“Love is a Choice”, Ch. 5-6: Pudding; Husbands & Wives, Sons & Daughters, Part 1, March 22, 2013 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #383)
[From time to time, I will illustrate my story with my dream cast of: Richard Armitage as Lord Rafe Wingate, Carla Gugino as Lady Katharine Wingate, Lesley Nicol as Mrs. Plunkett, Emilie Francois as Anna, and others, etc.]
[Story Logo 1abcd]
Author’s Mature Content Note: “Love is a Choice” is a story of love and romance set in the early to mid 1800’s. I like Regency sensibilities with regard to comedy of manners, but Romantic period modes of dress. Ha! As such there will be some passages in this story involving heartfelt love scenes (perhaps some R rated) and some passages involving highly dramatic moments. I will label the maturity rating of those chapters accordingly. Otherwise, the general rating for this story is PG or PG-13 due to some mature situations and topics. If you are unable or unwilling to attend a movie with the ratings that I provide, then please do not read the chapters with those labels. This is my disclaimer.
Author’s Recap from the previous installment: Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine spent a chaste wedding night just sleeping together–not making love. Although, the do awaken from their slumber with their bodies intertwined and they make out a little. But the servants interrupt them. Also in the morning they shared some personal histories and opinions with each other–particularly Lord Rafe’s first time making love with a comely widow named Fanny Miller when he was just sixteen years old. Lady Katharine is finding out more about her husband–which makes her feel more pleasantly disposed toward him.
“Love is a Choice”, Ch. 5: Promised Pudding
After separately getting dressed this morning after their non wedding night–with dressing help from their attendants in their respective dressing rooms–Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine take the open gig for a ride over to Mrs. Plunkett’s cottage around mid day for Lord Rafe’s promised wedding pudding. It is a gloriously sunny and mild day for their outdoor jaunt and Lady Katharine holds only her husband’s arm as he drives. Upon arriving at Mrs. Plunkett’s, the aroma of food–including the aforementioned promised wedding pudding–assaults their senses and makes them quite hungry, since breakfast was rather sparing and much earlier this morning.
Lord Rafe: Calling out as he helps Lady Katharine down from the gig. “Mrs. P!?! Kate and I are here for our pudding.” He kisses Lady Katharine on her cheek as she alights from the gig.
Lady Katharine: “Rafe stop! Someone will see us.” She gently swats her husband’s arm playfully as she smiles shyly at him.
Lord Rafe: “Kate, they will only see a husband and wife being tender with each other. There is no harm in that, my dear.” He smiles broadly. “Besides, we are in the middle of a forest.” He gestures to the wide expanse of trees and shrubs around them. She sheepishly shrugs her concession on that point.
Then Lord Rafe reaches into the gig wagon bed behind the seat and pulls out a large basket that is so overfilled with food supplies it requires both of his hands to carry it–and it strains even his considerable muscles. So Lady Katharine lightly holds one of his arms as they walk to the front door. Even walking in a forest it would not do for Lady Katharine to be seen to be walking unattended were she not to have a hold of his arm. Mrs. Plunkett [(2) right] opens up the front door wiping her hands of flour on her apron, with a business like look on her face in the middle of her baking session.
Mrs. Plunkett: “Who is it?” She might have guessed given the remoteness of her cottage–and the fact that Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine are expected. Then a broad smile breaks out upon her face. “Well, bless me! Children!” She cries–for Lord Rafe is the closest that she got to having a child of her own. “Welcome! Come inside. And I see that you did na come empty handed.”
Lord Rafe: “As you can see, the manor house bid us bring you these food supplies since we were coming here anyway. There must be enough food here for a small village! Are you expecting an onslaught of company?” He asks in jest.
Mrs. Plunkett: “Not really.” She smiles while rolling her eyes. “I am to have a new kitchen helper to train. She will live here with me for several months and learn how to assist in preparing meals–chopping, stirring, and such. Over here, dear.” She motions for him to set the basket of food down next to her kitchen table.
Lord Rafe: “Oh? They did not mention that you were training someone new.” He says absentmindedly as he stands back up and wraps his arm around Lady Katharine’s waist and smiles. Lady Katharine briefly turns to look at Lord Rafe and shakes her head amusingly with the pleased expression on his face.
Mrs. Plunkett: “Well, the kitchen said they wanted a new helper trained, and I said that I knew just the girl for it. They did not even ask her name, they know that I know my business–cooking, that is.” She says pridefully for the trust and respect that the manor house staff have in her–even in her retirement.
Lady Katharine: “It is good of you to teach her how to cook. Is it a girl from the local village?” She asks politely as they are ushered back into what passes for Mrs. Plunkett’s sitting room on the other side of the kitchen table. It is a small cozy cottage for a small woman–Mrs. Plunkett–just right, thinks Lady Katharine.
Mrs. Plunkett: “She lives a few villages over–an orphan now that her mama went to heaven last week from a lingering disease, and her papa is long dead. Poor little thing, I feel sorry for her.”
Lord Rafe: “Well, she will soon be too busy cooking–and tasting–to focus on her grief.” He nods his head. Death comes early for some, he thinks–it is the way of things.
Lady Katharine: “Is the girl very young? What is the her name?”
Mrs. Plunkett: “She is young, only about 10 or 11 years old. Her name is Anna Miller.” Lord Rafe is not sure if he heard Mrs. Plunkett correctly. “Oh Rafie, you might remember her widowed mother, Fanny Miller.”
Lord Rafe nods, a bit startled to hear Mrs. Plunkett speak about Fanny Miller when he had just told Lady Katharine about her this morning. He and Lady Katharine share a knowing glance that also acknowledges the sadness of loss.
Lord Rafe: “I do indeed.” He says circumspectly upon hearing that Fanny has died at such a young age of 32 years–her being only four years older than he is at 28 years.
Lady Katharine: “Well, Fanny must have married again–and then poor thing was widowed once more. But at least her second husband gave her a child to cherish.” She thinks innocently.
Mrs. Plunkett: “Yes.” She guesses. “I have not met the child. But her mother had sent me a note when she first became ill, asking if there might be a place for little Anna up at the manor house. So I arranged it. She is to come to me this very day for I sent a manor groom in a carriage to fetch her when I heard that her Mama had died. Though I hope Anna arrives before your parents’ dinner party because I have promised to help in the kitchen. But I told the stable groom to take her to the manor if I have not returned home when they arrive.”
Lord Rafe: “Ah!” Choosing his words carefully, he asks. “And Mrs. P, you are certain that neither the manor staff–nor my parents–know this child’s name nor that her mother had a prior connection to the estate?”
Mrs. Plunkett: Looking at him quizzically, she replies. “Why yes. And why would your parents care to know the name of a new kitchen helper? They probably barely remember my name since I have been gone from the manor for these five years.”
Lord Rafe: Smiling to cover his growing suspicions, he says warmly. “Now Mrs. P, Mama cannot do without your strawberry tarts even now.”
Mrs. Plunkett: “It would seem so! I am to make them for one of this evening’s desserts.” She smiles proudly.
Noticing her husband’s less jovial and more restrained manner with Mrs. Plunkett, Lady Katharine touches his arm and he looks at her.
Lady Katharine: “Rafe, I think you must be getting impatient for your promised pudding.” He nods.
Mrs. Plunkett: “My word! You get me talking and I forgot all about it. Sit ye down at the table and I will bring you your lunches.”
Lord Rafe: Lord Rafe leans down to Mrs. Plunkett. “And the pudding, Mrs. P?” He smiles.
Mrs. Plunkett: “And the pudding.” She smiles while patting his face.
Katharine is quite amused as the three of them sit at the kitchen table almost en famille enjoying lunch together–including the touted pudding–hearing stories of little Rafie’s shenanigans as a boy growing up. When he was a boy, Lord Rafe was especially fond of kite flying [(3) kites]. Unfortunately, he would raid his younger sister little Lady Louisa’s hair ribbon box for his kite tails. Little Lady Louisa was not amused. However Lord Rafe did have some stunning kite displays with the multi-colored ribbons he pilfered. Lady Katharine finds these and other childhood tales of Lord Rafe charmingly illuminating about the child who became the man who is her husband.
But in the back of Lord Rafe’s mind, he wonders about another young child, and if her connection to the Wingate estate might be more than what is previously thought.
After enjoying a meal and reminiscences with Mrs. Plunkett, Lord Rafe takes Lady Katharine on an extended carriage ride in the country side as they tour the estate. They travel over hill and dale. Well actually, there are not that many hills in general in Warwickshire–more like humps, unless you count the 856 foot tall Ebrington Hill [(4) hill] on the border with Gloucestershire to the South-West. After they round yet another turn in the road–now coming upon a farm scene–she asks.
Lady Katharine: “I had not realized that your estate was so vast–and so varied in its land features.” She nods her approval.
Lord Rafe: “I am pleased that you approve of it.” He smiles broadly. “It was not always thus. The large estate you see now came into being only a generation ago when my father married my mother and her adjoining lands combined with my father’s lands.” He says with obvious pride.
Lady Katharine: “So, the estate is …” She chooses her words carefully. “… solvent?” She lowers her eyes shyly.
Lord Rafe: “Ha ha ha ha ha! Of course! Why do you ask?” He looks at her with a quizzical smile.
With the wind having ravaged Lord Rafe’s hair during their sojourn this day–such that his unruly curls now have free reign to surround his face, Lady Katharine wonders if her husband does not look more like the Adonis, the ‘god of beauty and desire’ [(5) Adonis] when the sun shines upon him smiling just so. Then her face blushes and she remembers their conversation.
Lady Katharine: She bites her lower lip in embarrassment–for many reasons. “It is only that my Papa said that my sizeable dowry would be sure to attract noble families of the aristocracy–especially, if my fortune would be a boon to them financially.” She glances at him sideways, wondering if he understands what she is alluding to.
Lord Rafe: “Ah! Well, I am sure that your dowry is appropriate–whatever it might be.” He adds nonchalantly waving his hand while rolling his eyes in amusement.
Lady Katharine: “My dowry is 20,000 pounds–and a seaside estate in Essex!” She says pridefully. “Did you not know?” She asks him curiously.
Lord Rafe: “Actually, no. This is a pleasant surprise, indeed! I love the seaside!” He smiles warmly at her while completely ignoring the princely sum that 20,000 pounds is–even in 1820’s values [(6) monetary value].
Lady Katharine: She is skeptical that a bridegroom would ignore the particulars regarding a dowry–especially her dowry. “But surely the marriage negotiations you had with my Papa involved the details of my dowry?”
Lord Rafe: “I confess that your dowry was of no concern to me.” He smiles. “I left those negotiations to my own dear Papa. But I did tell him that whatever your dowry might turn out to be, it would be immaterial.” He states amusingly. For Lord Rafe’s income is 10,000 pounds per annum–far exceeding his needs. But then, he is a husband now–with hopes for a family. So his needs will be greater. And Lady Katharine’s family was no doubt aware of Lord Rafe’s fortune when they pledged her to him.
Lady Katharine: “So my fortune was not your motivation for marrying me?” She asks completely perplexed.
Lord Rafe: “It was not. Whoa!” He brings the gig to a stop overlooking a charming farm scene of wheat fields and pastures with grazing animals. Taking her hands in his, he looks soulfully into her eyes as his thumbs rub the back of her hands. “As I told you last night, Kate. I was smitten with you from almost the first moment that I saw you. And after we danced, I told my father that I would have only you for my bride.”
He brings each of her hands to his lips and kisses them. Then he turns her hands over and gently kisses the soft skin of her delicate wrists. Lady Katharine trembles with Lord Rafe’s sincere pronouncement of love and his tender affections that follow.
Lady Katharine: “Ohhh!” She sighs.
Then Lord Rafe gathers his wife into his arms and he kisses her tenderly–gently stroking her back and caressing her face. Their pleasant exchange of affections lasts for several minutes–until nature calls. Or more specifically, when a lamb bleats in distress.
Lamb: “Baaa baaa baaa!” The little lamb rages at being mired in a mud bog in a nearby ditch with a voice belying its diminuative size.
Lady Katharine: “What is that?” She asks of the squealing animal as she leans back from her husband’s delightful kisses.
Lord Rafe: “A farm animal of some kind.” He says offhandedly, eager to return to their kissing–finding their growing closeness intoxicating. He kisses her sweet lips again, and again, and again, and …
Lamb: “Baaaa baaaa baaa!” Sounding louder and more agitated. Never let it be said that lambs or Winters are mild.
Lady Katharine: She pulls her lips away from his lips. “Oh the poor thing! It sounds so frightened! Can we not help it, Rafe?”
Lord Rafe: “Very well, my dear.” He sighs deeply–regretful to have anything disturb their kissing just when he feels that he is making such good progress with her–in regard to their enhanced rapport. Looking about, he spies the offending helpless animal in a ditch just as a farm boy scrambles up the field toward them. “Ah! There it is.”
Lord Rafe gets down from his gig, then he helps Lady Katharine down.
Farm boy: Hat in hand, a young lad of a farm boy bows to the young master, Lord Rafe. “Beggin your pardon, milord. But the lamb got away from me.”
Lamb: “Baaa baaaa!” It bleats.
Lady Katharine: “The poor little thing.” She frets as she rests her closed fist on her chin below her pursed lips.
Lord Rafe: “Not to worry, my dear.” Lord Rafe doffs his jacket, vest, and cravat–which he gives to Lady Katharine to hold, as she does dutifully–and he rolls up his sleeves. Then to the farm boy Lord Rafe says. “Come lad. We have a mission! Let us free the lamb.” He smiles ruefully at his wife as he goes to do battle with a muddy ditch and a frightened lamb.
The boy nods his head and walks with Lord Rafe to the ditch where the lamb has become stuck in the mud.
Lamb: “Baaa baaa baaa!”
Lord Rafe: “Calm down little lamb, we are coming.” He surveys the lamb’s situation. The lamb can only be a few months old. “She is a little thing–that is why she could not free herself from the mud.”
Lamb: “Baaa.” Seeming to calm, the lamb must sense that her rescue is at hand.
Lord Rafe and the farm boy each take an end–with Lord Rafe working to free the front legs and the farm boy the back legs. After a bit of light pulling and using their fingers to dig out the animals hooves, the lamb is free–and jumps straight into Lord Rafe’s arms, muddy lamb legs and all.
Lord Rafe: “Kkhhh!” He turns his face away from the licking animal while still holding it so it does not fall and become injured.
Lamb: “Baaa, baaa, baaa!” He bleats in relief–even as it squirms in Lord Rafe’s grasp.
Lady Katharine: “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!” She giggles and claps her hands in delight with seeing the gyrating lamb in her husband’s arms–getting him all muddy.
Farm boy: “Ooh! Sorry milord. I will take her back to the paddock now.” Lord Rafe hands over the lamb. And the farm boy departs with it.
Lord Rafe: “You do that. Ha!” He laughs wryly with a raised eyebrow at the lad. Then he shakes his head in amusement.
Lady Katharine: Waving at the lamb. “Good bye little lamb. I will come and visit you.”
Lord Rafe: Looking down at his muddy attire, he winces. “I will have to have a thorough washing as well as a change before our dinner with Mama and Papa this evening. It would not do for me to come to their table looking so disheveled as I am now.”
Lady Katharine: “I think you look most chivalrous, my Lord!” She smiles. “But I fear that you are right about your needing a bath.” She takes her linen handkerchief out of her reticule and dabs away at some mud that was splattered on his chin.
Lord Rafe: “Well! To receive such wifely attentions as this, it almost makes my wallowing in a muddy ditch worthwhile.” He grins broadly. “Do I get a reward for my good deed, My Lady?” He smiles mischievously.
Lady Katharine: Knowing that he wants a kiss. And truth be told, she wants to kiss him, she demures as she looks around to see if anyone is watching. They are, but squirrels are only interested in something if nuts are involved. “Only if you promise not to get me muddy in the process. Only our lips may touch, but nothing else.” She states her terms primly.
Lord Rafe: “That will be most satisfactory.” He raises an amused eyebrow and leans down to kiss her. They both tilt their heads.
Lady Katharine: Then she admonishes him just before his lips meet hers. “Now do not get your muddy hands on me, Rafe.”
Lord Rafe: “As you wish, Kate.” He tilts his head more, then he presses his lips against hers in a more than territorial way–claiming their luscious softness again and again, and again, and again. “Hmmm.” He moans.
Lady Katharine: “Hhhh.” She sighs. She finds that she quite likes being a wife so far–at least a wife in name only.
Lord Rafe: He pulls back from his kisses and gazes smoulderingly at her. “Kate, I find I wish that I were already done with my bath and I could wrap my clean arms around you.”
Lady Katharine: “Hmmm.” She raises her eyebrows slightly and averts her eyes. Maybe her Mama was wrong about the trial that awaits her in her marriage bed. With her husband’s solicitous, tender, and patient attentions she is more willing to find out.
Lord Rafe assists his wife back into their gig and they return to their hunting lodge to bathe and ready themselves for their first dinner at the manor as newlyweds with his parents, his sister and her husband, and some friends.
To be continued Chapter 6
“Love is a Choice”, Ch. 6(PG-15): Husbands & Wives, Sons & Daughters, Part 1
Having dinner this evening with Lord Rafe’s family–parents, sister and her husband, a close friend’s family and the vicar and his wife–it is beginning to seem a bit nerve racking for Lady Katharine as she attends to her toilette in her dressing room, freshening herself with a bath even as her husband has his bath in his adjoining dressing room. Though she does not wash her hair since it would take took long to dry. But then, she had washed her hair two days ago for her wedding–and with nightly brushing, her hair retains a luminous glow. Lady Katharine bathes quickly–feeling somehow wicked to be taking a bath under her husband’s roof, when he is in the next dressing room also taking a bath. Then she sits patiently for half and hour while her maid styles her longhair up into a bun at the crown, with ringlets bouncing down below it in the back. However, Lady Katharine still has not chosen which gown to wear and she decides to ask her husband his opinion–he knowing best what his parents will approve of.
Lady Katharine knocks on her husband’s dressing room door while wearing her dressing robe over only her corset and her silk drawers.
Lord Katharine: “Rafe, it is I, Katharine. I cannot decide what to wear tonight to your parents’ dinner for us. Will you help me to decide what will please them?”
Lord Rafe: He appreciates her wish to please his parents. And it makes him all the more wanting to please her. “Of course! Just a moment.” Smiling bemusedly in his warm bath that he has been soaking in after washing, he waves away his valet who prepares to leave his dressing room. Then Lord Rafe says sotto voce to his valet. “Please leave us undisturbed until I call for you.” The valet nods and departs. “Enter.” Lord Rafe says amusingly seriously to his wife–rather sounding like his father, he thinks.
Expecting to find her husband at least most of the way dressed–considering her own state of dishabille in her robe over her underclothes–she walks into his dressing room focusing on her gown choice rather than on her husband.
Lady Katharine: “Rafe, I cannot decide. Should I wear the pink silk with rosettes? Or is that too young looking?” The 18 year old bride wonders. “Or would my less ornamented burgundy gown be a better choice?” She wrinkles her nose tellingly. Lady Katharine holds up both dress bodices on hangers and turns to look at her husband. But he is not in her line of sight.
Lord Rafe: “I am over here, my dear.” Rafe says benignly as he languidly rests in his warm bath water.
Lady Katharine turns her head and sees her husband naked from the waist up sitting in his bathtub–his hair wet and slicked back from having it washed–and she presumes that the rest of him is also naked underneath the water. She quickly turns her back to him instantly.
Lady Katharine: “Oh!” Blushing crimson she falters. “I … I am so sorry, Rafe. I did not mean to intrude upon your bath. I thought that you were getting dressed already. I will leave.” She starts moving toward the door.
Lord Rafe: “I had a shave first, then bathed.” He explains for his still being in his tub. “No need for you to leave, my dear. Stay where you are. I will come and join you.” His voice is strong, steady, and seductive.
Lady Katharine stills as she hears the water sloshing–it being disturbed by his movement in it–and her husband grabbing the side of the tin tub to pull himself up with a decided clink where his wedding ring makes contact with the tub. Smiling at his wife’s frozen statue like pose with her back to him, Lord Rafe stands up naked in his bath as water glides down his taut muscles in rivulets. He grabs one towel and wraps it around his abdomen. Then he steps out of his bath and takes another towel that he uses to pat himself dry. Lady Katharine can hear him doing this intimate activity–toweling himself dry–and she blushes even as she feels her face go warm and her breathing quickens.
Lady Katharine: “Hmm.” She whimpers at her sinful thoughts of her husband being naked behind her. Of course, up until now she has only seen his bare muscular chest. And she has no conception of what the rest of him might look like–except, in general, that he has legs and feet–despite their intertwined bodies’ embraces this morning that might have given her some clues as to what might distinguish his manliness from her womanliness.
He finishes toweling himself dry and places the towels over the tub rim to dry. Lady Katharine still has not turned around. Lord Rafe knows that if the reverse were happening–his wife rising naked from her bath–he would not be able to prevent himself from gazing upon her lovely nakedness. Even now, Lord Rafe conjures in his mind an image of his wife lying before him in their bed as he kisses and caresses her with loving adoration. But then, he feels that he has to control his impulse of the moment–which is to make his mind’s image a reality by taking his wife to their bed this instant–and behave with the utmost courtesy toward her. So trying to act like Lady Katharine being with him like this–when he is naked–is routine, he puts on his dressing gown on to cover his nakedness as he slowly walks toward her and he ties its sash.
Lord Rafe: Then Lord Rafe asks her nonchalantly. “Which gown do you prefer, my dear?” He lays his hand on her left shoulder as he stands behind her.
Lady Katharine: “Prefer?” Lady Katharine is completely discombobulated and she feels that she might be half way to swooning. From behind her, Lord Rafe lightly kisses her exposed right shoulder from where her robe slipped in small kisses to her creamy neck as she unconsciously leans her head to the other shoulder–giving him unfettered access to her neck and a delightful view of her lace covered pleasingly full decolletage. “What … what are you doing?” She asks breathlessly.
Lord Rafe: “I am kissing you, my Kate.” His deep velvety voice lingers over each word. Then he lays his chin down on her right shoulder–with his cheek laying next to her cheek as his left arm snakes its way around her waist–but not pulling her flush against him. He does not want to frighten his wife with his desire for her that threatens to consume him like candle wax to a flame. “I like the pink one–very pretty.” He smiles and softly kisses her right cheek.
Lady Katharine: “I … I like that one, too.” She says rather breathily. The closeness of him behind her, his manly yet fresh scent, coupled with his gentle kisses and caresses, are quite alluring to her.
Lord Rafe: He says gently in a conversational and familiar tone–which is more seductive than if he were trying to be seductive. “Then you shall wear the pink gown. I am a firm believer that one should always be comfortable and choose to do what is right for themselves whenever possible.” Of course, aristocrats like Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine have this luxury in making personal decisions that others in a lower station do not. “Life is too short to let others dictate what we can and cannot have or do.”
Lady Katharine: “Uh huh.” She nods, knowing that she should return to her own dressing room, but finding that her body does not seem to want to move away from him.
Lord Rafe: He reaches around from behind her with his other arm–briefly brushing his robe covered chest against her robe covered shoulders–and he gently takes each gown bodice from her, then carefully lays each of them over a chair so they will not wrinkle. Lord Rafe turns Lady Katharine to face him, he takes her into his arms in a loose embrace, and he softly brushes the hair from her eyes. “You are so beautiful and sweet, Katharine.” He uncharacteristically addresses her by her full name–her preferred name. “You have quite captured my heart.”
Their eyes meet in a mutually adoring gaze. Lord Rafe leans down and kisses his wife softly, their lips brushing together in a petal soft kiss. Then gathering her closer to him in his arms, he feels her relax under his tender ministrations.
Lady Katharine: “Hhhh.” She sighs with such loving attentions from her husband.
Lord Rafe: He whispers huskily into her ear as he nibbles on its bare lobe. “We are not expected at the manor for dinner for an hour–and even then, dinner will not be served until another hour after that.” He kisses her lips softly again with such restraint and deference that he marvels at his own powers of self control. But then, he has hope that his patient entreaties will be welcomed by her. “Let us take our rest.” He hopes that his implied suggestion to her of their making love might be met with less resistance than last night. And her reply gives him reason to hope.
Taking his meaning–that he wants to lie with her as a husband and wife do–it is a less fearsome prospect than she had first thought it to be due to his patience and his tenderness over the last eighteen hours.
Lady Katharine: Yet she has a feeble objection to raise–mostly due to her slight, but abating nervousness. “But my hair is all arranged–it took my maid a half hour to do it.” She looks up into his eyes. “I cannot lie upon it, mussing it, and have time for my maid to redo it before dinner.” She bites her lower lip. Lord Rafe is coming to like that little gesture of hers–because it usually precedes her surrender.
Lord Rafe: “I will not muss your hair.” Lord Rafe smoulderingly promises as he leans her backward as he dips her–his kisses move to the base of her neck beyond her silken brunette ringlet curls, then to above her décolletage as she breathes deeply, then finally to the tops of her fabric covered breasts, even as his hand slides underneath her robe below her hips to caress her almost intimately.
Lady Katharine: “Oh!” She sighs with a longing for closeness with her husband as he briefly releases her lips, only to capture them again with adoring tenderness.
His hands lightly skim the edges of her lovely silhouette, committing the contours of her womanly curves to his memory. His slow trespass upon her person is the culmination of a seduction that has been all day in the making–and awakens her senses to new feelings and tremblings. Lady Katharine realizes that she is no longer afraid of her husband Lord Rafe, and of what they might do together as husband and wife. Well, maybe she is still a little uncertain.
Lady Katharine: She clings to him, even as she asks tremulously. “But … but will it not … hurt?” She is not sure why it would hurt, she has only heard that it does hurt. “How can I be in the company of others this night if I am in pain?”
Lord Rafe: He smiles as he caresses her face. “Be at ease, my Love. There are ways we can love each other without our fully constituting the act of love, just yet–such that we will both find it pleasing, and not painful.” He suggests to her hopefully as his seductive gaze further melts her resistance.
Lady Katharine: “Hhhhh!” She sighs as the only response she can give at this moment.
Lord Rafe: His breathing is ragged, knowing of the delights that await them. He says huskily, barely containing his desire that grows with each tender caress of his lovely young wife. “Come, let us move to our bed … where we can make ourselves more comfortable.”
She nods, unable to speak–as if in a romantic dream. Lord Rafe guides Lady Katharine to their bed and he kisses her adoringly–being careful, as he promised her, not to muss her hair. Though his hands want nothing more than to plunge themselves into her brunette curls and to feel her silky tresses against his fingers. He compromises by kissing her swan like neck, her ringlet curls tickling his nose as he nudges them out of the way.
Lady Katharine: “Hhhh!” She is quite swept away by her husband’s loving attentions as he begins to slide her robe from her shoulders.
However, a loud knock at their bed chamber door breaks their romantic spell.
Lord Rafe: He jerks his head up from her neck. “Blast!
Lady Katharine: “Oh no!” She exclaims in surprise and covers her mouth–her not wanting to be found party to a seduction, even if it is by her own husband.
Lord Rafe: With barely tempered frustration, he suggests gently to her. “Go into your dressing room, Kate. I will see what is wanted.” He kisses her hand. She nods and turns. Lord Rafe watches his wife walk into her dressing room–adjusting her robe to cover herself again as she goes. Then Lord Rafe turns and purposefully strides toward his bed chamber door and pulls it open. “This had better be good!” He snarls with the pain of thwarted love engulfing him for a second time this day.
Smithers/Butler: Standing stoically before his lord and master, he says. “I do beg your pardon, my Lord. But your parents sent word that they would like to see you and Lady Katharine up at the manor well before the dinner to discuss an urgent matter with you.”
Lord Rafe: “Does my father not remember that my lady and I are on our wedding trip?”
Smithers/Butler: Knowing that his master’s question was rhetorical, the butler asks. “Shall I have the carriage made ready for you early?”
Lord Rafe: He shakes his head ruefully. “Yes. Yes. We will be down directly. Please ask my wife’s ladies maid and my valet to return to us to help us finish dressing.”
The butler bows, then leaves to attend to his master’s wishes. Lord Rafe heads into his wife’s dressing room to tell her the bad news–that they must leave their wish for a loving tryst behind them, for now. And he thinks, so close, so close as he sees the clear disappointment in her eyes that mirrors his own feelings. Then Lady Katharine turns her thoughts to why they were interrupted. Her questioning expression about what his parents have to say is beyond his knowledge to answer her.
Meanwhile, earlier in the evening up at the Wingate home of Dearing Manor, Lord Rafe’s Mama, Lady Leonora Wingate [(7) right], sits at her dressing table putting on her broach pin as she finishes getting ready for the dinner they are hosting tonight for the wedding couple. An elegant, poised, and kind woman in her late forties, Lady Wingate is usually calm and serene–as is the pale blue color of her evening gown. But not tonight. She is nervous and anxious–and not on account of the dinner.
Lady Wingate hears three taps on her bed chamber door and her husband, Lord Charles Wingate, peeks around the door. Lord Wingate is in his mid fifties, still a fine figure of a man–robust of spirit, with a zest for life that shines on his cheerful countenance. His thinning gray hair belies the rich thatch of auburn curls that once were his–and that are now seen in his son, Lord Rafe.
Lord Wingate: “You asked to see me, my dear?” He smiles warmly at his beloved wife.
She calmly beckons him forward, shoos away her maid, then tries to gather her senses about her.
Lady Wingate: “Charles, thank you for coming.” She begins courteously.
Lord and Lady Wingate have separate bed chambers as befits the lord and lady of the manor. But they are a tender and loving couple, having shared the better part of their lives together these past 30 years.
Lord Wingate: “Of course, my dear.” He looks at her lovingly. “But you seem worried, Leonora. What is wrong?” He takes a hold of her hand.
Lady Wingate: Then she blurts it out. “Our granddaughter is missing!”
Lord Wingate: “But that cannot be! I just passed the nursery where Louisa and John were kissing little Charlotte and Henry goodnight before our dinner this evening.” He says quickly to reassure her.
Lady Wingate: “I do not refer to our daughter’s child.”
Lord Wingate: “Then pray tell me to whom are you referring, Madam?” He looks at her askance.
Lady Wingate: She swallows, then continues in a hushed voice. “I am speaking of Rafe’s daughter, Anna.”
Lord Wingate: “My dear are you feeling quite well? Our son Rafe does not have a daughter–named Anna nor anything else.”
Lady Wingate: The stress is too great for her and the truth tumbles out of her, even through her tears. “Yes, he does! She is Anna Miller, Fanny Miller’s daughter–and Rafe’s daughter. She was born to the pastry cook we hired to train our cooks twelve years ago. Anna is now eleven.”
Lord Wingate: He is momentarily speechless as he stares down at her incredulously. Then his mind reconnects with his tongue as he thunders. “You are telling me that I have a nearly grown granddaughter that you have kept from me for eleven years?”
Lady Wingate: “No! Well, yes. I mean. I have only known about Anna for five years. And only then because I happened upon Fanny and Anna at their pastry stall at one of the nearby village fairs. I could not mistake Anna’s parentage. She looks like Rafe did as child, but she is very feminine and sweet–like our Louisa.”
Lord Wingate: “Feminine and sweet? Leonora, am I to understand that you know our granddaughter–and that she knows you?” He asks somewhat accusatorially.
Lady Wingate: “I do, Charles. Once Fanny admitted to me that Anna was Rafe’s child, I could not turn my back on her. But Anna knows me only as her Grandmama–thinking that I am her mother’s mother–not that I am Lady Wingate. A ruse that Fanny and I concocted to keep Anna from asking questions about me. So I have been visiting Anna monthly on days when she was not in school.”
Lord Wingate: “In school?” Since children of pastry cooks–let alone girls–do not usually receive schooling.
Lady Wingate: “Yes, I paid to have her educated with the Sisters of Mary Convent near where they live. Anna is quite a smart little girl they tell me.”
Lord Wingate: “Does Rafe know?” He rubs his forehead as a self comforting mechanism.
Lady Wingate: She shakes her head no. “No. You see, I was not certain at first. And then when I was certain, I did not know how to broach it with him.”
Lord Wingate: “Nor with me, it seems.” He simmers. “Why did you only happen to find out about Anna? Why did her mother not seek us or Rafe out immediately?”
Lady Wingate: “Fanny explained to me that she feared we would take Anna from her–to raise her properly as a Wingate should be raised. And Anna was her life’s joy. But Fanny and I have developed such a good rapport over the last few years that I was beginning to hope that she might let Anna come here for a visit. Then Rafe planned to marry suddenly and all was in uproar. So I decided to wait for a better moment to bring her into our lives.”
Lord Wingate: “And why do you say Anna is now missing?”
Lady Wingate: “When I sent the footman to Fanny’s home with some gifts for Anna today–because I could not visit due to Rafe’s wedding yesterday. The footman discovered that Fanny Miller had died of a swift illness and that her child, our granddaughter Anna, was not on the mill premises. No one could or would explain to him about her whereabouts. I only just found out this afternoon when he returned. I am frantic! Anna is only eleven, just a child. She must be found and protected!” She wails as her tears flow.
Lord Wingate: Putting his arms around her shoulders, he lets her cry on his jacket. He realizes that there will be time to be angry with his wife later. Now they must focus on their granddaughter’s whereabouts. “There there, my dear. We will find her. And, we must tell Rafe.” He adds solemnly.
Lady Wingate nods through her weeping as Lord Wingate summons his butler to ask for Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine to come to the manor early–to meet with them before dinner. Then Lord Wingate and his wife will have to somehow find a way to tell their son what even now he is still too astonished to contemplate fully–that their son has a daughter.
This past week has been the worst of eleven year old Anna Miller’s [(8) right] life. Her dearly beloved Mama died at only 32 years of age from an illness that withered her away this past month. Anna has cried so many tears that she does not know if she will ever be loved and feel happy again. Her uncle Miller who ran the mill said that he would not take care of her now that her mother has died. He has always been grumpy–as her Mama described him. So Anna is glad not to have to live with him and his family. Anna’s only other relative is her Grandmama, but she does not know where she lives–since her Grandmama had always visited her.
And because her Mama could not reach Anna’s Grandmama before her Mama died, Anna knows that she is being sent to a friend of her Mama’s–a Mrs. Plunkett to be trained to work in the kitchen of a great house. Anna enjoys cooking and baking–having helped her Mama with her baking since she was big enough to stir a spoon, even if most of the contents of the bowl ended up on the floor. She hopes that Mrs. Plunkett might be able to help her find her Grandmama. And when Anna does find her Grandmama, she has a note from her Mama in her reticule to give to her Grandmama.
After a tiring all afternoon carriage ride, Anna alights at the servant’s entrance to a grand home this twilight evening. Anna adjusts her straw bonnet with its light blue ribbon around her chin. She smooths the skirt of her light brown muslin traveling dress even as she looks around the small courtyard like area. Anna clasps her white kid gloved hands together and she looks to the groom for direction as to where she should go. Anna’s attire, other fine clothes, and ladylike manner are mostly due to her Grandmama and the nuns. But Anna’s Mama’s kindness, cheerfulness, and goodness are also evident in Anna’s disposition.
Anna: “Sir. Might you please tell me where I am? I do not think Mrs. Plunkett lives here.” She shakes her head quizzically.
Groom: “Miss, I am no Sir. This is Dearing Manor–Lord and Lady Wingate’s estate home. Mrs. Plunkett is helping out with a special dinner for the newly married young master and his wife–son to Lord and Lady Wingate. She asked me to bring you here. I will leave your trunk in the carriage since you will be going to Mrs. Plunkett’s cottage after the dinner. Please follow me inside, Miss.” He gestures to the door.
Anna: “Very well, thank you.” She nods politely. Anna thinks that she will like making delicate and fanciful pastries and such in a grand home such as this–where they will be appreciated. And Anna hopes that her Mama in heaven is pleased for her–since her Mama sent her here.
Anna is led through an outer door into the manor, down some steps, then through a long hallway toward noise of activity that becomes louder as they approach the kitchen. When they get to the end of the hall way, she is ushered into a butler’s pantry opposite the kitchen.
Groom: “Sit here Miss, while I fetch Mrs. Plunkett.” He nods politely at her and Anna sits–her back straight with her impeccable posture. Anna won praise at the convent for her posture–since as a smallish girl of eleven years, she might be mistaken for someone younger, but for her self-possessed ladylike and poised bearing.
Butler Holmes: Walking into the pantry to retrieve a silver water pitcher, the manor Butler named Holmes looks down and sees the slight lady like girl before him. She stands politely. “And who might you be, Miss?” He looks at her light brown muslin traveling dress, straw bonnet, and gloves–thinking that she reminds him of Lady Louisa when she was young.
So far, the servants seem to be mistaking her for a lady. And Anna decides to correct their impression. But with her lady like upbringing, she is not common in any way and fails.
Anna: “I am Anna Miller, Sir. I am to be the new pastry cook helper for Mrs. Plunkett. I have just arrived and they asked me to sit here. The groom left my trunk in the carriage since I am to stay with her. I hope that I am not disturbing your work. I was given to understand that there is a special party this evening. Please let me know if I may assist you in any way.” She smiles congenially.
Butler Holmes: Staring in disbelief at this young lady offering to help out as if she were a servant, he blanches. “Not at present, Miss. I will make Mrs. Plunkett aware of your arrival, but I dare say that she is too busy to attend to you at the moment.”
Anna: “I perfectly understand.” She nods and sits back down as the butler leaves. She leans her head back against the wall and dozes a little–partly from being tired from traveling and also from not having had any meal since breakfast.
The butler apprises Mrs. Plunkett of the young lady waiting for her in the silver pantry area and she bustles in there to find a small young lady with dark blond ringlets napping.
Mrs. Plunkett: Delicately touching Anna’s shoulder so as not to startle her, she asks. “Anna dear, is that you?”
Anna: Anna opens her eyes, only having closed them but a few moments ago. She stands politely and responds. “Yes, I am Anna Miller. Might you be Mrs. Plunkett who my Mama spoke so fondly of?” She asks hopefully.
Mrs. Plunkett: “Ooh, yes dearie, I am.” She gathers the little girl to her breast in a crushing but comforting embrace. “You are such a sweet one. And so young to lose your dear Mama, Fanny.”
Anna: Anna’s poise crumples with this kind lady’s tenderness and her mentioning her Mama as she clings to Mrs. Plunkett–the first kind hearted sympathy she has received since her mother died. “Yes, I miss Mama so much! Hmh, hmh.” She whimpers into Mrs. Plunkett’s shoulder.
Mrs. Plunkett: Rubbing Anna’s back soothingly, she says gently. “There, there, my sweet. You will have a home with me, love. No need to fret. You are among friends.”
Anna: Sniffling, she pulls back and says. “Thank you. I am most grateful. But I also need to let my Grandmama know what has happened. I do not know how to reach her.” She shakes her head worriedly.
Mrs. Plunkett: “We will find her, dearie. Now! You look a little pale. Have you eaten anything all day since you have been traveling?” Anna shyly shakes her head no. So Mrs. Plunkett takes Anna’s hand in hers. “Well, come with me and I will get you a plate of food.”
Mrs. Plunkett and Anna walk into the busy kitchen. Everyone stops doing whatever they are doing for a moment–and the footmen stand, as they do for their betters–wondering if one of the guests has wandered downstairs. Anna smiles warmly at them. Mrs. Plunkett takes a china plate off of the servants’ plates shelf, loads is with a small chicken thigh in gravy, a dumpling, and a vegetable. Then she guides Anna into the servants’ dining hall–that is empty now due to everyone working on dinner upstairs at the moment for the lords and ladies. Mrs. Plunkett sets the plate and a water glass down on the table and bids Anna to sit and eat. Anna nods and smiles her thanks and sits. Mrs. Plunkett returns to her kitchen duties.
Anna removes her bonnet and sets it protectively on the chair next to her. The bonnet was a present from her Grandmama for her last birthday. None of her friends in the village where she lived had such a fine one as this. And it would not do to let any harm to come to this precious gift. Then she removes her white kid gloves–also presents from her Grandmama–one finger at a time. Finally Anna slowly begins to eat her delicious meal.
To be continued Chapter 7
1) “Love is a Choice” story logo is a composite image comprised of:
a) Gold wedding gown (cropped to fabric of skirt) found at http://0.tqn.com/d/honeymoons/1/0/C/w/belle2.jpg
b) Oval picture frames were found at http://www.inlineovals.com/product_images/q/675/602agp__91104_zoom.jpg
c) Image (cropped, masked, brightened, color) representing Lord Rafe Wingate is that of Richard Armitage as John Thornton in North & South (2004) episode 2, picture 66 was found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode2/ns2-066.jpg
d) Image (cropped, masked, brightened, color) representing Lady Katharine Wingate is that of Carla Gugino as Nan St. George in “The Buccaneers” (1995), Episode 1 is vlcsnap-ooh09m21s203 mask Mar1313 Gratiana Lovelace Cap
2) Mrs. Plunkett image is of Lesley Nicol as Mrs. Patmore in Downton Abbey season 2 picture 4 and was found at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/downtonabbey/images/season2_characters_slideshow_patmore_04.jpg
3) The history of kites and kite flying was found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kite
4) Ebrington Hill at 856 feet (261 meters), is the tallest point in Warwickshire County as noted in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warwickshire
6) According to Wiki, one pound in the 1820’s is worth 85 pounds now. So Lady Katharine’s 20,000 pound dowry would be worth 1, 700,000 pounds in today’s monetary values; for more information visit http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_much_was_a_pound_worth_in_England_in_the_1800%27s
7) Image for Lady Leonora Wingate, Mama to Lord Rafe is a painting titled “Lady Violet Henderson” by John William Waterhouse found at
8) Anna Miller Image is the then child actress Emilie Francois who portrayed Margaret in “Sense & Sensibility” in 1995 (vlcsnap-19h26m42s98Mar1613 Gratiana Lovelace Cap CropBrtClrShrpRev); for more on the movie, visit http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114388/
“Love is a Choice”, Previous Story Link to Ch. 3-4 is: