(An original Regency Romance story copyrighted by Gratiana Lovelace, 2021; All rights reserved) [(1) story cover below left]
[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. 7: The Henderson Ball
To aver that Lady Emily Creighton is nervous as she and her family ride in their enclosed carriage Friday night to the Henderson Ball, would be a vast understatement. She had not been able to convince her cousin Lord Kittredge Wells of the unsuitability of the bosom revealing gown that he had selected for her to wear. Nor would Lord Wells allow its alteration for some discreet lace or tulle coverings across her bosoms.
So Lady Emily not only feels that her gown is scandalous, but that she is likely to fall ill from the amount of her chest skin being revealed tonight causing her to contract pneumonia. Though it is true that she is baring no more cleavage than any other lady of her acquaintance—with charms as ample as her own. It is just that Lady Emily is shy–except her bosoms on display tonight seem to belie that notion.
As Lord Edward Carlisle rides in his own private carriage to the Henderson Ball, he has much on his mind. Not the least of which is the growing attractiveness of one Lady Emily Creighton. The eyebrow surgery that his best friend and her cousin Lord Kittredge Wells performed to create two perfectly arched eyebrows for Lady Emily transformed her countenance into one of delicate beauty. And in Lord Edward’s mind, far too many gentlemen are taking notice of her beauty–namely Reynolds and Wentworth whom he and Lady Emily happened to meet on their carriage ride yesterday.
And Lord Edward is kicking himself for not offering to bring Lady Emily with him tonight—or at least that he join them in their carriage. She could be already at the Henderson Ball–and beset with all manner of unsuitable suitors, including the aforementioned Reynolds and Wentworth. Lord Edward has nothing particularly against those two gentlemen, other than that they are marital competition for him with Lady Emily. And a gentleman—such as Lord Edward Carlisle—is never so much more interested in a lady when he has competition for her.
So as soon as Lord Edward arrives and looks around the elegantly appointed Henderson Ballroom–with ivory silk window drapes, chandeliers glowing from the expensive bees wax candles, and the elegant lords and ladies in attendance–he spies Lady Emily surrounded by a flock of gentlemen–including Sir Joshua Reynolds and Major Palmer Wentworth—her erstwhile future dance partners. Then he notices his best friend Lord Kittredge Wells–Lady Emily’s cousin–and he walks over to him.
Lord Edward: “Kitt! Do my eyes deceive me, or is Lady Emily suddenly the focus of every males’ attention tonight?” I ask incredulously.
Lord Kittredge: “It is a triumph! Dear, sweet, shy, and unassuming Emmy is the belle of the ball!”
Lord Edward smiles indulgently at his friend Lord Kitt. Then the sea of men part for a few moments and he catches of glimpse of the very beautiful Lady Emily–and her bosoms in her revealing gown [(2) above middle left]. Lady Emily is a vision, a goddess, and the woman whom he wants in his bed, right now. Lord Edward’s masculine nature—as Lord Kittredge Wells so euphemistically refers to it—is definitely attuned to Lady Emily’s feminine allure. And Lord Edward decides to stake his claim to the lady and he strides over to Lady Emily and her bevy of admirers.
Lord Edward: “Excuse me, gentlemen. But the Lady and I are engaged for this dance.” Lord Edward’s wording is precisely chosen, and he gazes smoulderingly at her.
Lady Emily: Lady Emily looks up into Lord Edward’s eyes and she is mesmerized by his handsomeness [(3) above middle right]. “Yes, thank you, Edward.” Is all that she manages to say as she slowly and gracefully gives him her gloved hand. He kisses it lingeringly–her hand, that is. The other men disperse–with vows to return to claim her for their dances later, for Reynolds and Wentworth.
Lord Edward: “You are beautiful, Lady Emily.” Lord Edward’s deep velvety voice vibrates with longing as he waltzes her around the room. And Lady Emily trembles with maidenly modesty in his arms.
Lady Emily: “You flatter me too much, Lord Edward.” She smiles shyly up at him.
Lord Edward: “My inadequate words cannot begin to describe how mesmerizing you look tonight, Lady Emily.” His full throated admiration of her this night is entirely sincere.
Lady Emily: “It is the dress.” I nod knowingly. “I fear were I not in it, you might feel otherwise.” But she sees him smile at her remark.
Lord Edward: “On the contrary, were you not wearing this gown, I fear that my gentlemanly restraint would be quickly vanquished as I expressed my adoration of you in more tangible ways.” I smirk.
Lady Emily: “Oh! Do you mean that you want to … ravish me?” She whispers looking up at him in wonder. Lady Emily does still not know what his ravishing her would entail, but by the look of love upon his face, she guesses that she would like it.
Lord Edward: “Every day for the rest of our lives, if you will honor me with your hand in marriage, My Dear.”
Lady Emily: “Oh!” Her eyes widen in speechless delight.
Lord Edward: “Come.” Lord Edward commands as he leads her off of the dance floor with her hand tucked in his arm as they walk out to the terrace before the music has ended. It seems that there is always a terrace adjacent to a ballroom. No one can mistake Lord Edward’s intent–certainly not Lady Emily, nor anyone else.
Once they find a secluded and private spot on the terrace–yet well within eye sight of anyone happening by so as not to tarnish Dear Lady Emily’s reputation—Lord Edward drops to his knee before her.
Lady Emily: “Edward?” She exclaims in half surprise, half hope.
Lord Edward: Lord Edward takes her hands, place their palms together–as if in prayer–and then he encloses his hands around her hands and brings them to his heart. “Emily, I have discovered that my heart beats only for you. You are like a breath of fresh air with your candid ways of speaking. And your sacrifice to look pretty for me has not only transformed your beautiful face, but your gesture has touched me deeply. Please say that you will be my wife–and that we may set a date to wed for as soon as we are able to arrange things.” Lord Edward looks expectantly at Lady Emily.
Lady Emily: “Oh, and I am excessively fond of you Edward. Hhhh.” She cannot help but sigh with the romanticism of the this moment. “I will be the happiest of women as your bride. But are you certain that your regard for me is not a passing fancy?” She winces, waiting for his response.
Lord Edward: “Perhaps if my words do not convince you of my love, my actions will.” He stands up again, and loosens his too tight cravat as a watching Lady Emily’s eyes widen in surprise and in curiosity.
And then Lord Edward leans forward and gently takes Lady Emily into his arms as they kiss for the first time. Her eyes go wide and then shut almost immediately. Lord Edward is grateful not to have her watching him kiss her, since he is a bit nervous in wanting to treat her gently–for the fine maiden and lady she is. He touches his lips to her lips in a petal soft kiss as she rests lightly in his arms. She does not resist.
Then Lord Edward allows Lady Emily to feel his lips upon hers more firmly as he caresses her face with his hands and slowly opens his mouth to capture her lips again, and again, and again, and again. Though Lady Emily’s lips remain closed–as he would expect of a fair and virtuous maiden–they are plump and warm as he nibbles on them. Then he returns to moving his mouth over her mouth in circles, and she begins to respond and opens and closes her mouth over his lips [(4) above right]. It is a deliriously glorious moment when he feels her relax and lean in to him–her trusting him completely, knowing that he will not overstep certain boundaries.
Then slowly, Lord Edward concludes their first kisses as he gently brushes the side of her face with his gloved index finger trailing down it, and he smiles lovingly gazing down at Lady Emily’s sweet face.
Lady Emily: “Hmmm.” She whimpers in feeling so cherished. Lady Emily opens her eyes again to see her beloved’s love for her shining in his eyes.
Lord Edward: “My love.” Lord Edward pulls back and kisses her gloved hands again, then he turns them over and kisses both of her palms. “You will be my wife, Emily Darling?”
Lady Emily: “Yes, Dearest Edward. I will be your wife.” I smile through my tears.
Then Lord Edward leans in and kisses Lady Emily again and again and again, this time even more passionately, whilst still maintaining gentlemanly boundaries.
However, what Lord Edward fails to realize in proposing to dear Lady Emily to be his bride, is that though she and he are in sympathy with one another, it is quite another matter altogether to contemplate her parents’—specifically Lady Emily’s overbearing mother Lady Creighton—with regard to the betrothal between Lady Emily and Lord Edward.
And several moments later when the happy couple breaks their betrothal news, her parents are pleased, naturally. But Lady Emily’s mother’s response to their news is altogether underwhelming—if not uncategorically insulting.
Lady Creighton: “I beg your pardon, Lord Carlisle. I have either gone deaf, or struck nonsensical. Did you say that you wish to marry our daughter Lady Emily?”
Lord Edward is at best underwhelmed at Lady Creighton’s response—and he fears that this is not a good beginning. And since this is actually his second proposal to Lady Emily—albeit a more formal one—Lord Edward feels that her parents should not be shocked by it.
Lord Edward: In a clipped voice, Lord Edward responds to the harriden that is Lady Emily’s Mama. “It is so, Madam. And Lady Emily has accepted my proposal. We need only to receive your blessing and then we may set a date for our wedding without delay.”
Lady Emily: “Oh but Edward. What about Lady Rachel Gosford’s and Lord Montague Withers’ wedding that we are attendants at in three Saturdays, three weeks hence? I fear that we must delay our own wedding until the Saturday after that.”
Lord Edward: Crestfallen, Lord Edward asks her poutingly. “Four weeks? But when I can obtain a special license this week, why must we wait four weeks more, when the Saturday next means we would be married in eight days!”
Lady Creighton: Having some inkling as to her daughter’s wishes for the proposed date of their marriage, she demures. “Nay, Lord Carlisle. We must have time to find a suitable wedding gown and trousseau for our Emily. So we must have time to arrange them.”
Lord Edward: “Is this true, Emmy? You want to wait for us to be married in order for you to have a pretty wedding gown made for you?” He asks her incredulously. Men are far less attentive to their clothes than women are—as evidenced by Lord Edward’s limp cravat that he tied himself earlier this evening.
Lady Emily: “Wellll, ….” She smiles up at her eager husband to be.
Lord Edward: “Yes?” He asks hopefully.
Then Lady Emily turns to her Mama in supplication.
Lady Emily: “Mama, I already received a new wardrobe this year from you and Papa for this season. So that will suffice me for my wedding trousseau. And if you will grant me my fondest wish of wearing your lovely wedding gown as mine own, the dressmaker will only need to hem it shorter for me—or perhaps, tuck up bits of the wedding gown fabric to create scalloped draping that would shorten the gown without permanently altering its length.” She looks hopefully at her Mama—who seems to be speechless.
And then her father weighs in.
Lord Creighton: “Well Emmy Dear, that sounds wonderful to me! So you will be married the Saturday after tomorrow—a mere eight days from today.” Then he turns to Lord Edward. “Come see me at 11 o’clock tomorrow morning to discuss my daughter’s dowry and the marriage settlements.”
Lord Edward: “Excellent!” But he is interrupted before he can say more.
Lady Emily: “But Papa, should I not also be included in these discussions—so that I am aware of their particulars?” She looks between the two men—her Papa, and her future husband. This is a moment when one man will cede control of her, whilst the other man will take control of her upon their marriage.
Lord Creighton: “That is not how it is usually done, Emily Dear. But be assured, the arrangements will look out for your best interests.” He condescendingly pats her cheek tenderly, as he has done from her childhood. But at 24 years old, Lady Emily is no longer a child—though she will always remain his child in his heart.
Lady Emily: “I still feel that I should take part.” She mutters.
Lord Edward: “I have no objection for Lady Emily to join our discussion, Lord Creighton. She and I will have no secrets from each other. And I want to insure her every comfort and happiness in our future marriage.” He gazes tenderly at his soon to be wife in eight days.
The moments tick by as Lord Creighton reflects upon his daughter’s request and Lord Edward’s agreeableness to it.
Lord Creighton: “Very well.” He sighs at the happy couple. Then cutting off what he surmises is his wife about to raise an objection, he says to her. “My Lady wife, we are to present our youngest daughter’s hand in marriage to a fine gentleman, Lord Edward Carlisle. Our work as parents is done, and she will take her place in society as we have always hoped.”
Then Lord Creighton gently kisses his wife’s cheek with a smile—further astonishing Lady Creighton with her husband’s display of such intimacy with her in front of her daughter and soon to be son-in-law, let alone at a ball.
They all go on to have a lovely time at the Henderson Ball—with Lady Emily and her betrothed Lord Edward gazing deeply into each others’ eyes, except for the two dances each that Sir Joshua Reynolds and Major Palmer Wentworth claimed as promised. However, Lord Edward will then let no one else but he dance with his Lady Emily the rest of the evening.
Lord Edward is a besotted man. And he will find out tomorrow about the substance of Lady Emily’s Papa’s wishes for their marriage settlement agreements.
To be continued with Chapter 8
References for the Ch. 07 of “Seeking the Niceties of Marriage”, May 29, 2021 by Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1385)
1. 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 pinkish coral in a Vivaldi font.
2. Lady Emily Creighton wearing a lovely low bodice ball gown is Daniela Denby-Ashe in North & South (2004) Dec2213GratianaLovelaceCap-crop-sized-clr2-bkgrnd-brt
3. Lord Edward Carlisle image in formal attire is RichardArmitage-inBBCs2004North&South-epi2-17h08m56s137Dec2213GratianaLovelaceCapManip3Brt
4. Lord Edward Carlisle kissing-Lady Emily Creighton from North & South 2004_May17-2021viaSimonne; Grati Crop
Gratiana Lovelace Wattpad site for Ch. 07 of “Seeking the Niceties of Marriage”:
Previous SAL blog post #1383 link for Ch. 06 “Seeking the Niceties of Marriage”: