Previous Section, Section III
Chapter Thirty-Three Posted on Tuesday, 1 February 2005
The Bennet household had very little time to regret the loss of the newlyweds. The Romsens had consented to stay in Longbourn for three days following the wedding and then claim Maria and Kitty as their guests. Kitty was convinced she had packed her belongings a hundred times over, such was her excitement. At last the came and everything was in place and ready for the trip. Maria and Kitty bubbled with happy anticipation as they said goodbye to their inconsolable mothers.
Mrs. Bennet was crying hysterically into her lace handkerchief, "I don't know why we are allowing you to go! It shall be so quiet in the house with all my girls gone off. I don't know why you would go traipsing about the countryside and leave your poor parents to suffer. What if something terribly wrong should happen to me? Then you shall be sorry."
Kitty replied in a patronizing tone, "Now Mama, you really mustn't think so gloomily. You are well aware what this visit means to Maria and me, and to our dear friends. You would not wish to insult their kind hospitality. It is much too late for us to back out of it now. I've asked Mansel to come by and call upon you every so often while I'm away. Along with Jane and Charles, you shan't find company wanting too much."
A look of horror passed over her mother's face. "I cannot believe you invited that ... that vagabond here! I pray it is not so! You do enjoy vexing me, just as your father. I will not sit with him, I will not!"
Kitty tried to hide her mischievous smirk by embracing her mother and patting her shoulder. "I assure you I did not mean to give you discomfort. I only thought he'd give you some fine company. Mama, you will be civil to him, for my sake, won't you?" She said it in the pleading tone she had used as child when begging.
Her mother looked at Kitty wearily. "Alright, but no more than civil, mind you." She said wagging a large finger in front of her daughter's face. "I've never been known to be uncivil to anyone and I'm not about to be spread about the country as one who turns away the less fortunate. Mind my words, Katherine Bennet, your friendship with him can come to no good end."
"Yes, Mama." was her casual reply.
With a kiss planted quickly on her father's cheek and a last look at her overwrought mother, she took Caleb's offered hand and climbed up into the finely furnished carriage. After sitting herself next to Maria, she settled her dress and travel bag and turned to wave goodbye as the carriage jumped forward with a startling jolt. She watched until her home melted into the distance. She did not feel sadness or fear in leaving, only a thrilling sensation that this would be the best holiday of her life.
Harold and Caleb sat directly across from them in the coach. Both were alert and ready for an enjoyable ride with their affable companions. The hours flew by with great ease so that Kitty hardly noticed when the sun was setting against the western horizon. "How long has it been since the time we left Longbourn?" she questioned Harold. He pulled out his beautifully engraved pocket watch and checked it.
After calculating he said, "Five and a half hours."
"Goodness, I hardly felt it! I have been having such a marvelous time with you all that the hours flew, as if they were nothing at all."
"My thoughts precisely, Miss Bennet."
She looked at Harold, wondering why he rarely dispensed with the formality of her title. He was staring at her with unnerving earnestness. She found herself diverting her gaze with confusion. Certain things he said and looks he gave puzzled her. She could not think what it was.
After spending the night in a town that appeared along their route, they set off again. By late evening they arrived at Brighthaven, the illustrious Romsen estate. It was too dark to make out the particular sketch of it, but from the outline Kitty knew it was a generously large building.
As they approached the large front entrance she looked around momentarily. Everything about the room spoke of quality, fine taste, and wealth. The floor was made of white marble that gleamed in the light of the grand candelabra above. A very wide spiral staircase stood off to one side, leading to the second floor. Everything from the walls and pictures to the rug on the floor was immaculately spotless and catching to eye.
"Welcome to Brighthaven." The voice in her ear startled her. Caleb's playful smile appeared as she swung around to face him. Kitty had been gawking at the room as if she were a child set before a table of every sweet imaginable.
She breathed in quiet awe, "Caleb ... I had no you lived in such a magnificent house. It quite overpowers me just look at it."
He chuckled and said with a note of sarcasm, "I would have never noticed." He beckoned to take her wrap and then led her down a large hallway to a dining room where a lush feast awaited for her.
Chapter Thirty-Four Posted on Friday, 4 February 2005
Muffled noises outside her door awoke Kitty from a peaceful sleep. Ever so slowly she opened her heavy eyelids and peered out at her present surroundings. The bed was so luxuriously cozy that she did not want to rise, but knowing she must, she positioned her tired body upright with some effort.
The room seemed strangely unfamiliar to her. Then she recalled the night previous; after eating a warm meal Kitty had been so exhausted that Mrs. Romsen had to gently lead her to her chambers. Kitty only faintly remembered hearing Mrs. Romsen's voice speaking in kind tones, "Here is your room, poor lamb. I doubt you comprehend a word I'm saying. Anyhow, there is your bed. Goodnight, deary."
After that the door had been shut with careful softness and Kitty had somehow groped her way blindly and managed to find the aforementioned bed. She had plopped down unceremoniously, pulling the covers on top of her. As she looked down at her clothes now she realized she was still wearing her rumpled traveling outfit! Finding her valises near the door she snapped them open and changed into a fresh petticoat and dress.
She found a lovely chest of drawers and dressing table in the room, both etched with delicate floral engravings. The quaint dressing table was complete with all the accessories she needed to tidy her appearance. After brushing her hair through and pinning it up hastily, Kitty ran out of the room and into the spacious hallway.
Being unsure of where to turn, she just stared at the furnishings and noted the many doors that graced the long corridor. After contemplating her next advance, she began to walk down it. The hall was completely silent except for the quiet clicking of her shoes. The noises she had heard, most likely servants preparing for the day, were long gone. She was filled with a deep sense of curiosity and continued her way down. "Maybe I'll find someone, or else get hopelessly lost in this large house."
Kitty was passing another door when it opened suddenly, almost causing her to yelp in fright. She caught her breath as she recognized that it was only Harold. "Thank goodness someone to tell were I am!" she said smiling expectantly.
Sympathy laced his voice, "Oh yes, you poor girl. You were half asleep when Mother guided you to your room last night. Have you been wondering around long?"
"Oh, no, just a minute or two. But I confess, your home is so large that I felt I'd just get swallowed up in this hallway. Is anyone else up yet?"
"Hmmm ... Papa probably is. He gets up with the sun most mornings --- likes to watch the sunrise and get started on the accounts, you know. Mayhap he is in his study or the east drawing room. Shall we?" he said gesturing down the hall. Kitty smiled cheerily and nodded her consent.
As they walked Harold told her about the history of Brighthaven. "My third-great-grandfather, Jonathan Romsen, was a prominent business man in the exports of the time. In other words, he was in the professional field of trade. The trading of cotton and lumber from America brought him a plentiful profit. Most of England's lumber forests were rapidly being used up and the new land offered no end of rich woods. He came from a not too wealthy family, but did not let that obstacle stop his progress. He did very well for himself as a young man, and at age five and twenty he bought this land and claimed it as Brighthaven. Jonathan also had interest in architecture and he built this house with the plans he created."
"I can see he was very proficient in that endeavor. The entire structure is magnificently built. Each part is superior in value and design."
"Yes, I quite agree. Well, after that he married a local gentleman's daughter and they raised a family of five children. Through the ages my family has handed this land down from generation to generation."
"And will you be next in line to inherit it?" Kitty asked. Harold shook his head, "My Great-Uncle Theodore has insisted that I receive one of his estates upon my twenty-second birthday."
"When will that be?" Harold replied that his birthday a mere three months away. "After I settle there I suppose I shall begin raising my horses."
"Sounds like a very worthy plan. And shall a lady ever grace that estate as mistress?" she said teasingly.
"Oh, never!" he retorted back with equal playfulness.
They found Mr. Romsen sitting in his study as they supposed him to be. Soon they all, including Mrs. Romsen and Maria, were sitting in the dining room eating a nourishing breakfast. After inquiring how the young ladies fared from their sleep Caleb asked if they might like to see the orchards and gardens. "Caleb, for shame! These girls have not had time to restore their strength from the trip. You men may be robust and able to spring back from hours of jolting, but young women need time to compose their health again."
Kitty protested, "Mrs. Romsen, Maria and I thank you for your generous concern, but" she continued after casting a reaffirming glance towards Maria, "I believe we are up to a simple walk outdoors. We will not overtax ourselves. You have my word." The lady of the house sighed, lifted her shoulders in pretend desperation and then shooed them from the table. After donning on their light spencers, Maria and Kitty stepped out with the boys guiding them to the east gardens.
The hinted fragrance of spring blossoms appeared even before they had reached the garden. Kitty breathed deeply the delicate scent as they entered in the through the stone arch that marked the entrance. Letting go of Caleb's arm, she rushed over to a cluster of pink, white, and red carnations. Kitty stooped to pick a few after receiving a nod of permission from him.
"These are my most favorite flowers of all. And these are my particular favorite." She held up two blooms of vivid pink, their feathery tips curling at the edges.
Caleb smiled, "Ah, carnations. They are beautiful little things, aren't they? You know the legend about pink carnations, don't you?"
"I cannot recall it presently. Perhaps you might remind me?"
Caleb sighed and looked thoughtful. "When the Mother of Christ saw the pain her Son was suffering in His last hours, she wept bitter tears of sorrow upon the ground. The legend says that small pink carnation blossoms grew where the tears had fallen."
"Yes, I remember now. I loved that story when my father told me it as a child. Are they not striking against the white blossoms?" Caleb only murmured an absent reply. Kitty realized he was not paying attention at all. He was gazing at the large monarch butterfly Maria was studying in fascination nearby. Kitty, still with the flowers clasped in her hand, arose on her feet and ran to join them.
Chapter Thirty-Five Posted on Tuesday, 8 February 2005
"I've been thinking of things we can do to entertain our young guests and I wondered if we might show them the old St. Mary's Church here in Bruton, dear. What do you say to that?" Mrs. Romsen said placing a hand on her husband's arm. Mr. Romsen considered this for a moment and reasoned it to be an excellent outing. The three other members of the Romsen family readily agreed that they should leave straight after their breakfast.
Caleb spoke to Kitty as he wiped his hands clean, "This place we are going to will interest you particularly, Kitty." She puzzled why some old ruins should be of great interest to her, but when she asked why, Caleb only shook his head and told her to wait.
They left for the small town of Bruton, with the skies above slightly overcast and the wind calm and humid. After a fifteen minute ride they came into the town and drew near to the church. Kitty looked out the window of the carriage at the towering building. Before her was a beautiful ancient stone-made church with two magnificent twin towers at the front. As she tried to see the top of it from her seat, her neck became strained. Still wondering how the church connected with her, she walked out gingerly after the others.
In the churchyard around them were many different sized headstones marking the burial places of all Bruton's most prominent citizens. They were worn and many of the names and dates were indecipherable. They walked up to the large doors and Kitty began to notice the fine stone work all around the exterior of the building. She stepped inside and took a staggering breath, trying to take in all the richness around her.
"This was an old Saxon church built a very long time ago. I forget when that was exactly; I'm not too keen on particular dates. But in this chapel was once a statue of St. Katherine and if you look closely up there you can still see the inscription." said Mr. Romsen pointing at a wall. Kitty was barely able to make out the Latin words "sancta Katherina virginis ora pro nobis" etched against a wall plate. She searched through her small knowledge of Latin and tried to interpret it. "Virgin St. Katherine, Pray for Us"
Caleb continued, "This was once called the Chapel of St. Katherine. Do you now see why I thought you would like this place?"
"Yes, my namesake, and I do like it very much. It's so ... old, lacking for a better description." she laughed. "And ... oh, Maria! Look at all the delicate woodwork. The entire interior of this church is made of it. See these designs!" Kitty ran her hand over the smooth wood, tracing a vine, cherub, and then an intricate flower. "This is the most beautiful church I think I have ever seen. The people who built it must have been masters of art to produce such a jewel."
Harold responded, "Yes, indeed they were. The Saxons were some of the finest craftsman in all of the earth in my opinion."
They stayed a little longer and then left to get some lunch in town. Kitty reluctantly closed the door behind her and walked out into the now unclouded sunlit churchyard. As she walked down the small paved stretch back to the road, Harold came walking back to her side and beckoned her to look far off to her left. As Kitty turned and focused on the steep hillside she saw an odd three-story stone building. It loomed high above the earth as a gigantic sea monster rises from the ocean.
Harold said, "That is Pigeon Tower or Dovecot, whichever you choose to call it."
"Why, isn't it breathtakingly grand?! How did it come to be there?"
"I think the famous Berkley family created it around two centuries ago. I'm not sure, but it is a sight to see. Maybe we could go up there tomorrow. And then there are the old Abbey walls here in town and we could go visit the King's School, and the location of Cadberry Castle, Nunney Castle, Glastonbury..."
Kitty faced him and interrupted, "My goodness, Harold! So many wonderful places to visit! You are very privileged to see such wonders and if we can visit those places during our visit just think how they will fill my letters to home! This is almost like a dream for me. I'm enjoying myself immensely." A smile brightened his usually mellow countenance and they walked forward to join their starving group.
Chapter Thirty-Six Posted on Thursday, 10 February 2005
Harold Thomas Romsen sat at the edge of his bed and pulled a stocking carefully onto his foot. While he followed with the other one he unconsciously hummed a merry tune. His personal manservant, Stewart McKleen, turned from Harold's wardrobe with his master's newly polished boots. His Scottish brogue was thick and rich, "Now Master Harold, you were to let me be doin' that. Ye are breaking the rules of propriety again."
Harold shrugged and said in a careless tone, "Propriety. I'm not an infant and I can put my own stockings on, thank you. It is very degrading for a grown man to have someone wait upon him hand and foot. Not that I don't appreciate your loyalty and hard work, Stew." he added with a grateful look at his old trusted friend.
As Stewart went back to the closet to select his other clothes, Harold commenced humming. Stewart looked over his shoulder and gave him a playful grin. "You sure seem happy as a lark today, sir. And what might be the thing that has lightened yer so?" Harold just shook his head sheepishly and grabbed the cravat from him. "Might it be the thoughts of a young lady?" Stewart's impish and prodding look made Harold wish his old friend didn't know him quite so well.
"Aye, that must be what's plaguing yer so. Could it be the young Miss Bennet that has taken your thoughts to a turn?"
Harold turned away, slightly embarrassed, "Perhaps, she might be." He whirled around to shake a warning finger, "But don't you tell a soul. Or... or I shall just dress myself every morning and you'll be out of work."
Stewart gestured crossing his heart and sealing his lips and laughed heartily at his master's coyness. "Sir, consider it unsaid. And pray, do you think she returns your affection?"
"I am unsure myself of Miss Bennet's deeper feeling regarding me. I only know that she do not dislike me and that is good enough for the time being. Stew, you are the only one I can speak of her to. I told you about when we bumped into one another last winter didn't I? Oh yes, I did. She was beautiful that frosty day, with her sparkling eyes so bright, mouth and cheeks flushed pale cherry."
"Aye, ye sure did pick a comely lass, ye did. Though, I prefer my own Sarah girl."
"And how does Miss Shaw fare? Have you two set your wedding date yet?"
"Not yet, we've hardly had a moment to sit and plan it out. And she is in very good health, still the picture of loveliness." He finished buttoning the last silver sleeve button on Harold coat and brushed off a small speck of lint.
"You truly will keep my secret, won't you?"
"But of course, sir. And I'll be sure to attend yer weddin'." Harold threw a playful punch at Stewart McKleen's retreating shoulder and gathered some waiting papers from his desk to sign.
Later that evening he heard music in the east parlor, and he went down expecting to see Maria at the instrument. The music flowed through the house like a soft brook running through the forest. It was soothing, simple, and enchanting. Harold found Kitty, not Maria, playing the lovely song. Startled by the sudden presence in the room, she stopped and looked to Harold with a self-conscious smile. He asked her to forgive his intrusion and begged she continue playing. She did and he moved closer to more fully enjoy the melodious sound.
Harold closed his eyes, listening with contentment, visualizing Kitty's small capable hands lightly stroking each key. After a minute or two he felt a slight tug at his jacket. Eyes fluttering open, he saw Kitty gazing up at him with a questioning look. "W ... what?" he said.
"I said, the song is over, Harold." He just stared at her dumbfounded, only able to think how lovely she was with the dimmed lamplight shining across her face and highlighting her dark hair angelically.
She returned his gaze for many seconds before looking away. Gathering his senses Harold spoke softly to her, "That was surely like music from Heaven. You are to be praised for your superior accomplishment. I rarely ever listen to music so rapturously." She beamed beneath a light blush and quietly replied with a demure contradiction.
Such moments as these filled Harold's solitary moments with pleasure and delight; dreaming each night of her beautiful face, so gentle and true, her kind sweet nature and arising every morning with the hope of seeing and speaking with her. As much tenderness as he felt for her, he did not verbalize his feelings and thoughts. He did not feel he could until he was sure of hers as well. So they continued on as dear friends only until one warm sunlit day.
Chapter Thirty-Seven Posted on Sunday, 13 February 2005
Kitty gazed out her open window with a calming peace in her heart. The day was made up of every perfect element. Robin egg blue was the color of the sky, sprinkled with little wisps of clouds. A cool welcoming breeze drifted in, making the pale green curtains rustle around her. She leaned against the window sill and let that wind blow across her flushed hot face. The summer temperatures had come to Brighthaven, making every animal and person unbearably uncomfortable. The breeze that had sprung up a few minutes previous was thoroughly appreciated by the occupants of the area. "Nothing could possibly go amiss on such a gorgeous morning." Kitty thought lazily as she stared out across the lush green hills and neatly trimmed lane that lead from the main road.
A gleaming black landau carriage appeared to be heading toward the Romsen's estate from the road. Kitty pondered who might be visiting in such an expensive looking coach. She was sure they were not expecting anyone in particular. She studied it as the apparently fine horses came up along the farther entry drive. Kitty's room was positioned at the opposite end of the house, so she could not see the occupants very clearly. The carriage slowed and gradually came to a stop and the figures of Caleb and Harold appeared outside to greet the newcomer.
A petite woman stepped out of carriage with some difficulty. Her many skirts and petticoats tangled her legs and caused her to take a great amount of time coming out. The clothes she wore instantly gave one the impression that she was very wealthy. The young lady, after finally escaping from her struggle, met the young gentleman with much warmth and familiarity it seemed. She greeted them with a loud exclamation and a syrupy laugh. Kitty started to form an immediate dislike for the girl. The boys welcomed her cordially enough, but she had tossed aside their good manners and brazenly embraced them.
She watched with disdain as the she tossed her flawless golden curls in a carefree manner and grasped Harold's arm possessively. Not wanting to watch the creature that reminded her so much of Lydia any longer, she turned away. Kitty selected a book she had brought from home and plopped down into the cushy chair Mrs. Romsen had ordered up for her. As she turned the pages to her place and tried to read, her mind strayed from the book. Who was that handsome bold girl? Why was she here and what rights had she to be so familiar with Kitty's friends? Kitty resisted the urge to go downstairs and meet her for herself. She had told Mrs. Romsen she would be resting in her chambers and rest she would!
Nearly three quarters of an hour later, Kitty heard voices again outside. Giving in to her curiosity she got up and looked out, her body half hidden by the long drapes. The wind was blowing towards her and she caught little snatches of the parting conversation. "I wish I could stay longer but I really must go. My friends are waiting for me to arrive at a party. I hate to fly to abruptly." Kitty recognized Caleb's voice replying the women, "Please, don't even think of it. Goodbye!"
The young women stopped before entering the landau again. Kitty watched with horror as the flirtatious girl grabbed Harold's arm again, whispered something in his ear, and kissed him on the cheek firmly. Kitty gasped at her boldness and shrank back from the window in ultimate shock. Did Harold have something to do with this brash young lady? Where they attached? Engaged? No, she would have been informed if he was to marry. He surely was not a man to trifle with women, or was he? Was Harold Romsen someone different than she expected?
Disbelieving protests arose in Kitty's mind and heart but they did not take the thoughts from her. Kitty shook her head quickly as if to throw them from her brain. Fighting back the unexpected anger that rose, she sat on the bed to think this new situation through. "If Harold is attached to her, why should I be concerned? I have no claims on his affections." Still the thoughts plagued her endlessly, "He did jestingly tell me no wife would ever be at his future home. She could be just a friend, like me. But she had acted too intimately to be a mere comrade." Kitty was surprised to find tears of angry hurt frustration in her eyes as she thought of Harold's lady friend.
Chapter Thirty-Eight Posted on Saturday, 19 February 2005
The day after the revolting visitor had come, Kitty found herself still brooding heavily upon the subject. She paid little attention to the weather outside or the conversations at breakfast. Not even the wonderful delicacy of frozen strawberry sorbet cheered her fallen spirits. When Harold asked her to pass the dish of butter at the table she had been very sorely tempted to tip it straight into his lap and stain his fine suit.
She tried to divert her mind from the unpleasant scene she had witnessed but found she simply could not. Neither thoughts nor actions calmed the tempest of her agitation. Kitty had believed Harold to be a fine honorable gentleman; and she had believed him to be a dear friend - no, he had become something more than a friend. Her foolish hopes for a potential deepening of their friendship were now dashed from her mind, but could not be removed from her heart.
Two days passed on, and still Kitty remained unhappy and quiet in her speech and demeanor. Her hosts and friends noticed the change in her countenance and puzzled the reason for her odd mood, but none questioned her on the subject in hopes that it would soon pass. They believed she was feeling understandably homesick for Longbourn. While this fact also added to her depression, it was not the larger part of it.
Kitty avoided all conversation with Harold other then responses that were civilly required, such as a nod of the head or a "yes" or "no". She dreaded seeing him each day, fearing to be in his presence lest she allow herself to slip and make a remark about the previous encounter. Kitty began to wish she had never become acquainted with Harold Romsen.
Just when she had begun to feel the first tingling of love, her expectations and dreams were crumbled into pieces mid their creation. Anger hide beneath the sadness and it seethed inside a small section of Kitty's heart. Harold had seemed so cordial towards her, so kind and gentle. But he was apparently not the type of man she had thought him to be.
As she was walking down the hall the next day, voices reached her ears coming from the library. She paid little attention, not wishing to intrude on private business matters, until her name was mentioned by an occupant. Slowing her footsteps, she came up to the slightly open door and stood in place beside it, unthinkingly eavesdropping. Caleb's voice came out of the room as he laughed, "That Katherine, who does she think she is anyway? I do not know how you can tolerate her constantly throwing herself at you!"
She knew the voice that replied was Harold's, "I wish I knew how to be rid of the pesky woman myself, but I cannot bring myself to insult a lady, even one as fastidious as she. You should have seen the way she tried to capture me last year! Nearly drowned me with meaningless compliments and syrupy sentiments."
"She sure is a man hunter and she no doubt has spotted and aimed for her prey. My, how well she plays the part it too! I feel for you, Har."
Kitty, upon hearing this vicious attack on her character, fled the down the hall with her heart heavier with grief then at any other time in her life. The pain pounded with sharp acuteness at her temples as she turned around the corner, nearly tripping over her own feet. Her own friends, speaking such unkind things about her! Caleb, who had heard the commotion, opened the library door only to see the back of Kitty's dress disappear quickly. "What was that, Caleb?"
Looking a bit perplexed Caleb turned back to Harold, "I believe it was Kitty, but I do not know what caused her to retreat in such haste."
"I had better go see if she is well. Excuse me a moment." he said as he pushed past Caleb and walked down the hallway.
Kitty ran as fast as her high heeled summer shoes allowed, faster and farther away from the horrid place. Down, down she ran the small winding path to the large pond located not far from the house. As she came closer to the pond she gradually slowed, and then she stopped all together and sank down onto a large boulder near the water's edge. Angrily brushing the hot tears from her cheeks, Kitty wrapped her light shawl tighter to her shivering body though the day was warm. The emotions that were rising inside her were the cause of her chill. She reached up to tuck a wisp of her hair behind her ear and found that almost the entire arrangement was undone. She pulled the rest of it down about her shoulders and tucked the pins in the pocket of her dress.
The sadness and anger she felt presently doused any happiness she had experienced on her visit to Brighthaven. Kitty began to wish fervently that she had never come, that she had never met the man who had stolen her heart. She picked up three small pebbles and tossed them one by one into the water. Tear after tear slipped from her weary eyes and slid quickly down her flushed cheeks. A twig snapped behind her and Kitty twisted around to see Harold only a few yards from her. Wiping the tears away and trying to restrain herself from staring at his handsome face, she stood up and began to move from the spot. His voice stopped her and she could not bring herself to disobey.
"Kitty, please wait. Are you well? What is wrong?"
She whirled around to face him with her anger mounting at an extremely rapid pace. How dare he be so audacious? Surely he was toying with her once again as he had so many times now. "Of course I'm well." she snapped back sharply. He looked convincingly serious in his sincerity, but Kitty knew better than to believe it. Harold's true character had been revealed to her the past two days and she was not going to allow her weakness for his dashing looks blind her.
Chapter Thirty-Nine Posted on Wednesday, 23 February 2005
"You look pale and peaked, there must be something wrong. Do tell me what is bothering you."
Kitty let out an exasperated huff and looked at him incredulously. "Harold Romsen, you cannot hide behind that false benevolence with me. I know the type of man you are, your true colors have been revealed to me not two days ago. You are a despicable, insensate, deceiving man who has neither a true heart nor a sound mind. How could you play such a convincing role and plot against a simple country girl in such a crafty manner? I suppose it brought you a vast deal of amusement to see me falter under your conniving scheme! Well, no more will your charms work upon me. I shall not be brought in!" she fairly screamed.
Never had she felt so much pain, despondency, and frustration all at once. The words had rolled like burdening stones off her tongue, but strangely, speaking them had brought her no comfort, no relief. She walked a few steps back to the rock she had been sitting upon earlier and sank down with a loud breath of air. Finally her firm resolve was let down; she could no longer hold her weary emotions in check. The tears came frightfully fast and her body began to shudder violently with each wrenching sob of grief.
Harold watched this in silent shock and horror as she crumbled to the boulder after such a vehement speech against him. Still unaware of what had led to such an allegation, he came over to and hesitantly rested a hand on her shoulder. She rose up and with a cry began to beat his chest with the little strength she could muster. Her blows were calmly received and he let her pound away the hurt until she could no longer raise a fist. Harold then gathered Kitty in his arms and stroked her dark hark until her sobs gradually subsided.
She sagged against him, no longer able to continue her fury. After a few minutes of complete silence, he lifted her head up to look at him, "Kitty, I do not know what has caused you to receive such an awful impression of me. But whatever I've done wrong, be rest assured that I have never intended to harm you in any way and I will do everything in my power to be in your good graces again." Having some pride left, Kitty refused the handkerchief Harold offered and stared off sullenly at the pond.
"You know exactly what I am speaking of, no need to feign innocence any longer."
"I promise that I do not know of what you speak. What have I done to offend you?"
"That vulgar woman you spent time with on Thursday, I saw the way you accepted her attentions. But that was not what affected me so brutally. It was when I heard you and Caleb talking in the library just now. The appallingly cruel things you two said about me, you who have pretended to be my dearest friends, you who I had come to..." she faltered, unable to continue on.
Harold looked into her eyes deeply with startling intensity and his look commanded an answer. "You had come to what?"
Kitty tried to look away from his gaze but found she could not leave those powerful eyes. She ever so softly finished, "Love you."
A look that could have been a curious mix of joy and sadness passed over his face as he held her tighter. "My dearest Kitty, you poor little creature, how mistaken you have been. That woman was my cousin, Miss DuPont. The woman has high hopes of marrying money. Ever since we were young she has tried to catch me in her trap, but I promise with all my heart I have never given her a thought. I detest women who intentionally seek out rich men for worldly gain. And the exchange you heard between Caleb and me was entirely about her."
"But you said Katherine?" Harold laughed softly and Kitty became even more perplexed.
"It is by far the worst coincidence that her name happens to be Katherine Francis DuPont!" Taken completely aback by this revelation, Kitty stared at him unbelieving as he continued to chuckle.
After he ceased laughing, Harold said her name with the sweetest tenderness capable of man, "Katherine, let me tell with the greatest reverence I possess, that I have never entertained a tender thought for any other but you. Ever since last winter you have been in my dreams and ponderings, filling every idle moment with beautiful hopes for the future and present." She gasped, wondering if it could possibly be true and felt a tingling sensation at her heart.
His piercing eyes told her he was earnest in his declaration. "I have never held such admiration, such complete awe for any other young woman but you. I love you with all my heart and would love you each day of your life if I could."
He kissed her softly on the forehead and she sighed accepting the address with contentment, all previous tension released. "And I love you. I have been a blind silly goose. I had thought you incapable of such malicious doings but my foolish impulsive behavior caused me to forget the reasoning of your character. I am sorry and I too have loved you. I'm not sure when it first came to me, but now you shall hold a place in my heart where only the deepest dearest friend can be placed."
After yet a few more moments of riant conversation the two walked back up the lane to the house. Arm in arm they strolled, each smiling with the bright radiance of newfound love. Maria met them at the door and sensed something wonderful had happened between her two friends. Proper breeding and good instinct told her not to inquire for particulars. Besides, if Kitty wanted her to be informed she would no doubt hear about it from her friend's lips soon. Everyone noticed the looks of secretive gaiety that passed between the two lovers and the next day at the midday meal Caleb cast a sly look in Harold's direction and asked of he had anything particular to say.
Harold put down his forkful of ham and cleared his throat trying to keep a straight face. Casting a quick glace to Kitty for permission, he burst out, "You may be pleased to hear ... Mother, Papa, Caleb, and Maria that this charming young lady has consented graciously to accepted my proposal of marriage. If her parents consent we shall be married in December near Michaelmas!" Cheers and shouts of glad tidings arose from the table and firm hugs and kisses were bestowed.
The visit of the Derbyshire girls was coming close to an end and Harold and Caleb arranged to take the girls back home. Upon arriving in Longbourn, Harold straightway went to Mr. Bennet to seek for Kitty's hand. Her father gladly gave her; having always thought Harold the best of young men and he believed would bring her great joy and comfort as a husband.
Mrs. Bennet, though usually glad to marry off a daughter to someone of good fortune, made quite a fuss over the ordeal. We can suppose that this was because Katherine was her last unmarried daughter and now that the occasion had arrived she could not bear to part with her. She ranted and raved about the house for nearly an entire week, saying how she would not have anyone to take care of her in her aging state. But soon she too came around to the idea of their union and took delight in planning the wedding.
Katherine and Harold were wed that September in the beautiful Church of St. Mary's at Bruton. While at the closing reception another important announcement was proclaimed, this one surprising few. Caleb, beamingly declared that he and Maria planned to follow the newlywed's footsteps soon after. No one could be more gratified than Mrs. Romsen, for her joy was doubled that day. Later in a quiet corner she confessed to Kitty that she had known it would come to be from the time they had visited Brighthaven that June.
Harold's uncle signed the papers and released the estate into his grandnephew's hands. Being allowed to name the impressive extent of land, they together decided upon Sharingbrooks Glade for the many tiny brooks that ran over the acres. The house was much like the one at Brighthaven and it furnished them with a great comfortable atmosphere to raise their family.
Their first young child was born nearly two years from the time they were wed. The sweet heart-tugging cry of Miss Hannah Abigail Romsen was heard on a cold December night. The others were not far from following: Daniel Lucas, Leah Annette, Randall Caleb, and Harold Thomas the Second. These five children blessed their lives with small every day joys for years to come. Each one was precious and unique in his or her character, but all were the most well shaped children in the community. Oft times when visitors were come they would comment on the good behavior of the Romsen children. This good forming of character stayed with the children the rest of their lives and they became successful loving people.
Katherine and Harold, as much as one might wish them to live happily ever after, had many trials and hardships alongside the joy. They experienced the heartache of losing Mr. and Mrs. Bennet in the same year to a carriage accident. Once, Harold's horse business nearly failed from an unreliable business holder who swindled their account. Other such calamities befell them, but through it all they stayed strong and met each with great courage and judgment.
Their love grew, stronger and dearer with each passing year. The fondness and devotion they had formed for each other as young adults shone brighter and brighter and never dimmed. Many envied their visible felicity in marriage, those who did not know the secret to a joyful relationship. Those unhappy souls did not know that the most loving relationships are created through the strong foundation of friendship: by being a friend indeed.