Margaret White: Secrets

After breakfast, everyone seemed to head their separate ways; Mother the whole while seemed quite content at the thoughts of last nights. As we were soon left on our own, she began to express her whole-hearty happiness at the match-making which occurred the previous night. “Also,” she said as she picked up her embroidery. “I am very content at the development in McConnely’s relationship with Marianne. I expect them to be married by Christmas. If not engaged, anyhow.”

I dare not disturb her mirth, as I had earlier expressed my concerned that the “engagement” would only be of her fantasy. Lady McConnley would never permit the connection to the daughter of a lowlier Mr. White. I had too heard the rumors that Mr. McConnley already had an engagement to another, wealthier woman of greater status pending. But it was mere rumor, spinning larger and larger to each gossiping woman to which the news was passed. The words of them could be worthless. I could not, though, help feel uneasy. Mother rode on the high hopes of their marriage, and I wondered of the impact on Marianne’s heart. Yet I began to believe she lost her zeal and interest in the clever young man. I couldn’t imagine why; he was possibly the most perfect man for her. Perhaps Marianne was too spoilt by her prettiness and the easiness of fashion in which she drove men to her, and gotten bored with one particular man. No, I could not think such a thing of her, but I pondered her intentions, always seeming so elusive to be at all times even over the years….

Angela interrupted our brief conversation, beckoning me to Elizabeth’s room. Bemused, she informed me of Elizabeth’s wishes to be called ‘Liz’ now, instead of ‘Beth’. I could not help but smile, though said nothing. I often worried if Elizabeth was struggling to find something of an identity, yet I was often told that I worried far too much. My anxiety over my sisters and their welfare was great; since my childhood I had taken something of a charge over the bunch while Mother’s eyes lingered on other thing, or she was caught in severe illness several years back.

Stepping into her bedchamber, Elizabeth pushed herself off of the bed to face me. Her eyes were deep and thoughtful, as something tugged at her mind and pestered her to death. Angela briskly left the room as I made my way over to her. “What is the matter, Liz?”

She grinned, suspecting that the maid had already told me of the name change. Brushing aside the thought, Elizabeth’s face dropped back to her same expression of contemplation. “Margaret, I am wondering of what to do. I am…unsure.”

I was silent, waiting. Sighing, she went on, “I do not wish to marry Charles Baker.”

“Indeed,” I nodded. I had assumed that a while back. “He loves you.”

Her face contorted in exasperation, “I know,” She looked up at me, admitting, “Though I do not love him.”

“And you, then, shall follow the way of your heart,” I replied. There was a pause between us. “Is there someone who your heart wishes to follow?”

Elizabeth’s eyes flashed with something of alarm, “I-I….,” her voice faded, as she looked down to her hands as if humiliated. She continued so softly I could barely hear, “Mr. McConnely.” She hid her hands in her face, her hair cascading all around her face as a veil.

“Mr. McConnely!” I exclaimed; I could not help but not hide my extraordinary surprise.

“Indeed,” Elizabeth removed her face from her hands, her worried eyes searching mine. “I think of him many times now…like it is me that is dancing with him instead of Marianne…..,” She reddened, biting her tongue as she realized she had gone too far.

I reached for her hands, holding them in my own, long fingers. “Liz, this is something I never expected,” I half-smiled, and she did so back, but her face still appeared wrought with worry. A stray piece of her straight hair fell from behind her ear, and I gently tucked it back.

“What do I do, Margaret?” she inquired, exasperated. “He is everything I could dream of; clever, handsome, witty, caring…only if he could look at me the way he looks at Marianne!” Elizabeth sighed, her voice tinged with hopelessness. “Should I simply except the fact he would never think of me that way?”

“No! Certainly not. There are always chances. You must at least try, somehow,” I encouraged her; in the back of my mind, I wondered if it would be the right thing to do. Brushing those thoughts of wariness away for now, I continued, “We may be not all as pretty as Marianne, but you have excellent qualities that anyone can see!  You-,”

“I am just average! Regular!” cried Elizabeth, her shoulders dropping. “No one would give me half a glance-Charles Baker only did because no one else dared to look at him!”

My jaw tightened, and I grasped her face between my hands. She paused, her eyes wide at seeing my expression. “You are not average, Elizabeth. Do you understand? If all could see what I see in you, you would earn a respect higher than any Lady in the room.” There was silence, and I pulled away my hands, “It’s what inside your heart that counts. Never-mind them! Never-mind anyone else who says otherwise.”

Quiet fell between us as she looked toward the floor. “How should I try?” she murmured after a moment. “For…McConnely.”

I stood, “Come, let us go walking; stretch our legs, yes? The weather is fine and bright.”

She appeared slightly confused, but readily complied, and we made our ways outdoors, pulling on our hats and set out.


“No!” laughed Elizabeth. “I would certainly not do that!

I giggled in reply, my gaze lingering over the hills, watching the wind as it bristled the hair of the treetops, making each blade of grass bow and ripple at the touch of it’s invisible hand. We had walked long, arm-in-arm, discussing lightly the topic of Mr. McConnely, which Liz had grown more comfortable of speaking about. I sighed, the cool fingers of the breeze coming to trail across my cheek.

The roll of hoof beats caught our attention, turning to see an approaching horseman on our green. “Who is that?” Elizabeth spoke first, the approaching figure still somewhat obscure upon his dark horse.

“I daresay,” I began after a moment as the rider came nearer and nearer. “I believe it is Mr. Mitchell.”

A few more passing seconds confirmed that it in fact was Mr. Mitchell. He hailed us, stopping near our spot. It seemed out of habit my heart beat quickened at the sight of him-only a year ago I had myself thought he was my admirer, and with very hearty encouragement from Mother, I began to craft was turned into a secret fantasy to linger in my daydreams, which in the end had gotten the better of me. Mr. Mitchell did not love me, I knew, to my great disappointment. It only left me with something of a broken heart but a more rational head. I had foolishly enlisted my dreams, my heart, and my imagination in Mr. Mitchell’s kindness towards me. But it was only that.

“Good day, Ladies,” he dismounted, bowing to each one of us in turn. “I was just to visit all of you, but to find you are right here.”

Elizabeth and I curtsied, exchanging our pleasantries and enjoyment in meeting him as well. Though Elizabeth briskly excused herself, as if to leave us on our own, as Mother still held the continuing belief that Mr. Mitchell was in suit of me, yet I wished she wouldn’t. I felt even more anxious by myself with him, as if some of those childish dreams still remained in my heart, mixing with the ridiculous hope that they would come true.

She flitted off into the opposite direction, silence coming between us. Mr. Mitchell gathered the reins of his magnificent charger, and led it as we continued to walk, somewhat in the direction of back toward the house. “I hope I have not disturbed anything,” said Mr. Mitchell, gazing to where Elizabeth had disappeared off to.

I quickly denied that as he returned his dark, intelligent eyes upon me. He was a wealthy widower, with a mysterious, melancholy air about him. Mother said he did not love his former wife, that the marriage was forced between them. But there was always some graveness about him, an enticing reserve which hid most of his emotion.

I blushed, pulling my eyes away from his and gazing over the horizon to hide my flushing cheeks. I was abruptly taken from my thoughts, when I realized Mr. Mitchell had come to a halt, his hand grasping about my arm. My heart drummed wildly in my head and heat continued to rise in my face as I looked back to his. His eyes were deep, uncovered and blazing with feeling, digging inside me. “May I ask you something, Margaret?” his was incredibly calm and collected, and did not match his expression.

I felt as if someone had swept the floor from beneath me, and I could only answer with a brief nod of the head. My head was swirling-his manner seemed so unusual for him, his intimacy with me was uncalled for. What could he be asking? My thoughts began to spin at such a pace I almost felt dizzy.

“You must answer me with all honesty,” he stepped closer, his voice dropping to an undertone. My panic of emotion only increased-all my former feelings, aspirations for him only multiplied in his closeness and words. With a corresponding nod in agreement from myself did he then continue, “Please tell me of your thoughts upon this, I wish to know it. I desire to marry your sister, Elizabeth…..,”

Had someone slapped me? Dashed me with cold water? His words were like hooves of a horse as they trampled over me, stamping out any hopeful feeling. He wished to marry Elizabeth! No! Elizabeth now loved McConnely! It didn’t appear to make any sense whatsoever in my mind.

“You had gone incredibly pallid, Margaret; do you think it a horrid idea?” Mr. Mitchell inquired worriedly. “Do you think I am not worthy of her? Or does she have no feeling for me?”

His frantic questioning forced me to regain my senses as quickly as possible. I attempted to recover my composure as best as I may form such a blow. For a brief pause, I remained speechless. What was I to say? My turbulence of emotion had thrown me from my usual sensibility. I feared I was still shaken as I made a reply that first came to me, “Why, Mr. Mitchell….such an announcement is….unexpected. I fear I have been blind to any….advancement of yours upon Elizabeth.”

He made no answer, gazing thoughtfully at me as if waiting for me to continue. I grouped my mind for further words, shifting awkwardly under his searching eyes. “Still, I am quite unaware. I am sure Elizabeth would be honored by your affections, though I cannot speak for her own heart.”

Mr. Mitchell seemed satisfied by my answer, a smile twitching on his lips as he nodded, “I rank your opinion highly, Margaret.” He then merrily reached for my head, kissing it lightly. I flushed bright red, a strange mix of feelings blooming inside my chest. “Shall I escort you home?”

We bent homeward, as I observed him from the corner of my eye. Indeed, he would make a fine match for sweet, quiet Elizabeth. He was certainly better-looking than cow-eyed Charles Baker. Our conversation was light, though I had trouble focusing, and we soon met with Elizabeth in the gardens. I felt even more out of place, watching as he turned his words from me onto her, somewhat excluding me from their exchange. Elizabeth replied shortly and shyly, and his own questioning was casual and she did not seem to have the slightest suspicion in mind as we entered the house. Inside, she grew tense, as before us stood the rest of our family, among them Mr. McConnely.

The End

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