“Love is a Choice”, Ch. 29 (PG)–A Friendship Blossoms into Love, Part 1, July 15, 2013 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #428)

“Love is a Choice”, Ch. 29 (PG)–A Friendship Blossoms into Love, Part 1,  July 15, 2013 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #428)

aaaLove_is_a_Choice_story_logo_Mar1313GratianaLovelace225x280(An original story by Gratiana Lovelace; All Rights Reserved)

[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, Raymond Coulthard as David Harriott, Rosamund Pike as  Fanny Miller, Brendan Coyle as Uncle Miller, Princess Adelaide as herself, Princess Victoria as herself, Kirsten Dunst as Cassandra Hatch, Matthew MacFadyen as Fr. Robert Hatch, 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.

Additional Disclaimer: The Wiki and other reference links I cite contain general information merely to indicate that a place, person, or artifact, etc.,  possibly existed.  Though I try to use real locations in England and I make reference to some historically complementary information whenever possible, the fictionalized history that I write about for these towns, towns folks, and areas in my story are mostly figments of my imagination and should not be taken as fact.

Author’s Recap from the previous installment:  Christmastime 1826 at the Wingate Estate of Dearing Manor near Warwick saw the unexpectedly early birth of Lady Louisa and Sir John’s third child, a son they named Edmund.  Then Little Lottie predicted rightly that Lady Charmaine and Sir Antony Southwick–Lady Katharine’s parents–are expecting their third child in the Spring.  Lottie also predicted that Lady Katharine and Lord Rafe are with child–but that is yet to be determined.  And Mrs. Cassandra Lowens Hatch–Lady Katharine’s friend from Maylandsea–and her baby daughter Beatrice visited her former home at the Hatch estate with its new owner twenty-two year old Fr. Robert Hatch and his mother. Cassie and Beatrice witnessed and assisted with Robert’s first guest sermon the Sunday before Christmas.  Then on Christmas Eve, Robert conveyed to Cassie that he felt a growing fondness for her that Cassie responded to cordially.  However, Cassie reminded him that she is still in her year long period of mourning until the Spring for her late husband Gerald Hatch, Robert’s uncle–and thus could not be courted by anyone yet.  But Robert asked if he may write to Cassie–and she agreed.

“Love is a Choice”, Ch. 29 (PG)–A Friendship Blossoms into Love, Part 1

March of 1827 was an auspicious month–not only because Spring officially begins, but also because the now nineteen year old Mrs. Cassandra Hatch officially ended her year long mourning period for her late and much older husband, Mr. Gerald Hatch.  Though she will always miss him as a kind gentleman who gave her their beloved baby daughter Beatrice to cherish, Gerald’s and Cassie’s marriage was not a love match–it having been arranged by Cassie’s late father Mr. Lowens, to secure her future.

However, Mr. Lowens could not have predicted the happy state that his daughter Cassie now finds herself in. After spending a cordial Christmas holiday with her husband’s family–including his now twenty three year old nephew newly ordained Vicar Fr. Robert Hatch and his widowed mother Mrs. Edna Hatch–there were exploratory feelings of sympathy between Robert and Cassie that could not be developed until she was out of mourning.  But Robert undertook to write to Cassie every two weeks to insure her baby Beatrice’s health and welfare.  And Cassie also wrote back to Robert–such that a pleasing regard developed between then.  And still seeking a parish of his own, Fr. Robert Hatch has the great good fortune in March 1827 to be invited and he accepted to serve as vicar at the Maylandsea [(2)] Parish Church–where Mrs. Cassandra Hatch resides–with his duties and responsibilities to begin the first part of April.

Robert’s widowed Mama, Mrs. Edna Hatch, was not initially happy with this outcome of her only child moving away from her to the Maylandsea parish–because she knows that it is her son’s intention to court and then wed the now nineteen year old Mrs. Cassandra Hatch–the widow of his much older late Uncle Gerald Hatch–and to adopt and become father to her now nine month old baby Beatrice Hatch, who is technically his cousin, with Cassie technically being his aunt by marriage.  But Mrs. Edna Hatch is a realist and she loves her son, so she gave his intentions her blessing before he traveled to his new home.

Since the vicar’s modest home for the small parish of Maylandsea is under renovation in anticipation of Fr. Robert Hatch’s arrival–but not yet completed–Fr. Robert Hatch has secured temporary lodgings for himself in a caretaker’s cottage on the Seagrove Estate of Lady Katharine and Lord Rafe Wingate.  It was a helpful suggestion that Mrs. Cassandra Hatch made to the Parish Council when she discovered that their new vicar–her kinsmen Fr. Robert Hatch–would be without a roof over his head for the next month.

As Fr. Robert Hatch settles in to his cottage and unpacks on the first Friday morning in April–not having spoken to Mrs. Cassandra Hatch since he arrived late yesterday evening.  And he has a visitor, two actually.

Mrs. Byrd: “Oh Fr. Haaatch.”  Mrs. Byrd calls out in a warbling sing songy voice that makes the real birds cringe for fear someone might mistake her for one of their own.  Mrs. Byrd’s youngest and still unmarried daughter of twenty one years named Fern tags along with her most unwillingly.

Fr. Robert Hatch:  Popping his head up from having his nose in a large traveling trunk that has most of his books in it, Fr. Robert spies the overly lace laden Mrs. Byrd and her equally flounced sneering daughter. “Ladies.  I hope that you will please pardon my informal attire.”  He feels discomfitted to be found clothed casually as he unpacks.  Robert is FrRobertHatch-image-isMatthew-Macfadyen-as-mr-darcy2-697617_500_280Jul1013fanpopcom-crop-hi-res-brt-shrpwearing his loose white shirt with his collar open revealing his thatch of unruly chest hair and no jacket.  But Robert [(3) right] quickly puts on his jacket even if his cravat is nowhere to be found.  Then he strides forward with his hand outstretched in greeting.  “I am Fr. Robert Hatch.  To whom am I given the honor of speaking?”  He smiles amiably at them as his deep voice vibrates with his innate warmth of character.

Mrs. Byrd:  Mrs. Byrd and her daughter curtsy to their new vicar.  “I am Mrs. Lorelai Byrd and this is my daughter Miss Fern Byrd.  We are the Byrds.”  Indeed, Mrs. Byrd even has an embroidered sparrow [(4)] motif in the design of her dress skirt.  The sparrow being her signature emblem.

Mrs. Byrd repeats her name, Robert knows not why–he heard her the first time and he is blessed with a facility for remembering names, essential in his line of work as vicar of the parish.

Fr. Robert Hatch:  “Ah!  Would you be related to Dr. Albert Byrd who tendered the offer of the parish vicar position to me?”  Fr. Robert knows the answer–Mr. and Mrs. Smith at Seagrove Cottage filled him in about some of the prominent local citizens when he arrived last night–but he knows that it pays to seem interested to prominent members of his congregation.

Mrs. Bryd: “Yes.  My husband is the local physician.”  She smiles pridefully.  Fern rolls her eyes. Mrs. Byrd looks around the caretaker cottage’s disarray in hopes of finding someplace to sit down.

Fr. Robert  Hatch:  Fearing being waylaid from his unpacking by their visit, Robert demures.  “It is good of you to call on me.  But I fear that you ladies will have to excuse me so that I may unpack.  I have a mountain of work to get through to be prepared for Sunday’s sermon.  And as you can see from the state of the caretaker’s cottage, it is in no condition to receive visitors at the moment.”

Mrs. Byrd:  “Well!”  Mrs. Bryd looks at him with astonishment for him essentially dismissing her.

Fr. Robert Hatch:  He winces at her response, but he still plows ahead with his plan for ridding himself of her.  “I appreciate your forebearance and hope that I might enjoy you and your family’s company at some future date when I may properly receive you.”  He smiles at her warmly.

There is nothing for Mrs. Byrd and her daughter to do, but retreat.
Mrs. Byrd.  “Come, Fern!” She says a tad haughtily.

As Mrs. Byrd and her daughter are leaving, they almost literally bump into Mrs. Cassandra Hatch carrying her nine month old daughter Beatrice in one arm and a small wicker basket in her other hand.

Cassie:   Warmly greeting her fellow parishioners, Cassie smiles cheerfully.  “Mrs. Byrd.  Miss Byrd.  How kind of you to look in on Fr. Hatch’s progress moving in.  I heard from Mr. and Mrs. Smith that he arrived safely last night.”  Then Cassie turns her attention to Fr. Robert Hatch and says a bit shyly.  “Hello.”

Robert smiles at Cassie as she stands in the open doorway, her daughter on her hip and a basket in her other hand.  Robert thinks  that Cassie is the picture of loveliness and womanly virtues.

Fr. Robert Hatch:  “Hello again.”  He says in his deep voice tinged with shyness as he smiles shyly back at her.

Cassie [(5) right] demurely averts her gaze from Robert for a moment. She had not ?????????????counted on what it would feel like to see him again–a mixture of joy, hope, and nervousness.  Though Cassie and Robert have been faithful twice monthly correspondents, they have not seen each other since Christmas time last year, a little over three months ago.

Then being the gracious person that she is, Cassie offers Robert the basket.

Cassie:  “Fr. Hatch, this is for you–for your lunch–since you have not had time to secure food stuffs.”  Cassie addresses him formally since they are not alone.

Mrs. Byrd mentally chastises herself for not thinking to bring a food offering.

Fr. Robert Hatch:  “Thank you, Mrs. Hatch.”  He smiles at her and bows, formally since they are in company. Then he takes the basket from her and sets it on the kitchen table.

Mrs. Byrd:  Trying to strong arm the lovely and comely young widow Mrs. Cassandra Hatch out of the cottage, Mrs. Byrd informs her. “He says he is busy, Mrs. Hatch.  We shall all have to come back another time.”

Fr. Robert Hatch:  Robert winces, because he wants to converse privately with Cassie.  So Robert shrugs his shoulders.  “I am afraid that is correct, Mrs. Hatch.” Then he remembers something. “Though if Mrs. Hatch would not mind waiting a moment, I have a letter from my mother that I am instructed to give to her.”  Then he turns to the Byrds.  “We are family, afterall.  I thank you for understanding, Mrs.Byrd and Miss Byrd.  Ladies, I bid you good day.”

Summarily dismissed by their new vicar–for a second time–Mrs. Byrd and her daughter leave in a flouncy lacy huff.

After the Byrd’s carriage drives away, Robert and Cassie burst out laughing at the absurdity of the Byrds acting proprietarily about Robert–their new vicar.

Robert and Cassie: “Ha ha ha ha ha!”  “Ha ha ha!”

Beatrice:  “Ha ha ha!” Nine month old Beatrice is laughing because they are laughing, not because she knows why they are laughing.

Robert:  “I fear that I did not win over Mrs. Byrd–nor her daughter.”  He shakes his head with a rueful smile.

Cassie: “I fear that you might be right, Robert.”  She grins impishly at him as she familiarly uses his first name, now that they are alone.

Beatrice:  Straining her arms out to Robert, Beatrice vocalizes.   “La la la!”

Robert: “Beatrice! Let me see you!”  He eagerly lifts Beatrice out of her Mama’s arms and into his arms. Then he looks back at Cassie. Now that they are alone, Robert feels that he can also drop his guard and speak more familiarly with Cassie. And they have returned to being on a first name basis with each other, since she used his name first.  He could not be so familiar with her until she chose to be familiar with him–and now she has.  “Cassie, Beatrice has grown so.  I would hardly know her.”

Cassie: Rubbing her daughter’s back as Beatrice playfully pats Robert’s face, Cassie remarks.  “It has been three months since we saw you last at Christmas time.  And Beatrice is now nine months old.”

Their three month separation has been difficult for Cassie–and for Robert. Though their twice month correspondence has helped, it is not the same as being with a person.

Robert:   “I have missed you both.”  He smiles kindly at Cassie.

Cassie:  “And we have missed you.”

Cassie and Robert stare at each other for a few moments, slightly leaning toward each other.  But they may not touch, except for him to kiss her hand.  Yet, he does not move–Cassie being so recently out of mourning, Robert is still hesitant to press his suit so soon.

Beatrice: “La la la.”  Beatrice sings, breaking the spell between her Mama Cassie and Robert.

Cassie: “I do not wish to detain you–nor can we stay long.  But we have come to tender a dinner invitation to you for tonight with Beatrice and I in our home in Maylandsea.”

Robert:  “I do not wish to trouble you.”  He says huskily, yearningly, without meaning to.

Cassie:   Cassie blushes.  “It is no trouble–and you must eat.  So!  Mr. Smith will pick you up with the carriage about 6 o’clock and bring you to dine.  Nothing formal, just en famille.” She smiles warmly at him.

Robert:  “I can think of nothing that I would like better.”  Robert lifts Cassie’s hand to his lips and kisses it.  “Until this evening then.”FrRobertHatch-image-is-Matthew-Macfadyen-asMrDarcyinPrideandPrejudiceJul0713nndbcom-hi-res-brt

Robert hands Beatrice back to her Mama Cassie.  Then Robert [(6) right] escorts Cassie and Beatrice out of the cottage and watches them leave not five minutes since they arrived. And Robert is now more convinced than ever, Cassandra Hatch will be the only wife that his heart will allow.

***

Robert works industriously the rest of the afternoon putting his books on shelves and moving furniture around to suit his needs. Then he takes a bath because he had gotten quite sweaty in his exertions and he wants to look and feel his best tonight.

After Cassie and Beatrice stop to chat with Mr. and Mrs. Smith at Seagrove Cottage for Cassie’s usual Friday visit as Agent for the estate, Mr. Smith drives Cassie and Beatrice home in the carriage before lunch.  After lunch, Cassie puts Beatrice down for her nap and then she consults with her housekeeper Mrs. Black about tonight’s family dinner with Fr. Robert Hatch.  Cassie wants to make Robert feel welcome by serving yummy foods that are not necessarily artfully complicated.

Cassie rereads a letter from her good friend Lady Katharine that came today relating to her about the upcoming birth of Lady Katharine and Lord Rafe’s first child due in September–Lady Katharine being nearly four months pregnant now.  And that their child’s birth will be outpaced by Lady Katharine’s Mama’s baby’s pending birth any week now.  Cassie is a bit astonished that Lady Charmaine is pregnant–due to the schism that had caused grief in the Southwick family.  But that is now all forgot as they await a new Southwick.  Cassie just has time for her own bath, before she puts on her new pink satin gown–she wants to look pretty tonight.  Then Beatrice’s nanny dresses the baby in a pink muslin dress.

Cassie is playing with Beatrice on the sette in the front parlor of her Maylandsea home–that had been her home growing up with her parents–when Fr. Robert Hatch is announced at a quarter past 6’oclock Friday evening.

Mrs. Black: Mrs. Black opens the parlor door and announces Mrs. Cassandra’s guest.  “Fr. Robert Hatch, Mrs. Cassandra.”

Cassie looks up to see Robert attired in a black frock coat, black vest, and black cravat as befits a clergyman.

Cassie: Cassie stands.  “Welcome to my home again, Fr. Hatch.” She greets him warmly, but politely in front of her servant, Mrs. Black. Then Mrs. Black leaves the room.

Robert:  He bows respectfully. “Mrs. Hatch.  I am honored by your kind invitation for dinner.”Cassie-image-is-comp-of-KirstenDunst-asMarieAntoinette-and-pinkdress-CropJul1013GratianaLovelace

Robert’s smiling eyes roam over the loveliness that is Cassandra Lowens Hatch [(7) right] tonight–her charming upswept hair, her creamy complexion, and the lovely pink satin gown she wears.  She blushes under his adoring gaze.

Cassie:  “Beatrice and I are honored to receive you.” She smiles.

Robert: “Cassie, may I say that you look enchanting tonight.”  She blushes.  “And I see that you are wearing the Hatch family cameos.  They had belonged to my grandmother.”

Cassie: She touches her necklace self consciously.  “Yes, they were a wedding present from … from my late husband.”  She winces, because she had not intentionally meant to remind Robert nor herself of her late husband Gerald by wearing the necklace.FrRobertHatch-image-isMatthew-Macfadyen-as-mr-darcy-20707313-1600-900July1013fanpopcom-hi-res-crop

Robert:   He [(8) right] smiles warmly at her. “They suit you.”  Then Robert compliments her shyly.  “And your wearing the cameos improves them.”

Cassie:  She smiles shyly while looking up at the very tall Robert.   “Thank you.”

Beatrice is now on the rug at her Mama Cassie’s feet and Beatrice begins crawling toward Robert.

Robert:  Kneeling down, he opens his arms wide.  “Beatrice!”

Mrs. Black:  Mrs. Black knocks and reenters the sitting room. “Dinner will be ready in a half hour.”

Cassie:  “Thank you, Mrs. Black.” Cassie acknowledges her then returns to smiling as she watches her daughter Beatrice crawl to Robert.

Mrs. Black leaves to see to the final preparations, with a small smile on her face for the happy family scene she just witnessed.  Mrs. Black feels that Mrs. Cassandra has had such heartache the past year and a half–with Mrs. Cassandra’s parents dying and then her husband dying–and Mrs. Black hopes that Mrs. Cassandra will find happiness again soon.

Beatrice reaches Robert and she holds onto his hands and pulls herself up to a standing position.

Robert:  Robert looks with astonishment at Cassie. “When did she start standing?”

Cassie walks over to Robert and her daughter, then she sits on the nearby sette so as not to wrinkle her dress by kneeling on it.

Cassie: “Only in just the past few days.   Everything new she does is such a wonder.”  Cassie sighs.

Robert:  “You are very blessed, Cassie.”

Cassie: “Thank you, Robert.  I think so.”

There is a slightly awkward silence.  They each want to bridge the gap of the previous separation from each other and Cassie’s new status of being out of official mourning. Although her lovely pink gown is a visual reminder of her changed state of not being in mourning anymore.

Beatrice:  “La la la.”

Beatrice raises her arms up and Robert picks her up in his arms and he stands.  Then he walks over to join Cassie on the sette.

Robert:  “May I?”  He asks before sitting down on the sette.

Cassie:  “Please.” Cassie nods cordially.  Cassie feels that something life changing might happen tonight.  She just hopes that she is open to accepting it.

Robert sits on the sette with Cassie–placing Beatrice sitting up between them.  And Beatrice decides to lie down and take a little nap.

Robert:  “I brought the letter from Mama for you with me tonight.” He touches his coat, indicating that it is in his breast pocket.

Cassie: “Oh!  So you truly have a letter?”  She asks sheepishly.  “And I thought you were merely trying to shoo the Byrds out your door. Ha ha ha ha ha!”  She giggles softly.

Robert:  “Ha ha ha ha ha!” He chuckles warmly.  “Well, it also conveniently helped in that regard.”  He smiles and looks down at his hands. He is nervous, but he intends to tell her how he feels, come what may.  He looks up at her and smiles.  “Cassie, are you in any doubt about the reason that I chose to accept the vicar position in Maylandsea?”

Cassie:  Her breathing quickens and she looks away from him as her hands remain lightly clasped in her lap–belying her own fluttering of nervousness. “No.” She says in a hoarse whisper.  “I guessed.  I hoped.”

Robert:  “Hoped?”  Taking his large hand and moving to gently take her small hand in his, Robert strokes the back of her hand and Cassie shyly turns to face him again.

Cassie: Though Robert has indirectly declared his intentions toward her, she is uncertain about the depth of his regard for her.  “Robert, you are a very kind man–and I am quite fond of you.”  Propriety will not allow her to say more until he speaks of his feelings.

Robert:  He stiffens. “But?”  Robert wonders if he has been too hasty in forming an attachment for Cassie–if she does not wish it, he thinks sadly.

Cassie:  “Perhaps it is foolish of me, but when I marry again, I wish it to be for love this time.  I want to be cherished like my friend Lady Katharine is cherished.”

Robert: “I see.” He is uncertain what she is telling him and he seeks clarification. “So do you wish me to withdraw my suit of you?”  He asks with trepidation.

Cassie:  “No.”  She speaks in a whisper. “But I wish to know why you wish to court me?”

Robert: “So that we might marry, of course.” He states logically, if not dispassionately.

Cassie:  “That is the custom.  But why do you wish to marry me?”   She looks up and gazes into his eyes.

Robert:  Gazing into her piercing blue eyes, he admits.  “Cassie, when you gaze into my eyes, I lose all power of thought and speech.”

Cassie:  “I cannot tell whether you think that a good thing or a bad thing.” She shakes her head hesitantly.

Robert:  “If you will accept me, I will think it a very good thing.”  He smiles warmly at her.  “We get on well together.  And I wish to be someone whom you can rely on in times of trial, as well as shelter you from harm.  And do you not think that it is right and fitting for a clergy man to be married?”  He smiles hopefully.

So far, Robert has spoken of what he wants–not what he will give to Cassie.

Cassie has given Robert every possible opportunity to declare his feelings for her, but he has not.  She had so hoped that their cordial correspondence and growing familiarity betokened a specialness of feeling between them. But it does not seem meant to be.

In frustration, Cassie removes her hand from his hand and speaks plainly.

Cassie: “Robert, I appreciate that you wish to have a wife–most clergy have help mates.  But you have not indicated to me why you choose me over anyone else. I know that you would offer me your protection.  But I do not wish a marriage of convenience.  I have declared that I wish to marry for love.  Yet you do not offer your love to me.  So I must conclude that you do not have any love for me.  … And therefore, we should remain friends.”  Cassie is holding back her tears from falling, she had so hoped that Robert might love her–as she loves him.

Robert:   Alarmed that Cassie thinks that he is indifferent to her.  “Cassie, I assure you that I do have feelings for you!”  He proclaims–but in a restrained way.

But Cassie needs more than words to know that she would be giving her heart to the person who will give her his heart in return.

Cassie: “And those feelings are?” She prompts, giving him one last chance.

Robert:  “Cassie, I am a vicar.  And you are a widow.  I cannot breach your trust by speaking or behaving contrary to the responsibilities of my office nor the respect due to your station as a widow before we have an understanding between us.”

And yet for an understanding to develop, Cassie needs reasons.

Cassie: Cassie looks at Robert stoically, sadly.  “Robert, as I said, when I marry again, I will not marry a banker, a doctor, or even a vicar–but I will marry the man who gives his heart to me and I will give my heart to him.”

Robert feels that Cassie is slipping through his fingers.  He has muddled it and she is rejecting him.

Robert: “Then if I am to lose you, let me declare to you now that I do love you, Cassie.  And not as your late husband’s relation wanting to protect you and to be a father for Beatrice–though I do wish to protect you and to be Beatrice’s Papa.”  Cassie holds her breath.  “Cassie, I want … I want to kiss you so much right now that my chest hurts.” He leans forward, his face mere inches from hers.  I am not tutored in the ways of love and courtship.  I know no flowery words to couch my love for you.   And I know that it is ungentlemanly of me to tell you–let alone to have such wicked thoughts–but if it were in my power, I would take you as my wife tonight and thence to my bed and shower you with my loving adoration.”  Robert leans his forehead against Cassie’s forehead and they both close their eyes.  “Oh Cassie, Cassie, please marry me and soon.  I am in torture without you.  Your sweetness, your kindness, and your modesty are but a few of many reasons why I love you.”

Cassie:  Cassie was spellbound during Robert’s declaration of love for her.  And then she responds in a tearful whisper.  “Oh Robert, I love you, too.”

Robert:  “Oh my love!”

Then Robert throws caution to the wind and decorum out the window as he takes Cassie into his arms and he kisses her tenderly.  At first, his kisses are tentative–their lips touching each other are petal soft–him never having kissed anyone before.  Then he becomes bolder as he presses his lips to her lips and and they begin to move their mouths together in circular sucking motions as Robert has his hands caressing her face as they kiss. Robert is ablaze with his love for Cassie. And Cassie melts with Robert’s loving ministrations.  Then a little voice interrupts them.

Beatrice:   “Ha, ih, eh.” Beatrice giggles gurglingly.

Robert and Cassie startle and break apart from their kissing and embracing with blushing faces and shy smiles–their breathing quick and shallow from their shared ardor.

Robert:  “See? Even Beatrice approves.”  He grins broadly, then he kneels before Cassie. Taking Cassie’s hands in his, he asks ardently.  “I love you, Cassie.  I wish to share my life with you and to create a happy home for us and for Beatrice and our future children.”  Cassie blushes at the mention of more children.  “Will you marry me, Cassie?”

This is the most momentous decision of Cassie’s life–changing her and her daughter’s future forever. And with no one to intrude upon her decision making–trying to sway her in other directions–Cassie chooses love.

Cassie: “Yes, Robert!” She sighs.  “I will marry you.”

Cassie smiles caringly at Robert as they gaze at each other in wonder.  These two sweet souls commit themselves to each other–in good times and in bad times, finding a haven from the outside world in each others’ sheltering hearts.

Robert:  Robert kisses Cassie’s hands, then moves from kneeling to sitting on the sette next to Cassie as he asks her eagerly. “When will you marry me?  In two weeks when the Bishop comes for my formal installation? We can have him marry us then as well.”

Cassie: Cassie smiles at Robert in astonishment.  “So quickly? We will not have time to plan a big wedding.” She bites her lower lip.

Robert: “Do you want a big wedding, my Dear?”  He looks at her worriedly–not wanting to trample her dreams.

Cassie: “No. Ha!  But if my good friend Lady Katharine will be my Matron of Honor, I would love for she and her husband to join us.  They are planning to travel here for your installation anyway. So, perhaps I could ask them to arrive a few days in advance of that to help with wedding planning.”

Robert:  “Done!  And I will ask Lord Rafe to stand up with me. And the only other person I would invite would be Mama.  So that is easy.”

Cassie:  “Oh dear!”  She exclaims in alarm.  “Robert, what will your Mama think of us marrying?  Let alone, us marrying so soon?”  She shakes her head in worry.

Robert: “Oh!” He pats his breast pocket again where his Mama’s letter resides.  “She gives us her blessing.  I put Mama on notice to be ready to travel here just in case.”

Cassie:  Cassie tilts her head and looks at Robert bemusedly.  “You did, did you?”  She smiles impishly.  “You were that sure of yourself–that certain of my answer?”

Robert:  “Not at all.  Just look how I almost muddled it.”  He blanches.

Cassie: “True.”  She smiles impishly and tilts her head bemusedly.

Robert: He looks at her longingly.  “Might I have another kiss to reassure me that you have accepted me and that I am not dreaming?”

Cassie: Cassie lowers her eyes demurely.  “Yes.”  She whispers.

Then Robert kisses Cassie soundly again.    Robert hopes to engage in much practice kissing with Cassie over the next two weeks so that by the time of their wedding, he will have mastered the skill–or so that is what he logically tells himself.  He is thrilled to be on the brink of becoming a husband and father.  Yet, Robert has a small nagging thought that, as with any new thing–in this case becoming a husband and father, and all that new status will entail–he will need some expert advice.  Hmmmm.

Later that evening, Cassie and Robert go on to have a lovely family dinner with baby Beatrice napping in her bassinette at table side–discussing their future together, and some essentials of wedding planning–such where they will live after they are married, and the banns that need to be read three times [(9)].  And Cassie invites Robert to dine with her on Saturday evening as well–and every night leading up to their nuptials.  Robert eagerly agrees.  Robert only wishes that he could see Cassie earlier tomorrow, but he is the new vicar and he has to get settled in at the church.  And Cassie and Robert each plan to write letters of invitation to the Wingate’s and his Mama for their nuptials to be posted on the morrow.

***

The next day on Saturday morning, Fr. Robert Hatch meets Dr. Albert Byrd the local physician at the Maylandsea parish church for a tour and such.  They talk as they walk through the church, the sacristy, and then outside to the church cemetery.

Dr. Byrd:  “Fr. Hatch!  Welcome to Maylandsea Parish Church!”

Fr. Robert Hatch:  “Thank you.” He intones respectfully.  “I look forward to meeting everyone and involving myself in this community.”

Dr. Byrd: “And was your journey tolerable?”  He asks as they walk up the church’s center aisle.  “My dear wife, Mrs. Byrd, said that you had a mountain of unpacking to do yesterday.”

Fr. Robert Hatch: “Yes.  The roads were dry, so the coach made good time.  And my unpacking will be an ongoing project for a few days, I fear, as I settle in.”  Though Robert thinks that he will not unpack everything since he and Cassie have decided to live in her home in Maylandsea and he will be moving there in two weeks.

Dr. Byrd:  “And the Parish Council has instructed me to tell you that when you marry, we will increase your living stipend allowance appropriately.”

Fr. Robert:  Robert raises his eye brow.  “You are most kind.  That will be helpful.”  Small parishes can be notoriously stingy at times.  And with the prospect of becoming Cassie’s husband and Beatrice’s father, Robert would like to earn a comfortable living for them–beyond what Hatch family monies he has.

Dr. Byrd:  “Fr. Hatch, on the subject of marriage, we have never had a bachelor vicar in our parish before.”  He says a bit discomfittedly.  “So, it is our hope that you will soon find a wife who will be a helpmate to you and a kindly presence in the parish.”  By which he means, docile.

Fr. Robert: “Of course.”  Robert intones thoughtfully.  Robert is loathe to reveal his engaged status without Cassie’s concurrence–since it also involves her.  So Robert tries to respond as vaguely as possible.  But his strategy will prove to be unworkable.

Dr. Byrd:  “I might even suggest that my own youngest unmarried daughter, Fern Byrd, would make a good wife of any vicar.  She is quiet and contemplative, caring of others, and not given to fits of temper as some women are.”  He smiles broadly.

Robert startles–wondering if Dr. Byrd is describing the same haughty young woman whom he met yesterday with Mrs. Byrd?  But he thinks better of actually stating his question.

Fr. Robert: “Kkkhhh!”   He coughs. “Dr. Byrd, I thank you for the honor you do me in suggesting your daughter as a marriage partner for me.”

Dr. Byrd:  “Good, good.”  Dr. Byrd smiles happily, thinking that he has finally found someone who will take his daughter Fern off of his hands.

Fr. Robert: “But …”  Robert winces.  “I feel that it is incumbent upon me to inform you that I am already engaged to be married.”  Robert smiles politely, hoping that he has let Dr. Byrd down easily.

Dr. Byrd: Dr. Byrd looks with astonishment upon Fr. Hatch.  “What?  But you did not say as much when you accepted the position.  We were given to understand that you were a bachelor.”

Fr. Robert: “And I was a bachelor and not engaged when I wrote you several weeks ago accepting the position of vicar.  My changed status has only occurred recently.”  Robert does not want to say how recently–last evening–because he wants to consult Cassie with regard to the nature and timing of their wedding announcement to the parish.  But it will have to come by tomorrow if the banns [(9)] are to be read for the first time on Sunday.

Dr. Byrd: “I say!  This is most irregular!”  He says, clearly put out of missing out on finding a husband for his daughter.

Fr. Robert:  Not wanting to go into details about his engagement just yet, Robert relies on God to help him through this difficulty. “Dr. Byrd, I hope you will pardon me, but I would like to return to the church and spend an hour in contemplative prayer about my new post as vicar.”  And once again, Robert dismisses a Byrd family member from his presence.

Dr. Byrd: “As you wish!”  Dr. Byrd  huffs, clearly put out.  “Here are the church keys.”  He plops two large keys and two smaller keys into Robert’s hand.  “I trust that you will discover where they are needed without too much difficulty.”  Dr. Byrd nods curtly at his new vicar, then spins around and heads off in the direction of his own home.

Fr. Robert:  Looking up at the blue sky above him, he whispers a small prayer.  “Dear Lord, please let the rest of my congregants be less easily offended–and that they possess few daughters of marriagable age.”  Robert shakes his head in bemusement.  Then he heads inside the church to spend a quiet hour in contemplative prayer, as he said he would.  Then Robert spends the afternoon, putting the finishing touches on writing his first sermon that he will deliver on Sunday tomorrow at the Maylandsea Parish Church.

***

Robert arrives for dinner at Cassie’s home Saturday evening around 6:30pm and he is ushered into the front parlor to await Cassie.  He is a jumble of nerves–even more so than last night before he proposed to her. He switches clasping his hands from in front of him to behind him, and back again as he paces the floor.  Then he hears a click, as the parlor door opens and he turns to see who it is.

Cassie:  Wearing a pale blue muslin gown, Cassie shyly enters the parlor–without Beatrice whom she left with the nanny feeding Beatrice her evening meal.  Cassie’s heart flutters upon seeing Robert pacing in front of the fireplace, looking very serious, and very tall.  “Good evening, Robert.”  She says softly as she closes the parlor door behind her.

Robert:  Striding across the parlor, closing the distance between he and Cassie, Robert reaches out his hands to her.  “Cassie!   I am so very glad to see you again!”  He smiles adoringly at her and lifts her hand to his lips and kisses it–they both tremble with this intimate contact.

Cassie:  “And I you, Robert.”  She says politely as she breathes deeply.

Cassie has looked forward to seeing Robert all day, wondering if she dreamed their engagement and the happiness that seems to be flooding her every thought.  Yet here he is in front of her and kissing her hand. Though Cassie would dearly like Robert to kiss her on her lips again–they had enjoyed such tender kisses yesterday–but she does not feel that it is proper for her to ask it of him, especially since he is a vicar.  Robert also wants to kiss Cassie–more than just her hand.  But he is shy and does not know if he should ask it of her again so soon, or if he should temper his loving ministrations so as not to overwhelm her.  Robert has never courted before, so he does not know the proper form. But he still holds onto her hand after kissing it.

Robert: “Hhhhh!  You are real. I thought that I had imagined that you had agreed to be my wife.”

Cassie:  “Are you wondering if I have changed my mind?” She asks mischievously.

Robert:  Robert looks stricken.  “You have not, I hope. Have you?”

Cassie: “No. I am just teasing you, Robert.” She says playfully, but with demurely lowered eyes.

These two persons are young–she just nineteen and he just twenty three.  So a bit of lightness of spirit reflects each of their youthful demeanors.

Robert: “Oh!   Thank goodness.  I would have been bereft if you threw me over.  Then I might have been stuck with marrying Fern Byrd.  Ha ha ha ha ha!”

Cassie:  “Ha ha ha ha ha!  Whatever makes you say that?” She asks him impishly.

Robert: Robert moves closer to Cassie.  “Dr. Byrd mentioned that she would make me a good wife when he gave me a tour of the church this morning.”

Cassie:  “He did?  And what did you say?”

Robert: “I told him that I was already engaged–though I did not give him details as to who my intended was, is–and then I excused myself to go pray.”  Robert shrugs his shoulders.

Cassie:  “Why did you not tell him we are engaged?” She asks warily.

Robert: “Well Cassie, in deference to you being my future wife, I thought it best to consult with you about the manner of our wedding announcement.”  He smiles at her longingly and squeezes her hand.

Cassie: “Oh.” She nods agreeably.  “Let us sit and discuss it while we await dinner being made ready.”  She gestures to the sette again–the location of last evening’s proposal and kisses, as both of them know well.  They both sit.

Robert: “We shall have to tell the congregation that we are being married when we are at church tomorrow anyway, because I will be reading out the first of our three wedding banns.”

Cassie:  “Is that allowed, Robert? You saying the banns for your own wedding?”  She looks at him questioningly.

Robert:  “It must be–otherwise there would be few married vicars.”  He states somewhat logically. Of course, some vicars are already married before they are ordained–let alone before they assume a church posting.

Cassie:  Smiling. “So when should our wedding announcement take place? Before the banns are read, or during them?”

Robert: “What is your counsel on the matter?”  He looks at her earnestly.

Cassie:  She looks at him quizzically.  “You want my opinion?” Women of Cassie’s time are not often consulted by their husbands–except by very rare, and wonderful men.

Robert:  He smiles warmly at her as he takes her hands in his again.  “In all things.”

Cassie: “Such as?” She looks at him impishly, her blush rising.

Robert:  He takes his finger and slowly draws a circle upon her upturned palm.  “Well, I told you last evening that I am not experienced in courtship.”  Cassie’s eyes flash to Robert’s eyes. Their gaze betokens a warmth of feeling and tenderness between them.  “So I do not know how often it is proper for us to kiss when we are alone like this before we are married.”

Cassie:  Cassie’s eyes flash wider still for an instant with Robert’s desire to kiss her matching her desire to kiss him.“I do not know the answer.” She slowly shakes her head as she breathes deeply.  “Society’s rules say little on the matter–except with regard to us not kissing until we are married.”

Robert:   “Ah!”  He thinks for a moment.  “But in a country town, such as Maylandsea, do society’s strictures invade here as well?” He teases as he leans forward toward her.

Cassie breathes very deeply, such that her gown bodice strains at each inhalation.   Were she not bound by society’s rules of her modesty–and her own natural tendencies in that regard–Cassie might venture a kiss.

Cassie:  “They do, Sir–perhaps more so.  And you are a vicar.” She adds primly, with a small smile curling at the corners of her mouth.

Robert:  “That I am.” Robert shrugs his shoulders impishly. Then Robert’s smouldering gaze of love fixes upon Cassie.  “But when I am with you, my Dearest Cassie, I feel only like a man.”

Cassie:  Her eyes widen as her surprise also escapes from her lips this time.  “Oh!”

And Cassie’s small but full pink lips shaped into an O are just too tempting for Robert, as he leans forward and he gently kisses her on her lips.

Robert: “Hmmm.” He groans as he begins to deepen their kiss by pressing his lips more firmly against her lips in sucking motions.

Cassie: Breaking away from him, she is flushed and protests. “Robert, we must not overwhelm ourselves with our new found familiarity.”  Though she is secretly thrilling to his slightly awkward, yet tender ways.

Robert:  “I know.” He pouts.  “It is just that I cannot wait until we have no prohibitions between us.  When we are married, we may kiss each other as often as we like.” Of course for the inexperienced Robert, even being allowed to kiss Cassie is a wonderment. “Will you mind if I kiss you daily when we are married?”  He smiles sweetly.  Of course, Robert’s total inexperience in carnal matters mean that he is really only speaking of kissing at the moment.

Cassie:  “I do not think I will mind.” She smiles timidly.  She and her first husband were not a love match.  So apart from the kindness and respect that her late husband Gerald showed to her, there was little of the tender feelings that she and Robert enjoy–nor expressions of those feelings, even in she and her late husband’s marriage bed.

Robert:  “Then I will be certain to kiss you daily.”  He smiles.   Then he blushes.   “I want to do what is pleasing to you–whatever is the expected norm between husbands and wives.”  He smiles again.

But Cassie focuses on his phrasing regarding expectations.  Hers, he is thinking of.  But she has none since her first marriage was cordial but not passionate.  Cassie’s marriage to Robert will be so very different from anything she experienced before.

Cassie:  “I am certain that I will find whatever you do pleasing, Robert.” She smiles sanguinely.

Robert:  “I  hope that you will.”  He blushes, for he has no clue as to how to please her in a romantic way–him having decided upon his vocation as a clergy man very young in his life, thus eschewing any improper behaviors outside of marriage that other young men might engage in when they reach a certain age. “So when shall we make our wedding announcement at church tomorrow?”

Cassie:  “I suppose with the banns is sufficient.  Then we will only have to respond to any inquiries after–and not before as well.”  She winces.

Robert: “Are you thinking that some people might misconstrue the nature of our relationship?  I mean, given that we are already family?”

Of course, Robert is referring to the congregants speculating about when they began their relationship–if it was when she was still married, and inappropriate musings about Beatrice’s parentage.

Cassie:  “Oh!   I had not thought of that possibility.”  She colors.  “But if we make clear that we only met for the first time last October, then that should satisfy their curiosity and stifle any unpleasant talk.”

Robert: “Let us hope so.   One troublesome discussion that we had regularly at seminary was about how seemingly Christian people can believe and even spread nasty rumors and outright lies about their fellow congregants.”

Cassie:  “Oh dear!   And what was the remedy?”  She looks at him earnestly.

Robert:  He looks at her in all seriousness.  “Death to the rumor mongers.”  He intones somberly.  Then he bursts out laughing.  “Ha ha ha ha ha ha!”

Cassie:  “Ha ha ha ha ha!”  Cassie laughs, too, for Robert having broken the tension that she was beginning to feel.  “Robert, I wonder if our Parish is ready for a vicar with a scandalous sense of humor such as yours.”

Robert:  Robert playfully clasps both of Cassie’s hands in his.  “Too late!   They hired me and I have a full year’s contract, signed and dated.”  Then Robert moves her hands to his shoulders and leans down toward her.  “Now!  Before we are under too much scrutiny as an affianced couple, might we please kiss again, Madam?” He smiles impishly.

Cassie:  “Perhaps, Sir.” She looks at him slightly coquettishly.

Cassie tries to prevent herself from smiling by pursing her lips.  But her lips now resemble the perfect offering to her fiancé Robert, who leans down and covers her lips with his lips.  Sitting together as they are on the sette affords them both a measure of closeness with their arms lightly entangled without being able to overstep the bounds of propriety by their embracing fully.

There is a discreet knock on the parlor door, and Cassie and Robert instantly pull apart from their kisses.

Mrs.  Black:  “Dinner is served, Madam.” Mrs. Black stifles a small smile.  Mrs.Cassandra has not informed her of an understanding–let alone an engagement.  But Mrs. Black surmises that an understanding exists from being told by Mrs. Cassandra that Fr.Robert will dine with her in the evenings for the next two weeks.

Cassie: “Thank you, Mrs. Black.” Then she turns to Robert. “Shall we?”

Robert:   “Lets.” Standing up he offers her his hand and she stands up, crooking her arm in his as they walk to the dining room.

Robert and Cassie go on to have a lovely dinner, interspersed with much hand holding throughout.  And then, when Robert takes his leave of Cassie at the end of their evening together, he impulsively pulls her to him in the darkened entry hall for one last tender kiss before they announce to the world tomorrow that they are to be wed.

***

At Sunday’s worship service the next day, a smiling Fr. Robert Hatch warmly greets everyone as they enter the church.  This seems unusual to the congregants because their past vicars have been taciturn old men.  And though Robert is usually more on the shy side, his exuberance about his upcoming wedding to his love Cassie cannot be contained.  Everyone sits in their same pew that they sit in every week. How close they sit to the front being a measure of their importance and prominence in the community, with more prominent citizens sitting toward the front.    Cassie and her daughter Beatrice and Mrs. Black sit somewhere in the middle.

Robert gave a not too long and not too short first sermon to his new church about the apostles leaving their lives to follow Jesus on faith as a parable for faithful people to follow Jesus’ teachings of compassion and kindness.  Robert was, perhaps, trying to pre-empt a negative reaction to his and Cassie’s marriage announcement by focusing on kindness. But time will tell with the reception they receive.  Then after everyone partakes of the Eucharist, some announcements are given and then the banns are read.

Robert: Standing at the head of the center aisle in the old stone church, Robert smiles at everyone.  “I am told that before we sing our final hymn and have our final prayer before we take our leave, that it is customary for general announcements regarding the parish to be given.  So I invite anyone with announcements to share them.”  Robert holds out his hands and looks around.  No one says anything.  “Now do not be shy.  I hear that there are some excellent refreshments for us to enjoy as soon as we are done here. So!  We best get to it!”

The verger wearing his robe of office [(10)], stands up from his place sitting off to the side in the front next to the lectern.

Verger: “Thank you, Fr. Hatch. I would  just like to announce that over the Summer, I will be training anyone new who wishes to be an acolyte. So boys of ten and up should let me know that they are interested so that I may make a schedule of our meetings.”

Fr. Robert: “Excellent!  Excellent!  I was an acolyte myself many years ago.  But I almost burned down the church lighting the candles. Ha ha ha!”

But Fr. Robert’s humor falls flat.  No one laughs–uncertain if he joking or being serious.  Robert looks over at Cassie who gives him an encouraging look.

Verger:   “Ah!  That is why we work up to them lighting the candles at the altar.” He intones deadly seriously.

Fr. Robert: “Good.  Thank you.  Anyone else?”  Fr. Robert looks around.

Dr. Byrd: Dr. Byrd stands up in his front pew, as he says politely, but not warmly.  “The ladies of the church have prepared light refreshments after church in the parish hall–in honor of Fr. Hatch’s first Sunday with us as our vicar.  So we invite everyone to join us there and meet Fr. Hatch.”

Fr. Robert:  “Thank you.”  He nods at the doctor who is also head of the Parish Council.  Robert looks around once more in case there are other announcements, but no one comes forward.   Then he continues.  “Well! I am delighted to say that as part of my official duties on my first day as vicar with you, we have  not one but two engaged couples for whom I will be reading the banns–with the first couple being married by me next Saturday. Will Bronwyn Gooding and Felix Marsh please stand?”   The affianced couple stands and smiles at everyone as they hold hands.  “Alright, here we go.”  Fr.Robert says delightedly as he begins to read their banns [(11)]:

“’ This is the third time of asking. If any of you know cause or just impediment why these two persons–Bronwyn Gooding and Felix Marsh–should not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, ye are to declare it.’”

Fr. Robert looks around at those present. None present broach a response. Then Fr. Robert winks and nods at the young couple.

Felix:   “Thank you Fr. Hatch.”  He bows respectfully. “It will be an honor for Bronwyn and I to be your first marriage that you celebrate in our church.”

Fr. Robert: “Thank you.  It will also be my honor.”  Fr. Robert bows respectfully to Felix and Bronwyn.

Fr. Robert looks around at his parishioners–who are looking at him quite expectantly. He looks back at them pleasantly–and a bit quizzically.  Even Cassie raises her eyebrows at Robert as she leans forward–seemingly trying to convey a message to him.

Fr. Robert: Fr. Robert startles with a youthful jerk of his shoulders. Then he claps his hands together with a loud crack.  “Oh!  I almost forgot.” Robert looks over at Cassie and sheepishly shrugs his shoulders. Cassie nods and sits back in her pew with a smile. Then he gestures with his hand toward the congregation. “I promised you a second wedding banns reading.”  Fr. Robert smiles. Dr. Byrd nods knowingly–except for the details of whom will be married. “This next couple is very close to my heart–not the least of which is because I am the bridegroom!”  Fr. Robert smiles broadly.

Parishioners: “Oh!”  “Lovely!”  “How nice!” etc.

Fr. Robert:  “My installation as your vicar by the Bishop in two weeks will also be the date of my and my fiance’s wedding. You are all invited.”  He smiles.  “Now as I did with the other couple, I will ask my soon to be bride to join me and we will stand before you as I proclaim our first of three wedding banns.”

Everyone looks around agog!  Who could their new vicar’s intended bride be?  They did not notice anyone new in church today, so it must be a local girl.  But who?

Fr.Robert: Robert walks over to Cassie and holds out his hand to her.  “Mrs. Hatch, might you join me, please?”

Cassie:  “Yes.”   Cassie shyly nods her head and gives her daughter Beatrice to Mrs. Black’s waiting arms.

Cassie takes Robert’s hand and stands.  Then they walk to the center aisle–Cassie’s arm linked with Robert’s arm.  All eyes are upon them.

Parishioners: “That was fast.”  “How nice!”   “I do not believe it!”  “Awww.”

Fr. Robert:  Robert being a straightforward fellow–and wanting to assuage Cassie’s concerns about some parishioners misinterpreting their relationship–Robert gives his new parishioners a bit of background. “Dear Friends, As you know, I am your new Vicar Fr. Robert Hatch.  My intended bride is Mrs. Cassandra Lowens Hatch who spent her childhood in this community and now resides here again.   We are related, but only by marriage.  She is the widow of my late Uncle Gerald Hatch who died over a year ago.  Coming upon the heels of my own father’s death a few months before, our family sustained two serious sorrows last year.  But since I was away studying for holy orders at seminary at Oxford University, I had never met Mrs. Hatch until last October when I arranged some family estate matters for she and her daughter Beatrice.”

Beatrice: “Glu ga gul.”  Beatrice vocalizes upon hearing her name.

Fr. Robert:  “Beatrice is a cherub, is she not?”  He gestures to Beatrice.  Then Robert walks over to the pew, picks Beatrice up into his arms, and he returns to Cassie’s side–depositing Beatrice into her Mama, Cassie’s, arms and then he puts his arm around Cassie’s waist. “My goal was then and is now to provide a secure future for them.  I do not think that either Mrs. Hatch or myself could have predicted that our shared time at Christmas in my Mama’s home–and the cordial correspondence we shared since then–could have blossomed into our wish to marry. But it has.  We became engaged only after I arrived to take up my post here as vicar–since it is only in the last few weeks that she is out of mourning and I was able to express my wishes to her without intruding upon her grief.  I would not have thought that I could be so blessed to have so kind and honorable a lady as Mrs. Hatch is, to be willing to take up a life of service to God with me, but she is.” He shakes his head as if in disbelief.  “And I feel keenly the honor and responsibility placed upon me in also becoming little Beatrice’s stepfather.  So I shall probably seek your wisdom about parenting.”  He smiles down at baby Beatrice who smiles up at him and waves her hand and he gently clasps her hand in his hand.  “So I thank you for making me your vicar and facilitating my upcoming nuptials and expanding family.”  Robert beams a blindingly happy smile to the parishioners–whereas Cassie smiles demurely at them, and maintains her shy silence.

The parishioners erupt in applause and hurrahs:  “Well done!”  “We are happy for you!”   “Hurrah!”

Fr. Robert:  “Thank you!   But I shant forget the actual banns.  So here we go again:

“’ This is the first time of asking. If any of you know cause or just impediment why these two persons–Fr. Robert Hatch and Mrs. Cassandra Lowens Hatch–should not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, ye are to declare it.’”

Fr. Robert looks around to give the parishioners the requisite time in case there are objections.  Of course, no one would dare object to the Hatch marriage in the open forum of a church worship service.

Fr. Robert:  “Whew!  That is a relief!” He jests.  “One down and two to go.”  Then a smiling Robert turns to Cassie and guides her back to her pew.  “My Dear.”

Cassie:  She whispers sotto voce to him as she sits in the pew. “Well done!”  She smiles primly.  Robert smiles back at her.

The service concludes with the singing of the last hymn and a final prayer commending those present to go forth and live a right and godly life.

***

The after church gathering in the parish hall to welcome Fr. Robert Hatch as vicar of the Maylandsee Parish Church now turns into an impromptu wedding engagement reception for Robert and Cassie.  They stand in a receiving line with Dr. Byrd at the entrance to the parish hall so that Dr. Byrd can introduce people.  Robert is good with names, but he feels that it will take meeting each person a few times before their name and face are committed to his memory.

Everyone is kind and gracious to both Cassie and Robert–which is appreciated by both of them.  That is, until Mrs. Byrd and Miss Fern Byrd walk up to them–their family still feeling slightly insulted by being dismissed from by Fr. Hatch so summarily on Friday and on Saturday.

Dr. Byrd: “And, of course, you remember my wife, Mrs. Lorelai Byrd, and our daughter, Miss Fern Bryd.”  Dr. Byrd intones solemnly with a slight chip on his shoulder.

Fr. Robert:  “Of course.  Mrs. Byrd, Miss Byrd.  I am delighted to see you both again.  Please let me introduce my fiancé, Mrs. Cassandra Lowens Hatch.”  Robert gestures politely to Cassie.

Mrs. Byrd:  “Mrs. Hatch. You have my congratulations.” She says a tad disdainfully as she and Mrs. Hatch exchange civil nods of their heads.  “Is not your engagement rather a sudden scheme?”

Cassie is well aware that the Byrds had matrimonial designs upon Robert and that they are feeling disappointed.  However, Cassie takes the gracious route as always.

Cassie:  “Well!  Sudden, perhaps. But a scheme?  No!”  Cassie smiles cordially at the reddening Mrs. Byrd.

Fr. Robert: Robert leans over to Dr. Byrd and tries to say sotto voce. “Oh and Dr. Byrd, if Miss Byrd is in earnest about wanting to marry a vicar, I do  have several school mates who have yet to procure brides should you wish to interview them for the post of son-in-law.” Robert smiles warmly.  But he was overheard.

Miss Byrd: “Papa!  I do not want to marry a vicar!  I want someone with a higher status.”  She huffily exclaims most decidedly.

Dr. Byrd:  “Fern!   Do be quiet.  You will marry whom your Mama and I say you may marry.”  He commands.

Neither Robert nor Cassie would wish a marriage partner to be forced upon Miss Byrd.  But her own choosiness has ruled out all the young men of the town and the surrounding county.  So the Byrds will have to look further afield for bridegroom prospects.

Fr. Robert: Hoping to quell the Byrd family squabble so that they may enjoy the rest of their reception, he asks.  “Miss Byrd, I hope that your own wishes and that of your parents may reach a happy coalescence into a resolution that each of you will find acceptable.  And one of my vicar school mates is the younger son of a Duke–if that helps.”  Robert grins upon seeing Miss Byrd  look more interested in the prospect of marriage with a vicar.

Mrs. Byrd: “What?” Fr. Robert’s language use is, perhaps, higher than the countrified Mrs. Byrd.  And the mention of a Duke’s son also peaked her interest as well.

Fr. Robert: “Forgive me, Madam. I only wish to convey that when the time comes for Miss Byrd or for anyone to marry, I hope that the young people in question and their parents will be in happy agreement about the match.”

Mrs. Byrd:  “Oh!   Well!” She nods her head somewhat mollified. Then she and her daughter move to the buffet line.

Mrs. Black sitting with baby Beatrice, motions to Cassie.

Cassie:  “If you will excuse me gentleman, but I need to check on my daughter Beatrice.”

Fr. Robert:  “Of course, my dear.”  He nods respectfully  to her.

Cassie nods and leaves the two men alone as she walks over to her child and Mrs. Black. Beatrice needs to have her diaper changed.

Dr. Byrd: “So!  You choose for your wife a comely little widow.” Dr. Byrd leaves the rest of his leering intimation unsaid.  But he is definitely wondering about the lustful appetites of their new vicar.

Fr. Robert: “Naturally, I think of Mrs. Hatch as lovely–because she is my intended.  But Mrs. Hatch is so shy and reserved, I feel certain that she would be astonished to find anyone else regards her in that way–let alone  a married man such as yourself.”  Robert intones most piously.  “After all, the Decalogue admonishes us to not covet.” Robert has effortlessly switched from cordial young man to austere vicar most convincingly.

If Robert needed to make a point that God is his only higher power that he answers to–and not to Dr. Byrd–then Robert is making that point quite clear.

Dr. Byrd: Blustering, he says. “I beg your pardon!  I meant no such offense.”

Fr. Robert: “I am glad to hear it. If I am to recommend Miss Byrd to a friend from my alma mater of the Divinity School at Oxford University [(12)] –Lord Kennet of Berkshire, Vicar of the family’s seat church at Reading [(13)]–then I would like to be able to vouch personally for you being a pious man.  You see, Lord Kennet’s family are very religious.” Fr. Robert intones soberly–while also neatly putting Dr. Byrd in his place.

Dr. Byrd: “I thank you for your discretion, Fr. Hatch.”  Dr. Byrd bows respectfully to Fr. Hatch–realizing the advantage of the connection that their new vicar might provide for his family.

Fr. Hatch:  “But of course, since marriage is a lifelong commitment, it is best if the two young people can discern if they think that they can get on well with each other. Perhaps Miss Byrd’s seeming to be out of sorts the two times that I have met her are that she feels–rightly or wrongly–that her wishes are not being taken into account and that she feels forced into marriage. I hope that is not the case.   For my friend Lord Kennet is a most agreeable fellow and he is devout in his calling to serve God.  And his sisters giggle that he is too handsome to be a vicar, but he cares not for his pleasing countenance.  He a one of my great friends and I cannot recommend him highly enough.”

Dr. Byrd: “Well!   This is a good reference for the gentleman.  I thank you kindly.”

Fr.  Hatch:  “Perhaps in the next few months Mrs. Hatch and I will have occasion to invite Fr. Ian, Lord Kennet for a short visit.  And then he and Miss Byrd might become acquainted.  I will consult with my bride upon the matter and see if she will take Miss Byrd under her wing–so to speak.  Ha ha ha!”

Dr. Byrd:  “Ha ha ha!  You and Mrs. Hatch are most kind.” He nods respectfully to the vicar.

And with that, Fr. Robert Hatch just neatly won over the one man at the Maylandsea Parish Church, Dr. Byrd, who might have been a hindrance to him.  Now, it is on to the wedding.

To be continued with Chapter 30

                             References

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 (BBC, 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 (my cap)

2) Maylandsea Essex, England is on the coast near the modern day Dengie Peninsula;  for more information visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maylandsea

3) Image of Fr. Robert Hatch is of Matthew MacFadyen as Mr. Darcy in the 2005 film Pride and Prejudice was found at  http://images.fanpop.com/images/image_uploads/Matthew-Macfadyen-as-Darcy-mr-darcy-697617_800_448.jpg

4)  The sparrow is one bird of England that has sadly been on the decline in the 19th century per the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds with information found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Society_for_the_Protection_of_Birds

5) Image of  Mrs. Cassandra Hatch is that of Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette in the 2006 film of the same name and was found at  http://www.thefancarpet.com/uploaded_assets/images/gallery/2338/Marie_Antoinette_33546_Medium.jpg ; for more information about the  film,visit http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0422720/?ref_=sr_2

6) Image of Fr. Robert Hatch is of Matthew MacFadyen as Mr. Darcy in the 2005 film Pride and Prejudice was found at http://www.nndb.com/people/797/000129410/matthew-macfadyen-1-sized.jpg ;  for more about the film, visit http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0414387/?ref_=fn_al_tt_4

7) Image of  Mrs. Cassandra Hatch  in pink gown and cameo necklace is a composite of:

a) Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette in the 2006 film of the same name and was found at  http://www.thefancarpet.com/uploaded_assets/images/gallery/2338/Marie_Antoinette_33546_Medium.jpg ; for more information about the  film,visit http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0422720/?ref_=sr_2
and
b) Pink period dress with cameo necklace image was found at  http://i00.i.aliimg.com/wsphoto/v0/729352284/Free-Petticoat-PINKVictorian-Period-Costumes-font-b-Medieval-b-font-font-b-Dress-b-font-Southern.jpg

8) Image (cropped) for  Fr. Robert Hatch is of Matthew MacFadyen as Mr. Darcy in the 2005 film Pride and Prejudice was found at  http://images4.fanpop.com/image/photos/20700000/Matthew-Macfadyen-as-Darcy-mr-darcy-20707313-1600-900.jpg

9)  For information about the banns of marriage , visit  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banns_of_marriage

10)  For information about the role of a   Verger, in a church, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verger

11) The standard 1662 Book of Common Prayer version of the  banns may be found at  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banns_of_marriage

12) Information about the Divinity School at Oxford University was found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divinity_School,_Oxford

13) Historical and geographical information about the county of Berkshire was found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berkshire

“Love is a Choice”, Previous Story Link to Ch. 28 is:

https://gratianads90.wordpress.com/2013/07/07/love-is-a-choice-ch-28-pg-13-christmas-holidays-reveal-surprises-for-the-extended-and-growing-wingate-family-friends-part-2-july-07-2013-gratiana-lovelace-post-426/

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About Gratiana Lovelace

Gratiana Lovelace is my nom de plume for my creative writing and blogging. I write romantic stories in different sub genres. The stories just tumble out of me. My resurgence in creative writing occurred when I viewed the BBC miniseries of Elizabeth Gaskell's novel North & South in February 2010. The exquisitely talented British actor portraying the male lead John Thornton in North & South--Richard Crispin Armitage--became my unofficial muse. I have written over 50 script stories about love--some are fan fiction, but most are original stories--that I am just beginning to share with others on private writer sites, and here on my blog. And as you know, my blog here is also relatively new--since August 2011. But, I'm having fun and I hope you enjoy reading my blog essays and my stories. Cheers! Grati ;-> upd 12/18/11
This entry was posted in "Love is a Choice" story, Creative Writing, Fiction, Love and Relationships, Matthew MacFadyen, Period Drama, Richard Armitage, Romance and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to “Love is a Choice”, Ch. 29 (PG)–A Friendship Blossoms into Love, Part 1, July 15, 2013 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #428)

  1. Pingback: “Love is a Choice”, Ch. 30 (R-rated)–A Friendship Blossoms into Love, Part 2, July 22, 2013 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #430) | Something About Love (A)

  2. Kitty says:

    After five attempts to finish this chapter, I finally finished. Loving it!

    Like

    • Giggles Kitty!
      Thanks for your nice note about my story.
      And your eyes and fingers must be burning with all of the gorgeous alterations you’re doing. Love the pictures you share of the final outcomes! I did a bit of hemming myself last week. With my writing and sewing, just call me “hemminway”. Ha!
      Cheers! Grati ;>

      Like

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