[From time to time, I will illustrate my story characters with: Richard 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, Rupert Penry Jones as Lord Duncan the Viscount Lindsay, 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: Having achieved bringing the very shy Lady Elizabeth Blount to attend the Kimball’s Ball this Friday, February 9th, 1816 is an accomplishment in itself. Lady Lizzie’s presentation ball is next week and her brother Lord Christian—with the aid of Lady Madeline Sinclair—reasoned that Lady Lizzie would want to have some experience of a ball before her own. And then there is the introduction of the much anticipated Lord Duncan the Viscount Lindsay—by Lady Madeline’s Grandmama Lady Knott and by Lady Lizzie—who has a long ago formed crush on Lord Duncan. And then there are Lady Madeline and Lord Christian—and what to do about them. Lord Christian knows the challenge before him—of capturing Lady Madeline’s affections. Yet it remains illusory at the moment with Lord Duncan being thrust into the courting fray.
“Encouragement, A Regency Tale of Love and Romance”,
Ch. 11: The Kimball Ball, Part 2, Presumption
While at the Kimball’s Ball this Friday, February 9th—really all this past week–the minxish Lady Madeline Sinclair is really making the proud Lord Christian Blount work to win her romantic heart, because he mistakenly feels that she is immune to him. Lady Madeline is merely trying to prevent herself from heartache by not presuming that the grand and wonderful Earl of Sussex thinks of her as anything more than his younger sister’s friend. She has even pointedly told him so—wanting to gauge his reaction, but he did not refute it, to her disappointment. Lady Madeline still seeks a love match for marriage—and Lord Christian still struggles to determine if his heart is open to such a concept.
Lord Christian has never been in love before, so he hesitates from characterizing his growing feelings for Lady Madeline in more than politely affectionate terms. Though he will admit that her sweetness, effortless natural beauty, and her tartness of tongue if truth be told—along with her forthright nature– has made a lasting impression upon him. And what neither Lady Madeline nor Lord Christian yet realizes is that they need to take great care with recognizing and respecting each others’ developing feelings, or they might miss their chance at making a life together as husband and wife—if that is their destiny. It is too early to tell.
Lady Madeline Sinclair and Lord Christian Blount, Earl of Sussex are much admired for their waltzing on the dance floor in the second dance of the evening by the many guests at the Kimball’s Ball presenting their daughter Lady Penelope to society—not the least of which is Lord Duncan the Viscount Lindsay, Lord Christian’s old Eton school friend. And Lady Madeline very much enjoys her waltz with Lord Christian.
Then our waltz ends and Lord Christian and I walk toward my Grandmama Lady Knott and his sister Lady Lizzie sitting on the sidelines. Then we notice Viscount Lord Duncan Lindsay walking toward us, him striding audaciously across the ballroom on an intercepting course. The dancers and guests part like the Red Sea. Well, he is heir to a Dukedom, so one presumes that Lord Duncan is the male marital prize present this evening. The two men greet each other like the old school friends they are–with firm handshakes, hands clapped on shoulders, and warm smiles.
Lord Christian: “Duncan!”
Lord Duncan: “Christian!”
Lord Christian: “It has been too long.”
Lord Duncan: “It has, indeed.” Then I turn to the lovely young lady at my friend’s side. “And I was unaware that you had married. My felicitations. Your bride is enchanting.” I state sincerely. Why does everyone seem to have all the luck? I need to find myself a lady who is a rough diamond, overlooked by others, but a lady who will become a glittering jewel with time and attention.
Lord Christian: I race to clarify the nature of my and Lady Madeline’s relationship, for the blushing Lady Madeline’s benefit. “Oh no, Duncan! Lady Madeline Sinclair and I are just friendly acquaintances.” Yet, Lady Madeline means so much more to me than merely an acquaintance, I have to bite my tongue from claiming her as mine. And I cannot help but admire her loveliness this evening [(2) right]. But I cannot declare my intentions without first approaching Lady Madeline. “Our grandmothers are acquainted as longtime friends, and Lady Madeline is friends with my sister. You remember my sister Lady Elizabeth, do you not? Her presentation ball is next Friday. We hope that you will join us.” I gesture toward Lizzie, while missing seeing Lady Madeline’s stunned and slightly hurt look. However, Lizzie’s cheeks pinken and she yearningly looks at Lord Duncan. Then I remember my manners—somewhat—and introduce Lord Duncan to Lady Madeline. “And Lady Madeline, this is Lord Duncan the Viscount Lindsay.
Lady Knott smiles warmly at Lord Duncan, viewing him having distinct possibilities for her granddaughter Lady Madeline. Yet Lady Madeline curtly nods at him—the man her Grandmama wants to promote to her for a husband. So Lady Madeline is silently livid as she looks between Lord Christian and Lord Duncan. I understand that Lord Christian wants to clarify his friend Viscount Lindsay’s misinterpretation, that Lord Christian and I are not married. Yet, the alacrity with which Lord Christian leapt to clear up the misunderstanding, leaves me with the impression that Lord Christian has no feelings for me at all–and that he was embarrassed to have my name linked with his. It is all I can do, not to run and find a corner to cry in.
Lord Duncan: “Better and better! Two lovely ladies!” I smile cordially from one lady to the other. And while Lady Elizabeth smiles at me warmly, Lady Madeline’s smile is forced–as if she is distressed. And I wonder about the source of her distress.
Lady Lizzie: “Hello, Lord Duncan.” I offer him my hand and he lifts it to his lips for kiss.
Lord Duncan: “Enchante, My Lady. Lizzie, is it not, enfamille?” She nods charmingly shyly. “My how you’ve grown! You were only this high when I saw you last, it must be eight years on.” My hand raises to just above at my chest in describing her childhood height. In truth, the young lady is still petite now, such that the top of her head does not reach past my shoulders.
Lord Christian: “Just so.” Feeling awkward and wanting to complete the introductions, I bow to Lady Madeline’s Grandmama. “And Lady Knott, may I present my old school friend, Lord Duncan the Viscount Lindsay? Lord Duncan, this is Lady Lucretia Beckham Knott, Lady Madeline’s Grandmama.”
Lord Duncan: “My Lady Knott, it is a real pleasure. Your family is an old and distinguished one.”
Lady Knott: “As is yours, My Lord. My granddaughter, Lady Madeline Sinclair had her presentation ball last week.” I gesture to my granddaughter, who dutifully curtsies, finally. Though I wish her frowning face would turn into a smile to show herself off to better advantage. “We were sorry to have missed you.”
Lord Duncan: “Lady Knott, Lady Madeline.” I bow to each of them. “My apologies for my absence. But I had only reached London and opened up our townhouse yesterday. So I sadly missed what was certain to have been a glorious evening.” Then I take Lady Madeline’s hand and lift it to my lips and gaze into her astonished eyes. “You must have dazzled all of the men in attendance at your ball.”
Lady Madeline: “Lord Duncan, you will make me blush.” I lean slightly away from him. He seems too polished in his compliments–and therefore, he seems insincere to me.
However Lord Christian inwardly fumes–him thinking that Lady Madeline is playing the coquette for Lord Duncan.
Lord Duncan: “Nay, surely you have already received proposals of marriage.”
Lady Madeline: “None that I entertained with any enthusiasm.” I catch Lord Christian wince out of the corner of my eye and I amend my statement. “Well, perhaps there was one match that I looked upon with favor.” I do not say proposal because Lord Christian has not technically proposed to me.
Lady Madeline: “But the gentleman in question has not pressed his suit further. So I must surmise that he is no longer interested in me.” I lay down the challenge at Lord Christian’s feet as I gaze at him with feigned disinterest [(3) right].
Lord Duncan: “Then he is a fool!” I give her my best cordial smile. Then I turn to my friend. “Christian, let us procure the ladies some refreshments. And when we return, I hope that each young lady will be so kind as to stand up with me for a dance. With, perhaps Lady Lizzie gracing me first? See? I do remember.” I smile at the once more charming blush of Lord Christian’s lovely sister.
Lord Christian: “Of course. Ladies, you will excuse us. We will return shortly.” Both Lord Duncan and I bow to the ladies and take our leave of them.
As Lord Duncan the Viscount Lindsay and I walk around the crowded Kimball ballroom to the refreshments room, we segue into the hallway for a frank talk away from listening ears.
Lord Christian: “Alright, Duncan. What was that nonsense about presuming that I was married to Lady Madeline already?”
Lord Duncan: “Well, old chap. The two of you did look rather cozy in your waltz as you chatted amiably with one another.” I raise my eyebrow discerningly. “Could it be your proposal that she is still considering?”
Lord Christian: “Highly doubtful.”
Lord Duncan: “A ha! Then you have proposed to her?”
Lord Christian: “Not exactly. Our grandmothers concocted a scheme to match us up.”
Lord Duncan: “And you did not want to? Or was it the lady who refused?”
Lord Christian: “A bit of both, I suppose. With my grandfather dying and my inheriting the Earldom, I have much responsibility on my shoulders now.”
Lord Duncan: “I was sorry to hear that he had died, old chap. Your grandfather was a good man.”
Lord Christian: “He was the best of men.” I state proudly. “Unfortunately, he was not the most astute businessman. Nor was his ancient steward attentive about such matters. I have had to review the estates accounts and productivity in detail. And both areas can be improved upon.” I phrase vaguely–my falling far short of revealing the deplorable state of my finances.
Lord Duncan: “As bad as that?” My friend Lord Christian nods wearily, understanding my phrasing. “That is unfortunate, Old Chap. But I am certain that you will rise above any adversity and turn the estate around.”
Lord Christian: “I hope so. When I marry, I want to be able to provide handsomely for my wife and our offspring.”
Of course my unspoken thought is that the most certain route to financial stability is to marry an heiress. But the heiress whom I have in mind cares naught for my title. Lady Madeline wants to be in love. But for a lady to be in love, she must think that she is loved in return. Others might fawn over her and tell her what she wants to hear. But I will not lie and say that I feel more for Lady Madeline than I do—which is considerably more than I have ever felt for anyone else. I can not tell her that I love her when I am not certain what I feel for her—except that I want her in my life. I am becoming quite fond of her—and I am charmed by her. She is lovely and has a lilting way about her. And Lady Madeline has no guile, no wish for intrigues and dissembling. Her honesty and frankness–although enervating at times–are quite refreshing.
Lord Duncan: “Christian? Christian?? Christian???” I raise my voice louder each time I say my friend’s name in trying to get his attention.
Lord Christian: My reverie broken, I turn and ask of my friend. “What?” He looks at me knowingly. I need a stiff drink, but tonight’s affair has nothing more than spirited punch. A pity. But given my disgraceful drunken behavior at Lady Madeline’s ball last week, I cannot fault our hosts for their choice of beverage.
Lord Duncan: “The Ladies’ punch.” I raise a querying eyebrow and gesture to the heavily ladened refreshments table in a nearby room.
As I promised my Grandmama Lady Knott, I stand up with Viscount Lord Duncan Lindsay for the second dance after he and Lord Christian return with our punches. Lord Christian seems distracted when he looks at m–while Lord Duncan and Lady Lizzie dance first–as if I have a curl out of place, or that my gown hem had indeed ripped and is in need of repair. I cannot help but subconsciously wince when I look at him. So I am grateful for Lord Duncan to alleviate my discomfort by leading me onto the dance floor next, whilst Lord Duncan and Lady Lizzie dance first..
Lord Duncan: “So? You are out now? And husband hunting?” I tease, expecting her to blush and demure. But she does neither.
Lady Madeline: “Yes, and maybe.” He looks at me perplexed. “I am only to turn eighteen soon, but my Grandmama is determined that I find a suitable husband this season.” My eyes widen in worry. And I purse my lips into a pout. Little do I know that it looks like I am blowing Lord Duncan a kiss–which has Lord Christian fuming on the sidelines of the dance floor. And when later I turn my head toward Lord Christian, I see that he is dancing with the guest of honor, Lady Penelope Kimball. I hear that she has a thirty thousand pound dowry. If Lord Christian needs funds, then her dowry will surely supply it.
Lord Duncan: “Indeed! And am I a suitable prospect?” I know that, of course, I am. Everyone is falling at my feet. So tedious. But she stuns me again.
Lady Madeline: “You are very suitable, Lord Duncan. You are wealthy, handsome, and you are going to be a Duke, afterall. But I do not personally know you well enough yet, to tempt me to consider you.” I smile at him pleasantly–trying to let him down easily. The man I want has a lesser title, but does not seem to find me suitable. At least, Lord Christian has not declared anything otherwise to me.
Lord Duncan: “I say, your dowry must be enormous for you to dismiss me out of turn.” The lady merely smiles–enervatingly so. “So tell me, do you have more than 5,000 pounds?”
Lady Madeline: “Do not your spies give you information about all of the ladies’ circumstances?” I sneak a glance over Lord Christian’s way and see that he and Lady Penelope are laughing as he twirls her around the ballroom. Why must he make other ladies laugh? Of course, it is not forbidden, but I still do not like it.
Lord Duncan: Lady Madeline seems distracted. So I try to bring her back to the topic of our conversation as I give her another twirl on the dance floor. “10, 000 pounds?” I ask interestedly. Lady Madeline is well turned out with her gown being the height of fashion and good taste, but her disposition is rather forward–not meek at all, as one would expect and usually sees among ladies in their first season.
Lady Madeline: “Hhhh!” I sigh in frustration. “Lord Duncan, it is crass to discuss financial matters. Pray, let us select another topic of conversation.” I look at him disdainfully.
Lord Duncan: “So you have a dowry more than 10,000 pounds?” I ask incredulously. No wonder she is being selective. But afterall, I will be a Duke. And the lady I marry will become a Duchess.
Lady Madeline: “Oh really! If you are so ill informed, then speak to Lord Christian. He knows all of the details. Hhhh!” I reply sighing wearily again. It is just as I feared, Lord Duncan is more interested in my financial settlement–despite his own great wealth–than in me as a person with feelings and interests and a purpose. The fact that he is handsome as sin does not tempt me.
Happily, the waltz ends and Lord Duncan ushers me back to my Grandmama, Lady Lizzie, and Lord Christian who has returned from his dance with Lady Penelope looking rather grim. Everyone bows or curtsies–except my sitting Grandmama who merely tilts her head. Then Lord Duncan takes Lady Lizzie onto the dance floor again and I sit next to my Grandmama Lady Knott for a rest, whilst Lord Christian remains standing–hanging about.
Lady Lucretia: “Christy, do stop pacing in that feral manner. You are giving my neck an ache watching you. Please sit down if you are not dancing.” I motion for him to sit next to my granddaughter on the large sette. Then I turn to Lady Wickwood sitting in a chair next to me on my other side and we strike up a conversation about the suitability of silk versus satin in ladies’ gowns.
Seeing my Grandmama engaged in conversation, I turn to Lord Christian.
Lady Madeline: “Do please sit, Lord Christian. I will not bite.” I state wanly. I am well aware that he is not interested in me as prospect for his future wife–at least, not as a love match. But I try to tease him cajolingly. “You look to be positively in a stew about something. What is wrong?” But it backfires.
Lord Christian: “Is there no end to your frankness, Lady Madeline?” I ask rather more curtly than I intend as I do sit down next to her on the sette. Though a respectable 12 inches separates our persons—as propriety dictates.
Lady Madeline: Hurt by his tone, I lower my eyes to keep him from seeing tears forming there. Then I answer in a hushed tone with my voice cracking slightly. “I am very sorry, Lord Christian. Grandmama says that I am too forward. And potential husbands do not want a willful wife.”
Lord Christian: I instantly regret being short with her as I take her small hand in mine [(4) right]. Neither of us is wearing gloves at the moment, due to the sweltering heat of the ballroom. “No no, Lady Madeline. I am sorry for my tone just now.” I say more softly. “You do not vex me at all. Actually, I find your candor refreshing.” I smile slightly trying to cajole her to do likewise. Then I gently squeeze her hand in mine. This skin of her delicate hands is so silky soft, they feel like satin.
Lady Madeline: “I fear that there are few men who would agree with you.” I say softly. My head is still bowed, my eyes pondering my one hand lying in my lap whilst my other hand is still being sheltered in Lord Christian’s care–especially pondering his hand holding my hand. Who could have thought that my granite mountain as Lord Christian could so gently hold my hand in his large and strong hand? He is such a contradiction—strong, yet gentle; a man in his prime in every way, yet having to assume the mantle of family head long before his time; and confidant , yet not overbearing (most of the time, anyway). He is my ideal man—he is not perfect, but his flaws are not character faults, they are character building.
Lord Christian: I reach over with my other hand and crook my finger under Lady Madeline’s chin to raise her face to look at me. And dash it all if I do not see tears there. “Oh! I am so sorry, Lady Madeline. I did not mean to offend you with my outburst just now.” I smile encouragingly at her. She smiles wanly back at me.
Unfortunately, everyone else in the ballroom sees my bold intimacy–of touching Lady Madeline’s ungloved hand and then her chin–and they rather stop and stare, wondering if a proposal is at hand. People on the edges of the ballroom start speculating about that, but I am unaware of their chatter. That is, until my sister Lizzie and Lord Duncan hastily exit the dance floor before the music stops and they quickly come back to us.
Lady Lizzie: “Oh Christian! Have you finally asked Lady Maddie to be your wife? I will so adore having her as my sister!” She squeals.
Both Lady Madeline and my eyes grow large with surprise as we turn to my sister standing expectantly with Lord Duncan. What is it about Lady Madeline and I conversing–in a perfectly normal manner, mind you–that makes others presume that I will offer for her?
Lady Madeline: I blanch. “Lady Lizzie, I would also be most honored to be your sister.” And before I can say but, she hugs me and squeals again.
Lady Lizzie: “I am ever so glad.”
Lord Duncan: I slap my friend upon his shoulders. “Well done, Christian. Lady Madeline is a fine lady, and a very good catch.”
Lord Christian: I am caught, and so is Lady Madeline. But maybe I can extricate myself. “You are a bit presumptuous–both of you.” I look sternly at Lord Duncan, and then more charitably at my sister Lizzie.
Lady Lizzie: I pout, with my lower lip protruding. Then I whine. “But Harold said that you were going to propose to Lady Maddie.” I pout. I look at Lady Maddie’s Grandmama and she is beaming. However, I glance down at the forlorn look upon my friend Lady Maddie’s face. Then she quickly lowers her head, looking at her hands in her lap again.
I feel mortified. Yet again, there is a presumption by others that Lord Christian will offer for me. At this rate, he will decide against me forever. Lady Madeline continues to focus upon her hands and can’t bear to look at Lord Christian to see further disdain in his eyes.
Lord Christian: “Hhhhhhh! Lizzie, you should know better than to give credence to what Harold says.” I scowl. I might have offered for Lady Madeline tonight on my own, but everyone keeps beating me to it.
Lady Madeline: Wanting to set the record straight, I stand up. And with as much poise as I can muster, I clarify the situation. “Lizzie Dear, you did not let me finish. Naturally I would be honored were your brother Lord Christian to find favor with me. However, we do not have an understanding.” Then I add frankly and with great poise, I hope–thus demonstrating my maturity. “He thinks of me as your little friend, not as a serious prospect as a wife for himself.” Then I gaze up at Lord Christian, almost daring him to refute my view of the matter. But he does not.
Lord Christian: “Thank you for your frankness in clarifying the matter, Lady Madeline.” I sigh in relief. I truly wish that people would stop presuming something before it has happened. It makes it more difficult for me to find the resolve to seek Lady Madeline’s hand in marriage. Then I lift her bare hand to my lips and kiss it. Now why did I do that?
Lady Madeline: “You are welcome, Lord Christian.” I nod with poise, despite my wishing that he really would propose to me. This evening is going to be difficult–and we have only just begun. There are hours yet to get through. And yet why is Lord Christian still holding onto my hand?
Lady Knott is still beaming as she looks between her granddaughter Lady Madeline and her hoped for grandson-in-law Lord Christian. For others have seen and judged plainly that Lord Christian and her granddaughter Lady Madeline are connected on some deeper level—despite their not being married, nor betrothed, yet. Now Lady Knott ponders how to help them see sense—or at least, what is in their hearts?
To be continued with Chapter 12
“Encouragement”, Ch. 11 References by Gratiana Lovelace, October 21, 2016 (Post #987)
- 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) Lord Christian 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
3) Lady Madeline’s pale blue silk evening gown for the Kimball Ball is Kate Winslet as Marianne Dashwood in 1995’s Sense & Sensibility found at https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/e4/a8/be/e4a8becc0d292a3c0f1412358cef9653.jpg
4) Image representing Lady Madeline’s and Lord Christian’s hands parting after greeting is that of John Thornton and Margaret Hale—portrayed by Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe in the BBC’s 2004 North & South mini series, episode 2 the Masters Dinner found at http://richardarmitagecentral.co.uk/main.php?g2_itemId=76679&
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