Horatio Clarke/Stone #writephoto

stone

Photo courtesy of Sue Vincent

Cora walked along the path, the new bonnet in her hand.  While the family was entertaining the vicar and his family, she opted to venture out here.  Her face was turned up to the sky, her flushed cheeks becoming.  She wanted to loosened her raven dark so that it tumbled down her back but that won’t do for a young lady.  Sometimes she envied her little sister, Della who could wear her thick auburn hair down.

She hitched up her skirt and ran the rest of the way, leaning against the stone when she reached the top.  What a glorious day, she thought spreading her arms wide like a bird.  Up here she felt free–free from convention.  She disliked sitting in the parlor, drinking tea and listening to boring conversations.  Most of the time, her body was there but her mind was here.

Besides, she was tired of being asked the same insidious questions.  “Are there no young men who have won your affections?” or “What about Henry Taylor?  He’s a very amiable young man with a very handsome fortune.  You wouldn’t want of anything, my Dear.”

No, none of the men in Yorkshire had so much as stirred any interest much less won her affections and as amiable as he may be, Henry Taylor didn’t tickle her fancy at all.  Why couldn’t they be satisfied that her elder sister, Edith had formed an attachment to the very handsome and very agreeable Mr. Fairfax?  It was only a matter of time before an engagement would be announced.  She liked Bernard very well.  He would be an excellent brother to her and Della.

She was so preoccupied with her thoughts that she didn’t notice him until he was almost upon her.  It was a man riding very gallantly on a beautiful white steed.  He looked stark against the animal because he was dressed completely in black.  Even his hair was black and the black cloak billowing behind him, reminded her of Count Dracula.

He dug his spurs into the horse’s sides and he came to a halt.  In one fluid and quick movement, he dismounted the animal and stood, over six feet tall, a few feet away from her.  He was very handsome.  His hair, thick and unruly, was blacker than hers.  Light brown eyes framed by enviably long dark lashes met her hazel gaze.

“Good afternoon,” he greeted her.  “I hope I’m not intruding.”

She shook her head.  “No, Sir, you’re not.”

“I like to ride up here,” he said.  “It’s very quiet and pleasant.  Do you come here often?”

“No, not often.”

“From whence did you come?”

“Fairhead’s Gate.”

“Fairhead’s Gate?” His black brows arched.  “Are you by any chance acquainted with Miss Edith Phillips?”

“She’s my older sister.”

“Then you must be Cora,” he said.  “Oh, permit me to introduce myself.  I’m Horatio Clarke.”

She stared blankly at him.  When he’d said, Horatio, she half expected him to add the name, “Hornblower.”

He looked amused.  “I see that Bernard has neglected to tell you about his roguish cousin.”

Her eyes widened.  “You’re Bernard’s cousin?” she exclaimed.  “But you look nothing like him.  He’s fair haired and ruddy and you’re–”

“Dark and rakish looking it.  I sometimes believe I have a little gypsy blood in me.”  His lips parted to reveal even white teeth.  He was quiet charming and disarming too.

Well, what ever he had pumping in his veins, he was unlike any man she had ever met.  He got her pulse racing and her heart pounding with excitement.  He was older than the men she knew too.  She guessed that he was five and thirty–fifteen years her senior.  Surely a man such as he could not still be unattached.  Whoever she was, she was very fortunate and she envied her.

She realized she was staring and she looked away, her face turning crimson.  “Perhaps, I should leave now,” she said.

“What?  You want to take leave of me so soon?” he inquired.

“It looks like it shall rain,” she said.

He gazed up at the sky.  “Yes, it does,” he agreed.  “Very well, Miss Phillips, I shall take you home.”

She looked at him in dismay.  “No, please, I don’t mind walking–”

“I insist,” he said.  “It would be rather remiss of me to let a lady get caught in the rain when I could have easily borne her to her abode.”

“Very well,” she said, realizing that it was pointless to protest any further and thought it rather kind of him to offer her a ride home.  She put on her bonnet and her heart lurched when he put his hands on her waist and hoisted her up onto the horse.  He climbed up and off they went.  This time his cloak didn’t stream behind him.  She clung to him for dear life, her eyes squeezed shut.  She had never ridden on a horse before.  It was terrifying.

She was relieved when they reached her family’s residence.  He got down and then helped her off.  Her legs felt wobbly.  He didn’t remove his hands from her waist until he was satisfied that she had regained her balance.  “Now, Miss Phillips, I shall bid you farewell but not before I ask your permission to call upon you tomorrow evening.”

It was hard to think sensibly when he was standing so close to her.  “Call upon me?” she repeated.  “But what about your young lady?”

His brows arched quizzically.  “My young lady?”

“Do you not have a young lady, Sir?”

He shook his head.  “No, Miss Phillips, I do not have a young lady.  Like you, I am unattached.”

She smiled for the first time since they met.  “Then, you may call upon me tomorrow evening, Mr. Clarke.”

He smiled and bowed.  “Tomorrow evening, then.  Good afternoon.”

She curtsied.  “Good afternoon.”

He swung up onto the horse and galloped off.

She watched him until he disappeared from view and then she walked slowly up the path to her house, just as the first drops of rain began to fall.  Oh, dear, she thought.  Mr. Clarke shall get soaked.

This is a response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Stone at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Advertisements

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 Declaration

Friends since they were children,

Eliza never once imagined that

their relationship would blossom

into a romantic one.  Franklin

was so handsome and he had

his pick of very beautiful and

accomplished young women.

 

Eliza had always dreaded the

day when he would marry.

Her feelings for him had

changed when she turned

sixteen.  It was hard being

around him and pretending

that he was like a brother to

her.  It was even harder seeing

him with other girls.

 

When she and Franklin went

for their walks, always accompanied by

a relative, she would ask him

questions about a particular girl

to gage his feelings but he always

changed the subject.  She thought

perhaps he had developed an

attachment to the girl but

didn’t want to say anything until

he was sure that his affection

was reciprocated.

 

Then the moment she always dreaded

came.  They were sitting in their favorite

spot under her aunt’s supervision.  It was

a beautiful, sunny day.  Eliza breathed in the air,

smiling as the sun hit her face.  She held a rose in

her hand which Franklin had picked for her.

That was very sweet of him, she thought.

He was always doing thoughtful things.

How she adored him.  Sighing, she turned

to her friend who was watching her.

 

There was curious expression on his face

and she grew concerned.  “Is something the

matter?” she asked.

 

“Over the years I have developed feelings

for someone close to me and I haven’t had

the courage to tell her.  I am not sure of how

she feels about me.  What do you think I should

do?”

 

Eliza blinked, trying hard not to show the pain

that had gripped her heart.  She quickly turned

her head away from him so that he could not

see the tears in her eyes.  She blinked them back.

The last thing she wanted was to break down in

front of him.  He must never know how she felt

about him.  Never.  “I-I think you should tell her,”

she said quietly.  “You won’t know her feelings

unless you declare yours.”

 

There was a moment’s silence and then she

felt Franklin reach for her hand and his

fingers closed round hers.  His hand felt so

warm and strong.  She wanted to pull her hand

away, get up and run from there.  She wanted to

go to her room and lock herself in and cry until

she couldn’t cry anymore.

 

“Eliza, you and I have been friends since child-

hood.  The happiest moments of my life have

been with you.  I can’t imagine being with

anyone else.  Eliza, I love you.”

 

Her head spun round, her eyes wide with

shock.  “What?” she exclaimed.

 

“You’re crying,” he said, brushing the tears

from her cheeks.

 

“You love me?” She couldn’t believe it.

 

“Yes.  I have loved you for a long time

now but dared not declare my feelings

because I didn’t want to run the risk of

ruining our friendship.  You never showed

particular favour to any of the young men

so I hoped that perhaps you might be

more inclined to develop a romantic interest

in a man whom you consider to be your friend.”

 

Eliza beamed through her tears, her heart

bursting with joy.  “Oh Franklin,” she cried.  “I

love you.  I loved you since I was sixteen.  I wanted

so much to tell you but was afraid that you won’t

be pleased.”

 

His eyes were tender as they searched her face.  “Oh

my dear Eliza,” he murmured.  ” We would have

spared each other undue anguish if we had

declared our love before.  Well, the matter has been

resolved.  We love each other and it means now that

I can ask you to marry me without fear of rejection.”

He got down on his knee, his eyes held hers and both

of his hands held hers.  “Eliza, will you do me the honor

of becoming my wife?”

 

Eliza nodded, the tears falling.  “Yes,” she sobbed.

“Oh, Franklin.”

 

He smiled and stood up.  He pulled her to her feet.

“Now, I will go and ask your father for his permission.”

 

“I don’t suspect that you will meet with any resistance,”

Eliza told him.  “My father is rather fond of you.”

 

They walked back to Eliza’s house where Franklin was

warmly received.  Her aunt followed them, dabbing

at her eyes and smiling broadly.

 

the-lovers-by-william-powell-frith-18551

Sources:  Angelpig.net; Victorian Era