.  Her heart lurched when he suddenly materialized.

Eagerly, she sat forward in her seat, watching as he exchanged

civilities with the host and hostess.  But, then the smile on her face

faded when she saw that he was not alone.

 

Her gaze shifted to the young lady standing beside him.  She was

tall and slender.  Her auburn hair was pulled in a bow and cascaded

in curls at her nape.

 

Amy watched her, wondering how she was when

she saw she look in her direction.  With a start,

she realized that they were heading her way.  Heart

thudding, nerves rattled, she didn’t know what to

do.  She wanted to get up and run out of there but

her legs seemed to freeze up on her.

 

“Miss Parker,” Philip greeted her, his eyes riveted on

her face.  “As soon as I saw you, I had to bring Georgiana

over to meet you.”

 

Georgiana smiled at her.  “Hello Miss Parker,” She said,

extending a gloved hand to Amy.  “It’s nice to meet you.

My brother has told me so much about you.”

 

Amy looked at her.  “Your brother?”

 

“Yes, Philip is my older and dear brother.”

 

Feeling tremendously relieved, Amy stood up and

took the extended hand.  “It’s a pleasure to meet

you, Miss Moore.”

 

“You must come and have tea with me one

afternoon,” Georgiana said.  “Philip, I will leave

you with Miss Parker while I go and say hello

to a dear friend.  Excuse me.”

 

Once they were alone, Philip turned to Amy.

“You look very beautiful tonight, Miss Parker,” he

said, his gaze steady and holding hers, making her

blush.

 

“Thank you.”

 

“Shall I have the pleasure of dancing with you this evening?”

 

“Yes.”  If I had my way, I would reserve every dance for you.

 

“Come, let us join the festivities.”  He held out his arm and

smiling happily, she took it and allowed him to escort her

to the ballroom.

 

young Victorian woman in whitejpg

Sources:  Angelpig; Geri Walton; British Baby Names; Victoriana Magazine

Mr. Thornber

“Mr. Thornber,” his name spilled involuntarily from her lips.

“What the blazes are you doing in here, Miss Roth?” demanded the gentleman.  “You should be outside taking  a turn in the garden.  It is a very pleasant afternoon.”  In a few strides he closed the distance between them.  He stopped abruptly beside her, facing the fire, removing his gloves and warming his enormous hands which seemed to fascinate her at the moment as she replied to his inquiry.

“I was out in the garden earlier , Sir.  And yes, it is a very pleasant afternoon.  I was rather reluctant to come back inside but my duties to my pupil demanded that I do so.”

He turned to look at her and she met his stare, wondering if he had any idea of how delighted she was to see him.  The days he had been away had dragged.  The house seemed so empty and boring without his presence.   She had no idea that he would return today.  She hadn’t heard a carriage arrive and perceived that he had probably come by way of his horse.  She had seen him once on the black steed and thought what a fine figure he made…

“What have you been up to while I was away?” his inquiry jolted her back to the present moment.  She could feel her face grow red and hoped that he would attribute it to the fire.  She moved away from the fireplace and went back to the chair she had vacated before he came in.  She sank thankfully down into the soft cushions.  She hoped he did not think her rude from walking away like that.  As he crossed the room to where she was, she saw nothing in his countenance to indicate that he did.

He promptly took a seat in the chair nearby, his arm resting casually on the book on the table beside him, his head turned slightly to the right so he could look at her.

With her hands clasped in her lap as she returned his gaze, she replied, “Nothing outside of the ordinary.  When I am not teaching, or outdoors, I spend most of my time here reading.”

“What sort of books do you like to read?”

“Fiction, mostly but I like History and Philosophy__”

“Philosophy?” He looked surprised.  “Why should you like Philosophy?”

“Sir, do you wonder that I should like Philosophy because of my gender?”

“My surprise in your choice of discipline has nothing to do with your gender, Miss Roth.  You just don’t seem like the philosophical type.”

“I beg to differ, Sir.  Philosophy is an activity that I like to engage in.  I like to question assumptions, beliefs and current presuppositions.”

He looked intrigued.  “I suppose you are familiar with Plato, then?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Tell me, Miss Roth, do you agree with his claim that ‘until philosophers are kings, or kings have the spirit of philosophy, cities will never have rest from their troubles’?

Before she could answer, he got up from his seat.  “I should be very interested in hearing your answer.  After you have had your dinner this evening, I should like for you to join me in here.”

Did she detect a tender expression on his face?  Before she could be certain, he was gone as quickly and suddenly as he had arrived.

Sighing, she reached for her book but didn’t open it for several minutes.  Her mind preoccupied with their conversation and his question about Plato.  She would have to think about it.  She looked at the clock.  Three hours before dinner.  She longed for the time to advance quickly so that she could enjoy his company once again.

 

Photo:  British (English) School; Portrait of a Gentleman; Royal Albert Memorial Museum; Sources:  Art UK ; CUNY Education; American Art