(An original Regency Romance story copyrighted by Gratiana Lovelace, 2021; All rights reserved) [(1) story cover below]
[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. 4: Plucking
The following morning after the Marshall’s ball, Lady Emily Creighton is astonished to find her rather fastidious cousin Lord Kittredge Wells attendant upon her in the Creighton’s cozy family parlor–or rather, he is attendant upon her eyebrow.
Lady Emily is wearing a rather plain light blue muslin morning gown—when her gown choice would have been light blue satin—or at least taffeta–if she had known that she would have a caller this morning. And Lord Kittredge is resplendent in his striking indigo suit with a fuschia waistcoat and cravat. The polished buttons and buckles upon his person gleam so well that the room is the brighter for them.
Lord Kittredge: “Now Emmy, be reasonable. That eyebrow thatch must be plucked if you are to make a serious effort to ensnare my best friend Lord Edward Carlisle into matrimony.”
Lady Emily: Pouting, she rebukes him whiningly. “I am not trying to ensnare anyone! Let alone, the sought after Lord Edward Carlisle! And he offered for me!”
Kittredge: “But you could, my dear—ensnare him, that is. Or shall we rephrase and say entice him? You just need to let me groom your eyebrows into two separate arches, such that they frame your pretty eyes more pleasingly.”
Lady Emily: “This is the first I have heard that I have pretty eyes.” She counters, suspicious that he is trying to flatter her into capitulation. And with his mention of her eyebrow last evening, Lady Emily wonders if Lord Edward had put Lord Kittredge up to tending to her eyebrows, plural, this morning.
Lord Kittredge: “Your eyes are pretty, Emmy. And you are pretty. But that single eye brow shelf is preventing everyone from seeing it. You are to ride with Edward this afternoon and you must make a good impression amongst the ton, if you hope to have his marriage proposal to you stand. In my limited experience, marriages are best made between parties who are similar—dispositions, ranks, and handsomeness or beauty. Edward is a strikingly handsome man. I believe that you have the first two, but ….” He does not finish his phrase, nor does he need to.
Lady Emily nods forlornly, for she wonders why should Lord Edward even look in her direction for his future wife? She believes herself to be plain, when it is truly the fault of her wretched eyebrow.
Lady Emily: “Kitt, do you really think I have a chance with Lord Edward?” She asks him wistfully.
Lord Kittredge: “I do. But it is a slim one, only while other ladies are still skittish about Edward’s widowhood–and the nature of it.” Then he claps his hand to his mouth in mortification. “But I have spoken out of turn.”
Lady Emily: Lady Emily eyes her cousin with a shrewd squint. “What do you mean … the nature of it?”
Lord Kittredge: “It is not for you to worry about, Emmy.” He states eyeing her eyebrow with his tweezers poised between his fingers.
Lady Emily: “Kitt, If I am to let you pluck my eyebrows, you must tell me all.”
Lord Kittredge: “Blast it, Emmy! I cannot break my promise to Edward!”
Lady Emily: “Then my eyebrow stays as it is.” She folds her arms in front of herself and clamps her mouth shut in a firmly sealed closure that even a defensive clam would admire.
Lord Kittredge: “Alright! I will give you a tidbit. But do not repeat it. And under no circumstances are you to relate to Edward–or anyone–that I told it to you.”
Lady Emily: “Very well.” Emily settles herself on a chair at the sunny window of her bed chamber as her cousin commences plucking. “Ouch!” Lady Emily jerks back with the pain of her eyebrow being plucked.
Lord Kittredge: “Oh, be still you goose! It is not like individual eyebrow hairs are feathers.”
Lady Emily: “Well?” She prods for details.
Lord Kittredge: “Hhhhh! Edward’s marriage was not a love match–it was arranged, as most aristocratic marriages are.”
Lady Emily: “Of course.” She nods her head a bit in acknowledgement.
Lord Kittredge: “Do not move, Emmy.” He gently holds her head steady while he plucks. “But that is not to say that his wife was not in love ….” He lets the implication hang in the air.
Lady Emily: “Oh! She loved another! Poor Edward!” She moans in distress for Lord Edward’s plight.
Lord Kittredge: “You said it! I did not!”
Lady Emily: “But what does Edward’s wife loving another have to do with her death?” Then her eyes widen in horror. “You cannot mean ….”
Lord Kittredge: “No! No no no! Edward had nothing to do with his wife’s death. He had not even found her note saying that she was leaving him for another before the bailiff came to inform him of his wife’s carriage accident and death.”
Lady Emily: “How awful for Edward, the poor man.” She frets caringly.
Lord Kittredge: “Do not pity him, Emmy. Edward hates that.” They share a nod of sympathetic understanding. “And, he has been alone—without companionship–for five long years. I am surprised that he has lasted this long—given his previous masculine romantic pursuits.” He states alluding to Edward not having any romantic assignations to assuage his base needs for the past five years. But of course, Lady Emily being so sheltered, she takes her cousin Kitt’s statement more literally.
Lady Emily: “I understand being alone. When my sisters married and moved to their new homes, I was left alone with Mama and Papa. And though I appreciate their concern for me ….”
Lord Kittredge: “It can sometimes be quite vexing.” He smiles knowingly. “There, all done!” He says with a flourish.
Lady Emily: “Oh? That was quick, Kitt.”
Lord Kittredge: “Now Emmy, I have only just started by removing the center eye brow thatch to give you two distinct eyebrows. Finishing shaping your eyebrows will have to happen on a future visit. I am quite exhausted.” He plops in a nearby chair and rubs his back after leaning over her in an awkward position whilst plucking her center brow thatch for a quarter hour.
Lady Emily: “Ooh! Let me see!” Emily hops up and races over to a mirror above the small hearth in this small room–looking this way and that at her face and new eyebrows. “Oh.” She pouts disappointedly.
Lord Kittredge: “What? I gave you two eye brows. What more do you want?” He looks at her askance.
Lady Emily: “But you said my eyes were pretty, Kitt. My eyebrows are still thick and unflattering. I should like to be pretty for Edward and our carriage ride this afternoon. Will you not finish shaping my eyebrows before you leave this morning?” She looks up hopefully at her cousin.
Lord Kittredge: “Emmy? You want to be pretty for Edward?” She nods shyly. “Do you want him to marry you?” His eyes widen in realization of his cousin Emmy’s tender feelings toward his best friend Lord Edward.
Lady Emily: Lady Emily blushes crimson. “He and I must get to know each other properly first. But yes, I think it would be very pleasant being married to Edward.” She smiles faintly, while gazing at the ceiling.
Lord Kittredge: “You understand that Edward will want a real marriage?”
Lady Emily: “Of course. What other kind of marriage is there?” She asks naively.
Lord Kittredge: “The kind where wives run away before the marriage is consummated.” He looks at her pointedly.
Lady Emily: “Consummated?” She asks quizzically. Her Mama has not had the talk with her yet–no need.
Lord Kittredge: Searching for the words to delicately convey his meaning, he forges ahead. “Marital consummation is when a husband and wife lie abed with each other and …. kiss and caress each other, achieving a oneness of being with each other.”
Lady Emily: “A oneness of being.” She repeats dreamily. “That is so poetic. I think I should like to be one with Edward.”
Lord Kittredge: Looking at his younger cousin in alarm, even he now admonishes her. “Do not repeat what I just said. You are liable to either repel Edward’s suit, or ….”
Lady Emily: “Or?” She asks curiously.
Lord Kittredge: “Or, precipitate his eager interest in you overwhelming his decorum—thereby needing to advance the wedding such that he will want to marry you next week.”
Lady Emily: “Ohhh! Edward and I marrying next week will be fine! I should be in good humor then, and enjoy becoming married.”
Lord Kittredge: “Why will you be in good humor next week?” He asks obtusely.
Lady Emily: “Because my courses will be over–they came this morning, and I am always in a bit of a stew when I get them. And I have tummy aches, too.” Lady Emily’s lips pout cutely.
Clapping his hands to covering his ears, Lord Kittredge also clamps his eyes shut. And his face turns several shades of red in embarrassment at his cousin Lady Emily revealing something so private and so personal about herself as a woman.
Lord Kittredge: “La, la, la, la, la! Good Lord, Emmy! Have you no thought to ration your private details that you share with others? I had hoped to live my whole life without knowing about any lady, what you just told me.”
Lady Emily: “Well surely, Kitt, when you marry, you will know of such things about your wife. Will you not?” She asks innocently. To Lady Emily, her well groomed, fastidiously dressed, and charming cousin Lord Kittredge Wells is a delightful companion. She does not have an inkling about his lack of matrimonial wishes.
Kittredge: “That is a discussion for another day, My Dear Emmy! Now let me tackle shaping those eyebrows.” He sighs with some exasperation.
Then Lord Kittredge spends the next twenty minutes or so expertly shaping his cousin Lady Emily’s eyebrows into finely arched blue eyed orb frames of delicately feathering perfection.
Later the same day–after her cousin Lord Kittredge Wells had plucked her eyebrows into submission this morning–Lady Emily Creighton began to feel a throbbing pain overtake her forehead. It is not a head ache per se, as much as it is a soreness in her eye brows region that was brought on by her having too much eyebrow plucking at one sitting. Her brow line and the bridge of her nose are also red and slightly puffy. So Lady Emily lies fussily on the formal drawing room couch with a frequently changing cold compress upon her forehead and a maid sitting nearby handing her a newly cold cloth after dunking it in ice water and wringing it out for her.
Lady Emily is bereft. How may she go on a carriage ride with Lord Edward this afternoon when she looks like she has been beaten–and she feels worse? And her present state of discomfort is all due to her cousin Lord Kittredge Wells’ pursuit of creating perfect eye brows plural for her. But at least dampening fresh cloths in ice water and then laying them upon her forehead and brows is helping the swelling to go down.
And she had changed into her becomingly pretty light blue taffeta gown, just in case she were to see Lord Edward today—even if only to beg off for their planned carriage ride. Though she hopes that he will be agreeable to rescheduling their carriage ride.
Knowing none of her travails, Lord Edward Carlisle deftly maneuvers his small open gig carriage into parking in front of Lord and Lady Creighton’s London townhouse–in anticipation of his and Lady Emily’s carriage ride. Then Lord Edward jumps down and hands the reins to a waiting groom and he bounds up the steps of Lady Emily’s home–rapping the brass knocker three times. He is actually looking forward to his and Lady Emily’s little outing–her singular eyebrow not withstanding. For he reasons that if other eligible women see him promenading with a lady that they might be inclined to accept his offer of a carriage ride in the future.
Oh yes, Lady Emily Creighton might not be his most attractive carriage ride partner, but she is agreeable. And she will help him usher in his smooth reentrance to society–and courting a lady with the thought of marrying her. And Edward uncharacteristically carries with him a small nosegay of pink roses to give to Emily as a small thank you to her for agreeing to take a carriage ride with him. And in truth, Lady Emily being seen on a ride with Lord Edward Carlisle, heir to Earldom of Oxford, will raise her standing among eligible men as well.
As Lord Edward is guided into the spacious Creighton’s townhouse foyer by the butler, Lady Emily’s mother comes forward wringing her hands. She had only just gotten over being miffed by Lord Edward’s insult at last night’s ball—she has an understanding husband in Lord Creighton who knows how to tactfully handle her vagaries—then another problem arises with her daughter Lady Emily.
Lady Creighton: “It is good of you to come, Lord Carlisle. But I fear that our Dear Emily feels too unwell to accompany you on a carriage ride today.” She frets.
Lord Edward: “Oh? Why ever not? She seemed fine last evening?” He bristles and wonders what subterfuge Lady Emily’s mother is playing at now.
Lady Creighton: “And she was fine this morning. Oh no! It is all her cousin Lord Wells fault.”
Lord Edward: “Kitt? How is he to blame?” Lord Edward asks in confusion.
Lady Creighton: Sighing resignedly, she explains. “Hhhh! It seems that he convinced my Dear Emily to allow him to pluck her eyebrows for her. And he plucked her so much that she is sore, puffy, and red from the ordeal.”
Lord Edward knows that only eyebrow plucking went on between the two cousins. But he avows that with another gentleman–and in another context–Lady Creighton’s words would be entirely misinterpreted, to Lady Emily’s ruination.
Lord Edward: “That is most unfortunate. May I be allowed to at least see Lady Emily?” Edward twirls the nosegay between his very large thumbs. “Perhaps my offering of flowers might cheer her spirits.”
Lady Creighton: “You are so kind. And normally I would not recommend it.” She coyly demures. “But since you are such an old and dear friend of the family, I think that we may dispense with sensibilities for one day.” Lady Creighton states as if she were granting him a particular favor–that she will expect to collect upon later.
And Lord Edward thinks that Lady Creighton dispenses with sensibilities every day.
Lord Edward: However, he maintains his decorum. Bowing, he says courteously. “I thank you, Madam. Now please let me to her.”
They turn and walk down the long hallway to the smaller drawing room at the back of the townhouse–the family parlor that is well used and effuses a comfortably worn in look artfully accomplished by a haphazard disarray of objects abandoned about the room—a knitting bag with a scarf project within, a chess game left mid play, various books strewn about, and flower patterned pillows adorning every seating option of chairs, settees, ottomans, and such.
And in the center of that room lies a fetchingly light blue taffeta gown attired Lady Emily upon an ivory colored velvet chaise longue, with her eyes closed and a cloth over her forehead—with only her trembling lips in pain showing. Seeing only Lady Emily’s quivering lips displayed for his view quite undoes Lord Edward as he instantly goes to her side and kneels down beside her in deep concern and he takes her small hand in his large hand.
Lord Edward: “Emmy, you look quite unwell. Should we send for the doctor?”
Lady Emily: “Edward? Is that you?” She asks through a haze of pain.
Lady Creighton: “It is Lord Carlisle, Emily Dear. He has come to call for you for your carriage ride–which you will now have to postpone.”
Lady Emily: Trying to sit up, she removes the latest cold cloth from her forehead and looks intently at Edward. I am not so bad. The pain is less now. Perhaps we can venture once around the park?” She asks hopefully. Lady Emily does not want to miss out on her carriage ride with Lord Edward—her fearing that he will not ask her again.
However, Lord Edward is struck by Lady Emily’s feminine countenance [(2) right] before him. The eyebrow plucking has, indeed, altered Lady Emily Creighton’s face to one of a very pleasing prettiness. Apart from her blue eyes now shown to advantage, her heart shaped face is charming. And her rosey red lips look so inviting to Lord Edward. Then he notices the slight strain in her eyes.
Lord Edward: “Emmy, you should not over exert yourself. I can see that you are in great pain, though you strive so valiantly to hide it. We will wait for a day when you are feeling better for our carriage ride. Perhaps tomorrow.”
Lady Emily: “Do you mean that, Edward? Are we to still have our carriage ride together?”
Lady Emily looks so innocently hopefully at Lord Edward that he is momentarily speechless, so beguiled is he.
Lord Edward: “I do.” He affectionately squeezes her hand in his. Then he holds out the nosegay of small pink roses to her.
Lady Emily: “For me?” Emily sniffs the pretty pink roses and she smiles broadly, unfortunately, then she winces–for her smile inadvertently caused her to crinkle her red and puffy forehead. “Ow.” She squeaks meekly and lies back down again.
Lord Edward: “Dear Emmy, may I be of service to you in any way?” He asks sincerely.
Lady Emily: “Might you just talk to me Edward? Your deep voice is so soothing.” The maid exchanges Lady Emily’s now warm forehead cloth, for a cool one fresh out of the ice water basin.
Lord Edward: “If you like. And perhaps I can hand you your cold cloths and let this maid get about her duties.”
Lady Creighton: Still hovering in the background, Lady Creighton objects. “Oh no, Lord Carlisle. Lady Emily must be chaperoned with you at all times.”
Lord Edward: Inwardly fuming at the intimation that he would forget that he is a gentleman and ravish Lady Emily on the spot, Lord Edward responds through gritted teeth. “Madam! I am hardly going to ravish Lady Emily.” Then he sees Emily’s mouth droop. And he realizes that his remark might sound a tad insulting to Emily. So he amends his vow. “At least, not today anyway—when she feels so poorly.” Lady Emily’s lips curl slightly upward at the corners.
Lady Creighton: “Well, really!” Lady Creighton huffs indignantly and leaves the room–with the door intentionally left wide open as she beckons to the maid to follow her.
Lord Edward sends a prayer of thanks to the deity for Lady Creighton’s swift exit from the room. Then he stands up and positions himself in a chair near Lady Emily’s head–at the ready with a new cold compress.
Lady Emily: “Thank you, Edward. I have never had myself referred to in any way remotely connected to being ravished before.” She whispers impishly. And, of course, the very innocent Lady Emily does not know what ravishing her—by him—would entail.
Lord Edward: He bursts out laughing in a big booming voice. “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Oh Emmy! Despite your being in pain, you can still maintain a cheerful attitude.”
Lady Emily: “I am trying to think of the bright side of my suffering.”
Lord Edward: “Which is?” Edward asks with a bemusedly raised eyebrow.
Lady Emily removes her cold cloth from her forehead again, turns on her side on the couch facing Edward, and clutches his hand resting on his knee. Lord Edward’s eyes widen in astonishment–not the least of which is because Emily Creighton’s womanly charms are given a little boost by this change in position, and he can see right down the front of her bodice. And Edward is a man–a man who has not lain with a woman in five long years. He gulps as his poorly timed masculinity exerts itself in his trousers whilst he is in the company of a lady.
Lady Emily: “Well, Kitt said that even if nothing romantic came of you and I getting to know each other again, that we could still help each other in finding suitable matches. I am willing to help you. Are you willing to help me?”
Lord Edward: “What?” He asks distractedly [(3) right]. With Lady Emily now being not dog faced anymore, friendly to the point of delightfulness, and femininely blessed, Edward finds himself becoming even more unsettled in her presence—but in a good way.
Lady Emily: “Helping each other? Are you alright, Edward?” She asks solicitously.
Lord Edward: “Kkhhh! I am perfectly fine.” He coughs then nods while casually laying his arm across his lap as he leans forward–thus concealing his embarrassingly aroused condition from her notice. He hopes.
Lady Emily: “Oh! You needn’t feel embarrassed by your discomfiture.” She smiles pleasantly.
Lord Edward’s eyes widen. And he wonders if Emily has seen his … ah, …response to her that he is so furtively trying to hide.
Lord Edward: “Discomfiture?” He asks wincingly, his voice cracking. Really, this is most embarrassing.
Lady Emily: “The chair that you are sitting on was not made for such a big strong man as yourself. You look most uncomfortable.” Emily lies back down, closes her eyes, and puts the cold cloth back upon her forehead. “If you want to move the large wing chair in the corner over to here for a more comfortable chair for you to sit in, you may.”
Lord Edward: “Ahhh!” Edward sighs relievedly. “Yes! Thank you! I will do that.” Edward stands quickly and exchanges the placement of chairs before sitting back down again—this time onto a truly man sized wing chair.
Lady Emily: “That’s better, now isn’t it?” She smiles, still with her eyes closed.
Lord Edward: “Indeed!” Edward smiles cheekily. “What do you want me to talk about to you, Emmy?”
Lady Emily: “Ohhh! Just talk. Tell me of your childhood, or your home, or even what qualities you want in a wife. If I am to help you find a wife, I must know your requirements.”
Lord Edward: “I will have to think upon that last one. I have not given it much thought.”
Lady Emily: “Fie, Edward! Everyone has an idea of what they want in a marriage–and in a spouse.”
Lord Edward: “If that is true, then what do you want in a husband and marriage, Emmy?” He purposely deflects her question to him, by putting the question to her.
Lady Emily: “Oh Edward. I want what I presume most ladies want.”
Lord Edward: “Position, wealth, prestige?” I ask cynically.
Lady Emily: “No, silly!” She chides him. “I want love–to be loved and to give love. I want someone who will encourage and nurture me, as I will do for him. And I want our children to be the loving expressions of a romance so tender that we are never apart from each other.” Lady Emily blushes for the loving context within marriage that she seeks.
Lord Edward: “Well! You ask for a lot!” Lord Edward blanches as he wrings out a cold cloth and exchanges it for Emily, placing it gently upon her forehead over her eyebrows.
Lady Emily: “Hhhh! Thank you, Edward.” She sighs for the soothing cooling of the cold cloth. “I want love–the rest will follow naturally.”
Lord Edward: Considering her thoughts on romance, Lord Edward replies sincerely despite his own growing, but as yet uncertain, feelings about Lady Emily Creighton. “I hope that you find it, Emmy.”
Lady Emily: “I know I will find love. And I know you will, too, Edward. There is someone out there for each of us. We just have to open our hearts to them.” And if only you will open your heart to me, Dear Edward, Lady Emily muses.
To be continued with Chapter 5
References for Ch. 04 of “Seeking the Niceties of Marriage”, May 08, 2021 by Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1380)
- 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 Creighton‘s upturned face with newly plucked and shaped eyebrows is Grati’s manip of two images: Daniela Denby-Ashe in N&S 2004 Epi417h49m20s188_Nov1013GratianaLovelaceCap-crop-Brt; and the light blue (color made-iridescent blue by Grati) taffeta gown image background fabric sample was from the history and uses of taffeta found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taffeta
- Lord Edward Carlisle image is Richard Armitage in N&S2004 epi1-029Oct1913ranet-Grati-crop2-brt, was found at RichardArmitagenet.com in the Gallery, under North & South (2004)
Gratiana Lovelace Wattpad site for Ch. 04 of “Seeking the Niceties of Marriage”:
Previous SAL blog post #1378 link for Ch. 03 “Seeking the Niceties of Marriage”: https://gratianads90.wordpress.com/2021/05/02/seeking-the-niceties-of-marriage-ch-03-becoming-reacquainted-may-02-2021-by-gratiana-lovelace-post1378/