(An original story copyrighted by Gratiana Lovelace; all rights reserved) [(1) story cover, left]
[From time to time, I will illustrate my story characters with: Emma Hamilton as Lady Madeline Sinclair, Richard Armitage as Lord Christian Blount Earl of Sussex, and others as noted.]
Authors Content Note: “Encouragement” is a frothy love story with sometimes humorous and sometimes dramatic themes of love and relationships. It will mostly be at the PG and PG-13 movie levels. Specific chapters or passages may have a further rating of: D for dramatic emotions, and LS for love scenes that are tenderly sensuous and not explicit. And I will rate the chapters accordingly. If you are unable or unwilling to attend a movie with the ratings that I provide for a chapter, then please do not read that chapter. This is my disclaimer. And as is my habit, I will summarize the previous chapter’s events at the beginning of each chapter.
Author’s recap from the previous chapter: With Lady Lucretia Beckham Knott sponsoring her seventeen year old granddaughter Lady Madeline Maddie Lucretia Sinclair for her first London Season, their goal is to find Lady Madeline a husband of good breeding. And with Lady Madeline’s dowry of 20,000 pounds, she can afford to be selective. She wants to marry for love. Lord Christian Blount, the newly inherited Earl of Sussex does not have the same luxury. He has inherited his grandfather’s and father’s debts and must marry an heiress to not lose their home and standing in society, but more importantly to see his sister Lady Elizabeth Lizzie Blount with a suitable dowry and help her to make a good marriage. Lady Madeline and Lord Christian seem destined to make a match—except that their introduction began unfortunately with him causing her to drop her ices cup, to her consternation. Perhaps the visit to reacquaint their respective grandmothers will improve the situation—or not.
“Encouragement”, Ch. 2: Paying a call to Sussex House
Lady Madeline fidgets with her reticule as she sits across from her serenely smiling Grandmama as they take their enclosed carriage to Sussex House—Lord Christian Blount’s London Mansion estate. And though January is bitingly cold—deceptively so since the snow has melted for a bit, giving the visual impression of a warmer season–the two hot bricks her grandmother ordered are serving them in good stead, along with their fur coats.
Yet, Lady Madeline also feels a chill of unease for their impending call on the Blounts. However, nothing seems to ruffle Lady Knott’s feathers as she glances out the carriage window—in between shrewd appraisals of her granddaughter, Lady Madeline. And especially not this morning when her plan—hers and Lady Catherine Blount’s, the Dowager Countess of Sussex—is moving along nicely. Their grandchildren met at last night’s ball—a beginning. Though the ices cup crashing to the ground debacle was unfortunate, there may yet be time to repair—or establish, more likely—the regard between Lady Madeline and Lord Christian. That is their respective grandmothers’ hope.
Our carriage having wound its way around the park on our way to Sussex House, Grandmama and I find ourselves being routed down a quiet tree lined lane of grandly large stately homes. The neighborhood is so exclusive that each home and its surrounding parklike property takes up more than several acres. Finally, our carriage driver turns into the drive of what I can only presume is the Blount family’s impressive London mansion, Sussex House [(2) below].
Whereas my Grandmama Lady Lucretia Knott lives in a beautiful four story townhouse in London with only a little green space behind it–no park– the Blounts obviously have the blunt to live rather large in London.
However I, Lady Madeline Sinclair, resolve not to be impressed with their show of wealth and centuries old heritage. No, not I—not a jot! For I believe that being blessed with family money is an accident of birth. One child is born with a title and wealth, whereas another but equally worthy babe is born to parents of modest means. Both children might possess a talent for learning, facility with music or horses, or be devastating with a rapier. But the child born outside the boundaries of a wealthy family who might nurture those talents and pay for tutors and such, will not develop those talents—except in only the rarest of occurrences of finding a patron. Life is not fair—especially for children from families of lesser or no means—and it starts at birth. Some may think me a misguided social critic and do gooder, but I merely think as I feel.
As my Grandmama [(3) right] and I are ushered into the Blount’s impressive mansion by a liveried footman wearing a white powdered wig, I wonder if we have stepped into another country–and perhaps another century. The vaulted archway ceilings are magnificent!
I look at the footman leading us to one of what I assume is one of several drawings rooms to choose from, and I point at his back with a quizzical look to my Grandmama. She shakes her head and puts her thin index finger against her lips. I will have to ask her later about the bewigged footman–if I dare. Grandmama is of the opinion that questioning other people’s eccentricities is likely to have someone else question our own eccentricities. Better to leave well enough alone. Yet England is so often at war with the French, that I cannot believe anyone would have the audacity to seem to prefer anything French—though I do love French culture and fashions. But it is all for naught, c’est la vie.
As we keep walking through an interminably long hallway, I wonder how large this home is? And will I get lost within it? The house must be as deep as it is wide. And then we are shown into a cozy and intimate drawing room that is much to my liking with it being under forty foot square, having an abundance of pink and burgundy velvet and silk cushioned seating areas, and large windows on either side of an imposing fireplace– with window views of a beautifully lush garden courtyard [(4) below left] and more beyond.
The drawing room also contains shelves of books of various genres and topics, as well as a games playing table where it looks like a chess match is in progress by the stilled positions of the chess pieces.
Lady Maddie: Girlishly twirling around, Lady Madeline exclaims delightedly. “This room is lovely, Grandmama! I could tuck myself into a corner and live my whole life right here.” My Grandmama smiles.
Lady Lucretia: “My thoughts exactly, My Dear!” I smile mischievously as she walks around the room exploring.
And I think that if Lord Christian Blount does not take to my granddaughter Maddie, perhaps his younger brother Lord Harold Blount will. For despite this large mansion–and their country home, too–I heard that they discovered upon the old Earl’s death two months ago that their finances were somewhat precarious due to some bad investments that their grandfather had unwittingly made. So Lord Christian Blount, and his brother Lord Harold, will have to marry heiresses to maintain their level of living. And that is where my granddaughter Maddie’s dowry and legacy from me might prove useful in helping her secure a fine husband with good connections.
As I walk from one end to the other of the drawing room perusing the bookshelves while my Grandmamma sits patiently waiting to see and greet her friend, a very old and frail looking lady is wheeled into the room by her grandson Lord Christian whilst she sits in a chair with wheels on it. I have never seen such a contraption–of having wheels upon the sides of a chair as a means of conveyance. Surely Grandmama will want one of those, too. Grandmama likes inventions when they speak to her comfort—even if they are contraptions.
Lady Catherine: “Lucy Dearest!” I call out to my dear friend with my arms outstretched. And I urge my grandson to wheel me to her. “To Lady Knott, Christian!” And I lift my cane in her general direction.
The frail old lady holds out her arms and my normally graceful Grandmama Lady Lucretia rushes toward her, embracing her. They kiss and hug each other most affectionately—several times. Grandmama had mentioned to me earlier that she and this lady were very great friends when they were my age–before they each married–and had only had sparing chance meetings over the fifty years since. And their heartfelt greeting seems to confirm their deep friendship connection.
Lady Lucretia: “Cathy, My Darling! Has it been so long since we last saw each other that we have both become parents and now grandparents?”
Lady Catherine: “I fear so. Lord Christian is my eldest grandchild. Though there is nothing of a child about him anymore.”
The dowager countess smiles fondly and proudly at her grandson, who smiles back at her as if he were yet a small boy–no scowling at all, I notice whilst I peer over the top of a book that I had pulled off the shelves as I watched this heartfelt greeting unfold. That I am unconsciously holding the book upside down is less to do with the questionable interest of the book to me, than it has to do with my curiosity about Lord Christian and his grandmother.
Lady Lucretia: “Christy does your family credit, My Dear.” Though a man in his prime, I notice that he blushes slightly at my praise.
Lady Catherine: “And his sister Lady Elizabeth is my youngest grandchild–with their brother Lord Harold in the middle.”
Lord Christian: “Now Grandmother, you know that my sister prefers the family pet name of Lizzie.” I smile at her indulgently [(5) right]. But if Lizzie is to agree to meet this other lady and her granddaughter today, then Grandmother could at least coddle my sister a bit.
Lady Catherine: “Oh! Mind your manners, Christy!” The old lady slips into familiar address. “Go fetch your sister so she may make the acquaintance of my friend and her granddaughter.” Then I turn toward the girl and beckon her forward as Christy nods and leaves the room. She shyly and gracefully walks toward me. “So you are Lady Madeline, my gel?”
Lady Maddie: I curtsy and smile prettily. “Yes, Lady Sussex. But I also have a family pet name. It is Maddie.”
Lady Lucretia: “Little Maddie is to have her first season with me this year.” I state proudly. “We are having such fun together, are we not, my dear?” I drape my arms about Maddie’s shoulders. She is my pride and joy.
Lady Maddie: “Yes, Grandmama.” I smile at her genuinely. Grandmama is so sweet and kind to me, how could I not have fun?
Then Lord Christian walks back toward the small drawing room with a most recalcitrant young lady at his side in the hallway–whose voice is unfortunately loud enough to be heard by the drawing room’s occupants from the hallway.
Lady Lizzie: “I won’t meet them, Christy! Why must Grandmother insist that I meet anyone? I’m shy! Can you not all leave me alone?” However, the shy girl is quite vocal and seemingly not shy about promoting her position—of her shyness.
Lord Christian: “Lizzie, Dear. You must meet some people. This is your first season. And you already missed the first ball. Please come and meet Grandmother’s friend Lady Knott. She brought her granddaughter who is also seventeen and debuting this season.”
Lady Lizzie: “Please Christy, please!” She practically screeches in fear at him. Lady Lizzie is so anxious at meeting new people–let alone, people her family wants her to marry–that she works herself into a tizzy. Sadly, they have seen it all before, and long ago cajolingly dubbed her tirades as Lizzie Tizzies.
Lord Christian: “Shhh. Shhh. Lizzie dearest, please calm down.” I try to say as caringly as I can. But my little sister can be so trying sometimes–like now.
As my Grandmama and Lady Sussex chat amongst themselves, I continue exploring the drawing room. And we can all hear the commotion in the hallway between Lord Christian and his sister. After seeing Lady Catherine’s ever so slightly wincing expression–and my own Grandmama’s placid smile that she exudes when she is discomfitted but is too polite to say anything–I turn and head toward the hallway door.
Then I poke my head into the hallway hoping to puncture the distressing mood, I see a young lady of similar height to me who has dark hair like Lord Christian. She must be his sister, I surmise. So I insert myself into the conversation between brother and sister.
Lady Maddie: “Hello! You must be Lizzie!” Lady Lizzie stares at me in fear as she recoils into her brother’s side–as If I am going to be mean to her. I do not, as a general rule, behave meanly to other ladies. Nor do I do so with Lords—though I am quite perturbed when they make me drop my ices cup.
Lord Christian has released his sister’s hand, but he now has his steadying arms about her should she faint. Then he whispers in his sister’s ear, loud enough so that I can hear.
Lord Christian: “Lizzie, this is Lady Madeline Sinclair.” My extremely shy sister does not say a word. “Curtsy dearest.”
And then I see that he actually dips his sister down a bit, so wobbly are her legs just now. I have never seen a person so upset before. Poor thing. So I resolve to try to set her at her ease as I curtsy also.
Lady Maddie: “Hello! I’m Maddie!” I say brightly as I wiggle my fingers at her in a wave in walking toward her. I am trying to appear childlike and cute–to, hopefully, convince her that I am harmless. Lord Christian rolls his eyes at me. The beast! And when I am trying to help him out!
Lady Lizzie: I look askance at the young lady in front of me [(6) right] and turn my head into my brother’s chest and ask him in a hushed voice. “Christy, is this the chit who dropped the ices?” I dart furtive glances between my brother and … the chit. Well, that is what Christy referred to her as when he told me about it.
Lady Maddie: Unfortunately, I hear her quite plainly. “I am not a chit! For your edification, I am quite capable of carrying two cups of ices from one room to the next. It is just that your granite mountain of a brother bashed into me, knocking one of the ices to the floor–where the glass cup shattered and the ices spilled all over the floor.” Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but he did make an awful mess.
Lord Christian: “I did not purposely bash into you, Lady Madeline. I had straightened up from bowing to your grandmother in taking my leave of her. And when I merely turned, you bashed into me.” I assert defensively. I bristle at the young chit. “I am most praised for my grace on the dance floor, so you can be certain that I am not awkward and lumbering otherwise.” I lean slightly forward, toward Lady Madeline. I am not towering over her, per se—just towering near her.
Lady Maddie: “Well, I have yet to see evidence of any graces on your part, Lord Christian–dancing or otherwise. I presumed that the reason that you left the ball so early was because you danced poorly, or that you needed your beauty sleep, or that you were too tired.” I haughtily lift my pert little nose into the air. However to look up at Lord Christian I have to lean my head back so far that I am in danger of toppling over. The man is a menace to women everywhere. And, of course, he is supremely handsome as well—which is quite vexing, and not a little disconcerting.
Lord Christian’s eyes widen in interested surprise as Lady Madeline leans backward–her unknowingly causing her dress bodice to reveal a hint of her décolletage previously hidden in her demure dress.
At Lady Madeline’s remark, Lady Lizzie whimpers in a shy giggle–and she covers her face by hiding it in her brother’s chest.
Lady Lizzie: “Hmm!”
Lady Maddie: “See? Your sister agrees with me.”
Lord Christian: Leaning back a bit to look down at his sister, he pouts exaggeratedly. “Lizzie, I need you on my side.”
Lady Lizzie: “Maybe you were both at fault, Christy?” I suggest meekly while still clinging to my brother.
Lady Maddie: “Hmm! Lady Lizzie, men of his height and breadth should be more careful. Else, the danger to the unsuspecting populace at large will be great.” I assert, not willing to give up my position. At seventeen, I see the world with fresh eyes—and youthful insights. But, my missing having my brothers around me also means that I am needling Lord Christian quite mercilessly—as my brothers would characterize it. Yet, my lips threaten to curl up at the corners of my mouth with my enjoying my good natured teasing of Lord Christian. He is so full of himself, he needs to be teased. However, it is a pity that he does not seem to perceive my teasing censure as being good natured.
Lord Christian: “You two are talking about me as if I were not standing right here–hearing every word.” I fume in righteous indignation. “And I can not help my height and breadth!” I glare at the Sinclair chit once more as I stand up to my full height. This girl will have a devil of a time finding a suitor–let alone a husband–with her lack of manners.
Lady Maddie: I soften my tone, a bit. “Just be more careful in future with what you do with it, Lord Christian. You almost knocked me and my replacement ices cup over a second time. You could plow under whole villages with a single swipe.”
Lord Christian: I glower in annoyance with this insulting chit. “Lady Madeline, I neither plow under, nor swipe”
Lady Maddie: “Well, you could have fooled me!” I glare back at him. The gall of the man, disagreeing with me!
Lady Lizzie’s mirth at her sometimes over bearing and prideful–but still very loving and kind–elder brother receiving his comeuppance, can no longer be contained as she bubbles forth in laughter.
Lady Lizzie: “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!” Lady Lizzie is laughing so hard, she is crying. And it is infectious as Lady Maddie begins to giggle.
Lady Maddie: “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!”
Lord Christian: I pout with my lower lip protruding most defensively. “I fail to see what is so humorous to you young ladies? I am tall, but a taller than average height is generally thought to be a pleasing attribute.” Now I lift my noble Roman nose in the air.
Lady Maddie: “If you say so. Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Height snob!”
Lady Lizzie: “Ha ha ha ha ha! She has you pegged, Christy!”
Lord Christian: “Lizzie, you are behaving like a silly flibbertigibbet” [(7)].
Lady Maddie: “I never saw one of those. Does it fly, swim, or crawl? Ha ha ha ha ha!”
Lady Lizzie: “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!” Holding her sides because she is laughing so hard, Lady Lizzie pleads. “Please Lady Maddie, no more. Or I will bust out of my corset! Ha ha ha ha ha!”
Lady Maddie: “Just one more, Lady Lizzie.” I hold up my finger, then turn to Lord Christian. “Lord Christian, you may think that you are god’s gift to the marriage mart, but you are too archly abrasive for any woman to like you—unless she is abrasive, too.” And yet, Lady Madeline still thinks in the back of her mind that some women might indeed over look Lord Christian’s moodiness–in liking his other attributes, such as his handsomeness.
Lord Christian: “And you are a little chit! My sister Lizzie is even taller than you!”
Maddie pouts at being thought diminuative–rather than merely petite.
Lady Lizzie: “Oh, pay Christy no mind, Maddie.” Lady Lizzie forgoes formality. “He just has his dander up. Let us go see what our grandmothers are plotting for the season. I had dreaded it. But perhaps, now that I have your society, it will not seem so overwhelming.”
Lady Maddie: “Yes! It will be ever so much more fun to have a friend in each other at the balls. May hap we will each find good and loving husband’s this season.” I squeeze Lady Lizzie’s hand in mine.
And with that, the shy Lady Elizabeth, links her arm into the firebrand Lady Madeline’s arm and they stroll jauntily—their full skirts bouncing up and down in unison–into the small and cozy drawing room where their grandmothers are taking tea.
Lord Christian is still standing in the hallway looking into the drawing room, perplexed by what he deems to be the unladylike behavior of that little Sinclair chit–when she looks at him over her shoulder and tosses him what she hopes is an exaggerated flirtatious wink before she disappears into the drawing room’s depths.
Did that Sinclair chit just wink at me? At me? Lord Christian is livid–as his open mouthed astonishment illustrates. He is a titled man of substance, of some wealth–though not as much as before his grandfather Earl’s bad investments–of position, of handsomeness, and he is a highly sought after marital prize. Yet two girls barely out of the school room have reduced him to a fuming whiney elder brother.
But after a few moments of reflection, Lord Christian smiles–as an altogether devious notion enters his mind. He will show them–especially that little Sinclair chit, no matter how divertingly feisty she is.
To be continued with Chapter 3
The References for Ch. 2 by Gratiana Lovelace, September 08, 2016 (Post #965)
1) The “Encouragement” story cover is an image representing our young heroine Lady Madeline Sinclair. The image is the young Emma Hart in a straw hat at 17 years old in painted by George Romney in 1782; she was later to marry Sir William Hamilton in 1791 and become Emma Lady Hamilton, was found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma,_Lady_Hamilton#/media/File:George_Romney_-_Emma_Hart_in_a_Straw_Hat.jpg ; For more about Emma Lady Hamilton, nee Emma Hart/Amy Lyon please visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma,_Lady_Hamilton
2) The image representing the Sussex House London mansion’s front view is Great Maytham Hall in Kent and was found at http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kent/news/apartments-at-the-inspiration-fo-a65359
3) The image representing Lady Lucretia Knott is that of Maggie Smith portraying Lady Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham and was found at Pinterest at https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/fd/a8/df/fda8df3f1c8741faeffced62e821513c.jpg
4) The image representing the Sussex House courtyard garden is a view of Airlie Estate Gardens was found at http://www.AirlieEstates.com/public/images/uploaded/airlie_history.jpg
5) Lord Christian is Richard Armitage as John Thornton in the 2004 BBC drama North & South and was found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode1/ns1-029.jpg
6) Image of Lady Elizabeth Lizzie Blount is Polly Mabrey as Kitty Bennet in 1995 Pride & Prejudice and found at http://periodmoviesbox.blogspot.com/2012/05/pride-and-prejudice-1995-vs-pride-and.html
7) “Flibbertigibbet” info is found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flibbertigibbet
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