“Love is a Choice”, Ch. 15 (PG-13): Visiting Lady Katharine’s Family in London, Part 1, April 15, 2013 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #397)
[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, Mark Strong as Sir Collin MacGregor, Alan Bates as Lord Charles Wingate, Christian Bale as Stuart MacGregor, Daniel Day-Lewis as Sir Antony Southwick, Michelle Pfeiffer as Lady Charmaine Southwick, and others, etc.]
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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: The MacGregors and Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine Wingate departed Dearing Manor in Warwick this Thursday morning with heavy hearts for having to part from one another. It has been a lovely first three days of Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine’s marriage and wedding trip–once you get past her bolting from her groom and him later offering to annul their marriage because he has an illegitimate daughter who has surfaced and will now live with his parents. But the family and their close friends rallied around young Anna Wingate and relationships are being formed–with her Papa Rafe and his wife Katharine/Kathy, with Anna’s little cousins Lottie and Henry, and with young Stuart MacGregor. The matter of delicately revealing Anna’s existence to Lady Katharine’s parents–Sir Antony and Lady Charmaine Southwick–will be the main goal of their few days visit with them. And Lord Rafe also hopes to meet Lady Katharine’s Grandmere who is so fond of giving silk as gifts.
“Love is a Choice”, Ch. 15 (PG-13): Visiting Lady Katharine’s Family in London, Part I
Their private carriage ride from Warwick to London on Thursday was a smooth one for Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine–blessedly uneventful with regard to no broken wheels nor highwaymen, etc. They enjoy the uninterrupted time to chat and share and kiss and cuddle with each other. They also have a picnic basket with yummy foods to munch on. So they only stop at two inns along the way for he and Lady Katharine to rest a bit as necessary. And were it not for Lord Rafe’s consideration of his wife’s comfort–and her heightened sense of modesty–he might have suggested that they enjoy the swaying of the enclosed private and spacious carriage in a more intimately marital way. But he looks forward to them being alone together this evening–even if they are staying at her parents’ home.
It is a long eight hours carriage ride and they reach Lady Katharine’s parents’ London home after darkness begins to fall–but they will still have an hour to bathe and change for dinner at eight o’clock. Lady Katharine’s parents are very punctual about meals and such. So it would have made a bad impression upon her parents were they to have been delayed along their journey.
Indeed, as they enter the large Grosvenor Square [(2) right] London home of the Southwick’s, the home has almost a museum quality feel to it–because the furnishings are so perfectly and artfully chosen and arranged, in Lord Rafe’s view. This home’s décor is due to Lady Charmaine Southwick, a lady of quality with impeccable taste and style. But Lord Rafe also notices an almost imperceptible change in his wife, Lady Katharine, as they enter her childhood home–as he sees her posture stiffen, her manner become strained, and the smile fade from her face.
Lord Rafe’s father had conducted the dowry negotiations with Sir Antony Southwick–Lady Katharine’s father. So Lord Rafe had only met her parents briefly before–since her parents did not stay for the wedding reception, wanting to return to London as soon as possible. Lord Rafe thought Lady Katharine’s parents leaving directly after the wedding ceremony to be slightly odd at the time. But the austerity of this home’s atmosphere of perfection now viewed within the context of his wife’s initial perspectives and behavior regarding marital intimacies, Lord Rafe blanches in greater understanding–him perceiving that the Southwick’s must be a much less convivial family than his own. And he will find out that he is absolutely correct.
One example of a difference in the Southwick home is that though Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine are graciously provided with a valet and maid to attend them in separate bed chambers as befits their station, Lord Rafe is startled to realize that their bedchambers are down the hallway from each other–not sided by side with a connecting door as would be the case in his parents or their own home. Though it is customary in aristocratic homes for husbands and wives to have their own bed chambers, they are usually side by side. The fact that Lady Katharine is returned to her childhood bed chamber whilst he–Lord Rafe–is banished to guest bed chamber oblivion, is not lost on him. But for his wife’s sake, Lord Rafe says nothing about the arrangements, for now.
Lord Rafe is dressed and ready for dinner first and he stops a maid in the hallway asking where his wife’s bed chamber is and the maid directs him to her room at the other end of the hallway. Lord Rafe raps on his wife’s closed bed chamber door twice.
Lord Rafe: “Kate, it is Rafe.” He says amiably through the door. Never let a little thing such as a 2 inch thick solid walnut paneled door come between an eager bridegroom and his bride, is Lord Rafe’s motto.
Lady Katharine: “I am almost ready.” She calls out a tad fretful that they might be late to meet her Mama and Papa before dinner. Lady Katharine so wants for she and her husband to make a good impression on her Mama. Her Mama is very critical of that which she does not feel is proper–which worries Lady Katharine mightily. Because for all Lord Rafe’s aristocratic bearing and faultless manners, Lady Katharine’s husband can best be described as improper at times with his gregarious laugh, his twinklingly wicked gleam in his eyes, and his tenderness toward her–all of which she adores.
Lord Rafe: With not being bidden to enter, he entreats her longingly through her closed bed chamber door. “My lady, might I join you for a moment of private conversation before we go down to greet your parents?”
Lady Katharine: “Of course.” She nods at her maid who walks to the bed chamber door and opens it. Lady Katharine stands up from her dressing table and beckons to her husband to enter.
Lord Rafe’s heat gaze upon his wife’s loveliness in her evening gown leaves little doubt that he is her loving husband. The maid curtsies, then leaves–closing the door behind her with a blushing face.
Lady Katharine: “Rafe, you are the first and only man to enter my girl hood bed chamber, but for …” She hesitates to tell him about her much missed brother, but discretion is her hallmark. “… but for my Papa when he and Mama told me bed time stories when I was little.
Lord Rafe: Sauntering over to his wife, he muses. “I am honored.” He chivalrously lifts her small delicate hand to his lips and kisses it. Then he gently gathers to him with his hands on her hips–and places his hands on her face, guiding her to him as he kisses her sweetly on her lips [(3) right]. She lightly rests her hands on his shoulders. Were they to kiss too passionately, they might crush and wrinkle their respective evening attire. Then he kisses her neck and she tilts her head to give him greater access.
Lady Katharine: “Hhhhh!” She sighs with her husband’s tenderness.
Lord Rafe: He smiles wryly. “However, I did not realize that I would need a map–and perhaps a compass [(4)]–to find my wife’s bed chamber. Ha ha ha ha ha!” He grins mischievously, then he runs a wicked finger along the lace edging on the collar of her evening gown’s bodice–lightly touching her décolletage exposed to his appreciative view as she trembles. “You look enticingly beautiful tonight, My Love.”
Lady Katharine: She returns his heated gaze with a studied air of primness while trying–but failing–to stay her mouth from curling up at the corners in a smile for his loving attentions. “Now now. Rafe, I told you on our journey here, Mama and Papa have certain views about how a husband and wife should conduct themselves.”
Lord Rafe: “Well, if they hope for grandchildren some day, they will at least need to allow me to visit you the four days we are here.” He says huskily. Four days of curtailed marital intimacy is not Lord Rafe’s idea of a proper wedding trip.
Lady Katharine: She pinkens charmingly at his allusion. Then her newly discovered womanhood emboldens her to reply to him seductively as she draws her delicately tapered index finger along his freshly shaved cheek. “Of course, I could always come to you in the night.” She smiles coquettishly. “Your guest bed chamber is happily at the far end of the hallway–away from Mama’s and Papa’s bed chambers.”
Lord Rafe: “Are you telling me that the walls here are thin–and we need to be quiet in our lovemaking?” He raises a very mischievous eyebrow.
Lady Katharine: She slaps his arm lightly. “Rafe stop! You will make me blush and Mama will know why when we greet she and Papa before dinner.” She pouts cutely.
Lord Rafe: “My dear, if I did not take every opportunity to make you blush, then you would not be having as good a time on our wedding trip as you are.” He smirks.
Then he leans in and thoroughly kisses his lovely young bride and she kisses him back. So lost are they in their deeply passionate kisses as their bodies mold themselves against each other–creating a few fabric wrinkles, or perhaps, smoothing them out–that they are startled with a knock upon her closed bed chamber door.
Maid: Speaking through the closed bed chamber door. “Pardon, my lady. Your parents said to tell you they are awaiting you in the parlor.”
Lady Katharine: Summoning a ladylike demeanor, even as her husband continues to lavish kisses upon her swan like neck, Lady Katherine responds evenly and primly from behind her closed bed chamber door–and nestled securely in her husband’s arms. “Thank you. Please inform Sir Antony and Lady Charmaine that we will join them directly.”
Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine kiss tenderly once more before regretfully disengaging from each other and walking downstairs arm in arm together to greet her parents. Lord Rafe definitely wants to adore his wife when they are alone again later this evening.
Since Lord Rafe had left the marital dowry negotiations to his father and hers, Lady Katharine’s father is still somewhat of an enigma to him. He has only met the man three times–at Katharine’s coming out ball, at a dinner celebrating their engagement, and at their wedding. So Lord Rafe can be excused for his not knowing his father-in-law, Sir Antony Southwick. And given how skittishly Lady Katharine first behaved on their wedding night that was not a wedding night–due to her Mama warning her about the trial of marital intimacy that awaited her as a wife–Lord Rafe also wonders what his mother-in-law, Lady Charmaine Southwick, is like. He is soon to find out.
Similarly, Lady Katharine is uneasy about what her parents’ reaction will be to Lord Rafe having a child born outside of marriage–Anna. Though she and Lord Rafe discussed on their journey here that it is important to tell them tonight–before anyone else might tell them in the vicious London gossip mill–she is still nervous about their reaction. She is only concerned for Lord Rafe’s sake–that her parents, mostly her Mama–might behave badly.
As Sir Antony and Lady Charmaine Southwick await their daughter and new son-in-law joining them in the parlor, the tension between the mature married couple is palpable. The parlor is a large room made smaller by several large pieces of furniture and potted trees and plants cluttering it up. Sir Antony unsuccessfully tries to push a fern frond away from his face.
Lady Charmaine: “Antony, please do not bat at the poor fern. It cannot help that you chose to stand there.” She says a tad imperiously–for one who is his wife, not his mother.
Sir Antony: “Charmaine, I am only sleeping here and not at my club because our Kathy is visiting. So I would appreciate you treating me at least civilly.” He states a bit petulantly.
Lady Charmaine: “With our daughter and her husband about to arrive any minute, now is not the time to discuss where you sleep when you are not at home.” She fumes icily.
Sir Antony: “HHHHH! Why must you be like this? You drove me out! And you drove Perce out–to God knows where.” He accuses his wife and she looks away from him with clenched lips and the color draining from her face.
Lady Charmaine: “You promised not to mention Percival–for Katharine’s sake.” She chides him. “And I did not wish Katharine to marry so young–as I did. I fear that she will regret it her entire life.” She says of her daughter, but she is actually speaking about herself.
Sir Antony: “At least Kathy is out from under your iron rule now. She can have a happy life of her own choosing.” He grouses.
Lady Charmaine: “Katharine will be happy married to an admitted philanderer? How can that be so? You have wedded our precious child to a man who will be as unfaithful to her as you have been unfaithful to me!” She hisses.
Sir Antony: “It was just that one time! And you will never let me forget it. But it was a harmless flirtation! That is all.”
Lady Charmaine: “I do not believe you! A mere dalliance is not what Lady Montgrieve and others said of your dealings with Lady Harriott. And there was the rumor that you–and not Lord Harriott–had fathered their youngest son, David. He does bear a resemblance to you.”
Sir Antony: “And you chose to believe a gossip monger over your own husband? That boy is not mine! It is impossible! I never had relations with his mother–nor anyone else but you, for that matter!” He throws up his hands in frustration. “I strayed in my thoughts, I was wrong to do it. But if even God will forgive me for my sin, why will you not do so?” He implores her.
Lady Charmaine: “Because it was unforgivable! I was bearing our second child–our Katharine–and you took a lover during my last months of pregnancy because of your lust. The fact that I did not find out about your amour until Katharine was nearly ten years old–and you had been bedding me all that time as if you were my loving husband–makes your deception and betrayal even worse!” Her nerves are raw, dredging up this long festering wound. He broke her heart and she will never forgive him.
Sir Antony: Sir Antony now realizes despairingly that his wife will never believe his innocence–because her mind has been so thoroughly poisoned by others. “Well, you have made our last eight years together a living hell, madam, even though I have tried to tell you the truth and to make amends to you. But with Kathy now married, we can drop the pretense of us needing to live together for propriety’s sake from this time forward. Kathy is free and so shall I be. I am done trying to make it up to you. The woman I loved and married is no more. Go find someone else to punish–god help them! And you may stay in this mausoleum of a house for all I care.” Sir Antony lashes out at his wife because he is hurt by her rejection–he feels her mistrust a betrayal of his love for her.
Lady Charmaine’s and Sir Antony’s terrible words to each other strike the final death blows to their marriage. Each of their hearts are breaking at the irretrievable loss of their marriage–and the love that they once shared. But both of them have too much pride to admit that they love and need the other–so blame and venom are the currency of their exchanges.
And by now, their voices in argument have increased in volume to such a point that Sir Antony and Lady Charmaine can be heard shouting from the hallway–but not directly what is said–as Lady Katharine and Lord Rafe approach the closed parlor door. Liveried footmen stand at attention on either side of the double doors with impassive faces–having heard it all before. The servants are well aware of the unhappiness of this home–Lady Kathy having been its only light these past eight years.
Lady Katharine: Color drains from Lady Katharine’s face at hearing her parents arguing and knowing that her husband can hear it also. “Mama? Papa? We are here.” She tries to call out cheerfully, but really wanting to alert her parents to their presence in hope that they will cease arguing.
Lord Rafe squeezes his wife’s hand around his arm in support. He looks into her eyes and sees a sadness there–these past eight years have been a living hell for her, too. And Lord Rafe thinks about his wife that with her parents’ example, no wonder she was wary of marriage.
A stark silence emanates from the parlor.
Lady Charmaine: Then in a poised and controlled voice Lady Charmaine bids them. “Enter.”
The footmen open the double doors wide. Inside the parlor, a very different tableaux awaits Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine than the rancor they had expected to find–given the loud arguing they just overheard. It is as if discordant voices they heard the past few moments had not occurred as a stoic and distinguished looking fifty four year old Sir Antony Southwick [(5) right] stands next to a primly seated Lady Charmaine Southwick near the fireplace–with strained placid smiles on their faces as they greet them. The only clues to their mutual marital strife are their slightly drooping eyes in sadness.
Lady Charmaine: Lady Charmaine rises from the sette and walks forward first to greet her daughter warmly, but with a slightly detached manner. Lady Charmaine’s beauty as a youthful forty four year old woman is as brittle as it is arresting [(6) right]. “Katharine, my precious. It is so good to see you.” Lady Charmaine kisses her daughter’s cheeks, then she embraces her daughter–holding on to her daughter a moment longer than usual, which Lady Katharine notices. Lady Charmaine leans back and caresses her daughter’s cheek while she asks caringly. “Are you well, my child?”
Lady Katharine: Lady Katharine guesses that her Mama is referring to her now wifely status, but she ignores her Mama’s allusion as she blushes. “As you see, Mama. I am well.” Then Lady Katharine breezily turns to her husband standing politely at her side. “Mama, you remember Lord Rafe Wingate, my husband. Rafe, this is my Mama, Lady Charmaine Southwick.”
Lord Rafe: Lord Rafe bows and takes his mother-in-law’s hand and kisses it–noticing how frail her hand is–and he notices her recoiling from his touch slightly. “Madam, Thank you for inviting us to stay. It is an honor to see you again.” He says graciously.
Lady Charmaine: With practiced civility and a hint of disdain, she greets her son-in-law with a slight nod of her head. “And I, you.”
Lady Katharine: Lady Katharine walks over to her father and greets him warmly. “Papa!” They embrace lovingly and he lifts her up off the ground. “Eek! Ha ha ha!” Lady Katharine is her Papa’s little girl and always will be.
Sir Antony: “Kathy, darling! You look even prettier than when I gave you in marriage to some fellow last week. What was his name again?”
Lady Charmaine rolles her eyes at her husband’s frivolity with their daughter.
Lady Katharine: “Oh Papa!” She chides him for his cheekiness as he sets her back down again. “You know very well that I married my Lord Rafe Wingate.” She puts her arm around her husband’s arm. “Rafe, this is my Papa, Sir Antony Southwick.”
They men bow to each other.
Sir Antony: Sir Antony looks quizzically at Lord Rafe. “Kathy, this is the fellow whom you married? Are you sure? I thought that you married a man with blond hair?” Then her Papa winks at her.
Lord Rafe: Getting into the spirit of Sir Antony’s jest, he thrusts out his hand to his father-in-law with a large grin on his face as they shake hands. “Sir, Antony! Perhaps you are confusing me with the priest. Though he does have forty years on me–so I do not know if his hair is actually blond, or merely white with age.”
Sir Antony: Looking his new son-in-law up and down, he says bemusedly. “Possibly.”
Lord Rafe: Then Lord Rafe turns to Lady Katharine. “Kate, this is the first time that I have ever been confused with a Priest.” Now Lord Rafe winks at his wife. “Ha ha ha ha ha!” He laughs heartily, warmed by the cordiality of his father-in-law.
Lady Katharine: “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!” She giggles.
Lady Charmaine: “Ah, Lord Rafe,” She intones haughtily. “I should perhaps alert you to the fact that my Katharine detests the name Kate.” She purses her lips. “She prefers her given name of Katharine.”
Sir Antony: “Hhhh.” He sighs under his breath for his wife’s disagreeableness.
Lord Rafe narrows his eyes at his mother-in-law, trying to figure out what her motives are for correcting him in front of everyone. And he feels fortunate that a mother-in-law can be kept at a distance and to infrequent visits.
Lady Katharine: She looks between her Mama standing imperiously to one side of her and her Papa wincing benevolently to the other side of her–with her husband standing patiently before her, maintaining his calm and poise for her sake. Then being diplomatic, Lady Katharine offers. “Mama, though it is true that in the past, I was not fond of the name Kate, I find that Rafe calling me Kate is quite pleasing.”
Lady Charmaine gives her daughter a withering look.
Lady Katharine: “Ghh!” Lady Katharine audibly gulps to have displeased her Mama.
Sir Antony: “Well, you will always be my Kathy, sweetheart.” He smiles at his daughter lovingly while trying to smooth over the awkward moment.
Lord Rafe: Wanting to give as good as he gets, he offers as a pseudo compromise. “Lady Southwick, you will be heartened to know that I do often address Kate as Katharine–as she had already told me she prefers–when we are being private together.” Lord Rafe uses Lady Katharine’s phrasing for their lovemaking trysts. Then he puts his hand around his wife’s waist, pulls her closer to him–but not lewdly–and he gently and reverently kisses his wife’s temple before turning back to look at his blanching mother-in-law and his bemused father-in-law. Lady Katharine’s lips curve into a small smile and she blushingly lowers her eyes demurely.
Sir Antony looks upon his daughter and her husband with relief–thinking all is well and happy for my little girl. Lady Charmaine’s eyes droop, thinking her daughter will be lulled into a false sense of happiness–as she was.
However, the two couples go on to enjoy a delicious evening meal. It is universally acknowledged that Lady Charmaine has the best cooks. The four of them are dining en famille this night since Lord Rafe’s and Lady Katharine’s arrival time was uncertain. But tomorrow night, the Southwick’s will host a large dinner party for them with extended family and friends.
Then after dinner, the gentlemen stay in the dining room and chat while the ladies return to the parlor.
Sir Antony: Pouring his son-in-law some port and offering him a cigar, he says. “My daughter Kathy looks happier than I have seen her in a long time. My instincts about you were correct, Lord Rafe. I hope that you will both enjoy a blessed marriage.”
Lord Rafe: “Thank you, Sir Antony. Kate is my angel.” He sighs. Lord Rafe has been doing a lot of sighing in contentment since he wedded and bedded his wife.
Sir Antony: Then Sir Antony becomes more somber. “And let me apologize for what you no doubt overheard before you entered the parlor this evening.”
Lord Rafe: Lord Rafe puts his hands out in protest. “No apologies are necessary, Sir Antony. Life can sometimes startle us and change the paths of our lives forever. We are none of us beyond reproach.” He says thinking of his daughter Anna and the circumstances of her birth. He and Lady Katharine had planned to tell her parents about Anna tonight. Yet with Lady Katharine’s parents in such upheaval, Lord Rafe does not know how they will tell them about Anna now–nor even if they should ever tell them.
Sir Antony: “Yes. I thank you for your understanding. But all the same, I want you to know that you and Kathy have my fullest support–whatever happens between her Mama and I.”
Lord Rafe: “Forgive me for asking–and you can tell me to mind my own business–but is it really as bad as that?”
Sir Antony: “It is.” Sir Antony nods somberly. “A chasm of hurt feelings and mistrust separated us from each other eight years ago. I am entirely to blame.” He says honorably. “Though my sin was only in thinking about another woman, my wife does not believe me–her thinking that I had an affair. And we have never been able to repair the breech between us. The Lady Charmaine whom you see before you now is a creation of my own making–a hurt and wounded creature who lashes out at others because she was hurt. She is no longer the sweet and loving woman I married and who loved me until eight years ago.” Then he looks soulfully at Lord Rafe. “Lord Rafe, you must promise me never to cause Kathy the pain that I have caused her dear Mama. For it would not only break Kathy’s heart, I fear that it would kill her.” Sir Antony pleads desperately with Lord Rafe.
Lord Rafe: “I love Kate, Sir Antony. I would never do her harm.”
Sir Antony: “And I loved my wife and swore the same when we first married. Yet, here I sit, the cause of the misery that envelops our household.” He shakes his head and then lays his head in his hands and weeps. He burdens himself with too much of the blame for the breakdown of his marriage. But there are none to convince him otherwise–nor anyone who will come to his defense and vouch for him with Lady Charmaine, because they have thus far kept their turmoil so private that no one of their acquaintance suspects.
Lord Rafe: Rather than be embarrassed by such an uncharacteristic show of emotion by Sir Antony–certainly Lord Rafe has never seen his own father weep except when his grandparents died–Lord Rafe is touched by Sir Antony’s sincerity. “Sir Antony, Kate’s happiness is my happiness. And she will be my one and only love until I draw my last breath.” And Lord Rafe means every word.
Sir Antony: “Thank you.” He smiles wanly. “My one consolation is that Kathy will be happy.”
After a suitable interval of sipping their port and puffing on their cigars in silence–time to allow Sir Antony to compose himself–they will rejoin the ladies in the parlor. Silence between men does not mean the same thing for men as silence between women does for women. Men welcome silence as part of their stoic natures. Whereas women often abhor the vacuum of a silence and seek to fill it.
Meanwhile, Lady Katharine and her Mama, Lady Charmaine, are having tea in the parlor. There is an uneasy silence between them. As mother and daughter, they have not been particularly close these past eight years. The disappointment that her Mama experienced cast a pall over all of Lady Charmaine’s relationships–forcing her son Percival to run far away from them and creating a tension between she and Katharine. Only Lady Katharine’s Grandmere–Lady Charmaine’s Mama, Lady Esmѐ Sinclair–was a source of comfort and love for Lady Katharine these past eight years. That is, in addition to her beleaguered Papa. Lady Katharine never knew what happened to cause the rift between her parents–until she overheard snippets of their argument this evening.
Lady Katharine: Wanting to find a neutral subject, she begins. “Mama, Rafe and I thought that we would visit our seaside estate in Essex for a week after we leave London.” She sips some of her tea, waiting for her Mama’s response, wondering if her Mama will disapprove–as she does with most of Lady Katharine’s choices.
Lady Charmaine: “Oh? Well, it is yours. Do as you see fit.” Lady Charmaine says distractedly–still going over in her mind her most recent argument this night with her husband, with deep sadness for their lost love.
Lady Katharine: Finding it unusual for her Mama to agree with anything she chooses to do, Lady Katharine sets her cup and saucer down on the low table before them and clasps her Mama’s hand in hers while asking caringly. “Mama, are you feeling well?”
Lady Charmaine: Lady Charmaine slowly brings her eyes up to meet her daughter’s gaze. “No, I am not. But I have become resigned to my reality. I have no choice.” She says sadly and stoically.
Lady Katharine: “But Mama. You and Papa were happy together once–when I was little. I remember. What happened?” She is bold to ask such a personal question, not at all certain if she is being helpful by asking, or if her Mama will rebuke her for it.
Lady Charmaine: “Not tonight, Katharine.” Lady Charmaine sighs as she rubs her forehead wearily. “I have such an ache in my head–it throbs so. I wish to retire early tonight.”
Lady Katharine: “I am sorry to hear that you are in pain, Mama.” Lady Katharine clasps her Mama’s hand in hers caringly.
Lady Charmaine: She touches her daughter’s cheek. “Thank you, Kathy Dear. But I still hope that you and I could chat like we used to when you were little. I will come to your bed chamber when you are readied for bed.”
Lady Katharine: “But Mama! Rafe and I ….” She cannot finish that sentence, not without revealing to her Mama the happy state of her own marriage–which would be like rubbing salt into an open wound [(7)].
Lady Charmaine: “Now, now, I know how eager bridegrooms can be. Your Papa was one once.” Lady Charmaine smiles wistfully at that happy memory. Then her smile fades. “But give me this one night and be my little girl again. I will not trouble you after that.”
Lady Katharine: “Mama?” Lady Katharine looks at her Mama questioningly. “Are you more than unwell?” She asks with trepidation.
Lady Charmaine: Lady Charmaine sits back and straightens her posture, putting on her familiar mask of disdain. “Of course not, Katharine. I am merely tired. Do not trouble yourself.”
Lady Katharine: “Very well, Mama. Then let us retire now. I will explain to Rafe. He will understand.” She hopes.
As Lady Katharine and Lady Charmaine rise from the sette, their husbands enter the parlor. Sir Antony’s countenance is calmed now–the turbulence of two hours ago and its aftermath have subsided into a resigned look of sadness. And Lord Rafe is eager to be with his bride and have her cheer him–and he cheer her–from this tension filled evening and he goes to Lady Katharine instantly, kissing her hand and then her cheek.
Lord Rafe: “My angel.” He whispers. Then Lord Rafe turns to his mother-in-law. “Lady Southwick, may I compliment you again on our meal. It was delightful. I especially liked the pudding.” He smiles minxishly and Lady Katharine squeezes her husband’s arm for his welcome mirth.
Lady Charmaine: “Thank you.” She says graciously, but wearily. Lady Charmaine really is tired–and feeling emotionally drained.
Lady Katharine: Covering for her Mama, she says. “Rafe, Papa, I am feeling so very tired from our long journey today. Would you mind if I retired early? After all, it is almost 11 o’clock.”
Sir Antony: “Of course, you must rest.” He smiles at his daughter. Then he looks over at Lord Rafe who is gazing at his wife, Lady Katharine, with such unabashed love that it makes Sir Antony long for the days when his wife welcomed his love. “Let us all retire.”
Lady Charmaine nods relievedly. Then the couples file upstairs together–each wife taking her husband’s arm. And Lady Charmaine thinks sadly, that this will be the last time that she and her husband do this. For after tomorrow evening’s dinner party they are hosting for their daughter and her husband, Sir Antony and Lady Charmaine Southwick’s joint social engagements will be at an end–and so will their marriage.
After Lady Charmain’s ladies maid helps her with her toilette before bedtime, it is almost midnight. Lady Charmaine puts on her dressing gown over her nightgown and she gracefully walks down the family bed chamber hallway to her daughter’s bedroom. She knocks three times on the door.
Lady Charmaine: “Katharine, it is your Mama.”
Lady Katharine: “Please come in, Mama.” Lady Katharine stands up from her dressing table and adjusts her dressing gown to thoroughly cover her nightgown–the white silk almost sheer nightgown that her Grandmere gave her as a wedding present. Lady Katharine wants to be especially pretty for her husband this night–and she hopes that their love and lovemaking can be a source of comfort and a respite from her worries about her parents.
Lady Charmaine: “Ah, there you are, my dear.” She embraces her daughter. “Let us sit for a few moments and then I will leave you to your rest.” They walk over to the bed and sit down on its edge.
Lady Katharine: Noticing the extreme fatigue in her Mama’s voice and manner, she asks worriedly. “Are you certain that you are alright, Mama? You seem very tired tonight.”
Lady Charmaine: Composing herself so as not to alarm her daughter, she says serenely. “I am simply fatigued from the long day and this ache in my head. It will pass and I will feel better in the morning. Now! Tell me about your husband. Are you happy?” She asks hopefully.
Lady Katharine: Lady Katharine blushes. “I am. We are.”
Lady Charmaine: “And your wedding night?” Lady Katharine’s eyes go wide. Surely her Mama cannot be asking for details. “Was your husband kind and tender with you, my dear?” She caresses her daughter’s face.
Lady Katharine: Lady Katharine lowers her eyes demurely. “Yes Mama. Rafe was very patient with me.” She nods.
Lady Charmaine: “Oh? How patient?” It has only been four days since her daughter wed. “Tell me, have you consummated your marriage yet?” She asks boldly. It is important to Lady Charmaine that her daughter be securely wedded–for Lady Katharine’s sake.
Lady Katharine: She looks at her Mama with alarm. She knows her Mama’s views on such things as the trial of marital relations. Lady Katharine croaks her response, barely above a whisper. “Yes.” Then she closes her eyes in shame, thinking her Mama will know what she has done with her husband.
Lady Charmaine: Caressing her daughter’s cheek, she pulls her face up to look at her. “Katharine, open your eyes.” Lady Katharine slowly opens her eyes and hesitantly looks at her Mama. “I am sorry that I spoke falsely to you about the love that a husband and wife share. It is not a trial. It is a joy! But I am afraid that my own distressed feelings about my marriage to your Papa caused me to tell you otherwise. I am sorry.”
Lady Katharine: She looks at her mother in astonishment. “Really? Then it is … proper for a married lady to …?” She asks obliquely about enjoying making love with her husband.
Lady Charmaine: “Yes my dear.” She leans forward and kisses her daughter’s forehead. “I wish you and Rafe every happiness. And a grandchild or two in a year or two would not be amiss.” Lady Charmaine smiles sheepishly.
Lady Katharine: “Mama!” She squeals. “Ha ha ha ha!” Then she and her mother embrace joyfully.
Lady Charmaine: “I best not detain you. Your bridegroom awaits–most impatiently, if I were to guess by the way he gazes at you lovingly.” She rises and walks toward the door.
Lady Katharine: “Thank you Mama!” Lady Katherine smiles happily. Then she pauses. “Mama? Is there no hope for you and Papa?”
Lady Charmaine: Lady Charmaine stops walking toward the door and turns back toward her daughter. “Katharine, I fear that hope is no longer a word in our vocabulary. The love we once shared is gone–and we cannot get it back again.” Her face saddens and she rubs her temple again, the ache in her head is worsening.
Lady Katharine: “But you and Papa still love each other, Mama.” She states plaintively.
Lady Charmaine: “Do we? Perhaps we love the love that we once shared. Hhhhh! Katharine, a word of advice to you. Do not take for granted the love that you and your husband share. Always nurture it. And … and if needed, learn to forgive each other. I wish I had learned that lesson.” A tear begins to fall down Lady Charmaine’s cheek.
Lady Katharine: Lady Katharine walks over to her Mama and hugs her caringly. “Oh Mama.” She sighs.
Lady Charmaine: “Now now. Your married life is just beginning. Embrace it and your love together.”
Just then, they hear two raps on the door.
Lord Rafe: Whispering. “Kate, it is Rafe. Are you alone?” He asks hopefully.
Mother and daughter smile at each other. Then Lady Charmaine walks to the door and opens it.
Lord Rafe: “Oh! I beg your pardon, My Lady. I do not wish to disturb you.” He bows and starts to back away sheepishly.
Lady Charmaine: “Lord Rafe, it is I who is leaving. Please come in.” She beckons to him. Then she turns back to her daughter. “Pleasant dreams, Kathy.” She calls her daughter by the childhood nickname that she gave her so many years ago.
Lady Katharine: “Goodnight Mama.” She kisses her Mama on her cheek and then her Mama leaves for her own bed chamber.
Lord Rafe: After he shuts his wife’s bed chamber door and bolts it, Lord Rafe pulls Lady Katharine into his loving embrace and kisses her adoringly. After they come up for air, he asks huskily–his ardor very apparent. “So, my Angel. Do we spend the night together in your bed chamber or mine?” However, Lord Rafe would like nothing better than to make love with his wife in her bed chamber–something about banishing childhood memories seems deliciously wicked to him.
Lady Katharine: “It depends.” She smiles coquettishly.
Lord Rafe: “On what?” He smiles mischievously.
Lady Katharine: Lady Katharine steps back from her husband as she unties the sash of her robe, opens the robe, and lets it slides down and off her arms–puddling about her on on the floor–to reveal that she is wearing the form fitting almost sheer white silk negligee that her Grandmere gave her as a wedding present. “Do you like my negligee?”
Lord Rafe: At first, Lord Rafe is speechless–not a common occurrence for him. The vision of Lady Katharine’s silken kissed beauty far surpasses anything Lord Rafe could have imagined when she first mentioned the garment to him on their wedding night that was not a wedding night. In the end, he can only growl seductively … “Hmmm” … as he removes his own dressing gown and drawers quickly before pulling her to his naked body for searingly passionate kisses.
Lady Katharine: “Hhhhh!” She sighs with his loving ministrations.
And then Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine retire for a night of loving abandon and blissful pleasures.
Meanwhile, Sir Antony paces his bed chamber in his dressing gown over his night clothes–wondering if he should apologize to his wife one last time. Maybe all hope is not lost. He hears movement in the hallway and opens his door ajar. Sir Antony sees his wife, Lady Charmaine, slipping into her bed chamber and shutting its door. He starts to open his bed chamber door further, to follow her to talk to her. But he loses his nerve and closes his door. Then he goes to bed in his bed chamber–finding sleep only fitfully.
Lady Charmaine slowly walks through her bed chamber to her bed. Removing her dressing gown, she slides into bed. She is so weary that she hopes to fall instantly asleep. But slumber eludes her. Her arm reaches out to the empty expanse to her right where her husband Sir Antony formerly slept before their falling out eight years ago. She cannot help but go over in her mind what they said to each other during their quarrel tonight, even as her head continues to throb in pain. Later in the early morning hours of Friday morning, Lady Charmaine finally falls asleep due to exhaustion, clutching the other unused bed pillow to her body as a comfort.
Then several hours later, just after dawn on Friday morning, Lady Charmaine’s headache and fatigue symptoms propel her toward their inevitable end. And Lady Charmaine Southwick has a stroke–with no one beside her to notice her initial thrashing about with a seizure, nor her inevitable calm in repose as her breathing becomes more shallow. And Lady Charmaine slips into unconsciousness. From this day forward, the Southwick family will never be the same again.
To be continued with Chapter 16
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 vlcsnap-ooh09m21s203 Mar1313 Gratiana Lovelace screencap (cap)
2) Image representing the Southwick family’s London Home is a vintage print of Grosvenor Square found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grosvenor_Square
3) Image (cropped, brt, shrp) representing Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine kissing is of John Thornton (as portrayed by Richard Armitage) and Margaret Hale (as portrayed by Daniela Denby Ashe) in the BBC’s 2004 production of North & South, episode 4 (Pix 340) and was found at
4) Historical information about compasses was found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compass
5) Sir Antony Southwick image (cropped sharp) is a composite image of Daniel Day-Lewis as Newland Archer (his clothes) in The Age of Innocence (1993) in a production still from The Age of Innocence was found at http://s1.hubimg.com/u/3614944_f260.jpg ; and a modern day portrait of the actor (his head) found at http://sbiff.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/ddl_cropped-300×300.jpg ; for more about the film The Age of Innocence, visit http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106226/; for more about the Edith Wharton novel The Age of Innocence, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Age_of_Innocence
6) Lady Charmaine Southwick image (cropped sharp) is Michelle Pfeiffer as Countess Olenska in The Age of Innocence (1993) tumblr_lfi51979mL1qelclno1_500Apr1313costumedramastumblrcom was found at http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lfi51979mL1qelclno1_500.jpg ; for more about the film The Age of Innocence, visit http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106226/; for more about the Edith Wharton novel The Age of Innocence, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Age_of_Innocence
7) The idiom “rubbing salt into an open wound” means making someone feel worse; the definition is found at http://www.usingenglish.com/reference/idioms/salt+in+a+wound.html
“Love is a Choice”, Previous Story Link to Ch. 14 is: