[From time to time, I will illustrate my story characters with: Armitage as Lord Christian Blount Earl of Sussex, Kate Winslet or Emma Lady Hamilton as Lady Madeline Lucretia Sinclair, Dame Maggie Smith as Lady Lucretia Beckham Knott, Polly Mabrey as Lady Elizabeth Blount, Crispin Bonham-Carter as Lord Harold Blount, Dame Judi Dench as Lady Catherine Blount the Dowager Countess 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: Lady Madeline Sinclair receives many callers paying their addresses to her the week after her presentation ball. None more aware of this is Lord Christian Blount, who realizes that his goal of making Lady Madeline his wife has competition. Then on the following days, Lord Christian is sure of it. Unfortunately for Lord Christian, his younger sister Lady Lizzie supports Lady Madeline’s philosophy of getting to know all of her suitors before narrowing down the pack. Since Lord Christian must marry a richly dowered lady to save his family from financial ruin, then he chooses Lady Madeline—because she has charmed and enchanted him. So Lord Christian focuses upon finding a path to making Lady Madeline his bride, his wife. And Lord Christian knows that if he is to have a serious chance with lady Madeline, that he has to somehow make her want him for her husband.
“Encouragement, A Regency Tale of Love and Romance”,
Ch. 9: The Young Ladies Shopping Outing turns into a heart to heart chat
Since earlier in the week due to fatigue, Lady Madeline’s Grandmama Lady Lucretia Beckham Knott was unable to take she and Lady Elizabeth Blount to the gloves and accessories emporium that she favors, Lady Knott refixes the date of their shopping expedition to the afternoon of Thursday, February 8, 1816.
And with Lord Christian returning to Lady Knott’s residence to collect his sister who had stayed for luncheon after morning calls—while he had gone to his club–he learns of the impromptu scheme as the three ladies are set to walk out the door. And he is drafted to accompany them. Or rather, he drafts himself. Though ladies shopping expeditions are not high on Lord Christian’s list of favorite past times—he is another horse mad nobleman—he views it as an opportunity to have Lady Madeline to himself, without her other suitors around, despite having her Grandmama and his sister in tow, as it were.
And though Lord Christian is unwilling to spend any money that he does not have to, due to their straitened finances, his younger sister Lady Lizzie still needs some accessories for her attendance at the Kimball Ball this weekend. However, Lord Christian is a little worried that with Lady Knott’s deep pockets when it comes to cosseting her granddaughter Lady Madeline–in that his sister Lady Lizzie will be disappointed in the budget that he needs to restrain her to.
Yet as he join’s Lady Knott’s carriage and he sees where they are going—intrepidly in the lightly falling snow–Lord Christian is more concerned with the firmly middle class section of Cheapside, London that they find themselves in, rather than that the shops will be prohibitively expensive as they are in the more fashionable districts. And he then notices that Lady Knott has eschewed wearing her usual double strand of pearls and is instead wearing a much more restrained pearl broach circlet. Lord Christian believes that this illustrates that Lady Knott knows how to get a good bargain—and that does not happen when she flaunts her wealth.
As Lord Christian alights first from the carriage at their destination, he looks around. Though the area is nowhere near the epicenter of the beau monde’s more elegant shopping district of Bond street, everything looks tidy—if a little worn and in need of a new coat of paint. But paint costs money and the middle class proprietors seem to be thrifty.
As Lord Christian helps each lady exit the fine Knott family crested carriage—first Lady Knott, then Lady Madeline and then his sister Lady Lizzie—the foursome is almost immediately greeted most warmly by the husband and wife proprietors of the prosperous looking shop before them. And the large sign over head indicates that the shop is eponymously—if a little wordily–called the Blenkins Emporium of Fine Goods.
Lord Christian perceives that the shop merchant husband is about ten years older than himself, but the wife seems younger than her husband. They are dressed neatly in complimentary grey—a grey pinstripe tailored waistcoat under a plain grey suit for him and an ivory rufflely bodice over a grey pinstripe skirt for her. It is still chilly and snowy outside. So they are all quickly bustled inside to the store’s warmer foyer area—even as the tinkling bell above the door jingles announcing their arrival—doffing their snowy coats and hats for their comfort, their possessions being relegated to the secure confines of the Blenkins private parlor for special guests such as they.
Mr. Blenkins: “Ah! My Lady Knott! You grace us with your presence once again. It is a distinct honor and pleasure, Madam.” He bows deferentially to her rank and to her position as one of his best customers. And in Mr. Blenkins mind, best does not necessarily mean that Lady Knott spends a great deal of money at each visit to their establishment. But her loyalty and regularity of patronizing his store–and mentioning their store to other potential clients–is very welcome.
Lady Knott: “Thank you, Mr. Blenkins. And Mrs. Blenkins, I see that you are soon to issue forth another babe.” She pats the lady’s rounded belly. “You must allow me to give you my blessings for the upcoming birth.” Lady Knott smiles warmly.
Lord Christian hides a grimace with a slightly raised eyebrow. He is unaccustomed to seeing a lady in public in such a condition, since ladies do not go out in society once they are showing their with child condition—let alone, her working during her condition. But of course, Mr. & Mrs. Blenkins are of the middle class who seem to have different traditions in society. In fact, Lord Christian does not believe that he has ever seen a lady in such a state.
Mrs. Blenkins: “Oh, Thank you Milady. You are so kind.” Mrs. Blenkins smiles sincerely at Lady Knott and is rewarded with a cordial smile in reply. “Now let me guide you and the young ladies into my parlor for some tea to warm you up whilst you tell us what you have come to shop for.” The just above thirty year old Mrs. Blenkins is ever gracious to their favorite customers. And there are two other customers with store clerks attending them. Then Mrs. Blenkins also looks patiently at the handsome gentleman with them.
Lady Knott: “Oh my manners! You know my granddaughter Lady Madeline. Maddie dear, you remember Mr. and Mrs. Blenkins.”
Lady Madeline: “Of course, Grandmama. It is delightful to see you again, Mr. & Mrs. Blenkins.”
Then Lady Madeline does something that quite astonishes Lord Christian–she curtsies to the Blenkinses, when in his mind, it should be the other way around. Still, the Blenkins bow and curtsy accordingly—so at least some of the niceties are preserved in Lord Christian’s view.
Lady Knott: “And allow me to introduce our distinguished guests with us today. This handsome young man is the Earl of Sussex, Lord Christian Blount. And he is joined by his charming younger sister Lady Elizabeth Blount who is best friends with my granddaughter Maddie.” She cups Lady Lizzie’s cheek in her gloved hand, and the young girl smiles sweetly.
Mr. Blenkins: “We are honored, Lord Sussex, and Lady Elizabeth.” Mr. Blenkins executes a perfect bow to each of them.
Lord Christian nods his head with an agreeable smile upon his face—him being pleased that the distinction of rank is preserved.
And Lord Christian’s curiosity is peaked, now that he sees Mrs. Blenkins so rounded in her middle due to her with child condition. And Lord Christian wonders if the petite Lady Madeline—when she is married, of course—will also experience such roundness when she bears her children, preferably his children. He thinks that it must be uncomfortable. And Lord Christian decides that Mrs. Blenkins is rather brave to exert herself on their behalf. So he smiles kindly at her again.
Lord Christian: “Mr. and Mrs. Blenkins.” Lord Christian’s hands are purposely clasped behind his back, so as to thwart any possibility of Mr. Blenkins seeking to shake hands. But Lord Christian is pleasantly surprised that the man does not attempt it.
After the three ladies and Mrs. Blenkins are situated in the back parlor having tea to warm them up, Mr. Blenkins shows Lord Christian around the shop which seems to carry all manner of fabric goods and sewing notions, some already made clothing pieces, hair and other accessories, some ladies light reading materials, children’s clothes and toys, and a small but interesting section of masculine goods. In particular, Lord Christian notices a fine selection of cravats in a glass display case—with cuff links, stick pins, and matching waistcoats for the cravats, snuff boxes, and such.
Mr. Blenkins: “The ladies who frequent our store appreciate having items that they might gift to their husbands and sons. So if you see anything that you would like to examine more closely, you have but to ask, Lord Sussex.”
Lord Christian: “Thank you. But it is for my sister Lady Elizabeth that we are shopping today.” He is wise to merchants trying to make ancillary sales.
Mr. Blenkins: “Just so. The ladies do need their fripperies and such to fit them out. My Elspeth insists that we carry the variety of stock that we do in order to cater to our clients varying wishes. And as you can see, she was right.” Mr. Blenkins gestures expansively to his store.
Realizing that a response is expected from him, in the standard mode, Lord Christian replies.
Lord Christian: “Indeed, your store seems to carry all manner of useful goods, sir.”
Then the store’s bell above the door rings with a new customer and Mr. Blenkins excuses himself. So Lord Christian slowly walks around the store and stops at a shelf display of lovely shawls—him thinking that his Grandmother would love the black shawl delicately embroidered with pale blue flowers on it. She is still in mourning, but she adores the color pale blue. So the shawl would allow his Grandmother to preserve her mourning state, whilst cheering her up a bit.
Then Lady Madeline sneaks up on Lord Christian and leans in looking at the lovely shawls.
Lady Madeline: “These shawls are exquisite and reasonably priced. Are they not, Lord Christian?” She smiles up at him pixieishly, but shyly [(2) right]. Lady Madeline is the picture of a proper lady in her long sleeved purple patterned warm wool gown with a demure sheer creamy collar accenting her auburn curls and fair skin.
Lord Christian: “They are. Do you need a shawl?” He gestures to the display shelves.
Lady Madeline: “Not really. But I should like to buy one for my Grandmama. She is so kind to me.”
Lord Christian: He looks at her with an astonished smile. “We two are of a similar mind. For I was just thinking that my Grandmother would like this black shawl with the pale blue flowers on it.”
Lady Madeline lifts up a similarly styled shawl–but in cream with pink flowers. And she turns it over in her ungloved hands. Lord Christian notices her small but tantalizingly graceful hands laid bare before his gaze. Her hands’ skin color is smooth, not blotchy. And her finger knuckles are not pronounced. He cannot abide ladies with large knuckles–him thinking that they must crack them incessantly to make them swell so large. And Lord Christian admires her neatly groomed mid length nails—not too long, with a buff polished pinkish sheen upon them. His own nails are kept clean and short. Though naturally his hands are a bit rough hewn and sun warmed with riding and sport—as a gentleman’s hands are.
Lady Madeline: “This shawl is lovely. And so soft. Here, feel it.” She raises her hand holding the shawl and brushes the shawl across his closely shaved cheek.
Lord Christian is at once struck by her charmingly beguiling intimate gesture.
Lord Christian: “My Lady, I fear that gentlemen are not as concerned with the softness of an object. Unless, of course, it is the delicate hand of a fair and gracious lady.” His eyes smoulder with an unacknowledged desire and he takes her ungloved hand, lifts it, and places his lips directly upon her skin for a lingering kiss. “Very soft, indeed.” His deep voice rumbles. He slowly and reluctantly relinquishes her bare hand—not taking his eyes from her eyes throughout.
Lady Madeline: “Lord Christian, you will make me swoon on the spot.” She smiles teasingly at him, but she truly is in danger of swooning. Though she rightly believes that it would do herself no favors to meltingly fall—gracefully, or otherwise—into a puddle of womanly essence at his feet.
Lord Christian: But Lord Christian banters back at her. “Then I will catch you, Lady Madeline.” He teases her with his eyes gleaming with an unabashed roguish charm.
If that is the case, she reasons, then maybe she should swoon at him. But reason and etiquette prevails in her response. She must remain vertical and upright—and she concentrates upon that notion.
Lady Madeline: “You are too good to let me fall and make a spectacle of myself.” Lady Madeline states practically. She still feels that she is much less of an accomplished debutante than Lord Christian would ever take notice of. She neither sings well, nor draws at all. She does not embroider with skill, nor is she conversant with other languages. Her piano playing is adequate, though—something to build upon, she thinks.
Lord Christian: Lord Christian leans down to ask in a hushed but deeply timberous vocal tone. “So am I forgiven for bashing the ices cup out of your hands when we met?”
Lord Christian: “Would you think me impertinent if I were to say that I am glad that you did not look where you were going?” He furrows his brow, uncertain of her response to his entreaty [(3) right].
Lady Madeline: “No, not impertinent.” She looks up at him with a curious smile. Lord Christian might seem gruff to others, but that is just his way, she thinks.
Lord Christian: “What then?” He relaxes and smiles playfully at her—and she hesitates with his softening demeanor. “Come, come do not be bashful. I will not bite.” He mischievously smiles and shows her his excellent teeth.
Lady Madeline: “Well that is true. Granite Mountains do not bite. But granite…”
Lord Christian: “Yes?” He leans in more closely.
Lady Madeline: “Well, in maintaining the mountain metaphor, I suppose that you could have an … avalanche?” She smiles sheepishly.
Lord Christian: “Ha ha ha ha ha! So now you envision me falling down?”
Lady Madeline: “Heavens no! For I am too small of stature to help you arrest your fall. Nor did I think beyond my perceiving your own solid strength and your sense of permanence—as a granite mountain, of course.” She blushes as she slightly teases him.
Lord Christian: “And do you describe your other suitors as mountains Or merely as hills, or perhaps, bumps.” He teases—him letting slip that he counts himself as a suitor.
Lady Madeline: She notices his phrasing and her breath catches in her throat. “My other suitors, Lord Christian?” She holds her breath, waiting for his response.
Lord Christian: “Well, your other visitors then, Lady Madeline.” He smiles.
Lady Madeline: “Oh! Well, they are kind to visit.” Lady Madeline tosses off her slight disappointment at Lord Christian’s demoting himself to a mere visitor—with a flippant hand gesture quite reminiscent of her Grandmama Lady Knott.
Lord Christian: “But?” Lord Christian vows to be as tenacious as required to ascertain Lady Madeline’s wishes and feelings.
Lady Madeline: “But, it is very difficult to have an intelligent conversation with someone or visitors–who might hope to become suitors–in order to determine if you like them well enough, when they are unremittingly showering me daily with posies and poems, and such.” She ruefully shakes her head.
Lord Christian: “And here I thought that all ladies liked flowers.” He throws up his hands in mock frustration. But Lord Christian gives silent cheers for not attempting to overwhelm her—he has only sent her one nosegay this week.
Lady Madeline: “We do. I do anyway. But I am in earnest, Lord Christian. Choosing someone to marry is a daunting decision. What if someone is false to me during our conversations and courtship? And then once we are married, I find out that their personality and views are completely opposite of what they presented? I would be stuck in a mismatched and contentious marriage for life! I do not want that.” She pouts in real worry.
Lord Christian: “That is a difficulty of polite society always being … well … polite—and not honest about their wishes and feelings. I worry about that myself with regard to ladies—who might seek to become my Countess, rather than becoming my wife.”
Lady Madeline: Feeling that Lord Christian is a kindred soul, Lady Madeline squeezes his lower arm as she pleads. “See? You understand. How can I make my Grandmama understand that having all these men pay their addresses to me every day is quite daunting to me? You would not let Lizzie be so overwhelmed, would you?”
Lord Christian: Backing off of his teasing smoulder, he smiles at her sympathetically and replies in a calm and reassuring voice. “No, I would not. I only want for my sister Lizzie’s happiness. And only she can make that determination. Though I will ensure that the men who seek to pay their addresses to her are honorable and with sincere intentions.”
Lady Madeline: “That is very good of you, Lord Christian. Lizzie is a very lucky girl.” Lady Madeline absentmindedly fingers the delicate fringe of the shawl she intends to gift to her Grandmama.
Lord Christian: “As are you, Lady Madeline. Your Grandmama has your best interests at heart.”
Lady Madeline: “I know.” She sighs a bit dejectedly. “But if I do not even know where my heart lies, how can she?” Lady Madeline thinks of her Grandmama wanting her to meet Lord Duncan the Viscount Lindsay. Though Lady Madeline’s heart is becoming more and more engaged with a certain granite mountain.
Pouting slightly for Lady Madeline’s not expressing a preference for him or anyone—but mostly not for him—Lord Christian sighs. Because his sense of honor will not allow him to allow subterfuge to invade his interactions with Lady Madeline. He will not lie to her.
Lord Christian: “Hhhh! Lady Madeline, one of the first things that you stated to me the first night that we met was that you want to marry for love—and to be loved.”
Lady Madeline: “Yes. But what if I love someone, and he does not love me back?” She blurts out before she can stop herself. In actuality, Lady Madeline is posing that question to Lord Christian. Does he love her?
Lord Christian runs his ungloved finger down Lady Madeline’s cheek, he then touches the tip of her nose and she smiles and blinks.
Lord Christian: “My Lady, anyone who is so blessed to receive your love would be a nincompoop to not return your affections.”
Lady Madeline: “I have never heard of that word. Nin-com-oop? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” She looks at him askance.
Lord Christian: “Well!” He smiles broadly at her not knowing the new slang. “It would be a very bad thing for a man not to return your love.”
Lady Madeline: Looking up at him shyly, she asks in a slightly higher and more girlish voice. “Do you think so?”
Lord Christian: “I do.” And he is uncertain as to whether his forthright discussion with Lady Madeline is making as positive impression upon her, as it is upon himself. He feels that she is still so very young, not yet eighteen. Yet, she is so charming and forthright.
Then Lady Knott waves at Lord Christian and her granddaughter Lady Madeline from across the aisle with Lady Lizzie, after having watched the pair of them in a seemingly deep in conversation.
Lady Knott: “Maddie, Lord Sussex. Are you able to join Lady Lizzie and I in looking at gloves for her to wear at the Kimball Ball tomorrow night?”
Lady Lizzie nods hopefully to her brother. It has been some time since she was on a shopping expedition. And they have such lovely things here, she thinks. She needs gloves. But Lady Lizzie also especially has her eyes on several lovely E for Elizabeth initialed embroidered linen hankies. Her own embroidery is also not skilled.
Lady Madeline: “Of course, Grandmama.” Then she quickly turns back to Lord Christian and hands him a shilling and the cream colored pink rose embroidered shawl. “Would you please ask Mr. Blenkins to wrap up this lovely shawl for me? I want to surprise my Grandmama with it as a gift to her.”
Lord Christian: “Of course! It will be my honor.” He nods and smiles at her as she turns and walks to her Grandmama. “I will be with you in a moment, Lady Knott and Lizzie.” She nods. Then he selects the black shawl with the embroidered pale blue flowers for his Grandmother, also costing one shilling as Mr. Blenkins completes the sale. Neither gift is overly expensive—yet the shawls are still lovely. And they are being thoughtful to their grandmothers—another welcome commonality, he thinks. Then Lord Christian plans to buy his sister Lady Lizzie her ball gown gloves—and maybe something else that she desires, just to pamper her a bit. Despite all of his musings about their need to economize, he does not stint when it comes to his younger sister. His brother Harold, on the other hand, is another matter.
Lord Christian looks over at Lady Knott fussing over his sister Lady Lizzie—and at how much Lizzie is enjoying Lady Knott’s and Lady Madeline’s society. It is as if his sister has blossomed into a new life when she met them. And he realizes how much that he owes to them for their generosity of spirit—especially to Lady Madeline.
And though Lord Christian’s financial need for a well dowered heiress will eventually put a period on his search for a wife, he realizes that the young Lady Madeline might not yet be ready to choose him or any man for her husband. Yet, he hopes that he and Lady Madeline might be able to come to an understanding before he is forced by circumstances to forgo the wishes of his heart for her, and need to look elsewhere for a well dowered bride to secure his younger sister Lady Lizzie’s future.
So Lord Christian believes that the upcoming Kimball Ball tomorrow night, might be his last opportunity to try to woo Lady Madeline to become his wife. Or, Lord Christian fears that her Grandmama Lady Knott pushing Lady Madeline to meet his former childhood school chum Lord Duncan the Viscount Lindsay will thrust Lady Madeline away from him forever.
To be continued with Chapter 10
“Encouragement”, Ch. 9 References by Gratiana Lovelace, October 12, 2016 (Post #981)
1) The “Encouragement” story cover is an image representing our young heroine Lady Madeline Sinclair, 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 wearing a purple day dress (slight manip of background and sleeve_ is Kate Winslet portraying Marianne Dashwood in the 1997 film Sense & Sensibility found at a fanpop site at http://images2.fanpop.com/images/photos/4600000/Kate-in-Sense-and-Sensibility-kate-winslet-4623827-500-283.jpg
3) Lord Christian Blount, Earl of Sussex image (background masked and cropped) is of Richard Armitage portraying John Thornton in the BBC’s 2004 mini series North & South, promo shot found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/NandSPromo/album/slides/NandSPromo-16.html
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