[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, Maggie Smith as Lady Lucretia Knott, 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: What started out to be an awkward introduction between Lord Christian Blount’s avowedly shy younger sister Lady Lizzie Blount and the spitfire Lady Madeline Sinclair, transformed into girlish giggles as Lady Madeline deftly steered Lady Lizzie’s focus onto her eldest brother Lord Christian—in the form of teasing him for the ices cup episode and his pridefulness about his height and his pleasing handsomeness. Lord Christian silently fumes in indignation. But after a few moments of reflection when the girls leave his side, 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. And so Lord Christian silently vows to return the favor of teasing Lady Madeline.
“Encouragement, A Regency Tale of Love and Romance”, Ch. 3 (PG, D): Lady Madeline’s Presentation Ball
After detailed planning and organization by her Grandmama Lady Lucretia Beckham Knott that even a general would admire, the night of her granddaughter Lady Madeline Sinclair’s London Presentation Ball for her debut into society that arrives but one week later on Friday, the 2nd of February 1816.
Lady Madeline’s initial presentation ball gown choice is of the finest ivory silk organza with small pink rosettes and green vines delicately embroidered with slim gold braid piping on the square neckline and puffed sleeve cuffs of her gown [(2 right]. The exquisite embroidery being so restrained and elegant as to require the admirer to be within two feet of her to truly appreciate the fine detailing of it. However, Lady Madeline decided that this enchantingly beautiful gown that her Grandmama commissioned for her, would be saved to be her wedding gown—assuming she finds a loving husband—once a matching ivory silk organza train with similar embroidered detailing is added to it.
And instead, Lady Madeline wears to her presentation ball, a gown whose choice is a sentimental one—her late Mama’s presentation ball gown from twenty five years prior. The lovingly preserved and more restrainedly adorned yet still elegant silk taffeta gown the color of pomegranate pink is almost completely without the usual embellishments of tassels and other extensive fripperies that often distract and detract from the wearer. Instead, a narrowly delicate trim of lace edges the gown’s sweetheart neckline enhances Lady Madeline’s youthful beauty–as shown in the portrait her Grandmama had commissioned of Lady Madeline in her late Mama’s gown when Lady Madeline arrived to stay with her [(3) right].
Similarly for her presentation ball, Lady Madeline’s hair is simply coiffed, as in her portrait, with her luxuriant auburn tresses softly caressed by a silver thread trimmed blue silk ribbon that affixes to a small bun at the back of her crown, but still allows her riotous auburn curls to cascade down her back. It is a romantic and classic look for this young beauty. Her flawlessly creamy complexion with nary a freckle in sight is envied by others. So careful is she to stay out of the sun, that Lady Madeline eschews powder–for she does not need it.
The dog with Lady Madeline in the portrait—but not with her at her presentation ball, of course–is her Grandmama’s King Charles spaniel named Louis. Again, there is the French influence present in Lady Lucretia Beckham Knott’s pet’s breed and its name. But no one would dare contest her choice as being unpatriotic to England, who is so often at war with the French—or that distinguished elder lady would censure them with a tongue lashing that would amount to a verbal guillotining.
Lady Knott had not intended to persuade her granddaughter to wear her late Mama’s gown for her own presentation ball, but Lady Madeline was smitten with it, as others will be also. And her Grandmama smiled tearfully and dabbed her eyes frequently when Lady Madeline made her gown selection known to her. It is a very sad circumstance to have your beloved child precede you in death. No matter that Lady Knott’s daughter Lady Corrinne Madeline Knott Sinclair was a grown woman of nearly forty years who had loved and married and born three children—Lady Corrinne had had a wonderful life–when a wasting illness took her from her loving family three years ago–when Lady Madeline was not quite fourteen.
Lady Corrinne’s illness and death was a difficult time for the family. But Lady Knott feels that her granddaughter Lady Madeline has felt her Mama’s loss more keenly than anyone due to her tender age of being only thirteen years old at the time of her Mama’s passing—and with her being left without her Mama’s guidance as she approaches her womanhood. Lady Knott thinks poignantly [(4) right] how much her late daughter Lady Corrinne would have enjoyed seeing to her daughter Lady Madeline’s come out. And so, Lady Knott keenly feels her responsibility to her granddaughter is not only for herself, but also for her late daughter and Lady Madeline’s Mama, Lady Corrinne Madeline Knott Sinclair.
However one hour into Lady Madeline greeting her presentation ball guests in her Grandmama Lady Knott’s large townhouse ballroom–with her Grandmama sitting in a chair at her side in a large cushioned wing chair for her Gramdmama’s comfort–Lady Madeline is already bored with most of the new people she has met–few of whom seem truly interesting to her. Lady Madeline longs to get the dancing started, as she sometimes taps her slippered foot in time to the background music being played by the quartet. But she cannot dance until everyone is greeted. So she behaves prettily as expected—greeting each of their guests warmly and thanking them for their attendance. But Lady Madeline’s heart is yearning to dance.
And Lady Madeline is a little disappointed that her father has not attended her ball as she had hoped that he might–due to her father suffering from the gout or the ague, whatever that is. He had initially seemed agreeable to coming for the ball before Lady Madeline had journeyed to her Grandmama in London—and before a date for her presentation ball had been set. But he has not come, and she has to make the best of it. So Lady Madeline will have to forgo the traditional first dance with her father, since he is not here.
Then there is a lull in the guest arrivals and Lady Madeline looks around to see if she can escape to get some champagne. Her Grandmama said that she may try some tonight, and Lady Madeline will hold her to that. Lady Madeline fidgets with her lace fan, looking around at the people standing in clusters chatting with each other and drinking their refreshments.
Lady Lucretia: “Maddie, Dearest, please do not twist your fan, or you will tear its lace.”
Lady Madeline: “Apologies, Grandmama.” She intones contritely. “If everyone is here, may we not start the dancing?” I ask hopefully.
Lady Lucretia: “Not just yet, Dearest. There is one guest who has yet to arrive.” Lady Lucretia glances back at the ballroom’s entrance in search of someone.
Lady Madeline: “Who? For I do believe that all of London is here tonight.” Lady Madeline looks around the packed ballroom. Are they all here to see her, she wonders? Or is it the free food and champagne that they came for? But then, her Grandmama’s townhouse ballroom can only hold two hundred or so people, comfortably. So, perhaps, not all of London is present—but certainly the families and personages whom her Grandmama deems worthy were invited and accepted, so rare is such an august occasion hosted by Lady Knott in recent years.
Lady Lucretia: “Hhhh! Finally!” Lady Lucretia sighs in a hushed whisper. Then she gently taps her granddaughter’s arm with her fan to get her attention and Lady Lucretia smiles broadly as she nods at the gentleman. “He is here.”
Lady Madeline swings her head around to look in the direction that her Grandmother has indicated. Then she sees Lord Christian Blount, the Earl of Sussex, wearing his best formal attire of a broad shouldered black velvet jacket, a starched white shirt and ivory satin cravat, and an ivory satin waistcoat over black breeches molded to his strong thighs, with his hair styled away from his cleanly shaven face, with only slender sideburns thus accentuating his strong jaw and overall manly countenance. Lord Christian’s smouldering gaze at her rivets Lady Madeline to the spot—and she is speechless! She thought Lord Christian looked quite handsome before, but now she thinks that he looks like an Adonis now [(5) right]. And in Lady Madeline’s stupor, her words fail her as Lord Christian approaches them
Lady Lucretia: “Lord Christian! How delighted we are that you are able to join us this evening.” She holds out her hand for him to kiss it.
Lord Christian: “It is my honor, Lady Knott.” He bows deeply to Lady Lucretia, then lifts her gloved hand to his lips for an air kiss. By etiquette and by design, he must greet Lady Madeline’s Grandmama first. However, this delay also gives Lord Christian the satisfaction of noticing Lady Madeline’s undisguised admiration of his presentation of masculine perfection—as he intended.
Lady Madeline stares at Lord Christian in girlish admiration. Her Grandmama nudges her, but Lady Madeline cannot think of a single thing to say to the god of a man standing before her.
Slowly turning his attention to the Sinclair chit, Lord Christian smiles knowingly about the girl’s frozen state. He tends to have that bedazzling effect upon ladies—especially ones so young and innocent as she. Then with the utmost of courtly gentlemanliness, he greets her with utmost cordiality and intentional preference.
Lord Christian: “Lady Madeline, it is a great pleasure to see you again. And may I say, My Lady, that you are a vision of loveliness tonight. The candlelight is improved by its casting a glow upon your beautiful features.” He is intentionally laying it on thick. He will show her. And he begrudgingly admits to himself that she does look very lovely tonight. Though he notices that her gown is perhaps not of the first mode of fashion—quite of another era–but the gown is charming on her none the less.
Lord Christian bows to Lady Madeline, then he reaches for her gloved hand–bringing it to his lips for a real kiss, him noticing how tiny her knuckles are underneath her nearly transparent silk tulle gloves—a departure from the standard kid gloves, but captivating with their seeming to ethereally glimmer in the candle light–despite her otherwise healthy looking physique. Lord Christian believes Lady Madeline to be well turned out this evening—with her womanly charms and curves evident, though demurely covered in her exquisitely lovely gowned. He never can abide by the thin as a rapier girls, who look like a strong wind would blow them away.
Lady Madeline trembles imperceptibly with Lord Christian’s touch. For some reason, she feels inordinately warm and faint–and she worries that her legs might buckle and she would crumple to the marble floor in a heap at his feet. Recognizing the signs of an imminent swoon in Lady Madeline, Lord Christian moves his hands to steady her at her elbows–while also smiling in triumph for having so unhinged the young lady with his masculine charm. Though not classified as a rogue or a rake—due to his more discreet gentlemanly behavior with his past amours—Lord Christian decidedly knows well how to charm the ladies, when he wants to.
Lord Christian: In a calculatingly deep mellifluous voice, Lord Christian leans toward her. “Lady Madeline, you look quite flushed. Perhaps it is the warmth of the ballroom and the press of the many guests.” Lady Madeline just stares at him. Then he turns to her Grandmother. “Lady Knott, with your permission, I will take a turn with Lady Madeline on the terrace. The cool night air might revive her spirits.”
Lady Lucretia: “Excellent notion. Please do, Lord Sussex. Then come back quickly so that you may lead Maddie out for the first dance.”
Lady Madeline: Lady Madeline’s head swivels jerkily to look at her Grandmama. “What did you say, Grandmama?”
Lady Lucretia: “Lord Christian will lead you in the first dance, My Dear–in your Papa’s place, since he was too ill to attend this evening.”
Lady Madeline: “But …”
Lord Christian: “Hush, My Lady!” I say in a practiced deep growl to Lady Madeline. “It will be my honor to stand up with you in your father’s stead.” I smile at her with my best smouldering smile—with no hint of fatherly affection in my eyes. She looks quite enchanting this evening—very enchanting.
Lady Madeline: “Thank you.” Is all that I manage to squeak out as Lord Christian gently tucks my trembling arm around his more substantial muscular forearm and leads me away from my Grandmama.
I watch Lord Christian lead my granddaughter out to the terrace for some air–the standard excuse given by young lovers. And for once, Maddie is being compliant. I only hope that she stays that way. And if my good friend Lady Cathy and I have our way, our two grandchildren will soon become affianced. It is best all around. Maddie needs a strong person to lean on and to guide her into maturity and Lord Christian has that maturity. And my granddaughter’s 20,000 pound dowry will certainly come in handy just now to raise the diminished fortunes of the Blounts. They will do well together, I think as I smile at my granddaughter—thinking of her becoming Lord Christian’s Countess of Sussex. Then I greet a few more late arrivals to Maddie’s ball.
As Lord Christian slowly guides me away from my Grandmama and then onto the terrace, the cool February air does indeed revive me. And I recover my senses enough to ask him.
Lady Madeline: “Lord Sussex, where is Lady Lizzie? I was looking forward to her coming this evening.” I notice that Lord Christian winces almost imperceptibly.
Lord Christian: “My sister begs to be excused, My Lady. She had dearly hoped to attend your presentation ball this evening, but our Grandmother had a fit of coughing earlier in the evening and Lizzie did not want to leave her at home alone.”
Lady Madeline: “Oh! Of course. But do you not also feel the desire to return home to insure yourself of your Grandmother’s well being?” I ask inquisitively–wondering if he speaks the truth, or if Lizzie failing to appear is due to her shyness.
Lord Christian: My smooth façade slips a bit. “I do, actually. But my Grandmother insisted that I lead you in your first dance as she promised her good friend Lady Knott that I would.”
Lady Madeline: “Well, then Lord Christian …” I address him informally, rather than by his proper title of Lord Sussex. “I am recovered after a breath of fresh air. Let us get this dance over with so that you may return home to assuage your concerns about your Grandmother. Family is more important than a ball.” I state my views honestly and with a caring smile. For it is exceedingly delightful to have it reinforced to me by his words and actions that Lord Christian is so family oriented.
Lord Christian: “I venture to say that there are few young ladies who would agree with you, Lady Madeline. Their coming out ball is the highlight of their young lives.” I peer at her curiously, liking her compassion for my predicament.
Lady Madeline: I now take command and steer him back inside toward the ballroom. “Oh I am certain that I will enjoy this evening.” I say with a mischievous twinkle in my eyes as I think about tasting my first champagne. “But now that you have raised the concern about your Grandmother’s health, I will not be able to enjoy my ball until I know that you have returned to her—as is your caring wish.”
Lord Christian: “Thank you for your concern.” As I walk Lady Madeline back inside, I have to give the Sinclair chit a nod for her display of maturity just now. I am rather worried about my grandmother. But a promise is a promise, and an opening presentation ball dance Lady Madeline and I will have.
Lord Christian and I nod at my Grandmother who gives the signal for the orchestra to start playing. And the strains of a quadrille [(6)] begins and has us to dancing quite precisely as the other couples surround us. It is exhilarating! And Lord Christian is an expert dancer! Despite him being such a tall man, he is graceful beyond measure—and he saves me from misstep a time or two without drawing attention to himself. So gracious!
Then afterward during the musicians’ break, our conversation continues more privately as we slowly stroll about the ballroom–our being only slightly winded from the spirited dance. And we keep to ourselves—avoiding other guests trying to draw us into their dry conversations about carriages and horse flesh–the better to converse privately with each other.
Lady Madeline: “Lord Christian, I thank you for your gift of this first dance, but I will understand if you want to leave for home directly.” I smile sweetly. I like that he is so attentive to his grandmother—and to his younger sister, Lady Lizzie.
Lord Christian: “But Lady Madeline, I cannot leave your ball so early. I am pledged for two dances–the second being a waltz.”
Lady Madeline: “Perfect! The next dance is a waltz!” I say brightly.
Lord Christian: “No, my brother Lord Harold is to have the pleasure of dancing the first waltz with you. My waltz is later in the evening.”
Lady Madeline: “Oh? Is Lord Harold here?” I glance around the ballroom—noticing smiling faces greeting me as Lord Christian and I walk together. People are so kind, I think naively. “I did not see him, nor have I met him yet. Your sister Lizzie says that he is an agreeable fellow. Not as handsome as you, but then he is also not as insufferable as you about are being so sought after as a marital prize.” I smile and flutter my eyelashes at him, to let him know that I am teasing him again.
Lord Christian: But Lord Christian is not in a teasing mood, as his brow furrows into a decided pout. “That is an unkind remark, Lady Madeline.” I glare at the Sinclair chit. Though her overall presentation tonight is quite favorable–even lovely–she still has school room manners about her, with her being so young like my sister Lizzie.
Lady Madeline: “My apologies, but I only relay the appraisal of your sister Lady Lizzie upon the matter. She says that you are so handsome and well regarded, that you could marry a princess!” I state with some astonishment as my eyes widen of their own accord. For Lord Christian is certainly handsome enough in my eyes to be a prince, I think sighingly.
Lord Christian: “Pray do not believe everything my sister Lizzie says. She exaggerates her praise of me. And in reality, most princesses want to marry a royal prince who will become king–and therefore, make them a queen.”
Lady Madeline: “Well then, they are missing out on happiness—that is, if a title is all that they want.”
Lord Christian: “But titles and connections are what most marriages in society involve.” I look at her questioningly.
Lady Madeline: “Not mine. When I marry–if I marry–I want it to be for love. I want my husband to love me and I want to love him. Even if he is a good man with no title and modest prospects, that is good enough for me–if we love each other.” I gush, unintentionally girlishly. Romance is the highlight of the few novels that I am allowed to read.
Lord Christian: “Well, I congratulate you, Lady Madeline. With your 20,000 pound dowry, you can afford to wait for true love. While some of us have to marry to elevate our family’s finances.” I state bitterly.
Lady Madeline: “But you are wealthy, too, Lord Christian. Surely you can choose the bride that your heart wants?” I look at him earnestly–my not having heard the gossip about his family’s finances.
Lord Christian: I hesitate to lay bare the state of our family’s financial ruin, but honesty is always my curse. “Nay, My Lady. My late Grandfather Earl had invested a significant portion of our family funds unintentionally poorly–which we only learned about when he died recently and I inherited his title of Earl of Sussex. So I must marry for money–or we will be ruined. Of course, I am telling you this in the strictest confidence, Lady Madeline.” I hold my breath, hoping that she will be discreet.
Lord Christian is uncertain why he is being so honest about his family’s financial affairs—except, perhaps, to temper his seeming marked attendance upon her by virtue of their private conversation. He sees the glances—or rather stares—of the other guests at the ball. And they are perhaps gossiping about his intentions toward Lady Madeline. However his intentions are, as of yet, still a mystery to him.
Lady Madeline: “Of course. You may count on my discretion, Lord Christian. And I am truly sorry for the burden of responsibility that you carry. My family is also strapped for funds after my father bought my second brother’s military commission for him last year.”
Lord Christian: “But your dowry? Is it safe?” He asks concerned for her well being–because he is also concerned for his sister Lady Lizzie’s whose dowry is now nearly non-existent, unless he marries someone with money.
Lady Madeline: “Yes, it is. My dowry is derived from my Grandmama.” Then she haltingly admits, because she cannot be happy about an event which will deprive her of her beloved Grandmama. “And I am her principal heir. So when she dies …” I look up at him sorrowfully. With Lord Christian being so solicitous of his own Grandmother and her illness this evening, I believe that he will understand the sorrowfully mixed feelings that I have about the substantial inheritance that I will receive from my Grandmama’s estate when she dies.
Lord Christian: “Hhhh! You will become a very wealthy lady.” I stiffen in the realization that our respective grandmothers have contrived to bring Lady Madeline and I together–my pride being wounded in not being the marital prize that Lady Madeline is now considered to be–with her 20,000 pound dowry and future legacy from her grandmother. “I wish you well in your search for love, Lady Madeline.” I nod with resolute finality as our dance comes to an end. No doubt that Lady Madeline herself will have higher marital aspirations than myself—a wealthy Duke, perhaps, despite her protestations to wanting to be in love and to be loved. In any event, I realize that were I to entertain having a courtship with her, there would likely be no future in it.
Lord Christian leads Lady Madeline around the remaining perimeter of the ballroom and returns her to her Grandmama, Lady Knott. He bows deferentially to both ladies, and lifts Lady Madeline’s gloved hand to his lips and kisses it. Then Lord Christian departs for the refreshment room, to imbibe in some of the champagne—perhaps to quieten his riotous and disturbing thoughts regarding himself and Lady Madeline.
To be continued with Chapter 4
The References for Ch. 3 by Gratiana Lovelace, September 12, 2016 (Post #967)
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) Lady Madeline Sinclair’s proposed wedding gown bodice via pinterest at http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_llwqp9eZzF1qhx4sk.jpg
3) Lady Madeline Sinclair image of her pomegranate silk taffeta presentation ball gown is the young Emma Hart at 17 years in 1782 painted by George Romney in 1782 at 17 years; she was later to marry Sir William Hamilton in 1791 and who would become Emma Lady Hamilton, was found at http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-ynXHullbJl4/ToyOPQzGeOI/AAAAAAAAAzw/TqRDsGjMLrY/s1600/Romney%252C+Lady+Hamilton.jpg
4) The image of Lady Lucretia Beckham Knott smiling tearfully at her granddaughter Lady Madeline wearing her late daughter Lady Corrinne’s presentation ball gown for her portrait is of Maggie Smith portraying Lady Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham on the ITV/PBS program Downton Abbey (2010 – 2015) and was found at http://www.themarysue.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Maggie-Smith-image-maggie-smith-36327849-3000-1978-1280×843.jpg
5) Lord Christian Blount is Richard Armitage portraying John Thornton in BBC’s 2004 drama North & South, epi2 found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode2/ns2-116.jpg
6) “The Quadrille is a dance that was fashionable in late 18th- and 19th-century Europe and its colonies. Performed by four couples in a rectangular formation, it is related to American square dancing.” For a demonstration of a version of the dance from the late 19th century, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JPrMGiGJdo
Previous Blog Ch. 2 Story link with embedded illustrations: