“Expectations” (Book 2)–Ch. 25: Tea for more than two,
July 01, 2019 by Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1242)
[an original Regency romance copyrighted by Gratiana Lovelace, 2018 – 2019; all rights reserved); [(1) story cover art, left]
[As is my custom, from time to time I will illustrate my story with my ideal cast consisting of (in order of importance/mention in this chapter): Lord Harold Blount (portrayed by Crispin Bonham-Carter); Lady Penelope Blount (portrayed by Lily Travers); Lady Lucretia Beckham Knott (portrayed by Maggie Smith); Lady Horatia Winston, Lady Penelope’s grandmother, and sister to Lady Knott; Lord Christian Blount the Earl of Sussex (portrayed by Richard Armitage) and his wife Lady Madeline Sinclair Blount the Countess of Sussex; Lady Elizabeth Blount (portrayed by Jessica Brown Findlay); and Lord Duncan the Viscount Lindsay of York (portrayed by Rupert Penry-Jones)]
Author’s story content and serializing scheduling notes: For the most part, my ratings for the chapters will be PG-13—for romantic interludes and dramatic moments. If you are unable or unwilling to attend a movie with these ratings, then please do not read that chapter. This is my disclaimer. And I always put the previous chapter’s brief recap at the top of the next chapter. Also, I hope to post new chapters weekly on Sundays or Mondays. I hope that you enjoy this chapter.
Ch. 25: Tea for more than two
With Lady Penelope Winston Blount [(2) below] finding her equilibrium returning after the solicitude of her husband Lord Harold Blount insures her comfort from her traveling during her morning sickness with a much needed respite in the soft downy mattress in their guest bed chamber’s large and comfortable bed at the Sussex Hall Dower House, and the ginger tea and toast that he had procured for her, she feels well enough to join her Grandmama Lady Winston, Great Aunt Lady Knott, and her husband’s Grandmother the Dowager Lady Sussex for a midday meal. So Lord Harold helps her out of their bed and summons her ladies maid to assist her with her toilette, even as he attends to his own ablutions before luncheon.
Despite her angelic countenance–of a creamy English rose complexion, blond silky hair and a charming ivory gown with pink ribbon rose embellishments–Lady Penelope is a little nervous at meeting Lord Harold’s Grandmama the Dowager Lady Sussex—let alone, the current holder of that office, her cousin and her new sister-in-law, Lady Madeline Blount, whom she only remembers as a child of eight. Lady Penelope is a shy lady of twenty eight–due to the restrictive nature of her previous husband’s the Earl of Lindquist’s treatment of her. But Lord Harold feels that once his dear wife Lady Penelope is enveloped in the love and kindness of their families, that she will blossom into her true self—as he had remembered her to be at her come out ten years ago.
And Lord Harold silently chastises him self for being too young then—him being only ten and five years at the time then, three years Lady Penelope’s junior—to have saved her from Lord Lindquist. But now that he has found and rescued Lady Penelope from that disastrous first marriage, Lord Harold resolves to love and cherish and encourage her the rest of his days as her loving and devoted husband.
Exiting his dressing room and into their bed chamber, Lord Harold collects his wife Lady Penelope for their luncheon with the old ladies, as he euphemistically refers to the grandmothers and great aunt.
Lord Harold: “You look charming, My Dear.” He sighs, bows, then lifts her hand to his lips for a tender kiss.
Lady Penelope blushes at her newish husband’s effusive praise of her—her still trying to accustom herself to being free from her confinement and the censure born of her first marriage.
Lady Penelope: “Thank you, … Harold.” She replies shyly. Speaking so informally in her mode of address to her husband is also a new liberty.
Lord Harold: “Say it again.” He smiles tenderly at her.
Lady Penelope: “Thank you?” She looks at him in slight confusion.
Lord Harold: “No, my name.” He voices with awe. “I have never before heard my name spoken in so welcoming a way as you say it, Penelope, My Love.” His voice is like a velvet rose brushing gently across her heart.
Lady Penelope: “Harold … Harold … my love Harold.” With each utterance, Lord Harold beckons her closer into his loving embrace. And she sweetly rejoices in the tender love that they share.
Lord Harold: “I have one favor that I might ask of you, My Love.”
Lady Penelope: “Anything!” She sighs.
Lord Harold: He adopts a countenance of sheer fright—a performance worthy of any stage actor. “Please protect me from your Great Aunt Lady Knott.” He trembles excessively, then he smiles at his jest.
Lady Penelope: “Well, with our marriage, she is also now your Great Aunt.” She also smiles in jest—feeling light hearted and hopeful for her happy future with her new husband.
And they laugh softly together in their shared amusement—them not wanting to attract attention from servants or others who might be listening in as they walk through the halls of the Sussex Hall Dower House to attend luncheon with the old ladies. For Lady Lucretia Beckham Knott is formidable—she is a tigress, but with a loving heart, once you get on her good side, that is.
Later in the afternoon, the now weary Sussex Village Faire goers in the Blount, Lindsay, and Knightsbridge families return to the Sussex Hall Dower House for tea to give them sustenance until dinner at the unfashionable country hour of 7 o’clock—and to hopefully meet their new sister-in-law Lady Penelope Winston Blount, Lord Harold Blount’s new wife.
The first to arrive are Lord Christian and his wife and Countess Lady Madeline—followed closely by Lord Duncan and Lady Elizabeth, by her brother Lord Christian’s express request. Lord Robert and Lady Gwendolyn plan to return their niece Lady Tamsin to Sussex Hall Manor and her parents and have tea with their parents the Dukes and Duchesses of York and Lancashire.
Lady Madeline can hardly wait until her husband Lord Christian stops their curricle before she nearly springs from the carriage and race into the Dower House to greet her cousin and now sister-in-law Lady Penelope. Lord Christian tries to call out to his wife to be careful, but she is unheedful of his concern for her being with child.
Lord Christian: “Madeline, wait! You must be careful of your delicate condition!” But she has already raced into the Dower House. So there is nothing for it but for Lord Christian to hand the reins of his curricle to a nearby waiting groom and to follow his wife into their home.
When Lady Madeline enters the Sussex Hall Dower House sitting room, Lord Harold and Lady Penelope stand to greet here—whilst the old ladies remain seated and nod their heads in the young Countess’ direction.
Lady Madeline: “Penny!” Lady Madeline launches herself at her older but shy cousin and embraces her caringly. Lord Harold beams for his wife’s warm reception.
Lady Penelope: “Maddie!” She responds as they embrace. Then Lady Penelope remembers herself and steps back from her cousin Lady Madeline, and curtsies to her. “My Lady Sussex.” She dips her head with reverent respect.
Lady Madeline: “Oh pooh, Penny! We are cousins and now sisters-in-law. We will not stand on ceremony among family.” Then Lady Madeline embraces her again.
Lady Penelope: “You are very gracious.” She smiles shyly at her cousin whom she hasn’t seen since her first marriage to Lord Lindquist ten years ago.
Lord Harold: Gently squeezing his wife’s hand, he encourages her with whispers meant only for her ears. “Truly, Penelope, Madeline and my brother Christian and my younger sister Lady Elizabeth are family. You have nothing to fear from them.”
Lord Christian walks into the sitting room and stands to the side of his wife, Lady Madeline.
Lady Madeline: “Oh, Penny! And this is my handsome, wise, and kind husband Lord Christian Blount, the Earl of Sussex.”
Lord Christian steps forward to greet his brother’s new wife with a bow and then he lifts her hand to his lips.
Lord Christian: “Lady Penelope, welcome to our family.” He states warmly to her.
Lady Penelope: She curtsies. “Lord Sussex. I am honored to be considered family. I wish you and my cousin Madeline every happiness.”
Lord Christian: “As we wish every happiness for you.” Then Lord Christian looks over at his younger brother. “Harold.” Lord Christian raises his left eyebrow in some skepticism—that his brother has finally set aside his own selfish pursuits in order to secure the happiness of another, Lady Penelope.
Lord Harold: “Brother!” He holds out his hand to his brother with a smile. Lord Christian takes the offered olive branch and shakes his brother’s hand. Then Lord Harold steps back to stand with his arm protectively and possessively around his wife Lady Penelope’s waist—which mirrors the usual close contact of Lord Christian and Lady Madeline when in company.
Then Lord Duncan and Lady Elizabeth join the ever increasing number of guests for tea this day.
Lord Harold: “My Love, please allow me to introduce my younger sister, Lady Elizabeth. Lizzie, my wife Penelope Lady Blount.” The two ladies curtsy to each other, then kiss cheeks. As new acquaintances, their greeting is cordial but not as effusive as between the cousins Lady Madeline and Lady Penelope.
Lady Elizabeth: “I am delighted to welcome you to our family, My Lady. I am glad to meet the woman who finally tamed my brother Harold.”
Lord Harold: “Lizzie!” He hisses.
Lady Elizabeth: “Oh hush, Harold. And Lady Penelope, may I introduce Lord Duncan the Viscount Lindsay, my betrothed?”
Lord Christian: “Hang it, Lizzie! Nothing has been settled yet.”
Lady Elizabeth: Jutting her chin up in defiance, Lady Elizabeth states calmly. “But it could be, Christy– if you would only accede to our request to marry in two weeks, before Lord Duncan has to return to oversee York Castle renovations. We want to have a short wedding trip week on our journey there.”
Lord Duncan blanches because he has not had time to broach this newly proposed wedding timetable with Lord Christian—in the hope of gaining his approval of the scheme.
Lady Penelope quietly looks between Lord Christian and his younger sister Lady Elizabeth, and her intended. Then Lord Harold enters the fray.
Lord Harold: “Shall we make it a double wedding, Lizzie? My Lady and I are to wed in two weeks per the Archbishop of Canterbury—as a means of solemnizing our earlier marriage in France three months ago.” It seems that the church of England does not recognize French weddings automatically.
Lord Christian begins to scowl for having his head of the family status usurped by his younger brother making arrangements without first seeking his approval.
Lady Madeline: “Christian Dearest, will you grant your blessing to your brother Lord Harold and his wife Lady Penelope, my cousin?” She pauses, gazing deeply into her husband’s eyes. He nods. Then she treads carefully. “And what of Lady Elizabeth and Lord Duncan?” She poses her question rather than making a direct request– in deference to her husband’s pater familial role with his brother and sister.
Lord Duncan: Bowing to Lord Christian, he requests belatedly. “Lord Christian, might you grant me an interview to discuss the potential for Lady Elizabeth and I to bring forward our wedding date—to accommodate the aforementioned renovations schedule?” Of course, Lord Duncan is wildly eager to make Lady Elizabeth his bride and wife in every way that a husband claims his wife. But it would be impolitic of him to mention his romantic yearnings to his love’s brother. Elder brothers rarely want to consider that their little sisters are no longer little—but a woman in her own right.
Lady Elizabeth: “Oh please, Christian. Might you also grant Lord Duncan and I your blessing for us to marry?” She pleads with her brother. With her being underage at just eighteen years, she can not enter into a legal marriage without her brother’s consent. And of what she knows of her often high handed older brother’s ways, she does not have an inkling of an expectation of his response.
The room is silent waiting for Lord Christian to respond.
Lord Christian: “Duncan, see me after breakfast at 9 o’clock tomorrow. You may make your case to marry my sister Lady Elizabeth then.” He states rather imperiously. But then, that is his due.
Lady Madeline: “Excellent! Now that that is settled, let us enjoy our tea.” She moves to a large settee and motions for the footman to bring in the tea trays with cups, tea, and small cakes. Then she beckons for Lady Elizabeth and Lady Penelope to join her on the settee. Lady Madeline will pour the tea into cups. Lady Penelope with add sugar and cream to each individual’s liking. Then
Lady Elizabeth will pass out the cups and saucers and cake plates.
Once everyone has their refreshments, they begin to sip and nibble eagerly. There is a small lull in the conversation. Then ever one to abhor a vacuum, Lady Elizabeth begins the conversation.
Lady Elizabeth: “So Lady Penelope, how did you meet my brother Harold? And what made you fall in love with him?”
At this point, Lady Penelope is sitting on an opposite settee with her husband Lord Harold. And she freezes, her not expecting to be asked to reveal so soon something so personal as to how she fell in love with her husband.
Lord Harold: Sensing his wife’s shy unease, he steps in. “Shall I tell our story, My Love?” Lady Penelope gazes up at him and gratefully nods her head. “Well, from my perspective, I saw her from afar ten years ago when she made her come out. She was a vision of poise, grace, and beauty. And I instantly fell in love with her. But then she married Lord Lindquist , who took her out of town, and then eventually to Europe.” Lady Penelope’s face blushes crimson at her husband’s telling of their story.
Lady Elizabeth: “That is so romantic! Love at first sight. Please tell us Lady Penelope, what drew you to my brother Harold? Have you loved each other all this time?”
Lady Penelope: “I did not actually know of Lord Harold’s interest in me at my come out. My parents had contracted my marriage to Lord Lindquist.” She states with some discomfort. Then a quarter not heard from yet speaks up—her grandmother.
Lady Winston: “That Lindquist match was disastrous! He wanted her only for her 30,000 pound dowry and then neglected her in every other way.” She states vaguely.
Lord Harold: “Yes, it wasn’t until four months ago when I went to Paris after my brother Christian had married Madeline, that I was so fortunate as to finally meet Lady Penelope.” In truth, Lord Harold had run away, to escape what he felt was a torment of seeing his brother’s marriage happiness, when he knew that his own happiness could never happen—with him being hopelessly in love with the vision from his past, Lady Penelope. Lord Harold’s amours had been attempts to distract himself from his unrequited love—but they did not, they could not.
Lady Penelope: Warming to their story, she adds. “It was truly serendipitous. I had been strolling along the river Seine with my Ladies Maid and a footman, when a strong wind gust ripped the veil I wore from my hat. I was frantic at being so exposed and forlornly watched as the wind lifted my veil over toward the river and into the back of a gentleman’s head.”
Lady Elizabeth: “Why did you wear a veil, Penelope?” She asks curiously. “Were you in mourning?”
Lady Penelope: “Why? Well, … I…” She falters. “It was required by Lord Lindquist that my face be hidden when I was out in public.”
Lady Elizabeth: “Even when you went to balls and assemblies?” She asks with incredulity.
Lady Penelope: Feeling anxious, Lady Penelope shakes her head. “I attended social functions but rarely. However, my husband allowed me a daily constitutional walk, if I … if my identity was hidden behind a veil.”
Lady Elizabeth: “But I do not understand.” She presses for more information—information that Lady Penelope cannot bear to provide.
Lord Harold: “Leave it, Lizzie.” He asks in a hushed voice. “It is enough to know that I was the gentleman that the wind carried her veil to. And when I turned around, her footman had walked over to me to retrieve his lady’s veil. She was turned away from me at that moment, and I did not know who she was. I was intrigued. So I declined the footman’s request, and I insisted upon giving the veil back to its rightful owner.” He gazes upon his love’s upturned face, her vulnerability for being imprisoned in a repressive marriage for ten years still weighs heavily upon her soul. He gently and reverently kisses her forehead. “But when I presented the veil to her, she turned around…And there she was, the lady I had loved from afar for ten years…standing before me…in the flesh.”
Lady Elizabeth: “Awww!” She sighs.
Lord Harold: “But she did not know me, we had never been introduced. And I was a mere boy when she had made her come out, and now I was a man. I doubt that she would have recognized me after ten years, even if we had met before. And as a man now, I sensed that something was wrong, terribly wrong—with her life. She would not give me her name—and I could not remember her married name of Lindquist. So I was at an impasse as to what I could do to be properly introduced to her. I tried to find her again the next day—hoping that she might take the same walk every day. But she did not go out for several days after that—worried that her husband’s spies would see her with me, another man. And it wasn’t until the Diplomatic Service Ball that the government hosted for foreign dignitaries and others such as myself who were just visiting, that I glimpsed her again, at her husband’s side. But given how skittish she was when we met inadvertently near the Seine, I could not risk alarming her by boldly striding up to her—with her husband nearby, no less. So I waited and watched her from across the ball room. Then the British Ambassador—whose son went to Eton with my brother Christian, noticed me and invited me over for a chat. Serendipitously, My Lady’s first husband Lord Lindquist also drifted over to the British Ambassador and I—with his wife upon his arm. But Lady Penelope only looked down at the floor or seemingly aloofly at one of the many floral arrangements adorning the buffet tables and columns around the ballroom.”
Lady Penelope: “And then the British Ambassador introduced Harold to … us… and I realized that he was the gentleman who had previously returned my veil to me. I had thought about him and wondered what sort of man would first insist upon returning the veil directly to me, boldly ordering my footman about–and then he was also a man who would not call me out as having met him before.” For if her husband had known that his wife had even had a brief innocuous contact with another man, he would have derided her mercilessly. And she winces at the thought.
Lord Harold: “Her beautiful countenance was wreathed in sadness and in pain. So I could not rest until I had found a way to be of aide to her. I had made discreet inquiries and listened to conversations about Lord Lindquist—finding out he was a gambler and owed many a creditor all over Paris. He was not held in any esteem nor regard. And his wife seemingly being a recluse was a circumstance that felt unsettlingly odd. The back of my neck prickled with awareness. And I felt that if I could not wrest her from this life that she would become even more miserable than she already was—or worse.”
Lady Elizabeth: “But how did you marry her if she was already married?”
Lady Knott: “That was a stroke of genius on Lord Harold’s part. He consulted a lawyer and learned of the French Lutheran grounds for divorce due to neglect and fraud. And he made Lady Penelope aware of her options when next they happened to meet on one of her walks.”
Lord Harold: “I had to free her from her loveless marriage—even if she didn’t love me. I wanted her to find some measure of happiness in life. And so after two weeks, her divorce decree was finalized—unbeknownst to her husband Lord Lindquist. And Lady Penelope was glad to be free, and I was glad that she was glad. But my funds were not fluid enough to provide her safe passage back to England—what with our capital being tied up in the coal mine venture. And she did not want to risk her husband’s wrath were he to find out that she had divorced him and she was trying to leave Paris and to leave him. So we bided our time for a few weeks—meeting secretly, making plans. And we fell in love. So one afternoon three months ago, I spirited her out of Paris to a small village parish and we were married by a vicar recommended by the British Ambassador. And then you know the rest. I came home, hoping that Christian could loan me monies to bring My Lady home. Yet in the interim, my enterprising Love Lady Penelope had had a note from her Grandmother Lady Winston with a story about her supposedly ill health. So miraculously, Lord Lindquist let Lady Penelope return to England for her Grandmother—since there was still a legacy to inherit from her.”
Lady Penelope: “Though Lord Lindquist had no funds to pay my passage. So I sold my Lindquist wedding rings—glad to be rid of them. And I traveled dressed as a servant with my Ladies Maid and my Footman back to England. And I wrote to Harold.”
Lord Harold: “And four days ago, I received her letter and raced to get to her at Dover, then I conveyed her to her Grandmother Winston with the help of my brother Christian’s carriage. And the rest you know.”
Lady Madeline: “Oh my Dear Penny! You have had such trials to face. Yet you have overcome them and look forward to a bright and happy future with Harold.”
Lord Harold: “I am blessed to have Penelope as my wife. And from this day forward, she will know only happiness and joy.”
Lord Christian: “What about her first husband, Lord Lindquist? Will he not try to win her back?”
Lord Harold: “We had been worried about that. Not that he could legally take her back, but that he would attempt to ruin our reputations.”
Lady Penelope: “But then when my Grandmother Lady Winston and Great Aunt Lady Knott visited the Archbishop of Canterbury on our behalf about recognizing the French Lutheran divorce decree, they found out that the point was moot. One of Lord Lindquist’s many Paris creditors became impatient about waiting for him to pay—and Lord Lindquist was found dead.”
Lady Knott: “So all that is needed is for Lord Harold and Lady Penelope to have an English wedding ceremony to solemnize their French wedding ceremony.”
Lady Penelope: “I do apologize for the upheaval that our marriage and flight to England has caused all of you, and we are greatly sorry for it.” She intones contritely.
Lady Madeline: “It is not your fault, Penny Dear.”
Lord Elizabeth: “I should say not.”
Lord Duncan: “And if you feel that your history is a complicated one, My Lady, just wait until you meet my long lost brother and his secret wife and daughter—who were only reunited yesterday.” He smiles broadly at hopefully puncturing the dear lady’s worries.
And again, Lord Duncan hopes that of the many vagaries of recent marriage revelations—including his brother Lord Alfred and Lord Christian’s brother Lord Harold—that he Lord Duncan and Lady Elizabeth are a rather tame betrothal pair by comparison, despite his yearning passion for her. So his interview with Lord Christian on the morrow will be the most important one of his life.
To be continued with Chapter 26
“Expectations” (Book 2, sequel to “Encouragement): Chapter 25 images for July 01, 2019 by Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1242)
- “Expectations” (Book 2, sequel to “Encouragement”) story cover art image represents Lady Elizabeth Blount, sister to the Earl of Sussex in black evening gown–is that of actress Jessica Brown Findlay as Lady Sybil in Downton Abby found at http://www.internet-d.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/38/2012/02/JESSICA-BROWN-FINDLAY-as-Lady-Sybil-Crawley.jpg ; the text font is Vivaldi.2. Lady Penelope Winston Blount is portrayed by Lily Travers—who appears on Victoria season 3 in 2019 as Duchess Sophie of Monmouth; the image was found at https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/specialfeatures/victoria-s3-new-cast-characters/
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