“Love is a Choice”, Ch. 18 (PG-13): Lady Charmaine’s Continuing Recovery Binds her Family Together, April 27, 2013 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #404)
[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 Southwick Wingate, Lesley Nicol as Mrs. Plunkett, Emilie Francois as Anna Wingate, 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, Catherine Deneuve as Lady Esmѐ Sinclair, Julian Sands as Sir Percival Southwick, Samantha Morton as Lady Lucinda Southwick, 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: Lady Charmaine upon waking Saturday morning–24 hours after her stroke–is starting to recover in body and spirit. But she still has a memory loss of what transpired during the last eight years–and what created a schism in her family relationships. To her, she only remembers the happy times–especially with her loving husband Sir Antony. But Sir Antony honorably tells her all about the unfounded rumor of his infidelity, her belief in it, and the estrangement they have endured–which she promptly put an end to by making love with her husband, creatively (no jostling). Her Mama, Lady Esmѐ, seems perturbed by her daughter’s belief in her husband’s innocence–and Sir Antony also notices his mother-in-law’s reactions. Lady Esmѐ also informs her daughter and son-in-law that their son Percival and his wife, the Lady Lucinda Harriott Southwick–yes, that Harriott family–will visit and Lady Charmaine has her Mama, Lady Esmѐ, invite them for 11:00 o’clock this morning. Then they can luncheon with Lady Katharine and her husband Lord Rafe, to meet and get to knoweach other.
Meanwhile, newlyweds Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine also have a very loving Saturday morning–twice! And with ringlet curls preserved. Lord Rafe also received word from his parents that they and his daughter Anna will travel to London today to open their house and give moral support if needed due to Lady Charmaine’s stroke. Lady Katharine suggests that they invite them to afternoon tea. But first, the doctor is due back to check on Lady Charmaine’s condition around 9 o’clock Saturday morning.
“Love is a Choice”, Ch. 18 (PG-13): Lady Charmaine’s Continuing Recovery Binds her Family Together
With having greeted Dr. Triton and ushered him upstairs this Saturday morning after his wife’s stroke, Sir Antony knocks twice on his wife’s bed chamber door.
Lady Esmѐ: “Entrez-vous.” She calls out in hushed tones while sitting at her sleeping daughter, Lady Charmaine’s, bedside. Upon seeing the two men enter, she places her perfectly manicured index finger to her lips to entreat them to be quiet.
Lady Katharine, also sits quietly beside her Grandmere in a matching chair–and after having left her husband Lord Rafe to attend to writing a note for his family inviting them to tea when they arrive in London at their townhouse–she smiles at her Papa, Sir Antony.
Sir Antony smiles at his daughter. Then he quietly but purposefully strides toward his side of his wife’s bed and gingerly sits down next to his sleeping wife’s right side, away from her Mama–gently lifting Lady Charmaine’s hand to his lips and kissing it delicately.
Lady Charmaine: Her sleepy eyes flutter open and she smiles at her husband to her right. She holds out her arms to him and entreats. “Antony, come back to bed and make love with me again” [(2) right].
Lady Esmѐ’s head tilts and her left eyebrow arches at her daughter’s uncharacteristic breach of propriety revealing something so personal as a romantic tryst while she is in company–even though that tryst was between a married couple. Such matters are best kept private–the only indication that any married couple has ever trysted being their offspring being born. And then, the less said about the nature of these children’s coming into being the better in polite society. Of course, familial interactions and their relationships might be a bit less formal with each other–except where the imperious Lady Esmѐ Sinclair is concerned.
And of course, Lady Charmaine forgot that her Mama is sitting with her due to her still slightly muddled mind. And she was still asleep when her daughter Lady Katharine came to her bed chamber to check on her. Lady Katharine blushes at her Mama’s admission and lowers her eyes demurely with a small smile peeking out with the knowledge of her own morning trysts–now having confirmation that her parents’ bare shoulders that Miss Morgan had told her about did indeed indicate her parents’ romantic state.
The doctor’s eyes narrow in analysis rather than in censure. Lack of or a lessened impulse control [(3)] in her speech and behavior can be one consequent of a person having a stroke.
Sir Antony: “Kkhh!” Sir Antony coughs in smiling embarrassment as he embraces his wife and helps her to sit up in her bed, holding her in his arms as she cuddles next to him and closes her eyes in contentment as he kisses her forehead affectionately. “Charmaine, My Love. That sounds lovely, …” Then he continues sotto voce. “… but we are not alone, my Love.” She opens her eyes again. He gazes at her pointedly, then nods his head over her shoulder at their daughter, Lady Katharine and at his mother-in-law, Lady Esmѐ–whose pursed lips belie her supposedly romantic French sensibilities.
Lady Charmaine: “Oh?” She smiles sheepishly at her husband, then she looks over her shoulder at her Mama and daughter. And then she spies the doctor at the foot of her bed. “Ha ha ha ha ha!” She giggles. “Pardonez moi, Maman, Kathy. My apologies, Dr. Triton. I seem to say immoderate things at the moment.” Lady Charmaine sheepishly shrugs her shoulders–her now nightgown covered shoulders.
Dr. Triton: “That depends. Lady Charmaine, please forgive me for asking, but I need to ascertain your state of mind and your state of health. Were you speaking literally or figuratively just now about making love with your husband?”
Lady Charmaine: Lady Charmaine’s brow furrows primly, then she looks up at her husband again as she snuggles next to him. “Antony? Must we answer him? It is a most impertinent question.” However perturbed she might be with her doctor asking her such a personal question, she still curls her lips into a slight smile that only her husband can see.
Sir Antony: “I fear that we must my dear–for your health.” Sir Antony smiles wryly at his wife [(4) right].
Lady Charmaine: She looks around the room, then focuses back on the doctor. “Well? What are you all looking at us like that for? After all, Antony and I are married.” She shakes her head blithely. Then she lays her head against her husband’s chest for comfort. And he rubs her back slowly and soothingly, with a small smile curling at his own lips.
Dr. Triton: “But, of course, Lady Charmaine.” He bows deferentially to her. Then the doctor focuses his penetrating gaze upon Sir Antony. “Sir Antony, your wife’s condition is still delicate–and she should not be placed under any undue … strain.” He says obliquely given the nature of the mixed company in the room.
Lady Esmѐ turns her head away from the bed–with a benign expression on her face masking the disbelief that she feels in now knowing that her daughter and son-in-law have resumed their marriage so quickly after her stroke and memory loss. Though she wants her daughter to be happy, Lady Esmѐ is still reticent to let her go to Sir Antony–even after forty four years.
Sir Antony: “I know that!” He spits out, perturbed with the doctor for treating him like an errant school boy at 54 years of age for bedding his own wife. Then Sir Antony whines a bit in reply. “We were gentle. And Lady Charmaine’s spirits are much improved.” He says in his own defense.
Lady Charmaine: “My Antony is loving and tender, doctor. His attentions will certainly speed my recovery.” She smiles faintly.
Dr. Triton: “And how is the weakness in your left side?”
Lady Charmaine: “Lessening, I think. Though I will still need my husband’s assistance in getting from place to place.” Lady Charmaine possessively squeezes Sir Antony’s arm resting around her. He is her husband and she will not be parted from him ever again.
Dr. Triton: “For the weakness in your leg and arm, I suggest light stretching, then some pushing exercises.” Lady Charmaine looks at him quizzically. “I mean, someone holding their palm up and you push against it with your hand ten times each hour as you feel able–and gradually increase that to thirty times each hour–then do the same pushing exercise with your foot. If you regain your strength in your limbs in a few days, you might try walking around your bedroom with a cane. But you are to avoid stairs under all circumstances. However, if you are feeling better next week, Sir Antony may carry you downstairs for short visits. But I do not want you tiring yourself out.” He wags a knowing finger at her. He has seen it all too often, someone experiences light stroke effects and then they over do it and injure themselves such that they have to start all over again to get well. “One more thing. Your memory? Has it returned?”
Lady Charmaine: “I still do not remember the past eight years.” She sighs. “Though from what my husband tells me of that time, it is probably best that I do not remember it.”
Dr. Triton: “You do not even remember your daughter is now grown?”
Lady Charmaine: Seeing her daughter, Lady Katharine pout, Lady Charmaine entreats her with her arms open wide. “Now now, Kathy Dear. Come kiss me good morning.” Mother and daughter embrace warmly and kiss cheeks. Then Lady Katharine sits on the bed next to her Mama’s left side as Lady Charmaine caresses her face. “Dearest, we will simply have to catch up–but only the good parts, if you please. Ha! I want to hear all about your wedding and your dress, your ring, etc. ” Lady Charmaine winks and smiles encouragingly at her daughter. Though Lady Katharine is not Lady Charmaine’s little girl any more, she will always be so to her Mama.
Lady Katharine: “Yes Mama. I would like that.” Lady Katharine nods with a small smile, still in her Mama’s embrace as she lays her head on her shoulder.
Sir Antony: “There’s a good girl.” He smiles warmly at his daughter.
After taking Lady Charmaine’s pulse and assessing a few other aspects of her person–skin color, food intake and swallowing, etc.–Dr. Triton is pleased with her beginning recovery from her stroke, thus far. But he is still cautious and urges her to rest for the the following week. Finally, the doctor leaves around 10 o’clock and Lady Charmaine shoos everyone away so that she may have her bath–with Sir Antony lifting her into and out of it. And then Miss Morgan helps Lady Charmaine get dressed to meet her son Percival at 11 o’clock.
After seeing his wife safely into the hands of her ladies maid to get dressed after Lady Charmaine has her bath, Sir Antony strides downstairs to find his daughter and her husband in the small parlor sitting on the loveseat and holding hands while whispering tenderly to each other. He even witnesses Lord Rafe sweetly kiss his daughter on her lips [(5) right]. Of course, their intimate tete a tete comes to an abrupt halt when Sir Antony comes into the room. They pull apart quickly and look at Sir Antony with sheepish grins on their reddening faces for having been caught being intimate with each other. Sir Antony merely smiles knowingly at them.
Lord Rafe: Lord Rafe also stands upon seeing his father-in-law enter the room. “Sir Antony. Is Lady Charmaine well? Though Kate has told me that her Mama is in good spirits today, she has not given me details.”
Especially not about her parents scandalously making love, thinks Lady Katharine as she stands to greet her Papa.
Sir Antony: Striding over to them and shaking his son-in-law’s hand, then kissing his daughter’s cheek, he says. “Lady Charmaine is perfect!” He cannot help but sigh gushingly–because Sir Antony has his wife back. And, he has his life back.
The three of them sit down–Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine on the sette and Sir Antony on a nearby chair.
Lady Katharine: Lady Katharine crooks her arm around her husband’s arm and gazes warmly at him. “Rafe, should we perhaps tell Papa about our family news and let him decide when he thinks it is best to tell Mama?”
Lord Rafe: “Very well.” Lord Rafe nods solemnly. The time has come to reveal Anna to his wife’s family.
Sir Antony: Sir Antony looks at his daughter askance, but with bemused eyes. “Now Kathy, you are not going to tell me that you are with child already, are you? Ha ha ha ha ha!” He smiles broadly in jest.
Lady Katharine: “Of course not, Papa. It is too soon.” Lady Katharine pinkens charmingly in embarrassment thinks her husband, Lord Rafe.
Lord Rafe: Returning to face his father-in-law, he informs him. “Sir Antony, when we discovered Lady Charmaine’s illness yesterday, I sent an express letter [(6)] to my parents apprising them of it and that it would alter our wedding trip plans to visit Kate’s seaside esate in Essex–Kate, quite naturally, wants remain here to be near her mama during her Mama’s recuperation.”
Sir Antony: “Thank you, Lord Rafe. That is very thoughtful of you.” The two men nod at each other politely. As father-in-law and son-in-law, they are in perfect accord with one another as to the matter of family obligations and familial wishes.
Lord Rafe: “My parents replied to me also via express messenger that arrived this morning that they are traveling to Town today and will open up the house.” The house being a large London Townhouse mansion. “Though Kate and I will remain in residence here for the time being–with your permission–so that Kate and I may be of any assistance that we might offer you and Lady Charmaine.”
Lady Katharine: “Yes, Papa. And we have left a message at the Wingate’s home inviting them to tea this afternoon–should they reach Town in time.”
Lord Rafe tilts his head and looks hesitantly at his wife. She nods back at him with an encouraging smile as she squeezes his arm that she is holding. Sir Antony notices this private communication between his daughter and son-in-law and is curious as to its intent. He is soon to find out.
Lord Rafe: “Sir Antony, Kate and I had intended to inform you and Lady Charmaine yesterday about a family matter that we discovered but five days ago, the day after our wedding. However Lady Charmaine’s illness prevented us from doing so.” Sir Antony waits patiently for Lord Rafe to relate the news to him. “Kate and my family have been most understanding about it and we hope that you and Lady Charmaine will be as well.” Lord Rafe takes a breath, steeling himself for what he feels he must say.
Sir Antony: “You had best come out with it, Lord Rafe.” He now looks at his son-in-law a bit warily.
Lord Rafe: “It seems that twelve years ago, when I was but sixteen, I fathered a daughter, whom her Mama named Anna. Though my Mama Lady Wingate has known of Anna’s existence for five years and been involved in her life, I was not informed about Anna until a few days ago. But I have since acknowledged Anna as mine and I look forward to getting to know her.”
Sir Antony nods, acknowledging the information that Lord Rafe is conveying. But he says nothing. Though his wife Lady Charmaine was correct about Lord Rafe being a philanderer, Sir Antony had not thought that Lord Rafe’s history as such began when he was so young. Sir Antony begins to feel uneasy for the awkward position that this news of an illegitimate child will mean for his daughter, Lady Katharine–and for the Southwick Family. Whereas Sir Antony might have been accused of being an adulterer and fathering a child, he had not actually done either. Now his new son-in-law, Lord Rafe, freely admits to his fathering a bastard child. And this turn of events unsettles Sir Antony.
Lady Katharine: Trying to bridge the awkward silence in the room, she adds. “You see Papa, little Anna’s Mama died last week. So she was sent to live with Rafe’s parents, and that is where learned of her and we met her.” Lady Katharine skips the details of Anna being initially sent to be a cook’s helper to Mrs. Plunkett for the sake of time and to avoid confusion.
Lord Rafe: Lord Rafe stiffens his back in his resolve to act honorably for all concerned. “And since this was a circumstance that Lady Katharine had not expected, I offered to release Kate from our marriage–to have it annulled–because at that point we had yet to finalize our union and her virtue was unblemished.” He states rather euphemistically rather than saying that they had not consummated their marriage yet.
Sir Antony: “Oh?” Sir Antony’s eyebrow raises at the notion of his daughter not being bedded on her wedding night. And he looks at her questioningly.
Lady Katharine: “Yes Papa. Rafe acted honorably in concern for my reputation as his wife regarding the news of Anna. But Rafe had been so patient and so kind about my wish to get to know him first, before we ….” She looks plaintively at her father, regarding delicately not finishing her sentence. “And Rafe had been so attentive and loving with me the first two days of our marriage that I had quite fallen in love with him. So I declined his offer to annul our marriage.” Her father’s eye brow raises again at his daughter’s choice. “And then we … then we privately avowed our love for each other and we … finalized our union.” Lady Katharine lowers her eyes demurely while blushing quite crimson with revealing to her father that she and Lord Rafe are truly husband and wife–in every sense of that meaning.
Lord Rafe: He turns to his wife and he lifts her small dainty hand to his lips and he tenderly kisses her hand. “Kate is my Angel.”
Sir Antony: Sir Antony looks at Lord Rafe again with with a small smile of relief. “I judged you rightly, then Lord Rafe–as a good match for my Kathy. She looks very happy. I am glad.”
Lord Rafe: Lord Rafe nods. “Kate’s happiness will be my life’s goal.” Lord Rafe states honorably.
Lady Katharine: She smiles as she gazes at her husband. “And now, we have a daughter, Anna. She is staying with her grandparents, Lord and Lady Wingate, and travels with them to London this day.”
Sir Antony: “Well then, you must be certain to invite Anna to tea as well.” He says graciously.
Lady Katharine: “So you do not mind, Papa? About Anna?” She asks hopefully even as she winces and Lord Rafe stiffens.
Sir Antony: “No! In truth, I might have minded before your dear Mama’s illness. But almost losing her puts life into perspective, it reorders one’s priorities. I have my wife back, and a second chance at happiness with her.” He sighs. “And Lord Rafe, you have a second chance to get to know your daughter.”
Lord Rafe: “Thank you, Sir Antony.” Lord Rafe smiles and nods at his father-in law’s generous spirit.
Lady Katharine: Lady Katharine jumps up and runs over to her Papa and girlishly sits on his lap as she did when she was a child and she embraces him and kisses his cheeks–left, right, and left again. “Thank you for understanding, Papa!” Sir Antony hugs his daughter back.
Sir Antony: “You are welcome, Kathy and Rafe.” Then looking at his daughter sentimentally, he admits. “Kathy Dear, it seems that you have grown into a young woman before I knew it. And now you are a wife and a stepmother–with all of the responsibilities that those two offices entail. But I am certain that you will be brilliant at both–in your own kind and loving way.” He rubs her cheek with his finger, then he taps the tip of her nose and winks at her.
Lady Katharine: “Thank you, Papa. I will try my very best to be caring with Anna.” Lady Katharine smiles at her Papa and then at her husband. Lord Rafe beams a loving smile back to her. Then she wincingly asks her Papa. “Should we tell Mama now, too?”
Sir Antony: “Well? Forgive me, Kathy and Lord Rafe. But I would ask you to wait to mention Anna to Lady Charmaine until later today when she arrives for tea with Lord Rafe’s parents. At present, we need to focus upon Percival’s imminent arrival and the broken Southwick family bonds that we must try to heal. I am going to my study for a few moments to attend to some letters I must write, then I will return here with you to await Perce.”
Lord Rafe: “Of course. First things, first.” He nods sympathetically.
Sir Antony leaves the room and heads to his study. He intends to write a letter to his club asking for them to pack up and transfer his belongings back to his home with Lady Charmaine.
In the meantime, Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine continue sitting together on the sette and sharing an intimate conversation as they hold hands again [(7) right]–mostly focusing upon their relief with regard to Sir Antony’s reaction to the news about Anna.
The young elegant couple and their not quite one year old girl child sit quietly in their enclosed carriage taking them to their destination. The baby sleeps in her Mama’s arms so they do not converse to not risk awakening her–a sleeping child being a god send for anyone who has a teething 10 month old. The husband and wife had already shared their confidences before they began their journey. And although Sir Percival Southwick had tried to insist that his wife Lady Lucinda Lucy Southwick leave their child with his parents and the nanny–not knowing the reception they will have at his parents’ home–Lady Lucinda would not be separated from her child, her daughter Elizabeth whom they call Eliza.
Their carriage stops in front of the familiar Grosvenor Square home that Sir Percival left five years ago. The baby gurgles but stays sleeping as they jolt to a stop.
Sir Percival: “We are here, Lucy.” He sighs heavily, but he does not move to exit the carriage. Sir Percival [(8) right] had not wanted to come, his lantern jaw set in stubbornness so like his father’s, Sir Antony. The news of his mother’s illness was wrenching, but he sees no point in deathbed reconciliations. And he feels that his Mama is probably too stubborn to even attempt to say that she is sorry for the hurt and dissension she caused by not believing their father was innocent of the charges of adultery made by busy body gossips.
Lady Lucinda: “Are we getting out, Perce? Or are you having the coachman turn around and go back to my parents’ home?” She challenges him. At twenty-one years, Lady Lucinda [(9) right] is in the full flower of her feminine beauty and grace. Golden curls frame her delicate face, belying her feisty nature. And as a much loved wife, she has the confidence to speak her mind due to being nurtured by that relationship.
Sir Percival: “Well I guess we are already here–so we might as well stay. But we will not linger. I will see Mama, kiss her cheek, say I forgive her, then come to collect you and return home. That is all.” He cuts the air with a tense sweeping motion of his hand. His Mama had hurt Sir Percival deeply by her actions and words. Though it has been five years, a son does not forget the cause of his estrangement from his family.
Lady Lucy: “Very well, Perce. If you are certain that you do not want to visit for very long.” She smiles wincingly at him.
Sir Percival steps out of the carriage and Lady Lucinda hands their still sleeping daughter to him–as well as the bag she has with baby necessities in it. Then she steps out of the carriage and receives her daughter back into her loving arms. Then they both gaze upon the imposing façade of this five story home. Then they climb its steps and pull the bell cord.
Sir Antony hears the clip clops of horses hooves stop in front of their home. Hoping that it is his son arriving after being separated from each other five years, Sir Antony dashes into the hallway just behind the butler to see who has come to call.
Butler: The Southwick butler opens the door. “Master Percival! You are home!” He says in astonishment.
Sir Perce: “Yes.” He nods soberly as he and his wife are ushered into the Southwick home.
Sir Antony: “Perce! I am so very glad to see you, son!” Sir Antony clasps his son in a bone crushing embrace.
Sir Perce: “Papa.” He whines. “I am not ten years old anymore.” True, Sir Percival is twenty three years old. But he will always be his parents’ little boy.
Sir Antony: Sir Antony releases his embrace, then claps his son’s shoulder as he pronounces. “No indeed! And this is your wife, Perce?”
As yet, Lady Lucinda is in shadows of the plant filled foyer–the foyer also cluttered in a pre-Victorian décor as is the parlor. So Sir Antony does not see the bundle she is carrying under her cape like coat. But she walks forward one step when her father-in-law motions to her.
Sir Percival: “Papa, this is my wife Lady Lucinda Harriott Southwick. I call her Lucy.”
Sir Antony: Kissing her cheeks, he says. “Lucy fits you, my dear. Welcome. I am your Percival’s Papa, and now your Papa as well.” He beams.
Then the baby gurgles as she starts to come awake. Sir Antony stares downward in amazement at Lady Lucinda’s cape from whence the sounds emanated.
Lady Lucy: Lady Lucy shifts her baby in her arms and Sir Percival removes her cape from her shoulders. “Thank you, Sir Antony.” She smiles sweetly. “This is your grandchild, Lady Elizabeth, we call her Eliza. She is 10 months old. Would you like to hold her?”
Sir Antony: “Would I like to hold her!?!” He asks excitedly. “Yes! Come to Grandpapa little one.” He eagerly holds out arms and Eliza is deposited in them. “Oh my! You are a wonder, Eliza!” He reverently kisses little Eliza’s forehead and she swats her hand at him–catching his rather prominent nose and latching on to it securely and squeezing. “Ouch!” She releases her hold. “Ha ha ha ha ha!” He rocks his head back in laughter.
Sir Percival: Smiling at his Papa’s exuberant and heartfelt welcome of all of them, he says. “Eliza is rather fond of grabbing things.”
Sir Antony: “Indeed–as were you, I recall.” He smiles broadly at his son. “Kathy and her husband, Lord Rafe, are in the parlor. You must come and meet them.”
Sir Antony leads the way–still proudly holding his granddaughter–and they all enter the parlor. Lady Katharine jumps up and rushes to greet her brother Sir Percival when he enters the room. They hug and kiss cheeks–with Sir Percival lifting Lady Katharine up in the air and twirling her around before he sets her back down again. Their spouses look on affectionately at their reunion.
Lady Katharine: “Perce, Perce! You have returned to us!” Her tears begin to fall. “I have missed you so!”
Sir Percival: “And I have missed you, Kathy Dear.” He kisses her forehead. “You are all grown up, and married according to Papa.” She nods shyly.
Sir Antony: “Perce, would you like to perform the introductions?” He smiles broadly while gently rocking his granddaughter in his arms.
Sir Perce: “Yes, Papa. Kathy, may I introduce my wife, Lady Lucinda Harriott Southwick. Lucy, this is my dear younger sister, Lady Katharine.”
Both ladies nod and curtsy to each other. Then they lean forward and gently kiss cheeks. Lady Katharine steps back and her husband steps forward to her side.
Lady Katharine: “Rafe, this is my brother and his wife, Sir Percival and Lady Lucinda Southwick. Perce and Lucy, this is my husband, Lord Rafe Wingate.”
The men bow their heads slightly, then they shake hands warmly and firmly. If one did not know it, one might suspect that a bit of hand wrestling is going on–a convivial display of strength by two young men testing themselves against each other.
Sir Perce: “Of course! Papa is holding our daughter, Lady Elizabeth Southwick, Eliza.” Hearing her name, Eliza waves at her Papa [(10) right]. Eliza’s Papa performs the introductions. “Eliza, this is your aunt and uncle Lady Katharine and Lord Rafe.”
Lady Katharine: “Ooh! May I hold her?” She asks hopefully of Lady Lucinda.
Lady Lucy: “Of course.” Lady Lucinda gently lifts her baby out of Sir Antony’s arms–him feeling bereft the instant baby Eliza is gone from him–and she lays the baby in Lady Katharine’s arms.
Lady Katharine: “Ohhhh! She is so beautiful!” She sighs. Then she talks to the baby. “I am your Aunt Kathy. We are going to have lots of fun together.” Lord Rafe looks over his wife’s shoulder at the baby, him dreaming about the time in the future when she will bear their child.
Then thoughts turn to the reason for this family reunion.
Sir Percival: “Papa, how is Mama this morning?” He gets to the point of their visit.
Sir Antony: “Much improved, Perce. Come. I will take you to her. Kathy and Lord Rafe can entertain Lady Lucy and little Eliza.”
Sir Percival: “Very well.” He walks back to where is wife is standing and takes her hand in his and kisses it. “Will you be alright my dear?”
Lady Lucy: “Of course, Perce. You attend to your Mama.” She squeezes his arm encouragingly.
Sir Percival nods. Then when his Papa Sir Antony gestures, Sir Percival follows him out of the room.
As they walk up the stairs and then down the hallway toward Lady Charmaine’s bedroom, Sir Antony lays out the facts.
Sir Antony: “Perce, by the Grace of God your Mama’s stroke seems to be a small one. But it has still affected her greatly. She has weakness in her left arm and leg–so she must rest and be carried to wherever she wants to go until she regains her strength. Happily, her speech seems unaffected–though I caution you that she may say things that startle you. However, the biggest impact from her stroke is her losing the memory of the past eight years.”
Sir Percival: Sir Perce startles. “Excuse me, Papa? Might you repeat that?”
Sir Antony: “Perce, your Mama awoke from her stroke thinking that Kathy’s tenth birthday party is next week. She has no memory of anything that transpired since before that time. The doctor does not know if she will ever remember it.”
Sir Percival: “That is incredible! So she does not remember how she treated me, how she treated all of us. How convenient for her.” Sir Percival simmers bitterly.
Sir Antony: Sir Antony stays his son’s steps with his hand on his arm and stands and looks at him soberly. “Perce, you must put aside your hurt feelings–as I have put aside mine. They were made in the past. And we have to look to the future. Your Mama’s memory loss gives her a second chance to make right what was wrong. And she and I have reconciled. So I hope that you will also forgive her, as I have done.”
Standing just outside his Mama’s bedchamber door, Sir Percival Southwick states honestly.
Sir Percival: “I do not know, Papa. She had made my life and all of our lives so miserable. I cannot forget that she caused me to run away from home to escape her censure.”
Sir Antony: “I know that you had a difficult time. And I share part of the blame for not interceding for you as much as I might have–had I been living in the house at that time. But we cannot dwell on the past. We have a chance to make a new life with your happy and loving Mama.” Then they pause before knocking. “Perce, please remember that your Mama is still delicate. So please do not upset her with any blame. Let it all be over and done with.” He states with finality.
Sir Percival: “As you wish, Papa.” Then he stiffens and knocks twice on Lady Charmaine’s bed chamber door.
Lady Charmaine: Calling from inside, she asks excitedly. “Antony, has Perce come?”
Sir Antony: Sir Antony opens the bed chamber door. “We are here, Charmaine my Love.” Then Sir Antony walks into the room and strides over to his wife sitting on the sette. Then he sits down and she leans into him and they kiss.
Sir Percival is astounded at this tender display of affection between his Mama and Papa. He has not witnessed such love and caring for eight years. And that deprivation is what has weighed so heavily on his heart.
Lady Charmaine’s eyes are transfixed upon her son who hangs back.
Lady Charmaine: Holding her arms out to her son, she says one pleading word as tears fall from her eyes. “Percival.”
Sir Percival: Seeing his Mama beckon so lovingly to him snaps Sir Percival’s resolve to be stoic and unfeeling, and he strides across the floor and embraces her as he kneels at her feet. “Mama!”
Lady Charmaine: Feverishly kissing his forehead and cheeks over and over again, she apologizes. “Oh my precious boy! Your Papa told me what I have done to you! I was wrong to treat you so shamefully. I am sorry, so very sorry. You deserve only my love and encouragement.”
Sir Percival: “Mama!” He crushes her in his embrace and cries into her neck, washing away the eight years of hurt and separation. “I only ever wanted to make you proud of me.”
Lady Charmaine: Lady Charmaine places her hands on either side of her son’s face and pulls it up to look at her. “Perce, you do make me proud of you. You always have. How I could ever have doubted you or your father is beyond me.”
Lady Esmѐ sitting quietly in the window seat and watching this tender reunion stiffens–for she bears culpability in the Southwick family’s pain.
Sir Antony smiles warmly at his wife and son. He has quite forgotten that Lady Esmѐ is even in the room.
Sir Antony: With tears in his own eyes. “And Charmaine, Perce has brought his wife with him today. She is downstairs in the parlor with Kathy and Lord Rafe.” Sir Antony does not mention the baby, letting Sir Percival share that joyous news.
Lady Charmaine: “That is wonderful! I long to meet her.” Then she turns her head to Lady Esmѐ. “Mama, come see that Perce has returned to us–and his wife is joining us today, too.”
Sir Percival stills from embracing his Mama upon hearing that his Grandmere is in the room. He had been so focused on his Mama, Lady Charmaine, that he had not noticed Lady Esmѐ sitting off to the far side of the bed chamber.
Lady Esmѐ: Lady Esmѐ smiles benignly. “Perce, it is good to see you. I had hoped that you and your wife might stay with me during your visit.” She gently chides him while imperiously waiting for him to come to her and greet her.
Sir Percival: He stands up and gazes upon his Grandmere with a mask of polite formality belying the ill will he holds for her and her meddling. “Grandmere, it is good to see you again as well.” He nods his head, but does not go to her. He knows only too well how his Grandmere contributed to the family schism eight years ago.
Lady Charmaine: Noticing the coolness her son has for his Grandmere, she squeezes his hand still in hers and she asks him. “Perce, will you not greet your Grandmere. She has been ever so kind to sit and watch over me during my illness.” Sir Antony also gives his son an encouraging nod to greet his Grandmother.
Sir Percival: He gazes upon his Mama’s upturned questioning face. “Of course, Mama.” Sir Percival slowly walks the 15 feet over to Lady Esmѐ, bows partially, then leans in and kisses one offered cheek to him. Then he stands up again. “Grandmere.” She returns his gesture with a polite nod.
Lady Charmaine and Sir Antony feel that something is amiss with their son’s cool greeting for his Grandmere. But they cannot guess from where it has sprung.
However, Sir Percival returns to his Mama and sits with her on the sette as his Papa stands up.
Sir Antony: “Perce, I will fetch your wife to join us briefly–before you have luncheon with Kathy and her husband, Lord Rafe.”
Sir Percival: “Thank you Papa.”
Lady Charmaine sits quietly with her son, caressing his face and memorizing every inch of his now grown man visage before.
Lady Charmaine: “Perce, you were but a boy of 15 eight years ago as I last remember you. You have grown into quite a handsome young man–as I knew you would.”
Sir Percival: He blushes. “Thank you, Mama.”
Lady Charmaine: “You are happy with your marriage?” She asks hopefully.
Sir Percival: “I am! Lucy is the sweetest and kindest and most loving person I know.” He squeezes his Mama’s hand. “She very much reminds me of you in that regard.”
Lady Charmaine: “Thank you, my dear. From my standpoint, it is a blessing that I do not remember the past eight years of turmoil that I caused in rejecting your father–and how I treated you and Kathy. And I am glad that I do not remember. For it would break my heart to fully know what I have done.” She begins to weep.
Sir Percival: Putting his arms around her again, he whispers. “Mama?” He knows that his Mama’s condition is delicate and that he must not upset her, per his Papa’s orders. But Sir Percival finds that he also does not want to distress his Mama.
Lady Charmaine: She looks up at him soulfully. “Can you ever forgive me?”
Sir Percival: “Mama, I have already done so. To have you back as my loving Mama is all I ever needed.” They embrace again.
Sir Antony knocks on Lady Charmaine’s bed chamber door, opens it, and he guides Lady Lucinda carrying baby Eliza toward his wife and son. Sir Percival stands. Lady Charmaine’s dries her weepy eyes and then she focuses with delighted surprise on the baby in Lady Lucinda’s arms. Sir Antony smiles broadly. Again, everyone has forgotten that Lady Esmѐ is sitting off to the side of the bed chamber. And she sits stoically impassive, watching the happy reunions–as if she were a disinterested party, and not their Grandmere.
Sir Percival: Sir Percival stands and proudly smiles at his wife Lady Lucinda. “Mama, may I introduce my wife, Lady Lucinda Harriott Southwick. Lucy, this is my Mama, Lady Charmaine Southwick.”
Lady Lucinda curtsies to Lady Charmaine with a small smile. Lady Charmaine smilingly nods her head–her currently being unable to stand without assistance due to her stroke.
Lady Charmaine: Holding out her good right arm to Lady Lucinda, she entreats her. “Lucy, please come sit beside me. Then you two can share your surprise.” She smiles broadly, alluding to the baby.
Lady Lucinda: Lady Lucinda sits to the right side of Lady Charmaine. “Mama.” Lady Lucinda uses the informal mode of address without asking–which Lady Charmaine likes right away as indicated by her brilliant smile. “This is little Lady Elizabeth, our Eliza.”
Lady Charmaine: “She is so beautiful!” She gently pats the baby’s tummy and then caresses her cheek. Little Eliza grabs at Lady Charmaine’s fingers. Then Lady Charmaine offers Eliza her index finger and she takes it. “Ooh! What a grip! Ha ha ha!”
Sir Antony: Walking behind the sette and leaning down to his wife he admits. “I learned that the hard way–she about tore my nose off when I held her earlier. Ha ha ha ha ha!”
Lady Charmaine: “Well Antony, it is not like you do not have nose to spare.” She jests. “Ha ha ha ha ha!” She giggles looking up at him behind her.
Sir Antony: “Indeed!” He smiles warmly at his wife and leans down further and kisses her forehead. They both close their eyes in contentment when he does this.
Sir Percival: Now witnessing another expression of the truly renewed love and tenderness between his parents, Sir Percival’s heart is gladdened. “Mama? Would you like to hold Eliza?” He asks eagerly.
Lady Charmaine: “I do! But I only have strength in my right arm. My left arm is of little use to me at the moment. I fear that I might drop her.” Lady Charmaine winces in some pain as she raises her left arm up a few inches off her lap with great difficulty, then she lets it lie back down.
Lady Lucinda: “I am sorry about your illness. But we hope that you will recover your health soon. I will help you hold Eliza.” Lady Lucinda says caringly as she places baby Eliza in the crook of Lady Charmaine’s right arm, then she supports the weight of her baby with her right arm under Lady Charmaine’s right arm.
Lady Charmaine: Lady Charmaine kisses baby Eliza’s forehead. “You are so precious, Eliza! I am your Grandmama, your Grandmere.” Then she looks up over her shoulder at her Mama, Lady Esmѐ and smiles. “Oh dear, that could get confusing. Maman, come see your great granddaughter.”
Lady Esme slowly rises from the cushioned window seat bench at the far side of Lady Charmaine’s bed chamber. She is a bit unsteady on her feet–her having sat in one attitude for some time this morning. Noticing this, Sir Antony goes to his mother-in-law’s side and he politely offers her his arm with a benign smile. She smiles and gratefully takes his arm. Then he escorts her to the other side of the room. Sir Percival politely stands and moves away from the sette, then his Grandmere sits down in his place.
Sir Percival: “Lucy, this is my Mama’s mother, Lady Esmѐ Sinclair. Grandmere, this is my wife, Lady Lucinda. And this is our daughter, Lady Elizabeth, Eliza.”
Lady Esmѐ: “My dears.” She smiles warmly at them. Then she gazes upon her great granddaughter. “I have lived to see another generation in my family. I would not have thought it possible.” She smiles weakly. At 62 years of age, Lady Esmѐ has lived a full life, but she is now in her waning years as her vitality ebbs.
Lady Charmaine: “Is she not beautifully, Maman?” She lifts the baby up a bit closer to Lady Esmѐ’s view.
Lady Esmѐ: “Eliza has the Marchand nose. Bon!” Marchand being Lady Esmѐ’s maiden name. “May I?” She holds out her arms, seeking to hold her great granddaughter.
Lady Lucinda: “Of course.” Lady Lucinda stands, then she lifts baby Eliza out of Lady Charmaine’s arms and places her into Lady Esmѐ’s arms.
Sir Percival: “She likes to grab things, Grandmere. So you are forewarned.”
Lady Esmѐ: Gazing upon little Eliza’s cherubic face, Lady Esmѐ smiles warmly [(11) right]. “Marchand women are strong of body and spirit and so are you little one.” Then she leans down and kisses Eliza’s forehead. Of course, Eliza latches onto Lady Esmѐ’s pearl necklace dangling in front of her. “Ah, I see what you mean about her grabbing. Ha ha ha.”
Everyone else: “Ha ha ha!”
Sir Percival: “Here, let me help you Grandmere.” He tries to pry Eliza’s fingers off of the pearl necklace, but they will not budge–and he does not want to risk breaking the necklace. “Egad! [(12] What a grip she has! Ha ha ha!” Everyone smiles.
Lady Esmѐ: “Eliza has good taste. Bon! And her wise choices must be nurtured early. Antony, please unlatch the clasp of my pearl necklace at the base of my neck. I will give the necklace to Eliza as a gift from me.” Sir Antony does his mother-in-law’s bidding and the necklace falls from Lady Esme’s neck, still firmly grasped by baby Eliza.
Lady Lucinda: “That is very generous of you. Thank you, Grandmere.” She smiles warmly as she takes baby Eliza back into her arms and stands next to her husband, Sir Percival.
Lady Esmѐ: “Vous êtes les bienvenus, mon cher.” (You are welcome, my Dear.) “And I hope that you will wear the pearl necklace until such time that you think it appropriate for Lady Eliza to wear it as a young lady.” She smiles graciously at her grandson’s wife. Lady Lucinda nods her thanks.
Sir Percival: “Thank you, Grandmere.” Then noticing his Mama, Lady Charmaine’s, growing fatigue, Sir Percival caringly suggests. “Perhaps we should remove ourselves to luncheon to allow Mama and Papa to rest. Then we will see you again later, at tea time.” He leans in and kisses his Mama, and then his Grandmere’s cheeks.
Lady Esmѐ: “Bon! And I have a letter to write. And I will lie down for a nap myself.” She stands and takes Sir Percival’s arm to steady her walk to her bed chamber.
Lady Charmaine: “Thank you, I do feel a bit tired. It has been a busy morning.” She nods her head ruefully as she rubs her temple. Still standing behind the sette, Sir Antony caringly places his hands on her shoulders and tenderly rubs his finger along her neck.
Sir Antony: “Thank you everyone. We will see you again at tea time.”
Sir Percival and his family leave Lady Charmaine’s bed chamber. Lady Esmѐ walks to her guest bed chamber to write her letter. And Sir Percival and his family head back downstairs to chat with his sister Kathy and Lord Rafe some more before luncheon.
Walking around to the front of the sette, Sir Antony now sees how truly tired Lady Charmaine is.
Sir Antony: “Charmaine, my Love. Would you like to nap before we have luncheon together in your room?
Lady Charmaine: “Yes, Antony. And would you help me back into my night gown? I fear that this corset is most uncomfortable.”
Sir Antony: “Of course, my Dear.”
Sir Antony lifts his wife up off the sette and carries her in his arms to her dressing room when he helps her change into her night gown again. Then after she freshens up a bit, he carries her back to her bed and lays her in it.
Lady Charmaine: “Might you lie down with me, Antony? I want to cuddle with you.”
Sir Antony: “Of course, my Love. I fear that we have tired you out too much today.”
Lady Charmaine sleepily nods her head in agreement. Sir Antony removes his outer clothes down to his undergarments and he slides into bed with her and takes her into his arms. She nestles her head against her husband’s bare chest and she falls fast asleep. Sir Antony does not sleep right away, but he watches over her lovingly in concern for her fatigued state. But eventually he falls asleep as well.
Lady Esmѐ sits down at her desk in her guest bed chamber, and she begins to write a letter–to her daughter Lady Charmaine:
My Dearest Charmaine,
I am overjoyed that you are regaining your health–and that you have your family reconciled to you again. It is what I have prayed for these past eight years. That I could not facilitate this reconciliation for you was due to cowardice on my part. For though you no longer remember it due to your stroke, I was the cause of your family’s distress.
Lady Esmѐ goes on to relate in unflinching detail the facts of her participation in her daughter mistakenly believing in Sir Antony’s infidelity. And now Lady Esmѐ admits that she was wrong in believing the gossip about Sir Antony’s betrayal and wrong in convincing her daughter of its verity. Lady Esmѐ asks for her daughter’s forgiveness and reaffirms her love for Lady Charmaine and her respect for Sir Antony, and she closes her letter:
… Votre maman aimante et dévouée (Your loving and devoted Mama)
Then Lady Esmѐ folds the two page missive and she labels the outside, for Charmaine when I am gone. Then she seals the pages closed with a wax seal and her signet ring and she places the envelope in the top drawer of her dresser, underneath her fine French linen handkerchiefs. Lady Esmѐ does not know when her letter will be needed. But Lady Esmѐ writing her apology to her daughter gives Lady Esmѐ some peace of mind that has been sorely lacking the past eight years.
Then feeling fatigued herself, Lady Esmѐ rings for her ladies maid who helps her into her nightgown to lay down for a nap. And she instructs her ladies maid that she will decline to join the family for luncheon so that she may take her rest. Missing the midday meal and napping is not unusual for Lady Esmѐ. Lady Esmѐ also orders her ladies maid not to disturb her until it is time to dress for dinner later this evening–which means that she will also miss tea, and that is an unusual occurrence for her. But it has been a stressful few days and that has caught up with the elderly Lady Esmѐ. Lady Esmѐ slides into bed with the curtains drawn, and she lays down her head to rest as slumber claims her quickly.
To be continued with Chapter 19
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) Lady Charmaine image is of Michelle Pfeiffer in the film Cherie Apr2213 and was found at http://www.screenweek.it/film/11894-Ch%C3%A9ri/galleria/47384
3) The Effects of Stroke on the mind and body in brief was found at http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/patientcare/healthcare_services/stroke/effects/Pages/index.aspx ; And I, Grati, took care of a parent who suffered from several and worsening strokes for several years. So some of what I relate in my story here is based upon my experiences as a caregiver for my parent, as well as, interacting with other stroke patients on a nearly daily basis at the rehab facility through several intensive recuperation periods. Though I hasten to add that I am no expert on the subject of strokes.
4) Sir Antony image (masked) is Daniel Day-Lewis and was found at http://theamerican.ie/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/DanielDayLewis_2012_AFI_Fest.jpg
5) 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 http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode4/slides/ns4-340.html
6) I first heard the notion of “express mail” mentioned in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Ch. 49 found here at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1342/1342-h/1342-h.htm , whereby a rider raced his horse to a destination and would get paid for his hurry at the other end as well; Though in researching British postal history, they maddeningly leave mention of early 1800’s express mail out, I found three interesting sites about the “Royal Mail” and its history at http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/page/history , and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Mail, and at http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2009/09/12/the-postal-service-in-18th-century-britain-post-roads-and-post-boys/
7) Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine holding hands image is of Richard Armitage as John Thornton and DanielaDenby-Ashe as Margaret Hale in the BBC’s North & South (2004), episode 4, pix 316 found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode4/ns4-316.jpg
8) Sir Percival Southwick image is of Julian Sands in Room with a View and was found at http://exshoesme.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/julian-sands-in-room-with-a.jpg
9) Lady Lucinda Southwick image is of Samantha Morton in a still from Emma and was found at http://cps-static.rovicorp.com/2/Open/Ernst%20Seibold/Jane%20Austen%27s%20Emma/_derived_jpg_q90_310x470_m0/Emma%20Samantha%20Morton%20Mark%20Strong%20Kate%20Beckinsale_809872.jpg
10) Baby Eliza Southwick is an MS Office Clip Art image found at http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/results.aspx?qu=baby%20girl&ex=2#ai:MP900400261|
11) Lady Esmѐ Sinclair image is of Catherine Deneuve at Cannes in 2000 at age 64 and was found at http://www.info-stars.com/stars/cache/220px-Catherine_deneuve2.jpg
Nota Bene: Translation from English to French was done via Google Translate at: http://translate.google.com/
“Love is a Choice”, Previous Story Link to Ch. 17 is: https://gratianads90.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/love-is-a-choice-ch-17-r-saturday-morning-brings-the-promise-of-new-beginnings-april-22-2013-gratiana-lovelace-post-402/