Posted on August 21, 2008
They were married, married in town and now hastening down to her uncle's. What had Edward felt on being within four miles of Barton, on seeing her mother's servant, on hearing Lucy's message? They would soon, she supposed, be settled at Delaford. Sense and Sensibility, Book III, Chapter XII
It did not bear much thinking; Elinor could only hope that, perhaps under his guidance and integrity, Lucy and Edward's marriage would not be too miserable. She had always acknowledged, as Marianne could not, that Lucy had some merits, and a sensibility of a kind.
Of one thing Elinor was certain and she, after her initial grief, focused all her efforts there. She would suffer, but now it was all definite and completed. There could be no hope. It had been foolish to even privately entertain an idea of the dissolution of Edward's engagement with her personal knowledge of Lucy's character. At least no one else could suffer from her thoughts. It was now her clear duty, and in her best interest, to suppress all non-essential thought of the matter. She must focus instead on Marianne's returning health and on maintaining their continued comfort at Barton cottage. There would, also, be some time spent in deciding upon the best manner in which to put Edward at ease upon he and Lucy's arrival at Delaford parsonage while, at the same time, thwarting any malice that would come her way from Lucy. Elinor had seen nothing in her previous behavior that lead her to believe that Lucy would be gracious in her victory. Elinor trusted that she, at least, could maintain the appearance of calm she had attained in the previous six months and she was assured that her mother and Marianne would follow her lead, regardless of their crushed feelings, as an act of the greatest kindness to Elinor. And it can be said here that they did not fail her.
The days that followed her knowledge of the marriage continued one and the same with the slightest variation of the tides and the weather. The Dashwoods returned to their normal activities and their visiting in the neighborhood, which had never been extensive. Mrs. Dashwood instructed Margaret. Marianne and the Colonel worked upon duets and talked of the books that he procured for her reading. Elinor painted the landscape's changes from the parlour window in bad weather and various points on the surrounding hills when it was fine, and so time marched forward.
Elinor was surprised one day, about two-and-a-quarter years after the marriage of Lucy and Edward, to see in her painting a change. Marianne had asked her to chose a painting of Norland for her sitting room at Delaford. Elinor's work, the oldest placed upon the bed and the new landscapes pinned upon the walls, indeed had changed, settled, renewed, as if she now saw everything with different eyes than the girl who had left Norland nearly three years before. Reasonably, fall and winter debris was next spring and summer's bounty, and then back again, it was true; But what of her painting and her mood? These had both undoubtedly strengthened. Her colours were fresher and less moody looking than they had been after Edward's engagement was known to her. Her objects were more definite in shape and less muddy. Her work had shape and form, perspective and intent. No more pretty daubs and peaceful past-time exertions, she was now challenged to catch truth on paper as it was now so plain in her life.
She had been sure that her actions would aid her feelings in time and now that time had come where results were to be seen for all her efforts in other aspects of her life. There were regrets, but she no longer felt material pain on the subject. From resignation to deal with what was before her came love and acceptance of her current situation and that showed in her good spirits and in her landscapes as well. Of course, there were still trials, but she was, with experience, better and better able to contrive them.
One of her trials had been the united efforts of Sir John and Mrs Jennings in setting up a match between she and the dear Colonel. This had continued for almost a twelvemonth, until it became clear that the honor of being mistress of Delaford would fall to Miss Marianne. Elinor maintained her manners and ease to such a degree that Mrs Jennings began to feel that perhaps the eldest Miss Dashwood would never marry at all. "Which would be a crying shame, to be sure. For she would make any man a fine wife. Perhaps I can tempt her to town this winter in order to help her mother get Miss Marianne's clothes ready? To be sure, it did not go so well the last time, but we can't have her hiding herself out here in the Devonshire bushes!" But here she had not succeeded.
Of another trial, it can be said here that Elinor succeeded in her endeavors to so great a degree that after a time even Edward began to feel that perhaps she hadn't loved him all that much and, eventually, although he always regarded her highly, he forgot about the matter entirely in his domestic and parish duties. From Lucy, it was true, little could be expected but that she maintained the appearance of right and stretched his income so that even he did not know it when he saw his books at month's end. True felicity could not be theirs, but comfort and contentment could be had. And, eventually, a modest wealth as well. Through Lucy's efforts, about three months after his marriage had taken place, Mrs. Ferrars and Edward were reunited and eventually, after much careful activity on Lucy's part, Mrs. Ferrars saw fit to call him son again and, later, to acknowledge his wife. Their income could not but benefit, and while they never had the income of the lucky Robert, Lucy could at least lay claim to keeping more servants than Mrs. Dashwood. And, although it rather nettled her when Miss Marianne became Mrs. Brandon, she could only thank her luck that it was not likely Mrs. Brandon spent much time in her kitchen.
While Lucy was organizing Edward's life and pocketbook, Marianne had been developing some interests of her own. She addressed them to her husband thus:
"My dear, I have something I would ask of you."
The Colonel, looking up with pleasure from his letter, still pleasantly surprised by the familiar address, replied encouragingly,
"My love, you may be sure of getting anything you ask of me."
Marianne heard this with a smile, "You may regret that answer in a moment, my love, but I shall proceed before you may change your mind. I am concerned for dearest Elinor. She has done just as we all expected after her...disappointment." There was no need to explain this illusion. The Colonel had, in his domesticity with Marianne, long ago heard the whole story of Lucy and Edward; after two-and-a quarter years he was fully able to comprehended the character of his Rector's wife.
"What would you have me do?"
Marianne was a bit embarrassed here as it was retreading an issue she had once had some very foolish opinions about. "I had hoped that you might, well..."
"Oh, you are going to make me ask you! Very well then. I should like it very much if we could introduce Elinor to a wider group of people than she normally meets." Thinking herself clever to have avoided saying that she wanted him to introduce Elinor to someone she might have a second chance at love with.
"I think I understand you."
"Yes?" she said eagerly. "And what do you think? Do you know of anyone who might interest our Elinor?"
The Colonel for a moment seemed deep in thought as he stared at a painting on his wife's writing desk that Elinor had give to Marianne upon her marriage. It was a detailed painting of an open rose. The detail was exquisite. You would be tempted to smell the paper it was painted upon. He looked down at the letter he was unknowingly tapping on his knee and said, "Well, my love, perhaps.
Posted on August 26,2008
Nearly three years earlier, October 1803
Crosgrove House, Surrey
"Thank you, Ridgely, for all your help. You and your sister. I cannot thank you enough. I am sorry, though, that Mrs. Crosgrove and your mother had to hear the tale."
"Think no more of that, Brandon. My late father left me with one legacy of which he had little value for and nearly no knowledge of. My mother is a tough old bird and sees it as her personal mission to right the ills of all wronged women. Beth, sweet woman that she is, still manages to be aware of the ways of the world. She will insure that Miss Williams makes the transition to Mrs. Williams without any problem, and the boy will grow up in a wholesome enough environment here. Crosgrove has always seemed idyllic to me, since I arrived ten years ago to meet Peter Crosgrove himself. He and Beth are a truly happy couple, such as I did not believe possible outside of novels. Of course, my mother, while she is here, will encourage Eliza along; I dare say I shall have to send Mother home so that Eliza may hold her own child."
"Well, I'm glad for that. After the last 10 months, I am sure that Eliza will welcome this change. I will, of course, see that they want for nothing. I have arranged for Mr. Williams to leave his wife a small income that should suffice, and certainly, she is heartbroken enough that anyone would believe her a widow. I've told her of the little I learned of Willoughby's finances in town. It was enough to assure her that he could not help and would not return. She shall carry this burden alone, but with the help of friends."
James Ridgely handed his old friend Colonel Brandon a drink and motioned him to the fire. "What about Willoughby?"
"Willoughby? I shall be making arrangements to meet him as soon as he returns to London, but I don't know when that will be."
"Do you know him socially then, that you know where he is?"
"He is an acquaintance in the country." Brandon scowled at the flames.
"What is it?"
"Willoughby is currently in Devon at his cousin's, Mrs. Smith of Allenham, where he is to inherit. He has been spending a great deal of time with my friends, the Dashwoods. I believe that he and Miss Marianne Dashwood have reached an understanding, but how can I be sure? If he is just..." his voice broke off in frustration.
Ridgely watch his friend of many years as a range of emotions crossed his face. He could only remember one other time when he had seen Brandon so distressed---in India when he had received the news of his brother's divorce. "Miss Marianne is pretty, I suppose, but lacking in fortune."
"Marianne Dashwood is one of the most beautiful women I have ever beheld and I will rip that blackguard's heart out if he harms her in anyway!" Brandon rose and crossed to the window as if trying to escape from his emotions.
"Well, perhaps I can separate them for you for a time, until you can meet with him over Eliza, at least. Mrs. Smith and my mother are correspondents of long standing. Some of my best roses are growing in the Allenham gardens. I know for certain, through mother, that Mrs. Smith has long suspected Willoughby's character. Perhaps a letter from Mother hinting at the truth will flush him out of Devonshire? We can talk with her this hour and send it express. You're sure he's still there?"
Cautiously, "He was when I left five days ago." He remembered the joyous laughter in Marianne's eyes that day, right before he had read the letter from Eliza and it settled his resolve. Marianne Dashwood must not be ruined. "Your mother will have no concern in writing the letter to Mrs. Smith?"
"No, No. After all, what are friends for? For a fact, Brandon, I'm sure she will relish the idea, given what she knows of Mr. Willoughby's behavior with your ward. And, yes, I will be your second when you meet with Willoughby."
"I haven't asked you yet."
"No, but you were just about to." He held out his hand and, after a brief hesitation, the Colonel shook it warmly. And with that the two gentleman went to scout out Mrs. Ridgely and her writing desk.
St. James Street, London, November 1803
Mr. James RidgelyCrosgrove House, Surrey
You were absolutely correct about the effects of your mother's letter. Mr. Willoughby arrived in Town this night, as my man informs me. He must have been dismissed within hours of Mrs. Smith's receipt of the letter. Please express my thanks again to your mother.
I hope that Eliza and the child continue well.
I do, now, remind you of your promise to attend me in my meeting with Willoughby. I shall be summoning him for the morning after next. I am confident that he will attend me; he is too prideful to let it be known otherwise. I shall try to remember, at your suggestion to aim high.
with my regards,
St. James Street, London
My dear Brandon,
Do not mention it again, it gave me too much pleasure to attend you against our infamous blackguard. Beth, and my mother, write that it was unfortunate that you were forced to play the gentleman as they have every faith that you could have killed him on the count of ten. (I told you my female line is bloodthirsty. I'm quite thankful they have never come after me!) I'm sure you spared him for the sake of another lady, which makes you a bigger man than I could ever hope to be. I can well imagine it would be awkward at best to some of your Devonshire friends had you killed him.
I have word, as I am sure you already know, that Eliza and co. are flourishing. I'm sure this must satisfy.
I hope to find you still in town when I arrive in late February.
Now that I have shocked you completely I can tell you of my plans. Much as I am loath to visit London during the season, or at any other time of year, I find that a long vaunted project is at last to meet an end. In March, we shall hold the first meeting of the Horticultural Society of London. After four years of talk it is rather amazing. Only the curator of Kew Gardens could make me drag my feet back to London, but this same man has expressed a great deal of interest in my roses, and there you have it! Mention roses to me and I am a sunk man, shallow but true!
I hope I shall meet you then. We can go to your club and pretend we are in the country playing cards. (Oddly enough, I never play cards in the country.) Failing this I will see you at Crosgrove in a fortnight's time for the holidays. Be warned! My mother and sisters take the holidays as seriously as they do their vengence.
with warm regards,
St. James Street, London
I cannot believe the unmitigated gall of the man! I had thought we should be done with Mr. W at this point, perhaps you should have aimed lower, after all. I absolutely understand your dilemma and, since the mother is not in town and Mrs. J is not useful, perhaps it is best that you approach the eldest Miss Dashwood with your fears for Willoughby's character. I have a hard time believing that a young woman of 19 could be all you described her to be over our Christmas holidays, but if she is half what you say she seems your best help at present.
I shall attend you in a few weeks, and I truly hope the odious Mr. W has married some heiress and is gone for good.
St. James Street, London
My dear friend,
Unbelievable! I wrote it as a bad joke. Very bad, indeed, it now seems! I suppose it should surprise neither of us that W has found himself a rich wife, but his behavior to Miss M is unbearable. I am glad that you find her sister equal to the situation. I am sorry that yet more women should suffer at his hand. His poor wife little knows what misery she has let herself in for.
I shall be at Bond Street no later than the 26th of the month. I pray that you may experience no greater disturbances until we meet.
Posted on September 1, 2008
Mrs. Denison's musicale was the last thing on Ridgely's mind when he ran into Colonel Brandon outside the stationer's shop in Pall Mall late on that Tuesday afternoon. His sister had made him swear to her that he would show up on time; so often such events had managed to completely slip his mind. "Yes, this musicale would probably be unremarkable like all the rest, but Mrs. Denison is a friend of the family and you promised Peter that you would escort me to all of the events that I wished to go to while he was in Scotland." What a racket Beth would make if he failed to show this time! But none of this was on his mind.
He had received one more letter from Brandon, before leaving Rosewood, asking him to stop at Delaford to retrieve some papers on his way to town. The Colonel had also mentioned that there was to be no help to be found in the Dashwood girls' brother and his wife, as he had often hoped in the preceding weeks. He had meet the pair, and it was plain from his encounters that they were fashionable and shallow with little concern for either sister. There was a surprising negligence, bordering on meanness, towards the elder Miss Dashwood that the Colonel could not understand.
Such news did not please James for Brandon's sake. It appeared that the girls' welfare was being hoisted upon his friend with little chance of return, for Brandon had made it clear that despite his high opinion of Miss Marianne, she was untouched by his virtues. Silly Girl! More greatly disturbing to Mr. Ridgely was the brother's behavior. He would rather have been struck in the face in a public square than have it cast up to him that he had neglected his mother or sisters in any fashion. Careless of niceties he may be, but careless of reputation and influence? He'd first cut down every rose he owned, even those reported to have origin with Elizabeth I's own cuttings.
It was at this moment, with these happy thoughts, that he saw Brandon across the street assisting three ladies into a carriage. The first was a large, colourful looking older lady who appeared to be doing all of the talking for the group. The second into the carriage was a young woman whose pallor only vaguely muffled her beauty. What gave her away as the youngest Miss Dashwood, however, was the very pretty dress she wore with such indifference---at least a size too big at this point, confirming all of the Colonel's fears for Miss Marianne Dashwood's health. The third lady was taller and very graceful and womanly. But just as she turned in his direction a large cart lumbered between them. "Damn!" Ridgely hurried across the street, but the carriage was gone when he came upon Brandon. His good friend looked at him in some surprise.
"Why, Ridgely! Where did you spring up from? I knew you were in town when I received the papers this morning, but I didn't think to see you out shopping," he said wryly.
"No more would you, but Beth was in need of some things which she had no time to get today and I am whipping boy till Peter returns from the North. I was across the street at the stationer's when I saw you. I assume I just missed the famous Mrs Jennings?"
"Yes, she and the Miss Dashwoods. They had to return home and change for a musicale that they are attending tonight with their brother. I hope it will provide them with some amusement."
"Do you mean the Denison's?"
"Yes, I believe so."
"How odd. What a shame I missed being introduced to them, for I shall be there tonight myself."
"Yes. Beth insists. Now when the music bores me I shall be able to scout them out and shoot little darts of ill-will towards the negligent brother. Speaking of siblings, Beth wants to be sure that I engage you to dinner the day after Peter returns, so I guess Thursday week?"
"You can assure her I will be there, but I shall call on her tomorrow as well."
"Be sure you do but, speaking of that lady, I should race home and change or the next time you see my dear sister will be when she goes before the Judge in the case of my untimely demise. Good day to you."
"Fair well, James."
James spent the first hour at the Denison musicale doing the pretty with Beth, until she decided to sit for the entertainment and told him he could run away. He quickly availed himself of a draped alcove with an open double door. The musicale was a crashing bore. As luck would have it, he had managed to spend some time near a woman he instantly took a dislike to. Mrs. John Dashwood. To say that she ignored her sisters would be a compliment to her behavior. Before he could accidentally spill her punch upon her dress, which was worth more than her carcass as far as he could tell, the Miss Dashwoods had approached and taken seats nearby. James stepped back behind the curtain to observe them. Miss Marianne seemed barely aware of her surroundings, but when a good musician played a piece at all well she seemed to wake up a bit and James got a picture of the girl Brandon had met before Willoughby, and pitied her.
As for Miss Dashwood, with the cart and bonnet out of the way, she was very pretty. She wore a pale lavender gown and a simple cluster of flowers in her hair. She seemed to have little interest in the music and was observing the room at will. He felt sorry for her extended interview with the man he heard introduced as Mr. Robert Ferrars, a complete coxcomb if James had ever seen one, who seemed nearly intolerably stupid. At one point, one of her flowers slipped from her hair and James almost picked it up and handed it to her, only to realized what he was about and move back to his alcove. James stood in his window till the Dashwoods left but, before retrieving his sister, he stuck a simple white rose in his waistcoat and shook his head.
On Wednesday there was no more peace for James as Beth had him trotting her out again and again in Peter's stead. He had not realized how hard his brother-in-law had to work in keeping his sister together. "I begin to feel sorry we did not give him more on your marriage."
"What did you say?"
"Oh, nothing. I was just thinking how much you must miss Peter for your outings."
"Peter never goes shopping with me! Whatever made you think that?"
"Well than why did you insist that I must take you out?"
"James, you are never in town, we must let people see you once in awhile. Besides, everything we purchased today was for the girls. You didn't really think I need 8 new gowns, did you?"
"No. I suppose not. Especially as you look so dreadful in white."
"Thank you, very much." She turned, pretty in her yellow pelisse, to consult the clerk about 4 sets of evening gloves in 4 different shades to match 4 sets of satin evening shoes, and 4 sets of white, as well, with white kid shoes, just to get even with her brother. James wandered into a corner of the store which turned out to be inconveniently close to several items for ladies. On one side of the aisle, behind a tall stand covered in ribbon, stood Mrs. Jennings. She was talking hard to another lady and his attention was arrested at once.
"Well, my dear Mrs. Clarke, we were in a great uproar, first with Mr. Willoughby and then with Charlotte and the baby. But now everything is calm again. To be sure, Miss Marianne is taking it very hard. I do not know what the men are about, I declare! I find it quite provoking! And I cannot find out if dear Miss Dashwood has seen anything at all of Mr. Ferrars."
"Wasn't he at the Denison's musicale last..."
"No, No, my dear. That was Mr. Robert Ferrars. Miss Dashwood's beau is Mr. Edward Ferrars, but I begin to think that it has all gone off, for we've seen nothing of him."
"Are not the Ferrars very dependent upon the mother's good will? Perhaps she does not approve? I have noticed that his sister, Mrs. John Dashwood, does not seem to be on very good terms with her husband's sis..."
"Oh, my dear, say nothing more! Miss Dashwood is the best, sweetest kind of girl there ever was and I am quite outraged!" And with that, Mrs. Jennings and her companion went out the door, leaving James Ridgely with a very thoughtful look on his face until his sister approached him to leave.
The dinner, a week later, with the Crosgroves, Ridgely and Colonel Brandon did not turn out exactly as expected. News had broken late on the previous afternoon of a domestic fracas in the Dashwood family. It appeared that the eldest brother of Mrs. Dashwood had maintained a secret engagement for several years and this, having been discovered, led to his immediate and complete dismissal from his family. The scandal was much talked about throughout the town at more dinner parties than this one. Everyone at this table was on poor Mr. Ferrars side of the equation due greatly to his harsh and unjust punishment.
"I swear to you, Brandon, the more I hear of town news the more I wish to be in Devon."
"You know I share your opinion. But I feel that it would be unkind to leave without making sure that the Miss Dashwoods are secure. I know they are great friends with Mr. Ferrars and that this is just another injury that they must feel."
"Yes, I believe I had heard Miss Dashwood's name in connection with Mr. Ferrars, which seems odd now."
The Colonel shook his head gravely, "No, Mrs. Crosgrove, I know nothing of that. And there is every reason, now, to hope that was just gossip. I have even heard my name in relationship to Miss Dashwood and I can assure you that is not the case."
"I just wish there was something that could be done for the poor man. I suppose Miss...what's it?...Miss Steele! I suppose Miss Steele is as penniless as reported? All this talk, how horrid for everyone involved! How wretched for them!"
"Sadly, my dear, the town will talk."
Yes, thought James to himself, and surely where there is so much smoke there must be a fire? Whatever Miss Dashwood's role in the affaire turned out to be, it was too disturbing to his mind. He made plans to return home immediately following the Society's meeting. He could bear London's prattle no more and surely his sisters needed him at home, dealing with home business, rather than sitting in London speculating upon the lovely Miss Elinor Dashwood, as he began to fear he was doing
Posted on September 6, 2008
Rosewood House provided a very picturesque scene. It was not one of the free-spirited new paintings filled with emotion and pathos; Rosewood was a solidly depicted and well rendered landscape. The house itself was symmetrical, with 16 rectangular stone trimmed windows on it's face. The drive lay before it in a gently curving and graceful arch that led from the road to the stables beyond the house. Well-tended and well-loved the house was, drowsy and peaceful, snug between several stands of fine old timber framing it's front presentation. Upon rounding the rear of the house, by way of a little hedge-rowed walk, it appeared to be an altogether very different place. The trees opened upon a large garden full of sun and light. Off to the north of the stables, and a fine stand of oaks, was the conservatory and before it was the rose garden. It appeared perfectly normal in size and bloom to the ordinary onlooker, and to such an unimaginative person it might seem remarkable only when the gardener pointed out there were over 300 variations of rose. Many of the variations were reputed to be only in this one garden in England. Visitors were assured for two weeks in June a passerby would be able to smell the roses from the main road, a quarter of a mile away.
James had been happy to return home to Rosewood House from London early in March. The house was bustling in preparation for spring. His mother had returned to Rosewood shortly after him with the news that he would soon be approached from a young man interested in his sister, Katy, Katherine only on the most formal occasions. This was news that he and his mother could rejoice over. With six daughters, Mrs. Ridgely had always been aware of her responsibility to get them well settled. She was made all the more aware of it by the misfortunes that had attended her own marriage.
Miss Frances Gibson had been a prize in person and fortune. She was considered very handsome and her dowry was substantial. She was the only child to a family whose fortune was made growing roses for perfumes. It was rumoured that the family had served Henry VIII. Based upon the garden record books it was certain that the family was in business by early 1589. The Rosa damascena, that Rosewood was known for, was a gift from the time of the Virgin Queen; whether it was actually her gift was still debated by rose growing families throughout the kingdom.
All of this Miss Gibson had to offer, and in good time her father accepted the offer of a young man that even young Frannie, just sixteen at the time, seemed to like. This author will have it known that often upon entering the marriage state people change; in the case of Frances Gibson and John Ridgely, one could almost say that by the time her father passed, and all of the family wealth came into Mr. Ridgely's hands, about twenty years into the marriage, she seemed married to a stranger who seemed bent on running his family and their fortune into the ground. It would have been bad enough to say that Mr. Ridgely preferred the company of harlots and gaming tables, but Frannie's father truly mourned leaving his daughter and her seven children without protection from the hands of a violent drunk.
Several years before he died, in an effort to aid his daughter and her children, Mr. James Gibson had placed his eldest granddaughters (Elizabeth, Frances, Katherine and Abigail) in school at Bath, with the edict that they remain there. Also, shortly before his death he had arranged for his only grandson, a smart boy he had kept as close as possible when it was clear that his son-in-law was not to be trusted, to "learn the business" on a lengthy trip to the East with Lord ___ who was traveling the East in search of teas and flora.
It was in India that James Ridgely had met Brandon. Only a few years older than James and already made Captain, he seemed steady and serious. They became good friends based upon their similarity in age and character despite their differences in personality. Captain Brandon was, James learned from him a few months into their friendship, mourning the loss of the woman he loved. She had been married to his elder brother and Brandon had received word of their divorce by letter from the same boat that brought Lord _____'s party to India.
James, on the other hand, was gregarious and happy to be away from home and the home situation, which he was powerless to change. He grieved to have lost his grandfather one year into his trip, but he was relieved to be away from his father, especially when the news broke after his grandfather's death that John Ridgely had lost nearly all of his mother's inheritance in gaming debts he had kept hidden while Mr. Gibson lived. The girls were safe at school, due to the prudence of Grandfather Gibson, but his youngest sisters, Cassandra and Margaret, and his mother remained at Rosewood House with his father.
Lord____ and Captain Brandon, both aware of the situation, recommended that James remain away from England until he was of age, he was at this time but twenty, as he could have no hope of intervening while he was not in possession of his own inheritance. His father could not get rid of Rosewood House. By law the house could not pass to a non-blood male relative, which meant it went to James when he was of age in one year.
Thus things had stood until one boat brought letters to both he and Brandon that changed their plans. For the Captain it came in the form of a transfer to England. For James it came in the form of a letter from his mother informing him of the death of his father. Both men had boarded the next ship heading west and disembarked in England, six months shy of James' twenty-first birthday. They were in contact with each other over the next five or six years only sporadically, until the news came that Colonel Brandon had inherited Delaford from his brother. Once in the same country, they kept a steady correspondence, especially as now James was the one with experience in managing land and rebuilding income after great mismanagement.
James Ridgely had arrived home to find all in disarray. The gardens had been completely neglected, with the flowers left to rot on the stems since his grandfather had died. The servants, all but the few oldest and most loyal to Mrs. Ridgely, had run off. The neighborhood was rife with the gossip about the behavior, debts and death of Mr. John Ridgely. "e'd blown ‘is ‘ead off" in a riding accident, went the first story. Then the darker forces seemed evident--his riding accident had not included a horse. Most inhabitants of the neighborhood had little regret for the man they had long come to despise. For his wife and daughters it was more complex. There had been little love for their father, but with the reputation of being the children of a dipsomanic and the loss of all but the barest of dowries, once again protected by their grandfather only, this time, too late, how could these young woman look forward to any future of their own? The was a deep depression and fear amongst the whole family.
Very soon after his return James had found Beth, with his sister Fran, talking of going out as governesses. He was appalled and demanded that they give up the idea and instead work with him, perhaps bringing the whole family back from the edge. They had agreed and, with his mother, had been instrumental in bring the perfumes back to the market. The family, with the great history they had to pull from, had developed new scents that were much sought after, especially because of the difficulties with France. Two years after James returned, the family was making an income, but were just above water when Beth and Fran had gone to visit a school friend in Surrey. At the home of this family, Beth had met Peter Crosgrove and she had learned to love him. It had all ended with Peter Crosgrove taking only Beth and a small dowry's worth of roses, essentially giving the family a garden in Surrey to operate from as well. James had come away from Crosgrove feeling like the older man, Peter was 30, had paid him off to marry Beth, but it was to the best. A few years later, and with an increased dowry of funds and not flowers, Fran married a Rector, a Crosgrove cousin, in a district nearby her sister. Both sisters were very happy and it was a great relief to their mother and brother.
This left James and his mother with just the younger girls to settle. The twins, Katy and Abby, were 23. Cass was 20. The baby of the family, Margaret, was just 17. Before he left India he had promised himself that nothing would keep him from doing his duty by his mother, sisters and their heritage. While many a young lady had, in the twelve years since his return to England, vied for his handsome, brown-eyed attention, James was resolved. At first, he could not think of marriage as he could not afford it. As things were coming to a better end than he had ever dared to hope, his mother began to fear that he simply was out of the habit of thinking of a woman any differently than he had thought of his sisters for the last twelve years.
With his mother's news of a beau for Katy, James could breath a sigh of relief. Abby, for the last five years, had been very clearly in love with their Rector's son, the eldest boy, who was to take his father's place. They were simply waiting for a sufficient income, but the Rector was experiencing ill-health and had mentioned to James that he would like to retire before summer. With any luck, He and his mother would host the twins' weddings in June! Abby and Margaret were still on the young side for marriage, no matter what Miss Margaret thought.
James, as he wandered from section to section in the garden one April night checking over the head gardener's notes on what each section contained, had reason to be thankful for where he and his family were at this point in time and felt he would have been foolish, indeed, to look for yet another woman to share his life with, no matter what Brandon said of her character, nor what James felt when he had seen Miss Dashwood standing across that London street
Posted on September 14, 2008
Rosewood House, Devon, June 1804
No apologies are necessary, my friend. I absolutely understand your silence and take no offense. I am glad to hear that Miss M is so well after the events you related about your time at Cleveland.
Of course I am in complete agreement with you the Mr F aught not to have married on so small an income as the Delaford living (which, by the by, Beth was pleased to know you had given the the unfortunate man), but we are not all prudent. We can hope for the best in any case.
I trust that things in your part of Devon will be much less dramatic in the future. Here we are deep in plans for the twins' weddings, which will take place at the end of the month. The Crosgroves, along with Fran and Thomas, will be here. It is my mother's wish that you attend us as well, certainly for the wedding the last week of the month. Let us know what we may expect. Would you please bring some rain in attendance with you--just not for the wedding day!
October 1804, from the same to the same:
You are too well aware of the efforts at Rosewood in the summer to take offense by the minimal communications. That said, here are your perfumes--the rosamuget for your sister is already specially packaged for your trip. (I am too well-mannered to inquire into what you intend for the rosapura.)
I hope your harvests were not too unprofitable. The draught here will make it a hard year for many in the area. We are kept continually busy with plans and strategies with an eye towards winter needs.
December 1804, from the same:
St. James Street, London
I heartily concur with your sentiments on hearing of the Crosgrove heir. I shall make sure that young Peter James knows his duty to his sisters--although he shall lack my preferred state as eldest. One hopes his three sisters are as excited by his arrival as my sister and Peter.
Beth sends word that Mrs Eliza Williams is the best "nose" working for her and she has great hopes for next season's lilacs--a notoriously hard scent to capture.
Your last letter contained a great deal of Miss M. I shall look forward to hearing more on that score when we meet at Christmas.
April 1805, from the same:
Will you believe I am in expectation of three new nieces or nephews this spring! This must be my excuse for not accepting your kind invitation to Delaford. I must be ready to take Mother, Cass and Meg whenever they will go. Once again, I must miss and introduction to the Miss Dashwoods. As to what you are contemplating--Brandon, you are a man of impeccable sense. If your love for Miss M is as great as ever you are right to secure your own happiness. Her behavior towards you, as you relate it, does not indicate that she is adverse. She has invited, welcomed even, your friendship; although she is young, she seems to have the incredibly good sense of valuing you now. When you tell me the deed is done, I shall send you some of whatever is finest as a gift to the future Mrs. Brandon!
June 1805, from the same:
Miss Marianne Dashwood
Barton Cottage, Barton Park
My dear Madam-
Thank you for your kind words about the flowers. Since you seem to enjoy the roses so well, I shall make you a gift of them upon your marriage to my esteemed friend. Delaford's garden is delightful, but it has always seemed to me that one spot upon the lawn appeared to despair for want of roses.
I shall look forward to conveying my personal congratulations at your wedding in September.
September 1805, from the same:
My dear friend,
I am grieved to miss your approaching nuptials. As you may be aware, this fever in the north of the country has been sudden and severe. There are several in the surrounding villages who are ill. It appears that it has reached Rosewood proper, as well. One of the gardeners lost a young boy on Monday. I have no wish to travel with this risk. Please extend my regrets to your wife and assure her that her rose bushes will be ready for her to claim in the spring.
Barton Cottage, Barton Park
My dearest, dearest sister,
I write to thank you again and again for all of your efforts surrounding the wedding and, of course, for the beautiful painting of Mr. Ridgely's rose. He writes to my husband that I will have my own with the spring! We should have met him at the wedding, but for this dreadful fever. We received word this morning that his mother and sisters are quite ill. There is some concern on the part of one sister, who is not strong. It will grieve my dear husband greatly should anything happen to Ridgely or his family, he is very attached to them. It seems they are in someway related to poor Eliza, but I do not yet know the full story...
I had to put down my pen to receive Rev. and Mrs. Ferrars. He gives me news that there is illness in the village to the south of Delaford. It appears that my first duty in my role as mistress of Delaford will be in making preparations for those who may need additional help. Fortunately, Mrs. Ferrars seems happy to work with Cook and I shall organize other needs. As challenging as working with her is, it is for the best as she has had a year and a quarter to know the parish and it's needs, and she seems to have a great deal of energy despite her impending confinement.
I hope that you, Margaret and Mama will remain well. Take no chances, my dearest Elinor! I have put your painting on my desk so that I might see it as I work. My dearest sister, despite our present concerns, be sure that I am very happy.
All my love-
December 1805, on a fine black bordered paper:
I thank you for your heartfelt condolences on the loss of Cassandra. My mother and Margaret are almost perfectly well now, but low and grieving. I shall be taking them to Crosgrove for the holidays where the children may brighten them a bit. It is my, and Peter's, design to have them stay through the winter. I confess I would like very much to remain away as long as possible. Cass was the sweetest girl I ever knew; despite having six sisters, I can not spare one of them.
Thank Mrs. Brandon for her kind words and tell her I have not forgot my promise for the spring.
Rosewood House, Devon
I am glad to hear you are returning to spirits and that your mother and sister have returned to Rosewood. It is my greatest wish that you will all remain well and return to contentedness.
Would that I could write with such pleasing news for my own concerns. I am afraid we must delay your visit here to a later date. In late March, my dearest wife suffered a loss. This has led to such a depression of spirits as to lead Miss Dashwood and I to remember, with some nervousness, our London experience two years past. Mrs. Dashwood believes the grief is only natural and shall soon pass. Time will tell. We shall have to watch and hope.
I must leave off--Mrs. Jennings is come to the Ferrars for a few weeks and I see her coming up the lane, I must give the ladies a warning. My best to your mother.
Posted on September 19, 2008
Marianne Brandon certainly thought she had suffered before, though she seldom ever thought about her experience with Willoughby since her happy marriage to her dear husband. Now, she was sure that she knew nothing of suffering. Nothing could compare to the loss of this first, much desired, baby. She could not bear the sight of the new growth on the fields and the very blossoms in the garden seemed to mock her. She knew that her husband had grieved with her, which made him more dear to her than ever; they were truly wedded by this loss. Still, she could not speak to him of it, perhaps because of the very pain it caused him. For herself, she felt that to speak of it would make the agony greater than when it had happened. Her mother had tried several times to encourage her to vent her grief, but with so great a loss Marianne felt she could not trust herself to speak.
The doctor, who had been endlessly kind, said that she was healthy and that the loss of a first baby was, sadly, too common. How could she be sure? Lucy Ferrars had not lost her first baby. Indeed, she could hardly bear to see Mrs. Ferrars, although they had worked admirably together during the rush of fever the fall before, because Lucy seems scarcely interested in her baby except to parade it about whenever it would make her look best. Marianne's baby would have been loved--adored. She would have kept it with her whenever possible and yet she did not have one. To say it was unfair seemed too grossly inadequate. The greatest peace Marianne could find at this time was to sit fitfully before the fire, her back to the windows, with a book she did not read. Her only comfort was the company of her husband or her sister, both of whom she knew would gladly have let her speak but did not require it.
Mrs. Dashwood watched her daughter as she stared off into the fire. Marianne was seated, on a beautiful day in late April, with her back to the windows as if distrustful of the light. Although her face was drawn and pale, Mrs. Dashwood had noted that Marianne did eat. She was taking care to not hurt her family by inattention to herself as she had once before. Mrs. Dashwood longed to talk to her of her feelings but every time she had tried Marianne had left the room in unshed tears. She now seemed to avoid being alone in her mother's company at all. This state of affairs grieved Mrs. Dashwood more than she would say, but she complied with her daughter's unspoken wishes.
They were seated together in Marianne's sitting room with Mrs. Jennings, who was at Delaford staying with the Ferrars. The room the ladies occupied, Mrs. Dashwood knew, was Marianne's favorite. It was an open, lovely room with just the right mix of comfort and elegance. It had been a present to Marianne from her husband at their marriage. Mrs. Dashwood and Mrs. Jennings had been gossiping over tea but they had fallen silent. Mrs. Jennings watched them both with a great deal of compassion and with a look more solemn than that good lady's countenance had often seen. She said, "Poor dear." This brought Mrs. Dashwood's attention back to the situation at hand.
"I am sorry, Mrs. Jennings. I am afraid I am not very good company today."
"Well, you have no need to apologize to me. Lord! I know how it is. I lost two myself and thought I would die both times."
"Laws, yes. My first ended like your daughter's, and I cried and cried until poor Mr. Jennings was distracted. The doctor told him that it was of no concern and that I was sure to have more, since there had been the one, you see. It wasn't until our Rebekah was born that I really believed him."
"Rebekah? but I thought Lady Middleton's name was Mary."
"So'tis. Her father named her Mary. He said that he felt he was praying every time he said the name, and that maybe those prayers would allow us to keep her. And you see he was right! I couldn't hope ‘tall. Rebekah died before she was two years old."
Both ladies looked up at Marianne. She had tears on her face, unknown to herself.
"Oh, my dear Mrs. Jennings how could you bear it?"
"Well, my dear, because I had to. My husband said he could not do without me; but in the end it was Charlotte that opened me up again. Mary was her father's through and through. I often think it was her relationship with her father led to her choosing Sir John, for Sir John is that much like him. Charlotte is more like me and we have always been close. I guess it was meant to be so, for we never had any more. "Just one for each of us," as Mr. Jennings always said. But I have never forgotten the other ones. I don't believe a feeling woman can."
"Why did I never hear how difficult it was! Of course I knew the dangers to delivering a child, but all I see are babies. There are babies everywhere, why not mine?"
Here Mrs. Dashwood spoke, "My dear, we all feel the same way."
At this Marianne turned her tearstained face upon her mother in shock. "You too, Mama?"
Mrs. Dashwood, decidedly embarrassed with this line of talk, but seeing Marianne's serious interest and wanting to seize the opening between them, persisted, with a blush, "Have you never wondered about the gap between you and Margaret? Most women are well able to keep a steady gap between births, but I lost the babe that was next after you. That's the reason for there being four years instead of two or three between you."
"Oh, Mama, if I had known!" Marianne crossed and knelt by her mother's chair, putting her head in her mother's lap. Mrs. Dashwood, stroking her daughter's hair, said, "Oh, my dear, had you known it would not have spared you grief."
"No, but had I known I might not have thought it was my fault. I might have been able to find some hope knowing that you, too, had the experience."
"Oh, Lord, my dear! Why you see if you don't have a fine family just as your mother and I have. It won't change your grief, my dear. That child you will always wonder about. But you'll make peace about it with time, see if you don't."
Marianne lifted her head from her mother's lap and after she rose she kissed both of her mother's cheeks. Before she left the room she walked over to Mrs. Jennings and kissed her cheek saying, "Thank you, my dear Mrs. Jennings." After she left them, she went to the nursery they had been preparing and, closing the door behind her, cried her heart out. Her husband stood outside the door, unbeknownst to her, guarding her grief.
Elinor had grieved for her sister and the Colonel but was glad to see that all was becoming well again. They were sad, but their sadness was natural and not strengthened by an unwept grief. It was a little surprising that relief had come in the form of good Mrs. Jennings. Marianne had spoken to Elinor about it at some length, wanting Elinor to know the truth so that she might never experience the same. For Elinor, while appreciating the concern that Marianne had shown, it had been an awkward interview. Elinor felt that she, perhaps, might never have need for the information, but, as the relation seemed to help put Marianne at ease, she permitted the exchange.
At this time, Elinor was not still pinning for Edward. She was now concerned for how her love appeared to reflect upon her judgement. She had loved Edward and that love had turned out to be misdirected. He was not bad, indeed he could not be bad. He was not a Wiloughby. He did, however, lack an active principle of good. He was good because he could be nothing else. Lacking active powers, he had found himself in such a situation with Lucy. It was his fate almost more than his fault.
Elinor was now certain that she could never love again without a firm belief and respect in the man's thoughtful, active goodness, and how was she to know that? The Colonel was, of course, such a man. But she had never been attracted to him beyond the scope of a lively friendship. She respected and valued him, but shouldn't there be more? Of course, Marianne had married with no more, but she now seemed to truly love her husband and she depended upon him in a way she never had Willoughby. However, to marry in such a way, now, seemed a tremendous risk to Elinor. After all, she had not understood Edward's character until after Lucy had married him. How would it be to be married to someone, to rely upon a person so incapable of acting. In the common phrase, she found she had escaped a marriage in which she would have worn the breeches. She could not wish it so. Her parents marriage was before her, an even and equal partnership, and this is what she wished for. Where might she meet such a man in Devon? It was ridiculous to even contemplate.
She shook off these thoughts as tending toward the melancholy and began to check her lists. It was her summer project to paint her way through the season in the kitchen garden. She had catalogued all of the growth and flowering and had good reason to be pleased with her efforts. While she was engaged in her task Thomas stepped out to tell her that a letter was brought to her from Delaford. It would be Marianne thanking her for the painting of Norland that Elinor had sent over with Sir John two days before.
It appeared the she could still be surprised. The letter was from the Colonel. It was an invitation to join he and Marianne on a trip to his friend, James Ridgely, at Rosewood House to the North. The Colonel encouraged her to make sure her paints were in order with glowing reports of what she would find in the Rosewood gardens--it was the most famous garden in the west and she would not be disappointed. The lilac perfume that he and Marianne had given her for her birthday was from a garden owned by the same family.
The idea had appeal and the garden was intriguing, especially as she had found the perfume beyond description. If her mother agreed, she would go. Mrs. Dashwood, who had received her own letter from Marianne, readily agreed, so it happened that, late in September, the Brandons and Elinor found themselves on the curving drive before Rosewood House
Posted on September 24, 2008
Things were not going according to plan on the morning that James expected Colonel Brandon, with his wife and her sister, to arrive. Brandon had wrote telling James to expect them before the noon hour as the trip was comparatively short and the weather good. James had left the house early in the morning to attend to business before they arrived, knowing that his mother would see to the accommodations and preparations with the staff.
He had much to do out-of-doors this morning, but a recalcitrant heifer was adding to his troubles. He had found her stuck atop a fallen tree far from the rest of the herd. She would not oblige him in walking backward toward the way she had come. The tree was too heavy for him to move alone and there was no one else about, so there was nothing else to do but to try and get her to back off the tree. As the heifer seemed in no mood to be reasonable, James had been trying to pull and push her back. It was during this interaction that Madame had decided that she was tired of his impudence and presumption had butted James onto his backside in a nearby half dry puddle. The heifer then did a little skipping step off the tree and, with one backward glance at James swearing in the puddle, made her way back towards the herd with her muzzle held high. Despite the inelegance of his position, James could not help but laugh outright at the seeming disdain with which she observed him; she reminded him of his sisters on similar occasions when he had tried to get them to do what they would not. His laugh finished, he picked himself out of the muck and made his way back to the house to find that he arrived in the garden at the exact moment as his mother, Mrs. Brandon and Miss Dashwood. All of the ladies stared at him in surprise, and with a grin, he bowed most formally, "Ladies."
"James Ridgely! What on earth have you done with yourself?" cried his mother.
"My dear mother, I did not do a thing. It's rather what on earth the heifer has done to me." On seeing the gleam of laughter in all of their eyes, he continued, "Apparently, I offended the lady somehow and you can see how she punished me."
With her lips twitching, Mrs. Ridgely said, "Well, I'm sure you deserved it, and now before you offend the ladies before you, you should continue on to your room. I will not introduce you thus...attired. You'll find us in the tea room when you are more presentable. Come along, my dears" And with that she led the two ladies away, but as they rounded the hedge he heard them all burst into laughter. With a smile on his face, he turned to the house in time to meet Brandon and his sister, Meg, coming outside. Acknowledging his friend, but ignoring his sister's mocking look of horror, James pointed them towards the garden saying, "Just follow the laughter." Finally, the poor man made his way into the house to regain his dignity, only to hear his sister burst into gales of laughter. It was infinitely to the credit of his friend that James did not hear the Colonel laughing, and it was a service he would not soon forget. When he found them all together, a half hour later, everyone was on their politest behavior as Colonel Brandon introduced James to his wife and her sister.
At the end of the second week of their acquaintance three of the ladies of the party were in absolute agreement on one subject which, with their similarities of manners and interests, made them all the fastest of friends. Mrs. Ridgely, Mrs. Brandon and Meg had all decided that James and Elinor should marry. Marianne was eager to have her sister married to the handsomely favored best friend of her dearest husband, who was so easy and personable, and had done such good by his sisters and mother. Mrs. Ridgely was very pleased with all she had previously heard of Miss Dashwood from the Colonel; she had only needed to meet Elinor, to see her in person, to understand that her dry, sometimes arch, humour and her perfect manners and pretty face were all that James would wish for in a wife. Meg's pleasure with Elinor seemed to come chiefly from the idea that she had sprouted in her mind of James' wife making him too busy to attend so carefully to herself. Despite her personal interest in having James married, Meg liked Elinor very well.
The Colonel had watched the scene with a great deal of interest but would say nothing to any of the ladies when questioned on the subject. Even Marianne had found it impossible to know his real opinion.
"But, my dear, will you not say if you think it would be a good match. Do you not think them well suited?"
"What I think isn't the point, my dear. James is well able to handle his own affaires. We have always respected each others opinions highly, and shared them when asked. I am not in his confidence on this issue, and I will not offer an opinion on so serious a matter regarding my dearest friend, save you, even to you." And, with a kiss to her forehead, he went out to a morning ride with his other dearest friend.
The ladies were left to plotting, but since the house party was so small and the fall weather unseasonably warm, it was difficult to get James and Elinor locked into the library, walking out alone only to be caught in the pouring rain or marooned on a desert island.
But what of Elinor, how was she enjoying her visit to Rosewood? She was pleased with everything, saw nothing that she could not admire, found the host and hostess well-mannered and elegant, and even found Meg a dear, although a bit of a rattle. It had been at Meg's suggestion that Elinor undertake some drawing of the late roses after seeing the work in Elinor's paintbook. She and Mrs. Ridgely had united in the idea that Elinor might draw them some pretty images for the new bottles of perfume that the family would bring out before the London season began. James was politely attentive and promised to share anything they particularly liked with his sister, Beth, who had designed the bottles. But all of the mother and the sisters' hopes were dashed on seeing Elinor drawing in the garden with no one's company, save the gardeners.
After a second fortnight of such activity, the ladies were at a desperate point. It was clear that James could evade their every plot, and the party was due to depart in two days time! Meg, deciding to take the bull by the horns, picked up the pictures that they had liked the best from the several Miss Dashwood had completed, and marched toward her brother's study. At the last moment, she turned back and picked up the entire portfolio and continued in without so much as a knock.
"James, Mother and I have decided that we like these the best of what Elinor has done."
He looked at her with his eyebrow raised.
"You are calling Miss Dashwood Elinor now?"
"Well that is her name, James. I could hardly avoid it. She is not so much older than myself. She was only two and twenty on her last birthday."
James seemed to be ignoring her as he looked through the pictures Meg had handed him. He raised an eyebrow and stared at Margaret more thoroughly.
"She greatly surpasses you in sense, regardless of whether she surpasses you much in age."
Meg repressed a retort and simply commented, "You know for her last birthday the Colonel and Marianne gave her the new lilac perfume from Crosgrove. I think it's particularly charming on her."
James was flipping through the other pictures in the portfolio and appeared to be arrested by one in particular.
"Didn't you think the lilac perfume on Elinor was charming?" There was a pause as he stared at the painting before setting the rose drawings back on top of it and handing it back to his sister.
"Yes. Miss Dashwood is very charming. Now you better take that back before she wonders where it's gone." He turned his back on her and went back to his desk. Meg left the room not ill-pleased. James had apparently not realized his slip. He had said Miss Dashwood was charming, not that the perfume was! She must tell Mamma.
Back in the study, James looked out the window at the passing clouds for a long while. He had been very aware of what he had said to Meg. Miss Dashwood was charming. She was pleasant, engaging, graceful and truly accomplished. She could talk with great sense and feeling on many subjects. She could paint them as well. In the midst of all of her landscapes and flowers there was just one portrait, which said everything he had ever suspected. Elinor Dashwood had a great and loving heart, and she had once dearly loved Edward Ferrars. In the leaves of all the pages of the portfolio his sister had brought in to him was a painting, detailed and delicately tinted, dated the summer of 1803, and there was no mistaking the feeling of the hand that had painted it.
He had hoped, that in Brandon bringing her to Rosewood, and in their finally meeting, it would rest this strong feeling he had toward her; or he would find that the gossip had been wrong and there was no connection other than friendship between she and Mr. Ferrars. There, in her portfolio, was her own hand against his wishes. She must still have, of course she did have--for she was the kind to truly love, strong feelings towards the man. To carry his picture with her for this long! He could not hold it against her, but nor could he attempt an attachment with a woman who he was assured loved another, even if marriage to that man were no longer possible.
In two days time the party drove away, subdued on all sides, but with a promise to the ladies of bottles of the new perfume with the damask rose drawing James felt Beth would love, and the security of all the party meeting again in London, in January, when Meg began her first season
Posted on October 4, 2008
Elinor was confused. Mr. Ridgely had been everything that was polite and kind. They had enjoyed many conversations together with the rest of the party during the visit to Rosewood. His mother, sister and Marianne were obviously uniform in their opinion of it being a match. Yet he had shown no wish to converse with her alone despite often walking her out to the garden, on the suggestion of his mother, to one rose bush or another which Elinor might draw. She was sure, in the way a lady is always sure, that he did not find her repulsive. More often than anyone else noted, she had found him looking at her with a look that Elinor could not describe that caused her breath to catch. Nothing had come of it however, so she, the other ladies and her breath, must be equally wrong. Men! How was one to understand the creatures!
She had been happy to return home to Barton and looked forward to the time when she and the Brandons would meet with their new friends in London. Elinor was decided. Despite Mr. Ridgely's appeal, he was not interested in marrying her and she would not regret him. But, she would marry and the market for such an event in Devon was not great. She had not lost her head, nor was she trying to latch a beau or a dozen. Her views were modest and practical. She wanted to have children, therefore she must marry. There were no eligible men amongst her small acquaintance; she would need to go to London. Surely, there must be a sensible agreeable man in London, who wished for a sensible agreeable wife?
Originally, the plan had been that the Brandons and Elinor would journey to London in January. The Colonel had business in town and his wife and her sister had been encouraged by Mrs. Ridgely and her daughter, Meg, to come for the first few weeks of Meg's debut. When it became clear that Marianne was again expecting, the Colonel sent word to Mrs. Ridgely that he would be traveling to London alone, and only for a week. Mrs. Ridgely, responding with her joy, wrote that there was no reason that Elinor might not join her, and she would appreciate the company, so used to having many young women about her as she was.
Marianne encouraged Elinor to go. This experience was much different than her first; after the first few months, Marianne had never felt in better health. She and her mother were busy with preparations for the birth, which would take place in May. Meanwhile, Marianne spent her leisure with Margaret, supervising her at the pianoforte and playing for her dancing lessons with a local master. Margaret would be entering society soon, but was unfortunately still over interested in dogs and ponies for her mother's taste.
Elinor made preparations to leave in early January. She could hardly believe her different feelings on preparing for this trip to London. They were to be gone until Easter, which was late in March. The plan was to return to Devon in time for the start of the spring season at Rosewood and with, for Elinor, plenty of time before her sister's confinement. Mrs. Ridgely had written to Elinor expressly requesting that Elinor bring her portfolio of pictures from the autumn visit to Rosewood. Her eldest daughter had expressed a great deal of interest in the artist who had drawn the rose that graced the new bottle, wanting to both meet Elinor and see the rest of the drawings, if that were agreeable.
Elinor, pulling out the portfolio, reflected with dissatisfaction on the drawings she found there and then shook her head at her foolishness and moved on to the other pictures. She must clean all the rubbish out. Sometimes she used the backside of old drawings for new ones. Even though the family budget stretched somewhat further between 3 women, instead of 4, it was no time to become careless with funds. Even so, the first picture under all of the rose drawings from the fall was a complete surprise. Eleanor remembered painting Edward, of course, but she had long ago gotten rid of all reminders of that time that might be questionable to her strict sense of honor. What was his portrait doing here in her portfolio? She flipped it over and there she saw it. On the back of the portrait of Edward she had began a copy of the Norland painting she had given to Marianne the previous summer. She had completely forgotten to finish it after they had returned in October. How thankful Elinor was that no one else had seen it and misunderstood! She quickly consigned it to the flames, although it killed her spirits towards packing for the rest of the day as it served to remind her of how incomprehensible men were at times.
Finish packing she did however and at the appointed time and appointed hour Mrs. Ridgely's carriage arrived at Barton. They made a quick visit into the house to meet Mrs. Dashwood and then set out for Delaford. There they were to stay the night, leaving for London on the morrow. At Delaford they found everyone in excellent health and spirits. The Reverend and Mrs. Ferrars joined them to dinner, as well as the John Dashwoods, who were paying a visit to both brother and sister. Mrs. Ridgely found the Dashwood brother an ordinary man of fashion, but Mrs. John Dashwood seemed a very hard and unfeeling woman who seemed to take pleasure in nettling Elinor about her unmarried state in front of the assembled company. Fanny made a point of mentioning that men of fortune like her younger brother, Robert, would want either fortune or a younger lady! Mrs. Ridgely made a mental note to keep Meg and Elinor away from the Dashwoods circle as much as possible. The ladies were all happy to leave in the morning.
Meg had a great many plans and talked excitedly about the dresses, bonnets, parasols and balls that were before them. While Elinor was not as excited about the finery, it had been settled between she and her mother that she would wait to get her gowns until coming to town. Mrs. Ridgely planned to spend a few weeks getting Meg dressed and ready before attending any of the larger events. Once they arrived, Elinor fell in eagerly with Meg, shopping and planning. Unlike Meg, Elinor had no strictures placed upon her dress. She could eagerly consult the coloured silks, which Miss Meg could only sigh over.
"I look so dreadful in white! My colouring is just like Beth's. White will never do. I look so much better in a colour. Oh! Miss Dashwood! Just look at this silk!"
Meg held up a very pretty cream and fuchsia silk taffeta, which looked like a rose petal in the sun to Elinor. She gasped and fingered it. It was very fine, too fine really. She must be sensible. This was not a sensible fabric. Mrs. Crosgrove had wandered over to where the two girls were standing and observed Elinor's face. She was disappointed that her brother would not seek out Miss Dashwood's hand. She liked her excellent manners and her graceful easy way. She was very pretty. Beth picked up a matching velvet ribbon and held it up near Elinor's face.
"Really, my dear, you should have it. It's quite perfect. No, Meg, it would never do so drop it now and go look over at the cream samples that Madame has brought out for you. If you are an angel about the pale gowns I will speak to Mama about a new riding outfit. But remember, you are to be an angel."
"I'll be a perfect saint if you can get her to agree to the red-brown velveteen, with the emerald silk lining over there."
"We shall see, now I see they are ready for you."
Meg nearly skipped away while Beth turned back to Elinor. Elinor had moved on to more serviceable fabrics. She was looking without a great deal of interest at an peacock blue muslin with a cunning dot. It was very pretty and would wear very well, but it was not the silk taffeta.
"Miss Dashwood, I like that blue very well, you should have it for the smaller assemblies. It would look very well with the gray worked shawl you wore to dinner last night. I believe the blues in it would go very well."
"I think you are right, Mrs. Crosgrove. It would be a very sensible purchase."
"Speaking of sensible purchases, could you tell me what you think of this brown velvet? I was thinking of it for our February ball. Velvet seems so frivolous, it does not wear very well at all, but I do think it would look very well. I should so like to look my best for Margaret's ball. There will be any number of the ton there, everyone seems to be interested in the latest Rosewood rose, be it a perfume or a young lady."
The perfume had entered the ton right before Christmas and was labeled instantly the thing. The family was on the receiving end of a great deal of inquiry and curiosity. With Beth's blonde hair and brown eyes the golden brown silk velvet went very well, and Elinor told her so.
"Well, I shall have it. Peter likes me to look well. And what shall you wear, my dear?"
"I've not decided, yet"
"The silk is very beautiful, but perhaps too frivolous? May I ask, Miss Dashwood, what you intentions are for this season?" Beth was watching her face carefully. Elinor flushed prettily, but responded honesty, to her credit.
"I believe I am here for what we are all here for. Entertainment, new acquaintance..."
"Very well, a husband. But, I will not marry just to marry."
"My dear, the very idea! Of course not, nor would your friends let you! I am simply badly managing an attempt to be kind. What I mean to say is, if I may be frank, that some men need a sign, like a bull." Beth waved the silk in the air a bit. "You dress very quietly and sensibly, to your credit with any sensible person, but...perhaps, one dress, for such an occasion as this, would catch the right eye."
Elinor considered Beth and saw that she was sincere. In her head she could hear her mother and Marianne agreeing with her. Madame approached,
"Would Mademoiselle Dashwood like an evening dress perhaps, with this silk? I have a very pretty sample, just made up that would look very elegant in the silk. Shall we try?"
Beth looked at Elinor with one eyebrow up, looking a great deal like Mr. Ridgely, and Elinor said, "Yes." She did not regret it.
When the night came Meg stood in Mrs. Ridgely's sitting room making last adjustments. Mrs. Ridgely was giving Meg her final instructions, and admonishments to dance with no one more than once this night, when Elinor made her entrance.
"...and, Mama, what a disaster if no one dances with me but James!"
"You'll be lucky if I dance with you at all, Meg-let!"
"Mama! Do you hear what he said? He called me Meg-let. Do make him stop!"
"Children, really. James, do remember that you are past thirty. And Margaret, do remember that you are supposed to be out of the schoolroom."
Meg's happy response to this was to stick her tongue out at her brother while her mother's head was turned to greet Elinor in the doorway.
"How well you look, my dear. Now do let us be going. James, come, we must get the girls to Beth. She had some people she wanted them to meet."
"Young men just dying to fall in love, of course" his sister said saucily as she left the room after her mother and Elinor, "You remember being in love, don't you, James?" sticking her tongue out at him one last time before going out the door.
James followed, determining to give extra to the man who would take his nosey, all-too observant sister off his hands, and wondering if it would be wrong to break the fingers of any man who went near Miss Dashwood. It was going to be a long night
Posted on October 19, 2008
The ballroom was as crowded and as over hot, as one could expect when half the ton was at an event and the other half was either coming to or going from the same event. Elinor's card was pleasantly full for the night, for she was popular amongst the more serious minded men that season. She was pretty, sensible and made up for her lack of a sizable dowry by having very respectable relations. Of course not all young men are without funds, and we must remember that someone once said that men of sense do not go looking for silly wives. For this reason, Elinor's season so far had been pleasant.
Or as pleasant as a season could be when the one man of men seemed to regard her as yet another sister. It was to the sadness of Mrs. Ridgely, the dissatisfaction of Elinor and the outrage of Meg that James treated Elinor in a kindly, compassionately, politely, friendly and completely unloverlike fashion. He danced with her precisely once at each function, immediately after Meg, and then he left for the smoking room until he saw them home. His apparent indifference was a malady that seemed impossible to treat. Meg was quite disgusted with him. Elinor smiled bravely, and truly believed that she meant to not be disappointed by him. She wore the sweetest smiles and had the most intelligent countenance of the young ladies that season and a few eligible men were taking notice. But, there was never the flock around her that there was around Meg.
That lady's happy humour and easy manners, tied to her good looks and very prominent family name, helped to make her much admired. Those of the stricter sort avoided her, despite her family's illustrious history, for the higher insteps could not bear the smell of commerce even whilst wearing the family perfumes. Meg had shrugged her pretty shoulders and went on to capture hearts at such a pace that her brother talked of limiting her outings to one a week. At least once a fortnight some besotted youth was seen making his way sadly from the Ridgely door--but for her good humour, Meg's reputation might have suffered. She somehow managed to send each man away with the idea that one or another young lady might be expecting his call, and, so successful was she in her matchmaking that no young man had a bad word to say of her. It was said she was responsible for at least 3 matches made by the end of February. She found herself befriended by all, and seemed to be a good luck charm for the girls of her set, excepting Elinor.
As for Meg's affections, she had opinions which she had shared freely with Elinor before the ball that night as they were dressing. "My brother prefers Mr. Foster so far, thought he will not say so. I only know because before he left," Mr. Ridgely had returned to Devon two mornings before to attend the funeral of his head gardener and to settle business with his successor, "he told Mamma that he would not be disappointed to see me settled in a country parish! Teasing man! Of course James would want me married and settled on the outside of the furthest days ride, just to provoke me. Mr. Foster is very nice, but I'm quite sure that the eldest Miss Wood is for him."
"What of Mr. Whiteleaf?"asked Elinor as she placed the last curl on the top of Meg's head.
Meg smiled at her reflection and said, "How well you do that, my dear! Now which dress are you wearing? The pink or the new periwinkle?"
"The periwinkle, I think."
"Better and better! I shall wear my shot silk with my royal blue velvet sash! Don't you think we'll look nice together. Mamma said she was wearing her navy satin. We shall look very well, indeed." She stopped speaking only long enough for the maid to place her gown over her head.
"Well then, Mr. Whiteleaf...he won't do, despite his pretty manners and his great attention. James, much as I love to needle him about being highhanded, was quite honest with me. Although Mr. Whiteleaf will inherit, he has been imprudent with his money. I have not encouraged him at all since finding out. James meant to give him a warning before tonight, but since he left in such a hurry I rather doubt he did." She stopped to poke her feet into her blue velvet slippers and was admiring her dainty reflection in the large mirror, pleased with her curls tumbling over her shoulder.
"Mr. Melford." said Elinor with a smile.
Meg lifted up her head and taking a glove from her maid began to put it on. "Mr. Melford."
She picked up Elinor's small bouquet of violets, sent by some unknown hopeful suitor that day, and walking solemnly toward the mirror in a measured gait, she smiled dreamily in the mirror. "Yes. Mr. Melford. I would have him, if he would ask. But I fear he has no real intentions. I think that great gawking Sally will win the day. Their mothers are bosom bows, you know. I will say that he was quite put out that I did not send Mr. Whiteleaf off right away, and we had a few words about it. Of course I didn't know, until Peter came to town and told James the truth about the gaming debts. And it wouldn't do to talk about that publicly, the family is too powerful and well known. Perhaps Mr. Melford is thanking his lucky stars that his Sally would take his word at once without question." With this speech she carelessly tossed Elinor's flowers down and pulled on her other glove.
"I do not think you should write Mr. Melford off just yet, my dear Meg." Picking up her flowers and putting them back in their holder with a smile. "I have heard that he was called from town to attend business in the north and was expected to return tomorrow."
This restored a smile to Meg's face and she came to help Elinor with her sash. "Of course. Perhaps he will call tomorrow."
"I'm sure he will." said Elinor, pleased to have made Meg easy. Both ladies placed the small vials of scent, lilac for Elinor and a special family-only rose scent for Meg, that Beth had given them the week before into their reticules and when down to Meg's mother.
Elinor, reflecting in the carriage, was glad to know with certainty where her friend's heart stood. She commended her sense in not assuming her love was returned without being told that it was. She did wish that Meg would temper her high spirits, which might give people unfamiliar with her ways the wrong idea of her nature. Elinor knew her to be loyal, loving and true. Although they were very different in spirits, they perfectly matched each other in character. It had made the visit to London very pleasurable to Elinor, despite her reason for dissatisfaction. Meg was always ready to make her find pleasure and enjoyment. Elinor was unsure if Mr. Melford knew Meg well enough to understand her good nature, but trusted that she understood the gentleman's character well enough to know he would not give up easily if he felt encouraged, and Meg had encouraged.
Of Mr. Whiteleaf, Elinor felt more uneasy. He would surely be at the ball that night and Elinor hoped to keep him away from Meg as much as possible. It was unfortunate that Mr. Ridgely was gone just at this time, and Elinor felt it was evil that could not too soon be rectified, as much for her friend's sake as her own.
She hadn't much time to reflect on these feelings and fears once their party entered the ballroom. The crush was extreme and the girls were very quickly in the line of dancers and stayed that way though supper. During a break in the music Elinor found Mrs. Ridgely who was looking distractedly about.
"My dear, have you seen Margaret? I cannot place her anywhere."
"No, ma'am, I saw her on the other side of the room partnered with Colonel Stolkes, but that was a set ago."
"I wonder where she could have got to? Do you think she might have become ill and stepped out from the heat?" She was looking toward the large doors to the garden.
"Why don't I check the retiring room first. Perhaps she tore her hem and stepped off to have it pinned up."
"Yes, yes, my dear. That is an excellent idea. I'll wait right here an keep an eye out for her."
Elinor left the ballroom and went down the hall towards the ladies sitting room, looking in the card room and the tea room as she passed, but to no avail. It appeared that Meg had vanished into the air. Surely, she must be someplace in this large party,
"Probably one of those young chits, just out, with too much wine, being huddled home by a disapproving brother." He stamped out his cigar and went inside.
Elinor went one last time towards a small hall that led to the paddock and the carriages. It was very dark and shadowed, but as she walked past it something called to her. There was a very peculiar smell coming from the hall. Sweet, yet definitely horsey. There was something about it that drew her into the hall further. If was very intense, but there was nothing around that would give such a smell, at least that she could see. It was odd and becoming very distressing for Elinor was sure now that it was the scent of rose perfume. Of course, everyone was wearing that this spring, but what on earth would someone with that scent be doing in this hall? There was no good reason. She was starting to be ridiculous. She would go back. She turned and stepped down and heard the crunch of glass under her feet. Reaching down, she carefully felt in the dark on the wet floor. She knew the hard round object was before she brought it up to her eyes. She had stepped on an open vial of perfume left upon the floor. Her eyes sharpened and in the dim light she could make out on the stopper the damask rose etching she had made months before sided by the two initials--MR. Margaret Ridgely.
Elinor gasped and, picking up her dress, ran out into the next hall blindly running into the broad chest of a very fashionable man. He grabbed her arms and held her up right and they looked at each other in shock. It was Willoughby.
Posted on October 24, 2008
This was truly the most horrible experience of Elinor's life. Her father's death, the loss of fortune and consequence attendant with that event; Marianne and Willoughby; Edward and Lucy; James...oh, she could not think too much about James. What the loss of this sister would do to his happiness. No, she must not think of that. She must find some other ruminations for the tediousness of the chase. Not even the thought of her sister and that terrible time in London could compare to her emotions on this awful journey, and to be making it with Willoughby! Of all of the people in her acquaintance this was the least expected, the most difficult to comprehend.
He had been very kind, after the shock of a young lady barreling into him, and the jolt of that young lady's identity had passed. He comprehended her distress at once and with great concern had asked, "Miss Dashwood! What has happen? May I be of some aid?"
"Mr. Willoughby! I, uh, I...I do not know what to say, but there is no one here that I may confide in..."
"Tell me at once! Let me be of any help that I can." All with the eagerness that reminded her of their earliest relations and that encouraged her confidence. Elinor explained her search and the concern of Mrs. Ridgely and was just getting to her trip down the hall when that lady approached.
"Elinor! Oh! Mr. Willoughby...what are you..well no matter. You've not found her?" this last to Elinor.
"No, ma'am. I was just telling Mr. Willoughby of our search. I'm sorry for relaying a family matter to a stranger to your family, but I am afraid that Meg had not been taken home."
"Mr. Willoughby is no stranger to my family, but what do you mean?"
Elinor then told her of the strange smelling hallway and the vial of perfume, sharing the stopper with them as her proof. "I cannot believe she left of her own choice. She would never have been so careless with this."
"May I ask, what colour were Miss Ridgely's shoes?"
Neither lady spoke and Mrs. Ridgely looked severely at his very fashionable attire. "Young man, this is hardly the time to discuss my daughter's manner of dress."
He looked at Elinor and she answered him.
"Royal blue? And they were velvet?"
"I'm afraid I can tell you no more than this, but it is bad enough. I saw a man lifting a woman, who I mistook to be either very intoxicated or overheated, into a hack outside that hallway's door nearly forty minutes ago. I thought nothing of it at the time, just someone's brother or husband trying to hush up an unfortunate incident. I suppose it could be some other young lady, but what else would explain the perfume?"
"Oh, my dear girl!" Mrs. Ridgely grabbed Elinor's hand. "What shall I do? What a time for James to be gone!"
"Is Mr. Ridgely away?" inquired Willoughby.
"Yes, he left two days ago. None of the other family is in town, but we expect the Crosgroves tomorrow morning."
"That will be too late. Mrs. Ridgely, if you will allow me...they are in a hack, my carriage will convey us faster with 4 horses...they may not get too far from our reach."
She hesitated over the devil before her and the one in the carriage with her youngest daughter and decided quickly, "What shall I do?"
"Send your men to your home with a note for Crosgrove, tell them to keep the house quiet, and tell him we are heading north--the carriage was going north when it left. If we have no luck at the first stops we will turn back and wait till morning. Do you agree?"
They were in agreement and all quick in their efforts. Faster than Elinor could imagine Mrs. Ridgely was back with the note and the men were hitching up the carriage with the two pair and some borrowed tack. It was after three in the morning when they left the ball and made their way north.
It was Mr. Whiteleaf.
Elinor looked at him briefly and stated very simply, "She is."
"You must be aware that in our circle there are many who speak of your sis...your family to me. I trust that all will go well for her...for the sake of all who love her." he finished uncomfortably.
"Thank you, Mr. Willoughby. I trust that it will." And with that, hoping to avoid more painful conversation to the both of them, she turned her head to the slowly lightening sky.
After the last stop on the road, when Mr. Willoughby was certain Meg's captor was on the road to Scotland and the party following had determined to proceed forward, Elinor fell asleep. Mrs. Ridgely's views of him were nearly as mixed as Elinor's at this point and, while she owed him courtesy for his present efforts, she could not quite forget Mrs. Williams and her child. She looked at him severely and inquired, "Why?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Why are you doing this?"
Mrs. Ridgely snorted, "I would expect as much, but it's an awful amount of effort for one so lazy as that statement, and your previous history, suggests. No. I will not except that you are acting from boredom."
He raised an eyebrow at her, and then deciding it did not matter much he spoke the truth, "Perhaps there is an element of redemption involved. I might be moved by the situation. After all," and here he spoke quite freely, "after all, I never had need to abduct a respectable woman. Even I have my level." He looked at the sleeping woman next to Mrs. Ridgely and continued, "Of course, there is always my genuine fondness for that family. Poor Miss Dashwood. She always seems to get the worst end of any situation."
"You mean she's always left cleaning up some man's mess. First her brother, then you, then Mr. Ferrars."
Smarting a bit from her tongue, he said, "Don't forget your son."
Willoughby looked amused, "Yes. You don't suppose that the poor girl will ever receive a proposal, or an abduction for that matter, with your son glaring though every man who approached her the whole season. At first, I thought it was just his hatred of me, but then there were bets placed at the club."
"Bets!" looking with a worried expression to Elinor, who was still asleep.
"Yes. The latest is on whether he will marry the lady as soon as his sister is engaged, or wait until she is married. I was for the engagement myself..." He stopped and they looked quite seriously at each other. He at once saw the tears in her eyes.
"We will find them."
"Don't think of that. When I saw her she was too far gone for...well, if he is such a man, we shall see him on his way to a penal colony before the week is out."
She blinked her eyes rapidly and he looked away at the glittering lights of the frosty dawn while she regained herself. After a few moments he asked, "Do you have any idea who he is?"
"I can only guess that it is Mr. Whiteleaf. James seemed particularly concerned about his interest."
Mr. Willoughby nodded, and shortly said, "As well he should. Whiteleaf is in to everyone in town. His father has made it clear that he is to marry well and soon. He is no longer paying his debts for him and says he must find a cash cow, or reform. There is little chance of the latter. Why he thinks he can steal a perfectly respectable young lady is somewhat murky to my thinking. It cannot serve his purpose very well. Whiteleaf matches the description of the man I received at the last stop."
"Perhaps he assumes, correctly, that we will pay anything we can for Meg's respectability?"
"That, or he is in deeper than we know and past all hope. Perhaps it was the act of a moment on hearing your son was gone." There was a knock on the roof of the carriage and Mr. Willoughby pulled a pistol from under the coach seat. "Who ever and why ever, we will soon know. My man sees the carriage ahead of us on the road. Wake Miss Dashwood and stay in the carriage until I tell you it is safe."
The carriage came to a quick stop after a few more moments. As Mr. Willoughby started to depart, Mrs. Ridgely grasped his hand and whispered, "God bless you."
Meg lifted her befuddled, grateful head and deposited her dinner on his shoes.
Posted on October 28, 2008
April 9, 1807
My dearest sister,
I cannot say how pleased I was to hear of the safe, albeit early, arrival of young Joy. Truly, I cannot think of a child better blessed in parents and situation. I am anxious to make her acquaintance and hope she will forgive my tardiness. I was equally pleased to hear that you are rapidly recovering. I'm sure you know no greater felicity at this time than to sit in your favorite room, your husband and dear child at your side, with spring beckoning at the door. It is how I will see you all in my mind until we meet again. All my thoughts are turned towards you and home, but I must wait another fortnight.
Now, as to the cause of my "secrecy" as you called it. I know you will excuse the tardiness of this letter when I assure you I would have told you all myself had we not resolved it amongst ourselves to keep the matter as private as possible. You know how these things are; I'm sure all the parties meant to keep it a secret. I am surprised by the length of time it took to reach Devon, but on second thought, perhaps I should not be surprised that it reached the Colonel. I know it would be his wish to spare you any distress during your confinement, and I trust you do not blame him. I shall address your concerns and questions as thoroughly as is possible. First I must say I am sorry for any distress the relation of this story may cause you. You have heard of the abduction and the rescue of M_ and know that somehow Mr. Willoughby was involved in the rescue. Let me tell you now what no one else can know. For the sake of everyone's happiness, what I am about to relate can go no farther than the Colonel (although, to be sure, he may already know.)
When Miss M_ was discovered Mr. Willoughby transfered her to his carriage, which we had taken on our wild ride out of London. His men had found the dreadful Mr. Wh_ huddled in the nearby forest in some underbrush. He was shaking in terror and confusion, filled with dreadful thoughts and suspicions. In short, my dear Marianne, he was nearly out of his mind. (We have since learned that it is not uncommon for one in his condition. He has led a much more debauched life than a mere gamester, I am sad to say, and it has been his physical ruin.) Unwilling to delay returning M_ to town immediately and unable to deal with the man's madness, Mr. Willoughby and his men tied him up to the back of a horse and let the horse go off in the direction of the next town, some four miles hence. (He was relieved in that town, but so wild and deranged that they tossed him into the village gaol. He was later found there, somewhat more sane, telling his story to anyone who would listen. Fortunately, no one would believe him. His father's men, alerted by Mr. Crosgrove when we returned to town, found the young man out and I believe he is now banished to Germany, where he will undoubtedly end his days. We must suppose that all his actions came from his quickly fading abilities and his monetary desperation. His father and lawyer have communicated with Mr. Ridgely extensively and we have that family's cooperation in the cover up.)
Our return was fast and poor M_ suffered terribly. We were forced to stop along the road several times. It turns out that the villain poisoned her by giving her too much of a sleeping draught, but more on that later. I cannot express to you too greatly the debt of gratitude we felt for Mr. Willoughby. I am quite sure that neither Mrs. Ridgely or myself could have foreseen and planned against all of our difficulties. Foremost, we needed to return to the house with as little notice as possible. The story that Mrs. R and Mr. W agreed upon was that he had found M_ ill in the hall and unable to locate her family he returned her home, where he had found the Crosgroves come early. We sent a man ahead with a message to Mr. Crosgrove and outside of the city he met us with two carriages. One was Mrs. R's and into that she and I returned to the city and the house, by the long route, arriving after dark. Mr. C and Meg went in an unknown carriage to the servant's entrance of the house and were met by a doctor. Mr. W went home through his club. The next morning he, and Mrs. Willoughby, paid a visit to the house in inquiry after the young lady he had so graciously helped home from the ball the morning before. This last bit was conquering touch. They were met by the Crosgroves, who had been declining all callers on the excuse of the letter they had received upon their arrival and then due to Meg's illness. By night fall everyone in town was convinced they had seen her looking peekish the night of the ball and that Mr. W and his wife were not only the last word in fashion, but incredibly good-natured as well. (As to that, his service in this event has secured him my regard although we can never be friends. She was a great deal more sensible than I had reason to fear, and the Crosgroves were grateful for her going along with the story. We guess she was happy to find that her husband was telling the truth about his absense, and that she would be happy to have an enlarged selection of perfumes.) That, my dear, was the end of my dealings with Willoughby.
The doctor was seen coming and going for the next few days, at Mrs. Ridgely behest. At the end of a week Mr. Melford called and insisted upon speaking with Mr. Ridgely who was now at home. That poor young man was in some desperation of his own as he was convinced that his chances were small, that that lady might prefer a gayer, more fashionable man. Finding himself distressed by her lingering illness, however, he determined to ask her brother's permission to court her. By this time Mr. R and M_ had talked and were on very easy terms with each other. (They have been very good to each other since their talk and Mrs. Ridgely is privately convinced that someone has absconded BOTH of her children.) Beth Crosgrove invited Mr. Melford to join us here at Crosgrove House in a fortnight after our departure from town. We left the next day and have been happily placed here for three weeks. Mr. M wasted no time or breathe upon his arrival. I can tell you that they are engaged and that the marriage is to take place at Rosewood in June.
And how is she? In truth she was very ill for a few days, but with youth and health she quickly recovered. The doctor believes that the large meal she ate before she was drugged helped to minimize her exposure. She says that she was very clear with Mr. Whiteleaf when he asked her to dance that her brother did not approve. But he had seemed quite forlorn and she decided she would be kind and have a glass of punch with him. Her kindness was her undoing. She remembers the blur of the halls and the stairs, but her last conscious thought was to leave something behind that someone would find. It is truly a miracle that she was able to comprehend her situation and throw out the perfume vial. She remembers it chiefly because it made him angry and he struck her. After that she remembers nothing until Mr. Crosgrove delivered her into the kitchen. She is now so happy that all, nearly all, is forgotten. She tells me that you will be invited to the wedding and that you must come. She wants me to assure your there will be lots of babies in the nursery and one more will only add to the merriment.
I can see she and Mr. M walking in the garden above me. How you would love this garden, Marianne. It is layered upon a hillside and one can imagine that in summer it must be very lush indeed.
Well, I believe I have told you all. I am anxious to return home and it is determined that the Ridgely's will return to Devon in two weeks time to prepare for a visit from Mr. Melford's family, so I shall be with you soon. I must leave off as I see Mr. Ridgely coming to speak with me...
With my warmest love,
Crosgrove House, Surrey
"James, I should like to speak with you." Mrs. Ridgley was standing at the sitting room window watching her youngest child and her future son-in-law in the garden. She could just see a glimpse of Miss Dashwood writing a letter in a sunny alcove below.
"What might I do for you mother?"
"I want you to tell me why you are unmarried."
"Ahh...." This was a new tactic and there was no one nearby to save him. "ummm, what exactly do you mean by that?"
"Don't quibble with me, my boy. I'm no fool. Every person who has ever been in the same room with you knows that you are in love with Miss Dashwood. Now why don't you do something about it?" She was now facing him, leaning her hands on the back of a tall chair. Her face showed only her love for him and that made him speak the plain truth. "She loves another."
"Piffle! I have spent more time with that girl, in more situations than you. If she were in love with anyone I would know it." She feared saying more, because Elinor had never actually said she loved James. "Why do you suppose she would go into town, when she is obviously happiest in the country, in an effort to find a husband? Do you suppose she would do so if she were already in love with someone and were sure of that person's return? Do you think so little respect for her?"
"No!" he denied it hotly. "I have nothing but the highest regard for Miss Dashwood. Perhaps, for another man, it would be enough to be the man she married after being disappointed, enough to be a second choice, it is not for me."
"Why do you think she was disappointed? Have you spoken with her of what happened to her? Do you know her feelings on it?"
"No. I would not pain her in such a fashion."
"My dear boy, then how do you know? I'm sorry to say this, but I am going to have to agree with Margaret, you are being very highhanded. You've avoided any chance to know the truth, and made yourself unhappy, by assuming you already know her feelings and how they should be managed! You've only caused her more mischief."
"Mr. Willoughby informed me that there are bets."
"Currently at his club the odd are for you to marry Elinor by Meg's engagement. I suppose it will now move to her wedding. How could poor, dearest Elinor find anyone to be first or second choice with that nonsense? Besides, my dear, I thought it was only clear to us that you loved her. Mr. Willoughby assures me that no one will go near her in fear of you. You have to marry her, my dear. In doing so, you will get the woman you love."
"But what of her, what of her love?"
"I cannot speak for Elinor, but I trust that you would be very happy together. If you are right, and you are her second choice, I am certain neither of you will behave in such a way as to have cause to regret it. As it is, we cannot compromise her reputation after her help in saving Margaret's and you know it"
James was silent for a long while. She hated that she had forced his hand, but it was for his own good and he would find it out. She knew him well enough to know he would do the right thing. She watched him open the french door and let himself out.
He walked down the stairs and noted the blotter in her hand. She smiled at him attentively and would have stood but he stopped her in a gesture. He stopped before her, suddenly emboldened by the surprise of the thing, "Miss Dashwood, Elinor, will you marry me?" he blurted out. He watched her pretty lips open in shock, then she closed her mouth and set her pen down nervously. Blushing pinkly, she said, "Yes."
Posted on November 10, 2008
She didn't know what exactly had made James ask her to be his wife that day but she had accepted him. She had not meant to accept him. The shock of his asking, which she felt was probably the result of his having been badgered by his mother and sisters, tied to the wishes of her own heart, had done the work. Elinor could not suppose that James had even expected her to say yes, but it was done and the marriage was arranged with all the speed and decorum necessary to the occasion. It goaded James to think he might be putting money in some blackguard's pocket, almost as much as it did to receive Mr and Mrs. Willoughby's felicitations in the same mail as the John Dashwood's. To make matters somewhat more painful, they had been married from Barton with all of the family in attendance including Mrs. Jennings and her cousins, Mr and Mrs. Edward Ferrars. He was thankful to return to Rosewood with just his mother, sister and wife. He had promised his wife a trip to Scotland later in the summer to make up for her missed wedding trip, and she was agreeable.
In fact, she was always agreeable. From the moment Elinor had accepted him she seemed very pleased with everything and James himself had no reason to regret his decision in attaining so pleasant a companion. They had all been very active in the usual spring business of Rosewood, with the added excitement of Meg's wedding to prepare for. Elinor had proven again and again her rightness as the mistress of Rosewood House and the wife of the Ridgely family head. The social event of the summer was Meg's wedding to Mr. Melford and that event had been a great success. When Meg left, Mrs. Ridgely took Mrs. Dashwood and Margaret with her to Crosgrove and that party intended to spend a few weeks at Norland later in the summer as well. This exodus left James and Elinor alone for the first time since their marriage six weeks previous. They fell into the same easy relationship they had had before their marriage. It was just his foolishness that made him wish for more. He felt he had very little to complain about.
Ah! They were content. They were not happy. Married only six weeks and there was none of the glow about them that was seen on so many other newlyweds. Neither of them could figure out exactly where the problem lay. She thought he had been pressured to marry her, but that he liked her well enough. He thought that she had loved another man first and better, and might come to regret being married to another. Both were killing each other with all of the kindness of their better natures, each wanting the other to not realize that they knew the other's secret. It's enough to make a grown reader cry. Here they are in love, in health, in wealth and in marriage and only content. Something must be done.
The family had been gone about a week and the house was finally clean and everyone returned to their normal routine. Elinor now found time to resume some of her pre-marriage activities and James found her in the rose garden with her paints and easel almost every afternoon while the weather was fine. Sometimes they had tea together there in the garden. Sometimes he arrived in the garden to help her bring her things back into the house. On one occasion, the weather being so very fine, the staff had served them an al fresco lunch at a table amongst the roses. After their meal James had spent an hour reading to Elinor while she had worked at her drawing. Still, there was something in the air between them in their easy companionship.
One day the rain came in a steady downpour. Elinor had set her things up in her sitting room, which was a pretty apartment done in blue that looked down over the soddened garden, resplendent in bloom despite the gloomy weather. She was opening up one of her portfolios when the housekeeper came to tell her about a problem in the kitchen. She left her things and went to see Cook.
James popped his head in to see if his wife was ready for tea, and finding her missing, he made himself a spot at her table for his books, meaning to read while he waited. On walking past her painting things he smiled to himself to see her beautiful floral representations. Really they should be in a book. He should see about it when he was in Town next, if Elinor was willing. Flipping through the pictures he was suddenly arrested by a painting. It was of him from the day he had read to her in the garden. It was a much finer, more mature portrait than the one he had seen before of Edward Ferrars. Surely, she could not paint him like this if she did not love him, his own feelings leapt at the thought.
When Elinor returned she found her husband sitting in a now familiar attitude, reading one of their favorite books. Smiling at him, she sat down.
"Tea will be ready soon."
"Is everything alright?"
"Oh, yes. Just a little problem with today's meat. I think we shall have fish for dinner and Mrs. Morse is to speak to the butcher tomorrow. Since it's just us, I thought you would not object."
"No. Fish is fine."
They were silent for awhile after this awesome discussion of a fish dinner. Presently, James asked," How does your work progress? Do you need anything?"
Elinor looked up, smiling, "No, I am quite well. Thank-you."
"Are you sure that there is nothing I can do for you...more light, move the table more towards the window, a better chair perhaps.."
"James, I am perfectly well."
"Oh. All right then."
She settled back to her work and he seemed to resume his reading and then abruptly stood and walked about the room as if in need of liberty.
"My dear, is there something wrong?"
"What!? Oh, no. I'm perfectly fine. Nothing at all wrong with me."
She smiled at him again and went back to her drawing.
"How is it for you?"
She looked at him, bewildered by his behavior and he realized he must seem a bit of an ass. He walked back to the window.
"Might I see your work then?"
Elinor looked startled, but was pleased to show him. He wanted to see how she would handle the portrait, but she very nonchalantly placed all of the work before him. She watched him flip though the pieces until he stopped at his own visage.
"I didn't know you were doing this."
"Do you mind?"
"No, no. Of course not. I just didn't know that you did portraits all that often. I hadn't noticed that before when I saw your por--work, when I saw your work."
"I don't remember showing you my portfolio before. I am sure I would remember that. But you are right, I do not often do portraits. I find nature more interesting. It is the colour, perhaps."
Not to be diverted with talk of art, James responded, "I sorry, you did not show me your portfolio. Meg did. Last summer."
"I hope you are not angry. We meant no harm."
"I'm sure you didn't, and none was done."
A heavy silence filled the room and he watched her face bent over her table as a memory surfaced and she expelled a breathe of air.
"You saw the portrait of Edward Ferrars. That's why you changed. Everyone expected..., everyone thought that you and I..."
"Oh, my dear," she said, sitting down in her chair. "it was all a mistake. I grabbed the wrong portfolio before coming to Rosewood. I often use the back of old drawings for new. I didn't realize until I was home again that I still had some of those Norland paintings."
"You thought I was in love with him. Even then." and here she started to look a bit piqued, "You thought I was still in love with him when I accepted your hand."
James, feeling complete confession was probably his surest line of defense, said, "I thought he was your first love and your best even up to an half an hour ago."
"And you don't believe that now."
James took her portrait of him and lay it before her. Then he took her and and led her to the divan. With both of her hands in his he asked the question he should have asked an age ago, "Tell me about Edward Ferrars."
And Elinor relayed the many feelings of Edward related earlier in this history. She told of her early admiration and of her disappointment in finally discovering what Edward was. She told James of realizing that she could never give her heart to a man with less than a truly active goodness and how she had, long before she met James, ceased to believe that she had ever really loved Edward.
"There was an attraction, it's true. In part I can lay it at the feet of my situation. I was still grieving the death of my father and living with the negligence of my brother. There had yet been no Willoughby, and no Colonel Brandon. I had very little to go by."
"How confused I must have made you."
"Yes." Elinor had been feeling a great relief during the course of her relation. Through their touching hands she could feel an energy like laying her hands against the top of the pianoforte while Marianne played Beethoven. He took one hand away and pulled out his pocket book and put it in her hand.
Her fingers trembled as she opened it an ran her fingers along the satin lining. She found a crumbed white rose pressed there.
"I have loved you from the first. And I am only sorry now that I was such a stubborn, high-handed ass about it. I would have asked you last summer what I will ask you now, again. Elinor, best beloved, will you be my wife?"
"James...I already am your wife." This was said with tears streaming down her face. They both knew that from this day forward their real marriage had begun and so she said, "But, I would marry you again and again and again." Each time placing a kiss into his palms.
He took her face in his hands and kissed her lingeringly. "Then it's settled. We shall be married every day, at this same time. I have a present for you to celebrate the day. Wait right here."
He hurried out of the room and Elinor stepped to the mirror to make an effort at putting herself to rights. He was back in a hop with a bottle.
"I had this made after our first wedding and meant to give in to you on some special occasion. I can't think of anything more special than this." He pulled the stopper and a fresh, slightly dusky scent of rose and clove, orange and lilac drifted through the room. He put it behind her ears and kissed her. He put it on her wrists and kissed her. He put it on her throat and kissed her.
And they lived happily ever after.
The Ridgely's had several children who had their mother's grace and their father's honour and they were blessed in the land.
Mrs. Eliza Williams eventually married one of the Crosgrove gardeners and lived a very happy and productive life. Her son, Sir Brandon Williams, became an explorer and world traveler winning renowned for his fearlessness and integrity. His first book, on his travels in India, was dedicated to his godfather and his wife, Marianne Brandon. He was awarded his knighthood by Queen Victoria, for work serving the empire.
Marianne Brandon had six children, all who played the pianoforte with the proper amount of passion and technique. Joy Brandon was a source of delight to her family, until she proved an amazement to the ton by penning stories and novels until well into her 80's. Her books are viewed as melodramas by today's standards but in her time were quite popular and earned her friends amongst the London literary world including Mr. Dickens, Mrs. Glaskell and Mr. Thackeray.
Proving Jane Austen right, once again, Miss Margaret Dashwood did not equal her sisters in sense or activity. She was a lively girl fond of dancing and music, happy to accept Mrs. John Dashwood's invitation to a season in London, that lady feeling sure that this sister at least could not cause too much trouble. Her surprise must be easy to imaging upon receiving her brother's note that he and Miss Margaret had run off to Gretna Green. Having an independent fortune, and liking to dance, Robert made his choice. It is said that Mrs. Ferrars was resigned and that the marriage was as happy as most. Robert and Margaret settled in town and were a constant source of fashions and trends to her sisters' family. He proved to be slightly less trifling than Jane Austen suspected, but Margaret was a trifle more silly to even that score.
In the fall of 2007 the Ridgely family unveiled new packaging for their heritage scent collection. In the center of a specially commissioned pink and camel tartan stands the rose drawn by Elinor Dashwood in 1806, before she became the wife of Mr. James Ridgely. The best selling scent for 2008 was the revived "Regency Rose" scent which is the name now given to the scent Mr. Ridgely is believed to have created for his bride to wear on their wedding day. It is a dusky rose scent, mixed with orange, a light clove and lilac. The bottle stopper is available engraved and comes with a reprint of the Ridgely's 1810 book of rose paintings.