[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 second Blount brother, Lord Harold—junior to his elder brother Chrisitian Lord Sussex—made of himself a nuisance to Lady Madeline Sinclair’s Presentation Ball by pouncing on immediately—figuratively speaking—by offering for her. Yet his offer to give Lady Madeline her freedom after she provided him with his heirs—with the understanding that he will be free to dally as well–does not sit well with Lady Madeline. And of course, Lord Harold, is not the paragon that Lord Christian is in Lady Madeline’s eyes. Similarly, Lady Madeline’s Grandmama Lady Lucretia Beckham Knott ruminates about the thorny issue of suitors for her granddaughter’s hand. 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.
“Encouragement”, Ch. 5: Lord Christian is Out of Sorts
After my brother Lord Harold seeks me out in the refreshments dining room at Lady Madeline’s presentation ball and gloats to me that he offered for the Sinclair chit Lady Madeline Sinclair while he danced with her this night–and that she refused him–I am not certain whom I am more out of charity with, Lady Madeline, or my brother. It is appalling and degrading to me for Harold to debase himself so in offering her marriage after only just being introduced to her—one dance not withstanding. He is not interested in the lady, only in her dowry money.
I rub my hand through my hair as I sip my glass of champagne and wonder what must Lady Madeline think of us and our family? What must she think of me? Harold has tarnished her opinion of us to be sure. And my sweet sister Lady Lizzie will lose her new friend in Lady Madeline, in whom I had such hopes for her helping me to guide Lizzie out of her shyness and to become more comfortable being in society. Before our family’s impending financial ruin is widely known, Lizzie must make a good match–so that at least she is safe. That is my overriding focus, and I will do anything to help Lizzie—no matter the cost to myself and my future happiness.
As I prop myself up by leaning on a chair back [(2) right], I admit silently to myself that I
should eat something from the enticing dinner buffet. I am not one to drink much alcohol. At university, I was much more inclined to raise a pint or two with the lads. That is, until their drinking excesses—and the consequences that stemmed from them being gambled away or bamboozled of their pin money, or worse involving women of questionable pursuits—put me off drink almost entirely. And though I am a tall and large man–a granite mountain is how Lady Madeline teasingly referred to me, I think bemusedly–I still feel light headed this evening.
Yet, I go on to indulge in an unwise second glass of champagne tonight at Lady Madeline’s presentation ball. Why I am being so reckless with the champagne is beyond my comprehension at the moment—the bubbles having clouded my mind. No, that is not true. I do know why. I am miffed because though I can offer a lady a title, and an old and distinguished family, and connections, the lady in question has a large marriage dowry that would serve to release my family’s debts and shore up our finances to the point that I would be able to provide a significant dowry for my own sister Lady Lizzie. I realize that though my intentions are honourable—toward my sister—I am just as much a fortune hunter as my young brother Lord Harold. And that causes me to feel a sense of self loathing–to my core.
Then I hear others saying that another waltz is up next, and I remember that I had promised it to Lady Madeline. So I must fulfill my obligation and I seek her out–however dreadfully tired I feel because of the two glasses of champagne that I have consumed tonight.
Across the ballroom from Lord Christian, after her sixth dance set Lady Maddie sits gratefully at rest with her Grandmother Lady Lucretia. As I sit chatting with my Grandmama while the orchestra gets ready to play another waltz, I had forgotten that I am promised to Lord Christian again, for a waltz. That is, until I see that Lord Christian walks toward me to claim me for the dance. Well, not walking, per se–more like meandering. Then I realize that he is drunk, and I clap my hand over my mouth in shock.
Lady Madeline: “Good Lord! Grandmama, Lord Christian is in his cups.” I hiss in a whisper to my Grandmama.
Lady Lucretia: “What did you say, Maddie Dear.” I ask sweetly, the fatigue of the evening is wearing on me.
Lady Madeline: “Lord Christian is drunk. And he is walking toward me to claim our waltz. What am I to do, Grandmama?” I ask her in a panic. “Lord Christian is much bigger than I am, and there is no way I can hold him up if he starts to fall down.”
Lady Lucretia: “Oh dear!” This is a quandary that I had not anticipated. I now realize that I should have kept the refreshment drinks to merely unspirited punch, but I pridefully wanted to be the best hostess. I shake my head at my folly.
Lord Christian stops dead in front of Lady Lucretia and her granddaughter Lady Maddie. Then he bobs an uncertain bow to each of them. He is clearly drunk. Then he speaks slurringly to Lady Madeline, confirming his wretched state.
Lord Christian: “There you are, Maaadlin.” He prefaces her name with no title, even though courtesy demands that he should do so in public–despite their families’ familiarity. “Care to stand up with me for our waltz? Then I can go home to see how my Grandmother fares.”
Lady Lucretia: “Something is wrong with Lady Catherine?” Her eyes go wide with concern.
Lady Madeline: “Yes, Grandmama, Lord Christian told me earlier that she felt unwell. That is why Lady Lizzie is not here. She stayed home to tend to her.”
Lord Christian: “I want to get back to her swiftly. But I promised Grandmother that I would also waltz with you. So waltz with you I must. Come along, little girl. Let us play out this charade.” I petulantly hold out my hand to her.
And petulant does not look good on a granite mountain, thinks Lady Madeline.
Lady Lucretia Beckham Knott’s eyes widen in concern for Lord Christian’s less than gentlemanly demeanor at the moment to her granddaughter Lady Madeline.
Lady Madeline: I am instantly offended by Lord Christian’s insinuation that I am a little girl. And I make my displeasure known to him. “Lord Christian, young though I may be, I am out in society now and entertaining marriageable offers.” Then I continue in hushed tones. “Though I have declined them all so far. A little girl would not be sought after for a wife.”
Lord Christian: “Offers, plural? Really?” I lean toward her attempting to verify the veracity of her claim. Yet, there seems to be two of her in front of me as I look back and forth between the two of them—most confusing. “Or are you merely double counting my brother Harold’s lame attempts at courtship.” I wince. I had determined not to further humiliate our family by mentioning his cheek.
Lady Madeline: “Kkkh! Yes, Lord Harold was one of whom I spoke. And yes, he was very … off putting in his approach to me.” I am trying to be diplomatic in characterizing Lord Harold. In reality, I think him to be a fortune hunter.
Lord Christian smiles at realizing that Lady Madeline does not entertain his brother’s suit of her in any way.
Lady Lucretia: “Were there other offers, Maddie Dear? You did not tell me.” My little granddaughter has done well for herself.
Lady Madeline: “Yes there were, Grandmama–three more offers. But I declined them because the gentlemen–though worthy–were not interesting to me in that way.”
Lord Christian’s corner of his mouth smirks upward at the report that Lady Madeline has turned down four offers of marrage—including from his odious younger brother Lord Harold.
Lady Lucretia: “That way?” Lady Lucretia asks quizzically.
Then the answer comes from a source other than her granddaughter. Somehow despite the haze of the champagne he consumed, Lord Christian has a rare moment of clarity.
Lord Christian: “Lady Madeline wishes to marry for love, Lady Knott. Is that not correct, Lady Madeline?”
Lady Madeline: I squirm, hoping that others do not overhear Lord Christian’s comment about me. He has such a deep and booming voice. “Yes.”
Lord Christian: “Then let us dance this demmed waltz and end this farce right now.” I command with displeasure.
Lady Madeline: “Lord Christian, of what farce are you referring?” I bristle primly.
Lord Christian: “Oh do not play coy with me, Lady Madeline. I am too well acquainted with ladies and their subterfuge.” She looks up at me with those big innocent eyes of hers and I relent. “Our grandmothers concocted a plan to throw us together in the hope that we might marry and solve everyone’s problems.”
Lady Lucretia Beckham Knott looks livid to be found out, and she embarrassedly turns her head away from them.
Lady Madeline: I am mortified! I instantly turn an accusatory glare at one of the culprits. “Is this true, Grandmama? You and Lady Catherine want Lord Christian and I to marry?”
Lady Lucretia: “It was only a passing thought.” I blithely fib as I casually wave my closed fan. “Christy is an eligible match with his fine lineage. And you would be a countess–his countess.”
Lady Madeline “Grandmama, I do not care for titles. I want to marry for love. Besides …” I stop. I should not speculate about why Lord Christian would wish to marry me, when he does not.
Lord Christian: I pick up the gauntlet that Lady Madeline threw down earlier in the evening. “Besides, I am insufferable, according to Lady Madeline.”
Lady Lucretia: “Did you really tell Christy that he was insufferable, Maddie? How could you?” I chastise her for deterring a most excellent man.
Lady Madeline: “Grandmama, I wasn’t really calling him insufferable. I was merely repeating what his sister Lady Lizzie said of him.”
By now some of our guests are standing off to the side of the room watching our conversation and whispering. I just hope that they are not speculating about Lord Christian and myself.
Lord Christian: “Well my insufferable self owes you a waltz. So let us hop to it.” I state impatiently as I hold out my hand with mounting agitation.
Lady Madeline: “Lord Christian, you are drunk.” I blurt out as a last gasp at my trying to make him see reason.
Lord Christian: “Yes I am. But what do you care?” I ask disdainfully.
Lady Madeline: “You are not acting like yourself, Lord Christian. I beg that you will return home and rest. Then you may also ascertain how your grandmother fares. As I said earlier this evening, family is more important than a ball.” He seems to be considering my reasoning. “I will visit you and Lady Lizzie at your home in the later morning tomorrow–we may waltz then.” I bargain with him.
Lord Christian: I ponder her fair offer. And I acknowledge that I am not feeling at my best. “I will accept your terms for your waltz, Lady Madeline. And I will hold you to it. My Grandmother must be appeased.”
Lady Madeline: “Of course. But please go home and take your rest now.” I pleadingly beg him as I indecorously clasp his large elegant hand in my smaller hands.
Lord Christian: “Alright. I am too tired to waltz properly now anyway. I will see you in the morning. Good evening.”
Then I lean in and kiss Lady Madeline in the middle of her forehead—in full view of her presentation ball’s guests. I am not certain why, but the kiss seems appropriate. I kiss my sister Lizzie good night that way–as our parents used to kiss us goodnight when we were little and they were alive. And Lady Madeline is the same age as my sister—ergo, the kiss is appropriate.
However, Lady Madeline looks quite startled by my chaste kiss. I wonder why, since it was only her forehead that I kissed–and not those luscious pink rosebud lips of hers. I realize now that I must be drunk to consider so young a lady–still a girl, really–luscious, in any way. I shake my head to clear the cobwebs as I head to my carriage. I will send it back for my brother Harold.
After Lord Christian leaves the ballroom, Lady Lucretia apologizes to her granddaughter.
Lady Lucretia: “I am so sorry, Maddie Dear. I thought that Christy would make you a good match. But if he drinks to excess …”
Lady Maddie: “But Grandmama, I do not think that Lord Christian does drink excessively or much at all–hence his difficulties tonight.”
Lady Lucretia: “And did you drink any champagne, My Dear?”
Lady Madeline: I blush. “Only a sip, Grandmama.” Then I lean into her ear and whisper conspiratorially. “I confess that I did not like it much. It had a bitter taste. I do not see the appeal.” My grandmother merely smiles.
My ball continues on until four o’clock in the morning. I would have stayed dancing till dawn, but my grandmother was completely worn out and kept dozing off on the uncomfortable looking settee, where her comfortable bed is only upstairs. Still. I feel pleased to have had so many dances and offers of marriage–even if I did not accept the offers. A young lady with a dowry and inheritance must be selective and wary, lest she mistakenly entrust her future happiness to one who is unworthy.
As I climb into my bed for a few hours sleep after my presentation ball, I think about my five marriage proposals—one more was tendered to me later in the evening—twenty dances, and one perplexing kiss from the very handsome, but quite drunk at the time Lord Christian. And, I have one more waltz to look forward to–with Lord Christian, upon the morrow. Well, actually, it is today. But first, I must sleep.
To be continued with Chapter 6
The References for Ch. 5 by Gratiana Lovelace, September 20, 2016 (Post #971)
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) Lord Christian image is of Richard Armitage as John Thornton in a BTS shot of the Masters Dinner scene in North & South, BBC 2004 found at https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/dc/73/f0/dc73f07c96036d04af4193e316ee2ae5.jpg
Previous Blog Ch. 4 Story link with embedded illustrations: