The Journal of a Regency Lady 11
May 21 1812
It has happened! I am in such a state for I swear I do not know what to do. I have not told Mama for I think she would scold me for not knowing my own mind. Indeed, I should know it but I confess that I am confused. If Harry – as he has asked me to call him – had asked me to marry him last Christmas I should have said yes without hesitation for I thought myself deeply in love. So much has happened since then and I am not as innocent as I once was. I like Harry and perhaps I feel something more but I have asked him for time to consider.
Was I wrong to make him wait? I do hope that I am not subconsciously punishing him for what he did to me when he left without speaking and I learned that he had asked Miss Chesterfield to marry him. I asked him why their engagement had been broken, and after some hesitation, he told me.
'Miss Chesterfield felt that I did not sincerely love her,' he said a little awkwardly. 'She believed that I was marrying her for two reasons: one was that our families expected it, which was true…' He looked straight at me then, 'Secondly, she had been told that I was marrying her for her money…'
'Was that true?' I asked, meeting his gaze steadily. 'I heard the rumour too…'
'Did you?' His eyes were intent, serious. 'And did you believe it?'
'I thought it might be true, because I had believed…' I faltered and blushed.
He nodded, looking serious. 'You thought that I was very attracted to you, Anne – and you were right. At first I just found you refreshing and charming, but then I began to realise that I was very attracted and I thought you might be also. It made me realise that I had behaved badly. I left quickly, hoping to limit the damage that had been done…'
'I was very hurt that you said nothing.'
'Yes, I understood that when we met again.' He reached out to touch my face. 'Will you forgive me? I did not think then that I could disappoint Miss Chesterfield and marry you, for two reasons – one was that I knew she expected an offer, and the second, though I am ashamed to admit it was that I knew I ought to marry an heiress…'
'Oh, I see…'
'Please do not censure me,' Harry begged. 'It sounds so cold and callous, but I have a mother and a sister to support and…my father died in debt. My sister had no chance of a good marriage without a dowry and I…had become accustomed to think that it would be a good thing…'
He looked ashamed and I was moved to touch his hand, 'It is not uncommon for gentlemen to think as you do, sir.'
'You are generous,' he replied with a sad smile, 'but after I proposed I began to see that it would not do, because…I did not feel as I ought towards her.'
'I think I understand…' I frowned. 'But did you not expect that you would inherit your uncle's title and fortune?'
'Since my cousin died I knew that the title would be mine one day, though my uncle seemed a fit man and I did not expect it for some years – but he and my father had quarrelled. He refused a request for help from my mother some years ago and I had not seen him for some time. I was surprised when I learned that apart from some personal bequests everything had come to me for the bulk of the estate was not entailed.'
'I see…' I nodded, understanding the predicament he had found himself in. 'Well, I cannot pretend that you did not behave badly, sir – towards both Miss Chesterfield and me. She must have been distressed when she discovered that your feelings towards her were not what she might have expected.'
'She was piqued,' he replied, 'but not truly hurt, because she liked someone else better. She too had felt that she ought to marry to oblige her family, but when she realised that I did not truly care for her she told me that she had discovered she could not marry me and broke off the engagement. I think she had realised where her own heart lay too late.' A flicker of wry amusement touched his mouth. 'I know that many will wonder why she would have done such a thing, for it was both serious and shaming – and I am sure that some may think me wicked, for why should she have done it if I were not?'
'Oh no!' I cried. 'Surely not?'
'Do you think I would be ungallant enough to deny that it was my fault?'
'No, I do not,' I said and smiled at him. 'I think you are a gentleman, sir – and I like you very well. I am just not sure that I wish to marry you. Nor am I certain that I do not. Would you think it very bad of me if I were to ask for time?'
'No, of course not,' he replied and kissed my hand. 'But I do not have much time for I must leave at the beginning of next week. If you wished for it we might have been married, but perhaps it would be best if we were to wait?'
'I shall give you my answer tomorrow,' I promised. 'Come to the house at eleven in the morning and I shall tell you then.'
But what, dear journal, shall I tell him? Do I wish to be Lady Belmond – or is there another I would rather wed? He has not asked me yet but I think he means to when he returns from the north…
Oh, what shall I do?
Well, readers, what should she do? Do you want her to marry him or her young soldier, Lieutenant Jones? Vote through the comments. Should the journal continue or end with a happy marriage? Or should it go on through a tangled marriage with lots of twists and turns and love gone awry?
Over on Anne's World of Romance I am downloading an unpublished Regency for my readers.