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

Memories

She sat on the beach, watching

the sun set over the sea.  This

was her favorite spot.  She came

here every Father’s Day since her

Dad died six years ago.

 

She missed him terribly.

A heart attack had claimed

his life and robbed her of

the joy of having him give

her away at her wedding.

And it robbed his grandson

of knowing the most

amazing man in the world.

 

She smiled as she remembered

the times when she was a little

girl and he used to bring her

to the beach.  They would sit

facing the sea and he would

tell her all sorts of exciting

stories about pirates and their

adventures at sea.  Her

imagination would run

wild and she wished she

could be out at sea on those

ships with him.

 

For her twelfth birthday

he bought her a ship in a

bottle.  Every night before

she went to bed, she held it

in her hands as if it were the

most precious thing she had

ever seen.  It was because

it was from her Dad.

 

She still had that bottle

and whenever she saw it

she remembered her Dad

and his stories of the sea.

One day she would tell

her son about his grandfather

and bring him to this beach

which held so many wonderful

memories for her.

 

sunset (1)

Shackles

As she read the two volume autobiography of Olaudah Equiano, she was reminded of how fortunate she was.  She was a black, educated woman who was able to go to the university of her choice and become what she had always dreamed of.   She and her parents left the West Indies for a better life in America.

 

Her world was so different from Olaudah’s.  He had been kidnapped from his home in the West Indies and taken to Virginia where he was bought by a sea captain, Michael Henry  Pascal, with whom he traveled widely.  Olaudah received some education before he bought his freedom in 1766.  He became an abolitionist, speaking out against the cruelty of British slave owners in Jamaica.

 

Slavery is something she was never going to experience, but she knew what it was like to be treated differently because of the colour of her skin.  She learned that being educated, living in a stylish condo and driving an expensive car didn’t matter to those who didn’t see past her colour.  She still had to deal with being watched or ignored or followed when in certain stores or co-workers looking away as she passed them.

 

Yes, she had her own issues to deal with but they paled in comparison to Olaudah who suffered cruelty and indignity at the hands of those who wanted to keep him and the other slaves in emotional and intellectual shackles.  She was grateful to Olaudah for writing about the horrors of slavery.  It made her more determined to work harder and achieve more.  It was what drove her to pursue her Masters.  Like Olaudah, there were times when she questioned her faith but she has since learned that it is during those tough, challenging times that God has proven that she has the mettle to overcome them.

 

Yes, she had come a long way with God’s help but there was still a long way to go. Little by little she was going to break free from the racist mentalities that would like to keep blacks shackled to the painful past of slavery.

 

“After all, what makes any event important, unless by its observation we become better and wiser, and learn ‘to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God?'” – Olaudah Equiano

 

Cartoon image of woman reading book

 

Sources:  WikipediaBritannica; Daily Kos