Clearing the Fog

It was foggy. She stood there, frustrated with herself. She had no idea where she was. She must have taken a wrong turn somewhere back there because she thought she was heading back to the house but it seemed to be eluding her. The fog was so dense, she couldn’t see much around her. Alone and getting lost in a thick blanket of fog was not her idea of how to spend a pleasant Sunday morning. What was she going to do? Well, there wasn’t much she could do except wait until the fog dissipated. How long that would take, she had no clue. It seemed so strange to see such thick fog in the middle of summer. This is England, she reminded herself. Anything is possible when it came to the weather. Sighing, she leaned against the tree and waited.

 

Earlier this morning when she had looked out of the window there wasn’t any sign of fog or she wouldn’t have ventured outside. Instead, she would have slept in a little longer or gone to the library to read one of those interesting books she found there. Everything about Pemberton Place was interesting. This was her second week at the magnificent, Gothic mansion rising above the beautiful, sprawling grounds that seemed to stretch for miles and miles. She was here at her friend’s invitation.

 

Maggie grew up and lived here most of her life before she moved to London where she attended university. It was at university that they met and became fast friends. She usually spent the summer in London with family but this time Maggie insisted that she accompany her to Pemberton. Excited and nervous at the same time, she agreed to go. It was a nice change to spend the summer with her friend and her family.

 

Pemberton was everything she had imagined and more. Maggie had told her so much about it that she felt as if she knew the place. It was massive and it reminded her of somewhere like Pemberley, Thorncliff or Manderly. She couldn’t imagine living there–it struck her more as a tourist attraction than a private home. And there were lots of servants. She didn’t know how Maggie could remember all of their names. And so many rooms. One could easily get lost. And she did a couple of times.

 

She smiled as she remembered going into the library when she had meant to go to the drawing-room. Instead of facing a huge fireplace with crackling fire licking the logs she faced an enormous bookcase filled with books. Forgetting her dilemma at the moment, she walked over to the shelves of books, her eyes traveling over the thick volumes, textbooks, Encyclopedias and literature. Her eyes spotted a collection of writings by Jane Austen. She was about to pull it out when she became aware that someone else was in the room. She turned.

 

It was Rupert, Maggie’s brother. She had heard a lot about him but nothing prepared her for their first meeting.

 

First of all, he didn’t look too pleased to see her there in the library. She had been about to go over to him, extend her hand in greeting but the scowl on his face kept her immobile. “I don’t believe I know you,” he said, quickly closing the distance between them. He stopped a short distance from her, his green eyes searching her face, his expression quizzical.

 

For a moment she was distracted by his looks. Tall, swarthy, raven dark hair with a few strands falling across his forehead. He was incredibly handsome. He was dressed casually in a white shirt and grey slacks. “I’m Darcy, Maggie’s friend from university.” She held out her hand and it was clasped in a firm grip. “It’s good to meet you, Rupert. Maggie has told me so much about you.”
He released her hand but his eyes stayed on her face. “She did mention that she was bringing a friend to spend the summer holidays here at Pemberton.”
She glanced around the room. “You have a very fine library here,” she commented. “I was on my way to the drawing-room but ended up here instead. I’m glad I did. I was looking at the books when you came in. I saw several that I would like to read. I hope you don’t mind me being here.”
He turned away then. “You are free to come in here whenever you want,” he said. “However, this is the time when I usually come here to catch up on my reading and I like to be alone. To get to the drawing-room, just turn right and it’s at the end of the hallway.” He went over to one of the book shelves and took down a large book and walking over to the armchair, he sat down. He opened the book, signalling that their conversation was over. She turned and walked out of the room, thinking to herself that he and Maggie were as different as night and day.
That was several weeks ago. Since then, they hadn’t interacted much and when they did it seemed stilted.   She remembered one afternoon on the grounds when she was taking photos.   As she stood among the shrubs,  Maggie took a photo of her friend.   When they walking back to the house, they ran into Rupert who was on his way out.   Maggie showed him the photo she had just taken of Darcy.   “Lovely photo, isn’t it?” she remarked.   Darcy was wearing the pale green lace top and a navy blue capri.

 

He looked at it and then he looked at Darcy.   “Yes, it is.”  He agreed.  He gave the camera back to Maggie and abruptly excused himself.  Darcy felt embarrassed about the whole thing.  It was obvious that Maggie was trying to set her up with her brother but it was obvious to Darcy that he wasn’t interested.   It seemed like his admission that she looked lovely in the photo was rather forced.

 

“I don’t think your brother likes me,” she remarked to Maggie one day when they were strolling in the garden.

 

Maggie looked at her, surprised. “Really?” she exclaimed. “I rather thought he did. Why do you think otherwise?”
She was sorry she mentioned it. Shrugging, she said, “It’s just the feeling I get. I could be wrong.”

She changed the topic. And no more was said about it.  She hoped that Maggie wouldn’t say anything to Rupert.   She had tried not to let his animosity toward her get the better of her but it really bothered her. Why didn’t he like her? What had she done to make him resent her so? Even now as she thought about it, sadness filled her.
As a Christian, she always tried to get along with people, no matter how difficult. It wasn’t always possible. Yet, it never troubled her as much as this did. If she were honest with herself, she would admit that the thought of Rupert not liking her crushed her because she liked him. She liked him very much–in fact, she loved him. Unrequited love. She never imagined it would happen to her.

 

The sound of a twig snapping startled her and she turned in the direction of the sound. The fog was clearing and she saw Rupert approaching her. She moved away from the tree and turned to face him. In a few quick strides he was standing in front her. His face was flushed and his eyes stormy as they searched her face. “You have been gone so long that you have everyone in the house worried about you,” he informed her in a cold, clipped voice. “Maggie begged me to come and look for you. Why didn’t you come back to the house once you saw how foggy it was?”

 

With him standing so close, it was hard to concentrate. She took a step back. “It wasn’t that bad when I came outside and I thought it would clear up,” she said. “I walked to stretch my legs. I went farther than I planned to and I got lost. I decided that I would wait here until the fog cleared up. I’m sorry you had to come and look for me.”

 

He ran his fingers through his hair. “Well, I’m relieved that you are all right,” he conceded, somewhat reluctantly. “Shall we go back to the house now? I’m tired. I was in bed when Maggie came and asked me to come and look for you.” He turned away.
“Why don’t you like me?” she had to know. It was eating her up inside.
That stopped him in his tracks and he swung back to face her. “You think I don’t like you?” he looked incredulous.
“Yes. You are cold towards me and you barely say anything to me or acknowledge me when we are in the same room.”
He was staring at her now, his expression one she had never seen before. “You have no idea,” he muttered. “Do you know that I didn’t enjoy the London Symphony Orchestra last night because I couldn’t stop thinking about you? You filled my mind. Driving back here from London was worst. I had the radio on but I didn’t hear it. Thoughts of you drown out the music. When I got in it was late and even then, I couldn’t sleep because it was hot and muggy. I went for a walk and when I got back it was after one. It took a while to fall asleep.  So, I’m tired now because of lack of sleep and from fighting my feelings for you.”

 

She stared at him, aghast. “You have feelings for me?” She felt as if this were a strange dream and that at any minute she would wake up and find herself either in bed or in the library in one chairs where she had fallen asleep over a book she was reading. Rupert couldn’t be here, standing in front of her and telling her that he had feelings for her.

 

He moved closer to where she was standing. “Darcy, I have been pushing you away and avoiding you because of the feelings you stirred in me. Feelings I have never experienced before and that scared me. I didn’t want to deal with them or with you. Coming out here just now and finding you when I was worried that you had somehow wandered off the grounds and gotten lost, brought those feelings to the surface. I wanted to take you in my arms and hold you tightly, because I was relieved to find you here still on the premises.”

 

Her heart thudding, she moved closer. “I can do with a hug,” she said.
In a matter of seconds he had closed the distance between them and she was wrapped in a tight embrace. “I’ve been such a fool,” he murmured. “Can you ever forgive me?”
“Yes, Rupert, yes.” She closed her eyes, basking in his embrace and thankful that she had been wrong about his feelings for her.
He drew back and their eyes locked for a moment before he lowered his head and kissed her.
“Let’s go back before they send a search party out for us,” he suggested softly when he drew back moments later.
She nodded and smiled when he reached out and took her hand, his fingers closing around hers.  They walked back to the house, the fog had lifted. Everything was clear now.

Black woman standing among trees smiling

 

Eleanor Roosevelt

Earlier this month when I was reading about African American women who made a difference so that I could feature them in the special issue of Notes to Women newsletter, one name kept popping up–Eleanor Roosevelt.  I promised myself that I would do a little writeup on her.  And here we are.

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world” (http://www.udhr.org/history/biographies/bioer.htm).

She basically believed that charity begins at home.  And she reminds me of something a friend once said to me.  “The difficulty in following Jesus’ command is that we often pick and choose who we decide is our neighbour. We see our neighbour as the starving, AIDS infected person in the Third World or the orphan in a war torn country, needing our love and care but often perceive the homeless in our community as undeserving of our love.”

Eleanor’s childhood was a dreadfully unhappy one.  Her father was an alcoholic who was disowned by his family. Her mother, renowned for her beauty, was distant from her daughter whom she nicknamed “Granny” because she seemed to her old-fashioned. After Anna Roosevelt died of diphtheria in 1892, Eleanor, age eight, was raised by her maternal grandmother. She rarely saw her father thereafter, and he died of drink in 1894 when she was ten. These traumatic experiences affected Eleanor for life and she would harbor a constant yearning for unconditional love (http://www.lkwdpl.org/wihohio/roos-elex.htm). 

Life didn’t improve much when when Eleanor married Franklin, a distant cousin and they had six children.  Eleanor had to deal with her overbearing mother-in-law who apparently told her grandchildren that their mother only bore them.  She tried to control Eleanor, making her daughter-in-law feel utterly dependent.  

Then Eleanor found out that Franklin was having an affair with Lucy Mercer, her secretary.  She offered him a divorce, but he declined for the sake of his political career and because his mother threatened to disinherit him if he did.  He and Eleanor never shared a bedroom after that, but their working relationship was respectful, for the time (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FranklinDRoosevelt).

Eleanor Roosevelt was the first First Lady to be more politically active, involving herself in causes like Civil Rights.  Perhaps it was because there was lack of charity in her own home that made Eleanor want to reach out to her community.   From early adulthood Eleanor Roosevelt dedicated herself to liberty, justice, and compassion for all.

Racial injustice came to her attention only after she reached the White House.   By that time, she was already active in promoting other groups’ causes. Before she married Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1905, she worked with the immigrants at the Rivington Street Settlement House. During World War I she helped improve conditions for US servicemen.When Franklin fell ill, leaving him crippled, she once again found herself standing up for someone whose value to society was doubted, this time her own husband. The 1921 experience deepened her concern for society’s unaccepted. Later the same decade she began her work promoting women’s causes. Women had just gained the right to vote, and Eleanor encouraged them to make the most of that right and run for office. 

After leaving the White House, Mrs. Roosevelt found herself more free than ever to promote equal rights for African Americans. During her final years she continued fighting as hard and fearlessly as ever. On at least one occassion, the Secret Service warned her not to keep a speaking engagement on civil disobedience. The Ku Klux Klan had put a price on her head and the Secret Service said they could not guarantee her safety. Undeterred, she traveled with another lady and her revolver. Such was her determination, independence, and courage right up to the year she died.

Mrs. Roosevelt was not always successful, even despairing at times of making any progress at all. And not every one of the causes she championed, such as the United Nations, turned out to be all that she hoped. But she used every ounce of her influence, charisma, and political capital for the causes in which she believed. Right or wrong, she fought zealously and courageously, and in most cases the world is a better place because of those fights. This zealous First Lady’s support moved African Americans’ cause ahead by decades
 (http://www.blackhistoryreview.com/biography/ERoosevelt.php).

Eleanor Roosevelt came a long way from being an unhappy child and dependent woman to becoming a champion for women’s and civil rights.  She was committed to what she believed in.  

Be inspired by this remarkable woman who endured so much but in the end gave so much because she cared about the rights of others. 

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one

Eleanor Roosevelt