NP5 – Up Anchor

This is chapter three of the novel project. Ella Middleton is a young seamstress of 21, the same age as Queen Victoria, living in London, England. Her father passed away when she was 17 and was never a safe guard for choosing a husband. Her mother has now been throwing her way every moneyed man she can find. Ella, however is determined to find true love, and has so far resisted the match-making process, to spite her loneliness and longing to marry. Her mother has tried again to throw a gentleman her way, what will he be like, and how will Ella react?

He tipped his hat to me as I stepped out of the cab. My spirit quailed. I can’t explain what made me give such a reaction, but I immediately distrusted the man. I’d seen a pair of dark eyes beneath that hat brim and a smile full of mischief  which I later described as a smirk. By the time I had reached the steps he had disappeared into the church.

After the service I found him leaning on a porch column with his top hat over his brow. “Miss Middleton,” He swept off his hat and bowed. “Fredrick Williamson at your service.”

I curtsied in response. As he looked up from the bow our eyes met. The smirk dropped from his lips and he genuinely smiled.

“I was told to meet you here.” I began, feeling a bit awkward.

“And I came to seek you.” He studied my face. “You are indeed as beautiful as I have been told.”

“Thank you.” My cheeks flushed. I could tell from his eyes that his compliment was honestly meant. “And how many girls do you compliment in a day?”

He scoffed playfully, quite taken aback. “What?”

“I saw you complimenting two other ladies this morning.”

“I assure you,” He said, trying to quiet his little smirk. “I only complement a lady I find deserving.”

“And how many is that?” I had begun to enjoy our playful tete-a-tete. I realized now that sometimes his smirk meant he was blushing and trying not to grin.

He scoffed again. “You- I-” his smirk broke and widened. He wiped his hand over his mouth, as if to wipe away the smirk. “I am usually not so stumped by a lady’s words.” He lost control of his face and blushed fully. He again drew his hand over his face, as if his blush was dirt to be brushed away and renewed his gaze with a freshly controlled expression.

My mind ran him over constantly, attempting to draw his character. I thought he was a bad man, but I’d been told my whole life that first impressions are often wrong. While I had never had a more intense first impression, I should let him draw his own character, right? I should let him speak for himself, should I not?

“You don’t easily trust me,” he said, stroking his chin softly as he gazed at me. “But you don’t trust anyone easily. You carry yourself with a barrier around you.” He finished and then quickly added, “As any lady should!”

I smiled at his care to make sure I understood his intent.

“And…” he added slowly, with his smirk growing again. “You don’t trust a man with a smile.”

“You are quite right in your observations.” I smiled, but it dropped from my lips and I gazed down at my gloved hands as I remembered the smile that had stolen my heart. “I’ve had bad experiences before.”

He shrugged, “We all have. Life is hard.”

I disliked his casual attitude over the comment, but he couldn’t know the depth of pain I was feeling. He had drawn a bucket from a well of hideous sadness in my heart. The last man with a smile that I had loved had left me without even a word.

“I hope that I do not seem too eager or forward. I am a man who speaks his mind and am not one to beat around the bush.” He pulled himself from leaning against the column. “It has been long since I enjoyed the pleasure of an intelligent conversation with a lady.”

“I am not a lady.”

“Yes you are. I mean the term as one of respect, not one of societal rank. If I were to call you a girl it would be either a term of endearment, and it is too early for that, or a term that denotes a lower rank. It would imply that you are younger than I, and presumably less experienced, perhaps naive  If I were to call you a woman I would unfortunately imply the common usage of the word; that you have not lived honorably enough to earn the title of lady. But if I call you a lady I hold you in the honor and respect you deserve.”

I smiled at his eloquence. My estimation of him rose more and more as we spoke. I hoped I was not merely falling sway to his charm. We continued in conversation through a cab ride home and over dinner. I learned that he loved to read as much as I did and we agreed in perspective on various historical events. By the time he stepped out the door with a sweeping bow I was leaning on the door frame, blushing. Perhaps my wait for a husband had finally ended.

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