The Lines About the Mouth
September 22, 1814
Dear Mr C---
Miss Smith was married today. Mr Knightley of Donwell Abbey, Mr Martin's landlord, gave the bride away, and the wedding breakfast was held at the Abbey Mill Farm. I have always said she is a handsome girl, but I have never seen her more beautiful than when she became Mrs Robert Martin. I do not think I have ever seen a couple more in love and more certain of happiness.
As you requested, I asked for a lock of her hair before we went to the church this morning. I have also taken the liberty of enclosing a miniature, painted by Miss Smith's intimate friend, a gentlewoman of very good character who also served as her bridesmaid. Pray forgive me if I have been too presumptuous. I hope at least the sight of Miss Smith's lovely face will not give you any pain.
Mr C--- examined the miniature closely, but he did not see the mother revived in Harriet's likeness, except in the lines about the mouth. He had only his memory to guide him, for a respectably married man cannot ask his lover to give him a portrait. His Harriet had also been a beautiful girl, and he had loved her, and when she had succumbed to childbed fever, his grief had been severe.
One remembrance only did he have. He unlocked a small drawer in his writing desk and carefully added Mrs Goddard's letter to the small tidy bundle which contained all of her correspondence since he had first had little Harriet placed in her care. Aside from the letters, the drawer contained only a long lock of golden hair, tied with a black ribbon. He compared the hair of mother and daughter-the same light hue. He remembered how it caught the sunlight, and imagined how she would have looked with flowers and a lace veil in her golden hair.
"I would have married you, my dearest," he murmured. He let his imagination take him to the little church in Highbury, with his beloved Harriet by his side as they watched their daughter's hand bestowed on Mr Martin.
But no. That could never have been. Even if she had been born in wedlock, Harriet still would not have known her mother, and he would have been a widower on the day he gave his daughter away. And he had three sons to remind him that his marriage to Mrs C--- was not without its blessings.
He carefully twined the two locks of hair together and locked them, with the miniature, back in the little drawer. Then he took up his pen.
My dear Mrs Goddard,
I thank you for your kind particulars of the wedding of Miss Smith, and particularly of the handsome likeness you were so kind as to enclose...