Infatuation

skull

Photo by Sue Vincent

“With all the money this latest book is raking in, we’ll be able to go on an extended holiday in the South of France,” Roz Taylor remarked to Valentijn Liske after he signed the last copy.  He was book signing and having his picture taken with fans at Waterstones Piccadilly.  It had been a busy but very pleasant afternoon.

Valentijn didn’t reply.  He stood up, stretched and donned his jacket.  He was ready to escape to his home in Yorkshire.  After thanking and having a few words with the organizers of the event, he left the bookshop.

“I think this is your best novel, so far,” Roz said when they were in the car.  She glanced down at a copy that was on her lap.   “I can see it being made into a film like the others.  Can you imagine how much money will roll in?  We can use some of it to buy and develop the land which is featured here on the cover.  You’ve always entertained the idea of owning a home in Queensland.”

Valentijn turned to her, “You keep saying ‘we’,” he muttered.

Her head shot up and snapped to the left, her eyes wide as they met his.   “What do you mean?” she asked.  “This book was a collaboration.”

I wrote it,” he informed her coldly.

“Yes, but the idea for the cover was mine.  You wanted to have a dead body with a smoking gun next to it but I suggested that you have a skull lying in a field to add mystery to it.”

“And for that suggestion you think you’re entitled to everything?  You’re beginning to sound like my greedy ex-wife.”

She swallowed hard.  “I thought we were in this together.  I thought I was more than your agent.  I thought we had something…”

“Well, you thought wrong,” he snapped.  “From now it will be strictly business between us.”

“But, why?”

“I’ve grown bored with you, Roz, it’s that simple.”

Color flooded her pale cheeks and her eyes flashed at him.  “It’s that little tart I’ve  seen hanging around you lately, isn’t it?”

“I presume you’re referring to Alina?”

“Yes!  I notice the way she’s been throwing herself at you and you encourage her.”

“She’s full of spirit which I rather like.”

“Have you and she…?”

“Slept together?  No, not as yet.  But I promise you it wouldn’t be long before we do–” He was interrupted by a hard slap across the face.  He rubbed his smarting skin, his gaze narrowing.

“You disgust me,” Roz cried as hot, angry tears spilled down her cheeks.  They were stopped at a traffic light.  “Find yourself another agent.  I’m through with you!”  She tossed the book at him, grabbed her bag and pushed open the door, slamming it hard behind her.

Valentijn watched her go, shrugged and then, tapping the glass partition, he said to the driver, “Turn right at the next intersection.  I’d like to stop by the florist.”

“Very well, Sir.”

Valentijn settled back in his seat, smiling slightly as he looked out of the window.  He could just picture Alina’s face when she saw the lavender gladioli.  Lavender was her favorite color and the gladioli symbolized his infatuation for her, a girl almost half his age.  And the girl who had cost him the best agent he ever had.  He hoped she was worth the trouble.

Infatuation is the most fragile kind of love – C.S. Lewis

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Bone at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

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.

The Meeting

She watched Mr. Falconer as he sat there,

proud upon the magnificent steed, her heart

pounding against her ribs.  Face flushed, she

waited with bated breath to see if he would

even notice that she was there.  It was by no

accident that she was walking through this

part of the forest.  She had come this way,

hoping to accidentally on purpose bump

into him.

 

For the umpteenth time she asked herself why

she was subjecting herself to this rigmarole.

He was far above her station.  As the heir

of Merrymede estate and Yorkshire’s

most eligible bachelor who had a bevy of refined

and amiable women to choose from, she didn’t

stand a chance.  She was a lady’s companion of

Lady Allen.   This was a foolish idea.  She should

turn around right now and return from whence she

came before he spotted her.

 

Resolute, she lifted up her skirt and was about to

turn and sprint through the forest, when he caught

sight of her.  I should have left when I had the

chance, she thought.  She watched now as he

dismounted the horse, led it to a part of the

field where it could gaze before he sauntered

over to where she stood, wishing she could

disappear like a vapor.

 

He looked very handsome in his riding outfit.

his thick black hair glinted like velvet in the

afternoon light and the white shirt contrasted

sharply with his swarthy complexion.  His

steely grey eyes met her large brown ones

as he stood a few breaths away from her.

“Miss Howard,” he said in that deep, cultured

voice of his.  “What an unexpected pleasure.”

 

“Mr. Falconer.”  She curtsied.  Being alone with

him like this was both awkward and nerve racking.

Usually, when they saw each other, it was within

society–at some function or other.  The last time it

was at the Grenshaw’s Spring ball and he had on his

arm the beautiful and honorable Miss Emma Jones.

What a handsome couple they made and there were

some whispers of an attachment forming between

them.  She had hoped that there was no veracity to

these speculations.

 

“You are looking very well, Miss Howard.”

 

“Thank you, Mr. Falconer.  I believe that eating

well and exercise does one wonders.”

 

“How is Lady Allen?”

 

“Her constitution is very good as one would

hope after her temporary bout with the flu.”

 

“Miss Howard, I was wondering if you would

tarry a little while longer?”

 

She nodded, surprised at his request.  “Yes, Mr. Falconer.”

“There is a fell tree over there by the clearing,” he said

pointing behind her.  “We can sit there.”

 

She could not help but wonder what her employer

would say if she knew that she was alone in the forest

with Mr. Falconer.  She could almost hear her say, “My

Dear girl, it is not proper for a young lady to be in the

company of a gentleman unchaperoned.”  So, it

would be in her best interest if Lady were to have

no knowledge of this meeting.  And she knew she

could rely upon Mr. Falconer’s discretion.

 

She followed him over to the log and sat down.

He sat beside her.  From where they were, they

could see his horse happily grazing.  “Miss Howard,

how do you like being in the employ of Lady Allen?

 

“I like it very much indeed.  She is very good and

Kind and treats me as if I were her daughter.”

 

“Yes, I have heard the sad account of her own

daughter’s demise at a very young age.  Lord

never recovered and died shortly afterward.

For years, Lady Allen mourned the losses of her

daughter and Lord .  During those dark

Times, my mother called upon her and

slowly drew her back into society.  It was

at my mother’s suggestion that Lady

advertised for a lady’s companion.”

 

“And it was the Vicar who recommended

me for the post and I shall always be

indebted to him.”

 

“Miss Howard, pardon me if my next inquiry

may appear impertinent but necessity compels

me to voice it.”

 

She stared at him, wondering at the urgency

in his demeanor.  “Please make your inquiry

since it is so urgent in nature.”

 

“Do you have any gentlemen callers?”

 

His question startled her and it took a few

minutes for her to reply, “No, I do not.”

 

“Then, do I have your permission to call

upon you tomorrow afternoon?”

 

She stared at him.  He wanted to call upon

her?  But what about Miss Jones?  She hadn’t

realized that she has spoken audibly and was taken

aback when she heard him say, “Miss Jones and I are

merely friends.  Contrary to what you may have

heard, there is no romantic attachment between us.”

 

Joy and relief filled her heart and she couldn’t

Prevent the smile from spreading across her

lips or the sparkle in her eyes which her

companion found very becoming.  “This is

very good news indeed,” she remarked.

 

“Does this mean that you will permit me to

call upon you?”

 

She nodded at once, hardly able to contain

her enthusiasm.  “Yes, Mr. Falconer, you have

my permission to call upon me tomorrow

afternoon.  I shall look forward to seeing you.”

 

He smiled.  “Very well, then, Miss Howard. I

shall be there at three.”

 

The sun was beginning to set.  She put her bonnet

back on her head and stood up.  “I really must

be going now.”

 

“I shall take you back.  You’re not afraid of

Horses, are you?” he asked when he saw her

look over at his steed.

 

Her gaze shifted back to him as he towered over

her.  “No, no,” she assured him.  “I used to ride

when I was a child.  My father taught me.  I love

horses.  They are magnificent and gentle animals.”

 

“Perhaps you and I can go riding sometimes,” he

said as they walked toward the horse.

 

She smiled.  “I would like that very much,” she

said as he helped her onto the horse before he

mounted it and took the reins in his hands.  She

put her arms around his waist as they cantered off.

 

When they got to the manor, he helped her down,

His hands strong and firm on her waist and their

Eyes met for several minutes before he bade her

Goodnight and galloped off.

 

The following afternoon, he called on her.  And

every afternoon after that until one day in the

garden under the watchful eye of a chaperon,

he proposed.  Their announcement caused quite

a stir but the wedding was a beautiful and elaborate

affair attended by his family, Lady Allen and Miss Jones.

 

When they had their first child, Lady Allen held her and

tears rolled down her cheeks when she learned that

she was named Emily after her beloved daughter.

 

99c66108083d8ce9285efd06c1046d9f--victorian-paintings-vintage-paintings - Copy

 

Sources: Geri Walton;  Classroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Retreat

She stood there admiring the bright yellow mixed in with flaming orange and red leaves on the trees as they dotted the green landscape and stood proudly over the still water of the lake, seeming to admire their reflections.  It reminded her of a giant water color painting.  It was so peaceful there.  Coming to this retreat for a week was a blessing.

It was her friend Maura who suggested it.  She and her husband were there last year and absolutely loved it.  She had watched videos on the website, the acres of land with its natural beauty and the promise of refuge and renewal and peace and presence sold her.  And here she was, away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoying quiet time with the Lord and nature.

She got up early and came down here just before sunset.  After she finished praying, she glanced up and saw the sun rise.  It was the first time she had ever seen a sunrise.  For several moments, the sun appeared to be sitting on the water before it rose higher in the sky.  What a breathtaking scene and display of God’s power.  She lingered there for a while longer and then headed back to the lodge to have breakfast.

When she was leaving the dining room, a tall and very handsome man walked in.  He was alone.  He was wearing a blue sweater and jeans.  As she approached him, he turned and looked at her.  Their eyes met and held for several moments.  He smiled at her and she smiled back.  This close she saw that he had beautiful brown eyes.  “Good morning,” he said.

“Good morning,” she replied and then she walked past him and out of the dining-room.  She could feel him watching her.  He really was quite good-looking and seemed very nice.  Then, she chided herself.  You’re here to commune with God. Don’t get distracted.  She went to her room to freshen up and then to the bench facing the stream where she planned to spend the rest of the morning.

This time she took her Bible and a notebook.  The warm sunshine on her face felt good and a sigh of satisfaction, she sat down.    After she finished reading the first two chapters of the Gospel of Mark and taking notes, she set her Bible and notebook aside.  As she sat there, gazing at the lake, her thoughts drifted to the guy she saw in the dining-room.  Who was he?  Was he single?  Was he here alone?

He was the first man she was attracted to since Reuben.  It was strange but when she thought about Reuben, she didn’t feel anything.  He was like a distant memory now.  She could hardly remember what he looked like and when she tried, she saw the other guy’s face instead.  It was five years since Reuben broke up with her.  They had been dating and everyone thought they would have gotten married.  She did too and then, he shocked her by telling her that he was in love with someone else.

It turned out that while they had been dating, he had been giving Bible studies to a woman who lived in his building.  Feelings developed between them and he realized that she was the one he wanted to be with.  She was devastated but with the love and support of her church family, she was able to pick up the pieces and get on with her life.  Reuben transferred to another church and the last she heard of him, he and the woman were married and had two children.  She wished them well.   It was clear to her now that Reuben and she were not right for each other.  He was with the person he was meant to be with and one day, she would be with the person she was meant to be with.

“Do you mind if I join you?” a voice broke into her reverie and she looked around, her heart skipping a beat when she saw that it was the guy from the dining-room.

She shook her head.  “No, not at all.”  She moved her Bible and notebook closer to her, leaving enough room on the bench for him to sit down.  When he lowered his tall frame on to the seat beside her, she caught a whiff of his aftershave.  Her heart was pounding and her pulse was racing.  She realized then that Reuben never had such an effect on her.  Her hands were clasped tightly in her lap to stop them from trembling.  She could feel him watching her and she turned her head.  Their eyes met and held.  She wondered if she looked as nervous as she felt.

He held out his hand, “Brandon Lee.”

She took his hand and felt his firm clasp.  “Esther Richards.”

“Nice to meet you, Esther.  Is this your first time to the retreat?”

“Yes.  A friend of mine was here last year with her husband and she encouraged me to come.   I’m very happy I did.  It’s a beautiful place and it’s nice to get away from the city.  What about you?” She knew she sounded a little breathless but she couldn’t help it.  His closeness had that effect on her.  She couldn’t decide as yet if he was a Godsend or if he was a distraction.  She truly hoped that it was the former.

“I was here once with a group of people from my church.  It is a great place–so much to see and enjoy.  This is actually my favorite spot.  I could sit here for hours.”

“What church do you go to?” she asked.  He told her and she told him the name of her church.  “Are you involved in any ministries?”

“Yes, I am the leader of our Youth Ministry. ”

“I am involved in the Women’s Ministry and I sometimes lead out in our weekly Bible Study group meetings.  For our next Women’s Ministry retreat, I will recommend that we have it here.”

“Are you here alone?”

“Yes.  And you?”  Do you have a girlfriend?

“Yes.”  I hope she doesn’t have a boyfriend.  “Do you have family here?”

“Yes, I have lots of aunts and uncles and cousins here but my parents live in Florida.  They moved there after I graduated from university.   I usually spend Christmas with them.”  I’m glad I didn’t move to Florida too or I wouldn’t have met you.

“No siblings?”  Thank You, God for keeping her here in London or I wouldn’t have met her.

“No, I’m an only child.  What about your family?”

“My parents live in Yorkshire and I visit them on the weekends.  I live in London and my sister and her family live in Manchester.  We spend the Christmas holidays in Yorkshire.  Speaking of Christmas, have you finished your shopping as yet?”

She laughed.  “I haven’t even started.   I have no clue what I will get everyone.”

“I’m done.  My advice to you is to get gift cards.  Once you know what people like, you just get gift cards instead of trying to figure out what they would like.  For my nieces and nephew, though, I don’t mind spending hours browsing toy stores.”

“Gift card?  I never thought of that.  Thanks for the suggestion.”

Talking to him had relaxed her to some degree.  He was easy to talk to.  She enjoyed his company.  They sat there, chatting about other things and then it was time to go for lunch.  They sat next each other at a table and continued talking to each other and some of the people around them.  After lunch, he invited her to go for a walk with him.

From that day on, they spent time together, going for walks, praying, worshipping, studying the Bible and joining in fun activities with other singles such as Finish the Sentence, Bible Pictionary, True or False, Bible Telephone, Bible Hangman, Name Game, Who Am I, Bible Bingo, Bible Scavenger Hunt, Name That Hymn and Bible Scene.  Her favorite was Finish the Sentence and when it was her turn to finish the sentence, I am blessed, she said, “I am blessed because God has shown me favor.” and she looked at Brandon when she said this.  I’m blessed because God has brought us together. 

His answer was, “I am blessed because God has brought new joy into my life.”  His eyes were on her when he said that.

They spent the evenings alone together–talking or going for walks.  On the last evening before they were to leave the retreat and return to London, Brandon stopped and turned to her as they strolled the grounds.  It was beautiful night.  The full moon cast a ghostly light on them and the still water of the lake.  He reached out and took her hands in his.

“Esther, these past few days with you have been the happiest of my life.  I had planned to come to the retreat next week but I felt a very strong impression to come this week and I am thankful that I did because I met you.  I don’t want to say goodbye to you.  I want to continue to see you.  I’m not in a relationship.  Am I safe to assume that you’re not in one either?”

She shook her head.  “I’m not in a relationship,” she confirmed.

“I want to be in a relationship with you, that is if, it’s what you want too.”

“I-I want to be in a relationship with you too.”

“Good.  Tomorrow, we drive back to London together.”  He raised her hands to his lips and kissed them before they continued their stroll.

She raised her head to the starry sky and silently mouthed a prayer of thanks.  Coming to he retreat had changed both of their lives.

 

Sources: Ashburnham Place; Christian Camp Pro

The Orphan

“What’s the matter, Honey?” Ralph Forrester asked six year old Janet as she lay there in bed, crying.  He was there to read to read her a bedtime story as usual and was surprised to find her in her present state.  When he sat down on the bed, she sat up and hugged him.  He gently patted her on the back, trying to soothe her until the sobs subsided.  “Now tell me what’s the matter,” he coaxed when she drew back to look up at him.

“Aunt Agnes called me a Gremlin,” she wailed.  “Gremlins are ugly, horrid creatures.”

“They are also very mischievous,” he told her, relieved that it wasn’t anything serious although to her it was.  “Did you get yourself into trouble again?”

She hung her head.  “Yes,” she admitted reluctantly.  “It was my idea to bathe the dog in the bathtub because he was so dirty.  Matthew helped me to put him in the bath.  While I was washing the dog, he went to get a towel to dry him off and that’s when Aunt Agnes walked in.  She was really mad and that’s when she called me a Gremlin.”

“Honey, she was understandably angry because you were bathing a dirty animal in her nice, clean bathtub.  And you must have made quite a mess.”

“She said that I was a bad influence on Matthew.  What does influence mean?”

“It means you make Matthew do things that he wouldn’t usually do.”

She looked contrite.  “I don’t mean to make Matthew do bad things,” she said, “or to get him into trouble.  He’s my best friend.”

Ralph patted her hand.  “I know.  We never mean to get others in trouble but sometimes we do.  I think it would be best for now if you didn’t visit Matthew at the manor.  He could come here instead.  Beth and I will make sure you don’t get into any mischief.”

“I don’t think Aunt Agnes likes me very much,” she said, surprising him.  “Is it because I’m adopted?”

He stared at her.  “Who told you that you’re adopted?” he asked.

“Aunt Agnes.  She told me that you and Beth adopted me when I was a baby.  What happened to my real parents?”

“They died and you were placed in an orphanage.  Beth and I always wanted to adopt a child from Africa. We chose South Africa because we were there once on a mission trip and loved it.  As soon as our application was approved, we went the orphanage where you were.  We loved you the very first moment we saw you.  I remember you staring up at me with those big, beautiful brown eyes of yours and I promised God and myself that I would take very good care of you.  We named you Janet which means ‘God’s gracious gift’ because you were a gift from God.”

She smiled.  “I’m happy that you and Beth adopted me,” she said, hugging him.  Then, she settled back on the pillows and waited for him to read to her.  When he was done, he kissed her goodnight, switched off the bedside lamp and left the room.

Beth was in the kitchen fixing them a pot of tea when he went downstairs.  He went over to the table and sat down.  Beth turned and looked at him.  “What’s the matter, Honey?” she asked.

He grimaced.  “Agnes told Janet that she’s adopted. What right did she have to do so?”

Beth brought over the two cups of steaming tea and after setting one in front of him, she sat down.  “While I agree that it should have been left to us to tell Janet that she’s adopted, it must be obvious to her by now that she’s different.  You remember the other day when she came home from school, very upset because some children had asked her how she could have white parents when she was black.”

“I wish people would mind their own business,” he muttered crossly.  “Janet doesn’t think that Agnes likes her because she’s adopted.”

“There are very few people whom Agnes likes,” Beth said dryly.  “She didn’t approve of you marrying me.  I was a bad influence on you.  It was on account of me that you gave up your rather cushy job to become a missionary.”

“For as long as I live, I will never regret marrying you, becoming a missionary and adopting Janet.  Agnes has always been a controlling woman but she has never been able to manipulate me, though she tried to.  She objected to my marriage, change in career and decision to adopt but her objections fell on deaf ears.  I’m happy with the life I have made for myself and will not tolerate any interference from her.  She’s my sister not my mother.”

“Sometimes, she acts like she has two sons instead of one.”

“Poor Matthew.  She’s always doting on him.  I pity the girl he ends up marrying.  Unless, Matthew and his bride moved far away from Yorkshire and his mother’s influence, they will never get a moment’s peace.”

“I’m very fond of Matthew.  He’s such a loving and considerate child.  No doubt he takes after his father, God rest his soul.”

“Yes, if I had a son, I would have wanted him to be like Matthew.”

Beth looked at him.  “Do you still regret not having children of you own?” she asked. They had tried to conceive but couldn’t.  It turned out that he had an undescended testicle when he was a baby.  He was devastated because he was looking forward to raising a family with Beth.  Beth had pushed aside her own disappointment and sought only to console him.  Several years went by before they considered adopting and six years ago, they welcomed Janet into their lives.

“Yes, sometimes,” he admitted.  “But I have since realized that things happen for a reason.  If we had been able to have our children, that precious little girl upstairs would not be here.  She has brought so much joy in our lives.  I can’t imagine not having her around.  I thank God every day for her.  She is truly a blessing.”

Tears pricked Beth’s eyes and she reached out and covered his hand with hers.  “Yes, she is.”

Twelve years later, they were gathered in the living-room watching and smiling as Janet blew out the nineteen candles on her cake.  Ralph and Beth watched her.  It was hard to believe that it was same girl they had brought home from the orphanage.  She had grown into a lovely young lady.  They watched as she put a piece of the cake in Matthew’s mouth, laughing as he got some of the icing on his nose. “Do you suppose that those two will end up falling in love?” Beth asked in a low voice so that the others couldn’t overhear.

Ralph glanced at her.  “I wouldn’t object if that were to happen but you know Agnes…”

“Yes,” she sighed.  “She will do her best to sever any romantic attachment that may develop between them.”

Just then the doorbell rang.  “I wonder who that could be,” Ralph said.

“I’ll and see who it is.”  Beth hurried from the room and down the corridor to the front door.  She peered through the keyhole and her eyes widened in surprise and delight.  She opened the door.  “Blaine,” she exclaimed, hugging him.  “It’s so good to see you.”

He smiled.  “It’s good to see you too, Beth.”

“When did you get back?”

“Yesterday.”

“Come in.”

He went in and glanced toward the living-room where he heard voices and laughter.  “It sounds like you’re having a party.”

“Yes.  We are celebrating Janet’s birthday.”

“How old is she now?”

“Nineteen.”

“The last time I saw her, she was ten.”

“Yes, well, she’s all grown up now.  Wait till you see her.  Come and let me introduce you to everyone.”

He removed his shoes and followed her to the living-room.  Beth introduced him to Janet’s friends, some of the girls cast admiring glances at him.  He shook hands with Matthew.  “You’ve gotten tall,” he said, grinning.  Matthew smiled.

Blaine’s attention shifted to the girl standing next to Matthew.  “Janet?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

He stared at her. “I can’t believe how much you have changed since the last time I saw you,” he said.

She smiled.  “I’m not a child anymore.  I’m a woman.”

“A young lady,” Beth interjected.  “Are you hungry?” She asked Blaine.

He shook his head.  “I had a late lunch.”

“Would you like a slice of cake?” Janet asked.

“Yes, thank you.”  He knew he was staring but he couldn’t help it.  She had changed so much.  Gone was the little girl with the pigtails who used to follow him around, chatting incessantly about school, beg him to push on her on the swing and give her a piggyback ride.  Standing before him was a very attractive young lady in a pretty blue dress with a smile that melted his heart.

She cut a slice of cake and gave it to him.  “How long will you be staying?”

“Two weeks.”

“Only two weeks?”  She couldn’t hide the bitter disappointment she was feeling.  In the past his visits had been sporadic but she never had to wait for more than a year to see him.  This last time, nine years had passed before she saw him again and it would be for only two weeks.  He was a Management Consultant.  How she wished that he had a different job—one that would not take him out of the country and away from her.  She missed him terribly.  “Will you come again tomorrow?” she asked, hopefully.

He nodded.  “Yes,” he said quietly.  “We have a lot of catching up to do.”

Just then one of her friends pulled her away to take photos and Matthew joined him.  For the rest of the evening, they were apart, mingling with other people and at the end of the evening as things were winding down, he went over to her.  “I’ll be leaving now,” he said.

“You promise you will come tomorrow?”

He nodded.  “Yes.”  He reached down and hugged her.  “Happy birthday, Janet.”

She saw him to the door and stood there watching his tall, slender figure stride briskly to his parked Aston Martin car and climb in.  She waved and waited until the car disappeared before going back into the house.  She couldn’t wait to see him the next day.

He showed up the following afternoon as promised and subsequently every day for the two weeks he was in London.  She would sit there and listen to Ralph and Beth ask him countless questions about his travels, patiently waiting for her time alone with him.  As soon as that time came, she would take him outside where they would spend most of the afternoon.  Once, when they were standing by the swing, he said, “You’re too grown up now for me to give you a piggyback ride, but I can still push you on the swing.  She sat down and laughed as he pushed her.  It brought back memories.  Other times they sat on the deck talking for hours or go for walks.

Then, it was his final evening and they were out in the backyard.  The sun was setting.  It cast an orange glow on them as they stood there facing each other.

He studied her face.  “I must be leaving now,” he said quietly.  “Are you sorry to see me go?”

She glanced up at him.  “Yes,” she answered, surprised that he would ask such a question.  I don’t know when I will see you again.

“May I kiss you goodbye?” he asked, moving closer to her.

She looked up at him, her heart racing.  “Yes,” she said breathlessly.  She lowered her head so that he could kiss her on the forehead like he used to when she was a child.  Instead, she felt his hand under her chin raising her face up so that she was staring up into his.  She watched, mesmerized as he bent his head slowly towards hers and his lips get closer.  Her breathing was quick and unsteady now.  She felt his mouth on hers and readily responded. Blaine’s hands cupped her face as the kiss became more intense.

She clutched his arms, her fingers digging into the fabric of his jacket as she felt herself going weak in the knees.  Eyes squeezed shut as if to blot out the world, she savored her first kiss, wishing that it would last.  It lasted for several minutes and then Blaine drew back, his face flushed.  She reluctantly opened her eyes and looked up at him.  They were both breathing heavily.

“I have to leave now,” he muttered thickly.

“Why?” she asked.  “Why can’t you stay a little longer?”

“If I stay, I will kiss you again.”

“I want you to kiss me again—”

“No,” he groaned, pushing his fingers through his hair, his eyes darkening.  “I can’t.”

She looked bewildered.  “But why?”

“I’m too old for you, Janet.  You need to be with a guy your own age like Matthew.”

“But, I don’t want to be with Matthew or anyone else,” she cried.  “Why can’t I be with you?  You’re only ten years older than me.  You’re not like Maxim DeWinter who was forty-two and married a girl my age.”

“You’re right, I’m not Maxim DeWinter.  I can’t be with a girl so much younger than me.  In September, you will be attending university.  That means you will around people your age.  Sooner or later, you will meet someone, fall in love with him and forget about me.”

She shook her head.  “No, I won’t,” she cried.  “I love you,”

A muscle throbbed along his jaw line.  “You’re infatuated not in love.”

“Do you think because I’m young, I don’t know what love is?”

“I shouldn’t have kissed you,” he said.  “I don’t know what I was thinking.  It was an utterly foolish thing to do–” he broke off when she started to cry.  He pulled her into his arms and held her closely.  “Don’t cry,” he begged, as she buried her face in his chest.

The feel of her body against his was his undoing.  Unable to help himself, he gripped the hair at the nape of her neck and pulled her head back so that he stare down into her wet face before his lips closed feverishly over hers.  Her impassioned response to his kisses inflamed him.  It was no use.  He couldn’t walk away from her now.  She was in his blood and in his heart.

Slide1

Sources:  Gov.UK; International Adoption Guide; Evening Standard;  The Guardian; London City Mission

The Nutcracker

It was on a Saturday night at the London Coliseum where Alexis and her sister Gwen ran into Mrs. Bannister, Alexis’ music teacher, a wonderful lady who didn’t look as if she had aged very much at all.

She was delighted to see her former pupil, her face beaming and her light blue eyes sparkling.  “Hello My Dear,” she said, “What a lovely surprise and on my birthday too.  How are you?  Are you still practicing on the piano?  You were a very promising student and one of my favorites.”

“It’s so good to see you, Mrs. Bannister,” Alexis said as they hugged.  “Happy birthday.”

Mrs. Bannister turned to the young man who was standing beside her.  “This is my grandson, Jeremy.  He brought me to the ballet this evening for my birthday.  He has always been a very thoughtful young man.  Jeremy, this is Alexis.”

Alexis’ attention shifted to the older woman’s companion.  He was tall and very handsome.  His thick brown hair was a bit long but it suited him.  He was wearing a fine and rather expensive looking dark grey suit, blue shirt and tie.  His light green eyes met hers and she thought she saw admiration shining in them.

He took the hand she proffered and shook it.  “A pleasure,” he said with a cultured English accent.

She smiled.  “It’s nice to meet you.   This is my sister, Gwen,” she said.  He acknowledged Gwen with a smile and shook her hand.  Then, he returned his attention to Alexis.

“Did you enjoy the ballet?” he asked.  “Grandmother has always wanted to see The Nutcracker and I promised her that one year I take her for her birthday.”

“Yes, I enjoyed it very much.  I’ve always wanted to see it too.  It was my good fortune that my brother-in-law is not a fan of ballet or musicals so Gwen asked me to come with her.”

“I should thank your sister for bringing you tonight,” he said quietly.  “I got to meet you.”

She smiled, not sure of how to respond to that remark.  He was staring at her making her feel both nervous and flattered.  She had never had a man this young interested in her before.  He had to be at least ten years younger than her.  “Are you and your grandmother close?” she asked.

“Very,” he said.  “She always says that I’m her favorite.”

“Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

“I have an older brother and a younger sister.  Do you have other siblings?”

“No, Gwen is the only one I have.  We were very close growing up.  Now she is married with two girls and a boy.”

He glanced down at her hand.  “I see that you’re not wearing a ring,” he said.  “I guess you’re not married.”

“No, I’m still single.”  She didn’t mention that she was once engaged but she broke it off when she found out that her fiancé was two-timing her with his new assistant.

Just then, Mrs. Bannister said to her, “Alexis, how would you like to have tea with me tomorrow afternoon, if you have no other plans, of course.”

Alexis smiled.  “I would be delighted,” she said with a big smile.

“Splendid.  So, I shall see you tomorrow afternoon at two.  Gwen, it was a pleasure to meet you.   Come, Jeremy, it is past my bedtime.  Thank you, Dear, for a lovely evening.  I shall never forget it.”

Jeremy said goodnight to Alexis and Gwen, his eyes lingering on the former before he took his grandmother’s arm and led her away.

Gwen looked at her.  “Mrs. Bannister seems like a really nice lady, very gracious and friendly.  I had a rather nice chat with her.  Her grandson is very handsome.  I noticed him paying you a lot of attention.  What did you think of him?”

“He’s very handsome and polished.”

“Were you attracted to him?”

It was no use denying it.  “Yes, very attracted, a lot good it would do me.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, for one thing, he’s younger and another, he’s upper crust.”

“It seemed like neither of those two things mattered to him and if he’s anything like his grandmother, I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t at least entertain to idea of dating him.  Don’t allow what happened with Sidney prevent you from having a love life.  I never did like him.  Good riddance to him, I say.  You can do much better.  So, if you happen to see Jeremy again and he asks you out, don’t turn him down.”

Alexis looked unconvinced.  “I don’t know if I will see him again and even if I do, I don’t think he’ll ask me out.  No, I’m not going to get my hopes up.  I’ll go and see his grandmother tomorrow and we will spend a pleasant afternoon together, catching up.  Now, what do you say, we grab a bite to eat before you head home to your brood?”

The next day, Alexis drove over to Mrs. Bannister pretty cottage, nestled among thick foliage and surrounded by immaculate gardens.  She had a live in housekeeper who opened the door and showed Alexis to the drawing-room where the lady of the house was seated.

Mrs. Bannister’s face lit up when she saw her.  “Hello, my Dear.  Come and sit beside me and by the fire.  It must be cold outside and grey too.”

Alexis went over to her and after hugging her warmly, she sat down on a chair close to the one the elder woman was occupying.  “What a lovely home you have,” she remarked.  “I couldn’t help admiring your gardens.  I imagine that your grandchildren must have loved playing in them when they were young.”  She wanted to ask her so many questions about Jeremy and what he was like as a boy but thought better of it.

Mrs. Bannister nodded, smiling.  “Oh yes, they loved playing in the gardens which they were children.  Jeremy’s favorite spot was the lake. He would swim there sometimes.  He was always scampering about the place, vexing his mother who thought he was a bit too wild.  I always told her that he was a boy and boys were supposed to be a little unruly.  When he comes he could take you for a walk on the grounds and show you the lake.”

Alexis’ heart lurched.  “Jeremy’s coming here?” she asked.  The thought of seeing him again thrilled and terrified her at the same time.  She couldn’t believe that she was behaving like this over a younger man.

“Yes, he said that he would stop by around three.  He doesn’t usually come and see me on a Sunday so I was quite surprised when he called me this morning to tell me that he was coming over this afternoon.  I’ll ring for our tea now.”

They had their tea and sandwiches as they talked about old times and other things.  The time went by very quickly and Alexis had just finished drinking her tea when Jeremy walked into the drawing room.  He went over to his grandmother and hugged her.  When he drew back she looked up at him, beaming.  “It’s good to see you, Dear.”

“I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon,” he said, smiling at her.  Then he turned to Alexis.  “Have you had a chance to see the gardens?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “I saw them when I was coming up the driveway.  They look amazing.”

“I told Alexis that you would take her for a walk in the gardens and show her the lake where you used to swim as a child.”

“I’d be happy to,” he said, his gaze still on Alexis.  “Shall we?”

She got up and after excusing herself, she followed him out to the foyer.  She got her coat and scarf from the closet.

“I won’t keep you outside too long,” he promised.  “It’s very nippy.”

They walked through the gardens and to the path which led to the lake.  She looked around her in wonder.  Autumn in Surrey was breathtaking.  The thick foliage on the opposite side of the lake was cloaked in rich, bright colors.  The air was cold but very fresh.  “I can see why you loved coming here,” she commented as they stood there watching two swans gliding through the gold lake.  It was so peaceful out there.   It was a nice change from the city.

“Yes.  I used to come out here all the time and swim or feed the swans.  I loved being here more than at my parents’ estate in Yorkshire.  Yorkshire is even more beautiful in the autumn but I prefer being here in Surrey.  You’re right about it being peaceful here and that’s why this is still my favorite place to relax and think about things.”

“Do you still swim in the lake?”

He smiled and shook his head.  “I stopped doing that when I turned thirteen.  Besides, I don’t want to scare away the swans.”

“This is a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon,” she remarked.  “Your grandmother was surprised that you visited her today.  She said that you don’t usually visit her on a Sunday.”

“She’s right.  I’m usually at home or out with my friends but I came here today because of you.”

She swallowed.  “Me?”

“Yes, I wanted to see you again.”

A slight breeze started blowing and she shivered.  She pulled the hood over her head and shoved her hands in the pockets of her coat, wishing she had worn her gloves.

“You’re cold,” he observed.  “Let’s go back to the cottage.”

He helped her remove her winter gear and then he took off his coat and hanged everything in the closet.

When they went into the drawing-room, Mrs. Bannister was not there.  She went over to the fireplace to warm her hands.  He joined her.  He turned toward her and took her cold hand in his and rubbed it between his.  Her heart was pounding as she watched his long fingers move slowly but vigorously to warm hers.  Then, she raised her head to look up at his face and her breath caught in her throat when she met his smoldering gaze.  “I want to kiss you,” he muttered thickly.

She trembled at the thought.  “Your grandmother could return at any minute,” she said, trying to remain rational in spite of her senses which were screaming at her to let him kiss her.

“You’re right,” he admitted.  “It would be awkward if she were to walk in and find us kissing.  Have dinner with me tonight, Alexis.”

“Yes,” she said simply.  She gave him her address and he made a mental note of it.  “I think she’s coming.”  He released her hand and moved away from the fireplace just as his grandmother entered the room.

“Did you enjoy your walk?” she asked as she went over to the chair she had vacated and sat down.

“Yes, I did.”

“Good.  You must come in the summer.  It’s really nice then.”

“Mrs. Bannister, I must be leaving now.  Thank you for inviting me to tea.  I had a wonderful time.”  She went over and kissed her on the cheek.

“Goodbye, Dear.  Jeremy will see you off.”

He walked with her to her car and held open the door for her to get in.  As she was about to, he leaned down and kissed her on the cheek.  She closed her eyes at the sensation of his warm lips against her skin.  When he drew back, their eyes met and held for a while.  “I’ll pick you up at seven,” he said quietly.  She nodded and got in the car.  He stepped back and watched as she drove off.

When he returned to the drawing-room, he sat down in the chair Alexis had occupied and looking at his grandmother, he said, “Grandmother, I’m in trouble.”

“You are attracted to Alexis, aren’t you?” she asked.  “I noticed the way you looked at her last night.”

“I couldn’t help it.  That’s why I’m here today.  I wanted to see her again and I asked her to have dinner with me tonight.”

“Now, that wasn’t a wise thing to do.”

“I know and I feel like such a fraud,” he muttered, exasperated.  “She has no idea that I am engaged.”

“Well, from where I’m sitting, you have only two options—break off your engagement to Bridget or forget about Alexis.”

“I can’t forget about Alexis.  And I can’t marry Bridget.”

“It seems then, that you have made your decision.  I never did think that Bridget was the right girl for you.  I imagine that the engagement was all your mother’s doing.  Well, it’s time you started making your own decisions.  You’re old enough now.  You should go and deal with Bridget right now.  And when the time is right, you can tell Alexis everything.”

He got up and hugged her.  “Thanks, Grandmother.  I’ll go and see Bridget now.”

“Be gentle, Dear.”

“Yes, Grandmother.”

His meeting with Bridget went better than he expected.  She too had been having second thoughts about their engagement but didn’t know quite how to tell him.  They parted on amicable terms.  They realized that what all this time their feelings for each other had been platonic rather than romantic.  He let her keep the ring.

Over dinner at a trendy and romantic French restaurant, he told Alexis everything.  “I’m so thankful I met you,” he said.  “If I hadn’t, I would have married the wrong woman.”

“So, the two of you never slept together?”

“No.  We had decided that we would wait until we were married but I never wanted her.  Yet, I wanted you from the moment I saw you.  After I took my grandmother home, I went down to the lake to figure out what I was going to do.  I was engaged to one woman but had fallen hard for another.  I didn’t want to hurt Bridget but I couldn’t get you out of my mind.  When I saw you again the next day, I knew that I couldn’t give you up.”

“Where do we go from here?” she asked.

“I want to see you—go out with you,” he said, covering one of her hands with his, his expression earnest.  “I want to be in a relationship with you.”

She covered his hand.  “I want that too,” she admitted.

After dinner that night, they became romantically involved and a year later, they got married.  His father, brother, sister, grandmother and Bridget attended the simple wedding but his mother was conspicuously absent.

 

The Wedding Announcement

She stood there, face pale, heart-broken waiting for the train that would forever part her from the man she loved.  She had to leave.  After she heard the news that he had married, she knew that it was impossible for her to remain there in Yorkshire any longer.  She would go and live in London with her aunt.

Mrs. Clark, to whom she had been a lady’s companion for four years had not been pleased but Eleanor had been very insistent that she leave her position.   She couldn’t run the risk of seeing John and his wife at any social event she and Mrs. Clark might attend.  The sooner she left Yorkshire and its memories the better.  Memories.  They came unbidden to her mind and she released a sound that was a mixture of a sob and a groan.

For a moment she was transported back to the first time she and John met.  It was at a seaside resort.  She and Mrs. Clark were having tea when he walked in.  Mrs. Clark knew him so she invited him to join them.  He seemed pleased to do so.  Eleanor was very shy but he was pleasant and seemed very interested in her opinion on various things.  Mrs. Clark invited him to join them for dinner that evening.  It was a very pleasant affair and Eleanor was sorry when it was over.

The next morning when Mrs. Clark was confined to bed because of a headache, Eleanor went down to have breakfast alone.  John came in and joined her.  Afterwards, they went for a walk along the beach.  They found a quiet stretch of the beach and sat on a rock.  They spent a long time just talking and enjoying the sea air and each other’s company.  She and John saw each other every day during the month at the seaside and then he had to leave and return to Yorkshire.   She was sorry to see him go.  The remaining week at the resort was so dull without him.  She couldn’t wait to return to Yorkshire.

When she returned to Yorkshire he wasn’t there.  He had business in New York.  Several weeks passed and no word from him and then while they were having tea, Mrs. Smith informed Mrs. Clark that “Mr. Anderson was married to a Miss Taylor.”  What a shock it had been.  She had nearly fainted and both women were very alarmed.  “Whatever is the matter, child?” Mrs. Clark asked.  Eleanor got up and rushed out of the room.  She flew up the stairs and into her room, bolting the door before throwing herself on her bed and sobbing.  It took a long time for her to regain her composure and face Mrs. Clark who had by now read the news and was very displeased.

John wrote her a week later but she returned his letter unopened.  When he dropped by the house, she refused to see him.  She didn’t want to go anywhere for fear of running into him.  Life was unbearable.  Desperate, she wrote her aunt in London and asked if she could live with her.  Her aunt was delighted and urged her to come as soon as she could.

Comforted by her aunt’s kindness and eagerness to receive her, she made the arrangements.  She made sure that someone very commendable was secured for her position of Lady companion to Mrs. Clark who didn’t hide her displeasure at the turn of events.  For her, Eleanor’s departure was rather inconvenient as she had gotten quite used to her and now had to get used to another young lady.  Eleanor was sorry to leave because she had grown rather fond of Mrs. Clark.  Mrs. Clark couldn’t accompany her to the station because of a prior engagement and Eleanor was glad.  She wanted to be alone.

And now, here she was, waiting on the train that would take her far away from Yorkshire.  The sun was shining on her face but she couldn’t feel its warmth.  Nothing filled her except sorrow and pain.  In spite of everything, she still loved John.

“Eleanor!” She turned with a start and was shocked to see John at the end of the platform.  What on earth was he doing here?

For a moment he hesitated and then he made a dash toward her.  When he was standing in front of her, he removed his hat.  His eyes were earnest as they met hers.  “I feared that I would not get here in time.”

She tried to appear calm and composed although her legs felt like jelly and her heart was pounding wildly.  “What are you doing here, John?” she asked.

“I went to the house to see you but you weren’t there.  After some difficulty I managed to get the information from Mrs. Clark and I came here straightaway.  Why are you leaving, Eleanor?”

“I have to,” she said evasively.  “I’m going to London to live with my aunt.  You really shouldn’t be here, John.”

“But what about us?” he asked, looking bewildered.  “I thought we had something special between us.  Why were you going to leave without telling me?  I wrote you but you returned my letter.  Why, Eleanor?”

“Why?” she demanded.  The pain was too much for her to bear and it erupted now.  “You stand there before me demanding answers from me when I had to learn about your marriage from Mrs. Smith?”

Now he looked confounded.  “My marriage?  What on earth are you talking about?”

“I was there when Mrs. Smith told Mrs. Clark that you were married.”

“Mrs. Smith was mistaken.  I am not married.”

She said, “Mr. Anderson was married.”

“She meant my brother George.  He got married to Lucy Taylor.”

Eleanor stared at him, hardly able to believe what was happening.  “But, I thought…”

“Let’s find somewhere to sit,” he suggested.  They went over to a bench and sat down.  “It was all a terrible misunderstanding.  Oh, Eleanor, if you had only read my letter or seen me when I came to the house, this all could have been avoided.”

“I hadn’t heard from you for weeks and after what Mrs. Smith said, I thought you were writing about it in your letter and that’s why I returned it unopened.  I couldn’t bear to read it or see you.”

“My business in New York took longer than I had anticipated but I wrote you as soon I returned home.  Is that why you are going to London?”

“Yes, I simply had to get away.  Oh, John, I have been so dreadfully unhappy.  I thought you had married someone else and I couldn’t bear to be here any longer.”

“Eleanor, how could I marry someone else when I am hopelessly in love with you?”

“And I love you dearly.”

“So, now that this misunderstanding has been cleared up, are you still going to London?”

“Well, there doesn’t seem to be any point in doing that now, I suppose.  But, my position with Mrs. Clark has been filled.”

“Well, you have a new position to fill, Miss Philips and it is that of my wife.”

Eleanor smiled through her tears.  “I will be more than happy to fill that position, Mr. Anderson.”

“Good.  It’s effective immediately.”  He took her hands and raised them to his lips before he helped her to her feet.  He picked up her suitcase and they left the platform.

Victorian woman at train station

Source:  Sense and Sensibility