Posted at May 20, 2020

Victorian Era Fiction to Get You Through COVID-19 (Chapter 9)

Chapter Nine

Once Mary had gone off on her honeymoon and her trousseau along with her, both Ruth and her mother felt the sense of emptiness in their house. The wedding had happened so quickly and simply that, while Maude could not be the envy of her wealthier friends due to any extravagance, she had only now to reflect on her daughter being happy. Mary would be mistress of her own house, have children and do everything Maude had wished of her. Now that a goal was accomplished, she did not know how to occupy her time. This allowed her to be less cruel when it came to what she thought of Ruth’s circumstances and she entertained Mrs. Johnson’s ideas of matchmaking more heartily.

Mrs. Johnson continued to visit as much as she could to talk of her nephew and more recently, of her niece. It seemed both Chamberlain siblings had grown attached to both of the Kingston siblings who remained at home. August was slowly approaching and everyone knew it was terribly unfashionable to be in London then. Mrs. Johnson, therefore, thought it would be a brilliant idea if the families were to travel together. Maude agreed to this at once, but her husband was unmoved by the notion. He left London to enjoy the few weeks of quiet reverie he was allowed outside of the city. He had no intention of going anywhere but the small country house he rented in the summer. To gallivant around Europe with his grown children, his wife and her plotting comrade seemed too much exertion. Maude may go where she liked, but he would not change his plans.

Maude therefore realized in order to avoid rumors of a discord in her marriage, she would be obliged to follow her husband to his country cottage. Randolph was equally unwilling to travel, and brought with him the unhappy news that Anthony Chamberlain intended to be in Devonshire for August. The scheme was therefore put to rest, and no matter how many times Mrs. Johnson tried to convince her nephew to go wherever the Kingstons might, he insisted he needed to be near his father and their business in the country.
Ruth was partially relieved as she knew traveling with Anthony’s family might be too much for her to bear especially with such heavy expectations placed upon her which she knew would never come to fruition. Another part of her assumed that Anthony would be in Devonshire not only to be nearer his father, but to spend time with his secret fiancée as well. She had at last learned from him her name, Miss Margaret Yardley, and had seen a small portrait of her which she had sent to him inside of a locket. Ruth hoped that it was not jealously or vanity which made her think that Miss Yardley’s looks did not match up to her own. Her jaw protruded more, and a set of full lips could barely contain her large teeth. She had large, friendly eyes but they lacked the intelligence which sparkled behind Ruth’s. Her nose was also a good deal smaller but considerably wider. Miss Yardley was not a plain girl, but she could not be deemed a great beauty either. When Anthony had revealed the note which had accompanied the locket to Ruth, she noticed its many careless errors and the desperation of the writer.
With Anthony gone to the country, she thought she might feel some relief in not seeing him, but knew her thoughts might stray into dangerous territory. She might plague herself with the idea of his spending every waking moment with Miss Yardley and perhaps even deciding on a secret elopement. These ideas were extremely fanciful considering what Anthony had told her about his relationship, but she wondered if he would still do all he could to please his fiancée while in her company.
While Anthony’s whereabouts for the summer were decided, Mrs. Chamberlain and her daughter had considered a voyage with Mrs. Johnson into Europe, but soon also settled on returning to Devonshire themselves, possibly until the following London season. This greatly distressed Randolph who was indignant about losing the company of his favorite young lady, but it pleased Mrs. Chamberlain. She did not want her daughter attached to the young Mr. Kingston when his reputation with the ladies and with his money was so notorious. It was the idea of a disposable income which appealed to Miss Chamberlain, who rather liked the idea of remaining rich and buying whatever fashionable items she wished for. A husband’s personality would not matter too terribly to her if she had her all of the comforts she desired. Still, Mrs. Chamberlain hoped for a more sensible man for her daughter who did not run the risk of impoverishing himself on the death of his frugal father.
The question remained where Ruth and Randolph would go. William insisted Randolph join them in the country where he could make less trouble, and Randolph, free of any engagements, reluctantly agreed. Some of his friends would be in the same county and they could have a game of cards when they liked. It was naturally decided that Ruth should join her family in the cottage, a prospect she did not look forward to. However, her luck changed unexpectedly when Mary sent a letter inviting her to stay with them at Farnsworth House in Kent. Ruth readily agreed to this arrangement, hoping to escape her mother and Mrs. Johnson and their kind, but wearing intentions to bring her closer to Anthony.
Mary was pleased to receive a positive reply from her sister and Ruth, along with her maid, was sent along to Kent for some peace in the country.

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