[Illustrations: I cast my stories as I write them. So from time to time, I will illustrate my story with actors and such, including: Richard Armitage as Lord Edward Carlisle, Daniela Denby-Ashe as Lady Emily Creighton, Blake Ritson as Lord Kittredge Wells, Polly Walker as Lady Patience Creighton, Bill Nighy as Lord Nigel Creighton the Earl of Stoke, and others as noted.]
[Author’s Note: This original Regency romance is a work of fiction, and as such, any character names, scenes or other descriptions were made at the creative discretion of this author. And this is a gentle romance (G to PG-13), but with some frank discussions about love and marriage put to humorous effect. This is my disclaimer.]
Ch. 03: Becoming Reacquainted
After securing her as his dance partner for the next set at the Marshall’s Ball, Lord Edward the Viscount Carlisle invites Lady Emily Creighton, the daughter of Lord Creighton the Earl of Stoke, to take a turn about the room with him before their dance set. And he has learned his lesson from his first disastrous marriage, and he will not let wool gather upon his courting skills—even if Lady Emily is just practice for him.
And the smile of her Mama Lady Creighton cannot be contained. She envisions a beautiful wedding for her youngest daughter with the handsome Viscount Carlisle who will one day visit with her and Lord Creighton at their Earl of Stoke Park estate in Wiltshire with their future children, her hoped for grandchildren. Lady Creighton’s imaginings are running away with her, and there is not even a hint of an understanding between the two young people. Time will tell.
So as Lady Emily and Lord Edward walk away from Lord Kittredge Wells and her parents Lord and Lady Creighton, Lord Edward smiles agreeably down at her and pats her gloved hand curled around his arm.
Lord Edward: “Emmy, I wonder if there will be any punch left, considering the press of humanity here this evening.”
Lady Emily: “Yes, it is a bit of a crush.” Then she looks down at her ballgown’s full skirt. “And I suppose we ladies do not help the situation by our taking up more space than is necessary with our skirts.” I say sheepishly. “I miss the older gown styles of empire waists without layers upon layers of petticoats puffing me out.” She winces cutely.
Again, Lady Emily’s outspokenness–about ladies’ unmentionables this time, in the form of petticoats–is perhaps why she has not caught on with anyone yet. However, Lord Edward finds Lady Emily refreshing as he smiles indulgently at her.
Lord Edward: Maintaining a positive attitude, he suggests. “But your ladies’ ball gowns are so becoming on you. We gentleman could not begrudge you the space they inhabit.”
Knowing that he is not complimenting her gown–just ladies’ gowns in general—Lady Emily nods and smiles wincingly.
Lady Emily: “Thank you for being kind, Lord Edward. You always seem to know the right thing to say.”
Lord Edward: “I would disagree. I am woefully out of practice in conversing with young ladies, due to …” Here he stops. There is no need to tell her he is a widower–even though he is a reluctant one.
Lady Emily: “Yes, of course. I am so sorry. There, you see? I always say the wrong thing.” Lady Emily frets as she gazes up at him compassionately.
Lord Edward at six foot three inches tall is more than a foot taller than Lady Emily. So she is getting a crick in her neck straining to look up at him from her close prospect. And she wonders were they to find open seating around the perimeter of the ballroom, if she could suggest to Lord Edward that he sit, whilst she remains standing. Of course, people might think that Lord Edward was being discourteous were he not to remain standing in her presence—or that he has some infirmity. Whereas Lady Emily would hope that with a seated Lord Edward she might be able to look him directly in the eyes. And she gives an involuntary shiver to contemplate something so intimate as gazing directly into a man’s eyes.
Lord Edward: “Are you chilled, Lady Emily?” He asks solicitously. She shyly shakes her head no. Then he continues.” I would not say that you always nor necessarily do you say the wrong thing, Lady Emily. You complimented me. It is just that my situation lends itself to melancholy responses from people.”
Lady Emily: “Of course, about your wife dying.” She nods sympathetically and bites her lower lip. “It was truly tragic. You were married only four months and then she was killed in a carriage accident on the way to visiting her parents.” Lady Emily–like most people in society–has only heard the agreed upon revised story of Lady Edith Carlisle’s death, not the sordid abandoning her marriage and eloping to Scotland part of it.
Lord Edward: “Why do people say it like that, Lady Emily–as if my late wife was currently in the process of dying? Edith died, five years ago–end of story.” Lord Edward states his displeasure perhaps more brusquely than he intends and slashes his arm in an upwards motion to emphasize that—as if Lady Emily bears society’s burden of cloying sympathy toward him, merely because she is the most recent to give her condolences. And he wonders if he will never be allowed to forget that he is a widower?
Lady Emily: “See? I have upset you. And that is not my intention. I am sorry if I brought up a sad subject for you.” There is an awkward pause. “You must miss her very much.” Lady Emily states forlornly—knowing that she will have a difficult enough time competing to the living debutante beauties, let alone a dead one.
Lord Edward: “Hhhh!” He sighs heavily. He cannot say no because then questions would arise as to why not. “It is … complicated.” Lady Emily tilts her head in confusion and curiously gazes at Lord Edward—as if seeking his explanation. So he continues. “Yes, I was sorry that Edith died. But after five years, I need to move on with my life.”
Lady Emily: “Oh! So you wish to find a new wife?” Lord Edward gives me a curt nod. “Well I wish you every success, Edward. I imagine you will be fawned over by many a fine lady since you are tall and handsome, wealthy, and will soon be in the possession of an even older hereditary title when you become the Earl.”
Lord Edward: “Hmmm.” He murmurs in almost a growl, Lord Edward pondering the realization that she thinks he is handsome. “Emmy, Is that all that ladies care about these days? My wealth and my title?” And he wonders if that is all that Lady Emily cares about.
Lady Emily: “No, surely not. But Edward, you must avow that with respectable ladies rarely inheriting–and not allowed to be educated, nor to earn their living–what path to a full life with security is there, but to marry a man who meets such requirements?” Lady Emily stands up for her sex, for ladies are not weaker than men, ladies are merely unprotected by law and society.
Lord Edward: “And perhaps, gentleman have their requirements for a wife, too?” I look at Emmy sideways–which makes her singular eyebrow ridge less noticeable. She has a pleasing profile, and her skin is clear, she possesses all of her small and straight teeth, and she has a pleasing womanly curvy figure, he presumes, under the yards of fabric that is her voluminous pale pink silk ball gown–though, perhaps, she is a bit hippy. However, Lord Edward likes women with curvy hips. “Hmmm.”
Lord Edward and Lady Emily go on to banter back and forth about the rights of men and women–and the marriage mart–as they procure some punch, with Lord Edward’s punch cup containing spirits that Lady Emily’s cup does not. He needs to fortify himself for this evening if he is to find, woo, and offer for a bride. Lord Edward Carlisle does nothing by half measures. And Lord Edward’s credo is why delay disagreeable tasks until the morrow–and worrying about them incessantly–when the tasks may be dispatched with alacrity before the moon is high? Or something like that.
Then Lord Edward and Lady Emily finish their punches and their turn about the room and end up back with Lady Emily’s parents Lord and Lady Creighton and her cousin Lord Kittredge Wells, Lord Edward Carlisle’s good friend, just before Lord Edward’s and Lady Emily’s dance is to begin.
The Creighton’s and their nephew Lord Kittredge Wells have been conversing about all matters matrimonial. Namely Lady Emily’s pursuit of it, whilst delicately avoiding Lord Wells’ well known aversion to the notion. But they display bright smiles as Lord Carlisle and Lady Emily return to them.
Lord Kittredge: “Did you enjoy your punch, Emily?” His head shifts back and forth between his cousin Lady Emily and his good friend Lord Edward.
Lady Emily: “It was fine, Kitt. Nothing out of the ordinary. Except a bit …”
Lord Edward: “… warm.” Edward interjects and smiles down at Lady Emily. And the warmth from his spirits laced punch is loosening him up.
Lady Emily: “Yes, precisely, Lord Carlisle!” Now she smiles up at him realizing that when Lord Edward is relaxed—as he seems to be now—his smile makes him look even more handsome to her.
Edward: “Oh Emmy, let us dispense with formality. I have known you since you were in leading strings and I was still in school. Please address me as Edward when we are with your family.” Edward states in a friendly manner.
Lady Emily: “As you wish, Edward. But pray do not remind me of our age difference. I am no longer a child, you know. Ha ha ha ha ha!” Lady Emily playfully taps Edward’s hand covering her own on his arm with her delicate lace fan–much as she familiarly would with her cousin, Kitt. Lady Emily is not being flirtatious—per se–but others might not realize that when the exchanges between she and Edward are viewed from across the room.
Lady Creighton: “Now Emily, Dear, no man wishes to be admonished.” Emily’s mother admonishes her in a strident sing songy voice.
Lady Emily pouts at yet another of her Mama’s corrections. Lord Edward frowns.
Lord Edward: “Nor does a young lady, Madam.” Lady Creighton’s eyes bulge in offense at Lord Edward’s remark.
Lady Creighton: “Emily is my child, Lord Carlisle. It is my role as parent to correct her.” She states indignantly. Lady Emily blanches at her mother making a scene.
Lord Edward: “With respect, Lady Creighton, but at four and twenty, Lady Emily is no longer a child.”
And Lord Edward wonders if he is standing up for Lady Emily’s self respect, or does he just want to give the imperious Lady Creighton a set down. Both, possibly. And in his mind, Lady Creighton might be a Countess, but it is only through marriage to her husband Lord Creighton the Earl of Stoke. Whilst Emmy is a bloodline Earl’s daughter. And the Viscount Lord Edward Carlisle is heir to his Uncle’s Earldom.
Lady Emily: “It is alright, Lord Edward. Mama has only my best interests at heart.” Lady Emily tries to make peace.
Lady Creighton: “Yes, and until Emily marries and she becomes the mistress of her own household and is no longer under my roof, my daughter will continue to benefit from my guidance.” Lady Creighton says this so haughtily that one might say there is steam pouring out of her ears like a teapot.
Lord Edward: “Then let us pray then that Emmy’s deliverance from your oversight is soon, and that her savior husband is near to hand, Madam.” Edward does not like over-bearing mothers–not the least of which is that they are sure to become over bearing mothers-in-laws.
Obviously, the spirited punch is what is making Edward behaving so obstreperously. Lord Creighton and Lord Wells each take a measured step back, to stand well away from the fray—them knowing full well the ire that Lady Creighton can whip up into a rage in herself.
So Lady Emily is caught in the middle between her overbearing but cloyingly loving mother, and Lord Edward Carlisle—Lady Emily’s childhood dream of a husband. One is her past and present, and the other is her possible future. She yet tenuously clings to the one, whilst yearning to break free and seek her future.
Lady Emily: Taking her cue from the orchestra playing the prelude to their set, she beseeches. “Lord Edward, they are beginning to play our dance. Will you honor your promise and dance with me?” She asks him plaintively, but with a small hopeful smile.
Still feeling put out by Lady Emily’s Mama Lady Creighton, Lord Edward rises to the occasion in a most unexpected way.
Lord Edward: “I will do you better than that. I will marry you, Lady Emily.” Clumsy and awkward are not the best descriptors to have for one’s first marriage proposal—as either the one making the offer, or the one receiving it.
Lord Kittredge: “Edward!!!” Lord Kittredge exclaims incredulously—him being concerned for both his friend’s uncharacteristic pomposity, as well as for his young cousin’s feelings. Her parents are stunned.
And then a purposeful Lord Edward Carlisle whisks a startled Lady Emily Creighton onto the dance floor for a waltz, amidst the other twirling waltzing couples.
Lord Edward and Lady Emily waltz quietly, neither saying a word. They are both in too much shock by his unexpected and off hand marriage proposal to her in front of her parents. And they need a cooling off period.
In particular, Lady Emily’s mind is reeling with Lord Edward’s announcement to herself and her family that he will marry her. And it does not help that he is twirling her around the dance floor with an oh so intimate waltz—causing her thoughts to muddle with the closeness of him. Could Lord Edward have really just proposed to her, she wonders? Or was he just teasing her to goad her mother who was correcting her in front of him?
What have I done? Is a phrase reverberating throughout Lord Edward Carlisle’s brain. He realizes that though his proposing to a lady is momentous and should bring him joy, he feels like he might recapitulate the undigested dinner contents of his stomach onto the middle of the dance floor. His objection is not to the lady in question—Lady Emily Creighton–but with the ill conceived and spur of the moment offer that he made to her. And they barely know each other—as adults. Will they even suit each other? What must she think of him?
Before the waltz is even half done, Lord Edward knows that he must have a private talk with Lady Emily. So he steers them near the hallway entrance, and then he switches to taking her by the hand out of the ballroom. This unusual and highly irregular method of leaving a dance floor before the dance is finished does not go unnoticed by the ball attendees and her family. Lady Emily’s mother had already plopped down on a nearby chair as she fans herself quite animatedly. Kitt’s uncle Lord Creighton throws his nephew Lord Kittredge Wells a beseeching look to help resolve the situation. Lord Kittredge nods and goes off in search of his little cousin Lady Emily and his best friend Lord Edward.
Lady Emily is almost trotting to keep up with the long strides of the very tall and lean Lord Edward as he guides her down the hallway and out onto the back veranda–where the cool night air is both pleasing and a welcome jolt to her numbed senses. Dragging her to a secluded, but well lit corner–so that none could claim that an assignation was occurring, which would sully her reputation—Lord Edward drops Lady Emily’s hand and turns to face her. Her anxious face is bathed in the gentle moonlight, lending her countenance an ethereal quality–except for her singular eyebrow ridge.
Lord Edward: “Emmy….” He begins breathlessly, for Lord Edward does not know how to begin.
Holding up her hand to still his further speech, it is Lady Emily who now uncharacteristically takes charge and begins their conversation.
Lady Emily: “Edward, were you serious in offering for me, or did you simply want to annoy my Mama?” Lady Emily folds her arms across her chest and taps her foot in impatience. Damn and blast! She thinks. The first proposal she receives is so poorly done–and not probably still in force.
Lord Edward: “Perhaps both? I … I am not certain.” Edward wincingly gazes at Emily. He has botched this royally. “However, an offer of marriage was tendered by me to you. And I will stand by it.” He stands up tall and proud. Though secretly, he almost hopes that it will not come to pass. Then again, Lord Edward’s and Lady Emily as a marital pairing might not be such a bad idea, he muses.
Lady Emily: Finding an inner reserve of strength buried deep within herself, Lady Emily states her concerns forthrightly. “Edward, I promise all manner of treats to my dog so that he will be good and not chew upon the sofa pillows or mess on the carpet. But there is a limit to my promises–and so should there be for you.” Lady Emily pointedly gazes at Lord Edward—almost daring him to contradict her.
Lord Edward tilts his head slowly as he looks at Lady Emily with both confusion and embarrassment. Him wondering if he is the owner or the dog in her metaphorical scenario.
Lord Edward: “What are you saying, Emmy? That you do not wish to marry me?” Lord Edward asks a tad incredulously, despite the unbridled relief coursing through his veins. For he is a wealthy and handsome man, heir to an earldom—any lady would and should be swooning to accept him. Except it seems, the lady before him. And he is worried that Lady Emily’s misgivings, might be the harbinger of marital doom similar to his first wife’s rejection of him
Lady Emily: “I did not say that, and please do not take offense, Edward.” She pleads.
Lord Edward: “Then what are you saying?” He asks exasperatedly. Lord Edward wonders why ladies are so complicated to understand.
Lady Emily: “That your kind offer of marriage was so … spur of the moment. And I feel that I must weigh your proposal carefully enough for the both of us.”
Lord Edward: Glad not to be immediately affianced, his honor still requires him to stand by his offer. “Emmy, if you are uncertain as to the sincerity of my proposal of marriage to you, let me state that I am in earnest.” At least, he thinks, she would be his choice—unlike the last time he wed.
Lady Emily: “Thank you, Edward. You are being very gallant.” Lady Emily nods her head politely.
Lord Edward: “ But …?” There is always a but.
Lady Emily: “But you must own that an unexpected offer of marriage before the two of us have even had a chance to dance together and chat privately, is half part reckless and half part decidedly unromantic.”
Ah ha! Lord Edward now begins to understand some of Lady Emily’s reluctance for his suit.
Lord Edward: Frowning, Edward asks with astonishment. “Am I given to understand that you wish to be courted and wooed?” And he thinks that Lady Emily might be more of a spitfire than she has shown herself to prior to this point. And he perceives an underlying current of passion unleashed within her.
Lady Emily: “I do. It is perhaps greedy of me to seek a love match–seeing that I am four and twenty. But it has always been my fondest wish as a young girl, to marry for love.”
Lord Edward looks at Lady Emily in astonishment. Not only is she not letting him out of his offer of marriage, but she wants to direct the nature of their and his future communications! In his potential wife, he sees all the forcefulness of his potential mother-in-law in her. This is intolerable in Lord Edwards mind!
Lord Edward: “And you do not think that I love you?”
Lady Emily: “How could you? You do not know me.” She throws up her arms. Then she makes her case. “By your own admission, Edward, the last time you laid eyes on me I was in leading strings. That must have been more than eighteen years ago, when I was a child of six years.”
Lord Edward decides to retrench slightly–in the hope that a full withdrawal of his offer might soon be accomplished. No one wants a reluctant bride—least of all him.
Lord Edward: “And you wish to get to know me, now?”
Lady Emily: She nods. “Yes, Edward. But I do not wish us to be exclusively courting. You may interact with other young ladies and I will interact with other young men as you and I get to know each other better.” Though she has not interacted with other young men up to this point—her cousin Kitt does not count in her mind—perhaps her having part of a waltz with the handsome Earl in waiting might increase interest in her.
Lord Edward: Feeling slighted and rather miffed, Edward replies tersely. “Not acceptable! Were either of us to entertain other suitors, that would be a slight to the other. So if we are to court, we will be exclusive.” He simmers.
Realizing that she has botched this, but not knowing how to extricate herself–to get back to him proposing to her, something that she very greatly appreciates—Lady Emily feels almost desperate.
Lady Emily: “Please forgive me, Edward. I do not mean to offend you. But I am only thinking of you.”
Lady Edward: Narrowing his eyes in confusion, he regards her skeptically. “How so?”
Lady Emily: She blurts out. “Though you are widely considered to be god’s gift to womankind, the reverse has not been said of me. And I wish to give you time to consider whether you truly wish to become affianced to me–as much as I also wish to get to know you better.”
Lord Edward: Realizing that a demurral of her belief she is plain and unattractive is required, Lord Edward responds. “Not at all, Emmy. From the first, I noticed your pleasing womanly form, your fine complexion, good teeth, and sweet temperament.”
Lady Emily: “You did not mention what you thought of my face as a whole.” She stares at him. “I have often wished to thin out my eyebrows, but My Mama will not let me.” She pouts.
Lord Edward: Realizing he is caught, he confesses. “Well, you have good instincts there, Emmy.” She pouts. So he softens his phrasing. “What I mean to say is, that your sweet face is so petite and delicate, that thinner eyebrows might allow your pleasing countenance to be more fully appreciated.” He looks to her, and sees that her offense at his remark has lessened, but still lingers.
However, she regroups and Lady Emily smiles wanly, gazing up at Lord Edward hopefully. She is grateful for his proposal—and for his kind compliments about her physical attributes. But at the same time, Lady Emily is mindful that he has not, as of yet, spoken of any tender feelings toward her. And she feels that a loveless marriage between them–without even a basis of friendship to solidify it–will be doomed from the start. And marriage is forever.
Lady Emily: “Are you … unable to love again, Edward?” She asks sympathetically delicately.
Lord Edward: “I see. So is it my widowed status that gives you pause? Kitt had said that you would not mind it. But your skittish behavior makes me think otherwise.”
Lady Emily: “Oh no! You cannot help your wife dying in a carriage accident on the way to visiting her parents.” She states the standard story given out about Edward’s wife’s death–without the unknown to her of the scandalous elopement aspect attached to it.
Lord Edward: “No I cannot. Thank you for understanding.” He states quietly. Then he asks expectantly. “Then, shall I call upon you tomorrow afternoon for a carriage ride in the park, My Princess?” His eyes twinkle as he smilingly asks her with his tender childhood nickname for her upon his lips. And the promenade is de rigueur for courting couples.
Lady Emily: “You may. I would like that very much, My Prince.” Lady Emily smiles sweetly at him, after her also employing her tender childhood pet name for him.
And Lady Emily tries to reign in her excitement of being courted by the handsome and wonderful Lord Edward Carlisle–at least until she knows if he has any feelings for her.
To be continued with Chapter 4
References for the Introduction and Ch. 03 of “Seeking the Niceties of Marriage”, May 02, 2021 by Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1378)
- My “Seeking the Niceties of Marriage” story cover illustration is comprised of: a) ivory lace background with Grati edit, found at torrid.com; and a b) Victorian roses bouquet painting by the Boston Public Library, via Atlas Obscura (with some Grati edits ), found at https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/how-flowerobsessed-victorians-encoded-messages-in-bouquets; and with c) the text in deep pink coral in a Vivaldi font.
- Lady Emily and Lord Edwards hands clasping is my/Grati cap from North&South2004 17h08m07s171_Dec12, 2013 Grati-Cap-szd-brt-pink-dress-manip
Gratiana Lovelace Wattpad site for Ch. 03 of “Seeking the Niceties of Marriage”:
Previous SAL blog post #1377 link for Ch. 02 “Seeking the Niceties of Marriage”: