[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, Jessica Brown Findlay 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: Lady Elizabeth Blount’s presentation ball at her family’s mansion Sussex House in London begins spectacularly. And several old family friends such as the Forsytes attend and pay homage to Lady Lizzie. Yet it is the mesmerizing Duncan the Viscount Lindsay who captivates Lady Lizzie. And with Lady Lizzie’s brother Lord Christian’s wedding imminent, Lady Lizzie and his intended Lady Madeline have a girlish and revealing talk about kissing and such– that unbeknownst to them, Lord Christian eavesdropped on. But the night is young and there are still many delights and intrigues to come this night at Lady Lizzie’s Presentation Ball on Friday February 16, 1816.
“Encouragement, A Regency Tale of Love and Romance”—Ch. 17: Supper Tete a Tetes at Lady Lizzie’s Ball
As previously requested, Lord Duncan the Viscount Lindsay escorts Lady Elizabeth Blount into the first sitting of Lady Lizzie’s Presentation Ball’s Supper Room in Sussex House—which is actually an adjacent Music Room to the Ballroom. So the sounds of the orchestra playing for the dancers in the Ballroom wafts into the room as romantic strains of waltzes caress the individuals at supper.
Lady Lizzie’s brother Lord Christian Blount the Earl of Sussex escorts his betrothed Lady Madeline Sinclair into supper. There are several round tables arranged discreetly apart in the large supper room–for their guests and close friends to enjoy their refreshments and more private conversations. The silver candelabras at each table create a soft glow in the room, such that there is an intimacy felt, even though there are over fifty people in the room at any given time.
All eyes are on Lady Lizzie and Lady Madeline. For the former is making her come out in hopes of finding a husband—whom Lady Lizzie would wish to be Lord Duncan. And the latter Lady Madeline has found a husband to be in Lord Christian the Earl of Sussex—but she is still very young at not quite eight and ten years to become a wife in one week’s time. Though, she will turn eighteen during their wedding trip in March 1816.
Looking elegantly serene, Lady Madeline’s gown is of the darkest brown-burgundy wine color silk organza edged with a wide beaded collar trim [(2) right] . She accessorizes with a delicate but impressive diamond wreath pendant necklace with matching earrings—an early wedding present from her Grandmama Lady Lucretia Beckham Knott, from Lady Knott’s Beckham Family jewels. And Lady Madeline’s sky blue eyes and pomegranate red lips are complemented by her translucent pale skin.
Unable to resist Lady Madeline’s effortless beauty, Lord Christian leans over to Lady Madeline as they nibble their buffet table selections. Lord Christian inquires about his intended. His curiosity about the conversation that he overheard between she and his sister, will not be contained.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Lady Madeline? Are you feeling refreshed after your and Lizzie’s visiting her room for nearly twenty minutes?” The corners of his mouth curls ever so slightly—not a true smile, yet not a knowing smirk either.
Not wanting to divulge her and Lady Lizzie’s conversation—her not realizing that he overheard it–Lady Madeline provides short, clipped answers to try to hide her embarrassment for discussing him kissing her.
Lady Madeline: “Yes. Thank you!” She nods once, then she bites into a succulent shrimp after dipping it in butter. “This braised shrimp is divine! We must have it at our wedding. I will ask Grandmama.” She babbles a bit. For she knows that her Grandmama has set the menu for the reception already, due to the need to order the food in large quantities—and giving the grocer sufficient warning in order to procure it for them.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Indeed! Our chef ordered it at my special request. I thought that you might enjoy it.” He smiles benevolently at her. Then he holds up his napkin toward her. “You have little bit of butter at the corner of your mouth.” Her luscious mouth, he thinks. “May I?”
Lady Madeline: “Oh! Thank you, Lord Sussex.” Lady Madeline smiles sweetly at him as he dabs at the corner of her mouth.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Come, My Dear Madeline. When we are speaking privately—despite being surrounded by our guests—will you not oblige me by using my given name?” His deep velvety voice is spoken in hushed tones for privacy—and to affect his betrothed with his animale allure.
Lady Madeline: “Of course, … Christian.” Lady Madeline nods. Inexperienced with men as a maiden, she has not the vocabulary to describe how her Lord Christian makes her feel. She only knows that he makes her tremble with his desirous regard of her—and she likes those feelings that he evokes in her.
Christian, Lord Sussex: Each word a caress, Lord Christian gazes besottedly at her as he replies sotto voce. “See, Madeline? That was not so difficult?”
Lady Madeline: “Indeed it was not, … Christian.” She smiles again and her using his personal name. “I was merely mindful of the proprieties with regard to due deference to your status as an Earl, My L …, Christian.” She corrects herself.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Are you for certain?” She nods. “And here I thought that you were uninterested in my title?” He smiles with interest for her response.
Lady Madeline: “I am not! Well, at least not to the extent that your being an Earl constitutes any part of your allure for me.”
Christian, Lord Sussex: “So you are saying that I have no allure?” He feigns injury as he pouts his lips and tilts his head—with his eyebrow threatening to rise, for effect [(3) right]. He smoulders with great precision.
Lady Madeline shakes her head, which Lord Christian does not quite know how to interpret. Perhaps Lady Madeline’s innocence extends to her having no understanding of allure—his or anyone else’s. Though to be honest about it, Lord Christian has previously associated allure with his female conquests. And he much prefers to think that his person exudes a charm and magnetism that women find pleasing—especially his betrothed Lady Madeline.
After thinking about it for a few moments, Lady Madeline replies to her intended in the only way she knows how.
Lady Madeline: “I believe that what I should say here is that your honor, kindness, noble actions, and easy manner have swept me off my feet.”
Christian, Lord Sussex: Truly pouting now, he asks. “And you do not think me handsome?”
Lady Madeline: “Oh no! Ha ha ha! I mean yes! I do indeed think you handsome—very much so.” Lady Madeline smiles as she clasps his hand underneath the dining table.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Good! I would hate to think that the affections were all on my part.”
Lady Madeline: “Affections? Truly, Christian? You have affection for me?” She asks hopefully as she gazes up into her intended Lord Christian’s eyes–her hand resting ever so lightly upon his arm. Lady Madeline is not an experienced flirt nor coquette. Her only mildly flirting earlier with Lord Christian—has been her gentle teasing of him before and during their courtship.
Touched by her sincere entreaty, Lord Christian withdraws into a manly stoicism—not giving way to any emotionalism in public—Lord Christian smiles benignly at his intended Lady Madeline.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “As I have said.” Lady Madeline looks at her betrothed quizzically for his less than romantic response. So he leans down and whispers just above her ear to placate her. “Were we alone, I might be able to express my feelings more animatedly than I may when we are in company, My Darling.”
My Darling! Lord Christian’s first true endearment toward Lady Madeline—that no other has used in reference to her. Lady Madeline is beside herself with girlish glee. Yet she knows that she must present a serene countenance and proper response to him—lest anyone should over hear. So Lady Madeline turns her schooled and placid face toward Lord Christian in response.
Lady Madeline: “Then we shall have to contrive a private audience. Well, as private as one can be with my ladies maid present.” Then she breaks her benignly held expressions and Lady Madeline glances up at him under her long lashes, with something of a minxish smile curling at the corners of her mouth.
Christian, Lord Sussex: Slowly lifting up her gloved hand and kissing it, Lord Christian smiles. “Indeed. That will be most pleasant. I await your summons for our conversation, My Lady.” He smirks. For all of his bethrothed Lady Madeline’s youthful zeal, he views her as a true lady of poise and grace—that will only grow more pleasing as she matures.
Lost in their own conversation, Lord Christian and Lady Madeline do not focus upon Lord Duncan the Viscount Lindsay’s solicitude of Lady Elizabeth during the supper. For Lord Duncan places their seating at the other end of the oval table from her brother and his intended—the better to give he and Lady Elizabeth their privacy.
Lord Duncan: “Will this arrangement suit you, Lady Elizabeth?” He asks in situating them at the side of the table near the fire. February is bitterly cold. And though there are many guests in attendance whose bodies collective warmth does raise the temperature of the room, the Supper Room has been little used as of yet this evening, since they are among the first occupants.
Lady Lizzie: “Oh yes! The fire is so lovely and toasty! This house is so big, you see—to warm properly. That my brother Lord Christian does not feel the need to warm the rooms that we do not use. Though we sometimes rotate which Drawing and Dining rooms that we use—for the variety and to give each room some warmth during the week, to not allow the furnishings to become petrified by the cold.”
Lord Duncan: “Ha ha ha ha ha! That is most ingenious. I commend your brother’s wise judgement. Now may I bring you a plate of food? Then I shall procure a plate for myself.”
Lady Lizzie: “Yes, thank you.” I smile shyly up at him before he goes to fetch our food. I am so happy just now that my heart could burst. Lord Duncan came to my presentation ball, and he danced with me and he is now bringing me supper. I surely must be in the hereafter, for no more pleasant a situation could I ever dream of—except, that is, were I to become his wife.
Then wrenched most happily from her musings when Lord Duncan returns with food and drink for them both—aided by an obliging footman—Lady Lizzie enjoys her food and the easy conversation with Lord Duncan, immensely.
Lord Duncan: “Did I make sufficient food selections to tempt you to eat, Lady Elizabeth?” I ask considerately. She nods before she tucks into her food. And his thoughts turn to somewhat less pleasant matters—of reality.
Lady Lizzie is such a jolly little slip of a thing. And I find her charming—despite, or perhaps because of, her plump and rosie cheeks. She is like a little sister to me, though one who is blossoming into a lovely young woman. I only hope that she will find love and be married happily—unlike my younger sister Lady Gwendolyn whose beau Lord Stephen Trottworth was killed by Napolean’s troops, with our elder brother Alfred ten years ago. Gwennie has pined these ten years for her beau and had fervently wished that Papa had allowed her to marry before Lord Stephen went away to war. But she was only fifteen then and she had not yet been presented. Our parents believed then—in my view—that Gwennie needed a larger society before she decided on whom to marry.
Then with our eldest brother who was Papa’s heir dying as well, our family was crushed into the deepest sorrow imaginable. It was made worse because Alfred’s and Stephen’s bodies were never recovered. Only my brother’s signet ring was returned to us, as I look down upon it on my own finger these past ten years. It is a sorrow that never goes away. And by default, I became the reluctant heir to our father’s Dukedom. It was not supposed to be my future—to be the Duke. And with it looming before me whenever our father dies, I feel the strictures of what that life will bring me, closing in around me.
And I despair of Gwennie ever getting past losing her Stephen and finding love again. At six and twenty, many might think her on the shelf. But to me, Gwennie is a rare and beautiful gift yet to be cherished by the right man. As I also hope that Lady Lizzie will one day be cherished—though that man will not be me. I think forlornly.
Lady Elizabeth has her own ruminations. As I eat my dinner foods selected for me by Lord Duncan, I try to maintain a calm poise—so that he does not think me childish—by taking a bite of food, setting down my fork, sipping my wine, dabbing at my mouth with my napkin, then repeating the process. Although, at this rate, I will starve before I finish my food.
I never would have thought that Lord Duncan would dance one dance with me—let alone two, and escort me into supper. He must surely think kindly of me to pay me so marked attention. I would like to think that Lord Duncan might look favorably upon me and pay a call this week. And I wish to know more of the man—to separate my feelings about him now from my girlish imaginings.
And Grandmama said that my family lineage and sizeable dowry would recommend me to several men of good breeding and good fortune. Though, like Maddie, I want to marry for love. And I still love Lord Duncan. I think sighingly.
Before rejoining the dancing after finishing their meals, Lord Christian and Lady Madeline discreetly observe Lady Lizzie and Lord Duncan together in pleasant conversation at the other end of their dining table.
Lady Madeline: “What are you thinking, Christian?” She notices his distraction.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “I am glad that Lord Duncan is kind to pay my sister the compliment of his attention.”
Lady Madeline: “But?” Her eye brow rises.
Christian, Lord Sussex: “But I do so hope that Lizzie does not think that his actions betoken a particularity of regard. Lord Duncan is promised elsewhere.”
Lady Madeline: Knowing of Lady Lizzie’s preference for Lord Duncan, she is astonished. “Promised? But you had not said. Nor had Lady Lizzie. You do know that she is besotted with him.”
Christian, Lord Sussex: “Yes.” He replies soberly and takes another small sip of his wine. “More’s the pity. She might not realize that Lord Duncan–as now the Ducal heir of York–must marry his late elder brother Alfred’s betrothed, Lady Constance Knightsbridge, the daughter of the Duke of Lancashire. The late Lord Alfred and Lady Constance grew up together and it was love from the first—well almost. They were fiercely competitive playmates as children, though four years apart in age. The two years younger than she Lord Duncan played with them, but was not closely bonded with Lady Constance—so firm was the bond between she and his brother Lord Alfred. So neither Lord Duncan nor Lady Constance wished to marry the other when Lord Alfred died–and the change in formal betrothal arrangements to her marrying Lord Duncan were forestalled ten years ago upon Lord Alfred’s death. Lord Duncan should have married her five years ago, but neither he nor Lady Constance were sufficiently beyond their grief to do so. And now both families are pushing for both of them to settle the matter quickly.”
Lady Madeline: “How sad, and how worrisome. Your sister Lady Lizzie obviously does not know of these circumstances, or she would have told them to me when she was telling about her … admiration for Lord Duncan.” Lady Madeline cautiously chooses her phrasing.
Christian, Lord Sussex: Looking somberly in his sister’s direction at the other end of the table, Lord Christian replies forlornly. “No. And I feel responsible for the hurt that will come Lizzie’s way when Lord Duncan’s already betrothed state will be revealed.”
Lady Madeline: “Oh Dear! But can nothing be done—for Lady Constance’s and for Lord Duncan’s respective situations? Why must he wed her?”
Christian, Lord Sussex: “I do not know. But the betrothal is iron clad. It may prove to be mostly a promise of honor between the Ducal fathers. But men of their rank are known to be proud and unflinching. The fathers will never back down. And even if Lord Duncan and Lady Constance could break the betrothal agreement, who is to say that Lord Duncan would feel affections for my sister Lizzie and want to marry her?”
Lady Madeline: “You diminish Lady Lizzie’s prospects, yet I find her charming and lovely. Any man would be grateful to have such a wife.”
Christian, Lord Sussex: “I agree. But until you came into her life—our lives…” He tenderly smiles at Lady Madeline in amending his phrasing. “… –my sister had been quite recalcitrant about growing up and facing the prospect of marriage and family. So she does not have many friends in society. And she is so very young, you see.” Then he winces at what his remark might seem to imply.
Lady Madeline: “Yet Lady Lizzie is only a few months younger than I. Do you see me as being so very young? Too young to be married?”
Christian, Lord Sussex: He hesitates. “No. But I sometimes worry that you might feel we are rushing into marriage.”
Lady Madeline: She looks down at her hands in her lap. “No.” Her response is faint due to the air leaving her lungs with his question, because she dreads his answer to that very same question. “Do you want to be released from your promise to marry me.” She asks haltingly, her lips trembling.
Lord Christian: Taking Lady Madeline’s hands in his, he leans down to whisper into her ear. “No, My Dearest Darling, I do not wish to set aside our betrothal. Never!” He proclaims with a fervency that goes beyond his need for her dowry. And that both startles and pleases him. “But I do not want to make my own happiness at your expense.” Such solicitude about a relational partner is new territory for Lord Christian. “Please tell me that you do not feel that you are being rushed into marrying me—but only if it is what you truly believe.”
Lady Madeline: Gazing up at her betrothed through shining tears at his most heartfelt declaration thus far, Lady Madeline replies softly but resolutely. “My happiness lies with you, Christian—as your wife.”
Lord Christian: “Oh, My Darling!” Lord Christian passionately kisses her gloved hand, for that is all that is allowed to them in public—or in private, until they wed.
And a few heads with pleased smiles discreetly glance in the betrothal couple’s direction and notice the sincerity of affection between them.
Lady Madeline: Lady Madeline lays her other hand on top of Lord Christian’s hand and squeezes, then she says in an assuring tone. “All will be well. We shall support Lady Lizzie, come what may.” Lord Christian nods in agreement.
Lady Elizabeth Blount’s presentation ball evening and into morning proceeds delightfully. And the night continues on to be a great success for Lady Elizabeth Blount. She is well and truly launched into society now that her presentation ball is done. And her brother Lord Christian could not be more pleased. What suitors Lady Elizabeth’s presentation ball into society might bring her way is anyone’s guess. Lord Christian simply hopes that his sister will find a deep and sustaining love amongst them—as he is finding with his betrothed Lady Madeline. But first, Lady Elizabeth will have to sort out the suitors.
To be continued with Chapter 18
“Encouragement”, Ch. 17 References by Gratiana Lovelace, November 18, 2016 (Post #1002)
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) Image of Lady Madeline in burgundy gown with pearl and diamond jewels is Kate Winslet in 1997’s Titanic found at Pinterest
3) 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
Previous Blog Ch. 16 Story link with embedded illustrations: