[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, Crispin Bonham-Carter as Lord Harold Blount, 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: The night of Lady Madeline Sinclair’s Presentation Ball hosted by her Grandmama Lady Lucretia Knott began well with Lord Christian Blount the Earl of Sussex standing up with her to lead her out to her first dance, since her Papa stayed home in the country due to his gout. And Lord Chritian and Lady Madeline shared confidences about their hopes and dreams—and his family’s near financial ruin due to his late Grandfather Earl’s poor investment choices.
“Encouragement”, Ch. 4 (PG): Different Intentions
As she scans her little used but currently very lively London townhouse ballroom during her granddaughter Lady Madeline Lucretia Sinclair’s Friday February 2, 1816 Presentation Ball, Lady Lucretia Beckham Knott [(2) right] is quite pleased with the turn out this evening. Everyone accepted her invitation. Well, she did not invite everyone—only those whom she deemed worthy to aid in welcoming her granddaughter to society.
And Lady Madeline’s first dance with Lord Christian Blount, the Earl of Sussex seemed to go very well. She bases this assessment upon her observing the pair’s delightful dancing and their intimate conversation as they strolled the perimeter of the ballroom after their dance. Everything is going according to her and Lady Blount’s plan. Well, almost everything.
The second dance of the evening of Lady Madeline’s presentation ball, is to be her first waltz with Lord Harold Blount—the younger brother of Lord Christian Blount, the Earl of Sussex–presenting himself for that office. Lady Madeline perceives that Lord Harold [(3) right] seems excessively eager to dance with her. And she suspiciously wonders why?
His manner and deportment also seems so different from his more reserved and gentlemanly elder brother Lord Christian. And she cannot quite seem to like Lord Harold’s artfully arranged forehead curl—the style of which is rather popular at the moment—though Lady Madeline cannot discern why. To her, that curl represents youth … and folly—a clear signal to stay away from him. And yet, she cannot. They are to dance. And Lady Madeline wonders if she could fake a swoon to get out of it?
However, Lady Madeline’s Grandmama Lady Knott performs the necessary introductions and she and Lord Harold walk to the center of the dance floor for their waltz. Lady Madeline is glad that she heeded her Grandmama’s advice to wear comfortable slippers this evening, since she is on her feet for so much dancing.
Lady Madeline and Lord Harold make small talk as they dance this slightly scandalous waltz [(4)]—her first waltz. The waltz being considered too intimate for polite society until just a few years ago, it is now all the rage. But Lady Madeline is still not keen to be held so closely by someone whom she has just met–even if he is her new friends Lady Lizzie’s and Lord Christian’s brother.
Lady Madeline: “Lord Harold! Might you please loosen your tight grip upon my person? I fear a bruise forming.” I frown at him a bit perturbedly.
Lord Harold: Having visited the refreshment room first, Lord Harold is feeling precocious. “Oh right! Sorry duchess! I am out of practice and only had a quick refresher with my sister Lady Lizzie this afternoon.” He loosens his hold upon her, him thinking that she is quite the little minx to tease him about holding her too close. He likes that about her.
Lady Madeline: In remembering my nascent friendship with his sister Lady Lizzie, I soften in my regard for her brother Lord Harold. “How is Lady Lizzie? I met her only a few days ago, but I feel a strong kinship with her already.”
Lord Harold: “Lizzie will be glad to hear that. She spoke of you fondly as well. Lizzie had wanted to be here, but you know, Grandmother was feeling poorly—again.” He says with some annoyance while rolling his eyes. Lord Harold is at quite a self-centered and selfish stage of life—and he has been for quite some time, since he was in leading strings—leaving his elder brother Lord Christian to shoulder all family responsibilities.
Lady Madeline: “Your brother, Lord Christian, told me about your grandmother being ill. I was very sorry to hear that Lady Blount feels unwell. She and my Grandmama Lady Lucretia Beckam Knott were girlhood friends and only recently reconnected again with each other last week.”
Lord Harold: “Deuced convenient that they ran into each other. Grandmama never goes out any more—the old girl is too infirm. Poor Dear.” He frowns. He really does love his Grandmother—in a boyishly selfish way.
Lady Madeline: “Yes, my Grandmama and I paid her a call last week at Lord Sussex’s kind invitation. That is how I came to know Lady Lizzie. Though I had dearly hoped that Lady Lizzie—and your Grandmother could have attended my ball this evening–I admire Lady Lizzie for giving up attending my ball to tend to her Grandmother.” I say sincerely. For what is a ball, when those whom you love are ill? And I think of my own Mama’s illness and death almost four years ago and tears escapes the confines of my eyes—though I and resolved not to make a watering pot of myself this evening.
Lord Harold: Not noticing Lady Madeline’s more somber tone—nor her tears–Lord Harold plows ahead with his cocky banter. “Righto! Christy says that Lizzie came bounding out of her shyness within five minutes of meeting you. He called you a miracle worker.” Lord Harold sincerely compliments Lady Madeline.
Lady Madeline: “He did?” I ask in astonishment. “I did not think that Lord Christian was much impressed with me. Lady Lizzie and I teased him quite mercilessly, like the elder brother he is–to her.” I roll my eyes with a smile, thinking bemusedly how whiny Lord Christian became with our teasing.
Lord Harold: “Christy never likes to be teased.” I shake my head knowingly. “I attribute his aloofness and disdain to him being the eldest–wanting our respect, and all that rot. But he has had a tough go since our grandfather Earl died and discovering that … well … I should not mention that.” He back tracks embarrassedly.
Lady Madeline: “That your Grandfather Earl lost most your family money on bad investments? And that Lord Christian must now marry an heiress to secure a fortune to save your family?” I ask innocently in a hushed voice so that no one will overhear.
Lord Harold looks startled and shaken—because his immediate future is also dependent upon his brother making a good match. Then he replies in hushed tones.
Lord Harold: “I did not know that our family’s … situation … was common knowledge. We have tried to keep that quiet–for our sister Lizzie’s sake.” He frowns.
Lady Madeline: “Oh! I do not believe it is common knowledge. I heard it from Lord Christian tonight when we talked about our wishes for marriage.”
Lord Harold: “Well, well, well, Christy has already offered for you, as the little Knott heiress? Ha ha ha!” He chuckles in seeming good natured fun, but he is also annoyed. His brother Christy’s handsome charm could look higher—while leaving the less exalted heiresses, like Lady Madeline, to him.
Lady Madeline: “Oh no! You are quite mistaken, Lord Harold. Lord Christian and I merely spoke in generalities. There is no particular understanding between us–other than my friendship with your sister Lady Lizzie and our grandmothers’ friendship.
Lord Harold: “Excellent! Well then, if Christy hasn’t offered for you, might I? I have a lovely little estate and manor called Roxbury to the North that is in need of repair. And with your dowry, we could do it up nicely.”
Lord Harold grins unabashedly at Lady Maddie. He knows that they both know that aristocratic marriages are built on money and mortgages. Yet what he does not know is that Lady Madeline wants more from her future marriage—and from her future husband. She wants love.
Lady Maddie: “Lord Blount!” She addresses him formally to distance herself from him–would that the blasted waltz they are dancing afforded them real physical distance from each other, she thinks. “I thank you for your candor, but as I told your brother, I will only marry for love.”
Lord Harold: “Now do not be so hasty, Lady Maddie.” He resorts to the informal as a means to imply an intimacy between them. “I am an agreeable fellow. Let us walk on the terrace and I might be able to convince you to let me court you so that we could fall in love.” I wiggle my eyebrows up and down, hoping to entice her. Lady Madeline is a fetching little thing—her looking especially pretty this evening [(5) right]. And I wager that were I to breech her defenses, she would be a tigress once properly schooled in the art of love.
And though thinking of Lady Madeline as a tigress in training, Lord Harold has forgotten a very salient point. Tigresses have teeth and claws. And apart from Lady Madeline having two brothers and a father—making attempting to compromise her to leave her no options but to marry him unwise, since her protectors might wish to duel him instead—her Grandmama Lady Lucretia Beckham Knott is no one that a coxcomb like Lord Harold wants to cross.
Now Lady Madeline is in a quandary. She is not interested in Lord Harold in the slightest. Yes, he is handsome, but not in a way that appeals to her. But he is the grandson of her Grandmama’s oldest and dearest friend, so she does not wish to offend him. Yet honesty is always her best course of action.
Lady Madeline: So she responds in the expected mode—of refusal. “I thank you for the honor that you do me, Lord Harold. But regretfully, I must decline.”
Lord Harold: “Oh, I understand.” He nods knowingly. “You are holding out for Christy.” He tilts his head in perceived understanding. “They all do.” He sneers vaguely, and somewhat intentionally derisively.
Lady Madeline: “I assure you that I am not, Lord Harold.” I counter him quickly. “Lord Christian is the kind of superior gentleman with matrimonial prospects well beyond a young lady such as myself. No doubt that our twelve year age gap is also a barrier–of my supposed immaturity for him.”
Lord Harold: “See? I am six years Christy’s junior–another reason why I am more suitable for you. And I will not keep you on a tight leash. After we have our heir and a spare, you will be free to do as you please.”
Lady Madeline: And I surmise that he will expect to do the same. I put up my hand to him. “I beg that you cease your proposals. I must categorically refuse them.”
Blessedly, the dance ends and I skitter away from Lord Harold standing perplexed in the middle of the dance floor and I rush back to my Grandmama—without allowing him to escort me back to her. I was being a tad rude—alright, very rude. But then, he asked for it, I shake my head in astonishment. Never was I more grateful for a lull between dances. Because I need to compose myself before my next dance partner wants to offer for me. This presentation ball business is more vexing than I could have imagined.
This is so not how I envisioned my presentation ball to be. Yes, I expected some polite interest—and, perhaps, flattery and flirting with a request for some gentlemen to call on me—but not campaigns for my hand in marriage, as if they were acquiring a breeding mare for their stables. I shiver at the thought.
I notice that my granddaughter Lady Madeline is having a rather tense discussion with young Lord Harold Blount as they dance. She does not look happy. So when she returns to me—and the younger Blount swain has left to go to the refreshments room–I ask her.
Lady Lucretia: “Maddie, what is it? You look as if you are upset.” I gaze at her penetratingly.
Lady Madeline: “That is because I am upset, Grandmama. I do not want to be beset by fortune hunters because of my dowry and due to the legacy that I will eventually inherit from you.” Grandmama looks at me with concern. So I explain. “Lord Blount kept proposing to me—telling me my dowry can help him renovate his country home. The cheek of the man!” I throw up my hands in consternation.
Lady Lucretia: Incredulous, I ponder aloud. “Christy had the audacity, nay the effrontery, to say such a thing to you?”
Lady Madeline: “Oh no, Grandmama. Lord Christian was an absolute gentleman.” I assure her in a most forthright manner. “He and I are sympathetic about our views of and prospects for marriage. It was his younger brother Lord Harold whom I was dancing with just now who tried to bargain with me.”
Lady Lucretia: “Bargain?” My eyes widen in incredulity.
Lady Madeline: “Yes. He implied that after I produced his heirs, that he would look the other way as I dallied with other men. I presume that he would expect the same consideration.” I sneer snidely.
Lady Lucretia: “Maddie! You cannot be serious!” I fume at the impudence of the younger Lord Blount.
Lady Madeline: “Oh but I am. How can two brothers be so vastly different in their character and their intentions, Grandmama? Lord Christian is a gentleman—and bespeaks everything of honor and dignity and goodness. Granted, he probably has had amours as a man of thirty years. But Lord Christian did not offer for me tonight just because his family needs funds and I have a sizeable dowry.” I like that about him.
Lady Lucretia: “Yes, Dear. I expect that Christy is too proud. And his pride will probably doom his family’s future prospects–especially for his sister Lady Elizabeth. Without a dowry of at least 5,000 pounds, she can hardly expect to make a fine match for her marriage.”
Lady Madeline: “Oh Grandmama. How awful! I wish that their late Grandfather Earl had been more careful with their money–for Lord Christian’s and for Lady Lizzie’s sakes.”
I always speak of him as his full name of Lord Christian, and not his family pet name of Christy. It just seems more fitting and proper to me. And in my girlish dreams, he is just Christian. He is the very tall dark and handsome Earl of my dreams. Though I think that I might think favorably upon Lord Christian were he not an Earl, the title does not detract from his virtues in my opinion. Yes, some young lady will be very lucky indeed to have Lord Christian fall in love with her.
And I realize that I am not sophisticated enough nor polished enough to be that lady. Only maturity and my Grandmama’s refinement lessons will make me interesting to someone. I think sighingly. And due to my lack of maturity, I have yet to discover that my sometimes brash country manners of speaking forthrightly might be seen as refreshing in some quarters.
Lady Lucretia: “Yes, Maddie Dear. It is an unfortunate circumstance for the Blounts.”
And I think that Lady Cathy and I seriously misjudged both of our two grandchildren. We were misguided in thinking that a marital alliance between my Maddie and her Christy might be formed–that would settle her with a good man of noble lineage and a titled husband, and provide for her husband’s family’s needs vis a vis her dowry. Oh well. Wishful thinking on our parts.
And the night is still young. I wonder what additional suitors might arise this evening for my granddaughter Maddie. However, I will come to be most surprised and disappointed in the yet to be revealed unbecoming conduct of one gentleman of our acquaintance.
To be continued with Chapter 5
The References for Ch. 4 by Gratiana Lovelace, September 17, 2016 (Post #969)
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 of Lady Lucretia Beckham Knott in black evening gown and jewels 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 https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/cc/03/b0/cc03b0cd3ae3a2a0e9f593c9f52ece3c.jpg
3) Lord Harold Blount image is that of Crispin Bonham-Carter in the 1995 mini series Pride and Prejudice and was found at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112130/mediaviewer/rm1864548864
4) For more about the scandalous waltz, first introduced in London in 1811, please visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regency_dance
5) Lady Madeline Sinclair image (cropped) 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
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