February --, 18--
Since I last wrote in my journal, the number of suitors vying for my hand and my 30,000 pounds has increased to four. The newest is the son of a very rich tradesman. The tradesman is dead, but the son lives, though I have never seen him. The family solicitor conveyed to my father's solicitor that the young man loves me dearly, etc. etc. Is that not the height of romance? The name of the family is Ferrars. Much good may it do them to join the pack halloing after my fortune. I will never marry if I do not like the man, though father lock me up and starve me, as Squire Western locked up his Sophia. I repeat: I will not marry a man I do not like, though he is rich as Croesus.
It is a very unpleasant thing to be bartered as though I were a bolt of silk. I have begun to hate my money, and the East India Company, which has the keeping of it. I scarcely know my father, any more -- once the kindest and most indulgent of parents. How differently I think now that I have lived at home these five months. Away at school for so many years, I knew only a holiday father, who made me his favorite. I despised my mother for her timidity and her many nervous complaints. But having dared to defy him, I have now felt his coldness, which has likely been my poor mother's portion for much of her married life.
Father wishes me to marry a nobleman. He has not long been made a Lord, and the old families affect to despise us. We are not so very despised, though, to prevent two younger sons from offering for me. Father does not like my fortune leaving the family. He is determined that my marriage will bring either influence or money. If the man cannot be noble, then he must be very rich. Notice that I am to have no say in the matter. It is merely my life and happiness that is being considered.
I must try to find some amusement in my situation, or I shall run mad. So far I have encountered three of my would-be husbands. The handsomest is the Honorable Mr. FitzAlan, but he is a fop constantly on the lookout for a mirror to admire his cravat. He is pompous and ridiculous, no doubt feeling that he does me a great honor, since his father is Lord Something or Other. If I married Mr. FitzAlan I should be forever laughing at him -- when I was not despising him.
The most charming of my suitors is Captain Stanhope. He makes me laugh, and pays me pretty compliments. But I have heard whispers of dissipation and gambling debts. I think I am safe from Captain Stanhope, for Father will never tolerate a gamester, though the Captain's father is an Earl. Besides, three elder brothers stand between the Captain and the peerage, and it is too much to hope that death will carry them all off.
My merchant suitor is the worst, though the richest. I have danced with him once. He wheezed, smelt of snuff, and begged to sit down halfway through the set. He is a widower with five living children, and I am told he offered for both himself and his eldest son. Am I to take one or both of them?
The newcomer is Mr. Ferrars. I am to be introduced to him at Lady Elliot's party.
February --, 18--
Mr. Ferrars is not handsome, and he had little to say for himself. In fact, he seemed quite distracted. However two dances and a sit-down together revealed that he is considerate and well read. We both admire Mr. Fielding. At least he did not chatter on about his curricule and his coachman's livery, like Mr. FitzAlan. What a pity I feel nothing for Mr. Ferrars, as he seems the best of the lot. I could not bear his mother and sister, though -- all insincere flattery. They watched closely as we danced, bowing and simpering whenever they caught my eye. I could tolerate Mr. Ferrars as a husband, if I did not have to take notice of his mother and sister.
How dismayed father would be could he read this journal. How often has he preached to me that women lack reason and must be guided first by their fathers and brothers, then by their husbands. How I laughed to myself at the thought of being guided by Robert. In his last letter from Cambridge, he begged me to send him 20 pounds, as he was afraid to apply to Father for more money. Oh that I was back at school! Poor father. How could he know that my fashionable school for young ladies would employ two such women as Miss Beckett and Mrs. Lovage. If he but knew how they encouraged us to read and form our own opinions, father would feel that he had been cheated of his school fees!
If I had the use of my fortune, I would set Mrs. Lovage and Miss Beckett up in a school, and I myself would teach French and Italian. Father bribes me with a tour of the continent as my wedding gift. It is almost worth marrying for a chance to see Italy and the Alps.
Who shall my husband be -- the puppy FitzAllan, the gamester Stanhope, the widower -- or his son -- or sweet Mr. Ferrars? I do not fool myself that any of them cares a fig for me. It is only my money.
Oh how very bitter I have become. In truth I am miserable enough.
I have been badgering mother for her opinion of matrimony. At last she offered the familiar maxim that it is the most sacred and important role of a woman's life. If that is the case, then a woman must pick her husband carefully, choosing an upright and compatible companion for life. That is not what is happening to me.
Last night at the concert, I daringly made the acquaintance of a complete stranger, a gentleman named Mr. Mellon who happened to sit next to me. That could not have occurred had Father been there, but he is indifferent to music and mother had one of her sick headaches. I was chaperoned instead by Aunt Hester, who is as good as no chaperone at all. Madame ___ was in poor voice -- so poor that I hid my smiles behind my concert bill during one particularly painful screech. I chanced to catch the eye of the gentleman next to me, who looked so pained that I could scarcely help giggling, particularly when his own lips began to quiver.
At the close of the first act, Lady Cranbrook introduced him to Aunt Hester and me -- Father could not have objected to that -- and Mr. Mellon escorted us to tea. He is old, but not so old as father or Aunt Hester. In fact, I thought him quite fine looking, with dark hair and eyes and a long, aristocratic nose. Aunt Hester left us quite alone for a few minutes -- one of her delightful failings as a chaperone. Oddly, I did not feel shy at all with Mr. Mellon. In fact, I was quite at ease.
"Are you enjoying the concert?" he asked.
"Not at all," I replied. "The soprano is in poor voice."
"You express yourself decidedly for one who seems scarcely out of the schoolroom," he laughed.
"I have not seen a schoolroom these six months, and I dislike being treated like a child," I replied, amazed at my old boldness
He looked surprised, then amused, and he begged my pardon quite handsomely.
"We quite agree in our opinion of the singer," he admitted. " Perhaps we can also agree that the beauty of the Italian language has saved this performance."
"We can indeed," I replied. "Do you know Italian?"
He nodded, and I begged him to read the words of the music bill aloud.
"I have not heard the language spoken since school," I confessed. " I begged for a master at home, but my father said he would not have a foreigner in the house."
And then, what do you think? Mr. Mellon read so exquisitely, so truly, that I felt I must be in the company of a native of that beautiful land.
We were interrupted by Aunt Hester, who returned on the arm of Mr. FitzAlan to warn me that the second act was beginning. She led me away so quickly that I could scarcely curtsy to Mr. Mellon. We were seated in a different part of the room for the second act, and I had to endure Mr. FitzAlan's company. I had no chance to speak to Mr. Mellon again. How provoking! Will we meet again, I wonder?
When I complained to Aunt Hester in the carriage, she said it was not fit for me to talk with Mr. Mellon, since I was to be married soon. That struck me dumb. Father must be nearing his decision. Please do not let it be Mr. FitzAlan or the fat merchant. How can I escape this dreaded marriage? I have nothing but my pocket money and nobody to take me in. I am haunted by the story of Clarissa, and shudder at what can happen to a young girl alone with no friends.
I did not sleep well last night for thinking about Mr. Mellon. The company of all my suitors is punishment, but after scarcely 10 minutes with him I felt that we were friends. It was a new experience to speak unguardedlybefore a man. And how respectfully he treated me after I scolded him. To think that we share an interest in the Italian language. It was intoxicating. Likely I will never see Mr. Mellon again, but I thank him for a glimpse of what true companionship could be. I think my meeting with Mr. Mellon gave me the courage to speak to father at breakfast. Much good it did me though.
At breakfast, I begged father to keep my fortune. If he would but give me $5,000 pounds to live on, I could do without a husband and my fortune could stay in the family. Mother looked frightened as father's face flushed bright red. "You're a d---- foolish girl, and you'll do as you're told" he shouted, and stalked out of the room. Mother turned quite pale and felt for her smelling salts. I am truly sorry to bring her pain, but I don't know what else to do.
I have decided to take Mr. Ferrars. If I must marry soon, then let it be he.
I asked mother if she loved father when they married. Her answer did not make me easy. My grandfather was a respectable merchant, and father was his clerk, an orphan with no money of his own. Grandfather thought his daughter could do better, with her fortune of 5000 pounds. But mother made her choice. Admiring my father's ambition, grandfather gave his approval. He lived to see his opinion justified, as mother's dowry was the start of the Morton fortune.
How mother's face softens when she speaks of her courtship days. I daresay she loved father after all. But once the attentive lover became a husband, she scarcely saw him, so busy was he making money. Had her family been a large one, perhaps mother would have lacked the time to dwell on all her little aches and pains. But Robert and I alone survive of her children.
"If is not from our husbands that we woman derive happiness in marriage," mother advised me "It is from our children and homes and friends that we gain all our felicity." And whose children will mine be, I wonder. Surely not Mr. FitzAlan's. And the fat merchant has seven already. He does not need more. Oh where is Mr. Ferrars?
I have just heard that John Willoughby and Miss Grey are married. Ah me, I suppose it only fitting that the handsomest young man in England marry the richest catch of the season. Mr. Willoughby was quite attentive to me at Christmas, and if he had asked to call, I think I should have begged father. But Miss Grey is twice as rich as I, which lured him away, I suppose. There was something so interesting about Mr. Willoughby: a hidden sadness beneath his captivating charm. How poetic he seemed - and what a silly creature I am!
What an amazing piece of news Aunt Hester brought with her morning call. It seems I must forget Mr. Ferrars, for he has been secretly engaged these four years to the daughter of his old tutor. Poor young man. Forced to pay me court while longing for his sweetheart. No wonder he seemed distracted. With all my heart I wish him well, and would tell him so if I saw him. This is not likely, for when he refused to abandon the young woman, his mother has turned him out without a penny. Father will never know him now. Poor Mr. Ferrars. My troubles are nothing compared to his. Yet his honourable behavior confirms my good impression of him.
I wonder if father would turn me out if I refuse to marry? Surely not. Perhaps he would banish me to a small house in the country. What heaven that would be. I do not believe father can force me to marry where I dislike. This is England; we are not savages here.
In March I shall turn 19, and there will be a ball in my honor. I have heard it said that my ball will be the brilliant close to a brilliant London season. Father is to present me with diamonds, and I am being fitted for a most exquisite gown. But the words of the ancient gladiator keep running through my head: "We who are about to die salute you." When I am 19, I will know father's choice for me. My suitors have long asked for permission to call, but father has put them off with the excuse that I am young yet. I think father would have married me off months ago, had not mother begged for me to have a season. She can intercede for me when she chooses! I have greatly enjoyed my season. Between balls and concerts and evenings at the theater, I have scarcely stayed in one night. But as my birthday approaches, I grow apprehensive.
Father says when I'm married he will build me a county house. Generous man, I know his true reason. Sir Emory presses him to either buy Rose Hill or give up the lease. Father and mother don't really like Surrey; they are complete Londoners. But a Lord must have a country house. Depend upon it: Father will build this house for my husband and me, then will treat it as his own whenever he chooses to make an appearance in the country. I know my father.
Mother asked if I would object to inviting the Willoughbys to my ball. She knows I quite disliked the former Miss Grey when we were at school. It was not the young lady's conceit that offended me, so much as her cruelty to the younger girls. But my parents are friends of the Ellisons, who were guardians to Mrs. Willoughby. Dear, innocent mamma. How could she know it is not the wife whom I fear, so much as the husband? How shall I face that charming young man now that he is married?
Best of all, Mrs. Lovage and Miss. Beckett are to be guests at my ball. I will insist that Robert dance a set with each of them. It is my birthday, and all must do as I wish.
I have left the guest list up to mother, but she insists that I help plan the courses for supper. Thus I have sat this week with the housekeeper and the butler. Mother has been speaking to me of housekeeping. It is as I suspected: the decision is at hand.
I am in such a state, that I wonder if I shall ever again be tranquil. It is indeed difficult to have all of one's opinions overthrown before breakfast. This is how it happened.
Going downstairs before my usual time this morning, I chanced to hear mother and father in heated discussion. Against my conscience, I listened outside the breakfast room door. It would have served me right had I been caught by a footman, but noone interrupted my eavesdropping.
"She was a damned foolish girl to have him," father was blustering. "Ellison complains that the estate laid out more than a thousand pounds to clear his debts. Then there was the duel with the country colonel to hush up. And they must provide for the bastard, though I'll wager it isn't his first and won't be his last."
"Hush, Simon. The servants will hear you," mother protested.
"What if they do? Can't a man speak plain in his own house? And to think Julia was mooning over that young wastrel last Christmas. I tell you, wife, my hair has turned white since our daughter left school."
"You exaggerate, husband," mother defended me. "Julia is a credit to us."
"Oh, she looks well enough, I'll grant you that. But there's nothing more troublesome than marrying off a daughter. Managing a fleet of ships is nothing to it. And the girl's no help at all. She would have encouraged Willoughby, had I not warned him off."
"I daresay that young man is as bad as you say," mother agreed, "But his good manner fooled us all. Take heart, husband. The season is almost over."
"Almost over," Father repeated, "And our daughter has turned up her nose at every young buck that made her a bow. I tell you, wife, I must see both my children safely married before the year is up. Last night I dreamed that Robert eloped to Scotland with a tavern maid. I've been pacing my dressing room since daybreak."
"Robert would not think of such a thing," my mother soothed.
"How are we to know what either of them is thinking," Father complained. "To be a parent today is to be a martyr. I tell you, wife, I have worked too hard to support an expensive son-in-law. Since Julia cannot choose for herself, we must choose for her. I'm for Bancroft's son. Good, solid coal merchants, in good standing in the City. We'll announce the engagement once this confounded ball is over."
"Better the son than the father," Mother murmered.
By then I had heard enough. I crept away to my room, and have been thinking over what I have heard.
So Father will choose young Mr. Bancroft, because I cannot choose for myself. Now I see that I bear some responsibility for my situation. I have not thought at all seriously about marriage this season. I have mocked my parade of suitors, resentfully wondering which one Father will choose. I did not think I had a say in the matter. Father wants a sensible man and a rich one. So far we agree, though I care less about the riches. He fears fools and wastrels, and there too we are in agreement. The solution is to present Father with a sensible man who pleases us both. This I do know: it will not be Mr. Bancroft.
As for Willoughby, I am grateful for my father's protection, for I did not have sense to guard myself. And my dislike of his wife will now be tempered with pity, for with such a husband her misery is assured.
Poor father. When he first received his title, it was whispered that the nobility had sunk to an abysmal state now that a footman's son was made a Lord. "Indeed not!" Aunt Hester protested when I asked if my grandfather had been a footman. "Our family were honest yeomen who rose to gentility." Later, Mother told me that Father's grandmother had indeed been a ladies' maid, but the family does not speak of it. This made me view my own Betty in quite a new light. Could my great grandmother have been anything like her?
I feel almost kindly toward Father today. Poor man, how little he knows his daughter. I would never harm the good name of my family. I think I will kiss Father when I go down to breakfast. He will harumph and cough, but I believe it will please him. Then, on to husband hunting. Would that I had started earlier! The season is nearly over.
I am unable to sleep. One would think that after such a night, I would be exhausted; instead I feel almost feverish. Perhaps if I write in my journal for a bit, I will grow calm again.
At breakfast this morning, Father congratulated me on my birthday and presented me with diamond earrings. My first diamonds. Mamma gave me the most exquisite French fan, and from Aunt Hester I received a set of silver combs. Robert, to my amazement, gifted me with a volume of poetry.
All day I was primped and cosseted. Monsieur Marc came to arrange my hair - Betty's hand was not good enough for the occasion. The dress was delivered on time - white silk embroidered in silver thread. The train was short, so as not to interfere with dancing, but my neck and arms were quite bare. Of course I carried the French fan and wore the silver combs in my hair. I was very gratified by the reflection in my pier glass - tasteful and not at all showy. When I first came out, the fashionable world expected father to deck me out in gold dresses and silver shoes, to remind London of how rich he is. But mother, in her quiet way, restrains my father and keeps our family respectable.
How beautiful the ballroom looked tonight, with the glow of a hundred candles reflected in the mirrored walls. We use this room but a few evenings a year; the rest of the time it is shuttered and dark, with sheets covering the little gilt chairs. Thanks to my week with the butler and housekeeper, I knew something about the workings of my ball. Briggs' main concern was keeping the house from catching fire. Throughout the ballroom, buckets of sand were hidden in case a tipsy gentleman guest should knock over a candelabra. There was much discussion about supper -- how to keep the ice from melting and the soup from chilling. Complex indeed are the workings of a great house. Last night, however, I left the worrying to Briggs. As the daughter of the house and the guest of honor at the ball, no more was required of me than to look pretty, to dance much and to flirt a little. So on to more interesting things —.
Dear Miss Lovage looked much the same, but I scarcely knew Miss Beckett. At school I thought of her only as a teacher devoted to poetry and her students. I knew she was quite the lady, but in her Quaker gray dress she seemed quite plain. Self centered creature that I am, I never wondered how Miss Beckett and Mrs. Lovage came to join a school. What made them forfeit home and family to teach the pampered daughters of the rich? Robert grumbled when I coaxed his promise to dance with my teachers. "Stand up with an old maid school mistress," he protested. "I'll be a laughing stock." How startled he looked when I introduced Miss Beckett, for last night she was one of the handsomest women in the room. With her silvery blonde hair and lavender blue eyes, dressed in a simple violet gown, she contrived to make several great ladies looked overdressed! And she is young -- no older than Robert, who is 26. Old maid school mistress indeed! If we weren't such different types - she fair and I dark - I would have been quite jealous.
Robert danced two sets with her, and they sat together at supper. Mrs. Burgoyne, who is a famous gossip, remarked on it. And several young ladies who had hopes of captivating Robert were quite put out. Oh dear. I hope Miss Beckett will not fall in love with my brother. Father will no more accept a worthy poor woman than he would a rich libertine.
Speaking of libertines, I danced one set with Mr. Willloughby. I was amazed when he began flirting with me. It cannot be right for a married men to flirt with an unmarried female, but Mr. Willoughby is capable of anything. How thankful I am that I overheard Father's opinion of him, for I might have been in some danger. There were better men by far at the ball, but none so handsome as Willoughby.
The Ferrars family provoked me again. They have produced a second son and have made a renewed assault on my 30,000 pounds. What a prize simpleton he is, actually asking me to admire his toothpick case. Next to him, Mr. FitzAlan is as wise as the prime minister. Meanwhile, the sister and the mother simpered away. They begged me to do them the honor of showing me the firescreen I painted at school. Apparently they have talked of nothing else since they first had the pleasure of seeing it. How they insult me with their flattery. Do they think I am so stupid as to believe such claptrap. So they talk of nothing but my blotches and daubs, do they? When I asked after Mr. Edward Ferrars, his sister replied "I thank you, but we do not speak of him for my mother's sake." Unnatural mother! Unnatural sister! I hope I never meet that family again.
-------------------- It is no use, I still cannot sleep. I have not yet written of this evening's most interesting occurrences, lest I break the spell. But I see there will be no rest for me until I do.
Sir Edward and Lady Cranbrook brought Mr. Mellon to my ball. We danced twice and sat down together at supper, but I am not at all certain that anything will come of it.
It is no use; I cannot sleep. I have not yet written of this evening's most interesting occurrences, lest I break the spell. But I see there will be no rest for me until I do. Sir Edward and Lady Cranbrook brought Mr. Mellon to my ball. We danced together twice. I am not at all certain that anything will come of it.
It has been over a month sinceI last saw Mr. Mellon. I often recalled our concert evening with pleasure, but as days passed I gave up hope of meeting him again. Imagine my delight and surprise when I encountered him on the receiving line at my own ball. I was so pleased that I blurted out, "Where have you been Mr. Mellon?" It was gauche of me, to be sure, and I saw father frown. But it was too late to take back my words. Mr. Mellon was not offended; in fact, he smiled.
"I was called back to Vienna," he replied, "But I returned to London as soon as I could."
"You live in Vienna?" I asked
"I am a member of the Diplomatic Corp in Vienna," he said, "though I hope to be posted to London soon."
As we could not hold up the receiving line, I had to let him pass, but I had much to think about. The Diplomatic Corp. He must be a man of wisdom and sophistication. Would he be interested in an inexperienced young woman like myself?
From that moment, Mr. Mellon occupied my thoughts. He looked very handsome in his evening clothes, and not at all old - scarcely older than Robert and Miss Beckett. How I should have liked to sit down with him for a good talk, but that would have been conspicuous. Instead I contented myself with little snippets of conversation when we danced or stood together between sets. I confess I was jealous of his other dance partners. I had felt such jealousy once before, when I fancied myself in love with Mr. Willoughby.
During one of our moments together, I learned that, living in Vienna, he spoke German as fluently as he did Italian.
"At school I discovered my talent for languages," he said. " It helped me win my appointment to the Diplomatic Corp once I had finished my law studies."
A lawyer and a diplomat, I thought, feeling more and more like a green girl.
"The newspapers are full of Vienna at the moment," I ventured. "It is rumored that Austria will declare war on France. Is the situation as dangerous as that?"
Mr. Mellon was silent for a moment.
"You amaze me, Miss Morton," he declared. "Here you stand, the very picture of beauty and frivolity, yet you have just asked me if our ally is about to declare war?"
I did not know how to answer him. Then a terrible thought struck me.
"How presumptuous of me to bring up such a grave matter," I said. "For all you know, I could be spying for the French."
Mr. Mellon's lips twitched. "I do not suspect you of being a spy, Miss Morton."
"Then I daresay you are like most men and think we women ill informed," I continued. " But at school I delighted in discussing world events with Miss Lovage. And at home I read my father's newspaper every day. It is one of my great pleasures."
"I honor you for your interest in the important questions of our day," he said. "And though I am not at liberty to discuss Austria, I will take the great liberty of telling you that I find you enchanting, Miss Morton."
Enchanting and beautiful. He had used those words to describe me (I would ignore that he had also called me frivolous). I was finding Mr. Mellon's tall, dark presence more and more unsettling. I forced myself to speak again, lest I should turn into a tongue-tied girl.
"Have you met Napoleon?" I asked.
"I have not met him, but I saw him once at a diplomatic reception in Paris."
"And Josephine, have you seen her?"
"Is she as beautiful as they say?"
"She is very elegant, but I did not think her beautiful."
"And the Emperor?"
"He is a littlle man, but he gives the impression of great energy and power."
"I think he is a genius," I confessed.
"Indeed," he said, surprised. "Most Englishmen consider him the devil incarnate."
"I did not say that I think him a good man," I said. "Only that I think him a genius."
"Again you amaze me, Miss Morton," he bowed.
I could not help feeling shy of Mr. Mellon, but when we danced, I regained my confidence. I dance well, and Mr. Mellon does not. His rueful grin when he missed a turn made me feel quite charitable toward him. He has a delightful face, with a serene, benevolent countenance befitting a diplomat. When he is amused, one corner of his mouth twitches in the most charming manner, and when he is annoyed, his mouth tightens, as it did when Captain Stanhope interrupted one of our a tete-a-tetes to claim me for a dance.
I quite like Captain Stanhope now that he is engaged to Miss Burgoyne. Aunt Hester spitefully remarked that Mrs. Burgoyne would marry the Captain if she could, for they both love gossip and scandal. But as she is too old, she offers her daughter. Father thinks Mrs. Burgoyne a fool, but she controls her fortune and has approved Captain Stanhope as her future son-in-law. It has made things easy between us.
"What do you know of Mr. Mellon," I asked him
"Oh ho! So Mr. Mellon is the man."
"Don't be ridiculous," I scolded. "I am merely curious."
"I know little about him except that he has been abroad these six years making his way in the Diplomatic Corp. He is a widower I believe."
That unsettled me. I had assumed he was unmarried, but would have never guessed him to be a widower.
To my vexation, for the rest of the evening all things conspired to keep me from Mr. Mellon. My dance card was quite full, and I was always obliged to speak cordially to someone or other. I dared not hope that we might sit together at supper. For most of the evening, I had eluded Mr. Bancroft, thwarting his plan to open the ball with me by enlisting Robert for my first dance. But Mr. Bancroft was determined to lead me in to supper, and I submitted. I ate little, listening absently to his clumsy compliments. Mr. Mellon was seated at Lady Cranbrook's table. I could not see him without craning my neck and making myself conspicuous. Surely we would have two more dances together, I thought, but it was not to be. The Cranbrooks are known for their temperate habits and early hours. By the time the orchestra began to play again, they had ordered their carriage, taking Mr. Mellon with them. I confess that the evening lost much of its gaiety for me. At 2 o'clock, when father suggested that I retire, I did not object.
------------- The carriage clock has just struck four. In less than an hour, it will be dawn. The feverish feeling has left me. Perhaps if I lay down on my bed, I will be able to sleep. Good night.
Is there any occasion duller than the day after a ball. I have not a soul to talk to, so I confide in you, dear Journal. I slept late this morning and was allowed to miss church. Now I wish I had gone, for I should have seen one or two friends. What good is a ball if it cannot be talked over? Mother is to stay in bed all day. Aunt Hester won't visit until tomorrow. Robert has deserted me, shut up with father in the library. Business, always business! Father would go to his counting house every day if he could, but mother insists that he keep the Sabbath. So he disappears into the library on Sunday after church, emerging only for meals. Poor Robert. He works so hard in Birmingham, but he never complains. I suspect that he enjoys business, like our father. What a provoking day this is. Yet I must practice patience. Aunt Hester comes tomorrow, and we will make calls.
Last night I overheard that fool Robert Ferrars brag about my fortune as though it were his own. "They say her Pater is the richest man in England," he claimed. Pater indeed! I scarcely believe we are as wealthy as people say, for we live simply. We keep but one carriage, and our family dinners are very plain. Father and mother neither drink wine nor play at cards. Aunt Hester says that is because they are still Methodists at heart. Mr. Mellon must be Church of England, as he is in the diplomatic corp. Yet I think his name sounds vaguely French. I hope not. Father would never approve. Ah me. There I go again dreaming of Mr. Mellon.
This day has ended far more happily than it began. When Robert at last escaped from the library he invited me for an airing in the carriage.
"What say you to calling on Mrs. Lovage?" he inquired.
"The old maid schoolteacher?" I asked..
"The very one," he said good humouredly.
"And Miss Beckett," I teased. "May I include her in our party"
"By all means."
Though I jested, I felt troubled.
"Dear brother," I said, "Miss Beckett is the loveliest, most wonderful creature in the world. But she is very poor, and you know father hates poverty above all things."
"What has my father to do with Miss Beckett," he said testily. "There is a limit to his influence on my affairs. When you have grown up you will understand that."
Now I was angry.
"I am grown up enough to be forced into a marriage with Mr. Bancroft, though I'd much prefer a man like Mr. Mellon," I snapped, and immediately wished I could take back the words.
Robert's expression was one of amused surprise.
"Why, sister, he said, "It does you credit that you admire a man like Phillip Mellon."
"Do you know him?" I cried.
"By reputation I know him well," he replied. "I was at Oxford with his brother, whom I greatly esteem for his wit and intelligence. Edmund Mellon was very proud of his elder brother, and followed him into the diplomatic corp. Edmund is posted in Scotland now, poor fellow.
"The family name sounds French," I ventured.
"Hardly," my brother laughed. "The Mellons claim descent from an Irish mercenary who took an arrow in the shoulder that was meant for James I. He was rewarded with a farn in Dorsetshire. Subsequent generations added to the estate. The family is very large - 12 brothers and sisters, and the parents still living."
"With so numerous a family they must be very poor," I ventured.
"Hardly," my brother answered. "The estate is one of the finest in Dorsetshire. The eldest son will inherit, though he is a grandfather and the old squire is still hale and hearty. The second son took over a very good living, and the rest of the children received 5000 pounds apiece. Two brothers are admirals. And I've no doubt that your Mr. Mellon has tripled his 5000 pounds by now. Don't forget he served as a diplomat through two wars. Plenty of opportunity there. And his wife brought him a dowry, no doubt, though that will go to the daughter.
"But he is not married," I protested faintly.
"Of course he us not married, else he would not be turning the heads of little girls like you. He was widowed three years ago and left with a small daughter. The child spends most of her time in Dorsetshire while her father travels."
I was disconcerted. I had heard that Mr. Mellon was widowed, but that he had a child was an unsettling piece of news. But I had no time to reflect. The carriage pulled up in front of my old school. As we were ushered into the parlour, I was busy observing Robert's behavior toward Miss Beckett.
"Why they are falling in love," I thought, as they smile at each other.
We decided to ride in St. James Park and take tea by the lake. Miss Lovage did not accompany us on account of being tired from the night before. So the three of us set off in the carriage. We were a merry party. I had never seen Robert so animated, as he and Miss Beckett discussed the merits of Wordsworth and Byron. I stared as Robert quoted passages from the poets. "Don't look so astonished, sister," he laughed at me. "Merchant banking and poetry are not mutually exclusive." It is true that until now I have thought of Robert only as my teasing older brother. He is, in fact, a well-looking man -- fair, like our mother, with a firm jaw; a long, good-humored mouth; and direct blue eyes. More than one of my friends think him handsome.
Miss Beckett gave him all her attention; her lavender blue eyes glowing. Yet she did not merely agree with him, in the manner of calculating females. She disputed several points with spirit and firmness, yet so gracefully that Robert declared himself vanquished. I began to fear for her. I hoped that she would not lose her heart, for Robert must return to Birmingham at week's end. Such were my gloomy thoughts as the carriage turned into St. James Park, on a beautiful and unseasonably warm March afternoon.
We left the carriage and walked a little way to the tea pavilion by the lake. And there I found reason to be cheerful. Mr. Mellon occupied a table with a small party consisting of a little girl and an older woman who, on account of some resemblance, I guessed to be his sister. Upon seeing me, he actually blushed, and I know my cheeks glowed. We joined the Mellon party, and for some minutes I was vexed with myself. I sat like a dumb thing, stupidly shy and tongue-tied, while the others talked away. But by and by, he leaned toward me and whispered, "Are you spying for the French in St. James Park, Miss Morton?" I laughed then, and was easy.
It is nearly midnight, and still I write in my journal. How odd that I have just spent the most enjoyable day of my life, yet I cannot remember much of what took place. I know that my brother and Mr. Mellon were pleased to become better acquainted, each recognizing in the other a man of good sense and taste. The sister, Mrs. Cannon, is good-natured and obliging, with a husband at sea and children at school, She brought the child, whose name is Joanna, up from Dorsetshire to be with her father.
Somehow Joanna ended up sitting on my lap. As I listened to her chatter, I recalled how much I enjoyed helping with the little girls at school. Joanna is not pretty, but is a forward, talkative child who has the makings of a horsewoman. She fears that the cobblestones of London hurt the tender hooves of the city's carriage horses. And the oats of London can scarcely be as wholesome as those of Dorsetshire. All in all, Joanna is certain of the country being a better place for horses, and I could not disagree with her. She misses her pony and her spaniel, but is glad to be with her papa. "If he goes to fight Napoleon in Austria, I will follow behind him in the baggage train," she declared.
"My brother told Joanna that I am involved in England's struggle against Napoleon, so she believes that I am a soldier," her father explained. As we smiled at each other, I was so powerfully drawn to his upright, masculine presence, that I actually leaned forward, as if to touch him. Suddenly, Robert cleared his throat and broke the spell. It was time to go home. Too soon! Too soon! Mrs. Cannon hoped that I would call on her, etc. etc. I vowed to myself that Aunt Hester and I will pay her a visit first thing tomorrow.
I am convinced that there is no nobler name for a man than Phillip. Phillip. Phillip. Phillip. Julia Morton Mellon. I like the sound of it better than Julia Bancroft.
Someone knocks at the door of my dressing room. Who could it be at this hour? I fear my mother is taken ill.
Robert has just left me. My poor brother was in want of someone to confide in.
"You must help me sister," he pleaded. " I return to Birmingham in a few days, yet I do not see how I can leave Susan -- I mean Miss Beckett."
"How can I help you, brother?" I asked. "You have scarcely known her two days. You, who so often preach caution and prudence."
"Yet I cannot get her out of my head," he replied. "There is such relief in talking with her. I feel that she understands what I am about. Oh sister, if I could only write to her when I am in Birmingham, it would give me ease."
"Robert, take care," I remonstrated. "You know that an unmarried female may not correspond with an unmarried male, save her betrothed or a close relative."
"Then I must see her often in the days I have left, and you must help me."
"How can I help you?"
"Persuade mother that you are in need of female companionship of own age. Then,keep Susan with you as much as possible until I am gone.."
"But she has duties at school."
"The headmistress will not turn down a request from Lord Morton's daughter," he insisted. "Let us form a conspiracy, sister. If you prevail upon mother to invite Miss Beckett to a dinner party, I will beg her to include my good friend Phillip Mellon. He likes you, sister, and though you are young for him, you never were a light-minded girl. I do not think you would object to Phillip Mellon's company for an evening."
"Dear Brother," I replied, "I like this conspiracy so well, that if mother is not up to planning a dinner party, I will make all of the arrangements myself."
The invitations have gone out, thanks to our conspiracy and assisted by Aunt Hester, who acts the Gad, but knows what she is about. My aunt paid us a visit early this morning, full of gossip about every guest at the ball, particularly Phillip Mellon.
"He is the eighth of twelve children. Or the ninth, or perhaps the tenth.. I cannot recall," she said.
"Whatever the number, it is far too many!" Mother fanned herself at the thought of such a numerous family.
"The Mellon estate in Dorsetshire is a large one -- about 5,000 a year," my aunt reported. "And the livings bestowed on the second son bring in at least 1500 a year. A very respectable family, indeed. Despite so many younger children, each received 5000 pounds. To be sure, it is a sad thing to divide up such a fine sum as 50,000 pounds, yet it speaks well of the parents."
"To be sure," my mother agreed.
"Mr. Mellon's marriage brought him 10,000 pounds. The wife died three years ago, and an infant son with her. Of course, her fortune will come down to their daughter, but they say Phillip Mellon made 20,000 pounds in the wars. And he is highly regarded by the Prime Minister. The word about town is that Phillip Mellon has a great future."
"Is he the tall, dark man who danced two sets with Julia?"
"The very one. This is the first season he has appeared since he was widowed. Obviously he is in want of a wife"
"Of whom are you talking?" Robert asked, as he entered the Morning Room.
"Of your friend, Phillip Mellon," I told him. "Aunt Hester was just saying that he is esteemed by the Prime Minister."
"I don't doubt it," Robert said. "The whole family is distinguished. Two brothers are admirals. In fact, mother, I had hopes of your inviting Mr. Mellon to dinner before I return North.."
"What a fine idea, brother," I chimed in. "If you are not up to it, mother, I will make the arrangements myself as a lesson in housekeeping."
"And I will help you," Aunt Hester added.
"I will invite dear Miss Beckett, for I have been wanting the companionship of someone my age."
"You are tired of us, niece?" Aunt Hester asked.
"Not at all," I replied. "And to prove it, I invite you to accompany me on a round of calls this morning. I made the acquaintance of a Mrs. Cannon who lives in _____ Square, and I should like to visit her."
What could my poor mother do? Without opening her mouth, she had apparently given her consent.
Night again. I am all in a flutter aboutmy dinner partyr the day after tomorrow. Once I feared that Mr. Mellon's station might be too low, now I fear it is too high. Though his fortune is moderate, he is from an old family and has the esteem of the Prime Minister. I worry, too, about Robert, who is determined to put off his return to Birmingham. Can he possibly be serious about asking Miss Beckett to write to him? It is as good as a proposal. What will father say?
Oh hang what Father says!
This morning, as I sorted through some boxes, I came across my old friend, my journal. Has it been only six months since I last confided in my friend. I feel that I have lived years since then.
When I last wrote, Mr. Mellon was expected to dinner. Dear sweet Mr. Mellon. How nervous I was at the thought of his dining under my own roof, in the awful presence of my father. How little I knew then of our diplomatic corp. Mr. Mellon made a complete conquest of the Morton family. Mother admired him, Aunt Hester was half in love with him and even father commented, "The man obviously knows what he is about." As for me, I would have accepted him that very night had he asked. At that time, my family knew him only as Robert's friend. Mother and Aunt Hester suspected my preference, but father was entirely oblivious. Only Robert and Miss Beckett understood my situation, but they were preoccupied with their growing affection and the complications that would ensue if Robert declared himself.
That dinner was the beginning of the most exquisite and fearful month of my life, as Robert and I followed our hearts, in defiance our family's, read father's, expectations. Our greatest ally was the French emperor. So preoccupied was father with the Austrian crisis, that he forgot his plans for Mr. Bancroft, and Robert's return to Birmingham was postponed. As my brother predicted, the head mistress of my old school eagerly accommodated my need for a companion my own age. Miss Beckett's duties were lightened, allowing her to spend evenings with my family or accompany Aunt Hester and me when we went out. The season was growing thin just then, as families left for the country, but we had amusement enough. Robert and Mr. Mellon joined us when they could, though neither were gentlemen of leisure. Still, Phillip and I had opportunities to dance together and sit next to one another during musical evenings. Phillip dined with us at least once a week, and I often drank tea with his sister and Joanna. I soon felt that I could love the child, if given the chance. We tried not to be conspicuous, but the town, or what was left of it, decided that we were engaged. Phillip was pronounced a good match -- not a great match, but there was promise of greatness in the future. Between us we would have almost 60,000 pounds. Gossip approved our income as a handsome one for a new-married couple. But gossip was wrong. We were not engaged. Daily I hoped he would speak, but he did not. Would I have to propose to him myself, I fretted.
Sustaining me through those days was Susan, who had become as dear to me as a sister. I hope I proved a sympathetic listener to all her troubles with Robert.
"I fear I have made a mistake in spending so much time with your family," she lamented. "For who can say how it will turn out. If I must give you all up, it will be twice as hard on me."
"That must not happen," I said.
"Yet the alternative is worse. Robert says that we will marry, no matter what. He talks of our going to America. I know that my Robert will do well in anything he attempts. But it grieves me that I might be a breach between him and his family, that your mother and father, who have been so kind, might someday refer to me as "That woman."
I comforted her as best I could, but her situation was not a happy one. Oddly enough, my parents discovered that they had known Susan's father. They talked of him at breakfast one morning.
"Poor Beckett was as good a man of business as any," Father said. "More than one man was ruined by the blockade of '93. You remember how near a thing it was for us, my dear. I remember you said to me, 'Well Samuel, we will start again with nothing if we must.' Such a comfort those words were to me. Some poor fellows like Beckett lost their fortunes. I remember now that he had a daughter. So she went out to teach. Well, it's respectable work for a lady. Perhaps we can make a match for her with Phillip Mellon, though I daresay he will look much higher."
"I daresay he will, " mother said quietly. " Much higher."
But why wouldn't he speak
Absorbed as always by commerce, and distracted yet more by talk of war between Austria and France, my Father was more aloof than usual from the daily business of his family. All management was left to my mother, who leaned heavily on Aunt Hester. Yet somehow the news reached father of my interest in Phillip Mellon. Perhaps a business acquaintance congratulated him on acquiring a future son in the diplomatic corp. However it occurred, my father called me downstairs to his library one evening. Mother was also awaiting me there, wringing her hands while father sputtered
"Behind my back. Behind my back I say ... Plotting against me. My own wife and daughter. Ah there she is, the ungrateful girl ... disobedience÷. Upstart Mellon ÷. The rights of a parent."
Though I could not follow the torrent of angry words, I had no trouble discerning their cause. I looked to my mother, who shook her head slightly, warning me to wait for the tirade to end. I felt calm and resolute and tired of secrecy. It was time for all to come out.
"Explain yourself, miss," Father commanded. "I hear reports that you have been gadding about town with Phillip Mellon, making a reputation for yourself."
"That is not so, father," I replied. "I have done nothing to embarrass myself or my family. As for Mr. Mellon, he has often been a welcome guest in this house. You yourself speak highly of him. And, yes, I confess that I admire him above all men."
"Admire him," Father repeated. "The town has you engaged. Has he had the effrontery to propose to you without speaking to me first?"
"Mr. Mellon has not proposed."
Father looked mollified.
"But I will be honored to accept him if he does."
"A fig for your accepting him," Father shouted. "I will decide whom you accept."
"Samuel, calm yourself," Mother soothed.
"Have I not been a good father to you?" he demanded. "Have I not given you the best of everything? And this is the way I am repaid. You would accept a man against my wishes?"
"Not against your wishes father, but with your wholehearted approval, I hope," I replied. "You have said yourself that Mr. Mellon is an admirable man. His income is good, and his prospects are excellent. He started with 5,000 pounds Ň no more than you and mother married on. And he has built it into a comfortable fortune. His family is an old one and much respected. I know you marked Mr. Bancroft for me, father, but if I cannot bear him for an evening, how can I marry him for a lifetime? Mr. Mellon is an excellent man with a promising future. And I admire him. Why could I not accept him father?"
Father had grown calmer listening to me. My mother seemed to be holding her breath.
"You speak well in defense of your favorite, miss," my father said. "Why hasn't he spoken then?"
"I don't know father."
"He is toying with you. Perhaps the Morton name is not good enough for him.. A fine thing it is to be alive. Napoleon would ruin my business, and this upstart Mellon would carry off my daughter."
"Samuel, do not speak that way of a young man who has been a guest in our house and is a friend of Robert," Mother roused herself at last.
"A fine way to repay our hospitality. Stealing our daughter."
"I like the young man, Samuel. I think he and Julia would suit"
"I will decide who will suit Julia. Now both of you leave me in peace."
After a short bout of weeping in my dressing room, I was able to see things in a more hopeful light. While the episode did not exactly bode well for Phillip Mellon, Father had not actually forbidden the match. Nor had he banned Phillip from the house. And mother was on my side. Her patient, quiet persistence had more than once worn down father to her way of thinking. But time was against me. Any day, Phillip could be called back to Austria, and I might never see him again. Once again, I had underestimated the skill of our Diplomatic Corp.
The next day, Sunday dinner was a strained affair. Father did not speak to me; indeed he ignored my presence at the table. Robert winked at me and smiled, which helped raise my spirits. Susan was coming to tea, and I would have the comfort of a long talk with her. As we began the fruit and cheese course, Butler entered bearing a tray with a heavy, cream-colored. I was scarcely curious. An invitation from one of mother's friends, I thought, as she took the envelope. But after opening it, she exclaimed, "Bless my soul!"
The family was startled, for such vehemence was unlike mother. Robert spoke first.
"I trust, madame, that this note brings news of some advantage to your family," he said.
Father eyed him suspiciously. "What do you know of this sir? What the devil is going on here?"
Mother had found her voice again, and though it trembled, she announced, "We are invited to dine with Lord Liverpool on Tuesday -- at Liverpool House."
I had the pleasure then of seeing my father speechless for the first time in my life. Lord Liverpool was the second most powerful man in England, and everyone said would be prime minister one day. It was as good as dining at the palace. Though father had been made a Lord and we had mingled with the great families at balls and musical evenings, we had not yet been admitted to the intimacy of a family dinner -- until now. I was certain this was Phillip's doing, for Lord Liverpool was a great friend of his patron Lord C. Money and influence were the ruling passions of my father's life. Phillip did not have great wealth, but he had brought influence, before he had even asked for my hand. But perhaps I was wrong
That afternoon brought a visit from Phillip's sister, Mrs. Cannon, which confirmed all my suspicions.
"Lady Morton," she said, "My brother and I hope to see your family on Tuesday when we dine at Liverpool House. I understand that you are included in the party."
"Lord Morton and I look forward to seeing both you and your brother at Liverpool House," my mother assured her. With what innocuous words is serious business accomplished.
"My visit must be brief, for I called only to assure myself of the pleasure of your company on Tuesday. Perhaps Miss Morton would see me out."
When we had left the drawing room, Mrs. Cannon said, "I have been entrusted with a message from my brother, who hopes he does not give offense by requesting the honor of escorting Miss Morton in to dinner on Tuesday."
Blushing, I replied, "I would entertain Mr. Mellon's attention with pleasure," then I could not help blurting out, "But I wish he had asked me himself."
Mrs. Cannon smiled. "My dear brother's work has taught him caution," she said, "but such caution can be maddening to a lady in certain circumstances. I have told him so and I shall tell him again. But I say too much."
She looked intently at me. "I only ask that you be kind to Joanna, my dear. My brother has done his best, but she has missed out on the love of a mother. Again I say too much." Then, pressing my hand, she was gone.
The afternoon of the dinner at Liverpool House was cold and rainy. The Morton carriage made its way through very dirty London streets, causing me concern about the state of my fragile slippers. As the carriage pulled up before the great city mansion, I touched my brother's hand. During the ride he had been downcast, for Susan was not with us. Certainly I could not have asked my companion to accompany me to Lord Liverpool's dinner; we did not even presume to include Aunt Harriet. Robert's fianc»e would have been welcome, but Susan was not his fianc»e. I had no doubt that this dinner would force Robert's hand, but at the moment I was too happy to worry about the future.
Phillip and his sister were among the first to greet us as we entered the great entrance hall.I had the pleasure of seeing father speak cordially to the man whom I esteemed above all others. From the moment Phillip tucked my hand under his arm as we entered the dining parlor, the afternoon became a happy blur. I do not recall what I ate, although I remember an abundance of courses, the attention of many servants and the light of many candles. A dinner for 36 is no place for intimacies, but by conversing in low tones, Phillip and I achieved some privacy.
"Mr. Mellon, on behalf of my family I must thank you for the honor of being admitted to Liverpool House, for I am sure it was your influence that brought us here," I said.
"If I had any influence, I used it for you alone," he answered. "Indeed, if my friend had not secured this invitation, I intended to petition the Prince to give a dinner for Lord Morton," he added, teasingly.
"You might have been successful there," I replied, "For the Prince owes father a great deal of money.
"Then I hope your father has no need of it."
"I believe he considers it the price of an earldom," I said.
Afterward, mother described the dinner as interminably long, but for me it was over in a flash. When the men retired to the library for port and cigars, I was jealous that convention had parted Phillip and me. But fresh honors awaited us. In the drawing room, Lady Liverpool singled out mother for conversation, and the wife of our ambassador to Austria sat beside me on the sofa. I felt that she took pains to draw me out. When I spoke of my interest in languages, she urged me to learn German. It occurred to me then that this dinner might be a test as well as an honor. If I married Phillip, I would spend my life among these people, and there would be many such dinners. I was saved from an attack of nerves by Lady Liverpool, who sent a footman to summon the gentlemen. "They have left us alone too long," she laughingly told the ladies.
The men emerged from the billiard room, cheerful and content, Father walking on one side of Lord Liverpool, Mr. Rothschild on the other. Behind them, Phillip, Robert and Lord C. looked satisfied. I was sure there was some business afoot, especially when mother and father exchanged glances and father nodded slightly. Suddenly I trembled for Susan. The Miss Rothschilds were very pretty. Now that Father had given up hope of Mr. Bancroft, would he try for the Rothschild banking fortune instead? But nothing could intrude on my happiness that evening. All would soon be settled between Phillip and me. I was sure of it.
Early the next morning, Phillip called on father at the bank. How could Lord Morton refuse him anything? Phillip came straight from father to me. Of course I said yes.
Here is a thing I have discovered. When one looks forward to an event, hopes for it, even prays for it, the accomplishment of the event, while gratifying, can be very different from one's expectations. At last I was an engaged woman, secure in the affection of the man I loved. Now Phillip and I could appear in public as a couple. Mother and I began planning an engagement dinner. Dare we invite Lord Liverpool, we wondered, and would he attend. Then the sky fell in.
My father's intense devotion to work kept him from his family most days, but he was punctual about Saturday tea and Sunday dinner. Thus many events important to our family were discussed on these occasions. The Saturday after my engagement, Father informed us that Lord Liverpool had asked the Rothschild and Morton banks to raise funds for Britain's army, as a precaution against Napoleon's ambitions. Robert would leave immediately for Vienna, father announced, to work with the Rothschild's Austrian branch.
Robert turned pale and asked,"May I speak with you in the library, sir,"
Father looked displeased,as he had expected Robert's instant and pleased quiescence.
When the men had gone, mother said quietly. "He is going to tell your father that he loves Susan. I fear the outcome will be unpleasant." That was an understatement.
What followed was a shouting match of such proportions that the servants gathered behind mother and me outside the library door. At last Robert came pounding out into the front hall, with father behind him, red faced and bellowing, "I no longer have a son. Do you hear me, sir? I no longer have a son."
"And I will not spend another moment in this house," Robert shouted back. He made for the front door, which Butler had just opened to admit Phillip Mellon, who looked startled as his friend rushed past him out into the gathering dusk. At that moment, mother fainted.
Thank God for Phillip. He took charge of us all, calming father and me and sending a footman for the apothecary. The three of us gathered in mother's dressing room as the apothecary examined her in the bedroom. Filled with worry and remorse, father became talkative. He had not forbidden Robert to marry Susan, he protested. In fact, he had long suspected my brother's regard for her. He had no real objection to the lady, only to her poverty. Six months apart would merely test the strength of their feelings for each other. Robert saw things differently. His feelings for Susan were most sincere and needed no testing, he claimed. There was no reason to wait six months. Susan belonged by his side as his wife. If she could not accompany him to Vienna, he would not go.
A week of intense diplomacy followed. I nursed Mother and kept up the spirits of poor Susan, who held off Robert when he insisted that they leave on the next packet to New York. Phillip used diplomatic skills honed on the Austrian crisis to mediate the far more volatile Morton dilemma. But at last a truce was declared and Robert emerged the complete victor. With the blessing of both my parents, he and Susan were married by special license and set off at once for Vienna. My only regret was the distance between us, and that they would not attend me at my wedding.
The crisis with Robert resolved, Father turned his energy to planning my life and Phillip's. He had heard of a likely property in Dorsetshire, scarcely 12 miles from the Mellon family home, though in another county. The Mellon name being respected in that district and the incumbent MP being in poor health, father believed that Phillip could win the seat in Parliament, once the esteemed man was in his grave, where father immediately wished him. As usual, I was indignant at my father's officiousness, but Phillip was amenable to the idea. Thus I discovered that my future husband had political aspirations. But Lord C. quashed all thought of politics for the present. Phillip's skills were wanted at the embassy in Vienna. Once the Napoleon question was settled, Phillip could retire from the diplomatic corp, and Lord C. would back him for Parliament. For the present, Phillip must serve his country. How could my father object?
And so I turned my thoughts from Dorsetshire to Vienna. Joanna would accompany us, for Phillip was tired of being parted from her. Also, he feared that I would be too often alone, for his duties would keep him mich from home. Joanna would be company for me. I had no fear of solitude, for Susan would also be with me. She wrote frequent letters from Vienna, full of praise for Robert and delight in that glittering capital. Immediately I engaged a German master to teach me the language. In Vienna I could have other masters if I wished. Perhaps I would take up my watercolors again. Between teaching Joanna and exploring Vienna with Susan, I should be much occupied while my husband was at his work.
I was grieved, however, at my parents' distress. They had parted with Robert, and they could not bear to let me go. Austria was too dangerous. Joanna and I must remain with them in London. Of course I would not hear of it. What kind of marriage would I have with a husband on the continent! Father tried bribery and cajoling to no avail. At last he gave me some news that nearly changed my mind. I had always attributed mother's languid air to a delicate constitution; I had even thought her lazy.
"Your mother's heart is weak," father told me. "The doctors can do nothing. If her heart fails while you are in Vienna, how could you reach her in time?"
Aunt Hester set me right. "Your mother is stronger than he thinks, my dear," she said. "Your father is not an easy man to persuade. A little bad health gives your mother the advantage. I will keep her company while you are gone, child, and will take care that she is not lonely. Write her every day and you and your brother will be back in London before you know it."
So I stood firm, and plans went ahead for my wedding. But I was a very odd bride and a disappointment to the town. I had neither a new carriage, house nor furniture, for all would be provided by the British embassy in Vienna. Even my trousseau must be small, since it must be sent by wagon. It would be simpler to buy my gowns in Vienna. And what sort of bride studied German for two hours every day with Herr Weber, a stern Prussian tutor?
Still, there were festivities enough, including a diner given by Lord and Lady C. in our honour. Congratulations poured in. Mrs. Willoughby wrote, "May you be as happy in your married life as I am in mine." That sent a shudder through me.
We were married at St. Paul's at the end of June. Lord Liverpool attended the ceremony. It was an exquisitely happy day, and my only pique was that the newspapers reported Lord Liverpool's presence in greater detail than they mentioned Phillip and me.
On our wedding trip, we toured bathing establishments along the coast, passing through Bournemouth, Weymouth and Lyme, as we made our way toward Dorsetshire. There we were to spend time with the Phillip's family before leaving for Austria. My own parents would be in the neighborhood, inspecting the Dorsetshire estate, called Larchmont, that father planned to buy. If only Robert and Susan could have been with us, all would have been perfect. As for married life, I had hoped for much, and my hopes were fulfilled. I treasure those days spent by the sea, for I had Phillip to myself. I had begun to realize that it would not often be so. My husband was destined for greatness. I saw that clearly.
Seven of Phillip's brothers and sisters, plus their various husbands, wives, and children awaited us at Ashwood, the Mellon family home. Missing were the two Captain Mellons, who were at sea, but their wives and children were in attendance. My mother, driven over from Larchmont, seemed dazed by the quantity of Mellons. "To be sure it is a fine family, and I hope that you are blessed with children, my child," she said, "But pray, Julia, do you not think that ten is too many?"
My favorite of the family is Phoebe, wife of Reverend Charles Mellon, who possesses the family living. Phoebe is just twenty, though her husband is near forty. Her father is a solicitor in Bath and she had little fortune, but she is very pretty. Last winter Charles lost his heart to her one night in the Assembly Room, amazing all his family, who had marked him as a confirmed bachelor. Phoebe's one fault is that she is too fond of gossip and relies too much on her maid for news.
The Mellon family is well liked, and Phillip and I were feted by the entire neighborhood. Each night brought a party or dinner in our honor. One such dinner was given by Colonel Brandon, the owner of Delaford, which is four miles from Ashwood, on the way to Larchmont. To my amazement, I met my old friend Mr. Ferrars, who has taken up the Delaford living. He is a changed man, positively beaming with good will, on account of his engagement to a Miss Dashwood, who was staying at Delaford with her mother and two sisters. In fact, Mrs. Dashwood acted as Colonel Brandon's hostess. At first I thought Miss Dashwood to be the niece of Mr. Ferrar's former tutor, but Phoebe set me right. That faithless young woman, whose engagement to Mr. Ferrars brought him ruin, eloped with his younger brother, Robert Ferrars, who is in possession of the fortune that by right belongs to his brother. It is a curious situation. I must say that Mr. Ferrars does not seem in the least sorry, and I do not blame him. Miss Dashwood is handsom, sensible and accomplished. We spent a pleasant afternoon sketching together and have pledged to correspond. They will be married as soon as some new rooms are added to the vicarage, but they have been repeatedly frustrated, the latest delay being that their builder has broken his leg and must remain abed for a month.
I found the younger Miss Dashwood an object of great interest. Miss Marianne is very beautiful, with the delicacy of one who has sustained a long illness. Phoebe related her shocking history one afternoon over tea. Miss Marianne was desperately in love with John Willoughby and believed herself engaged to him. When he married Miss Grey, she went into a decline, becoming so ill that she nearly died. Imagine, John Willoughby! I myself lost several nights sleep over that young man, but surely he was not worth dying for. Yet I must not be critical. Miss Marianne obviously is capable of strong feeling, and no doubt she loved him deeply. How should I behave if anything happend to my Phillip ... but I cannot even imagine such a thing!
Most interesting of all, Colonel Brandon is in love with Miss Marianne, but she sees him only as a friend. Her mother, who favors the match, hopes that Phillip and my happiness, as well as the contentment of Reverend Mellon and Phoebe, will serve as a good example. The Colonel, you see, is past thirty-five, while Marianne is not yet nineteen. I am convinced that, where there is love, age has no meaning.
How fitting it is that on my last day in England I should reread my journal. But six months ago I see that I was a discontented young woman, resentful of her family and the admirer of a wastrel named John Willoughby. To think that, but for fate, I might today be the unhappy wife of the merchant Mr. Bancroft. But fate has been kind. I am the most fortunate of women, wife to the best of men and stepmother of a charming little girl. Tomorrow I am about to embark on a great adventure, when Phillip, Joanna and I leave for Vienna.
My husband and I spent a month in Dorsetshire, dividing our time between Ashwood and Larchmont. Thanks to Phoebe, I knew every intrigue of the neighborhood. Perhaps it is best that we parted, for I began to develop a tast for gossip most unbecoming to a diplomat's wife. In a few years time, I shall be very happy to make my home at Larchmont, among so many good friends. A letter from Phoebe arrived just this morning, informing me that my dear Elinor and Mr. Ferrars can wait no longer. The bans have been posted and they will be married in a few weeks. They will live at Delaford until the rectory is finished. I must write my congratulations before we leave. Miss Marianne is daily becoming more receptive to Colonel Brandon's attentions. I predict that news of their marriage will reach me in Vienna this coming spring.
And you, my dear journal, must packed away in the attic of Lord Morton's London home. Adieu. Adieu. All is as it should be. -- The Honourable Julia Morton Mellon.
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