My fanfiction and other random ramblings

Srebrna, Skald Arkadii (and thoughts on writing)

Story of Anne and George

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“Their wasn’t a love match, mind you” he added, standing aside and letting her view the painting at leisure.

“But… Mrs Reynolds said more than once that they loved each other dearly!” she protested, astonished.

“Oh, they did, for sure. But they didn’t marry for love. They were just good friends. Their families knew each other for quite a some time, they met at social events and gatherings at common acquaintances. They knew each other since they were ten, or something similar.”

“But… why then?”

“My Mother was set up.”

The snow behind the window sparkled in the candlelight.

“It is a rather unusual description of the situation, I should say. Usually it is a pair that is set up, isn’t it? As you say, not a love match, she was not set up by your Father…? It would mean they were both set up?”

“Yes, certainly, usually both sides are – if none of them is willing… But in this case, Maman was set up to be compromised by another man. Papa just happened to be in the vicinity… Have you seen his portrait, over there? Commissioned just before the whole affair.”

She took his hand as he led her down the row of the exhibits.

“Here. He was one-and-twenty, and loved betting. But his father – my grandfather – was absolutely against betting on horses, cock-fights or other sport like this. So my father and his friends invented a new, and completely socially acceptable venue – they started to bet on information. So one day they are in this great society event, some ball or other, in a great manor of some relatives, and they make a bet with his friends about, as far as I remember, the distance from Dublin to Gibraltar. One friend run hastily to find a seaman among the guests, as there were several soldiers and sea captains present, but my father dashed to the library. As soon as he made it, he locked the door – this is the important part – and run to find the atlas and some means of measure. He run across the huge room, absolutely ignoring the fact that there is a half-sleeping – and also half-undressed – lady on one of the settees.”

Her eyes were wide in the half-darkness of the Great Gallery, as he led her to the next portrait, that of a smiling, handsome young woman of about nineteen.

“Mother, commissioned before, but painted during the engagement time. Well, Mother was lying there, completely and absolutely without consciousness, as she has been set up, indeed. One of… One of her friends – so-called friends – was jealous of her. This was Mother’s first season and she was receiving quite a number of invitations and lots of attention. Male attention, of course. So this… This friend, let me keep her calling that, but remember – she didn’t wish my Mother well – this friend found a gentlemen – again, so-called gentlemen – eager to ‘compromise’ the young débutante and acquire her with her sizeable dowry.”

He sighed and held her hand tighter.

“This friend, as viscous as she was, wasn’t particularly bright. She got my Mother inebriated by the means of some doctored wine, placed her in the library, undressed her partly and left her there in search of the appointed man. Unfortunately for her, he managed to get just a little bit too much in his cups and instead of being cooperative, he became… teasing. So he didn’t want to listen to her and most certainly didn’t want to follow her to the library. Now was the moment when my Father made his run upstairs to the library and locked himself there with the poor, completely drunk Lady Anne Fitzwilliam. He run straight to the shelf where the needed books could be found, he pulled an atlas, with great vigour, you understand… and half a shelf of other, leather-and-wood bound books fell on him, mainly on his head, knocking him out.”

He waited for an appreciative sigh and exclamation, nodded and pointed at yet another painting.

“They both, together, before the wedding. At this time all wedding paintings simply had to contain at least one pigeon. Awful creatures, I say, but fashion must be followed. So, now we have a pretty situation – a drunk débutante, an unconscious young man – a bit dishevelled at it, as he had run through the whole house – and an elderly lecher pounding at the door and demanding to have them opened immediately, as he has an appointment inside – he finally understood what was wanted of him, you see. Nobody could find the main key – it was inside, used to lock the door – and nobody dared to use force, as the owner of the manor was also not to be found for quite some time.

“Finally they obtained the permission to use a crowbar and several footmen against the door and as soon as they used the whole set, the friend of my Mother’s came in, wailing about her losing her reputation and, oh, Lord Netrim, you simply must marryher. Lord Netrim was by far more wise than he was moral and he saw no gain for himself in the situation, so he promptly rejected the claim, stating that he stood at the door all the time, with four footmen, and he never saw the young Lady’s exposed flesh. So the friend looked frantically about the room – afraid that if someone asks too many questions, my Mother may remember who gave her the last glass of wine – and saw my father, trying to pick himself up after the onslaught of the geography books. He found himself dragged across the room and placed in front of an almost unconscious girl – daughter of his father’s friend – and her still partly-exposed… values…” he smirked with a bit of embarrassment. “and literally forced to propose. He did so and was soon brought in front of both sets of parents. They immediately understood that the youngsters didn’t see each other and most certainly weren’t meeting clandestinely, but the damage was done, several footmen, the old Lord and some other guests heard or saw the whole proceedings… and my Mother’s dress’ shoulder failed in the middle of the proposal and exposed everything there was to be exposed.”

She covered her lips with her palm to stifle an unladylike sound which threatened to escape.

“So they got married after a month of engagement, moved ‘into the country’ as soon as all the shopping and business was finished and stayed there for a year – they were back for the end of the next Season. All gossip died by then and as my mother was neither showing any signs of pregnancy – indeed, any effect of the scandalous night would have been four months old by that time, and no effect showed at all – nobody cared how the marriage came about and they were looked at as an example of happy matrimony.”

“And what about the ‘friend’?”

“She got her comeuppance – her family was disgusted with her behaviour and they promised they will marry her to the first suitor that comes asking. As she managed to scare away most of eligible young men in the vicinity, finally the only bachelor left was older than her by some fifteen years, usually a bit drunk and without much patience for whims of a young, independent lady. He largely limited her freedom, made her stay at his country house for most of the year… managed to produce a heir and died in the fifth year of the marriage, of apoplexy.”

They stood in silence for some time, until she felt the need to move and started slowly walking back.

“Who told you the whole story?”

“My father. It was just after one of my university friends has been maneuvred into a marriage of an ugly girl of low social standing by ‘compromising’ her in the hallway. He thought I should know that the lady is not always a willing participant and that I should never lock myself in a library without checking all the sofas. Especially… Well, it should be enough if I say that I simply knew Maman never wanted me to marry Anne.”

She clung to his side.

“Do you mean to say that the elderly aristocrat this wicked friend married was sir…”

“Exactly. Sir Lewis De Bourgh. And now, by dearest, we should be back in your room, soon. The midwife said ‘a walk’ and not ‘a sightseeing trip of the whole house’!”

“I hope you saved some embarrassing family secrets for the next occasion.”

“I’m somehow sure that if I didn’t, Mrs Reynolds would invent something!”

Written by Srebrna

2013/07/24 at 20:55

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