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

Letter From the Suitor

She walked into the library and was startled to find him sitting at her father’s desk, writing what appeared to be a letter.  He rose immediately to his feet when he saw her and bowed.  “Miss Hampton.”

She returned his greeting in the manner of women, her face a little flushed.  She hoped he would think it had to do with her walk.  “Mr. Read.”

He put down the quill pen, folded the sheet of paper, slipped it into an envelope and handed it to her.  “Please do me the honor of reading my letter, Miss Hampton.  I will not take up any more of your time.  I bid you farewell.”  And he was out of the room before she had even said anything.

She went to the window and looked out to see him untether his horse and then mount it.  He was off and she watched until she could see him no longer.   She looked at the envelope with her name written neatly on it, anxious to read the letter enclosed.

“I heard you come back from your walk, Miss Ellen and thought I would bring you some tea and fresh scones.”  Bessie bustled into the room, carrying a tray which she set on the table.  Ellen’s mouth watered as she smelled the freshly baked scones.  She slipped the letter into her pocket.

“Where’s everyone?” Ellen asked.

“Mr. Turner went out on business.  Mrs. Turner, Misses Grace and Mary went to visit Mrs. Blakely.  They all should be back later this afternoon.”

“When I came in a few moments ago, I was surprised to see Mr. Read here.”

“Oh yes, Miss.  He came by to see Mr. Turner.  They were in the library for a while and then Mr. Turner left for his business.  Mr.  Read stayed to finish writing a letter.”

Ellen’s fingers closed over the letter.  “Thank you, Bessie.”  She wanted to be alone to read the letter.  Bessie left, closing the door behind her.

Ellen drew a chair over to the window and sat down.  She took the letter out of her pocket.  Her heart began to pound as she removed it from the envelope and unfolded the note.

My dear Miss Hampton:

I hope that this letter finds you well and that you will not think me impertinent for having penned it.  It is by the counsel of your cousin and my dear friend, Roger Wentworth that I have resorted to writing you this letter in which I hope to express my interest in you which I must confess has been hard for me to communicate in person.  

Nothing but the noblest of sentiment would prompt me to intrude upon the notice of a young lady under such circumstances.  An interest in you has captured my heart and no effort on my part could free it.  I hope that you will have pity on me and receive me as a suitor. 

The purpose of this letter is to ask your permission to pay you friendly visits with the hope that closer ties will develop between us.  I do not request an answer in writing although if you choose to accord me one, I shall be very flattered.  I will do the honor of calling upon you on Friday evening, on which occasion I hope for a very happy outcome.  Yours with much regard,

James Read

Ellen stared at the words on the page, hardly able to believe it.  Mr. Read wanted to be her suitor.  During those times they saw each other, she never imagined that he harbored any interest in her.  He had hidden it remarkably well.

She read and re-read the letter.  Her heart was pounding again.  She got up from the chair and went over to the desk.  She sat down and taking a sheet of paper from the drawer, she took up the quill pen and wrote:

Monday Morning

Mr. Read:

Dear Sir: I read your letter.  Thank you for writing with such candor. I shall be happy to see you on Friday evening and whenever you are pleased to call on me I shall make you feel quite welcome. Truly yours,

Ellen Hampton

She slipped it into an envelope and sealed it.  She slipped out and went to the post.  Mr. Read will have his answer before Friday evening.

 

victorian woman looking out of the window

Sources:  oocitiesSusanna Ives

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