(An original Regency romance copyrighted by Gratiana Lovelace; all rights reserved) [(1) story cover, left]
[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, Hugh Griffith as Lord Christian’s solicitor Mr. Rittenhouse, 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: After Lord Christian and others tend to the feverish Lady Madeline all night long on her wedding night, her fever finally breaks in the early hours before dawn on the next day. Then she naps most of that Saturday. Lord Christian is relieved beyond words, but she will need time to recover.
“Encouragement”, Ch. 23 (PG-13, H, D): A Marriage in Question
Sunday is a day of rest. And Christian Blount, the Earl of Sussex is taking that meaning literally after the harrowing first night of marriage with his new Countess Lady Madeline’s severe illness kept everyone up and tending to her fevers and chills. The blessing that her fever broke and they had a quiet—and a still maritally chaste—Saturday spent cuddling, sleeping, reading, and more sleeping, helped in restoring their spirits.
But Lady Madeline is still recovering her strength from her illness on the Sunday after their Friday, February 23, 1816 wedding. And her virile thirty year old husband Lord Christian vows to be patient and to wait a few days until his nearly eighteen year old wife Lady Madeline is fully recovered, before seeking to initiate their loving passions in their marriage.
And though the newlyweds had sent notes to each of the Blount and Sinclair London family homes, that Lady Madeline is recovering nicely, for some of their relatives, seeing is believing.
Their first visitor sailing forth at eleven o’clock in the morning is Lady Madeline’s indomitable Grandmama Lady Lucretia Beckham Knott—who must have come directly from Sunday morning worship services, thinks Lord Christian as he notes the red wine upon her lips. He does not believe that the lady imbibes so early in the morning—not even for medicinal purposes. Ergo, Lady Knott must have been at Sunday Services and took communion.
After kissing her granddaughter Lady Madeline, Lady Knott assesses her new grandson-in-law sitting next to her granddaughter as they sit up in bed just after enjoying a late breakfast a deux. Lady Knott is a tad shocked at being received in so blithely unconventional a fashion—with them in their bed, though Lord Christian wears an open shirt and breeches as he sits above the covers—which excessively pleases the quite bemused Lord Christian. Yet the strains of two nights ago are still evident upon his countenance.
Lady Knott: “My boy? You look haggard.”
Lady Madeline: “Grandmama! Be nice, please!” Lady Madeline cutely admonishes her Grandmama while wearing her lovely negligee and penoir set again that her Grandmama gave her as a special wedding present.
Christian Lord Sussex: Whispering into his bride’s ear, he murmurs. “Do you think she is foxed on the communion wine?”
Lady Madeline: “Christian! Ha ha ha ha ha!” She giggles with her husband’s jest.
Lady Knott: “What did he say?” Lady Knott asks perturbedly.
Ever the peacemaker—even when recovering from ill health—Lady Madeline demures.
Lady Madeline: “Christian wondered if the communion wine was Scotch?” And Lord Christian gently presses his elbow into her elbow for her prevarication. Lady Madeline flashes him a knowing smile.
Lady Knott: “Hmmmm.” The elderly lady’s eyes narrow in observation.
Christian Lord Sussex: “Not to be ungracious, but what do we owe the pleasure of your company this morning, Grandmama?” He emphasizes her new role to him with his more intimate form of address.
Lady Madeline snuggles into her husband’s side as her eyes begin to droop. She still takes frequent naps.
Lady Knott: “Are you certain that you are alright, Maddie My Dear?” She asks in concern as she leans forward to get a better look at her still a bit pale granddaughter.
Lady Madeline: “Uh huh.” Lady Madeline sighs in the affirmative as sleep takes a stronger hold upon her.
Lady Knott leans back and raises a querulous eyebrow. Were her eyebrow not symmetrical, Lord Christian might almost think that her eyebrows movements signified some sort of elderly Lady code—one eyebrow lifted to question, two eye brows lifted in alarm, and so on, with pursed or not lips adding to the number of meanings she could convey.
Christian Lord Sussex: Now whispering to his new Grandmama, he suggests. “You will pardon us, but Madeline is napping again. She will likely be asleep for the next hour or so.”
Lord Christian pulls the coverlet up to Lady Madeline’s shoulders and kisses the top of her head. His audience with Lady Knott is over, and she leaves without rancor—satisfied that her granddaughter Lady Madeline is recovering from her illness. So Lord Christian gently extricates himself from embracing his wife and stands up from the bed to remove his outer garments before sliding into bed with Lady Madeline for his own nap.
After waking up again and enjoying a light luncheon in bed around one o’clock in the afternoon on Sunday, Lord Christian and Lady Madeline cuddle most cutely before she falls asleep again. She snuggles against his not quite bare torso—he is wearing a loose sleep shirt open halfway down the front. Lady Madeline is endlessly fascinated by her husband’s sparse chest hair as she twirls it around her fingers. And after a few inadvertent tugs on her part causing her husband to wince, Lord Christian captures her hand and brings it to his lips to kiss—each finger, lingeringly. Lady Madeline sighs, lays her hand back down upon his chest and she promptly falls asleep again. For his part, Lord Christian does not consider his wife’s ability to sleep so readily in his presence as damaging to his ego, but rather as evidence of her still recovering from her health ordeal.
With Lord Christian now feeling more fully rested than he had been on Saturday when he also took an afternoon nap, he carefully slides out of bed to let Lady Madeline sleep and rest whilst he sits on the window seat in their bed chamber, reclining slightly on some pillows, and reading the morning newspaper from yesterday, Saturday, whilst sipping some hot tea. As his eyes scan the business column, he finds most of it desultory—especially the agricultural predictions for the Summer season wheat crops.
Then turning the page, he gasps and sits up quickly, folding the newspaper to frame just the section that he is interested in reading. It turns out, that the seemingly played out Keeling-Waring mines up North have struck a particularly large concentration of coal that is worth millions of pounds per year—if not, triple that. Coal is used for heating, for powering the new steam trains, for cooking, for everything that makes their lives comfortable and productive. And, the Keeling-Waring mines were one of the previously considered unfortunate investments of his late Grandfather Earl.
Lord Christian quickly pulls the bed chamber bell cord for Ladies Maid Trask to sit with Lady Madeline for a few moments while he heads into his bed chamber to dash off a note to his brother Lord Harold. And Harold does better than merely reply via note himself, he and Lady Lizzie stop by Lord Christian’s and Lady Madeline’s love nest for tea around four o’clock Sunday afternoon—with each pairing meeting separately before coming together for tea.
Lady Madeline insists upon changing into a daytime gown for tea whilst visiting with Lady Lizzie, so Lord Christian and his brother Lord Harold meet downstairs in the study in the Sussex Family Hunting Lodge. After entering the study and closing the door, Lord Christian strides to his desk then turns to face his brother.
Christian Lord Sussex: “Well? Has Mr. Rittenhouse contacted me about the Keeling-Waring mines?”
Lord Harold: “I do not know if that is what his note is about, but note from him did arrive yesterday afternoon for you.” Lord Harold removes the sealed note from his coat pocket and hands it to his brother.
Christian Lord Sussex: Staring down at the note in his hands before opening it, he asks in annoyance. “Why did you not have this note forwarded to me yesterday? Did you not think a note from my solicitor was important?”
Lord Harold: “Before you go all high handed with me, Christy, I was not at home most of yesterday. And I had not read the newspapers—that is your past time, not mine. And another thing, you were on your honeymoon and had not requested the staff forward mail to you.”
Christian Lord Sussex: “Yes, well, but …” Lord Harold looks at him with annoyance. “Alright then.” Lord Christian concedes the point about timeliness. Then he quickly opens the letter and scans it. His eyes widen in astonishment.
Lord Harold: “What does it say?” Lord Christian wordlessly hands the note to him and he reads it. “My god! We are saved!” Then he looks up at his brother. “Christy, this means that with Grandfather’s stake in the mine, you didn’t need to marry Lady Madeline, afterall.”
Christian Lord Sussex: “Need, being the operative term.” Lord Christian smiles sanguinely.
Lord Harold: “Christy, if your marriage isn’t consummated due to Lady Madeline’s illness, you could simply annul your marriage.”
Christian Lord Sussex: “Harold!” He shouts at his brother in shock and consternation.
But Lord Christian does not get to make a further response to his errantly thinking brother. And, unfortunately, Lady Madeline and Lady Lizzie who had come downstairs in search of the brothers to have tea with them, overheard their exchange and she walks into the study to confront them. Lady Lizzie’s face is one of confusion, whereas Lady Madeline’s countenance shows shock and hurt registering on her still wan face.
Lady Lizzie: “Is this true, Christy? Our late Grandfather Earl’s mine investment makes us rich again?”
Christian Lord Sussex: “Yes, Lizzie, it would seem so.” He tosses off as he rushes to his wife Lady Madeline’s side in love and concern [(2) right] . “What are you doing out of bed, Madeline—or out of our bed chamber for that matter? You are still very weak.” He looks at her with concern, not knowing how much that she might have overheard
Lady Madeline: “I wanted a change of scene.” Lady Madeline states softly as she gazes at her husband with a mixture of hurt and uncertainty.
Christian Lord Sussex: “Let me help you back to bed, Madeline My Love. We can have our tea there.” And rather than delay the conversation that he knows that he must have with his wife, he pleads with his siblings. “Harold, Lizzie, would you mind terribly if we begged off having tea with you today? Madeline and I have much to discuss. You could come back tomorrow for tea.” He suggests.
Lord Harold: “Of course. And will you respond to Mr. Rittenhouse on Monday?” Apart from other considerations, Harold would be glad to see his stipend returned to its former higher level of allotment.
Christian Lord Sussex: “I will. Thank you both for coming. We will see you tomorrow.”
Lady Lizzie: “Maddie? Are you alright?” She notices that her friend and sister-in-law has gone very pale [(3) right] and very quiet.
Lady Madeline is wearing the palest of pink silk organza day dresses with a lilac bodice—with her reddish auburn hair cascading about her shoulders in haphazard waves. To Lord Christian, his wife Lady Madeline looks utterly charming and vulnerable.
Lady Madeline: “I am fine, Lizzie. Thank you for asking. Harold.” They both nod at her, then leave the study to return to London. Then Lady Madeline turns to her husband and he holds out his hand.
Christian Lord Sussex: “Come, Madeline. Let us discuss this news upstairs in our bed chamber where we can be comfortable as we have our tea.” He beckons to her and she takes his arm as they walk up the stairs.
After returning to their bed chamber, there is an awkwardness hovering between Lady Madeline and Lord Christian. Lord Christian knows that what he says in the next several minutes will determine the course of their lives—either together, or apart.
Lady Madeline sits on the sette at the end of their bed and Lord Christian joins her there.
Lord Christian: “There must be several questions running through your mind, but first let me share the good news that we have received today.”
Lady Madeline’s eyes glance curiously at her husband for continuing to use the term we, when her new brother-in-law Lord Harold suggested to him downstairs that he could dissolve their marriage. Lord Christian smiles and passes her the note from his solicitor Mr. Rittenhouse. The note is concise, detailing that the mine is worth several million pounds now, which will bring in an annual dividend of fifty thousand pounds per year to Lord Christian’s family as one of the Keeling-Waring mine’s investors.
Lady Madeline: “I am glad for you, Christian.” She states flatly as she returns the note to him.
Christian Lord Sussex: “Us, Madeline. This is good for us.” He stresses. He tries to embrace her to reassure her, but she reluctantly pushes him away.
Lady Madeline: “I heard what Harold said. That you would not have had to marry me for my dowry had this news been known earlier. He suggested that we annul our marriage.”
Christian Lord Sussex: “Yes well, as I have to say so many times, no one should give credence to what Harold says. He is an idiot!” He shakes his head.
Lady Madeline: “But was he correct about you not having to marry me for my dowry?”
Christian Lord Sussex: “That part is true.” He smiles. “I could have chosen you willingly.” Then he winces for his phrasing.
Lady Madeline: “Could have?” She looks warily at her husband of the moment.
Christian Lord Sussex: Taking her hands into his own, he requests. “Madeline, please do not parse my words. The salient point is that now my finances are as sound as anyone’s–and I am a better catch for you now.” He smiles encouragingly. Yet this is a point of male pride for him—to be the one with the greater finances.
Lady Madeline: “But would you have chosen me if you had known of your coming wealth, rather than your needing my dowry and future inheritance from Grandmama?” She is eerily calm in asking so bold a question, holding her breath for his answer.
Christian Lord Sussex: “Yes! As I told you, there were many heiresses I could have chosen—some with much higher dowries than yours. But Madeline, let me reiterate, you and I have connected on a deeper level of understanding than I had in previously done in conversing with any of those other Ladies. So I chose you. And wondrously, you chose me.” Lord Christian states sincerely.
Lady Madeline: “Oh?” She looks at him hopefully as she takes a sip of tea. Lady Madeline realizes that their engagement was a swift one born of a necessity of the Blount family finances. Yet her interest in and her love for Lord Christian is very real. But she wonders, how much does he love me?
Christian Lord Sussex: He sets his tea cup down. “Yes!” He replies without equivocation. “Madeline, you came into my life at a time when I needed shaking up–although, I didn’t realize it at the time.” He smiles in chagrin and she gives a small smile to him in return. “What this news of the coal mine investment means for us—and I do mean us—is that now, I, we, do not have the worry hanging over us of wondering which creditors will step forward this month to claim what is their due. It lifts a heavy burden from my shoulders, especially, to know that my sister Lizzie will be safe with a tidy $10,000 pound dowry that I can now bestow upon her.”
Lady Madeline: “I would have gladly agreed to supporting Lizzie via my dowry.”
Christian Lord Sussex: Squeezing her hand in his, he smiles. “And your generous and gracious spirit is one of the things that I love about you, Madeline, My Love.”
Lady Madeline: “Really, Christian? You love me?”
Christian Lord Sussex: “I do.” He grins. “And about 200 people witnessed me say that at our wedding, so it must be true.” He jests light heartedly. “Oh Madeline, we have our whole lives together to look forward to. Let us begin our marriage with love and hope and joy.”
Lord Christian smoulders as he kisses each of his wife’s knuckles, and then he turns her hands over and he lingeringly kisses each of her palms. Lady Madeline shivers with the tingles that his tenderness evokes.
Lady Madeline: Lowering her eyes shyly, Lady Madeline replies in a hushed whisper. “I want to—begin our marriage, Christian.” She blushes in replying to him nervously. “But I still feel so very weak from my illness.”
Lord Christian places his arms around his wife’s shoulders in a loving embrace as he sweetly and tenderly kisses her lips with his lips. He will temper his passion for now, for her sake.
Christian Lord Sussex: “And that is why we must be patient just a little while longer, My Love. We have the hunting lodge here for the next two weeks. We are in no rush to … well … to fulfill our marriage vows.”
Lady Madeline nods shyly. And then they each repair to their respective dressing rooms to change into their bed clothes. Madeline returns wearing an everyday off the shoulder cotton chemise that is empire waisted to support her amble bosoms. And Lord Christian has changed into his sleep shorts sans shirt. Then they each slide into bed to cuddle and to nap.
Yet Lord Christian realizes that he will still need to reassure his wife Lady Madeline of his continued love and tenderness. All the while tempering his very real passion for her—until she is well enough to receive his loving adoration.
To be continued with Chapter 24 (End & Epilogue)
“Encouragement”, Ch. 23 References by Gratiana Lovelace, December 28, 2016 (Post #1022)
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) Lord Christian is Richard Armitage as John Thornton in N&S epi4-pix425 found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode4/slides/ns4-285.html
Previous Blog Ch. 22 Story link, with embedded illustrations:
December 28. 2015–The link for Ch. 23 of “Encouragement” on my Wattpad site is:
December 28, 2016–Thanks for liking this story chapter post for “Encouragement”, Ch. 23! I’m glad that you enjoyed it! Holiday Cheers! Grati ;->
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