[From time to time, I will illustrate my story characters with: Richard Armitage as Lord Christian Blount Earl of Sussex, Kate Winslet and 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, Corin Redgrave as Squire Sutton Sinclair, Amanda Root as Mrs. Russell, 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: Christian, Lord Sussex has passed the first hurdle of meeting his hoped for father-in-law when he traveled to Squire Sutton Sinclair’s country home Watford Hill. Lord Christian put the question of asking for Lady Madeline Sinclair’s hand in marriage before her father. And now he waits for an answer as they return to London.
“Encouragement, A Regency Tale of Love and Romance”,
Ch. 14: Returning to Her in London
Whether it is the uneven state of the roads after a night’s worth of pounding hail upon the roof eaves above Lord Christian Blount Earl of Sussex’s bed in Lady Madeline’s father’s country home Watford Hill last night, or the inherent unease with which Lord Christian conveys his hoped for future father-in-law Squire Sutton Sinclair to London via his carriage on Saturday February 11th, 1816–though Christian Lord Sussex had just recently traveled this rout the day before in reverse–the three hour journey returning to Town seems to Lord Christian to last an age.
Though they start out at a reasonable hour of 9 o’clock in the morning, they have only reached the first of two posting inns by midday. Traveling these roads is taking half again as long as it should due to the bumpy nature of their conveyance—while though it is well springed, Lord Christian’s carriage can not overcome the great deficit of the rutted roadway. At least the hot bricks at their feet and the rugs covering their legs help to keep out February’s Winter chill.
So with being jostled so much that Squire Sinclair worries that his teeth might fallout, neither gentleman is able to sleep—the best way to endure travel. And that means that the two gentlemen are forced to converse.
Squire Sinclair: “So Lord Sussex, pray tell me what is the reception that my Madeline is receiving in London?”
Christian, Lord Sussex: “She is making a very favorable impression, Sir.” I smile [(2) right] to think of her in London—in all her finery at a ball, poised and ladylike when receiving callers, or sweetly endearing when we have a drattedly well chaperoned outing.
Squire Sinclair: “And do you think that this is due to her personality, or to her dowry?” I narrow my eyes shrewdly. I am aware what young men of the Ton look for in a wife—including the young man before me.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “To be honest, both. Before I dared hope that Lady Madeline might look upon me with favor for my suit, we had established an easy friendship. And we would discuss and dissect our various dance partners for their merit and skill. Not surprisingly, Lady Madeline gave less weight to their dancing skill than to her belief in their ability or inability to make interesting conversation.”
Squire Sinclair: “Aye. That sounds like my Madeline. Did she have many dance partners?” I ask, wondering if her acquaintance has been too narrow, and that is what has allowed the Earl here to swoop in and claim her. He seems a nice enough fellow, despite him being a bit proud and fond of hearing himself speak. And though Christian Lord Sussex is well turned out, thankfully he is not a peacock in his dress nor in his manner. For I could not abide a son-in-law who preened and dandied about.
Sensing the point of this line of questioning, Lord Christian replies accordingly.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Squire Sinclair, Lady Madeline dances nearly every dance and only sits out with her Grandmother when she wants to—at intervals that allow her to rest and refresh herself.”
Squire Sinclair: “And you, My Lord. Why have you not married before? You are probably some nine and twenty years. I was married by the time I was five and twenty.”
Christian, Lord Sussex: “I am thirty years, Squire. And yes, for a time after university, I enjoyed several seasons in London and thought that I might make a match soon then. But sadly, we suffered a family tragedy five years ago, my parents died mere months apart—he from a heart attack and my mother from a broken heart at his passing. And my focus became my family—not the least of which was my dear little sister Lady Elizabeth, whom we address as Lizzie en famille. She was but thirteen when she became motherless and fatherless. And Lizzie dauntingly turned to me—as ill prepared as I was as young man of twenty-five to try to step in and fill parental shoes. I tried my best. But Lizzie had no womanly influence in our country estate. So we moved in with our grandparents the Earl and Countess of Sussex at their London Manor. It was the right decision—to help Lizzie, and all of us, in our grief to find our way again. And my being my Grandfather’s heir, I succeeded him when he sadly died just four months ago. Happily, our Grandmother still lives. Though she is in deep mourning for my late grandfather Earl—they were a love match that never dimmed in their affections for one another. I hope that Lady Madeline and I will follow their example.” I state rather sentimentally. But if there is one thing I have learned from my betrothed, it is that frankness and honesty are always to be desired.
Squire Sinclair: “Hmmmm.” I wonder at Lord Sussex’ gushing about his grandparents. Is it by design to try to paint himself as a romantic choice for my daughter? Or is he being sincere? I have not made up my mind about him yet. “You are a man about town?” I ask curiously and he nods. “And yet, you seem a man of robust conditioning. You must have maintained an active schedule while in town. And as your Grandfather’s heir for the Earldom, you must have been a highly sought after marital prize.” Squire Sinclair views the young man before him with a healthy dose of skepticism mixed with respect for one who assumed the mantle of responsibility at so young an age—five years ago when his parents died, and now as the new Earl.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “In principal, that is true—were I to have wanted to be sought after as a marital prize. Just as Lady Madeline does not wish to be courted for her dowry and her legacy from her Grandmama, I do not want to be fawned over by ladies wishing only to procure a title for themselves.”
Squire Sinclair: “Then it would seem that you and my daughter must have bonded over your unwillingness to be hunted.”
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Just so.” I nod. “And Lady Madeline has been so kind and encouraging of my younger sister Lady Lizzie that we have hopes that Lizzie’s presentation ball next weekend will be a resounding success.”
Squire Sinclair: “Of course it will be a success. Your sister is related to an Earl, you.”
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Yes. But again, we wish to separate out the dowry and connection seekers, in favor of those genuinely interested in my sister.”
Squire Sinclair: “But does not your sister’s dowry give her the pick of any young man for her husband?” Squire Sinclair asks as a father to a father figure.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Would that it were that simple.” Lord Christian obfuscates, without really revealing their pecuniary existence.
Squire Sinclair: “Ah!” Is all the Squire gives in reply. Dowries are rarely simple.
There is a stony silence while each man ruminates about their discussion and formulates their next conversational gambit. Hoping to change the topic of conversation away from his sister Lady Elizabeth’s nonexistent dowry, Lord Christian ask about horse flesh.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “I noticed that you seemed to admire my matched bays with my carriage. Have you an interest in horses, Squire Sinclair?” I inquire solicitously.
Squire Sinclair: I look at the young man with amusement. “I live in the country—where it is a long distance to the village. Were I not to have an interest in horses, I would be a simpleton indeed.”
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Or, a very good walker.” I smile. I can’t help funning him. At least I hope that he takes my jest as it is intended. My betrothed Lady Madeline has a healthy sense of mirth in her teasing of me. So I presume that she inherited that streak from somewhere. And it has been five long years since I was around a parent for any length of time. My grandparents were and are excellent—but they did tend to leave oneself to one’s own devices, mostly due to their age and failing health. However, Squire Sinclair seems to be the opposite of disinterested—him being attentive to his daughter’s best interests. I like that.
Squire Sinclair: “True! But we have a hunt coming up and my usual horse is getting on in years. So, I resolved to secure a new horse. Perhaps I will find one at an auction in town.”
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Indeed! I did not realize that you hunt.” My eyes widen in astonishment. For a man of his purported compromised health, he certainly seems and talks like an active gentleman. And to buy horse flesh in London will add an additional layer of cost to the usual horse purchase transaction—which I was lead to believe would be burdensome for his present financial situation, what with buying his second son’s commission and all.
Squire Sinclair: “I live in the country, of course I hunt!” I reply somewhat snappishly. Really! If I did not know better, I would think that this young man is nervous about his own health, considering he continues to ask after my mine.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Forgive me, Sir. But I was led to believe that your health was not the best—nor your finances.” I speak more candidly than, perhaps, I ought. But there seems to be a layer of confusion regarding Lady Madeline’s father. And I am beginning to surmise that the confusion is all on my part—due in no small way to the agency of Lady Madeline’s Grandmama, Lady Knott.
Squire Sinclair: “Lady Knott again, I presume?” I glare at the young man.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Kkhh! Well, yes.” I blanch at the accuracy of his accusation.
Squire Sinclair: “That old meddlesome wench!” I fist my hands into the air at the gall of my mother-in-law spreading false rumors about me.
Squire Sinclair fumes—and then he continues to add choice descriptors about his mother-in-law. Lord Christian’s eyebrows rise nearly to his hairline to hear the derision in Squire Sinclair’s voice. Evidently Squire Sinclair does not get along with his mother-in-law Lady Knott. And that is the understatement of the season.
The carriage ride to return to London that I undertook with Lady Madeline’s father was not as trying as I presumed it would be. Then again, it was not without its strain inducing aspects—that being that Squire Sinclair has still not responded to my request for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Maddeningly, he wants to speak to his daughter first. And he insists that I set him down at his club in London—since he refuses to spend a night under Lady Knott’s roof, however much the wish he has of having a private conversation with his daughter Lady Madeline consumes his thoughts.
So it is after I have returned to our family seat of Sussex House in London—and refreshed myself with a bath and a change of clothes–that I speed to Lady Knott’s London townhome to seek out my intended Lady Madeline, hopefully before her father sees her. I want to acquaint her with what transpired between myself and her relations—to prepare her if nothing else. The Knott butler announces me to Lady Madeline in the drawing room where she has been receiving guests all afternoon. Except as the hour creeps toward tea time, I find her in a lull of visitors at the moment.
So without a word—lest the servants over hear us—I spirit my betrothed out to the garden for a private chat, albeit with her maid following at a discreet distance for the sake of the proprieties. The sun has broken out, warming us as we walk in the still frozen air—our breaths puffing out before us. And yet, I do not feel cold—nor is my intended shivering. Yet had I spared a glance in the direction of Lady Madeline’s Ladies Maid chaperone, her frowning countenance would seem to betoken another view. Lady Madeline and I walk quite far into the lushly Wintery Knott garden to insure our privacy—with the said maid seemingly instructed by Lady Madeline that the edge of the garden was a sufficient perimeter with which to establish her chaperonage.
Then Lady Madeline stops our forward motion by the rose bushes. Surely no estate staff would be hiding within them in order to obtain juicy gossip to sell to the tattle sheets—the thorns, you know. In fact, I will have to have our gardeners install more rose bushes in our own gardens at Sussex House, for the very same privacy guarantees. Then I look about us and seeing and hearing no one, relax my shoulders which I had not realized were tensed up.
Lady Madeline: “Ha ha ha! Christian! You are being so secretive. What are you about?” I ask teasingly.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Have you spoken with your father yet, Madeline?”
Lady Madeline: “Spoken with him? Is he here in London?” I ask with an astonished smile–so eager am I to see my dear Papa and to share my wonderful betrothal news with him.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Yes, your father returned to London with me. But he had me drop him at his club first. He intends to ensconce himself there while in London.”
Lady Madeline: “Oh!” I pout. “But I daresay, Papa will visit us soon.” However, I cannot conceal my disappointment that my Papa will not be staying here at my Grandmama’s home. I do not understand why Papa and Grandmama do not get on with each other. I love them both. Can that not be enough reason for them to make peace with each other? For my sake?
Lady Madeline is a young woman whose only constant womanly influence since her mother died four years ago has been her elderly grandmother Lady Lucretia Beckham Knott. And it is natural for Lady Madeline to gravitate to Lady Knott as her mother’s mother. Though her father’s sister her Aunt Mrs. Russell had tried to be a kindly presence in Lady Madeline’s life these past few years, it was not the same as having her Mama with her.
And Lord Christian thinks that given the largesse that Lady Knott displays to her granddaughter—with her sponsoring Lady Madeline’s London season, establishing her dowry, and designating Lady Madeline as her heir–it would seem to me to behoove Squire Sinclair to act with appropriate deference when in that great lady’s, his mother-in-law’s, presence.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Indeed. That was his stated intention. And I hope to have a further conversation with him as well.”
Lady Madeline: “Did you not tell him of your offer of marriage to me?” I ask him quizzically, mildly worried that Lord Christian has rethought his offer of marriage to me and now regrets it.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “I did, but he wants to speak to you, first—before granting me an answer.” I state warily. I do not want Lady Madeline’s father to refuse my offer. I cannot afford it, I think desperately. I have pinned all of my hopes on Lady Madeline becoming my bride and my wife. And if I am to be truthful, my future hopes and dreams are also engaged with having my Darling Lady Madeline sharing my life with me.
Lady Madeline: “Oh! Alright!” I reply brightly as I bob my head up and down, unaware of the turmoil that Papa’s delay is causing for my dear Lord Christian. “Then when Papa consents, we may plan our wedding!” I clap my hands together gleefully. “I have always wanted to seem like a princess on my wedding day. So I hope that Grandmama will loan me the smaller Knott tiara to wear with my veil.”
Christian, Lord Sussex: Clasping her small hand in mine, I bring it to my lips for a feather light kiss. “I am certain that you will look lovely as my bride, Madeline.” And I believe that. Lady Madeline is, perhaps, a trifle girlish in her deportment. But after a year or two at my side as my wife, she will mature into a sophisticatedly lady—my Countess.
Lady Madeline: “Thank you, Christian.” I smile and bat my eyelashes at him. “I cannot wait to be your wife.”
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Ha ha ha! Eager are you?” Afterall, I am considered to be handsome and broad of shoulders, and such. “Then should I procure a special license so that we may be married in two weeks? The Saturday of the next weekend after Lizzie’s ball?”
Lady Madeline: “If you wish it so! Oh Christian! We shall have such fun being in London together–to see the museums and to go to parties and balls. And I will be ever so proud to have such a dashing husband at my side.”
Christian, Lord Sussex: “And I will be proud to have your sweetness and goodness upon my arm as my Countess!” I smile heartily at her. I lift her hand to my lips and kiss it. She blushes quite charmingly. Her demure maidenness reminds me to treat her with delicacy, lest my desirous feelings run away with me and I frighten her too much with my deepening affections for her. It has been many months since I was bestowed the favors of a lady—with Lady Brenda finding an aristocrat with bigger pockets than my own to lavish her attentions upon. So my eagerness to wed for non dowry reasons is understandable. But perhaps, a small brief kiss might not be too forward of me—we are betrothed. Well, when her father consents, we will then be formally betrothed.
Lady Madeline must sense my intentions as I gaze longingly at her. For though, she looks maidenly demure and reticent [(3) right] at first, she soon closes her eyes and lifts up her face to me, waiting for my affections. Her rosebud lips purse together as they meet my lips enveloping hers for only our third and still decorous kiss. Yet, she is untutored in the ways of kissing—something which I will gradually and happily rectify when we are married. But for now, it is enough that I press my lips to her lips—feeling her warmth, and giving her mine. Though I might wish to linger here—having her in my gentle embrace, cherishing her—I slowly draw back, yet retain my hold upon one of her hands.
Lady Madeline: “Hhhhh!” I sigh with girlish delight. Lord Christian is so gentle with me–and gallant not to press me for more than a kiss. He is a perfect gentleman! I reach out to touch the yellow rose blossoms witnessing our kiss. “Mama loved yellow roses. I should like them for my wedding bouquet. How I wish Mama could see me married and happily settled.” A tear escapes my left eye and traverses my cheek. Lord Christian removes a fine linen handkerchief from his coat pocket and uses it to gently dab the tear away on my cheek.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Madeline, Darling. Your Mama will know of our joy. Just as I hope that my own late parents and late grandfather will know. Heaven would not be so churlish as to prevent them from kindly looking down upon us as we wed and thereafter intertwine our lives together.”
Lady Madeline nods her head in agreement, but her tears begin to fall in earnest and I gently clasp her to myself again to my chest in a gentle comforting embrace as she weeps. She clings to my lapels and has a good cry out into my linen handkerchief that I caringly place into her other hand. Lady Madeline’s tears do not distress me, as other gentlemen might feel uncomfortable. I relish her feeling comfortable enough with me to share her thoughts and her woes.
Lady Madeline: “Hmmm hmmmm hmmm. Hh! Hh!” My Madeline whimpers and gasps, then repeats as she weeps. “Hmmm hmmmm hmmm. Hh! Hh!”
What young maiden does not wish her mother to be present at her nuptials? I fear that my own little sister Lady Lizzie will also feel the regret of not having our Mama and Papa with her whenever she weds at some future date. And being caught up in the moment, I must admit that there is moisture welling up in my own eyes. Yet, I must focus on assuaging My Madeline’s sorrow. So I rub her back in gentle soothing strokes and murmur consolingly to her as I kiss her temple.
Embracing my betrothed Lady Madeline lightly but caringly, and standing together thus in Lady Knott’s soon to be vividly floral garden–when Spring comes next month–is where Lady Madeline’s father Squire Sinclair finds us several moments later. I do not see him at first—so focused upon soothing Lady Madeline am I. But I look up at hearing swift steps quickly crunching upon the gravel as her furious looking father stalks toward us. I cannot say that I blame him for his reddened face, nor fisted hands detailing his moral outrage. Our embracing pose is quite scandalous—that is, but for the reason for our embracing.
I raise my palm out to my future father-in-law to stay his intrusion, then I put my index finger to my lips and look pointedly at Squire Sinclair—in an effort to prevent his ire spilling forth and upsetting My Madeline more. And he lurchingly stops a few feet from us, his face looking dark like thunder—him obviously insulted by my gestures to arrest his movement, on top of his anger. Then I bend down to Lady Madeline gently resting in my arms and say in a hushed voice.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Madeline Darling, your Papa is here to see you now.” She looks up at me with imploring eyes, still weeping. “There now.” I say caringly as I dab her eyes again after taking my handkerchief from her hand. And she turns to her Papa, then launches herself into his arms.
Squire Sinclair: “What is the meaning of this!” I ask perplexed. My Maddie never cries. Except for now–and unabating, it seems.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Squire Sinclair.” I bow. “Lady Madeline and I were speaking about our wedding arrangements—and her wanting to have yellow roses in her bouquet to honor her late Mama.” I meaningfully touch a fragrant yellow rosebud next to me. “She is quite overcome with missing her dear Mama at this special time in our lives.” At last, Squire Sinclair’s puffed up rage deflates.
Squire Sinclair: “Oh!” I immediately see that I was in error in my suspecting him of seducing of my little girl—when Lord Christian was merely comforting her. I pat my daughter Maddie’s back. “I am sorry, pet. You’ll have to make do with your old Papa celebrating your wedding with you.”
And thus Squire Sinclair gives his tacit approval to the marriage of his daughter Lady Madeline Lucretia Sinclair to Lord Christian Blount, the Earl of Sussex. Lord Christian sighs in relief as he gazes tenderly upon his betrothed, Lady Madeline.
Lady Madeline: “I am glad you will be present Papa—along with my elder brother Edward and Aunt Russell. I know it is too much to expect for the military to let John have leave to attend the wedding?” I state questioningly and Papa nods agreeing with me, that John will not be able to attend. “And Lord Christian said that Mama and his parents and Grandfather will be watching over us from heaven. Is that not right, Christian Dear?” I try out that new endearment upon my lips and it seems to suit. I hold out my hand to Lord Christian.
Christian, Lord Sussex: I gently clasp her small hand in mine. “Just so, Madeline Darling.” Then I bring her hand to my lips for a soft, yet decorous and respectful kiss. She and I exchange caring glances in sympathy of our now shared losses.
Seeing with my own eyes the tender exchange between my daughter Maddie and her intended Christian Lord Sussex, I sense that he is the correct man to entrust with my daughter’s care and future happiness.
Squire Sinclair: “I will hate to lose you my dear. But I feel that you and Lord Christian have made a good match.”
Lady Madeline: Embracing my father, smiling through my tears, I say with joy. “Oh, thank you, Papa. We are. I could not find a better nor a more honorable man to share my life with.”
Christian, Lord Sussex: I bow, humbled by her words. “And I will endeavor to make Lady Madeline’s happiness my life’s work. For her happiness will be my happiness.” She beams at me, and I realize how much I care for her already—how much I am falling in love with her. And that thought—of falling in love with my intended wife—calms and reassures me that she and I are on the proper course for each of us, together.
To be continued with Chapter 15
“Encouragement”, Ch. 14 References by Gratiana Lovelace, November 02, 2016 (Post #994)
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) Christian Lord Sussex image is of Armitage in the BBC’s 2004 drama North & South found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode1/ns1-045.jpg
3) Lady Madeline Sinclair image is the young Emma Hart as painted by George Romney (Grati fixed some of the image’s scratches), who would one day become Emma Lady Hamilton , was found at http://www.pcosta.net/ima/emma_circe.jpg
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