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.”

 

 

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

The Visit

She stood at the window watching

the snow fall in thick white sheets

on the streets below.  It had been

like this all morning.   What was

it going to end?

 

All night she had looked forward

to seeing Rupert.  When they had

last seen each other which was a

fortnight ago, he had promised to

visit her today.

 

When she woke up this morning

all cheerful, she was appalled at

the wintry scene outside her bedroom

window.  The snow fell relentlessly

with no promise of that it will taper

off any time soon.

 

Skipping breakfast, she came straight into

the library to occupy herself with a book

but it was no use.  She couldn’t concentrate

on anything.  She got up from the armchair

by the fire and walked over to the window.

She drew aside the curtain and watched

the snow which she now regarded as her

enemy.   It blanketed everything in its path.

The streets were deserted.  No one

dared to venture out in such blizzard-like

weather.  Why, of all days, did it have

to snow today?  There was no reason to

believe that Rupert would even attempt

to brave the weather just to see her.

 

Yet, an irrational part of her hoped

to see a carriage pull up in front

and a tall and slender figure alight.

She remembered how handsome he

looked in his officer coat when she

she first saw him.  It was at the ball

thrown by her Aunt in honor of her

husband, a retired officer.  Her eyes

scarcely left him and she urged her

aunt to introduce them.  Which she

did with relish.

 

Rupert was friendly and gracious and

she was immediately put at ease.

They spent most of the evening talking and

she was fortunate to have a couple of

dances with him.  It vexed her when she

saw him dance with other young women

but always, he returned to her side.

 

It was with deep regret that she bid him

farewell that night but her constitution

brightened considerably when he

promised that he would visit her in a

fortnight.

 

And here she was, watching her hopes

diminish with each falling snowflake.

Even if it were to taper off, the roads

were now impassable.   She might as

well face the inevitable.  She was not

going to see Rupert today.  And she

wasn’t even sure about tomorrow.

 

She turned away in distress.  Just then

the door opened and Rupert stood in

its opening.  I must be dreaming, she

thought.  I want to see him so desperately

that I am conjuring his image now.  Perhaps,

I need to go and lie down.  She felt a bit faint.

Perhaps not having a morsel to eat for

breakfast was taking its toll on her now.

 

As she started forward, the image

moved towards her.  Her eyes widened

in shock.  It was Rupert.  He was there–

but how?  He came forward, smiling and

took her hands in his.  His dark brown eyes

steady on her upturned face.  “I came by

very early this morning,” he explained.

“When the snow was just starting to fall.”

 

She still couldn’t believe that this was

real.  He was here.  “But, no one told me

that you were here.”

 

“When I arrived you were still in bed.  I asked

her aunt not to disturb you.  Your Uncle invited

me to join him in the drawing-room where I

was quite content to bide my time until you

were available.  Your Aunt had been to your

room to check on you but found that you had

vacated it.  On her way to the drawing-room,

she popped her head in the library and saw

you standing at the window.   She came and

informed me.  And, so without further delay,

I quit your Uncle’s company and came straightaway

here.”

 

“I thought—with the weather being so bad

that I wouldn’t see you today.”

 

“Hannah, you will soon learn that I am a

man of my word.  I promised that I would

visit you and here I am.  Besides, I have been

thinking of little else.   Come, let us go

and sit by the fire.  Your hands are cold.”

 

She glanced back at the falling snow.  A

smile touched her lips.  She no longer

felt resentment toward it but was thankful.

It meant that Rupert was going to be here

for a while.  Yes, it was to be an extended

visit after all.

 

Victorian woman looking out window

Source:  Military Heritage