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 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