Chapter Six: The Bridge


Generally a young lady’s first season (running from April to early fall) was intended for playing the field so to speak.  I was on a much tighter time frame, however.  My father, while quite wealthy, could not afford to keep two households going for more than this one season.  My mother expected me to present my card to every young man that I danced with.  Truth be told, I had not done so.  I had only given out one card.  Ever.  To Mr. Nathaniel Brierly. 

 At home in our borrowed house I sat waiting to hear the bell ring.  I was on edge, my anxiety wracked body wound up so tightly that a spring was most certainly going to pop out of place somewhere in the near future.  Two days passed.  Then three.  He never called.

I hated him again.

My appetite came back.  I was finally able to sleep.  We began planning the strategy for the next ball. 

At breakfast on the fifth morning, as I was sitting at the table eating toast with a liberal smattering of marmalade, John appeared with a silver tray.  There was a single white envelope centered upon it.  He presented it to me with a flourish.

“Mistress Evelyn, a letter for you by morning post.”

My heart pounded.  From whom?  I was afraid of the answer, but at the same time hopeful.  My hands shook as I opened the wax sealed envelope with the carved floral letter opener that also lay on the tray.


            Ms. Douglas:

            I request the privilege of visiting you this afternoon at 4 o’clock ,if that would be convenient.


            William Aspern


I looked up at my mother, confused.  She was staring intently at me.  I passed the paper to her and watched her face as she read.  She betrayed nothing.  He should not have done this.  I did not give him my card!

“Well?” I asked.  She sighed.

“By all means, have him come.  Send a response poste haste!”  She had passed him my card somehow.

I penned a letter back to him.  Then tore it up.  Clearly it would appear too eager. I was not certain that I wanted to communicate that just yet.  Finally, I merely penned the words, “You are welcome at my home at 4 o’clock,” and then signed my name.  It was sent by messenger. 

What to wear?  What to say?  I had not done this before.  Should there be refreshments?  A gentleman calling on me.   I wanted to ask my mother what I should do, how I should behave.  But how to ask her?  I was not accustomed to asking her or anyone else for help.  It would be a sign of weakness, surely, and would give her a position of power.  I could not have that. 

I resolved to muddle through this myself.

Staring at my wardrobe, I struggled with what to wear. I felt like a piece of meat, trying to make itself more appealing.  Lean or fat?  Marbling?  Yes, please.  I had so much to choose from.  Sometimes the choices themselves are too much. 

How do you make someone love you?  Perhaps that is not possible.  I wanted love.  Maybe not so much, but being in love?  I did not understand at the time that this was not something that could be contrived.  It was.  It existed.  In spite of myself.  In spite of him. 

As four o’clock approached, I had a drink of brandy to steel myself.


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